hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2011: 68-75


68. Mark Lawrence, Prince of Thorns.

ARC provided by Tor.com. A proper review should be forthcoming there, eventually. For now all I will say is that despite some pretty good writing, I did not like it.

Oh, and it's the opposite of a feminist book.


69. Ben Macallan, Desdaemona.

[livejournal.com profile] desperance knocked this one out of the park. It is urban fantasy, but the seventeen-year-old protagonist, Jordan, has a fantastic voice. He's been on the run for years, and seventeen for years, and the amount of interesting Cool Shit (tm) in one urban fantasy novel - well, I hope Ben Macallan will have other names, is all I can say.

Also, how can you object to a novel that opens with, "I might never have found Sarah in time, if it hadn't been for the banshee"?


70. Kevin Hearne, Hexed.

Sequel to Hounded. In this, the Arizona-based 2,000 year-old druid Atticus Sullivan has a spot of trouble involving rampaging Bacchants, World War II-vintage evil witches, and a neighbour with an RPG.

The Celtic myth bits continue not to make me want to scream - they're pretty well done, actually - the pace is decent, the voice is pretty good, if a little too modern for your average relic, and its sense of humour meshes well with my own. All in all, pretty damn good.


nonfiction


71. Brook Holmes, The Symptom and the Subject: The Emergence of the Physical Body in Ancient Greece. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2010.

An interesting, if long-winded, book on the development of the idea of the physical body, the soma, in ancient Greece. Thesis reading. Parts of it are fascinating, parts of it deathly dull.


72. Victor Turner and Edith Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1978.

I'm cheating by counting this, since I skim-read it for the thesis on the advice of my supervisor. (It was mostly not relevant.) Folks interested in Christian pilgrimage in Mexico, at St. Patrick's at Lough Derg, and Marian Pilgrimage would no doubt find it fascinating. Me, I am still yawning.


73. Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Landfalls: On the Edge of Islam from Zanzibar to the Alhambra. John Murray, London, 2010. This edition 2011.

The third, and sadly final, book of Mackintosh-Smith's travel adventures in the footsteps (or footprints) of the medieval Islamic traveller Ibn Battutah. Brilliant, informative, garnished with some lovely turns of phrases, and illustrated with sketches from the professional artist Martin Yeoman. It's a very enjoyable book.


74. The Quran, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004. This edition 2010.

I figured, after studying the books of the other Abrahamic religions in college, that it probably behooved me to acquire a passing familiarity with the writings of Islam. Particularly since I'm starting to find the medieval Islamic world quite fascinating.

Like every most other religious book on the planet, it comprises long stretches of reasonably predictable exhortation followed by moments of interesting novelty. I wouldn't read it again for pleasure. But I don't regret having read it.


75. Euripides, Medea and Other Plays. Translated and edited by James Morwood, with an introduction by Edith Hall. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

This edition includes Medea, Hippolytus, Electra, and Helen, in that order. Reading them partly for personal satisfaction and partly as research, I found myself surprised by the decision to put Medea first. By any stretch of the imagination, Medea is by far the most stirring of the plays in this volume, and the other plays suffer by being read in its shadow.

But they are interesting plays, and this translation is fluid and readable.




Films recently viewed:

X-Men: First Class.

I have no emotional investment in the X-men franchise, so apart from the rather horrendous treatment of the female characters, this was an entertaining film. Although I think I am now decided that anything starring Michael Fassbender would be an entertaining film: I would watch Erik Lensherr: Nazi Hunter in a heartbeat.


Season of the Witch.

Terrible film. Terrible. I thought it was going to be an interesting medieval film about blaming witches for plagues, like The Black Death, but no. Oh, no. It was utterly terribly bad.

Even the Christopher Lee cameo is not enough to give me any pleasant warm feelings.


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo/Man som hatar kvinnor.

Interesting and entertaining, if slow in parts. And occasionally brutal.


The Mummy Returns.

Entertaining, in the way that only a film that doesn't care if it makes sense can be. I really enjoyed watching it - but then, I was expecting it to be much worse.


Agora.

Watch this film. It is beautifully shot, beautifully written, beautifully acted - it is fantastic in so many ways. And not just because it is about the life and death of the philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria.

I caught myself crying in the final scenes. It's powerful, and moving, and understated, and complicated. Watch it.




And that's it for now.
hawkwing_lb: (It can't get any worse... today)
Books 2011: 57-59


57. Suzanne McLeod, The Sweet Scent of Blood.

First book by this author. Urban fantasy set in London. Entertaining, and relatively surprising, but I am perhaps a little down on the appearance of vampires of late. (Fortunately, the vampires do not appear as the love interest. Indeed, there does not appear to be a Main Love Interest, which is quite quite marvellous.)


non-fiction


58. Liza Picard, Dr. Johnson's London: Everyday Life in London 1740-1770. Phoenix, London, 2000.

An interesting and varied description of 18th century London. I was particularly interested in the description of London's water. For a work of history, light, lively, and entertaining.


59. Ian McBride, Eighteenth Century Ireland: The Isle of Slaves. New Gill History of Ireland, Gill & Macmillan Ltd., Dublin, 2009.

An interesting overview of the century between the Williamite settlement and the risings of 1798. The eighteenth century in Ireland is often passed lightly over, save for brief remarks upon penal legislation and 1798: to read a serious overview of the century is enlightening, to say the least.

This book places Ireland in a European context, both in terms of the Jacobite diaspora and connections with the Catholic hierarchy, and the educated Anglican and Presbyterian connections with wider European Enlightment thought. It discusses penal legislation (mostly finally repealed by 1793) and agrarian unrest in reasonable detail, and is concerned to place the unrest of the 1790s in its European context, and connect Irish thought to the influence of the ratification of the American constitution in 1788 and the actions of the National Assembly (former Third Estate) in Paris the following year.

McBride assumes a degree of knowledge concerning relations with Westminster throughout the century, wider European wars, and Grattan's parliament at College Green from 1782, that I don't possess. But much is clear from context, and in a book already 430 pages long, more detail can hardly be expected.

I enjoyed reading this more than I had expected to, and learned much that I did not know.




My reading seems to have slowed down lately. That's probably because I'm choosing to read lengthy histories of 400 pages, or more: one might legitmately find oneself slowed by that kind of endeavour. (Imagine here an image of a Dalek, but instead of a speechbubble reading EXTERMINATE, this one says EDUCATE.)

I'm presently reading Joanna Russ's The Female Man, and finding it hard going. So much of what must have been radical in 1970 seems... well, obvious, or even a little (by my lights) conservative. True equality, unthinking equality, is still, of course, a radical proposition. Nonetheless, there's a odd sort of cognitive dissonance in reading a book written as a shocking work of literature, one intended to provoke, (and moreover, a book which is conscious and intentional in attempting to provoke) and being unshocked and unprovoked.

Book, I am glad you were written. And I find your weird slipstream-style narrative interesting, and in terms of technique, fascinating. But I cannot read you and say Yes! This!, for it is wonderful how much things have changed in forty years.

Some things haven't, and in some ways you are still immensely... no, intensely relevant. But you are a piece of cultural history now, interesting book! And it is because of the weight of cultural history that I intend to read you right through to the end, rather than stopping on page 145 of the latest Gollancz edition, because - to be frank, O interesting book! (for I'm sure you'd appreciate frankness) - you don't pull at my heart.

Almost, despite the forty years that lie between us, I wish you did.
hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
Books 2011: 47-49


47. Richelle Mead, Iron Crowned.

And my trend of picking up middle books of series (in this case, third and presently last) continues. Urban fantasy. Sort of. High levels of angst and sex. Not so happy with the amount of sex relative to plot, but I cannot deny the plot is entertaining.


48. Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers of London.

Published in the US as Midnight Riot, this is what the Dresden files would be if Harry Dresden had a)started out with a better sense of humour and higher levels of genre-savvy and b)was a PC in the London Met. This book has a fantastic voice and feels like London all the way to the ground. Also interesting plot developments, but I'd read it for the voice and the sheer depth of London in it anyway.


non-fiction

49. Chris Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000. Penguin History of Europe, Penguin, London and New York, 2010.

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a wide-ranging survey of European history - which, as and when it's appropriate, includes the Ummayads of Damascus, the Abbasids of Baghdad, and the Fatimids of Egypt in the category Europe - from the fifth to the eleventh centuries. It is divided into four parts: the break-up of the Roman Empire, 400-550; the Post-Roman West, 550-750; the Empires of the East, 550-1000; and the Carolingian and Post-Carolingian West, 750-100. These are subdivided into chapters, which deal with separate geographical, chronological, and thematic chunks of the very large amount of information Wickham aims to cover.

It is a fascinating and very readable history, and it cracked my brain open and let new light in concerning Roman and post-Roman political systems, and how each can be expected to function. The chapters which survey the Arab invasions and subsequent polities were very helpful in understanding the forces which shaped the early medieval Mediterranean, and are not always included in general surveys of this period of "European" history.

I recommend it without hesitation. I think this may be one of the best works of narrative history I've read in the last while - on point, focused, clear about its biases without being obtrusive with them, and immensely knowledgeable. Wickham dedicates it to his students - fortunate students, I would say, to have the opportunity to learn from such a mind.




I am tired and feel sick and stupid, and want very much not to have to get up tomorrow and pretend I care what college bureaucracy is doing. Particularly when they have scheduled me to invigilate during the times when I am supposed to be taking an exam after I specifically emailed to inform them of this.

Oh, well. I need the money, even if it's not nearly enough. (I need a job, but who the hell is hiring? And Tor.com has not begun to pay me for my work for them yet, which - argh! - is money I am counting on to be there. Eventually. Soon would be nice.)




When the wide world comes winding to a close
where shall we be? Who knows? That day is yet
beyond reach, unconsummated. Time flows
in one direction only, oily, wet,
impermeable to the human eye
impermeable to answers. What, why -

I saw the sibyl caged at Cumae
when every word she spoke became a lie.
This is the truth of oracles. Like us,
they guess how the dice fall before they die.


....I appear to have committed poem. I should really stop doing that in public. Or at least make sure it has a title, first.

Still, why not?
hawkwing_lb: (Helen Mirren Tempest)
Books 2011: 46


46. Petronius, The Satyricon. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997. Translated with an introduction and notes by P.G. Walsh.

