Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cat on a Blue Monday: A Midnight Louie Mystery, by Carole Nelson Douglas. Tom Doherty Assoc. 1994

 In ‘Cat on a Blue Monday’, there is always something happening. The action never stops, as Midnight Louie, the 19 pound, black tom cat meets his upstairs neighbor, a psychic cat who warns him that a gathering of cats is in danger. Meanwhile, at a cat show, a prize Birman is found shaved, putting it out of the running for a prize. Louie’s human, Temple Barr, is taking self-defense lessons from their attractive male neighbor- who is also being tapped by the local convent to find out who is making obscene phone calls to them. The cat rescuer next door to the convent is being hassled at night by sounds at the windows. One of the convent cats is crucified on her back door (the cat lives). Are any or all of these things connected? Is the death of the cat rescuer the accident it appears to be? And is small, black Midnight Louise, whose father deserted her mother and family, related to Louie?

Louie talks like a film noir character, which takes the story at least part way out of the ‘cute’zone. Temple is resourceful and brave and, while short, gorgeous and addicted to shoes, comes close to falling into the ‘cute’ zone but narrowly avoids it. It was a fun, griping read and I enjoyed it much more than I did the first Midnight Louie book. I’ll now be on the lookout for the later books in the series! 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review. 

The Master Butchers Singing Club, by Louise Erdrich. HarperCollins, 2003

This book follows a large number of characters: the master butcher Fidelis Waldvogel; his wife, Eva; motherless Delphine who has returned to her upper mid-western hometown and finds herself stuck; her partner, Cyprian, who loves her but prefers men; Delphine’s alcoholic father, who may have killed three people- but he can’t remember; Delphine’s best friend, Clarisse, who is the undertaker and is being sexually harassed by the sheriff; Step-and-a-Half, a junk collecting woman who has secrets; and the Waldvogel’s four sons. The story follows their lives and relationships from 1918 to 1954, entangled with each other in so many ways. One of the things that takes center stage in the book is the predicament of German-Americans as Hitler rose to power and during WW 2. There were divided loyalties, as the Waldvogel family shows. Families were torn apart as they were forced to choose between nation and family, and even fight family member to family member.

I’m of two minds about this book. On the one hand, the prose is just so lovely that reading it was a joy. It’s like looking through a jewel box. But on the other hand, despite the length, a lot of the characters seem to be fairly impenetrable. Delphine, even though she is the main character, we seem to only skim the surface of. Delphine’s best friend has a huge event happen to her, but the effect in the story is negligible. The reveal at the end is momentous, but we have no idea WHY Mazarine’s mother did what she did years before Mazarine was born. Was she unaware of her state? Did she not care? How did Mazarine manage to survive her lack of care? The book is not boring- far from it- but it seems to lack something. In the end, I wanted to know more about these people than the author gave us. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Book Beginning and Friday 56 #4

It's Friday . . . time to share book excerpts with: 


  • Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires.  
  • The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an ebook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.
My book beginning this week is a book from 1994, Cat on a Blue Monday, by Carole Nelson Douglas:

"I like nothing better than playing the role of Sage in the Shade." 

And page 56, from the same book:

"Amid this gingham glory reclined a huge, snub-nosed, vanilla-haired cat with chocolate-brown fur frosting the tips of its muzzle, legs, and tail. "

This is book 3 of the Midnight Louie Mystery series. Midnight Louie is a big, black, cat who helps his human solve mysteries in Las Vegas. I wasn't overly impressed with the first book- it was okay but not stupendous- but the author seems to have improved a lot since that one.

So. Would you keep reading, given these samples? 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, by Henry Marsh. Thomas Dunne Books, 2014

“Do no harm” is paraphrased in the Hippocratic Oath that medical students are all exposed to first thing. It’s the common principal in all medicine, but is especially stressed in neurosurgery, where the possibility for harm is so high. Henry Marsh has been a top neurosurgeon in Great Britain for many years and shares his stories of the trade here.

Each chapter is named for and explores the treatment of a different neurological problem; meningioma, pituitary adenoma, infarct. Each chapter features a different patient; we see how the patient came to Marsh, how the operation went, and sometimes we see how they fared. Not always; sometimes they are whisked way back to the hospital that referred them, rather them leaving them under the care of the surgeon. So there are times that the author had no idea how they ultimately turned out.

The descriptions of the problems and the way they are treated fascinated me, but beware if you are squeamish- the author describes things pretty vividly. But his book is not just about operations; it’s also about his own life, the about the NHS system in England. The system limits not just patient care but the hours doctors can work, which can make arranging long operations difficult. New doctors don’t have time enough to learn all they should. Marsh describes taking this out on nurses, anesthesiologists, clerks, and more- while an empathic, caring, man with patients, he seems to have been an ass to those he worked with at times- and admits it.

I couldn’t put this book down. It was like reading a series of exciting stories, watching Marsh’s expertise and character grow. And I love a good medical description. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything, not just this book- Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review.