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review 2018-12-10 18:45
THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY by John Hornor Jacobs
The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky: A Novella of Cosmic Horror - John Hornor Jacobs

 

"Misery is a condition that we are all promised."

 

THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY is a beautifully written novella with rich, layered characters and an unfamiliar landscape.

 

Two ex-pats develop a friendship between them. Isabel, an educator and Avendano, a poet, have both escaped a political coup in their home country of (the fictional) Magera. As their friendship deepens, Isabel learns more about Avendano's reputation and his past. When he asks her to watch his apartment so that he may return to Magera, she does so willingly. While so doing, she reads a few of the manuscripts he left behind. It's in these manuscripts that the true horror lies. Will Avendano ever return home? If he does will he find Isabel there waiting for him? You'll have to read this novella to find out!

 

I loved this book and that's mostly because the characters of Avendano and Isabel are so deep and well drawn. I did not expect to develop such complicated feelings for characters in "A Novella of Cosmic Horror." But develop them I did-especially for Avendano. I disliked him quite a bit when the story began, but I empathized with what he went through later, (or actually, before), and my feelings for him changed dramatically.

 

Whenever I see or hear the term "cosmic horror" lately, I find myself thinking of tentacles. But cosmic horror runs much deeper than that, and in this book it plays a small but certainly disturbing part of the narrative. When the miasma becomes so thick you can almost cut through it, watch out. There are things in that stinking fog, things existing just beyond the limits our visibility, but all too alive just the same.

 

The real horrors here are executed by humans and they make tentacles and Cthulhu look downright silly. It's easy to overlook coups in other countries, easy to overlook the human rights violations and the often abominable acts. We don't seem them on our daily news, so to us they seem foreign and distant. But for the people living under military rule or the rule of dictators or religious leaders? They see these horrors every day and sadly, they are now just part of life. When anyone dares to look more closely, like Avendano for instance, who knows what horrors will befall them as a result? They may take the form of torture, they may take the form of torturing those you love, they can even make you torture yourself, and that's the worst torture of all. 

 

"The pain becomes an offering and sacrifice becomes a beacon."

 

 

 

A beacon to what? That is the question.

 

I've tried hard to impart to you the gravity as well as the beauty hidden behind that oh so lovely cover. I've tried to do it without spoiling anything, but I'm not sure I've succeeded. The writing is sublime and I got lost a few times, just ruminating on the beauty of the language. That doesn't happen often these days, but it happened several times within the pages of this beautiful, scary, depressing, lovely novella and for that reason I highly recommend this book.

 

Get your copy here: THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY

 

*I received a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* 

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review 2018-12-10 00:16
24 Festive Tasks: Door 7 - Mawlid, Book
Candy Cane Murder - Leslie Meier,Laura Levine,Joanne Fluke,Suzanne Toren

Well, let's just say that none of these three ladies is anywhere near Donna Andrews's league when it comes to cozy mysteries, plotting, character creation, dialogue, and a writer's craft in general.  And if I thought Joanna Fluke's entry was disappointing (mediocre plotting and dialogue, character responses that felt forced / didn't make sense, and one of my no-go TSTL behavior tropes as the "big reveal" cue (though I have to hand it to Fluke, the setting and overall scene of the final confrontation with the murderer was inspired)), I'm sorry to have to say that Leslie Meier's contribution did even less for me -- you could scratch off the Hallmark sugar coating with a shovel, virtually NONE of the characters' actions and responses bore even the slightest semblance of realism,  and she managed to make 1980s rural Maine come across as more backward than it probably was even in the 1940s and 1950s (while also looking more dripping-with-saccharine-style-homely than any Norman Rockwell picture -- and for the record, I like Norman Rockwell.  Or at least I like his Christmas pictures.)

 

Laura Levine's entry fared a bit better (I'd call it the book's highlight if such a term were appropriate for a muted glow in the midst of two seriously dulled lights); at least she took me right back to L.A. inside my head and the plotting was halfway decent.  But her story seriously suffered from an overabundance of quirky characters, not-very-subtle hints at the MC's padded waistline and her resolutions to do something about it (in which she predictably fails on every single occasion -- and yes, I know this actually is an L.A. thing; been there and would have bought the T-shirt, too, if I'd found it funny then, but the last thing I want is to have this sort of fad jammed up my nose with a sledgehammer in a book) -- and an equal overabundance of wannabe hipster slang and coloquialisms ... everything from repeated exclamations like "ugh!", "oh golly!" and "drat!" to "bet my bottom cupcake" (and yes, even there she goes again with the calorie stuff).  Oh, and the MC's conversations with her cat and said cat's female-Garfield act got old pretty soon as well.

 

Oh well.  If nothing else, this has made me appreciate the consistently high quality of Donna Andrews's writing even more -- I'll happily be returning to her for my cozy contemporary Christmas mysteries (I just hope she'll reliably continue to produce them for the foreseeable future).

 

I may try some of the recipes included in this book eventually, though.

 

Since the audiobook I listened to has a green cover, I'll be using this as my book for the Mawlid square.

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review 2018-12-09 11:04
Youthful Frolicking: "The Mysterious Stranger" by Mark Twain
The Mysterious Stranger - Mark Twain


(Original Review, 1981-04-17)



“The Mysterious Stranger” by Mark Twain which presented a very bleak and troubling vision of humanity. It had some Huck Finn style youthful frolicking too but this was swamped by that sense that human history and the consequences of moral decision making are a horrible dream that the narrator may be able to escape from but we cannot. I was expecting some jolly progressive waffle about the stupidity of religion but the book went far deeper than that especially when Satan started compassionately bumping people off because he could foretell how awful their lives would be if he didn't.

 

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-12-09 10:46
Coagulating Disgust: "I Was Dora Suarez" by Derek Raymond
I Was Dora Suarez (Factory 4) - Derek Raymond



(Original Review, 1990-04-17)


“He produced a big 9mm Quickhammer automatic with the tired ease of a conjurer showing off to a few girls and shlacked one into the chamber. He told Roatta: ‘Now I want you nice and still while all this is going on, Felix, because you’re going to make a terrible lot of mess.’
Roatta immediately screamed: ‘Wait! Wait!’ but his eyes were brighter than he was, and knew better. They had stopped moving before he did, because they could see there was nothing more profitable for them to look at, so instead they turned into a pair of dark, oily stones fixed on the last thing they would ever see – eternity in the barrel of a pistol. His ears were also straining with the intensity of a concert pianist for the first minute action inside the weapon as the killer’s finger tightened, because they knew that was the last sound they would ever heard. So in his last seconds of life, each of them arranged for him by his senses, Roatta sat waiting for the gun to explode with the rapt attention of an opera goer during a performance by his favourite star, leaning further and further forward in his chair until his existence was filled by, narrowed down to, and finally became the gun.”

In "I Was Dora Suarez" by Derek Raymond

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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text 2018-12-08 20:30
Reading progress update: I've read 239 out of 239 pages.
The Arsenal Stadium Mystery - Leonard R. Gribble,Martin Edwards

just to be clear on a few things:

 

the football game is just the opening chapter or two...so we can have a murder in front of 70,000 spectators. further, we have the novelty of the actual 1939 Arsenal squad featured as characters, but that would have been more exciting for readers way back when, and now it’s more like a gimmick that ultimately has very little to do with the whodunit. the Arsenal folks are there to help sell the book, but it’s the purely fictional characters - many tied to the fictional amateur football team called the Trojans - who are suspects. I mean, yes, it would have been cool if a real-life Arsenal player had allowed them to turn him into a murderer in a novel...but no, they and their (now previous) Stadium are there to create a celeb factor, at best showing up now and then later on, while the Mystery content moves well beyond the game at the beginning: jilted lovers, a four-year-old tragedy, money maybe as a motive, better murder through chemistry done at an out of the way lab, revenge plans festering (?), a trail scattered around London. occasionally we end up back at the a the stadium, but really, this is a serpentine, clever Mystery with a soccer game at the front end of it. we’re not trapped in some athletes’ locker room for the whole book, hoping for a little whodunit with our soccer, believe me!

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