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  #901  
Old 15 December 2018, 09:42 PM
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Crius of CoH Crius of CoH is offline
 
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Upon finishing some book or other on my Kindle, in the "Recommended For You" list that popped up afterwards was something called Black Science. It twigged a faint memory, so I tapped on it to read more. Ah! Yes, some years ago I was with some friends out in the western 'burbs of Boston (might have been Newton, but at this remove I can't say for certain), and we stopped in a comic book store, where I saw the first issue of Black Science on it's own little display. I glanced through it and it looked interesting, but due to circumstances, I didn't buy it.

Well, now I've purchased the first two collections (issues 1-6 and 7-11) of the comic and it is excellent! Wish I'd bought that issue, but on the other hand, I now have (if Wikipedia is correct), six more compilations going up to issue 38, current as of October, to read, rather than wait month to month for new issues.
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  #902  
Old 01 January 2019, 05:45 AM
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I just serially finished three books in quick succession. Well, technically one novella and two books. The first was Exit Strategy, the last installment in Martha Wellsí Murderbot Diaries. I enjoyed this series about a rogue security cyborg that is socially awkward around humans but still feels compelled to protect the humans it likes from their awful mistakes, and Iím really happy it got picked up for a full book.

I then finshed the new Brandon Sanderson young adult SF entry Skyward. Spacefaring humanity has found itself on the losing end of an intergalactic war, and one fleet crash landed on a trash planet and had to burrow into underground caves to avoid being picked off by alien patrols. Because thereís a high casualty rate in starship pilots, the military command has been raiding the teenage population for pilot training and has zero qualms about shoving cadets that can barely fly into combat. And because ships are scarce, most of the instructors encourage the students to try to save the ship at all costs even if ejecting would save their lives. Which is incredibly shortsighted but I can see military commanders of a certain mindset doing exactly that. I liked the characters with the exception of one person, who I was clearly supposed to dislike. M-bot in particular was a standout. The main character Spensa was raised on tales of Beowulf and Sun-Tzu and tried to suggest that M-bot stood for Murderbot, but there can be only one Murderbot, and it would probably be appalled to see how the starforce was being managed.

I then blazed through Stuart Turtonís The 7 Ĺ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (sometimes sold as The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but I like the fraction; it truly suits this book), and it was awesome. Itís best entered cold since the narrator has no clue whatís going on, so you can learn WTH is going on with him. Without going into too much spoilery detail, itís an English country house murder mystery set during the late 1910ís or early Ď20s. The protagonist comes to in a dense forest with no memory of his identity, where he is, or what heís doing there. He sees a maid running scared in the forest and hears a gunshot. Eventually, he finds his way to a dilapidated manor house, Blackheath, where the family is holding a masquerade ball later that night for their daughter Evelyn after her return from Paris. I would really recommend just reading through the first chapters to get a feel for it and steer clear from the book blurbs which give away some of the setup. *Insert book blurb spoiler, which I actually recommend that you don't read at all. You have been warned.* Itís Groundhog Day. Evelyn Hardcastle is going to be murdered and the narrator is tasked with solving the murder. If he fails, the day will reset and he has to do it all over again. This can go on 8 times, and then the loop begins all over again and he gets memory wiped. But wait, thereís one other twist. *whiteout back on* For each day, he gets moved to a different witness, so itís really more like Quantum Leap mixed with Groundhog Day. With the added complication that the host minds can influence the narrator and override his actions if he doesnít maintain control. Oh, and all of his previous body swaps are at Blackheath as well, so there are 8 simultaneous versions of him scattered about Blackheath. Christopher Nolan would utterly adore this book. It makes Inception or The Prestige look straightforward

I loved this book, most of the plot threads were neatly tied up, which is impressive since I can only imagine how challenging this book must have been for the continuity editors. The only nit is that the underlying mechanics, unimportant to the plot, were never explained. Itís not terribly critical and honestly I donít think there is a plausible explanation, but because the plot was so neatly resolved I had this urge to explain how Blackheath worked. *commence actual endgame book spoilers* OK, so for one, was this an actual historical mystery or was it something cooked up by VR penitentiary storywriters? If this was supposed to have been a real event, how would it be possible to know whether or not this was how the murder happened? Also, was Blackheath a real physical place or was this more of an Inception-style dream? Were Adrian and Anna really in there for decades? What about their actual bodies during all that time? Were they in cold storage or something? And the most confusing part of all was that the Plague Doctor and his superiors never knew that it was Felicity who was being repeatedly murdered instead of Evelyn. How is that possible? Did an AI write the Blackheath storyline, and they donít have access to the code? GLaDOS is sorry, but if she had to inform the meatbag jailors as to how the story ended, she would have to kill them.


