Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

About the Book:

At a Hallowe'en party, Joyce -- a hostile thirteen-year-old--boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.

That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the "evil presence." But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double murderer....

My thoughts:

It's been a while since I've dusted off an Agatha Christie mystery, so in the spirit of all things spooky and creepy, I picked up one of her later Hercule Poirot mysteries featuring a horrible murder at a Halloween party. Who could do such a hideous thing, despite the fact that this child had a bothersome reputation for being a liar and a braggart?

Typical Christie plot with enough red herrings that you're literally tripping over them while you're wading through a slew of suspects and possible motives. While I zeroed in on the murderer fairly early on, it was for all the wrong reasons. You can't out-smart or out-think Agatha Christie (at least I can't), so it's always fun to sit back and just enjoy the journey and marvel at  how this master of mystery ties all the threads together.

Just for fun, I've been watching episodes of the Masterpiece Mystery version of Hallowe'en Party which is quite good. Here's part 1 if you'd like to take a look. Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

3/5 stars

Title: Hallowe'en Party
Author: Agatha Christie
Harper Collins
259 pages
genre: mystery

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kindle Deal on To Marry an English Lord

Thanks to a "heads up" from Misfit at Goodreads, it looks like Amazon is offfering the beautiful kindle edition of To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl for only $1.99 today. I'm not sure how long this price will last, but it's a deal if you've had your eye on this book -- just sayin'.

I wrote a post spotlighting this nonfiction compendium as a very entertaining look at  Edwardian and Victorian society for Downton Abbey fans and you can see my previous post here. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolf

About the Book:

Shimmering with pageantry, emotion, and the court's passionate intrigues, here is the epic story of Arthur--the conqueror, the once and future king who vanquished the Saxons and loved but one woman, the beautiful Morgan of Avalon. She was the lover his country forbade him to wed but could never keep him from desiring. Held captive by deep feelings, the two dream of one future together...until fate sweeps them into a world where love is balanced on the knife's edge of danger. Never before has the telling of the story of Arthur made the drama of this charismatic king more real or more moving. Here a legend and a tale so vigorous with heroic deed and conflict, so glowing with wondrous love, are brought close enough for us to experience all the unforgettable emotions of Avalon...and all the magical moments of Camelot.

My thoughts:

The Road to Avalon is a beautifully written version of the legendary Arthur and his journey from boyhood to king. It is a tale of love and loss, courage, sacrifice, and secrets .....heartbreaking at times as the young man Arthur struggles with his deep love for a woman he can never have and the weight of his destiny.

"Be the king you were born to be...."

Loved this book -- a true gem from the past!  Joan Wolf is an author that I'll be searching for in used book sales as some of her books are out of print. I recently reviewed Born of the Sun, another enjoyable love story within a rich historical context.  Highly recommend!

I also have Helen Hollick's Pendragon series on my TBR shelf, so I'll be interested in reading another interpretation of the Arthurian legend.

  5/5 stars

Title: The Road to Avalon
Author: Joan Wolf
New American Library
422 pages
genre: historical fiction

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hiding from the Light by Barbara Erskine

About the Book:

"Across the peninsula the mist rolled in, its icy fingers curling up the cliffs. Inside their houses, people stirred in their sleep and children cried in the dark.

The parish of Manningtree and Mistley has a dark history. In 1644, Cromwell's Witchfinder General tortured scores of women there, including Liza, the herbalist, whose cottage still stands, and Sarah, the daughter of the manor. And the spirits of his victims haunt the old shop in the High Street, they say.

Emma Dickson gave up her high-flying career to live in Liza's cottage, but now, as Halloween approaches, she is being driven half-mad by visions of the terrible past.  In despair, Emma turns to the local rector for help, but he, too, is in the grip of something inexplicable and dangerous....."
(from the publisher)

My thoughts:

Classic Erskine as she weaves a tale where the past and the present collide. She's someone I turn to when I want to hunker down on a quiet evening (if it's raining or cold, even better) to get whisked away to another time and place and enjoy a good thriller.

Hiding from the Light begins with a terrifying piece of seventeenth-century history. Historical figure Matthew Hopkins, known as the Witchfinder General, has waged a war against "witches" and followers of Satan by torturing his female victims (many innocent healers/midwives/herbalists). Horrifying practices of pricking the women with a needle until they begged for mercy, "floating" the accused in a lake, and other cruel and horrifying practices struck fear in the hearts of the women of Essex. However, in the present-day village of Manningtree, his evil spirit is beginning to manifest itself as a dark and insidious mist in the quaint English countryside. Ghostly images of the witch hunter are seen in a local store, and several inhabitants of the town are possessed with the spirits of his victims now trying to seek their revenge.

I loved this atmospheric ghost/witch story, and of course, knowing that parts of the historical plot were based on fact made it absolutely chilling. Another fabulous suspenseful and spooky read by Barbara Erskine! Perfect for a Halloween read.

Matthew Hopkins, Cromwell's Witchfinder General.

4/5 stars

Title: Hiding from the Light
Author: Barbara Erskine
Harper Collins
505 pages
genre: historical fiction/suspense/supernatural

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Witch by Barbara Michaels

About the book:

"For Ellen March, the secluded old house nestled in the pine woods is more than the dream home she's long been searching for. It's an escape, a chance to start over, to forget the pain of her failed marriage and enjoy the restful pace of small-town living. Here, too, is a golden opportunity to get to know Norman McKay, her handsome and worldly new neighbor. But after dark in Ellen's "perfect" house, strange visions invade her restless mind: silent strangers moving through the twilight shadows, the ghostly figure of a woman and a spectral white cat. Ellen came here hoping to bury the past, but something terrifying has taken its place. Her safe haven has become her prison . . . and there is "no" escape."
(from Goodreads)

My thoughts:

I am smitten with Barbara Michaels (also known as Barbara Mertz as well as Elizabeth Peters of the Amelia Peabody series). Her books are so very readable -- she has a breezy style with lots of atmosphere and a touch of wry humor that sucks you right in from the first page. The perfect kind of reading for this time of year -- mystery, suspense, a bit of paranormal, and always a surprise twist. Fun! I have a stack of her books (including more of her Amelia Peabody series) to look forward to -- my collection is definitely growing.

On a fun note, Barbara Michaels, known for her love of Egypt (she earned a Ph.D in Egyptology before turning to writing fiction years ago), recently celebrated her 85th birthday in grand style. Complete with camels, belly dancers, and her hookah, I can only imagine that all who were invited to party with her had a blast! Click here to read an article from The Washington Post  about this fascinating author's birthday bash.

Happy 85th to a favorite author!

3.5/5 stars

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Ahhhh, fall........spicy pumpkins, crunchy apples, woodsmoke, swirling leaves, and harvest moons.......are you as much of a fan of autumn as I am?

 Unfortunately, there has not been very much evidence of fall where I live yet, so I'm cautiously optimistic now that we're in October that I'll begin to feel those crisp evening breezes that make me want to snuggle under a blanket and read a wonderfully spooky mystery.

These past few weeks have found me incredibly busy putting my house back in order (thank you, Hurricane Isaac).  To shrug off the stress of mess, I've been decorating (another favorite hobby of mine besides reading and memory keeping). I wish I could invite all of you to my home for a cup of coffee (or glass of wine, whichever you prefer), and engage in some great discussions about what you're reading. Since you can't come such distances, here's the next best thing as I welcome you in to a little peek of my ode to autumn.

A fresh bowl of cinnamon potpourri in the kitchen that makes it "seem" like something wonderful is baking -- not!

A fresh wreath on every door to welcome visitors....this one is by the kitchen where we come in and out all day.

A nature-based centerpiece on the kitchen table for ambiance while eating dinner.

New pillows and crackle glass candle holder in the den from Pier that store!

My fall reading bookshelf is small but should be satisfying. Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper and Tasha Alexander's Death in the Floating City are coming out this month so I'm looking forward to those new releases. In the Halloween/spooky area, I'm currently reading Barbara Erskine's Hiding from the Light and it's definitely not one I can read when I'm home alone. She's the queen of blending the present with the past with some things that go bump in the night that makes me look over my shoulder at shadows. I also have a few Barbara Michaels mysteries (aka Elizabeth Peters) in my book pile. They are quick, light mysteries that are perfect for October reading. For October I'm hoping to review  Witch.

And speaking of witches...... I recently went to a Stevie Nicks concert -- gotta give it to her, she's in her 60's and still a rock goddess! Here's a pic I snapped of her singing, Rhiannon (my all-time favorite about the Welsh witch). Anyone else old enough to remember the Rumours album (yes, album)? Fleetwood Mac is the soundtrack of my college years!

I obviously did not record this (it's from youtube), but shows how cool she still is at over 60!

Happy fall -- and thanks for visiting!

Favorite Period Dramas

Mount TBR

Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »