ladyofastolat: (Default)
Fewer books than normal this month, due to being on holiday last week, during which I spent much of my reading time reading guidebooks and maps and obsessively checking the weather forecast.

Books read in July )
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)
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 )
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 )

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: (Jayne hat)
Most of our board-gaming is done at home, just the two of us. Sadly, some of the best board games in our collection either don't work at all for two players, or don't work well. It's not all doom, though. Some games, such as as Caylus, are different in their 2-player version - different challenges, different tactics - but just as good. Others can be adapted. We play Puerto Rico effectively as a 4-player game, with each of us controlling two "players" who work together for their joint good. We also have several games that are for 2 players, and 2 alone. However, most of these are based on battles and conflict. Pellinor spent much of his childhood playing war games, while I have a tendency to play too cautiously, so Pellinor usually beats me comprehensively. No problem with this, of course, but it can get a bit depressing when it happens again and again and again.

It seems that both Pellinor and I had the same thought this Christmas, and both searched Board Game Geek for well-reviewed games that work well with two. As a result, we ended up with three new board games this Christmas.

Troyes (brief), the Firefly game (brief) and Mage Knight (lengthy) )
ladyofastolat: (Boo)
Divinity Original Sin is a computer game, and I like it. There. That's probably all that most people reading this need to know.

If, however, you want my long ramblings about this game and how it compares to Baldur's Gate - my Best Game Ever that has long reigned unchallenged - read on.

Much rambling about Divinity Original Sin and Baldur's Gate )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I really ought to post about books more, so here are some of the books I've read lately.

Rambling about books )

Hobbitses

Dec. 22nd, 2012 11:11 am
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We went to see The Hobbit last night. For context: I love all three Lord of the Rings movies, enough to watch them 3 or 4 times each in the cinema, and to watch pretty much every single extra on the extended edition DVDs. I do have niggles, but they're mostly aesthetic - green, sploshy Dead with their popcorn skulls, unfeasibly enormous elephants, catapults that can hurl half a house, and elves that speak... so... very... sloooooowly.

The Hobbit: not really spoilery, but behind a cut, anyway )

Finally, most people on my Friends list who have expressed a preference thus far have specifically sought out the 2D version. Therefore, out of interest:

[Poll #1886331]
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I've just read another batch of Georgette Heyers, having read an initial batch in January and February. I asked for recommendations back then, but in reality, my choice of title has been dictated more by chance - i.e. what happens to be on the library shelves or in local charity shops - than by design.

Georgette Heyer preferences )

Factual TV

Mar. 17th, 2010 09:52 am
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I watched the first episode of Richard Hammond's Invisible Worlds last night. It was all about those things that happen too fast for the human eye to see, and it showed slowed-down footage of various things - exploding spores, flying bees, swimming dolphins etc. - to show what was really happening. I found it all very interesting, and there were some really arresting images.

However, if I'd received a pound whenever he said something along the lines of, "We can't see what's happening because it's too fast for the human eye to see. Only by slowing it down can we understand it," I would be rich by now - especially if I had a bonus pay-out whenever he said Invisible Worlds, in capitals, as part of this. Yes, Richard, we do understand the point of this episode. It would be hard not to, given that you've said it 59 times already in the last hour.

At least it didn't make me want to throw things at the screen, which many modern factual TV shows do. You get the first five minutes wasted on an extended trailer of forthcoming attractions, with the presenter getting ever more excited as the music swells. You get the presenter pretending to be a total idiot, as he and the viewer go on a "journey" together to "discover" the answer to some question or other. You get the presenter raving about some wonderful sight, only for the camera to whiz around so fast that you can't look at it, or else to spend the whole time focusing on a close-up of the presenter's face as he speaks about how moved the sight makes him. You get "amazing discoveries" of things that have actually been known for years, and you get minority opinions expressed as fact - something I notice in history programmes about periods I know about, and which therefore makes me sceptical of anything they tell me in programmes about things I don't know about.

I did rather enjoy the recent BBC series on geology, though, since all the jet-setting and dramatic stunts did at least serve to demonstrate valid points. I've only seen a bit of the new Solar System series on Sunday evenings, but I liked most of that, too. At least the presenter didn't pretend to be an idiot, and explained things to us, rather than standing there nodding like a fool while some "expert" explained things to him. I was, however, rather distracted by the fact that he popped up in all the four corners of the earth while still wearing the same t-shirt.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I have just finished rereading Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo series, in which I have been happily absorbed for two and a half months. I know that several people on my Friends list are fans of her Lymond series - and also that a few people had tried reading that series, and have disliked it - but I don't think anyone (except for [livejournal.com profile] evilmissbecky) has mentioned reading Niccolo.

