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review 2019-09-08 17:15
Halloween Bingo 2019: The First Week
Was It Murder? - James Hilton
Siebengeschichten - Nina Blazon,Isabel Kreitz
A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales - Terri Windling,Ellen Datlow
Wine of Violence - Priscilla Royal
Sorcerer to the Crown (A Sorcerer Royal Novel) - Zen Cho
Gods of Jade and Shadow - Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories (Hercule Poirot) - Agatha Christie
The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories - Agatha Christie,Hugh Fraser,Joan Hickson,David Suchet,Isla Blair,Simon Vance
Hawksmoor - Peter Ackroyd
Earth-Shattering: Violent Supernovas, Galactic Explosions, Biological Mayhem, Nuclear Meltdowns, and Other Hazards to Life in Our Universe - Bob Berman

So, on the plus side, despite serious RL interventions progress on my card is well under way, with four squares (including the centre / free / raven square) marked "called and read"; three of these in a row -- plus reading for the remaining two squares of that row also in progress -- and several more options in place to go for a bingo, depending how the next couple of calls come out.

 

On the downside, I seriously hope my book selections are going to improve.  Except for Priscilla Royal's Wine of Violence, which delivered all that I had hoped from it and then some, most of the first bingo week's books fell well short of my expectations.  It's not that they were awful (with one significant exception), but they could have been so much more, and that's obviously what I'd been hoping for.  I hope with yesterday's spontaneous revisit of Agatha Christie's Regatta Mystery and Other Stories and the book I started (also yesterday) for the Gothic square, Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor, I've finally turned that corner.  (Ditto my planned read for today's call, Black Cat -- Jim Butcher's The Aeronaut's Windlass.) 

 

Still, apologies if the tone of some of the below should rub anybody the wrong way -- I'm moderately miffed with my bingo books so far.

 

N.B.: Below I am, with one exception, using the relevant audiobook covers, as with most of these books I either went back and forth between the print and the audiobook version or I listened to the audiobook throughout (even though I do also own the print version).

 

The Books

 

James Hilton: Was it Murder?

My 2019 pre-bingo read and actually a fairly decent start into the game.  And yes, this is "the" James Hilton of Goodbye Mr. Chips and Lost Horizon -- actually, in a number of ways this book was probably Hilton's dry run for Goodbye Mr. Chips.

 

Hilton's protagonist jokingly describes writing a novel a young Oxbridge graduate's rite of passage, and that may very well have been what was at work with Hilton himself here, too, tapping into the interwar period's craze for mysteries to boot.  It's a good thing he eventually decided to leave the "mystery" bit behind -- but what really does stand out in this book is the very well-crafted public school atmosphere.

 

(For those who are interested, this book was originally published under the pseudonym Glen Trevor, and later also republished with the somewhat spoilery title Murder at School.)

 

 

Nina Blazon: Siebengeschichten

A collection of short stories featuring ghosts and other supernatural elements, set in places ranging from Ireland, England and the U.S. to Sweden, Iceland, France and Japan.  (Perhaps a minor point, but why not also in the author's own Germany and Slovenia?  Indeed, in some -- though not all -- of the stories the choice of the setting feels entirely random.) 

 

The title literally translates as "Sevenstories" and turns out to be merely a fancy way of saying "this is a collection of seven stories"; it's not an allusion to any particular feature of the book.  Based on the fact that the entry that's obviously intended as a tribute to Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray manages to get the core element of Wilde's novel only halfway right I'm not wholly confident about the author's research into the supernatural elements from other cultures she uses and with which I am less familiar (especially those from Japanese mythology and folklore), but that aside, I've spent a few moderately entertaining hours with this book.  The two standout entries are probably a fairly well-crafted Stephen King-type "Christmas horror" story and a tribute to the Icelandic troll folklore; followed by a story (randomly set in France) playing on mirrors and on the question what is real and what is perception.  By and large, though, it's not a major loss to the non-German speaking public that so far this collection doesn't seem to have been translated into English.

 

 

Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (eds.); Various Authors: A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales

Considering that according to the preface the authors of this collection are supposed to be exploring "the dark side" of fairy tales, most of the stories here come across as unexpectedly light and fluffy.  Maybe this is due to the fact that I actually grew up with the real thing -- the Grimm Brothers', Hans Christian Andersen's, Charles Perrault's and Wilhelm Hauff's original tales, instead of their Disney versions (which the authors of this collection's preface blame for the modern-day bowdlerization of fairy tales and our perception of them) -- but even today I find those original tales decidedly scarier (and also more interesting) than most of the stories in this collection, even if I do credit the authors' frequently original approach in giving them a contemporary context.  If it hadn't been for the Garth Nix's Hansel's Eyes and Patricia McKillip's update on The Twelve Dancing Princesses, both of which are truly superb (and do deliver on the "dark side" premise -- in spades), this would have been a three-star read for me at most.

