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Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" - Philip Plait

Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" - Philip Plait

A good book for people like me who haven't studied astronomy in a very long time and could use a refresher. Nice job covering some very common questions and misconceptions. And a fair amount of time debunking non-science of the Young Earth or aliens-among-us or astrology fans.


The only reason it took me so long to finish was Halloween Bingo interceded. I spent a month just getting other books out of the way to be ready for my bingo choices. Only to discover that the real horror is willful ignorance.


Fair warning, this is sixteen years old, so not exactly cutting edge. There are no gorgeous Hubble depictions of astonishing beauty. (I really like those kinds of books, too)


Library copy

Kill Creek - Scott Thomas,Bernard

Kill Creek - Scott Thomas, Bernard Setaro Clark

Sometimes an author creates awful characters and clearly relishes that. Highsmith did that. Most crime novelists do I suppose, either as victim or criminal. Harris' Hannibal Lector is another. What's noir but sexy awful people doing one another in?


These main characters are not awful But it feels as if Thomas is filled with contempt for them. There's fat shaming and slut shaming and flyover shaming: what possible horrors can the house hold compared to these?


Library copy

Truly Devious for Baker Street Irregulars

Truly Devious - Maureen Johnson

This is weird and why I consider my own ratings to be bunk: In June I picked this up read the first chapter and abandoned it. Just wasn't what I felt like reading. But it was on the list for Baker Street Irregulars, and I usually like Johnson, so...and I made it to the second chapter and then I was reluctant to put it down. Loved it. So Gothic romance and Nancy Drew and Sherlock and a boarding school too. Nom nom nom. I liked Stevie even as she exasperated me.


 By this time seems like I should be better at telling the difference between Not for Me and Not for Now, but no. Midnight in the Garden was probably the first book I picked for this Bingo, and I gave up entirely. Twenty five or so years ago I loved it. Go figure. 


Library copy 



Halloween Bingo 2018 update

My card with my bingo and so many cats! The possibility of blacking out my card without a bingo had occurred to me.


Calder is unimpressed.

Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury for Creepy Carnivals

Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury

The prologue begins with an opening line reminiscent of A Christmas Carol: "First of all, it was October, a rare time for boys."


Forty or so years ago I read this and identified with the boys, of course I did. This time I couldn't. So it was just a bunch of wordplay and monologuing and there was no horror to it anywhere, just an ad for an imaginary place I wouldn't be welcome. He did say some nice things about libraries, though, so I'm giving it a couple of stars.

For Creepy Carnival

Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury

Chapter thirty-one


Nothing much else happened,  all the rest of that night.



Reading progress update: I've read 189 out of 416 pages.

The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey

It's predictable in some regards, but that isn't bad necessarily: more suspense than horror. The science is poor and the reliance on guns is just stupid when zombies respond to sound. But I quite like Melanie: I'm looking forward to seeing her in a more active role.

Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart for Terrifying Women

Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart

Woo hoo. I love getting lost in a doorstopper, but it takes a skilled writer to squeeze the right emotions out in a shorter work. Roberts Rinehart got mad skills. And a truly modern feel. Hard to believe this was first published more than 100 years ago.


We get a quick and dirty set up: Miss Adams is a trained nurse who investgates for the cops from the inside. She packs her gun and a suitcase and is on the scene in a big family home trying to find out what the family is hiding, what happened to the nanny, and what freaked out the last nurse so badly. 


I am delighted to say I never predicted that solution. Happily there are plenty of stories available in the public domain. Collect them all.

Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland 

Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland

I think I have already read this one, but I don't have a record of that, so leave it at maybe. Of course, this one didn't get logged last week when read, because they get knocked out in one quick sitting, then immediately on to the next thing. Volume 2 is out now, so a refresher was necessary. Like Paper Girls and Lumberjanes, strange things are afoot and it could be anything. It is so gratifying to read about girls having adventures just like they are real people. Kudos for Westerfeld who puts female and minority characters front and center, without making it the point. If I can get #2, I'm going to use it for my New Release.


Puvilland has different styles and palettes that set off the sheer strangeness of what Poughkeepsie has become. Approaching it from the woods in particular puts me in mind of footage from Chernobyl twenty years later.


Library copy 

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield  for Deadlands

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

[10/05/18  Edited to add: I managed to upload a bad picture of my bingo card.]


This is such a good book I want to be a better writer to do it justice in my review. Waiting longer for inspiration is just not on though: my memory will let the details blur and the experience fade. 


Setterfield is a writer who's greatest flaw is not being prolific. Actually, that may be the only flaw. She has once again crafted a work of fiction that has a convincing Victorian setting with a modern sensibility directing the reader's attention to characters and incidents that a true Victorian wouldn't, but logic suggests that they are all valid. She manages to tell quite a few stories and examples of the craft of storytelling within a greater story of amazing events. While many writers succeed at making a house a character within their fiction, Setterfield has made part of the Thames a character, nor was she stinting in permitting this character moods. Okay, on the winter solstice the usual group are sitting around drinking in the Swan, an inn distinguished by the storytelling within. The door opens, a man, his face a bloody mess staggers in clutching a large doll in his hands.