If you've tried Lymond and disliked it, then I don't recommend Niccolo. They are both complex series of historical novels, which demand that the reader concentrates at all times. The reader is frequently baffled about what's happening, until revelations near the end of each book force them to reassess what's gone before. The main characters - Lymond and Nicholas - are both fiercely intelligent plotters, always ten steps ahead of everyone around them, and full of secrets. Neither of them is the classic hero, pure and noble and beyond reproach, and both are capable of Bad Stuff.

However, if you do like the Lymond series, I definitely recommend trying Niccolo. And here's why - no spoilers )

Update

Oct. 8th, 2009 05:15 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] wellinghall's just reminded me that I've not posted for a while. I suppose this is because I do a lot of my posts over lunch at work, but I've been out almost the whole time this week. It's Children's Book Week, so I've been doing booky things in schools. (Tomorrow I even get a school dinner, so I might not live until tomorrow night. No, really, honesty compels me to admit that I always enjoyed school dinners when I was little. Except the liver, that is; I still shudder at the memory of being forced to eat it up. I was unusual in liking milk puddings, especially the syrup or raspberry sauces that came with it, so happily ate it loads and loads of everyone else's unwanted tapioca. But, anyway...)

We're in the short dancing hiatus that comes between summer performances and winter practices, so I've got into a nice habit of doing nothing much at all in the evening except for reading and playing games. Left 4 Dead has a short new official campaign, which is a case of "Yay! More achievements to aim for!" I was in the mood for some fairly mindless dungeon crawling, so have also been replaying Icewind Dale 2, with a party of 6 modelled after some of my favourite fictional characters.

I've also been reading. What I've been reading )

What I've been watching )

Week

Sep. 19th, 2009 07:43 am
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Oops. I seem to have been absent for over a week, so here's a quick summing up. Last weekend, I worked on the Saturday, struggled to dance at the Bestival on Sunday, and then pretty much collapsed onto the couch and didn't move much from it for two days. It was a cold that hit me hard, but seems to have passed on fast, since a week on, I'm still coughing a bit, but that's all. While off sick, I watched lots of costume dramas and Jane Austen adaptations, ate Magnums and chocolate buttons (those well-known medicinal things) and read a lot of books.

Books read )

I also finally remembered to watch Being Human, and liked it a lot. However, coming in on the penultimate episode of the repeat run of a series is spectactularly bad planning, even for me. (Most of the TV shows I've ended up obsessing over were ones I initially stumbled across by accident on what turned out to be the last episode before a six month gap.) And Peep Show returned last night, but I've not watched it yet; Pellinor finds it too embarrassing and has to hide under a cushion if I watch it when he's around, so I'll have to wait until he's safely away somewhere.

Last night I was listening to a double CD of skiffle, and noticed that many of the songs are about trains. My challenge for the day is to fit "The South-West Trains 11.30 from Southampton Airport Parkway to London Waterloo" into a catchy song.

And finally, last night I won the "zombie genocidiest" achievement in Left 4 Dead, for killing 53595 zombies. This clearly means that I play the game far too often. It's just a fun game to play together, and the authoring tools are out there, which means that there's a constant supply of new maps to play in. A few of these are excellent. One of them was a series of film-inspired nightmares, one of which was closely modelled on movie-version Moria. It was quite strange to be battling zombie hordes across the mines of Moria, but pretty cool, even though the bots kept falling to their doom from the bridge of Khazad Dum.

Fiction

Aug. 6th, 2009 12:37 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I'm constantly amazed at the power of fiction. You can sit there reading a book or watching a film, and while you know full well that it's only story, it can become more real and more important than anything in the world. Sometimes your surroundings fall away and that fictional world is all there is. Maybe you have to put the book down and head off to do something else, but that world and its characters can plant deep tendrils in your mind, constantly trying to drag you away from what you're doing. Sometimes, after closing a book, the world seems different - more magical, more dark, more sober... less real... more real.

I still clearly remember the days after I emerged from works of fiction that grabbed my emotions in a special way. I have a clear memory of a moment at my grandma's house one Christmas when I was child, emerging from a dreams about The Lord of the Rings, overwhelmed with awe and with love for it. I remember shelving picture books some 13 years ago, at the height of my X-Files addiction, and suddenly realising that I'd sat there for 20 minutes, staring into space, lost in my thoughts about the previous night's episode. I remember finishing A Storm of Swords, and being so desperate for the next book that I didn't think I could get through the days. I remember finishing The Lymond Chronicles, then going away for New Year, lost in the world, barely noticing where I was. And I know I will remember last night, and I want to remember it, so am posting about it here, even though I'll be embarrassed afterwards, even though it will be of no interest to anyone else.

Really not a spoiler for the last Inda book, but behind a cut in case anyone has any plans to read it and doesn't want to hear about another reader's emotional reaction )

(Note: Although I've used "you" and "we" and "us", I am, of course, aware that I'm not speaking for the whole human race, and that many people don't experience fiction in this way.)
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Here's a bit more rambling about the things I've been reading and watching. Firstly we have the book I read yesterday and today, although I don't really talk much about the book itself, but more about young adult fiction in general. Secondly, a film I watched a couple of weeks ago, but which has lingered in my mind, and not for any good reason. I wasn't going to write about it, since I didn't like the film, but it turns out that writing bad reviews is a lot more fun than writing good ones.

A book wot I liked )

A film wot I didn't )

I'm now going to watch Slumdog Millionaire, eat a very dark chocolate Magnum, and have a glass of milk.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Because I'm in a reading sort of mood at the moment, and because I like talking about what I read, here are short write-ups of some of the books I've read in the last ten days or so, preceded by one that I read a bit before that but which has lingered in my mind. All are spoiler free.

Knife )

Ella Minnow Pea )

The Demon's Lexicon )

Flora Segunda )

American Gods )

Books

Jul. 11th, 2009 01:29 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Thanks for all the recommendations! Most of them have yet to wing their way to me, so I've mostly been reading other things, to whit:

Eating Things on Sticks by Anne Fine. I do so enjoy Anne Fine's children's books, and this one allowed me to pass a very pleasant hour or so. While this one was just a light and amusing children's story (and nothing at all wrong with that; quite the opposite, in fact, since such books seem thin on the ground right now) it's also reminded me that I need to reread her Up on Cloud Nine, which I consider a very excellent book, dealing with weighty emotional issues while still being very funny. I found it far more moving than many earnest Issue books of teen angst. Who says that humorous books can't be deep or important?

Death, destruction and a packet of peanuts by Chris Pascoe. I grabbed this on spec from a display in a library I happened to be in, drawn by the title and the cover. It's a humorous travelogue in the vein of Bill Bryson, about a man who's been obsessed with the English Civil War since childhood, and set out to visit every battlefield, accompanied by a drinking companion determined to visit every pub on every battlefield, and to get roaringly drunk on local ales. I liked his style and his sense of humour, it made me laugh, and I could also relate to it since I, too, was obsessed with the English Civil War as a child. I doubt I'll reread it or remember it much afterwards, but it amused me as I read it.

What I saw and how I lied, by Judy Blundell. A rave review in a library supplier's newsletter made me grab this out of a box of new arrivals. It's a first person narrative about an inexperienced 15 year old girl in post-war America (1947), who develops a crush on an older man, and watches as her elders get caught up in a web of jealousy and hidden secrets. To be honest, it never quite grabbed me the way it should have. I thought it was well-written, with some striking imagery and turns of phrase, and with a good sense of place and period, but big emotional moments left me dry-eyed, and it didn't linger after I'd closed the page. After the rave review, I was a little disappointed.

The graveyard book, by Neil Gaiman. I thought this one was truly excellent. It's about a boy brought up by ghosts in a graveyard, and the various adventures that befall him, and it comes in two editions, each one illustrated by a different illustrator. I ended up with the adult edition, since that happened to be on the shelf in a library I visited, but I mean to seek out the children's edition, since I want to see Chris Riddell's interpretation of the characters. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me gasp aloud in shock and horror. I particularly liked how the first half of the book seemed to consist of episodic, unrelated adventures, but how everything came together at the end. This is one to buy and reread. Absolutely wonderful, in my opinion.

Inda

Jul. 1st, 2009 05:56 pm
ladyofastolat: (Fantasy)
I've been obsessing rather madly about the Inda series by Sherwood Smith these last few weeks. This was a reread; I read book one and two in autumn 2007, and book three last summer. I'd intended to reread the lot in a few weeks time, in preparation for the release of the fourth and final book in early August, but accidentally ended up reading them early. While it might seem more sensible to leave my write-up until I've actually read the entire series, I've decided to do it now. The knowledge of how a series ends - and, more specifically, my emotional reaction to that ending - can skew my reaction to everything that's gone before, so I wanted to write this now, with the final book unread.

This review is entirely spoiler free. It could well be too spoiler free, since my refusal to reveal plot spoilers rather inhibits my ability to talk about what the series is about, but I'd rather err on that side than give too much away.

Horribly wordy but spoiler-free review of the Inda series )

Portal

Jun. 1st, 2009 09:02 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Pellinor's been telling me for ages to play Portal, but I couldn't really see what was so exciting about a game that only took a few hours, so never really got round to it. I finally played it yesterday... and it's brilliant. The puzzles start easy, but end up taxing enough that you just stare in horror at a room, overwhelmed by all the things you need to do before you can find the exit. What makes it, though, is the script. Companion cubes! Emotive automatic turrets! Well... pretty much every single line. There are just so many quotes that are crying out to made into icons (involving cake, obviously), but unfortunately the best ones are riddled with spoilers.

Plus, I cried at the end

I am now trying not very well to beat the advanced challenges well enough to win cake, but for now I'm off to kill zombies on "survival" mode, but should be renamed the "die hideously after two minutes" mode.

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