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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.

The Library at the Edge of the World

The Library at the Edge of the World - Felicity Hayes-McCoy

My rating of this book might not quite be fair; it probably deserves a higher rating, but this is one of those books that left me floundering a bit.  I got the story I was expecting based on the back cover, but not the atmosphere.


Hanna Casey is not a likeable MC; she's bitter and not really very strong.  She made it hard for me to want good things to happen for her, although I never actively disliked her.  She seemed to recognise how hateful she was being, but never really did much to correct it.  And she's a terrible librarian.  Her mother is so. much. worse.  At no point did I find her sympathetic, although I suspect I was meant to.  Truly, her mother was awful.


But boy did I fall in love with the Finfarrin community the author created.  This story is timely, I think, as at its heart it's a story about a community taking itself back and actually becoming a community again.  Hanna's the catalyst, but really the story didn't come alive for me until it stopped being so much about her and more about Finfarrin.


It's a slow paced, well-written story with a happy, hopeful ending, just without the happy, upbeat tone.  Nobody is plucky in this book.  That's ok, it's probably better for it; it's just different from what I was expecting and that's likely reflected in my rating.

Pistols for Two

Pistols For Two - Georgette Heyer

I never knew Georgette Heyer wrote short stories on top of the prodigious number of full length novels she wrote over her career, until after I bought this book at a used book shop.


11 short stories, all entertaining, but average, with Gretna Green and comedic misunderstandings playing heavily through most of them.  Short stories are not Heyer's strength, if this collection is anything to go by, as most of them have romances in them that skip right over the wooing part and go from introductions to betrothals.  Still, they're light and entertaining, with Heyer's trademark cheekiness.  

Die Like and Eagle (Meg Langslow, #20)

Die Like an Eagle - Donna Andrews

Number 20 - a milestone in any series, and Andrews has never once in 20 books disappointed me.  Some that are weaker than others, but they're always entertaining and Meg's family just grows on you, until you often care more about them than the mystery itself.


Die Like an Eagle centers on the fictional equivalent of Little League baseball.  Meg's boys are old enough to start playing, and Michael's the assistant coach.  Meg, of course, is the team mom.  She soon learns that not everything is cool in the field of dreams, as the league is run by a despot who claims that it doesn't earn its keep, so the kids are forced to play on an overgrown field while the parents occasionally fall off the bleachers as the bolts give way.


Meg to the rescue!  With her over flowing well of common sense and a massive family at her disposal, she sets off fixing what's broke and going head to head with the league despot - and finds his look-alike brother dead in the feral port-a-potty, but was he the intended victim?


I loved this book - I gave it four stars because the mystery was good, but the murderer was telegraphed early on - but the rest of it...I'm going to go all John Lennon here for a moment and say the non-mystery part of this book is how the world should be.  This is how shit should work.  Andrews has Meg look at a problem, break it down into its components and fix them one at a time.  She is never about who to blame; she's just about finding a solution and the people around her who are willing to cooperate and participate.  Not all of them are, of course, but enough to make a difference.  It leaves the not-yet-too-cynical reader feeling good when the book is done.


Bring on 21!

Bye Bye Blackbird (Blackbird Sisters Mystery novella)

Bye, Bye Blackbird - Nancy Martin

I have always been a fan of the Blackbird Mystery series; it was always fun, always well written and sometimes a little edgy; enough heartbreak to keep thigs real, but not so much that it weighed the series down.  The last book, A Little Night Murder, ended on a cracking cliffhanger and I was really looking forward to the next book.


But something happened in Nancy Martin's personal life, and I read a few months back there would be no more Blackbird Sisters for the foreseeable future.  I get that, and the series was long enough that readers couldn't complain about it ending too soon, and it would be ending on a high note.  But the cliffhanger!!! - no way she could leave us hanging like that.


Thankfully she didn't - Bye Bye Blackbird is a short novella that really is just about tying up the loose ends and answering the lingering questions. A small, token attempt is made at mystery, but mostly it's just high-jinx and antics, and it was great; at this point I didn't care about the plot as much as I cared about the characters.  This short story entertained me and tied up all the loose ends and I'm left a happy camper with a shelf full of Blackbird mysteries I can revisit whenever I miss them too much.

