Monthly Archives: July 2014

#COYER ~ Short Reviews of Short Works

And, they’re all free online! Yes, I know #COYER is supposed to be about cleaning out your ereader, but who doesn’t love free fiction?

“Abigail Abernathy: All-Night Analytical Engine Analyst” by T.R. Goodman

Cover via Goodreads

All Abigail Abernathy wants is a respectable job where she can put her knowledge of analytical engines to use. The Royel Trading Company of Bristol provides her with just such an opportunity, but not everyone is pleased to have her aboard. Between incompetent management, clients helpless beyond her imagination, and a disgruntled former analytical engine analyst who will stop at nothing to take back the job she unknowingly took from him, will her credulity, not to mention her sanity, be up to the task? It’s going to be a long night. (via Goodreads)

While I’m not much of a fan of the “improper” female Victorian character that spends time thinking about how improper she is, this was a fun story. This quick introductory tale is sort of what it might be like to be sys admin in a steampunk world.

“Abigail Abernathy: All-Night Analytical Engine Analyst” at Amazon

“The Rose of Fire” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Cover via Goodreads

Set at the time of the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century, “Rose of Fire” tells the story of the origins of the mysterious labyrinthine library, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which lies at the heart of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novels The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and now The Prisoner of Heaven. (via Goodreads)

Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series has been on my TBR list for a while now. “The Rose of Fire” was written between the second and third books, but is a prequel of sorts for the whole series. It’s a nice slice of background and doesn’t require any knowledge from the other books. My only disappointment is that the file on my Kindle includes an excerpt from The Prisoner of Heaven and I was looking forward to the story being much longer than it was.

“The Rose of Fire” at Amazon

“Strigoi” by Lavie Tidhar

Cover via Goodreads

First published in Interzone #242, September 2012. Cover artist, Warwick Fraser-Coombe

Lavie Tidhar is another author I keep meaning to read more of due to intriguing concepts. “Strigoi” takes the concept of the Romanian vampire and the shambleau from C. L. Moore’s story of the same name and sends it into space. The story focuses on Carmel, the turned victim of a strigoi. She left earth to see the universe and returns to Central Station in search of fitting in somewhere. I really liked the mash up of science fiction and traditional supernatural elements, but the story seemed to lose focus near the end.

“Strigoi” at Lavie Tidhar’s website

COYER SUMMER VACATION

#COYER ~ New to Me Readathon

Newtome

A best-seller and Hugo and Nebula nominees. All new to me! Perfect for a mini-readathon.

Wool (Wool, #1) Wakulla Springs Burning Girls
  • Wool, Part 1 by Hugh Howey – Finished!
  • “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan
  • “Burning Girls” by Veronica Schanoes – Finished!

Update 08/04/14 – Didn’t get quite as much reading done as I wanted over the weekend, but still a fair amount.

Magic Monday Review ~ Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena

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.

Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena by William E. Robinson

Magicians and spiritualists have pretty much been at odds since the spiritualist movement began. Contrary to popular belief, Houdini wasn’t the first to butt heads with fraudulent mediums. Not even close. William E. Robinson’s Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena was published in 1898 and it isn’t the first.

Before writing his treatise, Robinson (known later in his career as Chung Ling Soo) had dabbled in mediumistic performances. Notably, he was almost arrested in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair when his collaboration with magician Zanzic took a turn for the worse. They had built a sensational seance parlor with effects so realistic that it was impossible to convince sitters that no spirits were involved, not that Robinson or Zanzic were terribly interested in telling the truth. It was maybe a sense of guilt that later prompted the writing of Spirit Slate Writing, but more likely it was an opportunity to make a last little bit of money off some tricks that Robinson was no longer interested in.

The book covers various methods of slate writing and billet tests as well as some mentalism and a few more “magician” oriented tricks. The methods are broad, but not as in depth as David Abbott’s Behind the Scenes with the Mediums. That’s okay. Robinson’s text is much more accessible to a common reader.

There are occasions while reading this sort of book that I wonder if the author is putting me on. I know that part of magic is going to a ridiculous amount of effort for an effect, but… For example, there’s the Head Telegraph through which a confederate would signal the medium with answers to questions. The line ran to a device hidden in the mediums hair that would tap on her head in Morse code. This almost seems like a comedic parody method.

HeadTelegraph

SmallAce

What Am I Reading?

  • “Strigoi” by Lavie Tidhar – the third in a set of short works which I’ll review Thursday for #COYER
  • Continuing Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Started last week even though I’m in the middle of Great Expectations: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  • “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of” by Tad Williams for Deal Me In

On the Blog

I’m moving my review day to Thursdays (from Tuesdays) to even out my posting schedule. I’d also like to find a way of adding some posts related to Eric’s & my books, but I haven’t decided how to gracefully do that.

So, what are you reading? Any magic to share?

Deal Me In, Week 30 ~ “Rain”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Rain” by Steven Millhauser

Card picked: Seven of Diamonds

From: The Barnum Museum

Review:

“Rain” is a short vignette. There’s not so much a plot as a series of what-happens-to Mr. Porter when he comes out of a movie theater to find it raining. I know I’ve said it before, but I love the visual quality of Millhauser’s writing. A rainy night in the city is a beautiful thing and it’s captured so well in this story. It is an interesting companion to “The Sepia Postcard” which was full of daytime rain in wash-out tones of white and gray.

Mr. Porter is a very plain man. He’s well-dressed. He has an okay car and a cat at home. And if his life isn’t worth anything, he might just melt in the rain.

Is This Your Card?

