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review 2018-01-25 02:33
The Wedding Dress
The Wedding Dress - Mary O'Donnell

This is one of my favorite books from this series so far. I was a little annoyed at first because there was so much refreshing of the previous books but the story was very good. I really like the historical aspects and how they connected with the present. 

Annie is moving things in the attic to make room for a handyman to install new lighting. She decides to move the dressmakers manikin to another room. When she moved it she was surprised to find that it had been standing on a hand-painted hat box. The was curious what was on the manikin so she carefully unpinned and removed the sheet covering it. She was shocked to find a beautiful antique wedding dress with crochet accents. When she opened the box she found a matching veil and gloves. She doesn´t remember seeing the dress when she was younger and she knew it wasn´t her grandmother´s dress. She´d seen picture of her grandmother´s dress and this one seemed to be from an older generation. Annie told her friend about the dress when she attended the weekly Hook & Needle club meeting and they all had questions. Someone mentioned it could have been left by the original owner, a sea Captain named Grey. Ann learned that her home, Grey Gables, which she inherited from her grandmother had been named after him. Now she wants to learn more about this man and the wedding dress.

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review 2018-01-18 14:52
Occulture
Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward - Carl Abrahamsson,Gary Valentine Lachman

by Carl Abrahamsson

 

Non-fiction

 

One of the first things I noticed with this book is that the chapter headings have notes below the titles that say each of them was first given at a lecture or printed as an article someplace, so it soon became clear that this is a collection of several years' writings collected by the author into book form for presentation to a new audience. The subject matter is sufficiently different in each to create a nicely balanced volume on occult influence in society and particularly in art.

 

This is not a book for learning to do magic(k), but is more about modern cultural influences and symbols that enter mainstream consciousness through various mediums of artistic expression. In the Forword written by Gary Lachman, he explains the term 'occulture', occult + culture, coined by Genesis-P-Orridge, a cult figure in certain circles of modern day magicians, then goes on to point out connections between art and the occult and the significance of interpreting one through the other.

 

The lectures and articles cover a fascinating variety of loosely related topics. They include commentaries on alternative lifestyles and the rise of occult culture through significant periods like the 1960s and 1980s and the British and German groups and personalities who shaped much of modern occult culture.

 

The reader gets the benefit of a perspective by someone who 'was there' and understands the significance of a variety of cultural influences that still affect the culture today. He speaks of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth as well as about Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey and what he feels were the relevant contributions by controversial groups and personalities.

 

The perspective is very much about the intellectual side of the occult. No new age or airy-fairy crystal hugging comes into it. As occult history goes, this is an excellent reflection of the later twentieth century developments that built on the legacy of earlier magical Orders and traditions and the effects of an expanding cultural awareness that would shake the foundations of pre-twentieth century European occult study.

 

The significance of art and creativity is emphasised as is the freedom of social mores from the staid, limiting celibacy of groups like the early Golden Dawn and the cautions required by Medieval magicians to avoid any sniff of scandal that might lead to charges of heresy.

 

The history of Nazi involvement in the occult is detailed in one of the lectures and makes for interesting reading from a historical perspective as well. That lecture somehow moves from this to beatniks in California, which gives the reader an idea of the broad scope of some of the topics discussed.

 

This book would be of interest to anyone interested in occult history or in cultural development and the influence of art. It fills in the recent gaps in documented history for those of us who are too young to have been there for the changes in the 1980s and before as these periods are often not addressed in earlier books on the subject.

 

It also goes into everything from philosophy to conspiracy theories in recent decades and even Pokemon Go! I found all of the articles interesting for different reasons. A real treasure for anyone with interest in magick or the occult.

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review 2018-01-06 13:35
Just like the Avengers
Steed and Mrs. Peel Vol. 1: A Very Civil Armageddon - Caleb Monroe,Steve Bryant,Mark Waid

The banter, the clever plots, the even more clever way Steed and Peel discover what's going on and how to counter it, the utter Britishness of it all, and the Hellfire club.   Martial arts and a bespoke, bulletproof umbrella.   All just too much fun.   Tigus and I ended up having a discussion about why they didn't use Avengers, and the Hellfire Club may be yet another reason. 

 

It's all too Marvel Avengers, between Waid - who's currently writing Marvel's Avengers and Champions, which has a huge Avengers feel with the Avengers characters, and ties to Avengers characters - so they may have just focused on Steed and Peel.  

 

Either way, it's so much fun, I'm immediately moving onto volume two.   The cover gallery in this is gorgeous, too, and I'm so glad I invested in this Humble Bundle for this alone: I probably wouldn't have picked it up as I haven't watched the old-school Peel and Steed Avengers in a while.  I have an urge to rewatch it now.

 

 

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review 2017-12-17 12:10
Non-canonical SF author: “The Culture Series of Iain M. Banks - A Critical Introduction” by Simone Caroti
The Culture Series of Iain M. Banks a Critical Introduction - Simone Caroti

"Banks loved metafictional negotiations, complex plots, and deconstructionist approaches, but he also loved story; he tied every subplot, told the tale of every character, and made sure to repay out good faith in him in kind.”

In “The Culture Series of Iain M. Banks - A Critical Introduction” by Simone Caroti


As a wildly innovative, imaginative, popular and subversive novelist, his works are infused with darker elements that give them a forbidden, cultish, underground status, but the fictions that are perceived as being in his more conventional and less evidently speculative mode fail to. It's entirely possible that readers expect SF to be simpler and less demanding based on their previous experience of reading SF, rather than on mere prejudice. After all, you don't have to eat all that much crap before you become unable or unwilling to distinguish it from fudge brownies.
 
Well I've done a systems check this morning and it appears that, yes, the anal probe has caused some slight damage to the self-censorship circuit boards, which may also have caused the nuance software to be over-ridden. This meant that the remains of the message was diverted to the spamsac. I include it here under the Full Disclosure subroutine:
 
"Of course, this logic doesn't just apply to SF. If, for example, someone gave me “Amsterdam”, “Freedom” and "My Brilliant Friend” to read, telling me that it was the best of contemporary fiction, then I would legitimately be led to expect that there was no such thing as a fudge brownie, and that the main requirement for reading contemporary fiction would be to install the Brainfuck 2.0 virus whilst sticking hot knitting needles in one’s ocular sensors." (although in italics, they're my own words) 
 
 
If you're into SF Literary Criticism, read on.
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review 2017-11-05 21:25
For lovers of clever and witty dialogue, geeks, sci-fi, popular culture and Oscar Wilde. A great YA story.
Not Now, Not Ever - Lily Anderson

I read and reviewed Lily Anderson’s first book The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You (you can check my review here) last year. I loved it and I mentioned that I would be watching out for more of the author’s books. When a publicist from St. Martin’s Press got in touch with me offering me to take part in the blog tour for the author’s next book, I had to check it out. When I read that this time the author’s inspiration was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest I knew I’d fight tooth-and-nail to take part if necessary. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, but it would have been worth it.

Elliot/Ever (if you know Wilde’s play, you’ll know that there are several people using false identities for a variety of reasons, mostly to live a different kind of life away from prying eyes) is a seventeen year old African-American girl, who lives in California, with a somewhat complicated family background (the Lawrence, on her mother’s side, have a long tradition of joining the Air Force, and her mother, in fact, teaches at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, while she lives with her father, a lawyer of French descent. Her step-Mom, Beth, is an estate agent, white, and an amateur actress, and she has a half-brother, Ethan). Her mother and all of her mother’s family expect her to join the Air Force, while her father wants her to do anything but that (mostly go to College somewhere nearby). And Elliot… Well, she wants to study Science-Fiction Literature. She is a geek. Her step-mother is about to play Gwendoline for the sixth time in an amateur production of The Importance of Being Earnest (that Elliot knows by heart from so many performances and rehearsals) and she decides to take control of her life and avoid another farcical summer. She lies to everybody around her, creates a fake identity (inspired by Wilde’s play), and after passing a genius exam to enter a summer programme (to win a fantastic scholarship to the college of her dreams, mostly because they have an amazing sci-fi collection in the library and they offer a degree in Science-Fiction Literature) she sets off to Oregon, determined to win no matter what.

Elliot/Ever soon discovers that you cannot outrun Wilde and that there’s nothing more farcical than a camp for geniuses. She has a few surprises (she’s not the only one to use a fake identity or lie), meets wonderful people (and some not quite so wonderful), finds love, and discovers what’s really important.

Like in Anderson’s previous novel, we have a first-person narration, this time by Elliot, who is a clever, witty, and determined girl. In this case she was not aware she was a genius (another member of the family was always considered the clever one), but the summer camp is not that dissimilar to the high school in the previous novel, although in this case everybody, apart from the college students who facilitate the camp, are new to the place, they don’t know each other and are thrown together in pretty stressful circumstances. We have, again, many pop culture and bigger Culture references (some, I must admit went over my head, but I didn’t mind that), a diverse group of students, but all clever, studious, dedicated, nerdy, and quirky. I loved Leigh, Elliot’s roommate, Brandon (a guy who carries a typewriter around. Come on, I’m a writer too. Who would not love him), and most of the characters. The dialogue sparkles and the quotes from Wilde’s play, that keep popping up into Elliot’s head, are sometimes humorous (I particularly like the ‘A tree!’ ‘A handbag!’ comparison) but sometimes the author chooses quotes that reflect the serious matters at hand. Although at first, it seems the furthest possible setting for such a play, the summer camp works well, as we have many restrictions, a lockdown, rules that can be broken and people hiding secrets, overhearing things they shouldn’t, and getting into all kinds of problems.

There is cheating, friendships, betrayals, bizarre but vividly portrayed contests (Star Wars based fights to the death, The Breakfast Club themed memory tests…) and young romance.

I don’t know if it was because of the build-up and the identity changes but it took me a bit longer to get into the story than it did the previous novel, but once at the camp and when I got used to Elliot/Ever’s voice and her accurate descriptions of people and things, I felt as if I was there and could not put the book down.

The ending… Well, you’ll have to read it. It’s probably not what you expect but it’s good.

Once again I’ve highlighted many bits. A few random ones:

And he was wearing loafers. I couldn’t get my swoon on for a guy who didn’t wear socks.

Two narrow pressboard wardrobes that were less Narnia, more IKEA.

She sounded as though she really meant it, but that could have been because everything she said sounded vaguely like it was licensed by Disney.

He was cute and presumably very smart and, unlike so many other white dudes, he’d never told me how much hip-hop meant to him like my melanin made me a rap ambassador.

Another great YA novel that I’d recommend to people who enjoy sci-fi and pop culture references, people who love books and libraries, and who appreciate young female characters that have interests beyond school balls and boyfriends. And of course, if you love witty dialogue, farcical plots, and are a fan of Oscar Wilde, you are in for a treat. I’ll for sure be waiting for Anderson’s next novel.

Thanks to Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press) and to NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of the novel that I freely chose to review.

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