Monday, October 18, 2021

Halloween Bingo 2021

Who or what is holding the bone???

Raven Middle Square - The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

Dystopian Hellscape - The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Terror in a Small Town - Slewfoot by Brom 

Hellhounds and Feline Familiars - A Night's Tale by Sofie Kelly


Review: A Night's Tail

A Night's Tail A Night's Tail by Sofie Kelly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

This wasn’t my first dead body. 

A Night's Tale is the eleventh installment in the Magical Cats Mystery series that takes place in a small town called Mayville Heights in Minnesota. Our first person pov and who the series follows, is from Kathleen who is a Boston transplant working as a librarian. I haven't read the other books in the series and as a consequence, I struggled to keep the large amount of characters straight in my mind. I would say the first 20% of this was overly descriptive (Do we really need to know which side of a haircut everyone is on?) muses from Kathleen of her friends and the townspeople. If you're a frequent reader of the series, you would probably enjoy meeting up with everyone again but as a new reader, it was too many characters to juggle and details that clogged the story. 

Owen could become invisible at will. It had seemed so shocking the first time I’d realized what he could do, and now it was no big deal— for the most part. Hercules, on the other hand— or maybe that should be “paw”— could walk through walls. 

The series follows Kathleen but her two cats could arguably be the stars of the show. They were feral cats that Kathleen found on a Wisteria Hill and for the last three years, Kathleen has known about their magical abilities, which they apparently use to not only confuse unknowing humans by showing up in random spots but help Kathleen solve murder cases. As this is a cozy mystery series, there are a lot of murder cases in this town. I really wish the cats Owen and Hercules would have been utilized more, they're around in the story but the murder mystery plot doesn't really get rolling until almost the 60% mark and the cats come into the latter second half more and help. With a cover sporting cats and a series titled “Magical Cats”, I wanted them to have more of the spotlight. 

“We have to figure out who killed Lewis Wallace,” I said. “Mrr,” Hercules agreed. He put one white‑tipped paw on my hand . He was in. 

The murder takes place at 30% and it is of a character new to the town and who hasn't made a great impression, so the suspects are wide and varied, which is fun for a murder mystery. Kathleen is also dating a detective, their romance seems to be threaded throughout the series, so we get some helpful information from him on the murder thread. Kathleen's brother is in town with his band and staying with her and as one of his bandmates had an altercation with the victim and was with Kathleen when she came upon the body at the hotel, they're all close to the case. Kathleen decides to do her own investigation into the case to try and help keep her brother off the suspect list as he was the one who bought the peanut butter muffins that ended up sending the victim into anaphylactic shock and ruled the cause of death. 

“Most people are not all one thing,” she said. “You might want to keep that in mind.” 

Through Kathleen's investigations, the story revisits past characters and couples while giving some a little more background and setting up possible romances for future books in the series. As I said, I was new to the world, so some of this felt like filler to me and I wanted more of a focus on the cats helping out with the murder mystery. The mystery gets a little convoluted in it's red-herring travels but circles around to a plausible and credible set-up reasons for why the guilty did what they did. This is a cozy mystery, so except everything to be done and presented with more of a lighter touch than gritty. 

Just like that, I knew who had killed Lewis Wallace. 

The murder mystery accelerates at around 80% and Kathleen ends up solving the case. The last 10% has Kathleen deciding to let her detective boyfriend in on the magical abilities of her two cats because she doesn't want to lie to him anymore and he also happens to have a cat from Wisteria Hill and she's noticed that cat has some magical abilities too. He at first reacts the way one would think you would when told a cat can walk through walls but after seeing it for himself, gets a little hurt that Kathleen is just telling him now when they have been dating almost two years. The series will obvious continue with them working on their relationship and maybe bringing in his cat Micah to help with further investigations. Readers of the series will probably enjoy this more than I did as I couldn't quite keep up with the large cast of characters. The over descriptions of character looks in the beginning clogged the story for me and while there was some interesting tidbits of information (the Andrew Carnegie library tie-in), I thought the writer was a little too eager to include their random bits of research. If you like magical cats that help solve murder mysteries though, Owen and Hercules will steal your heart, if not your food.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Reading Update: Page 1

Cozy mystery, fried mac & cheese balls, and Dr. Pepper meatballs. Happy Sunday! 

Getting some reading in before the MN Vikings game and can't wait to see how these kitties help solve the case.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Review: Be Buried in the Rain

Be Buried in the Rain Be Buried in the Rain by Barbara Michaels
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

“The sun that warmed our stooping backs and withered the weed uprooted— We shall not feel it again. We shall die in darkness, and be buried in the rain.” 

I read this for the TBRChallenge and Halloween Bingo, usually for TBRC, I talk about everything in the story but HB I try not to spoil too much in case a fellow player hasn't read it yet. I guess I'm saying, prepare for some small spoilers and some evading. 

Deadman’s Hollow, the kids called it. Said it was haunted. 

I didn't read the synopsis on the back of this, I saw it on the HB list of Southern Gothic recommends and trust my fellow HB players enough to just pick it up, so I went in with some wrong preconceptions. For some reason, Gothic automatically makes me think set in historical times, this takes place in the late '80s or early '90s (I'm 38, if you're Gen Z and thinking “That is historical!”, bah to you). The mausoleum on the cover also made me think Louisiana but the setting is the Tidewater area of Virginia. I was also ready for the story to have more of a focus on the ghostly or Gothic-y vibe, this was more centered on the characters. Sure, the beginning brings that creepy vibe with a man driving down a dark road at night and almost crashes as he swerves to avoid what later is found to be skeleton remains of an adult holding a baby. However, that moves to the side and we get more of a 'normal' vibe, with a granddaughter coming back to help take care of her granddmother who is laid up because of a stroke. It's a story that uses the characters to drive the story, instead of the story driving the characters. 

He didn’t lust after my maidenhood; he lusted after Maidenwood. (It shows you how young I was, that I could get a grim relish out of that poor pun.) I never really understood why he was convinced that the discovery that would make his career lay hidden under the tangled brush and weedy clay of my family’s land. Like all old houses, Maidenwood had its share of legends; the buried pirate treasure was only one of them. 

The story is told from Julie's point-of-view and she's a med student who gets called back to her ancestral home to help take care of her grandmother. When she was a pre-teen, she lived for four years with her grandmother and cousin Matt, who is now a Senator. Julie doesn't have a lot of memories from that time but it wasn't enjoyable for her. We get a good look at what kind of grandmother Martha was/is through Julie recalling when she brought home her boyfriend Alan, an archaeologist, and Martha prayed on Julie's insecurities (and Alan's, we later learn) of being ugly and not good enough. Alan's pushing desire to excavate Julie's land, it's been settled since pre-colonial and has rumors of a Blackbeard treasure on it, only adds to what Martha says about their relationship and Julie ends up breaking up with him. This shows the kind of power and sway Martha has over Julie and there was a great quote used in the story about how if you give someone a child before they are seven, they are theirs for life. Oof, what a quote to use and it honestly felt like the story was built around this idea. 

With pitiless accuracy she described my failings, physical and emotional. How could I possibly imagine that a man like Alan—handsome, sophisticated, worldly—could be interested in a callow, homely girl like me? Flat-chested, with lusterless stick-straight brown hair, and the Carr features—“so unfortunate on a woman”—and, of course, no charm whatsoever. 

So, Julie's back at Maidenwood and helping out the nurse Shirley there, there is also the Danners, the wife cooks and cleans and the husband is the handyman and also the one who found the bones. Julie has faint memories of them when she was there but Mr. Danner has found Jesus and is taciturn now, to say the least, and Mrs. Danner spends a lot of the time staring into space. There's also Julie's cousin Matt who flits in and out, he's trying to get power of attorney to run the estate, a Judge who is friends with Martha and visits occasionally, and then Alan. Yep, Julie's ex-boyfriend has been given permission to excavate some of the land, not by the house because Martha can't find out as she's violently opposed to the idea, and some of Alan's helpers on the dig. I was impressed with how just about all of the characters got their own, at least, little backgrounds. It at times gave a fuller view but at others was a bit too dissecting to the story. I did come mainly for some ghostly Gothic, so this disappointed at being distracted away could be a me thing. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not noble—you must have realized that, after reading some of the admissions in these pages. 

There were two times of fourth wall breaking, this always kind of throws me and I thought the first time didn't fit but the second one, because it came at the end of the story, fit better. I just realized I'm not talking about the skeleton bones a lot and that is because of the more to the side they are, they are simultaneously the catalyst of the story and the background. The characterizations, how cousin Matt and the Danners are acting, Martha's deviousness, and Julie's traumatic memories coming back to her are the vehicle that carries the found skeleton thread; it leads to the revelations but isn't obvious about it. There's also some second chance romance between Julie and Alan. Alan's feelings follow the not obvious theme and his caring about Julie is read between the lines, which I'm a big fan of because I think it can sometimes hit harder; gruff people and their deep feelings gets me every time. 

I enjoyed this story, even though it didn't always give me what I picked it up for but more than made up for it with all the little character additives that created such deep characters. I didn't personally like the witch Martha but her characterization was amazing, the ability to have a character control a room with just an eye, whew. The whole Maydon's Hundred (tied into the history and treasure folklore of Julie's home) was a thread that I felt had too much focus. Some threads felt necessary but at the same time, I wanted them clipped. I don't know, while reading I wanted things to move along more but when I was finished with the whole story, I had a greater appreciation for them all. I also want to make sure I mention the dog, Elvis, loved him, lol. If you're looking for a story to sink into characterization, this would be a great pick-up. The last part broke the fourth wall but I really enjoyed the last lines.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

#TBRChallenge: Oct. - Gothic

This #TBRChallenge is set-up by @SuperWendy (blog). Besides the theme months, this is a pretty relaxing challenge. On the third day of every month participants are encouraged to use the hashtag TBRChallenge and discuss the book they plucked from obscurity. I decided to make a personal rule that a book had to be in my TBR for at least 5 years.

Could October's theme be anything but something spooky? I love Gothics but have to read them sporadically otherwise they tend to samesies in my mind and blend together. Besides, how much running from castles in a storm can someone take? (This statement is made to try and cover my angsty loving heart, GIVE ME ALL THE RUNNING FROM CASTLES IN A STORM) 

I originally had The Master of Blacktower picked out for this but because the Gothic theme fits in with my Halloween Bingo and I have the square Southern Gothic, so I decided to switch my pick to Be Buried in the Rain by Barbara Michaels. A two for one! I can't remember ever reading a Barbara Michaels before, if I did it would have been in my teens, so I'm reading to experience the hype. My fellow Halloween Bingo players have been posting about her books for years, so she's been on my tbr for at least 10yrs. 

It's going to be rainy all day in my neck of the woods, so I'm going to snuggle in and enjoy some Gothic-y goodness. 


August - N/A

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Review: Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery

Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.7 stars 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

Sutton, Connecticut, March 1666 

At seventeen, Abitha's father sold her to the government to be shipped off to the colonies and become the bride of a Puritan man named Edward. For a girl who has a temper and has no problem spouting profanities, living in a Puritan society has been difficult. Even though he is ten years her senior, Abitha and her husband Edward get along and even are working at growing close to one another. Edward's brother Wallace, however, often tries to take advantage of Edward and this pits Abitha and Wallace against each other. When Wallace can't pay off a debt, he tries to take Edward's farm instead of losing his own and this sets off a tale of murder, spite, revenge, and fantasy and human devils trying to claim the land. 

“Angels must often do dark deeds in the name of the Lord.” 

Slewfoot was a story that combined fantasy horror with historical fiction. The colonial Puritan setting already provides it's own chills as their history in the 1600s is well known and with each charm Abitha makes for a fellow woman in the village, the tension creeps further in as you know how deadly this path could end up for her. I didn't expect the fantasy horror part to play such a large part, it sometimes felt like a separate story at times and wasn't until the last 20% that I thought those two components cohesively gelled. 

“Even the Devil does not wish to be the Devil. [...]” 

The fantasy horror part involves some inspiration from various pagan lore to create the “wildfolk” and their “father” who they wake up by luring a goat and then Edward into a pit and having father feed off their blood. As the goat was Abitha and Edward's, named Samson, this father goat beast becomes Samson. He's physically described to resemble a 1600s devil and this is what characters who see him call him but he's confused as to who , what, and why his purpose is. Samson dealing with his existential crisis provides a track for the author to explore nature vs human themes while Abitha's story fades to the background a little bit and she slowly gets put on a collision course to battle with Wallace. 

As at least cruelty was a thing that could be pointed out, confronted. But this belief, this absolute conviction that this evil they were doing was good, was God’s work— how, she wondered, how could such a dark conviction ever be overcome? 

With Abitha making charms for the other woman, we get some backstory that her mother was a “cunning woman”, a pagan healer, this works to bridge her to Samson as she works to convince herself that he isn't merely the devil but one of the gods, faefolk perhaps. At 40% the two sort of join forces as Samson helps her grow her crops to save her farm and she gives him a purpose other than murdering humans that are encroaching on the land. This upsets the wildfolk as they want to fully reclaim the land and the dichotomy of “good” nature vs “evil” humans gets played with as the wildfolk aren't altruistic and Abitha actually finds friends in a Reverend and his wife. 

The Devil has come for me! 

The middle, with Abitha and Samson, slowed down for me but at 60% we have the creeping witch hysteria finally come to fruition and the focus shifts to that horror as Samson exits the story for a while. The author does a great job of showing how spite and misogyny started the accusation against Abitha from Wallace and then how sweeping fear and cravenness fueled the townspeople. There's some torture scenes and then the last 20% brings together the witch hysteria historical fiction with the fantasy horror and I thought the two finally gelled together and created a murderous revenge celebration. 

“If it is a witch they want,” she hissed, “then a witch they shall have.” 

The beginning had a nice creeping tension feel to it, the middle slowed for me with the Samson fantasy thread not fully gelling with Abitha's historical fiction, but then the ending brought the two together to create some satisfying horror as the devil take their due. The epilogue will probably hit readers differently but I always enjoy a good happily ever after.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Reading Update: 30%


The spooky season is upon us! Well, me anyway ๐Ÿ˜ˆ 


I'm a seasonal reader and ready for the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. I also love making themed goodies and people's reaction to these 'brimstone' dinner rolls was the best. 

Happy spooky season to all!

These were actually pretty easy to make. The crumbly top does get everywhere though, lol

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Not a Review, a 3 sentence rant: Kingdom of the Cursed

Kingdom of the Cursed Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars 

Not a review, a three sentence rant. 

Disappointed in this one because I was really looking forward to it because I enjoyed the first so much. 

Basically, tons of humping and pretty dresses. 
(Ok, there is some movement of story, 20% unscientific guess, but definitely a drawn out filler to make this a trilogy) 

Still interested in the core of the story but wish this hadn't been "moving from YA to NA, so to be sexy I'm going to constantly have them almost f*ucking".

Review: 30 Days of Night, Vol. 1

30 Days of Night, Vol. 1 30 Days of Night, Vol. 1 by Steve Niles
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

And, just like that, the undead stop laughing 

30 Days of Night is one of my favorite vampire horror movies, so when the Film at 11 Halloween Bingo square got called, I knew exactly what I wanted to read for it. It turned out to be that rare creature of the movie was better than the book (graphic novel) for me. 

I can't really review this without comparing it to the movie, I found the origin story to be very stark and more of an outline of the movie. Eben, Stella, Marlow, and a few of the others are all there and more or less match up with their movie characters. I will say, knowing the ending of the movie, which they kept original to the novel, made the beginning of the novel more poignant. However, I felt like the movie focused more on the humans and did a way better job of setting the tone and slowly bringing in that sense of horror and fear as the residents of Barlow, Alaska realize who is visiting their town. 

The vampires in the novel get more speaking lines and this “humanized” them more, which made them less scary to me. This is a series, so I can see how creating storylines for the vampires makes sense and why the focus was on them more. 

I did read this on Kindle, so maybe I didn't get the best effect of the drawings but I can't say I thought they were the greatest and added emotion to the story. The style came off as watercolor dark shadowy Monet, except with less clear humans instead of plant scenery. You can see the inspiration for the movie vampire looks from the renderings in the novel, though. 

Was a little disappointed because I thought the novel would dive deeper into the story, this is Vol. 1 in a series, so I guess I'd have to read on for that. I hate to say it, but choose movie instead of this.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Review: Best Laid Wedding Plans

Best Laid Wedding Plans Best Laid Wedding Plans by Karen Booth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

She could be relatively anonymous here. That was all she really wanted---to be free. 

Second in the Moonlight Ridge series that follows the three adopted Holloway brothers, it's Grey's time to come back and help out with their father's resort. Still dealing with the emotional fallout from the car accident the three brothers were in fifteen years ago, Grey only comes back home a few times a year and likes his quiet predictable life in New York running his green architect company. He's clamped down on his emotions ever since the car accident and maintains his calm, if pessimistic outlook on life. When his brother asks him to help out with the wedding side of the resort, he's not looking forward to it, especially since the wedding planner seems to always be optimistic and full of sunshine. 

Something about being alone with Grey made her nervous, but excited. 

Dealing with the fallout of her ex-fiancee backing out of their wedding with only three days to spare three months ago and her Hollywood producer father being in the news for allegedly sexually harassing actresses, Autumn is determined to still keep a smile on her face and live in the moment. When the her bestfriend Molly, the manager at the Moonlight Ridge resort she's contracted to help host weddings at, says that Grey Holloway is going to help her, take some of the face time as the wedding part of the resort to try and stop the cancellations happening because of Autumn's notoriety, she's sad but understands. Grey's the grumpy brother but when she see's him doing shirtless push-ups on his front porch, she can't help but find herself attracted. 

Autumn challenged him, but when she did, it was just about getting to the heart of the matter. And with her, everything was simply more enjoyable. 

I would suggest reading book one (Homecoming Heartbreaker) in the series, the author does a great job summarizing the Holloway's and their issues but you'd miss a lot of the emotional components if you just started here. This works as a bridge book for the series, the mystery of who is embezzling money from the resort is continued, a lot to the side, but brings in a forensic accountant to help keep it in readers minds and move it a little farther along. The car accident that distanced the brothers wasn't as heavy an emotional component here, Grey talks about how he works to keep an even keel in his emotions and life so as not to cause damage, he blames himself for Mack losing control of the truck and Travis getting hurt enough to lose football scholarships. For the most part though, this was lighter and more breezy with Grey and Autumn being wary of one another at first, getting a bit flirty, and then fairly quickly hitting the sheets. 

She was allowing herself to fall and that wasn't a good idea. 

The ending with Autumn dealing with her father's issues affecting her own life felt like fairly emotionally heavy issues and I was a little disappointed in how fast and quick it ultimately got brushed away; felt like a opportunity to give some heft to the story. Grey's emotional journey, learning not to blame himself for the accident, felt like a lighter version of his brother Mack's from book one. These two were set-up to be grumpy and sunshine but they mostly gelled right away and only had a little angst at the end with Grey thinking over if he wanted to go back to New York or stay at the resort with his family. 

“What do you want for your birthday?” He huffed the question into her ear. 
“I want you to set my world on fire.” 

This is Harlequin Desire so a good amount of the second half involves sexual escapades (skinny dipping!) but this couple still felt like they could hold a conversation outside of the bedroom, too. The Holloway dad, Jameson, has his pov and I'm really enjoying the budding relationship between him and his former housekeeper, turned nurse, Giada. The forensic accountant is in the picture now and I'm curious to see if my guess as to who is embezzling the money is correct. The third brother Travis is about to come home and I'm looking forward to him finding his love and the three brothers healing their relationship.