Friday, 13 October 2017

The Diary of a Young Girl / Anne Frank

4 out of 5 stars
I finally got around to reading this heart-warming and heart-wrenching document.  I attempted it as a much younger person and didn’t get very far, perhaps because I was a teenager myself with my own angst to deal with.

There’s no doubt that Anne was right about her own writing abilities.  If she had lived, I think she definitely had a chance to become a significant author.  She could have edited her own diaries to begin with and perhaps written more about the Jewish experience during WWII.

I think her father (the only surviving member of those concealed in the Annex) was a brave man to allow her journals to be published.  He and his wife do not always come out of them looking good.  However, we, as readers, are continually reminded that the people confined in this small space are bound to clash with one another repeatedly.  Imagine having no space to truly call your own, having to share cooking & food supplies, not having easy access to a toilet and not being able to flush during certain hours, and having to be quiet during the workday so as not to alert the employees working below them!  Prisoners in jails have better living conditions!

I am also impressed by the courageous Dutch folk who hid their Jewish friends and kept them supplied with the necessities of life for so long.  That’s a big commitment and they fulfilled it for two years with very few glitches (health problems for all of them sometimes made for erratic food delivery).  How many of us would have the fortitude and the bravery to attempt such a feat?

The saddest part of the book was definitely the afterword—Anne’s last entry is absolutely ordinary (in an extraordinary circumstance) and then they are betrayed and sent to concentration camps.  They had lasted so long and the end of the war was just a year away (although they had no way to know that).  I was left with the melancholy question of what might have been.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children / Ransom Riggs

4 out of 5 stars
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.


  I chose this novel to fill the “Chilling Children” square of my 2017 Halloween Book Bingo.

I was pleasantly surprised by this young adult fantasy. An interesting amalgam of “found” photographs and a fantastical tale and the two work very well together. Jacob Portman has had an uneasy relationship with the stories that his grandfather, Abraham, tells about his childhood orphanage and its occupants. We get to share in his confusion, as he attempts to ascertain which elements of the story are true and which are tall tales.

In many ways, we all have to perform this task—examine the family stories and family history and see how much of it is useful or relevant to those of us in the present. I’m a family history researcher, so perhaps I see value where others don’t, but I don’t feel that any family information is useless. If nothing else, it tells us where our family attitudes and habits come from. At best, it can show harmful family patterns that a person can discern and avoid. No need for a young woman to marry an abusive man and learn the hard way—examine your ancestress’ lives and either find a caring man (or woman) or choose to stay single.

I also liked Jacob’s father, who was lured to the Welsh island by potential birding opportunities. I’d be right there beside him! If I have any complaints, it would be the lack of resolution at the book’s end, requiring the reader to move on to the next volume for closure (and since there’s a 3rd book, I’m sure the same will be true of the second book).

The Secret Life of Germs / Philip Tierno

3 out of 5 stars
They're on everything we touch, eat, and breathe in -- on every inch of skin. And despite the advances of science, germs are challenging medicine in ways that were unimaginable ten years ago. No wonder the world is up in arms -- and using antibacterial soaps.
From the common cold, E. coli, and Lyme disease to encephalitis, mad cow disease, and flesh-eating bacteria, Tierno takes readers on a historical survey of the microscopic world. Rebuffing scare tactics behind recent "germ events" Tierno explains how the recycling of matter is the key to life. Yes, he'll tell you why it's a good idea to clean children's toys, why those fluffy towels may not be so clean, and why you never want to buy a second-hand mattress, but he also reveals that there is a lot we can do to prevent germ-induced suffering. You'll never look at anything the same way again.


I chose to read The Secret Life of Germs because I have often heard the author on CBC radio, brought in as an expert on microbial issues. It was published back in 2001, so some of the information it contains is out-of-date, though it was cutting edge at the time.

There is still plenty of good info in this volume. If nothing else, the author’s attention to prevention of disease was an excellent reminder as the cold & flu season approaches. I’m washing my hands more often and for longer than I had been—its so easy to get lazy about this! And handwashing goes so far towards keeping us healthy.

If I have any quibbles, it is with referring to all microbes as “germs.” To me, a germ is a disease causing agent, not a benign or helpful microbe. But I am sure that this title caught a bit more attention through using “germs” in the title than it might otherwise have garnered.

If you are interested in microbiology, may I recommend I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, which offers more recent information, also in an easy to read format.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Northanger Abbey / Jane Austen

4 out of 5 stars
'To look almost pretty, is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life, than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive'

During an eventful season at Bath, young, naïve Catherine Morland experiences the joys of fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who shares Catherine's love of Gothic romance and horror, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father's mysterious house, Northanger Abbey. There, her imagination influenced by novels of sensation and intrigue, Catherine imagines terrible crimes committed by General Tilney. With its broad comedy and irrepressible heroine, this is the most youthful and and optimistic of Jane Austen's works.


I chose this novel to fill the “Gothic” square of my 2017 Halloween Book Bingo.

In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen turns the gothic novel inside out, having some fun with all of its parts. Catherine Morland, our main character, is not a stereotypical gothic heroine—she isn’t tremendously beautiful, she isn’t sophisticated or educated, and she’s not even too bright! But she does read gothic romances, like The Mysteries of Udolpho to use as a guide for her behaviour. Unfortunately for her, her frenemy Isabella turns out to be a gold-digger, her visit to Northanger Abbey produces no murders nor secret passages, and there turn out to be no impediments between her and the man of her choice. The most ungothic of gothic romances!

I do have to wonder a bit about Henry, who is obviously intelligent and amusing, if only Catherine had the wits to understand him! I’m afraid he will be singularly bored, unless she can be enlivened a bit.

Down and Out in the New Economy / Ilana Gershon

3.5 out of 5 stars

Finding a job used to be simple. You’d show up at an office and ask for an application. A friend would mention a job in their department. Or you’d see an ad in a newspaper and send in your cover letter. Maybe you’d call the company a week later to check in, but the basic approach was easy. And once you got a job, you would stay—often for decades.

