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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.

Bingo Update #3

The upside of having the cold from hell is I'm rapidly catching up on my Bingo reads.  if I can just figure out what to read for Classic Horror, I'll have my first bingo!

 

Southern Gothic Drowning Deep modern noir relics and curiosities Country House Mystery
Amateur Sleuth Doomsday Spellbound cozy mystery Terror in a Small Town
Free Square classic horror Grimm Tale
darkest london Shifters baker street irregular romantic suspense 13
genre suspense gothic ghost stories

 

Squares are greyed out until they're called.  

Called squares will be full-strength.

Read but not called squares will be greyed out below.

Called and read will have a marker on it and the marker will 'disappear' from the picture below.  

 

My markers this year are pieces of a full image, seen here:

   
       
  Genre   Gothic Ghost Stories

 

As squares are called, pieces of the picture will disappear, as they reappear on the card; as one picture disintegrates, another will emerge.  :)

 

My loose plan for the squares is as follows.  I'm tracking my actual reads on a spreadsheet, so this list may or may not get updated. 

 

First Row:

Southern Gothic:Woman Without a Past - Phyllis A. Whitney  READ ON 19 SEPTEMBER see review

Fear the Drowning Deep: Pirate King - Laurie R. King  

Modern Noir: The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde  

Relics & Curiosities: Vermilion - Phyllis A. Whitney  READ 23 SEPTEMBER see review

Country House Mysteries:  Thirteen Guests - Jefferson Farjeon  

 

Second Row:

Amateur Sleuth: A Room with a Brew - Joyce Tremel  or A Lady's Guide To Etiquette And Murder - Dianne Freeman

Doomsday: Magic Triumphs - Ilona Andrews  

Spellbound: Familiar Motives - Delia James  

Cozy Mystery: Toucan Keep a Secret - Donna Andrews  

Terror in a Small Town: Killer Characters - Ellery Adams  or The Tea-Olive Bird-Watching Society - Augusta Trobaugh  

 

Third Row:

Murder Most Foul:  Marigolds for Malice - Bailey Cattrell READ ON SEPTEMBER 25

New Release: The World of All Souls READ ON 21 SEPTEMBER see review

Free Square: The Colour of Magic READ ON 24 SEPTEMBER

Classic Horror: TBD

A Grimm Tale: Poison - Sarah Pinborough  READ ON 22 SEPTEMBER read review

 

Fourth Row:

Darkest London: The Sherlockian - Graham Moore  or A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch  

Shifters: Wild Hunger - Chloe Neill  READ ON 27 AUGUST Review here  

Baker Street Irregulars: The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure - Robert Arthur  

Romantic Suspense: The Ebony Swan - Phyllis A. Whitney  or 

13: The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield  or The Dancing Floor - Barbara Michaels  (this one sounds like superstitions play a part, but either way, it has 13 chapters.)

 

Fifth Row:

Cryptozoologist: Hunted - Kevin Hearne  READ ON 3 SEPTEMBER Review here

Genre: Suspense: Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart  or Ghostwalk - Rebecca Stott  

Diverse Voices: Hollywood Homicide - Kellye Garrett READ ON SEPTEMBER 23 see review

Gothic:  Be Buried in the Rain - Barbara Michaels READ ON SEPTEMBER 14 see review

Ghost Stories: The Haunting of Fox Mill - Phyl Cooke



Marigolds for Malice (Enchanted Garden, #3)

Marigolds for Malice  - Bailey Cattrell

The series name implies a cutesy factor in these stories, but thankfully, there isn't.  Even the brief mentions of fairy houses the MC has throughout the garden have a more mysterious, spooky edge to them.

 

While getting ready to open their town's historical museum, the Greenstockings (women's business organisation) finds a sealed up butter churn they believe is a time capsule.  During the opening ceremony, they find a number of items from the gold rush days, including a rather sizeable nugget.  Later the night, the local historian is murdered in the museum with all the items stolen - except for the nugget, which had been taken by the police to the bank.

 

While the mystery goes in unexpected and interesting directions, the murderer was telegraphed by the author from their first appearance, so the ending held no surprises for me.  It didn't keep the story from being interesting though; the plant lore sprinkled throughout, and the solid female friendships, as well as the low key romance, all held my attention and kept me reading.  There were some bits that didn't work so well here and there; parts that felt awkward, as if the editor added them to 'zest' the story up, but they were mercifully brief.

 

An enjoyable read by a reliable author; I always look forward to the new release notices for these books.

 

I read this one for the Murder Most Foul square in Halloween Bingo



The Colour of Magic (Discworld, #1)

The Colour of Magic  - Terry Pratchett

I never know how to review the discworld books.  They're sort of impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't already read them, and likewise, they're hard (for me) to review.  

 

Generally, having read a few of the later discworld books in a couple of the sub-series, I found this one to be the weakest in terms of personal enjoyment.  I'm happy to have The Luggage finally explained, or at least properly introduced, and there were a few great jokes, but the story... meh.   And is it just me, or is Death distinctly less personable in his earliest incarnation?  I also missed the footnotes that add so much to later discworld books.

 

I read this in both audio and print as part of the Discworld group and for Halloween Bingo - I'm using it for the Free Square.

 



Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them - Jennifer   Wright

I finally finished this one.  The delay was a combination of being on holiday, and needing to put some space between my experience of this book and the experience of others, as I was starting to feel like I was losing my objectivity regarding my feelings about this book.

 

So, my feelings: Get Well Soon was poorly sub-titled and marketed.  As a popular science book, or a popular history-about-science book, it fails.  As an introductory anthropological and cultural survey of how society has historically reacted to epidemics and pandemics, I think its excellent.

 

Furthermore, while I like her writing style a lot, it is polarising.  Jennifer Wright is a 30-something author whose voice is informal, irreverent and snarky.  She writes the way friends - good friends - talk when they don't have to behave themselves.  She uses this no-nonsense voice to sometimes share her thoughts about topics that are themselves, polarising.  

 

So this is a book that isn't going to appeal to everyone.  It particularly isn't going to appeal - at all - to anyone looking for a more sober, scientifically-focused exploration of the topic.  After reading the whole thing, I'm pretty sure it was never meant to, at least, not from the author's perspective.

 

"If you take nothing else away from this book, I hope it's that sick people are not villains."

 

This is a recurring theme from start to finish.  Wright's objective seems to be to focus a spotlight on humanity's reaction to mass illness throughout history, whether good or bad.  Her hope in doing so is that perhaps those who read this book will learn from history rather than doom themselves to repeat it.  She does this is the frankest, bluntest possible way, with a lot of snarky humor.

 

In this objective, I believe she succeeds.  I think those of us who could be labeled as 'prolific readers' or those who voraciously devour their favorite subjects, might lose perspective on how well-informed, or not,  most people today are.  Society today is at least as divided as it's been at almost any other time in history, and a good deal of opinion is shaped via the internet, a source we all know can be about as accurate as a round of the telephone game.

 

In this context, I think the book is fantastic.  Jennifer Wright seems to be a popular author of columns in various newspapers and magazines; if even a handful of her fans from Harper's Bazaar, et al, read this book simply because she wrote it, and they come away having learned something they didn't know before they started, or thinking harder about their responsibility in society, then Wright will have succeeded where others have failed.  (And yes, I'm generally pessimistic about the world I live in - my country is being run by an orange lunatic; I think I'm entitled to a bit of pessimism.)

 

I'm not one of her magazine/newspaper fans.  In fact it wasn't until after I'd started this that I realised I'd ever read anything by her before.  I'm also quantitatively better read, if not qualitatively (some would argue), and I can say that not only did I enjoy this book a great deal, but I learned more than I expected to.  For example, I had no idea that the Spanish Flu wasn't actually Spanish, but probably American, and I had no idea that it killed so many Americans.  Granted, most of my knowledge of the Spanish Flu comes from British fiction, but it's a testament to the horrifying effectiveness of government censorship during WWI that you still don't read about it in American fiction, and this is a disease that killed in one month more Americans than the US Civil War.  I'd also never heard of Encephalitis Lethargica, and sort of wish I never had.  Even on the diseases I knew more about, Wright managed to impart something new for me, and in at least 2 chapters, left me misty eyed over the power people have when they choose to be selfless.

 

As a popular science book meant to tackle a complicated topic in a palatable way, this book is a fail; there's not nearly enough scientific discussion or data here to qualify this as such a book.  But as a popular, cultural overview of the way societies throughout history have succeeded or failed to handle epidemics when they happened and the importance of rational, humane leaders and populace in times of crises, I think Wright succeeds very well.

 

The tragedy of this book is that it's marketed to the very people who are bound to be disappointed by it and likely don't need its message, and the people who might gain the most from it are likely to pass it by because they think it'll be too boring and dry.

 

I read this for The Flat Book Society's September read, but it also qualifies for the Doomsday square in Halloween Bingo.



Vermilion

Vermilion - Phyllis A. Whitney

Another one of my finds from my Friends of the Library book sale trail I did while on holiday back home; this one I had to pay a bit more for, as it was at a retail used book store, but I'm determined to collect Whitney's work, and it was still priced cheaper than a new mass market paperback.

 

Vermilion is set contemporary to the time Whitney wrote it - the 80's - and at first glance of the book jacket I was left with the impression that the cane was going to be central to the story in some slightly paranormal way.  This would make it perfect for the bingo square Relics and Curiosities.  Unfortunately, while it is central to the plot, it's not an object of superstition or paranormal power.  BUT, the setting in Sedona, with the red rock formations, and Vermilion herself - who turns out to be an imaginary friend the MC created as a child that has rather more personality than your standard issue imaginary friend - offer enough superstition, object fear, and possible paranormal activity to more than qualify this book for the square.  (Otherwise, it's dripping with romantic suspense, and it's a murder mystery that takes place amongst a closed set.)

 

The one thing about Whitney's female characters that bugs me is that she portrays them as strong, intelligent and independent (at least in the contemporary books), but then allows them to get rolled over by events or other characters.  Lindsay agrees to things, or rushes into things that are the cliche'd equivalent of don't go into the basement!  

 

Readers of Whitney's Window on the Square will find familiar ground here with the character setup, but it's not re-tread ground.  The dynamics are similar, but Whitney isn't repeating herself; I get the sense that she was taking the opportunity to take that dynamic down different paths.

 

The mystery plotting was excellent - not quite as shocking as Window on the Square but still better than average, and Whitney uses the Native American history and culture, woven with plain old anglo evilness to really ratchet up the suspense and create a tense atmosphere where the reader really doesn't know who's doing what to whom.  

 

The romance was ... absolutely unsurprising, but I continue to admire Whitney for daring to trod on morally shaky ground.  Yes, the hero and heroine always get an easy out, but she was writing her heroines into morally shaky situations back in the 50's and 60's that few authors have the courage to put their heroines in today.

 

Vermilion is not amongst her best, but I'd definitely put it above her average and definitely better than Woman Without a Past.

 

I read this book for the Halloween Bingo square Relics and Curiosities 



Hollywood Homicide (Detective by Day Mystery, #1)

Hollywood Homicide - Kellye Garrett

This was a freebie I received at Bouchercon 2018 (the author was there, but I never met her and have no obligation to her or Midnight Ink).   When I saw this on the freebie table, I immediately grabbed it because it was obviously a cozy mystery, the first in a new series, and I've been looking for new series.  It was also an obvious fit for for the bingo Diverse Authors square and the back of the book made it sound like a great read right up my alley.  It was ticking all the boxes.

 

Ok, so maybe not quite all the boxes, as it turns out. There was a lot to like in this book and I think Garrett has found a unique niche for Day's investigations - the refreshingly mercenary angle of "doing it for the money", i.e. investigating the crimes the police are offering reward money for.   But there were also a few things that dragged the story down and left me feeling less than enthusiastic.  

 

What I didn't like:

The story was too long and the pace dragged.  Every scene was just too detailed and long.  A tighter editing process would, I think, have helped a lot without losing any of the story and it would have given the book a snappier pace.

 

One of the characters, the brains/girl with all the cool gadgets, spoke in text speak.  All the time.  Do people actually speak in text speak?  Because if those people actually exist, they should be smacked about until read words come out of their mouths.  It was annoying as hell reading it; I can't imagine remaining calm if someone started speaking it to me.

 

Slightly less annoying, although only because it's such a frequent device I've become numb to it over time, is the MC never seeing a conclusion she wasn't ready to jump to.  At least the author set her up to do it with a believable amount of desperation as a motivation.

 

What I did like were all the strong female characters; even the shallow ones were likeable and the friendships came across as believable and relatable.  I liked Day, the MC, too.  Her life is a mess, but she knows it; she has her head on straight, and even though she has a few too many TSTL moments, I found myself cheering her on.  I liked the plot too, though it would have been so much better for having had a tighter editing and fewer conclusion jumps.  As a reader, I should never lose count of how many people the protagonist has accused of a crime.

 

Overall, I think the author has a lot of talent for writing mysteries with a solid cast of characters.  A stronger editing would have made this a much better book though, and ffs, lose the text speak.

 

I read this for the Diverse Voices Square for Halloween Bingo.



Poison: A Wicked Snow White Tale

Poison - Sarah Pinborough

I'm a firm believer that it's a rare re-telling that's better than the original.

 

This is not that rare re-telling. 

 

In general, I'm 'meh' about fairy tales anyway, at least as an adult, though I can't remember any I loved as a kid either.  Even in my innocent youth I lacked romance.  But I needed a fairy tale and this was on the FOTL shelves for a buck and the cover was pretty.

 

The star is for the pretty cover and for serving its purpose.  Otherwise the writing was juvenile, which is fitting for a fairy tale, but the sex and language were not.  Perhaps the dichotomy is part of the darkness of the re-telling, but it didn't work for me.

 

But what really didn't work for me was that the story didn't end.  It didn't have a happy ending or a dark ending or a sad ending; it lacked any ending - it just stopped.  No resolution for Snow White, the Woodsman, the elves or the witch.  There's an epilogue, from the POV of a minor character, but it does nothing to offer any kind of closure.  Again, probably part of the whole "dark retelling" but obviously, I'm not the target audience, because it didn't feel all that dark, or all that twisted, or all that wicked.  

 

By the last page of the book, I felt nothing for any of the characters, which I guess is the best possible outcome since that means I won't waste any time wondering what the hell happened at the end??

 

I read this for the A Grimm Tale square for Halloween Bingo.



Bingo Update #2

 

Will someone please come put me out my misery?  Jet lag ended just as a cold/sore throat set in and omg I'm so tired of being tired.

 

On the plus side, I'm finally ticking some boxes at bingo, and school holidays start today for two weeks (like how I finessed my holiday to the states to end just as school holidays started?  I didn't really, but I thank Bouchercon's scheduling for it anyway); hopefully if the cold doesn't kill me (it might), I'll be able to get fully caught up and back in the game.

 

Southern Gothic Drowning Deep modern noir relics and curiosities Country House Mystery
Amateur Sleuth Doomsday Spellbound cozy mystery Terror in a Small Town
Murder Most Fowl Free Square classic horror Grimm Tale
darkest london Shifters baker street irregular romantic suspense 13
genre suspense gothic ghost stories

 

Squares are greyed out until they're called.  

Called squares will be full-strength.

Read but not called squares will be greyed out below.

Called and read will have a marker on it and the marker will 'disappear' from the picture below.  

 

My markers this year are pieces of a full image, seen here:

   
     
  Genre   Gothic Ghost Stories

 

As squares are called, pieces of the picture will disappear, as they reappear on the card; as one picture disintegrates, another will emerge.  :)

 

My loose plan for the squares is as follows.  I'm tracking my actual reads on a spreadsheet, so this list may or may not get updated. 

 

First Row:

Southern Gothic:Woman Without a Past - Phyllis A. Whitney  READ ON 19 SEPTEMBER see review

Fear the Drowning Deep: Pirate King - Laurie R. King  

Modern Noir: The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde  

Relics & Curiosities: Vermilion - Phyllis A. Whitney  READ 23 SEPTEMBER see review

Country House Mysteries:  Thirteen Guests - Jefferson Farjeon  

 

Second Row:

Amateur Sleuth: A Room with a Brew - Joyce Tremel  or A Lady's Guide To Etiquette And Murder - Dianne Freeman

Doomsday: Magic Triumphs - Ilona Andrews  

Spellbound: Familiar Motives - Delia James  

Cozy Mystery: Toucan Keep a Secret - Donna Andrews  

Terror in a Small Town: Killer Characters - Ellery Adams  or The Tea-Olive Bird-Watching Society - Augusta Trobaugh  

 

Third Row:

Murder Most Foul: Booked to Die - John Dunning  

New Release: The World of All Souls READ ON 21 SEPTEMBER see review

Free Square:  TBD

Classic Horror: TBD

A Grimm Tale: Poison - Sarah Pinborough  READ ON 22 SEPTEMBER read review

 

Fourth Row:

Darkest London: The Sherlockian - Graham Moore  or A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch  

Shifters: Wild Hunger - Chloe Neill  READ ON 27 AUGUST Review here  

Baker Street Irregulars: The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure - Robert Arthur  

Romantic Suspense: The Ebony Swan - Phyllis A. Whitney  or 

13: The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield  or The Dancing Floor - Barbara Michaels  (this one sounds like superstitions play a part, but either way, it has 13 chapters.)

 

Fifth Row:

Cryptozoologist: Hunted - Kevin Hearne  READ ON 3 SEPTEMBER Review here

Genre: Suspense: Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart  or Ghostwalk - Rebecca Stott  

Diverse Voices: Hollywood Homicide - Kellye Garrett READ ON SEPTEMBER 23 see review

Gothic:  Be Buried in the Rain - Barbara Michaels READ ON SEPTEMBER 14 see review

Ghost Stories: The Haunting of Fox Mill - Phyl Cooke



The World of All Souls: The Complete Guide to The All Souls Trilogy

The World of All Souls: The Complete Guide to A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life  - Claire Baldwin, Colleen Madden, Deborah Harkness, Lisa Halttunen, Jill Hough

There are some here who know I'm an unapologetic fan of this series, but fan or not, I'm generally not the type to buy the "guides" the more popular series put out because in all truth, they feel like something that's been thrown together to squeeze just that much more money out of everyone; especially completists.  

 

But the cover of this one sucked me in at the Barnes and Noble and BN was the first bookshop stop on my Holiday of Book Buying Madness, so I caved.  

 

Yay to caving!  It ended up being really interesting, as evidenced by the fact that it took me three weeks to read the damn thing.  Harkness et al manage to weave an awful lot of historical facts into a book about books that are about vampires, witches and demons.  This is the place where Harkness gets to share all her historical knowledge, research and education that went into giving Matthew and Diana's adventures verisimilitude, as well as brilliantly weaving the lives of the vampires (and Diana to a lesser extent) into history.

 

She's really clever about this too; using real documents that have gone missing, or paintings done during the correct period that are of unknown subjects or known to have been destroyed over time, she's able to plausibly weave fact and fiction together without an abundance of anachronisms.  Little asides throughout the book in her own voice shares with the reader her inspirations for locations, homes, castles, even tea shops.

 

I had no problem seeing the delineation between the factual and the fictional, but in the section where the characters are outlined, a symbol is next to each name that does exist in the historical records, a touch I appreciated since Elizabethan history is something I'm hazy about, at best.

 

There are beautiful illustrations throughout, a couple of out-takes from two of the books, and a few full color illustrations from - I think - alchemical texts.  This was, in fact, my only complaint about the book - the full color inserts were not captioned - an odd oversight where everything else is clearly foot-noted and cited or explained within the narrative.  At one point Harkness' own historical research was used as a citation, leading me to believe the authors' were determined to be as clear and accurate as possible.  Perhaps this means the color inserts were the work of the illustrator for the book, and not historical, but it would be nice to know either way.

 

A fun and very informative read for those that enjoyed the trilogy; not sure how well it would work for those that didn't read it as it might be annoying to have fictional characters you know nothing about, or care nothing for, interwoven through all the historical goodies.

 

I read this for the New Release square of Halloween Bingo 2018.

 



Woman Without a Past

Woman Without a Past - Phyllis A. Whitney

Even though I find Phyllis A. Whitney's books to be a little bit hit and miss, she's still my favorite author of old-school romantic suspense.  Where Victoria Holt's romances feel instantaneous and contrived, and Mary Stewart's plotting is often (sorry mom) ludicrous, Whitney's stories have so far offered much more consistently crafted plots, vivid settings, and haunting atmosphere.  Her romances don't always work for me (romances seldom do), but the characters do, at least, work up to HEA at a slower, sometimes more smouldering, pace.

 

Woman Without a Past almost got a pass from me at the bookstore because, geez, the title.  And then there's the cover.  Actually, it was mostly the cover, but the title screamed Amnesia story! and that's just a no from me on principle.  But the back cover rescued the book; a woman is recognised at her editor's office as being the long lost identical twin, kidnapped as a baby, from an old and prominent Charleston (South Carolina) family.  Strictly speaking, the title is not at all accurate. 

 

This book drips Southern Gothic.  From the prescient cat, to the rocking horse that rocks itself; from the old plantation house, to the slightly mad mother the family tries to keep locked away as much as possible and the cousin that believes she communes with the dead, this book honestly has it all.  Except romance; there's a hint of it here and there and there's certainly talk of it, but no actual romance until the very, very end.

 

In general, the story is well-written, and it's a good story.  But a couple of things worked against it; one is probably just a twist of timing, as I started it on the plane, and then struggled to finish it while jet-lag kicked my butt, leaving me with the feeling that it took forever to finish it; the second was my exasperation with the main character.  Everyone thinks she's strong and independent, yet at no point in the book did she actually act strong or independent.  She mostly just allowed everyone to roll over her.  It wasn't enough to make me actively dislike her, but it was enough that I was often impatient with her.  

 

As I said, not her best, but certainly not her worst.  Fans of true gothic romance will recognise shades of certain classics in this book; definitely worth a look if you see it in your library or on the bargain rack.

 

I read this for the Southern Gothic square of Halloween Bingo 2018.

 



Halloween Bingo 2018: My first update.

I'm now caught up with everything except Bingo, which is going to take a bit more time.  I have several books on the go at the moment with freaks me out, but as I knock them down, the squares will go with them.

 

Once again I've changed up my planned reads.  It'll be a miracle if I end up reading anything I started out with.

 

I've also had the bright idea to fade out the marker pieces for books I've read that haven't yet been called.

 

Southern Gothic Drowning Deep modern noir Country House Mystery
Amateur Sleuth Doomsday Spellbound cozy mystery Terror in a Small Town
Murder Most Fowl New Release free square classic horror a grimm tale
darkest london Shifters baker street irregular romantic suspense 13
genre suspense diverse voices gothic ghost stories

 

Squares are greyed out until they're called.  

Called squares will be full-strength.

Read but not called squares will be greyed out below.

Called and read will have a marker on it and the marker will 'disappear' from the picture below.  

 

My markers this year are pieces of a full image, seen here:

 

 

As squares are called, pieces of the picture will disappear, as they reappear on the card; as one picture disintegrates, another will emerge.  :)

 

My loose plan for the squares is as follows.  I'm tracking my actual reads on a spreadsheet, so this list may or may not get updated. 

 

First Row:

Southern Gothic: Houses of Stone - Barbara Michaels  

Fear the Drowning Deep: Pirate King - Laurie R. King  

Modern Noir: The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde  

Relics & Curiosities: Vermilion - Phyllis A. Whitney  

Country House Mysteries:  Thirteen Guests - Jefferson Farjeon  

 

Second Row:

Amateur Sleuth: A Room with a Brew - Joyce Tremel  or A Lady's Guide To Etiquette And Murder - Dianne Freeman

Doomsday: Magic Triumphs - Ilona Andrews  

Spellbound: Familiar Motives - Delia James  

Cozy Mystery: Toucan Keep a Secret - Donna Andrews  

Terror in a Small Town: Killer Characters - Ellery Adams  or The Tea-Olive Bird-Watching Society - Augusta Trobaugh  

 

Third Row:

Murder Most Foul: Booked to Die - John Dunning  

New Release: TBD  There won't be any shortage of options.

Free Square:  TBD

Classic Horror: TBD

A Grimm Tale: Poison - Sarah Pinborough  Not sure about this one, but I'll try it.

 

Fourth Row:

Darkest London: The Sherlockian - Graham Moore  or A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch  

Shifters: Wild Hunger - Chloe Neill  READ ON 27 AUGUST Review here  

Baker Street Irregulars: The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure - Robert Arthur  

Romantic Suspense: The Ebony Swan - Phyllis A. Whitney  or Woman Without a Past - Phyllis A. Whitney  

13: The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield  or The Dancing Floor - Barbara Michaels  (this one sounds like superstitions play a part, but either way, it has 13 chapters.)

 

Fifth Row:

Cryptozoologist: Hunted - Kevin Hearne  READ ON 3 SEPTEMBER Review here

Genre: Suspense: Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart  or Ghostwalk - Rebecca Stott  

Diverse Voices: TBD

Gothic:  The Knocker on Death's Door - Ellis Peters  I don't know if this fits or not.

Ghost Stories: The Haunting of Fox Mill - Phyl Cooke



Sharks and Other Sea Monsters

Sharks And Other Sea Monsters - Robert Sabuda, Matthew Reinhart

Our return yesterday left us with the worst jet-lag either of us has ever experienced and this pop up book was the most complicated reading I was capable of before passing out on the couch for the duration.

 

But boy, what a pop up book it is.  I have 2 others in this series, one on Dinosaurs and one on Megafauna, and this one is at least as good as the others.  The art work is amazing, and the explanations are perfect for young readers and old readers alike; I especially appreciate the pronunciation guide for each of the ancient beasts.  I learned more than a little bit while reading/flapping the pages around and making 'nom nom nom' noises.  The cats were super impressed with my ancient beasts impersonations.

 

I highly recommend this and the other books for anyone who still looks with wonder at a well made pop up book.  No kids required.

 

 

I'm not cheeky enough to claim it, but this book would totally qualify for the Fear the Drowning Deep square of Halloween bingo 2018.  ;-)



Key West - the NON book post: beaches, butterflies, birds and ... chickens.

Fun fact about Key West:  the inhabitants of this little island take the term free range seriously.  Hens and roosters are everywhere.  Sunrise is an orchestral chorus of cock-a-doodle-do's.  

 

Why so many chickens?  Florida rambler says it more succinctly than I could:

Key West residents call them gypsy chickens.  When people stopped the laborious process of turning live chickens into Sunday dinner many decades ago, some backyard chickens gained their freedom. Other roosters were released when cock-fighting became illegal.

 

The chickens of Key West:

Rooster waiting for CVS pharmacy to open:

 

Rooster in tree:

 

Will he?  

 

Yes, yes he will:

 

The prettiest rooster on the Key:

 

It wasn't all roosters running around though:

 

There's also a butterfly conservatory on the island, and believe me when I tell you it's amazing.  It's been there 20 years now and the conservatory is gorgeous, well maintained and teeming with butterflies.  My photos don't do the selection justice but a few highlights:

 

 

There were a few birds in the conservatory too, and I was so busy trying to capture them that I totally forgot to snap a picture of the boards identifying them.  So that's a future rainy day project.  But they're just too pretty not to share:

 

 

and finally, the beaches, the water and the sunsets, er... sunrises.  It was cloudy the two evenings we were there, so there was no sunsets.

 

  

 

 

(wavy lines courtesy of my rushing through the panorama picture process)

 

That's it - no more pictures!  Holiday officially over.  *sniffle*



Key West Book Post #2 - Only 1 picture in this one.

Sharks And Other Sea Monsters - Robert Sabuda, Matthew Reinhart Deenie - Judy Blume Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great - Judy Blume Freckle Juice - Judy Blume, Debbie Ridpath Ohi Ocean: A Photicular Book - Carol Kaufmann, Dan Kainen Big Science For Little People: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Child Discover the Wonders of Science - Lynn Brunelle

Hemingway House and the Hemingway cats were just one of the book highlights of my 2.5 day trip Key West.  The other was a trip to Books & Books, a non-profit bookshop run by the only living author I turn fan-girl over.  Judy Blume.  It is not hyperbole or exaggeration of any kind to say this woman was the single biggest influence in my childhood and pre-teen years.  So, no WAY was I going to miss visiting her bookstore, even if odds of her being there were slim.

 

She was there.

 

She was lovely.  I was a blithering idiot, of course.  What I could manage to say was nothing, I"m sure, that she hasn't heard a million times over the years, and I'm kicking myself for not having enough wits about me to tell her what I really appreciated about her books (that all her characters had agency and didn't need adults or friends to tell them what was right or wrong), but she was wonderful, kind and patient nevertheless.  She was preparing for an extended trip and was in a meeting when I arrived, but she paused the meeting to come out and sign my books (because of COURSE I bought some of her books), and chat with me for a few minutes.

 

 

Aside from her books, and her very presence, Books & Books is a fabulous bookshop.  I went in with ZERO intention of looking at books beyond Judy Blume's because, as I think you all know, I had already managed to accumulate a fair number of books by this time.  (*cough*four boxes*cough*)  But as I was making my way to the counter, I found the newest of the Prehistorica pop-up books, Sharks And Other Sea Monsters, and when the woman behind the counter saw me squee'ing over that one, she showed me the wonder of Ocean: A Photicular Book, which has the best holographic images I've ever seen - they honestly look like little movies on the page.  I was entranced.  It was one of a series and it was killing me to just choose one. 

 

MT had stopped at a cigar shop before meeting me at the bookstore, arriving as I was just starting to chat with JB, and in those few minutes he managed to find 3 more books to add to the pile (two are future xmas gifts) and would have added 2 others had I not already started checking out.  If this had been the first stop on our holiday instead of the last, the damage we'd have done to their inventory and our finances would have been impressive.  There were just too many interesting books screaming for attention.

 

So here's my plug: if you ever find yourself in Key West, absolutely go to Books and Books - whether you go to fan girl(boy) over Judy Blume or not, the inventory is sure to appeal to any and all book lovers.  Bring a big bag.



Key West - the books and cats post. (Photo heavy)

MT and I wrapped up our Florida trip with 2.5 days in Key West.  For those that might not be familiar with Key West, it is the southernmost spit of island off the tip of Florida; only about a mile wide and where the Atlantic meets the Gulf of Mexico.  Cuba is only 90 miles south and it is claimed that on clear days you can see it (it's never been that clear when I've been).  Key West is known for being the place that rogues, bootleggers, drug-runners (the none-ruthless ones that never got rich from it), and quirky people go to retire.  It's beautiful, but a tiny bit seedy and they take great pride in their independent spirit.

 

Hemmingway owned a house in Key West and inherited via gift from a sea captain in port, a cat named Snowball.  Snowball had 6 toes, wasn't fixed and had the run of the house.  Snowball begat a line of 6 toed cats that continues to this day (albeit in a controlled and careful manner - most of the cats are neutered).   Cats are revered at Hemingway House and currently there are 57 in residence (not all of them 6 toed or descendants of Snowball).  All of them named after famous people.

 

The house and grounds:

 

Check out that palm tree in the center of the first picture - the one that's growing horizontally; that's what palm trees are famous for - they grow whichever way the wind blows.

 

His writing studio - note the cat under the footstool.  

 

  

 

Embarrassingly, I read this inscription in a completely different manner than the one she probably meant.  Or, maybe not.  He was a rogue, after all.  ;-)

 

Some of Hemingway's books (most of them are still in Cuba), and a very, very bad picture of his portrait, which I included so you could see the scar on his forehead, and (hopefully) be able to read the card underneath.

 

His study in the main house.

 

And finally, just a few - a very few of the 'famous' Hemingway cats:

  

 

 

 

 

And the one who sort of stole the show for being the friendliest, the only one whose name we found out... Babe Ruth.  He climbed into MT's lap the second he sat down, and then tried to climb into my bag and go home with us.

 

 

 

 

Spoiler alert:  We still have just 3 cats.  But if we could have, we'd have taken Babe Ruth home.  Total ham and attention hussy.

 



Be Buried in the Rain

Be Buried in the Rain - Barbara Michaels

Boy, when Barbara Michaels got it right, she was one of the best.  I wouldn't go so far as to call Be Buried in the Rain one of her best, but it's definitely in the higher end of the scale.

 

Julie Newcomb is the family's sacrificial lamb, bribed to spend her summer vacation helping to nurse her dying grandmother, an evil witch of a woman, in the crumbling but historical old family manse in Virginia, place nature is slowly and inexorably reclaiming, and positively dripping with atmosphere.  Julie's been busy in med school, unaware of the two skeletons found on the family's property, left posed in the middle of the road, so doesn't find out about the drama and mystery swirling around until she arrives.  Efforts by her family to mitigate the scandal and gossip involve bringing in an archeologist who just happens to be Julie's ex; a relationship that imploded 5 years previously, thanks to the evil machinations of her grandmother.

 

The one thing that Michaels never seemed to get right, in my opinion, was romance; her characters almost always fell into the insta-love category.  Whether this is a reflection of the writing style in her time or not, I can't say, but it remains true with this book.  Yes, the relationship was one that had prior history, and no, they didn't just pick up where they left off in the first few chapters; Michael does at least get the bit right.  But once they do get back together (this is not a spoiler; they always get back together in her books), their future together is taken as a fait accompli - instant happily ever after.

 

What Michaels does get right though, is the slyly evil grandmother.  Her pure, almost supernatural ability to fight back through two strokes; her ability in spite of her obvious physical impairment, to continue to manipulate and control the people around her, and her diabolical ability to psychologically break her own grand children.

 

Her other talent is atmosphere; Maidenwood is positively Southern Gothic.  Her archeological background serves the story well too without sugar-coating the monotony of the profession at all.  Most of the book is nothing but frustrated attempts at finding the history buried beneath the soil.

 

Julie, today, dances the line of being TSTL.  Her ability to blithely ignore common sense is sometimes breathtaking, but this is a story from another age when this sort of heroic damsel was the last word in romantic suspense, so enjoying the story requires suspending disbelief a little further than usual in terms of what it means to be a strong, heroic female lead.

 

The mystery involved was more complex than it looked at the start, and I was left unsurprised by one of the culprits, but more than a tiny bit horrified by the skeletons' stories.  I might have to go back and re-read the very end, because I'm not sure that the full story behind who put the skeletons in the road was really explained, but I might have just failed to retain that part as the jet lag set in and my will to live drained out (I finished reading this on the plane home).

 

This definitely qualifies for Halloween Bingo, but I'm not sure yet what square I'm using it for.  I'm in catch-up mode at the moment, but will update this post when I get everything sorted out.