jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
Confession time: I've never read The Once and Future King. I adored the Disney Sword in the Stone when I was young, and watched Excalibur before I had any real sense of what was going on it in. Those and a general cultural osmosis formed most of my Arthurian background. I read Lawhead's Pendragon trilogy in junior high, and found it increasingly unreadable from Taliesin through Merlin through Arthur, and don't think I ever got through the tacked-on fourth volume.

But I like reading aloud, and Erin evidently likes being read to and is exceedingly fond of Sword in the Stone, so I've dug up a cheap ebook copy of OFK. It's exactly the kind of ... Edwardian? Early-twentieth-century English prose style, anyway, that I'm partial to, the same as one gets from Milne or Beatrix Potter ("And when Mr. John Dormouse was complained to, he stayed in bed, and would say nothing but ‘very snug;’ which is not the way to carry on a retail business."), or apparently Wodehouse. Very very dry and reserved, but with gorgeous language, and with a sense of such solid /joy/ just underneath. (I am told that the rest of OFK is much less joyful and more bitter.)

This particular copy of OFK consists of five volumes: The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, The Ill-Made Knight, The Candle in the Wind, and The Book of Merlyn. Poking around, it looks like the last was published posthumously, but complete, and always intended as a final volume. So I'm happy to have that.

It's The Witch in the Wood that's got me a little confused. According to Wiki, The Witch in the Wood is an earlier and much longer version of the 'standard' second volume, The Queen of Air and Darkness. I'm generally all for Author's Preferred Edition, but in this case it seems more like two completely different books.

Anyone out there read both and have an opinion?
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
Jeez, it's been awhile. My reading of actual printed books has fallen off dramatically the last few months. Partly that's due to the croweded #99 bus being not terribly conducive to reading; partly it's due to being ridiculously busy. But a couple of weeks ago I pulled out a physical book and started reading, and I immediately felt so much more relaxed than I had in ages. Worth remembering.

What are you reading?

Fire On the Mountain, Terry Bisson's alt-history novel wherein John Brown's 1859 attack on Harper's Ferry is successful. Now it's 1959 and astronauts from Nova Africa (f/k/a "the American South") are about to land on Mars, while back on Earth the journal of a man who fought with Brown and Harriet Tubman is being delivered to Harper's Ferry for the centennial of the raid.

I'm enjoying it so far. Partly that's a combination of familiarity (it's set in Appalachian Virginia), partly it's the well-done unspooling of the alt-history combined with decent prose. Interested to see where it goes from here.

What did you just finish reading?

The Incrementalists, by Steven Brust and Skyler White. First reread. I'm more fond of it this time around: on first go I was expecting some sort of world-shaking plot to go with the potentially world-shaking setup, and came away disappointed I'd not gotten it. Knowing that it's a relatively small and well-contained story makes it easier for me to enjoy the story that's there. And it's well-written (of course) and well-characterised, and just generally fun. I'm glad I kept it.

What do you think you'll read next?

The Skill of Our Hands, sequel to The Incrementalists. I'm quite looking forward to it. After that, who knows?
jazzfish: a black-haired man with a big sword. blood stains the snow behind (Eddard Stark)
It's no exaggeration to say that I never expected to see forty.

In elementary school I remember reading an article in, o, probably 3-2-1-Contact, that opened with "What will life be like in the year 2000?" That seemed unimaginably far-off at the time. I counted it out and realised that I'd be twenty-three-turning-twenty-four that year, which didn't make it any closer.

Birthdays mostly don't register for me. Having a birthday right around Yanksgiving means there hasn't been much point in trying to celebrate since elementary school: people are always off partying with their families. Some friends threw a surprise party for me on my eighteenth, and at least once when I lived in McLean [personal profile] uilos got a bunch of people to call and wish me happy birthday, both of which were pretty cool.

In general, though, milestones don't signify. I'm the same on both sides. I turned eighteen and was still stuck in the same house for another year, I turned thirty and that didn't make "29" any less relevant.

There was no particular reason I should have made it as far as forty. No reason not to, most of the time, just ... no overriding need to have drifted that far downstream. And yet.
A man's still got his strength at forty. He knows most of what he's going to learn, and he's got the strength to put it to good use.
--Terry Brooks, "Magic Kingdom For Sale -- Sold!"
I first read Magic Kingdom sometime in late elementary school. It felt thin, even at that age, but it was a lot of fun watching Ben Holliday traipse around his new kingdom, trying to be the best king he could be. Too, I was amused that I had a pretty good idea of where the portal to Landover was located, a couple hours' drive from my previous house.

And Meeks's quote above stuck with me, for no reason that I can possibly explain.

I'm not even sure I believe it, either. I certainly hope I don't know most of what I'm going to learn. Far too many things I don't know yet, in both the "neat facts" and "handling situations" senses. As for strength ... my hearing has been getting worse (that or I'm spending more time around quieter people) and my sight, well, that's been getting worse all my life, no shock there. Will see how things go when I get moved and can start running again.

At least I don't have the bourgeois concern of whether there's fun after forty. I think that's pretty well taken care of, between pancakes and (I hope) cinnamon creme pie and [personal profile] uilos and Erin.

Happy day, y'all.
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
What are you reading?

The March North, by Graydon Saunders. The beautiful thing about these is that there's always more than I saw last time. In this case, the context of having read the sequel sheds a great deal of light on a number of conversational asides and worldbuilding choices.

I mean, there's also the Captain's massively understated sense of humour, understated to the point that I am not entirely convinced it exists at all. ("Do that, and it's a tossup whether the [Army] or Parliament hang you. One specific time, it was both, because neither was willing to not do it themselves.") The flashes of gorgeously descriptive prose. The fundamental /decency/ of the Commonweal as a society. The occasional heartbreaking passage. The giant firebreathing warsheep named Eustace, covered in "a grey stiff wirelike substance" because of course Eustace has steel wool. The almost total lack of gendered identifiers.

So good. I'd love to do a review but I don't think I'm capable of distilling what it is that makes these so awesome.

What did you just finish reading?

I needed to see how much of myself I recognised in a particular character / situation, so I found it necessary to reread The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford. (Such hardship.) Answer: less than I'd expected, but more than I would have expected had I thought about it a bit more.

This is such a weird book. It's much less about the "plot," and more about the world and the main character's ... growth and relationships? Something like that. This time through I noticed how little space the antagonist actually takes up in the book. It's kind of impressive. And still Danny's loneliness and damage and deliberate isolation get me every single time.

In some indescribable way I think of Last Hot Time as a companion piece to Growing Up Weightless. Weightless ends at a much darker and more bittersweet place; LHT breaks me open no less despite its wonderfully satisfying ending.

What do you think you'll read next?

A Succession Of Bad Days and Safely You Deliver, and then I have no idea.

also books

Oct. 5th, 2016 02:44 pm
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
What are you reading?

A draft of a YA novel by Theresa Bazelli, because I'd meant to have some feedback in for the start of the month.

What did you just finish reading?

Howard Waldrop's longer-fiction collection Other Worlds, Better Lives. I stumbled on a matching set of this and Things Will Never Be The Same (shorter-fiction) last month when we unburdened ourselves of the current set of go-away books. The stories are mostly quite good but they took me longer to get through than I'd expected. Waldrop tends to write twentieth-century American alternate history (in the introduction to one of the collections, he writes, "People would send alternate history stories to Omni, and Ellen Datlow kept rejecting them with 'If I'd wanted a Howard Waldrop story, I'd've asked Howard to write me one'"), and his stories ask a certain familiarity with the history in question to fully appreciate. As such, I enjoyed the heck out of "A Dozen Tough Jobs" (the labours of Hercules set in 1930s Mississippi), and the others left me varying degrees of cold. None were bad; I just didn't have sufficient background. (He does provide author's notes for each, so when I'd missed the larger significance entirely I could still follow along.)

What do you think you'll read next?

I'm traveling next week, so an ebook. I've got a desire to reread The March North and A Succession of Bad Days, and then dive into Safely You Deliver because I haven't gotten to it yet. Too, I feel like I got a *lot* more out of The March North the second time through. Looking forward to the same from ASoBD. Maybe this time I'll have something more coherent to say about them than OMG READ THESE THEY ARE DENSE AND AMAZING.
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
Inspired by a post by [livejournal.com profile] nineweaving sometime last week:

How did y'all learn to read? Did you teach yourselves, or learn in school, or what?

I don't know how I learned to read. My parents (mother?) must have read picture books to me. I know that one day when I was three or four, I picked up Go Dog Go in the store and said "I want this one!" My mother said "Are you going to read it yourself?" Her tone implied that if I said no I wasn't getting the book, so of course I said "Yes." And I took it home and laid down on the floor and read it, and didn't realise what I'd done until I was through.

From there the next things I can recall reading were the Mr Men / Little Miss books, and then a Hardy Boys book (The Mystery of the Chinese Junk) that my great-Aunt Celia sent me, and then some Greek and Norse myths out of a collection on the landing, and then Tolkien, over four or five years and three houses. There must have been other things I read on my own in there, but they didn't really make an impression. I distinctly recall the bookcase on the landing, and I *think* that means it was in the townhouse in Leavenworth (first grade) rather than the house in Fairfax (second thru fourth grades).

And after Tolkien came other brightly-spined Darrell-K-Sweet-covered Del Rey paperbacks, and Pop Shackelford's copy of Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, leading in a more or less direct line to the well-adjusted young man I am today.


Aug. 10th, 2016 09:27 pm
jazzfish: "Do you know the women's movement has no sense of humor?" "No, but hum a few bars and I'll fake it!" (the radical notion that women are people)
Is... is this a third Tucker-post in three days? It is!

What are you reading?

Voices, by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's the second in her loosely-linked Annals of the Western Shore YA trilogy. I read these when I got them, probably a decade ago, and I remember them as being quite good and very little else. No, wait, I'd read Gifts once before, for a total of twice, and I recalled the plot pretty well. More evidence for my "books only stick in my head after a reread" theory.

Voices is the story of a young girl who's grown up in a city under occupation, where books are forbidden. Naturally she learns to read and loves it, naturally she falls in with a tale-teller from elsewhere who's come looking for the famous library that used to be in her city. Naturally (for a Le Guin story) it's got themes of nonviolence and gender and taoism and Shadow and more woven throughout, that you might not even notice if you weren't looking for them. And the language is beautiful and slow in a way that I'll mostly only put up with from Le Guin, for reasons I don't entirely understand.

What did you just finish reading?

Gifts, the first of the Annals. Before that, Ysabeau Wilce's three Crackpot Hall books (Flora Segunda, Flora's Dare, Flora's Fury), because I'd finally gotten around to picking up the third. They're also quite good YA, but I shouldn't read them all at once because Flora's very distinctive voice starts to grate on me.

What do you think you'll read next?

Powers, naturally. After that, I don't know. Maybe Basquiat, maybe Vurt, maybe something entirely else.
jazzfish: Pig from "Pearls Before Swine" standing next to a Ball O'Splendid Isolation (Ball O'Splendid Isolation)
Noting for posterity:
So I call it in my mind: the dark year.

To try to tell it is like trying to tell the passage of a sleepless night. Nothing happens. One thinks, and dreams briefly, and wakes again; fears loom and pass, and ideas won't come clear, and meaningless words haunt the mind, and the shudder of nightmare brushes by, and time seems not to move, and it's dark, and nothing happens.

--Ursula K. Le Guin, Gifts
Le Guin's speaking of grief, there, but it's also the best description of depression I've seen since Dar Williams's "After All".
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
And the days went by
Like paper in the wind
Everything changed
Then changed again
What are you reading?

I'm about a third through Zelazny's Today We Choose Faces, a slim early-seventies novel. It's ... very seventies SF. I doubt I'll keep it around but it's interesting enough for one read.

What did you just finish reading?

Daniel Pinkwater's Neddiad and Yggyssey. These are Pinkwater at his very Pinkwater-est: strange and amusing and mostly benevolent things happen to kids in roughly the sixth grade, and while there's a plot it's less important than the atmosphere. I'm tending towards [personal profile] rushthatspeaks's opinion that Pinkwater is in fact a capital-S Surrealist, and his chosen medium happens to be middle-grade lit.

