Tag Archives: classics club

Reading Notes, 6/3/21

Finished Reading

The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story by Kate Summerscale

Heard about this book from What’s Nonfiction’s fabulous blog.

I’ve read quite a few books about magicians and, tangentially, spiritualism due to the vocation of many magicians to debunk (or, alternatively, learn from) mediums. As a skeptic myself, I find mediumship curious. So much of it is a con, but there is also often an aspect of self-delusion. Even magicians who have done mind-reading or séance type acts—professionals who know they are not communing with spirits or guides—have reported the feeling of working beyond what they’re capable of. But they also realize that this is a feeling and not reality.

The Haunting of Alma Fielding begins in 1938 when a normal British housewife begins to be harassed by poltergeist activity. Nandor Fodor, a “ghost hunter” for the International Institute for Psychical Research, investigates. Fodor believes in psychic phenomena, but he wants badly to have scientific proof of it. When we begin this story, he’s in some hot water with the IIPR because he has, disappointingly, proved several mediums to be frauds. He is desperate to find a true case of a haunting, but has also begun to theorized that these poltergeists might be manifestations (still psychic in nature) of trauma. As Alma begins to get attention, from the press and the IIPR, the poltergeist activity shifts to being apports (manifested objects) and mediumship, things that Fodor wants to see of her. There is an interplay between the expectations of Alma and Fodor. Their relationship becomes maybe too co-dependent. And Fodor eventually finds out that Alma isn’t as simple as she seems. This is all against the backdrop of a Britain under increasing pressure as WWII become immanent. Summerscale mentions that there was an increase in news-worthy cases of poltergeist activity during this era, which is a interesting detail.

At times, the book was maybe a little repetitive and there were a few too many a names. I had a tough time remembering who everyone was after putting the book down for a day or two. For me, this is a good addition to my framework of magic and spiritualism. It brought me further into the 20th century than my usual reading.

Mosses from an Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This was my May Classics Club Spin book, which I did finish in May. Barely.

I forget sometimes that Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe were contemporaries. What wonderful dinner parties those would be… Anyway. Like Poe, I’m not a fan of Hawthorne’s straight-up allegories. We’ve talked about this before when I touched on “Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent” during Deal Me In. To me, the only way a writer should present allegory is if they can do it with a level of actual story. So, a few of the stories in Mosses (“The Celestial Rail-road ” & “The Procession of Life”) were rather torturous for me to get through. But so many others are such wonderful, if cynical, stories. I’m still a Hawthorne neophyte, so I’m still surprised by the very dim view Hawthorne takes of humankind. I’m not used to that from authors. Ironically, while I am not a fan of allegory, I am a fan of speculative fiction genres and the two go hand in hand, especially in the pre-pulp days. “Young Goodman Brown” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and even “Feathertop” and “Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent” have gooey horror fiction cores.

Deal Me In

4♠️ – “The Cold Embrace” by Mary E. Braddon
Speaking of early horror fiction… Ever read a story where you say, “Oh, you naive boy. You don’t know what kind of story you’re in”? Yeah, I did that here and enjoyed every second of our main character’s comeuppance.

Currently Reading

Started on my summer reading and then was quickly sidetracked my an impulse read, All the Flavors by Ken Liu, while I was cataloging the books on my Kindle. Next up is 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 and then back to Journey to the Center of the Earth.


Reading Notes, 5/17/21

Bout of Books 31 Wrap-up

Last week was actually kind of stressful, despite my optimistic Monday attitude. I had a goal of reading 700 pages for BoB and ended up reading 648 pgs. Considering I got into a big don’t-feel-like-reading mood around Thursday, that’s pretty good.

  • I finished reading A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (and reviewed it!). I’ll say it again, I definitely recommend it.
  • I also finished Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg. It’s her follow-up to Writing Down the Bones. I’ve been reading a chapter or so of a writing-related book every morning for a while now.
  • I made a good start on Mosses from an Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne and read a couple other short stories as well.

Currently Reading


Reading Notes, 5/3/21

Spring Into Horror Wrap-Up

Spring into Horror Readathon banner

I didn’t finish many books in April, but I did keep (happily) focused on horror. I read to completion The Phantom of the Opera (which was my Classic’s Club pick) and Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren. I also read volume one of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. I’m not counting that as finished because it’s a three volume collection and I do intend to read the rest. I started The Ceremonies by T. E. D. Klein and I’m in the middle of Nightmare Movies by Kim Newman.

Deal Me In

8♣️: “Let Shadows Slip Through” by Kali Napier
Our narrator is a nervous mother, traveling with her young son in Australia. When they stop at the Hampton Arms tea room, her past catches up to her. A short, atmospheric piece with a haunting sense of place.

Reading Challenge Check-In

Didn’t I just do this? I guess April went by fast-ish, which is a change from any month since February 2020.

Classics Club Icon

The Classics Club

Goal: 10 Books by 12/14/21
Progress: 4/10

✅ Read The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I’m on track!


A pic of a bookshelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

#ShelfLove

Goal: Abstain from acquiring books; read at least 21 books from my shelves.
Progress: 1 pre-order, 3 free books, 1 very cheap book by an author I love, 1 ARC; 3/21+

❌ Yes, somehow I managed to not finish reading any of my own books…


I Read Horror Year-Round banner

I Read Horror Year-Round

Goal: Read 6 books from 6 categories.
Progress: 2/6

Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren counts for the prompt: Written by a woman! I decided not to count The Phantom of the Opera for “Monster or monsters” despite the OG being one of Universal’s classic movie monsters. The OG (Opera Ghost) is a guy with some issues.


Dune Read-through

Goal: Read Herbert’s 6 Dune books by October.
Progress: Finished Children of Dune and started God Emperor of Dune. The chapter-a-day method is working well. ✅

Nonfiction

Goal: Read at least 30% nonfiction.
Progress: I slipped down to 27%. And then decided to right the situation by starting a 640 page book. I’m pretty sure I’m totally doing this correctly. 👍‍‍

Short Stories

Goal: Deal Me In each week and Cather Reading Project each month.
Progress: Doing fine here. ✅

Reading Notes, 4/27/21

Finished Reading

I participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon on this past Saturday. I started more books than I finished, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I did read, cover-to-cover, Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren. It’s a horror novella that has been getting quite a bit of award nomination notice. Dora, who has recently lost her two children to a tragedy, becomes a resident at The Angelsea, a boarding house for people who have a hard time sleeping. It’s a grimy, skeevy place full of ghosts and opportunists.

I also read/listened to a few short stories, including Lovecraft’s “Colour Out of Space” and the delightful “The Tree’s Wife” by Mary Elizabeth Counselman. I’m not familiar with Counselman, but I find it delightful that she wrote for both Weird Tales and Good Housekeeping.

Deal Me In

J♦️ – “Dotty” by Horacio Quiroga
This story by Uruguayan writer Quiroga was translated by Nina Zumel. Zumel includes a link discussing the translation and adaptation: how to include the word-play of the original story when a fairly straight English translation doesn’t allow for that. I think she does a darn good job. This story is a little weird and a little unsettling as we contemplate the many meanings of “dotty.”

Willa Cather Short Story Project

This month’s story is “The Son of the Celestial,” in which Cather indulges in Oriental exoticism. On one hand, it’s Cather stretching her writing muscles. It’s imaginative and has some fine imagery. On the other hand, the depiction of Yung Le Ho is very stereotypical for the time (and for a long time to come). Ponter is his good friend, a white man who is on the outs with academia due to his propensity for drinking and pool playing. It should be noted though that Yung is still a member of his community while Ponter is not really a member of white society.

Currently Reading


One of the books I started on Saturday was Nightmare Movies: Horror on the Screen since the 1960s by Kim Newman. It’s big. I’ll try to finish it by the time my loan ends. Still doing a chapter-a-day of God Emperor of Dune (which reminds me, I haven’t read today!). And I’ve jumped back into the world of ARCs with P. Djèlí Clark’s A Master of Djinn.

Reading Notes, 4/18/21

Finished Reading

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Growing up in the 80s, even in Omaha, NE, it was pretty much impossible to not be aware of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, but my first girlish infatuation with The Phantom of the Opera was due to a 1990 mini-series with Charles Dance as the Phantom. Ah! the romance! Ah! the creepy opera house full of secret passageways and hidden doors. (Also being a makeup effects fan, I of course knew of Lon Chaney in the 1925 movie.) But, I hadn’t read book. Translations are particularly a classics hurdle for me.

Leroux was a journalist and a mystery writer, with particular reverence for Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Alan Poe. Had I known that, I probably would have read his works sooner. And I’ll probably be inclined to read more of his straighter mysteries. As is, The Phantom of the Opera is very much a serial novel of the time and almost more toward the adventure genre, at least toward the end of the book. I don’t know what I think of the romance angle. The Opera Ghost (as he’s known in the novel) is manipulative and overbearing; Raoul is jealous and easily wounded. Poor Christine has her hands full trying to juggle them. There are definitely some creepy moments, but also a sub-plot or two that plod along.

A Classics Club pick and very #SpringHorror appropriate, but, ultimately, not suitable for the I Read Horror All Year “monster” prompt. The O. G. (as he’s also referred to in the book, which is amusing considering the current slang use) is more of a man with problems than a monster.

Classics Club Spin #26

And the random choice is… 11!

The next Classics Club book I will be reading is Mosses from an Old Manse by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I’m excited for this one, but I realized looking over the table of contents that I’ve read quite a few of this collection’s stories. For example, I just read “Egotism, or, The Bosom Serpent” a couple months ago for Deal Me In. I didn’t do a good job cross referencing my lists, obviously.

Deal Me In

8♠️: “The Pipers of Mallory” by Henrietta Dorothy Everett
Another story from Multo’s Women Writers of Folklore series. Henrietta Dorothy Everett often wrote as Theo Douglas and is one of so many fine writers who is little known now. This story is nicely done, set during WWI with harbinger ghosts.

Currently Reading

Saturday (April 24th) is Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. I plan on taking part and knocking out some extra #SpringHorror reading.


The Classic Meme 2.0 ~ Er, from October…

A shelf of books.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Back in October, I was in the throes of Halloween so I didn’t get around to answering this question from The Classics Club:

Discuss the classics you read as a child.
Who introduced you to them?
Which ones were you favourites?
Do you still reread them as an adult? Why? Why Not?

But what is time anyway? So, here’s a Classics Meme “catch-up” post.

On the weird side, I remember reading Edgar Allan Poe stories and Sherlock Holmes stories as a kid. For K-6th grade, I attended a small Lutheran school but within its library were some abridged, illustrated editions of classic horror tales, including Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” I probably checked them out a dozen times each. I binged Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories one summer before junior high while enamored with Jeremy Brett’s portrayal on TV. Of course I still read Poe and Doyle. Their themes and language are a literary gift that keeps on giving.

Illustration by John Lawn from "The Masque of the Red Death."
Illustration by John Lawn

On the less weird side, as many girls do, I went through a horse phase. I read a few of Marguerite Henry’s books (King of the Wind being my favorite) and many of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. These, I haven’t had any want to reread, even though my Mom recently returned the Black Stallion books I’d left with her when I moved away. Young protagonists have always been hard to sell to me; it hasn’t gotten any easier now that I’m in my 40s…

I probably would have enjoyed Roald Dahl or Lloyd Alexander, but I seemingly never crossed paths with them as a kid. Perhaps if I could go back in time I’d slip a book into young Katherine’s stack and say, “I got two words for you, kid: oracular pig.”

Classics Club Check-In, Year One

It has been almost a year since I joined the Classics Club. Time for an update!

2020

To read 50 classics in 5 years, I need to read 10 books per year. (Arithmetic that even I can do!) I am *slightly* behind schedule, sort of. I’ve checked off eight titles:

  1. The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve
  2. The Vampyre by John William Polidori
  3. The Parasite by Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
  5. The Beetle by Richard Marsh
  6. The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker
  7. The Door in the Wall by H. G. Wells
  8. The Book of the Damned by Charles Fort

The Beetle was my favorite of this group and one of my favorite books of the year. The Door in the Wall is a close second, but Marsh’s book was a surprise, while Wells’ was as good as I expected. Sorry, H. G., that’s what you get for being solid.

I have to admit, this list does include one DNF: The Book of the Damned. I tried. I even read a book *about* Charles Fort in an effort to atone.

I do have two other titles in progress:

  • Tales of Men and Ghosts by Edith Wharton – I put the stories in this anthology on my Deal Me In list. With only three stories left in my “deck,” I still have one Wharton story! I’ll finish it up by the end of the year.
  • The Tale of Terror by Edith Birkhead – I started reading this a week ago, but since it is about 19th century Gothic literature and the next few chapters are include The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk, which I haven’t read and are on my Classics Club list, I have put it on pause.

2021

I enjoyed the Classics Club Spins, so next year will obviously include some random titles from my list. For the December/January spin, I’ll be reading Edgar Huntly by Charles Brockden Brown.

In regards to The Tale of Terror, I’m also going to try The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk. I can’t read too much of one genre at a time, so I won’t be reading them one after the other, but perhaps by the end of 2021.

Also especially looking forward to The Phantom of the Opera and Two on a Tower. But, I’m really good at making lists, and pretty terrible at sticking to them…