Monthly Archives: March 2020

Sunday Salon, 3/29

Sunday Salon

Reading

On the blog last week, posts about The Long Winter and my comfort-reading of all the Helene Hanff books I own.

After something of a reading extravaganza last weekend, and pushing to finish The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini, I was in the mood to read…nothing! I did start listening to Little Town on the Prairie while “homesteading” in Minecraft.

I’ll be participating in Page-A-Thon again in April and Spring into Horror. Here’s my tentative TBR for the month:

The Vampyre: A Tale Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural Supernatural Noir
  • The Vampyre by John William Polidori – also for Classics Club
  • Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural by Jim Steinmeyer – also for the Unread Shelf
  • Supernatural Noir by Ellen Datlow  (Editor) – also for Occult Detectives FB group
  • And probably a reread of Dracula by Bram Stoker

Watching

Decided this week that it had been too long since I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And thankfully, Hulu has the show in the non-remastered format. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s a good video on it.)

(Just realized I have a lot of vampires going on here…)

Other Stuff

I did a thing!

Mephisto cover

Mephisto, the Marvellous Automaton is a curiosity I came across when researching stories for my automaton anthology. It’s sort of a promotional pamphlet for a chess-playing automaton. I cleaned up the formatting from the scanned version available through HathiTrust and converted it to various ebook types. It’s available for download for FREE (along with the other “Entangled TOMES”) at my website, Entangled Continua.

Otherwise,


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

{Books} by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road
So, this is how I remember becoming acquainted with the works of Helene Hanff:

In 1991, the movie The Silence of the Lambs came out. I immediately became a fan of Anthony Hopkins. He went on my watch-everything list (along with Jeremy Irons, Peter O’ Toole, and Anthony Perkins). Now, this was the early 90s. I couldn’t just search for Hopkins on Just Watch and find which streaming service are showing any particular movie of his. No. I had to scour through the satellite TV guide and plan my weekly movie watching/taping. One of those movie I managed to catch was 84, Charing Cross Road (1987, dir. David Jones). It was a lovely movie about one of my favorite things, books. And I discovered that it was in fact based on a book, which I promptly put on my must-read list. Now, again, this was the early 90s and I couldn’t go to Amazon and just order it. No. I pestered my mom to take me to bookstores. (These were my high school years, but I don’t drive.) I finally found a copy at Combs & Combs in the swanky area of Omaha known as Rockbrook. And then, I found out that Helene Hanff wrote other books… Lather, rinse, repeat.

(Funny, I’d never thought to look for Helene Hanff on You Tube. She is here pretty much exactly as I imagined.)

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street Underfoot in Show Business
Apple of My Eye Q's Legacy

Over the years, I collected more of Helene Hanff’s books. The are comfort reading for me, and beginning in mid-December, I needed some comfort reading. All five books are short and I read through them over the last three months. Underfoot in Show Business is chronologically the first Hanff published, pre-84, Charing Cross Road. It tells of her early years as a struggling playwright in New York in the 1930s and 40s. If you’ve already read Charing Cross, you will recognize some of the events and people from the letters in that book. They overlap. All of these books overlap as a sort of biography mosaic.

84, Charing Cross Road is a narrative told in letters between Hanff and a Frank Doel, a bookseller in England. Again in the background are Hanff’s money and employment woes as she writes plays, telescripts, and short histories for children. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and Q’s Legacy are what happened after 84, Charing Cross Road is a hit. Hanff finally visits London and surrounding England for the book’s release and later for the BBC’s TV adaptation. Apple of My Eye is sort of the odd book out, but not really. In it, Hanff showcases her other favorite city, New York City. These three books are travelogue heavy, but that’s okay. Hanff balances her experience of places with their histories.

I love Helene Hanff’s voice. She’s smart, opinionated, and funny, though occasionally a little unkind. She is eternally befuddled by how success came to her, however fleeting or conversely enduring. May we all be so lucky.

{Book} The Long Winter

The Long Winter

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the empty winter prairie, gray clouds to the northwest meant only one thing: a blizzard was seconds away. The first blizzard came in October. It snowed almost without stopping until April. The temperature dropped to forty below. Snow reached the roof-tops. And no trains could get through with food and coal. The townspeople began to starve. The Ingalls family barely lived through that winter. And Almanzo Wilder knew he would have to risk his life to save the town. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
I joined the Unread Shelf Project at the beginning of March. The month’s challenge was to read the book that’s been on my shelf the longest. The Long Winter is part of a box-set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books given to me when I was in grade school. So, I figure it pretty much counts.

What Did I Think?
Little House on the Prairie (the TV series, 1974-1983) was staple viewing at my grandparent’s house. My grandpa grew up in northern Minnesota; cabins, farms, and all. I am fairly certain it was one of my aunts and uncles from Minnesota that sent me the set for Christmas. At least the first couple of books were read aloud in grade school as well. I grew up in Nebraska and, even though I’m from Omaha, the prairie and its dangers were never far away. Personally, I didn’t care for the show or the books. I was and ever shall be a city girl and I have never really like kid protagonists, a trait I didn’t really put my finger on until I was an adult. I never quite got into Anne Shirley, or Heidi, or Pippi Longstocking, or even Nancy Drew. I wanted adult adventures, thank you very much. So, I never jived with Laura Ingalls.

Which means that it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that I enjoyed The Long Winter as much as I did. I think the key here is that The Long Winter is the start of a slightly more grown-up Laura, a character with more understanding about her place in the world. She is often melancholy, but consciously sets her feeling aside for the good of her family, especially her younger sisters. I’m looking forward to the next few books in the series in order to see Laura grow. I doubt I would have appreciated this as much when I was younger.

There is a repetitive quality to the narrative. A blizzard blows in, the family ekes through, repeat. It is what it says on the tin: a long winter. I have some patience for such things, but Wilder is a deft writer too. A detail like the frost on the heads of the roof nails is beautiful and strange enough that it weathers repetition well.

In context of the world at the moment, I can’t ignore some of the messaging in the book. Hardships pass and joy can be taken in little things. I’m not eating brown bread twice daily because that’s all there is and glad the snow has covered the building because at least now the wind can’t get in. I don’t want to pretend that the “olden days” were better (or that the story isn’t lightened for the young readership Wilder was writing for), but there is something nice about the concept of life being a little less extravagant; about enjoying a surprise of Christmas candies and really looking forward to reading the newspaper. Just something to keep in mind during these days of isolation and uncertainty.

Original Publishing info: Harper & Brothers, 1940
My Copy: Trade Paperback, Harper & Row, 1971

Unread Shelf Project

Sunday Salon (on Monday), 3/23

Sunday Salon

Reading

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini

I participated-ish in the #24in48 Readathon over the past weekend. I didn’t really keep track of my time. I could go back and count up the numbers I do have, but, eh. I did finish The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff, and listed to the audio book of Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever teleplay. I should probably post on all those things before I’m tired of my own opinions on them.

This week: I need to finish this Houdini book. I didn’t realize that it was only a 14 day check-out!

Thing I’m Enjoying

@IsBetelgeuseOK

If you haven’t heard, Betelgeuse might be going supernova. Or maybe not. The star, which we see as part of the Orion constellation, has been dimming, but then brightened again in past month or so. Just part of its cycle? A lead-up to an explosion? Don’t know. Whatever the case, someone out there is writing  snarky, but oddly optimistic tweets as the star.

Music

R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know (And I Feel Fine)” might be à propos (“It’s time I had some time alone…”), but the band has another apocalypse-ready tune:

I have water I have rum
Wait for dawn and dawn shall come
Underneath the bunkers in the row

Other Stuff

Ultimate frisbee league is cancelled until at least April 4th and I also cancelled the pickup game I organize. At the end of the day, I would have felt terrible if someone had gotten sick or gotten someone else sick. Eric and I have been running and throwing. Our field was still soggy all of last week (it rained again on Wednesday), so we’ve been doing shorter sprints in a dry-ish corner. And, man, that is tough work. I’ll be happy to get back to 60-70 yard intervals.

My parents and sister seem to be doing okay. Both called me on Saturday. So much for social distancing! I kid, really. It was good to hear from them. My mom had sent me a Swiss Colony package. “You’d sounded kind of down in your emails,” she told me. And she knows that assorted nibblies is a good way to cheer me up.

Stay well, internet friends.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

#StayHome24in48 Readathon

I was a bit bummed in January when I found out there wasn’t going to be a 24 in 48 Readathon. I had been looking forward to a cozy activity to sink into after a December which was tiring and stressful rather than a holiday season. Fast-forward to mid-March and 2020 has just been more of the same. With the presidential election looming, I knew it was going to be a long year, but, really…

So, it was lovely to hear that Kerry, Kristen, & Rachel were organizing an impromptu readathon. Even though I stay at home most of the time anyway, things have been cancelled, things are uncertain, and again a cozy activity is wanted.

Progress

Update #1: Read from about 9pm Friday to 1am Saturday with occasional breaks for social media and a cup of tea. Didn’t finish The Long Winter, but came close.

Update #2: Up at 8:30-ish. Finished The Long Winter before 9am. Now on to my next short finish-up: Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legancy.

Update #3: Read some Q’s Legacy from ~9:15-11am and 12-12:30am, with a call from my Mom in there. She sent me a package of nibblies and wanted to make sure I got it. Switched over to PHYSICAl CoNTacT at 1pm-2:15ish.

Update #4: Got about an hour and a half of reading during the rest of the afternoon between a nap, a phone call from my sister, and dinner. Then, I got side-tracked by a Minecraft project. But! I did listen to Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever for 4hrs 45mins while working on my new base. This morning, so far a half hour of Helene Hanff because the server is down and my sys admin is still asleep.

The Plan

I’m not going to worry too much about keeping track of every second that I spend reading, but I’m going to start 9pm Friday (the equivalent starting time in my timezone) and try to read most of Saturday. I have a few books I  want to finish up:

The Long Winter (Little House, #6) The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini Q's Legacy

I will also probably still be reading my husband’s manuscript. It totally counts! And my Deal Me In story of the week.

I also have an ARC I should probably get going on:

The Glass Magician

All I have to say is, “Yay! Reading!”

Sunday Salon, 3/15

Sunday Salon

Books

Last week, or the week before, I found that The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski was available at my online library. I put it on hold and figured I could get through my Classics Club and Unread Shelf books during the 6 week wait time. It, of course, became available on Friday…

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini The Long Winter (Little House, #6)

I also moved away from Charles Fort and started The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I haven’t entirely DNFed The Book of the Damned yet, but it’s at the back of the queue for the month.

Next Saturday-Sunday is a surprise 24 in 48 Readathon. I haven’t signed up yet, but I probably will.

Other Stuff

Social distancing isn’t too hard for Eric and me. We work at home already and aren’t terribly social. Alas, our one activiy, ultimate frisbee, was cancelled this past week due to weather and next week due to an abundance of caution over COVID-19. I’m staying off of public transportation for the near future and we’re going to cook instead of getting take-out for a while. In the weather realm, Arizona has had record amounts of rain this year, with more on the way. I love rain, but hate flooded fields…

I swear, 2020 is bent on being the longest year ever. Stay well, internet friends.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

{Book} Taaqtumi

This book was provided to me by Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC via NetGalley for review consideration.

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories, compiled by Neil Christopher

“Taaqtumi” is an Inuktitut word that means “in the dark”—and these spine-tingling horror stories by Northern writers show just how dangerous darkness can be. A family clinging to survival out on the tundra after a vicious zombie virus. A door that beckons, waiting to unleash the terror behind it. A post-apocalyptic community in the far North where things aren’t quite what they seem. With chilling tales from award-winning authors Richard Van Camp, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, Aviaq Johnston, and others, this collection will thrill and entertain even the most seasoned horror fan. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
I’m always on the lookout for stories set in places that are far from my usual. Arctic horror stories sounded like a great concept.

What Did I Think?
According to the summary taaqtumi means “in the dark.” And, man, these stories are dark. Maybe I just haven’t read horror in a while, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this level of nihilism. If you want happy endings, you’re not going to find many here.

In the realm of horror sub-genres, Taaqtumi has a little of everything. Ghosts, cosmic horrors, zombies, folk horror, natural horrors, post-apocolyptic, and even a science-fiction/horror mashup—Sean and Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley’s “Lounge,” which I found to be one of the standouts of the anthology.

On the whole, I really enjoyed these stories. I wanted to read this analogy for the setting, and Taaqtumi delivers. The writers are all from northern Canada, many are indigenous people and the stories include a tapestry of Inuit lore and legends.  “Wheetago War II: Summoners” by Richard Van Camp is one of the more “modern” tales of horror in terms, well, weaponry, but its told in the style of recorded oral tradition and has excellent voice. The cold, the extremes of daylight and nighttime, the push and pull between modern and traditional are all present in each story.

Original Publishing info: Published September 10th 2019 by Inhabit Media
My Copy: Adobe Digital Edition via NetGalley
Genre: horror