The TBR Double Dog Dare

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5293.jpg

I’ll be participating in the TBR Double Dog Dare the first quarter of the year. It’s a “not-a-challenge-but-a-dare” challenge hosted by James at James Reads Books. (Regular readers of Bibliophilopolis may know James from his participation in the Deal Me In challenges.) The gist of this one is to read ONLY (there are a few exceptions, e.g., books read for book clubs) from your TBR stack the first quarter of the year. Heck, rather than restate the details, just see James’s TBR Double Dog Dare page here. Will YOU accept his dare?

 

Advertisements

Deal Me In – Week 52 Wrap Up

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_39192.jpg

We’re finally at the end of DMI 2015. Congrats to all who have made it this far! I’ve really enjoyed sharing the challenge with everybody and am appreciative that many have already re-upped for another year. As reading challenges in the blogosphere go, I think this one has a lot going for it, both practically (as to the “reading burden” it imposes) and entertainment wise (all the authors you are exposed to via your own reading and reading others’ posts). I think we’re up to fifteen or sixteen sign-ups for 2015, and I expect a few more will straggle in (as they did last year). I also realize we’ll lose a few to attrition and the demands of “life,” but that is the way it goes with blogging…

I’d also like to thank those ‘core members’ of our group who have already visited and commented on some of the newcomers’ rosters – and encourage others to do so as well if they have the time and feel so inclined. I think we have a nice little informal community here and growing it a little bit would not hurt.

Anyway, on to the new posts this week:

Dale was introduced to Katherine Anne Porter via her story “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/katherine-anne-porter-the-jilting-of-granny-weatherall/

James compared and contrasted Joan Didion’s “Where the Kissing Never Stops” and “Don’t Call it Syphilis” by Jessica Mitford (and who says the DMI’s randomizing hand of fate doesn’t have a sense of humor!?) http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/12/26/joan-didion-vs-jessica-mitford-a-deal-me-in-short-story-non-fiction-special-edition/

Katherine read Kevin J. Anderson’s “Just Like Normal People” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/deal-me-in-week-52-just-like-normal-people/

Randall read Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything That Rises Must Converge” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/12/everything-that-rises-must-converge-by.html

(And be sure to checkout Randall’s “mini-reviews” of his advent calendar stories while you’re there.)

I read “Maurice Broaddus’s “A Stone Cast Into Stillness” from my Dark Futures anthology. Dark was right! https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-stone-cast-into-stillness-by-maurice-broaddus/

That’s it for this year. “Deal Me In 2014 is dead. Long Live Deal Me In 2015!”

“A Stone Cast Into Stillness” by Maurice Broaddus

20141229-074320.jpg

My final week of the 2014 Deal Me In Challenge served me up the Ace
of Spades, which I had assigned to the Maurice Broaddus short story “A Stone Cast Into Stillness.” I own it as part of the anthology collection, “Dark Futures: Tales of SF Dystopia.” (pictured above) I didn’t realize it when creating my 2015 roster that one of my featured “local” authors for next year, Jason Sizemore, also edited this anthology. Perhaps this is Deal Me In’s way of segueing me into the new year.

Anyhow, this particular tale is set in a distinctly bleak future featuring, among other things a suffocating – and largely automated – bureaucracy. The couple we’re introduced to in the story, though residing in the “Middle Caste,” have a life seemingly devoid of happiness and almost – almost – without hope for any.

Through the wife’s “customer service” call (to a snarky automaton) regarding her “Certificate of Procreation” we eventually learn that she has lost a child. Naturally, a terrible thing to endure, but maybe even more so in this world where reproduction is strictly controlled. Despite their relative “insignificance” to society as a whole’ the couple, especially the wife feels the pain of a lost child as acutely as those at the uppermost levels of society. Later, her husband has the best of intentions and tries to ameliorate her pain by making a special purchase:

…so, anyway, I got you a Vir-Bab.”
“A Vir-Bab.”
“A virtual baby. It’s all the rage on the West Coast
.”