Now . . . well, it’s complicated. If you want to have a shot at a good job, you need to have a robust profile on LinkdIn. And an enticing personal brand. Or something like that—contemporary how-to books tend to offer contradictory advice. But they agree on one thing: in today’s economy, you can’t just be an employee looking to get hired—you have to market yourself as a business, one that can help another business achieve its goals.


An anthropologist’s view of the job seeking/hiring process. It makes me extremely happy that I am close to retirement. There’s been a sea-change in how people look at the process:
…in the mid-twentieth century, corporations believed that shareholder value depended on the ways in which a company contributed to stable careers and stable communities. Since then, corporations have changed their philosophies—their present concern is with keeping their stock prices as high as possible.

With this change in orientation, companies have encouraged job seekers to change their self-view as well. Instead of the “renting your time to your employer” model that has held sway since the Industrial Revolution, job hunters are now encouraged to think of themselves as their own businesses, “Me, Inc.” They must now seek to show that they are the “best fit” business-wise for a potential “partner.”

This basically means that each of us is an independent contractor, responsible for our own health care and retirement costs. The unequal nature of the relationship renders employment unstable at best, temporary at worst.

For the most part, consideration and respect for job seekers was thin on the ground, and having a thick skin for being treated shabbily is a necessity for people actively looking for work these days.


After reading this volume, I am quite skeptical of LinkedIn as a venue to find employment. All I can do is repeat what I said above: Thank goodness that I’m only a few years from retirement!

Help for the Haunted / John Searles

3 out of 5 stars
It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.


I read this book to fill the “Haunted Houses” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

As in any good ghost story, there is a lot of ambiguity in this tale of family strife and striving. Can Sylvie’s father see ghosts or not? What are her mother’s capabilities? Are they helping people or just fooling their clients and themselves?

Sylvie is a typical “good kid.” She is co-operative, obedient, studious—even when she doesn’t want to be any of those things. And her sister Rose is the typical “bad kid.” She questions everything, does what she wants to, and makes life as miserable as possible for the rest of the family. Rose and their father clash a lot—probably because they are a lot alike. That’s generally how these things work. My father & I butted heads occasionally because we were both quiet people with strong ideas and more that our share of stubbornness. Other than that, I was pretty much the stereotypical good kid, so I could relate to Sylvie quite well.

I had to wonder about what kind of person would choose a career of helping those with supernatural difficulties. Why would you put your own family into such a situation, where your own children often took a backseat to the children of others? It’s almost a truism that preacher’s kids will get in trouble, often as a way to plead for attention from their parents and that seems to hold true with any of the religious & quasi-religious professions.

In the end, it seemed that it maybe wasn’t the house that was haunted, but the family. Haunted by things left unsaid, paths left untrod, people left behind.

Monday, 2 October 2017

And I Darken / Kiersten White

4.5 out of 5 stars
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.


Another “young adult” book which hooked me from its first pages and left me wanting more at the end. And, handily enough, there is another book! So I will get another hit of this historical fantasy set in the Ottoman Empire and Wallachia. It’s a time and place that I know little about, so its interesting just to absorb the historical details.

But, Lada! Oh Lada! A strong girl, a fighter, ruthless and tough. What a heroine! Determined to chart her own course and not to belong to any man. Her handsome brother Radu, who probably should have been a girl, but who eventually finds his own way to be a powerful man. And Mehmet, the sultan’s son, who befriends both Wallachian children and eventually assumes the throne, changing their lives forever.

Having read this novel in close proximity to The Darkest Part of the Forest, I was struck by the parallels in the brother/sister relationships in both books. The girl being the tough fighter and the boy being hesitant about grasping his talents. Both being in love with the same person. Is this a common trope in young adult literature?

In any case, I will look forward to reading Now I Rise. I am pleasantly surprised, as I read the author’s Paranormalcy back in April and did not find it anywhere near as compelling.

The Darkest Part of the Forest / Holly Black

4 out of 5 stars
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?



I read this book to fill the “In the Dark, Dark Woods” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

I am continually amazed at how much I enjoy some of these “young adult” novels!  This one is definitely in the “really good” category.  I’m a sucker for stories that include the Fae, especially if they’re dark, mysterious & threatening. 

The story also explores the brother-sister relationship between Hazel and Ben, how they support one another and how they lie to one another and the consequences of both of those choices.  There’s a boy with horns and pointed ears asleep in a glass coffin (very Cinderella-ish) in the middle of the dark, dark woods and both siblings are in love with him or maybe with the stories they’ve created around him.  No one expects him to awake, and when he does, perhaps they believe their own imaginations too much and aren’t as worried as they should be.

The need for love, the need for purpose, and the love & support of family, all explored in an adventurous fairy tale.  Delightful!

The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity / edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray

3 out of 5 stars
What if the fae were still here, living among us? Perhaps living in secret, doing their best to pass for human? Or perhaps their existence is acknowledged, but they're still struggling to fit in. How have they survived? Are they outcasts clinging to the edges of society, or do their powers ensure success in the mortal realm? Here are fourteen fabulous tales-ranging from humor to dark fantasy-that explore how the creatures of fae are fitting into the modern world.

A collection of short stories, mostly to my taste. To my complete surprise, the first story by Seanan McGuire did not come anywhere close to being my favourite of the batch!

Remarkably few of these authors have books listed in my public library catalogue, so I may not run into some of them again, unfortunately. A couple of them seem to have only contributed to anthologies thus far in their careers, some have only a book or two to their credit, and some must just not be on the radar of the acquisitions dept. of our library. I realize that they can’t afford to order everything!

I guess the point is that some of these authors are just starting their writing careers and that we have good things to look forward to, if this collection is any indication.

Friday, 29 September 2017

The Vor Game / Lois McMaster Bujold

4 out of 5 stars
Miles Vorkosigan graduates from the Academy, joins a mutiny, is placed under house arrest, goes on a secret mission, reconnects with his loyal Dendarii Mercenaries, rescues his Emperor, and thwarts an interstellar war. Situation normal, if you're Miles.


“Very good. But your most insidious chronic problem is in the area of . . . how shall I put this precisely . . . subordination. You argue too much.”
“No, I don’t,” Miles began indignantly, then shut his mouth.


Ah, another visit with Miles Vorkosigan/Naismith! That incredible bundle of energy, that intellect struggling to slow down to regular human speed. His problems with being the smartest guy in the room, but with physical limitations.

In many ways, Miles is like a jazz musician—he knows strategy (the melody) inside & out. When a new situation is thrown at him, he is able in incorporate it into his playing and take the strategy song to new places.

My favourite line? One of his captors at one point asks, “How many people are you?”

Book 264 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Misery / Stephen King

3 out of 5 stars
Paul Sheldon is a bestselling novelist who has finally met his number one fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes, and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also furious that the author has killed off her favorite character in his latest book. Annie becomes his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.

Annie wants Paul to write a book that brings Misery back to life—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an axe. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty.


I read this for the “Terrifying Women” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

I suppose Annie Wilkes is a terrifying woman. She is definitely written as mentally unstable and cruel. I suppose that, for a man, she would be terrifying, but in real life women face situations like these far too often. Read books like My Story by Elizabeth Smart or 3096 Days by Natasha Kampusch. Heck, just pay attention to your newspaper—there are frequently abductions and murders of women. And they aren’t fiction.

What truly fascinated me in this novel was a bit of insight (maybe) into King’s writing process. I loved the idea of finding the “hole in the paper” into which the writer could disappear, writing until inspiration left or exhaustion threatened.

Interestingly, the novel also seems to be slightly prophetic—writing about a car accident, including multiple leg fractures and a broken hip, the pain of those injuries, and how uncomfortable is was to write afterwards. But this was published in 1987 and King’s real-life car accident didn’t happen until 1999.

Well structured, well written, but not really my thing.

Island of Dr. Moreau / H.G. Wells

4 out of 5 stars
The story centers on the depraved Dr. Moreau, who conducts unspeakable animal experiments on a remote tropical island, with hideous, humanlike results. Edward Prendick, an English-man whose misfortunes bring him to the island, is witness to the Beast Folk’s strange civilization and their eventual terrifying regression. 

 I’ve been cataloguing an enormous collection of H.G. Wells for the special collections division of our library, and as a result I’m thinking I need to read a little more Wells. Just looking at the wide spread of his interests is fascinating! It was an interesting exercise to read this tale, which I read in school at about Grade 5, I think, and see how different the experience was.

Wells was a very dedicated socialist and didn’t have much time for religion (although he went through a phase of flirting with the spiritual). I don’t think there’s any doubt that he had read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species before he wrote this story (it was published in 1859 and Moreau in 1896).

Dr. Moreau has set himself up as God on this little island and he has handed down his commandments to the Beast-Men that he has created. Edward Prendick watches as their essential nature pulls the Beast-Men back to their original state—but he sees the same in people, suggesting the Darwinist view that humans are animals too. Moreau never gives any rationale for what he is doing, rather like the Christian God, who has left his creation to its own devices.

The Island of Dr. Moreau seems rather prophetic today, in our days of bioengineering and genetic modification. I’ll be interested to see what other tidbits await me in Wells’ prolific writings.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Julius Caesar / William Shakespeare

4 out of 5 stars
Politics. Power. Ambition. Backstabbing (Literally).

Shakespeare knew human behaviour well. I thoroughly enjoyed the production that I attended on Sunday. So many lines of this play are still used today! “The fault … is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” “Cowards die many times before their deaths.” “Constant as the northern star.” “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!”

And of course, I cannot think of this play without remembering the Canadian comedy team, Wayne & Shuster and their still funny sketch, Rinse the Blood Off My Toga. (Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR_5h... )

Now, join me for a martinus (wait, we’ll need more than one: martini) and we’ll “Beware the Ides of March.”

Sourdough / Robin Sloan

4 out of 5 stars
Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?


I picked up this novel because I absolutely loved the author’s last offering, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. I won’t say that this book is completely different, because there are a few similarities, but don’t be expecting a clone of Penumbra if you choose to read it.

Lois Clary is a charming main character—a software engineer at a demanding company in San Francisco, she comes to realize that she needs more in her life than code and liquid meals. The beginning of this realization (the starter, if you will) is a bond with two brothers in her neighbourhood who run a food service out of their apartment—sour dough bread and spicy soup. When they run into visa problems, they move on, leaving their sourdough culture with Lois, their Number One Eater.

Anyone who has baked bread realizes that it takes skill. Lois leaps in with dedication and is soon getting more satisfaction from her bread baking than from her coding. Bread is indeed her ticket to real life and Sourdough follows her as she “rises” to meet new challenges. It made me wish that I could still eat gluten without consequences—instead I was driven to the kitchen to make gluten-free toast!

I Heard the Owl Call My Name / Margaret Craven

4 out of 5 stars
In a world that knows too well the anguish inherent in the clash of old ways and new lifestyles, Margaret Craven's classic and timeless story of a young man's journey into the Pacific Northwest is as relevant today as ever.

Here amid the grandeur of British Columbia stands the village of Kingcome, a place of salmon runs and ancient totems - a village so steeped in time that, according to Kwakiutl legend, it was founded by two brothers left on earth after the great flood. Yet in this Eden of such natural beauty and richness, the old culture of totems and potlaches is under attack - slowly being replaced by a new culture of prefab houses and alcoholism. Into this world, where an entire generation of young people has become disenchanted and alienated from their heritage, Craven introduces Mark Brian, a young vicar sent to the small isolated parish by his church.

This is Mark's journey of discovery - a journey that will teach him about life, death, and the transforming power of love. It is a journey that will resonate in the mind of readers long after the book is done.


This was a re-read for me, but it might as well have been my first time, I remembered so little. Mind you, I think I was in my teens when I read it the first time. My only memory of it was a feeling of melancholy.

