skygiants: Fakir from Princess Tutu leaping through a window; text 'doors are for the weak' (drama!!!)
Mary Stewart's Wildfires at Midnight was another emergency used-bookstore Gothic novel purchase for my plane ride today, but, alas, kind of a disappointing one.

Wildfires at Midnight traps Our Heroine, fashion model Gianetta, at a vacation-and-fishing lodge in the beautiful mountains of Skye with a Wacky Cast of Characters including:

- a movie star
- a couple of ambiguously lesbian mountain-climbers
- a more famous mountain-climber
- a writer of travel guides
- a happy Boring Fishing Couple
- an unhappy Boring Fishing Couple
- Gianetta's famous writer ex-husband, who cheated on her after they realized they had nothing in common
- Gianetta's alternate love interest, an attractive man with a tragic past
- Gianetta's husband's buddy with no personality

So far so Gilligan's Island, except of course that one of them is ... a MURDERER!!!

Which seems like an OK setup, except all of these people are awfully boring and somewhat indistinguishable (I kept forgetting which boring fishing couple was which, and mixing up Gianetta's husband's buddy with Gianetta's alternate love interest) and the ones who do show a glimmer of being interesting (i.e., most of the other women) disappear from the story with pretty astounding speed. (Not all dead! But the ones who are not dead are still written off into places where they cannot be interesting anymore.)

The denouement! )
skygiants: Fakir from Princess Tutu leaping through a window; text 'doors are for the weak' (drama!!!)
I have a huge weakness for seventies Gothic novels in yellowing paperback, and it turns out [personal profile] genarti's family's cottage has PILES of them. I grabbed the shortest-looking one this time around, since I wanted to make sure I'd have time to finish it before we headed home. This turned out to be Mary Stewart's Thunder on the Right, aka the ONE WITH ALL THE NUNS.

...OK there is only about two actual nuns in it, and they're not very important, and then one semi-evil fake nun who swoops around dressed like a fifteenth-century Spanish noblewoman and exuding predatory lesbian subtext. But she's NOT A REAL NUN! Mary Stewart wants to assure us of this! She's just a bitter nun wannabe who also serves as convent bursar and evil interior decorator.

The actual plot of Thunder on the Right is -- well, there's not very much of it; a sheltered young lady decides to drop in on the convent to try and talk her favorite cousin out of joining up. Alas, when she arrives, it turns out her cousin is TRAGICALLY DEAD! ... or IS SHE?? Something sinister about that fake nun convent bursar and evil interior decorator suggests otherwise!

Meanwhile, our heroine's long-lost Sensitive Musician crush is hanging around perennially disappointed because he keeps thinking she's running dramatically into his arms to MAKE OUT! and in fact she's just really stressed out by the whole dead-or-maybe-missing-cousin issue and would like a hug and some friendly support. This happens multiple times and every time it triggers at least a page of hilariously angsty internal monologue. Man, I love Gothic novels.

I mean, this is not really a particularly memorable Gothic novel, and does not rank high in even the limited Mary Stewart pantheon that I've read, but as yellowed-paperback-lakeside-vacation-reading it serves exactly the proper function.

PS: Thanks everyone who weighed in on my post about links! I'm going with Goodreads for now as the most useful suggestion for serving the desired functions of a.) having lots of other opinions besides mine, b.) offering non-Amazon links to buy the book from, and c.) being something I can do relatively consistently for old and new books alike, even though it probably still puts money in Amazon pockets but YOU CAN'T HAVE EVERYTHING.
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (find the light)
A while back, [livejournal.com profile] avariel_wings mailed me a copy of Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy all the way from England (which is dedication) and after a shamefully long time I have finally gotten around to reading it!

I should be honest: I tried to read The Crystal Cave a few times a kid and I never could get through the beginning few chapters of Merlin-as-a-kid. Once I got to the parts about Ambrosius, though, the story really picked up for me, and I think the second half of The Crystal Cave and the Baby Arthur parts of The Hollow Hills have been my favorite parts of the series so far. (Kate also sent me The Wicked Day, which I think is the finale of the series, so I will be reading that at some point too.) I really like some of the ways that Mary Stewart pieces together the myths, and re-interprets them, and I like how she is careful to show how stories spread. All that is very cool! I like less the focus on Arthur in the last book to the exclusion of much of the other characters of the legend (I am sorry, I just could not love this Arthur as much as T.H. White's Arthur - he was formative for me!) and how unambiguously evil Morgause and to a certain extent Morgan are, because Ladies' Power Means Using Sexuality For Evil, Duh.

I am not quite sure how I feel about this Merlin; Merlin has never been the most interesting part of the story for me. Sometimes I think I quite like him, especially when he is young and kind of arrogant and being sarcastic and clever! Other times I am frustrated by him and how content he is to give up agency to Divine Power and how little he morally questions that. (Other times I just want him to stop going on about how pretty the hillside is because sometimes my attention span is short.)

Anyway, pretty much everyone knows the Arthur stories and everyone sees them in a different way, and I am very curious about everybody's favorite Arthurs. I asked this question before when I reread The Once and Future King, but it is different now because there are new people on my flist! Also, because it is in the form of a POLL, and that makes it officially shinier.

[Poll #1469901]
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (elizabeth book)
Booklogging backlog catchup! Mostly these were travel reads, so my depth of understanding might not have been tops, but.

Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines: I had been searching for this book for a long time because I adored Larklight and Starcross (which everyone should read! NO SERIOUSLY) and was extremely curious about what he had done before. The answer: Dystopian Steampunk! (Cut for length, not spoilers.) )

Isabel Allende's Of Love and Shadows: I love Isabel Allende! She is a badass lady! She has smuggled out political prisoners and had death threats put out on her, and moreover when she was making a living translating romance novels into Spanish she got fired for changing the dialogue and endings so as to make her ladies more independent and badass! However, this one of her books I did not love so much, mostly because I was bored by the main characters; again, cut for length. )

Steven Brust's The Phoenix Guards: [livejournal.com profile] rushin_doll shoved this book into my hands in a bookstore and informed me that I had to read it, and who was I to say no? I enjoyed it! It is an excellent example of a pseudo-academic authorial voice, and also a very good example of a fantasy-verse rewriting of The Three Musketeers. The author's commitment to his style kind of sacrifices depth of character, and patience is often needed to get through the long and extremely polite dialogue sequences, but if you like classic French adventure fiction, duels, scheming and intrigue (and I do) then you will probably enjoy this.

Mary Stewart's Touch Not the Cat: I always found The Crystal Cave books difficult to get through for some reason, but I seem to have better luck with her Gothics, possibly because I do not feel required to take them at all seriously. Bryony Ashley has a PSYCHIC ROMANTIC LINK with one of her cousins, who refuses to tell her which one he is, even though he knows who she is because she's the only girl. This means that I despised the boyfriend-in-her-head regardless of who he might be and was rooting for her to run away with the garden boy for the first three-quarters of the book. There are twin switches, and secret Shakespearian history, and a random 19th-century POV that pops up from time to time that I could really have done without, and a lot of mystery that all kind of fizzles at the end. But it makes for an entertaining airplane/bus read nonetheless.

And now I am caught up!

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