Saturday, January 14, 2017

Paranormal Mysteries + the Newest Mamur Zapt

I've begun reading two Paranormal mystery series that I had not previously heard of:  Wishcraft Mysteries by Heather Blake and the Haunted Guesthouse Mysteries by E.J. Copperman.

So far so good; very few obnoxious characters, no overtly "stupid" women, both have a young female child with "powers", no clueless boyfriends, and both with supportive (not overly snarky) family.  

These are not "Great" but they are good, with only a few: "what happened there, that makes no sense at all" moments.

Oh and don't faint, I am reading these in order, as I didn't just find one-in-the-middle in the library, I read a review elsewhere & put them on hold in order written!

E.J. Copperman: Haunted Guesthouse Mysteries:

Night of the Living Deed (A Haunted…

Night of the Living Deed: #1   )

This was interesting:

A woman purchases an old 7-bedroom seaside mansion in order to turn it into a "Guest House" for vacationers.

As she is repairing it, she is knocked on the head by a heavy bucket of plaster.  When she wakes there are two people standing there talking about her.....  

The two people happen to be the ghosts of the previous owner & the PI who was looking into the death threats she had been getting when she refused to sell the house to a developer for a large beach front condo project; but they had both been murdered before they could unravel the mystery.

The current owner is also now being threatened...  not only does she have to contend with the ghosts who want her to uncover their murderer, she finds out that both her daughter & mother have hidden the fact that they are both able to see & hear the ghosts.

As the story goes along, there are more threats, more damage to the house, the murder of the realtor who sold the house to both women, and the speculation that the original land was sold to George Washington and there is the original deed hidden some place in the house, that no one has been able to locate.

The only things I found fault with were; one of the two ghosts was not likable at all and the fact that the ending was overly contrived and ridiculous (ghosts playing parlor tricks for people/visitors).  For the latter I knocked off 1 star.

AN Uninvited Ghost (A Haunted Guesthouse…

An Uninvited Ghost: #2   )

I really did like the story, but there was such an improbable ending and such a an unfathomable & unexplained occurrence (which I will explain in the 3rd paragraph) than I had to knock off 2 stars.

Alison runs a guesthouse on the South New Jersey Shore...  The Victorian beachfront property that she has restored is now filled with senior guests on a ghost-tour.

Both of the ghosts, Paul & Maxie are in residence, but a new ghost, Scott (who is blind: ok watch for it [pun intended]) has asked Paul & Alison to help him investigate the outcome of a prank that he was asked to play on someone who might have died, however, Scott could not be certain of the outcome as he was unable to see what happened. Paul was contacted via those children's plastic magnetic letters by a person unknown and continued to communicate in said manner until the prank was completed.   

So: What I want to know is:  If Scott was BLIND, How Could he Possibly See & Read Messages Spelled Out in Plastic-Magnetic Letters?  HUH?  (Minus 1 Star)

So going smoothly along, Alison's guests are treated to two spook hauntings each day, obliged by Paul & Maxie.  When Alison begins to investigate for Scott, she meets the recipient of the "prank" (a spry old woman who loves ghosts) and invites her to the seance that will take place as a part of the "ghost tour".

During the seance, the old woman is murdered, and Alison, Scott, Paul, & Maxie investigate.

Also in the story is the aside of a "Reality Show" being filmed at the same time as the Ghost T our.

I'm not going to "spoil" this review and tell you why the ending was improbable, but once you read it, it will be glaringly obvious, for which I deducted a 2nd Star.

Old Haunts (A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery) by…

Old Haunts: #3   )

I'm saying this is a nice series, the characters with the exception of Maxie (the ghost) are all rather likable....

Alison runs a guesthouse on the South New Jersey Shore (which now has an address)... She has booked her 2nd group of Senior Ghost Tour guests when her ex husband shows up, having left California and his 2nd wife & child. While trying to worm his way back into Allison's life via their daughter.

While in the midst of converting the attic into a bedroom for her daughter & Maxie, they come across news of a body discovered under the boardwalk, which is attributed to Maxie's short-term husband biker, Big Bob..... At the same time, ghost Paul, has hired Allison to find out whatever happened to his soon to be fiancee, in order to make closure.

Soon another biker, Luther shows up and hires Allison to look into the murder of Big Bob, and the chase begins as do the anonymous threats. While searching for clues, Allison discovers that another biker went missing on the same night that Big Bob was murdered and that it all ties in to a drug deal gone bad.

Heather Blake: Wishcraft Mysteries:

It Takes a Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery by… 

It Takes a Witch: #1 (  )

I found this to be surprisingly good.  I had seen it before in the Library's catalog and I had avoided it, but as I had run out of books to read (books that interest me at the moment), I thought I'd try something new (not different).

