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.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Winemaker Detective Mysteries #5 Cognac Conspiracies by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen

Cognac Conspiracies by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 140 pages
Published February 18th 2015 by Le French Book (NY)
first published in French, 2004)

Winemaker Detective Mysteries (#5)

I'm a fan of this French cozy series that always keeps a background theme of fine wine and cigars, with a dash of French cuisine and vintage cars. This time the mystery isn't quite so cozy and I think this is my favourite in the Benjamin Cooker series so far! A devilish mystery with some dirty little secrets which, admittedly, weren't hard for this reader to guess but were wickedly fun to see popping up in Cooker's dignified world. Cooker's character has been pretty much defined by this fifth entry into the series. The books don't need to be read in any certain order for the sake of the plot as they are episodic but to appreciate Cooker and his assistant Nathan as human beings then reading them in published order will enlighten one as to their characters and why they behave in certain ways. For example, much is made of Benjamin's Catholicity in previous books, is only briefly mentioned in this one, but is most pivotal in his behaviour when an old flame is thrust upon him. Loved this entry and looking forward to the next book and enjoying a Cognac aperitif later on this evening.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Canada (Book Challenge) Day!

July 1st and we all know what that means!

Yes! It's the start of the new Canada Book Challenge!  Look at this year's logo! Isn't that the coolest thing ever?!! Way to go John!

The Challenge as always is to read 13 books between now and next Canada Day, well June 30, 2016.  As last year, I'm going to set my own personal challenge as I find reading 13 books gets done too soon.  My personal challenge this year is to read 13 mystery books by Canadian (ex-pat. included) authors.  Like always, I'll include all books I read for the challenge but won't consider the challenge completed until I've read the 13 mysteries.  I have a few authors I need to catch up on such as Alan Bradley & Linwood Barclay and then there are some famous Canadian mystery writers who I have embarrassingly never even read such as Louise Penny & Joy Fielding.  Then there are the numerous ones I've only read one book by such as Maureen Jennings and Gail Bowen.

My list will be updated here in real time:

1. Animal Man (New 52) Vol. 1: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire

Monday, June 22, 2015

Joe Valachi, The First Mafioso to Sing to the Feds Mob Rats - Volume 1 by Joe Bruno

Joe Valachi, The First Mafioso to Sing to the Feds Mob Rats - Volume 1 by Joe Bruno

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 119 pages
Published October 13th 2014 by Knickerbocker Publishing

Mob Rats (#1)

This is my second of Joe Bruno's books and will certainly not be my last! It's been ages since I've read about the mafia, but it was an interest of mine at one time. I'd never heard of Joe Valachi and found this book riveting. Active from the twenties to early 60s when he was finally caught, Joe "Cargo" Valachi was a mobster in New York during the heydays of the big names. This is a short book, so not very in-depth, but gave me a good look at this man's life and insight into the underworld from a member's own point of view. Bruno relies on several sources but quotes Valachi himself extensively from his own memoirs, written while in prison. Joe Valachi, while certainly not admirable nor his actions condonable, does come across as a likable, genuine person throughout the book. Someone you may have liked, despite what he did for a living. I've got a yen on now for this time period 1920-1950s and may be sticking my nose in some books pertaining to the mob scene.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Best South Sea Stories edited by A. Grove Day

Best South Sea Stories edited by A. Grove Day

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mass Market Paperback, 313 pages
Published 1985 by Mutual Pub Co
(first published Australia, June 1964)

An incredible collection of stories set in the South Seas written by men who lived in and loved the area with a passion. The stories are, for the most part, written in the late 1800s/early 1900s by some of literature's all-time great writers. and contain first-hand knowledge whether presented in memoir or fictional manner. The only flaw with the collection is that the collections theme is so narrowed in topic that many of the plots are identical and this does become monotonous when taken as a whole. I read one story a day but did take a breather halfway through after the RLS novella to come back fresh with my mojo back in order.

A. Grove Day is a well-known name in Australia, and I used to have several school history texts of the nation written by him. Hr's an excellent editor and this collection is a fine example of his skill. Each story begins with a biographical introduction relative to the story being presented and sets the reader with choice background information before reading.

1. Red by W. Somerset Maugham (1921) - A man goes to an island to escape the authorities and falls in love with a native woman. A few years later he disappears, his fate guessed at. Sometime later a dying man comes to the island for the air and feels rejuvenated; he also falls in love with a native woman. A sea captain comes ashore and this last man, now 25-years later, tells the captain the two love stories. On the surface, this is a story of love but is really passion mistaken for love and the true story is about the end of the passion and the falling out of that mistaken "love". Maugham is a beautiful writer. A cruel story, one that sees through the facade of mistaken feelings one claims are intimate "love". (4/5)

2. The Fourth Man by John Russell (1917) - Four men on a raft with a twist. Three of them are escaped convicts, the fourth is a native hired to take them to an awaiting ship. Ultimately, this is a tale of class more than of race. The three convicts are white and assume they are of the superior race while they ignore the inferior, almost less than human dark-skinned native island. But the convicts themselves are class conscious, one is a garotter, a lowborn common man from the docks, the other two gentlemen, one superior in worth and a doctor. Yet they were all (the white men) sentenced to hard labour in the mines of a penal colony on a south sea island. Brilliant story of inborn class perceptions of the time, the true measure of each man's intelligence and a fitting twist ending. (5/5)

3. The Forgotten One by James Norman Hall (1926) - A dismal, atmospheric story. A man makes a return journey four years later to visit a man he briefly met who was on his way to living on a deserted island. This man tells us of his visit in retrospect. It's really up to the reader to make sense of the events and the actions. Without saying too much, my take is that being in solitude wasn't all he had imagined and he's suffered from it: spiritually (his loneliness), physically (his ironic ailment) and by the end we can presume mentally (his act of madness). Brilliant writing but the story didn't quite capture me. (4/5)

4. The Seed of McCoy by Jack London (1911) - A descendant of one of the mutineers from "The Bounty" goes aboard a ship whose hold is on fire and pilots it through the dangerous island waters until they come to an island with a beach where they can bed the ship and hope to save the hull. Quite a long story where not much happens except the sea voyage and various dangers such as tornadoes, storms, and currents sending them off course. But London is a master writer and I love his stories. This is more a story of the man, McCoy, and how his gentle nature calms and soothes the rough and rowdy crew and officers. (4/5)

5. Mutiny by James A. Michener (1947) - This story is taken from "Tales of the South Pacific" which I haven't read, but I have read plenty of Michener's novels. Set during the war, an airfield must be built on an island currently inhabited by the descendants of "The Bounty" mutineers but to do so a majestic column of pine trees must be destroyed. Naturally, the island natives are set against this and the story proceeds from there. Lovely written story but I ended up disappointed with the syrupy ending. (4/5)

6. The Black and the White by Eugene Burdick (1961) - A young Frenchman leaves for Tahiti to escape the hypocritic, pretentious, evil life of the Western world. Now 30 years later we learn what he had to give up for this paradise island and the reason for the secret life he now leads to remain here. An unsettling story even though I don't agree with the philosophical conclusions. (5/5)

7. The Ghost of Alexander Perks, A.B. by Robert Dean Fitsbie (1931) - Obviously a ghost story. Ghosts are good luck for a ship but are also omens because, like rats, they leave a doomed ship. This is the story of the old ship "Pirara", how it got its ghost and its demise. Just ok. (3/5)

8. The Beach of Falesa by Robert Lois Stevenson (1892) - I'd say this is the centrepiece of this collection. More of a novella than short story coming in at five chapters. An easy read with an adventurous plot and exotic location. However the story, written while Stevenson lived on an Island, married to a Polynesian woman, two years before his death, concentrates more on the realistic relations between the races at this time, colonialism, mixed-marriage, "half-caste" children and the truth of this kind of society versus the romanticism Stevenson felt had been written about the island people up to this point. (5/5)

9. A Son of Empire by Lloyd Osbourne (1921) - A tidbit of information I did not know; this author is Stevenson's son-in-law. This tale is more of a dark farce than a serious yarn. It's short, but the writing style is incredibly hard to read. Some sentence structure is either very bad or very old-fashioned amounting to long complicated incomplete thoughts. I didn't enjoy reading it nor did I find it had much of a plot other than a man arriving on a small island to announce he has been sent by the queen to annex it for Britain; of course there is a twist. However, I didn't like this at all. (0/5)

10. A Prodigal in Tahiti by Charles Warren Stoddard (1873) - Beautifully written and lyrical. A lovely atmospheric tale to read. However, like other stories in this collection, the plot consists of a white man discussing his time in the South Pacific. He comes with grand ideas, realizes he is one of many colonials with the same ambitions and ends up working drudgery for room and board only. He later leaves 'civilization' and wanders around the native land finding he fits in better with the natives and feels superior to the white man but this only, eventually leads to his continued poverty and return back to the States. Not much of anything actually happens but a realistic look at Victorian life in Tahiti. (4/5)

11. Assignment with an Octopus by Sir Arthur Grimble (1952) - This is a short one and by all accounts appears to be a true account of the author's introduction to octopus 'fishing' with the islanders, native-style. (4/5)

12. A Stinking Ghost by Sir Arthur Grimble (1957) - A humorous ghost story. (3/5)

13. The Whale in the Cave by Frank T. Bullen (1899) - A bit different from the others, this is an excerpt from the author's book which, while not a short story, presents as one. As the last two stories, this is from the author's true account of his voyages. Supposedly an adventure, I found the death of the whale rather a sad event. Lovely descriptive writing, even though dull in regards to any plot. (3/5)

14. At a Kava-Drinking by Louis Becke (1894) - Whoa. This is more than just a pacific tale. A taught, suspenseful tale of a man sitting 'round a fire drinking kava telling a story which soon becomes clear is his own. Very engaging, quick-paced with a powerful ending. (5/5)

15. Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow by Herman Melville (1854) - Exceptionally beautifully written morose and melancholy tale narrated by a ship's crewman of the rescue of a widow abandoned on a deserted isle. Having been deserted by the ship that promised to return for them, then losing her companions, husband, and brother, to the sea, the woman tells her lonely determined faith fueled six months of survival. Decidedly depressing but exquisitely written. (5/5)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dark Screams: Volume Three edited by Brian James Freeman

Dark Screams: Volume Three edited by Brian James Freeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 96 pages
Published May 12th 2015 by Hydra

Dark Screams (3)

I love this little horror anthology series from Hydra and this is my favourite volume to date. Just one reprint, and it is only a few years old. The rest are new for this collection. All the authors presented are accomplished writers in their fields, no newbies here. I had only read two authors previously: Straub and Ketchum, of course. But my top favourite stories came from the two female authors included.

1. The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero: Introduction by Torless Magnussen, Ph.D. by Peter Straub (2013) - This is a fictional collection of weird creepy stories written by a boy from age 5 to almost-9 when he was found mysteriously dead in a field. The stories are prefaced by a follower of Prothero's work giving some insight into what has been thought to be mystical, and genius literature. It's all pretty creepy and several ideas went through my mind as to what may have been behind all this. (4/5)

2. Group of Thirty by Jack Ketchum (2015) - Vey good! I thought I knew where this was going from the start but was only half right, well really only in a general way. Ketchum took it into a different direction and the tension builds until the end where the main character, an anti-hero in his own way, gives a big "gotcha". Kind of funny too. (4/5)

3. Nancy by Darynda Jones (2015) - Longer than the previous two. This is a ghost story and a mystery. Can't say anything else. Excellent! (5/5)

4. I Love You, Charlie Pearson by Jacquelyn Frank (2015) - Whoa! Creepy, freaky! Teenage, weirdo stalker guy is obsessed with the gorgeous cheerleader and devotes himself to knowing her and planning for the day he brings her home. When he finally does ... wow ... things take a horrific twist. (5/5)

5. The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away by Brian Hodge (2015) - I found this one totally fascinating because of the themes. A young city-dwelling couple has a strange woman perhaps five years older than they move in upstairs. She is obsessed with the-end-of-the-world, introduces the husband to Parkour and urban exploring, which the wife eventually joins in also. Just an interesting, well-written story till near the end when it turns way-out weird and creepy! (4/5)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Identity Crisis: The Murder, the Mystery, and the Missing DNA by Jefferson Bass

Identity Crisis: The Murder, the Mystery, and the Missing DNA by Jefferson Bass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

ebook, 112 pages
Published April 28th 2015 by Witness Impulse

A novella, or the nonfiction equivalent, in which Bill Bass ,mostly, of the Jefferson Bass duo, describes a case the two worked on in the early 2000s in which a family asked to have the remains of a long buried relative identified with DNA to quell a constant family rumour that it may not actually be her buried in the family plot. In this case, the author tells how what he assumed would be a simple DNA profile turned into a puzzling two-year search to positively identify the remains. Not exactly a riveting case, but one that shows DNA is not the be all and end all it is often portrayed to be on TV. In this case, the DNA came back with more questions than they had started with and Bass details the various technology used to identify the remains as well as the repeated attempts at different methods of DNA sampling.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg - Spies or Scapegoats? You Make the Call! by Joe Bruno

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg - Spies or Scapegoats? You Make the Call!
by Joe Bruno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 80 pages
Published August 31st 2014 by Knickerbocker Publishing Company

Short but good book giving the entire story of the Rosenbergs. The author starts with the foreknowledge of what we know today and with an attitude that Julius is a "creep" so we know how things will turn out and are aware of the author's opinion from the get go. I haven't studied this case but am aware of it and the change in public opinion over the years and the knowledge that has come to light in more recent years. While the author tells the story giving us knowledge that wasn't known publicly at the time he does leave some surprises for when then were revealed many years later. Although public opinion often swayed towards claiming this husband & wife had been martyred by the anti-red cause, the author's take and the general opinion today is that Julius was justly accused and sentenced. On the other hand, while the author may be a bit heavy-handed against Ethel, popular opinion is generally still open to debate on the extent, if any, of her involvement but it's generally agreed, with the author also being sympathetic to, her punishment being unjustly harsh. I learned quite a bit of information about more recent events that I hadn't known and found the book easy to read. I would have preferred if the author had released details chronologically as they unfolded though to make the story more interesting rather than journalistic.