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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 2014-06-02 11:40
[Short Review] The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco

"19th-century Europe - from Turin to Prague to Paris - abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian republicans strangle priests with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate Black Masses at night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all of these conspiracies both real and imagined, lay one lone man? What if that evil genius created its most infamous document?  

Eco takes his readers here on an unforgettable journey through the underbelly of world-shattering events. This is Eco at his most exciting, a book immediately hailed as his masterpiece." (Source)

I have read fiction and non fiction books by Umberto Eco and so far never encountered a book that I didn't like. I loved The Name of the Rose or Focault's Pendulum and the non fiction book "Wie man eine wissenschaftliche Abschlußarbeit schreibt" (~ how to write a scientific paper) was really interesting too. So you can imagine that I was happy to find out that Eco wrote another book a few years ago. I nearly forgot about it, but when I saw it in a bookstore a few months ago, I had to buy it - because what could go wrong? I enjoyed his other books, why not this? Well, now I know better. I love Eco's writing style, how he manages to write things in a way that makes me feel I'm actually there with his protagonists. But I had a lot of problems with The Prague Cemetery and to be honest, I didn't want to give this book only two stars, I mean it's Umberto Eco... But I had to, because this book is only about a guy who hates everyone and especially women and jews and he dedicated his life to make those look bad. Eco filled this book with the hate of the protagonist - Simonini - towards others and for me personally it was just too much. I got really angry while reading and never managed to read more than a few pages at one time. I heard that this book and Simonini's attitude should be satirical and it should be a mirror for our society. But I don't care about Eco's reasons to shower the reader with prejudices throughout the book - it was just too much. To exaggerate things surely is part of a satire, but in my opinion it should be about quality and not quantity. 

 

"And when I was old enough to understand, he [the grandfather] reminded me that the Jew, as well as being as vain as a Spaniard, ignorant as a Croat, greedy as a Levantine, ungrateful as a Maltese, insolent as a Gypsy, dirty as an Englishman, unctuous as a Kalmyk, imperious as a Prussion and as slanderous as anyone from Asti is adulterous through uncontrollable lust [...]."

 

Apart from this problem I had with The Prague Cemetery, I also thought that Eco didn't really integrate the whole story good into the historic frame. It was just a succession of one historic event after the other and somewhere in between those Eco tried to fit his story which in my opinion just didn't work - it often seemed a litle bit out of place. But not all was bad - I have to acknowledge that. You could see Eco's skill to describe things - when he wrote about food my mouth started to water instantly. And the ideas of the relationship between Simonini and the priest Dalla Piccola were really good. Especially their written discussion in a diary - really mysterious. In the end those two positive aspects just couldn't let me forget all those negative parts, so I ended up giving The Prague Cemetery only two stars.

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text 2014-03-30 13:55
March 2014 - My Book Month
Prince of Thorns - Mark Lawrence
The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco
The Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

I found out that too high expectations mostly lead to a big disappointment, encountered an real unlikeable antihero, read the last book of a great series and learned how small decisions can have big effects. 

 

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Looking for a unlikeable antihero? Well no need to look any further, you have found one in Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath, the protagonist in the Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence. A cruel and murderous prince who left his home and goes on  some kind of a killing spree through his land. The beginning was quite difficult - especially the writing style -, but I started to enjoy this book, even though it was a slow process. I only gave "Prince of Thorns" three stars, but I think I just was not in the mood for such a different story. I'm definitely going to continue this series and am sure that I will like them much much more. 

 

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

There is not much to say about it. I just didn't like this book at all. It's nothing like The Name of the Rose or Foucault's Pendulum. Just one historical event after the other which leaves little room for the actual story. And it's really lacking a story in my opinion. The only interesting part was the written discussion between the main protagonist Simonini and the priest Dalla Piccola and that's what kept me going even though it was quite exhausting to the point where I just wanted to start skipping sentence after sentence. So, I'm really sorry but I can't give this book more than two stars - even though it hurts me to do so. 

 

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

I'm so going to miss Vin, Elend, Sazed and of course TenSoon...  I can't believe that my time with those characters is over already - how time flies by. 5 stars because it was a great ending for this series! I can highly recommend the Mistborn series to every fantasy fan out there! The first part of the Stormlight Archive series is definitely going to be the next Sanderson book for me - especially since the second book has been published recently!

 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life is a very interesting story about the life of Ursula and how big effects little decisions can have. Going the long way and not taking a shortcut through the garden doesn't sound like it would make a big difference, does it? But in Ursulas life it does and throughout the book Ursula repeatedly gets the chance to do something different - to change her and her friends and family's future. At first I was a little bit confused because of the constant time hopping, but after some chapters I got used to it and it didn't distract me anymore. I liked Atkinson's writing style and enjoyed reading about Ursulas life. I gave this book 3,5 stars, but when I think about it now maybe I should have given it directly four stars :)

 

Read Me Challenge March

The goal for march was to read books with an antihero, a villain protagonist and not a charismatic, likeable and flawless hero. I was really looking forward to this topic - well I have to because I recommended it ;) Unfortunately I had way to little time and too many other books to read, so I only read two books that matched this topic:

- Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

- The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco (I didn't even know that this book has an antihero until I started reading it and it was so clear to me that it was a perfect match)

 

50/50 Challenge

Since I'm reading a lot of bigger books this year, I decided to use the option to count books with more than 500 pages as two. So I have read 16/50 books and saw 14/50 movies. btw the Veronica Mars movie was just aaawesome :) and I just found out that there is a book that continues where the movie stopped!

 

Statistics

books read: 4

genres: 2x fantasy, 2x historical novel,

pages March: 2,201

pages 2014: 6,484

best book: The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) by Brandon Sanderson

worst book: The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco :(

currently reading: haven't decided yet :) maybe Noah by Sebastian Fitzek or Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe

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