Sumer is icumen in, Pilgrim's going cuckoo (2021)

É uma continuação do tópico A pilgrim marches into March (2021).

DiscussãoThe Green Dragon

Entre no LibraryThing para poder publicar.

Sumer is icumen in, Pilgrim's going cuckoo (2021)

Editado: Jun 6, 4:18pm

Editado: Jul 31, 12:40pm


✓1. The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax by Christopher Shevlin (320 pages) - 2.5 stars
2. The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre (trans. Stephanie Smee) (192 pages) - 3.5 stars
3. How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black (illustrated by Rovina Cai) (156 pages) - 3 stars
✓4. Articulated Restraint (short story) by Mary Robinette Kowal (25 pages) - 2 stars
✓5. Children of Thorns, Children of Water (short story) by Aliette de Bodard (54 pages) - 2.5 stars
6. Notes on Nationalism (essays) by George Orwell (64 pages) - 4 stars
✓7. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (286 pages) - 4.5 stars
✓8. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold (303 pages) - 4 stars
✓9. The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (429 pages) - 2 stars
10. The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold (295 pages) - 4 stars
✓11. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl (544 pages) - 4 stars


✓1. The Strangler Vine by M. J. Carter (323 pages) - 3 stars
✓2. Shanta by Marie Thøger (trans. by Eileen Amos) (128 pages) - 3 stars
✓3. The Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne (384 pages) - 4 stars
4. The Brushwood Boy (novelette) by Rudyard Kipling (37 pages) - 4.5 stories
5. The Castle of Bone by Penelope Farmer (176 pages) - 4 stars
6. Dinosaurs : The Amazing World of the Pre-Historic Monster from Archaeopteryx to Tyrannosaurus Rex by Jane Werner Watson (iIllus. by Rudolf F. Zallinger) (180 pages) - 3 stars
7. A Sort of Traitors by Nigel Balchin (272 pages) - 5 stars
8. We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor (383 pages) - 2 stars
9. The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel - 2 stars

Editado: Ontem, 5:51pm



✓1. My Spy (2020, English (American))
2. The Magicians: Season 4, Episodes 4-5 (2019, English (American))
3. Lethal Weapon: Season 2, Episode 5 (2017, English (American))
4. The Baker (2007, English)
5. Andromeda: Season 1, Episodes 11-19 (2001, English (Canadian))
6. Yolki 1914 (2014, Russian)
7. Detective Anna: Season 2, Episodes 1-2 (2020, Russian)
8. Elusive Avengers (1966, Russian (Soviet))


1. Andromeda: Season 1, Episodes 20-22 (2001, English (Canadian))
2. Andromeda: Season 2, Episodes 1-20
✓3. Paws, Bones and Rock-'n'-roll (2015, Russian)
✓4. Fool's Day (2014, Russian)
5. Peculiarities of National Hunting (1995, Russian)
6. The Avengers: Series 1, The Frighteners (1961, English)
7. The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 15 (1962, English)
8. The Prisoner: Episodes 1, 4


1. The Prisoner: Episode 2
2. Andromeda: Season 2, Episodes 21-22 (2002, English (Canadian))
3. Farscape: Season 1, Episodes 3 & 5

Editado: Jul 31, 12:47pm

Series List

Series in progress

Heartstrikers by Rachel Aaron: 1, 2-5 - Bethesda Heartstriker: Mother of the Year
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch: 1-3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 - Action at a Distance, A Dedicated Follower of Fashion, The Cockpit; Body Work, What Abigail Did That Summer, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Granny, Night Witch, Favourite Uncle, Black Mould, The Furthest Station; Detective Stories, Cry Fox, Water Weed, The October Man, The Fey and the Furious
The Adventures of Erast Fandorin by Boris Akunin: 1 - Turkish Gambit
The Adventures of Sister Pelagia by Boris Akunin: 1-2 - Pelagia and the Red Rooster
Dania Gorska by Hania Allen: 1 - Clearing the Dark

Ralph Rover by R. M. Ballantyne : 1 - The Gorilla Hunters
Chronicles of Amber by John Gregory Betancourt: P1, 1-10 - Chaos and Amber
Dominion of The Fallen by Aliette de Bodard: 0.2-0.5, 0.8-1.5 - Against the Encroaching Darkness, Of Children, of Houses, and Hope, The House of Binding Thorns
Obsidian and Blood by Aliette de Bodard: 0.1-1 - Harbinger of the Storm
Xuya Universe by Aliette de Bodard: 8, 27 - The Jaguar House, In Shadow, Fleeing Tezcatlipoca

Pieter Posthumous by Britta Bolt: 3 - Lonely Graves
Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs: 1-2 - Fair Game
Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs: 1-8 - Fire Touched
Sianim by Patricia Briggs: 3-4 - Masques
Philip Mangan by Adam Brookes: 1 - Spy Games
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold: 2-4 - Falling Free, The Mountains of Mourning, The Vor Game
World of the Five Gods by Lois McMaster Bujold: 1.1, 2 - Penric and the Shaman, The Paladin of Souls
Chains of Honor by Lindsay Buroker: P1-P3, 1-2: Snake Heart, Assassin's Bond
Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker: 1-8 - Diplomats and Fugitives
Fallen Empire by Lindsay Buroker: P-3 - Relic of Sorrows
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher: 1-2 - Welcome to the Jungle, Grave Peril

Holly Danger by Amanda Carlson: 1 - Danger's Vice
Blake and Avery by M. J. Carter: 1 - The Infidel Stain
The Vinyl Detective by Andrew Cartmel: 1 - The Run-Out Groove

Greatcoats by Sebastian de Castell: 1 - Knight's Shadow
Spellslinger by Sebastian de Castell: 1-6 - The Way of the Argosi
The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty: 1 - The Kingdom of Copper
Poirot by Agatha Christie: The Murder on the Links
Chronicles of an Age of Darkness by Hugh Cook: 1 - The Wordsmiths and the Warguild
The Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell: 1-2 - The Lords of the North
Sharpe by Bernard Cornwell:1, 6, 8-9, 13 - Sharpe's Triumph
The Assassini by Jon Courtenay Grimwood: 1 - The Outcast Blade
Arkady Renko by Martin Cruz Smith: 1 - Polar Star

Marcus Didius Falco by Lindsey Davis: 1-6 - Time to Depart
Flavia Albia by Lindsey Davis: 1-2.5 - Deadly Election
Priya's Shakti by Ram Devineni & Dan Goldman: 1-2 - Priya and the Lost Girls
John Pearce by David Donachie: 1, 14 - A Shot-Rolling Ship
The Privateersman Mysteries by David Donachie: 1-2 - A Hanging Matter
Mordant's Need by Stephen R. Donaldson: 1 - A Man Rides Through
The Marie Antoinette Romances by Alexandre Dumas: 2 - Cagliostro
The Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: 1-3 - Louise de la Vallière
Cliff Janeway by John Dunning: 1 - The Bookman's Wake

The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy by Hailey Edwards: 1 - How to Claim an Undead Soul
The Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle: 1 - A Wind in the Door

Aviary Hall by Penelope Farmer: 3 - The Summer Birds

Metro 203x by Dmitry Glukhovsky: 1-1.5 - Metro 2034
The Archangel Project by C Gockel: 1- 1.5 - Noa's Ark
Shakespearean Murder Mysteries by Philip Gooden: 1-3 - Alms for Oblivion
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula le Guin: 1 - The Tombs of Atuan

Forever War by Joe Haldeman: 1 - Forever Free
Benjamin January by Barbara Hambly: 1 - Fever Season
Darwath by Barbara Hambly: 1-3 - Mother of Winter
James Asher by Barbara Hambly: 1-2, 4-6 - Blood Maidens, Pale Guardian
Sun Wolf and Star Hawk by Barbara Hambly: 1-3 - Hazard
The Windrose Chronicles by Barbara Hambly: 1-3 - Firemaggot
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison 4-5, 9 - The Stainless Steel Rat Is Born
Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne: 1 - Paper & Blood
Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson: 1-2 - A Death at Fountains Abbey

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg: 1-2, 4 - The Master Magician
Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter: 2 - The Peculiar Triumph of Professor Branestawm

Conqueror by Conn Iggulden: 1 - Lords of the Bow

Alex Verus by Benedict Jacka: 1, 9 - Cursed
Flying Officer Joan Worralson by Capt. W. E. Johns: 4-5 - Worrals of the W.A.A.F., Worrals of the Islands

The Danilov Quintet by Jasper Kent:1 - Thirteen Years Later

The Jane Doe Chronicles by Jeremy Lachlan: 1 - The Key of All Souls
The Book of the Ancestor by Mark Lawrence: 1 - Grey Sister
The Kalle Blomqvist Mysteries by Astrid Lindgren: 3 - Master Detective
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda: 1

Robert Colbeck by Edward Marston: 1 - The Excursion Train
Dragonriders of Perm by Anne McCaffrey: 1 - Dragonquest
The Raven's Mark by Ed McDonald: 1 - Ravencry
Colonel Vaughn de Vries by Paul Mendelson: 1-2 - The History of Blood

The Psammead by E. Nesbit: 1-2, 3 - The Story of the Amulet
Tertius by Robert Newman: 1 - The Testing of Tertius
Moonsinger by Andre Norton: 1-3 - Dare to Go A'Hunting
Witch World by Andre Norton: 1-3 - Three Against the Witch World
Star Ka'ats by Andre Norton and
Dorothy Madlee: 1-3 - Star Ka'ats and the Winged Warriors

Giordano Bruno by S.J. Parris: 5 - Heresy
Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters: 1-12 - The Rose Rent
The Gaian Consortium by Christine Pope: 1 - Breath of Life
Discworld by Sir Terry Pratchett: 1-15.5 - Soul Music

Theseus by Mary Renault: 1 - The Bull From the Sea
Divergent by Veronica Roth: 1, 2.5 - Insurgent

The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski: 1 - The Last Wish, Time of Contempt
Lord Peter Wimsey by Dorothy L. Sayers: 3, 5, 9 - Clouds of Witness
Old Man's War by John Scalzi: 1 - The Ghost Brigades
Jonathon Fairfax by Christopher Shevlin: The Deleted Scenes of Jonathon Fairfax, Jonathon Fairfax Must Be Destroyed
The Rhenwars Saga by M. L. Spencer: 1 - Darklands
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater: 0.2, 1 - The Dream Thieves
The Laundry Files by Charles Stross: 1-3.1 - The Apocalypse Codex
Merchant Princes by Charles Stross: 2 - The Family Trade
The Dolphin Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff: 1, 3-6, 8 - The Silver Branch

The Ember Quartet by Sabaa Tahir: 2 - An Ember in the Ashes
The Bobiverse by Dennis E. Taylor: 1 - We Are Many
Jem Flockhart by E. S. Thomson: 2 - Beloved Poison
A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain: 1-2 - Part 3

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells: 0.5 - All Systems Red
Miss Silver by Patricia Wentworth: 1 - The Case is Closed
Aspects of Power by Charles Williams: 1 - Many Dimensions
Detective Inspector Chen by Liz Williams: 1 - The Demon and the City
Victor the Assassin by Tom Wood: 1, 2-4: Bad Luck in Berlin, The Darkest Day
The Gestes by P. C. Wren: 1 - Beau Sabreur
Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse: 1 - The Inimitable Jeeves


The Spiritual Life by Hieromonk Gregorios: 1-2 - Do Not Judge

The History of Middle Earth by Christopher Tolkien: ??

Series up to date

Paul Samson by Henry Porter: 1-2 - The Old Enemy
The Hitman's Guide by Alice Winters: 1-2
Tom Mondrian by Ross Armstrong: 1
The Green Man's Heir by Juliet E. McKenna: 1-3
The Quantum Curators by Eva St. John: 1-2 - The Quantum Curators and the Missing Codex
The Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky: 1-2
Comet Weather by Liz Williams: 1-2
The Folk of the Air by Holly Black: P1-3, 1-3.5

(i) This list is still probably incomplete.
(ii) The named book is the next to be read
(iii) Inclusion of a series does not imply intent to complete it.
(iv) I have read some of the series in bold type during this year (2021).
(v) I have pruned out of this list some series that I began in 2019, but definitely do not intend to continue.

Jun 6, 4:25pm

Oh, dear, if those are links, they're not working for me. I can see the lovely picture, though.

Editado: Jun 6, 5:00pm

>6 Meredy:
Thank you- we get some magnificent sunsets around here.

Which entries have links that don't function for you?

Jun 6, 7:36pm

>7 -pilgrim-: Now they do. I guess you just hadn't filled them in yet. It appears from the time stamps that I was looking just when you were creating them. It's all cool now.

Jun 9, 2:37pm

I have a book with the same title as this thread Sumer is icumen in 😁

Jun 9, 3:08pm

>9 fuzzi: My mum taught me the song when I was very little.

What is the book look like?

Jun 9, 3:10pm

>10 -pilgrim-: click on the Touchstone 😊

Editado: Jun 9, 4:08pm

Jun 9, 5:26pm

>12 -pilgrim-: sorry about your phone 😢

It's been so long since I last read it, all I can offer is I liked it enough to move it 900 miles 30+ years ago, and then move it again 300 miles about 20 years ago.

Time for a reread?

Jun 10, 7:19am

>13 fuzzi: That's a good recommendation!

Editado: Jul 31, 12:38pm

The Magician's Nephew (radio drama) adapted from the book by C. S. Lewis - 4 stars

This was not the book itself, but a dramatisation with narrator (Paul Schofield). It followed the book quite faithfully, with minor changes.

The scene in the great hall of Charn has always been one of my most vivid memories of the Chronicles of Narnia - which must again give credit to Pauline Baynes for placing the image so firmly in my head - but The Magician's Nephew is a book that I have not reread in over forty-five years, and I was surprised how much I had forgotten. (Uncle Andrew had vanished from my memory!)

I am notorious among my friends for having read the Chronicles of Narnia as a child, and only later realising their allegorical component - despite being raised in a Christian home! Actually it may have been because of that - because I shared the same moral framework as the author, I did not see actions by characters that reflected that value system as being uniquely, or specifically Christian, but simply as standard human virtues.

In listening to The Magician's Nephew I was struck by how many more (non-theological) points that I had missed: growing up in the shadow of the Bomb, I had taken for granted that our world too had its own version of the Deplorable Word, for example.

Nor had I recognised a critique of Nietschean doctrines in Uncle Andrew 's insistence that "rules only apply to ordinary people". Uncle Andrew seems to be a magician with the ethos of Aleister Crowley.

Most poignant was the realisation of how close to home Lewis was writing when describing a small boy, who was desperately trying to find something to save his dying mother.
Lewis gives Digory what he could not find himself. It made that scene even more moving.

Another tiny reference that I had missed was the evil fairy godmother: Mrs Lefay. Is this a reference to her being le fey i. e. the fairy (in French), or, as the Narnia Wiki believes, does this mean that she is Morgan le Fey - linking her to the Matter of Britain? As she is the point through which magic enters the story (since the rings are made from fey dust), it is an important point, just touched on.

And while I am on the subject, I feel sure Lewis is having fun with his friend, Tolkien, in writing about Rings of Power (even if he did not phrase it like that).

I am also struck how much Lewis is in advance of much of the science fiction of his day in conceiving not only of another world, but a multiverse of other worlds.

I was worried that returning to Narnia as an adult would be a mistake, as Lewis himself has implied in Prince Caspian. Instead I found more here than I found as a child.

On the whole, I found the Focus on the Family performance acceptable. I did not think David Suchet did well as Aslan - he often came across as harsh rather than majestic - and Jadis, when angry, developed a distinctly lower class London "fishwife" overtone to her screeching. The mockery of rural accents in the animals was also uncomfortable. But the lead characters sounded authentic, so this was not difficult to listen to.

The introduction by the author's stepson, Douglas Gresham was a nice touch, although he did not have anything specific to contribute, other than the fact that he had long the books even before he met the man whom he knew as "Jack". And, of course, that he too had found himself in Digory's position. I think the best possible endorsement for a book that talks to children about a parent dying, is when a man who lost his mother as a boy loves it.

However I still prefer books to dramatisation - particularly when I already have some mental images of my own of the characters!

Jun 11, 12:04am

>15 -pilgrim-: I think that is the same dramatization I have. I bought the whole Narnia set on CD years ago, and enjoyed listening to them.

Jun 12, 2:42am

>16 NorthernStar: Have you also read the books?

Editado: Jun 12, 2:53am

Wyrd Sisters (BBC radio dramatisation) - 3 stars
Adapted from the novel by Terry Pratchett by Vince Foxall.

I last read Wyrd Sisters in the nineties, so it seemed a good time to revisit it, in a four part dramatisation on Radio 4e.

It brings in Granny Weatherwax from Equal Rites, who with Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick form a very small convening the Ramtop mountains on the Discworld. Each represents one of the archetypes of a witch: Granny Weatherwax is thin, celibate and scary (the sort that the locals would probably like to burn if they were not too afraid of the consequences), Nanny Ogg is the garrulous, and scandalous, matriarch of a large extended family (the sort of witch the locals go to for help with problems and midwifery) and the much younger Magrat, who is the New Age hippie type. She actively wanted to be a witch, and has got a lot of her ideas from books, rather than being entirely taught by her predecessor, Goodie Whemper. A talk given in 1985 demonstrated that Sir Terry was as contemptuous of neopaganism as he was of any other form of religion, and Magrat is his opportunity to take intermittent jibes at it.

The three witches therefore represent the three forms of the Goddess. They also fit the number of witches in Macbeth.

One of the themes of the Discworld series is that there are "morphic resonances" between the Discworld and ours. The plot of Wyrd Sisters is thus an alternative version of Macbeth.

Maybe the restriction to four half-hour episodes necessitated too much pruning. On the other hand, I do not remember Wyrd Sisters ever being a favourite.

I found it amusing, but not that amusing.

And the audio version necessarily increased the emphasis on torture. What were asides in the book are brought into focus by the sound effects. The Felmets are sadists. They also use torture as their preferred method of suppressing dissent. So a lot of people are tortured during the course of this story - suspected witches and suspected political opponents - most of them ordinary folk who do not have Nanny Ogg's methods of coping. This is not really very funny.

The performance was excellent. It was the content that felt flawed in tone at times.

Editado: Jun 12, 1:38pm

Books read in May, but reviewed this month:
Doomsday Book:
The Serpentine Road:
Ink & Sigil:

Books awaiting review from March: 5
Books awaiting review from April: 3
Books awaiting review from May: 7

Books still awaiting review from 2020:

Books awaiting review from January: 1
Books awaiting review from February: 1
Books awaiting review from March: 1
Books awaiting review from April: 1
Books awaiting review from October: 3
Books awaiting review from December: 4

Editado: Jul 9, 8:30am

The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax by Christopher Shevlin - 2.5 stars

Normally a 2.5 star review indicates that a book is average - actually this swings wildly between very good and positively cringeworthy.

The plot is about Jonathon Fairfax, a reasonably intelligent young man who falls apart in social situations, says the first thing that comes into his head, and is hopelessly inept. For some unexplained reason has decided on a customer-facing career as a salesperson at Harrods. He has decided to move to London to improve his social situation (seemingly having no friends from before) and is mired in the isolation of bedsitland.

He encounters a couple of people with whom he shares an absurdist sense of humour and they adopt him into their little circle. One is an incredibly shallow guy, obsessed with being cool, whose only redeeming feature is that he is aware that he is shallow, and the other is a married glamorous "granny" (i.e. in her fifties!)

A murder is committed in the opening chapter.

The book switches between the points of view of Jonathon and his new friends, the murderer, the victim, the girl Jonathon becomes obsessed with, a sleazy politician (and occasionally some other people), and the disparate threads come together.

Where this excels is a almost Wodehousian ability to some up a person or a situation in an apt sentence. However there is a sense at times that the author is trying too hard, and so arch that he becomes cold and rather cruel. I read this book in fits and starts as it sometimes amused, but then started to feel distasteful.

Where it is bad is in its treatment of women:
  • Lance: He seeks out a Girl From The Pub to have sex with every time he feels stress. They are referred to that way because he cannot be bothered to remember their names. There is no suggestion that they are likewise looking for casual sex; how he copes with their "clinginess" is one of his "amusing" character traits and an exemplar of how "cool" he is.

    No one acknowledges that he is a despicable rat for taking advantage of young girls.

  • Jonathon: He falls for a girl on first meeting. She likes him, but makes it clear that she only wants him as a friend, as she is a lesbian. This makes him even keener because it means "she rejects all man equally" so he has just as much chance as any other man!

    He continues to obsess over her, whilst first stalking her then pretending to be her friend.

    THIS WORKS! It turns out that she was only a lesbian because she was insecure about her attractiveness, and so was only with her girlfriend because she admired her confidence and wanted to be like her!! Yeah, right. Jonathon admires Lance, so by that rationale, why isn't he sleeping with him, then?

    Words fail me.
  • Jane: Jane is described as looking like 'how Lauren Bacall would age if she were English'. She is married and comfortably off. Nevertheless she is apparently obsessing over the fact that she is "getting old" (late fifties) and therefore losing her attractiveness, with an implication that means that her life is over.

    The male lead is needy and depressive. But he is clearly meant to be attractive in a dorky way. Nevertheless HE judges all women primarily on their appearance.

    And the way the author writes his female characters makes it clear that he does the same. None of them have any personality in their interior monologues other than to obsess about their assessment of their own inadequate desirability. (With the exception of an underage girl, who throws herself into sex with a much older man, and then blames herself for being abused.)

    There are actually quite a lot of married characters, but usually when couples are written, we only get the man's point of view.

    I know this is a first novel - and the author comes across as quite needy himself, in begging for reviews in the back, and citing his own depressive tendencies (possibly to try to guilt his readers into leaving positive reviews).

    And it is really quite good when following the political theme. I love the concept of the RSG.

    But the whole set of relationship stuff is so abysmally awful in its idolisation of seventies-style mistreatment of women, assumption that lesbians are simply in need of the right man, and further assumption that all women judge themselves by the standards of a superficial adolescent male.

    That endorsement of these attitudes is still being written in this century makes me incredulous. But I cannot just laugh at the author for his immaturity. Unfortunately I have met enough walking, talking, breathing proponents of the school of thought that "Only what I want matters, your wishes are irrelevant" to feel that giving their worldview "validation" is not trivial.

    It is a pity, since there is also talent here; but this author badly needs to grow up.

    Since it is a first novel I may try more, to see if he does.
  • 21BookstoogeLT
    Jun 13, 12:28pm

    >20 -pilgrim-: this author badly needs to grow up.

    Welcome to the brave new world of writers :-(

    And I have no idea why Charlotte's web got attached as a touchstone!

    Editado: Jun 14, 12:26am

    >21 BookstoogeLT: Attached where as a touchstone? The links in my post work correctly for me...

    Jun 13, 3:33pm

    >22 -pilgrim-: Huh, that is wicked weird, now it's not showing. When I posted that comment it was showing CW over on the side as a touchstone.

    Jun 13, 3:40pm

    >23 BookstoogeLT: Fascinating.

    Jun 13, 5:34pm

    >24 -pilgrim-: Just one more way that LT stays "unique".

    Jun 14, 10:18am

    June #5:

    Children of Thorns, Children of Water (a short story from Dominion of the Fallen) by Aliette de Bodard - 2.5 stars

    I am not really sure why I keep returning to the world of Dominion of the Fallen, since I find the setting utterly depressing. I think it is because of the beauty of the author's writing.

    In an alternate Paris, where the Great War was between supernatural entities, not the mortal "Great Powers" of history, Fallen angels rule over a devasted city. The Fallen have little interest in humanity, who in turn harvest their bodies to turn into prefer that fuels magic. The Great Houses, consisting of both Fallen and their bound dependents and servants, politic and feud against each other, whilst the Houseless scavenge at the margins of society. It is grim.

    In this story, two dragons from beneath the Seine attempt to infiltrate House Hawthorne. It takes place after the events of The House of Shattered Wings and before The House of Binding Thorns (according to the author's website).

    It is probably the most cheerful story thus far, insofar as the few characters that do demonstrate humane emotions do not immediately suffer horribly for them.

    Jun 14, 7:05pm

    >17 -pilgrim-: Yes, many times, starting quite young.

    Editado: Jun 15, 1:13pm

    >27 NorthernStar: How well did you feel the dramatisations captured the feel of the books?

    Jun 15, 9:19pm

    >28 -pilgrim-: I thought they were pretty good, and well worth getting. However, I don't remember The Magician's Nephew all that well, and it's been a while since I listened to any of them. I was mostly listening to them while on long drives, and found the variation in volume was sometimes difficult. Either hard to hear over road noise, or occasionally very loud. I should really listen to them again before too long.

    Editado: Jun 16, 8:37pm

    Falco: Shadows in Bronze (radio play) dramatised by Mary Cutler from the novel by Lindsey Davis - 3.5 stars
    Dir.: Peter Leslie Wild

    This is a dramatisation of the second book about public informer Marcus Didius Falco, and is set in A.D. 71, near the beginning of Vespasian's reign. It begins with Falco, who is working for the emperor, and his friend, Captain of the Watch Petronius, tidying up some of the mess left over from the events of the previous book.

    Shadows in Bronze was actually my first introduction to Falco. I found it a wonderful historical novel, both moving and full of wry humour. I have reread it several times since.

    As usual with historical crime fiction, this dramatisation has the problem of having to omit, for reasons of length, many twists of the plot. However it worked better than most, largely because Anton Lesser is perfect as Falco. He world-weary, yet vulnerable tones captured the nuances of Falco's personality, and suited the Marlowe-esque narrative voice-over. The cast, even pared down, is still large for a radio drama, but the excellence of the casting removed many problems. The accents or patrician tones, and the manner of speech, immediately positioned the social class of each character, plus whether they came from old family or had risen through their own merit. It was very neatly done.

    As usual, I prefer the book to the play. But Anton Lesser's performance is such that I may well stay with the BBC radio dramas for this recap.

    Editado: Jun 19, 6:17pm

    Another review of a book read in March:

    Palestinian Women Detainees in Israeli Prisons

    Books awaiting review from January: 2
    Books awaiting review from March: 5
    Books awaiting review from April: 3
    Books awaiting review from May: 6

    Books still awaiting review from 2020:

    Books awaiting review from January: 1
    Books awaiting review from February: 1
    Books awaiting review from March: 1
    Books awaiting review from April: 1
    Books awaiting review from October: 3
    Books awaiting review from December: 4

    Editado: Jun 20, 10:47am

    June #7:

    Shards of Honor: Book 2 of The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold - 4.5 stars

    Remembering the recommendations from other pub denizens, I finally got around to starting this series. I followed the author's published advice that this is the place to start this series.

    I should not have liked this as much as I did; there is nothing particularly original in the plot. A space survey team from one planet is attacked on a contested new world by a military mission from another planet. It has a trope that I dislike: a couple fall for each other extremely rapidly.

    And yet it works.

    All the worlds appear to be descended from colonisation from Earth, but during the Time of Isolation they developed quite separate cultures.

    Survey Captain Cordelia Naismith comes from Betan Earth, a technologically advanced planet, making the most of limited natural resources. Culturally it resembles an extrapolation of seventies American attitudes (particularly with respect to sex and reproduction).

    Captain Aral Vorkosigan is the commanding officer of the Barrayan ship detailed to seize the planet. Barrayar is a militaristic society, an empire with per concentrated in a hereditary upper class, who all have the prefix "Vor" affixed to their names. The names of its people seems to be intended to imply they are of Slavic descent (which gave me slight problems in keeping a straight face on learning that "Vor" denotes an aristocrat!).

    The story has three acts, each of which could have stood as a separate story: the struggle over the surveyed planet, the war that ensues, and the consequences of its aftermath. It combines military action and complex politics.

    What makes it special is how well it is written. The characters are never merely ciphers. There is heroism, but never beyond believability.

    And this is counterbalanced by a realistic understanding of the horror of war - not just death, but serious, life-changing injury.

    I liked how this handled both violence and sex. What happens, or is likely to happen, is never ducked, but neither is there gratuitous detail. More modern writers get this wrong for me: either they go into unpleasant prurient detail, or they pretend that people can get into bad situations without the bad things happening. It was refreshing to find an author getting that delicate balance right.

    And as to the romance: I think why it does not annoy me as much as most examples of military fiction romances is that there is no loss of competence - whatever they may be thinking, they do not let it interfere with their work; they only indulge their feelings when danger is past.

    And as to the speed at which it proceeds:
  • Eight days after meeting is certainly fast to propose. But in a culture where arranged marriages are the norm, then marrying someone you barely know will also be common, and not seem strange. So, if he finds women raised in his own culture unappealing, it is plausible that he might leap precipitately into proposing to a woman who does fit his ideals, given that there is no possibility of proceeding more slowly;
  • she was expecting rape, torture and death. On finding an enemy who behaved as a decent human being, rather than the monster she was expecting, then a version of Stockholm Syndrome may be operating.
    She starts from physical attraction, then gets a chance to see his genuine good qualities. And still she asks to wait.
    So all in all, it is not as implausible as it seems at first.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this and went on to its sequel immediately.
  • 33-pilgrim-
    Editado: Jun 20, 12:27pm

    June #8:

    Barrayar: Book 3 of The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold - 4 stars

    Although written six years later, with other books in between, Barrayar takes up the story a few days after the end of Shards of Honor. It is focussed firmly on the labyrinth of Barrayan politics, the death of the Emperor, and the power struggles that ensue. This time we are following only Cordelia, as she struggles to get up to speed, and learn how to fulfill a diplomatic rôle.

    We see relatively little of Aral's thinking this time, and that is what makes this novel slightly weaker than the previous one. The fact we are following it all from Cordelia's point of view, and that she is usually complaining that no one has briefed her properly, enables the author to spoon-feed her readers descriptions of how Barrayar works. Aral is an aristocrat by birth, who knows perfectly well how the politics of his society work, even if he has been reluctant to get involved. He is also intelligent, capable and fully respectful of his wife's abilities. As a military officer, he knows the value of proper preparation. I therefore find it impossible that, if not able to take the time to educate her himself, he has not assigned staff to ensure that Cordelia is properly prepared.

    There were some jibes regarding how the author thinks society should function, in Shards of Honor, but they were divided equally between Beta Earth and Barrayar. Here the lecture felt a little more overt. Betans represent the extension of liberal "hippie" values, and Barrayans hierarchical military culture. Cordelia, having abandoned her own culture in disgust at how they have treated her, now spends a lot of her time complaining at how "primitive" her adopted culture is.

    One of the major themes is how Barrayar despises those who have been crippled in their military service. Maybe Bujold was thinking of the crippled young men begging in Moscow's underpasses at her time of writing (although that situation was engendered more by the state of their country's finances), or by the cold reception America's Vietnam veterans often faced (although that tended to relate to the unpopularity of that war - a situation unlikely to be paralelled in Barrayar). But a society that is oriented towards war needs to provide more than grand funerals, in order for the population to continue to willingly send its children.

    It seemed that she wanted to raise the theme of cruelty towards the disabled, and therefore worked it in, as how a disabled veteran is treated, without considering whether it was consistent. (The view that those born disabled are worthless and should be aborted is far more widespread, and completely consistent with a gender-conscious society dependent on strong male heirs.)

    However, most of the likeable qualities of the first book are still present, and characters, who we have already met, are further developed. Moreover their happiness matters just as much to the author as do her leads.

    I particularly liked how the character of Sergeant Bothari was developed. Although it has been established that he is far from normal, and suffers from schizophrenia, it is not left at "he's crazy". There is a real attempt to explain both how he thinks and why he thinks that way, and to demonstrate that he has admirable qualities as well as terrifying ones.

    But, although more of this book seems devoted to discussion of what makes an ideal society, this is not a manifesto for a particular political agenda. It is anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, pro-in vitro gestation, pro-female equality in the military (without separate selection standards) and extremely wary of psychiatric techniques that involve interfering with memory and personality manipulation. Although I suspect Cordelia of being a mouthpiece for the author's own position, the story is obviously intended to encourage debate and critical thinking, rather than assume instant agreement as 'the only possible valid position'. It is noteworthy that Aral is not an instant convert; on many issues they simply accept that they disagree.

    But the fact that politics is more to the fore than open warfare has not decreased the action quotient of this book, nor the stakes. Nor has Cordelia become domesticated: she is still as formidable as when they met.

    Jun 20, 1:16pm

    >32 -pilgrim-: I've had this one on my virtual TBR pile for ages because of recommendations in this group. I'm glad it didn't disappoint you. Maybe I'll get to it sooner rather than later.

    Jun 20, 2:47pm

    >32 -pilgrim-: & >33 -pilgrim-: Very nice. I have found the Vorkosigan to be full of food for thought, as well as a romping good time. Glad you are enjoying them.

    Jun 20, 5:32pm

    >35 MrsLee: full of food for thought, as well as a romping good time.

    That is an excellent, succinct summary of what I was trying to say. I am glad that you feel the same way.

    Jun 22, 7:28pm

    I'm glad you enjoyed those two books, which are my favorites of all the Vorkosigan stories.

    Editado: Jun 28, 7:44pm

    June #11:

    The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl - 4 stars

    I bought this in a sale, in a hurry, on one of the rare occasions in 2020 that I had access to a bookshop, on the basis that it was crime fiction about murders based on Dante's Commedia. I was rather surprised to find all the major characters were real historical figures. Given how pgmcc and I feel about authors who hand their stories on the lives of real people, it was rather disappointing, and I have only got around to it now. If I had remembered the conversation about it here, it might have taken me even longer!

    But this was less using famous names to hang a crime fiction on, than a writer, fascinated by these poets and their collaboration on translating Dante, who used a crime fiction as a way of immersing his readers in these writers and their world.

    I have never been particularly interested in 19th century American poetry, so Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the only name actually familiar to me, but the Dante Club was real, and its other members - Oliver Wendell Holmes, J. T. Fields (of the publishing house), George Washington Greene and James Russell Lowell (who, I subsequently discovered, write the words of my favourite hymn) - all were famous names of their day.

    I do not know anything of these men, to judge the accuracy of their portrayal, but in the endnotes the author acknowledges the use he makes of their writings, those of their family members, and of other Dante Club members, who were away in Europe at the time that this novel is set; I felt he was more interested in exploring these personalities, and the politics and ethos of Boston, and Harvard, at this time, than in the murder mystery he had concocted.

    Accordingly, it was rather a slow book at the start. But as a detective novel, I felt it also worked well. The amateur sleuths made great intellectual leaps, only some of which were actually correct, but were equally plausible as the "true" version. The misdirections were not forced, nor was the conclusion ever inevitable.

    Ultimately, I did enjoy the introduction to the American intellectual elite of the 1860s, and its politics, and also an intriguingly constructed mystery.

    This book worked far better than I expected it to, so that I am tempted to try another by this author - despite Peter and Bookmarque's warnings!

    However it is very obvious that the author is himself a Harvard man; I am not sure how successful he is likely to be, when setting a story in a city that he knows less intimately.

    Editado: Jul 24, 1:02pm

    June Summary

    Average rating: 3.27
    Weighted average: 3.41
    (in 2668 pages)

    10 fiction:
    Novels: 3 science fiction, 1 comedy thriller, 1 crime fiction, 1 historical fantasy, 1 historical crime fiction
    Short stories: 1 science fiction, 1 urban fantasy
    Anthology: 1of fantasy short stories

    1 non-fiction: 1 essay anthology

    Original language: 10 English, 1 French

    Earliest date of first publication: Notes on Nationalism (1945)
    Latest: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories (2020)

    7 Kindle, 2 websites, 2 paperback

    Authors: 4 male, 7 female
    Author nationality: 5 American, 3 British, 2 French, 1 Australian, 1 unknown
    New (to me) authors: 7 (4 familiar)

    Most popular book on LT: The Dante Club (6,782)
    Least popular: The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax (54)/ Children of Thorns, Children of Water (short story) (21)

    No. of books read: 11
    From Mount TBR (books owned before 2021): 5
    Books owned before joining Green Dragon: 0
    No. of books acquired: 41 (34 ebooks, 6 paperbacks, 1 hardback)
    No. of books disposed of: 7
    Expenditure on books: £68.15

    Best Book of June: Shards of Honor
    Worst Book of June: The Fallen Blade/ Articulated Restraint
    (short story)

    Jul 3, 12:39pm

    I also enjoyed the Vorkosigan saga. While reading your review of Barrayar, I was thinking that a lot of the discussion about how the Barrayars behaved toward the disabled was crucial to future events, but it's been so long since I read the series I have forgotten a lot of details. Anyway, glad you are enjoying it!

    >30 -pilgrim-: Huge Falco fan here, so I'm glad to learn about this audio dramatization. On your recommendation and keeping your caveats in mind, I'll be looking for it to listen to.

    Editado: Jul 3, 12:55pm

    >40 Storeetllr: You are right - it makes a lot more sense when one remembers that Barrayar was written well after The Warrior's Apprentice. But I think it makes more sense in terms of the metahistory than it does as an actual Barrayan attitude.

    You may have noticed that I, on the whole, dislike audiobooks, and frequently complain how the demands of the structure of drama frequently remove a lot of what I previously enjoyed about the original text. So, yes, the Falco dramatisation went against the mould.

    Shadows in Bronze appears to be currently available on BBC Sounds, if you are able to access that.

    Jul 3, 2:30pm

    You're probably right about Barrayar. I didn't have a problem with it myself, but I read it mostly for the story as an escape from real life and didn't pay a lot of attention to the substantive issues in the story. BTW, I meant to ask you why "Vor" amused you.

    As for audiobooks, if it weren't for audio I probably wouldn't read half as much. Most of my audiobooks have been straight reads, and with those the reader is super important to my enjoyment. I've listened to a few dramatic productions of books (notably The Screwtape Letters performed by John Cleese; The Importance of Being Earnest; and How the Marquis Got His Coat Back) and loved them. On the other hand, I did not enjoy the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe dramatizations.

    Jul 3, 7:45pm

    >42 Storeetllr: I am not sure what you mean by the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy dramatisations. I am only aware of the original radio plays, as broadcast in c. 1978, on which the books were based. Have there been further versions subsequently?

    As to Vor:
    Well the Barrayans are stated to be descended from Russian settlers "before the Time of Isolation".

    And Vor in Russian means "thief". More precisely, it refers to a career criminal who observes all the restrictions and norms of their Thieves' Code, and has been recognised with the title of Vor by his peers, after a "coronation" ceremony.

    I don't know yet whether the reference was intentional, but the Barrayan aristocratic ethos has strayed pretty far from the tenets of the Thieves' Code!

    Jul 4, 1:55pm

    Hah! That is amusing,.

    You're right, I was thinking of the radio broadcasts. I listened to some of it and just did not enjoy it for some reason. The books were so much better, imo, though it was a long time ago that I listened to it and may want to revisit it.

    Jul 4, 3:13pm

    >44 Storeetllr: I remember going to bed early so that I could listen to the radio broadcasts on secret in my bedroom as a teenager. So that gives them a special place in my heart.

    Jul 4, 4:26pm

    >43 -pilgrim-: Huh, interesting about the Vor title. If it was intentional by the author, do you suppose the original group were "forced" to emigrate from earth, in the same way England sent their criminals to Australia and America? I don't recall that ever being addressed later in the book, but then I read them pretty fast.

    Jul 4, 8:19pm

    >46 MrsLee: It has not been addressed so far, but then I have only read 3 as yet. It will be interesting to see if the reference is deliberate and, if so, what the explanation is.

    Jul 7, 8:58am

    Books awaiting review from January: 2
    Books awaiting review from March: 5
    Books awaiting review from April: 3
    Books awaiting review from May: 6
    Books awaiting review from June: 6

    Books still awaiting review from 2020:

    Books awaiting review from January: 1
    Books awaiting review from February: 1
    Books awaiting review from March: 1
    Books awaiting review from April: 1
    Books awaiting review from October: 3
    Books awaiting review from December: 4

    Jul 8, 8:55pm

    July #2:

    Shanta by Marie Thøger (trans. by Eileen Amos) - 3 stars

    This is a story about a year in the life of a girl in rural India, the year that she visits a town for the first time. It is labelled as for ages 11+.

    It was written by a Danish schoolteacher who spent some time in India teaching at a school for girls, so her portrayal of the life of a poor family from a small village in South India is likely to be accurate. There are cars, and steam trains, so the story seems set contemporary to the author's time in India, in the fifties.

    I do not remember reading this as a child; I think I bought it when I was 9. I suspect my mother decided that it was too grim, and spirited it away, since I found the copy among her papers. Since I had already read the autobiographical stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder - which include family deaths, severe illness and danger of starvation - that might seem an overreaction, but those accounts were leavened by the stories of the warmth of family life. There is far less joy in Shanta's.

    The story is written from Shanta's point of view and she is usually telling it (apart from a rather odd episode from the point of view of an elephant!)

    There is no sensationalism in the portrayal of domestic life, no dysfunctionality or discord. Shanta's father did not see any point in educating her, because he considers he is providing for her better by putting her money towards her dowry - she is dark, so more will be needed. And at 12 years old, everyone agrees that Shanta is now old enough to marry.

    Men and women live separate lives. We learn the name of Shanta's mother, but not of her father. This is probably because she herself does not know it; it would be disrespectful of her mother to ever use his name.

    The pace of the story is gentle, but it is very grim. Tragedy strikes her family, and terrible things happen around her.

    I tried to find out more about the author's background. She was born on a farm in rural Denmark in 1923, and started her career as an agricultural labourer on neighbouring farms at 14. Teacher training came much later; she considered herself fortunate that her parents valued her education and sent her to high school at all (i.e. beyond the village school).

    A friend tells me that life on rural Finnish farms could be extremely hard into the eighties, and hypothesises that this may also have been true in Scandinavian countries. I think this explains the tone of this book.

    This is not a story written by some middle class foreigner patronising poor Indians. She herself had a hard rural childhood amongst good people, and an adulthood away from rural life, achieved via education. So she is a passionate advocate for education for girls.

    She writes beautifully about the minute details of village life because the rhythms are similar to her own childhood. She is clear about how simple innovations make life much easier, but is also aware of what can be lost in the process. The town is a place where ordinary people are wealthier, but poverty is also more extreme and life can be more precarious.

    She does not shy away from terrible things happening - the story of the seventeen year old sent back to her parents because she could not bear her husband a son is chilling, as is that of the leopard-hunter, who dies because he is scared of the doctor- but this is never a sensation-seeking story. It aims to portray the reality of rural India at that time.

    I loved the fact that it portrayed a rigidly patriarchal society resolutely from the female point of view.

    HoweverI am not sure that the author understands the culture as well as she does the lifestyle. The description of Kali simply as "evil" sounds wrong to me.

    Likewise some of the character's decisions are explained in a way that did not make sense to me:
  • Shanta is obviously frightened by the tale of the young, loved, wife, rejected by her husband's family because she failed to bear a child. But why did that make her decide that she does not want to marry at all? The teenager had to return to her parents, and live with them for the rest of her life, working to care for them with no option of another future. Why did fearing that cause Shanta to want to chooseexactly that for herself?

  • MAJOR SPOILER: At the end, she rejects a more comfortable life, and the chance of education, in favour of taking on the providing for her sick Granny and little brother. Yet this ending is treated as a happy one, and "life going on as before" (despite the deaths).

    Is it being hinted that she will eventually marry the stolen boy - who intends to leave as soon as her brother is old enough, to and go back to his father's rich farm in the north (in a village he cannot now remember the name of)?

    A further odd thing is the way the "stranger girl" disappears from the story. It is stated explicitly that both children survived the fever, yet after that point she is never mentioned, only her brother.

    Given the rather rushed feel to the ending of the book, I am now wondering if there were more events, perhaps even darker ones, that were excised from this edition?

    I would recommend this book for its portrayal of a place and time. But I think a sensitive child would find it distressing.

    The cover design by Doreen Roberts amuses me: despite the plot putting emphasis on how Shanta is darker-skinned compared to her mother, and therefore knows that she is 'not pretty', in the picture her skin has a light tan wash only. So a story dealing with prejudice against darker skin is illustrated by an artist who cannot conceive of a heroine who is not almost white!

  • 50-pilgrim-
    Editado: Jul 9, 4:12pm

    July #1:

    The Strangler Vine: Book 1 of Blake and Avery by M. J. Carter - 3 stars

    This story is set in 1837-8, when large portions of India were run by the Honourable East India Company (which the author describes as the world's first multinational). Its Board of Control is in London, and is overseen by the British government, but it has its own army, police and governmental structure.

    The plot is simple: the famous poet, Xavier Mountstuart, has disappeared. He headed off into Central India to research his next ballad, which is to be about the notorious practice of Thuggee, and the Company is now sending an expedition to find him. The expedition is led by a civilian, Jeremiah Blake, who is a former HEIC officer, who has served the Company before in unspecified capacities, but has now "gone native". The story is narrated (we find out at the end to whom) by Ensign William Avery, a recent arrival in India, who is given a temporary commission as lieutenant for the purpose of this mission. They are travelling light and rapidly, so the only other members of their party are Indians: Mir Aziz, Sameer and Nungoo.

    But the point of this book is not really the plot; it is its portrayal of 19th century India. In a journey of over 700 miles, full attention is paid to the changes in geography, flora and fauna. It also does not make the mistake of treating the Indian people as homogeneous, there are different religions, castes, social classes, races and languages.

    When I read books set in India that were written in th 19th century, they took for granted this cultural diversity, but also the assumption that British rule in India was for the benefit of the indigenous population. More recent books tend to make the opposite assumption: that all representatives of a colonial power are there only to exploit the native inhabitants.

    This novel takes an equally nuanced view of the British in India as it does of the locals. The British who were there because they were fascinated to learn about another culture, older than their own, the British who believed that Western civilisation was superior, but devoted their lives to trying to share its benefits, as well as those who saw India as a resource to be acquired and exploited - all are represented here.

    It rapidly becomes clear that there are no idealised "sides" - just good or bad people. We follow Avery as he learns this. He is all but a "griffin" (a complete newbie), acclimatised to Calcutta society (which is thoroughly Europeanised) but he came to India because of a love of Mountstuart's romantic poetry, and is aware of his limitations.

    The attitudes are authentic, and the author has chosen to immerse us in the culture, by using the vocabulary of the Hobson-Jobson dictionary, rather than modern anglicisations of Hindi words (or Hindustanee, to use the book's terminology). The characterisations are never offensive; this is an attempt to realistically portray an era and a world.

    This is a historical novel that treats real historical figures appropriately; where they appear, it is only to do the actions for which they are known, or behaviour in keeping with it - they are not used simply as pegs on which to dress an author's fancies. Those familiar with 19th century British writers on India will recognise Major W. H. Sleeman and Mrs Fanny Parkes.

    Its main problem was that the first half of the book is extremely slow; it is basically a travelogue through early 19th century India. The action adventure picks up speed pretty rapidly after that!

    But the plot is the weakest part of this book. The characterisation Blake is a classic example of what we are told about him being contradicted by his actual behaviour.

    We told that Blake is an extremely observant individual, and an agent excellent at reading character. Yet he never noticed that his complete refusal to confide in, or explain his actions to Avery, is causing Avery to lose trust in him, and that this, combined with Avery's insecurity and inexperience, is going to cause Avery to seek the advice of another superior, as a mentor.

    I can understand why Blake is unwilling to trust Avery, and make him party to his real views and intentions. Yet an experienced agent should be able to provide a (perhaps untrue) explanation for his behaviour that will reassure a subordinate, and to recognise the necessity of doing so.
    MAJOR SPOILER:And that is ignoring the fact that Blake is actually wrong in his character assessments as often as he is right!

    This is a story that has the "movie" flaw that it seems to prioritise certain set scenes taking place, without regard to character consistency. But the problem mainly applies to Blake; Avery, the narrator throughout, is a beautiful portrayal of a young idiot growing up into a thoughtful, competent young man. In a century where young adults are expecting their parents to support them into their twenties and even thirties, it is difficult to remember that young subalterns like Avery were teenagers when they left their home country, not expecting to see it, of family, again. His arrogance is of a boy desperately trying to claim a man's dignity, and his evolution into a young man deserving of his rank is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this story.

    My rating for this book is not particularly high because I found the first part spent so much time showing me things with which I was already familiar. There was enough unfamiliar ground to make me want to keep reading, but it made it rather slow. If this is your first novel set in India, then you may enjoy that part of the book more.

    Note: there is a glossary. Sandwiching it between the Afterward (where the author discusses her use of historical material, which you do not want to read until after finishing the novel), and the inevitable sample of the sequel, is perhaps not the best choice of location.

    Editado: Jul 12, 5:58am

    July #3:

    The Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne - 4 stars
    5/8/2020 - 11/7/2021

    Robert Michael Ballantyne was the son of a printer, and the nephew of Sir Walter Scott's friend and publisher. He left home at 15 and went to work for the Hudson Bay Company in Canada as a fur trader, where he stayed for 5 years.

    Thus, he comes from a background where a teenage boy is expected to make his own way in the world. Ralph Rover, the narrator of The Coral Island is 15, and has already been working for two years on ships that work coastal waters, before he persuades his parents to let him undertake a South Seas voyage on the Arrow. (And the surname he gives us a pseudonym, a nickname acquired from his shipmates.)

    When he is shipwrecked, on Coral Island, at the end of Chapter 2, it is with two other boys from the crew; Jack Martin, at 17, is "almost a man" in both build and experience, and becomes their leader, whilst 13 year old Peterkin Gay is an apprentice.

    The tone of the first two thirds of the book is that of a travelogue/survival guide: the geography, fauna and flora are described in great detail, as are the steps that the boys take to provide for themselves. When they build a boat, every step of its construction is given.

    It is an not until Chapter 19 that they meet another human being. The inhabitants of the nearby island are described as savages, but that is because they are cannibals and their customs are brutal; the term is equally applied to the European pirates who also disturb the boys' paradise.

    The latter third of the book is full of danger and adventure, with a Samoan girl to rescue and be safely returned to the young man whom she loves.

    This book was written in 1858 - a time when black people in the U.S. were assumed to be inferior because of the colour of their skin - yet the boys do not share such attitudes. Their initial proposal, on finding themselves stranded and alone, is to take service under a local (black) ruler. (It is true that they expect to rise in his service "as white men always do", but it is the assumption of the superiority of Western civilisation that is in action here; they expect to rise because they bring new technology, I think.) Near the end of the book they happily receive instruction from a black teacher on the scientific and geological knowledge that they are lacking.
    (The "n-word" is used once, by a pirate. Since it is only used once, and in that context, its use seems intended by the author to indicate how the pirates are bad people, with inappropriate attitudes towards the locals.)

    The later stage of the book seems as anthropologically minded as the earlier were geographical. It is made very clear that there are multiple races here, and that within each people, customs vary from village to village. The rather frenetic pace of these chapters seem intended to introduce as many horrifying local customs as possible.

    Because it is in this stage that the book does introduce an agenda. Ralph's mother gave him a Bible when he sets off (which he loses in the wreck), and he has a tendency to contemplate occasionally how, for example, the greatness of the Creator is manifest in the wwonderful environment of these islands. But there is no obvious divine intervention, and Ralph is not particularly observant in his religion. But once the natives come into the plot, so does the subject of which ones are Christian.

    It is recognised that support for missionary activity can be motivated by evil intent: the pirate captain commits many evil deeds, yet protects
    missionaries because Christian tribes are easier to deal with.

    And most of the missionaries are themselves black - including manifestly heroic individuals. Yet repeated exhortations to the boys to recognise the value of the work done by the London Missionary Society does feel like blatant propaganda.

    However it is difficult to argue that ALL local customs - including infanticide, cannibalism, killing subjects at whim, burying alive - should be preserved. And there are other passages devoted to the Christian villagers showing off their indigenous culture, in terms of foodstuffs and technology, to their European guests.

    I think the emphasis on Christianity stems from the author's desire to demonstrate that the horrifying behaviour of the islanders stems from "false religion", rather than any intrinsic depravity. He repeatedly states that the pirates, and traders who use violence and try to exploit the natives, are far more wicked, because they "know better".

    Having included horror stories (atrocities by both pirates and villagers) to titillate his audience, he seems anxious to preclude harmful consequences (of readers despising the islanders) through his emphasis on how that was not their natural behaviour, but caused by the injunctions of their religion.

    Throughout he portrays all his characters as individuals, not as representatives - there is even a pirate who was kidnapped and forced into the life, and regrets it; thus he attempts an heroic act, although without hope of redemption (as he thinks, Ralph knows his Scripture slightly better).

    The big question for me was whether the Fijian religion and customs were portrayed accurately. Ballantyne had not travelled to the region himself, but was relying on information from other travellers. Since his trio slice the tops off their cocoa-nuts with a knife, rather than cracking them open, one can infer that his information is not always accurate. But I think his stories are told in good faith.

    You have to be in the right mood for lengthy descriptions. And I wish I could remember more of my sailing knowledge, since the use of which sail in response to which weather feature is also described in detail. So this has been a slow read.

    I first encountered Coral Island as one of the Bancroft Classics titles, but it was one of the few that I never acquired. That is a series that abridged books, sometimes heavily, for a child audience.

    The edition of The Coral Island that I read was unabridged. It would not be suitable for young children, despite ages of its protagonists.

    But I am glad that I have finally read it. I have always been interested in survival stories, and this seemed a very plausible one, and a wonderful visual picture of a very distant past of the world.

    One final point: it was refreshing to see the word "love" used in its original broad meaning. Nowadays it tends to imply erotic attraction, except between immediate family members. Ralph declares that the three boys love one another and, in case you suspect a homoerotic subtext, Peterkin likewise declares that he loves his cat!

    Editado: Jul 12, 7:13am

    June #4:

    Articulated Restraint (short story from The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal - 2 stars

    This short story stood fairly well on its own - apart from odd points such as never explaining what an NBL was, but then that is what Google is for.

    But neither was there any real involvement or tension, as it was obvious what the outcome was going to be.

    However I was impressed with the author's interest in technical detail, which had increased the chances that I may be tempted to read one of her novels at some point

    The problem is that the whole "peril' scenario seemed false to me. The tension is predicated on the fact that Ruby should not be working because she is too injured, but she is needed to, because no one else can fit in her suit and there is no time to reset it.

    Now, as I understand it, this is set in an alternative version of the USA in the fifties, where women are accepted into the astronaut programme. (Since this is a short story, not much background is given.)

    Now in that era, in our world, the fighter pilot programme was the source of candidates (and another team member certainly comes from that background in thos story). I knew someone who worked in the US military defence programme, and he had a compiled list of the average dimensions of U.S. military pilots, so that cockpits could be designed to fit. So the pilot training programme likewise selected men who physically fitted that norm. It was a glamorous job, so there were enough candidates that they could select for physical criteria, and so get someone excellent at the task. It took a while to work out that the ideal physique for space was different, but being an even more sought after job, they could do select for physical criteria and find someone who was mentally and intellectually suited for the job.

    Thus, deciding to have an astronaut who is of markedly different physique to her colleagues - regardless of her gender - is a point where this alternate space programme has made different decisions from the real world one.

    If we posit a programme that values diversity (as the current space programme now does) above interchangeability, and optimisation of equipment for a single body type, then that is a conscious decision that has been made.

    The principle of building on redundancy, so that the failure of no one part is crucial, is well-known in engineering. And that applies to the human components as well as the mechanical ones.
    A programme that has consciously decided to have non-interchangeable human components will have to have built in redundancy in terms of team size to compensate.

    Yes, this is a significant expense. But the cost of not doing so is worse. If our heroine had not completed her task, an entire crew would have died. That is a major economic loss, in terms of the expenditure involved in training those people in very specialised skills (as well as a tragedy in human terms). So it still makes economic sense to maintain appropriate redundancy levels.

    Furthermore, it is common for people whose job role is literally irreplaceable (whether temporarily or permanently) to have clauses in their contract specifying limits on how they spend their "downtime" immediately before a mission (or a match).

    I find it implausible that a programme world deliberately introduce such irreplaceability by gratuitous physical uniqueness. (Even if they have a doctrine that requires including women, then, again, it is more practical to select one with a physical build that fits the average, rather than our heroine; even if she tests out as the best in all other requirements, it would still make more sense to hire someone who is not quite so good, not a better overall fit - the candidate pool will still be wise enough that "not quite so good" is still excellent.) But having done so, it is inconceivable that they would not ensure availability by such clauses.

    Because, rather than an injury deriving from wilfully putting her body at risk, Ruby could simply have been hit by a car on her way to work, I find the lack of redundancy implausible. But, if it exists, the lack of risk control is inconc


    I recognised the emotional situation. Having spent a lot of my working career as the only woman on all male teams, I was well aware of the requirement for perfection - that any failure on my part world be "because you're a woman". The double standards that ensued are something that I could rant about at length, and the emotions and reactions portrayed here felt true.

    But that alone is not sufficient. The complete implausibility of the crisis, as set up, robbed this scenario of any impact.

    I suspect this is a result of what I have complained about before in alternative fiction: the author changes one thing, in order to tell the story that they want to tell, whilst completely ignoring all consequences of that change and assuming that everything else would be "same as it was in reality", (despite the fact that the causes of those aspects have been removed). Thus decisions regarding manpower, made based on an assumption of interchangeability, artificially remain in place even though the homogeneity had been removed

    I realise that this short story is part of a series of books set in this alternate history scenario. I suppose it is possible that somewhere else a rationale is given for the decisions that I find so implausible. But they are not present in this story, so as it stands, it fails.

    A final small puzzle: I felt that the name "Ruby", and the choice of the lindy hop as her favourite hobby, were both indicators that the character was probably African-American. Yet the illustration shows a white woman.

    Obviously there is nothing that says a name or a hobby is exclusively reserved to particular cultural group. But there is a literary convention that in a short story, the author does not mention anything contrary to expectations that is not germaine to the plot. You do not give a character an unusual hobby, unless the point is that their hobby is unusual. A short story requires that the reader to grasp context very rapidly, and part of the mechanism for enabling that is to deliberately trigger those expectations that you are not explicitly challenging.

    But if this story IS about the challenges faced by an African-American woman, surely it is a major dilution of the author's intention to change her race in the illustration?

    Jul 12, 6:43am

    NBL = Non-Breeding Local?

    Editado: Jul 15, 5:44am

    >53 hfglen: :)

    ETA: NBL = Neutral Buoyancy Lab

    Editado: Jul 16, 3:44pm

    Inspector Chen: A Case of Two Cities (radio play) (2017) - 2.5 stars
    Dir.: David Hunter
    Dramatist: John Harvey

    This is episode 2 of the second series, of Inspector Chen, the BBC dramatisation of the books by Xiaolong Qiu.

    The hero of this story, Inspector Chen, serves in the modern Chinese police, in the Shanghai of the nineties, although here he is endowed with a rather antiquated title - "Special Envoy to the Emperor with an Imperial Sword" - which carries a rather sinister set of modern powers.(The reaction of his sidekick, on being asked to deputise for him temporarily, is delightful.)

    The initial case involved rooting out corruption at home, but then the inspector is asked to represent his country in a delegation of Chinese poets in America. (There is an apposite jibe about Western attitudes with the comment that Americans know nothing about, and are not interested in, Chinese writers, unless they live in exile and write against their country; coming from a Chinese author, published in English, who is writing in exile, I appreciated the humour.) And Chen himself comes under attack there.

    Of course, I have missed a lot of established backstory, and the plot is obviously simplified to fit the confines of the radio play format, which made the play itself rather unsatisfying.

    But I loved the main character. His melancholy attitude towards life, his poetry, and his philosophising about his case, all made him a character I would like to see more of. Now I want to seek out the original books.

    Editado: Jul 19, 4:37am

    As is probably clear from my earlier post, I have been trying to go through the stored crates of books from my parents' house.

    I am currently reading a couple of books that I think were my father's - Patrice Périot and A Sort of Traitors. The characters are realistic, the storytelling all too plausible.

    But – good grief! Knowing that he read books like these, gives me some insight into why he was... the sort of man that he was.

    Editado: Jul 19, 5:51pm

    June #9:

    The Fallen Blade: Book 1 of the Assassini by Jon Courtenay Grimwood - 2 stars

    This was a recommendation from Busifer, but I am afraid that it just did not work for me. I tried it last year, then tried it again this summer and finished it.

    The setting is a fantasy version of Renaissance Venice, complete with the author's own take on werewolves and vampires. It is definitely "grimdark" in ambience, in that lots of horrible things are casually done.

    The ruthless politicking, the treachery, the use of women as political pawns, and the casual indifference to the suffering of the poor were all perfectly plausible. The fact no one seems to actually care for anyone else, except a priest and the inhuman characters, seemed a bit overdone - Servant of the Underworld is a better, because it allows the concept that some people in a brutal society are capable of caring about one another.

    But if you are going to portray an unpleasant society, I think you are obligated to create a plausible one - otherwise it is just a case of the author wallowing in filth for its own sake. And the problem here is the same as I pointed out in my review of Washington Black - the author ignores the economic mitigation of cruelty. Even when you care nothing about the lives of people, as human beings, they still have value as economic resources. You don't kill a skilled tradesman casually, because he took at least seven years, maybe much more, to train in that skill. You may care nothing about bereaving his family, but you still need somewhere to buy shoes. So you might kill a man to keep a great secret - but not a minor one (unless he is an unskilled labourer and easy to replace).

    And I demand character consistency, not a ruthless killer who keeps someone who has NO skill, or economic value, alive (although a witness to something), because the plot needs him later. Atilo kills a beggar girl "because she was a witness", but not her brother (who saw the same things, but is conveniently imprisoned).

    The treatment of the prison is illogical too. It is explicitly explained that the prison floods tidally, twice a day, and they only dry location is the island in the centre, which the strongest hold by force. And there is a treadmill, that has to be constantly worked, otherwise even the island will submerge. Men have therefore to stand up to their necks in water for hours, and the shortest will drown, or have to swim at times. Yet an 8 year old boy and a dwarf are both at the back - and still alive, despite not being new to the place!

    And the silliest part is right at the beginning: Atilo is a master strategist etc. etc. (And completely ruthless, naturally.) He follows someone across the entire city, into an area that he knows to be extremely dangerous, until nightfall "because he hoped that they would return of their own accord". Naturally, they are attacked - and the results, having to sacrifice his ENTIRE force of highly-trained assassins (except 3 who are on missions abroad), in order to save the girl from an anticipated attack, put him at a severe disadvantage from which he never recovers. The author seems to expect us to admire him for the calculation he makes in the crisis - being willing to make such a great sacrifice to preserve the girl, who is the centre of another plot- but completely ignores the fact that the real choice was not that - it was "sacrifice my entire force rather than stop the girl BEFORE she reached danger and nightfall" - which is one of the most stupid reasons to destroy your own position that I have ever read!

    Since the plot is so illogical, it is clear that it is not particularly important to the author. It appears that he is simply interested in finding excuses for as much ingenious violence, in detailed description, especially when committed on females - the several page description of forcible artificial insemination was a particular low - as he can fit in.

    And we have the usual excuse for vampires - murdering for food should be forgiven, "because they can't help it, poor things" (actually they can, their sustenance did not require the death of their victim).

    I rated this as high as I did because it did have the advantage of a realistic analogue of Venice and its neighbours in a particular period, rather than a vague fantasy mis-mash - I agree with Busifer about the quality of the world-building. He seems to have done some decent research. But I felt its real purpose was to let the author fantasise about torture, particularly of women.

    I would rather have read a historical novel.

    Editado: Jul 20, 11:44am

    I do love books that assume a degree of intelligence on the past of the reader!

    I am currently reading A Sort of Traitors. A character casually makes an comment that makes no sense at all, unless you know what the following refers to:
    'Twenty shillings would not have ruined Mr. Hampden's fortune, but one-twentieth of twenty shillings would have made him a slave.'

    I had to look that one up. It is from a speech in Parliament by Edmund Burke.

    This novel was written in 1949, but seems extremely apposite today.

    I highly recommend it, but particularly to pgmcc.

    Editado: Jul 21, 8:32am

    Have just reviewed:
    Be Ready: An Approach to the Mystery of Death

    Books awaiting review from January: 2
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    Books still awaiting review from 2020:

    Books awaiting review from January: 1
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    Editado: Jul 25, 8:03pm

    Shardlake:Heartstone (BBC full cast dramatisation) - 3 stars
    Adapted by Colin MacDonald from the novel C. J. Sansom
    Dir: David Jackson Young

    This play was stretched over a week; as a result I did not find it too rushed or too linear, although I accept that it must have been pruned down from the original novel.

    As it opens, Shardlake is once again practising as a lawyer and trying to stay out of court affairs. But then Queen Catherine asks him to act on behalf of her maid.

    He is also visiting a young woman in Bedlam, who has been confined there since being raped may years before. As he is becoming embarrassed by her obvious attraction to him, he decides, without seeking her permission, to investigate what warrant is holding her there, with the sin of seeking her release.

    I disliked a lot of Shardlake's actions in this story:
    On the one hand, he made some incredibly stupid decisions, that almost got him, and someone he was supposedly trying to protect, killed.

    On the other, he had such an exalted opinion of himself that he repeatedly exerted himself to achieve goals for women whom he was interested in, without considering whether they actually wanted what he was getting to advice for them - and persists in pursuing these goals even after each woman has told him clearly and precisely what it is that she does want. Her views are irrelevant; he "knows better".

    Despite the fact that he had put these women's lives in danger, and destroyed their own plans for their lives , he sounds aggrieved at the end, apparently believing that they ought to be grateful for the harm he has done them , because he did, of his own volition, put himself at risk to achieve the outcomes that HE had decided were best for them!

    We, the audience, are reminded again about the prejudice Matthew Shardlake faces as a hunchback, how he stands up for his Jewish assistant - and indeed his concern for, and treatment of, males who need his help, regardless of social class, is quite exemplary. But I am getting tired of stories that take the tone that if a character suffers in some way, then they are somehow entitled to treat others badly, and still claim the moral high ground.

    I also found unsatisfying the contrivance whereby the two plot lines just happened to conveniently tie together.

    What I did enjoy was learning about obscure facets of Tudor law, and the attention to historical accuracy.

    Jul 25, 7:24pm

    >60 -pilgrim-: Huh, I didn't know there was a dramatization of Heartstone. I don't think I'll search for it, tho if it turns up I may give it a listen. I have read all the Shardlake mysteries and enjoyed the first few the most, especially Sovereign which is my favorite. I didn't sense any of the faults you mentioned when I read them, but perhaps I'm not as discerning as you. I mean, I mostly just read it for the mystery and history, not so much the characters who are often shady and unpleasant. I don't think I would have enjoyed living during that time period, though it's really interesting historically.

    Editado: Jul 25, 9:11pm

    >61 Storeetllr: My records show that I listened to the radio dramatisation of Revelation last winter - I think the BBC are working their way through the entire series.

    If I remember, my main reaction to that one was that it was simply extremely predictable; I put that down to a complex plot having had to be pared down to fit, with the result that it was obvious that any apparent irrelevancies were going to become important eventually. MAJOR SPOILER: Thus, mentioning the underground rivers, when so many other aspects of the setting were being rushed, made it obvious what they were being used for...

    I agree with you about the Tudor period: on the cusp of the mediaeval and modern eras, and often showing the worst aspects of both!

    I wonder what sort of world we would be living in, if Henry VIII had stayed on his horse in that joust in 1536?

    Editado: Jul 26, 7:06am

    >58 -pilgrim-: When I saw the title in >56 -pilgrim-: my interest was piqued. Now you have fired a shot directly at me I can only admit to being wounded. Nice shooting.

    I found a copy on It was only £2.49 with £1.77 postage. It asked me for the country of destination, even though it already had my address. I clicked Ireland and the postage went up to £46.79. Thank Brexit for that.

    Jul 27, 3:30am

    >63 pgmcc: Wow! I thought the "charge silly postage because we don't want to deal with the red tape" era had abated"...

    Jul 27, 4:05am

    >64 -pilgrim-: It appears some of the booksellers have not adjusted to the new Brexit bureaucracy and are charging rates to dissuade EU customers from buying from them and causing them the bother of filling in the customs documents. They have to fill in the same documents for postage to the USA.

    Jul 27, 4:11am

    >65 pgmcc: I suppose that might be understandable if one is not a professional bookseller, but simply doing it as a sideline (although frustrating).

    Did you see if the other sellers all had the same approach?

    Ontem, 5:49pm

    Books awaiting review from January: 2
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    Books awaiting review from May: 5
    Books awaiting review from June: 4
    Books awaiting review from July: 6

    Books still awaiting review from 2020:

    Books awaiting review from January: 1
    Books awaiting review from February: 1
    Books awaiting review from March: 1
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    Books awaiting review from October: 3
    Books awaiting review from December: 4

    Ontem, 6:13pm

    >66 -pilgrim-: When Brexit came into effect I deliberately went to ABEBooks to check what was happening. I sampled about twenty sellers and they were all charging prohibitive charges for postage; they average just below £50. Subsequently I sought out a few books and found the sellers to have adjusted and be charging postage close to what had been the case.

    When I looked for the book you mentioned I found the seller in question was still charging prohibitive charges. I suspect it depends on the readiness of the seller to go through the customs documentation process.