Mini Reviews, Vol. 3 ~ Me Before the Kitten Holy in the Nightingale’s Eye

MiniReviews

alt text Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen (Illustrator), Maarta Laiho

Lumberjanes was the perfect pick for 1am during the Readathon. It’s rollicking fun with a great cast of girls having adventures and being awesome. While I don’t require my adventure-having protagonists to be female, it’s really nice to see once in a while, you know? I wasn’t expecting the fantasy elements, but it wasn’t unwanted either. Lumberjanes totally lives up to the hype.

alt text “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A.S. Byatt

Despite the fact that they are a trope unto themselves, I think djinn are fairly underused in fiction. I always have my eye out for a good djinn tale.  This one is excellent, about how power over someone else can mold their destiny. Weighty, but it’s told with a light touch and is very funny on occasion. With many allusions to other literature and set against an academic conference, it reminded me of being in college.

TennisPlayer
Did you know that nightingale’s eye is a type of glass?
alt text Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I’ll be honest, I decided on this audio book after seeing a trailer for the impending movie. While not my usual reading fare, I was in the mood for a frothy romance. And, well, Me Before You has some of that…and quite a bit of seriousness too. I must say, I really appreciated the ending.

Magic Monday ~ Magical Podcasts

MagicMonday

I like Mondays. I also like magic. I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

On a Monday a couple of weeks ago, my Joseffy Google alert pointed me toward a podcast called Audio Dime Museum. “What is this?” I wondered, “and what does it have to do with my favorite magician?” There seemed to be a narrative structure and Joseffy’s episode was #6, so I figured I could easily start from the beginning. Each episode does have a narrative frame—the Curator spins tales about objects which seem to have have connections to you, a bothered visitor, and the strange goings-on at the museum. The tales, though, are true. Some dark, some wondrous, all are based on historical events.

dimelogoweb justastory

But that’s not all! Jake and Sam, the duo behind Audio Dime Museum, have another podcast: Just a Story. Dip in anywhere for discussions of urban legends and other pop culture spookiness. Of course, I really enjoyed the episode about ouija boards and spiritualism.

This is good stuff, my podcast listening friends.
Audio Dime Museum (on iTunes)
Just a Story (on iTunes)
Or find them on your favorite aggregator/app (like Short Orange)

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day

So, I have shelves full of books. But I went to the library a couple weeks ago and checked out three more books. And then I checked out Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism from the digital library (and finished it in a day), followed by Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. Not doing so well at #readMyOwnDamnBooks this month, but at least I’m finally getting some reading done. This week, I might also finish The Improbability Principle by David J. Hand.

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

What Am I Writing?

Should finish adding articles to David P. Abbott and The Open Court. I have two left, but also an article from the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research which might go in if it isn’t too redundant. And I guess I haven’t really decided on “Thoughts on Time, Space, and Existence” from The Monist

Deal Me In, Week 20 ~ “The Funeral”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Funeral” by Richard Matheson

Card picked: Jack of Diamonds
From: I Am Legend, and other stories

Thoughts:

Morton Silkline is a funeral director. He runs a reputable business and is willing to provide clients with anything they might need—if they can afford it, of course. Therefore, he has no problem providing the Eternal Rest room and a top of the line casket for Ludwig Asper when Asper says that money is no object. Unfortunately, Asper intends to enjoy his funeral to the fullest with all his very eccentric friends.

This was  an amusing tale, although I thought the language occasionally got in the way. For example, Silkline is in charge of Clooney’s Cut-Rate Catafalque. As a whole, the story doesn’t entirely keep up that tone. While Richard Matheson wrote several Twilight Zone episodes, “The Funeral” would fit perfectly into the ’80s anthology show Monsters, a late night favorite of mine when I was young.

What Else Wednesday ~ if Programming == Writing : continue

ElseWeds
What Programming Might Teach Me About Writing

For the past year, I’ve been taking a smattering of online programming classes. These are for my personal edification: not because I’m bent on a career change, but because it’s good to stretch your brain once in a while. Coding requires a different manner of problem solving than what I’m used to. Tasks are approached and torn apart in a more hierarchical manner, which can be foreign to a writer/reader of (mostly) linear narratives. But, I wonder if my process for programming can be adapted to writing.

Let me state, coming at this as a 40 year-old, I am probably not the world’s best coder. While I’ve been involved in webdesign for a while, HTML and CSS aren’t true coding languages. My process is probably ugly and possibly backward, but it gets the job done. Still, I apologize in advance to any engineer/coder I know who might read this.

For me, the process of coding goes something like this:

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A bit of code from my final BioInformatics assignment. There are print statements still intact, but commented out.
  1. Decide what the program should do.
  2. Stare at my blank text editor for 2-3 minutes and mutter “I have no idea what I’m doing” at least twice.
  3. Really consider what the program needs to do to get the end result and start breaking it down to its smallest components.
  4. Shrug. Begin to define functions (most of which I’ll need),  declare variables (some of which I won’t need), and write print statements that will give me feedback as I test each piece.
  5. Rare is the code of any complexity that executes as expected the first time…
    1. Error messages usually point to a specific line. I interpret what I’m being told and go back to step four and correct my error(s).
    2. Sometimes, the output isn’t at all what I expected and I have to go back to step three and figure out what I’ve made the program do versus what it should do.
  6. Repeat 3-5 until I have all the pieces working together to create a program that does what I wanted it to do. Remove the half dozen print statements I’ve been using to test various parts.

