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review 2019-09-21 10:56
Sincerity and Other Scary Tales - David Blixt

Well, this was disappointing. 

It's not just disappointing by comparison with the previous book I read, which was fab, but I am entirely put off by the fact that this was called a short story collection.


This contained five stories, that is true, but one was the preface to a novel, two were only a couple of pages long, one was so obscure that the author himself felt the need to explain it, and most of them I could not see the point in.

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review 2019-09-20 11:48
Kill The Farm Boy (Tales of Pell, #1)
Kill the Farm Boy - Luke Daniels,Delilah Dawson,Kevin Hearne

I don't even know how to start talking about this book.  It's insane.


I first heard about it from Irresponsible Reader and I've been enjoying Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles for a few years.  And it's subtitle sold me:


Once A Pun A Time...


So I was expecting a funny read and I was expecting the puns, but I wasn't at all expecting the sheer enormity of innuendo and entendres: double, triple - possibly quadruple, but I suspect some of it went over my head as I struggled now to drown in the Monty Python-esque silliness of it all.  Examples include a chapter involving the band of unlikely heroes traveling through the elven Morning Wood, with more innuendo, puns and entendres than you can possibly imagine, and later in the book a trip to a pub called Balzac's, where the chef is the famous "wrinkled Balzac", and the house speciality is candied nuts.


It's quite frequently over-the-top, but it's still hilarious and sometimes sweet and a little bit shocking in unexpected ways.  My favorite character was Gustave, the talking goat, by a large margin, though the rest of the band of unlikely adventurers all have their own charms too.  


It's incredibly well-written and it's obvious the authors had a good time writing it, but Luke Daniels did an exceptional job narrating this book.  This is one of those rare instances where I think the reader would lose something by reading a physical copy.  Daniels owns this book and the characters in it, reading it like a dramatisation.  I recommend the audio unreservedly for anyone looking for a goofy good time.


I started the book in August, but it was due back at the library before I was half finished, and I didn't get it back until after Halloween Bingo started, so it qualifies. As there were scenes involving necro-bees and acid leeches, I'm going to use this for the Creepy Crawly square.

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review 2019-09-20 11:12
Murder in the Reading Room (Book Retreat Mystery, #4)
Murder in the Reading Room - Ellery Adams

I can't believe I finished this.  It got a star for the plot's premise, half a star for being relatively well edited and a half star as a bonus because I didn't DNF it.


Where to start...


I liked the series premise, about a secret library that holds the rarest, secret or unknown manuscripts from around the world, but as the series progresses, the author falls into the common trap of writing herself into corners from which she can't escape without abusing a reader's ability to suspend disbelief.  This book has the manager of the Storyton Inn haring off to the Biltmore Estate to rescue her lover from a dungeon.  Where he's being held by a renegade faction of the Templars.  Along side her:


long-thought dead (9 years) husband,

(spoiler show)


who's being held in the dungeon next door.  Give. me. a. break.  I hate this trope so much, I almost DNF'd it on the spot. 


Then I had to endure constant philosophical musings about love, the power of love, the power of family, more crap about love.  And the villain was supposed to be super evil, but I just didn't feel it.  I mean, he was definitely without redeeming qualities, but evil?  Eh.


The ending ... was eye-rolling.  I'm sorry, but it involved blow darts, and the most insanely insincere scene where the MC confronts her ignorance about cultural insensitivity that I've ever read.  Honestly, it's so badly done I'm tempted to quote it, but to do that I'd have to read it again.


The author would have gotten a tiny bonus for not taking that spoiler above to the most nauseating conclusion possible, or stringing it painfully over several books, but by the time it was resolved I'd lost the will to give any bonus points.


What kept me reading this farce was the idea of Hemingway's lost suitcase being hidden in the Inn and the search through letters and correspondence for clues to find it.  And that 10% of the book was kind of good, though the eventual conclusion was a bit deflating as it was so predictable.


I think it's safe to say I'm done with this series, but I read it for the Black Cat square in Halloween Bingo, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

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review 2019-09-17 03:10
Envious Casca
Envious Casca - Georgette Heyer

That half star is because my expectations, based on previous Heyer mysteries, were completely blown away.


Envious Casca is both a text-book Country House Mystery and Locked Room Mystery, and it's far and away the best Heyer mystery I've read so far.  It's a slow burn, certainly; almost half the book goes by before anyone dies, but Heyer placates her audience - at least this one - with the acerbic humour and no-holds-barred verbal warfare that takes place amongst the family members, written brilliantly by Heyer.  These people are so vile to each other the only wonder is that the blades didn't come out sooner; at one point, tea was served and I thought to myself "I wouldn't drink that if I were you. Any of you."


It feels like it would be too easy to give away important plot points here, so I'll just say the murderer wasn't who I thought it would be (although I was close), some of the characters were a little too vile to be believed, and I'd have preferred at least one more paragraph, preferably a page, at the end.  There's a small romance, because it's Heyer, but I'm not sure it isn't launched and HEA'd all on the same page, so it's really not more than a small also-ran.  That it would end the way it did felt inevitable, but there was never any actual romancing.


The more I type, the closer I get to spoilers, so just read it if you like anything you've ever read by Heyer (she's hit and miss in both romance and mystery) and you're in the mood for a slow read with great, biting dialogue.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.


I read this for Halloween Bingo's Country House Mystery square.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-09-12 03:46
Final Thoughts: The Clockmaker's Daughter
The Clockmaker’s Daughter - Kate Morton

This was for my Ghost Story bingo square.


There's a lot a liked about this book. Its central theme is time, and how stories persist or change over time. In that sense, I liked that it covered a lot of ground (from the 1860s to the present) and that the ending was left so open: things don't end neatly wrapped up. We're left with new discoveries, but what the characters will do with those remains to be seen.


However, the sprawling nature of the novel also works against it. I felt throughout that it could have used a bit of editing to tighten up some sections (I'm thinking especially of Ada's childhood in India: it was beautifully written, but quite a detour). There were so many characters and side stories (even though they were all related to each other) that I would often forget who certain people were, or why they were important. It diluted the central story - that of Birdie's tragic life and death - when it could have been so much more powerful. I also wasn't crazy about the framing story (Elodie's); I just didn't find her that interesting, and her final discovery of the buried box felt very deus ex machina.


And speaking of Birdie, our resident ghost, I never understood how she knew so much about modern technology. Her visitors are few and far between over the years, and yet she's well acquainted with the ins and outs of mobile phones and emails.


But the story did keep me hooked, so I can definitely recommend it.

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