Now You See Me was my favorite movie of last summer. This clip introduces each of the Four Horsemen with a signature trick. I had kind of assumed that a little movie magic had been used to isolate the seven of diamonds, but actually it’s an easy trick. Well, aside from the use of a building in the reveal. In fact, unlike a few other scenes in the movie, each of these four tricks is within the realm of what can be done.

(This is a fairly PG-rated clip. You’ve been warned.)

Write On #ReviewAThon {6}

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 Saturday, July 26th and Sunday, July 27th. Let’s get those reviews done!

It’s time for Review-a-thon again? Where did July go?

Tomboy: A Graphic MemoirAs usual, I don’t have an overly long list of reviews/bloggish things to do:

  • Review of Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena by William E. Robinson
  • Review of Tomboy by Liz Prince
  • Deal Me In post
  • What Else in July post Well, drafted.
  • Short review post for Thurs – Still reading

I might format a few posts too if I have time.

Wrap-Up – 07/28/14

I mostly cleared my list. My short review post is two-thirds finished. I didn’t get around to formatting any thing, which is okay. I really like the switch to Saturday/Sunday because I’m more inclined to give over a weekend to my blog, rather than a Friday.

Review ~ Vaclav & Lena

Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner

Cover via Goodreads

Vaclav and Lena, both the children of Russian émigrés, are at the same time from radically different worlds. While Vaclav’s burgeoning love of performing magic is indulged by hard-working parents pursuing the American dream, troubled orphan Lena is caught in a domestic situation no child should suffer through. Taken in as one of her own by Vaclav’s big-hearted mother, Lena might finally be able to blossom; in the naive young magician’s eyes, she is destined to be his “faithful assistant”…but after a horrific discovery, the two are ripped apart without even a goodbye. Years later, they meet again. But will their past once more conspire to keep them apart? (via Goodreads)

While reading this book, I did something I never do. I went on Goodreads and looked at some reviews. I was interested to know what Russian immigrants and their children thought of Vaclav & Lena. To me, it felt like there were a lot of stereotypes being presented. The voice of the book, especially when the narrative was focused on Vaclav, was full of a “was having, am being” dialect that really wore on me. Not surprisingly, the reviews of this book are pretty divided. Mostly, anyone who has emigrated from Russia to the US or is a child of immigrant parents doesn’t care for it. Aside from the stereotypes, the other most common comment was about how long it takes for young children to learn a second language (not long at all) and how many Russian parents only speak Russian in the home as a way of preserving heritage.

So, this isn’t an accurate presentation of the immigrant experience, and I wonder why Tanner, whose experience this isn’t, chose to write it.

Then there is the story. The first third of this book is about our titular characters at age nine. Vaclav is magic-obsessed and has been Lena’s only friend. He believes in two things: that he will be a great magician and that Lena will marry him and be his assistant. His ambitions are somewhat wince-worthy especially since Vaclav seems utterly blind to anything else going on. But then again, he is nine years-old.

The next two sections of the book outline the next eight years of their lives as they are apart, and also Lena’s past before she knew Vaclav and his family. The last section is their meeting again, at age seventeen. Lena has a traumatic past, some of which she cannot remember. On her seventeenth birthday she decides to find her parents and that the only person she feels she can trust to help her is Vaclav. So, she calls him up because he still lives where he’s always lived. (And I kind of wonder why she never called before.) What follows is…a lot of drama. Most of which seems very out of place. I found the ending, how characters ultimately choose to treat Lena, to be somewhat distasteful.

For all of that, I read this book very quickly, almost compulsively. Despite its faults, I wanted to know what was going to happen to Vaclav and Lena, or rather what had happened. The story bears comparison to Eleanor & Park, but less well written and a much less satisfying ending (and if you know how Eleanor & Park ends, you know that’s saying something).

Publisher: The Dial Press
Publication date: May 17th 2011
Genre: Literary/YA
Why did I choose to read this book? *sheepishly* You did notice the part about Vaclav wanting to be a magician, right?

Magic Monday Review ~ Optical Illusions

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.

This book was provided to me by Dover Publications via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Optical Illusions: An Eye-Popping Extravaganza of Visual Tricks by Gianni A. Sarcone & Marie-Jo Waeber

cover49770-medium

An image on a page appears to vibrate, a face gradually disappears, and a puzzling cat makes an appearance in this feast of fascinating optical tricks. Children and adults can discover the fascinating intersection of art, science, and magic in a series of geometric illusions, delusions, distortion effects, and other impossible images.

Designed and drawn by a famous puzzle maker, the book is intended to perplex readers, to excite their sense of wonder, and to encourage them to question the nature of reality. The optical illusions, which combine visual interest with elements of psychology and recreational logic, include many original illusions as well as new adaptations of lesser-known visual tricks. Each of the images is accompanied by a simple commentary that explains how it works. (via NetGalley)

A nice selection of shape, color, and figure illusions with a test/experiment chapter at the end. Of course, people are variable and some illusions don’t work as well as others depending on who you are. I realize this is a book aimed at kids, but I would have liked a little more science in the explanations, or maybe just the explanations closer to the illusions. It will be easier to page back and forth to the “solutions” in a physical book, but it might have been nice to have the explanations illustrated a little more.

I was also surprised that there were no full-page illusions. If you’re going to make my eyes go buggy, go big!

Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: Jun 18 2014
Genre: Non-fiction, puzzles
Why did I choose to read this book? Optical Illusions are fun!

SmallAce

What Am I Reading?

Wicked Wildfire Readathon continues until Thursday. In the queue for this week:

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – Meant to have this read by, um, today. Other shiny books got in the way.
  • On the magic side of things, Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena by William E. Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo
  • Back to Steven Milhauser this week for Deal Me in with his story “Rain”

So, what are you reading? Any magic to share?