In this fragmentary ancient novel, generally ascribed to the Petronius who was Nero's contemporary and, as Tacitus says, 'arbiter of taste,' sexual hijinks abound. The lustful interludes are interrupted by a long, lovingly-described dinner party, the famous dinner of the vulgar (and obscenely wealthy) parvenu freedman Trimalchio. It's entertaining, but its humour is mean-spirited when directed at anyone but the protagonist, the rather hapless Encolpius, and the litany of debaucheries grows rather wearing. Also, hello, humorous rape! Bloody Romans.





Climbed this afternoon. My capabilities have diminished considerably since this time last year: I'm struggling on 6As, and 6Bs are for the most part beyond me. Sigh. I need to get the discipline together to drop ten kilos, which should make hauling my heavy bones up eleven metres of wall slightly less difficult.

It was fun, though. Climbed three 6As, a 5B twice, another route whose rating was either 5B or 5C, and flailed off of three 6Bs at approximately four metres up. One of the 6Bs was rated a 5. It wasn't a 5. It really wasn't.

Sample conversation:

Me (singing, off-key, while belaying): At the sickbed of Cuchulainn, we'll never say a prayer, for the ghosts are rattling at the gate and the devil's in the chair!

M. [my climbing partner](pausing halfway up the wall): You do realise most people here probably think we're mad?

Me: They're climbers. We're climbers. Sanity is kind of an optional extra around here.

M.:...

M.: Point taken.
hawkwing_lb: (Prentiss disguised in Arthur's hall)
Books 2011: 41-45


It strikes me that I may have counted Bear's The White City twice in previous bookposts. Well, no harm. I certainly read it more than once.


41. Greg Van Eekhout, Norse Code.

A fast-paced, engaging Norse apocalypse romp starring Mist, a modern Valkyrie, and Hermod, apparently the Norse god of poking-his-nose-into-awkward-corners-and-getting-bit. Decidedly entertaining, if light.


42. Melissa Marr, Wicked Lovely.

YA. With faeries. Rather less twee than I expected, and entertaining while it lasted, but I'm not left feeling terribly pushed about reading the sequel.


43. Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Towers of Midnight.

I forgot to put this in the last bookpost. It's massive, and it continues the trend of wrapping things up and getting them pointed at The Last Battle. At this point I'm more than a little worn out by the whole thing. Book Fourteen of the WOT had damn well better has some freaking excellent payoff, because despite some moments of win- actually, Mat in the Tower of Ghenjei and Egwene's battle in Tel'aran'rhiod are pretty much the only two that stand out: Morgase could have had a moment of win, but it felt like a flop - mostly what I remember of this book is that it is massive.


non-fiction


44. Christopher I. Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2009.

In any sweeping history that aims to cover three thousand years, the author must choose his central thesis carefully. In general, Beckwith does this admirably, choosing to focus first on the characteristics of what he refers to as the "Central Eurasian Culture Complex," and as the historical sources permit more detailed statements to be made, on the fundamental economic interconnectedness of the region between the Black Sea and the Eastern Steppe and the vital role of nomad kingdoms and hegemonies in creating and driving prosperity.

Beckwith takes a roughly chronological approach in his history, proceeding from the Scythians first mentioned in Herodotos down to the collapse of the Soviet Union. His writing is lucid, generally clear, and frequently entertaining. However, his sweeping statements sometimes did strike me as a little too sweeping, and in chapter 12, "Central Eurasia Reborn," he permits himself to digress into a lengthy rebuttal of theoretical and aesthetic Modernism, which does the book little good. Critique of poetry and art on aesthetic grounds does not belong in what is primarily a work of history, however interesting and thought-provoking Beckwith's position is. It is, dare I say it, aesthetically displeasing.

(I take no issue with his critique of Postmodernism. Postmodernist theory is interested only in tearing down, not in creating, which makes it very frustrating.)

That one chapter out of thirteen (and two very lengthy appendices on Proto-Indo-European diaspora and Ancient Central European Ethnonyms) is entirely auctorial soapbox detracts little from the rest of the book, though. It is a fascinating, highly readable book about a region and a set of cultures much neglected by modern English-language (European in general, I think) historiography.


45. Judith Flanders, The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime. Harper Press, London, 2011.

I thought, when I picked this book up, that the subtitle would prove to be an exaggeration. Revelled? Really?

Surprisingly, it's not. Flanders draws upon newspaper reports as well as broadsides, fiction, playbills and penny-bloods, to create a picture of how English (British, but mostly English) society of the 19th century viewed murder: the crime itself, the victims, and the (putative) perpetrators. And since newspapers, broadsides, and penny-bloods did, indeed, revel in murder, it seems their readers would share their outlook.

It's a fascinating book, bringing to light just how little evidence (in some cases, none at all, or evidence that pointed in the opposite direction) was required to get a person convicted of murder. Rumour, innuendo, or local grudges were frequently all it took to achieve a conviction - and in many cases a hanging. The chapter on secret poisonings (few to none, despite the widespread conviction that they were EPIDEMIC!!111! even - especially - among medical professionals) and burial-society insurance murder (also few to none, also widespread conviction that vasty numbers of the poor were killing their children to collect on the coffin money) is particularly illuminating.

I recommend it extremely.




Eventually, I'll have something more to say about Dragon Age 2, apart from my previous I-am-being-set-up-for-a-sequel-do-not-want rant. The more I consider it, the more I'm coming to appreciate what Bioware is striving at. Like it or not, DA2's a fine example of the videogame RPG approaching mature artform status. It has a thematic argument.

But that's a post to be made when I'm properly awake.
hawkwing_lb: (Prentiss disguised in Arthur's hall)
Books 2011: 30-31


30. Plato, Phaedrus. OUP, Oxford, 2002. Translated with an introduction by Robin Waterfield.

A short dialogue concerning love, lovers, and beloved in Classical Athens. The famous analogy of the chariot with the charioteer and the two horses, one obedient, one unruly, occurs herein. It is diverting and occasionally thought-provoking.


31. Patricia Briggs, River Marked.

Fun, tense and well-constructed. Interesting monster. Interesting Native American mythological appearances.



I have a cold. Do not want.

hawkwing_lb: (Prentiss disguised in Arthur's hall)
Books 2011: 30-31


30. Plato, Phaedrus. OUP, Oxford, 2002. Translated with an introduction by Robin Waterfield.

A short dialogue concerning love, lovers, and beloved in Classical Athens. The famous analogy of the chariot with the charioteer and the two horses, one obedient, one unruly, occurs herein. It is diverting and occasionally thought-provoking.


31. Patricia Briggs, River Marked.

Fun, tense and well-constructed. Interesting monster. Interesting Native American mythological appearances.



I have a cold. Do not want.

hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 127


127. Lucian, Selected Dialogues. Translated by C.D.N. Costa, Oxford, 2005.

Lucian, born at Samosata on the Euphrates, wrote in Greek during the second century CE. His prominence is literary, not political: after a career as an orator, it seems he turned to comic dialogue and literary satire.

Much of his humour is opaque to me, since it relies on contemporary references and classical allusions, but his work rarely fails of being interesting. And I would seriously recommend everyone to read the two books of his 'A True History' (full parallel Greek/English text available at that link), the story of Lucian's voyage to the moon, the way between the Selenites and the Heliots, his stay in the belly of a whale, and his sojourn on the Isles of the Blest.

The Oxford Classics edition has several dialogues, a couple of encomiums - "In Praise of a Fly," a humourous one, and an encomium on the philosopher Demonax - a very scurrilous attack on the philosopher Empedocles, Lucian's "How to Write History," a piece of advice to historians of the recent Parthian Wars, the "True History," and selections from the "Dialogues of the Courtesans."

All in all, very interesting. And! It even mentions doctors!


hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 127


127. Lucian, Selected Dialogues. Translated by C.D.N. Costa, Oxford, 2005.

Lucian, born at Samosata on the Euphrates, wrote in Greek during the second century CE. His prominence is literary, not political: after a career as an orator, it seems he turned to comic dialogue and literary satire.

Much of his humour is opaque to me, since it relies on contemporary references and classical allusions, but his work rarely fails of being interesting. And I would seriously recommend everyone to read the two books of his 'A True History' (full parallel Greek/English text available at that link), the story of Lucian's voyage to the moon, the way between the Selenites and the Heliots, his stay in the belly of a whale, and his sojourn on the Isles of the Blest.

The Oxford Classics edition has several dialogues, a couple of encomiums - "In Praise of a Fly," a humourous one, and an encomium on the philosopher Demonax - a very scurrilous attack on the philosopher Empedocles, Lucian's "How to Write History," a piece of advice to historians of the recent Parthian Wars, the "True History," and selections from the "Dialogues of the Courtesans."

All in all, very interesting. And! It even mentions doctors!


hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 125-126


125. Rowena Cory Daniells, The King's Bastard.

It appears to me that there has arisen a specifically Australian tradition of High Fantasy - Trudi Canavan, Jennifer Fallon, Karen Miller - and it is this mode which The King's Bastard, the first book of a trilogy, follows.

Byren is the second son of the king of Rolencia. Minutes younger than his brother the heir, he has no ambitions whatsoever, and is baffled by the tension that begins to grow between them, a tension which is exacerbated after the arrival of a royal cousin (under the bar sinister) at court. Tensions are also evident in the lives of his younger brother, Fyn, who is pledged to a monastery, and his sister Piro, who has no desire to marry for politics. Piro is also hiding a dangerous secret: her talent for "Affinity," an ill-defined sort of magic, much as Byren's disinherited friend Orrade is hiding his (in Rolencia generally reviled) attraction to men.

There are several problems with this book, leaving aside how superficial I find the worldbuilding. (How many people actually look at how complex pre-industrial societies are? Never mind politics in a court of any size.) The worst problem is that Byren is Too Stupid To Live. Given every indication that he should not trust certain persons, he continues to do so. In addition, he is TSTL in other ways.

The second problem is the Random Seer. Random Crazy Seer is random, and pops up all over the place in the first fifty (?) pages, for no apparent reason other than the auctorial convenience of heavy-handed foreshadowing. The third problem is the fact that the treatment of gender made me want to bite someone.

I'm not, in general, well-disposed to High Fantasy unless it's thoughtful about its themes as well as its construction. (There was a time when I was younger when this was not so, but we all change in time.) Much of it seems tired and hackneyed to me, drawing far too uncritically on the shallowly-received tropes of the European middle ages. In Bastard's case, this is compounded by its position as the first part of a trilogy. The setup is insufficiently compelling for the limited amount of payoff available, and while I'm mildly curious about what happens next, I don't have much emotional or intellectual investment in actually finding out.

...Well, that was curmudgeonly of me, wasn't it? *may in fact be annoyed today*


nonfiction


126. Thomas J. Csordas, Body/Meaning/Healing, New York, 2002.

I don't imagine it's Csordas' fault that the jargon-laden language of anthropology gives me a headache. Nonetheless. Diverting as discussions of healing in contemporary Christian Charismatic and Navajo cultures are, I, for one, would have preferred a rather more accesible style of book.


hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 125-126


125. Rowena Cory Daniells, The King's Bastard.

It appears to me that there has arisen a specifically Australian tradition of High Fantasy - Trudi Canavan, Jennifer Fallon, Karen Miller - and it is this mode which The King's Bastard, the first book of a trilogy, follows.

Byren is the second son of the king of Rolencia. Minutes younger than his brother the heir, he has no ambitions whatsoever, and is baffled by the tension that begins to grow between them, a tension which is exacerbated after the arrival of a royal cousin (under the bar sinister) at court. Tensions are also evident in the lives of his younger brother, Fyn, who is pledged to a monastery, and his sister Piro, who has no desire to marry for politics. Piro is also hiding a dangerous secret: her talent for "Affinity," an ill-defined sort of magic, much as Byren's disinherited friend Orrade is hiding his (in Rolencia generally reviled) attraction to men.

There are several problems with this book, leaving aside how superficial I find the worldbuilding. (How many people actually look at how complex pre-industrial societies are? Never mind politics in a court of any size.) The worst problem is that Byren is Too Stupid To Live. Given every indication that he should not trust certain persons, he continues to do so. In addition, he is TSTL in other ways.

The second problem is the Random Seer. Random Crazy Seer is random, and pops up all over the place in the first fifty (?) pages, for no apparent reason other than the auctorial convenience of heavy-handed foreshadowing. The third problem is the fact that the treatment of gender made me want to bite someone.

I'm not, in general, well-disposed to High Fantasy unless it's thoughtful about its themes as well as its construction. (There was a time when I was younger when this was not so, but we all change in time.) Much of it seems tired and hackneyed to me, drawing far too uncritically on the shallowly-received tropes of the European middle ages. In Bastard's case, this is compounded by its position as the first part of a trilogy. The setup is insufficiently compelling for the limited amount of payoff available, and while I'm mildly curious about what happens next, I don't have much emotional or intellectual investment in actually finding out.

...Well, that was curmudgeonly of me, wasn't it? *may in fact be annoyed today*


nonfiction


126. Thomas J. Csordas, Body/Meaning/Healing, New York, 2002.

I don't imagine it's Csordas' fault that the jargon-laden language of anthropology gives me a headache. Nonetheless. Diverting as discussions of healing in contemporary Christian Charismatic and Navajo cultures are, I, for one, would have preferred a rather more accesible style of book.


hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 116-120


116-117. Gail Carriger, Changeless and Blameless.

The first book in this series, Soulless, was shallow, and I found the worldbuilding superficial. In these sequels, the heroine Alexia - now Lady Maccon - grows a little depth, and the curtain is pulled back on the vista of a steampunk late 19th century Europe, complete with secret laboratories underneath milliners' shops, dirigibles, mad scientists, and Egyptian mummies.

Changeless involves metaphysical shenanigans, intrigues, and werewolves in a Scottish castle. Blameless is predicated upon a vast misunderstanding, and involves an extended chase across Europe and a mad-Templar version of a reunified Italy, among other things.

I do not love werewolf romances, although many of my objections can be overcome absent the "new relationship" aspect of romances. The werewolf love interest remains a bit of an arsehole, to be honest. On the other hand, the most enjoyable element of these books, for me, is the comedy element. Witty rejoinders accompany slapstick, and the broad stereotypes are hardly worse than in costume drama. (I've just been watching the BBC's Scarlet Pimpernel, which is somewhat more full of gender-dynamics fail.)

There is no universe in which I can take thses books seriously. But damn, they're good fun.



118. Walter Jon Williams, Hardwired.

I was a little out of it while reading this book, if I'm honest, which is probably not the best state in which to a read cyberpunk-esque balkanised-USA SF thriller novel.

On the other hand, it glitters. It's sharp as knives, prose sparse and lucid, the main characters - Cowboy and Sarah - deftly drawn. It struck me as a novel about hard choices and the myths we build in order to survive. In many ways, this is not a nice novel.

But it is quite brilliant.



119. Sherwood Smith, Coronets and Steel.

I'll say up front that I have very mixed reactions to this book.

Kim Murray's from California, a champion fencer who's come to Europe in order to find her grandmother's - mysterious and little-spoken-of - family. Ghosts, hijinks, mistaken identities and potential romantic entanglements ensue.

