(Not) My 12 Category Challenge
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Another year. Another occasion to (again) break my promise not to get involved in challenges that I usually never fully succeed in. But posting about my book reads has just been so much fun last year that I couldn't help resist.... though this time with a difference.
For starters: I am lucky if I manage to read about 50 books a year. Last year I read more than anytime in the recent past but still didn't quite manage the stepped approach to 11-in-11. So taking a stepped approach (or even reading 12 books in 12 categories) is out of the question for 2012. I could of course just read any number of books in 12 categories but that means that I'd have succeeded with just 12 books only... which isn't much of a challenge.
So I took inspiration after reading -Eva-'s Challenge. The main aim of her post is to simply reduce the list of unread books by reading and giving away loads. Last year was the first time where I privately tracked how many books I read (or rarely: gave away or sold) and bought (or received as presents). Though my shelves don't seem to agree with my count: It appears that I actually read more than I brought into the house. I sure want to make sure that I keep up that positive ratio. So my goal will simply be to read (or giveaway) 12 more books than I buy or receive.
Of course this will mean that my overall tally may end up swinging wildly. I may look as if I'm on track just to then receive a bunch of new books that need a good home to go to. But that's part of the fun.
Other than that I will simply read what I please which to be honest was something I started missing once I got into the whole category thingy. I feel like I want to be unrestrained from whatever category I had imposed on myself in the last two years and just focus on the pleasure of reading.
So this will be my running tally for 2012:
Books Read: 39
Books Given Away/Sold: 2
Books Bought: 23
Books Received: 8
Let the fun begin.
Jeff Lindsay: Dexter is Delicious
The fifth part of Dexter's literary exploits. Though the first novel bore a certain semblance to the first TV Season the show already strayed from the book in a number of areas. From book 2 on TV series and novels became independent of each other which is nice as one can enjoy both incarnations and still be surprised about the plots without fear of spoilers as they mainly go different ways.
I absolutely love the TV show though I only ever got to like the books. Though enjoyable the books seem to lack that certain je-ne-sais-quois that the TV version has in bundles. Lindsay is a decent author but he's not terrific. Some of the "Dark Passenger" mumbo jumbo can get quite repetitive at times and the books are often predictable. In this book e.g. there are two major "surprises" that he spoilt by clues that weren't just spelt with a Capital C but also Capital L, U and Es.
Still, it's a fast enjoyable read and the idea of Dexter battling a bunch of modern day vampires/cannibals in Miami while getting to terms with having a baby and seeing his brother return make up for good decent entertainment.
What amused me, however, was seeing some hardcore modern-day vampires being defined by their love for TWILIGHT. Seriously, no proper horror fan would EVER consider these teenage soap story books/films as an entry level drug for gruesome real life murders.
Books Read: #1
Running Tally: +1
"no proper horror fan would EVER consider these teenage soap story books/films as an entry level drug for gruesome real life murders"
...except perhaps the murders of Bella and Edward?
John Landis: Monsters in the Movies
In the 1970s/80s there was a glut of photo books dedicated to the history of horror cinema. John Landis' MONSTERS IN THE MOVIES is somewhat of an updated version of these oeuvres bringing these into the 21st Century.
Very few of the pictures displayed are really rare. Most have been printed elsewhere before and most can easily be found online. Still it's a massive tome and I spent a few enjoyable afternoon hours perusing it and being reminded of all the films I have seen (and the few I haven't).
And this would be it if it had just been another cinematic picture book.
Thing is, though, that the author is a significant film director and horror movie buff who (at least at one stage in his career) had a very distinct voice and style. So even though the text is naturally on the light side for this kind of work you would expect some personal touch with the contents but there was little of that.
The few sentences of info underneath the photos are very generic and could easily be ripped from IMDB or any number of websites. The relevant introductory chapters are not very in depth yet at times contain some very basic errors. Even when Landis covers some of his own films he more often than not writes about them in a neutral 3rd person review style which is a) pretty weird and b) a completely wasted opportunity. During the couple of interviews with film makers and stars such as Christopher Lee, John Carpenter etc he comes across as quite repetitive and often woefully uninformed.
The slap dash editorial approach to the contents is represented in the book's subtitle: "100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares". The earliest film mentioned is from 1899, the latest from 2011. You do the maths.
Still, not bad for a generic pictorial overview but not essential. And given the author definitely something of a wasted opportunity.
Books Read: #2
Running Tally: +2
Fredrik Sjöberg: Die Fliegenfalle
Wow, so Scandinavian literature is indeed not just about the Nazi past and violence against women. It is also about..... collecting hooverflies on a tiny Swedish island.
This is the German translation of the Swedish book "Flugfällan". Not sure if this ever got translated into English.
Nearly completely bereft of a conventional plot this novel just deals with various aspects of collecting these flies, with the fascination about collecting anything in general, becoming immersed in a niche passion and how to live one's life according to one's own terms.
Hooverflies were not anything I ever wasted too much time thinking about before reading this oeuvre. To be honest, I had never even heard about this specific type of fly before, yet at the end of the book I was strangely enthralled by the subject matter and secretly started planning to become an entomologist myself until reason finally caught up with me again.
Though the actual "story" (whatever little there is of it) is fictional there are plenty of references to other literary collectors and fly catchers in books by the likes of D.H. Lawrence and Bruce Chatwin. We also get to learn a lot of biographical details about Rene Malaise, a real life Swedish entomological hero who is now best known for the invention of a fly trap named after him but seemed to have had a fascinating life story and concluded his life with very unconventional research about the fate of Atlantis.
Definitely a quaint book but worth checking out.
Books Read: #3
Running Tally: +3
See, not only Nazis! (How's that for a sentence I never thought I would write...!) :) I've heard of neither the writer nor the book, but I do know someone who would love it, so thanks for the gift-suggestion!
Haha, I was wondering/hoping if you would chime in given that this is a Swedish author. I first heard of him when I caught a review of the latest German translation of one of his books - Russinkungen - which seems to deal with yet another strange collector. Sounds like he may have developed his only little obsessive niche of writing. ;-)
I thought I may like it so opted for the older and cheaper (paperback!) book first. LOL
The Germans are so much faster at translating Swedish literature than the English! He does seem a bit obsessive, doesn't he, but I can't complain since I am very fond of people who go a bit crazy about "their thing."
Just back from a little trip back home to Germany. Started a few books but haven't finished them yet. Sigh.... when will I ever learn? Also bought the following books with some Christmas book vouchers:
Haruki Murakami: Kafka am Strand
Steffen Moeller: Vita Classica
Jakob Arjouni: Der heilige Eddy
Johannes Schumann: Französisch ganz leicht (Wanna brush up on my French again.)
Bringing my running tally back into negative territory again.
Books Bought: #1, 2, 3, 4
Running Tally: (-1)
@9: Yeah, I also love those eccentrics doing their own stuff so will definitely explore some of his other books. Incidentally I also noted that with some of the International literature I am interested in the Germans often seem to come up with translations before the English language world. Not sure what that means.... if it means anything at all. ;-)
I've discussed this before (with Ilana - Smiler69, I think) and I think it's because the English publishing world can afford to be a little lazy and mainly go for literature which is already in English and cut out the translator, whereas publishers in non-English speaking countries will have to hire a translator regardless of the original language and so can afford to look anywhere in the world for quality literature. I don't have any empirical proof that this is what happens, but it does sound like a probable explanation, doesn't it?
You know, I think you're on to something. It's probably a bit similar to the movie world where Germans (and many other non-English nations) by and large are more familiar with world cinema as opposed to "just" the English language movies. When I watched a French action movie with Jean-Paul Belmondo when I was younger I never thought I'd watch an arty piece of world cinema. I just watched an action film that happened to be from France. Likewise with books: Though there is a large German language market, it pales in comparison to the English language market.
And, yes, same with cinema - if you have to put subtitles on everything regardless, it doesn't really matter what the spoken language is. I'm just happy to be bi-lingual so that I have access to both worlds, but it's a shame that so many people are missing out on some really great art.
Of course in Germany the films are dubbed. It took me to move country before I realised how awful that option sounds. LOL
Fredric Brown: The Fabulous Clipjoint
Though I usually belong to the group of people who have to have physical books in their hands to enjoy them there are a number of authors I likely would not have discovered if it wasn’t for e-Books of any kind.
Fredric Brown is one of those. Over the last couple of years I have probably averaged one of his novels a year, yet only actually own a single physical copy of his novels. From what I can tell most of his oeuvre is no longer in print and a good number of his books are freely (and legally available) in the public domain yet antiquarian second hand versions are harder to come by and can go for good money.
Brown was a pulp fiction author who managed to establish a writing career in two separate areas: (Hard boiled) Crime and (sometimes humorous) Science Fiction. I never quite got into his Sci Fi but love his Noir novels.
First I ever heard of Brown was when I discovered that Dario Argento was an admirer and in some of his earliest movies was, ahem, inspired to use some of Brown’s plot elements from his SCREAMING MIMI like having a character called God.... well, short for Godfrey.
Needless to say I had to explore that book and never looked back: In the subsequent years I read Brown on a clunky old desktop computer, a laptop, an iPad, a smartphone, and even in an old-fashioned paperback.
THE FABULOUS CLIPJOINT was his debut novel and the first of his books to feature unlikely crime fighters Ed and Am Hunter, one an 18-year old youth dealing with the murder of his father, the other his uncle, an old carney. Together they join forces to solve the crime. Not having any experience in the matter they often just stumble across clues and draw the wrong conclusions. The book also functions as a Coming of Age story for Ed who still cannot drink shorts without risking to throw up and to his surprise learns that his dad used to be quite a cool guy at his age.... yet let all his dreams vanish in the interim.
It’s a short book and though it does drag a bit (typical for debut novels) it already displays the kind of wit and puns that one came to identify with Brown and is full of shady characters, quasi-incestuous relationships, a murky underworld, untrustworthy dames and broads who can wrap naive guys around their little fingers.
Let’s see if I manage to read another Brown this year or whether I will wait yet another year for the next one.
Books Read: #4
Running Tally: 0
Looks like I should add another author to the watch out for list. Good review!
I am a huge fan of noir, yet I haven't read anything by Fredric Brown before. I will have to track down some of his work.
I've seen Batman speak German - and, yes, it was pretty awful. :)
Those pulp covers are just too delicious, aren't they?!
Oh I love his science function, one of the best short story writers, IMO. I admit I haven't read much of his noir but I keep promising to myself to do it and you review has nudged it further in my to do list, Nice to know you can get e-books as his books are pretty hard to find in secondhand bookshops in the UK. Although its a shame cos that is a great cover :)
Great you all enjoyed this and yes, if you like Noir Brown is an author worth checking out. Not a lot of people seem to know about him these days but he has some quirky idiosyncracies that I enjoy quite a lot and that makes him worth exploring.
>>22 clfisha: Which one of his Sci Fi stories would you recommend? Correct me if I am wrong but he didn't really write a lot of Sci Fi novels (if any at all), did he? This could explain why I never quite got into his Sci Fi as I prefer novels to short stories (and series to stand alone novels).
And yes, I love those pulp covers. In actual fact I am known for buying books because of their covers and have discovered a number of interesting authors that way that I would otherwise never have heard of.
I adore pulp novels. The covers definitely have drawn me to ones I may never have read before either. I haven't read Fredric Brown, so I'll have to add him to my list of to read authors.
There certainly was an art to pulp paperback covers that is all but gone. Most books these days look decidedly dull and boring. It's a bit like those wonderful movie posters that have all vanished and been replaced by Photoshop atrocities.
Well for his short stories (and I mean really short!) I would recommend Nightmares and Geezenstacks unless you are like me and go for the weighty tome that collects all of them! He is short and extremely playful in his 'what if?' approach such as hijacking the stars to advertise, or the invention of teleportation or the sudden lack of electricity or just writing different takes of a story that starts with cool lines such as..
"The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door... "
There's a tiny selection here... The End for example is only 6 lines long :)
Anyway for a novels recommendation, although they aren't as good I would try his sci-fi parody called What Mad Universe.
Thanks for the tips. Will definitely explore those some more. I was already aware of the 6 lines story. Something I liked but when I first started showing it to people, it let to a lot of head scratching. LOL
I had no idea that there was a tome to collect them all!
And that "last man on Earth" line is just simply fantabulous! Exactly the kind of stuff I enjoy when I read Brown.
Mental note to self: Must explore his Science Fiction further.
Douglas Adams: Life, the Universe and Everything
The third part of the Hitchhiker Saga.
I had only ever read the first two books before but over the years made myself more than familiar with the radio drama, TV show and movie and as such was more than familiar with Adams' approach. Loved the first half but during the second part starting feeling more like Marvin, the Robot, and was overcome with a certain ennui. Don't know if it was me or the book. (It probably was me.) But after a while I felt it becoming too repetitive. Or maybe it just wasn't cricket.
