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Clfisha's Unlucky 13 - Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Clfisha's Unlucky 13.

2013 Category Challenge

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Jun 30, 2013, 10:15am Top

Second part of the year.. new shiny thread..

13 is considered one unlucky number and never one to buck a trend the theme is the dark side and my aim this year is fail this challenge by a whisker. Oh yes success is a failure and failure is a success...

The rules:
-I must fail the challenge by a slim amount
-I must not make it insanely hard i.e. read 13 books in each category
-I must have lots of fun.
-All -tag challenges have a target number, defined my random rolling of two 6 sided dice (plus 1)
-I must read a book in every tag AND reach the total.
-No star ratings just: Bad, Average, Good, Excellent and Amazing.

(cue drum roll...) and so here are my ghastly categories:
1. 13 Linked Books
2. The four horseman of the apocalypse - Tags: - death, pestilence, famine, war, & general apocalypse
3. Unwanted lent books "it's my favourite book, you simply must read it!"
4. Death by dangerously leaning TBR
5. Superstition - Tags: curses, fantastical occurrences, witchcraft, supernatural shenanigans, luck
6. Crime and Unpunishment - Tags: Noir, Detective fiction, true crime, revenge, overly long books by Russian authors
7. Sheer terror - Tags: horror, unnatural creatures, dystopian futures, spiders, the romance genre
8. Hellish temptations - Tags: Iconoclasm, false idols, murder, hedonism, satanic worship
9. The curse of the Unfinished books
10. The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Jeff & Ann VanderMeer
11. "I think we are going to make it" - not in this challenge! books with unhappy endings
12. The Ernest Hemingway Category
13. Unlucky dip - 5 tags you choose (but not just yet wait till Jan)

Tags - A book must be related to 1 or more of the tags (so these are the easy categories

Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 10:23am Top

Category 1: 13 Linked Books

One book must be linked by a theme to the next one. So a non-fiction book on a serial killer could lead to say Silence of the Lambs. Books in a series or by the same author do not factor into it.

1. Ubik by Philip K Dick (29/5)
linked by "Philip K Dick" to
2. Losing the Head of Philip K. Dick by David Duffy
linked by "Robotics" to
3. Paintwork by Tim Maughan
linked by "Bristol" to
4. Unbuilt Bristol by Eugene Byrne
linked by "Imaginary cities" to
5. Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
linked by "Sci Fi" to
6. Vurt by Jeff Noon
linked by "English classic fiction" to
7. Sunburnt Faces by Simon Adaf
linked by "childhood" to
8. Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos
linked by "poverty" to
9. The Man Who Laughs by David Hine (author) and Mark Stafford (artist)

Links for the next book:
mutilation, freaks, poverty, wealth, actors, blindness, house of lords, inheritence, suicide, Victor Hugo

Edited: Dec 16, 2013, 12:26pm Top

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse
Tags: - death, pestilence, famine, war, & general apocalypses

1. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass (4/1, Amazing) Tag: war
2. The Coming by Andrej Nikolaidis (8/1 Excellent) Tag: general apocalypses
3. Redshirts by John Scalzi (12/1 Excellent) Tag: Death
4. The Hidden by Richard Sala (16/2, excellent) Tag: General Apocolypse
5. The Great Game by Lavie Tidhar (15/5 Good) Tag: War
6. Deathless by Catherynne M Valente (Excellent) Tag: Famine
7. Dangerous Gifts: A Babylon Steel Novel Tag. Pestilence
8. The wall (Die Wand) by Marlen Haushofer. Tag General Apocalypses
9. Immobility by Brain Evenson Tag: death
10. De bewaker roman by Peter Terrin
11. Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings by Sydney Schanberg Tag: War
12. Shadow of the Banyan Tree by Vaddey Ratner Tag: death

Tags completed, count completed.

Edited: Jun 30, 2013, 10:19am Top

Catgeory 3: Unwanted lent books "it's my favourite book, you simply must read it!"
Must be lent, must fill me with dread

Luckily I still have The Time Travellers wife if no one is cruel enough this year

Edited: Dec 30, 2013, 8:10am Top

Category 4: Death by dangerously leaning TBR
new books I buy & books off the shelves.. especially the heavy ones teetering on the top shelf

1. Blackbirder by Dorothy B Hughes
2. The Grass-Cutting Sword by Catherynne M Valente (Excellent June)
3. Detective Story by Imre Ketesz (Good September)
4. We by Jevgeni Zamjatin
5. Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green

Count completed

Edited: Dec 17, 2013, 8:22am Top

Category 5: Superstition
Tags: curses, fantastical occurrences, witchcraft, supernatural shenanigans, luck

1. Swamplandia by Karen Russell (excellent). I don't believe there was a ghost so the tag is Luck.
2. The Unreal and the Real: Outer Space, Inner Lands by Ursula K. Le Guin (excellent 27/1) Tag: Fantastical Occurences
3. The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman Tag: supernatural shenanigans
4. The Circle (hammer) by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg Tag.witchcraft
5. The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman Tag: supernatural shenanigans
6. Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck Tag: fantastical occurrences
7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman Tag: fantastical occurrences
8. The Long Ships by Frans G Bengtsson Tag: Luck
9. The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson Tag: curses
10. Cockfighter by Charkes Willeford Tag: Luck
11. The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine edited Lynne Thomas Tag: fantastical Occurences.

Tags completed & Count completed

Edited: Oct 9, 2013, 6:21am Top

Category 6. Crime and Unpunishment
Tags: Noir, Detective fiction, true crime, revenge, overly long books by Russian authors

1. Gun Machine by Warren Ellis (Good 14/1) Tag: Detective fiction
2. I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond (16/2, good) tag: Noir
3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Excellent 5/3) Tag: Overly long books by Russian authors
4. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum. Tag: True Crime
5. The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes Tag: Noir
6. The Slynx by Татьяна Толстая Tag: overly long books by Russian authors
7. NOS4R2 by Joe Hill Tag: Revenge
8. Poetry in (e)motion: The Illustrated Words of Scroobius Pip Tag: revenge
9. QueenPin by Megan Abbott Tag: noir
10. Nairobi Heat by Mukoma Wa Ngugi Tag. Noir

Tags completed & count completed

Edited: Dec 30, 2013, 9:08am Top

Category 7: Sheer terror
Tags: horror, unnatural creatures, dystopian futures, spiders, the romance genre

1. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (author) and various artists Tag: Horror
2. The Collector by John Fowles Tag: Horror
3. The Mall by S.L. Grey (ok 10/3) Tag: Horror
4. Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar Tag. Unnatural Creatures
5. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness Tag: Romance
6. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson Tag: Dystopian futures
7. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. Tag: Spiders
8. Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine Tag: dystopian futures
9. King Death by Toby Litt Tag: romance
10. The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle Tag: romance, unnatural creatures
11. The Fat Man by Ken Harmon Tag: unnatural creatures

Tags completed
Count completed

Edited: Dec 30, 2013, 9:07am Top

Category 8. Hellish temptations
Tags: Iconoclasm, false idols, murder, hedonism, satanic worship

1. Delphine by Richard Salsa (Good, 5/1) Tag: Iconoclasm
2. The Unwritten Volume 6: Tommy Taylor War of Words by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (Excellent, 5/1) Tag: Iconoclasm
3. A Flight of Angels by Various Authors and illustrated by Rebecca Guay. Tag: Murder
4. Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman and various artists (amazing)
5. Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman & various artists (ok 10/3) tag: iconoclasm
6. Mad Night by Richard Sala (3/10 good) tag: iconoclasm, murder
7. Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason & Fabien Vehlmenn (excellent 10/3) tag iconoclasm, murder
8. The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman & Various artists. Tag: iconoclasm, satanic worship.
9. The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman & Various artists. Tag: iconoclasm
10. Walking Dead: Volume 17 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. Tag: iconoclasm
11. You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld Tag: iconoclasm
12. Science Tales by Darryl Cunningham Tag: iconoclasm
13. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes Tag: Murder
14. Digger by Ursular Vernon Tag: iconoclasm
15. Infernal Devices by K W Jeter Tag: False Idols
16. XKCD Volume 0 by Randall Monroe Tag: iconoclasm
17: I play the drums in a band called okay by Toby Litt
18: Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom by Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda Tag: iconoclasm
19. I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan Tag: Satanic Worship
20. Johannes Cabal, the necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard Tag: satanic worhsip

Tags completed!
Count completed and overrunning!

Edited: Aug 7, 2013, 5:25am Top

Category 9: The curse of the Unfinished books
oh I have plenty

Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin
Death cloud Peril by Paul Malmont (Still havent got past the 1st paragraph, no idea why)
Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore

Edited: Jun 30, 2013, 10:25am Top

Category: 10 The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Jeff & Ann Vandermeer
its a stupendously huge short story collection (1126 pages) and I must read it all


Edited: Sep 2, 2013, 5:43am Top

11. "I think we are going to make it" - not in this challenge!
books with unhappy endings

Hmm I guess a list of candidates could be considered a bit of a spoiler...

so um look away.


1. They Shoot Horses Don't They? by Horace McCoy (6/3 good)

Probably Tigana or Lions of Al'rassan by GGK
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks.. I can;t actually remember the ending.. I don't think a family group hug happened..


Count completed (but rubbish!)

Edited: Dec 24, 2013, 4:06am Top

12. The Ernest Hemingway Category
Regular followers will know I utterly detested Old Man and The Sea. Dare I read another? will I be able to finish?

A Farewell to Arms by Mr Hemingway

Catgeory Completed

Edited: Oct 23, 2013, 8:24am Top

13. Unlucky dip - 5 tags you choose
bad sex, intertextuality, adventure travel, surreal, happy endings

1. The Emperor of All Things by Paul Witcover Tag: bad sex
2. Three to See The King by Magnus Mills Tag: surreal
3. How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid Tag: Happy Endings
4. Pastoralia By George Saunders Tag: surreal
5. Black Project, The by Gareth Brookes Tag: bad sex (joke!)
6. The fictional man by Al Ewing Tag: intertextuality
7. Passport to Peril by Robert B Parker Tag: Happy Endings
8. Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba Tag: Happy Endings

Tags left: adventure travel
Count: 5 to go!

Jun 30, 2013, 2:59pm Top

Stopping by for the new thread.

and fantastic review if The Shinning Girls. I'm definitely going to have to read that one.

Jun 30, 2013, 3:13pm Top

Migrating over to your new thread, Claire and enjoying revisiting your categories as I am in the process of making my category choices for next year's challenge.

Jun 30, 2013, 4:10pm Top

Happy new thread!
And Lori I too am planning next year's challenge ;)

Jun 30, 2013, 6:35pm Top

The Wasp Factory "I don't think a family group hug happened ..."

That's for sure!

As always there are so many of your possibilities that I am waiting to see your thoughts on.

Jun 30, 2013, 6:53pm Top

Great to see a new thread - am loving that the star carries over! :)

Jul 1, 2013, 9:15am Top

Welcome :) (and thank you) I do recommend The Shining Girls although it does have mixed reviews.

and I admit I am completely uninspired for next year.. usually I have at least several ideas brewing away before I burst forth with excitement in August, but 14 is dull number. hmm dullness..

Jul 1, 2013, 9:17am Top

13. Unlucky dip - 5 tags you choose. Tag Surreal

Pastoralia by George Saunders
Surreal, funny, bitingly sharp and touchingly redemptive shorts

“Down in the city are the nice houses and the so-so houses and the lovers making out in dark yards and the babies crying for their moms, and I wonder if, other than Jesus, has this ever happened before. Maybe it happens all the time. Maybe there's angry dead all over, hiding in rooms, covered with blankets, bossing around their scared, embarrassed relatives. Because how would we know?”

I really loved this collection of off the wall shorts that seem to capture humanity’s foibles so perfectly. It could be depressing if it wasn't so funny. It would be easy to review except none of this is simplistic. On one level I solely adored the humour and surreal edge of the slightly twisting tale of “Sea Oak” where a self-sacrificing doormat of an aunt comes back from the grave to kick her lazy, unambitious family up the backside and let her hair down.

Then there are the ones where meaning rewrites itself, where grotesque losers twist into something recognisable. Take “The Fall” where neurotic dad berates himself as he sits on the precipice of doing something fatally heroic juxtaposed against the useless overly dramatic, unrecognised ‘genius’ who hovers nearby or “Winky” where a sad loser goes to a (hilarious) self help seminar to get rid of his more insane sister and then.. well read it find out. There is redemption and forgiveness against the sharp bite of satire.

All in all highly recommended, need I say the dialogue is superb, the characters spot on and the ideas

“Times are hard, entire Units are being eliminated, the Staff Remixing continues … please, only remember that we are a family, and you are the children, not that we’re saying you’re immature, only that you do most of the chores while we do all the thinking, and also that we, in our own way, love you.”

An excerpt of the 1st short Pastoralia is here. a terrifyingly mundane and surreal Kafkaesque theme world

Jul 1, 2013, 10:32am Top

Love that title... Pastoralia,... it just rolls so nicely off the tongue when saying it. Pastoralia.... pastoralia... Good thing it sounds like an interesting collection of short stories, because otherwise I would be adding a book to my reading list just because I like the title. ;-)

Jul 1, 2013, 4:00pm Top

Looks like lots of folks are starting new threads - happy new thread to you!

Jul 2, 2013, 4:30am Top

Heh.. never ever bough a book for the title. ahem..

Thanks Betty!

Jul 2, 2013, 5:30pm Top

Great review of Pastoralia! Now go read all other books by George Saunders! ;-)

Jul 2, 2013, 11:06pm Top

"14 is dull number"
It is a very hard one to spice up, isn't it. I'm leaning toward going with 2014=2+0+1+4=7 categories for next year instead.

Jul 3, 2013, 4:13am Top

@25 I think that is one instruction I can follow :)

26 I have noticed there are 14 saints (Holy Helpers) but I cant say I am inspired so that's quite a good way of doing it..

It's no good the brown is making me wince. Blue is nice. Everything should be blue.

Edited: Jul 3, 2013, 12:36pm Top

It might be just me, but doesn't there seem to be a lot more brown at the top than there were pink? The page feels very top-heavy.

