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Kaethe

Kaethe

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The Testaments - Margaret Atwood

The Testaments - Margaret Atwood

At this point I have written two different reviews for this book and I just can't summon the energy to start over yet again.

 

The Handmaid's Tale is amazing and horrifying, even as a reread after thirty years.

 

The Testaments is also amazing and horrifying, but where the first was a cautionary tale the second is the product of a different perspective. There is agency and volition about some of the ways women of different ages, classes, and circumstances can find to rebel against an oppressive regime.

 

The Testaments is a rallying cry, and really, just what I needed this year.

 

Library copy

Reading progress update: I've read 44 out of 416 pages.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss

I love the snarky tone. There's Holmes going on and on. A reference to The Castle of Otranto. I particularly like this line, "as though someone had decided on large and ominous as a decorating style."

The King of the Castle - Victoria Holt

The King of the Castle - Victoria Holt

This is what I was expecting The Black Pearl to be more like: a young orphaned penniless English woman accepts a job doing [art restoration] at a castle with a dark and dangerous lord of the manor and a changeable and undisciplined child. There are horseback rides and formal dinners and quaint local customs and a difficult man intrigued by a staunch and somewhat contrary, not especially pretty woman, who is never flirtatious or coy and isn't at all shy about telling him when he's doing things wrong. There is danger, and careful nursing at home, a valuable inheritance, and at least a couple of other single men who might be attracted as well, but are much more charming.

 

I loved it for so perfectly being what I expected. But boy, did I find the presumption of inherent class to be repugnant. There are actual peasants. It isn't clear exactly when this is set sometime after trains but before rural electrification or antibiotics. Surprisingly few deaths in childbirth, but lots of orphans.

 

Fun stuff. Especially the horrible sexism that's all about carving out a place for one exceptional woman. Gah. I'm ready to fight on the barricades and eat the rich. Interestingly there's a strong parallel between the story of the brave noble ancestor hiding out from the mob with a kind servant and the stories Southerners like to tell about the aristocratic ancestor's brave struggles during and after the civil war.

 

Used for Relics and Curiosities in honor of the secret messages that reveal clues to the long-lost emeralds. I guess valuable jewels aren't as crass as regular money.

 

Library copy

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death - Caitlin Doughty

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death - Caitlin Doughty

For my second Transformation I'm turning Baker Street Irregulars into Black Cat.The books that could have fit Baker Street all ended up as something else. And this has such a perfect cat on the cover.

 

It's all perfect, really. The art features a girl and a skeleton, minimalist, just a tad creepy, but also adorable. Which is pretty much the same as the text. It's fascinating what questions kids ask, and Doughty is clear and accurate in a casual, slightly snarky tone. The answers are age-appropriate for even quite young children because there's nothing scary: it's all the debunking of scary, really.

 

Really entertaining and clever. Now I'm eager to read her other books.

 

And this gives me my second and third bingo on my way to blackout. (top left to bottom right diagonal and last column)

Up and down the Scratchy Mountains - Laurel Snyder, Greg Call

Up and down the Scratchy Mountains - Laurel Snyder, Greg Call

Fairy tales must be hard to write: so few people ever manage to produce a good one. There are many retellings, of course, particularly popular in YA, but few new ones. Snyder does an excellent job of getting the tone right: close enough to respect the conventions, but with enough of modern sensibility to avoid sounding fake. So sure, there's some magical transportation to keep things moving, but a realistic evaluation of the boredom and discomfort of travel.

There's some mystery, some menace, inflexible tradition, and motherless kids setting off for adventure. There is some silliness, but the children are taken seriously for their concerns and needs and desires.

Charming and a little corny, but never smarmy. Not too scary for preschoolers, but better for the 5 and ups.

The art is charming, but not accurate to the text, so it doesn't enhance the experience. I don't expect video adaptations to be exactly like the source material, but I do feel like the illustrations shouldn't be at odds with text in a picture book. Nothing huge, it's just clear that the artist wasn't working from the final text.

Library copy

Lyra's Oxford - Philip Pullman, John Lawrence

Lyra's Oxford - Philip Pullman, John Lawrence

More books should be published in small editions with illustrations.

 

Lyra is a bit much in The Golden Compass; Will was my favorite character in that series. But over the years she's really grown on me.

 

This is just a short visit to check up on her well after the events of His Dark Materials are past. Her life is different and she is changed. But it's lovely to see her back in Oxford, in her natural element, up to at least some of her old tricks.

 

Plus, who doesn't like to imagine what their daemon would be?

 

And in joyful news, this little book gave me a bingo! And now it'll likely be at least one bingo with every book I finish.

 

I made a mistake: there should be a Bustopher on Full Moon. That's the one I transformed to New Release for Emergency Skin.

Reading progress update: I've read 50%.

Emergency Skin - N.K. Jemisin

Thanks to Obsidian Blue, Chris' Fish Place, and Char's Horror Corner!!! (That's an exclamation point for each of you.This is so good!

The Imp of the Perverse

 

I'm enjoying seeing how close to a blackout I can get without a bingo.

Lies Sleeping - Ben Aaronovitch

Lies Sleeping - Ben Aaronovitch

Disclaimer: there's not a lot of vampires in this, but a key element nonetheless. For some reason I'm really bent on sticking to my squares as they are, without transformations. Probably that will change.

 

So we get to see Peter Grant dealing with a very modern problem and I quite liked that. More Folly, more ghosts, more gods, more big bad, but really, don't much care. That last, I mean. I enjoyed it enormously for all the reasons I mentioned re Hanging Tree and I'm almost certain to keep reading as long as Aaronovitch keeps writing them. His cast is growing so huge that he could write easily feature other characters as leads, the way he does in the stories, and that would be fun, too.

 

Library copy

The Hanging Tree - Ben Aaronovitch

The Hanging Tree - Ben Aaronovitch

This one wasn't going to get reviewed. As soon as I'd finished it I started in on the next one. And by the time I'd got to the end of that I couldn't even remember the plot. Well, a week later I still couldn't, so I looked.

 

And that's when it hit me: although there is plot that isn't why I read them. They're cozies. The mystery itself isn't the point. I read them because I like Peter's snarky voice, and his relationship with his immediate and extended family; his alternate family at the Folly: both the unusual denizens of the house, but also his magical and nonmagical police associates; plus, too, there's the snug domesticity with his girlfriend and then her whole extended family. I like all the scientific questions that Peter asks about magic, and the experiments he comes up with as well as the tools, the sheer geekiness of him. I like how we're reminded that policework is all about evidence and grinding routine, even as there's always an opportunity for Peter to jump in with something brave and disastrously dangerous. And like everyone else, I appreciate seeing some of the millions of non-white and non-wealthy residents of London. And then too, there's rather a lot about food.

 

Really the only way it doesn't fit the archetype of Cozy in my head is that the lead isn't a woman, which isn't an assumption I was aware of before now.

 

 

Library copy

The Duchess of Malfi - John Webster

The Duchess of Malfi - John Webster

Having just brushed up my Shakespeare I was more-than-usually susceptible to a mention in another book: Sleeping Murder. Since the original publication date is more than 400 years ago, it is quite easy to find a free copy. Total instant gratification!

***

The saucy Duchess just popped again, as an epigraph in Silent in the Sanctuary, a book with quite a bit of Shakespeare as well.

***

Curiosity is satisfied, but I did not love it.

***

After pondering some more: it's all very one dimensional. At the very beginning we are introduced to all the bad guys. We are told and shown that they are bad guys. Bad guys put out a hit on their sister, her second husband, and their four children. For the money. And then the hitman decides to go after the bad guys for revenge. Lots of murder, sure, but no jokes, no reversals, no mystery, only one character ever changes course and no very satisfying motivation is ever given. Without good special effects, which you don't get in a script, there isn't anything else of interest. You'd have to really love going to the theater, or be a superfan of some actor, to be anything more than horribly disappointed after sitting though it. All that murder and yet, boring. The only interesting thing here is that this script didn't disappear.

personal copy

Haunted House Mini-Edition - Jan Pieńkowski

Haunted House Mini-Edition - Jan Pieńkowski

Just as I have Christmas books that I break out and read every year in November and December, I have this one book that I read every year as part of my All Hallow's Read/Halloween Bingo/spoopy-months celebration (spooky-adjacent sorts of things that aren't scary but are amusing).

 

This is something I picked up lo! these many years ago, because of course part of the Halloween observance is giving seasonally-appropriate books. They lost interest in it ages ago, but the mix of expected (skeleton in the closet) and unexpected (octopus washing dishes) still it delights me every year. And amazingly, hardly any of the moving bits came off or tore. Some of my September and October reads are re-reads, but the only other piece I return to very often is Click-Clack the Rattlebag, the audio version read by Neil Himself.

 

Personal copy

The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan

The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan

I would never have picked this up if it had this cover. Mine looks like this Which is at least very Halloweeny.

 

I get what O'Nan was doing, and I respect it. He was writing his own nostalgic look back at youth as shown in one moody Halloween. And yeah, Something Wicked This Way Comes is wonderfully moody. But rereading it last year I didn't love it as much as I thought I did. And my  biggest problem with it is also my biggest problem with this: so much nostalgia, so little of anything else.

 

Marco is telling us the story. He's one of several teens who died in a wreck on Halloween one year ago. Marco, Toe, and Danielle are ghosts. Tim survived in good physical shape but with an unbearable burden of guilt and loss. Kyle survived but lost his personality and his memories and many of his life skills. His mother has devoted this past year to his recovery and rehabilitation and is aware that he's never likely to be an independent adult. Brooks is the first officer on the scene and the wreck has ruined his life as well.

 

It's very stylish this story, but not very engaging. Read for

 

Personal copy

Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

This is a very atmospheric story: although not the usual haunting. It's presented as the oral history of an up-and-coming British folk band in the 60s and the story of what happened the summer their producer sent them to a decaying manor house in the middle of nowhere to rehearse and write material for their second album.

 

Hand paces the story well, giving us little bits of creepiness along the way, and grounding it in the mundane: they're just broke teenagers hoping this is going to be their big chance. The house is a weird one, added onto every century or so. The villagers are stand-offish. The summer is gorgeous, the songwriting is going well, and the rehearsals are great. Just little bits of wrongness here and there.

 

It absolutely feels like the reminiscences of aging hippies: the sex, the drugs, the ratty old clothes. The band members have different voices and personalities, and the whole thing comes across as exactly the kind of urban legend you'd hear about a band after several decades, or a Whatever Happened to special on MTV or something.

 

Very well done, and a clever twist on a number of tropes. I rather like the setting (in time and space) for being not at all gothic, but rather idyllic. This is the pattern of most of E. F. Benson's ghost stories and adapted well. It'd make a gorgeous film.

 

Library copy

Really Important News

This morning it was cool enough when I stepped outside that I had to put on the sweater I take to work to wear in the overly cold AC. My long, hot, personal nightmare is maybe finally over.

 

Still no rain though.

Without A Summer (Glamourist Histories Series Book 3) - Mary Robinette Kowal

Without A Summer (Glamourist Histories Series Book 3) - Mary Robinette Kowal

Read out of order, therefor reviewed out of order, sorry.

 

This time Kowal sends the Prince Regent's glamourists to London in order to give Jane's sister a proper season. Unfortuantely, it's the Year of No Summer, 1816. There is labor unrest and dirty tricks and this whole business of finding Melody a suitable husband.

 

The interweaving of the real food shortage and labor unrest with the fictional and fantastic Worshipful Company of Coldmongers is very well done. Certainly there were a great number of children working in many dangerous industries at the time to provide a suitable model. Part of the great charm here is how closely Kowal can follow the Austen model of trying to find a suitable husband for a single woman of 20, and also bring to it further depth of plotting and character development and world-building.

 

And there is thrilling courtroom drama.

 

 

Library copy.