Monthly Archives: June 2018

Review ~ The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton

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

Cover via Goodreads

The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton And Other Singular Tales from the Victorian Press by Jeremy Clay

HOLIDAYMAKER FIGHTS OFF AFRICAN LION IN WELSH HOTEL ROOM

MAN SWALLOWS MOUSE AND DIES

WIFE DRIVEN MAD BY HUSBAND TICKLING FEET

PALLBEARER KILLED BY COFFIN IN GRAVEYARD

LIBERALS EAT DOG

From the newspaper archives of the British Library, Jeremy Clay has unearthed the long-lost stories that enthralled and appalled Victorian Britain.

Within these pages are the riotous farces and tragedies of 19th-century life, a time when life was hard, pleasures short-lived, and gloating over other people’s misfortune a thoroughly acceptable form of entertainment.

Deliciously appalling and deliriously funny, The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton will have you, one way or another, in tears. . . (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
One of my favorite things about the digital age is scanned historical newspapers. Sure, they’re primary sources, but of course with a twist. The press is never neutral and what’s reported is only a subset of what’s really going on. In the cracks are stories like “The Burglar Caught By a Skeleton.”

What Worked
Jeremy Clay does a great job gathering up a selection of the skrewiest Victorian news stories. Think that dumb bets are the invention of the Tide Pod generation? Not so! An “election enthusiast” in 1892 probably died after losing a bet and swallowing a live turtle. And I can only imagine that Aymard traveling from Thoissey to Lyon along the Saone on an ice flow, making pancakes along the way, would be a YouTube sensation. Details may change but many things don’t. Still, I’m not sure I’ve read anything lately that left me so often speechless.

The articles are sorted into categories, each with a brief preface by Clay to get you in the mood.

What Didn’t Work
The only thing to note: this is a dip-in book. Sit down intending to read it straight through and you’ll come away in a muddle. Better to read a couple articles a day and leisurely enjoy them. Most are quite short. In fact, and this is no fault of our editor, many of the newspaper writers ended their stories abruptly, leaving me to exclaim, “…but I have questions!”

Overall
The stories in The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton are sensational, often funny and often gruesome. Occasionally both. I consider it a fun, light read and entertaining glimpse into the Victorian era.

Publishing info, my copy: PDF/Kindle, Thistle Publishing, May 21, 2018
Acquired: date, place
Genre: genre

20 15 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books

Writing Update, 6/26

Writing Update pic
How’s It Going?
Good! I’m set to publish Our Past in the Uncanny Valley by Monday. Why Monday? July 2nd is the anniversary of its inception. The idea of an anthology of automata fiction came during a WesterCon panel on Victorian sci-fi. And below is the cover and table of contents:

“The Sand-man” by E. T. A. Hoffmann
“Automatons” by E. T. A. Hoffmann
“Maelzel’s Chess-Player” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Man that Was Used Up” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Artist of the Beautiful” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The Bell Tower” by Herman Melville
“The Automaton of Dobello” by H. D. Jenkins
“The Mullenville Mystery” by Julian Hawthorne
“In Love with an Automaton” by anonymous
“The Ablest Man in the World” by Edward Page Mitchell
“The Artificial Man: A Semi-Scientific Story” by Don Quichotte
“The Automatic Maid-of-All-Work” by M. L. Campbell
“Ely’s Automatic Housemaid” by Elizabeth W. Bellamy
“Mr. Corndropper’s Hired Man” by W. M. Stannard
“The Dancing Partner” by Jerome K. Jerome
“The Automaton Lady” by E. E. Kellett
“Moxon’s Master” by Ambrose Bierce
“Mr. Broadbent’s Information” by Henry A. Hering
“How I Won the Derby” by E. E. Kellett

About This WIP

Our Past in the Uncanny Valley is a collection of automaton stories from 1810-1910. From E. T. A. Hoffmann’s nightmarish Olimpia to the enigma of the mechanical chess-playing Turk to a plethora of humorous later-century robot maids, these stories show that our current fears about artificial intelligences aren’t new at all.

