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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.

Reading progress update: I've read 142 out of 336 pages.

Houses of Stone - Barbara Michaels

When I first started this, I thought it was going to be an ode to the original gothics; it might be, but the feminist tone is much, much heavier ... no, that's not the right word; pervasive is better.  There's a lot of focus on the struggle for equality and for women to be taken seriously.

 

I wished I liked the MC more though; she's improving, but I don't have a lot of patience for the constant suspicion and bravado that's a part of her every interaction with others.  Sometimes, an act of kindness is just an act of kindness.  Although, this is a romantic suspense novel, so maybe it really isn't.



Reading progress update: I've read 53 out of 336 pages.

Houses of Stone - Barbara Michaels

Lots of backstory and camaraderie up until this point, but I'm happy to see the major players are coming on stage now and the pace is going to, I hope, pick up from here.

 

I've been enjoying the information about gothic's beginnings, but I'm read for action.



Sometimes the will to live is delivered by FedEx...

2 more of my boxes from the US arrived yesterday:

 

Only waiting on one more before facing the consequences of my book buying spree.  Pictures will follow; I'm pretty sure it's going to look like a bookshop tossed its cookies.



Bingo Update #4 - MY FIRST BINGO!

I'm not going to whine about how god-awful I feel - I'm just going to focus on my first bingo!  Woot!  Very excited for this; last year, I was in a dead heat with Linda Hilton over which of us could black out the most squares without ever getting a bingo.  As fun as that was on some level, I wasn't looking forward to it happening again, so hurdle jumped.

 

Southern Gothic Drowning Deep modern noir relics and curiosities Country House Mystery
Amateur Sleuth Doomsday Spellbound Terror in a Small Town
Free Square Grimm Tale
darkest london Shifters baker street irregular romantic suspense 13
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:

   
 
         
      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: The Grub-and-Stakers Quilt a Bee READ ON 1 OCTOBER see review

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 see review

Classic Horror: The Prince of Darkness (Used Wild Card) READ ON SEPTEMBER 27 see review

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

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 READ ON 30 SEPTEMBER see review

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

Gothic: Houses of Stone - Barbara Michaels  READ ON 29 SEPTEMBER see review

Ghost Stories: The Haunting of Fox Mill - Phyl Cooke



Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness - Barbara Michaels

The below is not a spoiler, just not pertinent to anyone who is looking strictly for a review of the book:

 

Tuesday night, I started in on a buddy read I'm doing with Moonlight Reader and Linda Hilton and got a chapter or two in before falling asleep, believing I was on the backside of this awful head cold.  I woke up yesterday so sick; I can't remember the last time a cold has laid me out so completely flat.  When I was finally able to hold my head up for more than 15 minutes at a time yesterday afternoon, I honestly couldn't hold up my hardcover edition of Houses of Stone.  So, instead, needing something for my Classic Horror square and having decided to use a Wild Card, I picked up Prince of Darkness, a nice mass market paperback I picked up on holiday that has been so well used by its previous owner that I wouldn't feel bad if I passed out with it in bed with me.

(show spoiler)

 

Boy, is this completely different from any of the Barbara Michaels books I've read so far.  Structured differently, and written with a tad more sophistication than a lot of her other romantic suspense books.  Just a tad, though at first I thought I was in for something more on a level with Whitney's works.  I'm sort of glad it wasn't, really, because otherwise this book would have scared the hell out of me.  Instead, it was just fun, with a bit of non-visceral horror at the end.  It feels like Michaels might have been taking a popular trope at the time and turning it on its side, showing it from a different perspective.

 

The book is structured in three parts, meant to mimic metaphorically, a traditional Fox Hunt.  The Meet, The Huntsman, and The Quarry.  Of course, the reader is supposed to suspect the Huntsman at every turn and bemoan the weakness of The Quarry.  All I'll say about any of it is that, while I definitely suspected one facet, there were many that were unexpected on their revelation.  

 

Michaels ratchets up the suspense from page one, to the point that it feels the pages themselves might snap from the tension; it's only when things come to a crisis that the book fails, just a little bit, to deliver what could have been a more explosive resolution.  Mind you, it was still a good ending, and I don't know how such explosiveness might have been achieved, only that for the amount of tension built up, the release of it was slow and measured.  Horrifying in its way, but not detrimental to anyone's pulse.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo, using it as my official Wild Card for the Classic Horror Square.  It's not a classic, but the horror bit was closer to the mark than I expected.

 

  



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