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review 2018-10-08 15:52
A Story Comes to Life
The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths

A teacher of creative writing at a British middle school begins experiencing disturbing events that mirror those from a short story in Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries.  Clare is a respected and well-established instructor and researcher at Talgarth, hired during a restructuring effort after the school had experienced a downturn.  She lives with her teenage daughter, Georgie, and her beloved dog Herbert.  The novel opens as Clare is teaching her adult ed course, using as an example a ghost story that was written by the man whose house they are using for their class.  She is interrupted by her department head with the news that Clare’s close friend and colleague has been found murdered on the grounds.  Griffiths interposes sections from the short story within her narrative, along with alternating points-of-view between three women: Clare, Georgie, and Harbinder, the lead detective assigned to investigate the homicide. When more murders occur, it becomes increasingly apparent that Clare is at the center of the mystery.  Someone close to her must be responsible, leaving her messages and quotes in her personal diary- or could it be Clare herself committing the crimes?  The book contains many unexpected twists and turns, some of which are a bit contrived.  There are also some plot elements that are also somewhat far-fetched and very convenient in retrospect. Some of Griffiths’ references and allusions may not be familiar to audiences outside of Great Britain, but nothing pivotal is lost in terms of the story.  The Stranger Diaries provides a decent mystery, and the character of Harbinder is especially well-drawn and provides a unique perspective.  If this standalone novel were to be developed into a series, her character would be one that would be interesting to follow.


Thanks to Edelweiss and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an Early Review copy of this book.

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review 2018-09-29 01:47
Disappointed in lack of Gothic feel
Bride of a Stranger - Jennifer Blake


“It’s a death gris-gris, and as its counterpart in the hands of the Voodooienne is unwrapped slowly, day by day, it is supposed to cause the cursed one to sicken and die by degrees."


This started off with so much promise but ultimately didn't deliver on delicious Gothic feel. We started off with a sheltered, innocent heroine who is swept away by a dark scarred hero to his on the edge of the bayou plantation. There we meet his at odds with mother, still wearing black for the death of his years long dead uncle, his maybe jealous vengeful cousin, a possible voodoo using maybe ex-mistress, a creepy overseer, a parental but maybe shady housekeeper, and a paralyzed unable to speak father. The red-herrings are all over the place.


The atmosphere was set nicely with descriptions of the bayou, heat, bugs, and general out in the middle of nowhere. There was a voodoo scene with the slaves performing a ritual that was kind of creepy but other than that, there wasn't enough played around with to make you wonder if the heroine was losing her mind or if the voodoo was real. 


The heroine and hero basically spend no time together, which I thought was kind of odd, so you're not reading this for the romance aspect. There wasn't enough creepy, spooky feel for a Gothic either; the mystery has the heroine in bed for most of the book.


Helene, that arrogant, time-ravaged beauty, had been in love with her husband’s brother, so in love that ten years later she could still weep her heart out over a mask of his dead face. Her husband’s brother, a married man with a son, a man who was shot to death in a duel with his nephew, Helene’s one son!


I kind of got the feeling the author was going for a nothing proves more terrifying than family dynamics. I can't really dispute that. 


The mystery could have been better if the heroine would have been able to move around more and the characters given more depth, basically this needed a higher page count as the basic storyline and atmospheric writing was there. The ending gave us a villain info-dump as to why and how that gave it super flop feel and red-herring characters simply deflated like balloons. I can't really recommend this one because the Gothic mystery and the romance was severely lacking, maybe if you like your heroines reclining in bed because of bruised ribs and possible poisonings and/or voodoo curses. 

*I almost forgot to mention the jaguar! Yes, there is a jaguar that lurks around, two or three mentions but it is there, lol.

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review 2018-09-27 00:00
The Little Stranger
The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters The atmospheric prose snared me from the start, but this won’t be for everyone: long, meandering, ambiguous, full of fits and starts as characters move towards and away from one another and seem to briefly escape their inevitable doom.

I’ve got a clear idea of exactly what happened at Hundreds Hall, but the glory - or frustration - of the book is how open to interpretation it is. Its other glory is its evocation of a point in time, and of privilege in decline. This feels like another world, but it’s within living memory.

It’s not often I can be so absorbed in a book whilst so heartily hating its narrator. Sarah Waters’ craft once again leaves me breathless.
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text 2018-09-10 02:07
Reading Update: 20%
Bride of a Stranger - Jennifer Blake


It was a doll, a rag of stuffed cloth dressed in a caricature of a wedding gown and veil, and impaled through the body by a long, sharp splinter of wood.
We have voodoo, a scarred hero, a heroine with a broken rib, and have arrived at the plantation at the edge of the woods and bayou. 
These people who have been given into our care, the slaves, have ancient ways we cannot understand.
Also have an auntie who must be vying for an I.C.E. PR position and,
“Yes, I understand, mam’zelle. You must bow to the wishes of the man you marry, it is expected.
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text 2018-09-09 15:13
Bride of a Stranger - Jennifer Blake


'Against the backdrop of old New Orleans and the antebellum South, Bride of a Stranger spins out a spellbinding tale of romance, suspense, and murder.' 

Claire is too innocent to suspect that her marriage is a cruel farce, believing instead that the dangerous accidents that keep appearing in her path are just that accidents. She wedded Justin Leroux suddenly and silently. He was the tall dark stranger of her girlhood dreams, and had finally come to take her away.


She returns with him to Sans Songe, the Leroux family plantation in Louisiana. A near-fatal accident on the road to the plantation does not bode well for her future there. And indeed, many nasty surprises await her at the plantation itself. Voodoo magic, poisoned food, and a murder mystery force Claire into a stalemate.


She is helpless within the bosom of her frigid and isolating new family, while her husband has yet to come to her bed. He may even be hoping for her destruction, as she is drawn into an ever more tangled web of passion and intrigue.


In a harsh world where love means danger, Claire struggles just to survive.


I am so ridiculously excited to start this, Gothics can so wonderfully go off the rails sometimes.

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