The young vicar, Mark, is sent to the Kwakiutl village of Kingcome by his bishop, who knows Mark has a terminal illness, but chooses not to tell him. In our 21st century culture of consent, this just wouldn’t happen anymore. No doctor worth his or her salt would let a patient out of the office without informing him of the diagnosis.

It struck me during my reading how residential schools are mentioned matter-of-factly. How the clash of cultures becomes intense as the children come home for Christmas. The pain of the parents as their children are pulled towards the outside world and away from the old ways. The enticing lure of education and modernity for the children.

Although Mark is nominally in the village to minister to the community, it is he who receives the majority of the spiritual benefits. In his tenure in Kingcome, he learns more of friendship and community than he ever anticipated—and this is why his bishop sent him there. I shed a few tears at the end and found that my only memory of melancholy was wholly accurate.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Dreamfever / Karen Marie Moning

3 out of 5 stars
He has stolen her past, but MacKayla will never allow her sister’s murderer to take her future. Yet even the uniquely gifted sidhe-seer is no match for the Lord Master, who has unleashed an insatiable sexual craving that consumes Mac’s every thought—and thrusts her into the seductive realm of two very dangerous men, both of whom she desires but dares not trust.

As the enigmatic Jericho Barrons and the sensual Fae prince V’lane vie for her body and soul, as cryptic entries from her sister’s diary mysteriously appear and the power of the Dark Book weaves its annihilating path through the city, Mac’s greatest enemy delivers a final challenge.…

It’s an invitation Mac cannot refuse, one that sends her racing home to Georgia, where an even darker threat awaits. With her parents missing and the lives of her loved ones under siege, Mac is about to come face-to-face with a soul-shattering truth—about herself and her sister, about Jericho Barrons…and about the world she thought she knew.


A perfect Friday night read, glass of wine in hand, needing something fluffy & easy after the work week.

Mac gets rescued, overcomes obstacles, and progresses as a human being. I love her bond with Dani, the teenage rebel. And I’m always ready for some revenge!

However, I am weary of the cliff hanger endings.

My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding / edited by P.N. Elrod

3 out of 5 stars
An "ordinary" wedding can get crazy enough, so can you imagine what happens when otherworldly creatures are involved? Nine of the hottest authors of paranormal fiction answer that question in this delightful collection of supernatural wedding stories. What's the seating plan when rival clans of werewolves and vampires meet under the same roof? How can a couple in the throes of love overcome traps set by feuding relatives---who are experts at voodoo? Will you have a good marriage if your high-seas wedding is held on a cursed ship? How do you deal with a wedding singer who's just a little too good at impersonating Elvis? Shape-shifters, wizards, and magic, oh my!

Read to fill the “Supernatural” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

A collection of short fiction—these are almost always a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed all but one of the stories and my favourites were “Tacky” by Charlaine Harris and “Dead Man’s Chest” by Rachel Caine. Not surprising, as I am familiar with both authors.

There are lots of vampires and werewolves of course, but I loved the cursed pirate ship in Rachel Caine’s story and the spookily good Elvis impersonator in P.N. Elrod’s “All Shook Up.”

Definitely a worthwhile read if you enjoy any of the contributing authors or are looking for something new. I must say I wish there were more pirates in the urban fantasy genre!

Good Me, Bad Me / Ali Land

3.5 stars out of 5
Milly's mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother's trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother's daughter.


 Not recommended for those who have children and/or are sensitive to violence against children.

Milly knows she is different from other children. From other people. But she maybe doesn’t realize just how different. You see, Molly’s mother is a serial killer and she has forced Milly to be Satan’s little helper. It’s much easier to snatch a child if you have one of your own in tow.

What conscience Milly has left has sent her to the police. Yes, she felt bad for the children lying dead in their basement, but what she was truly dreading was the “birthday party” that her mother was planning when she turned “sweet sixteen.” So before the invitations go out to people to come & brutalize her, Milly turns her mother in.

But she had no idea how hard it was going to be to leave her mother behind. Or how difficult it will be to act like she is “normal,” especially when she has been taught by an expert how to read body language, how to manipulate people, how to tell them what they want to hear. She can’t seem to fit in to her foster situation, because she can see altogether too clearly what is going on in their home—and how can she trust a social worker who can’t see that his wife is an addict and his daughter is well on her way to the same state.

If you like this book, I would recommend I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga. It is a young adult work, but really well done in my opinion. Another child struggling to right himself after being raised by a serial killer dad.

Monday, 18 September 2017

A Court of Wings and Ruin / Sarah J. Maas

4 out of 5 stars
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.


When I sit down to read these tomes by Sarah Maas, I always wonder as I begin if I will find this volume as engaging as the last one. So far, so good. Once I started Wings and Ruin I couldn’t stop until I was done. I reluctantly went to bed (late) on Saturday night and picked the book right back up again on Sunday morning. Why do I like this series, when writers like Christine Feehan and J.L. Ward leave me annoyed? Because there’s some PLOT here. The first two books got us set up for the big war scenes that we experience in W&R.

Yes, there is romance and there’s some sex, but there are plenty of friendships too, all kinds of relationships really. Indeed, because Feyre & Rhys are an established couple, Maas can concentrate on the other relationships. Enemies, frenemies, relatives, chosen families, unknown quantities, close friends, useful acquaintances….they’re all in here. Many of them had a place in the earlier books and now we see them in a new light. Will Feyre’s sisters fight with her or against her? Will they accept their transition to the Fae world or will they cling to their past humanity?

Feyre makes mistakes, admits it, and works on fixing them. What I like the most is the circle of chosen family that Rhysand has assembled for himself and how Feyre is finding her way into their hearts as well and vice versa. Yes, its all a bit melodramatic and unrealistic, but I got swept along with the story and didn’t notice too much until I thought back on it after finishing. Not sure if it would actually be possible for Morrigan to keep her sexual preference a secret for over 500 years—especially not since in the High Fae world, it seems like anything goes, so why would she bother?

