Bout of Books 26

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, Twitter chats, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 26 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I need to finish up some formatting work, but then I’m calling in “sick.”


The Count of Monte Cristo Moby-Dick
Guilt Is a Ghost: A Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery (Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries Book 2) The Zombie Ball: (An Eli Marks Mystery Book 6) (The Eli Marks Mysteries) by [Gaspard, John]

I need to catch up on The Count of Monte Cristo and Moby-Dick readalongs. Then finish Guilt is a Ghost by Tim Prasil. By the end of the week, I hope have started The Zombie Ball by John Gaspard. Plus short stories:

  • “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “A Defender of Faith” by John D. Barry
  • “Tim’s Vacation” by L. E. Shattuck
  • “Wet Horses” by Alice MacGowan
  • A story for Deal Me In

Updates & Challenges


Moby-Dick, ch. 10-11
The Count of Monte Cristo, ch. 102-103
“A Defender of Faith”  by John D. Barry

Sunday Salon, 8/18/19

Sunday Salon

Reading and Such

I focused on working on the VOTS archive this week and that’s pretty much all I had the overhead for. So, not much reading was done. I’m behind on all my readalongs. I’m looking forward to participating in Bout of Books starting tomorrow.

During my bi-weekly trip to the library, I ended up reading “There’s a Hole in the City” by Richard Bowes (from Ghosts: Recent Hauntings, ed. Paula Guran, but also found at Nightmare magazine) while looking for Glen Hirshberg fiction. It’s a rather good ghost story, told in the wake of 9/11.

For Deal Me In, I picked my last wild card, 2. I went to my list of bookmarked stories and picked “Two Years Dead” by Kathryn Kania from Fireside Magazine. Yes, another ghost story. This one very sweet. Opening line: “When I opened up my OKCupid profile, I was already two years dead.”

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

There is definitely a trend occurring with my reading. Along with my classic readalongs I’m also reading lots of mysteries and ghost stories. I’m far away from the end of summer, but September is coming. And R.I.P. is coming…

TV of the Week

I said I was swearing off cinematic universes, but I guess I made an exception for a literary universe. I’m a sometimes Stephen King fan. Some of his work, I’ve liked; some, not as much. Castle Rock was pretty okay as far as  horror TV goes. I had recently tried to watch the first season of Channel Zero, but I didn’t really didn’t care for it. It seemed to go all over the place without doing a good enough job of world-building. I’ve usually liked American Horror Story, but each season seems to go on about five episodes too long at which point it goes off the rails. Castle Rock, of course, has a world in place and was restrained, for what it could be.

Other Stuff

I finished over half of what I had left of the VOTS archive. I would have gotten further, but we opened Fall League registration as well. So, more reformatting this week along with Bout of Books festivities.

The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Down the TBR Hole 24


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.

God's Bankers cover God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican by Gerald Posner

This book still sounds fascinating to me: history of a very secretive place/organization viewed through its accumulation and relation to money. The only way this could be more to my taste would be if it had something to do with magic. I’ll have to settle with just religion. KEEP.

The Bullet Catch cover The Bullet Catch by Amy Axelrod & David Axelrod

Speaking of magic… Oh, this book sounds pretty darn good, settling itself firmly in WWI-era without adding too many bells and whistles. KEEP.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder cover Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

I think every time I do this there is going to be one of those books that’s probably really good, that I added to my list due to recommendations, but if I haven’t gotten to it yet, I’m probably not going to get to it ever. This is that book this time. GO.

The Girl with No Hands cover The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales by Angela Slatter

I have way too many short stories on my plate as it is. GO.

alt text Great War Fashion: Tales from the History Wardrobe by Lucy Adlington

Ooo, this looks nice and crunchy. I’m not a fashion person, but clothes can tell you a lot about an era. And this is available as a reasonably priced ebook! KEEP.

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

Sunday Salon, 8/11/19

Sunday Salon

Books & Such

Finished The Spectacle of Illusion and posted a short review of it and Unmentionable. I also caught up on my Poe reading. I’ve been trying to read all the way through the unabridged Poe, but I’ll be honest: sometimes, Poe isn’t very good. I’m not a fan of snarky, satirical Poe.

The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe
The Count of Monte Cristo Moby Dick

I really didn’t plan to read this many “classics” at once but, well, that’s how it goes sometimes.  Tim Prasil’s Guilt is a Ghost is my “modern” pick for the week, at least in terms of author.

