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review 2018-10-09 11:00
5 STAR Release Day Review! Cats of War (Central Galactic Concordance) {Embrace the Passion (Pets in Space Anthology #3)} Carol Van Natta!

 

 

 

CATS OF WAR
A Central Galactic Concordance Novella
by Carol Van Natta


A disgraced military Sub-Captain, a repair technician with secrets, and two special cats must save the day when trouble erupts at an important factory.

 


Cats of War is one of the many exciting stories in the new Pets in Space Anthology series and it is a delightful and thrilling read with strong, convincing characters that easily draw into their story and ensure that readers want to know more. The romance is clean and sweet as these two characters are not really in a position to start a romance but that doesn’t stop the attraction from setting sparks flying in every direction add in the vulnerabilities and emotional turmoil that stems from their pasts and their passion stays simmering through the story which keeps readers in quite a bit of suspense throughout. The story is short but is flows smoothly with a fast pace and small incidents leads to quite a bit of trouble adding danger and excitement to the story while two winged battle cats add charm to the story as they save day. I enjoyed this delightful from beginning to end and I appreciated the way that the author gave the story such a satisfying conclusion. I am certainly looking forward to reading the other stories in this anthology and of course more in the CGC series.

 

 

 

 

 

Cats of War is a stand alone novella set in the CGC Universe

 

Author - https://author.carolvannatta.com/cgc-series/

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/series/170282-central-galactic-concordance

 

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01M4RBSU2?ref=series_rw_dp_labf

 

 

Can be found in the Embrace the Passion (Pets in Space Anthologies #3)

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40237564-embrace-the-passion

 

BookBub - https://www.bookbub.com/books/embrace-the-passion-pets-in-space-3-by-pauline-baird-jones-and-kyndra-hatch

 

PIS - https://www.petsinspaceantho.com/

 

PIS Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/PetsInSpace/

 

 

 

which features the following authors and stories -

 

Pets in Space is back! Join us as we unveil eleven original, never-before-published action-filled romances that will heat your blood and warm your heart! New York Times, USA Today and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Ruby Lionsdrake, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Carol Van Natta, Tiffany Roberts, Alexis Glynn Latner, E D Walker, JC Hay, and Kyndra Hatch combine their love for Science Fiction Romance and pets to bring readers sexy, action-packed romances while helping our favorite charity. Proud supporters of HeroDogs.org, Pets in Space authors have donated over 4,400 in the past two years to help place specially trained dogs with veterans. Open your hearts and grab your limited release copy of Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 today!

 

HEART OF THE CAT
Sarafin Warriors Series
By S.E. Smith
Can love bridge the gap between a wounded alien warrior and the reclusive human woman who holds the future of his species inside her?

 

DESERT HUNTER
Galactic Gladiators Series
By Anna Hackett
Among the desert sands of an alien world, a man with secrets to hide finds himself face to face with the one woman who can bring him to his knees.

 

QUASHI
Mandrake Company Series
By Ruby Lionsdrake
Alien fur balls, a handsome doctor, and a little white lie create havoc for a young woman who only wanted a job.


STAR CRUISE: MYSTERY DANCER
The Sectors SF Romance Series
By Veronica Scott
A long-lost princess and her three-eyed cat seek refuge on the Nebula Zephyr only to catch the attention of an inquisitive Security Officer.

 

OPERATION ARK
Project Enterprise Series
By Pauline Baird Jones
A not quite routine mission to return rescued prisoners to their home worlds turns deadly for unlikely allies, a USMC Sergeant and a raised-by-robots pirate. Is the Sergeant’s unusual pet the wild card that will save or doom them?

 

CATS OF WAR
A Central Galactic Concordance Novella
by Carol Van Natta
A disgraced military Sub-Captain, a repair technician with secrets, and two special cats must save the day when trouble erupts at an important factory.

 

HUNTER OF THE TIDE
The Kraken #3
By Tiffany Roberts
Nearly broke by betrayal, a human discovers solace—and a chance for love—among the creatures he once hunted, but he must overcome prejudice and inhibition to claim the female he desires.

 

STARWAY
By Alexis Glynn Latner
A lonely interstellar pilot and a passenger’s mistreated consort find each other in an interstellar hotel that offers everything to satisfy its guests’ desires—even desires they didn’t know they had.

 

THE BAJO CATS OF ANTEROS XII
By E D Walker
Two ex-lovers, stranded in space, have to save a pair of kittens with hazardous powers before the local drug cartel catches up to them.

 

SHADOW OF THE PAST
By JC Hay
On a world of perpetual night, an aging ranger and a widowed veterinarian need to put aside their past to protect a pack of wolves... and their future.

 

AFTER THE FALL
By Kyndra Hatch
The Invaders took everything worth living for. Could an Invader show him how to live again?

 

 


AVAILABLE in ebook at -

 

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FNXKQJZ


Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FNXKQJZ


Amazon CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07FNXKQJZ/


Amazon AU https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07FNXKQJZ/


iBooks https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/embrace-the-passion-pets-in-space-3/id1414010304?mt=11


B&N https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/embrace-the-passion-se-smith/1129099896?ean=2940155751496


Kobo https://www.kobo.com/ph/en/ebook/embrace-the-passion-pets-in-space-3


Google Play https://play.google.com/store/books/details/S_E_Smith_Embrace_the_Passion_Pets_in_Space_3?id=JghkDwAAQBAJ

 

 

Supporting a great cause – Hero-Dogs.org.


http://www.hero-dogs.org/

 

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/herodogs

 

 

 

Carol Van Natta writes science fiction and fantasy, including Overload Flux, Minder Rising, Zero Flux, Pico's Crush, and Jumper's Hope, the first five books in a space opera series; In Graves Below (Magic, NM) , a paranormal romance; and Hooray for Holopticon , a retro science fiction comedy. She shares her Fort Collins, CO home with a sometime mad scientist and various cats. Any violations of the laws of physics in her books is the fault of the cats, not the mad scientist. Be the first to know about new releases by signing up for her newsletter at bit.ly/CVN-news or read her blog at Author.CarolVanNatta.com, or find her on Facebook at CarolVanNattaAuthor.


Website - http://author.carolvannatta.com/

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3980825.Carol_Van_Natta

 

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/CarolVanNattaAuthor

 

YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/c/CarolVanNatta

 

G+ - https://plus.google.com/+CarolVanNatta/posts

 

InstaGram - https://www.instagram.com/carol.vannatta/

 

BookBub- https://www.bookbub.com/authors/carol-van-natta

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-10-06 14:17
Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland 
Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld,Alex Puvilland

I think I have already read this one, but I don't have a record of that, so leave it at maybe. Of course, this one didn't get logged last week when read, because they get knocked out in one quick sitting, then immediately on to the next thing. Volume 2 is out now, so a refresher was necessary. Like Paper Girls and Lumberjanes, strange things are afoot and it could be anything. It is so gratifying to read about girls having adventures just like they are real people. Kudos for Westerfeld who puts female and minority characters front and center, without making it the point. If I can get #2, I'm going to use it for my New Release.

 

Puvilland has different styles and palettes that set off the sheer strangeness of what Poughkeepsie has become. Approaching it from the woods in particular puts me in mind of footage from Chernobyl twenty years later.

 

Library copy 

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review 2018-09-27 11:00
Release Week Review! Cross Breed (Breeds #23) Lora Leigh!

 

 

It’s been over a decade since she was introduced as an unforgettable eight-year-old in Elizabeth’s Wolf. Now all grown up, Cassie is unique among the Breeds as a Coyote/Wolf mix. She has long known that her mate was somewhere out there, but he’s stayed frustratingly out of sight and beyond her senses. Cassie has decided to make her move and her mate is ready to make his. The Breed world will be rocked to its foundation as dangerous secrets are revealed.

 


Wow! What an exhilarating read! I have been impatiently awaiting Cassie’s book and wondering who her mate was ever since she was introduced as an eight-year-old little girl. This child captured my heart and remains there still and I have to tell you that her story rocked my world just as it rocked the Breeds. Without giving away just who her mate is, I will tell you that he is sexy and arrogant, frustrating and mysterious with lots of secrets and a whole lot of alpha attitude as while I wouldn’t have put them together before, I could feel the magnetic pull of these two together and now I can’t picture Cassie with anyone else. These two character are seriously strong, totally convincing and really steal the show with their romance that is filled with lots of twists, explosive chemistry and volcanic passion and then of course there is the all the emotional turmoil one would expect during a Breed mating but this story goes a bit beyond the normal due just who these characters are. Oh, and of course there tempers flying and frustrations rising and jerks getting knocked on their behinds.

 

The adrenaline pumping thrills and excitement never stop in this fast paced novel that keeps readers turning the pages with obsessive fever. There was definitely no way I wanted to miss one glorious second of Cassie’s story which has secrets being revealed that blew me away, which of course means that readers will impatiently awaiting the next book to find out what happens next. Although, I don’t know if Cross Breed can be topped, but I have no doubts that this author could make me eat my words, because she brought new characters in and like most readers of this series, I can’t never get enough of the Breed world and all its fascinating characters.

 

 

Add to your shelves -

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35506426-cross-breed

 

BookBub - https://www.bookbub.com/books/cross-breed-by-lora-leigh

 

 

 

 

Cross Breed is the 23rd book in the Breeds series -

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/series/40786-breeds

 

Author - https://loraleigh.com/breeds/#wpforms-425

 

Berkley - https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/NBA/a-novel-of-the-breeds

 

 

which includes - (series chronological order - from author's website) Numbering is different as novellas are counted without decimals)

 

1 Tempting the Beast - (Lion)
2 The Man Within - (Panther)
3 Elizabeth's Wolf - (Wolf)
4 Kiss of Heart - (Snow Leopard) -
(temporarily unavailable re-releasing soon)
5 Soul Deep - (Coyote) - (temporarily unavailable re-releasing soon)
6 The Breed Next Door - (Lion) **
7 Megan's Mark - (Lion)
8 Harmony's Way - (Lion)
9 Tanner's Scheme - (Bengal)
10 Wolfe's Hope - (Wolf) - (temporarily unavailable re-releasing soon)
11 Jacob's Faith - (Wolf) - (temporarily unavailable re-releasing soon)
12 Aiden's Charity - (Wolf) - (temporarily unavailable re-releasing soon)
13 In a Wolf's Embrace - (Wolf) **
14 Dawn's Awakening - (Cougar)
15 Jaguar's Kiss - (Black Jaguar) **
16 Mercury's War - (Lion)
17 Christmas Heat - (Jaguar) ++
18 Coyote's Mate - (Coyote)
19 Christmas Kiss - (Wolf) ++
20 Bengal's Heart - (Bengal)
21 Lion's Heat - (Lion)
22 Styx's Storm - (Wolf)
23 Primal Kiss - (Lion) ++
24 Navarro's Promise - (Wolf)
25 An Inconvenient Mate - (Coyote) - Tied with a Bow Anthology
26 Lawe's Justice - (Lion)
27 Stygian's Honor -
28 The Devil's Due - (Wolf) - Enthralled Anthology
29 Rule Breaker - (Lion)
30 Bengal's Quest - (Bengal)
31 Wake a Sleeping Tiger - (Bengal)
32 Cross Breed - (Wolf/Coyote)

++ included in Too Hot Too Handle
** included in Overcome

 


AVAILABLE in Hardcover or ebook at:

 

Penguin - http://www.penguin.com/book/cross-breed-by-lora-leigh/9780425265482

 

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073R1NKL6/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i8

 

B&N - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cross-breed-lora-leigh/1126683375?ean=9781984802996#/

 

Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/cross-breed

 

iBooks - https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cross-breed/id1255267785?mt=11

 

GPlay - https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Lora_Leigh_Cross_Breed?id=JIkqDwAAQBAJ

 

 

Lora Leigh dreams in bright, vivid images of the characters’ intent on taking over her writing life, and fights a constant battle to put them on the hard drive of her computer before they can disappear as fast as they appeared.

 

Lora’s family and her writing life coexist, if not in harmony, in relative peace with each other. Surrounded by a menagerie of pets, friends, and a son who keeps her quick wit engaged, Lora finds her life filled with joys, aided by her fans whose hearts remind her daily why she writes.

 

 

Lora can be reached at Loraleigh0@gmail.com.

 

Website - http://www.loraleigh.com/

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2614.Lora_Leigh

 

BookBub - https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lora-leigh

 

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/loraleighauthor/

 

Twitter - https://twitter.com/LoraLeigh_1

 

InstaGram - https://www.instagram.com/lora.leigh/

 

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Lora-Leigh/e/B001I9RQR2

 

 

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review 2018-09-25 11:00
Release Day Review! Uncontrollable (Beyond Human #3) Nina Croft!

 

 

Quinn Sutherland, second in command of the Tribe, a group of powerful telepaths, has always been certain of who and what he is — one of the good guys. All he wants is to keep his friends safe — no easy feat when everyone in the world is after them. While on a rescue mission, he meets a mysterious FBI agent, who appears to know a lot about them, and seems to want the same thing he does. But her assignment could literally mean the death of him…

 

When Melody Lyons is inducted into the Federation’s elite Time Control Unit, it’s the pinnacle of her ambitions. Only when she’s sent back to the twenty-first century to eliminate a group of rogue time travelers, she never guesses she’ll fall for a man who died two thousand years ago… Quinn awakens emotions she hadn’t known existed, and for the first time, her loyalties are tested.

 

 

The third book in the Beyond Human series is quite interesting with thrills, romance and some very intriguing elements. Quinn and Melody are solid convincing characters that readers can relate to which makes it easy to become caught up in their story. The romance has an unusual obstacle to be overcome which keeps this relationship on pins and needles throughout the story no matter how strong this couple’s sizzling attraction is and since the stronger the attraction gets the harder Quinn and Melody try to keep emotions tucked in tight and keep their objectives in sight at all times. This keeps the sparks flying as well as keeping emotional turmoil flowing from the pages and ensures that readers want to know every last detail of this couples’ romantic journey to their happily ever after.

 

Thrills and interesting elements keep readers turning the pages of this steady to fast paced and smooth flowing plot. First, Melody is from the future so that gives readers a word of possibilities for readers to imagine and adds to the adrenaline pumping atmosphere of the story and then there is the all the exciting events that keeps readers on the hanging on the edge of their seat, prison breaks, shoot outs, astonishing secrets revealed and a trip through time and space with some surprises along the way as well. Unfortunately, this series should be read in sequential order in order to get maximum understanding of the events taking place as readers may feel as if they have dropped into the middle (this would be me as I missed the first two), also while this couple gets their happy for now, the story ends on a cliffhanger so readers have to wait impatiently to find out what happens next.

 

 

Author's Book Page - http://www.ninacroft.com/book/uncontrollable-beyond-human-3/

 

 

Add to your shelves -

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41442728-uncontrollable

 

BookBub - https://www.bookbub.com/books/uncontrollable-by-nina-croft

 

 

Uncontrollable is the 3rd book in the Beyond Human series -

 

Author - http://www.ninacroft.com/book-series/beyond-human/

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/series/187426-beyond-human

 

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07H7QPM8X?ref=series_rw_dp_labf

 

 

which includes -

 

.5 No More Lies (The Telephath Chronicles anthology)
1 Unthinkable
2 Unspeakable
3 Uncontrollable

 

 


AVAILABLE in print or ebook -

Entangled - https://entangledpublishing.com/uncontrollable.html

 

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H28K56V?tag=entangpublis-20&name=Uncontrollable

 

A-UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07H28K56V?tag=entangpublis-20&name=Uncontrollable

 

A-AU - https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07H28K56V?tag=entangpublis-20&name=Uncontrollable

 

A-CA - https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07H28K56V?tag=entangpublis-20&name=Uncontrollable

 

B&N - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/9781640636774?name=Uncontrollable

 

iBooks - http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781640636774?name=Uncontrollable&uo=8&at=1010lsQz

 

Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/uncontrollable-9

 

GPlay - https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Nina_Croft_Uncontrollable?id=iShrDwAAQBAJ

 

Growing up in the cold, wet, north of England, Nina Croft spent a lot of time dreaming of faraway sunnier places and ponies. When she discovered both, along with a whole load of other things, could be found between the covers of a book, her life changed forever.