Still a good point to venture further on with the saga.
Books Read: #5
Running Tally: 1
Correction I was *not* yet familiar with that story!
The short short story I was thinking of was ANSWER:
oh yes that's a great one isnt it? :)
@29 I really like Douglas Adams but I admit the Hitchikers books (after the 1st two) leave me a cold.
After reading the book I checked the review in The Pocket Essential Hitchhiker's Guide and it appears that the author considers this indeed to be the weakest entry between the new and fresh first two and the "mature" (whatever that means I will hopefully soon find out) last two by Adams.
Apparently Life, the Universe and Everything was originally a Dr Who story that Adams adapted for the Hitchhiker.
Unless I am totally gone gaga I think I heard just recently that a previously unpublished Dr Who story/screenplay by Adams will soon be published. I guess in that case we already know what it will be about.
I love reading books. And I love watching movies. And one of the worst cliches of all time is that "the book is always better than the film".
Utter tosh, I say.
Up until the 60s or so the vast majority of films were based on short stories or novels. Just look at the credits of any random movie from the 1950s and you will likely discover the names of authors and titles of stories that have often vanished into complete oblivion right now.
Just look at Hitchcock: Some of his films were based on material by Daphne du Maurier, Joseph Conrad or Robert Bloch, authors that are still reasonably well known. Yet, the films in Hitch's hands were generally clearly superior but at the very least on a par with their sources. Look further in his filmography and you find adaptations by Robert Smythe Hichens, Ethel Lina White or Selwyn Jepson. "Who they?" indeed.
Still think that the books are always better than the films?
But one doesn't have to look that far.
I have already mentioned that I like the Dexter books but love the TV show that in my opinion is clearly the definitive version of our friendly serial killer. Still, I do and will continue to read his literary exploits.
This, however, cannot be said about two novels that I finally gave to a charity shop this week:
Thomas Harris: Red Dragon
Years ago, following THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS I decided to approach Thomas Harris. RED DRAGON was his first Hannibal Lecter novel and the source for MANHUNTER and HANNIBAL, the first a film that is not quite as good as it is always made out to be, the second one that is not quite as bad. Either way the novel left me just mildly entertained but had quenched all my thirst for more books from the series. It was completely forgotten the moment I finished it.
Worse, however, is Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark. I truly, madly, deeply love TRUE BLOOD, a TV series that is quite groundbreaking in its visceral and sexy approach to a Vampire show.
The novel? A girly romance, more mature but otherwise on a gushy Twilight level. And clearly not anything I would ever want to read again.
So Bye Bye they both went hopefully to a more appreciative home clearing a little bit of space on the shelves.
Books Given Away/Sold: #1, 2
Running Tally: 3
"previously unpublished Dr Who story/screenplay by Adams"
Keep us posted if you hear anything more about this!
Those Charlaine Harris-books are so rubbish, aren't they?!
Aren't they just?
Just did a quick Google check and noticed that I wasn't quite right. (Oh, how I hate that.)
Looks like the story ideas for Adams' WHO will be novelised by another Dr Who writer:
I have one of Gareth Roberts' Who-books, but I haven't read it yet - hope he'll take care of the Adams-story!
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And makes Holger buy more than he can currently read.
The same charity shop that I left my books with also had a cheapo copy of Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Supremacy. I had read the first book last year so can now continue with the saga.
The same day I purchased this book I also got Britt Nini's URSULA ANDRESS book from 1980 from a French collector friend of mine in the mail. It's in French so I thought I could quickly skip through the pics and claim it as read but it appears that my poor school French may be of assistance in actually reading this book and as I have been planning on brushing up on French this year I might as well put the book aside as a combined reading/language learning experience. And did I mention the pictures?
Books Bought: #5, 6
Running Tally: 1
"buy more than he can currently read"
That's just a given, right?! :)
A friend of mine was researching a film project he was working on about Danish Jews and one of his sourcebooks was only available in Danish, so he scanned the pages of the text and read the whole thing through Google Translate! :) I kept getting emails from him asking about some of the wonkier stuff that Google threw out, but on the whole it did fairly well.
And a surprise present from a kind friend who didn't want that book but knew that I collect Sherlockiana brings the tally down to 0.
Larry Millett: Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery
Books Received: #1
Running Tally: 0
Steffen Moeller: Vita Classica
Oh my God, I actually read a book!!!
Correction. I finished that book about two weeks ago but I am only now having time to write a few words about it.
Steffen Moeller is one of those curious cases who become celebrities in unusual places outside their own countries. The "Big in Japan" effect. Only in his case it is a "Big in Poland" scenario.
Following a stint as a German teacher (and occasional stand-up comedian) in Warsaw, Moeller became a TV star in a long running Polish soap opera.
It's only when he published Viva Polonia about life in Poland that Germans even became aware of him and his success in their neighboring country.
Viva Polonia was a book that you can easily dip in and out of as it was arranged in an A-Z fashion. I will always have a soft spot for that work as I regularly use chapters of it for some of my advanced German language students who often happen to be a) Polish and b) female and therefore with a soft spot for Moeller and his thoughts about his adopted country. Discussing his often humorous observations on life in Poland make for very interesting and entertaining German lessons.
His follow-up book is now Vita Classica, a book about his lifetime obsession with Classical Music. Born into the family of a Protestant Priest, he was never able to enjoy pop music like all his mates but instead ventured into the archaic world of classical musical pieces from a very young age on. Having reached his 40s he finally dared this "outing" as he believes that being a classical music fan means being part of one the most misunderstood minorities of the 21st Century.
If it wasn't for the IOU I felt towards the author over his previous work I would otherwise probably not have picked this one up. I do occasionally listen to Classical Music but that is few and far between. I had hoped that this piece would equally be organised in a "dip in, dip out" A-Z fashion about various composers and their works but I discovered when I had already begun with it that this was no VIVA but a VITA and as such it didn't focus all that much on the actual music and the composers but on Moeller and his life as a fan.
Especially in the teenage chapters he comes across as quite precious but the book becomes more interesting when he reaches adulthood and again focuses on his life and career in Poland and actually manages to not repeat himself too much. Even as a reader of his first book I learned quite a lot of new aspects about his life in Poland.
It's an interesting book but hardly a great one. One wonders who the targeted audience was meant to be. As it really is more of an autobiography by way of musical taste as opposed to a more in-depth overview of classical music in general, the reader will have to bring in quite a bit of willingness to learn more about an actor/writer who really isn't all that big in his own country.
Books Read: #6
Running Tally: 1
Correction. I finished that book about two weeks ago but I am only now having time to write a few words about it.
Sound like February is a busy month for a number of us. Interesting review!
I'm another one having a bit of a struggle with the reading - hope it picks up for all of us!!
Only on the 6th book for February - that's just poor. :) Too much telly this month...
Ah, my February is more pathetic than your February! ;) Interesting that he considers being raised without pop music as odd enough to start an autobiography. It was frowned on in my house, and expressly forbidden at my best friend's house. She resorted to tin whistle and bag pipe music though, louder and more shrill than any electric guitars.
In my house, it was purely a taste thing. My dad loved classical music and didn't like Jazz or anything popular or loud. In my friends house, it's because she had 4 older siblings who had abused their music privileges and played stuff like "Tell Laura I Love Her" loudly and over and over again until the no Rock n Roll decree came about. Tanahill Weavers and Planxty made a pretty good alternative though. Loud, fast beat and raunchy and violent lyrics sometime too, but you had to be able to decode archaic English to figure that out.
"played stuff like "Tell Laura I Love Her" loudly and over and over again"
I'd ban any music too in that case. :)
My mum loves Planxty, so they could always be played at my house. Adding Tanahill Weavers to my own playlist, though!
Oh I love Tannahill!!! & how many bands have played together happily longer than I've been alive. They just keep getting new pipers though, probably because 20 years ago they started making jokes about the piper not even being born when they first recording "Are You Sleeping Maggie."
Tannahill Weavers? Gosh, never heard of them. Guess I'll better be heading of to YouTube soon.
Now that I am so busy with work that the idea of actually just reading 12 books in 12 months starts looking like a major challenge I better start looking around and cheat with some picture books.
This one is a catalogue for an exhibition of silent movies organised by the East German Film Museum in 1986. The text is a scanty 20 pages, the rest are reproductions of the images. Bliss..... a quick read.
Despite the short text it had lots to hold my interest as it just felt so odd reading it.
Let's face it: The book is barely a quarter of a century old yet feels like it was from a totally different era altogether.
For starters, in 1986 we were already at the height of the Perestroika. By the end of the decade the wall would have fallen and the two Germanies united yet the text still reads like a deeply Socialist pamphlet quoting Marx, highlighting film as a "product" (shock, gasp), referring to little known 1920s production companies organised by worker's unions and setting Brechtian principles up in a struggle against all the other "reactionary" Capitalist film companies of the time.
How very quaint.....
Secondly, mention is made of the challenge of the general film historian (not just the silent movie one) to get a hand on movies to analyse. What? Was there ever a time where no-one owned DVDs of their favourite movies, watched them on Netflix or downloaded (legally or otherwise) even the most obscure of cult movies anytime anywhere?
Saying that, even the most widely read film buff will end up scratching their head at the vast majority of the film posters on display. Though some of the better known ones are represented (INTOLERANCE, Buster Keaton, PANDORA'S BOX etc) a huge chunk of classics are completely ignored. Fritz Lang? Who he?!?.... the organisers must have thought.
But that's not a bad thing as we get to see a lot of stuff that is otherwise generally ignored.
90% of the posters advertise long lost and obscure films like EDITH - DIE TOCHTER SEINES CHEFS (Edith - His Boss's daughter) or WIE SIE SICH WIEDERFANDEN (How they found each other again). The posters are often beautiful pieces of commercial art. It is obvious that at the time some cinemas had their own artists. The "Marmorhaus" e.g. employed the services of Josef Fenneker who often painted one poster a week for different productions that all feature the large size lettering not just advertising the individual film but also that particular cinema. Mass produced they sure weren't.
The most fascinating image for me was that of an oversized ape carrying off a nude Caucasian woman. Nope, not KING KONG but DARWIN - IM FIEBER UNTER AFRIKAS TROPENSONNE from 1919.
Bet you haven't seen that one on Netflix.
Books Read: #8
Running Tally: 3
"highlighting film as a 'product'"
Terrible, isn't it. :) If you live where I live, film is in a way, on a day-to-day basis, product since it's our main industry.
"not KING KONG but DARWIN - IM FIEBER UNTER AFRIKAS TROPENSONNE"
Big LOL at that!
So do I.
There's a short synopsis about it in the book. Apparently during a feverish sleep caused by the arrow of a native in wildest Africa a Missionary dreams about the evolutionary history of mankind.
Don't ask... LOL
Playgirls von damals
Continuing my cheating with picture books thread....
Also read "Playgirls von damals": 77 nudie postcards from around the times of WW1 with a 10 page afterword by a guy who waxes lyrical about those lasses and spouts Latin quotes like "quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi".
The girls all pose very artistically in classical poses, with guitars and lyras, as fairies and in front of mirrors, in the forest and the boudoirs.
The guy I got this from obviously had this from someone who was serious about the pin-up postcards as he still left a 1960s or 70s postcard in the book as a reading mark. Really love those objets trouvés in books.
The last two books (which also happen to cover a similar time period) really beg the question: Why on Earth did I have them on the To Read pile for so long when they are such short "reads"? I guess deep inside of me I must have guessed that one of these days there'd be a LibraryThing emergency where they are needed.
Books Read: #9
Running Tally: 4
#52 Great review! I'd love to page through that book. The posters must have been fascinating - & I'd watch "Darwin."
LOL, so you were preparing for a LibraryThing emergency years ago, and you're prepared for the great book famine too I'm sure.
#58 "and you're prepared for the great book famine too I'm sure."
You bet I am. LOL
Kenneth Robeson: Brand of the Werewolf
My first DOC SAVAGE novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In contrast to another book I have also started but not yet finished - The Bourne Supremacy - this is what a serial action story should be like: fast paced, well written and short.
I had this lying around for quite some time but hadn't dared approach it yet as some of the 1930s pulps haven't necessary aged all that well and I was in no mood to be disappointed. (Yes, I am talking to you, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.) But Doc Savage still manages to grip my attention 70-80 years after his initial publication.
Love the cover art! Needless to say in the whole book there are indeed BRANDS of Werewolves but not *actual* werewolves.
It still didn't spoil my enjoyment.
Now off to work on my daily Doc Savage Method Of Self-development.
Books Read: #10
Running Tally: 5
glad to see Doc savage still stands up - loved those books as a teenager
Just because I can't make the time to read books these days doesn't mean I can't buy any. Dave Worall & Lee Pfeiffer's Cinema Sex Sirens arrived at my door step the other day courtesy of The Book Depository. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that someone had ripped out a page of this not-cheap coffee table book before mailing it out to me.
