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15 Books of Summer 2018

20 15 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books

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Down the TBR Hole 14

TBRHole

This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

Empty Mansions cover Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell Jr.

Nonfiction about a 19th century industrialist family. I was going to say “go” but I’m sucked back in. KEEP.

A Very British Murder cover A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

On the other hand, this one doesn’t *quite* seem as interesting as when I added it. I think I’d rather just read Victorian literature. GO.

The Golden Day cover The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

Hmm… Yeah… I can kind of see why I added this to my list, but sounds a little more literary than I care for. GO.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell cover Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Look, we all cave to peer pressure sometimes. Adding this book to my TBR list is an example. I know a lot of people have enjoyed this book, but I doubt I’m ever going to want to invest the time in this 1000 page behemoth. GO.

Budapest cover Budapest by Chico Buarque, Alison Entrekin (Translation)

Wait, what? GO.

Kind of a Monday bloodbath in the TBR Hole…

Anyone have experience with any of these? Arguments for KEEP or GO?

Deal Me In, Week 24 ~ “Bog Girl”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Bog Girl” by Karen Russell

Card picked: 4
Found at: The New Yorker

I don’t remember if I recognized Karen Russell when I added this story to my deck. Her novel Swamplandia! has been on the periphery of my TBR-eventually list. In this case, Swamplandia! will probably be bumped up the queue. One of the best reasons to read short stories is to get a taste for a writer you’re not familiar with.

The young turf-cutter fell hard for his first girlfriend while operating heavy machinery in the peatlands.

The girl that Cillian, the turf-cutter, falls for is a bog girl, a preserved corpse thousands of years old.

I’ve read a couple of magical realism novels this year and I was once again thrown into a off-kilter world where Bog Girl retains her slightly blue skin, coppery hair, and enigmatic smile  despite being exposed to the air. Also, Cillian is allowed to take her home. His mother isn’t pleased.  She’s afraid that Cillian will screw up his young life over the love of a girl, though instead of getting her pregnant, what if he decides to do something rash like going to the bog with her to stay?

Everyone else is pretty chill with Cillian’s silent girlfriend. She becomes rather popular at his high school. The in-crowd girls like her because she’s thin and will wear anything they give her. In fact, one of the things that Cillian like most about her is that she will silently, and smilingly, agree with his future plans.

Of course, everything changes one night when Bog Girl wakes up…

The writing is beautiful. While this story is sometimes uncomfortable, it doesn’t reach the level of unease that a Joyce Carol Oates story might.

It’s Monday, What Are You… 6/11

…Reading?

Fall of Man in Wilmslow: A Novel of Alan Turing Summerland
  •  Fall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz – About half way with this. It’s been a strangely fast read.
  • Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi – At the 20% mark. It’s been a strangely slow read.
  • And a bunch of short stories…

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Watching?

I’m watching The Toys that Made Us, a Netflix documentary series. Another way to take advantage of Gen X’s appetite for nostalgia? Yes. But there are some pretty good stories behind these toys too. Plus, the series highlights the number of people behind each toy line. Nothing, even toys, is ever created by one person alone in their basement.

…Doing?

I have nothing of note on the docket for the next month. Yes, I get more excited when I have nothing going on. Well, other than work.

What Was I Doing?

Cinema Saturday, Vol. 1

Cinema Saturday
I’m bringing back Cinema Saturday as an occasional feature to fill my weekend blogging spot when I don’t feel like talking about things I’ve read.

This post covers four films I watched between mid-May and early June. Links and info courtesy IMDB.

poster It Follows It Follows (2014)

Director: David Robert Mitchell
Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Stars: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi

I’m pretty late to this movie. If you don’t know the premise, it’s a play on the “sex kills” trope of many horror films. In this case, to avoid death the victim must have sex to pass on the curse. “It” follows slowly and unrelentingly, but what I found to be unsettling was house of cards aspect. If a sexual partner fails to pass on the curse and is killed, you’re back on hook to pass on the curse again.

I appreciated that there wasn’t some grand explanation of the curse. We don’t know it’s origin or end. All its lore is passed verbally.

Yoga Hosers poster Yoga Hosers (2016)

Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Stars: Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Johnny Depp

Yoga Hosers doesn’t really hold together as a horror movie or as teen movie (or whatever it’s trying to be), but it isn’t entirely unenjoyable. There are funny bits and some Kimmy Schmidt-esque ridiculousness and, well, bratzis. I’ve spent an hour and a half on worse things.

Destiny poster Destiny (1921)

Director: Fritz Lang
Writers: Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou
Stars: Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Bernhard Goetzke

On the far, far opposite side of the cinema coin is Destiny. I don’t watch many silent films. Honestly, this one ended up on my Netflix list because I didn’t realize that it was a 1921 film. I wasn’t paying attention and thought it was maybe something artsy from the 60s or 70s à la The Seventh Seal. But it’s quite good.

The plot: A young woman pleads with Death for the soul of her fiancé. She’s given three chances, in different times and places, to save a soul from death. If she succeeds, she gets her fiancé back. I’m was fairly impressed by the strong female character. She’s frightened and disconsolate, but she goes toe-to-toe with Death. I’m also impressed with the breadth of the plot. This is Doctor Who/Quantum Leap level fantasy as the Loving Couple inhabit three other story lines.

But the true star here is Lang’s visuals. Again, I don’t know much about the silent era of film-making, but the only modern era director I know of who stacks up in this respect is Tarsem Signh. Dear Filmmakers, you don’t need every bell and whistle to make a beautiful film.

A Knight's Tale poster A Knight’s Tale (2001)

Director: Brian Helgeland
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Stars: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell

A rewatch and one of my favorite films. It’s been a few years, probably, since I watched it last, but it really holds up. I find it to be one of the more cleverly written films with lots of threads and call-backs. Plus, especially good acting and editing. In many ways, it’s just a sports movie, but sports movies are one of my favorite genres.

Back in December, Tor blog columnist and medieval historian, Michael Livingston, defended it as being his favorite medieval film mostly due to its historical relationship, rather than its accuracy. I wholeheartedly agree.

Didn’t realize that all three of these were writer/director projects.

Review ~ The Doctor and the Kid

Cover: The Doctor and the Kid

The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick

Welcome to a West like you’ve never seen before! With the O. K. Corral and the battle with the thing that used to be Johnny Ringo behind him, the consumptive Doc Holliday makes his way to Deadwood, Colorado. But when a gambling loss drains his bankroll, Doc aims for quick cash as a bounty hunter. The biggest reward? Young, 20-year-old desperado known as Billy the Kid. With a steampunk twist on these classic characters, nothing can be as simple as it seems. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I was walking through the library and was waylaid by a “If you like West World, try…” shelf. Now, I like westerns. I don’t read many of them, but it’s a genre I like. I *want* to like the sub-genre of  weird west and I *want* to like steampunk, but I’ve often been burned by those. I’ve also somewhat sworn off books that have too many fictional versions of real people. So, why-oh-why did I check out this book?

The cover. Yep. I figured the Doctor was Doc Holliday and I didn’t know I wanted Doc “the Lunger” Holliday tricked out with steampunk gear. I read a few pages before I checked it out and it didn’t offend.

What Worked
The plot was okay, though it felt a little drawn out. Honestly, the weird west and steampunk elements worked pretty well. Better than any of the other books of these genres I’ve read. I think this was probably because it was a western first and didn’t go *too* overboard with the trappings. Yeah, there’s the problem of outfitting a town with technology without infrastructure, but…

What Didn’t Work
…no, actually that bugged me, but that wasn’t the biggest problem here.

Man, the dialog.

There’s a rule in writing that info-dumps are a no-no. I would argue that it depends on the size of the info-dump (usually). If it’s too big and dry, in the middle of fast-paced plot, that’s probably a problem. If it’s not that big of an info-dump… You know, characters *do* have to explain things to each other sometimes. And that’s okay. In the case of The Doctor and the Kid, info-dumps are handled through strings of dialog.

There are a lot of instances of Character A saying something and Character B asking “What’s that?” Character A gives a small explanation, but then Character B asks a variation of “What’s that?” Which leads Character A to give the second part of the answer. But Character A‘s explanation would have only been three or four sentences in the first place. This probably isn’t a problem once, but it’s every time, every character, on multiple subjects. It got tedious. Which I would guess is what Resnick was trying to avoid.

Overall
You know, I read the whole book. It frustrated me at times, but it was a quick, sometimes fun read. It pointed out something to me that I want to avoid in my writing, And it had a steampunk Doc Holliday and a great cover.

Publishing info, my copy: trade paperback, Pyr, 2011
Acquired: Tempe Public Library
Genre: weird west, steampunk

hosted by Nick @ One Catholic Life

20 15 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books

 

Wrapping May (thankfully)

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Deal Me In, Week 22 ~ “Fable”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Fable” by Charles Yu

Card picked: 5
Found at: The New Yorker

So, I’m fairly certain that I picked this story due to Tom Gauld’s illustration. (Check out the above link for it, or more of his work at his webpage. If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably familiar; I retweet him quite a bit.) Halfway through “Fable” I thought, “This story reminds me of what I consider the difference between YA and other adult fiction: YA asks, “What am I going to do?” and adult fiction asks, “What have I done?” And towards the end of the piece I thought, “Wait a minute. Charles Yu. Have I read other stories by him?”

As a matter of fact, I’ve read a whole collection by Charles Yu! And I enjoyed it! I just have a really bad memory. And rereading my review I thought the very same thing about those stories as I did this one. Charles Yu has a really good ear for telling stories to and about Generation X—a group raised on geek culture, who are reaching middle age.

Once upon a time, there was a man whose therapist thought it would be a good idea for the man to work through some stuff by telling a story about that stuff.

“Fable” is a about the stories we want to tell about ourselves and what our stories really are. The man in this story has made many compromises to have a comfortable life for his wife and for his special needs son. The metaphor of the fairy tale he uses doesn’t go far, but maybe it does lead him to a path through his own haunted woods.