 

Later, she headed south, picked up the perfect husband along the way, and together they volunteered to work in Africa. There they discovered a love of exotic places and a dislike of 9-5 work. Afterward they spent a number of years travelling (whenever possible) intermingled with working (whenever necessary.) Eventually they stumbled upon a remote area in the mountains of southern Spain and the small almond farm they now call home.

 

Nina spends her days reading, writing and riding her mare, Gencianna, under the blue Spanish skies—sunshine and ponies. She reckons this is proof that dreams really can come true if you want them enough.

 

Nina's writing mixes romance with elements of the paranormal and science fiction

 

 

 

Website - http://www.ninacroft.com/

 

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3378320.Nina_Croft

 

BookBub - https://www.bookbub.com/authors/nina-croft

 

Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/Nina_Croft

 

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/NinaCroft.Writer/?ref=br_rs

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-21 13:50
2018 Halloween Bingo: The Books So Far
Penhallow - Georgette Heyer,Ulli Birvé
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Patricia A. McKillip,Dina Pearlman
Their Lost Daughters - Joy Ellis,Richard Armitage
The Wychford Poisoning Case - Anthony Berkeley,Mike Grady
Verdict of 13: A Detection Club Anthology - Ngaio Marsh,The Detection Club,Gwendoline Butler,Julian Symons
The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Sharyn McCrumb
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley, Emilia Fox
Nights At The Circus - Angela Carter,Adjoa Andoh
Ghosts: Edith Wharton's Gothic Tales - Edith Wharton,Corinna May,Tod Randolph,Jonathan Epstein,Alison Larkin,Jim Frangione
The Colour of Magic - Terry Pratchett,Nigel Planer

... in the order in which they're appearing on my card (not the order in which they've read them).

 

Soooo ... in this year's twist on RL doing its best trying to throw a spanner in the works of Halloween Bingo fun, I've been spending the better part of the month either sitting around in conference rooms or glued to some piece of writing on my computer screen (or both).  Fortunately this has so far involved a fair amount of driving, too, so I've largely been able to shift my bingo reads to audiobooks ... without, however, also having a whole lot of time to write reviews.  Looks like right now is one of those moments where I might have a shot at catching up -- so let's give this a try, shall we?

 

In other words: Halloween Bingo 2018: the (mostly) audiobook version.

 

 


Georgette Heyer: Penhallow

On the face of it, your classic country house mystery, country estate and horse farm in Cornwall and all; but Heyer wrote this as a contract breaker, and boy, does it ever show.  Neither seekers after romance and after knights in shiny armour nor seekers of a genteel country house atmosphere need apply here, and what might be termed "a somewhat crotchety original" in any other book (including but not limited to Heyer's own), here is styled as a crass, meanspirited old family tyrant who likes nothing better than bullying each and every member of his vast and long-suffering family into submission and downright terror.  With the exception of two creations by Agatha Christie (Simeon Lee in Hercule Poirot's Christmas and Mrs. Boynton in Appointment with Death), I can't think of any character in another mystery, Golden Age or not, who is so totally devoid of redeeming qualities.  However, while both of Christie's two infamous bullies -- who clearly come from he same mold as old Penhallow -- meet their ends fairly early on in the respective books and thus relieve both the reader and their families of their continued presence, we (and Penhallow's harrassed household) have to suffer until almost the 65% mark of this book until someone's nerves finally snap once and for all.  We actually get to witness the murder, so there's no great mystery as to whodunnit -- although I admit that for the longest time I kept hoping for a Christie-esque twist, but that was not to be. 

(Also, though this is a far cry from George R.R. Martin, be careful which of the other characters you invest your sympathies in ... though God knows, few enough of them deserve any empathy to begin with; but then, with old man Penhallow around, it's hard to see how any of them could have grown both a spine and halfway decent manners at all.)

(spoiler show)

There's some ambivalence as to the book's two LGBT characters -- one son of Penhallow's who is obviously modeled on Oscar Wilde and who, apart from a few witticisms, comes across rather negatively and as checking off pretty much every anti-gay cliché in the book, and a daughter who, apart from being a bit "bossy", is one of the few members of the younger generation endowed with a brain, a healthy dose of common sense, and the gumption to stand up to her father (albeit helped, no doubt, by the fact that she is also one of the few family members not financially dependent on the old man).

 

All in all, a far cry from your typical Heyer (or at least, from her mysteries -- can't speak to her Regency romances) -- I'm not sorry I read it, but as far as grumpy old patriarchs and bickering families go, I vastly prefer one of her Inspector Hemingway mysteries, Envious Casca (republished as A Christsmas Party).

