Marissa's Reading Adventures in 2021

É uma continuação do tópico Marissa's 2020 Reading Record.

DiscussãoThe Green Dragon

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Marissa's Reading Adventures in 2021

Jan 1, 1:35pm

Kicking off a new the middle of a reading jag from last year. I still have several Angela Thirkells on my ereader to enjoy, but who knows--there's also a new Connie Willis novella waiting to be read...

Onward! (Or should it be onword?)

Jan 1, 1:48pm

Happy reading in 2021, Marissa.

Jan 1, 2:05pm

Happy New Year!

Jan 1, 2:17pm

>1 Marissa_Doyle: Best wishes for 2021.

Jan 1, 3:03pm

Glad to see the new thread, >1 Marissa_Doyle: and I'll be trying to keep up with your recommendations.

Jan 1, 9:40pm

Staying with you. Happy 2021.

Jan 2, 8:13am

Happy new year Marissa! Angela Thirkell is the perfect author to escape into during these times.

Jan 2, 11:19am

Happy New Year.

Jan 2, 10:03pm

Happy New Year, Marissa! Hope your reading and your joys are bountiful in 2021.

(I'll be donning my kevlar britches to enter your thread...)

Jan 2, 10:45pm

Happy new year and new thread!

Jan 3, 11:36pm

Happy New Year!

Fev 9, 2:00pm

Er, a belated thank you for the new year greetings. Things are fine here--just busy-ness has infringed on my LT time.

January reading:
The end of my Thirkell binge with The Headmistress, Miss Bunting, and Peace Breaks Out, the first of which marks a high point of her books as the title character is lovely, and the last of which a low point. Peace Breaks Out clearly shows the author's boredom with what she was doing, not to mention a deeply uncomfortable-to-read xenophobia and classism. Her later books don't yet appear to be available in ebook form--I wonder if that is due to their decline in quality, or Just One Of Those Things that can happen in publishing with auxiliary rights.

Taken By Storm, 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane Informative, but alas a bit of a slog to get through: the style is more academic than readable. ;)

Life With the Afterlife We don't watch television so I am not familiar with the author's TV history, but I do like to read about ghosts (and yes, I have had a couple of ghostly encounters in my life.) Mildly entertaining.

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz I'm usually a fan of Eric Larson's books but this one, despite its sojourn on the NYT Bestsellers List, didn't do it for me. What I've enjoyed about his earlier books is the deep research and synthesis he does; this one felt more like it was mostly a sort of cut and paste from various sources with Larson summarizing events. It's a big, emotional topic, and his summarizing is good...but this is nowhere as gripping or fascinating as, say Isaac's Storm or Dead Wake.

The Best of Connie Willis What can I say? I basically read every word Connie Willis writes. This collection of short stories and novellas actually doesn't strike me as her best work, despite containing the sheer delight that is Inside Job. But there were a few stories I hadn't read before, so that was all to the good. I also appreciated her comments about the genesis of each work.

And since I was still in a Connie Willis mood, I moved on to Take a Look at the Five and Ten, a recently released novella that was pleasant but not outstanding, and a reread of a favorite, Crosstalk, which is one of her screwball romantic comedies crossed with science fiction that just seem to scratch all my reading itches.

Most recently, I got an advance read of a not-yet-released children's book for blurbing purposes that was great fun. Sakerfalcon and LibraryPerilous might want to keep an eye out for Three Twins at the Crater School--it's an early 20th century English girls' boarding school story, set on Mars--and it totally works. Angela Brazil meets Edgar Rice Burroughs, kind of. I do hope he plans to write more.

And now I'm darned if I know what to read next!

Fev 9, 3:11pm

>12 Marissa_Doyle: I read The Splendid and the Vile recently and I think you've got it pretty well nailed. Larson didn't really tell me a lot new about Churchill, although he presents a more favourable view of Lindemann than he often gets. I really didn't need to know what a waste of space Randolph Churchill was.

Fev 9, 3:22pm

>12 Marissa_Doyle: Oh, this does like something we both would like! I've added it to my TBR account. Thank you!

Fev 9, 5:23pm

>12 Marissa_Doyle: Welcome back. I just added Crosstalk to my list at the library. It sounds like a good light read. I've enjoyed her time-traveling historians but not read any others. What are the best of the rest, in your opinion?

Fev 9, 7:38pm

>15 Jim53: That's not an easy question to answer. She has her light mode and darker, more serious mode--what are you up for? In her lighter mode, I love Uncharted Territory and Bellwether (and To Say Nothing of the Dog, of course). In her darker mode, Passage was amazing but gut-wrenching. Impossible Things is my favorite collection of her stories--it includes another favorite novella, Spice Pogrom.

Fev 9, 8:16pm

>16 Marissa_Doyle: Thank you. I think right now I'm up for the lighter stuff. I've got plenty of daytime books and am looking for things to read at night. I remember I enjoyed Bellwether long ago; I need to retrieve it from my sister and see how she liked it. Ha ha, I looked at Uncharted Territory and LT says I read it in 2017, which I don't remember at all. I remember liking some of the stories in Fire Watch, especially the title story and the one about the linguist, so I will check out Impossible Things, and maybe look for Passage later. Thanks again!

Fev 10, 8:44am

>12 Marissa_Doyle: Thanks for the book bullet! The title showed up in my Recent News section when you added it and it piqued my curiosity. I can't find it on any UK bookseller sites yet though ... :-(

Fev 10, 9:34am

>18 Sakerfalcon: It's coming out in March from Wizard's Tower Press, and yes, it is a planned series. He's got some short pieces set in the same world here and forthcoming from Tor:

Fev 11, 1:54pm

Did another quick Connie Willis re-read of Uncharted Territory just because, and am now a few chapters in to a contemporary fantasy/horror novel, The Hollow Places, which is... I don't know. I am finding the voice annoying, and overall it's teetering on the edge of being Just Too Cute in a weird sort of way--probably because the characters were created to further the plot, rather than the plot being the result of the characters' personalities and actions/interactions. Also, I'm holding my breath waiting to see if the cat in this story is as all-fired irritating as the dog in the last book by this author that I read, the name of which escapes me. If it is, I may have to DNF it. I'm sorry that I'm so darned fussy. Sometimes I wish I weren't.

Fev 12, 1:04pm

DNFed The Hollow Places at about page 90. It just didn't do it for me.

Also started The House in the Cerulean Sea, which has excellent, excellent ratings here on LT, and I have to ask a question: does it go on as it begins? I got half-way through chapter two, and just found the fairy-tale-ish style extraordinarily annoying: the unmitigated awfulness of what I assume are the "bad" characters, the gormlessness of the main character...the lack of nuance is fingernails on a blackboard to me. I'm assuming it's my fault, that I'm just not the reader for this book. Does anyone have any thoughts? Should I stick to it, or is this what it is?

So I jumped into and am 80 pages into Unorthodox, the memoir of a young woman's growing up and coming of age in then eventual departure from a Hasidic community in Brooklyn, and it's gripping. I have nothing outwardly in common with the author's history, but I can so very much empathize and feel like I would have tread a similar path. I can see why a film was made of it (film? TV series? something.) Amazing.

