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» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Heaven   » Lost in a Good Book: What are you reading in 2017? (Page 3)

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Lost in a Good Book: What are you reading in 2017?
Sarasa
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One of the advantages oif working in a charity bookshop is that lots of lovely out of print childrens books come my way (I do pay for them!).
Just read Eustacia at the Chalet School and am now on Antonia Forest's The End of Term. Forest is a much better writer but I do have a soft spot for the Chalet School series.

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Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

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Brenda Clough
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A friend of mine decided that the Chalet School needed a campus on Mars. He's nearly done with the book.

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georgiaboy
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About halfway through James Shapiro's 'The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606'. Absolutely crammed with the history of the Gunpowder Plot and the subsequent trials, executions, etc. (I thought I knew most of this but am finding that I don't!)

Lots of info about the Jesuit campaigns in England; much about King James VI/I fascination with witchcraft.

Ties all the history to specific references and allusions in the 3 WS plays of 1606: King Lear, Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra.

Two negatives: a) grammatical style is a bit informal for the subject matter IMO and b) the print's too bl**dy small! Am I being forced into the Large-Print section?

Ties nicely to 'Witches and Jesuits' by Gary Wills, which I reread in December.

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Brenda Clough
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I am having increasing difficulty with the printed page, and am transitioning over to e-books.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer

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Moo

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I enjoyed The Year of Lear very much.

The thing that most startled me was that many of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators lived in or near Stratford. Shakespeare himself had nothing to do with the plot, but some of his neighbors and people he had done business with were involved.

Moo

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Jane R
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Finally got to read Golden Hill by Francis Spufford which was January's book group choice. Far too late to join in the discussion, of course, but I did enjoy it (although I skipped over some of the waffly bits, excessively verbose eighteenth-century novels not really being my thing).

Several things I liked:

1. Meticulous research - all of it rang true, and it's so difficult to get the language right in historical books even if you have the period details correct. Not a false note anywhere.

2. [SPOILER ALERTS]


Yes, I did begin to suspect the hero was an abolitionist about two-thirds of the way through, so the twist at the end wasn't too much of a surprise. His backstory sounded plausible too.

3. I liked - perhaps liked is the wrong word, approved of - the way Tabitha's story was resolved. Yes, maybe she would have had a better life if she'd trusted Mr Smith and gone off with him - but maybe when she found out his grandfather was black she'd have turned around and gone straight home again. Or married him and made his life a misery. It made sense that she would have chosen the life she knew, even though she hated it.

And I did briefly wonder - when reading the scene where he meets the three young women for the first time - whether he would end up going off with the slave...

4. It would be nice in a way to know what happened next to the group of freed slaves; but maybe it's better to have that last picture of them bravely setting off into the unknown to claim their freedom, without ever finding out exactly what they made of it.

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Nicolemr
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Brenda C, thanks for passing on my enjoyment to Mr Hines. I just finished the 4th book and am very happy with the outcome.

I also just finished the fourth in the Lois McMaster Bujold series of Penric and Desdemona novellas, Mira's last dance, that just came out. A worth addition to the series for anyone who's been following them.

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On pilgrimage in the endless realms of Cyberia, currently traveling by ship. Now with live journal!

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Brenda Clough
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I am hoping Bujold will orchestrate all the Penrics into one volume which I can devour at once.
And I trust you have delved into her many other works, some of which are as addictive as crystal meth.

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Nicolemr
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Oh yes, of course. I've read all the fiction she's published. (Not the essays though.) I have been to two readings/book signings with her.

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On pilgrimage in the endless realms of Cyberia, currently traveling by ship. Now with live journal!

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Brenda Clough
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She is one of those authors (Diana Wynn Jones was another) who I hope will live forever, and keep on writing.

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Jane R
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Thanks for the heads-up re Mira's Last Dance, Nicole.

<to Brenda> Yeah, I still miss Diana Wynne Jones [Frown] I wanted another book about Conrad.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want to force my favourite writers to go on working after they are ready to retire, or to continue writing a series they have run out of ideas for... I'd rather have half-a-dozen really good books than three really good ones and seventeen mediocre ones. And the danger of writing a long-running series is that you DO get tired of it, especially if your fans force you to keep going after you've run out of things to say. I don't think Bujold is anywhere near that yet and Diana Wynne Jones never got there, partly because she never really did any long-running series (there were a lot of Chrestomanci books but all of them had different protagonists; the only thing that tied them together was Chrestomanci appearing in them somewhere).