The Vir-Bab, it turns out, is a pretty damn sophisticated construct, accepting programmed-in DNA of the owners, with all kinds of other interfaces to give one a, well, virtual experience. After explaining how the Vir-Bab works, the husband says, “Can you imagine? We can skip those troublesome teen years.” Broaddus continues:

She hated her husband in that moment. He was such a… man. Trying to fix something – the hole inside of her, the eternal ache – that couldn’t be fixed.”

How does the story end? Does the wife accept this “substitute” for a real baby? I’m afraid I shouldn’t tell you. If you’re interested, the book is available as a $4.99 download at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Futures-Tales-Dystopian-SF-ebook/dp/B0056AEAB4

Oh, and where does the title of the story come from? It is a quotation about the impact a death of a child has. Author John DeFrain compared it to a stone cast into a still pond, the ripples go everywhere. Everywhere. A great image to inspire a story, I thought.

Well, that does it for Deal Me In 2014. I’ll have to print myself up a “certificate of completion” or something. :-). I’ll be reading (at least) a story a week again in 2015 via the Deal Me In 2015 Challenge – care to join in? My story roster for the new year may be viewed here.

Photo below found at: http://www.gettingthroughthis.com/6771/skipping-through-life/

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5286.jpg

My 2nd Annual Short Story Reading Awards

20141228-193013.jpg

The Shorties – My 2014 Short Story Awards!

Last year, Edgar Allan Poe’s character “Hop-Frog” was my honorary host of “The Shorties.”  This year, for the Second Annual edition, we welcome the George R.R. Martin’s Tyrion Lannister, brilliantly brought to life by actor Peter Dinklage in the HBO Series, Game of Thrones. And… once again, as I did last year, I’ll stress that “shorties” is intended as a term of endearment not a politically incorrect disparaging remark about short people. 🙂

20141228-193020.jpg

1. Favorite New (to me) Author:
a) Katherine Vaz
b) Mark Helprin
c) Roxane Gay
d) Nikolai Gogol
e) Monica Westeren

Really a toss up here, between Gay and Vaz, but I’m going to have to go with Katherine Vaz. Both her stories in my Deal Me In deck  and another I read ad hoc) were amazing!

2. Most Memorable Female Character
a) Tanya (Twenty-Six and One by Maxim Gorky)
b) Margot (“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury)
c) Mrs. Bullfrog (“Mrs. Bullfrog” by Nathaniel Hawthorne)
d) Lia (“From Brussels South to Ottignies” by Monica Westeren)
e) Avie (“Axis” by Alice Munro)

I’m going to go with Lia. This may be a bit of an upset, but I really liked her character’s emergence into her own person.

3. Most Memorable Male Character
a) Eduardo (“Undressing the Vanity Dolls” by Katherine Vaz)
b) Lazarus (“Lazarus” by Leonid Andreev)
c) Roger (“Perfection” by Mark Helprin)
d) Mateo (“Mateo Falcone” by Prosper Merimee)
e) Kovrin (“The Black Monk” by Anton Chekhov)

As much as I love Kovrin, it’s Lazarus in a runaway. That story and character really unsettled me. I still may not have recovered wholly…

4. Most Memorable writing
a) Gertrude Atherton
b) Peter Watts
c) Kate Chopin
d) Katherine Vaz
e) Alice Munro

As much as I loved all of these, its gotta be Vaz. The quotation that clinched it: “The red tide was drifting south, the neon blue receding, and as easily as that, as easily and swiftly as a comet arrives, passes on, and does not return again, not in one’s lifetime, the moment for Dias to ask Reginald why he had given him the silent treatment, and for Reginald to ask if the letters were never for Alicia out of a well-founded guilt, came and left, and would present its chance to be regarded no more. Such nullifying moments exist, and their vacancy is as strong as all else that one might name.” Winner.

5. Favorite Story
a) The Cloak by Nikolai Gogol
b) Lazarus by Leonid Andreev
c) Undressing the Vanity Dolls by Katherine Vaz
d) Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
e) The Things by Peter Watts

So tough to decide, but I’m going to go with Kate Chopin’s “micro-story” Story of an Hour. I’ll be recommending this one to people for years to come.

Well, those are some of my favorite stories, characters, and authors from this year. Which were YOURS?

 

 

My Advent Calendar story reading mini-project

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5261.jpg

A couple weeks ago, I posted my intent to read my way through the fourteen stories and one essay in the speculative fiction anthology, “Gifts of the Magi.” (pictured below – not your Grandfather’s O. Henry Gift of the Magi!)

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5289.jpg

I used an abbreviated “advent calendar” starting on December 10th, where I began reading one story a day (as far as you know) and finished on Christmas Eve. (I should also mention that I borrowed the idea of an advent calendar-ish reading project from Randall at his excellent blog, Time Enough at Last) I might have researched this project a little more carefully, though, as the introduction clearly states that “The concept for this anthology was that each author tell an original story set in the “world” of, and with characters from, their ongoing series.” My lack of familiarity with these worlds or series made some of the stories a little too difficult to effectively gain my footing in. Nevertheless, most stood on their own enough for me to enjoy, and as always I found certain things in them to be thought-provoking. I’ll write a little detail about a few and then some general impressions. As to my favorite story from the volume, Marian Allen’s “The Warmth of Midwinter,” I’ve assigned it a place in my annual Deal Me In short story reading project so will write about it in a separate post when it’s drawn from my short story deck.

Lumps of Coal – an essay by Nicole Cushing

Cushing writes about how, with the commercialization of the holidays, it’s only natural that authors may decide to sometimes incorporate a holiday theme into their work, but also warns that, although “…some mashups (like, for example, The Nightmare Before Christmas) work. The two different aspects end up working out well together, like chocolate and peanut butter.” But that the ones she focuses on in her essay “work more like yogurt and gravy.” She asks the question: “…what happens when the genre/holiday mashup is…well..awkward? What happens when authors and screenwriters try a little too hard? When a genre-related work is a square peg that doesn’t really fit the round hole of the holidays (but someone tries to make it fit, anyway)?”

To answer her question, she comes up with a list of three mashup disasters: The television series Tales from the Darkside episode “Monsters in the Room”, the film “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (remember that one?) and, saving the best for last, 1976’s “A Bionic Christmas Carol” (yes, really) from the TV series “The Six Million Dollar Man.” This last was of particular interest to me since that show was broadcast in my “formative years” and was followed avidly by my schoolmates and me. I don’t remember this particular episode, but I do remember the horrible “Bigfoot/Sasquatch as an alien” episode (a two-parter(!), even, if memory serves) and former boxer George Foreman once making a guest appearance. I distinctly recall serious discussions with my friends on whether or not Foreman could “win a fight” with the eyebrow-arching, leisure suit-wearing Steve Austin (portrayed by actor Lee Majors).

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_52881.jpg

I also liked The Longest Night by Matthew Barron

Told in the first-person by a young boy whose village is held in terror by the visitations of a murderous monster as the days grow shorter – and the nights LONGER – with the deepening season. The monster turns out to not be the true root source of terror, though. Instead it is more likely a caste of “Sun Prophets” who are using the people’s fear of the lengthening nights to win “converts” to their faith, or just to strengthen the hold on them that faith already has. After one of the deaths, one of the prophets proclaims:

“Another of the unfaithful has died at the hands of Night,” Lumes said. “But this shall be the last! Through your faith, the Day is reborn! The long night is over!”

I’m a sucker for stories where superstition or dogma is overthrown, and this one fits the bill. The ending of the story is also good in that it hints that this battle against superstition – and especially those who use its sway to advance their own agenda – never really ends.

We returned to the town square. The children were singing a song of Sun’s triumph over Night. I protested the lyrics, but Father said, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ ‘But—’ Father held my shoulder in his big hand. ‘It doesn’t matter. Let them be happy.'”

And, finally:

“The days would grow long, and spring’s resurrection was on its way. The long night was finally over… At least until next year.”

