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text 2018-01-06 22:25
Currently Reading
What Matters Most - Cynthia Victor

I decided to finally read this book so I can lay it to rest.  It is in sad shape.  

 

Does anyone use the website www.paperbackswap.com? I have used it for years and love it.  I participate in a group there where every month they pick a book that has been languishing on their TBR list and read it and then post their star rating and review.  At the end someone else from the group can request a book from the list of reviewed books.  If a book is unpostable because of damage or whatever, according to the rules of the website, then we just write that it is unpostable and for what reasons and the other people can decide for themselves if they want it anyway.  Some people will send those books for free.  

 

I participated in that group for most of last year and moved a lot of books off of my TBR list and some of them I ended up loving. I also acquired a few good books too but I´ve been trying to make room on my shelves so I didn´t request many.  

 

This particular book is falling apart as I speak so I´m sure no one will want it but it looks interesting.  I´m just having a hard time getting the last book out of my head.  

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text 2018-01-03 10:08
Looking back on 2017
The letters of Herman Melville - Herman Melville,Merrell R. Davis,William H. Gilman
A True Novel - Juliet Winters Carpenter,Minae Mizumura
Wir - Евгений Замятин
Der Glöckner von Notre-Dame - Else von Schorn,Victor Hugo
What the Hell Did I Just Read - David Wong
Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
Сердешна Оксана - Григорій Квітка-Основ'яненко
The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo - Oscar Zeta Acosta,Manuel Acosta Sero,Hunter S. Thompson
The Revolt of the Cockroach People - Oscar Zeta Acosta,Marco Acosta,Hunter S. Thompson
Ein so langer Brief - Mariama Bâ,Irmgard Rathke,Rolf Italiaander

Hey there! I hope everyone had a fantastic start into 2018!

 

I always like to take the first days of January to look back and recap what I read in the past year – which books did I love, which ones did I like ok and which ones did upset or disappoint me. So here we go – quick and dirty!

 

Books I loved

There were a lot of books which I really liked in 2017, so I wrecked my brain to distil the three absolute best of the best for you:
My favourite book must have been The Letters of Herman Melville – interesting, well written and as an highlight I recommend reading the letters he addressed to Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Another one of my favourites was A True Novel by Minae Mizumura which I binge read in 11 days despite the sheer amount of nearly 900 pages. And last, but definitely not least was the mother of all dystopian novels We by Evgenij Zamjatin.

 

Books I was disappointed in

Luckily, in this category there were not that many books to choose from. The biggest letdown and as I can remember also the most exhausting one to read must have been The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, which is sad, because I expected so much more from this classic. What the Hell did I just read was no favourite of mine neither, although this did not come as a surprise, because David Wong’s books are gradually declining in quality. And since I mentioned We as one of the best books, I have to admit that 1984 wasn’t really a good one, despite its status as the dystopian novel par excellence.

 

And some honourable mentions

Сердешна Оксана as the first (and so far only) book I read in Ukrainian, So long a letter as a fascinating account of the life of African women and both books written by Oscar Zeta Acosta (The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo and The Revolt of the Cockrach People), because Acosta proves that even lawyers can be amazing writers and fight for what is right.

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review 2018-01-02 16:32
Great book - that I didn't enjoy
The Art of Archie: The Covers - Victor Gorelick,Helen Craig

I kinda knew I wouldn't, but I wanted to see how old school this was, and I had it, and I didn't have to think too much.   (Still visiting someone in the hospital, and it's mentally and emotionally exhausting enough that I needed something easy!)

 

It's beautifully published, the organization is excellent, and the art is lush and gorgeous as far as printing goes.  There are brief explanations of organization, or bios of particularly prominent cover artists, and the way the text is presented is logical and presented in a way that doesn't take attention away from the main attraction: the art. 

 

Buuuut... it's a bunch of creepy, beady eyed Archie-folk, and I found the humor to be juvenile, rather than amusing.   I simply don't like old-school Archie and anything New Riverdale wasn't here.   (Either published too early, or keeping the focus on old-school Archie.   There were some variants that I adored, but...)

 

Three stars for how well this was put together, knocking down two because I didn't like the art itself.  The book charmed me despite this because it was simply put together so well!

 

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review 2017-12-31 16:50
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 3 - Armistice Day / Veterans' Day: Murder at Castle Cloon
Death in December - Gordon Griffin,Victor Gunn

This novella by Victor Gunn (one of several pseudonyms of Edwy Searles Brooks) also forms the centerpiece of the second British Library Christmas mystery short fiction anthologies edited by Martin Edwards that I read this month (Crimson Snow), but I listened to it in the audio version narrated by Gordon Griffin, who is fast becoming one of my favorite narrators of classic / Golden Age British mysteries.

 

The story concerns a Christmas visit to Cloon Castle in Derbyshire, the home of Johnny Lister, sergeant to Chief Inspector Bill "Ironsides" Cromwell, Gunn's gruffly iconic series detective.  And the two policemen haven't even arrived ante portas yet when they're running into their first mysterious appearance: a figure that seems to be walking in the snow at some distance; without, however, leaving so much as a single footprint.  When they are assembled around the fireplace after dinner with the other guests, the afternoon's strange encounter is duly followed by the legend of the castle ghost and by a visit to the "ghost chamber", but things take a serious turn when one of the guests engages to spend the night in the "ghost chamber" to disprove the legend once and for all, only to be found injured and of obviously disturbed mind hours later -- and when not long thereafter, a stranger's corpse is found in one of the graves in the family crypt abutting the "ghost chamber."  The solution, when ultimately revealed by "Ironsides", is very much down to earth and rather ugly, but there's plenty of derring-do to be had along the way, including a rather fiendish attempt on the Chief Inspector's life and much fine detection work (and enjoyable writing).

 

Since Johnny Lister's father, the host of this story's countryside Christmas gathering, is a retired general who has duly earned himself a DSO (I'm assuming in WWI -- the story was first published in the early 1940s, but it sounds like the general's retirement isn't a recent one, and retiring in the midst of WWII doesn't sound likely to begin with), I'm using this as my Veterans' Day / Armistice Day read in the context of the 16 Festive Tasks.

 

 

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text 2017-12-29 18:45
Char's Horror Corner: Top Ten Books of 2017
Ararat: A Novel - Christopher Golden
The Suicide Motor Club - Christopher Buehlman
The Changeling - Victor LaValle
Hell Hound - Ken Greenhall,Grady Hendrix
Bone White - Ronald Malfi
The Wilderness Within - John Claude Smith
A Game of Ghosts: A Charlie Parker Thriller - John Connolly
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction - Grady Hendrix
Elizabeth: A Novel of the Unnatural - Jonathan Janz,Ken Greenhall,Jessica Hamilton
The Trials of Solomon Parker - Eric Scott Fischl

 

Please note that these are not necessarily books published in 2017, only books I've read during this year. I also had to change the title from novels to books, because of the awesome PAPERBACKS FROM HELL, which is more of a reference book. I've read a lot of great books this year, and making up this list was so difficult, that I've added a few "Honorable Mentions" at the end of the list. 

 

Without further ado, (please click the cover to see my original review):

 

1.Ararat: A Novel - Christopher Golden  by Christopher Golden. I haven't read very many books by Mr. Golden, but I own quite a few of them. I have had the pleasure of meeting him numerous times at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, where he is always friendly and humble. This story about the discovery of Noah's Arc was fun and frightening all at once and I loved it!

 

2. The Suicide Motor Club - Christopher Buehlman  by Christopher Buehlman. This author is my favorite discovery of the year. Over the past 12 months I've read or listened to every novel he's written and I'm eagerly awaiting the next. The Suicide Motor Club features a road trip with vampires in American muscle cars. It couldn't have been more perfect or fun for me!

 

3.The Changeling - Victor LaValle  by Victor LaValle. This novel was just AMAZING. It's starts out in one direction and ends up in a totally different direction: none of which could be predicted and I love that! 

 

4. Hell Hound - Ken Greenhall,Grady Hendrix  by Ken Greenhall. This novel was originally published in the late 1970's. Brought back by Valancourt Books with a new cover and an introduction from Grady Hendrix, this book about an evil dog is spellbinding fun!

 

5. Bone White - Ronald Malfi  by Ronald Malfi. I find myself thinking about this book a lot lately, since the frigid cold weather began here. This novel was a cold and creepy read and I just loved it. 

 

6. The Wilderness Within - John Claude Smith  by John Claude Smith. A surreal, unique and intense read that I think about anytime I look out into the woods behind my house. 

 

7.A Game of Ghosts: A Charlie Parker Thriller - John Connolly  by the AWESOME John Connolly. I've read a lot of series books over the years and very few of them have kept up the quality continuously throughout like this series about fictional detective Charlie Parker. I feel in my bones that the series is coming to an end and I will be so sad when that happens. 

 

8. Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction - Grady Hendrix  by Grady Hendrix. I don't even know what else to say about this GORGEOUS volume. It's a reference book, really, but no reference book EVER in history was as much fun or as pretty as this one. With colorful commentary about the times in which these books were originally written, no other book has had such a powerful impact on my TBR list as this one. 

 

9.Elizabeth: A Novel of the Unnatural - Jonathan Janz,Ken Greenhall,Jessica Hamilton  by Ken Greenhall. This is his second entry on my list. Originally published in the 70's, (like Hell Hound above) and brought back by Valancourt Books, this novel is CHILLING in its depiction of a nasty, calculating witch of a girl. (Also, please note both of these are referenced in Hendrix's PAPERBACKS FROM HELL.)

 

10.The Trials of Solomon Parker - Eric Scott Fischl  by Eric Scott Fischl. This book isn't classified as horror, but I put it solidly in the land of dark fiction and as such, it belongs on this list. I know it's not a popular or well known book, but it sure was a unique, fun and interesting ride. This one slid under most everyone's radar, but I thought it was great and I humbly hope its mention on this list helps it to get more attention. 

 

As mentioned above, I have three honorable mentions, (click title to see my review):

 

THE LISTENER by Robert McCammon. Much as I loved ARARAT, this was my favorite book of the year. Except that it isn't even out yet. Publishing in 2018, I didn't feel it was fair to add it to this list. (And even though I read it in 2017, be assured that it will be on my BEST BOOKS OF 2018 post.) An amazing novel of magic, friendship, crime and love, I cannot wait until more people read it, so I can discuss it with them!

 

SPINAL TAP: THE BIG BLACK BOOK by Wallace Fairfax was a total blast. This book features fun facts about the fictional band as well as a discography and other interesting tidbits. I haven't seen this book mentioned or talked about anywhere, and that's a damn shame. Any fans of the film This is Spinal Tap would love this book. 

 

ASH WEDNESDAY  by Chet Williamson was a fantastic book of quiet horror. It was slow burning and horrific, but not in a bloody or gory way. I took away from it a sense of the value of life and time-we have to make the most of the time we have. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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