Anything Else?

I’m also working on the second Entangled Tome. Entangled Tomes will feature newly formatted versions of lost classics and curated anthologies of works from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first is Our Past in the Uncanny Valley. The second will be a reformatting of “Mephisto” the Marvellous Automaton which is a pamphlet about a chess-playing automaton—that isn’t the Turk.

Mephisto is putting me though my paces, formatting-wise, with images and tables and all sort of things. This is the first book I’m doing from the beginning in HTML. I’m enjoying the challenge.

It’s Monday, What Are You… 6/25

…Reading?

Finished Last Week:

Fall of Man in Wilmslow: A Novel of Alan TuringThe Burglar Caught by a Skeleton And Other Singular Tales from the Victorian PressDrive

Three books? I know, amazing (for me). I’ve already reviewed Fall of Man in Wilmslow and I’ll have a review of Jeremy Clay’s Victorian press anthology The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton (hopefully) on Thursday.

Drive by James Sallis was an impulse “read”: it’s a novella and I listened to it while working on a Minecraft project. I probably won’t review it. I was mostly interested in differences between it and the movie. I would say that the screenplay took certain aspects of the novella and streamlined them into a much smoother narrative. Some of the events in the novella feel more random, more real. Both have their advantages.

This Week:

The Floating Light Bulb (An Eli Marks Mystery Book 5)Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal

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

…Watching?

Penn & Teller: Fool Us is back on TV tonight if you’re in the States. Here’s a promo bit from the past week.

…Doing?

Gearing up for the release of Our Past in the Uncanny Valley. I’ll have a post on Wednesday with the cover. Otherwise, I’m girding myself for the long, hot part of the summer.

What Was I Doing?

(Apparently, the 25th of June isn’t historically a big blogging day for me…)

Deal Me In, Week 25 ~ “The Jack of Coins”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Jack of Coins” by Christopher Rowe

Card picked: 9
Found at: Tor.com

When the man came closer, we saw that he wasn’t a policeman at all. His uniform was something else altogether, something epauletted and braided and polished here and there to a high shine. He made us think of the illustrations from playing cards. The King of Clubs, some of us thought, or the Jack of Coins.

The story is set in a vaguely dystopian police state. Our narrator is one of a band of teenage punks, not yet actual rebels. And Jack, who doesn’t know his real name, does know of other places where things may not be better but are certainly different. The teens take in Jack and in exchange are given a shift in their perception of the world. We’re left wondering exactly where Jack came from—it certainly wasn’t just from across the forbidden park. And maybe he isn’t even *quite* human. He’s certainly unflappable as well as a little naive.

Rowe does a nice job of some quick and dirty world building for this fairly short story. Coins (as in the Jack of Coins) have been used as a card suit in the past and is still used in tarot. Funny thing, this story involves card throwing and it’s the second time this week that I’ve run into that in my reading. Therefore, you know I have to include a video of my favorite card thrower, Ricky Jay.

Review ~ Fall of Man in Wilmslow

Fall of Man in Wimslow cover via Goodreads

Fall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz, trans. George Goulding

From the author of the #1 best seller The Girl in the Spider’s Web—an electrifying thriller that begins with Alan Turing’s suicide and plunges into a post-war Britain of immeasurable repression, conformity and fear

On June 8, 1954, Alan Turing is found dead in his home in the sleepy suburb of Wilmslow—an apparent suicide. Investigators assumed he purposely ate a cyanide-laced apple because he was unable to cope with the humiliation of his criminal conviction for gross indecency. But Leonard Corell, a young detective constable who once dreamed of a career in higher mathematics, suspects greater forces are involved. In the face of opposition from his superiors and in the paranoid atmosphere of the Cold War, he inches closer to the truth and to one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Second World War–what was going on at Bletchley Park. With state secrets swirling in his mind and a growing fear that he is under surveillance, Corell realizes that he has much to learn about the dangers of forbidden knowledge. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Alan Turing was an interesting guy and I’ve been wanting to read more about him since being pretty disappointed with the movie The Imitation Game. Unfortunately, I think I originally believed that this was a nonfiction work, which it isn’t.

