Bookish Mysteries and Conspiracies

Hi everyone! I’m heading out of town this week so hopefully I’ll get some reading done. Since it is October, however, I decided to compile a list for you all about real life crimes and mysteries surrounding famous authors and/or their novels. I’ll leave links with more information if you find yourself intrigued. Let me know if I missed any or if you have a favorite. I love true crime as much as I love fictional crime.

The Life, Death, and Drama of Edgar Allan Poe: Poe, my favorite author lived a life that was just as macabre as any of his stories. Did he predict a real life ship wreck? Was his death a suicide, an accident, or a murder? Who paid tribute to him years after his death? To this day, we may never know the real story behind the godfather of gothic fiction.

The Disappearance (and Discovery) of Agatha Christie: In December of 1926, famous mystery author Agatha Christie disappeared in the early hours of the morning for eleven days. She remembered absolutely nothing and was found in perfectly good health. Many have speculated as to what happened but no one knows the answer except Christie herself. (Note: Doctor Who did an episode about Christie’s disappearance called “The Unicorn and The Wasp.” I highly recommend it.)

Did Shakespeare Even Exist?: This is quite possibly of one the oldest and most famous author related-mysteries. Is it possible that the greatest playwright of all time never actually existed? Theories range from Shakespeare being a collective group of people, a single female author, or even the pseudonym of Sir Francis Bacon. The topic is still up for debate.

The Voynich Manuscript aka The Most Mysterious Book Ever Written: Named after its discoverer, the Voynich Manuscript is a codex written in an unknown language and filled with illustrations that seem to be of an alien planet. Many have tried to decipher this book but no one has been successful. Who (or what) wrote the Voynich Manuscript?

The Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce: Years before Christie disappeared and reappeared, Ambrose Bierce took a trip to Mexico and never returned. Most known for his psychological horror stories, Bierce captured America’s imagination during the Civil War then he vanished into thin air. No one knows what happened to him and his body was never found.

Was Albert Camus Killed by the KGB?: Albert Camus, author of The Stranger and a Nobel Prize winner, was killed in a car accident on his way to visit his family, or was he? A new theory has emerged that Camus was killed by the KGB after publishing an article that criticized Russia’s military. Is there more to Camus’ death or was it simply a tragic accident?

The Book Sent by the Angels Themselves: John Dee, famous mathematician and occultist, found the Book of Soyga. This manuscript consists of 40,000 randomly distributed letters and, when decoded, reveals magic spells, astrological charts, and alchemy. Dee claims to have contacted the archangel Uriel in order to reveal the secrets of the book. Also, legend has it that anyone who decodes the book will perish in two-and-a-half years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Kind of Human, A New Kind of Murder: Reviewing Lock In by John Scalzi

Hi everyone! I am very excited to be ticking off another book off of my TBR list with another Scalzi novel. If you are interested, you can check out my review of his other novel Redshirts. This novel also ends my mystery novel kick but this one is a bit different as it falls more in the sci-fi category. You will see in a moment when I talk more about this novel. The terminology is a bit confusing so bear with me but I will do my best to explain everything. Anyways, here is my review of Lock In by John Scalzi.

A dangerous virus, named “Haden’s Syndrome,” swept the globe and caused sufferers to become “locked in.” They were completely aware and alive but couldn’t move or respond. A quarter of a century later, sufferers of Haden’s Syndrome (now just called Hadens) have found ways to function in the world through Integrators – humans who can help Hadens experience the world – or “threeps” – humanoid robots. Rookie FBI Agent Chris Shane (a Haden himself) and his veteran partner Leslie Vann are assigned to the case of an Integrator who appears to have murdered his Haden. As Shane and Vann follow the trails, they come to realize that this is a bigger mystery that involves Hadens and non-Hadens alike. The two find themselves in the middle of a conflict between the “old” human culture and the rising human subculture created by Haden’s Syndrome.

I want to say in advance that the terminology is a bit confusing at first. Scalzi was kind enough to create a little “cheat sheet” in the beginning of the novel in order to clarify his world building. It took me about four chapters before I became familiar with the slang but, after that, I could read the novel with ease. That’s also a good warning for any readers who may not be too familiar with science fiction and the world building in there. However, if you are an avid science fiction reader, then this novel should definitely go on your shelf as should any Scalzi novel. The world he creates is very intricate but cleverly crafted. Scalzi’s characters seem to thrive on their own in this strange world where one percent of the population must rely on other humans or robots in order to lead a normal existence. His main characters, Shane and Vann, have good chemistry and character development. As the story is told through Shane’s point of view, it gives the reader a better change to become familiar with the world of Haden’s. The dialogue is witty and realistic, with all of the new terms flowing seamlessly. There’s something a little cyber-punk about this novel that I enjoyed in particular. If you like murder and technology, then Lock In is the novel for you. Scalzi strikes again with his unique and hilarious writing along with his mashup of mystery and science fiction.

All My Soul Within Me Burning: Reviewing The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

Hi everyone! I am so glad to be bringing you another book review so soon. I practically raced to finish this book today. As you might know, I am a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe and I have been absolutely fascinated with his odd life as well as death. I saw the title of this book and could not resist. I promise not to be biased in this review but it does combine a lot of my favorite elements. I will now tell you my thoughts on The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl.

Quentin Hobson Clark, a young lawyer living in Baltimore, is devastated by the death of his favorite author, Edgar Allan Poe. Clark decides to take it upon himself to clear Poe’s name and solve the mystery behind the bizarre death. Quentin soon realizes that there is much more to Poe’s death than he imagined as it leads him to international police agents, assassinations, and the horror of the Baltimore slave trade. Clark finds soon that he must solve the mystery of Poe’s death or else he may befall the same fate.

At first, when I was reading this novel, I was afraid that it may simply lead back to the factual evidence of Poe’s death, which is still unsolved to this day. Instead, I found myself enthralled with the twists and turns that the plot took me on. The pacing is slow to begin with but I soon began to realize it was the beginning of a roller coaster. The novel avoids getting too convoluted but still provides enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. I was surprised by how intense this novel got but I absolutely love that. This novel is most definitely in the vein of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories with its gothic elements and atmospheric writing. I am so glad I stumble upon this novel. You don’t need to be a Poe fan but, if you are a Poe fan like me, then I highly recommend Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow as your next mystery/thriller novel.

Current Favorites: Podcasts Edition (Part 2)

Hi everyone! I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts. Therefore,  I decided to do another blog more of the podcasts I’ve discovered. Personally, I like to listen to podcasts while I’m working and I’m sure some of you like to do the same. Here are some suggestions if you’re looking for a new podcast or two to enjoy.

Alice Isn’t Dead – From the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, “Alice Isn’t Dead” follows the journey of our unnamed narrator as she decides to become a truck driver in order to find her wife Alice, who she once presumed to be dead. If you’re looking for a perfectly twisted and weird serial then this podcast is for you. I really enjoy this one, as I am a mystery junkie. You don’t have to be a fan of Night Vale in order to enjoy this series but it definitely holds up to the same level of weirdness if that’s what you’re looking for.

Alice Isn't Dead

Crime in Sports – Are you a sports fan? Well I’m not but this one definitely peaked my interest. Created by the same hosts as “Small Town Murder,” this podcasts explores the lives of athletes from various sports who fell from grace so hard that it’s mind boggling. You don’t need to know anything about sports in order to enjoy this podcast but, if you do have sports background, then this podcast is definitely for you.

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Harry Potter and the Sacred Text – I had to include a Harry Potter related podcast on this list and this is the one that appeals to my inner English Major. Join Vanessa and Casper as they delve into the series and analyze it chapter by chapter. This podcast provides a meaningful and thoughtful conversation about the magical books we all know and love.

Harry-Potter-and-the-Sacred-Text

Spirits – It’s time for some boozy talk about mythology, legends, and folk lore. For you fans of all things paranormal, supernatural, and alcoholic, then I recommend this podcast. It’s fairly light-hearted but still informative. Grab some wine and sit back as your hosts discuss legends from all over the world.

spirits

Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know – Get your tin foil hats ready before you listen to this podcasts that explores the strangest and most interesting conspiracies. Whether it’s a government cover up, alien invasion, or questionable death, this podcast covers it all. You might be just a little more paranoid after listening to one of these episodes but, I guarantee, you will be fascinated the entire time.

stuff they don't want you to know

That’s my part two. There are some more podcasts coming out in spring that I’m looking forward to that I might do individual reviews on. In the meanwhile, let me know if there’s any podcasts you enjoy that I might not know about or if you like any of these ones.

 

 

 

Very Few of Us are What We Seem: Reviewing Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Hi everyone. I am back and I’m going to give you my first book review of 2018. The only benefit of the freezing cold weather is it gives me more motivation to read. I have mentioned in the past that I am a big fan of mystery novels so I was very excited to read my first Agatha Christie novel. This one seemed appropriate as a movie adaptation came out last month/year. Anyways, before I ramble on, I will give you my thoughts on Murder on the Orient Express  by Agatha Christie.

