[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
There haven't been many acquisitions lately due to a shortage of funds. Blame the car, the laptop, the car, and the car again. Meh.

I can't believe how many years we managed without a car and now the damn thing is essential and it has to work every damn day.

Anyway, I digress, and if I continue this will turn into a blog about car woes, which are much less interesting than books.

The good news is that I finally exerted myself to potter down to the local library and now I have a shiny library card that lets me borrow books. Not just physical books from the library, but also ebooks, and audiobooks that I can play on my phone. The library interface allows me to browse the entire collection held by the county and put holds on books I want to read. Those books then magically appear at the local library at the massive expense of 25p each. That's almost affordable in these post-car-fixing days.

The first book I borrowed was Air Confidential: A Flight Attendant's Tales of Sex, Rage and Outrageousness at 30, 000 Feet by Elliott Hester.

Air Confidential cover

What is it about air travel that brings out the craziest, rudest and most ridiculous side of human nature? After fourteen years as an air steward Elliot Hester still doesn't know. However, he does know all about crazy passengers, stressed-out crew and the infamous Mile High club.

It looked like it might be fun. Sadly, it wasn't. Some of the stories could have been fairly interesting but Hester didn't seem to have the knack of rendering them funny. Shame. Turns out ordinary people are almost as mundane in the air as on the ground.

Mostly to work out how it was done, I later downloaded an audiobook of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel to my phone. It can be surprisingly restful lying and listening to someone read a book to you. Unfortunately, it's so restful that I haven't yet heard it all the way through.

Wolf Hall cover

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition.

Yes, the Tudors. You can't get away from them these days. Blearch.

Once my laptop came back from being mended (NB dropping your laptop on a concrete floor is Not Recommended), I explored the possibilities of obtaining books from the wider library collection. This involved working my way through the Mistressworks wishlist. Seems the library is almost as unpredictable in whether or not it has these books as online vendors can be, but I did find two.

Synners by Pat Cadigan.

Synners cover

In Synners, the line between technology and humanity is hopelessly slim. A constant stream of new technology spawns crime before it hits the streets; the human mind and the external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with "reality" is incidental.

Shikasta by Doris Lessing.

Shikasta cover

This study guide consists of approx. 43 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more – everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Shikasta.

Intriguing, no? And with shades of Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish series.

The third book that arrived is by a Mistressworks author, but not actually a Mistressworks book.

Where by Kit Reed.

Where cover

In a coastal town on the Outer Carolina Banks, David Ribault and Merrill Poulnot are trying to revive their stale relationship and commit to marriage, and a slick developer claiming to be related to a historic town hero, Rawson Steele, has come to town and is buying up property.

Doesn't sound very SFnal. But I checked on Goodreads and it is the same Kit Reed, so we shall see what we shall see.

Finally, a free book arrived through the door. Technically, it was addressed to [livejournal.com profile] monissaw but a free book is a free book. An ARC, hence the unconventional cover.

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent.

Lying in Wait cover

The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don't plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

Nice people, huh?

Thus ends this desultory round-up of books I have not been able to buy this month.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein.

Steerswoman cover

The Steerswoman plays with the reader's expectations, teasing them as to whether this story is "really" SF or if it's Fantasy. There's magic--or is there? Perhaps it's fakery. Or electricity. The reader must make up their own mind.

Steerswomen like Rowan (and a few men) are the keepers and disseminators of knowledge. They must answer any question they are asked or cease to follow their calling. In return, anyone who fails to answer their questions is blacklisted, unable ever to question a steerswoman again.

Rowan is intrigued by some gems or jewels that have turned up in various places, as if thrown across the land by a giant's hand. There's no obvious way they could have been made, or inserted themselves into trees. At the same time, they don't seem to have any particular value. Yet someone is determined to put an end to her investigation. For protection, Rowan links up with Outskirter Bel, and, despite the differences between them, they gradually become friends.

But as Rowan persists in investigating, the two friends are drawn further into danger.

I enjoyed this book. It sets up a believable and well-drawn society, and Rowan and Bel have strength, intelligence and endurance without being set up as superheroes. Their determination reminds me of Snake in Dreamsnake. My only difficulty was that Rowan's intellectual leap regarding the nature of the jewels struck me as coming out of the blue. I didn't feel enough groundwork had been laid for it to convince. A small blemish on an otherwise well-constructed book.

