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It's the occasional reading thread!

Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Mar 26, 3:30pm

Post #1 of 14 (14329 views)
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It's the occasional reading thread! Can't Post

So we've now had the March equinox, which means the beginning of either spring or fall, depending. It's spring for us here in Texas. The grass and trees and all are burgeoning---sniffle, sneeze, cough! It's the oak pollen that hits me the worse, which is a tad ironic because one of the many reasons we bought our house is because the world's handsomest live oak tree resides in the front yard. We have, of course, named it Treebeard. I keep wanting to put Merry and Pippin dolls up in the branches.

I finished listening to two books I've mentioned before. The shorter one is the seventh book in the Sherlock-Holmes-esque Barker and Llewelyn series, Anatomy of Evil, by Will Thomas. This installment fits into the the sub-sub-genre of, we really caught Jack the Ripper but kept the truth from the public.

The longer one is Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings, by Neil Price. I learned a lot about Viking history and culture, although I was taken aback a time or two at narrator Samuel Roukin's pronunciations of Scandinavian words. Not that the pronunciations are wrong, mind you, they're just not the ones I've been making---like "fjord", which Roukin pronounces "fyourd" rather than "fyord".

I've now started Alexander the Great: His Life and His Mysterious Death, by Anthony Everitt. So far Everitt has summarized what he's going to be writing about and is exploring the historical milieu into which Alexander was born, with Macedonia at some times playing a Greek/Hellenic wannabe and at other times catering to the power of Persia.

I'm also listening to the highly amusing Starter Villain, by John Scalzi, in which a poverty-stricken substitute teacher discovers himself to be the heir of a massive secret corporation.... Well, no spoilers. I'll just say it's a very entertaining book, read with great verve by Wil Wheaton.

I also listened to The Red House Mystery, by A. A. Milne---yes, the A.A. Milne much better known for writing the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Here he adds a shortish novel to the Golden Age mystery canon, which, like so many Golden Age mysteries, is very clever as long as you don't stop to analyze it too closely. I doubt Milne intended me to be so highly amused by the veddy British characters. Smile

In print I read yet another book in Veronica Black's Sister Joan series, the seventh, A Vow of Obedience. I still enjoy the characters of Sister Joan and her fellow nuns at the convent in Cornwall, along with their Romany neighbors and the often-bemused local constabulary. This story starts with a reunion of Joan's college art class in London. There are some clever moments, but also a great deal of repetition.

Also in print---and on paper---I read a mystery set in Thailand, Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness, by David Casarett. A young woman working for a hospital in Chiang Mai is drawn into a murder mystery as well as into puzzling events inside the hospital. My editorial eye is VERY aware that it's a clone of the Precious Ramotswe books in style and tone, if more convulated at the end. The Thai material is enjoyable if self-conscious, with the occasional "we", and the characters are generally positive and caring, which is always good.

I'm also reading The Secret World of Weather: How to read signs in every cloud, breeze, hill, street, plant, animal, and dewdrop, by Tristan Gooley. I'm fascinated by the details of weather and landscape and am already eyeing the sky with new knowledge of the whys and wherefores. IMO, this book, with its drawings and photos, works better on paper.

So what have you been reading?

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Annael
Immortal


Mar 26, 4:38pm

Post #2 of 14 (14281 views)
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just finished Babel, or The Necessity of Violence [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, that was intense. Clearly R.F. Kuang knows linguistics and history, and we get a heavy dose of both as she constructs an alternate history of British Colonialism. The characters are fully brought to life, as are the settings, and it's a gripping story. She's a very good writer.

I'd recently had a discussion with - or rather, I should say I recently was talked at by - a young East Indian woman who voiced the same themes I saw in this book: that there's no fixing the system from within, we have to tear the whole thing down without regard for who might be hurt on the assumption that something better will arise out of the ashes; and that even well-meaning white people can't be trusted because they are incapable of true compassion; any good thing they might do is actually self-serving, usually to make themselves feel like they are good people. I don't agree with either premise (I'm not sure anyone would pass the test for being utterly without self-interest, for one thing, but then, I am probably just being defensive). I give Kuang props for the chapter in which she gives us the point of view, sympathetically, of the person who turns traitor, and also when she shows us the sympathizers who can't follow through on the ultimate goal; she does indicate that it's not that simple.

I tried reading some of Andrea Penrose's "Wexford and Sloane" detective novels, but had to give up in irritation. I liked her idea of combining a Regency romance with a detective story, but the execution was . . . not great. The mysteries are just not well-plotted; the plot unfolds primarily by people just TELLING Wexford and Sloane what happened. I also continually got hung up on Penrose's weird use of language. I felt like she was trying too hard to use interesting turns of phrase and the results were just clunky. Instead of saying simply that someone's face was in shadow, she says things like "shadows hung from his eyelashes." (WHAT?) She uses verbs as nouns ("a clench of fear tightened her chest") and nouns as verbs ("her hands were tremoring"). I could go on, but suffice it to say, not reading anything else by her.

On the nonfiction side I'm reading John Horgan's Rational Mysticism, which attempts to explore spirituality in a journalistic way by interviewing people have done a lot of research into the field and/or are leading lights in the field, like Huston Smith, Ken Wilber, and a host of scientists who do PET scans on Buddhist nuns, etc. One thing I've gleaned is that mindfulness meditation is very different, physiologically, from other types of meditation or trance-evoking methods; the latter take you OUT of the rational part of the brain while with mindfulness you learn to stay there. I'm just finishing a 6-week course in mindfulness myself so that was interesting.

I am a dreamer of words, of written words.
-- Gaston Bachelard

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


(This post was edited by Annael on Mar 26, 4:43pm)


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Mar 26, 6:19pm

Post #3 of 14 (14229 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I give Kuang props for the chapter in which she gives us the point of view, sympathetically, of the person who turns traitor


I, too, was very impressed by that scene. Kuang is indeed a very good writer, and while yes, the book was intense, reading it was a valuable experience.

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 27, 5:54am

Post #4 of 14 (13846 views)
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The Dictionary of Lost Words [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you to those who recommended this. It had been on my radar for a while, but recommendations from Annael and Lily nudged me to get on with seeking it out.

I really enjoyed this. So many of my special interests (words, obviously; also women's suffrage and WWI, particularly women's experience of it, and the late C19th/early C20th period) in one book, with an elegant plot and engaging characters. Exquisite writing, though not self-consciously so, and leaving me with the impression that not a word was out of place or unnecessary. A lovely, lovely book.

Two others:

A Fatal Lie.
The penultimate book in the Inspector Rutledge series - one of the two writers died two years ago, and I don't think the series is continuing. I'll miss Rutledge and his perambulations around Britain, particularly the descriptions of interesting places.

I had an odd experience with this one, though. I was near the end when a bombshell is dropped with a person's name. Rutledge is astonished. And I said "Who?"

I'm a reasonably attentive reader, but I simply didn't remember that character's being mentioned. When more details were given I did remember him, but dimly. I was reading this as an ebook, so I went searching, and found that he'd been mentioned a few times between pages 10 and 20, as a useful source of some background information - he came across as a minor character created for that purpose. There was then not a single mention of him until page 450! (In the chosen font size, the book was c. 600 pages long). It seemed an odd way to structure a mystery, and certainly not something I've encountered in the earlier books from these authors.

A Lady's Guide to Scandal.
A Regency Romance (though only just - it's set right at the end of the Regency). Not a genre I often read (modern ones, that is), but this one I thought was quite well done. Light and frothy, but with some more serious notes. Sufficiently engaging that I could set aside the fact that the logistics of the central premise didn't quite convince me, and I may well read the author's earlier Regency when I again feel like something frothy.


The Passing of Mistress Rose
My historical novels

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


Eledhwen
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 27, 8:45pm

Post #5 of 14 (13097 views)
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In a re-reading mode [In reply to] Can't Post

And actually reading real books instead of my Kindle as a result!
I watched the new Interview with the Vampire show and thought I should re-read the book. Enjoyed it, although I don't know how well it's aged and actually I think the show was better.

Then, for some reason, I decided I wanted to re-read The Bone People, a marvellous book by Keri Hulme which I discovered when living in NZ. It's a bit experimental in style in parts, but I am thoroughly enjoying the re-read so far.

Storm clouds


Annael
Immortal


Mar 28, 3:03am

Post #6 of 14 (12518 views)
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loved "The Bone People" [In reply to] Can't Post

a bit difficult in some places, but her use of language is astonishing.

I am a dreamer of words, of written words.
-- Gaston Bachelard

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 28, 2:00pm

Post #7 of 14 (11835 views)
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Struggling with "Henry VIII and His Court" by Allison Weir, but it was caveat emptor [In reply to] Can't Post

I've read a couple of Weir's books long ago such as Elanor of Aquitaine, and I remembered liking her style. So I did what Treebeard would scoff at as a hasty search of Henry VIII biographies and landed on hers, and it's a struggle to read because it's about as much fun as reading an index. Way too-detailed for my tastes, and way too much on his court (uh, gee, that was one-half the title, wasn't it? doh!). And by "court" I mean she'll talk about how many yeomen he had, and what it cost down to the shilling to pay them, and what their duties were, and have your eyes glazed over yet?

I am a Downton Abbey fan and have a large reservoir of curiosity about "how the other half lives," but I wanted to know more about Henry and less about his chamber pot. To be fair, she throws in plenty of interesting anecdotes and asides about court life, and one big takeaway for me was that royal purveyors not only forced butchers/farmers/etc to sell food to the court at below-market prices, they also wouldn't pay in cash and just gave coupons for reimbursement that had to be presented in person to the proper court official, which wasn't easy in the horse & buggy days, so that reversed my notion of "medieval lucrative government supply contracts." Another surprise was how common theft and graffiti were in the various royal palaces by staff and visitors: what happened to "guards! thieves! off with their heads"?

And I'm still learning about Henry here and there, which is gratifying: he's a lot more interesting than "the king who had 6 wives and killed 2 of them." For one thing, he was both a great athlete and well-read, and another area I'm filling in was when he was happily married to Katherine of Aragon. They were both well-educated and had quite a bit in common. But I'm going to have skim the rest of this book for the Henry parts and jump over the details about the furniture.


Annael
Immortal


Mar 28, 6:06pm

Post #8 of 14 (11580 views)
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for something lighter [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm now working through the "Her Royal Spyness" novels by Rhys Bowen. Fluffy fun.

I am a dreamer of words, of written words.
-- Gaston Bachelard

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 28, 10:00pm

Post #9 of 14 (11442 views)
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On a related note, I'm currently reading about Henry II. [In reply to] Can't Post

A few years back I picked up The Devil's Brood, not realising it was the third in a trilogy. My library didn't have the first two books, but last weekend I saw they had Time and Chance (book two) and I figured I might as well read it because it's not like I don't know the overall story of Henry and Eleanor. I'll ask the library to buy book one so that I can finally finish the trilogy (backwards). Laugh

Sharon Kay Penman was superb at turning dry details of historical figures' lives into vivid, sweaty, mundane and delicious reality. I'm enjoying her insight into relationships and just how 'everyday' that medieval life feels. Although I'm in the midst of the rift between Henry and Thomas Becket, the story does from time to time seem a bit like royalty admin - 'and then he rode here to crush this uppity duke, then he took this castle' - but overall it's a really good read.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Fantasy novel - The Arcanist's Tattoo

My LOTR fan-fiction


Starling
Half-elven


Mar 29, 2:31am

Post #10 of 14 (11420 views)
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I really enjoyed [In reply to] Can't Post

The Private Lives of the Tudors.

I would hazard a guess that it has a bit more information about 'The Groom of the Stool' than you might enjoy!




CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 29, 3:33am

Post #11 of 14 (11412 views)
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Lol. They had a groom for everything! It's mind-boggling // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 29, 3:35am

Post #12 of 14 (11410 views)
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And I never get tired of Henry II and Elanor in "The Lion in Winter" . Such a wild, powerful movie. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Silvered-glass
Lorien

Apr 16, 8:11pm

Post #13 of 14 (6777 views)
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The Book of Lost Tales [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm currently reading The Book of Lost Tales. It has some interesting viewpoints to the better-known Silmarillion material that were not necessarily dropped by Tolkien, merely not conveyed as well or at all in the very abbreviated later texts that ended up published first. I think these issues could merit multiple threads in the Reading Room.

For example, it seems to me that the Two Trees were all along powered by the mysterious Flame Imperishable, and this has deep significance to the overall cosmology...


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


Apr 17, 11:07pm

Post #14 of 14 (6712 views)
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"shadows hung from his eyelashes." [In reply to] Can't Post

This makes me want to blink, rapidly and frantically.


 
 

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