Fev 12, 1:24pm

>21 Marissa_Doyle: It was one of my favorite reads last year. I don't know that it gets better, per se, as it's written intentionally to be a sort of dreamy, fairy tale 'milquetoast goes on seaside holiday' adventure story. The stylistics faded into the background for me once Linus gets to the seashore and meets the orphans.

When I read it, I felt as if I were reading a middle grade novel, but one written for adults who miss middle grade. (We all know I love middle grade, but adults often feel childish reading it. This book is for people who miss the warmth and straightforwardness of children having adventures in the face of a complicated world.)

So yeah, it's that kind of twee.

Fev 12, 6:14pm

>22 libraryperilous: Thank you. That's very helpful. I'm all for MG--though I prefer to write YA--but I don't think the style of this particular story will work for me.

Fev 14, 11:14am

Half a Soul DNFed this Regency-set fantasy, which is too bad as it's one of my favorite types. But the Regency setting was the merest wallpaper, and when plotting depends to some degree on societal mores and manners and material culture, but there's clearly been no effort to research them...sigh.

Fev 15, 6:14am

Oh dear, it sounds as though you've had a run of unsatisfying reading lately. I'm glad Unorthodox has struck a chord though, and hope it continues to keep you going until you encounter another book that is a better match for you. I just added it to my kindle library recently and will try to get to it soon.

Fev 15, 11:15am

>25 Sakerfalcon: I think I've decided that a few more non-fiction reads might be better for now. :) I've started The Cave Painters, which ties in well to some of the books I read last year, like Woolly and How to Clone a Mammoth and Missing Lynx, and it's very good.

Editado: Fev 23, 11:50am

An interesting visitor to one of my birdbaths this morning!

It's a red-tailed hawk, likely of a light morph common in New England. He (or she) has been hanging around for days, much to the annoyance of my nearby crow family.

Fev 23, 2:30pm

>27 Marissa_Doyle: Fascinating.

Did you know that falcons (I know the bird in your image is a hawk and totally different) live for about thirteen years. That means that any of them alive now are millennium falcons.

Fev 23, 2:31pm

ducks and weaves to avoid the missiles.

Editado: Fev 23, 4:38pm

>29 pgmcc: Here's a more nuanced response (taken just now, because it seems to be bird city here today:

Fev 23, 5:02pm

>30 Marissa_Doyle:
That is not something you would see here unless you were on a turkey farm.

Fev 23, 5:15pm

>27 Marissa_Doyle:, >30 Marissa_Doyle: Very cool photos! The turkeys made me laugh, they really seem to want to come inside. :)

Fev 23, 5:42pm

>32 YouKneeK: They actually tap on the glass with their beaks. I don't know if they're seeing their reflections, or are just extremely nosy and want to investigate my basement.

Fev 23, 8:34pm

And...reading recap for the last week and a half:

The Cave Painters was enjoyable...but unfortunately written before a lot of recent breakthroughs in genetic anthropology, so the author states unequivocally that H. sapiens and H. neanderthalis did not interbreed. I wonder if some of his thoughts and conclusions are different now?

Folklore of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Read for research purposes; a fun read.

The Sphinx: the Life of Gladys Deacon, Duchess of Marlborough This was Hugo Vickers' first book, and it shows: the writing is on about the par of a bright high school sophomore's research paper. Although the introduction claims that it was completely re-written, I'm calling "yeah, no" on that. Repetitious, little synthesis, and, frankly, not that interesting a subject--she was a wealthy American socialite who married the Duke of Marlborough after his divorce from Consuelo Vanderbilt. It was a 99-cent deal on Barnes and Noble, so I bear it no ill will. ;)

Been actually able to work a bit--a welcome change--so reading has fallen somewhat by the wayside for now.

Fev 23, 9:34pm

>33 Marissa_Doyle: Perhaps a bit of both! Great pics, Marissa!

Fev 24, 6:21am

>27 Marissa_Doyle: >30 Marissa_Doyle: I love these pictures! The turkeys are definitely scoping out your interior ...

Mar 4, 11:30am

A few non-fiction reads, since I seemed to be somewhat dyspeptic about fiction over the last few weeks... :)

Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas I'm not sure what the point was--no grand conclusions were drawn or insights shed on Sargent himself though he hovers in the background--but I enjoyed reading it. The author examined the lives of three women painted by John Singer Sargent and one woman whose sister was painted by Sargent and who was inspired by that event to pursue her own artistic career. Though all of the four subjects (Elsie Palmer, Elizabeth Chanler, Lucia Fairchild, and Isabella Stewart Gardner) came from privileged, wealthy backgrounds, only Gardner held onto her wealth through her life. The others lived rather tragic lives, in most cases dragged down by their families' and spouses' madnesses, suicides, and general inability to cope. I kind of wish that the author had chosen someone other than Gardner as one of her subjects, fascinating as she is, since she has already been written about in multiple biographies; what I most enjoyed about this book was meeting these women whom I'd never heard of. Ah well. Enjoyable and well-written nonetheless.

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown Well, that was a bit of a guilty voyeuristic pleasure, kind of like watching a well-produced but slightly sleazy docu-drama. Anne Glenconner was born into an aristocratic family and spent the rest of her (ongoing, as she's quite alive in her late eighties) life in aristocratic and royal circles--her parents were personal friends with and in service to King George VI and his queen as well as to Elizabeth II, and she herself was a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret for thirty years. If her husband had not been fabulously wealthy and titled, he'd probably have been locked up at an early age. Instead, he bought houses and property willy-nilly, including a barren island in the Caribbean called Mustique which he developed into a private enclave for the ultra-rich and famous. So on one hand, Anne lived a a life of extraordinary privilege and wealth; on the other, she dealt with losing two of her children to drugs and AIDS and nearly losing a third after a catastrophic motorcycle accident, and living with a talented, charming, yet unfaithful, unstable, and utterly manic spouse. In a way, this book is a bit of a sociological/anthropological look at the evolution (devolution?) of Britain's upper classes over the twentieth century, told from the inside, and in that way, this "beach read" can at times be thought-provoking.

And I'm gingerly dipping my toe into fiction again with Witchmark, which I think has been well-received here. Page sixty or so, and I'm enjoying it though not finding it impossible to put down.

Mar 6, 3:03pm

>37 Marissa_Doyle: Uh oh... I might have been grazed by the Anne Glenconner book. Maybe it would be better to listen. I'm going to see if I can borrow the audio over the Summer while I'm ripping up weeds.

Mar 6, 4:31pm

>38 clamairy: I think it would be an excellent book to weed by. :)

And thank you, clam, for that entry in the Red Hot Bargains thread yesterday, as it enabled me to satisfy my Thingaversary obligations (today is my tenth) without breaking the bank. I also picked a couple of titles from my Barnes and Noble wishlist, to keep the Enforcers happy:

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures Merlin Sheldrake
Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte Carol Berkin
The Place of the Lion Charles Williams
Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life Natalie Dykstra
Europe: A Natural History Tim Flannery
Something in the Water (The Peter Shandy Mysteries Book 9) Charlotte MacLeod
The Gladstone Bag Charlotte MacLeod
Journey to Portugal: In Pursuit of Portugal's History and Culture Jose Saramago
To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface Olivia Laing
Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Elizabeth of York Lisa Hilton
Property of a Lady Sarah Rayne
The House by the Fjord Rosalind Laker
A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America James E. McWilliams
Louisa Catherine: The Other Mrs. Adams Margery M. Heffron, David L. Michelmore
Mary, Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure Jenny Wormald
A Croft in the Hills Katharine Stewart

Mar 6, 4:37pm

>39 Marissa_Doyle:
You have certainly built up brownie points with the enforcers.

