Reading: Every Heart A Doorway

Jul. 20th, 2017 07:40 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
Seanan McGuire's Hugo-nominated novella Every Heart a Doorway is a school story with a twist: it's set in a boarding school specifically catering to young people who have visited the kind of other worlds familiar to readers of portal fantasy novels and who are struggling to adapt to real life on their return (most of the students at the school in this book long to return to their fantasy worlds, though we are told that there is a sister institution catering for those who need help to forget their more traumatic travels). Disbelieving parents send their children to the school hoping that they will receive therapy and recover from their breakdowns, but instead the school supports its students in understanding and integrating their experiences while still allowing them to hope that they will find their doors again one day.

The story mainly follows Nancy, who has returned from a sojourn in the Halls of the Dead with a preternaturally developed ability to stand still and a penchant for dressing in gauzy black and white clothing, to the distress of her parents who want their old daughter back. Shortly after Nancy's arrival at the school the first in a series of gruesome murders occurs; suspicion falls on Nancy, as a new girl and one whose world was a underworld, and she and a small group of other students have to work together to discover who the real murderer is. The murder mystery plot is really only a Macguffin, though (and I thought it was quite obvious from very early on who the murderer was); the book is really an exploration of identity and belonging, as the students try to deal with having found and lost worlds where they felt that they belonged much more than they ever had at home (each student went to a different world, uniquely suited to that individual). It's easy to see Nancy's parents' rejection of the changes in their daughter as parallelling more conventional rejections by parents' of their children's developing tastes and views. Identity politics writ larger also feature; Nancy explicitly identifies as asexual, while one of the friends she makes is a trans boy who was expelled from the fairyland he travelled to when he was discovered to be a prince and not the princess they thought he was.

Some of the reviews I'd read online had made me worry that this was going to be preachy, or at least a bit cringily identity-politics-by-numbers, but in fact I didn't find it that way at all; it was interesting, sensitive and thoughtful. I wasn't completely convinced by the way the murder plot was resolved, which seemed to owe rather more to the conventions of the students' fantasy worlds than to the real world in which the story takes place, but generally I really enjoyed the book and can absolutely see why it has won and been nominated for so many awards.

Reading: The Saltmarsh Murders

Jul. 19th, 2017 07:41 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
I picked up Gladys Mitchell's The Saltmarsh Murders in the Oxfam bookshop, because I'm always interested to try new-to-me 1930s detective stories, and grabbed it off the top of my to-read pile last week when I was looking for an easy read to follow To Lie With Lions.

The Saltmarsh Murders is the fourth of 66 detective novels featuring Mrs Beatrice Lestrange Bradley, psychiatrist and amateur sleuth. In this novel, she turns her attention to the death of a young woman who has recently given birth to an illegitimate baby (and the disappearance of the baby) in the South Coast village of Saltmarsh, where she was paying a visit when the murder was discovered. She is aided in this by Noel Wells, the slightly dim curate of the village. Noel also narrates the novel in a first-person style which clearly owes a lot to Wodehouse, who he mentions being a fan of.

I wasn't sure the Bertie Wooster-esque narrative was a natural choice for a detective novel, and Noel is a very sloppy narrator, with events coming out of sequence in a way that made it quite hard to follow the plot at times. The book also features a black character and contains the kind of period-typical attitudes to and language about race that are pretty hard for a modern reader to stomach, as well as some period-typical attitudes to class and a couple of incidences of painfully rendered yokel accents. Most of the characters felt very two-dimensional, with the only one who really took on any life at all being the village madwoman, Mrs Gatty, and I didn't actually find the mystery plot particularly compelling. I don't think I'll be seeking out any more of Mitchell's books (although I think I might have at least one more that I bought as a Kindle bargain years ago...).

I miss Broadway!

Jul. 18th, 2017 10:28 pm
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[personal profile] litlover12
 Just back from a long weekend in New York City! Could have stayed FOREVER. I needed that vacation, and I enjoyed the theater so so much. The best show we saw was a 1940s-era musical called Bandstand, with swing music and a really great story about returning vets. (Go listen to the music at Spotify or Amazon Prime or wherever people listen to music these days, I can't keep up with technology.) We stagedoored afterward and everything. SO MUCH FUN. There's really nothing better or more rejuvenating than fangirling!

