Tag Archives: Excerpts

BALOGH — Slightly Dangerous

A tall glass of cold hero

Figuring out my personal canon, here—historical romances are bound to pop up. Among the more notable: Slightly Dangerous, by Mary Balogh. It’s a love story between two very sensible adults, very much attracted to each other, very much aware of how far they’re willing to satiate their wanting. They’re two adults, too, with the necessary barricades around their hearts—and seeing them ease up, seeing them let a little of their control go—it’s so satisfying. [Continue reading.]

CHABON — The Final Solution

The old man’s mind

I am pleased to announced that my first foray into post-canon reading was a blubbery success: I’ve read Michael Chabon’s pastiche on Sherlock Holmes, The Final Solution, and absolutely loved it. It was, I think, a nice book to read in transition from the canon, to whatever reading I feel like doing next—either a reread of Doyle, or a digging up other pastiches that place their stories firmly as career stories. Mostly because it’s a nice nod to my having ended that first run through the canon—it’s a tidy novella about a Sherlock Holmes old and retired and, in fact, only alluded to. [Continue reading.]

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Girl ahoy, reading comic books

I was supposed to write just about Brubaker’s The Man Who Laughs, but then it kept swerving into a rant about “the barriers of entry” in comic book reading. So here’s that indulgent swerve. See, barriers have an amazing way of reminding you that they existed for you because a) you’re a girl, and b) you got into comics way too late to ever catch up. So, to me, even if the barriers have been tiptoed past or crashed into—out of sheer will, or through a surfeit of giddiness—those barriers keep haunting; they’re like your very own Greek chorus dispensing aphoristic helpings of an inferiority complex. Hell and damnation. [Continue reading.]

ex02 — February, Thus Far

February, thus far

I’ve kept up the wonky momentum of January—characterized by good books and really good books resolving to nudge away a smattering of meh books—up until the start of February, but I’m seeing the possibility of even that faulty system flagging. This is, I am aware, an as-faulty observation—since three of the four books I’ve read since the month began were really, really good books. It’s only that, I suppose, I’ve more recently been mired in books I can’t bring myself to care for—books that I have been excited for, and books that would really be for me if some secret thing inside me wasn’t so listless lately. I look at my bookshelves and think horrible thoughts, among them: How can I be so drawn to all of you, but nothing at this moment appeals? [Continue reading.]

PUTNEY - The Rake

On Regency drunks

For the TL;DR crowd: The Rake is a powerful and compelling exploration of a hero’s fatal flaw; the brandy-swilling hero narratively pushed to an addiction. Read it for that. And if you like long discussions of how to run an estate, idk. The romance is secondary to Reggie’s development as a character and his struggle with his alcoholism, which I understand and I respect and am actually quite thankful for—but, unfortunately, it’s a distant second within the narrative. A little more effort could have been put in to make Alys seem to me as compelling? A little more angst and love and passion? A little more conversation that didn’t involve sheep? [Continue reading.]

MILLER - Batman Year One

An education, in Bruce Wayne

The introduction Batman: Year One phrases it nicely: That if Frank Miller had rightly immortalized Batman’s Omega in The Dark Knight Returns, it only makes the most perfect sense that he could do the same with Batman’s Alpha. Year One is a refinement of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s original Batman origin story—adding nuance where it called for it, adding grit, doing away with the slick camp of the late 1930s style, imbuing both alter egos with more gravitas. A gravitas that seems to have set the tone for all the Batman comics that would follow—fortunately for my angst-hungry heart. And. It’s the story of Bruce Wayne. [Continue reading.]

GREY — The Juliette Society

Neither porn nor romance

But Sasha Grey absolutely did not write an erotic romance in The Juliette Society; it’s more dangerous, for one, and follows more faithfully the tradition of erotica. That is: Grey’s book isn’t a romance with graphic sex scenes, which usually [tediously] involved forays into a poorly conceived BDSM culture. Sasha Grey isn’t a hanger-on of James’ [utterly frustrating] success—I am arguing that Sasha Grey, with The Juliette Society, was writing under the house of Anaïs Nin, even of Pauline Réage. [Continue reading.]

DOYLE — The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

“He must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, in his preface to The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: “I fear that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary.” The insistence: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson would go, as would their stories, and would remain gone. And now: I have read all of the canon. That is: There are no more Sherlock Holmes stories for me to read, for the first time. [Continue reading.]

PROUST — Days of Reading

“Merely the noblest of distractions.”

“For myself,” Marcel Proust writes, “I only feel myself live and think in a room where everything is the creation and the language of lives profoundly different from my own, of a taste the opposite of mine, where I can rediscover nothing of my conscious thought, where my imagination is exhilarated by feeling itself plunged into the heart of the non-self.” I feel immensely giddy that I am allowed a more literal interpretation: I am in the mad throes of love with my room. The good books are better, and the blows are softened when I’m with the books that don’t like me so much. I’m savoring every moment I have in this room, and I’m looking forward to the days and nights-into-days of reading that it will host. Sure: The detritus will find a way to rise, inch across my desk and on the floor; the books will ever so surely contrive a disarray; Real Life will intrude and I’ll be too weary to even try to stop it. But—and, yes, almost a chant of mine now—I will keep reading, I will immerse myself in what Proust rather earnestly dubs as “merely the noblest of distractions”—for as long as the floors gleam, for as long as I have a clear view of every book in the room, for as long as that red chair will hold me. And even after, of course—of course. [Continue reading.]

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl, THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt, DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King

Last year’s comebacks

I got caught in a lot of hype last year, mostly of the for-the-comeback variety: Good authors who’d taken their sweet time coming out with a new book, good authors who’ve just kept on writing but managed to hit the sweeter spot this time around. I have this notion about myself that I steer clear of hype, because it’s just the publishing world lying to me, but this is obviously flawed thinking. And so I like to console myself that the comeback-hype is the better kind of hype to fall prey to—one that has basis, plus the odds are with you because you know that it’s worked for you before? It’s more infectious, too: The hype was more of the bookish internet slaying everyone with a celebratory cheer: Marisha Pessl had a new book, Donna Tartt had a new book, J.K. Rowling kicked everyone’s asses and proved she still had a good book under her belt, Stephen King wouldn’t fucking relent and just kept getting better. [Continue reading.]