WWW Wednesday – July 9, 2014

WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.

• What are you currently reading?

Prisoner, by Lia Silver. The backbone of this romantic action series is werewolves, but Silver is doing her own thing with the world building, adding in powers as well as seriously bad-ass warriors male and female. Best of all, the characterizations are complex, as you’d expect from a writer who by day is a therapist specializing in trauma and PTSD, but there is plenty of wisecracking and humor to keep the story lines from descending into grit and grue.

This is the second of her series, the first being Laura’s Wolfthough they each stand on their own.

Middlemarch, by George Eliot, reread. I’ve always admired the wisdom and complexity, but this round I’m appreciating the thread of irony that bursts into subtle humor every so often. I’ve been briefly liveblogging it over at Goodreads, sparking a bit of discussion.

• What did you recently finish reading?

My life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead. This is a pleasant, articulate exploration of George Eliot’s life and work, centering around Middlemarch, and organized loosely around Mead’s three major rereads over the course of her life. I think the book is best enjoyed by those who have read Middlemarch at least once, and possibly a biography and the letters, though I might be wrong in that.

The Augs, by G.B. Stern: her books are nearly impossible to find over on this side of the Atlantic. She was one of those smart English female writers of the front half of the twentieth century who critics called “middlebrow’ during the days when critics’ hierarchies of taste and intellectual sophistication meant something to the reading world.

A lot of them wrote mysteries, some wrote historical novels, many wrote contemporary novels. In this contemporary story set at an imaginary seaside town, one Stern demonstrates a real eye for character, especially from the child’s point of view, and from that of a single middle-aged lady.

Men of Silk,  by Glenn Dynner. A careful, scholarly look at the rise of Hasidism in Poland during the 1700s, a time remarkable for its changes in that country, and subsequently. As always, seeing how mainstream political ‘necessity’ interacted with the Jews is painful, and anyone who has read history of that period is not going to find anything new. What they will find is the Jew’s-eye view of various famous and semi-famous Hasidic figures, the charlatans as well as the truly holy leaders. Traces how wisdom from the Baal Shem Tov and Rebbe Nahman of Bretslav, among others, influenced the growing movement within Judaism. Interesting side examinations of Kabbalah and magic as practiced within the community.

The Age of Conversation, by Benedetta Craveri (trsl. Teresa Waugh).

This excellent book forms a companion for Elizabeth C. Goldsmith’s Exclusive Conversations: Craveri sets the stage, and the tone, for the evolution of the salon, focusing in on the woman who shaped the salon, and who were the leaders in devloping the art and style of conversation.

She makes a case for style and art being a way of life, an attitude infinitely seductive–and sometimes difficult to maintain. Especially when one encounters “The Other,” i.e. love and attraction.

At times I wished for more detail rather than summaries (for example, in the chapter on the Grand Mademoiselle, Craveri tells us that after she fell in love with Lauzun at age 40, the Grand Mademoiselle suffered humiliation and tragedy, but doesn’t detail the stormy arc of that relationship) .

On the other hand, some of the discussions are useful, such as why French became the language of diplomacy (and French cultural usage the style of diplomacy) in spite of the fact that Italian had long been considered the language of elite culture. Terrific notes.

What do I think I’ll read next? 

I have an enormous pile of various histories and biographies here, plus Islands, by Sara Stamey. Ordinarily I have resisted anything having to do with the seventies, specifically the Vietnam war, an era I lived through. Fiction set around the issue of that time was a turnoff, until I read and really loved James Hetley’s Ghost Point. So when I saw that Stamey’s book overlapped certain aspects, while set in a wildly different milieu (from Maine to the Caribbean!) I thought, Looks good! Let’s grab it.

What about you? What are you reading, have you been reading, wanting to read next?

 

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WWW Wednesday – July 9, 2014 — 26 Comments

  1. Vacation!

    Which meant, of course, a lot of time for books.

    Read:
    The Jack Tales by Richard Chase
    Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley
    Russian Fairy Tales by Alexander Afanasyev, translated by Norbert Guterman
    The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia by Orlando Figes
    Beautiful Angiola: The Lost Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales of Laura Gonzenbach by Laura Gonzenbach
    The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
    Reading:
    The Wonder That Was India by Arthur Llewellyn Basham
    Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders by Richard Ellis Preston Jr.
    The Sky People by S.M. Stirling
    To Read:
    Not sure. Too much on my plate at the moment. 0:)

  2. I have just finished reading A.N. Wilson’s THE VICTORIANS. Quite a slog, and not very organized. However, I need to hear who was in and who was out politically in the period…
    Next up: THE LAST LION vol. 1, by William Manchester. This is the biography of Winston Churchill.

    • I’ve read both. E. F. Benson has a very interesting memoir about the late Victorians.

      The Manchester is pretty good; I read it concurrently with Churchill’s own autobiography. Interesting to see when Manchester lifted quotes wholesale.

      • I got onto it on the recommendation of Phyl. I probably will not go on to the later two volumes, but the first should supply some insight.

  3. Not officially reading at the moment. (Which just means that I’m still reading, but not making a big effort.)

    Of course, I still read stuff to my boys at night, so we’re slowly working our way through The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Holly Black. The boys like it, and I’m trying to get a sense of how to pace a MG book/series.

    I’m also randomly working my way through Unfettered. Which is generally pretty cool, except there’s one story that kind of got me totally annoyed because it was just fine, then it took a total turn at the end that, in my opinion, was not supported prior in the text. Now maybe it’s the slush reader in me, but I’m sorry, if you set up premise A for your story, then suddenly, post climax, you totally change what the heck is going on to premise Z….that annoys the heck out of me.

  4. I’m so looking forward to reading Prisoner! I’ve got myself over my head in reading commitments again -_- But I’m so looking forward to it!

    Right now I’m still reading Kaleidoscope. The short stories continue to be excellent, for the most part. After the very clever “Careful Magic,” which I mentioned on Goodreads, came an amazing one by Sofia Samatar, “Walkdog.” I’m going to have fun writing the review, when I finish.

    And I read Angel’s Grace, by Tracey Baptiste, an MG/YA story in which the protagonist, Grace, seeks the truth about her parentage while staying with her grandmother in Trinidad. Loved the sense of place, loved the grown-ups in Grace’s life, but I yearned for a slightly different sibling relationship between Grace and her little sister Sally. It got me rereading Saffy’s Angel–similar themes, but very different story. It’s interesting to me how, in reading both stories, I’m aware–I suppose any adult reader is aware–of the understated, but very present, stories of the characters surrounding the protagonist.

  5. I finished The Rook this week, and loved it. I thought it started a bit slowly, but it got — and stayed — exciting soon enough. After observing me laughing as I read, my husband snagged it for his To Read pile as soon as I finished. Oh, the duck who can tell the future! The creepy character named Gestalt. The pet rabbit. Looking back, the fate of that duck should have given me a clue about the traitor within — but there were so many traitors within.

    My next read was The Floor of the Sky by Pamela Carter Joern. The story takes place on a cattle ranch in Nebraska, and centers on a grandmother and a teenaged grand-daughter.Simultaneously spare and controlled, and including some dramatic soap-opera-worthy events — interesting how that’s pulled off. Perhaps it’s the laconic style of the Nebraska ranch families?

    I just started The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan. No strong opinion yet.

  6. I finished and enjoyed War (Junger), but was a bit baffled by Touchstone (Höst). The beginning felt like it should have been severely cut and the heroine was almost relentlessly static. I liked her, but I wanted her to have things to deliberately plan and do, which didn’t seem an unreasonable wish in a YA fantasy novel.

    I’m currently enjoying The Shia Revival and just started (but am liking thus far) The Goblin Emperor.

    • Interesting! I loved the Höst, and I am ordinarily not fond of the Robinson Crusoe trope. Diff’rent stokes, I guess!

      Hope you enjoy The Goblin Emperor.

      • I saw on her website that the Touchstone series was popular, so I know there is something others are reacting to that I am completely missing. I may not like things like Game of Thrones, but I understand what others like in it; this one – still chewing determinedly on it. 😉

  7. Recently finished:
    2 freebie/deal books, Lia Silver’s Prisoner and A Fatal Twist of Lemon.
    A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, which I ended up liking, but the (justified) anger of the heroine bothered me.
    The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler – not sure I’ll continue in this series, there were too many irritants in vol.2. I don’t understand why a Privy Council meeting to discuss the imminent death of their king would include, without explanation or protestations, a foreign ambassador (uneasy relationship with his country) and a priest from a religion widely hated in the kingdom. And yet it was the princess taking off her slippers and running across gravel without any pain (or blood) that bothers the
    most. Does anyone know if palace gravel is really that much smoother than regular?
    Currently reading: still on the Jo Malone and Temeraire.
    Next up: I think I’ll try Gaudy Night.

        • Hmm, at a cursory glance I think you’re right. I was thinking of it like Agatha Christie’s Poirot – there’s not much difference in where you begin with those.