Murder Past Due Times TWO!

November 23, 2014 at 4:20 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

P1000582I seriously read these books just so I could use that headline.  I know, so cheesy, but it’s the little things in life…

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I picked them both up at various times, years ago when I first got hung up on cozy mysteries.  It wasn’t until I was moving that I put reading all my paperbacks on my TBR priority list so I can purge them.  Only prime keepers are going to the new house once it is built.  While unpacking paperbacks in my temporary abode I discovered this little coincidence and my very silly self immediately thought in rhyme.  Naturally, I had to read them right away.  (Or as right away as one can when one reads books for part of my living.)

D.R. MeredithI shall preface by saying: both were appropriately cute.  Meredith, however, has a writing style that puts her a cut above the rest in the genre and I can’t wait to read more of her series.

I read through her book in nearly one sitting.  Despite it being the third in the series, I didn’t feel like I had missed a beat, though I felt like I should surely go back and read the others as soon as possible.

The Cat in the Stacks series is fun, but I’ll probably  just happen across them as I happen across them, rather than purposefully seek them out.  Although, I did appreciate that I had indeedMiranda James series selected the first of that series.  It is always nice to begin at, well, the beginning.

Both books were set in the south, which naturally made them fun for me.  Meredith’s is actually set in Texas, however, and James’ is set in Mississippi with only a few references to Houston.  I absolutely adored Meredith’s Ryan character and found him incredibly endearing, where James won me over by introducing me to a breed of cat I’d never heard of – a Maine Coon.

I will always choose books that lend themselves to wanting to read more books.  Books on books are my favorites.  Novels set in literary settings, a close second.  Libraries, bookstores, reading groups, these are the places that keep my heart at rest – even if we have to kill someone off to maintain a plot line and a reason for being there in the first place.  So whether it is sooner or later, I’ll return to both of these writers eventually.

End note: I like this Miranda James cover better…

Miranda James

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The Best Interview Ever!

November 20, 2014 at 3:09 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , )

ToriI had the privilege of reading an advance copy of George Wright Padgett’s latest novel, Cruel Devices. I was pleased to share a cover reveal earlier in the season here on my blog; and now, I’m proud to post my latest interview with an author I’ve grown to respect and adore.

AW:I’ve done an interview with you before and I don’t want to ask all the same questions as last time…

Yet, Cruel Devices is so different from your previous novel, Spindown, that old questions apply to your new work. Never mind that you added the pressure of the two of us conducting the best interview ever! I’m not sure I can fill those shoes. 😉

Cruel Devices feels like the story just rolled out of bed completely wonderful and polished without effort. Maybe it fell from the sky like a dream; maybe it didn’t – but was its inception as easy for you as it feels? What drove you to write something so unique from what fans thought they could expect from you?

GWP:

That you say the writing feels effortless is a high compliment. I assure you that it wasn’t the case (just ask my editor and beta readers). It’s said that gold is refined by putting it through the fire seven times; Cruel Devices went through the ‘refinement process’ a lot more than that.

As for the differences between this novel and the last: Let me begin by saying that I love science fiction and I’m so very grateful that Spindown has been well received by the sci-fi community, but I felt it important to avoid being cast as only a writer of that genre. I know it can be risky to genre hop, but I want to establish early on to any readers that may follow me I intend to do stuff that may or may not involve outer space or robots.

I’m hopeful that someone that enjoys reading George Wright Padgett novels are reading them because the stories are well crafted and require them to think about aspects of life while going on an adventure. So after Spindown, I chose a story topic and setting that was as far removed from it as I could get. Cruel Devices takes place on modern day Connecticut on Earth (no alternate universe or anything like that). Just a semi-normal guy around normal people, but exposed to extraordinary circumstances.

I’ve always enjoyed how an author like Michael Crichton would write something like Andromeda Strain (which is a hard sci-fi story if there ever was one) and then he’d jump the fence to do something like Jurassic Park, or Rising Sun, or tackle time travel with a story like Timeline. Or look at H.G. Wells, he delivered The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau and all those other great tales. They’re wonderfully different stories (BTW he didn’t write any sequels to these), but they can’t be confined to a single genre other that than they’re all speculative fiction – to use a modern term for it.

