Sibyx's 2017 Reading Rambles: Spring Equinox to Summer Solstice
This is a continuation of the topic Sibyx's 2017 reading rambles the First.
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Triptych! Note that Posey is sitting on a table - her comment: "The cats do it, so I will too!"
Currently Reading April
new Person or Persons Unknown Bruce Alexander hist mys
✔ Mappa Mundi Justina Robson sf
✔ Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay Elena Ferrante
new The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World Andrea Wulf nat sci history
♬ Time to Depart Lindsey Davis
Murdoch Marathon: ONGOING. (No plans for reading IM at present) IM readers group is HERE
Virago No immediate plans
41. ✔ My Brilliant Friend Elena Ferrante contemp fic ****
42. ✔ Deceiver #11 C.J. Cherryh sf ****1/2
43. ✔ Betrayer #12 C.J. Cherryh sf ****1/2
44. ♬ Norse Gods Neil Gaiman mythology *****
45. ✔ The Story of a New Name Elena Ferrante contemp fic ****
46. ✔ The Wood Wife Terri Windling contemp fantasy ***1/2
47. new Blind Justice Fielding #1 Bruce Alexander hist mys *** 1/2
48. new Murder in Grub Street Fielding #2 Bruce Alexander hist myst ***1/2
49. new Watery Grave Bruce Alexander hist mys ****
DNF (did not finish)
26. ✔ The Customs of the Kingdoms of India Marco Polo travel, nat sci history
27. ♬ Poseidon's Gold Lindsey Davis roman emp. mys
28. ✔Liar's Oath #2 in The Legacy of Gird Elizabeth Moon fantasy ***1/2
29. ✔ In the Heart of the Amazon Forest Henry Walter Bates travel, nat sci history***1/2
30. ✔ Sheepfarmer's Daughter#1 The Deed of Paksenarrion Elizabeth Moon fantasy****
31. ✔ Divided Allegiance #2 in The Deed of Paksenarrion Elizabeth Moon fantasy ****1/2
32. ✔ Oath of Gold#3 Elizabeth Moon fantasy ****1/2
33. ♬ Lords and Ladies Terry Pratchett fantasy ****
34. ✔ My Struggle: Book 3 Karl Ove Knausgaard contemp fic *****
35. ✔ Me, Myself, and Us Brian R. Little psych. *****
36. ✔ The Dead Ladies Project Jessica Crispin lit essays ****
37. new The Grand Tour Adam O'Fallon Price contemp fic ***3/4
38. ♬ Last Act in Palmyra Lindsey Davis hist mys roman era ****
39. ✔ Flower Net Lisa See hist mys china ***1/2
40. ✔ Conspirator (bk 10)C.J. Cherryh sf ****
M/W writing together: 0
Contemp/Classic/Hist Fiction: 2
Mystery(inc hist mys): 3
YA or J: 0
New author: 6
From library or borrowed: 0
Off Shelf: 11
Did not finish: 0
TOTAL (for year) IN=8 (Feb stats, still needs updating)
TOTAL OUT= 14
Books acquired March.
9. Last Act in Palmyra audio
10. Norse Mythology Neil Gaiman audio
Reflections March 2017
A surprisingly intense reading month - but we did have a three days enforced time at home during our blizzard! I'm glad of it, anyhow, because I always slack off as the weather gets warm and as of now I am nicely on track for 150 this year. And I think I am returning, albeit slowly, to somewhat wider reading again. So what did I read? Four non-fiction books, two very very short, but not easy selections of travel writings from Marco Polo around and about, mostly India, the middle East, and West Africa and de Vaca's travels in South America. (Leading me to pick up the life of Humboldt which I asked for for Xmas.) The other two were excellent, a superb psychology book on personality research by Brian Little and an idiosyncratic and entertaining literary memoir/travel hybrid byJessica Crispin. Two novels, one by the indefatigably and yet utterly beguiling detail-oriented Knausgaard about his childhood and a solid piece of work about a writer going on his first reading tour after his first success. All the rest, of course, was sf, fantasy, and mystery, the latter mostly audiobooks. The Deed of Paksenarrion was a great read (five books) and I have five more to go, but they will have to wait until I collect them! Lindsey Davis hangs in there but it is really time for Falco to get a better apartment.
Started in 2017
Neapolitan Novels Elena Ferrante READING:Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay #3
Sir John Fielding mysteries Bruce Alexander READING: Person or Persons Unknown #4
Continued in 2017
My Struggle Karl Ove Knausgaard NEXT UP: My Struggle: Book 4: Dancing in the Dark
Marcus Didius Falco Lindsey Davis READING: Time to Depart #7
Inspector Gamache Louise Penny UP NEXT: A Great Reckoning
Discworld: Witches Terry Pratchett READING: Maskerade
Completed or caught up with or to be continued= TBC) in 2018
Foreigner C.J. Cherryh TO BE CONTINUED (completed books 10-12)
Crown of Stars Kate Elliott (7 of 7) COMPLETED
Paksenarrion's World Elizabeth Moon TBC in 2018 NEXT UP: Oath of Fealty
The Nanotech Succession Linda Nagata READING: Deception Well
Now I'm sort of done. So much easier to do this when I'm not also doing the round-up. Now I have to go rustle up a good photo of the gang.
36. memoir, travel ****
The Dead Ladies Project Jessa Crispin
Jessa Crispin, due, no doubt, to a combination of nature and nurture, has always felt alone, has always been the perpetual observer and outsider--even in childhood--to an extreme that evokes a combination of empathy and exasperation in me. A good sort of exasperation, I might swiftly add, because Crispin, while she admits wallowing now and then, the blanket of comfortable misery pulled over her, she also works with unstinting effort to make sense of herself. Of what, to others, appears perverse, but is to her the only path she can take. I have no doubt she repeatedly chooses the most vivid and interesting person in the room to talk to and try to make friends with, only to find out that they are terrible and unloyal and demanding: narcissistic or borderline or just plain bastards. But so interesting!. She'll travel to an exotic new country where she doesn't speak the language only to hole up in her hotel room afraid to go out. If a lover gives her a choice: go on the trip or stay with me, but not both, she'll choose the trip. (I have enough of Crispin in me to empathize, I am sometimes the weirdo in the room, but I have formed roots; I am grounded in a family; I have made different choices and am aware of the limitations and rewards of that choice and to know that with the right partner the choice of connection doesn't have to be as limiting and frightening as Crispin fears.) I learned a lot too. Crispin structures her travels around places where the artists she is drawn to have lived. From Rebecca West to Jean Rhys, William James (not exactly a dead lady, but who's quibbling) to the fey Claude Cahun, (of whom I had never heard) we go from Berlin to St. Petersburg, Belgrade to Jersey Island in search of connection and understanding about them and their obsessions and artworks. She comes to adore some more, to respect others less as she learns more about them. On a lighter note: Her list of what is in her suitcase, that she lugs around for a year and a half, is a miracle of economy and I sat up and took notice, me who can't go anywhere with a number of impulsive last-second things that make the suitcase bulge and threaten to explode and that, in the end, I know I'll never need (and never do). Also, at the back of the book a reading list for each chapter. Excellent! A very good read. ****
Happy new one! I love the thread topper photos - Ernie in the box is a hoot!
>18 sibyx: Lucy, what a great review! Thumb from me, and I am adding that one to the list.
Happy New Thread, Lucy. Posey up top is very funny. I imagine she never would've tried that without the cat's example. Everyone looks quite comfy.
Happy new thread thread, Lucy. Posey is demonstrating a real sense of ownership up top. xx
>18 sibyx: I have that one on order and hope to be reading it soon. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did!
Love the triptych, I want it framed on my wall!! Happy New Thread and how lovely to see Stasia! :D
Hi Lucy: Happy new thread. I love the triptych. The Crispin sounds like one I would like. Another one goes on the list.
I saw the title of the last book on your thread Me, Myself and Us and it struck a chord but the book that I read was not the same. I read Me, Myself and Why: Searching for the Science of Self. Ouellette's book on the subject was also very good.
Happy new thread!
