That’d Be CRM to you

Title: Esther Freud Mr Mac and Me
Publisher: Bloomsbury (September 2014)
Genre: literature, English novel, historical novel, coming of age
3 Stars ***
Esther Freud is a British novelist, named as one of the 20 “Best young English novelists” by Granta (1993, after her novel Peerless Flats was published). Yes, she is one of those Freuds, great granddaughter of Sigmund, and daughter of the painter Lucien. She caught my attention because of Sea House (2003) which was loosely based on her grandfather Ernst: another Suffolk house with German Jewish refugee after WWII). She bought a cottage some years ago in Walberswick, and here discovered a famous guest (1914, Charles Rennie Mackintosh) and a ghost, a small boy of 10-12.
Mr Mac and Me is her 8th novel. She was shortlisted for the Llewellyn Rhys prize for her first novel Hideous Kinky (1992) which was made into a film starring Kate Winslet. Another novel Gaglow (1998) was shortlisted for the Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction.
Story line:
The narrator is this story is young Thomas Maggs, whose family is struggling to make a living. He is the only surviving son of an abusive, alcoholic publican, born with a club foot which denies him his dream of going to sea. He is a curious scamp, I wanted to like him, empathized with his hard life, delighted in some of his antics and appreciated his budding artistry, mentored by the Scottish architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh (CRM) and his wife beloved Margaret. But.
Thomas is more than a scamp. He has been befriended by CRM, has seen the contrast of their lives, yet he makes curious choices. Not out of place with his status, but rendering friendship meaningless. The jumbled ending confused me, and seems out of character with the rest of the book. My Margaret? Indeed. This has been the recollection of a dying man on seeing the obituary of Mackintosh, followed by memories of the country awakening to CRMs brilliance?
I really wanted to love this book as it concerns my favourite artist. Her depictions of his craft are poetical. I am not aware of other fictional works concerning his story, but have read /own many biographies. I kept reading because of the thread of CRM’s story, an interesting blend of fact and fiction. I loved the sumptuous description of the countryside, the village is a central character. She has a gift for describing the natural world, and is a well crafted, meditative wordsmith. It is a slow, quiet detailed read. The area was known by artists for its light and their paintings capture the ethereal magic.
This is also a good study of the effects of war on everyday life in a small english coastal hamlet. I am delighted she has exposed many people to Mackintosh, as I can’t believe the number of Americans who had never heard of him, even with the great fire that nearly destroyed his Art School masterpiece this year. I was pleased to see a recent review in the NYTimes (Elizabeth Graver Jan 25).
I loved the British cover art of CRMs Fritillaria.

Read on:
Helen Humphreys The Evening Chorus (2015, WWII rural England)
Helen Dunsmore Zennor in Darkness (DH Lawrence in Cornwall)
Flora Thompson Lark Rise to Candleford (daily village life as experienced by a child)
For CRM biographies:
2010 CRM: Life and Work by James Macauley
2001 CRM by Edmund Swinglehurst
2000 CRM: Architect, Artist, Icon by John McKean and Colin Baxter
1995 CRM by Alan Crawford
My name is Thomas Maggs. Although I’m known as Tommy. And Tom’s what I tell people if I’m asked.
He’s got a gruff voice, low and hard to understand, with rolling Rs and sudden lifts and burrs, and if I close my eye I can hear the chimes and rises in it…
Mac…he looks for all the world like a detective. He’s wearing a great black cape as if he’s Sherlock Holmes.
I eat the little triangle of bread, so fast that I have to search myself for what is in it. Honey.
But the ink smudges against my knuckle and my finger and I am so disappointed I want to take the nub of the pen and stab it into my arm.
He’s built a school and a church in his home city of Glasgow, and houses, unusual houses, for gentlemen that don’t care what anybody thinks.
The truth about Margaret Macdonald, says Mac slowly, drilling the edges of a lead, is that she has genius. Where I have only talent.
I’ve made places for poets and now I’m being reprimanded for misplacing the toilet facilities.
I wanted to work in Glasgow. I wanted to work for Glasgow.

Read as an ARC from Netgalley

What Would Papa Do?