Not impressed at all. And more than just a little bit annoyed.
Books Bought: #7
Running Tally: 4
I certainly hope you're returning it and getting a refund! I can't believe someone would DO that!
Yes! Return that - but having been a bookseller, I can see how that happened. I wouldn't accept that even from a used book seller though. It's the seller's tough luck, not yours.
The good news is that I sent The Book Depository a message and they replied quickly enough. No need to even return the book. They either offered new book or refund. So I went for a new book. Fingers crossed it'll arrive in tip top condition this time.
"doesn't mean I can't buy any"
If we only bought what we had time to read, the book industry would go down in flames! :)
Which sex siren's picture did they rip out??
I initially thought it must have been a Sharon Tate fan but it looks like the Sharon Tate page ripped out contained text (yawn) but the back page seems to have included a full page pic of Mamie Van Doren. So I guess that is what they were after.
Larry Millett: Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery
Part 3 in the series of "Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota" pastiches. And based on this one alone I am inclined to eventually check out the others as well.
The author is a journalist/freelance author/historian from Minnesota and as such the historical details ring true. All too often we read Holmes pastiches where something is amiss as the author really isn't all that familiar with the localities or traditions at the time. In this novel, however, Millett doesn't waste much time in Baker Street but sends Holmes and Watson straight off to Minnesota to solve the mystery of a murder connected with the discovery of a rune stone that just may prove for definite that the Vikings arrived in America long before Columbus.
Part of the fascinating historical background is the fact that this is set among communities of Swedish/Norwegian settlers.... not an area of American history I was too aware of before.
There are certain modernisms in this book like Holmes partaking in a drinking game but those do eventually play a proper part in the investigation and ultimately don't appear out of place.
Books Read: #11
Running Tally: +5
Dave Worrall/Lee Pfeiffer: Cinema Sex Sirens
Hmmm, maybe it's the fact that the book was missing a page that I managed to read it so quickly. :-)
The following review comes courtesy of my Hammer and Beyond blog . If you read it there you'll also get some pics to get a better feel for the quality of its pages.
Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer, the authors of Cinema Sex Sirens, are the brains behind CINEMA RETRO. Dedicated to the films of the 1960s and 70s this is the only professional magazine these days I still subscribe to. And so should you if you haven't: The magazine consistently publishes very well researched, in-depth and beautifully illustrated articles often with the involvement of the men and women behind those flicks. Their look into The Men from U.N.C.L.E. movies e.g. lasted so many issues that a compilation of these articles would easily make up a proper book in its own rights.
In actual fact that publication is so good you may not just want to purchase their magazines once but even twice just so you have a spare copy to auction off once the mags are all sold out. Their Where Eagles Dare Special Edition from just about three or so years ago now easily commands prices in the $100 range.
Just goes to prove that Worrall and Pfeiffer clearly know their stuff.
So when they promise a coffee table book dedicated to the 1960s/70s sex sirens you bet that I'm all over it.
Those two decades with their more free spirited approach to sexuality and nudity rolled out new kinds of athletic female sex symbols that were all stunning, luscious and wonderfully uninhibited with not a Size 0 anywhere in sight. These beauties were often the focal point in horror, spy and (s)exploitation films (and their accompanying posters). Not a lot of modern female stars are still oozing this kind of glamorous jet setting mystique. As the promotional campaign for this book emphasised: They sure don't make'em like they used to.
The concept is very similar to Marcus Hearn's Hammer Glamour from a while back. All actresses get anything between 2-6 pages. A short biographical overview of generally one, sometimes two pages will not, ahem, reveal anything majorly new if you are already familiar with the ladies in question though serves as a good spring board to the primary raison d'etre behind the tome: the photos.
The book is richly illustrated with good quality reproductions of promotional photos and cult film posters. This being the Internet age it's hard to really describe a lot of those pics as “rare” but as usual it's nice to have them all available in one single publication.
The book is divided into three main sections dealing with Hollywood Sex Symbols from Raquel Welch to Natalie Wood (and also including Russ Meyer gals and Blaxploitation favourites), the Continentals (e.g. Ursula Andress, Senta Berger, Sylva Koscina and a number of giallo references) and Brit Glamour. The last section contains chapters on some of the more prominent Hammer Glamour ladies (such as Ingrid Pitt, Caroline Munro, Madeline Smith).
One potent reminder about the quality of the images in this publication is when I discovered to my initial dismay that one of the pages had been ripped out prior to shipment by either a Sharon Tate or Mamie Van Doren Fan working for The Book Depository. The issue was quickly resolved and I was promised a pristine new copy so my inital annoyance quickly made way to an ironic acknowledgement that even in the year 2012 these ladies still literally have pin-up appeal.
All those list-style books by their nature have omissions and for me it is unfathomable that Jacqueline Bisset doesn't even appear to warrant a single name check in one of the overview chapters. Still even with that omission this book is just as glamorous and gorgeous as the ladies it portrays though maybe not quite as in-depth and essential as the magazine it spawned from.
A Foreword is provided by Roger Moore.
Books Read: #12
Running Tally: +6
LOL - Roger Moore is certainly the right actor to provide a forward for the 60s & 70s. Remember the Saint? Plenty of the sirens were on that show at some point.
Sharon Tate was definitely beautiful, but Mamie Van Doren had the right amount of vava-voom to justify tearing books. :)
Totally. I guess when I finally get the new copy I'll need to share a scan of the page. The picture description on the opposite page that I have reads: "Smoking and sex. It would never be allowed today! Mamie Van Doren in typical Fifties cheesecake pose for GIRLS TOWN."
Incidentally thanks to the book I learned that she still sells quite risque current (!) pictures on her website. I had a quick glance. Felt a bit dirty but not bad.... for her age. LOL
Mind you: Those snaps screamed "Photoshop"!
71) Yes, I absolutely love Roger Moore and The Saint. He's also my favourite Bond. There I said it.
In his foreword he apologises to all the girls who had to kiss him on camera in his heyday as he was still smoking. Cigars.
I only know of her because she has a line of wines and a friend of mine hosted a wine-launch for her a while back. He said she looked really good, but was definitely surgery-enhanced. :)
Oh really? I had no idea about the wines. I think there are a bunch of celebs who've recently become oenophiles.
Robert Ludlum: The Bourne Supremacy
Mark this down as yet another example where the film is far better than the book.
This took me an entire two months to read, partially because I just don't have the time right now but mainly because it dragged so much. A classic example of a 200 page story extended to 700 long winded pages. A page turner it sure wasn't and in between reading this one I finished other better books much faster.
I really love the Jason Bourne concept and prior to reading my first Bourne book at the end of last year had enjoyed the films, the 80s TV series with Richard Chamberlain and the Belgian comic rip off XIII. The first book was OK but this one was just a convoluted mess that thought it was oh so clever. The twists soon became monotonous and were ultimately arbitrary. If I had a drink everytime I was reminded that this was David Webb who is also Jason Bourne who is also Delta I'd soon be a raving alcoholic.
The dialogues were often repetitive and it often felt as if Ludlum was paid by the word. The start was actually quite decent and a good follow up to the first book but the moment Bourne (and kidnapped wife Marie) hit Asia any interest in the characters wane. I lost track of the amount of times that an insurmountable problem in crossing a border or entering a place suddenly became a walk in the park by just throwing suitcases full of money at it. The action pieces with Bourne were bog standard and the episodes with Marie were the only scenes that could generate any remote interest for me as she was far more in classic Bourne territory and had to adapt with limited means to lurking dangers but even then that soon became dull and her escape out of the clutches of her omnipotent kidnappers was ridiculously simple.
Based on this book I doubt I'll ever continue with the series.
Books Read: #13
Running Tally: +7
Marcel Allain/Pierre Souvestre: Fantomas
As a teenager I always loved the Fantomas movies with Jean Marais and Louis de Funes. The Helmut Berger TV version scared the hell out of me when it was on in the early 80s and at the time I was totally fascinated by the mysterious master villain. Yet, for the last 20+ years I didn't indulge anymore. Time to pay this pulp fiction villain a new visit. This year I want to read some of the original novels and make my way through as many cinematic interpretations as I can find starting with the silent movies by Feuillade that were shot only two years after the first novel was released.
The two journalists Allain and Souvestre got a lucrative publishing deal that forced them to release one Fantomas novel per month. Few of those were translated into English though a good chunk of those translations are now out of copyright and widely available on Project Gutenberg where I also caught this edition.
Some of the classic pulps haven't aged well but FANTOMAS still manages to deliver. The action is fast and furious and though most is relatively tame for today some of the scenes are quite grisly and with elements of Grand Guignol. The narrative is very much episodic, some of the scenes are quite captivating, others may drag a bit and at times it's clear that the authors need to rush through the writing.
Still that's the kind of style that makes classic pulp fiction so fascinating. None of that pouring over the right word for weeks on end. Just go with the flow and be done.
What's fascinating is not so much that Fantomas is a master of disguise but that pretty much everyone here is. There are at least four characters that show up in various surprising outfits. No wonder that even Juve, the inspector, at one stage becomes a suspect in the eyes of another character who was previously seen as an equally suspect cross dresser!
Fantomas' motivation is never really revealed. All his crimes individually are well motivated but as a whole lack a common motive. He is the incarnation of modern faceless Evil. No wonder the surrealists were so fascinated with him.
The book shows up in the list of 1001 Books and I can also add it to my little literary world trip.
All in all good fun and I am looking forward to more of the same over the next couple of months.
Books Read: #14
Running Tally: +8
Sounds like a fun read and I have never seen the films either.. lots to check out then!
Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies
I'm a great comic book fan.
For the longest time, though, I saw no point in tracking my comic book reads here simply because I see this as a book site and I read comics differently. The experience of viewing those for me is unique but somewhere between a book (text only... for the most part) and a film (mainly visual). But as I have a bunch of trade paperbacks lined up I decided to at least give those a mention.
I am not going to list every single 20+ page comic that I read and I am not going to count any of the trades against my target so this is more of an extra. Or a sign that I am still alive even when I don't tick off books.
Oh, and please take note: These are comic books or trade paperbacks. Not graphic novels. (A poncy term for readers who won't admit they like comics.)
Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies is the first part of the Victorian Undead series. And it is everything that makes comic books so special. Up until recently there is no way that a film could have had the visual scope to depict scores of Victorian zombies marching towards Buckingham Castle. Now of course it is possible through CGI but it would look shit.
A talented comic book artist, however, can let his imagination run riot. After all, depicting an epic scene costs just as much or as little as drawing a quiet conversation round a table.
Sherlock Holmes doesn't do much deducting here but, hey, he kicks zombie arse and fights an Undead Moriarty. Lots of steam punk imagery and subtle references to other books and films. Parts of the story play in a vast underground street network and Holmes warns Watson to "Mind the gap"... a recurring theme from the 1970s horror movie DEATH LINE (set in the London underground). He also talks about "the shape of things to come" and the Reichenbach imagery is clearly inspired by Sidney Paget's original Holmes illustrations.
Overall a real fun read. Can't wait to approach the second book that faces off Holmes against Dracula.
Fantomas sounds fun. When I finally get an e-reader, I'll have to cruise on over to Gutenberg and look for it.
And another comic book trade paperback. This one collects the first fifty issues of WITCHBLADE. I'll soon purchase the second collection and this summer will see the release of #3 bringing us forward to "present day" issue 150.
WITCHBLADE is one of the few current comic book series I can still stomach. I have long given up on some of my favourites (like DAREDEVIL, CAPTAIN AMERICA and even SPIDER-MAN) after one reboot too many and found little to replace old-time favourites with new ones. WITCHBLADE is, however, one of the few notable exceptions. So needless to say my crap local comic book store has long stopped stocking it.
Even when they had stocked this and some of the other series I was interested in they sold them at a ridiculous exchange rate where you ended up paying €4.50 for a $2.99 comic book. And given that the majority of newer comic books can be "read" in 5 minutes (if you're slow), subscribing to monthly issues was either not possible or too flipping expensive for the reading time.
So now I am big convert to trade paperbacks. I used to be quite a snob about only ever considering the original monthly issues as the "proper" ones but now love the fact that years of material is easily packed into a more affordable format that can also be more readily purchased in said crap comic book store or online.
Long story short.
Totally over the moon that this compendium has been re-released as the original had sold out quickly and already was offered for crazy money on Ebay and elsewhere.
It's a fabulous series about a female New York cop who is the new bearer of the mystical Witchblade, needs to learn to control its power and face the villains who have also lusted after it for centuries. The concept is a bit like Buffy but with a more, ahem, mature main character. Though the cheesecake aspect of the graphics can't be ignored the epic story lines do have a host of very involving characters and plots that have helped Top Cow, the publisher, to very convincingly develop a special universe that is unlike those of its bigger main competitors.
Oh, and did I mention we are talking about 1300 pages (!) of Witchblade fun here.
It really is amazing what can be freely found on Gutenberg. Of course, the books can also be read on a computer/laptop but a proper E-Book reader is of course much more reader friendly.
Cruising through and stopping to agree that is a lot of great free reading material that can be found on the Gutenberg site!
Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading THE PAPERBACK FANATIC #23, a fabulous subscription-only pulp fiction fanzine that always has me hitting the second hand book stores in the hope of finding some of the books reviewed in there. Invariably I never locate what I am looking for but instead find other stuff.
Today's purchases were:
Peter Saxon: Dark Ways to Death
Peter Saxon is one of those authors I have heard more about rather than actually read. To be more precise, his is the house name/pseudonym for a number of different pulp fiction writers. DARK WAYS TO DEATH apparently is the second in his "Guardians" series and this edition is part of the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult. Wheatley's first introductory sentence cracked me up: "I have rarely read a novel the first chapter of which was more colourless, impersonal and lacking in inducement to continue." With friends like these, eh..... But apparently the book then gets better. I sure am looking forward to it as the "Guardians" always were a series I wanted to explore.
Max Brand: The Phantom Spy
Looking at the cover I am told that "Over 50,000,000 Max Brand novels sold". Yet the name doesn't ring a bell. Inside it lists 30+ other books by the author, one of them Destry Rides Again. Wasn't that a Western? So this may be a case of a once popular Western author penning a spy novel. I am speculating. Maybe one of these days I will actually give this one a try.
Mickey Spillane: Vengeance is Mine, The Deep
Ah, Mickey Spillane! The author who politically represents absolutely everything I loathe. Yet he is one of my absolute favourite hardboiled crime writers. For a while most second hand book stores had his novels, now all they have is Stieg Larsson. And anytime I find his books they are usually the ones I already read.... though I buy them again and again anyway if they are different editions with different covers. VENGEANCE IS MINE is one of those that I already read but bought anyway. Mind you, I have forgotten what this was about and previously only read a German translation which was very likely cut so I'll probably give it a re-read. THE DEEP on the other hand is one that I am not familiar with at all.
Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men
Edgar Wallace is another one of those authors that I grab whenever I see their books. THE FOUR JUST MEN I already know so mark that down as yet another book I only purchased for the alternative cover. And as I won't re-read it and write about it here, I might as well link that particular scan to this latest book update.
Books Bought: #8, 9, 10, 11
Running Tally: 3
I just recently read my first Max Brand novel too, kind of a YA western (but taking place in Alaska). I've read a little about him on the web, seems he dabbled in many genres.
You know I am totally fascinated by writers who at one stage not too long ago had gigantic success yet nowadays are practically unheard of. Tastes sure change quickly and the reading public is quite fickle. Makes you wonder the nature of what we term "success".
I had previously read this before. In actual fact I think we read this in French class at school. If we did I am stunned how much French I once knew. Or maybe didn't.... as I couldn't remember much other than that it was similar to the De Sade's Justine in that it's a picaresque journey of a naive young man around Europe and to America and El Dorado who at every turn gets screwed around yet still tries to prove to himself that we're living in the "best of worlds".
It's remarkably short. In actual fact Melvyn Bragg's IN OUR TIME episode which inspired me to read this book again mentioned that it was only 15.000 words. It feels longer than that but as I read a good bunch of seriously overlong blockbuster novels this year I am elated to see that there are indeed short books that say more things substantial to sustain the fickleness of time and that are still of merit in 2012.
Oh, and it was yet another eBook from the Gutenberg Archive.
Books Read: #15
Running Tally: +4
I read Candide for the first time last year and got a lot of laughs from it. I hadn't expected it to be so funny. :)
Oh, it is absolutely hilarious at times. Even morbidly so. Like the episode where an old lady reveals that during the war times part of her leg got eaten but that was OK as it beats getting cannibalised completely.
I am putting Victorian Undead on the wishlist now! Sounds like such a fun read!
I must admit, I am one of the "graphic novel" type people, but I do make a distinction - to me, graphic novels have a novel-type story arc where the characters change in some way (e.g. works by people like Will Eisner, Alan Moore, and Jaime Hernandez), and comics are the serial ones where the characters remain practically the same (e.g. works by people like René Goscinny, Hergé, and Peyo). Of course, there is a lot of overlapping are sometimes abitrary. I don't insists that others make a distinction, though, and I am a fan of both formats.
Years ago I was the same. I felt the graphic novel description fit neatly into the field when it came to describing a more epic approach. Maus is another good example for it. What started annoying me was the trend where just about any compilation of regular monthly comics ended up being a "graphic novel" and the term ended up being a hoity toity term for comic book snobs. ;-)
Truth be told: I do still use the term myself on occasions... but don't tell anyone. LOL
It's still a gazillion times than "sequential art".
Film Posters of the 50s
I recently came back from a week long trip to Barcelona where I discovered this book for just EUR 3.00. I had only quickly browsed through it in the shop I found this in and was somehow convinced that despite the title this was a Continental European edition as a lot of the images featured were from Spanish, Italian or even Polish versions of the classic film posters. It was only upon my return that I noticed that this was actually part of a US series of books that also contain entries for films of the 60s and 70s as well as Hitchcock Poster Art.
The fact that those foreign language posters versions were included really makes this worth a browse. And for that price one really can't go wrong.
Some of the highlights for me include gloriously un-PC tag lines such as "I don't care what you do to me, Mike - Just do it fast" (KISS ME DEADLY) or "They gave her a bad name... and she lived up to it".
I also discovered an English language Antoni Gaudi book at the same store for also just EUR 3.00. I can't find that edition on LT yet but will mentally already add it to my tally. Haven't read it yet though.
Books Read: #16
Books Bought: #12, 13
Running Tally: +3
Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula
Nice coincidence that I have read this trade paperback on the day of the Queen's jubilee given that Dracula threatens Queen Victoria and her reign here while planning to establish a new vampire Empire (hey, that rhymes).
As well as Holmes' battle against Dracula this edition also features a one-shot comic in which he faces Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.
It's a continuation of Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies but can be read on its own.
Though maybe not quite as epic in scope as the first book it is a fun read with interesting variations on the familiar saga. Some of the group dynamics around Professor (sic) Van Helsing and his group have changed and the original novel's premise is shown as a precursor to a wider scheme of overthrowing the British monarchy.
Again we have a number of nice subtle quotes from Holmesian and other sources such as "Holmes, the meddler. Holmes, the busybody! Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!", "You may say that, Mr Morris, but I couldn't possibly comment." or "This is a new world of Gods and Monsters."
I think this book is the end of the VICTORIAN UNDEAD though I would have loved to see some more of it.
Mickey Spillane: The Deep
Yes, I compulsively read everything by Spillane that I can get my hands on.... even though he pretty much represents everything I loathe in a person's attitude towards life, the universe and everything. Me, I am a bleeding heart liberal and even was a conscientious objector in Germany. Spillane? Not so much.
He does, however, embrace the kind of fast paced, hard boiled, pulp fiction writing ethos that I adore.
Saying that, his books do seem to fall into three categories: The Mike Hammers. The Tiger Manns (effectively if Mike Hammer was not a private eye but a spy.) And the others. Those others are usually revenge stories where a stranger comes into town to wreck havoc among a group of influential people. And usually those stories aren't all that great.
Unfortunately, The Deep belongs to the latter category. "The Deep" is the main character's nickname, a former hoodlum who returns back to New York after a 25 year break to take over the reign of a Mafia Empire left to him by a murdered buddy, a notorious Kingpin of Crime. There is somewhat of a twist at the end that is not necessarily important for the story (and that I saw coming a mile against the wind). The book is quite talky. Usually Spillane characters revel in violence both inflicted against and by them. This book, however, is relatively tame. Yes, there are killings and beatings but this must be the least blood thirsty of all his anti-heroes as he seems to only kill one single person.
An OK book but definitely nowhere near Spillane's best.
Books Read: #17
Running Tally: +4
The first for me is also the best: I, the Jury. It's the prototype of all that was to come and quintessential Hammer. In actual fact any time someone asks me anything along the lines of "How could you?" I compulsively have to answer: "It was easy". ;-)
It's been a while since I read it but I remember really loving The Twisted Thing at the time as it featured a very twisted villain indeed. And of course The Girl Hunters that starts off with Hammer living as a drunk in a New York gutter after his secretary Velda has gone missing a few years previously.
Hammer is a really weird psychotic character who seems to masochistically enjoy any torture thrown at him. Of course, all the gals he sleeps with will also have to die at the end. Just as well that Velda remains untouched and therefore the only one he seems to truly love. Apart from his gun of course.
I've read I, the Jury but not the others. Thanks, I'll keep and eye out.
And thanks for being the person to write Message #100 in this tread. :-)
"It's still a gazillion times than 'sequential art'."
True that. :)
Jakob Arjouni: Der heilige Eddy
A German crime novel.
Years ago and in a former life I really got a kick out of reading Arjouni's first three crime novels, the Kayankaya Krimis: German hardboiled thrillers with a hard living, hard drinking Turkish private eye based in Frankfurt. One of the books also was filmed in the early 90s.
At the time, way before the Internet, Arjouni for a while was somewhat of a mysterious figure and generally considered to be a Turkish writer based in Germany until it was eventually discovered that Arjouni was indeed a nom-de-plume and that he was instead - what else? - a well-educated, middle-class German student.
DER HEILIGE EDDY is one of his most recent books and not one of the Kayankaya novels but a stand-alone novel about a musician and part-time con man who accidentally kills Berlin's most hated property developer (Horst the Bratwurst King) and tries covering that act until he falls in love with the man's estranged daughter. It's a very entertaining read and though short on actual "action" full of satirical views of society.
At one stage the unknown killer, much to our hero's dismay, is celebrated as a politically motivated modern day Robin Hood.
After reading this I guess I need to catch up with some of the other Arjouni oeuvres that I have missed over the years.
Books Read: #18
Running Tally: +5
Looks like the first one in the Kayankaya-series is called Happy Birthday, Turk!. :) Really? Putting it on the wishlist, though, as I do enjoy the noir.
Thomas Cathcart, Daniel Klein: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .
Or as the subtitle explains: Understanding philosophy through jokes.
Every year I come across a couple of well treasured Aha finds that I really get excited about, new authors that I previously had heard nothing about or simply never read before or non-fictional works that throw an interesting light on a concept.
PLATO AND A PLATYPUS WALK INTO A BAR is the first of these kinds of finds for me this year.
The cover may scream "The New York Times Bestseller" but I hadn't even heard a single thing about it when it caught my eye on my flight back from Germany last week while passing through Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. And during the airport stay and the flight back to Ireland I managed to devour this in one go.
Truth be told some of the jokes aren't all that new but that's not the point. Instead they serve to illustrate basic Philosophical ideas such as Metaphysics, Logic, Epistemology, Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Language, Social and Political Philosophy, Relativity and Metaphilosophy.
One of my minor subjects in University was Philosophy, so most of the ideas weren't terribly new but given that (bar one or two exceptions) I haven't exactly kept up reading the philosophical classics it was great to get a little guided tour through its major ideas again. Really surprised how many of those I still recalled vividly. But then again I do like to bore folks with my Existentialist outlook on life or sometimes question their perception. I am awfully precious that way.
'Tis true: You haven't lived until you think about death all the time. But is also all depends on what your definition of "is" is.
Books Read: #19
Books Bought: #14
Running Tally: +5
Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner: Superfreakonomics
In my previous review I mentioned that every year I come across a small number of true book discoveries that get me all excited about new (at least for me) authors, subjects or ways of viewing at the world.
The original Freakonomics was just one of those discoveries and I had the follow-up lying around for quite some time and was again reminded of it when some of its concepts were mentioned in a little throw-away line in Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar.
SUPERFREAKONOMICS is still a good read but far no longer the kind of revelation that its predecessor was for me. For starters some of the discoveries are of the negative kind (as in: it does NOT really matter what kind of doctor you pick in an emergency room.... which was never anything I ever really contemplated before and rightly so from the looks of it). The authors also seem to start believing their own hyperbole and totally exaggerate some of their headings: "Why suicide bombers should buy life insurance" should better have read "Why terrorists should buy life insurance". Remember: Not every terrorist is automatically a suicide bomber! Of course, then the heading would have lost its punch line.
Worst of all, however, where the authors previously primarily focused on current or historical topics and threw their unique way of analyses on previously unobserved developments, in the later volume they deal for a large part with unproven What Ifs (as opposed to What Is? or What Weres?) and suggest various ways to combat, let's say: Climate Change or Hurricanes. A good number of those suggestions may never see practical usage and even if they do it may take years or decades to see if they worked so, though thought provoking, those chapters lack the punch of the findings and discoveries in the first book.
Still, a good read but just not as good as the first book.
Books Read: #20
Running Tally: +6
Yep, if I remember correctly, that's the first one. Are you saying those were translated into English? Wow, I had no idea.
English translation and eBook within a few seconds of hearing about a new author!!!! Gotta love cyberspace.....
I have seen Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar during my usual book hunting trips and now after reading your review I am intrigued enough to pick it up!
Excellent. Please let me know what you think about the books if you do decide to read them.
James Joyce: Chamber Music
I have been reading eBooks of sorts on different devices here and there for probably more than a decade, yet didn't own a Kindle.
Feeling quite moody lately and to cheer me up my girlfriend gave me a generous pre-birthday present of a Kindle last night.
And it's been a delight! Stayed up way too late to check out all the functions, see what is available for free and read all over the place.
One of my finds was Joyce's CHAMBER MUSIC, a collection of (main: love) poetry from a time when he wasn't too cryptic yet. Nice break from reading Finnegans Wake which I am bound to finish within a decade.
Books Read: #21
Running Tally: +7
I got a Nook for Xmas and just wanted to give you a heads-up: it's VERY easy to buy lots and lots and lots of books....! Good luck on Finnegans Wake too - it's on my bucket-list, but so far I am too intimidated by it to start. :)
Speaking of "buying" e-Books: I don't count it against my annual targets if it was free. After all the idea is to free up real shelf space and live more economically while still having fun. And a free virtual book is neither an issue for space nor wallet.
As for Finnegans Wake.... I'm reading it very slowly with Tindall's Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake. If it wasn't for that there's no way I'd have any idea what on Earth was happening. Even now I am drawing blanks at least 95% of the time but still persevere. It's not too much about anything resembling a plot anyway. Though what it is about instead I haven't figured out yet.
Also slowly re-reading Ulysses while listening to Frank Delaney's weekly podcast. Second time round with Delaney's help and in comparison to FINNEGANS WAKE it is an absolute walk in the park. LOL
On one of my credit cards I get miles that I can use for Nook giftcards, so, thus far, I've only bought two books with my own cash, but I must say that it's tempting to just click away and have any book in my hands immediately. :)
For Finnegan's, I'm planning on getting either A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake or Annotations to Finnegans Wake to help me along. I did read Ulysses at Uni, so I had plenty of clever people around me to discuss and we also used Ulysses Annotated, which was immensely helpful. I am looking forward to Finnegan's, but, like I said, the intimidation factor is pretty high. :)
For Ulysses I eventually figured out how best to immerse myself in it and what sources to use in conjunction when I was near the end. I am sure it will be the same with Finnegans Wake.... but yes, it is actually far more intimidating than ULYSSES. I am glad we had Joyce as an author but I am equally glad not everyone writes like him.
Oooooh.... a kindle! Very nice present and I see a lot of ebooks in your future reading!
As luck would have it I woke up this morning and found a recommendation for a free Kindle book about the Batman TV show in my Inbox. By the time I had breakfast I already had it downloaded and ready to browse. ;-)
Pierre Souvestre, Marcel Allain: The exploits of Juve
It does what it says on the tin.... or at least the subtitle: "being the second of the series of the "Fantômas" detective tales "
So, hey, it's the second in the series of Fantomas tales.
But whereas the first book introduced us to a faceless Uber-villain who robbed and murdered without an apparent motive and just to cause chaos, for the first half of this book we have some locked room mysteries and French style pulp stories with nary a mention of Monsieur F.
Only the second half finally brings him back into the limelight and this time apparently he's a bit of a lovesick puppy who does it all for the lady in his life.
Hmmm, not sure what to make of that approach.
An OK read but not on a level with the first Fantomas. Still, I'll continue with the series. Or at least with the next three or so books that have also been translated. After the first handful of novels getting the mysteries in a language I can understand properly may prove difficult. Maybe I need to brush up on my school French again.
Books Read: #22
Running Tally: +8
Hmmm, not sure what to make of that approach.
That doesn't bode well for me picking up something new like Allain's Fantomas series. Oh well, more time for other books!
On the other hand the third book is apparently the one that had all the French surrealists hooked. :-)
Aye - Becoming a "love sick puppy" might turn a few translators away. Here's hoping the next book is better.
Peter Saxon: Dark Ways to Death
You gotta love a book where its editor, none other than Dennis Wheatley, writes in his introduction: "I have rarely read a novel the first chapter of which was more colourless, impersonal and lacking in inducement to continue."
With friends like these....
Of course he then goes on to rave about the rest of the book. By disclosing a large bunch of the synopsis.
I agree with him about the book overall but totally don't understand why he disliked the first chapter so much as it is very much in vein with the rest of the novel.
It's easy to see what fascinated Wheatley with DARK WAYS TO DEATH, the second in the series of "The Guardians". Lots of in-depth references to Black Magic coupled with some casual racism typical for its time. In the author's defence those references were often written with enough ironic sarcasm to make it obvious that he is generally above that kind of stuff.
Speaking of the author: Peter Saxon is a house name by Berkley Medallion for a number of pulp fiction authors. Retrospectively it is nearly impossible to find out who were all behind that name. And interestingly enough some of the minor characters in DARK WAYS (such as some of the decadent modern-day aristocrats) apparently also feature in other pulp series of the time.
Ah, the beauty of 1960s/70s pulp fiction. Everything and everyone is sort of interlinked and though just about 40 years after their publication that Gordian Knot can hardly be entwined. And you think Ulysses proves challenging.
If this book is typical for the entire series of only six books in total then "The Guardians" books are an intriguing mix of classic horror and Black Magic themes being battled against the back drop of Swinging London. Which is alright with me. If it's got psychedelic groove, it's got my name written on it.
The Guardians itself are a mixed group of fighters against modern day Satanism who reside in a posh house in Knightsbridge full of unexpectedly weird angles. In this book they combat a Voodoo priest who has kidnapped (or should that be: kittynapped) their resident Egyptian cat to sacrifice her in a blood ritual.
The writing is fast and furious and full of gems like:
"In mortal anguish the victim cried aloud: 'God save me! God save me!'
But it was God's day off."
And need I say: That was from the first chapter!
Books Read: #23
Running Tally: +9
Kim Newman has always been very high up on the list of people I want to read.... but so far I haven't read a single of his novels. Though am familiar with his film reviews and follow him on Facebook. (Does that count? LOL)
Ha! The book doesn't seem like it'll be my thing, but I do want to read the rest of that introduction! :)
Absolutely do: He is mingling quite well with his FB buddies and is regularly involved in discussions with his fans. It's not a one-way conversation like with other celebs.
Various authors: Gotham City 14 Miles
My first true Kindle find. Yes, I knew previously that the classics were available for free and that I could purchase books there (and sometimes cheaply) but this was recommended to me by a Twitter buddy who pointed out that that particular day this book was available on the Kindle FOR FREE!
And even better: It actually was a topic that I am seriously interested in.
This book collects 14 essays about the 1960s Batman show. There do seem to be a number of people who feel like berating this classic TV production (spoil sports!) but I always carried a special spot in my heart for Adam West's incarnation.
In my opinion there is room for more than just one kind of Batman: the dark as well as the camp. And truth be told, the dark representations of the last two or three decades have reached proportions where they actually are starting to bore me to pieces.
As a comic book figure I probably prefer the Batman of the 70s from all other decades, as he then managed to be serious without being overly depressing.
In actual fact one of the finds from this book was that the dark Batman that a lot of fans proclaim as being the original characteristic of this super hero really only became truly angsty AFTER the TV show had aired. Bruce Wayne's parents and their murders was of course mentioned in one of the earliest comics but it was hardly ever mentioned again in the subsequent decades and only in the 70s did it become the familiar motive and obsession.
The essays cover a wide range of topics from the camp, pop cultural influences, its music, female representation, influences of the comic books, the actors etc etc.
Really glad I found it for free that day. But definitely well worth paying a few shekels for as well.
Books Read: #24
Running Tally: +10
The Savage Sword of Conan Volume 3
Strange times we live in where a single 20+ page comic book costs a ridiculous amount of money for barely five minutes of dubious reading pleasure but a 500+ page collection of classic comic books guaranteeing hours upon hours of reading fun can be had for the price of a cocktail in an elegant bar.
No wonder I have practically given up on all the current comics and nearly exclusively focus on trade paperbacks these days.
So I really like those kinds of cheapo collections and am gradually and very slowly making my way through the SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN saga. Must admit I am not much of an REH fan. As a literary figure Conan doesn't do much for me but as a Fantasy character overall I like him from the comics and other media (Frazetta).
So this collection is just what the doctor ordered and I am already looking forward to reading the next installment.
Conan isn't my cup of tea, but I must say that cover is worth the price of admission! :)
I loved the 70s Batman, it's a real shame there's no official DVD set out there with commentary etc.., I do have that fantastic film though. I agree, with an ageless superhero there can be many incarnations, I love Nolan's Batman, Frank Miller's Batman & Adam West :)
Yes, that non-availability of a box set is utterly moronic given the fame and influence of the show.
Yup, that cover is priceless. Even the cowering woman in the corner is totally ripped. & hey, I can't afford a cocktail in an elegant bar these days. ;) There are some pricey ones out there!
Catherine Ryan Howard: Backpacked
Looking at the way I discovered this book and its author is a lesson on how much the Internet has changed the way we meet people, discover new talent, become creative and maybe even make some cash along the way.
Catherine Ryan Howard and I once worked for the same hotel company, me in an office in Cork (Ireland), she in a Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Before her US visa was running out, she happened to come across me online as she was originally from Cork and had planned to return and had noticed that I was now living in the same town working for the same company.
We exchanged some information and over the years stayed in touch, yet though she is living just about one or two miles away from me we have never actually met in person.
Rather than start working for The Man again, upon her return back to Ireland she wrote and published Mousetrapped, a memoir about her year in Orlando that was often hilariously funny while also able to present the darker moods that may befall you when settling into a new country without familiar faces.
She has since published a novel, a guide to self publishing and thanks to her amazing blog Catherine, Cafeeinated has managed to actually make enough money from self publishing that she can more or less sustain a livelihood of it.
Now that is a major achievement! To say that I am in awe of her achievements is putting it lightly. Not a lot of people can say that writing pays their bills.
Backpacked is the follow-up to Mousetrapped and describes her adventures while travelling Central American after wrapping up her hotel work and prior to making it back to Ireland. It is again a very lighthearted read that has me aching to get my travelling shoes on again. It's a standalone book though it's probably better read after becoming familiar with her from the first book.
Books Read: #25
Running Tally: +11
Michael Arlen: The Gay Falcon
Should I even list this as a "book" read? This is a short 8000+ word pulp fiction story from a 1940 Strand Magazine. But, hey, Amazon sells them as Kindle Books so it's advertised as a book; I paid the royal sum of $0.99 for it; and it'll help me appear a busier reader than I really am this year so who am I to argue?
Been watching some of the old George Sanders SAINT movies lately. They're not holding up too well but I am a sucker for all things Saint and this year, after watching him from the byline for far too long, have turned into a major league George Sanders Fan.
Following his success as The Saint a rival studio hired him (as well as his brother Tom Conway) to act as a Saint Doubleganger called The Falcon. Leslie Charteris sued The Falcon folks for producing inspired copies of his more famous character but lost the case.
Michael Arlen's THE GAY FALCON is the first (and only? Not sure) story about The Falcon that quickly made it to the big screen.
The Falcon robs some diamonds from some pretty girl's boudoir, then goes on exposing an insurance fraud ring that led to murder.
I am not even going to comment on name and moniker of this pulp hero (There I did) but this is a very entertaining read if you have half an hour to spare.
Books Read: #26
Books Bought: #15
Running Tally: +11
Also just bought three more eBooks cheaply:
The Complete Arthur Conan Doyle Collection
H.P. Lovecraft The Complete Collection
The Robert E. Howard Omnibus
Need to check if they really are complete but they sure will keep me (re-)reading for quite some time.
Always been a great fan of Conan Doyle and HPL, not so much REH but I did want to explore Howard further.
Books Bought: #16, 17, 18
Running Tally: +8
been so tempted to add lots of collections to my e-reading application...
Haha, yeah, it's far too easy to just download all those e-books left right and center. I need to really hold myself back. ;-)
Incidentally (and for those in the UK or Ireland): As luck would have it I just noticed that BBC2 is showing ten Falcon movies (all about just an hour long each) next week from MON-FRI around midday.
Time to free up some space on Sky+ for those to see what they're like.
The insidious thing about buying books on a Kindle or other ereader is that you don't have piles of books taunting you and reminding you not to buy any more books.
Oh yes - lists and lists aren't quite as intimidating as threatening avalanches of books.
143/144: Totally agree.
The good news is though that I will soon offload a dozen or so cheapo classics that I can download for free and therefore create some free space on the book shelves. None of those are special editions. They're all a dime a dozen and nothing with sentimental or other value.
That is a great cover!!
The space issue is a great advantage of an ereader! I too have cleared off some sheves by replacing some paper copies with ebooks, but that means little when you just fill the empty spaces with new books. :)
Received a present of three recent German language Sherlock Holmes pastiches by Franziska Franke:
Sherlock Holmes und die Büste der Primavera
Sherlock Holmes und der Club des Höllenfeuers
Sherlock Holmes und die Katakomben von Paris
The author seems to have published one of these novels per year since 2009 with a new one due out later this year. Let's hope they're good reads.... whenever I come around to them.
And for whatever reason LT doesn't seem to properly link to them directly so I won't even try it.
I also noticed that somewhere down the line I must have mixed up my running tally but the numbers below seem to be current.
Books Received: #2, 3, 4
Running Tally: +6
Umberto Eco/Jean-Claude Carriere: This is Not the End of the Book
At first glance (and reading the book's blurb) this appears to be a conversation between Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carriere about literature in times of digital printings, the E-Book medium and its validity for the future of book selling.
As such I thought it may be ironic to simply download an e-copy but given that Eco is the author I probably have most books of on my book shelves I needed to have a physical copy.
And given those two heavy weight book collectors (though I had previously only a cursory knowledge of Carriere as a screen writer), the discussion about E-Books only makes up a tiny fraction in this very lively and highly erudite discussion guided by Jean-Philippe de Tonac.
During the course of its 336 pages a vast number of topics are mentioned, ultimately covering practically all of world (not just Western) literature and culture, book reading and collecting, human follies and their importance in gaining knowledge.
As usual with Eco I can safely say that I only ever heard (let alone read) a tiny part of the works he and Carriere are mentioning, yet that did not in the least distract from my overall enjoyment of the piece.
Every page is rich with clever, insightful and often very funny observations about their topics. It makes me feel humble to see that two such men are able to carry on such a lengthy intelligent discussion without ever losing steam.
Eco's main collection of 50.000 books seems to focus on oeuvres detailing human errors and the two make a very valid point that "our knowledge of the past comes from halfwits, fools and people with a grudge". We also learn that "it took chickens almost a century to learn not to cross the roads". Who'd have thunk?
Other ideas (just some of a whole plethora) discuss the question what kinds of books survive throughout the centuries, whether there may still be unknown masterpieces of literature around that we haven't re-discovered yet or whether a book must first of all be discussed in depth before it can be claimed a master piece. Can a writer become successful in isolation or does s/he need the stimulus of other likeminded authors around? How does the antique bibliophile market determine the value of a book and what is a true collector? What does book burning try to achieve and what does it say about our culture when some of the recent leading world politicians (like Berlusconi, Sarkozy and Bush) appear to be proud of the fact that they are not too well read?
Oh, and though this is by no means the main feature of this book, we do of course also get some ideas about e-publications and what this format means to reading in the 21st century.
A larger section will also give all of us hope as it deals with all those unread books on our shelves and that it is of course OK to keep on purchasing more without ever being able to be on top of the To-Read pile. If that's not enough of an incentive to go out and read this book, I don't know what is.
It's been ages since I last read a book of that length in one sitting, but with This is Not the End of the Book it was no problem at all. It's not really a discovery for me as such as I am already very familiar with Eco but it was still probably my favourite Read of 2012 for me so far.
Books Read: #27
Books Bought: #19
Running Tally: +6
This is not the end of the book goes on the WL. It sounds absolutely dizzying - which Eco certainly can do. Great review.
After penning the review I looked around LT a bit more: There are only a small handful of folks who have either reviewed it or mentioned it but every single one of those also seems to have enjoyed it.
So I think you'll be in good company if you do come around to it. ;-)
Ah... as you can guess, the WL is coming close to exceeding the number of books in my house. Which is scary. I'm sure I'll like it. Getting time for it among all the other books is the issue.
I still haven't gotten around to reading Eco. :( He's on Mt. TBR, though, I promise!! cammykitty is right - sounds dizzying!
I've had Bandolino on a stack in my room that I am saving for the November group read!
sounds right up my street am adding to the WL (which is currently at about half the number of books I have in my house)
And I think I gotta start a proper WL myself. You're all giving me inspiration to do so. In other words: I blame you. :-)
Mwahahaha!!! You thought you could join LT and avoid book bullets and a proper, mile long wishlist??? naive.
The following review is courtesy of my Hammer Film blog. The book is not yet archived on LT. Review incl a little video clip of the volume can be found here.
Wayne Kinsey/Gordon Thomson: Hammer Locations
If anyone ever needs a definition of what constitutes a niche market book, point them to Wayne Kinsey's and Gordon Thomson's new publication about the Hammer Locations.
This is definitely not anything for the casual Hammer or Horror Fan but for the die-hard fanatics who live and breathe Hammer and need to know every last detail about the productions.
And then go to visit their locations.
For anyone within that target niche Hammer Locations is an excellent, richly illustrated travel guide with in-depth descriptions of the areas the Hammer Horrors were filmed in and detailled maps and instructions on how to get there.
Being one of a small number of Hammer-focused authors, Wayne Kinsey hardly needs an introduction to readers of this blog. His partner-in-crime for this tome is Gordon Thomson, a runner, assistant editor and sound recordist for a wide of range of shows with vast contacts in the industry to help him identify even some of the more obscure locations.
Initially the book was meant to be just one chapter in Kinsey's previous book about Hammer Films – The Unsung Heroes but when that chapter started growing within an already massive manuscript, the publisher Tomahawk Press opted for a separate volume. Alas, the recession and declining specialised book sales ultimately prevented Tomahawk from adding it to their own portfolio, leaving Wayne no choice but to set up his own publishing house, Peveril Publishing, where this book is now exclusively available from. So don't even bother checking the likes of Amazon & Co.
It is clearly a sign of the progress made in the self publishing industry that an individual can now produce a volume that at no point ever indicates that it doesn't have the weight of a professional publisher behind it. This book is meticulously researched, fantastically bound and printed and sumptiously illustrated in both colour and black & white. This is clearly NOT a “vanity publication” but a thoroughly professional one that just happens to be produced privately as its topic is otherwise too obscure for any of the regular players in the field.
The initial chapters introduce us to the most commonly associated Hammer locations, Black Park and Bray. We get a general overview over those including a suggested walkthrough for anyone visiting those for the first time and with limited time on their hands.
Following that we are treated to in-depth discussions of all the locations for the main UK based Hammer Horror, Fantasy and Sci Fi films. Contemporary photos and screen grabs of the movies are compared side-by-side with current pictures of the locations as they look now. Some of the places have barely changed at all, others have irrevocably been altered.
The amount of information available on those locations is simply staggering. I think that it is safe to say that if the authors haven't managed to identify a place, hardly anyone after them ever will.
As thorough as the text is, space-wise it is far outweighed by the photographic material on hand which is actually a good thing if like me you aren't living anywhere near those places. Even couch travellers will be able to get great enjoyment out of comparing the sites then and now.
Though Hammer Locations primarily focuses on the UK shooting sites for the company's genre movies, we also get shorter entries about their comedies and foreign locations with a separate chapter for Irish-based Ardmore Studios and Powerscourt which I would have loved to have had along with me when I visited the area a decade or so ago.
I know that the first couple of readers have already successfully used the book for their own excursions into Hammer. And rumour has it that next year there may just be an organised guided tour event. (Yes, please.)
So what is stopping you from purchasing this?
Ah yes, one thing that may bring your planned purchase to a screeching halt is the price.
The base cover price is £25 (£5 more if you purchase an additional 2 DVDs with the photos taken for the book) but depending on where in the world you live up to £22.25 needs to be added for postage and packaging which means that either way you look at it this book won't come cheap.
The p&p, however, is what it is and anyone who has ever looked into the printing costs for such a beautiful volume will know that this doesn't come cheap. Hammer Locations regardless of its total price tag is not going to be a major money maker and Wayne will count himself lucky if he ends up breaking even.
So foresake a night on the town, save a £1 a day, drop hints with your loved ones about future birthday or Christmas gifts but treat yourself to something special if that book sounds like it may appeal to you.
And then start saving early for the next books that Peveril Publishing is aiming to release over the next year or two.
Books Read: #28
Books Bought: #20
Running Tally: +6
Modesty Blaise: Live Bait
Huge fan of Modesy Blaise.
I came to her in my teenage years through some German translations of her comic strips, then later read all the books. Now I am back again trying to fill the large gaps in my MB comicography. I even have some of Peter O'Donnell's "Madeleine Brent" books lying around but am so far too afraid they may be a bit too girly for me. :-)
Especially in the books Modesty Blaise is one of the most rounded characters in popular fiction. Though the comics don't always go as in-depth into her character development (little wonder as they used to be 3-panel daily newspaper strips), they are still a lot of fun to read.
Those Titan editions generally collect three of her adventures. In two of the ones in this collection she is phased with interesting moral conundrums: Should she allow a group of girls who were kidnapped for porn and snuff movies to take revenge on their tormentors. And should one ever pay out a ransom demand or not as - even if successful - this would only encourage copy cats and further suffering to others.
An old computer used to have some MB wallpaper. I guess I need to go in search of those images again.
I love Modesty Blaise as well - I still have all my old comics, but I've never read any of the books. I'll try to rectify that soon. :)
Everything that has a whiff of a graphic novel is attracting my attention these days as I build my 2013 reading candidates. Modesty Blaise is an unknown to me but with a name like that, what's not to like!
162: If you love the comics, Eva, you're going to looooovvvveeee the novels. Just start with the first one to get a proper introduction into her character.
163: 2013 sounds like as good a time as any to start with Ms Blaise. As long as you do start at some time. :-)
And speaking of her name: I recently came across a Burlesque performer called Immodesty Blaize. I wonder where she got the name from. LOL
Another review courtesy of my Hammer Film blog where everything is of course properly hyperlinked and formatted.
John Hamilton: X-Cert: The British Independent Horror Film: 1951-1970
We have books on Hammer. Lots of them.
We have an excellent overview over Amicus courtesy of Little Shoppe of Horrors #20 and a controversial Dark Side publication Amicus: The Studio That Dripped Blood. The original author did an Allan Smithee and removed his name but say what you like about the contents this is still beautifully illustrated.
In recent years we also got Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser to focus on Tigon Productions. (I haven't read this yet but according to all the people whose opinions I value, this has my name on it.)
So what is left in terms of a more specialised approach to Classic British Horror?
Ah yes, an overview over the independent UK Horror movies of the time.
John Hamilton, author of Beasts in the Cellar, has now taken on the task of filling that gap on the book shelf.
X-Cert - The British Independent Horror Film: 1951 – 1970 does exactly what it says on the tin.
Published by Hemlock this volume will be instantly familiar to those who have previously read Bruce Hallenbeck's recent Hammer books. It features the same size and style of artwork and is richly illustrated, mainly in black & white but also with a separate 8-page coloured spread.
Given the complexities of film financing and international co-production deals at the time Hamilton mentions in his introduction the difficulties in coming up with a definitive list of what constitutes a) a British, b) an Independent and c) a Horror film and freely admits that his list is probably subject to debate. As such I am not even going to bother arguing which films should or should not have been included and am just enjoying his chronological overview of all the films from Mother Riley Meets the Vampire to The Corpse/Crucible of Horror.
Each of his entries is rich in historical detail and intelligent critique and low on synopsis just as it should be.
As this book primarily focuses on x-certified “adults only” movies of the time we get a good overview over the changing mores, involvements with the censor and political legislation with regards to film productions during those two decades.
Hamilton also manages to place the various cinematic talents in their respective career paths:
For one we have the usual genre stalwarts, often on a break from Hammer, such as Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Anton Diffring or Michael Gough.
Even more interesting, however, are those that are on either end of their career spans: a young Sidney J Furie directing Dr Blood's Coffin or helping to supervise the making of Devil Doll; a mature Joan Crawford going Berserk! for Trog.
For some like Michael Powell producing a film like Peeping Tom would put an end to an illustrious career. For others like Bryant Halliday (Devil Doll, Curse of the Voodoo, The Projected Man) these films were practically the sole reason that they still feature somewhere in the footnotes of cinematic history.
The book is full with details about short-term production companies such as Planet, Gala or Eros Film Distributors some of which were only ever set up for one film to avail of a government deal, then were disbanded or re-formed under a different name to ensure that they would again be eligible for the very same State sponsorship.
If there is one single name that comes up time and again providing something of a narrative throughout the two decades' worth of indie film history it is that of Richard Gordon. He was single handedly responsible for the largest bulk of the movies in this book. Having established a friendship with him over the years, the author then rounds up this tome with a very personal and heartfelt remembrance of this multi-talented business- and showman who – outside of the Great Three Studios – did most to provide the British public with their share of chills and thrills.
If there is anything major that this book could be criticised for it is mainly by sins of omission. I personally would have loved to see the topic extended to the 1970s, a decade that probably proved to be the most fascinating for British Independent Horror films with the likes of Pete Walker, Norman J Warren or Mike Raven around.
A little birdy has, however, told me that a possible follow-up volume may be on the horizon at some point in the future which will no doubt make a great companion piece to this edition.
X-Cert is available both through Amazon US and UK as well as through Hemlock's own website.
Books Read: #29
Books Received: #5
Running Tally: +6
Right, so I have nearly caught up with my reviewing which seems to be even more slack than my reading this year. I have one other book that I already finished and that as it just so happens also needs to find a place on my blog first before I copy it here.
But that will have to wait for a little while as I am off to Slovenia and Croatia for the next two weeks. Will do a lot of overland travelling by train and bus and will only pack my Kindle. That should make a nice difference to all the scores of books that I usually bring and then leave unread for stuff that I purchase en route.
No idea yet what I will read while travelling. Maybe a bunch of short stories, maybe full length novels or travel books. Part of the joy of being on the road is not knowing what will happen.
We'll want a full account of your trip (and reading) when you're back. Have a great time, and stay away from those vampires!
Have fun travelling!! Excellent opportunity to really take the Kindle for a proper spin! :)
I am back for the last three weeks after a wonderful 2-week-trip that led us from Bergamo in Northern Italy to Ljubljana and Bled in Slovenia, then off to Croatia to the Plitvice National Park, Baska Voda at the Makarska Riviera of the Adriatic Coast and finally to Dubrovnik.
I don't do those long trips too often and instead usually just stay in one place when away but whenever I am on the road that way I remember how much I enjoy exploring countries this way and be mesmerised by all the different scenery and experiences from cities, towns and villages through lakes, mountains and the seaside.
The Kindle was really ideal for this kind of travelling and even though I only managed to read two books, it's more than I had time for since my return.
Now inundated with work but looks like from next week onwards I may actually have some more time to breathe... and read... and watch movies... and just do stuff again and plan my next journey.
Book updates to follow soon.
Marcel Allain, Pierre Souvestre: Messengers of Evil
First book I read during my trip and third in the series of Fantomas books. Apparently this is the one that inspired the French surrealists to look at the character more closely.
It is less soap opera than the second book and this time the authors managed to again focus more on Fantomas as a non-character (for lack of a better word), an aspect that was more emphasised in the first book.
Fantomas here is never defined and one could say never even properly shows up. The book's plot would even make sense with all references to Fantomas removed, yet with those in it adds to the menace of an omnipresent, motivation-less threat lurking in the shadows of modern 20th century cityscapes.
The book continues on from the second story yet also draws back on characters last seen in the first novel. The original title can best be translated as "The Dead Who Kill" and refers to the fact that one of the characters who apparently gets murdered by Fantomas at the start of the book, escapes from police custody as a corpse and goes on murdering other people.
Books Read: #30
Running Tally: +7
Catherine Ryan Howard: More Mousetrapped: A Little Bit More From That Year and A Bit
Been a fan of local author Catherine Ryan Howard ever since I read her wonderful travelogue Mousetrapped about living and working in a Disney resort.
More Mousetrapped is a follow up in which she expands and adds to the previous stories told.
As she herself makes it clear: This is intended only for readers who are already familiar with the previous book. If you're new to her stories you should start with the original publication.
For me, however, it was well worth the 99c and made for a great reading experience during a break from travelling and spending a few relaxing days at the Makarska Riviera.
Books Read: #31
Books Bought: #21
Running Tally: +7
Welcome back and for making the stop by visit to my thread before you head off traveling again! I tend to read less when on a traveling vacation..... there is just too much to see and do. Messengers of Evil looks interesting.
Fantomas still sounds intriguing. I love having a title non-character. You reminded me book 1 is on my WL because of you.
Glad you had a great trip!!! My cousin had a dog named after Ljubljana - Dalmatian of course.
We traveled by train and bus. Connections were generally very good though there were times when I may have preferred a rental car. Of course, hiring a car for three different countries through a rental agency is something of a Mission Impossible.... or at least a Mission Ridiculous Expensive. Overall transport really wasn't an issue and all went well.
Ljubljana was one of the big discoveries. We only stopped because it was on our route but in the end wished we'd have had more time. Beautiful city, very well kept, very young (60.000 students) and even the ugly people there seem to be models. ;-)
Excellent trip - must admit to being somewhat envious over here.... I too read much less on a traveling holiday, so two book isn't bad at all - that just means you had lots of interesting things to look at instead. :)
Harry Mount: Amo, Amas, Amat... and all that
I used to have Latin in school but haven't really practised it at all ever since but always remained fascinated by it though shocked how little I can actually read and understand from head stones of ancient monuments after all those years of learning it.
This book is a little primer about Latin, both for the Beginner and the person who already has some long forgotten memories about it.
Must admit that I skipped the actual grammar parts and only focused on the really humorous anecdotes about the history and development of Latin as a language and the fascinating insights into Ancient Roman life.
The author easily manages to bring Monty Python and tabloid newspapers into it and also incorporates a larger chapter on a summary on the meaning of popular Latin proverbs.
Definitely worth a glance.
Books Read: #32
Running Tally: +8
One of my German language students gave me two German short story collections that belonged to her daughter who now lives in Munich:
Ingeborg Bachmann: Simultan
Deutsche Prosa. Erzaehlungen seit 1945
Books Received: #6, 7
Running Tally: +6
I took two years of Latin when I was in school. I'm glad I did. It's too bad they don't teach it except maybe in Catholic schools. I found it very helpful in understanding grammar and deciphering the meaning of words with a Latin origin.
I wanted to take Latin in High School but they stopped offering it the semester before I got there. I took French instead.
I had Latin in highschool too and the phrase that always comes to mind is "semper ubi sub ubi." You won't see that on a tombstone.
Flesh and Blood (Book 2)
When the first book came out I was able to feature interviews with Neil Vokes , the artist, and Robert Tinnell, the writer, as well as a review of this comic book on my blog.
So if you're not familiar with this new horror comic series, these blog posts should give an excellent introduction into the concept and art behind FLESH AND BLOOD.
Book 2 is now out and is a great follow up to the first book. The style is very much the same but half way through there is an interesting time jump bringing us from the era of Karmilla closer to that of Dracula as depicted in Bram Stoker's novel.
There is an interesting hint as to where this may all lead to. I have my guesses and am highly excited.
Definitely a mini-series that keeps up consistently good standards.
186: Do. You won't regret it. The art in it is quite beautiful as well.
Malte S. Sembten: Dhormenghruul
Malte is an online buddy from a time before I even knew what being online meant.
Though we never met we had occasionally been in snail mail contact during the late 80s/early 90s as he was behind a number of German horror fanzines. Over the last couple of years our paths crossed again. He has since become a Graphic artist and still writes the occasional phantastic short story.
DHORMENGHRUUL is a collection of his horror stories (some with Sci Fi elements) that had been published in various forms over a 15 year period and are collected together here for the first time.
Thoroughly entertaining and I just wish he'd also focus on writing novels to help open up to a wider audience.
Fat chance of anyone here on LT owning another copy. The edition is limited to 111. Mine is numbered 99 and the book is not even showing up on any of LT's catalogues.
Books Read: #33
Books Bought: #22
Running Tally: +6
189: Nicely spotted. The title story is actually a Lovecraft homage about a very special and mysterious literary award being handed out in Arkham.
Franziska Franke: Sherlock Holmes und die Büste der Primavera
Last time I visited Germany I discovered a book store with a bunch of German Holmes pastiches in their windows. The place was closed at the time but I dropped a subtle hint to my mother about them being some nice suggestions for presents should the opportunity arise.
Since then I have already received three of the books in the window and my mother also discovered that one of the sales ladies in the store is a major Sherlockian who is delighted to have a customer who has a son who appreciates those books from afar.
I think next time I am back I'll pay her a visit myself and extensively talk shop.
In the meantime I enjoyed reading this first part in a series of stories that take place during Holmes' hiatus right after Reichenbach. As such we have no Watson as a chronicler but an Englishman in Florence who recognises Holmes who'd have rather been left incognito and approaches him to solve the mystery behind the death of his Italian father-in-law. The case expands from Florence to Rome and finally to Venice. Lots of nice insights into Italian architecture and history of the time. (The author had studied archaeology and art history.)
We also learn how Holmes first received the fake passport that would eventually allow him to roam the world as a Norwegian explorer named Sigerson.
Overall a fun read. Glad to have a mother who will readily supply me with more of those for the relevant occasions.
Books Read: #34
Running Tally: +7
FRANKENSTEIN AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E.: War of the Monsters
Over the last couple of years I have practically given up on most of my old comic book favourites and cancelled all my subscriptions even for some of the series (such as Spiderman, Daredevil or Captain America) that have followed me along since childhood and that I have been loyal to through thick and thin.
But at some point there was ONE MORE DAY too many for me and I got so sick of the constant relaunches and the poor writing that I said Goodbye to them all.
Now I mainly purchase trade paperbacks of my favourite Oldies or purchase solitary back issues from series that have never before been collected.
It is extremely rare that I fall in love with a new comic book series these days. And practically unheard of that I venture into DC territory. But FRANKENSTEIN AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. is a concept that had me hooked.
A few weeks ago I found the first regular edition in a charity shop, geeked out over it and purchased the collected Trade Paperback of issues 1-7 there and then.
Frankenstein here is the head of a group of various monsters working for S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive) battling other monsters who pose a threat to humanity. Headquarters are in a miniaturised sphere floating unseen over Earth. Very pulpy, very well narrated, with distinct characters and a visionary scope that works best in comic books. In films we'd have tons of awful CGI as opposed to magnificent drawings of gigantic monster mashes.
I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the second trade paperback early next year and hope that the rumours that the series will soon be axed will prove untrue. Though judging from my past record, me liking a new series or concept is generally the kiss of death.
And yes I know: Frankenstein really should be the name of the creator not the monster but this seems to be a common misconception that I am now so used to I hardly ever even notice it.
I've recently realized how rubbish I am with the American comics and have designated the upcoming holidays to comics-reading so I can get aquainted. I know (and love) The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician since I grew up with them, but the rest of the pantheon is iffy. The Marvels seem the most interesting so I'll be concentrating on them, but I'll squeeze some DC in as well, I hope. My comics-reading was always heavily based in the Belgian and Dutch camps. :)
Excellent, will be checking out your comics reviews in search of some inspiration on what to explore next.
I'll most likely be far behind you. :) I'm still deciding whether to just go back to the first showings of the big characters, or jump in where they are now. There's a great "Essentials" series that cover most of them.
Yes, the Essentials are great and very reasonably priced. I have a good number of them. Only thing is that these are all in black and white. Don't mind black and white comics as such but have a bit of an issue with reading stuff that was originally designed for colour in black and white.
Good to know - I thought they were B&W to begin with. I haven't quite decided what my approach is yet, so I may rethink it.
And speaking of black and white comics......
The Walking Dead Compendium Volume 1
Well, what is there left to say about THE WALKING DEAD?
I've been following the TV show since the beginning and kind of got hooked even though I can't say I'm a fan. Sounds weird, I know, but I find the pacing to often be far too slow and even re-dubbed it THE TALKING DEAD as things often get discussed ad infinitum. Yet as much as I am often annoyed by this, there are regularly moments of absolute brilliance. I still gotta scratch myself wondering how we managed to get a zombie show on TV! Zombies!!! They used to be the kind of movie fodder you were afraid to admit you watched. And now it's on TV? What's next? Cannibal movies? Snuff films?
So yeah, I follow the show religiously but still wonder whether or not I am a fan.
The Compendium format seems to be getting more and more popular these days with a number of comics. Really love it as it allows to throw up to 50 individual issues into one single book at a reasonable price. It's a fantastic way to to play catch up and allowed me to finally also read the WALKING DEAD comics.
Though the main plot outline is virtually the same, it is much faster paced. Certain characters don't have a TV equivalent, others are exclusive to the TV show and even if they appear in both formats their fate is often quite different. As such both formats go very well together and complement each other without one spoiling the other.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyke: The Parasite
I had read this probably about two months ago before my little trip but never came around to adding this to this thread.
I have been a long time admirer of Arthur Conan Doyle, read all his Holmes-, Challenger and Brigadier Gerard stories as well as a good number of his other novels and short stories and some of his biographical and non-fiction work.
Yet, given the size of his oeuvre there is still a good bit that I haven't yet read though I had thought that the time of the major ACD discoveries at least for me would be over by now.
Up until recently it was a question of finding copies of his books second hand and hopefully at a reasonable price whenever the situation arose, however, over the last couple of years the vast bulk of his work became part of the public domain and accessible for free or very cheaply as eBook downloads.
So I finally sat down with a copy of his 1894 novella THE PARASITE on my Kindle and started reading not expecting all that much.
To say that I was blown away is putting it lightly.
THE PARASITE is a revelation on quite a number of levels.
For starters it explores psychic themes that would later on become much more important for Doyle personally. In actual fact when he explored those topics later with e.g. Prof Challenger in THE LAND OF MIST, they were generally very positive and upbeat explorations of spiritualism, yet in THE PARASITE this takes quite a different turn.
An older Doyle would probably have finished THE PARASITE with the first chapter where our main character attends a seance and finally becomes convinced that there are indeed things between Heaven and Earth .....
Yet this is just the beginning. The medium, an older and physically not very attractive woman, takes a shine to our hero, makes him fall in love with her by taking over his mind and trying to steer him away from his beautiful fiancee.
Rather than being a staid old-fashioned story, this reads very much like a modern psychological thriller where the character gradually starts to lose control over his mental facilities.
It is highly daring and often very sexually suggestive, more so than anything else I have read by Doyle so far. The portrayal of the medium is totally un-PC and vividly portrays her as a disgusting and ugly old hag, disabled and on crutches and quite the counter-part to the fiancee.
I remember once reading a magazine article about this novelette but can't recall much about it anymore. What really surprised me is how little has been written about it. A cursory search through the World Wide Web reveals close to nothing about it just scores and scores of links where the story can be downloaded for free.
This really is a piece that should at last be read - and discussed and analysed! - more frequently.
I just don't have the time to do much of it this myself but I am hoping that someone somewhere will take the opportunity to give this piece the proper justice it deserves. It is overripe for a proper interpretation/analysis and deserves to be re-discovered.
Books Read: #35
Running Tally: +8
I haven't seen the TV-series, but that compendium edition is high up on the wishlist (black-and-white or no!). :) You're also reminding me that it's on the list to read non-Sherlock Conan Doyle, which I haven't really gotten around to yet...
I've thought of reading the Walking Dead GN's but haven't made my mind up yet due to potential conflict with the TV show. Good to know you think there is enough to make both viable ongoing projects.
On a side note, one of the films I saw at an anime day I just went to involved cannibalism.
For non-Sherlockian Doyle THE PARASITE is a good contender and then of course THE LOST WORLD, wonderful stuff.
Oh, and just to clarify: That Compendium is black and white but in that case the original comics were also published that way.
201) If you're interested in reading the Compendium you really don't need to worry too much about giving surprises away. It is similar enough in the overall concept but different in the details and the execution. Just because you know what has happened in one of the media does not mean that you automatically know what will happen in the other.
Oh, and the world of anime can definitely be dark and murky, eh? ;-)
Interesting review on The Parasite. When I saw the title and hadn't yet looked at the author, I thought it was a modern horror novel - a vampire or something.
I did think they were, but that's what I thought of the others as well, so... :)
Success! Just found that there's a Marvel Masterworks series and it's in original color, so I'll go with that one instead!
I gave up on the Walking Dead TV show as it was just too soap opera-ish and slow moving when compared the GN - I'm hearing that series 3 is an improvement so far but just not tempted back...
207) Yes, the Masterworks series is good. More pricey than the Essentials but at least you have it in colour.
208) I think the series really improved. The first season had me wondering whether anything will ever happen. Can't say that I am a Darabont fan. Of course when something happened it ended up hooking more for another little while. ;-)
Christopher Gullo: The Films of Donald Pleasence
Review courtesy of my Hammer Blog
One often gets the impression that little is left to uncover when it comes to book projects pertaining to classic horror and fantastic cinema. It frequently feels that publishers are clutching at straws when they greenlight books about the memories of the guy who cut the lawn for Dwight Frye's second cousin's next-door neighbour. Yet every once in a while something comes along that makes you turn back and ask if it really can be true that no-one has ever covered that topic before and, by the way, why didn't I come up with that idea!
Christopher Gullo's The Films of Donald Pleasence is an example for one of those books.
17 years after his death (has it really been that long?) and despite having a large and loyal fanbase and having participated in more than a hundred movies (and a similar number of TV productions), many of which have become cult classics, this is the very first book ever written about “The Man With the Hypnotic Eye”.
Having been a prisoner-of-war in WW2, an experience that was going to haunt him until the end of his life and that influenced his performance in The Great Escape, Pleasence quickly restarted his early acting career after the war in London stage productions and from there gradually moved to film and TV roles. Though today he is most easily recognised as psychiatrist Sam Loomis from John Carpenter's Halloween series – speaking about waiting your whole life for a career defining moment -, reading this book it becomes apparent that the most important role of his acting career was likely that of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, a part that he made very much his own in both the stage and the movie versions.
He defined the Bond villain persona so much that it was his Blofeld that was parodied in the Austin Powers movies and on top of appearing in numerous jungle war flicks late in his career for the paycheck alone he also found the time to pen a children's book Scouse the Mouse and record a song that at this time of year just beckons to be unearthed again: Snow up your nose for Christmas (with lyrics by Ringo Starr).
Oh, and he also played in one Hammer movie: Hell is a City.
The format of the book follows the standard of the old Citadel publications:
A large introductory biography compiled with the help of interviews with some of Pleasence's family, friends and colleagues (including his wife Linda, daughter Angela, John Carpenter, Kevin Connor and Ulli Lommel) is followed by a film-by-film critique consisting of a cast overview, a synopsis and a review of the film in general and Pleasence's performance in particular.
The emphasis is very much on his movie work with some of his TV roles briefly mentioned but not much accentuated upon. If there is one thing I would have preferred it is to see a stronger additional emphasis on that part of his career in exchange for less of the synopsis, an area that I routinely just skip over whenever I come across them in movie books.
Still, this is a very good introductory work on this hitherto ignored actor that will hopefully encourage additional research that may ultimately expand to a full blown biography.
In the meantime, however, we still have a long way to go with Pleasence before we reach the point of oversaturation.
Books Read: #36
Running Tally: +9
I love the movie The Great Escape. We watch it every year around this time, along with The Eagle Has Landed. Not sure I would want to read the film bios but I would be very interested to read about his personal biography.
I knew little about Pleasence as a person outside his performances and the introductory chapter sure had me wishing that someone will take up the baton and research further along those lines. After reading this book I definitely hope for an additional more personal biography for my shelves sometime in the next couple of years.
Wow, it's been more than a month since I last posted here. I guess that is a good indication of how much (or should I say: little) I have since added to my list.
On the plus side: I did manage to add another trip abroad in and went to Vilnius in Lithuania and will soon head over to visit my family in Germany again for a week.
Apart from that I was (far too) busy with work.
Seriously doubt I'll manage to finish another book until the end of the year though I have started a couple more so the next couple of entries will likely be my final count for 2012.
Santa did bring me one book:
John Hamilton: Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser
This year I have also read John Hamilton's X-Cert: The British Independent Horror Film: 1951-1970 and this pushed the earlier Tony Tenser book up my Wanted List. Can't wait to read more about this producer and Tigon Pictures.
Books Received: #8
Running Tally: +8
Glad to see you posting here, even if it is just a flying visit. Nice to know that you're okay and it's just general life things that are keeping you away.
I have been on LT for a good while now but this is the year where I really focused on it far more regularly than ever. It has really enhanced my reading experience so I'll never be gone for too long. (Well, a month at the longest. LOL)
Franziska Franke: Sherlock Holmes und der Club des Höllenfeuers
Second part in Franke's series of German language Holmes pastiches focusing on Holmes' adventures during the great hiatus.
Following up from the first book Holmes is still in Italy but close to leaving for India.
Shortly before leaving the country he again gets involved in a Florentine mystery when an art robber steals a seamingly worthless painting while ignoring all the true master pieces nearby. The artist behind the painting soon gets killed and all points towards a conspiracy between some of the members of an English group of expats with spiritualist leanings.
The book translates as "Sherlock Holmes and the Hellfire Club" though has nothing to do with the notorious den of debaucherous iniquity.
Just like the first book it is a very enjoyable read though clearly not at the level of the original Doylean stories.... but then again what is?
Books Read: #37
Running Tally: +9
Thorsten Benzel: Muchos Gracias Senor Lobo
One of the few times that I ever upgraded a book that I previously owned.
A few years ago Benzel had self published a predominantly black & white trawl through his collection of Paul Naschy memorabilia.
Creepy Images have now republished this oeuvre but rather than being a simple re-hash this is a completely new tome, in an oversized, completely colourised coffee table format dedicated to lobby cards, promotional photos and posters about Spain's main horror export.
This is definitely my favourite film book for 2012 and one of my favourites in general.
And the funny thing....
I am not even a major Paul Naschy Fan.
But I have long figured out than I am a sucker for well produced books about all aspects of film promotion and once the author is passionate about its topic I am always game.
Books Read: #38
Books Bought: #23
Running Tally: +10
Arturo Perez-Reverte: Die Sonne von Breda
The edition of the book that I have finished contains the first three books in Perez-Reverte's ALATRISTE saga in a German translation. I have read the first two in previous years and have now tackled the third one, THE SUN OVER BREDA.
There are very few contemporary authors that I would comfortably call as among being my Favourites. Possibly the only two that I would name off-hand are both Spanish, Arturo Perez-Reverte and Carlos Ruiz Zafon. And ironically both also narrate stories that (even when based in a current setting) often span various decades or even centuries and combine adventures full of intrigue mixed with explorations into history, art and literature.
Strangely enough the Alatriste swashbucklers that would be considered Perez-Reverte's most commercially successful are my least favourite of his oeuvre. I much prefer the likes of THE CLUB DUMAS or THE FLANDERS PANEL.
They are more straightforward historical adventure yarns with only a small glimpse of the multi-layered plots that he can otherwise weave.
Still, they are worth exploring and THE SUN OVER BREDA places Alatriste and his loyal foster-teen, soldier-in-waiting and narrator of his stories, Inigo, out of Madrid and into the Belgian battlefield of Breda.
For obvious reasons it has therefore less of the court intrigue from previous novels and more regular battle scenes. What makes this still somewhat special is that hidden behind the war drama we also get the fictional account of how Diego Velazquez' painting THE SURRENDER OF BREDA came into being.
So, not the best of his but a Perez-Reverte is always worth a read.
Books Read: #39
Running Tally: +10
For those of you (like me) who were previously not familiar with the Velazquez painting, here is a copy.
I guess that pretty much was it for 2012.
Did I pass my pretty arbitrary and totally unimportant goal of reading at least 12 more books than I bought/received? Well, as of now I am only at a count of +10 but will pledge to quickly give away/dispose of at least two more books to make it an even 12. I have a little pile of books that I no longer need so no tough choices. Most of them will be cheapo classics that waste space on my shelves and that I can now have for free on my Kindle.
That Kindle was by far the best new gadget of 2012 for me and the biggest change to my reading habits.
If it hadn't been for this I wouldn't even have managed as little as I did manage this year cause unfortunately 2012 proved to be one of the leanest reading years in ages and it doesn't look like I will be able to improve much upon it in 2013.
Of course I will again participate in the 13 category threads in 2013 even though it will likely be an even more arbitrary choice of (non)categories than this year. I just don't seem to have the discipline to stick to any pre-arranged categories. But love the opportunity these threads offer to chat with other readers.
So, will need to put my thinking hat on.....
In the meantime: Have a wonderful 2013 and may all your reading wishes come true.
Great to see you posting! I agree with your comment about The Sun Over Breda... that it has less of the court intrigue from previous novels and more regular battle scenes. It is in part because of that that I stopped reading the series after finishing book three. Maybe next year I will see if the story goes back to the Dumas-style intrigue I so enjoyed in the first book.
Eventually I will continue reading it again but my hunch is that my next Perez-Reverte may be THE PAINTER OF BATTLES, a non-Alatriste novel I haven't read yet. (Interestingly enough that title seems to again point to SUN OF BREDA's subject matter though I believe it is about an unrelated topic.)
Great to see you here!! Hope you have a great new year and look forward to seeing you on 2013 with your "arbitrary choice of (non)categories." :)
Well, let's just say this is definitely (So totally not) My 2013 Category Challenge.
Thanks everyone for joining the discussion. I had a blast and wish you all the best for 2013.
A little request: Anyone of you participating in the category challenge for 2013, can you please quickly pass a link to it, so that I can easily follow you back again like this year? (Eva, I have already located you.)
If you don't, then no worries: I shall still find and stalk you again. It'll just take a wee while longer. ;-)
I link all my challenge threads on my profile but here is my 2013 thread if you feel like stopping by.
Like Dave, I link all my challenge threads on my profile page, but unlike Dave, I haven't gotten around to adding my 2013 challenges there...... Ooops! I need to fix that!..... so here is my 2013 Category Challenge thread to save you having to hunt it down.
Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher
And a late and probably final addition to this year's reads.....
Just packing the suitcase for a trip to Germany. My alarm will go off again in a couple of hours at 3:30 so really no time to write much about it other than that I loved it. Great read. The Punisher accidentally causes a catastrophe that turns most humans (incl the superheroes) into cannibals and then kills them all off. Very I AM LEGEND style feel.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.