Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Year of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

I suppose it all began when I started reading the Hardy Boys mysteries as a kid, but for as long as I can remember, I have loved reading mysteries. So it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone when I decided to subscribe to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I hate to admit it, but in this busy world, sometimes I just don't have time to read as many books as I'd like to. That's why a subscription to EQMM seemed like the perfect solution for me. The stories are well written, and you can easily fit one in before turning in at night.

For the first time this year I plan to submit a ballot for the 2010 EQMM Readers Award (details are in the December issue). I've read every single story in EQMM this year and picking a favorite is a difficult choice. Luckily, I've kept a running record of my favorites. For each issue I have listed my favorite story followed by a few runners-up. Consider these great short stories for your reading pleasure:

January 2010:
"Io, Saturnalia!" by Margaret Maron

Runners-up for January: "The Digital Date" by Doug Allyn, "The Body in the Dunes" by Caroline Benton, "Ravensara" by Melanie Lawrence, and "Heartbeat" by Katia Lief.

"Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man" by Evan Lewis was featured in The Department of First Stories

Runners-up for February: "Boxcar" by Nancy Means Wright, "A Dark Reunion" by Kate Ellis, "Family Values" by Robert Barnard, and from Passport to Crime: "Heard at One Remove" by Hiroki Nagaoka.

This was an excellent issue, but for my favorite I have to go with "Duel" by William Link. He helped create some to TV's best crime series: Columbo, Mannix, and Murder, She Wrote. "It All Adds Up" by Thomas Kaufman was a lot of fun to read too.

Second place is a tie: "Satan Rides the 5:15" by Vincent Lardo and "Death By Misadventure" by John Buchanan. Other runners-up: "The Girl in the Golden Gown" by Robert S. Levinson, "When, He Wondered" by Lynne Barret, "A Tour of the Tower" by Christine Poulson, and "The Disappearance of Wicked" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
Loved "Monopoly" by Judith Merchant, which was featured the Passport to Crime section. And keep an eye out for Steven Steinbock, who wrote "Cleaning Up" for the Department of First Stories section.

"Little Old Ladies" by Simon Brett.

Runners-up: "A Small Technical Problem" by Caroline Benton, "Snake Song" by Bill Pippin, "The White Door" by Stephen Ross, and "Truck Cemetery" by Ruth Francisco.

"The Gift" by Phil Lovesey

Runners-up: "Whole Life" by Liza Cody, "The City of Radiant Brides" by Janice Law, and "Last Dance in Shanghai" by Clark Howard.

"The Body Snatchers" by Bill Pronzini

Runners-up: "Without a Body" by Lawrence Block, "Fete Worse Than Death" by Judith Cutler, "Tradition" by Ed Gorman. Also, enjoyed the French short story by Maud Tabachnik, "An Ordinary Woman".

This month there was a tie for my favorite story between "Ants and Flowers" by Jean Femling and "Lovely Requiem, Mr. Mozart" by Robert Barnard.

Runners-up: "Escape From Wolfkill" by Clark Howard and "The Green Cross" by Elizabeth Zelvin

"Archie's Been Framed" by Dave Zeltserman

Runners-up: "So Much In Common" by Mary Jane Maffini, "Mr. Alibi" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, "Open and Shut Case" by Marilyn Todd, and "The Scent of Lilacs" by Doug Allyn

"The Changelings: A Very Grim Fairytale (but for our times)" by Carol Biederman

Runners-up: "Inevitable" by Jennifer Itell, "Bedside Manners" by Martin Edwards, and "Death on the Mountain" by Nessa Altura

"The Man with One Eye" by Stephen Ross

Runners-up: "Winter's End" by Clark Howard and "What am I?" by Todd A. Whaley

So there you have it, my list of favorite stories for the year. You're probably wondering which one I liked best. Well, it was a tie. My two favorites for 2010 are "Io, Saturnalia!" by Margaret Maron and "Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man" by Evan Lewis. May the best story win!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce

✰✰✰✰½ Middle school can be full of surprises and challenges for anyone. In this installment of the Big Nate series, Nate Wright is entering dangerous territory. His class is being assigned a special project and the kids get to work in pairs. As luck would have it, Nate is randomly paired up with his archenemy, Gina Hemphill-Toms. Gina isn't too happy either. As an A+ student, she's worried that Nate will bring down her grade point average.

On the flip side of the coin, Nate covets winning the SPOFFY (Sports Played Only For Fun) trophy. He feels he is destined to win it during fleeceball season until he finds out that Gina is on his team. Nooo! It can't be, but it is. Since Gina doesn't even like sports, Nate worries that she will ruin everything.

Will both Nate and Gina ruin everything for the other? Or can they come up with a plan to get what they both want? This is a great story about teamwork and friendship. Kids who enjoy reading the
Diary of a Wimpy Kid series are sure to enjoy the adventures of Nate Wright in the Big Nate series as well.

The Bottom Line:
Author Lincoln Peirce captures the essence of middle school perfectly. This quick read takes me right back to my middle school days. It is highly entertaining. Nate Wright is so much fun that even reluctant readers will enjoy his latest adventure. While this book is a follow-up to Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, it is not necessary to have read that book first. Anyone can easily pick up this second book and get right into the action. It is filled with age appropriate humor and fun illustrations. I, for one, can't wait to read the next book. Highly recommended for kids in grades 4 and up.

For more fun, check out the
Big Nate website.

Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce. Advance Reader's Edition published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2010. 224 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-194436-9 Note: I received a complimentary Advance Reader's Edition from HarperCollins Publishers in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: An Amish Christmas by Cynthia Keller

✰✰✰ On the surface, suburban homemaker Meg Hobart has it all: a successful husband, three kids, and a beautiful house. Although Meg doesn't realize it at the time, there are cracks showing through the family's idyllic life. Thus, Meg is completely taken by surprise during the midst of Thanksgiving holiday preparations, when her husband suddenly confesses that he's led the family to financial ruin.

Finding themselves homeless, the Hobarts pack up a few belongings and leave everything else behind. On their way to Meg's family home in upstate New York, Meg tries to cheer the family up with little side trips. However, fate takes over and the Hobarts find themselves stranded in a Pennsylvania Amish town after a car accident.

In true Amish tradition, the Lutz family takes in the Hobarts for as long as needed. The family must make the transition from a life of modern conveniences to a life without electricity, computers, cell phones, and fashion. Meg is stunned to observe how incredibly selfish and rude her two teens are behaving when faced with this challenge. Though discouraged she somehow motivates her uncooperative family into participating in the Lutz family activities. Meanwhile, the realization that she's been living a lie has a devastating effect on Meg. Will she ever learn to trust her husband again or would they be better off if she leaves him behind? Only time will tell.

The Bottom Line: This easy read is a tale for the times. The self-absorbed Hobart family learns the true meaning of Christmas through the examples set by the Amish people. The lessons of forgiveness and love shine through in this uplifting holiday story. Recommended for everyone who enjoys holiday stories that celebrate the family.

Details: An Amish Christmas: A Novel by Cynthia Keller. Published by Ballantine Books in 2010. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-345-52378-5 Note: I received a complimentary Advance Reader's Edition from Ballantine Books in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Review: It's a Book by Lane Smith

✰✰✰✰✰ You can't text, blog, or tweet with it. Nor can you scroll down or use Wi-Fi with it. So just what exactly does a book do? The monkey does his best to explain to the jackass exactly what it is that a book does. But will the tech savvy little jackass with a laptop attached at the hip ever get it? Read the book and find out.

The Bottom Line: It's a Book is sassy and fun. Lane Smith brilliantly contrasts modern technology with timeless media. Smith doesn't need a lot of words to make a point. The adorable illustrations feature a minimalist approach in muted colors. This is a great example of where less is more and sometimes a simple approach is best. Highly recommended for the young and the young at heart as well as all bibliophiles with a sense of humor. Well done!

Details: It's a Book by Lane Smith. Hardcover published by Roaring Book Press in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-59643-606-0