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text 2018-12-30 23:49
24 Festive Tasks: Door 2 - Guy Fawkes Night, Task 1 (Book Burned in Effigy)

The book I'm burning in effigy is the same as the one I already buried last year, E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey. It just can't die too many deaths.  Maybe I ought to put a stake through its rotten little heart as well.

 

 

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review 2018-11-16 10:08
"V For Vendetta" by Alan Moore. Narrated by Simon Vance.
V for Vendetta - David Lloyd,Alan Moore

"V for Vendetta" is one of the few movies that, in these days of crowded shelves and almost infinite digital storage, I chose to own a physical copy of. It is beautifully shot, perfectly cast and boldly told. It is that rare thing, a movie that dares to be true to its intent, even at the risk of being unpopular. The result is a cult classic.

 

Take a look at the trailer below to get a feel for what I mean.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCzfxcVrxfE&w=560&h=315]

 

I first saw it in the cinema in 2006 and found it startling and inspiring. At the time I was more transfixed by how well a comic (graphic novel for all you who just groaned) could be brought to the screen rather than by the political message. I saw the anti-fascist stance as obvious and necessary but the idea of fascism gripping the UK so firmly seemed like an exaggeration to make a point.

 

This year, in response to the Guy Fawkes Night book task in the 24 Festive Tasks challenge, I decided to do something new. I read the "novelisation" of the movie or, rather, I listened to the audiobook, expertly narrated by Simon Vance.

 

I've always avoided novelisations. The word itself is ugly and the literary snob in me, which is quite happy to watch movies adapted from books, was instinctively scornful of reading novels adapted from movies.

 

As usual, my literary snob was an idiot. If I had come to this novel without seeing the movie, I would have been praising the quality of the writing and the structure of the story. It's well-written, faithful to the movie but enhancing it in ways that are appropriate to the novel form. I recommend it to you.

 

Listening to the audiobook in 2018, twelve years after seeing the movie, Britain as a fascist state no longer felt like an exaggeration to make a point. It felt like a possibility that we are only a few missteps away from. The mechanics of the manipulation of the media, the creation of enemies of the people, the appeal to national pride in a mostly-mythical glorious past, the exploitation of the fear and hatred of the foreign and the different all felt too contemporary to be dismissed.

 

V, the hero of this story, is not a nice man. Not a man you'd want to make friends with or even spend time with. When I first saw the movie I was horrified by his treatment of Evie, who he shapes into a weapon of sorts.

 

Now, I begin to understand that there may be times when we all need someone like V to remind us that our governments should be more afraid of us than we are of them.

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review 2018-11-12 13:30
24 Festive Tasks: Doors 2 and 5 - Books for Guy Fawkes Night and Veterans' / Armistice Day
Behold, Here's Poison - Georgette Heyer
Behold, Here's Poison - Georgette Heyer
The Riddle of the Third Mile - Colin Dexter,Samuel West
The Riddle of the Third Mile - Colin Dexter


Georgette Heyer: Behold, Here's Poison
(Narrator: Ulli Birvé)

The first Georgette Heyer mysteries I read were her Inspector Hemingway books, which in a way meant I was starting from the wrong end, as Hemingway progressed to the rank of inspector from having been the lead investigator's sergeant in the earlier Superintendent Hannasyde books.  That doesn't impede my enjoyment of Hannasyde's cases in the least, however, now that I'm getting around to these, even though I found the first one (Death in the Stocks) seriously underwhelming.  But Heyer redeems herself in a big way with Behold, Here's Poison: Though a fair share of her mysteries have a sizeable contingent of 1920s-30s stock-in-trade bright young things and generally "nice chaps" (which got on my nerves enough at one point to make me decide I'd had enough of Heyer), when she did set her mind to it, nobody, not even Agatha Christie, did maliciously bickering families like her.  And the family taking center stage here must be one of the meanest she's ever come up with, only (just) surpassed by the Penhallows.  I'm not overwhelmed with the story's romantic dénouement (there always is one in Heyer's books), and while I guessed the mystery's essential "who" and had a basic idea of the "why" at about the 3/4 - 4/5 mark (the actual "why" was a bit of a deus ex machina), by and large this has to count among my favorite Heyer mysteries so far ... though not quite reaching the level of my overall favorite, Envious Casca.