37. contemp fic ***3/4
The Grand Tour Adam O'Fallon Price
I rounded up to four stars for the official "rating" because, really, what does it matter, and really, I'm not at all confident that docking the 1/4 point is fair. By the time I finish writing this review, perhaps I'll know, that often happens. Parts of The Grand Tour are definitely four and perhaps more, but two things didn't fully work for me, I was not drawn into Richard's novel and I was not convinced by a few of the things that happened, mainly with Cindy, Richard's daughter and Vance and sometimes even a little with Richard. (Eileen, on the other hand, the ex-wife was pitch perfect, utterly convincing.) So what's the story? Well there is Richard Lazar, very end of Vietnam war vet who is a writer being unable to be anything else (I know that problem) and writes a memoir that is, unexpectedly, a huge bestseller. Richard goes on tour. Early on he picks up Vance, a fan, who agrees to drive him since Richard hates flying. One of my favorite tropes is loading people in a car and then sending them off on an adventure, so I was fully ready to settle back and enjoy that part of it, only it never quite came into full fruition and that is my complaint, things came and went, but then suddenly Richard gets on a plane to New York and Vance drive alone from Denver to New York (kinda spoiling a teensy there) and that just happens. Did I mention that Richard is obese and also an alcoholic? So you know he is going to f... up big time right? (are we allowed to use that word here? I'm guessing not.) Anyway, the parts I enjoyed, I really enjoyed a lot, and the parts where I got a little bored because I knew how it was going to go (and it did) I just read fast. It's a very good novel and really really close to being a terrific one. ****
38. ♬ mys roman era ****
Last Act in Palmyra Lindsey Davis
Falco and his beloved Helena have gone to the Middle East in search of a lost girl, mainly, but Falco is also supposed to collect any information he can on the area of Nabatea (sp?)(Jordan, I think) just outside Rome's dominion, however, almost immediately Falco witnesses a murder. He and Helena end up joining a troupe of players, Falco as the "playwright". Didn't mind in this one that there was no further advance toward making the relationship official, and I also enjoyed the return of the majestic Thalia and her slithering pals. ****
39. mys china
The Flower Net Lisa See
The first in a series of mysteries featuring Liu Hulan (and presumably, her squeeze, U.S. Attorney, David Stark). Set in the waning days of the Deng Xiaoping era, a plot involving a group called the Rising Phoenix, smuggling of illegal goods, murder, but below that a shadow plot of much darker significance. It was pretty good, but not really my cuppa. I think devotees of the mystery-thriller genre will like it a lot. The portrait of China at that moment, in-between, still clinging to the old order, but shifting to a more capitalist economy was, for me, the best thing about it. ***1/2
My spousal unit reads this stuff and so it was around, got on my shelf. Sometimes I really like these, like Tana French, say, so I'll always try one out.
Morning, Lucy. Back on your prior thread, the snow pics were amazing. I love snow but I can well imagine that two feet (plus?) would be over the top (so to speak). It gives me pause as I go through the early interview process for a possible job in central New York. Here, our daffodils and wild currant are in full bloom.
I see that you're reading My Brilliant Friend. I'll be interested in how that lands on you. I read it and the second in the series but chose not to complete the quartet. They just didn't speak to me as compellingly as they did to others.
What a coincidence! Can't think how we ended up with The Flower Net. I wasn't overwhelmed but it was solid work.
40. sf ****
Conspirator C.J. Cherryh
Tabini's back in power but Bren Cameron's troubles aren't over. His apartment has been taken over by dubious allies to the aiji and he decides to make a graceful exit to his country estate, Najida, down on the west coast. But that turns out to be both fortuitous and calamitous and the fun begins. Barb, who must be my least favorite character in Cherry's entire oeuvre, puts in a clownish appearance. I get it that Bren, spending all this time among the Ateva, has kind of lost his taste for humans, but there isn't a decent human woman in the whole series except one crusty spaceship captain. This continues to bother me so I am griping. Whenever Barb turns up -- and in general the human insensitivity to the Ateva -- beggars my suspension of belief. Cajeiri, Jago and co. are all as wonderful as ever. ****
Delurking to say Hi! Your description of Conspirator has me wanting to read it just to see how inferior the human women are! LOL. How far into the series is it and what's the first one?
>26 sibyx: Adding that one to the Black Hole. Thanks for the recommendation, Lucy!
First April Read!
41. contemp fic ****
My Brilliant Friend Elena Ferrante
The main reason for a brief remarks is that there is no need to add more commentary as there is plenty already. I will put it out there, however, that I found an odd synergy (not so much parallels, something more subtle) between some aspects of Knausgaard's work and Ferrante's. Meticulous detail, a very enclosed society of friends, the main character having a name eponymous to the author's, giving rise to hints, or at least a question, of some blending of fiction and memoir, a person who stands out as different from others (while wanting desperately to fit in), being aware of "rising" in the world compared to one's parents (this is more extreme in the Ferrante) and living in a violent society that takes for granted various forms of physical and verbal abuse. That's just some of the things I've noted.
I'll continue the series; it's quite compelling, and I anticipate I might actually be more interested in what happens to Elena as she grows up and has more autonomy. ****
I enjoyed The Grand Tour as well. I love good road trip books and this one really had its moments.
I hope you enjoy the Ferrante novels as much as I did, Lucy. It's quite a story, and so well told.
I've got book 2 on tap! Book 3 and 4 are in the wings! I do plan to read them all. I'm a hopeless completist.
Apologies to all visitors for slow response. I am traveling - should have more time for LT soon!
42. sf ****1/2
Deceiver (#12) C.J. Cherryh
The mayhem continues and deepens. Lord Geigi, Bren's neighbor in the country, has to come down from the space station, then they have to go and find out what the heck is going on with Geigi's clan leader. Somewhere in there Cajeiri's snotty new bodyguards make a mess of things and Barb is kidnapped, Bren's brother Toby is hurt. Not only that but we finally meet the leader of the dreaded Marid clan, the force behind Murina, the rebel from a few books back. But is he the bad guy or is something much deeper and blacker going on? It is wonderful to watch Cajeiri growing up too. In short, I simply have to plunge into book 12 with no delay. ****1/2
OH gee..... I do so want to wait to read Deceiver, and now you have me longing for it NOW! Thanks, Lucy.
Thanks for stopping in, Peggy. I finished Betrayer too--in two days (helped by four hours in an airport and 2 1/2 in a plane . . . ) I am at long last home! I've been to Philadelphia, then Florida and an irish music event (in Florida) and then back to Philadelphia where the LD is resettled, nicely, with an old old friend who is at Drexel. She has decided that she still isn't strong enough to do the massage school and is, instead, taking classes at Moore (College of Art and Design) and looking for a part-time at a cafe. She hasn't had the best gap year, nothing glamorous about being ill, but she has, in fact, been learning a great deal, about limitations, and finding ways around and through a setback. As big a life lesson as going around the world, I'd say, even if a bit short on glamour.
Apologies again for not being much of a presence here. A great deal is going on in my life as well, a bit overwhelming. At long last we worked out all the knots in the legal tangles and I signed the contract for the third Hiero book with the agency (Curtis Brown) and I've sent it off, so they will start sending it to the big houses. (With fantasy/sf there is also a chance that a film maker will option, or someone will want to use the ideas in gaming, or make action figures and it makes a legal nightmare out of a shared enterprise -- who gets what $ for what since there is me and also Lanier's widow. This does not happen with poetry, say). Even if the odds are .002 that anyone will want to do this, it doesn't matter, the CB legal eagles have to thrash it all out ahead of time. Oh and in case I get the nutty idea of writing MORE sequels, we had to work THAT out. (That is .0001 although I do think about it now and then.) But since Hiero was in fact one of the games used for ideas for the first table-top gaming (D&D) there is always some chance it might be revived, so maybe the odds are all of 2%. ANYWAY, that's done and the young man who is my agent can peddle the mss now. I wish him luck. If we're in percentages here, I'd say it's less than 50% that anyone will be interested.
Also, I am engaged in a cooperative publishing venture for the novella The Hounds of Spring (soon I'll be able to put brackets around it!) the writing project during which so many of my friends here supported me! I am especially sorry that Pat won't get to see it. I am using an "arm" of Tupelo Press, called Leapfolio: they are choosy, taking projects they think will do well (as in: everyone will do better than breaking even when all is said and done.) The writer pays for editing and printing and they do all the rest: promotion, marketing, helping me organize readings, mailing, storage etcetera. I have moments of anxiety about this venture as I am opting not to send it around, but it is a novella and they are just about impossible to sell. I was urged to try this and indeed they are enthusiastic. Their usual line is very literary (poetry, literary essays, the occasional very contemporary novel). This is quite a traditional piece of writing, being about dogs and romance, nothing edgy. It should be out in the autumn and I will be COUNTING ON ALL OF YOU especially in the Northeast to think of bookstores NEAR YOU where I might stop by and do a reading. It is set in Philadelphia so I will concentrate there, and here in New England, but I will also range to places where I have connections. This is all presently in the editing phase.
In home nature news: The wood frogs are out quackling. It was wonderful to climb out of the car yesterday to that sweet sound. Our house sitter reports mergansers in the pond, I do love them. We still have big snow piles where the plow made eight foot walls, but they are melting fast. I will spend today doing triage with mail and bills as I was gone for three weeks!
I did a little threading on Sunday, hope to do more soon.
Did I say how wonderful it is to be home after such a long absence? Especially to be mauled by three happy to see me furballs?
43. sf ****1/2
Betrayer C.J. Cherryh
A great "ending" to this story arc -- fraught with suspense and action from beginning to end, but also the continuation of young Cajeiri's transformation from childhood and his new understanding of himself as an atevi, that had been delayed by being among humans on the space ship for so long. It seems apparent, more and more, that atevi and humans, while so different, have some chance of learning each other's ways--clearly Bren is becoming atevi, and Cajeiri, while he is learning to truly feel his atevi self, will always have an understanding of human affection and friendship that most atevi don't have. It's interesting to think about though--Bren is truly changed, he really isn't fully human in his outlook anymore and that is what both sides fear the most--loss of "pure" identity. Sound like anything we face here on earth just among ourselves? Of course this has nothing to do with the plot, except that Bren has infiltrated the Marid, the most fearful of change of the atevi, and he has to convince the leader to "join" forces with his "boss" Tabini. This was, in some ways, the best story arc yet! ****1/2
44. ♬ myth, *****
Norse Mythology Neil Gaiman
Well, this is one of those books where I plan to listen to it over and over again. Not only to absorb the stories, but also for Gaiman's engaging voice and reading style (you can "hear" him smiling as he reads something delicious). Odin, Loki, and Thor form the central archetypal trio, demonstrating between the three of them various limits that even the gods face: of wisdom, cleverness, and strength. Don't go looking for any super-ego here, these fellows are all id! They do awful things and funny things, make fools of themselves and are occasionally generous. Never kind, I would, say, and certainly not reliable, but so entertaining! I've always loved norse mythology and my class name in fourth, when we all chose gods from greek or norse mythology, was Loki! (He does things here though that go far beyond pranks!) If you love mythology, you will love this. I will likely buy the book, but you owe yourself to listen to the audio version. *****
>48 sibyx: - This is all very exciting, Lucy! You *have* been busy!
Please include Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ on your list of possible reading sites. It's a wonderful indie bookstore with lots of readings, book groups, and they support all sorts of cultural endeavors in the town.
Wow. Congratulations on getting the legal details for your book(s) all wrapped up. I can't wait for them to come out.
Katie, I am making a note of that and putting it in my Hounds file. Thank you!
I know Reba, it's been a long time coming.
Whoops, lost a message here. Thank you Katie, I have made a note of it in the Hounds file.
Thank you too, Reba, I can't wait either, but I know I have a lot of work to do between now and then!
Lucy, it's nice to see all of your news. I'm glad the LD is settling in and doing well. I agree with your perspective on the gap year. She's such a lovely young woman, I wish her all the best!
The bookish news is most interesting as well! I'm sure you're already familiar with the Philly & Main Line bookshops but I will put on my thinking cap for others further afield.
45. italian contemp fic****
The Story of a New Name Elena Ferrante
Book Two covers late adolescence and early adulthood, which starts very early for Lenu's friend Lila, when she marries at 16. Important to recollect at every turn that this is a portrait, for sure, of a way of life that had gone on for centuries and was fast transforming post www2. (I keep thinking of the tenements occupied by the plebian roman citizens in the Falco books, whose lives were not so different from the lives of these Neapolitans.) Elena (Lenu) finishes high school and starts university. Lila, married, falls in love with someone unsuitable. The story rolls onward, the pairings of the previous book, many of them haphazard or for terrible motives, begin to fall apart and reform in different patterns. There is a perfect week at the beach followed by disaster after disaster and most of all, Lenu begins to understand how her education, as it widens and deepens, is removing her from her home and family, while not offering her a secure place in her new milieu. She sees clearly how those with education and a benevolent family, have a confidence and security that she can never attain. She and Lila go their separate ways for most of the book, Lenu gleaning her friend's story on visits home and filling in the blanks with her occasional encounters with Lila. She still feels no confidence at all that she, on her own, is intelligent or worthy or capable of her own originality. She still sees Lila as the source of a brilliance she can't aspire to. Occasionally I get a bit tired of all the drama, which borders on melodrama, but, yeh, I'll have to keep going. ****
How exciting on the publishing news. Look forward to hearing about your visits to LT members' favourite bookshops - that sounds like a brilliant idea to me. Hope the editing goes well.
Exactly, Lucy!: Occasionally I get a bit tired of all the drama, which borders on melodrama, but, yeh, I'll have to keep going.
Thanks - I had to edit that last review quite a bit, lots of stupid little problems. One reason I don't put them in the official comment section for the book until I've given it some time to settle!
I can't get you into Mysterious Galaxy with your novella, but WHEN Hiero is published, let's see if we can get you a visit out here to promote it!!
This is my current line-up. I'm kind of bogged down in the Humboldt; it's a very good and I'm interested, but it is a dense biography. It is puzzling to me why Humboldt is not more celebrated in our times. He really is the first one to see the interrelatedness of everything in the natural world. (Our only world, as it happens.) I'll keep reading that one 10-20 pages at a time, otherwise I seem to be serial-reading. I'll have two books "going" but really I'm alternating between my genre reads and contemp fiction reads, reading each one right through, rather than going back and forth between them as I usually have been doing. (Right now, I'm galloping through the Windling.) Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!
✔ The Wood Wife Terri Windling contemp fantasy
✔ Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay Elena Ferrante
new The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World Andrea Wulf nat sci history
♬ Time to Depart Lindsey Davis
Hmmm. I read the Windling some time ago and got rid of it. Of course, I wish I hadn't now.
I can tell you from experience that 10-20 pages a day will get you through a book eventually!
Lucy, you have so much going on. I have my fingers crossed for the success of your novella. I will certainly look for it when it develops brackets!
You are enjoying the Ferrante series more than I did. I stopped after the second installment although part of me wonders if it was a timing thing.
I am flying to Syracuse on Friday for an airport interview with a central NY college. It's early in the process but I'm so drawn to this position..... If it proceeds, I'll be (sort of) in your neighborhood. And next winter I'll presumably be posting snow pictures of my own!
I know the joy of returning home to happy furkidz. Their welcome is the best.
Have a great week ~~
>69 LizzieD: You haven't missed a great deal by tossing the Windling. It's a bit of a de Lint wannabe. Not terrible but a bit clunky here and there. I'll probably be kind in my review, because as I say below to Ellen, I'm into being entertained not edified these days.
>70Ellen! Good luck at your interview!
I may be being kind about the Ferrante. And timing is huge -- I have been certainly not been a demanding reader this winter, entertainment has been what soothes.
>38 sibyx: I bought that one not too long ago. I will have to move it to the top of the stack! Thanks for the nudge, Lucy.
46. contemp fantasy ***1/2
The Wood Wife Terri Windling
A solid piece of storytelling and a pleasant entertaining read. Moments better than that, and moments (especially dialogue) that is a bit clunky, but I can't really complain as I did read it right through and was enjoying it. It's an interesting "take" on the urban/contemp type fantasy pioneered, really, by Charles de Lint, I think: the spirit world, faerie, or whatever you want to call it, interfacing with ours--some folks, especially those of the artistic musical literary bent finding it not that mysterious or threatening either. In this one the spirits are there, in this valley in the Rincon mountains of Arizona (near Tucson) but take on their form from the humans in their midst, and that can be good or bad depending on what is in your head. There's romance and danger and lots of poetry. ***1/2
Congratulations on the publishing news! How very exciting for you.
I've been dithering about the Elena Ferrante books, but you (and Dan Chaiken at Club Read) have just about convinced me to give the first volume (on my Kindle) a go.
>74 arubabookwoman: I'm well into book 3 now and I have to say this is a story that, as I was beginning to suspect it might, gets more interesting as the protagonist grows up. There is, I think, a real attempt to make an unblinking portrait of two extremely bright women born in a time and place (the late 1940's in Naples, one of the poorest big cities in Italy) where for almost the first time ever, it would be possible not only for a woman to pull herself up and out of the ghetto, but into a truly different way of life. (Elena has a few teachers, for example, who were well educated, but who never married or never left their home neighborhoods, but came back to teach.) If it might not be a full emancipation, then I expect Elena will get a lot further down that road and set a model for others to follow. It is also a portrait of a resilient person versus a fragile and troubled one, a story I find a bit less interesting, but only a little less.
Embarrassingly late to the publishing party, but yay for HoS and the sci-fi books! Congratulations!! :)
I hope I can get my hands on all of them somehow once they got brackets (Kindle?)!
I didn't know that you were already deep in the Ferrante series, it will be interesting to see what you make of #4 and the ending. 3 and 4 had been planned as one book and then she stretched it out maybe a bit too much.
I still think the ending of book 1, the meaning of those shoes, was exceptionally strong in the mafia clan context.
47. hist mys ***1/2
Blind Justice Bruce Alexander
This is the first in the series of mysteries featuring Sir John Fielding, the blind brother of Henry Fielding, who was not only an amazing writer, but was also the founder of the "Bow Street Runners". It's worth looking up and reading about. Fielding is seen through the eyes of the narrator, a 13 year old boy, Jeremy Proctor who, orphaned, as run away to London where he is immediately gulled by crooks and brought into Fielding's courtroom. Fielding decides to take the boy under his wing and the fun begins.
The series starts off with the death of an aristocrat, the (really it is a trope of the genre) locked room from the inside room suicide . . . or is it?) I admit I had the mystery pretty well figured out very quickly, but characters and their relationships were sufficiently interesting and the way Fielding plays out the solution had some fun moments. Very early on Boswell and Johnson figure, as well as the sublime David Garrick, the great actor, all of them known in one way or another to Fielding in that small world. I greatly enjoyed too Jeremy's introduction to coffee, a new beverage becoming all the rage! So these are fun and I'm already halfway through the next one. Couldn't give this one a higher rating as I did figur out the mystery too quickly, but all the rest was just fine! ***1/2
An aside, I read up on the Fieldings, of course--half the fun of reading these historical mysteries is looking things up-- What I didn't know was that there was a sister, Sarah, who also wrote a few novels.( Must find those.) Apparently previous to that generation the family spelled the name either Feilding or Fielding and when someone asked Henry and Sarah why they spelled it only the one way Henry said, "I suppose we're the first in our family who know how to spell."
>77 Deern: Yes the shoes are amazing. And yes, the life lived and the life not lived.
>78 sibyx: I read the second book in the series about Fielding and Jeremy and really liked it. My library didn't have the first book. I find they tend not to have the first book in series as though they wait for them to be popular before buying in. Blind Justice sounds like a good one, I'll have to hunt it down.
>78 sibyx: Aha, that's a series I've warbled about and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it's the milieu and the historical personalities that make this one so much fun.
48. hist mys ***1/2
Murder in Grub Street Bruce Alexander
This one is a doozy. A printer and family and apprentices all murdered brutally and a mad poet found with an axe in his hand on the scene. But of course, all is not as it seems. It just so happened, too, that this was the printer to whom Jeremy had been apprenticed. Perhaps Sir John Fielding will have to rethink the plans for the boy. Samuel Johnson plays a great role in this one and the plot focusses around religious toleration or lack thereof. I did guess early on who was involved, but it took some time to work out the how. Again, the characters and setting matter more than the story. ***1/2
Hmmm. I must tell you that Swift's use of "coffee" with one of his two women is very, very suggestive in their surviving letters...... (I miss your coffee; I think of your coffee; etc.) I'll read the first B. Alexander, and you surely will want to read the Damrosch bio.
>83 LizzieD: I am sure there is no "naughty" use of the word here, but that is fascinating! Just read up a bit on it -- the bean is from Ethiopia originally, traders brought it north and coffee-drinking was very established in Istanbul by the 14th. Crept across Europe then, Vienna, Marseilles, etc. and finally London in the 1600's. There were coffee shops in cities by the 18th, but a country boy would know nothing of it.
This is a view of a turkish coffee house. Looks to be Yashim's period!
49. hist mys ****
Watery Grave Bruce Alexander
Sir John Fielding has remarried and to his new wife's delight her son, three years in the Royal Navy is coming home on brief leave. But there is trouble on Tom's ship (there always is a but!) The ship's acting captain has accused his second in command of murdering the actual captain, shoving him off the boat during a storm. Fielding is called in by his old friend and crewmate, Admiral Redmond to help a case that has some murky aspects . . . only he appears hopelessly ambivalent. There are changes at home too, and Jeremy wonders what his own position in the family really is. The Royal Navy takes a beating in this one, and it was well done, so I bumped it up a stair. ****
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