So, it has its idiosyncrasies and silliness, but I still found it to be an enjoyable read. Although this one actually felt final, I see there are future volumes planned. At this point, I’ll be willing to give the next one a try.

Akata Witch / Nnedi Okorafor

4 out of 5 stars
Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

Read to fill the “Diverse Voices” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

The Nigerian version of Harry Potter, with an albino Nigerian-American girl as the star. Sunny really only wants to be able to play football and attend school without being bullied, but her family has a legacy of magic that no one talks about and which is going to take her life in unexpected direction. Her talent is recognized by the friend of a friend and soon Sunny is being coached in juju, taken to the magical city of the Leopard People, and dealing with some very serious magical situations. Fortunately, she has her own coven of friends to aid and abet her in her adventures.

Here, there are leopards and lambs, rather than magicians and muggles, there is football rather than quidditch, but there is also a whole window into West African life and mythology that will be unfamiliar to many North American readers. Nnedi Okorafor is in the perfect position to open this window for us, being born in the United States with Nigerian immigrant parents. With feet in both worlds, she is able to weave a tale understandable to both sides of the divide.

Nine Coaches Waiting / Mary Stewart

4 out of 5 stars
Linda Martin, an English woman is hired to be a governess for a young French boy. But a strange terror coiled in the shadows behind the brooding elegance of the huge Château Valmy. It lay there like some dark and twisted thing — waiting, watching, ready to strike.

Was it only chance encounter than had brought the lovely governess to the château? Or was it something planned? She only knew something was wrong and that she was afraid. She is unaware of the danger she faces or who to trust in order to protect the young heir. Now she could not even trust the man she loved. For Raoul Valmy was one of them — linked by blood and name to the dark secrets of the Valmy past.



Read to fill the “Romantic Suspense” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

This Bingo was a great excuse to revisit an old favourite, which only been slight worn by the passage of time. It is very much a gothic romance, with the heroine having the usual attributes—she is an orphan, she needs to pay her way in the world, and she is hired by a French family to school a young nobleman in English. The young Comte is nine years old and it takes a bit for Linda Martin to make friends with him and get him acting like a real small boy, but they manage to make the connection just before sinister things begin to happen. Has Linda been chosen because she is an orphan with no real connections in France? Will she be the scapegoat when young Philippe is killed?

Add the complication that Linda has fallen in love with Raoul, her employer’s son, who manages another large family estate. Raoul is as sophisticated as Linda is naïve, which causes much of the romantic tension, as the reader wonders whether he is serious or just playing with Linda. Stewart actually uses Cinderella imagery to reassure the reader—there is an Easter ball, of course, for which Linda sews her own dress and during which she dances with Raoul and they agree to become engaged. She has promised to visit her charge, Philippe, in “the dead of night” so he can feel included in the event, so she & Raoul take a “midnight feast” pilfered from the buffet table up to the little boy’s room. On her way up to the nursey, Linda’s shoe comes undone and she almost loses it, completing the Cinderella reference.

Nor is that the only literary reference. The book’s title comes from the poem The Revenger’s Tragedy, a tale of lust and ambition suited to the story line of Nine Coaches Waiting. Each of the chapters is referred to as a coach and Linda takes some kind of conveyance (train, car, plane) in each. The poem also includes a tempter’s list of pleasures: coaches, the palace, banquets, etc., all of which decadent indulgences may lure our heroine to overlook the attempts on her student’s life.

One of the joys of the book for me was the description of the French countryside and communities. These descriptive interludes extend the tension of both the mystery & the romance and give the reader some time to assimilate the clues and try to see the road ahead. It also gave me breathing room to assess the very whirlwind nature of the romance, something that I would usually find unrealistic & therefore off-putting (and which I never noticed as a teenager reading this novel).

I am delighted to report that I enjoyed this novel almost as much forty years later as I did when I first read it.

Monk's Hood / Ellis Peters

4 out of 5 stars
Gervase Bonel, with his wife and servants, is a guest of Shrewsbury Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul when he is suddenly taken ill. Luckily, the Abbey boasts the services of Brother Cadfael, a skilled herbalist. Cadfael hurries to the man's bedside, only to be confronted by two very different surprises. In Master Bonel's wife, the good monk recognises Richildis, whom he loved before he took his vows. And Master Bonel has been fatally poisoned by a dose of deadly monk's-hood oil from Cadfael's herbarium. The Sheriff is convinced that the murderer is Richildis' son Edwin, but Cadfael is certain of her son's innocence. Using his knowledge of both herbs and the human heart, Cadfael deciphers a deadly recipe for murder...

I read this for the “Murder Most Foul” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

Brother Cadfael has not disappointed me yet. In this book, one of his herbal potions is used for evil instead of for good and the Brother feels he must right the wrong caused by his tincture. A very young step-son is blamed for the murder and since Cadfael is sure the boy is innocent, he pursues the matter all the way to Wales.

Cadfael is such a steady, sensible character. It’s a joy to watch as he methodically put together the pieces, assesses the people involved, and uses his opportunities to solve the mystery, while still managing to (mostly) obey the rules of the Abbey. This situation has probably perturbed him the most because of his reconnection with Richildis, the woman he loved before he went to the Crusades and joined the religious order. One poignant scene has him looking at her son and thinking “That child could have been mine if I’d returned to her.”

This is a very quietly enjoyable series and I will look forward to the next installment with anticipation.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Smut / Alan Bennett

4 out of 5 stars
One of England’s finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people’s public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories.

In The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she rather enjoys role-play at the hospital, and the irregular and startling entertainment provided by her tenants.

In The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes, a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth. As Graham’s double life becomes increasingly complicated, we realize how little he understands, not only of his own desires but also those of his mother.


3.5 stars rounded up to 4 because I’ve always wanted to say that I was reading smut.

My only familiarity with Alan Bennett’s work was seeing the film The Lady in the Van, which amused me greatly. These two pieces of short fiction, The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson and The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes, were also amusing in a somewhat different way. The author admits to using the title Smut to forestall the critics who were likely to label it as such.

Truly not very smutty, these stories are more meditations on our social hang-ups about sexuality and our reluctance to talk honestly about it. I must say that I preferred Mrs. Donaldson because I could relate to her more easily that Mrs. Forbes. I enjoyed how she took two moneymaking propositions and found ways to make them more fun & interesting while also being able to annoy her rather judgmental daughter. Mrs. Forbes, on the other hand, would probably have gotten along with Mrs. Donaldson’s daughter.

Phoenix / Steven Brust

4 out of 5 stars
Verra, Vlad's patron goddess, hires him to assassinate a king whose country lies outside the Dragaeran Empire, resulting in increased tension between the two places. Meanwhile, the peasant Teckla and the human Easterners persevere in their fight for civil rights. As Vlad's wife Cawti is a firm partisan of the movement, and Vlad is not, their marriage continues to suffer, causing Vlad to make some decisions that will change his life forever.

The fifth book of the Vlad Taltos series, and I feel like Brust has prepared the way to get back on track again. Vlad is our friendly, neighbourhood assassin and generally amusing, snarky guy, but he has been involved in Dragaeren politics for several books, with he & his wife Cawti on opposite sides of the divide. It’s difficult to write humour for a character who is engaged in a struggling relationship, and humour is the main attraction of this series, in my opinion.

And now for something completely different—at book’s end, we see a new Vlad emerging. Has he really put his assassinating ways behind him? Or will he find that it’s a difficult profession to retire from? Are he & his wife going to have to go their separate ways? How much longer will he have his beloved grandfather to lean on?

I’m glad Brust didn’t write another prequel to avoid the issues. I’m looking forward to the next book to see where the tale goes from here.

Book 263 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

Witches of Lychford / Paul Cornell

5 out of 5 stars
The villagers in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford are divided. A supermarket wants to build a major branch on their border. Some welcome the employment opportunities, while some object to the modernization of the local environment.

Judith Mawson (local crank) knows the truth -- that Lychford lies on the boundary between two worlds, and that the destruction of the border will open wide the gateways to malevolent beings beyond imagination.

But if she is to have her voice heard, she's going to need the assistance of some unlikely allies...


Read to fill the “Witches” square for 2107 Halloween Bingo.

Paul Cornell writes looming, disastrous & supernatural really, really well (see also London Falling which shares this spooky ambiance). This is a short novel—I was trying to read it while simultaneously cooking supper on Saturday evening, and I was resenting every time I had to set it down to go check on the pots on the stove!

For something so short, there is a remarkable amount of complexity. I seem to be reading a lot of fiction set in small towns recently—but they really do make the perfect setting for these tales that require people to know one another well in order for the plot line to make such good sense. The coming of a big mega-store to a city would be completely unremarkable, but it causes roiling tensions in the little village of Lychford! And few of the denizens of Lychford can see that there are malevolent supernatural intentions behind the behemoth super store.

Three unlikely women are brought together to combat the supernatural: the local cranky old lady, the new female pastor, and the owner of the pagan/occult store. The latter two have a history that they must overcome—they were besties years ago, but had a falling out that neither of them truly understood and they must sort through the misunderstandings to see if they can cooperate in the current situation.

I must say that Cornell writes women very well. I felt like I could relate to all three exceptionally well. They all are facing a loss in their lives, challenges to whichever faith they espoused, difficulties in reaching out to others. Throw into the mix some dark Fae, a favourite additive for me and give it all an only-somewhat resolved ending, and this was just what I like in my fantasy novels!

I only hope that I have what it takes to become Judith as I approach her stage in life.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Three Bedrooms, One Corpse / Charlaine Harris

4 out of 5 stars
Deciding if she wants to go into real estate becomes a life-or-death choice for Aurora "Roe" Teagarden. A naked corpse is discovered at her first house showing. And when a second body is found in another house for sale, it becomes obvious that there is a very cool killer at large in Lawrenceton, one who knows a great deal about real estate-and maybe too much about Roe.


Read to fill the “Cozy Mystery” square for 2107 Halloween Bingo.

I wonder if Aurora Teagarden was in some ways a practice run by Charlaine Harris for her Sookie Stackhouse character? They’re both small town girls, seemingly not outstanding in any sense, feeling that life is passing them by. Both of them are attracted to dangerous men. Both of them take unreasonable risks for those men.

Also like Sookie, Aurora changes male partners fairly frequently. I was glad to see the pastor get the boot in this book. By the looks of things, Roe has found the one she intends to keep—but nothing is sure with Harris’ characters, so I will undoubtedly read the next book!

I like that Aurora is a little more independent that she is willing to give herself credit for. She’s not going to settle for just anyone because of societal small-town pressure to get married. Nor is she going to let the opinions of others prevent her from doing exactly what she wants to, whether that’s buy a house just outside of town or take a date to bed (or not). These choices are much easier for the single woman living in the city—we only have our relatives & friends who consciously or unconsciously push us to make certain decisions! We don’t have weight of community judgment hanging over us. Very seldom do our family members or friends live right next door, so we can generally get away with doing EXACTLY what we want to.

One does have to suspend disbelief over the number of murders that Roe runs into in such a small community—not that murders don’t occur in towns, but they do seem to be rather more numerous in Lawrenceton than one would truly expect outside of the city.

The Killer Inside Me / Jim Thompson

3 out of 5 stars
Everyone in the small town of Central City, Texas loves Lou Ford. A deputy sheriff, Lou's known to the small-time criminals, the real-estate entrepreneurs, and all of his coworkers--the low-lifes, the big-timers, and everyone in-between--as the nicest guy around. He may not be the brightest or the most interesting man in town, but nevertheless, he's the kind of officer you're happy to have keeping your streets safe. The sort of man you might even wish your daughter would end up with someday.

But behind the platitudes and glad-handing lurks a monster the likes of which few have seen. An urge that has already claimed multiple lives, and cost Lou his brother Mike, a self-sacrificing construction worker who fell to his death on the job in what was anything but an accident. A murder that Lou is determined to avenge--and if innocent people have to die in the process, well, that's perfectly all right with him.


