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

Reading Notes, 1/19/23

Cover: We Are Sitting in a Room by Glen Hirshberg

Read

We Are Sitting in a Room

We Are Sitting in a Room is a novella by Glen Hirshberg. It’s part of a non-speculative fiction series he’s been writing, but this story’s setting still contains that askew feeling that I really appreciate from Hirshberg. I was initially a little put off by the second person POV, but that’s only part of the story wrap-around.

The meat of the tale is told by Rae about her association with Teddy and his(?) strange experimental music record store.

Do you think it’s possible that all the experiences that matter most to us—by definition, precisely because they matter to us—are ours alone? Even if there’s someone else experiencing them with you?

The feeling of this story as well as its connection to music reminded me of “His Only Audience” from Hirshberg’s Infinity Dreams. I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been, that the experimental music piece that gives this story its title, “I Am Sitting in a Room,” is actually a thing.

Short Stories

“Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker – Is there a name for using a non-narrative format like a recipe or, in this case, a crowd-sourced infopedia entry to tell a story? I’m still not sure what I think of these sorts of things. On one hand, they are entertaining, but I wonder if my enjoyment is from the novelty and not the quality of the work. In any case, “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” is very entertaining and seemingly well done.

Deal Me In: 8❤️
“The Bughouse Caper” by Bill Pronzini – My second selection from Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years. In this story, Holmes is officially still dead, but alive and well and not really hiding in San Francisco. The main character of this mystery is John Quincannon, which is the detective in a series by Pronzini. While the details of San Francisco were vivid, there wasn’t much Holmes and I don’t think it presented Quincannon in a good light either.

Reading

Cover: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Cover: The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard
Cover: Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

  • Still reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe as my morning book. This book deserves an internet-wide reading in the style of Dracula Daily. My friend Emily is really in it now!
  • Found out that The Pale Blue Eye, a currently Poe-adjacent Netflix movie, is based on a book by Louis Bayard.
  • Which means that Mockingbird by Walter Tevis has been knocked down my list a ways.

Challenge Updates

My Challenges

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 1/20
    We Are Sitting in a Room counts!
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: currently 518
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 0/18

Shelf Maintenance

It has been 3 days since I last acquired a book. I purchased K J Kabza’s new anthology Through Spaces.

Posted in Female Author, Novella, Short Story

Yuletide 2022, Check-In #2

Mistletoe

The Christmas Wish by Lindsey Kelk
I started following Lindsey Kelk on Twitter a while ago because she seemed lovely. It turns out that she had a book coming out this winter and it was perfect for Yuletide Challenge. Honestly, I haven’t has so much fun reading a book in a while. To be reductive, but also well-stated, The Christmas Wish is Christmas rom-com meets Groundhog Day. Gwen, whose life is totally-not-a-mess-really, finds herself reliving Christmas Day until she can solve the riddle of the Christmas wish. The book is well-written and funny. There are so many meals and snacks that I no longer feel silly about how often my characters eat. This was the perfect read for this week.

Sugar Plum

Every year, Multo (Ghost) presents Winter Tales. I love that spooky season extends through the dark nights of the year.

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 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, 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 . . .

Posted in Female Author, History, Male Author, Nonfiction, Novella

Reading Notes, 8/2/21

Finished Reading

Cover: All Systems Red by Martha Well

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

I’ll be honest, I was looking for a short science fiction book for #TrekAThon and I’d heard a bit about the Martha Wells “Murderbot Diaries.” All Systems Red was fine. A first person narrative, our main character is the self-dubbed Murderbot, a sentient security droid who hacked his governance programing. Murderbot is taciturn, sarcastic, cynical, and a bit lazy when it can be. Kind of like grumpy teenager. Murderbot has a past, which we don’t find too much about, and the story has a mystery, which isn’t entirely solved. This is the first in a series of novellas, after all. I’m not inclined to read the rest because “Murderbot Diaries” isn’t really my thing. I find I’m pretty picky about science fiction.

Jay’s Journal of Anomalies by Ricky Jay

From 1994–2000, magician Ricky Jay published a quarterly pamphlet entitled Jay’s Journal of Anomalies. This is a soft bound collection of the 16 issues, lovely typeset and lushly illustrated. Subjects include intelligent dog acts, flea circuses, ceiling walkers, the Mechanical Turk, and the odd association between dentists and traveling entertainments. Magic adjacent subjects. Jay is more interested in the history of such things instead of the debunking of them. The illustrations of broadside, advertisements, and poster are from his own collections.

Summer Challenges Check-In

#TrekAThon

#TrekAThon wrapped up on Saturday. I managed to save six crew members! Hey, I’m terrible at prompt-based readathons, so this is totally a win for me.

  1. Commander Scott: Zhiguai: Chinese True Tales of the Paranormal and Glitches in the Matrix, edited and translated by Yi Izzy Yu & John Yu Branscum
  2. Nurse Chapel: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho
  3. Captain Kirk: Jay’s Journal of Anomalies by Ricky Jay
  4. Yeoman Rand: Jay’s Journal of Anomalies by Ricky Jay
  5. Commander Spock: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
  6. Lieutenant Uhura: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

20 Books of Summer

My goal for 20 Books of Summer was ten books. And with a month left, I’ve read…ten books! I don’t really have plans to expand my goal to 15 books. I have two books in-progress that would count (started after June 1st), but I also have The Mysteries of Udolpho, planned for August which is 18th century and long. But, Reverse Readathon and Bout of Books are both coming up; I won’t say “impossible” and I’ll continue to keep count.


Posted in History, Male Author, Novel, Novella

Reading Notes, 6/10/21

Finished Reading

God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert

According to my blog archive, I finished my first reading of Children of Dune in 2006. I then tried to read God Emperor of Dune. Eric had warned me that it was a tough read. I don’t know when I gave up on it, but it made a reappearance on my 2011 TBR. I don’t think I ever got to it in 2011. Around the internet, the general advisement for God Emperor was, read the Wikipedia entry and the Fandom article and move on. When I set up my Dune “challenge” for this year, I allotted one month each for the first three books (these were rereads) and two months each for the last three. Which meant that I needed to finish God Emperor around the end of May. I decided that if I didn’t finish it by then, I’d give in and read the summaries. I planned a chapter a day; classic “eating the elephant” strategy. And it worked! So, fifteen years after my first try:

God Emperor of Dune is sort of an awkward book. Without delving into too much research about the matter, it feels like Frank Herbert had a good idea for the first three books, which were marketed as a trilogy at the time. The books were successful and Herbert had more ideas—why not write more Dune books? Well, the next phase of the story really required some set up. More set up than could be handled in exposition. So, God Emperor ends up being this weird bridge book. All the characters that you’ve come to know in the first three books are gone or very changed. Except for Duncan Idaho, who has really been more of a background character until now. Things happen, there are some important events that set up Heretics of Dune, but there is also a lot of philosophy and a lot of people scheming in rooms to not much avail.

I’m glad I got through it, but I probably didn’t gain a huge amount by reading the book instead of reading the summaries.

All the Flavors by Ken Liu

All the Flavors was a novella originally published by GigaNotoSaurus. I ended up with a copy of it on my Kindle and, while cataloging titles, I decided to impulse read it. I haven’t read much of Ken Liu’s works though The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is very well regarded among people I know.

This story is subtitled “A Tale of Guan Yu, the Chinese God of War, in America.” It’s sort of a take on the Yellow Peril stories that became a thing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America. Based on history, somewhat, it involves Chinese workers in Idaho. Very good; I liked it a lot. Also, my first Book of Summer!

Currently Reading

  • The Hypno-Ripper: Or, Jack the Hypnotically Controlled Ripper; Containing Two Victorian Era Tales Dealing with Jack the Ripper and Hypnotism, edited by Donald K. Hartman – So far, it’s a little slow. To be fair, Hartman warns of this.
  • Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert – I’m reading a chapter a day.
  • Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury – A book I keep mis-titling. Reading an essay or so a day.

Reading Challenge Check-In

The Classics Club
Goal: 10 Books by 12/14/21
Progress: 5/10
✅ Read Mosses from an Old Manse by Nathanial Hawethorn

#ShelfLove
Goal: Abstain from acquiring books; read at least 21 books from my shelves.
Progress: 1 pre-order, 3 free books, 2 very cheap books, 4 ARC/review copies; 5/21+
⭕ On one hand, I’ve read a few of my own books. On the other, I’ve still acquired a few too many ARCs/review copies…

I Read Horror Year-Round
Goal: Read 6 books from 6 categories.
Progress: 2/6
⭕ No progress here at the moment, yet I don’t feel behind.

Nonfiction
Goal: Read at least 30% nonfiction.
Progress: Currently 35%
✅ Back up after The Haunting of Alma Fielding and finishing up some nonfiction “morning” books.