ladyofastolat: (Default)
After I finished my Thief series re-read, the month was dominated by Jasper Fforde, pausing only for some undone Victorians and an angry chef"

Books read in June )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Posted one day early, since I'm going away tomorrow and won't have finished my current book before then. Quite a lot of books this month, but a lot of them were short, quick children’s books.

Books read in March )
ladyofastolat: (scribe)
I enjoyed writing reviews of everything I read in 2016, but the reviews had become too long and arduous. I've decided to keep up with the reviewing in 2017, but keep the reviews much shorter. That's the intention, anyway. We'll see how it turns out.

Books read in January )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
122 books. Quite a lot, given that the vast majority of my reading takes place in bed in the morning before getting up for work.

I've bolded those titles that I particularly liked.

All books read in 2016 )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Nearing the end of 2016. This whole "write a review of every book I read in 2016" thing fell apart rather in the summer, although I think I managed to track down all the titles retrospectively and write at least a few lines about them. I do quite like having the record to look back on, so might continue this in 2017, although I'll probably write less about each book. Or try to. I'm not good at being succinct.

Anyway...

Books in mid December )

Sagas

Dec. 4th, 2016 11:59 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Earlier this year, I inherited responsibilities relating to the purchase of adult stock. Instead of just considering hamster fairies and snot monsters, the usual subject matter of my book-purchasing decisions, I have had to learn all about crime and sagas, the two most popular genres. (Crime generates FAR more issues, but there are far more crime books around. In terms of issues per item, sagas are ahead.)

Sagas interest me. Supposedly they're "family sagas," a name that suggests lengthy epics following the same family over generations. Most of them aren't like that, but they are instantly recognisable at a glance. At 20 paces in twilight with your eyes half closed, you could tell a saga and never be wrong.

On sagas and downtrodden women in shawls )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Let's see if I can get this reviewing thing back up and running.

A Regency romance and two fantasies )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
For the last few weeks, I have been reading The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor, which has seven novels published so far, with more to come, and around the same number of short stories.

Adventures through time )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Oh dear. I have completely, utterly failed in my attempt to record everything I read for a year. Here I will attempt to recreate the list of Books Read Since I Failed So Utterly.

Many, many, many books )
ladyofastolat: (Misty Glastonbury)
Despite the important role that Arthurian legend has played in my life, I haven't actually read all that many Arthurian novels. Does anyone have any recommendations, especially for books that have appeared on the scene after the early 90s, when most of my previous reading took place? (However, feel free to recommend earlier stuff. I've definitely missed many must-reads. I'm currently 50 pages into my first ever reading of Sword at Sunset, for example - a book I really should have read decades ago. I'm not sure why I didn't, given that I read The Lantern Bearers several times. Anyway...)

I'm open to recommendations for pretty much anything with an Arthurian element, from Arthur the Romano-British warlord to Arthur the high king of an medieval romantic castle; from modern-set fantasies that draw on Arthurian legends (like The Dark is Rising), to the Matter of Britain transposed to space; from retellings of the well-known stories, to stories about original characters who live on the fringes of Arthur's world, observing from the outside. (I always love outsider viewpoints.)

The only things I'm not that keen on are:
- Macho military battle stories, with endless battles waged by paper-thin characters. A few battles are fine, but I want emotions and characters, too.
- Books full of New Age mysticism, although some magic is fine.

I'm also dubious about books that try to convince us that Mordred was just misunderstood. I read one once, and it was okay. I could grudgingly accept it for the duration of the book, but that was all. Having recently had my heart broken all over again by Gillian Bradshaw, I am not currently receptive to this idea.

June books

Jul. 8th, 2016 12:56 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I've failed badly in my resolution to write reviews of everything I read in 2016. Blame holidays, which got me out of the habit.

For several weeks, from late May to the middle of June, I was reading through Dorothy L Sayers' Peter Wimsey novels. I did so in a fairly random order, the first book (Murder Must Advertise) being chosen for me out of thousands of possibles by a series of die rolls. From a random beginning, it seemed fitting to carry on in a random order, so I went to Strong Poison, which I liked, and Gaudy Night, which I liked a lot. I'd read one or two of the series some years ago, but I found them too lacking in emotion for my taste at the time. I don't know why I reacted better to them this time. Perhaps I was just in a different mood. Perhaps it was because Gaudy Night gave me an emotional way in, being a lot more focused on such things than some of the other books. I do often struggle to warm to a main character until I've seen them through other people's eyes, which is why I often find first person narration unengaging. But, anyway, whatever the reason, I read my way - in a fairly eccentric order - through most of the novels, and then went on holiday to Wales, where I got waylaid by King Arthur, so moved on without quite completing my reading of the series.

