Deal Me In, Week 38 ~ “Just a Little Bug”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Just a Little Bug” by P.D. Cacek

Card picked: Six of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible

Comments: Well, that was disturbing. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. P.D. Cacek is a Stoker award winning author. I’m not super familiar with her work, but I know the name and I’m sure I’ve read a few of her stories in the past.

Kate’s young daughter Carrie has cancer. When first undergoing diagnosis, the doctor comments that her sickness is probably due to “just a little bug.” To avoid scaring Carrie, the comment turns into a lie –“Don’t worry, we’ll swat that little bug.” In typical kid fashion, as she grows sicker, Carrie becomes more convinced that what’s growing in her chest is not a tumor, but an actual bug. Kate starts to wonder if Carrie’s not wrong.

I’m not sure that adding a horror element on top of something as bad as cancer in a child really works. There’s also a very questionable act on the part of Carrie’s doctor that destroyed the realism that Cacek had otherwise carefully crafted. Still, it was nice to encounter a horror story, a rarity within these Copperfield anthologies.

Review ~ The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Cover via Goodreads

Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility. (via Goodreads)

I bought my copy of Kavalier & Clay in 2010-ish soon after reading Chabon’s excellent Sherlock Holmes tale The Final Solution. I remembered Kavalier & Clay being critically lauded, even though I don’t put a lot of stock in such things, but I didn’t really know what it was about. I had a notion that it involved the golden age of comics but was surprised when a recent friend told me that one of the main characters has some magic/escapist training. When I bought the book my interest in magic was at a low, but it seems that even when I read book summaries, I forget them before reading the book.

I like this book a lot. It may be that I’m not the best objective judge of Kavalier & Clay because there are so many individual parts that I was going to like.

  • Comics. I’m not a huge comics reader, but I find the history of comic books to be fascinating.  Checking back, I read David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague two months before The Final Solution. It’s no wonder I then picked up Kavalier & Clay.
  • The Golem of Prague. Golems are one of my favorite folklore beings. I’m going to guess it’s because of the juxtaposition of religion with magic. That isn’t the sort of thing that exists in the version of Christianity that I grew up in. There is also a level of ambiguity to the basic golem story. The golem is a neutral being, a tool.  The Golem of Prague has more of a cameo in Kavalier & Clay and I need to think a little more on its reappearance at the end of the novel.
  • Escape-ology. I loved that Joe Kavalier had this skill set, and had reason for it, but it wasn’t his career. His life took a different turn (multiple turns), but there was still use for lock picking and being able to deal with close quarters. Chabon does a great job returning to imagery again and again. If Kavalier & Clay were made into a movie, it could be a lot of fun for a cinematographer.

This is also a WWII story, but from the American side. It’s devastating to Joe to not be able to help is family. In domino effect, Joe’s reactions affect everyone around him. How many of these stories played out during WWII that haven’t been told?

One thing that I disliked were the tragic love story parts. I know that they work for the story. I know that Chabon isn’t just torturing his characters. I know that bliss is the opposite of drama.  But, man, I hate it when you know that happiness is being set up for tragedy.

Despite my pet peeve, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a great book. After 600+ pages, it ended too soon.

Publisher: August 25th 2001
Publication date: Picador USA
Genre: Literary, but genre

Finally started reading this book due to the Estella Project, but didn’t finish it in time.

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Deal Me In, Week 37 ~ “Indigo Moon”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Indigo Moon” by Janet Berliner

Card picked: Three of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible, edited by David Copperfield & Janet Berliner

Review: This story has a 90s TV movie feel. I can imagine very big hair and shoulder pads. It’s a thriller that takes a supernatural turn, a very 80s-90s thing to do. And maybe this nostalgia is also because I associate movies and fiction about Carlos the Jackal with that time period. The Jackal is one of our main characters and the target of some transformation magic. My one objection is that Berliner draws some direct supernatural lines between Carlos the Jackal and Jack the Ripper. These are two very different types of killers. Perhaps some other terrorist would have been a better fit?

(Quick review this week. I am enjoying some crisp fall weather away from my computer.)

Is This Your Card?

Deal Me In, Week 36 ~ “Geroldo’s Incredible Trick”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Geroldo’s Incredible Trick” by Raymond E. Feist

Card picked: King of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible

Review: Jerry, the Great Geroldo, and this step-daughter/assistant Jillian need to fire their booking agent. They find themselves playing a theater in (fictional) Nagafia. It is the stereotype of an unstable Middle Eastern country. “…the notice from the State Department only urges caution,” Jerry assures Jillian. The newly “elected” leader of the Nagafia is in the audience and he’s a hard man to amuse, but luckily, the Great Geroldo has an incredible trick that will be able to keep him and Jillian out of danger.

This story was okay, but I wish Feist would have done something a little different with that the unreasonable dictator trope.

About the Author: Raymond Feist is another big name in the realm of fantasy literature. I rather enjoyed the first trilogy in the Riftwar cycle and his stand-alone novel Faerie Tale.

Review ~ Tomboy

This book was provided to me by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Zest Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tomboy by Liz Prince

Cover via Goodreads

Growing up, Liz Prince wasn’t a girly girl, dressing in pink tutus or playing Pretty Pretty princess like the other girls in her neighborhood. But she wasn’t exactly one of the guys either, as she quickly learned when her Little League baseball coach exiled her to the outfield instead of letting her take the pitcher’s mound. Liz was somewhere in the middle, and Tomboy is the story of her struggle to find the place where she belonged.

Tomboy is a graphic novel about refusing gender boundaries, yet unwittingly embracing gender stereotypes at the same time, and realizing later in life that you can be just as much of a girl in jeans and a T-shirt as you can in a pink tutu. A memoir told anecdotally, Tomboy follows author and zine artist Liz Prince through her early childhood into adulthood and explores her ever-evolving struggles and wishes regarding what it means to “be a girl.” From staunchly refuting anything she perceived as being “girly” to the point of misogyny, to discovering through the punk community that your identity is whatever you make of it, regardless of your gender, Tomboy is as much humorous and honest as it is at points uncomfortable and heartbreaking. (via Goodreads)

According to Tomboy,  as a kid, Liz Prince was almost militantly anti-girly. You can’t blame her. As a tomboy, she’s slightly more accepted by boys, boys have the better toys, and, to young eyes, boys have the better lot in life. Why would anyone want to *make* her be a girl? The beauty of Liz Prince’s narrative is, even as we understand her point of view, we can see where there are definite flaws in her young self’s reasoning. Prince fumbles toward a more balanced view of others and herself in a realistic way. There is no epiphany; no Oprah “ah-ha” moment. Being a tomboy is an ongoing negotiation with the world. For a fellow tomboy, this is a book that let’s you know that you’re not alone. For everyone else, it’s a great insight into a different point of view.

I owned (and maybe still own) a collection of essays about tomboy-ness that I never finished reading. The editor of that collection seemed to have decided that there were two kinds of tomboys: girls who grew out of it at puberty, and girls who are tomboys because of sexual orientation (i.e. they’re gay). Neither of these theories fit me and that was distressing. Liz Prince’s life experience doesn’t fit me either, but her version of being a tomboy is more familiar. I like dresses and cute shoes (only comfortable ones), but I don’t wear make-up or own a single pink article of clothing. I’ve always liked boys (even as friends!) and equally liked “boy” stuff like science fiction and action movies. I’ve never cared if that bothers anyone, but I do realize that my point of view is very different from most women.

Publisher: Zest Books
Publication date: September 2nd 2014
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir

Deal Me In, Week 35 ~ “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman

Card picked: Ace of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination


I’ve noticed that I always have trouble putting together my thoughts about Neil Gaiman stories. It’s not that I find his works befuddling, but the layers of the story settle into a hierarchy in my thoughts rather than a simple line. It’s hard to make them into sentences.

A young writer’s first blockbuster novel is optioned to become a movie. He travels to Hollywood to meet with producers and to write the script. This story was published in 1996, so I’m not sure how much Neil Gaiman had been exposed to the Hollywood system at that time, but the writer’s experience seems very reminiscent of William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell?. Basically, the writer meets four different sets of producers/directors who have attached themselves to the project, the previous ones never to be heard from again. Each set know less and less about the project. It’s like a game of phone message. When the writer finally leaves, he’s writing a script for a totally different project.

The second thread of the story involves the titular goldfish pond at the old Hollywood hotel where the writer is staying. The pond is looked after by an aged groundskeeper who has been with the hotel since the 1920s. His name is Pious (“Sometimes I am, and sometimes I ain’t.”) and he tells the writer what he knows of old Hollywood–stories of who was popular and beautiful and what became of them. Of course, considering how the younger people of Hollywood have particular memories of people and events (the death of John Belushi is recounted by nearly everyone the writer encounters with the details always different), we wonder how reliable Pious is. Then again, he is the keeper of fish that are very old and maybe immortal.

And the third “other” story is about the writer trying, in his spare time between meetings, to write a story about Victorian stage magic. In particular he’s taken with the illusions known as the Artist’s Dream and the Enchanted Casement. Both were innovated in a time before TV and movies and both involve moving figures within a frame. Unfortunately, the young writer just can’t get a handle on what should happen in the story.

All of these threads, as well as the story of the writer’s original novel, are all woven together in 40 pages. It works well.

Is This Your Card?

I did have a card trick for the Ace of Spades, but I found rendition of the Artist’s Dream presented by Paul Daniels:

Review ~ Shadow Show

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller (Editor) & Mort Castle (Editor)

Cover via Goodreads

“What do you imagine when you hear the name” . . . Bradbury?

You might see rockets to Mars. Or bizarre circuses where otherworldly acts whirl in the center ring. Perhaps you travel to a dystopian future, where books are set ablaze . . . or to an out-of-the-way sideshow, where animated illustrations crawl across human skin. Or maybe, suddenly, you’re returned to a simpler time in small-town America, where summer perfumes the air and life is almost perfect . . . “almost.”

Ray Bradbury–peerless storyteller, poet of the impossible, and one of America’s most beloved authors–is a literary giant whose remarkable career has spanned seven decades. Now twenty-six of today’s most diverse and celebrated authors offer new short works in honor of the master; stories of heart, intelligence, and dark wonder from a remarkable range of creative artists. (via Goodreads)

According to Goodreads, it took me two years to read this book. This is why Deal Me In is helping me get through anthologies…

This anthology was published a month after Ray Bradbury’s death, but that was just a scheduling coincidence. I think I’d had it on my wishlist since December. I had been rather keen to buy it, but like most anthologies, it took me a while to get through it.

Previous Highlights:

I had three stories left and all of them were horror stories. “Hayleigh’s Dad” by Julia Keller and “Who Knocks?” by David Eggers both fell into that area of “bad things happening to girls who have adventures.” I hadn’t realized that Bradbury had set a precedence for this in his story “The Whole Town’s Sleeping.” While that’s a tense story, I’m disappointed that girls in Bradbury stories and Bradbury-esque stories are doomed to horrible fates.

I really enjoyed Kelly Link’s “Two Houses.” It’s a great combination of sci-fi and horror. It reminded me a little of Event Horizon. What makes a haunted house? Can you conjure a ghost by replicating a house perfectly? It’s not the last story in the book, but it was a great ending for me.

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication date: July 10th 2012
Genre: short stories, horror, fantasy
Why did I choose to read this book? I like Ray Bradbury