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Sakerfalcon is still trying to erode Mount TBR in 2019

The Green Dragon

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1Sakerfalcon
Jan 2, 8:30am Top

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2019 will be a great year for us all, no matter what happens in the wide world. I have huge piles of unread books to get me through and, as usual, my aim is to read more of these than I buy during the year.

For anyone who's new to my threads, I read a lot of Fantasy and SF, 20th century women's writing, classic children's books (especially school and pony stories), and I try to read more non-fiction. I started keeping a reading journal a few years ago when I realised that I was reading so many books so quickly that I didn't remember anything about some of them a few months later. I tend to have 3 or 4 books on the go at any time - one for commuting, one to read in bed, one that I'll dip into while checking email and an alternative if none of the others happen to suit the mood I'm in.

I don't really do reading challenges but this year I'll be taking part in the Virago Modern Classics group's monthly themed "Reading the 1940s" group reads. We start this month with "Family".

I live in London, UK and like to travel to new places, both in real life and in books. Welcome!

2Peace2
Jan 2, 8:35am Top

Happy New Year! I wish you many great books and lots of time to read them.

3Sakerfalcon
Jan 2, 8:41am Top

My first completed read of the year is Because of the Lockwoods, which I read for the Virago group read. Although published in 1949 the book seems to take place in the 1930s for the most part, and there is no mention of the build-up to WWII. It's the story of two families, the prosperous Lockwoods and their unfortunate neighbours the Hunters. When Mr Hunter died he had very little to leave to his family, and in a moment of kindness Mrs Lockwood offered her husband's legal advice to the widow. Mr Lockwood is grudging, but finds a way to turn the situation to his advantage - it's not really fraud, is it, just unofficial payment for his services .... The two families are set into a close but unequal relationship and over the years all the Lockwoods' advantages and privilege are flaunted to the meekly admiring Hunters. Molly and Martin accept their fates as Mr Lockwood pulls them out of school as soon as they are old enough to start supporting their mother, but young Thea resents the control that the Lockwoods hold over her family and rebels. This is a long novel that just flies by, so compelling is the story and engaging are the characters. The reader seethes with indignation at the condescension of the Lockwoods, and shares Thea's drive to get her family out from under their influence. Although there is nothing of a political nature in the book, it is nevertheless a very good treatment of class and social differences, and the way in which society is starting to change as the old industries decline. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and highly recommend it. An excellent start to the year!

I'm currently rereading The death of the necromancer by Martha Wells, and reading a dystopian novel set in California called Gold fame citrus. In many ways it's very similar to California by Eden Lepucki, but better written and with (in my opinion) more likeable characters (though they are very flawed and I wouldn't want to spend time with them in real life).

I will be starting either Chatterton Square or The little company for the train to work tomorrow, as my next 1940s read.

4Sakerfalcon
Jan 2, 8:42am Top

>2 Peace2: Thank you! If only each book purchased came with the time included!

5Bookmarque
Jan 2, 9:08am Top

Happy New Year! May the mount be finally conquered. Or at least dented.

6SylviaC
Jan 2, 9:30am Top

Happy New Year! I'm always interested to see what you've been reading.

7kidzdoc
Jan 2, 10:41am Top

Happy New Year, Claire!

8Busifer
Jan 2, 10:52am Top

Happy new year, an sincere good wishes for making a dent in Mount TBR!
Not always the easiest...

And of course I'll be peeking over your shoulder. Who knows, you shaving pieces off may add layers to my mountain ;-)

9majkia
Jan 2, 11:10am Top

Happy new year. I'll be dodging BBs.

10Marissa_Doyle
Jan 2, 2:43pm Top

Starred! Looking forward to getting hit by your usual deadly accurate book bullets again this year.

11mattries37315
Jan 2, 3:08pm Top

Happy New Year!

12Darth-Heather
Jan 2, 3:52pm Top

wishing you peace and joy and 5-star reads in 2019!

13YouKneeK
Jan 2, 5:47pm Top

>4 Sakerfalcon: Happy new year. :) I am in complete support of your idea that books should come packaged with time for reading them!

14MrsLee
Jan 4, 8:56am Top

>4 Sakerfalcon: Oooo, what a thought! That should be at the top of the list when someone invents a working time machine.

15Sakerfalcon
Edited: Jan 5, 6:26am Top

>5 Bookmarque:, >6 SylviaC:, >7 kidzdoc:, >8 Busifer:, >9 majkia:, >10 Marissa_Doyle:, 11, >12 Darth-Heather:, >13 YouKneeK:, >14 MrsLee: Thank you all for the good wishes! I'm looking forward to your comments and book bullets in the year to come.

I'm nearing the end of my reread of Death of the necromancer. I'd forgotten just how good a book this is. It's a gaslamp fantasy (Victorian levels of technology, with magic) set in the land of Ile-Rien which feels Central European to me. Nicholas Valiarde is obsessed with revenge upon the man who had his beloved foster-father executed on false charges of necromancy. While pursuing his elaborate scheme, with close colleagues Reynard and Madeline and some useful associates from the underworld, he stumbles into another intrigue and some very dark magic - actual necromancy which is extremely nasty. The plot is twisty and compelling, the characters, both major and minor, are well drawn and realistic, and the setting is outstanding. The city of Vienne comes alive with its noble houses, busy markets, grimy slums and fetid sewers. It reminds me of Ellen Kushner's Riverside. My only complaint would be that I'd like to see more female characters; however, the ones that are present are terrific.

I've also read a YA graphic novel called Roller girl. This was very cute and perfectly conveyed the pain and confusion of growing up and finding that one's friendships change and move on as you discover who you and what you want from life. Astrid and Nicole have been best friends forever, but the year they turn 12 they discover that they don't have as much in common as they always thought. Astrid falls in love with roller derby, while Nicole wants to devote more time to ballet. So they attend different summer camps and develop new friendships. This is Astrid's story; she has more trouble coming to terms with the changes in her life than Nicole seems to, and her journey to self-knowledge is more painful. But it's never too angsty and Nicole's choices are not seen as less valid or important than Astrid's. Anyone who likes Raina Telgemeir's books will probably enjoy this.

Gold fame citrus is an interesting read so far. I would class it as a literary novel despite its dystopian setting. In the near future Southern California has dried up, and most of its population has been evacuated. Those left are living among what was left behind, with limited water strictly rationed. Luz and Ray are occupying the home of a movie actress, now long gone, creating daily "projects" for themselves to give purpose in this formless new life. Ray works on practical chores, such as siphoning gas from abandoned cars, but Luz spends most of her time reading and dressing up in the fancy clothes that were left behind. Neither is especially likeable but both are interesting. One day they discover a little girl, uncared for, and pick her up, almost on a whim. Ig, as she calls herself, is the catalyst leading Luz and Ray to leave their nest and strike out in search of a better place. The desiccated landscapes make for an eerie but fascinating backdrop. Refreshingly the book so far has avoided the survivalist violence of many other similar novels.

I've started The little company as my next read for the 1940s. It's set in Australia opening in 1941, and follows the fortunes of a family of seemingly incompatible people. Gilbert is a writer, committed to Left wing politics, which his conventional, conservative wife Phyllis disapproves of. His sister is also a writer and shares similar views to Gilbert, despising his wife. Their slightly batty but endearing aunt has come to live with them after years of estrangement. These strained relationships were the legacy of an overbearing, religious, politically conservative father who disowned his sister (the aunt) and stamped upon his children's development when it threatened to diverge from what he felt was right and appropriate. Phyllis was the daughter of the housekeeper who moved in after Gilbert and Marty's mother died, and she always strove to please their father. As you can tell from my convoluted description, this is a complicated family and a family tree in the front of the book would be very useful - I haven't even mentioned Gilbert and Phyllis's children who are also important characters! Anyway, this book is so far a slice of this family's life, with news of WWII on the horizon and threatening to come closer. It's a good but quite dense read.

And I've started an SF book, Space unicorn blues which is, as the title implies, a mash-up of SF and magic. The alien Bala are very similar to the fairy tale species of our folk tales - fae, unicorns, etc - and they are magical in essence. Not surprisingly, when humans discover the Bala they set out to exploit them. This book opens when a unicorn (Gary) walks into a bar, released after 10 years of imprisonment for murder, and seeks to reclaim his spaceship. So far the book is strange, unique and quite entertaining. I'm looking forward to seeing where the author is going.

16majkia
Jan 5, 6:33am Top

>15 Sakerfalcon: I've got Death of the Necromancer and am hoping to get to it soonish. Also have Space Unicorn Blues. I mean, who can resist that title?

17Narilka
Jan 5, 10:04am Top

>15 Sakerfalcon: Space Unicorn Blues sounds awesome for the title alone.

18AHS-Wolfy
Jan 5, 10:08am Top

>15 Sakerfalcon: I have the first in the Ile-Rien series to get to which will also be my first from the author and with all the praise the author has garnered, especially recently with the Murderbot novella's, and I'm really looking forward to it.

19reading_fox
Jan 5, 11:28am Top

I hope Space Unicorn Blues lives up to the title.

>15 Sakerfalcon: - as usual, when I think that sounds interesting, it turns out it's already on my wishlist. Maybe I should star things more often as I re-find them. Or just buy them. Besides who can resist a character called Reynard ;-)

20Busifer
Jan 6, 11:23am Top

I've been a bit reluctant to try any of Martha Wells' works outside the Murderbot books. I enjoyed that one very much, but fantasy is not my top choice for a genre - I almost ever only enjoy it if the classic fantasy tropes are held to a minimum, and I tend to put it down very fast as soon as fairies or other mythological creatures become a too prominent feature.
This here seems like one I might like, though, so half a BB taken ;-)

21Darth-Heather
Edited: Jan 7, 9:26am Top

>15 Sakerfalcon: ooh you got me twice in this post! I'm getting Death of the Necromancer and Gold Fame Citrus and trying to avoid the splash from everyone getting hit with Space Unicorn Blues which I agree has an enticing title :D

It looks like I also need to get The Element of Fire which comes before Necromancer, so does that count as three bullets?

22Sakerfalcon
Edited: Jan 9, 4:56am Top

>16 majkia: Death of the necromancer was even better than I remembered. Loved the characters, plot and especially the setting.

>16 majkia:, >17 Narilka:, >19 reading_fox: Space unicorn blues is fun, but also quite dark. The Bala are brutally exploited by humans for the magical properties they possess - think about what people do to rhinos in our world and you have a good analogy, except that Bala bodies really do possess highly desirable powers. The characters are the usual mix of misfits thrown together under less-than-ideal circumstances, with a difficult task to complete. It's like a darker Small angry planet though the prose is a bit clunkier. I'm enjoying it though.

>18 AHS-Wolfy:, >21 Darth-Heather: The first two Ile-Rien books are very loosely linked, taking place a couple of centuries apart. There are some vague references to events from the past in Death of the necromancer but it's certainly not essential to read the books in order. I really liked The element of fire and would recommend it anyway, though it's more of a traditional alt-Medieval fantasy than the later books.

>20 Busifer: For the most part Wells avoids traditional fantasy tropes. The Fae are mentioned but are very much in the background of Necromancer. The female protagonist of The element of fire is part-Fae but behaves like a human. Her Books of the Raksura are also very good, non-traditional fantasy, with no human characters and fantasy races that are more like aliens from SF.

23Busifer
Jan 9, 1:03pm Top

>22 Sakerfalcon: Ah, thanks. Some of her other books may find their way into my library!

24clamairy
Jan 9, 9:14pm Top

Happy New Year, Claire! Hope 2019 is full of wonderful things for you. We seem to share similar taste in books so I'll be stalking following your threads closely. ;o)

25Caroline_McElwee
Edited: Jan 10, 5:51am Top

Hi Claire, just dropping my cushion off.

I've started the year failing to read only from my tbr mountain, and buying too many books. Something about the beginning of a new year and shiny new things. I have to desist.

I hope 2019 will be a good year for you, and hope to catch up soon for supper. Will be in touch.

26Sakerfalcon
Edited: Jan 11, 8:40am Top

>23 Busifer: I hope you enjoy them if they do! Books do have a way of creeping into one's library, whether formally invited or not!

>24 clamairy: Happy new year to you too! I hope it is a great one for you in reading and in life.

>25 Caroline_McElwee: I bought far too many books in December, and have already started off the year with some purchases too. I'm always tempted to buy the books I want most but that weren't bought for me from my wishlist. Must resist! Yes, dinner would be good!

I'm still reading and enjoying The little company, Space unicorn blues and Gold fame citrus, but have decided to add a non-fiction title to the rota as well. Every year I say I'll read more NF, and every year I fail. I'm going to attempt to read one a month. I've started with A miracle for breakfast which is a biography of the poet Elizabeth Bishop. I've read the author's other biographies, which have focused on women thinkers/writers/intellectuals from C18th and C19th America, and thought they were very good, so I'm looking forward to this one.

27Sakerfalcon
Edited: Today, 10:53am Top

I've finished a couple more books, both good reads in different ways.

The little company is not the easiest read but it was a very good book. The characters mostly have strong social and political views, and the book shows how their ideologies affect their reactions and responses to WWII when it impacts Australia. I hadn't realised that Australia suffered bombing raids although obviously I knew they were involved in the war. The novel is really a slice of life in the Massey family in 1941 and 1942, propelled by character growth and change rather than external events. The political conversations can get a bit dry, but thankfully they end just in time to prevent them outstaying their welcome. It's also a book about writing - or not being able to write - and the identity of an author. Gilbert and his sister Marty are both writers and hold left wing political views, which clash with the conservatism of Phyllis, Gilbert's wife. Their daughters Prue and Virginia also hold opposing outlooks on life, making for some tense family dynamics. I've previously enjoyed Dark's final novel, Lantana Lane, which is totally different in tone. Both books are well worth reading though.

I also finished Gold fame citrus which was very good overall, although difficult to recommend. I loved the style and the setting of a drought-blasted California but found Luz and Ray frustrating (albeit interesting). Ray disappears from the narrative about 1/3 into the book, as Luz is picked up by a cult-like group of travellers surviving in the dune sea that is engulfing the American SW. Luz mostly drifts passively through life, and when she does make decisions they are often unwise - although I think she wants to do the right thing, especially when the child Ig comes into her life. She is like the early settlers who came to California in search of the three things of the title - gold, fame and citrus - ephemeral luxuries, frivolities even, rather than the elements of a well-rounded life. The book is very definitely literary rather than SF, especially in its dreamlike passages and prioritisation of atmosphere over detail. The narrative is mostly straightforward third-person prose, but some sections are written as if they're non-fiction (including an illustrated primer of newly evolved creatures of the dune sea) and there are a couple of passages written like a play. I enjoyed all that, but I can see it annoying some readers. In style this is probably most comparable to Station Eleven, although I think that is a better book, and in characters and plot it is very like California by Edan Lepucki (though better all around). Something about this book captured my imagination, but the reviews have been very mixed and I understand why. I didn't get on with the author's short story collection, Battleborn, at all, so I will wait and see what she produces next before deciding whether to read more of her work.

Now I'm rereading Barbara Pym's Some tame gazelle, a delightful yet acerbic social comedy of genteel English village life, for a group read. I'm really enjoying the Elizabeth Bishop biography (and dipping into the Complete poems along the way). On my kindle I've started Rosewater, an SF novel set in Nigeria, which is excellent so far. And Space unicorn blues is proving to be an interesting and surprisingly dark read.

28Caroline_McElwee
Today, 11:34am Top

It's a while since I've read Pym, Claire, and I don't think I've read that one.

I meant to do that with the Bishop biog and poems last year and didn't get to it. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

I've got a lurgy at the moment, but will be in touch when I'm better to organise dins.

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