 

 

Priscilla Royal: Wine of Violence

The first book of Priscilla Royal's longstanding medieval mystery series focusing on Eleanor, Prioress of (fictional) Tyndall Priory in Norfolk.

 

This is a series I've long wanted to start and that I had penciled in as a "definite" for this year's bingo.  In fact, by the time I began reading this book, I had already started Zen Cho's dismal Sorcerer to the Crown (see below), and coming after two so-so short story collections and looking at a book (in Sorcerer to the Crown) that I'd definitely have DNF'd if it hadn't been for Halloween Bingo, I decided a change of pace was more than called for.

 

As I was / am new to the series, of course I didn't know for sure this was going to be the book that would deliver the goods, but I'd seen and heard enough about it to be reasonably confident, and Ms. Royal essentially won me over with her preface, where she sets out her approach -- as well as the series's real life background -- and which shows just how much research she'd put into it.  And after the first couple of chapters I knew for sure I'd hit on a winner: The period atmosphere is finely crafted, the characters are fully rounded and believable (even if Eleanor -- period allowances notwithstanding -- sometimes comes across as a bit too worldly-wise for her age), and the mystery plotting is solid, never mind that it did peter out a bit towards the obvious towards the end.  But for a "first in the series", this was a very satisfying read and exactly what the doctor ordered at the time.

 

 

  

Zen Cho: Sorcerer to the Crown

As indicated above, I knew early on that if it hadn't been for Halloween Bingo I'd have DNF'd this book, and I was tempted to do just that right until the very end.

 

When I began composing this post, I didn't think I was going to write much more than "infantile drivel" in my summary of Cho's book, but as I've since had an exchange with BT on it here, I might as well copy over what I said in that conversation (with a copy of minor add-ons to round out the picture):

 

The premise of this book sounded really good -- and this shall teach me (again) not to buy into hype.  Essentially, it turns out that this is fanfiction for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (and probably also for Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, though I haven't read those books, so I can't say for sure), written by an author who wouldn't even know how to craft ordinary adult communication if hit over the head with it (way above and beyond "mere" TSTL behavior), and whose idea of (1) politics (both domestic and international, including and in particular early 19th century British politics), (2) power (including the thought processes, actions, responses, strategies and priorities of those wielding it, in politics, business / civil society associations, and elesewhere) and (3) not least, magic (!) is strictly kindergarten level.  Add to that plot holes and inconsistencies big enough to drive several carriages through and a complete lack of Georgian society atmosphere (note to the author: absent a coherent whole, the description of ball gowns and interiors or the mention of carriages does not replace the creation of period atmosphere), against which the use of isolated speech patters obviously copied from Austen (such as "do not you" / "is not he" interrogative constructions) comes across as nothing short of gimmicky.

 

The only reason why I am rating this 1 1/2 stars (instead of 1/2 or even 0) is that Cho makes the attempt to address both race and gender issues in the context of her book.  Unfortunately, however, that alone is by far not enough to salvage the decidedly less-than-workmanlike execution of the whole.

 

I'm not the biggest fan of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell -- the beginning, the end, and the world building are superb, but for me it seriously dragged in the middle -- but I'll be the first to recognize that it really does accomplish something new and original.  If there has to be fanfic for it, at least let it be something that at least halfway stands up to the original.

 

That said, I've given the audio version an extra half star and promoted Jenny Sterlin straight to my "you can read me the phone book" list of narrators, as she essentially did just that and still managed to make at least bits of it actually sound more interesting and "alive" than taken straight off the page.

 

 

 Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Gods of Jade and Shadow

A (largely) modernized retelling of the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayas, set in 1920s Mexico.  The beginning easily draws the reader in, Casiopeia is a likeable enough (and well-drawn enough) heroine, and the book has an -- albeit somewhat sketchy -- recognizable 1920s atmosphere with an initial rural Yucatán setting that likewise rings true.  What does eventually drag the book down significantly, however, is its absolutely casual treatment of the supernatural elements of its story and more particularly, the elements of the specific context in which it is set.  Let's make no mistake: Casiopeia moves among the gods of the Mayan underworld; i.e., in a world that was, at least to the extent that the Mayas had integrated part of the Aztec and Toltec beliefs and rituals into their own religion, controlled by an absolutely merciless, cruel and bloody death cult; and it is precisely this cult that plays out in the Popol Vuh.  And yet we're to believe that our heroine not only zips back and forth across Mexico alongside the supreme ruler of just that world without the slightest bit of fear but she actually talks back to him out of nothing more than spite without ever incurring his wrath (and I mean wrath, not some sort of minor dislike) -- and without suffering severe personal consequences as a result?  Not on your life. 

