Monthly Archives: January 2020

{Book} The Old English Baron

The Old English Baron

The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve

When Sir Philip Harclay returns to England after a long absence, he finds that his childhood friend, Arthur, Lord Lovel, is no longer alive, and that the castle and estates of the Lovel family have twice changed hands. But a mysteriously abandoned set of rooms in the castle of Lovel promises to disclose the secrets of the past. After a series of frantic episodes and surprising revelations, culminating in a trial by combat, the crimes of the usurper and the legitimacy of the true heir are finally discovered. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
This was my first Classics Club Spin book.

What Did I Think?
I gotta say, this book was a slog. I read about half and listened to a LibriVox recording of the rest. (Via YouTube, and for a volunteer reader, quite good!)

In Reeve’s introduction, she calls The Castle of Otranto to task.

For instance; we can conceive, and allow of, the appearance of a ghost; we can even dispense with an enchanted sword and helmet; but then they must keep within certain limits of credibility: A sword so large as to require an hundred men to lift it; a helmet that by its own weight forces a passage through a court-yard into an arched vault, big enough for a man to go through; a picture that walks out of its frame; a skeleton ghost in a hermit’s cowl:—When your expectation is wound up to the highest pitch, these circumstances take it down with a witness, destroy the work of imagination, and, instead of attention, excite laughter.

This might be the case when the genre of the gothic novel was new. But, after 200 years of the Scooby-Doo-ification of the gothic, it was the over-the-top absurdity of Otranto that I really enjoyed. So, Reeve isn’t wrong, I guess. But also for a modern reader, to dial back the strange to a very minimal level, it’s just not too compelling. I feel like so much of the gothic genre has become cliche; I could see any plot twist a mile away. I’m a little worried about the other gothic novels on my list.

Original Publishing info: 1778
My Copy: Project Gutenberg & LibriVox
Genre: gothic novel

{Book} Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
Trail of Lightning was the January pick for the occult detective literature group on Goodreads. I had heard good things about the book in the past and it sounded pretty good. I was especially interested in how this fit into the occult detective sub-genre.

Plot
I haven’t really solidified my thoughts on what might be considered occult detective fiction. Thus far, I think of it more on the detecting end than the action-adventure end, of which this book has a fair share. There was some time spent in a library as Kai sought clues amid oral tales that had been recorded on CD. I really wish these had played a bigger part in Maggie and Kai’s investigation. As it was, the characters felt led around rather than making their own decisions.

Characters
Maggie is a haunted character. She’s been through trauma and a toxic relationship. She not as hard as she lets on. Her relationship with Kai is fraught, and considering her suspicious nature, I’m surprised she couldn’t see what Kai’s true powers were earlier on.

Setting
I have very poor reading comprehension when it comes to book blurbs. I totally missed that the setting of this book was somewhat post-apocalyptic. I kind of wish it wouldn’t have been. I think I would have liked a contemporary fantasy set on the Navajo reservation. It’s is a world I’m not familiar with and I don’t think it needed an extra layer of strangeness. That said, though not a fan of the post-apocalyptic, I found the setting to be the most enjoyable part of this book because of its juxtaposition with the Navajo culture.

Overall
If I read the second book in this series, and I might, it will because of setting. It’s a world I wouldn’t mind spending more time in.

Original Publishing info: Saga Press, 2018
My Copy: Overdrive/Kindle editions from Tempe Public Library
Genre: fantasy

Sunday Salon, 1/19

Sunday Salon

Books

Finished Trail of Lightning. I’ll have something to say about it later in the week.

The Old English Baron Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories

I need to get to work on my Classics Club Spin book, so this week I’m reading The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve. I also have two anthologies to work through: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (from the library) and Taaqtumi, an collection of arctic horror stories.

Movies

Watched two movies this week. The first was Midsommar (2019), Ari Aster’s follow up to Hereditary. It was okay. Visually, it’s fantastic. Plot-wise, it’s slow. That can be a good thing; Midsommar needed to be slow and I wasn’t bored by it. But I also have no strong feelings about it. Considering that it’s a horror movie, that kind of means it wasn’t entirely successful.

The second movie was Fast Color (2019, written and directed by Julia Hart). A few months ago I watched Brightburn, a movie that takes the Superman plot (an alien baby is brought up by rural folks) and skews it to be a supervillain origin story. Fast Color is pretty much the inverse of that movie. Instead of an alien boy willing to flex his powers against those who wrong him, Fast Color is about generations of women who have sequestered themselves to protect both themselves and others. Ruth even wonders if their powers are good for anything at all. But, instead of wanting to crush the world, perhaps the world can be renewed. The ending is maybe a little on the nose, but I enjoyed the experience of this movie.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Deal Me In, Week 3 ~ “Eidolons”

DealMeIn

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

“Eidolons” by Harlan Ellison

Card picked: 10
Found in: Angry Candy

You’ve got time. You have always had time, but fear slowed you, and you were overcome. But this is the hour that stretches…and you’ve got a chance. After all, it’s only your conscience come to kill you. Stop shivering and put up your dukes.

The Story
Vizinczey, a man wanted on two continents, tells of Mr. Brown, a collector of tin soldiers. Or rather a collector of soldiers from throughout time which he turns into tin soldiers. Mr. Brown knows many secrets from Promontorium Sacrum, or the area beyond the edge of the map. Mr. Brown is killed by his “creations,” but he tasks Vizinczey with helping mankind. Vizinczey does so by imparting thirteen, well, “they are not quite epigraphs, nor are they riddles.”

These vignettes are about time, and inspiration, and creativity. Maybe. With Harlan Ellison, it’s hard to tell sometimes.

The Author
Harlan Ellison was a prolific, award winning, and occasionally problematic short story and screenwriter. He’s probably best known for the Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” though even that is subject to controversy…

Down the TBR Hole 26

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.

The Magician and the Spirits cover The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes

On one hand, I feel like I should be a completionist. On the other hand, this is a book for younger readers about a subject I know a lot about. So, I think…GO.

alt text A Man of Parts by David Lodge

Ah. This is the historical fiction with H. G. Wells. I’m decidedly less interested in this now that I’ve read more Wells (and enjoyed his fiction). I’ve become increasingly wary of literary fiction about famous people. GO.

Time After Time cover Time After Time by Karl Alexander

But! I still hold out hope for genre books with historical figures. H. G. Well musing on life? Eh. H. G. Wells using his time machine to follow Jack the Ripper into the future? I’m in. KEEP.

alt text Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows by Joshua Reynolds

KEEP. But I should probably read Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days first, huh?

Now You See Me cover Now You See It by Jane Tesh

A mystery involving magicians. Of course, KEEP, even if it is the third in a series.

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

Sunday Salon, 1/12/20

Sunday Salon

Books

Finished Minor Mage and reviewed it. It was a spot-on beginning for the year. I also finished reading The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff. I’ve been reading through her works in the mornings during my off-the-grid self-reflection time. I love her voice and her enthusiasm for the things she loves.

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)

This week, I need to finish Trail of Lightning before it gets yoinked back by the library.

Movies

I went to the library and it became X-Men week… In the past year, I’ve been availing myself of the library’s DVD collection. I went for Dark Phoenix (2019), but I noticed that there was a “Rogue Cut” of X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). So, I checked out both.

Days of Future Past is my favorite X-Men movie, combining the best of the old and new cast/storylines. And the scenes with Quicksilver are too much fun. The “Rogue Cut” adds in a few scenes, including a subplot about rescuing Rogue in the future. The movie didn’t need this McGuffin and the plot was leaner without it. But I enjoy watching different versions of movies so it wasn’t lost time.

Dark Phoenix? Oof. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. It was just sort of…plain? I probably wasn’t helped by not watching X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) in the recent past. I’ve seen it, but I don’t really remember it. It’s really too bad because it’s a poor ending for a really good cast. I was pretty stoked by the possibiliy Sophie Turner as Jean Grey.

Not a movie, I decided to read the original “Dark Phoenix Saga” by Chris Claremont too. It is a lot different than than either of the movie version of the story.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Deal Me In, Week 2 ~ “Light And Space”

DealMeIn

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

“Light and Space” by Ned Beauman

Card picked: J
Found at: The Guardian

Shortly after midnight on Christmas morning, a night watchman discovered me standing by Feretory with a fire axe held over my head. I am, or was, a senior member of MoMA’s curatorial staff, with a special interest in the Light and Space movement of the 1960s, and so naturally I’ve been called upon to give an account of why I should wish to destroy such an important work. My only reply is that in fact I wanted nothing less than to destroy it. Even after all that’s happened, I still recognise Feretory as a masterpiece. Destroying it would have been no more than an unavoidable consequence of what I really hoped to achieve with the axe that night.

The Story
This is one a several “Christmas” ghost stories that The Guardian ran in 2013. I bookmarked them probably in 2018, so I haven’t been sitting on them for *that* long. But it’s always fun to see where seasonal stories end up when you’re picking randomly.

Conroy Glasser is a 1960s “light and space” movement artist who worked in blocks of resin. His masterpiece, Feretory, is an impossibly seamless pillar of translucent plastic. What makes this sculpture even more mysterious is that the formula for the resin was proprietary, cooked up by Glasser and “a sympathetic polymer salesman from Hudson Plastic.” And also that Glasser’s wife disappeared around the time the sculpture was poured. And that Glasser committed suicide a few months later. And that in 1989 a curator of his works ended up in an mental institution after one of his assistants turned up dead. And that a collector of Glasser’s works from the same period as Feretory also committed suicide. The curator we meet in the quote above was also planning a new showing of Glassers, until he begins to suspect there are dark truths behind Glasser’s works.

In the real world there is no way that there wouldn’t be a thousand podcasts and YouTube videos about the (obvious) curse of Conroy Glasser and his art…

Conroy Glasser is fictitious, but the  Light and Space art moment is a real thing, involving minimal and abstract works that focused on the interplay of light, objects, and color. (That’s probably wildly inaccurate. I know very little about art.) Do an image Google search on Light and Space. You won’t be disappointed.

Also, a feretory is:

1. A receptacle to hold the relics of saints; a reliquary.
2. An area of a church in which reliquaries are kept.

The Author
Ned Beauman is a new author to me. He’s a British novelist, journalist, and critic. I enjoyed this story and I am tantalized by his novel The Teleportation Accident, “a hilarious sci-fi noir about sex, Satan, and teleportation devices.”

Pick a Card, Any Card

I’m not entirely sure if Light and Space can be accurately produced in two dimensions, but the back of these horizon playing cards might come close.

Horizon Playing Cards at Kardify
And at Kickstarter