What Worked
Lagercrantz does a good job with the setting. He needs a repressed, tattered, paranoid 1950s England, and that’s certainly what we get.

The book also slips into some rather lengthy passages about mathematics that aren’t too confusing, though I’m only assuming that the information is correct. The main character, Corell, studied mathematics in his past, and his delves into the subject seemingly give him some insight into Turing. It’s an interesting way to look into the character of Turing, though I’m not sure it was entirely satisfying for someone (me) who wanted more of a factual character sketch.

What Didn’t Work
It took the majority of the book to get to the actual plot—a noir-ish bit of spy story. Yeah, the mathematics is a great way of getting to know Turing, but it ended up being a bit long.

I also didn’t quite buy Corell’s character development. It felt too rushed, squashed into the last forty pages of the book after being in a holding pattern. As is always the case with translations, I wonder if some of the occasional clunkiness of Corell might be due to English word choice.

Overall
Regardless, this book did pull me along. If you don’t mind some digressions into mathematics (as a philosophical endeavor), give it a try.

Publishing info, my copy: trade paperback, Vintage, 2017
Acquired: Won this book from Goodreads, 3/31/17
Genre: literary fiction, mystery

20 15 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books

Five Word Story Challenge

Balsamo

Balsalmo, from John Gaughan’s collection, Photo courtesy Michael Carbonaro

Lori @ Betwined Reads tagged me a couple weeks ago for this fun little writing challenge. I meant to get it done last week in place of my Wednesday writing update, but I’m not the best at keeping to a blogging schedule. Witness! this will be a Tuesday post.

The “Rules”

  • Thank the person who tagged you.
  • Close your eyes, open to random pages, and point your finger on a random word in the last book you have read. Articles do not count.
  • Repeat the above rule 5 times.
  • List the 5 random words you have.
  • Create a 5 sentence flash fiction using your 5 random words. Each sentence must contain at least one word from your list. You can change the tense of the word as needed.
  • Tag 3 people.

The Stuff

Thanks, Lori!

Okay, I actually picked my words last week from the book I had just finished:  The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick.

The Doctor and the Kid (Weird West Tales, #2)

My words: twisted, strange, justified, credibility, always.

My five sentences:

While the mainstay of his magic act was a talking skull, she had never thought of him as particularly twisted. Oh, sure, he was a little strange. Geniuses were justified in their eccentricities. But the contents of his workshop certainly lent some…credibility…to his reputation.

“He knows to always give any audience what they want,” grinned the skull.

My five sentences are somewhat inspired by the source material and the stories of automata that I’ve been reading and editing, but are mostly me reverting to a fanciful version of Joseffy and his marvelous creations, subjects I haven’t written about in a while.

I am terrible at tagging people. If you’re a writer, take some time out to do this exercise. It’s fun! And if you’re a reader, give it go too. Stories are everywhere!

Down the TBR Hole 14

TBRHole

This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

Empty Mansions cover Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell Jr.

Nonfiction about a 19th century industrialist family. I was going to say “go” but I’m sucked back in. KEEP.

A Very British Murder cover A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

On the other hand, this one doesn’t *quite* seem as interesting as when I added it. I think I’d rather just read Victorian literature. GO.

The Golden Day cover The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

Hmm… Yeah… I can kind of see why I added this to my list, but sounds a little more literary than I care for. GO.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell cover Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Look, we all cave to peer pressure sometimes. Adding this book to my TBR list is an example. I know a lot of people have enjoyed this book, but I doubt I’m ever going to want to invest the time in this 1000 page behemoth. GO.

Budapest cover Budapest by Chico Buarque, Alison Entrekin (Translation)

Wait, what? GO.

Kind of a Monday bloodbath in the TBR Hole…

Anyone have experience with any of these? Arguments for KEEP or GO?