I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
I'm going to preface this monthly wrap-up with the disclaimer that there were a lot of short books and short stories in the mix this month.
Total number was 26 - A number I was completely unprepared for. I think the Bingo game sort of distracted me from paying attention to numbers, even though on some level I knew I'd read enough to complete my bingo card.
Not including re-reads, I had one 5-star read this month; a children's book that I recommend for all ages, It's a Book by Lane Smith. If you see it in the library or store, read it - even if you have no reason to buy it, it'll make you laugh when you get to the end.
I had three 4.5 star reads, one an anthology (up front, I've only read a few of the stories - the rating reflects the stories not the overall collection), and the first two in Ilona Andrews' new urban fantasy series, masquerading as paranormal romance.
My least favorite read was easily Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier; literary classic or not, that ending was horse-shit.
In the midst of all of that were a lot of 4 star reads, and the completion of my 2017 Reading Challenge (Magic and Macaroons by Bailey Cates on 14 Sept), all of which tally up to a very successful reading month.
I just completed Moon Over Soho for my Darkest London square and that completes my bingo card. Now I just have to wait for the calls that will eventually get me a bingo - so far, they've stubbornly refused to line up properly.
The full keeping track post is here. Luckily, it looks like Moonlight Reader has issued a new bingo card for Golden Age mysteries. ;)
There are two storylines running through Moon Over Soho: one that begins and ends with this book, involving a string of suspicious deaths, all of them jazz musicians. The other centres on a mysterious, faceless, unknown sorcerer running around London killing and conducting his own Dr. Moreau type experiments, and the reader is left hanging as to its resolution, presumably because it will come back up in future books.
I knew how the first story line would play out by the time I got to a page that falls somewhere in the range of 40-60 (I won't give the exact page number because I don't want to risk spoilers). This is why my rating is only 3.5 stars. The story is still good, but it's definitely hampered by knowing the ending, and wanting to smack Peter for not figuring out what was right in front of him a lot sooner. To give credit though, I did not foresee how he would try to resolve the situation; I liked it, even though it didn't work out quite the way he's hoped.
More often than not, I struggle to like the second book of a trilogy and Hollow City is no exception. To me, the second book feels like all the boring bits between the excitement of discovery and the thrill of the finale stretched out to 'make do' as a book. In other words, book two is all existential navel gazing and I get bored.
Hollow City was not without excitement though; there were plenty of battles between the peculiar children and the hollows, and Jacob gets to use and stretch and refine his power, but mostly it's children bonding (go team!), true love (*eye roll*), evil plot to end the world revealed in all its evil glory (*gasp*) and existential navel gazing.
I'm being a bit cheeky; I did enjoy, it just wasn't great. There are a couple of twists at the end; one I really didn't see coming and the other was, I suppose, inevitable, and it ends in something of a cliffhanger with the tried and true 'friends in peril' plot device fully engaged. I already have the third book so it's definitely going to get read, but I'm not in a rush.
I read this for the Chilling Children square and it was more apt than I could have dreamed, as the power of one of the peculiar children is, in fact, freezing whatever she touches. Chilling children indeed.
One of the most beautifully written books I've ever disliked. And let's be clear - my 3 stars is my attempt at objectivity, because it is a beautifully written book, and I did dislike it. A lot.
From the first sentence there's no doubt this story is dripping with dark, forbidding, gothic atmosphere. By the second page, it's swimming it in. By chapter 2, it's drowning. I don't know if du Maurier was trying to pad out a short story, or if she just really wanted to make sure her readers knew this was going to be a dark, dreary, forbidding story; either way, too much of a good thing is still too much. There might have been some skimming.
I liked Mary well enough, but I was unable to muster any sympathy for poor Aunt Patience; I really just kept hoping someone would push her down the stairs. I do not much like enablers any more than I like those they enable. Still, I was really getting into the plot (once I deep dived through all that atmosphere), until I got to the part where Mary meets the vicar.
At that point, I was truly just reading to get 'er done. There was no way the book was going to surprise me from that moment on.
Aaannnddd then there's the ending. I liked Mary until that point. Hell, I liked Jem until that point. Now, I think they both deserve a horrible ever after. She should just change her name to Patience and be done with it.
Well, that was exciting. Still more urban fantasy than paranormal romance, but when the Andrews team decides to get down to the romance, they don't mess around.
The non-romance part of the story is fast-paced and exciting as hell; I woke up in the middle of the night last night and my first thought was "oh, I can start reading again!" and it was only through supreme effort (and pharmaceuticals) that I refrained from doing so. But I did start up again at 8am this morning and didn't stop until it was finished.
