dolorosa_12: (sellotape)
[personal profile] dolorosa_12
I normally work full-time, but I'm on leave today due to having a few leftover days of annual leave to use up before the end of January. I generally tend to keep a handful of the previous year's days of leave in reserve, because the return to work after Christmas is always draining (visiting my in-laws in Germany, while enjoyable, is not exactly restful, due to the travel and the whirlwind of social events, so I tend to return after the Christmas break feeling almost as tired as I did when it started), and the winter darkness itself is draining. The few days of leftover leave in January, therefore, are a chance to recharge, and just get stuff done: it's amazing how much more I'm able to get done on weekends when I know they're going to be three days, rather than two!

What that meant, over the past three days, for me, was cleaning/housework (cleaning the bathroom, wet- and dry-dusting of all the window frames, skirting boards and hard surfaces, cleaning the fridge, and the usual weekend grocery shopping in the market and laundry), exercise (running with Matthias tonight, and, blissfully, starting the day with a long yoga session which I'd normally not have time to do before work), blogging here at Dreamwidth and responding to the remainder of comments on my various Yuletide fics, and, above all, reading.

I've read five books so far this year, most of which took place over the course of this three-day weekend. Two of the books were Christmas or birthday gifts from Matthias: The Vampire: a New History by Nick Groom, which is an academic book about the development of vampire mythology and literary representations of vampires between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries (everything leading up to Dracula, basically), and N.K. Jemisin's collection of short stories, How Long 'til Black Future Month?, of which I had only read 'The City Born Great' before. The former book was a Christmas present, and the latter a birthday present (I'm born in late December).

The Jemisin short stories were, for the most part, excellent: I generally felt those set in secondary worlds (one was set in the universe of her Dreamblood duology and one in the world of The Fifth Season) were weaker than those set in fantastical versions of various cities in the US. Those latter stories ranged in setting from modern New York to a steampunk alternate history New Orleans in which technological innovation gave Haitian revolutionaries the ability not only to overthrow those who had enslaved them but also thrive and prosper (in stark contrast to what happened to Haiti in reality) and undertake clandestine operations to improve the lot of slaves and free black people elsewhere in the region, with some excellent interludes in the Jim Crow-era US South (a woman's bargain with transplanted European fairy folk aids the civil rights movement), a side trip to Italy, and a return to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. These stories are in some ways a love letter to the cities in which they take place, but even more a love letter to black history, culture and communities that have flourished in those cities and regions in spite of everything.

Other than those two gift books, I read Jade City by Fonda Lee, the first in a trilogy about warring families of gangsters in a fantasy East Asian city (it seemed most like Hong Kong to me, but Lee has said that it's an amalgam, rather than directly inspired by a single place). Lee herself has a martial arts background, and it definitely shows — alongside the obvious wuxia influences. I felt it started a bit slowly, but once it got going, it was rivetting, particularly the complex network of obligations, family and marriage ties that underpinned her imagined society. Underneath all the magical jade, deadly intoxicating substances, and shoot-outs in casinos and cafes, Jade City remains a deeply human story, about flawed people, and the lonely cost of power.

I've also been trying to make a dent in my 'to read' list on Goodreads. Towards the end of last year I went through the whole list and looked up how easy it would be to track down the already published books at various libraries, or secondhand, and ordered a bunch of secondhand books. These are just starting to trickle in, and I read one such book, The Singing Stone by O.R. Melling, this morning. This was one of my most adored books when I was a teenager — I borrowed it repeatedly from the public library, and wrote futurefic about the characters, and so on — but I never owned a copy and hadn't read it for at least fifteen years. Given its subject matter (a fantasy retelling of various medieval Irish texts) I was concerned it wouldn't hold up (my background as a researcher of medieval Irish literature means most 'Celtic' fantasy is painful to read), but I shouldn't have worried. It did have a lot of the familiar 'Celtic' fantasy clichés, but its interweaving of myriad different texts (Lebor Gabála Érenn, which is one of the texts I focused on in my PhD, Scél Tuáin meic Chairill, and Cath Maige Tuired were the ones I recognised) was deft, and it mostly held up. It did that irritating thing of completely ignoring the fact that these, like all medieval Irish texts, were composed in ecclesiastical establishments, and have a huge Christian component, instead pretending that they were the work of pre-Christian times, but since basically everyone apart from medievalists thinks 'Celtic' literature is like this, I can't criticise Melling too much (and indeed, the story she was trying to tell wouldn't work if she didn't misrepresent these texts in this manner). In any case, it was a nice little moment of nostalgia, reading one of the books that no doubt subtly influenced me in my decision to pursue medieval Irish as a major in undergrad (although I had to laugh at the main character learning Old Irish to a level of proficiency that she was able to converse in it after a single year of study).

The final book I've read so far is Night Vine, the second in Felicia Davin's Gardener's Hand trilogy, but I'll leave off saying anything about it now as I want to write a longer review of the whole trilogy when I've read it.

The other thing I did this weekend was finally start filling some of the many new icon slots I have since I was kindly given six months of paid time here on Dreamwidth by a very generous friend. I've only ever had a free account here (and on LJ previously), so I'd been used to dealing with a maximum of just fifteen icon slots — hardly enough to convey the full range of emotions or subjects I want to convey when I'm posting or commenting! The one hundred I get with the paid account seems like an astonishing luxury, and I still haven't filled them all, but it's nice to finally be able to use some of the various icons I've been carrying around with me since I first went online more than ten years ago. I'm still very much looking for icons to convey the subjects of (paper) journalling, fountain pens, cooking, and coffee, so if anyone has any recommendations for places to look for these, or favourite icon making communities that focus on non-fannish icons, I would greatly appreciate it, as I am utterly incapable when it comes to anything involving the creation of images.

How have your weekends been? What have people been reading?

Date: 2019-01-07 05:05 pm (UTC)
corvidology: ([EMO] PROCRASTINATE)
From: [personal profile] corvidology
My weekend was filled with thinking about getting the house organized but not actually doing anything. Kudos to you for actually getting it done.

I choose to work a condensed schedule, four ten hour days, so all of my weekends are three day weekends. It just works really well for me.

Date: 2019-01-07 07:49 pm (UTC)
corvidology: ([EMO] READING)
From: [personal profile] corvidology
It's amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in a small house if you put your mind to it. Or so I've been told. *whistles*

Ah, in my checkered career I've worked reference in academic libraries so I know exactly what you mean.

Date: 2019-01-07 05:14 pm (UTC)
bironic: Neil Perry gazing out a window at night (Default)
From: [personal profile] bironic
I also just read the NK Jemisin collection and loved it. The stories you called out are the ones that stood out to me as well! Plus maybe the one with the cloud dragons.

Date: 2019-01-07 05:15 pm (UTC)
shadaras: A white person with short brown hair smiling at the camera (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadaras
I got partway through Jade City before putting it down and not getting back to it before I had to return it to the library -- hearing that it picks up after a bit is a good argument for checking it out and trying to read it again!

My weekend's been good; all my housemates are finally back from their holiday travels as of last night, so we'll get to do our household gift exchange this evening, and I'm looking forward to that.

I just finished reading A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine. A friend gave me an ARC as a Christmas gift -- it doesn't come out until March -- because it sounded like exactly my kind of story. It's a political space opera about language, identity, and poetry, which... is, indeed, exactly my sort of thing.

Date: 2019-01-07 08:55 pm (UTC)
shadaras: A white person with short brown hair smiling at the camera (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadaras
I'll try to remember to! I also really like family things, and Jade City seems like the kind of book I'd like -- something about the writing just wasn't clicking, I think. So, trying again with a more specific knowledge should work alright. (Once my head is out of sci-fi/space opera land, at least...)

It's a lot of fun, living with a bunch of friends. I'm glad I can have it, even on the days I would really like to have fewer roommates and more space to myself.

Yeah! It was very unexpected, and I didn't get any warning -- I just opened up the package and saw it and went "Oh wow" and was immensely delighted. I'm really excited for when it comes out and everyone can read it. And yeah, it is a Tor book -- I don't know things about their audiobooks, because that's not a medium I'm usually able to consume (audio processing is hard and my attention suffers immensely with purely audio things), but I hope you'll get a hold of it without too much trouble. :)

Date: 2019-01-07 09:10 pm (UTC)
shadaras: A white person with short brown hair smiling at the camera (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadaras
True! I'm gonna be moving in with my girlfriend this summer, and I am really looking forward to that -- as much as I love my friends, living with only one other person sounds so nice.

Ah, sorry! I must be more tired than I thought, to have forgotten to distinguish those. Weird that Tor ebooks are more expensive, though; ebooks seem like they should be so nice for cheap and easily accessible books.

Date: 2019-01-07 06:30 pm (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
Weekends have been fine. Weekdays, too. We're setting up to remodel a couple of bathrooms, after which things will be less fine during the week.

This past weekend, we saw "Aquaman" with a friend. Way too much stuff that was the way it was because it looked cool (Aquaman counts there, too) but almost certainly wouldn't be that way. Wildly inconsistent Atlantean physiology. Way too much emphasis on Stuff Blowing Up, and Gigantic Battles With The Fate Of The World In The Balance. And there's no cable anywhere strong enough to suspend my disbelief against the liberties they take with fluid dynamics. In short, it's a superhero movie on the low end of the plot believability scale (even for superhero movies) with stunning visuals. If that's your thing, go and enjoy it. It wasn't especially close to two and a half hours I'll never get back -- more like, "Is that all you've got? I've seen better."