(no subject)

Jul. 16th, 2017 11:41 am
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[personal profile] white_hart
I am assuming, from the amount of anxiety I'm currently feeling about who the new Doctor will be, that I am generally not as OK as I would like to think I am.

Wibbleage )

Book Meme!

Jul. 15th, 2017 12:26 pm
liseuse: (books and personality)
[personal profile] liseuse
I know, I know, I don't post for ages and then it's a meme. I snagged this from [personal profile] magnetic_pole. Statements which are applicable to me have been bolded!

1. You currently own more than 20 books.
Ahahaha, yeahhhh.

2. You currently own more than 50 books.
Ahem.

3. You currently own more than 100 books.
I do! I mean I did cull my book collection considerably when I moved house but it never got below 100 and it's growing again.

4. You amassed so many books you switched to an e-reader.

5. You read so much you have a ton of books AND an e-reader.
I am a big fan of my ereader - mostly because I like to try and read lots of longlists and the library quite frequently has them split between its paper and ebook collections, also I like to read massive novels and it's good to be able to have them on my ereader so that I can read them on public transport more easily.

6. You have a book-organization system no one else understands.

7. You’re currently reading more than one book.
Always. I think I've got three on the go right now?

8. You read every single day.
Well, I try to.

9. You’re reading a book right now, as you’re taking this book nerd quiz.

10. Your essentials for leaving the house: wallet, phone, keys, and a book.

11. You’ve pulled an all-nighter reading a book.

12. You did not regret it for a second and would do it again.
Well, I have been known to regret it when I'm trying to stay awake at my desk, but I know full well I'll do it again.

13. You’ve figured out how to incorporate books into your workout.

14. You’ve declined invitations to social activities in order to stay home and read.
Yes, but I probably didn't say that to the person whose invitation I turned down.

15. You view vacation time as “catch up on reading” time.
More "carry on with reading" time.

16. You’ve sat in a bathtub full of tepid water with prune-y skin because you were engrossed in a book.

17. You’ve missed your stop on the bus or the train because you were engrossed in a book.

18. You’ve almost tripped over a pothole, sat on a bench with wet paint, walked into a telephone pole, or narrowly avoided other calamities because you were engrossed in a book.

19. You’ve laughed out loud in public while reading a book.

20. You’ve cried in public while reading a book (it’s okay, we won’t tell).

21. You’re the one everyone goes to for book recommendations.
Eh, kinda. If people are after literary fiction or fantasy recommendations, then yes.

22. You take your role in recommending books very seriously and worry about what books your friends would enjoy.
Recommending books is harrowing! What if they don't enjoy a book you loved!

23. Once you recommend a book to a friend, you keep bugging them about it.

24. If your friend doesn’t like the book you recommended, you’re heartbroken.

25. And you judge them. A little bit.

26. In fact, whenever you and a friend disagree about a book you secretly wonder what is wrong with them.

27. You’ve vowed to convert a non-reader into a reader.

28. And you’ve succeeded.

29. You’ve attended book readings, launches, and signings.

30. You own several signed books.

31. You would recognize your favorite authors on the street.

32. In fact, you have.

33. If you could have dinner with anybody in the world, you’d choose your favorite writer.

34. You own a first-edition book.
I own a few but only because I bought them cheap from the charity shop. I'm not fussed about editions.

35. You know what that is and why it matters to bibliophiles.

36. You tweet, post, blog, or talk about books every day.

37. You have a “favorite” literary prize.
I love the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

38. And you read the winners of that prize every year.
I try to read the entire longlist every year.

39. You’ve recorded every book you’ve ever read and what you thought of it.

40. You have a designated reading nook in your home.

41. You have a literary-themed T-shirt, bag, tattoo, or item of home décor.

42. You gave your pet a literary name.

43. You make literary references and puns nobody else understands.

44. You’re a stickler for spelling and grammar, even when you’re just texting.

45. You’ve given books as gifts for every occasion: birthdays, Valentine’s Day, graduations, Tuesdays...

46. Whenever someone asks what your favorite book is, your brain goes into overdrive and you can’t choose just one. You end up naming twelve books.

47. You love the smell of books.

48. You’ve binge-read an entire series or an author’s whole oeuvre in just a few days.

49. You’ve actually felt your heart rate go up while reading an incredible book.

50. When you turn the last page of a good book, you feel as if you’ve finally come up for air and returned from a great adventure.

Reading: To Lie With Lions

Jul. 15th, 2017 11:09 am
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[personal profile] white_hart
The sixth of Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolò books brings to a conclusion the phase of Nicholas's life sparked by the devastating events of the ending of Scales of Gold. In many ways it felt as though this and The Unicorn Hunt were two halves of one very long book rather than two separate instalments of the series, which I think probably partly explains why I felt that The Unicorn Hunt's plot seemed to meander rather if it was mainly setup for the next book. I feel similarly about The Disorderly Knights and Pawn in Frankincense in the Lymond series, and although the ending of To Lie With Lions isn't quite as cataclysmic as the end of Pawn in Frankincense, or indeed Scales of Gold, it leaves Nicholas in a similar place to Lymond at the end of that book; isolated, friendless and being taken to an unknown destination.

The centrepiece of this book is Nicholas's voyage to Iceland, culminating in a haunting, nightmarish winter journey across country in the face of an imminent volcanic eruption, and a subsequent description of the eruption itself, which are definitely up with the Sahara journey in Scales of Gold and the winter journey in Russia in The Ringed Castle among the most amazing of Dunnett's descriptive passages. The novel then gathers pace and ramps up the tension towards the dénouement, which does the typical Dunnett thing of shining a new light on so many things and radically changing the reader's understanding of both Nicholas's and other characters' natures and motivations, and even if I had guessed the identity of "Egidius", the third Vatachino partner (mostly because Pat McIntosh's Gilbert Cunningham mysteries include a character with the same first name and nickname as the "Egidius" in Dunnett's books, almost certainly as a tribute to Dunnett) there were still plenty of surprises among the revelations.

Only two more to go, although then I'm sure that both the Lymond and Niccolò books would benefit from a re-read; there's so much in them that only makes sense once you have got to the end. Also, I have just bought a secondhand copy of King Hereafter, as it isn't available for Kindle. Though right now I think I need to read something a lot less emotionally demanding for a while.
newredshoes: Dottie laughing on the grass (peaches | this thing you love)
[personal profile] newredshoes
SO MANY BIRTHDAY MESSAGES yesterday! THANK YOU to all, for the texts, emails, FB posts, tweets and videos. Friends are amazing! You are great and I am so lucky! ♥

It was probably my most low-key birthday ever, and I'm fine with that -- it was still glorbious. I'd basically already bought all my presents for myself; in the morning, I made an actual effort to, like, work, for money and prestige, but my eyes gave up on my laptop screen and I just went off to Park Slope to wander for a bit and get some personal-project writing done.

The real highlight was meeting up with [personal profile] kaydeefalls for ramen at the best ramen hole-in-the-wall in New York, which she also introduced me to when I first moved here. I then tried every bright/outlandish/glittery lipstick in the Union Square MAC store (on my hand; most of it didn't come off) -- fun. Finally, we saw Spider-Man: Homecoming, a film I was groaning about when Spidey was (admittedly delightfully) shoehorned into Civil War last year. But like -- holy shit, I think that was actually the best Marvel movie that's not Winter Soldier??? HOLY SHIT, IT WAS JUST SO GREAT AND GOOD. I enjoyed it so much!!

Meanwhile, apparently I am getting political birthday presents from the Trump family? Oh my god, what on earth is even happening today, with Donnie Jr. literally tweeting the emails that show him trying to collude with the Russian government and failing?????!? I've spent most of this morning glued to Twitter and strongly contemplating a stress-nap ("My man actually Reynolds Pamphleted himself!" thank you, [twitter.com profile] eparillon). The other part of the morning I spent being vindicated and then increasingly horrified as my building super peeled away layers of paint to reveal a BIG FUCKOFF PIT OF ROTTED DRYWALL in my living room, as I've been saying for more than two years!!

And to conclude, wow, 33 is some ride so far, holy cats.

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