Tag Archives: The Library at Mount Char

What to Read and Watch While Leaves Are Falling

Sure, I already published a fall reading list that should keep me very busy until 2017, but this is my favorite time of year. I just had a birthday (Thirty-four, eek!), the leaves are changing, the nights are getting slightly chilly (at least here in southwest Ohio), and I’m in the mood for comfort reading and watching some fall favorites. For me, that mostly means witches, obviously, though there are a few other things on here that are just more generally fall-feeling.

What are you reading and watching as the weather changes?

Stories to Pair With Pumpkin Spice Everything (Don’t Judge Me):

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
I read this little gem when it came out last September, and I fell in love with it. It’s a nice, seasonally appropriate read, and Cornell has a sequel–the more wintry The Lost Child of Lychford–coming out November 1 from Tor.com. If you haven’t read Witches, now is a perfect time to enjoy it. If you have read it, it’s a perfect time to refamiliarize yourself with it ahead of its sequel.

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter
This is another of the 2015 Tor.com novellas; it’s another witch story; and it’s another great read. While you’re at it, check out her recent short story at Tor.com, “Finnegan’s Field,” which is a good, creepy changeling tale. I haven’t gotten around to reading Slatter’s couple of short story collections, yet, but her 2016 novel, Vigil, is definitely on my to-read list.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
This is a book that I also read last September and really wished that I’d saved it for another month or so. It’s dark and funny and just a little scary, a great book if you’re like me and don’t usually like straight up horror but still want to get into the spirit of Halloween.

Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World by Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Kate Heartfield, and Foz Meadows
It’s still the year of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and this collection of novellas is a perfect way to celebrate. Foz Meadows’ Coral Bones is probably my favorite, and it can be read alone, but I enjoyed reading all five tales together. Highly recommended for reading outdoors with a cup of tea on a crisp fall evening.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Hogarth has been celebrating Shakespeare differently–by having well-known authors re-envision the Bard’s plays in novel form. Obviously, you should read everything by Margaret Atwood, always, but her retelling of The Tempest is a really exceptional examination of its themes of prison, grief, vengeance, and the transformative value of literature.

Nightmare Magazine‘s Destroy Horror! Special Issues
This year we’ve got People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror! which is well worth checking out. If you only read one story in the issue, make sure it’s Terence Taylor’s “Wet Pain.” It’s also not too late to pick up last year’s Queers Destroy Horror! and 2014’s Women Destroy Horror! This project just gets better and better, you guys.

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe
This book is brand new (literally–it’s got a 10/18 pub date), but it might be my most anticipated anthology of the year. It’s got an absolutely to-die-for table of contents–with stories by ton of my favorite authors–and a gorgeous cover. I almost never get hardcover books unless I find them at the used bookstore, but this one is a must-have for my shelf.

The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo
Sometimes, reality is even better than fiction, and this 2013 examination of the genesis of Frankenstein is well-researched and highly readable. Even if you haven’t read the novel, The Lady and Her Monsters offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of Mary Shelley and how she came to write a classic of horrific science fiction.

Films and Television to Watch While Curled Up Under a Blanket:

Practical Magic (1998)
I cannot go a single October without watching Practical Magic at least once. I just watched it the other night with my thirteen-year-old daughter (her first time), and was struck again by how much I love it. It’s by no means a very good movie–there’s nothing like a critical watching of it to make one aware of every absurdity and plot hole–but I will always want to watch movies about women saving each other.

Hocus Pocus (1993)
Hocus Pocus is a Halloween classic that I’ve been watching for over twenty years now, and I can’t imagine stopping anytime soon.

Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Corpse Bride (2005)
This trio of Tim Burton flicks are seasonal must-watches.

Ghostbusters (2016)
loved the new Ghostbusters, and I cannot wait to rewatch it in the lead-up to Halloween. I remember enjoying the original movies as a kid, but this reboot is more fun that those ever were.

Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-now)
This show is definitely a problematic fave, but if you like artfully splattered gore, Bruce Campbell, and Lucy Lawless, Ash vs. Evil Dead is a ton of fun.

Lost Girl (2010-2016)
This show is basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s more diverse, sexier, more Canadian descendant. It definitely starts to fall apart a bit in later seasons, but the first three or four seasons are pretty solid.

Gilmore Girls (2000-2007, 2016)
With a Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls coming out on Thanksgiving, now is the perfect time to binge watch the show in preparation.

Book Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

So, I’ve gotten pretty good at picking books to read these days so that I have a minimal number of bad reading experiences, which is great, and it’s a skill I’m happy to have finally mastered as I approach my mid-30s. The downside of this skill, however, is that I often feel like about every other book that I read is a new favorite, or my favorite book of [genre], or at least my favorite book of the current year, or the last six months or last five years, or whatever. You get the idea. The point is, eventually that “favorite” distinction starts to lose all meaning, especially since I seldom reread anything anymore. But still, sometimes I really mean it.

This time, I really, really mean it.

The Library at Mount Char is certainly my favorite book that I’ve read this summer, perhaps my favorite this year so far. It’s not the best book I’ve read lately, but it’s definitely the most fun I’ve had reading in a good while. Absolutely enough fun to earn itself a place on the running list of “favorites” I keep in my head.

I knew straight away that I would love this book because I was moved to giggles in the first paragraph, which introduces us to a protagonist who only gets more weird and wonderful as you continue reading. I don’t know if The Library at Mount Char will last as one of my favorites, but its heroine, Carolyn, definitely makes my list of all-time favorite female characters.

We first meet Carolyn covered in blood and walking barefoot down a highway. She’s just killed a man, but she’s actually thinking about tacos. I fell in love with her immediately.

We soon learn that Carolyn is one of twelve “librarians” who started off as orphaned children adopted by a mysterious “Father” and taken to live in a library. Father isn’t a god, exactly, but he’s something of an all-powerful and ancient wizard kind of guy. Each of the twelve adopted siblings has been assigned a catalog–one portion of Father’s incredibly vast body of knowledge–that they alone are responsible for, and to study from another’s catalog brings a heavy punishment. Carolyn’s catalog is languages. Michael’s is animals. David’s is war. Jennifer’s is healing. Margaret’s is death. Other siblings’ roles are less obvious or well-defined, but it’s obvious that, all together, the breadth of their studies is pretty comprehensive. The story begins with Father’s disappearance and the librarians scrambling to figure out what has happened.

Although there are a couple of other important point of view characters–Erwin and Steve–Carolyn is undeniably the main character, and Carolyn is who I found most compelling and interesting to read about, even from other characters’ point of view. She’s a smart and resourceful woman, and she’s self-reliant in a way that I found refreshing. Her flaws are real and serious–never cute or quirky, although Scott Hawkins writes about all of his characters with a dry sort of humor that had me laughing aloud more than once. Due to her unusual upbringing, Carolyn’s not always great at being human. She can be narcissistic and is sometimes callously cruel, and she has to fuck up big time before she becomes who she needs to be by the end of the book.

This, I think, is what I like best about Carolyn. She’s allowed to be kind of awful in a way that female characters often aren’t, and there’s not a hint of apology for her in the text. She’s not always relatable or sympathetic, the mistakes she makes have terrible consequences, and she actually does some things that are kind of evil, but at no point was I not on Carolyn’s side. Every step of the way I was cheering for her to be successful in her ultimate goal (which is a pretty amazing goal that I’m not going to spoil).

Hawkins’ prose is perhaps just workmanlike, but he has a knack for capturing hyperviolence as well as humor and even some very tender moments in an almost naturalistic way. The world he’s created doesn’t feel real exactly, but it feels alive and lived in, with just a hint of high camp in in the details. The action scenes have a cinematic quality to them that makes me hope that someone gets the rights to film this story (although I think it would require a tv miniseries to do it properly). Overall, there’s an absurdist quality and a kitschiness to the novel that I found deeply enjoyable. And while the prose may not be especially beautiful, it’s highly readable and the story is structured in such a way that I didn’t want to put the book down at all (which is why I read it less than a day, in basically two long sessions).

The Library at Mount Char is definitely a book I will be evangelizing for this fall and winter, and I’m actually looking forward to reading it again myself, perhaps closer to Halloween when the nights are longer and colder and I can curl up under a blanket with this book and a warm drink. In the meantime, I’ll be suggesting to everyone I know that they read this book that way.

Do it. You won’t regret it.

The SF Bluestocking 2015 Fall Reading List

I didn’t read as much this summer as I’d hoped to, but I think I’m finally coming out of my reading slump. With my daughter back in school, my days are my own again, and I’ve already been able to start reading and writing more. I’m not 100% certain about what I’ll be doing this fall, as I am beginning to look for a new day job after a couple of years of staying home, but right now my fall reading plan is pretty ambitious, mostly because there’s just an amazing amount of great stuff coming out over the next few months.

Currently, I’m finishing up Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest, which was on my summer reading list. I should be done with it in a day or so, and then I’ll be moving along to Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last so I can be sure to have it finished and post my review prior to its September 29 release date.

After that, I’ve got an ARC of An Apprentice to Elves by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette that archives on NetGalley on October 13th, so that’s kind of a priority. I didn’t realize that one was the third book in a trilogy (I was drawn in by the gorgeous cover, mostly), so I’ll probably have to read the first two books as well. Unfortunately, I’ve recently read some negative reviews of the first two books that make me think this series might not be my cup of tea. If I do read these, it will be before the end of September, but I might not.

Probably my biggest plan and the thing I’m most looking forward to this fall is to read all of Tor.com’s new novellas that are being published one every week or so between now and November. The one I can’t wait for is Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, but I’m excited about all of them. There are ten in total, with publishing dates from September 1 to November 17. The big question, for me, is do I want to collect all the paperbacks or do I want to just buy the ebooks, which are much cheaper, and only get paper copies of my favorites?

In any case, the tentative plan (in the hopes that I really am out of my slump) is that I want to read one novella plus one or two novel-length works (or sometimes graphic novels/comics) each week between now and Thanksgiving. On the list so far:

Comics/graphic novels:

  • The Wicked + The Divine
  • Ms. Marvel
  • Ody-C
  • Rat Queens
  • Lumberjanes

A few leftovers from my summer reading list that aren’t necessarily priorities but that I do intend to read soonish:

  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I am also super stoked about the Nightmare Magazine Queers Destroy Horror special issue in October. Queers Destroy Science Fiction was really excellent, and I loved all of last year’s Women Destroy issues, so I expect this one to be up to the same high standard. And just in time for Halloween!

My fall list isn’t quite as diverse in terms of authors as my summer one was, but it’s a good mix of different types of books. I’m really looking forward to having some comics in the mix as well. It’s going to be a good season, I think.