Posted in Male Author, Novella, Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Monday Miscellanea, 11/28/22

Read & Reading

Cover: The Greyhound of the Baskervilles by John Gaspard & Arthur Conan Doyle
Cover: Christmas by Accident by Camron Wright
Cover: Aliens: Vasquez by V. Castro

Finished The Greyhound of the Baskervilles by John Gaspard and Arthur Conan Doyle. This mystery asks, “What if Sherlock Holmes was a dog person?” It’s a retelling of The Hound of the Baskervilles, but from the point of view of Septimus, Holmes’ pet greyhound. It’s a fine adaptation, a freebie I had picked up because I’ve read Gaspard’s Eli Marks mysteries. It’s book #22 for my Beat the Backlog goal.

After finishing Greyhound, I headed to the elibrary for a Yuletide Challenge pick and found Christmas by Accident by Camron Wright. I like the occasional fluffy holiday romance. And then two hours later another book came off hold: Aliens: Vasquez by V. Castro. I also like the occasional military sci-fi movie tie-in.

Watched

Wednesday
Season 1 (2022)

I’m not a fan of supernatural clique boarding school stories, but I am a fan of Tim Burton and The Addams Family (the TV show and the 90s movies especially). So, in the words of my husband on the subject of Wednesday, I’m a sucker. The mystery story is fine, but for me the plot is secondary to the morbid quips and puns. Jenna Ortega is well cast and Wednesday’s interactions with her pastels-and-glitter roommate (Emma Myers) are particularly fun. All of the cast is great, aside from Catherine Zeta-Jones (Morticia) and Luis Guzmán (Gomez). I actually had high-hopes for that pairing but the two have no chemistry. Guzmán seemed too restrained and Zeta-Jones isn’t vampish enough. Tim Burton’s aesthetic is toned down too, but that’s just fine. It actually works really well with Barry Sonnenfeld’s movies.

Writing Update

NaNoWriMo 2022 Banner

Well, it’s the 28th of November and I’ve only written just over 28,000 words. And I marvel at the use of the word “only” in that previous sentence. That’s 10K more than I wrote last NaNoWriMo when I was tinkering with an old project.

My problem with NaNoWriMo is that is gets messy. Not just the manuscript, but my world. I let chores go and put off things I want to do. Yes, that’s a product of doing more writing work than I normally would, but it also makes me a bit nuts. Part of what I wanted to do with NaNo was to get into a stronger work schedule. Time will tell if that worked, but I’m definitely okay with going back to a more balanced life.

And I also hit the wall on how much story I had planned. I’m not a good planner. I’m also not great at “seeing where the story will take me.” So, at around 25,000 words I really needed to take some time and figure out what I’m doing. I’ve clarified the conflicts and have an end target.

I plan on getting to 30K by the end of the month and maybe shooting for another 20K by the middle of December.

Posted in Male Author, Novel, Other Media

Miscellanea, 11/21/22

Read

Cover: Neom by Lavie Tidhar

Neom by Lavie Tidhar

(A copy of Neom was provided to me by Tachyon Publications in exchange for an honest review.)

Compelling world building is a scale with details on one side and ambiguities on the other. A real world needs details: politics, religions, economies, arts, even sciences. The trick is knowing when to not explain these things. Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is one of my favorite settings because, as a reader, I’m simply dropped into the world and maybe a reference is explained, maybe it isn’t.

The city of Neom is near Central Station. The story is (mostly) Earthbound, but it’s still a mash-up of space opera and fable, where an old robot takes a rose into the desert and digs up a buried automaton messiah. Neom is situated between Mecca and Bethlehem, so I’m sure there are allegories to be had here, but biblical comparisons feel too mundane and not mythical enough.

The characters in Neom are somewhat coincidental to the plot, but that plays into the feeling of predestination. Of course Miriam, with her half a dozen part-time jobs, is always where the story is taking place and of course Nasir and Saleh have items that are needed. The robot characters are more interesting and I’m glad a few of them might live on in other stories.

Short Stories

Deal Me In, Week 46: 10❤️ “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” by Fran Wilde
Hearts are for Eugie Award winners and Nominees. “Clearly Lettered . . .” won in 2018. A sly story that reminds me of Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932), at least a little.

Yuletide Spirit

Yuletide Spirit Challenge & Readathon image

I’ll admit that this year I’ve been keener than usual to jump into the “holiday” season right after Halloween. (Though feeling that and hearing “All I Want for Christmas” at the mall last week are two different things . . .) When I saw Michelle’s announcement about the Yuletide Spirit Challenge and Readathon, starting on Nov. 21st, I thought, “Perfect! An excuse to have a November start time for celebrating!”

I’m going to shoot for the Mistletoe level (2–4 Christmas books) with a side of Fa La La La Films. And I’m going start my decorating process!

Watched

Nope (2022)

  • I’m kind of amazed that I managed to go into Nope without knowing very much about the movie. This probably says more about my lack of interaction with media than the popularity of the film.
  • I liked Nope better than Us (2019) and maybe more than Get Out (2017) too.
  • As a kid, I found Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) a bit scary. On second watch, I noticed a few things in Nope that strike me as a bit Spielbergian.
  • I miss Fry’s Electronics.
  • I’ve also missed Michael Wincott.
Posted in Mixed Anthology, Other Media

What I’ve Read & Watched, 11/4/22

Blog updates from me this month are probably going to be few and far between . . .

Read

It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror by Joe Vallese (Editor)

It Came from the Closet was much more personal narrative-oriented than I expected. I felt that a wide range of LGBTQ+ perspectives were represented, but I acknowledge that I might have trouble seeing around my privilege. I would have liked more academic takes on the subject of LGBTQ+ representation and themes, but it was still a very thought-provoking collection of essays.

Watched

Wendell & Wild (2022)

Directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)) and written by Selick and Jordan Peele (Get Out (2017)), Wendell & Wild was one of the movies I was looking forward to during the Halloween season. It did not disappoint. Is it as iconic as Nightmare Before Christmas? No. Some of the plot bits are just a little too on the nose and tidy. Is it a lot of spooky fun? Yes! Kat is a great character and the titular demons (voiced by Peele and comedic partner Keegan-Michael Key) are the kinds of anti-villains I like: the heart of their dastardly plan is actually pretty wholesome.

Crimes of the Future (2022)

It’s been a little while since David Cronenberg has done a weird movie. Granted, I haven’t watched all his recent films, but it seems like it’s been since Existenz (1999) that we’ve gotten much squicky, body horror science fiction from him. Crimes of the Future is like a dystopian science fiction sequel to Dead Ringers (1988) where Dr. Mantle’s worries about mutant women are realized. If you like “genre” Cronenberg, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. If the only Cronenberg film you’ve seen is Eastern Promises (2007), you’ll be very confused.

Posted in Female Author, Male Author, Nonfiction, Short Story

Reading Notes, 10/20/22

(I’m playing around with my blog organization once again. This post will be a review and some repetition of my Monday post.)

Cover: Teller of Tales by Daniel Stahower
Cover: My Hear is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Cover: It came from the Closet

Read

Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Stashower

I purchased this book in 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin. We were in Madison for the World Fantasy Convention and during an introvert recharge break, I wandered around downtown and into a quiet bookstore. At the time, I hadn’t gotten into stage magic and spiritualism, so I bought Teller of Tales only due to my long-standing love of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. As this book sat on my shelves for a few years, I developed a couple questions about Conan Doyle.

First, how could Conan Doyle have so much disdain for his most famous creation? As a struggling writer, Conan Doyle’s ingratitude for his success struck me as arrogant. Teller of Tales showed me the breadth of Conan Doyle’s writings. I didn’t realize that, in addition to his voluminous non-fiction, Conan Doyle wrote well-researched historical fictions, which were his pride and joy. For example, he spent two year researching and writing The White Company, taking a month off to write Sign of the Four for the money. Which have you read? So, I get it. A little. But I’m still annoyed at Conan Doyle for believing that genre works are inferior.

Second, how could Conan Doyle create the logical mind of Sherlock Holmes, but be so uncritical of spiritualism? I had always assumed Conan Doyle’s involvement in spiritualism was mostly due to the death of his first wife and the family’s losses during WWI and the 1918 flu epidemic, but his interest preceded those events. He had long been disillusioned with traditional religions and by 1918/1919, he had become an ardent believer in spiritualism. And there really isn’t an answer for it.

Stashower is obviously a fan of Conan Doyle, but the narrative remains pretty even-handed. Teller of Tales is very readable. I enjoyed it and took my time with it.

Short Stories

Been reading from this list from Book Riot. So far, the stand out has been “There Are No Monsters on Rancho Buenavista” by Isabel Cañas. I’m a sucker for a good folk horror.

Reading

As I mentioned on Monday, this Saturday is Dewey’ Readathon. I’m not going to make it the full 24-hours (I’m a realist), but I’m looking forward to it. I finished the Conan Doyle book this morning, so I’m kind of between books. On my TBR for Readathon:

  • My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
  • It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror, edited by Joe Vallese
  • Plus, the last couple short stories from the Book Riot list and more that I’ve bookmarked.

Challenge Updates

Beat the Backlog

Goal: Read 25 books from my own shelves. Avoid creating future “backlog.”
Progress: Teller of Tales makes book 21 for Beat the Backlog. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get 20 read, it’s all win from here. And it’s been 7 days since I acquired a book.

Posted in Female Author, Mixed Anthology, Novella, Short Story

Reading Peril, 10/12/22

Cover: Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Cover: Famous Modern Ghost Stories, edited by Dorothy Scarborough

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

I feel like Nothing But Blackened Teeth has been on my TBR list for years, but it was only published this year. More likely, after reading Khaw’s Persons Non Grata novellas, I’ve been meaning to read more of her works.

I liked Nothing But Blackened Teeth well enough. I read Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligiea” recently and Khaw’s use of architecture in Teeth is very comparable, and I love architecture in stories! In many ways, this story reads like a J-horror film, full of vengeful ghosts and yokai just at the edge of sight. In fact, our narrator Cat often refers horror tropes as events unfold.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories, ed. by Dorothy Scarborough

“Modern” is, of course, a relative word. This anthology was published in 1921, so Scarborough’s picks are from 1830-ish on. Included are many stories that very much have survived the test of time: “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood, “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev, “The Shadow on the Wall” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, “The Bowmen” by Arthur Machen, and “Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe. If I hadn’t read these stories before, I knew of them.

There are also a couple gems with modern touches: “The Shell of Sense” by Olivia Howard Dunbar is written from the ghost’s point of view and “The Beast with Five Fingers” by W. F. Harvey could easily be Thing’s great-grandfather.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories has been on my Kindle for a good long while and thus counts for my Beat the Backlog challenge. And it’s of course available at Project Gutenberg!

Posted in Female Author, Novel

Review ~ The Monsters We Defy

Book Cover: The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope

I wish I could remember who on Twitter mentioned The Monsters We Defy. It’s maybe a book that wouldn’t have crossed my path despite its blurb: “A woman able to communicate with spirits must assemble a ragtag crew to pull off a daring heist . . . ” A heist novel? With a spiritualist (of a sort)? That’s pretty much catnip to me.

And you know what’s even better? It’s good!

The plot is well constructed, the characters are enjoyable, and the setting and world building are clean and simple. Penelope based the main character of Clara Johnson on Carrie Johnson, a seventeen year-old who was arrested (and later acquitted) during the Washington DC race riot of 1919. Of course, this is historical fiction with an overlay of the supernatural and it works for me.

The Monsters We Defy has a few loose ends and I won’t mind mind reading more stories with these characters!

Posted in Female Author, Novella, Readathons-Challenges-Memes

#20BooksOfSummer Review: Upright Women Wanted

Cover: Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

I picked up this book, one of the few I acquired in 2021, because the concept of a post-apocalyptic-ish distopian-ish western sounded cool. Plus, the main characters are librarians! Of a sort. The librarians are tasked with distributing “approved” materials to far-flung townships, but obviously their freedom to travel allows them to engage in plenty of subterfuge—so much that I’m not sure why the Librarians would be government approved. The world building *is* pretty vague.

Our main character is probably the least interesting of the librarians and fugitives that we ride along with. Esther is pretty angsty, but also seems to overcome a particularly traumatic event with ease. I rather liked the Old West slang peppered through the dialog, though I’m not entirely sure is we’d revert back to that slang (if this book *is* set in the future). The plot was fine, but maybe Esther falling in with revolutionaries the moment she leaves town is maybe too convenient.

20 Books of Summer Wrap-Up

My summer reading started and ended with fun, but slightly unsatisfying reads and that’s okay. I read fifteen books, which might be the best I’ve ever managed for 20 Books of Summer. Six of them were from my original list and six of them counted for my Beat the Backlog challenge. Considering how hard I slumped in August, I’m considering it a win! Now if it would not be 110F outside, I’d comfortably move on to my fall reading . . .