Ready. Set. 2016 …

Greetings Friends – I hope you had the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years! 2016 has appeared in our headlights while 2015 disappears in our rear view mirrors! Let’s move right into the update …

Music News …

I am thrilled to announce that I have signed with PARMA Recordings to record two of my choral compositions on a Christmas compilation CD to be released next Christmas on the Navona label. It will be available on Naxos, Spotify, Barnes & Noble, and other streaming, online, and retail outlets.

The two pieces will be In the Bleak Midwinter and Balulalow. The performnce will be by The Stanbery Singers conducted by John Stanbery. We will record in the Cincinnati area in March. I will be there and actively involved in the recording sessions. The release date has not been set yet but it will be in time for the 2016 Christmas season. I hope you will listen, download, or purchase the recording and then share you thoughts with me here.

The Fall Reading List Goes into Overtime!

Well, I guess I was a little ambitious when I constructed my fall reading list. I was supposed to finish by December 21, but, as of January 4, I have two and one-half books to go! The end of term responsibilities at the university, preparations for the holiday, and hosting lots of family guests over Christmas (ten in the house!), all contributed to my lacuna in serious reading time.

I will shortly develop a winter TBR list, but it will probably be a bit more conservative and less lengthy! Several of my favorite authors have new releases coming up, so it promises to be a good list.

Here are my brief thoughts on the continuation of the list from the last post:

Jane Haddam – Bleeding Hearts

Gregor Demarkian, the Armenian Hercule Poirot (He hates that!), is once again thrust into murder and mayhem in this absorbing Valentine’s Day adventure.

If you’re not willing to enjoy the Armenian ethnicity of this series, you will probably lose interest. Since the first book, Haddam has woven an interesting cast of characters on Cavanaugh street in Philadelphia. This entry in the saga maintains the holiday theme. Spoiler alert: Haddam eventually abandons the holiday format but continues the series in free-form style.

Some points of interest in this book are the inclusion of one of the Demarkian circle of friends in the murder (she didn’t do it!), and some intriguing plot twists that elevate this story to an “almost procedural” rather than a “cozy.” Of course, Gregor always seems to have the whole thing solved and even appears to withhold information (very Poirot-esque) from his friends and even us! In the end, all the tangled skeins are unraveled and the miscreant is revealed. We’re left wondering why Gregor Demarkian ever leaves his apartment! Whenever he does, the game is afoot, as they say!

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles – Game Over

Inspector Bill Slider needs to multi-task! He’s got a high-profile murder to solve,  a former nemesis has escaped from prison and is trying to kill him. and he’s needs to marry his pregnant girlfriend …

Harrod-Eagles was one of those authors caught up in the Amazon vs publishers argument which made the Slider series unavailable to Kindle readers (like me!). This a an absorbing read, but – you really need to be already familiar with the characters to derive complete enjoyment from CH-E’s work. Like just about every series I read, you need to read the books in order. This is the eleventh entry in this series and the recurring characters are fully developed. I can see where it might be a bit disconcerting as a one-off read. I found it to not be a page turner as some of the series have been, but I am happy to delve into the characters as they eventually untangle the interlocking issues. Go back to book number 1 (an orchestra conductor is murdered – how can you resist!), and make your way to this one. It;s worth the effort!

Anne Hillerman – Rock with Wings

Hollywood comes to the Reservation as Bernie and Chee chase down the bad guys!

As I’ve stated before, I think Anne Hillerman is doing a magnificent job of keeping her father’s iconic characters alive and thriving in the paradigm of the Navajo Tribal Police. Another interesting change with Anne taking over the series is the emergence of Bernadette Manuelito Chee as a major character. This tale brings a Hollwood set and company to the desert and, of course, murder makes itself known! Bernie and Jim just can’t seem to spend enough time together as Jim is assigned to security with the movie folks and Bernie deals with family issues surrounding her sister and mother. In a delightful turn of events, Joe Leaphorn, recovering from a near-fatal shooting, becomes involved in the mystery and lends his expertise and experience in developing the solution. It’s wonderful to still have these characters with us and kudos to Anne Hillerman for skillfully maintaining her father’s world while bring a freshness to the series story line! This is an easy read and often hard to put down!

Donna Leon – The Golden Egg

In a deviation from the usual police investigation, Commissario Guido Brunetti is asked by his wife Paola to look into the death of a mentally handicapped man. What unfolds is a tale of dark inhumanity that Brunetti pursues to the bitter end. As always, Leon’s marvelous depictions of Venice and Venetian society greatly enhance the story.

Leon usually produces a thoughtful read that winds its way carefully through the complexities of plot and character. The Golden Egg is no different. Allow time to revel in the glories of Venice and the depth og characters and their connections. The time spent will be richly rewarded as the subterfuge of the plot twists will finally become clear. This is the twenty-second Brunetti book in the series. I am almost caught up and look forward to the next issue. 

So, that’s the book list update. I’m about finished with Archer Mayor’s St. Alban’s Fire, which isn’t going as quickly as I thought it would. Still to come will be The Ashtabula Hat Trick (Les Roberts) and Peter Robinson’s Past Reason Hated. This last one is a Christmas story that will just be a little late this year!

The winter TBR list will commence when I’ve finished Past Reason Hated and will run until March 21. Meanwhile, keep reading and enjoy the New Year!  -JAS

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2 Responses to Ready. Set. 2016 …

  1. Jane Smith says:

    Hi Jim. I’m thrilled to hear about your recording – I’ve sung both of those anthems and love them! The authors you read are some of my favorites. I just finished the Hillerman and loved it, so went back to read her first. I also read Peter Robinson and Archer Mayor.
    We have excellent taste in music and mystery authors! Jane

    • jshrader says:

      Hi Jane!
      So nice to hear from you. I’m finally blogging again today! Next week Aija and I are off to Cincinnati to oversee the recording, then I’ll return home to get ready for my Spring Training jaunt to Clearwater to see three Phillies games (in honor of Gil Hellwig!). It looks like I may be finally retiring after this semester, although I’ll probably stay on part-time at the Honors College teaching some classes in Creativity and Leadership. We think so often about the “Camelot” years in Cleveland and at FBC. It was a formulating time that helped to carry me through a long and fulfilling career. However, I often take myself back to those days and I am filled with happiness and friendship! You were such a big part of that – I so appreciate it! Please send my love and regards to all who still remember our time there. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! -Jim

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