This is the first book that I've read in this cozy mystery series that wasn't on audio. I miss Xe Sands, because she always provides a terrific performance. But I'm happy to report that I enjoyed this 4th book in the Haunted Home Renovation series just as much even without the audio.
The MC's "why would anyone find ugly old me attractive" shtick is still annoying, and I'm still unimpressed with the romance, but there is enough fun stuff for this book to rise above those irritants. We get to meet Mel's super-annoying, super-girly sister, we get some new friends and the return of some old friends, and I especially liked getting to know Mel's frenemy Inspector Crawford a little better. We get a couple of new homes from different styles and periods with plenty of loving description.
The mystery is well developed and I was teased with lots of clues and red herrings to sift through. Whodunnit was one of my suspects, but not my favorite, so the reveal worked for me. Oddly, this is the first book where we spend very little time with the dead. The ghosts give little more than a cameo appearance in this book, and I missed them a little.
eBook version, borrowed from my public library.
I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Amateur Sleuth: this mystery will have a main character who is not a member of law enforcement. The MC, Mel Turner, owns a construction company but somehow finds herself in the midst of a murder mystery, recent or ancient, at every job site. Naturally, she usually manages to solve it before the cops do.
I didn't post about The Eyre Affair a couple of months ago when I listened to it, because I just didn't know what to say about it. I was hoping that a second book would help. I'm not sure it did.
Let's just start with the Publisher's Summary (because there's just no way I could do justice to this book):
The second installment in Jasper Fforde’s New York Times bestselling series follows literary detective Thursday Next on another adventure in her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England—from the author of Early Riser.
The inventive, exuberant, and totally original literary fun that began with The Eyre Affair continues with New York Times bestselling author Jasper Fforde’s magnificent second adventure starring the resourceful, fearless literary sleuth Thursday Next. When Landen, the love of her life, is eradicated by the corrupt multinational Goliath Corporation, Thursday must moonlight as a Prose Resource Operative of Jurisfiction—the police force inside the BookWorld. She is apprenticed to the man-hating Miss Havisham from Dickens’s Great Expectations, who grudgingly shows Thursday the ropes. And she gains just enough skill to get herself in a real mess entering the pages of Poe’s “The Raven.” What she really wants is to get Landen back. But this latest mission is not without further complications.
Along with jumping into the works of Kafka and Austen, and even Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, Thursday finds herself the target of a series of potentially lethal coincidences, the authenticator of a newly discovered play by the Bard himself, and the only one who can prevent an unidentifiable pink sludge from engulfing all life on Earth. It’s another genre-bending blend of crime fiction, fantasy, and top-drawer literary entertainment for fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse.
There's simply too much going on. This is Douglas Adams (mostly the Dirk Gentley novels) meets Terry Pratchett meets Doctor Who meets . . . something else, but it's not just those elements -- it's those influences without restraint (not that any of those are known for their restraint). It's just too zany ,too strange, too unmoored from reality.
There's cloning to bring back extinct species, time travel, vampires, werewolves, interacting with fictional characters, rabid literary fans, characters walking into novels/other written materials to rewrite them, travel, or just to meet with someone else -- and that's just scratching the surface.
I realize that this is tantamount to complaining that there's too much of a good thing, and I recently talked about what a foolish complaint that is. But this is different, somehow. The sheer amount of ways that reality can be rewritten/rebooted/changed in this series is hard to contemplate, and seems like too easy for a writer to use to get out of whatever corner they paint themselves into. One of the best emotional moments of this book -- is ruined, simply ruined by time travel unmaking it just a few minutes later.
Emily Gray's narration is probably the saving grace of this audiobook -- I'm not sure I'd have rated this as high as I did without it. Her ability to sound sane when delivering this ridiculous text (I mean that as a compliment) makes it all seem plausible.
I enjoyed it -- but almost in spite of itself. I can't see me coming back for more. I do see why these books have a following -- sort of. But I've got to bail.
In the past 8 installments of Banished Saga, I’ve come to know you so well; felt we’ve become friends as much as I found myself feeling the same for every other member of the McLeod/Sullivan family introduced in this series. I have to admit that initially I found you to be snotty and rather irritating and I liked Clarissa better. :) I wasn’t sure of your match with Jeremy, but despite it all, you’ve found love in one another. And over the course of these 4+ yrs you’ve proved me wrong over and over again.
I knew you’ve found love, but the serenity of life eluded you even when you were with Jeremy. I knew you craved a child so badly that I prayed your wish would come true. Even when it didn’t happen that way, I’d hoped you’d find peace with Jeremy and Melinda in your life. In this installment, I was so excited for you that I can’t even explain. Hoped that finally, after all that you’ve been through, you’d have your wish fulfilled. You’ll finally find peace within yourself and be at peace with life itself.
But alas, that was not to be.
I don’t know if you’re finally at peace now that you’re somewhere no living being can reach you. I just hope you’re doing well as Melinda accompanies you there too.
Abiding Love is the 8th installment of Ramona Flightner’s Banished Saga series. It’s one of my favorite family-centered series, which is also quite aptly titled as we find our favorite characters going through ups and downs like any normal couple will weathering incidents bound to test their love for each-other. This is also one of the more unique attributes of this Saga; that the story of a couple isn’t finished with the HEA. As we find new things to appreciate in this series, the Saga continues as it should showcasing their lives with all its glory, as well as its difficulties.
The Banished Saga, when it began, was onset of suffragist movement of Boston 1901. Along the way we met many characters, including our favorite, the first couple of the series Clarissa and Gabriel in Banished Love. Their story was ongoing in books 2 and 3, Reclaimed Love and Undaunted Love. We also met Clarissa and Gabriel’s family. Clarissa’s own brothers Colin, and Patrick who wasn’t introduced until much later. Her cousin Savannah and best friend Florence, both avid suffragettes and worked with Clarissa throughout. Gabriel’s younger brothers Richard and Jeremy were also introduced, as was their long lost uncle Aidan. Later in the series, Jeremy and Savannah found love, while Richard and Florence, who had an ongoing rift between them, mend it and decided to marry.
‘We Sold Our Souls’ is one HELL of a ride. Grady Hendrix, King of horror at Quirk Books, has written a heavy metal masterpiece with a female lead guitarist, Kris Pulaski, as its star.
Less classic horror this time (his previous books are ‘Horrorstör’, and ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’), Hendrix has laden ‘Souls’ with conspiracy theory and real life horrors.
Kris Pulaski was in a heavy metal band called Dürt Würk two decades ago and they were on the brink of success when the lead singer Terry Hunt ripped the band apart and left to start his solo career. And it seems Terry’s rise to success was at the cost of selling the band’s souls.
That’s right, he sold their souls for rock’n’roll…or in this case, heavy metal.
Kris’ pitiful present day existence is working at the reception of a Best Western, and if you can stomach the ‘Welcome To Hell’ chapter (good horror always comes at the cost of reading things that make your stomach turn), then you can follow Kris on her journey as she gets whisked from Pennsylvania to a Satanic rehab center, and then across the country again to grimy Las Vegas. Years of grueling, crazy, exciting, challenging (to say the least), and often nasty experiences on the road with the band, were nothing compared to this trip, and it seems like all Kris’ heavy metal years were preparation and toughened her up. The journey to Las Vegas is overwhelming, but Kris has a mission she can’t ignore. There’s also a whole host of colorful characters along the way, but I do have to wonder if Hendrix has a thing against UPS (you will see what I mean when you read the book).
The greatest thing about this book is that Hendrix has chosen to write ‘Souls’ with a female protagonist. Not just that: a kickass, middle-aged (even though I hate that word, because that’s what I am now, I suppose), female as its lead. And she plays the guitar like a certain other Hendrix. She doesn’t take any bull from anyone and doesn’t stop fighting back once she starts on her new road trip.
While it seems as though she has given up with her hotel job, the revelation that she must stop her old bandmate Terry Hunt, lights a fire in Kris, and the book has that vibe of ‘don’t give up, don’t let the system win, don’t let the bullies push you’. That’s highly clear in the messages of conspiracy theory, our paranoia-laden country, and how culture is selling itself (its soul) particularly out to cell phones and shallow marketing. Reading the book will give you a greater sense of the way the conspiracy theory works in ‘Souls’ - I’m kind of at a loss as how to explain the genius behind how it’s woven in - but Hendrix has cleverly used snippets of radio and newspaper to show how ‘news’ travels and information spreads. This has always been the way conspiracy theories spread and this underbelly of the book is fascinating.
If you don’t know all the music in the book, this may be a little daunting, as there are a lot of heavy metal and music references, but I think if you have even the remote interest in or knowledge of decades old music such as Black Sabbath and Slayer, and remember the days when everyone thought that heavy metal listeners were devil worshipers, you will appreciate what Hendrix is doing here (and no you don’t have to actually like the music). Trigger warnings for sexual assault and creepy crawlies; this is definitely rated R.
Hendrix is an undeniable force in pop culture literature and has written an unforgettable book, one that’s not for everyone, but will be a cult classic, but not like any of the schlock he writes about in his awesome ‘Paperbacks from Hell’. No one writes like this guy; ‘We Sold Our Souls’ is funny, gross, complex, and a wonderful blend of horror, pop culture, conspiracy theory, and is infused with a heavy dose of music history. Only Grady Hendrix could have done that.
**I'm really lucky because this Friday I get to meet Grady here in Seattle at his book signing and I get to have my big stack of books signed.
*Kudos to Doogie Horner again, for another excellent book cover design for Grady. It's worth noting that the hardcover of this book has beautiful black ink-sprayed pages.