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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

Currently reading

Beloved
Toni Morrison
Cold Moon
Alexandra Sokoloff
The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
City of Golden Shadow
Tad Williams
Progress: 54/780 pages

Killman Creek / Rachel Caine

Killman Creek - Rachel Caine

Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…

You’re not safe anywhere now.

Her refuge at Stillhouse Lake has become a trap. Gwen leaves her children in the protective custody of a fortified, well-armed neighbor. Now, with the help of Sam Cade, brother of one of Melvin’s victims, Gwen is going hunting. She’s learned how from one of the sickest killers alive.

But what she’s up against is beyond anything she feared—a sophisticated and savage mind game calculated to destroy her. As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die.

 

n excellent follow-up to the first volume, Stillhouse Lake. At the end of that first book, Gwen’s creepy, scary ex-husband & notorious serial killer, Melvin Royal has escaped from death row in Witchita and he could be anywhere. He underlines that uncertainty by texting her : You’re not safe anywhere now

Caine manages to maintain the tension in this second volume, ratcheting up the pressure on Gwen, who decides that she can no longer passively flee from her husband and the army of internet trolls and criminals who are making her life a living hell and threatening her children. With the support of a few friends and allies, she will turn the tables and hunt her ex-husband.

Gwen gets put through the wringer--Caine thinks up torments for her that are believable, but harrowing. I couldn’t put the book down, I had to know what happened. Some elements are predictable, but the author manages to give them her own twist that makes them feel right for this situation.

At the end of each book, Caine allows you to relax your vigilance just a little, giving a feeling of completion. However, unresolved elements of the story encourage the reader on to the next volume. I, for example, have now requested the third book from my library and I’ll be hard pressed not to read it immediately when it comes in!

The Witches of New York / Ami McKay

The Witches of New York - Ami McKay

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom ('Moth' from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it's finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and "gardien de sorts" (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan's high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions--and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor's apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind?

Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches' tug-of-war over what's best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

 

 

I read this book to fill the Spellbound square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

I first became aware of Ami McKay last Christmas, when I read the novella Half Spent Was the Night: A Witches' Yuletide. That little taste of this world convinced me to choose this book for Halloween Bingo. I am pleased that I was able to include it.

I really love the atmosphere of this book and the novella. The magic is so much an accepted part of this world that you don’t even question whether it exists or not. It does and all the characters believe in it without reservation. The writing is deft and delicate without being fragile, which is good as serious topics are dealt with. One of those is the continuous relationship between witchcraft and organized religion. Another is the nature of friendship and other bonds between people. Also, the nature of life after death.

It makes me want to plant an herb garden, to spend more time outdoors, to write in my journal. It makes me wish that I could go to New York to visit these women and have tea in their shop. I do hope that there may be more books to come, as I would happily re-visit this version of New York again.

Black Cat Crossing / Kay Finch

Black Cat Crossing - Kay Finch

Sabrina has never been the superstitious type. Still, when she moves to Lavender, Texas, to write her first novel and help her Aunt Rowe manage her vacation rental business, Sabrina can’t avoid listening to the rumors that a local black cat is a jinx—especially after the stray in question leads her directly to the scene of a murder.

The deceased turns out to be none other than her Aunt Rowe’s awful cousin Bobby Joe Flowers, a known cheat and womanizer who had no shortage of enemies. The only problem is that Aunt Rowe and Bobby Joe had quarreled just before the cousin turned up dead, leaving Rowe at the top of the long list of suspects. Now it’s up to Sabrina to clear her aunt’s name. Luckily for her, she’s got a new sidekick, Hitchcock the Bad Luck Cat, to help her sniff out clues and stalk a killer before Aunt Rowe winds up the victim of even more misfortune…

 

 

I read this book to fill the Black Cat square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

This is a serviceable little cozy mystery. I generally enjoyed the mystery portion, but there were a couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way. The first was the protagonist, Sabrina Tate. She is depicted as absolutely unable to hold focus on anything. She is an aspiring author, but when it comes time to write, she’s worried about the mystery. When she’s investigating the mystery, she’s worried that she’s not writing. And her worries about a stray cat trump both and drag her around by the nose. I just can’t envision someone like this getting a book deal as easily and smoothly as happens in this novel.

My second problem with the whole situation is the whole “I must help the police or they will make a horrible mistake” assumption in the book. Now maybe I’m a naive Canadian, but I believe that the police are far better at investigating homicide than a scatter-brain like Sabrina. She just flails around asking annoying questions until other people want to hurt her. Her Aunt Rowe has a much more realistic attitude, repeatedly telling her to leave it to the police and they will sort things out.

So, with that off my chest, we can proceed to the things that I like. I did enjoy the cat escapades. Hitchcock was a great furry character. And I’m enjoying the foreshadowed romance coming between Sabrina and the cowboy Griffith. If I need to read a Black Cat book next Halloween, I can see myself reading the next book in this series for that purpose.

When You Find Me / P.J. Vernon

When You Find Me - J. Vernon McGee

Visiting her family’s South Carolina estate, socialite Gray Godfrey wakes from a night out to an empty bed. Her husband Paul is gone and a thrashing hangover has wiped her memory clean. At first, she’s relieved for the break from her tumultuous marriage; perhaps Paul just needed some space. But when his car is found abandoned on the highway, Gray must face the truth: Paul is gone. And Gray may not want him found.

Her life is unraveling.

When a stranger named Annie calls claiming to know Paul’s whereabouts, Gray reluctantly accepts her help. But this ally is not what she seems: soon Annie is sending frightening messages and revealing disturbing secrets only Gray could know. As Annie’s threats escalate and Gray’s grip on reality begins to slip, the life she thought she had and the dark truth she’s been living begin to merge, leaving an unsettling question: What does Annie want? And what will she do to get it?

 

 

I read this book to fill the Psych square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

This summer, I attended a readers & writers conference and enjoyed a panel discussion at which this author was a member. He made sharp, funny comments and I immediately decided that I wanted to read his novel.

Mr. Vernon, you have a dark & twisty mind. I like. This is a domestic noir that gives books like The Girl on the Train a run for its money. Every now and then, I’d think that I had things figured out. How silly of me! He even gets one more jab in during the very last paragraph!

A very entertaining psychological thriller. Mr. Vernon, I hope there are more books coming because I will read them with pleasure.

Out of the Deep I Cry / Julia Spencer-Fleming

Out of the Deep I Cry - Julia Spencer-Fleming

On April 1, 1930, Jonathan Ketchem's wife Jane walked from her house to the police department to ask for help in finding her husband. The men, worn out from a night of chasing bootleggers, did what they could. But no one ever saw Jonathan Ketchem again...

Now decades later, someone else is missing in Miller's Kill, NY. This time it's the physician of the clinic that bears the Ketchem name. Suspicion falls on a volatile single mother with a grudge against the doctor, but Reverend Clare Fergusson isn't convinced. As Clare and Russ investigate, they discover that the doctor's disappearance is linked to a bloody trail going all the way back to the hardscrabble Prohibition era. As they draw ever closer to the truth, their attraction for each other grows increasingly more difficult to resist. And their search threatens to uncover secrets that snake from one generation to the next--and to someone who's ready to kill.

 

I am really enjoying this series despite the fact that I’m having to use interlibrary loan to get a hold of this one and the next volume. Once I’ve read that one, they’re all available here locally and I can binge read them if I decide to.

I love the use of history here--linking the present to the past in meaningful ways. As a genealogist, I’ve found that a family’s past can sometimes explain current problems. At least in my own family, it has. We can’t easily escape the ties of past events unless we understand what’s going on and make a conscious decision to change things.

The other aspect that really appeals to me is the relationship between Claire and Russ. They are trying so hard to keep it at friendship. Both are honourable people and their reputations are important to them, but it’s becoming obvious in this volume that there is a certain amount of gossip going on regarding the exact nature of their bond. It doesn’t help that fate keeps putting them in positions where they are bound to be tempted. It’s agonizing slow-motion, keeping the tension tight and I’m finding that irresistible!

Sword and Pen / Rachel Caine

Sword and Pen - Rachel Caine

With the future of the Great Library in doubt, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone must decide if it's worth saving in this thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The corrupt leadership of the Great Library has fallen. But with the Archivist plotting his return to power, and the Library under siege from outside empires and kingdoms, its future is uncertain. Jess Brightwell and his friends must come together as never before, to forge a new future for the Great Library . . . or see everything it stood for crumble.

 

Fabulous! This is going out with a bang, rather than a whimper! I am not sure what it says about me that I adore dark fantasy, with plenty of battles, plots, backstabby treacherousness, and ingenious weapons. And don’t forget the Great Library! Having worked my whole career in libraries, they are near and dear to my heart.

This volume reduced me to emotional tatters by its end. I shed plenty of tears and just sat staring into space for a while after I finished it. What a ride!

Ms. Caine, you have certainly figured out how to make me into a happy reader. Between this series, the Stillhouse Lake series and the Honors series, I am overwhelmed with good choices for future reading. Long may you write!

Amber Fang : the Hunted / Arthur Slade

Amber Fang: The Hunted (Librarian. Assassin. Vampire. Book 1) - Arthur Slade

Librarian. Assassin. Vampire.


Amber Fang enjoys life's simple pleasures - a good book, a glass of wine and, of course, a great meal.
Raised to eat ethically, Amber dines only on delicious, cold-blooded killers. But being sure they're actually killers takes time... research... patience.
It's a good thing Amber's a librarian. Her extraordinary skills help her hunt down her prey, seek out other vampires, and stay on the trail of her mother, missing now for two years. One day she stalks a rather tasty-looking murderer and things get messy. Very messy. Amber, the hunter, becomes the hunted.
And then, from out of nowhere, the perfect job offer: Assassin. She'd be paid to eat the world's worst butchers. How ideal.
Until it isn't.

 

 

I read this book to fill the Vampires square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

This is a cute and irreverent frolic through the vampire mythos. Amber Fang was a sheltered young vampire, raised by a mother who believed in ethical eating--only remorseless killers allowed. Good thing that Amber was well into her Library Science degree and has mad researching skills.

Amber would obviously like to believe that she is at the top of the food chain. She reminds me of all the anthropological literature that makes the claim that humans are the world’s apex predator, when really if you turned most of us out into the wild, we would quickly expire from hunger & exposure!

Bonus points for the Icelandic librarian who moonlights as a sniper! My dream combination, violent little fantasist than I am.

I bought this book because I really wanted to support its author, Arthur Slade. Mr. Slade came to a book conference that I regularly attend and I was struck by what a decent guy he is. I think he gave this vampire tale a very playful twist and I’ll see if I can find his other two Amber Fang books.

They Do It With Mirrors / Agatha Christie

They do it with Mirrors - Agatha Christie

A man is shot at in a juvenile reform home – but someone else dies…

Miss Marple senses danger when she visits a friend living in a Victorian mansion which doubles as a rehabilitation centre for delinquents. Her fears are confirmed when a youth fires a revolver at the administrator, Lewis Serrocold. Neither is injured. But a mysterious visitor, Mr Gilbrandsen, is less fortunate – shot dead simultaneously in another part of the building.

Pure coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and vows to discover the real reason for Mr Gilbrandsen’s visit.

 

 

I read this book to fill the Locked Room Mystery square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

Jane Marple is, as the detective in this novel says, a sharp old bird. I do love that she took her binoculars with her and was willing to pursue Siskins with intensity in order to eavesdrop effectively! She very much makes use of the fact that elderly women seem to be invisible to vast portions of the population. Similarly, her friend Carrie Louise is much more observant than her surrounding family gives her credit for (and certainly more than her husband believes). Older women can get away with all kinds of things that people don’t think us capable of.

I was also interested to see the way that our attitude towards young offenders really hasn’t changed all that much since 1952 when this book was originally published. A problem that we’re still struggling with and haven’t found any easy answers.

I did feel that the end was a bit weaker than many of the Christie books that I have read up until now--the perpetrator got to escape prosecution, although their end was arguably worse than what the courts would have assigned.

Slayer / Kiersten White

Slayer - Kiersten White

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

 

 

I read this book to fill the New Release square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

If you were ever a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is the book for you. And just like the Buffy television series, this book is about so much more than young women slaying vampires. This is a book about grief, about the misunderstandings that happen between parent and child as well as between siblings, about the agony of being adolescent and not feeling like you fit in.

But, once again just like the TV series, there is plenty of action complete with plot twists and turns to keep you reading along happily. I’m maybe not quite as enamoured of this series as I was of White’s The Conqueror’s Saga, but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to reading the next book, Chosen, when it comes out next year. I’ll be interested to see how Nina chooses to make her status as Chosen work into a life that she has actually chosen for herself.

Sweep of the Blade / Ilona Andrews

Sweep of the Blade -  Ilona Andrews

Maud Demille was a daughter of Innkeepers. She knew that a simple life wasn't in the cards, but she never anticipated what Fate would throw at her.

Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her daughter, Helen, had been exiled for the sins of her husband to the desolate planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud had spent a year and a half avenging his debts. But now all the debts are paid. Rescued by her sister Dina, Maud had swore off all things vampire. Except she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined.

Try as she might, she can't just walk away from Arland. It doesn't help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

To sort it all out, she accepts his invitation to visit his home planet. House Krahr is a powerful vampire House, and Maud knows that a woman who turned down the proposal from its most beloved son wouldn't get a warm reception. But Maud Demille never shied from a fight and House Krahr may soon discover that there is more to this human woman than they ever thought possible.

 

A little treat that I purchased for myself, the paper version of the latest Innkeeper book. And of course, I couldn’t resist giving it another spin. I’ve read the first 3 books multiple times and now Sweep of the Blade will join that re-reading queue.

This is the polished version--previously I had enjoyed the weekly installments online--and I was pleasantly surprised at the couple of additions that made the story work so well. I’m also intrigued by the ending, which seems to indicate that there are more Innkeeper Chronicles to come. Bring them on!

Sapphire Flames / Ilona Andrews

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) -  Ilona Andrews

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

 

What a pleasure it was to finally stick my nose in this book and ignore the world while I enjoyed it! For some reason that I can’t quite pinpoint, I adore this series and I have read and re-read the first 3 books and the novella upteen times and I know without a doubt that I will read them again.

In fact, I picked this book up yesterday and proceeded to read it twice. And I had to go back and enjoy parts of it again this morning. So I guess I have already read it two and a half times. Just like with the first three books, I’m finding it difficult to move on to other reading, preferring to linger with this one. I waited so long for it and it’s already done.

I know that we have switched narrators (from Nevada to Catalina), but really the two women sound very, very similar on the page. Catalina has different talents to take into account, but readers will barely feel the transition, they are so much alike. However, since I like the voice that House Andrews is using for these sisters, I am certainly okay with that.

I really like Catalina’s obsession with bladed weapons and her ability to channel Grandmother Victoria Tremaine. At the end of the novella, Rogan’s mother had offered to tutor her and that instruction has definitely paid off. Other developments that I am enamoured of: Bern’s attentiveness to their client, Runa--could this be the start of something? And I am unholy excited about Penelope Baylor and Sgt. Heart. This development is excellent. Romance isn’t just for the young folks. Also awesome? Linus Duncan, Hephaestus Prime. Building weaponry out of knives and forks, what a skill. Plus, knowing what we know about him from the first 3 books, there is great tension about his intentions towards House Baylor. Squee!

The Andrews’ have set Catalina up with some problems to be solved over the course of the next couple of books. Now the hard part begins--waiting for the next Catalina book to be published. Already, I’m champing at the bit for the next installment and it won’t be out until sometime in 2020. I don’t suppose that we could be lucky enough that they would follow up with an Arabella series? One thing is for sure, I will be very sad when this writing team stops producing books in this particular fantasy world.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows / J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows  - J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is leaving Privet Drive for the last time. But as he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid’s motorbike and they take to the skies, he knows Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters will not be far behind.

The protective charm that has kept him safe until now is broken. But the Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything he loves. And he knows he can’t keep hiding.

To stop Voldemort, Harry knows he must find the remaining Horcruxes and destroy them.

He will have to face his enemy in one final battle.

 

 

I read this book to fill the Dark Academia square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

Well, it has taken me six years, but I have finally finished the Harry Potter series. I think I liked this last book best of all of them, as Harry was more focused on the well-being of others and less caught up in how hard-done-by he was. I also found that Ron’s temporary removal from the action was quite realistic--who hasn’t squabbled with a friend when tired/hungry/cold/wet?

Rowling is good at keeping the action moving and upping the ante. She doesn’t shrink from treating her characters harshly either--like in any war, there will be casualties. Wikipedia claims that she channeled the grief over her mother’s death into some of the moving scenes in the Potter books and I would like to believe that is true.

I came to this series much too late in life to be as consumed with it as some of my friends, but I can certainly understand the appeal. I’m glad to have read it (and to finally be finished), but I rather doubt that I’ll be re-reading it in the future. There are too many new books that capture my attention and favourites to be revisited.

Stillhouse Lake / Rachel Caine

Stillhouse Lake - Rachel Caine

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

 

 

I read this book to fill the Free square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

What a nail-biter of a book! It’s a fabulous psychological thriller that grabbed me by the throat from the very first pages and didn’t let me go until the very end. Rachel Caine has certainly got my number, and I am really enjoying her most recent work (The Great Library series and The Honors) and now the Stillhouse Lake series. I’ve been looking for an excuse to read this book for some time and I’m so glad I chose it as a Bingo selection.

Having just recently read A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming, I already had an interest in what happens to the family of a serial killer. I think that Caine wrote this very realistically. Women in relationships with controlling men spend a lot of time trying not to draw the wrath of their spouses down on themselves. They try to be perfect wives, to maintain perfect households, to do whatever their spouse requests of them. My sister spent time with a controller and I worried for her safety every damn day. That, in and of itself, is terrifying. But when a killer’s crimes are discovered, the public rarely believes that the wife knew nothing. Like Gwen in this book, these women come to believe the same thing--that they should somehow have ignored their husbands’ conditioning and seen what was weird. Readers who harbour these beliefs should read the above mentioned memoir--that author tackles the issue from the unsuspecting family’s perspective. They are abused too and are just trying to survive.

The other highly realistic part of the book was the internet hate and the doxing. As Gwen/Gina finds out, it’s difficult to keep running and hiding. There’s no protection program for families of these criminals. With the need to keep ahead of trouble, she and her two children have been uprooting themselves regularly and changing everything. The kids kind of understand, but not totally, as Gwen has been hiding the worst of the internet hatred and the twisted letters from their father. As a result, both of them are acting out and Gwen completely gets it, but she doesn’t want to be publicly identified, injured or killed.

Is it possible to just quit running? Can they finally start over, make friends and build relationships? Or will the creepy ex-husband manage to ruin their lives yet again? Will the police help them or do they still believe that Gwen was involved in her husband’s crimes somehow? It’s a powerful mix of emotional subject matter and I can hardly wait to get my hands on the next volume.

Angels' Blood / Nalini Singh

Angels' Blood - Nalini Singh

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux knows she’s the best—but she doesn’t know if she’s good enough for this job. Hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael, a being so lethal that no mortal wants his attention, only one thing is clear—failure is not an option…even if the task is impossible.

Because this time, it’s not a wayward vamp she has to track. It’s an archangel gone bad.

The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other…and pull her to the razor’s edge of passion. Even if the hunt doesn’t destroy her, succumbing to Raphael’s seductive touch just may. For when archangels play, mortals break…

 

 

I read this book to fill the Diverse Voices square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

This was fascinating in that Singh’s world varies so wildly from what I would have expected of angels. Lots of different cultures believe in them, but I come from an evangelical Christian background and let me tell you, the folks that I went to church with back in the day would have been quite shocked at these angels! Angels who casually drop the F-bomb in their conversation and make sexual demands of mortals. Not to mention that they are the source of vampires, something which the evangelicals that I know would likely consider to be heresy!

It’s refreshing to read something that takes an entirely new look at something which I thought I knew about. Just like her Psy/Changeling books, the main point of this book seemed to be getting Elena into a hot, romantic relationship. In this case, Elena is a Guild Hunter, who has a natural aptitude for rounding up errant vampires. The vampires are created by the angels and have signed contracts for a certain term of service in return for the near-immortality. If they skip out early on those contracts, people like Elena track them down.

Of course, Elena is fabulous at what she does and she draws the attention of the ultra-hot archangel, Raphael. This is both good and bad, especially since Elena can’t seem to keep her opinions to herself. Fortunately for her, Raphael needs her assistance enough to put up with her lip.

I should reiterate at this point that I am not a huge fan of the romance genre. I like it when romance is included in strong mystery series (Deanna Raybourn) or in a fascinating fantasy world (Ilona Andrews), but Singh’s fantasy worlds just don’t speak very strongly to me. I like her stuff, but her plots are overly concerned with getting the heroine into bed with someone, not on her solving a crime, with bedroom time as a pleasant side dish. I persist in thinking of her work as more appropriate to the straight-up romance reader and less for the fantasy enthusiast.

Having said all of the above, I can see myself continuing on with this series, although not in the driven way that I read series like Hidden Legacy by Ilona Andrews or Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs

Discount Armageddon / Seanan McGuire

Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night...

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them.

Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right?

It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed.

To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...

 

I read this book to fill the Cryptozoologist square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

Hail! Cake and cheese for all sapient rodents!

I still love this silly little series and the Aeslin mice. Verity Price may not be the world’s sharpest detective and Domenic De Luca may not be the most desireable romantic partner for her, but the mice fix everything with their charming presence throughout the book.

My memory is obviously not what it used to be, because I had completely forgotten the book’s opening, in which the mice feature prominently. Somehow, I didn’t think they appeared until Verity’s adventures in the Big Apple. I also had forgotten the significance of cake and cheese even in this very first book. Once again, I thought that the emphasis on these two foodstuffs came in later books. They were probably overshadowed in my memory by the whole take-out chicken scene! Showing that it does pay to re-read your favourites.

I still enjoy this series, featuring a manic family of ardent cryptozoologists and their crazy adventures, featuring any mythical beastie that you can think of and some which the author must have made up (like the Aeslin mice). I love the snark, the cute, and the smart. Each book is a lovely little vacation from reality.

The Real Lolita / Sarah Weinman

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World - Sarah Weinman

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.

Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.

Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.
 

 

I read this book to fill the Truly Terrifying square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

I heard the author of The Real Lolita interviewed on the radio and was immediately intrigued. I’ve read true crime. I’ve read biography and books seeking to trace an author’s process. But this is the first book I’ve read that really combines the two and does so effectively.

When I think about Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, I think about a work of fiction. But where did Nabokov get his idea from? It turns out that this true crime story may have provided the final details and framework for this recognized classic of fiction. Weinman has spent time in the author’s archives and has been able to connect the dots in a most convincing way.

But the author doesn’t forget the real girl--Sally Horner--and her awful predicament. Her separation from her family by an unscrupulous man and his sexual abuse of this extremely young girl. I was struck by how differently we look at society and children now--it wouldn’t be likely nowadays that a mother would send her daughter off with a person she didn’t know. It was a more trusting age, trusting that people had good intentions towards others. And yet, even in our more suspicious times, young girls still get kidnapped. Witness first person accounts like Elizabeth Smart’s My Story and non-fiction like Captive: One House, Three Women and Ten Years in Hell by Allan Hall. Indeed, the author read some of these accounts to assess what Sally’s life with her abductor might have been like.

It seems that Nabokov was interested in this theme long before the Sally Horner disappearance, but her situation seems to have resonated with him somehow. What he did was fictionalize the whole experience from Humbert Humbert’s perspective and give us an amazingly literate look at the criminal’s point of view. His wife’s notes, however, indicate that he wanted the audience to recognize the plight of Lolita in the fraudulent worldview of Humbert.

I haven’t yet read Lolita and I wondered whether I actually would, but this book makes me think that I must give it a try. Thank you, Ms. Weinman, for giving me a reason for attempting what is acknowledged to be a great novel.