Monthly Archives: April 2014

Deal Me In, Week 16 ~ “Crossing into the Empire”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Crossing into the Empire” by Robert Silverberg

Card picked: Jack of Hearts (I feel like I’ve read a lot of hearts, but it’s really clubs that I’ve read the most of.)

From: Beyond Imagination, ed. by David Copperfield and Janet Berliner

Review: “Crossing into the Empire” is a time-travel story of sorts, and I have a complicated relationship with time-travel stories.

The premise: About twice a year, the Byzantine Empire shows up in Chicago. The details are a little vague. When a slice/cube of the Empire/Constantinople appears, I’m not sure whether that portion of Chicago is likewise displaced or sort of “overwritten.” I assume, since it doesn’t seem to be an issue, that when the Empire leaves, Chicago is fine. What time period of the Empire is also a bit random.  Anywhere from the 4th century to the 1400s, but this story takes place in the mid- to late 1100s, during the reign of a semi-fictional Basil III. Since the comings and goings of the Empire is somewhat predictable and has become somewhat commonplace, antique dealers such as Mulreany cross over to do a little trade. Binoculars, compasses, and Coca-Cola are exchanged for gold and gem laden trinkets. Of course, the people of the Empire, though greedily willing to make a buck, are also weary of the “sorcery” that has been plaguing their city. And then, of course, there are the crossers that never come back, presumably stranded when the Empire leaves before they can return to Chicago. But maybe, another fate awaits them.

Story-wise, this is 95% set up and 5% twist ending. Which is…okay. It read easily enough, but every time Silverberg emphasized how routine crossings had become, how experienced Mulreany is, I absolutely knew that something bad was going to happen. And then there is the time-travel aspect. The world in 1150 was a very different place. It’s doubtful that even the most well-versed historian/anthropologist would be able to blend in. The germs are different, not having been subjected to the last 850 years of mutation. Let’s not even get into how giving ancient peoples technology could really hork up the future/present. And wouldn’t the influx of Byzantine artifacts crash the present day antiques market? Time-travel sets my system-loving teeth on edge. On the other hand, the concept of time-travel is so dang fun. Doctor Who is one of my favorite shows and time-travel tropes don’t bother me nearly as much when treated is such a whacky way.

About the Author: Prolific and lauded, Robert Silverberg has been writing in the SF genre since the mid-1950s. What I didn’t know is that Silverberg has also written dozens of non-fiction titles on numerous subjects under numerous pen names.

Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite Change in the Book World

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

What is one of the best changes in the literary/book world that you have noticed, since you have begun reading? What makes this change so great for you? The biggest change for me in the last 15 years has been how I procure books. And it’s pretty much all because of Amazon.

Way back in my childhood, I had four ways of getting books: the library, Scholastic book flyers (and later my mom’s Science Fiction Book Club catalog), Waldenbooks at the mall, and the book section of Star Realm, a comic/gaming/SF hobby shop. None of these avenues were particularly expansive. I didn’t start frequenting used bookstores until late in high school when I started keeping a list of books I wanted to read. This list was gleaned from author bios and articles I’d read in magazine and Who’s Whos. My mom never cared for owning used books and had a poor opinion of fantasy and romances. Our nearby buy-sell-trade store was 90% those two genres, so they never got much of her business or mine. Moving from Omaha to Lincoln for college was the first big change. Lincoln had a Barnes and Noble. It was the size of  five Waldens. Downtown Lincoln also had three major used bookstores and two university bookstores.  This was not only more books than I had ever imagined and a totally different selection of books. I realized there was value in going to book store in other places. As late as the early 2000s, I always insisted in stopping at local bookstores when Eric and I traveled.

Then happened. Suddenly, any book I’d ever wanted to read was available to me if it was in print. When they started hooking up with used sellers, that circle grew larger. That book of poetry collected by T. E. Lawrence that I loved in college? Available. My Harlan Ellison, Helene Hanff, Shirley Jackson, and Richard Laymon collections? If they’re not complete, it’s only because I can’t afford those books at the moment. I know that Amazon wasn’t the first into the ebook/ereader market and has certainly not been the only one, but they proved that ebooks and ereaders can be a market. Where Amazon has paved, others have followed. Now, I use Paperback Swap to find books as well. I frequent elibraries more than physical ones. I’m publishing my own books through Amazon and Smashwords.

I know there are downsides to Amazon. Brick and mortar stores can’t compete; the market is flooded with  works of variable quality. There’s drama, drama, drama when it comes to rating and reviewing. But, man, all the books…!

Review ~ The Thief of Always (and the thief of my weekend)


The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

Cover via Goodreads

Master storyteller and bestselling novelist Clive Barker creates an enchanting tale for both children and adults to cherish and retell. The Thief of Always tells the haunting story of Harvey, a bright 10-year-old who is suffering from the winter doldrums, and of a creature who takes him to a place where every day is filled with fun, and Christmas comes every night. (via Goodreads)

A week ago last Sunday, I received a key to participate the EverQuest Landmark closed beta. I’ve been a casual player of EverQuest and EverQuest 2 for years, but was only mildly interested in playing Landmark, the crafting sandbox precursor to EverQuest Next. Did I want to play something that’s still a little buggy and not fully functional? The key gave me a week to play around and, on Friday when the free week was nearly over, I plunked down $20 to continue harvesting and building. Next thing I knew, thieves of time that are computer MMOs had done a number on me. It was Sunday and I hadn’t read a word in 48 hours. Queue the audio books. I hunted up some audio books specific to the Once Upon a Time challenge. I figured, I’m playing in a fantasy world (roughly), why not listen to some fantasy fiction?

My first selection is a tad on the horror side, but still solidly in the land of fables. We begin in February, a gray beast of a month, with Harvey, a good kid who is terminally bored. He is the perfect target to be tempted by Mr. Hood and the Holiday House. Of course, there’s a catch and Harvey realizes that being a good, bored kid isn’t the worst thing. Despite the potential Bradbury feel of a 10-year-old learning to value time and mortality, this *is* a Clive Barker story. There’s some blood and gore. There are dead cats. There are scary, uncomfortable moments. Story-wise, the final confrontation between Harvey and Hood goes on maybe a little too long. The stakes alone are enough to make the battle important, not it’s number of rounds.

This is a “reread” for me and I own the hardback. The main disadvantage to listening to it is not having Barker’s lovely, creepy illustrations.

Media preview

After a week, this is what I had built in Landmark. It needs more flowers.


It’s Monday! What am I Reading? (4/14/14)

31Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between! This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!

Happy Monday Everyone!


Last week, I finished The Silver Linings Playbook and listened to The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. I’m not a big consumer of audio books, but occasionally they’re fun to listen to while grinding through MMO content. 😉

Glorious: A Novel of the American West Briar Rose: A Novel of the Fairy Tale Series

This week, I need to finish up the Tesla book and get started on Jeff Guinn’s Glorious (an ARC) and Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (for the Once Upon a Time Challenge).


None? None!

On the Blog

  • Tuesday: Review of The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick [Edit Tuesday, 09:14 – Change of plan: Review of The Thief of Always]
  • Thursday: is Thoughtful Thursday
  • Saturday: The one-eyed Jack bring me “Crossing Into the Empire” by Robert Silverberg for Deal Me In


Formatting Luck for Hire for Create Space. Reading/formatting Physic once Eric is though with his editing pass.

Deal Me In, Week 15 ~ “Disillusion”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Disillusion” by Edward Bryant

Card picked: Four of Hearts

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Review: Jack, an investigative reporter, and Ingrid, a fellow journalist and Jack’s lover, are assigned an exposé: the death of magic. Jack throws himself into his work, secretly filming the Great Mandragore’s act and carefully figuring out how each trick is done. Unfortunately, Ingrid is not cut out for this sort of story. Knowing the secrets behind the tricks sends her into a depression and ruins her relationship with Jack. Of course, the assignment isn’t what is seems and Jack’s boss at Real World magazine has ulterior motives.

After about three pages of this story, I had reservations. Characters weren’t acting in ways that people act. I feared this was a flaw in the writing, but in fact, it was a feature. Bryant has a very good reason for Jack and Ingrid being the way they are which isn’t evident until the last act of the story. I do wish there had been a little more background. After Eric Lustbader last week, who gives almost too much story, this tale seemed rushed.

