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I have read and reviewed every entry in mini_fest -- woo hoo!!! I always try to do that for every fest I participate in; I love getting comments on the things I write, so I try to return the favor.

Sadly, I have not managed to do so yet for minerva_fest or sshg_giftfest, but the year is young :) Of course severus_snape is coming right up and that will no doubt keep me busy for a bit. Still, it's good to have goals, yes?

I've also been busy reading/posting on a group read of one of my very favorite books: Stephen King's The Stand, over on GoodReads. A lot of the participants have never read it before, and since I've read it probably ten or twelve times it's a lot of fun to see how people see it with fresh eyes. The hardest part for me is remembering where things happen in the book, so I know where to use spoiler tags.

I did manage to get quite a bit of reading done over break:

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and DisturbancesAnother excellent collection from master storyteller Neil Gaiman. Some are horrifying, some heartwrenching, some made me laugh out loud, almost all gave me something I didn't expect. I particularly liked "The Thing About Cassandra," "Adventure Story" (one of the lol ones), "Calendar Tales," and "The Return of the Thin White Duke." As a bonus, for those who like that sort of thing, there is a nice meaty introduction, where Gaiman talks about how and when and where each of the stories was written. He also gives some background for his choice of title:

What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk. We need to find out what fiction is, what it means to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else's experience of the story.

...I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places? There are stories I read as a child that I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them...They troubled and haunted my nightmares and daydreams, worried and upset me on profound levels, but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.

There are still things that profoundly upset me when I encounter them, whether it's on the Web or in the word or the world...But they teach me things, and they open my eyes, and if they hurt, they hurt in ways that make me think and grow and change.

I wondered, reading about the college discussions, whether one day people would put a trigger warning on my fiction. I wondered whether or not they would be justified in doing it. And then I decided to do it first.

Lammas NightI'd been trying to track down a copy of Lammas Night for ages; it was out of print and super expensive last time I checked. But I got a copy for Christmas from Mr Psmith and ripped through it in about two days. Loved it, though I have two minor quibbles, one related to style and one related to substance. My stylistic quibble is that the book seems to lean more towards tell than show. The tell is done skillfully, and it's hard to see how one might get around it when so much of it turns on historical episodes, but there are parts where it does feel a little slow. I cried at the end; I saw one part coming, hard as it was, but not [Spoiler (click to open)]Richard and Geoffrey volunteering to crew the Prince's final flight My substantive quibble is that [Spoiler (click to open)]I am somewhat bothered by the fact that the sacrifice of the prince is accomplished via a sabotaged aircraft. After all of the emphasis on the importance of the personal connection between slayer and slain, both ritualistically and historically, it felt impersonal to have it happen at such a distance. It met the letter of the requirements -- it was Gray's hand that did the deed -- but it doesn't feel like it quite met the spirit of them. Perhaps if Gray had been piloting the plane and taken it down with both of them aboard? . Those two things aside, I really enjoyed this book. The historical references, some of which are borne out by documented fact (e.g., the popular contemporary belief that Sir Francis Drake rebuffed the Spanish Armada with the help of Britain's witches) are fascinating and make me want to hunt up more information. Whether they were effective or not, I have no doubt that witches of all persuasions across Britain were actively attempting to thwart the Nazis, and Hitler's failure to execute Operation Sea Lion is still something of a miracle.

The Ghost WriterAugh, poor Gerard!! Seriously creepy and entangled, I totally did not see the end coming. I knew it would be something twisty and weird, but did not suss out the specifics. I got a bit lost here and there in amongst all the names, and at times it was hard to tell what was real (i.e., part of the main narrative) and what wasn't (i.e., part of one of the stories-within-a-story), but overall it was really well done. The stories-within-a-story were intriguing, sort of High Gothic, and made me wish Viola had been a real person and written lots more. A great read for a gloomy snowy New Year's Day.

House of EchoesA very meh version of the town with a dark secret trope. There were no surprises and the story moved at a snail's pace for much of the book.

The fact that I found the bad guys MUCH more interesting than the good guys should tell you something, too.

The Mysterious MansionShort story. Gorgeously lush beginning with the description of the decaying mansion. Screamingly horrifying ending. Brrrrr.

What's funny is that not an hour before reading this, I had read a story with a very similar plot: "Black Dog," in Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warnings (see above).


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Jan. 9th, 2016 05:26 am (UTC)

Lots of good reading!

Jan. 9th, 2016 11:49 am (UTC)
I love Neil Gaiman, and really enjoy his little descriptions in the front of his books on how he came to write the story. And I so agree with him about trigger warnings: fiction is not a safe place, nor should it be. Reality itself is not as safe as we like to think it is; fiction can remove the blinders we put on that tell us we will always be safe. If someone can't handle something they read about in a book, how will they ever deal with a real-life crisis when the shit hits the fan? Yes, I've read things that upset me -- scared me or made me cry. But I don't regret it. I felt real emotion when I read these stories, and that is a good thing, even when the emotions are uncomfortable. I know that it is popular with fan fiction to tell ahead of time any squicks or trigger warnings. I shake my head at this and think, maybe these people shouldn't be reading fiction at all, then. If you know everything that's going to happen ahead of time, and that it will be within your comfort zone... well, what's the point of reading the story? It's just more of the same that you always read. I say, put on your big girl panties and read something slightly dangerous!
Jan. 11th, 2016 10:55 pm (UTC)
I've been reading Trigger Warning and enjoying it as well. The introductions are great.
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