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It's the middle-of-July reading thread!
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Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jul 15 2014, 2:51pm

Post #1 of 32 (448 views)
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It's the middle-of-July reading thread! Can't Post

Just to supplement the thread just below, here's a chance to tell us what you're reading at the moment.

I've either been out of town or laid low by a summer virus the last couple of weeks, but still finished two books which, taken together, make very unusual bedfellows.

The first is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, a fantasy novel I've been meaning to read for about ten years now, ever since I was in the audience when Ms. Clarke won the Hugo for Best Novel at the Glasgow Worldcon of 2005. I have to confess that the book's 850 pages put me off---I seldom find books that are worth that much verbiage, and the last one I struggled through, The Historian, ended in such a frustrating and disappointing manner I would have thrown it against the wall, except I didn't want to take a chunk out of my wall!

But Strange and Norrell really drew me in and kept me reading at a surprisingly fast pace. It's beautifully written lyrical prose. It's funny, it's moving. It's like J.K. Rowling meets W.M. Thackeray, set in an imaginary England during the second decade of the nineteenth century, where first Norrell and then Strange try to revive the ancient English magical traditions.

There are some excellent bits of business, such as when Strange becomes the Duke of Wellington's official magician during first the Peninsular War and then at the Battle of Waterloo. There are many discursions that yes, could have been edited out, but are still fascinating. There are breathtaking descriptions that might have reminded me of Tolkien's best and yet were different, with their own feel.

The plot is slight and subtle and I'm not sure is completely worked out even at the end, but by the end I didn't care. I was extremely satisfied and felt my time was well-spent.

The other book I read is The Next Big Thing: A Fable of Modern Scotland, by Michael Russell. At only 168 pages, it's as short as Strange and Norrell is long and, as far as I can tell, is a very obscure little book indeed. It's a contemporary satire about the tourist industry in Scotland, both laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreakingly right about Scotland and its history. The story is based on the fact that John Lennon spent the occasional childhood holiday with relatives in the remote northern village of Durness.

While Durness is never actually named as such in the book (well, except in the blurb on the back cover) I've been there several times and I recognized it. In fact, that's where I bought the book, in this nearby bookshop, which I understand is now closed, unfortunately.

The story reminded me just a bit of one of my all-time favorite movies, Local Hero. Highly recommended, if probably, sigh, unobtainable.

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....


Elberbeth
Tol Eressea


Jul 15 2014, 3:27pm

Post #2 of 32 (282 views)
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Four Queens [In reply to] Can't Post

which is the history of the four daughters of Provence: Marguerite, the eldest, who married Louis IX of France in 1234; Eleanor, who married Henry III of England in 1236; Sanchia, married to Richard of Cornwall (who was Henry's brother and King of Germany for a time) in 1243; and Beatrice, who married Charles of Anjou (Louis' younger brother, who became King of Sicily) in 1246.


The thing that strikes me most is the constant warfare, greed, ambition that is common to all the main characters. Everyone wants to be royalty, whether by birth or conquest, it didn't matter. Territories and crowns all over Europe shifted back and forth, it must have been terrible for the common people to never know who was really in charge at any given time! Add to that the machinations of the Church as well.

"There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark."


Annael
Immortal


Jul 15 2014, 3:44pm

Post #3 of 32 (277 views)
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Cosmos & Psyche by Rick Tarnas [In reply to] Can't Post

I've going to be reading this for a LOOOONG time. I have to stop and think after almost every sentence, so I get through about 2 pages per day. And it's over 400 pages long.

Having re-read "Paladin of Souls" I had to go back and start "Curse of Chalion" all over. I'm reading it very slowly too (but more quickly than Tarnas!) to revel in Bujold's gift of description. My own writing tends towards the terse (years of technical writing) and I'm thinking that I need to spend some time every day just describing something in writing, as completely as I can. I'm also reveling in her ability to create such complete characters, but I suspect that's a gift, not a learned skill.

To be sane we must recognize our beliefs as fictions.

- James Hillman, Healing Fiction

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Jul 15 2014, 8:52pm

Post #4 of 32 (283 views)
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William Shakespeare's "The Jedi Doth Return", "Halestorm", "Thomasina", more Theodore Parker [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been eagerly awaiting "The Jedi Doth Return" and had it pre-ordered for several months. I was thrilled when it arrived. It's just as great as the other two volumes. It's not only an amusing concept, but it's very well done, all in iambic pentameter (except for Yoda, who speaks in haiku, and a few other characters.) I cried at the death of Darth Vader, something I never did in all my watchings of the movie. I didn't like the speech he chose for the Ewoks, but other than that it was perfect. And the bibliophile in me loves the physical book itself: the boards are printed to look like an old leather book, the dustcover has a lovely woodcut of Jabba in Elizabethan clothes, and there are more yummy woodcuts inside.

I bought the e-book of "Halestorm" by Becky Akers despite the warnings of folks on the forum where I found out about it that "this will make you want to stab the author." Sadly, it turned out to be true. It's a romance novel based loosely on the life of Nathan Hale, someone I've been interested in most of my life. The writing was OK, but she apparently based it more on the ridiculous 1899 play "Nathan Hale" by Clyde Fitch, which is a melodrama featuring a Snidely Whiplash-type villain named Guy Fitzroy. Aker's made-up villain was named Guy something else, but was the same kind of character. I loved some of this book, the scenes of Hale teaching school, for example, which is what made the rest of it so disappointing. The heroine, who is a real historical person, was made into a complete ninny who did things the real person never even came close to doing (like going to New York to try to find Nathan and inadvertently betraying him to his death. In real life she was at home in Connecticut making homespun cloth and candles and stuff). But what drove me wild were the anarchist speeches the author put into Hale's mouth, and her afterword trashing the US Constitution.

I cheered myself up by reading Paul Gallico's lovely book "Thomasina: the cat who thought she was a god". The Disney movie I mentioned last week was based on this book. It's out of print, but I found a used copy (I may have one already but I couldn't locate it in my overstuffed library at home). What can I say? This is one of those books I read over and over and never tire of, the story of a dour widowed veterinarian in a Scottish village, his daughter, the daughter's cat, and "Daft Lori" who lives in a cottage in the woods. The writing is lyrical and wonderful. I can't figure out why it's out of print.


And I've been reading more Theodore Parker, despite the thrashing I got over him on TORn last week. Here's a quote I stumbled upon the other day. You can see why Martin Luther King Jr. found his writings inspiring: "It requires very little courage to fight with sword and musket, and that of a cheap kind..It requires little courage to kill, but it takes much to resist evil with good, holding obstinately out, active or passive, till you overcome it. Call that non-resistance, if you will; it is the stoutest kind of combat, demanding all the manhood of a man."


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



(This post was edited by Aunt Dora Baggins on Jul 15 2014, 8:58pm)


Na Vedui
Rohan


Jul 15 2014, 10:53pm

Post #5 of 32 (264 views)
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Thomasina [In reply to] Can't Post

I have that too!
Do you know his other cat book, "Jennie"?


Meneldor
Valinor


Jul 16 2014, 12:31am

Post #6 of 32 (262 views)
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Sharpe's Eagle [In reply to] Can't Post

by Bernard Cromwell. I've heard about Sharpe for decades, and finally got around to checking out the first one. It's pretty good, if you're into Napoleonic sword and musket battles. I'm hoping the characters develop more later in the series.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


DaughterofLaketown
Gondor


Jul 16 2014, 3:31am

Post #7 of 32 (255 views)
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I am past half way in Storm of Swords [In reply to] Can't Post

And loving it. Best book by far. I am definitely a converted GoT fan.Smile


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Jul 16 2014, 4:11am

Post #8 of 32 (247 views)
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No, but I'll lok for it. Thanks! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Kim
Valinor


Jul 16 2014, 5:00am

Post #9 of 32 (251 views)
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The Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness [In reply to] Can't Post

I just finished reading this in preparation for the third book in the All Souls trilogy that was released today, The Book of Life. I really love this series and these characters, and just started in on the new one tonight, so that will be my book for the next several days. Heart


I tried to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell a few years ago, and just couldn't get very far into it. Something about the way she incorporated magic into the real world just didn't quite sit right with me.



"Jagatud rõõm on topelt rõõm - a shared joy is a double joy". ~Estonian saying


“As such, you will address His Majesty as His Majesty, the Lord of Silver Fountains, the King of Carven Stone, the King Beneath the Mountain, the Lion of Erebor, the High King of the Dwarves, the True Treasure of Erebor, the Face that Launched 10,000 Sighs, or Thorin the Majestic..."


http://newboards.theonering.net/...forum_view_collapsed


cats16
Valinor


Jul 16 2014, 5:30am

Post #10 of 32 (247 views)
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Emma [In reply to] Can't Post

About 60 pages in so far. I wasn't immediately hooked, but now I'm finding myself enjoying it more than I thought I would.

Reading Sartre's No Exit soon, as well. And perhaps Kant after that. Smile

(And continuing Thoreau's journals when I can. A great before-bed book to read.)


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 16 2014, 12:17pm

Post #11 of 32 (241 views)
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I love the All Souls books! [In reply to] Can't Post

My copy of The Book of Life is due on Friday from Amazon, and I can't wait to start it.


Annael
Immortal


Jul 16 2014, 1:51pm

Post #12 of 32 (240 views)
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I couldn't finish Jonathan Strange either . . . [In reply to] Can't Post

and now I remember absolutely nothing about the book other than that I got bored.

I like Harkness's books well enough, but alas she's guilty of one of my biggest bugaboos, authorial intrusion: adding on a comment after a character has said or done something to explain to the reader what they are thinking. Takes me out of the story every time. (I've just realized that it's like breaking the fourth wall in a play or filmed show.)

To be sane we must recognize our beliefs as fictions.

- James Hillman, Healing Fiction

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


Magpie
Immortal


Jul 16 2014, 1:55pm

Post #13 of 32 (237 views)
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I finished American Gods and started Skin Game [In reply to] Can't Post

It will be interesting to see what they do with American Gods as a tv series.

And I'm only a few pages into Skin Game so I'm not fully engaged in it yet. My son bought some of the Codex Alera books and said they were just as addicting as the Dresden Files.

I had dreams of sitting in the backyard or in a park reading all summer but I forgot the major component of summer in Minnesota: mosquitoes. And with all this flooding, the bugs have been bad.


LOTR soundtrack website ~ magpie avatar gallery
TORn History Mathom-house ~ Torn Image Posting Guide


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jul 16 2014, 2:16pm

Post #14 of 32 (233 views)
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I didn't think I'd like Strange and Norrell [In reply to] Can't Post

I reached a point about 100 pages in where I thought, well, maybe I'll give up. But I kept reading (mainly because it reads very quickly) and so was drawn in to the rest of the story. Who knows what will ring your chimes?

I DID like the depiction of magic, the way it interleaved with the real world. Except it wasn't really the real world, if you see what I mean Tongue

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....


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jul 16 2014, 2:18pm

Post #15 of 32 (232 views)
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My husband's read all of those [In reply to] Can't Post

He enjoyed them, but he's probably not as picky as I am about character, etc. However, there's nothing wrong with a good action-adventure series.

Have you seen the dramatizations with Sean Bean as Sharpe?

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


Jul 16 2014, 2:30pm

Post #16 of 32 (231 views)
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Just ordered "Fable" [In reply to] Can't Post

it's available through resellers on amazon. Most are in the UK but I found a "good" copy for $2 in the US (which will be $6 with shipping, still a good deal). Planning to pass it on to my dad (who is half Scots) after I read it.

To be sane we must recognize our beliefs as fictions.

- James Hillman, Healing Fiction

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jul 16 2014, 2:39pm

Post #17 of 32 (229 views)
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I'm glad you found a copy! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a book that deserves much wider recognition, I think.

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....


Elberbeth
Tol Eressea


Jul 16 2014, 4:36pm

Post #18 of 32 (223 views)
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I enjoy this series and have read it more than once [In reply to] Can't Post

As I am really interested in that time period. Sharpe's Eagle, though, is well into the series. Sharpe's Tiger is the first one.

"There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark."


Meneldor
Valinor


Jul 16 2014, 8:20pm

Post #19 of 32 (219 views)
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I believe Sharpe's Eagle was published first. [In reply to] Can't Post

And who in their right mind would watch the Star Wars movies starting with The Phantom Menace? Tongue
I haven't seen any of the Sean Bean Sharpe TV shows. According to the reviews on Netflix, a lot of viewers are annoyed by the electric guitar score. That's usually a big turn off for me in a period movie. Does anyone here think they're worth watching?


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


Meneldor
Valinor


Jul 16 2014, 8:41pm

Post #20 of 32 (214 views)
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Command [In reply to] Can't Post

Another of Stockwin's Kydd novels. As you may guess by the title, Kydd has moved up to captaincy of his own vessel, a little 16 gun brig. But all he worked for is quickly lost by the catastrophe of a declaration of peace with France. Frown


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jul 16 2014, 8:48pm

Post #21 of 32 (215 views)
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Well... [In reply to] Can't Post

My husband and I enjoyed the dramatizations. Bean is good, and the relationship between him and his---I believe he's a sergeant, an Irish guy, whose name I cannot now remember---at any rate, it's well done. They use "Over the Hills and Far Away" as the theme, which is quite appropriate, with the occasional electric guitar passage. Yes, they're are a bit odd, but while I normally object to that sort of thing, it didn't bother me here.

Maybe you can try the first one, which I believe is Sharpe's Rifles, while keeping your expectations fairly low.

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....


Kim
Valinor


Jul 16 2014, 10:59pm

Post #22 of 32 (207 views)
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Yay! [In reply to] Can't Post

We'll have to chat about it next week - I really have no idea how she's going to wrap up the series. Are you on Goodreads? I just saw that Deborah Harkness is doing a Q&A session next week, 6-7 PM EDT on Thursday, July 31st. I won't be able to participate, although maybe I can send in a question in advance after I've finished the book (which I fully intend to by this weekend).



"Jagatud rõõm on topelt rõõm - a shared joy is a double joy". ~Estonian saying


“As such, you will address His Majesty as His Majesty, the Lord of Silver Fountains, the King of Carven Stone, the King Beneath the Mountain, the Lion of Erebor, the High King of the Dwarves, the True Treasure of Erebor, the Face that Launched 10,000 Sighs, or Thorin the Majestic..."


http://newboards.theonering.net/...forum_view_collapsed


Magpie
Immortal


Jul 16 2014, 11:26pm

Post #23 of 32 (211 views)
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I think the first season was spectacular [In reply to] Can't Post

I loved it so much that I've watched every episode produced since although the quality went downhill a bit - more at some times than at others - over the years.

One thing I love is the diegetic music: that music that originates from the action on screen. One of Sharpe's men is played by folk singer John Tams. I love his voice and he sings often (as well as a few other characters here and there). It's always natural and part of the mood or setting. I have the official soundtrack as well as my personally recording off almost every song sung on the show from the DVDs.

The theme song uses an electric guitar and I guess the score does as well. I love folk music and I might have cringed a few times but honestly, I don't notice it at all now. It's part of the charm of the show in general. And I think people who overly fuss over stuff like that either don't really like the show to begin with so there is no 'forgiveness' in their heart (meant without malice) or they just love to grouse.

I would totally suggest you watch them.


LOTR soundtrack website ~ magpie avatar gallery
TORn History Mathom-house ~ Torn Image Posting Guide


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 17 2014, 12:26am

Post #24 of 32 (208 views)
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I saw that. [In reply to] Can't Post

I won't be able to participate either. She's also coming to a bookstore near me, but I'm out of town for that too. Unsure

I might not get it finished by next week, but I'll start it for sure. It's due to arrive on Tuesday, and I'm out of town until Wednesday night. I might give in to temptation and get the kindle version so I can have it right away. Smile


Dame Ioreth
Tol Eressea


Jul 17 2014, 11:17am

Post #25 of 32 (199 views)
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I absolutely love these two books. [In reply to] Can't Post

The description of Cazaril seeing the walls of the city after traveling by foot for months after being released from captivity... it stayed with me so that I get the book out just to read that paragraph. I could feel how sore he was, how exhausted but also how much he yearned for his old home, no matter what the welcome. When I grow up I want to write a paragraph like that one. Amazing!

I loved the Sharing Knife series also. She created another completely new world for those 4 books.



Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings





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