Where the narrative is strongest is in the interactions between Rowan and Bel. Both stick to their own principles while slowly coming to appreciate the other's point of view. As their friendship strengthens, so their characters gain depth. The young man whose help they obtain later in the story, William, is perhaps not quite so well characterised; in fact he's a bit annoying. Or maybe he's annoying because the author wants us to know, hey, this guy's annoying. But he means well.

Polar City Blues by Katharine Kerr.

Polar City Blues cover

Set on the planet Hagar, where life is mostly conducted after dark, due to the sun's intensity, Polar City Blues is a curious mixture of a detective story with a First Contact tale. It has an impressively diverse cast, including a furry and naturally mute telepath, and white people who are considered inferior to the dominant blacks.

Hagar, a Republic planet, is caught between the rival powers of the Confederation and the Alliance. When an alien carli from the Confederation Embassy is found murdered, Chief Bates must investigate while walking a tightrope of diplomacy. And when telepath Mulligan is swatted by an unknown power, and an unknown assassin targets any witnesses to the carli's assassination, ex-Naval officer Lacey must put her life on the line to identify the assassin.

Add to this a crashed pod, another murdered alien, his distraught soulmate and a spreading alien bacterium that makes people smell of vinegar (and itch. And ITCH.).

Despite the SFnal trappings, there's much here that's tediously familiar. Drugs and drug dealing. Prostitution. Crime bosses. Spies. Hate mobs. Some part of me wants something different from human life on a different world. A way of living that, if not better, is at least other. Yet even the presence of effective telepaths doesn't seem to affect the way people behave.

Then we have Buddy, the AI who's in love with Lacey, and also incredibly cutesy and annoying. At some point in his narrative arc, I wanted to put the book down and walk away. It is possible to go too far in AI/human love rivalry, I fear.

The book is readable, if a bit slow-paced, and there's plenty of intrigue for those who can wrap their heads around such machinations.

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre.

Dreamsnake cover

Dreamsnake is unusual among post-apocalyptic science fiction in that new ways of living have been built, some of them technological, others closer to the land, and there's very little harking back to the past. The 'ancients' are mentioned and some of their buildings and their mistakes survive, but for the most part Dreamsnake's characters live in the present. As do we.

Snake is a healer who uses three snakes to diagnose and cure illness and disease. One is Grass, a dreamsnake, a species that originates with offworlders who are mentioned but never appear. Dreamsnakes are incredibly rare and the healers have had very little luck in trying to breed them. Yet at the same time they are essential to the healer's work--they bring comfort and ease to the dying.

When she is treating a boy called Stavin for a tumour, Snake misjudges the fear and hatred of his clan for snakes, resulting in Grass's death. Desolate and blaming herself, Snake resolves to return to the healers' hall where she was trained. But on the way she finds more people to help, and learns of a possible source of dreamsnakes. If she can bring dreamsnakes to her fellow healers, then maybe the loss of Grass will be forgiven.

The writing is spare and overall doesn't try to evoke emotion in the reader, which perhaps makes for a little distancing. But Snake is an interesting and compassionate character, who is also brave when trying to do the right thing. On her journey she introduces us to the different ways of living that have developed in the aftermath of what seems to have been a nuclear war. Tribespeople, desert people, horse breeders, recyclers, the closed and enigmatic city, all are glimpsed through Snake's eyes and so imperfectly understood.

The snake medicine is fascinating, being a mixture of breeding, training, and genetic manipulation. Snake can let the snakes free to hunt, drink or explore, knowing they will return to her when she taps the ground. But although she's immune to their venom, she's not impervious to being bitten. It's these small details that make the snakes realistic.

Overall, an intriguing and enjoyable read.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Book pile

There has been much reading since the last post, and these aren't even all of them--just the ones that happened to be sitting in a 'read' pile on the floor. They're not in reading order as that would require organisation and proper entry of data into libib. They're just books I've recently read.

Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Memory cover

Book 10 in the Miles Vorkosigan series, and perhaps an odd choice when I haven't read 1-9, yet it was selected for the Mistressworks list, so here we are. The copy available on Awesome Books was a hardback, which isn't my favourite, but when you're buying cheap books online you take what's there. A nice, clean copy, anyway.

Memory was an easy read, but not a very satisfying one. It starts with Miles waking up, then goes into detailed flashback, and nothing much happens for about the first half of the book. When it finally gets going, it's interesting enough, and succeeded in fooling me as to the identity of the villain. But it reads more like a book for fans--perhaps not unreasonable when it's the tenth in a series. During the denouement I just kept wishing it would end.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

H is for Hawk cover

This was a much-recommended book when it first came out, and certainly piqued my interest. When I saw the hardback on sale at 99p in a charity shop, I grabbed it.

Books that receive this much praise are often a disappointment, but I adored H is for Hawk. It's passionate, devastating, and, ultimately, hopeful. After her father's death, Helen Mcdonald is locked into a grieving process without apparent end. An experienced falconer, she branches out into goshawks, which have a bad reputation, and acquires a young bird she calls Mabel. The book follows Mabel's training, known as 'manning' as well as Mcdonald's slow emergence from her state of grief. At no point does Mcdonald hold back on the emotions of her grief, and of her repeated sense at failure in manning Mabel, even though she has a friend who assures her she's doing fine.

Interspersed with this narrative is a commentary on T.H. White (of The Sword in the Stone fame) and his trials and tribulations in failing to man a goshawk he called Gos. Mcdonald takes us through White's own book, The Goshawk, and alternatively weeps and rages over his failings and the bird's suffering.

Not for the faint-hearted, and to be treated carefully by those experiencing their own grief.

Heroes and Villains by Angela Carter.

Heroes and Villains cover

Heroes and Villains is a post-apocalyptic novel, of which women seem to have written far more examples than I realised before I began reading through the Mistressworks list. And yes, this is another Mistressworks book. It's also short, but makes up for that by being very dense with description and the evocation of the post-disaster landscape.

The book follows the story of Marianne, born and raised in a heavily-protected university environment, who longs for the freedom and wildness offered by the bike gangs who frequently raid the settlement. When she sees a young raider injured and gone into hiding, she sets out to rescue him. Her naive wish for adventure lands her in the middle of the gang's temporary base, and married to the young man she tried to save, and who has raped her.

Carter never shies away from stories other writers might hesitate to consider, and here we are obliged to see Marianne coping with her new husband, and enjoying sex with him despite an unpromising beginning. She's living in a dream where he is the only bulwark against the other raiders and their rough lifestyle and unhealthy environment. At the same time, she has to deal with another exile from the universities that dot the landscape--her husband's gay mentor, who keeps trying to kill him.

It's an uncomfortable and uncomforting book that refuses to conform to a mainstream view of women and their relationships with men. Suppose you did marry your rapist--and suppose you were attracted to him because of his potential for violence, because of his wild beauty, and because he's everything you're not supposed to want? These are the places we dare not look.

Such a book should probably be loaded with trigger warnings.

Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan.

Queen City Jazz cover

One of the best SF writers you've never heard of, Goonan, here creates an astonishingly dense hard SF novel that explores a future of nanotech and the use of DNA for information storage. It's difficult to believe this book was first published in 1994, as the science is bang up to date.

It's not exactly a post-apocalyptic novel, for the world--well, Ohio--hasn't been destroyed so much as radically changed. People live in isolated communities, fearful of the nano-plagues that drive the infected to build rafts and sail down to New Orleans, where the conditions are unknown and unknowable.

Verity lives in a tiny community that worships a cult figure and by which she was adopted after being certified plague-free. Yet she has two curious bumps on her head, purpose unknown, which worry both her family and her. Verity longs to explore beyond her small world and to remember what she learns from the library's immersive couches, but her opportunity comes at a price. When a member of her community kills both her best friend and her dog, she must travel to Cincinnati in search of a way to bring them back to life.

(There are definite similarities up to this point with Heroes and Villains, see above)

Verity's trip to Cincinnati is fraught with danger and strange encounters, but it's when she penetrates the heart of the city that the story really begins. For Cincinnati's residents are caught in a cycle of impersonating artists and acting out stories that begins when the giant Bees awake from hibernation and continues remorselessly until winter returns.

Further, Verity discovers that she (and many other Verities both past and future) has been created for the purpose of finding a way to end this cycle, and return control of their own lives to Cincinnati's people. But is she up to the task? And what will she become?

A long and intense read that requires effort on the part of the reader, Queen City Jazz is also chock-full of references, most of which I probably didn't get. It would definitely reward insiders more.

Sister Noon by Karen Joy Fowler.

Sister Noon cover

My niece gifted me this book when she went home, stating clearly that she didn't recommend it. We'd both loved We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, but this book wasn't nearly as loveable, for reasons that remain obscure.

On the face of it, it's a Fantasy version of a tale familiar to those who've read books about the travails of poor, middle-class women attempting to present a genteel face to the world. Lizzie Hayes raises funds for a home for abandoned and illegitimate children, and even though she's only the treasurer, she keeps being called upon to make important decisions concerning the admission of children and their welfare. This inevitably brings her into conflict with the matron, who seems to be the only other person active in the running of the home.

But Lizzie's problems multiply when she meets Mrs Pleasant (who appears in the novel in several different guises) and learns, through Mrs Pleasant's nominal employer, that her own father may have murdered a young woman.

It's hard to know what in this novel is true, and what is an identity woven out of mystery and dreams. That's fine, but it's also hard to know if it's Lizzie's story, or Mrs Pleasant's in any of her multiple identities, or that of Jenny, the small orphan girl Lizzie is drawn to without much liking her.

Sometimes there's nothing wrong with a book; it just doesn't work for me. That may be the case here.

The Universe Against Her by James H. Schmitz.

The Universe Against Her cover

Many, many years ago, I read this book--or part of it--and it's stuck with me ever since. Stuck with me in the sense that I could remember Tick-Tock (but not her name) and some of the story, but neither author nor title. Finally I decided to cast my query onto the waters of the internet, and see what the tide brought me, and SF guru David Langford identified the book immediately.

The parts I remember are as good as I remember, but, to be honest, the book isn't all that good. It especially went downhill for me after the departure from the story of Tick-Tock, the giant, alien, telepathic cat, from the story. But it was lovely to know what book it was, and to read it again.

Telzey Amerbdon travels to the planet Jontarou to visit her aunt with her pet, Tick-Tock, who she found as a kitten and who appears to have a telepathic link with her. Unfortunately, the visit is a plot by the spiteful aunt to separate Telzey from her pet, who is apparently the last in a species of cats that once inhabited Jontarou. As those cats are now extinct, Tick-Tock must be impounded in the hope she can be used to repopulate the species.

But, as Telzey discovers, the cats are far from extinct--and they're very angry.

(end of part one)
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
The acquisition of books is a never-ending process. It seems.

Many years ago, when I was a member of a writers' board called Backspace, one of the members was Sara Gruen, and there was a lot of chatter about her book Water for Elephants. It never struck me as a book I wanted to read, but when I saw a copy on sale on the Co-op's charity table the other day, I picked it up. Only 50p, so what the heck.

Water for Elephants cover

Orphaned, penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.

By morning, he's landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he's in love.

As I say, doesn't really sound like my kind of thing. But we'll see.

50p, remember.

I also bought a book by Philip Reeve that I thought was on my wishlist, but it was one I'd already read. I gave it to other half for their school library, so it wasn't a total waste. Only 50p, again.

In pursuance of my goal of reading, or at least attempting to read, all the books on Ian Sales' SF Mistressworks list, I bought another four books from Awesome Books, of which three have arrived.

Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Memory cover

This turned out to be a hardback, which is nice in some ways, but a tad annoying in others, as I find them more difficult to read. Their corners dig into my hands. Yes, I have supersoft hands, thanks not to Fairy Liquid, but to a regimen of moisturising to keep my eczema at bay.

Mind you, no book has caused me as much pain as the paperback of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which was so large and heavy it made my hands and wrists ache.

Anyway, back to Memory. Remember that? (Yuk Yuk)

Forced to abandon his undercover role as leader of the Dendarii Mercenaries, Miles Vorkosigan persuades Emperor Gregor to appoint him Imperial Auditor so he can penetrate Barrayar’s intelligence and security operations (ImpSec).

This is the tenth book in the Vorkosigan saga, and to be honest I'm not quite sure why Ian picked it for the list. I think I've read a book in this series before, and didn't become an instant fan. Still, I'm willing to give it a try.

Polar City Blues by Katharine Kerr.

(The title of this book always makes me want to start singing, "Union, Union, Union City Blues." But I digress.)

Polar City Blues cover

A handsome paperback this one, with a good cover.

Polar City: capital of Hagar, one of a handful of worlds on which the tiny, human-dominated Republic sits, uneasily squeezed between the powerful Interstellar Confederation and the enormous Coreward Alliance.

I have to say, I hoped it would be a city in Antarctica, so there's a slight measure of disappointment here.

The quote from Locus on the back doesn't inspire me, either: "There's cops, there's drugrunners, there's whores and pimps...." Uh. Good? How...original.

I probably need to go into this book with a more optimistic mindset than it's given me reason for so far.

Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan.

I observed recently on Twitter that there are a lot of SFFnal books with "City" in the title. Someone should look into that someday.

