Dec. 27th, 2015 09:41 pm
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
So after being burned by too many LGBTQA rec lists (why does anyone rec Perry Moore's Hero, it is a piece of sexist garbage and the gay relationship is so slight that some people have read it and not even realized it was meant to be a relationship, SIT IN THE CORNER AND THINK ABOUT YOUR CHOICES) I decided I was going to just have 2016 be my queer sci-fi/fantasy year! I pulled up a lot of rec lists, squinted at the descriptions of books, and requested about 30 different books.

I have read two so far and-- well, apparently what all those rec lists have in common is that they neglect to mention when something is the start of a series. And both books have ended on cliffhangers (spoilers )), WHY.

...of course only one of them is one I think I'll actually continue.

Look, I WANTED to like Mary Gentle's The Lion's Eye. It's an alternate history where Carthage doesn't fall, the Holy Roman Empire is in shambles, Egypt is ruled by a queen, and the main character Ilarrio is a hermaphrodite and former slave on the run from their mother, who's just tried to kill them! There are great characters, like the Egyptian eunuch who helps them and has some cool chemistry with and is may or may not be a spy but is also CERTAINLY a scribe and book-seller who conveniently wanders around the continent, and the main character's father who didn't know they existed and is now super cheerful about his daughter-son and keeps trying to coax them to come and be his heir and live on his nice little villa and do what they like! The hapless assassin that Ilarrio makes pose as a model for their painting of Judas for hours on end, being uncomfortable and super confused about things!

...but then there is the whole there where about three-fourths of the way through the book everything gets...weird. More spoilers )

I am, however, looking forward to Lisa Bowen's sequel to Wake of the Vultures, which is due out in October. Even if it ended on a LITERAL CLIFFHANGER (thanks, Bowen!), it was definitely a better book and one I want to continue with, despite a few negative qualities to the book. (Two rape attempts, really? Must we?)

But Wake of the Vultures is also an alternate historical fantasy, this time set in a vaguely American West, with the main character Nettie Lonesome, an ill-used half-black, half-Indian girl who murders a stranger one day and begins to see monsters all around her, from vampires to shape-shifting coyotes who have the habit of transforming into Indian twins and ruining Nettie's life. And her entire life changes, with her struggling to find her place in a world that doesn't understand her (although it's a tight third-person POV focused on her and the book uses she/her pronouns, Nettie repeatedly identifies as a man and attempts to pass as one among other people) and in a role she doesn't want (once you've killed a monster, the other monsters tend to come looking for you). The magic in this is wonderfully creepy, the characters are great, and I'm interested in seeing what happens next.  I just have to...wait until October. *pulls a face* 
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
So I did not know until I stumbled upon this collection of short stories that Louisa May Alcott, while writing books like Little Women, was also secretly writing glorious Gothic short stories and novels under a pen name! 

But anyway, I just sat down and read all of The Lost Stories of Louisa May Alcott, which contains nine Gothic stories Alcott wrote. Most of them are pretty great. I cannot decide which is my favorite! 

Is it the one where the guy is super into this woman he just met until he learns that a) the lovely lady is in fact a boy of sixteen who’s run away from school and b) is totally his nephew? THAT’S NOT AWKWARD.

Or is it the tragic romance which boils down to “Let me tell you alllll about how Russia is the worst and Poland is the best, okay? Sit down and let me tell you about this because it’s important. Poland = awesome amazing people. Russia = assholes.” 

cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
 Captain Robert Walton: Dear sis, after failing to be a great writer, I am going to the NORTH POLE to do SCIENCE and find a FRIEND. 

Margaret: Okay, Robert, I love you but can I give you some constructive criticism? 

Robert: That depends. Is this going to be like your constructive criticism for my writing that made me cry?

Margaret: …Maybe. I admire your sense of adventure, but…that whole friendship thing. Why would you think the North Pole is a good place to find a friend? Isn’t the whole point of the North Pole no one lives there?

Robert: Er…. Well…. Look, sis, I’m just lonely! The crew is very nice and professional, but they don’t UNDERSTAND me! They can’t hold a decent conversation about literature or science. I just want someone I can have long talks with and enjoy dinner with and–

Margaret: So by friend you meant boyfriend. Got it. Still not seeing how you’ll find a beau in the North Pole–

Robert: SIS! We followed this weird gigantic figure on a dog sled and I found this gentleman on the ice. He’s like starved and half-frozen, but aside from being nearly dead, he definitely used to be REALLY HOT and he’s SUPER SMART and a GENTLEMAN and he might be into SCIENCE?? :D :D

Margaret: ….Huh. 

cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
 I have been on a noir kick recently (mostly because some day I swear I will write this noir fantasy I've had kicking around in my head for a few years), and have been reading Dashiell Hammett, who's really interesting, except I keep getting attached to characters and then having them turn out to be the killers.

cinaed:  Superstitions are habits rather than beliefs. (Marlene Dietrich)
 "It’s 11:30," I said to myself. "I’ll read a little more of Fly By Night and then I’ll go to sleep.”

…and now somehow it’s nearly 1 am and I’ve just finished it, and I am wide awake and FULL OF FEELINGS. Mosca! Cakes! Petrellis! (I will never not giggle at the school children literally dragging him into an alley and forcing him to teach them. You sweet, optimistic darling.) Poor Blythe the highwayman. 

And of course Saracen the very angry goose. (Please tell me someone wrote the ballad of that last battle, with Blythe versus spoiler and Saracen’s shining moment. PLEASE.)

…god, now I want to reread Westmark all over again…..

cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
So I recommended a few weeks ago The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories, edited by Michael Sims. While unfortunately his collection The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime seems to be missing from my library system, one of the branches DID have Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories.

Dracula's Guest
is divided into three parts: Part I: The Roots, which are pre-Victorian era accounts of "actual" vampires and the undead, mostly situated in Hungary and further into that area of Europe; Part II: The Tree, which are Victorian stories of vampires; and Part III: The Fruit, which are the immediate descendants of the Victorian era, writing their own vampire stories up through World War I.

I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the detective stories collection, but I suspect that's mostly because I love detective stories much more than vampire ones. Still, there were several I thoroughly enjoyed, and reading the supposedly biographical accounts of encountering vampires was fascinating. The stories I enjoyed are also on the internet, so I thought I'd do brief reviews of my favorite stories with a link to the story.

The Vampyre by John Polidori

Iconic in that he contributed this story in the now-famous contest between him, Lord Byron (who wrote the unfinished but fairly interesting "The End of My Journey"), and Mary Shelley who wrote what would become the iconic and influential Frankenstein. Polidori's Lord Ruthven influenced many vampire characters further down the line. I enjoyed this, in that I shook my head a lot because the premise goes like this:

LORD RUTHVEN: *is dark and mysterious*
AUBREY: *is a young orphan whose only living relative is his sister*
AUBREY: Boy, Lord Ruthven is so DARK AND MYSTERIOUS! ....I want to be besties. Please be besties with me, Lord Ruthven.
RUTHVEN: ...sure, we can do a continental tour. Come on then.
RUTHVEN: *turns out to be a vampire, kills the girlfriend Aubrey gets on tour, and then 'dies'* You must promise never to tell anyone what a monster I was! Promise me!
AUBREY: Oh, Ruthven, you are so dark and tormented, and even though you killed my girlfriend, I will totally promise to never reveal you're being a vampire to ANYONE. And I will totally properly bury you!
RUTHVEN: *dies and his body must have mysteriously vanished*
AUBREY: Well, that's strange. I guess these stupid peasants must've robbed his body for his nice clothes!
AUBREY: *mucks about Europe for a bit longer, then returns home*
AUBREY'S SISTER: Aubrey, I've missed you so much! And guess who's been back for a few weeks? Your friend Lord Ruthven!
AUBREY: ....shit.
RUTHVEN: Remember your oath! You can't tell anyone!
AUBREY: Oh no, I did promise! Oh no, I can't tell anyone how you eat people. :(
RUTHVEN: ...that actually worked? I mean, right, you must keep your vow!
AUBREY: *gets sick out of despair*
AUBREY'S SISTER: Hey, Lord Ruthven's proposed to me, isn't that great?
AUBREY: ..............................but my oath.
CORONER: I charge that this woman died of 'death by dumbass.' *stares at Aubrey*

The Deathly Lover by Théophile Gautier

ROMUALDO: *is a priest* Dude. Dude. Let me tell you. Vampires might be scary, but WOMEN. Women are even scarier! And FEMALE VAMPIRES? So terrifying. Let me tell you how women are TERRIBLE.
READERS:, dude, calm yourself down.
ROMUALDO: Women. The WORST. *starts the story*
ROMUALDO: I am so happy to be taking my vows and getting my own parish! *begins to take his vows*
HOT MYSTERIOUS WOMAN: *appears and looks at him*
ROMUALDO: Oh no, she's hot. :( And I just took my vows.
MYSTERIOUS WOMAN: My name is Clarimonda, and while you being a priest is a downer, we can totally work around it! Come and hang out with me at my awesome chateau!
ROMAULDO: I can't, I'm a priest.
FATHER SERAPION: *is another priest* Man, I sure am glad Clarimonda is dead! Did you know she was courtesan and that there were rumors about her being a female vampire, but I personally think she was Beelzebub in person.
ROMAULDO: That's....interesting.
CLARIMONDA: *shows up* So now that I've died and been resurrected, we can be together forever!
ROMAULDO: ....Yes, please.
FATHER SERAPION: ....what did I just say. WHAT DID I JUST-- oh for goodness sake. *saves Romauldo's life and then saunters off, presumably to save other people from their own stupidity*

Further Adventures With Vampires )
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)

The Dead Witness (edited by Michael Sims) is, as the title suggests, a collection of Victorian detective stories. Stories include, naturally, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the first chapter or so of the first Sherlock Holmes novel, and works by Mark Twain and G.K. Chesterton, but it also includes a few more obscure stories as well as a few that have never been re-published before.

I’m about halfway through and so far I’ve enjoyed and/or am looking forward to reading:

  • "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe — I had read this during my Poe class in undergrad, but now you guys! the case is ridiculous because seriously? but then you get G—— (Gisquet) as the prefect, and the story was published in 1941 and talks about the past and so is presumably set at least seven-ten years earlier, and I just— thanks, now I really want a crossover where Javert really, really dislikes Dupin. 
  • "The Diary of Anne Rodway" by Wilkie Collins — This is an epistolary mystery where a poor laundress’s best friend dies mysteriously, and she sets out to discover what really happened. Why I love this one: a) it’s just a very good, extremely interesting story, with a compelling main character and multiple female friendships and b) Anne was so in love with Mary, like, guys, GUYS. She wears flowers from Mary’s grave on her bosom on her wedding day because she can’t forget her. 
  • "The Dead Witness: or, The Bush Waterhole" by W.W. aka Mary Fortune — This is the one I’m about to read, and is apparently the first known detective story written by a woman. Also, it’s set in Australia in the 1860s, a time period I know nothing about, so it should be an interesting read! 
cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman is the first book in the Mrs. Pollifax mystery series, written and set in the 1960s. 

In our opening chapters, we meet Mrs. Pollifax, an older woman who has been widowed for eight years, whose children are grown and have children of their own and live far away, and whose life consists of helping one charity after another. It’s a good life, though a thoroughly unsatisfying one. 

When Mrs. Pollifax begins contemplating how easy it would be to step off her roof while watering her geraniums, she visits a doctor, who pronounces her in the best of health and asks, “Isn’t there something you’ve always wanted to do?” 

Mrs. Pollifax looked at him. “When I was growing up—oh for years—I planned to become a spy,” she admitted.

The next day, Mrs. Pollifax packs her things and heads to Washington, D.C., where she politely and cheerfully harasses her congressman into writing her a reference letter, and then to Langley, Virginia, where she presents herself at the recently opened C.I.A. building and asks if they have need of a spy. 

It just so happens that they do, a courier job that needs an unknown face to pick up a package. It’s a simple enough job— wander around Mexico City pretending to be a grandmotherly tourist for two weeks, and then on a certain day go into a certain bookshop and ask for a certain book. A simple job that gets complicated, and Mrs. Pollifax finds herself kidnapped and spirited away to places unknown. 

But never fear! Mrs. Pollifax is not going to take being kidnapped and threatened with death lying down! No, sir! You can just ask the long-suffering actual spy who has been captured with her, who finds himself asking the following questions:

"Ma’am, are you befriending our jailers?"

"…Ma’am, are you giving one of our jailers a back-rub?"

"…Ma’am, are you trying to convince our jailers that democracy is awesome? Okay, as an agent of the United States I should approve of that, but do you have to do that while taking nice long walks with the jailers?"

"…..Ma’am, did the jailers just invite you to a party? With singing? And alcohol? Ma’am?" 

It is a great book, with caveats for this being very much a pro-democracy stance and violence and murder and some torture because, well, spy stuff. But I read it in one sitting and am definitely looking forward to the rest of the series even if my library doesn’t seem to have the second book….

cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
A book meme that's just talking about books? SOUNDS LIKE MY PERFECT MEME.

A. Author You’ve Read The Most Books From
B. Best Sequel Ever
C. Currently Reading
D. Drink of Choice While Reading
E. E-Reader or Physical Books
F. Fictional Character You Would Have Dated In High School
G. Glad You Gave This Book A Chance
H. Hidden Gem Book
I. Important Moments of Your Reading Life
J. Just Finished
K. Kinds of Books You Won’t Read
L. Longest Book You’ve Read
M. Major Book Hangover Because Of
N. Number of Bookcases You Own
O. One Book That You Have Read Multiple Times
P. Preferred Place to Read
Q. Quote From A Book That Inspires You/Gives You Feels
R. Reading Regret
S. Series You Started and Need to Finish
T. Three Of Your All-Time Favorite Books
U. Unapologetic Fangirl For
W. Worst Bookish Habit
V. Very Excited For This Release More Than Any Other
X. Marks The Spot (Start On Your Bookshelf And Count to the 27th Book)
Y. Your Latest Book Purchase
Z. ZZZ-Snatcher (last book that kept you up WAY late)

(I did this meme on Tumblr and already answered K, M, T, U, V, and Y.)

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:

Uh….I don’t read most modern lit, especially not ones I suspect are written by white male authors with manic pixie dream girl obsessions. I also don’t read horror because I’m a wuss.

Major Book Hangover Because Of:

Hmm, I am not sure what this one means? Like, is it the last time I felt hungover because I got too deep into a book that it hurt to come back to reality, because in that case, the latest one would be Tom Reiss’s The Black Count.
If it’s the last time I devoured a book series over the course of a weekend/a few days, drunk on prose and world-building, then, hm. Probably when I had my Sutcliff binge this summer and read all the Sutcliff novels I could get my hands on!

Three Of Your All-Time Favorite Books:

(Les Miserables is a given, right? Right.)
  • Regeneration by Pat Baker
  • Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede (with the caveat that I no longer buy any of her new books because of race issue stuff)

Unapologetic Fangirl For:

Rod Albright Alien Adventures, the entire quartet, by Bruce Coville. No, I don’t care that it’s aimed at children ages 8-12, or that the prose is pretty basic, I LOVE THIS SERIES and will always be convinced Snout and Grakker are married and that Elisabeth grows up to join the Galactic Patrol as well, and that Madame Ping is the best ever.

Very Excited For This Release More Than Any Other:

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and completed by her sister Ursula Jones after her death. A whole new DWJ book, guys! A NEW ONE.

Your Latest Book Purchase:

Well, I purchased a bunch of books in one go after discovering a gift card in my desk drawer, haha, so:

  • After the Revolution: Antoine-Jean Gros, Painting and Propaganda under Napoleon by David O’Brien
  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
  • The Other Mozart: The Life of the Famous Chevalier de Saint-George by Hugh Brewster
  • The Hundred Days: Napoleon’s Last Campaign from eye-witness accounts by Antony Brett-James
  • The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and Bow by Gabriel Banat
cinaed: Tough times don't last, tough people do, remember? (Gregory Peck)
 Mostly due to the fact that I'm in the middle of reading The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss which is a pretty amazing book about General Alex Dumas, the son of a French count and one of his slaves who was born in Saint-Domingue (what's now Haiti) who rose to become one of the most powerful men in the French army before being screwed over by Napoleon.

He also is the father of someone you might have heard of: Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and, shockingly, The Count of Monte Cristo.  

A good percentage of the first part of the book is "did I mention Dumas was hot? because he was totally hot, like everyone thought so" which, haha, thanks for that, Reiss. ...No, seriously, my favorite section so far has been the part where Napoleon gets pissy because Dumas is hotter than him and everyone knows it:

When they were still both generals in the French Revolution, Napoleon celebrated Alex Dumas’s deeds in the classical terms favored at the time, proclaiming him the incarnation of Horatius Cocles, the ancient hero who saved the Roman Republic by keeping invading barbarians from crossing the Tiber. (French revolutionaries, like American ones, lived in a world of classical allusions—everyone referred to George Washington as Cincinnatus.)

When Napoleon launched the French invasion of Egypt, Dumas went as his cavalry commander, but it was there that the two very different soldiers came to loathe each other. The clash was ideological—Dumas saw himself as a fighter for world liberation, not world domination—but it was also personal. 

"Among the Muslims, men from every class who were able to catch sight of General Bonaparte were struck by how short and skinny he was," wrote the chief medical officer of the expedition. "The one, among our generals, whose appearance struck them more was…the General-in-Chief of the cavalry, Dumas. Man of color, and by his figure looking like a centaur, when they saw him ride his horse over the trenches, going to ransom prisoners, all of them believed that he was the leader of the expedition." 

Of course, Dumas, while brilliant at military strategy, does not seem to have known how to do politics at ALL, judging by his letters to Bonaparte during the Italy campaign. Oh, at first he is pretty smooth, sending Bonaparte letters that are pretty much "sir, sir! I am sure you will be SHOCKED to discover there is corruption in your army!" 

But then you get letters like this one, after Dumas pretty much wins the Siege of Mantua singlehandedly (he has two horse shot underneath him, and leads his ragged band of six hundred men against a stronghold that has been besieged for quite some time and is also in the ALPS) and gets offended when he's not recognized for his efforts: 

January 18, 1797,

I have learned that the jack ass whose business it is to report to you upon the battle of the 27th [the 27 Nivose, i.e., January 16] stated that I stayed in observation throughout that battle. I don't wish any such observation on him, since he would have shit his pants.
Salute and Brotherhood!

...Yeah, the 'jack ass' in question was General Berthier, Napoleon's right-hand man who'd later become his chief of staff.

That was....not a good idea, Dumas.......... I am beginning to see why you did not endear yourself to Napoleon. 
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
 So a few years ago, I wrote a Yuletide story that was a more feminist take on the myth of Hades and Persephone, and one of the reviews mentioned that the prose reminded them a lot of Georgette Heyer. 

Cue my staring blankly because I'd never heard of her. But I found one of her books - Venetia - at the thrift shop and started reading it and, haha, oh. Oh. Where has Georgette Heyer been all my life. 

The main characters engaging in awesome banter using literature to mock each other? And becoming friends first before they actually get to the romance-y part? 

An engaging, lovely relationship between a brother and sister?

A rather decent take, so far, on the brother's disability?

The appearance of laudanum within the first fifty pages?

(Also, Edward Yardley is such a textbook example of a mansplainer that it is killing me, oh my god.)

I am only about 1/3 of the way through the book, but I will definitely be checking out more of her stuff. 
cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
I have realized my knowledge of classic novels is sorely lacking in stuff I was not force-fed and loathed in school (looking at you, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, Of Mice and Men, Heart of Darkness, and so forth), so I decided to start delving into classics.

So far I have read and enjoyed:

-Frankenstein (not going to lie, I want to do a skygiants-style review on it)
-The Little Prince
-Pere Goriot
-The Arsene Lupin short stories

However, I do occasionally run into a problem. See Treasure Island.

I am sure it's a fun book! It has pirates, after all. But man, reading the foreword and learning that there is literally only one woman in the book, Jim's mother, and that she doesn't show up again past the beginning bummed me out. I guess I was spoiled by the Muppet Treasure Island since Miss Piggy is awesome in that, but...I don't know if I can read a book where there's literally one female character.

I will give it a try, but man is that too many dudes. 


Jun. 25th, 2010 05:52 pm
cinaed: Tough times don't last, tough people do, remember? (Gregory Peck)
My mother and I went to the yearly library book sale and...bought a lot of books. And some super cheap CDs!

Music and books behind the cut )

So 4 CDs and 12 books. And I am so happy about finally tracking down Gaudy Night. Now I can finally read the rest of my Peter Wimsey books! (I wanted to read them in order.)
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Scruffy Hero (Radek Zelenka))
Dear self,

Check out these books:

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army by Donald Engels

The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs

What is Japanese Architecture?: A survey of traditional Japanese architecture by Kazuo Nishi and Kazuo Hozumi

Warriors of the Steppe: A Military History of Central Asia, 500 B.C. to 1700 A.D. by Erik Hildinger

The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter

Engineering in the Ancient World by J.G. Landels

Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart


Jun. 7th, 2008 04:55 pm
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Cyril and Frank (Slings and Arrows))
Went to the thrift shop and bought, uh, books. Whee!


The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner


Passage by Connie Willis
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Touched by Magic by Doranna Durgin
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
White as Snow by Tanith Lee
Grass for His Pillow: Book 2 of the Otori
Brilliance of the Moon: Book 3 of the Otori by Liam Hearn


Woman's 'True' Profession: Voices from the History of Teaching by Nancy Hoffman
What If? Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been Ed. by Robert Cowley

:D I love books.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Waistcoat (Ezra Standish))
So, I've been visiting the local thrift shop and buying all their books. (What? Paperbacks are 50 cents!) Recently, I bought all I could find of James Howe's Bunnicula series, because it is awesome.

...Yeah, the fourth book, Nighty-Nightmare? Is autographed by James Howe.

So naturally, I was all, "Awesome!" and told my friends, and one wondered if you could make some money off of an autographed book, and so I went to see if he's still writing novels. (Yes, he is.)

Wikipedia was very informative, letting me know that James Howe is still writing and that his last book was in 2006.

Also? That James Howe is gay.

...No, seriously. After a couple paragraphs about his writing and life you get this blurb: "After the death of his first wife, Howe remarried and fathered a daughter, Zoey, but eventually divorced and came out as gay. He is currently in a committed relationship with lawyer Mark Davis."

Hee. God, I love Wikipedia so much.


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