Tuesday, October 30, 2018

#RIPXIII Update 3

I have a HUGE stack of RIP books here to mention to you before the end of the month and the perilous reading season. Grab a cup of tea or cocoa because I'm going to need your attention for a while!

I really wish I had the energy to write a full post about The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin because this was an amazing book. First, it's told in a completely unique way. One point of view is told through images, mental pictures sent from the titular elfin character back to his government. The other point of view is told in words, by a goblin archivist named Werfel, who is hosting Brangwain on his historic state visit after years of animosity. The difference between the two accounts is noticeable and is affected by each character's background and the history they were taught. It's an amazing exposure for middle grade students to the concept of "history being written by the victors". But it's also a darkly funny and infinitely perilous story about how to mend relationships that need not remain fractured. This is such an incredibly timely book and I hope it finds its way into lots of elementary and middle school libraries.

And yay! I finally started Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series with Rivers of London. It was strange to read a modern story because I don't do that very often but once I got used to that, I had a lot of fun with this world and Grant himself. I really do love "magic in the real world" stories! I'll definitely be continuing on with the series and already have the second book from the UK. (They are in trade paperbacks there and only mass market here, which I don't like to read because you have to bend them more.)

I did second reads as listens for The Prisoner of Heaven and The Angel's Game. Rereading this series before diving into Carlos Ruiz Zafón's final book in the group was an inspired idea. Seeing all of the small details fit together and the picture of mid-century Barcelona grow has been a joy. I also liked reading these two in the opposite order from which they were published. I understand why they came out in the order they did originally, with an unreliable narration followed by a more factual account, but I also liked reading them the other way, with a sad history being brushed over by a more palatable, if not-so-accurate account.

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand was a quick trip into a creepy manor house with a British folk band who are recounting the experience years later. I liked the interview format but also felt that it was a little impersonal at times. Still, for a quick little book, it packed a punch and was a perfect RIP tale.

Then, the reason for the season, Hocus Pocus & the All-New Sequel! Written by A.W. Jantha, the first two hundred pages are a faithful retelling of the movie with a couple of minor changes to reflect more modern sensibilities about what are acceptable ways to talk to girls/women. I really liked that update. And then the second three hundred pages is a story about Max and Allison's daughter, Poppy -- her friendships, love life, and accidental summoning of the Sanderson sisters, among other witches. It was a good, solid teenage witch story with some good reveals (lesbians, good witches, the return of Binx) but I didn't fall entirely in love with it. I am also not the target audience so I'm sure that other readers will form a much greater attachment to the tale.

Now I'm caught up to Readathon time, when I got through a bunch of quick little books. The first was Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick, published in 1971 but experiencing a new life after being made into the film Mary and the Witch's Flower by Studio Ponoc, an animation studio formed by former Studio Ghibli staff members. I love that film and this book is just as good! I'm glad I picked it up.

Next was the second Murderbot novella, Artificial Condition by Martha Wells. I didn't think the story could improve on what happened in the first volume but this absolutely did. I even got teary at a line near the end about hugs. I have the third and fourth (and final) books on my library hold list but I'm going to be buying myself copies of this set at some point. The writing is amazing, the ideas are fresh, and the bite-sized portions are perfect.

I was a bit late to the Kate Milford party so I missed out on some of her earlier Kickstarter projects, like this novella -- The Kairos Mechanism, which happens soon after the events of The Boneshaker and reunites us with Natalie Minks in the odd town of Arcane. Luckily, Milford found a few extra copies around and put them up for sale on her website. (There are three copies left for $55 each, signed by the author and the papercut artist, and including a papercut "pin" in each one.) The depth of her stories always staggers me and this one was no different. I adore the worlds she has created!

My last full Readathon read was this awesome Manga Classics version of The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe. As most of you know, Poe is one of my things and the five stories covered here are done justice with this format. The illustrations and text formatting on The Raven are stellar and I even enjoyed rereading The Masque of the Red Death, which is not one of my favorite Poe stories. This would be a great place for someone to start who is new to Poe.

While I was getting through many of these books, I was listening to David Wong's (actually Jason Pargin's) John Dies at the End, which is a weird title because John dies way before that. But this was a LONG and increasingly crazy horror/humor/sci-fi tale that, for all of its crass jokes, was smart and fun and I really loved listening to it. I'm not sure if I'll go on with the series but I'll definitely watch the movie version sometime soon.

(Almost done!) Next I dove into the first of six books I bought in Penzler Press' new American Mystery Classics series, The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes. (The second set of six will be out in the spring of 2019.) This was SUCH a good story! It was dark and frightening and surprisingly violent for a mystery from 1940. I liked the New York setting and will definitely be searching out more of Hughes' books now, especially the three that became films.

