Darth Pony

Ruling the galaxy is so overrated.

LibraryThing Halloween Event

If you missed out on the Talk Like a Pirate Day treasure hunt, LibraryThing is having its first ever Halloween Haunt. Same deal: find treasures (or in this case candies) to get upgraded to a lifetime membership and be entered in prize drawings. Aside from the obvious perks, I've found these events to be fun AND educational AND a good way to learn how to navigate LibraryThing's various features.

 

https://www.librarything.com/hunt_halloween2018.php

Darth Pony's Halloween Bingo 2018 Tracking Post

Update 24/10: Uhhhhhhhhhhh . . . I have a blackout. @.@

 

 

Previous Updates:

 

 

Update 23/10: The days are blurring together, but somehow I'm only one book away from a reading blackout and then one call away from a total blackout. Who am I and what have I done with the real me?! (Also, I've gotten bingos 5-7 in the last two days.)

 

Update 20/10: Bingo #4! Four books to read for reading blackout! I found some shorter books to read for two of the squares to keep myself from unnecessarily panicking! Woooo! XD

 

Update 18/10: I've already far surpassed my own expectations, so I'm going to keep pushing myself until Halloween Bingo is over or it stops being fun. I think if I continue neglecting all other hobbies and non-essential adulting, I might be able to read books for the rest of my squares. I'm probably headed for a book coma like no other come November, but that's two whole weeks away. I'll worry about it then. :P

 

Update 15/10: I'm sick again. Some sort of stomach bug. Symptoms include suddenly getting tired of light sabers and changing them all to porgs.

 

Update 14/10: BINGO #3! WOOOO!!!

 

Update 08/10: BINGO #2!!! :O

 

Update 06/10: BINGO!!!! WOOOOOOOO!!!! :D :D :D

 

Update 30/9: Four possible near-bingos brewing. Wooo! TEN BOOKS READ THIS MONTH! WOOOOO! (I swear I don't say "wooo" this much in my everyday life. I don't think so, anyway...)

 

Update 28/9: I now have three rows that just need one square called to be bingo eligible. Wooo! Also, I've read NINE books this month?!? That's twice my average! Woooo!

 

Update 24/9: Hey, if Shifters gets called I'll actually have a bingo! Anticipation! Wooo!

 

Update 18/9: Thus far illness and insomnia have worked in my favor, but I'm pretty sure I can't keep this up indefinitely. Sooner or later I'm going to hit a wall and start wishing I wasn't quite so fond of longer novels. Oh well. In the meantime, four squares! Woo! Six books read! Wooo! Almost one whole row called! Woooo!

 

Update 11/9: Three squares! Wooo! I have no strategy! Woooo! XD

 

Update 09/9: I marked off my first square! Wooo!

(show spoiler)

 

 

Dead Lands – Grave Peril by Jim Butcher, called 24/10 - read 14/9

Genre Horror – The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker, called 16/10 - read 22/10

Genre Suspense – Revenge of the Mantis by Vered Ehsani (Wild Card), called 28/9 - read 10/10

13 – The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, called 08/10 - read 03/10

Darkest London – Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, called 12/10 - read 20/10

 

Southern Gothic – Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon, called 10/9 - read 30/8

Cryptozoologist – Uprooted by Naomi Novik, called 04/9 - read 08/9

Shifters – Beastly Bones by William Ritter, called 06/10 - read 24/9

A Grimm Tale – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, called 14/9 - read 22/9

Terrifying Women – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, called 12/9 - read 18/9

 

Creepy Carnivals – The Automaton's Wife by Vered Ehsani (Wild Card), called 18/9 - read 09/10

Fear the Drowning Deep – Oceanspace by Allen Steele, called 18/10 - read 23/10

Free Space – Melmoth by Sarah Perry, read 18/10

Diverse Voices – A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney, called 22/9 - read 06/10

Modern Masters of Horror – The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, called 16/9 - read 26/9

 

Relics and Curiosities – Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, called 20/9 - read 12/10

Doomsday – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, called 04/10 - read 03/9

Ghost Stories – Ghosts of Tsavo by Vered Ehsani, called 02/10 - read 07/10

Amateur Sleuth – Murder On Cue by Jane Dentinger, called 26/9 - read 28/9

Terror in a Small Town – The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie, called 10/10 - read 14/10

 

Supernatural – The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Willbanks, called 30/9 - read 17/10

New Release – Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, called 08/9 - read 11/9

Spellbound – The Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell, called 20/10 - read 22/10

Murder Most Foul – First Hit of the Season by Jane Dentinger, called 24/9 - read 30/9

Country House Mystery – Crooked House by Agatha Christie, called 22/10 - read 24/10

 

Wild Card Author – Vered Ehsani

Crooked House

Crooked House - Agatha Christie

According to the introduction, this is Christie’s favorite novel she ever wrote. When an author says that, you know the book is either going to suck or blow your socks off. Luckily for me, this book did the latter. I think I might love it as much as And Then There Were None. It will be interesting to see if it holds up as well in re-reads. I suspect it will.

 

I actually guessed the murderer early on, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment. And I probably would not have had the faintest idea who it was if a certain clue hadn’t been dropped.

 

As soon as Charles’s father mentioned Constance Kent, I knew who’d done it, but only because I’d recently come across another mention of Kent and looked her up out of curiosity. Charles's father knew it too, and a whole bunch of death might have been avoided if he’d done something about it.

(show spoiler)

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Country House Mystery square.

 

Oceanspace

Oceanspace - Allen Steele

My Kindle edition of Oceanspace is a 2015 reprint of a 2000 novel set in 2011 that stole all its tropes from the 1960’s-70’s. From the description:

 

Treachery, greed, and a gargantuan sea monster threaten the inhabitants of a high-tech, deep-water research station in this thrilling undersea science fiction adventure

 

I beg to differ, sir! A more accurate description would be:

 

More sexist and racist tropes than you can slap with a fish threaten the peaceful existence of a gargantuan sea monster in this mildly interesting treatise on underwater exploration

 

Not as catchy, I know, but I’m big on truth in advertising.

 

Basically, Oceanspace is as cringingly racist and sexist as a Dirk Pitt novel without any of the hilarious cheesiness to make reading it worthwhile. The stuff about undersea habitats and submersibles and oceanic exploration was quite interesting, but the awful troperrific characters drag the story below crush depth.

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Fear the Drowning Deep square.

 

The Witches of Lychford

Witches of Lychford - Paul Cornell

This is a fun novella that claims to be 144 pages long but feels much shorter due to the story ending at the 86% mark on my Kindle edition. And the fact that I devoured it between breakfast and lunch. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a story about a crotchety village witch taking on a supermarket chain to stop all hell from literally breaking loose, but I needn’t have worried. The former Doctor Who writers are knocking it out of the park lately.

 

There is a lot going on for such a short novella. The themes explored aren’t the ones I expected, and that’s a good thing. There’s a nicely balanced blend of humor and seriousness, and while the characters seem like clichés on the surface, they actually get fleshed out pretty well. Overall, it’s a good lead-in to a series (but also works as a stand-alone), and I’d love to see it adapted for television.

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Spellbound square.

 

The Lair of the White Worm

The Lair of the White Worm - Bram Stoker

I usually avoid abridged books like the plague, but I think I nonetheless ended up with an abridged version of Lair of the White Worm. Which is unfortunate. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell whether this story would be made better or worse by expounding upon it.

 

It starts with long-lost relatives meeting, then moves on to men talking of local legends, men talking during walks, men talking in studies, men talking at breakfast, chapter after chapter of men talking. Also featured are misadventures with snakes and women and mongooses, fatal staring contests in proper English sitting rooms, a horribly racist caricature of a black man, one man’s obsession with his giant bird-shaped kite, and other such WTFery. Soooo much WTFery. Apparently Stoker was terribly ill when he wrote it. And terribly racist. And terribly misogynistic. Maybe just plain terrible.

 

I thought Dracula was so good that I’d try more of Stoker’s work.

 

I should have stopped at Dracula.

 

OMG, I should have stopped.

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Genre: Horror square, and boy was it ever horrifying, though not in the way Stoker intended.

 

Rivers of London

Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch

What happens when a former Doctor Who writer decides to try his hand at a Dresden-Files-esque urban fantasy series? I DON’T EVEN KNOW BUT IT’S AMAZING. AMAZING STUFF HAPPENS, OKAY? OKAY.

 

Basically, it’s a sort of ghost hunter/police procedural/buddy comedy with magic and a wicked sense of very British humor and, in my opinion, it blows the Dresden Files out of the water.* I was hoping I’d be able to write a more coherent review, but apparently I’m stuck in the unhelpful squeeing phase and I’m also busy mentally rejigging my fun budget so I can get the rest of the series. Sorry.

 

Only one thing really ticked me off. It’s spoilery, so under a spoiler tag it goes:

 

Speaking of Dresden Files, Rivers of London falls in the same trap as Grave Peril and damsels a perfectly good strong female character and REALLY screws her over and I’ll be angry about this for a while, amazingness notwithstanding.

(show spoiler)

 

*Opinion formed after reading three Dresden Files books and one Rivers of London book.

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Darkest London square.

 

Melmoth

Melmoth - Sarah Perry

So. This book. It’s supposed to be Gothic, and it is written in the Gothic style, but it isn’t the least bit suspenseful or spooky. It starts out promisingly enough (if you don’t mind tales told in the present tense by overly dramatic omniscient narrators—which I do mind but will overlook for a good story, but ugh, getting ahead of myself), introducing Helen and Karel and Thea, three broken friends dealing with various issues. Helen is punishing herself for some past transgression and has been denying herself pleasure of all sorts for two decades. Karel and Thea are dealing with the fallout of Thea’s stroke, which has drastically altered the shape of their life together. So far so good, right? Interesting people with interesting problems. All the makings for a decent literary novel.

 

Then in came Melmoth, the legend they all obsess over to some degree, and that’s when the wheels fell off and the train crashed and my enjoyment died in flames. Screaming. (Now who’s being overly dramatic, eh?)

 

The story of Helen, Karel, and Thea is interrupted every so often by other stories, letters and diaries and memoirs that all relate testimonies of or encounters with Melmoth the Witness. I don’t know if it was the abrupt tonal shifts, or the odd mixing of narrative styles, or an inability to connect with or care about the little vignettes of tragedy being thrown at me, or a combination of all of the above, but these were the dullest, dreariest parts of the book. I probably would have stopped at the second one (about 75 pages in), but I was actually invested in Thea, at least, and I wanted to see where her story would go. So I did a lot of speed reading, which I haven’t done in over a decade because the fibro fog pretty much guarantees that I’ll retain zero vital info that way, but I couldn’t be arsed giving this my full attention and I don’t care if I can’t remember it later this afternoon.

 

TL; DR, the title character ruins what could have been a perfectly good book about much more interesting characters. Alas.

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Free square.

 

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster - Scott Wilbanks

This was a bit unexpected. Based on the title and the author’s definition of the word “lemoncholy” I thought this was YA. It is not. See? Unexpected! Having shifted gears to adult novel mode and noting that the book isn’t listed as romance, I thought myself safe from insta-love. I was not. Unexpected! I enjoyed the little bit of romance anyway, though I confess my eyes did roll a little. Unexpected! (The enjoyment, not the eye-rolling.)

 

Seriously now, I did enjoy this for the most part. Some of the “coincidences” were hard to swallow (but you get that with time travel) and were visible from miles and decades away. The ending was saccharine-sweet with nearly every sub-plot happily resolved and tied up with neat little bows, and yet at least two things that I can think of never got explained, one of which is really bothering me. So it was a mostly satisfying read that tried too hard at the end but still left me with a pleasant buzz.

 

I do wonder, though, with all that vintage Victorian clothing piled around Annie’s house, wouldn’t the whole place smell like great-grandma’s closet? And who stores vintage clothing in piles in the first place?! Take care of that stuff! Sheesh!

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Supernatural square.

 

The Murder at the Vicarage

The Murder at the Vicarage - Agatha Christie

I don’t feel the need to do an actual review for this one, so instead I’ll just say that Jane Marple is my favorite character that ever came out of Agatha Christie’s mind. As the good vicar said:

If I were at any time to set out on a career of deceit, it would be of Miss Marple that I should be afraid.

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Terror in a Small Town square.

 

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

Prior to reading this, my experience with Gaiman’s work was limited to Good Omens, Stardust, and The Graveyard Book, so I had no idea what to expect when it came to his take on Norse mythology. It turns out his take is pretty straightforward myth retelling with some of his humor thrown in here and there. Great for bedtime stories, if murder, kidnapping, dismemberment, disembowelment, creative use of discarded body parts/bodily fluid, and occasional scatological humor make you sleepy. I personally wasn’t impressed with the potty jokes, but if Gaiman saw fit to do another volume of Norse myths, I’d still be all over it.

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Relics and Curiosities square.

 

Revenge of the Mantis

Revenge of the Mantis - Vered Ehsani

I am pleased to announce that for the first time in my experience with this series, a good portion of the contents actually had something to do with both the title and the cover copy. Not everything, but something. YAY!

 

Revenge of the Mantis also dumps very welcome info in such quantities you’d think character backstory was on sale at Costco. In fact, with so many of my questions answered, I have zero qualms in stepping away from this series, even after the author tried to keep me interested by dropping some really terrible foreshadowing.

 

(I mean, seriously now. If you’re going to go 99% of the book without mentioning dwarves—with or without ponytails—and then throw out a single, totally disconnected, context-free mention of a telegram containing no information about them, you will fail pretty miserably in the Tune In Next Time department.)

 

Snottiness aside, this is still a potentially fun series that needs better editing. If you’re less pedantic about this stuff than I am, you may thoroughly enjoy Society for Paranormals. (You know, rather than partially enjoy it in between getting annoyed at the errors and occasional sloppiness, like me. Why am I like this?)

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2018, using my second Wild Card for the Genre: Suspense square. I had a book lined up for it, but I'm nowhere near in the right mood for a Michael Crichton techno-thriller.

 

  

SPOILER ALERT!

The Automaton's Wife

The Automaton's Wife - Vered Ehsani

In keeping with the first book, The Automaton’s Wife pretty much ignores its title and cover copy and does its own thing. The automaton doesn’t show up until Chapter 20 (of 34) before promptly disappearing for several more chapters and doing zero “return[ing] for his wife”. The proposal takes place at the beginning, and then the would-be suitor is mostly absent for the rest of the book. A dead body shows up at the start, and then isn’t mentioned again until near the end of the book when the serial killer plot finally shows up. The events that take up the bulk of the book aren’t even alluded to in the cover copy, and I’m wondering if the person who wrote it even read the damn thing. It borders on false advertising.

 

Beatrice is still bitchy, but in this book she actually gets called on it (as regards her paranormal bigotry, anyway), which was good to see and actually led to a glimmer of self-awareness and some character development. (I hope it sticks.) The editing is still inadequate, which is a terrible shame because this would be a really fun series if a good editor or two could clean up all the repetition and slightly-wrong idioms and awkward syntax. As is, it just really gets my pedantic goat. At least Bee actually referred to the Stewards as her aunt/uncle/cousins in this book. She danced around their filial connection in book one, only referring to Mrs. Steward as her aunt twice in passing, and it was the weirdest thing.

 

I’ve got one more book to go, and then I’ll probably be done with this series regardless of whatever pseudo-cliffhanger the third book ends on. It’s entertaining, but not enough for me to lock my inner pedant in a closet for all seven books.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2018, using my first Wild Card for the Creepy Carnivals square. A circus gets a brief mention, so it totally fits! :P

 

  

Ghosts of Tsavo

Ghosts of Tsavo (Society for Paranormals Book 1) - Vered Ehsani

Meh. For a book called Ghosts of Tsavo, Beatrice (the narrator) didn’t spend much time investigating the titular beasts. And more’s the pity, because what I got instead was a bunch of scrambled, incomplete backstory, anachronisms, boring domestic scenes, a whole lot of set-up for subsequent books – and a teeny tiny bit of paranormal research. Also, I really didn’t like Bee. I adore a snarky protagonist, but more often than not the humor misses and she just comes across as bitchy. The editing was subpar. I’m guessing this is a product of self-pub. The beginning is a disjointed mess and a more thorough copy edit would have done wonders for the whole thing. I’ve got the next two books so I might as well give them a shot. If they’re just as meh, at least they’re short and I only paid $0.99 for all three. There’s at least $0.99 worth of entertainment here.

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Ghost Stories square.

 

A Blade So Black

A Blade So Black - L. L. McKinney

She shook the jitters from her hands. Slayer of fear itself, and she was worried about crossing her mom. With damn good reason, but still.

 

If you love Alice in Wonderland re-imaginings, and you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the thought of having a Watcher with a British accent in your corner makes you feel warm and squishy inside, but you think the cast was too white and straight and Buffy’s mom was The Worst, OH MY STARS IS THIS THE BOOK FOR YOU.

 

Alice is freaking awesome. She cosplays Sailor Moon and fights evil with Harry Potter memorabilia and is so kick-ass Buffy Summers could take lessons. She’s also a normal teenager trying to juggle school and friends and Nightmare slaying while dealing with some PTSD and an overprotective mother and the lingering grief from her father’s sudden passing. She’s complex, she’s flawed, she screws up, and she nearly kills herself trying to make it right, and I freaking love her. I’d like to think if I’d gone to school with her, she would’ve been in my D&D group. I also ♥ Courtney and her friendship with Alice. Chess, poor guy, did not make much of an impression on me. He just kind of Xander’d his way through the book, but there wasn’t really room for him to do more in between all the Alice alternately kicking ass and getting her ass kicked.

 

I’m super excited for the sequel, which I wish was coming out yesterday, because I have some predictions and wild guesses about a few plot points and I’m dying to know if I’m anywhere near the mark.

 

While I really enjoyed A Blade So Black, I did not get everything in this book, and I want to talk a little bit about why. I am reeeaaaally white, born and raised in a really white neighborhood in a really white city. I can count the number of black kids I went to school with, preschool through 12th grade, on one hand without running out of fingers. When Alice said stuff like “deeze” I had to stop and do some Googling because my experience with AAVE is limited to television, internet memes, and whatever words and phrases have been appropriated into the English lexicon. If publishing in general would get off its fossilized dinosaur arse and publish more books like this, books aimed at black kids without worrying whether a white audience gets it, that wouldn’t be an issue. Empathy and understanding are better achieved when books don’t force the reader to view POC through a white lens. I already know how I see stuff. I need to see other perspectives. And God knows kids of color need to see themselves. So get on it, publishing! *steps off soapbox*

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Diverse Voices square.

 

The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride - Yangsze Choo

This book sat unread on my Kindle for nearly three-and-a-half years. For NEARLY THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS I deprived myself of the beautiful, evocative storytelling of Yangsze Choo. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!? (No, wait. Don’t answer that.) Semi-incoherent gushing to follow.

 

This book is gorgeous. The writing, the descriptions of the spirit world, the afterlife, 1890’s Malacca: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Malacca is a port city in Malaysia (or Malaya, as it was called back then), and it is depicted in the book as a true melting pot of numerous cultures. Li Lan is a compelling narrator, a believable mix of naïve and resourceful, and it’s a pleasure to see her home town and its blended belief systems through her eyes.

 

It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures, we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts.

 

(I’ve seen other reviewers quote this line, and I thought about finding another so I wouldn’t feel like I was copying, but I really love it so I’m quoting it anyway. Nyah nyah.)

 

The story unfolds like a Chinese fable, complete with hauntings and demons and mythical creatures. It’s a bit slow to start, but once the pace picks up it’s a fantastic ride. And while I’m disgusted with myself for not reading it sooner, I’m also glad. If I had read it as soon as I bought it, I’d have had to wait nearly four years for Yangsze Choo’s next book instead of four months or so. (It’s not a sequel. I’m just excited for more gorgeousness.)

 

I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 13 square.