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review 2018-11-17 13:20
Review: “Winter Oranges” by Marie Sexton
Winter Oranges - Marie Sexton

 

~ 4.5 stars ~

 

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review 2018-11-16 19:40
24 Festive Tasks: Doors 3, 21 and 24 - Books for Melbourne Cup Day, Kwanzaa and Epiphany
Field of Thirteen - Dick Francis
The Guards - Ken Bruen,Gerry O'Brien
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Diana Bishop,Patricia Wentworth


Dick Francis: Field of Thirteen

I've owned this collection of short stories since forever and decided our Melbourne Cup Day book task was the perfect occation so pull it out and finally read it.  Candidly, I'm not sure why Dick Francis didn't write more short stories: both his style of writing and his plot construction lent themselves perfectly to the short form, and I tend to view even some of his novels as short story constructs extended to novel length rather than books conceived as novels in the first place (even though they probably were).  Be that as it may, this is a very enjoyable collection featuring some of Francis's best writing, set in the world of racehorse breeding (and stealing and betting), and against the great race events of Britain and the U.S., from the Grand National, Ascot, Sandown Park, the Marlborough Racing Club Gallops, Cheltenham and Stratford to the Kentucky Derby, plus the odd imaginary racetrack (unfortunately, not also the Melbourne Cup).  Not all of the mysteries involve a death, and not all the deaths that occur are caused intentionally -- word to the wise, however, steeplechase racing is a hazardous sport for humans and horses alike, and Francis makes no bones about this particular fact.

 


Ken Bruen: The Guards
(Narrator: Gerry O'Brien)

Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series has been on my radar ever since I watched the first episode of its TV adapatation, starring Iain Glen.  The Guards provides as gut-punch an opener as is conceivable to the series; we see how and why Taylor is dismissed from the Gardaí Síochána, and though the motif of the loner detective who struggles not only at socializing but also with a range of other things, most notably including full-blown alcoholism, is a veritable staple in today's detective fiction, I can think of few other series where particularly the protagonist's addiction is explored this forthrightly (well, OK, Harry Hole comes to mind).  Taylor is -- literally -- not afraid to pull punches, but he is fiercly loyal to those to whom he feels loyalty is due ... and ready to take his loyalty all the way if necessary.  I've never been to County Galway, where the series is set, and I can't shake the feeling that I'd get even more out of it if I had, but even so, this is one series I'm glad to have finally added to those that I'm now following (and I'm not exactly sad I have a bunch of installments to catch up on first).  Gerry O'Brien's narration, too, did a stellar job in transporting the book's tone and atmosphere.

 

I listened to this for the Kwanzaa square (a book with a black cover). 

 


Patricia Wentworth: The Clock Strikes Twelve
(Narrator: Diana Bishop)

This came with high praise from both Tigus and Moonlight, so I knew I had a lot to look forward to -- and I was certainly not disappointed!  This is a New Year's Eve story and the "family patriarch publicly announces 'I know someone here has betrayed family interests and you've got until midnight to come forward and confess your sins'" classic mystery plot variant ... seriously, someone should have told those Golden Age family patriarchs not to do this sort of thing because it'll invariably get them killed.  Anyway, Wentworth had comfortably settled into her formula by the time she wrote this book, and I agree with Moonlight -- this is now my new favorite entry in the series, too.  Though written strictly to Wentworth's formula (cozy rural setting with bickering family [or village population], lovers to (re)bond, a reasonable but not impenetrable amount of red herrings, a perhaps not entirely unexpected villain, and an investigation by thoroughly compentent police inspectors who are, nevertheless, easily "bested" by Miss Silver), the characters and their various conflicts are finely and credibly drawn and jump off the page as real people ... and Miss Silver, as always, is a sheer delight.  Well done, Maudie!  And Patricia -- and Diana (Bishop), whose reading of the Miss Silver books I've thoroughly come to enjoy.

 

I'm counting this book towards the "Epiphany" square of "24 Festive Tasks" (a book with the word "twelve" in the title).

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review 2018-11-14 19:51
Exorcist Falls by Jonathan Janz, Narrated by Matt Godfrey Review
Exorcist Falls: Includes the novella Exorcist Road - Jonathan Janz,Matt Godfrey

This unabridged audio contains two excellent connected stories of demonic possession. One is a novella that sets the scene for the novel to follow. You’ll want to read/listen to them back to back because they’re both horrifyingly hard to put down.

EXORCIST ROAD sets everything up and is a pretty complete story on its own about a young teen being savaged by a demon and who is suspected of being a murderer. Is it all an act or is a true case of demon possession? Two priests are called in to investigate and perform an exorcism. The younger, inexperienced priest discovers some horrifying secrets about the family and nearly everyone soon becomes a suspect in the Sweet Sixteen Killings.

EXORCIST FALLS continues the story of the young priest who has been shaken but not destroyed by all he has experienced. He is now very haunted and conflicted but I can’t tell you why. The search for the Sweet Sixteen Killer continues and it’s pretty much non-stop action from here on out. There’s a little side of lust and a budding romance brought over from EXORCIST ROAD that I felt completely out of place in both storylines considering the trauma the woman recently experienced. Her character is woefully underdeveloped which probably explains my disbelief of her “romance” storyline. The last thing I’d be looking for after all of that was some love from a new guy. The reader is continually told that she is amazing but I didn’t feel her amazingness was ever shown which is kind of a shame. All of the men are very well developed though and she’s a bit player so it’s a minor nitpick, really. I loved the Jason Crowder character so much. A tormented priest with a horrible backstory and a demon ready to exploit all of his human weaknesses? Yep, you’ve got my attention.

Both stories are pitch black and ghoulish and very graphic. Terrible things are said and terrible deeds are done and I loved it but it may not be for everyone as the scenes are so realistically described you can pretty much picture it all going on very clearly. Maybe a little too clearly in some cases!

I can easily recommend the audiobook narrated by Matt Godfrey who has such a down to earth, calming voice he makes even the evilest of deeds go down a little easier. He does an excellent sinister demon voice too! Don’t miss it if you love this kind of story. 

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review 2018-11-13 19:59
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

This was my first reading of this classic tale of dark secrets written in 1872. 1872?! That fact stuns me after finally giving this a novella read. There is a quite a surprising amount of sexuality for such an ancient tome or did the world get ever more prudish as the years went by? There were lesbian kisses and touches and I think I even detected a wee bit of some non-consensual touchy-feely too! But, man, is it ever flowery in its telling.  The purple prose is oh-so-strong but it really does throw one back in time and allow the atmosphere to drip off the page so I’m not complaining. Just prepare yourself for some unrestrained writing. There are trembling embraces and languid and burning eyes and so much more to behold here.

 

Basically this a story about a sheltered young lady whose father takes in a strange, beautiful young lady named Carmilla  after her mother inexplicably leaves her for three months to take care of some business or another. Carmilla is ailing from what appears to me to be nothing more than a case of the vapors but mom dashes off anyway, saying she cannot take the poor ailing thing along with her. Hmmm, I don’t know about the rest of you but that would make me mighty suspicious!

 

Carmilla is ailing from something a bit more sinister than the vapors and mom’s dump and drop makes a lot of sense when everything is eventually revealed. I won’t reveal the whole thing because it’s short and I think you should read it for yourself. Just know that it was enjoyable and beautifully atmospheric and if you’re a fan of Dracula and all of his offspring and offshoots, you should give this a read.

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text 2018-11-13 06:00
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