March Reading Thread

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Hugh

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Mark Dery "Born to be Posthumous. The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey".
This seems an excellent attempt at a biography. The author interviewed almost all those close to him with very few exceptions, and appears to have had the complete cooperation of the Gorey Estate. I did feel in the early chapters that he was making too many assumptions about his subject - an inevitable difficulty in trying to reconstruct the life of someone who lived his life in a significantly compartmentalised manner is that there will be sides of the person of which you have no knowledge at all. Another weakness for me was the lack of illustrations even though there are a few embedded in the text - it is frustrated to have a drawing described at length and conclusions made from it and then have to try to search for it on line. A number of his books are also described in detail, and I tended to lose continuity in stopping to read the relevant story in one of the Amphigorey collections. That said, Edward Gorey comes to life wonderfully well in all his eccentricity and wonderful genius. An eccentricity beyond eccentricity.

I had never heard of him before coming across "The Epiplectic Bicycle" and then "The Willowdale Handcar" in the early 2000s. I still think they are truly wonderful creations. While I enjoyed the Amphigorey collections, I think he comes across best in the small book format in which you can buy and read one, then savour it for a year or two before buying another. For me one of the wonderful things about his writing/drawings is his insistence that it didn't have to make sense, and that he couldn't explain it.

This biography may allow me to give him some leeway as regards "The Loathsome Couple" which is collected in "Amphigorey Also". I found this story that was clearly derived from the Brady/Hindley Moors Murders so disgusting that I moved the volume on real quick. Dery writes: Gorey had followed the story in the papers. "That disturbed me dreadfully, even after years of reading crime stories," he recalled. "I'm all for elegant goofy murder. This upset me, and it became the one text I felt compelled to write."

Many thanks to @Victoria Silverwolf for alerting me to this biography.
 

Hugh

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Two "generation ship" books:
Brian Aldiss "Non-Stop"
Harry Harrison "Captive Universe"

I suggested these on a Book Search thread, and realised it had been years (over 45) since I read them. In the re-reading I was amazed at just how little I remembered. They're very different, but both are readable. I thought the Harrison was more derivative, the Aldiss more original. Harrison sets his in an Aztec village near which the two headed serpent god Coatlicue prowls at night killing those who stray out of their territory, while Aldiss has tribes defending their territory amidst overgrown plant life.
 

Randy M.

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Finished The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss

Third of a trilogy. Goss maintains a light and light-hearted approach to her premise, the daughters (actual or created) of famous fictional 19th century men band together forming the Athena Club: Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Justine Frankenstein, Catherine Moreau, Beatrice Rappaccini, and their newest members, Lucinda Van Helsing and Alice, also known as Lydia Raymond. (While the others may be easy to guess, that last derives from "The Great God Pan.") Not that there isn't any darkness, but the main viewpoint character is Mary Jekyll and while she has her self-doubts she is not easily cowed or long intimidated.

The long distance traveling of volume two, which rather attenuated the narrative, doesn't apply here. We're back to a brisk, event-filled narrative that touches on the inner life of each young woman in the context of trying to find and rescue the kidnapped Alice and the Club's friend, Sherlock Holmes. Along the way other famous and not-so-famous characters interact with the Club members, including Ayesha, Margaret Trelawny, Queen Tera, Moriarty, Dr. Seward, Lord Godalming, and others, not least of whom are several of the Baker Street Irregulars and a certain physician friend of theirs and Holmes.

I'm not going to tout this as a classic fantasy trilogy, but the search of her main characters for their place in a world that may view them as monsters, their developing friendship and resourcefulness, and Goss' wit and invention make these very readable and entertaining girls' own adventure novels. And for anyone wishing for a bit more substance, the submerged commentary on the social position of women in the 19th century reflects on their position currently, and makes for a satirical and sometime humorous undercurrent.

Randy M.
 

dannymcg

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I'm having a go at this one here, dystopian society controlled by an insane AI - Aunt Nettie.

It's a bit bewildering for a Brit because a lot of it's about baseball (rounders!)

Screenshot_20200318-222333.jpg
 
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Victoria Silverwolf

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During my time off I quickly made my way through a lovely book called Animalium (2014) by Jenny Broom, with illustrations by Katie Scott. It's part of an educational series called "Welcome to the Museum." This volume, of course, was about animals. Supposedly for younger readers, it was very informative, and the drawings are exquisite. I am now starting another volume in the series, Botanicum (2017) by Kathy Willis, with the same illustrator, dealing with plants. Really beautiful books.
 

Dave

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I've been away abroad this last month and had lots of reading time for a change. I've read This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor and Twas the Nightshift before Christmas both by Adam Kay, Icons of England edited by Bill Bryson, Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch, Redshirts by John Scalzi, and Brighton Rock by Graham Greene.

That's probably as many books as I would normally read in 6 months. Now I'm home again and I'm self-isolating I'm going to have even more time. Once I've caught up with all the TV that I've missed I'll be looking for some recommendations.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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Sitting around at the car shop while a new splash guard was installed, I finished another lovely illustrated book intended for younger readers. This was Maps (2013) by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski. Originally published in Poland, this edition was translated into English. It's an atlas with a huge number of illustrations on each map; the people, the animals and plants, historic sites, famous people from history, local food, traditional costumes, and so on. Quite a delightful book.

I am about to start the first of many books I got free for writing reviews for Tangent Online. This one is called It Happened One Doomsday (2016) by Laurence MacNaughton, and is the first in a series of what seems to be romantic comedy mixed with urban fantasy. I've got two other books in the series also.
 

Avelino de Castro

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Lamb by Christopher Moore. The story of Jesus childhood pal Biff, who got that name because his mother would smack him on the forehead whenever he said something stupid. Hence 'biff' Great story fantastic tale of jesus;s lost years chasing the three wise men...
 

Parson

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I must be spending too much time on Chrons. I'm not sure all what I've read in March so far. I know I've read A Killer's Wife by Victor Methos this was really a superior detective/thriller. The interesting twist here is that the detective was at one time married to a serial killer warping everything she thinks about. I loved it. And I just finished Now, Then and Every When by Rysa Walker. This is a time travel book in every sense of the word. It is the second in the series, or is it a prequel? or is it both? The time travel conundrums just pile up inside the books and with the book itself. It takes a little perseverance because when you are following 2 or is it 3 plot lines occurring both simultaneously and at different times and from different perspectives. (especially if you are an oldy like me) But it wraps up in fine fashion and I felt the whole book was saved by that. Of course there will be a sequel, time travel is never really finished if the author doesn't want it to be.
 

elvet

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I closed the last pages of Toll the Hounds yesterday. When I first read it, I remember being more distracted by the multitude of plots where nothing much was happening. As a first time reader, I was barreling through the series, trying to grasp the big arcs, moving from one action scene to another. With this reread, I am taking the time to appreciate the interconnections of all the subplots. Details from 7 books back (Gardens of the Moon) play a role in TtH, and plans hatched back then start falling into place. The amazing thing is that you still get a sense that things can go awry, and even the most inconsequential person can make a difference by the choices they make. The gods should be afraid!
Onto Esslemont’s Orb, Sceptre,Throne.
 

vanye

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Tim Pratt: The Dreaming Stars

Book 2 of The Axiom. It was about a year since I read the first one (The Wrong Stars). I remember I really liked the first one and immediately ordered the second. But I have this tendency to let such books sit on my tbr-shelf, because that way I know for certain that there will always be a book I like and that is new to me at the same time. Trouble is it has become a habit and after a while the memory of the previous book and the overall plot arch dims. For example, it has been years since I read volume 1 of Otherland, and the thought of reading the second now is a bit daunting. So it is parked on the shelf across the room right now and I can sense it giving me the cold shoulder. More than slightly miffed, I say.

But back to The Dreaming Stars ... I liked it a lot (and already ordered the third - note to self, read immediately!). It does not take itself too seriously and is just a fun romp through some swashbuckling space adventure. The story has (to my mind) one central flaw:
How can almighty aliens who are super-intelligent be so effing stupid?!
But that one aside, if you ever need an unsubstantial, fun afternoon read - aka guilty pleasure - you could do a lot worse than this one.
 

vanye

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Nancy Varian Berberick: Shadow of the Seventh Moon

Fantasy that feels a bit old-fashioned. Old English setting and lots of familiar names, but I think the historical context is probably fake (I have read only very little about this particular period and that was more than thirty years ago, so please take this with a grain of salt).

Still, a good one. As a frame narration it has a very intense sense of storytelling. In contrast to modern fantasy, there is little fighting and the descriptions of these scenes are a lot less graphic and explicit. To me, this was a nice change of pace and I reckon there are some folks here who might appreciate the book more because of it.

Overall, I liked it. It gives off a nice warmth, although the tale is one of grim times. Definitely a recommendation for readers who like fantasy and appreciate a different flavour.
 

vanye

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Jonathan French: The Grey Bastards

The motto of the book (which is the motto of the Grey Bastards) describes it perfectly: "Live in the saddle, die on the hog". Lots of levity and an author who makes you laugh even when your favourite characters find themselves in the most dire situations.

What can I tell you about a bunch of half orcs who ride warpigs? Not much, except: Even if you're not a fan of Ozzy, you gotta love this one. Read it!
 
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