How Krampus Saved Christmas by S.H. Rodney

Do you know who “The Krampus” of legend is? If I’d ever learned this tidbit I’d forgotten and needed this story to remind me. According to Wikipedia, he’s kind of a “companion figure” to Saint Nicholas, one who punishes bad children or those who have misbehaved during the Christmas season. He’s still big in Austria and Germany apparently. It is speculated that he is yet another pagan tradition that somehow got assimilated into More Christian legends.

The story begins in a bar where Santa and the Krampus are “blowing the froth off a couple” pints, and are both lamenting how the bad children are getting worse and more numerous with every year. The Krampus goes into a diatribe and starts a “movement” by winning recruits to his “nightmare army” whose purpose is to correct this state of affairs. (I couldn’t help but think of the “Death Eaters” on the march in HP) Part of his recruiting speech is quite convincing:

To the children of this world, you shall bring fear and humility. To the parents of this world, relief that they might live a healthy life without the struggle of badness in their children. And to the Jolly One, you shall bring a rekindled sense of purpose! Save our fair folk tonight with your misdeeds! Go forth, my brethren, and wreak havoc!”

Meanwhile, “Santa shook his head in exasperation but said nothing. It would do no good. He looked down at the two rolled lists on the counter and sighed. The nice list was pretty slim this year. It would do these whippersnappers some good to have the bad scared out of them.”

Will the Krampus’s “crusade” prove successful? What would you think his chances of success would be?

Below  from Wikipedia – The Krampus and Saint Nicholas visit an Eastern European family…

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5290.jpg

Other thoughts:

What is this Christmas of which you speak?”
One story, “Season of Renewal” by Debra Holland, features an alien world, but one which does have some human inhabitants. In discussing holidays and celebrations the humans find themselves having to explain Christmas to the alien leader. I found the discussion of different holiday traditions – both human and alien – to be thought provoking. I mean, how would you describe your own traditions in a way to convince others that yours are better or at least reasonable?

I loved the title, “Quantum of Solstice” by J.P. Bastin which, appropriately, is a spy thriller of a story with a climax at a holiday party on the winter solstice.

I also enjoyed getting re-acquainted with the ONE character in this anthology I knew from prior reading, R J Sullivan’s Fiona “Blue” Schaefer, who I first met in the novel “Haunting Blue,” the first of a series that the story included in this book was set in. Blue’s character is a “Punk” girl, but one with a lot of moxie that compels you to like and root for her, which I did before and in this story as well.

There was also the interesting character of the “Transit King” who curiously appears in multiple stories (the last three in the book); my lack of “grounding” in these worlds had me flipping back pages thinking, “Wait, I thought he was a character in the last story!” (he’s described as “an informant from the fairy world who travels the public roadways. He frequently comes upon information of a paranormal nature.”) I did find, however, that having a character that bridged across several stories proved was an interesting idea, and one which left me wishing I WAS more familiar with these worlds and characters.

There were a couple stories that had a kind of “secret Santa” (not in the modern meaning of that term) element where protagonists meet a character that later they (and you!) begin to wonder – or realize – “hmm… maybe this guy is really Santa Claus.” That ever gets old. :-)in fact just yesterday I caught an old Christmas episode (1954) of “Father Knows Best” – one where the father, in top Clark Griswold form, decides they’ll go up in the mountains in a heavy snow to cut down a live spruce for their Christmas tree. Of course they get stranded when stuck in a snow drift and have to break into a nearby house to try to find a phone to call for help. While inside the house’s apparent owner returns – a white-bearded old man whose name is Nick (of course it is). Predictably, he helps the kids, previously anxious to get home, discover the true meaning of Christmas.. Yada yada yada. 🙂

Below: Father Knows Best – unless you’re talking about procrastinating and not buying a Christmas Tree until Christmas Eve, then dragging your family out in a snowstorm and getting them stranded in “the middle of nowhere”…

