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review 2019-02-19 08:07
Book Review - Murder of Crows, by Anne Bishop
Murder of Crows - Anne Bishop

The story picks up where it left at the end of Written in Red. The plot of Murder of Crows develops around the slowly escalating conflict between the human population of Lakeside and the terra indigene living at Courtyard.

Once she has won the trust of the terra indigene, Meg Corbyn has to adjust to living amongst them. What breaks the rhythm are the drugs “Go Over Wolf” and “feel good” that appear to affect both human and terra indigene. They were introduced in the first book, and their use sparks violence between the humans and the Others. Meg Corbyn, the resident cassandra sangue has dreams that foreshadow the impending danger. People die on both sides, and the vulnerable truce that was once in place gets broken. 

As you can assume, some crows get killed in this book. An investigation shows that they were poisoned with the drugs mentioned above. There’s an important plot twist where the reader learns what goes into making these drugs. I’m not going to say it so I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s pretty twisted and gruesome! The cassandra sangue play an important role in this string of events, and the Controller goes to desperate lengths to reacquire his property. As suspected, that doesn’t happen.

One thing that disappointed me in this book was the lack of a story arc to give it shape and structure. Although the plot is interesting, otherwise I would have put the book down and forgot about it, it lacks build up, curve or climax. There’s a string of events, some more interesting than others, but no real ups and downs, no change of pace.

Sometimes it feels like it’s dragging with unnecessary details, fillers to bulk up the word count. For instance, the story focuses a little too much on stuff like dog biscuits and cuddling on the sofa watching movies.

“Maybe you should go home and rest,” Simon told Meg. Maybe he could go home with her and they could cuddle for a while or play a game. Or she could watch a movie and pet him. “Merri Lee is helping me make some sample packages of cookies,” Meg said, sounding like the only game she wanted to play right now was whack a Wolf.”

But the constant banter and the funny moments make up for it. The story is abundant in humor and snark:

“The cow-shaped cookies have a beef flavoring, the turkey-shaped cookies have a poultry flavoring, and…”

Jane held up one of the cookies. “Human-flavored?”

Meg stifled a sigh. That would be the first thing on her feedback list: don’t make people-shaped cookies. The Wolves were way too interested and all of them leaped to a logical, if disturbing, expectation about the taste.”

terra indigene writer that is visiting with the Courtyard bunch is baffled by human reactions:

“Are there weapons in a bookstore?’

‘It’s a store full of books, which are objects that can be thrown as well as read,’ Monty replied blandly.

The Crows cocked his head. ‘I had no idea you humans lived with so much danger.”

All in all, Murder of Crows isn’t a bad read albeit a little disappointing. I will keep reading the series, and I hope it gets better.

Source: www.summonfantasy.com/book-reviews/book-review-murder-of-crows-by-anne-bishop
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review 2019-02-18 19:30
Yule Log
Yule Log Murder - Leslie Meier Yule Log Murder - Leslie Meier

This was three short stories set at Christmas time in Maine. The first story was called Yule Log and is about the murder of a baking assistant and the woman who is accused is the cook who has a bad reputation. Lucy Stone feels the need to find out who really murdered Bobbie. 


The second story was called Death by Death by Yule Log and crumbs from Hayley Powell's yule log gift was found on the victim and she now needs to find who killed him and why. 


The third story was Logged Off and was a story that shows how we need to learn about others rather than making judgements. Julia wants to make a Buche de Noel for her family Christmas and after several mistakes she is encouraged to go next door to Mrs. St. Onge and learn from her. While she is there she feels the need to find out where the two people who used to come to see her are hidden. 


All three stories were fun and different and I enjoyed them all. 


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review 2019-02-18 16:12
A well-written book but the plot might sound familiar.
The Taking of Annie Thorne - C.J. Tudor

I thank NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK (Claire Bush in particular) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review. I had read and enjoyed C. J. Tudor’s previous novel The Chalk Man (you can read my review here), and I was eager to see what she’d follow it with.

I know I can go on in my reviews, so I’ve decided to cut to the chase, in case you’re in a hurry. Did I enjoy the novel? Yes. C. J. Tudor can definitely write and write well. But, if you are looking for an original story and something that will take you by surprise, this is not the book for you. That is particularly true if you’re a fan of Stephen King, although there are elements in the story that will be familiar also to people who watch a lot of movies, even if they don’t read King’s novels or his adaptations to screen (a somewhat difficult feat, I must admit). I’m not saying there are no surprising elements in the book, and there are quite a few twists and turns in it, but the general plot lines I think will be recognisable to many, especially to people who read this genre often.

In many ways, this book has much in common with the author’s first novel. The main character, Joe Thorne, is also a teacher, and far from an exemplary one. It is not so much his teaching that is at fault, but his drinking, his gambling, his lying… Yes, this is a morally dubious main character, who also narrates the story in the first person, and who, although we might or might not suspect this, to begin with, also belongs in the category of the unreliable narrator. He seems to freely share negative things about himself from the very beginning, but as the story moves on we realise that what he tells us might not be the whole truth. I won’t elaborate more on this, because there is a twist close to the end that puts things under an interesting light. Like in his previous novel, the author is also forced to look at things that happened years back, which involved him and his friends at the time.

I kept wondering what I thought about Joe, and I’m not sure I’ve decided yet. He is intelligent, witty, but has a penchant for getting himself into trouble, and although his way of using sarcasm to protect himself makes him rather amusing, there are moments when we glimpse at other aspects of his personality. He was a devoted brother, he was bullied and later joined the bullies’ gang, and he suffered terrible loses as a teenager, although… He struggles between trying to avoid tragedy repeating itself and trying to keep himself out of trouble, as he is being tracked by Gloria, who is intent on getting him to pay off his gambling debts, one way or another (I confess Gloria is my favourite character in the novel. I’m not sure if that says more about me or the novel, but she is fast, small but lethal, and you underestimate her at your peril). Joe tells the story of what is happening now when he returns to the town where he was born to take up a teaching job, because somebody has anonymously warned him that some pretty terrible things that happened when he was a teen have started happening again.

This is a trip back in time, and the narration of Joe’s current investigation and life (including living in a cottage where a murder-suicide took place) is interspersed with his memories of what happened to the Annie Thorne of the title, his little sister, who disappeared, returned (sort of), and then died in an accident that killed their father as well. (By the way, and just in case you read it or see it in some place, it seems the book was originally going to be published in the US as The Hiding Place, and I have seen some reviews on Goodreads under that title). There are many other characters in the novel, some that we meet in the past and the present (Joe’s friends and schoolmates, some still around, school staff members…), and some that are brand new, like some of the teachers (Beth is another one of my favourites). Although not all of them have big parts, and some are drawn only in outline, the author is very skilled at creating a sense of community and a believable, if creepy, small town. This mining community, with its challenges and changes over the years, comes to life, and despite the supernatural touches suffusing the story, the setting remains, mostly, well-grounded and realistic.

As I said at the beginning, the story is not very original. In some way,s it is like a collage of disparate elements many readers will recognise: the prologue brought to my mind Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and some other aspects of the story did as well (although there are no aliens, just in case), some reviewers mentioned The Tommyknockers (I hadn’t thought about it, but yes, in a way the connection in theme is also there), like her previous novel, some bits of it made me think of It, although the Stephen King novel it resembles the most is one whose new film adaptation is due out later this year (and I won’t mention it in case people are not familiar with it. It’s one of the first novels by King I read, and the first novel I read in English in its entirety, so it’s not one I’ve ever forgotten). There’s even a passing nudge at The Usual Suspects. Postmodernism is fond of pastiche, but it is normally used to emphasise the fact that the surface of an object or a creation is everything, and we can mix and match diverse elements without feeling obliged to refer to their original meaning or intent. I am not sure if C. J. Tudor would call her novel a pastiche, and she does give the stories and the characters her personal touch, but I can see the point of a reviewer who called it “fan fiction”.

The novel, as it is (and if you’re not familiar with King’s books all I’ve mentioned might not affect you at all), is full of atmosphere, quirky characters, some pretty dark moments, some that might be scary (I don’t scare easy, so I’m perhaps not the best person to comment), and some set pieces and scenes that are compelling and are easy to imagine as a film or TV adaptation. As I said, there are plenty of twists and turns, and the book is highly entertaining. There are many reflections that would make readers chuckle, even though sometimes we might also feel like telling the character to stop being so clever and get on with things.