ETA: Agreed, blue is nice.

Jul 3, 2013, 5:40pm Top

>27 clfisha:: Yes! Blue is the best :)

Jul 4, 2013, 6:53am Top

I'm going through your third thread Claire and as always lots of interesting and unconventional choices. It will take some time to reach the end but I'm loving every minute !

>27 clfisha: or green ...

>26 -Eva-: I'm thinking about it Eva and your idea seems more and more tempting ...

Edited: Jul 5, 2013, 5:34am Top

@30 Thank you :) and green is ok but you can't beat blue.. I would have everything blue.. very dull.

Category 7: Sheer terror. Tag: Dystopian futures

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine
A wondrous, unique and Steampunk tale.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she calls.

Her voice fills the air. It feels as if the tent grows to accommodate the words, the circle of benches pushing out and out, the tinny Panadrome swelling to an orchestra, the light softening and curling around the shadows, until all at once you are perched in a tiny wooden seat above a vast and a glorious stage.

The woman’s arms are still thrown wide, and you realize she has not paused, that her voice alone has changed the air, and when she goes on, “Welcome to the Circus Tresaulti!” you applaud like your life depends on it, without knowing why.

A tale of a world ravaged by war and a very very old travelling circus; with its musician and acrobats, its aerialists (and once upon a time its winged man), Its creations made from brass and copper and bone. A, joyous, ever-lasting spectacle in the darkness but one soon to be under threat, from stewing obsessions within and jealous aspirations without.

This is a simply stunning debut. It's not your every day tale of adventure but a book to read for the characters, to wallow in its gorgeous prose. Oh the plot and drama are there (and tense) but this a book to feel. To feel the circuses timelessness and fragility, to understand the patchwork of its characters; cruel Elena, cold and broken (and terrifying) Bird, endearing everyman George and of course the stoic Boss who rules them and whose strength, when threatened, shakes you

This is what Elena sees the first time she meets Bird;


Elena sees the darkness of the tent; the darkness of the grave; the shiver of the wings as Alec trembled under her hands, his feathers an armour that would not hold.

"She won't last", Elena says.
Alex didn't.

It is a brave book, with a strong style that could irritate some. Short chapters and stripteases with the truth, an unseen seductive storyteller that gives way to 1st and 2nd narratives. Nor is it a lighted hearted whimsical book, the shadow of costs given and hard truths learnt are entwined in familial belonging, with love and hope. I loved spending time in the world, watching the characters grow, learning the stories mysteries and hopping against hope it works out in the end.

“Then Tresaulti departs, and the life of the city tries to follow and cannot; even the buildings stumble and fall, become lost. When a city has no greatness, its will is done; then a city is nothing but a maze of shells that are only stone and steel and -soon enough- dust.

Never read a book like it, cannot believe how much it succeeds. Highly recommended.

Early chapters here.. I just want to quote the whole thing at you!

Jul 5, 2013, 7:57am Top

Woah. Fantastic review of Mechanique! I'm am SOLD!

Jul 5, 2013, 9:56am Top

Thumbed the review. It's already on the wishlist from when Pete reviewed it but that just cements its place.

Jul 5, 2013, 11:10am Top

>32 andreablythe: Hear, hear !

Jul 5, 2013, 2:13pm Top

Happy to see both you and Pete found Mechanique to be a great read..... now comes the fun of trying to track down a copy as it is not in my library system's catalogue.

Jul 6, 2013, 2:42am Top

Great review of Mechanique Claire, thumbed!

Jul 6, 2013, 10:02pm Top

Adding my thumb to the Mechanique review as well as a congrats for the Hot Review - well deserved!

Jul 9, 2013, 5:44am Top

Another thumb for Mechanique, sounds lovely!

Edited: Jul 10, 2013, 6:10am Top

Thanks :) and hot review woo!

Hmm another man slipped into my June Female SFF month!

Category 5: Superstition Tag: fantastical occurrences

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A bite sized book of memory and magic and adventure

“I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”

A beautifully drawn slip of a book. A book designed to carry you away one dreary afternoon, back to your childhood and days of adventure. Where life was full of potential magic, where a pond could be an ocean and where an old lady can remember the Big Bang. Where a tragic suicide of a lodger brings dark magic to a young boy.

“I do not miss childhood, but I do miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from the things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”

He captures perfectly the wonder and terror of childhood, the aching vulnerability (cue some truly creepy moments) as much as captures adult nostalgia and all the normal worries we carry with us. The story skips along and there are characters to love here, the 3 generations of Hempstocks, our stalwart narrator, even the baddie. He also captures the landscape of growing up in England during a certain time, I suspect though he makes his experience familiar to all and that’s his genius. It's his genius to exude such a love of humanity off the page, it is a creepy and sometimes sad read, but ultimately this is a comfort blanket of a read.

“Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”

Although its almost too pure distilled Gaiman for my taste, too rich and cloying with knowing (yet beautiful) wisdom stamped all over the story. Too strong a taste for me, it’s also quite short and in a way simple I prefer his more sprawling works such as American Gods or Sandman and oddly even though I was truly gripped when I read it, it is a story which has faded quickly.

Good yet sadly forgettable, Still its getting rave reviews across the board so I am in the minority. I do recommend it though, fantasy & YA lovers and all wistful adults who want to remember a time when they were young. It's not a bad place to try Gaiman either

Jul 10, 2013, 12:46pm Top

It's been a while since I've read a Gaiman novel, and I'm feeling very drawn to read The Ocean at... It's too bad it was forgettable, though it makes me even more curious since I've seen positives and negatives on it.

Good review.

Jul 14, 2013, 10:10pm Top

It isn't one that sticks, is it, Ocean at the End? I did enjoy it while I read it, but I'm not listing it with my favorite Gaimans.

Jul 17, 2013, 10:27am Top

blimey I wrote some reviews..

Category 5: Superstition: Tag: fantastical occurrences

Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck (Excellent June)

A gem of a short story collection, bursting with imagination. These satisfying and seemingly simple tales unfurl their complexity and challenge your expectations.

There are beautiful, whimsical ideas that have a dark human heart, like the wonderful opening story of a man who romances an airship. There are delightfully odd stories such as a player of violent croquet in the land of the Fae who discovers time and other evocative tales. I can smell the stink of dark cramped tunnels of the mothership as she births the last remnants of humanity or a starkly, beautiful mountain where old tales say the nature spirits called the Vittra live. Characters come alive briefly and connect to us, whether growing their own child to love to a pair of sisters dealing with their Vittra and their heritage. There is heartbreak and love and the aftermath of how we feel when we touch, however fleeting, the other.

"Cilla could neither name nor explain. It was like a longing, worse than anything she had ever experienced, but for what she had no idea. Something tremendous waited out there. Something wonderful was going to happen, and she was terrified that she would miss it."

Don't be Cilla, buy this book. Highly recommended

Oh and have a taster of story here:

Jul 17, 2013, 10:30am Top

Category 7: Sheer terror. Tag: Spiders

Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord
Simple, Enchanting and whimsical

"A rival of mine once complained that my stories begin awkwardly and end untidily. I am willing to admit to many faults, but I will not burden my conscience with that one. All my tales are true, drawn from life, and a life story is not a tidy thing. It is a halftamed horse that you seize on the run and ride with knees and teeth clenched, and then you regretfully slip off as gently and safely as you can, always wondering if you could have gone a few metres more."

It's a tale of redemption (of course), of a Jaded undying one Chance who has lost of all love of humanity, of Paama who is chosen to take his some of his power by unwittingly being gifted Chaos Stick. A retelling of a Senegalese folk-tale with a cadence and charm all of its own, evocative in its African setting. Gentle and uplifting in feel, not a hard good vs evil feel but full of human nuance.

However I am not overly a fan of moral fables, nor of quite simple, extremely passive tales. Purposefully designed perhaps and charming to some but for me failed to really engage. Of course it had other issues.. there is the narrator, a far too intrusive voice who's wry authorial commentary just overwhelms the tale and starts to irritate as well as intrude. This may work better as an audio book of course and I would be interesting in a live telling. Otherwise refutations (like the quote above) stop being amusing and start feeling like being lectured from afar. Then of course when the simplicity of style bleeds into characterisation there goes yet another possibility to hook the reader, I really didn't give a jot what happened especially because I suspected how it would all work out.

I guess you know whether this could be a story for you. It's got rave reviews but taste is taste and this one wasn't for me.

Jul 17, 2013, 4:12pm Top

Great review of Jagannath! *thumbs away* Already on the list, thankfully.

Jul 18, 2013, 4:43am Top

Thank you ;) it's only a e-book one-click away.. *cough*

Jul 18, 2013, 1:03pm Top

LOL! When I got my first ereader, I was whinging about certain books not being available electronically, but things have certainly changed, haven't they - my e-wishlist is HUGE! I noticed that they have started Mike Carey's Lucifer series in a "deluxe" e-version.... I'll be buying that one next!

Jul 18, 2013, 7:38pm Top

I'm trying to budget myself this month in regards Kindle purchases and I've had to arm-wrestle with myself twice today over books mentioned on the threads, and one of them was Jagannath. I managed to control my impulse to buy and instead have placed it on the wishlist.

Jul 23, 2013, 10:04am Top

@46 never been sure about comic books on an e-reader, fitting those double page spreads in... but I hope you enjoy!

@47 heh my wishlist is a bit critical too but at least I am not bankrupt ;)

Category 4: Death by dangerously leaning TBR

The Grass-cutting Sword by Catherynne M Valente (Excellent June)
Betwitching, harsh, chaotic and cluttered novella

You were utterly like your sisters in everyway. {Yes, I suppose we taste the same in the end, but to our mother we were distinct, you know, at least as distinct as plum from cherry blossom} Which is to say slightly more purple than pink, but still a mute, speechless flower, indistinct only from mice or spoons, but not, my love, not from other flowers.

Not exactly a retelling of the Japanese myth of trickster god Susanoo-no-Mikoto's slaying of the eight headed serpent, more of a Frankenstinian re-creation. A beautiful bewitching prose poem with loose interlinking tales; the story of why the trickster fell to earth, the story of his mother and his birth, and the story of the serpent and the 8 maidens eaten.

:: Please, it is cold out here, and I am alone. I taste of cinnamon, and I will lie soft on your tongue. Let me touch your skin - it flames blue and sere! - but let me touch it, let me pry open your lips. It is cold, I want my sisters, I want my eight-in-one, I have heard them whispering and I know they want me.

It's this last part that stands out. The story the eight sisters tell, the strange conversation between snake head and eaten sister as they are consumed. It's effectively playful as it is beautiful. The harshness of the creation myth and the total unpleasantness of Susanoo-no-Mikoto lower my enjoyment of the rest but stll it has some evocative images: a lonely house surrounded by waves of suicidal jelly fish, the bright beauty of sun god Ame-terasu blooming chrysanthemums in her footsteps.

Lonely little leech, I don't want the soup of eyes. I don't want the birth story, the cassia or the persimmon, the plum or the cherry, the weeds or the eyes. I will be your Onogoro, and you will be my Heaven-spanning bridge, and I never will leave you. ::

Ok it's going to be an acquired taste, sought more for the language than for the story. Anybody who loves Valente’s work, or is interested in playing with myths this is a no-brainer, anyone else who needs a short, deep and powerful story to immerse themselves will find something here. Anyone else who is less tolerant of experiment may want to steer clear

Kusinada, where will I go, when you are all inside me?
/Hush, no we are infinitely tractable/
(Don't you know how far women stretch)
*There is room, there is room, always room for our sister, our jewel, our little cinnamon suckling babe*
:: Let me in::
::Oh,let me ::

Jul 23, 2013, 2:10pm Top

I'm rather fond of Valente's writing, though this one sounds like it's a bit of work to read, so maybe I'll hold off for now.

Jul 24, 2013, 12:19am Top

->48 clfisha:
The double page spreads are definitely a downside, but the big upside (and it is big) is that the art is rendered absolutely beautifully.

Jul 24, 2013, 5:28am Top

@49 Its actually quite easy to read & very short. Its just intense and a bit too chaotic

@50 one day they will make a special e-reader just for comics.

Jul 24, 2013, 11:46am Top

>42 clfisha: Great review of Jagannath! Interestingly, we seem to have very different favorites in the collection. My favorites were the holiday village, the article about Pyret and the title story.

>48 clfisha: I loved Palimpsest, but still find a slight treshold in approaching Valente again. I expect once I step over it, I'll love the Orphan's tale books too. And this!

Aug 2, 2013, 6:10am Top

@52 Its to pick they were all very good. The 1st story surprised me so I think I have a soft spot for it & I have a hard time choosing between Reindeer Mountain (the viitra) & Rebecka (nice and creepy story with a living God) but the others seem just to pop out when I was writing the review. I liked very much liked how Pyret ended.

and here's another Valente to tempt you ;-) I read this ages ago and forgot to review it... its been a struggle to do so now!

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse Tag: Famine

54. Deathless by Catherynne M Valente
Flawed yet extraordinary novel.

“That's how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you'd have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”

This is a dark, passionate retelling of Russian folklore tale: The Death of Koschei the Deathless, but this being Valente forget heroic Ivan rescuing his beautiful princess Morena from the evil Koschei. No we get Morena's and Koschei passionate, tempestuous and sometimes cruel marriage with Ivan a mere fated blip of an affair. We get power plays and war, quests and heartfelt temporary peace, we get knowing young girls and hard quests to best Baba Yaga. Russian folklore characters entwined with the horrific reality of 20th century Russia with a whirlwind of themes and of course playful storytelling. All this is beautifully written too and littered with vibrant, heartfelt characters.

“How I adore you, Marya. How well I chose. Scold me; deny me. Tell me you want what you want and damn me forever. But don’t leave me.”

It is a seemingly dense book, packed with story and has very crazy pacing and the ending... well it's an ending that deserves a reread. I may have missed things not knowing much about its source material, it may be easier to get into the story but I don't think it matters too much.

“The rapt pupil will be forgiven for assuming the Tsar of Death to be wicked and the Tsar of Life to be virtuous. Let the truth be told: There is no virtue anywhere. Life is sly and unscrupulous, a blackguard, wolfish, severe. In service to itself, it will commit any offence. So, too, is Death possessed of infinite strategies and a gaunt nature- but also mercy, also grace and tenderness. In his own country, Death can be kind.”