Queen City Jazz cover

In Verity's world, nanotech plagues decimated the population after an initial renaissance of utopian nanotech cities. Growing up on an isolated farm, she finds her happy life changing course when Blaze, the only young man in the community, and Verity's best friend, is shot.

I felt obliged to insert a comma into that description. You may guess where, if you like.

That's it for the Mistressworks books for now. There's plenty to come, however--it's a long list.

Sister Noon by Karen Joy Fowler.

My niece from America came to visit us recently (I think her parents were there as well) and gave me this book once she'd finished reading it. "I don't recommend it," she said, which isn't a great recommendation, but hey, a book is a book.

Sister Noon cover

I see I had no idea where to shelve this book, so it went in "General Fiction". Maybe I'll have a better idea once I've read it.

I have read other KJF books and enjoyed them, particularly Sarah Canary and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, but then there was The Jane Austen Book Club, so.... We'll see.

Lizzie Hayes, a member of the San Francisco elite, is a seemingly docile, middle-aged spinster praised for her volunteer work with the Ladies Relief and Protection Society Home, or "The Brown Ark". All she needs is the spark that will liberate her from the ruling conventions.

Pointing From the Grave by Samantha Weinberg.

Pointing From the Grave cover

A charity shop find, this one, picked up for "future reference". Maybe one day I will write the crime novel I've got all these research materials for.

Pointing from the Grave is not only a riveting true-crime story but also a fascinating history of the development of DNA research and its role in forensics, taking the reader on a virtual history of DNA with hard science presented in a very accessible and exciting way. It is also an unforgettable story about an unforgettable woman.

That's all the ones I can find for now. Books appear from every crevice, so there's undoubtedly more.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I went to the podiatrist's with my Dad on Tuesday, and the hospital housing said podiatry has a small tea shop that sells secondhand books. Books of course have a magnetic attraction for both me and Dad. Nothing immediately suggested itself for buying, but when I looked under the most obvious shelf, among the jigsaws I found a copy of The Queen Of The Tearling by Erika Johansen, marked at 60p. Although someone had attached a sticky label to write the price on, the first stroke of 6 was actually on the book's cover.

The Tearling books have had some traction on Twitter, so I decided to buy this one and give it a try. What's one more book?

Queen of the Tearling cover image

Handsome cover, is it not?

Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret after her mother – a monarch as vain as she was foolish – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea’s uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother’s guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...

So onto the pile it goes.

Before it became apparent that my mad money was hostage to the diesel needed to get OH to and from work, I ordered four more books from Ian Sales' Mistressworks list. Most of these books are out of print, and difficult to find on the high street, so it's easiest to get them from a mass secondhand retailer like Awesome Books. Four books cost me just under £11 with free postage.

As I've mostly been buying books from the start of the wishlist, I decided to buy some from the end for a change. So instead of G's and H's I've ended up with S W and V.

Alphabetically, they are:

Star Rider by Doris Piserchia, published by The Women's Press in 1987 (first published 1974).

Star Rider cover image

The Women's Press published a small but distinctive imprint of SF by women and Ian Sales has compiled a non-definitive list here.

Jaks claim humans as their ancestors, but have developed, along with their mounts, the power to jump through dimensions and skip across the spaces between the stars. There are other inhabitants of the galaxy and they have their eyes on one young jak: the dreens want to imprison her in motherhood; the varks grin and stay inscrutable. But Jade of the Galaxy has a razor sharp mind and a faithful mount called Hinx. Where will she skip to? Who will she take with her?

Sounds a bit like what all the cool kids are now calling YA. Let's hope Hinx doesn't turn out to be a jinx.

This book had a small faded sticker on the back from Ryman, now removed.

The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein, published by Pan in their Fantasy imprint.

This book is described on the back as Science Fiction/Fantasy, so I'm wondering if it really belongs in a Science Fiction list. Maybe reading it will provide clarification.

The Steerswoman cover image

The jewel was opalescent, its blue and purple tones shifting with the play of light on its silver-veined surface. The face was perfectly smooth, far smoother than a jeweller could have cut it. In all her travels, Rowan had seen only a few like it--and she was sure they were no natural creations.

The blurb goes on to mention wizards. Sounds a bit Fantasyish to me.

Vast by Linda Nagata, published by Gollancz.

Vast cover image

Aboard Null Boundary, a giant starship thousands of years old, four survivors of an ancient alien war are making a desperate journey.

On the back of this book was a small sticker from Oxfam reading, obscurely, 13.

Now that sounds a lot more like Science Fiction to me.

The Wave and the Flame by Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, also published by Gollancz.

The Wave and the Flame cover image

They came to the planet in search of wealth--and found a mystery as old as time....

No stickers on this one, and, going by the spine, it's never been read.

There's another book on its way, but we'll talk about that another time.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Books are getting expensive. Very expensive. £9.99 for a paperback novel? Ouch.

I only bought one book today at that price, and I paid for it with my stampy card from Waterstones. Obviously I don't get a full stampy card all that often--you have to buy £100s worth of books to fill one, and that's only if you buy them £10 at a time. Although if you're nice to the bookseller they'll sometimes stamp your card twice if you've spent more than £10 but not quite £20.

£9.99 for a paperback. Sheesh.

Today's books:

The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel;
Joseph Priestley by A.D. Orange (a Shire Lifelines book);
S.S. Great Britain (a small guidebook published for the SS Great Britain Society);
Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet we Made by Gaia Vince
Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of our Forests and Fairytales by Sara Maitland.

The Anthropocene was in the clearance box in Waterstones at half price. I was torn between it and an interesting-looking book about autism. Planet won.

Then we went and had pizza. A self-indulgent day. We need one occasionally.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Mad money time came round again so I bought another four books off Ian Sales' Mistressworks list:

Leviathan's Deep by Jayge Carr;
Lost Futures by Lisa Tuttle;
Body of Glass (aka He, She and It) by Marge Piercy and
Heroes and Villains by Angela Carter.

Slowly but surely whittling it down--but what shall I do for a book list when I'm finished?

Also purchased at the charity shops and local bookshops recently:

The Long Song by Andrea Levy;
Villette by Charlotte Bronte;
Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen;
Conquest: The Roman Invasion of Britain by John Peddie;
The Fabled Coast: Legends & Traditions of Britain and Ireland by Sophia Kingshill and Jennifer Westwood, and
World War I in Photographs, edited by J.H.J. Andriessen.

The Kingshill/Westwood book has a list price of £25.00 and looks absolutely brand spanking new. Bizarre.

A good haul, all in all; I'm especially looking forward to the Magellan book.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Published in 1979, Octavia Butler's Kindred is one of her few stand-alone novels. Narrated in the first person, it tells the story of Dana Franklin, a black woman from 1976 who is repeatedly transported to the South of the USA in the nineteenth century, usually without, but once with, her white husband Kevin.

Dana's knowledge of the history of slavery in the USA, which includes her own family's history, enables her to adapt to being dragged through time to rescue her ancestors, Rufus Weylin and Alice Jackson, from injury, illness and death. Rufus is the son of a slaveowner, and Alice a free black woman who is later enslaved. One of Dana's rescues of Rufus is saving him from the wrath of Isaac, Alice's husband, who has caught the young white man attempting to rape Alice. Once Isaac is caught, mutilated, and sold away, Rufus is able to take Alice to his bed with impunity.

Kindred doesn't shy away from the ugliness of slavery, yet throughout it didn't feel as if Dana was nearly as frightened as she ought to be. It's as if something is lacking at the heart of the story. Butler does a much better job in Dawn of communicating the character's fears, helplessness and distress. Perhaps Dana's confidence is the result of detachment, an inability to believe that this world could kill her without a thought, yet that doesn't come across, either. So although this is a well-told and thoughtful story, it lacks the visceral responses of a modern, free woman with rights who suddenly becomes a possession, a piece of property, something to be punished, mutilated, even killed, at will.

What is handled well is the relationship between Dana and Rufus, particularly. She tries to counterbalance the influences of his society and family, to make him see that raping Alice is wrong, tht selling slaves away from their families is wrong. Yet she's never able to overcome his own sense of rightness, of his place in a society in which nothing he does to slaves can be wrong--unless it's teaching them to read and write, or tolerating their own choices of sexual partners. He doesn't see himself as cruel or unreasonable; this is just how things are. And eventually he comes to believe that his rights over black people extend even to Dana, despite her having frequently warned him that alienating her will lead to his death.

The ambivalence of many of the relationships in this book are reminiscent of those in Marlon James' The Book of Night Women, and reflect how adaptive human behaviour is, especially when that human is a woman trying to protect herself, and perhaps her children. Dana herself adopts the behaviours and mannerisms of a slave, and it takes Alice to call her on it, to remind her of who she used to be.

By the end of the book, both Alice and Dana have freed themselves in the only ways open to them, their methods perhaps reflecting the gap of over a hundred years between their attitudes and beliefs.

A strong book, well worth reading, and one that carries utter conviction in its characters and its events.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Christmas bookstack 2015

2015 was a bumper year for books. I don't think I've ever been so inundated with them before. Amazing.

59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman;
Harbinger of the Storm by Aliette de Bodard;
How Do You Build a Time Machine? by Erwin Brecher;
I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty, Victoria Pepe et al (editors);
If This Is A Woman: Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women by Sarah Helm;
The Jane Austen Pocket Bible by Holly Ivins;
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen;
The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman;
A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain's Convict Disaster in Africa by Emma Christopher;
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Quiz Book by Joseph McCullough;
Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia;
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Professor Mary Beard;
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin;
Suffragettes: The Fight for Votes for Women by Joyce Marlow;
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu;
Touch by Claire North;
Women in the First World War by Neil R Storey & Molly Housego
Women Travelers: A Century of Trailblazing Adventures 1850-1950 by Christel Mouchard & Alexandra Lapierre.

Thank you Dad, OH, and [livejournal.com profile] monissaw :D.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Poor, dear, neglected LJ. And there've been quite a few acquisitions that won't be listed here, because lazy. Here however is what I picked up at the Christmas market and charity shops on Sunday in Nearby Town.

Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein;
Assignment in Eternity by Robert A. Heinlein;
(they were cheap)
Call of the White: Taking the World to the South Pole by Felicity Aston;
The Dynostar Menace by Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis (irresistible title!);
The Diary of a Farmer's Wife, 1796-1797 by Anne Hughes;
Hyperion by Dan Simmons;
Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus;
Roma Eterna by Robert Silverberg;
Time of the Fourth Horseman by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
To Rule Britannia: The Claudian Invasion of Britain AD 43 by John Waite.

The guy who sold me Roma Eterna got really close to me in order to explain it's got Romans in modern times and it's an alternate history book! I think he meant well. He also told me the best SF book he's read recently is The Martian.

The Yarbro book is...not in very good condition. But readable. Roma Eterna looks unread and the tiny tiny font might be why *peers*. The font size in Hyperion isn't much better. SF is for the youngsters, apparently. The Dynostar Menace looks like it's ex-library.

Frank gave Peg the farmer's wife's diary in 1994, in the hope that it would amuse her. Perhaps it did.

The polar book looks unread. Poor neglected little thing.

As for the Heinleins...apparently I had forgotten just how sexist the man was. Sigh.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
A trip out to a nearby town that has a Waterstones today. Didn't find what I was looking for, although I thought I'd set the bar low enough--a science fiction book by a woman that I hadn't already read. Nope. Nada. Zilch.

Much promotion for To Kill a Mockingbird and its sequel/prequel/first draft/whatevs.

The Empire of Necessity: The Untold Story of a Slave Rebellion in the Age of Liberty by Greg Grandin (reduced to £8 from £25);
To Catch a Rabbit by Helen Cadbury (who signed the book for me);
Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez;
Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard
a present for my dad which shall remain nameless (his birthday's in September).

Then to the charity shop that has a large book section.

The Four-Gated City by Doris Lessing;
False Colours by Georgette Heyer
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.

Not a bad haul. Expensive day out though!
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Ian Sales makes a strong case for the inclusion of these ten books in the Gollancz Masterworks series.

I especially think Joan Slonczewski's The Wall Around Eden deserves to be much better known.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
The charity shops have been scoured pretty much clean recently, along with the odd little charity table you can unexpectedly come across in supermarkets. Still, some 50p-£1.50 books have been acquired.

Following Hadrian: A Second-Century Journey Through the Roman Empire by Elizabeth Speller (Age UK, £1, hb, looks completely unread);
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Archaeology, edited by Andrew Sherratt (Tesco's charity table, £1, hb, been read);
The Russian Court at Sea by Frances Welch (pb, good condition);
Feather Boy by Nancy Singer (Hospice shop, 50p, pb, looks like it'd been trodden on recently);
The Odd Women by George Gissing (bit worn)
The Blood of Others by Simone de Beauvoir, the Vatican's favourite author. Not. (pb)

The Gissing book drew my attention even though the one book of his I have read (New Grub Street) was incredibly miserable and depressing because of these lines in the back-cover blurb:

"Questions of marriage don't interest me much...my work and thoughts are for the women who do not marry--the 'odd women' as I call them...."

That quote from Gissing is probably enough by itself to justify publication of the book by Virago. I wonder however if it will be as heavy on the heart as New Grub Street, which was almost Sartre-esque in its despair. But then I don't think Virago would have published it if it was all about how dreadful it is for a woman not to be married.

We shall see.

I've never read anything by de Beauvoir (now there's an admission for someone who calls herself a feminist) so if and when I get round to her book, that'll be a first. I also haven't read Greer's The Female Eunuch, although it lay around the house for a long time when I was young, as my mother had a copy. I vaguely remember asking her why it had that title. She explained the idea of women lacking the protuberance that many seem to think essential to being human, and I declared it stupid. At no time have I ever considered changing my view on that. It strikes me as so absurd as to not even be worth the effort of arguing about, but apparently it does get argued about. A lot.

One observation I did make while going through the charity shops was that people round here read a lot of crime fiction, and not much SFF. I kinda wish it was the other way round!
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
A trip to a nearby town to spend money on Christmas on what they're calling Panic Saturday but which was actually OHMYGOD CRUSH SATURDAY was diverted to the secondhand book stall in the market that has SF books.

Four acquisitions this time, for a total of £2.20.

Let the Fire Fall by Kate Wilhelm;
Juniper Time by Kate Wilhelm (with a badly creased cover);
The World Swappers by John Brunner
The Wrong End of Time, also by Brunner.

World Swappers was published in 1959 and is priced at 50c. Someone's stuck a British price label on the back--it reads 1/3. One and three. One shilling and threepence. Usually I remove price stickers but this one's historical. I may keep it.

This is one of Brunner's early novels, but not his earliest. I've had a soft spot for his books ever since Telepathist turned me onto Science Fiction at an early age.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com

Cavalcade by Alison Sinclair
Shackleton Goes South by Tony White.

Or, on loan?

[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I'm currently reading Hermetech by Storm Constantine and getting mildly annoyed by the New Age-y bullshit, the infodumps and the head-hopping. Also, it seems to be taking a long time for the story to get anywhere.

As for the whole 'plot device to stop young woman having sex' thing, this has popped up a lot recently and Me No Like. FFS. Don't think I've ever read a book where someone / something intervenes to stop a young man having sex, apart from his own agency. Bah.

There's a good story underneath, I think. Somewhere. Buried.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Possibly too many to list here, as I've been slack, and they've piled up, but let's see.

Hermetech by Storm Constantine;
Pennterra by Judith Moffett;
The Third Eagle by R.A. MacAvoy;
A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski;
Legacies by Alison Sinclair.

(all off the Mistressworks wishlist and all bought from Awesome Books under their 'buy 5 save 10%' offer)

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead;
Lightborn: Seeing is Believing... by Tricia Sullivan.

(both from the The Hive)

and, while collecting those from my local bookshop, I picked up The War in Pictures in six volumes, published by Odhams Press Ltd. 'The war' is WWII. Couldn't resist all those pictures.

All six volumes were piled up neatly on the chair next to me, but that was Before the Kitten.

From the charity shops:

Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains by Jon Krakauer;
Girl Reading by Katie Ward (liked the title and decided to take a chance on it);
Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (yes, back to that pesky WWII)
City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer (about which I have doubts, tbh; 'bawdy' doesn't usually offer much for gurls).

Let me see, what else?

Husband brought me a small stack of books from one of the charity shops in the town where he works. Wasn't expecting them at all.

An Anthology of Women's Writing: Erotica, edited by Margaret Reynolds (!);
Eye to Eye -- Women, edited by Vanessa Baird;
Living With Contradictions: Controversies In Feminist Social Ethics, edited by Alison M. Jaggar
Women in the Muslim World, edited by Lois Beck and Nikki Keddie (presumably because I had An Argument with someone about whether a white Western woman could really understand the experiences of Saudi women) (where the white Western woman was Hilary Mantel) (who, just to be recursive, blurbed Girl Reading).
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Now moved on to James Tiptree, Jr.'s Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home, which is a collection of short stories. Published in 1973, it predates the revelation that Tiptree was, in fact, Alice Sheldon, and not "a man who knew how to interest me, entertain me, and tell me something about the world and mankind's affairs all at the same time*" at all.

The stories are varied, in subject and approach as well as style, although there's a couple that feature the same characters using history to solve alien-related problems. So far, a collection worth picking up.

*Introduction, by Harry Harrison.


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