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summer thunder
Tiananmen ghosts
roll on

-- Ann K. Schwader
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of a waning moon
last footprints

                      -- Ann K. Schwader

                Gene Cernan, last astronaut on the moon, is gone at 82
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Buck's Row
an early fall
of scarlet

            -- Ann K. Schwader
              (in memoriam Mary Ann Nichols)
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even through time’s vacuum moonsteps

                                              ---- Ann K. Schwader
                                                    (for the 47th anniversary of Armstrong's footsteps)
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If you’ve got even a passing interest in Poe (and I’m guessing that’s most everyone reading Yaddith Times), Dr. Amy H. Sturgis’s[ profile] eldritchhobbit latest Looking Back in Genre History on StarShipSofa No. 406 is a don’t-miss listen.

In this segment, she reviews an intriguing temporary exhibit at The Poe Museum in Richmond, VA. Entitled “Madness: Insanity in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe,” it offers her a springboard for discussing the (often dark) history behind many of Poe’s more notable tales.

The exhibit itself has closed, unfortunately, but the podcast is still available for free on iTunes & at the StarShipSofa website. And The Poe Museum website is darkly fascinating all on its own.
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no end
to new horizons
Tombaugh’s ashes

                                    -- Ann K. Schwader

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I’m falling behind on my podcast listening this summer, so this notice is a week-plus late – but I wouldn’t want any Lovecraftians who read this LJ to miss StarShipSofa 390.

The whole episode is excellent, with dark SF by Allen M. Steele & an extensive interview with leading horror editor Ellen Datlow. However, the draw for devotees of the Bard of Providence is this month’s Looking Back in Genre History segment. Dr. Amy H. Sturgis[ profile] eldritchhobbit discusses the history lurking behind Lovecraft’s “The Shunned House,” with glimpses into New England’s own brand of vampire mythology. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about HPL, but I learned a lot from this segment.

Find the episode here. As always, you can download it from the web site, listen online, or find it on iTunes. However you choose to listen, I wouldn’t miss this one.
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Sustenance (Saint-Germain, #27)Sustenance by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Number 27 in the blessedly long-lived Saint-Germain series finds the Count in post-WW II Paris, acting as publisher and friend (and, in one case, much more) to a group of American academics driven into exile by the House Un-American Activities Committee. When their lives become entangled with a shadowy CIA operation organized by a corrupt agent, no good can come of it -- and, pretty much, it doesn’t.

Yarbro’s take on the anti-Communist witch-hunt is detailed and fascinating. As usual, she provides a preface of historical information – always worth the time when starting out on one of her novels. Regular readers of this series will also find much information about how vampirism “works” in Yarbro’s world (some of this was new to me, & I’ve read the majority of these books) and discover the fates of several characters from previous novels.

That said, this still wasn’t one of my favorites. Although I enjoyed the postwar atmosphere and probably learned a great deal, I had trouble seeing how all the plot threads wove together. Perhaps this is due to my own unfamiliarity with the history, but the CIA operation and the misadventures of the Ex-Pats’ Coven never quite meshed -- and there were a few too many members of the Coven to keep track of. Though Saint-Germain proved to have some particularly lethal enemies, their motives remained obscure. Given the level of espionage and paranoia, though, perhaps this isn’t surprising.

I’m uncertain whether to make this a three-star or a four-star review, but I’m afraid I’ll have to go with three this time. This is no reflection on Yarbro’s writing, or indeed on the series as a whole. I’ll be preordering the Count’s next adventure, but his brush with the Cold War left me a little cold.

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evening mirror
a deathless reflection
takes flight

                                     -- Ann K. Schwader

  1845 – American poet Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" appeared in the New York Evening Mirror, its first publication attributed to Poe.
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The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a slow-burn Gothic experience for readers who appreciate a Turn of the Screw approach. Set in postwar (WW II) rural England, The Little Stranger focuses as much on character and class as it does on telling a very unusual haunted-house story . . . if, indeed, that’s what’s going on at Hundreds Hall, the declining great house in question.

When Dr. Faraday, an upwardly-aspiring country physician, is called to treat a servant of the resident Ayres family, his life and theirs quickly become entangled – and a creeping, possibly otherworldly malaise sets in. It’s nearly impossible to summarize this one further without spoilers. The pace is less deliberate than inevitable, the atmosphere effectively grim, & the conclusion far more complex than most horror novels provide.

One caution: if violence to either children or dogs is a deal-breaker for you as a reader, you might want to pass. The violence is integral to the plot, but disturbing.

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The Bull from the Sea (Thesus, #2)The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This immediate sequel to The King Must Die is another full-immersion experience of heroic Greece, with a lyrical first-person narrative to match. In retelling the rest of Theseus’s life (i.e., his post-bull-dancing days), Renault again tackles the problem of making her protagonist sympathetic while keeping him true to his time.

For the most part, she succeeds brilliantly. Reading the latter part of Theseus’s life is like attending a Greek tragedy: you know what’s going to happen, you know on some level that the character deserves it, but you can’t help but feel pity. And you can’t look away. Theseus’s years with the Amazon Hippolyta produce some of the novel’s loveliest prose, though readers familiar with the story know that it’s all downhill from here. All the way down, with a few plot twists that work just as well in the 21st century A.D. as they ever have.

My occasional frustrations as a reader came from some of Theseus’s career decisions post-Hippolyta -- and his inevitable “excuses” involving the gods. It took me a while to remember that tragic flaws are an integral part of a Classical hero’s makeup, and Renault gives her protagonist a full helping. She also nails the difficult task of making the gods fully real in her world without producing a full-blown fantasy.

Readers curious about her sources (circa 1962) and plotting choices are again given a generous Author’s Note. She is very clear about where what elements came from, and what she crafted on her own – which I appreciated. A concise version of the legend is also included.

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The Elder IceThe Elder Ice by David Hambling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the author in exchange for a fair review.

Did Ernest Shackleton visit the Mountains of Madness? That’s the premise (worked out in delicious detail) behind The Elder Ice, a Lovecraftian novella with a fast-moving blend of action, Weird Tales-style intrigue, & secret history.

When Harry Stubbs, a retired boxer turned collections agent, tries to recover a mysterious treasure from Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, he quickly finds himself out of his depth. Armed only with his fists and his wits, Stubbs is an unusual protagonist for such an adventure – but the character works well, and Lovecraft fans who appreciate a British tale will find this one hard to put down.

The real fun here, however, is in the details. Hambling is obviously familiar with the history of early Antarctic exploration and the intricacies of HPL’s short novel – and uses both to good effect. Recommended for those in search of a “ripping yarn” with some thought behind it.

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The Priestess and the SlaveThe Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Disclaimer: I received a free audio copy of this novella, in exchange for an honest review.)

Listening to this short novel felt like time-traveling to a new and different version of Greece in the 5th century BC: a version where women actually matter. Focusing on the lives of the Delphic Pythia Thrasulla (early in the century) and the Athenian house slave Harmonia (much later), the braided narrative offers readers a remarkably accurate and entertaining glimpse into everyday life at this critical period.

The heroines’ individual stories are not earth-shattering, but they are suspenseful within the limits of women’s lives in classical Greece. They are also immediately engaging, with so much rich detail that I found myself “rewinding” the audio at numerous points. Fans of Mary Renault and similar authors will appreciate the seamless blending of research and plot. No expository lumps interfered with my enjoyment of Blackford’s clear style.

The author holds a degree in Classics, and has provided a helpful list of additional reading for those who want to delve deeper. The audio narrative by Hollie Jackson is graceful and appropriate for both characters.

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stars and stripes
in black and white
first footprints

                                      -- Ann K. Schwader

(If you weren't around for Apollo 11, or just want to remember what it felt like, here's a link to some excellent Smithsonian articles & images.)
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among the uniforms

a shadow

           Ann K. Schwader

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The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient CodeThe Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a highly readable introduction to one of archaeology's most notable mysteries, the "Minoan" script known as Linear B.

Journalist Margalit Fox -- who is also a linguist -- organizes her narrative into three biographical sections. The first covers Victorian archaeologist Arthur Evans, who first discovered the script. The second (and possibly most fascinating) deals with Brooklyn College classicist Alice Kober, who did the lioness's share of sorting out the intricacies of Linear B before her untimely death in 1950. The last features English architect Michael Ventris, the gifted/obsessed amateur who finally deciphered the script in 1952. An epilogue to this final section explains what Linear B actually reveals about the civilization that used it.

Fox also provides a clear listing of the signs of Linear B (a few of which are still mysteries!), plus comprehensive references and notes. Her prose is clear and engaging, and she has a talent for storytelling sadly lacking in much nonfiction. I found a few of the more technical sections on sorting out the script tough going, but that may reflect my own lack of background.

Readers interested in ancient Greece, archaeology, code-breaking, or women's history might all find this book well worth their time.

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fallen stars
yet by their light
we rise

                                          -- Ann K. Schwader

In memoriam Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia.

NASA Day of Remembrance 2014
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Still looking for your 125th Ripperversary fix?

For a substantial dose of history with plenty of suitably sensational links & pics, check out today's post from [ profile] eldritchhobbit

For a close focus on the Ripper's first canonical victim, Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols, check out this post this post from Word Horde editor
[ profile] lossrockhart.

{Full disclosure -- the latter post does end with a message about Tales of Jack the Ripper, & I do have two poems in this new anthology.)


red whisper
in history’s ear . . .

                                -- Ann K. Schwader
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Tales of Jack the RipperTales of Jack the Ripper by Ross E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: the two sonnets that begin & end this anthology are mine. I won't be discussing them in my comments.

Emerging just in time for the Ripper's 125th anniversary of terror, Tales of Jack the Ripper is a widely varied anthology of mostly new works. There's something for everyone here, from meticulously researched speculations on Jack's identity (Stanley C. Sargent's "When the Means Just Defy the End," Ed Kurtz's "Hell Broke Loose") to cosmic horror (T.E. Grau's "The Truffle Pig") to pitch-black humor (Walter Greatshell's "Ripping"). There are familiar names -- Ramsey Campbell, Laird Barron, Joe R. Lansdale, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. -- and plenty of new blood, an encouraging amount of it female. (I particularly liked E. Catherine Tobler's bittersweet "Once November.")

I had difficulty with two stories which, though well-crafted, were homages to "classic" Ripper tales I hadn't read. I also had a little trouble deducing why two other tales, both by well-known authors, had been included in this anthology. Again, both of these stories were extremely well-crafted . .. I just had trouble finding a strong connection to Whitechapel. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, however, I'll leave the reader to make his/her own determination about these.

All in all, this is a solid & strong assortment of mostly fresh Ripper fiction from a promising new press. The production values of the trade paperback are high, & a very affordable Kindle edition is also available.

View all my reviews
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Word Horde's Tales of Jack the Ripper will still have an official release date of August 31 (125th anniversary of the first canonical murder -- Mary Ann Nichols), but some online retailers are already offering paperback copies. Kindle copies are available as well.

For paperbacks:


Barnes and Noble

For Kindle

There's also a thoroughly creepy book trailer for your viewing pleasure!

Tales of Jack the Ripper includes 17 stories by some of horror fiction's darkest minds -- plus 2 sonnets, which I'm proud & happy to acknowledge as my own.

Ripperologists, unite!

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