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 non-fiction. 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, November 28, 2015

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 7th 2015 by Henry Holt and Co.
Source: review copy from the publisher

I wanted to like this book, except the idea of the plot is much more exciting than the execution. It starts off promising enough with a reveal from the past promised and a present day thriller forming. However, I found the plotlines dropped prematurely and I eventually became tired with them. The book-within-a-book episode is simply a blocked off section in the middle and while I enjoyed that part, that's also where the promise of any further excitement left. The rest of the book was predictable and decidedly not thrilling. It was readable though and I stuck with it to see the characters through to the end still I was underwhelmed by the conclusion.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Winemaker Detective Series (9): Backstabbing in Beaujolais by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen

Backstabbing in Beaujolais by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen,
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

ebook, 163 pages
Published November 19th 2015 by Le French Book
Source: egalley via edelweiss

Winemaker Detective Series (9)

Part of a long series, these books are always fresh. Quite different from the others so far, "Backstabbing in Beaujolais" uses foreshadowing for the opening chapter by beginning with the finding of a body then backtracking in time and spending a good portion of the book leading up to the murder. There are quite a few suspects and some French hanky-panky but this one of the cozier cases of the series. I particularly liked the epilogue which gave a "what are they up to now" on all the non-regular participants in the story. Not my favourite entry in the Cooker series but certainly a fun entry along the way. There are hints Margaux may be coming home and I can't wait to see if she will appear in the next book.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Fairy Tales Of Ireland by W.B. Yeats

The Fairy Tales Of Ireland by W.B. Yeats; illus by P.J. Lynch;
introduction by Neil Philip
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 160 pages
Published 1990, by Roberts Books
Source: thrift shop

Not a particularly entertaining book. I'm not a poetry person so Yeats' authorship had nothing to do with my choice of the book. The illustrations are very nice. Each tale is headed with a silhouette and then includes one or more detailed ink drawings depending on the length. This makes the book look like a children's book. However, the introductory essay on Yeats' connection with fairy tales is scholarly as are the notes on each tale at the back. This particular book contains a selection of Yeats' tales which he collected in two volumes in the late 1800s, for a sampling of 20 tales all told. Frankly, Yeats does not have a storytellers' voice here and I was underwhelmed. I've read a lot of fairy and folk tales and a master teller Yeats is not. I hadn't heard any of these before, except the Finn Mc'Coul one, so I plowed on, but I'd not recommend this and am not keeping it for my fairy tale collection.

Introduction by Neil Philip - An essay on Yeats and his connections with Irish folklore.

1. The Stolen Child - poem

2. The Priest's Supper - A priest comes to supper and the "good folk" make the owner ask him if they, the good folk, will rise on the Judgement Day. Boring. Not funny or anything.

3. The Legend of Knockgrafton -A hump-backed man is rewarded for aiding the fairies. When another hump-backed man hears of this he goes to the fairies to get his reward. Naturally this greedy man does get something, but only what he deserves. Ha!

4. A Donegal Fairy - A one-page story where the week folk, in discussion, confirm that they take care of their own but if an outsider harms them then they take revenge.

5. Jaimie Freel and the Young Lady - Jamies goes off to seek his fortune with the elves one Hallowe'en eve and rescues a young lady they kidnap, but she is cursed as deaf and dumb. Next year he goes off to seek his fortune with them again and succeeds.

6. A Legend of Knockmany - A Fin M'Coul story in which the giant hears that another giant stronger than him is out to prove his strength by besting him. M'Coul, with the help of his wife, defeats his enemy with the use of wits instead of strength.

7. The Twelve Wild Geese - My favourite! Starts off as a Snow White variation but very different with "Snow-white-and-Rose-red" going off to find her twelve brothers who have been turned into geese who live in the forest as geese by day and men as night.

8. The Lazy Beauty and Her Aunts - This is a funny one with a Rumplestiltskin feel to it, but Anastasia has three fairies help her with the spinning, weaving, and sewing. Everything turns out happily ever after for her, but the storyteller has a funny coda for the reader to make sure we won't think the same would go for us.

9. The Haughty Princess - A "Taming of the Shrew" story. A prideful princess refuses every King, Prince and Duke in the land, so her father says he will give her to the next beggarman who knocks at the door. Next morning, a knock at the door is met with the bride and a priest and so she is married to a minstrel. She soon regrets her pride as it is broken while she is shown the way of the working world. In the end, it's all a trick.

10. Far Darrig in Donegal - Well here's a creepy one! A man seeking refuge in the night is turned away because the occupants will only let him in if he has a story to tell, which he declines. Then off he sets and spends the rest of the night caught up with four men and a corpse. Twist ending to give you the chills.

11. Donald and His Neighbours - A story of three cruel and stupid men. Two men continuously try to kill Donald as they are jealous of him but Donald is smarter and crueler than Hudden and Dudden and always bests them. I can imagine this being funny told out loud by a storyteller with an Irish brogue.

12. Master and Man. A drunkard is obliged to seven years service to one of the "good folk", a withered little old man and they go out every night on magical jaunts invading every wine cellar in the country until the 1000-year-old gnome wants to steal himself a young bride.

13. The Witches' Excursion - A young man watches some witches one night and steals a red cap, learning their chant. It eventually gets him into trouble, the hanging kind, but ultimately is his rescue as well.

14. The Man Who Never Knew Fear - A man who has no fear goes in search of it and faces many challenges. Finally, he encounters a ghost who hails him a hero and rewards him with marriage to his daughter.

15. The Horned Women - A house is visited upon by witches with horns from one to twelve each, but the mistress of the house is rescued by the Spirit of the Well.

16. Daniel O'Rourke - Now this is a good yarn! A man has a bit too much to drink and off he goes to adventure, meeting talking eagles, flying to the moon going to the bottom of the sea, etc. and then it concludes with a laugh out loud ending.

17. The Soul Cages - This may be my favourite story in the collection simply because it is the best tale. It contains all the elements of an Irish fairy tale in one story: a drunkard, one of the "good folk", a religious element and an ending where everything turns out quite well for the human with no lesson learnt. This story contains a "Merrow", what we would call a merman, and I love the description of him; it's different than we usually think of merfolk but very feasible.

18. The Giant's Stairs - A man has a dream that a wealthy boy who disappeared seven years ago has been kidnapped by a giant and his service is finished the next evening and the man will be well paid if he goes and rescues him.

19. The Enchantment of Earl Gerald - A great leader in battle, this is the story of how Earl Gerald disappeared and when he will return to lead Ireland to freedom (from the English) and be its King.

20. The Story of the Little Bird - A monk sees a bird flitting around then appears another monk who he's never seen before but his name is that of a holy man who lived there hundreds of years before. The man dies and asks for absolution. The bird was the other monk who was an angel. This was God's chosen method of taking this man's soul.

Notes - mostly tells where each story originated with some history of the tale and other names it goes by. Many of the tales came from Thomas Crofton Croker's "Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland" (1825-28). I would have preferred each note to proceed each story by way of an introduction rather than being hid at the back.

Friday, October 30, 2015

About That Night by Norah McClintock

About That Night by Norah McClintock
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 238 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Orca Books
Source: Library Thing Early Review program

This is my second book by McClintock but the first I've read of her teen crime novels for which she is famous. It's a well-written suspense which I enjoyed reading however it had an unsatisfying ending, ambiguous really leaving the reader neither here nor there. In fact, the crime aspect of the story has no ending. While I liked the characters and was interested in the read I ultimately was let down and frustrated by the lack of a conclusion. I will try another of her YA crimes though as she's written a lot and won several awards.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Voices in the Field: A Collection of Short Stories by J. Allen Fielder

Voices in the Field: A Collection of Short Stories by J. Allen Fielder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 172 pages
Published October 24th 2011 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Source: Kindle Freebie

A mixed bag of stories, this is the author's first collection. A few of the stories have been previously published with the rest appearing here for the first time. Most of the stories are of the horror variety, but there is a bit of everything added to the mix including straight fiction, children's stories, and mysteries. I found the author quite promising though he has some trouble with perfecting the twist ending. His horror is good, but surprisingly I found his juvenile fiction offerings showed his best overall work. His forays into other genres often left me underwhelmed, but I'm glad to have read the collection.

1. Voices in the Field - An elderly man's car breaks down on the side of a highway surrounded by cornfields. He records his thoughts as he waits unsuccessfully for a car to pass by. A chilling story as either the man is a victim to Evil or he descends into madness. The ending needed just an extra something to give it more pow, but this first story certainly makes me look forward to reading more.(3/5)

2. Mom's Eye View (2000) - This is a creepy story of a demented guy I guess you'd call a stalker who's got a major Norman Bates vibe going on. The story gets weirder and creepier as it goes along bringing in twists you never quite suspect. Told from alternating points of view, first the stalker dude, then the girl. The ending works up to a great climax but again is a bit of a let down as I felt it just needed that final piece to be polished. (4/5)

3. One Night in New Orleans - Very short story of a black woman who has never left her native Minnesota before but who goes on a business trip to New Orleans and spends one night of magic under the influence of the spirit world and music which gives her a new "soul" she'll never want to forget. I haven't looked to see who this author is, but the story felt like it was written by a white man. Didn't feel real. (1/5)

4. Liquid - The best story so far. A rich, playboy doctor who cares more for his Armani suits and golf than he does his patients is harassed by a toothless, diseased bum for change. When the Dr. refuses rudely to deal with hm, the bum spits on him and the Dr.'s life forever changes. A moral of "do unto others" and if you don't you'll have to learn your lesson the hard way ... the *very* hard way. (4/5)

5. Homemade Pie - This is a creepy horror story with a good twist ending. A southern teenage girl wants out of the family restaurant business where her mom's pies are such a big business because of the "special ingredient". There's a bit of trouble with the ending again though. There was a perfect point for it to have ended, but then the author added some extra lines which weakened it for me. (4/5)

6. Rain - Very short. A serial killer's multi-million dollar house complete with thousands of tapes is sliding into oblivion during a mudslide in California. A twist ending you can see coming before it even starts. (2/5)

7. Cowboy Up - A cowboy asks a woman to marry him. This is just plain humour so unlike the other stories here. I didn't find it funny. (1/5)

8. Truck Stop Love (2000) - This was well-written and had so many possibilities running through my mind, but none of them panned out. The ending was a real let down. A woman stuck working at a truck stop for the last twenty years has given up on her dreams of ever getting out of the tiny little town when she meets the new waitress, someone who reminds her of herself when she was young. I don't know whether to give it a 3 for the writing or a 2 for not going anywhere. I don't usually do halfsies but in this case ... (2.5/5)

9. Sorry, wrong number (2001) - Not the best story here but the best written. The tension mounts throughout to an almost perfect twist ending. Written as a series of voice messages between a stalker girl and a couple of guys. (4/5)

10. Watching - Very short. Less than a minute. I *think* this is just an example that we don't need to think anymore since we have search engines. I had to read it twice to get it, so I'll give it two stars. (2/5)

11. Toby and the Lake - This was written well and the ending was very good, but I didn't like the story at all. I quickly knew where the story was going. Some people will find it compelling but in the end it's a sympathetic portrayal of someone who is nothing but a murderer. (2/5)

12. End Game - Loved this one! A dark, gloomy tale of a man writing his murder/suicide letter. He's a despicable creature and we are sure we know what is going on, but the twist ending proves we don't and just how vile the man really is. (5/5)

13. A Fire Inside (2001) - Another good one that would fit in the crime or mystery genre. A woman is positive her mother's death was not accidental six years ago and has been calling the police continuously ever since to reopen the case and look closer at murder. For a joke, her call is transferred to "the new guy" and what he uncovers is far more than the daughter could have ever expected or perhaps ever wanted to know. (5/5)

14. The Pumpkin Princess - This is a sweet little story told from the pumpkin's point of view. Obviously written for young children and strange to find in this collection here at this point. Very well-written, has a bit of tension, a perfect Halloween story for little ones. (5/5)

15. Least Likely to Succeed: A Vinita Park Short Mystery for Young Readers (2001) - Good story. An unpopular but brainy kid who often solves mysteries is asked by the most popular girl at school to find out who stole her iPod from her locker. Fine, well-written mystery with an unsuspected ending. More than a mystery story it deals a lot with bullying and includes realistic teen dialogue. We have the viciousness between girls and a mean "fat" kid bully. These last two juvenile stories make me wonder if perhaps this is where the author's forte may lie. (5/5)

16. All-American Murder (2001) - A standard murder mystery involving college football players. Nothing special but not bad. (3/5)

17. Weight - The final story comes full circle with another horror offering. A high school student tells of the bullying he's received his whole life because he's fat from other kids, teachers, and his own parents. He's now planning his final revenge. Pretty freaky and a good note to end the book on. (4/5)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 139 pages
Published 1979 by Dell Laurel Leaf
first published 1972
Source: thrift shop

The last chapter had me choking back the tears. I read this book probably in about Grade 5 and from there went on to read all Peck's books. This is my first re-read and I can see why it affected me so much at the time and I also see that it began a long-lasting relationship for me with this type of literature. I'm still drawn, today, to books about farm people, mountain people, uneducated folks, living off the land, living plain and simple. And books that end with sadness and people dying, books that some would call depressing but rather I see the redemption that will follow after the book has been closed.

This is Peck's first book and is autobiographical; he even uses his and his father's own names for the characters. Set in 1920s Vermont it opens with a violent, brutal first chapter involving a cow birthing gone wrong and the main character being injured. The rest of the book follows suit. This book is very real where the animals are concerned and gets banned or censored regularly by animal rights activists making it a good choice for Banned Books Week. I just love the rawness of this story, the love of this simple family living off the land, the Shaker ways they try to uphold and the plainness of the language. It makes me want to re-read all Peck's books again from the 70s and 80s and read all the new ones I haven't read. I see a sequel was written in the 90s. One certainly isn't needed, but it will make for an interesting read to find how Robert's next year on the farm fares. This is a keeper for my shelves, but I'll have to scout out for the hardcover edition I remember from my 70s childhood.

Friday, October 23, 2015

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 343 pages
Published February 1st 1994 by Vintage Books
first published 1965
Source: Bookmooched

It has taken me a long time to get around to reading this classic. Generally known to be the first true crime book, I was afraid it would be somewhat dated for a reader like me who reads a lot of true crime and non-fiction "novels". I couldn't have been more wrong! It's an excellent piece of work, brilliantly written, raw and very brutal. The book completely reads like fiction, being told from various characters points of view. Yet it never lets you forget that it is nonfiction as the author provides you with quotes from a multitude of sources both oral and written. Capote never refers to himself until the very last pages when he mentions the killers spoke to a journalist which one assumes means himself. I thought I knew this story of the Clutter murders as I'd seen the movie, with Robert Blake, and read brief accounts of it often enough so was surprised at how much I really didn't know about it at all. I haven't read Capote before and he is truly a master writer; you are able to feel the humanity in each and every character in this saga from victim to perpetrator to participant. The only thing I found a bit unsettling was that Perry Smith seemed to be the focus of the book as a whole. He's certainly the most interesting one from a psychological perspective but the author appears to have made actual friends with Perry and wants to tell his story. Capote also at a few points throughout the book and then, in one specific instance, makes a particular case for criminals being allowed to be declared "not guilty by reason of insanity" even if they know what they did was wrong. He believed Perry fell into this category. It's a fascinating literary piece of history. I read it very quickly and am so glad I have finally read it. I don't think it is an unbiased piece of work by any means, but it is a unique first-hand account. Reading a more modern account of the case in retrospect may be something I'd like to try at some point now.