[sticky entry] Sticky: 2017 Reading list

Jan. 4th, 2017 03:13 pm
alithea: (Rainbow River (made by hollycore))
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 11: In the Shadow of Riverside by Tess Gratton. Kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 12: Smoke and Ashes by Mary Anne Mohanraj. Kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 13: Dissolution by Ellen Kushner. Kindle.

Huntress by Malindo Lo. Kindle.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. Kindle. Highly recommended.

To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix. Short stories.

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers 2) by Becky Chambers. Kindle.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. Kindle.

Fables volume 2

Three Parts Dead (Craft sequence volume 1) by Max Gladstone.

Fables volume 3

Fables volume 4

Fables volume 5

Fables volume 6

Two Serpents Rise (Craft sequence volume 2) by Max Gladstone.

Sleeping with the enemy (Adventures in the Liaden Universe Book 22) by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. Kindle.

Change Management (Adventures in the Liaden Universe Book 23) by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. Kindle.

Folk'd by Laurence Donaghy

Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett

The Gathering Edge by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. Kindle.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Kindle.

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor. Kindle.

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin. Kindle.

Currently reading:

Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence) By Max Gladstone. Kindle.


Apr. 10th, 2017 03:38 pm
alithea: (Default)
So I've sort of moved to dreamwidth but not everyone on my flist is active over here so for now I'm leaving LJ commenting turned on, will be checking both sites, and not deleting my LJ or anything.
alithea: (Rainbow River (made by hollycore))
This writing malarky is great when I have the brain for it. Just finished my third* collaborative story game on Storium - https://storium.com/game/dust-in-the-wind/chapter-1/scene-1 - this one's a futuristic cyberpunkish, soft SF story about a group of friends caught up in political corruption and I'm rather pleased with my character Hari, as well as what we managed to come up with as a group.

*Not counting the pirate story which we've finished a 'book' of but moved straight on to another instalment. The first being a lesbian romance novel set in rural England and the second a behind-the-scenes superheroes soap opera, never let it be said that I'm not exploring different genres ;)
alithea: (Warrior River (made by brokenharlequin))
I'd like to say that it's because Scots are less racist and more leftwing than the English but that wouldn't actually be true (social attitude studies consistently show little difference - for example this report (pdf) "Is Scotland more left-wing than England" finds very modest differences in concern over income inequality and support for tax-and-spend and wealth redistribution. Similar issues are discussed in this Guardian analysis from last year). None of these differences are sufficient to explain why every single area of Scotland voted to Remain in Europe, even the rural conservative heartlands with similar demographics to the Leave voting areas of England.

So what's the difference?

Seems to me that the Scottish Parliament, the fact that it's elected by a proportional system, the existence of the SNP and the consistently pro-immigration political discourse are the deciding factors. In England, and now Wales* it seems, working class white folks abandoned by New Labour have turned to UKIP and bought into the increasingly popular immigrant-blaming discourse, encouraged by the mainstream media. In Scotland, this same demographic has turned to the SNP. While the UKIP lot vote in increasing numbers but have one MP, the SNP have been running the country for years, pretty successfully as centrist parties go. And they have been putting the blame for the inequality in our country firmly where it lies - with the Westminster Government and consistently telling Scots that we need immigration to survive. So while large swathes of England feel thoroughly disenfranchised and are obsessed with 'taking their country back', those same people in Scotland are getting on with doing it - from Westminster not from the EU and people who want to live and work here. And while there are racist bigots, they *never* hear their views legitimised by mainstream political discourse (much to my shame, we do have a single UKIP MEP up here (elected in a turnout of 33.5%!), but he is quite literally a national joke; when he took part in one of the TV debates, he showed himself to be completely at 90 degrees to reality, it's the only time I've seen *everyone* commenting on Twitter agreeing on anything).

And you can say what you like about the SNP (I am not their biggest fan - they pay lip service to wanting a Scandinavian-style social democracy and then centralise the police, fail to reform council tax and make excuses for not raising taxes on the rich when they have fought for the powers to do so), but while the Tory leadership candidates are talking about using EU residents as bargaining chips, the first thing Nicola Sturgeon did after the vote was tell all our EU residents that Scotland is still their home and call for everyone to be granted indefinite leave to remain, something only the Lib Dems have done south of the border, where the Labour lot are now competing over who gets to address 'immigration concerns' because the way to deal with UKIP support is apparently still to pander to their lies, because that hasn't just plunged us into complete chaos, has it? Oh no, wait, the other thing.

So now I'm back to the same point I was making during the indy ref - that modern Scottish nationalism is a very different beast to British Nationalism. And regardless of what some folks, the lexiteers and others no doubt, want to believe, the Leave vote really was about British Nationalism.

*What I can't speak to is why Welsh devolution doesn't seem to have had the same impact there. I confess I've never paid much attention to their politics.
alithea: (Rainbow River (made by hollycore))
Something I hate: my kitchen. It's a building site with no storage. One day I will get a new one!
Something I love: kites. I haven't flown one in too long, the Viking (an ex) and I used to fly kites a lot because he always had one in the boot of his car whenever we went anywhere.
Somewhere I've been: Kirkcudbright. My parents used to holiday in Scotland before I was born and when I was really little. Having always heard them talk about it, the first time I saw it written down was one of those spelling and pronunciation mismatches that are hilarious when other people make them about somewhere local to you (for those who are oblivious, it's pronounced 'Cu'koo-bree' (I await being corrected by someone more local than me ;)))
Somewhere I'd like to go: Kelvingrove Museum - I haven't been for about 15 years and they seem to have made a lovely job of doing it up since.
Someone I know: Kevin
A film I like: Kind Hearts and Coronets

That was a lot harder than M, especially the places, I thought I was going to have to resort to the index of my atlas!
alithea: (Rainbow River (made by hollycore))
Something I hate: Mould on my walls from leaky guttering no-one will fix
Something I love: Mushrooms, because fungi are great, except when they are growing somewhere you really don't want them. Also, yummy.
Somewhere I've been: Malta - a very long time ago, I don't think I was even a teenager. Mostly I remember pretty painted boats and getting heat rash.
Somewhere I'd like to go: Madrid - Mim has got me hankering for Spain, somewhere else I haven't been for years and years.
Someone I know: [livejournal.com profile] marrog
A film I like: Mad Max: Fury Road

If anyone else would like a letter, leave a comment!
alithea: (Rainbow River (made by hollycore))
Tremontaine episode 10: Shadowroot by Joe Derfner & Ellen Kushner. I thought this guy was the weakest of the ensemble writers after his first couple of episodes but this one was much better actually. [kindle]

Tremontaine episode 11: Go And Tell The Morning Star by Alaya Dawn Johnson & Ellen Kushner. A secret is revealed and Kaab chooses between her family and her friends. Great stuff, a really good episode for seeing into the characters heads and hearts.[kindle]

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett. Random recommendation from a work colleague. Lost colony SF with some really lovely world building and interesting musings on how society develops when the tribe gets too big to stay one happy family.

Tremontaine episode 12: A Tale of Two Ladies by Malinda Lo & Ellen Kushner. Ooooh, cannot wait for the final part now, the battle of wits between Kaab and Diane is marvellous.[kindle]

The Wicked and the Divine: The Faust Act (volume 1) by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles. [re-read]

The Wicked and the Divine: Fandemonium (volume 2) by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles. Cliff-hanger!! Did not see that coming.

Tremontaine episode 13: Departures by Ellen Kushner. Season 1 finale. Great stuff![kindle]

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. I couldn't imagine this guy writing YA but the reviews are glowing so I thought I'd give it a go. Turns out there is less violence and no sex but it's still very much Abercrombie. I didn't see where it was going at all and rather enjoyed that but I think I'm more excited about the other two in the series which have female POV characters.

Ash by Malinda Lo. Charming retelling of Cinderella complete with inscrutable fairies and the heroine saving herself and finding belonging, perfect sickbed reading.[kindle]

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Great little graphic novel based on a web comic. I had a tear in my eye when I finished it, really lovely character piece.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. A very grown up Vorkosigan book about mortality, duty and legacy. I sniffled a fair few times.

The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett. Lymond is sent to help the Knights of St John against the Turks, putting into the path of Graham Mallett, known as Gabriel, but who is the angel and who is the demon? As usual in Dunnett books, some people are very much not who they seem and secret agendas will only gradually be revealed.

The Wicked and the Divine volume 3: Commercial Suicide by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, Cowles et al. I'm really not sure where they're going with this and am slightly concerned they are going to end up with no characters I actually like left but it continues to be a thought-provoking read. Some of the guest artists are more successful than others.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Finally bought this at xmas having been planning to read it for years. Kind of sad I didn't read it as a teenager because teenage-me would have adored it. I did still really enjoy it, but I was aware, especially once she fell in love, that it would have meant so much more to me at that age.

Saga volume 2 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples. Mostly enjoying this although it still has points where it make me go 'hmmm'.

The Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart. Very good and very pretty. I want to re-read the rest of Sandman now, really must complete my collection!

The Traitor by Seth Dickinson. A griping read, I ended up staying up til 1am to finish it. The best sort of SF - a thought-provoking read (a commentary on Imperialism and colonialism in this case) combined with a great character story that takes you on an emotional journey. [Kindle]

Saga volume 3 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples. I just wish they would stop using misogynistic slurs. That aside, I'm rather enjoying it.

Rat Queens volume 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch. Gory, irreverent and very funny.

A long way to a small, angry planet by Becky Chambers. Character-driven space opera, not quite Bujold or the Liaden Universe but a satisfying read.[Kindle]

Runaways volume 1: Pride & Joy [Re-read]

Runaways volume 2: Teenage Wasteland [Re-read]

Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Gillen & McKelvie. Recognisably the same team as The Wicked and the Divine but I think their writing has come on since and my 'Unknown Armies' issues may not help its case. So, not really my thing.

False Colours by Georgette Heyer.

Rat Queens volume 2

Rat Queens volume 3

Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett. Well, that's a chess game I'm never going to forget.

Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie. A master class in writing fantasy short stories.

Trade Secret by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb. The story of how Wit magic came to be stigmatised in the Six Duchies. Unfortunately now I've started noticing how she treats her female characters, I keep being disappointed by it.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. Utterly charming, Victoriana magical realism. Quite lovely.

Saga volume 4 by Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples. Sadly, I think I might give up on this here - I know it's intended to be offensive but really, the rest of it is creative, why do the trolls have to use such graphic sexist language?

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie. I would never have thought when I was struggling through 'The Blade Itself' that Abercrombie would become one of my favourite fantasy authors but he has - this is full of great female characters

Alliance of Equals by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. The main Korval storyline of the Liaden Universe continues - we get a bit of Daav but this is mostly The Dutiful Passage and the AIs, and happily no Theo ;)

Fables collected 1-10 "Legends in Exile" and "Animal Farm" by Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha and Craig Hamilton. Somehow I'd never got around to this before but it's definitely worth a read if exiled fairytale characters trying to make their way in New York sounds like your sort of thing.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Fun alternate world fantasy set in a Victorian London full of vampires and fae.

Half a War by Joe Abercrombie.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 1: Convocation by Ellen Kushner. Kindle.

Rivers of London:Body of Work

Whitehall season 1 episode 1:Embarkations by Liz Duffy Adams and Delia Sherman. Kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 2: Old in Mischief by Tessa Gratton. kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 3: Fireworks by Mary Anne Mohanraj. kindle

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 4: All that glitters by Joe Derfner. Kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 5: Alive, and home here by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Kindle.

The Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett.

The Hanging Tree (Rivers of London 6) by Ben Aaronovitch.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 6: Blood and Silk by Mary Anne Mohanraj. Kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 7: The Duchess Gambit by Joe Derfner. Kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 8: A Rushing of wings by Paul Witcover and Racheline Maltese. Kindle.

The Mazarinette and the Musketeer by Heather Rose Jones. (short story) Kindle.

Mother of Souls by Heather Rose Jones. I do love this series but the problem with trying to continue the two existing storylines plus add another one and two new narrators is that this ends up feeling very bitty indeed in places, like she's shoved odd bits of a different book into it because the events are all on the same timeline. Kindle

Tremontaine season 2 episode 9: The Heart a Liability by Tessa Gratton. Kindle.

Tremontaine season 2 episode 10: The Coming Night by Joel Derfner. Kindle.

Currently reading:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.

To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix.

Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard by Kim Newman
alithea: (Windswept Francine)
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy. Entertaining adventure story which is about as close to the TV adaptations I remember as Disney's Three Musketeers is to the original, I wasn't expected it to be narrated by his wife for a start. It does however, rely on classic case of telling rather than showing - we're told she's regarded as the cleverest woman in Europe but she spends most of the book being remarkably dense!

Foxglove Summer (Rivers of London book 5) by Ben Aaronovitch. Yet another thoroughly entertaining instalment. I love how these books manage to be both really funny and yet also feature quite dark urban fantasy that never resorts to popular stereotypes [Kindle]

A Liaden Universe Constellation 1 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Short story collection. Some gems here, especially the story of how Ren Zel comes to be dead and flying with the Dutiful Passage, and the one about the scout stranded on the world that is killing him at the end, which made me teary.

A Liaden Universe Constellation 2 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Another short story collection, mostly Plan B and Surebleak era stuff this time although also Miri backstory, which I enjoyed.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. Yeah, I see why this won so many awards, and it's so nice not to have to qualify that with anything problematic (Wind-up Girl this is not, in a good way).

Zero by J.S Collyer. Space opera by a friend of the Boy's. This went somewhere I really wasn't expecting half way through but was a pretty good space action/thriller story. My only complaint would be that she cut too much of the character stuff - several of the background characters end up being names and jobs, and the characterisation of the two main characters suffers somewhat from having relationships with characters that are not explored in quite enough depth for you to really get the emotional impact of everything that happens to them. Oh, and I was somewhat annoyed by one of the three female characters disappearing half way through too. Overall, it read a bit too much like she'd cut half of the interpersonal stuff out. [Kindle]

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie. I think I actually enjoyed this more than the first one in the end. She continues to build on and explore her setting and while the plot becomes arguably less sweeping, I liked the more personal edge and focus on the characters as Breq develops from single-mindedly pursuing a goal she assumes will kill her to working out how she can make a difference to the lives of the ordinary people caught up in the machinations of those so distant from them. Maybe less radical in terms of ideas than the first book (although I'm not sure how she could have avoided that really) but more engaging character-wise for me.

Goddess by Kelly Gardiner. When I found out someone had written a novel in English about Julie D'Aubigny, La Maupin, the 17th Century swashbuckling bisexual opera singer, I knew I had to read it, especially as I've been vaguely contemplating doing similarly (as an exercise at least, I doubt it would ever have seen the light of day!). Unfortunately, it's rather disappointing as the author has obviously done her research but her decision to structure the novel with every other chapter being Julie monologuing from her deathbed makes the entire thing a tragedy, from the abused child to the grief-stricken lover left behind when the love of her life dies, the love of her life who only features in last few chapters. Some of the third person chapters are quite entertaining once she gets going and there's no doubt that it's readable but her characterisation of Julie tends more towards the pathetic than the sympathetic (understandably really given she's dying but it seems an odd choice of style for someone who apparently wants to celebrate her life). Plus the narrative style means none of the other characters are very well realised and we are mostly told the relationships rather than seeing them in a light where they make much sense. This is particularly glaring at the start because although the same sex and mixed sex relationships get more equal treatment later in the story, we are supposed to believe that Clara and Julie are so obviously enamoured of each other that one of them gets banished to a convent without them speaking to each other(!), but then they apparently can't manage to invent lesbian sex between them, and that all they do is gaze into each other eyes and hold hands, and daydream about what would happen if Julie woke up as a man, and only kiss once *because it scares them too much*. All in all, what I wanted to read was the version of La Maupin's life Ellen Kushner might write and this is very much not it.[Kindle]

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Rather entertaining comedy of errors involving a bunch of mostly bumbling historians time travelling back to Victorian Oxford in pursuit of what turns out to be a hideous urn which disappeared when Coventry Cathedral was destroyed during WW2. Laugh out loud funny in places and the time travel is delightfully twisty - can our heroes fix the time line so events unfold as they are supposed to, and who really broke things in the first place?

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. After reading the House of Niccolo books, I am firmly of the opinion that there is no pleasure quite like a Dunnett novel and this did not disappoint. Lymond seems to be a charismatic villain but of course, nothing is as it seems and gradually his plotting and other people's is revealed for what it really is. As usual, her historical backdrop is rich in detail (mid 16th Century Scotland at war with England) but the real joy of the book is the character studies and the way her masterful use of point of view gradually reveals their plotting and scheming and who we can really trust. I laughed and cried and was gripped to the end - what more can you ask for?

Necessity's Child by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. In which we meet some hidden inhabitants of Surebleak. I love Lee & Miller's world building, the little glimpses of where the Bedel have come from and how their society has evolved are wonderful. Entertaining as ever.

Queens' Play by Dorothy Dunnett. Politicking and politicking and yet more politicking, I see why some reviewers suggest you read this twice! The examination of the personal responsibility of leaders is fascinating.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. A watery dystopia that reads like a fairy tale. Very atmospheric.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman.

Ms Marvel: No Normal

The Wicked and the Divine, volume 1

Saga, volume 1

Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb.

Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones. Regency-esque lesbian romance set in a fictional European country and filled with inheritance-related intrigue and mystic ritual. Thoroughly enjoyable, my only complaint is that the romance is treated with too light a touch in places - I wasn't expecting erotica from the reviews but the scene where they finally confess their feelings falls a little flat because she cuts scene without even allowing them a passionate embrace on screen.[Kindle]

The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones. The blurb for this only refers to the romance storyline between two of the background characters from the first book but actually this also picks up Barbara and Margerit's story 2 or 3 years later. The intrigue plot is engaging and she's a bit braver with showing the romance on screen this time, very enjoyable if you're into regency-esque society intrigue and romance, I'd happily read another one if she writes more in this setting. [Kindle]

Ms Marvel volume 2

Ms Marvel volume 3

A Liaden Universe Constellation 3 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie.

Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. A mixed bag as these things usually are but some very enjoyable stories in amongst the selection.[Kindle]

Lucia's Progress by E.F. Benson. Lucia invests in the Stock market and uses the profits to buy her way into the affections of the town, having failed in her attempt to get elected to the council. Delightful social backstabbing. [Kindle]

Tremontaine, episodes 1-3 by Ellen Kushner et al. Prequel to Swordspoint being published via Serial Box in weekly instalments but also available via Amazon for Kindle. Diane, Duchess Tremontaine is playing a dangerous game with her family's fortune, will the chocolate traders be her allies or part of her downfall? Meanwhile, her husband has started an affair with a tempestuous student who wants to start his own school for commoners and a farm girl is discovering the wonders of mathematics. Great stuff, I eagerly await the next instalment![Kindle]

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal. Very well done short story about the choices we face especially as we get old. Recommend having tissue or two handy. [Kindle]

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler. I see why this won so many awards, it packs a real punch for such a short piece.[Kindle]

Tremontaine, episode 4-6 [Kindle]

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. [Kindle - free from Project Gutenburg]

Tremontaine episode 7 [Kindle]

Trouble for Lucia by E.F. Benson. [Kindle]

Tremontaine episode 8 & 9 [Kindle]

Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. [RE-READ]
alithea: (Rainbow River (made by hollycore))
My Saturday involved doing my kitchen chores while singing along to loud 80s Bon Jovi and then an evening of TV entertainment which involved Strictly, awe-inspiring record-breaking Grand Prix Final figure skating*, and Red2 (I want to be Helen Mirren when I grow up).

*I really don't understand why figure skating isn't more popular, what they are doing on ice these days is fantastic. Mind you, it doesn't help that it never gets any coverage on the UK media because we are crap at it these days.
alithea: (Being human (base by ahlai))
Really glad I joined the Scottish Greens and got involved this year. Going to the count last night was really good fun. We didn't get either of our deposits back but we substantially increased our vote share in both constituencies and managed about 3% (and 4th place) in Dundee West which was pretty damn good all things considered, since that was the seat the SNP were fighting as opposed to defending. And I'm really hopeful for Holyrood next year - there's a lot of sympathy for us locally, especially amongst the SNP lot, we should be able to pick up a lot of regionalist list votes here.

The anger towards Scottish Labour was palpable - the candidate for our constituency (who was running against the deputy leader of the SNP and was never going to win) was the only person whose speech after the results was booed.

Also telling was the fact the local Lib Dems are a bunch of St. Andrews old boys and spent the evening sitting with the local Tories. The Boy got chatting to one of their activists, who is actually a lefty liberal and apparently he's seriously considering decamping and joining us instead.

All in all a really positive experience, I hadn't planned to stay 'til the results were announced but I got caught up and did so anyway. Cheering on our merry little band was a great moment, although we didn't make the BBC Scotland coverage because our results were announced just as Douglas Alexander lost. And then we came home and got sucked into the TV coverage because Jim Murphy was just conceding defeat as we got in. So we didn't go to bed til gone 4am, by which time it was looking like Carmichael might be the only non-SNP left in Scotland and like the exit poll was depressingly accurate.

The next 5 years look to be *interesting* - Tory majority and an EU referendum was about the only scenario where I could see us having another indy ref within the next 10 years but I think it will depend on whether Westminster are prepared to offer electoral reform and how much devolution we now get. It's certainly depressing for the UK as a whole - branding the Scots a bunch of 'ugly nationalists' isn't going to do anything for the state of the Union and if that's the best Labour can manage, England is rather fucked.
alithea: (Rainbow River (made by hollycore))
Lights on, heating on, and I saw snow flakes amongst the rain battering on the window. Having planned to put away my winter clothes today seems rather premature now!

I think we might be making good use of the stove in the summer house over my birthday.

ETA: Oh joy, now the kitchen ceiling is dripping! I obviously jinxed us remarking that it hadn't happened all winter a few days ago :(

2015 plans

Jan. 1st, 2015 11:58 am
alithea: (Being human (base by ahlai))
- Manage more than 30 books this year
- Read To Kill a Mockingbird and Great Expectations
- Read the rest of the Jacqueline Carey Terre D'Ange books
- Read Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles

- Start making notes for my novel
- Keep up with my Storium games

- Make myself a top/cardigan/jumper
- Try colourwork
- Actually knit something for my mother

- Try historical fencing
- Manage the MTB skills trail at Templeton without going around any of the obstacles
- Swim outdoors
- Start running again

- Institute monthly date nights
- Finally make our wedding photobook
alithea: (Mucha Fran&Katchoo)
National identity is a funny old thing. As a young person, I think you probably start off inheriting your national identity from your parents but as you get older, particularly if you move away and make your home some place else, it becomes a more complicated. Unsurprisingly, the indy ref has brought up a lot of issues regarding national identity and one person of my acquaintance just straight out said to me 'I'm surprised that as a recent immigrant to Scotland, you are supporting independence'. Now as it happens, my support for independence is not about national identity, it's about democracy and representation. I'm a federalist at heart but as we are quickly finding out now, the UK is not in the least set up in a way to achieve federalism any time soon. But the national identity thing is still an interesting discussion. So here are my thoughts:

I don't think I've ever felt British in my life. I was always English.

For context, my mother's family are very English on both sides and probably go back to the Doomsday book in the Beds/Bucks region. On the other hand, my father is Irish Catholic on one side and German Jewish on the other. Rather than being 'British', he has always referred to himself as being a mongrel and I think would probably identify as a European more than anything else (he infamously had a blazing row with the modern language teachers at my high school about how they should teach Spanish rather than German because Germans spoke English anyway and communicating in Europe was the future). Scotland was never on my radar until I lived here (my parents used to holiday in Kirkcudbright but the last time we did so as a family was when I was still too young to remember), Wales was somewhere my father hated with a passion (he lived there for a few years as a small boy and got bullied pretty badly for being English I think) that I only ever went to on biology field trips, and Ireland was a place across the water that my name and love of potatoes came from (a day trip to Dublin was my sole experience of the place until I met the Boy).

So regardless of actually *being* British, if you'd have asked teenage me what I was, I'd have said English every time.

Then I moved to Scotland.

Now for those of you who have never lived in Scotland (or Wales, or NI) let me share this - you don't have to live up here very long at all before you quickly realise how England-centric all the national news/media/whatever is and how utterly ignorant your average English person is about life and politics up here. I know because I *was* that ignorant English person. When I announced I was moving to Aberdeen to my friends at uni, one of them thought it was in Wales, and believe me, lack of knowledge of geography is only the start of the issue.

Now in Aberdeen, I was only at home in the bubble that was the old city, the university campus populated by folks from all over the world, so my Englishness remained. Also, I was miserable and there is nothing more inward looking than a depressed PhD student (I exaggerate for effect).

But when I moved to Dundee, I made a *home* for myself. Now home is a funny old concept just like national identity. Home had always been a difficult subject for me because I had been an outsider growing up because my parents weren't local and no-one ever believed I'd been born and bred in Staffs because I didn't *sound* local. Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't an *outcast*, I made friends for life at school, but I also spent my entire school career being bullied about my voice/accent, and not just by the other pupils. Anyway, at some point in the last 10 years, Dundee has gone from being the place I live, to *home* and therefore *where I come from*, and similarly I've gone from feeling English to feeling Scottish.

But you're not Scottish, I hear you thinking. Ah well, feelings don't always fit with logic now do they? So here is the thing you are missing - unlike in England where, in my experience, immigrants identify as British if they aren't *ethnically* English, Scotland in the last decade or so has successfully made Scottishness a civic identity rather than just an ethnic one. Obviously not entirely and completely but for example, you often see Asian immigrants on Scottish TV who identify as 'Scottish Asian'. Now I don't know about you, but I have never come across any Asians or indeed anyone else with non-British ancestry who identifies as 'English' anything.

And then there is the other side to this - why don't I identify as British? And now we get to the bit that is further complicated by having an Irish Catholic (pagan) husband from Northern Ireland. It's hard to be a proud Brit when a lot of stuff you are supposed to be proud of involves an army who terrorised your husband as a child, empires and wars when you're not far off a pacifist, and sporting tribalism when you are the sort of person who enjoys watching people triumph regardless of their nationality (I love ice skating; I don't believe Torvil and Dean were cheated of gold at their last Olympics, I think they were damned lucky to get the bronze and probably didn't deserve it). Visit NI in July when you have catholic family that you love and then tell me the sight of a union flag makes you proud. Listen to the anti-immigration nonsense parroted by all the Westminster crowd when you have very dear friends who have been at risk of being deported because of the stupid new rules despite Scotland desperately needing more working age immigrants and tell me it makes you proud to be British.

And then there are the great British institutions we can all be proud of like the NHS and the Welfare State. But what are we doing to these things in modern Britain? Tearing them apart is what. The more I see of the modern Labour party and the rise of UKIP in England, the more I buy into the notion that the post war to 1970s period was the blip and actually the majority of folks in Britain basically want to live in the 19th Century. And I don't thank you very much, regardless of how much I love the fashions, architecture and Arts and Crafts, and I think the majority of Scots agree with me, whereas I'm afraid despite knowing English folks who do too, I don't have faith that they are a majority.

So there we have it, I might *be* British, it is after all what it says on my passport, but I don't feel loyalty to a nation that doesn't really exist (our country is the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) over a place that is my home. If we can be the Scotland I want us to be within the UK that suits me just fine, but if we can't then I'll be Scottish even if that means I'm not British any more.
alithea: (Being human (base by ahlai))
This is an artificial trail full of obstacles. These are meant to require skill and be something you have to get over. I will be wracked with self-doubt and convinced that because it is hard I am going to struggle. Therefore I will struggle.

This is a natural trail. These rocks and tree roots are just here, they aren't intentional obstacles. I've been cycling over tree roots since I was a kid, this isn't hard. Therefore I just get on with it even if I wobble about a bit.

The annoying bit is, I know I'm struggling with the artificial trail because I have no confidence not because I'm not physically capable of it, but that doesn't actually help.

Brains are funny things. I'm very glad that when I started this job no-one ever approached teaching me stuff in a way that made me feel they didn't think I could do it.

ETA: I also wonder if I'd have more confidence regarding physical challenges if my mother hadn't spent my entire childhood telling me I was cackhanded and awkward.
alithea: (Starbuck bang (made by amiyuy))
I'm glad I persevered with Joe Abercrombie books despite being in two minds by the end of the First Law trilogy because I finished reading 'The Heroes' the other night and it's his best book yet. An anti-war war novel with engaging, incredibly human characters. And best of all, he has strong female characters who have agency and achieve things in different ways according to their strengths and he doesn't resort to sexual violence to make his point that the world is a grim place. I'm not quite sure what the world of mainstream fantasy fiction has come to when I feel the need to celebrate an author for writing dark fantasy without raping anyone but maybe I'm just sick of people defending GRRM with endless excuses about historical realism.
alithea: (Warrior River (made by brokenharlequin))
Mo & Erin made a thing - http://www.manfeels-park.com/
Pride and Prejudice meets taking the piss out of the poor men who feel hurt by feminism. I knew I loved Lizzie Bennet :)
alithea: (Rainbow River (made by hollycore))
Because I mentioned spring yesterday, it was wet and windy and about 8 degrees C when I walked home yesterday evening, and the heating came on last night and this morning without anyone touching the thermostat. Such is Scottish weather!
alithea: (Books)
Minette by Melanie Clegg. Story of Charles II youngest sister growing up in exile in Paris and her Cinderella-style rise to a match with the Sun King's younger brother. Charming, slightly YA in tone as the narrator is only 13 when it starts but does still have touching emotional depths.(Kindle)

A Trail of Fire by Diana Gabaldon. 4 short stories/novellas. The Lord John one set in the West Indies was my favourite but mostly this suffered from me having forgotten an awful lot of what happened in the Outlander series. Don't know if the title of the story about Roger's father is a nod to Firefly but it would be nice to think so.(Kindle)

City of Dragons by Robin Hobb. Eminently readable fantasy, looking forward to the next book.

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer. More of a mystery than I was expecting. Entertaining enough but not a favourite.

Broken Homes (Rivers of London 4) by Ben Aaronovitch. Another entertaining instalment in this well characterised series with lovely world building and attention to detail. (Kindle)

Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer. Entertaining Georgian melodrama.

Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson. 1920s social one-upmanship comedy, had me roaring with laughter in places. (Kindle)

Miss Mapp by E.F. Benson. More hilarious social escapades, think this was funnier than the first one.

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb

Lucia in London by E.F. Benson

Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson. Just a tad far-fetched but entertainingly so!

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. Slightly frustrating but entertaining over all, and I approve of his assumption of sexual equality in his world and kick-ass women pirates even if some muppets think it's feminist overkill and unjustified because sexism is human nature (I'm sure you can imagine what I think of that nonsense!).

The Ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman. I did really enjoy this, he's definitely found his novel writing voice these days, it was a bit Graveyard Book, a bit 'Book of Lost Things', and very much it's own magical realist thing. But my reaction to it was much based on my current mental state I think, so I'm not sure I could put my finger on its general appeal other than the fact that the Hempstock family are marvellous and work in a way the gods in American Gods just didn't quite for me somehow.

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. Abercrombie continues to confound me, I find the violence and torture in his books decidedly uncomfortable but on the other hand, it's always written to be so and he's an equal opportunity torturer who isn't obsessed with raping his female characters to prove how harsh the world is. And there is no denying the man can write engaging characters. I enjoyed this one more than the 1st Law trilogy, mostly because the characters don't spend the entire book being manipulated by the world's most infuriating magician.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. By turns utterly beautiful and utterly horrific, highly recommended if you haven't read it - wonderful characters and well-thought out alien society (you can tell she's an academic), hard to put down.

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. 1st book in one of the Boy's favourite childhood series. Charming but childish, I'm assured that like the 'Dark is Rising' series, they improve after this!

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie. Further write-up on my journal.

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie. His latest is a take on a Western and another good read with redemption being a strong theme.

The Bee Keeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. I've been jokily referring to this as Sherlock Holmes fanfic but that isn't really fair because it's its own thing which happens to feature an aged Holmes, Watson and Mycroft. Rather enjoyable.

The Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb. Gah, I can't really say anything about this without spoiling anyone, can't wait for the next installment though, Fitz and the Fool again is like being reunited with old friends.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. Thoroughly enjoyable fantasy yarn, I particularly enjoyed the 7th Sea (RPG) influence here, subtle as it was.

Clariel by Garth Nix. Abhorsen series prequel. About the choices you make and the ones you don't and Fate. Another great addition to the series.

Kraken by China Mieville. Incredibly imaginative, deeply, deeply bizarre and occasionally horrific and deeply creepy. Gritty London gang warfare where the gangs are mages and cultists, and the war is over the end of the world. Mostly I enjoyed it but as his other stuff I've read, it's an ideas book not a character book. I am not going to read the new Rivers of London book straight after this because I think it would break my brain!

Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill. A redemption story set up as ghost story. Not my usual fare but the Boy assured me I'd enjoy the character journey and he was right although I did have to get over the fact it includes hideous cruelty to dogs.

Let Down Your Hair by Fiona Price [Kindle]

The Scarlett Pimpernel by Emma Orczy.

Currently reading:

From Whitechapel: A Novel of Jack the Ripper by Melanie Clegg. [Kindle]

Given up on:

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami. Oh dear, I'm struggling with this. It isn't graphic the way that 'The Windup Girl' is but the plot does revolve around sexual abuse and I've kind of had it with struggling through uncomfortable things for the sake of it this year :(

By Light Alone by Adam Roberts. The development of photosynthetic hair sounds like an interesting idea but all he's done with it by the middle of the book is to parade a bunch of awful rich people who hate the poor and make clear that removing hunger doesn't solve anything on its own. Apparently it becomes a totally different book later on but I'm past caring. If this is 'worthy' SF, I'll stick with my space opera thanks!

Last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield. I get that he made a conscious decision to reflect the style of ancient sagas, and it's very well done because it totally reminds me of translating The Iliad, but when it comes down to it, I want to read the characters' stories and not pages and pages of description of battles including entire paragraphs of lists of the tribes involved!
alithea: (Books)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Okay, so I'll confess that I did enjoy this, although the pacing was rather slow and then everything happening at once, and the heroine was annoyingly wet and too perfect to live. I was very amused by how every single person we met turned out to be connected to the plot - Dickens really didn't believe in coincidences, did he?

Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch. This very British urban fantasy mystery series continues to be entertaining, this one even featured magic pottery which amused me, especially as the area I grew up in got a name check :)

Local Custom by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. Having devoured all but the most recent Vorkosigan book, I've moved on to the next SF adventure romance series I was recommended by people around here. Of course, the problem with that is comparisons are a little hard to avoid and while I enjoyed this, my favourite character wasn't central to the story and the main romance didn't capture me like Cordelia and Aral did. A good solid introduction though.

Scout's Progress by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. Ah now, this is more like it - Daav as a central character and more plot. Really enjoyed this, will be ordering the sequel.

Runaways: Dead Wrong by Terry Moore & (artist). Hmmm, Runaways has never returned to the heights of its first
couple of runs, I still miss Gert :( I know TM can write good interpersonal relationships but this has too much crammed into it to let them shine and I don't like the new art work.

Caprice and Rondo (House of Niccolo Book 7) by Dorothy Dunnett. The revelations are building, am torn between being desperate to read Gemini and wanting to wait because once it's done there is no more (canon) Niccolo...

Mouse and Dragon by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I did enjoy this but I can understand why people coming to it having already read the books either side felt a little disappointed, it jumps in time rather randomly and the last section definitely feels like filler and set up for later stories.

A Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I was very relieved to thoroughly enjoy this despite the fact we have now skipped to the next generation. More lovely character driven storytelling plus a good bit of action and adventure and I enjoyed seeing more of the varied cultures in the Liaden universe for the first time.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It's amazing how much emotion you can convey with simple B&W drawings and captions - a moving memoir about growing up in Iran and the real people behind the veils. This is exactly why I have no time for people who think comics aren't proper literature.

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe. I can't remember if I read this as a kid or not, I certainly read a bunch of her books, but either way, we picked up a lovely Folio edition in our local Oxfam bookshop the other week and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Agent of Change by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Carpe Diem by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Plan B by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

I Dare by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. The fact I read all 4 of the books in this story arc in quick succession probably tells you all you need to know about how good these are. If you are a fan of space adventure novels with romance, great characters, engaging world building and gripping plots, and you haven't read these already, you are in for a treat!

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie.

A Curse for Gracie Daylittle by Amber Fisher.

Crystal Soldier by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Crystal Dragon by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

The Balance of Trade by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Fledging by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Saltation by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Ghost Ship by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie.

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. Clever, well-written and engaging, but when it comes down to it, I prefer my fantasy a little less bleak.

Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer. Marvellous fun, thoroughly enjoyable.

Gemini (House of Niccolo book 8) by Dorothy Dunnett. Utterly brilliant, see more in this post on my journal.

The Lies of Locke Lamorra by Scott Lynch. Thoroughly enjoyable fantasy. A little graphic for some in places I suspect but much more satisfying than the 3rd Law Trilogy. My only niggle is it could have done with a couple more female characters really.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold. Marvellous fun, I laughed out loud a good few times.

Dragon ship by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. The problem with this is that it's a Theo Waitley book when what I want is another main Korval plotline book. So enjoyable but frustrating!

The Wind Through the Keyhole (Dark Tower) by Stephen King. Another Dark Tower book that fits between 4 and 5 and is Roland telling more tales from his younger life. High hopes for this because 4 and 5 are my favourite of the previous volumes. Actually more like two novellas but good anyway.

Heavy Ice by Ankaret Wells. A Requite novel set 200 years after the original ones. The Founders find Requite again and neither of them will ever be the same again - great stuff, see the longer review in a separate post.

The Maker's Mask by Ankaret Wells. Re-read as I was suffering Requite withdrawal after running out of Heavy Ice to read!

The Hawkwood War by Ankaret Wells. Re-read as above.
alithea: (Warrior River (made by brokenharlequin))
Probably no-one around here has missed me raving about the Requite books by our very own Ankaret Wells, but in case you weren't aware the latest one, Heavy Ice came out on the 1st of December and if you are a fan of SF with plenty of Adventure and romance, you are in for a treat! It's like the ultimate girl and her pony story, where the girl is a foul-mouthed bandit with the honour of the most pragmatic family of bandit royalty on her shoulders, and her pony is a 12 ft dinosaur with the most realised personality of any non-speaking animal character I've read for a long time. In keeping with its very different heroine, the tone of this book is altogether earthier and sexier than The Maker's Mask and The Hawkwood War, but the wonderful world building and background plots and intrigue are still there in spades, and if I have any complaints , it would be that I loved some of the secondary characters so much, I was disappointed it wasn't longer so we could see more of them. The lost colony main plot line is handled with wonderful attention to detail and, despite being set over 200 years after the other two, there are some lovely touches for fans of previous characters to squee over too. I finished it a couple of nights ago and am now going to have to read the other ones again over the holidays because I'm suffering Requite withdrawal symptoms.

My new motto when someone is trying to take advantage of my good nature is What Would A Hawkwood Do?

April 2017

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