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review 2017-05-21 16:02
Book Review: The Perils of Prague
The Perils of Prague (The Adventures of ... The Perils of Prague (The Adventures of Crackle & Bang) (Volume 1) - Doc Coleman

*I read this book for my own enjoyment and in exchange for an honest review.

Our dashing lord is visiting with his uncle in Prague at his parents direction before traveling on to his next relative in another country now that he's graduated. However, things blow up. Well, the Opera House blows up after he meets a strange man and gorgeous woman in his Uncle's booth. And things get more complicated after that.


We have a few main characters. There is our main character and POV we live through, the Lord. See, I can't tell you his name as it's not one that people expect to hear. And... many are offended by it. It was a way for his great-great grandfather to shake up the social politeness of society and a string of profanity. Then we have Professor Crackle who seems a bit absentminded from time to time. However, there is something very special about him. We get hints and my curiosity is kept guessing about him. We do learn, in the end, what is so special about the professor. You'll like it. Lastly we have the lovely Miss Bang. She is a colleague of Professor Crackle's and handy in her own right and mind. This is a pair that are brilliant together and the Lord gets to see and participate with them in this adventure.

Can I tell you I love these names? I love that they are different and seem to fit the characters personalities. They roll off my tongue easily too.

Doc Coleman takes us on adventures on land, above land, and below ground. All cool in their own rights. I can't imagine where the characters could go in future books, in other cities, with all they lived through in this one! Wow, I didn't think we'd go through all that! lol.

There are many cool elements brought together here. I love when steampunk is used in the book and not just a surrounding in the setting. Steampunk is used here and something I enjoy. The adventures and actions that happen are well done in moments we need them, keeping the story higher paced. The moments where we learn details is done in a way that kept me interested as I didn't know what was going to be shared. It was all arranged to keep me interested and turning pages.

There are many additional attracting elements here as well. The crew of people we see, very neat! Another member of Crackle's crew, which we don't see as often here, is a very special woman. You have to meet her. The idea of immoral is very interesting. The Queen is the one and only. But is she really? This is interesting as it's explained and could become a bigger problem for others when you learn what you do.

Doc Coleman has set a high bar in this book and I look forward to seeing what he does in the next city as we carry on with Crackle and Bang.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-10-22 15:00
Halloween Book Bingo 2016: Eleventh Update and BINGO No. 11
The Blackhouse - Peter May
The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco

 

Home stretch – 24 books down, 1 to go!

 

 

Bingo No. 11 – the Books:

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)

Isabel Allende's breakout success and still one of my favorite novels by her (surpassed only by Of Love and Shadows): A multigenerational allegory on the story of her native Chile – seen through the eyes of the novel's female protagonists, the women of the Trueba clan; particularly the paranormally gifted Clara, as well as the Patrón, Don Esteban Trueba (Clara's husband and the father and grandfather of their daughter Blanca and granddaughter Alba) – and at the same time, Allende's attempt to come to terms with her own family's involvement in Chile's history.  A gorgeously lyrical narrative, as expansive as the plains surrounding the Trueba estate of Tres Marías; at times harsh, at other times, delicate, and a paen to the will to survive and to live exhibited by the Trueba women in the face of all adversity.  Of all books labeled as exponents of magical realism, to me this one, alongside Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, is the quintessential magical realist novel.

 

 

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw  

A perfectly-timed, profoundly unnerving fireside tale of a young governess's experiences on her very first job, guarding two children – a boy of ten and a girl of eight – who appear charming and innocent initially, but are slowly and bit by bit revealed to be possessed by the evils spirits of their former governess and her paramour, the household's former manservant.  By Henry James's standards rather short and concise (even in its language), and all the more memorable for its blend of succinct language and masterfully crafted, eery atmosphere.

 

 

Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse

Book 1 of May's Lewis Trilogy; a darkly atmospheric tale of childhood ghosts rearing their ugly heads to bring down the lives of a group of former schoolmates some 30+ years later; set on the northern end of the largest and northernmost of Scotland's Outer Hebrides islands, the Isle of Lewis.  May does an excellent job of bringing to life both the starkness of the Lewis landscape and nature and its dramatic coastline, and the inner demons haunting his protagonist (DI Fin Macleod, on secondment from Edinburgh CID because a recent murder on Lewis bears hallmark similarities to a case he's working on in Edinburgh) and Fin's former schoolmates, one of whom – a much-feared bully – turns out to be the victim of this latest murder.

 

The story is told in the third person when moving in the present and in the first person when revisiting Fin's and his schoolmates' past; something I ordinarily don't much care for and which almost threw me at the beginning of the book.  But here I stopped minding less than halfway through the narrative, and I'll admit that it did provide for a clear line of distinction between past and present.

 

Warning: The story's central episode revolves around the annual trip that a group of Lewis men take to a rock/island some 40+ miles north of Lewis in the North Atlantic named Sula Sgeir (or An Sgeir, as it's referred to here) to hunt and kill a total of 2,000 gannet chicks (locally known as gugas).  The killing and curing of the gugas is described in unflinching detail, which animal lovers may find disturbing (I know I did): my feeling is that the author wants readers to experience revulsion for the hunt while also exploring the mindset of the hunters and the place which the hunt occupies in local society today ... in addition to which, as I said, the An Sgeir trip operates as the major catatlyst in the book's narrative arc.

 



 Northern Isle of Lewis (photos mine)

 

 

Isle of Lewis: The Standing Stones of Calanais (Callanish) (photos mine)

 


Sula Sgeir (images from Wikipedia)

 

File:Northern Gannet juvenile RWD.jpgFile:Northern Gannet juvenile RWD4.jpg
Young gannets (gugas) (images from Wikipedia)

 

 

Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room)

https://themoviemayor.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/3-5-star-rating2.jpg

This book is billed as the first-ever locked room mystery, which isn't entirely correct, as by the time it was published (1907), there already were several very well-known mysteries relying on the same feature (Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sign of Four and The Speckled Band (see below)), even though their solutions are different than this book's.  The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Speckled Band are, interestingly, expressly referenced here, and it is quite obvious that Leroux was a huge admirer of Sherlock Holmes and his creator, to the point that I couldn't make up my mind to the very end to what extent he was copycatting and to what extent he was paying hommage.  By and large it's an enjoyable read, though, and I can well believe that the book's contemporaneous readership considered it a novelty and was seriously wowed by its solution.  (Side note: Grammar nuts reading this in French will have the rare joy of finding the chief narrative tense to be the first person plural passé simple, which greatly added to my personal reading pleasure.)

 

 

Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire

 Sherlock Holmes receives an urgent request for help and advice from a former acquaintance of Dr. Watson's, who, having recently returned from an extended business-related stay in Peru (from where he has also imported his new wife) has been shocked into believing he has married a vampire, upon finding his wife sucking the neck of their newborn son – with a pinprick mark on the baby's neck and traces of fresh blood on his wife's lips providing seemingly undeniable evidence as to the lady's actions.  Sherlock Holmes, of course, derides the belief in vampires as "pure lunacy," insists that "[t]his agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain.  The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply" – and proceeds too demonstate, applying his trademark reasoning, that there is a perfectly logical (though rather tragic) explanation for the things that his client has witnessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 Currently Reading:

 The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco

 

 

Finished – Update 1:

 

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire
Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery

 

 

Finished – Update 2:

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James Das Fräulein von Scuderi: Erzählung aus dem Zeitalter Ludwig des Vierzehnten - E.T.A. Hoffmann

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw
Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi)
(read by flashlight, in bed)

 

 

Finished – Update 3:

The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde, Inga Moore  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving
 
Young Adult Horror –
Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost
Pumpkin –
Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

 

 

Finished – Update 4:

The Dain Curse - Dashiell Hammett Hallowe'en Party - Agatha Christie

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse
Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe'en Party (novel)

 

 

Finished – Update 5:

  Der Sandmann - Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn
Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman)

 

 

Finished – Update 6:

Le mystère de la chambre jaune - Gaston Leroux
Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room)

 

 

Finished Update 7:

Feet of Clay (Discworld, #19) - Terry Pratchett 
Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Night Watch novel)

 

 

Finished – Update 8:

Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil GaimanGood Omens: The BBC Radio 4 dramatisation - Terry Pratchett, Neil GaimanAnd Then There Were None - Agatha ChristieThe Norths Meet Murder (The Mr. and Mrs. North Mysteries) - Frances Lockridge, Richard Lockridge

Witches – Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens
Black Cat – Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

 

 

Finished – Update 9:

La casa de los espíritus - Isabel AllendeFrankenstein - Mary ShelleyThe Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle, Anne Perry

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)
Genre: Horror – Mary Shelley: Frankenstein
Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Castle of Otranto - Michael Gamer, Horace WalpoleThe Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allan PoeWhite Shell Woman: A Charlie Moon Mystery (Charlie Moon Mysteries) - James D. Doss


Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto 
"Fall" into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman

 

 

Finished – Update 10:

Reservation Blues - Sherman Alexie
Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun – Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues

 

 

Finished – Update 11:

 The Blackhouse - Peter May
Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse

 

 

TA's Reading List:

Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi) (novella)

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits) (novel)

Witches – Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters (or possibly Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens (novel)

Genre: Horror – Edgar Allan Poe: The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether (short story); alternately E.A. Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart or The Masque of the Red Death (also short stories). Change of plan: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein.

Black CatNgaio Marsh: Black as He's Painted (novel) (black cat central to the story and therefore also black cat on the cover of the stand-alone paperback edition) change of plan: Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder (novel)

Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun – Possibly Edwidge Danticat (ed.): Haiti Noir (short story anthology); otherwise TBD Settled on: Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues.

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (novella)

Young adult horror – Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost (novella)

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn (novel)

Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles (novel)

Grave or Graveyard – Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado (short story); alternately Ngaio Marsh: Grave Mistake (novel) or Umberto Eco: The Prague Cemetery

Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse (novel)

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse

Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (novel)

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band (short story)

"Fall" into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher (short story)

Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room) (novel)

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (novel)

Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery (short story)

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman (novel) (full moon on the cover, and the protagonist / investigator is called Charlie Moon); alternately Dennis Lehane: Moonlight Mile

Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Night Watch novel)

Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire (short story)

Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman) (short story)

Pumpkin – Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (short story)

Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe'en Party (novel)

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review 2016-09-07 17:41
Grave and Graveyard Square
The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco

This one of those books that you read but aren't entirely sure that you understand what you read.  Eco's novel is in part about the development and publication of the stupid and racist Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  It is like wading though a sewer, a well written sewer.  In part, the book seems to be about what would possess someone to write such crap but also why it would be accepted.  

 

It's a good read, but hardly pleasant.

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text 2016-09-01 19:56
Halloween Bingo Update
The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue - Michael J. Tougias,Casey Sherman
The Prague Cemetery -

So I finished the Finest Hours, which I think can count as a Dark and Stormy night one, though it is not Halloween.  And I started Prague Cementary, which is a bit strange.  Sorry about the lack of graphics but the new computer and I are becoming friends. 

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review 2016-03-28 10:59
The Jews of Prague
The Prague Golem - Zelezne Lavky

I was wondering around the Prague Castle when I realised that I needed to pick up some souvenirs for friends back home in Australia so I decided to wonder into one of the shops there (and to be honest with you, I have seen more souvenir shops in one city in Europe that I have seen in my entire life in Australia - we Australians really have no concept of mass tourism). Anyway, a friend of mine wanted something arcane, and to be honest with you, I did not realise that you could get any more arcane than Prague. However, as I wondered around this store, I found this book, and simply going on the title I decided to purchase it.

 

This is a collection of stories that arose from the Prague Ghetto. For those who do not know, the Ghetto is not a slum (as is the common usage of the word) but derives from the island in Venice where the Jews were locked up at night. From this one location all of the Jewish Quarters throughout Europe derived their name, and thus the Prague Ghetto is basically the Jewish Quarter of Prague. However, since the Jews have been pretty mistreated throughout the years, and the places in the cities that they were relegated to were dumps, the connection between a Ghetto and a slum arose.

 

However, this quaint little book tells the story of how the Jews arrived in Prague and the challenges they faced there. Mind you, these stories are legends and there is a lot of mystical elements surrounding them. The arrival of the Jews came as a prophecy to the first Queen of Bohemia (the land of which Prague was the capital) that if she were to allow the Jews to settle there then her land will prosper. It did.

 

It also tells the stories of how various Jewish landmarks (such as the Old-New Synagogue, and a couple of streets) came about. Once again, these stories have the elements of legend in them, such as the Jew who upset his patron by praising God whenever his patron gave him money. The patron then withdrew his support, and in the Jew's darkest hour, a monkey full of gold came flying through the window.

 

It should be noted that all of the Jews are upstanding and moral characters in the legends. They are always honest (well, okay, not always, but the characters that the stories promote are) and are always fair in their dealings. However, they also face persecution, but in these times there is always divine intervention (such as when the Emperor Wenceclaus falls into a deep sleep and signs a document revoking his expulsion of the Jews).

 

However, I wish to finish with the story that caused me to purchase this little book: the Golem. I have always known the golem as something that came out of Dungeons and Dragons, and may have originated from some early fantasy book (such as say [book:Frankenstein]). However, it turns out that it did not. It was a Jewish myth. I had only just discovered that, so when I found a book about the Golem I quickly snapped it up. I won't go into any further details of the Golem (and for those who are interested I am sure you can easily find it on the internet), but this book was a fascinating read, if you can find it (and hopefully that does not involve a trip to Prague).

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/215599679
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