December 27th, 2012

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

As the year's end looms, I finished reading A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction by Terry Pratchett. The Discworld-related material was very good. The rest, less so.
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Attack of the Bacon Robots

Penny Arcade: Attack of the Bacon Robots by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik

I love video games and the whole industry associated with it, so it's a no brainer that I love Penny Arcade. Tycho and Gabe's take on the many facets of the gaming world make me laugh. They don't pull any punches with their displeasure, and their strips fill me with glee.

If you're a gamer and somehow don't know about Penny Arcade, rectify the situation. They're online. You'll thank me for it.

Books completed: 48/50


holmesiiOK, having tackled Vol. 1 earlier this year, I got down Bantam's Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories: Volume II, which covers The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear, His Last Bow, and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. Some thoughts:

I had been warned that there was a drop-down in quality for the second half of the short stories, and that indeed proved to be the case. His Last Bow holds up to a certain degree - "The Bruce-Partington Plans" was OK, I guess, and I liked "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot," simply for the scene of Watson rescuing Holmes from his own deadly obsessive intellectual curiosity, and "The Adventure of the Dying Detective," just for the ridiculously transparent "I'm dyyyyyying, Watson; don't you feel so horrrribly guilty for having abandoned me?!" drama from Holmes. (Doyle put some of his best effort in these volumes into cementing the friendship between Watson & Holmes, though the bit of over-obvious "not romantic no certainly not" spackling is slightly intrusive on occasion.)

Much of Case-Book is pretty thin, though. "Sussex Vampire" and "Blanched Soldier" were actually quite good, and parts of "Illustrious Client," despite the middling mystery, were actually pretty holy-hell, but "Three Gables" and "Shoscombe Old Place"'s racism and "Creeping Man"'s sheer ridiculousness deserve all the derision they receive, and most of the rest ("Veiled Lodger"; "Thor Bridge") is just meh. I see how Doyle is later on trying new perspectives to enliven a series of which he was supposedly tired of writing - having Holmes or a third party narrate a story; narrating Holmes' "last" adventure, a WWI intrigue, long after the rest of the narrative - but these tactics seldom add anything (for all his complaining about Watson's preference for thrills and sentiment over detailing the detective work, Holmes really doesn't write that much differently from Watson, for one).

Also, I hate little Billy.

Novels: The Hound of the Baskervilles is good and atmospheric, with a meaty role for Watson and Holmes at his least jerkish, but I was expecting more out of the mystery for some reason. It's solid but lacks the blindsides of the early short stories. That said, it's still the highlight of the collection and the best of the four novels.

I saved The Valley of Fear for last, having heard that it featured the return of Moriarty, and boy, was that a mistake. I was patient through the not-bad but still gears-spinning novella-long lead-up, only to get: "Hey, remember A Study in Scarlet and how it midway through took a right turn into Evil Mormons? WELL, GUESS WHAT?!" And no Moriarty was to be had. I guess Doyle was so intimidated by the prospect of writing Sherlock Holmes' supposed greatest challenge that he copped out all together.

Mistress by Amanda Quick

Mistress by Amanda Quick

This is one of Quick's older novels. I particularly enjoy her earlier work (before she started delving into paranormal romance), so this read was an easy and enjoyable treat. The villian doesn't play a particularly large role in the story, but it doesn't suffer from that.

All in all, this is a delightful read, filled with some intrigue, several romantic moments and will elicit a chuckle from time to time.

Books completed: 49/50

Book #09 - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Book #09 – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Name of the Book (Name of the Series): The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Name of the Author: Washington Irving
Genre: short story, mystery, fantasy
Pages: 54
Date: 27.11.2012
Short description: Among one of the earliest examples of American Fiction and still read up till today, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a classic that everyone should take a peek at. Taking place around 1790 in a Dutch Settlement in America the story is about a young scholar and a young lady, and a mysterious ghost story coming to life in this very town.

Own Statement:

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Next to review: #10 The Myths of Old Japan


Book 49

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 49
49  Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History S.C. Gwynne (USA, 2011)

This is a historical account of the war between the Comanches and the frontier settlers that ends with the reservation days and the death of Quanah Parker.

