dolorosa_12: (matilda)
One of the unfortunate side effects of having a depressive episode for most of March and early April is that my ongoing reading log sort of dropped off the radar. This is a shame, as I've read a lot of great books during that time.

I'm going to leave The True Queen by Zen Cho and Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan for later, longer reviews over on my reviews blog, as they were definitely the high points of my recent reading.

Other than those, I read a little bit of short fiction - 'Old Media' by Annalee Newitz (featuring characters from her book Autonomous trying to navigate relationships and consent in a world inhabited by robots and indentured people; meandering and character-driven, but a bit lacking in substance), 'Rag and Bone' by Priya Sharma (creepy horror story set in an alternate nineteenth-century Liverpool where the rich can use the poor for body parts), and 'Miranda in Milan' by Katharine Duckett (what happens to Miranda when she leaves the island after the events of The Tempest; The Tempest is my favourite Shakespeare play, so I was very much looking forward to this, and I was not disappointed). The first two works are free to read on Tor.com, while the second is a novella, and not free.

In terms of novels, my library holds on The Wicked King by Holly Black and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor finally came through. Taylor is very hit and miss with me. I think she writes fabulous, atmospheric settings, but her writing style usually doesn't work for me, and I think her stories generally lack in substance. I mean, her usual theme is that kindness, imagination and love will save the world, which is unobjectionable, but, as I say, I usually feel that all her effort goes into setting and the general feel of intricate weird quirkiness, and this was definitely my impression from Muse of Nightmares. On the other hand, I adored The Wicked King. Holly Black is a very iddy, indulgent writer, and thankfully her id and mine tend to align. I love what she's doing in this newest iteration of her fairyland setting — she plunders the best bits of European folklore about the otherworld, emphasising in particular the lore that fairies can't tell lies. I love that her fairy characters regard human beings and their ability to lie with fear and horror, and how truth, lies, and circumlocution (and all the other tricks that beings who can only speak the truth employ to avoid speaking truths they don't want spoken) become weaponised. The plot gallops on at a mile a minute, and the twist at the end was fantastic. I'm very much looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.

Sadly, the final book I've read in this recent burst of reading, Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear, was a big disappointment. I've enjoyed Bear's books set in her Karen Memory universe, and particularly appreciated how character-driven they were, so I had expected her space opera to take a similar approach. Instead I found flat characters, lots of engineering/physics info-dumping, and a story that felt like a trial to read. It picked up a bit after the first twenty per cent or so, but convinced me that I am best sticking to Elizabeth Bear's steampunk, unfortunately.

Which recently read books have you enjoyed?
dolorosa_12: (tea)
After my month of posting every day about books, I seem to have completely vanished from the internet, and Dreamwidth in particular. This was mainly due to illness, brought on by intense stress about the political crisis in the UK and the impending Brexit catastrophe. More about that below.

But first, I'll talk about nice things.

I spent last weekend in Germany for the wedding of one of Matthias's cousins. The cousin (and indeed that whole part of the family) live in Iserlohn, and the wedding and reception were all in that part of the world. Matthias and I flew in to Dortmund on Friday afternoon and were collected by his parents, who drove us to the hotel where we were all staying (and which would also be the reception venue). We all had dinner on the Friday night in the hotel with another aunt and uncle. The wedding itself was on midday on the Saturday, in a castle on the top of a hill, and sadly I didn't get any photos of the ceremony itself, but trust me when I say the setting was very picturesque. We then returned back to the reception for what ended up being an entire day of being fed. The reception meal at German weddings (at least in my experience) is always dinner, but as it was about 2pm at that point and no one had had lunch, we were given open bread roll sandwiches as canapes with our sparkling wine. This was then followed by coffee and a variety of cakes at 3pm, and finally the huge buffet dinner in the evening. There was also apparently a midnight snack of cheeses and fruit, but I was certainly not hungry enough by that point to investigate!

There was a DJ playing (as always) the cheesiest collection of both German and English-language music, and I danced for hours. We finally staggered up to bed around 1am. Now normally I would be able to sleep fine, even with the DJ still going several floors below, but because my body's been in panic mode pretty much for the past three weeks, my sleeping abilities are wrecked, and I ended up not being able to sleep at all that night, even though the DJ finished up around 2.30 and then it was deathly quiet. Luckily I didn't need to do anything on the Sunday beyond being driven to the airport (with a detour to a nearby lake which we walked around in the sunsine).

On Monday I went down to London after work to go to a panel discussion at the Piccadilly Waterstones between Samantha Shannon, Zen Cho, Tasha Suri, and Zoe Marriott, moderated by their fellow author Katherine Webber. It was a fun talk — all, with the exception of Marriott (who was a bit rambly) were great speakers, and although it didn't really tell me anything new about their books, it was great to see them in conversation, bouncing ideas off each other and gushing over one another's books.

From the heights to the depths: the ghastly, stressful political, economic, social and psychological catastrophe that is Brexit. For several weeks, I was feverishly following every moment: Twitter open with various commentators live-tweeting sessions in the House of Commons, the Guardian's frenzied politics livefeed open in the next tab over. This did serious damage to both my mental and physical health (I couldn't sleep, I had panic attacks that lasted all night, I had nightmares, the lack of sleep gave me a cold, at one point I literally vomited from stress at work), and in the end I had to stop. I had been following every moment because I was afraid something terrible would happen and I would miss trying to stop it. On Wednesday last week, after a particularly bad night of panic attacks, I realised that I had to just completely switch off everything. So no Twitter, no news — I can't even go to news websites to look up articles on something else, in case I see anything Brexit-related. I've been living in a sort of cone of silence for over a week now, and it's helping, mostly.

I do know that the EU allowed Britain a longer extension, because Matthias told me this morning, meaning that the country will still be in the EU tomorrow, and I will still be an EU citizen for now. I'm assuming we'll have to hold EU parliamentary elections now, although even that was unclear (but surely the EU would be mad to offer an extension to October without making the EU parliamentary elections a condition?). But the panicked uncertainty was too much for me, so I think I'll have to maintain my distance.

I see also that Scott Morrison has finally called an election, so that will be another thing to vote for in May. I'm hoping desperately that all the polls are right and we're going to get a change of government (although the prospect of Bill Shorten being rewarded for essentially not being Scott Morrison is pretty depressing; I met Shorten at a dinner party before he was an MP and I was not impressed). I'm imagining that the campaign will be dismal and ugly.

So that's been my life for the past couple of weeks. I've been listening to a lot of M83. Carry on, carry on/ and after us the flood indeed.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
Yesterday, like (literally) millions of other UK citizens/residents, I went along to the anti-Brexit march in London. I've been going to protest marches since I was fifteen years old, and they've ranged from the tiny and scary (a rally against ongoing involvement in Iraq which ended up with several protesters hurling chairs and tables from a cafe along the march route into and out of the crowd) to gigantic (the huge anti-Iraq war march in Sydney when Australia was on the verge of sending troops in support of the US), and to warm, fuzzy, and little bit smug (when the EDL held an event in Cambridge and we turned out in droves to counterprotest), but I've never experienced anything like the march yesterday. I'd been on a similar anti-Brexit march around the same time two years ago, and it was huge, and it took time to get going, but eventually you were able to move at a normal pace, and you could get to the end of the route and hear the speeches.

This march was something else. I went with Matthias, and with a friend of ours, and we firstly decided to take an earlier train from Cambridge to London — it was already packed, mainly with protesters, but the one leaving an hour later was so full that people were being turned away — and secondly decided to walk from Kings Cross to the start of the march route, because the Tube was already overflowing. We got to the start of the route about half an hour early, and it was full to overflowing — in fact, I learnt later that the organisers had been advised to start half an hour early because the starting point was becoming dangerously overcrowded and couldn't accommodate the people who were still showing up. I am not kidding, but it took more than two hours for us to actually move from our start point, those at the head of the march had reached the end before we even left, and there were still thousands streaming in afterwards, and spilling into side streets. It took us three hours to walk what was really a half-hour walk, we never made it to the end point, and we missed all the speeches (not that I really needed to hear them, as I know what the speakers would have said). It was overwhelming. Estimates of numbers vary wildly — the most conservative estimate seems to be one million, and the highest two million. Meanwhile, the petition to revoke Article 50 has just hit five million signatures.

These numbers make me happy, but they don't make me optimistic. The anti-Brexit campaigners I follow on Twitter have been making wild predictions about what will happen next, based on numbers of petition signatures and feet on the ground at the march. I imagine they have to keep putting this sort of positive spin on things to keep hope alive and keep people fighting, but meanwhile there's talk of a leadership coup afoot in the Conservative Party and Michael Gove is being talked about as a credible prime ministerial candidate. And, as I say, I marched against the Iraq war, which achieved precisely nothing in getting the Australian government to change course, and we knew it wouldn't. People march for all kinds of reasons, and chief among mine is to register my dissent and be counted as a statistic, a pair of feet walking to show that I disagreed with a government decision, and, when history comes to judge us, be a part of the record that shows the government did not speak for me.

On a more nitpicky level, I am uneasy about the anti-Brexit movement pinning its hopes on a 'people's vote' (i.e. second referendum), and that the march was branded as such — although many, like me, were treating the march purely as an opportunity to register their opposition to Brexit and calling for Article 50 to be revoked. The actual People's Vote campaign is still full of those who lead the Remain campaign, including divisive figures like Tony Blair (who I heard on a podcast saying without a scrap of self-awareness that he felt it had been a mistake to keep him at arms' length during the referendum), and polling is less in favour of remaining the European Union than the People's Vote crowd like to imagine (basically, it depends on how you ask the question). What if we had a second referendum, and the answer was still to leave, and to leave with no deal? The first referendum was so painful and cruel to so many migrants, and its result was treated as license to unleash all manner of violent, abusive attacks on migrants and/or non-white people. The idea of a rerun is concerning.

In my ideal scenerio, we would simply revoke and never speak of this again (and go on to deal with the damage done by austerity on which many Leave voters had erroneously blamed EU membership), but that's unrealistic because it would be electoral suicide for both major parties and thus career suicide as well. My more realistic — but still overly optimistic — preference, therefore, would be to revoke Article 50, and undertake a series of consultative citizens' assemblies (with representative groups of voters and, crucially, experts from sectors that are going to be most affected by leaving the EU), and then come up with a way forward. Again, this is never going to happen, and I'll accept the 'people's vote' option if it comes to pass, but at this stage I think even that is too optimistic.

Going on the march felt good, and it was definitely the right thing to do, but I'm deeply worried about where we're heading next. We marchers are right, but it doesn't mean we'll be listened to.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 17: Future classic

I don't really know how to predict this. 'Classic' is such a loaded term, and, as anyone who has studied literature could tell you, the literary canon is not a fixed thing — it changes over time, different countries/cultures/groups of readers have different canons, canonicity is not the same thing as popularity, and sometimes what it takes for something to stick in the cultural zeitgeist is just really, really good publicity.

I suspect N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy is likely to feature in the curricula of a lot of university speculative fiction literature courses in the future, if it's not there already, though.

The other days )

Reading over the past few days has consisted of two novels — King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (I really missed the Dregs, and the Ketterdam setting — Ravkan political manoeuvring has always been my least favourite element of Bardugo's Grishaverse, as I'm in it for found families, migrants and exiles, and heists), and The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf (I devoured this historical novel, set in 1969 Malaysia during a time of race riots sparked by election results and the country's simmering problems boiling over, and it left me feeling quite weepy, in that it emphasises small acts of kindness, community building and solidarity in the face of violence and destruction) — and two pieces of free short fiction. These were 'Circus Girl, the Hunter, and Mirror Boy' by JY Yang (which, like all Yang's writing, didn't quite work for me), and 'The Dragon That Flew Out of the Sun' by Aliette de Bodard (another excellent piece of space opera from de Bodard). Matthias and I also managed to watch Captain Marvel earlier this week, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 11: Secondhand bookshop gem

Nineteen Varieties of Gazelle, by Naomi Shihab Nye. This one is special to me because I was browsing secondhand bookshops with [personal profile] nymeth, and had planned to leave without buying anything, and as we left the shop, she handed me over this collection of Nye's poetry. It was such a kind and generous thing to do, on what had already been a really nice afternoon wandering around the bookshops — and the book itself is pretty good too!

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 9: Film or TV tie-in

You know, I don't think I have ever owned, or even read, a book in this category. I've read lots of books that went in the other direction (i.e. were adapted for film or television), but not tie-ins. So rather than rack my brains trying to think of a book that I know doesn't exist, why don't those of you who do read tie-ins use the comments to tell me about your favourites?

The other days )

Matthias and I are heading out later today to catch up with two of our friends who are visiting from Vienna. They're just two among the many people I know who have left the UK because of Brexit. It will be good to see them (we're all going out for a curry at a new restaurant), but I'm sad about the circumstances.

I don't have much to catch up on in terms of reading. I finished P. Djèlí Clarke's novella 'The Haunting of Tramcar 015' (another story set in an alternate, steampunk Egypt when djinn and other supernatural beings live openly among the human population), which was excellent, although as with all of Clarke's work, it left me wishing that it had been expanded to novel length. I also read 'Lullaby for a Lost World,' a creepy, gothic short story by Aliette de Bodard (freely available on the Tor.com website should you want to read it), and have begun reading God's War by Kameron Hurley. I'm nearly finished it, but it's left me with the conclusion that Hurley's writing is just not for me. It's grimdark in a specific way that I find really repellent, and I particularly dislike that she writes societies where women are uniformly violent, cruel, and exploitative (I do know that this is kind of her thing, so I wasn't unaware of this element going in). This is the second book of hers I've read, and I think it's probably time to stop trying her writing.
dolorosa_12: (ada shelby)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 8: Have more than one copy

Since Matthias and I moved in together and amalgamated our libraries, technically I have two copies of a lot of things (most notably, perhaps, pretty much every Discworld book), but I'll go with The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman here.

When I got married a year-and-a-half ago, my sraffie friends (people I'd met through a fansite for Pullman's His Dark Materials series) gave us a joint present of a crate filled with books, each one representing a story that was important to the individual giver, and each with a message written inside for us. The crate they came in was decorated as if it had previously stored Tokay from Jordan College, the fictional Oxford college in which His Dark Materials begins. And wonderful [twitter.com profile] thelxiepia, my sister by choice, the best friend I made through those sites, and one of my bridesmaids, gave me The Tiger in the Well.

She did this in full knowledge that I already had a copy of the book, a battered version first bought from what I now know was the Waterstones in Gower St, when I was fourteen and on a trip to Europe and New York with my mother and sister. But it was a book for which the two of us shared a deep love — our favourite in Pullman's Sally Lockhart series, and one we'd discussed avidly at various points over the years. It was the perfect gift, and I'm glad I now have two copies as a result.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 7: Forgot I owned it

You know, I'm actually really struggling to come up with something for today. Even as a child, I had a librarian's inclination to catalogue and classify, and the majority of my old books are still back in Australia in my old room at my mum's place, arranged on the shelves exactly the same way they were thirty years and four family homes ago. I can still visualise those shelves, and tell anyone exactly where to go to find any specific book. While my collection of books here in the UK is less extensive and less well organised (just alphabetically by author across multiple bookshelves), I still know which books I own, you know?

What I have forgotten is what the hell happened to my copy of Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan. I know I owned the whole trilogy at one point, I've certainly read the entire trilogy using books that I owned — but this book in the series somehow vanished into the ether, possibly during the month in which I left my student accommodation in Heidelberg to travel around Germany, returned back to the UK to the share house I had previously lived in and in which Matthias was still living, and we moved into the house we still live in now. There was a lot of moving, a lot of suitcases, and a lot of different people's stuff being boxed up and transported to lots of different places, so maybe that's when this book was sucked into the void.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (seal)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 6: The one I always give as a gift

I always give Alison Lester's picture book, Magic Beach, as a gift to new babies. (It's not really at the right level for a newborn, but it's something they would be able to grow into and appreciate as a toddler.)

This book is an Australian children's classic, with absolutely gorgeous illustrations. It alternates between one page spread about mundane beachside activities (swimming, building sandcastles, paddling in rockpools and so on) and one page where the ordinary activity has become magical, and it's very reminiscent of my own childhood, where the first week of every summer holiday was spent 'down the coast' (Broulee, on the south coast of New South Wales, one of the many seaside towns to which Canberrans decamped during their summer holidays), visits to my mother's family in Sydney would always be accompanied by long hours spent in the ocean (even in winter), and most of my childhood holiday memories consist of bobbing around like a cork at various beaches, accompanied by a pack of kids — relatives, or the children of family friends. When I was a child and read Magic Beach for the first time, I always visualised the eponymous beach as Broulee.

So I give this book, with all those memories behind it, not because I expect the children in question to have similar experiences (indeed, most of the babies I've given it to, such as my cousin's daughter, who lives in Seoul, or my friends' son, who lives in Anglesey) are likely never to swim in the ocean. What I'm giving them, I think, is that sense of freedom, and space, and movement, which makes everyday life seem magical.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (sister finland)
I've already mentioned this on Twitter, but I thought it worth posting about here too. I will be going to this author event in London with Samantha Shannon, Zen Cho, Tasha Suri and Zoe Marriott, and would really love to have some company.

I often go to signings, 'in conversation', or similar events, but I almost always end up going on my own, because most of my friends who like the same authors live on the opposite side of the country (or the world), and while I don't mind being on my own, it is a little lonely.

So this post is basically me asking awkwardly if anyone who is either already going to the event, or who thinks it sounds fun and wants to book a ticket would like to meet up in the Waterstones and hang out during the panel.

If this is you, send me a message and we can sort out the details. I would really love to meet up (and if you're like me and get really stressed out about whether people you've interacted with online consider you enough of a friend to want to meet 'in real life,' if we mutually subscribe to each other's journals here and have interacted, you definitely fall into the category of 'people I'd be happy to meet up with at an author event'), and I think the panel is going to be really great. So...get in touch!
dolorosa_12: (quidam)
Thirty Day Book Meme, Day 3: One with a blue cover.

I love that this is a prompt. My librarian heart is laughing and laughing.

Over the years I've no doubt read many books with blue covers, but I went with The Bone Season, the first in Samantha Shannon's wonderful dystopian series, because it's one of my favourites, and because its cover, inspired by the sundial in Seven Dials in London, is gorgeous. I reviewed the book some time ago, so rather than rehashing it again, I'll link to that review. The one-sentence summary is that it's a dystopian novel, whose heroine is captured from London (where she leads a double life as a government official's daughter by day and a member of a criminal clairvoyant syndicate by night) and taken to a prison camp in Oxford, where she learns about the terrifying supernatural powers really running things behind the scenes. I love the book for its setting — particularly the bits that take place in my favourite parts of London — its wonderful heroine (who is, I feel, realistically terrified by the situations in which she finds herself, and makes more morally grey compromises than I feel most dystopian YA heroines normally do), and the central romance (although your mileage may vary on this, as it's very Stockholm Syndrome-y with a massive power imbalance, but what can I say? the id wants what it wants).

The other days )

By a strange coincidence, I posted a review of another Samantha Shannon book today, her standalone epic fantasy The Priory of the Orange Tree. This is a very different beast to the Bone Season series — it's a sweeping epic fantasy, inspired by Elizabethan England and Tokugawa Japan, about the uses and misuses of history, with dragons. You can read my review here.

Other books I've finished or started this weekend are Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (a dizzying blend of various African myths and histories, a straightforward quest story about people with supernatural powers hunting for a lost child, but very tough going due to the meandering, nested style of labyrinthine stories within stories, suddenly starts to have a plot about fifty per cent of the way in, and extraordinarily bleak in its worldview), My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigerian noir novel about an older sister who finds herself repeatedly responsible for cleaning up the bodies of men killed by her younger sister; it's also about the double edged sword that beauty can become — at once a weapon, and something that can be wielded against you), and The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark (another foray into his alternate, steampunk Cairo where djinn and other supernatural beings roam the streets).

It's been a pretty miserable, cold weekend, which I guess is what explains all the media consumption — as well as all the books, I watched BlacKkKlansman with Matthias (which I think was robbed in terms of the number of Oscars it ultimately won — it was excellent), along with various episodes of TV shows. It's been raining on and off, and, to be honest, leaving the house was not a particularly attractive prospect!
dolorosa_12: (startorial)
Massive Attack was everything I could have hoped for and more. I'm not, generally, someone who gets overwhelmed with the experience of live music, but there are rare exceptions, and this was one of them. I didn't quite realise how emotional it would make me, to see the album that I've loved so much since I was a teenager, in awe at its wordplay and dark bass and vocals both soaring and cthonic, brought to life. To hear those words, that have been at once formative foundation and the armour in which I've wrapped myself for more than twenty years, sung aloud. I was lost the minute I walked out into the Tube station and saw this (as I said to Matthias, it's moments like this that I love London, that ridiculous city). And then they sang my favourite song of all time: not just my favourite Massive Attack song, but my favourite song by any artist. I've heard Robert Del Naja whisper-growl we can unwind/ all these half flaws, and it's making up for two decades of concert regrets.

(Two links that probably sum up the concert very well — a review of the show, and an interview with the band.)

We stayed overnight in London after the concert — leaving the O2 to dense, atmospheric fog which somehow felt perfectly in keeping with the mood evoked by the music, and which was still around on Saturday morning, shrouding the post-apocalyptic wasteland which is Canning Town at 7am with a vaguely Luther-ish air. After a quick breakfast in one of my favourite Bloomsbury cafes (oh, London coffee), we wandered up to the British Museum, joining the thronging crowds on the penultimate day of an exhibition on Ashurbanipal, who was an Assyrian ruler. If the self-aggrandising quotes from his letters are to be believed he seemed rather like a more competent version of the menace currently President of the US — he won the vastest empire through battles, he solved all the complicated mathematic problems, sages and soothsayers contacted him for his predictions of the future, and so on. I was mainly struck by how much material had survived — so many letters and stories and tax records on clay tablets, so many incredible carved decorative stones, and so on. As most of this material comes from very dangerous parts of the world (mainly modern-day Iraq and Syria), there is great concern for its safety, and the final room of the exhibition had a video with interviews with Iraqi archaeologists, who had worked on the exhibition and who had been trained by the British Museum in 'disaster archaeology' (i.e. working in high-risk areas with materials that are under threat), and these archaeologists are currently excavating new sites in the region, with the aim that the materials unearthed will remain in Iraq. They were all very passionate about this work, but it sounds at once very dangerous, and a race against time.

I had grand plans today for writing book reviews, and a letter for [community profile] waybackexchange, but other than a bit of pottering around in the garden (we now should hopefully have home-grown zucchini and radishes in a few months' time) and reading a KJ Charles book in the sun, I've failed dismally to have a productive Sunday.

At least I seem to have got my reading groove back. I read Tara Westover's memoir Educated on the train to and from London, which, given how much of it involves studying at Cambridge (indeed, Westover was a friend of one of my Cambridge friends during her time there), seemed fitting. She's obviously lived a very interesting life — brought up as the daughter of fundamentalist Mormons who spent most of her childhood as Doomsday survivalists, completely neglecting her education, and raising her and her siblings in a wholly abusive environment, self-educating herself to the point that she could go to university, and then ending up a PhD student at Cambridge — and if I wished that she would condemn her parents in stronger terms, that probably says more about me than it does about her.

I also read a handful of Tor.com free short stories — three on the basis of recommendations from [personal profile] eglantiere ('What Mario Scietto Says' by Emmy Laybourne, 'Cold Wind' by Nicola Griffith, and 'The Tallest Doll in New York City' by Maria Dahvana Headley), and one of the basis of a review by Amal El-Mohtar ('A Dead Djinn in Cairo' by P. Djèlí Clark). I liked them all except the Laybourne, which, given that its point-of-view character is a survivalist prepper experiencing an apocalypse, and given what I said above about the Westover book, was never going to work for me. I really find it hard to engage with a narrative that expects me to sympathise with survivalists, or which implies that they were right to prep for the apocalypse.

Matthias and I also found time last night to finish off the fifth season of Luther, which didn't work for me for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I felt the writers lost their sense of the characters, who all behaved in ways which were for me widely out of character. I'm not sure if there'll be another season, and I'm not sure if some of the writing decisions made in this one are salvageable, but in any case I was not particularly impressed.

How has everyone been enjoying their weekends?
dolorosa_12: (ada shelby)
I'm at home today, because this evening (too early to be able to get there after finishing work), I am going to be fulfilling a lifelong ambition and seeing Massive Attack live in concert! And not just any concert — an anniversary show focusing on the music from their Mezzanine album. Seeing my favourite band of all time perform the songs from my favourite album of all time is just so amazing. Fifteen-year-old Ronni would be astonished at her good fortune!

As a result of being home, I've been trundling back through my reading page, and come bearing links.

First up, if you, like me, recently watched Russian Doll and loved it, [personal profile] rachelmanija has set up a discussion post here. Spoilers are allowed in the comments.

I really shouldn't sign up for multiple exchanges simultaneously, but the new [community profile] peakyblindersficexchange sounds right up my alley. I love the show, and definitely think we need more fic for this fandom. If you're interested in participating, the various deadlines are there in the Dreamwidth account. It seems to use OR matching, and matches on relationships rather than characters, and my impression is that if you don't see your chosen relationship(s) in the tagset you can request that they be added. Assignments are a 500-word minimum.

If you, like me, adore the 'absolute unit' meme (basically, square sheep), you will also adore [personal profile] bironic's latest fanvid. I've embedded the Ao3 link below.

Squares Are Everywhere (90 words) by bironic
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: "Absolute unit" livestock meme
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: cows - Character, Sheep - Character, Pigs - Character
Additional Tags: Memes, Humor, archival images, Art, Video, Embedded Video, Fanvids
Series: Part 58 of vids by bironic
Summary:

"In awe at the size of this lad. Absolute unit." Or: improbably shaped livestock.



This feels peak millennial, but I discovered this poem, 'The Ex-Girlfriends Are Back From the Wilderness' by Hera Lindsay Bird via Florence Welch's Instagram account, and I kind of love it. like too much Persephone and not enough underworld…/wearing nothing but an arts degree. I feel seen.

I hope you're all having wonderful Fridays.
dolorosa_12: (newspaper)
First up, nominations have now opened for [community profile] waybackexchange, so if you're thinking of participating, you have until 20th February to get your nominations in. I've already used up all my nomination slots, but if anyone has any free, please do drop me a comment here (or a DM) as I have at least one other fandom I'd love to get nominated.

[personal profile] ladytharen has created a great new comm for Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows duology, so if you're interested, please do think about joining!


Join Here!
| Community Profile


This week's books )

This week's TV )

Other weekend stuff )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Firstly, and most importantly, [personal profile] firstaudrina is hosting a multifandom friending meme. If you're interested in participating, follow the link below:

multifandom friending meme

A few people have added me as a result of the meme, and rather than doing an entirely new introduction post, I'll point you towards my most recent one, done in January after my post-reveals Yuletide friending meme. Feel free to ask me anything about stuff I brought up in that post.

I'd also like to put in another plug for [community profile] waybackexchange, a fic and art exchange for fandoms older than ten years. Nominations will open in a couple of days' time, and in the meantime, the mod is going through a review period where you can make the case for borderline canons (such as works older than ten years which have been adapted more recently, or canons with various continuities, such as comics). Given most of my favourite canons are old, this is definitely the exchange for me, and I'm looking forward to taking part!

A few links to things I found interesting )

What I've been up to this weekend )

You might have noticed that after my flurry of posting about books read in January, my reading has slowed to a crawl. I can't say I've read anything that's blown my mind: I read a theological history of Judaism in the centuries on either side of the BCE/CE dividing line, as well as early Christianity. While many of its specifics were new to me, its overall argument was not (to sum up: Judaism was in a great deal of flux during this time, and Christianity, when it emerged, was in no means contrary to Judaism at that point because at that time there were several competing understandings of what Judaism was, and basically religions are fluid, evolving things that change to address the concerns of the times), so it didn't exactly blow my mind. I guess it would do if you had a much more rigid understanding of religion, maybe? The other book I've read so far this month, The Pale Queen's Courtyard by Marcin Wrona, is historical-ish fantasy set in an alternative version of ancient Babylon, with fake fantasy Babylonians, Persians and I guess Egyptians. Matthias and I have been on the lookout for books set in this region (not so much Egypt, as it's fairly well served), but there seems to be a real dearth. I found this novel frustrating: flimsy characterisation, cartoonish female characters, and an anachronistic understanding of religion which the author admits in his afterword he added for a sense of conflict. Basically his 'Persian' characters try to impose their religion on others and stamp out the worship of a particular goddess, but in pre-monotheistic times (and even afterwards), peoples might decide to worship a single god, or that other nations' gods were weak or evil, but they generally accepted that other pantheons existed. As I say, the book was frustrating.

I'll wrap this post up here, as it's a bit of a mishmash, but as always, I'm keen to hear what you're reading, watching, cooking and so on. How have your weekends been? And, new people adding me from the friending meme, feel free to ask me anything about stuff raised in my intro post.
dolorosa_12: (dolorosa)
When you last left me after my discovery of K.J. Charles's books, I had read The Magpie Lord and the follow-up short story, 'Interlude with Tattoos'. I followed this up almost immediately by finishing the series, reading A Case of Possession, 'A Case of Spirits', Flight of Magpies and 'Feast of Stephen' in quick succession. They confirmed for me that Charles is above all a generous and compassionate writer whose characters are — villains and antagonists aside — fundamentally decent people trying to do good. And sometimes it's just relaxing and restorative to read things along those lines. Most of the people commenting in my previous post about K.J. Charles recommended Band Sinister and Jackdaw to read next, and I'm sure I'll get onto them at some point.

Other than the three books that I reviewed on my reviews blog, the only other book read in January that I've not mentioned yet was The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, a book by Katherine Paterson that had been on my to-read list for years. Paterson was one of my favourite authors when I was a child, although unlike most people I did not discover her through Bridge to Terebithia, but rather Of Nightingales That Weep, her gorgeous, tragic, bittersweet historical fiction set during the time of the Genpei War. So although I did eventually read her contemporary US fiction, I was always much more taken with her historical fiction set in Japan and China. Hence wanting to read The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, which I had not actually realised was a picture book. However, that is what it is — a gorgeous, fairytale of a story with beautiful illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon in the style of Japanese woodblock prints.

It's February, and that means it's time for [community profile] halfamoon again. Every year I think I should participate — I'm mostly only interested in fanworks about female characters, I certainly only write fanfic about female characters, but every year it seems to sweep past me without me being able to get involved. Part of the problem is that I can't just sit down and write fic immediately on the basis of a prompt — it takes me a bit longer than a single day to get inspired, and so everything feels too rushed. But if you like female characters and are faster at producing fanworks than I am, I highly recommend checking it out.

One challenge that I'm definitely going to get involved in is [community profile] waybackexchange, an exchange for works in fandoms that are at least ten years old (i.e. it's been at least ten years since any new installment of canon). There are more details about eligibility in the comm, and I hope that all of you who, like me, are mainly fannish about old stuff, nominate and write for this exchange!

How are your weekends shaping up?
dolorosa_12: (florence glitter)
I have very few regrets in life, but one of them is not seeing certain bands/singers perform live at specific stages of their careers. I'm not talking about musicians who were around before I was alive, but rather performances that took place at a time when I theoretically could have been there, but for whatever reason was not.

The first is The Knife's 'Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience' concert. They perform so rarely, and this setlist has every song that I love, and it's so typically them, with the masks and the big screens and all the other ways they disembody themselves during the performance.



And the live version of 'Heartbeats' as perfored during this concert is just gorgeous.



Now, technically there is no way I could have been seeing The Knife live in Gothenberg in 2006: I lived in Sydney at the time and could hardly go halfway around the world to see a concert, but the other gig I have regret about missing was much more doable: Massive Attack at the Melt Festival in 2010.



It's the usual Massive Attack fabulousness with their usual cast of collaborators up on the stage at different moments, and their live version of 'Atlas Air' here is bitter and furious and everything I could have wanted from the song.



Other bands/singers I regret missing at specific moments during their careers — although I couldn't pinpoint it to a specific concert — are Florence + the Machine during tours for either Lungs or Ceremonials (the later albums just don't do it for me), and Daft Punk when they were touring for the Discovery album.

Do any of you have concert regrets?
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
BBC Scotland has been posting little interviews on Twitter with people who migrated to and made their homes in Scotland. They're all really wonderful, but this one in particular really resonated with me. The specifics are obviously very different (he's a Polish baker living in Scotland, I'm an Australian librarian living in the southeast of England), but the underlying foundations of our respective migration stories — as far as I can tell from a heavily edited three-minute interview — are the same. Our adult lives in our countries of origin didn't feel right, like a coat that didn't fit. We were restless, directionless, not sure how to be where we were, and, like a last, desperate throw of the dice, we left, as if changing our location would enable us to change ourselves. And, astonishingly, that is what happened.

I forget, sometimes, until I compare my life ten years ago with what it is now, how miserable and uncomfortable and frightened I was. I felt like I had lost myself. I didn't realise how depressed and afraid I was until, in complete desperation, I emigrated, and realised, after about a month, that the fog had completely lifted. That the fear had gone. That I felt like myself again, for the first time in my adult life.

Migration isn't always big, and bold, and part of something larger. It's not always for a broader reason: fleeing danger, seeking a better life, moving towards concrete opportunities. Sometimes it's small, and personal, flailing about in the dark, moving blindly forwards without knowing whether what awaits you will be better. And, if you're very, very fortunate — and if your new home welcomes you and allows it — you shed your skin, and figure out who you are, and how to be that person again.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
It's been snowing in much of the UK this weekend, although not in Cambridge. However, it has been freezing here — witness the frost as I walked in to the market this morning. I've just returned from a walk to and from Grantchester, and although it was around 2pm when I was out, much of the frost on the ground has not thawed at all.

Other than walking around in frosty landscapes, I've spent a lot of the weekend out — on Friday night Matthias and I went out to one of our favourite wine shops/bars for a few drinks and food truck dinner, and on Saturday it was my former academic department's annual black tie dinner. The number of current students/postdocs/lecturers I know in the department shrinks every year, but most of the time alumni come back for the dinner, so there's always a good handful of people I know to catch up with at the dinner.

My remaining spare time this weekend has been spent reading. As well as Roshani Chokshi's glorious The Gilded Wolves, which I finished on Friday and will probably review more extensively later, I devoured K.J. Charles's The Magpie Lord while lying in a pool of sunshine on the couch this morning. I know a lot of people in my circle are fans of Charles (if my Goodreads feed is anything to go by), and enough people whose reading tastes I trust seemed to have read some or all of her work, so I thought I'd give it a try. It was a sweet, undemanding m/m romance novel, a great blend of mystery, historical fiction and fantasy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt to me as if it could be an interlude within the universe of Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell — the way magic worked felt similar, as did the scaffolding of myth and folklore, although it lacked the literary-ness (and playful re- and deconstruction of the conventions of nineteenth-century novels). And it was just restful to read about fundamentally good and decent people being generous and brave, you know? As a bonus, the ebook also included a short story, 'Interlude with Tattoos', set in the same world, which temporarily fed my hunger for this series — although I suspect I will be buying the next two books in the series as soon as I've finished this blog post!

Other books I've read recently include Katherine Arden's The Winter of the Witch, which again I plan to review more extensively later, The Mermaids in the Basement by Marina Warner (a short story collection in the vein of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, in which biblical tales, stories from Greek myth and so on are given a second-wave feminist twist), and The Prince of Darkness, the fourth in Sharon K. Penman's Justin de Quincy stories (historical mysteries in which the protagonist is a private detective of sorts working for Eleanor of Aquitaine). Both these latter two books had been on my 'to read' list for a very long time, so I'm glad to have finally read them.

What has everyone else been reading this week?
dolorosa_12: (sellotape)
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?

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