dolorosa_12: (mucha moet)
Three of the books I was most anticipating for 2019 were published in three consecutive weeks in January, so I've been having a fantastic time reading this month! All of them were utterly fabulous, and exactly what I hoped for — so they're going to be a hard act to follow. The books are The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (the final book in her Winternight Trilogy, historical fantasy that weaves mythology with the events of fourteenth-century Russia), The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty (the second book in her Daevabad Trilogy, a series about the political tensions in a djinn kingdom from the point of view of a girl who began her life as a scammer in the streets of Cairo during the Napoleonic wars), and The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (the first in a series of heist novels whose characters live in a magical version of Belle Époque Paris and essentially steal back the antiquities looted by colonial powers).

I reviewed all three books over on my reviews blog, and as always would love to talk with you about them in the comments either here or there.
dolorosa_12: (dolorosa)
Welcome, new people who have subscribed as a result of the friending meme. It's great to see so much activity here on Dreamwidth, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know you all.

Due to this flurry of activity, I thought it best to do an updated intro post. People who've had me in their circles for a while, please feel free to read or skip as you please. And both new and old people, please feel free to ask me any questions!

Those things they see in me I cannot see myself )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
I know it's part of Yuletide culture to post recs while the collection is still anonymous, but I vastly prefer doing so after reveals, because it's important to me to be able to credit the authors.

This year had a fantastic crop of fic, and I'm really happy with both my own gift, and the reception of the four fics I wrote. I also went about commenting and keeping track of what I wanted to rec in a much more deliberate way, with spreads in my bullet journal noting down fic titles, whether I'd commented, and whether I planned to recommend the fic in question.

I received an absolutely wonderful Spinning Silver fic. One of my favourite scenes in canon was the moment when the Staryk lord joined Miryem to dance at her cousin's wedding, and I had made a prompt suggestion for another moment where either he joined her for another family celebration or Jewish festival. My author took that prompt and ran with it, and the result was a fic that took place during Purim celebrations!

True Masks (2144 words) by ariadnes_string
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Spinning Silver - Naomi Novik
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Miryem Mandelstam/The Staryk Lord
Additional Tags: Post-Canon, Purim, Canon Jewish Character, Jewish Holidays
Summary:

Miryem and her husband celebrate Purim



I wrote four fics — my assignment, which was in The Dark Is Rising fandom, and three treats (another in The Dark Is Rising, one in The Queens of Innis Lear, and another in the Winternight trilogy fandoms). The broad theme of all these fics seems to have ended up being 'people go out into extreme weather and wild landscapes and have extreme emotions', one fic had a title taken from an electropop song, and one drew from several medieval Irish texts, all of which, I feel, are my fic 'tells'.

My fics behind the cut )

I aimed to comment substantially on at least fifty works in the main Yuletide collection, and at least twenty in Madness. I succeeded in the former aim, but in the latter I was thwarted by lack of familiarity with enough of the canons to hit my twenty-comment goal. The following group of recs represent those of the sixty-plus fics I read and commented on that I most enjoyed reading.

A great many recs in fandoms including Spinning Silver, Uprooted, What We Do In the Shadows, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (book), Daevabad Trilogy, Seraphina, Jonathan Creek, Earthsea, Six of Crows, and more )

What did you enjoy in the collection? How did the writing go for you? I hope that Yuletide was great for everyone who participated.
dolorosa_12: (sellotape)
I know it's due to frustrating and for some, upsetting circumstances, but I have to say I'm really pleased to see so much activity on Dreamwidth. People are returning after a long time away, people are trying it out for the first time, comms are active for the first time in years, and, above all, people are interacting with one another! Threaded comments: I love them so much.

I've seen this meme floating around all over my reading page, but I think [personal profile] naye was the first to post it. Ask me any of these questions, and I'll answer it in the comments.

    1. What made you start writing fanfic? Asked by [personal profile] naye, answered here.

    2. Which of your own fanfics have you reread the most?

    3. Describe the differences between your first fanfic and your most recent fanfic.
    Do you think your style has changed over time? How so?

    4. You’ve posted a fic anonymously. How would someone be able to guess that you’d written it?

    5. Name three stories you found easy to write.

    6. Name three stories you found difficult to write.

    7. What’s your ratio of hits to kudos?

    8. What do your fic bookmarks say about you? Asked by [personal profile] geckoholic, answered here.

    9. What’s a theme that keeps coming up in your writing? Asked by [personal profile] merit, answered here.

    10. What kind of relationships are you most interested in writing? Asked by [personal profile] schneefink, answered here.

