Posts Tagged ‘R.I.P.’

R.I.P. VII!

It’s time again for one of the most popular reading events in the book blogosphere – R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (R.I.P. for short).  This is the seventh year Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings has hosted this event and the third time I’ve participated.  I’m ridiculously excited about this event, especially since the weather in Virginia right now is absolutely perfect for a shivery read – cloudy, cool, and smelling of autumn.

My plan is to read at least one book as well as participate in Carl’s group read of The Graveyard Book in October.  (I actually reread it just last year with the 5th-8th grade book club I host at the library.)  I don’t usually listen to a lot of audiobooks but I may listen to this one.  Last year I heard a clip of Neil Gaiman reading it and it was fantastic.

You should definitely sign up for R.I.P. VII if you haven’t already!  It’s a blast.  No blog necessary; anyone and everyone is welcome.  Check out the R.I.P. VII post if you have questions.

Hope your autumn is filled with hot cider and great reads!

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by Jim Butcher
ROC, 2000
Source: public library
As part of R.I.P. VI, Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting several group reads, one of which is a Storm Front read.  Even though I didn’t sign up for the group read, (I’m still figuring out how to get back into blogging after my little hiatus and I’m trying not to overload myself with challenges and reads), I read the book anyway.
I don’t even know where to begin.  Storm Front is such a gripping read.  I made the mistake of reading it during my lunch break a few times, and each time I did I dreaded one o’clock like you wouldn’t believe.  Not because I didn’t want to go back to work, mind you, but because as soon as one o’clock hit I was at yet another “I can’t stop now!” moment.  And even though the plot moves rapidly, it’s not at the expense of character development, which I really appreciate.  Butcher does employ quite a few stock characters, however, but Harry Dresden himself escapes a lot of the wizard/hero/outcast stereotypes, making him a far more engaging character than he could have been.
One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the magic-technology relationship.  It seems like many magical books – particularly those featuring wizards – are set in worlds free of modern technology (Lord of the Rings, A Wizard of Earthsea, etc.).  Even those that aren’t still manage to seem as though they are.  Take Harry Potter, for example.  It’s set in contemporary times, yet the wizards and witches seem to live in old-fashioned bubbles.  They communicate using owls, for crying out loud.  I could call, text, email, and Facebook about fifty people in the time it takes them to send one owl.  (I still totally want one, though.)  And unless I missed it, we’re never given an explanation for the strange lack of modern technology in the Hogwarts world.
It’s explained in Storm Front, however.  Harry Dresden brews potions by candlelight, drives a beat-up Beetle that’s constantly breaking down, and avoids computers and elevators like the plague because magic has a strange effect on anything manufactured after the forties.  Butcher uses this as more than just a way to take advantage of the dark, brooding environment that accompanies the conventional wizard image; it’s an excuse to have Dresden’s car break down at the most inopportune moments and to mess with other characters by making their radios spaz or their computers crash.  This magic-technology quirk is just one more reason to love this book.
Storm Front makes for a perfect R.I.P. VI read, so if you’re looking for an October book that will have you burrowing under the covers, check this one out.  I actually finished the second Dresden book last night and it was as entertaining and nerve-wracking as the first.  (About halfway through the second book there’s this scene at the police station – if you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about – that had me so on edge that when the phone rang I nearly jumped out of my skin.  Phones and Dresden really don’t mix.)
Other reviews:
  
Stainless Steel Droppings group read: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3
Did you write a review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list! 
*I just learned that James Marsters narrates the Dresden audiobooks.  Hmmm, I’m suddenly very motivated to start listening to them . . .

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Exciting news!  (Well, for me, anyway.)  Next month the library I work at is trying out a new book club for 5th-8th graders.  The best part is that the very first book we’re reading is . . . The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman!  I can’t wait.  The book club is in just two weeks.  I still need to reread the book and come up with a game plan for the club.
And this is where you come in!  Any ideas for discussion questions and/or activities?  I know there are a lot of Gaiman fans out there and I’m sure someone has a brilliant idea or two.  (Yes, I am totally buttering you up.)  What do you think we should chat about?
In other news, I think I’m going to count The Graveyard Book as one of my RIP VI reads.  Hurray for RIP VI!  And hurray for the weather actually feeling like fall!

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R.I.P. VI!

It’s that time of year again – time for the R.I.P. Challenge!  This is the sixth year Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings has hosted this challenge (R.I.P. stands for Readers Imbibing Peril, by the way) and my second year participating in it.  
I absolutely love this challenge (confession: I cheered when I saw Carl’s post announcing the start of R.I.P. VI).  It isn’t just the challenge itself that I love; I love the R.I.P. community.  I have yet to see another challenge that is greeted with as much enthusiasm as this one.  It’s fantastic.
One of the nice things about the R.I.P.  Challenge is that it encompasses a wide range of genres (mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural) and there are multiple levels of participation (called “Perils”).  Last year I participated in the Short Story Peril and read a collection of short stories by L. M. Montgomery.  I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do this year.  Either I’ll go the short story route again (Peril of the Short Story) or I’ll read two books (Peril the Second).  Or I’ll do both.
This is where you come in!  Any suggestions on what I should read?
C’mon, fall!  I’m ready!

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Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side
by L. M. Montgomery
Bantam Books, 1990
Source: public library
*review contains spoilers*

When I first decided to join the RIP V challenge, I received a plethora of book suggestions from other bloggers.  The suggestion that caught my eye was Among the Shadows by L. M. Montgomery, largely because I never thought I would ever see “spooky” and “L. M. Montgomery” in the same sentence.  Spooky?  L. M. Montgomery?  Really?  I couldn’t resist.

Among the Shadows is a collection of nineteen stories originally published in magazines and newspapers between 1897 and 1935.  The stories range from whodunits (like “Detected by the Camera,” published in 1897) to ghost stories (like “The Closed Door,” published in 1934) to stories containing just the slightest air of mystery (“The Man on the Train,” published in 1914).  Of the nineteen stories, however, seven of them do not have any ghosts, supernatural activity (explained or otherwise) or any real mystery to them.  Those seven stories totally threw me for a loop, and all I can figure is that they must be darker than Montgomery’s better-known works.  (I haven’t read the Anne or Emily books since I was a kid, so I don’t know this for certain.)

The other twelve stories are not necessarily the creepiest stories ever written, but a few of them did send a shiver down my spine.  To me, the spookiest (and the best-written) story in the collection is “The House Party at Smoky Island” (published in 1935).  (It didn’t help that I read it in a rather dark room!)  The arrival of the ghost was handled so subtly that I actually gasped aloud when I realized it was a ghost.  (And then, I confess, I glanced around to make sure there wasn’t an additional presence in the room.)

As I read Montgomery’s tales, I noticed that the reader is often kept at a safe distance from the events in these mysterious and spooky stories.  The twelve stories are told either in the third person, by one character to another, or by a first person narrator who, for the most part, exists on the sidelines of the story.  (See my list below.)  For example, while the first person narrator is present when the ghost shows up in “The House Party at Smoky Island,” he really just happens to be at the right place (or maybe the wrong place!) at the right time; the main story doesn’t really involve him at all.  Of all the first-person narrators in this collection, however, he was the most involved in the story, and I think that involvement is one of the reasons this story spooked me the most.  The more distance you put between the teller and the listener of a ghost story, the less real, and therefore less spooky, it feels.  With several of these stories there was just too much distance between me and the supernatural activity for me to get significantly creeped out.

The funny thing is, this point actually comes up in one of the stories.  In “Davenport’s Story,” (published in 1902), the story opens up with the characters telling each other ghost stories, which are criticized by one of the characters:  “He said our stories were all second-hand stuff.  There wasn’t a man in the crowd who had ever seen or heard a ghost; all our so-called authentic stories had been told us by persons who had the story from other persons who saw the ghosts” (15-16).

This collection is full of “second-hand stuff,” which makes me wonder if Montgomery’s decision to give it to us “second-hand” was intentional or unintentional.  Was she trying to make her stories less credible or realistic?  (And what’s up with the ending of “Some Fools and a Saint”?)  Hmmm.

Overall, it was an interesting read, and one I recommend to Montgomery fans and anyone else curious to see her “darker” side!

Other reviews:

Chandra Universe

* * * * *

For the nerds in the crowd, here’s a breakdown of the twelve spooky stories by category (ghost, whodunit, etc) and how they were narrated.  I’m deliberately not including the titles of the stories because I don’t want to give away more than I already have!

Of the twelve stories containing some mysterious element, there are . . .

2 whodunits: one told in the third person, one told by an initially peripheral first person narrator

1 murder: told by a first person narrator to an unseen audience

5 ghost stories: one told in the third person, two told by a (mostly) peripheral first person narrator, two told by one character to another

2 ghosts-who-aren’t-really-ghosts stories: both told in the third person

1 slightly (mostly explained away) magical story: told in the third person

1 mysterious stranger
: told in the third person

Happy Halloween!

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RIP V
I just found out about this fantastic Halloweeny reading challenge: RIP V (Readers Imbibing Peril), hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.*  This is the fifth year he’s hosted this challenge (fifth! man, do I feel like a newbie) and some of my favorite blog people have already signed up: Jenny, Nymeth, Andi and Trisha.  Even though I really shouldn’t take on another reading project right now, (if anyone says the word “thesis” to me I will scream), I just can’t resist this one.  How can I???
But I need suggestions!  What should I read?  I’m either going to do Peril the Third (read one book; see, look, I’m not getting in over my head!) or Short Story Peril.  I may use this as an opportunity to reread A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny which I rather love reading in, well, October.  Or I could read some short stories.  I use to be a short story maniac, and I just realized the other day that I kind of miss them.
Suggestions??
Other News
In other news, my work schedule recently changed.  It’s a good change, but one that is taking some getting used to.  I’m now working four tens, which means that instead of working longish hours five days a week, I now work really, really long hours four days a week.  It’s totally worth it, though, because a) work is significantly less stressful now (and if you really want the list of reasons why I can tell you) and b) I get a day off in the middle of the week (YAY!).
The upshot is that I spend four days a week completely and utterly exhausted and the other three days sleeping, reading and doing all the things I didn’t have time for during the rest of the week.  The moral of the story is that I may not blog as much (not that I was setting records before) and my comments on your blogs may come a week or so after you’ve written the post.  (They may not be coherent, either, but I’ll do my best.)  Same goes for responding to comments posted here.  If you haven’t heard from me in a while, know that it’s not because I don’t love you, it’s just that I’ve just spent the previous hundred hours surrounded by small children and am lying in the middle of the floor, twitching.  (If it’s been a REALLY long time, just shout “Marco!”  If I don’t respond, start worrying.)
In other, other news, I think autumn is finally on its way, and that makes me very, very happy 🙂
*This is one of the best blog titles I’ve ever seen.

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