Sad news. I know Katherine Kellgren mostly as the narrator of Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness books, but she narrated lots of other works.
It's closing in on the end of September and our Bingo game is at it's midmark!
For the sake of my own sanity, I've come to a compromise with myself. I would like to write a review for every book I read for bingo... but we know that sometimes that just doesn't happen. So I've settled for a short compilation of all the books I didn't get around to formatting a review for.
Instead, you get some random ramblings... which, if we know me by now, always end up becoming short reviews anyway. But I had this vision of wanting to throw a few books together in one post, make it Halloween Bingo specific, had it all formatted and ready to fill in my opinions for each book I come across that I don't know how to review... and I'm not changing my mind.
Here it is!
I love Amanda Quick books, if only because they follow a specific formula, so you always know what you're going to get out of them. Garden of Lies is the usual Amanda Quick historical mystery and romance, with great characters and fast-paced progression. And I never have any idea how to review these books, because they are simply just as enjoyable as the last Amanda Quick book I read: witty, fun, entertaining... standard.
It's always a good bet I will enjoy them; though also a greater bet that the story line is the same as others by this author. Garden of Lies was no different: Feisty, non-standard, too-modern-for-her-own-good heroine; broody, intensely passionate alpha with some tragic history. They meet for reasons, they fall in lust at first sight, they fight the lust whilst working together to uncover a mystery, sex happens, feelings happen, cue some kind of last minute danger scene... Happily Ever After™.
Though the overall details of the mystery weren't the usual, the main culprits were fairly predictable, as were a lot of events. There might have been entirely too much going on in this book... but that's about it.
Louisa Jane Underwood is a lovely narrator and gave the "reading" experience a nice boost!
I read this book for Halloween Bingo 2017, for the 'Darkest London' square, since the story is set in Victorian London.
This book could also count for:
This is one of the books that, after beginning, I started having doubts whether or not it would fit the Halloween Bingo square I chose it for. While there are several deaths, as well as the MC wandering around trying to investigate the chaos that suddenly befalls her life, Every Secret Thing ended up reading more like an espionage thriller than a murder mystery. I could classify it as suspense, I suppose, and the entire ordeal DOES start with the mention of an old murder, one still deserving justice.
Every Secret Thing wasn't what I'd been expecting when I started listening to the audio, if only because maybe I'd been expecting something a bit darker, or grittier. Instead, this book gave me an almost old-timey type of story, as we follow Kate Murray's investigations, while simultaneously following some snippets of the now deceased Andrew Deacon's espionage lifestyle. It was... charming... the entire experience. At first it felt a bit dragged out, but once you get into the rhythm of it, the flashbacks to Andrew Deacon's story lines aren't so strange, and in fact, kind of intriguing.
I can't say that I one hundred percent enjoyed this book, and the truth is, while I loved Katherine Kellgren's narration, I'm almost wondering if this story wouldn't have been better experienced as a print book.
One thing is for certain though: Every Secret Thing is beautifully atmospheric, and I loved the descriptions of many of Kate's scenic travels, even as we were constantly moving forward at a rather fast paced stride. There's an obligatory bittersweet ending when you come to the end of Andrew Deacon's tale, and even though we kind of already know how his life ended up playing out, it still plucks at the heart.
So the truth is, this was more a book about learning Andrew Deacon's story rather than following Kate Murray's investigations.
I may or may not swap this book out for another better suited book for the 'Murder Most Foul' square. For now, this is just a tentative completion. I'm seriously contemplating moving this book to either of the following squares:
This book could also count for: Terrifying Women
This is my first foray into Victoria Holt, and keeping in mind a few cautions from fellow readers, I read this book with a bit of trepidation. Certainly, the story and the characters--especially our main heroine--is as I'd been warned. But even as I became frustrated with the insta-love, the over-dramatics of our heroine, and the fact that none of the characters are very likable, On the Night of the Seventh Moon ended up being somehow addictively engrossing. Even the frustratingly over-dramatic romance didn't put me off too badly.
For one reason or another, I just couldn't make myself put the book down. It's got a nice mysterious twist to it that makes you want to keep reading to find out what's going on, even while the story was fairly predictable. What happened to Helena? Was it really just a dream, induced by drugs? Was it real? If it were real, then why all the theatrics by her cousins? Why did Maximilian never come back for her? And what of the baby?
It's hard to say what truly kept me hooked on this book--certainly it wasn't the characters, whom I disliked for many reasons, especially Frau Graben's blasé attitude towards the disgusting behavior exhibited by all the nobility. She talks about how it's their given right, when either a count or a duke ravishes a girl and then tosses her aside; that the attempted murder or even the deaths were simply a matter of "state affair"; the deceptions of mock marriages, the lies, the betrayals--all simply part of their country's culture...
I get that it's probably part of the culture, which lends some authenticity to a more historical aspect of life... but I don't have to like it.
As I've already said, I didn't find any of the characters likable, except maybe the boy, Fritz. Or Aunt Matilda--she was amusing, for sure.
It's also kind of irked me that the conclusion wrapped up too easily, in a very tidy, non-confrontational, and unrealistic way. I like my HEA's, but we should at least follow through the world's logic. All the concerns and the possible backlash and the possible war scenario that Maxi and Helena worried about if the two of them were to announce their relationship and marriage didn't even surface. Everything just settled, all was forgiven, Happily Ever After™.
Really, the only amazingly wonderful thing going for this book was the beautiful writing, the imagery, the description, and a lot of the lore and history laid within the book's world. For this alone, I will definitely give Victoria Holt another read when I get the chance.
(Ahem. So much for a short ramble, but I'm not changing this, and I regret nothing...)
This book could also count for:
I felt like Halloween Bingo wouldn't be complete without reading something by Neil Gaiman--last year I read The Graveyard Book and Coraline, both of which were very enjoyable, and one of them ended up being one of my favorites of the year. Initially, I didn't have a book of his chosen for any of my Bingo squares (Yes, yes, I did; I just forgot I did). I had originally only chosen a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman for the 'Genre: Horror' square, which I've been putting off listening to the audio... well, because Horror.
And I was hesitant about starting The Ocean at the End of the Lane... well, because Horror. But I'm glad I decided to give it a go--if only because you get to revel in Gaiman's wonderful, magical descriptions... and because I found a different book other than Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning for this particular bingo square, because I just wasn't feeling Amy Tan at the moment.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a little difficult for me to get into at first; and it is equally difficult for me to figure out how I feel about it. Outside of that magical, whimsical feel you get from reading a particularly good child's fantasy/adventure, I really can't pinpoint exactly what to say about it. I've got a sort of bittersweet, wistful void after completing the book, but to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I know what the book was really about.
Certainly, there were a lot of though provoking lines and dialogue. In the end, it's one of those books you found enjoyment in, and it stays with you for some time, even as you can't quite pinpoint why.
This book could also count towards:
Every Secret Thing
by Susanna Kearsley
Book 1 of Kate Murray
audio book narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Susanna Kearsley and Katherine Kellgren!
This HAS to be a most excellent combination, right? Right?
Also, I didn't realize that Katherine Kellgren was American. I thought she was British since I've only heard her narrations in a British accent. So far, it's quite fascinating listening to her switching back and forth from American English to British English.
As for the book, so far there is only a mention of an old murder mystery from a long time ago by an old man who dies soon after, getting hit by a car. He mentions it to Kate because he believes this murder mystery may be old, but still deserves justice.
I'm hoping that this is enough to count towards the 'Murder Most Foul' square, but if not, then I'm almost hoping that the old man's death was actually a murder, which will be what leads Kate onto this mission to investigate some past truth of that old murder mystery the old man had mentioned to her. Y'know, not that I'm deranged or anything, hoping for a murder in the first five minutes of a book... but I've got squares to complete, right?
|Halloween Bingo 2017|
Boring with incredibly simplistic writing. Yes, I know it's middle grade fiction with children as the target audience, but so was the first Harry Potter and The Hobbit, which both offered immediately engaging characters, fascinating new-but-familiar worlds, and a sly humor that sucked me in immediately. This... didn't.
Audiobook via Audible. I gave it a full 30 minutes before I DNF'd.
This story was as charming as it was frustrating. The narrator does a beautiful job with her lovely, lilting fairytale-like accent but the material has issues even a skilled narrator can’t overcome.
A beautiful young lady named Sunday falls truly, madly, deeply in love with a frog. A talking frog, mind you, but a slimy frog nonetheless. Now don’t get me wrong, I like frogs well enough. We didn’t open our pool this past summer and a frog moved in on the little pond that was created on our pool cover. He stayed the entire summer and he would croak hello at me every time I ventured out back with my dogs. He would then stare at me like he had more to say or perhaps he was secretly wishing me dead for invading his space. One day he left our “pond” without a goodbye and I kind of missed seeing him. But that was as far as things went with me and my frog. Now that I think about it, perhaps I’ve missed my chance at ruling a kingdom. Damn. Anyway, this beauty named Sunday falls in love with her frog so deeply and so truly that she breaks a curse with her love.
You know that shit is for real when it breaks a curse, right?
This is a kinda sorta retelling of The Frog Prince with a whole bunch of other things thrown in to confuse my tired brain. And I’m not kidding about the “whole bunch of other things". Back in ye olden times of reviewing we would call this type of thing a “Kitchen Sink” book because the author throws everything in but the kitchen sink. Here are just a few of the things:
1. The frog is a cursed Prince, of course, but the curse is a muddled and complicated thing that I can’t explain and he really can’t either. Something about Sunday’s deceased brother and two fairy godmothers who have it out for each other.
2. The prince awakens with fuzzy, partial memories so not only am I confused but so is he.
3. One day Sunday is madly in love with her froggy and I’m feeling for her because he suddenly goes missing without a goodbye. Tragedy, no? But then, oh but then, a scrawny prince asks her to dance and she is wooed and declares herself in insta-love with him! She has no idea he was her true love the frog at this point because he’s too chicken to tell her because of #1. Or something. Sheesh, I guess true love for her means if I don’t see ya for a few days I’m on to the next one!
4. Sunday is the 7th daughter of a 7th daughter and do you know what that means? That means that she is magical! It also means that there are hordes of siblings all with complicated but not very well fleshed out stories of their own going on here and I could remember none of them. Her sisters were all named for days of the week. I couldn’t remember who was who and often mixed up Sunday with Saturday. My brain was not up for this.
5. There are tons of pieces of fairy tales sprinkled in here. I enjoyed that at first but after a while it felt a little like overkill.
6. The King declares he is in insta-love with one of Sunday’s sisters (please don’t ask me which one) and will take her as his bride whether she wants him or not. But the prince discovers a dark and terrible secret that sets off another subplot.
7. At some point the prince is running around town with a shoe that will only fit his true love. Wait a minute. What? I thought he already knew who his true love was. They’ve been dancing at balls and he’s only had googly eyes for her. I thought that was truly the only thing he was sure about but perhaps I wasn't really paying attention.
I guess it’s here that my brain ran out of power so none of this may be right. Don’t count on this review for any kind of accuracy.
This story would’ve been adorable if it hadn’t become so overly convoluted that it’s nearly impossible to follow. I never felt any sort of emotional attachment to any of the characters. Terrible things happen to some of them and I felt a whole bunch of nothing because of the breezy way things were handled and because of the way things just keep speeding along. Why bother add in backstory if you’re not going to knock your readers out with the emotional impact? I don’t get it. It’s a real shame because the writing is lyrical in many parts and there was so much promise.
It just didn’t work for me and I have to wonder why I finished the audio at all. I guess my only reason is that I was too lazy to start something else and the writing was very lovely at times. I was also hoping that the confusing bits would eventually be fleshed out and explained. Some of them were but many of them weren’t and now I’m left feeling a little brain hurt.
Not really recommended.