3rdragon: (firebird)
I kept track of all (? close, anyway, if we don't count picture books read to small children) the books I read in 2013, so I thought I might as well post it. Approximately but not entirely in order by date read; re-reads/re-listens underlined.

Behind the cut. )

Some of them were really good, some merely so-so. I had thoughts of posting comments with some of them, but I don't seem to feel like it and it would mess up the table formatting, so ask if you have questions, I guess.

Edit: Okay, the version with the table is too long for lj, so you're getting the text-dump unformatted version.
3rdragon: (firebird)
At church on Sunday, I sat down next to my father as the prelude started. He wrote something on the corner of his bulletin, then showed it to me:

E.L. Konigsburg died
Age 83

That may not mean anything to you. I've come to realize that, for as prolific a writer as she was, most people don't know her name. But if I ask, "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? Silent to the Bone? A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver?" Sometimes their faces light up and they say, "Oh, the one about the kids who go live in the art museum? Yeah, I read that when I was a kid!"

She was never what I considered one of my favorite authors. Her work was too varied, to wide-ranging. I didn't even like Journey to an 800 Number. But I probably read it 15 years ago, and yet found myself thinking of it just the other week, going, Hm, I should see if I like it better, now that I'm an adult.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of the staples of my childhood. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place held its own on my 1GB iPod Shuffle for years, despite the 3-minute tracks, because it even on the hundredth listen, it was still fresh and interesting, and I could slip into the story at any point. I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I read Silent to the Bone, because it stuck with me -- enough so that I read it again in college, because my memories of it were haunting.

And that's what many of her books were, for me. Books that stuck with me, that made me think, even when I didn't really think I liked them on the first read. I made an E.L. Konigsburg reference on Saturday. Neither of my coworkers got it, but that was okay; I don't make E.L. Konigsburg references because other people will recognize them, but because she precisely, concisely, captured something about the nature of the world, and I cannot say it better.

There may have been a time when The View From Saturday was my favorite book. Maybe not. I don't remember what else I was reading at the time, and realistic fiction has often had a more uphill battle than genre fiction, in the arena of my enjoyment. Either way, her writing has influenced me, and I did not wish her to pass without salute or acknowledgement.
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I think that working on the Ridiculous may be spoiling me for reading. At least, some reading.

I started Michelle Sagara's Cast in Secret this morning, and it's not bad, but some of the literary devices are clumsy, and I notice. Perhaps clumsy isn't quite the right word. Some of them seem so transparent. Descriptions, infodumps, settings . . . I've noticed this with other books, too (although I'm noticing pretty strongly with this one). Not everything, but more than I used to. I've become more sensitive to the technical aspects of writing, now that I do more of it myself, and I'm more aware of when someone is handling them suboptimally. I don't know if I would have noticed the weaknesses in this book if I'd read it a year ago, when it was first given to me. (Maybe I would've. Some of them feel pretty obvious. But I wouldn't have noticed as much, and it wouldn't be such a trial to my suspension of disbelief.)

I am hopeful than there's less of it when she's finished setting the scene and characters. I hope so. I only have four paper books with me, and I'm much more inclined to be dubious of one of the others than I was of this one. (When your mother, who doesn't read sci-fi, says, "Hey, Miriam, this is sci-fi, you might like it." . . . )
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I rather liked Silver Phoenix, aside from the weird reincarnation-love-story bit that didn't really make any sense. The sequel, Fury of the Phoenix, did tie up the things about the first one that confused me, but gained a whole new dimension of weird.

Perhaps I'm just not a fan of plotlines that rely on somewhat likeable characters transitioning into people who use creepy death magic without compunction.

Also, at one point they journey from pseudo-ancient-China to pseudo-medieval-Europe, but the pseudo-medieval-Europe people all have modern viewpoints, especially regarding sexual mores (also, they have fast food? What actual medieval community has enough paper to package food sold by street vendors in paper?), which entirely broke the story-world for me.

Overall analysis: The first one was fun but a little wtf at times. The second one was underwhelming.

