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text 2018-10-03 17:17
A Bulky Stack
Antarctic Navigation - Elizabeth Arthur
Carnival: A Novel - Rawi Hage
Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

Mostly, these days, I'm preoccupied by reading selections from the CanLit prizelists,


I've just finished Rawi Hage's Beirut Hellfire Society (longlisted for the Giller, shortlisted for the Writers' Trust and Governor General's): the story of Pavlov, who has inherited his father's responsibility for the dead.


The Hellfire Society attends to the bodies of those who have been abandoned, witnesses their burning and, on occasion, carrying out the wishes of those who have passed him instructions. Set in Beirut and in the surrounding mountains, this is a grim story but not a bleak one.


Hage's other novels, Carnival and DeNiro's Game and Cockroach, all consider lives on the margins, lives that might be overlooked, and he inhabits his characters with tremendous sensitivity and grace. These are not comfortable stories to read, but these are parts of the world in which life is not comfortable: essential, challenging stories.


Now I'm reading in a flurry: Paige Cooper's stories in Zolitude (longlisted for the Giller and shortlisted for the Goveror General's), Sheila Heti's Motherhood (shortlisted for the Giller), and Esi Edugyan's Washington Black (nominated for everything, or so it seems). 


Short stories, a strange hybrid of fiction/memoir, and a historical novel by the author of Half-Blood Blues: this is quite a demanding mix but an interesting one. 


Last, but not least, Elizabeth Arthur's Antarctic Navigation has been on my shelves, unread, since 1994, but it is just wonderful: slow and dense and snowy: I am lost in it, in the best way. 


With October in mind, I've also read the first few pages of Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and Charles Palliser's The Quincunx, but these are getting the short end of the proverbial reading stick for now. 

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review 2018-10-01 21:49
The Franchise Affair / Josephine Tey
The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey

Robert Blair was about to knock off from a slow day at his law firm when the phone rang. It was Marion Sharpe on the line, a local woman of quiet disposition who lived with her mother at their decrepit country house, The Franchise. It appeared that she was in some serious trouble: Miss Sharpe and her mother were accused of brutally kidnapping a demure young woman named Betty Kane. Miss Kane's claims seemed highly unlikely, even to Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, until she described her prison -- the attic room with its cracked window, the kitchen, and the old trunks -- which sounded remarkably like The Franchise. Yet Marion Sharpe claimed the Kane girl had never been there, let alone been held captive for an entire month! Not believing Betty Kane's story, Solicitor Blair takes up the case and, in a dazzling feat of amateur detective work, solves the unbelievable mystery that stumped even Inspector Grant.


I read this book to fill the Country House Mystery square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

This was my first Josephine Tey, but it will certainly not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed this twisty little mystery. Although it is nominally part of the Alan Grant series, Grant appears in the novel as a secondary character. His thunder is stolen by a bachelor lawyer, Robert Blair.

I thought Tey did a masterful job of describing Blair—a man of a certain age who has never married, never left his small town, and never left the care of his aunt with whom he shares a home. When he receives a plaintive phone call from Marion Sharpe, asking him to come to her country home, The Franchise, he initially wishes that he’d left the office five minutes earlier and had missed the call. He is shaken out of his overly comfortable routine—into a portion of the law that he is less familiar with and dealing with people and events that he is not familiar with.

It is marvelous to watch Blair rise to the occasion, to become more aware of his community, his surroundings, and himself. His kindness to Marion & her mother was above & beyond the call of duty and I ended up liking him very much.

The twists & turns were well written, the motivations of those involved revealed, and the mystery eventually solved. Now I just want to know how Blair’s visit to Saskatchewan to his sister turned out!

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review 2018-09-29 00:18
Carnival Of Fear
Carnival Of Fear - J.G. Faherty

For any small town a traveling carnival is a huge event. This traveling carnival is a little different because not everyone will survive this one. This carnival's Castle Of Horrors is the real deal. Aliens, zombies, vampires and werewolves. They're all here and waiting for the unsuspecting townspeople.  When JD Cole and the other kids from the local high school entered the castle they thought it would be fun, instead they have to count on each other to survive.


Carnival Of Fear by J.G. Faherty is the type of book that to me shouts: "Read Me Now!" Monsters, a traveling carnival and a bunch of teenagers who can't get along, what's not to like? This book was really a mixed bag though, it kind of felt like a YA novel but with more violence. It has its moments though, I liked the idea that all these kids from different social backgrounds had to work together to survive and because of this they grew and changed. On the bad side there was so much going on in this book it bordered on ridiculous. If you can suspend your disbelief though this is a fun book.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-18 14:50
Creepy Carnival Square Read
Ringmaster (Carnival) (Volume 1) - Trudi Jaye

I was planning on reading a series of comics for this square, but read this instead.  Oh well.


It is also titled Ringmaster's Heir (Dark Carnival #1) in the US.


There are parts of this that are wonderful.  Rilla, the title character, is a totally real and likable central character.  She is easy to root for, and isn't a princess perfect.  The idea of a Carnival and a group of families that are quasi cursed to help Marks is interesting.  The magic in the series is well thought out and has rules that are followed.  The plot at the beginning is pretty good.  Rilla's father has died (has he been murdered?), she faces a challenge to her inheritance as Ringmaster, made more problematic because the Carnival has been dealing with sabotage.  The whole sequence with Rilla and the Mark, Kara, as they help each other is wonderful.


The but to this otherwise good book is a few major buts.


The first is that the romance feels entirely forced and as something the writer threw in because she (I presume the Trudi Jaye is a she, apolgizes if he/it/them is the preferred pronoun) thought readers would want it.  The hero, Jack, is the son of the man who is challenging Rilla for the Ringmaster role.  The Nine, men and one women besides Rilla, who control various aspects of the Carnvial (such as food, games, rides) will vote on it.  Jack's father was exiled for 33 years for interfering with a Mark.  Part of the forced romance feel is that Jack is really unlikable.  At first, it is understandable why he wants to support his father in the quest for Ringmaster title.  His father was ill, the return to the Carnival seems to be good for his father - who wouldn't want to help Dad, especially when Jack wants to get back to his job.  So, yeah, he's a jerk and maniuplative (he uses a private conversation and its infromation), but you can understand why.  It's when his father suffers a relapse and decides that Jack should take his place as challenger that Jack looks even more jerk like (why would he agree, especially when he wasn't raised in the Carnival or fully understands it?).  Then Jerk Jack says he is doing it for Rilla's own good because she is sad about her dad.  This after they slept together (which felt so forced that you were literally, going really) and after he realizes that Rilla was basically running the Carnival for her father anyway.




What is more, the NIne (even the only woman of the Nine, who is the Foodmaster) are okay with this.  AND NOT ONE WOMAN THINKS TO CALL THEM OUT ON THE SEXISM.  The closest you get is Missy who hints, hints, at it.  By the end of the book,when Rilla has been told by one of the men on the Nine that they love her and that's why they wanted Jack or his dad as Ringmaster because they were worried about her grieving. you want Rilla to shout, "Screw you, you SeXist Bastards and enabling Woman" and walk away.


Instead she becomes co-Ringmaster with Jack who is still a fucking jerk.


This might of been fine if the sexism had at least been addressed or even mentioned, but it's not.  THe only reason, at least in times of the world in the book, that the NIne might vote for Jack or his Dad instead of someone who knows the Carnival, is that Rilla has tits and a v-j.


It totally ruined the book.  It really did.


And then the reveal is something a reader can figure out about 100 plus pages earlier.  There is a third plot point that just feels thrown in.



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text 2018-09-12 19:39
Reading progress update: I've read 170 out of 300 pages.
The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey


I'm quite enamoured with Robert Blair.  I love how plain decent the guy is.





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