The novel opens in Vienna, but swiftly removes to an imaginary European country called Dobrenica. And the thing that broke - that kept breaking - my suspension of disbelief was the geography. This imaginary country presently shares - apparently - a border with Russia and yet fell within the Austro-Hungarian empire before WWI? Romania or Bulgaria I could believe. (Stick a teeny country between Serbia and Bulgaria, and I would have very little problem believing tense neighbourly relations. Particularly with Macedonia [FYROM] and Greece looking on and wondering what their angle is if the wheels come off the crazywagon.) (Although history in that particular neck of the woods also has Ottomans to take into account.) But Russia?

Where Russia and the Hapsburgs used to meet is the Ukraine, Belarus, bits of Poland. You put a teeny country on the eastern side of the Ukraine, and you're going to have to explain to me why it existed as a country up until WWII. And why anyone from the ruling elite survived 1917 and subsequent years-long bloody aftermath of conflict as anything other than an exile.

So. Wandering Russians aside (and they must have been very lost, but I'll stick my fingers in my ears and pretend the historical communists are Tito's, and the present-day Russians... aren't, and make sense of the geopolitics that way, shall I?), and leaving aside Kim's rather clueless assumption that no one who mistakes her for her long-lost cousin will actually hurt her (seriously. Anyone sane who is asked to impersonate a member of the political class who's been missing for months should run away very fast, and not stop running until they're on another continent) and underdeveloped sense of cynicism, this is a reasonably swashbuckling adventure in fancy dress.

I give the internal politics of Dobrenica a pass for being a made-up country. (But, I mean, seriously? Seriously? Hapsburgs and Russians, but no one even mentioned the EU once? [I thought everyone in Europe, inside the eurozone or out of it, bitched about the EU and its meddling. {Except when they bitch about it not meddling.}])

But if you want a Prisoner of Zenda that wears its Regency debt proudly on its sleeve, and throws in ghosts to boot, it's a damn good read.

Not a very conclusive conclusion, but a damn good read.


nonfiction


120. Plato, Gorgias. Translated by Robin Waterfield, Oxford, 1994.

[livejournal.com profile] atheilen? What do you think of this one?

Ostensibly - at least initially - a dialogue between Socrates, Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles, on the value of rhetoric, it works its way out towards an argument that only virtue can bring happiness.

Worthwhile for me, as there are a couple of bits regarding doctors and the function of medicine. On the whole, an interesting articulation of two sets of unconventional moralities (though Callicles' is probably even less rare than it is conventional) from ancient Athens. I'm not entirely sure Plato succeeds in sufficiently defining his terms - "happiness" is left, on the whole, rather vague, contra "love" in the Symposium - and the atmosphere of the Gorgias is on the whole rather more earnest and rather less relaxed than Symposium - well, it's a dialogue, not a set of encomiums mixed with a little bit of dialogue.

Also, dear Plato: terrible state of body =//= terrible state of life. I think I'm with Seneca on this one.

But I enjoyed reading it rather more than I expected.

hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 116-120


116-117. Gail Carriger, Changeless and Blameless.

The first book in this series, Soulless, was shallow, and I found the worldbuilding superficial. In these sequels, the heroine Alexia - now Lady Maccon - grows a little depth, and the curtain is pulled back on the vista of a steampunk late 19th century Europe, complete with secret laboratories underneath milliners' shops, dirigibles, mad scientists, and Egyptian mummies.

Changeless involves metaphysical shenanigans, intrigues, and werewolves in a Scottish castle. Blameless is predicated upon a vast misunderstanding, and involves an extended chase across Europe and a mad-Templar version of a reunified Italy, among other things.

I do not love werewolf romances, although many of my objections can be overcome absent the "new relationship" aspect of romances. The werewolf love interest remains a bit of an arsehole, to be honest. On the other hand, the most enjoyable element of these books, for me, is the comedy element. Witty rejoinders accompany slapstick, and the broad stereotypes are hardly worse than in costume drama. (I've just been watching the BBC's Scarlet Pimpernel, which is somewhat more full of gender-dynamics fail.)

There is no universe in which I can take thses books seriously. But damn, they're good fun.



118. Walter Jon Williams, Hardwired.

I was a little out of it while reading this book, if I'm honest, which is probably not the best state in which to a read cyberpunk-esque balkanised-USA SF thriller novel.

On the other hand, it glitters. It's sharp as knives, prose sparse and lucid, the main characters - Cowboy and Sarah - deftly drawn. It struck me as a novel about hard choices and the myths we build in order to survive. In many ways, this is not a nice novel.

But it is quite brilliant.



119. Sherwood Smith, Coronets and Steel.

I'll say up front that I have very mixed reactions to this book.

Kim Murray's from California, a champion fencer who's come to Europe in order to find her grandmother's - mysterious and little-spoken-of - family. Ghosts, hijinks, mistaken identities and potential romantic entanglements ensue.

The novel opens in Vienna, but swiftly removes to an imaginary European country called Dobrenica. And the thing that broke - that kept breaking - my suspension of disbelief was the geography. This imaginary country presently shares - apparently - a border with Russia and yet fell within the Austro-Hungarian empire before WWI? Romania or Bulgaria I could believe. (Stick a teeny country between Serbia and Bulgaria, and I would have very little problem believing tense neighbourly relations. Particularly with Macedonia [FYROM] and Greece looking on and wondering what their angle is if the wheels come off the crazywagon.) (Although history in that particular neck of the woods also has Ottomans to take into account.) But Russia?

Where Russia and the Hapsburgs used to meet is the Ukraine, Belarus, bits of Poland. You put a teeny country on the eastern side of the Ukraine, and you're going to have to explain to me why it existed as a country up until WWII. And why anyone from the ruling elite survived 1917 and subsequent years-long bloody aftermath of conflict as anything other than an exile.

So. Wandering Russians aside (and they must have been very lost, but I'll stick my fingers in my ears and pretend the historical communists are Tito's, and the present-day Russians... aren't, and make sense of the geopolitics that way, shall I?), and leaving aside Kim's rather clueless assumption that no one who mistakes her for her long-lost cousin will actually hurt her (seriously. Anyone sane who is asked to impersonate a member of the political class who's been missing for months should run away very fast, and not stop running until they're on another continent) and underdeveloped sense of cynicism, this is a reasonably swashbuckling adventure in fancy dress.

I give the internal politics of Dobrenica a pass for being a made-up country. (But, I mean, seriously? Seriously? Hapsburgs and Russians, but no one even mentioned the EU once? [I thought everyone in Europe, inside the eurozone or out of it, bitched about the EU and its meddling. {Except when they bitch about it not meddling.}])

But if you want a Prisoner of Zenda that wears its Regency debt proudly on its sleeve, and throws in ghosts to boot, it's a damn good read.

Not a very conclusive conclusion, but a damn good read.


nonfiction


120. Plato, Gorgias. Translated by Robin Waterfield, Oxford, 1994.

[livejournal.com profile] atheilen? What do you think of this one?

Ostensibly - at least initially - a dialogue between Socrates, Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles, on the value of rhetoric, it works its way out towards an argument that only virtue can bring happiness.

Worthwhile for me, as there are a couple of bits regarding doctors and the function of medicine. On the whole, an interesting articulation of two sets of unconventional moralities (though Callicles' is probably even less rare than it is conventional) from ancient Athens. I'm not entirely sure Plato succeeds in sufficiently defining his terms - "happiness" is left, on the whole, rather vague, contra "love" in the Symposium - and the atmosphere of the Gorgias is on the whole rather more earnest and rather less relaxed than Symposium - well, it's a dialogue, not a set of encomiums mixed with a little bit of dialogue.

Also, dear Plato: terrible state of body =//= terrible state of life. I think I'm with Seneca on this one.

But I enjoyed reading it rather more than I expected.

hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 87-91

87. Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat.

Been meaning to read this since I read Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog. I found it amusing, if far from hilarious.


88. Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates.

A very impressive book, combining magic, time travel, 19th century English poets, Egyptian gods, excellent characterisation, and one of the most atmospheric London underworlds I have ever had the pleasure of reading.


89. Ursula K. LeGuin, Lavinia.

This is a hard book to talk about. LeGuin is rightly known as a luminary of the genre, and Lavinia displays all the customary hallmarks of her skill and talent. I found it lyrical, and the central conceit both extraordinarily moving and thought-provoking. LeGuin's Latium is skillfully drawn, mingling a convincing Bronze Age with touches of the more imperial attitude of the Aeneid. It is possible to read it as an interesting meditation on the process of creating myth as well as the fantastic story it presents in itself.


90. Ursula LeGuin, Voices

Powerful, moving, magnificent: lyrical in an understated way, and as so often with LeGuin, full of the numinous.


nonfiction

91. Gaius Plinius Secundus, Letters.

Interesting and full of incidental detail about the world of the early Roman empire.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 87-91

87. Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat.

Been meaning to read this since I read Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog. I found it amusing, if far from hilarious.


88. Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates.

A very impressive book, combining magic, time travel, 19th century English poets, Egyptian gods, excellent characterisation, and one of the most atmospheric London underworlds I have ever had the pleasure of reading.


89. Ursula K. LeGuin, Lavinia.

This is a hard book to talk about. LeGuin is rightly known as a luminary of the genre, and Lavinia displays all the customary hallmarks of her skill and talent. I found it lyrical, and the central conceit both extraordinarily moving and thought-provoking. LeGuin's Latium is skillfully drawn, mingling a convincing Bronze Age with touches of the more imperial attitude of the Aeneid. It is possible to read it as an interesting meditation on the process of creating myth as well as the fantastic story it presents in itself.


90. Ursula LeGuin, Voices

Powerful, moving, magnificent: lyrical in an understated way, and as so often with LeGuin, full of the numinous.


nonfiction

91. Gaius Plinius Secundus, Letters.

Interesting and full of incidental detail about the world of the early Roman empire.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 72

non-fiction


72. Mirko Grmek, Disease in the Ancient Greek World, trans. M. & L. Muellner, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore and London, 1989. (French edition 1983.)

The late Mirko Grmek pioneered the concept of pathocenosis in the history of medicine. This book takes ancient Greek medicine and discusses it primarily in terms of the diseases and the possible diagnoses available from the material - mainly the Hippokratic Epidemics, but with some reference to Aristotle and others. I'd have had more use from this book if I'd had a medical dictionary to hand throughout my reading, but it was interesting and informative, particularly the sections on purulent infections and tuberculosis.




Today, climbing. Tonight, karate. I have burises like you would not believe.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 72

non-fiction


72. Mirko Grmek, Disease in the Ancient Greek World, trans. M. & L. Muellner, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore and London, 1989. (French edition 1983.)

The late Mirko Grmek pioneered the concept of pathocenosis in the history of medicine. This book takes ancient Greek medicine and discusses it primarily in terms of the diseases and the possible diagnoses available from the material - mainly the Hippokratic Epidemics, but with some reference to Aristotle and others. I'd have had more use from this book if I'd had a medical dictionary to hand throughout my reading, but it was interesting and informative, particularly the sections on purulent infections and tuberculosis.




Today, climbing. Tonight, karate. I have burises like you would not believe.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 64-67


64. Jim Hines, Red Hood's Revenge.

Fun. Very good fun.


65. Aaron Allston, Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Outcast.

Fun. There is something to be said for fun with no redeeming value whatsoever and a pretty decent supply of one-liners.


66. Christie Golden, Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Omen.

See above.


non-fiction


67. Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950, Vintage, London and New York, 2006.

The history of the nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of the rendevous of a chosen people with the land marked out for them by destiny. [p439]

This isn't that kind of history. This is a marvellously well-researched history of Ottoman and then Greek Salonica (Thessaloniki), from the denuded streets of the conquered medieval city to the bustle of its early modern heyday and the frankly cataclysmic discontinuities of the early 20th century.

Greek Salonica is a modern creation, born of the great fire of 1917, the forced exchange of populations with Turkey in 1922-24, and the extermination of the city's Jewish population in 1943. Today the largest university in Greece lies over the unmarked site of the 53-hectare Jewish cemetary, and where dozens of white minarets existed only one remains.

It's a fascinating book and, I think, a very valuable one.




Due to critical lack of give-a-damn, I appear to be mostly on hiatus from the internet and possibly from other people in the actual physical sense as well. Feeling like a babbling idiot is not conducive to good social relations.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2010: 64-67


64. Jim Hines, Red Hood's Revenge.

Fun. Very good fun.


65. Aaron Allston, Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Outcast.

Fun. There is something to be said for fun with no redeeming value whatsoever and a pretty decent supply of one-liners.


66. Christie Golden, Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Omen.

See above.


non-fiction


67. Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950, Vintage, London and New York, 2006.

The history of the nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of the rendevous of a chosen people with the land marked out for them by destiny. [p439]

This isn't that kind of history. This is a marvellously well-researched history of Ottoman and then Greek Salonica (Thessaloniki), from the denuded streets of the conquered medieval city to the bustle of its early modern heyday and the frankly cataclysmic discontinuities of the early 20th century.

Greek Salonica is a modern creation, born of the great fire of 1917, the forced exchange of populations with Turkey in 1922-24, and the extermination of the city's Jewish population in 1943. Today the largest university in Greece lies over the unmarked site of the 53-hectare Jewish cemetary, and where dozens of white minarets existed only one remains.

It's a fascinating book and, I think, a very valuable one.




Due to critical lack of give-a-damn, I appear to be mostly on hiatus from the internet and possibly from other people in the actual physical sense as well. Feeling like a babbling idiot is not conducive to good social relations.
hawkwing_lb: (No dumping dead bodies!)
Books 2010: 56

non-fiction

56. Valerie M. Hope, Eireann Marshall, Death and Disease in the Ancient City, London and New York, 2000.

A series of essays on responses to death and disease in ancient Greece and Rome. The first half of the volume concerns primarily Greek matters, the latter half Roman: but it's a short volume, less than two hundred pages.

I wasn't especially impressed with the Greek papers, but they provided information which was largely, if not stunningly new to me: I knew a little about the Greek concern with pollution but not in detail, nor the way in which concerns for pollution can be put aside for high-status dead, such as heroes. And the chapter comparing the description of plague in Thucydides to the plague in Homer was illuminating.

The Roman papers, on the other hand, were quite fascinating. They focussed on death rather than disease, and the essays by Patterson and Bodel in particular concentrated on the experience of the lower classes; unclaimed bodies, public graves, mass graves, the status of funerary workers and executioners - really, truly, honestly fascinating. Bodel's essay, "Dealing With the Dead: Undertakers, Executioners, and Potter's Fields in Ancient Rome" is a tidy, well-researched little piece of social history which I especially recommend.

BMCR review here, for anyone who wants more in-depth analysis.

(I may, in fact, be in love with the BMCR. They are most marvellously useful.)




In other news, apparently not taking my fish-oil pills turns me crazy. This is good to know, if a rather belated realisation: I could've done without the week of bad brain chemistry. But, having taken my fish pills, I managed to get me to the gym and actually exercise for the first time since I buggered up my shoulder. 22 minutes for 2 miles: not bad, but still not a marathon.

I'm also reading Aristophanes. You know something? People really haven't changed. Politicians, especially. Also the electorate.

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