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text 2019-10-16 20:32
Halloween Bingo 2019: Sixteenth Extra Square
The Unquiet Grave - Sharyn McCrumb,Roger Casey,Candace Thaxton


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text 2019-08-07 16:43
Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty -- Question for 08/07 (Day 7): Favorite Halloween Bingo Authors?
Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
White Shell Woman: A Charlie Moon Mystery (Charlie Moon Mysteries) - James D. Doss
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier,Sally Beauman
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson,Bernadette Dunne
Death In A White Tie - Ngaio Marsh
The Blackhouse - Peter May
The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Sharyn McCrumb
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett

Going by the list of my favorite reads from years past, my favorite Halloween authors so far have been (in alphabetical order and not entirely surprisingly):


* Raymond Chandler

* Agatha Christie

* Arthur Conan Doyle

* James D. Doss

* Daphne Du Maurier

* E.T.A. Hoffmann

* Shirley Jackson

* Ngaio Marsh

* Peter May

* Sharyn McCrumb

* Edgar Allan Poe

* Terry Pratchett


All of these feature with anywhere from two to five favorite reads over the course of the past three bingos.


That said, Joy Ellis was a bingo 2018 discovery (perhaps the biggest discovery of last year's bingo, in fact), and I've read several other books by her in the interim already, so I'm definitely going to try and wiggle another one of her mysteries into bingo 2019 as well.  Similarly Fredric Brown's Ed & Am Hunter mysteries, another one of last year's  great discoveries (huge hattip to Tigus!).  And even just generally speaking, I'm definitely planning to make room for some classic mysteries from both sides of the Atlantic. 


On the other hand, it's very much going to depend on the makeup of my card how much horror I'm going to (re)visit, be it classic or otherwise.  So even though I read two novellas by E.T.A. Hoffmann for bingo 2016, it's not a given that I'll return to his oeuvre this year; and the same is true for Poe (and virtually all other horror writers).



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text 2019-08-04 17:25
Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty -- Question for 08/04 (Day 4): Favorites from Halloween Bingos Past?
The Fabulous Clipjoint - Fredric Brown
White Shell Woman: A Charlie Moon Mystery (Charlie Moon Mysteries) - James D. Doss
Their Lost Daughters - Joy Ellis,Richard Armitage
Cronica de una muerte anunciada - Gabriel García Márquez
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson,Bernadette Dunne
The Blackhouse - Peter May
The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Sharyn McCrumb
Men at Arms (Discworld, #15) - Terry Pratchett
The American Boy - Andrew Taylor
The Bride Wore Black - William Irish,Cornell Woolrich

Oh man.  So many! 


Biggest new discoveries:

* Fredric Brown: The Fabulous Clipjoint -- huge thank you to Tigus, who gifted his Ed & Am Hunter omnibus to me.  Where had Brown been all my life until then?

* James D. Doss: Charlie Moon series (via books 6 & 7, White Shell Woman and Grandmother Spider) -- tremendously atmospheric, centers on a Ute policeman (and his best friend, the [white] sheriff of the nearby town, as well as Charlie Moon's aunt, a shaman).

* Joy Ellis: Jackman & Evans series (via book 2, Their Lost Daughters) -- writing so intense it literally took my breath away; set in a suitably wild and lonely corner of Norfolk (and great characters to boot).  Just ... wow!

* Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) -- the deconstruction of an honor killing; an utter and total gut punch in 100 pages.  It had been years since I last read García Márquez, and I am so glad I finally picked this one up.

* Shirley Jackson -- yeah, I know, late to the party and all that, but what can I say ...?

* Peter May -- wonderful writing, really brings the Outer Hebrides (Harris and Lewis Islands) to life; and great crime page turners to boot.

* Sharyn McCrumb: Ballad series ( via books 3 & 5, She Walks These Hills and The Ballad of Frankie Silver) -- these had been sitting on my TBR forever, and I'm so glad I finally got to them.  Man, but that woman can write.

* Terry Pratchett: Night Watch series -- Angua rules!

* Andrew Taylor: The American Boy -- great historical fiction that definitely also made me curious about Taylor's books set in the 17th century (this one is set in the 19th -- the eponymous boy is Edgar Allan Poe).

* Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black -- not so much a discovery of the author but of this novel (that ending!!), and I'm definitely planning to read more books by him.


All favorites by year, including rereads:



Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)

Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie: Halloween Party

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampyre

James D. Doss: White Shell Woman

E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman)

E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi)

Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Shirley Jackson: The Lottery

Henry James: The Turn of the Screw

Peter May: The Blackhouse

Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Tales

Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay

Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman: Good Omens

Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh audio)

Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost



Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey (Anna Massey audio)

Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights (Prunella Scales / Samuel West audio)

Raymond Chandler: Farewell, My Lovely (Elliot Gould audio)

Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead (Hugh Fraser audio)

James D. Doss: Grandmother Spider

C.S. Forester: The African Queen (Michael Kitchen audio)

Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Bernadette Dunne audio)

Ngaio Marsh: A Surfeit of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Ngaio Marsh: Death and the Dancing Footman

Ngaio Marsh: Night at the Vulcan

Ngaio Marsh: Opening Night (Anton Lesser audio)

Ngaio Marsh: Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Peter May: Coffin Road

Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Ovid: Metamorphoses (David Horovitch audio)

Plutarch: Theseus

Edgar Allan Poe: The Purloined Letter

Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Christopher Lee audio)

Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black



Fredric Brown: The Fabulous Clipjoint

Daphne Du Maurier: Rebecca (Anna Massey audio)

Joy Ellis: Their Lost Daughters (Richard Armitage audio)

Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): Lethal White (Robert Glenister audio)

Sharyn McCrumb: The Ballad of Frankie Silver (audio narrated by the author)

Walter Mosley: White Butterfly (Michael Boatman audio)

Terry Pratchett: The Colour of Magic (Nigel Planer audio)

Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters

Mary Roberts Rinehart: Locked Doors (Anne Hancock audio)

Andrew Taylor: The American Boy (Alex Jennings audio)



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text 2018-11-22 18:46
24 Festive Tasks: Door 9 - Thanksgiving, Task 1 (Favorite Books of 2018)
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim
The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Sharyn McCrumb
Their Lost Daughters - Joy Ellis,Richard Armitage
Harry Potter Box Set: The Complete Collection - J.K. Rowling

2018 was an excellent reading year for me, both in terms of quantity and quality -- yet, among the many great books I newly read this year, these stood out in particular:


1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun -- a multiple-perspective inside view of the Biafra conflict that manages to be brutally honest, insightful, saddening and poetical all at the same time.  Review HERE.


2. Elizabeth von Arnim: The Solitary Summer -- in many ways the exact counterpoint to Half of a Yellow Sun: a largely autobiographical ode to reading, and to the peace and quiet of a summer garden ... with more than an occasional sidelight on early 20th century Prussian country life and mores.  Status updates:

3 / 190 pages ~~ 9 / 190 pages ~~ 14 / 190 pages ~~ 22 / 190 pages ~~ 30 / 190 pages ~~ 41 / 190 pages ~~ 46 / 190 pages ~~ 55 / 190 pages ~~ 62 / 190 pages ~~ 65 / 190 pages ~~ 67 / 190 pages ~~ 69 / 190 pages ~~ 83 / 190 pages ~~ 87 / 190 pages ~~ 89 / 190 pages ~~ 93 / 190 pages ~~ 95 / 190 pages ~~ 106 / 190 pages ~~ 110 / 190 pages ~~ 126 / 190 pages ~~ 131 / 190 pages ~~ 133 / 190 pages ~~ 140 / 190 pages ~~ 147 / 190 pages.

(An eminently quotable book, as you can see.)


And joint honors for No. 3:

3.a) Sharyn McCrumb: The Ballad of Frankie Silver -- an examination of the death penalty as administered in the Appalachians as only Sharyn McCrumb could have written it, contrasting the historical case of 18-year-old Frankie Silver (the first white woman to be hanged in the area) with a fictional modern counterpart.  Like Half of a Yellow Sun, equal parts brutal, saddening and lyrical.  Review HERE.


