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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Tricked (Iron Druid Chronicles, #4)

Tricked - Kevin Hearne, Christopher Ragland

This series is great fun, but I probably liked this one the least.  I think.

 

While I generally love most stories that interweave Native American myths into the plot, I don't like the ones that rely on the protagonist being manipulated into corners by others.  Which means Coyote is probably never going to be my favourite NA god (although I do like the Coyote in Briggs' Mercy Thompson series).  I also didn't enjoy reading about the betrayal of Atticus by someone he considered if not a friend, certainly an ally.

 

I'd give a lot for Granuaile to stop calling Atticus sensei; I can't take her, as a character, nor her respect for Atticus seriously because of that stupid moniker.

 

What I did love where the scenes involving the Blessing Way and the very small moments when they discussed the Witchery Way and the Four Worlds of the Navajo Nation.

 

It was an entertaining read, with a conclusion that could have served as the end of the series.  It isn't but the next book happens 12 years later, which makes this a good place to pause in the series and take a break. 

 

N.B. I listened to this on audio and the narrator Christopher Ragland does a great job with Atticus and Granuaile; even Coyote's voice is acceptable although I could find fault with his slow good ol' boy interpretation.  But I hate his Oberon.  I cringe every single time I hear that slurry voice he uses for the majestic wolfhound; he makes Oberon sound like he has partial facial paralysis.  But being outside the US, I'm stuck with Ragland's narration or none at all.  It could have been worse though; in Hammered I had to listen to him make Leif the vampire sound like a Clint Eastwood with laryngitis. 



Book lists by square for Halloween Book Bingo

 

I'm pretty sure there isn't anybody out there who isn't aware of Moonlight Murder and Obsidian Black Death's most excellent 2016 Halloween Book Bingo; those of us participating have fairly flooded the feeds recently planning our lists and sharing ideas for fulfilling each square.

 

I thought it might be helpful to try to consolidate these recommendations into BookLike lists (found from the Dashboard under, oddly enough, Apps), to make it easier to see what people are reading and recommending.  I've only done 8 squares/lists so far, but I'll knock out most of the rest tomorrow (hopefully).

 

I've created a linked list of lists in the Bingo group, but I thought I'd post about it too, in case not everybody participating gets notified of new posts, or belongs to the group.

 

I've tagged all the lists halloween bingo too so if you go to the reading page and search for halloween bingo, they should come up.  You can also click on the little tag displayed underneath the list title.

 

When I knew to do it, I mentioned in the comments for each book what other categories that book could be used for.

 

Please feel free to recommend additional books for the lists in the list comments - unfortunately BL doesn't (yet) offer the ability to create public contribution lists - and I'll add the titles quick as I can.



Mr. Cranky-Pants...

 

is not amused by the towering piles of Halloween Book Bingo books hovering over his bed.



To the Last Drop (Maggy Thorsen mystery, #9)

To The Last Drop - Sandra Balzo

I thought this series ended after the last one, Murder on the Orient Espresso, was published in 2013 and had one of the most delightfully macabre methods of murder I'd read yet in a cozy mystery.  So I was very happy to see this 9th book released this year and I snapped it up.

 

Maggy Thorsen, a 40-something divorcée running a coffee shop, Uncommon Grounds, in the small fictional town of Brookhills, Wisconsin.

 

I love Maggy; her inner voice is so wonderfully sarcastic and mirrors my own inner dialogue so much, the pages just fly by.  I hadn't realised how much I missed these characters until I picked up the book last night, and then read it all in one sitting.  Balzo writes one of the most realistic settings and some of the most intelligent characters in cozies, in my opinion.  I have no problem imagining any of these people living next door or down the street.

 

The mystery was good; looking back I think the clues were there and I missed them and a little twist at the end made it a touch more interesting too.

 

The only thing that didn't work for me was the weird, forced, drama between Maggy and the Sheriff, Jake.  What was the point of that exercise?  It never felt believable and its resolution lost the oomph it might have had under different circumstances.  The whole thing was a fail, although I'm thankful Balzo didn't string it out over another book or two.

 

I don't know if she plans to write any more in this series or not, but if she does, I'll happily snap them up.  



A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall

A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall - Hannah Dennison

In an odd twist, the same humour that usually makes the books in this series so enjoyable is slowly starting to make them less so.

 

Kat and her mother have this weird, zany dynamic built on the premise that all Kat's life, while she thought her mother suffered debilitating migraines, she was locked in her room writing internationally best-selling romances.  Once she discovers her mother's secret life, she starts learning about all sorts of other stuff too, including a childhood spent in a travelling circus-type thing and previously unknown relatives.  Turns out mom's past is a tiny bit shady.

 

But after three books, the constant bickering and lying and concealment/discovery is getting old.   The lack of romantic movement between Kat and Shawn and the constant reappearance of David is tiresome.  The mood swings of the 'toffs' at Honeychurch Hall have become so wild I'm beginning to think someone ought to lace their drinking supply with lithium.

 

The mystery of A Killer Ball was interesting enough, but the ultimate solution was akin to something designed by a wildly imaginative 9 year old.  Or alternatively, it felt like the author forced a scenario to ensure it would catch readers by surprise. 

 

Still, I didn't flat line my rating because there were still a lot to enjoy; I love Harry and the Dowager Countess is a delightfully mouthy character most of the time.  The setting is brilliant too, and I was especially intrigued by the use of secret rooms and old maps.   I just wish Kat and her mother would grow up; there's plenty of humour here without relying on the two bickering biddies schtick.



Happy weekend...

 

Hoping everyone finds a sunny spot, and their favourite books this weekend.  :)



Transitioning into the spooky season...

I swore I would not change my blog for Halloween before September 1st.  

 

 

So, I rationalised that a slow transition would be ok.  At the moment I'm a bit Victorian, but between now and Halloween, my blog will get progressively spookier.  I think I have everything set now that I only have to swap out the backgrounds, fingers crossed.



Crowned and Dangerous (Her Royal Spyness, #10)

Crowned and Dangerous: A Royal Spyness Mystery - Rhys Bowen

In just about any other cozy series, this one would be a 4 star read, but Bowen has set her own standard rather high, and this one comparatively speaking, doesn't quite match up.

 

My biggest beef with it was the oh so worn out trope of weddingtus interruptus, followed by the even worse "we can never be together again; I'm only thinking of you" cliche.  I get that she's trying to string this romance out as long as possible but I expected better from this author.

 

Even still, the read was a lot of fun; you can't help love these characters and in this adventure Bowen even gets me to warm to Queenie, the living embodiment of TSTL.  We get an up close and personal introduction to Darcy's family and a visit to the ancestral castle in Ireland.

 

The mystery was, so-so.  I think it was sort of obvious who the players were but not how the story was going to come together.  The author notes at the end what is historical fact and what she's taken liberties with and turned into (slight) fiction.

 

All in all a pleasant way to while away the afternoon.



What the ?!?

A few weeks ago I ordered 4 really cute cat bowls from Amazon, after a critical breakage that left us with more cats than cat food bowls.  When they arrived, 3 of the four were smashed - they'd been put in the box without anything more than a single air pocket in each bowl.  So I got on to Amazon chat and in all of 5 minutes the very nice person had three replacement bowls sent out to me.  Easy as!!!  Two of them arrived just three days later - so cute!!

 

The third replacement arrived today:

 

THEY SHIPPED A CERAMIC BOWL IN A MANILA ENVELOPE!!

 

Who does that??   How does anybody look at a stoneware bowl, a manila envelope, and think "yeah, that'll work!".  

 

Ugh - waiting for Amazon chat to respond with my "options".

 

ETA:  They're sending another replacement free of charge.  Poor guy actually said this:

We make every attempt to pack items securely to protect them during shipping, but sometimes damage does occur.

 

Uh, not this time you didn't.  This time, it's safe to say, no effort was made.  Sheesh.



Arsenic with Austen

Arsenic with Austen - Katherine Bolger Hyde

First in a new series, and first by a new author, but ultimately disappointing.

 

When Emily Cavanaugh inherits a fortune from her great aunt, she expects her life to change. She doesn't expect to embark on a murder investigation, confront the man who broke her heart 35 years before, and nearly lose her own life.

 

It started off strong with a great premise and all the pieces were there: independent, English Lit professor, widowed without heavy emotional baggage, older but not middle age.  In the first third of the book it felt like it would be a 4 star read.

 

After that first third though, I found that while the writing is technically very good, it lacked a subtly and sophistication that became more and more apparent; it felt like a mature story written for a middle grader.  By the half-way mark the book was down to a solid three: I was still enjoying the plot, but not the writing.

 

The last third though... Several things became harder to ignore for me.  I'm typically ambivalent about insta-love, but Emily and Luke have not laid eyes on each other in 35 years, separated by a big Misunderstanding and a little conspiracy, but they are instantly in love again after meeting at her aunt's funeral - before they even get the big Misunderstanding sorted out.  They acted like teenagers, and I kept picking up this feeling that she was being a tease because she wasn't using her words.  Emily worries that her friend is going to steal her boyfriend too, which felt childish.  Add to this that by this time, Emily and Luke's wild speculations about who was guilty, with Emily trying to solve it based on the plots of classic literature, just got silly and I was down to 2.5 stars.

 

Finally, the last couple of chapters - out of nowhere - went suddenly super Christian.  I don't mind general references of a character's faith - I'm Christian myself - but when it becomes to heavy handed, I'm out.  And at the point where Emily has a dream telling her to not only forgive the killer or killers but offer to pay for the defence, it was officially heavy handed.

 

This and the fact that the plot, though it had potential, fell apart (there really isn't any mystery about who is guilty) and I was down to a generous 2 stars.  Which is really doubly disappointing because I had really high hopes for this book and it started out so promising, but I'm really doubtful I'll be reading the next one.



Halloween Book Bingo ideas - Full Moon Square

 

As I was going through my books at home, I found these with a full moon on the covers, and thought I'd share.   

 

These are all UF except one cozy.  Unfortunately, most them are part of a series, although one is the first (I've noted it below).  If you don't mind reading out of order though, these might work for you.  All of them should either still be in print or available in ebook.

 

Note:  all of these except the cozy would also work for the Vampires vs. Werewolves square.

 

Full Moon:

First the cozy:

Undeniably Yours by Heather Webber is a cozy mystery with romance.  I've read the series, but not this one yet, and it's my choice for the Full Moon square.  MC is psychic who finds lost objects; she uses this talent in a roundabout way to find missing people.

 

The UF:

Books from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, including the first book, 

Moon Called.  Also: Night Broken.

 

Charlaine Harris' Sookie Steakhouse series has full moons on the covers of:

Club Dead (one of my least favourites) and Dead to the World, my absolute favourite of the series.

 

3 books from the Chicagoland Vampire series written by Chloe Neill:

Some Girls BiteHard Bitten and Biting Bad 

 

Undeniably Yours - Heather Webber  Moon Called - Patricia Briggs  Night Broken - Patricia Briggs  Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris  Club Dead - Charlaine Harris  Some Girls Bite - Chloe Neill  Hard Bitten: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel - Chloe Neill  Biting Bad - Chloe Neill  

 



Halloween Book Bingo ideas - Pumpkin Square

 

As I was going through my books at home, I found these with pumpkins on the covers, and thought I'd share with the class.   

 

All of these books are also of the non-gory, non-horror variety.  Unfortunately, they're all part of a series, and none of them are firsts.  If you don't mind reading out of order though, these might work for you.  All of them should either still be in print or available in ebook.

 

Pumpkins

Be Careful What You Witch For by Dawn Eastman - A reluctant psychic.  Very good.

Hallowed Bones by Carolyn Haines - MC is a P.I.; there's a ghost and a strong female friendship.  Long running series that's one of my favourites.

Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont - Event planner for a small town that survives off its festivals.  Not bad, very cozy.