Now, I’m going to look at these steps to see what I can apply to writing:

Continue reading “What Else Wednesday ~ if Programming == Writing : continue”

Review ~ Gerald’s Game

Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

Cover via Goodreads
#myOwnDamnBook looks pretty much like this one!

Gerald and Jessie Burlingame have gone to their summer home on a warm weekday in October for a romantic getaway. After being handcuffed to her bedposts, Jessie tires of her husband’s games, but when Gerald refuses to stop, the evening ends with deadly consequences. Still handcuffed, Jessie is trapped and alone. Over the next 28 hours, in the lakeside house that has become a prison, Jessie will come face to face with all the things she has ever feared. (via Goodreads)

I decided to read this book because it’s a lightly connected companion to Dolores Claibore which I enjoyed quite a bit. Both novels have events that occur during a solar eclipse in 1963. Dolores and Jessie have visions of each other during the eclipse…for no particular reason. I seem to remember when it came out that this novel wasn’t well regarded. It does have a meandering structure. It begins with Jessie and her predicament, moves to her battling her inner demons through remembering an abuse event that happened to her as a child (in 1963), comes back to physical reality, and then ends with an explanation of events that might have been otherwise attributed to the supernatural.

Jessie’s immediate situation is good fodder for a horror novel: while handcuffed to a bed, her husband dies of a heart attack. The cuffs are real; the keys are on the other side of the room. Jessie frees herself, eventually, in the manner one would expect, though about 320 pages into the novel. I found this to be the affecting part of the novel. Blood and gore might not be the most sophisticated form of horror, but done well? Man…

The rest of the novel is less successful. The abuse event that happened to Jessie as a kid? I don’t know. It’s squicky, but there an aspect of it that just doesn’t ring entirely true to me. It felt like King was trying to come up with a situation that was bad, but not super bad. The problem is I’m not sure that sexual abuse by a family member happens in a sort of one-off manner.

The end portion of the novel involves Jessie’s efforts confront serial killer Raymond Andrew Joubert. He’s sort on an extra element in Gerald’s Game, a twist that really isn’t. To Nebraskans of a certain age-group, the name Joubert is charged. John Joubert *was* the boogie man in 1983 when two boys went missing. His crimes began in Maine. So, for a moment, I wondered if there was some real aspect to Raymond Andrew Joubert that I was missing; some real-life nod that I might have caught on to during the narrative. That wasn’t the case. The two Jouberts have little in common.

Gerald’s Game isn’t a terrible read, but it’s not King’s best by a long shot.

Publishing info, my copy: mass market paperback, Signet, 1993
Acquired: Book Maze, 2014
Genre: horror

Magic Monday ~ Houdini and Doyle, redux

MagicMonday

I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature. I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

For readers in the US, Houdini and Doyle finally premiered several weeks ago. Okay, maybe “finally” only applies me and a certain corner of the internet—magic/history buffs who were terribly interested in what this show would be like. While Houdini has had a greater amount of traction lately and Doyle, via Sherlock Holmes, is always on the edge of pop culture, it isn’t every day that a TV show features a magician as a major character along side one the most famous authors who ever lived. So, the question is: How is it?

It is…not very historically accurate. I know, shocking! Actually, as John Cox at Wild About Harry points out, the depictions of Houdini’s tricks are very good. Michael Weston’s Houdini is the most brash, American depiction of the man that has been seen on film, and it’s likely more accurate.

Continue reading “Magic Monday ~ Houdini and Doyle, redux”

Deal Me In, Week 19 ~ “Poe Posthumous”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Poe Posthumous; or, The Light House” by Joyce Carol Oates

Card picked: Nine of Hearts
From: Wild Nights! by Joyce Carol Oates

Thoughts: At week 19 of the year, I’m finally reading the first story from Wild Nights!, a Joyce Carol Oates collection subtitled “Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway.” A note at the end of the collection says that this story was suggested by a manuscript fragment found among Poe’s papers after his death.

“Poe Posthumous” proposes that instead of dying in October of 1849, Poe travels to an island in the South Pacific where he intends to spend the summer as a lone lighthouse keeper. His only companion is a terrier named Mercury. His patron is a doctor named Shaw who is interested in how animals (and man) deal with isolation. Poe insists in his diary that alone is how he *should* be leading his life. He is convinced that being man, Homo sapien , will save him from the insanity that has plagued the animals in Shaw’s previous experiments. After all, Poe gave up many wants for his wife, including physical lusts and eating meat. But, of course, Virginia is dead and Poe is alone. He insists that this isn’t a problem…

Obviously, things aren’t going to go well for Poe. What I didn’t expect was the fairly Lovecraftian turn of events. I half expected to find that Dr. Shaw is part of the Cthulhu Mythos. I often use discomfiting to describe Oates’ stories. This one was just sort of befuddling.