Monday, October 31, 2016

MMRM #13: "The Pale Man" and "The Striding Place"

'Tis the season for the unearthly, the undead, and the downright macabre. Not everyone can read an entire book in time for Halloween- some of us are too busy with other books, or even other things (gasp). For those poor souls, I offer these reviews: I will be writing my thoughts on some of my favorite short stories for this spooky season, either one at a time or in pairs.

This Year's Mini Macabre Review Mondays:
#9: "The Alchemist" and "The Beast in the Cave" by H.P. Lovecraft
#10: "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" and "The Mezzotint" by M.R. James
#11: "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James- A Book Blogger's Nightmare
#12: "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" and "Number 13" by M.R. James

"The Pale Man" by Julius Long

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Exceptional)
Content: Ages 12+ for a macabre mystery
Page Count: Approximately 5 pages (takes about ten minutes to read)
Year Published: 1934

This story starts out fairly innocuous. There are reasonable explanations as to why a weirdly pale man might be residing in a hotel and changing rooms- he might be just strangely pale like yours truly. However, given I did find this on a website touting it was one of nine scariest short stories (yes, I did find it scary, but the other ones weren't so scary), I knew there had to be a twist to it.

The Plot: A pale man is seen in a country hotel.

I think what really makes this story shine is the fact that it's written in first person, and the personable writing style. It's easy to relate to the character, as I think we all tend to notice those who look a bit odd wherever we happen to be.

My favorite snippet:
He favored me with a smile whose meaning I have tried in vain to decipher. I can not but believe that he meant it to have some significance. He acted as if there were between us some secret that I failed to appreciate. But, then, perhaps his smile was meaningless after all and only ambiguous by chance, like that of the Mona Lisa.
           ~From "The Pale Man" by Julius Long

"The Pale Man" is one of my favorite Mini Macabre stories I found in 2016 (the other being "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" from last week). It's concise, nicely paced, and it doesn't take long at all to read. What are you waiting for?

"The Striding Place" by Gertrude Atherton

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Great)
Content: Ages 12+ for creepy events
Page Count: Approximately 25 pages
Year Published: 1896

Though this story does have a nice twist (and an abrupt ending, for that matter), the problem I have with it is that I've seen similar twists in more recent stories. At the time, this was probably as shocking a story as any of Edgar Allan Poe's works, but because of the multitude of horror movies we have nowadays it doesn't have the impact it should.

The Plot: A man goes looking for his lost friend.

There are elements in this story that made me hike the rating up, despite the twist being somewhat disappointing for me- the characters are as fully realized as those in short stories can be, their discussions are interesting, and I wasn't tempted to skim at all (which cannot be said for most of the M.R. James stories I read this year).

"The Striding Place" is an interesting story that has been unfortunately replicated by more modern mediums. It still has the element of surprise in its favor, but many modern readers may be able to guess the twist before it comes. However, if you're easily scared or have a vivid imagination, this will be enough of a scare for you this year.

Until Next Year,

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fortnightly Update #22: More Book Shipments and the Weird Twists of 2016

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:

I placed an order with my favorite online bookstore, Better World Books during their used book sale, but then I had to place another order with them when I finished Star of the Morning, because I liked it so well I needed to find out how the characters would fare. I paid approximately $2 or less for each of these, and Better World Books has free international shipping.

Chalice by Robin McKinley
The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley
I need some happy books in my life, and Robin McKinley tends to write them, so I chose Chalice and The Door in the Hedge as they had the highest ratings of her available/on sale books.

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman
Rather self-explanatory, as Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors- I'm amassing a horde of her books so I'll never run out. The cover for this one is gorgeous.

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
I read this one as it's fairly short- see my impression under 'Finished These Books'.

Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
This appears to a science fiction about an accidental space colony that somehow made wings out of their old spaceship that allows humans to fly. Though it's different from Tuf Voyaging, I'm hoping I'll like it just as much.

The Mage's Daughter (Nine Kingdoms #2) by Lynn Kurland (pictured below in Currently Reading)
Princess of the Sword (Nine Kingdoms #3) by Lynn Kurland
A Tapestry of Spells (Nine Kingdoms #4) by Lynn Kurland
I bought the rest of the first Nine Kingdoms trilogy and the first book of the next, just to keep my shelves full. I'm enjoying Lynn Kurland's take on fantasy that has just enough romance to tempt those who like it into reading more.

Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
Fortune's Daughter by Alice Hoffman
Again, my Alice Hoffman collection is slowly growing. I tend to read her books whenever I have a reading slump because they rarely disappoint me.

The Blood Mirror (Lightbringer #4) by Brent Weeks
This is a new release I preordered at Barnes and Noble so I could get a signed editon.

the-invisible-pile Additions:


Currently Reading:

As a treat to myself this year, I preordered this book, so I also got it signed! I'm reading this slowly, because there are a lot of revelations in this book and my brain is slow to process anything right now.

Yay for a normally proportioned female on the cover of a fantasy book! I'm about halfway through this and I hope to finish it before the end of October. I want to get my Goodreads reading challenge done early this year so I can concentrate on more celebratory things.

Finished These Books:

As I mentioned two weeks ago, this is an unusual paranormal romance in terms of the depth of the worldbuilding. It didn't quite make it to four stars for me, but it was very close, and I recommend it to those who like paranormal romance and science fiction.

Out by Natsuo Kirino
I wasn't sure if I'd actually finish this when I started it, but I did (and in a timely fashion). This was the perfect thriller to suit my mood... and normally, I do not like thrillers (as evidenced by the pile of them I've read one chapter of and tossed aside).

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin (Links to my Goodreads mini review)
Though this looks by all appearances to be a children's book, it really isn't. It's more suited to the young adult or middle grade age range, though it's really more for George R.R. Martin fans who must read everything he's written (like me). If you're interested in his books but don't want to read A Game of Thrones, I'd start with Tuf Voyaging or Fevre Dream rather than this one.

There are some gems in this collection, though it starts a bit weak. I read this as Mini Macabre Review Monday fodder, but it does do nicely as a seasonal read as well.

I expected to rate this five stars, especially given how much I loved Frankenstein despite my low expectations of it, but though Dracula started strong, it didn't stay that way for me. It's a bit disappointing, as I am a huge fan of vampires and Dracula-inspired books, but the style in which it was written (diary entries, letters, and the like) made it difficult to trudge through at points. Not to mention all the women in the book are pretty darn incompetent. 

In the Blogosphere:

La La @ La La in the Library shares her and other bloggers' inexplicable experiences in her Saturday Evening Conversations: Ghost Stories post.

Vee @ IFoundMyselfReading posts How to Review a Trans Book as a Cis Person. I found this very helpful.

I think I forgot some posts, but I'll get to them next time.

In My Life (Weird Twists):

George isn't as sainted/innocent as he looks
If you had asked me in April what I'd be getting in the mail from the DMV at the end of October, I would've thought immediately it would be my driver's license, as that was what I was studying for. Instead, I went to the doctor last week and asked her to fill out a form for a temporary disability placard to put in my mom's car. We had been using my mom's temporary placard she got from her hip surgery because of my severe difficulties walking, but it was due to expire. My doctor noted that I'd filled it out for another temporary placard, and said I'd probably need a permanent one instead, because she didn't think they'd be able to resolve my gait difficulties in six months (the lifespan of a temporary disability placard).

I finally have an appointment with the University of Utah Neurology Department, which is currently set for January 30th, 2017. If we're lucky and someone cancels, I might be able to snag an earlier appointment, if I'm quick enough to answer my phone.

Even weirder twists:

Yes, these are the two best pictures I was able to take of poor Keisha
The Dorkie doesn't appreciate when I take photos of her in her new sweater, which I loom knitted in my free time. I used Homespun Cherry Blossom yarn (if I remember the color name right), along with some glittery fun fur yarn I picked out last year for her collar.

Since I don't like using metal canes (because click-click-click-click-click with every step you take) which come in all sorts of wild colors, I decided to knit my cane a sweater with fall colors. I had some leftover Homespun yarn in some sort of ombre color that fit the bill. Basically, this entire loom knitting section is all Homespun yarn- I used to not like it, but lately the colors of it have won me over.

After I finished that, I thought I'd make a hat or a bag with the remaining yarn. I think this will end up a hat, if I don't mess it up.

