Down the TBR Hole 26


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.

The Magician and the Spirits cover The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes

On one hand, I feel like I should be a completionist. On the other hand, this is a book for younger readers about a subject I know a lot about. So, I think…GO.

alt text A Man of Parts by David Lodge

Ah. This is the historical fiction with H. G. Wells. I’m decidedly less interested in this now that I’ve read more Wells (and enjoyed his fiction). I’ve become increasingly wary of literary fiction about famous people. GO.

Time After Time cover Time After Time by Karl Alexander

But! I still hold out hope for genre books with historical figures. H. G. Well musing on life? Eh. H. G. Wells using his time machine to follow Jack the Ripper into the future? I’m in. KEEP.

alt text Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows by Joshua Reynolds

KEEP. But I should probably read Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days first, huh?

Now You See Me cover Now You See It by Jane Tesh

A mystery involving magicians. Of course, KEEP, even if it is the third in a series.

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

Sunday Salon, 1/12/20

Sunday Salon


Finished Minor Mage and reviewed it. It was a spot-on beginning for the year. I also finished reading The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff. I’ve been reading through her works in the mornings during my off-the-grid self-reflection time. I love her voice and her enthusiasm for the things she loves.

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)

This week, I need to finish Trail of Lightning before it gets yoinked back by the library.


I went to the library and it became X-Men week… In the past year, I’ve been availing myself of the library’s DVD collection. I went for Dark Phoenix (2019), but I noticed that there was a “Rogue Cut” of X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). So, I checked out both.

Days of Future Past is my favorite X-Men movie, combining the best of the old and new cast/storylines. And the scenes with Quicksilver are too much fun. The “Rogue Cut” adds in a few scenes, including a subplot about rescuing Rogue in the future. The movie didn’t need this McGuffin and the plot was leaner without it. But I enjoy watching different versions of movies so it wasn’t lost time.

Dark Phoenix? Oof. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. It was just sort of…plain? I probably wasn’t helped by not watching X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) in the recent past. I’ve seen it, but I don’t really remember it. It’s really too bad because it’s a poor ending for a really good cast. I was pretty stoked by the possibiliy Sophie Turner as Jean Grey.

Not a movie, I decided to read the original “Dark Phoenix Saga” by Chris Claremont too. It is a lot different than than either of the movie version of the story.

The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Deal Me In, Week 2 ~ “Light And Space”


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

“Light and Space” by Ned Beauman

Card picked: J
Found at: The Guardian

Shortly after midnight on Christmas morning, a night watchman discovered me standing by Feretory with a fire axe held over my head. I am, or was, a senior member of MoMA’s curatorial staff, with a special interest in the Light and Space movement of the 1960s, and so naturally I’ve been called upon to give an account of why I should wish to destroy such an important work. My only reply is that in fact I wanted nothing less than to destroy it. Even after all that’s happened, I still recognise Feretory as a masterpiece. Destroying it would have been no more than an unavoidable consequence of what I really hoped to achieve with the axe that night.

The Story
This is one a several “Christmas” ghost stories that The Guardian ran in 2013. I bookmarked them probably in 2018, so I haven’t been sitting on them for *that* long. But it’s always fun to see where seasonal stories end up when you’re picking randomly.

Conroy Glasser is a 1960s “light and space” movement artist who worked in blocks of resin. His masterpiece, Feretory, is an impossibly seamless pillar of translucent plastic. What makes this sculpture even more mysterious is that the formula for the resin was proprietary, cooked up by Glasser and “a sympathetic polymer salesman from Hudson Plastic.” And also that Glasser’s wife disappeared around the time the sculpture was poured. And that Glasser committed suicide a few months later. And that in 1989 a curator of his works ended up in an mental institution after one of his assistants turned up dead. And that a collector of Glasser’s works from the same period as Feretory also committed suicide. The curator we meet in the quote above was also planning a new showing of Glassers, until he begins to suspect there are dark truths behind Glasser’s works.

In the real world there is no way that there wouldn’t be a thousand podcasts and YouTube videos about the (obvious) curse of Conroy Glasser and his art…

Conroy Glasser is fictitious, but the  Light and Space art moment is a real thing, involving minimal and abstract works that focused on the interplay of light, objects, and color. (That’s probably wildly inaccurate. I know very little about art.) Do an image Google search on Light and Space. You won’t be disappointed.

Also, a feretory is:

1. A receptacle to hold the relics of saints; a reliquary.
2. An area of a church in which reliquaries are kept.

The Author
Ned Beauman is a new author to me. He’s a British novelist, journalist, and critic. I enjoyed this story and I am tantalized by his novel The Teleportation Accident, “a hilarious sci-fi noir about sex, Satan, and teleportation devices.”

Pick a Card, Any Card

I’m not entirely sure if Light and Space can be accurately produced in two dimensions, but the back of these horizon playing cards might come close.

Horizon Playing Cards at Kardify
And at Kickstarter

{Book} Minor Mage

Minor Mage

Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher

Oliver was a very minor mage. His familiar reminded him of this several times a day.

He only knew three spells, and one of them was to control his allergy to armadillo dander. His attempts to summon elementals resulted in nosebleeds, and there is nothing more embarrassing than having your elemental leave the circle to get you a tissue, pat you comfortingly, and then disappear in a puff of magic. The armadillo had about wet himself laughing.

He was a very minor mage.

Unfortunately, he was all they had. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
T. Kingfisher (aka. Ursula Vernon) writes the type of light, funny fantasy that I enjoy, and that I’d like to write.

Programming Note
I’ve noticed that, especially in prose fiction but also in non-fiction and TV/movies, there are three basic things that keep me interested: plot, characters, and setting. A story doesn’t need all of these, but it can’t utterly fail in one of them either. I’ve decided I want to think about these three aspects in my “reviews.”

Minor Mage has a pretty simple plot. Oliver is a twelve year-old mage’s apprentice, whose master has died before teaching him much. Unfortunately, his village needs him to journey to find the Cloudherders and bring back rain to break a drought. That’s it. The story is his journey through a haunted forest filled with bandits. And who are the Cloudherders anyway? How will he manage when he only knows three spells and has a young armadillo as a familiar? It’s the limitations that make the plot good.

As I noted back in my Sunday Salon post, I started the year reading Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones. I put it down at the 20% mark because the plot was moving very slowly and, honestly, the creepy happenings weren’t enough to really hook me into the plot. There is probably a lot more going on plot-wise in The Twisted Ones, but it was taking sooo looong to get going.

T. Kingfisher’s strength is her characters. Oliver is admirable. He’s loyal to his community, but unsure of his own abilities and their motives for sending him off on his own. (He was going to go anyway!) He wants to be a more major mage, but his youth causes him to reach before becoming an expert at what he already knows. His familiar is an armadillo; only slightly wiser than Oliver and much more snarky. Their additional companion is a very peculiar minstrel who is always in trouble.

The setting isn’t too much different from generic medieval Europe. There’s a small village. There’s a haunted forest. Kingfisher does spice it up with quite a few plant details. There story does have some gore and some other creepy things which, if this were a movie, would probably put it in the PG-13 range despite the young main character.

Just the sort of fun, slightly absurd fantasy I was wanting. Great first full read of the year!

Original Publishing info: Red Wombat Studio, 2019
My Copy: OverDrive Read, Greater Phoenix Digital Library
Genre: fantasy

📚Bout of Books 27

Click through on the image for all the details!


I finished Minor Mage and took an X-Men detour. Total pages read? 569! That’s about normal for Bout of Books. I missed the chats… Next time! But a fun week of reading nonetheless.

Updates & Challenges

Sunday, Jan. 12th 2020
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff, pgs. 110-137 – Finished!
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont, pgs. 128-200 – Finished!
Trail of Lightning by by Rebecca Roanhorse, pgs. 55-68

Saturday, Jan. 11th 2020
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff, pgs. 100-109
“Light And Space” by Ned Beauman
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont, pgs. 1-127

Friday, Jan. 10th 2020
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff, pgs. 90-99
Trail of Lightning by by Rebecca Roanhorse, pgs. 29-54
The Ghost Tower of Inverness by Allen Hammack

The One With the Books in It

Thursday, Jan. 9th 2020
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff, pgs. 80-89
Dive Deeper by George Cotkin, pgs. 174-179
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, pgs. 452-455
Mesmerists, Monsters, and Machines by Martin Willis. pgs. 58-73
Trail of Lightning by by Rebecca Roanhorse, pgs. 21-28

Wednesday, Jan. 8th 2020
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff, pgs. 72-79
Trail of Lightning by by Rebecca Roanhorse, pgs. 2-20
Dive Deeper by George Cotkin, pgs. 171-173
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, pgs. 449-451

Bookish Matchmaking

Tuesday, Jan. 7th 2020
Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher, pgs. 93-179 – Finished!
Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker, pgs. 49-64
“The Oblong Box” by Edgar Allan Poe, pgs. 962-971

Share Your 2020 Reading Goals

Monday, Jan. 6th 2020
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff, pgs 61-71
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, pgs 440-448
Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher, pgs 52-92

Introduce yourself #insixwords

Preliminary TBR

Minor Mage Mesmerists, Monsters, and Machines: Science Fiction and the Cultures of Science in the Nineteenth Century Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)

Plus other books and stories!

Sunday Salon, 1/5/20

Sunday Salon


I finished 2019 with 84, Charing Cross Road and some Edgar Allan Poe. According to Goodreads, if I reread 84, Charing Cross Road, it’s in December. It’s another thing (like jazz music) that I associate with winter and with relaxing (in the midst of finals (when in college) or general holiday nuttiness).

My Poe story of the week was “Thou Art the Man,” one of his many stories that I wasn’t familiar with. Ninety-five percent of the story is a rather good mystery with a pretty bone-rattling climax. But I’ve noticed in a few cases, Poe isn’t very good at ending stories. In this case, there was a pretty exposition-heavy explanation of what had occurred.

I started 2020 with The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher, but I put it aside at about the 20% mark. Nothing much was really going on.

I’ll be participating in Bout of Books this week! Bout of Books is a relaxed week-long readathon. There are activities* and a couple of Twitter chats, but mostly it’s just about communal reading. I’m counting this as my post-holiday holiday.

* I’d say challenges, but in the land of readathons, “challenge” has come to mean reading to fulfill prompts. Bout of Books is old-school in its celebration of “read anything, just read.”

You know that tidy TBR I had a couple weeks ago? Totally blown up by library holds coming available. (Is that always the way?) My BoB TBR:

Minor Mage Mesmerists, Monsters, and Machines: Science Fiction and the Cultures of Science in the Nineteenth Century Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)


I watched three movies this past week:

Ghost Stories (2017), directed by Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson – There were some nice tense moments, but Ghost Stories ended up being schlockier than I expected.

Force Majeure (2014), directed by Ruben Östlund – A Swedish film. On the too-over-dramatic side for me, but I really enjoyed the long, static takes. Actually the reserved and removed style of film-making made it bearable.

Creed (2015), directed by Ryan Coogler – On the good side of unexpected, I really enjoyed Creed. To recuse myself, I grew up watching the Rocky films. I do have a certain amount of nostalgia for them. But there are so many ways this could have been a bad film. The seventh Rocky film? About Apollo Creed’s son? Being trained by Rocky? But it works. Even the maudlin subplot works.

Other Stuff

A couple of things I’d like to get done this coming week:

  • Take down the Christmas decorations. I’ve hit the point of, “Please, no more Christmas…”
  • Finish Take Off Your Pants outline for Wicked Witch Retired. I’m continually looking for better ways to plan my books. And by plan, I mean finish.
  • Eric has news article epigraphs in his books and occasionally I provide some different phrasings; so provide an alternate version of one of those.

The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Deal Me In, Week 1 ~ “What Tune the Enchantress Plays”


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

“What Tune the Enchantress Plays” by Peter S. Beagle

Card picked: 5
Found in: Sleight of Hand, Tachyon Publications, 2011

Ah, there you are. I was beginning to wonder.

No, no. Come in, do—it’s your lair, after all. Tidy, too, for a demon. I’d do something about those bones, myself, and whatever that is, over in the corner, that smelly wet thing. But each to his taste, I say; you probably wouldn’t think too much of my notions of décor, either. God knows, my mother doesn’t.

The Story
In the introduction to this story Peter S. Beagle admits that it is the voice of a character that comes easiest to him. As you can see from the beginning few sentences above, this story has a great deal of voice.

Our speaker is Breya, an enchantress of some power. She is from Kalagria where many of the women are witches, sorcerers, or enchantresses. Never the men, though. The men of Kalagria are carriers of magic. Furthermore, if a majkes of Kalagria marries an outsider, their daughters will not have any knack with magic. So, the story that Breya tells this demon before she sings him into oblivion at moonset is an unfortunate one: Breya’s true love was an outsider.

I didn’t remember this story from the first time I read back in 2011-ish. A different author five years later might have used this set up to tell a tale of gender reversal or maybe at least gender role reversal, but that’s not quite Beagle. Lathro, Breya’s love, goes off to become the man he thinks he needs to be. Breya goes after him under the advisement of her mother, who is bent on making Breya into the woman she needs to be.

The Author
Peter S. Beagle is best known as the author of The Last Unicorn, but he has a fairly large body of work. “What Tune the Enchantress Plays” is set in the same magical world as his novel The Innkeeper’s Song.

Pick a Card, Any Card

Music plays a role in this story and many of Beagle’s works. Vivaldi Playing Cards evoke some of that beauty and grace.

Vivaldi Kickstarter
And at Kardify