Over the course of one year we watch the repercussions of that moment: how it affects characters major and minor and also, this is the tricksy bit, we watch how those events become stories. Yes, many stories dependent on point of view, and skill, stories becoming more stories as that one event is observed (or not), in light of new events, and then, still later developments. The metaphor is well served: there is an attempt to trace the roots of the story back to the beginning, which you can't do any more than you can trace a river back, fractally there are always more branches feeding in.


There is so much: there are clever half-starved orphans, prosperous farmers, the family of innkeepers, the town midwife, the minister, servants and animals, wealthy distillery owners, thieves and blackguards, despite the extensive cast one never feels that the author is coasting by with stereotypes or with every character having the same voice. There is plot and pathos enough for Dickens, and despite the 21st century sensibility there's none of that business of giving a character clearly modern ideas.


There is, of course, a supernatural element as well as a few mysteries, dreadful crimes and moments of grace. Everything is here, told my a humanist in the Pratchett vein, but without the jokes and footnotes. It is a lovely, suspenseful book that I couldn't bear to put down in order to post updates. Read it soon: give it to yourself or someone you really like as a gift for one of the several solstice-adjacent holidays. Just the thing for long winter nights by the fire.


ARC from publisher


Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart

I can resist anything, except temptation. 

Reading progress update: I've read 282 out of 432 pages.

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

The wonderful thing about Setterfield is that even as she's getting all meta about storytelling she is still telling a great story, and telling it well: no risk of getting her characters muddled, despite there being so many of them. Historical fiction about a real Thames-side inn.

Halloween Bingo 2018: my story so far

Updates by phone being so challenging, I now have a big catch-up job to do. Busman's Holiday had been my book for 13 all along. But when it was done I didn't want to read anything else, so I went right on to In the Teeth of the Evidence, #14. Probably I have read that before, not that I have a specific memory, but all the stories were familiar, including one which qualifies the book for the Supernatural square. What it didn't have was any Wimsey and Vane stories. So I got a copy of Striding Folly. The title story has a long dream sequence, which I dislike on principle : if a writer is going to be so blatant, why not just go ahead and say the point straight out? (Dream sequences whose only point is to be weird and disjointed get an unenthusiastic pass). So Striding Folly was disapointing.


At which point I stopped reading and instead binge-watched The Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries, Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night. That seems to have cured the little reading slump allowing me to finish Striding Folly for a Wildcard on Modern Noir which does have a couple of Wimsey/Vane stories. Now I can stop worrying about what I want to read for that square.


I'm slightly amazed at how many physical books I have standing by, unread. Not at all close to a Bingo, but I'm probably going to be the first person to have all the squares called that aren't on the card before getting a bingo.

The Girl Before: A Novel - J.P. Delaney for some square TBA

The Girl Before: A Novel - J.P. Delaney

I spent half a hour down a rabbit hole just because I couldn't remember if this was a library copy and Amazon deleted my review, which was witty and succinct and insightful but not spoilery, and not at all like the review of  a very tired person, which I am.


Good book, lots of twists in the spaghetti and many of them unexpected.


Good for genre: suspense, romantic suspense, darkest London, amateur sleuth.


Library copy

Hunter's Green - Phyllis A. Whitney for Country House Mystery

Hunter's Green - Phyllis A. Whitney

Would also work for Genre: Suspense, Terrifying Women, Murder Most Foul, Amateur Sleuth, and Romantic Suspense.


It's fun reading these old thrillers that are so slow, with hardly any murder, no kids or really old people, and servents neither seen nor heard. They're charmingly predictable. And although this was published in 68 and makes much of the brash young mods, they feel So Old Fashioned. There are phones, but only to ring up the doctor or the police to haul away the perpetrator. There are cars for running up to Town, and low speed pursuit, and explosive crashes. What I love most is that everyone stops at regular intervals to sit down and eat a hot meal. I suppose this is what people are talking about when they reminisce about a slower time. 


I did have one great disappointment though: a device was quite deliberately introduced in the first act, but played no subsequent part in the plot. It wasn't even a red herring: it was just never mentioned again.


The only disturbing part of the story isn't meant to be:


My apologies for my failed spoiler tag. 


Library copy 

Fear the Drowning Deep

Jaws - Peter Benchley

The shark was cool, but according to my husband all of the research it relied on was outdated: turns out sharks have a regular route around the sees, and regular appearances at specific locales (basically they show up after the baby seals do).


But the characters, the Peyton Place drama of it all: mostly it was just a group of guys holding a pissing contest over the only woman in town worth having.


You go shark!


Library copy