Is anyone else crafting this time of year? Which books have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson

I wasn't sure I was going to finish this one after reading the first ten percent, but something about the book kept drawing me further into it- despite the fact that I know the basic plot. The title of the book has become a sort of catch phrase for multiple personalities, sudden personality changes, and inevitable mood swings. In a way, it's unfair that this classic has been absorbed into modern lingo, instead of being read like a book (as it should be). It's impossible to say what my impression of this book would've been if I'd been uninformed about the plot, but I think I would've enjoyed it more.

This book follows Mr. Utterson on his quest to inform Dr. Jekyll, an upstanding pillar of the community, that the man who benefits from his goodwill, Mr. Hyde, is a no-good scoundrel. It never seems to occur to Mr. Utterson that it is absolutely no business of his what happens to Dr. Jekyll's estate, but I think we've all seen the tabloid melodrama that occurs every time a celebrity passes on. It's curious to ponder why we care about such things- and it likely has something to do with greed and envy. Still, Mr. Utterson AKA busybody of the year must go about his busy-ness, otherwise, the plot of this book would go nowhere fast.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'In this harrowing tale of good and evil, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that unleashes his secret, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde.'

I don't think I've read any of Robert Louis Stevenson's writing before, and I was impressed with the turns of phrase he crafted throughout this novel. Sometimes good writing can draw you deeper into a book, and I think that was the case with The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for me- I knew the plot, but somehow I still remained interested. It's worth noting that I skimmed some passages due to an abundance of over-emotional, drawn-out plot combustion (AKA, the plot was coming to fruition, and there were several, "but wait, there's more"-type paragraphs). True, other Gothic novels I've loved have done the same thing, but this one didn't get off scot free for it.

My favorite section of conversation, Mr. Enfield telling Mr. Utterson to watch himself:
"You start a question, and it's like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others; and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head in his own back garden and the family have to change their name. No sir, I make it a rule of mine: the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask."
      ~The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 8% Kindle edition

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde had some great moments, but in the end it felt like an overlong short story. True, I may feel that way due to knowing the plot beforehand, but a book blogger must always give an honest impression, and mine is this- this is a good book, but I won't mourn long if I forget everything about it a few months from now (unless, of course, it comes up as a question on Jeopardy!- then I'll be sad). If you want a quick, classic horror book to read prior to this year's Halloween festivities, this one might fit the bill- just don't anticipate Mr. Hyde to reach out and scare you overmuch.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a enticingly written horror classic.

Age Advisory: Ages 14+ for violence, dark themes, and sudden personality changes.

Page Count: 144 pages

Monday, October 24, 2016

MMRM: "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" and "Number 13" by M.R. James

'Tis the season for the unearthly, the undead, and the downright macabre. Not everyone can read an entire book in time for Halloween- some of us are too busy with other books, or even other things (gasp). For those poor souls, I offer these reviews: I will be writing my thoughts on some of my favorite short stories for this spooky season, either one at a time or in pairs.

This Year's Mini Macabre Review Mondays:
#9: "The Alchemist" and "The Beast in the Cave" by H.P. Lovecraft
#10: "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" and "The Mezzotint" by M.R. James
#11: "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James- A Book Blogger's Nightmare

"Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" by M.R. James

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Exceptional)
Content: Ages 14+ for never looking at mundane items the same way again.
Page Count: Approximately 20 pages
Year Published: 1904

This is a story I finished and didn't think much of, at first. But as days passed, having finished the complete Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James (which is public domain and is free as an ebook) this is the story I recall best, and one that my thoughts continue to linger on. There are musical items I might think of as haunted- pianos, harps, and those sorts of things, but never in my wildest dreams would I think blowing a simple whistle would be something to bring about strange occurrences.

The Plot: The discovery and use of an ancient whistle brings about bizarre events.

In a way, this story seems to preposterous to be scary- again, blowing a whistle seems like something to childish to bring about an effect other than sound. I also had different predictions of what actually might come about as a result- I hadn't anticipated this tale's end. Given where I read this book, I found the end to be increasingly unsettling as time went on.

The title "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" sounds like a cheery song, or maybe an old comedy film, but I assure you this little story is neither. Some of the bizarre occurrences in this tale came off to me at first as somewhat laughable, but due to its lingering qualities, it's made me think twice about some everyday items. If that isn't a good horror tale trait, I don't know what is.

