A Bookaholic, Pro-life, Pro-Family, Pro-Oxford Comma, Catholic (with Asperger's) who reads and writes as her obsession. I've been reading over 400 books a year lately. These are my ramblings on some of the books I read. To read about all the books I read and comment on, visit me at LibraryThing or Goodreads.

I've been blogging since 2007 and at this point (July 2015) am trying my hand at turning the theme of this blog towards mystery, thriller and crime, fiction and non-fiction. I have some special interest topics and categories within this broad genre which include (but are not limited to) serial killers, scandi-crime, Victorian history and historicals, history of the criminally insane and asylums, psychopathology, death, funerary practices and burial, corpses, true crime and anything dealing with the real life macabre, or that portrayed in fiction.

I also read a short story a day from various collections, sometimes anthologies othertimes collections of a single author's work. These reviews are also posted here and while they are of mixed genre the mystery, thriller, horror, gothic and macabre often appear within their pages as well.

I also blog about
graphic novels and manga on a separate BLOG.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Murder in the Family: The Dr. King Story by Dan Buchanan

Murder in the Family: The Dr. King Story by Dan Buchanan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 25th 2015 by Dundurn Group
Source: Netgalley

Dr. William Henry King is the only person to have ever been executed in Northumberland County, Ontario. He came to that fame in 1859 for the murder of his wife by poison. It caused quite the sensation in the little village of Brighton at the time with its tales of mistresses, unborn babes, florid love letters and an attempt to flee. Written by a genealogist, the Brighton town historian and a direct family descendant of Dr. King himself this history of the event and court case is a fascinating read. One gets a feel for the author's love of his material right away and though this is a scholarly volume rather than of a true crime nature, Buchanan's natural storyteller's voice shines through. Filled with direct quotes from source materials and woven together with Buchanan's narrative one gets a feel for the time and place. Dr. King is a selfish man and all throughout his days in prison with his mind turned to confession and salvation by regular visits from clergy, he never once thinks of the life he snuffed out, only of his own. He didn't garner any sympathy from me! The back matter is filled with the original documents. The highlights being Alexander Stewart's (his police companion) daily journal, King's 7000 word "confession" manuscript in which he pleads for all to understand how his weakness for women's wiles and the devil made him do it, plus a newspaper piece from a visit the night before hanging by a journalist who grew up with King as a good friend. There's also a good history of Brighton which will be of most interest to those from the area. The book took me a little bit to get going but once I'd got going I found it easy reading, entertaining and a fascinating case I'd never heard of before.

Winemaker Detective Series (#6) Mayhem in Margaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen

Mayhem in Margaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 164 pages
Published May 14th 2015 by Le French Book
first published in French, 2004
Source: Netgalley

Winemaker Detective Series (#6)

Another fine entry in the Benjamin Cooker series! I'm in love with these characters and this sixth book is a real family affair. I started with book 2 so from that point on, this is the first time that Cooker's wife plays a role throughout the entire book, it's the first time the much mentioned but never seen office manager actually has a scene but the best part is when Virgile and Margaux finally meet. Cooker is always so playful about Virgile's stereotypical French lover playboy lifestyle, that is until he meets his daughter! LOL. Loved how those two got along, Anyway, the mystery was great too and kept me reading. In keeping with the family theme, it all starts with Margaux just barely escaping death in a car accident where the driver is hideously burned! Classic cars, fine wine and French dining all add to an atmosphere of class. One of my favourite series to turn to when I'm looking for something cozy and fun!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Your Worst Nightmare

So I just finished watching "Your Worst Nightmare" (2014) on Netflix; a TV show of only 6 episodes from Investigative Discovery.  Anyway, this is the most intense re-enactment crime show I've seen.  I hadn't heard of any of the cases before and the show was terrific!  Loved it.  If you don't get it on Netflix all the episodes are available on youtube.  Here's a link to its imdb page.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 14th 2015 by Crown Publishing

I haven't read "Ready Player One" so can't compare the two. I'm really into the science fiction scene, more from the classics and 80s than now so was keen to read this but like a lot of other readers I just kept thinking that the plot had been done before. It's not an accident, though, and is intentional by the author as we're supposed to feel like we've been here befoe. Personally I kept comparing the plot to Ender's Game (which is referenced in the book) but not as good. The author uses this theme to bring about his twist about 2/3s into the book and at that point is when I became engaged and started turning the pages faster. However, the plot once again became predictable. I enjoyed the story; the characters were fun; I didn't dislike it, but I got kind of bored for sections and it just didn't wow me. An ok book perhaps best suited as a plane or commuter read.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Vampire: The Richard Chase Murders by Kevin M. Sullivan

Vampire: The Richard Chase Murders by Kevin M. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 109 pages
Published December 2nd 2014 by WildBlue Press 
first published 2012

I knew very little about this case before reading the book. I read a lot of true crime but some cases make me sick and this one I knew enough about to make me think I didn't want the depth of a book to tell me more. However, I am very glad to have read it. Mr. Sullivan has done an excellent job with a very sensitive subject matter. Some reviews have called the book graphic, or, specifically, the writing graphic, but that's not exactly the situation and especially why I appreciated the author's tact. Yes, the data is graphic but 1) there are no crime scene photos and 2) the graphic details are simply listed information taken directly from police or court documents. The author hasn't taken any creative license in that area. Sullivan has done an exceptional job of providing direct quotes from various sources and weaving them together with his own sparse narrative that concentrates heavily on the victims, both dead and living. Sullivan also makes his main discussion throughout the text to be the difference between mental insanity and legal insanity. There is never any question that Richard Chase was mentally insane, but the question his trial brought to the surface was that a person can be insane and legally culpable at the same time. An absolutely horrendous case for everyone involved: first and foremost the victims and their families, but also those involved in the investigation, Chase's own family and even Chase himself, that he wasn't locked up in a psychiatric ward, when they first had him and he, himself, knew he was sick, years before he killed anyone. The book is short but thorough; anything longer than this would have been sensationalism. Great read!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pardon My Hearse: A Colorful Portrait of Where the Funeral and Entertainment Industries Met in Hollywood by Allan Abbott & Greg Abbott

Pardon My Hearse: A Colorful Portrait of Where the Funeral and Entertainment Industries Met in Hollywood by Allan Abbott & Greg Abbott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paperback, 250 pages
Published June 15th 2015 by Craven Street Books

My interest in reading this book is because I'm fascinated with the funerary business and practices. The book's claim about Hollywood was only slightly intriguing to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the read but will mention to prospective readers that this book is not a trashy, gossipy book about Hollywood and celebrities; it is a book about the inside workings of a funeral business which happened to be in California and thus crossed paths with the film industry occasionally. The book starts off chronologically telling the story of how Abbot & Hast, two high school graduates in the early fifties got started in the hearse business and eventually became one of the most respected mortuaries in California along with being the owners of the industry leading trade magazine "Mortuary Management". I enjoyed this biographical part the best. Then the book slips into anecdote mode with each chapter being on a theme: cremation, humour in the industry; embarrassing moments, cultural traditions, etc. There are also chapters devoted to some of the momentous Hollywood funerals they were a part of such as Marilyn Monroe and nefarious events they ended up being a small part of such as sicko David Sconce murdered a good friend of theirs and tried to murder (or at least beat up) Hast. A lot of highly interesting information, mostly about the business, which I enjoyed because of my interest in it. Allan tells things in a fairly straightforward manner with a dash of dry humour. His tone doesn't change between telling about the details of embalming, the details of a prank (which there were many) or his inside information on a conspiracy theory. Because of this I sometimes wondered if he was a bit overdramatic himself but on the other hand he tells them mundanely enough without sensationalism. Glad to have read it and am adding it to my collection on the topic.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Ape's Wife and Other Stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan

The Ape's Wife and Other Stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published November 29th 2013 by Subterranean Press

This is my first time reading this author and I will certainly come back for some more. This is a collection with no theme except perhaps the themes weird and bizarre. These stories are dark, noir, strange, weird, odd and cover a cross section of genres such as steampunk, noir mystery, fantasy, science fiction, historical fantasy and paranormal alongside those that defy being classified. I found some of the stories absolutely brilliant while some didn't quite do it for me, but even those where I didn't "get" it or the ending didn't wow me I will say the writing did genuinely entertain me. Kiernan is a talented writer of the macabre and this first dip for me was overall satisfying such that I'll keep my eyes out for another of her anthologies. I'm not sure she could hold me for a whole novel though as the sex scenes are too graphic for my tastes bringing the book to an actual 3.5/5

1. The Steam Dancer, 1896 (2007) - A haunting character study with beautifully atmospheric, lyrical writing. Steampunk set in a late 19th century "wild west" type of town. A woman saved as a nearly dead orphan is fixed-up by the funds of her saviour with steam appendages and an eye, they marry and she, of her own choice, goes to work as a stripper. No plot, simply the self-confident woman reflects upon herself. (4/5)