Recently completed: Charles Stross' The Labyrinth Index, his latest Laundry Files novel (I'm a big fan), and Harry Turtledove's latest alternate history, Through Darkest Europe. That one was entertaining, but puzzled me a bit in a couple of ways. I'm not sure how the supposed triggering event led to the changes in the setting, and, despite being set in roughly the present time, and having indications from the plot (space flight, structures that would only be buildable with computer-assisted structural engineering) that computing technology was reasonably advanced, there was no indication of any sort of mobile communications or ubiquitous computing. Which strikes me as odd, given that on our current timeline, mobile communications has become the preferred infrastructure, even in places where the infrastructure is otherwise week.

Also continuing my progress through Gardner Dozios' Year's Best SF collections. I'm a bit behind at the moment: still working through #33. I already have #34 and #35 to go through before I can be sorry that there will be no more of them.
Edited Date: 2019-01-07 06:34 pm (UTC)

Date: 2019-01-07 08:43 pm (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
>> Yikes, bathroom remodelling sounds exhausting, <<

Not too much. We're hiring the work done. Certainly wouldn't attempt it ourselves; neither spouse nor I are inclined that direction. We won't be nearly as involved as the folks whose home inmprovement show up on the TV remodeling shows. But it's still Strangers In The House, and Loud Noises Starting Way Too Early. The cats aren't gonna like it.

>> Sorry to hear that ["Aquaman"] was such a waste of time and money for you, though! <<

Not really a waste, just not really my thing. But it's still dinner and a movie. Which is fun regardless.

The lack of mobile communication in the Turtledove book isn't used as a plot contrivance. The missing IT support gets more in the way there, even though our timeline still has problems with inter-agency communications. (The leading characters are investigating something that may be the first signs of a global terrorist plot aimed at starting World War I. Which didn't happen in the book timeline.) Still jars, though.

Date: 2019-01-07 08:17 pm (UTC)
bruttimabuoni: (Suffer)
From: [personal profile] bruttimabuoni
That sounds like an excellent plan for January time. I am dreading this five day week (I didn't do one in December, and in fact I'm rarely in the office five days in a row. But no meetings this week means no relief from the desk).

I think this icon is by LJ's redscharlach, who used to do amazing icon posts for fannish and non-fannish topics alike. Things like this one for general use: https://redscharlach.livejournal.com/202120.html. She's still around on twitter and cheerful about ongoing fannish use.

Date: 2019-01-07 08:25 pm (UTC)
convenientalias: a painting i did a while back :) (Default)
From: [personal profile] convenientalias
I've been wanting to read Jade City so it's nice to hear that it's good! Lee was really good at writing martial arts stuff in Zeroboxer so it's not so surprising to hear she has the background, exciting that it's coming up again :) as for me, I'm reading The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones currently and it's soooo good. It's the second book in the Alpennia series and I was really worried it wouldn't be as good as the first bc sequels ya know but actually so far it's better.

Date: 2019-01-08 04:41 am (UTC)
aimedatthestars: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aimedatthestars
I actually recently finished NK Jemisin's short story collection as well. One of her short stories not included in the anthology, was recently read on Levar Burton Reads, and was excellent, btw.

I recently read some ebook novellas that came in for me too, Aliette de Bodard's In the Vanisher's Palace and Ilona Andrews' Diamond Fire. It was the first work of de Bodard's I'd read!

Date: 2019-01-08 11:06 am (UTC)
merit: (Flower Fishnets)
From: [personal profile] merit
Oh your leave runs out every year? that's annoying! I can accrue leave (and flex) though only to certain levels before this whole work/life balance gets mentioned. I'd prefer to work four days, but compressed hours are unlikely to be granted tbh though part time & WFH days are generally granted. We need to be public facing to the extent we're contactable by phone but not 'in person' ha. Getting through security would probably not be worth it though!

I probably would be able to read your review of Gardener's Hand trilogy until I've completed it!! ^^

I follow the 'main' icon communities. I do like lovelyhip for 'aesthetic' icons. Luckily DW has an 'icon maker' feature of sorts that lets you crop an image which I've used a few times. Otherwise for some icons, I've literally googled "Fandom Name Icons" and tumblr usually has some tagged appropriately.

Date: 2019-01-09 10:49 am (UTC)
merit: (Plant)
From: [personal profile] merit
Public holidays are separate from annual leave though we do get one concessional day between Xmas and NY. I guess there's no /simple/ leave! and oh that's irritating!! at least the partner and I get the same amount of leave though we don't always take it together.

You'll probably finish a bit before me! But I'll try to backtrack your post after I've finished the series. I also like to have a book in between so that may slow my pace...

Good luck finding what you want! :)

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dolorosa_12: (Default)
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