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text 2018-11-17 16:09
Reading progress update: I've read 4 out of 278 pages.
A Game for the Living: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Patricia Highsmith

There was an awkward silence, in which Theodore could think of nothing to say. The two men began to talk to each other again. Theodore was reminded of other moments at parties and dinners when something he said – granted, not of much importance – had been completely ignored as if it had been either inaudible or an unspeakable obscenity. He wondered if it happened to other people as often as it happened to him.

More insignificant-looking men than he were listened to, no matter how stupid their remarks were, he thought. Now the two men were talking about somebody Theodore did not know, and it occurred to Theodore too late that Ortiz y Guzman B. might have been interested to know that he had been asked to show four paintings in a group show in May at one of the I.N.B.A. galleries. After a moment, Theodore drifted away and stood by a wall. Perhaps being ignored did not happen more often to him than anybody else.

Social gathering awkwardness. I hear you, Theo. 

 

Just starting our new Highsmith buddy read with Isanythingopen and Lillelara, which I am really looking forward to. It's always fun to explore the ... erm ... messed-up-ness of Highsmith's characters and plots with others. 

Not that I already know that the characters in A Game for the Living is going to be messed up, I really don't know anything about the book (and haven't even read the blurb). I'm merely prepared for messed up characters as this is Highsmith's trademark. We'll see how this one goes. 

 

Btw, apparently this story is set in Mexico City, so it would qualify for the Dia de los Muertos book task. 

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review 2018-11-13 19:59
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

This was my first reading of this classic tale of dark secrets written in 1872. 1872?! That fact stuns me after finally giving this a novella read. There is a quite a surprising amount of sexuality for such an ancient tome or did the world get ever more prudish as the years went by? There were lesbian kisses and touches and I think I even detected a wee bit of some non-consensual touchy-feely too! But, man, is it ever flowery in its telling.  The purple prose is oh-so-strong but it really does throw one back in time and allow the atmosphere to drip off the page so I’m not complaining. Just prepare yourself for some unrestrained writing. There are trembling embraces and languid and burning eyes and so much more to behold here.

 

Basically this a story about a sheltered young lady whose father takes in a strange, beautiful young lady named Carmilla  after her mother inexplicably leaves her for three months to take care of some business or another. Carmilla is ailing from what appears to me to be nothing more than a case of the vapors but mom dashes off anyway, saying she cannot take the poor ailing thing along with her. Hmmm, I don’t know about the rest of you but that would make me mighty suspicious!

 

Carmilla is ailing from something a bit more sinister than the vapors and mom’s dump and drop makes a lot of sense when everything is eventually revealed. I won’t reveal the whole thing because it’s short and I think you should read it for yourself. Just know that it was enjoyable and beautifully atmospheric and if you’re a fan of Dracula and all of his offspring and offshoots, you should give this a read.

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review 2018-11-07 16:51
Hershey's Classic Recipes
Hershey's Classic Recipes - The Hershey Company,Various,Michael Jaroszko

Yum! 

 

Lots of chocolate cakes and cookies and candies made with Hershey's chocolate and cocoa. Love this book. I am going to have to find my own copy. 

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text 2018-10-30 16:57
Chipping away at the Great American Read list
Anne of Green Gables Novels #1 - L M Montgomery

Picked up the audible version a while ago and finally getting to it. I'm very surprised by just how much I'm enjoying this book.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-29 06:29
Dracula: The Original Flavor
Dracula - Bram Stoker

The last time I read Dracula, I was probably 16 or 17, and what I remembered most fondly was that it was eminently readable. Most 19th-century literature has all kinds of tortured text that makes high school students balk, but this one breezed by. In the ensuing years, I grew up, had kids, wrote a vampire novel of my own, and now it's time to ask, "does it hold up?"

 

Yeah. Pretty much.

 

Dracula is an essential part of horror literature, sure, but in our times of four-color cinema it is hard not to also acknowledge him as one of the first supervillains. The Count has been portrayed literally hundreds of times in adaptations of this work, and it is fascinating to see the original details that don't always make the cut.

 

The Count begins the story with no servants, since he must feed nearly every night, and word has gotten around Transylvania not to go near his castle. His imprisonment of Jonathan Harker is well-thought-out, as he forces Harker to sign letters saying all is well and sends them at later dates to keep up the fiction that Harker will return home. Dracula's sailing trip on the Demeter is less well-planned. The suspense there is all well and good, but feeding on the skeleton crew makes it surprising that he ever made it to England in the first place.

 

When Dr. Van Helsing is brought in from the Netherlands, he is not yet the hardened vampire hunter portrayed in many adaptations. He is unsure of his diagnosis of Lucy's problems, and neglects to tell her family not to remove the garlic flowers that are "part of her cure." He also makes a rather critical mistake some fellow readers have identified as a plot hole -- when he knows a vampire is in the neighborhood and has already struck Lucy, he and the boys leave Mina alone at night. I think there are a few spots where his Dutch accent comes and goes, but it may be because journals from other points of view don't record his accent and we only get the full effect in chapters that are supposed to be his journal.

 

Mina Murray is not exactly a modern heroine who doesn't need rescuing, but she's not a cipher of a character, either. Could she have been more? Certainly, but she's not bad as is. Her revulsion at being bitten and spiritual horror at the Eucharist burning her makes for a powerful scene. The disgust leads her to take charge and propose the hypnotism sessions that are instrumental to the plot in the second half of the book. I had never made the connection before this reread, but Harry Potter's Occlumency sessions may owe a debt to Mina and Dracula.

 

And unlike modern supervillains who rely on action-movie climaxes, Dracula is straight-up sensible. When he knows he's got a few hunters after him, he knows he's helpless during the day. So he flees London to go home and try again in another century because he's got time on his side. He's at least as much prey as he is predator, which is kind of a refreshing change.

 

The book is not without its cheese, of course. In the final few pages, one of the protagonists dies heroically, and then two characters name their baby after him. Today, that's the tropiest trope that ever did trope (see Star Wars expanded universe, Potter, the works), but now it's got me curious to see if that was Stoker's invention or whether it was common practice as far back as the penny dreadfuls. There's also bits of social commentary through cynical working-class cemetery custodians and Mina waxing poetic about "the wonderful power of money," which I find hilarious. (Apparently even before Batman and Zorro, authors knew you can't hunt a supervillain without some cash in the bank.)

 

All told, Dracula is quite an enjoyable read, some 120 years after its first print run. I wouldn't go so far as to call it immortal, but it sure isn't dead yet.

Source: www.amazon.com/Dracula-Bram-Stoker/dp/1503261387/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1540794068&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=dracula&psc=1
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