Deal Me In, Week 2 ~ “The Wrong Foot”

DealMeIn

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

“The Wrong Foot” by Stephanie Burgis

Card picked: Q
Found at: Daily Science Fiction

The Story

Needless to say, I didn’t want to try on the slipper in the first place.

Have you ever thought about the absurdity of Cinderella and the whole “marry the girl who can wear the glass slipper” thing? I mean, even though Payless didn’t exist in 1600s Italy, foot size isn’t exactly the same as fingerprints…or her face. (Although now I want to write a Cinderella variation in which the Prince is face blind…) What kind of cobbler makes glass slippers anyway? And if you take away the interference of fairy godmothers, why was Cinderella so eager to get away from the prince by midnight?

Sophia is a modern girl. She likes to read. She has her own inheritance coming to her. But her mother think she needs a husband and, if her small feet happen to fit in the glass slipper, why shouldn’t that husband be the Prince? Not helping matters is the Prince’s secretary whose hazel eyes make Sophia feel distinctly unscholarly.

This story is a clever and sweet, a nice twist on the fairy tale. I’m two for two on stories this year.

The Author
I don’t believe I’ve read anything by American/British writer Stephanie Burgis in the past. Info about her other stories, long and short, can be found at her website.

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Deal Me In, Week 51 ~ “Afternoon in Linen”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

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

“Afternoon in Linen” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 7
From: The Lottery, and other stories

The Story
I’m finishing up the year with a couple Shirley Jackson stories. This is the first of two remaining hearts in my Deal Me In deck.

(Psst — Signup for Deal Me In 2018 is open! All you need is a deck of cards and 52 short stories. This is a challenge so easy and wonderful that I’ve managed to complete it (knock on wood) four years in a row!)

This is another story, and Shirley Jackson does them so well, about the disconnect between adults and children. Mrs. Kator and her son Howard are visiting Mrs. Lennon and her granddaughter Harriet. The story begins with Howard playing piano, slowly and carefully. He’s a good student according to Mrs. Kator, though he doesn’t like to practice and she feels he isn’t getting much out of it. Mrs. Lennon counters that Harriet seems to be naturally inclined toward music and makes up her own tunes. Mrs. Lennon is eager to have Harriet play. Harriet, though, has decided she isn’t going to. Worse, the adults then request that she recite some of the poetry that she’s written, a concept that Howard seems to find funny. “He’ll tell all the kids on the block,” Harriet keeps thinking as she denies writing any poetry at all. And often, for a kid, getting in trouble with adults is better than being strange to your peers…

 

Review ~ Wuthering Heights

Cover via Goodreads

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, situated on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before; of the intense relationship between the gypsy foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw; and how Catherine, forced to choose between passionate, tortured Heathcliff and gentle, well-bred Edgar Linton, surrendered to the expectations of her class. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance at his betrayal is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Twenty years ago (yes, that much), I finished my college education, earning a bachelor’s degree in English. Yet, I had never read Emily Brontë’s only novel. More shameful still (if you have a degree in English), I had attempted to read Wuthering Heights not once, but twice(!), before I decided to jump on board Roofbeam Reader’s Classic Book of the Month Club.

What Worked
I started the year with Moby Dick and I am near ending it with Wuthering Heights, two of the oddest novels I’ve encountered. In the case of the former, I’m rather glad that I never had to read it for a class. It’s too big and there’s too much. I think the only way to do it justice would be to have a semester long class. In the case of the latter, I wouldn’t mind a little guided context for Wuthering Heights because I feel like I’m missing something.

My initial read is that this is a novel about miserable people being miserable to each other.

…however miserable you make us, we shall still have the revenge of thinking that your cruelty arises from your greater misery.

In that way, and this might be considered sacrilege, but it reminded me of Gone Girl. Just full of terrible, horrible people. Even Mr. Lockwood, our entrance-level character, is snarky, peevish, and jealous. The only character worth her salt is Ellen Dean—nanny, housemaid, sane person.

I *suppose*, prompted by the summary above, I could buy that all this tragedy is set into motion by a woman doing what is expected of her instead of what her heart dictates, but the wheels of dreadful behavior are already set in motion by the time Cathy decides to marry proper Linton instead of mercurial Heathcliff.

What Didn’t Work
Is it just me or is the use of quotation marks a little eccentric? Honestly, this is one of the reasons I’ve had trouble with Wuthering Heights. I’d put it down for a day and lose track of who was doing the narration, even though it was usually Mrs. Dean.  Also, the names just kill me. This genealogy chart helped a lot (linked to avoid spoilers).

What also doesn’t help are relatively good movie versions (adaptation doesn’t seem to be the right word) that leave out all the domestic abuse in favor of telling a romantic tale. With the number of beatings that occur, I’m not sure why this is considered a romantic work. Maybe that’s where my disconnect lies. I expected a great, if tragic, romance. Instead, I got one of the great novels of revenge. As a revenge story, I’m not sure Quentin Tarantino has done better.

Overall
I can’t say I disliked it, but it’s one of those cases where I feel like I’ve read a totally different book than everyone else.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle, AmazonClassics
Genre: classics, literary, gothic

The first time I encountered an allusion to Heathcliff:

Deal Me In, Week 45 ~ “After You, My Dear Alphonse”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

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

“After You, My Dear Alphonse” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 5
From: text

The Story
Despite her horror credentials, Shirley Jackson is the queen of the painfully awkward moment, often moments that only the reader is witness to.

The phrase “After You, My Dear Alphonse” is (and I had to look this up) a catchphrase based on an early 20th century newspaper comic strip. In the case of this story, it’s a bit of nonsense being repeated by Johnny and his new friend Boyd.

Each boy says it as they come in for lunch, politely refusing to enter before the other.  “After you, My Dear Alphonse.” “No, after you, My Dear Alphonse.” Jackson doesn’t give them any dialog attribution when they enter.

Boyd is “a Negro boy, smaller than Johnny but about the same age.” Mrs. Wilson immediately becomes concerned about everything. Johnny shouldn’t let Boyd carry all the wood kindling—that Boyd has collected and means to take home. Does Boyd’s father work? Yes, at a factory—as a foreman. What about his mother, what does his mother do? She stays home with the kids—just like Mrs. Wilson does, Johnny points out. Mrs. Wilson has lots of Johnny’s old clothes and a few old dresses, would Boyd’s mother like them? …”But I have plenty of cloths, thank you,” Boyd informs her. “Thank you very much, though.”

And after that, Mrs. Wilson becomes a little indignant; mainly, because she’s made  fool out herself by continuing to follow her stereotyped notions. She takes out her embarrassment on the boys and withholds dessert. The thing is? The kids are oblivious. Johnny shrugs it off as his mother is “screwy sometimes,” and they continue on with their day.

“After you, My Dear Alphonse…”

Deal Me In, Week 44 (catch-up) ~ “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

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

“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander

Card picked: 3
From: Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 57, Feb. 2015 Note: there is a bit of adult language in this story.

I was going to post for week 44 & 45 together, but the stories are so different. Sometimes the magic of Deal Me In is that there isn’t any happy coincidence of matching stories.

The Story
I haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049 yet despite it being directed by Denis Villeneuve and shot by Roger Deakins, both personal favorites of mine. Mostly, this is probably because movies are a bit expensive these days. 1994 Katherine might have seen it twice by now since she could catch a student-priced matinee for $3.25. Until the movie shows up on Netflix, I’ll just have to reread “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead.”

In reality, this story is a bit of a mashup between Blade Runner and The Matrix, all enveloped in cloak of pulpy noir. Rhye is a skin-job, a created human, who has been discarded. Her world is full of violence, from the contests she wins (sometimes) to the jobs to be hired muscle. The only soft spot in her world is Rack, a hacker who somewhat elevates her selection of jobs.

As with any good noir heist, this is a job gone wrong. Rack is shot, but his consciousness lives on within Rhye’s head. The only way Rhye can survive the situation she’s in is to disable, within a virtual/real world Rack’s security protocols (based on Rhye herself) and rescue/download a mobster’s adopted skin-job son.

Does it all entirely make sense? Not really, but it does hold within its own internal consistency.

Mini Reviews, Vol. 10

alt text The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

On the heels of WWI, temp girl Sarah Piper takes work as an assistant to two ghost hunters; one posh, one rough, both scarred by the war.

This book was much too much of a romance for me. Sarah’s spends an overage of time believing that her beau (Matthew, the rough one) hates her for no real good reason and that she must never tell him how she feels for no good reason. The ghost story was passable, somewhat predictable. The Haunting of Maddy Clare was an audio book and the narrator’s portrayal of Matthew was disconcerting.

alt text Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Emily Carroll “tells” five stories of isolation and dread akin to Grimm’s fairy tales.

With a limited color palette and drawings that are by turns stark and detailed, these are new tales of old-fashioned creepiness. The stories and art evoke a coldness, a darkness that seems perfect for fall and winter reading. Through the Woods was an impulse pick-up for me for during readathon and it was the highlight. Might even become a yearly Halloween read.

Review ~ Dark Screams: Volume Eight

This book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group – Hydra via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cover via Goodreads

Dark Screams: Volume Eight edited by Brian James Freeman & Richard T. Chizmar

Frank Darabont, Bentley Little, Benjamin Percy, Billie Sue Mosiman, Kealan Patrick Burke, and Glen Hirshberg share chilling tales of ancient evils and wicked desires in this spooky collection assembled by renowned horror editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Found it by searching for Glen Hirshberg at NetGalley, doubly interested because of Frank Darabont.

What Worked & Didn’t Work
Five of these six stories reminded me of the best episodes from late 80s/early 90s horror anthology TV shows (Tales from the DarksideMonstersFreddy’s Nightmares). Each had a great twist of an ending and variable levels of gore.

Frank Darabont’s “Walpuski’s Typewriter” sets the tone for the anthology. It’s a nasty piece of work (in a good way!) involving a writer and a demon possessed typewriter. Darabont is best known for his screen writing and adaptations; notably The Shashank Redemption and The Mist. I hadn’t read any of his prose. It did not disappoint.

“The Boy” by Bentley Little was the perfect followup. I found myself wondering if I was supposed to like Christine’s neighbors, especially as they make fun of a kid who supposedly smells. By the end of the story, I wasn’t sure who was worse. Christine solves their stinky kid problem, in a way that is probably more honest than her two-faced neighbors would consider.

With Benjamin Percy’s “Tumor,” we’re solidly back in the land of Tales from the Darkside. This is a simple short, tale, but full of gory glee.

A shift in tone happens in the latter half of Dark Screams, Vol. 8. The stories are more complex and a smidge more contemplative in their horror. The one story that didn’t work for me was right after the mid-point, “Twisted and Gnarled” by Billie Sue Mosiman. The story is told alternately through first person point of view of a serial killer, The Man, and a somewhat psychic mother, The Woman. The internal dialogue of both of these characters really didn’t work for me.

Quiet horror continued in “The Palaver” by Kealan Patrick Burke. Alluding to the stories of the late 19th century, this is a tale within a tale. Our narrator is the owner of the slowly failing Palavar Barbershop. He’s told a story of cosmic horror from the Great Depression that may or may not repeat itself in the 21st century.

The last story in the anthology is Glen Hirshberg’s “India Blue.” As with many of these tales, the “payoff” is at the end of the story, which means reading through one man’s endeavor to bring cricket to America. Not just cricket though, but America’s Rockin’ Professional Cricket, complete with cheerleaders and a showboat player who has been drummed out of respectable leagues. Luckily, the journey is possibly better than the ending.

Overall
Solid anthology. It’s release date is Halloween and it’s the perfect little reading treat.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle/ePub, Random House Publishing Group, 10/31/17
Acquired: 8/17/17, NetGalley
Genre: horror