    11. For E-rated fic, what are some things your characters keep doing?

    12. Name three favorite characters to write.

    13. You’re applying for the fanfic writer of the year award. What five fanfics do you put in your portfolio?

    14. Question of your choice!


My Tumblr import to Wordpress finished yesterday. I had to disable the importing of large media files, or else I would have exceeded the media storage allowance, and, quite frankly, I was not prepared to pay Wordpress in order to back up other people's gif sets. My Tumblr tags imported, but because Wordpress lists them alphabetically, any tag-essays are now completely incoherent. It was a weird exercise in fannish nostalgia; my Tumblr goes back to 2010, and it's bizarre to think there was a time when I was reblogging SPN, Teen Wolf, and MCU content, since I'm so resolutely fandom-of-one-ish these days. I can also see so many disntinct periods of fannish focus: the Pretty Little Liars phase, the Orphan Black phase, the ATLA period, that brief moment I tried to engage with Sleepy Hollow fandom before backing away slowly. It's like peeling back layers of personal history. In any case, now that the import is done, the whole lot is just sitting there on Wordpress. I'm going to put up a message on Tumblr telling people where to find me, possibly fiddle around with the settings on the Wordpress backup, and then draw a line under my time on the blue hellsite for good. I know some people will miss the place, but for me it feels almost like relief to leave it behind.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
The colder weather seems to have done wonders for my writing productivity: I've finished my Yuletide assignment, and made a good start on a second treat. That wasn't all the writing I got done over the weekend — I also found the time to write a longish review on two Iliad retellings and Emily Wilson's Odyssey translation. You can find the review here on Wordpress, but here's a brief excerpt:

I never had much interest in the long recitations of characters’ ancestry, names of warriors killed on the battlefield, wooden horses or lucky arrows shot through vulnerable heels. Instead, I focused on the story that whispered in the margins: the calamity of war to the women and children it made most vulnerable, the ways such women coped with the ever-present threat of male violence, and the simmering presence of this violence even in ostensible peacetime, in spaces where women were surrounded by their own families. I sought out retellings of the Iliad that brought this story to the fore.


I should note that because the two retellings focus on the character of Briseis, the review involves discussion of rape and slavery, so consider this a content warning. I also get pretty ranty about The Song of Achilles, so if anyone feels like venting with me about that book, feel free to join in in the comments (and if you like it ... I'm sorry).

Also over on Wordpress, I reviewed Aliette de Bodard's In the Vanishers' Palace, a Beauty and the Beast story where both characters are female and the Beast is a dragon. You can read that review here.

This being an Aliette de Bodard story, there are all the familiar and fabulous features that I’ve come to expect in her work: loving and mouth-watering descriptions of food and cooking, a refusal to flinch away from the devastating effects of empire and colonialism, and an intricate exploration of the different ways survival can look. This last is crucial, and resonates deeply with me. De Bodard rejects an individualistic interpretation of heroism, where a lone, special individual bravely solves the world’s problems alone. Instead, courage in her writing is all about (inter)dependence and community building — the little acts that forge and strengthen networks, reinforce familial and non-familial bonds, and the way that sometimes merely surviving and helping others survive is its own victory.


I'm now taking a break from all that writing with a bit of reading. I've just finished Leah Cypress's 'Timshala', the last in the Book Smugglers' 2018 series of short stories on the theme of 'awakenings', and I definitely think it was the best of the bunch. Their short story series tend to be pretty hit and miss with me, but this one — part Ancient Egypt-inspired death cult with religious controversies and political intrigue, part exploration of determinism and free will — was excellent. It's available to read for free online here.

Having finished 'Timshala', I've now moved on to Girls of Paper and Fire, a novel by Natasha Ngan which I've wanted to read since I first saw Samantha Shannon posting on Instagram about reading an ARC of the book. This was months and months ago, and I'm glad to finally have a copy in my hands. I think I'll curl up in my wing chair and read it, watching the sun go down and the darkness fall through the garden window.
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
It's got to the point where I have had to actively avoid all sources of news, including most social media platforms, because it's so overwhelmingly awful that I was on the verge of tears at work, and on my walk home. As I said to my mother when we chatted on FaceTime this morning, it's one of those weeks (months? years? decades?) which just makes you feel worthless as a woman.

My solution in the face of all this is (once I've ensured I'm still registered to vote in the three countries in which I am eligible) is to turn my attention to things resolutely domestic. I find it soothing.

And so, this weekend, I have turned a full fridge of groceries into meals that will take us through to Tuesday (I always find it particularly satisfying to cook a roast chicken, because I always get at least one second dinner and several lunches worth of leftovers out of it, and then make about a litre of stock from the bones, so it feels very efficient), planted four purple and pink heather plants in the garden, cleaned the bathroom, done two loads of laundry, and gone back and forth to the market to buy all the food I'll need to cover the week ahead.

I returned to a comforting old series of books — a series I've loved since I first read it as a ten-year-old — for yet another reread. The series has five books, and I'm on to the fourth. I possibly would have made more headway if not for all the time I spent scrolling through the Yuletide tagset trying to figure out what to offer, and watching comments appearing on the Yuletide letters post to see if other participants' prompts might help nudge me in a particular direction.

And I've been fairly active over on my reviews blog, posting reviews of two books/series that absolutely blew me away and which I'm pleased to see made it into the Yuletide tagset (I didn't nominate them myself, but I'm so happy to be able to request them).

The first is Katherine Arden's Winternight series, my review of which I have linked to before:

Arden makes much of the everyday labour of women: preparing food, sweeping hearths, embroidering elaborate headdresses, assisting in the birth of children. The lives of these women may be circumscribed, lived within a narrow space, travelling between hearth, bathhouse, and church, but they are not inconsequential. This is a series in which the labour of a mother giving birth to a child is of greater supernatural significance than the outcome of a battle, where a girl slipping bread crusts to household gods does more to forge alliances than the political machinations of men in Moscow palaces.


The second review is of Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver, which I absolutely adored:

This is a world in which women save themselves — and each other — using the tools at hand. It is a world in which the work of a market stall seller, or a noblewoman presiding over a rowdy feasting hall, or a girl feeding chickens is given equal weight to magical powers. Indeed, it’s a world in which supernatural beings view prosaic, human skills as having a kind of magic of their own.


Looking at both quotes together, I seem to have very clear priorities in the kind of historical fantasy I want to read. In any case, I highly recommend both books.

I've just finished doing a bit of yoga (I'm so happy to have found a good Youtube channel with yoga classes to follow for free at home, since I dropped regular yoga classes after their times and locations became too inconvenient), and I'm just about to start cooking tonight's dinner (an Ottolenghi recipe which, miraculously, doesn't have a million ingredients that need to be bought in specialised supermarkets). Matthias and I will probably finish off the weekend by watching the last two episodes of the second season of Luke Cage, which I've found enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure.

I'm not sure how sustainable it is to continue to insulate myself in a news-free, cotton wool-like existence, and I feel a lot of guilt for being able to do so, but I am glad this weekend that it gave me these little, quiet moments, where I could be small, and calm, and gentle.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
By way of a life update, have a few scattered bits and pieces from the past week or so.

It's autumn, at last! Autumn is my favourite season of the year: scarves, gloves, coats and blankets, the cold bite of the air, the smell of the changing, falling leaves, and that indescribable quality of the light. The northern summer just went on and on and on, and I'm so relieved to finally experience some cold weather. It hasn't spread across all of Europe — my mother, sister, and parents-, sister-, brother-in-law and nephew are all in Italy (not together — my sister's at a wedding in Lake Como, my mother is in Verona, after which she and my sister will meet up in Milan, and my in-laws are all on holiday together near Lake Garda), and it's still very summery there, but it is well and truly autumnal in Cambridge, and I am very happy about it.

Apart from a quick foray out to the alumni event for my former academic department (it happens this weekend of September every year, and mainly consists of drinking glasses of wine in the departmental common room, and generally the only people who go are people who still live in Cambridge, such as Matthias and me, [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse and her husband, and those who are still affiliated with the department as postdocs), I barely left the house, and have spent most of today curled up in my chair reading Naomi Novik's glorious Spinning Silver, which I think I like even more than Uprooted, although I'm only about a third of the way through. Normally I read a lot faster than this, but I've loved it so much I've been deliberately slow in order to savour the magic. Novik's Temeraire books really don't work for me, but I adore her fairytale-inspired fantasy.

Reading-wise I seem to be all about the Eastern European inspired fairytale retellings at the moment; last weekend I devoured the second of Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy books, which are set in a fantastical version of fourteenth-century Russia and seem written to my exact specifications. I posted a review of the first two books in the series here, and highly recommend them.

Matthias and I binge watched the entire first season of Killing Eve, which I adored. The whole lot is on iPlayer if other UK people want to watch. The plot and premise is frankly ridiculous, but if you accept that it's taking place in a sort of melodramatic, soap operatic reality, it's very enjoyable. The two lead actresses are great, the soundtrack is excellent, and there's a lot of gorgeous scenery porn in various picturesque European cities. After all our travelling this summer, it's been good to be back at home and just spend some time binge watching TV. I'm not sure what we'll move on to next — possibly the second season of Luke Cage, which should give you some idea of how behind we are in terms of TV series!

The weekend is drawing to a close, and the last few hours of it will be spent cooking a cosy and delicious Polish goulash, watching the last episode of Bodyguard (which I've liked, but not loved as much as Line of Duty, partly because the acting and writing in the latter is just a bit sharper), and reading more of Spinning Silver. I feel like I need a third day off to be fully refreshed after the work week (huge amounts of teaching and lots of wrangling of confused new medical students) I've just had, but alas it is not to be.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I've seen this fashion meme doing the rounds, and most recently saw it via [personal profile] merit.

Adornment behind the cut )
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
If I don't post about my trip to Tuscany (made in late August/early September) soon, I'm unlikely to ever do so, so consider this a belated recap of my time there. This was the last of my international trips this northern summer, which ended up being very busy with trips back and forth across the Channel.

Matthias and I were invited to Italy for the wedding of two of our friends, E and A, both of whom we know through our mutual time as students at Cambridge. Unlike Matthias and I, who have left academia behind us, E and A have remained in the field. E is now a lecturer in medieval history at Durham, and A is doing a postdoc at Freie Universität in Berlin, and for various reasons decided they wanted to have their wedding in Italy. I was a little dubious at first, because Albiano, the village in which this was set to take place, appeared super inaccessible without a car, but the whole thing was planned with surgical precision and a great deal of thought as to the wedding guests' enjoyment.

The wedding was set to take place on a Sunday, but events were happening from the Thursday onwards, so Matthias and I elected to stay from Thursday to Tuesday (flights out of Pisa were much cheaper on the Tuesday than the Monday, so we decided to give our excess money to a hotel in Pisa and spend twenty-four hours there, rather than giving it to Ryanair for the dubious privilege of returning home one day earlier). Albiano is a tiny little village, nestled in the mountains, about two hours' drive from Pisa airport. We were fortunate enough to be picked up after our flight by two friends who had hired a car, and they drove us right to our hotel.

The set up of the village was rather odd — the hotel, pool (and poolside bar), cafe, and sole restaurant were all owned by one woman, who opened each at strategic times of the day, funnelling customers from breakfast at the cafe to lunch at the poolside bar to dinner in the restaurant according to the hour. Our hotel room had the most incredible view over the mountains and valleys, and was right above the swimming pool, which was free for hotel guests. I went in for a swim on the Thursday, before going down the hill to the wedding venue, which was also where A, E, their families and some other guests were staying, for a barbecue dinner.

On the Friday, we were driven out to a local vineyard for what was described as a wine tasting, but actually ended up being a massive lunch of antipasti, accompanied by jug after jug of absolutely incredible wine — prosecco, minerally white wine, and two excellent red wines. I resisted the urge to buy bottles to take home (we had only paid for hand luggage on our flight), and returned to Albiano for a pizza dinner at the restaurant.

The Saturday was occupied by a day trip to Lucca (a town about forty-five minutes away by car with a pretty historic centre, beautiful cathedral, and old city walls). Unintentionally comical highlights included being trapped in the cathedral by an absolutely torrential downpour which flooded the footpath and square outside the cathedral doors and poured in through the roof and heavy wooden doors, where it was swept out ineffectually by two old men with brooms, and a tour guide, indicating a relic of Thomas Becket, describing the saint as having been 'killed by the Anglicans because he didn't want to convert to Protestantism' (at which point the entire room, which was mainly filled with medievalists, cringed). We then moved on to Barga, the town across the valley from Albiano, for dinner in a restaurant to celebrate A's birthday. Here is my Barga and Lucca photoset.

Finally, on the Sunday, there was the wedding. It was meant to be outdoors in the venue, which was a gorgeous villa, surrounded by grape vines, apple trees and lovely gardens, but the unpredictable weather, which we had watched roll in all morning as we lounged by the pool, brought rain in the afternoon. We picked our way down the muddy path in the vineyard, had a quick drink of Lambrusco with friends staying in the venue, and then went to the (indoor) ceremony. Fortunately, the rain had cleared by the end of the ceremony, so we were able to enjoy drinks, aperitivo, and antipasti in the gardens before heading indoors for dinner (honestly, most of this trip was just people feeding me vast quantities of incredibly good Italian food). There was a jazz band during the outdoor pre-dinner festivities, which was replaced by a cheesy 80s playlist piped into the gardens via speakers after dinner. My ASNC friends and I danced all night, and it was glorious, although the grass in the garden probably won't thank us.

Then it was on to Pisa by train from Barga, where Matthias and I checked in to one of our characteristically bizarre hotels (honestly, this seems to be something of a pattern with us). We spent the evening walking the city walls and hanging around near the cathedral and leaning tower. We left going inside until the next day, and then wandered around the city looking for somewhere to eat, at which point we bumped into E, A, [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse and her husband E, who were on their way to a restaurant, so we joined them. It was an excellent final meal to have on the trip — just delicious, simple, good quality (is there anything else?) Italian food and wine — and very serendipitous to bump into them. I would definitely recommend Pisa as a place to visa for a long weekend, especially if you're travelling from the UK, as you can fly there from pretty much every UK airport, the airport is a five-minute train ride from the city itself, and it's very easy to walk pretty much anywhere you'd need to go. Here's my photoset from my twenty-four hours in Pisa.

And then it was back to Cambridge, and reality, and autumn.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
The [community profile] fic_corner collection went live on Sunday.

I received an absolutely gorgeous Galax Arena fic: dark, and quietly devastating, and exactly the way I like the Presh/Allyman relationship to be written. I'm absolutely blown away by it.

Missing the Moon (1275 words) by Morbane
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Galax-Arena Series - Gillian Rubinstein
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Characters: Allyman | Allan Manne, Presh
Additional Tags: Missing Scene
Summary:

Allan's view of the last act of Galax-Arena.



I wrote a Six of Crows fic. It's Matthias Helvar/Nina Zenik, post-series and canon-divergent.

A Road Made of Stars (5647 words) by Dolorosa
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Six of Crows Series - Leigh Bardugo
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Matthias Helvar/Nina Zenik
Characters: Nina Zenik, Matthias Helvar
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Post-Canon
Summary:

Having survived Ketterdam, Kaz Brekker's various schemes, and the assassination attempts of powerful people from at least four different nations, Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar have embarked on their most dangerous mission yet: to bring about peace between Ravka and Fjerda. While they knew this wouldn't be easy, they were at least expecting their journey to be uneventful.

They were wrong.

Post-Crooked Kingdom.

dolorosa_12: (le guin)
I got back on Saturday from a week's holiday in Andalusia with my mother, but because I had to go back almost immediately to work, I only just got the time to write about it now. In short: I loved it, I thought it was incredible, and I would go back again in a heartbeat. I had been worried that everywhere would seem too overwhelmed with tourists — more like theme parks than cities, in the vein of Venice and Prague, both of which I've been to — but although the presence of tourists was obvious in all three cities, they were not completely overrun and it wasn't as if we had trouble walking down the street due to the crowds (which is what I found in Prague). If you do visit these cities, however, and want to visit big tourist attractions, I would recommend booking online in advance, as we did, as some of the places allocate most of their available bookings to big tour groups and it's almost impossible to get a ticket on the day.

We flew into Seville and spent three days there, during which time we visited the cathedral, Plaza de España, Real Alcazar (a beautiful old palace with wonderful gardens), and an amazing underground bathhouse with a salt bath (you float around, buoyed up by the salt as in the Dead Sea), spa, steam room and trio of warm, hot and cold pools.

After that we took the train to Granada, where we stayed for two days. The main reason to go to Granada is to see the Alhambra, which we did. I spent the entire time wandering around in complete and utter speechless awe. It's certainly one of the most incredible places I've been in my life, and I was overwhelmed with emotion to be there. Here are some photos I took, and here are some videos of one of the many fountains in the Alhambra grounds. In addition to the Alhambra, we discovered a pretty little park while walking around on our last half-day in Granada, filled with fountains, peacocks and orange trees.

Then it was onwards to Córdoba for our final two days. We again took the train. Our main focus in terms of tourist attractions in Córdoba was the mosque-cathedral, which has the history of the city, and the area more generally, written in layers into its architecture. I have a photoset here, but it's hard to capture the sheer size and scale of the interior. We did not book in advance for this, but I do recommend showing up at opening time (a little before 10am) as we did, as it meant we were able to wander around the building when it was nearly empty, and almost completely free of large tour groups.

After Córdoba it was back to Seville, and then homeward. (The less said about the two-and-a-half hour wait at Stansted for Ryanair to unload our bags and announce the carousel on which those on our flight could collect them, the better. Suffice it to say that I describe flying Ryanair as 'playing Ryanair roulette': you're always braced for something to go wrong, and eventually something will go spectacularly awry.)

I've travelled quite a lot, and seen many amazing places, but I would have to say that of all the places in the world that I've visited, this corner of Spain is probably one of my favourites. It's a really pleasant region in which to be a tourist: trains are cheap and reliable, the cities are easy to get around in by walking (and public transport is good if walking is going to be a problem), and food is both delicious, and unbelievably cheap (I was astonished to find that two people could eat a really nice dinner which included wine and mineral water for about 30 euro). I'm the sort of person who finds places whose difficult, complicated history is written into the architecture to be completely emotionally overwhelming (and I probably didn't help matters by deliberately bringing my copy of Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan and making a point of reading some of it in every city, culminating in a tearful reread of its final pages in the hotel in Córdoba). Andalusia obviously has a lot of this, and it hit me really hard — in a good way.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
Britain — or at least my corner of it — continues to bake. It's been at least a month since it last rained, and for the past three weeks the temperatures have been in the high twenties or low thirties every day. Given that I'm Australian, I can cope with far hotter weather than this, except for the fact that I left Australia when I was twenty-three, and therefore only spent one summer there when I was working full-time. Every other summer I had been either a child, or a university student, and school and university shut down for good during the hottest weeks of the summer. Even when I was working at my part-time jobs (I had weekend jobs from the age of fifteen), these were in patisseries/bakeries run by European chefs, so we worked intensively in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, and then closed for about a month from Christmas Eve while the chefs went to Europe to visit their families. In other words, although I lived in a much hotter country, I spent the hottest weeks every year doing little more than sitting around reading, or swimming in our backyard pool or the ocean. My poor body and brain can't take doing proper work in these temperatures!

*


So far I've coped by spending as much time outside as possible, and subsisting on a mixture of ice cream, iced tap water, iced coffee, and gin. The photos on my Instagram feed should give you some idea...

Today I joined my work colleagues for a meal out at a nice restaurant near my house. We're not the most sociable bunch outside of work, but we do do things occasionally when the mood takes us, and today's meal was really nice. It's likely to be my sole social engagement for the weekend, which suits me just fine as I'm about to head off to Cardiff for a professional conference, which I'm likely to find incredibly draining (so many people! so many awkward 'networking while drinking coffee during the breaks' sessions), so I need to store up my socialising energy!

*


I've also managed to complete my Goodreads reading challenge for the year. While I do tend to set myself pretty low aims, given that it generally takes me about two hours to finish most books, I am pretty happy to have reached the target at just over the halfway point of the year. While I used to be a voracious reader before I moved to the UK, my reading tailed off for a while and I was concerned at one point that I'd never really get back to my old reading habits. Last year was probably the first time that I enjoyed reading the majority of the books I read in a given year, and this year was, if anything, even better. Two factors probably contributed to this.

Firstly, I made a decision about a year ago that I would stop stressing about what I was reading (the demographics of the authors, whether it was recommended highly or nominated for awards, and, above all, whether it was the shiny new thing that everyone was talking about), and focus solely on reading things I was likely to enjoy: subgenres or tropes I liked, certain types of character dynamics that appealed to me, authors whose previous work I'd enjoyed, or books people whose tastes alligned with my own were praising. Once I stopped stressing and agonising about, in a sense, performative reading, everything felt a lot more freeing and natural. Getting over the feeling that I needed to read every single hyped up new book was particularly helpful, because I often feel that in the pro-SFF circles in which I dip my toe, there's an emphasis on newness, on chasing after the next big thing, which, while understandable, is unsustainable for someone like me who can't afford to buy hundreds of new books a year.

Secondly, I had developed a really bad habit of eating breakfast while browsing through my various social media feeds. This had an appalling effect on my mental health, to the point that I was starting every day either burning with fury, or having a panic attack (usually about Brexit). It was unsustainable, and affecting other areas of my life. I made a decision (something of a new year's resolution, really) at the start of 2018 that I would ban myself from the internet during those early hours of the morning, and would instead start the day reading a book. The effect has been extraordinary. I still go through periods of intense despair about the state of the world, but at least I'm not starting every day on a really negative note — instead I'm immersing myself in fiction. I think the next step will probably be to ban myself from social media in the evenings as well, and read during those hours too.

In any case, my Goodreads 2018 reading challenge is completed, and I'm very pleased with how it went! Is anyone else doing the challenge, or has anyone else set other kinds of reading goals for 2018? How are you all going with your respective challenges/goals?
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
I have been away from Dreamwidth for simply ages, and I think I'm going to have to accept that I'm unlikely to post anything substantial about things that have happened in the past few weeks (a couple of weekend trips, lots of sunshine, and a huge amount of gardening). I have been keeping up to date with my feed here, so assume that if you've written a post, I've read it, but am unlikely to comment.