The famous Orient Express was making its usually journey when it is stopped by a snowdrift. In the morning, one of its passengers, the millionaire Edward Ratchett is found dead with over a dozen stab wounds. Detective Hercule Poirot must take matters into his own hands as he tries to uncover which of the other passengers in the murderer. Surrounded by Ratchett’s enemies, Poirot must work quickly before the murderer takes another victim on the Orient Express.

Being that this is my first Christie novel, I was not entirely sure what to expect. Now, that I have read it I must say that I enjoyed this a lot more than other mystery novels I have read. The pacing of the novel was steady and rarely stopped for anything other than the main plot. This focus is beautifully woven into the character of Poirot, who was refreshing to read compared to more fast-thinking or gritty fictional detectives. As a reader, I felt that it gave me an opportunity to “solve” the crime myself. It reminded me a lot of a giant riddle but I enjoyed that aspect as I love solving complicated riddles and puzzles. I didn’t feel as though I was just waiting to the end for the conclusion but that I was able to come up with at least part of the conclusion myself. (No spoilers, I promise.) In the end, I really enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express and I will definitely pick up another Christie novel in the future.

Note: There is a really good Doctor Who episode about Agatha Christie that I recommend you watch.

Human Places Make Inhuman Monsters: Reviewing The Shining by Stephen King

Happy Halloween everyone! In honor of today, I decided I’m going to review one of the most classic horror novels from the master of horror novels himself. Despite the novel not being long, it took me a while to get through it but I survived the Overlook and I’m here to tell you about it so sit back and enjoy my review of Stephen King’s The Shining. 

Jack Torrance is troubled man struggling to overcome his personal demons. When he is given an offer to be a seasonal caretaker at the famous Overlook Hotel, he seizes the opportunity to offer a better life for his young family and to work on his writing. As a terrible winter creeps in, the Overlook begins to a reveal a darker side that brings about the worst in the Torrance family. Soon, Danny – the gifted child, Wendy – the caring wife, and Jack – the struggling writer must fight for survival against the long-buried ghosts lurking in the Overlook Hotel.

I have to admit that I have only recently seen the movie, along with finishing the novel. I must say that I was surprised by some of the drastic differences in the plot that were not shown in the movie. That, however, is a different tangent for a different time. The Shining is a brilliantly frightening novel that puts the reader into the isolation that the Torrance family faces. King’s narrative is a perfect balance of suspense, shock, and gore all wrapped up into one haunting novel. Surprisingly, this one of the shorter Stephen King novels so, if you don’t want to commit to one of his longer novels, then I recommend this one. Any horror fan is guaranteed to love this book as (in my opinion) it provides more shock and thrills than the Kubrick movie. Note: I’m not saying the movie is bad but, compared to the book, you would be surprised by how much Kubrick left out.

 

Thrills, Chills, and Gruesome Kills: Reviewing Broken Monster by Lauren Beukes

The mystery novel has been a reliable go-to for most readers. Whether its John Grisham, Janet Evanovich, or James Patterson, any of these authors have provided entertaining and intriguing murder mysteries that can keep your sanity going during a long car ride or plane trip. These writers, however, tend to become formulaic and you tend to read just to find out who the killer is. If you’re looking for a murder mystery novel that mixes it up, then keep reading to find out about Broken Monsters. 

As a detective working in Detroit, Gabriella Versado had thought she had seen it all. When a body of a boy that has been fused to the body of a deer appears, Versado realizes that something worse is about to strike the city. Meanwhile, her daughter, Layla, becomes involved with an internet stranger. A desperate journalist does whatever he can to find out more about Versado’s new crop of cases. A homeless man does whatever he can to protect his family from this new killer. Everyone soon gets caught up in a race to stop the killer who wants to reshape the world with his own artistic vision.

Broken Monsters provides a relief in the over-saturated mystery novel market. Beukes’s tone is almost humorous in how it sounds colloquial but that doesn’t detract from the overall dark tone of the novel. The characters’ story arcs are surprisingly relatable and it is easy to get attached to them. The trippy and macabre visuals that novel provides are vivid enough to send a shiver down your spine. Beukes crafts a mystery that you won’t be able to get enough of. I highly recommend this novel if you are a fan of mysteries and thrillers. It provides a story told in a unique voice with characters who stand out as real against the bizarre background.