In between I reread Hannu Rajaniemi's Jean Le Flambeur books, because I needed something I could actually sink my teeth into. They do fit together better on reread: in the first in particular I could see the patterns forming because I knew the shape of things. They're still quite good, probably the best things I've read in a year. The Causal Angel (the third) feels weak but that may be just the devil of high expectations.

What do you think you'll read next?

Probably not Bridge of Ashes, another slim seventies Zelazny novel. Possibly some nonfic; the biography of Jean-Michel Basquiat's been calling to me.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
Over the weekend I helped writer-Steph run the blue-pencil/pitch-practice room at Creative Ink Festival. Mostly we made sure that the newbie writers and the editors were in the right place at the right time to talk to each other, and ran sign-up sheets, and spelled each other when there were panels we wanted to go see.

The panels I got to were alright: on the level of your better small-con panel, I'd say. Nothing earth-shatteringly amazing but worth attending. More usefully, the couple of pieces that I put in for blue-pencilling (aka "reading by someone who doesn't know me") went over very well: one got a small amount of useful feedback, and one got mostly gushing and "no no no, this is clearly not a flash piece, it's the prologue to a novel, and I WANT TO READ IT." Which was pleasantly validating, enough so that I've resubmitted both of them to story markets after a hiatus of *mumble* months.

Our Wednesday writeins may have acquired another member, too. I suspect that I really do need to find a critiqueing group, mostly so that I have some motivation to bloody well finish something, but the writeins are better than nothing.

What are you reading right now?

I haven't technically given up on Mieville's Embassytown, I guess. It's a puzzle-novel: here are the aliens who can't lie, who can't talk to machines but only to empathically-bonded pairs of humans; here is an alien who is learning to lie; here are a bonded-pair of humans who unintentionally(?) drive the aliens mad by speaking to them; what's going on? Turns out I don't like puzzle-novels, at least not when they read as slowly as Embassytown does.

This is my third Mieville, and I've disliked them all for different reasons. (King Rat had a plot that resolved itself by the antagonist self-destructing, which I detest; Un Lun Dun was decent but unmemorable, and I couldn't shake the feeling that it was an attempt to rewrite Neverwhere and give it a plot this time). I should probably stop but I want to try The City & The City first.

What did you just finish reading?

John Christopher's Tripods Trilogy, nearly fifty years old and still decent. I mean, the characters might make it to the level of 'cardboard cutouts' if they strained a bit, the prose is serviceable at best, and in the entire trilogy I think there's a single named woman and maybe three unnamed ones, but they read quickly and have some neat worldbuilding going on. They can stay. I don't know that I'd recommend them to anyone who didn't grow up with them, though.

What do you think you'll read next?

This weekend I picked up both of Katrina Archer's fantasy novels, so I may as well read Untalented.
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
0) ... and still insists he reads of ghosts.

1) One amusing in retrospect bit I didn't mention earlier: when I arrived at the train station in Toronto (after an unpleasant redeye flight featuring loud drunk bachelor-partiers, and a wholly pleasant ride on the new no-longer-$38 train from the airport to the train station) I attempted to present my passport so I could pick up my ticket and ... opened to a picture of [personal profile] uilos. Apparently our passports got switched for the wrong wallets the last time we travelled (down to the used bookstores with Steph in December). Luckily I had my own Nexus card and my own PR card, and the train folks were happy enough to take the Nexus card, but it made for a somewhat tense ride down.

E FedExed me my passport so I could get on a plane to go home. I could *probably* have worked it out with just the Nexus card, but I had used the passport to buy the ticket, and better safe than stranded in Buffalo.

2) Speaking of, home from the Gathering as of eleven-thirty last night. Still tired, still heavily overpeopled. I didn't take care of myself as well as I could have this year; the weather was miserable for the first half of the week and for whatever reason once it nicened up I still didn't go outside and wander. Something to bear in mind for next year.

3) More on this later, but: consider this another plug for Graydon Saunders's Commonweal novels (available in ebook from the Google Play store). Reread the first (The March North) and read the first third or so of the second (A Succession of Bad Days) over the week. Comparisons with the work of Mr Ford are not inapt. The bone-deep understanding of trauma and healing and loneliness and identity is still there in Graydon's work, it's just even further down than in The Dragon Waiting. Or maybe I just haven't reread these enough times for it to be obvious to me.

4) It seems I have a strong predilection for flawed characters in difficult situations who are trying their damnedest. I have no further use for stories about terrible people being terrible, and I think this means I should let the Joe Abercrombie books go.

4a) Losing people you’re responsible for hurts. If it didn’t, the Line wouldn’t give you a warrant of commission.

If it stops, they take the warrant away.

--Graydon Saunders, "The March North"

5) I am returning the nameless new laptop. A week with Taranis has convinced me that I don't need to spend an exorbitant sum of money on a new machine, not yet and likely not for another couple of years. I *do* need a battery replacement and could do with a clean reinstall, but that can wait for the weekend.
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
My laptop hath arrived. Initial impressions: thinner and glossier and about the same weight as Taranis. The Power key is a stupid idea. I miss having both USB ports on the same side: makes it a little harder to charge two things at once. The very very clever battery-power-lights on the side of the case seem to have been dispensed with, which makes me sad. Overall I see nothing to challenge my belief that laptop case design reached its pinnacle with Taranis and it will all be downhill from here.

I haven't done much with it: installed a few programs, made some configuration changes. So I haven't really noticed that it's much faster, or anything like that. The retina display *is* nice: everything just feels a bit crisper, brighter, more solid.

I expect I'll take Taranis with me next week, and then come back and offload all my documents onto the new currently-nameless machine.

What are you currently reading?

John Morressy's Kedrigern and the Charming Couple, book 4 in a series of five slim light fantasy paperbacks from the late eighties. I read the third (Kedrigern in Wanderland) several times in high school / early college and have been carting around the set of five for years; don't know if I ever actually read them or not. I don't think I did. They're utter fluff with occasional bright spots ("Ah yes, the hermit Goode, who lives in the wood that slopes down to the sea") and more than occasional visits from the sexism fairy. Doubt I'll be keeping them.

What did you just finish reading?

Kedrigern 1-3. I don't want to get started on anything serious; I'd rather not carry any physical books with me to Niagara this weekend.

Before that, Philip Knightley's biography of Kim Philby, followed by a reread of Tim Powers's Declare because of course. Knightley paints Philby in a positive light: not sympathetic but definitely admiring, and very critical of the British intelligence service as an old-boys' club and nothing more than a grand old adventure, a Great Game if you will. I came out of it vaguely dissatisfied. It felt too hagiographic to be trusted, I think.

Declare is of course fantastic, although I was less taken by it this time round as well. Powers wrote an excellent secondary female character in Elena and then reduced her to a prize to be won. The interleaving of the timelines worked well, I thought; it's just the wrap-up that felt wanting.

What do you think you'll read next?

Kedrigern 5 if I get to it before I leave on Friday night. Otherwise, since Graydon Saunders's third Commonweal book is out, probably a reread of The March North and then reading A Succession of Bad Days and Safely You Deliver. I've got the third of Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Trilogy waiting for me, too.

books again

Mar. 9th, 2016 03:31 pm
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
I used to remember the books I read much better. These days it seems like I read a book and a year later I can't recall much about it at all.

Turns out the solution is to *reread*. After a first reading I retain scattered images and impressions, and if I'm lucky a general sense of the plot. A second reading cements it in my brain much more solidly.

Hence, this past couple of weeks.

What are you currently reading?

The Serpent Sea, by Martha Wells. Book 2 of the Books of the Raksura, which I first read, mm, about three years ago. This is exactly the thing I'm talking about: all I remembered was "the Raksura go to a city built on the back of a sea creature, for Reasons". It has some quite interesting plot and metaplot development before they even start leaving for the city!

What did you just finish reading?

The Cloud Roads, Raksura 1. These are, still, excellent fantasy books for people who are honestly getting a little tired of the sameyness of fantasy. They genuinely feel like a whole different world instead of culture-X-with-magic. The Fell make for a slightly too-pat antagonist but every other relation between and among cultures is handled well enough that I forgive that easily.

Before that, a reread of WJW's This Is Not A Game. Feels a little slighter than when I first read it, but still an enjoyable romp. "...you want to write Dagmar fanfic?"

Before *that*, reread of Doyle/Macdonald's Price of the Stars and first-read of the first two sequels. Excellent fluffy space opera that's a little deeper than one might think. Hopefully volumes 4 and 5 will turn up soon so I can read those and the already-acquired #6.

What do you think you'll read next?

The Siren Depths and then probably a first read of the two Tales of the Raksura collections. These are going fast enough that I doubt I'll be able to jump straight into the next book (released 5 April); I don't know what I'll pick up instead.
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
For no apparent reason I've had the opening number to Guys And Dolls ("Fugue For Tinhorn") stuck in my head all day.

What are you reading right now?

The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks, in which a rich heir whose mother committed suicide and who slept with his cousin returns to his family. I am not sure what I think of it; it seems unlikely to be a keeper.

Technically I haven't yet given up on John Crowley's Little, Big, which I've been carting around unread for nearly twenty years. But if it insists on meandering around the point much more (at nearly a hundred pages in), into the go-away pile it goes.

What did you just finish reading?

A quick reread of Pinkwater's Lizard Music (about which see), because I finally got my hands on a nice copy of it.

Before that, Nicola Griffith's Slow River, which gets major points for being dystopian-ish (though the dystopian elements are now recognisably present in the real world) while being mostly populated with characters who are Decent Human Beings. The feel reminded me a little of Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire, which is probably not a coincidence, and of Susan Palwick's Shelter. Recommended.

What do you think you'll read next?

Beats me. Something else off the unread stack, since I seem intent on making a dent in that.

... I got the horse! right! here!

book book

Dec. 1st, 2015 09:58 pm
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
What are you reading right now?

Nearly through Trouble on Triton, by Samuel R. Delany. Best summed up as "Christ, what an asshole: The Bron Helstrom Story".

The first (and only previous) time I read this, it was for Marc Zaldivar's class (either sophomore English or F&SF, I forget which), well over a decade ago. I have distinct memories of enjoying the book, and thinking there wasn't a lot of plot but there were some really interesting philosophical ideas in there. This time I'm mostly enjoying the book, and though there's not much plot it's a fascinating character study of an unpleasant frustrating person, and the character study has some neat parallels in the interesting philosophical ideas. I am also not infrequently wincing in recognition and semi-recognition.

I am both a better reader and a more self-aware human being than I was in university. I knew both of these things, more or less; I just haven't really had the first driven home to me recently.

What did you just finish reading?

The March North by Graydon Saunders (ebook only, alas). It's... "military fantasy" is I guess the best descriptor, and it's not inaccurate, but it's painfully incomplete. Anyone with any interest in subtle deep worldbuilding, and incidentally things like giant warsheep and chemistry a la Ignition! / Sand Won't Save You This Time, ought to check it out.

Several people have compared it to the work of John M. Ford, which is also not inaccurate, but gave me very much the wrong idea. I don't think of Ford's books as dense or impenetrable or subtle, although they very much are. The first thing I think of when I think of a Mike Ford book is the emotional depth of the characters. That's less present in The March North. This is not really a criticism; that's not the point of the book, and it's well worth reading anyhow!

What do you think you'll read next?

Probaby the first of Delany's Neveryon books (there's an umlaut and an accent in that word somewhere). I never got around to reading all of Neveryon, and Trouble on Triton, its second appendix, and some scattered bits of the Neveryon cycle form a loose collection entitled "Some Remarks on the Modular Calculus," which is why I picked up Triton in the first place.

Somewhere in there I will almost certainly read Graydon's second book, A Succession Of Bad Days. I am not devouring it immediately in the hopes that the delay will tide me over until the third thru Nth come out.

oof time

Oct. 31st, 2015 10:41 am
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I am still struggling through, and have yet to achieve work/life balance. Have a couple of weeks worth of update.

Cats: Kai is perfectly fine, if a little rounder than she ought to be.

Chaos has been revealed as vampire-cat. Or possibly vampire-victim-cat. Part of managing a diabetic cat involves glucose testing, which requires a bit of blood. THIS CAT HAS NO BLOOD. We spent half an hour last weekend repeatedly sticking him in the ear or toebean, getting a tiny drop of blood, wiping it away (because you can't use the first drop), and then getting about half as much as the glucometer needs before the stick-hole seals up.

