Sibyx's 2017 Reading Rambles: Spring Equinox to Summer Solstice
This is a continuation of the topic Sibyx's 2017 reading rambles the First.
This topic was continued by Sibyx's 2017 Reading Rambles: Summer Solstice to Autumn Equinox.
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Currently Reading in Junel
For May stats got to >5
For April stats go to >4
For March stats to to >3
new Jack, Knave, and Fool Bruce Alexander hist mys
✔ Any Human Heart William Boyd contemp fic
new The Hidden Life of Trees Peter Wohlleben nat sci
♬ Two For the Lions Lindsey Davis mys
Murdoch Marathon: ONGOING. (No plans for reading IM at present) IM readers group is HERE
Virago No immediate plans
64. new The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse Louise Erdrichcontemp fic****1/2
65.new A Burnable Book Bruce Holsinger hist mys ***1/2
66. new Coyote America Dan Flores nat hist ***1/2
67. new A Man Called Ove Frederik Backman ****
69. new The Sunlight Pilgrims Jenni Fagan dyst contemp fic ****1/2
70. new Three Moments of an Explosion China Mieville sf/ss ***1/2
71. new The Ferryman Institute Colin Gigl fantasy ***
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 being able to make wider reading choices 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.
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 ****
50. ♬ Time to Depart Lindsey Davis hist mys ****
51. ✔ Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay Elena Ferrante ***1/2
M/W writing together: 0
Contemp/Classic/Hist Fiction: 3
Mystery(inc hist mys): 4
YA or J: 0
New author: 2
From library or borrowed: 0
New (to me): 3
Off Shelf: 6
Did not finish: 0
TOTAL (for year) IN=18
TOTAL OUT= 20
Books acquired in April
11. Jack, Knave, and Fool Bruce Alexander
12. Death of a Colonial Bruce Alexander
13. The Color of Death Bruce Alexander
14. The Price of Murder Bruce Alexander
15. Watery Grave Bruce Alexander
16. We Are Legion Dennis E Taylor
17. A Closed and Common Orbit Becky Chambers
18. Six Wakes Mur Lafferty
Reflections April 2017
My surmise last month that I am inclined to read more widely again has been proven somewhat true, but the wider reads did not include completing any non fiction although I am working my way through a very dense biography of Alexander von Humboldt. What the wider reading did include was the first three volumes of the Elena Ferrante opus, collectively called The Neapolitan Novels a work about which I'm of two minds, appropriate as the story focuses on the lives of two women: the "good" girl who studies hard and leaves the ghetto and the "bad girl" who is just as bright but is charismatic and erratic and does not leave. But I'll get to all that in my final review which should be this month. Otherwise I wallowed contentedly in genre fiction, reading my three Foreigner books of the divine Ms. Cherryh, books 10-12 which were fabulous, continuing with good old hapless Falco (who is getting a new apartment) and starting a new historical mystery series set in the mid-18th century Britain, in London, a period I adore Sir John Fielding, magistrate of the Bow Street Runners. A less thrilling but adequate genre read was the Terri Windling. My five star read of the month was a listen -- to Neil Gaiman reading his Norse Gods which was sublime in every way and I plan to listen to it again and again. That Loki! Gaiman's voice! A good month!
52. new Person or Persons Unknown Bruce Alexander hist mys ****
53. ✔ The Story of the Lost Child Elena Ferrante contemp fic ****1/2
54. ♬ Maskerade Terry Pratchett fantasy ****
55. new We Are Legion (We Are Bob) Dennis E. Taylor sf ****
56. new Mister Monkey Francine Prose contemp fic ****
57. new The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World Andrea Wulf nat sci *****
58. new The Trespasser Tana French mys ***1/2
59. ♬ A Dying Light in Corduba Lindsey Davis hist mys ****
60. new Perfect Chaos Linea Johnson Cinda Johnson psych/memoirm ****1/2
61. new A Closed and Common Orbit Becky Chambers sf ****1/2
62. ✔ The Element of Fire Martha Wells fantasy ***3/4
63. ♬ Three Hands in the Fountain Lindsey Davis hist mys ****
M/W writing together: 0
Contemp/Classic/Hist Fiction: 2
Mystery(inc hist mys): 3
YA or J: 0
New author: 4
From library or borrowed: 0
New (to my library): 7
Off Shelf: 2
Did not finish: 0
TOTAL (for year) IN=22
TOTAL OUT= 21
Books acquired in May
19. In the Fall Jeffrey Lent
20. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse Louise Erdrich READING
21. The Demon King Cinda Williams Chima
22. A Man Called Ove Fredrik Backman
Reflections May 2017
This month I finished two non-fictions books, first the Humboldt, an astonishing read for me in that I knew so little about the man. Indeed I am ashamed. Andrea Wulf, the biographer wrote a steady readable and engaging history of the man and his achievements as well as, in the last part of the book, the effect of his achievements on a host of luminaries. My second nf read was a heartfelt portrait of a a daughter's severe breakdown, by mother and daughter, quite a wild ride. I also finished the last Ferrante and thus the quartet--I can't rave about them as some have, but they are worthy and I would guess ground-breaking in Italian fiction--breaking into unspoken matters and out of Italy. I enjoyed a recent Francine Prose and after that it's all fun and games with genre reads, all of which I hugely enjoyed (I really don't bother with those if I am not enjoying myself!) While I liked the Bobiverse sf, I really loved the second Becky Chambers.
I'm on target for 150 provided I read thirteen books in June. That'll be a tall order as we are getting into busy-time, otherwise known as summer!
Started in 2017
Sir John Fielding mysteries Bruce Alexander READING: Person or Persons Unknown #4
Ile-Rien Martha Wells NEXT UP: Death of a Necromancer #2
Continuing in 2017
My Struggle Karl Ove Knausgaard NEXT UP: My Struggle: Book 4: Dancing in the Dark
Marcus Didius Falco Lindsey Davis READING: A Dying Light in Corduba #8
Inspector Gamache Louise Penny UP NEXT: A Great Reckoning
Discworld: Witches Terry Pratchett READING: Maskerade
Neapolitan Novels Elena Ferrante COMPLETED
Crown of Stars Kate Elliott (7 of 7) COMPLETED
To be continued= TBC) in 2018
Foreigner C.J. Cherryh TBC in 2018 NEXT UP: books 13-15
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. ****
50. ♬ hist mys ****
Marcus and Helena are back in Rome and, of course, no sooner does Marcus swear he'll do nothing for the Emperor than he gets called in--to spy on his best friend Petro! Someone in the Vigiles (as close to a police force as Rome had) is a betraying secrets, secrets that are putting Petro's biggest case, that of getting rid of a major crime ringleader named Balbinus, into jeopardy. On the home front, a neice goes missing, and Marcus continues to fret about marriage and about finding a better place for he and Helena to live. Oh, and did I say there is a catastrophic wedding? Fun as ever. ****
51. contemp fic ***1/2
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay Elena Ferrante
So, I feel slightly guilty, but I am not as fully absorbed in this saga as some have been, parts are too melodramatic and others feel so clunky. I'm willing to attribute my disdain for melodrama to my own New England no-nonsense roots (although really, what could be more melodramatic, at some level, than Ethan Frome!?) And I'm less critical if I think of this as an historical, not a contemporary novel, one that captures a transitional time in Italy, in particular around the issues of sexuality and abuse. But that isn't really the issue, it's something more subtle, pacing perhaps? I get this, 'enough already' feeling that comes and goes--especially, I'm afraid, around Lena's obsession with Lila. Also with Nino. However, given how ignorant and uninterested all the other men are at pleasing a woman sexually, who can blame Lena, really? Ah well, I'll read to the end since I am a Mustcompletist and a good deal of the time the story, and, yes, the writing do grab and hold my interest. But the true, fresh, startling insights, the aha! moments I read contemporary fiction for, are far and few between. ***1/2
I listened to the whole series, but that means I was walking as I listened. I'm not sure I would have made it through had I been "reading with my eyes". I think I gave them about 3 or 3 1/2 too. That said, I enjoyed some parts more than others (by quite a bit) and they worked well as walking books.
Check out the May Martians and Magic Theme Thread at http://www.librarything.com/topic/256332
Appreciate your honest review of the latest Ferrante, Lucy. I do agree with all of your points: melodrama, Lena's obsession with Lila and Nino. Personally, I never understood what the draw was with Nino, for either woman.
I read the first book in Ferrante's series and was not interested enough to continue. I found it unnecessarily convoluted and just didn't care enough about the characters. I've heard many people say that the subsequent books were better but I'll skip them. Plenty of other things to read!
Like Nancy, I agree with many of your points Lucy. It's worth reading the 4th & final book if only to resolve the cliffhanger in book 3!
I need to get back to the Bruce Alexander series at some point. I own them all and the series is due for a re-read.
>95 sibyx: oh, I may have to go looking for that too. If you find it, could you post a link please?
52. hist mys ****
Person or Persons Unknown Bruce Alexander
Yet another fine mystery. Alexander continues to bring cameo appearances of real people from the era--this time Oliver Goldsmith. Women are being murdered, prostitutes, and it's a tough case to crack. (Also a bit gory.) Jeremy, now fifteen, is given more responsibility in helping Sir John Fielding. A character I like returns. Enjoyable. ****
I'm going to stop reading Justina Robson's Mappa Mundi -- it's really more of a thriller in a very near future than anything else and lacks the zest of the series, Quantum Gravity about the (basically) bionic super-spy and her adventures with elves and demons and saving the world that I enjoyed a lot. I think I know where this is headed and I just . . . don't think I need to finish. The mind has been "mapped" with the means to assert control and manipulate people, for good or for ill. There is a tussle over who will get control of the technology which is usable, although as yet, unfinished. It's a horrible idea, and I have no idea if it is at all feasible, I'm guessing maybe far-fetched, but who knows? I had trouble from the get-go with that premise -- but maybe it just makes me very very uncomfortable?
Anyway there are so many other books out there. I feel a little badly, but almost from one page to the next, somewhere just past halfway, I "got" it and felt, OK, I'm done here. Up to then, I was gripped. She's a good writer, so I'm surprised at how strongly I just didn't want to continue. It could be some mood I'm in as I am quite sure I am doing Robson an injustice. It does have to do with the characters, I think, this sense of "I know how it will all go." Or maybe it is just the creepy cover?
And I'll keep it around in case I change my mind! (Already I am feeling guilty!)
53. contemp fic ****1/2
The Story of the Lost Child Elena Ferrante
And so I have reached the end of the saga of this passionate and uncomfortable friendship. Investing so much time and effort in a story means that one is, at the very least, interested. Oddly what hooked me most was Lenu's slow maturing, painful and maddening throughout: from her mother, from teachers, from Naples, from "being invented" by various men, from a need to please and do everything right, and most importantly, from her conviction that without Lila and their friendship she would have been no one at all. As with many books that one has had an ambivalent relationship to while reading (but never considered quitting), now that I am at the end, I am glad. While this final book has elements of heightened melodrama more than all the others--including the lost child of the title-- it is also, oddly, the one in which Lenu finally begins to pull away from all her dependencies and to rely, at last, on herself. I don't think it was just relief on my part to be almost done that I found the last 1/3 of this volume illuminating and convincing about the intertwining of Lila and Lenu--Lenu maybe getting it that Lila has depended on her as much as she has on Lila--and that both of them, I don't think this is spoiling, have "used" one another and benefited from one another as well as, yes, doing harm too. Lenu doubts her own worth in the face of Lila's abilities, and I do understand that. Lilas are rare, but they exist and they are catalysts, mysterious and potent, living muses, you could say. ****1/2
It's sunny today, but Long Pond in Wellfleet was spooky and lovely in the fog yesterday:
Hi Lucy -- That's a very well done summation of the Ferrante series. I listened to it a couple of years ago and was tempted to quit after each of the books but by the end was glad I had persisted and, looking back, liked the entire series.
Love the Long Pond photo!!
Fabulous summation, indeed, of the Ferrante series. I love this: Lilas are rare, but they exist and they are catalysts, mysterious and potent, living muses, you could say.
Gorgeous, eerie photo!
Chiming in with high praise for your review of the Ferrante. I loved the "illuminations" as the series wrapped up and everything seemed to come together.
Thank you for your review of Ferrante, Lucy. Now I don't have to read the rest of them.
If I could find a LIKE button for the Long Pond pic, I'd click it!
We've wiled away many a summer's day in that pond. I've skated on it in winter and iceboated too. And paddled and just about everything you can think of over the last thirty-five years.
With all of you posting such nice things about that summing up I got it together to post it on the review page. Thank you!!!
Take note of new pix at the top -- a new Po pin-up.
I just applied my thumb to your review. And thank you very much for the bit of Po up there!
Grazie mille for the thumb! And in that vein -- here is the link to the article in The Nation, Vivian Gornick on Ferrante recommended by a friend. It was a bit different than I expected, a lot about Ferrante's stubborn anonymity.
54. fantasy ****
Maskerade Terry Pratchett
So that winds up my time listening to the Witches segment of Pratchett's ouevre and my Pratchetting for the time being. I'm sure I won't be able to resist returning and when I do it will be to the Tiffany Aching set of stories, so I have an excuse to listen to the Wee Free Men again. This one is set in the opera house in Ankh MorPork (I have no idea how to spell anything, will check on that!) and I don't much care for opera, finding it campy, incomprehensible, ludicrous, frankly, (and, believe me, I tried) so I enjoyed the send up immensely. What can I say? I adore Granny Weatherwax, she is Mary Poppins on steroids. Speaking of which, hmm, I'm wondering about Mary, maybe she is from Lancra, what do you think? ****
55. sf ****
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) Dennis E. Taylor
This is a marvelous example of "problem-solving" sf, very busy, great story, and very funny. While a little thin on character development, even that aspect is humorous and appropriate to the main character, Bob. However, as I kept reading, it began to bother me how merrily devoid of women the story is. I get it that Bob is a whopping nerd, happiest when, you got it, solving problems, but given the fact that every Bob clone turns out to be quite different I began to wonder . . . why not one who is . . . REALLY different? Furthermore since Bob does a lot of VR and he had a girlfriend and presumably they . . . and he was at the start of the book heartbroken over the break-up (before the RL Bob died), it seems a stretch when he wakes up as a "replicant" (bodiless, in digital form)that he NEVER seems to have ANY problems with living in a female-free world! It makes it hard to fully believe in him, I'm afraid.
I want to add, this is not a PC problem on my part. There was a moment, when I was in my teens rereading LOTR for the nth time when I had a horrible realization that it was Eowyn or nothing, and it just broke my heart given how much I loved the story and had been in such close identification with the hobbits up to that point. Since then, I just can't help feeling left out when there's no balance at all. I give writers from earlier times dispensation, including Tolkien, but, it's a real problem for me in contemporary sf and fantasy -- especially when the writer is significantly YOUNGER than me.
In this first book I've decided to give Taylor and Bob space--there was a ton of stuff going on and Bob has been a busy dude., but I was, by the end, disappointed that there was no hint of a Bobette. While it is almost plausible that original Bob, fully occupied, wouldn't miss female company or get curious about what it might feel like being female, or just, to be frank, get horny (Gene Roddenberry didn't shy from that, did he?), Taylor does need to think all this over and in case he sneaks around reading reviews, I'm bringing this up. To keep the attention and interest of women (and no doubt some men) sf readers, it would be a good idea to come up with something, and not a stupid thing, but something refreshing and open-minded and commonsensical, a la Bob. Everything else worked fine--Taylor put a lot of energy into coming up with plausible solutions to various problems although I worry a little that Taylor has set up a couple of situations that might turn out to be difficult to disentangle the Bobs from in a convincing way, but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt about all of it for now. Originality and momentum ace the other issues this time. ****
>111 sibyx: I am another who doesn't really love opera, but having started Pratchett, I do rather like him.
Have a great weekend, Lucy.
>112 sibyx: The beginning of your review had me thinking that it would be some great light reading for this summer. By the end, you had talked me out of it. :-)
>29 sibyx: Hmm, I might give this a try.
>48 sibyx: So I'm a month late to your life news, not spending much time on LT myself... Wishing the LD well. Glamour can wait. Glad to see Hiero take another step forward. A coupla independent bookstores here have occasional readings though a cursory check of web sites doesn't yield any information about upcoming events or scheduling such a thing.
>114 TadAD: I think you should go ahead and read it -- it's as entertaining as the Mars book and, to me, wayyyy better than The Three Body Problem. Another thing he does is humorously reference sf classics. To me there was even the faintest . . . not even a hint . . . echo? of one way the Banksian cyber-entities I adore so much might have come into being. There was another "problem sf" not too long ago - the lad lived in a stack of trailers? (Back to add: Ready Player One) And, as I tried to say, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt for this first one. That was a very "personal" review, not really a review, even, more a heartfelt thing for my LT posse. You all know me by now, I'm figuring!
56. contemp fic ****
Mister Monkey Francine Prose
A literary trope (that I enjoy, I am not using the term negatively) is a story arranged around both a play and the actors involved in the play (Hag-Seed is a recent excellent example), in this case, Prose casts a wider net, to include not only the actors and director of this doomed play about an orphaned chimpanzee, but a few in the audience, the writer of the original book that was turned into a children's musical, a kindergarten teacher whose student attended the play . . . ripples that move outward and cross each other . . . and you wonder where is Prose going with this? And just about then, she begins to pull the net in. The first half of the novel, since it keeps moving to new characters was extra work, but the second half I read in one afternoon (luckily I had the time) and was fully absorbed. Prose is acutely observant and her humour is the dark and complicated kind, where you laugh and groan simultaneously, the best and worst in people hopelessly intertwined. ****
Good reading and good thinking about it for the rest of us. Thank you, Lucy!
Oh dear. And now I'm going to have to become acquainted with F. Prose.
>117 sibyx: Ooh, I really want to read this - 'dark and complicated' humour sounds like a good read to me. Great review.
I've like many of her novels (read most of them before joining LT so no reviews for you) but A Changed Man is a favourite.
This morning, with rain pounding down (this has been the coldest wettest May in Vermont in . . . well, maybe, since recording weather began) I lay there in bed thinking about what a great writer Iris Murdoch is, how her descriptions of houses, especially, are so vivid you can really "see" everything, smell the roses, hear the gravel crunch on the garden walk, etcetera. Must be getting ready to read another, eh?
>112 sibyx: I am glad you enjoyed Bob as much as you did. The lack of female characters didn't bother me while I was reading this, but it will be interesting to see if that changes at all in the second book. I wouldn't expect that any of the Bobs would manifest as female though, so I am not sure what secondary figure might come into play.
Hope you get some dry weather soon!
>122 Berly: I can't disagree about that, Bob seems relentlessly nerd hetero, but it will ultimately unbalance and wreck the whole thing if Taylor doesn't come up with something good.
57. nat sci *****
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World Andrea Wulf
Quick Quiz: Do you know who Alexander von Humboldt was? Did you know that in the 19th century he was one of the most famous people on the planet? The most likely answer is no. Certainly, that was mine a couple of months back: the name bounced as one I had encountered: Thoreau, Muir, Marsh and many others I have read refer to him, but I never thought to pursue it. Reading this biography, I was constantly astonished. Humboldt, a polymath and a genius, was the first person in western culture to have the idea that everything in the natural world is interconnected, interrelated, interdependent: truly the title of this biography is not far-fetched: Humboldt invented the study of nature as we know it and was the inspiration for the great naturalists we revere, including Darwin -- I MEAN HE INSPIRED DARWIN, WITHOUT HUMBOLDT THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO DARWIN. DARWIN TOOK HIS BOOKS ON THE BEAGLE AND MORE OR LESS MEMORIZED THEM. After Humboldt's great trip to South America as a young man he stopped in the US on his way home and met both Jefferson (to whom he suggested that a canal through Panama might be useful) and Madison, who took to heart his views on deforestation and mass agriculture's devastation of soils (especially tobacco). He influenced and inspired Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, and John Muir, in a big way, each of them had a totally life-changing experience from reading Humboldt's works that set them off on the courses their lives took. Before reading Humboldt, Thoreau did not know what to do with himself. Afterward, he went and built his cabin and wrote Walden. Every nature writer today who combines science, art, and emotional response in their writing owes their view to Humboldt. It is almost impossible to believe the range of his thinking and achievements, so much of it we take for granted. An example: through his studies of plants when climbing, he realized that altitude determines what can grow where, and then further began to speculate that as the same plants seemed to grow at the same altitudes in different places if land masses had once been connected. The idea had not occurred to anyone, but his ideas were the basis for the studies of generations of scientists and now we know that indeed, the continents do move and change. Over two hundred years ago, traveling in South America he recognized the devastation caused by cutting down the rainforest and predicted that humans would turn the earth into a sterile desert. We are fortunate that he inspired John Muir or that process would be further along. He didn't invent the term 'ecology' but he directly inspired the man who did. Humboldt met Simon Bolivar when he was a handsome bachelor gadding about in Paris, and it was Humboldt with his passion for South America and his disgust at how the Spanish treated their colonies that turned Bolivar from a frivolous young man into a revolutionary! Why do we know little to nothing about Humboldt? Wulf attributes it to two major shifts: the ever firmer separation of science and art from one another, of "holistic" studies and, in Great Britain and America (he is still known and revered elsewhere) the (understandable) anti-German sentiment of the early twentieth century. Many places and streets that bore his name were changed during those decades, although there are still seven or eight towns in the US named Humboldt, countless state parks, and the mountains and a river in Nevada, the Humboldt current, a glacier in Greenland, more mountains in Antarctica -- his name is around us everywhere and I, for one, never stopped to ask, who was this Humboldt? Shame on me.
The book is very well-written and never dull, but because of the range of Humboldt's achievements, Wulf's task was almost impossible, and the biography is so packed with information that I could only read ten or fifteen pages at a time, after which I often had to reread them, boggled out of my head, at the sheer magnitude of Humboldt's achievements and the complete weirdness of the fact he is so little known. If you have any interest at all in the history of the environmental movement in the west, this is required reading, and worth every minute. It's too much information to retain easily: it's a book I'll have to keep around for reference, grateful that it has an excellent index. And, of course, I'll be reading Humboldt's books of which there are many. Highly recommended!!! *****
I'll probably tinker with this review off and on for several days.
Did you ever write a review about the Humboldt! I realize that I have only ever heard of the current. Many thanks for bringing yet another need-to-read to my attention.
I loved that Humboldt book -- it wasn't as much of a revelation (I had done some questioning after spotting Humboldt University in Berlin, and I've always been curious about that era) but still had no idea of the sheer magnitude of his fame as recently as a century or so ago. For me, the book started to flag a bit toward the end when she focused more on "this is a legacy, that is a legacy" and it became more choppy, but it was still amazing -- his expeditions and the way his mind worked! She also makes a very persuasive case for him being one of the last of a dying breed -- living in an era when it was still possible to really be a polymath, when the world of knowledge was still containable in that way. I wonder what we have lost with our silos and specializations?
I also enjoyed the Prose novel, and like you, thought it took off more in the second half. Though having just read Hag-Seed, I thought that was far more masterful.
Greetings to Wellfleet, Miss Po; hope LD is doing well.
>124 sibyx: That is a glowing review, Lucy!
I know some about Humboldt, as Redmond O'Hanlon told about him in a Dutch TV show, where they traveled by sailing boat after Darwin's travels. The book is on mount TBR, I guess I should move it up :-)
>124 sibyx: I have this based on The Brother Gardeners and also she gave a presentation on The Invention of Nature at the National Book Festival a couple years ago (http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=7012). Just fascinating, but reading the book is awaiting a calmer time. I was reminded of it recently when von Humbolt was mentioned in a lecture as a visitor to local botanist Henry Muhlenberg (http://www2.hsp.org/collections/manuscripts/m/Muhlenberg0443.html).
58. mys irish ****
The Trespasser Tana French
Confession-time, much as I genuinely enjoyed The Trespasser I skimmed about fifty pages somewhere towards the end, after the big reveal. I read just closely enough to confirm that I wasn't missing any surprises, just the detailed working out of how Conway and Moran (the two detectives on this murder case) were going to work what to do about what they have uncovered. (The last thirty or so pages I read at a regular pace.) Running alongside the whodunit plot is the issue of loyalties, who you can trust (if you can trust anybody at all) applying to squad partners, to the Murder Squad as a whole, to friends and family, and to marriage vows. The plot: A young woman is found dead, it looks like a domestic, Moran and Conway at the end of their night shift, are assigned the case, but even from the start, there is something peculiar about it: the squad captain assigns it to them directly as he comes on shift and they are within minutes of going off it. Furthermore he sics Breslin on them, a smooth operator that neither of them care for although he is not one of those Conway, the only woman (and clearly not pure Irish) suspects of trying to get her off the squad altogether. They know something is UP but they can't figure it out at all and get to work. A sub-theme is how we make up stories all the time, the murder squad especially depends on creating scenarios from whatever information they glean off of witnesses and evidence. The hard part is not to get too enamored of your story or to be too unimaginative altogether and, circling back to the other theme, who you can trust. It's beautifully constructed and complex emotionally. I will say though that I wearied of Conway's paranoia. The book could have been fifty pages shorter if all those extra sentences and comments had been edited. Still, it is a **** star read, although if we had 3 and 3/4 I'd be tempted to use it.
59. ♬ hist mys ****
A Dying Light in Corduba Lindsey Davis
Falco and Helena are off to Spain to see if Falco can sort out what appears to be a plot to create an olive oil cartel. His old enemy chief spy Anacrites has been injured badly and despite the fact Falco couldn't care less about the man, he does care about murder and attempted murder. Luckily Helena's family own a farm near the epicenter of trouble, so they have a pleasant place to bunk once they arrive. The biggest problem is Helena's big belly, she's due in less than two months, but she won't let him out of her sight for such a long time. Question is, will they get through the case in time to get her back to Rome to have the baby? Enjoyable as ever, and while Falco remains indigent, I am glad that he really has succeeded in improving his living situation and will, presumably (no spoilers here), be a Dad by the end, whether they make it back to Rome or not. This appears to be the last audio read by Simon Prebble. The next few appear to be read by Christian Rodska. I expect I'll miss Prebble.****
60. memoir/psych *****
Perfect Chaos Linea Johnson Cinda Johnson
Mother and daughter tell the story of the daughter, Linea's, bipolar onset. Because of the social stigma around mental illness, there is surprisingly little around of this type of truly open accounting of what families go through when it happens. Linea went from being a highly achieving motivated person to being suicidal with alarming speed. Only the intervention of friends and family kept her alive. Mother and daughter trade turns recounting the events and their emotional reactions and states during that first year when Linea was fighting for her life. We watch both of them work their way through to acceptance and more than that, recognition that with responsible management, life can go on , no differently from anyone managing a chronic physical illness. Someone in my family has had difficulties this past year; nothing approaching this level of gravity, I am glad to say, but nonetheless much of what I experienced is described accurately here, which is reassuring to me. If someone in your friendship or family orbit is bipolar (and, believe me, more than one somebody you know is, it is much more common than anyone admits, and much less scary) it would be a good idea to read Perfect Chaos. It is an honest, sensible, reassuring and above all, positive (without being stupidly so) book. *****
61. sf ****1/2
Chambers does it again, in fact, I might have liked this one even better than the first one! We've left the Wayfarer with Pepper and the former Lovey, Lovelace, now someone new and installed in a body kit. The focus is on this new AI's gradual adjustment and acceptance of her new self in a new and challenging environment, but it is balanced with Pepper's own story, and the underlying explanation for why she is so willing to take on the bewildered AI. Not just a romp though, plenty of subject matter and plenty of craft. Not unlike Star Trek in its best incarnation where every story was "about" something while being entertaining and full of fun. Can't help but speculate that Data is one of Chamber's faves. ****1/2 -- leaving space to grow! I read it with hungry delight!
Guess my nice color scheme of current books didn't last very long!
I'm back on the Cape. The wisteria is blooming, will try to get a photo loaded up here tomorrow, very pretty. Today it rained and rained and then the fog rolled in. But it did keep me inside working, which is what I am here for.
The Element of Fire Martha Wells fantasy
Martha Wells can write, create characters you want to spend time with, and plot. She has also done her research on weaponry and, after creating the huge palace in which most of the action takes place, she was sufficiently familiar with it to describe exactly where characters were every moment. The story: Thomas Boniface is captain of the Queen's Guard, that is, of the Dowager Queen's Guard--her son is now king and he has a wife who is the queen, but somehow or other she is still running the show. Her son is under the influence of a man no one trusts. The neighboring country to the south, traditional enemy, set against Ile-Rien because they permit sorcerers to work outside the church, has lost track of a dangerous sorcerer. Has he ventured up to Ile-Rien? If so, what is he scheming? The king's half-sister, half-fay, has also suddenly returned to the scene after being banished, what is she up to? It's up to Thomas to save the day, of course!
The book teeters on the edge of being just what I like in a fantasy novel but, (and there is a but, at least for me) it just didn't venture outside of safety -- which included the fact that after awhile the meticulous use of "wheellock' for "pistol" and "main gauche" "rapier" etc. for "sword" became somewhat annoying, which is interesting, as did the exact descriptions so that you wanted to run back to the diagram of the palace to see if you could figure out which window Cade was jumping in or out of . . . distracting, in other words. A painter doesn't show every brick in a house facade, just enough for you to get the idea. Probably this is a stupid complaint on my part, as in overly picky, expecting too much, and so on. This was Wells' first in a series about this country, Ile-Rien (many of her names for people are amusing double entendres and tongue-in-cheek). It's not perfect, but it is pretty darned good and I hope she will only get better! ****
Once again, the cover line up is very appealing, still a combination of muted colors and strong contrasts:
>136 sibyx: Great review. I'm looking forward to reading this one, as I liked A Long Long Way...
♬ hist mys ****
Three Hands in the Fountain Lindsey Davis
Great title for this one and lots of fun with the aqueducts. I need to do a search and look at maps of all the aqueducts that fed water to Rome, it truly is impressive. In this one someone is dumping body parts into the water and it's up to our Falco to find out who. The usual fun! ****
>5 sibyx:May stats can be found here
>141 souloftherose: Now I have to get hold of book 2 of the Wells.
>142 charl08: It's even better than the first!
I see you picked up The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima this month. That's a series I really liked for the characters and world-building, so I wish you joy of it.
I finished We Are Legion last night and enjoyed it. Not so much as The Martian and I don't think it is great science fiction, but lots of fun in the tradition of E. E. "Doc" Smith and many others.
Hi, Lu. Going with a dark and orange-ish color scheme at the moment, I see.
I believe that you and Roni are going to talk me into *Bob* sooner rather than later. I'm also contemplating Ninefox Gambit. I read a bit of the free offering, and it's - different.
>124 sibyx: Wow! I actually do know Humboldt's name, but had no idea that his influence was THAT wide-spread. Great review. And I like your earth tone book lineup!
65. contemp fic
The Last Report on Miracles at Little No Horse Louise Erdrich
This novel goes back to the early 1900's when the progenitors of the cast of characters I met in Love Medicine were themselves young--many of them legendary. Here we are given the story of the Catholic priest, Father Damien, sent to this remote section of the Ojibwe reservation. It is (literally) a wild ride, as always with Erdrich, beautifully written and slipping effortlessly and convincingly in and out of places not quite of this world and so tender about the mysteries that people hold within themselves. It's the sort of book that makes you remember that one should never be dismissive of anyone no matter what they appear to be on the outside, whether a hapless drunk or a feckless storyteller or an inveterate flirt. ****1/2
Apologies for not getting this review out sooner! I had a family wedding this weekend and never touched the computer.
65. hist mys ***1/2
A Burnable Book Bruce Holsinger
Set in 1385 while Richard II is a very young and inexperienced king. John Gower is the second son of a sturdy but minor knightly background operating independently solving problems for the gentry and government, he also writes poetry. Gower is called in by his friend William Chaucer to help find a missing book. Only problem is that Gower knows from the start that Chaucer is holding something back. The book is purported to be of ancient origins and full of prophecies of the death of English kings, right up to Richard II. But the book has gone missing, a young woman has been murdered and very soon Gower realizes that he isn't the only one looking for the book. The plot unfolds quite well, although I thought aspects, as the story finished opening out, were a little contrived and convoluted or too obscure and not adequately explained. I am not likely to continue the series as it wasn't quite enough fun, lacked warmth and conviction, as a story. The research and background were excellent and convincing. ***1/2
It was cold enough today that we lit the woodstove and kept it running at a low level all day. Ridiculous! It also never stopped raining. Dreary! You can bet I didn't make my step quota today. I even did take a walk out there huddled iun my raincoat because Posey insisted. I even wore gloves! And was glad!
Scrolling through your thread and ducking from everything that might turn into a BB. :)
The Ferrante worked for me when I thought of the 2 women as a split personality experiment which also fit the ending quite well. I thought that reading parts 3 and 4 it's noticeable they were planned as just one book and then drawn out too much, it gets repetitive and hazy.
As much as I liked them, I still hesitate to start the other 2 (earlier) books I have in my shelf, expecting quite a lot of pain in there.
Wishing you a lovely week with some sun and warmer temperatures.
Here for a nature report.
A day or two ago Posey and I flushed a mama grouse in the woods who ran about squawking and limping to distract us from her chicks who were scrambling in a little log pile in a panic. And oh were they ever adorable. Couldn't linger because I had to pick up Posey and be on my way. She knows already I don't like her chasing things, so she more or less froze. She's not entirely trustworthy though --she's good if she's within about ten yards of me, otherwise she does hare off after anything.
This morning I see something in the pond and figure it is the gargantuan snapping turtle mama we have, got out the binocs and went to look. Hmm. It appears to be a dead muskrat, which is a little sad. Just as well as we aren't all that keen on having them as they are notorious for wrecking ponds by digging tunnels and creating leaks, though we thoroughly enjoyed them the year they were around. We don't get too many repeats-- and I do expect the snapper is the issue for all the other pond-loving animals. But she keeps things tidy for us, so I guess we can't complain. We do advise men to wear bathing trunks!! :O
I loved the nature report, Lucy! Made me smile BIG. Hoping that your weekend is full of fabulous!
Addition to the nature report is that it wasn't a muskrat but a youngish raccoon. Utterly unmarked. I am sure they can swim, so it is rather strange and a bit sad. We'd just been to see Guardians of the Galaxy with that ridiculous raccoon in it too. Anyway, we took care of him and stowed him away. In the twenty plus years we've had the pond, nothing like that ever before.
66. nat hist ****
Coyote America Dan Flores
If you want a solid overview of the history of coyote presence in North America, you will get it here. This is one of our few surviving NATIVE predators -- and it was the precursor of the coyote that crossed the Bering land/ice bridge going west that populated Asia and Europe and evolved into the wolf. So yes, your beloved dog, by circuitous ways, was originally a north american animal of the western states. Unfortunately at least two thirds of the book is the nauseating tale of a hundred and some years of the futile attempts of whites and government to rid the continent of the coyote--based on no information about the animal at all, most of it. And I am serious about the nauseating piece. Right here, right now in the US there are still some states spending millions to find ways (including using poison) to kill coyotes. It's all out of habit, out of a refusal for the few remaining serious sheep farmers, it's a minor ag biz these days, to just keep on doing things the old ways --because the government is paying -- with the cooperation of the federal bureaus who don't want to lose their funding!
Just last week I saw what is the largest single sheep herd in the east, I'm guessing it was around 400 - in Geneseo, NY, in western New York State. And guess what? The herd is minded by three enormous herding dogs, and a shepherd who doesn't stay out there all the time, but, say, during lambing, yep camps out there. Turns out the best coyote control is three dogs and a shepherd. Sweet and clean. And as things go, inexpensive. Vet bills, dog food . . . dog's with a purpose, a job for someone who likes the outdoors.
Here's another thing. We really need our predators. I learned recently that in the religious middle ages because cats were regarded as agents of the devil, cities would periodically purge themselves of them. Guess what? Good-bye cats and hello PLAGUE! Plague spikes have been definitively connected with cat purges. Well, duh! Coyotes have moved eastward and westward and everywhere they can as a result of being hounded in the West (where there numbers never reduce no matter what anyone tries) and now live in suburbs and cities. Why? Because over millenia as the 'small' wolf, they had to learn to be very clever to not be killed by the gray wolves. They can move to these urban and suburban places because they have no competition and there is lots to eat, even without killing your cat. And actually, studying stomach contents of urban/suburban coyotes only turns up 2 to 10% cat. The main reason they kill cats (and here is a lovely phrase) is that coyotes regard them--and dogs--as "intraguild predators"--e.g. competitors for the real prey. Cities are chock-a-block with prey from (another lovely word) "synanthropic" animals from rats everywhere to deer in the fringier places, that get along fabulously near humans. And there is a vacuum of predator competition, cats notwithstanding. After a few rabies episodes feral dog packs were purged from cities in the early 1900's (with shocking cruelty, causing the founding of the SPCA) creating a vacuum. Today's urban coyotes mainly eat Canadian Geese and rats and mice, and yes, fawns. Even better coyotes are not carriers of rabies, they can get it from bites, but they don't carry and spread it as dogs and many other animals can. They are not, generally pack animals, either although they can act as loners or a pack (one of their main survival strategies.) A few develop do seem to develop a taste for cats, and a few are so fearless they could pose a danger to humans. But after our centuries of animosity to them, all but the most rare and frankly stupid coyote, is afraid of any and all humans. All a human need do is stand their ground and shout and throw things (act big and tough) and the coyote will quickly depart. And keep your cats in at night. In general the east, the coyotes have also interbred with some of the few remaining red wolves --( who have proved from DNA to be hybrid coyotes from far longer ago than our white presence altered everything) They are bigger and, yes, more aggressive, but not stupid either. You leave them entirely alone, do not feed them, do not kid yourself about them, maybe keep your dog on a lead (unless it obeys commands and sticks close) in the wilder places you might go hiking, and you should be fine. The bottom line is, we can either learn to be sensible or we can remain ignorant idiots when it comes to living in harmony with predators whom we need -- we need them to keep down the populations of the animals (like deer) who are overpopulating and overbrowsing.
It's something to be aware of, wherever you live that some counties and states still spend insane amounts of money on coyote "management"-- from poisons to parties where people go off and shoot them for entertainment.
This is a long review but these are matters very dear to my heart. I'm not, by the way, any sort of bleeding heart. I grew up in a mix of urban and then very rural country. Deer populations in the northeast seriously need management--especially as the numbers of human hunters are dropping steadily. I am counting on the coyote and I am more than willing to moderate my own behaviour to return the favor.
I will be looking for some of the books Flores mentions of the collections of native american coyote stories. This animal is truly our iconic, native animal--maybe even more important to us than the eagle or Franklin's turkeys.
>155 sibyx: Sounds an interesting book about coyotes. I remember seeing one when we were in Nova Scotia and it was very exciting!
>156 SandDune: And London has lots of foxes -- and they perform an important predator function too.
67. contemp fic ****
A Man Called Ove Fredrik Backman
"Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it is often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more furty. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become some preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by and leave us there alone."
That is the underpinning, a solid one, of this very engaging novel about a man who thinks he wants to die, but life just keeps getting in his way! I sound like a paid reviewer, but this is a balanced novel: funny, sad and wise. Lovely.****
>158 sibyx: I thought Nancy was being cheeky at first because when I was here earlier, you just had the the name of the book, the author and your rating along with the book cover. Scrolling back up, I see you have added a review. I have that one in the stacks - you make me want to get to it sooner.
Happy Tuesday, Lucy!
69 contemp/dyst fic ****1/2
The Sunlight Pilgrims Jenni Fagan
It's 2020 and there are immense icebergs roaming the oceans as the polar icecaps definitively melt. What they bring is a winter beyond previous imagining--an ice age?--no one knows. In London, Dylan Macrae, 38ish, has lost both his mother and grandmother and their business, an art movie theatre, in six months. The only thing he has is the deed to a caravan somewhere near the coast of Scotland. Maybe not the best place? A total puzzle why his mother bought it. But where else to go? He has no money or skills. At least there he will have a place to live, get through the winter. How bad can it be? He arrives and immediately falls in with his neighbors, including 12 year old Stella, who a year earlier was still Cael, and Stella's mother with whom he promptly falls in love. And of course there was a reason why his ma bought the caravan. Lovely and I gobbled it up. It's only a wee dystopic, don't be put off by that! ****1/2
>160 lit_chick: and >162 Crazymamie: I laughed over that comment, Mamie.
>161 lauralkeet: Ove was "comfortable" reading in that there was nothing unexpected in it, and yet it was so well done, complaining about that fact would be mealy. When I need a certain kind of read (sensible, heart-warming but not stupid fiction?) I might do worse than to turn to Backman.
I read this so fast I hardly got to enjoy that subtle white variations line-up!
70. sf ***1/2
Three Moments of an Explosion China Miéville
Somewhere or other I read a review in which the reviewer maintained they thought Miéville wrote better short stories than novels. I've only read one or two short stories before tackling this collection and I can't say I've found that to be so. The City and The City struck me as one of the best books of speculative fiction I've ever encountered, but then, I have no taste at all for horror and many of these stories creep into that category. My problem is that too many (most?) of the stories focus around an idea--scrimshaw found on bones of a recently dead person by an anatomy student, a moat virus (I kid you not) that is destroying humans, some are too gross to mention, others only faintly menacing. The ideas are ingenious and have to do, often, with Mieville's fascination with metaphor. What is lacking is character development and the unspooling of a tale. I haven't encountered a novel of his yet that is in the horror genre. If I do, I likely won't read it. They are intelligent and provocative, these stories, just not to my taste as a reader. I would recommend them to those who like horror, but no one else. ***1/2
71. fantasy ***
The Ferryman Institute Colin Gigl
Enjoyable, and a fun premise: when people die they need a guide to help them "cross" or else they are doomed to wander about as ghosts, bothering the living, and eventually disintegrating. At the moment of death a good "ferryman" (men and women) can help the frightened newly deceased to make the right choice. Ferrymen are immortal, but there are rules. Living people are not to know about their existence being the most important. No knowing what the living would do if they knew, but likely it wouldn't be in their best interest. Anyway, Charlie Dawson's been a Ferryman for yonks, upwards of 250 years, and he's brilliant at it, the best the Institute has ever had. Only problem is he's burnt out. What to do about it? That's the plot, folks. I couldn't give it higher than *** stars because it is overwritten, fifty or so pages lopped off, a few sentences and repetitions and cliches from every page would have improved the novel immensely. Stlll, a fun read and much better than a lot of what is out there. ***
>155 sibyx: That is an interesting book, Lucy, in the past we had a Kuvasz (a big white hungarian LGD) and she got me interested for their original use.
At many places, both in Eastern Europe and America, the use of Lifestock Guardian Dogs is on the rise, as they have proven to be the most effective way to protect lifestock against predators.
Over here the view on wolves is slowly changing (no coyotes in Europe, in the south some golden jackals). In Germany there are some packs back at places they were gone for centuries. In our country there have been a few sightings and two were killed on the road by cars :-(
>158 sibyx: Good review, I enjoyed A man called Ove too.
This topic was continued by Sibyx's 2017 Reading Rambles: Summer Solstice to Autumn Equinox.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.