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A pilgrim wanders by...

The Green Dragon

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Jan 19, 12:44am Top

I suspect this year will have too little time for as much reading as I would like, and making any sort of plan seems rather a forlorn hope. So I'll just sit here quietly and jot down a few notes on books that I manage to read this year..

Jan 19, 1:51am Top


Jan 19, 4:25am Top

G’day. Glad to have you on board.

Jan 19, 4:32am Top

Well, howdy there, pilgrim

Edited: Jan 19, 7:51am Top

Pleased to make your acquaintance, all! >2 MrsLee:, >3 haydninvienna:, >4 WholeHouseLibrary:

*doffs cap and slides bottle to centre of table*

Jan 19, 7:13am Top

>1 -pilgrim-: Welcome to LT and the Green Dragon. I look forward to seeing your posts this year. What types of books do you particularly enjoy? Your profile is all mysterious and private. :)

Jan 19, 7:50am Top

>6 YouKneeK: Thank you.

My sobriquet was chosen as a reference to the Sebastian Bacziewicz character, since that references both my interests in fantasy and history, with additional nods to both a lingering habit of reading theology and an enduring love for Tolkien (and the Grey Pilgrim himself, Mithrandir).

However I am a pretty omnivorous bibliophile, so just about anything could turn up here! I have bad habits that involve wandering past a shelf or pile of books, and going, "Oh, that looks interesting..."

Jan 19, 8:00am Top

Sounds like you'll fit right in. Welcome! The PGGBs are particularly good here in the Pub.

Jan 19, 8:25am Top

I hope you're not allergic to cheese though. Cheese is life (well, almost).

Jan 19, 9:07am Top

Welcome, pilgrim. Cheese?

Jan 19, 10:13am Top

>8 majkia: I haven't had a PGGB in years... and I am afraid my SF reading has been similarly neglected. (And yes, recommendations are welcome.)

*sniffs air happily*

You guys certainly know how to make a wandering pilgrim feel at home.

Jan 19, 2:06pm Top

Welcome! There's never any shortage of books, cheese, PGGBs, or congenial company here in the pub.

Jan 19, 2:23pm Top

There are a few hazards, like armed Rombas, spitting cobras, and healthy water buffalos.

Jan 19, 6:22pm Top

Welcome to the Dragon!

Jan 20, 3:08am Top

Thank you >12 SylviaC:, >13 suitable1:, >14 Narilka: for the welcome!

A little research has provided me with information about sentient Roombas and the proper mode of defence against them. But spitting cobras? And WATER BUFFALO?? How worried should I be?

*grabs staff and looks around nervously *

Jan 20, 3:49am Top

Let's leave it at: no fatalities ... yet.

Jan 20, 4:21am Top

Maybe I should invest in a small swamp dragon. I am new around these parts, can anyone provide directions to the local market?

Jan 20, 8:52am Top

Welcome, -pilgrim-!

Local ordinances no longer permit dragons to be sold at the market since the 2014 dragon flu epidemic, when much of the merchandise started sneezing flame. 🐲

Jan 20, 9:38am Top

Drat. And double drat.

Yes, I believe that they require careful nursing (and flame-retardant clothing). But I was thinking that a snub-nosed long-tailed swamp dragon sounded like what I might need for protection around here (from the spitting cobras and water buffalo, not the other denizens of this fair establishment).

Do you have any alternative suggestions?

Jan 20, 10:17am Top

Actually, the water buffalo are quite tame, but they tend to leave "presents" that one should avoid.

Jan 20, 10:21am Top

Around here the answer to most problems is CHEESE. Help yourself

Jan 20, 10:41am Top

Cheese is always the answer :-)

Welcome, -pilgrim-, to the pub on the internet crossroads. I think the biggest worry is not spitting cobras or the water buffalo, but getting hit by too many book bullets!

Jan 20, 11:18am Top

>22 Busifer: is right. There are some tremendously insightful readers in the Pub. You end up with stuff on your TBR pile that you weren't in the least expecting to consider. So just shove the Water Buffalo on over out of the way and find a chair.

Jan 20, 12:15pm Top

Welcome -pilgrim-.

Has anyone offered you a drink yet? What are you having?

By the way, jillmwo is a crack shot with the book bullet gun. During the week she abandoned the regular approach of describing a book on her own thread and instead posted a comment directly at me. Needless to say the book concerned is due for delivery tomorrow.

Jan 20, 6:28pm Top

And just 'cos ... occasionally, there's a wandering minstrel that comes in and attempts some entertainment. It usually results in a food fight. So be forewarned or be prepared; It's your choice. It's no wonder he's called Mike, the Song Butcher.

Jan 21, 4:22am Top

>25 WholeHouseLibrary: He wouldn't be a relation of "William the Bloody (Awful)" would he? ;-)

All wandering minstrels are welcome here. Firstly, as fellow wayfarers, and secondly, because I have been known to carroll along with the best of them, as occasion should arise.

Thank you kindly, >24 pgmcc:. I am currently reading Avenging Angels: Soviet women snipers on the Eastern Front , by Lyuba Vinogradova, so I'll have 100g of vodka please, and raise a glass to these young lasses, and their quiet fortitude.

And thank you all. I have bern plied with cheese and alcohol, and made to feel very welcome.

Jan 21, 7:45am Top

(Ah, bullet taken on Avenging Angels! Ouch!)

Jan 21, 8:23am Top

>27 Busifer: & >26 -pilgrim-:

Very interesting. One of -pilgrim-'s earliest book bullets is a book about snipers. Very interesting.

(To be honest, I heard a bullet whizz past my ear when I saw that one in the post.)

Jan 21, 8:37am Top

>26 -pilgrim-: How did you happen to learn of Avenging Angels? I ask because it's not something that would pop up in your average review publication or be on the front table when you first walk into a bookstore. Did someone specifically recommend it to you? It's always interesting to me to find out how serious readers find out about titles.

Jan 21, 9:44am Top

>29 jillmwo: Actually I did come across my copy of Avenging Angels on a shelf in a discount bookstore!

But that is not quite the whole story, as I had been looking out for a copy for some time. Long enough that I am hazy as to where I first heard of it. I suspect it was referenced in a review of something by Svetlana Alexievich, the latter being a journalist whose work I very much respect and have followed for some time.

To all who are tempted, I very much recommend "Avenging Angels". Vinogradova conducted a lot of interviews both with the surviving snipers themselves and men who served with them. Her research is excellent, and also encompasses the discrepancies between propaganda and reality (for example, not all the women were actually volunteers) and the effect their service had on their lives after the war. I had been aware of these snipers, but was shocked to learn how young the majority of these specialists were.

I will write more when I have finished the book. This might take a while though. It is compelling reading, but quite heartrending at times. It is the sort of book that you want to read slowly and digest fully.

Jan 21, 1:42pm Top

When I searched for availability of Avenging Angels I found Defending the Motherland, from the same author. Sounded interesting, too.

And when we're on the topic of years past, might I mention Rising Tide: The Untold Story Of The Russian Submarines That Fought The Cold War? Engineering history, political history, and military history - all wrapped in one. Not the most eloquently written book that I've ever read, but interesting none-the-less if one is interested in the topic/s.

Edited: Jan 22, 12:28am Top

>31 Busifer: I agree totally about Vinogradova's earlier book, Defending the Motherland - although I know slightly more about the "Night Witches" than I did about the sniper teams. (Incidentally, reading sbout the latter is giving me a fresh perspective on a the "White Tights" rumours of the 1990s...)

Lyuba Vinogradova has also translated Vassily Grossman"s A Writer at War into English. Since that is a book that I have been meaning to read for some time, I am tempted to look out for her version.

If you are interested in Cold War submarine warfare, I must recommend to you the short stories of Aleksandr Pokrovsky. He was a career chemical officer aboard a Soviet nuclear submarine, and whiled away his time on watch writing anecdotal stories based on his experiences. They are hilarious, scabrous and utterly horrifying. (They also, more than any other book I have ever read, merit a warning for "strong language".)

It has been a while since I read Pokrovsky, but it would certainly be interesting to read a history that places his experiences in context.

Jan 21, 3:55pm Top

>32 -pilgrim-: While not specificially into submarine warfare - to me it was more the political/historical/engineering aspects that drew me to Rising Tide - the Pokrovsky stuff sounds interesting. I’ll make a note of him and see what I can find.

So little time, so many books!

Jan 21, 4:16pm Top

>33 Busifer: I read a selection of his stories in the GLAS anthology Sea Stories and Army Stories.

So little time, so many books!
So very true!

Jan 21, 4:27pm Top

>24 pgmcc: You are not such a bad shot yourself.

You got me with Into the Woods.

Jan 21, 4:40pm Top

Jan 22, 12:52am Top

>36 suitable1: No. I'm sorry, but just....NO.

I have never been able to watch a Jack Ryan film for more than 20 minutes without developing a violent urge to throw something at the screen, due to level of inaccuracies, inevitability of protagonist etc.
And Tom Clancy books are heavy; if I start hurtling one of those around, I might do sone serious damage.

Jan 22, 4:15am Top

Is there a term for a negative Book Bullet?

haydninvienna's negative reaction to the Stainless Steel Rat has prompted me to go back to the series, and see to what extent my memories of it have been coloured by rose-tinted spectacles.

Jan 22, 8:38am Top

That would be a reverse book bullet I believe.

Jan 22, 9:13am Top

As far as the book goes, when I was reading it in the very early 90s I had a conversation with a former Navy submariner who said it was remarkably accurate.

Jan 22, 9:43am Top

A belated welcome to you, Pilgrim! It's always good to see new faces in the pub. You may already have hit me with a book bullet for Avenging angels; I'll just lie here groaning with the other victims.

Jan 22, 10:19am Top

>39 -pilgrim-: Hey, I finished it! Eventually.

Jan 22, 2:44pm Top

Welcome! Since no one else has bothered to warn you, watch out for the roombas!

Edited: Jan 22, 4:26pm Top

>44 littlegeek: But our pilgrim already knew of this danger. Read post #15! ;o)

Jan 22, 7:18pm Top

>45 clamairy: I think I skipped right over it to the SPITTING COBRAS! They are the scariest!

Jan 22, 10:49pm Top

>41 Bookmarque: You refer to The Hunt for Red October? To which navy did your submariner interlocutor belong?

Jan 22, 10:55pm Top

Thank you for the welcome sakerfalcon and littlegeek.

>46 littlegeek: I know! But clamairy has informed me that swamp dragons are forbidden. Whatever do you locals do?

Edited: Jan 23, 5:26am Top

>43 haydninvienna: Congratulations! Our conversation inspired me to start A Stainless Steel Rat is Born. Eight chapters in, and still no genuine sense of peril. I maintain my opinion that Slippery Jim is a lot more likeable than many more modern picaresque heroes, but I don't think this is a case of the writer's skill maturing with age; the earlier books were, I think, better. Am undecided whether to persist or not (I borrowed the anthology, so it would be a guilt-free bail.)

Jan 23, 12:24am Top

>48 -pilgrim-: Mostly we climb up on the bar and have another PGGB. Then we don't care what the roombas do.

Jan 23, 12:59am Top

>49 -pilgrim-: Thank you for that insight. I'm assuming you don't suggest I should go and search for the rest of the series. I have the "Omnibus" which has the first 3 novels (as written, I think), and I think that's enough of the Stainless Steel Rat for me. Occurs to me that his very nickname dates him--written a few years later the moniker would probably have involved teflon.

>50 MrsLee: Has anyone ever tried feeding the roombas a PGGB or two? Or would a PGGB-fuelled combat roomba be forbidden by the strategic arms limitation treaties?

Edited: Jan 23, 5:25am Top

>51 haydninvienna: In fairness, The Stainless Steel Rat for President was the one that was originally recommended to me, and The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell did have its moments. I am curious about the former, but probably not enough to act on it. I think we can agree on letting the Stainless Steel Rat be.

The Teflon Rat (or Teflon Trickster?) however ... does anyone else think that Slippery Jim is ripe for a Hollywood reboot?

Edited: Jan 23, 5:24am Top

>50 MrsLee: I fear that if I start mixing PGGBs with my vodka, I definitely won't be able to avoid hostile Roombas...because I JUST WON'T CARE!!! (The mental picture of Pilgrim leaping from the bar, cloak swirling and charging assorted Roombas, spitting cobras - and the lone hippopotamus - with a feral grin is a terrifying one. Well, it terrifies me at any rate.)

Jan 23, 9:52am Top

Sorry, he was US Navy and we got to talking when he noticed me reading it in the break room. He obviously didn’t know Russian protocols, but he said the US stuff was pretty dead on, though probably slightly dated for security reasons.

Jan 23, 10:00am Top

>47 -pilgrim-: & >54 Bookmarque:

When I first watched the Hunt for Red October film there was one element that resonated with me. If you recall at an early stage in the film the Political Officer was killed.

At the time I watched the film I had a friend who had a Russian wife whose brother was a Political Officer on a Russian submarine based at Kronstadt. I do not think he knew Sean Connery personally.

Jan 23, 11:57pm Top

>55 pgmcc: Popular chap, was he? ;-P

Jan 24, 12:15am Top

>54 Bookmarque: The issue I have had Clancy's accuracy before has been in a tendency to assume that everywhere else does things the American way, so your colleague's testimonial, although very interesting, does not really address the question. However I doubt pgmcc's acquaintance will be available to comment, and reading Pokrovsky gave me a very jaundiced view regarding to what extent Soviet submariners followed established protocols anyway, so I will probably never know whether I am being unfair here or not.

In general, how faithful are the films to Clancy's books?

Edited: Feb 1, 4:16am Top

I have been reading Darkblade Assassin by Andy Peloquin. So far, my feelings about it have been mixed.

On the one hand, the basic premise shows promise. We have the morally ambiguous hero with the magic blade that is powered in some sense by the life force of its victims, in a manner reminiscent of Elric of Melniboné. But the twist that makes it interesting is that it is the Hunter himself who is filled with an ever-increasing obsessive urge until he kills; the bloodlust is in him, not the weapon. He is unnaturally long-lived, but with no past memories prior to a certain point, and no understanding of why he is the way he is. What makes him a more attractive protagonist than Elric is that he is not amoral. He feels a strong desire to protect his city, and determinedly avoids killing any except his chosen prey. His accommodation with his bloodlust is to make sure that his chosen prey is always someone morally reprehensible, who "deserves" their fate. He comes across as a "good man constrained to do bad things". Whether those forces justify the acts as yet remains to be seen.

So far, so good. What makes me undecided as to whether to continue is the writing style. Whilst nowhere near as tortured as Moorcock's purple prose, it is clumsy.

Firstly, the author does not seem to remember what he himself has written. In the space of a few pages we are told that (i) the Hunter has no memory of the time before he walked through the city's gates (ii) his recollections of a small village he passed through on his way to the city.

Secondly, any attempt to visualise the scenes as described becomes bizarre. Take this example: He kneels beside a fallen foe, touching him (and so, presumably facing him). Then the foe is described as being "at his feet". Maybe he stood up? No, he does that a few sentences later. Now, when I kneel down, my feet are behind me...how the heck am I supposed to imagine our hero kneeling, and leaning over a corpse that is behind him?!

Maybe I am being particularly harsh because the author's blog promotes him as a guru who teaches others how to write.

But I find thst descriptions that make me go, "Er...WHAT?!", instead of helping me imagine the scene described, really take me out of the flow of enjoying a novel.

So, does anyone have any experience of other works by Andy Peloquin. Does he get any better?

Jan 31, 8:06pm Top

>58 -pilgrim-: Never heard of that author. Sounds like an interesting premise. Too bad the execution is lacking.

Feb 1, 4:25am Top

>59 Narilka: What makes it worse is that this is the revised version. Apparently Peloquin is currently revising his series The Last Bucelarii and re-issuing it as Hero of Darkness. This book was originally published as Blade of the Destroyer.

Part of me can't help wondering how bad Blade of the Destroyer must be when the revision is still poorly executed, and the author is so desperate to disavow this previous version that he has opted to rename both the book and the entire series!

Feb 1, 5:15am Top

>58 -pilgrim-: & >60 -pilgrim-: I think I would have reached the point of abandoning that author completely if I had had the same reading experience as you. It sounds like you have given this writer enough of your time to justify moving on to more rewarding books.

Edited: Feb 1, 5:39am Top

>61 pgmcc: I like to support independent authors who are not just writing a cloned knock-off of whatever happens to be fashionable. I liked the premise. so I was hoping these were just the "teething problems" of a novice author.

I also like to read something lighter alongside more involving reads, particularly when the latter are extremely moving.

And there are times when pain or exhaustion levels are too high for me to properly immerse myself in a really good book, and I am just looking for a good distraction.

But I don't seem to be having much luck with the my choices recently. My "light reads" seem to have been either banally derivative or poorly executed. Or both.

But even when I am not at my best, I get impatient with careless authors. If they cannot be bothered to pay attention to their own work, why should they expect their readers to, let alone pay for the privilege?

Feb 1, 6:15am Top

>62 -pilgrim-:
It sounds like you might enjoy Daniel Pennac's The Rights of the Reader.

The right:
1. not to read
2. to skip
3. not to finish a book
4. to read it again
5. to read anything
6. to mistake a book for real life
7. to read anywhere
8. to dip in
9. to read out loud
10. to be quiet.

I would also recommend his Scapegoat for a bit of light relief.

While I respect your wish to support novice authors, and I have done a fair bit of that myself, I think there comes a time when, if they are not demonstrating the flare needed to keep their reader engrossed, they should be cut loose to find their own way. As you say, you have paid for a service. If you are not getting it then you must look somewhere else.

Feb 1, 5:09pm Top

>63 pgmcc: Your intelligence sources are remarkably accurate; they appear to have delineated my mentality to you rather well.

You are correct in guessing that, having had an upbringing of the "you don't leave the table until you have cleared your plate" variety, it takes a conscious effort of will not to apply the same logic to books.

But as regards skipping, dipping and reading any unsuspecting book that ventures too close, I am incorrigible. I suspect this is why I do mot really like Kindles: they enforce reading in a more linear manner! Otherwise it takes either really simple, quick book, or a really delicious, complex one, to persuade me to just start at the beginning, then continue to the end.

Thank you for hour recommendations; they both appeal. Although my French is too out of practice to read either in the original.

Actually I would summarise my dilemma with Darkblade Assassin thus: it is a story that I would like to read, but preferably when written by a better author!

Feb 4, 9:08am Top

I have finally found a light read that I am enjoying: The Brontësaurus by John Sutherland. Page 121 has the following quote:
In various forms opium was available, legally and cheaply, at every corner apothecary and public house. Some booksellers even sold it for their browsing patrons.

It rather makes inserting a Starbucks franchise into your Waterstones branch pale into insignificance, when it comes to relaxing and encouraging your customers.

Edited: Feb 5, 7:40pm Top

Since I am not currently anywhere near my own library, but do have Kindle, I havd decided to make full use of the "Download Sample" function, to try out books that I may wish to add to my library when reunited with it.

The latest experiment was Pagans : The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity by James J. O'Donnell.

My feelings are mixed. The period is a fascinating one, and I would particularly like to know more about religion in the Roman Empire jn the immediately pre-Christian period; most studies that approach these beliefs through the lens of "classical mythology" tend to concentrate on esrlier practices, before classical religion became "contaminated" by ideas imported from elsewhere in the Empire.

And it seems clear that the author knows his material. But his style of writing bothers me. I don't mind that it is chatty and quite flippant - a historian does not need to be dull to be informative. What irritates me is a certain condescension in his tone. He is very evidently writing for the general reader", not his academic peers, and lengthy disquisitions on what the "educated general reader knows" - prior to the explanation that this is all wrong - were rather irksome.

I would prefer an alternative that was equally erudite, but less arrogant.

Edited: Feb 17, 9:53am Top

Started reading Worth Dying For by Tim Marshall about the history of and symbolism of various flags. The topic looks interesting but the style has disappointed me.

The introduction was a lot of vague waffle, the only interesting part being an account of the disruption of a Serbian-Albanian football match by an Albanian using a drone to land a flag of "Greater Albania" on the pitch. That this was actually done is intriguing, but we don't really learn much from this, other than the completely unsurprising conclusion that if you go to a foreign country, and claim that parts of their country are actually parts of your country, then the locals get rather upset.

The next chapter, on the American flag, was similarly laboured. Very brief summary information about the history of the design, including unsupported hypotheses from the author, was accompanied by a lot of waffle to the effect that no other people treat their flag the way the Americans treat theirs.

The fact that this is a book by a journalist explains the style, I suppose.
Very little solid information, and assuming a very low level of background knowledge in the reader, is wrapped in a lot of vague generalisations, belaboring obvious points, whilst enlivening the whole with vivid anecdotes, which seem to be selected not because they particularly encapsulate the point, but because the author was there.

Some of the chat is fascinating, and I suspect there may be some interesting information in there, but wading through the excess verbiage is tedious, and just as he starts to go into sufficient detail as to be interesting, he cuts away to a new flag and moves on, frustrating me just as he begins to catch my interest.

And this is where I gave up.

Feb 16, 4:48pm Top

I have considered his Prisoners of geography, but what you’re saying about his style doesn’t feel encouraging...

Edited: Feb 19, 1:29pm Top

I had browsed his Prisoners of Geography and been disappointed: flashy style but relatively little information per country. For anyone with a reasonably good grasp of history, I would not recommend it.

There were fewer countries and more pages per country in Worth Dying For so I had hoped for more depth, but it seems to be additional waffle instead.

When I first gave a lecture, I was advised: "Tell them what it is that you are going to tell them, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what it is that you've told them." Rhetorical technique does not translate well to the written page, where the reader is perfectly capable for reinforcing, by rereading, any points they missed on the first pass.

Feb 17, 10:23am Top

I hear you. The book is on display in the window of a map and travel literature shop which I pass to and from work every day, and so I have only seen the cover.
It is now off my list. Thank you.

Feb 19, 2:46pm Top

Have been reading a 3 chapter sample of Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHugh. Not really gripping me, I wish I had read the review by FangsfortheFantasy before starting.

It feels like it was written in fifties or sixties, rather than 2012. It basically had the same smug, super competent protagonist that haydninvienna and I were complaining about with the Stainless Steel Rat - but without the humour.

Edited: Mar 6, 4:05am Top

In the course of reading Avenging Angels, I came across the thesis that Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a manufactured Soviet heroine. The suggestion was that she had been selected to be paraded as the foremost female sniper because she was politically more suitable than the genuine leading female snipers.

The evidence presented was that firstly, the girls were competitive about their tallies and noted their rivals; Pavlichenko was a relative newcomer in their competition, and would have required a large number of kills in a very short period to take the lead, and the logs of where her regiment was during that period made it improbable. And secondly, although repeatedly asked by American journalists to demonstrate her skills, she deferred the honour to the male sniper accompanying her.

This seems plausible, but the evidence is fairly flimsy, and contradicted by this anecdotal account - although it should be noted that Vinogradova never implies that Pavlichenko was not genuinely an extremely deadly sniper, only that her tally was inflated for propaganda purposes.

With this in mind, I started reading Dupes by Paul Kengor. I am aware that the wartime positive portrayal of 'Uncle Joe' turned into the anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era, and I wanted to learn more about how public opinion was switched between these opposing images of the USSR, and how it affected the popular image of ordinary Soviet citizens. Pavlichenko wss feted when she toured, and received by Eleanor Roosevelt. How were she and her compatriots perceived a decade later?

Unfortunately, although Dupes is fascinating in its account of the earliest years of the Communist Party of the USA, I am getting the impression that it is too much of a polemic, and not a reliable source. For a book on the subject of Communist propaganda, it seems worryingly unfamiliar with communist terminology. In particular, it interprets all statements of desire to have ultimate authority reside in a "supreme Soviet" as an intention to have America ruled by the USSR. American English uses "Soviet" as an adjective of nationality, but in communist terminology it describes a type of government. (The USSR was, formally, a union of republics each governed by a Soviet (which in itself means representative council)).

When the 1920 Congress mandates
Every party which wishes to join the Communist International is obligated to give unconditional support to any Soviet republic in its struggle against counter-revolutionary forces
it is requiring every Communist member to unconditionally support any country with a Communist government; it is not, as Kengor claims, stating "the necessity of total fealty to Moscow" .

These American communists were certainly not democrats; their documents declare an intention to overthrow the current governmental system and establish the "dictatorship of the proletariat", with a willingness to resort to illegal means to achieve their goal. But the conclusion that they wished to be part of the USSR seems unwarranted; other nations actually adopted communism without such a result.

I am familiar with how Communism was perceived in Britain in the early years of the twentieth century, and how many socialists were persuaded to turn a blind eye to horrors, seeing their ideal rather than the bloody reality. I know far less about the American response.(or indeed American politics generally in the twenties).

The ground covered by Dupes is fascinating; I wish I had more confidence in the author. The tone of the book, and the titles of the other books LT lists as by the author, indicate that Paul Kengor has a specific political and religious agenda. I am unclear as to whether his misrepresentations are wilful, or arise from ignorance.

Does anyone have recommendations for a non-partisan account? I am looking for a historical perspective, rather than a political diatribe.

Feb 26, 5:13am Top

Try The Fear and the Freedom: how the second world war changed us by Keith Lowe, at least in part. Touchstones are playing up again (how unusual!), but here is a link.

Feb 26, 11:21am Top

I find the subject to be highly infected, still, and strangely so if one looks at the world as WWII was about to end... even if it always has been the norm for those of us who grew up in a post WWII world it was not what many thought would happen.
In my mind every account and analysis of the era has to be read with a large dose of scepticism: always be ready to ask yourself - what agenda has the author, or, more implicitly; what preconceptions do s/he have that will colour the text, with our without the author being conscious of it.

Feb 27, 4:36am Top

>73 hfglen:, >74 Busifer:
Thank you Hugh, that one looks very promising. And, if its LT review is anything to go by, its author's biases lean in the opposite direction to Kengor's.

I agree with Busifer that all books on this period are likely to be subject to author bias, whether conscious or unconscious; the whole era is too fraught with emotional baggage for most nations. What I am hoping for us an author who is at least attempting neutrality, so that s/he does not wilfully misrepresent or conceal information, and has enough genuine understanding not to give false information. Interpretation of the facts will always be coloured by personal viewpoint, I fear. But one can detect false analysis and spurious conclusions more easily than omissions or errors of fact.

Edited: Mar 6, 5:20am Top

I have just started Paul: A Biography for my Lenten reading. It looks very promising. Professor Tom Wright is an Anglican bishop with undergraduate training in ancient history and he seems determined to approach his subject without presuppositions either theological or historical. He has written other books on Paul's theology, and the full title should be taken seriously; here he is focussed firmly on what we can know about Paul as a historical figure.

The style is very readable but the book is fully referenced for all quotes, and ideas are properly attributed with academic assiduousness.

Mar 13, 6:11am Top

In a lighter vein, I also started A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang. I know little about 19th century New York high society, but something of the local politics then, and the Tammany Hall references sounded promising.

However so far, I am just not drawn in. Two of the leads are coming across as brats, and the third is an idealised waif, whilst the historical setting is not coming across strongly enough to interest me in unlikable characters. Some of the reviews suggest that there is considerable character development, so I may go back to it sometime. However probably not at present.

A couple of things, however, are puzzling me.

(i) What, in America, is a debutante (in a social context)?

To my English ears, a debutanteis a young girl who has been formally presented to the Queen at reception for such girls, to mark their coming out (into Society) at the commencement to the Season.

Can anyone describe to me what the equivalent American procedure is/was?

(ii) The leading characters, and, it seemed, the dead debutante, are eighteen. I had thought that, in 1918, coming of age was firmly set at 21 in America, as it was in Britain (despite many starting their working lives much younger).

Was this correct?

Mar 13, 8:59am Top

>77 -pilgrim-: Somebody else will have an informed and correct definition for you, but my idea of a debutante was a young girl from a "top-drawer" family (more on the east coast than on the west coast, although some of the wealthy here might be called that, but I think it implies an established family), who is ready to attend social events and eligible for marriage. I don't think that in America there is any presenting to anyone, unless it would be to the matrons and eligible men who are bachelors.

Not being from a "top-drawer," wealthy, family, I'm not positive on the details. That is only what I've gleaned from the movies and books. :) Although my family can be traced back to the second ship which arrived at Jamestown, to my knowledge we have always been farmers/teachers/workers and not in the class that debutantes come from.

Mar 13, 12:00pm Top

>78 MrsLee: Our present Queen abolished the "coming out" reception in, I think, 1958. But a little googling seems to refer to some sort of "coming out" and Season occurring in New York nowadays, so I am rather curious about the procedure involved.

Whether or not someone is, or is not, "top drawer" is a rather nebulous concept. In the old British class system is was clearly defined: a well-bred young lady had to be out to be considered eligible- and to be a debutante she had to have attended (and hence had to have been invited to!) one of these receptions.

Mar 21, 8:58pm Top

>77 -pilgrim-: Just hoping to clarify your understanding of a debutante. Depending upon the period of the book you're reading, a debutante might well be 18. The debut implied by the name was a young woman's entrance into polite society (usually indicative of her an being adult and of marriageable age). Americans wouldn't be presented to Royalty, but to Society in the larger aggregate. Either her father or an eligible young man would escort her to the coming-out ball. Once young women began attending college and graduating, the coming out ceremony might be delayed in their twenties. But usually it was while the young woman was in her late teens.

Here in Philadelphia, the old Bellevue hotel in its heyday had a fabulous marble staircase down which debutantes glided on the arm of the eligible young man. The hotel lobby still features some of the photos of those events. Black tie, very posh, very elegant.

Nowadays, it is more the kind of thing done by affluent families at a local country club. I was attending a business conference out in Scottsdale Arizona and happened to watch a group of young women -- all in white, full gowns -- gather for a photograph. Their coming out ball was that evening. It was lovely to watch and I'm sure the girls were excited, but it doesn't have nearly the same aura.

Mar 22, 3:58am Top

>80 jillmwo: Thank you. So if entry is based on marriageable arage, rather than age of majority, then the ages suggested make sense (for America during World War I).

But who organises (and funds) these Coming-out Balls (in that period)? How is eligibility to participate in "the Season" determined? Particularly in the modern era, how are Coming-out Balls distinguished from simply a particularly lavish party thrown by an affluent family?

The monarch's invitation to reception at Court was the indicator of being of the correct social background and hence eligible to participate. Obviously in a republic there can be no directly equivalent figure. So who (or what) acted (and now acts) as the arbiter of social status?

I am also intrigued that in America, coming-out balls are only black tie events! I had been assuming that the white tie dress code would have applied, as in Britain.

Apr 2, 5:11pm Top

Ok, I am stumped. The instructions on how to create a continuation thread tell me to click on a link at the bottom of the old thread - but I don't see the relevant link!

Apr 2, 5:15pm Top

I believe there has to be a certain number of posts in the thread before it can be continued. 100 maybe.

Apr 2, 5:47pm Top

>82 -pilgrim-: After the thread has 151 posts, a link will show up at the bottom. You can see what it looks like by looking at another thread that has that many posts and hasn’t yet created a continuation. The thread of hfglen for example here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/301455

Apr 2, 7:29pm Top

>83 jjwilson61:, >84 YouKneeK: Thank you both. It was actually my reading journal thread, which I wanted to start a continuation for the 2nd quarter, that I had in mind; but that currently stands at 145, which would explain my problem.

Apr 3, 7:11am Top

>84 YouKneeK: I'm letting my thread grow to 250, and will then start a continuation.

Apr 3, 8:07am Top

I have been reading Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

At one point, one character says to another "Screw you, Jasper...".
The character so addressed is not named Jasper, so I assume this is a quote of some sort, or a reference that I am totally failing to get.

Can anyone enlighten me?

Apr 4, 9:15am Top

Be advised that if you want your thread to grow to 150 posts so you will have a continuation link, Green Dragon Pub denizens are always happy to piffle for a pint. ;)

Apr 4, 10:57am Top

>88 MrsLee: It was my Reading Journal thread - as opposed to fhis general wittering one - that I wished to grow...and a brief piffle ensued..

Apr 7, 9:05am Top

I was intrigued by the premise that some people seem to make a living from blogging. So I started with Make Money from Blogging: How to start while raising a family by Sally Miller and Lisa Tanner.

Ms Miller states
I publish two articles a week. Each article is around 1,000 to 2,000 words. That's at least 3,000 words a week. On top of that, I publish several books a year.

However, from looking at her website, it appears most of her writing is about how to blog (and make money from it).

Then Ms Tanner says:
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be an expert in a topic to sucessfully blog about it.
You know why? Because even though a fourth grader doesn't yet know everything, a fourth grader is an expert in the eyes of a second grader.

The problem with that analogy is the information that the second grader gets from the fourth grader is often wrong - even when the older child is trying to help and not simply making stuff up.

Lisa Tanner in adviding you to choose your niche, also lists "10 popular, money-making niches":

  • Blogging/making money online
  • Personal finance
  • Health
  • Survival
  • College prep/higher education
  • Tech
  • Personal Development
  • Lifestyle
  • Food
  • Fashion

    I find this rather worrying. It would be extremely dangerous to a take advice on the top 5 topics from anyone who is not actually an expert!

    From here, blogging for money is starting to sound like a sort of intellectual Ponzi scam, where the prime method of making money is to con those who know even less than you into paying you, with the promise of making money by copying you and....etv. dtc.

    Now I know that several members of this pub blog. And that they write interesting, intelligent content.

    But I also know that the majority of bloggers do not make money from their blogs. Many write purely from love of their subject.

    What I am wondering is - is there ANY intersection between these groups? Are there people making money from writing good blogs?

    Or is blogging as a profession the exclusive preserve of the cynical manipulators?

Apr 7, 10:01am Top

>90 -pilgrim-: I have become very skeptical of most bloggers, but there are a few I have found helpful. For the most part, I go for recipes, and simply skip the blah, blah and go straight to the recipe. I am amazed at how many seem to have copied the same recipe and pass it on as a fresh thing.

An author I am hoping is legit, because I'm following her advice right now on my health, is Katy Bowman. She has several degrees, one of which is in biomechanics.

Apr 7, 12:21pm Top

>90 -pilgrim-: I've wondered that myself about bloggers. I think there is some intersection of quality bloggers who also make money from their site but they are few and far between.

>91 MrsLee: I do the same thing on recipe sites. I don't care about all that other stuff, just give me the recipe already! Makes me wonder if anyone really reads all that fluff.

Apr 7, 1:10pm Top

>91 MrsLee:, >92 Narilka:
Makes me wonder if anyone really reads all that fluff.

If they really are all recycling old recipes, I presume that it is this fluff that allows them to claim "original content" and avoid plagiarism charges.

Apr 7, 1:23pm Top

>90 -pilgrim-:
You have reminded me of two sayings, one of which I may have used in the past week, but it appears to fit here.


"The older you get, the more you realise nobody has a clue what they are doing; they are all making it up as they go along."


"Some people get the name of being a genius not because they are clever but because most people cannot count above fourteen."

Apr 11, 3:52pm Top

I am feeling the need to voice my frustration with American science fiction novels.

In all the ones by female authors that I have read recently, there is a compulsory romantic attraction between the main male and main female character, regardless of how disparate their lifestyles and worldviews are, or how inappropriate a sexual distraction is in their current situation. Sometimes this becomes the whole point of view.

In the books by male authors , their male leads are equally preoccupied with their desire for various women, although far less attention (if any) is paid to the women's feelings (cf. the issue of consent in The Forever War).

When I last read a lot of science fiction, it was mainly by British authors. The focus was on the travel, the effects of cross-cultural conflict, how technology might alter society, the structure of alien societies. My experience of Russian science fiction has been similar (with a strong tendency to critique, by analogy, Russian society).

What has happened? Why is American science fiction, and its characters, so fixated on sex/romance? Where are all the other themes ?

Or have I just been spectacularly unlucky with my choices?

(The American books sampled date from the sixties to the current decade.
The British ones that I remember date from the nineteenth century up to the sixties, and the Russian from the nineties up to the current decade.)

Apr 12, 9:07am Top

>95 -pilgrim-: Which is why I tread carefully before reading any new fantasy or scifi. I hadn't noticed a cultural difference, but then, I don't read a lot of those genre. Mysteries are infected the same way, which is why as a rule, I stick to the older ones. I don't mind a little romance in a story, if it is a plausible one, but I don't need it in all of my stories.

Edited: Apr 12, 9:38am Top

On Wednesday last week I made an (extremely urgent) appointment for yesterday afternoon, having established that the journey involved makes attending one in the morning impossible.

On Friday evening I received a text rescheduling my appointment, without explanation, to this morning.

On Monday, I phoned to query why the person I was to see, and the nature of the appointment has changed, and to reiterate that I cannot attend in the morning.
After first suggesting that I should wait for the first person to return from his annual leave (which seems an odd solution, given that the appointment was apparently so urgent that I was told I needed to cancel my travel plans in order to attend it), they said they would call me back on Tuesday.

On Tuesday I received no phonecall, but I did get a repeat text informing me of my appointment this morning.

On Wednesday, I called to find out why they had not called on Tuesday, and was told they had no record of my call on Monday - or of the letter that they had sent me about the appointment, which I had received on Monday morning (and which had contradicted the letter from them that had arrived on Saturday).
After speaking to multiple people, and reiterating that I could not attend the appointment this morning, they suggested replacing attendance with a phone consultation. When I queried whether the procedures described in Monday's letter could be carried out over the phone, they said they would phone on Thursday to answer this.

On Thursday they asked if it would be OK if I received a phonecall this afternoon, to replace the morning appointment that I have repeatedly explained that I cannot attend.

This morning - I received a phonecall demanding to know why I had not attended this morning's appointment!

I despair.

Apr 13, 5:10am Top

>97 -pilgrim-: They clearly doesn't have their records in order. Is there any possibility to find another provider?

>95 -pilgrim-: On your mention I started to think about this, and realised that while I read almost exclusively sf the majority of the books are by authors from the British isles, and very few throw in a random love interest superfluous to the story.

Of the books from American authors that I've read recently I'd say most lack gratuitous love affairs - Martha Wells' Murderbot diaries, Yoon Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire series, The Imperial Radch series or The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie.

Not to say you're not correct in your observation, because I think you are, but to say that there are some exceptions to the rule. Thankfully.
A disclaimer on my ability to mentally blank out stuff that I don't agree with if the rest of the book is agreeable: it is possible that I've just chosen to not remember the stuff that I didn't like with these otherwise good books.

(I think Neal Stephenson is the epitome of gratuitous everything, and I felt that the "young love" thing in Alliance Rising, by C.J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher was entirely unnecessary.)

Edited: Apr 13, 3:29pm Top

>98 Busifer:, >96 MrsLee:
Thank you for the recommendations, Busifer. As regards your disclaimer, I concur completely with MrsLee:
I don't mind a little romance in a story, if it is a plausible one, but I don't need it in all of my stories.

MrsLee suggests that this is a problem with modern American SF, and possibly with modern American genre writing generally. I have not read enough recent British SF to be able to comment on whether the same problem applies there - although my most recent example, Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky, was completely free of such themes (and is absolutely brilliant, incidentally) - and certainly there is no such trend in Russian SF. I can also say that although I have sometimes found romances in modern British fantasy and crime fiction to be rather extraneous to the main thrust of the plot, I have not met any cases of the protagonists' sex or love lives becoming the main focus of the plot.

I am not convinced that this is simply a modern phenomenon though. After the discussion with Busifer and other Dragoneers on the other thread, I realised I had read relatively little "classic American science fiction", so I followed the Joe Haldeman with Kurt Vonnegut, whose male protagonist has the same preoccupation with love/lust. I admire Andre Norton's work, but the relationship theme was very strong there also.

My sample is too small to be at all conclusive, but i think Mrs Lee is right, and that the trend is wider than SF (and, of course, there will be exceptions). I am curious as to why it should be so..

Edited: Apr 13, 3:38pm Top

>98 Busifer: After all the good things I have heard about Ann Leckie, both here in GD and elsewhere, I think I should look out for her. Given my preference for fantasy, I intended to start with The Raven Tower; unfortunately the recent Kindle sale, as mentioned in the GD, did not apply in the UK.

>98 Busifer: Is there any possibility to find another provider?
This is the NHS. A congenital chronic condition has meant that private health insurance was never a realistic option for me. Naturally, that means that I am a supporter of the British system, but this also precludes 'shopping around' for the service.

Apr 13, 7:18pm Top

>97 -pilgrim-: The bureaucracy of the NHS working at its finest once again. I hope things eventually work out for you.

Apr 14, 6:56am Top

>100 -pilgrim-: On the NHS issue: aha - in Sweden it is possible to find another clinic/doctor as long as you stay within the nationalised healthcare system. I assumed the same applied in the UK. Now I know better.

The other topic/s I need to come back to later, when I'm not in the middle of doing a lot of other things!

Apr 14, 9:23am Top

>100 -pilgrim-: In the UK funding is at the Health Trust level, each of which covers a specific region. You have a choice of GP for primary care, but your GP then refers you to the specialist. It is possible to get an out of area referral to a specialist centre of excellence, but in order to do so, your GP has to make a case, to the local Trust administrators, as to why the treatment you need cannot be obtained within the Trust. This will be opposed by the local Trust wherever possible, as the other Trust will bill your local Trust for providing an "out of area" service.

Like you, I had made the assumption that the nationalised healthcare systems in Sweden and the UK worked in the same way. I would be interested to learn more about how the Swedish system works, if you have the time to post about it some time.

And I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the other topic(s) too.

Apr 14, 12:08pm Top

>103 -pilgrim-: Not much to say without it soon devolving into a rant, a lot less than great things going on in Swedish health care as some has tried to Americanise it, with, let me say it, horrendous results. That said in more than one instance I have switched GP and as a consequence specialists, too, when I have felt them lacking.

On the other topic, I think it might be something that certain publishers demand of the books that they buy the rights to publish?
I read a piece some years ago were an author - can't remember who, but he was from the UK - talked about how he only wrote crime fiction because it paid the rent; if he was to follow his own mind he'd write more literary novels, but he couldn't find any publisher who wanted that. Apparently this was the norm: crime sold books, other genres did not.

Maybe some publishers think that "human interest" in the form of traditional "boy meets girl" style makes a book more popular?

Edited: Apr 15, 3:34pm Top

I am watching in disbelief as Notre Dame de Paris burns. The spire has collapsed...the fire has spread to one of the towers...

According to a spokesman, the entire wooden interior is burning.

>104 Busifer: Thank you for your comments Busifer. I would like to continue this discussion, at another time.

Apr 15, 6:05pm Top

I was on the road all day and only just heard now. I watche two videos and it’s just too sad to watch more.

Apr 15, 6:31pm Top

The wooden interior is destroyed, but they have saved the outer structure. I have just been listening to President Macron promising to rebuild. He looked very young, and near to tears as he spoke of what Notre Dame means to Paris and to France.

Apr 16, 1:05am Top

>107 -pilgrim-: I saw #105 on my flight to Doha, and for a wild moment I wondered if there had been something in the previous conversation that I'd missed, so that you had been speaking in some weird sort of metaphor. (I was half asleep at the time.) Unfortunately not. I must admit that Notre Dame isn't my favourite cathedral but I have some idea what it means to the French, and just cannot cope with the idea of it being gone. Ive been to Dresden though, so I know that rebuilding is possible. Sorry, I'm not very coherent at the moment, but this is a tragedy of which I can't think of a parallel in modern times, other than in war.

Apr 16, 9:17pm Top

>108 haydninvienna: I have a cross made from nails from the old Coventry Cathedral, and seen the new. And a visit to Warsaw Old Town demonstrates just how much can be rebuilt when the people's will supports it.

But you are right; in contemplating such devastating damage, I can only think of wartime destruction. The fire in Windsor Castle was likewise caused by an accident during renovation. It burned for 15 hours. But the damage was nowhere near that which we see in Notre Dame.

Apr 30, 3:16pm Top

After taking a solid BB from Karlstar, followed by strong supporting fire from YouKneek, BookStoogeLT, and AHS-Wolfy, I have surrendered. I went back to the shop and bought a copy of Fevre Dream (for £2, so I don't feel too bad about the failure on the "no new purchases" front that I mentioned a while back.)

Apr 30, 3:42pm Top

"No new purchases" is just a guideline, not a rule!

Apr 30, 6:47pm Top

>110 -pilgrim-: LOL, I look forward to reading what you think about it once you read it.

Apr 30, 9:59pm Top

>110 -pilgrim-: I'm glad to have contributed to the book buying economy!

May 13, 3:47pm Top

Half-Bloods Rising - A Tale of the Dwemhar: Book 1 of the Half-Elf Chronicles by J. T. Williams - 1 star DNF

I started reading this in February, when I was fairly ill. It was so simple that even my befugged brain could follow the plot, but I had neither any attachment to the characters nor excitement over what was going to happen next.

It has been sitting waiting for me to go back to for some time now, but I thought I should give it another chance, in case the problem was with my brain failing to engage. I did; it wasn't.

Basically this reads like the write-up to an uninspired havk-and-slash FRP game; stock characters go to place X and defeat monster Y, several times over before I gave up.

The overarching quest is that they are looking for their parents, who left them behind for perfectly logical reasons. But our protagonists want adventure, so they ignore that.

As to the "Half-Bloods" of the title - the reference to half-elf is quite misleading. These are not the children of an interracial marriage. They come ftom a race who are "half elf". This makes no sense to me, and was not explained further. Maybe everything is resolved later, but I could not plough on any further. (I was about halfway through.)

I have been known to finish quite bad books, because of a nagging curiosity about the ending. In this case I'll never know, and I simply don't care.

Edited: May 13, 3:59pm Top

>104 Busifer: Returning, finally, to your (much) earlier comment (after being distracted repeatedly by other events):

Maybe some publishers think that "human interest" in the form of traditional "boy meets girl" style makes a book more popular?

I think you may be right and that this is the modern counterpart of the obligatory sex scene of the seventies.

But at least the intrusion of an irrelevant sex scene (for titillation purposes) generally had no real effect on the plot of the novel and could easily be skipped, while obligatory romance distorts the plot, and nowadays often seems to replace it.

May 13, 4:12pm Top

>115 -pilgrim-: Indeed. Perhaps I am lucky in having escaped most of that kind of story, as I take any recommendation of some solid ”relationship drama” as a recommendation for my ”don’t read” list.
I’m sure I miss some good books that way but I’m going to miss good books anyway, so... ;-)

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