Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Review: Six Scary Stories selected and Introduced by Stephen King

Goodreads Summary: Six Scary Stories selected and introduced by Stephen King

Number 1 bestselling horror author Stephen King introduces and presents six gripping and chilling stories in this captivating anthology!

Stephen King discovered these stories when he judged a competition run by Hodder & Stoughton and the Guardian to celebrate the publication of his own collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. He was so impressed with the entries that he recommended they be published together in one book, which Cemetery Dance Publications and Hodder & Stoughton are pleased to report has become a reality. The six stories are:

WILD SWIMMING by Elodie Harper
EAU-DE-ERIC by Manuela Saragosa
THE SPOTS by Paul Bassett Davies
THE UNPICKING by Michael Button
LA MORT DE L'AMANT by Stuart Johnstone
THE BEAR TRAP by Neil Hudson

Reader beware: the stories will make you think twice before cuddling up to your old soft toy, dipping your toe into the water or counting the spots on a leopard…

Goodreads Rating: 3.59 Stars with over 2,000 reviews
Genre Listing: Horror, Short Stories, Anthologies, Thriller
Get the Book: AmazonBook Depository
Goodreads Challenge: 8/30
2018 Reading Challenge: #40 A compilation of Short Stories. 2018 reading challenge can be found here.

Book Review:

I'm not really sure the best way to go about reviewing this, as I've never actually reviewed short stories compilations before. (Mental note to do this more.) I've decided to review each short story as I get them done. In the end, I might pick a favorite (maybe a least favorite as well.) I think I'll give each a rating, and then my actual book rating will be an average of the 6.

These six short stories were all picked by Stephen King for a writing contest. It was narrowed down from 800 to six, and King states in his introduction that he felt all of these stories deserved to be published. With that, the idea for this compilation was born. 

First up:

Wild Swimming by Elodie Harper

I really liked that this story takes place in e-mails. It made it really easy to read and got to the point quickly. There wasn't a lot of background story, which was fine. It just jumps into Chrissy's travels, and her stay at a run-down inn. It gave just enough details to find Chrissy's adventures interesting. There was a good build-up within the e-mails that Chrissy sends her friend. They start innocently enough, but with each one, you can see Chrissy's fear grow. If this were to be published in a full-length novel, I'd definitely read it. I'd love to read a more in-depth version of the story with history on the sunken village and is being explored. 

Eau-De-Eric by Manuela Saragosa

Eh. I was not really a fan of this one. I found it weird and didn't really get the point of it. I think for this one to be scary it would have needed to be a bit longer. It was well written and interesting, but just when I could start to see how it would be scary, it ended. It made it really anti-climatic.

The Spots by Paul Bassett Davies

This one was pretty interesting, and I liked the psychology and experimentation of how someone would accomplish a seemingly ridiculous task in two different ways. First with the job just being a mundane request and second with an element of life or death introduced. I actually found the ending to be a bit humorous. Overall I thought it was a well-done story and I enjoyed it.

The UnPicking by Michael Button

This story was properly creepy, and I enjoyed every page of it. I loved the odd names that were given to the toys and how each had their own personality. The way the caused mischief started out innocently enough and kind of Toy Story-Esq but then quickly got very dark.  At the time of this compilation, Michael Button was working on his first novel. This short story was enough to make me want to seek out his work. 

La Mort De L'amant by Stuart Johnstone

I don't know that this one was necessarily scary, but it did have a lot of suspense in it. The story left me with all kinds of questions. Some of the questions that it raised were 'why was the old man at the bridge?', 'What was in the truck that he didn't want the officer to see,' 'Who was the woman he kept referencing.' I think the suspense definitely got my heart racing a little bit. Also, this is the second time this week I've heard/read the phrase "Dumb as a bag of hammers." I've never heard that before until this week, and now I've had it referenced twice. 

The Bear Trap by Neil Hudson

The sixth and final story in this compilation is an interesting one. It takes place in an ash-covered wasteland. Calvin, a young abandoned boy, is caught off guard by a stranger who is intent on taking Calvin's home for his own. I liked the detail in this one. It was gruesome and imaginative. A lot of the other stories left the ending up for speculation, but I think this one had a pretty concrete ending. I liked the story of Calvin and his three favorite bears. 

Overall Review:

I really enjoyed these six stories. They were all really creative and made me think. They were unique, and most of them left me wanting more. If nothing else I've got some new authors to stalk on social media.

Here is my list of favorites. 

1.) The Unpicking by Michael Button
2.) Wild Swimming by Elodie Harper
3.) The Bear Trap by Neil Hudson
4.) The Spots by Paul Bassett Davies
5.) La Mort De L'amant by Stuart Johnstone
6.) Eau-De-Eric by Manuela Saragosa

I can see why these were picked as the finalists for the contests. Average stars for my ratings on these comes out to 3.83, so I'm going to bump it up to four stars overall. I'd love to get a discussion going about these short stories, so if you've read them, please let me know what you think in the comment section!

Blog review of The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is not like other policemen. His methods appear unorthodox in the extreme: he doesn't search for clues; he ignores obvious suspects and arrests people with cast-iron alibis; he appears permanently distracted. In spite of all this, his colleagues are forced to admit that he is a born cop.

When strange blue chalk circles start appearing overnight on the pavements of Paris, only Adamsberg takes them - and the increasingly bizarre objects found within them - seriously. And when the body of a woman with her throat savagely cut is found in one, only Adamsberg realizes that other murders will soon follow.

Winner of The Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie International Dagger.

Goodreads Rating: 3.67 stars with over 5,300 ratings
Genre Listing: Mystery, Crime, Fiction, French Culture
Get the book: AmazonBook Depository
Goodreads Challenge: 7/30
2018 Reading Challenge: #57 A book that was originally published in a foreign language. The challenge can be found here.

Book Review:

When I originally decided to read this book, I wasn't sure where I was going to put it on my challenge. I found out about halfway through that it was translated from French to English, so it was a perfect fit for #57 on the challenge list. Unfortunately, I think this could have been more of a hindrance for me while reading.

This book was tough for me to get through. It's under 300 pages, and I started it in January. I'm just now finishing it in Mid March. It's not that the book was terrible, the language was just so hard for me to read. The entire flow of the book just seemed to ramble on and on, and I wonder how much of that was the translation. I wonder if I knew how to read French and read the original French version if I would feel the same. Unfortunately, I lost my train of thought while reading this fairly often. I had to frequently go back to other pages to remember what happened.

In addition to the rambling, I didn't feel really any connection to this story. I didn't get any feelings toward who the characters were. I like being invested in the characters I read about, and to me, all of the characters were just page fillers. The main character Jean-Baptiste was especially dull. He was supposed to be odd, and I just didn't really get that from the pages described. In regards to Reyes, there was a lot of eye-rolling directed at the numerous puns about being blind. I did appreciate Mathilde's theory on the week being in sections. Monday- Wednesday being the harder portion of the week, Thursday-Saturday being more leisurely, and Sunday is its own section. Despite my indifference to many of the characters, I did like the random connections between some of them.

I think that like Adamsberg, I was more interested in the chalk circles than the murders. I was hoping there would be some psychological reason behind the objects themselves, but there wasn't, unfortunately. I will say, I was surprised at how the events unfolded. The book did pick up for me a little bit after the first murder, and I was never sure who the murder actually was. Vargas did an excellent job and making it seem like it could be any of the characters discussed. The book tied up all of the loose ends nicely, however, it was mainly just Jean-Baptiste recapping everything in a way that made me feel like he knew it all along. 

For the most part, I enjoyed the book, and I found it interesting. I just had a tough time getting through it. Even once I started to get interested in it I could only do a chapter or so at a time before I needed to put it down. Not sure I'd go out of my way to recommend it, but I can't say I hated it either. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Book Review of The Maid's Secret by Emily Organ

Goodreads Summary: London 1884. Victorian industrialist Alexander Glenville is a man with many secrets. Fleet Street reporter Penny Green is tasked with working undercover as a maid in his home, but tragedy strikes when Glenville’s daughter is poisoned.
Penny’s insider knowledge is crucial for Scotland Yard’s murder investigation, but someone in the Glenville household already suspects that she’s more than just a servant. Can Penny and Inspector James Blakely solve the mystery before Penny’s cover is blown?

For fans of classic murder mysteries! The books in the Penny Green Series can be read in any order.

Goodreads Rating: 4.13 stars with over 164 ratings.

Genre Listing: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Get the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Challenge: 6/30

2018 Reading Challenge: #29 A book with a purple cover. Find the 2018 reading challenge here.

Other reviews on the series: Limelight (Penny Green #1)Rookery (Penny Green #2)

Book Review:

I think it's safe to say that I'm addicted to the Penny Green Series, but now I'm at the point where I'm eagerly waiting for the next book. I had a hard time putting The Maid's Secret down. I really didn't have any idea who was going to be the murderer in this one. I've mentioned it before in the other reviews, but I love how Emily Organ gives readers several suspects to contemplate. The Maid's Secret didn't disappoint in this area. 

The Maid's Secret reminded me of the movie Clue with Tim Curry. I don't have a rhyme or reason for it, but it made me think of the movie quite often. This may have made me slightly more fond of the book. 

I really liked the development between Penny and James in this one. I'm excited to see the latest adventure Penny gets herself involved with, as well as where these latest developments lead. Especially since Penny is gaining another suitor.

I've really enjoyed that there's a mystery within a mystery in this series. I like how each book has a different mystery, but within each one there's a continuation of trying to find out what happened to Penny's father on his adventures.

I think that I've recommended this series to so many people that I've lost track. The entire series is really well written and a lot of fun to read. I can't wait to read the fourth installment. There's also a couple of short stories that Emily Organ has put out revolving around Penny Green.

I apologize that this review is so short. I do enjoy the series, but I actually finished this book a week or so ago. I've been working on getting my Etsy shop up and running, so this post, unfortunately, kept getting pushed back.  If you'd like to take a look at my handmade jewelry you can check it out here. It's not book related, but it is pretty!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Book Review of Fate's Mistress by Laura Du Pre

Goodreads Summary: Cousins to the King of Navarre, the Cleves sisters, witness the glamour and danger of the French royal court firsthand. Middle sister, Catherine, is married to the Duc de Guise, the most rabid Catholic in France. Ambitious and well-connected, Guise is the main rival for the French throne, which is currently occupied by an unpopular Henri III.

Guise managed to win concessions from Henri, but concessions come with a steep price on his head. As his Duchesse, Catherine is in a dangerous position of her own. Determined to play her part in bringing about the downfall of the Valois and the rise of the Guise, Catherine will risk her own safety.

But is the risk worth the rewards? Will either of them escape with their lives? Catherine has to take a chance for herself, and the consequences will change French history.

Based on a true story

The Cleves sisters' story concludes with Catherine, who stands in the middle of court politics in France of the 1500s. Like most great noble families of the period, the web of intermarriages and alliances made enemies out of blood relatives. It also meant that the stories of the people who served the Valois monarchs were as intertwined and as complicated as their marriages.

Led by the ever-vigilant Catherine de Medici, Queen Mother of France and a force of nature, the members of the court shaped the political and religious future of France of the Sixteenth Century. In the trilogy, you'll meet the often- derided Charlotte, Madame de Sauve, and enough royal mistresses to satisfy your need for scandal.

˃˃˃ Don't miss out!

France will never be the same by the time Catherine's story ends. You'll instantly be front and center at the world of the Valois court and all of the danger and splendor of Renaissance France!

Goodreads Rating: 3.63 stars with under 100 ratings
Genre Listing: Historical Fiction, French Culture 
Get the book: Amazon
Goodreads Challenge: 5/30


Fate's Mistress is the final book in the Three Grace's trilogy. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a category to put it in for the 2018 Book Challenge. The third book follows the oldest of the Cleves sisters, Catherine. Where the first two books overlap, I believe this one takes place right after the second in the trilogy. 

At first, I really enjoyed reading Catherine's story. Like the other two books, Fate's Mistress is under 150 pages. I couldn't say where exactly, but towards the end of the book I started to lose interest in it. I felt like it needed a lot of editing work done. The entire series needed it, but this book especially needed it. I felt like a lot of minor details weren't consistent in the story.  Things like how many children Catherine and Henri had as well as their names seemed to change quite a few times. 

I think that Fate's Mistress covered quite a few more years than the other books did, which made it kind of keep track of. I found most of the details somewhat forgettable, and am struggling to get my thoughts out about it. The ending felt anti-climatic. It was more or less a bunch of battles for change, but nothing actually changed except for a few key players. Overall, I really enjoyed the first two books of the series, but Fate's Mistress fell short for me. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Review of Lady of The Court by Laura Du Pre

Goodreads Summary: Cousins to the King of Navarre, the Cleves sisters witness the glamour and danger of the French royal court firsthand. Middle sister, Henriette, sits at the apex of the royal court, wife to one of King Henri III's most trusted advisors

In a country torn apart by religious war, things can change in an instant, and no one in France is safe. Henriette is desperate to hold onto her life and hand it on to the next generation. To do so, she must have an heir, something that she has so far failed to do.

Based on a true story

The Cleves sisters' story starts with Marie, the youngest sister introduces you to the world of court politics in France of the 1500s. Like most great noble families of the period, the web of intermarriages and alliances made enemies out of blood relatives. It also meant that the stories of the people who served the Valois monarchs were as intertwined and as complicated as their marriages.

Led by the ever-vigilant Catherine de Medici, Queen Mother of France and a force of nature, the members of the court shaped the political and religious future of France of the Sixteenth Century. In upcoming novels, you'll meet the often- derided Charlotte, Madame de Sauve, and enough royal mistresses to satisfy your need for scandal.

Goodreads Rating: 3.47 stars with under 100 reviews

Genre Listing: Historical Fiction, French Culture

Get the book: Amazon

Goodreads Challenge: 4/30

2018 Reading Challenge: #8, A book under 300 pages (Challenge can be found here.)

Previous reviews of the series:  Almost a Queen by Laura Du Pre - the first book in the Three Grace's Trilogy

Book Review:

I read Almost a Queen by Laura Du Pre in 2017, and I really enjoyed it. Lady of the Court follows middle Cleve's sister Henriette. The second story has some overlap to Almost a Queen as it takes place towards the end of Marie's story. Because of the overlap in events, I highly reading these two books close together. Each of the books is under 200 pages, and because of that, I spent a good portion of Lady of the Court trying to remember who was who, and what happened. Once I got past that, I really enjoyed Lady of the Court.

Laura Du Pre has a fantastic gift of telling a very detailed historical fiction in very few pages. Her books are concise but enjoyable. I'm amazed that she was able to tell a story that spanned several years in just 150 some pages. That being said, thus far I feel like the two books could have been combined into one since it has the same characters and overlaps in events. I think it would work well as one book.

Even though she was more the best friend type character of Henriette, I really liked Margot's character. She enjoyed the games of court and the scheming. I would love to read a story on her if depicted the same level of conniving as Du Pre's version of the Navarre Queen did. These books and similar ones are making me want to research dissolved nations. Weird, I know.

My main issue with this book is the editing and formatting. It wasn't anything significant, but the frequency of extra spaces and punctuation was distracting. I'm not sure if it was my kindle or the book, but at the start, there were some pages that were duplicated, and it made it hard to follow along. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the story, and as soon as I finished it I went straight into the third book Fate's Mistress.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Book Review of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Goodreads Summary: Peter Pan, the book based on J.M. Barrie's famous play, is filled with unforgettable characters: Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children--Wendy, John, and Michael--who fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet Indians and pirates and a crocodile that ticks.
Goodreads Rating: 4.1 with over 200,000 ratings
Genre Listing: Classics, Fantasy, Fiction, Children's book, Adventure
Get the book: AmazonBook Depository
Goodreads Challenge: 3/30
2018 Reading Challenge: 1. A book from Project Gutenberg (You can find the 2018 reading challenge list here.)

Book Review:

First things first, a little info on the challenge topic for this one. If you've never heard of Project Gutenberg, I highly recommend you check it out. You can do so by visiting https://www.gutenberg.org/. Project Gutenberg is mostly running on donations and volunteer work where they digitalize, proofread, and catalog works with expired copyrights so that users can obtain them for free. I believe they have audiobooks as well as e-books on their massive online library. Be sure to give them some love for the fantastic work they do! 

I decided to go with Peter Pan because I know the story (Thanks, Disney!), so I thought it'd be easier to get through. I'm really not big on classics. I have a tough time reading them. I'm not sure if it's the language used, or what. I try to read one a year, but it doesn't always happen. I can see why Peter Pan is a classic though. For the most part, I really enjoyed the story. However, I'm not sure if it's because I already loved the story through various movies or not. Hook is one of my all-time favorite movies, seriously. Looking back, they actually did an excellent job of tying it into the original story. 

So, I had no idea that this was initially a play. I may be living under a rock. I know that plays of Peter Pan had been made, but I guess I always assumed it was a book and plays were adapted from it, not the other way around. Knowing that, makes sense of what I thought to be a weird style of narration for the story. I enjoyed it, it was whimsical, and I liked how everything had a personality, but there were times where I felt like it rambled on and lost me. For it being a children's story there were a lot of times where I had no idea what was going on because of this narration. 

Speaking of it being a children's story, this is actually really dark when you get into it. There's a meme going around, and when I first saw it, I thought oh that kind of makes sense. I've posted it below, but in a way, it's kind of true. I don't necessarily believe that the lost boys were dead because they eventually grow up. But I'm pretty sure that Peter Pan is actually dead in it. It doesn't really say it, but I definitely felt like it was implied throughout the story. Sorry to for the spoiler and for any childhoods I just ruined. 

Image found on Google

Despite being dark and creepy, part of me kind of wants to dive into the psychology of Peter Pan. The main character is (probably) dead and is flying around getting other children to follow him because he's lonely. He can fly and take them to a magical world both of which stop happening when they get older and stop believing. He forgets everything all of the time, has no concept of time, can sustain on make-believe food, and is desperate to find a mother that he believes he ran away from. In all actuality I think it mentioned he fell and cracked his head, furthering my opinion that he actually died. I just made a comment to my husband that Classic Children's stories are creepy, and he said they were told to terrify children. Not sure if it's actually true or not, but I'd believe it.

For the most part, I enjoyed the story, once you get past the whole narrative rambling and creepy dead main character thing. I actually thought that that Neverland was whimsical, and I liked Tinkerbell and Nana's characters. Is it a classic I'm going to read over and over again? No probably not, but it is one more book I can say that I've read in my life, and probably a classic everyone should read. I can't say that I loved it by any means, but it was entertaining. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review of Rookery by Emily Organ

Goodreads Summary: London 1884. When a thief robs Fleet Street reporter Penny Green, she finds herself caught up in a horrifying murder.
Someone is terrorizing the residents of St Giles Rookery and Scotland Yard sends Inspector James Blakely to investigate. When the serial killer claims a victim outside the slums, Victorian London is sent into panic.

Can Penny’s friendship with the people of St Giles uncover the culprit? She and James must overcome their complicated relationship to work together, but each new murder threatens to derail their work for good.

If you like historical murder mysteries, then you must read this second book in the Penny Green Series. The books can be read in any order.
Goodreads Rating: 4 stars with 260 reviews
Genre Listing: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Get the book: Amazon
Goodreads Challenge: 2/30
2018 Reading Challenge: #33 A book that takes place before 1900 (Find the challenge here.)
Previous review of the series: Limelight (Penny Green #1)

Book Review:

The Rookery is the second book in the Penny Green series by Emily Organ. It takes place shortly after Limelight ends, with Penny in a sling from being shot while trying to solve the murder of her friend Lizzie Dixie. In The Rookery, Penny finds herself being robbed while walking past St. Giles, a rough area of Victorian London. Inspector James Blakely comes in to take over the case, and Penny gets the first-hand news for her paper. The killer alludes them both on multiple occasions and ends up wreaking havoc in St Giles before being caught. 

I liked the Rookery, but not as much as I did Limelight. The story was good, and it kept me interested. I appreciate that there's a mystery within a mystery regarding what happened to her father. I hope that the third book shows more of that as well. I was also excited that we kind of got to see a motherly side of Penny as well as see her as an aunt. I predict there may be the start of a romance for Penny in the next book. Curious to know where that goes, because I think there's a couple of viable options.

While I did enjoy The Rookery, there are somethings that I wish would have been done a little differently. Emily Organ continued with giving quite a few suspects which was a nice touch, however, the pseudonym made it pretty easy to figure out once it was shown shortly before the characters full name. Also, both Limelight and The Rookery had secret letters with mysterious handwriting. It was interesting in the first book, but seeing something similar in the second was a little underwhelming.  I feel like there was also a similarity with the way the killers in both books dressed and lurked around at the funerals. These similarities made it feel like the author was following a set formula for the mystery.

While the identity of the killer didn't come as a surprise to me, the motive did. I liked how it turned him into a serial killer, and it made me want to dive into the psychology of it. It also gave off a Jack the Ripper vibe to me.  I also really liked the imagery that Emily Organ created for St. Giles. I could really imagine a dingy poverty-stricken area with a maze of streets and bad lighting.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Rookery, and I'm going to continue on with the series. I just wish there was a little more creativity with the mystery and that it differed from the first book. I believe each of the books is under $5.00 as well as on Kindle Unlimited. If you go for the option to buy one, it'll make a nice addition for #2 on the reading challenge list, which is a book under $5. Side note, the summary says it can be read out of order, but I don't beleive that's true. I highly recommend reading Limelight first.