The Legend of Sleepy Harlow by Kylie Logan - B&B owner on island in Lake Michigan. Strong female friendships.  Very good series and excellent book.

Scared Stiff by Annelise Ryan - Hilarious series about a nurse turned assistant coroner.

 

Of the books named above, they all take place in the "Fall" and I believe Halloween night is part of all the timelines (I'm not quite sure about Be Careful What You Witch For).

 

Be Careful What You Witch For - Dawn Eastman  Hallowed Bones - Carolyn Haines  Trick or Deceit - Shelley Freydont  The Legend of Sleepy Harlow - Kylie Logan  Scared Stiff  - Annelise Ryan  



Halloween Book Bingo ideas - Black Cat Square

 

I was going through my home book database looking for books for Halloween bingo, and thought I'd share some titles that could work for those hard to find categories. 

 

All of these books are also of the non-gory, non-horror variety.  If you don't like to be scared witless, you can read these without having to sleep with the lights on.  Most of them should either still be in print or available in ebook.

 

Black Cat

I'm using The Black Cat Knocks on Wood by Kay Finch because it's the trifecta:  title, cover and subject.  This is the second in the series but the first one is also a three-fer.

 

The Knitting series by Barbara Bretton, starting with Casting Spells has a black cat on the cover of all the books - at least the first 5 I own do.  You can't get much cozier than these.

 

A slightly older and finished series by Shirley Damsgaard that starts with Witch Way to Murder has black cats on all the covers too.  Most of this series is in the "decent' range, with, sadly, the last book being far and away the best.  Slightly heavier atmosphere to these too.

 

Incidentally, any of the three series above would also work for the Witches square.

 

One of Rochelle Staab's books Who Do, Voodoo? has a black cat, and is also a decent read.

 

Elizabeth Peters wrote a stand alone, Devil May Care; I've read it but can't remember it, so I can't comment on its quality.  But is has a black cat on the cover and the title seems Halloween-ish.  If it's the book I'm thinking it is, it's also paranormal.

 

Finally, I have one on my TBR by Peg Cochran, Berried Secrets; don't know much about this one at all.  It's a first in series and a new author.  But there's a black cat.  :)

 

Devil May Care - Elizabeth Peters  Berried Secrets - Peg Cochran  Who Do, Voodoo? - Rochelle Staab  Witch Way to Murder - Shirley Damsgaard  Casting Spells - Barbara Bretton  The Black Cat Knocks on Wood - Kay Finch  

 



Famous Novelists on Symbolism in Their Work and Whether It Was Intentional

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30937/famous-novelists-symbolism-their-work-and-whether-it-was-intentional

 

I thought this was both hilarious and enlightening; it drove me crazy when my Lit teachers wanted to pick apart every story; I always wanted to just raise my hand and say maybe the author's intent was just to write a good story?  This kid was braver than I was.  :)

 

(The original survey and responses can be seen as images at:

http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2011/12/05/document-the-symbolism-survey/)



I just ordered this...

Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Boxed Set - Ransom Riggs

I've eyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children since it first started taking off, but I had the impression it was aimed more for middle school age, and I don't have kids so it was never a priority.

 

But I just found out Ransom Riggs grew up in my hometown - my tiny hometown where my family goes back far enough to be called pioneers.  He's 10 years younger than I am so I never met him, but he went to school where I would have gone had my parents not shipped me out to private school; the school where several of my nephews currently attend.

 

I thought all this was cool - very cool (did I mention small town?), but then discovered the first chapter of the first book is set in the same town.

 

SOLD!

 

and because the third book is called Library of Lost Souls, I just buckled and bought the whole set.

 

I rarely get homesick, but this did it for me.  My little town is growing up!  *sniffle*

 

Also - I'm feeling confident at least one of these books is going to fit a Bingo square.  ;-)



Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 320 pages.

Arsenic with Austen - Katherine Bolger Hyde

Any book with a Jane Austen/Agatha Christie mashup for a title automatically sets high expectations.  Here's hoping this one is half as good as either of its namesakes.