Midnight at the Blackbird Café (Re-read)

Midnight at the Blackbird CaféMidnight at the Blackbird Café
by Heather Webber
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250198594
Publication Date: July 16, 2019
Pages: 336
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: Forge

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.


I’ve been struggling all week with the logic failure of a local government that builds a heated, indoor pool billed as a rehabilitation pool, then not only opens it up to children, but books it just about rock-solid with swimming lessons, leaving the oldies and the injured cowering in corners of the pool while parents let their young ones run amok like it’s a water park, not a rehabilitation pool.

All that to say I needed a comfort read this weekend.  The kind of comfort only magical realism can provide at the moment.  Midnight at the Blackbird Café was sitting on my shelf, and brought to mind by my recent read of Webber’s newest magical realism book, The Lights of Sugarberry Cove.  I read Midnight when it first came out in 2019, and I’d forgotten enough that it was time to re-visit it.

In my original review, my biggest issue was that “The power of love is a wonderful thing indeed, but my nature is not one that is comfortable with being immersed in heart tugging storylines.”  This time around, that wasn’t so much an issue; either I was prepared for it, or I’ve read enough contemporary/MR since that I’m more accustomed to it.

What I did notice this time around, following as it did on the heels of The Lights of Sugarberry Cove, was the pacing.  This one started off much more slowly for me.  In fact it dragged for the first few chapters, until the two main characters started interacting with each other.  Once we’re there, the story finds its groove and it hummed along nicely for me.

I probably should have knocked the rating down to 3.5 stars because of the two, I like The Lights of Sugarberry Cove better, and because there’s no way any reader doesn’t know how this story ends.  But it’s meant to be a feel-good novel, and a comfort read.  I was comforted and felt better after reading it, so I’ll keep it at 4 stars.

Halloween Bingo Update, October 29; Another Halloween Bingo, done and dusted.

Well, the bingo gods strung me out to the very end, but with today’s call of Reclics and Curiosities my bingo card is complete and I have all the bingos.

I had a lot more fun with Bingo this year that I feared I would back in August, when my reading mojo, and just my overall life mojo was in a perilous state.

Taking a new approach to the game helped revive my enthusiasm to a degree, but by far the most uplifting and energising act I took was working with Christine and Themis-Athena to create a new, private site where the old BL gang could once again join together in an environment conducive to both games and general book conversations.  We’re all drowning in optimism now and I hope this is the start of a new era of bibliophilism for me.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
X Murder Most Foul Oct. 11 Charleston Green Sep. 18
X Lethal Games Oct. 18 No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
X Spellbound Oct. 22 The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
X Relics and Curiosities Oct. 30 On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
X Shifters Oct. 28 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Terror in a Small Town Oct. 14 Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
X Country House Mystery Oct. 25 Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
X Splatter Oct. 20 Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
X Cryptozoologist Oct. 10 Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Oct. 17 Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Halloween Bingo Update, October 20: 4th and 5th (and 6th) Bingo!

The Splatter square call gets me my 4th and 5th bingo, and it seems I missed seeing a 6th at some point.

They’re dropping like flies now.

I’ve had so much fun this year, and I think next year is going to be even better.

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
X Murder Most Foul Oct. 11 Charleston Green Sep. 18
X Lethal Games Oct. 18 No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Terror in a Small Town Oct. 14 Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
X Splatter Oct. 20 Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
X Cryptozoologist Oct. 10 Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Oct. 17 Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Halloween Bingo Update, October 18: 3rd Bingo!

I got my third bingo!

Lethal Games was today’s call and that gives me my third bingo.

There are only 13 days or so, of bingo left, and I’m down to 5 squares yet to be called, and only one of those calls won’t give me bingos.

I’ve had so much fun this year, and I think next year is going to be even better.

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
X Murder Most Foul Oct. 11 Charleston Green Sep. 18
X Lethal Games Oct. 18 No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Terror in a Small Town Oct. 14 Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
X Cryptozoologist Oct. 10 Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Oct. 17 Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Halloween Bingo Update, October 17: Second Bingo!

I got my second bingo!

Some might’ve wondered if I’d given up updating my Halloween Bingo, but it’s just taken this long to get the call that got me my second bingo, which was In the Dark, Dark Woods.

There are only 13 days of bingo left, and I have 6 squares yet to be called, so the bingos should be coming in thick and fast any day now.

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
X Murder Most Foul Oct. 11 Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Terror in a Small Town Oct. 14 Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
X Cryptozoologist Oct. 10 Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
X In the Dark, Dark Woods Oct. 17 Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Halloween Bingo Update, October 9: BINGO!

I got my first bingo!

I’m doubly happy I’ve blacked out my card as I’ve been sucked into a rabbit hole on a new project, so at least now it’s just about waiting on the calls.

Squares on my card that have been called: (this list is getting long so I’m putting it in a spoiler tag)
View Spoiler »

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
X Read by Candlelight/Flashlight Oct. 9 The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
Murder Most Foul Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
Terror in a Small Town Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
X Psych / Highway to Hell Oct. 6 Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
Cryptozoologist Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
In the Dark, Dark Woods Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Halloween Bingo Update, October 5: BLACKOUT

After my brief break from bingo reading, I finished The Ex Hex for my Read by Candlelight or Flashlight, and 2 short stories from my Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries omnibus for my Locked Room square.

That means:  CARD BLACKOUT!  I’m done!

I didn’t – really didn’t – think I’d black out my card this year, because I’ve been in a year+ long slump.  But I made one significant change this year:  I didn’t plan a single read, other than holding off on books I wanted to read until bingo started.  As much as I love the idea of book lists, and I love the activity of digging through my books to create these lists, it turns out I really hate being held to them, and it was killing my game enthusiasm.

It also helped, it’s true, that I’ve been on a rather long UF reading streak.  🙂

Now it’s just about waiting on the calls for the bingos to start rolling in.

Squares on my card that have been called: (this list is getting long so I’m putting it in a spoiler tag)
View Spoiler »

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
X Dem Bones Oct. 2 Independent Bones Sep. 14
Read by Candlelight/Flashlight The Ex Hex Oct. 4
Row #2
Murder Most Foul Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
Terror in a Small Town Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
Psych / Highway to Hell Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
X Genre: Mystery Oct. 5 The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
X Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28 Black Lizard’s Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries Oct. 5
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
Cryptozoologist Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
In the Dark, Dark Woods Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell

Locked Room Mysteries Omnibus

The Locked-Room MysteriesThe Locked-Room Mysteries
by Otto Penzler
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780307743961
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Pages: 941
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Vintage Crime / Black Lizard

In this definitive collection, Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler selects a multifarious mix from across the entire history of the locked room story, which should form the cornerstone of any crime reader's library.

Virtually all of the great writers of detective fiction have produced masterpieces in this genre, including Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, G.K. Chesterton, John Dickson Carr, Dashiell Hammett, Ngaio Marsh and Stephen King.

The purest kind of detective story involves a crime solved by observation and deduction, rather than luck, coincidence or confession. The supreme form of detection involves the explanation of an impossible crime, whether the sort of vanishing act that would make Houdini proud, a murder that leaves no visible trace, or the most unlikely villain imaginable.


 

My last square on my bingo card this year that needed to be read for was Locked Room Mystery.  I had several books that qualified, but none that appealed, so it was time to pull out my trusty omnibus, Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler.  I chose two previously unread stories: one I was sure to like, featuring The Saint, and one completely unknown to me but considered to be a locked room classic up there with The Hollow Man.


The Man Who Liked Toys by Leslie Charteris: four-stars

I liked this one about as much as I expected to – maybe a little less.  And I probably should have given it 3.5 stars instead of 4 because at its core it’s more a snapshot of a story than an actual story.  But the method of murder is ingenious.  I have to say though, The Saint isn’t nearly as dashing on paper as he is when he looks like Val Kilmer.


The Two Bottles of Relish by Lord Dunsany: five-stars

Well, I can see why this is one of the most re-printed locked room stories.  It has a Poe-esque quality to it, as it starts out a very normal, even vanilla, narration by someone who considers himself a Watson, and rapidly escalates towards the end into a mini-horror story.  I saw where it was going but now quite, and the ending … ends perfectly.  Any more would have diluted the effect completely, even with the superbly done writing.

 

I read these for 2021 Halloween Bingo, specifically for the Locked Room Mystery square.

The Ex Hex

The Ex HexThe Ex Hex
by Erin Sterling
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780063027473
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Pages: 320
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins

 

A departure for me, as this book is all about the romance, not a mystery plot that masks a little romance on the side.  But Whiskey in the Jar’s review made it sound cute and a lot of fun, so I grabbed it from my library.

It was fun, and it was cute.  I liked the N. Georgia setting and the brand of witchiness the story relied upon (think more Bewitched, less later-seasons-Charmed).  It was a nice change to read about a romantic hero that was Welsh instead of the tried and true Scottish or Irish male.

I mostly liked the relationships; the dynamic between Vivienne and her aunt and cousin, and especially the relationship between Rhys and his brothers.  The dynamic between Rhys and Simon, the father, felt forced and, the way it’s written here, kind of useless, as it really goes nowhere.

The narrative banter was the most enjoyable part of the book for me (that and the fact that the cat got a voice).  The banter kept me reading, even though I skimmed the romance and the angst, but that’s not the book, that’s just me.

Overall exactly what I was hoping for.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2021, and I read it at night, with my little book light for ambiance, making it work for Read by Candlelight or Flashlight; I was all ready to do the candle light, but I remember Easter-cats first confrontation with a candle flame, and her singed whiskers.  Pikachu has insanely long whiskers and an insatiable curiosity that didn’t bode well for the candlelit reading.

Halloween Bingo Update, October 1

Since my last update, I’ve read: bupkis.  Well, that’s not true, I have been on a re-reading binge of the urban fantasy series The Others, but none of those count for Halloween Bingo.  I do have a book lined up for Read by Candlelight or Flashlight, but I have to stay awake long enough to read it, and that’s been a problem lately.

Squares on my card that have been called:
Black Cat;
Tropical Terror;
Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses;
Plagues and Diseases
Vintage Mystery
Noir
Gallows Humor
Locked Room Mystery
Creepy Carnivals
Truly Terrifying

Accumulative reading table with links to reviews below the card.

The spreadsheet:

Bingo Square Date Called Book Title Date Read
Row #1
X Mad Scientists and Evil Geniuses Sep. 7 Naked Brunch Aug. 30
X Stone Cold Horror/Creepy Carnival Sep. 29 Wild Ride Sep. 1
X Vintage Mystery Sep. 23 The Filigree Ball Sep. 16
Dem Bones Independent Bones Sep. 14
Read by Candlelight/Flashlight
Row #2
Murder Most Foul Charleston Green Sep. 18
Lethal Games No Nest for the Wicket Sep. 1
Spellbound The Once and Future Witches Aug. 31
X Black Cat Sep. 15 Thornyhold Sep. 13
Relics and Curiosities On the Edge Sep. 8
Row #3
Shifters Naked Brunch Aug. 30
Terror in a Small Town Agnes and the Hitman Sep. 3
X FREE SPACE Like a Charm Sep. 7
Psych / Highway to Hell Archive of the Forgotten Sep. 3
X Truly Terrifying Oct. 1 The Cannonball Tree Mystery Sep. 5
Row #4
X Noir Sep. 24 The Big Over Easy Sep. 22
Genre: Mystery The Alchemist’s Illusion Sep. 2
Country House Mystery Murder Most Fair Sep. 16
X Tropical Terror Sep. 4 The Mimosa Tree Mystery Sep. 4
Locked Room Mystery Sep. 28
Row #5
Splatter Carpe Jugulum Sep. 9
Cryptozoologist Bayou Moon Sep. 11
X Plague and Disease Scourged Sep. 3
In the Dark, Dark Woods Paper & Blood Sep. 12
X Gallows Humor Sep. 25 Murder Most Fowl Sep. 10
  Wild Card Spell
  Amplification Spell
  Bingo Flip Spell
  Cell Conversion Spell
  Transfiguration Spell
  Double Trouble Spell