Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Short Review: The Adventure of the Speckled Band

The Adventure of the Speckled Band

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Short #8 from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
-- Book 3 of Sherlock Holmes
*Audio Part from The Complete Sherlock Holmes | Narrated by Simon Vance

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Helen Stoner consults Sherlock Holmes about the death of her twin sister, Julia, who died before her wedding, crying that: "it was the Speckled Band!"  Holmes must investigate their mother's estate and the unpleasant Dr. Roylott, Helen's stepfather, who allows gypsies to camp on his estate and has both a cheetah and a baboon running amok in the grounds.   But can Helen be believed?  Is Dr Roylott as bad as he seems?   And can the specked handkerchiefs worn about the necks of the gypsies really be a coincidence?

Said to Dr. Watson:
I shall be very much obliged if you would slip your revolver into your pocket.  An Eley's No. 2 is an excellent argument with gentlemen who can twist steel pikes into knots.  That and a tooth-brush are, I think, all that we need.

They sure do travel light.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band is a very short mystery involving the unexplained death of a woman, and her mysterious parting words to her twin sister:

‘Oh, my God!  Helen!  It was the band!  The speckled band!’

And so Helen Stoner consults with Sherlock Holmes to investigate the reason behind her twin sister, Julia's death--a tragic event that happened right before the victim's wedding.

As far as mysteries go, this one wasn't all that difficult to ascertain the main culprit.  In fact, I'm of the impression that there hadn't even been any conscious effort to keep readers in the dark about who killed Julia Stoner.  I figure that the 'how she was killed' was the true mystery.

Nonetheless, this is a short and enjoyable story, written charmingly, and again show-casing the arrogant cleverness of Sherlock Holmes.

On a side note: This is the second Sherlock story I've read--actually I listened to The Complete Sherlock Holmes audio book narrated by Simon Vance.  A rather nice way to pass the time when you have multitasking to do and want to listen to a short story.

But that's a moot point.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Thoughts: Truly, Madly

Truly, Madly

by Heather Webber
Book 1 of Lucy Valentine

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service.  But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.

Plus, her rent is due.

Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking.  According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples.  But not Lucy.  Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects.  What good is that in the matchmaking world?  You’d be surprised.  In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking for something.  So when Lucy locates a missing wedding ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who lives upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime.  And who knows?  Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it...

Truly, Madly is an extremely enjoyable start to a cute cozy mystery series.  I loved all the characters, and while I typically don't have any good feelings about the male love interests, Sean Donahue actually turned out quite charming.  Lucy Valentine is an interesting character with an interesting psychic ability, and while I thought the way in which her secret was revealed to the world was a little too comical for my liking, I like the direction the entire series is taking.

Lucy is a great main character to follow and I enjoy her resourcefulness and her determination.  I also feel I like her reasons behind why she would readily take over her father's business even without the requisite aura-seeing abilities.  I like seeing the more vulnerable side of her she shows, admitting how she really feels about not having those aura-seeing abilities, and instead has a psychic ability that can only find inanimate objects belonging to people who are actually thinking about said inanimate object.

This shows in those moments when she truly feels her abilities are useless to help find the lost little boy because she cannot find actual living beings.


Lucy's parents were just strange, and I might have some issue with how they kind of just skip town.   The other characters introduced also have a lot of potential for great things in future installments: Lucy's two best friends, Marisol and Emerson; Detective Aiden Holliday; Butch, the not quite butcher who looks like Matt Damon; Dovie, Lucy's paternal grandmother; Raphael, the driver; and many, many more.  I like a good series with a lot of great characters to play off of!

I'd love to see more of all of these characters, because they were quite glossed over.  You get to meet them, but you don't really get to know them yet, and I'd love to get to know all of these characters.

And there were animals!  I love a good story with lots of animals, and there are three: Odysseus, the one eye'd hamster; Grendel, the three-legged cat; and Thoreau, the tiny three-pound Yorkie.  The use of literary figures to name their pets felt a little pretentious, but I'll ignore that, because who am I to question what you name your pets, right?   But Lucy's penchant for doing difficult math problems when she's nervous felt a little awkward, if only because I'd probably only stress myself out trying to figure out long division. Because I don't like math.

The murder mystery was serviceable, if a little predictable. So I'm not complaining.  In fact, I liked the side tangent of Lucy finding the Little Boy Lost more than I liked the murder mystery.

I will definitely be reading more from this series and maybe even more from this author as well.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

2016 Reading Assignment Challenge -- Third Quarterly Report Card

hosted by

July ramblings:  There's really not much to say about July.  It was a semi-good reading month and I kept up with my Reading Assignment books.  That's all, really.

August ramblings:  A lot of the same stuff from previous months.  Though I DID sort of make myself finish reading a book I had very little motivation to read.  But we made it and that's all that matters to me.  At least now I can focus on books that I'm more interested in reading.

September ramblings:  To be totally honest, I had a slightly flustered time of trying to figure out which books to read this month.  With Halloween Bingo looming on the horizon pre-September, I needed to figure out the best reading strategy to both satisfy my Reading Assignment necessities as well as maybe get a bingo.  But in the end, I couldn't quite make both work, so I settled with finishing my Reading Assignment books first, then working on Bingo obligations--after all, I have more chances for Bingo drawings in the future, and my library books were due.  And ultimately, I enjoyed myself, because all the books I read this month for Reading Assignment were enjoyable ones.  That's always a plus.

Third Quarter:  COMPLETED -- 9/10/2016
My Grade: I Made an A!

Third Quarterly Report Card link upBecause Reading
  • In July:

See Also:  My TBR List for July 2016 Voting // Winning Book

  • In August:

See Also:  My TBR List for August2016 Voting // Winning Book
See Also:  Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge

  • In September:

See Also:  Booklikes Halloween Bingo 2016

A Summary

As I stated in the September Ramblings above, I had a hard time trying to figure out which books to read for the months of September and October that could also crossover as Halloween Bingo books.  After all, twenty-five books in two months (average 12.5 books per month) doesn't feel like a lot (not considering my normal average), but I didn't want to push my luck.  So I tried to see what I could insert from my Reading Assignment list that could also double as a Halloween Bingo book.

I came up with five books, slightly taking liberties with the Bingo Free Space and inserting a mystery for good measure.  In fact, probably only one or two of the books I picked for Bingo were actually Halloween-themed or horror-types, so I kind of took liberties with about all of my books.

This third quarter was a good one for Reading Assignment, to be honest.  And it was made possible thanks to the mid-year book swap-out that we were allowed.  I already read two of the books I swapped-in, as you can see (Chill Factor and Sleep with the Lights On).  I also managed to get myself to finish the Lotus War trilogy, thus successfully putting THAT series behind me and fulfilling one more book in my Reading Assignment list.

A Forecast

Last quarter ahead with no more books to choose from... well, except for each month.  I've tentatively allocated the rest of my Reading Assignment book list into the last three months.  'Tentative' being the keyword--although I cannot swap out anymore books, I can rearrange the reading order however it is needed.  But to be honest, I doubt that will happen.

(Book covers link to GR book page.)


Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden
Voodoo or Die by Stephanie Bond
Far Gone by Laura Griffin
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville


All Fall Down by Julie Bellon Coulter
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Whirlpool by Elizabeth Lowell


My Lady, My Lord by Katharine Ashe
Confessions by Cynthia Eden
The Witness by Nora Roberts
Delicious by Sherry Thomas

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thoughts: Slow Burn

Slow Burn

by Pamela Clare
Book 2 of Colorado High Country

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Let's be frank here:  Pamela Clare is an auto-buy author for me.  She's an auto-buy author as well as an auto-read author.

