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review 2017-08-12 03:40
Curse of the Wolf - Rebecca Thrasher

Here, in her own words, a woman at least 600 years old shares with the reader how it was that she was cursed to be a werewolf because she had spurned the advances of the mayor's son in the village in which she lived with her family in what is now Eastern Germany. The reader also learns a bit about the people of her village, her family, the challenges of daily life in a medieval society, and the woman's own experiences of hunting in the forests at night as a wolf.

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review 2017-08-08 20:13
Boundary Problems / Greg Bechtel
Boundary Problems - Greg Bechtel

In his confident debut, Greg Bechtel offers ten magnetically charged stories about the impossible-turned-possible — secrets, paranoia, sex, conspiracies, and magic — as he effortlessly shatters the boundaries between speculative and literary fiction.

Boundary Problems vibrates on the edge of meaning, as carjackers, accidental gunrunners, and small-town cabbies struggle to wring meaning from the strange events that overtake them. Bechtel’s worlds of mystery and magic constantly challenge his characters’ pursuit of logical explanations. These compelling tales blur lines and push boundaries — into the surreal, into the playful, into the irresistible energy of uncertainty.


I must be finally getting over my summer cold (its been kicking my butt for about a month now), because I felt the lure of reading something better and more complex than the fluff that I’ve been filling my summer with to date. This book has been sitting on my shelves for almost a year and the time had arrived—I picked it up with anticipation.

What a perfectly titled collection of short stories! All of them poke at boundaries of some sort—between physics and magic, mental health/illness, male/female, reality/illusion, self/others, past/present/future. How accurate is anyone’s assessment of the world? We each view it through our own lenses. The characters are ordinary people, made extraordinary by the author’s attention to their existence.

The writing is beautiful. The stories are a pleasure to read, but I hesitate to say that I fully understand them. They don’t spill their secrets too easily and I can see where I will likely read them again, more slowly and with more attention. Though each stands on its own, they also support one another, each providing a window into their creator’s imagination. The varied topics reveal an unexpected mix of experience and knowledge.

I will definitely be interested to see what Mr. Bechtel publishes next.

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text 2017-08-07 11:27
5th August 2017
The Necklace and Other Short Stories - Guy de Maupassant

Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist. 


Guy de Maupassant


At the age of 18, French writer Guy de Maupassant (born August 5, 1850) saved famed English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne from drowning off the coast of Étretat. 

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review 2017-08-03 01:15
The Tale of Tales
The Tale of Tales (Penguin Classics) - Nancy L. Canepa,Nancy L. Canepa,Giambattista Basile,Carmelo Lettere,Jack Zipes

In The Tale of Tales Princess Zosa is cursed to marry only Tadeo, the Prince of Round-Field, who is enchanted to sleep forever unless a woman fills a pitcher with tears in three days. Zosa falls alseep before the end of the third day and the remainder of the vessel is filled by a Moorish slave girl who takes the Prince for her own.


In folk-tale fashion Zosa, with magical help, infects the now pregnant Queen with "a burning desire to hear tales". Fifty tales are to to be told over five days by ten sharp-tongued old women. Zosa plans to use these tales to show Tadeo his wife's treachery and win him for herself.


Giambattista Basile collected these folk tales in southern Italy in the early 17th century. Most of them are the earliest known versions of these tales, including Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Puss in Boots. While many of these stories ring familiar, they are overwhelmed with rape, greed, murder, theft and diarrhea. These stories make the original Grimm's Fairy Tales look like a picnic, hot iron dancing shoes and all.


It took me over a year to finish this, mostly because the style of fairy tales can get monotonous and because this edition is loaded with academic and translator notes pointing out word play that didn't translate and unpicking the cultural references of 400 years ago. Most of the humor involves poop, but everything else needed explanation.


These is such a wealth of information here. The baroque court of Naples and thriving artistic community comes alive with the high use of metaphor - the sun and the moon are personified in at least sixty different ways, sweeping away stars, depositing daylight, etc. - and the reactions and commentary of the Tales' audience. The stories themselves reveal a complicated world where people live and die at the whims of royalty, and monsters are often your neighbors.


Reflecting a very specific place in the Europe of 400 years ago, there is no cultural sensitivity here. At most there is occasional sympathy given to the impoverished. From story to story families can forgive each other or murder each other without the moral being affected. A king will do many things to please his queen, murdering her to marry the next thing is acceptable. Ogres are Others and, even when they are helpful or completely justified in their anger, no one bats an eye at murdering them. Our villain, the Moorish slave girl turned Queen, is a loathsome caricature but the reader flinches when reading of her ultimate fate.


These are not for the faint of heart, but anyone interested in the evolution of the story in the European tradition or in cultural history should give these stories a go.


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review 2017-07-30 16:12
And the cover is so pretty...
Realms: The First Year of Clarkesworld Magazine - Jeff VanderMeer,Sean Wallace,Elizabeth Bear,Caitlín R. Kiernan

... which is not a word I would use for what's inside.


This is not to be read in one sitting. For the most part, the tales in this collection are  upsetting, full of triggers, dark, squicky or all of the above, with some beauty thrown in for flavor. I found about half of the stories very interesting, immersible, though provoking; half I did not quite get; about a quarter were absolutely disgusting; maybe a tenth were just mind-blowing awesome. And almost none could be ascribed to just one or two of those categories.

I'm not totally sure of my rating, I don't know that I really liked experiencing these in a couple of days. But the independent shock value of each piece is really something.

- A light in Troy: Gutting. Specially because it's left there. But maybe for the same, a bit hopeful.

- 304 Adolf Hitler Strasse: Sickening. Take-that to slash too. Recursive. My brain hurts a bit.

- The Moby Clitoris of his beloved: first, WTF is that title (same as above, actually). It was... ick

- Lydia's Body: Well, that was uncomfortable *grimace* You can see it going wrong, and then it turns a 180 and goes worse.

- Urchins, While Swimming: It's Valente. Beautiful and bittersweet.

- The Other Amazon: Meta. A readers' wet dream.

- Orm the Beautiful: Jewels, dragons. No possible loss. But damn was it beautifully bittersweet.

- Automatic: grim

- Chewing Up the Innocent: The agony of the (creepy) artist and mid-life crisis. Little good can come out of it. And it is still oddly hopeful.

- Attar of Roses: Creepy like the smell of wilting flowers at cemeteries

- Clockmakers Requiem: I did not understand that one at all, but I liked the strange world it painted.

- Something in the Mermaid Way: AH! God!

- The Third Bear: That was pointlessly cruel.

- The First Female President: Well, talk about cruelty.

- There's no Light Between Floors: Sad and claustrophobic. Those that forget history and all that.

- Qubit Conflicts: I don't know that much about programing for this, but it IS heavily ironic.

- The Oracle Spoke: That's a terrifying concept.

- Moon Over Yodok: It doesn't say it, but, Oh, my God. She's the rabbit, and she made him her soup. So sad.

- I'll gnaw your bones, the Manticore said: Loved it, for the questions it raises, and for the departure from the all around dark cast.

- Transtexting Pose: Wait, what? Also, squick.

- The Taste of Wheat: Mystical, but ew!

- The Beacon: "Ant's life" and Armageddon and drastic changes in social mores. Awesome-sauce.

- The Ape's Wife: Nightmarish collection of might have beens and excellent exploration. Bonus point for putting me to search for "The thunder, perfect mind"

- Lost Soul: I admit I though it would go deeper. Still:

Are you surprised?” Bela said. “You ought not to be. Did you not know that every woman has a soul that belongs to her alone?

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