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My Goodreads review: The Turn of the Key

Posted on 2019.11.12 at 16:05
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The Turn of the KeyThe Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This very modern Gothic thriller is something of an homage to The Turn of the Screw, but I don't think one would need to have read the latter to enjoy the former. Those who have have read Henry James' brilliant short novel may find this one just a little less Gothic than advertised . . . though I can't say more without committing spoiler.

That said, this is a well-crafted dark thriller that keeps the pages turning (clicking) right up to the end. It's extremely twisty & imaginative, with a believably flawed heroine. Reliable entertainment for these longer autumn evenings: nanny in distress & creepy children & all the trimmings. Even a genuine Victorian poison garden!

And if you happen to have a voice-activated digital assistant in your home, you'll never look at it quite the same way again.

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the way she spokethe way she spoke by Isaac Gomez

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A powerful, bleak, but ultimately confusing one-woman (though written by a man) drama about the femicides in Juarez, Mexico. I suspect I might have gotten more out of it if I knew some Spanish or had at least seen the play performed onstage. As it was, the horrific details of the playwright's research trip (or was this an actual trip?) as narrated by the female performer were eclipsed by my uncertainties about what was going on. A little less untranslated Spanish might have helped.

That said, however, this was one of the more frightening things I've listened to or read in some time. I thought I was somewhat familiar with the situation for women in Juarez, but I also thought it had improved in the past few years. Now I know better. Well dramatized & very effective, but not for everyone.

This was an Oct. 2019 free selection on Audible. Since it is well under two hours, I wouldn't recommend it as a credit selection. For those who can deal with the material, however, it would be well worth the listening time as a free or discounted item.

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The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This sequel to The Handmaid's Tale actually felt much more optimistic than its predecessor, with more world-building and more insight into the lives of women other than Handmaids. The addition of one Canadian viewpoint on Gilead helped me realize that all of the former US had not become this horrific theocracy . . . and, as per usual in near-future SF, California & Texas were once again their own countries.

As an over-40 reader, I particularly appreciated the Testament of one of the series' villains: the infamous Aunt Lydia. She quickly became one of my favorite characters, allowing a glimpse into the secret (but uniquely powerful) world of Gilead's Aunts. Saying more than that about her, however, would mean committing Spoiler. This book is way too much sheer fun -- as well as creepily insightful -- for me to risk doing that.

I enjoyed this one on Audible, an experience I would recommend. The performances are all first-rate, with cameos from Margaret Atwood herself.

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My Goodreads review: Old Bones

Posted on 2019.10.21 at 15:59
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Old Bones (Nora Kelly #1)Old Bones by Douglas Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another solid, highly informative thriller from Preston & Child -- though with very limited Pendergast content, which was slightly disappointing even though I knew this in advance. However, watching two regular women characters from the series solve a pretty twisted mystery (plus another, somewhat less twisted, one involving lost gold) was still worth the time spent reading. Previous experience with the Pendergast series seems to be expected, but possibly not required.

Dr. Nora Kelly & Corrie Swanson are both strong characters in their own right, though this is primarily Nora's novel. Based on legends surrounding the Donner Party, it offers a sizable helping of archaeological procedure & atmosphere along with rapidly turning pages. Newly minted FBI Special Agent Corrie Swanson, a former protegee of Pendergast's, gets less detailed treatment -- but no less respect as she solves her first major case.

Recommended for: Pendergast fans (who will probably get more out of it) & other thriller readers favoring strong intelligent female investigators.

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If you're still looking for a way to get your Halloween spirit kick-started, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association is here to help. For free!

Once again this year, SFPA has its Halloween Reading page up. All members are invited to contribute recordings of their own poems (sometimes read by others), as well as appropriate seasonal art. The page grows as the season continues, with new work added at regular intervals. At this time of this writing, there are seven varied expressions of spookiness -- ranging from traditional themes to dark SF. (None are mine, however.)

Just click on the link below, settle back, & enjoy if you dare!



Already, one year on . . .

Posted on 2019.10.02 at 15:37
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embassy walls
the longest

-- Ann K. Schwader

The Orphans of Raspay (Penric and Desdemona, #7)The Orphans of Raspay by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bujold's latest in her Penric / Desdemona series is a nice chewy 128 (virtual) pages, which makes for a solid novella & gives the author time to work out some of the theological details of her world. And fascinating details they are, too.

This time around, it's a Penric (& Des) -- only adventure, with wife & brother-in-law far away for most of the tale. When Learned Penric of the Bastard's Order gets himself captured by pirates, he & his resident demon must rescue not only themselves, but also a pair of god-touched children from a future of slavery. By the end, of course, the pirates -- & their entire island base -- will have themselves a major religious experience. The action in this one takes a while to show up, but is deeply satisfying when it does.

Like all previous Penric/ Desdemona novellas, this one is best read in its proper order. If you're new to the series, starting with Penric's Demon & following on from there will avoid much confusion.

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. . . & Yours Truly is doing the Grateful Happy Dance.


My Mythos tale "Inheritance" (What October Brings, Celaeno Press) and dark fantasy poem "The Dark Reclaims Us" (Spectral Realms #9, Hippocampus Press) both appear here.

Big congrats to everyone who made the list, & thanks to klward for letting me know while I was traveling.

The Strange Case of Monsieur BertinThe Strange Case of Monsieur Bertin by Douglas Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a giveaway short story from Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's promotional newsletter -- not available elsewhere, that I know of. It's a nice item for their readers: a new Pendergast "teaser" adventure with some rather elegant illustrations for those who download it to a tablet rather than a dedicated e-reader. (I did both, & could see a major difference.)

The story itself seems intended for serious fans of Agent Pendergast & his mysterious ward Constance Greene. When the pair receive an invitation to attend the funeral of Pendergast's boyhood tutor, grief turns to the dawning realization that All Is Not As It Seems. Exotic murder methods, graveyard investigations, & a heaping helping of family history make this a must read for those of us Pendergastlies who never miss one of the agent's cases. That said, it's still a very short (though free) tale, without many truly unexpected twists.

Recommended for: anyone who either hasn't downloaded their copy yet, or has it in their electronic TBR pile.

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Gods of Jade and ShadowGods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A female-forward fantasy rooted in Mayan mythology? Set in Jazz Age Mexico? With a well-constructed glossary of even more fascinating information?

Yes, please!

I'm not sure whether to describe this as a beautifully told Mesoamerican fairy tale, or a Joseph Campbell-style Hero's Journey with a young woman as the hero. It works just as well either way. When "poor relation" Casiopea Tun accidentally frees an imprisoned Mayan death god from her tyrannical grandfather's keeping, she finds herself on a quest very little in her circumscribed life has prepared her for. (Not that there really is any way to prepare for a trip to Xibalba, come to think of it . . . )

How she and the death god Hun-Kamé cope with their increasingly complicated relationship is a story in itself, intensely romantic but never over the top. Casiopea is not a modern kick-A fantasy heroine, but a believable member of her society discovering that society's limits just won't work for her any longer.

Recommended for world mythology enthusiasts, fantasy readers looking to expand their horizons, or anyone in search of a late-summer read they'll still be thinking about come fall.

[Disclaimer: I was provided with a free NetGalley copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.]

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