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review 2017-12-13 18:45
The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror by William Meikle
The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror - William Meikle

 

Picture the scene: Victorian London. A smoky club. A group of literary icons. The price to join this group? A story of the supernatural. The scene is now set.

 

Imagine the tales these writers of old would share. Stoker, Dickens, Wells, James, and Stevenson, among others. What price would you pay to sit at that table? Unfortunately, the opportunity to sit there in person is gone, but thanks to William Meikle, you CAN now be privy to these stories and anything else these authors have to say. The entrance fee for you? Quite reasonable!

 

The standout tales for me were:

 

WEE DAVIE MAKES A FRIEND (in the style of) Robert Louis Stevenson. This was the first story and my favorite of the collection. Young Davie is an unwell boy and is often bedridden. The gift of a new toy changes his life.

 

ONCE A JACKASS (in the style of) Mark Twain. A Mississippi steamship captain makes a terrible mistake and unfortunately, all of the passengers and crew pay the price.

 

THE SCRIMSHAW SET (in the style of Henry James) I adored this tale of a haunted (?) chess set. This was my second favorite tale in this collection and I've just read that the author is planning to write more about this set in the future. I can't wait!

 

TO THE MOON AND BEYOND (in the style of Jules Verne) A super cool story about a man, his rocket and a trip to the moon. What was found there and what did he bring back with him? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

BORN OF ETHER (in the style of Helena Blavatsky) A man embarks upon a supernatural journey to freedom.

 

I was not familiar with a few of the authors here, Helena Blavatsky included, but I think the author did a stellar job of emulating their writing styles. These tales were entertaining, well written and I loved the framework within which they were presented.

 

For these reasons, I highly recommend this gem of a collection!

 

You can get your copy here, (your price of admission, rather than a story):

The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror

 

*Thanks to Crystal Lake Publishing and the author for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2017-12-13 17:34
Review: "Fallow" (Whyborne & Griffin, #8) by Jordan L. Hawk
Fallow - Jordan L. Hawk

 

~ 4.5 stars ~

 

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review 2017-12-13 06:11
I gave myself a nice surprise
The Seventh Bride - T. Kingfisher

I'm a total mess when it comes to curating my ereader. I check things out of the library and compulsively download books both profligately and promiscuously. I follow one link after another in search of books that might appeal, and almost never make note of how I ended up with that one thing on the queue. And saying I have a queue is an insult to an organized and methodical list of readerly desire, because I pretty much read at whim (when I'm not reading for work) and my whims are scattered far and wide.

 

So when I picked up The Seventh Bride, I more or less assumed previous me had downloaded some crap that might be fun at bedtime, one of those first person jobs with a Strong Female Protagonist and some sexytimes, the kind where the Strong Female Protagonist spends all her time slut shaming everyone around her and sucking. Hey don't judge! I like getting pissed at my reading so I can get some godamn sleep once in a while. Alas, The Seventh Bride turned out to be well written and interesting. So much for sleeping! Sleeping is for suckers anyway. 

 

Turns out, The Seventh Bride is a retelling of Bluebeard, the folktale probably best known from its telling by Charles Perrault (who also wrote Puss in Boots). In the tale, a young bride marries an older lord of some kind, and is admonished by him never to look in one specific room. (Just fyi, a forbidden thing in a story is called by folklorists a narrative lack, and you can bet your bottom dollar that this lack will be fulfilled in the text.) So too, in Bluebeard: the young wife finds the key, and upon opening the forbidden door, finds the heads of all the previous wives, usually seven in number. Thus, the name of the novel. 

 

The Seventh Bride dispenses with the young wife's naivete. She knows the lord is bad news, but is more or less sold to him because of deeply unfair social architecture. Instead, the novel focuses on the relationships between the wives, some of whom are still living, and some of whom are, well, maybe not dead, but not altogether alive either. Kingfisher does a lovely job of detailing the strange connections between the women. One woman in particular is devoted to her evil husband, and a couple others are so twisted by their circumstance that they are fragile and dangerous in their fragility. This is no rosy sisterhood, but it isn't some bitch-fest either, where our protagonist gets to be Queen B because all women but her are the worst.

 

Nuanced relationships between women in a fucked up system? Who even does that? Kingfisher does; amen sister. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-13 00:18
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 8 - Las Posadas: A Christmas House Party, the Murderous Way
Murder for Christmas - Francis Duncan,Geoffrey Beevers
Murder for Christmas - Francis Duncan

Book themes for Las Posadas: Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends.

 

Christmas house parties were definitely "a thing" with the Golden Age mystery writers -- small wonder since they are, in essence, nothing but a seasonal subspecies of the subgenre that, perhaps, has come to be more synonymous with Golden Age detective fiction than any other subgenre: the country house mystery.  So it's no surprise that Francis Duncan, who published some 20 mystery novels between the 1930s and the early 1950s, but who was quickly and thoroughly forgotten after his books had fallen from favor,* turned to the subject as well, sending his amateur detective (and retired tobacconist) Mordecai Tremaine to the English countryside to attend the Christmas party of wealthy Benedict Grame.  But what begins like a true-blue Dickensian Christmas extravaganza, with Grame doing his level best to mime the likes of Samuel Pickwick and Mr. Fezziwig (Father Christmas / Santa Claus suit, presents on the Christmas tree, and all), in due course inevitably turns into a ghastly crime scene.  The victim is Grame's closest associate; a man whom some, but by far not all of those present seem to have a reason to dislike, but who to Tremaine seemed decidedly more "on the level" than some of the other guests, who had exhibited an unexplicable tension even before, and whose nerves now seem to resemble bow strings a fraction of a second before breaking point.

 

Few of the party's guests actually struck me as likeable -- but while I would have been quite happy to live with this in and of itself (which is, after all, par for the course of the average country house mystery), the solution 

makes clear that Duncan's real purpose here seems to have been to turn Christmas (particularly the Dickensian Christmas clichés) on its (or their) head, and the final reveal in the book's last pages contains a brutal about-face,which

(spoiler show)

considerably marred my enjoyment of the story, even if I had seen parts of it coming and my early suspicion as to the murderer's identity (though not their motive) turned out to be correct.

 

I own a print edition of this book, which I did pull for reference purposes on occasion, but I primarily listened to the deligihtful unabridged audio recording narrated by Geoffrey Beevers, who finds just the right tone for each situation and character.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

* As the Guardian reports, even his publisher no longer knew anything about him when Murder for Christmas was undusted and became a surprise revival hit -- it took for the author's children to see the book at their local Waterstone's to become aware of the publisher's appeal for information and get in touch with them.

 

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review 2017-12-12 22:58
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 5 - Advent: Golden Age Christmas Vignettes
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries - Various Authors,Martin Edwards

 

Book themes for Advent: Read a book with a wreath or with pines or fir trees on the cover.

 

Silent Nights is the first of (at this point) two Christmas mystery short story anthologies in the British Library's "Crime Classics" series, edited by Martin Edwards. The anthology combines stories by well-known and -remembered authors (e.g., Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham) with stories by authors who, even if they may have been household names in their own time -- and many were members of the illustrious Detection Club -- have since been rolled over by the wheels of time; not always deservedly so.

 

The standout story in the collection is doubtlessly Arthur Conan Doyle's The Blue Carbuncle (one of my all-time favorite Sherlock Holmes adventures that shows both ACD and his protagonists Holmes and Watson at their absolute best), but I enjoyed almost all of the stories -- in varying degrees, and not all of them were apt to make me want to go on reading an entire novel by the same author, but several did; and thus, I am glad that I have extended my "Detection Club / Golden Age crime fiction quest" to the likes of J. Jefferson Farjeon, Ethel Lina White, Edmud Crispin, Leo Bruce, and Nicholas Blake (better known as Cecil Day-Lewis, poet laureate and father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis).

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