I can buy some of the scenes and exchanges towards the end of the book, because we're told he becomes progressively more human, weaker and more vulnerable (and "of course" he falls in love with our heroine), but at the beginning and, say, during the first half of the story?  Nope.  Just -- no.  Not in a million years.  (Also, the descent from all-powerful deity to something at least approaching mortality should be absolutely enormous here.  Instead of which, it barely registers.  No, nope, and no again.)

(spoiler show)

Ditto, to an only marginally lesser extent, the other creatures endowed with supernatural powers that Casioipeia encounters.  Ditto, also, the final conflict arising out of the two protagonists' changing nature, which is only partially developed and ultimately resolved in a way too convenient fashion.

 

As a side note to those who are planning to read this book for the Creepy Crawlies bingo square: Don't despair -- the justification for this square does eventually show up, even if you have to wait quite a while for it.  Fortunately (for me at least) it's not the nightmare-inducing sort.

 

 

Agatha Christie: The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories

I decided I needed a palate cleanser towards the end of the week, and there's nothing better than a book by Agatha Christie to serve that purpose.  (Since she is also one of my quintessential "go to" bingo authors, it seemed only fitting to use this collection for the center / raven square.)  I know both this collection as such and have also listened to all of the audio recordings of each of the stories collected here, but that didn't take away in the slightest from the joy of revisiting them.  Here's to finding more along similarly solid lines for the rest of my bingo reading!

 

 

Peter Ackroyd: Hawksmoor

In progress since last night -- off to a phantastic start.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

Bob Berman: Earth-Shattering

The Flat Book Society's September 2019 read.  I haven't progressed very far yet (so far, it seems to be along the lines of "astrophysics for total beginners"), but if it's done one thing already, it's demonstrated that the forces involved in the Big Bang (and similar cosmic cataclysms) more than justify its use for the Truly Terrifying bingo square.

 

 

The Card

... as of today:

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review 2019-09-02 11:00
New Release Review! Unhuman Acts (Only Human #7) Candace Blevins!

 

 

 

Good Morning Readers! Today I am joining Kirsten in Chattanooga for the final showdown between the light and the dark! Enjoy and don't forget to add Unhuman Acts by Candace Blevins to your shelves!

 

 

 

 

The final book in the Only Human series... 

 

A life-and-death situation changes everything, and Kirsten has to make fast decisions about how badly she wants to live, and in what form. She’s steadfastly maintained she’s Only Human, but what if she suddenly isn’t? 

 

 

Unhuman Acts is two books in one, listed as Part One and Part Two. 

 

Note: This is book seven in an urban fantasy series that must be read in order. The series starts with ONLY HUMAN. 

 

 

 

During a life-and-death situation, Kirsten has to make fast decisions about how badly she wants to live.

 

The final book in the ‘Only Human’ urban fantasy series is one humdinger of a story! As usual all the characters are strong, bold and take readers’ breath away with their intensity, especially Kirsten who has maintained that she’s only human since the beginning. The series has brought readers along on Kirsten’s journey as she struggles to juggle her human life with her supernatural life which keeps throwing her life in tailspins and endangering all her friends and family. 

 

In this final book, the story is split into two parts with the first half being an exhilarating fast paced story with non-stop excitement as the battles between light and dark comes to end but in a stunning OMG twist, Kirsten in thrust into a life altering decision that changes everything for her and her future. And the battle itself is one that readers sure don’t want to miss but be prepared to be bounding in your seat along with the high octane energy that flows from the pages and be prepared to shed a few tears as well. The second part of the book has everyone dealing with the aftermath of the battle and Kirsten adapting to the changes in her life due to the decision she had make. This includes some unexpected but delightful changes in her love life and her home life. Once begun, there is no way to put this epic, riveting and satisfying read down so be prepared to lock everyone out for this sensational read. 

 

 

 

 

Goodreads   *   BookLikes   *   BookBub   *   Riffle   

 

 

 

 

Unhuman Acts is the 7th & final book of the Only Human series.

 

 

Author   *   Goodreads

 

 

 

Only Human

An Inhuman Journey

Of Humans and Monsters

Defining Human

Edge of Humanity

Infinitely Human

Unhuman Acts

 

 

Only Human is part of the Kirsten O'Shea Universe which includes

 

Only Human

Chattanooga Supernaturals

Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club

The Dark Underbelly

A Dark(ish) Fairytale

 

 

There are five series in this universe. For those who are only interested in one series, you’ll be able to read it without reading the others. However, if you want to read all five, get the complete reading order here:

 

UNIVERSE READING ORDER

 

 

AVAILABLE in ebook

 

Amazon   *   B&N   *   Kobo

 

iBooks   *   GPlay

 

 

 

Candace Blevins has published more than forty books. She lives with her husband of 20 years and their two daughters. When not working or driving young teens all over the place, she can be found reading, writing, meditating, or swimming. The family’s beloved, goofy, retired racing greyhound is usually at her side as she writes, quietly keeping her company.

 

Candace writes Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Contemporary BDSM Romance, and a kick-ass Motorcycle Club series. 

 

Her urban fantasy series, Only Human, gives us a world where weredragons, werewolves, werelions, and three different species of vampires exist, as well as a variety of other mythological beings.

 

Candace’s two paranormal romance series, The Chattanooga Supernaturals and The Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club, are both sister series to the Only Human books, and gives some secondary characters their happily ever after. Her three paranormal series are written so you can read one series, or all three, should you prefer only a particular genre.

 

Her Safeword Series gives us characters who happen to have some extreme kinks. Relationships can be difficult enough without throwing power exchange into the mix, and her books show characters who care enough about each other to fight to make the relationship work. Each book in the Safeword series highlights a couple with a different take on the lifestyle.

 

 

Website   *   Facebook   *   Goodreads   *    Amazon

 

Twitter   *   Pinterest   *   InstaGram   *   BookBub 

 

 

 

 

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review 2019-08-31 01:56
5 Star Unhuman Acts
Unhuman Acts - Candace Blevins

 

During a life-and-death situation, Kirsten has to make fast decisions about how badly she wants to live.

 

The final book in the ‘Only Human’ urban fantasy series is one humdinger of a story! As usual all the characters are strong, bold and take readers’ breath away with their intensity, especially Kirsten who has maintained that she’s only human since the beginning. The series has brought readers along on Kirsten’s journey as she struggles to juggle her human life with her supernatural life which keeps throwing her life in tailspins and endangering all her friends and family.

 

In this final book, the story is split into two parts with the first half being an exhilarating fast paced story with non-stop excitement as the battles between light and dark comes to end but in a stunning OMG twist, Kirsten in thrust into a life altering decision that changes everything for her and her future. And the battle itself is one that readers sure don’t want to miss but be prepared to be bounding in your seat along with the high octane energy that flows from the pages and be prepared to shed a few tears as well. The second part of the book has everyone dealing with the aftermath of the battle and Kirsten adapting to the changes in her life due to the decision she had make. This includes some unexpected but delightful changes in her love life and her home life. Once begun, there is no way to put this epic, riveting and satisfying read down so be prepared to lock everyone out for this sensational read.

 

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review 2019-08-10 00:42
Perfect for Bingo
Gods of Jade and Shadow - Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Disclaimer: I won a signed copy of this book on a Twitter giveaway.

I recently read a collection of essays by author’s where they highlighted their favorite independent bookstore in North America; however, with the exception of two books, all the books where from the US. There was no mention of a bookstore in Mexico. To be honest, Mexico seems to get left out of North America quite a bit. Unless certain people are taking about immigration – though technically, the Americans were the illegal immigrants to the Texas area during Colonial times. Therefore, it is nice to read something that has to do with North American myth that is not based in Canada or the US.

Set in the 1920s, God of Jade and Shadow is a retelling/version of the Popol Vuh – the Mayan Creation story. Casiopea, a young girl, wishes for freedom from her life of drudgery that is comparable to Cinderella and Jane Eyre. That changes when she fines herself caught up in a power struggle between two gods for control of the underworld or the fate of the known world. From there the novel is part quest, part coming of age/self, and part romance. It is also a mediation on duality (China is not the only country who has the idea of yin/yang) and the nature of death to a degree.

And is damn good.

The success of the book rests largely on the prose style of Silvia Moreno-Garcia who tells the story with a storyteller’s voice – it is almost an oral story. There are wonderful passages. There are the bits about the owl bringing a character thing in a shell that, each time, is so beautiful you want to weep. Moreno-Garcia is able to present a country that looks down, in some respects, on its original stories, as well as the amalgamation that occurs, or sometimes occurs, when colonials and aboriginals fall in love. Casiopea is who she is because of her father (who is aboriginal) and her mother (who is not and who is Catholic).

The idea of duality runs throughout the novel. Many of the characters are twins or if not, biological twins are linked or mirrored by another character. This is in part because of Popol Vuh (pairs of brothers) It is interesting that one of those that mirrors Casiopea is male. But this ties into one of the 1920s and the role of women. The duality them is also tied to death – is death the sweet release or something we should rage against? It all depends, maybe. This is something else that runs throughout the novel.

I love how the duality or doubling includes the stories of the god’s vs the humans with a slight reversal of roles. Bloody brilliant.

The only false note is chapter three. Now, I understand why chapter three is there, and the action of it does need to be in the story. But it disrupts the flow- this isn’t because of the switch in character focus, but the step back in time that occurs. It felt like it physically ejected me from the novel, a novel that had drawn me totally into its world so quickly.

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review 2019-08-01 11:00
New Release Review! A Spark of Light (Chronicles of Light #5) Chris Stoneheart!

 

 

 

Hello Readers! Today, I am joining Kaitlin as she heads to China with her daughter and ends up meeting the Monkey King and then returns home to deal with having to send her daughter off to college while keeping the supernatural world from harming her daughter. Enjoy and don't forget to add A Spark of Light by Chris Stoneheart to your shelves!

 

 

 

 

 

Book five of The Chronicles of the Light...

 

Kaitlin will get her chance to seek revenge on Gavin, and she desperately hopes to make an example of him so the other power players in the supernatural community will think twice before they come after Kaitlin or her family again. The Master Vampire gives her from sundown to sunup to torture his second in command, and maybe it isn't in her nature, but she'll have to figure something out.

 

Lauren is heading to New England for college, and Kaitlin needs to be sure she's done all she can to prepare her daughter. She wants her old teacher to train Lauren, but things aren't as they should be when mother and daughter arrive.

 

In China, the Lion Dance and Dragon Dance are ubiquitous, and the Monkey King frequently plays a part in both. Kaitlin is friends with the Lion King and Dragon King, and despite the fact this has nothing to do with the legendary Chinese lion or dragon, the implications are far-reaching once she's back in China. 

 

 

 

After getting her revenge on Gavin, Kaitlin steps away from the Chattanooga supernaturals and heads to China with her daughter, Lauren. While Lauren is studying with her old teacher, Kaitlin takes on a quest to right something that is wrong and ends up on a journey of knowledge with a little help but the Monkey King. Once Kaitlin and Lauren return home, it is time to see Lauren off to college and Kaitlin must ensure that Lauren is safe from Kaitlin’s enemies.

 

This ‘Chronicles of the Light’ story is a wonderfully fascinating & varied traveling experience as well as providing readers with some powerful knowledge that could be extremely helpful in Kaitlin’s future, of course there is the chance that this could bring her under further scrutiny as well. The plot is more steady paced that the others but very enlightening, intriguing and even provides quite a few chuckles alongside all the excitement of the Monkey King joining Kaitlin on her quest. 

 

Once the overseas part comes to end, there is no question that Kaitlin will see more action as the supernaturals in her life set out to see that Lauren will be safe while she is away at college. Some twists, turns and betrayals make the trip a bit more dangerous that Kaitlin was expecting and more of her abilities are revealed than she is comfortable with and readers can’t help but join right in with the heart pounding steps that Kaitlin must take to ensure that her daughter stays safe and out of enemies hands.

 

 

 

 

 

Goodreads   *   BookLikes   *  BookBub   *   Riffle

 

 

 

A Spark of Light is the 5th book in the Chronicles of Light series

 

Series Links - 

 

Author   *   Goodreads   *  Amazon

 

 

1 Unhuman Light

2 Shadow and Light

3 Chasing the Light

4 Dark Light

5 A Spark of Light

 

 

 

#6 Light Warrior August 29, 2019

 

 

AVAILABLE in ebook

 

Amazon   *   B&N   *   Kobo

 

 

 

Chris Stoneheart lives in a fifty-year-old house smack dab in the middle of The South, with what promises to soon be a full-fledged herd of retired racing greyhounds. Chris read The Hobbit in elementary school, and The Lord of the Rings in middle school, and has been addicted to fantasy ever since. (It’s probably best we don’t talk about what Chris read in high school.)

 

Chronicles of the Light gives us a world where weredragons, werewolves, werelions, three different species of vampires, and a variety of other mythological beings exist.

 

Stay up to date on releases by joining Chris’s mailing list at http://eepurl.com/gcNe7v

 

 

 

Website   *   Goodreads   *   BookBub   *   Facebook

 

 

 

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