Edited to add: I'm also getting a bad feeling from the way the author deliberately picked a non-European setting for her fantasy world, but when the characters visit a European-type setting, it seems more modern/progressive/normal. I can't imagine that it was intentional, but I don't like it.
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Have you read this article in today's Wall Street Journal about dark themes in YA fiction?

I'm really not sure what to think of it. I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of the unrelenting grimness in a lot of today's teen literature, and I never got into problem novels, even though I was a teenager at the time when they were flourishing. At the same time, these issues are there, and high schoolers have to deal with them, and to try to create a world where they don't exist seems to me as much an act of deliberate fantasy as any genre work. Which isn't to say that I don't love a good romp with Edward Eager or Elizabeth Enright. But Swallows and Amazons doesn't look any more like my life than Harry Potter does. And I would quickly lose patience with wholesome coming-of-age stories if they were the only fare available. Maybe the article isn't arguing that wholesome coming-of-age stories should be the only fare available. Maybe it's just bewailing the lack of them. But if that's the case, they aren't looking in the right places. The Penderwicks is about as wholesome as they come, even if the mother is dead. And George R. R. Martin or no George R. R. Martin, there's a great deal of tame, wholesome fantasy and science fiction available right now (one that comes to mind is Hilari Bell's Knight and Rogue, and another is Wrede's Frontier Magic).

I think my real issue with this is the whole "it's not censorship, it's responsible parenting" stance. On the one hand, I can understand the I don't want my kid reading that! impulse. Also the complaint that vivid depictions of cutting could be a trigger. But at the same time, that's still censorship.

I also find it really interesting that one of their recommended books is Fahrenheit 451. I find it less interesting that they've divided their "Books we can recommend for young adult readers" section into Books for Young Men (Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi; Peace, Richard Bausch; Old School, Tobias Wolff; Farenheit 451, Bradbury; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Hadon; True Grit, Charles Portis) and Books for Young Women (What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell; Ophelia, Lisa Kline; Angelmonster, Veronica Bennett; Z for Sachariah, Robert C. O'Brien; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith). Can't books just be Books for Young People? Or Books for People? And while I haven't read a lot of the books I just listed, the descriptions use a lot of words like "gritty" and "violent." And my memory of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, admittedly from a great many years ago, is that it was pretty heavy stuff.

Maybe part of my problem is that there are books available in just about whatever you're looking for these days. If you don't like the mainstream bestsellers, buy the stuff you do approve of and try to push publishers that way. And I still maintain that the best way for parents to deal with kids reading problematic books is to talk to the kids about what they're reading.


It occurred to me this week that I'm going to Zambia in a little over two months. Starting to freak out a little about that.
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Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization.

Libraries really are wonderful. They're better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.

I like this book.

From things I'd heard before reading it, I expected grief to be a larger theme, but it's not, at least not in the first third of the book.

Even though it does the same thing that Pamela Dean's Tam Lin or Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary do, where they make you feel uncultured for not having read all the books the protagonist has (more sci-fi and less classic literature, though). I at least recognize most of the names she drops, even if I haven't read all of them. I think two of the big factors are that it's set in 1979 (I think), so there was less genre fiction, and less quality children/YA genre fiction, and she had to make the jump to adult sooner than I did. And (while admittedly, even though she explained what form she's in, I still have no clue how old she is), I started getting busy in high school and continued the trend in college, and have had less time to read.

I also guess that I've historically trended towards fantasy rather than sci-fi, although I enjoy both something like equally. And I never really did properly make the jump to adult fiction, although I wade in the shallows with equanimity. (Hypothesis: There is less quality sci-fi aimed at younger readers? Almost all of the big-name, genre, children's and YA authors that I'm coming up with do fantasy, or fantasy verging into the weird edges of sci-fi, or stuff like Artemis Fowl that's both. And when I think of sci-fi I was exposed to in childhood, I come up with Star Trek and Doctor Who and that's about it, even though my father is a sci-fi buff and read to us every morning and evening. Pern, I guess. But that's in the psuedo-fantasy sci-fi camp.)

