Fall Into Reading Wrap Up

Fall into Reading 2012

Katrina @ Callapidder Days hosted Fall Into Reading

It was only three months ago, but the beginning of Fall Into Reading seems so far in the past. I wasn’t able to participate in the end of the FrightFall Readathon or Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon, which put a dent in my plans. I also decided to do NaNoWriMo. A month of writing more than usual is not conducive to reading.I won a Kindle in November and I haven’t gotten much chance to use it! Regrettably, there are only so many hours in a day.

Books finished between Sept. 22nd and Dec. 21st:

Fall Into Reading 2012 Summary: Finished 6 books and 16 short stories. (Which is more than last year by a book and 11 stories.)

Did you finish reading all the books on your fall reading list? If not, why not? Nope. Not even close. That’s pretty normal for me.

Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along? My lists always change, but in this case, life around me gave me problems.

What was your favorite book that you read this fall? Least favorite? Why? Let the Right One In was my favorite of the fall. I really enjoyed the tapestry of characters and events. This might be a “vampire” story, but it’s definitely more about the mortal characters. Least? Shelf Life. I was looking forward to speculative fiction stories involving bookstores and the book didn’t quite deliver.

Did you discover a new author or genre this fall? Did you love them? Not love them? Discovered Ian Rogers. Every House is Haunted had strong competition for my favorite book. I’ll be checking out more of his writings in the future.

Other observations: Didn’t get much past my Hallowe’en reading. Not only have I been embroiled with my writing, I’ve been in a lull with my reading. I think it might be time to call a moratorium on some of my in-progress books that I’m not enjoying very much.

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Book #36

Hanukkah Lights: Stories of the Season from NPR’s Annual Holiday Special

Technology ate a previous draft of this entry and, unfortunately, I haven’t been keen on reproducing it. The attitude does not do this anthology justice.

I was raised Lutheran in Omaha, NE but I seem to have a particular fondness for the writings of Jewish authors.  A few weeks ago, my husband asked me what the attraction is. The thing that I formulated is that Jewish authors seem to bring a certain weight to their tales. It may sound cheesy, but it’s as though Judaism has grounded them with history that is inescapable. Even if you leave the religion out of it, I have the feeling that storytelling is more a part of Jewish culture than Christian culture. All the details of all those tales end up woven into new stories. That’s my take, anyway.

I started this year reading People of the Book; it seems appropriate that one of the last that I’ll probably finish this year is an anthology of Hanukkah stories. I know about Hanukkah in the same manner that I know Norse myths: Not having been exposed to it as a kid, it’s in the back of my brain, details jumbled, until I look them up again. I picked up this anthology due to the inclusion of two of my favorite authors, Harlan Ellison and Peter S. Beagle. In fact, I think I had read the Ellison story before and it was my previous baseline for Hanukkah facts. This book gave me a better understanding of the holiday without being particularly didactic. There wasn’t a weak piece in the volume and, despite my favorite authors, I think my favorite story was Max Apple’s “Stabbing the Elephant.” Stories and people can be flexible, and need to be sometimes.  It’s a good thing to remember during a season that should be marked with caring and merriment.

This book also left me with a craving for potato pancakes. You have been warned.

Format: Hardback
Procurement: PaperbackSwap
Bookmark: Note from the sender. Didn’t much need it since I read it in a morning.

Book # 34

Dark Water by Koji Suzuki, Glynne Walley (Translator)

I read the majority of this book on airplanes on the way back from Omaha. My return trip was strangely peppered with unusual events. Delay, further delay caused by an overhead bin that wouldn’t close, rush to make connecting flight in Denver, plane that had to turn around and re-land in Denver because the forward door wouldn’t close, deplane/replane. And as an undercurrent to it all I was reading uneasy stories about one of the things that disturbs me most: water.

The water imagery was one of the things that I found most unsettling about the film The Ring (2002). When I was writing up a Throwback Thursday entry for Suzuki’s Ring, it occurred to me that I had enjoyed the book, but hadn’t sought out any more of his fiction. A visit to PBS solved that with a book that firmly emphasized what I found deliciously creepy about the film and the book.

A thing that I’ve been paying attention to in my reading is how an author defines sense of place, or how the author wants the sense of place to be felt. Glen Hirshberg does a wonderful job of portraying numerous places, but there’s something to be said for the sustained world. Through out the stories in Dark Water the world, Suzuki’s Japan, is bright and clean and polished, but only on the surface. Below is rust and decay and ghosts of various sorts.

The collection has a wrap-around story of a woman and her granddaughter finding things at the beach. It is a foreboding set up. What things will be found? Generally, we’re led to believe that the things, the tales that follow, will be horrible. The first, “Floating Water,” is pretty grim and possibly the most traditional ghost story. Not all the ghosts in this book are the spirits of the undead. “Solitary Isle” is about ghosts of the past that manifest in real ways, as a child and a deserted artificial island. “Watercolors” uses the ghosts of past events to add depth to strange theatrical production.

Throughout there is a juxtaposition of the man made and the natural that begets a weird tension. I don’t know if that’s a particularly Japanese/Tokyo thing or if it’s something I feel being the product of sprawling, mostly land-locked cities. It feels to me that there is some worry that technology and progress have cheated nature, but nature will take her angry revenge in due time.  This is me talking from a place of little knowledge of Japanese literature. This is an observation and a hypothesis, not a full-blown theory.

Dark Water concludes in a gentle way, returning to Kayo and her granddaughter and the revelation of what Kayo considers to be the greatest treasure she’s found on the beach. It’s a comforting ending. A good woman lives a good life among all strangeness in this world.

Format: Trade Paperback
Procurement: PaperbackSwap
Bookmark: CVS coupon from its previous owner.

Book # 32*

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Ebba Segerberg (Translator)

I don’t quite remember why I decided to read this book. I had watched both the Swedish movie and the US remake. I liked both and, if you know the movie, you know there’s some ambiguity surrounding the Eli/Abby character. Maybe I was interested in how Lindqvist drew the character in the novel versus his screen adaptation. But, I don’t really remember. Regardless of what my picking rational was, it was a good choice.

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….

The book Let the Right One In has a few more threads than the movie and therefore some of the plot takes a while to get going. The payoff is that we know the characters better and that makes some of the ending events all the more horrifying. We also get to know Eli more, including some history.

It’s always tough to judge writing when translation is involved. Occasionally, the way something was expressed felt a little awkward. More plot means more characters and sometimes keeping everyone straight was a challenge. On the other hand, as a writer, it was nice to read a story that had more than one thing going on.

I’m also appreciative of how the young characters are handled. My biggest beef with much of YA fiction is that, as an adult, it doesn’t mean much to me. The angst and heartbreaks of growing up seem to be handled pretty superficially. Non-“YA” fiction with young characters project these things in a way that still resonates with me as an adult. Off the top of my head, the other example of this that I can think of is Stephen King’s “The Body.”  I’m fully open to the notion that not all YA is like this, but my opinion is reflective of my experience of it this far. As always, I’m feeling out the reasons that some things catch with me and some thing don’t.

Lindqvist wrote the screenplay for the original movie and I find the adaptation very good. All the dramatic beats remained intact. The story still told well, but in a more compact form. The US version of the film shorted the title to Let Me In, which is okay, I guess. For the book though, Let the Right One In fits so much better. All these characters, every single one, makes the choice of whom to let in.

Format: Trade Paperback
Procurement: PaperbackSwap
Bookmark: Calling Card, mine, not filled out

* My numbering is out of order because I wanted to get my impression of Every House Is Haunted out closer to its release date.

Blogging Triple Play!

Book #33

This book was provided to me by HarperCollins Canada via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers

In this brilliant debut collection, Ian Rogers explores the border-places between our world and the dark reaches of the supernatural. The landscape of death becomes the new frontier for scientific exploration. A honeymoon cabin with an unspeakable appetite finally meets its match. A suburban home is transformed into the hunting ground for a new breed of spider. A nightmarish jazz club at the crossroads of reality plays host to those who can break a deal with the devil…for a price. With remarkable deftness, Rogers draws together the disturbing and the diverting in twenty-two showcase stories that will guide you through terrain at once familiar and startlingly fresh. (via Goodreads)

I’ve been reading a lot of short stories this year (a lot for me, anyway). I’ve met my goal of averaging one short story a week for the year without counting stories from the six or so short story anthologies/collections that I’ve read. I don’t often commit myself to reading a collection of short stories by an author I’m not familiar with. Usually, I encounter a writer a few times here and there, maybe during awards season or in some themed multi-author anthology. Many short stories can be a little forgettable.

I picked up this collection from NetGalley because I was looking for some good ol’ fashioned horror stories. Yes, I did prejudge the book by its cover and its title. I figured a collection entitled Every House is Haunted had to deliver on some level. Though dubious at first, I was not disappointed. Ian Rogers’ stories are definitely not forgettable.

Rogers’ writing style is unadorned. The plots of his tales meander. I’m reminded of Ray Bradbury’s concept of following where the story leads. Some of Rogers’ stories lead seemingly one way before taking a sharp turn. And then the stories end. Sometimes very abruptly. The other thing I was reminded of was EC Comics and some of the 1980s horror anthology shows. Those stories often ended at that moment when the shambling undead stands knocking on the other side of the door, but the door is never opened…on screen. This leads to a delicious sort of anticipation that’s never quite satisfied. While the writer side of my brain kind of grumbled at the loose end, my reader brain continued to revisit the stories. The utter creepiness of “The Candle” is going to be with me for a while.

While the anthology is broken into different sections, like rooms of a house, there are a couple story threads that I found intriguing. “Autumnology,” “Leaves Brown,” and “Twillingate” all dwell in Eastern Canada and play with the concept of that moment, whether it’s a season or a moment of twilight,when the veil between here and not-here is pulled back. I especially liked the concept of no place being autumn all the time; autumn being a time of dying which has to have an end. “The Dark and the Young” and “The Rift Between Us” both have science fiction elements, an aspect that I wasn’t expecting, but still enjoyed. And of course, there were some straight-up haunted house stories in “The Nanny,”  “The House on Ashley Street,” and the gothic “The Inheritor.”

Now that I’m familiar with him, I’ll be keeping a look out for more Ian Rogers. Every House is Haunted is available now from ChiZine Publications.

Format: Adobe Digital Edition
Procurement: NetGalley

This review-ish thing is linked at:


#31

This book was provided to me by Prime Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores by Greg Ketter (Editor)

If you’re a reader, you probably have a favorite bookstore. Or maybe several favorites, as Neil Gaiman admits in his introduction to this collection. Or, if you’re me, maybe you’ve loved every bookstore you’ve ever walked into including big-box chain stores and, the biggest “bookstore” of them all, Amazon.com. In the end, for me, it’s less about the store more about the books. Each store has a different selection. I’ve found things at Barnes & Noble that I never caught a wiff of at A Novel Idea*.

This anthology has some great stories in which the bookstore is the star. P. D. Cacek’s “A Book, By It’s Cover” is an interesting take on the concept of the golem–the golem as building. I really wish there was a current Twilight Zone-esque anthology series on TV because I’d love to see a screen adaptation of this story. “One Copy Only” by Ramsey Campbell features a bookstore full of books never written. This is the store where you might find the Harry Potter book that J. K. Rowling never writes. Of course, such a bookstore has measures in place to protect itself from surly writers. The anthology is topped off by “The Cheese Stands Alone” by Harlan Ellison. If the Fates had bookstores, what books would they “sell”? One yuppy finds out.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of things that really annoyed me about this book. First, many of the stories were about books, rather than bookstores. Don’t get me wrong, some of these stories are good, but the bookstore is only the setting. Despite its somewhat outdated technology, “Pixel Pixies” by Charles de Lint is a fun story about Dick, a hob, and the pixies that invade his neighborhood though the bookstore’s computer.  It could have been any computer. The creepy “Non-Returnable” by Rick Hautala is about a book ordered by an employee of a bookstore. Cats are the stars of “The Hemingway Kittens” by A. R. Morlan. It’s a cute story, but more about the power of story-telling and literacy. Given that these are the things I value above actual stores, I don’t know why its inclusion bugs me so much.

Second, I found some of the attitudes in the stories off-putting. This anthology was originally published in hardback in 2002, at the very early beginning of ebooks. There is definite tension in most of these stories between big chains and small bookstores with a dash ebook and ecommerce worry. I’m not a fan of bashing chain stores or bashing “soulless” books or bashing someone who might run a bookstore but isn’t a “book person.” Only one story gets a pass from me concerning these issues and that’s ” ‘I’m Looking for a Book’ ” by Patrick Weekes. Gorhok the Immitigable is looking for a tome of power. At a Boundries Bookstore. If you’re going to push my artificial dichotomy button, make me smile while you do it.

*If I had to pick one store, A Novel Idea would be it. Yes, even over the two-floor block-long wonder of Powell’s.

Format: Adobe Digital Editions
Procurement: NetGalley

Book #30

The Right Way to Do Wrong: An Exposé of Successful Criminals by Harry Houdini

In our modern world, filled with fiction about profiling and forensics, The Right Way to Do Wrong is pretty tame. It’s filled with wink-nudge morality. Over and over, Houdini emphasizes the “crime doesn’t pay” line, while never really delving into why criminals do what they do. That’s not the purview of this book.

As for “expose,” it’s not really that either. The details of various crimes are shallow and aimed at what the common citizen might do to protect themselves, which isn’t much. In fact, I really got the feeling that Houdini enjoyed pointing out what hapless victims we all can be, criminals as well as patsies. There’s a certain glee in the writing as he points out that the guy that might bump into you while waiting you’re for the train is probably a pickpocket and that the shutters on your windows are pretty much useless. The best anecdote in the book involved a thief that goes to great measures to break into a jewelry store, overcoming every lock and barrier, only to be thwarted by no merchandise being on the premises. And then he’s caught while escaping! As I said, we’re all hapless.

The Right Way to Do Wrong isn’t without charm, is a quick read, and provides a glimpse into the world of crime, circa 1905.

Check out the R.I.P. VII Review site for great recommendations.

Format: Google Book (scanned, poorly)
Procurement: Google Books