Read to fill the “Serial/Spree Killer” square for 2107 Halloween Bingo.

This novel is considered a classic in the crime/noir genre and I think it certainly deserves its place there.  First published in 1952, it may be one of the earlier books that gives the reader a glimpse into the head of a serial killer.  Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in small town Texas, thinks he can murder his way out of any problem.  He spends his time getting the towns folk to believe that he is just a good old boy who wouldn’t hurt a fly and probably isn’t all that bright—and committing sophisticated crimes which, as a member of law enforcement, he knows how to cover up.  In many ways, he is the predecessor of Dexter Morgan, the cheerful serial killer who works in Miami as a forensic blood spatter technician.  Maybe also to “true crime” books like In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

The writing is impressive.  If you’re female, you’re going to flinch at Lou’s casual attitude to mistreating and killing women, but it’s all part of his persona.  Not to mention that it is true to life—art imitating reality.  Crime and criminals have been with us forever, but this book helped in the process that brought the awareness of them into current popular culture.

Grass / Sheri S. Tepper

4 out of 5 stars
Generations ago, humans fled to the cosmic anomaly known as Grass. But before humanity arrived, another species had already claimed Grass for its own. It too had developed a culture......

Now a deadly plague is spreading across the stars, leaving no planet untouched, save for Grass. But the secret of the planet's immunity hides a truth so shattering it could mean the end of life itself.


There’s a lot of things going on in Grass. Religion, tradition, health & illness, education, relationships—all these things get batted around during the course of the book, and that’s a big load for just 500+ pages, but not unusual in a planetary romance of this sort. However I liked the main character, Marjorie Westriding, with her love of her horses, her ability to ask the right questions of the right people, and the willingness to put herself in danger.

As in her book The Gate to Women’s Country, Tepper explores human relationship territory in which men and women seem to talk past one another, with Rodrigo not taking Marjorie seriously enough and Marjorie taking him way too seriously. They do approach mutual comprehension several times during crises, only to back away quickly.

Also explored is the issue of who is worth caring for. The church of Sanctity has decided to let the plague run its course and the resurrect only a chosen few (although they refuse to admit publically that there’s a plague at all). Marjorie has done charitable work, helping the people who have run afoul of Sanctity, and wonders why they are treated so unfairly, even if it’s according to the church’s rule-book. When she & Rodrigo change planets, she begins to wonder if the native creatures of Grass give or receive consideration? What about the noble class on Grass, who believe themselves in charge but are actually humoured by the so-called lower class who run the planet’s economy and are much more educated than the aristocrats? When aristocratic children are abducted and abused by the mysterious Hippae on Grass, are they heartlessly forgotten by their parents or are their minds being controlled? And ultimately, are the people of Grass, who are immune to the plague, obliged to do anything for the rest of humanity?

Unsurprisingly the aristocrats and the priests come out of this tale looking poorly and I can’t help but think that Tepper had colonialism in mind as she crafted this tale. I can see where I’m going to get thinking about this tale for several days to come. Also, I’m disappointed to note that the following two Arbai books follow different characters—no more Marjorie.

Book 262 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

Friday, 8 September 2017

King Solomon's Mines / H. Rider Haggard

3.5 out of 5 stars
The story begins when renowned safari hunter Allan Quartermain agrees to help Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good search for King Solomon’s legendary cache of diamonds. Eager to find out what is true, what is myth, and what is really buried in the darkness of the mines, the tireless adventurers delve into the Sahara’s treacherous Veil of Sand, where they stumble upon a mysterious lost tribe of African warriors. Finding themselves in deadly peril from that country’s cruel king and the evil sorceress who conspires behind his throne, the explorers escape, but what they seek could be the most savage trap of all—the forbidden, impenetrable, and spectacular King Solomon’s Mines.

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

King Solomon’s Mines is very much a product of its Victorian, colonial times. Don’t go into this book expecting anything else. Allan Quartermain is an unlikely protagonist, an elephant hunter, something that would get him publically shamed on the internet nowadays. This is very much an adventure tale, set in deepest, darkest Africa. White men have no doubt that they are at the very tippy-top of the social hierarchy and have no compunctions about expressing that belief. They believe Africans to be primitive, superstitious, and prefer them subservient. An African may be king in his own lost-kingdom, but must still admit his unworthiness to equality with a ne’er-do-well hunter like Quartermain.

Not recommended for the overly politically correct, but providing many insights into the colonial mindset that still plagues us today. A fantastical adventure in the Victorian style.

Shattered / Kevin Hearne

3.5 stars out of 5
Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.

And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse.

But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.

As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time, three’s a charm.


***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

Best volume of this series so far!!!

I really liked the alternating chapters between Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen. This structure shows, better than any telling, that Atticus has severely underestimated both his partner Granuaile and his archdruid, Owen.

Granuaile gets to adventure on her own, while Atticus and Owen manage to get each other into trouble. Oberon and Orleith are fabulous hound sidekicks. Owen shows that he’s not just a cranky old coot, he’s still got good instincts, even if English isn’t the ideal language to express them in.
I’m getting a bit tired of the ‘dog-pile of gods on Atticus’ plot. Sure, he’s been annoying, but really has anything that he’s done warranted the amount of ill-will that is being expended on him? At least in this book we are back to dealing mostly with the Irish pantheon, which makes sense, but I am really tired of the Loki/Ragnarock plot line which keeps dragging along through so many books now. Says the woman who usually loves the Norse gods in fiction.

Owen steals the show, being completely unfamiliar with 21st century society and providing hilarious perspectives on it, while still showing that human nature hasn’t changed a bit! I used to read this series strictly for Oberon, but he has some competition now!

Faefever / Karen Marie Moning

3 out of 5 stars
"He calls me his Queen of the Night. I’d die for him. I’d kill for him, too." When MacKayla Lane receives a torn page from her dead sister’s journal, she is stunned by Alina’s desperate words. And now MacKayla knows that her sister’s killer is close. But evil is closer. And suddenly the sidhe-seer is on the hunt: For answers. For revenge. And for an ancient book of dark magic so evil, it corrupts anyone who touches it.

Mac’s quest for the Sinsar Dubh takes her into the mean, shape-shifting streets of Dublin, with a suspicious cop on her tail. Forced into a dangerous triangle of alliance with V’lane, an insatiable Fae prince of lethally erotic tastes, and Jericho Barrons, a man of primal desires and untold secrets, Mac is soon locked in a battle for her body, mind, and soul.

As All Hallows’ Eve approaches and the city descends into chaos, as a shocking truth about the Dark Book is uncovered, not even Mac can prevent a deadly race of immortals from shattering the walls between worlds—with devastating consequences.…


***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

This series *should* be perfect for me. Fae of various degrees of danger and friendliness? Check! Mysterious goings on in Dublin? Check! Magical items which need to be collected to prevent disaster? Check! All kinds of frenemies for the heroine, forcing her to make lesser-of-evil choices between them? Check, check, check!

And yet I don’t really connect with this story. I feel like I should like MacKayla more than I do. I should find Barrons more attractive than I do. I should find the end-of-life-as-we-know-it scenario more troubling than I do.

That was some cliff-hanger at the end! But I guess it accomplished something—I put a hold on the next volume of this series at the library! If these endings continue, I may get pulled along further in the series just to see what happens.

One of the last books in my summer of fluffy reading, snuck in over the Labour Day weekend.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Cottingley Secret / Hazel Gaynor

4.5 stars out of 5
1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?


My thanks to my Goodreads friends Melissa and Rory, whose reviews pointed me towards this lovely book.

It was a nearly perfect book for me—first, there is the question of what Frances has actually seen. In her mind, she has seen fairies and I found myself wanting so much to believe her! Having spent many long hours as a child playing outdoors, watching all that went on around me, I always longed for a special experience such as hers.

Secondly, there is the link to the real world—Frances and Elsie were real girls who did create fairy photographs that fooled many people, including Arthur Conan Doyle! And I can’t say I blame them—after all, I just admitted above how much I wanted to believe in Frances’ fairies. At the end of WWI, many people were looking for evidence of life after death and having lost dear folk myself, I can sympathize with that wish.

Thirdly, there is a present day story which takes place around the story of Frances and Elsie. Olivia Kavanagh is dealing with the grief of losing a beloved grandparent (who has stood in a parental role to her) and dealing with his store and his belongings. Her grandmother has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t always know Olivia when she visits. I identified strongly with her grief and her desire to escape from her London life while she sorted things out. I’ve sorted out the contents of our farm house and know exactly how difficult such an endeavour can be.

Lastly, I loved the unresolved ending. Frustrating to some, to me they reflect reality. Until we also pass on, we only have the ending until now. There is more to come tomorrow.

An enchanting, beautiful book which I am ever so glad that I found.

Shakespeare's Counselor / Charlaine Harris

3 out of 5 stars
Cleaning woman and karate expert Lily Bard is a woman with a complicated past. Trying her best to cope with her terrifying memories and horrible nightmares, she decides to join a weekly group therapy session in her hometown of Shakespeare, Arkansas. At first, Lily can hardly believe the number of her fellow Shakespeareans that share her life experiences.

As it turns out, the group members' feelings aren't the only things that need sorting out -- they assemble for a session and find a woman dead, killed in bone-chilling fashion and deliberately left on display to send a twisted message. Who would commit such horrendous crime, and who is the intended recipient of the message?

Before long, Lily becomes embroiled in this disturbing murder and its aftermath, one in which the brutal killer's motives are entirely unclear. The truth is, the situation has dredged up more than a few of her own terrible secrets, and she may not be able to rest until she can untangle the who and why of this terrible crime. But can she accomplish this before the killer strikes again, and before her nightmares send her over the edge?


I read this book to match the “Amateur Sleuth” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo Card.

Another small town mystery and quite a contrast to “A Murder is Announced.” I enjoy Charlaine Harris’ mysteries, but she cannot hold a candle to Dame Agatha!

However, Harris does use the small town environment quite effectively. Where else but a small town would the cleaning lady, Lily Bard, be friends with the chief of police and his wife the doctor? And true to the nature of a small town, Lily knows most of the people in her counseling group and her counselor is a near neighbour.

Without all of these believable details, Lily couldn’t end up in the middle of a crime as often as she does! And, as with Agatha Christie’s small towns, people are people wherever you go and will surprise you with their reasons, logical or otherwise, for the things that they do.

This seems to be the last of the Lily Bard mysteries, so I will bid her farewell now. It seems a shame that she finally is getting her life together when her author has lost interest in her!

A Murder is Announced / Agatha Christie

4 out of 5 stars
Villagers expect a fun game after a Gazette announcement of murder, but when lights flash off, shots ring out, and a masked burglar falls dead, the Inspector and vicar's wife Bunch call in expert Miss Jane Marple. Was Swiss hotel clerk Rudi framed? Miss Letitia Blackstone houses scatty Dora, cousins Julia and Patrick, gardener widow Phillipa, and paranoid cook Mitzi.

I read this book to match the “Terror in a Small Town” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo Card.

I had vague recollections of how this one ended from watching the TV show back in the day.  But I didn’t remember all the details, so there were still some surprises in store for me.

It was also a thing of beauty to watch the set-up by Dame Agatha, the misdirections, the superfluous details, and the real clues, all beautifully set into the story.

Small towns are an excellent backdrop for a mystery of this kind, as everyone thinks that they know their neighbours.  As Christie points out in this novel, we only know the details which others supply and have few chances to check on their veracity.  City dwellers have no illusions of knowing everyone around them, thus making the small village, like Chipping Cleghorn, an ideal setting for an intricate mystery of this kind.  Especially since people are people, no matter what size of community they live in—everyone will have motives and opportunity!

What begins as an enticingly mysterious ad in the paper ends with a dissection of a deception.  Very, very entertaining.