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.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

5 More Perfect Days by Mark Tullius

5 More Perfect Days by Mark Tullius
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 82 pages
Published March 22nd 2014 by Vincere Press
Source: Kindle freebie

Five more stories which take place between the events of the original novel "25 Perfect Days". Brings back many characters and a must read for fans of the first book. Since it is a short novella, it only whets my appetite for more books.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

December Park by Ronald Malfi

December Park by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 634 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Medallion Press
Source: LibraryThing early review program

This is a hard book for me to review; I was under the impression it was a horror. It most certainly is not. As I read I came to think it was a thriller, but it hardly is that either. It defies my definition of any genre and yet I liked the book, very much. More than anything it is a coming of age story, five boys on the cusp of manhood in the early 1990s, set against the backdrop of their town being gripped by fear from a rash of disappearing young teens. The boys become obsessed with finding out who is responsible. The papers have nicknamed the perpetrator "The Piper" and while no bodies are found it's assumed there is a serial killer on the loose. So, the boys spend the summer finding a couple of clues, hanging out in the park which has been deemed a "no go" area by the authorities and travelling all over town on their bikes exploring old abandoned places they haven't visited since they were kids, or ever. The story is more about the boys, this last summer together (though they don't know it), getting to know them, their camaraderie. They are the only friends each other has, mostly, they are not toughs but they smoke and don't do well at school, not really belonging to any clique other than each other. I really enjoyed the story in a "Stand By Me" kind of way, the creepy background gives it some suspense and there are a few intense moments but nothing really ever happens until the final pages for a book with over 600 pages. The ending is a rush, a twist, a surprise, and wrapped up somewhat too neatly with some questions never answered. So not a wholly satisfying ending, and yet in the grand scheme, I felt the boys' relationship was the main theme and that did end satisfyingly and bittersweet. If I'd known from the outset I was reading a coming of age story, and hadn't been expecting horror or thriller, I'd have rated the book higher.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner: Stories by Alan Sillitoe

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner: Stories by Alan Sillitoe
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

ebook, 144 pages
Published April 19th 2016 by Open Road Media
first published 1959
Source: egalley via netgalley

A collection of stories with the running theme of life for the working class British man pre & post-WWII. The main focus of each piece is a character study, with their being little to even no plot. I enjoy character stories and they are well-written gloomy fare but still I must admit they just really didn't do anything for me as a whole. Fortunately, I understood the historical and societal era the tales depicted as this is where and how my father grew up. Even though the book has a brief biographical afterword about the author I do wish there had been an Introduction which introduced us to his writing.

1. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner - A novella taking up 29% of the entire book, this story has no plot but is the running commentary of the thoughts of a 17yo in an institution for juvenile delinquents as he trains for the annual sports day competition representing the institute as their long-distance runner. I'm guessing this takes place in the late 1950s, the youth contemplates on why he will always be of the criminal element, doesn't ever plan to change and is quite proud of the fact. His thoughts all have to do with the British class system and his contempt for anyone in authority or "lords and ladies". I didn't care for the youth at all as he was a petty thief with petty ideas of "sticking it to the man." That said, the story made me think of my dad who I do respect greatly and was by no means ever petty nor a criminal, but he was raised the same as this youth. My dad was born during WWII in Yorkshire and this youth used some slang making me think he came from the same region. This youth was a Teddy Boy, as was my dad though for him it was more of a fashion statement than the accompanying rebellious behaviour. This youth's family were working class and the father died of cancer contracted from the factory industry he worked for. My father's family was the same and *his* dad died of lung cancer caused by working in the textile mills. A well-written story which touched me in a certain personal way but I didn't particularly like or agree with anything it was trying to say about man and society. (3/5)
PS - I've since learned these stories take place in Nottingham, which is south of Yorkshire, but the characters use a lot of words and turns of phrase I'm familiar with.

2. Uncle Ernest - A character study. A depressing story of Ernest, an upholsterer, survivor of WWI, suffering from shellshock but no one knows not even him. He lives a lonely life, working which he's successful at, and spending the profits at the pub, he's always dirty. He has no reason to live, thinking of his drudgery of life, no friends, no family. Then one day two hungry little girls come into the diner where he eats lunch and sit at his table. He feeds them and it becomes a regular affair, the elder of the two is aggressive and takes advantage of him eventually getting presents for themselves as well as food. But Ernest is simple and now has a reason to live, he loves these girls like daughters, they are the light of his life. People begin to notice and one day the police come to him saying they've been watching and tell him it isn't right for a man his age to be giving money and presents to little girls. He must stop and never see them again or he'll end up before the magistrate. So Ernest turns dim and walks back into a pub with the glasses of ale welcoming him back. Well-written gloomy study of a typical type of man from this time in Britain. (4/5)

3. Mr Raynor the School-Teacher - This story looks at Raynor, a teacher who sits on his high stool looking through the window lusting after the drapery shop girls across the street. It's no secret as he tunes out his class often. He is particularly remembering an 18yo who left a few weeks back as she was killed. Raynor occasionally returns attention to his current class of final year 14yo boys and eventually straps the most belligerent one which turns into a tussle but Raynor holds his own and maintains an order for his class. Raynor is certainly not likeable, but he is probably a common example of a teacher from this era and place in Britain. We come to note that as a teacher he understands his boys and isn't a bad teacher when all is said and done. There is also plenty to think about regarding the girl and her death. (4/5)

4. The Fishing-Boat Picture - A sad story of love that takes place before WWII. A young couple marries; the woman is headstrong and cocky while the man is a nonconfrontational reader. They argue a lot and six years later the woman runs off with a painter. They remain legally married. Ten years later she turns up at his doorstep, characteristically changed and visits him once a week thereafter during the war until her death. He became happy in his quiet way after she left him but after her death, he finds out the suffering life she lead during those years. He examines their relationship, and love, and perhaps how they could have done something to make it work. A bleak but soul-searching story. My favourite so far. (5/5)

5. Noah's Ark - Two boys with only a few pence set off for the fair that's arrived in town. We learn a lot about the boys and their backgrounds as they walk along. Once at the fair, the streetwise boy shows the other all the tricks to come up with money at such an event and they steal, find, trick, and beg themselves enough to have a great day. The Noah's Ark is what we commonly refer to as a carousel and the one shows the other how to ride it for free. This is the main thing the most honest boy had wanted to experience at the fair.He get's on the ride but the attendant is onto him and chases him the entire ride. Everything ends well, but it leaves you with a bittersweet feeling that people make the most of what they have, but dishonesty gets its just reward in the end. (3/5)

6. On Saturday Afternoon - This is about a man who tries to hang himself. But it's actually about the narrator reflecting back on an incident that took place when he was 10 years old and he watched, even abetted, a stranger trying to hang himself. We know little of the man but get to know the narrator's life and circumstances, working class poor. We learn a lot about the narrator's dad, the family's anger and lot in life. It's illegal for this man to have tried suicide and he is arrested, sent to hospital, because his life is not his own, The narrator disagrees about this and makes a case. I disagree as our lives are certainly not our own, they belong to God, and while not a cause to be arrested anymore, suicides should be treated with mental health resources. I did like the narrator's reasoning on why he would never kill himself because of his "stick-to-itiveness". Well-written, a good gloomy topic but again I don't agree with the sentiment it tries to make. (4/5)

7. The Match - Most of the story rambles on about a "football" match and the home team loses like they always do. The two mates talk about it as they walk home; they live next door to each other. One is newly married, in love with a pretty pregnant wife. The other, Fred, has three children ages 14 and down. The last bit of the story describes the domestic unrest and abuse going on in the home as his friend and wife hear the ends of it next door. Too bad all the sports just zoned me out on this one. (2/5)

8. The Disgrace of Jim Scarfedale - Well, this is a sorry meandering story that narrates certain events and the eventual outcome of Jim Scarsdale by a 15yo neighbour who spied in a secret cranny to hear every word that went on in his house. Jim was a mamma's boy, tied to his mam's apron springs who one day in his 40s announced he was getting married. It only lasts six months and he returns home to mamma. But what happens to him in the end, is a shocker. Quite a bit of social commentary and eventually focussing on whether his upbringing connects to his crimes in the end. A bleak story but I probably enjoyed this as much if not better than "The Fishing Boat Picture". (5/5)

9. The Decline and Fall of Frankie Buller - This a sad story of a mentally challenged man-boy. W e don't know what's wrong with him. The time is between the wars and his father won a medal in WWI and was returned shellshocked. Frankie, clearly 10 years older than the neighbourhood 15yos is obsessed and fascinated with war. He's a good tactician and leads his gang into victory over other neighbourhood gangs. The narrator was one of those 15yo boys. He then tells us of meeting up with Frankie again when he visits home, the final time realising Frankie has had electric shock therapy. I like depressing stories like this but felt disconnected from not getting any sense for the characters. (3/5)

10. A Biography of Alan Sillitoe by Ruth Fainlight - Written by Sillitoe's widow, this is a brief biography of the events of his life. There are pictures included. However, it sheds no light on his stories or his writing. I'm assuming there may biological elements as before WWII he quit school at 14 to work in a local factory. (not rated)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession by Scott Hahn

Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession by Scott Hahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 214 pages
Published March 18th 2003 by Image
Source: Purchased new print copy

I usually get carried away and write big long review's for Scott Hahn's books but I'm not going to this time. "Lord Have Mercy" is a much more personal book for the reader than any other book I've read of his. It's a wonderful book, which goes without saying, whenever I've read Hahn, I've underlined so many things and filled it with marginalia. Scott takes us through "Confession", which is known by many different names through the ages and even now we no longer call it that but "Reconciliation". As one can expect from the author he delves into the origins of the sacrament from its use, practice and purpose in the Old Testament. He goes deeply into the whys and wherefores with his usual light bulb moments and engrossing information. But it is when he starts getting into the how that the book becomes personal for the reader, as I personally experienced anyway. How we should practice confession as Catholics, examine our consciences, how often, the actual "healing power" of the sacrament for those who practice it as a staple of Catholicity. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a powerful and exhilarating practice of our faith but it is also easy to slip out of the habit and this book gives much food for thought, is so very educational and uplifting.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Karen Vail (#6) Spectrum by Alan Jacobson

Spectrum by Alan Jacobson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 438 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Open Road Media
Source: purchased at kindle store

Karen Vail (#6)

This is totally 100% excellent! I loved it! And I loved the way it was written! This is Karen Vail's origin story going back to the 1990s when she was a rookie and her first day on the job. She shows up at a crime scene which turns out to be the first work of a serial killer that Karen will end up chasing for the next twenty years. The book starts off with alternating chapters between a crime taking place in the 1970s and Karen's work in the 1990's. Karen's story then progresses straight through the 2000s to the present day. What is absolutely cool is that chapters hit upon her checking in with this serial killer case while she's on the job with cases we've read in the previous five Karen Vail books! Every character we've met to date through the series is either a major character or does a cameo making this book just a whole lot of fun to read. The case itself is good: Greek women are being found displayed in a provocative manner with their fingers superglued into position, eyes slashed and a piece of glass stuck in the neck. It's a wild ride with plenty of action, lots of profiling and real-life FBI profiler Mark Safarik shows up as himself, too. Really enjoyed this!

Jacobson has Vail taking part in his other series about terrorists, conspiracy theories and black ops; while the characters from that series make appearances in the Vail books. I hope he continues on writing strictly Karen Vail books, though as the other series doesn't appeal to me.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Stuff of Dreams: The Weird Stories of Edward Lucas White

The Stuff of Dreams: The Weird Stories of Edward Lucas White by Edward Lucas White; S.T. Joshi (Editor)
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 20th 2016 by Dover Publications
Source: egalley via netgalley

This is a new author to me and the first few stories did not endear him to me but by the time I'd finished I realised I'd enjoyed more than not and all together they averaged out to a good 3.5/5 rating. He is quite wordy with his descriptions and that is where I thought his downfall was as a suspense writer as it was hard to keep the reader's attention when being bombarded with needless minutia. He did manage to make this work to the stories advantage in some circumstances. After reading the Introduction and end matter I am more interested in finding out more about the author himself than actually reading his other work. His stories were based on his dreams as he was a vivid dreamer. I am also, and can relate to an instance he tells in the afterword of waking from a nightmare and then going back to sleep to finish it!

Introduction - The book starts with an Introduction to the author giving a brief biography, an introduction to his works and discussing his forgotten status in the literary world. Never known for his weird tales, it is they that he is now best remembered. The editor then explains where the stories in this book came from and how he curated them. Not exactly an exciting intro. but since I've never heard of this author before it does a well enough job to introducing me to what I will be reading. All the stories gathered here were written between 1905 and 1909.

1. The House of the Nightmare - A man is cruising in his "machine" and crashes in front of an old house. He meets a boy and spends the night in the supposedly haunted house. It's predictable from the beginning what the shock is going to be so quite a tame story. Pleasant enough reading though I found the writing quite wordy with unnecessary detail. Not an impressive introduction to the author. (3/5)

2. The Flambeau Bracelet - A man gives an accounting of himself after being accused of murder. It's a story from his youth, the justified reason for a duel, with a surprise ending. Very long-winded! (2.5/5)

3. Amina - Finally one that had me going. Taking place in Persia. This starts at the end with the aftermath and some child 'creatures' having been destroyed. Then goes back and tells the tale, how events came to pass and what the creatures actually were. I'm getting used to the author's meandering writing that takes time to get to the point. It works in this story. (4/5)

4. The Message on the Slate - A very long story and the best one so far. A woman goes to see a clairvoyant who confesses to her that he is a fraud; however a dream has brought her to him and he has seen her before in a vision. She wants to open the grave of her husband's dead first wife with whom he is still in love. I liked the writing, this time, it flowed smoothly. He's a wordsmith for sure but the words each had purpose this time. A spooky, atmospheric story. A good ending, but I did figure it out so not exactly shocking. (5/5)

5. Lukundoo - This is definitely a weird tale! Set in Africa, British explorers find a famous one of their ranks is in a nearby village sick and delirious with protuberances all over his body. With a doctor among them, they rush to his aid. They find him near death with an illness nothing medicine can relate too. Pretty gruesome if one uses their imagination to picture the scenes described but also a few parts have derogatory descriptions of African physical features. Another good story, though. (4/5)

6. The Pigskin Belt - Another long tale separated into sections. Starts off quite tedious and as I'm used with this author by now, wordy. Way too much detail goes into the description of building a house for example. Anyway, the first half has the main character use the n-word a lot and the "negroes" all speak as if from a Mark Twain book so difficult to read the dialect. This aside, the Colonel is a liked character by all town members black or white. The story did become engaging in the middle when the author got on with the plot which was why the Colonel was so jumpy all the time, carried two holstered guns that shot silver bullets and had some other eccentric ways. I'm beginning to wonder if this was one of those authors paid by the word as this would have been a better story at half the length but nevertheless, the longer I read the more captivated I became with where it was leading to. (4/5)

7. The Song of the Sirens - Terribly tedious, this took me four days to read while not being any longer than the previous tale. A sailing tale of a story told aboard ship in which the title tells us who (or what) the sailors meet. Three-quarters of the story are spent in description mostly not pertinent to the plot, then near the end, the titular tale is told. Boring! (0/5)

8. The Picture Puzzle - Finally a good story that I really quite enjoyed. It's actually a happy ending but has a paranormal element and the story flows well from beginning to end. The story of a miserable couple whose four-year-old daughter has been kidnapped. The only problem (and a big one when read in the 21st century) is that the story's logic is marred by prejudice, being attributed to "ignorant", "stupid", "jabbering" immigrants. (4/5)

9. The Snout - Perhaps the longest story at this point and the best one. A man recounts an unusual tale. He and two other thieves had robbed a recluse billionaire's mansion and the story is a full description of everything they found inside the estate. White's penchant for excruciating detail is put to good use here as each room is described of its contents and the further they go into the mansion the more and more we know that the sole inhabitant (excluding his manservant) is abnormal. Right from the beginning I was trying to guess what it was that the man had seen and I started off wildly incorrect but gradually got closer to the truth as did the thieves as they neared the recluse's bedroom. But just what he/it was, even when revealed, is left mysterious. (5/5)

10. Sorcery Island - Another enjoyable story. This is indeed a "weird tale" but not scary or creepy. A man recounts how he crashed on an island where he met a man he went to school with. The man had made the island his personal private island complete with a small inhabited European village, an Asiatic village of servants and a wildlife preserve. The man describes how he manages to escape once he realises no one is there entirely of their own free will. (5/5)

11 & 12. Azrael & The Ghoula - Two macabre poems. I don't like poetry. No ratings.

13. Edward Lucas White on Dreams: "Preface" to The Song of the Sirens (extract) & "Afterword" to Lunkundoo and Other Stories (extract) - Interesting to get the author's perspective. I'm also a vivid dreamer so I can relate. No rating.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Tomorrow City by Monica Hughes

The Tomorrow City by Monica Hughes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paperback, 144 pages
Published November 11th 1978 by Methuen Publishing
Source: bought secondhand

This is a re-read for me but I didn't really remember the story, just that Monica Hughes was one of my favourite authors as a kid. For a 1970s science fiction story based on computers, this really holds up well! Set in the not too distant future, a girl's father invents a computer to run their city. The computer learns from itself and inevitably takes control of the city, brainwashing the citizens through TV and spying on them through cameras and light sockets, etc. The city becomes a dystopia with no tramps, low-income families, or old people through unethical means. Citizens become trained to obsessively comply with orders and keep the city clean and running smoothly and efficiently. Since the girl and her best friend, a boy, spend a lot of time way out in a clearing in a forest they miss being brainwashed by the TV and clue in on what has happened and plan to take the computer out. It's the type of story that has been done many times before and since this was written in 1978 but it is a well-paced and well-written tale. The author has not used any technology gimmicks making the story read surprisingly well today in the 21st century. The only outdated idea being that the computer takes up an entire floor of a highrise building. While not among my top favourite of Hughes' books, it is a fun old-school science fiction yarn and indicative of her style.