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review 2017-11-11 22:17
Excellent historical perspective on the genre
The Tale Of Terror: A Study Of The Gothic Fiction - Edith Birkhead

Disclosure:  I acquired a free Kindle edition of this public domain work.

 

Although a bit dry at times, Edith Birkhead's 1921 study of gothic fiction is still a valuable resource for anyone wishing to understand the evolution of the genre.  Her insights remain relevant even a century (almost) later.

 

She starts with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto and moves forward into the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe, Matthew "Monk" Lewis, and others at the end of the eighteenth century.  The connections she makes between the authors and the books they read as well as the books they wrote was interesting.  Too often, literary analysts seem to assume the books write themselves and evolve one after the other without human intervention.

 

Many of the books and authors cited have of course been classics for a very long time, but others are less well known and less available even in this age of digitization.  It's going to be fun tracking down some of these unfamiliar titles.

 

One aspect I found particularly interesting, and again given that this was written nearly a hundred years ago, was that Ms. Birkhead recognized the integration of aspects of the gothic story into other genres of fiction, whether bringing elements of the supernatural into the mundane setting such as The Picture of Dorian Grey, or allowing natural fear and terror to heighten the reader's excitement and interest, as in The Prisoner of Zenda.

 

The edition I obtained is complete with footnotes and index, which will be very useful.

 

Recommended.

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review 2017-11-06 17:46
Dragonfly Song - Wendy Orr

This was kind of a hard book to review, mostly because it almost falls between genres. It's classed as an upper Middle-Grade historical fantasy, which, that's not wrong . . .

 

I felt like it had more of a classic children's fiction feel to it. It's coming-of-age, and also a sort of epic hero's journey, straddling children's lit and YA in a way that's often done more by adult literary works. It touches on many 'big ideas': deformity, religion/society, acceptance, adoption, trauma, bullying, disability, purpose/identity, fate . . . The format is creative and unique. The story arc stretches from the MC's birth to age 14 and is told in omniscient third person varying with passages in verse.

 

I'm not sure if there was a meaning to the alternating styles; at some points, I thought the dreamlike verse passages were meant to show the MC's perspective in a closer, almost experiential or sensory format as an infant, a toddler, a mute child . . . but then that didn't necessarily carry through, so perhaps it was more to craft an atmosphere for the story.

 

The setting is the ancient Mediterranean, and the story picks up on legends of bull dancing. The world feels distinct, grounded and natural, without heavy-handed world-building. It's a world of gods and priestesses, sacrifice and death and surrender. Humans seem very small within it, and as a children's book, it's challenging rather than comforting. There's death and violence and loss, handled in a very matter-of-fact manner, so I'd recommend it for maybe ages 10+, depending on the child. It's not gratuitously violent or graphic, but it's a raw-edged ancient world where killing a deformed child, having pets eaten by wild animals, beating slaves - including children - and sacrificing people as well as animals to the gods is just part of life. 

 

I was very kindly sent a hardcover edition via the Goodreads Giveaways program, and the book production is lovely. It has a bold, graphic cover with some nice foil accents, a printed board cover (which I prefer for kids books due to the durability), fully illustrated internal section pages, and pleasant, spacious typesetting.

 

Confident, mature young readers will find this an engaging, challenging and meaningful read with an inspiring story arc and some lovely writing. Hesitant readers and very young readers will probably find it a struggle. I'd give it 5/5 as a product, 4/5 as a literary work and 3/5 as kid's entertainment.

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text 2017-11-02 12:58
October Wrap Up!
Death in Dark Blue - Julia Buckley
The Quiche and the Dead (A Pie Town Mystery) - Kirsten Weiss
The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People And The 8th Habit - Stephen R. Covey
And Then There Were Nuns: League of Literary Ladies - Kylie Logan
A Hope Divided (The Loyal League) - Alyssa Cole
A Sticky Inheritance (Maple Syrup Mysteries) (Volume 1) - Emily James
The English Wife - Lauren Willig
Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life - Barbara L. Fredrickson

Time for a monthly wrap up!

 

So for the month of October, I read eight books. About average for me. 

 

The stars of the month were the non-fiction self-help books -  one a re-read, one a new find:

 

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Positivity.  Both I highly recommend.

 

I read a few cozy mysteries and a historical romance/mystery.  They served their purpose as I had just moved and was adjusting to a new schedule. Their lightness offered some much-needed escapism. 

 

That being said, I did dive into a Netgalley read of historical fiction called The English Wife. I will post the review in December closer to publication date but it was only so-so for me. 

 

Honorable mention has to go to The Sunne in the Splendour which is outstanding. I should finish it in November as I have now read 80% of it. November should prove to be interesting. I have goals of reading some science fiction and more historical fiction.

 

Happy reading! 

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text 2017-10-30 00:55
Reading progress update: I've read 53%. or When Technology hiccups and gives us a chuckle
The Tale Of Terror: A Study Of The Gothic Fiction - Edith Birkhead

Many of these public domain works have been republished using OCR scanners, which occasionally misread things.  There are supposed to be proofreaders, but I guess they aren't perfect, either.  I wouldn't have caught this one if I weren't simultaneously reading Northanger Abbey.

 

Nor is Catherine aided in her career by those "improbable events," so dear to romance, that serve to introduce a hero—a robber's attack, a tempest, or a carriage accident. With a sly glance at such dangerous characters as Lady Greystock in The Children of the Abbey (1798), Miss Austen creates the inert, but good-natured Mrs. Alien as Catherine's chaperone in Bath:

 

"It is now expedient to give some description of Mrs. Alien that the reader may be able to judge in what manner her actions will hereafter tend to promote the general distress of the work and how she will probably contribute to reduce poor Catherine to all the desperate wretchedness of which a last volume is capable, whether by her imprudence, vulgarity or jealousy—whether by intercepting her letters, ruining her character or turning her out of doors."

Birkhead, Edith. The Tale of Terror A Study of the Gothic Romance (p. 74). Kindle Edition.

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text 2017-10-30 00:51
Books I Read in October 2017
The Diamond Empire (A Diamonds Novel) - K'wan
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward
Brazen - Katherine Longshore
The Longest Memory - Fred D'Aguiar
The Tragedy of Brady Sims (Vintage Contemporaries) - Ernest J. Gaines
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

I read 6 books in October and am pleasantly surprised. I thought I'd only read 2 or 3. Has that ever happened to you? My highly anticipated read was The Tragedy of Brady Sims by Earnest J. Gaines. It was also my biggest disappointment. I was not wowed by it and the interest I had for the build up in this short novellla wasn't and was what I thought it would be. The other shocker was Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. I connected with only one of the characters (the son Jojo) and the story was a bit of multiple stories I'd read before. I didn't enjoy Salvage the Bones by her either. I think I stopped 75% through. I don't think her style of writing is for me. However, she is well regarded, loved and accoladed. 

 

The Nightingale and The Longest Memory were the "show stoppers" this month. These stories gutted me. Oh, the pain I felt. These two books I would highly recommend to anyone. It doesn't matter if you pick them up today, next month or years from now. Put them on your tbr or wishlist and read them! You won't regret it, I promise. I'm clearing out my YA shelves and have donated hundreds to date. This last purge I decided to keep some series that I started and loved, but didn't finish. Brazen (Royal Circle) is one of those I decided to keep. I had already read Guilt and Tarnish and enjoyed them. Brazen didn't disappoint. I do love historical fiction. Longshore wrote these in a style I could enjoy as well as her intended audience. 

 

 

 

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