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Defenestraethe

Defenestraethe

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The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan

The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan

I would never have picked this up if it had this cover. Mine looks like this Which is at least very Halloweeny.

 

I get what O'Nan was doing, and I respect it. He was writing his own nostalgic look back at youth as shown in one moody Halloween. And yeah, Something Wicked This Way Comes is wonderfully moody. But rereading it last year I didn't love it as much as I thought I did. And my  biggest problem with it is also my biggest problem with this: so much nostalgia, so little of anything else.

 

Marco is telling us the story. He's one of several teens who died in a wreck on Halloween one year ago. Marco, Toe, and Danielle are ghosts. Tim survived in good physical shape but with an unbearable burden of guilt and loss. Kyle survived but lost his personality and his memories and many of his life skills. His mother has devoted this past year to his recovery and rehabilitation and is aware that he's never likely to be an independent adult. Brooks is the first officer on the scene and the wreck has ruined his life as well.

 

It's very stylish this story, but not very engaging. Read for

 

Personal copy

Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

This is a very atmospheric story: although not the usual haunting. It's presented as the oral history of an up-and-coming British folk band in the 60s and the story of what happened the summer their producer sent them to a decaying manor house in the middle of nowhere to rehearse and write material for their second album.

 

Hand paces the story well, giving us little bits of creepiness along the way, and grounding it in the mundane: they're just broke teenagers hoping this is going to be their big chance. The house is a weird one, added onto every century or so. The villagers are stand-offish. The summer is gorgeous, the songwriting is going well, and the rehearsals are great. Just little bits of wrongness here and there.

 

It absolutely feels like the reminiscences of aging hippies: the sex, the drugs, the ratty old clothes. The band members have different voices and personalities, and the whole thing comes across as exactly the kind of urban legend you'd hear about a band after several decades, or a Whatever Happened to special on MTV or something.

 

Very well done, and a clever twist on a number of tropes. I rather like the setting (in time and space) for being not at all gothic, but rather idyllic. This is the pattern of most of E. F. Benson's ghost stories and adapted well. It'd make a gorgeous film.

 

Library copy

Really Important News

This morning it was cool enough when I stepped outside that I had to put on the sweater I take to work to wear in the overly cold AC. My long, hot, personal nightmare is maybe finally over.

 

Still no rain though.

Without A Summer (Glamourist Histories Series Book 3) - Mary Robinette Kowal

Without A Summer (Glamourist Histories Series Book 3) - Mary Robinette Kowal

Read out of order, therefor reviewed out of order, sorry.

 

This time Kowal sends the Prince Regent's glamourists to London in order to give Jane's sister a proper season. Unfortuantely, it's the Year of No Summer, 1816. There is labor unrest and dirty tricks and this whole business of finding Melody a suitable husband.

 

The interweaving of the real food shortage and labor unrest with the fictional and fantastic Worshipful Company of Coldmongers is very well done. Certainly there were a great number of children working in many dangerous industries at the time to provide a suitable model. Part of the great charm here is how closely Kowal can follow the Austen model of trying to find a suitable husband for a single woman of 20, and also bring to it further depth of plotting and character development and world-building.

 

And there is thrilling courtroom drama.

 

 

Library copy.

 

 

Of Noble Family - Mary Robinette Kowal

Of Noble Family - Mary Robinette Kowal

When faced with an historic horror, most of us immediately think "How could they?" It is inconceivable that good people would stand by and do nothing in the face of genocide or chattel slavery. Some things seem so obviously wrong. But of course people are always doing horrible things while other people try to stop them, or stand by, frozen into inaction by all the other people who are also not doing anything, or don't even notice the wrongness so deeply embedded in their society.

 

Thus, the enslavement of millions of people. There's really nothing about it that isn't horrific: kidnapping, owning people, rape as a means of production. Kowal tackles this one head on, sending the Vincents out to deal with his family's sugar cane plantation in Antigua. She does an excellent job of looking at if from different angles to solve their problems. And although it's fantasy, there's no pretending like a little magic can fix all this.

 

Altogether a really interesting way to take Jane Austen and run with it. This particular series has the historical period down, and manages a gentle touch when addressing all the ugliness Austen eschewed. And a big plus, there is some humor and Jane does get some witty comments in, but it isn't just snappy comebacks.

 

 

Library copy

This is why I can't Bingo

 

I just realized: I do have a column where are the squares have been called. It just so happens that the center column is the only possible bingo for which I haven't finished a single book.

 

Somehow my strategy of just picking up whatever on the stack looks appealing now seems to have been less than ideal.

 

Still, I'm having all kinds of fun.

Life Among the Savages - Shirley Jackson

Life Among the Savages - Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson and her husband had four kids. Apparently her deep understanding of the human psyche extends just as well into humor as it does into horror.

 

Personal copy

The October Man: A Rivers of London Novella - Ben Aaronovitch

The October Man: A Rivers of London Novella - Ben Aaronovitch

A significant part of the pleasure of any of the Rivers series is the part where the magic-using police officer gets to explain to someone else that there is real magic, but that it's hidden by agreements between nations after WWII. Just as part of the fun of Dr. Who is the doctor getting to explain about the tardis.


Another pleasure of reading the books in this series is the cast. Many a writer would set a story in a modern German city and have an exclusively white-by-default cast. It doesn't have to be a big thing or a plot point, although there is one minor detail revealed only because someone is Black and it's a tiny wonderful moment.


If the women or the mystery were stronger, it'd be perfect. As it is, highly enjoyable.

Glamour in Glass - Mary Robinette Kowal

Glamour in Glass - Mary Robinette Kowal

Had this just been a book of Regency magic and manners it would have been charming enough: the period is evoked more convincingly than usual in both dialog and mores. But no, Kowal wasn't content to leave it at that: there are complications such as creative and technological insight and war. You don't get a lot of that sort of development, which is a pity, because I really love seeing characters work through problems and setbacks. There were also books being read, both for information and group entertainment, which doesn't appear nearly as often as it should in books.

So, awesome. All the pleasures of an Austen novel, such as the mortifying realization of how the regular and normal behavior of one's family is perceived by others. But also the kinds of things that are left out of Austen. Although she must have known a great deal about solving problems in her work and testing out various options, I can't recall any instance of someone actually doing anything like work, let alone encountering challenges in it. And the wars, of course, were never mentioned directly, despite the number of officers in uniform who are so very appealing to the young women. Mind, I'm not saying that Kowal is trying to fix Austen in any way, just that she has found interstices in which to introduce other elements without seeming to contradict the historical feel. Plus, the heroine is not beautiful and knows it, a rare element in fiction.

I'm very eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and then moving on to Kowal's other work.

It Happens in the Dark - Carol O'Connell

[(It Happens in the Dark)] [By (author) Carol O'Connell] published on (September, 2013) - Carol O'Connell

Something of a black comedy: all theatrical effects, pun intended. A Broadway play turned deadly has Mallory managing to rope everyone into working the case. Entertaining, of course, but also O'Connor succeeds at pulling in reference to every Broadway story I can think of. The end result is perhaps less of a puzzle to solve and more of a dazzling performance. Vicious fun.

Library copy

Valour and Vanity - Mary Robinette Kowal

Valour and Vanity - Mary Robinette Kowal

     The Glamourist Histories start with an extremely well-done Jane Austen sort of Regency  romance with magic as an art form. Then with each subsequent book Kowal makes great leaps in the development of the art, development of the characters within their marriage, the opportunity to take her couple places Austen never went like the Napoleonic wars and the slave trade, while always managing to maintain the Austen tone.

It's kind of astounding even though Novik does essentially the same thing with the Forester/O'Brien tradition of naval war novels.

 

And now I'm off to read, because writing this up I realized that I skipped the second book in the series entirely. I knew my September was rough, but, wow, that's a pretty huge error to make.

 

Library copy

The Dark Enquiry - Deanna Raybourn

The Dark Enquiry - Deanna Raybourn

Vastly entertaining. I enjoy the relationships between Lady Julia and everyone else enormously. Plus there are her pets and I am really enjoying her development, both in her pursuits and her marriage.

 

Library copy

Red Bones - Ann Cleeves

Red Bones - Ann Cleeves

Atmospheric as all get out. Death on a small Shetland island: it's practically a locked-room mystery.

 

I really don't know what it is about Cleeves I like so much: the overthinking detective, the isolation but also the interdependence. There's just a mood to them that's quite pleasing. You know as the reader it's all going to come out in a big burst, and the tension is amazing.

 

 

Library copy

 

 

Out of Salem - Hal Schrieve

Out of Salem - Hal Schrieve

I read this as part of Halloween Bingo, so the fact that this book could reasonably be applied to about half the squares is woth mentioning. This is the first book I've read which used the singular nongendered they/their as pronouns, which slowed me down a bit at the beginning. But it worked, and never felt gimmicky. Z. was a plausible fourteen year old zombie who's entire family died in an auto accident: only Z reanimated.

 

There's werewolves and high school bullying and good teachers and bad teachers and a growing movement in favor of shooting all the monsters. As a metaphor, it is terrifying. But it's also the story of school misfits becoming friends, and of teens solving a mystery, so there is significant fun as well as the terror.

 

I'm delighted it was recommended to me, and I can't wait to read Shrieve's subsequent books. As good as this debut was the next one should be astounding.

 

 

Library copy

An Inspector Calls - J.B. Priestley

An Inspector Calls - J.B. Priestley

Forty years since my first reading. It's still a compelling and catchy story. I love the unsolved mystery of it, as well as the solved one. All of the details were lost to me, only the barest plot outlined remained, and yet, it was memorable.

 

 

Library copy

Why Art? - Eleanor Davis

Why Art? - Eleanor Davis

No doubt there is far more one could say about this than "that's weird and cool." But that's all I've got. It was handed to me and it only takes a very short time to read, so I gobbled it up. Some of the scaled art was particularly intriguing.

 

Library copy