Friday, July 31, 2020

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker is easily the most quoted American author known for her caustic wit and sharp tongue. An American Oscar Wilde, if you will. She had the brains and the bite. Dorothy Rothschild, not those Rothschilds, was born in New Jersey but quickly whisked back to New York, so as she could be a true New Yorker. Once her mother died her relationship with her father was contentious until his death when she was twenty. A year later she sold her first poem to Vanity Fair, a magazine she would eventually work at after a two year stint at Vogue. In fact she'd bounce around the various New York publications, from The New Yorker to Esquire and all those in between, for many years, though it was her work as the theatre critic for Vanity Fair, where she was filling in for P.G. Wodehouse when he was on vacation, that made her career take off. This time in her life was centered around her lunches at the Algonquin Round Table. She held her own as one of the few women at a table of (almost) equally smart and wisecracking male colleagues.

As a member of the Algonquin Round Table she became famous as much for her biting remarks as for her brilliant writing. A prolific poet and critic, Dorothy published more than 300 poems in the 1920s. The collection of her writing, The Portable Dorothy Parker, has never gone out of print. Her romantic life was a bit of a roller-coaster, marrying Edwin Parker just before he was deployed in the Great War, by the time he was demobbed their marriage was over. Numerous affairs led to a pregnancy, an abortion, and her first suicide attempt in that order. She had slightly better luck with her second husband, Alan Campbell, even if at times it was tempestuous their union brought about two Oscar nominations for Best Writing-Screenplay. The looming second war brought out Dorothy's political side, she took up pet political causes, and numerous pets, and eventually bequeathed her literary estate to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After his assassination her estate passed to the NAACP. For her tombstone epitaph she suggested “Excuse My Dust.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Bright Young Detectives

If you pay any attention to the cozy genre you'll have seen an adjacent subgenre that's been making itself more and more prominent in recent years, the famous author as sleuth. Yes, there are more "literary" ambitions thrown in like Arthur and George by Julian Barnes, but for me, when they hew closer to the cozy they are more fun. A complete fantasy versus something mired in reality. Josephine Tey, Dorothy Parker, Daphne Du Maurier, and even Agatha Christie herself have solved crimes at the hands of modern day authors. What speaks to me about these books is their meta nature. It's a fun what if! What if these writers, especially those who wrote crime fiction, had some real life inspiration? What if they stumbled on a crime and had a compulsion to solve it? What if said crime inspired them to write? A completely and wonderfully absorbing fantasy. But I also love it when popular literary figures who are in no way connected with crime solve mysteries. One of my favorites in this very niche genre is the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries that has that ever so chic of twenties authors Dorothy Parker solving crimes, often with the likes of Houdini and Conan Doyle! Then there's the Mitford Murder series by Jessica Fellowes. While none of the Mitfords who took pen to paper actually wrote mysteries, the six sisters were a staple of twenties gossip columns so it makes sense that they would fictionally turn to solving crimes. Or at least it does in my mind. So join me in experiencing the roaring twenties through the prose of modern authors envisioning the past through the eyes of some of the twenties most interesting literary and historical figures.      

Monday, July 27, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens
Published by: Razorbill
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The Craft when modern witches must save teens stolen by an ancient demon in this YA fantasy-thriller debut.

Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.

During a spell gone wrong, Liss's boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss's friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?

Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss's orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she's hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.

When another teenager disappears, the girls know it's no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?

Set in the atmospheric wilds of California's northern coast, Sasha Laurens's thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all."

There's a cat on the cover. I was sold on this book before they even mentioned The Craft! 

Tales from the Folly by Ben Aaronovitch
Published by: JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Kindle, 139 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Return to the world of Rivers of London in this first short story collection from bestselling author, Ben Aaronovitch. Tales from the Folly is a carefully curated collection that gathers together previously published stories and brand new tales in the same place for the first time.

Each tale features a new introduction from the author, filled with insight and anecdote offering the reader a deeper exploration into this absorbing fictional world. This is a must read for any Rivers of London fan.

Join Peter, Nightingale, Abigail, Agent Reynolds and Tobias Winter for a series of perfectly portioned tales. Discover what’s haunting a lonely motorway service station, who still wanders the shelves of a popular London bookshop, and what exactly happened to the River Lugg...

With an introduction from internationally bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Charlaine Harris."

Really excited about this, but I think, perhaps, the cover needed some more work...

Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 edited by William Schafer
Published by: Subterranean Press
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Tales of darkness and inexplicable happenings have always been with us - and always will. In its contemporary form, this sort of story is not only alive and well, but flourishing, and it continues to speak to us in a variety of voices. Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 is the latest installment in an acclaimed anthology series, and it brings together ten voices - some familiar, some less so - that are at once distinctive, compelling, and irresistible. The volume opens with award-winning novelist Kat Howar's “An Ordinary Progression of Hearts,” an elegant meditation on the fragility of the human heart; and closes with acclaimed newcomer P. Djèlí Clark's “Skin Magic,” a stunning account of sorcery and dark magic set in an unnamed third world country. Elsewhere in the anthology, Caitlin R. Kíernan (“Cherry Street Tango, Sweat Box Waltz”) offers a piece of near-future noir in which a “blackstrap” (a hired assassin) contemplates the failure of her latest murderous assignment. “At the Threshold of Your Bedchamber on the Fifth Night” by Sarah Gailey is the tale of a courtship that leads to a most unusual consummation. In “Final Course,” a rare short story by rising star C.J. Tudor, the reunion of old school friends takes a savage and unexpected turn. In addition to these and other stellar tales by the likes of Bentley Little, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Gallagher and Ian R. MacLeod, Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 contains Robert R. McCammon's “Death Comes for the Rich Man,” a rare novella set in Colonial America and featuring McCammon's popular “problem solver,” Matthew Corbett."

I am here for literally any book Subterranean Press puts out! 

Crossings by Alex Landragin
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Alex Landragin's Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut - a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.

On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence.

The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations.

With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy."

I LOVE books that aren't easily quantifiable but come together in an epic way.

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder by Dianne Freeman
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In Dianne Freeman’s charming Victorian-era mystery series, Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, finds her sister’s wedding threatened by a vow of vengeance.

London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host - or hide - any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits - shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.

But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George - a man who loves her for much more than her dowry - she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.

As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll...."

Now this is what I like, weddings with funerals built in!

The Fate of a Flapper by Susanna Calkins
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Fate of a Flapper, the second mystery in this captivating new series, takes readers into the dark, dangerous, and glittering underworld of a 1920's Chicago speakeasy.

A 2019 Agatha Award Nominee for "Best Historical Mystery"!

After nine months as a cigarette girl at the Third Door, one of Chicago’s premier moonshine parlors, Gina Ricci feels like she's finally getting into the swing of things. The year is 1929, the Chicago Cubs are almost in the World Series, neighborhood gangs are all-powerful, and though Prohibition is the law of the land, the Third Door can't serve the cocktails fast enough.

Two women in particular are throwing drinks back with abandon while chatting up a couple of bankers, and Gina can't help but notice the levels of inebriation and the tension at their table. When the group stumbles out in the early morning, she tries to put them out of her head. But once at home that night, Gina's sleep is interrupted when her cousin Nancy, a police officer, calls—she's found a body. Gina hurries over to photograph the crime scene, but stops short when she recognizes the body: it’s one of the women from the night before.

Could the Third Door have served the woman bad liquor? Or, Gina wonders, could this be murder? As the gangs and bombings draw ever closer, all of Chicago starts to feel like a warzone, and Gina is determined to find out if this death was an unlucky accident, or a casualty of combat."

It's the 20s again, we ALL need to be flapping it up!

The Last of the Moon Girls by Barbara Davis
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A novel of secrets, memory, family, and forgiveness by the bestselling author of When Never Comes.

Lizzy Moon never wanted Moon Girl Farm. Eight years ago, she left the land that nine generations of gifted healers had tended, determined to distance herself from the whispers about her family's strange legacy. But when her beloved grandmother Althea dies, Lizzy must return and face the tragedy still hanging over the farm's withered lavender fields: the unsolved murders of two young girls, and the cruel accusations that followed Althea to her grave.

Lizzy wants nothing more than to sell the farm and return to her life in New York, until she discovers a journal Althea left for her - a Book of Remembrances meant to help Lizzy embrace her own special gifts. When she reconnects with Andrew Greyson, one of the few in town who believed in Althea's innocence, she resolves to clear her grandmother's name.

But to do so, she'll have to decide if she can accept her legacy and whether to follow in the footsteps of all the Moon women who came before her."

A legacy and unsolved murders? Yes please!

Until It's Over by Nicci French
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the internationally bestselling author of the Frieda Klein series, Nicci French, comes this steamy and suspenseful stand-alone thriller about a group of housemates who must determine the killer among them when a series of murders occur.

Be careful of the ones closest to you...

London cycle courier Astrid Bell has known most of her housemates for years, but while they have a tangled history together - romantic pairings, one-night stands, friendships - they each have secrets.

Astrid is on her way home one day when her neighbor accidentally knocks her off her bike. Suffering a few bruises, her roommates help her home. The next day, they learn that same neighbor was bludgeoned to death only hours after the accident. Each of them tells the police what little they know and are dismissed. Then a few days later, Astrid is asked to pick up a package from a wealthy woman called Ingrid de Soto. When she arrives, the client is lying in the hall of her luxurious home - and it’s apparent she’s also been murdered.

For the police, it’s more than bad luck. For Astrid and her six housemates, it's the beginning of a nightmare: suspicious glances, bitter accusations, and a growing fear that the worst is yet to come.

As the difference between friend and stranger grows harder to judge, the line between attraction and danger thins. The housemates - unsure if there’s a killer in their midst - guard themselves against becoming the next victim. Because if it’s true that bad luck comes in threes - who will be the next to die?"

Murderous roommates? In the age of Covid-19, it's a real concern!

Friday, July 24, 2020

TV Movie Review - Agatha and the Truth of Murder

Agatha and the Truth of Murder
Starring: Stacha Hicks, Joshua Silver, Ruth Bradley, Michael McElhatton, Liam McMahon, Clare McMahon, Pippa Haywood, Brian McCardie, Amelia Dell, Richard Doubleday, Derek Halligan, Samantha Spiro, Blake Harrison, Tim McInnerny, Bebe Cave, Dean Andrews, Seamus O'Hara, and Ralph Ineson
Release Date: December 23rd, 2018
Rating: ★★★
To Watch

Agatha Christie has asked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for help. She needs to know how one pushes through writer's block. She doesn't want her career to be over just when it's starting. His oblique advice is to design a golf course. Though Agatha does attempt this it's not very successful given the real reason she's blocked; her husband Archie wants a divorce because he wants to marry his mistress. Who just happens to be a golfer. The perfect antidote to her problem arrives on her doorstep in the form of Mabel Rogers. Six years previously the love of Mabel's life, Florence Nightingale Shore, was brutally attacked on a train and succumbed to her injuries days later with Mabel by her side. Mabel has spent the last six years devoting her life to solving the murder of Florence and has come to Christie believing she can help. At first Agatha is disinterested, but then realizes that this might be just the thing to fix her writer's block. They decide to lure the suspects to a country house with the incentive that they might get a share in a large inheritance. Agatha will be "Mary Westmacott" a representative of the law firm sent to validate the claimants legitimacy and suitability, with many questions needing answering, in order to figure out who might be a murderer. Mabel will act as an all-round servant, able to root through the guests possessions when they are otherwise engaged. The suspects are a young nurse, whom Florence censured, Florence's cousin, whom inherited Florence's not inconsiderable estate, a solider, a boxer, and a mother whom Florence was intending to visit before her untimely death. Agatha and Mabel have set it up just like one of Christie's novels, get all the suspects together and find out who the guilty party is. The only problem is their ruse results in the death of one of their suspects. So now they have a second murder to solve as their time runs short. There's only so long they can hold their suspects and the outside world has gone mad with Christie's disappearance! They must catch the culprits AND get Agatha out of the news with her timely reappearance as soon as possible.    

Agatha and the Truth of Murder is based on the clever conceit of taking two real life mysteries and having the investigation of one being the reason for the other. The first mystery is the murder of Florence Nightingale Shore in 1920, which this film postulates Agatha Christie as solving during her 1926 disappearance. It's complete fabrication, they don't even stick too closely to the actual facts, especially where suspects are concerned, but for it's entertainment value it's a fun diversion in the style of Christie's own work. Though what faults it has could have been easily fixed. The movie's problems, like the mysteries, number two. Firstly there needed to be a better understanding of exactly who Florence Nightingale Shore was. She was an amazing woman, a war hero, a nurse as formidable as her godmother and namesake. Yet we only see a glimpse of her at the beginning of the film when she's attacked and then learn secondhand through her friend Mabel Rogers about the crime and only a little about the woman she loved. How can we care about Florence's murder if the character isn't grounded? This wouldn't have taken much to solve, just a little more exposition instead of passing over her to get to Agatha as fast as they could. And that speed is the second problem, the pacing is all off in this film. The narrative is rushed. I defy anyone to actually know whose country house the investigation is taking place in and how all the suspects are connected to Florence Nightingale Shore before the revelation of the killer who you can't see coming and then the final denouement! The filmmakers were too intent on getting everyone closeted away from the world, cloistered in that big house just like Agatha Christie would do in one of her own books that they forgot that as an author she always made her books accessible. If you paid close enough attention you could solve it. Everything made sense. Here it's just a jumble whirling around you like an out of control ride at an amusement park. That's not to say it isn't fun, it just isn't as satisfying an experience as it could have been if a little more care had gone into making it. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

TV Movie Review - Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Based on the book by Agatha Christie
Starring: David Suchet, Roger Frost, Oliver Ford Davies, Malcolm Terris, Nigel Cooke, Jamie Bamber, Rosalind Bailey, Gregor Truter, Clive Brunt, Selina Cadell, Daisy Beaumont, Flora Montgomery, Vivien Heilbron, and Philip Jackson
Release Date: January 2nd, 2000
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Poirot arrives at a bank. He carefully removes a waterlogged journal from a safety deposit box. He sits himself down and reviews the journal of a depraved mind. A mind for murder. The events of which happened when Poirot retired to King's Abbot to grow mallows. On the day that Mrs. Ferrars was to kill herself Dr. Sheppard accompanied Roger Ackroyd's butler over to his neighbor Poirot's house. Poirot was attempting to successfully cultivate mallows with the loving care only an obsessive compulsive could lavish on the vegetables and yet he does not succeed. Thankfully Parker has come at the request of his employer to ask if Poirot's tour of the factory could be moved forward an hour, to which Poirot is glad to accede, the mallows will only frustrate him more. Years earlier Poirot lent his friend Roger Ackroyd startup capital and he has turned it into an empire. An empire with many pieces and many players, some of whom aren't happy. Before the tour concludes, Poirot will see Roger's unhappy secretary, Geoffrey Raymond, and Roger's distraught stepson, Ralph Paton, who is begging his father to not announce his engagement to Flora Ackroyd, Roger's niece, in this coming Sunday's paper, as well as a frantic phone call from Mrs. Ferrars. That night Mrs. Ferrars takes her own life and the next morning Roger asks Poirot to stop by his house. Poirot is disturbed to learn that Mrs. Ferrars was being blackmailed, though she refused to say who the culprit was. Poirot leaves as a dinner party arrives at Roger's house and he goes home to ruminate. Something isn't sitting right with him and he's worried for his friend. He has every reason to be worried because by the time Poirot returns to Roger's house later that evening Roger is dead, in a locked room. The sequence of events seems to be simple enough and Ralph Paton seems to be the culprit, but Poirot isn't so sure. He is reluctant to return to detection but to avenge his friend he must! And when another old friend arrives to help solve the crime it's like old times. Too bad it's old times that drove Poirot to the mallows.    

I went into this episode of Poirot expecting many changes from the source material. There are some things unique to literature that can not be replicated in a visual medium. A story narrated by the killer whilst simultaneously concealing their guilt from the reader, a trope that Christie used several times, would be virtually impossible to pull off for television, so in swoops the dramatist, Clive Exton, who restructures the story to a more traditional Poirot story. He takes Poirot, who was more a spectator, an outsider in the original story and puts him in the thick of it while bringing Chief Inspector Japp along for the ride, as we have seen in countless previous adventures. And that's what I missed most about The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I missed how unique and original it was within Poirot's cannon. I missed this different kind of story that could have been told, instead we are given a framing device of the journal of the killer, which when you read the book is actually the book you are reading. What's more Exton upped the vitriol of our killer who is woefully miscast resulting in the denouement being totally unsatisfactory. Yet, despite all this it isn't a "bad" episode, it just could have been so much more, but it is thankfully saved because of the charm of Suchet and Jackson. The nuanced humor these two actors have developed over the years of working together brings joy to the screen because you can see how much fun they are having. What's more, Suchet is so effortlessly Poirot that he brings humor and pathos to the role in even the quietest of moments. My favorite scene is at the very beginning when Dr. Sheppard and Parker come over to Poirot's house. In the book I always thought it was odd that Poirot would retire to the country in order to raise mallows. Well, here we see a far more honest depiction of how that might have gone. His exasperation with his garden given with a sigh, a grunt, a flung vegetable, and a raised eyebrow are sheer perfection. In fact I couldn't help but think his babying of his garden combined with his frustration is something all of those who have taken to our gardens during quarantine are feeling. There's a little bit of Poirot in us all I think. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor by Eve Chase
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"An isolated forest estate.
A family with a terrible secret.
The discovery that changes everything.

England, 1970. On the one-year anniversary of the Harrington family's darkest night, their beautiful London home goes up in flames. Mrs. Harrington, the two children, and live-in nanny Rita relocate to Foxcote Manor, ostensibly to recuperate. But the creeping forest, where lost things have a way of coming back, is not as restful as it seems. When thirteen-year-old Hera discovers a baby girl abandoned just beyond their garden gate, this tiniest, most wondrous of secrets brings a much-needed sunlit peace, until a visitor detonates the family's tenuous happiness. All too soon a body lies dead in the woods.

Forty years later, London-based Sylvie is an expert at looking the other way. It's how she stayed married to her unfaithful husband for more than twenty years. But she's turned over a new leaf, having left him for a fresh start. She buried her own origin story decades ago, never imagining her teenage daughter would have a shocking reason to dig the past up - and to ask Sylvie to finally face the secrets that lead her back to Foxcote Manor."

Oh, there's something about secrets from the 70s, especially in England, that get my spine tingling! 

I Saw Him Die by Andrew Wilson
Published by: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this classic whodunit filled with red herrings and double-crosses, the Queen of Crime returns in the role of sleuth as she investigates a mysterious death in the Scottish Highlands.

Bestselling novelist and part-time undercover sleuth Agatha Christie is looking forward to a bit of well-deserved rest and relaxation when her longtime friend John Davison pleads with her to help him protect a retired British agent turned hotelier who has been receiving threatening letters.

Together they travel to Dallach Lodge, a beautiful estate on Scotland’s picturesque Isle of Skye. There they insert themselves among the hotel’s illustrious guests, including members of the owner’s family, a leading lady of the theater, a brilliant botanist, a local doctor, and two sisters who coauthor romance novels. After a pleasant first evening, Agatha thinks it unlikely that any of them are capable of evil, much less murder. But early the next morning, the sound of a gunshot rings out and the hotel owner is found dead in the arms of his nephew. At first, it appears to be a simple hunting accident, but as Agatha digs deeper, she discovers that each and every one of the residents has a reason for wanting the late proprietor dead."

It's very timely that this book is coming out while I'm profiling Agatha Christie on my blog!

The Cry of the Lake by Charlie Tyler
Published by: darkstroke books
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Format: Kindle, 263 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A gruesome discovery unravels a dark trail of murder and madness.

A six-year-old girl sneaks out of bed to capture a mermaid but instead discovers a dead body. Terrified and unable to make sense of what she sees, she locks the vision deep inside her mind.

Ten years later, Lily is introduced to the charismatic Flo and they become best friends. But Lily is guilt-ridden - she is hiding a terrible secret which has the power to destroy both their lives.

When Flo’s father is accused of killing a schoolgirl, the horrors of Lily’s past come bubbling to the surface. Lily knows that, whatever the consequences, she has to make things right. She must go back to the events of her childhood and face what happened at the boat house all those years ago.

Can Lily and Flo discover what is hiding in the murky waters of the lake before the killer strikes again?"

Past horrors bubbling to the surface? I'm liking this lake!  

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet's word is law, Immanuelle Moore's very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her."

Witches in the Darkwood? YAS!

A Summoning of Souls by Leanna Renee Hieber
Published by: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Format: Paperback, 244 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"As the twentieth century dawns in NYC, the top-secret Ghost Precinct pursues justice beyond the earthly realm in this paranormal historical mystery series.

The ethereal denizens of New York owe a great debt to Eve Whitby, the young medium who leads an all-female team of spiritualists in the police department's Ghost Precinct. Without her efforts on behalf of the incorporeal, many souls would have been lost or damned by means both human and inhuman.

But now Eve faces an enemy determined to exorcise the city's ghostly population once and for all. Albert Prenze is supposed to be dead. Instead he is very much alive, having assumed the identity of his twin brother Alfred, and taken control of the family's dubiously acquired fortune. To achieve his vicious ends, Albert plots to twist Eve's abilities into his own psychic weapon--a weapon that not only poses a threat to spirits but to everyone she cares for, including her beloved Detective Horowitz..."

I mean, in all seriousness, if you aren't totally excited about a spiritualists police force than we can't be friends. Sorry. 

Were-Geeks Save Wisconsin by Kathy Lyons
Published by: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Format: Paperback, 380 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When badass werewolves battling supernatural evil realize they need tech support, they recruit a group of geeks with hilarious - and romantic - results. Chemist Josh Collier is having a blast at a comic book convention when he gets the shock of his life - he’s a werewolf! WTF? Before he can howl, he’s whisked away to a secret lair by Nero, a hot guy dressed as a Roman centurion. Josh’s former life is over, and his genius is needed at Wulf, Inc. Nero has no interest in babysitting a trainee were-geek when he’d rather be killing the demon that wiped out his entire pack. While Josh analyzes the monster’s weapon, wild passion ignites between him and Nero. With destiny and their pack in the balance, can they survive the demon out to destroy Wisconsin?"

I mean, I HAVE to read this to learn more about this demon out to destroy where I live, right? 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Book Review - Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Published by: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers
Publication Date: June, 1926
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Dr. James Sheppard has just been attending to the suicide of one of his patients, a Mrs. Ferrars. This tragedy effects another patient, and friend, Roger Ackroyd, who invites Dr. Sheppard to dinner with his family and other house guests at Fernly Park that night. The dinner isn't the most congenial of affairs, the other guests include Roger's sister-in-law and her daughter Flora, who announces her engagement to Roger's stepson Ralph Patton, Major Blunt, a big game hunter, and Geoffrey Raymond, Roger's personal secretary. The guests wouldn't be that important if it wasn't for what happened after. Roger reveals to Dr. Sheppard that his fiance, the widow Mrs. Ferrars, killed herself because she was being blackmailed! She apparently killed her first husband and the blackmailer knew it! Before the two get into too great a discussion about what all this could mean a letter from the late Mrs. Ferrars arrives and Roger asks the good doctor to leave. Dr. Sheppard though is soon called back to Fernly Park as Roger Ackroyd has been found murdered! The police suspect Ralph Patton, but nothing adds up. The room was locked, the letter from Mrs. Ferrars is missing, the call Dr. Sheppard received telling him of the death can't be traced, a chair has been moved at the scene of the crime, what does it all mean? It means Poirot is needed and Flora calls him in. As luck would have it he has retired to King's Abbot to grow vegetable marrows and is now living next door to Dr. Sheppard. Poirot is glad to come out of retirement because Roger Ackroyd was his friend. Dr. Sheppard, being such an important witness to the crime, becomes Poirot's Watson; leading him through the events as they happened and writing down the case for posterity. What an honor to work with the great Poirot! What an honor to see if the great detective's little grey cells are still up to the task of catching a criminal or are only good for cultivating vegetable marrows.

Sometimes you just need a really good whodunit. I was reading a list of the greatest locked room mysteries and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd topped the list. Now I loved a good locked room mystery, and while I still think that technically A.A. Milne's The Red House Mystery might be the more locked of the rooms due to a window that the generators of this list seem to have overlooked, I will say that this Poirot outing was fun and unexpected in many ways. What I found most fascinating about The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is that this is only Poirot's third book, his forth if you count the short story collection, and Agatha Christie already has him retired to the countryside to raise marrows! If you're wondering what a marrow is it's a vegetable similar to zucchini, and yes, leave it to Poirot to grow something that the majority of modern readers have to look up because they are no longer fashionable. Though I think even contemporary American readers would probably have had to look it up as well... or at least that's my hope in a desperate plea to not feel totally ignorant about vegetables. Given that Poirot is the star of 50 short stories, 33 novels, and 2 plays, I was thrown that we see Poirot pleasantly ensconced in retirement. Of course it doesn't last, but the fact that Christie was willing to toy with the idea of retiring her greatest detective so early as a sort of red herring goes to show how she revolutionized the detective genre by continually playing with the medium and not hesitating to take a risk. And in another unexpected twist we aren't seeing Poirot through the hero-worshiping eyes of Hastings! We get an entirely new view of Poirot through the eyes of our unreliable narrator Dr. Sheppard. Which then makes one think if we can even trust Hastings' narration in his stories. There are just so many implications to everything here that it makes one dizzy. In fact I'd say Christie subverting the detective genre's and her own most common tropes versus solving the murder brings more joy to the reader; but that just might be me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Agatha Christie

When people think of authors from the 1920s I don't think many people think of Agatha Christie because she was prolific for such a long time, her final book being published posthumously in 1976 a few months after her death. Hercule Poirot might be inseparable from the the Art Deco trappings of the 1920s but Christie herself has become timeless. Yet her first book featuring the Belgian detective, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920 and she went on to publish ten more books during this decade. From an early age it was clear Christie was a voracious reader and budding writer. Her mother, due to some whim, decided that Agatha wasn't to learn to read or write until she was eight. Agatha taught herself at age four. By age ten she had written her first poem, "The Cowslip," which is so beautiful and elegant it's hard to imagine a girl of only ten writing it. By age eleven her father died and she viewed it as the end of her childhood. What came next was marriage and war. Two things that would forever change her.

On Christmas Eve, 1914 she married Archie Christie while he was home on leave. To do her patriotic duty she worked first as a nurse and then as a dispenser, which is where she learned all about medicine, and more importantly, about poisons. No one could ever fault her writing for getting these details wrong due to her experience. During the war in 1916 she wrote her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, being inspired by her work in the dispensary and the Belgian refugees she encountered in the hospital. But before she would see it published the war would end and she would have a child. The twenties also brought about the death of her mother and her divorce, which lead to her own mysterious disappearance in 1926 that was never explained and had the country in an uproar. Whether the public thought it a publicity stunt or not, one thing was clear, they needed Agatha Christie and her books. Lucky for them she wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short-story collections in total that have sold over two billion copies, an amount surpassed only by the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: July 14th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"HARRY DRESDEN IS BACK AND READY FOR ACTION, in the new entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files.

When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, joins the White Council's security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago - and all he holds dear?"

Are you as atwitter as I am about the return of Harry Dresden!?!

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: July 14th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 544 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon.

The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened.

Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President."

I guess winning the Hugo and Nebula means she's back to hardcover! 

Mayhem by Estelle Laure
Published by: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: July 14th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Lost Boys meets Wilder Girls in this supernatural feminist YA novel.

It's 1987 and unfortunately it's not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy's constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem's own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren't like everyone else.

But when May's stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem's questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good.

But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough."

I'm all about the nostalgia factor of the 80s and summertime!

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
Published by: Random House
Publication Date: July 14th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 592 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The long-awaited new novel from the bestselling, prize-winning author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks.

Utopia Avenue is the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967, and fronted by folk singer Elf Holloway, blues bassist Dean Moss and guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet, Utopia Avenue embarked on a meteoric journey from the seedy clubs of Soho, a TV debut on Top of the Pops, the cusp of chart success, glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome, and a fateful American sojourn in the Chelsea Hotel, Laurel Canyon, and San Francisco during the autumn of ’68.

David Mitchell’s kaleidoscopic novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue’s turbulent life and times; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of voices in the head, and the truths and lies they whisper; of music, madness, and idealism. Can we really change the world, or does the world change us?"

I love books about bands that don't exist but totally feel like the should have!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Miniseries Review - Life in Squares

Life in Squares
Starring: Phoebe Fox, Eve Best, Christian Brassington, Eleanor Bron, James Clay, Lydia Leonard, Catherine McCormack, James Norton, Rupert Penry-Jones, Ed Birch, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Jack Davenport, Sam Hoare, Andrew Havill, Elliot Cowan, Edmund Kingsley, James Northcote, Deborah Findlay, Anton Lesser, Al Weaver, Guy Henry, Jenny Howe, Charlie Appleyard, Maximilian Scull, Finn Jones, Louis Fisher, Edmund Digby-Jones, Rosie Ede, Lucy Boynton, Simon Thomas, and Emily Bruni
Release Date: July 27th, 2015 - August 10th, 2015
Rating: ★★
To Watch

Siblings Vanessa, Virginia, and Adrian Stephen have been liberated from societal, conventional, and parental expectations with the death of their father. Though Virginia's mental health remains delicate a hovering Aunt is no match to their desire to freely express themselves and break free of the assigned rolls expected of them. If they use only one spoon for the entire household, so be it! Dishes take up so much time that could be used productively in the pursuit of art! In an effort to give the girls a glimpse of the greater artistic community Adrian invites over his college friends for salons. At first Vanessa and Virginia feel that they are still constrained, being the hostesses of these evenings, but slowly they become equals to the Cambridge and Oxford educated boys. Thus the Bloomsbury Group came to exist, but their relationships would often be fraught. The love triangles were endless and endlessly discussed. Virginia was forever concerned with losing her sister to marriage, the state to which their hovering Aunt approved above all others! The art critic Clive Bell seemed the most likely candidate to whisk Vanessa away. And after the heartbreaking death of their brother to typhoid Virginia lost her sister to Bell and her sisters newfound love of copulation which soon brought about her first child, Julian. But five years later Virginia would marry Leonard Woolf, though wouldn't take as much joy in copulation as her sister and sadly would have a bad breakdown resulting in a suicide attempt. She was able to come back from this and her first book was published in 1915. With war on the horizon a significant portion of the Bloomsbury Group decamped from Bloomsbury. Vanessa, Duncan Grant, and Duncan's lover David Garnett moved to the Sussex countryside where Vanessa and Duncan could paint while Duncan and David worked the land instead of serving in the army. But this move to the countryside would complicate everything, as Vanessa realized that the homosexual Duncan was the love of her life and she decided that they would have a child together, which they did. Years pass in which no one talks about all their trysts and on the eve of another world war everything starts to break apart. 

Dorothy Parker famously quipped that the Bloomsbury Group "lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles." The squares and the circles of this adaptation are pitch perfect. The atmosphere, the rooms with every visible surface decorated, the feeling of a lived in artistic space is spot on, so much so that I've started to look at my door jambs and think that they are lacking something in being painted a flat white. I wanted to walk through those rooms and just absorb the creativity. Unfortunately this miniseries is all about the triangles. And I have a feeling that watching the background as I did wasn't the intended purpose in making this promiscuous miniseries. Comprising of three episodes the first two episodes are all about graphic copulation while the third is the Group clumsily dealing with the fallout of said copulation. Now I'm not one to be a prude, I just feel that graphic sex needs to be in aid of something, in particular, the story being told. Here it just seemed to be shorthand for their freedom, both intellectually and sexually. Yet there was a line that struck me as odd, Vanessa receives a letter from Virginia who is on her honeymoon saying she doesn't think sex is all it's cracked up to be and Vanessa blithely replies that the Duckworths messed Virginia up. This sent me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole learning about Virigina's sexual abuse at the hands of her stepbrothers, the Duckworths. I'm sorry, what!?! There's a real issue here that should be dealt with instead it's glossed over or made bawdy, more copulation please! This was the turning point for me. And this doesn't even cover Vanessa's daughter marrying her father's ex-lover! If something so important could be shoved aside as nothing then how could I enjoy anything I was seeing? This disconnect was made "easier" by the switching of the cast between the second and third episodes. In the first two episodes we see glimpses of their future selves played by different actors, and these glimpses were fine and were meant to cushion the blow of switching to the older actors. The problem was I was invested in the younger actors and their relationships, the older actors, once on their own, had no chemistry. None! Nothing at all, it was horrid. And as for Eve Best as the older Vanessa, do they do Razzies for television?

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Movie Review - Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway
Based on the book by Virginia Woolf
Starring: Rupert Graves, Vanessa Redgrave, Amanda Drew, Oliver Ford Davies, Natascha McElhone, Alan Cox, Hal Cruttenden, Lena Headey, Amelia Bullmore, Rupert Baker, Alistair Petrie, John Franklyn-Robbins, Phyllis Calvert, Katie Carr, Selina Cadell, Michael Kitchen, Robert Portal, John Standing, Margaret Tyzack, Robert Hardy, Denis Lill, Kate Binchy, Sarah Badel, Janet Henfrey, Faith Brook, Tony Steedman, and Christopher Staines
Release Date: September 4th, 1997
Rating: ★★★
To Watch

It is a beautiful summer's day in June. Mrs. Dalloway wonders aloud how is she so lucky to have her party on such a perfect day. When she was young, at Bourton, every day was perfect and spent with her friends, several of whom are coming to her party that night. As she walks to the florist she runs into one of them, Hugh, a rather hopeless case then and now. But he has his purpose. After picking out the sweet peas at the shop, just like her dear friend Sally Seton used to decorate the table one night all those years ago, a car backfires and she sees a young man in distress through the shop window. Septimus Warren Smith is out with his wife Rezia. They are due for an appointment later at the doctors because Septimus keeps threatening to kill himself and sees his dead friend Evans wherever he goes. The image of that young man will stick with Clarissa all day as she prepares for her party. And she has some unexpected hurdles; her daughter, Elizabeth, is insisting she won't attend because she'll be helping her friend Miss Kilman in her charitable work. There is also a little do-to about a boring acquaintance wishing to attend whom Clarissa would rather not. But the biggest surprise is when Peter Walsh walks through the door. Peter has been in India ever since Clarissa threw him over for her husband all those summers ago at Bourton. Peter's life, and in particular his love life, is a shambles and he breaks down in front of Clarissa. He can't help be overwhelmed by what his life has become and the thought that he loved Clarissa. He's uncertain if he still does, but the fact that he did has colored his entire life. Despite saying that under no circumstance would he be invited to the party he gets an invitation shouted after him as he flees the Dalloway's residence. Then finally, the hour has come, the party is to start, and Clarissa is sure it will be a failure. She just wishes to create this one perfect evening for her guests so that they can go out into the world afterwards and look back on the wonder of the perfect memory, the perfect evening, the perfect conversation, the perfect party. She worries that one of her guests, a rather renowned doctor, will ruin everything by discussing the suicide of his patient Septimus Warren Smith, by bringing death into her domain, but sometimes life, love, and memories, are greater than death, which has it's own kind of freedom.   

Remember the days when you'd just channel surf and see what was on because the only other way was to drag out the TV Guide, an actual, physical, small newsprint block of information, not that glossy mag that's still around today, and try to figure out which channel was which because each cable company had a different channel lineup? Well, back then I stumbled on this wonderfully British and evocative movie. I only got to watch about twenty minutes of it because dinner was ready but it left enough of an impression that I bothered to dig out the TV Guide after the fact and figure out that it was called Mrs. Dalloway. Knowing it was based on the book by Virginia Woolf, and at this time I would never watch an adaptation without reading the book first, I went out and got myself a copy of Mrs. Dalloway and it sat on my shelves for years. Then after The Hours came out a new edition of Mrs. Dalloway was released including the short story which was the initial inspiration for the book so I thought to myself, lucky I didn't read Mrs. Dalloway without reading it's precursor first! So the first copy sat around for five years and the second copy sat around for, I'm almost ashamed to say it, seventeen years, until it was finally dug out and read this year. Here's the thing, the book is a lot of work to read whereas this is an easy adaptation that you don't have to work for. Which means it's probably the exact opposite of what Virginia Woolf would have wanted but makes for a pleasurable moviegoing experience. Eileen Atkins, yes, that Eileen Atkins, the Dame, has taken Mrs. Dalloway and made it into a rather sweet coming of age story combined with the wistfulness of aging and first and lasting loves with an edge of social satire that has everything to do with the casting and nothing to do with the source material. In fact, the closer it gets to the source material, especially with regard to Septimus, played by Rupert Graves, and his PTSD, the less the movie works. This movie falls squarely into the time period of Rupert Graves's acting that I hate. He took himself so seriously and overacted so abysmally that I don't know how anyone can watch him in anything he was in from the start of his career to about 2005. In fact it wasn't until Sherlock in 2010 where I started to like him after the loathing and indifference. So if you can stomach some truly bad acting on his part and want a nice summery escape to an England that exists only in dreams of the past this idyll is for you.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 656 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A Peculiar Peril is a head-spinning epic about three friends on a quest to protect the world from a threat as unknowable as it is terrifying, from the Nebula Award–winning and New York Times bestselling author of Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer.

Jonathan Lambshead stands to inherit his deceased grandfather’s overstuffed mansion - a veritable cabinet of curiosities - once he and two schoolmates catalog its contents. But the three soon discover that the house is filled with far more than just oddities: It holds clues linking to an alt-Earth called Aurora, where the notorious English occultist Aleister Crowley has stormed back to life on a magic-fueled rampage across a surreal, through-the-looking-glass version of Europe replete with talking animals (and vegetables).

Swept into encounters with allies more unpredictable than enemies, Jonathan pieces together his destiny as a member of a secret society devoted to keeping our world separate from Aurora. But as the ground shifts and allegiances change with every step, he and his friends sink ever deeper into a deadly pursuit of the profound evil that is also chasing after them."

I was excited just by the idea of cataloging a curious house, throw in Aleister Crowley and I'm beyond excited! 

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the author of the New York Times bestseller Wilder Girls comes a new twisty thriller about a girl whose past has always been a mystery - until she decides to return to her mother's hometown... where history has a tendency to repeat itself.

Ever since Margot was born, it's been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot's questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that's not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it's not what she bargained for.

Margot's mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what's still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there's poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she's there, she might never escape."

Oh, family secrets and hometown pilgrimages!

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Maia Tamarin proved her skill as a tailor when she wove the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars, but it will take more than a beautiful gown to hide the darkness rising up within her. . . . The stakes are higher than ever in this breathtaking sequel to Spin the Dawn, perfect for fans of Six of Crows.

Maia Tamarin's journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. Edan, the boy she loves, is gone - perhaps forever - and no sooner does she set foot in the Autumn Palace than she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor's bride-to-be to keep the peace. When the emperor's rivals learn of her deception, there is hell to pay, but the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing...glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red; losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It's only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, and in the meantime she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country."

I love the epic fableness of this series. 

The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 576 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Kate Elliott, Ken Liu, Todd McCaffrey, Garth Nix, Peter S. Beagle, and other modern masters of fantasy and science fiction put their unique spin on the greatest of mythical beasts - the dragon - in never-before-seen works written exclusively for this fantasy anthology compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan and with art by Rovina Cai!

Here there be dragons...

From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, and struggle beloved for generations.

Bringing together nearly thirty stories and poems from some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers working today - Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Seanan Maguire, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, Michael Swanwick, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang - and illustrated by award-nominated artist Rovina Cai with black-and-white line drawings specific to each entry throughout, this extraordinary collection vividly breathes fire and life into one of our most captivating and feared magical creatures as never before and is sure to become a treasured keepsake for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales."

The older I get the more I want to proclaim my love of dragons!

Haunted Heroine by Sarah Kuhn
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The fourth book in the smart, snarky, and action-packed Heroine series follows Evie Tanaka, Aveda Jupiter, and Bea Tanaka as they combat a new supernatural threat.

Everything in Evie Tanaka's life is finally perfect. As a badass superheroine, she defends San Francisco from demon invasion on the regular. Her relationships with superhero partner Aveda Jupiter, little sister Bea, and hot, half-demon husband Nate have never been stronger. Maybe it's possible for a grad school dropout turned put-upon personal assistant turned superhero to have it all?

Just when she thinks life can't get any better, Evie learns she's pregnant. Everyone around her is overjoyed...but Evie has major doubts about whether she's cut out for motherhood. Before she can dwell on her dilemma, a local women's college reports a string of mysterious "hauntings," and Evie and Aveda are called in to investigate, going undercover as grad students during the creepiest time of the year: Halloween.

As she confronts terrifying ghosts and lives out a bizarre version of the grad school life she left behind, Evie can't help but wonder about the road not taken: what would her life be like if she'd stayed here instead of pursuing superheroing with Aveda? And can an overwhelmed pregnant superhero truly have it all?

She's about to find out."

I love that this series keeps growing and expanding, I love it even more that there are hauntings! 

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Making it up the aisle was the easy part: Rebecca "Bex" Porter must survive her own scandals and adjust to royal British life in this "timely and positively delicious" follow-up to The Royal We that's "just as fun, charming, and delightful as the first" (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

After a scandalous secret turns their fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, Rebecca "Bex" Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world's judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they'd placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick's brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten - nor forgiven."

For your "royals" fix now that Harry and Meghan are off living the L.A. life.

Bodies from the Library edited by Tony Medawar
Published by: Collins Crime Club
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This anthology of rare stories of crime and suspense brings together 16 tales by masters of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction for the first time in book form, including a newly discovered Agatha Christie crime story that has not been seen since 1922.

At a time when crime and thriller writing has once again overtaken the sales of general and literary fiction, Bodies from the Library unearths lost stories from the Golden Age, that period between the World Wars when detective fiction captured the public's imagination and saw the emergence of some of the world's cleverest and most popular storytellers.

This anthology brings together 16 forgotten tales that have either been published only once before - perhaps in a newspaper or rare magazine - or have never before appeared in print. From a previously unpublished 1917 script featuring Ernest Bramah's blind detective Max Carrados, to early 1950s crime stories written for London's Evening Standard by Cyril Hare, Freeman Wills Crofts and A.A. Milne, it spans five decades of writing by masters of the Golden Age.

Most anticipated of all are the contributions by women writers: the first detective story by Georgette Heyer, unseen since 1923; an unpublished story by Christianna Brand, creator of Nanny McPhee; and a dark tale by Agatha Christie published only in an Australian journal in 1922 during her 'Grand Tour' of the British Empire.

With other stories by Detection Club stalwarts Anthony Berkeley, H.C. Bailey, J.J. Connington, John Rhode and Nicholas Blake, plus Vincent Cornier, Leo Bruce, Roy Vickers and Arthur Upfield, this essential collection harks back to a time before forensic science - when murder was a complex business."

If you all knew about this series of anthologies and never told me about it I'm going to be pissed! 

Death at the Dance by Verity Bright
Published by: Bookouture
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 276 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A masked ball, a dead body, a missing diamond necklace and a suspicious silver candlestick? Sounds like a case for Lady Eleanor Swift!

England, 1920. Lady Eleanor Swift, adventurer extraordinaire and reluctant amateur detective, is taking a break from sleuthing. She’s got much bigger problems: Eleanor has two left feet, nothing to wear and she’s expected at the masked ball at the local manor. Her new beau Lance Langham is the host, so she needs to dazzle.

Surrounded by partygoers with painted faces, pirates, priests and enough feathers to drown an ostrich, Eleanor searches for a familiar face. As she follows a familiar pair of long legs up a grand staircase, she’s sure she’s on Lance’s trail. But she opens the door on a dreadful scene: Lance standing over a dead Colonel Puddifoot, brandishing a silver candlestick, the family safe wide open and empty.

Moments later, the police burst in and arrest Lance for murder, diamond theft and a spate of similar burglaries. But Eleanor is convinced her love didn’t do it, and with him locked up in prison, she knows she needs to clear his name.

Something Lance lets slip about his pals convinces Eleanor the answer lies close to home. Accompanied by her faithful sidekick Gladstone the bulldog, she begins with Lance’s friends – a set of fast driving, even faster drinking, high-society types with a taste for mischief. But after they start getting picked off in circumstances that look a lot like murder, Eleanor is in a race against time to clear Lance’s name and avoid another brush with death..."

A masked ball in the 1920s with a side of murder? Just what I wanted!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Book Review - Virginia Woolf's The Mrs. Dalloway Reader

The Mrs. Dalloway Reader by Virginia Woolf
Published by: Harcourt Books, Inc
Publication Date: November 15th, 2003
Format: Hardcover, 345 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Mrs. Dalloway is having a party and she has gone out to buy the flowers herself, as her maid is busy with other preparations for the event that night. The walk she takes through the parks and streets of London on this beautiful day in mid-June has Clarissa remembering a summer long ago in the countryside at Bourton, a summer where, little did she know it, the rest of her life would be set in motion by choosing the reliable Richard Dalloway over the lovesick Peter Walsh. As fate would have it Peter Walsh has just returned to England after a long sojourn in India. After being rejected by Clarissa he proposed to the first girl he met on the boat to India and has come back to England seeking a divorce because he has fallen in love with a married woman with two young children and they mean to marry, once their respective spouses are disposed of. But seeing Clarissa all these long years later hidden emotions come bursting forth like a damn collapsing and he finds himself crying in her presence. Fleeing her sight the two of them dwell on each other in their thoughts the rest of the day. Clarissa thinking of the failure their marriage would have been and Peter wondering if perhaps it isn't too late for them... As people cross her mind and the past is more relevant than the present, what is and isn't important shifts. Because while it may seem crazy to some, this party Clarissa is throwing is very important to her. It lets her connect to people, show them a little kindness, make it known that she thinks about others above anything else. Be it a book they'd like to read or a certain dish they'd like to eat, she always has others on her mind and at the end of the night one person will be on her mind more than even Peter, a young shell shocked veteran, Septimus Warren Smith. She hears from the young man's doctor at her party that he had committed suicide earlier in the evening. Little did she know that her day mirrored his, as his wife mused on their lives, as we followed Septimus and his Lucrezia, decidedly unable to enjoy this day in mid-June due to their burdens that, in the end, get set down.

The thing about "classics" is some classics aren't for everyone. You can see their historical significance, you can admire their ingenuity, you can even applaud them for breaking down barriers, all while not actually liking the book; and I did not like Mrs. Dalloway. At all. Written in a steam of consciousness style that played like a game of regimented tag with a shifting point of view the book is bound to easily lose your attention when it isn't infuriating you. Right now it's hard to escape the ever growing horror that is the news and reading is a refuge, a refuge that is at the moment hard to escape into even with the most perfect of books. Therefore to have a book so fragmentary and dreamlike, more poetry than prose, I found it simply impossible to connect with Mrs. Dalloway and it's complete lack of narrative. Mrs. Dalloway isn't even the star of her own book for Pete's sake! At times I felt I was going insane, which maybe was Virginia Woolf's goal? I seriously don't know what she meant to do here, because this "Reader" includes a plethora of critical essays and I was supposed to hate the doctors trying to help Septimus when I thought their care was thoughtfully presented... so therefore I'm disconnected from the meaning of individuality over conformity because I wanted him to get better instead of kill himself? Ugh. At least I didn't feel totally alone in my dislike. The author Sigrid Nunez, who wrote a book on Virginia Woolf's monkey Mitz, says that in her opinion Mrs. Dalloway is contrived. I personally think it might have just been overworked, because the book's precursor, "Mrs. Dalloway's Party," read fresher to me, but if you can imagine it, bleaker. And I won't even start on my contempt for The Hours which arose from reading all the critical essays. How can a "retelling" by A MAN win all these accolades? Unacceptable.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Virginia Woolf

Most people know Virginia Woolf. Of course most people know the bare minimum; she was a feminist writer who killed herself. If you know a little more you know she was a feminist writer who was part of the Bloomsbury Group who killed herself with rocks. This is ingrained by high school curriculum and is a simplification of a life filled with brilliance and madness. Virginia Stephens was born into a blended household, with two boys and a girl from her mother's previous marriage to Herbert Duckworth, and a girl from her father's previous marriage to William Mackepeace Thackeray's youngest daughter, Minny. Her parents went on to have four more children together, including her, despite attempts to curtail their family at five children after the birth of Virginia's older sister Vanessa. Over the years it has become accepted knowledge that Virginia's accusations of sexual abuse at the hands of her half-brothers wasn't a product of her active imagination and probably fed into her mental collapses, the first of which happened when she was thirteen with the death of her mother.

She would suffer mental collapses many more times, the final resulting in her taking her life. Yet despite the fact that the death of her father triggered one of these collapses, it also resulted in her liberation. After his death the family moved to Bloomsbury where they lived as they wished, often holding salons for her brothers' college friends. They became known as the Bloomsbury Group, compromised of writers, philosophers, artists, intellectuals, friends, and lovers who's "prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge." Her first book, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915 when she was 33, under her half-brother's imprint, Gerald Duckworth and Company. But her second book, Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925 is easily her most famous. This was printed by Hogarth Press, a publishing house that Virginia established with her husband Leonard in 1917. Though married to Leonard until her death her great love was Vita Sackville-West. Though all the love and family in the world couldn't help her with the depression she felt with the onset of the second world war, and in 1941, at the age of 59, she committed suicide.       

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