Monthly Archives: October 2015

#RIPX and #15in31 Wrap-Up

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Image by Abigail Larson

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X

First off, a couple of Peril on the Screen mini reviews:

Nightcrawler (2014, dir. by Dan Gilroy) – Jake Gyllenhaal plays accident-chasing videographer Louis Bloom to sociopathic perfection. This is an uncomfortable movie. Good, but I doubt I’ll ever give it a rewatch.

Psycho II (1983, dir. by Richard Franklin), Psycho III (1986, dir. by Anthony Perkins) – Psycho is an absolute classic, but not even it could avoid the 80’s horror sequel cash-grab. To be fair, the Psycho sequels aren’t *too* bad. The second is a tidy little thriller: Norman Bates has been let back into society, but is he still a little mad, or is someone else pretending to be Mother? The third comes closest to being Gothic with themes of secret parentage and more of a focus on the moor-like surroundings. It also  has an occasional phantasmagoric quality, but isn’t as solid as a movie.

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Deal Me In, October Lunar Extra ~ “Perdita”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Perdita” by Hildegarde Hawthorne

Card picked: A Six

From: “Perdita” is available at Project Gutenberg

Thoughts:  A young couple have been granted a lease to stay at her Aunt Agnes’s ranch. Agnes has had a run of bad luck in life. She built the ranch after her husband died, but left it after her daughter died as well. Agnes is sure that the happiness of her niece and her new husband will lift the shadow that hangs over Alfalfa Ranch. But will that be enough?

For my Women in Horror Lunar Extras, I’ve been cribbing from Paula Cappa’s blog all year long. She describes “Perdita” as quiet horror and that’s pretty much the perfect description.  It has what I consider an older sensibility and is predictable. It’s also beautifully written. In such a short piece, Hawthorne draws an idyllic setting and then sends shivers up your spine.

About the Author: Hildegarde Hawthorne was a fairly prolific author (she started selling articles to magazines at age 16!) and the granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I look forward to adding more of her works to my future TBR lists. 🙂

Review ~ The Miser’s Dream

This book was provided to me by Henery Press via NetGalley.

The Miser’s Dream by John Gaspard

Cover via Goodreads

A casual glance out his apartment window turns Magician Eli Marks’ life upside down. After spotting a dead body in the projection booth of the movie theater next door, Eli is pulled into the hunt for the killer. As he attempts to puzzle out a solution to this classic locked room mystery, he must deal with a crisis of a more personal nature: the appearance of a rival magician who threatens not only Eli’s faith in himself as a performer, but his relationship with his girlfriend.

But the killer won’t wait and starts taking homicidal steps to bring Eli’s investigation to a quick and decisive end. Things get even worse when his magician rival offers his own plausible solution to the mystery. With all the oddball suspects gathered together, Eli must unveil the secrets to this movie-geek whodunit or find himself at the wrong end of the trick. (via Goodreads)

I’m slightly neurotic when it comes to series of and sequels to things I really enjoy. While I’m excited for more, I’m always apprehensive that the next might be bad and sully the rest. I once waited three years before watching season three of Justified because season two was so good…

This is John Gaspard’s 3rd Eli Marks mystery and, so, I was worried. As I read, all the elements that I enjoy were present:

  • I love seeing Minneapolis/St. Paul in the winter. A strong sense of place will get me every time.
  • Eli Marks can sometimes be a little putzy, but also endearing. In this book especially, he’s dealing with his status as mainly a party magician. I can relate to his questioning of craft and art when maybe things haven’t turned out like expected.
  • Lots of references to magic and magicians with just enough explanation that I think someone with no background in magic will be okay.
  • I’ve even finally taken a liking to the mysterious Mr. Lime. Sometimes, he’s a bit of a plot engine, but the character is quirky enough that Gaspard can get away with it.

But at the half way point, I thought I’d solved the mystery. And I was a little disappointed. Wonderfully though, John Gaspard exposes that red herring in a particularly funny and theatrical way by the end of the book. There was a different detail toward the end that I rolled my eyes at, but it’s minor and I’d had such a good time that I’m willing to let it go. And, neurotic or not, I look forward to the next Eli Marks mystery.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle ARC; The Miser’s Dream is out today 10/27!
Acquired: via NetGalley
Genre: Mystery

My favorite version of The Miser’s Dream, or, Money from Nothing:

#ROW80 ~ October 25th Update

Round 4, Week 3 Update

I used to have no problem writing 5K words a week. I used to have no problem sticking to my diet or keeping my apartment reasonably neat. In the last 5? years, not so much. Not sure what happened to the other me…

Writing

Week 3:

  • Seven scenes. Three of them are already over halfway done. – Not much progress since Wednesday.
  • Add new element, especially to the first few scenes. – Done, more or less. I’m still reading through, but the majority of the changes to early scenes have been made.
  • Timeline clean-up. I probably need to rearrange a few scenes and I need to make sure things are happening on the right day. I thought I was done, but I need to re-juggle a scene or two.
  • Note clean-up. Done. Until I leave myself more notes.

