(no subject)

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:52 pm
dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
Dark Knowledge, by Clifford Browder. Anaphora Literary Press, 2018

In New York in the late 1860s, Chris Harmony uncovers some pre-Civil War papers that hint that his grandfather could have been involved in the slave trade. He feels a need to find out what the truth is, but other family members don’t feel the same way- and even attempt to steal the papers. As he asks around, he finds clues that link other society people to the slave trade, too. And, fearing exposure now that trading in humans is illegal and looked down on in New York, those people set out to stop him.

Chris, his sister, their mother, and their cousin are all for getting to bringing it to daylight, even if it means their own family name will be besmirched. Their other relatives, and others in the shipping industry, are very much against it. They have their money, they have made their way into society, and they want the status quo held.

The story takes Chris from the docks to society balls. It’s a historical mystery, with a lot of family dynamics happening, and with a bit of a love story, too. It looks like Browder has done a lot of research into what trade and shipping was like back then. It’s pretty well written, but I found the ending very abrupt and unsatisfying – not so much of an ending so much as a “see you next week, same time, same channel”. I don’t know if this will be a series, and we’ll see the story given a better ending or not. I would have liked to have seen Chris’s sister take a more active role, too. Chris’s character is fairly well filled out, but the others not so much so. The author has promise, but this one gets four stars out of five.

(no subject)

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:29 pm
dark_phoenix54: (why motherfucker)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
A number of years ago, Hank Williams, Jr., the voice of Sunday Night football (or maybe it was Monday) for years, was removed from that job because he was making racist statements. Now, this season, he is back. It's Trump's America.

(no subject)

Sep. 20th, 2017 09:01 am
dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
Don’t Doubt the Magic! –the Story of Bernice O’Hanlon, Part Two By Cathie Devitt. Roundfire Books, 2017

Bernice O’Hanlon has returned to the island she grew up on. She is looking for answers- and two of the people who could provide those answers are now dead: her grandparents. The farm she feels should be hers by inheritance is lived on by a pair of brothers, who have been working the farm for her grandparents for years- and they have moved into the house. Bernice is a witch, and in this story she works with the Tarot to figure out how to proceed. The action alternates between the island and Glasgow.

This is the middle novelette of a trilogy, and while it’s said to be readable as a standalone, I had trouble figuring out who all the characters were and how their relationships worked- and there are a lot of characters. The action switches between them rapidly. I felt like I was watching a sped-up film; unable to catch up with what was going on. I enjoyed the premise that there were a group of witches on the island, and that the skills had been passed on to Bernice. I could understand her need to find out what happened to her parents and to her infant son. But with so much going on, I couldn’t form a connection to her or any other character. There was not enough time spent with anyone to care about them. I can only give it three out of five stars.

(no subject)

Sep. 19th, 2017 02:36 pm
dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley. Bloomsbury, 2017

In 1859, Merrick Tremayne is living in the ancestral home in Cornwall, doing the best he can with a ruined leg. The leg was ruined working for the East India Company, for whom he had done such varied services as run a tea plantation and smuggle opium. No longer of use to them, he lives with his brother, to whom the house and lands belong entirely, who wants him out and gone as soon as possible. The two solutions the brother puts forward are either Merrick take on a rural parsonage, or he’ll be sent to a mental asylum. Why the asylum? Merrick swears that the statue in the garden moves, and that someone is messing about in his greenhouse.

Merrick is a plantsman (who just so happens to have had a grandfather and father who went to Peru), so when the East India Company (who desperately need more quinine for the rampant malaria in their areas of operation) needs someone to locate high-yield quinine trees in Peru, take and smuggle out cuttings, and get them started in an area the EIC operates in, they come calling in the form of Merrick’s old friend from the Navy, Clem Markham. Never mind that there have been no successful ventures into the Peruvian jungles, or that Merrick can’t walk without crutches. It’s better than the asylum or the parsonage.

