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review 2020-05-27 21:12
Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa'Thiong'o
Petals of Blood - Moses Isegawa,Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

I dragged my feet with this book for a long time. The character sketches were phenomenal, but something about the style kept me at a distance and it was a great effort to keep turning pages. Even being laid up during the covid-19 lockdown didn't help. Have to mark as 'abandoned'. 

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review 2020-05-26 21:23
Legion of Super Heroes, Vol. 9
Legion of Super-Heroes Archives, Vol. 9 - Jim Shooter

This volume collects issues mostly from 1969, which was also the year that the Legion stories were pushed from the lead feature of Adventure comics to a second-stringer in Action comics.

 

The stories however...a lot seems to have happened in the volume I had to skip due to costs. Action-wise, certainly, but character development is happening and the stories are taking on more stakes. These issues are sharper and (relatively) heavier-hitting. This includes the first "drug" storyline printed in a comic book after the comics code authority banned the subject - writers got around the censors by making the story about "toxic fruit". That story, as well as an earlier one where a criminal apprehends mind drugs that were for United Planets study only featured great psychedelic art. These issues also see the beginning of new costumes, open romantic relationships and dating stories for legionnaires, and other signs that these babies are growing up!

 

The Legion very easily could have been cancelled after the switch in venue, but they carry on stronger than they ever were before. The only blah note was the constant referring to the women as "doll". The women have always been treated as equals in 'Legion' stories, and it doesn't go away, but I could really do without the late '60s lingo in the 31st century.

 

Legion of Super-Heroes

 

Next: 'Volume 10'

 

Previous: 'Volume 8'

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review 2020-05-24 22:01
The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs
The Face in the Frost - John Bellairs

'The Face in the Frost' is one of those books that, when finished, made me shrug, and think "Well, that happened." Except, this book refuses to go away. I finished it Friday night and scenes keep replaying in my head. I hadn't appreciated the book when I first read it in middle school - I wanted more of his juvenile mysteries, not a fantasy pastiche. Now, I know better. Bellairs had been inspired by 'The Lord of the Rings', but wanted more humanity in his characters, and less archetypes, and so created his Prospero (not that one) and Roger Bacon (maybe that one) to run around a version of late medieval England.

 

The plot is simple: Bacon comes to Prospero for help in locating a book. An evil wizard starts tracking their movements and the two realize there's evil afoot. The genuine horror elements clash with the light-hearted, anachronistic fantasy, which leaves a reader off guard. You don't know what to expect.

 

My opinion of this is improving the more I think about it, but for the most part this still reminds me of 'Three Hearts and Three Lions' and other early modern fantasies that almost captured something, but leaves most modern readers equally entertained and nonplussed.

 

Despite the critical success of this book, Bellairs turned away from fantasy to focus on his successful juvenile books. The book was included on the reading list in the back of one of the early 'Dungeons and Dragons' manuals, too, which is a fun future list for me to explore. There was an unfinished sequel posthumously published in the 'Magic Mirrors' anthology that I may have to track down now, and a prequel short story was finished, but is considered lost after the anthology it was submitted to was never published.

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review 2020-05-20 21:37
The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb, Anthony Monday #3 by John Bellairs
The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb - John Bellairs

Miss Eells purchases a suspiciously cheap antique oil lamp and unwittingly sets off yet another doomsday countdown. Well, to be fair, it's not a doomsday countdown, it's just a countdown to giving an unscrupulous woman god-level powers. No biggie.

 

I still don't like how Anthony Monday and Miss Eells became supernatural detectives, but this book is so spooky and spectacularly gruesome that it charms to this day.

 

The lamp, of course, was stolen from an elaborate tomb. Once lit, Anthony and Miss Eels begin to be stalked by an entity with a cobwebby face and lives are lost. Add in an appearance from Ashtaroth, winter sports, and the most interesting chamber of commerce mixer ever devised, and you have a swell mystery on your hands.

 

Anthony Monday

 

Next: 'The Mansion in the Mist'

 

Previous: 'The Dark Secret of Weatherend'

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review 2020-05-18 21:13
The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart
The Hardboiled Dicks - Ron Goulart

This was a fantastic anthology of hard-boiled detective fiction from the pulp golden age. All eight stories feature a short paragraph introducing the author, their signature characters and the context of original publication. The end of the book has a brief reading list detailing full length novels and collections published that, at the time of this 1960s publication, could be found in remote lending libraries that didn't weed their collections too often. Ha!

 

These stories deserve a blow-by-blow account of highlights and misfires, but I didn't keep any notes while reading this one. 'China Man' had some racist elements in the underbelly of Manila, but Raoul Whitefield's Filipino private-eye was a refreshing change of pace nonetheless. There were a few other racist and sexist elements that cropped up in these stories, but nothing shocking or unexpected considering the genre.

 

This was a gag gift from a friend, but I enjoyed it very much. With the exception of 'China Man', the stories were set in the United States in L.A., New York, a mountain resort, Florida among others. The detectives were professional private eyes, gangsters, cab men and reporters. I suspect this is as good a survey of the genre as you're likely to find.

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