My two measurable goals:

  • Write First. Five days out of seven, 1 hour of work/500 words before noon. – Did it on Mon. & Tues. and then fell off the wagon.
  • Make a better list of further story ideas. – Done, such as it is.

Goals for Week 4:

  • Write First. Five days out of seven, 1 hour of work/500 words before noon.
  • Finish two partial scenes.
  • Merge two other scenes.
  • Write one other scene entirely.

Still optimistic that I’ll have this draft done by Saturday.

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Deal Me In, Week 43 ~ “The Fix”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Fix” by Thomas H. Cook

Card picked: Five of Diamonds

From: Murder on the Ropes, ed. Otto Penzler

Thoughts: When journalist Jack Burke spots Vinnie Teague on a crosstown bus, he decides to find out what happened when the “Shameful Shamrock” Teague took his career-ending dive.

Nearing the end of this anthology, I find that there hasn’t been a wide array of crimes associated with boxing in these stories. The whys and hows of taking a dive have been pretty prominent. This story is one of the shortest in the anthology and it contains one of the best characters. Vinnie Teague isn’t what he seems and neither was his poorly wrought boxing performance. Usually, a dive is meant to look like, well, not a dive. Teague went down after being grazed by washed-up Douggie Burns in a fight that should have been an easy KO. For Burke, it is one of the most perplexing things he’s ever seen in sports.

About the Author: I wasn’t familiar with Thomas H. Cook. It has also become obvious from this anthology how few thrillers I’ve read. If the writing prowess shown in this short story is any indication of his novel writing abilities, I just might become a fan of Thomas H. Cook.

#ROW80 ~ October 21st Update

Round 4, Week 2.5 Update

Just a quick update post, mostly to help me keep my head in the game.

Writing

Goals for Week 3+:

My goal is to have a first draft by the end of the month. This is what I have left:

  • Seven scenes. Three of them are already over halfway done. – Finished an “in-progress” and wrote a second scene. I also planned a change that eliminated one scene, but will lead to some rewriting. 4/7 left.
  • Add new element, especially to the first few scenes.
  • Timeline clean-up. I probably need to rearrange a few scenes and I need to make sure things are happening on the right day. Mostly done. Everything is in the right order.
  • Note clean-up. Done. Until I leave myself more notes.

My two measurable goals:

  • Write First. Five days out of seven, 1 hour of work/500 words before noon. – Monday & Tuesday – Not a lot of writing before noon, but  editing/organizing. Today, I’ve gotten 25 mins in so far.
  • Make a better list of further story ideas. – Started this.

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Review ~ Distant Waves

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Cover via Goodreads

From the author of REINCARNATION, another historical, supernatural romance, this time focusing on five sisters whose lives are intertwined with the sinking of the Titanic.

Science, spiritualism, history, and romance intertwine in Suzanne Weyn’s newest novel. Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla’s inventions dooms them…and one could save them. (via Goodreads)

And Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini are in this book too! Obviously, it pokes many of my historical fandom buttons.

In Distant Waves, history is stretched and twisted back on itself so that many of the events and relationships converge on 1912. There are a lot of inaccuracies, some of which Weyn addresses at the end of the book. To some extent this should be read as more of an alternative history rather than a historical fiction. There are certainly a few speculative touches that pull it away from realistic fiction.

It was a readable book, fairly well-paced despite a pretty long lead-up to the Titanic. It was great for the readathon and I read it cover to cover last Saturday.

I’m not quite sure what I think of Weyn’s Tesla. Not surprisingly to me, the main character Jane, a fan of Sherlock Holmes, takes a liking to the eccentric scientist, who manages to rescue them during his man-made New York earthquake.  We’re treated to a lot of “creative genius picked on by capitalism” stories. In regards to spiritualism, Weyn leaves things ambiguous and that’s a good line to take in this book.

There was one plot point that I kind of rolled my eyes at, even in the midst of all the other stretches. In this case, it was more of a concrete problem solved by overly lucky circumstances that could have been dealt with, I think, in a less complicated manner. (I know this pitfall well; it’s one I often fall victim to.)

Publishing info, my copy: Scholastic, Inc, trade paperback, 2009
Acquired: Paperback Swap, I think.
Genre: historical, speculative fiction

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