WWW Wednesday – July 30, 2014

WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.

 

• What did you recently finish reading?

Middlemarch, by George Eliot. A somewhat longish review here.

Prisoner, by Lia Silver.

This is the first volume in what will be a longer series, but doesn’t drop you off a cliff. It takes its time setting up the characters and situation. All characters are complicated, especially the main two. Both have serious emotional damage as a cost of becoming supremely badass. We begin in Afghanistan with DJ Torres having to turn his best Marine buddy into a werewolf to save his life, in spite of the extreme danger of so doing. Their helicopter has just crashed, and they are waiting to be medivac lifted out.

DJ is put under, and wakes up in a lab. He finds out very soon that it is a secret lab, and he runs . . . and nearly dies. Echo, the emotionally distant, hyper efficient assassin, is sent to bring him back, and she does. The evil lab holds them both by their loyalties to others, and DJ has terrible trouble adjusting; then he meets a very messed up bunch of made-wolves, and mayhem ensues.

Silver took the time to give personality and reasonable human motives to the ordinary workers at the lab, which steps the novel to another level for me. The subsidiary characters are not mere human-figures in a video game, meant to be blown away without thought by the rampaging heroes. Every action has consequences, which for me rachets up the stakes for what is going to happen next, yet it came to a satisfying coda.

Invention as a Social Act, by Karen Burke LeFevre, reread.

This is a solidly academic, carefully built refutation of the old, romantic (small r) notion that writing is a solitary act, performed in seclusion, often with the writer in mystic communion with his or her inner self. LeFevre builds her case that invention is better understood as a social act,” in which an individual who is at the same time a social being interacts in a distinctive way with society and culture to create something.”

This is largely the point that Diana Pavlac Glyer makes in her The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, which, for purposes of the writer who wishes to better understand what it is she’s doing by seeing how others have done it before, does much better. I don’t fault LeFevre for being careful, substantiating her premise to exhaustive detail. But it was slow going to plough through it, as compared to Glyer’s book, which was detailed, profound, yet eminently readable.

Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana

Rereading this book is a real pleasure. Dana was an extraordinarily good writer, his images so clear that it is easy to follow the complicated life aboard ship. It is of especial interest, I think, to California residents, as he spent most of his time sailing up and back along the coast, and thus describes what well-known cities were like during his time of visitation. One of his frequent stops was just a few miles from me–and the house still exists, now protected.

•  What are you currently reading?

Life of a Sailor, by Frederick Chamier. A delightful memoir of maritime life, which includes eyewitness anecdotes about Byron swimming the Hellespont (Chamier was there, a midshipman sent along with Byron’s party) and other interesting encounters.

The Edge, by Dick Francis. Known for his tightly plotted suspense novels usually set around racetracks and horse racing, Francis sets this one in the racing context, but aboard a train. Where a ‘murder mystery’ is being enacted. The  hero has to take on a role in order to chase the villain. It begins slowly as Francis painstakingly sets the scene, but as soon as they get to Canada and the train rolls, wow, the pacing picks up!

 

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

 

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WWW Wednesday – July 30, 2014 — 19 Comments

  1. I just finished reading California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout this week. Great “alternate universe southern California with unique magic” novel.

    Next, I still have several other books to finish, but I might go ahead and check out his Norse Code since I liked California Bones so much.

  2. I am in the middle of The Brothers Karamazov, which I haven’t read since Russian Lit in college. I am finding it funny, acute, and occasionally heartbreaking.

    When I was a kid, my parents read to us during our (earlier, kid-timed) dinner, and my father got about half way through Two Years Before the Mast before his interest flagged (our interest, at 7 and 5 respectively, had flagged about five chapters in…). I should really revisit it.

    • I *loved* The Brothers K when I read it, like you, in college (though I read it for fun, not for a class). I haven’t been back to it since, and I don’t tend to reread novels much anymore, but that’s definitely one I’d consider rereading.

    • Oh, if you like maritime stuff, I highly recommend the Dana.

      I haven’t reread Brothers K for a couple of decades. Hmmm. Maybe I should take it down again. (Once I work my way through my toppling TBR stack!)

  3. I am so looking forward to Prisoner!

    I’ve just finished the Kaleidoscope anthology and am working on a review of it. There are some *fabulous* stories in it, and all the stories are quite good (though not all grabbed me). It’s long work writing the review because I want to give some time to each story, but I also want to talk about the overall goal of the anthology, etc.

    I’m also still working in a leisurely way on Love in the Time of Cholera.

    A story that I read in draft form, which has since come out, that I mean to write a review of and that I think you’d like is The Italian Soda Summer, by Jennifer Montgomery. It’s in the same series as The Caramel Macchiato Kiss, but very different in, heh, flavor. The characters have conversations about art and life that feel real, rather than like set pieces, and it’s nice to read a story in which people talk about ideas.

  4. I’ve been wanting to re-read Dana, and particularly so due to his role in the U.S. Navy in the Civil War.

    His life is an illuminating one for both political and social history too, as a member of an one of those illustrious colonial New England families.

  5. Finished The Goblin Emperor (liked but didn’t love it; agree with a reviewer that it doesn’t really have a plot, but since I didn’t feel like it was pretending to have a plot or was set up in a way that it was missing one, I was fine the main character and worldbuilding being the foci).

    Read a number of romances as well – liked The Heiress Effect the best (the opening dinner party made me laugh out loud repeatedly). Several were dreadful, but crossed the boundary into being so bad they were hilarious, so I finished them.

  6. Read:
    Tremendous Trifles by G. K. Chesterton
    Spell Bound by Ru Emerson
    Reading:
    The High House by James Stoddard
    Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh
    To Read:
    Still deciding

  7. Reading: Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant. Historical fiction about Pope Alexander VI and his children … the Borgias. There’s enough story here for several books, and it’s extremely well written. Lucrezia comes across very sympathetically, and Cesare less so. Alexander/Rodrigo is just fascinating. The treatment is similar to Phillipa Gregory’s books.

    Re-reading: To Ride a Rathorn by PC Hodgell. Sea of Time is lurking on my TBR pile, but I decided I wanted to re-read the series first. I do love Jame! I’m finding that the quirky weirdness of the world is less impenetrable the second time around, and the details matter more.

  8. Ecstatically finished my two *Can’t Wait for July Release* day books, Cast in Flame (Michelle Sagara) and Magic Breaks (Ilona Andrews).

    As well as the latest Chronicles of St.Mary’s, A Trail Through Time. Max has a change in environment, so not nearly enough jokey teamwork in this volume.

    I finally read the Ile-Rien prequels (Martha Wells), the Element of Fire and Death of the Necromancer, and am currently rereading the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy because I can’t bear to leave Ile-Rien yet.

    Next up: I’m trying out Steven Brust with the Phoenix Guards.

      • (Hope this threads as a reply to Pamela.) Just for another perspective, I started Brust with The Phoenix Guards and bounced off it hard. I totally agree with you about A Trail through Time and the Ile-rien books, so maybe think about trying the Vlad Taltos books, if you’re not in love with The Phoenix Guards.