More for the collection! :)

Friday, 20 May 2011
Cover of "Shakespeare's Planet"

Cover of Shakespeare's Planet

We finally got to the post office this morning, for the first time in a couple of weeks, to send off a couple of BookMooch items, and receive several more, plus a couple of much appreciated gifts from my mother. Nothing for the baby this time (although there is one children’s book, it’ll be a few years till she’d be ready for it), and a good few of them were DH’s choices (mostly classic science fiction) rather than mine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t read them even before he does…

    • The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel. (My mother and I both read the first five books in this series in the 90s, so now that the last one is finally published she very kindly got me a copy. I don’t have copies of the others, but with that gap I presume Auel will remind us of any details we need to know. I do remember the basic story, and I’m sure the rest will come back to me.)
    • Cover of Jerusalem: The Biography

      Cover of Jerusalem: The Biography

      Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore. (Both parents have recommended this as an interesting read, so I’m intrigued.)

    • Timescape by Gregory Benford. (One of DH’s choices whose back cover makes it sound like apocalyptic SF.)
    • Surprise Island by Gertrude Chandler Warner. (The second of the Boxcar Children Mysteries, as recommended by a couple of my lovely readers/commenters here, so I’ll try to get to this one relatively quickly.)
    • Sacred Clowns by Tony Hillerman. (I requested the entire set of Hillerman’s Chee/Leaphorn novels on BookMooch, so they’re gradually arriving. I may wait for the rest and then read them through in chronological order.)
    • The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman. (As above.)
    • Cover of The Lovely Bones

      Cover of The Lovely Bones

      The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. (I never read this when it was so popular, but it did sound interesting, so we’ll see.)

    • Shakespeare’s Planet by Clifford D. Simak. (DH’s. I haven’t read any Simak yet.)
Cover of "The Planet Buyer (U.K.)"

Cover of The Planet Buyer (U.K.)

  • The Planet Buyer by Cordwainer Smith. (As previous.)
  • Destiny Doll by Clifford D. Simak. (This too.)
  • The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. (And this.)
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A moment too long

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Cover of Moments73. Moments by Nachman Seltzer

I was enjoying this collection of stories, but wouldn’t have said I was really engrossed in any of them. Then I missed my stop on the bus this morning! This is a bit of a big deal, since it doesn’t stop again for about 15 minutes or so after my stop, and then the line ends and I have to wait for it to go back again. Instead of being at class precisely on time, I was 50 minutes late, which I really really hate!

So I did enjoy the stories – some more than others, of course – although I can’t yet speak as to how practically inspiring they’ll really be. (The basic theme was the difference a moment can make in a life.) I have the sequel too, as well as another collection by the author, so more should come through.

False expectations

Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Cover of 2001 hardcover edition

Image via Wikipedia

31. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

That’s basically what this book is about, and sums up what I previously knew of Le Guin’s work: practically nothing besides that she is well known for her fantasy writing.

In this classic of science fiction Le Guin really tackles issues of gender, stereotyping and cultural clashes. Genly Ai, our main narrator (although several chapters are by other major or minor characters, all in the form of official reports in one form or another) is the only alien on the planet known to outsiders as Winter, since it’s deep in an Ice Age, or locally as Gethen. He is openly there as the ambassador of the Ekumen, a loose federation of the known worlds with human-like life, and trying to negotiate the local etiquette and politics with particular difficulty because he just can’t get used to the fact that Winter’s natives are hermaphrodite, and spend most of their lives without gender. They are sexually active only cyclicly, and during any cycle may ‘turn’ either male or female. A temporary female who becomes pregnant will remain so until she has and then weans her child but will not necessarily be so again. Many Gethenians are mother to some of their children and father to others, with the distinction meaning little or nothing beyond infancy.

Genly knows intellectually that his constant instinctive attempts to assign male or female-ness to the people he meets are both useless and counter-productive, but even after some years there he can’t do it, and this will become just part of his downfall.

First published in 1969, the novel gets to openly discuss issues of gender, sexuality (including homosexuality and bisexuality), marriage and family relationships as well as those of culture clash and relative value. It took me awhile to get into the story (DH did not have that problem though) but it was definitely worth the read for simple enjoyment even beyond the thought-provocation. Recommended.

Excess

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Can a baby’s dress be too ruffly? I’m still working on the skirt of DD’s summer dress and trying to decide what I want it to look like and I’m not sure I’m mentally picturing my options correctly. I do like the pattern I’m making up, but may well find the second sample more shareable than the first…

Probably going (back) to sleep now, but I might put up a picture of it as is later.

Down the side of the bed

Monday, 16 May 2011
The Speed of Dark

Image via Wikipedia

I read in bed quite a lot. It’s something I’ve always done, and it goes together quite well with a baby who doesn’t like to sleep without a parent next to her. I usually have a few on the go, piled on the top corner of the bed (in a corner of the room) and occasionally one or two fall down the side, from where I fish them out as I realise they’re missing. The bed got jogged out of place this morning, however, and when I went to retrieve the avalanche I realised that there were a few older escapees. To be unnoticed as missing these were ones I hadn’t actually got into, and sometimes hadn’t even started, but had just thought might be interesting. Anyway, I thought I’d list them here, with comments on how I’m getting on with them. (The order is just as they were piled.)

The ones I really wasn’t reading will probably go back on the shelf for now, but renoticing them has got me intrigued by some of them again. Watch this space to see which ones make it to the ‘Read’ lists…

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Unstarted, although it looks interesting. Looks a bit different from the other science-fiction I’ve been reading of late.

Cover of

Cover of Farewell, My Queen

Farewell, My Queen by Chantal Thomas

About three-quarters of the way through this novel of the last days French royal court in July 1789, and enjoying it quite a lot.

Cover of "The Green Flag: A history of Ir...

Cover via Amazon

The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism by Robert Kee

While this officially covers the history right from the 12th century it really picks up the detail from the mid-17th century. I’m up to the late 18th century, approaching but not yet at the 1798 rebellion.

The Little Girl Book by David Laskin and Kathleen O’Neill

A rather different approach to a parenting book than I’ve come across before, this discusses the complicated issue of bringing up little girls while negotiating the stereotypes and sexism of our societies. The book was published in 1992, so still seeing how it stands up two decades later to my own opinions. Definitely interesting, though.

Cover of "Byzantium Endures"

Cover of Byzantium Endures

Byzantium Endures by Michael Moorcock

The two or three chapters I’ve read of this so far are decidedly odd. I’ll give it more time gradually and hope it grabs my attention. I wasn’t enjoying it all that much, and yet it was somewhat compelling.

Cover of "PEOPLE OF DARKNESS"

Cover of PEOPLE OF DARKNESS

People of Darkness by Tony Hillerman

I got side-tracked from the Hillerman books, but will get back to them. (I’d better, seeing as I ordered the entire set on Bookmooch!) I’d read a chapter or so of this one, but would probably restart from the beginning.

The Sea Wolf by Jack London

I haven’t read any London since I was seven, and read White Fang in one sitting (staying with my grandparents I picked it up off their shelves to sustain me through a long morning meeting of my grandmother’s). I’m still in the introduction here, and I hadn’t realised what a fascinating life the author himself had.

Cover of How I Came West

Cover of How I Came West

How I Came West, and Why I Stayed by Alison Baker

A rather bizarre collection of often fantastical (but always so far set in modern-day USA) stories that I’m enjoying so long as I read each story in a single sitting, as they can be hard to keep track of after a break.

I don’t think I’ve read a collection of stories that was neither from one of the orthodox Jewish publishers nor aimed at children in an absolute age. (These are definitely not for children, although not crude, just for adults.) I’m enjoying the different perspective, and wondering why the general market avoids them so much.

Med Ship by Murray Leinster

I think this is a compilation of a lot of stories and novellas Leinster set in the same universe, but which aren’t always about the same characters, but I’m not far enough in to be sure.

Cover of China WitnessChina Witness by Xinran

More academic in its feel than the other books by Xinran I’ve read, this offers a very broad sweep of 20th century experience in China, as told by the survivors and thrivers of that period, an apparently reticent and now elderly generation. Each chapter, about a different person or small group, is relatively short, and tends to leave me wanting more, but that’s not a bad thing.

Wisdom of the Fox by Harry Turtledove

I don’t know why I haven’t got into this, seeing as I’ve been enjoying Turtledove’s alternate histories so much. I think I wasn’t really in the mood for what appeared to be more classic fantasy. I’ll try again at some point.

Cover of Wild Swans

Cover of Wild Swans

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

The first book about Chinese history I read. That was as a teenager, shortly after it first came out, and with all the Xinran I’ve been reading I thought I should go back to this one too. I’m picking up on details I certainly hadn’t remembered, partly because I’m older and partly because I do know a bit more about China now and can make more sense of what was going on (not that it’s badly explained in the book, but there’s only so much context a writer can be expected to give). Still looking for other modern writers on the country.

Dopey Duck

Sunday, 15 May 2011
Cover of the first edition of The Tale of Jemi...

Image via Wikipedia

I have got to get back to beginning my blog post before 11pm…

67. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter

The first Beatrix Potter book we’ve obtained for DD, and it’s slightly bigger than the format I’m used to for them, but not otherwise changed, which is great. It should still be comfortable for her to hold once she can be trusted not to chew or tear it but still doesn’t have large hands.

This is the story of a rather naive young duck (Jemima) who in trying to find a safe place to lay her eggs is taken in by a gentlemanly-appearing fox. He takes a significant amount of time to lay his trap, and it is only just as he is about to spring it that the rather more worldly sheepdog (Shep) comes to save her. The strange thing to me about the moral of the story is that it’s not clear that her situation is ever explained to her. From her perspective it’s Shep’s cohorts who do her by far the most harm, eating her eggs and chasing off her friend. The story does work, and the pictures are beautiful of course. Definitely hoping for more of these for DD.

Juggling Hats

Saturday, 14 May 2011

I want to make this hat, and it’s going to be for me! Just reminding myself of that.

Right now I need to try pumping a bit more, make sure my homework is done for tomorrow, pack my bag (including my crochet and a book to read) and then go to bed. I will try to get back to proper posting soon. (I really need to catch up on reading blogs too…)

Non-serious trouble

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Cover of The Trouble with Jack55. The Trouble with Jack by Shirley Hughes

If this list is correct, this is just the second book Hughes produced relatively alone (as both author and illustrator), and I do feel it lacks some of her (later) usual quality. The illustrations don’t seem as integrated into telling the story and the characters fall much more within traditional gender stereotyping in the clothing, interests and behaviour.

Still, while it hasn’t become a new favourite it does still have beautiful pictures and a gentle taking for granted that even siblings who seem lightly antagonistic on a regular basis will also (presuming things haven’t gone too far) have plenty of happy, co-operative moments. I can’t help thinking, though, that they get off very lightly¬†indeed when leaving a rambunctious three-year-old alone with a pretty birthday tea set-up. That was just asking for trouble…

Known or Considered

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Cover72. How the Hebrew Language Grew by Edward Horowitz

This had the potential to be a really interesting book, about the history of Hebrew as a language for the everyday, then religious use, and then the development into a modern language. If that weren’t what the author meant to imply by the title, then his thoughts (presented as opinion) on how the language works and some of its many quirks as spoken in 1960 (and yes, it’s a new enough modern language that change is noticeable at least in attitudes towards it since then) are often fascinating, if decidedly arguable rather than definitive. Unfortunately the book rather falls down on that very point. Written by a schoolteacher, each chapter, many of which contain pure speculation on his part, is ended with a series of questions expecting a rote repitition of the purported facts presented in the text.

Horowitz quite obviously does know Hebrew very well indeed, and some of his suppositions are quite fascinating, even plausible. Others unfortunately make what seems to me little or no linguistic sense. I could have really enjoyed this as an academic argument, where the reader is invited to pick holes and the author attempts to defend his thesis. Presenting his thoughts as facts, however, put me off entirely, as it did my DH. He gave up on the book one or two chapters in. I finished it, more for the vocabularly presented than for anything else.

I should point out that DH got this book several years ago because he thought it would be a language history. It was definitely not recommended by my course.

Slow day

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

little to report.