Friday, July 31, 2015

Investigation Discovery Unsolved Murders, Mysteries & Crimes August/September 2015 Magazine

Investigation Discovery Unsolved Murders, Mysteries & Crimes August/September 2015 Magazine, Consultant: Joe Kenda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Magazine, 100 pages
Publication: August 2015 by Media Lap Publishing

Great magazine on the newsstands right now (July-Sept 2015) dealing with what Investigation Discovery does best. Nothing deep here. Just a two-page spread on each case. Mostly murders, some serial with a few bank robberies and jewel heists thrown in for good measure. Pretty much all take place in the US but the heists range from Japan to the Bahamas. I read this topic a lot and was pleasantly surprised at the number of lesser-known cases that were included in here and even some I hadn't heard of. There is also a strength in curious missing persons cases which are still current and this is a good vehicle for putting their pictures back out there with contact numbers. Some of these cases are quite bizarre and yes, all the ones you'd expect to find are in here too, but overall a very good cross mix selection for all readers whether your well-read on the topic or not. It's nice to have a big glossy like this for a change rather than scrolling through the images on Pinterest. LOL

Winemaker Detective Mystery #1: Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published 2012 by Le French Book
first published in French 2004
Source: Overdrive e-Library

Winemaker Detective Mystery (1)

I've read every book in this series save the first, so with the 7th book coming out next week thought I'd take care of this unfinished business. I truly adored meeting all the characters in this introductory novel. Benjamin and Virgil actually meet each other too just as Virgil is hired for the job! They've both come a long way as characters since this one. The mystery was all wine business related and not that excited, I mean there isn't even a murder! but watching Benjamin and Virgil putting their heads together over a puzzle for the first time was extremely fun. I tucked into this book and didn't come up for air until everything was solved and I raised my glass of Pinot Noir in celebration. {cheers}

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ann Rule, true crime master, dies


Ann Rule, Northwest true crime master, dead at 83 -

Andreo's Race by Pam Withers

Andreo's Race by Pam Withers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Tundra Books
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers

A fast-paced action-packed read that had me turning the pages as fast as I could. I enjoyed Withers book "First Descent" but this one is even better. Full of adventure, serious topics such as adoption and baby trafficking are mixed with extreme sports in an adventure race across Bolivia including canoeing, mountain biking, and caving. A former whitewater rafter and outdoor enthusiast, along with being the mother of boys, it's quite apparent the author writes what she knows best and that comes through in her writing which is full of detail and obvious research. The book begins with the two 16yo main characters biking in the Rockies at night and the action, tension and drama never stops for a moment until the exciting climax. Mixed in there is also the story of a family who learns a lesson in how to be closer as a family by showing love and trust with each other plus we see the dark side of baby trafficking from all sides. A riveting read and one of those books that could grab the attention of a reluctant reader who is into extreme sports.

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)

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Tom Gray #2: Gray Resurrection by Alan McDermott

Gray Resurrection by Alan McDermott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 180 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Smashwords

Tom Gray (#2)

Completely satisfying!! Loved it. Even better than the first book! I liked the first book but found it rather over-the-top. This time though, Tom Gray's political thriller action is just the right amount of sensational without being overdramatic. A rip-roaring adventure in the jungle of the Philippines has an extremist group kidnapping hostages and all the action you can pack into one book. I was glued to the pages from start to finish. Luckily I picked up books 3 and 4 on sale this month (July, 2015) and can't wait to see how Tom gets on in the next one. Great adrenaline rush!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Julius Caesar: Retold in Modern-day English by Timothy Knapman

Julius Caesar: Retold in Modern-day English by Timothy Knapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 48 pages
Published July 1st 2015 by QEB Publishing

Tales from Shakespeare

Though meant for younger audiences this faithful retelling of the Shakespeare is suitable for all ages and I can see it being used by students studying the play and even adults wanting to finally get to know their Shakespeare without reading the actual plays. I'm familiar with Julius Caesar, having studied it in high school, read the original and seen the play at Stratford, but this was many years ago so I'm not able to compare this version to the primary source except to say I found nothing lacking from what I remembered of the tale. It is written in a highly entertaining storyteller's voice and has several sketches per chapter. While written in modern English there are some short quotes from Shakespeare in the margins and being fond of Shakespeare retellings and adaptations I find this a quality choice. I'll be reading a couple more from the series to see if it is consistent.

Hamlet: Retold in Modern-day English by Timothy Knapman

Hamlet: Retold in Modern-day English by Timothy Knapman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 48 pages
Published May 1st 2015 by QEB Publishing

Tales from Shakespeare

Hamlet is my favourite Shakespeare and I read pretty much every retelling I find. I really enjoyed this one, the author is faithful to the story including all the plot points even to minor details. I couldn't think of anything he missed. The author also lets the reader know from the start that Hamlet is playing at being mad to give the story a finite plot and not leave us with the questioning and debate the original play does. I agree with this opinion so am satisfied with the portrayal. So much happens in Hamlet that being a faithful adaptation of only 50 pages this is an action-packed story with little character development except for Hamlet himself. Aimed at younger readers, the book is suitable for all ages from middle school to those studying the novel to adults who would like to get to know Shakespeare but are too daunted to read the original plays. I like this series and will be reading a few more!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fear of Our Father: The True Story of Abuse, Murder, and Family Ties by Lisa Bonnice & Stacey M. Kananen

Fear of Our Father: The True Story of Abuse, Murder, and Family Ties by Lisa Bonnice & Stacey M. Kananen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Berkley

For the most part a riveting read of a sick and twisted abusive father who gets his and then the stunning trial of the daughter accused of murdering the mother. Stacey Kananen presents her own story of her life from her abuse at the hands of her father and the daily nightmare living in a household held hostage by his violence to the trial where she was accused by her own brother of co-plotting and committing the murder of her mother. Separating the book into thirds it was the middle portion that I got bogged down in, as the authors used a clumsy method of non-linear storytelling jumping around from telling Stacey's life story from childhood to the unravelling of the police case in the disappearance of her mother and her brother's confession to murdering their father. This read as if Stacey were just telling things as they came to here no matter what order. The first and, especially, the last part of the trial were engrossing reading and Stacey is a remarkable person who suffered and survived an horrific life.

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.

Posts here.

My list will be updated here in real time:

1. Animal Man (New 52) Vol. 1: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire
2. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (New 52) Vol. 1: War of the Monsters by Jeff Lemire
3. Murder in the Family: The Dr. King Story by Dan Buchanan  (1 MYS)
4. Andreo's Race by Pam Withers
5. March Grand Prix: The Fast and the Furriest by Kean Soo
6. Teen Titans Go! Thunder and Lightning Strike! by J. Torres
7. Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe
8. Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay (2 MYS)
9. The Night Children by Sarah Tsiang
10. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley (3 MYS)
11. I.O.U. Dead: A Keno Kalder Mystery by Michelle Wan (4 MYS)
12. The Country Boy Killer: The True Story of Cody Legebokoff, Canada's Teenage Serial Killer by J.T. Hunter (5 MYS)
13. Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay (6 MYS)

I've read all 13 books but I still have to complete my personal challenge of 13 mysteries. I'm at 6. so not official yet.

14. Where I Belong by Alan Doyle
15. Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine & Jessica Dee Humphreys
16. The Killer Handyman: William Patrick Fyfe by C.L. Swinney (7 MYS)
17. About That Night by Norah McClintock (8 MYS)
18. Calls Across the Pacific by Zoë S. Roy
19. Not Quite the Classics by Colin Mochrie
20. The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong (9 MYS)
21. City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong (10 MYS)
22. Miracleville by Monique Polak
23. The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence
24. Mean Girls Club by Ryan Heshka
25. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
26. Tales of Court and Castle by Joan Bodger
27. Millhouse by Natale Ghent
28. Russell Williams: The True Crime Case of the Canadian Air Force Colonel Serial Killer by Tyler Crane (11 MYS)
29. Far From True by Linwood Barclay (12 MYS)
30. Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling by Tony Cliff
31. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (13 MYS)

Officially finished! 13 mysteries, personal challenge: MAR. 27, 2016

32. The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
33. Clean Sweep! Frank Zamboni's Ice Machine by Monica Kulling
34. Fluffy Strikes Back by Ashley Spires
35. A Beauty by Connie Gault
36. We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
37. The Tomorrow City by Monica Hughes
38. Trial by Fire by Norah McClintock
39. The Double Hook by Sheila Watson