Reading Update #1 and A Dash of Digital Vampire

My 2020 reading is off to an excellent start. Mysteries, romance, a literary classic, outdoor adventure, and a dash of digital vampire.

What I’ve Read

The last book I started in 2019 was finished in 2020. This was The Hollows by Jess Montgomery. It’s the second book in her Kinship Series of mystery novels which are set in 1920s southeastern Ohio. Appalachia. The main character, Lilly Ross, is based on Ohio’s first woman sheriff, Maude Collins. The Hollows comes out on January 14, 2020. I wrote a review for Criminal Element that will post sometime during the week on their site and I’ll be sure to post notice about it here.

In the meantime, you can read Jess’s article, The Haunted Moonville Tunnel: Inspiration for The Hollows. It’s neat to see photos of the tunnel that’s such a main elements of the book. If you haven’t read the first book in the series, The Widows, I highly recommend it. I do think The Hollows reads well as a standalone novel, so I don’t think you have to read the first to appreciate the second. (I tend to like to read series in chronological order but I know that’s not always possible.)

Jess has been a guest on the Book Cougars twice now to discuss both of her books:

The first book I started in 2020 was a book that had been on my TBR for half of last year, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite, which came out in June 2019. It’s a mainstream f/f romance novel and I completely enjoyed it. This was the first book in Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series. I just looked at her website and saw that there’s a title for book #2 — The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows — and a bullet point list about some of the characters in it.

What I’m Reading Now

For years, I’ve had this self-imposed rule to read only one novel at a time, but I allowed myself some overlap while reading the two novels above and it was an enjoyable experience. Apparently I’m throwing caution to the wind in 2020 because I’m once again reading two novels! The back and forth between two very different stories is somehow enhancing both for me.

The first is Willa Cather’s Shadows on the Rock (1931) for the Willa Cather Book Club later this week. It’s historical fiction about a young girl and her father set in early Quebec City. I’ve only read it once before, eight years ago, and I don’t remember much about it, so it’s like reading a new-to-me novel.

Murder at The Breakers in The Breakers gift shop

The other novel I’m reading is Murder at The Breakers (2014), the first mystery in Alyssa Maxwell’s Gilded Newport Mystery series. In December I visited The Breakers, the summer home of the Vanderbilts in Newport, RI, and was enthused to see this series in their gift shop. I snapped the above photo that day as a reminder to myself about the series and checked it out from my local library. It’s fun to read a mystery set in a historic mansion that I’ve visited as I can picture the characters in the various rooms that are mentioned. I’m only three chapters in and so far, so good.

The nonfiction book I’m reading is Epic Solitude: A Story of Survival and a Quest for Meaning in the Far North by Katherine Keith. I enjoy outdoor adventure stories and this memoir has that in spades. It also has some deep emotional pain and I had to put it down for a few days, but do look forward to getting back to it soon. Keith is a long distance dog musher and that’s one of the other things that drew me to the book as my dog Bea is a retired sled dog. Epic Solitude comes out on February 4th. I’m reading a copy courtesy of NetGalley.

Book Related Viewing: Dracula

I binged-watched the new BBC One/Netflix Dracula series. I don’t watch much horror because I prefer mounting tension to gore. Old school horror is my speed and the Bela Lugosi film will probably always be my favorite Dracula. Just because one can do high tech special effects, doesn’t mean one should.

Early on in the first episode, I feared the series was going to rely too much on special effects: The peeling fingernails, Dracula’s zombie-like victims, the fly crawling between Jonathan Harker’s’ eyelid and eyeball, and then seeing the shadow of it scurry behind or inside his eye. Gross. Also kind of cool. I couldn’t decide. But I stuck with it. The first episode was painful to watch at times and that’s the point — Harker’s captivity certainly wasn’t comfortable and you get that in this adaptation.

At some point the special effects took more of a back seat (or perhaps I just got used to them) and the story took off for me. It had bits of blahness, but those were punctuated with some good tension, funny lines (Dracula ate Mozart. Mozart!), and illusions to other tales (Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey came to mind with one character in particular).

  • Pros: I love the no-nonsense, non-believing nun who cares for Harker after his ordeal in Dracula’s castle. Played by Dolly Wells, she’s one twisty character in many ways (I’ll say no more about her to avoid spoilers). Dracula, played by Claes Bang, really grew on me. He’s a selfish, sarcastic murderer, but there’s also a vulnerability that added to his character development. I’ve long said I like my vampires to be mean and nasty, but I’m coming around to the sex appeal factor.
  • Cons: I missed Bram Stoker’s Mina, a kickass character in the novel. In this movie, she’s reduced to a screaming blonde scaredy-cat, but the nun makes up for this.

Overall, I like how creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are trying to bring the legend of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the current age. God knows, we needed a new version to supplant Coppola’s Dracula. The ending was intriguing and left me wondering what tension will drive the second season.

How’s your reading life so far this year?


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