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Jack the Lass

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I've a couple of books on the go at the moment, both of which I'm really enjoying.

First up, Jan Carson's "Malcolm Orange Disappears", which is a debut novel from a couple of years ago, although you'd never know it was a debut from the quality of the writing, which is excellent. A cast of wacky and disfunctional yet likeable characters, an element of magic realism (which normally isn't something I like in a book, but the whole scenario is just silly enough and the magic realism elements are sparse enough that it works), combined with assured writing, means I'm happy to recommend it so far (I'm just over half way through), and I'll look out for other books by this author (I think her next book is due fairly soon).

Secondly, I've finally got round to reading "From my Sisters' Lips" by Na'ima B. Robert, a book about Muslim women (mainly converts, like the author) covering both finding Islam and then living it. I won this book in a radio phone in when the book first came out and I heard an interview with the author on BBC Radio London - it was published in 2004 and I left London in 2005 so I'd say I've had it a good 12 years without getting round to it. I'm only a couple of chapters in so so far I've only read the author's testimony of how she converted, and am now reading about other women's stories, but it's fascinating so far, and it has turned out to be a pretty good book for me to be reading in Lent, as it is really making me stop and think about my own faith and where I'm at with it.

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"My body is a temple - it's big and doesn't move." (Jo Brand)
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Brenda Clough
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There is a story of a British mystery writers' function after WW2, at which Dorothy L. Sayers bellowed across the room to Agatha Christie, "I'm so sick of Wimsey! Aren't you sick of Poirot, Agatha?"

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MaryLouise
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Did Agatha reply?

I've always felt that Conan Doyle sounded invigorated and gleeful in the scene where he has Moriarty 'kill' Sherlock Holmes. But Holmes wouldn't stay dead.

And AA Milne came to detest Winnie the Poo, as I recall.

"I've come to hate my own creation. Now I know how God feels."
— Homer Simpson

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

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MaryLouise
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Winnie the Pooh. Time for more coffee.

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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leo
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Alan Bennett writing about his parents.

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My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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Eigon
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I sat up late last night to finish To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.
It's a time travel story, in which Our Hero is on a mission to find a hideous vase known as the bishop's bird stump, which was last seen in 1940 just before Coventry Cathedral was destroyed in a bombing raid. Along the way, he goes on a boating trip down the Thames in 1888 (meeting the Three Men in a Boat briefly as they head upstream). The story also involves cats, penwipers, jumble sales, the hero and heroine quoting Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane at each other, fancy goldfish, how servants were treated in 1888, and the problems of keeping the timeline on track.
It's the most tremendous fun, and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

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Never cruel nor cowardly.
Never give up, never give in.
The Doctor's Promise

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Doone
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Sounds good, Eigon!
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Trudy Scrumptious

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quote:
Originally posted by Eigon:
I sat up late last night to finish To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.
It's a time travel story, in which Our Hero is on a mission to find a hideous vase known as the bishop's bird stump, which was last seen in 1940 just before Coventry Cathedral was destroyed in a bombing raid. Along the way, he goes on a boating trip down the Thames in 1888 (meeting the Three Men in a Boat briefly as they head upstream). The story also involves cats, penwipers, jumble sales, the hero and heroine quoting Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane at each other, fancy goldfish, how servants were treated in 1888, and the problems of keeping the timeline on track.
It's the most tremendous fun, and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

That is such a fun book. I want to reread it now. If I remember correctly they don't just quote Wimsey and Vane, they try to recreate the seance scene from Strong Poison and find that it doesn't work out nearly as neatly in practice as it does in the novel. Am I remembering that correctly?

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Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

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Nicolemr
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I just started The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe, which is obviously connected with H P Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. It is set in Lovecraft's Dreamlands, and so far is pretty enjoyable.

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On pilgrimage in the endless realms of Cyberia, currently traveling by ship. Now with live journal!

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Jack the Lass

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I've just finished nature writer Jim Crumley's "The Great Wood", about the fabled Great Wood of Caledon which is said to have covered large swathes of Highland Scotland thousands of years ago. He walks through various remnants of that once-great forest, and as well as describing the trees, landscape and wildlife, he also talks about modern forestry, and how the various remnants might link up (or not). It's beautifully written, very poetic - I loved it.

Now I've started a YA book which I last read at school [ahem] years ago, which I remember being absolutely captivated by at the time, Jill Paton Walsh's "Fireweed", about two runaways hiding in London during WW2. I'm enjoying it so far, and glad I decided to take the risk of revisiting it.

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"My body is a temple - it's big and doesn't move." (Jo Brand)
wiblog blipfoto blog

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Brenda Clough
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I was on a jury this year, and in that post learned to quickly determine whether a book was worth reading or not. (If it doesn't hook me in the first three pages I am out.) Now that my stint is done I am applying this newly-acquired skill to my TBR pile, winnowing it ruthlessly. And I am thrilled to discover one book that is clearly worth finishing. I fell into it the way you would fall off a cliff: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. She is a popular writer of fantasy fiction and this one is equipped with many of the standard features: a castle, a wizard, etc. It is like Beauty & the Beast, only different and great fun.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer

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Lamb Chopped
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Her Temeraire series is even better.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Brenda Clough
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The last volume in that series is recently out; I haven't read it yet. The first few books in the series were superb, and the middle several kind of sagged a bit. (IMO she should've shortened the series, made it 5 or 7 vols and not 9.) But I am tell that the last volume is grand.

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Eigon
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There's certainly a seance scene in To Say Nothing of the Dog, Trudy - and it is hilarious, with several characters being taken to be from the Other Side when they arrive in the middle of it.
And later there is another seance scene in which our hero and heroine try to persuade the other characters to adopt a particular course of action by faking communication with the Other Side. It hadn't occurred to me that this was inspired by Strong Poison, though it could have been.

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Never cruel nor cowardly.
Never give up, never give in.
The Doctor's Promise

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Pomona
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I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.

I have either The Handmaid's Tale to reread (prophetic in these current times but may be a bit depressing) or A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, which I picked up for a bargain £2.50 in Aylesbury's Oxfam bookshop. I could also reread Bring Up The Bodies, also by Mantel. Shippies, which do you recommend?

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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Nicolemr
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I finished The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe, and I liked it quite a bit, but it didn't have the dream-like quality that a novel set in the dream-lands should have. But it was a very good read.

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On pilgrimage in the endless realms of Cyberia, currently traveling by ship. Now with live journal!

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Doone
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.

I have either The Handmaid's Tale to reread (prophetic in these current times but may be a bit depressing) or A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, which I picked up for a bargain £2.50 in Aylesbury's Oxfam bookshop. I could also reread Bring Up The Bodies, also by Mantel. Shippies, which do you recommend?

Mm, a difficult choice, I love all these, but I think I would go with Attwood myself.
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Trudy Scrumptious

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quote:
Originally posted by Doone:
quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.

I have either The Handmaid's Tale to reread (prophetic in these current times but may be a bit depressing) or A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, which I picked up for a bargain £2.50 in Aylesbury's Oxfam bookshop. I could also reread Bring Up The Bodies, also by Mantel. Shippies, which do you recommend?

Mm, a difficult choice, I love all these, but I think I would go with Attwood myself.
Bring Up the Bodies is only good if you've already read and enjoyed Wolf Hall. I personally would go for either of the Mantel books, although Handmaid's Tale is my favourite Margaret Atwood (though, as you say, a bit depressing).

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Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

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Dafyd
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I think Atwood's non-sf novels are better than The Handmaid's Tale myself, though I admit there's not a lot in it. (I haven't read any of her other sf/fantasy if you don't count The Blind Assassin.) Why not read all three? A Place of Greater Safety first if you haven't read it, then the Atwood so for variety.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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leo
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The Evenings: A Winter's Tale - Gerard Reve about boredom - a best seller in Holland

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My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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Jack the Lass

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I've started reading "The Outrun" by Amy Liptrot, which is a memoir of her return to Orkney (her childhood home) after several years of alcoholism and drifting in London. It doesn't pull any punches, but is also beautiful as well as stark. I'm not surprised it is an award-winner, it's a stunning book.

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"My body is a temple - it's big and doesn't move." (Jo Brand)
wiblog blipfoto blog

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venbede
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Following recommendations of the TV series, I am reading Jennifer Worth's Call the Midwife. It is wonderful.

I'm also reading Theologica Germinica. It occurred to me it didn't have the charm of other medieval mystical treatises (eg Julian of Norwich or The Cloud) and then I thought of course it wouldn't. It's German.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Jemima the 9th
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Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney. Story of twins (one of whom has cerebral palsy) growing up in Morecambe in the 1940s & 1950s, and their whole family. Told from the point of view of one of the twins looking back as an older woman.

It's tremendously moving & very instructive on the prevailing attitudes towards people with disability at the time. That makes it sound terribly hard work, but it's not.

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MaryLouise
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Rereading Colm Tóibín's novel Nora Webster about a widow in small-town Ireland working out what to do with the rest of her life now that her beloved husband has died.

I'd read this before and liked it, but didn't pay enough attention to the extraordinary character of the elderly nun Sr Thomas.

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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Brenda Clough
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Happily perusing Reading Dante by Prue Shaw, a guide to the great poem for the general reader. I have a stack of Dante works a foot high (research) but not this one.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer

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Sarasa
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I loved Nora Webster, Mary Louise. I admired the way Toibin managed to give us a story that was seen just through the eyes of the main character, so that even when she did things I disagreed with I could understand her motivation.
I've just read Angela Brazil's The Youngest Girl in the Fifth, a Mother's Day present. I love her plotting, I got quite worried about the heroine even though I knew it would all end up fine, and I liked Brazil's gentle breaking down of assumptions as to what women can achieve. I need to read more.

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Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

Posts: 1745 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged
mark_in_manchester

not waving, but...
# 15978

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Having had a rather violent shift of 'career'not so long ago, I picked up an introductory popular-science book I found lying around in the engineering lab I now help out in - "Structures - or why things don't fall down" by J E Gordon (1913-1998).

It's a mostly non-maths intro to elasticity, strength, fatigue, crack formation, bridge building etc, delivered with humour and style (believe it or not) with lots of architectural examples from ancient Greece (a hobby of the author) and various aircraft of WW2, where he worked on wooden gliders and novel aircraft materials.

I mention this here, as his chapter headings include quotes from Greek philosophy, the Psalms - and the tower of Siloam also gets a look in. And then this, towards the end:

"It is rather fashionable at present (1978) to assume that error is one of those things for which it is not really fair to blame people, who, after all, were 'doing their best' or are the victims of their upbringing and environment, or the social system - and so on and so on. But error shades off into what it is now very unpopular to call 'sin'...nine out of ten accidents are caused, not by more or less abstruse technical effects, but by old-fashioned human sin - often verging on plain wickedness.

Of course I do not mean the more gilded and juicy sins like deliberate murder, large-scale fraud or Sex [authors caps!]. It is squalid sins like carelessness, idleness, won't-learn-and-don't-need-to-ask, you-can't-tell-me-anything-about-my-job, pride, jealousy and greed that kill people."

I've been in engineering for more than 25 years, and that's the first time I've read anything like that in a (what turns out to be major, still in print) engineering textbook! Sounds like quite a man.

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"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

Posts: 1362 | Registered: Oct 2010  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

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[Overused] [Overused] [Overused]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 19489 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

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Have any of the other historical-fiction afficiandos here read anything by Cecelia Holland? I picked up her book Great Maria on whim, having found it on the sale table at the bookstore and knowing nothing about her. It's the sort of sweeping historical saga I'd normally love, and I don't NOT like it, but ... I don't know.

A chunky historical novel like that would normally keep me going for a week or so, but I've been picking away at this one for a month -- never bored enough to put it down, but also never really engaged enough to keep the pages turning. It might just be her writing style.

Just wondering if anyone else here has read anything by her, and what you thought?

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Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7255 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
venbede
Shipmate
# 16669

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Thank you, Mark. That is a wonderful quote about sin.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3143 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
Shipmate
# 18061

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I too have had difficulty getting 'into' Holland's work, and I don't know why. Also Sharon Kay Penman.
You have read Dorothy Dunnett? Her Lymond books are like needle drugs.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer

Posts: 4479 | From: Washington DC | Registered: Mar 2014  |  IP: Logged
Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

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Yes, I read the Lymond books about a year ago on the recommendation of several people here and loved them. I do love Sharon Kay Penman, although I believe her earlier books are better than her more recent ones. But Cecilia Holland is just not quite doing it for me.

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Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

Posts: 7255 | From: Closer to Paris than I am to Vancouver | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged
M.
Ship's Spare Part
# 3291

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mark-in-manchester, I read that when I did my MSc in Construction law! I loved it, still have it in the office.

I admit I don't remember that quotation, though.

M.

Posts: 2183 | From: Lurking in Surrey | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Piglet
Islander
# 11803

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I'm currently part-way through O Sing unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music by Andrew Gant.

While it sounds as if it ought to be geeky in the extreme*, it's actually a very good read, with plenty of amusing anecdotes about the characters who made English church music what it is, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

* OK, perhaps it is ... [Big Grin]

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"It's not so much the toes", said Piglet, "as the ears". A. A. Milne
I may not be on an island any more, but I'm still an islander.
alto n a soprano who can read music

Posts: 18604 | From: Fredericton, NB, on a rather larger piece of rock | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged
Nicolemr
Shipmate
# 28

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I just finished The Call by Peadar O'Guilin. Although technically a Young Adult (ie teenage) novel, it's pretty a intense and rather grim fantasy. Very compelling and hard to put down.

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On pilgrimage in the endless realms of Cyberia, currently traveling by ship. Now with live journal!

Posts: 11462 | From: New York City "The City Carries On" | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
georgiaboy
Shipmate
# 11294

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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.


Just my opinion of course, but 'Funeral Games' is MUCH less a book than either The Persian Boy or Fire From Heaven. Somehow after the death of Alexander the magic is gone. It's equally well researched, as one would expect, but still ...

There is also 'The Praise Singer,' classical era but not connected to Alexander. I found it disappointing.

Have you read 'The KIng Must Die' and 'The Bull from the Sea'? TKMD inspired me to travel to Greece and Crete!

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You can't retire from a calling.

Posts: 1628 | From: saint meinrad, IN | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged
Doone
Shipmate
# 18470

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Oh, yes, two fine books georgiaboy!
Posts: 1905 | From: UK | Registered: Sep 2015  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
Shipmate
# 18061

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Renault is the dean among historical novelists, because she had marinated herself in ancient history to the point where she actually didn't have to research. She had solved the problem of many authors, the data dump issue -- when you clog the story with all the information you have so painfully dug up. The way she did this was by writing the novel first, and only then doing the research. This kept the plot moving right along.

Unfortunately with Funeral Games she didn't have a good plot engine, the way she did for the earlier two. And without a good strong story to keep the pores clear the thing is slowed down by its history. There's too much stuff going on at a chaotic time period, and to keep the broad scope she did not select a single viewpoint character to focus our interest. And so the work is a ragbag, wandering around, historically accurate and sound in its history, but failing as fiction.

What she should have done (and what she might have been trying to do) was to sit on the ms for a while, and rewrite. She cannot have been under deadline pressure -- as I recall the third book came out many years after the first two. But she may have been under financial pressure, anxious to get a ms out and earning some money instead of eating its head off in the stable at home. So she went to press with a less-than-satisfactory work.

Have a look at her nonfiction book about Alexander, The Nature of Alexander for a different usage of what clearly was a mountain of material.

[ 06. April 2017, 19:57: Message edited by: Brenda Clough ]

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Science fiction and fantasy writer

Posts: 4479 | From: Washington DC | Registered: Mar 2014  |  IP: Logged
Golden Key
Shipmate
# 1468

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Brenda--

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Happily perusing Reading Dante by Prue Shaw, a guide to the great poem for the general reader. I have a stack of Dante works a foot high (research) but not this one.

In case you don't already know, I think novelist Dorothy Sayers did a translation of Dante.

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Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

Posts: 16868 | From: Chilling out in an undisclosed, sincere pumpkin patch. | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged



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