And the marvelous thing about the Dean-esque "reading above your level" feeling is the incredible smugness you can get when you do recognize something. Like when she makes an offhand comment that The Communist Manifesto would be like living on Antarres, but hey, it would be better than school, or mentions Sylvia Engdahl (Even if the two books on my floor are not the ones she mentions, nor are the two that should be on my shelf but aren't (Speaking of, have I lent any of you an ex-library hardcover of Enchantress from the Stars or a new-ish hardcover of The Far Side of Evil? Because I used to have them and can't find them. I suspect Beth or Emily or possibly Dee, but it's worth asking)). But best of all is when I know that Tiptree is a woman and she doesn't (or at least, not yet).
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I found a copy of Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic on the discarded books truck at my library this afternoon.

Neil Gaiman.

This is the collection that contains "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" (Only my favorite Gaiman story ever, even more than "A Study in Emerald") and the short story that became The Graveyard Book, plus some other stuff that I don't know about BECAUSE I HAVEN'T READ IT YET.

I'm a Gaiman fan, I'm a fantasy fan, I'm a YA lit fan. I was vaguely aware that this collection existed (it came out in June 2007), but I only realized that the library had it about a month ago, at which point I promptly requested a copy. I HAVE THIS BOOK ON RESERVE. And it was on the weeded-out truck at my local library, going for free starting tomorrow (currently twenty-five cents).

This is not an abused copy. It is a clean, gorgeous hardcover that the library has maybe had for at most three years.

There were a bunch of other teen books there, too, most of them hardcover, nothing I would consider quite as much of a gem as this one (the third book about a Chosen Girl trying to live an Ordinary Life, etc, etc), but stuff that kids would read, if it were on the shelf. Most of them new-looking. Probably most of them published in the past five years.

My librarian left for lunch as I was standing there puzzling over this phenomenon, and told me quietly, "She's raping the teen collection. I don't think she's even looking them up to see if they circulate, just throwing them out." And there was definitely more fantasy than, say, Problem Novels.


And, silly me, I had been wondering why we no longer seemed to have a copy of A Coalition of Lions when I know for a fact that my local branch had a copy when I was in high school.

Why are these books being thrown out? THERE ISN'T ANY MONEY TO REPLACE THEM.

3rdragon: (Default)
None of the people I usually babble at seem to be online, so I'm going to babble about my response to Jo Walton's Farthing on lj instead.

. . . it's interesting to note that today's writer's block is about racism.

Cut for sort-of general spoilers )
3rdragon: (Default)
So I just finished reading Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex.

I am underwhelmed.
I saw this book at the library about two months ago, and went, Oh hey, a new Artemis Fowl book. Wait, wasn't the one with the lemurs the end of the series? I guess not. It did seem a bit like it was jumping the shark, though . . . (Really, where do you go after fighting your younger self through time travel?) Possibly part of the reason that I've been putting off reading it was that as long as it was just a potential Artemis Fowl book, I could hope that it would be as good as the first ones, even though I suspected that it wasn't going to be.

And, well, my dubious attitude is now justified.

One of the major elements of the plot is that Artemis Fowl is going crazy. And I'm sorry, but I don't like crazy!Artemis nearly as well as I like sane Artemis. And alternate-personality Artemis is just annoying. (Okay, regular Artemis is probably annoying, too, but he's annoying in a way that amuses me.) And I still miss the character that was killed off a book or two ago.

I think my main objection, though, is that there are a number of things that this particular set of characters is good at, and I like watching them get put in seemingly hopeless situations and then manage to save the day by the skin of their teeth by seriously drawing on the depths of their awesomeness. And for the most part, they were put in situations where they couldn't do the things that they're really good at -- and if they're just flailing around like normal people, they could be anyone. The dialogue was also definitely not up to par, too. There were in-character reasons for that, but I missed the witty banter.

To sum up? I started this book yesterday morning (or maybe even Tuesday morning) and only just got around to finishing it. It's not completely without redeeming features, but definitely not what I was hoping for. If you read it, get it out of the library, and don't set your expectations too high.
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I usually ignore these, or look at them and say, "But I don't know any historical personages who were known for being good parents. I'll stick with mine, thanks!" This one, however, piqued my interest. I have no particular intention of answering it, but I will tell you a story, because that's what I do.

A little over four years ago, I was a newly-arrived first-year. I had recently returned from three days tramping over a soggy mountain in pouring rain, and was, at this point, unpacked (or, at least, I had books on shelves and Lucinda was friendly with the network and there were enough clothes in the closet that I wasn't living out of boxes, which are the important parts). I had met my roommate, and her mother had flown up from Florida, and they were off somewhere purchasing whiteboards and bed risers and a 50-ft ethernet cable so we didn't tripwire ourselves on my 25-ft one, which, contrary to popular belief, was not anything like long enough.

So I was alone in the room. A young woman with brown hair in a braid down to her waist, either entering or leaving the room around the corner from mine, noticed that my door was open and poked her nose in. "Hello," she said, "I'm [livejournal.com profile] teaclouds, but not actually the one who lives in this room; I live over there" (she pointed across the hall and down a ways) "and I'm one of the HPs -- House Presidents." We chatted, and she told me who my neighbors were, and I sorted out the disambiguation of names, and what with one thing and another, she wandered over and considered my bookshelf -- with some authority, recognizing [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's Crown Duel, and inquiring about Court Duel, "Is that the sequel?" She also approved of the fact that both my roommate and I had copies of Pride and Prejudice, which was revealed to be her favorite book. After a while she wandered away again.

Within an hour or so, I met the other House President, who also discussed the neighbors with me, approved Pride and Prejudice (which I had not yet read at that point, and promptly decided that I'd better hurry up and do so if I was going to live with these people for any length of time), and concluded, in general, that "I would fit in."

That evening, or perhaps the next day, when Roommate and Mother were off again, hunting for inflatable flamingos and margarita glasses, I met [livejournal.com profile] operafloozy-actually-my-neighbor, who approved of Pride and Prejudice as pointed out to her by [livejournal.com profile] teaclouds, then exclaimed, from halfway across the room, "Patricia C. Wrede!" pronouncing it correctly, ree-dee. Upon further examination of my bookshelf, she told me that I needed to come to SSFFS. Since SSFFS was one of the things that I distinctly remembered from visiting on Accepted Students Day, I told her that I intended to. "No," she said, "you REALLY need to come to SSFFS." I did not object, and we had further iterations of this conversation over the weeks before the first meeting, with occasional input from [livejournal.com profile] estelwen. I think that by the time the first meeting actually happened, they would have marched me there in a straightjacket had I shown the slightest resistance. I suppose her impression of me was also tempered by the fact that I was not in tears upon the sight of the room, which there was apparently precedent for.

I can't recall if [livejournal.com profile] estelwen judged the Miriam by her book covers. I rather suspect she did, and, having the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on my college bookshelf (if not the Silmarillion . . . at least, I don't think I had the Silmarillion at that point), I imagine I passed muster.
3rdragon: (Default)
"Contemporary records are seldom without some value. I can only hope that what I have here set down in all sincerity of purpose may not be found uninteresting to a younger generation, who may care for personal reminiscences of some of those who have passed away before their time, but whose names are on the roll-call of Victorian worthies."
--Cornelia A. H. Crosse, 1892

No, Mrs. Crosse, I do not think that it was entirely uninteresting to the younger generation. I'll admit that some parts were a little dull and I skimmed them, but some were quite amusing. I particularly enjoyed this footnote on a Mr. Sedgwick and "the science that had adopted him" : "Sedgwick was made Professor of Geology because he knew nothing about it; the other candidate knew a good deal, but was all wrong in his theories."

this seems to be getting long )
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After 40 pages of introduction in Spanish, we reach:

Words for you

Talk about theater, they tell me. Take the oportunity to tell them your impressions and experiences. Educate the reader. Okay, fine. I'm thrilled. I know that there are few of you, a minute quantity. My editors tell me: "People don't buy theater, nor do they read it." Since you are reading this, you are an exceptional being, nearly unique, marvelous. Congradulations! I love you. For the trouble is that no one reads theater, and neither do people watch it.
. . .
They say that it is the fault of television, the strike, the moral crisis, the return to conservatism, the price of the entry, the heavy political culture, the lack of talent... Everyone casts the blame on someone else. I do not know with whom the fault lies, but I assure you, dear reader, extraordinary person, that the fault is not with theater.
The theater is a place of notable, interesting, and magical tales. Theater is an ancient and sacred art, profane and amusing, young and luminous. Theater is an actor. A beautiful dramatic melody, scenery to be admired, a star that speaks... These and a thousand other things, such is theater. And if you have not discovered it, I ask you to look. Don't pay attention to the critics who don't understand anything, not to the politicians that always lie, nor to the illuminating neon lights. Put yourself in front of a mirror and paint yourself a clown's face - now you are close! . . .
I love theater, reader mine, I love it because it deserves it, love it effortlessly, because it is not theater that has made me suffer. The theater is innocent, like you and I. It lives for the enjoyment and the transformation of the people.
I confess myself naive.
And smile.

Paloma Pedrero

. . . now perhaps I should actually read the play instead of translating the interesting part of the introduction.
3rdragon: (Default)
I received a copy of Patricia C. Wrede's The Thirteenth Child for Christmas. If any Smith people would like to borrow it, let me know so that I can bring it north.
3rdragon: (Default)
Hello all.

Yesterday I got fabric to be Keladry of Mindelan for ConBust.

Fabric and sketches are here, because I'm too lazy to embed them and you don't want them cluttering up your flists, anyway. The colors on the fabric are all off and the picture quality is bad, but the scanner isn't working and I don't know where the bit of hardware to connect my camera to the computer is.

Basically I'm going to do a tunic (dark dusty-blue), a shirt (cream, by which I mean as close to true white as I can argue it, because I don't look good in cream/ivory/ecru), and breeches (grey). The tunic will be belted at the waist, possibly with a sword or dagger for good measure, and the breeches will be stuffed into boots if I can find any that suit me.

So - which pattern do you recommend? 1? 2? 3 is basically 1 with quilting (I'm thinking it's a tunic that one might wear with armor (even though internet research says historic quilting was vertical; I like diagonal better)). 4 is a design my neighbor suggested, with pleats starting up high; she says it was her softball tunic, but I'm a bit dubious.
Should I mix and match or do something different?

I'm not sure about fitting; I think that 1 is fitted but I'm not sure how (that is, how I'll get it on and off if it is). Maybe it's fitted but so slightly that I can still pull it over my head.

Any thoughts, suggestions, or things learned through trial and error are appreciated.

Edit: #2 is based on this picture; aside from the sleeves and the different neckline, it has more of an a-line tunic skirt and the shirt is less floufy.

#1 is based on the standard Kel bookjacket outfit.
3rdragon: (Default)
I will be in Northampton from tomorrow (Friday) night until Wednesday morning, and amenable to hanging out. If you are in the area and are interested in hanging out, comment, send me an e-mail, call me, talk to [livejournal.com profile] chocochan, or add secret messages on the Amtrak route between Philly and Springfield.

Also, I just finished reading Cyteen. It was excellent.
3rdragon: (Default)
Well, this evening of babysitting has so far gone much better than I expected when I arrived to discover the seven-year-old crying on the living room couch because he couldn't decide between a cookie or a popsicle for dessert. The three-year-old was extra clingy, and I was suspicious that it was going to be Just One Of Those Days, but so far it's been the usual gig, right down to the quiet-footed visitor half an hour after bedtime, and everything has been quiet upstairs for the past while, so I might escape a second iteration of the "Go to bed. They'll be back late. Don't wait up for them. Yes, they'll be here when you wake up in the morning." etc conversation.

We went to REI this afternoon. For those who don't know, REI is to camping supplies and outdoorswear as Ikea is to home furnishings, although not quite so overwhelming. And dad was very patient while I tried on what seemed like every boot in the store (I have wide feet, and they didn't seem to have women's boots in wide, but the men's boots didn't seem to come in wide until size eight, and one of the two kinds that came in wide were cut narrowly, and the other kind was cut large - so I wound up in a 7 1/2 men's . . . I got the blueish ones that were cut large and hope that they will stretch enough that I do not regret this purchase). I also got useful things like wool socks and a bike light and a new bike lock and a father's day present.

And the dreams. I blame the science-fiction-y-ness on the fact that I was reading The Risen Empire this week (and it was excellent!) and watching Babylon 5. Judge for yourself . . . )
Speaking of science fiction, there's nothing quite like explaining Moodle to a room full of adults, many of whom would rather just keep using Blackboard, using examples like Swanick's "The Dead" and [livejournal.com profile] kadharonon's post on "Geeks in Space."

And speaking of books, I've also been reading The Dresden Files, Robin McKinley's Chalice, 1984, some stuff that's not coming to mind right now, and The Screwtape Letters, which is interesting, if, on occasion a bit preachy (if something narrated by a devil can be preachy in a Christian way).


30 May 2009 10:01 am
3rdragon: (Default)
One of the things that I do over vacations is read voraciously. This past week has been no exception. I'm not about to list everything I read, but here's a sampling:

Four books I liked and one I didn't. )
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I got my login information for my summer internship last week, and today I poked around at it. One of the links on the navigation bar is for Library, so of course I clicked on it. I'm going to be working in that library this summer, and I wanted to see what sort of library it is, so I did a subject search for Fantasy. And I got hits. Some of them things I might want to read. They appear to have some sort of arrangement with the McNaughton people, who deal with recent books for the FLP - that is, the Free Library of Philadelphia - and there's also a decent collection of children's books in "curriculum lab - juvenile fiction." So I might not be able to get to those, but at least they're there. However, the crowning find of this little search (so far, at least) is this:
Gaming As Culture Essays On Reality, Identity and Experience in Fantasy Games, Edited by J. Patrick Williams, Sean Q. Hendricks and W. Keith Winkler
This sparked my interest, so I clicked on it and discovered that it lists the essays in question in its little blurb.
Read more... )
I need to find and read this book. I don't even know if I have a library card there, but I need to read this book. I could read it on my lunch break.

There's also one on contemporary women's fiction and the fantastic that might be interesting.

Also, the server for the e-mail client is camelot.
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Brother (reading from book): "Australia did not appear to exist at all. Perhaps they had dug it up and used it for other things."
Me: What are you reading?
Brother: Best of Science Fiction.
Me. Oh. Okay then. That makes perfect sense.
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I gave away my Redwall books today. I've been aware for some time that I have more books that I have shelf space, and that they need to go somewhere, and that I should get rid of some of the ones I won't read again. But it's hard to give books up. You don't know where they're going, can't be sure that someone else will pick them up and love them. What if they'll be thrown out unread? It's better, surely, for them to stay on the shelf, even if you have to stack them sideways to fit them all.

But when I saw that grinning, excited face, heard the happy burble about which one is his favorite, he's read both of his books twice at least . . . It reminded me of when Redwall was fresh and new, when I would eagerly await the new releases, the times in which I bought those hardcovers that have been sitting on my shelf. The times before I tired of increasingly improbable size relations and increasingly terrible villains.

And it was worth it to see the grin on his face as he carried them out of the room, more books than he could hold in his arms. Worth it to see the determination to carry them home himself, even if he had to stop every 12th step to push the middle books back into line with his knees.

I love when I can give gifts that cost me so little, and yet are so clearly valued.
I kept Mossflower, though. It was the first one I owned.

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