Heartedly recommended to loves of folklore and rich, evocative fantasy. It's dark and sometimes bleak, but never gratuitous and always very human. Valente's skill is to twist the morals and bigotry of old tales, to make them spin and shine.

Who could resist?

Aug 2, 2013, 3:34pm Top

Who could resist?

Usually I can't {*groans*} but it is nice to visit your thread Claire for all of the great Valente reviews!

Aug 2, 2013, 5:57pm Top

I definitely need to get around to reading some of her work soon. Great reviews as always!

Aug 2, 2013, 6:46pm Top

Yep, wonderful review! I know way too little about russian folklore, and I'm sure Valente can really make it shine. I've held this one in my hands, but didn't have time to read the rather massive back blurb (I serm to recall an utterly packed page in a tiny font?) so thanks for giving me a clearer view!

Aug 3, 2013, 8:12pm Top

Fantastic review! I adored Deathless and feel the same way about the ending. I very much want to reread it now and see if I missed anything. But even without fully understanding the end, I still thought it was wonderful. The relationship between Koschei and Marya is fascinating, and the use of 3s at the beginning is delightful and calls up fairytales so vividly.

Aug 4, 2013, 8:22am Top

I have her Habitation of the Blessed in my TBR and might just have a slot to fit her in later this year.

Aug 5, 2013, 4:38am Top

Thank you :) I may rest on the Valente front for awhile

56 not sure I grabbed the UK hardback (which is a lovely object)

57 I think I will try and see if I can read some Russian folklore tales and revisit. That kind of relationship is very rare isn't it? I kept being surprised by the direction it took

@58 I have that one next (yeay haven't tun out of Valente to read!)

Aug 5, 2013, 4:49am Top

Yet more fantastic reviews over here Claire, this is a dangerous place to be!

Edited: Aug 6, 2013, 11:56am Top

@60 thank you :) ..suppresses evil "book bullet" laugh..

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse

Dangerous Gifts: A Babylon Steel Novel By Gaie Sebold
Rollicking good fantasy

Babylon Steel, tough ex-mercenary and owner of the exclusive Scarlet Lantern brothel is tempted away to a city on the verge of civil war to act as a bodyguard/spy for the most explosive local candidate who is just trying to being peace.

Sequel in the fantastic fantasy adventure series with the hugely engaging, refreshingly modern, kick-ass Babylon Steel whose money troubles drag her into fun adventure, this time outside her home portal city of Scalatine. The pacing is spot on and this time round the plot fits together very nicely and since Sebold's characters are superb I had a lot of fun.

It does take place away so lack of the old cast but the world of portals is fun to explore and nicely linked to the previous book, whilst managing to standalone. I do recommend you read them in order though, for full effect.

I am really looking forward to next one, future plots have been teasingly displayed and I love spending time there. Recommended to all lovers of fantasy and adventure.

Edited: Aug 6, 2013, 11:50am Top

Category 8. Hellish temptations. Tag Iconoclasm

Digger Volumes 1-6 by Ursula Vernon
Fabulous, endearing wombat heroics

Seriously endearing. This story of a dead God and a lost wombat is beautiful, amusing and very touching.

Digger (of Unnecessarily Complex Tunnels), our stalwart heroine, steals the show, as a very down to earth, very funny and caring wombat who doesn't usually hold with Gods but is dragged into an adventure through a bit of devious magic. She is an utterly fab character who’s attitude makes it a sheer joy to spend time and bounces off an excellent supporting cast from warrior Hyenas, an orphan demon, Buddhist monks and some seriously cute trolls.

The black & white art is perfect & quickly grows more confident too. I don't need to mention that dialogue is spot on but I have neglected to say the plot is great and there is some lovely world building too (love those wombat curses).

Hugely recommended and not just to comic lovers. I think this is an adventure most people will enjoy and you can try online too: http://diggercomic.com/

Aug 6, 2013, 11:55am Top

Category 6. Crime and Unpunishment. Tag: true crime

57. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

This is a heady mix of chemistry, history and true crime as Blum deftly explores, well as it says on the title,early forensics in the time of poisons and prohibition.

It’s a fascinating mix, organised into chapters of poisons such as wood alcohol and arsenic, radium and monoxide and linked together by history. Not only in actual crimes but also charting the lives of chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler who together help change the face of forensics in North America.

This eclectic approach could appear disconnected and dull but Blum is skilful enough to weave a story littered with interesting facts. The chapter on what Radium was used for legally (face cream anyone?) is horrifically mesmerising as are the lengths people would go to find an alcoholic drink. It’s as much of a dip into humanity as science and it’s simply frightening how badly prohibition failed and how deaf people were to the issues.

The only issue I can see with it, is as it has so much breath someone who wishes a more detailed look may be disappointed.

Highly recommended, history buffs and crime lovers will find much here. Would be poisoners maybe disappointed unless they need a what not to do guide.

Aug 6, 2013, 12:04pm Top

"face cream anyone?"
For completely luminous skin...? :)

The Poisoner's Handbook has been sitting on the wishlist a while, but I've been holding off waiting for a non-fiction mood to strike. Next time one is up, I shall strike! :)

Aug 6, 2013, 5:25pm Top

That's it. I have decided I cannot visit your thread any more Claire until I am off my book buy and library book reading ban.... I don't want to read what is on my bookshelves now. I want to read the Sebold, Vernon and Blum books!

Aug 6, 2013, 6:26pm Top

I still need to get around to picking up Babylon Steel never mind the sequel. Good to know the second improves on the elements that didn't quite hit the mark in the first. Also nice to hear that you haven't had your fill of the series yet either and you want more of the characters in future.

Aug 7, 2013, 10:08am Top

@64 I know ;) I suspect since it's meant to be an effective anti wrinkle cream some people would actually still use it!

@65 You will be pleased to know my lastest book review is absent as it doesn't fit into any categories and the next one was a bit meh.

@66 Looking at other reviews the biggest criticism of the 2nd was the original cast was pretty absent which just shows how likeable they were! Hope you enjoy it when you get round to it!

Aug 7, 2013, 4:04pm Top

I'm with lore here. Triple book bullets, although the Babylon Steel one was technically already firmly taken...

Edited: Aug 8, 2013, 11:18am Top

@68 ah well Ander's you have read the next one..

Category 6. Crime and Unpunishment

The Slynx by Татьяна Толстая

"Ah, what a day! The night’s storm had passed, the snow gleamed all white and fancy, the sky was turning blue, and the high elfir trees stood still. Black rabbits flitted from treetop to treetop."

Fyodor- Kuzmichsk (Moscow) after the blast, freethinking is banned and books are transcribed and sold as the beloved leader’s own words. Benedikt, has a pretty nice job as a scribe, but still has to trudge home to his hovel to have watery mouse soup.

This is a book that didn't really fit its reader. It’s a rich satire and fine dystopian world building. The plot, well this is not an adventure novel. Split in a way into two parts, the 1st enjoyable world building and tale of the proles, the second X shifts into wealth and power and becomes obsessed with reading and taking books with (off) the poor

It’s just that after an exuberant start my interest started to wane. It is very clearly not a book for me, not only
because I am unfamiliar with Russian literature/politics, nor because though the translation works hard I suspect all those word puns are better in the original. No really it’s that the absurdist humour is not my own and it just grated.

But I must stress I think is still hugely accessible to anyone, even if like me you are ignorant of Pushkin. It’s well sign posted I suspect most of the time and all readers will enjoy the insatiable hunger for books or be amused by the books highly that are highly prized, yes the detritus and trash of the pot boiler left unloved and un-transcribed.

So I can't recommend it but I am aware I am probably not doing it justice. Go seek out other reviews

Benedikt coughed politely to interrupt.
“My life is spiritual”
“In what sense”
“I don’t eat mice”

Aug 8, 2013, 11:24am Top

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse

The wall (Die Wand) by Marlen Haushofer
Beautiful, claustrophobic, haunting apocalyptic tale of the self.

Our unnamed narrator wakes to an unusually deserted house and, worried, she walks to the village, except she can't. There is a wall, invisible but solid and beyond is silence. Oh there is a man there, but he is unmoving,
and there are birds, fallen stiff to the ground and glassy eyed. The wall is all encompassing, a prison and a saviour and it makes her the last human alive.

Utterly bewitching, a book to read in a summers day by a babbling brook to truly chill you to the core. Oh it’s not frightening, this is not a tale of action of horror nor is it a book of science or survival. No it is a haunting story of one women who learns to live with who she is, a story of humanity when there is only 1 of us left. Her psychological struggle to survive and to relearn how to live. Not that she is not alone, she has her animals; the dog Lynx and the cats and Bella the cow, personalities to fill the pages and keep her afloat.

Of course not liking the protagonist is going to kill the enjoyment of the book and so is the fact that you may not agree with all her choices. However I would suppress that and let her personality dictate the believability, for me the choices felt like hers, they felt real. Her fear of truly exploring, her need to make a secure home. The need to write a diary during the long winter hours that no one will read. The way she understates huge things and the constant repetitive foreshadowing of one horrible event and the harsh, unsentimental description that follows. The story exudes her very being.

Hugely recommended. This is a story that stays with me. It may not be as powerful for you but anyone interested in tales of what makes us human or apocalyptic events should seek it out.

Aug 8, 2013, 4:14pm Top

I'll be adding The Wall to the wishlist for when a contemplative mood strikes. It sounds a little bit like a serious take on a Twilight Zone idea - and well done at that. Also, I appreciate any character that makes me believe in them, whether I like them or not.

Aug 9, 2013, 5:23am Top

Yeah it is a bit, written in 1960s which is about the same time I think? I think the main character resonated with me so much because she reminds me of someone I know, I maybe slightly biased :) Of course if it was me I would freak out just having to milk a cow and then actually drinking it.. ugh!

Aug 9, 2013, 5:27am Top

Category 5: Superstition. Tag. Luck

The Long Ships by Frans G Bengtrosson (good August)
Rollicking Viking Saga

The Story of Red Orm who lives an eventful life to say the least: a marauding Viking, galley slave, royal bodyguard, treasure hunter and rich family man ensures this epic book keeps up the pace and entertains all the way. Although it’s not just a rollicking good adventure it’s also quite funny, told in a knowing fashion so you can pretty much hear the audiences sniggering as the storyteller lampoons a "lucky" leader or makes a wry innuendo.

Orm and his fellow cast members are great too from Toke Greygullson who always stirs up trouble when drunk or Willibald a righteous priest whose diatribes are most amusing and then of course to the fiery love of his life Ylva. It is a long if, packed, book (my edition has tiny print) so whilst it flows along it felt like it took a while! Still great for long trips.

Of course it has problems due to the setting (990s). You wouldn't want to be a women in that time,
rape as much as pillage is pretty standard all the way through the book. I kind of tried to ignore it as our main character manages to avoid and it’s always “off screen” but it’s still icky. There is a bit too much religious fervour as the Christian God sweeps every onwards and much conversion occurs but apart from having to skim a few paragraphs it didn’t bother me much.

Recommend to all adventure and history lovers. A epic truly worth sinking your teeth into. Now let’s all go and invade England for its gold.. oh wait.

Edited: Aug 9, 2013, 5:39am Top

Category 6. Crime and Unpunishment. Tag: Noir

The Expendable man by Dorothy B. Hughes

Dr. Hugh Densmore, a U.C.L.A. medical intern is on his way to his nieces wedding, when against his better judgement (and his creepy paranoia) he picks up a young girl hitch hiking in the dessert. It's not going to go well is it?

It may have been a trope even then, the innocent(?) man fighting to clear his name, but Hughes twists it then imbues it with quiet menace that simply and insidiously oozes of the page. You may see the girls fate but what Densmore actually fears, his paranoia and his nods to his past are kept hidden and then hook you in before.. well that would a spoiler. This tenseness is kept up pretty much throughout the entirety of the book. It’s gripping because you care and because of the stakes. It’s not a why or whodunit it’s a subversion of thought and touched with social commentary and excitement as the best crime novels are.

The trap might be sprung by his picking up the girl; they might swing about and come after him. Only when the car had disappeared from sight, did he relax and immediately feel the fool. It was surprising what old experiences remembered could do to a presumably educated, civilized man.

It's a shame I am not going to discuss that spoiler because this is where Hughes writing really shines. This is why you want to read the book, this tenacious look at a different very real kind of evil. Still if a review or intro does spoil it is still worth seeking out, certainly not a one trick pony.

I can't really fault it. Or rather its faults don't matter to me. Sometimes heavy handed; a repetitive under current of jealously say or slightly too much goodness to shadow the dark. Also the bad elements only occasional break out of stock character but I suspect this is probably intentional, the relentless repetitiveness of crimes is just one theme of the book.

Highly recommended to crime lovers. Hughes is an author I am going collect; I liked the patriotic The Blackbirder and I really enjoyed this!

Aug 9, 2013, 6:44am Top

Now let’s all go and invade England for its gold.. oh wait. Hahaha!

Aug 9, 2013, 7:37am Top

I'm finally catching up with your thread. What a great string of reviews! The Long Ships and The Expendable Man sound like books I should check out.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the Digger series! I loved the first two volumes and I still have the remaining four to read. I had gotten side-tracked these past couple of months with the current slate of Hugo nominees.

Edited: Aug 9, 2013, 1:07pm Top

->72 clfisha:
That's true, knowing someone who is like your character will help you believe them. I have actually milked a cow, but it was in a "demonstration" type setting, so didn't have to drink the milk straight after. :)

->73 clfisha:
Excellent review - thumbing! "invade England for its gold.. oh wait." Had to LOL @ that!

Aug 9, 2013, 6:13pm Top

I'm doing some catching up here as well. I have a few Dorothy Hughes books on my shelves that I am looking forward to, but don't have either The Expendable Man or The Blackbirder which I now need to hunt down!

Aug 10, 2013, 3:15am Top

A great couple of reviews (again!) and it looks like I'll have to add Dorothy B. Hughes to the list of authors I need to check out.

