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

Elizabeth Wein’s The Pearl Thief, which features exuberant spoilers )

What I’m Reading Now

At last I started The Ordinary Acrobat and I’m quite enjoying it! I had not realized that a memoir about attending a circus school was a thing that I wanted in my life, but it totally is and it’s just as fascinating as it sounds. And also it has made me want to learn how to juggle.

I found myself pining for the bucolic world of Miss Read, so I went ahead and borrowed the last two Miss Reads in my mother’s collection: Thrush Green and Winter in Thrush Green. Will I be forced to turn to the library to supplement my Miss Read needs? Perhaps! Although probably I should give James Herriot a try first - I think he’s got a similar thing going on in his tales of life as a country vet, in the quirkily amusing yet tranquil English countryside.

What I Plan to Read Next

Now that I’ve almost finished reading down my pile of books-I-own-but-haven’t-read, I’ve decided that it’s time to make some serious progress on my to-read list. Perhaps Emily Arsenault’s The Leaf Reader? I quite enjoyed her earlier novelThe Broken Teaglass, and it sent me on a fruitful search for more mystery novels about unraveling literary puzzles. Or maybe some more Jon Krakauer…

I’ve already borrowed Sara Pennypacker’s Summer of the Gypsy Moths from the library, though, so probably I will read that first.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished Edna Ferber’s Great Son, which remained disappointing right up until the end. The misogyny remains strong to the last page, and she doesn’t even do anything interesting with her Japanese characters. There are some vague feints in an anti-racist direction: the one openly racist character is Vaughn’s prudish wife, who we are supposed to despise, and in response to one of her complaints about “Those Japs are all alike,” Vaughn mutters, “Nobody’s all alike.”

But the son of the Japanese family attempts to steal Vaughn’s grandson’s plane on the morning of Pearl Harbor, presumably with the intent of… flying to Hawaii to join in? Suicide bombing Boeing? WHO KNOWS. In any case he fails, and soon after the family is “whisked away to a secret place,” at which point Vaughn’s wife trumpets “didn’t I always say I always felt there was something I never did trust?” - and that’s the end of it.

I also finished Nancy Bond’s A String in the Harp, which I enjoyed in a mild way, although I was disappointed that neither of Peter’s sisters ever get to see any visions from Peter’s magical harp key. Well, I guess they sort of do, because the visions start spilling over into the real world - most notably in the form of a wolf who slides out of time into modern-day Wales and has to be hunted down - and I did really like that aspect of the key’s magic, actually, that blurring of times. But still. The girls’ role is to believe or disbelieve and neither of them gets to see.

What I’m Reading Now

Julia L. Sauer’s Fog Magic, which I might have read before. I remember reading - something - about a girl who found magical adventure by walking into a fog bank - and this might be that story; and yet it doesn’t seem quite the same, the details don’t really match what I remember, and it doesn’t feel familiar to me as I read.

Does anyone else know of another book about a girl walking into the fog and finding something magical? Or is my memory just playing tricks on me?

What I Plan to Read Next

I’ve almost finished the Unread Book Club! There are only three left: Duncan Wall’s The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present, Elyne Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby, and Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon. Victory is within my grasp!

Although it has occurred to me that I have a whole nother box of hundred-year-old books that I inherited from my grandmother that I still haven’t touched. Maybe those will be my project for next year.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Elena Ferrante has taken over my life. I finished My Brilliant Friend, sped through The Story of a New Name, and now am halfway through Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and broke for the night only because we reached a nice pause in Lila’s unending descent into misery and I figured I’d better stop while it lasted. Lila and Elena are together! Elena’s taking Lila to a doctor for her terrible symptoms! This is actually a super happy moment for these books, a real high point, although obviously it can’t last, given that Elena is about to get married and leave Lila who will doubtless get sucked into the maelstrom again.

And perhaps Elena is about to enter a maelstrom too. Her fiance seems like a nice guy, but if there’s one thing I have learned from these books it’s that you can never trust men, never, except maybe Enzo, who has not turned horrible. Yet.

Actually, I think Elena’s husband may stay fine, but somehow Nino will get involved and ruin everything. He’s insidious. You know, I’d heard about him before I read the books, people complaining that he was THE WORST, so when I read My Brilliant Friend I was puzzled because he didn’t seem like THE WORST at all - in fact I do understand why both Elena and Lila fell so hard for him - but as I read on I realized. OH MY GOD. THE ACTUAL WORST.

Men who are THE WORST is sort of a theme in my reading this week. I also read Kevin Henkes’ Olive’s Ocean, and I guess the male person in question is technically still a boy, being but fourteen years old, and perhaps I shouldn’t be too hard on him, but all the same I wanted the heroine Martha to beat him to death with his own video camera after he filmed her first kiss (with him, of course) for a stupid movie that he’s making. And also crowed about how filming it meant that he won a bet, that he could totally get her to kiss him.

DROWN HIM IN THE OCEAN, MARTHA. DROWN HIM IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

What I’m Reading Now

I’m halfway through Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, as aforementioned, and also I’m reading David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers, in a desultory sort of way.

What I Plan to Read Next

Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child, clearly. I have no choice in the matter.

Once I finished that - I have Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Bayou Magic, which I can only hope will be bright and uplifting after the beautiful but clinging misery of the Neapolitan Quartet. The cover looks promising in this regard! There appear to be magical fireflies.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Holly Webb’s Return to the Secret Garden, which has a charming premise - evacuee children during World War II sent to Misselthwaite Manor! - and proceeds to use it to make the our beloved Secret Garden characters heirs to all the miseries of history.

No, I did not want to read about Dickon becoming a grumpy old man because during World War I he got facial scarring so severe that children flinch away from him. Nor did I want to read about Colin Craven dying at Dunkirk in World War II. No! The fact that it was a heroic death does not make it better! COLIN CRAVEN IS NEVER SUPPOSED TO DIE, DID YOU NOT EVEN READ THE SECRET GARDEN.

I have never been fond of “major character death” fic and the fact that this is professionally published does not make me like it any better.

What I’m Reading Now

I read a lot of books by women because generally speaking I find them less likely to be misogynistic than books by men. But there’s generally, and then there’s Edna Ferber, whose writing I don’t remember being nearly this soaked in misogynistic tropes in Dawn O’Hara. Maybe she soured as she got older, soured by her life as a ~failed spinster~ - spinsters being, in Ferberville, by definition failures. As are wives if they’re too conventional. And women who sleep around if they sleep around too much.

Pansy Deleath has just gone to the Klondike with a troupe of dancing girls, and Ferber takes every opportunity to remind us how silly they are and how much better and more solid and less slutty Pansy looks by comparison. She may end up being Vaughn Melendy’s mistress for the next fifty years, but that’s because it’s TRUE LOVE, not for base mercenary gold-digging reasons like those ~other girls.

Ugh. I’m going to finish the book because it’s part of the Unread Book Club and I intend to finish them all, but UGH.

In cheerier news - well, cheerier is the wrong word. But in more pleasurable if somewhat soul-destroying reading news, I’ve started Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, which is beautiful and wonderfully observed (and a good example of how to write a story set in a deeply sexist culture without making the story itself sexist, so TAKE THAT, Edna Ferber) and weirdly engrossing. I meant to do other things yesterday evening and instead gulped down the first half of the book.

What I Plan to Read Next

My reading challenge for September is “a book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author.” I was already planning to read Ashley Bryan’s Freedom Over Me, which won a Newbery Honor this year (also, I just looked Bryan up, and he’s 94 years old. Ninety-four and still winning book awards! I find it strangely inspiring), and also Jewell Parker Rhodes Bayou Magic, which looked intriguing when I found it at the used bookstore… although upon looking it up online, it looks like it’s the third in a trilogy, so maybe I ought to start at the beginning?

Upon further inspection, it looks like a rather loosely knit trilogy, so probably I can start with Bayou Magic and go back and read the others if I like it. I was planning to find a third book to make it a hat trick anyway - if I don’t like Bayou Magic enough to want to read the rest of that series, then maybe Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Mighty Miss Malone.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

The long voyage, with its comparative peace, was behind them: ahead was only war, and all that it might mean to the boys. The whole world suddenly centred round the boys. London was nothing; England, nothing, except for what it stood for; the heart of Empire. And the Empire had called the boys.

A quote from Mary Grant Bruce’s From Billabong to London. I don’t even believe in the Empire and this gave me goosebumps; I can only imagine the effect it must have had on readers in 1914 for whom the Empire seemed a great and glorious thing.

I also finished The Chestry Oak, which really was not that harrowing after all. Of course it’s not a walk in the park either - it is set during World War II - but Seredy skips over most of the really harrowing bits. In fact I was disappointed, which is really quite unfair of me given that I put off reading the book on account of the harrowing possibilities - but it does seem a bit like cheating to simply skip from Michael’s birth family to his adoptive family and leave out his year as a displaced child almost entirely.

And also The Motor Girls On Crystal Bay. The most exciting thing about the book was finding a long-forgotten piece of graph paper - left there no doubt by one of my ancestors - containing a string of nonsense words. What do they mean?

What I’m Reading Now

I’ve started Edna Ferber’s Great Son, which is going on tiresomely about spinsters - which is especially irritating as Ferber was a spinster herself. For goodness sake, Ferber, show some solidarity.

The book starts just before the beginning of World War II (and was written in 1945), and has already set up a quartet of Japanese characters (the family servants and their two children, who are studying at the University of Washington) and a German Jewish refugee girl who I’m pretty sure the son of the house has just fallen for - so I’m curious to see how that develops. Total trainwreck or actually pretty good? We’ll see!

What I Plan to Read Next

Two books arrived from [personal profile] evelyn_b! Ngaio Marsh’s Final Curtain and Death in a White Tie. My next day off will be dedicated to at least one of these beauties.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Barbara Pym’s Some Tame Gazelle, which is rather in the same vein as D. E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book, although less funny. Which I guess means it isn’t in quite the same vein after all, really. They both write about spinsters and quiet English country villages, but Stevenson is writing comedy and Pym has, to my mind, a slightly tragic vein to it: all these people living their quiet faintly claustrophobic lives where nothing ever changes and no one seems particularly happy, although they are perhaps contented with their discontent, if you will.

Possibly it’s meant to be funny. Certainly there’s some humor to the ironic bits where Belinda says something like “one didn’t want to be snobbish, but - ” followed inevitably by something quite snobbish. But the limitations of their lives, not just the outward limitations of circumstance but the inward limitations of timidity, or lack of education (Belinda thinks a number of times about her lack of a classical education), or simply lack of cleverness - anyway it all seemed faintly sad to me.

I also finished A Bride for Anna’s Papa, which is pretty mediocre, unfortunately. Anna has mixed feelings about her father’s new bride, which sounds interesting but never gathers much emotional force - and then bam, it’s the last chapter and there’s a big fire and suddenly Anna is reconciled to the fact that the bride is part of the family now. I realize that disasters can have this epiphany-forcing effect, but I would have liked some kind of emotional arc leading up to it.

What I’m Reading Now

The Motor Girls at Crystal Bay, which was published in 1914 and ne’er, so far as I can tell, saw the hand of an editor. The author keeps fumbling which characters are speaking to each other in a conversation. Oh dear. Why did you keep this one, my great-great-aunts?

And I have nearly finished From Billabong to London - which, coincidentally, was also published in 1914. As I write, the Billabong crew have just been stopped on the HIGH SEAS by a GERMAN WARSHIP, and Jim and Wally are about to be taken prisoner for their part in arresting a German spy. Will rescue arrive before the Germans drag them away into the darkness???

The next book is called Jim and Wally, so nothing too fatal can befall them, although I suppose it could concern Jim and Wally’s daring escape from a German prison camp. But really I think they are going to be saved in the nick of time by a dashing British destroyer.

What I Plan to Read Next

The Disaster Artist! The library came through for me and I am PRETTY EXCITED.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

A couple of Unread Book Club books: G. Clifton Wisler’s Red Cap, which is far less emotionally moving than one might expect of a book set largely in Andersonville prison (the largest and deadliest Confederate prison in the American Civil War). Ah well. They can’t all be winners, I guess.

And also Ann Turner’s Elfsong, which sounds like it ought to be a thing I like: a girl who accidentally meets an elf while out searching for her lost cat, which the elf has enticed away to be his new mount, what could go wrong?

But I felt it was trying too hard to awaken a sense of wonder. The elves can hear the songs of all the things on earth, and pass this ability on to Maddy and her grandfather. And these are not just regular birdsong or the pleasant plash of a brook or whatever, but songs with words, so wherever you go you’ll be surrounded by baby mice singing

My place, mine
my turn, mine


or rocks rumbling

We were here before you.
We were a river of fire,
then a river of stone.


Which would be delightful and magical - I rather like the little poems - if you could make it stop. But it sounds like Maddy is going to surrounded by a constant inescapable din for the rest of her life and that sounds dreadful.

What I’m Reading Now

Sheila O’Conner’s Sparrow Road, which I plucked from a Little Free Library a few months back purely because the cover seemed promising - and I was right! So far it is atmospheric and mysterious and there are possible ghost orphans (I think they’re metaphorical rather than real ghosts but still) and I’m feeling it.

I’ve also begun Kate Seredy’s The Chestry Oak, which kicks off with a Hungarian prince in his castle listening to planes pass overhead during early World War II… and I can already tell this is going to be a tale of woe and disaster and I’m sort of dreading it honestly.

