Tuesday, October 25, 2016

#RIP XI : 12, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

I was about to start reading Alan Bradley's eighth and latest Flavia de Luce Mystery but then, on a whim, I decided to reread the entire series first. I won't have enough time to read them all before the end of the month as part of the RIP Challenge so I'll just make this a personal project for the fall and winter, using them as comfort reads as the days get shorter and the rain heavier.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was possibly better than I remembered it being. The writing is fantastic, the characters are sufficiently complex, and the peril was quite real. It didn't even matter that I could kind of remember some of the details of the various crimes. I was there mostly for Flavia, the de Luces, and Dogger and just wanted them all to be safe and well. Now that I've started the second book, I'm even happier that I decided to do these rereads!

Do you reread mystery series? Which is your favorite one to revisit?

Picking my poison,

Monday, October 24, 2016

#RIPXI : 11, Murder is Bad Manners

Published as Murder Most Unladylike in the UK, Murder is Bad Manners is the first in the Wells & Wong Mystery series by Robin Stevens. Stevens has one of those author bios that makes you green with envy as you read it --
Robin Stevens was born in California and grew up in Oxford, England, across the road from the house where Alice of Alice in Wonderland lived. Robin has been making up stories all her life. She spent her teenage years at boarding school, reading a lot of murder mysteries and hoping that she'd get the chance to do some detecting herself. (She didn't.) She studied crime fiction in college and then worked in children's publishing. Robin now lives in London with her pet bearded dragon, Watson.
I'm pretty sure that Stevens stole the life that I was meant to have right after that born in California part. But, the great thing is that this life has made her the perfect author to write a middle grade boarding school mystery series! She goes one step further too and sets in the interwar period where she can explore the complexities of life as a girl/woman in the 1930s. And, as if that isn't enough, she also makes one of the main characters (and the voice of the story) a girl from Hong Kong so that she can explore race and outsiderness. The icing on the cake, so to speak, is definitely her inclusion of classic mystery titles throughout the story. If a kid loves this book and ends up picking up Peril at End House or The Man in the Queue, a new little mystery fan-for-life will be made. I adored all of these various aspects of this story and I look forward to continuing in the series.

The only change I might make is from reading the US to the UK versions. The US version of this first book has a couple of Americanizations (cookies and grades instead of biscuits and forms) that actually pulled me out of the story because they seemed so out of place. It was especially strange because there was a glossary at the back of boarding school and period terms. I don't know why these words couldn't have just been added there to keep the authenticity. Many of the titles are also changed for the US versions and they just aren't as fun. I don't even want to know what they're going to do with Jolly Foul Play. Still, these are very small complaints about a great little story!

Dreaming of my imaginary home in Oxford,

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

#RIPXI : 10, Rustication

One of the books that I was specifically saving all year to read during the RIP Challenge was Rustication by Charles Palliser. His books are always dark and moody and tense and perfect for when the days get shorter and the rainy hours outnumber the dry ones. When our power went out on Thursday night as the wind and rain beat down on us, I couldn't resist popping my book-light on this book and diving into the Victorian English marshes.

The story is written as the journal of one Richard Shenstone, seventeen years old and recently expelled, or rusticated, from Cambridge. His father has recently died but Richard doesn't really even know how because his mother and sister won't tell him. They didn't even tell him about the death and he had to find out from a newspaper. But now that he has been sent down from school, he has had to move in with them, into the dilapidated manor that is now his mother's only possession. What happened with his father and why his remaining family is treating him like an imposition is only one of the mysteries in this twisty, opium-and-hormone-tinged tale.

With an incredibly unreliable narrator but also an unreliable everyone else, this is a crazy and sometimes frustrating story. But it comes together in a satisfying way and it's on par with The Unburied, Palliser's other tale set in the fictional town of Thurchester. Neither of these books provoked the visceral reaction that I had to The Quincunx so now I want to go back and read that again to confirm that it really is Palliser's best work. But, even when he's not at his peak, he is still a master of gothic atmosphere and peril.

In the mood for misery,

Sunday, October 16, 2016

#RIPXI : 9, City of Death

Based on Jean's recent review, my enjoyment of Shada, and a need for something funny and light during this more and more depressing time in America, I picked up City of Death by James Goss, based on Douglas Adams' screenplay and David Fisher's original ideas. It's another Doctor Who episode from the Tom Baker era with the addition of some of Adams' original ideas that didn't make it into the episode. It has a super evil alien villain, a dude who is trying to build a device for time travel and, consequently, Earth annihilation. He's also an art collector and a husband and, well, he isn't quite as one-dimensional as you would expect. The story wasn't quite as funny or as light as I thought it would be but it was still a really fun read. The majority of the story takes place in Paris and it was a wonderful escape as well. I wouldn't actually mind hopping a plane there right now. If you would like some peril this season (RIP *or* election) that isn't too horrific or dark, this is a great choice!

Also, in related news, I really miss Douglas Adams. I really miss Terry Pratchett as well. I got an email from Amazon the other day announcing a new release of short stories of his (The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories - out on January 3rd) and I almost started crying because there's a good chance this is the last "new" book. Why are there so many crap people in this world who live nice, long lives when there are outstanding ones who don't? And yes, I'm feeling a bit awful about our world right now. How did you know? Maybe I should just go into hiding for the next couple of weeks. But then I would miss Readathon on Saturday and that would be a real tragedy.

Escaping to the City of Light,

Sunday, October 9, 2016

#RIPXI : 8, Poe: A Life Cut Short

I wanted to be sure and get some non-fiction reading in during this RIP season and what better than Peter Ackroyd's Poe: A Life Cut Short, one of his Brief Lives books. I found this to be a totally sufficient biography for any casual reader. It begins with Poe's death and then goes back through his orphaning, his tumultuous relationship with his "adopted" father, his tendency to move around frequently, and, as expected, his turn to drink throughout his life. Ackroyd is very good at separating out facts from heresay and exaggeration. He doesn't put Poe on a pedestal either, even broaching the subject of Poe's views on slavery, which I haven't really seen covered before in other brief biographies. All in all, this is a great little volume to have around if you are interested in the life and tragic death of Edgar Allan Poe.

Mastering the brief review,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

#RIPXI : 7, The Raven King

Though the book that I read this month (listened to really) for RIP was The Raven King, the final book in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle, I'm going to talk about the series as a whole. There will be vague spoilers so if this series has been sitting on your TBR forever, just go pick it up already!!

Back in April, The Raven King came out and everyone was so excited and singing the praises of Blue Sargent and her friends and I started to wonder if maybe this series that I had determined wasn't for me might be something that I would enjoy after all. In May, I needed an audiobook and The Raven Boys was available and I quickly found myself walking all around my neighborhood, sitting outside in the sun, taking naps where I didn't sleep ... anything to make more listening time. I fell instantly for Blue and the boys from Aglionby Academy. Then there was a ridiculously long wait until July for books two and three and an even more ridiculous wait until the end of September for the final book. Still, because I never really stopped thinking about the characters through all of that time, I feel like I've been living with this story in my head for over four months straight!

Though it had a bit of a Diana Wynne Jones ending (too much, too fast, need to reread), I couldn't have been more wrong about this series and I should have picked it up years ago. Not only did it have many things that I already enjoy (magic, dreams, ghosts), it also had things that I didn't know I needed in my reading life -- prep school, teen boys, and queer romance. I especially loved the unconsummated relationships for some reason. I also found myself drawn to the Gray Man, which I never expected. I wish he had been in the final story just a little bit more. I was glad that some characters redeemed themselves and others were able to prove that they belonged. The revelation about Blue was entirely unexpected and I would really like to read the whole series again to see how/if that fact was foreshadowed. I'm trying to think of anything that I didn't like about the series but nothing comes to mind. Oh wait ... Noah's end was a bit unsatisfying to me. It could have been part of that rushed ending though. I might have missed just what exactly happened. Otherwise, it was pretty much awesome from beginning to end.

So, essential question ... which version of the books should I buy? US? UK?

Reveling after my wrongness,

Sunday, October 2, 2016

#RIPXI : 6, Curioddity

I have no idea exactly what I need to tell you about Curioddity by Paul Jenkins to give you the best overview of this story because there is A LOT going on in this quirky sci-fi mystery. I should obviously tell you about Wil, the subpar, broke private investigator, who lives in an apartment with weird sounds in the pipes, the revolting scent of cooked mushrooms, and a cat-lady landlord. Also, since it's the main point of the plot, I'll need to tell you that he gets a strange elderly visitor to his office who hires him to find a missing item from the Curioddity Museum. I could tell you about how Wil's head frequently comes in contact with sharp or heavy objects because, well, it's something he is certainly aware of and it's also the way he meets the lovely and free-spirited Lucy. I might tell you about Wil's parents, the chess-playing twins, or the man who sells crap items on the tv, but out of context you aren't really going to understand what they're doing there. There's also the Perpetual Penny, the unordered golf club, and the ninja-bots, all things that you obviously don't need to know about before going into the story but, by mentioning them, I am hoping to pique your interest. However, if I only tell you about these things, you still wouldn't have any idea about how fun this story is and that's what I really want to tell you. It is funny and mind-expanding and sweet and perilous as all get out.

The writing is a little shaky at times but this is Jenkins' first novel after a career of writing comics and video games. I'm giving him a pass because he has a great imagination and some obviously stellar influences. I'm going to file this on my shelves along with The Order of Odd-Fish, The Somnambulist, and all of my other favorite quirky, science-fictiony stories.

Un-looking forward to what comes next,

Friday, September 30, 2016

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks : September Edition

This was a weird reading month. Usually I race through RIP reads in September and October but it just didn't happen this month. I got stuck in a ridiculously long audiobook for weeks (The Golem and the Jinni, which is only followable at 1x) until one that I had been waiting FOREVER for was finally available and then I switched over to that (The Raven King, which I'm probably going to finish today because HOLY CRAP). I took a long time with The Book of Speculation because I got annoyed with characters and situations. I also ended up with almost a week of no reading as husband and I reroofed our garden shed. It was a lot of physical labor and I was exhausted every night ... which ties in with the last reason I read less this month. Hubby and I have been binge watching Gilmore Girls (we're in season 5, right after that stupid vow renewal ceremony ... argh!!!!). We watch so late most nights that I tend to only read in bed for about 10 minutes instead of 30+. Still, most of the books that I read this month were ones from my TBR so I should still be good to make my goal of 80 for the year.


Beastly Bones
 - William Ritter (reread)
Ghostly Echoes - William Ritter
The Graveyard Game - Kage Baker
The Mouse and the Motorcycle - Beverly Cleary (reread)
The Book of Speculation - Erika Swyler
Curioddity - Paul Jenkins

Monthly Total: 6
Yearly Total: 59

In October, I'm looking forward to reading more RIP books and a few review copies I have around. I'll be writing up guest posts for Tif's #ReadSherlock event (four stories, four shows/movies, all October long!) and Lory's Witch Week (October 31-November 6). I'll be reading Sherlock and Something Wicked This Way Comes for those events too! It's also Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon on October 22. The reader sign-up post is live so head over and get your name on the list!

Also, as if October wasn't busy enough, I'm thinking of setting up a group read/reread of The Night Circus, possibly on Readathon day. Let me know below if you would be interested in joining and when!

Putting on a sweater and grabbing a warm drink,