Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Argh! I really wanted to love this book. And I went in expecting to love it. I was excited--filled with anticipation. And then...Well, it really turned out to be a slog.

Amazingly, I was not, prior to reading the first of this collection's stories, familiar with the Bluebeard tale. Obviously, post investigation, I admit to having encountered various "Popular Culture" references to the story, but I read Carter's version with very fresh eyes. Nevertheless, I thought the build up did not match the denouement, and the whole "Mother rides in on a charger" thing just had me sort of going..."Un, how far til I get to The Company of Wolves?"

That story (TCOW) was the basis for one of my favorite movies of the 80s (actually, according to wiki, Carter wrote the screenplay based on her own story). If you've seen the movie, you know what a strange child I am admitting to having been. If you haven't seen the movie, rent it! Go in for the werewolves but stay for the giant teddy bears, Neil Jordan, and Angela Lansbury's ferrets.

Unfortunately, TCOW was next to last in this collection (with only Wolf Alice--which I suspect also worked its way into the movie TCOW) trailing after it like a sad coda. In between were what felt like innumerable reworkings of Beauty and the Beast--some played disappointingly straight and one where the couple turned out to be tigers. (?) There was a Puss in Boots story that I admit to liking better than the movie (FULL DISCLOSURE: Carter's P-in-B has nothing to do with the Pixar movie). But my one shiny favorite here was The Lady of the House of Love. It was one of those stories that really reminds you of something you can never quite put your finger on).

Needless to say (altho I shall say it), Carter writes magnificently. I've punished myself with some poorly written works of late, and her command of the English language was a very welcome respite. But ultimately I was piteously disappointed by the collection over all.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Review ~ Seven Suspects by Michael Innes

Seven SuspectsSeven Suspects by Michael Innes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went back and forth with this one. I read it after "overhearing" (or whatever the internet equivalent of eavesdropping is) the author of one of my favorite series (Charlie Cochrane, Cambridge Fellows) say it was one of her influences.

It is definitely an old-school locked-room mystery, which are not my favorites. But it's main crime was the introduction of a flurry of suspects (all dons/professors/instructors/or whatever the British term is, at a fictional university) which I never felt I got sorted, even by the end. They all remained a blur, not because the author didn't craft them, but because he threw them at me in a bunch and I spent the rest of the book feeling like I was trying to crawl out of a dogpile of suspects (and it certainly seemed like there were more than seven of them).

But I very much enjoyed the Scotland Yard man, and I liked the local cop even more--wished there was more of him. The actual solution to the puzzle was a bit over the top (and, by a bit, I mean, REALLY!), but all-in-all a fun denouement.

If the British cozy is your thing (altho there is one scene of a physical confrontation on a foggy quad that livens things up) you should definitely check this out.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

TV and Movie Title Mash-Ups

So, over at the Absolute Write Watercooler, someone started a thread entitled "Cross-Over Episodes That Should Never Happen" (or something like that). It's rather similar to the Hollywood Game Night game called "Movie Mash-Ups". I participated and came up with the following. If you belong to the Watercooler you should check out the other ones too.

One of the FBI's Most Wanted gets himself incarcerated at a minimum security women's prison to help a female inmate catch international terrorists:

Orange is the New Black List

A young werewolf makes a killing in the stock market but descends into drug-abuse and crime:

Teen Wolf of Wall Street

A cross-dressing princess raises dragons in a medieval world of magic and violence:

The Crying Game of Thrones

A gay pianist and his volatile lover attempt to survive after the Rapture:

Left Behind the Candelabra

Criminal insects infest organized crime in New Jersey:

Boardwalk Empire of the Ants (Eh, they can't all be great!)

A corrupt Politician returns to college and joins a rowdy frat:

Animal House of Cards

Two uber-cool seventies cops help a young girl dying of cancer:

The Fault in Our Starsky and Hutch

A ridiculously sexy but remarkably depressed ad man tries to make a life for him and his disabled friend:

Of Mice and Mad Men

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

A High Wind in JamaicaA High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I have a sort of vague recollection of seeing this film as a child, one that mingles an irresolute fondness and repulsion. The book, reading it now as an adult and many years distant from the type of audience for which it was constructed, left me rather "Meh."

I think that technically there was a lot of craft involved here, and that the distant, pedantic third POV was supposed to somehow cleverly juxtapose with the series of portentous events to comment on the way the world is viewed by children. Unfortunately, it just left me feeling uninvolved and ultimately uninterested.

Lots of things happen: children in Jamaica survive an earthquake (possibly?) and a hurricane, but then are sent back to England to attend boarding school. Their ship is held up by pirates and the children inadvertently end up with the brigands. One of the children dies in a fall. An elder girl appears to become a consort to the first mate. Another ship is hijacked and another girl, Emily, kills that ship's captain. But none of it appears to have much effect on the participants, especially the children themselves, who blissfully adapt and live in their own little world, while the adults around them suffer enormously.

Maybe if there were an afterward that had Emily as an adult trying to remember the events...perhaps with a feeling that mingled fondness and repulsion. That, I might have connected with.

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review: Lost Horison by James Hilton (1933)

Lost HorizonLost Horizon by James Hilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m amazed by just how much I enjoyed this book. It’s been about a week since I finished and I still keep thinking about it. I’ll probably have to read it again in a year or so just to see if the impression I got was true or a case of simply reading something at the right place and time.

Warning: The ending does leave QUITE A LOT(!) to the imagination (I’ve actually dreamed an ending for poor Conway since reading this). So, if you are one of those who needs everything tied up in a neat bow, this is not the book for you. I also wondered about the packaging of the tale—it’s presented as a story told to a friend about a story he got from another friend—but I think this was simply to allow for the very ambiguous ending.

Highly recommended!

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

The Thin ManThe Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finishing up with my Hammett...This one never held much attraction for me because I supposed it was going to parody the Agatha Christie type murder mystery and I prefer my Hammett straight up.

It was actually very enjoyable tho the mystery is not too difficult to figure out and, once you've deduced the "twist", it's pretty simple to decide whodunit.

Not sure why this was his bestseller. I'm an Op man myself.

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Review: Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O'Hanlon

Into the Heart of BorneoInto the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O'Hanlon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars really, as I ultimately found it just shy of perfect.

It seems natural to compare this to the travel writing of Bill Bryson, and similarities do exist, but O'Hanlon (and Fenton) offer their very British take on the comedic quest. I enjoyed every minute even tho O'Hanlon often seemed to be trying to insert the most arcane examples of sentence structure. Lots of talk about birds and, if I had any interest in ornithology, I'm sure I would have been fascinated. I found the three native guides far more interesting.

And then it ended. Just like that. I would have preferred some sort of summation. Instead I got: "Our search had ended."

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