Ghost, Poe, the first Halloween decorations in stores, and football and basketball talk is turning my thoughts toward autumn readathons/challenges. Thinking about Monsterathon. Know of any others? Tell me about ’em!

Show of the Week

Forever (2014) is another of those not-great-but-fun shows that lasted maybe a season. The premise doesn’t really work if you think about it, but I like super longevity as a reason for a Holmes-like intellect. It’s the cast, though, that is especially enjoyable. If you’re in the US, you can watch on CW Seed.

Other Stuff

I find that I’ve become a chronic starter. I start a lot of projects, both professional and recreational, and then get annoyed at myself for not finishing things. (See also readalongs/reading challenges…) So, I want to work on that.

This week, I want to focus on the VOTS archive. A few years back, I switched the website to a responsive layout using Bootstrap. Most of the 20 year archive has been more or less converted, but there’s still a section from Fall 2007 through 2011 that is the old design.

Also in the realm of thing I took on that require more time and focus than I have available, I finished off the content from the screenwriting class. While I won’t be completing a screenplay in the near future, I did find some of the discussion on planning plot to be maybe helpful. Time will tell if it bears fruit.

The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Two Nonfiction Mini Reviews

Unmentionable Cover via Goodreads

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

Have you ever wished you could live in an earlier, more romantic era?

Ladies, welcome to the 19th century, where there’s arsenic in your face cream, a pot of cold pee sits under your bed, and all of your underwear is crotchless. (Why? Shush, dear. A lady doesn’t question.) (via Goodreads)

So, there’s this movie called Kate & Leopold. It came out in 2001, starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman. In it, Jackman’s gentlemanly, but smart Leopold falls through a time hole linking 1876 and 2001 and falls in love with Ryan’s successful, but lonely ad exec Kate. All in all, it’s one of those generally smart, funny rom coms that populated the 90s, but died out in the 2000s. It has a great supporting cast (Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer, Bradley Whitford) and a soundtrack song by Sting. I would utterly adore this movie (did I mention Hugh Jackman in a rom com?)…except for the ending. Spoiler for an 18 year old movie: Kate goes back to 1876 with Leopold to stay. She obviously hadn’t read Therese Oneill’s Unmentionable.

I love reading newspapers from the late Victorian era and I’ve been interested in the manners/health books of the era, but haven’t had the time to get into them. Oneill has done that work for me. Unmentionable goes into all the distinctly un-romantic aspects of being a woman (and really a white, upper-class woman) in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. The snarky tone is mostly funny, especially paired with illustrations and advertisement from the period. My one nag is that I wish dates were used a little more.

Original Publishing info: Little, Brown and Company, 2016
My Copy: OverDrive Read, Tempe Public Library
Genre: history, pop culture

Cover via Goodreads

The Spectacle of Illusion: Deception, Magic, and the Paranormal by Matthew Tompkins

In The Spectacle of Illusion, professional magician-turned experimental psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins investigates the arts of deception as practiced and popularized by mesmerists, magicians and psychics since the early 18th century. Organized thematically within a broadly chronological trajectory, this compelling book explores how illusions perpetuated by magicians and fraudulent mystics can not only deceive our senses but also teach us about the inner workings of our minds. Indeed, modern scientists are increasingly turning to magic tricks to develop new techniques to examine human perception, memory and belief. Beginning by discussing mesmerism and spiritualism, the book moves on to consider how professional magicians such as John Nevil Maskelyne and Harry Houdini engaged with these movements – particularly how they set out to challenge and debunk paranormal claims. It also relates the interactions between magicians, mystics and scientists over the past 200 years, and reveals how the researchers who attempted to investigate magical and paranormal phenomena were themselves deceived, and what this can teach us about deception. (via Goodreads)

The Spectacle of Illusion was published to coincide with Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic, an exhibit at the Wellcome Collection in London. (The exhibit is open until Sept. 15th, so if you’re in London and interested, you’re lucky and should go.) The book delves into how from the 18th century through the present we have approached the paranormal (a relatively recent term) from the point of view of science. The problem, though, is that science hasn’t always been good at dealing with human deception. Enter those masters of deception: the magicians. Of special note are the debunkers, like Maskelyne and Houdini, and the modern discipline of experimental psychology which investigates how our brain experiences non-normal experiences like magic tricks and “paranormal” events.

A Goodreads reviewer referred to this book as “specialist” and it occurs to me that I might have read so much on the above subjects that I don’t know what that means anymore. I think Thomkins provides a good introduction to these subjects without going too deep. This book didn’t break new ground in my knowledge base, but I highly enjoyed it.  The strength of The Spectacle of Illusion is the hundreds of pictures and illustrations found throughout. It’s a beautiful book, more on the coffee table book end of the spectrum than dry academic text.

Original Publishing info: Distributed Art Publishers (DAP), 2019
My Copy: Hardback purchased from Amazon
Genre: history, psychology, magic

Sunday Salon, 8/4/19

Sunday Salon

Books and Such

I decided last minute to join the “Reverse” Readathon. Usually, Dewey’s Readathon starts at 5am for me. 5am isn’t *terribly* early, but I never sleep well before it. The Reverse Readathon started 5pm on Friday and I enjoyed that more. I think I probably read as much as usual, but never felt totally wasted.

I finished reading PHYSIC, which I had been neglecting, read most of Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill (an impulse checkout), and listened to some M. R. James short stories.

Also this week I joined the Moby-Dick Readalong, hosted by Brona’s Books. While I’ve been wanting to reread Moby-Dick, I wasn’t going to until next year due to the readalongs that Nick is hosting, but I figured I’d be able to add a little white whale to my TBR.


I look forward to finishing The Spectacle of Illusion by Matthew Tompkins and starting Guilt is a Ghost by Tim Prasil.

Deal Me In: J “The Uninvited” by Michael Gilbert from Alfred Hitchcock’s Stories Not for the Nervous. There’s something charming about retired spies, living in the English countryside with a pet dog and a regularly scheduled backgammon game. Never mind the occasional murderous foreign national…

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

Movie of the Week

I decided that in August I want to stay away from the big franchises. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good superhero movie, but I’m just a little tired of sequels, remakes, and cinematic universes. So far in August, I’ve watched A Monster Calls and Hell or High Water.

As a part of my screenwriting class I also read the screenplay to Hell or High Water. There are some differences, but both are really, really good. It’s also really obvious how much movies are a collaborative process. The screenwriter provides a scaffold and so many of the details are added by the cast and crew. I really wish they had a video of the first scene. It’s a beautiful interpretation of what’s in the screenplay.

Other Stuff

We finally got some monsoons here in Arizona. Usually, we have some storms by mid-July, but we really didn’t get our first one until the 30th. Honestly, the high temps haven’t been super hot, but with no storm systems, the lows don’t get better than 88-ish degrees. It’s August though; only two more months of summer left!

Been watching more ultimate frisbee than I’ve been playing. Rain cancelled my Tuesday league game and Wednesday’s pickup game. Eric and I haven’t been getting out to run and throw either. Did throw some on an ambient-lit field the other night. I don’t remember the last time I went a week without at least throwing.

The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Review ~ The Violent Century

This book was provided to me by Tachyon Publications via NetGalley for review consideration.

The Violent Century cover

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

A bold experiment has mutated a small fraction of humanity. Nations race to harness the gifted, putting them to increasingly dark ends. At the dawn of global war, flashy American superheroes square off against sinister Germans and dissolute Russians. Increasingly depraved scientists conduct despicable research in the name of victory

British agents Fogg and Oblivion, recalled to the Retirement Bureau, have kept a treacherous secret for over forty years. But all heroes must choose when to join the fray, and to whom their allegiance is owed—even for just one perfect summer’s day. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I’ve been a fan of Lavie Tidhar’s writings, especially his Century Station stories. The Violent Century is not one of those…

What Worked
There is a small, poignant human story at the heart of this tale of superheroes and superhero-sized espionage. Unfortunately…

What Didn’t Work
The story was buried under a layer of style and structure that kept the characters at a distance.

Instead of quotation marks, dialog is sometimes set off with em dashes and is sometimes subsumed into the surrounding paragraph. The result made all the characters seem flat, like I was overhearing this story through a bad telephone connection or watching it through a screen door. I was too removed to care about the characters.

The narrative is jumbled through places and times. This could work, giving it a woven together feel, but sometimes the time digressions didn’t lead very far. Chapters felt like prologues and vignettes; it was only in the longer chapters that I ever got into a good rhythm with Fogg and Oblivion.

I don’t mind doing a little work when I read, especially when the subject matter is something that has been done, like superheroes. But reading The Violent Century was arduous. I kept hoping Tidhar would let the readers into the story, but that never happened.

Original Publishing info: Tachyon Publications, July 23, 2019
My Copy: Kindle and ePub ARCs, NetGalley
Genre: science fiction