This story deals with an issue I’ve come up against time and time again when reading about magic. Reveals and exposés, do they “kill” magic? For many people, knowing the secret behind a magic trick ruins the illusion for them. This is most of the reason why the “magicians never tell their secrets” rule exists.* This story was written in 1995-ish, before Fox’s Breaking the Magician’s Code series and the ease of rewatching clips of tricks on YouTube, and posited that revealing a magician’s secrets would pretty much ruin him and many people’s sense of wonder. Personally, I’m never disappointed to know the trick of the trick. To some extent, I appreciate magic more after knowing how much work and ingenuity goes into it. And despite reading yet another post on the decline of magic earlier this week, I don’t think audiences are so jaded that they aren’t at least sometimes still amazed.

* Regarding professional secrets, there is an interesting layered aspect to intellectual property rights within the magic community. At the bottom are tricks anyone can buy at a party store; at the top are things like Mr. Copperfield disappearing national monuments.

About the Author: Though fairly prolific, I haven’t read too much of Edward Bryant’s works. I’m mainly familiar with him in relation to Harlan Ellison, with whom Bryant has collaborated.

Is This Your Card?
After finally getting a more magic-driven story and one heavy on a magic “issue,” I’m sad that I don’t have a card trick for the Four of Hearts! Instead, I’m going to leave you with perhaps my favorite trick ever. This is Teller’s take on the classic Miser’s Dream.  I suppose it should be titled The Miser’s Dream of Gold(fish).

Thoughtful Thursday: What do you do with books that you’ve read?

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

What do you do with the books that you have read? Do you keep them? Donate them? Gift them? Return them to the library? Throw them away? Make them into arts & crafts projects? Has this changed during the years? Have you noticed a change in your perspective regarding read books?

I probably hold on to books longer than I should. There are very few that I’ll ever read again, but, you know, I *might.*

Back when I was in college, I generally engaged in a book sell-off at the end of every semester. These were mostly textbooks, but also some personal books. In December, it was usually because I needed extra money for Christmas and spring semester. In the spring, it was because I didn’t want to haul everything from my dorm to where I was spending the summer.  After nearly fifteen years in the same apartment, my books are fulfilling their Manifest Destiny: complete take-over of my living space.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.In 2006, in an effort to cull my collection and gain more books that I wanted, I joined PaperBackSwap. According to my profile I’ve sent 147 books and received 106. Wow. That’s…more than I expected. Unfortunately, PBS doesn’t accept ARCs and I’ve started to acquire a few of those. My plan is to volunteer them for Dewey’s Readathon, and if they’re not chosen as prizes, I’ll take them to my local used bookstore/charity store.

That only leaves some of the used mass-market paperbacks that are in really poor shape. I’m gentle with my books, but in many cases, I might be the third or fourth owner. They’re not in good enough shape to give away (certainly not through PBS), but I feel weird about throwing out books or using them in a crafty way.

[Edit: I didn’t even mention that my default for read books is keeping them!]

Review ~ Houdini: The Handcuff King

Houdini: The Handcuff King by Jason Lutes (Writer), Nick Bertozzi (Illustrator)

Cover via Goodreads

Harry Houdini mesmerized a generation of Americans when he was alive, and continues to do so 80 years after his death. This is a “snapshot” of Houdini’s life, centering on one of his most famous jumps. As Houdini prepares for a death-defying leap into the icy Charles River in Boston, biographer Jason Lutes and artist Nick Bertozzi reveal Houdini’s life and influence: from the anti-Semitism Houdini fought all his life, to the adulation of the American public; from his hounding by the press, to his loving relationship with his wife Bess; from his egoism to his insecurity; from his public persona — to the secret behind his most amazing trick! And it’s all in graphic form, so it’s fresh, original, and unlike anything previously published about this most fascinating of American showmen. (via Goodreads)

Quick read last week; quick review this week. I can’t do a better job summarizing than the above. The storytelling is good and I appreciated the attempt at making Houdini flawed. Like Nikola Tesla, the world wants to make Harry Houdini an uber-hero. This is never the case with anyone, no matter how famous and lauded. Lutes also did a good job showing the some of the behind-the-scenes people involved in the act and the Houdini publicity machine. (Working entirely on one’s own is another aspect of hero-ization.)  The art was good, especially illustrating the underwater parts of the stunt. An enjoyable read.

Publisher: Hyperion
Publication date: April 1st 2007
Genre: Graphic novel, biography
Why did I choose to read this book? Interest in magic and therefore Houdini