Also Isabel R. Marvin’s A Bride for Anna’s Papa, which gets points for being set in a Minnesota iron mining camp, just because I’ve never read a book set in such a place before. Have only just started this one. Will let you know how it goes!

What I Plan to Read Next

I need to decide what to read for this month’s reading challenge, “a book published before you were born.” The Chestry Oak fits the bill, but I was planning to read that anyway, so maybe I ought to branch out.

But on the other hand I may not get through it without the additional incentive of fulfilling my reading challenge. It will probably not be that harrowing, self, there is no reason to believe that this is Grave of the Fireflies: If It Were a Book Set in Hungary.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I’ve finished another book from the Unread Book Club: Patricia Clapp’s Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth. On paper sounds like something I ought to like, a sort of Catherine, Called Birdy, but with Puritans, if you will.

But Constance lacks Catherine’s endearing prickliness and she spends a wearing amount of time gazing up at men through her lashes just to see them sputter and turn red. C’mon, Constance, if you’re going to flirt with someone for entertainment, at least pick someone who knows it’s a game.

What I’m Reading Now

[personal profile] littlerhymes sent me the next Billabong book, From Billabong to London! The Great War has begun, and because of Plot Contrivances not only Jim & Wally but also Norah and Mr. Linton will all be going to London. Hooray! I am excited to see England through their eyes.

It may not be for a while yet, though; I only just finished chapter three and they have not yet left Billabong, let alone Australia.

And I’m working on another Unread Book Club novel: G. Clifton Weaver’s Red Cap, which I’ve adopted as my new bedtime story, although it is becoming increasingly clear that it is a Horrors of War novel rather than a War Is an Adventure novel (children’s novels can go either way). This is not perhaps the best thing to go to sleep on. We shall see.

What I Plan to Read Next

Unread Book Club progress so far: I’ve read 28 books, and have ten left to go (including Red Cap. There are still five months left till the end of the year, so this seems quite doable!

I’m rather looking forward to Duncan Wall’s The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the CIRCUS, Past and Present, which is a memoir of Wall’s own acrobat training as well as a circus history. If the memoir part doesn’t grow like kudzu and choke out the history, I think it should offer an interesting insider’s point of view.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished The Railway Children! [personal profile] asakiyume had acquired a copy of the most recent movie for us to watch, which gave me extra impetus, but it was a real pleasure to read so I probably would have galloped through it anyway. Highly recommended if you like early twentieth-century children’s books.

Also highly recommended: the 2000 film version of The Railway Children, which is quite faithful to the book - it cuts a couple of scenes (and one of the cut scenes is the one tragically sexist scene in the book, which is otherwise so good about letting the girls be just as heroic as their brother) but doesn’t add much, which IMO is generally where adaptations go wrong, adding in scenes that don’t suit at all. The biggest addition, I think, is that the film draws out some of the stuff about class relations which is latent in the book - but it doesn’t become overbearing or anything; it’s still quite secondary to the fun adventures.

Also Jerry, by Jean Webster - who is most famous for writing Daddy-Long-Legs - and this is definitely a case where I can see why that’s the book she’s remembered for, although Jerry is not without charms. A young American man - and, as a side note, his name is Jerymn, which I have never seen before and would be inclined to take as a misspelling of Jermyn except Webster spells it that way every single time. Has anyone else run across this name? How do you pronounce it?

Anyway, Jerry - to give him his easily pronounceable nickname - Jerry is vacationing in a dull Italian country town when he meets a beautiful American girl. To get closer to her (and enliven his dull days), he masquerades as an Italian tour guide. She sees through him at once, but doesn’t let on, and the rest of the book consists of the two of them gleefully upping the ante of the masquerade.

What I’m Reading Now

I’m almost done with Jane Langton’s The Astonishing Stereoscope, which sadly I think is not nearly as good as either The Fragile Flag or The Fledgling, although also not nearly as bad as The Time Bike. A good middling Langton! And I will continue to search for The Swing in the Summerhouse, which is about, I think, a magical swing, which I think is just perfect and delightful and I hope the book lives up to it.

There are also a couple of post-Time Bike books in this series, but I am a little leery about reading them. Still, if I do run across them…

What I Plan to Read Next

My next reading challenge is coming up! It is “a book published before you were born,” and the only challenging part of this will be fixing on just one. The library has kindly purchased Kate Seredy’s The Chestry Oak for me (this is the first time I have made a purchase request at a library! I feel so powerful!), so perhaps that; but there is also the possibility of reading more Nesbit...
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.

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