E took him to the vet on Thursday, where they used their magic powers to extract blood from him and determined that we probably ought to double his insulin dose.

He's more mobile and more talkative since he's been on the insulin, which are both good. He doesn't seem to be gaining any strength back in his legs, which isn't, but supposedly that'll take awhile.

The discovery that I *can* juggle book + tea + Skytrain pole has improved my commute immeasurably.

Finally read all three of Ann Leckie's Ancillary books last week, which are fantastic. The first is, mm, probably the best-plotted and best-structured, but the second and third have more interesting things to say. Also, "We aren't related, Cousin" is the best line on the best page of anything I've read in quite awhile.

Also (re)read Bear & Mole's Iskryne books. I read A Companion To Wolves (AKA "the book that tackles the Green Dragonrider Problem") when it came out and thought it was great: a *very* interesting exploration of gendered roles in a warrior society, as well as just being a good read. I read the second one, The Tempering Of Men, when *it* came out, and was mostly frustrated. Rereading it now I'm even more frustrated. NOTHING HAPPENS IN THAT BOOK. There is *no* reason for it to exist, plot-wise. It is entirely build-up for the third book. What payoff there is comes in the form of an inevitable romance plot.

The third book, An Apprentice To Elves, came out last month, and I dutifully picked it up and plowed through. And... despite ToM being made of setup, the first hundred pages or so of A2E are mostly backstory, because it takes place fifteen years later and a decent bit has happened in the meantime.

The book goes on to ramble in ways that remind me unpleasantly of Neal Stephenson: too much Cool Stuff, not enough resolution. Fascinating gender politicking but that's not enough to hang a book on, not for me. Your mileage may vary.

Currently reading: Dracula Unredacted, by Bram Stoker with assists from Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. The conceit is that Dracula was a thinly-fictionalised after-action report of a British Intelligence attempt to recruit their own personal vampire and all the ways it went wrong, and the original novel had to be heavily redacted before it could see print. This is the "original" version, annotated by three generations of British Intelligence agents who are not entirely sure that the ongoing attempts to recruit a vampire are a good idea at all. It's really a giant prop for the Dracula Dossier campaign frame, in which the players are secret agents fighting vampires... the idea being that the players read Drac Unredacted and follow up on some of the annotations, making for a neat, complex campaign. I'll never get to run it of course but it's still excellent reading.

101 in 1001 update )
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
The trick is to channel my perfectionism and sense of accomplishment/reward out of video games and into viola instead.

What are you reading?

Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, by Anthony Cronin. I am four hundred pages into this six-hundred page biography and Beckett has just started writing Waiting for Godot (1948 or so). It's been interesting but not 400pp of interesting. Mostly it establishes that Beckett was a giant misogynistic asshole. Given the attitudes inherent in what of his plays I've read/seen this is no great surprise, but it's still kind of shocking to have it all laid out like this.

What did you just finish reading?

Star Door, by Stephanie Charette. It's good. It needs a copyedit and the, mm, second quarter drags a bit (I would structure the middle half differently and cut some stuff, but I'm not Steph). But the characters are good, the voices are distinct, the conceit is not one I'd seen before or at least not taken to this logical conclusion, and the last half barrels towards an exciting and unexpected climax. With a little luck everyone else will get to read it in a couple of years.

Also I reread Scott Lynch's A Year and a Day In Old Theradane, because it's online and I couldn't stop once I started. I heard Scott read from this awhile ago and am pleased to report it's as good as I had hoped/expected. "And then I went back and stole all the death spiders!"

What do you think you'll read next?

I don't really know. Probably something off the To-Be-Read Shelf because I'm running out of time. That or something on the Unread tag so I can decide whether to keep it.
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
What are you reading?

At the moment, nothing.

What did you just finish reading?

About half an hour ago I finished Hannu Rajaniemi's The Causal Angel, sequel to The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince. These are, I think, the best new-to-me books I've read this year. They are heist novels with delightfully opaque characters (and multiple viewpoints, which is not something one often gets in a heist), set in a SF milieu overflowing with new concepts and strange ideas. Most of what goes on is made possible through some "quantum" handwaving; I don't know enough to say how plausible the science is, but it makes for an excellent story.

Apart from the conceptual firehose, Quantum Thief is for the most part a fine "we're here to steal a thing" story that develops more and more layers as it goes on... and then the epilogue delivers a genuine "oh shit" moment. Fractal Prince felt less impressive, possibly because everything is both bigger and smaller. I did enjoy the repeated nested stories (and the thematic resonance there), though. And Causal Angel... ties it all together in a fairly satisfactory way. I'm not entirely sure what I think of the ending. Will have to reread to decide, I expect.

I also reread Lord Valentine's Castle, by Robert Silverberg, with the intent of rereading the two sequels. LVC is a fantasy with occasional SF trappings. It was published in 1982 but feels like a throwback to an earlier era: a world that's miles wide and an inch deep, a huge cast of characters with litle characterization beyond one or two tics, and a downright languid pace. It's not bad but it didn't grab me. I can't see wanting to reread it, or to read the sequels, when there's so much other good stuff around. Into the Go-Away Pile.

What do you think you'll read next?

Something nonfic, I think; any fiction I pick up will be judged unfairly. Possibly Fred Pohl's autobiography, or the bio of Samuel Beckett I've been carrying around for years.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
What a week, and it's not even over yet.

Mon thru Wed )

Today I finished reading Samuel Delany's Babel-17, which is brilliant and everyone should read it. The most recent edition (from Vintage) also includes Delany's story "Empire Star," which is written by a character in Babel-17, and is either brilliant or stupid and I cannot decide which.

Also today there was ziplining, which wants its own rant. But I'm tired and this is quite long enough already. Tomorrow.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
What are you reading?

Ignition! by John D. Clark, a history of the development of rocket fuel. I first heard of this book in Sand Won't Save You This Time, an article on why the author refuses to work with chlorine trifluoride ("a stronger oxidizing agent than oxygen itself ... it'll start roaring reactions with things like bricks and asbestos tile"). Indeed, chlorine trifluoride is only one of the many many overly dangerous substances (red fuming nitric acid, high-concentration hydrogen peroxide) that Clark takes a relatively cavalier attitude towards while describing their specific hazards in detail.

The book itself is a delightful combination of chemistry, history, and "and then they tried this mixture and it sat inert / froze too soon / corroded everything / blew up" (mostly the last), interspersed with color commentary and anecdotes. It's a great read, and I remember either just enough or not quite enough chemistry to make it more or less comprehensible. Not that that matters much: Clark does a good job of explaining the chemistry in layman's terms: mostly "this stabilized it so it wouldn't blow up when we jostled it" or, more commonly, "but that still had a disconcerting tendency to explode."

Ignition! is long out of print and used copies command ridiculous prices. Thankfully it can be found in PDF form at this link.

What did you just finish reading?

NK Jemisin's Dreamblood duology, set in a fantasy Egypt-inspired culture with dream magic. I read The Killing Moon several years ago, and started The Shadowed Sun and just could not get into it. So it sat on the shelf until I decided to try again... and the same thing happened. I have no idea why, either. This time I pushed through, and it picked up again for me around the 20% mark.

They're good political fantasies with culture clashes, and they do a fine job of making the cultures different not only from each other, but from what you, the reader, expect. The second book is also unexpectedly rapey: one highly nonconsensual kiss, two attempted rapes and a third threatened, and two actual rape scenes. This is not at all what I had expected. Still pondering whether I want to keep them around.

Also read eBear's steampunk western Karen Memory. It feels... minor, by which I guess I mean "not my thing." Karen's got a great voice and the characters are well-developed, it just felt... light. I dunno.

Also, some time ago (including for [personal profile] okrablossom) John M. Ford's Scholars of Night is an only-okay spy novel and a decent Mike Ford novel. Fun and worth reading but not something whose praises I'll be singing to the heavens. It's no Dragon Waiting, is I guess what I'm saying.

What do you think you'll read next?

Jo Walton's The Just City, because [personal profile] uilos has been bugging me to do so so she can rant at me about it.


jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Tucker McKinnon


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags