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review 2018-04-07 14:53
The history of surveying America
Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy - Andro Linklater

This is a book for anyone who wondered about the lines on the maps of the United States. In it Andro Linklater, a British writer and journalist, provides a history of the surveying of America. This is necessarily a two-part task, as not only does he describe the development and importance of surveying in shaping America, but it also requires him to explain the simultaneous development of uniform measurement in the Western world. For while people were familiar with units of measurement, those units themselves were not standardized, as lengths, along with weights and volume differed from place to place during the colonial period.

 

Yet the colonists already had access to the first standard measurement, the 22-foot-long chain introduced by the 17th century mathematician Edmund Gunter.  His chain was the first element of precision that made the surveying – and through that, the selling – of the vast American territories England claimed in North America.  Linklater describes this tandem development well, conveying both the importance of surveying and measurement in shaping the history of the country, as well as the numerous frustrations involved in getting it right.  What began as an often haphazard assessment gradually became a more professional, systematic approach by the mid-19th century, creating the checkerboard pattern and straight lines visible from the skies overhead today.

 

Linklater’s book is a readable history of a mundane yet critical aspect of American history.  With a scope spanning from Tudor England to a land office in modern-day Sacramento he conveys something of the long process of development that brought us to where we are now.  Yet his examination of surveying rests in a bed of outdated interpretations about American history.  These are minor and do little to effect the author’s argument, yet they are a weakness that diminishes from the overall value of the book.  All of this makes Linklater’s book a useful look at a long overlooked element shaping American history, yet one that is strongest when focusing on its main subject and not when discussing American history more broadly.

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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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review 2017-12-08 15:47
Mennyms in the Wilderness, Mennyms # 2 by Sylvia Waugh
Mennyms in the Wilderness - Sylvia Waugh,Patrick Benson
A recent trip to Philadelphia brought me to a wonderful small bookstore where I found a complete set of The Mennyms in hardcover! So I got to read the rest of their story much sooner than I anticipated.

The Mennyms had weathered the (false) alarm of a visit from Aunt Kate's nephew, in fact Magnus and receiving a life-interest in their long-time home. but it is soon followed by a much more distinct threat to their safety: the wrecking ball. They receive a notice that their house, their whole quiet street in fact, must make way for a new road.

Help arrives, with a supernatural nudge, in the form of a relative of Aunt Kate's: Albert. Albert, a young man, is drawn into the Mennym's small world and becomes enchanted by them. He initiates a plan to help save their home, and when the outside world's curiosity threatens them, he brings them to a remote country house.

What really impresses me about this series is that Waugh really gave a lot of thought to the many complications that a living doll family could face. The simple solutions to their problems always have a catch that get picked up on. There are thorny issues like a modern bureaucracy catching on to the fact that the same 'man' has leased a property for 60+ years, for example.

The psychology of the Mennyms is complex as well. Its pointed out that for years, decades, at a time the Mennyms follow the little patterns of their pretends. They area static, but then a single change in their daily lives leads to experience and 'growing' up. Appleby and Pilbeam in particular face all of the pangs of being on the cusp of adulthood, forever. The danger of Albert, a person, being involved in the life of the Mennyms after the crisis of the outside world ends, leads to the inevitable conclusion.

Previous: The Mennyms

Next: Mennyms Under Siege
 
 
 
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text 2017-10-02 22:30
September 2017 Round Up!
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction - Grady Hendrix
Carter & Lovecraft - Jonathan L. Howard
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters - Emil Ferris
Dark Screams: Volume Eight - Bentley Little,Kealan Patrick Burke,Richard Chizmar,Frank Darabont,Brian James Freeman
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two - Nevil Shute,Mary Elizabeth Braddon,Michael P. Kube-McDowell
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde - Recorded Books LLC,Jeff Guinn,Jonathan Hogan
The Wilderness Within - John Claude Smith
Haven - Greymore Publishing,Matt Godfrey,Tom Deady
Audrey Rose - Frank De Felitta,Matt Godfrey
Mystery Road - Kevin Lucia

I read 16 books in September!

 

 

Graphic Novels:

 

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Farris

 

Total: 1

 

Audio Books:

Audrey Rose by Frank DeFelitta, narrated by Matt Godfrey

Haven by Tom Deady, narrated by Matt  Godfrey

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, narrated by Emma Thompson 

Go Down Together: The True,Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde narrated by Jeff Guinn

The Girls by Emma Cline, narrated by Cady McClain

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc, narrated by Amy McFadden and Michael David Axtell

 

Total: 6

 

ARCS:

Haunted Nights edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton

Dark Screams Volume Eight

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Two, edited by James Jenkins and Ryan Cagle

The Wilderness Within by John Claude Smith

Money Back Guarantee by Hunter Shea

Mystery Road by Kevin Lucia

Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix

 

Total: 7

 

Random Books:

Carter and Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea

 

Total: 2

 

 

 

READING CHALLENGES

 

Horror Aficionados Mount TBR Challenge: 

(Horror Aficionados Group on Goodreads)

Goal: Read 40 books I already own in 2017

 

January Count: 1

February Count: 2 

March and April Count: 0

May: 2 (Boo! and The Well)

June & July: 0

August: 1-The Talented Mr. Ripley

September: 0

Running Count: 6

 

 

 

Graphic Novel Challenge:

(Paced Reading Group on GR)

Goal: Read 25 Graphic novels in 2017 

 

January count: 5

February count: 2

March count: 5

April count: 5

May count: 3

June count: 4

July count: 4

August count: 5

September: 1

 

Running Count: 34! Challenge Met!

 

 

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review 2017-09-26 18:45
The Wilderness Within by John Claude Smith
The Wilderness Within - John Claude Smith

 

The Wilderness Within blew my mind! I should be used to that by now, as John Claude Smith never presents anything boring to his readers.

 

Novelist Derek Gray responds to his friend Frank's letter asking for him to come for a visit. Frank Harlan Marshall lives in the forest, miles away from civilized life. Together, they're awaiting a third friend and while passing the time, Derek notices Frank is in dire straits mentally. He's not himself, he's barely even present when they talk. Derek also meets Frank's neighbor, Alethea, former singer of Dark Angel Asylum. Together, all three will face something-something in the forest, something that is ancient and will change them all, forever.

 

John Claude Smith is always exploring new ideas and this book is no exception. My favorite parts happened in the forest-the first time Derek and Frank take a walk in the woods together is truly creepy.

 

"I sensed in my mind, something picking through my thoughts, as if my skull had been opened up and something was looking for whatever special thoughts, memories and imagination that it fed on, and was diligently feeding: beetles picking the carcass clean."

 

The creative minds of authors and musicians are interesting things to explore. I'm reminded of U2's lyrics from The Fly: "Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief, all kill their inspiration and sing about the grief." John Claude's take is: "But I know creative individuals and know the madness and intensity that is part of their make-up. There has to be a lack of inhibition in allowing the madness full reign in order to really capture the gist of what one really needs to express creatively."

 

All of this makes it seem as if this book is focused on the inner lives of artists, and in a way it is, but it's also about the forest, nature, what is going on around us, and just maybe...how small we are in the bigger scheme of things. That part of the story and what's really wrong with Frank-these are things you have to discover for yourself. But be prepared because the truth is scary and often ugly too. Not only do we not know everything there is to know about nature and how the world works, we often don't even know the people we think we know the best.

 

Surreal, intense and brave, The Wilderness Within is a unique story that delivers on the creep factor and explores deeply the inner lives of the creative and the broken. At the same time, it makes me want to stay away from the forest, at least for now.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can pre-order your copy here: The Wilderness Within

 

*I was provided an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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