A Bookaholic, Pro-life, Pro-Family, Pro-Oxford Comma, Catholic (with Asperger's) who reads and writes as her obsession. I've been reading over 400 books a year lately. These are my ramblings on some of the books I read. To read about all the books I read and comment on, visit me at LibraryThing or Goodreads.

I've been blogging since 2007 and at this point (July 2015) am trying my hand at turning the theme of this blog towards mystery, thriller, and crime, fiction and nonfiction. I have some special interest topics and categories within this broad genre which include (but are not limited to) serial killers, scandi-crime, Victorian history and historicals, history of the criminally insane and asylums, psychopathology, death, funerary practices and burial, corpses, true crime and anything dealing with the real life macabre, or that portrayed in fiction.

I also read a short story a day from various collections, sometimes anthologies othertimes collections of a single author's work. These reviews are also posted here and while they are of mixed genre the mystery, thriller, horror, gothic and macabre often appear within their pages as well.

I also blog about
graphic novels and manga on a separate BLOG.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Double You by Shane Peacock

Double You by Shane Peacock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 1st 2014 by Orca Books
Source: Local library

Seven: The Sequel

I really enjoyed "The Seven Series" and this is my first book in the follow up "Sequel" series. Shane Peacock is one of my favourite Canadian YA authors and this book was no exception. I enjoyed it even more than the first book, "The Last Message". Shane writes a lot of mysteries and this is his first spy thriller in which he has excelled. This book concerns the one American cousin of the seven boys. He was the black sheep in the first book but now he's discovered his true self since those events. This is an action-packed spy story with a James Bond theme and centres around the famous British literary spies Fleming, Greene, Le Carre, etc. It also features the story of the famous Canadian spy, The Man They Called Intrepid, William Stephenson. A roller coaster ride of a book that even includes a Bond girl, Angel Dahl.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Crown Archetype
Source: Received a print edition from Penguin Random House Canada

If you grew up watching The Carol Burnett Show you'll love this walk down memory lane. Carol takes us behind the scenes and talks about the experiences she had doing the show. She tells about the regulars: Vicki, Tim, Harvey and Lyle. She goes on to reminisce about many, many guest stars. She talks about the sketches and musical numbers, the mistakes, the bloopers, and even includes scripts for some of the movie take-offs they did. There is no cohesive narrative but rather the book is a series of vignettes grouped by subject. I saw the show in syndication which only aired the comedy sketches so I found those parts more interesting than the info on the musical numbers. But I just loved all the stories about the guests which included so many stars from the silver screen and golden age of television.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Doubleday Canada
Source: received print review copy from Penguin Random House Canada

Flavia de Luce (#8)

I'll state upfront that while I love this series this book was not one of the better ones for me. It's all totally quaint and I love Flavia's attitude. She had some great lines of dialogue! But the mystery wasn't very exciting. Halfway through I thought it was the most boring in the series I had ever read; there's only one murder. In the middle, though, things started to get interesting as a tangled web started to unravel. The culprit was totally a surprise for me and I'd never have guessed who it turned out to be. Probably my least favourite in the series but good enough that I read it quickly and enjoyed the familiar characters.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Cold Embrace: Weird Stories by Women edited by S.T. Joshi

The Cold Embrace: Weird Stories by Women edited by S.T. Joshi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 18th 2016 by Dover Publications
Source: egalley via netgalley

This is an uneven collection of a few excellent stories and a number of ones that just didn't work for me. The tales told well are strong enough to bring my average rating of the collection to a solid three. My main complaint would be that many of the stories were only barely what one could call "weird" and nothing that really made me shudder. It was a fresh collection for me, though, with only two I had read before and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the highlight of the collection. The end of the book is a collection of brief biographies of all the authors. I prefer this type of material to be placed as an introduction to the story making it more relevant to the material. This volume had no editor intros before the stories.

Introduction by S.T. Joshi - Essay on the impact of women writers in the "weird tales" genre. Sets the stage for the book but too broad to be of any insight.

1. Transformation by Mary Shelley (1830) - A man upon the death of his father squanders his inheritance, loses his betrothed, and the respect of her father. His pride keeps him from seeking forgiveness and instead he lives a life of debauchery and revenge. Then he meets a demon and makes a trade for riches with which he feels he can win back all he's lost. Of course, things don't turn out the way he'd planned. Shelley writes well and is easy to read. Not bad. (3/5)

2. Curious if True by Elizabeth Gaskell (1860) - Not impressed. An Englishman takes a walk in France and realises he has gone too far, seeking asylum somewhere he finally comes to a forest and enters. It is there he finds a grand old mansion with a party going on. He enters and the people are a little odd. Then it just goes on and on with nothing happening. He gets into little strange conversations with people and we are waiting for something to happen, the punchline, if you will. When all of a sudden. It ends. Nothing! (0/5)

3. The Cold Embrace by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1860) - A ghost story. A jilted woman jumps off a bridge and exacts her promise towards the man. That forever, even in death. they will not be separated. Good mounting tension, but just ok, not worthy of being the titular piece. (3/5)

4. An Engineer's Story by Amelia B. Edwards (1866) - Somewhat long-winded but a readable story about two men, best friends, who are ruined because of a woman. But in the end, it is a ghost story and one of redemption. (3/5)

5. The Secret Chamber by Margaret Oliphant (1876) - This is a very long story divided into three chapters. A family has a curse upon it passed down from father to son, generation after generation involving a secret room hidden in their ancestral home which has been here on the site in one form or another since the Celts. The first chapter is long and somewhat boring but it makes you wish the story would hurry up and get on with it. Chapter 2 is worth the wait with its reveal and the third chapter ends without a resolution but it leaves a spooky feeling. (4/5)

6. From the Dead by E. Nesbit (1880) - I really enjoyed this. I've read a few of Nesbit's weird tales and of course her children's books. Ultimately a ghost story. A man and his wife are separated because of a misunderstanding. Then several months later she writes him where she is and she's dying. Has a creepy ending. (5/5)

7. Walnut-Tree House by Mrs. J.H. Riddell (1882) - This is divided into chapters but isn't overly long. It's a well-written Gothic with a gloomy old house and a ghost. It could very well have ended with the sentence of the second last chapter and would have pleased me more. The final chapter is a happy denouement which is good if you like fairytale endings but spoils the previous Gothic tone. (4/5)

8. In Dark New England Days by Sarah Orne Jewett (1890) - I wondered if I had read this one before and I quickly realised I had and not that long ago. I remembered the story only not the ending. It read well again and I enjoy the Gothic tones, the villain getting his and the sombre ending. Just checked and I gave it the same rating last time. (4/5)

9. The Yellow Wall Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892) - I've only read this once and loved it again on a second reading. I enjoyed it more, this time, having learned a bit about why Gilman wrote the story, between reads. I noticed sarcasm that I probably missed first read through. A woman is declared "nervous" and "hysterical" and prescribed the "rest cure". We learn of a baby halfway through. In today's terms, she would have been diagnosed post-partum depression. Instead, Gilman shows how the "rest cure" can drive a perfectly sane person, insane. (5/5)

10. Death and the Woman by Gertrude Atherton (1893) - This is creepy. A woman sits alone with her husband on the evening he will die. They are young and he has been ravished by disease. All sorts of things go through the woman's mind that one could worry about when unfamiliar with death. The ending is predictable, but probably not so much at the time it was written. (5/5)

11. A Wedding Chest by Vernon Lee (1904) - The ornately painted lid of a box is being entered into a collection one assumes is a museum. Then we are taken back to a medieval Italy and the story of the wedding box said lid belonged to, the man and woman who were to be married, and the scoundrel who kidnapped her on the eve before the wedding. I found it readable but boring. (1/5)

12. The Hall Bedroom by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903) - I liked this! It was obvious what was happening but still good. A man rents a room in a boarding house of a once well-to-do landlady. His room is the hall bedroom and every night something strange happens. He isn't scared just excited for the adventure of it. Then he simply disappears and the landlady provides us with the man's journal accounting his stay there. (5/5)

13. The Eyes by Edith Wharton (1910) - This makes little sense and when I'd finished it I googled an explanation. There are a few very different theories on what the ending means and there seems to be no one consensus. Personally, I hadn't a clue what had happened and can't be bothered with stories you have to study before you can understand them. It was pretty boring too. (0/5)

14. The Painter of Dead Women by Edna W. Underwood (1910) - A creepy story of a woman who is kidnapped by a "cerebral",who has a collection of preserved women that he paints. It is a good story of how she escapes but is also obviously a feminist tale of how a woman easily outwitted a man who supposedly had a perfect brain. She is also athletic which adds another element to her besting the killer. (4/5)

15. The Shadowy Third by Ellen Glasgow (1916) - A young nurse takes on the job of night nurse to a doctor's wife who has been deemed to have gone mad since the death of her daughter. A delightful tale with all the elements of a Gothic: an old house, a madwoman, a ghost and a killer. Great ending. One of my favourites in this collection. (5/5)

16. Scoured Silk by Marjorie Bowen (1919) - A haunting tale of a man's first wife as he nears the marriage of his young second wife twenty years later. There is a mystery of the first wife who died shortly after arriving which terrifies the new wife-to-be into investigating it. The story ends with a nicely crafted locked room murder mystery. (5/5)

17. The Death Mask by Mrs. H.D. Everett (1920) - A man visits an old college friend who has been widowed four years. He suggests the man should remarry but the friend then tells a ghostly tale of why he cannot remarry. Good, but the ending is too abrupt and unsatisfying. (3/5)

18. A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf (1921) - Almost reads like poetry, wandering ideas. I "get" it but did not like it at all. (0/5)

19. Where Their Fire is not Quenched by May Sinclair (1922) - This was a good choice for the ending and a longer story. We go through a woman's life from young, eager love to adulterated, sinful passion. She dies and we follow her into the afterlife. The story has deep religious tones at the end and could scare you into making a true confession at the end. (4/5)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Monstrous Progeny: A History of the Frankenstein Narratives by Lester D. Friedman & Allison B. Kavey

Monstrous Progeny: A History of the Frankenstein Narratives by Lester D. Friedman & Allison B. Kavey
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 1st 2016 by Rutgers University Press
Source: egalley via edelweiss

This didn't turn out to be exactly what I had expected but I did end up enjoying what it actually was. This is an academic volume for those interested in film studies or literature criticism. Or like myself, Frankenstein aficionados. The last couple of years I have re-read Shelley's Frankenstein and read some books on the author, the book and the pop culture becoming a very minor expert :-) This book starts off with a few chapters of academic literary criticism and study of the book, it's themes, and the author. Then it briefly examines pre-1930s Frankenstein culture such as plays and literary references. Then a meaty portion of the book study's first Universal's 1930s/40s Frankenstein movie canon and then 1960/70s Hammer Films' Frankenstein canon continuation. This was the best part of the book for me as I've seen all these movies. The Universals with commentary on DVD and the Hammer films throughout my life on TV and DVD. Next, the book introduces four different types of "Frankenstein" films, ones that either retell the tale or only use one of the themes. This part gets pretty heavy duty towards academia blow-out for me as my interest waned having seen probably only about half of the movies discussed. The book is incredibly interesting but is not an easy read and more for the cerebral rather than armchair reader. I'm glad to have read it and will continue my personal study of the author, book, and the Universal movies in particular.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mass Market Paperback, 770 pages
Published March 15th 1987 by Berkley
First published November 8th 1984

Jack Sawyer (#1)

Officially the worst book I've read by King as I continue to reread his books in chronological order. First, while I do distinctly remember owning this book when it came out, I had absolutely no recollection of the story whatsoever and now I understand why as it is so forgettable. This book needs to loose 400 or so pages to make it a decent YA fantasy. The book is indeed very adolescent, coming mostly from a 12-year-old's perspective there is hardly anything in the majority of the book to offend anyone. I'm surprised at how cliched the story is. Jack finds out there is an alternate world. His mother is dying in this world and the Queen, who is his mother's twinner, is dying in the other. He has been chosen to be the one who must travel west across the country to find the talisman which will rescue the Queen and his mother. So off he goes on a journey with pages and pages of nothing happening. Even the big showdown at the end with good vs evil was more campy than anything else. I really had to force myself to finish this book, and then only for the sake of my chronological project.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Stephen King's The Body: Bookmarked by Aaron Burch

Stephen King's The Body: Bookmarked by Aaron Burch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Ig Publishing
Source: egalley via edelweiss

This was ok. The author is a creative writing professor and the movie "Stand by Me" had a great effect on him. The courses he teaches always centre around the coming-of-age theme and he uses King's "The Body" for study. The book talks a lot about nostalgia with the author turning it into a part memoir of his own coming-of-age. He examines some scenes in the movie and the book also comparing the two. I just found it to be more about the author, Aaron Burch, who I really am not interested in knowing about his personal life. The book being short held my attention long enough to finish it. BTW, "Stand By Me" is also one of my all time favourites which I've watched many more times than I've read "The Body". Each I read and saw first the years of publication.