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Portable Mistletoe

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

The Horse Dancer
Jojo Moyes
Seabiscuit: An American Legend
Laura Hillenbrand
Peanuts Classics
Charles M. Schulz
Progress: 20/450 pages
The Bungalow Mystery
Carolyn Keene
Progress: 192/192 pages
In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox
Carol Burnett
Progress: 16 %
The Bungalow Mystery #3
Carolyn Keene
Progress: 192/192 pages
The Bungalow Mystery
P.M. Carlson, Russell H. Tandy, Carolyn Keene
Progress: 204/204 pages

The Clockmaker's Daughter ★★★★☆

The Clockmaker’s Daughter - Kate Morton

I'm not sure how to review this one, and as I reflect on the issues I had with it, I'm not sure it deserved all 4 stars, but I'll let it stand, because in the end, I think my enjoyment of the characters and their stories overcomes the style and structure issues I had with it. 


First of all, I was surprised at the overtly supernatural elements to this story. Morton usually has some elements of fate or the gods or whatever embedded in her plots - she has to, in order to make them work, I think - but this is the first I can think of where there is an actual ghost. I'm not spoiler tagging that, because it's pretty apparent early on, even if not explicitly stated. I'm not disappointed in it, but after two months of reading for Halloween Bingo, I was looking for something a little more grounded in the real world. 


Second, the structure made this a difficult read. As the title implies, the nature of Time is a strong theme, and the author takes over a half dozen characters from across more than 150 years and weaves their stories together with a shifting timeline. Not only do we shift between different characters in different eras, we even shift back and forth within the timeline of each character. In the end, she *mostly* pulls them all together, so we can discover how they are each connected and the cause and effect between all the story's events, but getting there was difficult. I found it impossible to follow on audio and had to switch to hardcover so I could flip back to earlier pages to refresh my memory. Also, the voice of the titular character slips occasionally into first person, present tense, which I normally hate, but it is used sparingly and purposefully, and it fits as a storytelling device. 


Third, this is the first time I think the author was unsuccessful in tying up her loose ends and finishing the story. Maybe this was on purpose - again the nature of time and the human experience in it - but it felt just hastily finished and incomplete. I still had a lot of questions at the end. 


Last, though, is the strength of this book that lifts it above the technical problems. The characters are all wonderfully drawn. I invested in all of them, I invested in all of their stories, and I rooted for them, and I sympathized with them, and I even cried a little with some of them. 


I read using both hardcover and audio (via Audible) editions. Joanne Froggatt (of Downton Abbey fame) performs the audio and does a fine job with it, but I desperately missed the voice of Caroline Lee, who has performed all of the author's works up to now. 

PM's Festive Tasks 2018 Update #1

I finally found a way to indicate the partial reveals, full reveals, and number of activities/points per door. And I was able to work in my little cookie markers, so that makes me very happy! I'm trying to at least plan for all the book activities, although it's highly unlikely I'll read them all. 



Door 1 - Día de los Muertos; Task 2

Task 2:  Share your favorite gravestone epitaph (you know you have one).



I’m going to take this task in a slightly different direction, because this is deeply personal to me. In the true spirit of Día de los Muertos, I want to celebrate the life of a loved one, and to feel, if only for a moment, that he is with me again. My family took a trip this spring to scatter my father’s ashes in places that were meaningful to him, and although he has no tombstone, he was remembered by his friends with an epitaph from his own signature, used on emails, letters, birthday cards, etc.

In loving memory of Red Dawg

“Scourge of the West”

“Friend of the Working-Girl”


My dad was a founding member of his Cowboy Action Shooting club and was instrumental in growing their annual competitive shoot at this Hill Country ranch. He loved the sport, and he loved the friends he made in it. He loved the make-believe mashup of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of cheesy Western movies and TV shows, genre paperbacks, and real history that he consumed from boyhood. It allowed him to indulge his offbeat sense of humor to its fullest.


“Scourge of the West” is drawn from an old TV show where a bumbling army private accidentally becomes a hero. I’m less sure about “Friend of the Working Girl”, but it is used to toast Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts, and my dad loved old war movies almost as much as he did westerns.


The owner gave us permission to scatter some of his ashes here, and we paid special attention to the station bearing his shooting name, Red Dawg.


The pig rental joke is from Lonesome Dove, and he had adopted “Red Dawg’s Pig Rental” for his own.I had a licence plate frame made for him with the saying on it, and he kept it on his truck to the end.


I miss him.


This was a task for 2018’s game: The 24 Tasks of the Festive Season. This is Door #1: Día de los Muertos (November 1).


Door 1 - Día de los Muertos; Task 4

Task 4: If you like Mexican food, treat yourself to your favorite dish and share a photo of it.


Well, that was easy! Of course, authentic Mexican food is not easily found here, but our regionalized versions of it are so integral a part of our state identity that arguing over which city boasts the best Tex-Mex is just a part of regional rivalries like arguing over barbecue, skylines, and sports teams. My sister in Houston sneers at the “Dallas-Mex” we have here and insists that the best is to be found in Houston, but personally I think San Antonio has the tastiest.


