Tuesday, October 21, 2014

RIP IX: The Truth Is in the Graveyard

Neil Gaiman kindly obliged me this RIP season by having some nice new books out to enjoy.

First, there was The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains. This is an illustrated version of a short story that was published in the collection Stories a couple of years ago. I liked but didn't love the story when I read it before but, whether it was because this was a second read or because of the illustrations, I liked it more this time through. Some things that passed me by the first time were made clearer. The illustrations by Eddie Campbell were, in some cases, just as telling as the words themselves. In fact, the subtitle of the book is "A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds". The illustrations aren't black and white but they are realistic and, when necessary, dark. I'm glad that I picked this one up and gave the story another chance.

And, as soon as I saw that there were going to be graphic novel versions of The Graveyard Book, I got very, very excited. I bought the first one for read-a-thon and then Chris said he already had the second volume too so I bought that as well. I read both of them in the middle of the day and, honestly, rushed through them too quickly to really appreciate them. Still, I thought they were fantastic. Each chapter is done by a different illustrator and they each bring something different to the story. I liked some of the styles more than others but didn't hate any of them. The thing I was least ready for was the fact that by turning this story into a graphic one, it is no longer a children's story. In my opinion, these were made for adults, bringing the story to another audience. I can't wait to reread them and to pay more attention to the details.

The final new Gaiman of the month isn't being released until October 28 so I might not actually get to it until the beginning of November. It's a graphic retelling of Hansel and Gretel, illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti and put out by Toon Books. I'm curious to see what they do with this well-known tale.

Gaga for Gaiman,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Read-a-Thon in T-Minus-Six

Yes, Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon starts in six hours and, as always, I won't be awake for the start. I just can't do 5 a.m. (Seattle represent!). It's not a time that works with my body clock. But, as soon as I get up, I will be reading and snacking and rogue cheering (#teamrogue forever) until the wee hours of the morning.

My stack is pleasantly monochromatic --

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Volume One (and I picked up Volume Two shortly after I took this picture)
The Creeps
This House is Haunted
Unnatural Creatures (short stories not by Neil Gaiman)
Brat Farrar (reread because Anastasia got me in the mood)
The Bad Beginning (reread for the Top 100 Chapter Book Project)
Lords and Ladies (a Discworld Witches book)

My plan is to finish my current read--The Infernals (second in the Samuel Johnson series)--first thing in the morning and then move on to The Creeps (book three). Then I will probably go through the two volumes of The Graveyard Book graphic novel. I started the first one the other day and it is incredibly dark. It hardly seems like a children's book in this format! Then I'll choose from the other books based on my mood in the evening and what I think will keep me awake the longest. I also have the audiobook of The Glass Sentence on my phone for when I'm baking, driving, or when my eyes need a break.

I'll be sticking with my usual read-a-thon breakfast of scones and tea. This time I am trying glazed cinnamon raisin. Then I have some yummy Trader Joe's snacks for during the day, taquitos for lunch, and probably pizza for dinner. I also have some popcorn and fruit that didn't make it into the picture.

As always, I'll be putting my updates up on Twitter and my pictures on Instagram. I've also decided this time to not focus on the details but just to have fun -- so I won't be counting pages or hours. I'll just be reading and having fun!

What are you looking forward to reading (or eating) today?

Excited as always,

Monday, October 13, 2014

RIP IX: Secrets and Murder

One of the first books I read in September for RIP IX was A Lesson in Secrets, the eighth book in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. As part of an assignment from the government, Maisie pairs her detecting skills with her teaching skills and joins the faculty of a college in Oxford that was founded after the First World War on the principles of pacifism and international cooperation. But, if the Secret Service's hunch is correct, the university might just be harboring the worst of the worst -- Nazis!

This series never shies away from tackling some of the most sensitive topics that came out of the Great War. This time it's the fates of those soldiers who decided at some point that they no longer wanted to fight. It's a heartbreaking subject but it's dealt with in a really thoughtful way in this story. I really do love this series and have the greatest admiration for Maisie Dobbs. I'm bummed to only have two more books before I'm caught up to the current book.

I picked up Murder on the Home Front by Molly Lefebure after hearing that it was made into a TV series and wanting to read it before watching the show. I didn't realize that it was a memoir and I certainly didn't know how awesome Lefebure was. The book chronicles some of her adventures in the five years that she spent working as the secretary to pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson in London and the surrounding counties. She highlights exceptional cases in a way that draws the reader in, whether it's describing an abnormal autopsy, a search for clues in a muddy field, or a trek down a darkened stairwell during the Blitz. Here is the list of qualities that she came up with when looking for her replacement:

Good verbatim shorthand.
Interested in crime.
No objection to mortuaries and corpses.
Reasonably fast runner.'

I loved Molly and I loved this book. It turns out the the TV series is fictional and just based off of these memoirs (the lead character is called Molly Cooper, I believe) but I'm still looking forward to watching it soon. If it has half the wit of this book (something one certainly doesn't expect when reading about murders), it will be a fun show!

Crossing back over the Pond,

Monday, October 6, 2014

RIP IX: New Release: The Supernatural Enhancements

The second I saw Edgar Cantero's The Supernatural Enhancements, I knew I had to read it. I managed to avoid all mention of what it was about (because who needs any more impetus than that cover, right?!) and only took in the praises of various readers that I respect. I put in my hold at the library and thankfully it came in quite quickly (I can only assume because everyone who picks it up speeds through it without being able to put it down).

I'm going to be a bit secretive about the plot because, as I was tweeting with Becca about it (she was reading it at the same time), I realized "I like the way it reveals things slowly, after you've already assumed something else". I think this is definitely part of the genius of Cantero's writing. The story is told through letters, journal entries, and audio and video recordings. It incorporates literature, puzzles and cyphers, and nameless things that are only to be found in dreams and nightmares. The two main characters, A. and Niamh, are young and slightly mysterious and likable. And Axton House with its supernatural enhancements is a place of history and mystery.

As soon as I finished the book, I went to my reading spreadsheet where I usually record a couple of brief thoughts. All I could come up with was "holy crap". I tweeted this thought and the author himself found my tweet. He asked if it was the sort of crap he should retweet or not. I chuckled and said that it was absolutely the kind to retweet because I loved the book and the end was simply mind-blowing. I didn't see it coming at all. I would love a sequel that just expands the Epilogue.

I've already got Chris reading this book (and the last time I talked to him about it he was loving it). Have I convinced you to pick it up?

Cherishing my quiet dreams,

Friday, October 3, 2014

RIPIX: Veronica Mars and Doctor Who

I hate to admit it but, a few short months ago, I had never watched any Veronica Mars. When the movie came out, all of the marshmallows were going crazy and I felt like I was really missing out. Luckily, Amazon Prime had the series and the hubby and I binge watched it over the spring and early summer, finishing up with the movie. Then we went through withdrawals. So, when I was looking for books to take on a trip a couple of weeks ago (Western PA for a wedding), I had to pick up the first VM novel, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book picked up very shortly after the movie story ended. This is a typical Veronica Mars mystery where she gets into trouble, gets some help from Mac and Wallace, gets into even deeper trouble and then solves a seemingly impossible mystery, all while battling a Sheriff Lamb (does it matter which one? they're both asses.) and missing the still-Naval Logan.

This book got me through almost eight hours on two planes and a couple of hours of layover in the middle. It read just like another movie and I was totally absorbed. I could easily picture everything that was going on and hear the voices of Keith, Veronica, Mac and Wallace. It had the darkness and adult situations of the film, with lots of sex, drugs and imminent danger. If you're a fan, you should definitely grab this book.

Then, I needed a second airplane book. I was at the library and happened to see Shada, a novelization of a Doctor Who episode that Douglas Adams had mostly written but then abandoned revisions on when it was not filmed (due to a strike). I grabbed it to follow the theme of television tie-in reading on this trip. This story got me back home and reminded me just how much I love Douglas Adams' writing. Gareth Roberts did an amazing job of putting this together and keeping Douglas' voice intact. Though I didn't watch pre-Eccleston Doctor Who, I know enough about it to have had no problem picturing the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana and K-9 in this late-70s adventure in Oxford and beyond. The story in this one is pretty complex, with two Time Lords, two TARDISes and an unexplainably evil villain. I honestly couldn't tell who was going to live and who was going to die. Also, for anyone who is a Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency fan, this book was definitely formed in the same part of Adams' mind and you can see shades of that future story in this one. (Shada was written in 1980 and Dirk Gently in 1987.)

These weren't my typical type of RIP season reads but it was nice to take a break from mentally-ill and homicidal Victorians! These also might have been the first two television-related novels that I've ever read. I can't think of any others off-hand. It was fun to explore these familiar worlds in a different medium and I'm looking forward to the next VM book that is coming out soon.

Which TV show novels are your favorites?

Back from Mars in the TARDIS,

Monday, September 29, 2014

Today at The Estella Society: A Two-Year Review

the good books
Join me today over at The Estella Society as I recap my first two years (44 books) of the Top 100 Chapter Books Project.

Feeling accomplished,

Saturday, September 27, 2014

RIP IX: Constable & Toop

What will definitely rank as one of my favorite reads of this RIP season (I'm calling it early) is Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones. I didn't know that I was looking for a book with ghost protagonists (and one plucky living kid) until I picked up this one and got lost in the rules and procedures of the world of the dead.

Sam Toop has always lived above the funeral parlor with his father and he has always been able to see ghosts. Usually they just ask for help with their unfinished business but he's about to be drawn into a much more serious business: that of saving the ghostly world -- with the help of ghostly boys, dogs and bureaucrats.

Though it's marketed to middle grade readers, I thought the story was well-written enough to please older readers too. It takes a bit of effort at the beginning to get used to switching between multiple narratives (it changes each chapter between three or four story lines) but once you learn patience, it pays off with a story where you find yourself truly caring about the fates of ghosts. Because, though Sam is the main living character of the story, I'm not sure that he's any more important than ghostly paper-pusher Lapsewood, young and transparent rogue Tanner, or the comical and clearly insane Marquis. I can't wait to give this one a reread during a future RIP season.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Invitation to Read Along: A Night in the Lonesome October

Hello again! I've been busy lately with back to school and traveling and a bunch of other stuff so I haven't been blogging. I've still been reading though and I'll be catching up with reviews in the next week or so. Anyway, I wanted to pop in now to invite all of you to a read-along and give you time to pick up the book in the next week.

I got this email from Chicago Review Press a couple of weeks ago and couldn't resist --
It’s now two weeks until October 1, and that means one thing: it’s time to reignite the beloved October tradition Roger Zelazny fans have been celebrating for the past two decades. Please join Chicago Review Press in celebrating one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century for our first annual A Night in the Lonesome October Read-A-Long. The book is being re-issued by Chicago Review Press for October 2014.
What better way to re-introduce readers to this spectacular dark comedy or those unfamiliar with Zelazny’s work than with a month-long celebration of the book? The book, which is split into 31 chapters, is a mix of humor, horror, mystery, and fantasy. It’s considered by many (from Kirkus to George R. R. Martin) to be Zelazny’s best novel, and there is a tradition among its fans to read the book, one chapter a day, each day in October
Starting Wednesday, Oct. 1, we’ll have a weekly meet up, where we’ll chronicle our read-along via Chicago Review Press’s social media (@Chireviewpress) and the hashtag #gooddogsnuff. We’d love for you to follow along, or post your own thoughts on the book (If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s narrated by Jack the Ripper’s loyal dog, Snuff).
The 31 chapters of this book are very short so this is a commitment of only a couple of minutes a day through the month of October (and if you fell behind, catching up would be easy). You could also add a read of the Neil Gaiman short story "Only the End of the World Again", inspired by Zelazny's tale. I would do that but I happen to have just read it this summer. How was that for blind foresight?

So, how about it? Is anyone up for a "humor, horror, mystery, and fantasy" read in October?


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