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review 2015-06-25 00:00
Stunts - Charles L. Grant Despite the evidence presented in my last five reviews, I'm not really on a 1980s horror kick. Yes, I'm making my way through Charles L. Grant's works, but that's a side project to my other reading. Now that I've finished up my Unfinished Series project, I pick my next read randomly from a spreadsheet; Necroscope and Stunts were pulled out using a random number generator, and it's just happenstance that they happened to be of the same genre. (Though, now that I think back on what I've been reading, maybe there's something more sinister behind these "random" selections . . . ?)

Anyway, Stunts is an odd novel namely because there are two distinct stories here which are only tangentially related. One of the stories is described on the back of the book -- teenagers in a New England town want to pull pranks around Halloween. That's also the relevance of the title (they're called "stunts", not pranks), which makes it even odder that this part of the novel doesn't even begin until past page 100. Up until that point, I was convinced I was reading a different book that had somehow had the wrong cover attached at the printer, since it was focused on an American professor in England trying to figure out what's going on with his friend, who appears to be causing murders all over the town. After the next 100 pages or so, the story begins flip-flopping between the two stories, and. . .

Honestly, I'm not sure what's going on with the two different stories. They don't really go together at all. Grant had a habit of publishing books which were collections of four novellas that were somewhat related, and I wonder if Stunts was his attempt to take two diverse stories and try to make a complete story out of them. I can't really say he succeeded; they reminded me a bit of the two stories taking place in House of Leaves, especially when one of the two stories (the one about the stunts) wound up being far more interesting than the other. By the end of the story, he forces them together, and they just don't feel like they belong.

Also missing from this novel was Grant's atmosphere, which has lent so much to his previous stories. The story reads more like a traditional novel, and had more of a plot and pacing than his previous books have had, but it seems like he sacrificed what made him a distinctive writer in order to pull that off. It's weird, because I found myself liking the more traditional style even as I missed Grant's quiet horror. And even then, the story wasn't "loud" horror; it just didn't have that same level of eeriness and otherworldliness that defined his earlier work.

It was also a bit disconcerting to read a Grant book that wasn't set in Oxrun Station, since I've read all of those back-to-back. Whenever Grant jumped back to New England, I expected to read something about the library, or one of the Stocktons, or Williamston Pike, and it was always a little jarring to realize that I was somewhere new. This isn't a fault of the novel, really, since it had more to do with my reading habits than anything else, but I had gotten so accustomed to Oxrun Station that I kept expecting to find those references.

Now that I think about it, though, I wonder if the non-Oxrun Station books are intended to be a different style all together. I jumped ahead through Grant's chronology to finish out the Oxrun Station books, and so far that's all I've read of his entire body of work. Stunts was the first book outside of that series I read, so I don't know how his earlier non-Oxrun Station books compare. Now that I'm finished with those and moving on to his other earlier books, I should be able to make a better comparison.

I'm not sure if I would recommend this novel, even to folks who are fans of Grant. Not only is his style missing, but the book is also missing a strong conclusion. In his previous books, where the feel of the novel was more important than the story, it didn't matter that much, but here Grant pushes the plot to the forefront while missing out on bringing it to a close. I enjoyed reading it, but I'm not sure that I liked where it went in the end. In fact, by the time the story ended, it would have just been getting started in a more traditional, plot-driven story. Grant's open-ended conclusions from previous books just don't work in this case.
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text 2014-09-12 19:14
#BookADayUK Day Twelve: Favorite Austen Character
Persuasion - Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen,Anna Quindlen

I kinda don't have time to get into this, so I'm just going to say Anne Elliot from Persuasion, followed by Charlotte Lucas from Pride & Prejudice. Apparently I am attracted to aging wallflowers filled with regret. Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait.


"I do not think I have opened a book in my life which did not have something to say about women's fickleness."


"But they were all written by men."

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text 2014-09-12 15:16
#BookADayUK Day Ten & Eleven: All Aboard the Failboat!

Writing for day ten's topic, a book that gave you hope, turned into a painful overshare, and I've decided to scrap it. Ugh. Ain't nobody wants to see that, least of all me.


I had to stay away from the internet yesterday, on day 11, because 9/11 makes my social media streams full of stuff that crushes my spirit. Plus I'm not entirely sure the providence of many of my books, and I know too many librarians who have given books to me, so it just seemed like a wash. 


Thus ends my tale of woe. 



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text 2014-09-10 01:50
#BookADayUK Day Nine: Fictional Crush
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Alfred Mac Adam
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula K. Le Guin

My first instinct is to chose from the available Austen heroes, partially because I think this category will be taken by storm (hur hur) by the venerable Edward Fitzwilliam Fairfax Darcy-Rochester. (Darcy first, because for sure Rochester is a top.) And those dudes are hot, don't get me wrong, but I think my Regency/Victorian boyfriend is Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey. (My review here.) I love how Henry is a teaser, and how he's completely comfortable talking muslin with the chaperons. Out of all the Austen heroines, he reminds me most of my own husband. 


But I saw this post earlier about the facebook meme that y'all might have been caught up in. (I was.) It was about the ten books that have stuck with you, not best, just most memorable. Obviously, these memes are a sink pit of do I want to be a snob or a slob. The article decides to shame us for having children's books as our most memorable, which I think is, and this is a technical term, fucking bullshit.So I got to thinking about the boys I crunched on in my YA fiction, which I swear wasn't creepy because I was a girl at the time.


Calvin O'Keeffe from A Wrinkle in Time was my first boyfriend, such a kind, generous, intelligent soul. Meg is such a mess, so grieving and out of balance, and his gawky red-haired gentleness won my heart. Indeed, he may be why I have a thing for red-heads. 


I also crushed pretty hard on Ged from the Earthsea books, though not at first. A Wizard of Earthsea is about Ged coming into his inevitable power, and as much as I adore that book, Ged is hard to love. He's got his own boyish shit to work out, and the thrust of the story has more to do with arrogance than anything. I fell in love with him in the labyrinth in The Tombs of Atuan. Le Guin makes a smart choice to reorder the convention of the coming-of-age tale by gender in that second book, following the virgin priestess (for lack of a better descriptor) in her youth and matriculation. At one point, she finds Ged in the labyrinth, near dead from lack of food and water, dying in the dark. Tenar has been raised in an environment of women only, and his masculinity, even dark and scarred and dying as he is, is a shock. The Tombs of Atuan is not a love story, and Ged is not a romantic lead, but that moment of recognition in the unlit underground was something like an epiphany. 

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text 2014-09-08 20:46
#BookADayUK Day Eight: Best Fictional Dinner Party
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - Seamus Deane,James Joyce
A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

The best dinner party occurs in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Young Stephen is at the table when a viscous argument about Irish politics breaks out between his father and aunt. Even though I did not understand the context, that dining room table fight absolutely bolted me to the floor. And, really, Joyce is counting on you not precisely to get it, because that disorientation is part of the reader feeling Stephen's growing panic, allowing the politics to stand in for other, more simmering resentments.


"Best" is maybe an awkward descriptor for this dinner party. Certainly there are many other dinner parties I would rather attend, like Bilbo and the dwarves at the start of The Hobbit, or even Mrs Dalloway's tragically interrupted party at the end of her eponymous novel. But I don't know. Joyce's domestic battle was so raw, so complicated, packing in all of this subtext in a few nasty lines, and simultaneously casting the reader as Stephen whether you want to be or not. I've been at that table too. I've had those fights. 


My first instinct was to pick The Red Wedding from GRRM's Storm of Swords as the best dinner party, just for the lulz. But George Martin's got nothing on Joyce in terms of bloodbath and betrayal. Joyce has less literal bloodbath, but that doesn't mean you're not bleeding. Leaving the table with just a slit throat would be an improvement sometimes. Boo yah. Erin go bragh. 


A wedding invitation for the characters from the red wedding, which is splattered with blood

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