Rewind ~ The Rope Trick

Rewind2

The Rope Trick by Lloyd Alexander

Cover via Goodreads

Lidi is a brilliant magician, able to perform all manner of astonishing illusions. But one trick eludes her, the greatest in the world: the rope trick. And only one person can teach it to her: the legendary magician Ferramondo. On her quest to find him, she joins up with Daniella, an orphan with true prophetic powers; a handsome outlaw with a price on his head; and a circus owner with a troupe of dancing pigs. But when Daniella is kidnapped by men who want to use her gift for their own ends, Lidi must abandon her quest and summon all of her resources and magic-working to save herself. (via Goodreads)

Original review of The Rope Trick, newly imported from my LJ to The Writerly Reader (12/29/2007):

I nabbed this book via PaperbackSwap. I was interested in what Lloyd Alexander could do with a female protagonist after reading pieces of his more “boy-oriented” Pyrdain and Westmark series. What I got was a hardback in near perfect condition and really lovely tale. There are maybe one too many narrative coincidences, maybe one too many tales told by one character about other characters, but I forgive that, as I often do with this kind of book. None of the characters are particularly detailed, but our protagonist, Lidi, is determined and a little stubborn, and there’s enough romance that, well, *I* would have liked it as 10 year old.

Rewind ~ The Ghost Writer

Rewind2For ten years I kept a LiveJournal. There are a bunch of notes on books and movies and TV that I’d like to move over to The Writerly Reader. REWIND will be those notes.

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

Cover via Goodreads

Viola Hatherley was a writer of ghost stories in the 1890s whose work lies forgotten until her great-grandson, as a young boy in Mawson, Australia, learns how to open the secret drawer in his mother’s room. There he finds a manuscript, and from the moment his mother catches him in the act, Gerard Freeman’s life is irrevocably changed. What is the invisible, ever-present threat from which his mother strives so obsessively to protect him? And why should stories written a century ago entwine themselves ever more closely around events in his own life? Gerard’s quest to unveil the mystery that shrouds his family, and his life, will lead him from Mawson to London, to a long-abandoned house and the terror of a ghost story come alive. (via Goodreads)

Original post March 24th, 2008:

If this book were a movie, it would be a 60s Hammer film. There are stories within stories, the details of which mingle and become confused, but you go with it because you’re just as lost as the protagonist. Generally, the narrative is fairly low budget using all the set pieces in any other ghost story, off-set by occasions of thick dread when what you expect doesn’t happen exactly as you would expect it would. Obviously, it was right up my alley. Craft-wise, I need to think more on what Harwood does, maybe reread a few passages. He’s doing something different than Bloch, but I haven’t put my finger on it yet.

Last Friday, I checkout The Seance from the Greater Phoenix Digital Library without realizing that it was by the same author as The Ghost Writer. My review of The Seance is planned for Tuesday.

Retro Review ~ The Line Between

The Line Between by Peter S. Beagle

Cover via Goodreads

The long-awaited sequel to the popular classic The Last Unicorn is the centerpiece of this powerful collection of new tales from a fantasy master. As longtime fans have come to expect, the stories are written with a grace and style similar to fantasy’s most original voices, such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, and Kurt Vonnegut. Traditional themes are typically infused with modern sensibilities—reincarnated lovers and waning kings rub shoulders with heroic waifs; Schmendrick the Magician returns to adventure, as does the ghost of an off-Broadway actor and a dream-stealing shapeshifter; and Gordon, the delightfully charming “self-made cat,” appears for the first time in print, taking his place alongside Stuart Little as a new favorite of the young at heart. This wide-ranging compilation contains sly humor and a resounding depth that will charm fans of literary fantasy. (via Goodreads)

Literary fantasy. What funny terms we make up for genres! Anyway, here’s what I wrote in my original post from Dec. 4, 2006:

I bought this book for “Two Hearts,” but I think my favorite story of it was “Salt Wine.”  Maybe it was because I read it yesterday while feverish, and I can’t stop thinking about how great a film it would make, if the movie-makers could get it right.  There aren’t enough mermaid stories in the world.  I’ll give Beagle one thing if anything, he always knows how to strike the perfect note between beauty and the terrible.

Great if you loved The Last Unicorn and especially if Schmendrick and Molly are your favorite characters.  Still, great if you want a solid collection of fantasy tales, both modern and classical.

Throwback Thursday ~ The Silent Gondoliers

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

The Silent Gondoliers by S. Morgenstern (with some contribution by some guy named William Goldman)

Cover via Goodreads

Once upon a time, the gondoliers of Venice possessed the finest voices in all the world. But, alas, few remember those days–and fewer still were ever blessed to hear such glorious singing. No one since has discovered the secret behind the sudden silence of the golden-voiced gondoliers. No one, it seems, but S. Morgenstern. Now Morgenstern recounts the sad and noble story of the ambitions, frustrations, and eventual triumph of Luigi, the gondolier with the goony smile.

Here, in this brilliantly illustrated exposition of the surprising facts behind this all-but-forgotten mystery, S. Morgenstern reveals the fascinating truths about John the Bastard, Laura Lorenzini, the centenarian Cristaldi the Pickle, Enrico Caruso, Porky XII, the Great Sorrento, the Queen of Corsica–and of course, the one and only Luigi. His tale will captivate you as much as his song! (via Goodreads)

S. Morgenstern is the kinda-sorta pen name that William Goldman uses to write the good stuff. You know, like, The Princess Bride? This volume is much slimmer and  fast if you’re looking for something great to read during read-a-thon season. 😉

Throwback Thursday ~ No Country for Old Men

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Cover via Goodreads

One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law–in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell–can contain.

As Moss tries to evade his pursuers–in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives–McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines. (via Goodreads)

I have a love-hate relationship with both Cormac McCarthy (author of this book) and the Coen brothers who co-wrote and directed the 2007 movie. As I originally wrote:

The first time I encountered Cormac McCarthy was online, in an excerpt from one of his books. WTF, I thought. Not only does this guy not use dialogue tags, he doesn’t use dialogue punctuation. As a writer it’s the kind of thing that makes me scowl. How come this guy gets away with playing fast and loose with his punctuation while I’d probably get dismissed out of hand by sending in a writing submission that way? The lack of punctuation seems to bother no one but me, so maybe I’m labeling myself as an unsophisticated n00b by complaining about it. *shrug* What have you. Nonetheless, it took me while to decide to read McCarthy’s stuff.

I was very impressed by the movie No Country for Old Men and I got curious about how McCarthy wrote it. And how the lack of dialogue punctuation affects how the reader experiences the text. McCarthy’s writing is very clean. His sentences are structured simply and his details are only in evidence when they’re needed. When he spends a few paragraphs on Moss’s guns, it’s to convey the expertise of the character. Clean writing is something I envy. Most of the time, McCarthy proves that dialogue tags are the safety nets of authors that…well…need safety nets. Myself included. I’ve tried to cut back on the number of tags I use. Really, I have! But there are times when a nice “he said” would have come in handy. The punctuation… As a fairly aural reader, it removed any special emphasis I might give to what was being said by characters. Whether that’s the intent and whether it’s a similar experience for other readers, I don’t know. I was occasionally confused by the lack and that bugged me. I’m from the transparent writing school of thought. I don’t believe the text itself should get in the way of the storytelling. There are exceptions and there are techniques of using the text to make the reader slow down and contemplate what’s going on, but I’d say the times when I had to reread a passage it was for clarity’s sake. It wasn’t to have McCarthy reiterate something important.

On the whole, begrudgingly I admit, this is a very good book. It’s certainly the best I’ve read this year, thus far. I’ll be reading The Road sometime in the near future.

My opinion of The Road was pretty much the exact opposite of my opinion of No Country for Old Men. Likewise, the movie is one of my favorites, but I’m not much of a fan of many other Coen brothers’ movies.  Their sense of humor and mine don’t jive. I’d say that the movie wins by combining great performances, understated direction, good writing, and spectacular cinematography. It’s a modern day Western and, if McCarthy is to be believed, we live in a very bleak world. It’s not a shiny-happy movie or novel, but the characters are survivors.

Throwback Thursday ~ The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl by Tim Pratt

Cover via Goodreads

As night manager of Santa Cruz’s quirkiest coffeehouse, Marzi McCarty makes a mean espresso, but her first love is making comics. Her claim to fame: The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, a cowpunk neo-western yarn. Striding through an urban frontier peopled by Marzi’s wild imagination, Rangergirl doles out her own brand of justice. But lately Marzi’s imagination seems to be altering her reality. She’s seeing the world through Rangergirl’s eyes–literally–complete with her deadly nemesis, the Outlaw.

It all started when Marzi opened a hidden door in the coffeehouse storage room. There, imprisoned among
the supplies, she saw the face of something unknown…and dangerous. And she unwittingly became its guard. But some primal darkness must’ve escaped, because Marzi hasn’t been the same since. And neither have her customers, who are acting downright apocalyptic. (via Goodreads)

As I wrote back in 2008:

Rangergirl is probably the most fun I’ve had reading in a long while. Pratt uses the tropes of Westerns and how stories are “supposed to go” and subtly turns them on their heads. The characters, while not overly complex, are interesting enough. His writing is natural and deft. He keeps his plot and mythos internally consistent and brings it all to a satisfying conclusion.

A fun book that I need to reread one of these days.

Throwback Thursday ~ Much Ado About Nothing

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Cover via Goodreads

Set in a courtly world of masked revels and dances, this play turns on the archetypal story if a lady falsely accused of unfaithfulness. Villainy, schemes, and deceit threatens to darken the brilliant humor and sparkling wordplay–but the counterplot of a warring couple, Beatrice and Benedick, steals the scene in Shakespeare’s superb comedy of manners (via Goodreads)

That above is a somewhat edited version of the Goodreads summary because otherwise the entire story is given away. This is my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies. As many times as I’ve read it or seen it, it always amuses me with its language and its meta plot. Throughout most of the play, Shakespeare seems to be poking fun at himself. It has laughs. It has tears. It has a heroine named Hero.

The first version I saw was Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film adaptation:

And I’m pretty stoked for the Joss Wheadon version:

Cover via GoodreadsI’d also like to mention Shakespeare in the Cinema: Ocular Proof by Stephen M. Buhler as an additional Throwback and a shout out to one of my favorite college professors.

His classes, even the one on Milton, were always a mix of popular culture, music, and general lit-geekery. I was very lucky in my education to have rarely encountered forbidding literature teachers. Most were willing riff on whatever themes students saw in classic works instead of forcing one interpretation on us. Dr. Buhler is one of them best of them.