September Summer

It feels like it’s still summer. Never mind the nights are getting somewhat cooler. Never mind that we are back in school. Never mind there is a seasonal hurricane ripping its way up the eastern seaboard. Never mind all that. I’m still in summer mode. I started the month off by a good 3.24 run. Yes!
Here are the books planned for the month:

Fiction:

  • The Shining by Stephen King – in honor of King’s birth month.
  • In the City of Fear by Ward Just – in honor of Just’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan by David Chadwick – in honor of September being Respect for the Aged month.
  • Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over by Geraldine Brooks – in honor of International Reading Day.
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: the Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd – in memory of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980.

Series continuation:

  • Tripwire by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July
  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov – to continue finish the series started in January.

Early Review:

  • My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life by Ryan O’Callaghan. If you have been keeping score, I started this last month.

For fun:

  • The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly – because of the title.

October (2009) was…

October has always been my “hang on”” month. It’s the month I hold my breath for while waiting for September to release me. This October was no different. It started with a trip to Maine to see West Coast family (and a great foggy run), a trip homehome andandand Kisa got to go (yay), Hilltop got a much needed haircut, there were a ton of new Natalie sightings, and, dare I say, the promise of a Hilltop Thanksgiving? The end of the month was a little stressful – a lump in the breast and a missing ovary. No wonder I read so many books and here they are:

  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ sci-fi story about a man who is kidnapped and taken to Mars.
  • The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ coming of age story about a young girl who is a chess playing phenom.
  • A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle ~ a ghost story about a man who lives in a graveyard for twenty years.
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters ~ a mystery about two unmarried women traveling through Egypt and being pursued by a mummy.
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan ~ nonfiction about the role of women through the ages (up to the 1960s when the book was written). Oh, how far we’ve come!
  • House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier ~ a spooky tale about time travel.
  • When Found, Make a Verse of by Helen Smith Bevington ~ a commonplace book full of poetry, proverbs and excerpts.
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo ~ a novel about small town life (read because October is the best time to visit New England).
  • The Natural by Barnard Malamud ~ a novel about a baseball player (read because October is World Series month).
  • In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu ~ a compilation of short stories all on the dark side (read in time for Halloween – you know…horror, fantasy, mystery, etc).
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: an American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie ~ biographies of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy in one book (read for Group Reading Month).

For fun, I am rereading Mary Barney’s Ring That Bell (2003) because I want to challenge my cooking and make every recipe in the book. So far I’ve cooked/baked my way through nine recipes.

For the Early Review program from LibraryThing I was supposed to read Ostrich Feathers by Miriam Romm. It hasn’t arrived as of yet, so it may very well turn into a November book.


In A Glass Darkly

Le Fanu, Sheridan. In a Glass Darkly. Trowbridge: Redwood Press, Ltd. 1971

Every other “scary” book I have read for October pales in comparison to In a Glass Darkly despite being composed of short stories. Let’s face it, the stories no matter how short are weird. In a Glass Darkly is made up of five short stories (although “Dragon Volage” is long enough to be classified as a novella) that are a mix of ghost stories, horror, mystery and fantastic. Each story is a little stranger than the last which makes for the perfect Halloween-time read especially with the lights dimmed low. The book ends with the short story “Camilla” about a lesbian vampire who needs more than victims to survive. “Camilla” appears to have the most success out of all the short stories, prompting other authors to write similar vampire stories with greater success. 

“Green Tea” is about a doctor, Dr. Hesselius, who deals in the occult who is convinced his patient is being possessed by demons. The patient is Robert Lynder Jennings. He is a reverend haunted by a demon in the form of a little black monkey with glowing red eyes. When Dr. Hesselius meets the reverend he is convinced his afflictions are caused by excessive consumptions of green tea. His intuitions allow Rev. Jennings to take the doctor into his confidences and soon relates how the monkey demon came to haunt him. Things become more dire when Rev. Jennings admits the monkey has been making him do vile, unthinkable things. From here there is no turning back and the story can only end in tragedy.

“The Familiar” was originally written as “the Watcher” which I think is a better title. “The Familiar” is about a sea-captain, James Barton, who is being stalked by someone calling him/herself “the Watcher” (hence the better name for the title). The stalker turns out to be an ominous, little dwarf. After the dwarf’s appearances Captain Barton starts hallucinating voices and thinking an owl is out to get him. There is nothing he can do to stop the mental breakdown that is inevitable.

“Mr. Justice Harbottle” is a freaky little tale about Elijah Harbottle, a cruel and corrupt judge. His conscience starts to get the better of him after an unusual visit from a stranger. He begins to feel haunted by past prisoners he has unfairly put to death by his rulings. The hauntings become so severe that Judge Harbottle can’t escape the noose around his own neck.

“The Room at the Dragon Volage” moves away from being frightening (until the end) and takes on the genre of a mystery as the villans are human. I found the bulk of this story to be long-winded and boring. Maybe that is because it is the longest of the short stories in In a Glass Darkly (26 chapters equaling 176 pages) and really should be called a novella. It takes a long time for the story to come to a head. —- is too naive, too trusting, too innocent for my taste. He’s also too obsessed with a woman he’s only seen once. As the reader you have to suspect nothing good can come from this strange passion, especially since she is a married woman. This was my least favorite story of them all.

“Carmilla” is a good old-fashioned vampire tale. The kind that inspires others to write the same. The twist to this is that the vampire is female and lesbian. When a strange girl known as Carmilla is thrown from her carriage she is brought to the home of a lonely young girl. Hungry for companionship the young girl welcomes Carmilla into her home. Hungry for a new victim, Carmilla readily accept. The reader can see the plot coming from a long ways off, but the young narrator is slow to grasp the danger she is in.

Favorite line: “The Clerygman felt a chill of horror steal over him, while, during the wail of a sudden gust of wind, he heard, or fancied he heard, the half articulate sounds of rage and derision mingling in the sough” (p 65).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Science fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).