At some point during my reading of that series, I paused to read The Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon - a brief YA retelling of Norse mythology, from before the building of Asgard all the way through the Ragnarok and beyond, all told in the first person by Hel. The voice is that of a modern teenage girl, informal, colloquial and very angry. It's had some rave reviews, but I just found it grim, depressing and unengaging.

I also read Ferguson's Gang: The Remarkable Story of the National Trust Gangsters, by Polly Bagnall and Sally Beck. Ferguson's Gang were a mysterious group of people who raised money for the National Trust in the 1930s, and presented it masked, in a variety of dramatic and headline-grabbing ways. This was in the early days of the National Trust's involvement in preserving buildings, and Ferguson's Gang arranged and funded their purchase of several small buildings across the country, including Newtown Town Hall on the Isle of Wight. I spent ages one day in Newtown Town Hall reading the facsimile of "The Boo," their minute book. All the members took on assumed names and personas, and The Boo is full of jokes, jollity and japes; it reminded me quite a lot of the minute book of various student societies I was involved in, full of digressions and in-jokes. All the members were women graduates in their 20s, from a variety of backgrounds, so it fitted in quite nicely with my reading of Gaudy Night. One of the authors of the book is the granddaughter of "The Arthichoke," the gang's tame architect, who raised his family in one of the buildings the Gang preserved. The book tells the story of the Gang and of the real people behind the pseudonyms, many of whom had colourful lives, and I found it extremely interesting and readable.

While in Wales, I read the Four Branches of the Mabinogion (Penguin Classics edition) and meant to carry on, but reached the bit when Culhwch spends 6 pages listing every single one of Arthur's warriors, and laid it down for a while, weary. I misaimed on picking it up again, so ended up dipping in and out of Gerald of Wales instead, both his tour of Wales and his description of Wales. I do like Gerald, with his shameless bias towards his own birthplace and family's lands, his ability to go off on long tangents about the habits of beavers, and the way he misses no opportunity to plug his latest book or have a dig at Geoffrey of Monmouth. (Must reread him, too.)

I tried to read the Maginogion sequence of novels by Evangeline Walton, but really didn't take to them at all, so gave up very early.

Since getting back from Wales, I've been obsessing on Arthurian legend, but I did take a brief break from it to read Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay - one of the few children's book authors who gets me to read out of my usual favourite genres. I particularly love her Exiles series - humorous mini-misadventures of a family of four book-obsessed sisters - but I'm enjoying this current series, too, of which this is the third. Set in a small Cornish village, it deals with 12 year old Binnie, her family and her various nemeses - she always seems to have a nemesis. There are no massive dramas and no heavy-handed Issues. It's just the small dramas of daily life, with nice characters, lots of humour and some lovely turns of phrase.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Oops. I've got very behind with my write-up of the books of 2016. I finished Farthing, the first book in the Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton, exactly 4 weeks ago, while waiting for Pellinor to pick me up from the ferry terminal in Southampton before heading off to Cornwall. I read the next two during the first half of our roleplaying week. Since so long has gone by, I don't feel like writing a proper review, but I want to at least record the fact that I read them, for future reference.

Small Change series )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I'm getting out of order here, since I have a couple of book reviews on my work computer, written over several lunch breaks, but forgot to email them to myself before the weekend. Since I've got this review on my home computer, I might as well post it now.

Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
What on earth is the sense in having a Kindle edition of books 1, 3 and 4 in a series, but not of book 2?

It's a particularly light-hearted, fluffy series. Book one had a proper ending, without cliffhangers or dangling plot threads. I hadn't even firmly decided whether I was going to read on or not, and, if I was, whether I was going to do so immediately, or leave it until next time I felt like a lighthearted short fluffy read. However, that ending was followed by a preview of book 2, and I ended up reading it. Thanks to the preview, book 2 is officially The Novel I Am Currently Reading. Thanks to the lack of a Kindle edition, I now have a secondhand paperback of book 2 winging its way to me, due to arrive tomorrow. Both of these facts means that book 2 is now officially The Book I Am Currently Reading, and thanks to the way that my mind works - I find it impossible to have two fiction books on the go at the same time - this means that No Other Book Will Do until I've read it. This is particularly annoying today, since I've got a 90 minute period in the early evening in which, for Reasons, which can only usefully be filled with reading.

And, yes, I know that most of these difficulties are of my own making, but I repeat my original question. What on earth is the sense in having a Kindle edition of books 1, 3 and 4 in a series, but not of book 2?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Although my last books post only covered three weeks of January, I'd intended to settle into a once-a-month post, but it seems that now I've decided to write up all the books I read this year, I need to get writing as soon as I finish them. If I don't, I then lie awake at night writing reviews in my head. And once I've written my thoughts down, I might as well post them.

The Grisha Trilogy, and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
While walking the other day, I was trying to decide which book was my favourite out of those I'd read last year, only to find that I couldn't really remember what I'd read. (My tentative conclusion, based on what I could remember, was The Aeronaut's Windlass, the first book in Jim Butcher's new series, but I can't be sure.) Anyway, it inspired me to try to keep a record of what I read this year. No idea how long I'll keep it up, but here's a start.

Books read so far in 2016: Regency fantasy, Regency, fantasy )

Book recs

Aug. 24th, 2015 06:02 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Thanks for all the book recommendations. I haven't really had chance to look up any of the books, since I've been felled by a stomach bug for the last few days, but I'll take a look at them when I'm up to doing anything more than lying limply on the couch watching daytime TV.

Books

Aug. 22nd, 2015 08:48 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I've been struggling a little lately to find books I enjoy. I find one-off books, finish them in a day or two, and am then back to surveying the bookcases with little inspiration. I've done re-re-re-rereads of many of my old favourites, but most of the new stuff I've started hasn't really engaged me.

So, any recommendations? A rather lengthy list of requirements )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I read an article today that most young people find books boring. The evidence for this was that when those riots happened in 2011, sometimes the only unlooted shop in a street was the bookshop.

To be honest, I am highly unlikely to riot. If the people I was with suddenly said, "Hey! Let's riot!" I'd be the one hovering anxiously at the back, saying, "er... I really don't think we're supposed to be doing this." In a zombie apocalypse, I'd be the one who stood for hours at the counter of the corpse-strewn shop, waiting for a shop assistant to appear so I could pay for my gun before taking it out of the packet. Even if the apocalypse escalated, and I finally accepted that looting was necessary, I'd turn to my fellow looters, and say, "Are you the queue?" or, "I'm sorry. Were you here before me?" and, "No, after you," they would say, and, "No, no, I couldn't possibly. After you," I would say in return, and when the zombies came to rip our brains out, it would be a blessed relief, since at least it would get us out of the Impasse of Politeness. (Band name?)

But, anyway... Let's suspend disbelief for a while, and assume that I was rioting and indulging in a mad looting spree. I don't think a book shop would be my first port of call. A book shop is a place for browsing and leisurely reading of blurbs. "Raah!" say the rioters. (I don't know if rioters really do say "raah!" but let's assume that they do, like dinosaurs.) "Raah! Raah! Riot! Riot! Riot! Oh... I've not heard of that author, but the cover looks good. Interesting blurb, too. Let's read the first page... Hmm, not sure about the writing style. Maybe not... Ooh, 3-for-2 on that table!" (Because I refuse to believe that looters aren't drawn by special offers. Looting something that's one a 3 for 2 offer is clearly better than looting something that's sold at full price.)

I mean, wouldn't it be so vexing to return home from your night of rioting, only to find that you've accidentally picked up only the final book in a trilogy, or a book that turns out to have nothing but one star reviews on Amazon? It would entirely ruin any emotional high that the rioting had left. It would be even worse than looting a designer dress only to find that it didn't quite fit you. No, best go for the tablet or the flat-screen TV: something you can grab quickly without pausing in your raaahing, and something that you can probably flog for a decent amount of cash if it turns out that you can't use it. I don't think that dodgy traders who hang out in seedy pubs are ever likely to say, "psst! Wanna buy a genuine original of last year's Booker winner? £5.99, it'll cost you in the shops, but it's yours for £3.99, no questions asked."

Besides, books are surprisingly heavy - a fact I am all too painfully aware of, having moved 500 shelves of the things last week, twice. They are also mischievous things, and when you try to carry them in big piles, they like to jump off. So as you were running raaahing from the looted shop, a pile of slippery paperbacks in your arms, you'd keep on losing them. Even if you were a responsible rioter, and had paused in your frenzy to bring along your Bag For Life, you'd be hard pressed to carry more than 20 books out at a time. If you wanted more, you'd have to pop next door to the supermarket to loot a shopping trolley, and, frankly, by the time you've reached the stage of giving careful thought to storage solutions, I suspect that the urge to go "raaah!" would have long since left you, and you'd decide to go home for a nice cup of tea instead.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
People often seem to have difficulty accepting a person's taste in fiction doesn't necessarily reflect their real-life opinions. Several examples in the last few weeks have set me a-musing.

Musings )

The future

Dec. 18th, 2014 04:55 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I love looking at old books about what the future will be like. The Future, an Eyewitness Guide, was published in 1998, and much of it is about a general "future," while some of it is specifically about 2020. A lot of the technologies have already come to pass, but not in the way they were predicting. People will have mobile phones in 2020, yes, and they will all be video phones, but there's no hint that this device can do other things, too. A whole plethora of other devices will be carried around, each of them fulfilling a specific purpose that many people nowadays use a phone or tablet for. Tourists can carry a dedicated device with a roll-out electronic map on it, for example. Everyone's dining tables will have built in screens so they can view their morning paper in electronic form. If they want to work away from home, they will have yet another device - a huge, clunky looking "office" that they wear on their arm.

There's a pleasing sense of optimism about it, too. Imagine driving a car that never lets you get lost? In The Future, we will have sat navs (not called by that name, but exactly described) and it will be impossible to get lost when driving when using on. Oh, and electronic data is 100% secure.

Here is a list of the technological developments of the years between 2001 and 2035, as imagined in 1998:

The Future )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I don't find it that hard to accept that the world has changed since I was a child, because I have changed. Even so, it still sometimes startles me to look back at pictures and images of the 1970s and see just quite how old they now seem. Things like Life on Mars startle me by showing (and doubtless exaggerating) how much things have changed. There was a very recent series on Channel 4 which consisted of modern people watching 1970s clips and gasping, "wow! What primitive racist/sexist/perverted/bigoted idiots everyone was back in the 1970s and how enlightened we are now!" (Everyone at work was talking about it, gasping in horror at the clips (and, yes, many of them were quite startling.) I said I hoped to live to see the 2060s version of the show, in which celebrities from 2060 look back at clips of TV in 2014 and gasp in horror at the quaint and shocking social attitudes that were considered normal back in those unenlightened days. This was not the correct reaction, apparently.)

Anyway... I find it a lot harder to accept that the world has continued to change after I became an adult. This fact jumps out at me every now and then, and startles me far more than the 1970s so. I was just reading a book that I was thinking of as "modern," since it's the first book in a current series set in the modern world. At one point, the main characters heard a reference to a local historical figure, and needed to find out who he was. How on earth can we do it? they wondered. The library's on half-day closing today. Who else can we ask? No mention of the internet whatsoever. (And, yes, I know full well that even nowadays, not everyone has access to/can use the internet - I deal with this issue every day at work - but that's not the point.) I turned to the publication details, and the book was published in 1998. and therefore probably written in 1997 or earlier. In one way, it's "modern." In another way - no internet; mobile phones being very much a minority possession; people smoking in indoor public places - it feels like another world.

It must be hard to be writing a long ongoing series in an era of rapid change. What are your choices? You can make your internal chronology match your publication chronology, but you might not want your characters to age that rapidly. You can doggedly stick to your desired internal chronology, and gradually slip into writing historical novels: book 1 is set this year, but book 25 is set 20 years ago. You can just hand-wave it away, and hope no-one notices: book one has 1998-style technology, and book 15 has 2014 technology, but strangely the characters have only aged two years.

Or you can just be plain confusing and contradictory. I'm now on to book 2, which was published in 1999. However, the publisher seems to have decided to "update" it for a new edition, since an event that happened 25 years ago has now been date checked as being 1984. However, since people are still assumed to be incommunicado when away from home, and nobody uses the internet to search for information, and everyone's still smoking inside, it seems like a very pointless update, as if the publishers are trying to con us into thinking it's set "now" when it clearly isn't.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
A Thing that has outraged me: Othello retold for young beginner readers, in a series aimed at children aged 6 to 8 or thereabouts. Othello? WHY? Cue my long and oft-repeated rant that delayed my book selection by a considerable time.

A Thing that has interested me: As soon as the 2 minute silence finished, and the sound of the maroon had faded away, I scurried to the dictionary to find the link between the colour and the distress signal. Apparently they come from the same word: the French for "chestnut." The colour is chestnut-coloured, while the firework pops like a chestnut roasting on an open fire. The verb "to maroon" comes from a different root, though: the Spanish for "wild." So now you know.

A Thing that has bemused me: I stumbled upon an old episode of Buffy on the SyFy channel mid-afternoon on Saturday. "The following programme contained paranormal practices," it said (or words to that effect), "and is intended for entertainment purposes only." I've never heard such a warning before, even in the days when Buffy was shown on BBC2 at tea-time, and then cut so badly that some episodes were incomprehensible. But what other purposes would anyone put Buffy to? A how-to manual?

Another Thing that has interested me: I'm reading a book on the history of the Tower of London menagerie at the moment, and it's full of interesting snippets. In the 12th century, Londoners were commanded to pay for a chain and muzzle so the King's polar bear could fish for its own dinner in the Thames. In the 15th century, the menagerie was opened to select public, who either had to pay an admission fee, or bring along a cat or a dog which could be fed to the lions. I wonder what delights later centuries will bring?

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