Monthly Archives: June 2014

Magic Monday Reviews ~ Houdini: A Life Worth Reading & Vera Van Slyke stories

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.

Houdini: A Life Worth Reading by Higher Read

Cover via Goodreads

Houdini was a man of magic and mystery. He was also a pilot, an author, an actor, and a rabid opponent of the Spiritualist movement. He was impatient of charlatans and imitators and loving to his family. He had an impressive ego. If any of these facts are new to you, then Houdini: A Life Worth Reading is the perfect primer on the man who was, by the end of his life, known only as Houdini. (via Goodreads)

I picked this up as a freebie from Amazon back in March. I don’t know what’s up with Higher Read as an “author,” but this short biography was well written and included chapter overviews and study questions. If, you know, you find Houdini to be an important enough guy to study. (Higher Read also has books on Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Thomas Jefferson.) In fact, I was pretty impressed with how neutral the biography is. It makes no bones about Houdini’s greatness as a showman and publicist or his massive ego. If I learned anything from this Houdini bio, it was that Houdini was sued more often than I had thought!

Publisher: Higher Read, LLC
Publication date: January 30th 2014
Genre: Biography

“The Minister’s Unveiling” & “The Ghost of Banquo’s Ghost” by Tim Prasil

vera-lida-oval-on-white1Tim Prasil’s Help for the Haunted stories are based on the manuscripts left to him by his great-grandaunt. The stories involve his great-grandaunt, Lucille, and her friendship with Vera Van Slyke, a journalist and occult detective in the early 1900s. Vera investigates hauntings and tries to put ghosts to rest. She’s smart, if occasionally absent-minded about frivolous details like personal names, and makes no apologies for it. Lucille, a debunked spirit medium, likes adventure a little more than a proper lady should and is game to help Vera in her investigations. They’re a great Holmesian/Watsonian(?) duo. The stories are fun with an appealing mixture of skepticism and the supernatural. Also it’s nice to see two women *doing things* in fiction. Both of these stories are currently free on Tim Prasil’s website, but only for a little while longer as he offers new stories. The third story “Skittering Holes” was released over the weekend!

Publisher: To be published later in the year in novel form from Emby Press
Genre: Ghost mysteries.

Because reading is better than real life b00k r3vi3ws

 

Deal Me In, Week 26 ~ “TechnoMagic”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“TechnoMagic” by Kevin J Anderson

Card picked: King of Hearts

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Review:

Clarke’s Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

(I would have been disappointed if no one had used this as the basis for a story in a genre anthology about magic.)

Taurindo is not originally from Las Vegas. He is, in fact, a xenosociologist stranded on Earth for twenty-seven years until a rescue mission arrives. What does an alien with “sufficiently advanced technology” do in the meantime? He becomes the Great Taurindo, the most popular magician on the Las Vegas Strip. The beauty of this tale is that Taurindo himself doesn’t understand the gizmo he uses to perform his tricks.

The machine was far beyond my level of understanding and education… The palm-sized gizmo worked, and that’s all I needed to know…

How much of our day-to-day is reliant on “gizmos” that might as well be magical for all our understanding of them?

This was short, completely enjoyable story.

About the Author: If you’re familiar with genre media tie-ins, you’ve probably heard of Kevin J. Anderson. He’s written dozens of novelizations and media tie-ins as well as his own original novels. Currently, he’s probably best known for expanding the Dune universe with Frank Herbert’s son, Brian.

Is This Your Card?

A pretty long, but very entertaining set by Christian Cagigal, who combines storytelling with card sleights. The King of Hearts makes his appearance during the second story.

Write On Review-a-Thon {5}

Write On Review-a-Thon

The Write On review-a-thon is a monthly event created and hosted by Brianna at The Book Vixen. It’s 2 days dedicated to getting reviews done, whether you have one review to write or 30+. This edition of the review-a-thon takes place all day Friday, June 27th and Saturday, June 28th. Let’s get those reviews done!

I probably won’t get to reviews until Saturday because I really need to do some writing writing today.

  • Tim Prasil’s first two Vera Van Slyke stories & Houdini: A Life Worth Reading by Higher Read for #COYER.
  • Penn & Teller’s How to Play in Traffic
  • The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert, which I should finish shortly.
  • Deal Me In post.
  • What Else in June post.
  • The Miracle Mongers, an Exposé by Harry Houdini, if I finish it. Update: Haven’t finished it, but have set up post/notes.

Wrap-Up

Didn’t get as much done as I wanted between health issues, annoying neighbors, and general goofing-off. I did finish my posts for the week. Since I want to get into the habit of writing posts on the weekend, this was a good thing.

Review ~ The Quick

This book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Quick by Lauren Owen

Cover via Goodreads

London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England. (via Goodreads)

I did not finish this book, stopping at about the 33% mark.

Reading that blurb, I am led to believe that I’m going to go along with Charlotte as she unravels the mystery of her brother’s disappearance. In the first 20% of this book, we grow up with Charlotte and James.  They’re good kids, though a little strange due to growing up in seclusion in rural England. Shy James goes away to school, while Charlotte stays to take care of things. Upon graduating, James, now a young man, sets up in London. He even falls in love. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded spending a whole novel living with James in happy domesticity in London. Frankly, the set up is perfect. I care about James. I care about Charlotte.

Then, The Quick utterly changes tone. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with doing bad things to good characters. We expect something untoward to happen to James. It’s there in the blurb. What I expect next is that smart, but unsavvy, Charlotte is going to solve the mystery while being in a lot of danger. I’m led to believe that my entrance into this mystery is Charlotte. We’re going to go together and uncover clues. I know a few mysterious things that Charlotte doesn’t but she’ll catch up.

But, the flow of information is way off in this novel. Owen tells us  what’s going on in London. Further, we have to endure a 25 year history of what has occurred.  I don’t have a problem with what the novel’s “twist” is. What I don’t understand is why I’m being told this, rather blandly, instead of finding it out within the tension of the mystery I’m expecting.

I really enjoyed the first ~20% of this book. I read that in one sitting. And then spent the next five days grinding through the next ~10%.

Publisher: Random House
Publication date: June 17th 2014
Genre: Horror
Why did I choose to read this book? Combination of cover and blurb made it sound interesting.

Magic Monday ~ Illusions and Once Upon a Time

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.

Just a quick semi-magic post while I’m still on vacation. While in San Diego, I visited the ILLUSION exhibit at the Reuben H. Fleet Center:

My favorite was definitely the bugs that would “crawl” from their monitor. In related optical illusion news, OK Go released a new video, an epicly done in one-shot:

 

SmallAce

Once Upon a Time Challenge

Saturday was the end of Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge. I dove in with, as usual, an overly ambitious plan. I had some notion of investigating the intersection between fable and magician’s biographies, which is probably going to be an on-going project for me. I have a lot of on-going projects. 😉 In the end, I read three short novels and a few short stories and had a lovely spring!

#COYER Summer Vacation

Because reading is better than real life
  1. You must create a sign-up post anytime between now and August 15th -on blog, goodreads, fb, google+, etc. Yes, that means you can sign up until August 15th! But don’t wait, you’ll miss most of the fun!
  2. You must link the sign-up post below (don’t link to your blog, link to the sign-up post).
  3. You must post your review books somewhere & link the reviews to the review linky to be eligible for one of the grand prize giveaways.
  4. Have Fun!

A couple of months back, I added the contents of my ereader to Goodreads. It increased my owned-but-not-read number by about 25%. I haven’t participated in COYER before, but now seems to be the perfect time to give it a go!

I have a lot of shorter works that I’ll post together in threes and fours. Here are a few books I plan on getting to:

Houdini: A Life Worth Reading Wool The Chronological Man: The Monster In The Mist Witch's Bone Gifted: A Donovan Circus Novel Coin Heist

Deal Me In, Week 25 ~ “The Sepia Postcard”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Sepia Postcard” by Steven Millhauser

Card picked: Four of Diamonds

From: The Barnum Museum

Review:

Sometimes, I rather adore Steven Millhauser with his dreamy stream-of-detail “narratives.” Sometimes, not so much. Maybe I only really like his stories when they cross paths with the things I have a particular love for, like magicians and semi-fantastical museums. (I’m looking forward to a story entitled “The Invention of Robert Herendeen.”) Or maybe I just need to read him when my situation is more concrete and less dreamy than a Millhauser story.

Our narrator, in the midst of having problems with his significant other, retreats to a sea-side town named Broome. It’s the off-season and rainy. Bored, he visits Broome’s shops and, at Plumshaw’s Rare Books, buys the titular sepia postcard. The scene in the postcard seems to subtly change in alarming ways each time our narrator looks at it. Having satisfied his need to “get away,” our narrator leaves Broome. “The Sepia Postcard” is an okay story, but is very light on plot and a little muddled in timeline.  The town of Broome is very much like any little touristy town you might find yourself in, and the events played out in the postcard isn’t very surprising. As a story, it’s just sort of there.

Is This Your Card?

One of the few David Copperfield clips I have and it’s for a non-Copperfield-anthology story!

The music in the background is from the Young Sherlock Holmes soundtrack, composed by Bruce Broughton.