The better to see you, my dear
Reading progress update: I've read 120 out of 801 pages.
Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens, Richard Gaughan

I'm a chapter past "Mr Wegg looks after himself", and damn if now that I look back at that chapter title I don't giggle at how doubly appropriate it is. And on it's own is quite the short tale of the absurd.


So far I find the Boffins a bit naive but lovely, as is Lizzie (on that note, I want a whole volume of episodes starring Miss Abbey, the taproom owner), Bella somewhat shallow and YOUNG, but also (from a cynic point of view) right, and the whole things around the Veneerings as Dickens at his best (name and all).

Review
5 Stars
Dream logic and existentialism
The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin

This certainly made up for "City of Illusions". I admit that the end lost me, but then again, dreams are not supposed to make sense all the way.

 

There is a persistent feeling of urgency about this story. Haber's conceit and grandiosity is apparent soon enough, and the more the book advances, the more anxiety how beholden to Haber Orr is it caused me. It almost tips into impatience about how passive Orr is.

 

And that might be part of how genius the book is. Because for all intents and purposes, Orr is a god. THE god and creator of the world inside those pages. And the story itself shows us what Orr himself puts in words: that an unbalanced god that is not part of his own world and tries to meddle with prejudice ultimately destroys everything.

 

There is much more. A recursiveness that gets reeeeally tangled and confusing at the end. Either a god that dreams himself and more gods into existence (a little help from my friends), or maybe that other dreamers already existed, and even, maybe, that the dreamer was not the one we thought (specially from halfway in). The way we keep coming back to the importance of human connection (the one thing Haber maybe had right, even if he denied it in his own dealings), the fact that "the end justifies the means" implies that there is and end, as if history, or mankind, or the world wouldn't then march on, and as that is not truth, then there are only means.

Snakes and Ladders Track Post
Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens, Richard Gaughan Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin

 

1. Author is a woman: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey 04/01 Review

6. Title has a color word in it: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 04/04 Review

 

27. Set during WWI or WWII: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer  10/04  Review     

38. Newest release by a favorite author: Golden in Death by J.D. Robb  11/04 Review

41. Characters involved in politics: Yeah, no. Read Vendetta in Death by J.D. Robb 14/04 Review and roll 1 die.

47. Snake - go back to 19

 

19. Set in the UK: The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories by Angela Carter 18/04 Review

28. Written between 1900 and 1999: The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer 23/04 Review

36. Set in Central or South America: Too scattered for Amado, I read a short Bodoc for children and call it. Review

37. Has won an award: Started Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie  05/01 Review

45. A book that has been on your tbr for more than one year: I counted so wrong before, but I was listening The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin  while cleaning and cooking this weekend and still works. Will post review in a bit. Meanwhile

54. Is more than 400 pages long: Huh... well... I've got Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens on the dock. And Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. Either ought to go over that...

Review
5 Stars
Hives, colonization, and what makes one rebel
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

This was a ride and a half and I did not expect it to be this good or turn out this serious.

 

You know everything HAD to have gone to pot for the ship to end in one body, sure. I was ready for an action/adventure sci-fi romp, and in a way, it is that. What surprised me was how hard it goes into the social issues inherent in colonization, how it explores the notion of identity and how it can be more than one thing, going double for entities that work more like a hive. "I'm at war with myself" is a very psychological statement that seems to be a theme for many characters, and ultimately gets very literal in this sci-fi set up.

 

There is also the constant coming back to the duality system of belief, the idea that fate is as it's tossed, and so you might as well choose your step, one after the other (sounds a lot like Taoist beliefs to me, plus the idea of hitzusen). What I found interesting is how it delves into thoughts and intentions vs actions, and obliquely (or at least, what I took from the whole sample of characters) how in the moment of truth you don't know who will be that will make the selfless choice (because when it comes right down to it, sometimes people don't even realize it was the moment of truth till it passed), but also, that past choices define next ones, but not in the way one would suspect (because sometimes, the feel that you chose wrong might make you very, very set and vigilant to choose differently afterwards)...

 

Aaaand, yeah, I got right down philosophical. I think it was all that loooong interrupted chat between Toren and Anaander Mianaai. It made me go "oh, shit" in so may directions. Very interesting.

Review
3 Stars
It's foggy and rainy and this made me sad
Amigos por el Viento - Liliana Bodoc

This collection was so sad and melancholy. There are some tales calling hope (though I have some issues with "Ancient hunts" that I have trouble verbalizing; I think I'd end up with an essay on subtle ways of racism, and race guilt, and so much soapy hot water), and "The lover and the other" is pretty positive, but it's difficult to offset the tragedy of "Fruit candies and grey eyes".

The writing is lyric as always with Bodoc; at some points it works and at others it read to me as a bit too plainly florid or forced, but I had this sense that I would have loved it as a tween.

There seems to be an underlying theme of duality, or duets, in all the things where you need two, be it struggle, friendship, love, family, support, example to follow. The afterword, talking about how a story written is a half of it that gets completed when it's read by the reader, seems to give credence to it.

The presentation and illustration in the volume gives it an extra bump up. Extra kudos for the editor for the whole arrangement, specially in the order of stories. "Bridge of sand" is the best of the lot and is a good way of closing the collection on a positive note.

In the whole, I'm pretty ambivalent, and damn depressed so, eh.

Review
5 Stars
The GRAND Sophy
The Grand Sophy - Georgette Heyer

(seriously, I don't have a pithy summary for a review better that it's own title)

 

I had a total blast.

 

I love Heyer's harebrained MC's, and Sophy is an order of magnitude on any of hers I've read. I had so much fun with the way she's completely on top of all the chaos she sows around while working to set things as they should go, and I knew the ride I was setting myself to as soon as she appears, but even more when her friends start popping up and you realize they like her, respect her, will help her, but pray not to be the focus of her arrangements.

 

I also love all her side characters in all their glorious follies. I even enjoyed Eugenia, because she was such a perfect foil.

 

It's not that the end is in any way unexpected, but the getting there was hilarious and entertaining. I totally get why it's a favourite Heyer now. It's certainly elbowing up there in the podium.

Reading progress update: I've read 75 out of 348 pages.
The Grand Sophy - Georgette Heyer

This is hilarious. Talk about an agent of chaos.

Review
4 Stars
Luxurious package takes some unpacking
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories - Angela Carter

Do I dare call this full of symbolism, and therefore feel the need to scratch under the surface of these tales? Then again, is there any fairy tale worth it's salt that is not so.

Lets start saying that the way this is written is incredibly sensual. I was surprised because I was sure the first tale (The Bloddy Chamber), would turn up into a hardcore purple prose BDSM. It does not become explicit, but the erotic charge and the tug of war between desire for freedom and sexual or base hungers, innocence and a curiousity for corruption, is heavy and all encompassing on that one and several others in this collection (The Tiger's Bride, The Erl-king).

Puss in Boots was hilarious in all it's terribleness. Not one character in it can be called good, our narrator least of all, and yet. Lots of laughing OMG, no!

 

The Snow Child was... How do you pack it that fast? It takes infinitely more to unpack.

All of them are incredibly evocative. Also disturbing. Oh, and they screw with your mind with the POVs and tenses too.

 

I'm a still quite discombobulated by much of this, and I'm pretty certain I don't get even most  of what this is conveying, but frankly, at some point I started researching some fairy-tale stuff for background, and found out there are whole freaking books essaying on the meanings of this collection, so I reckon I'm good enough just keeping it floating on the back-burners of my mind.

Review
2 Stars
Killing time
Vendetta in Death - J.D. Robb

I realized I'd skipped one of these when I read Golden in Death, so there I went to pass a bit more time and another roll of Snakes & Ladders.

 

There was nothing new on this one case-wise, and little on Eve's people front but for and encore from Mavis.

Review
2 Stars
Burn the hours away
Golden in Death - J.D. Robb

Meh.

 

What there was of mystery was pretty much solved about a half way in, and the rest was spinning, but whatever. It's been a while since I go through these for background entertainment while I do other stuff. It certainly never taxes my brain too much.

 

I really liked the moment where Peabody goes nuclear, and the tree thing was cute.

 

Even more meh. And I'll still will keep going through these because they are damn comfortable after 50 volumes.

Review
4.5 Stars
Charming and warm
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

It is odd, but for all this book made me cry, I laughed too, and it left me happy. It very much IS a feel good book.

For all the bleak things that the anecdotes in these letters tell you about, there is warmth and humanity underpinning them. Through bombings, gun enforced curfews, children sent away for years, captives and capturers starving alongside, and concentration camps, there are books, and there is friendship, and dignity, and courage.

 

I don't know that it is a perfect book, or even that the plot is that tight (what plot), but there is a bunch of lovely and strange, and even ridiculous, characters being good friends and sharing the good and the bad, all because of books and one absent woman. And that's good. It feels cathartic, and lovely. It's... restorative.

 

I quite enjoyed the experience and I'm glad I took the recommendation.

 

And hey, I got a new favorite poem, because of this first stanza quoted (and I don't usually even enjoy poetry much, but this one resonates)

 

IS it so small a thing
To have enjoy'd the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanced true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

Reading progress update: I've read 67 out of 274 pages.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

This is charming all around, and it's making me all teary for the profound love of literature and forever coming back idea of it as a raft in times of darkness.

 

It seems to me the less he said, the more beauty he made. Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most? It is, ‘The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.’ I wish I’d known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, planeload after planeload of them—and come off ships down in the harbour! All I could think of was, Damn them, damn them, over and over again. If I could have thought the words, ‘The bright day is done, and we are for the dark,’ I’d have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance—instead of my heart sinking to my shoes.

Review
4 Stars
Silence, privilege and opression
Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is terrible. It hurts like a bitch in a very quiet, understated way, it does not have the grace of tying the themes in any of the expected or more hopeful ways, and does so in a excellently written way. "Beat me while I love you" much?... Feels like a meta-theme.

 

There are: parallels between the government and Kambili's father's tyranny, between her aunt dithering on leaving the country while urging her mother to leave her father, the friend's questions on what is to be done if the strong leave, the children as reasons for leaving, where to go as the mother asks.

 

There are: commentaries about privilege, and the amount of issues it conceals, about the difference between public and private image, about having for others to see but not enjoying, about compassion not being something deserved, or related to station.

 

There are: questions about internalized colonization, the way religion opens paths for oppression and culture erosion (I raged so hard at the baptism and confirmation names thing), how a nation's identity gets eaten.

 

The motto of a university being "to restore dignity", like dignity has been lost, and higher education is what "gives" it... I have so many issues with the pretentiousness of that motto even while I think education does empower a people.

 

There is frankly a lot, and it left me so sad.

 

The first tenth is a mastery of the ominous. There is no overt violence, but the atmosphere itself is violently oppressive, and you can feel how the silence was bred into this girl. There is a moment where Jaja talks about another girl that saw her father murdered just starting to talk after 4 months, and he says she'll never heal from that, and it stayed with me that none of this characters ever will. The mother drank the love sips and was grateful that there was no second wife. Jaja paid heartily for his inner guilt. Kambili still yearns for her father's approval in her dreams, and that's how terrible and binding this twisted mockery of love is. They still do not talk. But maybe they have some hope of laughter.

 

I'm not touching that other priest with a ten foot pole because she's freaking 15.

Reading progress update: I've read 32 out of 307 pages.
Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Words fail me. The tension is through the roofs. Can we address the deep, deep hypocrisy on this man condemning the militaristic coups?

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2.5 Stars
A lot could be improved without slapstick romance
Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey

I'm too old for these slap-you-kiss-you-romances. I just... well, the fact that I wanted to bonk their heads (preferable against each others, because there could be nothing equally stubborn hard) whenever they turned that one-upmanship fest they had going with the world towards winning over the other, instead of pooling knowledge and resources, influenced my rating a lot. It's is a personal thing (I just want people to love each other and be tender), and a big caveat if you are looking at those stars, so heads up there. I'm very aware that their stubborn pride is exactly in character, and a failing that brings them many problems as well as the quality that makes them succeed. It just made me want to yeet the book and howl.

 

Also, the fact that I can quote Lessa's worry about coming back as "He'll shake me again". NOT FUNNY. No one would take that lightly if you put "punch" there.

 

Now, that out of my chest... Dragons: yeap, good, exactly why I'm here. Timetravel: huh... that was not expected, and suddenly this is a lot more interestingly unique (even if much was a foregone conclusion).

 

I'm likely to read the next install of this series because I can see the problems coming with that other queen, but I want to forget a bit these two logger-heads before that.

Review
4 Stars
Time travelling tales
The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate - Ted Chiang

Very 1001 Nights style with a matrioshka element. Revisits a bit the determinism theme of "Story of your life", but the final message is somewhat kinder.

currently reading

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Outcasts Three Stories - Vonda N. McIntyre