And finally, I need to mention my relisten of Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger. That is such an incredible book! If you haven't gotten to it for the first time yet, you really should. It's the most subtle of ghost stories. The true horror, as we can attest to, usually lies is the real world.

I'm finishing out the month by going slowly (as much as I can when I'm so excited about it!) through The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I'm about 200 pages through the 800 page tome and it is amazing. And remember, he has written these books so that you can read them in any order. This one might be a bit intimidating to pick up first because of its size but the story moves along well and is already ridiculously intense.

Well, this is the end of my RIP reading season, friends. Twenty-five books finished, many new favorites found. I got to read the new Jasper Fforde before it comes out in the US and am buried in the latest Carlos Ruiz Zafón -- two of my all-time favorite authors. I got to meet Murderbot! I traveled through time and space and braved murderers, ghosts, monsters, and more. What fun!

Tell me ... did you have a favorite RIP read this year? Also, if you are in the US, have you voted or are you planning to?

Escaping the peril unscathed,

Friday, October 5, 2018

#RIPXIII Update 2

Life is busy and stressful and crazy but I've managed to read 13 books already this Readers Imbibing Peril season! It's been the best escape, especially since I've had at least one physical and one audiobook going at a time so I get these stories piped into my brain no matter where I am. Here are a few brief mentions of what I've gotten through recently.

I forget where I saw The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin mentioned but I quickly decided that it was totally the type of book I was in the mood for. Of course, it is only out in the UK. So ... I placed an order from Foyles, got my book, and dove into a heart-wrenching, neo-Victorian sensational tale. It's reminiscent of stories by Sarah Waters and Michael Cox. My only complaint was that there was one supernatural moment that didn't need to be in the story. Otherwise, it was a dark, tense, and well-executed visit to Victorian London.

I know where I heard about Martha Wells' first Murderbot novella, All Systems Red -- EVERYWHERE. And, yes, everyone was right. This was good. I sped through it and look forward to grabbing the remaining three parts of the story. (The fourth just came out or is coming out soon.)

Another book that I thought would be right up my alley was The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. This is an extremely unique mystery that takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride of violence and betrayal and surprise. I started wavering on whether I was enjoying it or not and then it came together in a way that was incredibly satisfying. I definitely want to read this one again one day now that I know how everything turns out.

My most bittersweet listen was The Empty Grave, the fifth and final Lockwood and Co. book. The sad thing is that I didn't realize it was the last in the series until about the 80 percent mark. When things started going a certain way, I headed over to Google only to figure out that I was almost done with some of the best fun I have had in a while! I know this is a middle grade series but it's honestly strong enough to be an all-ages series. If you like ghost hunting and friendships and found families, give this series a try.

I also listened to Jackaby to start my series reread and to lead up to finally reading the last book. It was so good. I love that series so much. I don't want it to be over.

So what am I reading now? I just started Rivers of London, first in the Peter Grant series about a police detective who can see the supernatural side of London. And I've started listening to The Prisoner of Heaven, another reread -- and the audiobook is stellar.

Guess what's happening soon?! It's Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon! Sign-ups are live so head over and get your name on the list.

I hope everyone is finding the right books/friends/whatever you need right now to escape all of the madness in the world. Books are honestly saving my sanity. I love you, books!!

Jumping back in,

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Classics Challenge 9: The Leavenworth Case

I was happy to realize that one of my Back to the Classics Challenge choices--the one for "A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction"--would work nicely for the RIP Challenge as well -- The Leavenworth Case (1878) by Anna Katharine Green. This is another one that I've had sitting around for years. I think I even saw somewhere that someone thought it was boring and so I was worried about giving it a try. Now I'm just bummed that I put it off so long.

This was THE first serial detective story, even before Sherlock. And, BONUS!, it was written by an American woman. The funny thing is that the serial detective is totally just in the background. The story is told by a young lawyer who becomes overwhelmed by the personalities of the two adopted daughters of a wealthy man who is murdered. He decides to investigate on his own, under the loose guidance of the detective Grice. What follows is a string of misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and surprises.

I quite enjoyed this story! It honestly didn't seem like it was from 1878. It was well-paced, smart, and had some nicely developed personalities. I certainly wouldn't mind finding more books from Green. (She wrote something like 40 others!) This was just her first novel and had the honor of being praised by none other than Wilkie Collins so I'm sure there are some other hidden gems out there.

Interpreting clues,

Monday, September 17, 2018


I feel really bad because I haven't been updating you on my RIP reads but every time I get out my computer to blog, I just can't find the will to write. So, instead, I'm going to share a few photos of my reading that I've taken over the past couple of weeks. I'm on my sixth RIP read right now and it has been a mostly amazing season so far!

This lovely quote was from The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh. Now, you would think that this was a line that then demanded that the woman show everyone how awesome she actually was but no, this book went on to make the woman less independent. The "incredible" crime ended up being kind of lame, and the clues laid for the mystery were all misleading but not in a good, smart way, just in a badly-written kind of way. Super annoying from Jane Austen's great grand-niece or whatever.

Then I read Jasper Fforde's latest, Early Riser, which is now one of my favorite books of the year. More on it later, I promise. But if you love him, you will likely love this. If you haven't gotten on with his style of writing before ... well, this is definitely more of the same.

I needed something amazing to follow Fforde so I grabbed one of the new books I ordered this year, Dark Tales, a collection of Shirley Jackson's short stories. I liked almost all of the stories and really loved about of third of them. Reading one after the other did start revealing her formulas a bit though so I think next time I read her stories I will spread them out a bit more. These I read all in one day!

I also just finished listening to the fourth Lockwood and Co. book, The Creeping Shadow (Jonathan Stroud). I like this series more with each book because the story gets darker and more convoluted. I've already got a hold in on book five and I hope it comes through before the end of the RIP season.

And finally, I'm reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón for the third time. It's just as amazing as the other times I read it. I love CRZ's writing and Lucia Graves' translation skills are A+. I'm looking forward to the second half of the story!

This week I'll pick up All Systems Red from the library and start the audiobook of Jackaby for a reread. Those should both be fun!

I am absolutely loving my perilous, escapist reading right now but I'm guessing my blogging mojo will be missing in action until after the election in November. You can expect more of these quick updates from me until then.

How is your RIP reading going?

Back to Barcelona,

Saturday, September 1, 2018

#RIPXIII Book 1: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

I did it! I finished my first RIP XIII read just in time to return it to the library and not incur any overdue charges. This is a perilous situation that many of us have been in, right?!

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman is the second in Theodora Goss' series that started with The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter. I read that one in July and it surprised and delighted me and this one was just as good, if not a bit better as it delved more into feelings and morality. I've seen a complaint of the first book that it was sometimes not quite period accurate in the language and I noticed that in this book as well. All I can say is that I had already suspended my disbelief enough to accept that beast women, poisonous girls, patchwork monster ladies, and vampiric dames existed so letting a few conversational anachronisms pass was not so hard. I really got into the story and the 700+ pages flew by. The characters are all interesting and the eastern European settings will certainly trigger a bit of wanderlust!

This book picks up right where the first one left off and it promises a third volume picking up where this one ends (if enough of us buy this one!) so it is definitely for series readers. And, as it ties in to so many classic monster and mystery tales, it is also a perfect perilous read for those who enjoy some humor, romance, and friendship in their adventures.

With blood and pastries,

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Me and HDT

At the beginning of the summer, I made some reading plans that included spending quality time with Henry David Thoreau. Well, it took me almost all of August but I finished! 500 pages of biography and 300 pages of rambles and rambling later and I am safely on the other side. My verdict: I'm on the fence about Thoreau the writer but Thoreau the man was well worth meeting.

I started with Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls and read through his childhood and young adult years, up until his sojourn into the wilderness ... one mile away from his parents' house.

I then spent a ridiculously long time reading Walden. I couldn't get through more than a few pages a day because his writing and thoughts were so dense. It certainly wasn't as tedious as I remembered from high school though. It was just grounded in a strong knowledge of the classics and world religions and those were things that I hadn't been exposed to at the time. But many of his thoughts were simply truisms, like this bit from the chapter called Reading --
It is not all books that are as dull as their readers. There are probably words addressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could really hear and understand, would be more salutary than the morning or the spring to our lives, and possibly put a new aspect on the face of things for us. How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.
After Thoreau's two year, two month, and two day experiment ended, I headed back to the biography and that's when I really started enjoying myself. Thoreau's views on slavery, war, Native Americans, and evolution were all progressive and his actions were sometimes just as brave. When he escorted escaped slaves to trains bound for Canada or when he was the first to speak out nationally in support of John Brown after the Harper's Ferry uprising, he showed his true character. And when his first thoughts after reading Darwin's Origin of the Species were that all men truly were created equal and that the ranking of the races had no actual basis in nature (as was claimed by pro-slavery jerks), I couldn't help but become one of Thoreau's biggest fans. His thoughts on conservation and natural spaces and even hunting were just the icing on the cake. I'll admit to shedding quite a few tears when he died at the age of 44 from tuberculosis. He could have done so much more with the other half a lifetime that he was denied.

I am very happy that I decided to take on this project this summer and I will read more of Thoreau's writings, especially Civil Disobedience, in the future. And I can cross another book off my high school dislike list too! Dare I try a reread of The Grapes of Wrath next?! Haha.

With inspiration,

Monday, August 27, 2018

Time for the #RIPXIII Madness to Begin

Friends, I have the best of news! It is time to imbibe peril again! This is the lucky 13th year of the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge, a.k.a. RIP XIII. If you want to learn about the ways to participate (books, short stories, movies) and/or to sign up, head on over to the site that is run by the ever lovely and only mildly terrifying Heather and Andi.

As per my usual habit, I will be reading only perilous books for the next two months at my self-created Infinite Peril level of participation -- meaning I will read as many books and short stories as is (in)humanly possible. How could I settle for anything less, right? I've been sharing my book stacks (yes, stacks) over on Instagram and Twitter but let's take a look again here and make some lists. Feel free to steal any of my awesome book ideas. I am good at this RIP thing.

First, I shared the books that I have on my review shelf. These are ones that happen to be coming out in September and October (or are just shamefully overdue for reviews) and fit the theme.

Capital Crimes, edited by Martin Edwards
The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Manga Classics version
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin (25 Sept)
The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (18 Sept)
Melmoth by Sarah Perry (16 Oct)
The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton (9 Oct)
Ghostly Tales, a collection from Chronicle Books
Monstress Vol. 2 by the Hugo-winning Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd

Then there are the books that I gathered together onto the TBR shelf by my bed. SO MANY PERILOUS READS.

The Curse of the House of Foskett by MRC Kasasian
The Devil's Workshop by Alex Grecian
The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler
The Kairos Mechanism by Kate Milford
Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
The Mistaken Wife by Rose Melikan
Farthing, Half a Crown, and Ha'Penny by Jo Walton
The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker
Unnatural Creatures, edited by Neil Gaiman
Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green
The Mammoth Book of Dickensian Whodunnits edited by Mike Ashley
Don't Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier
The Moving Toyshop and The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin
The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh
The Female Detective by Andrew Forrester
Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Crofts
Murder in the Museum and Calamity in Kent by John Rowland
Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon
Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne
The Dire King by William Ritter
The Apparitionists by Peter Manseau
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

And, kids ... these weren't all of the RIP-eligible books on my TBR stacks. I stopped when I filled this shelf.

Then we have to remember rereads because these are my favorite books and why wouldn't I revisit some of them?

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
(movie out this weekend)
Jackaby, Beastly Bones, and Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter
(before I read the series-concluding The Dire King)
The Shadow of the Wind, The Prisoner of Heaven, and The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(before I read the series-concluding The Labyrinth of the Spirits)

And, lest you think I don't have enough books, there are the library books and audiobooks and new releases that I want to get to. I am actually kicking off my reading early with European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss. It's due back to the library on 1 Sept and has a waitlist so it gives me a nice excuse to start. When I drop this off, I'll pick up my hold on Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer, the Obama/Biden buddy mystery, and maybe Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne or All Systems Red by Martha Wells will be ready too. I have also already downloaded the next Lockwood and Co. audiobook, The Creeping Shadow (#4). Then, I'll likely be placing book orders for a few new books -- Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha, Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson, The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin, Bluecrowne by Kate Milford, and The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

So, dare I count how many books I have mentioned in this post? Oh, only 56! That's doable in two months, right? After all, there is the October Dewey's Readathon (20 Oct) in there! ::maniacal laugh::

What do you think of my books? And more importantly, what are you planning to read?

Preparing for death by books,

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

I don't think I've really seen this book mentioned much of anywhere since it was published last year (and was a NYT bestseller) so I just wanted to get The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland back on the radar. I personally put it off for a while because it is like 750 pages long and I had no idea if it would be a slog. But then it was summer and, well, what else did I need to do but read a massive book that I only remembered picking up because it sounded like exactly my kind of story? It turns out that it was exactly what I needed to do. It was a perfect summer vacation read and was TOTALLY my kind of story (and it cleared a huge spot on my TBR shelf that fit like two or three new books). I flew through this tale of time travel and history and technology and witchcraft with eagerness and joy.

This alternate history story is mostly told by Melisande Stokes, a story she rushes to get onto paper as she waits in 1851 for an unlikely miracle to get her back to the present day before she gets stuck in the past forever by the end of magic. Because, in this history, magic exists until some event in 1851 causes it to end, leaving witches powerless and the world irretrievably changed -- or is it?! Linguist Melisande is approached by Tristan Lyons (of the mysterious organization D.O.D.O.) and asked to translate specific historical documents in an attempt to find out what magic was and if it could possibly be restored. The rest of the book is part adventure, part moral tale, and all amazing.

I love time travel and I love magic and I love science fiction tech and they all worked together so well in this book. I actually keep picking up time travel books this summer for some reason (and I haven't even gotten to To Say Nothing of the Dog yet!) and each leaves me thinking about something different. This one made me wonder what subtle nudges we could have given our society to be in a better place right now. Maybe convince Trump's dad to donate that first million to a worthy cause instead of giving it to his loser son? Who knows where we would be now.

Wishing for a science-fictional world,