I'm currently making my way through Karina Longworth's new book Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes's Hollywood. I'm a big fan of Longworth's stellar podcast You Must Remember This, so this was an insta-buy. Longworth's podcast also did a mini-series going into more detail on some of the women who were only mentioned in passing in the book, such as screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas.
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  #903  
Old 01 January 2019, 01:25 PM
Jusenkyo no Pikachu Jusenkyo no Pikachu is online now
 
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I’ve been reading The Princess In Black books to my nephew. He seems to like it, although he should really be reading it himself.

For those who haven’t read the series, it concerns Princess Magnolia, who is in her normal life the most princessy princess to ever princess. I mean, seriously, she’s so princessy that her favourite steed is a unicorn named Frimplepants. But then monster alarms go off (at the worst possible times) and Princess Magnolia becomes the fearless badass Princess In Black (and Frimplepants shucks his unicorn disguise to become Blacky the Pony) and fights goat-eating monsters.

Honestly, I can’t speak highly enough of author Shannon Hale (who co-wrote these books with her husband Dean). In this case, she turned the genre of “pretty princess” fantasies on its ear—the prettiness is dialled right up to eleven, with Magnolia having tea parties, entertaining guests or going off to brunch in the first three books (without a king or queen in sight—seriously, the only adult in the series is a snooping Duchess).
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  #904  
Old 01 January 2019, 08:11 PM
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I've almost finished The Confusion, at least I will finish it this month; in the meantime I've read:

Matter by Iain M Banks (re-read). I remember being a bit disappointed in this the first time I read it, but not sure why as I liked it much more this time around. That's partly because he has a hidden post-credits epilogue scene that I didn't notice last time (I didn't know you could do that in a book), but this time I found it and it improves the ending a lot, to my mind.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I didn't like it as much as some of her others, partly because the psychological terrors seem to be largely based on the sort of insecurities that I've mostly got over these days. I'd probably have been more scared by it in the past.

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen. This is quite famous but I only recently picked up a copy. It's quite basically written - and I got the impression that the story and timeline had been "neatened" rather - but still an interesting story about a guy busking / begging on the street who finds a cat and it helps to turn his life around. (His supposedly offering people a tune outside pubs in exchange for money is one thing that I thought had clearly been sanitised a bit - none of the beggars who've asked me for money outside pubs in London or elsewhere have ever offered to sing a song in exchange, and I'm not quite sure how that would even work... but actual begging probably doesn't sound as sympathetic as busking. He was clearly busking during the day anyway.)

Animal Farm by George Orwell, which I'd not read for a long time. I found a nice hardback edition and thought I'd re-read it.

And The Book of Dust, Phillip Pullman's new prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy. I liked this. It's about how Lyra got to Jordan college as a baby. It's the first of a new trilogy, I think; I assume the rest of the series will be more about the main characters in this one, Malcolm and Alice. I don't know how much more of Lyra's story there is to tell though, as it can't get ahead of where Northern Lights starts, and Lyra doesn't know anything much of her history at the start of that one...

I've also started to re-read Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter, which is my favourite of hers.
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  #905  
Old 02 January 2019, 01:50 AM
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A few days ago, DC Comics had a sale on Kindle products, so I purchased a few items - apparently Black Science has spurred a bit of a comic book jig in my reading. After going through dozens of pages of items for sale (with no end in sight), I went back to start and got the following (title is followed by author, then artist, except as noted):

Orbiter by Warren Ellis and Colleen Duran. Holy crap, how did I never know about this? An inspirational story written in response to the shutdown in human space flight following the Columbia space shuttle disaster. May have to also find a physical copy to have on hand. Excellent.

North 40 by Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples (new edition). I've been a fan of Aaron Williams' work for years, via his classic Nodwick D&D comics, followed by the super-kids series PS 238 (of which I purchased all of the TPBs as they became available, back in the day), the general nerd culture humor comic strip Full Frontal Nerdity and the more recent weird fantasy series Use Sword On Monster (all available on his website). I had heard about this, but never seen it. Great horror comic, a rich blend of Lovecraftian horror, folk superstition, everyday small town real-life ugliness and just a pinch of superhero.

Marshal Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill (deluxe edition). I picked up the original run of Marshal Law at the comic book store back in the day, but missed all of the subsequent material that followed. Loved the story, loved the art. Great dystopian superhero story, and now I get to see everything I missed (well, almost everything; apparently there were a couple of one-shot crossovers for which publication rights couldn't be secured. Oh well).

Orion by Walt Simonson (Book One, 2000-2002). I've been a longtime fan of Walt Simonson, especially after his fabled retooling of Thor back in the 80's (Thor # 337-382). As I am also a fan of Jack Kirby's New Gods, I obviously couldn't resist grabbing Simonson's take on the New Gods. Still in the process of reading this one, but it has my attention, and I always love his artwork.

My old fandom of the Legion of Super-Heroes was rekindled (there is a pun here) by my subscription to DC Universe, which has the animated series from back in 2006. I watched most of the first season with my kids when it aired on the CW, but missed the second season. My son and I just finished watching the whole thing over the last couple of weeks - I was amused and a bit disturbed by how much Legion trivia bubbled up unbidden from my brain as I watched it. So when I saw several LoS books in the sale, I naturally grabbed them.

The Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes (various writers and artists, notably writers Edmond Hamilton, Jerry Siegel and Otto Binder, and artists Curt Swan and Al Plastino, but many more). Collects the first dozen or so appearances of the Legion. Interestingly, continuity-wise, the first couple of appearances of the Legion do not jibe at all with the later "official" origins - for example, the first Cosmic Boy has "magnetic eye rays" given him by a serum; while the second appearance of the three future heroes is by the children of the first Legionnaires. Overall, this was mostly a "historical interest" purchase, as my modern sensibilities no longer really enjoy old comic book writing - especially the ultra-terse, ultra-explanatory writing crucial to back-up features, and so very obviously written specifically to children. Still, it was very interesting to see the origins of the concept that would eventually grow up to be the Legion of Superheroes.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (various writers, mostly Paul Levitz and Gerry Conway, and many different artists) (vol. 1 and 2). This collects stories from Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes # 235-240 (v.1) and 241-253 (v.2), plus some supplemental material. This is the Legion more grown up, as published in the late 1970's. Got this because this represents a chunk of the comics I have never seen, but have seen referenced. The writing is so much better than that of fifteen years before, but is still just so bad ! Now, instead of being pap for kids, it's overwrought drama for teens. Rather more enjoyable, but still a bit of a slog. Can't compare to the Paul Levitz run starting in 1984, but one can see things really evolving.

Legion of Super-Heroes: When Evil Calls by Paul Levitz and various artists. Got this to see a more modern take on the Legion; my direct interest had ended in 1989 with Keith Giffen's assumption of the mantle of writer (which coincided with my general dropping of comic book collecting). This is apparently a story arc published in 2011. I haven't yet read this one, but a quick glance-through shows me artwork and characters that intrigue, and am looking forward to reading it.
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  #906  
Old 02 January 2019, 08:30 AM
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I'm not posting in this thread very often, but I want to spread the word:

When browsing the kindle e-book shop, I stumbled on a book called "The Wandering Inn". It turned out to be the first volume (so to speak) of a story published on WordPress, so you can read it (all five volumes out yet) here for free: https://wanderinginn.com/

It's the story of Erin Solstice, a young women from Michigan who one night turns a corner in her house on the way to the bathroom, and finds herself faceing a dragon in a cave. It turns out she was (somehow, I'm only in the second volume) teleported to a fantasy world where people are leveling and gaining skills just like in a RPG. Erin flees from the dragon, finds an abandoned inn, cleans it and makes it her home, and finally falls asleep after gaining [innkeper] as a class and [basic cleaning] as her first skill. She goes on establishing herself in the world while staying a very 21st century woman, enforcing political correctness even against goblins inside her inn and introducing hamburgers as the new in-food in the city of Liscor.

I find it a well-written story, and I enjoy the world with it's different species and it's unique background. The story is told from different points of view, and so you get to know the thoughts and views not only of several humans, but of some Drakes, some hyena-like humanoides called Gnolls, a half-elf, a goblin chief, and even a re-animated skeleton named Toren.

Go ahead and give it a try!
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  #907  
Old 02 January 2019, 05:39 PM
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Crius of CoH Crius of CoH is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Enrico View Post
Go ahead and give it a try!
I shall! Thanks for posting - it sounds interesting and enjoyable!
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  #908  
Old 02 January 2019, 07:20 PM
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Sultana of Beetroot Sultana of Beetroot is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crius of CoH View Post
I shall! Thanks for posting - it sounds interesting and enjoyable!
Iíve read the first 8 chapters so far - itís great!
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  #909  
Old 02 January 2019, 09:45 PM
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Great! I wasn't sure whether you people would like it - after all, I'm judging language and style as a non-native speaker.

Glad you like it!
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  #910  
Old 03 January 2019, 04:33 AM
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I'm... about 35% in, I think (Kindle's upstairs charging, too lazy to look). Just after where the Runner character delivers the potions to the adventurers fighting the lich. I like it; I shelled out the $4 to pay for it. I think the first chapter could stand an editorial re-do to polish it up to the standards of everything that follows, but other than that? Quite enjoyable. Thanks for bringing it to notice!
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  #911  
Old 03 January 2019, 02:23 PM
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I'm on the last chapter of Rudyard Kipling's Kim. I'd never read it before and have found it rambling and thin on plot, though it has lots of atmosphere. The characters seem curiously flat to me.
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  #912  
Old 03 January 2019, 03:40 PM
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Just finished Christopher Moore's Fool, and just started the same author's A Dirty Job. Enjoyed the first, and enjoying the second so far. There's some truly brilliant stuff, and some that seems to me to be trying a bit too hard to be clever and/or provocative. The copy of Fool had a preview chapter for Bite Me at the end, and that one seemed to be firmly in the "trying too hard" camp. I don't know if I'd be more charitably inclined toward the style if I'd read the first two entries in that particular series, but the preview chapter did nothing for me. At some point I'd like to read Lamb, which was recommended to me by a friend several years ago; it was the enthusiasm of this recommendation that caused me to pick up these other two Moore books when I saw them at a thrift store.
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  #913  
Old 03 January 2019, 04:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad from Georgia View Post
I'm on the last chapter of Rudyard Kipling's Kim. I'd never read it before and have found it rambling and thin on plot, though it has lots of atmosphere. The characters seem curiously flat to me.
I tried it some years ago, after reading that Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy was somewhat based on Kim. I certainly wasn't going in thinking it would be a grand SF spectacle, and I've read plenty of "normal" adventure-ish fiction from the late 1800's through the 1930's, but yeah... Kim was for me something of a slog that I gave up on about halfway through (and probably stopped really reading about a third of the way through). Sorry, Rudyard!
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  #914  
Old 09 January 2019, 01:32 PM
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Currently reading The Poison Squad on my Kindle.
If you think that processed/adulterated food is a recent concern, think again.
Formaldehyde?! Really?! YUM YUM!
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  #915  
Old 11 January 2019, 02:26 PM
Jusenkyo no Pikachu Jusenkyo no Pikachu is online now
 
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I found a Buffy The Vampire Slayer picture book today. It was...weird.

The plot concerned Buffy, who, at the age of 8, is somehow already at Sunnydale Elementary with Willow, Xander and Giles (Cordelia was probably a bully here. She’s not mentioned at all, while Dawn—if she exists—is only 3 or so). Buffy is here afraid of the dark and possible monsters...until Giles tells her that she is the Slayer. So Buffy and co, emboldened by this discovery, find out that somehow all the favourite monsters are hiding out in her closet. And then they party with such a varied lot as Sweet, the She-Mantis and some vampires and werewolves. What.
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  #916  
Old 16 January 2019, 05:44 PM
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Blow Your Top

I'm now reading American Pain, which tells the story of two men who created a humongous pill mill located in Florida.

This place was profiled on American Greed about a season or two ago; the book is even more detailed. What floors me is amount of money these jokers are taking in. All on the backs of addicts from both Florida and out of state. Must be nice to have no conscience and still be able to sleep at night.
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  #917  
Old 03 February 2019, 01:42 PM
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I read loads of books in January, although several were very short. (And finished The Confusion!)

Finished Nights at the Circus, which is still my favourite Angela Carter of those I've read.

I read some essays by George Orwell, collected as Notes on Nationalism, which were interesting as usual. He defines nationalism quite broadly as any sort of political tribalism.

I re-read Brave New World, which was better than I'd remembered.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R R Martin. A lot lighter than Game of Thrones, although Westeros is still quite brutal. This seemed to be intended as children's / young adult stories almost, or at least a less serious readership than the others. I enjoyed them, anyway, and there were some nice illustrations in this edition.

Great Expectations by Kathy Acker. Now I need to track down a few other books to work out everything that she was plagiarising from. I spotted Great Expectations (the Dickens one) obviously, and Proust (Swann's Way). A lot of the stuff about the orphan seems to be from The Story of O, but I've not read it and Waterstones doesn't stock it unless you order. Some of it might have been De Sade but not one I've read (there were clearly references at least, to Justine I think). I had the impression some of it might have been Colette (not sure what though) too.

I, Maybot, a collection of John Crace columns from 2016 and 2017 that The Guardian sent me. Amusing enough... in some places it's hard to tell what's a real quote and what's satire, though. I'd assume it was all satire except that I know a few bits that sound like satire were things that politicians genuinely said.

Economics: The User's Guide by Ha-Joon Chang. This is a Pelican introduction - they've a new series of these out - and it was really interesting and helpful. It's an overview of economics and the various different schools and how they're inseparable from politics, in an attempt to counter some of the recent political arguments that assume neoclassical economics (or neoliberal, as it's often called) is somehow the only objectively correct school of economics, can explain everything, is an inescapable law of the universe, and anything that disagrees with it is somehow Marxism. It was first published a few years ago, and I think these ideas have started to get through a bit more in the last year or two. It's still very relevant though.

Art Matters by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell. Some short essays, which I think were first published freely on line, but are now out in a nice little book too. Here's one of them in The Guardian, about libraries.

And finally, Turbulence by David Szalay, which is a "high concept" novel based on the people on a series of flights which eventually circle around the world and get back to the starting point. The characters are connected by the flights in some way, and each character gets their own little story before passing on to the next. It was quite enjoyable but seemed a little as though his point-of-view wasn't as wide as it might have been, at times. He was trying to go from rich to poor a bit and through a variety of cultures, but even his poor characters had to somehow have enough money to go on international flights, which seemed contrived at times (he was clearly more comfortable with the rich characters), and sometimes I found the perspectives he assigned to his characters a little unconvincing - perhaps a little too aligned with his own...

I was given it by a new colleague of mine who had bought it to read on the train, and finished it on her journey since it's very short and light. I read it overnight while staying over in Cheltenham, and passed it on to a woman who works in one of the pubs who I know also likes reading. She said she'd pass it on to the other bar woman when she'd finished it, too. So it might end up on its own little journey of interlinked stories, which is good.

I'm currently reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and getting through it OK, but since it's so huge and dense it's going to take a long time I think. I will be breaking it up with lighter reads. I'm not sure what I was expecting from it, but not quite what it actually is, which (although rather metafictional and jokey or experimental in form) is ostensibly about a boy at a tennis academy...
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  #918  
Old 05 February 2019, 03:26 PM
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Currently reading the Japanese lady's (Kondo?) book on tidying up. The one big flaw I have with her keep it only if it makes you happy premise is that there are some things you have to keep whether you like it or not. Tax forms and medical bills come to mind. I have to return it in a few days--I cannot renew it. There are only about 270 people waiting to read it.
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  #919  
Old 13 February 2019, 08:42 PM
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Crius of CoH Crius of CoH is offline
 
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Actually an old book (1895) from Project Gutenberg: The Little Room and Other Stories, by Madeline Yale Wynne (who also apparently supplied the illustrations and "decorations").

The titular story is in one of my favorite sub-genres: where a weird event is possibly real, possibly not. A woman tells her new husband about family home in Vermont that may - or may not - have a very particularly furnished little room in it, depending on who visits the house and when; the maiden aunts who live there are singularly unhelpful in determining the truth.

There is a follow-up sequel to "The Little Room" right after, which compounds the mystery. I haven't progressed further due to time constraints. I find the writing fairly accessible, despite being over 120 years old. Looking forward to reading the rest of the stories, whether or not they are 'weird".
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  #920  
Old 14 February 2019, 02:01 AM
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The DC Universe streaming service has comic books as well as movies, shows and a daily news show; I was pleased to see that Planetary is now part of their collection, as well as The Wild Storm, an apparent revival of the WildStorm universe that started a year ago. Planetary is one of my favorite comics, which very successfully instituted an adult sense of wonder and hope in comics for me. Just finished reading The Wild Storm, and am starting a re-read of Planetary (and urging my son to read it as well).

A sub-LTTAM: the comic reading portion of the service is a little flakey; it tends to change the reading format about once per comic (I prefer the frame-by-frame format, and when it flakes out, it jumps ahead one page to the full-page format. Quite annoying).

Also: finished reading The Little Room and Other Stories; it is pretty short. All of the stories are "weird", in some way, but the titular story is the best one, to my mind (because of the aforementioned affection I have for that kind of story). Fairly enjoyable and a quick read.
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