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Sep. 22nd, 2017 05:07 pm[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (snooch scream)
Despite being snotty and germ-ridden, I went into town to run errands today. Cat food from the vet (and free Krispy Kreme donut!), blood test strips, the library. The library held some excitement for me, as the elevator got stuck with me inside. Coming down it jerked hard and stopped- in between floors. Over the next ten or fifteen minutes, it groaned, jerked, vibrated, and generally acted possessed. Well, I thought, at least I have stuff to read, but I sure wish I'd taken a pee! I finally figured that things weren't getting any better, and hit the 'call' switch. Of course, at that point, the damn thing dropped again and the doors opened. A couple of the librarians were out there, because they could hear the ruckus the thing was making.

Hopefully will feel good enough to go to work tomorrow as it's supposed to *not* be raining.

(no subject)

Sep. 21st, 2017 03:06 pm[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (writing)
A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, by Emily Midorikawa & Emma Clare Sweeney. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

“A Secret Sisterhood” examines the relationships that early female writers had with friends. Most that is written about Austen and Charlotte Bronte shows them working in isolation (aside from the Bronte siblings); in fact they both had active friendships with other women both through correspondence and face to face, where they talked about their work. Eliot and Woolf have less of a reputation for loneliness, but still aren’t considered to be extroverts. But they, too, had their special friends with whom they could talk shop.

Jane Austen was friends with her brother’s nanny (which was not looked upon well), who was a playwright when not wrangling kids; author Mary Taylor helped Charlotte Bronte; the outcast George Eliot (outcast for cohabiting with a married man for years) had a long correspondence with Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Virginia Woolf had a relationship both friendly and very competitive with author Katherine Mansfield. These friendships helped sustain the writers in their solitary work (even with people around them, a writer works alone) and provided sounding boards for their new writings.

The authors, themselves friends since the beginnings of their writing careers and who first found success at almost the same time as each other, have done meticulous research and found previously unread documents on or by their subjects. It’s an interesting read, so see how these friendships affected their writing. Much has been made of the friendships of certain male authors- Byron and Shelley, Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins- and now at last we have the feminine side of that coin – and a foreword by Margaret Atwood. Four and a half stars.

(no subject)

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:52 pm[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
Dark Knowledge, by Clifford Browder. Anaphora Literary Press, 2018

In New York in the late 1860s, Chris Harmony uncovers some pre-Civil War papers that hint that his grandfather could have been involved in the slave trade. He feels a need to find out what the truth is, but other family members don’t feel the same way- and even attempt to steal the papers. As he asks around, he finds clues that link other society people to the slave trade, too. And, fearing exposure now that trading in humans is illegal and looked down on in New York, those people set out to stop him.

Chris, his sister, their mother, and their cousin are all for getting to bringing it to daylight, even if it means their own family name will be besmirched. Their other relatives, and others in the shipping industry, are very much against it. They have their money, they have made their way into society, and they want the status quo held.

The story takes Chris from the docks to society balls. It’s a historical mystery, with a lot of family dynamics happening, and with a bit of a love story, too. It looks like Browder has done a lot of research into what trade and shipping was like back then. It’s pretty well written, but I found the ending very abrupt and unsatisfying – not so much of an ending so much as a “see you next week, same time, same channel”. I don’t know if this will be a series, and we’ll see the story given a better ending or not. I would have liked to have seen Chris’s sister take a more active role, too. Chris’s character is fairly well filled out, but the others not so much so. The author has promise, but this one gets four stars out of five.

(no subject)

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:29 pm[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (why motherfucker)
A number of years ago, Hank Williams, Jr., the voice of Sunday Night football (or maybe it was Monday) for years, was removed from that job because he was making racist statements. Now, this season, he is back. It's Trump's America.

(no subject)

Sep. 20th, 2017 09:01 am[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
Don’t Doubt the Magic! –the Story of Bernice O’Hanlon, Part Two By Cathie Devitt. Roundfire Books, 2017

Bernice O’Hanlon has returned to the island she grew up on. She is looking for answers- and two of the people who could provide those answers are now dead: her grandparents. The farm she feels should be hers by inheritance is lived on by a pair of brothers, who have been working the farm for her grandparents for years- and they have moved into the house. Bernice is a witch, and in this story she works with the Tarot to figure out how to proceed. The action alternates between the island and Glasgow.

This is the middle novelette of a trilogy, and while it’s said to be readable as a standalone, I had trouble figuring out who all the characters were and how their relationships worked- and there are a lot of characters. The action switches between them rapidly. I felt like I was watching a sped-up film; unable to catch up with what was going on. I enjoyed the premise that there were a group of witches on the island, and that the skills had been passed on to Bernice. I could understand her need to find out what happened to her parents and to her infant son. But with so much going on, I couldn’t form a connection to her or any other character. There was not enough time spent with anyone to care about them. I can only give it three out of five stars.

(no subject)

Sep. 19th, 2017 02:36 pm[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley. Bloomsbury, 2017

In 1859, Merrick Tremayne is living in the ancestral home in Cornwall, doing the best he can with a ruined leg. The leg was ruined working for the East India Company, for whom he had done such varied services as run a tea plantation and smuggle opium. No longer of use to them, he lives with his brother, to whom the house and lands belong entirely, who wants him out and gone as soon as possible. The two solutions the brother puts forward are either Merrick take on a rural parsonage, or he’ll be sent to a mental asylum. Why the asylum? Merrick swears that the statue in the garden moves, and that someone is messing about in his greenhouse.

Merrick is a plantsman (who just so happens to have had a grandfather and father who went to Peru), so when the East India Company (who desperately need more quinine for the rampant malaria in their areas of operation) needs someone to locate high-yield quinine trees in Peru, take and smuggle out cuttings, and get them started in an area the EIC operates in, they come calling in the form of Merrick’s old friend from the Navy, Clem Markham. Never mind that there have been no successful ventures into the Peruvian jungles, or that Merrick can’t walk without crutches. It’s better than the asylum or the parsonage.

The first part of the novel moves very, very slowly. Training Clem to take cuttings. The sea voyage. The mule journey to the Peruvian interior, at high altitude. The fact that the man who provides them with a guide to lead them to “frost resistant coffee trees” will kill them if he finds out they are after quinine. Thankfully, when they reach the village of New Bethlehem (“Bedlam”), the white gunmen leave them with the native guide, and things get weird. The village is on volcanic glass, with hot springs warming the river. There are trees that burst into flame from even a tiny spark, golden luminescent pollen in the air, clockwork statues that move when approached, and the forest is bordered by a line of salt that only the priest (who is also their guide, Raphael) may pass.

This story is adventure both supernatural and natural, historical fantasy, a touch of steampunk, an indictment of how Europeans treated the people of other continents, and a love story. The plot speeds up after they reach Bedlam, thankfully, but it is never a high speed story. The descriptions are beautiful. The characters are built up, layer upon thin layer, as are the relationships. I fell in love with this place and with this book. I totally forgive it for moving slowly. Five stars.

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 10:08 pm[personal profile] valkryor
valkryor: (Default)
Declan is participating in the Terry Fox Run at his school on September 29. His online donation page is here: http://www.terryfox.ca/declane.

(And because I'm old, I still have very clear memories of Terry Fox. He is part of my childhood in a way that will never truly be part of my son's. But Declan does run because he loves running and he loves running for Terry Fox.)

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 05:47 pm[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (writing)
A couple of semi productive days. Repaired the flannel sheet that was ripped in several places. Repaired the top sheet that was almost torn in half. Did three book reviews. Put elastic in the pair of Egyptian print pants. Did two loads of laundry. Sorted some things and put some things that aren't big enough for me anymore out for the Cat Sanctuary thrift shop. Did online looking for dental colleges/clinics/sliding scale places.

Small things, but I was busy all of both days. Busy enough to have blood sugar crashes, even, which surprised me.

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 04:22 pm[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
The Hanging Tree, by Ben Aaronovitch. DAW Books, 2016

In this most recent of the Rivers of London series, Constable Peter Grant is back in London, but still in a territory he’s unfamiliar with. This time it’s the realm of the very rich.

A rich girl ends up dead of an overdose at a party- in a place where they shouldn’t have been partying. Lady Tyburn calls Peter with a request (that’s putting it gently): her daughter was at the scene of the crime, and she wants her name kept out of it. Not just proven innocent of the drug thing, but completely not there.

Of course it turns out that there is a supernatural element to the situation, so Peter is on the case legitimately. The long story arc that started six books ago is advanced here: the Faceless Man is involved. And that means Lesley makes an appearance. Peter spends time having a fire fight in Harrods, having a super expensive flat blow up, building new tech things to use around magic, and narrating the story as the world’s best educated and most snarky POV ever.

Of course it’s a five star book. I hope this series goes on forever. It’s funny, it’s supernatural, and it’s the most diverse urban fantasy I’ve read. For that matter, it’s probably the most diverse stuff I’ve read, period.

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 11:28 am[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger. Scribner, 2009

Julia and Valentina are identical twins. They are the daughters of Edie, who was the twin sister of Elspeth, who has just died and left J & V her flat in London, along with a great deal of money. The catch is, they must spend a year living in the flat, and their parents must not be allowed into the flat. This sounds all right to J & V, who although technically adults, show no signs of maturity. They have dropped out of three colleges and do nothing more than exist. Actually, that’s not quite true; Valentina is interested in fashion design and enjoys sewing and upcycling used clothing. Julia, the bolder of the two, has no interest in anything, and as she’s the dominant one, nothing is largely what they do.

The building they come to live in has other tenants; on the top floor lives Martin, a victim of severe OCD and agoraphobia, whose wife has just left him, unable to deal with his rituals and towers of trash any longer. On the ground floor lives Robert, who was Elspeth’s lover. The building backs up to Highgate Cemetery, with the graves of many famous people as well as the crypt that contains Elspeth herself, and her family. This will be important later. The flat is also inhabited by Elspeth’s ghost- something she makes known after a while.

This is one creepy book- and some of the creepiness isn’t supernatural. The way Julia dominates Valentina, the reason for the rift between Edie and Elspeth, the relationship between Valentina and Robert and between Valentina and Elspeth- there is wrongness everywhere. And that created a problem for me: I couldn’t manage to really like any of the characters. Even ones who I felt sorry for at first turned out monstrous. As another reviewer said, Martin is the most human and likable person in the book- and his relationship with Julia is actually a good one.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what would happen after a certain point, but reading how it played out was still a creep fest. The author’s prose is lovely; even when I was disgusted with the people, the writing beckoned me on. Because of my dislike for the characters I can’t give it five stars, but it’s a very strong four, because very little horror really gives me the shivers.

(no subject)

Sep. 17th, 2017 05:08 pm[personal profile] dark_phoenix54
dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
The Art of Hiding, by Amanda Prowse. Lake Union, 2017

Although she grew up dirt poor, Nina McCarrick has lived a charmed life since she met Finn while waiting on her father at a construction site. Swept off her feet, they married fast. He insisted he wanted her to be a stay at home wife, even before the children arrived. So she put her dreams of becoming a nurse aside, and managed their luxurious home, taking care of the kids who go to an expensive private school, running errands, and, her big concern, arranging flowers. Her life is enviable- isn’t it?

Then Finn is killed in an auto accident. Suddenly, not only has she lost the husband she loved, but she discovers that their life was a sham. The house was being foreclosed, putting her out on the street. The business is bankrupt and no longer exists. The school fees are in arrears. Nina and the kids are basically tossed out with the clothes on their backs- everything else is removed by creditors.

Thankfully, Nina has a sympathetic sister, Tiggy. She also has an uncle who owns a flat, and it happens to be between tenants. With a roof over their heads- as long as the money in her purse holds out- she sets out to rebuild her life. Her younger son is sympathetic and a cheerleader for her; her teenaged son is cynical and resentful. She has no real marketable skill set, and her job hunt is discouraging.

The hiding is not just the secrets her husband hid from her, but how she hid her authentic self to please him. Hiding can create some terrible results. It’s an okay story but didn’t really move me. Three stars.

(no subject)

Sep. 17th, 2017 02:29 pm[personal profile] stitchwhich
stitchwhich: (Default)
Yesterday my kingdom had one of the three annual "University" events. The registrar, Genevieve, has been letting me play with her work so I happily spent the first couple of hours handing out class schedules and rosters to the many instructors. Lunch time passed slowly so in my down time I pulled out my embroidery project and worked on that. Got some good discussions in with people - the kind where one could cover a difficult subject and know that we had enough time face-to-face to fully resolve any issues.

I taught my class on camp cooking. It was sparsely attended. I'd started with five people pre-registered for it, one of whom was myself, and ended up with five students - only one of whom was pre-reg'd. Such is the way of things. Most of my students were experienced cooks who were intrigued by the subject. They had some good suggestions and every once in a while I actually surprised them with information they had not known/considered. And it was nice to have another voice chime in with affirmation about something I'd said.

The drive to and from the event was 2 hours and 40 minutes long. Since I was part of registration staff, I needed to get there earlier than most so was up by 4am. Dragging in the door at 8:00 that evening meant I just kept walking down the hall straight into the bedroom. I've not the energy I had when I was younger! And thank goodness my hubby emptied the cooler for me.

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