Title: Anne Perry A New York Christmas
Publisher: Ballantine/Penguin Random House (2014, 2015)
Genre: Christmas short story, novella, historical mystery, romantic suspense, English mysteries,
4 Stars ****
Author: Anne Perry is an international bestselling British author of over 60 historical detective novels. She lives in the secluded Scottish Highlands, but her readership is primarily American. The Times selected her as one of the 20th century’s “100 Masters of Crime”, and her short story “Heroes” (2001) won an Edgar.
Two of her acclaimed series feature William Monk, a private investigator who has amnesia, and Thomas Pitt, now head of Special Branch after a long illustrious career (and 30 books). Her Christmas stories (12 novellas) involve characters from these series, each with a pleasant, moral theme. They are a gentle reminder of why we celebrate the season. Her WWI series is not to be missed. She has also written YA, fantasy, and stand alone novels. I have read all her books and novellas (since 1980) so am familiar with her characters and writing style.
Story line:
It is 1904 and Jemima, the daughter of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, travels as chaperone to America with Delphinia Cardrew for her high society NY wedding into the wealthy Albright family. Jemima embarks on an adventure trying to find Phinnie’s mother Maria, but is then accused of murder. She meets Patrick Flannery, a police officer with an Irish lilt, who believes her innocence. They encounter danger and friendship in NYC society.
This story is a bit simplistic at times, with numerous themes, very predictable, but enjoyable to read especially the luxurious descriptions of elite NYC, winter in Central Park, diverse neighborhoods, family secrets and skeletons. And as our winter extends, it makes for an enjoyable afternoon read. I wonder if the continuing romance will lead to stories on this side of the Atlantic.
Now on sale in most bookstores, with shorter waiting list in the library.
Read on:
To the mysteries of Anne Perry, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, or William and Hester Monk.
To Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight series. Or Jane Haddam series.
To short stories of Donna VanLiere.
At twenty you have the face nature has given you; at fifty you have the face you deserve.
Twenty-three, and I’m thinking like a policeman! You would be proud of me Papa…and horrified.
Tact is a priceless virtue.
At least she would not look as foreign as she felt.
She made an instant decision to be charming, complimentary, and unimpressed. She owed it to her national honor not to gawk as if such things were not common at home.
She knows what matter and what doesn’t. She remembers what she receives, but not what she gives….she is never unnecessarily unkind.
It is very good to know the rules, even if you did not intend to follow them.
After all, how could you find magic if you did not believe in it?

Read as an ARC from Netgalley

Buy, Borrow, But Read!

Title: Thomas Perry A String of Beads January 2015
Publisher: Mysterious Press/ Grove-Atlantic
Genre: thriller, mystery, Jane Whitefield series, number 8
4.5 Stars ****
Author: Thomas Perry is an award winning mystery writer. His first novel The Butcher’s Boy won the Edgar for Best first Novel in 1983. He won a Gumshoe Award for Best Mystery in 2002 (Pursuit). Metzer’s Dog, a favourite of mine, was listed as one of the 100 Killer Thrillers by NPR. I am delighted he is still writing about Jane Whitefield, having started with Vanishing Act in 1995. This critically acclaimed series was voted one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by Independent Booksellers Assoc. If you haven’t read this series, start here, now! Then Dance for the Dead (1996), Shadow Woman (1997) Face-Changers (1998), Blood Money (1999), Runner (2009) and Poison Flower (2012). He is always looking for ways to develop her character, not just create new villans as the series ages. Perry likes to read Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Joe Gores, The Atlantic and The New Yorker. He has a BA from Cornell and Phd in English Literature from URochester, NY and has written 23 mystery/thrillers as well as television (Star Trek, the Next Generation, etc).
Story line:
Jane is older now, married to surgeon Carey McKinnon and living their upscale life in upstate NY. This is the life that makes the other worth fighting for. Her Seneca heritage (history, beliefs, customs) is also central to her and these books. I find it informative, fascinating and appreciate all the detail and thought process Perry provides. There is constant tension. She is always alert, aware and prepared in case her past finds her or her loved ones. Jane Whitefield has a secret career of creating new lives for people who need to disappear: a private witness protection program that works.
This time, Jane is asked by the Seneca tribe to find a childhood friend, before he is killed or worse. She cannot say no, although she is still recovering herself. Every ‘mission’ is an added threat to her own life. Jimmy Sanders is unjustly accused of murder and Jane needs to find him and solve the mystery, this time so Jimmy can lead a normal life, not remain in hiding.
Jane is a strong female protagonist. She is unique, intelligent and generous. I would love to know her, but hope never to need her. This is another compelling read, well crafted and written with unexpected twists and complex treachery. Perry has a deliberate, analytical style that often makes for a powerful read. While others tell you that they can be read in any order, I find the maturation and character development to be marked and important. Jane in Vanishing Act is not the same as the woman in String of Beads. Each story reveals a little more of her strengths, weaknesses, and character. This one provides interesting details of her childhood. I love the balance her marriage has added.
The string of beads of the title represent a Seneca contract.
I cannot believe that his books have not been made into movies.
Read on:
If you like Harlan Coben, John Sandford, Michael Connolly
Jane seldom ran the same route two days in a row. She never permitted a pattern to develop or ran a predicable pace on a predictable day.
All at once she realized who had come and it made her knees feel weak. This was a visit from the eight clan mothers.
Life was usually quiet for Jane McKinnon, much of it taken up by various kinds of volunteer work, benefits and fund-raising for the hospital….
You must have amputated a few wallets while I was away….It’s the only way I can get my patients to lose weight.
If you have enough time alone with your feelings, they start to separate out like ingredients in a suspension, and you can identify their properties. Anger wasn’t the biggest part. Worrying about you was the biggest, and missing you was most of what was left.

