Read Down 2020: Susanna Kearsley, Part III

So winter is trying to scrape together an appearance.  Trying to be like, hey, I’m legit, the world could be melting but that doesn’t mean I can’t scrape together some painful temperatures to remind you how grateful you will be for the warm weather!

Also, question for my readers…when you decide not to go back to bed when your son wakes you up vomiting for the second time in the night because you’re only an hour before your normal wake up time anyway and you could start all the laundry and have more time to get your writing done, does that make you a writer or a Mom?  Like by the time I wrestle myself back to sleep the alarm will be going so I may as well use the time.

Already on the spin cycle!

This is my last post on my Susanna Kearsley binge, and I am excited to announce that I have finally read all of her books that I own, and I didn’t buy her last four because I was on a roll, because I’m going to make it through this God forsaken month without buying another book.

Both of these books were published before the turn of the century, so they are her earlier stuff, but I only knew that from looking at the pub dates on Goodreads.  I find that when I started posting on her work I generalized it a bit.  They don’t all have supernatural elements, although the sexy guy does always seem to feature.  She clearly has tried her hand at different art forms and I absolutely respect that.

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The Splendour Falls, Susanna Kearsley

Emily Braden follows her mercurial cousin Harry on a trip to Chinon, France, where he intends to do research on some alleged treasure hidden by a Plantagenet.  When she gets there, he is nowhere to be found and she gets sucked into a web of mysteries that have to do with more than one missing treasure.

Now, I overgeneralized Kearsley’s books when I started writing about them.  Like A Desperate Fortune, there was no supernatural element, but unlike even that one, there is no intertwined story in the past.  It all takes place in the present with Emily unraveling a mystery of where her cousin is, while others are looking for treasure based in the town’s long history.  It’s a mystery novel. The others of hers I have read are not mysteries and more based in the past. It’s still a romance. She kept her hunky guy and her strong and independent woman but ditched the historical narrative and the supernatural element. The research behind the novel was, as usual, extensive and really cool.  

I thought it was cool that Kearsley chose to do something different with her historical element and research with this book.  I got a feel for the town of Chinon with its medieval flair, the gypsies, and the tourists. I have been to Paris so I know about the gypsies being a thing there.  Someone I went with almost got pickpocketed by a little boy. Her novels are deliciously transporting to other places and time. Again, though, I felt it was slow until about halfway through.  I was wondering where it was going in parts as she set up the mystery. It is a single woman on holiday in France so there is drinking and a good amount of it and that could get tiring in places.  

The ending was very satisfying, as her endings usually are. Everything gets tied up nicely and the main character goes back to believing in love, even though I wasn’t sure why she stopped being a believer in things in the past.

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The Shadowy Horses, Susanna Kearsley

We are back in England with Verity, an archaeologist invited to an unusual dig on the Scottish borderlands.  Her employer wants to find evidence that the Ninth Legion was there, solely based on the reports of a ghost of a sentinel seen by a child with second sight.  There are other love narratives, some supernatural action and some real life drama that is uncovered in the story.

I think part of the appeal of these books is not only the historical piece, but also that her protagonists are free to do all these unusual things without ties and then sexy guys fall into their paths.  I liked that there was a rogue ex boyfriend in here (some of her love interests have been too idealized) to push things along and argue with.  In that way it was more dramatic than some of her other works.

Even though I enjoyed the books of hers without the supernatural element and I didn’t feel those books needed it added in, I was happy there were more supernatural elements this time.  I like the psychic child and the actual shadowy horses as evidence of what came before.  And that the adults take the child completely seriously. I just love those elements in books.

Again a lot of drinking and who is drinking what, which is also part of the wish fulfillment and escapist elements of her books.  She is good for January, a month it is too cold and snowy to do a lot.  I wandered around the globe and in time with her and always found love along the way.

But it is a sad fact that I have been reading too much this month, which will not help with getting writing done.  I need to work on getting my novel out there, querying, writing other things to submit to places and/or post.  I will not become a published author, a dream I have had since I was a child, by knitting/crafting while binge listening/reading my piles of hoarded books.  I don’t know if this will mean fewer books a post or a post less often than weekly.

I read too much last year too and I just kinda went with it because I had so many other things going on and I needed it, but it’s time to make myself write more.  I don’t know what what will look like in terms of the blog.  There will still be one, but I need to slow my roll.

I feel good about one of my first reading goals of the year accomplished, though!

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Read Down 2020: Susanna Kearsley, Part II

Such mixed feelings about the mild January.  It has been nice to not have as many white knuckle drives as sometime I’ve racked up two and a half weeks into January, or as many mornings where the cold hurts my fingers while I’m trying to get my car cleared, but I know we aren’t supposed to have mild winters here.  It’s not what the bottom of the Adirondacks is supposed to be. The lake should be solid by now and it’s far from.

I mean, with the storm resolving in my neck of the woods this morning, it should make it more wintry here again, but with how warm it has been I don’t know how long that will last.  If it will stay cold enough to keep the snow and the lake covered in ice.  I have already noticed it’s not as dark when I leave work at night.   Which I love.  Twilight drives home are so preferable to pitch black.  And winter twilight is beautiful.

Other than starting to train for a half marathon again and running my clinic for a few weeks, (two weeks down, one to go!) this month will also be marked by my reading historical fiction most, if not all, of the month.

Two more Susanna Kearsley books that have been sitting on my kindle for years to get me through this not as terrible as most Januaries:

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The Firebird, Susanna Kearsley

Nicola works for an art dealer and hides her gift of psychometry, the ability to learn about an object via psychic intuition through touching something, from the world.  When a sculpture comes into the art dealership she decides to use her gift to prove it is the priceless object its owner believes it to be: A Firebird once gifted from a Russian queen. She employs the help of an old flame that she broke it off with because she wasn’t ready to share her gifts with the world, while he, embracing similar gifts, considers them to be integral to his existence.   This is another narrative woven between past and present, and she increases her ability to use and understand her gift while following the story of a young woman orphaned by the Jacobite rebellion. And, of course, there’s romance in there.

I have been enjoying with these books that the supernatural element changes between stories.  I don’t mind that they revolve around a certain point in history because the settings change, too.  I like that Nicola was learning to accept and align herself with her gift, even though it made her feel like a freak.  It was a compelling narrative and the women were strong and independent in all time periods. And the love match in history felt more consensual than it did in Mariana, with characters falling in love on more equal social footing. 

This moved along at a better clip than the books of hers I felt were slow, but sometimes the past narrative could get slow and bogged down a bit on details.  And it doesn’t necessarily resolve in the way you expect it to, or at least the way I expected, but I won’t spoil it for my readers.

The modern day love interest was a bit too perfect.  She isn’t a romance writer, even though her books have romances in them, so it’s not like her heroes have to have flaws. But this guy was like, idealized. There’s no way he’d just be chillin single in real life, unless he was saving himself for her because he psychically knew she was his match and he just had to wait, but even that makes him less realistic.  Ha.  

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A Desperate Fortune

Sara, a woman on the Autism Spectrum is hired to crack a coded diary written by a Jacobite exile three hundred years before..  She is uncovering this woman’s life while at the same time finding love and where she truly belongs in her life. 

Now, this one was surprising in that not only was there no supernatural element, but the protagonist has a disability that both helps and hinders her in the course of the story.  I did not expect either element, unless Kearsley was thinking that the Asperger’s gives Sara a kind of supernatural power, which I suppose it does, but it isn’t that she is sliding back in time through portals or psychic abilities. The historical narrative is merely a parallel one, where Sara is interacting via code cracking and nothing more remarkable than that. I wonder why no supernatural piece this time? I still felt it was good without that piece to it.

Characters from Kearsley’s other stories make cameo appearances and some characters had roles in history that are still unclear, and Kearsley leaves them unclear.   She has similar themes in this one too about a strong, talented , likeable woman who is not raised by her family of origin and has to find her way home. 

And of course in the modern narrative there is a sexy and understanding man who is able to connect with Sara, and although he is idealized, Sara’s love for him does help her to grow up a bit during the narrative, do some realistic changing and growing while staying within the bounds of her disorder.  Kearsley does her research, that is for sure. It is another point of respect on top of how I can respect her being such a prolific writer as well.

So, this is exciting.  As I’m downloading cover images Amazon is telling me that I purchased these books 4 and 6 years ago.  I’m feeling the satisfaction of the read down.  However, the strain has already started with not getting more books.  Next week I will post on the final two Susanna Kearsley books I have, but she has written three more that I do not own. The point of this was to read through the ones I had but then not go and buy or borrow the rest of her work.  I’m holding out.  I started in on another historical fiction author I have been holding for years. And I have more Alice Hoffmans than I do Susannas that really need my love.  Problems!!

On top of that, I have a university book sale catalog sitting on my mail pile next to unread writer’s magazines (I tried last year to read more writing magazines to work on getting my book out there and like all my other magazines they get neglected) and they are like hey we have a seven dollar literature and fiction part.  I have stopped opening my BookRiot Deal of the Day emails because torture.

I have thought about making a deal with myself that I can get something for every number I read, but I really want to see my number of unread books drop under 700 and I’m at 792.

However, and just briefly, I am finding that Librivox will help me with some of the public domain stuff I bought forever ago that audio will help me tick off the list.  I will still buy or borrow audio companions to books I already have in order to read them faster.  But Librivox got my back too.

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New Year’s Reading Goals!

Happiest of New Years and new decades to all the hopeful souls out there anxious and needing a fresh start!  

I never understood resolutions as a kid because my world was structured, but now that it isn’t, I like to think of how I’d like to best use the year of time ahead of me.  I spend a good amount of time as the weeks close out thinking about what I’ll do with my free time especially in the soul killing eight weeks of dead winter coming up. The weeks that I also welcome a little bit, now, just because there is some slowing down that happens.  Don’t tell anyone I said that.  

I had this idea for my reading this year before it started to float around as memes on social media.

But for 2020, my reading plan isn’t lists, no BookRiot, no Popsugar, no Modern Mrs. Darcy (although all of these are lovely challenges) for me it’s getting my backlogged books read!

(Ugh I googled to see if Popsugar was doing a 2020 challenge and of course they have a Facebook group now that you can make recs and share ideas.  So jelly. I wasn’t upset about skipping challenges this year until I saw the chance for FRIENDS)

Just on my Kindle app, I have 799 unread books and 421 read ones.  And I’ve gone through them to make sure they are accurately marked in anticipation of this very thing.  I get through about 100 books in a year so even just keeping to those (which I don’t mean to) I wouldn’t make a huge dent. 

 

Audiobooks are over 200 but they are usually companions to what I already have.

 I have paper books stored in three locations:  my office in the basement, my she shed, and piled on and next to my nightstand.

I have a small collection of iBooks and Apple audiobooks I got with my Christmas gift card that I won’t use on music because I now have an Apple Music subscription, which I really like because I can access any song at any time and my son can add songs he sees on the radio and likes.

Finally wishlist items will be included.  Anything that was on my library, Audible, or Amazon wish list when the clock struck midnight on January 1 is fair game.  This is because I don’t know how long I can go without acquiring some new books or borrowing them. Especially with audible I love a companion to what I’m reading for craftery.  Because craftery is life. And I want to listen to books on long runs, if I’m doing long runs, because I can’t get into a meditative state and I spend most of the run bargaining with myself to keep going.  I know, I make running sound fantastic. But I waited for an iteration of the AppleWatch that does audiobooks. I really did. 

I have dabbled in getting down my backlist in the past.  I read some of the public domain stuff that I downloaded when I first got my kindle, which was good, but I have to switch it up with more fun reads, because if it isn’t fun, it won’t be sustainable.  I might know a bit about starting a habit and I know that if it always feels like work, someone won’t do it. 

I always liked being able to read something I have when I was doing list challenges, as well as my seasonal reads, scary and Christmas, and I am going to read what I have still for both of those. This may mean not as many Christmas books as I read down a number of them last year, but I still have some waiting.

I don’t know how much I want to structure it past reading what I have.  I could rotate areas where the books are or how long I have had them unread, but the thing is, my intentions are to use and enjoy what I have, but also get back to joy.  Part of that is reading what I’m excited about reading within the list I have. I acquired what I have because I anticipated joy in them, so I can unlock the joy I anticipated, the joy I have been waiting for.  If I get through some of the year and I want to concentrate on a specific source, I can. It could mean a snow read, which I have not done in years, or it could not. I have some really fat books wanting my love.

Also notably, this challenge could get me back into my paper books a little more.  I have wandered from them, because kindle books are backlit and have the excellent whispersync feature. And because I don’t have to hold it flat when I’m knitting, and because I don’t have to bring it with me because I have it downloaded on my phone to read anytime I want. I always have my book and you don’t know if I’m reading or doing something productive.  So many benefits of kindle books, even if they don’t have a great smell or a sweet deckle edge. Or the gratification of watching a bookmark make its way down.

I mainly read in my bed in the dark.  I have to dig out my reading lamp. 

Another goal I want to be better at this year is doing better at reading what others post on social media.  I need to read and comment on Wattpad to drive some traffic toward what I have posted. And I appreciate those who read my blog so I should read more of others blogs.

My goal is to find joy in what I already have and feel good about reading what I already have.  

If I could muster up the motivation to get back to sewing the sew down would be amazing.  If I was snowed into my house for six months I would have enough to do. Which is a blessing to be grateful for.

The point is joy and enjoying what I have. My intention for the New Year is finding my joy again in all domains.  Joy!

What are your reading goals and resolutions in all areas?

Hoarded author binge reading posts begin next week!!

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BookRiot: Poetry

Christmas was lovely in my home and I’m hoping it was in yours.  My son liked his gifts enough to forget about YouTube for awhile and that’s my standard for success. No small feat for my kid to be interested in things.  Dude didn’t even want to go to the movies on his birthday.

But I’ve always disliked the limbo week of after Christmas until it’s time to resume normal life. My staying home this week with my son has been successful but disorienting.  I’m eating Christmas candy waiting for my husband to bring me my coffee and listening to jazz music as I write this with epic amounts of laundry going.  My boss hasn’t texted about work at all as a courtesy to me but of course I’m wondering what lies in wait for me Monday morning.

Anyway, I can’t leave one last BookRiot category hanging, which I very nearly did this year.  I didn’t read two poetry books.  I have plenty of poetry books but they are older than five years, or they printed much older stuff. Everything else I did two of.  Maybe to make up for this and because it’s the last post of the decade I could toss on my reading specs for the year at the end.

A Collection of Poetry Published since 2014:

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A Collection of Nightmares, Christina Sng

These poems are not your mother’s nature imagery.  They are sci fi and horror stories written in the arresting form of poetry.

Poetry was my thing for awhile and when I could swim out of the angsty stuff inevitable for my age I put out some decent stuff.  I had the bug back then:  I wrote enough to want to write, to create a compulsion for myself, and it’s in all that work that the good stuff comes out.  When your neurons have been trained to see the world that way that they start to give you good stuff.   But it wasn’t this kind of poetry.  I enjoyed how these were small fictions of their own, not just commentary on nature or a subject.  Not that I don’t have mad love for Mary Oliver and how she does it, or Charles Bukowski even, but I liked this way of telling vivid and surprising tales in the form of poetry.

I participated in a poetry writing challenge this year and it was timely in opening my eyes to using poetry like this as well.

My father writes poetry and has poetry books and I have memories of him reading them and as I got older, sharing them with me. I loved my ninth grade poetry project where I got to select poems that meant something to me and share my own.  One of my favorite memories as a kid was digging through his books with him to find something good that made me look super smart and like, in the know.  Look like I had some really deep insight to being a ninth grader in a small rural high school in the nineties who was in love for the first time.  And I had the coolest poetry books in my house.

But these poems were different, interesting, surprising.  They were not the poems I cut my teeth on. I had no idea she was such a celebrated poet and I’m glad I found something new and I’m glad I found her.  I could see myself writing like her to share my own plot bunnies.

I can’t ignore that this is the last Sunday of the decade, which calls for something in the way of a year in review.  It might be a book or two short as I am engaged in vacation style binge reading and I write my blogs ahead of time, but you get the idea:

Books:  106 out of my goal of 80

Pages: approximately 30,000

Shortest:  Ghost of a Chance by Angie Fox

Longest:  Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

ALL of BookRiot, even though I did two books for all of them save poetry.

I have found joy in two particular aspects:  one, getting through books I have had forever but have not gotten to, whether they fit a category or not, and another in binge reading lighter things.  Both of which I am going to talk about in more detail in my January posts.

But reading was awesome this year, with getting BookRiot done, as well as books I have been meaning to read, and books that gave me another world to live in when I needed it.

I didn’t do badly getting writing done, and with my one successful story publication, I consider it even a good year for that.  I have my novel revised and I’m in the awful querying process which slowed down when the end of the year got busy which I intend to get going again when things are slower in January.  And of course I plan on participation in my fourth year of 12 short stories.  Because that keeps me going and thinking.

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Final Reads to Christmas!

We have arrived at the week of Christmas!  I took this week off of work, which I have not done in years.  Usually I stick around because it was important to other staff to have the days to travel or be with children.  Now I have a child who wants Mom home for some of the time with him, especially since there are two full weeks off this year from school, and I don’t have the heart to throw him in care the entire time, and I am privileged enough to have that choice.  And I want to get him started with playing with his Christmas gifts, which I always select as a little above his age so he has more time enjoying them.  If I let him choose his gifts the house would be filled with even more wheeled vehicles that he ignores.  Maybe some toy food that he also will never play with.  Drives me crazy.  But the trade off is I have to spend time orienting him to playing with them and giving him some ideas to start with.  So I’ll do that on my Christmas week off with my sweet not so baby boy.

I usually take time off to spend time to myself, so I hope I get a chance to rest, too.  I’ve been a little burned out this year, going through the motions a little bit to keep to the traditions, but not making myself nutty on doing every Christmas thing I see for children on my Facebook feed.  It is too easy these days to feel you have to do ALL OF IT, even though my son has enjoyed the small town Christmas traditions here just fine, without my having to drive hours and spend lots of money and valuable, oh so valuable, energy.  He’s plenty happy and looking forward to Santa.  He’s not asking why we have not made it to the alpaca farm an hour away for Christmas celebrations.  Although it looks super cute and I want to make it up there some year.

These are the last two books of the Christmas Reads post.  I kind of crapped out on Christmas books, like, ten days ago and I have been back to reading ghost stories, which I have done before at Christmas and now I’m seeing was a thing anyway back in the day, and getting a jump on my next year’s goals, which I will talk about in a later post.  I have other neglected Christmas reads sitting in my audio and books that will get their turn next year.

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Christmas on the Island, Jenny Colgan

A small community on a tiny Scottish island have a Christmas filled with love, misunderstandings, some family reconciliation and some letting go.  A woman with an unexpected pregnancy, a refugee doctor serving on the island, and a dying man who has long turned away from his rejecting family comprise three plotlines in the darkness leading up to Christmas on the cold, dark, close knit island where everyone knows everyone’s business. It reads like it probably follows other stories with this setting and this cast of characters.  The audio was shorter than eight hours but it packed a lot into those hours!

So, this was not to be counted under my lighthearted romances posted a few weeks back.  No, sir. I bought this over the summer with Amazon birthday money because of my dearth of Christmas audio last year and then looking at my prospective reads with those heavy plotlines I was like dude did I just find this appealing because it has to do with a place I’ve always wanted to visit?  These are not lighthearted misunderstandings. This is not Holly Martin. Why didn’t I get Holly? I’m not saying I didn’t wonder this occasionally as I talked myself into starting this. It’s been slow getting myself into Christmas this year despite my reads and all the dang snow and I did end up enjoying the story and the people and getting sucked in, I know I always say that, and the heavy themes were well done.  They were not overdone, maudlin or brushed over. It’s the realities of people’s Christmases, and that has worth too. I have Christmases ahead of me dealing with the losses I haven’t had to experience yet.

Also, the narration is with a Scottish accent, which is so excellent, that even in a bad part where there’s swearing I can’t get enough of the accent swearing.  It adds so much to this book. I find that books that take place in the British Isles just have to be done in audio:  Royal Spyness, Milkman, theScottish historical shorts I read last year, they all need to be done in the appropriate narration. Just have to be.

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Christmas Jars, Jason Wright

A newspaper reporter, adopted and alone in the world after her mother passes, stumbles on a story about anonymously given jars of money given to those in need at Christmas.  She is torn between keeping the story anonymous, as are the wishes of the family who started the tradition and who have become a second family to her, and hitting it big with this story for her newspaper career.

This is not a long story, which given my Christmas story/season burnout is a good thing.  It’s a diverting story, going between some depressing pieces and then the sweeter, almost saccharine parts, with the family that she finds and how she becomes part of them.  The tension over her decision to out the family’s Christmas tradition isn’t overwhelming, and there is a lot of telling of a story, rather than showing.  This book is for people who want something short and heartwarming for the holiday.  I can see it being the kind of book that people would return to annually for a Christmas reading to catch the spirit of the season.  So, after the heaviness of the previous read, it was a good way to finish up my reads for the season.  Even though I didn’t know I was finishing my reads, I didn’t know that I would read more of the MR James collection I dabble in when I am between books or not in the mood for audio rather than putting on another Christmas read.  It happens.

At least one more post this year!  I have to decide if I am tossing in the book of poetry I read for BookRiot in an end of year post, or if I do do a specific end of year post, which I don’t even know what that will be about, maybe what I liked reading this year, but as my readers know often doesn’t follow publishing trends so can be random.  Maybe something I liked especially out of BookRiot.

New Year’s reading goals will, of course, be saved for the first post in the new decade.  Just try to contain yourselves until then (she said with great sarcasm).

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Christmas Reads! Heartwarming Romances

So the Thanksgiving has passed enough for Christmas to start to happen.  No more statute of limitations. The tree is probably on its way up at my house today while we are waiting for Snowmaggedon and I’ll be making chex mix.  I kind of want to get me a bottle of sweet local wine to get through the day but I don’t know if the store opens before the heavens do.  Looks like they may happen at the same points in time.

It’s a great day to post on heartwarming Christmas romances from England. These two sat on the TBR last year because I wanted to listen rather than read, so now they need their time.

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The Christmas Wish, Tilly Tennant

Esme, a young woman in the throes of an emotionally abusive relationship, decides to go against her boyfriend’s wishes to go on a vacation to Lapland that she was planning to take with her grandmother before the grandmother’s unexpected death.  Her trip changes her life in all the best ways possible, and as with anything marketed as a heartwarming Christmas romance, you can rest assured that the right man is duly located in the course of the story.  

So, I definitely got sucked into Esme’s story trying to find who she is and be true to that person and even though I knew she eventually had to ditch the jerk boyfriend, I wanted to know how it was going to play out and the secret that the man she is interested in seems to be withholding the whole time.  I liked her and I wanted her to be okay. I related to trying to find and stay true to oneself. The ending was gratifying and I loved the creativity of the trip to Lapland. I love how heartwarming romances incorporate elements of wish fulfillment that don’t have to do with romance: creative jobs, cool trips and settings, fun friends. Those things said, there were some slow pieces in this book that were redundant, could have been expressed in dialogue, and reduced.  Places were we were being shown enough where I didn’t think we needed quite as much telling. It’s good for light, distracting fun and to get you in the mood for the magic of the holiday.

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Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, Karen King

A single young woman, Saffy, is prevailed upon by her older sister to throw a big Christmas party for singles at Christmas in her absence.  When she goes out to do this, she meets Logan, a handsome single father and a neighbor of her sister’s with his own heartbreak and disappointments.  This is a romance so you can figure out the end of the story, yes? It takes place in England, too, so there are the little word differences too.

This was definitely fun and lighthearted.  There was the usual romantic conflict, but nothing too intense and the parts that have you chewing your fingernails are not drawn out to the point of torture.  I have read enough romances to see differences in how much the author is willing to put you through before they give you what you want. This one has the drama but wants to keep it light and I appreciated that.  

I think the characters were the strongest part, especially her best friends in the middle of a romantic conflict themselves that didn’t torture too much.  And they made the party working out more feasible. It helped that Saffy was in her late twenties, and even though she was career focused and spent a lot of time out with friends, her friends were also moving into more serious relationships, so it helped set the stage for her getting more responsibility.  It would have been cringey to me to have her be the first one of her party friends to leave that world behind and be younger, as I didn’t move into a more settled life until I was close to 30. It was one of the low priced kindle reads and I have a hard time resisting, and it sat unread for a year because I really focused on what was available on audio last year.  It’s worth picking up for the Christmas spirit.

Are you warming up for the season?  My husband is trying to get the plow truck to work before the tree goes up.  And my son is resenting me for telling him to make Christmas cards for some grandparents so I have time to send them out.

Next week the Christmas reads may not be so light of heart.  Higher on the drama.

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Scary Reads! Haunted Houses II

And here we are in the first weekend of October.  My son got my husband to start decorating the house on Tuesday for the holiday.  It started with being allowed to just get out bins to see what we have to those bins being emptied and my husband further outlining his artistic vision for the venture.  Trees are changing too, more than I noticed before.

Like I said last week, the haunted houses reads were meant to scrape out the TBR.  Every year I make a list of books I already have that could get read for that season’s round and I am experiencing a certain extra level of satisfaction about putting checkmarks next to books that keep going on the list because they had not been read yet.

Spoiler alert:  TBR reading will be a big part of the blog next year.

But onto the second haunted house books post!

One of the few things I love more than a scary book that is getting crossed off the TBR is a scary epistolary book!  Piecing together the story behind a haunting lends itself well to many different sources and viewpoints being shared in the course of the novel.  Both of these haunted house books were pieced together through various viewpoints that become apparent as the novel moves forward.   Like I said in my last post, it’s about the story behind the haunting, not just the spirit activity that is enthralling.  

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The Supernatural Enhancements, Edgar Cantero

A man and his friend move into a mansion that he inherited from an uncle he didn’t know. He starts immediately with the dreams and the intense occurrences, from haunting to break ins.  They have to piece together both what is going on with the house and the secret activity that went on inside it during his uncle’s life. This has a more in depth plot than a re enacted tragedy by a ghost, it also is about a secret society that stumbles upon a wonder of the world and dedicate themselves to a game to discover its secrets and the messages it is trying to give.  Lots of twisty turns in this one to keep you guessing.

So this was on my TBR forever and kept missing the scary reads train, and I have to admit that some of it was due to not being on audio.  Books I can easily get on audio are the ones that get consumed first, especially with a cozy feel to them. But when I realized this was epistolary novel, I got right to it.  Snippets of information from everyone’s perspective is addicting to me, probably because it’s similar to my job as a child therapist that I love. No problems blowing through the backlit pages while nestled in my bed at night.  I also liked that it wasn’t just about ghosts and they find an explanation for the dreams as well as the story behind the haunting. There is a whole game, a whole secret society of the rich, a guarded secret. The characters were interesting and their relationships were ambiguous, the surprising events unfolded at a decent pace.  It was absorbing, and I let it go unread way too long.

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The Ghost Notebooks, Ben Dolnick

Nick and Hannah are recently engaged and move into a museum in upstate New York with a shady past, where Hannah has accepted a job as curator.  They move from the crowds of NYC to the isolation of a made up town near Poughkeepsie. As they live there, the woman is consumed in the house and tragedy strikes.  Her fiance becomes consumed in figuring out the details of how this museum led her to her demise.

Another one that just grabbed me and kept me going, one that I was also ambivalent about until I discovered the information comes in pieces from other sources. I actually had read half of this before having to make a drive and bought the audio with three hours to go because I didn’t want to stop reading it to drive. The mystery is compounded by the secrets that Hannah holds of her psychiatric past, and that the perspective isn’t always hers in the story. The mystery does get resolved, the layers tied up, and I always prefer that in scary stories (although we know based on my love of Ania Ahlborn that I don’t always require it). It was well written and astute.

I lived in and near Poughkeepsie for a year, and I know that it can be strangely country and isolated in some places, while being close to a giant city.  It also has its pockets of urbanity, but that’s not the setting for this story. I liked downstate. I wish I enjoyed it more while I was there, but I was distracted with figuring out the next steps of my life.  It’s an interesting setting for a story with a couple looking to change up their lives from the hustle and bustle of NYC.

The only part of this that was a little off to me was the pacing. A chunk of the action happens in the first half, and it’s not a long book so it goes along at a clip.  I didn’t expect the tragedy as soon as it came along. I knew Hannah was unraveling but she kept it fairly to herself. But then there seems to be a long stretch when Nick is trying to make sense of everything where it slows right down.  Maybe this was intentional; often, when we urgently need answers to something it can feel like moving through jello to answer our questions, especially when people are trying to protect their secrets and not allow us access to the answers we need.  I don’t regret buying an audiobook to listen to half. Love my ghosty reads, especially ones with complicated relationships and reaches into the past. Recommend this too.

Next week I will be reviewing books about supernatural creatures.  Not witches, as this year I didn’t read about them, unless you count my post about Day of the Dead for witches.   I love witches, so much I can connect to about them, but this year it ended up being ghosts and hauntings and creatures, and that deserves some love too.  It can’t  be all witchy reads!

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