"Number 13" by M.R. James

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Great)
Content: Ages 12+ for unusual hotel suites
Page Count: Approximately 16 pages
Year Published: 1904

If you pay much attention to superstitions, the ones involving the number 13 seem to be the most abiding, even in modern times. Some buildings won't have 13th floors, some hotels won't have room number 13, and some people (my mother included) will do almost anything to avoid the number 13 showing up in their life. This story relies on that superstition, and to some extent, monopolizes it.

The Plot: A man checks into room 12, finding the room shrinks at certain times of the day.

The let down of this story is that it's a bit bulky given its premise- it could easily be edited down to a more modernly readable size. I was entertained, but I also have a tendency to skim wordy passages when it's clear they have no point other than passing fancy on the author's part. I've read quite a few of his stories, and M.R. James does tend to be on the wordy side of things, so if you prefer to the point stories there are other authors to be read.

"Number 13" requires some cultural tendencies to enjoy properly. If you were raised on Mars, for example, it might not have as much impact on you as someone who was raised in a more Earthly, fairly superstitious part of the world where the number 13 is more feared. Still, this is a great read, as long as you don't mind a bit of claustrophobic wordiness.

Keep it spooky,

Sunday, October 23, 2016

SFF: The 5 Books You Read in 2016 That Were More Addictive Than Pumpkin Pie Spice-d Things

Sunday Fun Five #65:

#65: The 5 Books You Read in 2016 That Were More Addictive Than Pumpkin Pie Spice-d Things
For the 6th of November: #66: The 5 Times You Found the Right Book at the Right Time (Or Did It Find You?)

A Countdown of

The 5 Books You Read in 2016 That Were More Addictive Than Pumpkin Pie Spice-d Things

5. Fate's Edge (The Edge #3) by Ilona Andrews
Pet raccoons, con men, and a con girl to out-con them all- these are some of the reasons why Fate's Edge was a huge addictive win for me this year (and also, I love anything Ilona Andrews writes). Though I didn't get around to reviewing this book in the series, the series itself is worth checking out for those of you who love action packed urban fantasy with a side dish of romance.

4. Out by Natsuo Kirino
I picked up this 400 page thriller about murder expecting to put it down- it's translated from Japanese, and I've found some translations just don't work well for me. This one did. Given the only other thriller I've liked is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its series (ironically, also a translation), I don't have much to compare Out with, but it was less gruesome than that- but gruesome all the same. It was hard for me to put it down.

3. Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle #1) by Diana Wynne Jones
Any book that can put a smile on my face on a bad day is worth its weight in gold- and Howl's Moving Castle charmed me from the very start.

2. Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb
As evidenced by the amount of Robin Hobb books I've devoured and loved this year, her writing has proved its addictive qualities. Before picking this up, I was in a bit of a fantasy funk- I'd pick up a new epic fantasy series and feel apathetic about it and promptly put it aside. This year my love of fantasy is re-emerging, with the help of Robin Hobb's books.

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This was the book I was *trying* to read during the daytime, only to have my mom, my dogs, and my cat try to interrupt me at every turn. It got to the point I went upstairs to hide in my room so I could read it, only to have my mom come up because she "missed me", bringing the entire gang of miscreants with her. It deserves its place at the top of the list because I was considering hiding out in the bathroom just so everyone in the house would leave me to it.

Which books had you hooked this year? 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Early Critique: "Faithful" by Alice Hoffman

Disclaimer: I was given a free advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My opinion remains as forthright as ever.

Expected Publication: November 1st

Although I am very much a fan of Alice Hoffman's, the beginning of this book had me worried. Shelby is one of those characters you want to reach out and shake, just to get her riled up enough to do something... you know, other than self-sabotage her aspirations or even possible prospects for the future. Many of you will find yourself reminded of that person from your life who never seems to move on, and the more I read about Shelby during the start of the book, the more frustrated I became.

As it happens, Shelby does eventually progress into a dynamic character, even though I was preparing myself for the possibility she wouldn't. Faithful reminds me of the author's other works with the style of story progression, so fellow fans should also be pleased- I read Illumination Night after this one which followed a similar narrative path. Despite it's similarities, Faithful appeals to the animal lover in me with Shelby's similar passion for dog rescue.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.
'Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
'What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
'Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.'