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5291.jpg

For some reason, this collection of stories also reminded me of the time when a child that I eventually learned that Santa Claus was a myth. Out of the blue, I think it was during the summer, I was called in from playing outside and very seriously told to sit down on a stool I n the kitchen and my parents broke the news. I admitted I had grown skeptical, mainly because of the impossibility of his visiting EVERY house in one night, but then, clinging to one last hope of his reality, said, “Wait, what about the milk and cookies he ate?” (Ha! Explain that away Mom and Dad! Oh, YOU ate them yourselves? Sigh….). My Mom also likes to relate how, when they told my older brother the news his response was a somber, “You’ve ruined Christmas for me…”

What about you? Did you do any Christmas-specific reading this season? Do you have a favorite – or least favorite – Christmas episode of a TV series? When and how did you learn the truth about Santa Claus and what was YOUR reaction?

Below: Santa debating with the Martians (over who has the coolest hats?) as children look on in wonder…

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5287.jpg

A 2014 Reading Survey

I “borrowed” this from Melissa at The Avid Reader’s Musings. A fellow Indy area blogger who I’ve been following for years.

Number of books read in 2014: 46 (I’ve been averaging just over 50/year for my blogging years)

Best Book You Read In 2014? (by genre)  

Classics —The Iliad and Middlemarch

Historical Fiction — Not sure I read any.

Mystery — The Last Policeman

Literary Fiction — Time’s Arrow(?)
Nonfiction — The Unpersuadables; Down and Out in Paris and London 
Fantasy — A Storm of Swords
Science Fiction — The Martian Chronicles; War of the Worlds 
YA — Looking for Jack Kerouac

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?  
Reading Lolita in Tehran and Northanger Abbey (the Val McDermid version, which I read along with re-reading the original by Austin, that I didn’t enjoy at all)

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2014? 

Perfect Flaw. An anthology of dystopian stories. Also maybe Dead Man’s Hand – an anthology of “Weird Western” tales. I’m becoming such a reading omnivore. 

Book you read in 2014 that you recommended to people most in 2014? 
The Unpersuadables. So far, the only one I know has read it is Katherine at The Writerly Reader. And she reviewed it.

Best series you discovered in 2014? 
The Last Policeman. On book two now.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
Jess Walter? Roxane Gay? Katherine Vaz? I discovered a LOT of great new authors this year, many through my Deal Me In short story reading challenge/project. 

Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you? 
Born to Run. Who would’ve thought a book about extreme distance running would be interesting to a guy who hasn’t run (except maybe to get out of the rain) since the Bush administration. (and I’m talking G.H.W.B….)

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2014? 
Maybe The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins?

Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read? 
The Martian Chronicles? I don’t know. I’m vowing to do less re-reading going forward.10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014? (Left)

Perfect Flaw. Loved the art.

  1. perfect-flaw-cover-webversion
  2. Most memorable character in 2014? 
    Odysseus or Achilles from The Iliad. I loved all the trash-talking in that book too, which I didn’t remember from reading it previously (long ago)
  3. 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014? 
    Indian Summer? (by the largely forgotten William Dean Howells )Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2014?
    The Unpersuadables. I still am thinking about parts of this book.Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? Middlemarch or Invisible Man. (I respectfully submit myself for disciplinary action)Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014? 

    To many to mention them all, but the “backwards movie passage” of Slaughterhouse Five is up there, especially since it helped inspire another book I read this year, Martin Amis’s “Time’s Arrow”

    Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2014? 
    A Storm of Swords 1,125 pages (thanks, George R.R.!)
    Benito Cereno (thank YOU Melville): 76 pages

    Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? 
    Eh, I don’t know….

    Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2014 (be it romantic, friendship, etc). 
    I forget their names in Middlemarch – the Mayor’s daughter and the doctor (okay, okay, Rosamond and Mr. Lydgate; I went and looked it up) That was an “interesting” match…

    Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?
    The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins

    Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation From Somebody Else: 
    The Light Between the Oceans by M. L. Steadman. A coworker read it for her book club and gave me her copy when she was done. It was good. For some reason, I never blogged about it…

    Genre You Read The Most From in 2014?
    Classics and Literary Fiction.

    Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
    Meh, I don’t really get fictional crushes any more, BUT just to answer something, I’ll say Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch. Although I would be totally not worthy…

    Best debut book you read? 
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen may be the only book that fits this category, and I didn’t really like it all that much. Except the scene where the guy hides the fish from the market in his pants. That was funny.

    Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2014?

    A Storm of Swords (ah, Westeros…) or The Martian Chronicles.

    Book That Was the Most Fun To Read in 2014?

  4. Looking for Jack Kerouac.
  5. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?
    Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I didn’t cry, though. It was sad sometimes, but I didn’t cry.Book You Read in 2014 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out? 
    The Unpersuadables. Only 205 ratings on Goodreads.com? Come on, people! 🙂Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
  6. Just my annual one short story per week challenge, “Deal Me In” which I just finished this week. If you’re interested in trying this, the sign up post is here. 
  7.  Bookish Events on your blog in 2014? 
    Not much on my blog other than my hosting of the Deal Me In challenge, which featured a weekly wrap-up post. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?
    My Jack London biography, which I got for Christmas last year. I started it a couple times but never got rolling. I WILL read it in 2015. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?  
    New short story collections by Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood.One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2015? 
    I’ll be moving to self-hosting my site in 2015. (I’ll finally be Bibliophilopolis.com instead of bibliophilica.wordpress.com/) I have top men working on it right now. <ahem> Top. Men. I also hope to be more bookishly philanthropic in supporting local literary events and initiatives. Hopefully, being a first edition sponsor of Indy Writes Books was just the first of many.

    post-21790-We-have-top-men-working-on-it-Xslz

  8. What were some of your reading highlights in 2014?

Deal Me In – Week 51 Wrap Up

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_39191.jpg

The Penultimate round of Deal Me In yielded the following posts:

Dale wrote about Ring Lardner’s “Alibi Ike” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/ring-lardner-alibi-ike/

Katherine wrote about Charles de Lint’s “The Invisibles” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/deal-me-in-week-51-the-invisibles/

Candiss posted about the John Cheever story “Goodbye, My Brother” http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/deal-me-in-challenge-story-51-goodbye-my-brother-by-john-cheever/

Randall covers “The Bris” by Eileen Pollack http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-bris-by-eileen-pollack.html

I read the Jerome Bixby short story, “It’s a Good Lifehttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/its-a-good-life-by-jerome-bixby/

I should also mention that we’ve had another participant, Susan  at Avid Series Reader, (who I’ve shared links to before on occasion but have not been good about looking for new updates since they were somewhat infrequent) who posts her reviews on Shelfari.  Peeking at her website today, I see she’s updated her roster with links to all of her reviews for 2014.  It’s at http://avidseriesreader.blogspot.com/2014/01/2014-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge.html  if you’d like to take a look.

One more week to go. Thanks to everyone who has joined me in Deal Me In this year, whether for the whole year or for parts of the year. You’ve really helped make it a fun challenge for me.

AND If you’re dealing yourself in again for DMI 2015, please take a moment and comment on the sign up post https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/its-the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year-deal-me-in-2015-sign-up/ with a link to your roster, if you’ve finalized one already, or even to just say that you’re in. Also please consider helping spread the word about Deal Me In. We have three new participants already for next year, and there’s always room for more. 🙂

 

“It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5278.jpg

Some short stories outgrow their original confines and enter the public consciousness, often due to being adapted into movies (think The Birds or The Shawshank Redemption) or television shows. One such is Jerome Bixby’s tale “It’s a Good Life,” featuring a “monster” who also just happens to be a little boy named Anthony.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5279.jpg

Already recognized as a superior short story, first published in Frederick Pohl’s “Star Science Fiction Stories” magazine in 1953, it took on a new life when it was adapted into a teleplay for Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” series in 1959, starring Billy Mumy (later of “Lost in Space” ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’ Fame). The episode has made many of the lists of top all-time episode lists, etc., and deservedly so. It, like the story, is deliciously creepy.