I thought I’d share a few quotes, to give you an idea of the writing style:

“Finally, a long time since I’ve seen anything resembling civilization, or even a McDonald’s, I pass a crooked and weathered sign on my left: Arnhill welcomes you. Underneath, some eloquent little shit has added: to get fucked.”

“It is the sort of village that glowers at you when you arrive and spits on the ground in disgust when you leave.”

Here, Joe is talking to Beth about the teacher whose cottage he’s living in now. Beth is telling him she is fed-up with people asking if they had seen the tragedy coming, if there were any signs.

“Julia came into the school wearing a great big placard around her neck: ‘I intend to kill my son and myself. Have a nice day.’

“Well, politeness costs nothing.” (Joe replies).

On a more philosophical note:

“People say time is a great healer. They’re wrong. Time is simply a great eraser.”

So, this is a good read for lovers of thrillers with a touch of the supernatural and horror, but I’d be a bit wary of recommending it to enthusiastic readers of the genre or of Stephen King who are looking for something unique. But if you enjoy well-written stories in the genre and have fun looking for references and connections to well-known books and films, you will have a blast with this one.

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text 2019-02-14 23:53
Christie Completists: Agatha's Plays
The Mousetrap and Other Plays - Agatha Christie
Black Coffee - Agatha Christie
The Unexpected Guest: A Play In Two Acts - Agatha Christie
Spider's Web: A Stage Play - Agatha Christie
Rule of Three - Agatha Christie
Murder on the Nile - Agatha Christie
Akhnaton: A Play in Three Acts - Agatha Christie
The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Murder in the Mews / Personal Call - Full Cast,Richard Williams,Ivan S. Brandt,Agatha Christie

In my quest for Christie-related reading material, I've decided to work yet another series of reads into this year's program; namely, Dame Agatha's plays -- NOT The Mousetrap, Witness for the Prosecution and other blockbusters, however, but her lesser-known and forgotten ones; both stand-alones and adaptations of her own novels.  Most of the latter are collected, together with her aforementioned blockbuster successes, in The Mousetrap and Other Plays; the others are published individually by Samuel French.


The Mousetrap and Other Plays includes:


* Ten Little Indians

* Appointment With Death

* The Hollow

* Towards Zero and

* Go Back for Murder,


as well as a stand-alone play named Verdict.

(Go Back for Murder is the dramatization of Five Little Pigs, aka Murder in Retrospect).


Three of Dame Agatha's other plays were novelized by Charles Osborne: I've seen enough of those novels NOT to ever want to go near any of them ... but I am very much interested in Christie's original works:


* Black Coffee

* The Unexpected Guest and

* Spider's Web.


Then, there is a collection of three one-act plays collectively published under the title Rule of Three:


* Afternoon at the Seaside

* The Rats and

* The Patient,


as well as two plays set in Egypt: the dramatization of Death on the Nile and one of her final works, a history play set in Ancient Egypt published in 1973 but never produced in her remaining lifetime,


* Murder on the Nile and

* Akhnaton.


Finally, there is a set of radio dramas rereleased by the BBC a few years ago:


* Butter in a Lordly Dish

* Murder in the Mews and

* Personal Call.


I'm not planning to binge on these, but I'll be sprinkling them into my reading over the course of the year.  If anybody would like to join, please let me know -- I'm always up for a buddy read.


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text 2019-02-13 04:03
Reading progress update: I've read 85 out of 304 pages.
Sleeping Murder (Miss Marple) - Agatha Christie




"Saltmarsh House was set pleasantly about six miles inland from the coast. It had a good train service to London from the five-miles-distant town of South Benham.


Giles and Gwenda were shown into a large airy sitting room with cretonne covers patterned with flowers. A very charming-looking old lady with white hair came into the room holding a glass of milk. She nodded to them and sat down near the fireplace. Her eyes rested thoughtfully on Gwenda and presently she leaned forward towards her and spoke in what was almost a whisper.


“Is it your poor child, my dear?”


Gwenda looked slightly taken aback. She said doubtfully: “No—no. It isn’t.”


“Ah, I wondered.” The old lady nodded her head and sipped her milk. Then she said conversationally, “Half past ten—that’s the time. It’s always at half past ten. Most remarkable.” She lowered her voice and leaned forward again.


“Behind the fireplace,” she breathed. “But don’t say I told you.”

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