Read as an ARC from Netgalley
Published on Friends of the Rochester Public Library WordPress blog, Celtreads.blogspot, Amazon and Goodreads, facebook

Flavia Strikes Again!

Alan Bradley As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
Publisher: Random House /Bartam Dell (January 6, 2015)
418 pp
4 stars
Genre: YA series, science fantasy, Sherlock Holmes fans
Sequel to The Dead in their Vaulted Arches
Read in one sitting, as all previous books were, often late into the night.

Alan Bradley was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in the lakeside town of Cobourg, Ont. After a career in television broadcasting, he retired from the University of Saskatchewan to write full-time. He publications include children’s stories, lifestyle and arts columns in Canadian newspapers and screenplays. His adult stories have been broadcast on CBC radio and published in various literary journals. He was the recipient of the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature.

The first in the series, “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” won the 2007 Debut Dagger Award of the Crime Writers Association in the UK; the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel; the 2010 Dilys, awarded by the International Mystery Booksellers Association; the Spotted Owl Award, given by the Friends of Mystery, and the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award, given by the Crime Writers of Canada for Best First Novel. It was also nominated for an Anthony Award, a Barry Award, and a Macavity Award. Sweetness made numerous lists and awards including the New York Times, as a Favorite Mystery of 2009, an American Library Association nominee as Best Book For Young Adults; a Barnes and Noble Bestseller. The audiobook version of “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” was voted Best AudioBook by iTunes. The books are all NYTimes best sellers. Don’t miss the audio books narrated by Jayne Entwistle- she is absolutely perfect, and recently (11/14) won Outstanding Audiobook Narration for The Dead in their Vaulted Arches.
Academy Award-winning producer/director Sam Mendes, of “Skyfall” and “American Beauty” fame has optioned for Flavia for television movies (2012).

Story line:
This is book 7 in what I hope is a long series of sleuthing for our intrepid youngster Flavia De Luce. Please read these in order as there is a good progression of character, friendships, sleuthing techniques and ‘in jokes’. My favourites are volumes 1,6 and now 7. If you love the Flavia stories you will definitely enjoy this installment although it is not set in England.
Flavia has been banished from her Beloved Buckshaw, transported to the wilds of Canada (Toronto, 1951). Flavia is to study at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, her mother’s alma mater, and take part in a secret society NIDE. (Now run by her Aunt Felicity, and which we suspect Flavia will excel in). This is a boarding school with a secret mission, but also a mystery as there is always a body for Flavia to inspect. She has become more than a precocious preteen; while she has her trademark sarcastic wit and refreshing observations, she is growing up, becoming more analytical and thoughtful. She was terribly homesick, but felt the excitement and discovery of new places. She was grieving for her mother (whose body was just returned home), missing Dogger and scones, but successfully dealing with new girls (not her sisters) and making adjustments. She remains a very strong, original female lead and roll model.
I loved the literary quotes. I loved her anticipation and recognition of the science lab, her exposure to new, interesting adult teachers. The mystery was a minor component for me in comparison to her experiences in the new environment. While it is a satisfactory clever conclusion, it was rather sudden, although predictable, there are a number of interesting questions/themes remaining for several more books. I thought the emotional swings and roundabouts were realistic and help ground the character development of Flavia. There is a pitch perfect description of the convent and many academics. I hope and suspect we will see more of them.
I would have liked more information on the school and Harriet when she was a student here. And more on the teachers, especially as Flavia was all too suddenly whisked away. I suspect Bradley knows we are reading this series for Flavia and that we will see more adventures, in time and place as she grows up.
Meanwhile, Buckshaw looms on the horizon.
And I must find Bradley’s memoir The Shoebox Bible.

Read on:
If you like Harriet the Spy or Lemony Snickett’s Violet Baudeleaire.
Or listen to Jayne Entwistle narrate Julie Berry’s Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.
Also note there is a Flavia short story recently epublished “The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse”

First sentence:
Banished! The wind shrieked as it tore at my face.”

The maggots were nothing new: I had thought of them often while dwelling on the delights of decomposition. Daffy had even read out to me at the breakfast table — “Knowing your proclivities,” she had said, smirking — that wonderful passage from Love’s Labour’s Lost, where one of the characters says, “These summer-flies have blown me full of maggot ostentation.” It had caused Father to put aside his sausages, get up, and leave the room, but had given me a whole new appreciation of Shakespeare.

“And this must be our little Flavia!”
On paper the man was already dead.

Magic doesn’t work when you’re sad.

Desperation is capable of wonderful things.

Received as an ARC ebook through Netgalley, purchased hardback for my collection.
(Just delighted to read this early, and now impatiently waiting for the next installment)


Remember all proceeds benefit the Rochester Public Library!
Hardcovers $2, paperbacks $1, kids and nonprint 50cents

Sale dates:
Thursday February 5: Friends’ preview 5-7pm (now’s a good time to join!)
Friday February 6: 9:30 am – 5 pm
Saturday February 7: 9:30 am – 5 pm
Sunday February 8: 1:30 am – 4 pm

RPL Auditorium
101 2nd St SE, Rochester MN 55904
Payment by cash, cheque or credit card

Don’t forget the Friends’ bookstore is open too!
Friends’ Bookstore – 507.328.2306
The Friends bookstore is located on the main floor of the Rochester Public Library. Quality used books at reasonable prices are our specialty. Stock includes children’s books, fiction, non-fiction and foreign language fiction. Check our store regularly as we restock shelves daily with new arrivals.
The Bookstore is operated by the Friends of the Rochester Public Library as a non-profit organization with all proceeds going to the Rochester Public Library. We formed in 1995 dedicated to strengthening the existing resources of the Library while promoting awareness and use of the Library services. All of our books are donated and we are staffed by volunteers. Please consider becoming a Friend’s member and volunteer in the library or bookstore.
We have progressed from one annual garage sale to the RochesterFest two-day event, with three other sales during the year (Winterfest, National Library Week, and Fall Cleanup) as well as our December Holiday Book and Bake Sale. The Friends also run a store that is open for seven days per week, a total of 48 hours. The Special and Unusual Book Sales are also held in conjunction with these sales.
Annually the Library places over 8,000 books (valued over$250,000) as new or replacement books into the Library or Bookmobile from donations. These books and materials were valued at over $250,000. Volunteers consistently donate nearly 18,000 hours sorting books, running the Bookstore, and working at Auditorium sales. (This is estimated to be worth over $340,000 or 8 full-time employees). This is all possible because of the generous donations by residents and visitors of Rochester and surrounding communities.
Recent projects include books for soldiers ‘Operation Paperback’ (Pat Stephenson mailed over 700 books), Support for Channel One (1000s of books), Online sales (text books, out of print books, virtual cash for book purchase, unusual and special books), Art Walk extending our open hours during the summer with Art and Book displays, and RPL Book Group Book bags, where we replace or provide additional copies for over 80 titles. Gift items such as canvas bags, gift certificates, music CDs, and signed books are also available.

(Check out the recent YouTube video from the above link- sorry I can’t seem to post it!)