Happy Thingaversary.

Mar 6, 6:07pm

Wow, quite a haul. I hope you love 'em all.

Mar 6, 6:10pm

>39 Marissa_Doyle: Whew, you put all of us 'versary duckers to shame. Double penalties for all.

Mar 6, 6:23pm

>42 Meredy: *speaking very quietly* Well, none of them was more than $2.99 (aside from 2 of them) so it wasn't too bad. I'll be interested to try the Charlotte MacLeod mysteries as I once ran across a book of hers titled The Curse of the Giant Hogweed, and the name has stuck in my head.

Mar 7, 11:43am

>42 Meredy: I was thinking the same!

Mar 7, 4:11pm

>43 Marissa_Doyle: Oh sweet cheeses, the cover on that one. I'm dying...

>39 Marissa_Doyle: Nice haul! I'm glad you found something in those bargains! I went through the whole thing and was on the fence about a few of them, and then I forgot about it long enough that they all expired, so I missed out. LOL

Mar 8, 6:35am

>39 Marissa_Doyle: Wow, that's a great haul to celebrate your Thingaversary! I hope you enjoy them when the time comes to start reading.

Oh my, The curse of the giant hogweed looks amazing!

Mar 8, 1:31pm

>43 Marissa_Doyle: I haven't reread them in years, but really liked Charlotte McLeod's mysteries when I first read them, including The Curse of the Giant Hogweed.

Mar 12, 6:34pm

>43 Marissa_Doyle: The Curse of the Giant Hogweed--what an irresistible title! I'm having to fight that one of with some vigor.

Mar 12, 6:38pm

>48 Meredy: Great title, but I have a friend who read that book first and disliked it so much that she could never read anything else by MacLeod. Nothing I said could convince her to try.

Mar 12, 8:10pm

>49 tardis: Thanks, well warned. You may have just saved my already peppered hide.

Mar 12, 8:34pm

From what I gather, it's sort of tongue-in-cheek fantasy...which is definitely not everyone's cup of tea.

Mar 12, 9:22pm

>50 Meredy: Thing is, I love MacLeod. Rest You Merry is quirky and charming, and I think anyone would like it. I often re-read it at Christmas time. It's the beginning of the Peter Shandy series, of which Hogweed is one of the later installments. Once you've read all the other books, Hogweed works better. Just don't start there.

Mar 13, 4:58pm

*whispers, I have never enjoyed MacLeod mysteries much*

I'm not certain why, I would have to go back and read old reviews, but I avoid her. Happily for her and her publishers, not everyone agrees with me! :)

Mar 13, 5:00pm

>53 MrsLee: Be a dull old world if we all liked the same things :)

Mar 14, 8:29pm

>54 tardis: Exactly! But appreciate that >53 MrsLee: soft-pedaled her lack of appreciation.

Mar 22, 9:25pm

Life has gotten busy, but in a positive way: writing continues, and my involvement in an organization I'm part of has ratcheted up to an unexpected co-presidency, which will be challenging but also could be very rewarding in many ways. Also, new book is coming. :)

All of that means not much reading this past week or ten days, but I did manage The Flapper: a Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern a highly readable history guessed it. :) I enjoyed it because of its even-handedness in terms of balancing individual biographies and anecdotes with historical and sociological analysis. Very, very good.

And...The Confetti Man was...weird. Very good but weird. It falls somewhere in the contemporary fantasy realm (well, "contemporary" is a relative term as it was published in 1975) and encompasses a bizarre family "haunting", modern celebrity, art, religion, and insanity. Probably not for everyone; I picked it up because I very much enjoyed the author's previous book, The Truth About Unicorns, and was curious where she went next. I do wish she'd written more--she's good.

Mar 23, 8:48am

>56 Marissa_Doyle: I see that the blurb for The truth about unicorns compares the author to Shirley Jackson. I think that will be a notch on your BB gun!

Mar 23, 9:43am

>57 Sakerfalcon: Woot!

I can see that comparison, though there are differences. The Reynolds books are not horror, though there are highlights (darklights?) of it here and there. It's something about the prose style, the veneer of everyday, humdrum details of life that cover, imperfectly at times, a vast reservoir of something darker, or weirder, underneath.

Mar 23, 10:07am

>58 Marissa_Doyle: I like the suggestion of horror/weird a lot more than explicit content, so this sounds like a good fit for me.

Mar 23, 10:12am

>57 Sakerfalcon: Yes, she shoots very stealthily. This is now also on my "looking out for" list...

Mar 23, 3:10pm

>56 Marissa_Doyle: Congrats on the new book and the co-presidency! I'm amazed you're finding time to read at all.

>60 -pilgrim-: Yes, one must tread carefully!

Abr 6, 1:10pm

>61 clamairy: Moi? *bats eyes innocently*

Things have been busy, so I've been re-reading some undemanding yet satisfying comfort reads--namely, Eva Ibbotson's adult books: The Secret Countess, The Morning Gift, Magic Flutes, A Song for Summer, and A Company of Swans. They're imperfect--she relies on misunderstandings too much to fuel the romantic conflicts--but they're still delightful reads, ones that I classify with Georgette Heyer's books for happy escapism.

Abr 8, 10:39am

Finished The Shambling Guide to New York City, which was a book bullet from tardis that just happened to be on sale at Barnes and Noble... It was cute, but didn't quite scratch my itch; I found the characters a tad flat, though the author had fun with the worldbuilding. Onward!

Editado: Abr 11, 10:58pm

DNFed The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle after a chapter and a half. I might very well go back to it at a future date, but...well, right now, I have the attention span of a concussed bee, and it isn't the book to try to read when in that state. More non-fiction might be a better choice just now.

Abr 12, 4:47am

>64 Marissa_Doyle:
I have the attention span of a concussed bee

Thank you for that phrase - it admirably recourses my current state, but puts into words more aptly than I have been able to.

Abr 12, 8:53am

>64 Marissa_Doyle: Yes, that book requires a lot of concentration and brain engagement. It's also not a good one if you want a book with likeable characters. Apart from those caveats, I thought it was very good.

>62 Marissa_Doyle: My favourite of Ibbotson's more adult books is Madensky Square, which for some reason didn't seem to be reprinted with the other titles.

Abr 12, 9:38am

>65 -pilgrim-: You're very welcome, but I can't claim authorship: thank the immanent Douglas Adams for it. :)

>66 Sakerfalcon: I had noticed that (about the likeability of the characters.) I suspect that if I'd been more drawn to the ones I'd met, I might have been more eager to persevere.

Editado: Abr 18, 4:30pm

>66 Sakerfalcon: >67 Marissa_Doyle: I've encountered a number of books in recent years in which, for as long as I stayed with them, I encountered no likeable characters, not even (or especially not) the main one. I found that I simply didn't care about them or about what happened to them. Abandoning the books was a natural response.

Now, reading your comments, I'm wondering if it's likeability, by my measure, or something else. Relatability? I found my thoughts darting back to my reading of Crime and Punishment, lifetimes ago, when I was 14 or 15. I wouldn't call Raskolnikov likeable at all, and I don't know how as an American teenager I could really relate to an impoverished 19th-century Russian student whose philosophy justified the murder of an old pawnbroker woman for her money. But something about him and his psyche and his inner conflicts was compelling.

Maybe it's that old universal-in-the-particular. Is that something that's lacking in a swath of contemporary fiction? Have we been so televisioned and internetted and now coronavirused into contrived pseudorelationships mediated through a screen that we don't even know how to relate to one another directly any more? Have plot-driven action movies driven out everything but plot? Or is it, perhaps, that our empathy is so exhausted and our sensibilities so numb from the constant sucking of vampire media that we just can't spend the emotional currency to take on someone else's subjectivity? Our own is burden enough.

I'm thinking that we in the First World have lost something that more traditional societies haven't forgotten. They still have their anchors, their mythic roots, and their cohesive villages. Maybe we've simply overestimated our capacity to take in a human experience that won't fit inside our car, our office, our kitchen, or our bed. If an author creates unlikeable characters, whom does the author like? And what is the author giving us to like them with?

Abr 18, 6:08pm

>68 Meredy: That's a good question (and an enormous one, too.) In the case of The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, "likeability" is shorthand for finding nothing admirable, congenial, or indeed interesting about the characters, for having no wish to spend time in the characters' company. It's not too surprising that it occurs in this book, as it is (according to my DH, who did read it) very, very plot-driven--perhaps to the point of characters and characterization being a necessary inconvenience.

In other reading...
A Croft in the Hills A London family buys a small farm in the Scottish Highlands and tries to make a go of it. I usually enjoy this type of memoir, but this one was a bit of a stinker: the descriptions of what and how the family did on the farm were cursory at best, while the passages of holier-than thou-ish self-congratulation for how the author and her family were living a "real" life while all those hapless, hopeless city folks--especially young ones--were not, were far too long-winded and frequent.

The House by the Fjord Read more like a poorly written travelogue than a novel. Ended up skimming.

Romanov YA historical fantasy about Tsar Nicholas and his family in their last days at Ekaterinburg, with magic. It was meh: the central character is of course Anastasia, and there's a lot of romantic angst and sketchy characterization and a flat villain, as well as pacing issues and a potentially interesting but not well developed magic system. This could partly be my problem: I've never been terribly drawn to the Romanov tragedy, and Nicholas and Alexandra themselves were a hot mess. But still, meh.

Abr 19, 4:46am

>68 Meredy: I think that when the author creates unlikeable characters, there is a greater burden on them to write well.

I am prepared to tolerate slips in plotting, outrageous coincidences, or less than ideal prose, if I am enjoying the company of the characters.

But if I am reading a book where one cannot like the main character, then there needs to be some purpose to it - I do not mean that it should be "worthy and instructive" (!), but it needs to be compelling because of something that it is revealing. That could be an insight into another situation (such as the mindset of a 19th century Russian anarchist) or another culture, or an original scientific hypothesis or philosophical idea.

And this loses its potency if characters behave unconvincingly, or the ideas are muddled, or the prose unclear.

Our current culture expects authors to turn out books too fast and too frequently. So the chances of a writer having time to really craft a book well are low - even if it is not their profession, so that money is not the imperative, then after the first book there is still the popular pressure for "More - NOW!" Thus books for which the concept justified a focus on unlikeable people often fail at the execution.

Several of the books that have made a deep impression on me over the past few years have focussed on deeply flawed people.

For example, 9, by Andrzej Stasiuk, is grim. All the young men depicted range from despicable to evil, and the women who love them are doomed. But this is not just a wallow in the underworld; it vividly demonstrates the deficit in moral values that resulted in Poland when the Communist ideology they were taught in school was discarded, but Western material goals were completely unattainable. The actions are rooted in the thinking of the characters. A "gangster novel" dealing with the same characters and basic plot (a drug addict desperately tries to raise the money that he needs to pay his debts) but focusing on the actions rather than the motives, would produce a completely different reaction.

Abr 19, 7:13am

>68 Meredy:, >69 Marissa_Doyle: I don't usually mind unlikeable characters, so long as they are interesting. And as with any book I read it needs to be well-written (for my definition of well-written; a good friend and I disagree quite frequently on this!). My go-to example of an unlikeable but compelling character is Undine Spragg in The custom of the country by Edith Wharton. She is a classic anti-heroine but she's absolutely fascinating.

Abr 20, 7:22am

>56 Marissa_Doyle: I also wanted to report that the BB you fired for Bonnie Jones Reynolds has well and truly landed - my copy of The truth about unicorns arrived last week and I have started reading it.

Editado: Abr 20, 11:08pm

>72 Sakerfalcon: I do hope you'll report back--I would very much like to hear what you think of it.

Polished off the new Murderbot short story, Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory in about 10 minutes (literally--it's just a scrap), and while I expect it was simply an outtake (so to speak), I don't care and I think Tor needs to license a Murderbot plushie because I need to hug it. So there.

Have also slowly been making my way through The Fabric of Civilization, an anthropological, historical, and sociological study of textiles, and learning (and enjoying) it a great deal.

Abr 26, 12:48pm

Catching up...

I will likely be joining >53 MrsLee: on the "not smitten by Charlotte MacLeod" bench--or at least by her Peter Shandy character. Perhaps my mistake was picking up a later book in the series, but I read the first 30 pages or so of Something in the Water, and found the writing off-putting, in the much the same way that I disliked the Amelia Peabody books. Also, I figured out the murderer's identity within those thirty pages. I may give her other series a try, just to make sure (and since I picked one up during my Thingaversary fulfillment binge.)

One of the other books I picked up at that time was Charles Williams's The Place of the Lion. The description was interesting (dabbler in magic breaks the boundary between our world and another, and chaos ensues); what I did not know was that the author was one of the Inklings...and yes, the book reads like a story written by someone who loves fantasy, but can't escape the nagging feeling that it's not proper for an Oxford don to be dabbling in writing it. Heavy on Judeo-Christian symbolism (what did that crew have about lions, fer gosh sake?) and a tad too mired in that and in its late 1940s viewpoint of the world to be much more than an interesting side note in the development of the genre.

Speaking of genre...Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction was fascinating: not so much a synthesis of the role women writers played in the development of spec fiction as an overview of the writers and their work, which I appreciated. My wishlist has been alarmingly expanded as a result.

And finally got around to starting The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which I am enjoying.

Editado: Abr 26, 2:08pm

>74 Marissa_Doyle: Interesting that Charles Williams gives you the impression of being an "Oxford don" - given that he neither taught at any university nor graduated from any (due to family circumstances he has to drop out of his studies at the University of London). He was an editor for the OUP.

Abr 26, 1:21pm

>75 -pilgrim-: My mistaken assumption.

Editado: Abr 26, 2:11pm

>76 Marissa_Doyle: My comment was sincere. Obviously, his thought processes are likely to be those that you assumed, so I am intrigued as to what it is about his writing that gave you that impression.

BookstoogeLT and I have both read his War in Heaven recently, and Majel-Susan has also been reading him, so we have been discussing his style a lot fairly recently.

Abr 26, 4:17pm

>74 Marissa_Doyle: Yep. That's why. Amelia Peabody was very off-putting to me as well.

Abr 26, 10:27pm

>74 Marissa_Doyle: >78 MrsLee: And she could have been so much fun, after that good start.

Editado: Abr 26, 11:22pm

>77 -pilgrim-: My impression was what I said--that I suspected that he was drawn to the idea of writing fantasy, but would only have felt free to do so by using the protective coloration (as it were) of his field of study to overlay it, to lend a tinge of intellectual respectability to the exercise. Substitute "interests" for "field of study", and I suppose it might still apply. Also, I assumed he was a faculty member of the university rather than an employee, as I had thought that all of the Inklings were Oxford academics.

>79 Meredy: Indeed. It was a good start, with a precipitous nose-dive shortly thereafter...

Abr 27, 7:39am

>80 Marissa_Doyle: I assumed he was a faculty member of the university rather than an employee, as I had thought that all of the Inklings were Oxford academics.
Not really. Among the central members, Owen Barfield was a solicitor, Robert Havard a medical doctor and Warren Lewis a career Army officer. A lot of academics too, of course.

I appreciate your reformulating your impressions of Charles Williams in response to the facts, but that SAS not actually what I was asking.

I was hoping that, as a writer yourself, you would be able to identify the elements of the book, or the author's style, that had given rise to those impressions.

My own interpretation is that you have got Williams' priorities wrong. Like Lewis, he was a lay theologian. His non-fiction expounds his own particular version of mystical Anglicanism, often through poetry. I don't think his goal was "to write fantasy novels", still less to market them. This is not his "day job". He wants to write about his world view and beliefs, and the expression of this comes out in various forms: theological tracts, poetry, and fantasy.

Abr 27, 12:59pm

>81 -pilgrim-: I'm sorry--I'm not really sure what you're looking for here.

I have no idea what Williams's priorities were. I knew absolutely nothing about him until I looked him up after your questions. The Inklings as a group have never particularly interested me; of its two best-known members, I enjoy Tolkien but am not passionate about his work, and I actively dislike Lewis's books. I read this book more or less on a lark, as it was on sale at Barnes and Noble and I was intrigued by the description. It didn't sit right with me, particularly in its depiction of female characters, and I don't plan to read any more of him.

Abr 27, 1:11pm

>82 Marissa_Doyle: You and I have had completely different reactions to Williams. This is, of course, fine - but I found it intriguing.

You have described the impression of Williams that the novel gave you, and the assumptions which informed that impression.

But I was asking about the step before that: what it was about the content and/or style that produced that effect and gave you those impressions.

I had assumed that, as an author yourself, you were accustomed to looking at how a text produced a given response in your, as the reader (rather than just noting what your response was).

But if you do not want to discuss it, then I certainly did not intend to push the matter.

Maio 6, 12:27pm

Finished The Ten Thousand Doors of January
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White - re-read for research
All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol; ongoing comfort re-read of the Murderbot series leading up to the new novella just released.

Editado: Maio 11, 3:25pm

Network Effect Hadn't actually finished it when it came out, so new read.
Fugitive Telemetry new read

(edited to fix wonky touchstones)

Maio 20, 4:21pm

'Salem's Lot A reread after about 25 years. Interesting exercise.

Maio 20, 7:31pm

>88 Marissa_Doyle: Oh, I loved that one. I would be so worried about the suck fairy. Though I did make it all the way through an 'unedited' The Stand a few years back with minimal issues.

Maio 20, 8:12pm

>89 clamairy: I too just re-read 'Salem's Lot a few months ago. I thought the Suck Fairy was relatively kind to it but King's writing chops were noticeably not fully developed when he wrote it. There were some clunky parts and the dialog was borderline awkward in a few places. That being said, it is overall still a good read. I enjoyed the re-visit, but not as much as when I first read it back in the late 1970's, (has it really been that long?!?).

Editado: Maio 20, 8:50pm

>90 ScoLgo: Yeah. We're aging along with the books, but our sensibilities have ripened! I read that one twice. Once in HS, so I was probably 17, and then again in my mid 20s. I didn't notice any issues then, but it was basically the same era. (My daughter tried to read The Stand and found all his pop culture references very dated, so she bailed.)

Maio 20, 10:06pm

>89 clamairy:, >90 ScoLgo: His writing had definitely not yet matured--there was clunky dialogue and some plot hand-waviness and some sketchy characterization...and I can't see it having been published today because the pacing was pretty leisurely...but his passages describing the town and the weather and the people in all their warty glory were really quite wonderful--some of the best parts of the book. It was a little funny to read about a world that hadn't yet seen laptops and cellphones...and the little giveaways like ring-top beer can openings and pushing down the lock button in cars and all. the. smoking. But it's also refreshing to read about non-sparkly, non-sexy vampires. King's vampires were monsters, and darned awful ones.

An additional note: the edition I downloaded to my Nook included some short stories set in the same world, which was a nice bonus.

Editado: Maio 21, 5:42am

>92 Marissa_Doyle: the little giveaways like ring-top beer can openings and pushing down the lock button in cars and all.

Still quite normal around here.

Maio 23, 4:32pm

Hey, Marissa_Doyle, I see you have both Devil in the Shape of a Woman and In the Devil's Snare in your library. Which if them would you recommend? I read a bunch of the LT reviews, and while the second one has slightly higher ratings there were a lot of complaints about it being made up of quotations and passages from elsewhere.

Maio 23, 11:28pm

I don't think I've read In the Devil's Snare yet, but Devil in the Shape of a Woman was good, IIRC. I think my favorite, though, is Salem Possessed, which views the whole witchcraft phenomenon in northern Massachusetts through a very specific socioeconomic lens. Fascinating book.

Maio 26, 10:07am

Becoming Wild Interesting subject matter, not as well handled as it might have been. The author was a little too fond of inserting himself, and had an exasperating trick of over-writing.

Maio 28, 9:25am

Just read the announcement that Martha Wells has contracted three more Murderbot Diaries books (or novellas, or whatever--it doesn't specify.) Much happiness ensues.

Maio 29, 10:38am

>97 Marissa_Doyle: I am also very happy about this. And I am also waiting (without much hope) for a Sanctuary Moon series! :o)

Maio 29, 2:43pm

>98 clamairy: I would not be at all surprised to hear that someone had started a Sanctuary Moon series fanfiction on Wattpad or somewhere like it.

Maio 29, 3:39pm

>99 Marissa_Doyle: Oh, I'm sure there's something out there already. I want it edited and readable... now. LOL

Maio 31, 10:47am

The Peacock was a book bullet from Sakerfalcon, and a fun one at that. It was curious to read what was in essence a farce written entirely in indirect dialogue and an omniscient POV. I appreciated the brief note by the translator at the end.

Jun 1, 7:01am

>101 Marissa_Doyle: I'm glad you enjoyed it! Yes, the writing style was an interesting choice but I thought it worked. And I agree that the translator's note was very worth reading.

Jun 6, 1:04pm

The Philosopher's War, sequel to alternate history/fantasy The Philosopher's Flight which I greatly enjoyed a few years back. The second book is also excellent, though I found the resolution very rushed for such a large plot with so many characters and moving parts. My guess is that the author had a two-book contract and was trying for an ending that would satisfy readers if he wasn't offered a contract for further books, but left plenty of room for more if he was. As this installment was set on the western front in WWI, be prepared for a lot of injury and death...but try not to let that stop you as these books are wonderfully original and absorbing.

Jun 14, 10:23am

Recent reading:
Wrede on Writing Palate cleanser and (hopefully) a jump-starter.
Property of a Lady Haunted house story that proved to be singularly unsatisfying, as the story starts out very, very creepily then seems to go out of its way, often contradicting itself, to un-spook itself. Part of the satisfaction of a lot of genre horror is the protagonist(s) overcoming the ghost/monster/creature through courage and cleverness; in this one, all they had to do was conveniently happen upon hidden diaries (three times!) and obscure local history booklets to explain what was going on. Bah humbug.

Jun 29, 3:03pm

The Hands of the Emperor Very enjoyable, but at 873 pages could likely have lost about 200 pages and still have been as enjoyable. Set in the same world as the Greenwing & Dart books and several of her short stories--I would not read this before having read some of her other work first.

Jul 2, 9:55am

How to Talk to a Goddess and Other Lessons in Real Magic The looooong awaited sequel to 2013's The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic, which I adored. This is a much smaller book, both in page count and in scope, and I miss the breadth of book one. Though delighted to be back in this world, some bits disappointed: for one thing, Nora's return to Aruendiel's world seemed almost too easy--an anti-climax, in a's hard to explain, but the whole book felt off, somehow, missing some nameless something that the first book had in spades. I wonder if there will be a third book, or if the author has moved on; enough threads left hanging from the first book are woven back in to be mostly satisfactory, but there's room to continue as well.

Jul 5, 7:34am

>106 Marissa_Doyle: I'm so glad that a sequel has been published at last, even if it doesn't live up to the first book. I will definitely check it out.

Jul 5, 2:24pm

>107 Sakerfalcon: I'm glad too, and I do hope she writes more because she's good and her world is fascinating. One thing I noticed is that it was not published by her previous publisher. I wonder if it was originally a one-book contract, or if the long delay between books meant they parted ways.

Jul 18, 1:27am

>109 Marissa_Doyle: Hmm, I haven't read either of those Victoria Goddard books yet. Must put them on the list.

Jul 18, 8:21pm

>110 NorthernStar: They're rather different in tone from the Greenwing & Dart books--in fact, there's very little plot. But I still enjoyed them, though I'm very much hoping she'll get back to the G&D.

Jul 18, 11:18pm

>111 Marissa_Doyle: I loved the Greenwing & Dart books.

Jul 21, 2:40pm

>112 NorthernStar: Me too!

Some welcome news: my September release (up on Early Reviewers right now) just got an excellent review from Kirkus, and I'm over the moon.

And I'm trying to remember where a recent conversation took place in the GD concerning getting amaryllis bulbs to rebloom. Maddz has had excellent results and gave some good suggestions...and low and behold, the amaryllis plant I'd left on the back deck has suddenly--in the middle of July, put forth a stem. I think it's deeply confused.

Jul 21, 5:12pm

>113 Marissa_Doyle: Oh, huge congratulations, Marissa!

You may be too modest to post a link, but I'll do it:

Well done! Hurray!

Jul 21, 5:13pm

Oops, that's not it, is it? All right, where is it?

Jul 21, 5:21pm

Thank you, Meredy! That's a review from an older book, though. The review for the new book won't be available on line till July 28 (August 15 for the print magazine.)

Editado: Jul 21, 8:41pm

>113 Marissa_Doyle: Congrats! Is this one part of a series or a standalone?

This book? --> What Lies Beneath

Jul 21, 9:52pm

Thank you! Yes, that book-- a standalone. My next endeavor is a series, but standalones are a good way to refresh one's brain.

Jul 22, 9:22am

>113 Marissa_Doyle: Well done indeed! But the next sentence is about your amaryllis—tell us where your priorities really lie!

Jul 22, 9:41am

>113 Marissa_Doyle: Well done and beat of luck with the book.

Also, well done with the amaryllis. They are super when they bloom.

Jul 22, 2:50pm

>113 Marissa_Doyle: Congratulations! Looks interesting!

Jul 26, 7:22pm

Life in a Cold Climate: Nancy Mitford: The Biography Aside from the slightly pretentious title ("The" biography?) this was an interesting bio in that it frequently compared her life to her books to discuss how much she drew on her own experiences in writing them and where she diverged (and in some cases, possibly why.) This was written while her sisters Diana and Deborah were alive, so there's interview material as well as the usual sources. I enjoyed it.

I enjoyed Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters much less, mostly because of the personalities involved: it was rather like a multi-car pile-up on the highway from which it is impossible to avert one's eyes. Sylvia Brett, daughter of Lord Esher (who himself was quite a figure) married in 1910 the man who became the third white Rajah of Sarawak, on the northern coast of Borneo, after his father and grandfather. It sounded like a fascinating story and I indeed was fascinated by Sarawak itself and its history...but Sylvia, her husband, her three daughters, her in-laws, her husband's trusted advisor--all were really rather awful people with no impulse control and a deep-seated impulse, it seemed, to lie and cheat and hurt each other. It's interesting to speculate what might have happened if they hadn't all been so awful. The book itself was good--well-written and researched--but the subject so miserable that it was a struggle to finish.

Jul 29, 4:19pm

A Place in the Woods was a delightful breath of fresh air after the unpleasant fug that was Queen Sylvia. Helen Hoover and her husband left their comfortable life in 1954 Chicago (where she was a metallurgist) to live in a log cabin on a lake in far northern Minnesota. Hoover was a gifted writer, and her views on animal intelligence and nature in general were well ahead of her time. Very enjoyable.

Editado: Jul 29, 9:43pm

>123 Marissa_Doyle: Oh, that might be a bullet between the eyeballs. (It seems to be an appropriate companion to my current read To Speak for the Trees.)

Jul 30, 8:39am

>124 clamairy: If you like it, there's also We Took To the Woods, written a bit earlier (40's), and while not as lyrical, she's still a very sharp observer of nature (and humanity.)

Jul 30, 1:20pm

>125 Marissa_Doyle: Not content with that first bullseye, she goes for a second! :o)

Jul 30, 3:14pm

>126 clamairy: Clammy dear, is my suspicion correct, that you invented book bullets?

Jul 30, 3:44pm

>127 Meredy: I don't believe I did. I think they came about organically when the group was newish, but I will have to do some dredging and see when the first mention of the term shows up.

BTW, that was Marissa nailing me in post #123 and going for a second shot in #125, not the other way around!

Jul 30, 3:54pm

This is the first instance I can find of the phrase being used, but it's possible LT isn't showing me all of them.

It's Maggie that's using the term, but she seems to be referring to Morphy having used it before, so I will give Morphidae the credit. Morphy was the one that came up with the term "stabbity" as well, and we had multiple threads with that term in the title.

Jul 30, 6:37pm

>128 clamairy:, yes, I saw that. I was just chuckling because it sounded like the biter bit. But since it wasn't you, we can commiserate, if not take our hits like a man.

And--that ten-year-old link of Morphy's scored a new hit on me. Good grief.

"Stabbity" was a great addition to the lexicon.

Jul 30, 7:39pm

>130 Meredy: Oh dear. You don't mean A Discovery of Witches, I hope...

We need to revive stabbity, I think.

Jul 30, 9:48pm

>131 Marissa_Doyle: Did you hate it? I enjoyed it, but I have not been able to get into the second book at all.

Stabbity is such a great word.

Jul 30, 10:35pm

>132 clamairy: Oh yes, it got up my nose in myriad ways and made me feel (dare I say it) very stabbity indeed.

Jul 30, 11:30pm

>133 Marissa_Doyle: What's the opposite of a book bullet? Your antibullet just landed. Luckily I hadn't clicked "buy now" yet. I thought maybe I was looking at a juicy series, but nah, forget it, I think.

Jul 30, 11:41pm

>134 Meredy: It had all the bad features of a gooey romance without any of the good features of a female-oriented fantasy. The female protagonist kept getting rescued by her vampire, who totally infantilized her (I lost count of how many times he made her drink a cup of tea and then bodily tucked her into bed after he'd rescued her from yet another dangerous situation.) And from what I heard of the later books, it took an about-face into sort of "humorous" fantasy, almost lampooning itself. Stabbity stabbity stab stab. I know a lot of people liked it, Just no. Not when there are so many other wonderfully written, creative fantasies out there where the female protagonist actually has agency.

Jul 31, 12:41am

>135 Marissa_Doyle: Absolutely agree with your objections, so thank you for saving me!

Jul 31, 6:05am

>135 Marissa_Doyle:, >136 Meredy: I agree wholeheartedly with Marissa's comments on A discovery of witches! It promised so much - LIBRARIES!!!! Secret manuscripts! Supernatural creatures living alongside us! But all sidelined in favour of a terrible romance and a drippy heroine. Not to mention "I kissed you in front of my mother so now we are married" Stabbity stabbity stabbity indeed.

Editado: Jul 31, 8:57am

I'm laughing at all these negative comments, when the thing that bothered me the most was that they never had sex. 😆 All that tension was annoying... I loved how the aunts' house kept changing though. There were new rooms where there hadn't been any before. I have dreams like that all the time.

Jul 31, 9:06am

>137 Sakerfalcon:, >138 clamairy: That could be part of the problem--the back cover copy promised so much that the book didn't deliver. The IDEA was a good one...

Jul 31, 6:00pm

I leave Talk for a few months and pop in to discover everyone dunking on one of my all-time least favorite novels. :)

Congrats on the Kirkus review, Marissa!

>123 Marissa_Doyle: The Years of the Forest is one of my mom's favorite books. She likes cabin-in-the-woods nature writing.

Jul 31, 9:12pm

>141 Marissa_Doyle: All I can picture is the needlepoint pillow Alice Roosevelt Longworth supposedly kept on her sofa: "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me." :)

And thank you!

Ago 1, 12:55pm

Regarding >131 Marissa_Doyle: and the subsequent discussion - a friend recently recommended this series, and I have a hold on the first ebook from the library. Glad I didn't decide to buy it!

Ago 1, 5:04pm

Yep, yep, yep on the comments about A Discovery of Witches. I believe the letdown of the potential was what evinced our strong reactions.

Ago 1, 5:12pm

>142 NorthernStar: Well I enjoyed it, but my life was going down the crapper at the time so any escape was a good one.

Ago 1, 6:19pm

>143 MrsLee: I remember being surprised that it was so romance-y. I expected something similar to The Historian, iirc.

>144 clamairy: I'm glad it hit the spot for you in a difficult time.

>141 Marissa_Doyle: Stealing this phrase! :)

Ago 1, 6:51pm

I loved The Historian, but a lot of people whined about that one, too.

Ago 1, 8:52pm

>145 libraryperilous: I reread my review and my biggest complaints were that her clothes were described in detail with multiple clothing changes a day, and she didn't wear very interesting clothes. Also, her looove (please read that like the clergyman in The Princess Bride) for the vampire, on and on and on.

Ago 4, 7:21am

>146 clamairy: I too loved The historian. I think some people found it slower than one might expect for a vampire novel but I loved revelling in the different locations and soaking up the atmosphere.

Ago 4, 8:28am

>148 Sakerfalcon: I'm sad to see she's only written two other books and the ratings are a bit mediocre for both of them.

Ago 4, 8:32am

>149 clamairy: I didn't read her second novel as it didn't appeal to me at all, but I enjoyed The shadow land quite a lot.

Ago 4, 8:35am

>150 Sakerfalcon: I will keep an eye out for that.

Ago 4, 5:17pm

>150 Sakerfalcon:, >151 clamairy: I think I had that on my TBR at one point. I'm intrigued by the locale.

>147 MrsLee: Ha! The only thing worse than no descriptions of clothing is piles of descriptions of mediocre fashions. I've been on a Phryne Fisher binge of late, and one disappointment is that some of the books don't have enough descriptions of her clothes. I love the TV series' costumes, which I saw described as 'wardrobe porn,' so I was expecting a bit more titillation from the books.

Ago 4, 6:58pm

>152 libraryperilous: " I was expecting a bit more titillation from the books."
A good example of a visual media complementing a book! I haven't read those books, but loved the show for its wardrobes and furniture.

Ago 6, 4:26pm

>153 MrsLee: Fashion in fiction is underrated! And yes, the show has fabulous set pieces, too, not just clothes. There's a film, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, that picks up a few years after the show. I think it's available on Amazon, but I've not watched it yet.

The books are interesting, in part because they are rather different from the show. I think I prefer the show, in fact!

Ago 6, 6:37pm

>154 libraryperilous: The movie "Knives Out" is another visual joy. My friend and I watched it in the theater, then when it was on Amazon we watched it again pausing frequently just to look at the sets.

Ago 6, 7:01pm

>155 MrsLee: But did you like the movie?

Ago 7, 12:31pm

I've not been around as we had a death in the family; our beloved bunny Beatrice crossed the bridge on Thursday. She was eleven and a very loved bun. :(

>146 clamairy: I think I have The Historian on my Nook, but I'm just not a vampire fan and haven't read it. Maybe I should. Some day.

>147 MrsLee: I remember that (about her clothes!) Yes, yet another annoying think about it.

>155 MrsLee: "Bright Star" was another movie that was good in itself, but pushed up into sublimity because of the amazing costuming (the main character loved to sew.)

Editado: Ago 7, 12:45pm

>157 Marissa_Doyle: I'm sorry for the loss of your snuggle bunny. Also, what a lovely name for a rabbit! :(

>157 Marissa_Doyle: (in re >146 clamairy:) I'm not a vampire fan either, and I don't normally like soapy sagas, but I remember finding it easy to get caught up in the story. It read as more of a tale of academic detection than a vampire story.

Edited to correct numbering.

Ago 7, 5:45pm

>157 Marissa_Doyle: sorry to hear about Beatrice. Always hard to lose a beloved pet.

Ago 8, 12:17pm

>156 Meredy: Very much! A fun "mystery" movie like no other recent ones I've seen. Most movies have forgotten how to be silly and fun without buffoonery.

>157 Marissa_Doyle: Dear Beatrice! May she, like her namesake in Dante's comedy, live in the blesses realms. I am sorry for your loss. *Hug*

Ago 8, 1:39pm

>157 Marissa_Doyle: >160 MrsLee: Oh, was she named for Dante's Beatrice? I was thinking of Beatrix Potter--such an apt name for a rabbit. Marissa, I am sorry for your loss. It's so hard to say good-bye to a beloved pet.

Ago 8, 2:13pm

>161 Meredy: I had guessed Shakespeare. A font of literary Beatrices!

Ago 8, 2:27pm

>157 Marissa_Doyle: May I echo MrsLee on Beatrice of blessed memory?

Ago 10, 10:19am

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words about Bea-bun. The origin of her name is not poetic in the least; she was rescued from a bad situation by our local rabbit rescue group, and given the name "Beans" because she was feisty and full of--well, beans. We chose "Beatrice" because it was similar to "Beans", as we didn't know if she'd learned "Beans" yet, and Beatrice had a similar sound. Beatrice turned out to be an excellent name for her.

I keep looking up from the chair at my desk and expecting to see her snoozing in the patch of sun that comes in through my office windows in the morning. Sigh.

Ago 10, 1:51pm

>164 Marissa_Doyle: I am very sorry for you and yours, and know you must be missing Beatrice so much. :o( Big hugs to all of you during this season of heartache.

Ago 12, 10:40am

Louisa Catherine: the Other Mrs. Adams Excellent partial biography of the wife of John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the US...who probably would not have become president without her support and genius for human connection. The author unfortunately became ill and died before finishing the book, so it ends on the election of JQA. Very worthwhile reading for anyone with an interest in the young US and in women's lives in the late 18th and early 19th century.

At the Table of Wolves was a DNF after 55 pages. It should have been catnip--historical fantasy set on the eve of WWII--but the characters felt flat, exacerbated by the rapid jumping around among multiple viewpoints without really "digging in" to get to know anyone, and the author's decision to italicize certain words for no very good reason was annoying. Ah well.

I am drowning my post-DNF sorrows in the newest Laurie R. King Mary Russell book, Castle Shade. The last few have been a tad thin in plot, but these are such old friends that I'm happy to just fall into the world.

Editado: Ago 12, 11:21am

the author's decision to italicize certain words for no very good reason was annoying. This is one of my pet peeves. Let me imagine the emphasis the character is putting on their sentences, don't force it upon me. Mercedes Lackey is terrible for this.

Adding my condolences on the loss of your bunny. It is so hard to lose our four-legged family members.

Ago 12, 11:27am

>167 Sakerfalcon: But...if you are speaking like...Captain...James...T... Kirk...the...italics...may the right...emphasis, ifyouknowwhatImean.

Ago 12, 11:46am

>167 Sakerfalcon: It often is distracting, because the reader spends time trying to decide if the emphasis is important to the story—and it usually isn't.

>164 Marissa_Doyle: Watching pets relax in sun patches = one of life's greatest pleasures

Ago 25, 10:56am

Time to catch up.

Castle Shade, like other recent Mary Russell books, was also thin on plot; curiously, hints of further conflict and perhaps a confrontation between the Holmeses and Mycroft were dropped and never picked up again. Why do I get vibes of "contractual fulfillment books" here?

Toscanini's Fumble: and Other Tales of Clinical Neurology Case studies-based look at the weird and wonderful (or dreadful) things that can happen to the human brain. Alas, it may be too dated (written in the late eighties) to be truly informative now--the author mentions research that indicates that schizophrenia might be (gasp!) chemical in nature, and not psychological. Well written, though.

A tad more up to date, Unthinkable: an Extraordinary Journey Through the World's Strangest Brains is just that--the author, a science journalist with a strong background in neuroscience, examines and interviews some extraordinary people: my favorite was probably the colorblind man with synesthesia who nevertheless perceived colors--while his eyes could not see them, his brain could. Fascinating stuff.

I was caught bang-on by a book bullet from Sakerfalcon, The Barbizon: the Hotel that Set Women Free, and while it's enjoyable and fairly informative (though the writing is utilitarian at best), what has been the most interesting to me is my reaction to a passage at the very beginning of the book, which describes how, in the earlier years of the hotel, men would come to hang out in the lobby, hoping to find a way to sneak upstairs at this women-only residence. I was seized by such anger--here was a place that was supposed to be safe, where women could live while they tried to carve out independent working lives for themselves in a hostile world...and here were these guys regarding the whole thing as opportunity for a bit of sport. It still makes me angry when I think of it. I chose to go to a women's college because of its intellectual rigor and dedication to teaching (the only place you saw teaching assistants was in science labs--all classes, even the entry-level ones, were taught by professors, including department heads.) But in retrospect I realize how wonderful it was to spend four years of academic life in a setting without late adolescent males stomping around like badly-behaved elephants in a china shop. I'm not anti-male--I actually had started dating my husband-to-be right before leaving for the aforementioned women's college, and this marks our fortieth year as a couple. But today's women are still fighting the war that those young women at the Barbizon were on the front lines of, ninety-plus years ago.

Ago 26, 3:56pm

Curious Observations: A Country Miscellany and Gentlemen's Pursuits: A Country Miscellany for the Discerning were bargain books from online remainders bookseller Daedalus Books and looked amusing, so I picked them up. And they have been amusing, in several ways--from "aw, isn't that nice" to "OMG thank goodness no one does THAT anymore." The text consists of extracts from articles in the early years of "Country Life" magazine, not more than a page and a half or so, often with accompanying photos. A bit of a way-back machine for life among a certain class in Britain.

Editado: Ago 30, 8:03am

>170 Marissa_Doyle: Your comment about teaching assistants raised a question - how common are they? I first heard of them in TV shows like "Buffy", and it took me a while to work out what the job entailed. Sure, as a post-grad, I supervised some lab work, and some postdocs gave colloquia, but the idea of actually being lectured by anyone below the rank of lecturer seemed very strange.

BTW, I took the opposite decision to you. After 7 years of a girls' grammar school, I turned down an all girls college because I thought it about time to meet the "opposite sex" in an environment a little less stilted than "joint schools" musical productions and dances! (I was very glad of spending the formative years of my education free from the social pressures of "but girls don't do science" etc., though.)

Ago 28, 11:13am

>172 -pilgrim-: TAs are common in the US because most graduate degrees focus on pedagogy. Some of my favorite courses at university were taught by TAs, and the absolute worst one was taught by a department head. Most common was a course taught by a professor, with the TA contributing occasional lectures and running the labs or recitation groups.

Editado: Ago 30, 8:33am

>173 libraryperilous: Having another terminology problem here: what is a "graduate degree"?

In the UK you read for an undergraduate degree, take exams, become a graduand for the brief period between the examination completion and graduation (the ceremony at which your degree is awarded, if necessary in absentia) and after graduation you have become a graduate of that university - which is a lifelong status. If you study for a higher degree, as a post-graduate student, you may be working towards a Master's degree or a doctorate. Post-doctoral students may sometimes teach, although they have not yet found lectureships, and there are lecturers who spent the majority of their careers outside academia, who never studied for a doctorate, but I have never heard of a post-grad actually designing and presenting a lecture course.

So what is a "graduate degree"? Is it what I would call a postgraduate qualification?

And what do you mean by most graduate degrees focus on pedagogy?
In the UK, most higher degrees are research degrees, consisting almost entirely of original research. If you want to improve your teaching skills, you might take a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate of Education), which is not a degree at all.
Are you saying that doctorates are awarded in the US on the basis of taught skills and exams?

I am getting the impression that our education systems are even more different than I had thought!