Aug 10, 2013, 3:48pm Top

I've been looking at Digger and The Poisoner's Handbook for a while. Glad to hear they're good!

Aug 13, 2013, 11:58am Top

Paulina: Thank you for the recommendation!

Judith if try any others of hers and have any recs let me know. I think I am going to go for her classic In a Lonely place next.

Dave & Andrea: Hope you enjoy!

Aug 13, 2013, 12:04pm Top

Category 1: 13 Linked Books. Tag: robotics

Paintwork By Tim Maughan
Near future sci-fi shorts

Three shorts collected, full of energy and near future tech. Full of artists struggling from or succumbing to the cynical global corporate machine. Augmented reality graffiti and virtual reality games writ large and all round you.

My favourite is the 1st and is the tale of graffiti and sabotage and selling out. The 2nd story is weaker and a mere taster to the third, which moves from the UK to Cuba and contains the evocative augmented reality game idea of players who use their city as a background to battle huge personalised robots. This imagery is partly why the stories are so good, but they also contain a lot of energy and vibrancy to make them appealing.

if you are fan of Sci Fi its definitely worth seeking but even if you have no idea what augmented reality or MMORPG are then you should be able to pick it up. Recommended.

Part of the short has been turn into a stunning video.. go check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEPl2bTqBq8

Aug 22, 2013, 3:16am Top

Catching up here again Claire, very happy to see Dangerous Gifts is as good as the first, and The Long Ships also sounds good.

Aug 25, 2013, 12:50pm Top

Catching up too, and "thanks" for all of the BBs! :)

Aug 27, 2013, 11:25am Top

Catching up Claire, as always wonderful reviews. Thankfully, I had already some of these one so only add Jagannath, Le Mur Invisible for me it would be a nerve-racking situation and The Expendable Man ;)

Aug 27, 2013, 3:05pm Top

83 Yeah I can't wait for her third but I think she hasn't started something else. The horror!

84 I never cackle quietly to myself as someone falls under a hail of book bullet. honest...

85 I know I am an introvert but I am really being part of team too so that is terrifying.

Aug 27, 2013, 3:56pm Top

I'm a little bit this way too. Need to live in town in everyday life or I'll be going crazy. Quiet time for the week-end or holidays is nice but not too much.

Aug 28, 2013, 9:58am Top

@87 Oh yes I am very much a city girl.. grew up in the country.. shudder.

Category 6. Crime and Unpunishment

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (NOS4A2 in the USA)
Gripping horror

Manx spirits children away to his secret inner world of Christmas Land. Vic can find things, crossing an old and rickety bridge (and time and space) to their location. But these talents have a terrible cost and when Vic goes looking “for trouble” she finds Manx and her whole life is twisted and spun unalterably out of control.

Set firmly in the supernatural horror bracket this is a gripping, sweeping epic of book. Suitably horrible rather than quietly creepy and for its length has superb pacing as we follow our protagonist from childhood to messed up adult hood. Vic is a great character to root for, and sympathy easily bought even though deeply flawed as we see her grow. She tends to over shadow the others but they are still vivid - Maggie, the librarian who can see truths in her scrabble tiles and Lou the love of her life. The baddies are suitably very bad, yes that even includes the wonderful car and the fantastically nightmarish Christmas Land that drip atmosphere and personality.

I don't need to say it’s violent but I should warn that rape is referenced, not involving kids & always off screen but still there. The plot is tight although may not be surprising I found it still gripping and for someone who finds supernatural horror a bit silly I can honestly I enjoyed it immensely.

The hardback is a lovingly put together, check those cute graphics: the odd Rolls Royce separator prose or a copy of a scribbled note. I really hope the paperback carries these over to make it a book to buy and cherish.

Obviously horror fans will lap this up but others may find this their perfect Christmas read. Ho Ho Ho

Edited: Aug 28, 2013, 12:13pm Top

Category 8. Hellish temptation

Infernal Devices by K W Jeter
Failed, early, Steampunkery

George's father has left him his watchmakers shop full of weird and complex machinery that he can never understand and then comes a mysterious figure wanting him to fix a device and intrigued he digs further into a world of the anti-science brigade, of strange creatures and dastardly machines, heathen religions and futuristic deprivations.

A story that should have worked: fantastic machines, check, Lovecraftian sinister overtones, check, tongue in cheek Victoriana, check, raucous adventure story, check. However I soon fell out of love with it and positively skimmed when towards the end when characters starting explaining the plot in large chunks. I did try to ignore that fact that two characters spoke in modern day (?) Americanisms, yes with an in-character reason but explained at the end and that doesn't make sense anyway). I could grit my teeth and bear the fact that out of three female characters two were lust driven nymphos who wanted to have sex with the main character right there and then. And the play on Victorian racism, um wince! I understand (and sometimes enjoy) the passive, bumbling hero trope but its only endearing if you are enjoying the book and to be honest I stopped 3/4 of the way through.

This is an example of the burgeoning Steampunk genre in the 80's by the guy who coined the term Steampunk himself. It does have an afterword by Jeff Vandermeer who obviously liked it more than I but unless you are not sensitive to sexism or clumsy plotting and are non British so that the lingo doesn't make you cry I really can't recommend it's worth it.

Edited: Aug 29, 2013, 4:55am Top

Shame about Infernal Devices. I've often thought of picking that one up but have resisted the urge so far. Looks like I may have been right to do so. Still need to read me some Joe Hill as well though Locke & Key will probably be the first I get around to from him.

Aug 28, 2013, 12:50pm Top

Glad you liked NOS4R2! It sounds fantastic and I can't wait to read it.

Aug 28, 2013, 6:00pm Top

Such a shame about Infernal Devices - that cover is delicious and I want to have a reason to own it! I guess not...

Aug 28, 2013, 9:46pm Top

Another great review for NOS4R2.... I am getting all giddy now about adding this one to my December reading pile!

Darn on Infernal Devices.... that one has been on my future steampunk reading list. ;-(

Aug 29, 2013, 4:29am Top

Well it wasn't awful until the explanations started and I lost my rag, I mean either write a longer book, a sequel or a tighter book. Gosh I am still annoyed :)

I have seen some reviews about NOS4R2 from horror fans saying they are less keen. Personally the large story arch helped the story not hindered but your mileage may vary.

Edited: Aug 29, 2013, 10:18am Top

Category 8. Hellish temptations

XKCD Volume 0 by Ranall Monroe

Are you a huge fan of the hugely funny, highly intelligent and sometime breathtaking web comic XKCD? Do you want support the website? or perhaps just have a hard copy of some of cartoons (with extra commentary for the books, oh yes) Then this is the book for you. Otherwise well I had to question your taste. XKCD is the best thing on the web; pop culture, science and of course life are all skewered...

Sadly the mouse over captions are missing from these tasters so just go and spend an hour clicking random on

Aug 29, 2013, 10:19am Top

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse

Immobility by Brain Evenson
Unsettling, unreliable, haunting post-apocalyptic ouroboros.

A men wakes from stasis, memory gone and paralysed from the waist down. His wakers say its a disease, that he is stored waiting for a cure, but now, in spite of his immobility he can help them. It could speed up his cure. He must travel, carried into the wasteland by “mules” to take back something stolen, something needed for the community to survive.

Evenson’s haunting imagery and sparse style make a perfect psychological horror. This story is unsettling, the questions it raises roll through you and chill you. The world filtered through a muddled memory is fantastic: desolate scenery saturated in radiation, pockmarks of hope, sudden terror. There are the "mules" who take him, those who hide humanities secrets in their underground bunker and those who loop their lives never-ending. Optimist or pessimist the philosophy cannot be ignored and overshadows all and gives an intriguing story a delicious dark weight.

The only issues seem to be that Evenson tries to make the story into a twisting thing, when (as its not unobvious) it would deepen the atmosphere to underline and foreshadow it. An issue with 1st person narrative perhaps? We know what he doesn't, but then shouldn't he suspect?

Recommended. Fans of post-apocalyptic futures and quiet horror will find something here but so too will those for those who like thoughtful fare.

“We say no to torture, and then we find a reason to torture in the name of democracy. . . . We say no to eight million dead in camps, and then we do it again, twelve million dead in gulags. Humans are poison. Perhaps it would be better if we did not exist at all.”

"What we have here is the history of the human race, a record of births and deaths for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
“Why?” asked Horkai.
“What do you mean, why?” Mahonri responded. “Humanity is important. All these things must be preserved so that, when the time comes, humanity shall know what it has been, is, and will be.”

Aug 29, 2013, 4:58pm Top

Hee, XKCD! I might have to get that book for the BF for Christmas... :)

Aug 30, 2013, 12:20pm Top

heh you can beat XKCD. It is a slim volume sadly, I do want more.

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse

Old Man's War by John Scalzi
Sweeping and fun military Sci Fi

When widower, John Perry, turns 75 he joins the army that protects Earth's colony's from .. well.. he doesn't know. He doesn't why they take the old or how they can turn him into a soldier but he wants to be young again and anyway who wants to live forever?

World building is where this tale really shines, from the insular naive view of earth to the vastness of space and the dramatic fight for survival. The mechanics are unfurled and explored, oh it’s not full of detail just the joy of ideas. Scalzi has huge amounts of fun with the aliens, there is a raft of cool cultures and creatures that we meet.. well and then massacre (Go Humans!). It can be funny and tragic and basically just sweeps you along in one epic tale of war.

The main character is hugely enjoyable but irritatingly always good at things. Lucky that. His fellow cast support the plot, if little else, but do it with such aplomb its almost churlish to mention it. I was a bit disappointed (this being Scalzi) this doesn't quite overcome the genre’s innate sexism but there are actually women in it, woo hoo! Racism, well it seems to duck the question, I think every speaking part was American (& all skin colour was changed).

You know I am not sure why I wasn't more engaged, I guess world building stories aren't really my thing. Still recommended, it has much LT love too.

Edited: Sep 2, 2013, 10:59am Top

Category 13: Unlucky dip

The Black Project by Gareth Brookes
Endearingly creepy graphic novel.

Made of embroidery and lino cut marks this beautiful graphic novel stands out as something odd and intriguing. The story could make you run for hills but don’t. Stop. It may be about a socially awkward, lonely kid whose desire for a friend.. a girlfriend .. leads him to make girls out of households objects but Brooke's genius makes that kid, Richard, likeable and understandable. The aching loneliness and frustration, the banality of suburbia, the harsh cruelties of other kids and well meaning parents. It’s also quite funny. And whilst it may be over the top, misguided adolescence is probably something that strikes a chord.

Understated, weird and very human this book took 4 years to make and you can see why. Once you have read it you will also see why it won the First Graphic Novel Competition (judged by luminaries Ian Rankin, Bryan Talbot & Hannah Berry)


Edited: Sep 2, 2013, 11:29am Top

Great review of Old Man's War. I've been meaning to read Scalzi for a while, since I keep up with his great blog. I'm torn between trying that one or reading Red Shirts as a first book.

The Black Project looks amazing. What stunning art.

Sep 2, 2013, 3:48pm Top

Seriously intrigued by your review of The Black Project, Claire. Creepy but interesting.... sounds like a good book to add as a possible October read.... or not since my local library doesn't have that one. *pouts*

Sep 2, 2013, 6:24pm Top

Well, I have to give The Black Project huge points for originality - I can't say I've ever heard of anything similar. Intrigued. And a bit creeped out. :)

Sep 3, 2013, 4:32am Top

Its very new so it may not be in libraries yet! I hope it does.

100 If you like Star Trek I would go for Redshirts 1st. I enjoyed it more.

Sep 3, 2013, 6:05am Top

>100 andreablythe: Redshirts is on the TBR and will be my first Scalzi. But I love world building, so I'm fairly sure Old man's war (first brought to my attention by Dave) will end up there as well. Also making note of Immobility and NOS4R2 damn you. Any idea why a single letter is changed in the American edition?

Sep 3, 2013, 6:20am Top

A - pronounced ah in US, pronouced ay in UK so changed to R

Sep 3, 2013, 6:23am Top

Aaa, I see the word now. Right!

Sep 3, 2013, 9:23am Top

Category 6. Crime and Unpunishment

Poetry in (e)motion: The Illustrated Words of Scroobius Pip

Poems/lyrics merged with art, myriad styles to fit many topics. It is a heady eclectic mix and should be was drawn from a plea for artists on myspace. Such was the response a book appeared.

Scroobius Pip writes, well "everyman polemics", as it says on his site. I like that. He can be dark; a letter from an angry God, plea to a suicide and err.. slightly less dark; dead end jobs, noir like dreams of sage advice, urban violence. Ok he can be funny too and this shines through. He is one half of a hip hop outfit as well as spoken word artist (or performance poet). I am not a fan of hip hop nor poetry but I love his stuff, I love his delivery and enjoyed this even whilst missing his voice, his superb delivery. I don't feel qualified to discuss the merit of his poems/lyrics but I still would recommend it. Its accessible and intense and charming.

Love comics or poetry? Well this is something to check out. Fans of Scroobius Pip this is a no brainer.

My fav song/poem: "Waiting for the beat to kick in"
Thou shalt always kill track that made them famous:

Sep 3, 2013, 12:27pm Top

>103 clfisha:-104
Love Startrek! And Redshirts just won a Hugo award, so maybe that will be my first choice. :)

>104 GingerbreadMan:-106
I had to google NOS4A2 to figure it out. LOL. That's awesome, and so like Joe Hill. He also put Morse code on the inner pages of his book Horns, which I had to sit and translate. It was equally awesome.

>107 clfisha:
I love both poetry and comics, so it sounds like a perfect book for me. :)

Sep 4, 2013, 4:30am Top

I may have to read Horns, I wasn't keen on Heart Shaped Box though. Maybe just watch the new film that's coming!

Sep 4, 2013, 1:34pm Top


I'm not excited. No, not at all.

Sep 4, 2013, 5:57pm Top

Yup, and it's premiering in Toronto! (I assume we're talking about Horns.) Daniel Radcliffe plays the main character.

Sep 4, 2013, 6:12pm Top

*boggles all over again*
Daniel Radcliffe??? Woah. That'll be interesting.

I need to go look up more information on this so that my head doesn't wobble off its shoulders.

Sep 12, 2013, 1:38pm Top

Thanks for reminding me about xkcd! It's been a few months since I checked the website, I foresee a couple of enjoyable hours going through the comics I missed.

Sep 25, 2013, 6:59am Top

Category 8. Hellish temptations

Fairest; The Hidden Kingdom by Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda

Rapunzel’s past catches up with her and draws her to Japan in search of her children. A hidden Kingdom where myths ?, split into two, hide from the world and are ready for war. All they need is a catalyst. This is Rapunzel as Japanese horror, of course it’s the hair.

It’s the visual ideas and the art that make this worth seeking out. There are some amazing spreads and arresting individual panels littered amongst sometimes over cluttered neon delights. The nest created of tangled chaotic hair, the J-Horror images bleeding strikingly on the page, the nods to Miyazaki.

The story is ok but gets lost and mired in being a fables story as the 1st story must explain the world and last story must smooth it all away (oh look a potion to remove memory!). Characters are seemingly crowbarred in, Bigby makes an appearance & Jack too, author choice or not its skews the story into near bland hodge-podge. This comic needed more time and space to explore.

Ok I am not a fan of fables, but I like what Beukes was try to do. It's refreshing, violence is treated with more of an edge (the graphic layout underlining it is quite stunning), the balance of female characters and a nod to the original slut shaming story of Rapunzel. It's all good but not captivating and does nothing to change my mind about Fables.

There is also a story tacked onto the end, that quite frankly is so bad I am astounded. I guess because it has a fox in it and a romance story with some women someone thought it would fit the Japan/fairest slot. I gave up when someone told a dryad to put on some clothes for a date as to retain some "mystery". Yes a dryad. I presume it was meant to be funny, alongside the toilet humour and chirpy monologue. Still it had a piece of plot dropped into it, so that's nice.

Edited: Sep 25, 2013, 7:01am Top

Category 5: Superstition

The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson
Damn scary, damn fine book.

Enjoy getting lost in a good book? Well getting lost in this one could prove fatal.

Jeremy Dyson has been asked to fictionalise true accounts of the supernatural and so we are introduced to a book of deliciously creepy stories, personally introduced by Dyson. A homage (as he says in the intro) to the scary books of his childhood. There are unsettling modern hauntings and hidden crimes, disappearances, terrifying meetings with other selves, desolate moors and secret government bunkers. Then of course they start to bleed their themes into the authors reality and then .. and then they .. well um.. hmm.. lets just say this is not a book to take to bed it is a book to be constrained in a locked bookcase in case it gets out.

It's wonderfully written, with a lovely mix of tales and almost, but not quite, too clever for its own good. It incorporates good old fashioned horror with a modern spin and it knows its genre. Knows exactly how to worm its way into your head. I couldn't put the book down and this is while I was truly, utterly freaked out (note to self: do not read this alone in the house & never visit Library basements).

If you are not a sensitive soul like me there is still much to like here, much to appreciate not just the stories themselves but the unusual, fun narrative. Horror aficionados as much as meta fiction fans will lap this up. If there is anything else out there like it I would love to know.

Highly recommended.

Sep 25, 2013, 9:46am Top

do not read this alone in the house & never visit Library basements

Ha, ha.... sounds like a book to read with all the lights on, too! Adding it to my possible future reading list, while keeping in mind i do tend to get freaked out easily. ;-)

Sep 25, 2013, 5:17pm Top

->114 clfisha:
My completist side has put that one on the wishlist, but it may have to stay there a little longer still, although the story at the end sounds "interesting." :)

Sep 26, 2013, 6:38pm Top

I'm curious about the Fables spin off, as I didn't know it existed. The art looks gorgeous, but it's unfortunate to hear the story isn't as great. I will still check it out, though.

The Haunted Book looks awesome and I can't wait to read it. Immediately adding it to my TBR list.

Sep 26, 2013, 10:12pm Top

Excellent review of The Wall -- it seems you had the same reaction I did when I read it a few years ago! I'm also getting into the XKCD review (didn't know there was a book!) and Old Man's War, which I'm just finishing up now. Something about The Black Project is calling to me too, but I suspect that is a harder one to find....

Sep 27, 2013, 4:17am Top

I hope it enjoy both. I do wonder if I was overawed by The Haunted Book because it was one of the very few books to scare plus I live people mucking about with narrative :)

@119 Thanks! I am really glad a film of Die Wand came out, got ghastly reviews but prodded be to seek it out. I think The Black Project will be in all good indie British comic shops and a few book shops and very little anywhere else!

Sep 27, 2013, 4:47pm Top

>115 clfisha: Wow, sounds great! I like to think of myself not easily scared - but then again I remember reading The haunting of Hill House in the car because I felt I needed to finish it before coming to our cabin in the forest. I also vividly remember watching Mulholland Drive alone late at night...

Oct 3, 2013, 11:20am Top

I think there is a strong arguement for the correct setting for a book. When I win the lottery big time I shall read each book in its perfect place whilst my butler ensures noone disturbs me :)

Oct 3, 2013, 11:24am Top

Category 8. Hellish temptations. Tag: Hedonism

I play the drums in a band called okay by Toby Litt
Brilliant, pitch perfect mocku-memoir

Every wanted to be in a famous rock band? Clap did and he made it too as drummer in Okay, a Mid-level Canadian indie rock band. Touring in far flung places, littered with groupies and drugs. Anyone’s dream right? Hedonism 101.This is his memoir, his middle aged self-spewing his life forth.

It’s very funny and tragic. It's a glimmer into the moments between the rock n roll after parties and shows. It can be immature and shallow and very human. Its pitch is perfect. It never falls into stereotypes it manages to mix wonderful over the top moments we expect with quiet thoughts. The small moment when he stands outside his rock idols house? (famous himself) but is too self conscious and shy to say hello. The hilariously scary part when lead singer Syph calls everyone to his house to declare the aliens are coming and has wrapped it in tin foil. It's the clichés of fame at its most corrosive and then the bits that never get said.

The tale is cut up, the fits and starts of life in vignette form. A narrative structure that manages to flow beautifully whilst still unsettling the reader, the choppy emptiness of a life spent touring. Part of the intrigue is what story will emerges, what is the picture of the life led. As is the slow unfurling of the supporting cast as his band members (Syph, Mono, and Crab. Yes its that kind of band) become (slid?). Of course most of the charm is Clap himself, his character just exudes off the page. Litt knows how to capture someone’s soul and pour it out on a page.

It has obvious comparisons with Spinal Tap mockumentary or that wonderful, painfully truthful, Metallica documentary Monster (which I hugely recommend fan or not). I could spend most of the review listing out my favourite bits, spoilers at how the book joyfully blocks expectations.

Look did I mention it's very funny?

Litt fans, this is yet again very good and yet again entirely different from anything else I had read. It is dark and humorous, it’s less crazy than some and you have no excuse not to read it.

Highly recommended.

Oct 3, 2013, 12:25pm Top

->122 clfisha:
Brilliant plan! Reading a book about the Caribbean? "Jeeves, bring the Learjet around, please." :)

Oct 3, 2013, 2:48pm Top

123, that's the first one I've picked up from Toby Litt but haven't read it yet. A review like that bumps it up the list though.

Oct 3, 2013, 5:35pm Top

>123 clfisha:: A mid-level Canadian indie band! I'm game.

Oct 4, 2013, 8:43am Top

>123 clfisha: As with some other writers I've tossed your way these last years, you are now much more Litt-knowledgeable than me. This sounds like something I'd love, not least in that crisp, funny style of his!

Oct 4, 2013, 9:31am Top

@124 Eva: can you imagine how your reading choices would get skewed. Hmm I don't fancy a crime thriller set on cold, dark Scottish moors but there is one in cool Edinburgh pubs.

125 Dave I hope you like it! Apart from the dark humour his books are all different. Hospital: A Dream has to be read to be believed.

126:Rabbitprincess. Double checked, defunately Canadian. Never talks much about the actual music tho.

@127Anders and I can't thank you enough :) I am reading his King Death at the moment. Again different genre (crime/mystery) and different narrative style. Going through a bit of a Litt month as he is coming down to Bristol to the lit fest!

Edited: Oct 4, 2013, 10:08am Top

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse

The Guard (De bewaker roman)by Peter Terrin
Shifting, claustrophobic apocalyptica.

In a murky dystopian near future two guards protect the wealthy in an apartment building. They guard the only entrance in the basement car park. A basement they never leave. Their only interaction is the staff and the odd nod to the rich inhabitants they protect. But something unknown is occurring outside and one night everyone leaves. Well not everyone, there's 1 resident left. What is a guard to do?

This is a hugely claustrophobic, paranoid piece in three acts with very short, sharp chapters that heighten tension and unsettle. Narrated by subservient Michel who follows Harry’s every word and buys into his dream of an elite guard’s job outside whilst he does all the chores. Routine is the law and every deviation is torn apart and discussed.

The story follows their everyday for a while and it all slowly sleeps into you. The monotony, the suddeness of a visit. The edge of your seat drama and potential danger of a regular supply deliver. Everything blown up and in microcosm.

Terrin suceeds in bringing into their world before everything very quietly changes. An observer, jumping at their shadows and smelling their fresh bread.

However facts are slim and this works against the book in the end. Keeping the world and apocolypse unclear works beautifully to isolate and keep teh atmosphere uncomfortable. Keeping the characters at arms lengths works less well, even the narrator. Its not background it's everything, eventually even down to what they are seeing. This lack of firm ground and works against the story flow and make it slightly unsatisfying. sure the reader is clued in but you trust too little.

It is an interesting book, a great idea and refreshingly not quite what I expected. Whether it is the translation or not I don't know it just doesn't quite work.

Still recommended, dystopia and psychological thriller fans will love this. I eagerly await someone to do a play/film, hopefully sans the wee bit of violence (shudder).

Oct 4, 2013, 11:54am Top

->128 clfisha:
Good point. I still want a butler, though. And a Learjet. :)

Oct 4, 2013, 8:53pm Top

> 128 & 130 - Now I have an image in my head of Jeeves trailing after Eva on some cold, dark Scottish moor while he makes arrangements for a Harrier Jump Jet, or my personal favorite, a Sikorsky S76A helicopter, to come and pick them up. ;-)

Oct 4, 2013, 9:00pm Top

>128 clfisha:: Even just knowing the band is Canadian makes me smile :)

Oct 5, 2013, 1:17am Top

->131 lkernagh:
That's a brilliant image!!! I'll be in my Merrell boots, but I may have to impose spats on poor Jeeves, just because it would be funny. :)

Oct 5, 2013, 1:42am Top

Jeeves in spats..... the poor man would be despondent!

Edited: Oct 5, 2013, 5:28pm Top

Ok now I have Jeeves pictured in his in spats despondently holding a huge umbrella over Eva who is wrapped in a blanket and engrossed in a book.

Oct 5, 2013, 6:38pm Top

I'll take that! :)

Oct 6, 2013, 4:30am Top

I see that too, the pair trundling over the moor. But the book seems to be written by Beckett rather than Woodhouse.

Oct 6, 2013, 10:51am Top

Ah, for Beckett, I think Jeeves and I will set the jet for a small, smoky bar in Paris. I'll have a large whisky and Jeeves can have tea, or a small sherry if he prefers. And Kjell Brel will be singing in the background (don't worry, only Anders will get that).

I'll need a Tardis, won't I? :)

Edited: Oct 6, 2013, 4:27pm Top

I.. I.. All I can say is this needs to be a series of crime caper novels or at the very least a comics series. Eva, Jeeves and many many literary allusions.

edited: so excited I can't type

Oct 6, 2013, 4:24pm Top

This is a very, very good idea! I might actually do this. I'm thinking the crime of each installment will take place in tangent with some literary classic or other. All sorts of fun plot-possibilities are rushing through my head. :)

Oct 6, 2013, 4:38pm Top

>140 -Eva-: In the first book, Jasper Fforde could shoot you for stealing his setup ;-P Ah, Kjell Brel. It's been to long since I heard Under en filt i Madrid...

Edited: Oct 6, 2013, 5:16pm Top

And the second book would be Wodehouse coming back from the grave to sue for royalties for stealing his main character. A zombie-Wodehouse could make for a great story! :)

I want to be a baddie, though, so I was thinking Jeeves and I tool around the world, coming up with capers with the help of various novels rather than their characters being part of the story. Hmm, more planning needed. :)

Once I had written that, I had to go youtube "Under en filt i Madrid" - it is still quite brilliant, isn't it.

Oct 8, 2013, 10:26pm Top

>123 clfisha:: I'm finally caught up on your thread and was very intrigued by this review. Sounds like a great read!

Edited: Oct 9, 2013, 4:50am Top

@141/143 ah but there is no such thing as an original story :-) Imagine trying to go on a train journey somewhere suddenly spies and dead bodies everywhere.. poor zombie Jeeves.

143 It was :) I hope enjoy if you manage to get hold of a copy!

Edited: Oct 9, 2013, 6:12am Top

Category 8. Hellish temptations. Tag: Hellish Temptations

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

The devil has been offered a shot at redemption. Live a (reasonably) sin free life on earth as a human and he will get a shot at heaven. Of course the Devil doesn’t believe a word of it but he’s sure going to have fun in his hosts body, washed up author Declan Gunn. Although he doesn't realise it's going to give him a penchant for storytelling. This book then is his story.

I have mixed feelings about this book. There are some gems here, Lucifer is the King of unreliable narrators and I loved his flowing duplicity sometimes switching "truths" mid-sentence. I enjoyed his asides into history, his rants, his arrogance and smugness (oh you can see why he fell). He could be accused of rambling (lovers of tight action plots beware) but I thought it was great and elevated the novel from the ordinary.

I didn't like the character he "jumped” into, the failed author, an arrogant loser whose life and legacy added nothing particularly to the story. I also didn't like the fact that Lucifer seems to be misogynistic it was annoying and jarring, I mean surely he hates everyone. In fact I jarred with his personality but it’s matter of taste, I have my own opinion on what Lucifer should be (I blame Neil Gaiman)

Recommended. I will be reading more from Duncan (I really enjoyed The last Werewolf)

Oct 9, 2013, 6:11am Top

Category 5: Superstition. Tag Luck

CockFighter by Charles Willeford
A compelling, fascinating and repellent quest

“..the only sport that can’t be fixed, perhaps the only fair contest in left in America”

Frank Mansfield has an obsession to become Cocker of the Year. Years ago he swore a vow of silence until he wins that elusive Prize and now that he has lost everything he is more determined than ever that this is the year it’s going to be his.

Loosley based on Homer odyssey Willieford paints a picture of a "sport" and lifestyle you probably know nothing about, one fascinating and repellent in equal measure. A bit like the narrator, a obsessed figure whose entire being revolves around this chosen career. He compares everyone to his work ethic and chosen field, he doesn't grow or change, his quest consumes him. He is a horrible person but you can't hate him (much) nor you can't stop reading. His drive is utterly compelling. His inner monologue pins you down and forces you to turn the page.

"The man who is unable to talk back is at the mercy of these people. He is like an inexperienced priest who listens tolerantly to the first simple confessions of impure thoughts, and then listens with increasing horror as the sins mount, one outdoing the other until he is shocked into dumbness"

It's a deceptively simple book and writing style. We may see the world through Franks "frank" world view (yes intentionally named) but others’ reactions can be telling. The author’s moral compass could be anywhere but his fascination and research burns into the story and carries you with him. Yes it is graphic, the point later in the book when he trains chickens .. is really.. um.. horrific but it’s not just us who thinks so, Frank’s partner think so too. You don't need to lend your empathy just witness, take the devils bargain you will be rewarded.

Of course it helps that the writing is smooth and straight and engaging. It helps that the pace keeps up even when you are getting instruction. Anyone writing a 1st person should look to this as a lesson, how to comment on your commentator.

"There is no such thing as a passive interest in cockfighting. Beginning as a casual onlooker, a man soon finds the action of two game cocks battling to the death a fascinating spectacle. He either likes it or he doesn't.

Highly recommended if you can overcome your distaste. A unique book that shouldn't be missed. I can't say I am ever going to watch the film though.

Oct 9, 2013, 6:56am Top

It sounds interesting, but I won't read it.

Oct 9, 2013, 7:03am Top

Recommended. I will be reading more from Duncan

Everybody should! ;)

Personally I don't think I, Lucifer is his best work but it was the first of his that I read so I'm glad it has piqued your interest in reading others. I still fear that his pre-werewolf books are too male-centric to appeal totally to a wider audience though.

Oct 10, 2013, 4:48am Top

@147 :-)
@148 I think the next one will be post-werewolf although it probably will be Talulla Rising!

Oct 10, 2013, 4:50am Top

Category 6. Crime and Unpunishment. Tag: noir

QueenPin by Meg Abbott
Modern, gripping pulp

“Because she was solid gold, fourteen-carat, barely burnished despite twenty years of hard molling. But beneath it, I knew, beneath that gold and stardust, she was all grit and sharp teeth gnashing, head twisting, talons out, tearing flesh. She was all open mouth, tunneling into an awful nothing.”

In the golden era of mobsters a young secretary escapes her stultifying existence when infamous Gloria Denton offers her a job. A world of big money rackets, freedom and excitement and lust among the casinos and racetracks. A violent, addictive world where there is no one you can trust.

The language is delicious full-on gangster, but full of passion; the greed and ambition, the desire, the twisting paranoia of the criminal act. There is love here but it’s not healthy, it’s a power play of teacher and protege. Whilst you don't exactly root for either, our young narrator draws you in and you don't want to let go.

It is a modern nod to pulps and refreshingly a Noir that does not revolve wholly around men, although sadly (and rather boringly) the pivotal drama does. Reversing the femme fatale back fires into a yet more tired trope (the bad boyfriend) and makes the book lag badly in the middle. Still I adored the rest.


Oct 10, 2013, 6:15am Top

Good review! Queenpin is one of my very favorite noirs.

Edited: Oct 11, 2013, 10:36am Top

@151 Thanks Alison, which one would you recommend next?

Category 4: Death by dangerously leaning TBR

Detective Story by Imre Kertesz
Chilling novella of barbaric bureaucracy

A prisoners story. The last protest of a condemned man is to tell his version of events, to let the world understand what led him to a cell. It is the story of the Salinas family, an infamous case that rocked the unnamed totalitarian state and this story is one of a"regular" policeman who was just doing his job.

Chilling and detached. This is a story full of mist, with acts happening off screen. Culpable deniability and throw away statements that leave you to shudder. Martens story is partly one of fate, of Kafkaesque bureaucracy that lets evil in and turns a blind eye. It is a horror of errors (nothing comedic about it), a comment on the evil humanity will stoop to. It is an intriguing detective story in which no one can win and is full of unreliability. It is also a mini exploration of blame, Martens is the scapegoat after all, low ranking officer whose superiors have escaped.

“Our records had already identified that Enrique was going to perpetuate something sooner or later. As far as we were concerned, his fate was sealed, even if he himself had not yet made up his mind.”

It is not in any way gratuitous, something that enhances the horror in throw away lines. In references to chummy chats between interrogations, the dead pan descriptions of mechanics of building a case and of diary excerpts from dead men.

Written in 1977 by Nobel prize winner Kertesz it feels in a way timeless (if you ignore the technology), it may not be the his most famous book but it certainly packs a punch.

If this sort of thing is your bag, recommended.

Edit: more massive spelling errors that usual rectified

Oct 11, 2013, 9:23am Top

I have Fateless by Kertesz around here somewhere. He's a Nobel winner, so I should dig it out and read it this month. It just doesn't look that cheerful.

I think that Queenpin is one of Abbott's best. I've liked every single one of hers, but prefer the Noirs with a period setting. The Song is You is very good. I keep hearing great things about her newest, Dare Me, but I'm holding off on reading it as long as I can -- you know, for that rainy afternoon when I need something I know I'll love.

Oct 11, 2013, 10:37am Top

Ah I meant Nobel not novel :) I mean to pick up fateless next but you have to be in the right mood..

Thanks for the recs, I know extactly what you mean about holding onto book. The only guilt free tbr books ah the ones I sam saving for the right occasion and mood!

Oct 11, 2013, 5:23pm Top

Great to see you loved I Play The Drums in a Band Called Okay as it is one of the Toby Litt's that I have on my shelves.

I am another one who really enjoyed Queenpin and I do believe that I have The Song Is You on my shelves as well. I am going to be finished with my Challenge in a day or so and perhaps will be able to fit both these read in before year end.

Oct 11, 2013, 9:15pm Top

Dodging Detective Story, only because my last attempt at reading Kertesz was a frustrating experience for me. Liquidation, was a bit of a struggle for me to follow the plot, so, of course I am not surprised to discover that he is a Nobel prize winner!

Oct 12, 2013, 6:56pm Top

Anders put Fateless on my list a couple of years ago, but I'm still waiting for the right state of mind for it. I was thinking of it for this month's AwardCAT, but it's a bit heavy for now.

Oct 13, 2013, 3:15pm Top

I read Fateless a couple of years ago and I would say one needs to be in the right frame of mind for sure. Knowing that the author lived through what he was writing about made it a difficult, but ultimately rewarding read.

Oct 14, 2013, 5:21am Top

@155 Judy I hope you enjoy it! I think The Sing for You wil be my next Abott

156 Lori: Detective Story seems to be fairly straight forward (if not linear) if you ever want to try again. Plus it's very short!

@157/158 You know I wondered why the author is familiar! It is all the LT reviews..

I think thiugh there is always a narrow window for certain books, I think that is one of them. You need to do it justice really.

Oct 14, 2013, 11:00am Top

13. Unlucky dip - 5 tags you choose. Tag: Happy Endings

Passport to Peril by Robert B. Parker
A fine pulp spy thriller

If you are in the market for a good old fashioned pulp spy thriller then this is perfect. Written in the 50's by X who had a rather fascinating life himself. We have murders on trains, Nazi's still dreaming of WWII, chases in snowy forests, evil Russians, femme fatales and a beautiful dame in distress. Cold war conspiracies and gunfights what more do you want? In short, hugely engaging story with one of those fantastic hard case crime covers


Oct 14, 2013, 11:02am Top

Category 6. Crime and Unpunishment. Tag Noir

Nairobi Heat by Mukoma wa Ngugi
Fast, thoughtful and fun thriller

A dead white girl is found on the doorstep of a Rwandan Professor, revered as a hero for his actions during the genocide. A mix which has the media in a frenzy, the local KKK riled and a scapegoat desperately needed. Dead ends abound until a glimmer of light, far far away in Nairobi. Ishmael is going to have to go back to his ancestral home and face some truth about himself, about society

Racial tensions and corruption, colonialism and genocide mix in the heady culture clash of USA and Kenya. Mixed with the love, friendship & finding ones place in the world. It’s a heady (used heady twice)mix but stays a cool noir thriller throughout with car chases and internal conspiracies, whilst using the genre to look to explore how to right a terrible wrong, what lengths do you go. What does justice mean. It’s exactly the kind of thing Noir is for.

“Do not commit crimes against white people because the state will not rest until you are caught.”

I bought this for a non-western slant and to my inexperienced eye wasn't disappointed. The characters slowly grew on me and afterwards I find myself needing to read book 2. O and Ishmael make a good partnership and if women don't overload the text at least they aren’t wallflowers. The action’s good, I enjoyed the mystery, although parts of it do stretch the credibility.. suspension of disbelief I suspect required, I mean I had to overcome the oddity at a US cop flown to Nairobi to pursue a case when the obvious suspect is sitting right there (& they didn’t even search his house). My only other complaint is that the initial US bits felt a bit flat compared to Kenya. Still it makes a change.. ahem.

Recommended, a fine Noir/hard boiled crime novel. However if you are extremely fixated on plots being 100% believable & perfect this may raise hackles.

Oct 14, 2013, 12:16pm Top

> 159 - Linear sounds more encouraging..... maybe I will give Kertesz another chance. ;-)

Oct 21, 2013, 3:24pm Top

Nairobi Heat sounds both intense. I might even go outside my genre zone and read a crime novel due to its unique point of view.

Oct 21, 2013, 5:19pm Top

Definitely adding Nairobi Heat to my wish list.

Oct 22, 2013, 5:55am Top

There might never be a time when you feel "Hey, why not read this Auschwitz survivor account?" But Fateless is a rather unique book, and I recommend everybody to give it a shot. Must remember to read more Kertesz at some point! Glen Duncan keeps popping up on reliable threads... Must check out his work.

Oct 23, 2013, 4:42am Top

@163/164 Hope you enjoy it.

@165 You have a point :) I will stick fateless on the wishlist.

Edited: Nov 6, 2013, 9:53am Top

Oh dear look at this dusty ol' dull thread that shows to the world I am never ever going to suceeed in my category challenge ... I wonder if it should have an accident.. picks up a shovel and looks nonchalantly menacing (quite hard to do)...

Oh wait I was supposed to FAIL this challenge.. wells thats okay then I am on track to fail! (fills in shallow grave).

To celebrate have a review which in no way whatsoever helps me complete my challenge.

Edited: Nov 6, 2013, 9:54am Top

Catgeory: "I think we are going to make it" - not in this challenge!

Through Splintered Walls Kaaron Warren
Delicious and creepy tales inspired by the Australian landscape.

3 shorts and a novella designed set to give you a taste of an author* and oh what a taste Kaaron Warren is, rich and bitter and pungent. Stories about the lost, lonely, quaking women who live in the creeks and drag you down. Stories about road accidents and the ghostly comfort they bring. Stories about murder and falling to one’s inner desire and the good it can do. All the shorts poke and soothe and make way, nervously, for the novella “Sky” which insidiously wraps around you and when all comfort is gone rams it home with a bang. It’s striking and it’s so beautifully crafted. The way it unfurls and slowly builds, the way it holds a mirror (however twisted) to our everyday, to the things that tumble carelessly from peoples mouth, to the violence embedded and ignored in our society. It is a story so good because it could have gone so wrong, been so clumsy. Making horrible people mesmeric is a skill (may I just put a trigger warning here) and although there is a slight blip changing POV that’s my only complaint.

Hugely recommended to dark fantasy and horror fans, to those who like to see a dark mirror held up. To anyone who has starred at muddy water with trepidation or is suspicous of what goes in cat food..

*Part of the “12 Planet” series. If like me you love novellas this is oh so tempting (and now I have a e-reader woo!). I have already hovered up the Margo Lanagan one!

Nov 6, 2013, 2:00pm Top

Delicious, creepy, and Australia? That's a book bullet for SURE.

Nov 6, 2013, 7:18pm Top

"a review which in no way whatsoever helps me complete my challenge"
Way to embrace the fail - I salute you! :)

Nov 7, 2013, 5:16pm Top

>168 clfisha: I don't know what this says about me, but that sounds like it's utterly for me :) Oh, and as for the challenge: GO CLAIRE, you can fail by a small nargin, I know you can do it!

Nov 8, 2013, 2:05pm Top

Instead of thinking in terms of success or failure, think of it as how many book bullets you can hit us with. In this way, your 2013 Challenge has been an overwhelming success!

Nov 9, 2013, 12:08am Top

->172 DeltaQueen50:
Don't encourage her - I get too many bullets from Claire's threads as it is! :)

Nov 10, 2013, 4:50am Top

Hmm maybe I should just have a book bullet target to meet for next year :)

@171 thanks Anders it's going to be tough holding off reading all 16 books and finishing the The Weird Compendium but I will try hard :)

Edited: Nov 12, 2013, 12:06am Top

Please don't do that - I have a feeling you'd be much too good at that for my own good. It's enough now that you're not actually trying (or are you...?). :)

Edited: Nov 13, 2013, 6:01am Top

Put's innocent face on.. of course I am not.. I mean who would do that (Hides evil BB notebook)

Since I am soooo far behind on reviews I am reviewing only the most recent until I get inspiration and a free hour.

Category 8. Hellish temptations

Johannes Cabal, the necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
Deeply darkly funny adventures in necromancy.

Humour is a hard thing thing to review but chuckling or not there is a lot of fun to be had here. Cabal steps out of one of those horror films involving evil scientists and screaming women (probably chased by pitchfork weilding mobs) and into a comedy Faustian caper. For Cabal wants his soul back (affecting his experiments you know) and a bet with Satan means he has to collect 100 souls in 1 year and just has 1 hellish carnival to entice the soon to be
very damned punters.

"I am Satan, also called Lucifer the Light Bearer..."
Cabal winced. What was it about devils that they always had to give you their whole family history?
"I was cast down from the presence of God himself into this dark, sulfurous pit and condemned to spend eternity here-"
"Have you tried saying sorry?" interrupted Cabal.
"No, I haven't! I was sent down for a sin of pride. It rather undermines my position if I say 'sorry'!”

Ah how easily you could despise Cabal but Howard traveses this fine line perfectly. Your root for Cabal and his unwavering, deeply scary, obsessive scientific purpose. The plot, the supporting cast (the honorable Horst), the jokes, the wry narration all make the inhuman very human and serve to make things intriging (oh I can't wait to read the 2nd book).

“The Mayor of Murslaugh was a jolly, ebullient man of the sort who, in a well-ordered world, would be called Fezziwig. That his name was Brown was a powerful indictment on the sorry state of things.”

I loved the mind numbing bureacracy of hell as much as I loved every sarcastic witty put down. I loved the fight with elder god worshippers almost as I loved the list of serial killers ( 'The Bible Basher' - Only dangerous to individuals with the surname 'Bible'). I loved Cabal's refusal to back down, I loved how he got scared, I loved the horrific sideshows (the mirror that shows you how you wish you looked). Oh and I loved that it segues well into a serious denouement whilst swapping in a new character without jarring. I loved the end. Perfect although I suspect will unnerve some. Oh Can I have some attack fairies please?

“It's a philosophical minefield!"
Cabal had a brief mental image of Aristotle walking halfway across an open field before unexpectedly disappearing in a fireball. Descartes and Nietzsche looked on appalled.
He pulled himself together.”

I didn't love that you would have to look hard for a female presence but thats my only complaint.

Hugely recommend as only a good fun book should be (I didn't annoy anyone by reading out the best bits.. honest!)

Nov 13, 2013, 9:18am Top

Thanks for the quotes.... I think I am now moving Johannes Cabal forward for a December read, now that you have given me a glimpse into just how funny it is!

Nov 13, 2013, 7:01pm Top

Glad you enjoyed your first taste of Cabal and there's definitely more of a female presence in book 2.

Nov 14, 2013, 1:35pm Top

I did think you would take to Johannes - such a great character! At first glance, there really shouldn't be anything redeemable about him, but I defy anyone to not warm up to his acerbic wit.

Dec 23, 2013, 8:13am Top

Hmm since I have succeeded in my challenge by failing by a "slim" margin.. my new mini challenge for 2013 is to review all those books I had read! Only 10 reviews to go.. oh and finish A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. Did I mention I hate Hemingway with a blind unremitting loathing? I mean the man cannot write! Takes a deep breathe to stop ranting.

With that in mind have some reviews..

Dec 23, 2013, 8:19am Top

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse Tag: War

Beyond the killing fields Sydney Schanberg

Selected articles from Pulitzer prize winning journalist Sydney Schanberg, particularly known for highlighting the atrocities and quite frankly shocking external political manipulations in Cambodia that was being overshadowed by the Vietnam war. His most famous story, included here was also the basis for the superb film The Killing Fields (One of my favourite films, highly recommended).

It’s a hard book to review. Whilst a plea from a war reporter for peace, it could also be said to be too bitty and isn’t an book to be read straight through. It covers the Cambodia genocide, the horrendous birth of Bangladesh, Vietnam war, thoughts on Iraq and research into Vietnam POWs left behind and denied. Schanberg writes in a beautifully clear and passionate way. Context is provided, the selected articles show a timeline (in particular the Cambodia pieces) and it’s very easy to gain insight. It’s not just historical reportage though there are essays on language of war (the horrors hidden by “collateral damage”) and the battle between governments & their reporters and the damage to the "truth" that are fascinating.

Why I read it though, was for the Cambodian section and the most famous story. It’s worth the price of admission alone.

It’s a hard story to summarise, it deals with the fall of country into horror, the forced march of a population from towns and cities into the countryside and the starvation that follows, the culling of all intellectuals (teachers, writers, doctors), the fields of mass murder. It is a huge story made personal. It is a story of hope and friendship, of one who has crippling survivors guilt for failing to save his friend and the other who survives against huge odds. A story of journalism and war, clash of cultures. It’s a short piece that says so many things.

It is hard to review because of the impact it made when I was young, so formative and now so familiar. I cannot believe though that this is not worth reading to this unfamiliar with the story, that you won’t gain something.

Recommended: Though it’s very hard to find outside of a e-book so perhaps just track down the film. I guarantee its worth it.

Dec 23, 2013, 8:56am Top

Category 2: The four horseman of the apocalypse Tag: death

In The Shadow of The Banyan Tree by Vaddey Ratner

Fictionalised account of Ratner's experience as a young girl torn from her privledged life into the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge. One of forced labour, starvation, suicide and murder. It is a striking and important tale of a much ignored period of extraordinary atrocity. It is a story thats pays tribute to those who didn’t make it and to thank those that did.

It feels churlish to criticise a survivors tale but the childhood view does make it unbalanced. It’s noticeably jarring that there is no comment of the extraordinarily privileged position of a family sheltered from the starving and corrupt city under siege but perhaps the story would fail dismally if this were done. Instead a desire to show happiness before the fall, a need to tell a destroyed culture’s stories and myths that overwhelm the early part but enhance so much during the latter half. The charactisation is so good I felt a frustrating need to understand the tale from other view points, particularly her mother whose stunning resilence made me want her commentary to round the tale.

In fact it compliments The Killing Fields (reviewed above). a different view, personalised and emotional grounds facts to widen your understanding.

Recommended. A piece of history worth your time and and story well told.

Edited: Dec 23, 2013, 11:35am Top

Category 5: Superstition. Tag: fantastical Occurances

The Book of Apex: Volume Four edited by Lynne A Thomas
Note: acquired as part Early Reviewers

This collection of shorts selected from Apex magazine completely blew me away. Usually I find anthologies a mixed bunch erring on average but these stories shine with innovation and emotion. So many ideas, so much talent that collide and bounce and excite the reader, well this reader who gulped it down in one go. It’s not overwhelming, it’s delightful and refreshing and it kept me company throughout a long hard journey. I am gushing because these stories were the passengers that journeyed with me, Ok there were the odd merely OK tale, a few (out of the 33) that didn’t gel or I felt didn’t work.

I was enticed by names such as Catherynne M Valente, Cat Rambo, Lavie Tidhar, (oddly he wrote my least favourite story) & Genevieve Valentine but I have a list of new authors to seek out, people like Mari Nessrote, Kat Howard and Adam Troy-Castro.

It was the sheer constant enjoyment that gives this collection a high rating, not one story over the other. I cannot pick a favourite Still an anthology review is incomplete without those glimpses of subjects and so:

We open with Catherynne M Valente’s beautiful tale of a banished demon “The demon arrived before the town. She fell out of a red oak in the primeval forest that would eventually turn into Schism Street and Memorial Square into a white howl of snow and frozen sea-spray. She was naked, her body branded with four-spoked seals, wheels of banishment, and the seven psalms of hell”

Before moving onto the things that live in the dark in a Welsh mining town and are drawn to lonely singing. A love lost and gained “From the pithead to the house, the voices rise, sing of no mines, but of valleys, of streams, of the world of light. No songs of the mines. No songs of the dark. It’s not done, to sing of the dark.“ – In the Dark by Ian Nichols

We feel the lonely ache of an age ending as we the hunt the last dragon with the last mage in a forgotten and obsolete war before our hope is rekindled in a wedding between heaven and hell. A wedding that holds last glimpse of reconciliation after all the realities that apocalyptically failed. We see never ending wars of the undead and mothers cut down their daughters in a familiar mythic Labyrinth whilst jealous sisters fight for a house after Hurricane Katrina and girls solve murders amongst never ending Fae dances. We have philosophical thoughts of worlds ending and laughs as newly born deities get comfortable with their smiting (and their pandas).

Oh so highly recommended. Admittedly I must share very similar tastes to Thomas’s to get such high a hit rate and you might not, plus I might be over enthused by the whole cumulative effect of such great stories. Still I think there is something here for anyone who loves the fantastical with enough variety to make anyone happy.

Dec 23, 2013, 12:06pm Top

I keep meaning to read Apex and never get around to it. Based on your review I should definitely give it a go.

Dec 24, 2013, 4:07am Top

Some of the storie from that anthology are online so you could probably just check out a few and see how it gels with you.

Edited: Dec 24, 2013, 12:45pm Top

The Ernest Hemingway Category

and to celebrate my completion of this category, here is Ernest & Pete. Guess which one is which

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Short review: An American alcoholic learns war is bad and has a mind-boggling one dimensional affair with female fantasy figure. Awful, truly and utterly awful.

Longer review: Well ok not 100% awful, I maybe protest too much (maybe 90% awful). There is a glimmer of something here, when his atrocious style is actually forced to work with and to serve the story, to heighten actually the emotion. Then you start to see what this tale could have been. When tragedy strikes and sparse mantra of desperation, the pleas for X not to die over and over again aren’t dull they connect you, suddenly late in the book you can actually start to care.

Unfortunately he uses this bare, simplistic and oh so repetitive style all the time. The banalities of conversation, the mind boggling descriptions of nothing.. Hemingway is a famed minimalist who is meant to contain hidden subtleties but it just seemed like someone was attempting storytelling for the 1st time. It seemed so clumsy, so embarrassing. I rarely slate a book for being badly written, I mean it’s mostly taste but good grief look:

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterwards the road bare and white except for the leaves

Deceptively simple that. And then you get dialogue like this:

“What would you like me to do now that you’re all ready?
“Come to bed again.”
“All right. I’ll come.”
“Oh, darling, darling, darling,” I said.
“You see,” she said. “I do anything you want.”
“You’re so lovely.”
“I’m afraid I’m not very good at it yet.”
“You’re lovely.”
“I want what you want. There isn’t any me any more. Just what you want”
“You sweet”
“I’m good. Aren’t I good? You don’t want any other girls, do you?”
“You see? I’m good. I do what you want”

All the time. ALL DAMN THE TIME.

Then of course there is the plot (If there was any I could look at the characterisation). Quite frankly the next bit is therapeutic for me.

An alcoholic, American, ex-architect (who sponges off his family who he hates) joins the Italian army to do something vague with vehicles. He is universally liked by absolutely everyone so when he meets(Hemingway’s) one dimensional fantasy nurse figure he wins her heart (by proceeding to lie above loving her, it’s ok it’s war time and she expects it). All the while everyone drinks non-stop with him and has inane “philosophical” conversations about war. He gets her pregnant and doesn’t marry her (cos she doesn’t want to as she is a good women) and then gets injured (dramatically but not too badly) and soon learns the futility of war (ok ok that retreat part is the good bit). Then when he runs away he shacks up with her and she worries constantly she is too fat for him and he gets drunk (but no arguments ensue because you know perfect women) and then.. well.. obviously everyone lives happily after. Or rather obviously not, I mean all that drinking and rowing across cold lakes will do that to people. No hang on that’s unfair, at least his ego survives intact.

So yeah highly recommended. Oh no wait I highly recommend you burn it. Only touch this if you are a Hemingway fan (why are you?!?) or you want to know how not to do minimal styling or you have strong imagination to colour the dull, lifeless text. There are just far far better books out there; books about war, about WWI, books about love and tragedy, books written by misogynists and alcoholics. You name it there is a better book, there are better shopping lists.

I feel better now. Thank you for listening.

Have one of the few decent quotes sans repetition
“Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.”

Then again.
“War is not won by victory.” Oh go away Hemingway.

Edited: Dec 24, 2013, 12:45pm Top

Well that was the last review from me until after Christmas. So for you all who are squeezing a bit of LT in this Xmas Eve, Merry Christmas!

Dec 24, 2013, 2:49pm Top

Merry Christmas! :)

Dec 24, 2013, 2:52pm Top

Happy Holidays to you, although I do love Hemingway.

Dec 24, 2013, 2:58pm Top

I love Hemingway too, or at least I did when I was much younger. I've not reread any of his books recently, so my opinion may be different now. I still enjoyed reading your review, though. :)

Happy holidays!

Dec 24, 2013, 4:10pm Top

Happy Holidays!

Dec 24, 2013, 5:08pm Top

Best of the season to you both.

Dec 25, 2013, 7:16am Top

I'm with you on Hemingway? When I read The Movable Feast, I thought it was awful. One-dimensional repetition and boring. But ranting over....

Merry Christmas to you!

Dec 25, 2013, 6:48pm Top

I've enjoyed Hemmingway, but I can see how his style might not be for everyone.

Edited: Dec 30, 2013, 6:43am Top

Well since its Christmas I forgive all you Hemingway sympathisers :-) Anyway I have decided he has had enough time spent on so no 3rd attempt, life contains an abundance of books as it is.

I was going to do a round up but I appear to be still finishing books! So um have some reviews (hmm i have outstanding review from September)..

Category 1: 13 Linked Books, book no. 4 Tag: Imaginary City

Unbuilt Bristol: The City That Might Have Been 1750-2050 by Eugene Byrne

Byrne is as always an engaging and fascinating writer in any genre. Here he turns to two of his passions, history and Bristol, and presents a look at what might have been, the places that were nearly built, the areas that were nearly destroyed. Admittedly this books could be seen to have a niche market, it does help to know Bristol (UK) a bit and visualise the lovely dock with the historic boats nestling alongside restaurants, bars and museums against the potential horror of duel carriageways riding roughshod over everything. Then again anyone interested in their environment may find something here, the trends (trams and trains, concrete bladerunneresque walkways and high rises, madcap bridges and monuments to a forgotten war). The fights are intriguing and the background of history and its economic impact hovers all around. Inspiration for our cities and towns can be found in the exciting “just for fun” plans drawn up, especially for the millennium: city farms and canals, the giant face of Brunel carved into the cliffs or a to scale replica of our solar system. The breath of ideas is a delight.

It’s all good, if this type of thing interests you I highly recommend it. It’s a pity that Unbuilt Bristol city walks were a one off too otherwise I would recommend that. Every city should have one.

Sadly I get seem to grab many images.. Have the cover picture of what might have been instead of the iconic suspension bridge

Edited: Dec 30, 2013, 9:09am Top

Category 7: Sheer terror. Tag Unatural Creatures
The Fat Man by Ken Harmon

Schmaltzy, weird morality Christmas, overly cute, “noir” tale.

Look it started out well: World weary and grumpy elf that runs coal patrol for naughty kids gets caught up in a dastardly conspiracy. Noir tropes collide with every Christmas story going and whilst maybe too cute it was a bit of holiday fun. Fun that was short lived and quickly went into bemused, bored, unease (yes that is a valid emotion thank you).

Look I like Noir, I like the wisecracking and derring-do. I like dark chasms of human behaviour against a sliver of light and darkness. I like it when an author plays with these things. I like silliness, larger than life characters, funky criminals and flawed wise cracking white knights. I can even forgive a lot of the sexism if there is something else there.

What I do not like overly cute tales with morality lectures. I get really creeped out by the bad guys always being the ugly and disabled ones. I get fed up when tired old national stereotypes are used as jokes and when a series of dangerous set pieces are solved by luck. I hate it when two different characters say exactly the same catch phrase as if the author forgot who he was writing. I hate an adult book that refuses to grow up.. I mean everyone (i.e. the ugly) has a heart of gold if only we were nice to them eh? Suuuure.

So um no. Unless you are the biggest Santa fan in the entire world and have Christmas every day, avoid.

Dec 30, 2013, 9:22am Top

Category 1: 13 Linked Books, book 4. Tag: Imaginary City

Only Forward by Michael Marshal Smith

Science fiction and crime are a wonderful paring, mix with a dollop of the surreal and you get something special.

PI Stark lives in The City. A place where people gravitate to neighbourhoods full of like-minded people. So those who want silence go live in Quiet, those who love the cut and thrust and business never stop working in The Action Centre. Into this Stark gets a missing person case. A seemingly straightforward case, but obviously it’s going to be tangled and dangerous. It’s going to involve gun fights and mad escapes and cats. It’s going to finally make him confront who he is.

The action in the first is superb and characters fall into their allotted place nicely but it all really shines due the setting which is the star of the show for the 1st half (but never overwhelms the story). It's just so very cool and evocative; from the city of colour (where walls harmonise with your outfit) to the city of cats (where only cat lovers are allowed to visit), from Red (where the violent gangsters live) to Stable (which hides itself off from reality with tall walls and an enclosed eco-system).

Well maybe I lied about the characters. Our narrator is unreliable, he tells you only what is relevant and what's relevant constantly changes. It is a masterful hook, makes you feel at sea and uncertain but desperate to read more and you are certainly rewarded
when the book starts shifting to be something else. No plot spoilers though. It could be jarring I suppose but I found it much too clever end enjoyable for that.

Written in 1994 and not as famous it should it be. This was a re-read and surprisingly holds up well but loses some of my love to endemic sexism: few women characters, some awkward comments and a neighbourhoods that give women the role of housewife or whore.

Still recommended, this is special.

Dec 30, 2013, 9:23am Top

Catching up on your thread while watching my son climb a wall at a rather lovely tech museum. Snorting at your Hemingway review (haven't read him, and don't think I will. Like Kerouac or Mailer, I suspect i'm about twentyfive years too old) and am noting tehe Apex anthology for sure. Happy new year claire!

Dec 30, 2013, 9:25am Top

Category 4: Death by dangerously leaning TBR

Lighter than my Shadow by Katie Green

Beautifully drawn and stunningly told this is an autobiographical tale of mental illness, of anorexia, of growing up and the path to overcoming, to forgiving. A very realistic path, a slow one and sometimes a harsh one through early happy childhood to traumatic anorexia of teenage & collage years and the journey to get better. The relapse showed by sexual abuse of a therapist is as sensitively portrayed as it is deeply shocking.

Green explores the journey, from early pressures on how we should look, the destructive use of perfectionism and the need to control. I don’t think I have seen anorexia and eating disorders explained so well elsewhere. Of course this is also down to the artwork, not only lovely but so entwined with the story it tells: from the hungry mouth embedded within the stomach to the shadow of depression that hangs over or is locked deep inside. Pages change hue to reflect the emotion of the story, panels cluster and fracture apart. If it seems like a large chunkster it really isn’t, this story needs much space to tell but hours to enjoy.

Highly recommend. It is exactly what it needs to be, informative, understanding, heart breaking and kind.

Dec 30, 2013, 9:29am Top

Hi Anders, you snuck in mid review posting spree. Happy New year! Not jealous of you & your son at all :) I loved science museums as a kid (although reading technical documentation as I am meant to be is less exciting)

Happy New year!

Dec 30, 2013, 10:59am Top

Also officially intrigued by Only Forward, which you reviewed at the same time I was writing my last post.

Dec 30, 2013, 12:20pm Top

Lots of reviews! Only Forward sounds like my cup o' tea. :)

Dec 30, 2013, 2:40pm Top

I maybe forgiving of Only Forwards flaws cos I do like a bit of Noir but I would recommend it & Spares, his later stuff is very much in the crime genre and didn't gel with me.

Only about 6 reviews left. Sigh.

Dec 31, 2013, 6:01am Top

Looks like I'm another being hit with a BB for Only Forward.

Dec 31, 2013, 6:22am Top

@204 Dave, I think you would like him. You have reminded me I need to review Vurt (which I enjoyed). Would you recommend Pollen next?

Dec 31, 2013, 10:22am Top

Category 1: 13 Linked Books. Book 9. Tag poverty

The Man Who Laughs by David Hine (author) and Mark Stafford (artist)

Adapted from the Victor Hugo story which was inspiration for the iconic super villain the Joker. Yes an orphan child is sold to a band of evil showman and is cruelly disfigured to wear a horrific permanent smile. Abandoned in the snow, he rescues a baby girl from her dead mother’s arms and luckily falls under the care of an old philosopher and alchemist. Cue girl growing beautiful (and blind) before they both fall to dastardly machinations from the upper classes.

The afterword is telling, Hugo’s story is a rambling mess that had to be bashed into shape and whilst they seemingly made a coherent story it does nothing for me. It’s exactly the kind of story that irks me, too risible, too many coincidences and character explanations and speeches. Women who fall squarely into whore or innocent mould. The artwork is lovely, suitably nightmarish and gothic, although there seems to be a breast fixation, aren’t all those women characters cold? I mean the men are all fully dressed. It does capture the rage at Britains inequality but that story, ugh! (Note: I really dislike the film Les Miserables for the same reason.. well plus singing)

So one for Victor Hugo and Batman fans only, although maybe I am just being grumpy

Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 10:40am Top

Category 4: Death by dangerously leaning TBR

Incidents in the Night by David B.

Um. Hmm. Well this is an odd one, a story of immortality and books, gods of oblivion and fights with Death, mysterious publications and murders, beautiful women and sanguine book sellers. It is deliciously surreal and all book lovers should be enticed. A stoy in that the main character wants to live for ever so he can read all the books? How can you not! A book shop so full the books appear as the ocean and readers mount archaeological digs to find the book they require. Who doesn’t want to explore such a thing? Who doesn’t, sometimes, want to slip into a book’s pages and live there?

The story meanders between these bookish things, before dashing off into regaling Babylonian myths or finding murders to solve. It’s quite frankly so darkly endearingly bonkers I grew quite fond of it. The artwork wonderfully fitting; is black and white and reminiscent of woodcuts. Of course it helps or maybe not that it’s the 1st in a series that the sequel is yet to be translated. Somehow this fits perfectly, the end hanging enticingly.

Its translated from French by my favourite writer Brian Evenson and his wife too.

Recommended for lovers of dark bookish tales that will leave you dizzy with its strangeness. You will never look at the letter N in the same way.

Dec 31, 2013, 10:44am Top

13. Unlucky dip - 5 tags you choose

Why Are You Doing This? by Jason

Jason does wonderfully dark, humorous crime tales automatically at odds with his art. It’s a combination that works beautifully, although initially, you may wonder if the art for you but trust me it works for the story perfectly. A deadpan style to fit its humour.

The plot may be a straightforward trope, a man witnesses a murder and then takes the fall for it. On the run from the police, trying to find the truth. But Jason’s style makes it fresh, with a wonderfully quirky eye for humanity and an unerring ability to tell a tight story in a few pages. There is a bit where a women takes our man in to hide from the police, just looking in his eyes to see if he is a killer.. and when he echoes the readers bemusement she just responds “Isn’t this what people do?”. In Jason’s world perhaps but it’s a lovely fated fantasy. Running through the story and softening its harsh edges is the questions "what makes life full" &"Why are we doing this?" a lifetime full of adventures or anecdotes or a quiet but rich family life. Its not necessarily a question going to be answered though, this is Jason don’t expect a happy ending

Highly recommend to anyone who like darkly amusing short stories

Dec 31, 2013, 6:16pm Top

Love deadpan humor.... on the future reading list Why Are You Doing This? goes. and I think I am just in time to wish you a "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" Claire! ;-)

Jan 1, 2014, 7:11am Top

205, Claire, Pollen isn't a by-the-numbers sequel but it does kind of follow on from Vurt expanding on some of the ideas in the first book. That's the order I read them in with Nymphomation being the third. So far, I haven't read any of his other stuff but hopefully I will this year.

Glad you enjoyed Vurt and looking forward to your review.

Edited: Jan 6, 2014, 4:20pm Top

Well um I do need to review so fab books but I am going to squeeze them onto the 2014 site. So in order to close down this thread I am going to do my

End of Year Round Up (which I a pretty sure I “borrowed” from Anders long long ago, thanks!)

Well I read 100 books this year (I passed 1 challenge! go me). Overall this year has been fun and flaky with far too much RL. Only 20% though. I blame my old TBR... ahem

The Top 13 most memorable (in no particular order) are:
1. Stunning Westernesque fantasy The Half Made World and its sequel The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman (yes it counted one, its my list!)
2. Real life dystopia and stunning indictment to the horror of stories. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
3. Good old overly long russian litreature Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Distoyevsky
4. New translation breathing life into an indescribable but oh so very good tale of um a dwarf and his drum The Tin Drum By Gunther Grass
5. Time travel & serial killers? Sold. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
6. Dystopian circus theme hides a magical, innovative story Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine
7. Quiet, heartbreaking, apocalypse Die Wand (The Wall) by Marlen Haushofer
8. Sandman, all of the them (well The ones I managed to reread. Because there is still nothing like this)
9. Best short story anthology in a long long time The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine
10. I want to stop thinking about it now please. The darkest crime novel ever. I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond
12. Extraordinary, ordinary, weird, shorts Pastoralia by George Saunders
11. Beautiful, fantastical shorts Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck
12. Oh so funny and a great adventure Digger Volumes 1-6 by Ursula Vernon
13. Beautiful story and art in Lighter than my shadow by Katie Green

Best Character
Harry Ransom from The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman. So fully realised, so wonderfully flawed. An optimistic and inspired character I couldn’t but help fall in love with. In awe of Gilman’s skills quite frankly.
I would not presume to call myself a man of greatness, but as it happens there were a few moments back there when it was my hand that seized the reins of History and Fortune, if only by accident or because nobody else wanted to or while I thought I was doing something else.

Favourite new (to me) author
Many talented authors this year Genevieve Valentine stands out, I so am so excited to see where she goes next after her ridiculously good debut Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti.

The book that made my hairs stand on end and constantly look over my shoulder
The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson.

The book that made me cry the most
Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings by Sydney Schanberg

Best 1st words
It’s taken me ages to decide.. oddly it’s a very simple one but that entices in a single sentence, it needs no other.
Our mother performed in starlight by .. well care to take a guess?

This year’s Hemingway award or “The book that I want to jump up and down on until it is destroyed”
..goes to.. drum roll..
Ernest Hemingway! for his utterly awful A Farewell to Arms. Go Ernest.


Worst cover:The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson

Bearded men: tick, weapons: tick, a (long) ship: tick, horned helmets, tick. Wait what? Actually what am I thinking, I quite like this cover.

Best Cover: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

That gold against the darkest of reds, luscious and inviting.

Best gimmick
The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson if you point a phone app (Blippar) at it, it shows the most creepiest of videos and an appetite wetting short story.

Edited: Jan 6, 2014, 4:11pm Top

New 2014 here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/158254 its got violence and love (for books) and everything.

Happy New Year!

Jan 6, 2014, 4:52pm Top

Love your summary, and your list which is a perfect blend of books I nod in agreement with, books already piled up for 2014, or books jotted down on the wishlist. Happy happy joy joy.

First line, that's from Swamplandia! isn't it?

Jan 8, 2014, 12:08am Top

Great round-up - the Viking-cover is pretty great in all its awfulness. :)

Jan 9, 2014, 7:46am Top

We met Snorri Kristjansson author of swords of good men at a con, there is a comment in the signature he did for us about horned helmets....

Jan 9, 2014, 8:11am Top

I think horned helmets were actually invented by the early Swedish nationalist writers, such as Geijer and Tegnér, when they were dreaming up a heroic Scandinavian past. There was even a tosser (but about a century earlier) called Rudbeckius who wrote a whole book about why Atlantis was really Sweden. Apparently unicorns are in fact elks.

Jan 9, 2014, 10:15pm Top

->216 GingerbreadMan:
Completely understandable, I always make that same mistake when I see an elk!

Edited: Jan 10, 2014, 2:18am Top

I usually stop to look at number and placement of horns and antlers, and deduce from there.

Jan 10, 2014, 2:55am Top

I am suspecting that book is not actually as good as it sounds :-) I will wait for comic version of Sweden/Atlantis time travelling romance story between a confused elk and a unicorn.

Jan 10, 2014, 3:16am Top

Ha, you fool noone! We all know you hate romance novels!

Edited: Jan 10, 2014, 11:32am Top

I had no idea there was an English biography about him! I also, shamefully, wasn't aware of his other, real scientific discoveries - like the lymph system! Thanks for the link!

Group: 2013 Category Challenge

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