Books finished in September

This is coming to you rather late due to my recent two weeks in Germany, two weeks of hard work and very little play. I’m planning to get a short post up tomorrow with the highlights of the trip, but for now…

Books Completed
1. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
3. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
4. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
5. Locke & Key: Head Games, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
6. Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
7. Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
8. Locke & Key: Clockworks, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
9. Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month:
Contact by Carl Sagan, because the last CD of the audio book was too scratched to listen to and I’m still waiting to get the print edition from the library
• Blue (poems) by George Elliott Clarke
Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox
• The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume 3, which will take me a while to work through

REVIEWS:

1. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist is more of an inspirational, rather than practical, how-to book. It dispenses some of the epiphanies Kleon has come to discover over the course of his life as a creative artist and writer. He shares his advice with a mixture of plain-speak narrative, attractive black and white design, and illustrative artwork.

Most of these epiphanies felt rather elementary to me, being things I already knew or had a sense of — such as, “Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.” And yet, though this is not new information, I still found it refreshing to hear this advice again. The easier or more common a piece of advice is, the easier it is to push that advice to the back or your mind. Reading them again, reminds me and reinvigorates me.

The titular bit of advice, “Steal like an artist,” Kleon reveals is in a sense another way of saying, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” The idea isn’t to enact plagiarism, but to know that every experience, every book read, movie watched, every debate with a good friend intensely discussed feeds the creative machine of your mind. This both frees up artists trapped in the desperate search for originality to just sit down and create work, while also urging them to seek out experiences that best feed their work, enacting a kind of selective inspiration.

Most of the advice in Steal Like an Artist is designed to free the artist from obstacles, so that they create. It’s a perfect book to read when you’re feeling stuck.

2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This collection of short stories is a fantastic introduction to Sherlock Holmes. Each story presents a new mystery for the great and brilliant detective to solve, as told by his good friend Watson.

The first story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” rather brilliantly introduces The Woman, Irene Adler, one of the rare individuals to actually outsmart Holmes. Love her character.

“The Five Orange Pips” is another fantastic story, which includes mention of the KKK.

In general, I enjoyed each and everyone one of these stories, even the few in which I guessed the perpetrator of outcome. The stories do not always involve criminal cases and Holmes does not always catch his villain. I love that not all the stories have a clean resolution. Sometimes Holmes just doesn’t bother giving the client justice as modern readers would expect a hero to do. Sometimes he is denied achieving resolution due to powers outside of his control. It all makes for great reading.

Holmes is such an enigmatic and interesting character. His addiction to cocaine is mentioned but not expanded upon. His ego and love of revealing his cleverness is clear. I didn’t notice Watson’s annoyance with these qualities (except for once), so much as I noticed his awe over Holmes’ mind and intelligence. In fact, Holmes seemed to be a bit less put-offing here than I’ve seen in shows or movies.

Anyway, the writing is great and concise, the characters are interesting, and the mystery reveals are fun — I’ll definitely be reading more Holmes stories in the future.

3. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Oh, my god! Guys! Hey, guys! I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Susan Trinder is a sixteen year old thief, known as a fingersmith, in Victorian London. When Gentleman comes to her family with an opportunity to con a young, innocent woman out of her fortune, Susan signs on and agrees to pretend to be her maid.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you about it, because to say one word more risks spoiling too many things. What happens in this story is brilliant and surprising and oozes with moral grey areas.

Someone compared this to Dickens and I think it’s an apt description. Many of the characters exist either in London’s underground or in the obscure wealthy and each one is a unique and fascinating character. You could see them coming right out of a Dickens novel (think: Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, perhaps, or Fagin from Oliver Twist). The plot could also be considered quite Dickensian, I think. Although, for me, Waters is infinitely more readable than Dickens.

Although, I’ve only read this one book by her, I’ve also heard amazing things about Tipping the Velvet and I can already tell she’s going to fall in with my all-time favorite authors.

4. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
5. Locke & Key: Head Games, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
6. Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
7. Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

These four are rereads and let me say…, just as damn good the second time around as the first. Maybe even better.

8. Locke & Key: Clockworks, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

Here, at last, we get to see into the past and learn how the keys are made and how things got so bad. Art continues to be gorgeous. The story continues to be fantastic.

9. Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

I’m not sure all the characters lived up to what I hoped for them, especially for Kinsey. However, this is a gripping and satisfying conclusion to the series. Locke & Key is among my favorite graphic novel storylines.