osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Pierrepont Noyes’ My Father’s House: An Oneida Childhood, which I liked very much; although of course I would, being fond of a) childhood memoirs (I tend to agree with C. S. Lewis that “I never read an autobiography in which the parts devoted to the earlier years were not far the most interesting”), b) memoirs about cults (really anything about cults), and c) the nineteenth century.

But even if you are interested in only one of those things, this is an engaging book; much recommended. The one thing it will not give you is a clear description of the Oneida Community’s collapse: Noyes was ten at the time and found the whole thing ominous but fuzzy.

I also finished rereading A Wrinkle in Time. I’m glad I reread it because I no longer feel that vague gnawing sense that I just didn’t get it - but at the same time, it’s a bit sad to reread it and realize that I’m just never going to love that book the way that some people do.

What I’m Reading Now

Kidnapped! I only intended to begin it, but somehow I ended up halfway through the book already. It’s such a cracking good adventure yarn, it’s very hard to put down!

I have begun Jane Langton’s The Astonishing Stereoscope! It’s early days yet, but I have high hopes that it will live up to the other books in the series - or at least the early books in the series; I hold a real grudge against Time Bike for being so dreadful that it stopped my exploration of the Hall Family Chronicles, even though I adored both The Diamond in the Window and The Fledgling. But fortunately the good books in the series are the kind that are just as good if you read them first as an adult.

What I Plan to Read Next

The Railway Children, which I also intended to read next last week, but I bought Noyes’ memoir at the museum and it simply had to take precedence, so… But this week I am quite determined! Railway Children or bust! Unless I find something simply irresistible in Amherst.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I galloped through Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night, and enjoyed them so thoroughly that I lent them straightaway to Emma and therefore cannot quote from either of them, more’s the pity. Although in the case of Have His Carcase this is not such a problem, because it’s easy to discuss its virtues without reference to direct quotes: it has one of the most perfect twist endings to a mystery that I have ever read. Everything’s a horrible muddle up to the end, and then one little detail comes into focus – absolutely unexpected and yet perfectly foreshadowed – and all is illuminated.

Gaudy Night, though, could bear quoting, and extensive quoting, and I want to read it again and bookmark the relevant quotes about the contemplative life – the life of the mind vs. the life of the heart (insofar as they are set against each other) – the way that this thematic argument intertwines and somewhat obscures the mystery (at least to Harriet’s mind) and yet is integral to it.

…also, I want a story where Harriet Vane and Agatha Troy meet. They have so much in common! They’re both prickly artists, both pursued by detectives who are tragically awkward about love (although Alleyn at least has the dignity not to propose to Troy every five minutes), and both at one point in their lives murder suspects, although Troy only sipped of the cup that poor Harriet drank nearly to the dregs.

Perhaps Peter commissions Troy to paint Harriet’s portrait. (Harriet doubtless hates the idea, but acquiesces on the ground that if she must be painted by anyone, it might as well be Troy.) Murder, inevitably, ensues.

What I’m Reading Now

I spent most of yesterday reading C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life sitting either on a lakeside bench shaded by a weeping willow or in a white wicker rocker by the open window, and it has proven itself more than equal to both settings. I ought to write more about it; perhaps later.

And I’m about halfway through a reread of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and alas it is still no more than moderately pleasant. I had thought that perhaps I read it before I was ready for it, but maybe it simply was never going to be the L’Engle book for me. It just spells everything out, emotionally speaking – Meg meets Calvin and almost instantly there’s absolute trust and he’s pouring his heart out to her – and I guess I want more emotional tension between characters, never mind they’ve got cosmic evil to fight.

What I Plan to Read Next

Busman’s Honeymoon is next in queue!

And then, I think, I shall have a crack at E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children. I am a little concerned that one Nesbit will lead to another – and with Nesbit there seem to be absolute piles of others for it to lead to – but after all there are worse things.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished Miriam Bat-Ami’s Two Sun in the Sky, about which I felt pretty meh all the way through the end. I won the book as a prize, so a part of me doesn’t really want to part with it; but I also can’t really see myself reading it again, so there’s no reason to keep it.

I also read Theresa Tomlinson’s The Forestwife, which appeals to many parts of my id all at once and therefore filled me with great fondness. Rather than focusing on Maid Marian as the sole woman among the Merry Men, here Marian lives in a forest glade with an ever-growing band of outlaw women - although I think outlaw might give the wrong impression; they’re not robbing the rich to feed the poor, but feeding the poor with the fruits of the forest and healing them with their herb lore. Eventually they are joined by a band of renegade nuns.

As if this weren’t enough - loads of women working together! Herb lore! Renegade nuns! - there’s also a scene where Marian has to save Robert’s life by climbing into his bed to warm his fevered flesh with her own body heat. Yessss.

Spoilers )

What I’m Reading Now

I’ve been reading Albertus T. Dudley’s At the Home Plate, which I inherited from my great-great-uncle. In fact I have a whole set of A. T. Dudley’s books, given to different great-great-uncles over the years, as one aged out of the Dudley bracket and another grew into it.

This one is from 1910, and moderately amusing, although let me be real I was hoping for excessive wholesomeness a la William Heyliger, whose characters think things like “The patrol leader, [Don] thought, should be a fellow who was heart and soul in scouting - a fellow who could encourage, and urge, and lend a willing hand; not a fellow who wanted to drive and show authority."

THE SHEER BEAUTIFUL EARNESTNESS OF IT ALL. I have the feeling that Mr. Heyliger must have a deeply slashy novel somewhere in his immense oeuvre, if only I can find it.

What I Plan to Read Next

I’m heading out on my road trip today, so it’s TIME FOR DOROTHY SAYERS’ STRONG POISON!!! I hope I haven’t overhyped myself about it at this point.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

David Blaize, an early-nineteenth-century English boarding school story that is EXACTLY as slashy as everyone always promised me it was, God bless you all, absolutely everyone is in love with David and at least one boy swears that he has been saved from vice (read sodomy) by that love, which is probably the most Edwardian thing ever to Edwardian except perhaps the interminable cricket matches. You would think that at some point, in between all these school stories and Lagaan and Dil Bole Hadippa! I would begin to get a hang of what's happening, but no, I still have no idea.

But at this point I actually find the incomprehensibility part of the charm, along with the hero worship and the boys gazing starry-eyed at the members of the cricket eleven. And David Blaize has the added charm that it is also a voyage of intellectual discovery - David discovers Keats, and learns to find beauty in the text of what he previously considered endlessly tedious Greek translations.

There is also a really splendid chapter where David and his friend-who-is-totally-in-love-with-him-even-though-David-is-tragically-straight, Maddox, go swimming in the sea and read poetry in the beach grass after. Just really lovely atmosphere.

What I’m Reading Now

I’m plugging along in Miriam Bat-Ami’s Two Suns in the Sky, which I am very glad I did not read when I got it, because I would have been Very Displeased by the soppy romance of it all. Now that I am older I can appreciate a bit more what Bat-Ami is trying to do by focusing on the romance - they're bridging cultural divides and stuff! through love! - but it cannot be denied that I would be way more interested if the book either focused entirely on the refugee experience or was about young American Christina Cook's intense friendship (possibly romance? I'm not sure this wouldn't be over-egging the issue pudding in a book set in the 1940s) with a refugee girl.

What I Plan to Read Next

I am trying to resist the siren call of Dorothy Sayers until I've actually begun my road trip (July 5th! Just a week now!), so it's all a bit up in the air until then.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

”But you mustn’t say what you wished,” said Mr. Grant. “You don’t get it if you do.”

“Don’t you?” said Mrs. Brandon. “What did
you wish?”

“I can’t tell you,” said Mr. Grant; and truly; for his incoherent and jumbled wish had been entirely a prayer to be allowed to die some violent and heroic death while saving Mrs. Brandon from something or somebody, to have her holding his chill hand, and perhaps letting her cheek rest for a moment against his as his gallant spirit fled, all with a kind of unspoken understanding that he should not be really hurt and should somehow go on living very comfortably in spite of being heroically dead.


Angela Thirkell’s The Brandons is a joy and a delight if you like 1930s British novels in the vein of D. E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book or Stella Gibbons’ Nightingale Wood. It is perhaps less accessible than either of those two novels - I found myself stumbling repeatedly on who was who in the ever-growing cast of characters - but the passages about the exigencies of calf love, or the gruesome interest that people take in an impending death, are well-observed and very funny.

Two more books down in the Unread Book Club! I finished Scott O’Dell’s Sarah Bishop, which changes from a tale of historical fiction into a “surviving in the semi-wilderness” story like a darker “my whole family is dead” version of My Side of the Mountain. This is one of my favorite kinds of stories, so this caused a certain amount of seal-clapping. Yes, Sarah Bishop! You move into that cave and smoke fish for the winter and built your very own dugout canoe!

And also Natalie Kinsey-Warnock’s The Night the Bells Rang, which is, eh. Pretty mediocre. I kept thinking of other books that did the same thing better: Nekomah Creek for growing up & dealing with bullies, Miracles of Maple Hill for sugaring-off in Vermont (and if we take Vermont out of it, Little House in the Big Woods has an excellent sugaring-off too), Rascal for the end of World War I in small-town America.

What I’m Reading Now

Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, which is super dense. It’s so dense I’m not sure I’m going to read it, which is sad when I’ve had it on hold so long at the library, but it’s just exhausting.

I’ve also started Miriam Bat-Ami’s Two Suns in the Sky, which I won as an honorable mention prize from Cricket Magazine in my youth and did not read because I was cranky about only being an honorable mention.

What I Plan to Read Next

I have begun the happy business of contemplating what I ought to take along to read on my road trip! My musings have grown so long that I am going to make them a separate post.

In the meantime, I am also musing about what book I ought to read for my next bedtime story, as I have just about exhausted my stock of Miss Read books. I meant to move on to James Herriot, but upon reflection that’s really too similar, both cozy English countryside quasi-memoirs, and perhaps I ought to read something quite different as a palate cleanser first. But what?

I’ve been contemplating a reread of A Wrinkle in Time. Perhaps this is my chance.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Fair Winds and Homeward Sail: Sophy Croft’s Story, which continued just as delightful as it began. It falters slightly near the end, simply because this is the part where it begins to overlap with Austen’s novel which means that we-the-readers already know what happens, and how it happens - but nonetheless it’s a quite satisfying read overall.

What I’m Reading Now

Scott O’Dell’s Sarah Bishop, a historical fiction novel about a Loyalist girl in the Revolutionary War. This is the first Scott O’Dell novel I’ve actually enjoyed - perhaps I’ve finally grown into him? (He is supposedly an author for children. I did not like Island of the Blue Dolphins at all as a child. Here’s this title promising dolphins and instead there are hardly any dolphins at all.)

And at last I’ve begun Angela Thirkell’s The Brandons! Which is most charming. I foresee a long and only intermittently fruitful search for her work in the future.

What I Plan to Read Next

Two Are Better Than One by Carol Ryrie Brink (of Caddie Woodlawn fame), which is evidently about FRIENDSHIP. I have been eyeing it thoughtfully for a while and then someone mentioned they intended to nominate it for fic_corner so it seemed that now is the time.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Unread Book Club update: Last Wednesday I finished Gildaen, as I didn’t want to leave it hanging when I went away to Miami. If you looking for a fun magical cod-medieval adventure starring a rabbit, I quite recommend it.

While I was in Miami I read A LOT because there were a couple of days when we were more or less trapped inside by thunderstorms, but most of it was NetGalley books which I like to give their own separate post (I finished… five…) and also When Marnie Was There which I also want to give its own separate post because I liked it so much, AND ALSO I still need to review Megan Whalen Turner’s Thick as Thieves which I read before the trip and - say it with me now - wanted to give its own post because I enjoyed it so much…

Oh, but I did read E. W. Hornung’s Mr. Justice Raffles on the trip! Which is the fourth and final Raffles book, a novel rather than a set of short stories like the others, which I thought might be why it often gets shunted to the side in Raffles discussions - perhaps Hornung just wasn’t good at novels?

But actually he does perfectly fine at novels; Bunny and Raffles are in as fine a fettle as ever, and there’s also a totally badass girl who engages in plucky pre-dawn canoeing. But the villain is a Jewish moneylender, and while he does not reach Svengali levels of anti-Semitic caricature, there’s definitely enough of that about his characterization to justify the fact that the book is generally shunted aside.

What I’m Reading Now

Sherwood Smith’s Fair Winds and Homeward Sail: Sophy Croft’s Story, which is the story of a side character from Jane Austen’s Persuasion and quite charming. I really like all of Smith’s Regency romances: her pastiche is good, and you can tell that she knows the period really well because she wears her research so lightly - especially impressive in a book like this, which is stuffed chock full of characters in the navy and could easily bog down in infodumps about naval terminology.

I’ve also started reading Elizabeth Warren’s This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class (for my reading challenge: “a book of any genre that addresses current events”), which is good so far but also sort of a bummer to read because I know that as long as Trump is president and the Republicans control Congress we’re not going to make progress toward any of these goals; we will at best be fighting a holding action, if we can manage that.

What I Plan to Read Next

Angela Thirkell’s The Brandons. If only I’d taken it to Miami with me! Oh well.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished Esperanza Rising just in time to count it for this month’s book challenge (“an immigrant story”), although I must say the book felt mechanical, in a way: it never surprised me, never deviated from the expected emotional beats that the premise suggested. So that was a bit disappointing.

Unread Book Club progress: I finished Janice MacLeod’s Paris Letters, a memoir about MacLeod quitting her job, moving to Paris, falling for a Polish butcher (in Paris) and settling down there and supporting herself by selling illustrated letters from Paris on Etsy. The watercolor illustrated letters are gorgeous and filled me with the desire to paint letters myself, although like my youthful desire to illustrate my diary I suspect that this is a desire that will die stillborn. Painting is beautiful but writing is so much faster.

What I’m Reading Now

Emilie Buchwald’s Gildaen: The Heroic Adventures of a Most Unusual Rabbit, from the Unread Book Club. A brave rabbit in medieval times meets a shapeshifting magical person and sets out on adventures together! They have met the banished huntsman of the boy king who is being slowly corrupted by one of his advisors, and have set off to the palace to try to save the king and kingdom from this villainy.

What I Plan to Read Next

MY ENGLISH PENPAL SENT ME WHEN MARNIE WAS HERE!!! Naturally I shall take it with Miami with me and read it on the beach, which is not exactly the right kind of beach for When Marnie Was Here, but still the proximity of saltwater ought to be enough, don’t you think?
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Marie Brennan’s In the Sanctuary of Wings. What a wild ride this book - this whole series! - has been. A+++ do recommend, with the caveat that the first book is alas a bit of a slog, but unfortunately it’s a slog that’s vitally important set-up so you can’t skip it. But the four books after that are all wonderful! Each one better than the last!

What I really love about these books - aside from the worldbuilding, which I do quite enjoy, although in general I feel dubious about worldbuilding that draws so heavily on the real world - is that they’re plotted around the pleasures of research, of discovery, of learning something new that no one else knows. It’s a bit of the same pleasure as reading A. S. Byatt’s Possession, except without the protagonists’ sad personal lives to get you down; Isabella’s personal life is many things, and one of them is occasionally “tragic,” but sad or pathetic never.

And I’ve given up on Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. Life is simply too short for 700 page biographies that aren’t grabbing me!

What I’m Reading Now

Well, I was reading No Holly for Miss Quinn, but then I took it along with me and forgot it at my parents’ house, so that’s on hiatus for now. I am reading Village Centennial instead.

What I Plan to Read Next

Esperanza Rising, which I’d better get on if I intend to finish it by the end of May for my reading challenge.

Wednesday

May. 17th, 2017 04:54 pm
osprey_archer: (books)
Slim reading this week! Work & Mother's Day (I made dinner for the whole family) & not one but two birthdays have all conspired to keep me busy.

What I've Just Finished Reading

I did manage to finish Miss Read's Farther Afield, though, in which Miss Read goes to Crete with her friend Amy, which is pleasant and lovely in the gentle way of all Miss Read books.

What I'm Reading Now

Working on Hamilton. Concerned I will not have time to finish Hamilton in May, as I am not yet on page 100 and the book is not grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and demanding to be read. Perhaps I should line up another (significantly shorter) book about immigrants to make sure I fulfill my reading challenge.

Oh! And I got the final book in the Lady Trent series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings! Which is off to a cracking good start. Of course it is too soon to say this for sure, but so far every book in the series has been better than the last (of course it helps in this regard that the first book was truly rather lackluster), and I have every hope that this one will continue the trend.

What I Plan to Read Next

The library has Angela Thirkell's The Brandons in for me! And perhaps I ought to get Esperanza Rising for my immigration book? It's been vaguely in my sights for a while...
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Lauren Oliver’s The Spindlers, which is a children’s fantasy book about spider-like creatures called spindlers who rise up from the depths to steal souls, but despite this promising premise is pretty solidly mediocre. Oh well.

What I’m Reading Now

I’ve started Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton! Have not gotten very far yet. Watch this space for developments.

What I Plan to Read Next

I’m not sure! It will depend which hold the library brings me first. The final Lady Trent book, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, is marked as In Processing, so I have my fingers crossed for it.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished Lorna Barrett’s cozy mystery Murder Is Binding, which I had doubts about last week - but in the end I quite liked it! It had a reasonable explanation for why our heroine the mild-mannered mystery bookshop keeper is forced to turn detective (the sheriff has taken a dislike to her, which will presumably force our heroine to keep investigating things for the rest of the series), and I liked the plotline about the heroine and her semi-estranged sister trying to reconnect.

I also finished Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The President’s Daughter, a children’s novel about Theodore Roosevelt’s younger daughter Ethel, which was okay. The pacing’s a bit off - it spends too much time on Ethel’s dislike of her new school and difficulty making friends there and resolves it quite suddenly in a chapter at the end.

And honestly, much as I love boarding school stories, it seems like missing the point to write a book about Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter and then spend most of it at boarding school instead of with the Roosevelt family. Any character could go to a boarding school. I want more Roosevelts!

What I’m Reading Now

Sheila Burnford’s The Incredible Journey, the book that the movie Homeward Bound is based on, although the feel of the two stories is very different for me - probably because the dogs & cat in Homeward Bound can talk (to each other/the viewer, at least), whereas the ones in The Incredible Journey don’t.

So it’s sort of like we’re watching them do everything from above, rather than inside their heads, which is distancing for me: I’m finding it hard to get attached to any of the characters.

What I Plan to Read Next

I decided to read Elizabeth Warren’s new book for my next reading challenge (“a book that addresses current events”), but I am currently 27th on the hold list at the library so that may not arrive in May. So for May, I’m going to skip ahead to the next challenge on the list: an immigrant story.

I loved immigrant stories when I was a child - The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang; Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear; that one book Lynne Reid Banks wrote about a Canadian family emigrating to Israel, although I never quite forgave the father for uprooting his unenthusiastic wife and daughter from their happy lives in Canada to drag them to a war-torn country for the sake his dream. Follow your dream yourself, dude.

Oh hey. I was going to say “But I don’t have any on my to-read list right now,” but then I stopped to look up the title of the Banks book (One More River), and it turns out that Banks recently wrote a novel about a family immigrating to Canada from the UK during World War II. So perhaps that should be my immigrant story!

Well, it’s a possibility. Does anyone have a recommendation? (I’ve already read Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again and An Na’s A Step from Heaven.)
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished Mary Stewart’s A Walk in Wolf Wood, which Mom read to me when I was but a wee lassie and which I remembered really enjoying without remembering any of the details, but upon reread it is blazingly obvious that this book went directly to my giddy young id.

It begins with a man walking into the woods, weeping so hard that he barely seems aware of his surroundings - this is the kind of quality crying I want from my books! - and it only gets better from there. The weeping man has been sundered from his lord the duke to whom he swore a blood oath of brotherhood in their youth! They have been ripped apart by a foul enchantment that has made the weeping man a werewolf, while the enchanter takes his place in the castle and schemes to usurp the duke’s place!

There is definitely a scene where the werewolf lies at his lord’s feet in chains, waiting for the sun to rise so he’ll be changed back into a human being. The duke covers him with his ermine cloak so he won’t be totally naked when that happens. THE LOYALTY KINK. BE STILL MY BEATING HEART.

I also finished Gary Paulsen’s The Island, a quiet and thoughtful book that regularly surprised me, not perhaps because it’s so surprising in itself as because I was reading it as a Misfit Escapes Society and Finds Meaning Elsewhere book - possibly with a side order of But Then Meddlesome Humanity Destroys His Happiness and Solitude. I fully expected the media or the locals or the psychiatrist Wil’s parents hire to hound him off his happy island abode.

But in fact they come and poke around and decide this is all pretty stellar, really (except for the local dude Wil has to punch in the nose, but he’s a real bottom-feeder anyway) and, their curiosity satisfied, leave him alone. And Wil isn’t even a misfit in the first place, really; he’s about as normal as it is possible to be and still run away to an island to try to absorb the essential nature of the blue heron.

...which still kind of makes him a weirdo, let’s be real, but that’s the kind of weirdness that will probably get him a professorship someday.

What I’m Reading Now

I finished Tolkien’s translation of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”! So I’m taking a small breather before diving into the next poem in this collection, “The Pearl.” I quite liked Gawain, but I’d read that story before in prose, whereas I haven’t read “The Pearl” (although Humphrey Carpenter discussed it at some length in his biography of Tolkien, so I know what happens), so I’m curious to see if that affects how I react to it.

I’m also reading Lorna Barrett’s Murder is Binding, a cozy mystery lent to me by a friend. I started this with some trepidation because I don’t usually like cozies - I think the inherent silliness of a cake baker! or bookseller! or librarian! or whatever who just sort of accidentally solves murders on the side gets to me - but actually this one seems tentatively fun. The heroine has a difficult relationship with her sister which they are trying to repair, which seems promising.

What I Plan to Read Next

I have to come up with a book about current events for next month’s reading challenge. This is my least favorite challenge on the list, but nonetheless I will persevere. Any suggestions?
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished Jane Langton’s The Fragile Flag, and aaaaaaaah, I really liked this book, you guys. Young Georgie (also the heroine of Langton’s The Fledgling) finds an old American flag in the attic, which gives people visions if it wraps around them; she decides to march on Washington with it, in hopes of convincing the President not to launch the Peace Missile (for which read Reagan’s Star Wars; the book was published in 1984).

Naturally the march swells to enormous size as it continues on, and George manages to meet the president in the end, etc. etc. Of course it’s escapism, but it’s really nice escapism in the current political climate. And the book is beautifully constructed, too, all the pieces of the plot (it’s more complicated than I’ve made it sound here) all come together like clockwork, and strike like midnight at just the climactic moment.

I also finished Warren Lewis’s The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV, which I read because the Inklings book I read recently praised it (Warren Lewis is C. S. Lewis’s brother) and also because I’ve long meant to learn more about France, and indeed it is a pleasant and readable introductory work to seventeenth century France.

And, for the Unread Book Club: I reread William McCleery’s Wolf Story, which in our youth my brother and I liked so much that we importuned our father to read it multiple times. I think he got bored and started making up new twists in the story to amuse himself, although I can’t be sure because the father in the book (who is telling a story to his child in the book) also gets bored with the story he is telling and keeps trying to come up with twists to end it quickly. It’s very meta.

What I’m Reading Now

I’m slogging through Margaret Stohl’s Black Widow: Forever Red, which I am not liking nearly as much as I expected sadly. I think this is partly the fault of my own expectations - I thought this would be about Natasha’s childhood or at least give us large lumps of backstory, perhaps flashbacks!, but it really does not. But it’s also not very strongly written.

Really not feeling this one. Maybe I’ll just give it up.

I’m also working on Gary Paulsen’s The Island, which is an oddly poetic book - I mean, not odd really, or only because my main association with Paulsen is Hatchet which is more of a survival story. This one involves a lot of our hero sitting on the island, contemplating nature.

And I continue to chug along in Tolkien’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight!

What I Plan to Read Next

Norah of Billabong is winging its way through the mail to me as we speak! So definitely that.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Finished Reading

William B. Irvine’s A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt - And Why They Shouldn’t, which is about the history and social function of insults. It includes a chapter about friendly teasing & ambiguous insults, which I found especially interesting, and also a fair amount of space on how to respond to insults - one of the suggestions was to say “Thanks,” which I think is beautiful in its simplicity and ability to throw the insulter off their game. (Probably not for backhanded compliments, but otherwise.)

He also talks about the self-esteem movement a bit, the main point being that the movement saw the correlation between high self-esteem and achievement and got the causation backwards - probably, excuse my grumpiness, because cooing “You’re so special!” at everyone is so much easier than taking the time and effort to foster genuine achievement.

Irvine also makes the point - which ought to be obvious, but lots of commentators seem to miss it - that if the Millennial generation seems narcissistic, it’s because that’s the inevitable outcome of inflicting “You’re Thumbody special!” programs on a generation. You can’t din that in a generation’s ears for years and then act shocked, shocked! when they take narcissism tests and answer “Yes” to the question “Are you special?”

Unread Book Club progress: I finished Virginia Sorenson’s Miracles on Maple Hill, which has lots of delightful detail about tapping maples, wildflowers, the countryside, etc. It doesn’t go very in-depth about Marly’s father’s PTSD, but after all it’s a book about Marly, not her father, and I did think the author did a nice job showing how her father’s less-than-joyous return from a prisoner of war camp has affected Marly while balancing that with the more light-hearted “And then we met the resident mountain hermit!” bits.

What I’m Reading Now

Tolkien’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I must confess I had some concerns about it: I skipped a lot of Tolkien’s poetry when I read Lord of the Rings, and long-form poems in general are not my thing. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’m liking it so far. (It helps of course that I already read & liked the story in prose.)

I’ve also started reading Margaret Stohl’s Black Widow: Forever Red, which suffers a bit from not being my Natasha headcanon, ha - but we’ll see if Stohl wins me over to hers as I keep reading. I’ve only just started, so she’s got plenty of time.

What I Plan to Read Next

Warren Lewis’s The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Lewis XIV is waiting for me at the library. Warren Lewis is C. S. Lewis’s brother and mainly remembered for that these days, although (according to The Company They Keep) his books about French history are well-researched and well-wrought reads in their own right. I have long meant to learn more about France and this seemed like a good spur to give that a go.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Mockingjay. D: D: D: TEARS FOREVER.

I also finished Miss Read’s Miss Clare Remembers, which I enjoyed very much for the sort of bird’s-eye view of English history that it offers. Miss Clare is reflecting on her life as she waits for a friend to visit, which covers everything from the 1880s to the 1950s, although it must be said that bulk of the book is pre-World War I and before.

What I’m Reading Now

Still The Red Queen. There are only two days left in March! WILL I FINISH IT BEFORE THE END? I’ve only got two hundred pages left, so I think yes.

The more important question is “How will Carmody pack in enough story to wrap up all the loose ends she’s got dangling?” Elspeth hasn’t even met Matthew again - I’ve been waiting for Elspeth and Matthew’s reunion since book 3, goddammit! - let alone restored Dragon to her throne, found the last sign of her quest, spoken the ancient promises in the place where they were first made, confronted her nemesis Ariel, disarmed the weaponmachines permanently, or led the animals to a new home where they will be free from the depredations of humanity.

I’ve given up on hoping that it won’t feel rushed. Right now I’d settle for Carmody managing to get all that in.

I’m also still reading Miracles on Maple Hill, which continues to be a delight. There are whole scenes which pretty much consist of Marly listing the different flowers or berries that grow on Maple Hill at a certain time of year, which sounds tedious when I write it like that but actually is wonderful. I feel like children’s books have really tapered off the natural history in recent years, which is really too bad.

What I Plan to Read Next

I was puzzling over what to read for my April challenge, “A book of poetry or a play,” BUT THEN I found a copy of Tolkien’s translations of the Middle English poems Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. Problem solved!

And the TransPacific Book Exchange is back in action: soon I will have Norah of Billabong! YESSSSSSS.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Progress on the Unread Book Club! I finished reading The Collected Raffles, which turns out to be only the first three Raffles books, but fortuitously it turns out that the fourth is available freeeeeeeee on Kindle so of course I shall read that. I find these books awfully charming.

What I’m Reading Now

Still slogging through The Red Queen. Good news! Halfway through the book - this book, let me remind you, is 1100 pages long - Elspeth and company have finally started to move. If the pacing continues as it has been, then Carmody is going to have to cram Elspeth’s confrontation with Ariel into ten pages at the end.

I don’t know if I’ve been so disappointed in the conclusion of a much-loved series since Harry Potter. And in fact, this is giving me new appreciation for the seventh Harry Potter book: whatever flaws they have, at least they did not include Harry indulging in pages-long speculations about what might happen next, only to conclude with him abruptly ceasing to speculate on the grounds that it’s useless. YOU DON’T SAY.

I have also started my next Unread Book Club book, although as often happens this is more of a “I read this so long ago I no longer remember anything about it” book, Miracles on Maple Hill. Young Marly and her family are moving out to the old family farm in hopes that the fresh air, wide open spaces, and ability to avoid cranky-making strangers will help her irritable father recover from the trauma of being a POW in World War II. WILL IT? I think probably, although it did win the Newbery which also gave us the miseryfest of Out of the Dust, so who knows.

What I Plan to Read Next

Netgalley has come through for me with a book called Touring America by Automobile in the 1920s, which is a published diary about family road trips to the National Parks in the 1920s. Road trips! In the 1920s! On the mess of a road system then in existence! To the National Parks! Aaaaah I hope there are descriptions of campfire cooking and middle-of-nowhere diners with surprisingly good pie.
osprey_archer: (Default)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Diana Pavlac Glyer’s The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, which I quite enjoyed. I am a total sucker for books about writers groups/writers friendships in general, and the Inklings in particular, and I recommend this for people who are interested in either.

As often happens after reading a book about the Inklings, I feel a strange urge to read one of Charles Williams’ novels, even though every description I have ever read of them - even the most affectionate - note that his prose is super opaque and unclear and all around difficult to read. No, self, don’t do it!

I also finished Miss Read’s Village School; the Miss Read books continue to be lovely and restful. This book had the added interest of a sequence where the characters put on a British history pageant, starting with the Romans and working their way onward from there. It reminded me very much of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books & the sweep of history that they cover - I somehow always assumed that this was Sutcliff’s own unique conception of history (probably because it’s so different than what one might call a popular view of history in the US), and discovering that it actually ties to a vision of history that was popular at the time makes it even more interesting to me.

What I’m Reading Now

Still slogging through the final Obernewtyn book. I still feel like there’s a good story in here struggling to break free of the morass of unnecessary logistical detail with which it has been cumbered - no, we don’t need a step-by-step description of how Elspeth gets every place she goes! (spoiler alert: there’s a lot of walking) - but damn. That’s a lot of morass.

In happier news, I’m still reading The Collected Raffles, which continues to be delightful. Raffles and Bunny have just spent a week living in someone else’s house on the sly while owner is away on holiday, possibly for no better reason than because Raffles wanted to read the owner’s collected volumes of Kinglake. (Kinglake, the magic of wikipedia informs me, is a Victorian travel writer.) He has been neglecting Bunny disgracefully in favor of Kinglake, in fact, and Bunny decides to retaliate by… cross-dressing in the clothes of the absent lady of the house? Clearly that will get Raffles’ attention! The slash is still practically writing itself.

What I Plan to Read Next

My “read a book that won a Pulitzer” challenge isn’t till December, but I’ve picked out a book for it when it comes: Tom Reiss’s The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, which is about Alexandre Dumas’s swashbuckling father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. How could I resist that?
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I don’t believe I finished anything this week. I started playing a Facebook game and it vacuumed up all my time. I should probably erase it.

No, wait, I did finished The Family at Misrule! Which I had 90% completed last Wednesday. Sorry, Facebook game, we had good times together but you must go.

What I’m Reading Now

Isobelle Carmody’s The Red Queen, a thousand page behemoth that I am becoming increasingly certain could have been edited down to five hundred pages if not less, if only Carmody could have been trusted to return the manuscript in a timely fashion if the editors gave it back to her. (I doubt they dared. The last book came out nearly thirty years after the first was published. They were probably terrified that they might wait another decade if they sent the manuscript back.)

I’m 250 pages in and Elspeth and co. have made no progress on Elspeth’s quest to save the world by dismantling the weaponmachines that already caused one apocalypse and might yet cause another. Instead, they are stuck in a weird little dystopian community, and under other circumstances I would be all for exploring weird dystopias, but I have been waiting half my life - literally half my life! - to read the ending of Elspeth’s quest. I’m probably as impatient as Elspeth herself for things to get a move on.

In fact, Elspeth keeps expressing her frustration that she can’t make any progress. I think this was a sign from Carmody’s subconscious that this part of the book could have been edited down to like 50 pages, tops, but alas she did not heed it.

Instead we get endless relays of - Elspeth finds out a bit of information; she chafes at the fact that she can’t tell her friends because most of the settlement is bugged; at last they gather at one of the non-bugged spots, and she tells them what she learned (which we the readers already know) and they suggest further avenues for inquiry (many of which we the readers have already thought of, although of course we have the advantage of having read dystopian fiction before), and then Elspeth chafes because she can’t get away to investigate, and then she finally gets away to investigate and the cycle starts all over again and GAAAAAAH SOMEONE COULD HAVE EDITED THIS SO HARD. SO HARD.

On a brighter note, I’ve been reading Sherwood Smith’s Miss Eleanor Tilney: or, The Reluctant Heroine, which as the title suggests is pro-fic of Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and a total delight. I really enjoy Smith’s Regency romances - I almost hesitate to call them that; I feel like Regency romance as a subgenre riffs off of Heyer, and Smith is riffing directly from Austen - the book is written in quite credible Austen pastiche - which gives them a very different feeling.

What I Plan to Read Next

I’ve added all of Sherwood Smith’s other Austen pastiches to my Amazon wishlist to add to my Kindle when I get the chance, but first I must read Nora Murphy’s White Birch, Red Hawthorn, a Netgalley book that is a memoir... essay collection... thing about the conquest of Minnesota.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

A couple of NetGalley books, one of which I’ve already posted about & one of which I really liked and am therefore finding it difficult to post about. Why is it always so much easier to write about the books you hate?

I guess there is an element of vulnerability in saying that you loved something, or that something touched you or inspired you, in a way that isn’t true of saying that you hated something.

What I’m Reading Now

Ethel Turner’s The Family at Misrule, the sequel to Seven Little Australians, because my heart finally recovered from the ending of that first book. The second book seems less likely to BREAK MY HEART AND CRUSH IT INTO PULP, but then I didn’t expect it of the first book either till the very last chapter, so WHO KNOWS.

I’m also reading The Collected Raffles, which is all four books of Raffles stories collected into one; I’ve finished the first two, and they are just as much ludicrous late-Victorian you-don’t-even-need-slash-goggles-to-see-this fun as they were when I read the first few stories online.

It really is nicer to have them in book form though. I don’t mean to knock ebooks - God knows without them, my quest to read obscure old books would be utterly hamstrung - but I do feel that I retain more & often have more of an emotional response when I read books on paper.

...although being an ebook certainly did not keep me from having an emotional response to Seven Little Australians, so maybe not so much.

What I Plan to Read Next

GUESS WHO JUST FOUND DOROTHY SAYERS’ HAVE HIS CARCASE. THAT’S RIGHT, IT’S ME. I now have all four Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane books!

...I’m actually still not planning to read them for a few more months (I’m saving them for my reading challenge “Three or more books by one author”), but it’s nice to have them all.

For books that I am planning to read next in the literal sense: Isobelle Carmody’s The Red Queen. I’ll be back visiting my parents for the weekend, so I will have lots of lovely empty time to read, which is really the best way to read a Carmody book IMO.

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