cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Coot Club, Arthur Ransome (re-read). Dick and Dorothea spend Easter with their mother’s old schoolteacher, an artist staying (with her pug, William) in a hired yacht on the Norfolk Broads, meet the Coot Club (who sail and protect the native birds from egg-stealers and imprudently parked motor boats) and learn to sail. I do love the way Ransome does competence and responsibility; he is very good at having his characters make mistakes and deal with the consequences (We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea, obviously, but just in this book, Tom’s setting the Margoletta adrift, and the Admiral’s decision to go into Breydon Water, and my personal favourite, Titty making the voodoo figure in Swallowdale).

He’s also the author who made me realise that parents were people, too; I think it’s in Swallowdale, again (I got this and Swallows and Amazons for, I think, my seventh birthday, and read them incessantly), where the children climb Kanchenjunga (the Coniston Old Man), and discover the record of their parents climbing it themselves, years earlier, and what they called it.

The Vine-Clad Hill, Mabel Esther Allan. Financially reduced Philippa agrees to accompany her wealthy Aunt Millicent to Switzerland, to help look after her three youngest children. The bits of this I really like are the lengthy process of travel from England to Switzerland, and exploring the area there; the other subplots, in which Philippa bonds with Tilda, the neglected middle child, gains the respect of the younger ones, and embarks on a tentative romance with a visiting Englishman (also at Cambridge, where Philippa herself is headed) are competent but predictable, which is probably the point.

Fly By Night, Frances Hardinge. I’ve read a lot of favourable reviews of her books. This is the first one I’ve read, and it didn’t really blow me away; I like the inventiveness of the world, I love Saracen (the goose) and the Cakes. Mosca herself (the lead) didn’t grab me all that much, and while the idea of the Shattered Realms appealed to me, the Birdcatchers didn’t.

At least one of the reviews compared Hardinge to Diana Wynne Jones. One of the things I love DWJ for, and didn’t get here, is seeing our world, but askew; forked (Witch Week), from an unexpected perspective (Power of Three) or with any number of odd additions, from The Ogre Downstairs to Archer’s Goon. The world of Fly by Night isn’t like that, whatever its basis. Having just checked her other books, I think the Hardinge I should try for next, therefore, is Verdigris Deep.

Assorted

Jul. 26th, 2013 09:54 pm
cyphomandra: (tamarillo)
I started my annual leave at midday on Wednesday, and since then I've read six books and rather a lot of fanfiction. Herewith the books, for starters; one good, the other five loosely clumped in descending order.

Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles. )

Brian Farrey, With or Without You. )

Linwood Barclay, Trust Your Eyes. )

Maria Padian, Out of Nowhere. )

Gordon Korman, Ungifted. )

Josie Brown, The Baby Planner. )
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
My book order from the Book Depository showed up on Friday, so yesterday I sat on the couch and read Elizabeth Wein's Rose Under Fire, another excellent WWII novel, this one about an American pilot working for the ATA who ends up in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. I will get back to that, and Ginn Hale's The Rifter, also excellent, when I have more time, but as I was on a roll yesterday I also finished the last of my (overdue) library books, Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles.

Let us pretend I am not spoiler-cutting for a narrative that is over two and a half thousand years old. )

Mercedes Lackey, Trio of Sorcery. Three shorts, a Diana Tregarde at college story (potentially interesting setup, too much explaining the obvious to like-minded individuals), a Jenny Talldeer I have totally blacked out, and a technomage story with a monster in a MMORPG that went exactly where you'd expect it to. This collection also comes with irritating forewords pointing out all the old technology, lack of smart phones and internet etc.

Dick Francis, Bonecrack. Sometimes, I want to read about a competent protagonist, emotionally guarded to the point of dysfunction, who is forced out of his comfort zone and has to be competent in an entirely different arena while fighting malevolent forces, suffering stoically through viciously personal assaults, and forging new functional (and unexpected, or at least non romantic) relationships. Horses a plus. This totally met all my needs.
cyphomandra: (tamarillo)
What I've just read:

Len Deighton's Mexico Set. Hmm. Bernard does make an impressive number of crashingly bad mistakes in this, not least of which is letting a helpful young woman into the cell with the KGB agent the French have just caught, to deliver a conveniently fatal cup of coffee. He does, however, prove to be capable of holding on to his position with grim determination despite the rather effective methods to frame him - methods largely devised by his wife, Fiona, who turned out to be a longstanding Soviet agent at the end of the last book.

Female characters in spy novels operate under a lot of unhelpful expectations and the ones here are as is traditional largely assessed in terms of their sex appeal, but it's reasonably clear that this is filtered through Bernard's not always accurate viewpoint, and the various women do get to act for their own ends - obviously Fiona, but here Bernard tries to seduce one of the admin workers, Gloria, who is blonde and has large breasts, and after she establishes he is doing this at least partly to back up an office boast she excuses herself briefly before getting him to drive her back home. When Bernard gets back, he finds out that she's cut all of his underwear in half and written "you are a bastard Mr Samson" in lipstick on the window. He is, but he does manage to be more and less than that as well.

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, a teenagers with cancer novel with real people in it. I liked a lot of this, but wasn't convinced by the book/author plot, and I did see the main other plot coming. Still. It did a lot of good things, and I liked it significantly more than Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and most importantly it managed to avoid stuffing up the ending.

About two million words of fluffy get-together slash fics, much of them featuring at least one protagonist who owns a cute fuzzy animal. It's been that sort of week.

What I'm reading now:

Tim Powers' Hide Me Among the Graves, vampires, Victorians, and the Rossetti family. There's a character with the surname Crawford and references to the Carbonari, and I can tell this is going to drive me buggy until I track down my copy of The Stress of Her Regard. I wasn't wild about Declare and never got through Three Days Til Never, but those may have been me.

What I expect to read next:

More comfort reading, although a few of my favourite Tim Powers books would be nice if I can find the right box.
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Anxiety disorders

Heidi Cullinan, Dirty Laundry. )

Ex-con

Sloan Parker, Breathe. )

Felicia Watson, Where the Allagheny meets the Monongahela. )

Ex-con meets person with anxiety disorder

J.D. Ruskin, When One Door Opens. )

Nates

Katie Porter, Came Upon a Midnight Clear. )

Sam B. Morgan, A Rookie Move. )

I also read Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, which I am completely unable to incorporate into any of these categories. It did remind me how much I liked the original Star Wars movies, though.
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
...but I have at last finished two of my outstanding overdues, thus delaying them a little.

What I've just read:

John Le Carré's The Looking Glass War, which was probably the most angry book I've read in a long time - it's a coldly furious dissection of British Intelligence as practised by people who are caught up in their own myths and departmental squabbles for status, and the inevitable human cost. Funny, in parts - Avery, the young star of the Department, is sent on a faked passport to Finland, to retrieve the body of another agent, and has been told to identify himself as the dead agent's half-brother, and the scene in which he does so only to be asked why the dead body's clothes all feature another name, and then fails to remember his supposed half-brother's age is hideously, embarrassingly, compelling. I'd like to know what happens to Avery after this book, actually; I'm not sure his disillusionment is survivable.

Jan Morris' Venice - I don't think I could ascribe a single dominant emotion to this. There's affection and admiration for the city, as well as a nostalgia for the departing present (much of it is written before Venice's recent tourism revival), but there's also a lot of spite, not always comfortably directed - "The important thing to know about the Murano glass makers is that almost everything that they make is, at least to my taste, perfectly hideous. This has always been so." is probably a fair cop, but "The British seem to me to provide the best of the men (often distinguished, frequently spare, sometimes agreeably individualist) and the worst of the women (ill tempered, hair unwashed, clothes ill fitting, snobby of embarrassingly flirtatious)" says a lot more about Morris than about the tourists. And, also, an odd absence at the heart of it all, as Morris is a participant who keeps insisting on being an observer - the bit where she's watching her son head off to school over a bridge struck me as very deliberately impersonal. I liked best the historical anecdotes, especially where Pepin invades the lagoon, and lands on Malamocco to interrogate the only remaining inhabitant, an elderly lady, about the best approach to the city itself. "Sempre diritto," she says, straight ahead, and Pepin's fleet promptly sails into a mudbar and the Venetian navy come out and pounce.

Also, m/m romances in which either the love interest has an anxiety disorder or they're an ex-con. No one's managed to combine both, but I have just finished one with an agoraphobic and the ex-con who's hired to deliver his groceries.

What I'm reading now: Amazon delivered my hard copies of Captive Prince with unexpected swiftness (nearly a month ahead of their projected dates, which has left me impressed but rather twitchy about their pretty appalling labour record). I read the first one yesterday and am happily sinking into the second.

What I expect to read next: I need to make a decision about the Len Deightons. Also, the Jan Morris was sublimating the fact that I want to reread Last Letters from Hav, and don't know which box it's in, so there might be another ransacking this weekend.

Two more

Jan. 24th, 2013 09:22 pm
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Lisa Henry, He is Worthy. Rome, 68AD, and the Emperor Nero is busy running the place into the ground with state-sanctioned murder and sexual decadence. Senna, a friend of Nero’s (one of the few he hasn’t turned against) has the job of telling patricians when they’ve lost Nero’s favour and need to kill themselves; he is sickened by what Nero has become, and recruits one of Nero’s new sex slaves, Aenor (a Bructeri trader) to kill Nero for him.

Lisa Henry, He is Worthy. )

Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton, Second Hand. This was just the right amount of sweet and fuzzy, much to my surprise (I read about half of it at the dog park, which was also the ideal setting). I had wondered whether combining these two authors would skew more towards explicit sex or total sap (Heidi Cullinan’s extremes), but instead it’s worked rather well, without my feeling too trapped by the small town setting (more of a Marie Sexton thing).

Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton, Second Hand. )
cyphomandra: vale from brotown looking put upon (give me strength)
T.A. Webb, Second Chances. This is a mess. I really only kept reading to see what the author came up with next. Otherwise it’s pretty much soap opera, angst, whiplash emotions and wish fulfilment, all tossed in with irritating time jumps (it covers eleven years, usually in six month jumps).

Extensive and incredulous spoilers. )
cyphomandra: vale from brotown looking put upon (give me strength)
A recent binge which is still ongoing. I'd recommend the second of these with caveats, and the third with the disclaimer that I loved it but may well be hopelessly biased. And you can find me being snarky - with spoilers - about the first one, behind this cut:

Fyn Alexander, Rentboy. )

Lisa Henry, Dark Space. )

L.A. Witt. From Out in the Cold. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
I've tried before to read John Le Carré, and stalled out on a number of them before hitting The Little Drummer Girl, which I loved (brilliant, devastating, brilliant). Then I tried some more and after failing to get past the first 50 pages of A Perfect Spy half a dozen times, I gave up. After seeing the movie Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy I thought it was probably time to think about trying again and, eventually, it became a good idea for other reasons.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. )

A murder of quality. )

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