Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Wrap-Up

Books Read:
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas  4/5 stars
This was a re-read in preparation for the third of the series that came out this month.  My original review is here.

The Wildling Girls by Eva Chase 3/5 stars (my review here)

The Temple of Death: Ghost Stories by A.C. and R.H. Benson  4/5 stars (my review here)

Audio Books Completed:
An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd   3/5 stars
This sixth in the Bess Crawford series was not as satisfying as the previous novels, because it's a missing person case, instead of genuine mystery.  The writing was still good, and the atmosphere excellent, but the plot was just okay.

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder  4/5 stars
At times confusing, this steampunk adventure manages to tie all kinds of ends together in a satisfying conclusion.  While not as breath-taking as Spring Heeled Jack, Hodder continues to create a living alternate world that is stunning and believable.  I look forward to continuing this series.

The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake  4/5 stars (review here)

Death of a Prankster by M.C. Beaton 3/5 stars
Hamish MacBeth investigates the murder of a hated practical joker where all the family is suspect.  This was a fun mystery, but yet another one where the key information isn't available to the reader all along.  I continue with this series, even though I'm never really impressed with them, because I do enjoy MacBeth's character and Beaton's lighthearted style.

Endless Night by Agatha Christie  5/5 stars
Disaster strikes when a young couple ignores a gypsy's warning and builds a grand house on a site called Gypsy's Acre.  Told from the first-person point-of-view of the husband, this is more a character study than a mystery and is excellent.

Did Not Finish:
Wedding Stories edited by Diana Secker Tesdell (my review and reason here)

The Temple of Death: The Ghost Stories of A. C. & R. H. Benson

The Temple of Death: The Ghost Stories of A. C. & R. H. Benson
Arthur C. Benson
Robert H. Benson
4/5 stars

A.C., R.H., and E.F. Benson
A. C. Benson and R. H. Benson have been overshadowed by their more popular novelist brother, E. F Benson, but between the three, the produced over 100 volumes of fiction and nonfiction.  This is a collection of stories written by the two less well-remembered Bensons during the early Edwardian era.

While the collection is referred to as "ghost stories", and described as "chilling", they are not ghost stories, and rarely chilling.  They are stories of the supernatural, simply told, and, as mentioned further down, mainly stories of Christian virtue versus demonic powers.

A. C. Benson's creates an excellent atmosphere, giving most stories a creepy feeling of dread.  His stories focus on Christianity triumphing over a supernatural evil, and follow the same formula.  His writing is good, but certainly not great.

Stories by A.C. Benson:
"The Temple of Death"  3/5 stars
"The Closed Window"  4/5 stars
"The Slype House"    4/5 stars
"The Red Camp" 4/5 stars
"Out of the Sea" 4/5 stars
"The Grey Cat" 3/5 stars
"The Hill of Trouble" 4/5 stars
"Basil Netherby" 3/5 stars
"The Uttermost Farthing" 4/5 stars

R. C. Benson's stories are mostly straight-forward Catholicism overcoming Satanic evil.  The lack the atmosphere of A.C. Benson's stories, but make up for it with well-thought out plots.  His writing is better than his brother's, and the narratives flow well.

Stories by R.H. Benson:
"The Watcher" 4/5 stars
"The Blood Eagle" 3/5 stars
"Consolatrix Afflictorium" 5/5 stars
"Over the Gateway" 4/5 stars
"Father Meuron's Tale"  4/5 stars
"Father Macclesfield's Tale" 3/5 stars
"The Traveler" 4/5 stars

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Wildling Girls by Eva Chase

The Wildling Girls
Eva Chase
projected release date: July 2017
3/5 stars

Teenaged Margot and her three sisters spend the summer of 1959 with their grieving aunt and uncle at Applecote Manor.  What begins as a slow, nearly boring, vacation turns into a time of trial for the close sisters, as they wrestle with their cousin's disappearance, and with the jealousy aroused by the arrival of two young men.

Fifty years later, Jesse is sure that moving to Applecote Manor will be the best thing for her rebellious teenaged stepdaughter, Bella, and toddler daughter, Romy, despite the long commute for her husband's work.  Things are not as bucolic as she had expected, and Jesse must face many facets of the past: her's, Bella's, and that of the house.

These two storylines are told in alternating chapters that eventually connect.  Chase does a nice job of switching between first person for Margot and third person for Jesse's story.  Sadly, some of the characters are static, even stereotypical.  The historical ambiance doesn't always gel, and several of the "facts" about the family aren't fully believable.  The slightly gothic atmosphere is well done, though, drawing the reader into the plot and keeping it interesting.  I found it an enjoyable, if not tremendously memorable, read.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake

The Beast Must Die
Nicholas Blake
4/5 stars

 After extension detective work, Frank Cairns discovers the man (George Rattery) behind the hit-and-run death of his son.  He plots to murder Rattery, keeping copious notes in his journal.  When Cairns fails in his plan, yet Rattery is found murdered by someone else, his journal surfaces placing all the suspicion on him.  He hires Nigel Strangeways to prove his innocence in the face of certain guilt.

This is a well-plotted, well-crafted mystery that kept me changing my mind throughout the entire book.  My only quibble with the Strangeways series is that the author (Poet Laureate Cecil Day Lewis) condescends to his readers, as though detective fiction and it's readers are slightly less intelligent than Day Lewis himself.  Overlooking that, the Strangeways novels are solid Golden Age mysteries well worth reading.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wedding Stories, edited by Diana Secker Tesdell

Wedding Stories
editor: Diana Secker Tesdell
4 Stars

This is an attractively bound collection of stories that center around weddings.  It has a lovely dust jacket and an attached ribbon bookmark.  It would make a perfect gift.

It contains a nice mix of authors, old and new, giving the reader a variety of styles to sample.  As a result, each reader should be able to find at least one story that appeals.

What I dislike about this collection is that it includes excerpts from novels as well as the short stories.  Excerpts can be hard to read, as much is missed that came before the incident being presented.  I found on three occasions that I simply could not enjoy the excerpt because I did not know what the characters already knew.  Had this book been solely short stories, it would be a 5 star collection.

(Note: I did not finish reading this collection because I did not finish reading the excerpts.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

April Wrap-Up

Another month of Bollywood bingeing means another low reading month.

Books Read:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (my review here)

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (my review here)

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (my review here)

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck (my review here)

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell 4/5 stars
Another charming Thirkell novel filled with humor and love.  This one contained a bittersweet story, an angle I'd not seen in her books before.

Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell 4/5 stars
This Barsetshire novel takes place during the first year of WWII, dealing humorously with topics such as evacuees and blackouts, but seriously with romance during the stress of war.  It was sometimes sharply witty, but always charming, with quite an ending.

Audio Books Completed:
For the Sake of Elena by Elizabeth George 4/5 stars
This is a well-plotted and interesting mystery with good character development and a (mostly) believable plot.

The Mistletoe Murder and other stories by PD James 5/5 stars
My only quibble with this collection of short stories is that there were only four of them.  They are great examples of James' ability to tell a strong story with a good mystery.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith 5/5 stars  (my review here)

Did Not Finish:
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I really enjoyed another book by him (Britt-Marie Was Here; my review) and was excited to read this one after months on the library waiting list.  It was just too depressing for me at the beginning and I stopped 55 pages in.  I'm sure it will get better, and is probably fantastic, but right now it's just not what I wanted or needed to read.


The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm
Robert Galbraith
5/5 stars

An author is missing, and Strike is hired by his wife to locate him.  Later, he is found gruesomely murdered, exactly as described in his latest manuscript, and the wife is arrested.  Strike, convinced that she is innocent, ignores the police and does his own investigation.

Galbraith is an excellent writer (as anyone that has read the Harry Potter series can attest), and (despite my knowing the murderer early on), this was a near perfect mystery.  The character development was great, the plot was tight and interesting, and the entire story was believable.  I look forward to reading the next in this series.