Halloween Read: “Thornhill” by Pam Smy


In 2017, Ella moves into a new house right next door to a crumbling mansion that is covered in DO NOT ENTER signs.  Soon, she begins to see the shadowy figure of a girl in the windows and in the garden of the abandoned property.

Ella's room

In 1982, Mary keeps a diary of her days at an orphanage called Thornhill, in the very top room, all alone but for her puppets.  She is tormented and bullied by another girl, referred to only as she.  After months, as the orphanage is getting ready to close, Mary is finally pushed too far.

Ella has lost her mother and her dad is always at work, so when mysterious puppets begin to appear in the garden next door, left as gifts, she’s more than happy to accept them.

All Mary wants is a friend.  And as scary story fans know, that’s never a good sign.






Marie’s Reading: “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer” by Sydney Padua

lovelace and babbageI loved The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.  It’s consistently charming, hilarious, smart, and incredibly informative.  What a great way to give Lovelace and Babbage a wonderful adventure and a happy ending.

Based on the very real friendship and partnership between Ada, Countess of Lovelace and Charles Babbage, this graphic novel takes place in a “pocket universe” where the two of them actually built the Difference Engine (Analytical Engine, if you want to be precise, but as Padua notes, Difference Engine sounds cooler).  Adventures and hijinx ensue, with tons of cameos from famous Victorians.


Padua’s writing and art are both delightful, lively and entertaining.  The footnotes and endnotes are extensive and fourth-wall-breaking.  Padua does a great job of explaining and contextualizing the history of computer science and mathematics (and pocket universes). This book grew out of her webcomic, which you can find here.  Her site is great, chock-full of fun extras and an adventure that didn’t make it into the book.

If you enjoy a blend of humor and history, and/or if you’re a Kate Beaton fan, you should give this a look!  Steampunk fans might find a lot to like, too.

invention of geek








Marie’s Reading: “Revival: A Rural Noir” by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

I was going to wait for Halloween to tell you about this one but I can’t because it’s too good and I want to talk about it now.


For one day in rural Wisconsin, the dead come back to life.  Now this small town has been quarantined by the government, the so-called “revivers” try to go back to some kind of “life,” and Officer Dana Cypress is put in charge of dealing with those who came back from the dead and the media attention that came with them.

Haunting, compelling, and gruesome where it needs to be, Revival works as a police procedural, as a horror story, and as the story of an isolated and struggling small town. It’s also a nice examination of life and death, and the complex relationship people have with both.

Full disclosure: I found out about Revival while eagerly gorging myself on the latest installment of Chew, which included a preview of the cross-over story that the creators of both comics put together.

From the crossover comic.  Gives you a sense of the spirit of the endeavor.

I can’t wait for the next installment of Revival.  You’ll be seeing this one again during Horror month.


Marie’s Reading: “Batman: The Long Halloween” by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale, with color by Gregory Wright

Batman_thelonghalloweenJust popping by to tell you about a comic book I read recently: Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale.

A gangster story with more than a few nods to The Godfather, The Long Halloween explores an episode very early in Batman’s career.  A serial killer nicknamed Holiday (because he or she commits murders on major holidays), is taking out members of one of Gotham City’s big crime families.  At the same time, Batman, Captain Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent have joined together to both find Holiday and to bring down the organized crime controlling the city.

Many of the big hitters from Batman’s Rogues Gallery make appearances.  Catwoman plays a large role here, with Batman and the reader unsure of her motivations and alliances.  Two-Face’s origin is a big part of the plot as well.

The artwork, with its dark shadows and creative framing, suits the story perfectly.  The action sequences and fight scenes are very well paced.  As I said, this story is a big homage to The Godfather, so expect some familiar shots.

It’s a good murder mystery, a good graphic novel, a good character piece, and a good Batman story.

I can tell you from personal experience that this is a good introduction to Batman if you’re Bat-curious and what you know about the Caped Crusader comes largely from cultural osmosis.  If you enjoy police procedurals and/or old-timey gangster movies, you might find a lot to like here.


Marie’s Favorite Reads of 2015

2015 was a tough reading year for me, in terms of favorite books.  In years past I’ve always had a few stand-outs, books I loved and devoured and then went off in search of more like them.  This year, not so much.

The sole honor in that category goes to Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, which I discovered and adored this past year.  French rekindled my love of Crime fiction, and I’ve been gravitating more and more toward that genre after spending quite a long time in Horror and Thriller/Suspense.  So the first in the series, In The Woods, is at the tip-top of my favorite reads list.

This past year has been tough in terms of getting out of my reading comfort zone as well.  Thanks to the lovely nonfiction reading group I belong to, I’ve been guaranteed to read at least one nonfiction title a month for the past year and a half.  I’m still really slow about it, though.  For some reason I never tear through nonfiction as I do a novel, despite the fact that we’ve read some great ones in that group.  You can check out our reading list here.  Though I loved them all, I starred my particular favorites.

All that said, here’s the pretty short list of my faves from 2015.  These aren’t necessarily books published in the past year, just ones I read.  Clicking on the title will take you to the blog post I wrote about the book.  Enjoy!

Marie’s Favorite Books of 2015

In the Woods

florence gordon



head full of ghosts


Tune in next time for the post where I’ll admit defeat on the Reading Challenge.   Happy reading!



January Simply Books! Meeting

Foiled!  Foiled by snow!  Snow!  Who knew that happened in Maine in the wintertime?!

The good news is that we weren’t entirely foiled.   We had a small but hardy band of people who live close by last Saturday.  Here are the books we talked about this month, as the storm raged outside:

saudi arabiaOn Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines, and Future by Karen Elliott House

some luckSome Luck by Jane Smiley

my brilliant friendMy Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

bravemuleBravemule: The Incredibly True Story of Raul the Coolest Mule In School Who Stood Up to Segregation  by Bennet Geis and Henry Chamberlin

reaperThe Reaper  by Peter Lovesey

secret placeThe Secret Place by Tana French

ChewChew by John Layman and Rob Guillory

If I survive yet another drive home tonight in the snowy blustery darkness, I’ll be facilitating our next meeting on Saturday, February 28th at 2pm in the Jean Picker Room.  If I don’t, it’s up to current members of Simply Books! to choose a successor.  And avenge me, of course.

Be safe, everyone!