Magic Steals (Kate Daniels novella)

Magic Steals: A Novella in the World of Kate Daniels - Ilona Andrews

The most recent books in the Kate Andrews series haven't given me much reason to like Jim, the were-jaguar that used to be Kate's partner and is now the Beast Lord, but boy do I like Dali, the vegetarian, near-sighted, white tiger.  She always make me laugh; to me she is a personification of "speak softly and carry a big stick".  


This short story is the story of how Jim and Dali became mates and centers on Dali's magic, not Jim's, which is what makes the story so great.  Unfortunately the ending is trite, which diminishes the overall story somewhat, but not enough to ruin it; more like just dinged it a bit.


Definitely catnip for the fans of Kate's world.

CatWise: America's Favorite Cat Expert Answers Your Cat Behavior Questions

CatWise: America's Favorite Cat Expert Answers Your Cat Behavior Questions - Pam Johnson-Bennett

I have no idea if Pam is America's favourite cat expert, but the book is pretty good: lots of very sensible advice and lots of good information.  After a lifetime of being owned by cats there was still more than enough here for me to learn to make the book a worthy purchase.  About the only thing I found arguable was the importance of multiple litter boxes in a multi-cat household.  I've tried this several times, and they all insist on using the same litter box every time.  Cats!


Still, there are several tips here I'll be implementing immediately to try to resolve the ongoing 100 years cat war being waged in our house.


Thornyhold - Mary Stewart

Interesting... unexpected in a lot of ways.  Not sure what to really say about it beyond I enjoyed it and found it an easy story to fall into.


Gilly has a lonely childhood, punctuated by rare visits from her mother's lively, magical cousin and namesake.  After the death of Gilly's parents, she gets a letter informing her she's inherited her cousin's house, Thornyhold, as well as her reputation for being a witch.


This story would never survive today: people would complain that nothing happens, there isn't any plot.  I suppose at its heart it's a romance, but the romance is so subtle as to be non-existent; the leap Gilly makes from acquaintance to love is startling even by today's insta-love standards.  But boy, can Stewart write some atmosphere; and the characters are alive and compelling.  I got 75% of the way through before it occurred to me that nothing was really happening: no building tension, no climatic showdown approaching.  The ending was comic, which was totally unexpected and charming.


I think I'll buy myself a copy of this one; I finished it feeling like I'd read a good comfort read - perfect for a rainy afternoon.

Halloween Book Bingo Update #9 - BLACKOUT!!

So after finally giving up on waiting for A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities by Ray Bradbury  I found a substitute book and completed the last square for my 2016 Halloween Book Bingo card.


Because Halloween is in the spring for the bottom half of the world.


I had SO much fun doing this, and I thank Moonlight Murder and Obsidian Black Death again for putting this together.  It was easily the best bingo/book game I have ever participated in.


Squares / Books read:

Read by Candlelight or Flashlight:  The Circular Staircase

Magical Realism:  Lost Lake

Witches:  Equal Rites (Discworld / Witches)

Genre: Horror:  Ammie, Come Home

Black Cat: The Black Cat Knocks on Wood (Bad Luck Cat Mystery, #2)


Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun:  Sorcerer to the Crown

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses: A Deadly Tail 

YA Horror:  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Scary Women (Authors): A Toxic Trousseau (Witchcraft Mystery, #8)

Read with BookLikes Friends: The Hound of the Baskervilles


Grave or Graveyard:  Southern Ghost (Death on Demand, #8)

Genre: Mystery:  Plantation Shudders (Cajun Country mystery, #1)

Free Square: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost

Gothic:  Touch Not the Cat

Creepy CrawlyThe Adventure of the Speckled Band


"Fall" into a Good Book:  Stiff Competition (Mattie Winston, #7)

Locked Room Mystery:  (Selected stories from) The Locked-Room Mysteries

Dark and Stormy Night: A Dark and Stormy Murder

Set in New England:  Clock and Dagger (Clock Shop Mystery, #2)

Full Moon: Undeniably Yours (Lucy Valentine Mystery, #5)


Vampires vs. Werewolves: Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, #9)

Supernatural: Science of the Magical

Classic Horror:  (Selected reading from) The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe 
Pumpkin:  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Set on Halloween: Behind Chocolate Bars (Chocolate Covered Mystery, #3)


(Click on any square to go to that square's book.)





I hope everyone's having as much fun as I did with this.  Thanks again - to everyone!

Behind Chocolate Bars (Chocolate Covered Mystery, #3)

Behind Chocolate Bars - Kathy Aarons

No as good as the first two books in the series.  It felt like Michelle lost some of that individuality that made her stand; she lost some of her wise-cracking nature and felt a lot more vanilla.  It also felt like a lot more chocolate descriptions that could have doubled as marketing copy.


The mystery was good though and I like the direction the author has gone with Detective Lockett.  Aarons isn't rushing the romance - if anything it's moving at a snail's pace - but I do think the whole sub-story line with Leo was rushed and I don't think she did any favours to PTSD with the way she neatly wrapped it all up in a bow at the end.


Generally I enjoyed the read, if not as much as I did the first two books.  I'll definitely read the next one.


This storyline takes place in the weeks coming up to Halloween and culminates on Halloween night; since my original book for Set on Halloween square for Halloween Book Bingo 2016 hasn't yet arrived (damn you postal services!), I'm using this as my substitute.

Reading progress update: I've read 4 out of 288 pages.

Behind Chocolate Bars - Kathy Aarons

Ok, I've given up on waiting for my Set on Halloween book for bingo to arrive.  I'd planned on reading A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities by Ray Bradbury  and I even paid for expedited shipping to get it here faster, but it's been almost 3 weeks now.  Yesterday, this book arrived as part of my Book Buddy Swap box and it takes place on Halloween, so substitution made.


Thank you mystery book swap partner!  :D

Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries

Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries: Uncovering Mysterious Sights, Symbols, and Societies - Stephen Klimczuk, Gerald Warner

Not bad... a fairly interesting overview of those places that have existed or still exist that are hidden, or secret, or just very, very private.  Well researched and well organised, but ultimately failed to deliver; the information was good and interesting, but little of it made me think "wow!" or feel compelled to torture MT with "listen to this!" excepts read aloud when he was trying watch the soccer.


I was most disappointed by chapter 4, a chapter almost entirely given over to Wewelsburg Castle - Himmler's "Black Camelot".  I wasn't expecting, nor wanting, graphic details, but the authors hinted in the introduction that what happened here at this castle was what made it possible for all those people to commit themselves to the horrific atrocity that was the holocaust.  When I finally got to the chapter itself, there was no information at all about anything except a description of the castle itself and vague references to the Jehovah's Witnesses housed at a nearby camp that were forced to do all the labor on the castle renovations.  I'd have liked some kind of information, or even speculation, about how Himmler was able to turn these men into monsters.


Other chapters, though, I found chock full of new information (to me); I learned a lot about the Knights of Malta, one of the last remaining Chivalric Orders, and there are more than a few new places on my "someday I need to see this" list.


Overall, a good book if you like this sort of thing and you're able to find it used at a great price, but at full price it might be found to be lacking in some areas.

Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1)

Rivers of London  - Ben Aaronovitch

This book made the rounds awhile ago, but I got it into my head that it was darker than what I enjoy and dismissed it, until someone recently mentioned how funny it was.  Thank you whoever you are!


Not to say that I didn't have problems with it; I did - minor-ish ones including the riot of editing errors found throughout the text of my library's edition (published by Gollancz in London).  I lost count of the number of missing words, extra words and repeated words I stumbled over, until they started reminding me of the sand Peter found pouring out of his electronic devices. 


Why did the face-distortion dissimulo have to happen?  By the very end, I thought I'd gotten it figured out, but I'm still guessing:


Was that a byproduct of Punch being able to come through?  When it was described after the first murder, I thought it was a disguising spell, but it became clear after the second death that that wasn't the case.

(show spoiler)


That the necessity of this was never explicitly explained bothered me; without explanation it feels possibly gratuitous.  (and makes me go all alliterative, apparently.)


The scene post-riot, with Peter on the train: Mr. P. was already elsewhere, using someone else in the riot, but now suddenly he's on the train with Peter (and how did he find Peter??) ranting like a drunk and driving the people on the train toward an orgy instead of the anger and violence he's used every other time.  Not a happy orgy, granted, but it's not at all consistent with previous episodes.


Once I discovered Lesley's role, I was eager for the book to be over, but that's not the author's shortcoming, just me not liking where he was going.


But in spite of all that, I did really enjoy this book - the humour shines from beginning to end and I really liked the characters.  It was a really entertaining read and I had a lot of fun in this alternate London.  I have Moon Over Soho on the TBR already and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Lethal Lifestyles (Headlines in High Heels, #6)

Lethal Lifestyles - LynDee Walker

I've been a HUGE fan of this series from the word go, and I keep waiting for a mediocre book because statistically, every series has at least one.  Lethal Lifestyles wasn't it, although at the beginning, I thought it might be.


I'm not a fan of friend-in-peril storylines; they are the most used trope in cozy mysteries and I was over them years ago.  I'm also not a fan of weddings as a setting, so when chapter 1 starts with a dead guy at a rehearsal dinner and the friend is in peril by the end of chapter 3, I figured I was going to have to work at this one.


Uh-uh.  Not even a little bit.  The wedding theme was tucked firmly to the back after 5 or 6 chapters and what came next was just more of a thriller than a cozy mystery.  Not in the non-stop, bullets flying, TSTL kind of way, but thriller in sense that this is an incredibly complicated mystery and one of the first ones I've read that comes close to how difficult I imagine it must be in real life to solve a crime.  Nichelle would find one thread of the mystery, follow it, and find instead of an answer, another thread that took of in another direction.  This was NOT a linear plot, - there were at least 4 motives for this guys death - but man, it was NEVER boring.


I deducted a half-star because there was one small moment that felt way too coincidental, so it stuck out, and because there was a pivotal moment when the motive (if not the killer - had no idea about that until the end) became clear and it took Nichelle much longer to clue into it than it should have.  But these were small things.  The editing was, as far as I could tell, perfect.


In general, I can't say enough good things about this series; as a crime reporter Nichelle is in the perfect position be an amateur sleuth and she gets most of her facts from following the paper trails and doing legitimate interviews with people she reports on.  She has a lot of strong female friendships and a great romance in the making.


The only drawback is having to wait another year for the next one.

Cautiously hopeful...

I hesitate to mention this, just in case someone is blowing smoke and I'm inhaling it, but...


I started getting panicky yesterday with the extended BL outage and burned a one-off chance to find out WTH?!  I didn't expect a response, mind you, I was really just hoping to light a fire under someone.  But I did get a response.  A small one, but one that might be promising.


"Sorry for that. It should be fine now. We did a little server upgrade"


I know, I know WHY DIDN'T THEY TELL US?  I don't know why we weren't told.  I can speculate and say maybe the upgrade was unplanned but necessary b/c something broke, or maybe they thought it would be a short outage and it wasn't, or maybe they're just barely keeping it together and are just reacting instead of pro-acting (not a word).  Or maybe they're just blowing smoke and telling me it was an upgrade because it sounds better then "oh, it just went down again".  But those are all just guesses.


I didn't ask for clarification and I won't.  I passed on my thanks and offered any assistance I could offer here on BL and left it at that.  They can't keep running BL this way so I figure nagging them isn't going to help right now.  It'll either get better or it won't.  If that response isn't smoke, then maybe it'll be getting better.


I know a lot of people here are fed up and done, and I get it - I don't blame them and I don't think this is going to change anyone's mind.  But I did want to let the rest of the die-hards, "hell-no-we-won't-go" BLers know.  :D

"...all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. ...with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not."

The Polysyllabic Spree
by Nick Hornby

The Polysyllabic Spree

The Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornby

"...I suddenly had a little epiphany:  all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. [...] But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not."


I loved this book; even though I'll likely never read most of the books Hornby talks about, I loved reading his thoughts about them.  He's hilarious and insightful and, I think, fair (although it's hard to say given the constraints he claims to be under by The Believer).


Each chapter is one of the monthly columns he wrote for The Believer and at the beginning of each is a list of the books he bought that month and the books he read.  Hornby talks about the books he read in a free form style; one book leading to the next.  Interspersed throughout are excerpts from some of his favourite books, including David Copperfield and a selected letter from Anton Chekov that is brilliant; I want to copy it, frame it and send it to several people I know.


If you enjoy reading about books, I highly recommend this one; it's a fun read.