I'm thoroughly enjoying watching all the characters come together; the team it took Kate more than 5 books to build up has only taken Nevada 2. The only niggling thing I was a tiny bit disappointed in is the overall series arc: I sense shades of Roland. And don't get me wrong, I love the Roland storyline in Kate Daniels, but if it's used here, it's going to feel repetitive; it's not the sort of plot device that wears well over time.
I have the third book and I have no idea how I'm not going to pick it up and devour it immediately. But if I do than I have to wait who-knows-how-long until the 4th one is out. Curse you Ilona Andrews!
(I originally used the first book Burn for Me for my demon square, but it had a very scant mention of demons. This book was much more demon-rich, so I've switched Burn For Me over to Supernatural, and I'm using this one for Demons. No Bingos were altered in the switching.)
I've listened to the first 4 of these books on audio, and reading this one, I'm reminded why. I avoid high fantasy because the made up names and places drive me up the wall - because I can't pronounce them, I can never keep from mixing them up.
The Iron Druid Chronicles are not high fantasy, but they are urban fantasy featuring just about every major mythological pantheon, with a heavy emphasis on Irish and Norse; both chock full of names and places I have absolutely zero chance of even coming close to pronouncing correctly. Luckily, Hearne includes a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book that covers most of the Celtic/Norse words he uses, but I kept having to flip back and recheck every time I came across a word like Scáthmhaide (SKAH wad jeh if you're curious) and it was distracting.
Otherwise it's a rip-roaring good time as Atticus has the oldest vampire in the world, Bacchus, dark elves, and Freya on his back and most of them want him dead. But before that happens, he needs to complete the steps that will make his apprentice, Granuaile, a full fledged Druid. This is the story line that was most interesting to me, as we get a lot of interaction between Atticus and the elementals and (finally) some resolution of the relationship between Atticus and Granuaile.
The rest was good, but mostly just a lot of intermittent bouts of fighting to keep the Druidic tattooing from becoming too dull. It's fun, but it's a bit chaotic as the consequences of all Atticus' choices in the previous 4 books come home to roost at once.
There are 8 books so far, with the ninth being the final book in the series. There's no way I can not find out how it all ends, but I think for the final three, I'll go back to audio, so I can enjoy the story without stressing myself out trying to remember how to pronounce words like Goibhniu and Ylgr.
This is what I imagine a bibliography in narrative form would look like. I don't know how else to describe it. I'd go so far as to say that there's no actual 'story', as the title implies, because there doesn't seem to be a cohesive ... point (message/timeline/etc.) between chapters. Each chapter represents some facet that Golden Age Crime books took on: locked-room mystery, country-house mystery, political mystery, etc. and begins with the narrative bibliography of notable works. This is followed up with 2-4 longer essays, each giving closer attention to books that the author believes best represents that facet.
None of that is to say that it wasn't excellent - it was. But this is a book for the serious mystery lover, not a reader with a casual curiosity about the evolution of crime writing. Or anyone trying to curb their TBR piles. I have so many new (old) books and authors to start hunting down it's overwhelming. I might actually have to resort to a spreadsheet; I hate spreadsheets, but there's just too many appealing treasures here and Edwards sells them up, even when he's trying not to.
I deducted a star because I found some of the writing sort of clunky (this is a cultural thing, I'm sure) but mostly because the chapter openings were just too crammed full of goodness; at times there could be as many as three titles and authors mentioned in a single sentence, with more immediately following. It got to be too much at times and I'd catch myself just glazing over, without really taking in what I was reading.
This is definitely going to be a life-long source of reference for me, as well as a source of income for the used book sellers.
I can't stand reading horror, it sticks with me long after I've closed the book. But I had to read Poe in high school and his horror is more macabre-horror than Jason-horror and he's become my go-to guy for those rare occasions when I need to read horror.
And I have to say I love The Masque of the Red Death. It's so seductive in its buildup, so deliciously written(The bar scenes from the movie Constantine pop into my mind when I read this); and that ending - so perfect.
It's a short story, but you could spin discussions out about it for hours. It's excellent - read if it you want the thrill of horror but still want to be able to sleep with the lights off.
One of the British Library Crime Classic anthologies recently published, this is a collection of - as the title says - short mysteries that take place at country houses of the nominally wealthy. I haven't read the whole of the collection, but what I have read was almost uniformly excellent.
Below the list of stories I read, along with a few quick thoughts about each:
The Copper Beeches - Arthur Conan Doyle: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It's Sherlock Holmes, of course it's excellent. It's one of the more far out story premises, but it's fantastic. If you haven't read Sherlock Holmes yet... um, why?
The Problem of Dead Wood Hall - Dick Donovan: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
One of two I liked the least. It's an inverted mystery, so really, not a mystery as far as I'm concerned. There was no puzzle to be solved here, only what feels like an opportunity for the detective to boast.
Gentlemen and Players - E.W. Hornung - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Ok, I'm going to kind of contradict myself now, because there's no mystery here either, but it's Raffles! I've been wanting to read a Raffles story for ages, and I've finally got my chance. It was fun, the writing was amusing, the pace quick and lively and the ending... I saw that ending coming but it was still everything I hoped it would be. I need more Raffles in my life.
The White Pillars Murder - G.K. Chesterton - ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The other one I liked the least. Chesterton and I are not destined for the author/fan dynamic. I did not like The Haunted Bookshop because it took me forever to figure out that it wasn't a ghost story, and that what little plot it did have was drowning in the author's exposition. I didn't like this one either; the prose was less superfluous, but the plot was... I don't know what the plot was. I don't know what his point was in writing this, honestly; a cautionary tale to all P.I. hopefuls? A slag off at Holmes? Who knows, but it's strike two against this particular Golden Age writer for me.
The Same to Us - Margery Allingham - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
More 4.5 stars. Very short story, and again, less mystery than a satire, but it was incredibly well written and humorous. There was never any doubt in my mind from the start what the ending was going to be, but that last 1/2 star was purely for the last line of the story.
The Murder at the Towers - E.V. Knox - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Martin Edwards mentions this story in his The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books in the chapter "Making Fun of Murder" and it's one of the stories I particularly wanted to read. It did not disappoint. It was hilarious; Knox doesn't try to be subtle, his humour is... well, to quote the first line of the story:
"Mr. Ponderby-Wilkins was a man so rich, so ugly, so cross, and so old, that even the stupidest reader could not expect him to survive any longer than chapter I. Vulpine in his secretiveness, he was porcine in his habits, saturnine in his appearance, and ovine in his unconsciousness of doom. He was the kind of man who might easily perish as early as paragraph 2."
I was in love from the start - and laughing. The rest is also pure farce, but Knox manages to get a humdinger in at the very last line, and it left me laughing and shaking my head.
There's a few other stories in this collection that I want to make a point of reading in the near future; some authors that I'm only learning about whose work I want to check out. I'll definitely be coming back to this one soon, and I'm looking forward to reading the other anthologies Edward has put together.
I PM'd you, but just in case you see this before I wake up (date lines/timezones):
I'm hitting the sections now that interest me less: police, politics, although the scientific mysteries chapter had a few more titles to add to the list.
My full on-going progress post can be found here, but a short re-cap of where I'm at so far:
Read but not called: Semi-transparent white box
Called but not read: I'll use a semi-transparent bingo marker
Called and read: my official bingo markers.
I have a bingo-in-waiting in column 2, and hopefully after today one in row 3 and one of the diagonals (top right / bottom left). After that, it's all the books I've been putting off for one reason or another.
This series started off with a chimera/gargoyle brought to life through backwards alchemy approaching the MC, pleading for help, as he was starting to revert to stone again.
This book is the conclusion of that particular series plot, while at the same time introducing a couple of other mysteries, including a murder.
The characters keep me coming back to these books, as does the alchemy backdrop which is always fun. But the stories could do with a bit of tougher editing; it was difficult to get into the story at the beginning because of all the repetition of information. I think the MC mentioned she was 300 years old at least 3 times in as many pages.
The plotting was great - I had little idea where the story was going - but the ending, especially the part concerning the gargoyle, felt a little to pat, a little too anticlimactic.
It's a fun story with great characters, but if it had been a bit tighter all the way around, it would have been great.
I'm through the first 10 chapters and there are a few titles I'm definitely going to hunt down, including (but not limited to), Case for Three Detectives by Leo Bruce, and Murder in Black and White by Evelyn Elder. The former because I love humour and the latter because the format intrigues me, with the chance to solve the mystery myself.
Edwards writing stopped tripping me up; either it has smoothed out, or, and this is more likely, I just got used to it. But his chapter openings cram so many titles and authors together, I often lose track of who's who and what's what. Thank god for indices.
I know this is a British vs. American English thing, and I'm not suggesting at all that one is more or less correct than the other, but Edwards habit of referring to authors as founder members is driving me a little bonkers. It's so clunky when I try to read it in my head; I want it to say founding member. My brain tries to make it so, but my eyes trip over the discrepancy and I keep getting distracted.
Of course not so distracted that I'm not finding books and more books to add to my TBR lists...