3.b) Joy Ellis: Their Lost Daughters -- modern crime fiction as it ought to be: very (darkly) atmospheric, but without even an ounce of sentimentality; with compelling characters, an intricate plot, a great, not-yet-overexploited setting and a satisfying conclusion.  Review HERE.


Honorable mention goes to my reread of this year -- J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, which I fell in love with all over again ... to the point of splurging on the new hardcover set and the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.


And lest anybody point out that this is, in sum, vastly more than the "top three" books called for in the task: I'm a Libra -- do you know what an effort it was to even narrow it down this much??  Besides, I'm counting the Harry Potter series as one book, so there ...


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review 2018-10-13 02:28
Thoughts: Sick of Shadows
Sick of Shadows - Sharyn McCrumb

Sick of Shadows

by Sharyn McCrumb
Book 1 of Elizabeth MacPherson



When delicate Eileen Chandler is set to marry, her family fears the man is a fortune hunter.  Thank goodness, Eileen's cousin Elizabeth MacPherson comes early for support.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth also has some detecting to do, as a dead body is found, and none of the wedding party is above suspicion....

First of all, the only summary blurb I can find for this book is extremely misleading, in spite of the fact that it's mostly true.  Because as you find out from the beginning of the book, Elizabeth does not actually "come early for support," and actually spends the first two pages of the book making fun of her cousin and her cousin's family in a letter to her brother.

This was a little off-putting since we learn that Eileen Chandler had been admitted into a mental care hospital not long ago in her life.  The fact that Elizabeth spends even an ounce of time poking fun of that was quite tasteless and unnecessary.  I'm not sure if this has to do with the time this book was written in 1984, but I didn't care for it.  It was a bad first impression of the main heroine in this series.

Secondly, Elizabeth doesn't so much do the detecting, as let clues fall into her lap at intervals.  In fact, there is a set of policeman in this book who probably have more book time than Elizabeth, and who actually do the detecting.  This is a bit of a change from what I'm used to in cozy mysteries--at least the cozy mysteries I've read--wherein the police force is either missing, incompetent, or the asshat of a main male love interest.  Instead, the two police detectives are definitely there to investigate and they kind of edge Elizabeth out of the book's limelight.

Then there's a twist in the end, pertaining to the murder investigation, that bugged me a lot because it didn't make sense, really.

Sick of Shadows wasn't a terrible book--it wasn't even a bad book, to be honest, and was actually written quite well.  But the writing was really all that it had going for it.  Well, all except for the part where the dialogue read like British instead of Southern U.S.A.  I'm not sure if the perception was my fault since I'd been listening to an Agatha Christie mystery in audio book, narrated by Hugh Fraser, but aside from Aunt Amanda, I could not formulate a southern drawl for anyone else in the book.  When I tried to "hear" the dialogue of any other character that way, it just slowly morphed into something more British.

I don't think I'd ever had that problem before with books that took place in the U.S. south.

But moving along...

Truth be told, the rest of the story was pretty flat.  The characters were a little hard to grasp, and our main heroine--of whom the series is named for--doesn't really play much of a role in this book, as I've mentioned already.  Instead, Elizabeth spends time doing the stereotypical feminine chores around the house to be helpful, interrogates people around her about future career prospects, and kind of just fades into the background.  All of her cousins are described as eccentric, despite the fact that she describes them as crazy, and yet they come off as entirely too over-the-top, in my opinion.  And you never really get to know them, any of them, well enough to care about their emotions or even their existence.

This is a pretty mediocre start to a cozy mystery series that, according to other reviewers, will pick up in the next book.  So I'm not writing it off immediately, but I'm not going to hit up a store just to get a hold of the next book.  I will wait patiently until my library picks up an e-book copy, or barring that possibility, I might give inter-library loan another go... another time from now.

I DO wish that Elizabeth had had more of a direction and some development to her character.  As it is, she's really just another side character in a book full of side characters.

As I already mentioned, I'll give this series another spin some other time and hope that things are a little better outlined.




Halloween Bingo 2018
(mystery, supernatural, suspense, or horror set in the Southern part of the United States)


Other Possible Squares:  Genre: Suspense; Country House Mystery; Terror in a Small Town; Cozy Mystery; Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-sick-of-shadows.html
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