Hopefully Cruel Devices (and the steampunk detective novel to follow it) won’t alienate my hard sci-fi readers. I’ll return to the genre in a few more books.

Cruel DevicesCoverAW: Cruel Devices feels like you really dug deep into your inner Stephen King (although it is very much your own work and I love it!). Is he an author you typically read much of?

GWP:

Stephen King is without a doubt one of the grandmasters of horror, and Yes, I’ve read him. What’s interesting is the reason that I began reading his work was not for horror at all. My colleagues kept going on about how wonderfully developed his characters were. I realized that I had to check their claims out, and discovered that he is a master of the craft and has a remarkable ability to create characters that seem as real as your next neighbor. It’s worth noting that the main character in Cruel Devices is also a master horror writer on the level as King and even mentions him as a contemporary.

AW: The main character is an author who starts the book out dreading his book signings, finding his fame a nuisance. I love having you out for book signings, please tell me that this particular aspect of your character’s development was not drawn from your own feelings or experience. 😉

GWPGWP:

*Smiles* No, I love meeting my readers in person. Please come see me Dec. 13th at Half Price Books in Humble and I’ll prove it.

I suspect that the character of Gavin Curtis did enjoy his readers at one time, but soured that’s over time. The reason he’s become embittered towards fans is he feels that they’ve trapped him artistically. He views himself as victim of his own success held captive by his creation. He wants to move on from writing pulp vampire detective stories, but his audience won’t let him. A major theme of the book is control, and his readers control him by forcing him to write what he doesn’t want. So he naturally rebels and resents them and the vampire detective character of his stories.

Many years ago I heard something about abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothco. The story goes that when is ex-wife hooked up with his agent, Rothco attempted to sabotage his painting work so the couple wouldn’t financially benefit from him. The more he tried to offer sub-par work the more his popularity and fame increased. I don’t know how true any of that is, but the idea intrigued me enough to include my version of that concept in the novel. Gavin’s fan base grows exponentially the more he mockingly offers worn out tropes in hopes that the readers will stop reading so he may pursue ‘serious literary writing’.

PumaJacketAW: Every author, like Gavin, has those questions they get bored with people asking about their book and their writing process – but also like Gavin, every author has those questions and comments that grab their attention, the questions they wish they were asked. What do you wish people would ask you about Cruel Devices? Why?

GWP:

Again, I’m not jaded like the character of Gavin Curtis, I love answering questions. I think it’s amazing that I get paid to lie (on the page) to people. I especially like questions surrounding themes and concepts of my stories. Some readers simply read for plot and action, which is fine, but I enjoy talking to people about how the work made them think and possibly examine their own opinions on things.

AW: If a book club were to read your book, what would you hope they would talk about? (If a book club were to read your book, would you make a guest appearance?)

GWP:

The protagonist is a spoiled, egotistical, prima donna who at first seems as unlikeable as Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces with a mix of Billy Halleck from Thinner. As the story unfolds, the complex layers of Gavin’s personality are revealed one by one until we see at his core he’s actually (do I dare say it?) a hero, or maybe it’s better to call him a reluctant hero. I enjoyed the reactions of my beta/critique group when presented with a seemingly unredeemable main character. Early on in the critique process one of the other novelists in my group took me aside and sheepishly asked “Should I like this guy? He really seems like a jerk.” I informed him that the character’s off-putting manner is deliberate, but he’d be rooting for him by the end of the book.

As far as participating in a book club:
I’d consider it a privilege to attend a book club reading Cruel Devices (or Spindown) though I think it’d be more fun to appear anonymously and at some point during the discussion dramatically tip over the coffee table exclaiming “That’s not what the author meant by using that metaphor!” When the other readers gathered there would challenge this, I’d reveal who I was and storm out of the meeting. Talk about making an impression!

Spindown CoverAW: How was writing Cruel Devices different from writing your previous work, Spindown? I understand that asking an author to pick their favorite out of their own work can be a little like asking a parent to choose a favorite child – but really, which one do you enjoy more? Which one did you enjoy writing more?

GWP:

The question is easier to answer than you might think because I enjoyed them both for different reasons. First of all, the stories are structured completely different from each other. Spindown is more of a quest adventure in which the characters are attempting to gain their freedom by reaching the superintendent station before they expire. Though a lot of introspection takes place along the way, the goal to make it to the end of the moon base is as destination driven as Dorothy finding Oz or Joseph Conrad’s Marlow character in Heart of Darkness going up the river to find Kurtz.

Cruel Devices on the other hand is more of a mystery. Gavin spends much of the book trying to understand what is going on and why things are happening to him.

The second thing I want to mention is since Spindown and Cruel Devices are books in two very different genres (sci-fi and horror) it didn’t feel like I was writing a second novel at all. The storytelling rhythms are noticeably different for the rise and falls of horror opposed to sci-fi. I think I’d actually convinced myself on a subconscious level that I was writing a second 1st novel (which in fact, I sorta was).

AW: Do you feel like you’ve grown as a writer between the two books? In the last few years as a published author, what have you learned about books, publishing, and the writing process that you didn’t know before publication? What do you wish you had known prior to your book deals?

GWP:

My experiences from Spindown helped me know what to pack for the journey of writing this book. Having gone through the process before, I knew to expect there would be times when things would get tough, but I had the confidence to get through because eventually you come out the other side.

I also learned to trust my instincts more on this book – to recognize and allow ideas in that maybe were not in the original blueprint outline for the story. Permitting that flexibility resulted in a much more ‘organic’ story than if I’d remained rigid to concepts that snuck aboard later in revisions. I think this may be how that ‘fall out of bed’ natural feel that you mentioned above was achieved.

As for the publishing business questions, I am grateful to have met up with a small publisher called Grey Gecko Press. I tip my hat to anyone who self-publishes; I understand that to be a tremendous amount of work that I’m just too lazy to do myself. My publisher takes care of all the non-writing behind the scenes details that are necessary to make and format my books. This allows me to focus on writing without getting bogged down in the machinery.

AW: I can’t help but long for a replica of the deadly typewriter to be present at your future events. Any chance of that happening?

GWP:

Unlikely – It’s at the bottom of the river *wink*

AW: If you were to select a soundtrack for people to listen to while they read Cruel Devices, what songs would make the list?

GWP:

I love this question. It’s funny you ask because the book originally had a number of songs embedded into it. In the first draft of the novel a lot of attention was paid to the grand re-opening of the bridge near the resort. Radio station WHCN, The River 105.9 (which is a real Connecticut station) was heard in the elevators, restaurant, cab rides, etc. The station contest played songs about bridges and rivers so I had the music constantly in the background of whatever was happening to Gavin.

I used Bridge Over Troubled Water-Simon & Garfunkel, The River– Bruce Springsteen, Take Me to the River – Al Green, etc. to name a few. The only reference to survive the editing process was Bobbi Gentry’s 1967 hit Ode to Billie Joe in which the lyrics describe someone throwing something off the Tallahatchie Bridge. As of yet, I have not attempted to listen to these songs while reading the book. If you try doing this, let me know how it turns out.

A final note: I appreciate all that your blog does to support Indie authors, mainstream writers, and everyone in between. Thanks for featuring Cruel Devices.

Madame K

http://george-p.com/cruel.htm http://georgewpadgett.wix.com/author

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E. Michael Helms Does It Again

November 13, 2014 at 3:08 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

deadly catchTitle:Deadly Catch

Author: E. Michael Helms

Genre: Mystery

Length: 207 pages

I always have fun reading an E. Michael Helms novel – but this latest one was by far the most fast paced.  MacArthur McClellan is clever, well-trained, and his personality is as snugly as a bear.  I enjoyed tromping through crime scenes and fishing sites with him and his side kick Just Kate Bell.

Although I’m pro-legalization of marijuana and found myself rolling my eyes at some of the locals when they discovered someone “they thought they knew” smoke marijuana or ate a marijuana brownie, the story was filled with all sorts of memorable characters and crazies.

The bookstore I work out of most often is near an international airport.  I find myself selling flight reads more often than not.  I highly recommend this for a quick domestic flight.  I also think it would behoove the airport bookstores to carry it in stacks.

I also really liked the character of Bocephus Pickron, especially his first name.  I can’t discuss my thoughts on him further without giving away too many spoilers.  I’m looking forward to seeing what investigations Mac will stumble into next and wonder how many of these weekend mysteries Helms has in his back pocket.  I think he could write Mac mysteries for years… I’d read them.

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Doubles Match Before Bed

September 20, 2014 at 3:22 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

doublesTitle:Doubles Match

Author: Meb Bryant

Genre: Suspense / Short Stories

Format: Kindle Ebook

Doubles Match KILLED me! It’s so good!  I have to warn mothers, however, that little Emma reminds me so much of my kiddo that the kidnapping was a rip through my gut.

Spoiler: It works out in the end – read the whole story!

Definitely worth the 99 cents as a nightcap, although I admit I received mine as a gift from the author.  I’m enjoying my kindle specifically for these short gems that I’d otherwise miss.

 

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Guns and Roses (and E-readers)

September 16, 2014 at 5:20 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

This post has nothing to do with Guns and Roses the band.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to tease you that way.  Actually I did.  This is about my new book-gal-crush Rose Gardner, brain child of author Denise Grover Swank.

Rose GardnerTitle: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Genre: Mystery (Romantic Suspense)
Format: Kindle

I downloaded Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes solely because it was free and on kindle.  I just recently got a kindle for the first time, because my home library is primarily in storage for the moment, and as a reviewer I couldn’t stomach adding more physical copies to a collection I couldn’t even access.  So e-reader it is for now, aside from the stash of books I toted to my temporary digs with me, and if I’m going to be reviewing ebooks, I need to know how to read them.

So Denise Grover Swank’s free ebook was my guinea pig, my learning curve, my book to help me decipher buttons and technology, my reminder that I really am 105 at heart.

The first twenty “pages” (I don’t know how to quantify without page numbers) or so I HATED IT.  “This is so lame!” I kept shouting at the screen.  I was mostly talking to the kindle, but I took it out on the heroine Rose Gardner.  Not that she needed anything else being taken out on her… her mother thinks she’s demonic and ends up dead, naturally the whole (small) town wants to pin Rose for the murder while Rose finds herself in a world where her mother is no longer telling her how to live.  Insert sexy next door neighbor who might be a potential boyfriend, or… of course… the actual murderer!

I loved it.  It’s gloriously cozy with less cheese than the average cozy mystery, placing it more in the romantic suspense category than the cozy realm.

By the time Rose is burying a gun under a rose bush in her backyard I was completely hooked and had mastered the art of turning the kindle page.  That is a bigger feat than it might seem, as I don’t always maintain feeling in my fingertips and I kept inadvertently hitting the next button too many times.  Without page numbers is was pretty difficult to find my way back.  So it took DAYS for me to get to Rose burying that gun, but less than an hour to wrap up the book.

So thank you Rose (and Swank) for teaching me to read (on an e-reader).  I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in the Rose Gardner Mystery series.

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Afternoon Tea Part One

September 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000339Title: Gunpowder Green

Author:Laura Childs

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Length: 244 pages

With autumn in the air, it’s back to hot afternoon tea (as opposed to iced sweet tea) and my dive into cozy mysteries.  Even though in Texas, fall tends to be more of a state of mind than an actual weather change.  Post Labor Day it’s still in the nineties, but there’s rain and I made a trip to the grocery store just for tea bags.

Many of my afternoon teas happen on the back deck.  My backyard table is actually newer and nicer than my kitchen table and it’s where I prefer to take my meals and spend time journaling and reading, if the weather allows.  It’s nice to spend time, even if it’s in a book, with people who feel the same way:

“I think it’s time we thought about lunch.  Margaret Rose baked cranberry bread yesterday, and I threw together some chicken salad earlier.  Why not fix trays and eat out here where we can enjoy the view?  It’ll be ever so much nicer.” – pg. 149

Laura Childs, The Indigo Tea Shop, and Theodosia Browning aren’t just about tea though.  There are gardening elements, I am finding, in each of her tea shop mysteries.  (Apparently, the gardeners in town tend to be a murderous bunch, and the tea shop sorts the sleuthing kind.)  I love hanging out in small towns with historic districts, antique dealers, garden extraordinaire, and party goers.

“Timothy Neville adored giving parties.  Holiday parties, charity galas, music recitals.  And his enormous Georgian mansion, a glittering showpiece perched on Archdale Street, war, for many guests, a peek into the kind of gilded luxury that hadn’t been witnessed in Charleston since earlier times.” – pg. 212

Reading this inspired me.  I am an event coordinator and I adore bookish parties, cozy festivals, people gathering in gardens, and atmospheres that allow for coffee, wine, or cups of tea, and quiet conversation or a people reading books.  Fall is a good time for these sort of events, and though my Fall is already planned, not everyone’s is.

A lovely lady at Fuller’s Country Store has agreed to guest blog for me soon about tea parties she’s hosts.  I don’t know the details, but I’m pretty excited to find out and scroll through photographs of the upcoming event.  Stay tuned for “Afternoon Tea Part Two” for the details, the pictures, and a review of Laura Childs’ third Tea Shop Mystery: Shades of Earl Grey.

 

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Interview with Leo King

August 4, 2014 at 3:53 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000461Periodically, Anakalian Whims interviews authors and artists for the public.  This blog having such a friendly relationship with Grey Gecko Press has allowed for more author interviews than I could have ever dreamed for, and here’s one more.  Meet Leo King, author of the Sins of the Father trilogy.

1. You have a 3.95 average rating on Goodreads for The Bourbon Street Ripper, sounds like people generally like it! (The first few pages creeped me out and I’m holding off until I can muster a non-scaredy cat reading mood out of myself to finish the book.) Tell us a little about your series Sins of the Father.

Sins of the Father is a genre-bending trilogy. While it’s thriller throughout, it starts as a a murder mystery and changes into what could almost be called urban fantasy. The voodoo culture undertones in the beginning become more prevalent as the three books go on.

2. What brought you to the murder/mystery/thriller genre? Is it merely what fit this story or is it your chosen genre?

My chosen genres are actually sci-fi, urban fantasy and epic fantasy. However, I’ve always wanted to write a trilogy that mutates genres in a seamless fashion. Most of this is because I want to show that it can be done. Put enough information in the story to inform the reader, and you can go from mystery to supernatural or fantasy to science fiction, etc. While it’s not recommended all the time (fans of one tend to favor it over the other), there are occasions when it can be very entertaining.

This is my only attempt at genre-bending. I will not do it again. I also will likely never write pure modern-day mystery. It’s not something I think I’d enjoy. I might try a hand at science-fiction mystery some time.P1020027

I love thrillers though, and will likely continue in the supernatural thriller and serial killer thriller genre in the future.

I think I kind of got away from your question. Sorry about that. The genres of Sins of the Father fit the story.

3. Who are your favorite books and authors? Ultimately whose writing career inspires you most?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is my #1 favorite for modern authors. Otherwise, anything by Asimov for science fiction, Weiss and Hickman for fantasy, and Stephen King for thriller/horror. My favorite old-school novel is Lord of the Rings.

P10200164. You’re published through Grey Gecko Press. How has that experience been for you?

I’ve enjoyed the freedom I get with GGP. They put the author’s desires first and foremost. I consider GGP a great starting place for any author.

5. Although you’re a Houston local, I see in your bio that you’re not a Houston native. How do you think your Louisiana roots and life experiences have affected your writing?

I grew up in New Orleans, the birth place of the modern romantic vampire (mostly thanks to Anne Rice). Because of that, I tend to blend romanticism with everything I write. I also try to give my locations and settings enough life for them to be considered a character themselves.

6. Your bio also says that you want your work to be controversial enough to make people think. What kind of thinking were you wanting to encourage with the Sins of the Father series? What kind of themes do you plan to pursue in future work?

If nothing else, I want to dispel stereotypes. Let me explain.

Every person, even the most deplorable, is still a person. Something made them that way. For example, some people in our society believe that anyone who is a terrorist is the epitome of evil and deserves no regard. But what drove that person to become that way? What hopelessness made them susceptible to their cause’s brain-washing? So many people do not ask those questions. They just brand and condemn. It disgusts me.

So I’ll create characters that the reader falls in love with, and then have them reveal something utterly horrible about themselves. Will my readers continue to love them? Will they condemn the actions instead of the person? Or will they suddenly hate the character and put the book down? What they do, and if they think before doing it, will say a lot about them.

I won’t apologize for anything I write, no matter how much it offends someone. Every human being has a story, and that story needs to be told.

7. You’re planning a Halloween release party for your next book. Ideally, what would that look like to you?

As this is my first launch party, I have no expectations. Something voodoo themed would be lovely.

8. Did you put any of your series to paper while listening to music? If so, what kind, which artists, what songs?

I write in silence.

9. Outside of your writing career what does your life look like? Do you have hobbies or interests that you’d like to share with your readership?

I am happily married to my wife of going on nine years. I work from home during the day and write at night. Sometimes I meet friends for coffee or beer, but never coffee and beer. That’s an important distinction!

My biggest out of office activity is my Writing Workshop. It’s a video workshop I started in 2012 and let stall out due to lack of equipment. I am thinking of setting up a Kickstarter campaign to get better equipment. It’s hard to teach writing techniques when you’re recording on an iPhone!

As for hobbies, I am an avid gamer. That’s both video games and role-playing games. I have a BS in Video Game Design that I’ve never used professionally, but I design game mods and develop indie games all the time. Yes, game development is a hobby for me. I love martial arts and am a sword collector.

10. If there were one thing you would want your fans/readers to know about you, what would it be?

Someone once expressed concern about my mental health because of some of the scenes in The Bourbon Street Ripper. I want to say that it’s just a book: I don’t endorse any of the horrible things my characters do!

P1020007

Leo King, second from the left in the black shirt, interacting with fans at one of his book signings.

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Do You Believe in Ghosts?

August 4, 2014 at 4:51 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

the_thirteenth_taleTitle: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Length: 406 pages
Publisher: I read from the Atria Books Book Club Edition

The first time I read this book it was July of 2011. I was no longer on maternity leave, but my daughter still seemed very, very small. We were a sleepy household then, despite her running around long before her playmates and peers had begun taking their first steps. I remember mostly listening to this book on audio because I had a hard time keeping my eyes open when I was home – but I wasn’t actually napping ever. It was excellent and I adored it. That’s why I encouraged the HPB book club to read it for our August discussion that will take place tomorrow night (August 4th, 2014).

One of my fellow clubbers emailed me already, saying he only gave the book a 5.5 out of 10. He had questions I can’t repeat in a review due to spoilers. I had meant to take this month off and discuss from memory, but his questions and low rating for a book I remember describing as the perfect tale forced me to pick it up and read it again.

And I discovered that I disagree with him…

I feared I would have my mind changed by time and growth. I feared I would have read so many wonderful things since my first reading that somehow the magic wouldn’t shine to brightly and mysteriously the second time around. I feared the ghost story wouldn’t feel so ghostly, knowing the ending.

But my fears were unwarranted, because I still loved it. I loved it all.

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” – pg. 9

thDiane Setterfield has expert hands. She manipulates words deftly. She takes a reader prisoner with her storytelling. Vida Winter winds herself around your limbs like spider silk and will enthrall you. Charlie will render you so terrified you will not move, except to turn the page; Adeline March will pierce your skin, and become a knot stuck in your throat; Isabelle will enter your blood and startle you; Emmeline will numb your thoughts. It is the best, most believable ghost story I’ve ever read.

Also this week, I’ve watched the BBC screen version of the story. Yes, there were a few things changed, much left out, but overall I was pleased with the production.  We were able to watch it on youtube.

First of all, it was brilliantly cast with Vanessa Redgrave.  I adore her and she is exactly how I imagined someone like Vida Winter to be.  She appears in so many of my literature to film favorites, like Atonement, Howards End, and Mrs. Dalloway.  She’s such a classy lady.  I must say, too, that I think she looks fabulous with Vida’s red hair.

Some people express a distaste for the “name-dropping,” the characters discussing books and how they shaped their lives.  There are a lot of Jane Eyre references.  If you’ve read my book (The Bookshop Hotel) you’d know that I am not one to find this unfavorable.  In fact, that is my favorite sort of  book, and it is in this fashion that I have discovered my most cherished reading experiences: from characters who pointed me in the right direction.  Characters always have more impact on me than real people.  They have no stake in it, I can trust them, they gain nothing by convincing me or failing to convince me to choose a certain book or behave a certain way.  For this I love them.  For this I respect them more than the living and breathing.

Only a character could get me to listen to a ghost story with an open mind.  Only a character can bring to life the fantastical, the magic, the mystery, and the excitement of a ghost story.  Only a character could make me see and understand a ghost.

Do you believe in ghosts?  No? Read The Thirteenth Tale and Vida Winter might change your mind.

 

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Entangled

July 24, 2014 at 2:53 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

EntangledCoverWebHalfAAAA1Title: Entangled
Author: Barbara Ellen Brink
Genre: Mystery
Length: 332 pages

It was the title that got me, with its spindly lettering. Then the grape leaves mysteriously hiding the heroine.  It’s grape season.  A mystery in a winery sounds just like the sort of thing to read in July.  Even more perfect, it came in time for me to pack it into my suitcase for my “vacation” – ahem – book signing tour.

Brink’s writing is heavier than I anticipated, the mystery less cozy and a little more John Grisham minus the courtroom meets Alice Hoffman.  A few times while on my road trip, I had to put it down.  The characters had more going on in their lives than my vacation was going to allow.  Of course, I found myself picking it right back up again later.

The truth is, Brink won me over with the word “wafted” on page 22. I’m a sucker for that word.  It’s one of my favorites, and I’ve blogged about this oddity of mine before.  “The sound of a child singing wafted through the open window…” and immediately I thought of my own child, back home, not a part of this trip, and I missed her.  Brink has a way of doing that to you.  You sit down to read a mystery and find yourself thinking about all the people in your life, past and present.

“I know we were just kids, but a bond like that doesn’t disappear. […] It might fade with time, but it doesn’t disappear.” – pg. 89

No, it really doesn’t, does it?  There are so many childhood friends that I don’t keep in touch with anymore, not really.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t think of them fairly often and wonder how they are, hope that they are well.  So many of them affected the way I view the world, and they probably don’t even know it.  We’re all in our thirties now, we don’t talk about any of it, we’ve all outgrown each other.  It doesn’t make the love go away.  It makes it different, but not gone.

There’s a romantic twist in Entangled as well, the kind I like: not too over the top or explicit, a romance between friends, caused by the intrusion of the past into the present.

All this intrusion is what makes Entangled special.  It’s not just women’s fiction.  It’s not just a mystery.  It’s a mystery featuring people with real problems.  In all my cozy mystery reading, that’s not often the kind of story I get.

I’ll be picking grapes tomorrow.  Maybe even having some wine later in the season.  For sure, I’ll be reading Crushed (book two in the Fredrickson Winery Saga) in the future.  There’s too many secrets at Fredrickson not to go back.

 

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Love Letter to Literature

June 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Book of SecretsTitle:The Book of Secrets

Author:Elizabeth Joy Arnold

Publisher: Bantam Books

Genre: Fiction/ Literature/ Books About Books

Length: 450 pages

I checked this book out from the library, but this is not a library book.  This is a book you need three copies of – a hardback first edition signed by the author, a copy for reading and scribbling notes in the margins, and a copy to loan to your friends.  I’m devastated that I’ll be shoving it through a book drop later this afternoon, it will leave my hands and slide down a shoot to be re-cataloged and re-shelved.  When all I really want to do is sleep with it under my pillow.

I was up all night reading.  Not all night, but well passed my thirty year old motherhood appropriate bedtime.

Part One was titled Chronicles of Narnia, Part Two: Where the Wild Things Are, and so on – each section of the book titled and designed to reflect story that tied ever so gracefully into a famous book title.  The whole book is not just a riveting story, it is a love letter to literature.

If you are a Kate Morton fan, the architecture of this book will be right up your alley.  It’s beautifully done, marvelously written, and simultaneously raw and eloquent.  It may even be better than anything Kate Morton wrote, and saying that feels like blasphemy because I adore her and own all her books.

There were so many gorgeous quotes I wanted to underline, and now I don’t know where they were in the book, because it was a library copy so I couldn’t.  I should have jotted them down, but I was too eager to read what would come next.  The whole reading experience was captivating and surreal.

 “I thought it was a dream,” Thomas said. We were sitting in the library…

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