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 nonfiction. 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, August 28, 2016

Clariel by Garth Nix

Clariel by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 382 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by HarperCollins
Source: Received an egalley via edelweiss

Abhorsen (#4)

Really fantastic! I just wish I hadn't waited so long to read it. I'd forgotten the world of The Old Kingdom but as I read this I began to ache for all the other books. Clariel is a great character, an evil one in the future books, but this goes back to tell her beginning story and I fell in love with her. A victim of her circumstances who did the best she could while unknowingly being lead astray. The book ends way before she is introduced in the series in "Lirael", so Nix has left himself open to write further adventures for that time period. I like to read books in the order they are written not chronologically by time period but this does work well to read it first. It takes place in the past so it doesn't give away anything that hasn't happened yet. Just absolutely adored the book and will be reading the new book soon which goes back to the current timeline of the series.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine May 1977 (Vol. 40, No. 5) by Brett Halliday

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (Vol. 40, No. 5) by Brett Halliday
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Magazine, 128 pages
Published May 1977 by Renown Publications

Mike Shayne: May 1977

Digest-sized magazine printed on newsprint. The first story is always a Mike Shayne "short novel". As with the Shayne, the majority of the stories are what would be called crime; there is very little mystery involved. Throw in a couple of actual mysteries and a thriller "weird" tale and that's what you can expect from these magazines. I've never heard of any of these authors and suspect some may be pen names. But overall the book was a solid 3.5 stars

1. The Verdict Was Murder by Brett Halliday - Not a big fan of Mike Shayne but this one had him in all sorts of action. Drugs and stolen cars, a dirty cop and a widowed cop's wife having trouble with her eldest son going criminal. (3/5)

2. The Dark Side by Bill Pronzini - A silly little horror story. An academic man with few friends (or enemies) starts suddenly receiving parcels in the mail: the first a gun, next a butcher knife and so on until he figures out who is sending them. You can tell this was written in the '70s by the solution. (3/5)

3. The Crimes of Harry Waters by James McKimmey - This is a comedy. Harry is a poet and a poor one at that. Down on his luck, he decides the best thing for him is jail: a bed, 3 square meals, and the comfort to write all day. So he sets off trying to commit crimes but instead each time he does the "victim" a favour by robbing them, vandalising property etc. He ends up fairly wealthy and then he gets "his" in the end. It was predictable but fun to read. (4/5)

4. The Barn Dance by B.M. Hoffman - A husband has a business meeting with another man, so he and his wife travel to stay with them overnight. The partner's wife, Helen, turns out to be a vile, vindictive harridan who must have her own way. Carolyn spends a tourist day with her and ends up hating her.The wife takes the couples square dancing and during the evening all the punch drinkers get sick, with Helen dying. A little beyond believability but good story with a bleak ending that reads well and doesn't feel dated. (4/5)

5. Last Night I Heard Him Crying by Jeanne F. Carron - This is really good. A woman always has the same dream. Her husband, who majored in psych encourages her to explore the dream and come to terms with whatever is bothering her. After being hypnotised and a subsequent visit from her adoptive mother she knows the truth. All the psych talk and dream stuff are very out-moded seventies jargon, but it's still a good story. The only problem is it ends abruptly without really making sense. (4/5)

6. Hit and Run by Edward Van Der Rhoer - This is a good Private Eye case. Lots of wondering and not knowing who the culprit or even what exactly is the crime. A woman hires our PI to find out if her separated husband has written a new will leaving everything to his new girlfriend. There is way more than meets the eye. Good story, but the ending was disappointing as it was sexist even for the time it was written. (3/5)

7. Of Course, I Killed Him by Doris L. Goldberg - This is a good one, though dated. A husband becomes jealous when his homemaker wife starts selling stories and becomes quite well-known, (5/5)

8.Motive, Motive... by Art Crockett - Pretty good straight cop piece. A lady is found stabbed just inside her door. The bellhop finds her.The only other person on that floor noticed is a stooped-over 92-year-old man. Our detective figures it out. (4/5)

9. Kiss Her Goodbye by Herbert Harris - Just a quick little piece about a band player caught cheating by his high society girl. What got me on this was the guy's name is Ricky and he plays in a band at the "Tropicala" and the dame is a redhead. Remind you of anyone? (2/5)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by Pamela Dorman Books
Source: Received a print review copy from Penguin Random House Canada

Quite a rollercoaster ride and well-crafted for a first novel. The Conti's six-month-old daughter is kidnapped from her crib. The whole event starts while at the couple's next door for the evening and now that the police are investigating, the lead detective, Rasbach, can tell that everyone is either lying or not telling the whole truth. The time frame turns into almost a week. Suspicions land everywhere for the first half until the kidnapper is revealed. Now everyone's secrets are coming out and we don't know how it will ultimately end. At barely 300 pages, it is a short book and paced fast enough that I barely put it down until I'd finished. My only quibble is the author uses the phrase, "He/she almost felt sorry for him/her." over and over to the reader's distraction. The person wasn't likeable, deserved no sympathy and the people saying this? it didn't fit their personalities. Otherwise, a sharp little psychological thriller and I'd love to see where the author goes with her next book.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

By Gaslight by Steven Price

By Gaslight by Steven Price
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 752 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by McClelland & Stewart
Source: print review copy from Penguin Random House Canada

This is a very long book and it took me a long time to read but I will say I enjoyed it. It is slow-paced and I didn't have a hard time putting it down but each time I picked it up I easily got lost in the world again. This is historical fiction set during the Victorian era featuring The Pinkertons, William mainly. It's not based on truth nor does it profess to be. It does give one insight into Victorian London, especially the criminal class, and surprisingly the other main theme is the American Civil War. I enjoyed the story and really enjoyed the characters and would read another book by the same author. However, it had a few problems that kept it from being reader friendly. Firstly, there are no quotation marks and while I've got used to that being acceptable in modern literature it does always slow down the reading. Secondly, the plot moves back and forth in space and time while having very long chapters.I like the device of switching back and forth from the past to present but the chapters were so long in this book that the switches were hard to adjust to. Ths doesn't interfere with understanding the plot but does slow down the reading making you feel more like plodding through the book than galloping along with it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ashes of Foreverland by Tony Bertauski

Ashes of Foreverland by Tony Bertauski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 342 pages
Published March 21st 2015 by DeadPixel Publications
Source: Purchased Kindle edition

Foreverland (#3)

A thrilling end to this trilogy. Everything from the first two books unites together in "Ashes" and it's a chilling, exciting ride. Never knowing what is reality or the dreamworld kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I also just loved the ending! Now I have the short prequel to read next, then I'm off to explore Bertauski's other worlds (I mean books) but I'm pretty sure I know which series I'll read next. Tony is a new favourite author! Yeah!

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales by Maria Leach

The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales by Maria Leach
Illus. by Kurt Werth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 18th 2016 by Dover Publications
First published: 1959
Source: egalley via netgalley

I had this book as a kid and loved it. when I saw that Dover had republished it I just *had* to read it again. It is a collection of ghost stories from around the world, though mostly English, Canadian Maritime and African-American in origin. And not just stories (which are usually only a few paragraphs long) but there is poetry, games, songs and even a Newfoundland sea shanty. The tales are written in a story-tellers voice and meant to be told aloud, some even have instructions for the storyteller. A lot of the stories are humorous and this is reflected in Kurt Werth's wonderful comic illustrations. Maria Leach was born in the USA of Nova Scotian parents but then retired to Nova Scotia herself in the fifties when she began to write.

edition I owned as a kid

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

St. Louis Noir edited by Scott Phillips

St. Louis Noir edited by Scott Phillips
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Akashic Books
Source: egalley via edelwiess

Akashic Noir Anthologies

This is the second book I've read in the Akashic Noir series . I enjoyed it far less than "New Orleans Noir 2". I think having some knowledge of the city these books feature (even if is only from reading or a keen interest) will have an effect on the reader's experience with the book. I knew nothing of St. Louis at all. As a Canadian, I didn't even know what state it was in. A lot of the stories here are about drugs, race relations, vigilantism and politics unique to the city. I'm not interested in these topics, nor am I familiar with them much but a great deal of the stories I wouldn't even call noir. The endings of most didn't use a twist or redemption; if the ending isn't dark I've lost the noir feeling. However, there were a couple of stellar stories combined with the okay stories that the major duds didn't drag down my rating. The book averaged out to a solid 3/5 altogether.

1. Abandoned Places by S.L. Coney - Ian's father takes off. Most assume he's dead. The locals think the professionals offed him. But Ian sometimes wonders if his step-mother of two years killed him. So Ian follows Vickie one night and learns it all. The ending could have been better. (3/5)

2. Deserted Cities of the Heart by Paul D. Marks - This is the tragedy and destruction of a man who meets his femme fatale. An IT guy meets a mousy haired hipster ad his happy but mundane life takes a nose-dive into obsession. Nicely depressing. (4/5)

3. Blues for the River City Colleen J. Mcelroy - There are three black teens and they narrowly escape trouble when sneaking into a whites-only movie theatre. It's the 1950s and mostly just talks about racism; not really a plot to be found anywhere. (0/5)

4. Fool's Luck by Lavelle Wilkins-Chinn - This is the first really good story. It starts off giving background on this African-American family and its quirky members. Then settles on Unk, mentally disabled in the war. Now in '68 the government has sent him a letter saying he'll receive a large settlement since his war work had been the cause of his illness. Now he hooks up with Carla, 20 years his junior, a money-grubbing skank. Nobody in the family likes her, but Unk loves her. She sleeps around etc. and in the end gets hers but not after causing unforgivable harm. (5/5)

5. Attrition by Calvin Wilson - Very short. An A&E reporter is a slacker but good at his job. When a business person is hired as the new editor to get people in line he finds he hates her in a way he's never disliked anyone before. He feels she's bad for the A&E section and we end up learning just what it is that makes him tick. A wicked character study more than plot oriented. (3/5)

6. Tracks by Jason Makansi - This one challenges our perceptions. It's not often we meet a violent female sexual predator in literature. Starting off from the predator's pov we see inside her head, the sick fantasies and then the attack. The end is seen from the victim's pov. Can't say I cared for the story too much but it was unique. (3/5)

7. Four St. Louis Poems by Michael Castro - I hardly ever like poetry even if it's maudlin. (0/5)

8. A Paler Shade of Death by Laura Benedict - This is the first author in this collection I've heard of though had not read her before. Also, this story is twice the length of any others so far. It's a pretty creepy story which never lets you know what has really happened. A woman is moving into a duplex, apparently, she's just gotten divorced, has a restraining order against her going near her old house once she gets her last things moved out today. Oh, her son died some time ago, That's when the marriage started to fail. Now there is a boy across the street who is the age her son would have been now. Is this boy real, a ghost, her imagination? Her son drowned; some people think she killed him. Her ex-husband turns up at her door. What follows is either real, imagined, or a nightmare. (4/5)

9. Have You Seen Me? by Jedidiah Ayres - A man who works clearing out buildings set for demolishment finds a wall of missing posters in a homeless tenement. He starts to recognise some of the kids and has urges to call the numbers on the posters to tell the parents, their kid is ok even if they are dead. When his boss calls him to help him out when he drunkenly kills his girlfriend in a car accident. The boss finds he picked the wrong person. This is pure noir, well-written and keeps you on your toes as it surprised me with where it went. The main character is left being ambiguous so we end up not knowing what he actually is/or may be. (5/5)

10. A St. Louis Christmas by Umar Lee - This is about drug dealers. A vigilante Muslim group whose objective is to rid the streets of drugs hear about a money exchange going down, We learn about Bubba the head of the meth operation and we learn about the backgrounds of the two vigilantes, one Muslim, one Jew. Things happen and the vigilantes, win, I think. I'm not up on all the drug talk or vigilante group names so this was pretty boring for me. Not very exciting, and an ending that made no sense to me. It read well though because of good writing. (2/5)

11. The Pillbox by Chris Barsanti - A naive teenager becomes a skinhead for the uniform and music. Moves to the city, makes a couple of friends, Then he gets involved in drug selling working for "Chicago". Everything is ok until he finds out these skinheads he works for are of the neo-nazi/white pride variety and expect him to join them. He tries to get out of the situation and has to resort to violence. This was ok but again, hard for me to relate to the drug and skinhead culture, having never experienced it. (3/5)

12. The Brick Wall by John Lutz - Now this is more like it. My favourite story at this point. This is the second author I've heard of but again hadn't read before. A good little thriller with a twist ending. The owner of a racetrack enters the current race which includes his friend's son. Someone is killed on the track and the owner is blamed, is sorry, but feels no guilt. A plot is set up to get him making for a tense story, but the twist ending is very good. (5/5)

13. Tell Them Your Name is Barbara by L.J. Smith - This one is about the drug world too but much more enjoyable for me as it involves a murder and the solving of the case. All the characters, good and bad, did drugs so their really isn't a hero here, but the case gets solved and at least one person has the possibility of changing their life for the better. Not a very thrilling ending. (3/5)

14. One Little God-Damn Thing by Scott Phillips - The final story is the editor's contribution and my favourite of the collection. A convict has served his full sentence of thirty years for murder during an armed robbery. He's out now and goes to visit his hometown (where he robbed the bank) not to let anyone see him but to check-up and make sure his sister is ok. He starts by following her husband, the man who was his accomplice and who actually did the murders. Our jailbird had taken full responsibility for the crime in exchange his b-i-l would take care of his sister. Looks like he didn't follow through. This is perfect noir and has a good ending. (5/5)