I have, however, been very busy elsewhere online.

For those of you who've joined Pillowfort, I've got an account on there — I'm Dolorosa. I'm very happy for anyone who knows me through Dreamwidth to add me over there, although if your username is very different to any you use elsewhere online, I'd appreciate you letting me know who you are. At the moment I've joined Pillowfort simply to ensure that I've got the Dolorosa username, as I'm very much at home here on Dreamwidth, but if Pillowfort really takes off, and becomes the kind of fannish space I like (heavy on the discussion and interation, light on the passive reblogging), I will obviously post more over there. I'm also keen for recommendations of communities to join. I'm very into book fandoms — current YA and also older children's/YA books that I read in the '90s and early 2000s, and smaller Yuletide-sized fandoms in general. If there are any Pillowfort communities dedicated to YA, obscure fandoms-of-one, or any of the fandoms I've written fic for or been given fic as gifts in, I would love to know about them!

I've also written reviews of several books I've been reading. The first is a joint review of three works of fiction that are reworkings/adaptations of literary classics: 'The Tea Master and the Detective' by Aliette de Bodard (a gender-swapped space opera reimagining of Sherlock Holmes in which Holmes is a woman and Watson is a sentient space ship), The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill (a feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid), and The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Grattan (a retelling of King Lear and my current candidate for favourite book of the year). You can read that review here.

The other review is of Hild by Nicola Griffith — historical fiction with fantasy elements about the Anglo-Saxon princess Hild, who went on to become Abbess of Whitby and was later canonised as St Hilda. This book is absolutely brilliant, and I'm ashamed of myself for avoiding it for so long. You can read my review here.

What has everyone else been reading?
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
... although then I would have to learn to get things done a bit faster!

Today I have cooked:

  • Stewed apples with cinnamon (Matthias eats them with porridge for breakfast; this batch is enough for an entire week)

  • Brown rice (I fry it with vegetables and egg and eat it for breakfast; this batch is probably enough for five days)

  • Risotto with zucchini and bacon (tomorrow's dinner, and my lunch for two days)

  • Roast vegetables (half of which will go with the risotto, and half of which will go with Tuesday's dinner)

  • Pasta with sauce made from fresh cherry tomatoes and garlic from our garden (today's lunch)

  • Cucumber and dill salad (part of Matthias's lunch for the rest of the week)


  • After I've finished this post, I'm going to get started on dinner, which will be roast pumpkin with bacon and leeks, mushrooms grilled in garlic butter, and this recipe for kale with caramelised onion stuffing.

    It's a good thing I like cooking is all I can say!

    I also managed to finish a book (Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng — highly recommended if you like gothic literature, British folklore, and creepy fairy otherworlds), go out for drinks and dinner with a bunch of friends for Matthias's birthday, and go for a freezing walk in the twilight (there were crows; it was awesome). I was going to start work on a third Yuletide treat, but time ran away with me. I've got the whole thing outlined, though.

    I hope everyone else had a weekend as enjoyable as mine, although perhaps not one as filled with cooking...
    dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
    Today I have made a start on a second Yuletide treat, read three-quarters of a book, cooked dinner for the next three nights, and walked out to Grantchester to clear my head. It's been a good weekend: a nice pause after a rather hectic couple of weeks. For various reasons I've been feeling a bit down, so it's good to remind myself of all the nice things that have happened.

  • The new Philip Pullman book was published. I was super nervous about reading it, but my fears were unfounded. You can read my thoughts over at Bridge to the Stars, my first online home, where my review is posted.

  • Matthias and I went to the opening night of Thirsty's wintergarten (part Christmas market, part beer garden, part rotating cohort of food trucks).

  • I also managed to see Thor: Ragnarok, and was absolutely delighted that it lived up to the hype. Thor is my favourite Avenger in the MCU, Taika Waititi is one of my favourite directors, so I had high hopes. The film was absolutely glorious: a lurid, hilarious, cheerful extravaganza that somehow managed to also say serious things about colonialism, family, indigeneity and exile, with a few little nods to antipodean pop culture, as well as Maori and Indigenous Australian culture and politics.

  • Matthias and I went to London, where we ate German food for lunch, Georgian food for dinner, and saw the British Musuem's exhibition on the Scythians.

  • I had my last day on secondment. While I enjoyed learning new skills and working a bit closer to home for two days a week, I was relieved to get back to my regular routine, and the secondment confirmed that my regular job is pretty much the ideal work for me.

  • Matthias and I saw The Death of Stalin with four of our friends. It was bleakly, darkly funny (although I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone who lived any part of their life in the USSR or other communist countries in Eastern Europe), brilliantly acted, and all the more disturbing because I knew that very little of it was exaggerated.

  • I was lucky enough to see Rebecca Solnit and Robert MacFarlane in conversation. Cambridge being Cambridge, I bumped into library colleagues from two different libraries, both of which Matthias and I have worked in, a friend I know from academia who now works for the Cambridge Literary Festival, and [personal profile] nymeth and her partner.

  • I finished off my main Yuletide assignment and one treat, the latter of which is a real departure from my usual type of fic and a challenge that I really enjoyed.


  • Now I'm just waiting for the various meals I've got simmmering away on the stove and in the oven to finish cooking. The last few hours of the weekend are going to be spent lounging about watching TV and finishing off the final quarter of my book, before getting an early night. I hope the rest of you have had equally enjoyable weekends.
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    This is just a quick note to say I've written a review of Aliette de Bodard's The House of Binding Thorns, over on my Wordpress blog.

    I focus in the review mainly on the female characters in the book, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy all other aspects!

    Anyone who's read, or plans to read the novel is free to discuss it with me, either here, or in the comments of the Wordpress blog post.
    dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
    It was fairly inevitable that I would eventually come down with a cold: this week has been heavy on activities, and short on sleep. As well as going to two back-to-back concerts (one of which necessitated travelling to London after work, and thus not arriving back in Cambridge until after midnight on a work night), I was at yesterday's anti-Brexit march in London, and followed that up with a friend's birthday party in the evening. It seems to have been that, combined with last night's arrival of daylight savings time, that finally brought the cold on. I'm feeling decidedly exhausted, and don't think next week is going to be all that much fun...

    The march itself was well attended (estimates put the crowd size at about 100,000, which is not massive, but not terrible), although I'm aware that it's a fairly futile gesture at this point. It mattered to me that I was there — as it has mattered to me that I've been present at other large marches that were nothing more than symbolic, futile gestures to register discontent. No matter how many people showed up at yesterday's march, Article 50 is still going to be triggered on the 29th, and the UK is going to continue on its dangerous course towards isolation, nationalistic extremism, and impoverished decline. But it's precisely for this reason that I felt people's presence at events such as yesterday's march were important: there needed to be a recorded, visible historical record that showed that not everyone in the country was marching in ideological lockstep out of the EU, and that leaving was not done in everyone's name, nor with everyone's consent.

    Next week is going to be difficult, particularly for EU friends living in the UK (and their non-EU family members whose immigration status depends on Britain being a member-state of the EU). I wish I could offer words of comfort or courage, but I've got nothing. It's a terrible thing that is happening, a decision made by people who voted to take something away from others, something they'd never understood, never knowingly made use of (the irony being that all the times they did make use of it were invisible to them), and whose value they were unable to perceive.
    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: (sister finland)
    I am very much Not Coping (with, well, take your pick of the conga line of political horrors parading their way around the world), which has made posting (and indeed, being online at all) very difficult. As such, this is going to be brief.

    You may have seen this already on your own Dreamwidth feeds, but [personal profile] inkstone has set up a bullet journalling comm, [community profile] bujo, if anyone's interested. I've started using a bullet journal this year; I've always been a dedicated planner, and I'm combining bullet journal use with the online management tool Trello, as well a standard weekly planner, because one form of organiser is never enough!

    I also have a question for those of you who regularly participate in fic exchanges. Last year I had a kind of vaguely defined goal to participate in more exchanges than Yuletide, and ended up doing both Night On Fic Mountain, and My Old Fandom (as well as Yuletide). I enjoyed both immensely, and if they run again, I'll definitely be signing up. In fact, I enjoyed writing for those exchanges so much that I'm completely hooked, and want to participate in even more! That's where you come in. I'm asking for recs for fic exchanges that you particularly enjoyed. It probably helps a bit to know more about what I liked about the exchanges in which I've participated thus far:

  • They were for small fandoms (not big megafandoms) and not fandom-specific

  • Participants could write gen or shipfic (I think I'd be happy to participate in a gen-only exchange, but to be honest I prefer the flexibility)

  • The lower word-count limits were low - 1000 words is fine, but a 5000-word lower limit would probably be difficult for me

  • They weren't happening at the same time as Yuletide, or immediately before or after


  • Based on those preferences, are there any exchanges you'd particular recommend? I like writing fic that centres on female characters (M/F, F/F, or female character-centric gen), if that helps.

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