Darcy & her sister (wish-crafters) have gone to live with their Aunt Ve in "Enchanted Village" of Salem, MA. Enchanted Village is a tourist village of shops run and inhabited mostly by witches.  

After a town meeting, the newest & most obnoxious resident, Alex(andra) has been found dead by strangulation in the alley.  Alex wanted very badly to be a "witch" and worked at "crafting" herbals which made many people break out in hives & boils....  Alex also had a secret that she claimed would prove she was "one of them".

Aside: According to the story, powers were hereditary, and what one power a witch had depended on one's parent.  A witch could marry a non-witch, but if the witch disclosed their power, they would lose it but it would be passed to their children.  If the witch died the power would pass to the spouse, but the spouse would be unable to use the power...

Back to the story: Alex's Harry Winston diamond watch is missing and Aunt Ve's scarf is found around the dead woman's neck.  Aunt Ve's boyfriend, who is found standing over Alex's body, was once dating Alex and is arrested.

Darcy meets Nick, a former detective w/ a a young daughter, they fall for each other & work to discover who really murdered Alex.

There were several entertaining instances of Darcy's "wishcrafting" gone awry but it was fun and fit in well with the rest of the story.

I have the 2nd & 3rd in the series on my reading table....

A Witch Before Dying: A Wishcraft Mystery by…

A Witch Before Dying: #2 (  )

The author had a really good idea, but somewhere along the way, with the sabotaging of the wedding that particular part of the story became tedious and fell flat. Yep- you guessed it: - 1 Star!

Darcy (a Wish-Crafter) is asked to clean out the house of Patrice, a hoarder, who has disappeared, by Elodie, Patrice's daughter who has taken over both her mother's Gem shop in the Enchanted Village and her house....

Unbeknownst to Darcy, Patrice owned the most powerful amulet that anyone could own... the Anicula, which would grant anyone's wishes no matter the intent; however if any granted wish was for ill, the Anicula would turn against the wisher.

Six months prior to the disappearance of Patrice the Anicula disappeared and no one has any idea where either are, until, a neighbor innocently (with pure intentions) wishes in front of Darcy to find her missing friend.

Immediately after the wish to find Patrice, a tower of boxes overturns and at the bottom is an old leather trunk, sprung open, with the desiccated remains of Patrice.

No matter the reasoning behind or results of previous wishes,  life in the Enchanted Village is beginning to unravel for many of the Crafters as they scramble to uncover the whereabouts of the Anicula.

At the same time, Darcy's Aunt Ve is to be married at the end of the week, but someone is sabotaging the wedding and the groom-to-be is found kissing his long-time secretary, who threatens Darcy.

The Good, the Bad, and the Witchy: A…

The Good, the Bad, and the Witchy: #3 (  )

Darcy is asked to put together the birthday party for Henriette, a formidable Floracrafter who is about to get married to an elusive fiancee.  Darcy is also asked to find & hire a stripper, a task which is an embarrassment to her, so she hires an older man w/ a beer belly....

While waiting for Henriette & birthday cake to arrive, Darcy notices the bakery van outside sitting in the parking lot.....  Darcy leaves the party in order to find the errant deliveryman & birthday cake, but what she finds is the body of the deliveryman and an odd light.

The deliveryman, Michael, was an Illumencrafter (bringer of light & joy) and his ghost has imprinted upon Darcy, urging her to find his murderer.

Henriette had been working w/ Michael developing a Black Rose (which she took all the credit for), which was the envy of other Floracrafters. The Black Roses inspired so much envy, that several had been stolen, which put Michael & Henriette in danger.  After Michael is found dead, the roses he was working with also died, as it was his "spell" that was keeping them alive.

Just prior to Michael's death, he & his best friend were overheard arguing...  After Michael's death is announced to be murder, his best friend (the grandson of Henriette) & Michael's sister immediately disappear.

With the help of Michael's ghost, Darcy works to bring the mystery of Michael's death to its conclusion.

That is the jist of the main story, but every other person is tied into to the story & each other via their relationships with Henriette & Michael, which make for interesting side stories all with threads back to the main.

This was a quick & easy read for me....  The characters are mostly likable and the magical references are pretty tame without extremes.  

As an aside, I also read: 

The Women of the Souk: a Mamur Zapt Mystery ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ♥

Michael Pearce

I noticed most people rated this 3 stars.....  It takes a particular reader to love & appreciate the Mamur Zapt, and I am one of the few.

