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text 2017-09-22 23:40
Halloween Bingo 2017 | Update #4 - Week Three Ramblings!
Halloween Bingo 2017

Obviously I'm not trying to rush through this Bingo, as half of the squares on my card that have been called have yet to be read for; but I've read five other books for squares that haven't been called.  So much for my initial plan of just following the called squares and reading for them as a guide.

Now, I'm more interested in finishing my Red Eyes Penni Bingo card frame... Although at least two books won't be read until October, so I may end up having a frame with gaps.  On the other hand, I'm considering switching out the book I chose for Amateur Sleuth--the book I chose is also for another reading challenge, the Reading Assignment Challenge, and I can't read it until next month.  But Amanda Stevens' book, Just Past Midnight seems fitting for a Halloween Bingo read... so if I switch out, I'll just have to find another spot for it, I guess.

The other square is Classic Horror, which I was planning on using the October Group Read to fill.

Meanwhile, I'm working on the Haunted House square right now with Nora Roberts' second In the Garden book, Black Rose.  Then I'm thinking of tackling either Magical Realism or Diverse Voices--haven't quite decided which one yet.

And then, instead of reading Red Lily, Nora Roberts' last In the Garden book for the Creepy Raven Free Space, I've moved it to Terrifying Women--with the broader description of this space that now includes mystery, suspense, and supernatural, instead of horror only, it will fit just nicely.  And it will fulfill my need to close up the Penni frame.

Then I moved Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart to the Gothic square, because it seemed more fitting than the Susanna Kearsely book I'd initially chosen.

Meanwhile, I've picked up two other books I've decided to try for the Magical Realism square--I've suddenly lost interest in Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning, so it looks like that book is either going to sit on my shelves for a while longer, or just be given away, unread.  My other two choices right now, are quite different from one another:  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, or The Dress Shop of Dreams by Mena van Praag.  I felt like trying something a little different instead of just falling back on Sarah Addison Allen as a default magical realism read.

I love how I keep making plans and then totally abolishing them, though, so a lot of what I've been rambling about... probably going to change again next week...  Reading moods, ya know?



Updated Marked Card:


Called Square:  Green Square Border
Read Square:  Red Eyes Penni
Called and Read Square:  Red Eyes Penni in a Green Box

See also the table below for some spreadsheet goodness.

Reviews pending:  Blue DahliaGarden of Lies, On the Night of the Seventh Moon, Every Secret Thing

Squares/Books/Called Dates/Other Links:

Progress:  10 squares called || 10 books read || 5 squares completed || 0 BINGOs

Bingo Calls Thread
The Best and Worst of Halloween Bingo 2017

September Group Read | Discussion Thread
October Group Read (link coming soon)

Bingo Square
Called (date)
Read (Date)
How it Fits
Magical realism
tagged 'magical realism' on GR
Classic noir
Hammett, Dashiel
hard-boiled, classic noir mystery & group read
Blue Dahlia
Roberts, Nora
ghostly Harper Bride
Arnett, Mindee
supernatural school for magic creatures
Diverse voices
The Lotus Palace
Lin, Jeannie
author is Chinese
Cozy mystery
Peters, Elizabeth
tagged 'cozy mystery' on GR
Protecting His Witch
Forward, Zoe
female MC is a witch
The Dead Travel Fast
Raybourn, Deanna
Transylvania and vampires
Country house mystery
The Decagon House Murders
Ayatsuji, Yukito
closed circle of suspects
Haunted houses
Black Rose
Roberts, Nora
ghostly Harper Bride haunts mansion
Castle, Jayne
dust bunnies!!
Genre: horror
Smoke and Mirrors
Gaiman, Neil
tagged 'horror' on GR
Free Space
Her Fierce Warrior
Tyler, Paige
female MC is an animal shifter
In the dark, dark woods
On the Night of the Seventh Moon
Holt, Victoria
woods are significant
Amateur sleuth
Just Past Midnight
Stevens, Amanda
female MC is a psychologist
Woods, Alisa
book about wolf shifters
Nine Coaches Waiting
Stewart, Mary
tagged 'gothic' on GR
Romantic suspense
Hit and Run
Brennan, Allison
romance + suspense + mystery present
Darkest London
Garden of Lies
Quick, Amanda
setting = Victorian London
Murder most foul
Every Secret Thing
Cole, Emma
there is a murder and a mystery
Serial/spree killer
Novak, Brenda
summary mentions serial killer
Classic horror
October Classic horror group read
Terrifying women
Red Lily
Roberts, Nora
ghostly Harper Bride; haunting; written by a woman
Locked room mystery
Shimada, Soji
death/murder in a locked room



Currently Reading:




Tentative Bingo Hopefuls:

Magical Realism:
Classic Noir:  The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Ghost:  Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts
Supernatural:  The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett
Diverse Voices:  The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

Cozy Mystery:  The Camelot Caper by Elizabeth Peters
Witches:  Protecting His Witch by Zoe Forward
Vampires:  The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
Country House Mystery:  The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji
Haunted House:  Black Rose by Nora Roberts

Aliens:  Canyons of Night by Jayne Castle
Genre: Horror:  Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
Free Space:
Monsters:  Her Fierce Warrior by Paige Tyler
In the Dark, Dark Woods:  On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt

Amateur Sleuth:  Just Past Midnight by Amanda Stevens
Gothic:  Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
Romantic Suspense:  Hit and Run by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin
Darkest London:  Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick

Murder Most Foul:  Every Secret Thing by Emma Cole (a.k.a. Susanna Kearsley)
Serial/Spree Killer:  Dear Maggie by Brenda Novak
Classic Horror:
Terrifying Women:  Red Lily Nora Roberts
Locked Room Mystery:  The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/09/halloween-bingo-2017-update-4-week.html
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review 2017-09-22 12:24
Ramblings from Bad to Meh: Dear Maggie
Dear Maggie - Brenda Novak

Dear Maggie
by Brenda Novak



Maggie Russell, a police reporter in Sacramento, works the night shift, and she's finally stumbled on the big crime story that will truly establish her career—if it doesn't end her life.  A serial killer who moves from one city to the next.

As if things aren't complicated enough, Nick Sorenson, the paper's new photographer, seems to be taking an unusual interest in this case.  And in her.  Maggie doesn't realize that she's falling in love with a man who's not what he seems to be.  A man whose deceptions may save her life.

I feel like our MC, Maggie, should just take out an advertisement and broadcast everything about her life into public: where she lives, where she works, all of her trade secrets, what she and her son look like, and how best to infiltrate her home--a home she doesn't even bother taking precautions to secure or guard while there's a serial killer running around killing women.

And her reason for not locking her doors or windows at night while she's sleeping, is simply because the house is too hot, there's no central air.  But she says that there's an air conditioner in her bedroom.  She really could lock all the doors and windows at night, then lock herself and her son in her bedroom and sleep with the air conditioner on.  Maybe.

Of course, since she gives no reason as to why she's also being so open about her entire life with "John," her new online potential boyfriend, I suppose her behavior is par for TSTL anyway.  They'd only met all of twice, maybe; he takes her on a cyber date, refuses to send her a picture of himself... so SHE sends him a picture of herself with her son... y'know, just to hint that she'd like to see a picture of him.  She spends a lot of time telling him anything and everything about herself, even some of the confidential stuff she works with as a reporter.

And at that point, she STILL has no idea who this guy really is.

Honestly, if "John" weren't our male MC, playing undercover to try to "get to know" Maggie, and get friendly with her to make it easier to protect her, I foresee Maggie stumbling into some psychotic serial murderer who probably uses the internet to lure unsuspecting lamb to be chopped.  For a single mother who's apparently heard and seen a lot of stuff in her job as a crime reporter, she really doesn't seem to have a grasp about how dangerous strangers can be.

I'm not sure why she figured that she knew and understood "John" so well.  I'm not even sure why she was so quick to trust him.  I suspect this was just part of the plot device to get our hero and heroine into a situation where there would end up being super-angst by the end of the book, because lies and deceit are being tossed around.  I also figure that we might be playing into a bit of the "You've Got Mail" thing (a movie of which I loved, BTW, when it first came out in 1998).

Keeping in mind that this book was written in 2001, when internet was still kind of a newly developing commodity, I suppose I shouldn't give her so much crap about not realizing the dangers of cyber scams and cyber predators.  Maybe.  In present day, people still fall for these things, no matter how many warnings are put out there.  But she is a crime reporter--I figured that, having seen and heard so much about the dangers of the world, she'd have more of a sense of basic security than to trust a strange man she'd never met online before so readily.

Even before the age of computers, you wouldn't just trust a random stranger enough to tell him your whole life's story after just one conversation... right?

Back to the book itself...

I had considered pulling my DNF trigger as each chapter progressed.  Maggie didn't get any less frustrating, and Nick is kind of boring anyway.  There are literally no other characters of any significance in this book.  Maybe Rambo--but he's a dog, and most of the time, animal companions tend to make a difference--except that he wasn't all that present in the book.

But, as it turns out, I was curious enough about the identity of the serial killer than I would have liked.  And also, I don't think I've ever DNF'd a crap book written by Brenda Novak--and there have been some pretty bad ones--if only because there's a certain, attention-grabbing train-wreck quality to her story progressions.  The action keeps moving forward, and you can't seem to find a stopping point because the action keeps moving forward, and the next thing you know, you've read half the book and then some... so you may as well finish the rest of it.  It's only another hundred and fifty pages after all--how long could that take?

Also, at some point in the book, Maggie starts gaining some sense; I think this was after the serial killer starts contacting her by leaving her voice mail messages on her work phone, and implying that he knows what she went shopping for one night, as well as what color panties she owns.  Then she freaks out and starts thinking about the safety of her son, her friends, and herself.  Then she starts locking her doors and windows, agrees to have a police team stationed outside her home to keep her safe, agrees to leave her son at a safer location most of the day while she's at work, agrees to let our main hero move in with her for the sake of not being alone.

It doesn't matter that she barely knows said main hero; she knows only that he's in town for a short while, he's a new photojournalist who is working for her newspaper temporarily... he's been hitting on her and watching her at work...

He's really an undercover FBI agent trying to investigate the serial murders while keeping an eye on Maggie since the last victim was also an investigative reporter who'd had contact with the serial killer.

Of course, Maggie doesn't know this.  Because she doesn't know anything about the men she meets in this book before she lets them live in her home, or learn about her entire life's story.


The crime aspect of the book wasn't entirely engaging, truth be told; and the ending chapters were standard "damsel in distress" scenario.  The romance was lukewarm, and a bit off-putting considering how much lying and secrecy went into the entire relationship since the beginning.

Maggie is your standard, innocent and almost virginal heroine, who's only ever had one sexual relationship with an ex-husband, and is super conservative with her own behavior, even though she readily breaks out of her prudishness for the hero.  Obviously she's had sex, since she has a son, but she certainly acts like it's a new thing to her.

Nick is the standard broody alpha with commitment issues... who lusts after the heroine, but finds that he's ready to settle down and get married and be in love for the long haul after he meets said heroine.  Because of that special "I've never felt this way before" factor.

I can't say I'm a hundred percent fond of Brenda Novak books, but for some reason, I end up finishing them easily, and keep coming back for more.  At the very least, they're not entirely terrible, even if this one DID get really frustrating.



Halloween Bingo 2017

Other Possible Squares:

  • Murder Most Foul:  For obvious reasons.
  • Amateur Sleuth:  Female MC is a reporter, although the entire investigation is kind of laughable.
  • Romantic Suspense:  There is romance, there is suspense, there is murder and mayhem...
  • Terrifying Women:  Romantic suspense with a murder, written by a woman.



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/09/ramblings-from-bad-to-meh-dear-maggie.html
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text 2017-09-19 10:39
Reading Update for Black Rose: Made me laugh
Black Rose - Nora Roberts

Black Rose
by Nora Roberts

Progress:  25 of 355 pages (7%)


Just now, it looked as if he hadn't shaved in the past few days, so there was a dark stubble toughening his face.  His bottle-green eyes appeared both tired and harassed.  His hair needed a trim.

He was dressed much like the first time she'd met him, in old jeans and rolled-up shirtsleeves.  Unlike hers, his basket was empty.

"Help me," he said in the tone of a man dangling from a cliff by a sweaty grip on a shaky limb.

"I'm sorry?"

"Six-year-old girl.  Birthday.  Desperation."

I don't know why, but this passage made me laugh out loud.  I probably needed something silly and light-hearted after the chaos that was The Thin Man, and my so far frustrating progress in Dear Maggie.

Looks like Nora Roberts is a great cure-all.

The image of this scholarly professor of genealogy getting overwhelmed by a birthday present for a six-year-old girl was too amusing not to giggle about.  I do believe that he had appeared to us in the last book as an arrogant know-it-all professor who was secretly amused by the Harper household's claim about the authenticity of the Harper Bride--then promptly got schooled when he saw her for himself.

Even though Roz has already met Dr. Carnegie, this felt like an even more adorable "Meet Cute."




Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/09/reading-update-for-black-rose-made-me.html
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review 2017-09-19 08:27
Some Thoughts and a Spreadsheet: The Thin Man
The Thin Man - Dashiell Hammett

The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett


Buddy read at Booklikes - tags: n/a
Collective Reading Updates for The Thin Man


Ex-detective Nick Charles attracts trouble like a magnet.  He thinks his sleuthing days are over, but when Julia Wolf, a former acquaintance, is found dead, her body riddled with bullets, Nick - along with his glamorous wife, Nora - can't resist making a few enquiries.  Clyde Miller Wynant, Julia's lover and boss, has disappeared.  Everyone is after him, but Nick is not convinced Wynant is the murderer - and when he finds a junked-up hoodlum with a careless attitude to guns in his bedroom, it's only the beginning of his troubles.



"Do you think Jorgensen killed her?" she asked.

"I thought I knew who did it," I said, "but it's too mixed up right now for anything but guesses."

"And what's your guess?"

"Mimi Jorgensen, Wynant, Nunheim, Gilbert, Dorothy, Aunt Alice, Morelli, you, me, or Guild.  Maybe Studsy did it.  How about shaking up a drink?"

I believe that about sums up the entire investigation of The Thin Man.  Frankly, I spent a good lot of time not really paying attention to the book, if only because I had a hard time figuring out what was going on in the first place.  And also, I was trying to make my tallies for whenever someone took a drink.  As far as I could tell, there was a murder, and then Nick Charles spent most of the time reluctantly investigating the murder after being pushed into the whole mess... and everyone has some sort of sketchy background.

The rest of the book saw all of the characters generally having a merry time, dancing, drinking, hanging out... or just being their plain crazy selves.

The bar on crazy just kept getting raised a bit higher each time Mimi or Dorothy showed up, and the dramatics were pretty explosive.  Gilbert was a strange kid, completely creepy strange, and yet he somehow seemed a bit more stable than his mother and sister--until you read his dialogue and start wondering whether he's going to be the next sociopathic serial killer with his questions about cannibalism, and the acceptability of incest in the western U.S, and his experimentation with morphine.

Overall, the entire convoluted relationship tree involving that family, including exes, lovers, etc... was just a big ball of dysfunctional.

In my honest opinion, this wasn't a completely terrible book, if you can overlook the creepy commentary about Dorothy from the men, or the back-handed commentary about women in general, or even the fact that Nick is kind of an arrogant ass whom everyone seems to either be in love with or worships.  Or even that entire passage about cannibalism...

Nora could have been a potentially great character, but she felt down-played, and soon got relegated to background, simply there to accompany Nick, or to get everyone drinks and food.  Dorothy got on my nerves with the constant sobbing and whining and dramatics; Mamma Mimi was just crazy.  Others actually felt kind of flat.

Truth is, we needed more of Asta.  There wasn't nearly enough of Asta.  Asta might have at least helped the book a little bit.  Okay, maybe not, but at least I would have been satisfied with more Asta.

I think I enjoyed the Buddy Read aspect, discussing the book, making fun of the characters, being quite taken aback by the amount of drinking... more so than I actually enjoyed the book itself.

The Thin Man is a book that certainly isn't something I'd come back to.

And by request, here is the somewhat, half-assed drink tallying spreadsheet I used to keep track of everyone's drinking.

I kind of lost track in some of the chapters, so this spreadsheet isn't exact; and I stopped tallying at Chapter 26, but the book was almost over by then, and Nick's drink count was in the 30s, so I figured I had made my point.


I couldn't get the spreadsheet to paste over with the names running vertical, so I just took a screen shot and called it good.

