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scared

R.I.P. Challenge book #6, and wrap-up


As I continued to be in a reading mood, I didn't watch any films from my provisional list after all. Instead, while browsing my bookshelves, I picked up this book by Richard Brautigan and discovered the title (The Hawkline Monster: a Gothic Western) was surprisingly apt for this time of year, if not for the Challenge.

But even though this quick read (many short chapters, each starting on a new page) was funny and frequently made me giggle, enough eerily strange things happened in it to make it appropriate after all. This quote from page 46 displays the nice mixture of wacky humour and foreboding:

The road stopped like a dying man's signature on a last-minute will.

It is difficult not to give too much of the plot away, so I'll just quote the back cover:

In the dead centre of the Dead Hills of Eastern Oregon stands Hawkline Manor, an elaborate Victorian mansion, festooned with chandeliers and valuable paintings, and looked after by a giant butler. It is the home of the two Miss Hawklines [Misses Hawkline?], beautiful, generous with their favours — and identical. But it also houses a very unwelcome guest... whom Greer and Cameron, professional killers, are required to dispose of.

I've had a soft spot for Brautigan ever since reading his short story "The Weather in San Francisco", and have read several more of his short stories since. When I came across this novel at the book market a few years ago, I snapped it up immediately. I sort of regretted this impulse buy later on, but now I'm glad I bought it. Brautigan is not to everyone's taste, but I really enjoyed myself.

4/5


To wrap up: although I had chosen to do Peril the Third (one book), I have read all four books on my provisional list (abandoning one of them), plus two more.

I have watched none of the films on my list, but I did see several things on TV that qualify:

Belgian TV showed El laberinto del fauno (Pan's Labyrinth). I would call this a grim fairytale, but boston.com placed it on #17 in their Top 50 scariest movies of all time, so I figure it counts. Good film, beautiful art direction, and what I particularly liked about it was that the faun was such an ambiguous character: I wasn't sure until the end whether his intentions were good or evil. 3/5

Belgian TV has also started broadcasting True Blood, but after seeing the first two episodes I decided I didn't like it enough to continue watching.

Dutch TV is broadcasting Sherlock at the moment. I had missed this when it was shown on the BBC and so was taken by surprise by the massive amount of fangirly squee that suddenly erupted around LJ. Now that I know it consists of only three episodes, I'm even more surprised by the level of fandom it has generated so quickly. Anyway, I have seen two episodes so far and it's good, mysterious fun. 3.5/5

And last night I watched the Psychoville Halloween special, by two members of the League of Gentlemen. I had watched and enjoyed last year's series, so made sure not to miss this. It was deliciously creepy.

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These two little trick-or-treaters showing up on the misanthropist clown's doorstep were the scariest in my opinion. They didn't do or say anything, just stood and stared, and stared, and stared, unnerving not only the clown, but me as well. 4/5, and I was pleased to learn there is going to be a second series.

As always, many thanks to Carl for hosting the R.I.P. Challenge! I had a great time.


lewis furey

(no subject)


Harry Mulisch, the last of 'the great three' of Dutch post-war writers, died last night at age 83. Internationally he is probably best known for his novels The Assault and The Discovery of Heaven.

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Mulisch looking very dapper on his 80th birthday (photo: WFA)



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R.I.P. Challenge book #5


My last book in this year's Challenge is a reread. In 1996 I borrowed Knollekop (Bucket Nut) by Liza Cody from the library, and loved it so much that when I came across it at the annual Centraal Boekhuis book fair the next year, I picked up a copy.

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This was unusual, because I tend to regard thrillers and mysteries as junk food: tasting good (hopefully) while it lasts, but containing nothing but empty calories and therefore leaving you ultimately unsatisfied.

But then, the protagonist is an unusual character: a female wrestler with a night job as a security guard (with two vicious watchdogs, hence the English cover), and supplementing her income by doing shady jobs for various figures, the most important of whom is a Chinese mobster.

I loved Eva Wylie straightaway and I fell in love with her all over again this time around. The story is told from her point of view. In her own words she is big, ugly and mean, but we can tell that underneath her tough exterior she is more vulnerable than she'd have us believe.

The actual plot, which involves Eva doing one job too many and getting caught in the crossfire between two rivalling gangs, isn't all that important. What I loved about the book is Eva's voice, her wry humour and outlook on life, the search for her sister, and the fascinating look into the world of show wrestling.

At the time I also read the sequel Monkey Wrench, but found that one a little over the top. I see that there is a third book called Musclebound and a series featuring a female private detective, but the only title my library has nowadays is Monkey Wrench, and neither Waterstone's nor ABC stock her books. Liza Cody seems to have more or less dropped off the radar, which is a shame, in my opinion.

4/5


There is still some time left until the end of October, but I think I'll use it for watching a scary film or two. :)


thinking

R.I.P. Challenge books #3 and 4


These two books were rather a disappointment. I don't have much to say about Erken mij by Esther Verhoef. It was given out as a freebie during last year's "month of the thrilling book", held every June, and has not been, and will most likely never be, translated into English.

Although the prologue was promising, I didn't care for what followed. It turned out to be about rape and its aftermath, which is a subject I try to avoid. Fortunately it wasn't too graphic and at 91 pages it was a quick read.

1/5


HostAnyPhotoI bought A.M. Homes' The End of Alice at the time because I thought the title might be a reference to Alice in Wonderland, editions of which I collected, and sure enough the book opens with a Lewis Carroll quote: "A stopped clock is right twice a day." Apart from that, the only other reference I can think of is that the book's protagonist is a paedophile infatuated with a young girl called Alice.

I knew beforehand that the book's subject matter is controversial: a paedophile murderer in his 23rd year in prison strikes up a correspondence with a nineteen-year-old girl who is planning on seducing a twelve-year-old boy. That didn't put me off, but what did were the numerous descriptions of disgusting smells and revolting things that people ate. When it literally made me retch I decided, at around page 100, to call it a day and skipped forward to find out the ending. I am such a wimp.

DNF


The good news is that I have now finished all the titles on my provisional list and also achieved my goal of freeing up some shelf space. The bad news is that I couldn't resist the lure of the Kinderboekenweek ("children's book week") and bought two books yesterday! And received another free book as well! I am incorrigible. The good news is that I'm very happy with my acquisitions. And since the good outweighs the bad, I am not sorry.

There are still over two weeks left before the end of the R.I.P. Challenge. The free booklet looks like a fun read, I think I'll use it as a palate cleanser before deciding upon another Challenge book.


thinking

R.I.P. Challenge book #2


When I received it as a free book at the time, the only thing I knew about De grot (The Cave) by Tim Krabbé was that the plot involved drug smuggling. Not a subject that holds great appeal to me, and so the book sat unread on my shelf for almost 13 years, until I picked it up for this year's challenge.

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I already knew from Het gouden ei (
The Vanishing) that Krabbé is capable of writing a blood-curdling thriller, but still I was surprised by the high ratings The Cave had received on Amazon, and looked forward to reading it.

I am glad I didn't read any actual reviews beforehand, because most of them turned out to be very spoilerish, and this way I could discover and appreciate the story and structure of the book for myself.

I think "thriller" is a misnomer here. The first chapter, in which a character whiles away the hours until a drug transaction is planned to take place, contains tension enough, but The Cave is actually more a psychological novel about destructive friendship, fate and coincidence, and ultimately very sad.

I didn't find it particularly enjoyable, nor do I intend to reread it at some point, but the last chapters were beautiful enough that they earned the book an extra star.

3/5


thinking

R.I.P. Challenge book #1


Today I finished They Came to Baghdad, which technically means I have completed the R.I.P. Challenge for this year, but of course I intend to go on and see how far I'll get with my list.

HostAnyPhotoAs I had indeed correctly remembered, this is one of Agatha Christie's spy novels. Like I stated before, I always have great difficulty comprehending spy stories. Whether this is due to missing a necessary gene or simply not having the right amount of brain cells I do not know.

Fact is I find all Christie's spy novels — fortunately she did not write many — rather silly with improbable plots. In this case it's about a group contriving to establish a new world order; not that strange, seeing that They Came to Baghdad was first published in 1951, during the Cold War.

The fact that this genre isn't for me is not the book's (or the author's) fault, but something else I didn't like about it, and which nearly made me give up several times, is that it took one hundred pages before things finally started moving. Since the book only totals 221 pages, that is a very long preamble.

That said, some of the characters were amusing. I particularly liked the archaeologist, who turned out to be a little more observant than everyone was led to believe.

1/5 (yay! some shelf space freed up!)

BTW, looking for the cover of this particular edition online I came across Delicious Death, a wonderful website dedicated to Agatha Christie's works and containing a large collection of covers from all over the world.


thinking

R.I.P. Challenge V


Lately I've been trying very hard to get my reading mojo back, and it looks like I've finally succeeded. Not a moment too soon, because it turned out there is an R.I.P. Challenge being held after all. Carl's announcement for R.I.P. V was just a little later than usual.

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Not wanting to scare my r.m. away again by being overly ambitious, I've decided to do Peril the Third: reading one book between now and 31 October that fits into one (or more) of the following categories: mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural.

Most of the books on my provisional list appeared on last year's list as well. I picked these because they do not seem too challenging (and also because I hope to be able to free some much-needed shelf space):

Christie, Agatha: They Came to Baghdad — personally I tend to associate Christie's cosy mysteries with comfort reading rather than with nail-biting tension, but IIRC (I read this a looong time ago, in Dutch) this is one of her espionage stories, a genre I find more confusing than anything

Homes, A.M.: The End of Alice — third time lucky?

Krabbé, Tim: De grot (The Cave)

Verhoef, Esther: Erken mij ("acknowledge me") — a short thriller


I like the newly added Peril on the Screen. In previous years I have already unofficially watched films in keeping with the theme, so this year I intend to participate in this Peril as well. My provisional list:

Images (Robert Altman, 1972) — I watched this at least 30 years ago and the only thing I remember about it is Susannah York looking into a mirror and being very, very confused

Memento mori (Tae-Yong Kim & Kyu-Dong Min, 1999) — Korean horror

Tideland (Terry Gilliam, 2007) — one of the blurbs calls this a poetic horror film


Looking forward to starting the challenge. The first month is almost over already, so I'd better get cracking.


peeking

TV meme, day 25


Day 25 - A show you plan on watching (old or new)

The Devil's Whore is the last title in my John Simm project (for the time being);

I've also bought Blackpool, because this gif made me curious:



Only the first series of Slings & Arrows was shown here at the time, but I have all three and I plan on watching the whole thing this coming autumn;

and I don't think I've ever seen the complete Black Books, only random episodes. I should probably remedy that. Fortunately they have both series at my library. [ETA: apparently there were three series made, oh well.]


jam hot

TV meme, day 21


Day 21 - Favorite ship

Runners up: Mitchell/Annie from Being Human.

Whereas Annie's relationship with George is purely sister/brother, with Mitchell we can sense a mutual attraction. They'd make a good couple. Mitchell's being a vampire can be dangerous to his love interests, but since Annie is a ghost, he doesn't have to worry about accidentally killing her.

They sort of half-kiss in episode 1.04 and it is sweet and cute, and although they are both distracted by others in the second series, the final episode shows that they do have a deep connection. It has been hinted that their relationship may develop into something more in the third series.

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I was quite happy to ship Gene/Alex during Ashes to Ashes, but when I started watching Life on Mars I knew this was the real deal. Sam and Gene belong together.

A lot of credit for that has to go to the actors and the people who cast them. I don't think LoM could have been anywhere near as good without John Simm and/or Philip Glenister. Apart from being great actors, they also have fantastic chemistry together. Their body types complement each other and perfectly match their characters' personalities. I read somewhere that Gene is like a bulldog and Sam like a terrier, which is so apt (and something the US remake got spectacularly wrong).

The Sam/Gene dynamic is definitely the most important aspect of LoM. Even the creators have said that the real love story is between them. Although they often fight they develop a mutual respect and friendship, and they need each other to become better people. Gene, who may seem like a big bully but is protective of his team in general and of Sam in particular, shows remarkable patience whenever Sam has one of his crazy spells. Sam/Gene = my OTP forever.

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