The Best Book I Read This Month: The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

I went to the library on Saturday, looking for short books that would help me make up some ground on my Goodreads Challenge--where I was 10 books behind. I picked up a Stephen King novella, knowing it would be a quick read, and The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I chose The Haunting because it was a) relatively short and b) set in post-World War I England, one of my favorite settings. I read the King novella first and started The Haunting of Maddy Clare Sunday afternoon. It swept me away. I stayed up late Sunday night reading it and made sure I got up early enough Monday morning to finish it before I started work.

My library had the book classified as horror, but I didn't find it all that scary. (Perhaps a tolerance I've developed as a lifelong Stephen King reader?) Yes, there is a ghost--a rather violent one--but the story was more like a mystery, driven by the pursuit of answers to two questions: Who was Maddy Clare? What happened to her?

And Maddy doesn't do the only haunting in the story. World War I is just as vivid a specter, having left both physical and psychological scars on the two male leads, scars that inform their interactions with each other, with Maddy Clare, and with the main character: Sarah Piper.  And, as is fitting for an England where war has decimated the male population, the story is populated by female characters, with the men often playing supporting roles.

Ultimately, it was the interaction among the three "ghost hunters"--Sarah, Alistair, and Matthew--that drew me in, grabbed me, and held my attention. This is certainly not a story for the faint of heart, but Susanna Kearsley's cover blurb was accurate: it was spellbinding.

Short Story Contest Results

Well, the NYC Midnight 2017 Short Story Challenge winners have been announced--and I'm not one of them. I am a little disappointed, but having read the synopses of the top 20 stories and having read the winning story, I understand why. NYC Midnight judges tend like stories with a slightly different take or with a twist, and mine didn't have either of those. (I would, however, like credit for getting the prompt "write a story about an undertaker at sunrise" and NOT writing a vampire story.) My story also didn't have the emotional wallop of the winning story, which you can read here. Still, I'm happy I made it as far as I did. It was quite a ride.

Better luck next year!

The Best Book I Read This Month: Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley

I'm not a big reader of fantasy. When I do read it, my tastes run toward the low-brow. The more snark and sarcasm, the better. (Dresden Files, about a wizard whose chief powers are sarcasm and finding trouble, is a favorite.) This month's book choice--Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley--fits that bill to a T.

Stiletto is a sequel and truly, it's best to read the first book before picking up this one. I was introduced to the first book, The Rook, via a short-lived virtual book club. I giggled my way through it. It was snarky and sarcastic and ridiculous and outrageous. Stiletto was the same. Maybe even more ridiculous and outrageous, if that's possible. If you like books grounded in reality, this is probably not a series for you. (Reality is a very distant, perhaps long-lost, cousin to the events in these books.) Also worth noting: the humor in both books is very dry (not surprising, given that the author is Australian and the books are set in Great Britain). Dry humor is absolutely my cup of tea, but it's not for everyone.

At the center of the series is a secret British organization called the Checquy. The Checquy is basically a supernatural police force. Its members have supernatural powers, and it is responsible for managing any supernatural occurrences on British soil. The Rook focuses on a Checquy officer named Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas. Thomas also plays a key role in Stiletto, but Stiletto's focus is on a lower-level Checquy operative and a young woman whose loyalties are not entirely clear.

Both books are long. (Stiletto clocks in at 580 pages.) But they are light reads. There is plenty of action and humor to keep the pages turning. I don't know if O'Malley has another book planned for this series, but I hope so. I could use another book that gives me the giggles.

Mutt Mosey 2017

Thank you, everyone who donated to our Mutt Mosey campaign! We raised $400. The event raised more than $35,000 total--enough for Young at Heart to save 35 senior pets.

Special thanks to Pam for walking with us and hanging out with us at the event. We had a lot of fun!  Duncan did surprisingly well. He wasn't intimidated by the other dogs (except for the German shepherd puppy who mistook him for a rabbit.) And we didn't finish last!

Here's Duncan before, during, and after the Mosey: