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26 February 2014 @ 06:18 am
Wednesday Reading  
A few of my current reads--have you read any of these? What did you think?

Besides the above, I've got a bunch of non-fictions going, among them Wicked River: the Mississippi by Lee Sandlin, Defender of the Faith: Suleyman the Magnificent and the Battle for Europe 1520-1536, by James Reston, Jr., and Mary Beard's Confronting the Classics.

What are you reading--come and share!
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Chiara Castelnuovo-McKenziecmcmck on February 26th, 2014 02:50 pm (UTC)
The book on Suleyman sounds intriguing.

I'm in the middle of Nicolas le Roux's: 'Le roi, la Cour, L'Etat: de la Renaissance a L'absolutisme' about French monarchy and court during the wars of religion.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 04:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, I wish I could get my French up to good reading speed!
Profiterole: Nightrunner - Seregil and Alec_profiterole_ on February 26th, 2014 02:56 pm (UTC)
Lots of love for Ancillary Justice, both in terms of gender identity representation and in terms of AI science fiction! :-)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 04:22 pm (UTC)
YES!
your_insomnia: glassesyour_insomnia on February 26th, 2014 05:20 pm (UTC)
Added this to my to-read list so quick, you have no idea!
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 05:21 pm (UTC)
:-)
Profiterole: Kuroko no Basuke - Kagami and Kuroko_profiterole_ on February 26th, 2014 05:22 pm (UTC)
Yay! :-)
Edward Greavestemporus on February 26th, 2014 03:44 pm (UTC)
I'm in the middle of three books.

Beth Bernobich had pointed out an article that made me take stock in recent reading habits, and I realized that out of 9 books so far this year, 8 were by men, the last an anthology. So taking stock, I decided to counter-balance that somewhat, by simply putting some more books by women into the front of my queue. Thus:

Audio: Among Others, by Jo Walton. Absolutely loving it. And the reader is great. My wife has already read this one, and I recalled her talking about how good it was, and now I see why it particularly resonated with her. (Female that loves reading and SF, who went to a boarding school...yeah, no point of connection for her there.) My wife mentioned that it would be a great reading list for a book club to review all the books mentioned in this one.

Print: Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes. Liking it so far. Only about 1/3 through, because I have less dedicated time to sit and read than I would like. I'm intrigued by the world building and the concepts, and I want to see where this is going.

Bedtime reading: The Borrowers, by Mary Norton. Reading this one to my sons at bedtime. They have passing familiarity with this, as we've seen the Studio Ghibli movie based upon it, though the differences are many. But, that familiarity is helping them keep interested, since for my younger son, it's rather long and dense writing with few enough pictures. (I suspect my older son is impatient that my reading aloud isn't as fast as his normal reading pace.) I'm liking the story, and might pick up some more in the series. But I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed in the ebook that I have. The pictures when it has them are off, and not of good quality. And I suspect they did not proofread/copyedit this ebook. I see a lot of errors that make me suspect they used an OCR to convert the scanned in text, and didn't bother to fix any errors. I've seen things like 'rime' instead of 'time' often enough to make me flinch. Reading it out loud to the kids, I can fix this on the fly. If I had just given the kindle book to my older son to read (he's fully capable of doing it on his own if he wanted at this point) I'm not sure what he'd think of these errors. Would he think the author meant rime? Would he try to imagine what that word meant? Figure it out in context? (That's often how I learned a lot of words at his age.) It's a bit disappointing, because the setting is sufficiently removed from their experience that I do find myself having to occasionally pause to explain things. Both from the context that it's set in Britain, and the fact that it's set in the 19th century. So these introduced errors would make the book unnecessarily more complicated for them, if they were to read it on their own. I think if I choose to follow this up with any more books in the series, I'm going to opt to see about taking them out of the library instead of buying more of the ebooks.

On Deck Print: Night Owls, by Lauren M. Roy. Yeah, I'm excited to read stuff by my VP cohort.

On Deck Audio: The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. I don't know a whole lot about this one, but I'd heard good things. So when it went on sale, I snagged it.

And that's probably a ton more detail than anyone wants to know. But, there it is.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 04:24 pm (UTC)
The Sparrow, I think, is more Dorothy Dunnett fanfic-- a slapdash world put together precisely so the hero can be tortured. But written by a very intelligent woman (who really does NOT understand the Roman Catholic religion at all.) YMMV.

Must take a look at Night Owls!
anna_wing on February 27th, 2014 07:39 am (UTC)
She didn't know anything about the UN, either. I thought it was a dreadful book. No-one in it was behaving in any kind of sensible way at all (no Jesuit of my acquaintance would ever be that silly! There is a considerable IQ and sanity requirement for becoming one!)and as you say the world-building was sloppy.
wild_patiencewild_patience on February 27th, 2014 04:56 am (UTC)
I forgot about audio books! I listened to Stephen King's CARRIE in the car. I hadn't read it in decades. When we were last in LA, I bought the revised form of the musical, and I really liked it, so I thought I would go back to the original text and see how they compare.

I've also been listening to Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices trilogy. I'm on book 3 of that, enjoying it a lot.
whswhs: pic#67542548whswhs on February 26th, 2014 03:52 pm (UTC)
Most of my current reading is duty reads: Proposed nominees for the Libertarian Futurist Society's Best Novel award, which I have to vote on in March. I got through three in the past week or so, and have a couple more ahead.

My main pleasure reading over the same time span was Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the "Little House" books, and—some claim—developmental editor of those books, to the point of being a co-creator). Lane is one of the "three furies of libertarianism," but whereas the other two—Isabel Paterson and Ayn Rand—were the closest of friends for many years, Lane seems to have had little to do with them. (Anne Heller's book on Rand mentions her only twice: once as a friend of Paterson and once for a single meeting with Rand.) I finally read her The Discovery of Freedom, a much more historically oriented book than either of the other two wrote, with long passages about early Israel and pre-Turkish Islam as unusually free societies, along with a lengthy discussion of English feudalism (which seems to fit in with more recent work by David Hackett Fischer, Alan MacFarlane, and Emmanuel Todd). I also was able to track down her less well-known Travels with Zenobia (co-written with Helen Dore Boylston, author of the Sue Barton books—I was surprised to learn that the two of them were close friends for a decade or more), which recounts their road trip from Paris to Albania in the early 1920s ("Zenobia" was the name of their Ford). Interestingly, the story of how they bought the Ford in Paris, and all the administrative hoops they had to jump through, is told in The Discovery of Freedom, though Boylston's name isn't given there. (This is kind of like reading the passages where Tolkien and Lewis both describe the discussion that brought Lewis back to Christianity, neither naming the other.)

I have three books on order through the local library—the new Pratchett, an alien first contact novel by James Cambias (there's a blurb by Vernor Vinge praising it highly, which got my notice, as I consider Vinge's alien contact stories among the best I've read), and a book by Elizabeth Wayland Barber on the prehistory of European folk dance. They're incredibly slow to arrive; the reorganization of the library consequent on the building of the new main library downtown seems to have made the actual operation of the library less efficient. I think C. Northcote Parkinson had a theory about this in one of his books. . . . Of course the Pratchett will take a while to get onto the library shelves, so that's not a fair test.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 05:23 pm (UTC)
I've heard of Travels with Zenobia I might have to get that--I had such a deep, deep pleasure from Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts.
suzanna_osuzanna_o on February 26th, 2014 04:51 pm (UTC)
I just ordered Ancillary Justice. Thanks for sharing your recommendations!
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 05:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading!
puddlesharkpuddleshark on February 26th, 2014 05:49 pm (UTC)
Currently re-reading Jane Eyre and renewing acquaintance with Mr Brocklehurst, as unpleasant and hypocritical a Christian gentleman as one could wish to meet with in 19th century literature.

Recently finished The Maker's Mask by Ankaret Wells, a fast-moving fantasy/sci-fi of manners complete with swords, deadly insults and a socially inept scientist. Great fun.

Also finished Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. Described as "Framley Parsonage with dragons". I loved it - the Trollope references are enormous fun, and the dragons make superb Victorians.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 06:01 pm (UTC)
I love all three of those!
serialbabbler on February 26th, 2014 05:50 pm (UTC)
I just finished reading Five go to Smuggler's Top by Enid Blyton. I picked it up because a lot of my UK friends kept talking about how much they loved "The Famous Five" when they were kids and I was curious. (The bit with Georgina who goes by George always getting "mistaken" for a boy is ummm... interesting. I'm pretty sure I would've found that aspect of the story annoying as a kid since it pissed me off when people thought I was a boy for no other reason than that I wasn't wearing a dress.)

Currently I'm reading:

Wit's End by Karen Joy Fowler. (Funny. I might pick up some of her other books.)

and Fenzig's Fortune by Jean Rabe. (The main character's verbal tic is getting on my nerves, yes indeed. :) Otherwise it's fairly interesting so far.)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 06:02 pm (UTC)
I still haven't read any Famous Five. When I was a kid our library only had the Adventure series, which I read and reread fiercely.

The "George" sounds like a borrowing from one of her school stories.
serialbabbler on February 26th, 2014 11:34 pm (UTC)
This is the first time I've ever read anything by Blyton. Either my local library didn't have any of her writing (which wouldn't totally surprise me) or the titles didn't appeal to me. I think the writing is pretty good for a 1940s children's series so I might pick up more of her books if I see them around. :)

I suspect what would have bothered me about George is the "Tee-hee, she's doing everything she can to appear masculine including insisting on the masculine version of her name, but I can't imagine why anybody would think she was a boy!" element. I actually read quite a lot of books with girls who pretended to be boys so that they could do all the interesting things boys were allowed to do or avoid the dangers of appearing as a vulnerable girl when I was a kid and those were usually fine. (One of my favorites was A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner. Probably because it was set in a choir school and some of the focus actually was on music. I'm sure the historical details were typically inaccurate. :D )
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 27th, 2014 01:01 am (UTC)
Blyton I find readable in a cozy way, but oh, when I was ten, I just loved her stuff so passionately.
birdsedgebirdsedge on February 28th, 2014 06:00 pm (UTC)
Aaargh... Enid Blyton! Double aaargh! There were just so damn many of them. Yes I read some Famous Five and Secret Seven when I was a kid. Luckily I passed throiugh the phase fairly quickly, but as a children's librarian in the 1970s I used to get kids that were stuck on Blyton and wouldn't try anything else.

If you like classic 1940s/50s children's lit may I recommend Monica Edwards, in particular her Romney Marsh books beginning with Wish For a Pony, but gradually developing an ensemble cast of characters by the time she gets to book number three, The Midnight Horse. He characters included not only children, but also managed to weave in their parents and other adult characters in the tiny Sussex fishing village of Westling, based on the real life village of Rye Harbour in Sussex. One of her books, Storm Ahead, references a real incident. A local lifeboat goes down and some of the crew are lost. Monica Edwards' father was the vicar on-the-spot when the Mary Stanford of Rye went down at Rye Harbour with all lives lost (1928). He took the memorial service. Monica was a small child at the time, but it obviously stuck with her. http://www.winchelsea.com/msindex.html. There's a sonG http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9LRX_FqeEs
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 28th, 2014 06:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, those sound good. They might be tough to find (there are some Antonia Frasers I still have yet to get, they cost so much over here)
serialbabbler on February 28th, 2014 07:51 pm (UTC)
Her writing does look interesting. The only one I'd be able to get through the library here is The Valley and the Farm and that would be through inter-library loan. (So it's pretty much the only Monica Edwards book that's circulating in the whole state. Heh. There's also a non-circulating copy of Dolphin Summer.)

If I see any of the Romney Marsh books during one of my used book store trawls, I'll get it, though. :)
birdsedgebirdsedge on February 28th, 2014 08:47 pm (UTC)
The valley and the Farm is not a children's book but is (I think) an adult memoir. Dolphin Summer is one of her later Romney Marsh books with all the standard characters in. Her main character is Tamzin Grey, ably supported by her friend Rissa Birnie and Rissa's cousin Roger Lambert and Roger's slightly older friend, the somewhat dashing Meryon Fairbrass. IIRC the children are around ten in the first book. Meryon and Roger arrive in the third book and after that they age steadily until No Going Back deals with Tamzin and Meryon aged 14 and 16 (I think) realising that their childhood friendship has developed into something more. If it had been written 30 years later it would have no doubt have been YA with an exchange of bodily fluids at that point but this is a very gentle understated romance that continues to develop almost off the page. The romance is not the point of the story but Edwards reminds us that children do grow up. Dolphin Summer is set after No Going Back, but there's not much mention of Tamzin and Meryon's 'understanding'. There's a six year gap between Dolphin Summer and A Wind is Blowing, the last book in the series and much more relationship-centred and featuring Tamzin and meryon without Rissa and Roger. By 1969 the first few YA books were starting to be recognised as separate from what's now become categorised as middle-grade fiction.

If you read a little about Monica Edwards there was a young man on whom Meryon was based. He went off to university and died (an illness) aged 22. Maybe that's why she suddenly stopped writing about Tamsin and Meryon at the point where Meryon reaches university age, or maybe she felt that she'd suddenly taken them as far as she could in a children's book.

I felt gutted when I read that many years later. It was as if Meryon in the book - with whom I was probably 'in love' as a child - had died young with all the character's potential unfulfilled. Very sad. If anything could ever make me write fanfic it would have been to write to try and 'find out' what happened to those characters in later life.

As you can see, I read them as a child and they really stuck with me. One of the delightful things about re-reading them is that as an adult I really appreciate the way she treats her adullt characters. Usually - in Enid Blyton or Arthur Ransome or CS Lewis - the adult characters are disposed of quickly to let the children have unchecked adventures, but here the adults are worked around or incorporated. Jim Decks, the disreputable old ferryman actually kickstarts some of the adventures with his illicit small-time smuggling of French brandy or his innocent suggestion that the developers trying to turn the local castle into a holiday camp might be run off by the Night Riders - ghostly apparitions haunting the marsh by night.

I haven't read all the Punchbowl Farm stories. Though they are perfectly fine they are not 'my' characters, but I have made a point of collecting the whole set of Romney Marsh ones - some of which I've had since I was eight years old and others I've paid silly money for on ebay. There's a full list of Romney Marsh stories on the Monica edwards Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monica_Edwards

I write an appreciation of Monica Edwards in my blog here back in August 2011, prompted by one of Sherwood's posts: http://birdsedge.livejournal.com/175995.html

Edited at 2014-02-28 08:49 pm (UTC)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 28th, 2014 09:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the further explanation and the link!
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 28th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
Maybe if I ever get back to UK someday . . .
birdsedgebirdsedge on February 28th, 2014 11:43 pm (UTC)
I certainly hope you do. We're up in Yorkshire and we are always a 'safe house' for visiting musicians, so there's no reason why that can't extend to writers as well! :-). And it would be brilliant if you could ever make it to Milford. http://www.milfordSF.co.uk or to any British cons - Eastercon being the most literary, I think, or Fantasycon.

I think I already asked you about Worldcon in London this year and you said not. I can grok that. London is hellish expensive even for those of us who live in the UK, without adding transatlantic flights on top. I certainly won't be able to get to any US worldcons in future unless my book advances sky-rocket. (Fingers crossed for foreign rights deals!)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on March 1st, 2014 01:06 am (UTC)
I cannot tell you how much I wish I could afford it, but alas.
asakiyumeasakiyume on February 26th, 2014 06:45 pm (UTC)
I wrote a little about the two Zadie Smith stories I've just read, and I have *so* many more thoughts and questions, but seem unable to marshal them. I was thinking about genre labels again, and about expectations that go with them and about who you imitate and why. … I don't think you'd enjoy either of the two stories because they're kind of grim, although not, I'd say, unrelentingly so? But still more grim than you probably need to spend time on. What struck me about them was how even though I felt completely engaged, I at the same time felt--or maintained--a distance from the protagonists, I think because they weren't people I wanted to identify with. And I was thinking how i like to be closer to the protagonists; I'm happiest when I can be inside the protagonist and not feel self-loathing.

Wicked River sounds interesting; I think someone else I'm friends with on Goodreads has read it (maybe two people). How are you finding it?

Edited at 2014-02-26 06:45 pm (UTC)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 26th, 2014 06:49 pm (UTC)
Wicked River is vivid and fascinating. I recommend it!

Yeah, that doesn't sound like my cuppa at all. And I already have a toppling TBR pile.
klaetificat on February 26th, 2014 09:48 pm (UTC)
I'm going to read the Leckie as soon as my hold comes up at the library!
wild_patiencewild_patience on February 27th, 2014 04:54 am (UTC)
I just finished book 3 of the Darkover Clingfire Trilogy by Deborah J. Ross and MZB. (I know the credits on the book are the other way around, but this is how I think of it.)

I'm currently reading the latest J.D. Robb Eve Dallas "..in Death" books. What can I say -- not quite a guilty pleasure, but close.

I have a Sony Reader, and Sony is getting out of the ebook business real soon so I bought a bunch of stuff on my books-to-look-for list before they do. Kobo is going to take over the ebooks for the Sony.

I prefer my Sony Reader to my Nook, but I have that if I'm not happy with the Kobo set up.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 27th, 2014 05:28 am (UTC)
I had a Sony Reader, and liked it, but the handwriting seemed to be on the wall re longterm. Now I have the Kindle app on my iPad, and I love that. (And I read pubs with Ibooks)
Danny Adamsmadwriter on February 28th, 2014 04:17 am (UTC)
Wicked River is in the Top 5 of my reading list when I eventually start researching my Epic Mississippi River Historical Novel.
Danny Adamsmadwriter on February 28th, 2014 04:19 am (UTC)
And bless you for the happy shout-out about Camelot. :)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 28th, 2014 04:38 am (UTC)
It is really good so far!
birdsedgebirdsedge on February 28th, 2014 06:14 pm (UTC)
I'm reading Ancilliary Justice now. I'm enjoying it very much, but I'm not very far into it yet. I just finished Tom Pollock's The City's Son, which is excellent and well worth a read. There's a lot of very original stuff in it, rare in these days of urban fantasy featuring multiple rehashes of demons, angels, vampires and weres. These characters are of and from the fabric of the city itself. You'll never look at a crane the same way again, I promise you.

Edited at 2014-02-28 06:15 pm (UTC)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 28th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
I noted that on your blog, and made a note to check it out.