Empire of the Summer Moon is a Pulitzer Prize Finalist.

Epic is an appropriate adjective for this account of a period of American History that, despite the tragedies, has given birth to more myths and movies than perhaps any other. I am impressed by the author's ability to preserve the sense of fascination we have for the frontier days without allowing it to stand in the way of truth. 
Thus, Gwynne tells the story of ruthless fighters, ignorant soldiers and more pragmatic ones, kidnapped settlers who slowly forget the society they were born in, and the overall extreme violence of those days. He always stays away from the stereotypes that pervade the media, such as the ubiquitous noble savage, which makes it a reliable book from beginning to end

book and cup

#132 Jenny Wren - E H Young (1932)

“In the sloping, one sided street called Beulah Mount, no two houses are alike. Some of them are flat fronted, a few are bow-windowed and some have flimsy, roofed balconies outside the first floor windows, and these, even when in need of painting, give an effect of diminished but persistent gaiety to a terrace built in an age of leisure and of privilege.”

Jenny and her older sister Dahlia Rendall have recently moved from their old home at the white farm, in the countryside to a house in Upper Radstowe. Here their mother has installed the first of her lodgers, young Mr Cummings, who knows about antique furniture and has ambitions for a shop of his own. Jenny and Dahlia are socially superior to their mother, taking after their gentleman father who had previously protected them from their mother’s common ways and the gossip surrounding a supposed affair years earlier. Now Jenny and Dahlia feel the sharp glances of their neighbours who see the still beautiful Louisa as not respectable and assume her daughters are no better. Dahlia is more laid back, but Jenny is acutely embarrassed by her mother, and lives in horror of her mother’s older sister Sarah descending on them. Next door – in another house of lodgers lives the vicious Miss Jewel, jealously guarding her lodger the curate Mr Sproat and watching Louisa with delicious disapproval, noticing farmer Thomas Grimshaw’s weekly visits and spying on Jenny and Dahlia too.

“Jenny stayed in the sitting room. She was wondering why, among so many disadvantages, they had to endure the daily annoyance of hearing their names mispronounced, when there were so many which could have been uttered without offence. This thought had often occurred to her father, and he had to blame himself. Louisa chose the first child’s name, when he was still sufficiently in love to forget how she would misuse it but, when Jenny was born, he insisted that her name must not end like Dahlia’s with a vowel, and characteristically overlooked the dangerous consonant. Jenny was registered, she was not christened, as Jennifer, and Louisa stubbornly refused to accept the abbreviations he and Dahlia used.”

Although a tentative friendship develops between Jenny and Edwin Cummings the lodger, Jenny dreams of another life, a life she feels must be denied her because of her mother. So when Jenny meets the handsome young squire Cyril Merriman – Jenny is afraid of him knowing her real name. Cyril meets Jenny secretly in the woods and fields that she loves – believing her name to be called Jenny Wren. Dahlia meanwhile befriends the rather serious Mr Sproat, who given the task of finding more lodgers for the Rendalls, encourages the rather sad little Miss Morrison to make her home with them. Poor Miss Morrison, who sees Mr Sproat’s interest in her living arrangements as being something more than they are.
This is a novel about social inequalities and the dissatisfaction that this can cause. Dahlia and Jenny’s father married beneath him, and rued the day. He made sure that his daughters grew up young ladies, but they are now caught between the class they feel part of and their mother’s background, and the realities of living in a boarding house. Louisa works hard for her daughters, beginning sadly to acknowledge that she may be holding them back. Jenny and Dahlia have to learn that those things which are best for them and will provide for them a safer happier and more stable future are maybe closer than they thought.
Having read other E H Young books – I could see where the story was going right from the start, although this predictability didn’t in any way spoil it for me. I already have the sequel to this novel; The Curate’s Wife on my TBR and I am looking forward to it. Although not my favourite E H Young novel to date – that would be William, this is an excellent novel, I love E H Young’s Upper Radstowe, and the small disappointed lives she often writes about.