Anthony, who in the story – unlike the Twilight Zone episode – we are introduced to immediately, has supernatural mental powers, including the ability to wish things in and out of existence (like the rest of the world except for his small town of Peaksville; where did it go?) and the power to read people’s thoughts, of which certainly no good comes. At his age, Anthony’s attempts to both help and harm usually lead to disaster and horror, so the other 45 inhabitants of Peaksville have settled into an eggshell-walking existence of constantly thinking “it’s a good day” or “it’s good that Anthony did (whatever terrible thing he did)” What must such an existence be like for those living there?

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5276.jpg

Some might consider Star Trek’s “Charlie X” an adolescent version of Anthony. Maybe William Shatner should have starred in this episode of the Twilight Zone as well…

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/795/11193654/files/2014/12/img_5284.jpg

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

Okay, sure, I’ll do a Top Ten Tuesday two weeks in a row!

20140901-105307.jpg

Hosted by the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesday is a popular weekly meme with a different topic each week, asking participants to post their “top ten” in a particular category. This week, it’s Top Ten Books I Read in 2014. My slight amendment is that I am excluding re-reads (e.g. Cat’s Cradle) from this list. These are ranked in descending order, with #10 being my “least favorite” favorite and #1 being my most. See here to view others’ Top Ten Tuesday lists.

  1. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Sure, it’s a lot like some of the other Murakami I’ve read, and the male character “feels” like the same guy, but I enjoy the author’s style, and the premise of this story really grabs you. When he was younger, Tsukuru was once part of a very close group of friends until one day they suddenly – for no reason he was aware of – cut off contact with him. This book joins him years later at the point where he is finally ready to investigate why.

  1. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Part of my intended “Summer of George” (I was also supposed to read The Mill on the Floss, but, uh, well, we won’t talk about what happened there) this was a great and epic read. Finally filled a gaping hole in my literary cultural literacy. 🙂

  1. The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins

20140319-073604.jpg

This was really a pleasant surprise, as I hadn’t even heard of this novel until this year. I read it back in the winter, when it seemed appropriate based on the title. A great story, and one short enough that it can be read in just a few hours. Read my post about it here.

  1. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Until this year, I hadn’t read any Orwell since college, when I read some of his essays about his harsh times spent as a student. This book was a fictionalized account of the authors time spent more or less as a vagrant in these two major cities.

  1. The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

tunnel

Another short and easy read, this book offers a glimpse into an unbalanced and obsessive mind. Narrated by that mind in such a matter-of-fact way it’s rather chilling…

  1. The Unpersuadables by Will Stohr

20140501-073648.jpg

One of the most thought-provoking non-fiction books I’ve read in quite a while. Why do some people believe outlandish things that “cannot” be true (as you see it)? This book has some fascinating suggestions why, along with a lot of great case studies of ‘unpersuadables.’

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Read by me as part of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s book club schedule for “Banned Books Week”, this book – like Middlemarch above – finally filled an embarrassing void in my well-readness 🙂

  1. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Ever since I learned that our local university here is home to The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, I’ve become more and more interested in and enamored with this author. I’d never read this book, which is actually an after-the-fact assemblage of somewhat related stories not original written to be published together, until this year though. It left me in an odd but invigorated mood, contemplating how humanity really would treat a “new world” if we were able to colonize one. (Probably even worse than Bradbury’s imagined colonists did, I fear)

  1. Perfect Flaw by various (anthology of dystopian short stories)

20140413-133758.jpg

In sports terms, this is a “huge upset” as this book comes from out of one of the myriad of small presses, and yet I really enjoyed the dystopias that the authors of these stories came up with. Not an uplifting book by any means, but imagination run rampant and great fun. Read my post about this one here.

1. We Live in Water by Jess Walter

20141017-124908.jpg

Perhaps unfairly influenced by this author’s visit here last month, this was one of the better, single-author short story collections I’ve come across lately. Last year reads “Tunneling to the Center of the Earth” and “The Era of Not Quite” were of similar quality, but this was my favorite of the year 2014. Read my post about it here.

What were your favorite reads in 2014?

« Older entries