At least the contemporary stuff she's written so far has been quickly added to my library and devoured--I haven't exactly gone back over her historical back list yet.  And while her books have the tendency to get a little overly cheesy and overly schmaltzy sometimes, Pamela Clare has sentimental value.

Her I-Team series was the very first set of Romantic Suspense series I truly fell in love with.  And with that, it got me catapulted into the entire genre, finding myself a sweet little comfort zone for my reading life.

But that's not all.  Pamela Clare books are auto-buy for me because I've always found I love the characters she creates and the suspenseful situations she creates.

Slow Burn doesn't prove too differently.  Although Slow Burn also proves the power of a beloved author versus average presentation of a potentially fun and sexy contemporary romance.

The Blurb:
Victoria Woodley is done with men.  Fresh off a dating nightmare, she flies from her home in Chicago to Scarlet Springs to take part in her best friend’s wedding.  Who picks her up at the airport?  Eric Hawke.  Of course.  She made a fool of herself over him last time she was here.  He’s cocky, charming, and sexy as sin.  But the fact that she’s attracted to him is all the proof she needs that he’s bad news.  She would ignore him if she could.  But he’s the best man, and she’s the maid of honor.  She can’t just tell him to jump in a lake—especially not when her lips are locked with his.

Eric isn’t looking for a relationship.  Between running the firehouse and volunteering for the county’s search and rescue team, he has enough on his plate.  He doesn’t need to get tangled up with a woman from the big city, especially one whose idea of roughing it is going without designer coffee.  Yet from the moment he looks into Victoria’s big brown eyes, the attraction he feels is too strong to deny.  Faster than he can imagine, the spark of desire that has smoldered between them since the first day they met will flare into full-blown passion.

But can Eric convince Victoria to set aside her doubts and trust him with her heart before their time together runs out?

My Thoughts:
Slow Burn is written well, easy to read, and fast-paced, as Pamela Clare is wont to present.  The premise is a cute one with a lot of potential between Victoria who has a really bad incident occur in her life recently, and Eric who just naturally wants to take care of everyone in his life even if he won't admit it.  It's a typical hero and damsel story, but with a modern twist and lots of sexy times involved.

And also, Victoria's a pretty cool Mary Sue of epic proportions... y'know, for a Mary Sue.  Except for that little miscommunication and jumping to conclusions deal in the short first chapter back story of one year ago, Victoria's alright.  She and Eric end up having an excellent, chemistry-laden relationship wherein they are extremely in lust with each other, but are both trying to hang on to that "we're just friends" lie.

I'm sure everyone--readers and our main couple--were both relieved when the two finally gave into their carnal desires and jumped each others' bones.

Anyway, as far as romances go, this wasn't the most unique story in the world, nor did I expect it to be.  Victoria and Eric are both good people, and the little community of Scarlet Springs is a wonderful place for any small town love story to take place.  So I liked it.  It's a typical tried-and-true formula from a beloved author.

And sometimes that's enough for me.

To top it off, while a little outrageous, Lexi and Austin's "One Week of Pre-Wedding Festivities" sounded like a whole lot of fun.  I don't know anyone in my life, personally, who'd be able to afford all of that fun, but I guess it would be akin to just having a vacation in one's own home considering there's so much to do around the area: white water rafting, mountain hiking, a night out on the town, a climbing gym in a bar, etc....

One of the little quibbles I had were the forced "extreme situations" that kind of happened near the end.  I'm hesitant to say that Pamela manages better with her romantic suspenses, because I DO still enjoy these contemporary romances set in little Scarlet Springs, as there seems to be plenty of action going on a mountain town without needing to factor in a serial killer or terrorist attack.  I don't know if we need to include these extreme situations, though I suppose stuff like getting shoved in front of a moving vehicle CAN happen in real life without the premise being specific to romantic suspense.

Peaceful is kind of nice, sometimes.

The schmaltz that is standard Pamela Clare, however, seems to have resurfaced after being kind of absent in the last three books publish of hers that I read.  It's not in full force, but it's tell-tale signs are there.


"Firemen are my favorite color."

Yes, Victoria. They most certainly are. =-)


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge

Short Review: A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Book 1 of Sherlock Holmes
*Audio Part from The Complete Sherlock Holmes | Narrated by Simon Vance

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

In the debut of literature's most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton.  The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio's Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall.  With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge--and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes.

I have to be honest.  I'm a fan of Simon Vance's narrations and so there's a big possibility that a lot of my enjoyment of this first Sherlock Holmes might have been thanks to his fabulous performance.

I understand that Sherlock Holmes is a celebrated fictional figure in literature.  But to be totally honest, while the book was easy to follow with some very clever quips and ideas, it didn't escape my notice that the progression of A Study in Scarlet was a little confusing and messy.  The mystery was standard, as far as murder mysteries go, so I had little complaint about it.  I never realized, having never read any Sherlock Holmes in the past--that most of the books were told in Dr. Watson's point of view.  I think that's a nice touch, because Sherlock himself comes off as a bit of an arrogant prat.  And grumpy.

But the introduction of these two characters was actually pretty fast-paced and interesting.  The entire story was progressing amiably... then all of a sudden we're in Utah with Mormons and a lot of creepy things are happening... and I kind of got lost.  I eventually understood the point of the Utah-Mormon setting, but it felt very abrupt and broken.

The idea wasn't unique or strange, though.  And it came around to tie everything together.

But really?  I think Sherlock would be every modern detective and crime scene investigator's worst nightmare really.  And profilers all around, BEWARE.

Nonetheless...  I'm still ready for my next Sherlock adventure.  =D


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

Monday, September 26, 2016

Short Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

by Shirley Jackson

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian.  Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night.  Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiousity and hostility of the villagers.  Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears.  Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

I don't know how to feel about this book, because while it's written very well, the actual story line felt a bit dragged out.  We see a lot of day-to-day activities with nothing much really going on.  Although the atmosphere and the actions and behaviors of our Blackwood family DOES come off very unsettling and I found myself making "WTF" faces every few scenes.

The big secret reveal at the end of the book wasn't entirely surprising, but the entire progress concerning Merricat's antagonism versus Charles DID get my attention.

I will admit though, there's a lot of pretty outrageous, yet well detailed human behavior depicted through the villagers and the Blackwoods.  But a lot of times, actions and dialogue had me a little confused.

This book had a wonderfully haunting atmosphere, but the story itself has much to be desired.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Another Squee... and Some Thoughts: Six of Crows

Six of Crows

by Leigh Bardugo
Book 1 of The Dregs

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.5 Stars

**Scroll down past all the fangirl squeeing for more coherent thoughts.
And, FYI for anyone wondering:
**This book takes place in Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse, during a different timeline, but does not really require that you have read The Grisha trilogy first.  There are certain references, but they wouldn't deter you from enjoying this book and are merely weaved in as part of the history and world building of this timeline and setting.

Right after finishing the book: (before I got some sleep)

And about the characters and the storyline:

The overall book experience after giving it some thought: (still haven't gotten to sleep yet)

The one year I have to wait until the next book comes out:

Official Story Blurb: (Because I can’t even begin to do justice to summing up what this book is about.)
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker.  Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams.  But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.  Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Actual Coherent Thoughts: (a few hours after I got some sleep)
I think I might have liked this one even more than I liked The Grisha trilogy.  It took a little while, but once the story got rolling, everything was just full of AWESOME and FEELS and so, so much WONDERFUL!

This book was sort of tagged as being a YA High Fantasy Ocean’s Eleven, which was what got me so excited in the first place, because: OCEAN’S ELEVEN.  But being that I did love Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, it’s not like my anticipation had no ground to stand on.

And boy did this book deliver.  This book is about an impossible heist, but this book presents to you so much more than just that.

I have to admit, however, in terms of atmosphere, Six of Crows DID have a darker one than what I would relate with Ocean’s Eleven, though not by much.  As evidenced by the reveals and the histories of our characters and of how the Grisha world has become in this timeline, things are tragic, dark, and quite depressing; but at the same time, things are intriguing, gritty, and very intense.

There’s a certain amount of risk when compiling a large number of characters into one story, as well as using a changing POV between each of these characters, even if that POV is still third person. I admit that in the beginning I’d felt slightly overwhelmed as each character was introduced, but the way in which the author handled it was excellently done.

While our main story line breezed along, little snippets and small reveals were given to us through each character: about their personalities, about their histories, about their lives, about their thoughts, about their ideals, and about how they relate with the world they live in... it was actually better than I’d expected... and then some.

Six of Crows was just plain awesome.  It’s a great introduction to this new series in a familiar world that fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy will appreciate.  And while there is a massive amount of world building and character setup and story outlining, it never feels like a prologue of information dump at all.  And despite the fact that the book takes place in an already established world from a previously written series, it doesn’t feel reliant on that series at all to comprehend the goings on of this one.  There is enough reiteration of the Grisha world to understand it, but not so much that it feels unnecessarily tedious; and there is even more to learn about this new era in the Grisha world, expanding from what we may already be familiar with.

For me, there were few moments of drag and sometimes the characters felt like they were a little more detached from the goings on of their own story than I would have liked.  But in the end, Six of Crows was simply an amazing new story with a well thought out plot, and colorfully created characters, easily likable and relatable.

Kaz Brekker is the infamous almost anti-hero who gives off an unrelatable persona at the beginning, but who has so many layers and so much complexity that you can’t even begin to decide whether or not you like him.

Inej was so freakin’ kickass that I don’t even care that she’s the typical girl with a heart-of-gold, but a sad, tragic past, who is trying to figure out where her place is in this world.  Her reputation is the “Wraith” and she dispatches seasoned warriors before they even realize she’s standing right beside them.  And then goes on to save everyone’s asses even while staying hidden in the background.

Nina and Matthias were a little bit harder to like, but that’s only because they spend so much time tangled in their own drama of hate between two large groups of people.  They represent what has become of the Grisha world after the events of the Grisha trilogy, as well as an all too familiar and real conflict of the real world: hatred of two peoples due to the persecution of one based on fear and differences.  It’s thought-provoking… but I wasn’t too drawn to either of these two characters or their problems.

Though Nina certainly grows on you and comes off quite endearing with her sarcasm, her boldness, and her unabashed presentation of herself in honest form.  It’s quite refreshing actually.

Matthias is a stick.  In the mud.  With random quips.

Jesper and Wylan may have only been sort of, kind of side characters beside the other four, but they were tons of fun with their own brand of complexities and so much more potential to build on their characters.  I expect to see even more of them in future books and learn more about them.

May I sum up this review with this particular gif once more?

Some Asides:
I half read and half listened to the audiobook of Six of Crows, and to be totally honest, while it was narrated rather well by a nice group of voices, I couldn’t help but wonder why we didn’t just utilize each voice for their proper character portrayals.  It was a little distracting at times to try to figure out who each narrator was trying to portray in each of their versions… and then you had one guy who didn’t even try to give each of the characters a distinctive voice.

Anyway… I still enjoyed listening to most of the audio, but I have the distinctive feeling I might have been in even more awe if I’d just read the book traditionally.  Not that that’s much of a concession since I’m giving the book several “AWESOME”s and a 4.5 Star rating anyway.  So who am I trying to kid?

I loved this book, audio or not.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in October 2015.

Fairly Brief Thoughts: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving
(short story)

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

This is the short story of a man named Ichabod Crane who sojourns to Sleepy Hollow to become a school teacher to children of the vicinity, falls in lust with the daughter of a Dutch farmer, daydreams about the future of winning sweet Katrina Van Tassel's hand in marriage, defeating his one and only love rival Brom Van Brunt... and then disappearing mysteriously one night after a ghastly encounter with Sleepy Hollow's most infamous legendary spirit.

Oh yes, there's a lot of food involved as well, but only descriptions.  And then there's stuff to do with a scenic fall atmosphere, a gathering of some sort with ghost stories exchanged...

And then there might have been talk of a Headless Horseman.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is definitely all about the atmosphere and the idea of a haunting legend.  Truthfully, I actually found it kind of long-winded, even if the prose was smooth and lovely in it's poetic nature.

I just didn't see why I needed to know the different displays of food, or the different types of birds present during Ichabod Crane's scenic route to his dinner party.  Or about the three pages worth of Ichabod Crane's many, perfect, gentlemanly and devout qualities.  Although, I must say that the description of Ichabod Crane's physical appearance was actually pretty darn good.  The book I read from also gave some nice pictures to go with some of the story.

I didn't find this short story very scary, or very fascinating, for that matter.  Maybe I found it kind of amusing, to be honest.  But I can sort of see the appeal it has on many others as a great Halloween read.

On a side note, I found the postscript after the story kind of amusing and the most enjoyable part of my reading.  Following is a quote taken from part of the postscript, the dialogue of the story-teller of our tale:
"There is no situation in life but has its advantages and pleasures--provided we will but take a joke as we find it;

"That, therefore, he that runs races with goblin troopers is likely to have rough riding of it.

"Ergo, for a country schoolmaster to be refused the hand of a Dutch heiress, is a certain step to high preferment in the state."
-- Found in the Handwriting of Mr. Knickerbocker


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Friday, September 23, 2016

Some Thoughts: Scared Stiff

Scared Stiff

by Annelise Ryan
Book 2 of Mattie Winston Mystery

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

When Deputy Coroner Mattie Winston and her boss/best friend, Izzy, are called to the home of waitress and part-time model Shannon Tolliver, they find the ghoulish Halloween decorations a bit too authentic.  Among the fake blood and skeletons is the corpse of Shannon herself.  Since the whole town knows Shannon recently had a very public spat with her estranged husband, Erik, he's suspect #1.  But Mattie happens to know Erik truly loved his wife, and is simply incapable of the brutal act--even if he owns the exact same caliber handgun as the murder weapon...

Determined to unearth the truth, Mattie puts her scalpel-sharp medical skills to work, and digs a little deeper.  What she uncovers is stranger than anyone could have imagined...

This second installment of the cozy Mattie Winston Mystery was, somehow, not as great as the first one, Working Stiff.  I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm half wondering if it has to do with how obsessed Mattie is with Detective Steve Hurley.  We barely got into the book before every other thought flitting through her mind had to do with either impressing Hurley, getting his attention, or running her "love rival" Allison the reporter over with a bus... or something.

Of course, those were mere portions of the book and not all of it, so I'm not entirely letting it influence my like or dislike of Scared Stiff.

Because aside from the frustrating romance parts in this book, the rest was pretty good and entertaining.  The murder mystery was done well and had me guessing, though it was pretty obvious who didn't do it; the twist it took was a bit strange, yes, but I can see it falling together properly.  The forensics aspects, with the autopsy, crime scene evidence collection, etcetera, are always awesome to see.  Even a little bit of Mattie's own investigations were pretty promising as well now that she's learned to keep her knowledge to herself--if she continued to go around telling everyone all the sordid details of each crime while trying to conduct interviews, I'm not sure how well that would pan out for her career in the medico-legal field.

The klutzy Mattie trope is still in effect, I see, although this time around, some of the antics were actually quite humorous, even if half the time it wasn't really her fault.  It's not like she intentionally fell down the hill side, causing ripped scrubs, a crotch vent, and mud on her behind.  Although her penchant for getting the murder victims'... stuff... all over her made me grimace really hard.

I still feel it would be nice to tone down the "How many ways can be embarrass Mattie Winston on the job?" trope, though.  Once or twice in one book is funny.  Every other scene can get a little old.

We get a new addition to Mattie's little refuge in the cottage behind her best friend, Izzy's house, in the form of an abandoned pup to add onto the abandoned kitten she picked up from the first book.  I'd like to focus on them a bit more too, but aside from Mattie's penchant for picking up strays, they don't seem to play a very big role in the story itself.

Finally, back to the love interest, Steve Hurley... I'm still not very enamored of him.  He doesn't stand out, and at times kind of comes off as a carbon copy male lead jackass.  I DO like that he gets so petty and jealous rather than acting like he doesn't even notice when Mattie's being seduced by other men... but at the same time, he acts like a dick.  And this also all plays into Mattie's frustratingly one-tracked focus on Hurley and what she can do to win his favor.


I will probably continue on with the next book in the series, but I'm not entirely in a hurry to do so.  It's entertaining and I really like Mattie.  In spite of her klutzy personality trait, she's resourceful and skilled and really knows what she's doing when it matters.

I'm hoping for a better turn for her romance, but I've noticed that the love stories in cozy mysteries aren't always that great.  Granted, they are cozy mysteries and romance isn't exactly the focus.  I've read a good one before, but I'm not too excited about how Mattie's love life is turning out so far.  It almost seems too... unnecessary, actually.

And also, again, I'm really digging Izzy as the mentor slash best friend role in Mattie's life.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Thursday, September 22, 2016

An Introduction to the Castle: First paragraph read

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

by Shirley Jackson

~ Goodreads ~

Progress:  1 of 214 pages

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood.  I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance.  I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had.  I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise.  I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

For some reason this very first paragraph just stood out to me.

And also, I went and did a Google search for Amanita phalloides because I was curious... then realized that she DOES tell us what that is in the paragraph.  Observant, I am not...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Dark Witch

Dark Witch

by Nora Roberts
Book 1 of The Cousins O'Dwyer trilogy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance.  From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.


County Mayo, to be exact.  Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.

Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses.  Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer.  And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.

When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath.  Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horseman, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.

Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle.  But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated.  Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive...

I guess the thing that stood out to me the most was Iona's verbal diarrhea.  The moment she starts interacting with her long-unknown family, cousins Branna and Connor, she becomes a basket case of nerves and rambles until she stops making sense.  Then she apologizes for rambling and rambles some more.  Each new person she meets creates a new nervousness in her and she commences spewing whatever thoughts come to her mind.

Normally, this would be a very annoying trait--as I prefer a peaceful quietness, myself, much like Branna.  But for some reason, I found it kind of sweetly endearing from Iona.  And I don't know if it's just because of what she says, or how she says things... or just that it's a different type of personality than just being the clumsy, klutzy, sunshine girl-next-door.


Dark Witch is enjoyable.  I was certainly hooked.  The premise of this entire trilogy reads like a high fantasy at times, which was something I'd been kind of looking forward to.  But being that it's a contemporary setting, the language, the dialogue, and the sometimes overuse of flowery descriptors for just about everything made it a little hard to take the dangers of the O'Dwyer cousins' conflict seriously.  It was jarring, to say the least, and at times the narration felt rushed.

The characters are great, although they are also flawless in spite of their flaws... if that makes any sense.  Let's just say that, sometimes you come across a set of people who are so good and so noble that it kind of hurts your teeth.  It's not a bad thing, really.  But it also makes the presence of these people feel way too deliberate in each scene--it's as if the author wants you you know for sure that these people are all extremely special and significant, and even adds a bit more purple-y prose into their biographies for good measure.

Anyway, the story was good, but predictable.  And again, the premise is a great one.  All-in-all, Dark Witch is a great start to a trilogy.

If I had one big complaint--among others--it would be the unnecessary addition of the romantic angst.  I'm not entirely sure I understand what happened to make Boyle melt down about his relationship with Iona aside from the obligatory "Main hero with commitment issues" trope.  But it happened, it felt out of place, and Iona dealt with it nicely, I thought.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo