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Portable Monsters

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

Kill Creek
Scott Thomas, Bernard Setaro Clark
Progress: 19 %
The Shadow of Polperro
Frances Cowan
Progress: 20/235 pages
A Little Princess (Audio)
Frances Hodgson Burnett, Virginia Leishman
Progress: 24 %
The Return of the King
J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis
Progress: 68 %

After the Funeral ★★★★☆

After the Funeral (Audio) - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser

This is the third Agatha Christie novel I’ve read, and I’ve definitely passed the threshold from wary curiosity to fandom. The first two (And Then There Were None; Orient Express) were so famous that even a detective mystery averse reader like me knew of them, but I’d never heard of this one. It was almost as good. The characters were fun, the mystery was interesting, and the whodunnit was a surprise, but definitely not a cheat.


I will say that I was a little surprised at the attitude towards women expressed throughout the story. Especially women “of a certain age”. Especially women who are childless. Especially unmarried women. I know it’s at least partly a function of the time in which it was written. I get – even expect – it as coming from particular characters, but it was so pervasive that I can’t help but wonder if it reflects the author’s beliefs as well, which would be disappointing to me, especially because I enjoy the female characters she creates, across the spectrum from hysterical and useless to strong and competent, from ignorant to intelligent. It’s a puzzle to me, but maybe it will become more clear as I read more in her body of work.


I am becoming even more fond of Poirot. He really is delightfully arrogant. Even his mustaches are delightfully arrogant.



Audiobook via Audible. I’m so glad I spent the Audible credit on this one. I could fall in love with Hugh Fraser’s voice. I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Terrifying Women Authors: mystery, horror, suspense or supernatural written by women.

October - 1%

October - Michael Rowe

I'm just getting started with this, but I am already impressed. I hope it goes on as it has started. I've never heard of Joel Froomkin but really like his audio performance so far. 


20th Century Ghosts - 77/316pg

20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill, Christopher Golden

It is my belief that, as a rule, creatures of Happy's ilk - I am thinking here of canines and men both - more often run free than live caged, and it is in fact a world of mud and feces they desire, a world with no Art in it, or anyone like him, a place where there is no talk of books or God or the worlds beyond this world, a place where the only communication  is the hysterical barking of starving and hate-filled dogs. 


The Bad Beginning - 80/162pg

A Series of Unfortunate Events 1: The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket

I am puzzled, which as you probably know, means unable to understand, as to why this book is so popular. 


Grimm’s Fairy Tales ★★☆☆☆

Grimm's Fairy Tales: Household Stories from the Collection of the Bros. Grimm - Lucy Crane, Crane Walter, Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

I think my only exposure to the Grimm brothers’ stories has been the Disney-fied version. I think I prefer Disney’s.



  1. Hans in Luck – Hans is a fool who wouldn’t know a good bargain if it punched him in the face.
  2. The Goose Girl – Trickery and ambition get you thrown naked into a barrel of nails and dragged to your death.
  3. The Frog Prince – He’s the original “nice guy”. Accept help from a nasty toad and you will wind up with a Prince who feels he has the right to your time, your food, and your bed
  4. The Wolf and the Seven Goslings – “If you don’t do it,” cried the wolf, “I’ll eat you up!” And the miller was afraid and did as he was told. And that just shows what men are.
  5. Faithful John – Abducted princess suffers Stockholm Syndrome, parents willingly decapitate their own children to save their faithful servant, wtf is this story?
  6. Rapunzel – If the prince loved her so much, why didn’t he just bring a ladder to help her escape, instead of visiting every night to have sex with her in prison?
  7. Hansel and Grethel – For once in these stories a girl takes action and saves herself and her brother.
  8. The White Snake – A princess has fun setting impossible tasks for her suitors and killing them when they fail. Until a servant boy’s animal friends help him pass all the tasks, and he and the princess live HEA. Yay?
  9. Mother Hulda – Helpful and industrious girls are rewarded. Lazy and mean-spirited girls are tarred and feathered.
  10. Tom Thumb – He’s a tiny psychopath.
  11. The Elves - oooookaaaayyy
  12. The Robber Bridegroom – Girl keeps her head, brings justice to man who chops up and eats women.
  13. The Almond Tree – Wicked woman decapitates and dismembers her stepson and feeds him to his father. All is HEA when stepmother is crushed by a millstone and the boy is resurrected by the almond tree.
  14. The Six Swans – More wicked stepmothers and abducted girls “willingly” married to their captors
  15. The Sleeping Beauty – Two beautiful privileged youth find each other and live HEA without a thought of the many boys with poor timing who died an agonized death impaled in the thorn hedge. This may be the best one, with the wonderful imagery of the kingdom asleep in suspended animation.
  16. Snow White – Snow White is TSTL but is such a beautiful corpse that a prince marries her, and the evil queen is an incompetent murderess, but gets death by red-hot iron shoes.
  17. Rumpelstiltsken – I think Rumpelstiltsken got a raw deal here. The greedy 1% stole his gold and welshed on the trade.
  18. The Golden Bird – Another story where some dolt gets to own a beautiful princess as a contest prize.
  19. The Golden Goose – I’d be a sourpuss too, if my father announced he’d give me away as a contest prize.


Illustrations: They are wonderfully intricate, but the style doesn’t really appeal to me.


Hardcover copy with the text translated from the original German and with intricately detailed illustrations.


I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square A Grimm Tale: any fairy tale or retelling of fairy tales, folklore, legends, etc.

PM's Halloween Bingo Update #4: FIRST BINGO!

I finally got a bingo! That's what I get for just randomly reading and relying on library holds instead of prioritizing the called squares. Now if Modern Noir and Country House Mystery will just get called...



A Night in the Lonesome October ★★★☆☆

A Night in the Lonesome October - Gahan Wilson, James Warhola, Roger Zelazny

I got exactly what I expected from this book: A quick, easy read with plenty of humor and an inventive story. It’s full of famous fictional mystery and horror characters, from “the Great Detective” to “the Count”, with Jack the Ripper as the main protagonist. But the fun comes from the book's POV, which is not of the famous characters themselves, but of their animal familiars. Jack’s companion Snuff makes his daily guard dog rounds, ensuring that the Things (in the mirror, in the attic, in the Circle, etc) don’t escape, spying on the other players, and developing cooperative relationships with their animal familiars. The chapters are short, the battles are fun to read, and the ending was satisfying.


Paperback, found in a secondhand bookstore. This was my first Zelazny, but probably won’t be my last.


I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Supernatural: mystery, suspense or horror books which include elements that defy current understanding of the natural world, including magic, witchcraft and/or crypto-zoological aspects.

To go with my Psycho review, I just want to add this hilarious recap of the movie from one of my favorite YouTube Channels.


Edit: Warning - NSFW

Psycho ★★★★★

Psycho - Robert Bloch, Paul Michael Garcia

It’s rare to be able enjoy a book and its movie adaptation equally. The characters are so wonderfully drawn, it’s impossible to not have strong feelings about them all, from the skin-crawling creepiness of Norman Bates to anger and impatience for the complacently incompetent sheriff. The story and the pop-psychology it depends on is a little dated now, but not enough to detract from the fun.


Sometimes the best part of a thriller is the big reveal at the end. No doubt Psycho has an excellent one, for the .0001% of readers who don’t already know. But for the rest of us, there’s no loss in reading pleasure for already knowing the book’s secrets. The author has so many tongue-in-cheek references to it, that it’s almost designed for re-reads. Every time I came across a seemingly innocent remark or reference with a double-meaning, I genuinely laughed out loud.


Audiobook, via Audible. Paul Michael Garcia’s narration is fantastic – his Norman gave me shivers, but he voiced every character and their POV perfectly. At only 5 ½ hours of audio, Psycho is just short enough to go on my annual Halloween reading list.

Station Eleven ★★☆☆☆

Station Eleven: A novel - Emily St. John Mandel

I can see why some would really love this book. It’s well written in terms of the prose and it is one of those books that has Things to Say. I could not love it, though. This is a post-apocalyptic story that spends the majority of its time looking back to its characters’ lives and the world as it was pre-apocalypse. Or, in other words, to society as it is today. It is a book about Now, set in a future world and society that should be infinitely more interesting.


Worse, it failed to engage my emotions in any of the gazillion characters introduced. They went places, and did things, and felt feelings, and I didn’t care about any of them.


And worst of all, this was an unsatisfyingly implausible post-apocalyptic world. The few explanations of how it works just seem implausible. Over 300 people gathered to create a new society in an airport. How did they sustain themselves after all the airport snacks and restaurants ran out of food? They hunted for apparently plentiful deer in a nearby forest. With an NSA handgun and apparently giant stockpile of bullets. After that? Who knows. The story is more interested in how they created a school to teach their children, not about life skills needed to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, but about how you used to be able to push a button and talk to someone on the other side of the world, or about how you could fly in planes. Characters spend all their time talking about the lost internet and all the information lost to them with it. Hello, people, have you heard of books? They apparently only read gossip magazines. And so on.



Audiobook, via Audible. Excellent performance by Kirsten Potter. I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Doomsday: anything related to the end of the world, doomsday cults, or a post-apocalypse world.

Nope Nope Nope

After the Funeral - Agatha Christie After the Funeral (Audio) - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser

I should have known better. I never like radio dramatizations, no matter how good the source material and no matter how good the production. And that held true for this one - I don't think I made it past 10 minutes of audio.


But you all spoke so glowingly of this book and of Hugh Fraser's performance, that I spent an Audible credit to buy the actual audiobook, actually performed by Hugh Fraser, so I'm starting it today. DNF radio dramatization. Here I come, Hugh Fraser and his golden voice. 


After the Funeral

After the Funeral - Agatha Christie

My library hold just came due on this one. I'm a little nervous about it. It's my second ever Poirot book - I loved the Murder on the Orient Express - but this version is a BBC Radio dramatization, and I generally am not in love with that format, rather than a straightforward reading of the text. Fingers crossed!


A Night in the Lonesome October - 107/280pg

A Night in the Lonesome October - Gahan Wilson, James Warhola, Roger Zelazny

     The vicar stood before the altar - which I noted to be draped in black - and was reading to his congregation. He squinted through his square spectacles, as the flickering light was not very good, all of it coming from a few black candles. Larry pointed out that the cross was upside down, which I'd already noticed myself. 

     "Do you know what that means?" he asked softly.

     "Religious distress signal?"


Station Eleven - 58%

Station Eleven: A novel - Emily St. John Mandel

Starting to get tedious, but not so much that I'd DNF at this point. Why is it that the characters in a postapocalyptic world spend more time in pointless recollections of the old world, bemoaning the lack of internet for looking up information, than on actual survival planning or basic life skills? I know there's been a move toward electronic media, but print books do still exist. They break into stores and homes but spend time looking at people's clothes and toys and never even mention looking for books on gardening or mechanics or well-digging or whatever. 


Station Eleven - 20%

Station Eleven: A novel - Emily St. John Mandel

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when a resident of a small town whispers to you that a prophet has taken over and you'd better stop asking questions and leave ASAP, then you'd better run away fast.


Except in books, where otherwise sensible people just keep hanging around and asking questions. 

Winter’s Bone ★★★★★

Winter's Bone - Daniel Woodrell, Emma Galvin

I’m not even sure how to review this book. It was a tough read, in that it provoked powerfully conflicting emotions. Being a fan of horror fiction, it’s not as though graphic violence is especially off-putting for me, but this portrayed graphic violence in a setting of utter realism, in a segment of American society where survival is a daily struggle, in a social structure where children boast that the head of the family is one of the best at cooking up a batch of meth, and family loyalty is everything, and one can both acknowledge that

death is a just punishment for snitching

(show spoiler)

and also rage

at those who deal it out.

(show spoiler)

Somehow this book managed to make me feel that what I would normally consider appalling child abuse is good training for adulthood. It was tough to read because the protagonist’s tiny window for escape from this world is being inexorably closed by family obligations, as she tries to find her missing father before their home and land is confiscated and she is left caring for them instead of joining the army.


But there is also hope, and love, and celebration of a girl with “sand”. And the writing keeps the characters and setting real and present, so it was easy to fall into this story and cheer her on and hope for her and be disappointed for her. 


Audiobook, via Audible. The performance by Emma Galvin is pitch-perfect. I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Modern Noir: mystery with noir elements, including authors like James Ellroy, Ian Rankin, anything that falls generally under the category of Nordic Noir, Tartan Noir, Granite Noir, etc.