nebroadwe: (Books)
Having enjoyed Polly Shulman's Grimm Legacy (a light, library-themed YA fantasy), I'm pleased to see that she's got another book set in the same universe, The Wells Bequest, which from its publicity snippet looks like another good read. Yay!

Also, John Joseph Adams is bringing out an anthology of weird Western tales, Dead Man's Hand, which may interest some on my flist ...
nebroadwe: (Books)
Ian Ker, G.K. Chesterton
Boy, was I enthusiastic when I heard that the ferociously learned Ker was publishing a Chesterton biography.

Boy, was I disappointed. This is not the book I was hoping for.

What I hope for in a brick of a biography (and at ~750 pages, this is a respectable brick) is lots and lots and lots of CONTEXT. I want to find out who the subject was in relation to his/her family, friends, enemies and society, not to mention the historic events and big and small trends of his/her time. Ker presents Chesterton in a kind of splendid isolation. He records (occasionally in bizarrely minute detail, via extensive quotation of Frances Chesterton's diaries) the daily events of Chesterton's life and provides summaries (which, I must admit, I started skimming about 3/4 of the way through) of his major works, but only spreads his net wider twice: once to deal with Chesterton's view of Jews and Judaism and once to give what he apparently thought was unavoidable background to Chesterton's involvement in the Marconi scandal. For a book that puts a great deal of emphasis on Chesterton's journalism (the first draft of history!), there's very little analysis of Chesterton in relation to his times. What about Catholic Modernism? A little more Boer War, please? Some Big Picture on the literary scene rather than accumulation of anecdote? How about more than sidelights on Cecil Chesterton's career, with which his brother's was intertwined? Left completely unexamined is Chesterton's Orientalism (a product of his time); I was also underwhelmed at the treatment of his opinions on the Woman Question (ditto). On the other hand, the frequent quotation of Chesterton's own Autobiography left me intrigued; I think I'm likely to pick that up and read the man on himself. Not recommended if you're a fan of the same sort of biography I am.
nebroadwe: Write write write edit edit edit edit edit & post. (Writer)
Title: New-Made Honor
Fandom: Leviathan series
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Alek/Deryn, Bovril
Rating: G
Word Count: ~1550
Warnings: Set post-Goliath, with all the spoilage that implies.
A/N: Since I have to struggle to read German handwriting at work, I thought I might as well make Alek struggle to master Roman script as part of his assimilation into British society. I originally conceived this piece as a drabble, but it was simply impossible to prevent Deryn and Bovril from expressing their opinions on the process, too. Concrit welcomed with a calligraphed note of thanks.
Dedication: This is for Noël, who borrowed $30 from me to purchase the entire series at once. Good taste is its own reward.



      The gaslights in their brackets cast a warm glow over the secondhand oak escritoire – natural oak, not fabricated, a tactful flat-warming gift from the Head Keeper of the London Zoo to a pair of Austrian immigrants with whom she expected to enjoy (as the accompanying note had explained) a copious and fruitful correspondence. Read more... )
nebroadwe: (Books)
Accompanying her salesman father on a business trip, college student Brenda Morris discovers that he's one of the Thirteen Orphans, exiled from their otherworldly Chinese homeland for their support of a fallen emperor. They've lived on Earth in peace for three generations, but now someone is hunting them down. When her father falls a victim, Brenda must join forces with the other Orphans to save him and them.

I'm not sure how to describe this book. I read it in a day and am interested to discover what transpires in the sequel, but that's possibly because nothing much really happens in this installment. Our main characters are introduced, of course, and while I find them reasonably sympathetic, there's something slightly ... overbroad? caricaturish? ... about them and their interactions. This might have something to do with the co-point of view character, Brenda, being a callow and sheltered south-eastern American white girl tossed off the deep end into a Foreign Environment (a Chinese-derived magical heritage via California and the Southwest). She (and we) are on the receiving end of lots and lots and lots of exposition; the action, particularly the few encounters between the protagonists and their mysterious antagonists, intersperse the set-up rather than the other way around. I do like seeing a non-western floorplan for this adventure and am kind of intrigued by the ways Lindskold has the various Orphans, all descendants of the original thirteen, deal with their inheritance as a result of the various tacks their fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers took in the process of assimilating to American culture. Still, if the plot doesn't pick up steam in Nine Gates, I'll probably drop this series.
nebroadwe: (Books)
From the Greenwillow Blog, a comment from the late Diana Wynne Jones on reader response to one of her, uh, best-loved characters:
The one big, strange fact about Howl is that almost every young woman who reads about him wants to marry him. They began wanting to before the book was even published and they all confess their wish quite openly. Yesterday I was doing a question-and-answer session in a London theatre and a teenage girl put her hand up and said -- without any embarrassment at all -- that she had long wanted to marry Howl and would I mind. I wondered whether to ask her if she would mind everywhere being covered with green slime when Howl’s hair went wrong; or if she minded coping with a man who had head colds like a drama queen; or being twisted round Howl’s little finger; or would it worry her that the man was a terrible coward; or always falling in love with other women; or ... But I could see she regarded these facts as a challenge. So I sat with my mouth open for a second and then told her that she had now joined the end of a very long line that stretches at least once around the world.

This didn’t appear to trouble her unduly.
Paging Cleolinda Jones for a psychological consult! (Actually, I'd love to read a Cleolinda Jones review of Howl's Moving Castle for all kinds of reasons, not just this one.) But this quotation piqued my interest because (in addition to being amusing) it ties in to an issue I'm trying to work out in my massive effort of discipline: Read more... ) In short, characterization is HARD.

Phew. It's nice to have that off my chest. :-)
nebroadwe: From "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden.  (Default)
Over at the Greenwillow blog, one of my favorite authors, Megan Whalen Turner, talks about how another one of my favorite authors, Diana Wynne Jones (RIP), got her published:
Diana Wynne Jones and why she was so important to me
Classy. Share and enjoy!
nebroadwe: (Books)
N.M. Browne, Warriors of Ethandun
Dan has managed to return a dying Ursula to the twenty-first century in time to save her life, but finds himself arrested for her attempted murder. Ursula, recovering, refuses to implicate him and a timely visit from a disguised Taliesin presents Dan with the opportunity to escape by returning to the past. He refuses, but Taliesin leaves him with the means to do so in the form of a glass orb. Discovering this, Ursula begs Dan to use it, as her longing for magic has left her unable to readjust to her own time. When he does, they are swept separately into the attempted Danish conquest of an Alfredian England. Ursula loses herself to the magic, is captured by the Danes and worshipped by them as Freya, while Dan takes service with Alfred in the marshes, where his berserkrgang earns him the suspicion of Alfred's adviser, Bishop Asser, and threatens to overwhelm him utterly. Trapped on opposite sites of the war and unable to help each other, the two may be doomed, like their old frenemy Rhonwen, to live and die in a time not their own ...