 

 


Patricia McKillip: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

My first book by McKillip; a short(ish) fantasy tale substantially in the traditional mold with a strong female heroine -- a sorceress living on a mountainside high above the fighting human empires down in the plain; alone but for the company of a number of magical beasts.  At the risk of sounding jaded, the basic plotline (and the type of ending) is pretty much telegraphed from the very beginning; still, the characters are emphatically drawn, there are enough twists and turns over the course of the story to always ensure that the book held my attention, and I'm definitely interested in reading more books by McKillip in the future.

 

 


Mary Roberts Rinehart: Locked Doors

The second of Rinehart's "Nurse Hilda Adams" stories; in terms of setup, of the "woman in peril" kind of tale that Rinehart specialized in -- and which I'm usually not a fan of, but I'll gladly make an exception here.  Nurse Hilda is the epitome of what is called a "feisty" young woman in certain types of fiction: especially taking into account that this story was written shortly after the turn of the last century (published in 1914), she is independent (and independently-minded) and able to take care of herself to an extraordinary degree, and thus makes for an admirable protagonist.  Here she takes a position in a stately home where, as she soon finds out, bedroom doors are locked at night, beloved pets go missing, all the servants have recently left or been let go, and there seems to be a strange, slithering presence on the stairway at night and a mystery madwoman (or invalid) in, you guessed it, the attic -- but before you cry "Gothic cliché", beware ... just like Nurse Hilda, Rinehart actually had her feet planted firmly on the ground, and was also very much up to date with the state of medical knowledge and research, which in an unexpected way made this story an enjoyable companion read / listen to Jennifer Wright's decidedly less enjoyable Get Well Soon.  I guess at some point I should also read Rinehart's Circular Staircase, which I'm still not entirely sold on however, but I'll definitely read more of her Nurse Hilda stories.

 

 


Joy Ellis: Their Lost Daughters

Why, oh why did anybody think that this book's title (!!) needed an appendage such as "a gripping crime thriller with a huge twist" on Amazon (and likely thus also on every other site that draws its feed from Amazon and where there aren't any librarians to do away with this sort of nonsense) in order to generate proper sales?!  That sort of hype is, ordinarily, a sure fire turn-off for me, and it almost would have been here, too, had Their Lost Daughters not been reviewed favorably by friends whose opinions I trust (and, cough, I admit the fact that the audio version is narrated by Richard Armitage helped as well).  As a result, I'd almost have missed out on one of the best books I read all year ... and that makes me even madder at whoever was the eejit that came up with that super-hypey tag line.

 

Beyond the fact that this begins as a "missing girls" investigation, there is little I can say in terms of plot description that wouldn't be a huge spoiler, so let's just stick with the fact that Ellis draws the sombre, downright oppressing Fenlands setting very, very astutely and expressively, and her team of detectives (led by DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans) are among the most likeable, rounded, and overall believable investigators that have appeared on the mystery scene in recent years -- and I also very much like Marie's (Welsh) mother, who I hope is going to be a continued presence in the series, too.  That all said, and much as it pains me to admit it, the "huge twist" thing from Amazon's abominable tagline is actually true: even if you think you sort of see part of the solution coming, you don't clue into how it all hangs together until it's unraveled right under your very nose.  (And lest anyone say the solution is too outlandish to be true, there are several real life cases published in the past couple of years that featured decidedly more gruesome facts, and which may easily have inspired this book's solution; or at least, certain parts of it.)

 

 


Angela Carter: The Bloody Chamber

Reviewed separately HERE.

 

 


Anthony Berkeley: The Wychford Poisoning Case

The fifth time, this year alone, that I've found myself running into a fictional incarnation of the (in)famous real life case of Florence Maybrick, the American-born Liverpool housewife convicted, in 1889, of having murdered her husband by administering to him a dose of arsenic obtained by soaking flypaper in water -- allegedly in aid of concocting a beauty cream.  Mrs. Maybrick's method, if indeed this was how her husband found his premature end, may have engendered several real-life copycats (including, most famously, just after the turn of the 20th century, Frederick Seddon and Herbert Rowse Armstrong ... if the medical evidence given at their respective trials is to be believed, that is), and British mystery writers have downright flocked to her footsteps ever since in fiction as well.  Agatha Christie used a variation of the Maybrick case as a basis for Crooked House; Anthony Rolls based Family Matters on pretty much every salient detail of the Maybrick story except for the flypaper bit; which in turn, however, makes a starring appearance in P.D. James's short story Great Aunt Ally's Flypaper (later republished as The Boxdale Inheritance), which features a very young Sergeant (Inspector-to-be) Dalgliesh and is included in my very first read of this year, the P.D. James short story collection The Mistletoe Murder (as the title indicates, a "holdover" from my 2017 Christmas reads), as well as in the Detection Club anthology Verdict of 13, which I read for this year's Halloween Bingo (see mini-review below).  Finally, also in that latter anthology, Christianna Brand has the real-life Mrs. Maybrick meet two other alleged, famous 19th century women poisoners in a story aptly entitled Cloud Nine.

 

No wonder, then, that Anthony Berkeley, like his fellow Detection Club members acutely aware of the criminal causes celèbres of his own and of bygone eras, would also seek inspiration in Mrs. Maybrick's legacy.  Martin Edwards makes the case, in The Golden Age of Murder, that Berkeley's books offer clues -- perhaps more so than the books of his fellow Golden Age mystery novelists -- to his own personality, experience, and outlook on life.  I haven't read enough books by Berkeley yet to make up my mind how much I think there is to this theory, but if The Wychford Poisoning Case is any indication indeed, Mr. Berkeley (despite his reportedly boisterous persona) was, deep down, a very reticent and private man ... and supremely uncomfortable around women, who are either "high" or "low", either vamp, stupid chicken, naughty girl, mother, MissMarpleSilverBradleyVane incarnate, or grand dame, and only in the last-mentioned cases accorded a halfway rounded, three-dimensional, individual personality (with some allowances made in favor of girls from a decent background, who have the makings of turning either into true ladies / grand dames, or into women detectives or fiction writers, or even into all of the above, later in life).  There are passages in this book that are redolent with blatant mysogyny, and yet, I hesitate to append this label wholesale ... more than anything, it seems to me that Berkeley very much wanted to, but simply didn't "get" women and, consequently finding himself rejected and dissatisfied (none of his several marriages were happy), resorted to the stereotype prevalent in his era anyway; essentially, the "sinner or saint" dychotomy.

 

That all being said, the mystery itself is cleverly constructed, and notably this is not the only book where Berkeley's series detective, Roger Sheringham, comes into the case on the side of the accused woman and with the express intention to exonerate her from what he considers a rash and unjustified charge.  And while the true facts of the Maybrick case will almost certainly never be unraveled, it is just conceivable that Berkeley did, in fact, hit on the one solution that was closest to the historic truth.

 

 


Jennifer Wright: Get Well Soon

Reviewed separately HERE.  Also a Flat Book Society read.

 

 


The Detection Club: Verdict of 13

An anthology published by the 1970s' incarnation of the Detection Club, edited by its then-president Julian Symons, featuring 13 short stories all premised, in a very loose sense, on the concept of a jury (even if it's only a jury of one).  Contributors include -- in addition to Symons -- P.D. James and Christianna Brand (see comments above, re: The Wychford Poisoning Case / Florence Maybrick), Gwendoline Butler, Dick Francis, Michael Gilbert, Michael Innes, Patricia Highsmith, Celia Fremlin, H.R.F. Keating, Michael Underwood, Ngaio Marsh, and Peter Dickinson.

 

The stand-out stories, to me, are P.D. James's Florence Maybrick-inspired look at an early moment in Inspector (then-Sergeant) Dalgliesh's career (see comments above) and Michael Gilbert's Verdict of Three, a cleverly constructed public-school-morphing-into-public-service combined update of Arthur Conan Doyle's Adventure of the Second Stain, The Naval Treaty, and The Bruce-Partington Plans, told from the perspective of the person who, in a Sherlock Holmes story, would be Holmes's client (except that Holmes, here, has contrived to be part of the jury).  "Place" and "show" honors go jointly and equally to Ngaio Marsh's Morpork (which I'd also read before, but long ago; a story set in the wilds of her native New Zealand); as well as Dick Francis's  Twenty-One Good Men and True (involving race track betting), Gwendoline Butler's The Rogue's Twist (in which dogs are, depending how you look at it, either part of the jury or part of the prosecution), and Michael Underwood's Murder at St. Oswald's (as the title indicates, another story set in a public school; here, involving a bullying teacher).

 

 


Mavis Doriel Hay: Murder Underground

Hay's first of the only three mysteries she ever wrote, but the last one I read.  Of the three, I'd rate it the middle entry -- it's not anywhere near as enjoyable as The Santa Klaus Murder (Hay's final book and one of the highlights of my 2017 Christmas reads), but I liked it quite a bit better than Death on the Cherwell.  Oddly, the titular murder is completely taken as a fait accompli here: we're not even in on the discovery of the body, never mind meeting the victim-to-be in the flesh and seeing her interact with the suspects-to-be (all of them, residents of the same North London longterm-accommodation hotel as herself; two, in addition, young relatives of hers and her presumptive heirs).  As a result, I needed quite a bit of time to find my way into the story and connect with the characters, only few of whom I ultimately ended up liking (though I will say it was refreshing to see a male TSTL character for a change).  Still, even though I had a suspicion as to the murderer early on, which turned out to be correct, it was a fun, light, if somewhat chatty read.  Hay could write, and she'd definitely found her stride by the time she got to The Santa Klaus Murder -- it's a shame she stopped just when she'd gotten going for good.

 

 


Sharyn McCrumb: The Ballad Frankie Silver

Holy hell St. Maloney, what a book.  Part of McCrumb's Ballad series set in the Appalachian Mountains, this is the story of two executions -- and the convicts sentenced to death in each case, as well as their (purported) crimes and the lawmen called upon to witness their executions.  In modern times, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood (one of the Ballad series's central characters) is called upon to witness the execution of a man whom he himself had helped convict of murder when he was young and comparatively inexperienced, but all the more cocksure to make up for his lack of experience.  Recuperating from an injury sustained on the job and thus with some spare time on his hands, he decides to take a fresh look at the case ... and comes away dismayed and disillusioned.  He also sees parallels to the (real life) case of Frankie Silver, an 18 year old girl hanged for the murder of her husband in Burke County, NC, in 1833; probably the first white woman to be executed in that county. 

 

Frankie's story makes up the bulk of the book: we're learning it chiefly from the (fictional) diary of the 1832 Clerk of the Court, Burgess Gaither, who witnessed both her trial and the execution of her death sentence; interspersed with some passages in Frankie's own voice.  Her story stayed alive and became a local legend on account of the girl's ethereal beauty and meak, yet diginfied persona, as much as on account of the fact that she was very likely innocent of the crime of which she was convicted and went to her death in order to protect the real culprit; all of which also contributed to (alas, futile) efforts by prominent citizens of the community to obtain a gubernatorial pardon.  This is not an easy book to digest -- it does not flinch from a close-up view of all aspects of the death penalty, as administered both then and now; and it asks hard questions about justice, equality, and the judicial process.  Yet, precisely for this gut-punch quality, and for Sharyn McCrumb's spellbinding writing, it makes for an absolutely unforgettable experience.

 

One additional word on the audio version, which is narrated by McCrumb herself: Though by far not all authors excel at reading their own books, Sharyn McCrumb is one of the truly happy exceptions, and listening to the story read in her own voice greatly contributed to the lasting impression of this particular audiobook experience.  Even among the many excellent narrations I've had the pleasure of listening to this month so far, Sharyn McCrumb's performance is a stand-out experience ... singing of the titular Ballad of Frankie Silver included as the icing on the cake!

 

 


Alan Bradley: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Sigh.  There is a lot to like in this book: the writing, the setting and the atmosphere, the underlying historic research (including appropriate pop culture references as much as a sensitive treatment of post-war PTSD), the opening nod to Jane Eyre, the bickering sisters, the fact that Flavia has given her bike a name and treats it as if it were a horse, and, well, the mystery as such.  Unfortunately, the one character I'm having a problem with is Flavia herself.  Oh, I get it -- she's intelligent and beyond precocious, she loves books, and she spends a lot of time alone and she has decided to turn vice into virtue ("if nobody else loves me, I have to love myself" -- remarkable insight to be expressed by an 11-year-old in pretty much these terms). 

 

But that's exactly where my issues begin ... despite the odd age-appropriate behavior towards others, by and large both her mental processes and many of her emotional responses come across as way too adult.  I'll even grant her love of chemistry -- Graham Young was obsessed with chemistry from an early age, too, and knew enough about poisons to murder his stepmother, after almost having succeeded in killing his sister, at the tender age of 15 -- and nearly get away with it, too.  But leaving aside that going from age 11 to age 15 is still a virtual quantum leap in the development of a child: (1) knowledge of chemistry doesn't equal medical knowledge, and Flavia seems to dispose of an unreasonable amount of highly specific medical knowledge along with her knowledge of chemistry, including certain rare medical conditions (and don't get me started on how she could (not) have read about all of that in Gray's Anatomy); (2) book knowledge doesn't equal experience, and more often than not Flavia's analysis, actions and responses are not explicable by book knowledge, but only by the insight and reflections generated by a life experience far above and beyond even the most precocious 11-year-old child (this is particularly true in the final scene -- actually that whole scene is ridiculously implausible on pretty much every single level, but Flavia's age-inappropriate responses had started to bother me right at the beginning, with her discovery of the dying man); and (3) similarly (and on a related point), the grown ups' treatment of Flavia is way too "eye level" to be believable.  Kudos to her dad for taking her seriously and trusting her with the full, tragic back story of the events, but for anybody else, let alone a policeman, to take an 11-year-old girl entirely seriously and communicate with her essentially like they would with an adult is just simply not realistic.

 

Maybe I've simply outgrown "child investigator" books -- I used to love the Three Investigators series and Enid Blyton's Famous Five, and Arthur Conan Doyle's "Baker Street Irregulars" make me smile to this very day.  But even the "Irregulars", for however streetsmart they are, don't display any age-inappropriate behavior or reasoning; ACD knew as well as Enid Blyton and the Three Investigators authors that adults tend not to take children seriously, and even more importantly, they all understood that even fictional children get to outfox the police only if the policemen in question are just plain too dumb to solve the case on their own.  But Inspector Hewitt doesn't strike me like that at all.

 

So, sorry for spoiling everybody else's party; I know I'm the odd one out here.  Don't mind me -- just go on enjoying Flavia's adventures.  I simply won't be along for the ride.

 

 


Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus

You know that scene in Amadeus where the Austrian emperor comments on Mozart's music that it contains "too many notes"?  That's how I began to feel after a while about the individual episodes, destinies, and narrative detours making up the sum total of this book -- they simply started to run into each other.  Adjoa Andoh, who reads the audio version, said in an Audible interview about Nights at the Circus that Angela Carter is "generous" with her use of words (and towards her characters) ... which I don't necessarily mind; in fact, I've been known to downright revel in exuberant prose, but I confess that Carter has tested even my limits here. 

 

Based on a simple premise -- journalist interviews "human swan" trapeze artist in the attempt to show her up as a fraud, instead falls in love with her, and ends up joining her circus as a clown so as to follow her to Russia --, this is an exploration of the world of Victorian carneys, circuses, and freak shows, of the divisions of class and culture(s), and of the exploitation of women and of the disabled (especially those perceived as freaks).  If, going in, you have any misconceptions about the nature of Nights at the Circus based on its title and setting, or based on the fact that it is frequently described as "magic realism", at least in the audio version Adjoa Andoh's earthy reading will disabuse you of any such notions literally from the first word on: there is no question that Fevvers, the book's protagonist, is cockney to the bone; and more generally speaking, between them Carter and Andoh leave no doubt about the fact there is (or was) nothing remotely glorious or magical about the behind-the-scenes world of Victorian carneys -- nor about the previous lives of most carney artists, or the destiny awaiting them once they were too old to be able to perform.  While pulling off enough of the veil for the reader / spectator to understand that much of what (s)he sees is an illusion, the lines are occasionally blurred, and not all is revealed to the naked eye -- and even where Carter applies her exuberance to the plainly ridiculous, never once does she lose an ounce of respect for her characters (nor, for that matter, does Andoh's narration).  Yet, this is one book where I'll likely want to revisit the printed version at some point in the future, because Andoh's performance, splendid as it is, is so dominant that I couldn't help wondering sometimes if the characters -- first and foremost Fevvers herself, but others as well -- would have sounded exactly the same in my head without anybody else's intervening interpretation. 

 

In the meantime, though, give me Fellini's La Strada (and The Clowns) any day of the week ...

 

 


Daphne du Maurier: Frenchman's Creek

If it weren't for du Maurier's indisputable gifts as a writer, and for the splendid things that are Rebecca and The Birds, my most recent reads of hers, between them, would have seriously made me doubt if she is for me at all, had these been my only introduction to her writing.  While Jamaica Inn at least excels in terms of creating a truly oppressive and spooky atmosphere (and since I read it primarily for that, I was willing to give du Maurier considerable slack in terms of the plotline ... until I got to the beyond-eyeroll-worthy ending, that is), Frenchman's Creek lost me even before it really had started to get going and never recaptured my attention.  That being said, it's the sort of totally implausible, romantic pirate adventure that would have riveted me in my early teens.  Problem is, I'm not a teenager anymore, I expect people (both fictional and in real life) to act with at least a minimal amount of rationality -- and book characters to be at least substantially self-consistent (and consistent with their station in life) --, and I no longer believe in insta-love.  So I'm just going to say thank you to Ms. du Maurier for once more taking me to 19th century Cornwall, which comes across as decidedly more lovely here than it does in Jamaica Inn (but then it would, this being a romance at heart), and thank you to John Nettles for giving his utmost to make this a captivating audiobook experience.  But for once, I was glad to have contented myself with an abbreviated version ... and I don't think anything will tempt me to revisit this novel anytime soon (even though here, too, I actually own a print edition as well).

 

 


Edith Wharton: Ghosts: Edith Wharton's Gothic Tales

As the title says, a selection of audio narrations taken from Edith Wharton's collection of ghost stories: big on atmosphere and on Wharton's lovely, insightful, empathetic writing; negligible to nonexistent on blood and gore.  This is how I like my gothic fiction!  As in her novels, Wharton relies entirely on subtle means of psychology; on our innate fear of the unknown, on our need to empathize, on uncertainties -- about the right way, about another person, or the accuracy of ancient writings and legends, or how far to trust our own senses; on changes of light, visions barred, sounds more devined than actually heard, and ethereal smells wafting by but impossible to source.  There is room for delicate humor here as well as for compassion; my favorite stories being, probably, Mr. Jones and Kerfol

(warning, however: the dog dies.  Or rather, the dogs die -- several of them in short succession.  But they get their revenge in the end)

(spoiler show)

... though, really, it's difficult for me to pick any clear favorites at all.

 

 


Terry Pratchett: The Colour of Magic

"The discworld offers sights far more impressive than those found in universes built by Creators with less imagination but more mechanical aptitude."

Aaah ... Sir Terry.  What would Halloween Bingo possibly be without you?  Especially this year, what with Wyrd Sisters being the official bingo group read --and having inspired Booklikes's very own Discworld group, which very properly decided to read all the books in the order of publication.  So, another Halloween Bingo with no less than two Pratchett books -- yey!

 

Before I started to explore the Discworld universe, people told me to just dive in anywhere, it didn't matter with which book I started; and that's just what I did.  But after going a-roving here and there, it's been pure joy to come back to the very beginning and see where it all started.  The Colour of Magic is a hilarious romp through 1980s fantasy (and to a lesser extent, science fiction) conventions; Big Bang turtle theory, imagine-dragons, magic sword, hero lore, staffless wizard (Rincewind), naive tourist and all.  The tourist (Twoflower: an inn-sewer-ants agent by trade with a reckless disregard for his own and Rincewind's personal safety) has even brought a precursor of the glorious Hex, as it were; an iconograph ("device for taking pictures quickly") with a demon inside who will sketch a perfect likeness of you in anywhere from 30 seconds upwards.  And then, of course, there is The Luggage ... can there possibly be a more apt application of the "Relics and Curiosities" bingo square?  All the essentials of what makes Discworld -- well -- Discworld are in place here already, even if Pratchett may have further fine-tuned his style in the subsequent books (many of which, as a result, are even funnier).  I was glued to my speakers from the first second of Nigel Planer's hilarious, spot-on narration, and I also have to say that I liked The Colour of Magic quite a bit better than Equal Rights, the first Witches book (and overall, Discworld #3).

"This tourist is a thing that is out of place.  After acceding to his master's wishes Nine Turning Mirrors would, I am quite sure, make his own arrangements with a view to ensuring that one wanderer would not be allowed to return home bringing, perhaps, the disease of dissatifaction.  The Empire likes people to stay where it puts them."

 

 

 

 

 

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