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text 2019-08-13 09:37
Pre-party Part 1
Everlost - Neal Shusterman
The Graveyard Book - Dave Mckean (Illustrator),Neil Gaiman
Nights at the Circus - Angela Carter
His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt
Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie
The Crucible - Arthur Miller,Christopher Bigsby
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson,Laura Miller
Joyland - Stephen King

Joining the Halloween Bing pre-party a bit on the late side, but having a blast with all the traffic on my feed. Now, let's see:

 

Mystery or Horror?: Horror all the way

Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies or Other?: I'm partial to Witches, though the hodgepodges where everything simmers on the same pot are mighty fun.

Favourite Ghostly Tales:

The Everlost Series by Neal Shusterman and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. They are all written for that nebulous gap between children books and adult, and they are the that perfect balance of cruel and kind that often becomes emotional.

 

Favourites from Halloween Bingos Past:

 

Lol! This might get long.

 

It took me 1 page to realize I had a new favourite author with Nights at the Circus, by Angela Carter. Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire #1) amply jumped my expectation's bar. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt surprised me by how engrossed I got into a book where there is not exactly something like a plot.

 

The year before last, I was happy to find that Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie are as good as promised. And horrified by how excellent and still current The Crucible by Arthur Miller is. I was also surprised by The Haunting of Hill House, after what I felt was a lackluster experience with Shirley Jackson's We've Always Lived in the Castle, and so very glad that I took the game's reviews to heart. Joyland by Stephen King ended up being a campy and perfectly nostalgic read. I also read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, that while polarizing, is still my favourite of hers (well, maybe fighting for top with Four Ways to Forgiveness)

 

Favourite Series with Supernatural Elements:

 

Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews. Takes a couple of books to find some polish, but they are immensely entertaining. On a darker bent, I quite liked the Darkfever Series by Karen Marie Moning, but they are more of a problematic-elements guilty pleasure.

 

Favourite Seasonal Covers:

 

Favourite Halloween Bingo Authors:

 

Since I always end up picking at least one more book, Stephen King. If I search for number of entries during the game, John Wyndham and Agatha Christie too. And Illona Andrews, because I'm always up for a re-read.

 

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text 2019-08-12 13:45
Halloween Bingo Pre-Party: The Classics
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie
The Terrifying Tales by Edgar Allen Poe: Tell Tale Heart; The Cask of the Amontillado; The Masque of the Red Death; The Fall of the House of Usher; The ... Purloined Letter; The Pit and the Pendulum - Allan Poe, Edgar
The Hollow Man - John Dickson Carr
The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley,Maurice Hindle
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin
Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The Great God Pan - Arthur Machen

So here are my Classic Crime books:

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes #5) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 

The death, quite suddenly, of Sir Charles Baskerville in mysterious circumstances is the trigger for one of the most extraordinary cases ever to challenge the brilliant analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes. As rumours of a legendary hound said to haunt the Baskerville family circulate, Holmes and Watson are asked to ensure the protection of Sir Charles' only heir, Sir Henry - who has travelled all the way from America to reside at Baskerville Hall in Devon. And it is there, in an isolated mansion surrounded by mile after mile of wild moor, that Holmes and Watson come face to face with a terrifying evil that reaches out from centuries past . . .

 

Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poriot #10) by Agatha Christie. 

What more can a mystery addict desire than a much-loathed murder victim found aboard the luxurious Orient Express with multiple stab wounds, thirteen likely suspects, an incomparably brilliant detective in Hercule Poirot, and the most ingenious crime ever conceived?

 

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe.

A murderer is convinced that the loud beating of his victim's heart will give him away to the police.

 

The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr. 

Professor Charles Grimaud was explaining to some friends the natural causes behind an ancient superstition about men leaving their coffins when a stranger entered and challenged Grimaud's skepticism. The stranger asserted that he had risen from his own coffin and that four walls meant nothing to him. He added, 'My brother can do more... he wants your life and will call on you!' The brother came during a snowstorm, walked through the locked front door, shot Grimaud and vanished. The tragedy brought Dr Gideon Fell into the bizarre mystery of a killer who left no footprints.

 

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie.

Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorpe, and how did the murderer penetrate and escape from her locked bedroom? Suspects abound in the quaint village of Styles St. Mary--from the heiress's fawning new husband to her two stepsons, her volatile housekeeper, and a pretty nurse who works in a hospital dispensary. Making his unforgettable debut, the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is on the case.

 

Here are my Classic Horror books:

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. (Blue's comment-I couldn't finish this). 

rankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

 

Dracula by Bram Stoker.

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client's castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: a ship runs aground on the shores of Whitby, its crew vanished; beautiful Lucy Westenra slowly succumbs to a mysterious, wasting illness, her blood drained away; and the lunatic Renfield raves about the imminent arrival of his 'master'. In the ensuing battle of wills between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries - led by the intrepid vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing - Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

 

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin.

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, an ordinary young couple, settle into a New York City apartment, unaware that the elderly neighbors and their bizarre group of friends have taken a disturbing interest in them. But by the time Rosemary discovers the horrifying truth, it may be far too late!

 

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

A classic Victorian vampire novella, which influenced Bram Stoker's later treatment of the vampire mythos in Dracula.

 

The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen. 

The Great God Pan" is a novella written by Arthur Machen. A version of the story was published in the magazine Whirlwind in 1890, and Machen revised and extended it for its book publication (together with another story, "The Inmost Light") in 1894. On publication it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content, although it has since garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. Machen’s story was only one of many at the time to focus on Pan as a useful symbol for the power of nature and paganism. The title was taken from the poem "A Musical Instrument" published in 1862 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in which the first line of every stanza ends "... the great god Pan.

 

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review 2019-08-09 17:09
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Days in the Caucasus - Banine
Days in the Caucasus - Banine,Anoushka Rava

Well, looks like I was tempting fate after all.  As it turns out, not every memoir set in the former USSR in the years before and during the Russian Revolution was really shouting out to be written.  This is definitely one such -- which is particularly disappointing as the writer's father was a leading Azerbaijani (oil) industrialist and a minister in the short-lived 1918-19 Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.  I realize that Banine was a child during the years that she describes in this book (up to her emigration to Paris in 1923 at age 18), but she was an adult woman when she sat down to write it some 20 years later, and for her memoir nevertheless to contain no more than an extremely superficial description of the political circumstances of the day, absolutely zero analysis (political or otherwise), and instead a relation solely from the perspective of her spoiled child-self of those years is pretty underwhelming.  This could have been so much more.

 

As a side note, Anoushka Rava is going straight onto my list of "never again" narrators.  Note to publisher: A narrator with no ears for narrative rhythm, flow and texture does decidedly not add to the authenticity of the narration, for however much their accent may (presumably) resemble that of the author when speaking a foreign language.  It is also emphatically not necessary to spend nine hours yelling at the reader / listener in order to convey the impression of a household in which conversations conducted at that level of vocal exertion (equally exercised by all speakers, and moreover at the same time) was apparently the norm.

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review 2019-07-31 19:58
DNF @ 146 out of 432 pages.
The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh
The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh,Ariana Delawari

.... and I'm out.

 

This is insufferable.

 

Granted, I'm not the target audience to begin with.  But it's not even the concept of "1001 Nights as a YA love story" that is putting me off the most, even though that does have at least something to do with it.  Shahrazād, in the original version, uses a potent brew of methods to get the king so wrapped up in her -- and her storytelling --, and a key element of that brew is seduction and sex appeal.  Which I'm not seeing here at all, not even on the tamest "clean YA writing" level.  We're repeatedly told that Shahrazad -- Western spelling, but let that be -- is "pretty" (or "beautiful"), and apparently the "boy king" she's gotten herself married to seems to be thinking so as well.  BUT that doesn't deter him for a second from wanting to kill her straight at the beginning of the first night.  Off which desire she temporarily manages to wean him by just batting her eyelashes and saying "Please grant me this one wish, before you kill me let me tell you a story??"

 

Which however brings us to the first thing that really sat wrongly with me straight from the start: motivation.  As in, his, for letting her live -- past her first morning at that.  We start off in the first night with the Thief of Baghdad, and by the time morning comes creeping in, we're just at the point where the Magic Lamp has been rubbed for the first time (not by Aladdin, either, in other words, just in case you'd been wondering).  And just when some mysterious smoke begins to rise from the lamp, -- zing!!! -- Shahrazad offers up a cliffhanger and tells the king she can't possibly go on and she'll tell him the rest of the story tomorrow night.  At which ... he's mildly annoyed but in short order agrees to let her live a little more, just like that, so he can listen to the ending of a story that doesn't even seem to have done more for him than amuse him on some level or other?!  Sorry, but that's just ridiculous -- we're talking tyrant material here, after all. 

 

Even more importantly, though: I could probably chog along with the book just fine if Adieh had taken the original collection's cue and kept from locating it all too firmly in reality.  The original is a hodge podge of source material from all over the Orient, after all, very likely at least partly based on oral tradition and with none too firm and consistent a grasp on place names and time periods.  And at heart, it's a collection of fairy tales.  So what more proximate thing than to turn it into a fantasy tale, right?  But what does Adieh do instead?  She writes a historical novel ... without obviously having spent a single second on the historical and cultural research that such an approach requires.  And there's only so much in terms of obvious errors and inconsistencies piling up within a very short time span that I am willing to take.

 

To stick with just a few of the "highlights":

 

Adieh bases her book in "Khorazan" -- let's assume that by this she means Greater Khorazan, which she may have settled on because the ruler whom Shahrazād marries in the original collection is characterized as a Sasanian king, and Khorazan, in the 7th century, swallowed up the Sasanian Empire.  (Besides, it has the charm of having been a hotbet of Islamic culture with a rather lasting effect on all of the Middle East and Central Asia -- at least until the Mongols came calling.)

 

Now, my first problem with this is that she gives her boy king the official title of "caliph".  Because NONE of the four caliphates whose territory included all or at least part of Greater Khorazan were ruled by a caliph residing (as this one does) in a city this far east.  During the (earliest) Rashidun Caliphate it was Medina and Kufa (a city some 110 miles from present-day Baghdad); during the two caliphates with the largest territorial extension, the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, it was successively Damascus, Harran, Kufa (again), Anbar, Baghdad, Raqqa, Samara, and Cairo, and during the (final) Ottoman Caliphate -- i.e., the Ottoman Empire -- it was several successive Turkish cities; with Constantinople / istanbul being capital for by far the longest time (but the Ottoman Empire no longer extended far enough east to begin with).  The only thing Khorazan has to say for itself in terms of impacting the dynastic history of the caliphates is that the Abbasid Revolution started there (geographically and militarily / strategically speaking, that is).

 

Tl;dr: There never was a "Caliph of Khorazan" -- as Adieh, however, gives as her "boy king'"s title. 

 

Again: If she hadn't written this as a historical novel (or indeed, as any sort of book set in the real world), that wouldn't be a problem.  Since she insists on giving specific historic and geographical details, however, readers such as me expect her to have done her homework and verified that at least the major elements of her story are consistent with historic fact and reality.  This one isn't.

 

Now: Since Adieh has Shahrazad start with the story of the Thief of Baghdad, obviously Baghdad has to exist at the time in which her book is set.  Which puts us into the time of the Abbasid Caliphate, as it was the Abbasides who founded Baghdad (and the Ottomans no longer ruled over Khorazan, see above).  And if we look at the extension of the Abbasid Caliphate, we see that although it still extends fairly far to the west in northern Africa, it no longer covers Morocco / the Maghreb, nor any part of Spain.  Why is that important?  Because Adieh refers to someone as "a Moor" and, in the same breath, tells us that he is "from Spain".  Which is consistent insofar as much of Spain remained Islamic after the Abbasids had expelled the Umayyads; in fact it was to the Caliphate of Córdoba that the Umayyads retrenched upon being kicked out of the rest of their territory.  HOWEVER, during that time period no self-respecting Muslim would have referred to a Muslim from Spain as "a Moor"; at least not, simply by way of an introduction or explanation as it is done here.  To begin with, this term (or "Mauri") merely referred to the Maghreb (= North African) Berbers, not also people from Spain; indeed, people from the Maghreb region in northwestern Africa are still referred to as "Mauri" by 16th century scholar Leo Africanus.  More importantly, however, in the Middle Ages "moor" ("moro" / "mouro" in Spanish and Portuguese) was a derogative term used by the Christians during the Reconquista and the Crusades.  It was a racist slur -- nothing short of the "N"-word of the Middle Ages.

 

Tl;dr:

 

 

Words are important.  They are to your readers -- and they should be to you as a writer as well.  Obviously, they aren't.  That is a pity.

 

And speaking of words (and titles / addresses): A little later, someone is addressed as "effendi".  That, in turn, is a form of address that was not used as far east as Khorazan at all -- it is a classic expression of respect used almost at the other end of the world as far as a resident of Greater Khorazan would have been conderned: in the Eastern Mediterranean of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.  Which just might still make sense as the gentleman in question does not currently reside in Khorazan -- the problem is, however: He used to.  In fact, he used to be tutor and confidant to our "boy king"'s mother practically forever (until he was kicked out by the seat of his pants).  Which makes him just about anything by way of a respectful address from another Khorazani (none other than Shahrazad herself), but certainly not "effendi".

 

Tl;dr: See above -- words matter.  Do your godd**n research, woman.  Turks would address someone as "effendi" -- not Khorazans.

 

And literally within a few pages of the above, we learn that another young gentleman from Khorazan, in seeking support for a campaign he's mounting, is riding out to "the Badawi" -- i.e., the Bedouins.  Which again would all be fine and dandy, the extent of the Abbasid Caliphate being what it was, if the next thing we'd be hearing about would be a weeks-, if not months-long trip fraught with hardship, mastered with the help of only a single horse  for transport (in fact, way too good a horse to risk its health on such a trip, but let that go).  But no -- he has no sooner spoken of seeking out the Badawi than he's already chatting to one of them next to a well.

 

At which point the story, quite literally, had hit the bottom of the well for me once and for all.

 

One more time: If Adieh had given me the slightest indication that she doesn't mean her book to be set in the real world -- in its past -- I'd have gone along with her.  (Not quite willingly as her writing isn't exactly stellar, either, but at least I'd have finished the book.)  But since she insists on peppering it with real world historic references, she must expect to be measured by the standards that such references invite.  And measured by those standards, her book falls woefully short on just about every page.  None of which has anything to do with this being a YA book -- YA readers have just as much of a right to be offered historically well-researched books as anybody else.  (Incidentally: in this post, I'm deliberately only linking to Wikipedia pages, because that shows just how little effort it would have taken on Adieh's part to at least get a handle on the core basics.)

 

Side note: Ariana Delawari as a narrator goes straight onto my "never again" list, too.  I've tried my hardest not to attribute her shortcomings to the author in addition to Adieh's own blunders, but Delawari's narration certainly didn't make up for the writing, either.

 

So, I'll pocket my $2 for BL-opoly and move straight along ... fortunately, at least today is another roll day for me!

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review 2019-07-19 21:10
Reading progress update: I've listened to 100%.
Death In Kashmir - M.M. Kaye
Death in Kashmir: A Mystery - M.M. Kaye,Shibani Ghosh

Well, that was somewhat more of a slog than I had expected -- and only in a minor part owing to M.M. Kaye herself; even though she does rely more on "dark and stormy night" scenarios than I would have liked to see, as well as on characters, including protagonists, behaving TSTL to such an extent it's a wonder they don't all get killed in the first chapter. 

 

Chiefly, though, it just puzzles the heck out of me how anybody at Audible could have thought it was a good idea to let a book set firmly in the British colonial establishment, and featuring exclusively characters belonging to said establishment (with the attendant accents and attitudes) be read by an Indian narrator with a very pronounced Indian accent (whose narration moreover resembles that of an automaton, but let that be) -- and who doesn't have the first clue how to pronounce English place names and certain other English terms, to boot.  I mean, yeah, the book has "Kashmir" in the title, but it should have been some sort of clue in selecting the narrator that it was written by a British author and is set immediately before the end of the Raj ...

 

Oh well.  Onwards and upwards.  At least I finished it just in time to be allowed to roll again tonight!

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