Concluding the Warriors trilogy begun with Warriors of Alavna and continued in Warriors of Camlann, this is not a standalone. Read more... ) Recommended for fans of the previous books.
nebroadwe: (Books)
As someone who enjoys Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Scott's Ivanhoe, and Steve Sommers's Mummy, among other things, I find myself having to skate through or contextualize as Values Dissonance problematic scenes and characterizations in a not inconsiderable fraction of stuff I like. Which is why I found this blog post interesting:
How To Be A Fan Of Problematic Things
There are a few works that I've given up because the enjoyment of the cool bits was finally outweighed by the "ARGH. NO." of the dissonant ones (Anne McCaffrey's adult Pern books, frex, or most of Piers Anthony's oeuvre, and Patricia Kenneally's Keltiad trilogy is kind of circling the drain these days), but not many; usually I'll grimace and pass on, sometimes with a bit of litcritter analysis. (Which reminds me that I quite enjoy works written explicitly to counter or interrogate popular-but-problematic stuff, like Philip Pullman's Tin Princess for Anthony Hope's Prisoner of Zenda, or a good deal of Terry Pratchett. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but you can take the pattern of the sow's ear for your purse and turn out some remarkably silky things, if you have a lot of imagination and a little moxie. :-)
nebroadwe: (Bear)
[personal profile] evil_little_dog generally has me beat in the "WTF, subconscious?!" department, but the long Rex Stout/Marvel Comics crossover dream I had last night was a doozy. Imagine, if you will, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin (as played by Donald O'Connor, probably because I watched Singin' In the Rain for the umpteenth time this past week) teaming up with the Black Cat to track down a murderer. The plot, unfortunately, makes absolutely no sense now that I'm awake, but the final gathering of all the suspects in Wolfe's office was epic. (Not least because the Black Cat was irritating the heck out of Wolfe, as one might assume.)

Anybody want to write this one for me? All I know about the Black Cat I learned from Jim Butcher's Spider-Man novel, The Darkest Hours (which I recommend, by the way. Only Butcher's Peter Parker would describe Dr. Stephen Strange, in his hearing, as "the fastest mouse in all Mexico.").
nebroadwe: (Bear)
Sniggled from Making Light, as usual -- the "Urban Arrivals" post by Abi Sutherland:
A story starts when somebody comes to town.

      * If they’re a long-lost denizen of the town, it’s a Thomas Hardy novel.
      * If they’re a long-lost denizen of the town whom no one recognizes until someone dies of spontaneous human combustion, it’s a Charles Dickens novel.
      * If they leave town again, it’s a Cory Doctorow novel.
      * If they are in want of a wife, it’s a Jane Austen novel.
      * If they come to town in the company of a strange set of locals and go to meet the guy in charge, it’s Shane. Or possibly The Wizard of Oz.
      * If the denizens of the town are not of their species, it’s a first contact novel.
      * If it was their destiny to come to the town in quest of a magical artifact which will cause them to defeat a great evil upon the land, it’s heroic fantasy.
      * If they meet a lot of vampires there, it’s urban fantasy.
      * If there are plums involved, it’s Making Light.
      * If their ethnicity is mentioned, it’s a joke.
Said post is of course followed up by an epic comment thread with the kind of suggestions that make me laugh out loud at work:
      * If it's Lenten, and it's come with loue to toune, with blosmen and with briddes roune, then it's sung by someone crossed in love in fourteenth-century England.
      * If he has killed the local Sphinx en route, he is one bad mother-[redacted].
      * If it's a town that everyone comes to, but nobody is from it, and everybody wants to leave it, it's "Casablanca".
      * If the arrival is a mysterious supernatural woman who has come for the sake of a poor but virtuous maiden, it's probably a fairytale. Or A Wrinkle In Time. If it's a mysterious supernatural man who has come for the sake of a poor but virtuous maiden, it's a Child ballad, and the maiden should run like hell.
And so forth. Share and enjoy!

ETA: How could I miss the most important one?
* If the stranger appears with others in a shimmer of light and is wearing a red shirt, don't stand near him.
nebroadwe: (Books)
Having promised ourselves a tour of every Borders within driving distance during the 50-70% off period of their closedown (sigh), [livejournal.com profile] kanja177 and I made an abbreviated visit to two of the biggest ones last night. (Stupid hurricane, spoiling our fun.) I envy [livejournal.com profile] kanja177 the ability to say, "I have X amount of money to spend and that's all" and stick to it. Me, I throw budgeting to the winds and grab everything I've ever wanted that's still on the shelves ... okay, well, almost everything. I did pass up some stuff -- usually later volumes of a series whose earlier ones I don't have yet. But I walked out with:
-- five random volumes of Ouran High School Host Club*
-- Naomi Novik's Will Supervillains Be on the Final?**
-- Bone v. 2 and 3***
-- Diane Duane's Omnitopia Dawn****
-- Elizabeth Peters's The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog*****
-- Jim Butcher's Changes and Cursor's Fury******
-- Shannon Hale's Enna Burning*******
-- and a cookbook.********
We also split a copy of Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles in Love against future need. It's the perfect present for the romance fan who needs to be lured into SF. (Heh, heh, heh.) Now I just need to remind myself not to spend any more fun money until October, when [livejournal.com profile] kanja177 and I will attend Scott Westerfeld's Goliath signing in New York. (And hit the Book*Off for cheap manga. And maybe the Strand and the Kinokuniya. And that yarn shop in Chelsea ... )



*The anime made me laugh and laugh and laugh. If you like your shoujo tropes skewered and grilled, take a look. So far, the manga is equally amusing.

**Which has gotten mostly "meh" reviews, but, hey, it's Naomi Novik -- I'll give it a whirl on discount.

***No, I don't own v. 1. I never do. I even started The Lord of the Rings with The Two Towers.

****I like her immersive worldbuilding. It's so immersive that my friend C sat down next to me on the train this morning and I never noticed. He, of course, gets great amusement out of quietly waiting for me to twig. I think I set the record today by catching on only after I'd begged his pardon for stepping over him on the way to the door at our mutual stop.

*****Early Amelia Peabody is a guilty pleasure for me; the later volumes, where everyone repents and becomes One Big Happy Family related to Vicky Bliss's best beloved in the other series ... not so much.

******I picked up the first of his Codex Alera books after it was high-concepted to me as "descendants of the Ninth Legion with Pokémon, except not really" and enjoyed it. Of course, Cursor's Fury is the third book in the series.

*******For completeness's sake. I have all the other Books of Bayern -- even the first one.

********One can never have too many slow-cooker recipes that call for real ingredients rather than canned cream of mushroom soup. Though I make an exception for the one that uses frozen spinach and boxed corn muffin mix to make a delightful spinach-gorgonzola-corn bread loaf. Mmm.
nebroadwe: From "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden.  (Default)
I'm hoping my subconscious is gearing up for another round of creativity (please, oh, please!) because for the past couple of nights I've been dreaming fanfiction. Yesterday evening, I was wandering through Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series (and am now rereading Behemoth, whee!); t'other night, the mental drive-in fired up ... Neon Genesis Evangelion? Which I haven't even SEEN, for heaven's sake, except for the Rebuild movies and a trailer or two. Nothing makes you readier to face the day than the realization that it won't have Shinji in it, though.

I entertain the suspicion that my subconscious is in revolt against me reading the manga Cross Game, a slice-of-life baseball story, heavy on the slice of life. (If Princess Nine is baseball as melodrama and Big Windup is baseball as baseball, Cross Game is sort of in the middle: the baseball is there, but so are the human relationships, minus all the Sturm und Drang.) Mind you, my conscious mind loves Cross Game, so my subconscious can grump all it wants -- I'm not giving it up. Perhaps we can compromise on ATLA or something?
nebroadwe: (Bear)
Sniggled from [livejournal.com profile] arielen. Well, this is kind of ... I dunno. I was hoping to be a bit more swashbuckling, but I guess at least I'm not a textbook.



You Are a Literary Fiction Book



You are a great connoisseur of the arts. You can recognize talent of all kinds.

You appreciate strangeness. You understand how difficult it is to be different.

You are intellectually open-minded. You like your beliefs and ideas being challenged.

You like solitude... in fact, you prefer it. You are your own best friend.

nebroadwe: From "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden.  (Magadalen)
It's the end of the fiscal year and everyone's trying to max out their budget, which means that on the book truck full of new acquisitions for our fine arts department I have:

a) an early 16th-century Aldine Press edition of Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo that's worth more than my house;

b) an imperfect early 17th-century edition of Pompilio Totti's guidebook to the ruins of Rome, Ritratto di Roma Antica (the one with the square woodcut vignette of Alma Roma on the title leaf, not the round medallion) that's worth more than I paid for my first car; and

c) an absolutely beautiful 18th-century Japanese manuscript of colored plans of castles in Honshu, compiled, edited and annotated by Yamagata Daini, a philosopher and military historian who ended up on the wrong side of the Tokugawas and got himself executed in 1767. It's actually not very expensive at all, in rare book terms, but still awfully pretty. Sadly, I have neither the language nor the format expertise to catalog it and must hand it off to someone else. Sigh.

Not to mention the little book of photographic views of Tokyo around the end of the Meiji era, including a bicyclist crossing Ginza's main avenue and a view of "Wench Houses, Yoshiwara." Say no more ...

ETA: Also, most of them come wrapped in bubble wrap. My colleagues are very good about ignoring the occasional burst of pop-pop-pop!s from my cubicle.
nebroadwe: (Books)
Scott Westerfeld and his illustrator Keith Thompson have a wonderful art "reveal" this morning for their upcoming book Goliath. As Westerfeld tweeted yesterday, "Brains may explode." (Mine already exploded a few days ago due to virus, so I'm now immune and can merely enjoy.)
nebroadwe: (Books)
Diana Wynne Jones has passed away. I fell in love with her books in grade school and still read them now. I'll be looking forward to whatever she produces for that other library.
nebroadwe: (Books)
Scott Westerfeld, Behemoth (illustrated by Keith Thompson)
Sequel to Leviathan. War has broken out among the Great Powers of Europe -- the Clanker empires of Germany and Austria-Hungary with their machines versus the Darwinist nations of Great Britain, France and Russia with their fabricated beasts. Caught in the middle on the British airship Leviathan are Alek, son of the late Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his morganatic wife Sophie, and Midshipman Dylan Sharp, born Deryn and masquerading as a boy to achieve her dreams of flight. After an indecisive engagement with a German warship armed with a Tesla cannon, the Leviathan limps into Istanbul (not Constantinople!), a hotbed of diplomatic activity as the British and the Germans each attempt to woo the Ottoman Sultan to their side. Meanwhile, Alek, escaping into the city to hide, discovers a democratic revolution brewing in the streets, while Deryn is given her first command, a sabotage mission to clear the way for the ship-crushing Behemoth. But secrets will out (especially with a clever Austrian count, a nosy American reporter, and a perspicacious loris or two sniffing around) and the thing about battles is that one squick of bad luck can make all your plans go pear-shaped ...

Cut for mild spoilers ... )

Excellent stuff; highly recommended. A further recommendation: the fanworks of Julia156, who writes very clever, very well-researched Alek/Deryn in a lovely pastiche of Westerfeld's style.
nebroadwe: (Books)
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Let's see -- I went through a Nancy Drew phase and a Black Stallion phase in series books, but the stories that stuck with me tended to be Newbery medalists, with their lovely characterization and he-do-the-police-in-different-voices-quality dialogue. I loved Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Family series. I read Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles to death. I was a huge fan of Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising sequence. I got my introduction to Latin from Graham Dunstan Martin's Giftwish and Catchfire. After I encountered Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones, she was snatch-on-sight reading. Then, of course, there's The Lord of the Rings, to which I was introduced by my sixth-grade reading teacher, God bless her. That was a life-changing experience: a great book that introduced me to the joys of literary criticism and philology. Whee!
nebroadwe: From "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden.  (Default)
The gentleman on the bike next to mine is reading John D. Sinclair's translation of Dante's Purgatorio. Maybe this is the gym for me after all.

On an unrelated note, I have another story brewing at last, for [livejournal.com profile] fma_fic_contest's prompt "seamless." Go, muse, go!

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nebroadwe: From "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden.  (Default)
The Magdalen Reading

August 2014

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