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review 2017-11-13 22:08
That Inevitable Victorian Thing: Or, Austen in the future.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing - E. Russell Johnston Jr.

Do you like regency stories? Ones with coming out balls for young ladies, elaborate teas, and awkward exchanges between suitors while they try to remain proper? Do you, in fact, love all that stuff but wish those stories had more diversity in their casts? Yes? Then you should read this book. It has all of that and more, and captures that light floaty tone impeccably.

I, however, don't particularly care for any of those things, which is why this book didn't blow my socks off. It's not you, book, it's me. The premise really intrigued me on this one - I was expecting much more of a sci-fi influence. Really though, it just feels like a regency romance with some technology and alternate history sprinkled in. Which is totally fine, but not what I was hoping for.

There's a lot to love about this book. The diverse cast was refreshing. The world was interesting. The tone was carefully crafted and the prose decent. And I will say I quite liked the ending, which is why I'm giving the book as many stars as I am. I can already tell this is going to be a lot of people's favorite book of the year. As for me it wasn't really my cup of tea. If you're looking for intricate sci-fi and cultural analysis this one might be a miss for you. If you want a fluffy yet diverse regency romance then snap this one up post-haste.

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review 2017-10-20 23:58
Champagne & Forever (Country Road) by Andrea Johnston
Champagne & Forever - Andrea Johnston

 

 

Not often do I mentally kick myself.  Andrea Johnston is one of the first authors in a long time that has me doing so.  Champagne & Forever had me wishing I had discovered her sooner. Characters that burrow their way into your heart are an entertaining treat for any avid reader.  She makes it difficult to walk away.

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review 2017-10-01 23:45
Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 4
Grandmother Spider - James D. Doss
Men at Arms (Discworld, #15) - Terry Pratchett
Metamorphosen - Ovid
Metamorphoses - Ovid,David Horovitch,Ian Johnston
The Library of Greek Mythology (Oxford World's Classics) - Apollodorus,Robin Hard
Plutarch’s Lives: Life of Theseus - Plutarch,John Dryden
The Devil in the Marshalsea - Antonia Hodgson
The Snowman - Jo Nesbø

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                    Read = Called

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 4:

 
James D. Doss: Grandmother Spider

I "rediscovered" James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series during last year's bingo -- in fact, I had been sufficiently impressed with what I'd read about the books when I first found out about them years ago to buy several of them at a time, only to let them get buried, however, under a pile of other purchases in the interim.  Thank God, therefore, for last year's "Full Moon" square, which made me undust White Shell Woman, the serie's no.7 book ... whose events follow closely on the heels of Grandmother Spider, the book I chose for this year's "Diverse Voices" square!

 

Charlie Moon, the series's protagonist, is Acting Chief of the Ute Tribal Police; he usually teams up in his investigations with his friend Scott Parris, the Police Chief of Granite Creek, CO (who used to be the protagonist of the series's first book -- though Charlie took over from him soon enough).

 

Doss seemed to have a penchant for doings during dark and stormy nights; however, there is nothing Bulwer-Lytton'ish about his settings: You could easily be scared sh*tless by the atmosphere that he creates, if it weren't for the laugh-out-loud crap shots that he takes at himself and his characters just when things are on the point of getting serously spooky.  As such, at the beginning of Grandmother Spider, Charlie Moon's aunt Daisy -- a Ute shaman and tribal elder -- at nightfall tells her nine year old ward Sarah the legend of Grandmother Spider, a giant arachnid demon / deity / monster / spirit believed to live below Navajo Lake, to come out and avenge the death of any spiders killed by humans (such as, you guessed it, Sarah has just done) and to store any human bodies she isn't ready to eat just yet high up in a convenient tree.  (Shelob and her kin from The Hobbit, anyone?)  Only minutes later, they are confronted by a huge, round thing with eight tentacle-like legs and flashing lights that may or may not be eyes, flying past Daisy's trailer at the mouth of Canyon del Espíritu in Southern Colorado ... which does an instant vanishing act after having absorbed two rounds of bird shot that Daisy has emptied into it on the suspicion that it just might be a UFO carrying space aliens.  Minutes earlier, the same mysterious apparition has already been witnessed, in not-quite-biblical fashion, by a lone sheperd watching his flock at night on a nearby mountain ridge (failing any other logical explanation, he blames the apparition on the Government in D.C., once more out to annoy its loyal citizens out West), and somehow, the whole thing also seems to have something to do with the unlikely drinking-and-fishing -- mostly drinking -- fellowship spontaneously formed on the shores of Lake Navajo by a Ute tribesman and a New Mexico scientist passing through on his way to Albuquerque, who maybe would have done better heeding the warning in the rearview mirror of the Ute's truck: "Caution: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."  (One of them will, shortly thereafter, be discovered in a state of severe hypothermia up a tree quite a distance away, which of course does nothing for dispelling the supernatural overtones of these events.)

 

The solution to it all is, I am happy to report, anything but supernatural; however, high marks to Mr. Doss for sheer wackiness and invention alone.  What I like most about his books, though -- aside from his dry and spot-on sense of humor -- is the way in which the Native American spiritual world and beliefs and the secular world of the late 20th century blend together in a truly engaging storyline, with equal respect being paid to both; and on that count, Grandmother Spider delivers every bit as successfully as White Shell Woman.  What a pity Mr. Doss passed away in 2012 and there will be no new instalments to the series ... though I am looking forward to the 15 volumes I have yet to discover!

 

 


Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

I'm not a big fan of werewolf or shifter literature -- but I'll gladly use any excuse out there to read another book from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, so here we go!

 

Men at Arms is part of the Night Watch subseries; it's the first book in which the Watch's werewolf recruit Angua makes her appearance, and to lasting effect ... though the star of this particular instalment, truth be told, is a flea-ridden canine mongrel about a third (or a forth) Angua's size named Gaspode who's acquired the gift of speech (and trust Pratchett not to go all soppy and anthropomorphic on this one).  After a bit of a meandering beginning, the story settles on the mysterious disappearance of a unique, lethal invention by local polymath Leonardo da Quirm, consisting of a barrel connected to a cylinder holding six cartridges filled with a "No.1 Powder" that are discharged pyrotechnically, and known as "the gonne".  Very much to the Guild of Assassins' annoyance, Sam Vimes and his Watch (which in addition to Angua has also acquired a dwarf and a troll recruit) discover

(1) the "gonne"'s existance, which had heretofore been a closely-guarded secret, (2) the fact that it had been entrusted to the Guild of Assassins for safekeeping, (3) the fact that it seems to have been stolen, and (4) the fact that it seems to be associated with several suspicious deaths occurring in quick succession.

(spoiler show)

 

Furthermore, we learn that Sam Vimes is getting married, and how it comes about that

(despite all appearances to the contrary) he remains with the Watch after all and the subseries doesn't come to a grinding halt with this particular book.

(spoiler show)

 

Although I loved Angua's and Gaspode's exchanges in particular, for some reason this book didn't grab me quite as much as some of the others in the series -- though don't get me wrong, this is measured only by Pratchett's very particular standards.  I'll be the first to admit I'm fairly spoiled at this point, and I'll gladly take any book by Pratchett over many another writer's best efforts.

 

 


Ovid: Metamorphoses
(German / Latin parallel print edition and David Horovitch audio)

Apollodorus: Library of Greek Mythology

Plutarch: Life of Theseus

For the "Monsters" square, I decided to revisit Ovid's Metamorphoses -- I had initially only been planning on the "Perseus and Medusa" and "Theseus and the Minotauros" episodes, but David Horovitch's fabulous reading drew me right back in and I decided to -- with apologies to Odysseus and his companions at Circe's court -- go the whole hog after all. If you only know Mr. Horovitch as the Inspector Slack of the BBC's 1980s adaptations of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple mysteries, do yourself a favor and run, don't walk to get an audiobook narrated by him.  I recently listened to his reading of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, and his narration alone lifts the gut-punch quality of that novel to a wholly different visceral level in a way I would never have believed it to be possible, short of Franco Zeffirelli's movie adaptation, that is.  I get goosebumps merely thinking about that audio recording.

The Metamorphoses are Roman poet Ovid's tour de force parcours through a millennium's worth of Greek and Roman mythology, focusing on the stories that (as the title says) involve some sort of transformation of one being into another -- nymphs into plants and animals, humans into all sorts of creatures (animal, vegetable, mineral, you name it) ... and of course, gods into whatever they please to be as well.  The book begins with the Greek creation myth (the three "prehistoric" ages -- golden, silver, and iron --, the creation of humanity from "the bones of mother Earth," i.e., rocks, by Deucalion and Pyrrha after the end of the Deluge, and the beginning of a new age), and it successively moves forward until it reaches the Trojan War, the travels of Aeneas, the mythical origins of Rome and, finally, the ages of Caesar and Augustus (i.e., Ovid's own lifetime).  The narration is somewhat difficult to follow at times, as it is not strictly linear and contains numerous "stories within a story"; yet, for its sheer narrative and topical audacity this is justifiedly one of world literature's great classics.

 

Yet, for almost all of their topical content, the Metamorphoses are only one of several sources; many of the myths recounted by Ovid are also to be found in other collections, such as those by Hesiod, Homer (of course), Vergil's Aeneid (ditto), even historians such as Plutarch and Livy -- as mythology and history formed a seamless blend in Antiquity -- and, especially, also the Library of Greek Mythology traditionally attributed to Apollodorus of Alexandria.

 

So for comparison's sake, I also consulted some of these sources; namely, Apollodorus's Library -- which contains among the most detailed renditions extant of both the Perseus and the Theseus myth -- as well as Plutarch's Life of Theseus, which collectively relies on all Greek sources available to Plutarch (some of which are now considered lost) and gives an overview of the, in part, substantially different versions of the Theseus saga.

 

(Just in case, for those unfamiliar with Greek mythology:

 

Medusa was a Gorgon, one of three erstwhile very beautiful sisters bewitched so as to have snakes for hair; whoever looked directly at Medusa's face was instantly turned to stone. Perseus was able to kill her after the goddess Athena (Minerva to the Romans) had given him a shield polished to mirror clarity; he cut off Medusa's head while she was sleeping and later used it to rescue a princess (Andromeda) from a sea dragon -- as a result of which her grateful parents gave him Andromeda's hand in marriage -- and to defeat his own enemies, including Andromeda's former suitor.

 

The Minotauros was half human and half bull; he was the offspring of an adulterous relationship of the wife of the king of Crete (Minos) and the sacred bull of Zeus (to the Romans; Jove / Jupiter). (Minotauros means "Minos's bull"). As a result of a war between Crete and Athens that Crete (Minos) had won, Minos was entitled to demand tribute from Athens, and his demand was a yearly tribute of seven Athenean young men and seven Athenean virgins.  Theseus, the son of Athen's king, sailed to Crete as one of the seven young men to be delivered on the third such voyage, and with the help of Minos's daughter Ariadne (who had fallen in love with him and had given him a thread so as to not lose his way), he was able to make his way into the labyrinth where the Minotauros was kept and kill the monster, thus freeing Athens from its obligation.

 

 


The Minoan Palace at Knossos, Crete:

Even in Antiquity, not everybody believed the version that Minos had a labyrinth built in which to hide the Minotauros, and indeed, the royal palace itself consists of such a myriad of rooms and hallways that it must have been very easy to get lost there: very likely it was reports of the palace itself that were embellished and expanded on in the process of repetition, until the legend of the labyrinth was born. (Photos: mine.)

 

Agios Nikolaos, Crete: Statue of Europa and the Bull

Crete is the location of a number of important Greek myths; among others, that of the abduction of Europa by Zeus / Jupiter, who is believed to have approached her in the guise of a bull.  This story, too, is (of course) recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses. (Photo: mine.)

 

 

Next Reads:

 

 

 

First Bingo (Update 3 -- Sept. 23, 2017): Squares and Books Read:

  

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

 

 

 

Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:



 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

 

 


Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh

 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

 

 


Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

 Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

  The Long Goodbye

The High Window

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 3:

 
Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

 

 

 
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Prunella Scales & Samuel West audio)

 

 

 
Simon Brett: An Amateur Corpse

 

 

 

The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows

 

 

 

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

(Bernadette Dunne audio)

 

 

  


Murder Most Foul (Anthology)

Edgar Allan Poe: The Dupin Stories -- The Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Mystery of Marie Rogêt / The Purloined Letter

(Kerry Shale audio)

 Agatha Christie: Endless Night
(BBC full cast dramatization)

 Dick Francis: Knockdown (Tim Pigott-Smith audio)

 


 

 Ngaio Marsh:

Artists in Crime (Benedict Cumberbatch audio)

Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Death and the Dancing Footman (Anton Lesser audio)

Surfet of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan) (Anton Lesser audio)

 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of
either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

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review 2017-09-28 18:00
The Essential Jennifer Johnston: The Captains and the Kings, The Railway Station Man, Fool's Sanctuary - Jennifer Johnston,Sebastian Barry

A quiet, thoughtful book by a writer who is much underappreciated. She deserves a wide audience, although I fear the sort of book she writes -- gentle, interior, full of the depth of ordinary lives -- is much out of fashion in favor of dystopian horrors, angry screeds, and extreme character portrayals. Pity.

 

This novel deals with aging and youth, scandalous talk, resentments, misunderstandings, foolishness, closemindedness and the pain of injustice. Set in Ireland in the mid-20th c, Mr. Pendergast is a man at the end of his life, a solitary man, of few passions. He is a Protestant and, much against his will, finds himself in an unlikely friendship with a Catholic boy. It's heartbreaking and beautifully drawn.

 

I highly recommend it and will be reading the rest of Johnston's work. A fine article about her appears here... https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/feb/11/fiction.rosiecowan

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review 2017-09-04 09:51
Detective story in outer space – this one is closer to home for Klem
The Fuse Volume 4: Constant Orbital Revo... The Fuse Volume 4: Constant Orbital Revolutions - Antony Johnston

 

 

This time Klem and Ralph are investigating a murder on the Fuse (a colony out in space) with terrorist implications. This case involves Klem's son, the Deputy Mayor, at a time when she plans to retire to Mars. Family plays a large part in this story and it is exciting and interesting to read

 

Just like any detective story, there is a lot of action and some clever deductions. Bloodshed and death ensue and all the mysteries are cleared up. Given that each volume is a mostly independent story, there's no reason why there should not be a Volume 5. Recommended to any one who likes a detective story.

 

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