Tuesday, October 13, 2015



Practically after the fact, here I am blogging about RIP X, previously hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, now looked after by Estella's Revenge.

What's not to love about
Dark Fantasy.

The only rules of RIP X are
1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.
(there's a link up here for reviews)

They make the creepiest, scariest, best reading books around. I feel I've primarily read these books this year, with several great books by Mo Hayder, Karin Slaughter, and all the Miss Marples I devoured earlier this year. I still want to record the books I've read or listened to this fall season that fit the bill.

So far I've read or listened to:

1. The Taken - Inger Ash Wolfe (audbiobook)

Great Canadian mystery series, reviewed here.

 2. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman (audiobook)

A re-read, but first time on audio. I loved this when I read it in 2007, the perfect mix of mythology and modern London. I enjoyed it just as much this time with the author himself reading his 'preferred text.' Poor old Richard has his life turned upside down when he saves young Door from the street.

Underworld London must make riding the Tube so much more exciting, imagining what is just beyond what we can see.

3. Fractured - Karin Slaughter (2nd in Will Trent series)

This second book, as we get to know Will Trent a bit better, is hitting its stride with characters around Will becoming clearer. Having grown up in foster care, Will keeps running into old 'housemates,' who do not want to recognize their acquaintance. Will and his new partner are investigating the brutal slaying of a rich teenage girl in her home. Next book: Undone.

4. The Nature of the Beast - Louise Penny (audiobook)
 Book 11 of the Inspt Gamauche series, reviewed here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

BOOKS: Canadian mystery series

Couple of Canadian mystery series that are very good. Both on Audio.

The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe, book 2 (audiobook, 11h 10 min)

This is the second book with Det. Insp. Hazel Micallef of a small Ontario town. Poor Hazel is recovering from her back injury, living with her ex-husband and his new wife, trying to get back to work, but struggling with pain, and pretty much everything else in her life. She has a small loyal team helping her solve a mystery that is being written about in the paper as she attempts to investigate. Meanwhile, there is a live feed on the internet planning to kill someone, and taunting Hazel as she goes.

The characters are done very well, very real with conflicting behaviours. Sixty-two year old Hazel is still battling with her mother.  This was a great mystery, not too convoluted but intriguing and gritty. I'm looking forward to the next, and as of now, last book, A Door in the River.

The Nature of the Beast - Louise Penny, book 11, audiobook (12h 40 min)

First audiobook after the death of the original narrator, Ralph Cosham. Robert Bathurst does an admirable job and embodies Gamauche just as Cosham did. Slight British accent seems odd in Quebec, but c'est la vie!

Gamauche is still retired in Three Pines. The little boy in the village who cries wolf is eventually found murdered. A large weapon is found in the woods, the kind Saddam Hussein might commission in his quest to destroy. So, the police and CSIS are called in. (Slight quibble. In Canada, we say C-sis but Bathurst spelled out the acronym, like you might for FBI, every time. Threw me every time) Although not in charge, Gamauche, the Patron, is still in charge of his former team, and they rely on him.
I like these stories, but I find the reliance on Art and its Significance to be odd. Assuming that an image on a gun holds the same symbolism that an English teacher reads into a short story strains my credibility. Just because there are artists and poets (Clara and Ruth, delightful as always) in the village, doesn't mean everything is a symbol. But here it is, and Gamauche uses them solve the mystery.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

BOOKS: Audio Classics

 Classics are classics for a reason. Reading them can sometimes feel like deja vous, because the characters and plots are in the popular culture. And yet, reading them is still new, and adds to your own knowledge bank. Sometimes it feels a bit like taking a vitamin, it's good for you; but some vitamins are good on their own, like Vitamin C! I have mixed results with classics, but I still always appreciate the originality of the 'classic.' Thanks to the YA Sync program for providing all, except Rainbow Valley.

Dracula - Bram Stoker (audiobook)
I have never been a vampire fan, but this was a good original story, the one that started it all. I liked the epistolary style, full of letters and diaries from many different characters. I listened to this in the summer and I know I enjoyed it though it was a tad long. However, details are escaping me. Dr Vanhelsing, the virtuous Victorian women, one of whom was smarter and more capable than the men would acknowledge. Good on Stoker for writing that, and for all the original vampire lore.

 Around the World in 80 Days - Jules Verne (audiobook)

Not exactly what I thought it was, but this was a rollicking good adventure, as Phileas Fogg attempts to win a bet and travel around the world. His poor servant Passepartout is one of the best parts, as are the interactions with the Detective following them who believes Fogg is a thief. Delays, mix-ups, and old-timey travel keep the reader hoping for Fogg to make it back to London.

Lord of the Flies - William Golding (audiobook)
I decided to give Lord of the Flies another chance. The first read was in grade ten English, and I hated it. In retrospect, I thought maybe I hated it because it was a book we studied, so it was analyzed, examined, and broken down. Sometimes that can ruin a book. But, no. I hated it because of the awful characters, the survivalist theme, the belief that man is basically evil, especially if left to their own devices. It is too depressing to think that way. I know there are 'bad' people, but I think they are everywhere, and some situations just allow them to flourish and this was a prime example.

I also may have been put off by the author note at the beginning of the audiobook, where Golding defended not having girls in the story because he didn't know any and had never been a girl. Weak.

Rainbow Valley - LM Montgomery
Another reread, but first time on audiobook. Not all books have been available on audiobook for my rereading this year. Anne disappears a bit in this one with her children and the manse children taking over the story, particularly the manse children. Even children with parents can be orphans as we watch these siblings try to 'raise themselves' as their widowed father is barely hanging on writing his sermons after the death of his wife. Lots of old grudges, sacrifices, and gossip  - lots of fun in a Montgomery early 1900s Canada.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

BOOK: Book Club Reviews, Historical Style

Book reviews, book club style.

It's always interesting when books you read independently end up having a connection of sorts. I'm sure it is possible to connect any two books, but our last two book club books have been historical fiction, both set around 1800, and in the same part of the world, across the English Channel from each other. From the story of Josephine at the start of the French Revolution, to the story of Mary Anning at the start of a new era in science/geology, both book were very interesting, well written, and felt educational as well as entertaining. Win for book club choices! (We only pick from books our library has book club sets for, and that are available when Mary goes to get them, so sometimes our choices can be limited!)

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B - Sandra Gulland, 436 pages

Confession: I knew practically nothing about the French Revolution other than some big names and the whole - Let them eat cake! Didn't finish Les Miserables or ever watch the musical. Couldn't even have given a rough estimate of dates. So, I found this book very educational, and I do want to read more about that time now. I did discover at the end of the book that this was the first of several books about Josephine. In fact, she only meets Napolean Bonaparte at the very end of the book, and he is the one who calls her Josephine. She wasn't Josephine until the last 50 pages! That certainly kept me reading.

This book tells the story up to the point where Rose, a girl from the island of Martinique, marries Napoleon. Before that, she travels to France for an arranged  (crappy) marriage, has two children, makes some important friends, and develops a real sense of responsibility for the people around her. Her husband was important in the French government, part of the revolution as well, but really, as a rich guy, was playing both sides.
Gulland has written a very readable tale, all the more remarkable because it is based on true facts. Gulland became obsessed with Josephine and spent years researching her life, resulting in this trilogy - The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B; Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe; and The Last Great Dance on Earth. I will definitely look into reading the rest of the series.

Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier, 305 pages

I've always been a big fan of Chevalier and her take on historical fiction. I've just about read all her books now, and have not been disappointed. Best known for The Girl With the Pearl Earring, her book The Lady and the Unicorn is my favourite. Remarkable Creatures will be near the top of my favourites by her.

So, what did I learn about here? Mary Anning, the fossil collector from the very early 1800s. I know I've enjoyed a book when I find myself looking up information about the characters after I've read the book, and find myself wanting to visit the area. Lyme Regis in Dorset, England is a prime location of fossil finding. There is a museum there on the site of Mary's original house that would be very cool to see. The fossils that Mary found changed the view of the history of Earth, and started the classification of dinosaurs.

Good historical fiction for me focuses on the characters and people and the facts become part of the story. Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot were two women leading unconventional lives in 1800. Neither married and with an age difference of twenty years, they became good friends and fossil hunters on the beach in Lyme. Different social stations added to the difficulties, but they managed to become experts, and eventually had men coming to buy their fossils, or learn from them. No easy feat for women who couldn't even vote at that time. The developing scientific thought, the poverty, women's roles, and the social classes provide lots of areas of discussion, and make a very well rounded, readable book.