One character I was irked at from the start was Ben, Shelby's dealer, who does help Shelby grow somewhat, but remains problematic in my eyes due to his voyeuristic tendencies. If I found out anyone had been watching my friend in her room, without her knowledge, I wouldn't want to be friends with them- or have any sort of relationship with them, for that matter. It's one thing to notice your neighbor is watching Wheel of Fortune when you glance in the direction of their house- it's quite another to continue watching them because you feel like you're in lust with them.

Because I'm a bit of a cynic, part of me was rooting Shelby towards a more ambiguous ending. Despite the ending of this book being picture perfect (perhaps a little too perfect), I do appreciate an ending that reveals the changeable, yet fixed nature of real life- not everything turns out in the end. Our disappointments and failures are part of what make us who we are, and I felt by the end of the book some of the characters had changed a bit too much for realism's sake.

Faithful is a magical story that will make you want to believe in second, third, and fourth chances. Though I had problems with some elements of the story, it came together beautifully and in ways I hadn't quite anticipated. I was prepared for a bit more uncertainty about Shelby's future, but I was instead treated to a sort of role reversal in terms of dynamic and static characters. If you're looking for a magical realism novel that ends on a sincerely hopeful note, I would strongly advise Faithful for your next book binge.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent magical realism novel about new beginnings, dogs, and hope!

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for sexual assault, violence, and rightful thievery of mistreated mutts.

Page Count: 272 pages

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Illumination Night" by Alice Hoffman

Much about this book is unusual. Alice Hoffman is great with magical realism elements, and making each of her many books stand apart with them- in this one's case, there is someone afflicted with agoraphobia, a giant, a boy who seems incapable of growing, and a teenage girl who seems hellbound on making messes of things wherever she goes. Jody, the teen, is taking care of her grandmother, Elizabeth Rennie after she had an accident. Elizabeth's neighbors, Andre and Vonnie have a son, Simon who doesn't seem to grow any bigger, causing them to have friction in their marriage. As per usual, more characters are drawn into the plot as the story progresses, but none of them truly stuck out to me as particularly likable, except perhaps Simon.

Nonetheless, this was a hard book for me to put down. Something about it calls you back to it even after you read through some difficult scenes and kind of want to put it down. It's an addictive sort of ambivalence, but I wasn't surprised I finished it given my love of Alice Hoffman's works. Others might find themselves a bit out of their depth with the sudden turns of events, regardless of the gratuitous foreshadowing that is the author's characterizations.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'A group of people on Martha's Vineyard are brought together in a web of yearning, sin, eroticism, and ultimate redemption.'

Although I didn't particularly like Vonnie, I could relate to her. She faces many difficult things throughout the course of the book, but remains true to herself. Andre, her husband had me gagging for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes people who have everything get so out of touch that they're willing to ruin everything they have for just a little more. As for Simon, other than the giant (who comes in later in the book), he was my most liked character... and he acted his age.

Jody is pissed that her parents would leave her with her grandmother, who she doesn't really know all that well. She reacts in teenage fashion and rebels in ways that had me alternately rolling my eyes and gritting my teeth. Of course, as a teen, she is bound to be somewhat impulsive, but some of the turns of events in this book left me feeling sad more than anything else.

A favorite snippet:
Andre lets go of Jody, and as she follows him across the street, Jody knows that on the ride home she will sit in the back of the truck, and by then the stars will be as white and sharp as dragon's teeth.
            ~Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman, page 28 of my edition.

Illumination Night is an emotional, and sometimes temperamental magical realism novel that makes you wish you could play God a bit with the characters to tweak the eventual outcome. I think it'd be hard not to feel the ups and downs of the characters, and this I admit as someone who was not all that fond of them. For that reason, I don't feel like it's the best book for those unfamiliar with Hoffman's writing and plotting, but it does have enough of what I love about her writing to make me rate it 4 Stars. If you are suffering from a spell of book apathy, for better or for worse, this might be your cure.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a magical realism fiction that stays with you emotionally.

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for sex scenes (some with people under 18), violence, and strange happenings.

Page Count: 256 pages

Monday, October 17, 2016

MMRM: "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James- A Book Blogger's Nightmare

'Tis the season for the unearthly, the undead, and the downright macabre. Not everyone can read an entire book in time for Halloween- some of us are too busy with other books, or even other things (gasp). For those poor souls, I offer these reviews: I will be writing my thoughts on some of my favorite short stories for this spooky season, either one at a time or in pairs.

This Year's Mini Macabre Review Mondays:
#9: "The Alchemist" and "The Beast in the Cave" by H.P. Lovecraft
#10: "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" and "The Mezzotint" by M.R. James

"Casting the Runes" by M.R. James

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 4 Stars (Excellent)
Content: Ages 12+ for violations in author-reviewer boundaries
Page Count: Approximately 16 pages
Year Published: 1911

I think this story does just perfectly on its own, which is why I'm chose this one for a singular review. One of the pitfalls of being a book blogger is that you sometimes come across a book you can't like- and sometimes you then write a review to purge your feelings about the offending book. Most of the time, these reviews pass unacknowledged by the author of said book, which is the way it should be. Most authors have plenty of positive reviews to fall back on. But imagine, for a moment, if you happened to review a book by an author who wasn't quite so forgiving.

That is the case with this story- a man believes an author has it out for him because he doesn't like his book. A series of weird happenings lead him to believe he's being targeted by someone, though he isn't sure who until clues are left for him in plain sight.

The Plot: Strange events lead a man to believe he will die if he doesn't outsmart his alleged killer.

'There is just one that has been taking shape vaguely in my mind. I've been told that your brother reviewed a book very severely not long before he died, and just lately I have happened to cross the path of the man who wrote that book in a way he would resent.'
            ~"Casting the Runes" by M.R. James

"Casting the Runes" is a cautionary tale about the perils of dabbling with things beyond your ken. Though it starts slow, I didn't find myself apathetic to the events of the tale, which sometimes happens when a book verges on the supernatural side of things. This is a nice short read for those of us who need a slight, scary respite from larger, more intimidating tomes.

Keep it spooky,

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fortnightly Update #21: Extra Rainy With a Chance of Reading

This weekend it has been extra rainy in my neck of the woods, which causes my pain to flare while I hide in bed and read books, because anything else I try to do when it's rainy doesn't work so well. I managed to polish off six books in the past two weeks, so I guess it's a sort of blessing in disguise. Reading-wise, I tend to do better when I'm feeling sick, because television irritates me (too noisy), video games require too much attention, but the common book doesn't shout at you with the latest ad or kill your virtual character because your skills have declined. Of course, there's always the risk that your favorite character will be killed off, but because I read fantasy there is always a good chance at them rising from the dead.

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:


the-invisible-pile Additions:

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2) by Douglas Adams
I made myself wait until I finished the first book in this series to buy this one, even though it's a monthly Kindle Deal. Something has to keep me from buying all the books.

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
This has been on my want to read list because it's a very popular historical romance. I'm not sure I'll like it, as it is on the older end of the spectrum, but I'm hoping that I will.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
This was a Kindle Daily Deal a while back, and given my 2016 obsession is anything and everything Octavia E. Butler wrote, I picked it up.

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling #1) by Nalini Singh
Another book that's been on my Want to Read list forever is this one- it's paranormal romance, but with a high dose of sci-fi. The Psy are able to communicate psychically, and have been taught to have no emotions. Changelings, on the other hand are more emotional animal shifters. Sascha Duncan is a Cardinal Psy (high up on the chain of command) who is attempting to do business with Lucas Hunter. Lucas wants to find out who is discretely killing off Changelings, a person who he strongly suspects to be Psy.


Lotus: A Novel by Lijia Zhang
Expected Publication: January 10th, 2017 (Not all that far away)
Normally, I ignore NetGalley emails telling me about the latest and greatest, but this one- well, the cover intrigued me. What's even more intriguing is this part of the blurb: "Written with compassion and vivid prose, Lotus was inspired by the deathbed revelation that the author’s grandmother had been sold to a brothel in her youth." So yes, that and the fact that it was a read now title (I'm not sure if it is anymore) swept me off my feet.

Currently Reading:

Out by Natsuo Kirino, Stephen Snyder (Translator)
I began reading this after I was trapped in the bookish "meh" zone- I picked up several books, and within a few pages I was passing on them. This one managed to be the exception- it's a crime thriller/mystery originally written/set in Japan, which isn't my usual book choice, but so far it has me hooked. 

As I mentioned above, this one is proving itself an interesting read, due to it's high worldbuilding content. I must be in a crime/murder mood because this one's plot also hinges on murder.

I'm not very far in on this book, but I'm considering putting it aside for later. As much as everything in the book is interesting, it's difficult for me to follow, especially with the multiple perspectives and worldbuilding that's unique to say the least.

Finished These Books:

Rating: 3ish Stars
I always pick up Sue London's books whenever they're free on Kindle, and after this one lurked accusingly on my Kindle's carousel for a few days too long, I started to read it. I like her books a lot because she's willing to deviate from more classic romance plots and put more action in and less melodrama. Also, she uses words featured in my Wealth of Words posts- and I never find typos in her books. Articulate historical romance writers can sometimes be difficult to find. I love that this series of hers focuses on three ladies who are friends, as sometimes female friendship in historical romance is slim to none.

Rating: 3.5 Stars
As I mentioned in my review, I think I would've liked this one better had I not read his previous, more popular works first. There is a hole in my heart and only Marvin the Paranoid Android can fill it.

Rating: 4 Stars
I didn't think I'd like this one as much as I did. In fact, I almost quit reading it because I have a lingering case of the reading "mehs". However, I liked it's traditional take on fantasy with just a tiny bit of romance.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Rating: 3ish Stars
I'm a bit ambivalent about this one. I liked it well enough, but some of the character's thoughts were incredibly cringe-worthy. I've liked books with problematic characters well enough before, but something about Robert Neville makes me want to vomit (especially given the headlines these days).

Rating: 3.5 Stars
To cleanse my palate after reading I Am Legend (which is a sad book, in case you didn't know), I began reading one of my Kindle freebies- a fairytale by Anatole France. It's charming and distracting, and I would likely read it to a kid if I had one. I've read Anatole France's The Gods Will Have Blood before this, which is a very different book (it's history/political fiction, if I recall right), so it was nice to see him writing a happy book for once.

Forbidden (Old West #1) by Beverly Jenkins
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Since I was still in need of cheering up, I continued the happy book parade with Forbidden. I've never read a Western-style historical romance before, so I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was almost ready to quit this one too, but I'm glad I didn't. It takes some time to set up, but I found both Rhine and Eddy to be great characters, though Eddy was my favorite. I liked that the author revealed at the end of the book her inspiration for this one had been an archaeological dig, revealing a different side of the Old West.

In the Blogosphere:

Tammy @ Books, Bones, and Buffy discusses What’s The Worst, Weirdest Or Wildest Thing That Ever Happened On Your Blog? Mine was a recent "bribe" from an author on Twitter- if I reviewed their book, they'd retweet one of my tweets to their *many* followers. Yes, they did have a lot of followers (not sure if those were bought), but honestly that's a no. I blocked them. O_o

Charlotte @ Bookmarks and Blogging posts On Turning Twenty with twenty things she's learned so far, and the importance of taking care of yourself, among other things.

La La @ La La in the Library reviews Omnia by Laura Gallego, along with Heather @ Random Redheaded Ramblings, and Greg @ Book Haven. A trifecta of a mind meld if I ever did witness such an event.

I've noticed that I need to start following some new blogs, because a lot of the ones I follow are either on extended blog-cations or up and quit (not that I blame them). It's hard to find blogs that aren't stuck on solely the newest books, or only young adult books, or only books that are super popular. I try to read a meld of new and old books, because I have a feeling I'd burn out in a quick second if I stuck with only 2010-2017 titles. For me, the newest books can be incredible, but not always.

In My Life:

Torrie making use of her bushy tail
The neurosurgeon I saw approximately two weeks ago did pretty much what I thought he would- he recommended I see the specialists at the University of Utah, put me on some prednisone, and ordered a new MRI, this time of the lumbar region of my spine just in case. My walking hasn't improved, so I'm continuing to make good use of the exercise bike my mother bought for our at home gym. Poor Torrie is sad that I don't take her on walks anymore, but if I were to do that, I'd need a walker that can navigate cracks in the sidewalk. My mom's hospital walker gets stuck on every minor stone in my path.

What have you been reading?

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