WWW Wednesday 2-25-2015

It’s WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Good luck finding copies of Antonia Forest’s work–old paperbacks go for hundreds of dollars. But through a Goodreads connection I lucked into a copy of Peter’s Room, which is arguably one of her best, and strangest: the kids of the series spend their Christmas holidays playing Gondal–the secondary world secretly written by Anne and Emily Bronte. Quite simply, I think it’s brilliant.

Langue[dot]doc, by Gillian Polack. A group of scientists and a single historian go back in time to a village in France in the year 1305. Polack, a historian, has fun clashing paradigms–not only medieval versus modern, but science versus the humanities in this unusual novel. She makes interesting narrative choices that I suspect a traditional publisher would have nixed–and that would have hurt this unpredictable and unusual piece. Longer review here.

The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross. A humor-laced mix of spy, horror, and technogeek occult action. Emphasis on the technogeek.

Jane Ridley, in her The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince joins those academics writing engaging, highly personal, formidably researched biographies that, in their effort to be engaging, can bump right up against fiction. Sometimes blurring the line.

• What are you reading now?

Having been through the Liddel-Hart edited Rommel Papers a couple times, I decided to read Rommel’s Attacks. (Yeah, it’s an English translation–I’ve meant to tackle it in German for years, but wussed out.) So far it’s a step by step account of a young officer going from march-and-hurrah to field experience, showing how he made sense of the fog of battle, and formed plans. Also an interesting insight into WW I thinking.

The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation, by Thomas Fleming, is a pretty good read. Fleming really knows his stuff, but hallelooya has he got a major hate on for Jefferson.

At times I’m not sure if this book is meant to be a text for college students, because Fleming has a tendency to stop and define some fairly elementary concepts and notions, and his rather frequent uses of the word ‘swirled’ would be too much in a fantasy romance, but he sure knows how to pick the details to bring the founding fathers to life–complete with warts–and yet convey the excitement, and the uncertainty, of inventing a republic with not much cash to go on, and a whole lot of conflicting agendas on where to go next.

The Boy from the Burren, by Sheia Gilluly is a sharply atmospheric fantasy with a late Stuart era feel, combining magic, storytelling, and art.


Infamous Woman: The Life of George Sand, by Joseph Barry. I never liked Sand’s novels (too melodramatic, not enough humor), though I’ve always appreciate the glimpses of Sand that I’ve caught in histories and memoirs. With Netgalley having sent me a novel about Sand coming out soon, I thought I might as well tackle a biography.

Barry seems to know his stuff, but in quoting her voluminous correspondence as well as bits from the novels, the many, many versions of “I have loved you since the moment I saw you! I love you forever! I shall die if we part!” as she (and her doomed heroes and heroines) work their way through their catalogue of lovers are fast becoming an entire wall of file cabinets in the Department of Redundancy Department, subsection: love affairs, catastrophic.

The Smoke-Scented Girl, by Melissa McShane, doesn’t really seem to be steampunk, though this other world has a strong feel of Victorian England viewed through an American lens. The pacing is terrific, the prose sharp and clear; I meant to just glance at the sample when I saw it enthusiastically reviewed on Goodreads, because I already have enough on my plate, but hoo-boy, I got so sucked in I had to buy the book.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Ah-hah hah hah (looking at towering TBR pile)

How about you?




WWW Wednesday 2-25-2015 — 33 Comments

  1. I’m currently rereading the later Peabody-Emerson books by Elizabeth Peters. I prefer them over the earlier books. I’ve heard rumors of another book, which she was editing when she died. It might be out this year. Because I thought the current’last’ book was not that good, I don’t know whether to be happy or scared!

  2. The thing is, the more you learn of Jefferson the more creepy, duplicitous and ugly he is revealed to be. George Washington, John Adams, John Quincy Adams were among the earliest to so learn the “real” Jefferson, a man they all initially cared for deeply. He betrayed all of them, stabbed them all in the back, in so many ways — while paying others to do so, and then refusing to pay his assassins. And that’s just for starters. Let’s not get started on his slaves and debts, and his hate for John Marshall, and dismantling the U.S. navy, which had been so painfully built up by Washington and Adams, leaving U.S. shipping entirely vulnerable to British warships stop, board and grab of American seamen, and so on and so forth. He created the political party system, which he hypocritically decried. Monticello is one of the most creepy places I have ever been, a consciously created mirror of the man who built it — built for 24/7 surveillance and control of everyone. The gong — carefully ordered in order to be heard 5 miles away, reminding the laborers every hour that they weren’t free and were observed by Jefferson’s telescope. Yup — the plantation system is a prison system all right, and Monticello really show this, even today.

    Flexner’s four-volume biography of Washington (1965 – 1972 is a magisterial, easy-to-read work of scholarship, though scholarship in some areas of Washington’s life has advanced since he published these — and are, I think — not certain — no longer in print. Somehow I’ve ended up with two copies of three of the volumes.

    Love, C.

    • I’ve read Flexner, and I agree. I haven’t delved enough into Jefferson to form an opinion–and one of the reasons why I haven’t delved deeply is because of his hypocrisy re slavery.

      (I did really like Monticello, in that I found it interesting, so very eighteenth century in so many ways. As was Mt. Vernon, in different ways.)

  3. Just finished: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. LOVED every moment of it. Maia’s voice is so strong and true. Maia does such a great job of struggling to be true to himself after becoming emperor very unexpectedly. Coming of age stories are some of my favorites, and this one is right in that wheelhouse.

    In some ways, it reminded me of Inda with many people introduced quickly, all of whom have multiple variations on their names and titles. It certainly builds the sense of world and community in a unique way.

    Reading: Redshirts by John Scalzi. So far, so fun. The tongue in cheek-edness of it is delicious.

    The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler. Oh my … he writes palace intrigue almost as well as battle scenes. Maybe they aren’t much different?

    Up Next: The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi. It came highly recommended by Helen Lowe.

      • “The Causal Angel” is book 3 in a trilogy (starting with “The Quantum Thief” and followed by “The Fractal Prince”). I liked it, but I’m biased (Hannu’s an old workshop mate and I blurbed the first of his books). Far future post-singularity SF by a geek with a PhD in string theory, so hardcore it redefines hardcore (it’s the first thing I’ve ever read with a plot that relies on quantum cryptography written by someone who understands QC — oh, and also Finnish mythology, self-propelled prisons on Mars, quantum-entangled gaming clans with starships, and other minor details).

    • The Goblin Emperor is wonderful.

      Especially the ears. I love the ears. If more writers used the ears like she does, I would complain a lot less about “human beings with pointy ears.”

      • While I can take or leave pointy ears, she did make them make sense. (Though my head insisted on seeing Asterix’s feathers on his cap changing with his emotions. Not the fault of the author, just my brain wiring.)

  4. I’m reading a bunch of YA and MG books for a book battle (www.yamgbattle.wordpress.com) so it’s a lot of books I wouldn’t have found otherwise: Shield of Stars by Hilari Bell, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Fair Weather by Richard Peck, and a handful of others. Up for this week is Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt, The Landry News by Andrew Clements, and Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. I’m saving my re-read of The Perilous Gard for last!

  5. Read:
    Grave Peril by Jim Butcher; reviewed here
    Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia
    Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
    To Read:
    Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia
    Corridors of Time by Poul Anderson

  6. I’m on my 7th/8th? comfort reread of the Touchstone Trilogy ^^ – and of course once Pyramids of London hits, I’ll be going on to read that. Thanks for pointing out the new McShane, which I bought forthwith, didn’t realize she had a new book out so soon.

    Wow, what was I reading before…. um… something ebook… let me check the chronology. My short time memory is getting worse, I fear. Right, Sharon Lee’s Duanfey and Longeye Duology, which basically was one book split up, no surprise people don’t much like the first book: it is, to my mind, like Sharon was trying to do grimdark, all psychological and physical abuse of an innocent, after a fairly regency start (although it can’t be our earth, as there is a concept of shepherds of the land) of strained circumstances for a formerly spirited girl.

    The magical concepts behind the world-building are totally great, but since I read Lee for the characters and dialogues it brought me down and I don’t think the overcoming of misguidedness and evil in the next book made up for it. So I really wanted a comfort reread ^^

      • I read her Jennifer Pierce Maine mystery series and adore them, also her Carousel series – this is the only one of her works which has really brought me down reading. It is certainly memorable, I think her villain is one of the most frightening I’ve read, without being brutish in any way: it’s like Hitler was Einstein at the same time and dead set on remaking the world in the way he sees fit.

  7. That Washington-Jefferson book sounds good.
    Here’s some more U.S. History: When Britain Burned the White House about the War of 1812 by British journalist Peter Snow. A very well researched and balanced account of the land campaign. I was struck about the feelings of regret and mutual admiration among some the antagonists.
    The most compelling part was the Siege of Baltimore. Disclaimer: a) I think the United States has the world’s dorkiest national anthem, b) I am a sap. So there’s the mighty British Navy bearing down on Baltimore Harbor and shelling the forts which were powerless to fire back, and young Francis Scott Key gnawing his nails to the elbow all night and rushing to the side of the ship he was in straining his eyes in the light of the breaking day toward Ft. McHenry fearing to see the Union Jack and instead the Stars and Stripes still flew. Snow quoted the first verse of the poem Key wrote, and I broke down and wept.

  8. The Stuart-era one seems cool.

    I’m reading (and loving) Sand of Bone! I know I’m going to have *lots* to say when I finish. Also working on a nonfiction book, Quilombo dos Palmares: Brazil’s Lost Nation of Fugitive Slaves, which has some real strengths but also some weaknesses–but more on that when I finish it.

  9. Recently read: “The Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman (UK publication, may not be out in the USA yet) — delightfully cock-eyed tale of librarians from an extradimensional library tasked with stealing unique works of fiction from parallel universes. And “Karen Memory” by Elizabeth Bear (Tor) — steampunk done very right indeed. (Too much steampunk features vaguely upper-class protagonists running around a not terribly plausible version of pseudo-Victorian London in order to spin fantasies of agency. Bear tackles a prostitute in gold rush Seattle, then gets weird …)

  10. Good luck finding copies of Antonia Forest’s work–old paperbacks go for hundreds of dollars.

    Really? I had no idea. I have, um, several old paperbacks. Which I will not be selling, because I have loved those books. (Tho’ there is a weird time-dislocation thingie going on, if you know anything about British social history: the internal chronology goes from one school term to the next, while each book is set in the time when she actually wrote it, so that the background covers about twenty years in the course of one school year. The characters’s school life spans from the Blitz to the ’70s, which is kind of dislocating…)

  11. Recently finished:
    The Thre Body-Problem, Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
    The Magician’s Land Lev Grossman

    Currently reading:
    Upgraded, Neil Clarke, ed.

    Next up:
    Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey

    Why yes, I am trying to clear the last of the things I could nominate for the Hugos off my TBR bookcase. What gave things away 😉

  12. I’m hoping that I can get some book suggestions from the wise people here.

    Some background: my nieces and nephews get books as presents for all holidays and birthdays. I try very hard to fit the book to the person, both in terms of what they enjoy, and also in terms of what, perhaps, they ought to be reading. (The malingering nephew got The Secret Garden. The nephew who’s frequently told he’s incapable gets books about how to do and make things.) In addition, it has to be a good book: if I didn’t enjoy reading it, I won’t give it as a present.

    Here’s the current situation: 16-year old nephew who seems to be drifting away. He’s brilliant, but not doing well in school, and it seems as if he’s started hanging with The Wrong Crowd, the playing-with-switchblade-knives crowd. He’s clearly troubled about something, but no one’s saying what. His family is religiously conservative, and that, combined with a few other things, has me wondering whether it’s possible he’s struggling with his sexuality. (Is this kid gay?)

    I’m hoping to find a book which positively depicts the range of human affections, where it’s simply part of who the characters are, and it’s not a Big Scary Deal. I also need something where if one of his parents (or siblings) picks up the book, it’s not immediately offensive. No restrictions on reading level. I’m thinking of this as a quiet contribution to the “It Gets Better Project.”

    I recognize that I’m sailing very close to the wind here. I *will* be reading anything before I give it.

    (To the person who reviewed Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw, and started me reading her work, a truly heartfelt thank you! I really love WWW Wednesdays!)

    • Ordinarily I wouldn’t do this, but have you tried Stranger, written by me and Rachel Manija Brown? The reason I say this is that it represents gay teens as part of the community, and the book is not “about” being gay. It’s an adventure, with powers and a huge battle at the end. I’d think a sixteen year old guy might enjoy it.

      Will try to think of others.

    • Diane Duane’s Tale of the Five, which begins with Door Into Fire, immediately came to mind. It’s a huge adventure story with a wide range of types of people (men, women, princes, peasants, elementals, dragons) coming to care for each other. The series is really amazing on many levels, but can be tricky to find. Maybe they are available as e-books?