2. The Maltese Unicorn (2010) - Wow, this one covers a lot of genres in one go. Starting out as an historical noir mystery set in the 1920s it eventually turns into a lesbian paranormal erotica while keeping up a gangster appeal only the *gangsters* are demon brothel madams. Not exactly my type of thing but a good story nonetheless that kept me reading and an ending that is abrupt and surprising. (4/5)

3. One Tree Hill (The World as Cataclysm) (2012) - A scientific journalist is sent to investigate whether there is anything in an old story of a tree on a hill which was hit by lightning a long time ago "out of blue" without a storm. I believe she is a woman, though I never was quite sure, becomes wrapped up in this mystery and narrates the story by first telling us she has no idea whether she is awake or asleep or that it even matters. A haunting story that really makes one think, not entirely sure of its meaning; though there is certainly symbolism with the Tree of Knowledge, the Serpent and the fires of Hell. Another sex scene which I guess I'm going to have to expect from this author's work. Compelling writing! (4/5)

4. The Colliers' Venus, 1898 (2008) - Whoa! I can't even begin to coherently summarize this one. It is mind-blowing! Historical fiction set in a mining town turns paranormal as live creatures are said to be coming from stone. Flashbacks make the story appear to be perhaps steampunk, or are they only dreams? Then comes an entity, a female, dangerous, murderous even but is she a threat? Haunting. (5/5)

5. Galapagos (2009) - Very different from the other stories, this is pure science fiction. An only survivor of some strange incident is writing what happened to her psychiatrist and we gradually learn what happened as the story progresses but don't fully comprehend until the last page. The main character makes an issue of being a lesbian and that may have some meaning to the story I don't get. However, getting the point or not, it's a brilliant story! (5/5)

6, Tall Bodies (2012) - A very short story has a reclusive woman talking about the creatures she can see around her. She's an unreliable narrator we find out as she lets us know she was asked to retire from teaching because of an incident that would be called criminal if she were male. Weird story. (3/5)

7. As Red as Red (2009) - Truly enjoying these stories! This is a narrative where not much actually happens but our narrator makes a discovery. She's an academic doing a thesis on the 18th-century fad of unearthing graves and desecrating the corpses because they were thought to have been vampires. A quiet but brooding horror story. (4/5)

8. Hydraguros (2010) - This is an interesting, well-written story, but I didn't understand it. The perspective switched from reality to dream sequences and I don't know what was real or not nor the meaning of the story. It also included way more sex than I'm comfortable with. (3/5)

9. Slouching Towards the House of Glass Coffins (2011) - Probably my least favourite story at this point. Science fiction set on Mars and written in the vernacular of this future time and place making it an awkward read. Difficult to get into but easy enough to fall into the rhythm eventually. Basically a woman's thoughts as she takes a journey across the inhospitable planet to rescue someone stolen from her town, a regular occupation of this group. The ending is ambiguous and one must decide how they think it ends. Only meh for me (2/5)

10. Tidal Forces (2010) - Weird. The narrator tells the events that occurred when her girlfriend was hit by what appeared to be a large shadow coming from the ocean into their garden. An unsatisfying ending. (3/5)

11. The Sea Troll's Daughter (2010) - A longer story than the others, this one is a hero fantasy that tells the tale of a drunken female warrior who slays a troll for a village. The story starts with the slaying and is more about what happens afterward to three women: the warrior, a barmaid, and the troll's daughter. Well-written but predictable. (3/5)

12. Random Thoughts Before a Fatal Crash (2011) - Very strange story! Very long. I didn't like it at first, but it grew on me as it went along. Written as a series of journal entries this is an artist tormented by demons, personal and literal. He perhaps has had paranormal encounters; it is unclear but possible. His art is literally of demons. We only know of his current piece whose subject is a bird-headed man but his previous work is alluded to also portray demons. Personally he is a loner, comparing himself to the people who live in Paris' subterranean sewers and he hires boy prostitutes for sex. He receives letters from an ex-lover which he finds torturous. The sex was graphic and bothered me. The writing was almost a stream of conscience and didn't seem to be about anything in particular though the journal entries did eventually reach a destination and a final conclusion. Not exactly my type of story but well worth reading for the experience. (3/5)

13. The Ape's Wife (2007) - The titular story and about as long as the previous one sets a good tone for the final story. This is about Anne Darrow and the making of the movie King Kong. Anne Darrow is the girl Kong falls in love it. Anne tells us what happened to her after Kong's death. In a dreamstate we see several possible outcomes for her life; it's not until the end we really understand the final outcome. Not rivetting but yes, engrossing. (4/5)

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