I’m no cook, and the only Tex-Mex dish I can reliably make is fresh guacamole (yum!), but as we have even more Tex-Mex restaurants than store-front churches, I see no reason to learn. Last night, we had dinner at one of our favorites. Frankie’s is a local family chain of three restaurants, owned by two brothers originally from Guanajuato, Mexico, and their dishes are fresh, handmade, and inventive.


We started with chips and white cheese queso. After a long day at work, I also had a sangria-swirl frozen margarita.


For dinner, I had my favorite dish at Frankie’s, their spinach tamales topped with guiso, a wonderfully savory pork stew. My friend had the cheese enchiladas topped with queso sauce and beef fajita meat.


This always amazing dessert is a twist on traditional sopapillas. Instead of large hand-sized puffs of fried pastry, these are tiny bite-sized sopapillas piled in a bowl, drizzled in honey and topped with vanilla ice cream.


This was a task for 2018’s game: The 24 Tasks of the Festive Season. This is Door #1: Día de los Muertos (November 1).



Festive Marker Options

I know it's still Halloween, but I've been playing around with markers for the Festive Tasks while watching scary (sort of) movies and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. I haven't seen the final card yet, or the game rules, so this is modeled after last year and would be adjusted in content and colors to go with this year's card, but here are the options I'm considering. The cookies and trees are my favorites. 


Candle Marker


Holiday Cookies marker


Christmas Trees marker


Two different Ornaments markers


PM's Halloween Bingo Update #9: Blackout!

Once again, Halloween Bingo has been both great fun and very useful in helping me along in my bookish goals. I do have a little bit of a Bingo-hangover, though, and I've been trying to avoid any books with fantastical elements since I finished the last book. No such luck, though. Kate Morton has surprised me by including what seems to be a ghost/haunted house in her newest, The Clockmaker's Daughter, and I've been struggling a little with it. I might have to set it aside and come back to it later. 


Audible Halloween $6.95 Sale!

Carrion Comfort - Dan Simmons The Collector - John Fowles Joplin's Ghost - Tananarive Due Secondhand Spirits - Juliet Blackwell Thornwood House - Anna Romer The Lottery and Other Stories - Shirley Jackson FantasticLand - Mike Bockoven Hell House - Richard Matheson They Thirst - Robert R. McCammon Cold Moon Over Babylon - Michael McDowell

Oh boy, I took in a huge book haul. Just when I'm fed up on horror and mystery and ready for nothing but non-fantastical fiction for a while. But oh, well, these will keep until I'm ready for chills and thrills again. 

The Clockmaker's Daughter - progress 27/482pg

The Clockmaker’s Daughter - Kate Morton

Again, this might be a little Bingo hangover, but this is the first time I've abandoned the audio version of a Kate Morton book and switched to the hardcover version. It's also the first book of hers that wasn't narrated by Caroline Lee, whose voice I love. But this one is read by Joanne Froggatt (of Downton Abbey fame), and while she's doing a fine job, she's just not Caroline Lee. Anyway, the audio version was just skipping past my ears without sinking in. I had to keep rewinding and re-listening. So I picked up the hardcover and have fallen right in - I'm just about to where I dropped off the audio. 

Fragile Things - progress 85/360pg

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman

I think I might have a little bit of a bookish hangover after binge-reading my way through my entire Halloween Bingo card. I'm having trouble settling in to my first non-bingo books. But it might be this book. I normally am enchanted by Neil Gaiman, but I've been picking this book up and putting it down again since August. I'm starting to think that short stories are just not one of his many talents. 

The Return of the King - 70%

The Return of the King  - J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

     But as they came to the east end of the village, they met a barrier with a large board saying, NO ROAD; and behind it stood a large band of Shirriffs with staves in their hands and feathers in their caps, looking both important and rather scared.


     "What's all this?" said Frodo, feeling inclined to laugh. 


     "This is what it is, Mr. Baggins," said the leader of the Shirriffs, a two-feather hobbit. "You're arrested for Gate-breaking, and Tearing Up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-keepers, and Tresspassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings Without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food."


     "And what else?" said Frodo. 


     "That'll do to go on with," said the Shirriff leader. 


     "I can add some more if you like it," said Sam. "Calling Your Chief Names, Wishing to Punch His Pimply Face, and Thinking you Shirriffs look a lot of Tom-fools." 

PM's Halloween Bingo - Summary of Goals

Well. Not only has the Halloween Bingo been fun, it has really advanced this year's reading goals! For the game, I at least started and "finished" (with reviews) 32 books: 20 audios, 3 ebooks, and 9 bound books. Of those, I DNF'd 5 (one with the intention of going back to try again later), but completely read 27 (25 squares +2 wild cards).



