January 15th, 2014

priscilla face mask
  • allie63

Book 8 for 2014

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, 2006, 400 pages.

Wintersmith is part of Pratchett's "Tiffany Aching" series of books, written for young adults. I am enjoying them immensely. In this novel, young Tiffany, witch-in-training, dances with the wrong individual during a traditional autumnal revel, and the results are catastrophic. There is a wonderful cast of characters, including my beloved Granny Weatherwax, the Nac Mac Feegles, and even a cameo by Death himself.

I love that Pratchett conveys, even in a young adult novel with only a few human characters, the power that words and books have in transforming lives.

The first little signs of Pratchett's Alzheimer's - tiny plotholes, subtle things amiss - creep into this book. It's not alarming or even obvious, but I've been on a steady diet of Pratchett for many months now, and I can see and feel the change. Wintersmith was published in 2006; Pratchett made the announcement of his battle with the disease in 2007.

Little incongruities aside, this was a terrific book, and will require me to acquire my own copy.
Dead Dog Cat


Things have been busy, so I didn't initially post that I'd finished reading a book a couple days back.

It was Osprey New Vanguard #103: Confederate Submarines and Torpedo Vessels 1861 – 65, which deals with the Confederate Navy's attempts to equalize their disadvantage in warships. I found it a moderately interesting read.
kitty, reading

First two books of 2014 and goals

My main goal, above and beyond getting to 50 books in 2014, is to read more books that I feel are *fun*. I had that sensation with a few books the last couple years, but I'd like to read more where I'm amused, surprised and fascinated. I tend NOT to finish books that are a total slog, but I will put up with some slowness and problematic pacing, and I'll put up with a dry style to get important information. This year, I want to put up with less and enjoy more. So, I guess we'll see how that goes.

Other goals:
-1/3 or more of my total will be non-fiction
-at least 10 books by non-white authors, at least 4 books by LGBT authors, at least 2 books by disabled authors

Book #1 for this year was "Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection Paperback" edited by Matt Dembicki, with illustrated Native American tales about Coyote, Rabbit and other trickster characters. I liked very much that all the authors of the stories were native, and they were able to choose the illustrator for their tale from among a pool of talent. The illustration styles vary widely, from very realistic to highly cartoony, like Ren & Stimpy. Coyote and Rabbit are probably the two most mentioned, but the Trickster is also embodied in human form, and as a raven, a raccoon and even a Wizard dog. Stories come from tribes from all over North America, including Eskimo tales and one Hawaiin tale, as well as from the continental U.S. I liked some stories better than others, but overall, this was wonderful.

Book #2 was "Light Music" by Kathleen Ann Goonan. This is the 4th in a series of books about how bio-nanotechnology could shape the world. I came into the series half-way through, starting with "Crescent City Rhapsody" in December, but it doesn't matter, as the books all hold up as stand-alone tales. In the previous book book, a signal from space, called "The Pulse," knocks out radio and internet on earth and children born at the time of the Pulse grown up with strangely different brains. This book is set many years later, and humanity is trying in the midst of world chaos brought on by a wave of nano-bio technology to adapt to new ways of being and is attempting to reach the stars and find the source of the Pulse. The center of the activity is Crescent City, near New Orleans, one of the last bastions of modern science amid the chaos, but at the beginning of the book, it's attacked by pirates. Two of the citizens have the city's memory downloaded into them, and they have to search America's southwest for help to put the city right again, and to help move it closer to a space launch. Goonan is excellent at building idea stories where you also feel something for the characters, and she does it again in this story. I love her writing so much that I intend to track down everything I can find by her at my public library.

Also, I noticed that while I purposely picked out a trickster-themed book for book #1, Coyote also shows up to cause trouble in "Light Music" as well! I am a little nervous about what that might mean about my life themes for 2014!
miss fisher

Book 10: Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood

Book 10: Queen of the Flowers (Phryne Fisher #14) .
Author: Kerry Greenwood, 2004.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1920s Australia. Crime Fiction. Cozy Mystery.
Other Details: Unabridged Audio Book (8 hrs, 20 mins). Read by Stephanie Daniel.

St. Kilda's streets hang with fairy lights. Tea dances, tango competitions, lifesaving demonstrations, lantern shows, and picnics on the beach are all part of the towns first Flower Parade. And who should be Queen of the Flowers but the Honourable Phryne Fisher? It seems that the lovely Phryne has nothing to do but buy dresses, drink cocktails, and dine in lavish restaurants. Unfortunately, disappearances during this joyous festival aren’t limited to the magic shows. One of Phryne’s flower maidens has simply vanished. And so, Phryne is off to investigate aided by Bert and Cec and her trusty little Beretta. When her darling adopted daughter Ruth goes missing, Phryne is determined that nothing will stand in the way of her investigation. Phryne must confront elephants, brothel-life, and perhaps worst of all an old lover in an effort to save Ruth and her flower maiden before it is too late. - synopsis from Poisoned Pen Press website.

This was another in the series that stressed family ties with focus upon Phryne's adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth. It was quite different to the TV episode of the same name, though that often is the case.

It didn't prove to be one of my favourites in the series; Phryne came across a little too cool and collected for my taste when Ruth went missing. I still rated it 4-stars on Goodreads as I do enjoy the series and a little dip now and then is to be expected.

Stephanie Daniel, the narrator, was singing again and in the closing interview this aspect of the novels was discussed with Kerry Greenwood. Kerry also mentioned that she had moved the date of the first Flower Parade from 1929 to 1928. A small point though it emphasised for me how committed Kerry is to historical accuracy to mention taking this small license.

Book 11: Thunderball by Ian Fleming

2006 Retro Cover
Book 11: Thunderball (James Bond #9).
Author: Ian Fleming, 1961. Introduction by David Wolstencroft, 2006.
Genre: Spy Thriller.
Other Details: Paperback 346 pages and Unabridged Audiobook (7 hrs, 51mns). Read by Jason Isaacs.

Upon M’s insistence, James Bond takes a two-week respite in a secluded natural health spa. But amid the bland teas, tasteless yogurts, and the spine stretcher the guests lovingly call “The Rack,” Bond stumbles onto the trail of a lethal man with ties to a new secret organization called SPECTRE. When SPECTRE hijacks two A-bombs, a frantic global search for the weapons ensues, and M’s hunch that the plane containing the bombs will make a clean drop into the ocean sends Bond to the Bahamas to investigate. On the island paradise, 007 finds a wealthy pleasure seeker’s treasure hunt and meets Domino Vitali, the gorgeous mistress of Emilio Largo, otherwise known as SPECTRE’s Number 1. But as powerful as Number 1 is, he works for someone else: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a peculiar man with a deadly creative mind. - synopsis from Ian Fleming's official website.

One of my favourite Bond novels both in print and on screen, probably because when I first read it as a teenager I was living in Miami and enjoying swimming daily in the coastal waters. Reading again after all these years the humour of the novel became more apparent especially the scene when 'M' is all enthusiastic about sending Bond on a health cure and then when Bond gets bitten by the wholefood bug for a short time. As with all the Bond novels Fleming has a very economical style and writes his action scenes in a highly cinematic fashion. They remain remarkably readable even after 50 years.

Audio Cover
David Wolstencroft's introduction gave some useful background information and also pointed out how notable the climax was. Of course, I won't say anything about that here (spoilers!) but anyone who has read the novel or seen the film will appreciate how it challenges some of the tropes of its day. There are as in many of the Bond novels some rather cringe-worthy passages. The worse for me was Bond's first encounter with Domino when he compares her to "a beautiful Arab mare who would only allow herself to be ridden by a horseman with steel thighs and velvet hands". He quite fancies breaking her to "bridle and saddle" though this would have to wait as currently "another man was in the saddle." I have no words.

Last year I was tempted by a sale on the AudioGo UK site for the 007 Reloaded series and bought a few for those in the series I had yet to read. I decided to have this as a dual listen/read during last weeks Bout of Books Read-a-thon. Jason Isaacs did a superb job of reading the novel. His interview at the end shed light on how he approached the reading given some of the dated aspects of the narrative.

Book #3: A History of Capitalism According to the Jubilee Line by John O'Farrell

Number of pages: 108

This is Jubilee Line information. We would like to apologise for the inconvenience while we are being held in the tunnel. This is due to a crisis in capitalism.

The first line of John O'Farrell's novella demonstrates the absurdity that runs throughout it, as it portrays a dream sequence in which people find themselves stuck on an underground train in a tunnel, in a dystopic version of London where their transport system has gone bankrupt. The book's cover alone was enough to make me keen to read this, with its picture of Karl Marx and Margaret Thatcher, who people with vastly different political ideologies, sitting side-by-side on a train.

The book's events are narrated by the dreamer, who I presume is O'Farrell himself. There is an immediate social commentary on what public transport is like in Britain, with the surprise that people are talking to eachother, which (as the narrator observes) only happens if something is going wrong. It soon becomes apparent that there are a lot of differences in political opinion, with a right-wing passenger getting into a lengthy debate with a left-wing passenger while the others look on. Most of the debating ends up as a discussion of how the tube was constructed; in this case, it is all about London's Jubilee Line, "so called because its opening had missed the Queen's Silver Jubilee by two whole years", with a lot of commentary and critique about how its construction, including a few wry observations (Neasden has the only level crossing on the tube system - "And still it struggles to attract the tourists").

Through a series of increasingly bizarre announcements, it becomes apparent that the tunnel is starting to flood due to bad construction work, and the passengers are told to get off the train and walk to safety; the two characters from the left and right wings both suggest going in opposite directions, both believing they will be walking towards the safer part of the underground line that is not flooding.

The whole story has a wry, satirical tone as it looks at the different political views that are expressed by its characters, and at times becomes incredibly absurd; for example, at one point in the narrative, Noam Chomsky and Roger Scruton appear seemingly from nowhere and end up in a fist fight. The whole thing does start getting a bit overly political, and John O'Farrell describes himself as quite left wing, and it shows from some moments near the end that almost feel like he is getting up on his soapbox.

Overall, this was an unusual story; partially it forms a bizarre story set on the underground, but it is also a political commentary and also an excuse for O'Farrell to demonstrate his very detailed knowledge of London's underground network. I mostly found this book enjoyable though, despite it feeling like a surreal and politically-charged version of another book I recently read, William Leith's A Northern Line Minute. At its best I found this book to be hilarious and very entertaining, despite how scathing and cynical it became at times.

Next book: Know and Tell the Gospel (John Chapman)