A few notes about the data:

  • I mostly counted one drink whenever it was mentioned that a drink was poured, a drink was brought to someone, or someone finished their drink, or took a drink.
  • Again, I stopped counting after Chapter 26, though I'm sure Nick had another drink in that chapter, bringing his total up one more.  I'm also sure both Nick and Nora had a drink in the last chapter.
  • I also tried to count some of the minor characters, but lost track of some when we ended up at any speakeasy since there were so many other people present.
  • I also didn't count how many drinks each character had when they were at a party or a bar, and only counted whichever ones were narrated--but we all know that you don't just drink one when you hang around a bar for a long time.  Especially not these people.  I considered giving everyone at least one implied drink even if it wasn't narrated--I don't remember if I actually did or not.
  • Nick doesn't actually take a drink in any part of the narrative in Chapter 7, but it's hard for me to believe he DOESN'T drink at a party where everyone else is drinking.  I gave him an implied drink count, but feel free to subtract that from the total if we want to get specific--I don't think it'll make a difference.
  • Both Dorry and Harrison Quinn showed up drunk on at least two occasions--I don't know how many drinks that implies, so I won't count them since they were "off-stage," so to speak.  It's possible that if those drinks were counted, both would be up about +10 drinks.  Although Dorry's supposed to be a tiny girl, so maybe she only needed a couple drinks to get really smashed.
  • I lumped Harrison Quinn and Alice Quinn into one category as 'the Quinns'; they don't really show up all that often.
  • At the level of crazy that she is at, I'm surprised Mimi didn't have as many drinks.  Then again, she wasn't exactly the focus of the book anyway.
  • Overall, while it seems like these people are always drinking, the tally doesn't seem that high for everyone else, but Nick.  And since I'm not sure about the duration of time this book takes place, maybe 33 drinks isn't so bad?  O.O  However, the fact that Nick always seems to start his day with a drink or two before he even has breakfast probably says something...
  • Nick has more drinks than there are chapters in this book.

For certain, these people have a lot of house parties.  And I'm also not sure I know when the last time was I offered a random visitor hard liquor as a refreshment.  Because obviously these people don't have tea, coffee, or water in their homes.

And that's a wrap!



Halloween Bingo 2017



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/09/some-thoughts-and-spreadsheet-thin-man.html
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text 2017-09-19 03:01
A Ranting Update: Dear Maggie
Dear Maggie - Brenda Novak

Progress:  52 of 355 pages (17%)

I'm finding our titular character, Maggie, both contradictory and stupid.  She's also kind of judgmental and a slut-shamer, making some comment about how it's okay to treat one of her co-workers with contempt just because "she's slept with every guy in the office.  Even the publisher."

Because she's kind of lonely and looking for a new father for her son, she's considering signing up for a dating service.  When prompted, she refuses to join her closest friend/co-worker at a bar or club to meet men, because she believes you only meet dangerous killers and stalkers in those places.  She even makes noise about not being able to fit in at a nightclub anyway because she doesn't have any tattoos or body piercings.

She also poo-poos the idea of online dating, because they could attract weirdos or cyber nuts.  But she's still so stuck on the dating service idea--an idea she got through an ad she received in the mail, mind you--and thinks this is the best way to meet men with similar goals, ambitions, highly educated, blah, blah, blah...

It takes her friend showing her a live example of how easy it is to lie on these dating service questionnaires, when Maggie decides to stretch the truth of her own survey question responses, for Maggie to realize that her dating service idea isn't any better than the other ones.  After all, if she can give a few false responses, so could a bunch of other people.  So much for meeting someone highly educated or similarly ambitious or NOT A CREEPY STALKER.

So the two of them agree to meet at a singles chat room that evening to see what it's like.

And then Maggie proceeds to tell everyone in the world about her entire life story, with real names and real incidents and everything.  A few pages later, she once again lays out her entire life story to some complete stranger who was in the chat room, who decided to direct e-mail her so that he could become friendlier with her.

Granted, the complete stranger is our hero, Nick Sorenson who is apparently undercover FBI come to keep security surveillance on Maggie...

But who in their right mind gives their entire story, plus real names, real occupation, the works, to a complete stranger you just met in a chat room?!

Brenda Novak is a Romantic Suspense author I've kept on my radar for some time because I've read some of her books, which had readily hooked me in.  Some were pretty bad, some were mediocre... but Maggie... this girl is some kind of special.

And I'm already getting tired of her "Oh, I'm not even remotely good looking" off-handed comments, in which her friend Darla has to keep inputting, "Honey, you're gorgeous.  You just need to believe it." assurances.



Halloween Bingo 2017


Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/09/a-ranting-update-dear-maggie.html
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