The first part of the novel moves very, very slowly. Training Clem to take cuttings. The sea voyage. The mule journey to the Peruvian interior, at high altitude. The fact that the man who provides them with a guide to lead them to “frost resistant coffee trees” will kill them if he finds out they are after quinine. Thankfully, when they reach the village of New Bethlehem (“Bedlam”), the white gunmen leave them with the native guide, and things get weird. The village is on volcanic glass, with hot springs warming the river. There are trees that burst into flame from even a tiny spark, golden luminescent pollen in the air, clockwork statues that move when approached, and the forest is bordered by a line of salt that only the priest (who is also their guide, Raphael) may pass.

This story is adventure both supernatural and natural, historical fantasy, a touch of steampunk, an indictment of how Europeans treated the people of other continents, and a love story. The plot speeds up after they reach Bedlam, thankfully, but it is never a high speed story. The descriptions are beautiful. The characters are built up, layer upon thin layer, as are the relationships. I fell in love with this place and with this book. I totally forgive it for moving slowly. Five stars.

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 05:47 pm
dark_phoenix54: (writing)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
A couple of semi productive days. Repaired the flannel sheet that was ripped in several places. Repaired the top sheet that was almost torn in half. Did three book reviews. Put elastic in the pair of Egyptian print pants. Did two loads of laundry. Sorted some things and put some things that aren't big enough for me anymore out for the Cat Sanctuary thrift shop. Did online looking for dental colleges/clinics/sliding scale places.

Small things, but I was busy all of both days. Busy enough to have blood sugar crashes, even, which surprised me.

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 04:22 pm
dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
The Hanging Tree, by Ben Aaronovitch. DAW Books, 2016

In this most recent of the Rivers of London series, Constable Peter Grant is back in London, but still in a territory he’s unfamiliar with. This time it’s the realm of the very rich.

A rich girl ends up dead of an overdose at a party- in a place where they shouldn’t have been partying. Lady Tyburn calls Peter with a request (that’s putting it gently): her daughter was at the scene of the crime, and she wants her name kept out of it. Not just proven innocent of the drug thing, but completely not there.

Of course it turns out that there is a supernatural element to the situation, so Peter is on the case legitimately. The long story arc that started six books ago is advanced here: the Faceless Man is involved. And that means Lesley makes an appearance. Peter spends time having a fire fight in Harrods, having a super expensive flat blow up, building new tech things to use around magic, and narrating the story as the world’s best educated and most snarky POV ever.

Of course it’s a five star book. I hope this series goes on forever. It’s funny, it’s supernatural, and it’s the most diverse urban fantasy I’ve read. For that matter, it’s probably the most diverse stuff I’ve read, period.

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 11:28 am
dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger. Scribner, 2009

Julia and Valentina are identical twins. They are the daughters of Edie, who was the twin sister of Elspeth, who has just died and left J & V her flat in London, along with a great deal of money. The catch is, they must spend a year living in the flat, and their parents must not be allowed into the flat. This sounds all right to J & V, who although technically adults, show no signs of maturity. They have dropped out of three colleges and do nothing more than exist. Actually, that’s not quite true; Valentina is interested in fashion design and enjoys sewing and upcycling used clothing. Julia, the bolder of the two, has no interest in anything, and as she’s the dominant one, nothing is largely what they do.

The building they come to live in has other tenants; on the top floor lives Martin, a victim of severe OCD and agoraphobia, whose wife has just left him, unable to deal with his rituals and towers of trash any longer. On the ground floor lives Robert, who was Elspeth’s lover. The building backs up to Highgate Cemetery, with the graves of many famous people as well as the crypt that contains Elspeth herself, and her family. This will be important later. The flat is also inhabited by Elspeth’s ghost- something she makes known after a while.

This is one creepy book- and some of the creepiness isn’t supernatural. The way Julia dominates Valentina, the reason for the rift between Edie and Elspeth, the relationship between Valentina and Robert and between Valentina and Elspeth- there is wrongness everywhere. And that created a problem for me: I couldn’t manage to really like any of the characters. Even ones who I felt sorry for at first turned out monstrous. As another reviewer said, Martin is the most human and likable person in the book- and his relationship with Julia is actually a good one.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what would happen after a certain point, but reading how it played out was still a creep fest. The author’s prose is lovely; even when I was disgusted with the people, the writing beckoned me on. Because of my dislike for the characters I can’t give it five stars, but it’s a very strong four, because very little horror really gives me the shivers.

(no subject)

Sep. 17th, 2017 05:08 pm
dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
The Art of Hiding, by Amanda Prowse. Lake Union, 2017

Although she grew up dirt poor, Nina McCarrick has lived a charmed life since she met Finn while waiting on her father at a construction site. Swept off her feet, they married fast. He insisted he wanted her to be a stay at home wife, even before the children arrived. So she put her dreams of becoming a nurse aside, and managed their luxurious home, taking care of the kids who go to an expensive private school, running errands, and, her big concern, arranging flowers. Her life is enviable- isn’t it?

Then Finn is killed in an auto accident. Suddenly, not only has she lost the husband she loved, but she discovers that their life was a sham. The house was being foreclosed, putting her out on the street. The business is bankrupt and no longer exists. The school fees are in arrears. Nina and the kids are basically tossed out with the clothes on their backs- everything else is removed by creditors.

Thankfully, Nina has a sympathetic sister, Tiggy. She also has an uncle who owns a flat, and it happens to be between tenants. With a roof over their heads- as long as the money in her purse holds out- she sets out to rebuild her life. Her younger son is sympathetic and a cheerleader for her; her teenaged son is cynical and resentful. She has no real marketable skill set, and her job hunt is discouraging.

The hiding is not just the secrets her husband hid from her, but how she hid her authentic self to please him. Hiding can create some terrible results. It’s an okay story but didn’t really move me. Three stars.

(no subject)

Sep. 16th, 2017 03:41 pm
dark_phoenix54: (abnormal brain)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
Many of my recent dreams have been violent or stressful lately, so I was very surprised when last night, I flew in my dreams for the first time in at least two years! Effortlessly, too, when frequently in the past it was a strain. woo-hoo!

(no subject)

Sep. 14th, 2017 07:38 pm
dark_phoenix54: (why motherfucker)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
So, first thing to do with the dental problem is going to be to shell out for a second opinion. The problem is figuring out who to go to for the second opinion. I know the one I used to see is totally into doing things the most expensive way. There is some chance that the dentist we saw for awhile, who quite doing adults to only do Medicaid children, may be doing adults again. Problem with him is his work may not be as good as other dentists. I may look into going up to Canada- problem with that is what I need will mean many trips. I may call around to CdA and Spokane, too. Limit to how many opinions I can pay for- and I'm hoping this guy, who took full x-rays and photos, will release the files.

Tim has proposed that we cash out my life insurance. There would be just enough money to cover the stuff. But then, if I die first, he's only got his Social Security to live on. Do-able, but tight. And the damn thing is supposed to start paying dividends at some point. I just a few months ago got the loan that was on it paid off. We're still paying on the loan on Tim's (created when we declared bankruptcy- had to take the maximum loan on the policy) and so this is pretty depressing.

Ugh.

Summer, where have you gone?

Sep. 13th, 2017 06:45 pm
hypatia42: (Default)
[personal profile] hypatia42
Its mid-September and I feel like I missed most of summer. Part of that is the Honey broke and dislocated his wrist playing baseball necessitating 2 surgeries. When he does something he shoots for the best. I'm just glad the best was on call at that hospital that night. Not in the plan.

I feel like I was so busy that I can't remember most of it. This is unsatisfactory.

Started a nutritional shake program today. Hoping that having liquid food will help the rest of my systems to calm down.

My allergy testing was, thus far, not helpful. Blood tests from the allergist has me lower than she wants me to be for Vit D.

Saw a rheumatologist and he was sympathetic, unlike the last one years ago, but mostly didn't have any news that would help me. Blood tests from the Rheum haven't come back yet. Mebbe next week. He agreed that I have some sort of connective tissue thing going on and that I do have some hypermobility but its "not extreme" which pretty much means its not treatable. In the mean time I still can't carry anything without pulling my shoulders and back outta whack and I have no path forward to answers.

I guess I am feeling defeated and that is a really hard place to start winter at. I think I am hoping that the shakes will help underlying things become less problematic.

(no subject)

Sep. 13th, 2017 11:33 am
dark_phoenix54: (welcome to hell)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
Well, that visit to the dentist wasn't pleasant. Oh, the cleaning was fine, x-rays no problem (although, as usual, it's popped my jaw joint out on the right side, dammit) but then I got the estimate for everything that needs fixing and its' for $12,000. The two anchor teeth of my fixed bridge (the front uppers) have receding gums and the thin strip between bridge top and the gum is rotting. That means the bridge has to be pulled, the cavities fixed, and a new bridge, that fits up into the area where the gum receded, needs to be made. The same thing has happened with the crown in back, so it needs replacing, too. And all my lower teeth have cavities. And he wants me to have cleanings every 3 months to see if we can arrest the gums receding and avoid a deep clean.

I knew of all these problems (I could see and feel the gaps between gums and fake teeth) but I had no idea it would cost *that* much. I somehow didnt think about the fact that new fakies would be needed- I kind of thought he could get in there with a tiny tool and fill the cavities and I'd be on my way. It never occurred to me I'd need a new bridge. It cost $1500 when it was put in 8 or 10 years ago. Now it's $5000.

We do not have $12000. Even if we cashed out my life insurance I'm pretty sure there isn't that much in it. I refuse to cash out Tim's; if he dies first I can't live on my $300 a month disability payments.

Time to sell some shit, I guess. What I don't know, but there must be *something*. And find the energy to put in more hours at work.

*sigh* Just when i thought we were getting our ducks in a row.

McManamon Theater Sept 9 2017

Sep. 12th, 2017 09:09 pm
ericcoleman: Cheshire Moon (Cheshire Moon)
[personal profile] ericcoleman
We played two storming sets this weekend. Xap streamed both live for us over our FB page. I was able to snag them and repost them on You Tube.

Susan joined as, as she does for a lot of the Chicago area shows. Cathy McManamon both hosted and sang and played drums a bit.

Set 1 - https://youtu.be/J6grsJHdC3w

Set 2 - https://youtu.be/3ZQh9T_o03E

If you like these, and want to support our House Concert shows, think about sending us something via PayPal. cheshiremoonband at gmail.

We've also posted this around.

We’re starting to think about next year. I expect we will do a show at the Church on Lawrence in Chicago, as we try to do every year. Another house concert in Champaign is probably going to happen, like it does. If the November show in Indianapolis works out, we’ll go back there. Cathy has said she wants us to do another show at her place. This weekend's show was very special.

Right now the only definite convention is Demicon (that will change I am sure). After the financial beating we have taken this year, the cost of badges and rooms are just beyond our means.

We still want to do a show a month at least. So we’re looking. We’re looking to do house concerts, especially house concerts, coffee houses, little music festivals, anything like that. We don’t do Ren Faires, we’re just not that sort of band. We don’t do bars. We want to go places where the music is the focus.

And we want to get places we haven’t been! So if we haven't come out your way and you think of a place that might work for us, please let us know!

There is now video of an entire house concert on our FB page (and it will be up on You Tube soon). This one was unusual because Susan was playing with us, which she doesn’t do very often, living in a different city and all. But it shows you what we do live. (this part written before I posted the video)

We’re never going to do this for a living. I’ll be 60 next year, and I don’t see myself living in a van for weeks at a time.

But we want to play as much as we can. We want to record more new songs.

So, if you have a place for us to play, please let us know.

In the meantime, enjoy this weekend's show.

(no subject)

Sep. 11th, 2017 03:57 pm
dark_phoenix54: (snooch scream)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
The Other Side of the Wall, by Andrea Mara. Crimson, 2017

Sylvia has two young children and has just returned to work from maternity leave, only to find a large sum of money missing from one of the accounts she manages. Short on sleep and tired to the bone trying to deal with it all, one night she looks out only to see what seems to be the body of a small child in the neighbor’s pond. But after she gets downstairs and tries unsuccessfully to rouse the neighbor, she finds nothing in the pond. Then she hears the sounds of a man crying through the walls, and things start changing in her house at night. Is she sleep walking, hallucinating, is it real, or is she being gas lighted?

Sam has just moved in next door. His wife and kids are staying in their former home while he does improvements on the new house after work, while he visits them on the weekends. Sam has done well, but not hugely well, as a money manager.

Kate is Sam’s wife; she is a bored housewife with young children. She is tired of having to be a full time mother, especially with Sam not around during the week. She wants to have some adult conversation and fun. Her brother, Miller, doesn’t have boundaries, and shows up at random times despite being told not to.

The story alternates between these people. At first I got a bit confused when the POV shifted and then figured out that the shift took us back in time to when the first POV had started. There is a huge amount of tension in this psychological thriller, although it comes in swells and troughs- not all the narrative threads are as intense as the others.

I found it compelling reading, although I can only give it four stars out of five. It just doesn’t have the smoothness that a more practiced writer could have (this is Mara’s first novel). I admit I was disappointed that it was not supernatural horror, but that was my fault for not reading blurbs finely enough, and not something I’m taking a star off for!

Chicago!

Sep. 10th, 2017 10:24 pm
ericcoleman: (Default)
[personal profile] ericcoleman
We played a lot of music this weekend. A lot of new songs. Susan was brilliant. Cathy sat in for a couple of songs (a sublime version of The Weaving, and wonderful drums on Solstice).

Saturday night was really special. One of those shows we will talk about for years. Both sets are available to watch on our Faceboook page. We're working on getting it on You Tube.

Saturday night at the McManamon Theatre, complete with footnotes!

Set 1
Circus Of Dreams
Disenchanted
Witch In Your Story
Beast Within
Tea & Fireflies - C-P
The Weaving (With Cathy and Susan on vocals)
Callenwood Part One - C-P
Hamlin’s Bow - C-P
Calvin's Girl
Narrow Way

Set 2
Ghost Train
Banshee
Horizon
Seaside Evening Market - 1-P
An Affirming Flame - 1-P
Masters of Library Science
Gargoyles - P
Shadow Moon - 1
Spinning Skies & Mirrors - P
Solstice (With Cathy on drum) - P

Then, Sunday at Greater Chicago Pagan Pride, also a marvelous show. Eric had rubber fingers, but still managed!

Gargoyles - P
The Well Stone - P
Persephone
Shadow Moon - P
Spinning Skies & Mirrors - P
Widow's Garden
Ghost Train
Snow White Red Road
Boneman's Daughter
Solstice

If it is marked with a C, it is a Callenwood song
If it is marked with a 1, it was the first time we have played it live
If it is marked with a P, it is available in demo form on our Patreon page.

(no subject)

Sep. 10th, 2017 04:41 pm
dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
Marlene Dietrich: The Life, by Maria Riva. Pegasus Books, first published 1993; reprint 2017

This is an absorbing biography of Dietrich by her daughter, Maria Riva. We are given the star’s life in detail, from her birth until her death. Riva’s life was closely twined with her mother’s from the day she was born- her mother used her as constant companion (who needs school when you can be your mother’s dresser?) and servant- so she was there to see and hear what Dietrich did and said for decades. From an early age, Riva was aware of her mother’s constant sexual escapades- sex and performances are the main themes of the book, along with Riva’s attempts to escape her mother’s life and have a life of her own. Dietrich had no concept of boundaries, and said and did the most atrocious things in front of her daughter, and then her son-in-law (when Dietrich returned from having sex with John Kennedy, she pulled her used panties out of her purse and thrust them to her son-in-law’s nose, encouraging him to smell the scent of the president!) and then even her grandchildren. She lied about her age, which meant she had to lie about her daughter’s age, too. When Riva was in her teens, she was still being dressed as a little girl, to enforce the illusion that Dietrich had only given birth to her a few years before. Dietrich drank heavily (especially late in life) and was her own pharmacist, in the years when amphetamines and downers were easily gotten. As far as I could tell, she never gave a thought to anyone else unless they could do something for her.

But she was beautiful, and could enthrall audiences. She was smart- she learned from wardrobe, lighting people, directors and anyone else and applied what she learned to her art. Josef von Sternberg, the man who made her a star in ‘Blue Angel’ and with whom she had an on again, off again affair for years, taught her the most- mainly, how to light herself for the effects she wanted. Thankfully, most of the people she worked with were willing to take her orders. She was a hard worker; she spent money like it was water- supporting herself, her daughter, her husband with whom she did not live (most of the time), her husband’s mistress, and giving extravagant gifts to her lovers- so she had to work almost all the time. She was strict with herself when working, and had bulimia, which allowed her to eat the rich foods she loved and still lose weight. Sadly, in her old age, she developed some dementia and that, along with her alcoholism and drug use, made her last years sad indeed.

Of course this is the biography of Riva, too. As long as her mother was alive, their lives were entwined. Riva did carve out her own life, though, becoming a television star for many years and raising a family. I was entranced by this biography- I couldn’t stop reading because every time I figured Dietrich couldn’t do anything worse, of course she would!

40th Birthday Wish

Sep. 9th, 2017 05:38 pm
hypatia42: (Default)
[personal profile] hypatia42
Shameless begging: In just a few weeks I am turning 40 and here's this thing, I am accepting donations for a new camera. I don't want a bunch of stuffs and I do need a new camera. My current DSLR is almost 10 years old now and it cannot keep up with current technology. Its come to the point that my cell phone takes better photos than it does. I am liking what I am seeing from the the Fujifilm X xeries.

Its a hefty pricetag and I am saving what I can. A lot of people have benefitted from or used my photography in the past. A lot of people have asked how they can help over the years. I'd love a leg up towards this new wonder in my life.

After talking with several people I trust I have decided not to try to use one of the crowd-funding sites. I'll have a jar for cash donations at the dinner. I also have a PayPal account and can accept monies that way by hypatia42@gmail.com.

(no subject)

Sep. 9th, 2017 12:41 pm
dark_phoenix54: (ivy door)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
OMG the wind has indeed kicked up, and things have improved. The sky is blue-gray instead of orange-brown and I've been able to open the windows. Thank you, mother nature, for this break! Now I just wish it was clearing because rain was putting the fires out...

(no subject)

Sep. 9th, 2017 10:01 am
dark_phoenix54: (abnormal brain)
[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
The smoke continues unabated, although today at least I can't see it between the shrub 6' from the window. So it has improved, marginally. Supposedly the winds today will clear it out, but considering there are fires all around us, where is this clean air supposed to come from? It's all got to go past fires...

Many wild dreams, with violence, and not much sense to them. In a situation where I was being threatened with knives/swords, even having them touching and slightly slicing my skin (perhaps one of the cats was after me in my sleep). A group of people trying to stop run away trucks, including the 12th Doctor. My parents in the middle of a Black Lives Matter demonstration - you have to know that my parents were extremely racist to get why this one was emotionally charged. My mother was just furious, but my father was crying because he thought my mother and I would be killed. Uh, no dad. I got them both settled down to just watch. And one where I was hand painting a tractor, and the Hulk started stomping around.. like I said, no sense.

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