Tag Archives: 15in31

#RIPX and #15in31 Wrap-Up

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Image by Abigail Larson

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X

First off, a couple of Peril on the Screen mini reviews:

Nightcrawler (2014, dir. by Dan Gilroy) – Jake Gyllenhaal plays accident-chasing videographer Louis Bloom to sociopathic perfection. This is an uncomfortable movie. Good, but I doubt I’ll ever give it a rewatch.

Psycho II (1983, dir. by Richard Franklin), Psycho III (1986, dir. by Anthony Perkins) – Psycho is an absolute classic, but not even it could avoid the 80’s horror sequel cash-grab. To be fair, the Psycho sequels aren’t *too* bad. The second is a tidy little thriller: Norman Bates has been let back into society, but is he still a little mad, or is someone else pretending to be Mother? The third comes closest to being Gothic with themes of secret parentage and more of a focus on the moor-like surroundings. It also  has an occasional phantasmagoric quality, but isn’t as solid as a movie.

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Review ~ Distant Waves

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Cover via Goodreads

From the author of REINCARNATION, another historical, supernatural romance, this time focusing on five sisters whose lives are intertwined with the sinking of the Titanic.

Science, spiritualism, history, and romance intertwine in Suzanne Weyn’s newest novel. Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla’s inventions dooms them…and one could save them. (via Goodreads)

And Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini are in this book too! Obviously, it pokes many of my historical fandom buttons.

In Distant Waves, history is stretched and twisted back on itself so that many of the events and relationships converge on 1912. There are a lot of inaccuracies, some of which Weyn addresses at the end of the book. To some extent this should be read as more of an alternative history rather than a historical fiction. There are certainly a few speculative touches that pull it away from realistic fiction.

It was a readable book, fairly well-paced despite a pretty long lead-up to the Titanic. It was great for the readathon and I read it cover to cover last Saturday.

I’m not quite sure what I think of Weyn’s Tesla. Not surprisingly to me, the main character Jane, a fan of Sherlock Holmes, takes a liking to the eccentric scientist, who manages to rescue them during his man-made New York earthquake.  We’re treated to a lot of “creative genius picked on by capitalism” stories. In regards to spiritualism, Weyn leaves things ambiguous and that’s a good line to take in this book.

There was one plot point that I kind of rolled my eyes at, even in the midst of all the other stretches. In this case, it was more of a concrete problem solved by overly lucky circumstances that could have been dealt with, I think, in a less complicated manner. (I know this pitfall well; it’s one I often fall victim to.)

Publishing info, my copy: Scholastic, Inc, trade paperback, 2009
Acquired: Paperback Swap, I think.
Genre: historical, speculative fiction

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Three More Short Reviews

I’m enjoying a less rigid blogging structure. And I’m having fun with all the great blogging activities during October!

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Cover via Goodreads“Hildie at the Ghost Shore” by Paula Cappa – I’m a fan of Paula Cappa’s blog. She’s a well-read aficionado of supernatural fiction. And she’s also a really good writer. “Hildie at the Ghost Shore” covers a lot ground. The setting, the magic, and the mystery are vivid and compelling. Hildie is an old woman, a lace maker and a caster of runes. She does not take her work lightly and neither does the stranger who appears one morning asking about the fate of his daughter. The I’m looking forward to reading Cappa’s novel Greylock in the near future. (Maybe even this readathon weekend!) Check out all of Paula Cappa’s works at Amazon: Right now “Hildie” is available for free!

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p185545_b_v9_acPushing Daisies (2007) – The facts are these: Before Bryan Fuller re-imagined Thomas Harris’s magnum opus with the visually stunning and dark Hannibal, he created and produced a bright, quirky show with no less than the Lazarian dead at its heart. On one hand, Pushing Daisies is a sweet tale of true love between Ned the Pie Maker (Lee Pace) and his childhood sweetheart Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel). On the other hand, there is Ned’s gift: the ability to touch a dead person and bring them back to life. The catch? If Ned touches the person again, they’re dead for good, and, if he doesn’t, someone else nearby dies. This might not be a problem if his reunion with Chuck hadn’t been as part of Investigating her murder with PI Emerson Cod. Despite the saturated colors and imaginative visuals, a certain amount of glee is evident in the design of the murder victims. As a whole, the short-lived series danced back and forth on the line between cartoony and disturbing. It’s probably the most technicolor RIP around.

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Tragic Magic CoverTragic Magic by Harry Leat – With a cover like that, I’d hoped to have a stronger RIPX read. Harry Leat was mostly known as a magic publisher and dealer, and Tragic Magic is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s some poetry, a few stories, a handful of tricks, and a lot of commentary about the magic industry circa 1924, including a lengthy essay on the use of doves in magic acts. One observation: all the illusions that Leat describes have a very strong narrative structure. Actually, it goes beyond that. What he describes are staged vignettes that don’t really rely on the magician’s persona. They’re more like one act plays that involve magic tricks.

#15in31 ~ Three Short Reviews

I will be honest: I might be attempting #15in31—reading 15 books in the 31 days of October—but I’m going to be choosing some short works. My reviews? Maybe as short.

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A multiple exposure picture (by photographer Dickenson Alley) of Tesla sitting in his laboratory in 1899.

My Inventions by Nikola Tesla ~ Nikola Tesla is one of the most famous and most innovative inventors of the 19th and 20th centuries. A lot has been written about him (one of my favorite books of 2014 was Bernard W. Carlson’s biography), but I hadn’t realized that Tesla himself had written about his life. My Inventions is a collection of articles that were originally published in Electrical Experimenter magazine in 1919 when Tesla was 63 years old.

Tesla is actually pretty readable. Well, at least I thought so, but I *am* used to the company of engineers. These articles were also much more about the inventing than the inventions. Tesla does think very highly of himself, obviously with good reason most of the time, but somewhat incongruously at other times. For example, knowing how wildly over-budget some of his later projects were, I’m skeptical of his claim that he was able to perfectly design an apparatus in his head, without the need for testing.

My Inventions by Nikola Tesla is available online for free!

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Left: An older Joseffy with Balsamo, the Talking Skull.
Right: An illustration from the book – Joseffy performing a not entirely accurate Rising Card trick.

The Marvelous Creations of Joseffy by David P. Abbott ~ I got in the mood to read Tesla because I was in the mood to read about Joseffy. Joseph Freud, known by the stage name Joseffy, was a magician and mechanician in the early 20th century. He too was an inventor, not on the level of Tesla, but with a number of patent to his name outside of being a wonder-worker on stage. Published in 1908, The Marvelous Creations of Joseffy is a short treatise on the magician’s signature tricks written by David P. Abbott. It’s an outlier in the world of magic books. It describes the tricks without exposing them. (Most magic books of the era, written by magicians, did explain the methods behind tricks. Fellow magicians have to learn their craft somehow!)  Additionally, the book is illustrated with photographs, but they are slight exaggerations of the actual tricks and sometimes don’t really match Abbott’s descriptions. It’ss a level of misdirection which can probably only be appreciated by magicians.

This is a reread for me. Abbott is the subject of my fiction and Joseffy is probably going to make an appearance one of these days. Joseffy was a bit of a mad scientist and I’m sad that he’s relatively unknown outside of magic history circles. As I noted on Twitter, after reading about Tesla and Joseffy all weekend going back to a book about Houdini seemed rather bland. The Marvelous Creations of Joseffy is also in the public domain, but the version I read is part of House of Mystery, the complete works of David P. Abbott, collected and commented on by Teller and Todd Karr.

Cover via Goodreads

When I’m Dead All This Will Be Yours! by Teller ~ Speaking of Teller, half of the magic duo Penn & Teller…

If it weren’t for Eric, I wouldn’t own this book. Never a browser, Eric took a seat in the humor section at A Novel Idea bookstore in Lincoln, NE to wait while I shopped. I’ve been mostly scouring bookstore for books on magic and Nebraska history. “Nothing,” I stated, ready to leave. “There’s a book by Teller,” he said, pointing. “Where?!” I said, blind.

Of course this book was in the humor section. It isn’t about magic at all. At least not *that* kind of magic. Instead, it’s a quiet and funny little memoir about Teller and his parents. At the age of 50-ish, Teller learns that his father, an artist, tried his hand at cartooning in his younger days. This discovery leads him through his parent’s boxes of art and letters from the 1920s, 30s and 40s before he was born. It’s a charming little book that I was happy to snag. And I didn’t realize it when I bought it, but my copy is signed!

Crazy & Imperiled

About R.eaders I.mbiding P.eril X

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Image by Abigail Larson

Peril the First

  1. Motherless Child by Glen Hirshberg
  2. Psycho by Robert Bloch
  3. Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn
  4. The Miser’s Dream by John Gaspard

Peril of the Short Story

  1. “Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe
  2. “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe
  3. “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “The Little Maid at the Door” by Mary Wilkins Freeman
  5. “Hildie at the Ghost Shore” by Paula Cappa
  6. “What Do You Do?” by Gillian Flynn

Peril on the Screen

  1. Penny Dreadful and Arthur & George
  2. Aliens3 and Event Horizon
  3. Pushing Daisies

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