Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Taras Bulba and Other Tales by Nikolai Gogol. Short stories.
“Taras Bulba” – an adventure novella about the father and two sons of a Cossack family – is a fun historical swashbuckler which does a fine job of evoking a time and place: the landscape, the culture, the individuals. This is, mind you, assuming you can overlook the rampant anti-Semitism and various other bigotries, which were so pervasive that even I – used to putting up with a lot of offensive stuff in old books – found it difficult to squint past.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney. Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Erotica.
Sophisticated reason to read a book: I was intrigued by the title. But it turned out to be charming. Tully Truegood ends up as a courtesan accidentally (as one does), then in prison (quite intentionally). Here, she recounts events. A pleasing costume-drama confection. Light on the erotica, light on the romance, gently witty, very nice use of the heroine’s magical ability to turn ghosts manifest.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. Fantasy.
I’m not sure why the cover says “inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy,” because this novella bears no resemblance to any of those things, except that it is set in San Francisco and one of the main characters paints covers for the pulps. What it actually is is a sweet love story with just a teeny bit of fantasy.… >> Read more
Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Royal Physician’s Visit by Per Olov Enquist. Historical fiction.
My attempt to read a great Swedish novel or two, preparatory to visiting the country, was easier said than done. This, for example, by all accounts a great novel by a great Swedish novelist, in fact takes place in Denmark. As it is based on true historical events, the subtitle could be “The 101 Guide to How Not to Reform Your Society Even If You’re Basically Right Because You Will Get Your Head Chopped Off,” a warning for idealists everywhere.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Gentleman by Forrest Leo. Fantasy/historical fiction/humor.
Lionel Savage—a young poet straight from the pages of Wodehouse or Jerome K. Jerome—discovers that he loves his wife. Unfortunately, this happens only after she is stolen by the Devil. Usually I expect this sort of thing to quickly grow tedious, but The Gentleman was consistently funny from start to finish.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories by Will Eisner. Graphic novel.
Good stories, truly great art. There’s a reason they named the Eisner award after him, you know?
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Thumbs up for The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua. Graphic novel/historical fiction.
So Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage were real people, back in The Day, and Babbage designed the first computer but didn’t build it, and Lovelace wrote imaginary programs for it, and they were BFFs until Lovelace died way too early.… >> Read more
Neutral rating for The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. Historical fiction.
You know the story. It did have some moments. Overall, rather tedious. I’m glad I read Connecticut Yankee first or I never would have gone on with the Twain.
Our friends threaded their way slowly through the throngs upon the bridge. This structure, which had stood for six hundred years, and had been a noisy and populous thoroughfare all that time, was a curious affair, for a closely packed rank of stores and shops, with family quarters overhead, stretched along both sides of it, from one bank of the river to the other.
… >> Read more