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Reading Notes, 6/8/23

Currently Reading / 20 Books of Summer

Yes, I did go to the library this week and, yes, I did update my 20 Books of Summer list.

  • The Age of Lovecraft, edited by Carl H. Sederholm & Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock – Library book, found while browsing the shelves. Since I’d been reading Lovecraft on the bus, I figured this was appropriate.
  • The Monk by Matthew Lewis – This book is a slow roller-coaster.

Short Story Round-Up

“I Think I’m Paranoid” by Angela Sylvaine – A twisty-turny mystery tale about artificial intelligence and the irony of nature vs. nurture vs. system error.

Deal Me In, Wk 22: 2♠️
Deuces are wild! I picked “As Though I Were A Little Sun” by Grace Chan, the Aurealis Award winner for Best Science Fiction Story. If you were a tree, what tree would you be?

“I Know Thy Works” by Tara Isabella Burton – I continue to find dinner party stories fascinating. This SF story posits a world in which an app can measure your devotion to a stated ethos (and of course share it), which makes me wonder what my stated ethos would be.

“The Shadow Out of Time” by H. P. Lovecraft – I’ve owned an anthology of H. P. Lovecraft stories for a good long while. I’ve dipped in and out of it over the years, but decided to add the unread stories to this year’s Deal Me In challenge. Well, all of the stories aside from the 50 page novella, “The Shadow Out of Time.” But now that I’ve read it, I can mark The Best of H. P. Lovecraft off my shelves at the end of Deal Me In. In the past, I’ve complained that Lovecraft doesn’t describe things, but I just hadn’t read “The Shadow Out of Time.” I’m not sure it’s better, but I can definitely see in influence of Lovecraft in D&D adventure descriptions.

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Reading Notes, 3/9/23


Finished two books this week. Shocking, I know!

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan

In 1985, Carl Sagan participated in the Gifford Lectures, a series at the University of Glasgow on natural theology. The Varieties of Scientific Experience is the transcript of those lectures. Most are, of course, on what physics and astrophysics can tell us about the possible existence of God. Sagan’s view is that it depends on how we define God. If you consider how marvelous it is that there is a set of physical laws that go beyond just our puny little world, shouldn’t that be grand enough to be considered god? Sagan notes that without a meddling god, humans are left to take responsibility for their own actions and have moral obligation toward preserving this world and not blowing ourselves up with nuclear weapons (as was the overwhelming worry in 1985).

Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

I bought this book at Page One Books in Lincoln. Since it’s never mentioned in my back-from-Nebraska hauls, I’ve probably owned this book since college. So, yeah, it’s been on my shelves for 25-ish years.

It’s entertaining, the things that a science fiction author believes will continue into the future. For example in Mockingbird, Sears department store. Granted at time of writing, Sears has existed in one form or another for well over a century. Unfortunately, it will only be a memory by the 22nd century.

Mockingbird is about a robot apocalypse, sort of. Somewhere along the way, humans gave over the operation of everything to robots and retreated into drugs, ignorance, and “privacy.” Reading isn’t just illegal; it’s become a lost art. And when the remaining Mark 9 robot wishes to end his service to humanity, by ending humanity, most humans don’t even notice what’s going on. But there are lessons in this book for us:

“Why shouldn’t I teach Mary Lou to read?”

. . . “Reading is too intimate,” Spofforth said. “It will put you too close to the feelings and ideas of others. It will disturb and confuse you.”

. . . “Why should it be a crime to be disturbed and confused? And to know what others have thought and felt?”

Seems pretty a propos of now.

Short Stories

Currently Reading

  • The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume 1
  • Web of the City by Harlan Ellison

Challenge Updates

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 3/20 ✅ +1
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: 519 ❌ +0
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 1/18 ❌ +0
  • Shelf Maintenance: ✅ It’s been twelve days since I last acquired a book.
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Reading Notes, 2/9/23


The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Just before I let my Netflix subscription expire, I saw that a movie with Edgar Allan Poe as a character would be premiering later in January. Or, I should say, another movie with Edgar Allan Poe as a character, following Shudder’s 2022 Raven’s Hallow. Both of these films are set during Poe’s short time at West Point. Considering that Raven’s Hallow wasn’t very good (I didn’t even finish watching it) and I have a mixed relationship with Poe as a character, The Pale Blue Eye didn’t entice me to keep my Netflix subscription for another month. But when I found out The Pale Blue Eye was based on a book, I was curious enough to read the first few pages and check it out from the library.

It was the tone of Augustus Landor, our primary protagonist, that got me. He’s intelligent, but grounded. We are given hints of his illustrious past as an investigator. He’s not willing to talk much his wife and daughter, not even to us, his dear readers. He is ill and old (48, my age) and agrees to take one last case. Poe is not our main character, which is good.

“I neglected to tell you, Mr. Landor! I am a poet myself. Hence inclined to think as one. I cannot help myself, you see.”

“Another medical condition, Mr. Poe?”

“Yes,” he said unblinking. “I shall have to donate my body to science.”

As a character, Landor kept me interested, even when I thought the mystery was flagging. Thankfully, there was a twist I wasn’t expecting.

Short Stories

Deal Me In, Week 5: 3♦️
And now I’m on a diamond run, apparently. Another pick from Monstrous Affections: “Old Souls” by Cassandra Clare. This story plays with the trope of the vampire and the high school student, but is no less emo than most vampire stories. A problem I’m going to have with this anthology is that I’m not much a fan of YA.

Also this week: “Bad Doors” by John Wiswell. Personally, I’m curious about how the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be handled in fiction. As John said in a tweet, a lot of people told him that the themes in “Bad Doors” would quickly become dated. A.) They’re wrong, and B.) fiction is meant to be reflective of the times. It’s funny (not) how little fiction there is regarding the 1918 pandemic. Will that be the same in for COVID?


  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe – I have a couple weeks left, at a chapter/day rate. It’s been much more readable than expected.
  • Mockingbird by Walter S. Tevis – I said I was going to get back to this and I have.
  • How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis – library book

Challenge Updates

My Challenges

Again, no movement.

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 1/20
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: 518
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 0/18

Shelf Maintenance

It’s been 24 days since I acquired a book.

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Reading Notes, 1/26/23

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


Short Stories

Deal Me In: 2❤️
I managed to pick yet another heart! That’s three in a row. Deuces are wild so I chose a story off my infinite short story list. “AITA for throwing away my wife’s haunted dolls?” by Annika Barranti Klein is an example of other-thing-as-narrative that didn’t really work for me. Maybe it was because “haunted” is being invoked in the title that led the rest of the story to being a bit flat. (In contrast, Sarah Pinsker’s “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” lingers quite a while in area of mundane-but-slightly-off before bringing in an urban legend-like aspect.)

My “extra” short story for the week was “Grits, Goblins, and Good Times” by WC Dunlap.

“You really shouldn’t have done that.” Mister Chauncey’s voice is filled with amusement. “There’s disrespect, and then there’s sugar in grits. Holy shit, kids, you done fucked up now.”

It’s a full little story with lots of food and some other spicy things.


Didn’t finish any longer works in the past week. I’m still reading and enjoying:

  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  • The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Challenge Updates

No change here either.

My Challenges

  • Read 20 books that I owned before 1/1/23: 1/20
  • Get my Library Thing “to-read” down to 500: 518
  • Read 18 books from my Classics Club list: 0/18

Shelf Maintenance

I has been 10 days since I acquired a book.

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Yuletide Check-In #3

All the Details: Yuletide Spirit

I never got around to reading a second Christmas-y novel and kinda failed by book challenge level. 😬

But! I read a few more short stories:

“The Wish” by Ray Bradbury – A bittersweet tale with a dash of scary. Typical Bradbury. One of my best friends from college passed away a few years ago. This story reminded me of the blizzardy night she spent with me when her power was out. We watched Hamlet, the super long Kenneth Branagh version.

“Completely Safe and Totally Human Midwinter Holiday Tips” by E.M. Linden – A clever little story guide to planning a party. A fey did not write this, I’m sure.

“Between the Lights” by E. F. Benson, mentioned in this Paris Review article. An odd little folk horror tale.

“Your Son’s Favorite Hanukkah Latkes” by Zachary Rosenberg – How many Hanukkah stories do you run into? How many Hanukkah horror stories? Exactly. You’re welcome.

“Rat King” by S. M. Hallow – My favorite bit of the Nutcracker (at least the original version) is that the Rat King is a rat king.

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#20BooksOfSummer22 ~ Psychic Blues

cover: Psychic Blues by Mark Edward

Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium by Mark Edward

I enjoy reading books by authors who obviously love the subject they’re writing about. Their enthusiasm comes through and makes the stories they tell compelling, even if it’s a topic I’m not that interested in.

This is not one of those books.

Mark Edward dislikes magic and magicians, psychics and mentalists, and actually seems to dislike people in general.

I will admit to a couple things at this point. I don’t believe in psychic phenomena and I don’t like psychics and mentalists either. I know it’s all a con. I decided to read Psychic Blues to get the perspective of a psychic who admits as much. I’ve read a number books by magicians about the deception involved in magic, but magicians generally retain a certain amount of respect for their audience.

Edward has no respect for the people he’s conning. Not for the people who called in to the Psychic Friends Network in the 90s or the celebrities he’s given tarot readings to at parties. He doesn’t call his sitters rubes, but he has nothing but disdain for the entire process. I’m not sure why the word “conflicted” is used in the extended title of this book. Edward is never conflicted about taking advantage of people, only about whether it’s actually worth his time and effort. He never worries about whether what he’s doing is harming someone.

He does seem to think fairly well of himself, but he’s not that interesting of a subject.

This is book #3 for 20 Books of Summer.

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24-Hour Readathon October 2021

Image for Oct 2021 Readathon

. . . Sunday, 02:30

Nope, I didn’t make it any longer than usual! I was toast by 2:30.

Closing Survey

  1. How would you assess your reading overall? It went well! I still haven’t gotten to The Ceremonies, but that was a stretch goal.
  2. Did you have a strategy, and if so, did you stick to it? Stuck to it pretty well. Maybe, I need a new strategy, maybe I’m just fine reading, like, 18 hours.
  3. What was your favorite snack? Totino’s Party Pizza was so good!
  4. Did you add any new books to your TBR/wishlist after seeing what everyone else is reading? I did not. I’m trying to be very good about not adding to my TBR (she says the week before Nonfic November).
  5. What was your favorite book or experience from this readathon? I love Lavie Tidhar’s Judge Dee stories. They’re fun creepy mysteries, perfect for the season!

Saturday, 21:00–Sunday, 01:00

Worked well earlier so I read another Clive Barker story, followed by the 3rd (and sadly last (for now?)) Judge Dee tale. My hands haven’t been super happy with holding books so in a complete change of plan (shocking, I know!) I’m listening to A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher and do some light EQ2 gaming.

Saturday, 17:00–21:00

(I was a little late with the last update and early with this one . . .) Finished “Floating Water,” “The Skins of the Fathers” by Clive Barker (From Books of Blood), and “Judge Dee and the Three Deaths of Count Werdenfels” by Lavie Tidhar. No snacks in this period, but a diet Mountain Dew toward the beginning and a shot of cinnamon whiskey in the recent past. Alcohol is a gambit during Readathon. I hope it will loosen me up, but it could just put me to sleep.

Some Stuff I’ll Probably Read

Saturday, 13:00–17:00

Finished Danse Macabre by Stephen King and then read my Deal Me In story for the week: “Red Sky At Morning” by Alanna Smith. I also ended up watching a game of ultimate frisbee while reading and eating dinner (a Party Pizza, hash-browns, and a Sleepy Dog Brewery peanut-butter stout). Started “Floating Water” by Koji Suzuki before going out and throwing a disc myself with my husband.

Saturday, 09:00–13:00

I got back up at about 9:15. I’ve read 69 pages of Danse Macabre and am pretty close to finishing it. Food & drink: left over piece of pizza, a pear, second cup of coffee, a diet Dr. Pepper Cream Soda, and lots of water. Also took out the recycling.

Saturday, 05:00–09:00

Finished the last three chapters of The Sundial by Shirley Jackson (47 pages). Had donuts and a cup of coffee. And then I went back to bed!

Opening Event Survey

I “slept” terribly, but here I am at 04:54! I foresee a nap in my future.

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Tempe, AZ
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Probably the Judge Dee stories I’ve bookmarked.
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? A Totino’s Party Pizza for “lunch.”
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! I really enjoy playing ultimate frisbee and right now I’m the oldest woman playing in our local rec league.
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? Well, I wanted to go to bed early, but I’m a terrible sleeper!


Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon starts at 5am on Saturday for me. Will I be up that early? Probably not. But we’ll see. I have nothing going on this Saturday, not even a football to watch/listen to, so it’s pretty much perfect.