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review 2018-06-22 03:55
Death from a Top Hat by Clayton Rawson
Death from a Top Hat - Clayton Rawson

Series: The Great Merlini #1

 

When an occultist is murdered in an impossible locked room mystery, a magician is called in to consult on the case. I was interested in how the murder was done, but I found the writing to be pretty sloppy. For example, Rawson has his Merlini character enumerate theories or possibilities several times and in one case dispenses with any approximation of dialogue and just writes numbers on the page with the corresponding item. And Merlini could get pretty tedious even when Rawson gave a nod towards actual dialogue.

 

Between Merlini and the POV character Harte's meta-ness, I don't think I'll be reading any more of these mysteries.

 

Previous update:

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review 2018-06-22 00:40
"Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson
Winesburg, Ohio - Sherwood Anderson

I found this book through a slightly unusual route. I was reading "Fire Touched" an urban fantasy book and there was a description of the books on the desk of the Marrok, leader of the North American werewolves. Sherwood Anderson was one of the authors he was reading.

 

My ignorance of classic American Literature is boundless, so I'd never heard of Sherwood Anderson. The idea of a new classic book appealed to me so I picked up Anderson's most famous work, "Winesburg, Ohio".

 

"Winesburg, Ohio" is a series of linked short stories about the residents of Winesburg. It was published in 1919, the same year as Virginia Woolf's "Night and Day" and P.G. Wodehouse's "My Man Jeeves" yet it reads as if it had been written a century earlier.

 

The premise of "Winesburg, Ohio" is very similar to Elizabeth Strout's "Anything Is Possible": each story builds on a central cast of characters and their influence on each other's fate is revealed.

The writing is very different. "Anything Is Possible" paints deeply nuanced, intense portraits of the personal landscapes of individuals who know each other."Winesburg, Ohio" feels like a set of sketches drawn with stubs of pencil, full of energy but rudely formed.

 

The writing is long-winded, self-consciously portentous and consistently remains at a distance from the minds of the protagonists.

 

At first, I thought I might be seeing a sort of text-version of Fauvism - all the passion with none of the form.

 

As I read on I put that idea aside and saw the book as a poorly constructed rant against the people in small-town Ohio, who the author sees a being driven insane by truths that have turned sour by being held on to too tightly. The author's voice is so all persuasive that his agenda and passions shine more brightly than any of the characters in the book.

 

To me, this book can serve only two purposes: as an historical artefact to show how far the American Novel has evolved, or as an instrument of torture to be used to turn Highschool kids off the idea of reading to themselves.

 

I can imagine essays being written about the emergence of post-rural America and the shifts in mores as small towns forsake their frontier history and try to embrace the modern. It's all there but it's not all good.

 

It seems to me that Sherwood Anderson is a polemicist with no real talent for storytelling.

 

This is a great example of a book that is a classic because it's a hundred years old and has been kept in print by the school curriculum long after it has lost any popular appeal.

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review 2018-06-21 22:59
Going Dark by Linda Nagata - My Thoughts
Going Dark - Linda Nagata

I have no idea why I enjoyed this near-future military trilogy as much as I did, but there you go, I did.

The hero of the trilogy, James Shelley, has gone through hell... multiple times.  He's been manipulated, pushed from pillar to post, lied to, betrayed... jeez... all kinds of horrible things.  And I keep coming back for more.  *LOL*

There's action galore in this third book.  Some new team members to get to know.  More mysteries about The Red.  It's pretty much non-stop from the get go.  Nagata writes so well that I can pretty much see the action happening in my mind's eye.  Part of the might be the 1st person POV coupled with the present tense which works. 

I was pretty much satisfied with the way the trilogy wrapped up, but I'd be lying if I said it was a perfect ending.  I was left with a bit of a nebulous feeling of bad things still out there underneath the surface despite everything.  And maybe that's a trope of this type of book.  The main point is, that it didn't really detract from my overall pleasure with the trilogy.

I have another Nagata book in my Kobo and I'm looking forward to reading it.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-21 16:01
Immortown by Lily Markova (2015 Review)
Immortown - Lily Markova

ImmortownImmortown by Lily Markova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Famous actress Freya Auror suddenly finds herself in a very odd town where the townsfolk spend all their time consuming powerful substances and killing themselves. She soon discovers she's trapped, yet not all hope is lost. Maybe there's a way out for her, a way to escape the clutches of Immortown. Or just maybe she'll remain there until she fades...

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. My thanks goes to Lily Markova for giving me the opportunity!

In truth, I'm not a believer in life after death or anything like that, but Immortown definitely left me thinking and probably will continue to do so for a while to come. I didn't know what to expect and from what initially started off as serious confusion, turned to fascination as the story progressed and events were explained. I've never read anything quite like it before so, for me, it was certainly unique. Markova clearly has a lot of talent, from the way she writes to the overall tone of her work; the latter being how well she implemented the dark, disturbing feel yet could pull off the occasional humour. Despite that, I feel it took me a lot of effort to read it - I had to pay the utmost attention or I feared I'd miss something relevant; even minor distractions forced me to go over passages more than once. It was easy to lose place of what was happening amongst the lengthy narrative which whilst oftentimes beautiful, also dragged on in other areas. I struggled to rate it, but after some consideration I decided firmly upon the four stars; I really think it deserves such, given my overall enjoyment and the unmistakable thought that's been put into it.

Freya Auror was, in short, a troubled character. I know what it's like to lose someone extremely important and feel like letting go, so I could somewhat relate to her in the way that she lost herself to what she enjoyed doing; for her, it was the acting and the roles she played, such as Astra. She was also a woman enthralled by art, which in itself is characteristically attractive as it's so rare this day and age. I didn't particularly understand her connection to Kai, but I think she was the only one to truly see he wasn't the supposed villain everyone thought he was. Yes, perhaps he was a selfish man, but the burning of Immer wasn't exactly intentional. I actually really liked him, even though he wasn't perfect; quite the opposite in fact. He held an air of mystery and attitude that I found appealing. The childish India, her husband Remy and Chace were also good characters and of course, "Dude", who added some comic relief yet still succeeded to be a haunting figure. I wasn't fond of Kristle, but I suppose that was the whole point.

Indeed, the entire book was about death and suicide, but it was an intriguing take on things. It wasn't just a typical, simple purgatory tale, but something I found original. As I've already mentioned, the beginning had me scratching my head several times, but I'm glad I didn't let it scare me away. Eventually, it all clicked and that, when you sit back and realise all the ties are coming together and making sense, is a great and satisfying thing to experience. The two PoV's complimented and fit together nicely and the plot itself, whilst not action-packed, still greatly entertained.

In conclusion: A very deep and thoughtful read; one I found myself impressed with. I can't help but wonder about the aftermath of Immortown. Will there be a sequel? It surely looks like it could be continued, so fingers crossed! I'd be very interested in reading more just like this.

Notable Quote:

"You know, when people lose someone, they are horrendously hypocritical. They don't pity the ones gone; they mourn themselves for being left without something familiar or loved."

© Red Lace 2015


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/21/immortown-by-lily-markova-2015-review
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review 2018-06-20 21:42
The Regional Office Is Under Attack - a comic book of a novel - great fun
The Regional Office is Under Attack!: A Novel - Manuel G. Gonzales

How to describe this... It's about superheroes while they're "off duty" and a specific group of superheroes -- all women. They're recruited by a place that is a travel agency unless you want to go to Akron Ohio, in which case it's the global HQ for these amazing magic women and the people who organize them.

 

And the book takes place while their HQ is under attack.

 

I can't tell you much more than that without spoiling it. It's humorous without being satire and without mocking superheroes of the more usual sort. Clearly written by someone who loves the heroes we all know and love and also completely different in the angle we watch from. The humor isn't at the expense of our usual heroes, it's just that we're in on their inner-most thoughts - stuff like "this is a f-ing ridiculous way to die" etc.

 

A very fast read because it's easy and I wanted to know how it was going to turn out. It started a tad slow, and we get the back and forth from present to past and back again (a gimmick I'm really starting to see as a novelists easy way out, but it works here.) I feared it would be all origin story, but it's absolutely not. There are very few feelings, and the only adjective is the F word - all of this sounds terrible. Maybe it's just my mood. I have been wanting light lately and this hit the spot. There's no great depth, which is exactly why it works. I've read comic books that felt a bit like this but never a novel. It's different and therefore quite interesting as well as just plain fun. 

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