  • 13 books knocked off my 2018 TBR mountain
  • 10 previously unread books from my physical bookshelves*
  • 1 book from my "remembering dad" project
  • 2 Book Riot's "We Need Diverse Books"
  • 2 Banned books
  • 0 Nancy Drew
  • 0 Public Library physical books


Not bad for 7 weeks of reading! I do need to step up my borrowing of physical books from my public library - I borrow plenty of digital media, but I know the library depends on borrowing stats to maintain its funding. 


*One book from my physical bookshelf doesn't count as read/completed, because I pulled it down, looked at it closely, and decided to just put it in my donation box unread because I didn't really want to read it. It was a freebie that I picked up somewhere, years ago, and had been cluttering up my bookshelves since. It counts to my bookshelf TBR project because it's an unread book removed from my shelf. I'm only letting myself buy 1 new book for every 2 I take off my bookshelf in an effort to keep myself from being buried in books. 

PM's Halloween Bingo Update #8 Now just waiting for blackout

I've finished reading and reviewing all 25 squares on my card, plus two wild cards, so now it's just a waiting game until my remaining squares are called so I can blackout. I'm still waiting on calls for Dead Lands, Baker Street Irregulars, and Modern Noir.



I've lost track of how many bingos we can get credit for before we get the blackout credits - I think we're allowed 4 bingos individually, then get 4 more when we blackout our cards? Anyway, I'm just going to keep tracking the individual bingos until I blackout. 


1st Bingo: Row 3 across: Suspense, Classic Horror, Free Read, Relics & Curiosities, Supernatural.

2nd Bingo: Diagonal B5-O1: Ghost Stories, Terrifying Women, Free Read, Cozy Mystery, Doomsday.

3rd Bingo: Column O down: Doomsday, New Release, Supernatural, Darkest London, Southern Gothic

4th Bingo: Row 4 across: Genre Horror, Terrifying Women, Murder Most Foul, Creepy Carnivals, Darkest London


With the today's call for Country House Mystery, I get two more:

5th Bingo: Diagonal B1-O5: Country House Mystery, A Grimm Tale, Free Read, Creepy Carnivals, Southern Gothic

6th Bingo: Corners & Center: Country House Mystery, Doomsday, Ghost Stories, Southern Gothic, Free Read


Then, with my last book read and reviewed today for Modern Masters, two more:

7th Bingo: Column N down: Modern Masters, Gothic, Free Read, Murder Most Foul, Amatuer Sleuth

8th Bingo: Row 1 across: Country House Mystery, Thirteen, Modern Masters, Diverse Voices, Doomsday


Kill Creek ★★★★☆

Kill Creek - Scott Thomas, Bernard Setaro Clark

How many ghost stories have I read where a group of people are invited to spend the night in a supposedly haunted house? Well, I don’t know, but it seems like about a gazillion. This one, though, was just different enough to thoroughly enjoy the modern twist where the guests are all horror authors – although each of very different and distinct styles – and the host is a celebrity producer of viral internet marketing schemes. While each character is a Type, they are not caricatures, and even the most dislikeable ones are still sympathetic in some way. The story is a bit of a slow burn, where there are merely hints of the unexplainable through the first half, but there will be plenty of graphic blood and gore by the end, with a final twist that took me by surprise.


I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Modern Masters of Horror: horror published in or after 2000. Kill Creek was published in 2017.

Audiobook, via Audible. I really enjoyed the narration by  Bernard Setaro Clark.


Previous Updates:

10/16/18 – 19%

Lullaby ★★★★☆

Lullaby - Jonathan Maberry, Scott Brick

Entirely predictable haunted house story, but still very enjoyable. The author does a fine job of creating the spooky atmosphere and mood and imagery, even if the plot and characters were a little thin. I think Scott Brick's excellent narration elevates it. 


Audiobook short story, free for download as part of their new 2 freebies/month Audible Originals perks for members. 

The Shadow of Polperro ★☆☆☆☆

The Shadow of Polperro - Frances Cowan

This book hits the jackpot of terrible books. The characters are uninteresting. The pace is amazingly slow for a 235 page book, with a lot of boring information about characters going places and completing mundane tasks that do nothing to advance the story. The egregious misuse of punctuation and sentence structure had me re-reading paragraphs multiple times in order to make any sense of them.


I’m not even going to bother with a synopsis, I’ve already spent more time on this book than it deserves.


I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Gothic: any book with significant: a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. It definitely fits the definition of gothic – spooky old ruined castle with a tragic history, strange accidents that might be supernatural in origin, beautiful young woman alone in the world and in peril, an old woman with supernatural gifts. And a handsome young man to give her a happily ever after, although it breaks from the gothic mold here as he is not darkly brooding and mysterious and a little violent in his temper and passions. He’s just a nice, stable young man with a good job.

Kill Creek - 19%

Kill Creek - Scott Thomas, Bernard Setaro Clark

Well, this is interesting so far. It's a new take on the old "manipulative weirdo invites 5 random people to spend the night in a haunted house" story. Except it's 4 people who are all writers of horror fiction and the manipulative weirdo's assistant. The characters are interesting, too. They seem like caricatures - they are each a Type, but somehow the author has written them so they are a little more than that.