Book Cupidity

Book Cupidity

Lover of genre fiction; Romance, SFF, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller and Horror. I read the occasional classic and a cookbook or two.

"Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction."  Erich Fromm

If it's a book, I'll read it.

Review
3 Stars
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
Jamaica Inn - Daphne du Maurier

I was just underwhelmed. I appreciated a lot of it, but I didn't particularly enjoy it - I ended up skimming a when I felt my eyes crossing in the middle.

 

If it weren't for Mary's ridiculous attraction to Jem, I probably would have liked her as a character more. Her Joss sass was fun when she employed it. I just wish she would have found her inner murderess and beat Joss with a fire poker (or something pointier even) in one of his stupors. It's too bad that creepy, you-knew-he-had-to-be-the-villian, vicar held the honors for that one. Villains killing villains isn't as much fun as you might think.

 

 

Reading Update: Under Debbie's Blue Umbrella/47% - Buddy Read
Mr Mercedes - Stephen King

Before I get too far into the next section: Poison Bait, I thought I'd stop here and say...

 

What the HOLY, ice-cream-loving, I've-got-a-new-lease-on-life, HELL, Det. Ret. Hodges!? I'm not some well read King fan, but what I have read? Not ONE TIME did I think he wrote a character who made such a monumentally stupid decision as Hodges makes by involving Jerome in his wingnut investigation of a hidden SERIAL KILLER. Sure, let the kid go explore some exotic, extremely private internet site. Sounds totally legit. Why can't he just go to the library? If Hodges is so 'old school', why not that? I get looked at like I wear grandma panties when I mention that I use the library. *shakes head*

 

That said. I do like King's writing. Yes, I do. In some of these passages I'm very much reminded of Insomnia.

 

"He sits back again, head tilted, eyes fixed on nothing. He isn't aware of time passing; for Hodges, time, which has hung so heavy since his retirement, has been cancelled."

 

I'm going to try to get through the next section by tomorrow...it does move quick, but there is only so much dark I can handle. 

 

 

Bookstooge's Mr Mercedes Posts

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 10%.
Mr Mercedes - Stephen King

Is this a bonafide thriller/mystery book from King? He's gotten my attention. His writing in this one is on point, full of quips and great imagery. 

 

"Some cases are like idle computers; they go to sleep."

 

And it's flowing at a good pace so far. Bill Hodges is totally my type of character. King has already got me invested in the story and the people.

 

"Hodges has read there are wells in Iceland so deep you can drop a stone down them and never hear the splash. He thinks some human souls are like that."

 

Hodges is flawed, but full of piss and vinegar:

 

 

"His last thought before he goes under is of how Mr. Mercedes' poison-pen letter finished up. Mr. Mercedes wants him to commit suicide. Hodges wonders what he would think if he knew he had given this particular ex-Knight of the Badge and Gun a reason to live, instead."

 

 

 

 

YES!

 

 

Review
3 Stars
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Dark Places - Gillian Flynn

Here's the thing. I was sort of happy to read this, even though dark fiction isn't really my thing, because it was partly set in my stomping grounds. A book set in Kansas City? Woot! Bring it!

 

I should have known better - I should have known a book about the train-wrecked lives of the survivors of a prairie style satanic axe/knife/gun/strangulation murder of a family would probably not really paint the picture of Midwest life that I was so hoping. I know, surprise, surprise. Sometimes my optimism shocks even me.

 

Libby Day, youngest daughter of the Day family, survived a brutal night that took her entire family from her, killing her two sisters and mother, and jailing Ben Day, her only brother and presumed murderer. Twenty-four years later, Libby is out of charity money, utterly broke and the very definition of maladjusted.

 

Desperate to avoid working for money, Libby finds a unique opportunity with a local group called the Kill Club. This club of amateur sleuths dedicated to solving cold cases believes that Ben Day is innocent and is willing to pay Libby to help them solve the murder. Libby finds that the truth becomes more irresistible to her than she previously imagined. She becomes brave, digging through her past, both in boxes and on doorsteps, until she uncovers the dangerous and devastating truth.

 

I commend Gillian's tight plotting. I love when a story is crafted well from beginning to end and you can visualize the loop towards the close. What wasn't so great for me was that I had the mystery nearly guessed. Sort of took the wind out of the sails at the climax.

 

This wasn't so dark that I loathed everything - the characters were appropriately messed up, if I may state it that way, and not quite as off putting as I imagined. It didn't put me off from trying another and think that I will Sharp Objects a try.

 

 

 

Mr. Mercedes Buddy Read
Mr Mercedes - Stephen King

Could I get through a Halloween Bingo without reading a Stephen King? I think not.

 

Friend and throwback Bookliker, Bookstooge is buddy reading this with me for the next two weeks. Hopefully I can get through this entire thing by then, I tend to slow read King.

 

Spoilers will abound! We're both wild and fancy free with this one.

 

You can follow his updates here:

 

Bookstooges Mr Mercedes Posts

 

 

 

Yay for buddy reading Stephen King!

 

 

 

 

(Allow me to blame my cold medication for this awesome buddy read image. It seemed cool at the time.)

Reading progress update: I've read 15 out of 307 pages.
Jamaica Inn - Daphne du Maurier

I'm poised to be "swept up in the nightly chill of dark shadows and muffled voices..."

 

I'm interested at 15 pages in...it's certainly starting out cold and damp so we're on the right track.

 

 

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz
The Sentinel - Jeffrey Konvitz

I've said this before, but it's worth mentioning again - my husband is a 70's-80's horror junkie. Halloween bingo has been great fun for me the past two years because it gives me a good reason to dive in and read some of his favorites that have been sitting on our shelves staring at me for years. Some of them literally staring at me. Horror covers, right? When my youngest was a toddler, he used to pull this book called "The Dark" off the shelf all the time. No other book. Just that one. There is NOTHING more freaky than finding this book in random places around the house. The worst part was that we'd never see him actually do it - and there was no limit to what he'd hide and where we'd find it but never any other book. Here's the book he liked to surprise us with - imagine finding this under your couch blankie when you're finally trying to relax for the evening.

 

The Dark

 

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes! The Sentinel. Did you know this book was made into a movie? When I finished the book last night, my husband asked me if I wanted to try to watch the film again. I said, "again?", as in, I had seen it before? As in, a second viewing? I was fairly sure I'd never seen this movie before (and until that moment didn't even know it was a movie). He informed me that way back in our beginning days it was one of the first movies he tried to share with me. Apparently after agreeing and sitting and watching a bit, I incredulously uttered, "Oh my God, what are we watching?". I'm sure I was perfectly polite about it and didn't flail and scream like he seems to remember, but as I have no memory of this event you'll have to decide for yourself how that all went down.

 

My overall thoughts of the story are this - it was a disturbing slow burner with a right frightening ending.

 

From the top:

 

Beautiful model, Allison Parker, decides she needs to live on her own before committing to the happily ever after with her lawyer boyfriend, Michael Farmer. Though she loves him, she hasn't really had any space since her attempted suicide of two years prior. She finds a perfect old brownstone, fully furnished, and right her in her price range. The only downside is the creepy blind priest that lives on the top floor who spends day in and day out staring out the window.

 

I'm going to spoil this now, so read no further if you think you'd like the joy of discovery here. This quaint old brownstone is actually the entrance to hell.

 

Once she moves in, Allison gets to party with her neighbors (well, they're actually denizens of hell and disturbing as all get out, but they do offer her coffee and cake and who can say no to that type of hospitality?) and for her friendliness she gets migraines, fainting spells, and some very wacky hallucinations. After 'stabbing' her dead father during one such episode, she moves back in with her lawyer boyfriend who tries two different tactics to healing Allison. Firstly, beating her about the face, and secondly, actually investigating the building and its tenants.

 

He finds that Allison is actually the next Sentinel, God's chosen one who will guard the gate of hell to keep the evil dead from invading the Earth. She's to replace the creepy fifth floor priest who will never answer his damn door, who doesn't party with the neighbors and literally never leaves that window.  Michael sleuths this out by breaking into the Archdioceses and looking through their files for clues about the priest and then by tearing the brownstone apart (literally tearing paneling off the walls to reveal the words of Dante inscribed there. If you haven't already rolled your eyes about how NYC holds the gateway to hell, or the fact that there's paper files lying around in the Archdioceses office that basically explains all this mega-level supernatural crud, the Dante thing is a good time to start). 

 

The thing I notice about most of these 70's and early 80's horrors that I've read is that I hate everyone. I never really wanted the devil to win here, but there was a point where I just needed Allison to go ahead and assume crucifix clutching, glassy-eyed stare already so I could be done with the axe murderess and other psychos. It's saying something when the girlfriend beater is the second best character in the book- luckily, any guilt there is assuaged when he's bludgeoned to death and joins the legion.

 

I read this pretty quickly and had a moment of genuine fright (and a some disgust), so I think it did its job.

 

 

 

 

 

Review
4.5 Stars
Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews
Magic Binds - Ilona Andrews

Kate is the Daughter of the Builder of Towers. The End.

 

Totally intense installment. Christopher? Andrews dropped the mic on that one. Everything that we knew was going to happen does, and it's glorious. It's going to be hard to say goodbye to our favorite ass-kicker.

 

“You make me want to stab you."
"I have that effect on many people."
"How is it you're still alive?"
"I'm hard to kill.”

BC's Bingo Update Number 2

 I'm feeling right swell about my progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read and Called:

 

  Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

 

  The Howling by Gary Brandner

 

  Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

 

  Cat on the Scent by Rita Mae Brown

 

  The Grave by Charles L. Grant

 

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

 

 

 

 

Read:

 

  The Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour

 

  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

 

  Stinger by Robert McCammon

 

  Dracula by Bram Stoker

 

  The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planned Reading:

 

  Mirror Image by Sandra Brown

 

  Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMauier

  

  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit

 

  In the Woods by Tana French  

 

  The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz

 

  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

 

  Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

  

  The Omen by David Seltzer

 

  Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch by Lara Parker 

 

  The Ripper by William Dobson

 

  Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

 

  The Cats by Nick Sharman

 

  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

 

 

(I recently realized that Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is actually NOT a horror book - so he's out for Modern Masters of Horror. I've replaced that square with a buddy read of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King with my friend, Bookstooge (probably in October) and am using Crouch for my free space...I think)

Review
5 Stars
Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill

A bloody fantastic ghost story.

 

Jude Coyne, an aging front man to a once popular heavy-metal band, is riding out his life and solo career in peaceful fashion. At 54, he works on his music in his home studio on a farm in upstate New York. He collects dark and twisted trinkets and young, goth girlfriends. He is ignoring the several metaphorical demons that eat at him.

 

When his personal assistant brings an odd 'ghost for sale' listing to his attention on a little known auction site, Jude doesn't even hesitate, doesn't think, doesn't ponder, he just buys. When the ghost arrives, an old suit packed in a heart shaped box, Jude is forced to face things once past.

 

This book is gritty, like heavy metal gritty. It's graphic. It's chilling.  It's absolutely heartbreaking. It has soul. It has music.

 

"Horror was rooted in sympathy . . . in understanding what it would be like to suffer the worst."

 

I love that thought. Loved it when I read it on the page and still days later, it's what really sticks with me about this book. True terror comes from reality. This book is a symphony of real life horror coupled with wild imaginings in the darkest of night.

 

Jude's girlfriend, Georgia, is my favorite - she's irreverent and crass with a vulnerability that made me love her. She and Jude look for desperate answers, running away from a ghost hell-bent on their deaths and I just sat on the edge of my seat hoping that I'd get some sort of happily ever after. And isn't that sort of an unreasonable desire in a horror book? Still, I wanted it, badly.

 

It's hardest for me to write about books that I love. The problem is three-fold, one part taming of the overactive squee drive, one part unwillingness to spoil the discovery for anyone else, and one part wrench and pull to find the things that resonate with me most and put them in words. Heart-Shaped Box hit all the right notes for me. I think I'm just going to have to leave it at this - I loved it, I couldn't read it fast enough, and I finished it with a satisfying sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

Review
3 Stars
The Thin Man by Dasheill Hammett
The Thin Man - Dashiell Hammett

Julia Wolf is dead, shot no less than four times. Secretary to the somewhat infamous inventor and all-together missing, Clyde Wynant, everyone is looking to him for answers - his lawyer, the police, his ex-wife, his children...and by plea of letter (and Nora's pushing) Nick Charles, once private detective, current moneyed-by-marriage lush.

 

As a mystery goes this book was kind of a mess, no? It was always to be thus, most of the players are completely unreliable - the pathological liar, the silly girl, the morbid boy, the two-faced, the greedy, the down-right stupid, the love-sick...there's not a one among them with their head on their shoulders, or with their head in the game so to say. Poor Nick and Nora, surrounded by fools wrecking their drinking holiday, having to put it all together for everyone.

 

I didn't end up enjoying it for the mystery. I did enjoy it for the humor and banter. Nick and Nora's jovial teasing and Nick's sometimes sarcastic wit directed to those stumbling around him, made the book.

 

Set during the end days of prohibition, I can only imagine that Nick and Nora were on a holiday to drink, where speaks were a plenty and everyone had closeted booze. I'm sure it was a bit of a social status to have a bottle or two in your home, in your desk drawer, in your boudoir - and all these people were so silly. It certainly read like a comedy to me at those times and I didn't take it very seriously. And I'd have to leave it like that instead of acknowledging that Hammett had his own battles with drink and tumultuous relationships -that he chose to only show the 'best of' in his fictional writing makes a sad sort of sense.

 

Over all, I will probably read more of Dasheill Hammett - at least his two more popular works, The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest. I have a hunch those will be more oriented to the genre. The saving grace for me and The Thin Man is that I didn't have any story expectations, just that I knew that Nick and Nora were characters not to be missed.

 

Review
2 Stars
The Grave by Charles L. Grant
The Grave - Charles L. Grant

The cover blurb for this book (on my edition anyway) is from Stephen King. He says:

 

"Jolting Terror...Scary, Dreamlike, Wonderful."

 

I will give him dreamlike. As in, this book, like your dreams, is entirely devoid of plot.

 

There was an effort towards a creeping, moody build to the last ten pages. Until that point, I sort of enjoyed what was happening but never really could figure out what was happening? I assumed that it would all be made clear. When those final pages hit, I was just sort of underwhelmed with the conclusion. I needed him to tie all the threads together and that didn't happen. 

 

Josh Miller, a pop archeologist (which sounds like the coolest profession, btw) is being watched. As things get weirder in his hometown and his nightmares become more real, he finally becomes convinced that he's been chosen by sinister supernatural forces and it's a race to find out why before it's too late for him and those he loves. 

 

My main problem is that no less than four fairly significant plot points are either forgotten, unresolved, or unexplained - and that really takes the shiver out of any tension that was built. The writing for effect just feels like a ruse, a facade to get you to the weak ending. Blah.

 

This is apparently one of the many books Grant wrote in a series about a fictional New England town called Oxrun. They stand on their own, but I don't think I'll be trying any others.

 

Review
4 Stars
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula - Bram Stoker, Maurice Hindle, Christopher Frayling

"Oh, the terrible struggle that I have had against sleep so often of late, the pain of sleeplessness, or the pain of the fear of sleep, and with such unknown horrors as it has for me! How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads, to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams."

 

I finished this book a couple of days go. This was my first read of Dracula and by some luck, I basically went into the story blind. I've read a fair amount of vampire fiction - from the sci-fi to the campy to the terrifying, but none that really riffed on this story. I've seen enough vampire flicks, but strangely, no version of Stoker's. I'm not sure how that happened really, but I'm glad it did. Going into this without any preconceived notion of the story (only of the characters) made this experience all the more...breathtaking.

 

In light of that, I've really struggled with what to say in my review. It's all been said, truly, and honestly there were sections that I'm sure didn't sink in...some of the heavily accented parts especially...

 

“I must gang ageeanwards home now, miss. My grand-daughter doesn’t like to be kept waitin’ when the tea is ready, for it takes me time to crammle aboon the grees, for there be a many of ’em, and miss, I lack belly-timber sairly by the clock.

 

Ummm...what?

 

But I think what I will remember most is that Dracula, the monster, was really very...well, he scared the bejesus out of me.

 

The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me, with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.

 

There was a night of some uncomfortable sleep for me after finishing...I think it's because I had immersed myself in it that day in a push to complete the book and move on. What I found is that there is some real psychological horror going on that sort of eeks into your bones - it's a sense of despair that's hard to shake. Whether it be Jonathan's entrapment in the castle, or watching Lucy's life helplessly slip away, or the unhinging of Renfield, or when you know what's going on with Mina and everyone relegates it to a one-liner in their diary..."Mina looks pale today...", there's subtlety in the telling that ratchets up the tension. All this despite the fact that we know who the monster is and further, we have seen so many variations of him that this should be watered down in some way.

 

Not so for me.

 

My only complaint is that Van Helsing drags out the narrative longer than my modern sensibility really wanted...I get why, here he says:

 

“To believe in things that you cannot. Let me illustrate. I heard once of an American who so defined faith, ‘that faculty which enables us to believe things which we know to be untrue. For one, I follow that man. He meant that we shall have an open mind, and not let a little bit of truth check the rush of the big truth, like a small rock does a railway truck. We get the small truth first. Good! We keep him, and we value him, but all the same we must not let him think himself all the truth in the universe.”

He has to bring the gang around on what they are dealing with...to convince them to believe. No small feat. I suppose I should be grateful that we're not treated with Van Helsing's journal entries themselves and only read him through the voice of one of the gang, Jonathan, Dr. Seward or Mina. Sometimes the man can ramble for two or three pages of their journals, and I can only expect that they're recounting the highlight reel there. I can't imagine how glazed over I'd be if I were reading his own mind...oi vey.

 

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and marveled at the epistolary format and how it spun a little romance into the book. We read the gang's inner most secrets as they are experiencing them, the love (especially Seward's unrequited love of Lucy) and the horror and the devastation. Together they piece together Dracula by combining their journals and passing them between themselves - there's an inherent intimacy there that the reader shares. It's special.

 

I look forward to revisiting this down the road...perhaps by seeing one of those Stoker flicks, definitely by listening to it performed on audio, maybe by getting an annotated copy to help me parse out bits that I didn't get. Definitely going to do that. Just, not right now. I need some breathing room... like a fine wine. Dracula himself would appreciate that.

 

Review
4 Stars
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie

In brief:

 

What fun! I expect The Queen of Mystery to be great, but I was surprised about how much I enjoyed this one. I've read a Christie standalone and a couple of Miss Marple's but this was my first Poirot. This one had some humor that made me chuckle, Poirot was a bit more charming than Marple (in my opinion) and overall, I was more entertained. I know that funny, charming, and entertaining is probably not what one goes for when writing a murder mystery, but there you go. To even it out a bit, I will say that the final meeting where the truth comes out is chilling. 

 

I apparently didn't use my "little grey cells" to the best of my ability because I wasn't even close to solving this one.

 

I'm looking forward to reading more Poirot - his vain brilliance and somewhat frustrating habit of making you feel like the biggest moron for having not seen it right from the beginning is strangely alluring. How could I not read on...I wonder if reading him in order has a strong benefit?

 

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2 Stars
The Howling by Gary Brandner
The Howling - Gary Brandner

The amount of pages made me do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my werewolf book on this Halloween Bingo adventure, I had a three options sitting on my shelf for consideration:

 

The Howling - Gary Brandner  The Wolfen - Whitley Strieber  The Nightwalker - Thomas Tessier  

 

For lack of better option, I choose The Howling simply because it was slightly shorter than the other two. I'm not necessarily afraid of reading this stuff, but let's face it, the less throat-ripping gore the better.

 

In a nutshell, I'm glad it's over. While the writing was technically sound and the pacing was excellent (at 200 some odd pages, this is a one night-er), I just hated what happened. The prologue opens with a lore about a werewolf village in some European town hundreds of years ago, which basically tells you exactly where the book is going. Right off the bat, the main character is raped (somewhat graphically) which is the basis for her motivation to move with her husband to Werewolfville, USA.

 

Oops. Did I say too much? I meant, they moved to a quaint, deserted and dying town. Everyone wants to move there, and why not? It's on the edge of nowhere, next to the dark forest of nightmares, in a town where the few people that live there are creepy AF. Sounds rejuvenating.

 

Anyway. Karyn (wife) can't sleep because of the howling at night, their dog disappears, her anxiety gets worse, Roy (husband) becomes attracted to a crazy lady in town and basically succumbs to her wolf-y lures (in no less than three graphic and sexually explicit scenes) and I wasn't even scared.

 

No payoff for me, it opens distastefully and ends anticlimactically with the big twist being that there wasn't just ONE werewolf but a whole town of them. Umm...I understand foreshadowing there, Gary. Nice try though.

 

 

Review
3 Stars
Cat on the Scent by Rita Mae Brown
Cat on the Scent - Rita Mae Brown, Sneaky Pie Brown

See, always trust Grandma. I should know this by now.

 

I am very close to my paternal Grandmother, she's always been my rock and my sunshine -she's laughed and cried with me through my whole life. We exchange books regularly. I will admit that she sends more my way than I send her - often times when I find something I want to share, she's already read it. That happens when you're 84 and a lifelong reader. When I visit there's always a tote bag by the door with books that she's selected for me to try. One such bag had two Sneaky Pie Brown paperbacks - perfectly worn in with the spine creased just right for supple handling. Honestly, I don't think there are many things that illustrate my relationship with my Grandma more perfectly than an old, comfortable paperback. Anyway, once I inspected the blurb on these I immediately thought that a cozy mystery from the point of view of a cat sounded a bit too cheesy. I have since left them to the stacks.

 

When Halloween bingo was announced and the art for the Cozy Mystery square was a graceful feline, I felt it was my sign to rescue Sneaky Pie from the crushing weight of the mountain.

 

My experience was pretty uncomplicated - it's no feat of great literature but it was a deliciously easy read for a relaxing Labor Day.

 

Cat on the Scent is the seventh book in the series and I don't think a whole lot was lost by not reading them in order. The story is told in third person so you never really had to wade through long bits of cat inner-monologueing, thank goodness (we know cats could probably out-monologue Shakespeare).  It's decidedly not cheesy and has an edge for a Southern set cozy. It's not all sweet tea and honey darlings this and that, it's small town Virginia politics and old Southern bloodlines. I think that's why it works. We're not lost in the cuteness of talking animals, and in many ways, the animals are in a better position to solve the mystery. They are wiser and less emotional and inquisitive. I think my Grandma threw these in the tote because she knew I'd appreciate the questions about human nature and what silly creatures we are sometimes especially from the point of view of a cat. (Maybe I should note here that the animals only talk to each other- there's not supernatural element that allow the humans to talk to the animals, or anything of the like)

 

I feel like the motivations are a little less typical of a cozy with some honest to goodness darkness to its villains. It worked with the more serious nature of the animals and their pragmatic owner, Harry. I thought I had the who-dun-it solved, only to be half right in the end.

And if you like your ending tied up with grand justice served, you'll be disappointed.

(show spoiler)

All in all, I'll be reading the additional paperback from the series that I have lying around and perhaps will start from the beginning at some point too.

 

currently reading

Progress: 47%