dolorosa_12: (le guin)
This is just a brief post to mention that I have (finally) dusted off my Wordpress blog to write a review of a few books that I've enjoyed recently. The review covers The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh, Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow, and The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon. It's spoiler-free, but given that two of the books reviewed are not the first in their respective series, it does touch on events in earlier books. The review can be found here, and I'm happy to respond to comments either on the original post, or here on LJ/Dreamwidth.

I'm gearing up to nominate some fandoms and characters for Night on Fic Mountain, one of my favourite multi-fandom fic exchanges. It's an exchange for small fandoms (similar to Yuletide, although normally on a slightly smaller scale), and I thoroughly enjoyed it last year when I participated for the first time. I highly recommend it to those of you who participate in fic exchanges. Nominations are currently open, and will be until 31st March. There are more details about the schedule for the exchange here.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
Not much to report this week, just two novels read - Runemarks and Runelight by Joanne Harris. These were solidly written, with nothing obviously wrong with them, and yet both failed to grab me, and I read the second more out of a sense of duty than interest.

I think I'm going to have to say that Harris' interpretations of Norse myth simply don't work for me. I read her Gospel of Loki last year, and it, like these two books (which imagine a Europe shaped primarily by Norse, not Roman influence, in which Ragnarök has already happened), failed to resonate. I think part of the problem is that in books about gods (whatever the mythology), I'm wanting something very specific which most authors either fail to deliver, or aren't interested in writing. I touch on it in this review of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, which does what I want in terms of supernatural-human interactions. Basically, what I want is a reflection on humanity, intense, complicated relationships between humans and deities, and, if possible, some kind of tense readjustment of human characters' moral landscapes once the beings they worship as fairly distant, abstract ideas become part of their world as physical realities. (If this happens in reverse - if gods and supernatural beings are forced to adjust their understanding of human beings once they spend time in close proximity to humans - then so much the better.)

I realise this a very specific requirement, and that I'm basically taking Harris to task for failing write the story I wanted to read, so if post-apocalyptic retellings of Norse myth are your thing, I advise you to read other reviews rather than taking my word as an accurate evaluation of the qualities of these books. For me personally, however, they were a disappointment.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
I saw Guardians of the Galaxy two days ago, and, a couple of quibbles with certain narrative choices aside, thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't really have much to say on the matter, but my friends [tumblr.com profile] jimtheviking and [tumblr.com profile] shinyshoeshaveyouseenmymoves have been having a very interesting conversation about it which I felt was worth sharing. Expect spoilers for the whole film.

This review of The Magicians by Lev Grossman by Choire Sicha doesn't really make me want to read the series, but makes a couple of points about writing women in fantasy literature that really resonate with me:

“When I was writing the story in 1969, I knew of no women heroes of heroic fantasy since those in the works of Ariosto and Tasso in the Renaissance. … The women warriors of current fantasy epics,” Le Guin wrote in an afterword of The Tombs of Atuan, “look less like women than like boys in women's bodies in men's armor.” Instead, Le Guin wouldn't play make-believe, and her women were sometimes vulnerable, including physically. She refused to write wish fulfillment, even the wish fulfillment many of us crave.

The first time I read the Earthsea quartet (as it was then), the stories of Tenar and Tehanu resonated with me in a way that was powerful and profound. I was fourteen or fifteen years old, and I think it was the first time I'd read stories that gave me a glimpse of how terrifying it was going to be to be a woman. They are not easy or comforting stories, and they showed a world that I was about to enter and told me truths I had at that point only dimly understood.

Here is a post at The Toast by Morgan Leigh Davies about attending the Marvel panel at SDCC. It made me deeply grateful that my fannish interest lies in characters and not actors.

This post by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast is deeply hilarious:

Far be it from me to criticize the tactics of modern union organizers, but frankly I think the world was a better place when tradesmen organized to agitate for their rights in the workplace and practice esoteric mind-controlling spells at the same time.

The Society of the Horseman’s Word was a fraternal secret society that operated in Scotland from the eighteenth through to the twentieth century. Its members were drawn from those who worked with horses, including horse trainers, blacksmiths and ploughmen, and involved the teaching of magical rituals designed to provide the practitioner with the ability to control both horses and women.


(As an aside, if you're not reading The Toast, you're missing out.)

Samantha Shannon has some good news. Her Bone Season series was intended as a seven-book series, but Bloomsbury had initially only committed to publishing three. But now they've gone ahead and confirmed that they will publish all seven. Samantha is awesome, as is the series, so I am thrilled.

Speaking of The Bone Season, I made a Warden/Paige fanmix on 8tracks. I go into more detail about the reasons behind my choice of songs here.

The [twitter.com profile] PreschoolGems Twitter account is one of the most fabulous things ever to exist on the internet.

This particular A Softer World gives me life.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
It appears that I didn't write anything on LJ/Dreamwidth for the entire month of April. I'm not sure exactly why that was, although I will say that I had Matthias' family staying for two weeks, which made it very difficult to find a spare moment. His sister and her fiancé stayed with us for one week, and his parents were here for two weeks, although they stayed in their caravan in a camping site nearby. The fiancé had never been to Cambridge before, so we did a bit of sightseeing, including going up onto the roof of my college chapel, from where you can see the whole of Cambridge. To get there you have to climb this very claustrophobic, winding spiral staircase. It's worth it when you get to the roof, though.

Anyway, after they left, Matthias went to Aberystwyth for four days. He's just started doing an MA in library and information studies there (via distance learning), and you need to attend a week-long course there every year. The rest of the coursework is done by distance. I really, really dislike being home alone. I find it almost impossible to sleep and generally feel unsafe at night. I can cope with it when I live in an apartment building, or at least on the upper floor of a house, but our house is single-storey, which is just about the worst for me. But Matthias had a good time on his course, and met all the other people in his cohort, who all seem a very interesting bunch. They're mostly in their 20s or 30s, and tend to have done at least a BA (and in some cases an MA and PhD) in some kind of humanities field and come to librarianship indirectly, like him. I'm interested to see how he goes with the course, as I'm keen to do it myself in a few years' time (once I've recovered from the exhaustion of doing a PhD!).

On Friday, I went to London to hear Samantha Shannon (author of The Bone Season, the first of a series of novels about a dystopian London where people have supernatural abilities) in conversation with Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, whose film company has the rights to adapt the first book. I did a write-up on Tumblr. The event was mostly awesome, although there was one sour note. One of the main characters in The Bone Season is an otherworldly being called Warden. He's not described in much detail in the book, aside from mention of him having 'dark, honey-gold'-coloured skin. People in the audience were asked to suggest actors who fit their mental image of him. Those suggested were Tom Hiddleston and Cillian Murphy. I think you can figure out why those are appalling suggestions, but in any case, I was heartened to see that most of the fandom seems to support me in perceiving Warden as just about anyone other than a white actor. What was even more encouraging is that Samantha Shannon herself agreed with me and said she was committed to fighting against whitewashing in any adaptation of The Bone Season. I will be very disappointed if a white actor is cast as Warden, and will not see any film in which this is the case.

Yesterday, our department hosted the annual colloquium which we share with Oxford. It's for students of Celtic Studies at both universities to present papers on aspects of their research, and alternates between Cambridge and Oxford as a location. I found it interesting to note that when we went around introducing ourselves at the beginning, all the Oxford students said their individual college affiliations, whereas the Cambridge people all said the name of our department rather than our colleges. It's a subtle indication of how we perceive ourselves, I guess.

The conference was good fun, particularly as I didn't have to give a paper this year. I just relaxed and hung out with all my friends, most of whom I hadn't seen in over a month. My supervisor was there, and we were talking about my decision to leave academia and work in libraries. She asked me if I missed research, and I realised that I didn't miss it at all. Most people I know who work in academia have this drive, this single-minded obsession with whatever they research (in much the same way as authors have this drive to tell stories). I've never had it, and I guess that's another indication that I was never cut out to be an academic.

I finally succumbed to the lure of 8tracks. I'm ridiculous enough about music as it is, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I joined. If you're on there, you should add me. I've already made one playlist.


We Own the Sky from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.



In other musical news, the new Seven Lions EP, Worlds Apart, is simply glorious.

dolorosa_12: (ship)
Yesterday, Matthias and I made a flying visit to London. We'd originally planned to go there for the whole day, but that was when we thought I'd be finished my PhD by now. As it turns out, I'm not finished (though I'm so close I can see the end of the tunnel), and thought it better to spend the morning working. We caught the train after lunch and were there by 3pm. One thing I love about living in Cambridge is how close it is to London!

Our original purpose in visiting was to see Matthias' old PhD supervisor give a paper at the British Academy. The paper itself was excellent. Richard (Matthias' old supervisor) is a very good speaker, and was able to pitch the content at exactly the right level so that the very senior experts in Old English, Middle English and other fields of medieval studies, and the enthusiastic members of the public would all be able to get something out of it. A lot of old friends of mine who have since graduated and gone on to work outside academia in London also showed up, and it was great to catch up with them over a glass of wine afterwards.

Prior to the paper, we had a coffee in my favourite London cafe, and then wandered around Soho for a bit trying to figure out where we would eat dinner.

I insisted on stopping off in Seven Dials and having my photo taken. It's getting to the point where the entire city of London is crisscrossed with a network of Significant Sites That Feature in Ronni's Favourite Works of Literature. (Almost the first thing I did when I moved to the UK was visit the ruins of St Dunstan in the East, a place which features prominently in Sara Douglass' Troy Game series.) Seven Dials is where the criminal gang of clandestine clairvoyants are based in Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season, which as you'll recall is my latest literary obsession. So I made poor Matthias take my photo in Seven Dials. The Christmas lights were on, and it was almost dark, so it looked very pretty.

A couple of photos behind the cut )

So, anyway, after that, we made it to the talk, which as I've noted was in the British Academy. I'd never been before, and I was very impressed by the setting. If you can make it in academia in this country, you get to go to some pretty cool places.

After the talk, we went out for dinner at this Vietnamese restaurant in Soho. I love Vietnamese food, and can't get it in Cambridge, so I was very keen to see what Banana Tree was like. The food was excellent, and extremely cheap, especially by London standards. When I'm in London, I normally go to the same places over and over again, so it was good to try something new.

After dinner it was back to Cambridge and reality.
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
Every so often, a book comes around that is just so perfectly written to engage with my own particular narrative tastes that it's as if it had been written just for me. The most recent such book is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Not only is it as if Shannon sat down with me and made a list of all the things I most wanted to read - and then wrote a book to those specifications - but her playlist for the book is packed full of songs by my favourite artists. And if that's not enough, the song she describes as her protagonist's 'theme' is a song that I've long considered a sort of personal mantra.

Anyway, if you like urban fantasy, alternative versions of London, post-apocalyptic settings that offer hope rather than bleakness, young female protagonists who actually have support networks and female friends, underground networks of criminals operating as a sort of grey market for the dispossessed - in short, if you like all the things I like, you should check it out.

If you need more convincing, my review is here.

And if anyone else has read The Bone Season, I'd love to talk to you, because otherwise I fear this is going to go the way it normally does: namely, me being a lonely Fandom of One.

In other news, today is Matthias' birthday (and my sister Kitty's birthday too) and our anniversary. Yes, we got together three years ago on his birthday. He's currently at a librarian training event in Bury St Edmunds, and when I've finished my shift at work we're meeting up there to have an early dinner before heading back to town for another friend's birthday party. November is such a birthday month. This week alone held my sister Mim's birthday (which she shares with five other friends of mine), my dad's birthday (which he shares with the other friend whose party we're attending tonight) and Kitty's birthday. It seems a bit excessive!

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rushes into my heart and my skull

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