 

Ulli Birvé isn't and won't ever become my favorite narrator, and she seriously got on my nerves here, too.  Since all of the recent re-recordings of Heyer's mysteries are narrated by her, though, I've decided I won't hold her mannerisms against the author, and I've read enough print versions of Heyer books at this point to have a fairly good idea of what a given character would sound like in my head if I'd read instead of listened to the book in question.

 

 


Colin Dexter: The Riddle of the Third Mile
(Narrator: Samuel West)

For Veterans' / Armistice Day I'm claiming the very first book I revisited after the beginning of the 24 Festive Tasks game: Colin Dexter's The Riddle of the Third Mile had long been one of my favorite entries in the Inspector Morse series, but Samuel West's wonderful reading not only confirmed that status but actually moved it up yet another few notches.  (Samuel West is fast becoming one of my favorite audiobook narrators anyway.) The fact that due to the progress of medical research a key element of the mystery would have been much easier to solve these days does not impede my enjoyment in the least ... changing social mores aside, half the Golden Age crime literature, including many of the great classics by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and even, on occasion, Arthur Conan Doyle would be deprived of substantial riddles if they were set today. -- The book qualifies for this particular "24 Festive Tasks" square, because some of the characters' and their siblings' encounter as British soldiers at the battle of El Alamein (1942) forms the prologue to the book and an important motive for their actions in the world of Oxford academia and Soho strip clubs, some 40 years later.

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review 2018-11-11 18:44
Tedious & Boring
The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry

I really don't have much to say about this one. I was bored throughout. It took me several days to finish since I just couldn't get into this. I didn't like any of the characters. I thought the narrative style switching to letters made the flow even worse. The ending was just there and seemed set it up for a sequel (no thank you). 

 

"The Essex Serpent" is set in Victorian London and takes place mostly in an Essex village in 1890. The book starts off with Cora Seaborne dealing with the death of her husband. Cora finally feels free after years of abuse from her husband. She seems surrounded by many people who love her (her companion Martha and a doctor, Luke Garrett). When Cora finally gives herself over to being able to study naturalism, she moves to Essex and finds herself meeting the local villagers and finding herself there.

 

Will Ransome is the local vicar and is doing what he can to drive out thoughts of the Essex Serpent being real. When Will meets Cora, the two initially don't like each other, however, they eventually come to see each other more and start to have feelings for each other. Even though Will is happily married to his wife of many years, Stella. 

 

The book just flip flops between characters, that also didn't help. We follow Cora, Martha, Will, Stella, Luke, etc throughout the book. Maybe if Perry only had the book going back and forth between Cora and Will it would have worked better.

 

The writing was fine, I just didn't care to delve too deep into this one. I was bored. I found myself skimming certain pages just wanting to be done. 


There doesn't seem to be much of a lesson in this one besides people running around and not being with the person that they want to be and myths of serpents. if anything, this book just seemed to be love triangle after love triangle set in Victorian London. That's probably why I didn't like it much. 

 

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text 2018-11-06 17:19
Book Treason: j'accuse...

Task 2: List your top 3 treasonous crimes against books.  Not ones you’ve committed, but the ones you think are the worst.

 

Treason is a very particular kind of crime. It can only be committed by those who should be trusted. Murder is murder whether you are killed by friend or enemy but treason requires status, a connection of loyalty so deep and so universally understood that it is always an act of betrayal.

 

It follows that only those who owe books loyalty can commit treason, so I've looked to those whose status implies a loyalty to books and asked myself, "How might they betray books?" I have identified three possible traitors:

 

jaccuse

Librarian Treason: Making books unavailable.

In its most extreme form this is about banning books and or sending them to be destroyed but it also includes making books hard for readers to find and to access. 

 

Publisher Treason: the Out Of Print excuse.

With the technology currently available, there is no reason why ANY book need ever be Out Of Print. Printing on demand, either physically or electronically, is simple and cost-effective. If publishers decline to use technology to make books available then they have betrayed the trust of writers and readers and should be prepared to suffer the consequences: free peer-to-peer networks or digital books.

 

Reviewer Treason: reviewing a book without reading it

This comes in two forms. The most common is the reviewer who skims a book in order to be able to push an opinion that they'd already formed about the book and or the author. A rarer form is to express strong opinions about a book without even the pretence of reading it. This is often an approach taken by those who want to ban books or to express disdain for popular books as a way of establishing their intellectual credentials.

 

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