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Witty Little Knitter

I read fantasy, crime, true crime, lgbt-romance and books written by my favourite comedians. List not necessarily complete.
Sometimes I write for Bibliodaze

Currently reading

Stephen and Matilda
Jim Bradbury
Progress: 52/262 pages
Krieg und Frieden
Michael Grusemann, Leo Tolstoy
Progress: 579/1024 pages

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Hanukkah


Tasks for Hanukkah: Play the Dreidel game to pick the next book you read.


Assign a book from your TBR to each of the four sides of the dreidel:

נ  - Scott Lynch: Red Seas Under Red Skies
ג - Meara Platt: My Fair Lily
ה - Naomi Novik: Black Powder War
ש - Michael Moran: A Country in the Moon

(And yes, all of these also fit book challenge categories...)


Spin a dreidel:


Hey! Hiram! Go and spin the dreidel


The lion is somehow not inclined to listen. So I guess I have to use the virtual one after all.





So my next read is My Fair Lily

16 Tasks of the Festive Season

In which I talk about my tbr pile...

Review: The Whole Art of Detection

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes - Lyndsay Faye
"I require your assistance, and you suppose you're too good for my money! Well, you aren't, Mr. Holmes!" "On the contrary. I suspect that I've been too good for better people's money as a matter of fact."

The cases Holmes investigates in pastiches are often grand and important. Conspiracies that involve powerful people. Killers that are so clever nobody but Holmes even knows that they're out there. Cases where the future of the world is at stake (or worse: The future of England). That doesn't have to be a bad thing but to me the point of the original stories has always been that Holmes didn't investigate important cases. He investigated interesting cases. And sometimes it would turn out that there wasn't even a crime behind it all, only an interesting story. But that was enough.


The Whole Art of Detection captures exactly that spirit. All but one stories are about mundane things but that doesn't mean that they're boring. Just because somebody's actions don't have far-reaching consequences doesn't mean they can't do really clever things that are interesting to read about.

Now in some of the stories the solution was quite easy to guess which is a minor drawback but since I enjoyed everything else about them so much I didn't really mind it. Especially because apart from engaging mysteries Faye is also great at writing the relationship between Holmes and Watson and showing how much they care about each other. If you want to be nit-picky you might argue that it's a bit too much. Not because they express their emotions in a manner that would have been inappropriate for Victorian gentlemen but because almost every story has a few lines (or more) that show that, while Conan Doyle used such scenes very sparsely. I, however, am not nit-picky about that. I just enjoy it very much.


ARC received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Tears of Pearl

Tears of Pearl - Tasha Alexander

Even before Emily steps off the Orient Express in beautiful and decadent Constantinople, she's embroiled in intrigue and treachery. The brutal death of a concubine in the sultan's palace allows her first foray into investigating a crime as an official agent of the British Empire--because only a woman can be given access to the forbidden world of the harem. There, she quickly discovers that its mysterious, sheltered walls offer no protection from a ruthless murderer.


"I don't think I could survive if anything happened to her. She's been beside me my whole life."
"You would. I'd make you."
"I'm not sure I'd thank you for it."
"You forget how persuasive I can be."

In which Emily is worried about her best friend dying and Colin is slightly creepy. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure he means well...but couldn't he have said how he'd help her through it instead of 'I will make you survive'? Also, two lines later they are talking about their sex-life again in that cutesy Victorian wink-wink-nudge-nudge way that did have me grin the first two or three times they did it but once every private conversation they head led to the same I wanted to yell 'Can you screw each other without constantly talking about it?'.

The mystery was just ridiculous. It involved so many coincidences that I just couldn't stretch my suspension of disbelief that far. And yes, cozy mysteries are books in which the main characters just keep stumbling over dead bodies or met people who just have but even for that genre the coincidences were over-the-top. 


I did like that death in childbirth was a topic since I can't remember many novels that are set in an era where that is an issue that talk about it. (No matter if they were written in that era or in the present day). But the way it was discussed left me mostly unmoved. Emily's fear of it was told rather than shown. Its only result were some long internal monologues and her not telling Colin about the fact that she thinks she might be pregnant. (And even that can just as easily be attributed to the fact that she fears Colin would stop her from doing more dangerous things once he knows). 

Ivy's storyline again did nothing for me. This book makes it painfully obvious that Ivy is just the foil to Emily. Ivy is the 'good Victorian woman' in the eyes of her contemporaries, while Emily is the one with too many strange ideas for her pretty little head. Ivy will always do what she is told and she'd never dream of demanding answers. Even if the answers concern her and even if she's scared. Ivy is there to tell the reader who 

Ivy is there to tell the reader how Victorian women were expected to behave and how much the good old days sucked. Ivy is there so that Emily can worry about her. Ivy is not in any way a character in her own right with interests, hopes or anything. She's a symbol, somebody Emily can angst over and occasionally a plot device.


Talking about characters that aren't really characters: Every single woman from the harem. They were there so that Emily could have discussions with them about whether women in the West are better or worse of than their counterparts in the ottoman empire. 

And while I think that that it's not intentional, it has some unfortunate implications that the only woman who is unhappy in the harem is the one who is secretly Christian. Because only if your religion tells you it's wrong, you'd be unhappy in such a place. Now that brings me to my biggest gripe with the book.

Spoiler alert. It's not directly about the mystery part but it is intertwined with it and it concerns events at the very end of the book so read at your own risk.


Roxelana, the unhappy Christian in the harem wants to flee. Because she hates her life in the harem and because she has a lover outside. And she wants Emily's help. After some reluctance Emily agrees. The escape fails and Roxelana has to return to the harem but - for contrived and absolutely nonsensical reason - she won't be punished further. Her lover (who is an idiot and screwed up badly in the course of the book) considers that a fitting punishment for his screw ups. Yes, you read that right. He will now suffer the punishment of not being able to screw the hot chick.



Meanwhile, the girl (full disclosure: she was also was stupid and screwed up...she was also terrified) is going to remain a sex-slave. Which she will hate because her religion tells her it leads to eternal damnation. (So does suicide so that wouldn't be a way out either). And she will be so popular with the other women after her attempt to flee, I'm sure.

But it's important that the guy has accepted that he has to put his dick somewhere else and this is going to be a bit bad for him.


(show spoiler)

Review: Summerlong

Summerlong - Peter S. Beagle

Retired history professor Abe Aronson is a cranky, solitary man living out his autumn years on Gardner Island, a ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Seattle. One rainy February night, while dining at a favorite local haunt, Abe and his girlfriend Joanna meet an engaging enigmatic waitress, new in town and without a place of her own. Fascinated and moved by the girl's plight, Joanna invites her to stay in Abe's garage. It seems everyone falls for the charming and invigorating the waitress, but she is much more than she appears, and an ancient covenant made a millennium ago threatens to disrupt the spring and alter the lives of Abe, Joanna, and all those around them forever...


Pleasure is the only thing the gods don't charge for - they can't, they love it too much themselves.


There's no shortage of books that are modern retellings of old myths and legends. Summerlong is another one. With the small difference that it's not about the heroes of the myth. It's about the ordinary people they meet. And whose lives they screw up while they relive an age-old story. Now doesn't that sound cheerful? 


It is hard to say much more about the book without spoiling too much. I needed to read more than half of it before I could even answer the question 'So what is this book about?' Before that...well things happened but I had no idea why or how those things were connected. But while in most other books, I would have yelled 'Just come to the point already' but Beagle has a way of writing that made me not care about the fact that I had no clue what was going on. (I was reminded of another book of his: The Innkeeper's Song which is also not exactly fast-paced and tight-packed with plot but Summerlong is even more extreme). It's not a book that can be easily shelved into any genre (Fantasy? Urban Fantasy? A love story? Magical realism?) and it's not going to appeal to you if you are looking for anything that fits easily in any of those categories.

It's also not a happy book (but not one without hope either). But it's still a very very beautiful one.



Review: Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane

Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The First Unsolved Murder of the Victorian Age - Paul Thomas Murphy

On April 26th, 1871, a police constable walking one of London’s remotest beats stumbled upon a brutalized young woman kneeling on a muddy road—gashes were cloven into her skull; her left cheek was slashed open and smashed-in; her right eye was destroyed; and above it a chunk of the temporal bone had been bashed out. The policeman gaped in horror as the woman held out her hand before collapsing into the mud, muttering “let me die” and slipping into a coma. Five days later, she died, her identity still unknown.


Within hours of her discovery on Kidbrooke Lane scores of the officers of Greenwich Division were involved in the investigation, and Scotland Yard had sent one of its top detectives, John Mulvany, to lead it. After five days of gathering evidence, the police discovered the girl’s identity: Jane Maria Clouson, a maid in the house of the renowned Pook family . . . and she was two months’ pregnant with Edmund Pook’s child when she died.

Murphy carefully reviews the evidence in the light of 21st century forensic science in order to identify Jane’s killer as Edmund Walter Pook. Using a surprisingly abundant collection of primary sources, Murphy aims to recreate the drama of the case as it unfolded, with its many twists and turns, from the discovery of the body to the final crack of the gavel—and beyond.




The blurb of this book is misleading. I had expected a straight true-crime story but the book goes beyond that. That’s because the murder wasn’t ‘just’ a murder. The author has to go beyond that and also delve into Victorian society and explain why it was such an issue that a middle-class man was put on trial for murdering a working class girl (that used to be his family’s servant) but not convicted. Without more context, some of the events following Jane’s death are incomprehensible to the modern reader.


However, the author overdoes the ‘going beyond the case’ sometimes. There are quite extensive details of two other trials that made headlines back then but the only connection to Jane’s murder trial is that they had some of the same personnel. A few sentences about that would have been enough. Instead, we get almost a chapter that just deals with these cases and none of it adds anything to the story of Jane’s murder. And it doesn’t remain the only aside where I couldn’t see the point of (though the others aren’t quite as long).

Well, and for the “Murphy carefully reviews the evidence in the light of 21st-century forensic science in order to identify Jane’s killer”-part. Well…the forensic evidence consists of blood-stained clothes that we don’t have anymore so the author has to rely on descriptions that might or might not be accurate. Granted, together with some eyewitness testimony that wasn’t accepted as evidence in the trial he makes a good case. I’ve had authors try to convince me that a certain person is Jack the Ripper on much less but the blurb makes it sound as if the author had identified the killer beyond reasonable doubt and that is certainly not the case. (To be fair: that is pretty much impossible in such an old murder).


Overall the book was interesting, and I don’t even mind the ‘wrong packaging’ because some social context is necessary for understanding the case. But not as much as the author gives.


ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

Reading progress update: I've read 23%.

Summerlong - Peter S. Beagle

I always envied the Catholics - at least they have saints to pray to, they have the Virgin. Forget monotheism, humans are too much for one measly god.


Now I have to think of the class this week where we somehow ended up with the topic saints and you could very much tell the non-Catholics from the Catholics because one part could easily name several saint + their feast-days while the other just stared at us with that 'WTF is wrong with you people'-look


In unrelated news this book is awesome

DNF: The Bachelor's Guide to Murder

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder (Herringford and Watts Mysteries) - Rachel McMillan

In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city's underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto's premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever--if they can stay alive long enough to do so.



So the two main characters are friends with a policeman. He's nice enough to let them see the crime-scenes so that they can investigate, even though they have no business being there. A superior finds out about this and he gets demoted. The MC's reaction to learning that 'Oh now that's no use to us.'

Isn't it hilarious and not to mention dark and edgy how she cares about nobody but herself and has no bad conscience about the fact that a friend almost lost his job because of her?



Fuck you book. I am so done with these characters, I won't even bother to continue reading.

BookLikes hints for finding books in the BL database...

Amidst all the dissatisfaction with BookLikes recent lack of communication with its members, I've heard people mention they are still having problems finding books in the database when they search, so here are two things people might find useful:


Thing 1:  If you have access to the book's ISBN (or ASIN), use that in the search box.  That will find your book.  If it's not in the database (say it's a brand-spanking new release), BookLikes will actually go out and fetch the record from whatever data feed is handy (I assume it's Amazon's).


Edit:  Chatting with Tennat below, I recall a few ebooks that didn't come up when I searched by ISBN, so let me revise my over-confidence above and say searching by ISBN will get you your book... 8 out of 10 times?  Hopefully that's closer to accurate.  I add a lot of editions as a librarian here, and I've only had to add manually a couple of times.


Thing 2:  You can use URLs from publishers' and book sites in the BL's search box.  I discovered this by accident when I wanted to pull an ISBN out of the URL; I pasted the whole URL into the search box, but before I could edit it down to just the ISBN, BL had already found the book.  I've since done this with URLs from several sites and they've all worked to find the book.


Searching by title should be getting easier, but if different editions haven't been combined properly, you may not find what you're looking for: the BL database only indexes the main edition of any book.  If you're struggling to get a book to show up and you don't have access to an ISBN (or ASIN), start a thread about it in the Official BookLikes group, or let a librarian know and it'll get fixed.


Reblogged from Murder by Death

Review: The Fiend Queen

The Fiend Queen - Barbara Ann Wright

Within the walls of her palace, Princess Katya’s best friend lies at her feet, close to death. Her pyradisté is overwhelmed by some mysterious power, and her former lady-in-waiting has stabbed her in the back. Wounded and nearly alone, Katya must find a way to sabotage the magic of her Fiendish uncle Roland, or those who fight for the capitol will be overwhelmed by hypnotized guards and Fiend-filled corpses.

Starbride’s pain is nearly overwhelming. The agony inside her only lessens when she satisfies a strange new desire to hurt those around her. She may hold the key to banishing Fiendish power from Farraday, but only by using it herself. Together, Katya and Starbride must make a final desperate push to take back the kingdom, but even if they survive, can the strength of their love keep them from madness? After all, fighting evil with evil has its consequences.



This book gets the third star mainly because I still like the series as a whole (and the characters have grown on me) and because I really hate the main trope that is used here but don't think that it's a bad trope generally. There are probably people who enjoy reading about it. But I don't. Really. Not at all.

I'm talking about corrupted by power/demonic possession. Yeah, that thing that is neither really and both a bit. I'm all over corrupted by power, especially, when, like in this book it's connected with questions like How evil do you have to become to fight evil? How far can you go before you just fuck up things differently than the previous bad guy? 

I'm less fond of possession but can still cope with it but the combination of both always feels like a cop-out to me. You see: it wasn't really her doing the bad things! The demon made her do it. Sort of. Mostly.

Additionally, the POV chapters of a corrupted-possessed person are just very tedious reading. In the middle, there are several chapters that are mostly the same: her friends try to reach her, she begins to have doubts, the demon interferes and plays on her insecurities, she believes him, back to square one. (The playing on the insecurities-bit was something I actually quite enjoyed since it gave her better reasons for listening to the demon than 'wants power and revenge') After a few times that got very boring.


The end managed to tie up some ends very neatly and leave others too open for the final book in a series. I don't need to know everything about all the characters at the end but I'd like to have an idea of where they're going.

Review: Margeau Chapeau

Margeau Chapeau: A New Perspective on Classic Knit Hats (Dover Knitting, Crochet, Tatting, Lace) - Margeau Soboti

Let Margeau show you how to knit the hat of your dreams, from a stylish tweed cap to a playful beanie or a classic beret. Fifteen patterns, all well within the capacity of novice knitters, include earflap caps, a turban headband, watch caps, and other items. The designs offer a variety of attractive silhouettes and shapes, from fitted, traditional items to slouchy, trendy hats. Suggested yarns range from affordable to luxury, all chosen for their softness and sophisticated color palette.



Well. Undoubtedly this is a book with patterns for hats. And yes, they are all "in the capacity of novice knitters" because stockinette stitch and ribbing is something even absolute beginners can do and the majority of patterns are just that. There are a few with basic cabling and some colourwork that might be a bit more challenging (depending on your stance on that...) but a lot of it is really just the most basic stitch patterns. The variation comes from things like yarn-weight and how exactly the stitches are combined.

I would guess that you can find very similar patterns to those in the book only for free. Of course that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some people do prefer to pay for the comfort of having all their patterns in one place (and yes, that includes me) but this is some really basic stuff.

Yes, some people might get something out of this book but I don't. Yes, it does say it's a book for 'novice knitters' but I'd still expected a bit more variety.


ARC received from NetGalley

Review: A Kingdom Lost

A Kingdom Lost - Barbara Ann Wright

Princess Katya Nar Umbriel has little left to lose. Her uncle Roland took her home, scattered her family, and forced her to abandon Starbride, her dearest love. Slim hopes and righteous anger carry Katya into Starbride's homeland to raise an army and take back all that was stolen from her.

Starbride never dreamed she’d lead a pack of foreign rebels against a Fiendish usurper. She holds the capital city out of love, denying any rumor of Katya’s death. As the two strive toward each other, Roland dogs their every step, loosing Fiend-filled corpses on Katya’s army and hypnotizing the capital’s citizens into hunting Starbride down. If they ever meet again, it’ll be over his dead body.


When it comes to the things I enjoyed in this book I can just repeat what I already said about the first two in the series: I love the characters, I love the dynamics between Katya and Starbride, and the dynamics between them and the side-characters in general. Also taking about character dynamics and relationships: I love how there are characters that are good guys but that don't (always) get along that well with the main characters. They're not arrogant jerks who have to be endured because they are very good at what they do. They just have very different ideas from the others and so they're sometimes difficult to be around. Though in the case of Redtrue and the other adsnazi I quickly got tired and exhausted of their views. Towards the end, I found it easier to see their point of view but I still would have wished for less stubbornness on their part. I'm not saying I expected any of them to agree completely with Katya but someone showing some doubts would have been nice. Instead, everybody held to their opinion without moving an inch.

Another thing I enjoyed: while the book can't be considered a 'clean read' it's not because of any extremely explicit sex scenes but because it's a society that's not ashamed of sex and talks openly about it (and loves dirty jokes so much, something they share with me). I'm not a big fan of explicit sex scenes. Even if I love the author's writing style there's a high chance I'll just skim over the sex scenes. But a good dirty joke? Give it to me! Lots of them? Even better!


Like in the second book, the plot took a lot of surprising turns and I went 'WHAT?' more than once. And while I found the 'mirroring' of storylines a bit odd (Katya and Starbride were apart and dealing with very different things but yet seemed to have success and misfortune always happening at the same time) I didn't have the problem with it being a bit too fast-paced, as with the last book.


So: perfect book, five stars? Alas, no. And the ending is to blame for that. I don't mind cliffhanger endings but there should at least be a momentary conclusion with the big questions still left open. There was no conclusion of anything. It just stopped. Literally mid-battle. There wasn't even a solution to anything in sight and that is rather frustrating.

(And now I have to read the next book soon...)


ARC received from NetGalley

Free Historical Romances

Nine of them in fact! I can vouch for the amazingness of Sweet Disorder. I don't know the others but surely there is something for every taste ;)

Review: Die Bartholomäusnacht

Die Bartholomäusnacht - Alexandre Dumas

Für dieses Buch habe ich sehr lange gebraucht aber das lag nicht unbedingt daran, dass es so langweilig ist. Ich hatte auch eine längere Phase in der ich fast gar nichts gelesen habe bzw nur Fanfic aber das ist eine andere Geschichte. Ein bisschen den Spaß am Buch verleidet hat auch die Übersetzung. Sie scheint wohl etwas älter zu sein (aus den 70ern wenn mich mein Google-Fu nicht täuscht) und die Übersetzerin verwendet ab und an Begriffe, die damals wohl hip und modern waren, es heute aber nicht mehr sind. Das führt zu einer Reihe von Dingen die es schaffen gleichzeitig zu modern für die Zeit in der das Buch spielt zu sein und zu altmodisch für den modernen Leser. Das stört den Lesefluss doch sehr.

Wenn man aber das ignorieren kann...oder einfach eine andere Übersetzung auftreiben kann bleibt doch ein interessantes Buch. Wer Dumas aber nur von den Drei Musketieren kennt und hier ähnliches erwartet wird entäuscht sein. Die Bartholomäusnacht ist kein Mantel und Degen-Abenteuer. Die (auch nur in der deutschen Übersetzung) titelgebende Nacht wird in den ersten paar Kapiteln abgehandelt und ist auch eher ein Schlachtfest als irgendwie vergleichbar mit den Duellen die die Musketiere kämpfen.

Im Rest des Buches wird dann intrigiert. Und zwar heftig. Wem das gefällt der wird seine wahre Freude am Buch haben. Da gibt es ständig wechselnde Allianzen, es wird doppelt und dreifach hintergangen...alles was das Herz begehrt. Wer mehr Action möchte sollte aber ein anderes Buch suchen.

Reading progress update: I've read 353 out of 721 pages.

Die Bartholomäusnacht - Alexandre Dumas

Guy has date with his mistress.

On the way to the date he sees somebody who looks like his best friend, follows him, and when he discovers that it's not his best friend challenges him to a duel for the insolence of looking like his best friend.

Therefore, he is late to his date, explains to his mistress why and also gushes a lot about his best friend. When mistress gets annoyed about this he explains 'Well I love you more than any woman but I love him more than any human'


Review: Winter Kill

Winter Kill - Josh Lanyon

Clever and ambitious, Special Agent Adam Darling (yeah, he's heard all the jokes before) was on the fast track to promotion and success until his mishandling of a high profile operation left one person dead and Adam "On the Beach." Now he's got a new partner, a new case, and a new chance to resurrect his career, hunting a legendary serial killer known as The Crow in a remote mountain resort in Oregon.

Deputy Sheriff Robert Haskell may seem laid-back, but he's a tough and efficient cop -- and he's none too thrilled to see feebs on his turf -- even when one of the agents is smart, handsome, and probably gay. But a butchered body in a Native American museum is out of his small town department's league. For that matter, icy, uptight Adam Darling is out of Rob's league, but that doesn't mean Rob won't take his best shot.



This was...neat. Perhaps a bit too neat and I keep coming across more and more Lanyon-books where I think "This story would have needed more pages."

The mystery was very good, at least for the first half. It had enough twists and turns to keep me reading till after midnight because "OH I did not see that coming and now I need to know what happens next." Towards the end, it lost a bit of steam and things wrapped up a bit too neat and too quickly. Suddenly everything just happened and the case was solved.

The romance was...lacking. I did enjoy that it had alternating POVs instead of just one like in most of her books and also that it was a difference from the writer + soldier/cop formula Lanyon uses a lot. But it wrapped up...well too neatly. I would have had fewer problems with it, if it had been a definite start of a series with a Happy for now ending and in fact, expected it right until the epilog, in which all problems are solved by the power of tru luv. As I said: too neat.