Set in Edwardian Cairo, the Mamur Zapt was a political police working for the Khedive (the governor of Egypt and Sudan) at the behest of the English government in order to maintain the tenuous balance of ruling power between the two governments.

The Mamur Zapt is Owen, a Welshman, married to a Pasha's Daughter, Zeinab, (by his favorite Free/Liberated concubine)...  Oh yes, and the humor of an educated Egyptian woman who is "free", outspoken,  and refusing to wear a veil...

This entry to the series deals with women, at the time they started to become a force to be reckoned with....  thus making it a very interesting read.  In fact one of my other favorites in this series: "The Snake-Catcher's Daughter" also dealt with a "modern" thinking young woman.

Marie, one of the Khedive's nieces, has been abducted while in the souk with her "boy friend", a nay (flute) player whom she wishes to marry.  Normally a young woman that had been abducted would remain a loss, but Layla, Marie's best friend from the Khedivial (girls school), has taken things into her own hands (as has the Khedive's wife & sister-in-law) and has gone to visit the Mamur Zapt, pushing him into action.

Layla explains to Owen, that really she would have preferred to speak w/ Zeinab, allowing Zeinab to deal with the Mamur Zapt, but as Zeinab is a new mother, Layla & the others decided that it would  be too much of an imposition on Zeinab.

There is a lot to this story: Kidnapping, Ransom, Politics, Drugs, Family, Power struggles, Class struggles, and from the beginning the Women.

It was often funny, as are most of the Mamur Zapt books, but the politics is there and they shed a light on the reality of imperialist power grabs, which can still be seen in today's political arenas.

An Excellent book!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kate Shackleton Series (but not all of it)

Image result for dying in the woolDying in the Wool, Frances Brody
Kate Shackleton #1
★ ★ ★

Circa 1919: Kate Shackleton, former VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse has been working for free helping friends, friends of friends, friends of family et. al. solve mysteries & find missing loved ones.
Her former VAD friend, Tabitha Braithwaite, is soon to wed and has hired Kate to find her father before the wedding.
Joshua Braithwaite, owner of a large textile plant, was last seen running away from the local hospital, where he was remanded for the crime of "allegedly" trying to commit suicide.
There are a few people who do not want him found, there are a few who might stand to profit from his disappearance, there are a few who stand to lose if he is found (alive)....
The family all have their motives, as do a few of the mill workers.....
I found this to be not only an interesting story & mystery but also the information on mills, textiles, weaving & dye making was informative.

Image result for a medal for murderA Medal for Murder, Frances Brody 

Kate Shackleton #2

★ ★ ★

Kate & Sykes have been hired by Mr. Moody, a most discreet pawn broker, after being robbed.  He requests that they go to his clients and explain the loss and the circumstances of restitution should their valuables not be recovered.

While Kate is in Harrogate attempting to locate one of Mr. Moody's clients (who has given a false name , de Vries, and address) she stays to go to the theater....  After the play a man (Milner) is found dead of a knife wound, the young woman he planned to marry (Lucy) goes missing as does the young woman (Alison) she supposedly spent the night with, and a ransom note for Lucy shows up. In order to avoid going to the police Lucy's grandfather asks Kate to step in.

As Kate investigates: Lucy's grandfather is not who he appears to be; Milner turns out as a blackmailer & womanizer; Alison is hiding out; Mrs DeVries is right under Kate's nose; Kate's "friend" has sticky fingers; one of the Grandfather's tenants has a secret past & habitually eavesdrops on the old man's conversations.

Part of the background story goes back to the Boer War and the egregious actions of the British Military & their concentration camps, which intercepted the reading of the book's current events. The other part of the background story involves the aforementioned, Lucy's grandfather & Lucy's "inheritance" (which she demands to be given in order to attend a London based drama academy).

There was a lot going on in this book, all tied up neatly in the end.  The characters were realistic and not unlikable. 

Image result for death of an avid readerDeath of an Avid Reader, Frances Brody

Kate Shackleton #6

★ ★ ★

I'm not quite sure how the author fit the pieces together.....  This read like two different mysteries up until almost the end of the book.

Kate Shackleton, a former VAD nurse, is now a detective and Kate is asked by a well known society matron to find her illegitimate daughter that she gave up for adoption upon the child's birth.  All the woman can tell Kate is the child's name and that the adoptive parents were fishmongers related to the "nanny"...

Somehow, Kate becomes involved with a stowaway monkey and a double murder at the library where she is doing research... where a dismissed employee is maybe or maybe not the missing adopted daughter.....

There were a lot of threads & possibilities, which were neatly bundled & tied up at the end.

This is not a great mystery by any means, and I liked the one I read before this better.....  But, I am going backwards to read the first several in the series.

Image result for frances brodyMurder on a Summer's Day, Frances Brody

Kate Shackleton #5
★ ★ ★

1920: A young Maharajah  Prince is visiting a stately country home for grouse season, his soon to be red-headed actress wife (from simple folk) is hidden away in a near by hotel until the astrologer can come up w/ an auspicious date for the nuptials.  

After the young Prince goes out & kills the legendary local white doe he disappears and the English politicos send in Kate Shackleton (their secret sleuth) to find him.

While searching for the Prince one of the young men who was his guide is found dead in the river at a point where he would often jump across....  The father of the other guide (a young man of "simple" ways) has a stroke, and Kate finds the Prince in the place where he shot the doe, dead, shot in the chest & covered with branches.  

Monday, November 7, 2016



Little Free Library unveilingLittle Free Library has big a reason to celebrate: On November 4, the nonprofit with a passion for literacy and community planted its 50,000th Little Free Library. This is double the number of Little Libraries in existence just a year and a half ago.
Library No. 50,000 stands at theIllumination Foundation, an innovative homeless shelter in Santa Ana, California—a community that has only one public library for more than 335,000 residents.
How did it come to arrive in Orange County? Through Little Free Library’s philanthropic Impact Fund, which places Libraries in communities where they can have a positive impact on reading motivation and social engagement.

50,000th Little Free LibraryAccording to a press releaseMarytza Rubio, founder of the Makara Center for the Arts, applied to the Impact Fund for a Library to be placed at the Illumination Foundation as the first step in a larger push to place Little Free Libraries throughout Santa Ana.
“We’re starting at the Illumination Foundation because in Orange County our homeless population is our most vulnerable and many of them are children,” said Ms. Rubio. “Shelter residents have little access to books and the Little Free Library can address that need.”
Other recipients of Little Free Libraries through the Impact Fundinclude:
  • A family in Illinois who is committed to “rebuilding a broken city one block at a time.”
  • A vice-principal of a school in a Georgia town where thirty percent of the residents cannot read.
“We call it the Impact Fund because that’s the goal – we want to substantially improve our world – and so does the Makara Center,” says Bol. “We are thrilled that our 50,000th Library will be at the Illumination Foundation and part of such a wonderful mission.”
LeVar Burton Little Free LibrarySo, what do 50,000 Little Free Libraries mean for the rest of us? (Besides a healthy shot of literary adorableness?) Here are a few of the benefits:
Books for all. The Little Free Library organization estimates that 50,000 little libraries equals a whopping 36,500,000 books shared in a year. How’s that for a booming sharing economy?
Stronger communities. Little Free Libraries help people get to know each other. How many platonic meet-cutes have happened a Little Free Library? A whole lot. It’s estimated that 50,000 Libraries result in 600,000 neighbors meeting each other for the first time.
Self-expression to the max. Take one look at this gallery of Little Free Libraries, and you’ll see what I mean. There are Libraries that look like owls. Libraries that look like movie theaters. And even a Little Free Library painted with the patron saint of childhood reading, LeVar Burton.
If 50,000 Little Free Libraries can make all of these good things happen, imagine what 50,000 more could do! You can help bring Little Libraries where they’re needed most by supporting the Impact Fund or applying for a Library here.

Full disclosure: I work with the Little Free Library nonprofit, wrote The Little Free Library Book, and have a Little Free Library of my own, so I’m completely biased in my support of Little Free Libraries. (But can you blame me?) –Margret

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bookmarks Feature the Little Legs of Literary Characters

These Bookmarks Feature the Little Legs of Literary Characters

With her playful line of bookmarks, Ukrainian artist Olena Mysnyk pays homage to her favorite literary characters. But instead of depicting the faces of beloved characters like Harry Potter or Bilbo Baggins, her works highlight their iconic feet.
The MyBOOKmark collection includes bookmarks outfitted with three-dimensional sets of legs at the bottom, making it look as if the characters are literally stuck within the pages of the book. Since starting the business in 2011, Mysnyk has received over 9000 orders. The bestselling bookmarks include those that feature the ruby-slippered feet of the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the East, the shiny limbs of C-3PO from the Star Wars franchise, and the paws of a direwolf from the Song of Ice and Fire series.
But even with the products' growing popularity, every piece Mysnyk sells is still made by hand. The bookmarks, priced at $25 and up, are available through the MyBOOKmark website or Mysnyk’s Etsy store.
Images courtesy of MyBOOKmark.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Periodic Chart of Literary Villains

Enter an Archive of 6,000 Historical Children’s Books, All Digitized and Free to Read Online

Enter an Archive of 6,000 Historical Children’s Books, All Digitized and Free to Read Online

5 Little PIgs

We can learn much about how a historical period viewed the abilities of its children by studying its children’s literature. Occupying a space somewhere between the purely didactic and the nonsensical, most children’s books published in the past few hundred years have attempted to find a line between the two poles, seeking a balance between entertainment and instruction. However, that line seems to move closer to one pole or another depending on the prevailing cultural sentiments of the time. And the very fact that children’s books were hardly published at all before the early 18th century tells us a lot about when and how modern ideas of childhood as a separate category of existence began.

“By the end of the 18th century,” writes Newcastle University professor M.O. Grenby, “children’s literature was a flourishing, separate and secure part of the publishing industry in Britain.” The trend accelerated rapidly and has never ceased—children’s and young adult books now drive sales in publishing (with 80% of YA books bought by grown-ups for themselves).

Grenby notes that “the reasons for this sudden rise of children’s literature” and its rapid expansion into a booming market by the early 1800s “have never been fully explained.” We are free to speculate about the social and pedagogical winds that pushed this historical change.
Afloat with Nelson

Or we might do so, at least, by examining the children’s literature of the Victorian era, perhaps the most innovative and diverse period for children’s literature thus far by the standards of the time. And we can do so most thoroughly by surveying the thousands of mid- to late 19th century titles at the University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature. Their digitized collection currently holds over 6,000 books free to read online from cover to cover, allowing you to get a sense of what adults in Britain and the U.S. wanted children to know and believe.
Zig Zag

Several genres flourished at the time: religious instruction, naturally, but also language and spelling books, fairy tales, codes of conduct, and, especially, adventure stories—pre-Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew examples of what we would call young adult fiction, these published principally for boys. Adventure stories offered a (very colonialist) view of the wide world; in series like the Boston-published Zig Zag and English books like Afloat with Nelson, both from the 1890s, fact mingled with fiction, natural history and science with battle and travel accounts. But there is another distinctive strain in the children’s literature of the time, one which to us—but not necessarily to the Victorians—would seem contrary to the imperialist young adult novel.
Bible Picture Book

For most Victorian students and readers, poetry was a daily part of life, and it was a central instructional and storytelling form in children’s lit. The A.L.O.E.’s Bible Picture Book from 1871, above, presents “Stories from the Life of Our Lord in Verse,” written “simply for the Lord’s lambs, rhymes more readily than prose attracting the attention of children, and fastening themselves on their memories.” Children and adults regularly memorized poetry, after all. Yet after the explosion in children’s publishing the former readers were often given inferior examples of it. The author of the Bible Picture Book admits as much, begging the indulgence of older readers in the preface for “defects in my work,” given that “the verses were made for the pictures, not the pictures for the verses.”
Elfin Rhymes

This is not an author, or perhaps a type of literature, one might suspect, that thinks highly of children’s aesthetic sensibilities.  We find precisely the opposite to be the case in the wonderful Elfin Rhymes from 1900, written by the mysterious “Norman” with “40 drawings by Carton Moorepark.” Whoever “Norman” may be (or why his one-word name appears in quotation marks), he gives his readers poems that might be mistaken at first glance for unpublished Christina Rossetti verses; and Mr. Moorepark’s illustrations rival those of the finest book illustrators of the time, presaging the high quality of Caldecott Medal-winning books of later decades. Elfin Rhymes seems like a rare oddity, likely published in a small print run; the care and attention of its layout and design shows a very high opinion of its readers’ imaginative capabilities.
Elfin Rhymes 2

This title is representative of an emerging genre of late Victorian children’s literature, which still tended on the whole, as it does now, to fall into the trite and formulaic. Elfin Rhymes sits astride the fantasy boom at the turn of the century, heralded by hugely popular books like Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz series and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. These, the Harry Potters of their day, made millions of young people passionate readers of modern fairy tales, representing a slide even further away from the once quite narrow, “remorselessly instructional… or deeply pious” categories available in early writing for children, as Grenby points out.
All Around the Moon

Where the boundaries for kids’ literature had once been narrowly fixed by Latin grammar books and Pilgrim’s Progress, by the end of the 19th century, the influence of science fiction like Jules Verne’s, and of popular supernatural tales and poems, prepared the ground for comic books, YA dystopias, magician fiction, and dozens of other children’s literature genres we now take for granted, or—in increasingly large numbers—we buy to read for ourselves. Enter the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature here, where you can browse several categories, search for subjects, authors, titles, etc, see full-screen, zoomable images of book covers, download XML versions, and read all of the over 6,000 books in the collection with comfortable reader views. Find more classics in our collection, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.
Related Content:
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness