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Kaethe

Kaethe

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Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart for Terrifying Women

Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart

Woo hoo. I love getting lost in a doorstopper, but it takes a skilled writer to squeeze the right emotions out in a shorter work. Roberts Rinehart got mad skills. And a truly modern feel. Hard to believe this was first published more than 100 years ago.

 

We get a quick and dirty set up: Miss Adams is a trained nurse who investgates for the cops from the inside. She packs her gun and a suitcase and is on the scene in a big family home trying to find out what the family is hiding, what happened to the nanny, and what freaked out the last nurse so badly. 

 

I am delighted to say I never predicted that solution. Happily there are plenty of stories available in the public domain. Collect them all.

Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland 

Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland

I think I have already read this one, but I don't have a record of that, so leave it at maybe. Of course, this one didn't get logged last week when read, because they get knocked out in one quick sitting, then immediately on to the next thing. Volume 2 is out now, so a refresher was necessary. Like Paper Girls and Lumberjanes, strange things are afoot and it could be anything. It is so gratifying to read about girls having adventures just like they are real people. Kudos for Westerfeld who puts female and minority characters front and center, without making it the point. If I can get #2, I'm going to use it for my New Release.

 

Puvilland has different styles and palettes that set off the sheer strangeness of what Poughkeepsie has become. Approaching it from the woods in particular puts me in mind of footage from Chernobyl twenty years later.

 

Library copy 

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield  for Deadlands

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

[10/05/18  Edited to add: I managed to upload a bad picture of my bingo card.]

 

This is such a good book I want to be a better writer to do it justice in my review. Waiting longer for inspiration is just not on though: my memory will let the details blur and the experience fade. 

 

Setterfield is a writer who's greatest flaw is not being prolific. Actually, that may be the only flaw. She has once again crafted a work of fiction that has a convincing Victorian setting with a modern sensibility directing the reader's attention to characters and incidents that a true Victorian wouldn't, but logic suggests that they are all valid. She manages to tell quite a few stories and examples of the craft of storytelling within a greater story of amazing events. While many writers succeed at making a house a character within their fiction, Setterfield has made part of the Thames a character, nor was she stinting in permitting this character moods. Okay, on the winter solstice the usual group are sitting around drinking in the Swan, an inn distinguished by the storytelling within. The door opens, a man, his face a bloody mess staggers in clutching a large doll in his hands.

 

Over the course of one year we watch the repercussions of that moment: how it affects characters major and minor and also, this is the tricksy bit, we watch how those events become stories. Yes, many stories dependent on point of view, and skill, stories becoming more stories as that one event is observed (or not), in light of new events, and then, still later developments. The metaphor is well served: there is an attempt to trace the roots of the story back to the beginning, which you can't do any more than you can trace a river back, fractally there are always more branches feeding in.

 

There is so much: there are clever half-starved orphans, prosperous farmers, the family of innkeepers, the town midwife, the minister, servants and animals, wealthy distillery owners, thieves and blackguards, despite the extensive cast one never feels that the author is coasting by with stereotypes or with every character having the same voice. There is plot and pathos enough for Dickens, and despite the 21st century sensibility there's none of that business of giving a character clearly modern ideas.

 

There is, of course, a supernatural element as well as a few mysteries, dreadful crimes and moments of grace. Everything is here, told my a humanist in the Pratchett vein, but without the jokes and footnotes. It is a lovely, suspenseful book that I couldn't bear to put down in order to post updates. Read it soon: give it to yourself or someone you really like as a gift for one of the several solstice-adjacent holidays. Just the thing for long winter nights by the fire.

 

ARC from publisher

 

Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart

I can resist anything, except temptation. 

Reading progress update: I've read 282 out of 432 pages.

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

The wonderful thing about Setterfield is that even as she's getting all meta about storytelling she is still telling a great story, and telling it well: no risk of getting her characters muddled, despite there being so many of them. Historical fiction about a real Thames-side inn.

Halloween Bingo 2018: my story so far

Updates by phone being so challenging, I now have a big catch-up job to do. Busman's Holiday had been my book for 13 all along. But when it was done I didn't want to read anything else, so I went right on to In the Teeth of the Evidence, #14. Probably I have read that before, not that I have a specific memory, but all the stories were familiar, including one which qualifies the book for the Supernatural square. What it didn't have was any Wimsey and Vane stories. So I got a copy of Striding Folly. The title story has a long dream sequence, which I dislike on principle : if a writer is going to be so blatant, why not just go ahead and say the point straight out? (Dream sequences whose only point is to be weird and disjointed get an unenthusiastic pass). So Striding Folly was disapointing.

 

At which point I stopped reading and instead binge-watched The Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries, Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night. That seems to have cured the little reading slump allowing me to finish Striding Folly for a Wildcard on Modern Noir which does have a couple of Wimsey/Vane stories. Now I can stop worrying about what I want to read for that square.

 

I'm slightly amazed at how many physical books I have standing by, unread. Not at all close to a Bingo, but I'm probably going to be the first person to have all the squares called that aren't on the card before getting a bingo.

The Girl Before: A Novel - J.P. Delaney for some square TBA

The Girl Before: A Novel - J.P. Delaney

I spent half a hour down a rabbit hole just because I couldn't remember if this was a library copy and Amazon deleted my review, which was witty and succinct and insightful but not spoilery, and not at all like the review of  a very tired person, which I am.

 

Good book, lots of twists in the spaghetti and many of them unexpected.

 

Good for genre: suspense, romantic suspense, darkest London, amateur sleuth.

 

Library copy

Hunter's Green - Phyllis A. Whitney for Country House Mystery

Hunter's Green - Phyllis A. Whitney

Would also work for Genre: Suspense, Terrifying Women, Murder Most Foul, Amateur Sleuth, and Romantic Suspense.

 

It's fun reading these old thrillers that are so slow, with hardly any murder, no kids or really old people, and servents neither seen nor heard. They're charmingly predictable. And although this was published in 68 and makes much of the brash young mods, they feel So Old Fashioned. There are phones, but only to ring up the doctor or the police to haul away the perpetrator. There are cars for running up to Town, and low speed pursuit, and explosive crashes. What I love most is that everyone stops at regular intervals to sit down and eat a hot meal. I suppose this is what people are talking about when they reminisce about a slower time. 

 

I did have one great disappointment though: a device was quite deliberately introduced in the first act, but played no subsequent part in the plot. It wasn't even a red herring: it was just never mentioned again.

 

The only disturbing part of the story isn't meant to be:

 

My apologies for my failed spoiler tag. 

 

Library copy 

Fear the Drowning Deep

Jaws - Peter Benchley

The shark was cool, but according to my husband all of the research it relied on was outdated: turns out sharks have a regular route around the sees, and regular appearances at specific locales (basically they show up after the baby seals do).

 

But the characters, the Peyton Place drama of it all: mostly it was just a group of guys holding a pissing contest over the only woman in town worth having.

 

You go shark!

 

Library copy

Hunter's Green for Country House Mystery

Hunter's Green - Phyllis A. Whitney

After the manly pissing contest that is Jaws, I wanted something different.

Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 320 pages.

Jaws - Peter Benchley

For the Drowning Deep

 

It's been more than forty years since I read this and boy is it different reading this as an adult versus as a kid.

 

The inflation. The casual sexism. The really weird history of the serial rapist.

 

I am liking the time he takes to explain the cast of characters, and the whole economy of the Hamptons. And I love the newspaper editor.

Mistress of Mellyn - Victoria Holt for Genre: Suspense

Mistress of Mellyn - Victoria Holt

Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it was the disappointment of the last book, maybe the potato finally got digested, whatever it was I quite enjoyed this. Unlike the heroine I have a bit of familiarity with gothic conventions, so there weren't a lot of surprises, not that I expected any. But now I would like to do some kind of survey of the genre, noting popular locales (Cornwall and Scotland, of course, but where else), characteristics of the leads, relationship with the servents, what happened to the first wife, etc. No doubt the time of the writing has more influence on these attributes than the supposed setting year.

 

Fun times with old houses and dark doubts.

 

Library copy 

 

Would also work for Romantic Suspense, Terrifying Women, Gothic, Country House Mystery, and Amateur Sleuth.

Topper - Thorne Smith 

Topper; Classic American Humor Fiction - Thorne Smith

It is, by this time, a cliche: boring business dude meets a manic pixie dreamgirl who shakes up his days, keeps him up all night, teaches him about love, and then passes into the great beyond. What makes this book still feel marvelously fresh is that the MPDG isn't all that wacky, she's married, and she's already dead at the start of the book. Other than drinking mind-bending Prohibition-era quantities of booze, the adventures themselves are amazingly simple. Topper and his ghost companions enjoy several good meals, but otherwise they spend the summer mostly sleeping rough, swimming in rivers and the Atlantic, canoeing, reading [book:Ulysses|338798] aloud, and just digging the beauty of nature. There is singing and dancing, even a little brawling, but it's so charmingly bucolic. After all, if Topper gets up to 25 MPH in his car it feels fast and dangerous, and it no doubt was since roads were iffy and there were still a lot of farmers with horses about.<br/><br/>I was worried about Topper's wife. Needlessly. Smith is a writer who can produce the banter of Coward, and also spend a lot of time telling us how Topper feels about his cat. I knew it was going to have a happy ending, but I didn't know the ending would be so perfect. The overall effect is charming, but never twee. Highly recommended.

 

 

Mistress of Mellyn - Victoria Holt for Genre: Suspense

Mistress of Mellyn - Victoria Holt

I feel the need to read something different, and this needs to go back to the library soonish.

Fairest - Gail Carson Levine for A Grimm Tale

Fairest - Gail Carson Levine

Meh. There were some nice changes from the standard Snow White, and I  quite liked that she wasn't beautiful at all, but downright ugly. But it will never be my favorite. Weirdly, whereas the musical aspect of Seraphina really engaged me, the constant singing just kind of annoyed me, and that is huge.

 

It's written for a middle grade audience, there's no sex, or drugs, or actual  murder, and the resolution is elegant. But it felt watered-down to me, way more so than the Disney version. It's first person, so there's no worry for the reader, but it goes beyond that: there is reference to revolution but I didn't believe it. The stakes felt really minor. Or maybe I'm bothered that the heroine only twice showed any initiative. She never made decisions she just did whatever she was told. At least Snow White comes up with the housekeeper idea, even if it is a stereotype.

 

Or it could just be that I've been tired and cranky all day despite the lovely rain.

 

Library copy 

Fairest - Gail Carson Levine for A Grimm Tale

Fairest - Gail Carson Levine

  Starting tonight. I may have read this within the last twenty years, but I don't have it recorded, so maybe not. Maybe I planned to read it aloud and didn't get to it. I haven't read any Carson Levine in a while, but I remember her fairy tale retellings fondly.