Well, that reading speed was fun while it lasted! I’ve been in a bit of a slump – distraction combo this week, and while I was expecting things to tail off a bit after losing my long train rides, I’ve struggled to maintain enthusiasm for some of the things I’ve been reading which feels very undeserved. To be fair, I’ve also been pretty sick all week, with a cold that I should have tried to rest off early in the week but kept pushing through until it decided to seriously kick my arse on Friday. Today has been the first day that I’ve actually felt rid of the thing, which is lovely but has also meant I’ve already spent time tonight doing day job work, which… ugh. It’s SUNDAY.
So, yeah, this will be a quick one, I think.
The City and the City by China Mieville. I really enjoyed this weird book, and particularly how Mieville presents a concept that at once is wildly science fictional (the idea that one can be conditioned to ignore and avoid particular cues in a city, to the point where you think of it as a completely different and foreign place, on pain of disappearance if you slip up) but weirdly recognisable to the way we actually interact with our own geography. Having now spent almost all of my adult life in cities (of which a lot… well, maybe all… has involved some weird anxiety things and executive functioning quirks that shaped my experiences), I’m very well aware of how easy it can be to avoid and ignore places that are technically right next to us, but might as well be an entire world away for how much they feature in our lives. 9 out of 10
Life Honestly by The Pool. I reviewed this in full – it was a mixed success. 6 out of 10
The Grey King by Susan Cooper. Hey, is London going to turn me into an audiobook person? Maybe the key to this medium for me is to stick to shorter stuff for younger readers, that might be more in line with my attention span… Anyway, the Grey King is the fourth of five books in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, which completely passed me by when I was the correct age for it but is proving a pretty interesting discovery in my “later years” or whatever. Minus points for a horrible, tragic dog death. Also, the Welsh pronunciation guides in this are brilliant and very necessary for most of us, I would suggest. I might have to go all in on this series and get the fifth one with my upcoming audible credit, so I can see how the dark (doesn’t) end up rising. 7 out of 10.
Crown of Stars by Kate Elliott. Phew. This series was an undertaking, and getting to the end of this is the work of a full year. Reading of this last volume felt even more momentous because of my enthusiasm slump, but once I got into it I was really pleasantly surprised by how things turned out, and the direction that the closure took. I’ll have a full “vintage review” of the series up on Nerds of a Feather towards the end of the month. 7 out of 10.
The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein. I’m reading this for the #ladyvaults book club, which you can find over here on Goodreads! Or search the tag on Twitter, or whatever. My thoughts, shamelessly copied from the thread over there (it’s a 5 out of 10):
Stylistically, it was an interesting book with a lot of compelling fairytale beats. I felt the subject matter was really well handled and I don’t think I’ve read a holocaust book before that spends so much time with the trauma and grief of a single surviving character afterwards (though I’m sure that’s a gap in my reading, not that these narratives don’t exist.)
As a modern reader Kisci’s story didn’t really grab me on the level I’d have wanted, and I think deeper characterisation all around would have made a big difference to my enjoyment. From a feminist perspective, I was also frustrated that Kisci was more or less a passenger in a story about powerful men for much of her journey, and I would have liked to see a wider range of women have a direct influence on Kisci’s journey beyond the scene in chapter 6 with Rachel and the grey-haired woman.
I’m certainly not put off from future Lisa Goldetein books, but I won’t actively be seeking them out either.
FIYAH Literary Magazine, Issue Seven: Music. It’s my first issue of FIYAH but it certainly won’t be the last. You’ll have my thoughts in full soon enough, but if you’re not reading this magazine yet, get this one and make sure you read to “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” by LaShawn M. Wanak, because that story is the peak of what’s already a great collection. Loved it. 8 out of 10.
On Paper: The Fated Sky, by Mary Robinette Kowal. Let’s just say I’m ready to have a lot of feelings about this.
On Kindle: I’m halfway through the fiction in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction (Uncanny Issue 24), and I’m impressed. Depending on how I feel, and how fast I finish The Fated Sky, I’m likely to go to The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera next, though if I decide to stick with shorts I’ll go for the Strange Horizons August ebook instead.
On Audio: I’m listening to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s great! I took a walk and listened to it on my walk! Like a real human being!
On Screen: I’ve spent some of my sickiest time in the last week catching up on Critical Role, after getting several episodes behind! I just don’t quite have the stamina to sit through an entire episode at the moment, although I still really enjoy the show and am especially appreciative of the return of Jester and Fjord after IRL babies happened for the players. I’m slowly working my way through Friday’s episode, and absolutely loving the current seaside setting. Also, after discovering that the Iron Man movies and the two Captain Americas that I don’t own are all on Netflix, I’ve decided to slowly work my way through my MCU backlog to the point where I can watch Infinity War. That started with the first Iron Man. Yes, this is the situation we’re in, kids.
Oh, and I’m watching Great British Bake Off, obviously. Rahul is very precious, I am torn between wanting to see him supported and protected and maybe directed to a good therapist, and sending him off camping with Ron Swanson to sort him out. Strong positive emotions go to Kim Joy, Ruby and Karen, too. And Terry is pretty great, actually, and Manon confuses me greatly with her family’s matching egg tattoos but her cakes are so gorgeous… so yes, no more eliminations in Bake Off, please.
So, you know what doesn’t work? Moving somewhere new on a book budget, and then making a point to scope out new independent first- and second-hand bookstores in your area while sticking to that book budget.
- State Tectonics by Malka Older. This one doesn’t count because it was a preorder from before I set myself targets. I’m extremely excited that this is here, although I do need to schedule myself in some time to actually, you know, read it.
- Creatures: The Legacy of Frankenstein, by Emma Newman, Tade Thompson, Paul Meloy, Kaaron Warren and Rose Biggin. An ARC collecting five stories exploring the stories of other creatures at other historical moments in the universe of Frankenstein. Never say I don’t give you Halloween themed content over here.
- The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker. I was doing so well, you guys. So very well. I was sticking to my budget, making sure I didn’t get carried away even with cheap sales, and then… I saw this in Herne Hill, and it’s just so pretty and I’ve got really interested in Greek mythology since reading the new Odyssey translation earlier in the year, and… oops. But look, it looks fabulous and I am not at all disappointed that I own it.
- Up the Walls of the World by James Tiptree, Jr. And then the second-hand bookshop, with its shelves of glorious old mass market paperbacks (which aren’t really a thing in the UK any more!) happened, and… well, I’ve been meaning to read this one for a long time, so it’s very lucky I found it really.
- Tea From an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan. Second hand bookshop, part two. This, I didn’t know I needed. But I didn’t want to just buy Tiptree, and there wasn’t much of a selection of women authors, and I do need to try more Cadigan, so.
- The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller. And here, I should be honest with myself and say I bought this mostly because I was terrified they would have a card minimum spend at the second hand bookshop that I wouldn’t meet. Does this fit in at all with the concept of book budgeting, no it does not, and this is exactly why I need a book budget, and to pay attention to that budget, and ideally to have some sort of very slight traumatic event happen at the second hand bookshop that is really a little bit too close to my house to be safe, so that I don’t go in there every single week and have this happen. BUT ANYWAY. I’m sorry, Madeleine Miller, I do really want to read your book as well, and I will!
- I did a 2x novella combo review at Nerds of a Feather! And I bought a pretty rug, and oh my goodness, I’m tired and it’s Sunday night and I need to get into bed and read some stories now. Until next week!