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I'm reading and thoroughly enjoying The Native Star by M.K. Hobson. Although the setting and furniture of the book is entirely different, I am reminded of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I'm not entirely sure why. The voices are different, although there is humor in both.
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  I was sad to hear of her passing today. Not only do I personally have fond memories of her books, especially Lives of Christopher Chant and Dogsbody, but she was an author for my entire family.

What was interesting is that different books stood out for each of us. Some of us only read a handful of her books, but really liked them; some of us read all of her books.

I honestly think she was one of the most creative authors I've read. And I still mean to read The Dalemark Quartet.
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What's the take on the relatively new Charles II book (2009) entitled The Gambling Man by Jenny Uglow? Good, bad, meh, great, mixed?

Just curious…



May. 26th, 2008 03:11 pm
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Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I keep thinking this is called Gideon, for some reason. Although Gilead is the name of a place, and Gideon is a person's name.

This is not the kind of book I'm usually drawn to. I actually picked it up a couple of years ago and didn't get far. But I recalled the beginning quite vividly. And was in the mood for something different, something non-genre.

I vaguely recall this being described as beautifully written. While I wouldn't say it isn't beautifully written, it's more that the voice is just perfect. It gives an excellent sense of time and place. It's mid-century, 1956 according to the flap, although I don't remember if that's in the book, and it's a long letter written from a father to his son. They live in the town of Gilead, Iowa.

The book is about fathers and sons and religion (the narrator is a preacher as were his father and grandfather and best friend). The women are well loved, but not nearly so clearly delineated, except to some degree his wife. Though there is a lot he doesn't know about her. The narrator, John Ames, lost his first wife and daughter early in life and was alone for a very long time until he met and married his second wife. And they have a young son who is seven years old.

There is grief here, for he is dying and he does not want to leave them. His love is fierce. But it is not simply about his wife and son. He is troubled by the relationship that lay between his father and grandfather (the latter fought in the civil war, the former was a pacifist). He is troubled by the relationship between his much older, apparently brilliant, atheist brother and his father. And most of all, he is troubled by the return of his namesake, the prodigal son of his best friend. Who is by all accounts a troubled man, now in his forties.

I don't want to get more specific, because if you do read it, there is a wonderful tension there as the author uncovers the past. But the narrator struggles to understand himself and others, and tries to be as honest as possible as he does so. It's a quiet book, but quite powerful. I was moved to tears near the end.

This won the Pulitzer Prize. Though I'm sure I wouldn't like all prize winners, I've had some success with them.
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I've been trying to ignore this trilogy for a while. That is The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. Why ignore it? Because I've been busy and I don't usually turn to YA.

Despite my efforts, people on livejournal kept writing up accounts of these books, usually account I couldn't read because of spoilers galore. This made me curious.

I'll just say this before the cut. These books are well-written and engrossing, and use excellent narrative technique. I am even reminded of the Lymond Chronicles, because Megan Whalen Turner manages to hide information without cheating. The main character is less brittle and a little warmer than Lymond. In fact, I adore Gen.

Don't read further if you haven't read all three books.

Spoilers! )

Other reviews:
[ profile] oyceter : The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia. Lots of links to other reviews there.

It would seem I'm not in the minority to love The Queen best, although I liked The Thief quite a lot.

Also, [ profile] sartorias talks about Attolia and YA.
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Even though I have a weakness for girl disguised as boy, I would not have rented this on my own. My kids wanted to see it.

Anyway, She's the Man is inspired by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, apparently. In a nutshell, girl twin Violet disguises herself as her brother Sebastian in order to play on the boy's soccer team. Violet likes her roommate Duke who likes Olivia who likes Violet-disguised-as-Sebastion.

Not all that interestingly done when it has so much potential. No exploration of same sex romantic feelings, that's for sure. And Amanda Bynes, though not without talent, is not my favorite young actor. (Even if she isn't plastered all over the mags like the super-talented hard-partying Linsday Lohan.)

But I have to admit, and I don't think it's just the biceps, that I was rather won over by Duke's inarticulate bashfulness. Never mind it was a 26 year old playing a teen. His expressions when he didn't know what to say to Olivia, or when he felt he'd said too much to Violet-as-Sebastian… Well, I was charmed.

In sum, a good ironing shirts movie.
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I haven't read a lot of time travel books. So I was curious to hear about people's favorites, especially those that examine the problems introduced by time travel.

Goodness, off the top of my head I can only think of Outlander and some of the Pern books (which are mostly lost in the the mists of memory). Surely, I've read more than that. Oh, and The Time Traveler's Wife which is a little different because it's more local than most.

Anyway, anyone want to rec some books?


May. 8th, 2006 11:33 pm
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Can't resist this totally inaccurate meme.

Your Birthdate: August 10

Independent and dominant, you tend to be the alpha dog in most situations.
You're very confident, and hardly anything ever shakes you.
Mundane tasks tend to drain you - you prefer to be making great plans.
You are quite original. When people don't "get" you, it bothers you a lot.

Your strength: Your ability to gain respect

Your weakness: Caring too much what others think

Your power color: Orange-red

Your power symbol: Letter X

Your power month: October

Okay, mundane tasks can drain me if I don't spread them out.

I am not alpha dog! I don't like that role.

I don't get the power stuff, although I like October well enough.
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A discussion about Guzel in The Ringed Castle in the [ profile] lymond community here. I'm like, wow, I've read this series twice and I did not catch all that. Not that I can agree until I read it again. (With spoilers, btw.)

vaguely spoilerish )
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I dreamt about Dorothy Dunnett's Niccolo books last night. I was rereading them, can't remember much more than that, though at some point I was also in the story. I think.

The weird thing was that in my dream the later Niccolo books had been ghost-written and co-written, and there were two author names on the cover.

I had such a fantastic experience rereading her Lymond books. I think it really helped me as a writer, too, not that I can pin down anything specific. So I do want to reread Niccolo, too.

But then I should buy all eight books, as well as the two companions. Hmmm.
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I dunno. It missed too many good parts, Mr. Darcy rarely moved beyond stiff, and Mr. Collins was a non-entity. Keira Knightly, Donald Sutherland, and Simon Woods (Bingley) were all good. I liked some of the different shots and felt slightly nostalgic for my time in England.

But it was smushed together and too much of the dialogue was changed. The movie is overlaid by the book and the BBC production. I would wait for certain key scenes and be disappointed (eg. when she's at the piano and says, to paraphrase, that she does not play well because she does not practice, or when Jennifer Ehle has just seen Colin Firth at Pemberly and immediately goes to her aunt and uncle, arms up, demanding that they leave at once).

Anyway, I thought I'd like it more than I did. I probably need to see the BBC production again.

[For MI5/Spooks fans, I found Darcy much less compelling than Tom.]


Mar. 12th, 2006 07:33 pm
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Last night I watched Proof with Gywneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis, and Jake Gyllenhaal. It received mixed reviews but I liked it a lot. I thought the acting was strong, particularly Paltrow who was in the play, too.

My mathy husband says they handled the math well. I hadn't seen Hope Davis before, but she was good. Gyllenhaal does well because he's a likable actor, but his character is the least interesting. Anthony Hopkins is quite perfect. (He's aged since I've seen him last.)

Odd note perhaps, but I liked that Paltrow's character didn't seem to be wearing makeup (which was in character). I mean obviously she was, but whatever they did allowed her face to be very expressive.

Hmmm, not much of a review. The trailer has a lighter touch than the actual movie. A few scenes should have been shortened. The movie feels like it came out of a play. Anyway, I recommend it.


Mar. 3rd, 2006 08:28 pm
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I want to read something like:

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Robert Charles Wilson's Spin
Daphne du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek
Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife


Sad news

Feb. 26th, 2006 06:23 pm
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Via [ profile] matociquala and [ profile] pnh, Octavia Butler died on Saturday.

I loved Wild Seed, the Xenogenesis trilogy, and Kindred. By all accounts she was a generous and gracious person.

This is too sad.


Feb. 12th, 2006 09:21 pm
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Via [ profile] madrobins, an amazing clip of Chris Bliss juggling to the Beatles. Blew me away. (It's the last one, Must-see Finale. It really is must see.)

The other clips had me laughing out loud ...kind of like a bus!


Feb. 7th, 2006 05:20 pm
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Via Gwenda Bond, Maureen McHugh talks about psychological realism:
I really like psychological realism, but I think it's an illusion, just like so much else in fiction. The suggestion of psychological complexity is a characteristic of mimetic fiction--meaning that if you want your story to feel real, you should also make the characters feel like they have a complicated psychological make-up. But characters that are as arbitrary as real people feel thin on the page, just as dialogue that is realistic feels strung out and boring. It's all fake.
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After a rather rocky start, I zipped right through The Vanished Child. I'll have to pick up Sarah Smith's sequel. TVC pushes my buttons on so many levels: damaged hero, vulnerable heroine, amnesia, childhood mystery.

MAJOR spoilers, though the plot is complicated and you can still turn the page to find out what happened after reading behind this--not that I recommend being spoiled )

Highly recommended. Thanks to [ profile] oracne.
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The Vanished Child and I finally clicked and it has taken off. I do think the set up is a bit of a strain but I like it too much to mind.

I saw the trailer of Proof and want to see the movie, though the dvd isn't out until Feb 14th. I like Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow, though I know she has her non-fans. I'd like to see Jake Gyllenhaal again, Brokeback spoiler ). I find Gyllenhaal a very likable actor. I note that the brilliant mathematician (Hopkins) says that he did his best work before he was 25. I think Clifford Geertz's Interpretation of Cultures, with his comparison of mathematicians and historians lives on. Not particularly accurate though.
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Stephen King's The Stand was an interesting book, for a number of reasons. I don't think I've read something with such strong religious overtones for a long while. It's not something I'm normally drawn to. It's also been a while since I've read any post-apocalytic lit and it feels very 70's. That said, King is a good enough writer that it doesn't feel dated, at least not in a bad way. Mostly.

I know King is officially horror, but both Firestarter and The Stand read like fantasy for me. I like how King handles psychic abilities. (I suppose one could argue it's science fiction, too.) It's very much normal world with a paranormal element.

Gosh, I'm not sure what else to say about it. Lots of great characters. spoilers, not much of a review )

I loved the dog, Kojak! Or Big Steve as he thought of himself.

Anyway, I'll have to read more Stephen King. I bought The Dead Zone which I always think is titled Coma. Maybe The Talisman. Maybe his series, though not quite yet. The Shining looks too scary or perhaps it's simply that I can see Jack Nicholson from trailers of long ago. What is your favorite of King's?

King is just a very good storyteller and it is instructive for me, because I rush endings, to watch how he winds up his novels. He takes his time without padding anything.

I always thought I'd find King too difficult to read but, so far, he gives pretty fair warning about his characters' fates.


Jan. 27th, 2006 03:58 pm
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I watched De-Lovely last night. Well, I watched most of it. Wandered in and out for about 1/5 of it, so I guess I found it a tad slow. But I enjoyed the music and the performances. I thought I'd read that Ashley Judd's performance wasn't great, but I thought she did very well. (She actually reminded me of Inara from Firefly, thought that's neither here nor there.) Liked John Barrowman and the song he sang, though he wasn't around long.

I'm 100 pages into The Stand. This is why I like Stephen King. "His fear was big inside him, a runaway elephant."


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