sartorias: (handwritten books)
From a recent conversation about book-matchmaking and how awesome it is when it works. (And how very painful when it is a disaster.)


Nov. 25th, 2016 06:40 pm
sartorias: (handwritten books)
First, meme from [ profile] mamculuna: take a selfie right now, the way you are, and post it. I was so happy to put a face to a name, I thought, okay, I'll do that, frowzy hair, ice cream splashed t-shirt, and all.

me today

Ice cream because son and I went to see Dr. Strange, and we sneaked hot fudge sundaes into the cinema. (Better ice cream and a fraction of the price from what you'd pay at the concession stand) It was a fun movie, though I had to keep my eyes shut first through the medical ick, and then through the vertigo-inducing lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng fights. But I enjoyed the actual dialogue, and all the actors were terrific. I even liked Cummerbund Bandersnatch, which I hadn't thought I would--he plays such a smug jackwagon in Sherlock that I was only able to tolerate an episode and a half. (MUCH prefer the version with Lucy Liu as Watson.)

On other fronts, my mom turned 84 today. First thing this morning, I called to wish her happy b. and we chatted about memory, and mysteries. (She's hiding from the news by reading about fictional justice, she said.) That's my mom at age twelve up there at the extreme left of the selfie shot.

At yoga this morning a long conversation with several people about, of all things, childhood and Dr. Seuss books. Someone was urging another person to buy them for some grandkids, saying that with Dr. Seuss, you can't possibly go wrong. One person said, well, actually you can--he loathed Dr. Seuss books as a kid. Hated whimsy, but people kept giving him Dr. Seuss books. Another person was aghast, how could anyone hate any Dr. Seuss book? They are so cheerful and safe!

I said, um, no, actually they are not. I dutifully read Cat in the Hat when I was six (it had just come out, and of course I read anything and everything book-shaped) but it made me incredibly anxious. I distinctly remember reading it over several times and racing through the pages to make sure that the kids didn't get beaten for the mess Thing One and Thing Two made. The relief at the last page was physical, and their antics before that were not the least bit funny to me. Once I was sure of the ending, I never touched it again. (Then I thought about what mom said about justice. Weird, how two completely unrelated conversations will do that.)

However, I said to the others talking Seuss, the one I highly recommended for a kid with imagination is On Beyond Zebra. We didn't have that one at our house--my cousin had it. Every time we visited I would go to his bookshelf (he had his own bookshelf!) and reread it, and tried to memorize the letters. The idea of letters beyond Z was unspeakably thrilling, and of course I was off and running with alphabets and languages after that. My other much-reread Dr. Seuss books were The 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and The King's Stilts. Strange, looking back, and thinking how formative they were.

And so the day ends, with maybe possibly rain tomorrow? I'm not getting my hopes too high.

And thus endeth this natter of trivia!
sartorias: (handwritten books)
Another heads up about the Worldbuilders fundraiser, win critiques! This might make a good gift idea for a writer you know.

Meanwhile, I've had a grand total of two, count them two, people ask me for recommendations for books for gift giving, for people who read a lot. So I thought I'd toss out a few non fiction books that I've been reading lately, that are keepers on my shelves.

Making Conversation, by Teresa Nielsen Hayden. (Also found here, taking a few more clicks to get))
I love books that work like a chat with interesting people—they write something intriguing, or funny, and I talk out loud to the book.
That’s how I feel about Making Conversation, a title that perfectly fits this absorbing, charming, intriguing, insightful series of riffs. I haven't finished reading it yet (I have it on my nightstand for dipping into before bed) so no more formal review, but even halfway in I love it so much.

Old fandoms! I thought no one else delighted in evidence, sketchy as it is, that fandoms existed all through history--and there's an intriguing throwaway line about Mary Wortley Montagu that sent me scurrying to my bookshelves for a couple of pleasing hours.

Marketing categories as defined by how the story uses the Transnistrian Infundibulator.

"Chaos is Not Your Friend," on the compromise with evil, written in 2004, is eerily apropos today.

This is not only a book for sf and f fans who read widely in the world, but it's a real good one for writers. Publishing--marketing definitions--why books fail--"How did this get published?"--query letter dos and don'ts--there is so much good stuff here, so wittily and gracefully written.

Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage, by Robert S. Bader. If you've ever been curious about how the Marx Brothers evolved into their zany characters (especially if you've read their own books and discovered how their anecdotes don't always rely on the same facts), this book is a must. If you've ever wanted a look at vaudeville, top and bottom, this book is a must. Basically Minnie Marx got her boys into show biz as a way to keep them out of easy crime, which was preferable to the horrors of child labor in the factories. And so they went on the road. The research here is phenomenal--Bader sought out every tiny newspaper in tiny towns on the vaudeville circuits (and off) for reviews and ads about the brothers, plus combing theater records, etc. Really absorbing.

Drive! Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age, by Lawrence Goldstone.

This one actually came out a few months ago, but still I recommend it. In an engaging, humor-veined narrative, Goldstone brings to life the men (and the few women) who were involved in the development of the idea of a horseless carriage, its invention, and its manufacture. He structures the story around George Seldon, one of the early American innovators, his patent, and the subsequent nearly-twenty-year lawsuit over the protection of that patent instigated by Henry Ford, moving backwards and forwards in time, and from Europe to North America, in order to build a picture of the invention of the automobile.

It’s apparent from this book that, like the development of artillery, boys have always been fascinated with loud, smelly, dirty, and dangerous. Those early autos were all four, their utility questionable, especially over the rutted, meandering, narrow roads connecting the world 120 years ago. With excellent citations and a satisfying reliance on period newspapers, letters, diaries, and accounts, Goldstone builds his picture, taking time to illustrate for the modern reader how different thinking was at that time, so that we can appreciate the innovation at each step.

For example, you would assume that the development of the road we recognize now as a highway would go hand in hand with the invention of the auto, but not so. Those early cars (including race cars, which took a horrible toll not only on drivers but passengers, spectators, and innocent animals by the score) juddered over disastrous terrain; it wasn’t until a very rich mogul who liked his horseless carriages got angry that his proposed race was turned down by local authorities said, basically, fine, I’ll make my own carriageway and it will be fenced in, and limited just to cars. Some of his impetus was no doubt provided by the many tickets he was given for ignoring the local six mph speed limit, and the law stating that all horses and pedestrians had the right-of-way.

Goldstone takes the time to provide background on the inventors and those who partnered with them in various ways, including the investors, many of them rich and crooked moguls who were basically pirates without the cool ships and swashbuckling clothes. Throughout the narrative he carefully examines, and dismantles, the reinvention of himself that Henry Ford propagated from his earliest days.

It’s a colorful, immensely readable account that shows how we got from there to our familiar cement world here.

The Fleet at Flood Tide:America at Total War in the Pacific 1944-45

This extraordinarily well-written history of the second half of the war in the Pacific begins in 1944. It’s off to a slow start as we get caught up on the details of ships, material, training, and leaders among the Americans, and the background lives of some Japanese, both military and civilian.

The mass of information pays off when we get to Spruance’s fleet encountering the Japanese at last.

I really appreciated the clarity with which Hornfischer describes strategy and tactics on sea, land, and in air, especially the evolving strategic arena concerning aircraft carriers. Admirals themselves weren’t always certain what was going to work, especially in serving basically as moving air bases for an air war.

The air battles are vividly described—exhilaratingly so, capturing the bravado and reckless determination and individualistic humor of the air aces. He draws heavily on reports and memoirs to bring the fight to the individual level before zooming back to show fleet movements, both in air support and in land support when the attack on the islands began.

Equally vivid, and a whole lot more grim was the unflinching description of the yard-by-yard fight for Saipan, made much more horrendous by the Japanese command’s insistence on suicide missions for the honor of the emperor—and on convincing the civilians that Americans would rape all the women and eat their babies. And when the end came, the soldiers used the civilians as shields, and then forced them into mass suicide.

Hornfischer draws on a variety of reports by Japanese from command to civilian, most notably Yoshitsugu Saito of the Imperial Japanese Army, Chuichi Nagumo of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Shizuko Miura, a civilian nurse, and Captain Sakae Oba who held out along with several hundred civilians and military on Saipan until December 1, 1945 when he surrendered. The addition of these people’s stories helped to understand what the Japanese thought during those terrible battles and immediately afterward.

Hornfischer describes the evolution of amphibious operations as well as the invention of newer and more effective weapons, like napalm, who wanted to use them, who didn’t, and why they finally did and where.

Hornfisher is developing a point: the result of what American forces witnessed on those islands—the mass suicides, the many Japanese terms for suicide attacks culminating in the kamikaze attacks on US ships—is that the Japanese high command considered that only total war, to the death, would satisfy their honor.

And so American strategy makers finally came around to the conviction that surrender would only happen if they shocked Japan. The atom bombs would do that—two of them, one after the other, so that the Japanese would believe that America had an arsenal of them.

Hornfischer’s painstaking development of the decision making process behind the atom bomb dropping, and his follow-up about the reactions of those in charge as well as the effect on the Japanese, was sobering in the extreme. Especially considering how relatively blasé people seem to be about mass weapons these days.

Recommended for anyone who wants to read about the war in the Pacific and how and why we could drop A-bombs on civilian cities.
sartorias: (handwritten books)
In 1971, sf and f scholar Thomas Clareson had some still-relevant insights into the sudden explosion of sf and f some five years previous. With a few quotes from his essay, I throw out a couple of ideas about why it happened. I'd love to discuss what you thing about why it happened. Here is the link.
sartorias: (handwritten books)
Summer reading in fantasy and space opera, by indie authors I've enjoyed.

Star Nomad, by Lindsay Buroker. Buroker has written a number of "kitchen sink" fantasies that I enjoyed--colorful characters, lots of humor and action. She's a natural for space opera. Don't seek these out for skiffy sophistication. These are space operas, the story taking place after a major war, when all the various planets are trying to recover. People on opposite sides find themselves on the same junky freighter that happened to belong to the mother of Alisa Marchenko, a recovering pilot who woke to find out that her husband was killed in the fighting. She's trying to get back to her little daughter. Along the way she picks up some interesting characters, and gets into plenty of trouble, having to use her wits as her old freighter is entirely unarmed.

Right now there are three out, with a couple of short stories, and another due next month--I hope.

Agent of the Crown, by Melissa McShane. This is fantasy, in which a princess is living a double life, as an agent. McShane takes the times to establish place and characters before events begin to accelerate, and once they do, it’s a gallop to the finish, with some lovely high moments and some hard hits before we reach the end. Part of a series, but stands alone.

The Sleeping Life by Andrea K.Höst (check out the gorgeous cover art!). One doesn't have to have read the first one in this loose series--we begin with all new characters, catching up with Rennyn Claire (of stained Glass Monsters) in a much-diminished capacity. But far from being out of play, as she has to remove a nasty spell, and deal with the golems left behind. But as always in this author's books, wove into the action and the interesting magic system are threads about friendship, love, student/teacher, and what it means to be human.

Breath of Stone, by Blair Macgregor, with another wonderful cover. This is also a sequel, and I strongly urge interested readers to begin with the first, Sand of Bone, as this begins right where the first ends. Vivid characters, a very dark magic tautly woven into a desert culture, with wandering ghosts, this is a dark fantasy with a military overlay as brother hunts sister, and sister turns herself into a warrior fit to deal with the rising threat. I've only begun it, but the tension line goes from 0 to 60 straight off the mark. I'll read it slowly, not because I'm bored--far from it--but because at times Blair's books go so tense and so dark I need breathing space.

Now a couple I bought but haven't gotten to yet:

Khuldar's War, by Leigh Kimmel, an old friend from the circular mailed fanzine days. She's now starting into e-pub. I read this in draft a while back; it features her signature complex world building, with a Russian flavor, as the hunt is on for five separated clone brothers, each raised in different cultures. Add in bio-science, psi, and mer-people, and I guarantee you won't be saying "This is just like [name other author]. . ."

And over here, Leigh Kimmel has some recommendations for summer reading by indie authors. (Including a couple of mine read in draft back in the Paleozoic era!)

Eidolon, by Grace Draven. This indie author has shot up in popularity on the sheer voice of her first in this series, Radiance, which I loved in spite of the fact that it was riddled with typos and spellos, something that can happen when you're an indie just starting out and you have no budget for editing, proofing, etc. I haven't read this one yet--saving it for the right day--but I'm assured that Draven has been working hard to up her game with respect to getting a polished copy out there.

Any discoveries you want to recommend?
sartorias: (handwritten books)
As it happens, I was one of many beta readers for two remarkable, and very different, books, (the only thing they have in common is people on Mars) that are both out today:

Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine


Necessity by Jo Walton

They both have breathtaking cover art that I think also manages to convey the right mood of both.

Necessity I read in early draft, and I understand it had quite a rewrite after. Since what I read was terrific, with an ending that left me choked up in the best possible way, I am really, really looking forward to seeing what happened in later drafts. May want to talk about it here--the entire series, which is nothing like anything out there.

Arabella is a romantic adventure that reminds me of the Jules Verne stories, with a strong flavor of Patrick O'Brian and a dash of Regency era comedy of manners. But with science fiction, and automata! Levine keeps the pacing brisk, the characters colorful, the science awesome even when it's impossible (in our world!) and is something that I enjoyed--and would hand off to teen readers.
sartorias: (reading chair)
Something I've done enthusiastically all my life, but being me, took a very long time to realize that just because I was enthusiastic didn't automatically mean another would be. You'd think I'd get a clue since from my earliest years, I became increasingly skeptical about the assumed authority of literary critics. But I've always been slow on the pickup.

So today's post is about recommending books, how and why, and a couple of successes. I'd love to discuss how you approach it, some successes--and even failures, if you want to talk about those.

The cull

Feb. 16th, 2016 02:46 pm
sartorias: (1554 S)
So the spouse is thinking ahead to retirement in the next few years, which means moving his massive office library back here. A library he's been collecting since the late seventies.

So all the lit and history that is spread around downstairs has to come up here, which means we're both culling. His reference books will go in the living room library.

As I looked at W.M. Spackman again, it occurred to me that he might be the central figure in the old saw about novels about adulterous professors. Glancing through, I saw delightful prose (which I remember reading in laudatory reviews all while growing up) but all his older men seem to have guilt free adultery with adoring younger women. Uh huh. Such important literature. Toss. I can get delightful prose elsewhere.

Also going the "you should love this, if your taste ever grows up" recommendations, like Vikram Seth's An Unequal Music. Glanced through again. Nope. If at nearly sixty five I still hate it, my taste is never going to grow up.

Trying to decide between translations. Decided to go with the more modern translation of War and Peace, instead of Tolstoi's recommended, which seems very stiff. It might be purer, but I'm not an academic, so I'm opting for the pleasure of reread. I seem to have ended up with about five different editions of Emily Dickinson's poems. One is enough--the one with the easiest-on-the-eyes print, and easier on my hands.
sartorias: (1554 S)
These seem to be a new thing, right? The earliest I could think of is Mark Sumner's The Devil's Tower, but in the last years or so there have been several, beginning with Emma Bull's Territory, about Tombstone. I have Rae Carson's lovely new series, and Laura Anne Gilman's Siver on the Road (which I have not yet read)--are there others?
sartorias: (desk)
I'm at Sirens, having had an excellent time. This con is 99% women, with a friendly, inclusive atmosphere and everywhere you go, talk about books. And writing. As happens when I get into this kind of atmosphere, several insights, and veering between a sharp sense of my own inadequacies and the euphoria of shared delight in reading.

Today's BVC blog post is about forbidden books.
sartorias: (desk)
Want to share some heat and stress escapes? Today [ profile] egalantier posted this dueling violins at the OK Corral that I thought was pretty nifty.

When I can get some brain back again, time for a reading roundup.

But if anyone wants to share a) great reading discoveries and/or 2) awesome sites with music or art or whatever, most welcome!
sartorias: (Fan)
Yesterday a bunch of Jane Austen readers crammed into a friend's house for a lively, quote-punctuated discussion Mansfield Park, but before it began I had to take a picture of this jacaranda tree below. Sorry the color is muted--we've got some relief from the heat by marine layer. Though there is no hope of rain until November or December, every cloud is welcome.

sartorias: ("Butler sneaks a read" (Der Buecherwurm)
My week--how about you?

And if anyone wants to discuss any of these books, great!
sartorias: (Fan)
Linda Nagata, who writes gritty, complex science fiction, is offering a free ebook if you go over and sign up for her newsletter.The story appeared in Azimov's. It's a prequel to her military techno-thriller

The Red: First Light
. (Which is really gripping if you like complexity, grit, violence, plausible future scenarios, and a thriller plot.)
sartorias: (Fan)
Talking about some good stuff here, both read and reading and to read.

I have been getting most of my recommendations from this meme, so I'm closing comments here hoping to keep them all in one place for easier delving for new material. Please join me at the link, tell me what you think of the books I'm reading, and tell me about yours?


Jan. 8th, 2013 11:23 am
sartorias: (Fan)
While I'm waiting to find out if I have to go to jury duty for the 1-5 stint, I wanted to thank those who dropped by Book View Cafe for my half-off sale. A new set of authors are offering a variety of works this week.

While waiting and constantly refreshing the court site I've been reading.

My mother Gives a party tonight at which the principal Southwell Belles will be present, with one of which (I don't known whom I shall so far honor, having never seen them before) I intend to fall violently in love . . . and then, you know, in the course of a few weeks I shall be quite au desespoir, shoot myself, and Go out of the world with eclat, and my History will furnish materials for a pretty little Romance which shall be entitled and denominated the loves of Lord B and the cruel and Inconstant Sigismunda Cunegunda Bridgetina etc etc princess of Terra Incognita.

Don't you think I have a very Good Knack for novel writing?

Lord Byron, age sixteen, in 1804.

(I shortened some of the sentences, and added some punctuation, but kept his delightfully indiscriminate use of capitals.)
sartorias: (Default)
Kate Elliott interviews Paul Weimer over here. I thought he made a ton of interesting points, especially about reviewing these days.
sartorias: (Default)
Kate Elliott interviews Paul Weimer over here. I thought he made a ton of interesting points, especially about reviewing these days.
sartorias: (Default)
I'm back from Mythcon, too tired still to post coherently about the con (which was excellent, from panels to music to the glorious cool weather) but I wanted to give the heads up to some nifty books.

If you love epic fantasy told with a brilliant voice (this is one of the best reads of the summer, and the best-written self-published book by a huge margin) , you have got to check out Lord Talon's Revenge, by Tom Simon.

Here's the blurb:
A Comedy of Greed, War, Hatred, Betrayal, and Other Desirable Things

A man with no name, no country, no face, has one simple desire: revenge on the tyrant who robbed him of everything. Just a few small obstacles stand in his way. . . .

Greed: Sagrendus the Golden, Prince of Dragons, has a good business: abduct princess, collect ransom, repeat until rich. He charges extra for taking sides.

War: General Griffin, ogre mercenary, always fights for his client — even if there is nobody to fight against.

Hatred: Princess Jacinth hates the man she will have to marry — whoever he is. She also hates kings, rescuers, men, women, and especially porcelain dolls.

Betrayal: What keeps King Talvos on the throne of Ilberion? He’s better at double-crossing than anyone who double-crosses him.

And then there is one young fool with a sword, who still believes in heroes. Revenge is about to get a lot more complicated.

I was going to pull some quotes, but really, if the style of the blurb tickles your fancy, I would be very surprised if the book doesn't also.

The Grass King's Concubine, by Kari Sperring.

Another terrific stylist, in a totally different manner than Tom Simon, Kari Sperring infuses her fantasies with an awareness of paradigm that I don't see in many writers now. I think this comes of deep immersion in the early modern European period, with a dash of the Dumases, pere et fils.

When a wealthy young woman, obsessed with a childhood vision of a magical Shining Palace, sets out with her true love to search for a legendary land, she discovers the devastated WorldBelow - the realm of the Grass King. It's set in the same world as Living with Ghosts, but centuries later, switching between a pair of absorbing POVs.

I'm about to embark on a second, slower read.

Queen's Hunt, by Beth Bernobich.

Too often the middle book of trilogies hearkens back to Tolkien's The Two Towers (which was never intended to be published as a separate book) full of battles and travel. Bernobich doesn't rely at all on the Tolkien model, though one might assume so from the logline about a quest for jewels.

But these jewels are quite different from magic rings or swords, and so are the characters' relations with them--both in their present lives and in the past.

The main objection I see to middle books is that nothing much gets resolved--a reader could skip it and go straight to the third book, which is sure to lead up to the big battle, the end of the quest, etc. But this middle book stands on its own story-wise, though I think readers ought to begin with Passion Play to get a sense of the relationships. There are arcs that begin and end in this book, widening the scope of the first book to international reach.

At the heart are relationships, complicated, passionate, never as simple as bad guys and good guys--though there are some very nasty villains, and a compelling villain who does surprising things. Excellent female characters, leading to some sharp emotional highs and lows. The world-building is rich and colorful, there is plenty of action, but most important, this is a character-driven story. Looking forward to the third.

Libriomancer, by Jim C. Hines.

Jim kicks off a new series with this action-packed paean to libraries and fantasy-readers.

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

Isaac sets out on his quest aided by a motorcycle-riding dryad . . . I'll stop there. I read this in draft, and even though he was sending the chapters at a time when I was killingly busy, absolutely swamped, I found myself dropping everything just to dive into the new section.
sartorias: (desk)
The books I'm reading: Open right now, on the desk and around it [not counting the many books going on my Kindle]:

Larry Hammer's One Hundred People, One Poem Each

Melluch's The Ninth Circle

Madame Junot's Memoirs

Empress Josephine,

Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratislav and Franz Kafka,

A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,

Swords Around a Throne,

The Eagle in Splendor,Napoleon I and His Court

T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems, 1909-32,

Costume in Detail, 1730-1930,

Bourrienne's Memoirs,

The Age of Comfort,

The City as a Work of Art,

What People Wore,

Schom's Napoleon Bonaparte,

Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon,

Slave Revolution in the Caribbean 1789-1804

and my own book Blood Spirits for corrections for mmpb--geez this thing is riddled with errors even worse than usual, sigh.

Books I'm writing: Revenant Eve, Danse La Folie, Dark-side of the Sun (etc)

The book I love the most: Changes hourly

The last book I received as a gift: Christmas, Tina Fey's latest.

The last book I gave as a gift: Two days ago, Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts.

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