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DEquinox

In memoriam . . . .

Posted on 2018.11.20 at 15:38
Tags: ,
bleed-through
the embassy's
fresh paint


-- Ann K. Schwader

Beastly Boys and Ghastly GirlsBeastly Boys and Ghastly Girls by William Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was one of my favorite childhood library books (I think I must have checked it out at least half a dozen times), & I couldn't resist revisiting it recently via inter-library loan.

I'm happy to report that it's as strange as it ever was. This is a truly dark little item, with children's verses from some unexpected sources (A.E. Housman? John Ciardi?) as well as the classic ones (Lewis Carroll, A. A. Milne, Ogden Nash, Gellett Burgess, Shelley Silverstein). The line drawings by Tomi Ungerer are a treat in themselves.

Some of the offerings seem a little dated. The book was published in 1964, after all, & most of the poems are older than that. Many are cheerfully morbid. The rhymes are infectious, however, and might actually tempt a young reader into liking poetry. Or even writing some.

At least that's how it worked with me.









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The Silence of the GirlsThe Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I wasn't completely sure whether to give this one 4 or 5 stars, but finally settled on 5 for its sheer emotional power. Yes, there is rather modern British dialogue & slang (but, hey, we already know the PBS Roman Empire speaks British English, why not the ancient Greeks?). Yes, it is occasionally disconcerting when the plot shifts viewpoints between Briseis (first person) and her captor Achilles (third person). And even at the end, I was never completely sure who Briseis was telling her tale to. Other than me, of course.

However, none of this mattered while I was reading this very different, very lovely, & very brutal take on the Trojan War. This is war from the captive's view, and not just any captive. Briseis, a young royal woman from a Trojan city, was Achilles' personal prize -- and the the cause of his refusal to fight after Agamemnon took her away. Most of the novel is told from her POV, and it's every bit as harsh (& conflicted) as you'd imagine. Although Barker never gets gratuitously graphic, there's no question here about what happens to women in war.

If you've read the Iliad, you know the plot already. What matters here -- other than some breathtaking writing every so often -- is how women, mostly enslaved, figured into that plot. And how some men were decent in spite of the situation, and how many weren't.

Recommended (strongly) for Mary Renault fans, and anyone else looking for a different view of classical war. Or, probably, war as it still is.





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Winter Tide (The Innsmouth Legacy, #1)Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A very different & character-driven Mythos novel, set in America's Cold War era. Aphra Marsh, the tale's first-person POV, is about as far from a standard Lovecraftian narrator as one can imagine, but perfect for this complex story.

Spy-hunting, Red Scare paranoia, and deadly serious practitioners of both dark & (semi?) white magic all figure into this one, along with references to America's Japanese internment camps. Race relations of the time also inform the plot -- as does the status of women, and the very perilous status of non-straight folks (male and female). That's a lot of (justifiable) social commentary, but it never quite gets in the way of the pure fun of a well-crafted Lovecraftian world, Miskatonic University and all.

The references here go way deeper than your standard Call of Cthulhu gaming chrome. Emrys has obviously done her research (both Lovecraftian and historical), managing to tie in most of HPL's major Mythos tales, plus one or two I wasn't expecting. I'll definitely be putting the sequel, Deep Roots, on my Want to Read (or perhaps listen to) list.

Recommended for Lovecraftians open to social comment and history in their Mythos fiction. I'm not sure that those completely unfamiliar with Lovecraft's work would get the most out of this novel, but they might still appreciate the world-building, history, and magic.











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DEquinox

Halloween horrorku 2018

Posted on 2018.10.31 at 11:56
Tags: , ,
strict liquid diet
organic and gluten-free
the undead live well


-- Ann K. Schwader


A Night in the Lonesome OctoberA Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This dark & frothy bit of holiday entertainment really stands up to rereading.

Broken into 31 dated chapters, this outwardly straightforward tale of a ritual to be performed (or stopped) under a rare full Halloween moon is anything but. Zelazny gives the reader a dazzling cast of characters from literary horror and horrific history, adds a generous dose of Lovecraft, and turns up the paranoia every chapter.

There are so many in-jokes and literary references, it's a bit hard to keep up. However, Zelazny never fails to keep his primary characters sympathetic (which is a trick, since one of them is the Ripper!) and worth worrying about. Then there's Snuff, our narrator with a dog's-eye view of it all. . . .

Highly recommended for dark fantasy or horror fans open to being amused & spooked at the same time. Lovecraftians are likely to have a slightly better experience, or at least to get more of the jokes.





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DEquinox

On this date in 1953 . ..

Posted on 2018.10.19 at 15:50
Tags: ,
mind pyre
the temperature
of silence


-- Ann K. Schwader


https://lithub.com/5-books-ray-bradbury-thought-you-should-read/


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit_451

DEquinox

My Goodreads review: The Black Company

Posted on 2018.10.15 at 12:40
Tags: , ,
The Black Company (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #1)The Black Company by Glen Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked this one a lot more than I thought I was going to. Started reading it because I understood it to be a "classic" of its kind (the beginning of grimdark), and because I was curious. Kept reading it because I simply could not stop, & because I came to care very much about the characters. I will definitely be reading more in this series, as time allows.

This is the trench view of epic fantasy, as narrated by the combat physician Croaker. The reader's appreciation of Croaker is key to this novel . . if you don't like him, or his voice, or his very conflicted view of the mercenary trade, you aren't going to enjoy this read. And I don't blame you, though I did find myself liking him. He's an oddly moral individual trying to do his best for his brothers in the Black Company, though he's not lying to himself or the reader about what some of these brothers are like. When horrible things happen (which they do, but not in graphic detail), he is not accepting. He takes action when he can, avoids when he can do nothing more, but never sees evil as anything other than what it is.

The Black Company doesn't offer elegant prose, or a particularly complex plot. However, unlike my experiences with some modern grimdark (first 1 1/2 Game of Thrones novels in particular, after which I gave up), I found myself able to keep reading and caring about the world Croaker was chronicling. Recommended for folks who enjoy the grand old Weird Tales style of fantasy, without too many bells & whistles, or really gratuitous nastiness.





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DEquinox

Cassie Barrett gets some really good news

Posted on 2018.09.12 at 15:52
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My most recent Cassie Barrett tale, "Pothunters," just received an Honorable Mention in Vol. 10 of Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year!


https://ellendatlow.com/2018/09/10/honorable-mentions-2017-best-horror-of-the-year-volume-ten-3/

"Pothunters" first appeared in Black Wings VI (PS Publishing, 2017) , edited by S.T. Joshi.

And I'm scaring my poor Corgi with my home office happy dance.

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Audible version is read by the author, which really enhanced the experience for me. Gaiman's voice gives this dark, engaging modern fantasy a real touch of fairy tale -- something being told to a child, by the child we all were at one point.

Most of the plot points in this short novel would qualify as spoilers, but suffice it to say that Gaiman has captured the otherworldly feelings of an imaginative child, confronted by evil both of this world and utterly not of it. Charming without being cute or cloying, and genuinely touched by the shadows as all good fairy tales are. The writing isn't elaborately elegant, but it does the job of conveying the viewpoint of a bookish, sensitive narrator recalling a long-ago childhood.

Recommended for anyone interested in modern (not epic) fantasy, and willing to be dumped into the deep end of the tale right off.







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