hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
Things I have been up to:

1) Still working on various powerpoints. Two delivered last week, including the root vegetables one on Saturday where I passed around a couple dozen different produce items acquired at just two local supermarkets (things like lotus root and galangal alongside the relatively more prosaic carrots and turnips). Which means that I now have to cook them; it's going to be a week of, I'm sorry, getting back to our roots.

2) Thursday evening we drove into DC (unfortunately at the same time the Dalai Lama was there; it would have been a good day to take the Metro) to see one of the National Theatre broadcasts of Donmar Warehouse's "Coriolanus" with Tom Hiddleston, Mark Gatiss, and a bunch of other great people. It was at the Shakespeare Theatre (the newer location), so a bit weird to sit in a theatre watching a video of another very different theatre, with filmic closeups. But thoroughly enjoyable. Also listened to last fall's Nerdist interview with Hiddles on Saturday's drive, so I am kind of vibrating still. In a totally non-cradle-snatchy way, of course. *hummmmmm*

3) This goes nicely with my slow reread of the Lymond Chronicles, because oh yes, please do make the mini-series before he's too old. [personal profile] yunitsa will write the script.

4) Went nearly straight from the root vegetables thing (well, the whole five-hour event) to Allentown so we could watch the kid in a movement ensemble performance and the kid's delightful girlfriend in an all-female version of "The Learned Ladies," and then drive home again the next evening. Weekend, what weekend.

5) I've also had some migraine-induced downtime, which I've mostly spent watching more "Angel." Well into season 3 now, filling one of those long-needed viewing gaps (after, you know, betaing [livejournal.com profile] penwiper26's fic that uses the source material. I'm spoiled for it, but that's not the same as knowing the canon).

Need to sort some seeds now.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
Hey, I finally did the Christmas books list, just over at my author blog.

Enjoy and comment!
hedda62: cover of Time for Tea (time for tea)
I was just announcing happily to everyone that the book is now in print at Amazon (cheaper than at CreateSpace, who knew?) when I realized it's also available both in print and as an ebook at Barnes and Noble. It's also at Kobo, if anyone shops there. Doesn't seem to be at iTunes yet, and I am too exhausted to check anywhere else (but if you see it, let me know).

Now I just have to get people to actually buy the thing. I had an interesting discussion with [livejournal.com profile] penwiper26 the other day about book prices, starting with a quote from John Dunning about a book costing about the same as a good restaurant meal (or 3-4 Starbucks drinks, or a couple of fancy cocktails). But often there's a reluctance to purchase - not just my book, but any book that's not by an author you've sampled before, that's an unpredictable experience. And I do this too, hemming and hawing and saying wow, I'm just not sure. Whereas I've had bad or so-so meals before, even in restaurants that got good reviews, and it hasn't stopped me from eating out. You'd think people would be more willing to spring for a book, because it's a possession one doesn't digest and lose through excretion, and okay, I know some people never reread books, but the paper ones you can pass on (or even sell, possibly). And ebooks are pretty cheap: more like a Starbucks drink and a bagel, or less. Of course some people just simply don't have the money at all, but I'm talking about people who do.

So the reluctance to jump right in and buy what sounds like a good book I tend to attribute to one of several conscious or unconscious motives. One, books are time-consuming, so people wait till they're sure they'll have the hours available. Two, for paper copies there's the space issue; this is currently stopping me from buying anything but ebooks for the most part, and even though ebooks take up no space, I suppose if you already have a large catalog of them it feels like things are getting crowded on your reading device. Three, even though buying and reading a book is not exactly the equivalent to putting a political sign in your front yard or friending someone in public on Facebook, it does feel a bit like… taking something on. Adjusting the color shades of your soul a bit. Books are insidious, and they do things to you. You are what you eat, but even more you are what you read, and I have hesitated sometimes to be the person who reads that book, even if it's not the reason I have in the front of my mind for not pressing the Buy Now button. It's this weirdly profound act that's a lot less simple than saying "the spinach enchiladas, please."

But not that hard, okay? *g*
hedda62: cover of Time for Tea (time for tea)
So… tell me, those of you with opinions, should I read the Outlander series? This comes up again because two of my friends mentioned it in emails in response to my book announcement. I read the first one lo many years ago, and frankly hated it; I mean, it was a gripping read and I tore through it, but then I felt kind of sick, between the beating and the homophobia and not really liking any of the characters (except the one I think I was supposed to despise). But people seem to love them, and perhaps there are redeeming qualities in the sequels?

I'm not sure I have the time, actually, and when I do I'd rather (thank you [personal profile] yunitsa) have a nice angsty Lymond reread, but I thought I'd ask.

Speaking of books, I filled in the most recent of the holes I'd left in Louise Penny's series, The Beautiful Mystery, and ah, if I thought the others were good this one was transcendent. Okay, it takes place in a monastery full of Gregorian chants, but that does not a lovely book make on its own. What does is being able to describe what music does to people, in ways both sublime and ridiculous (Gamache gets into a conversation about chickens, thinks of Foghorn Leghorn, and gets "Camptown Races" stuck in his head, amongst men with gorgeous voices singing the most beautiful music in the world). Also, having read the books before and after, it was good to finally witness the horrible yawning abyss that had swallowed a major character in between. In a way, I mean.

Also have watched the latest OUAT (see my tumblr post about epiphytes) and aha, the secret: it really truly IS commedia dell'arte, at least in having one of those plots where everyone's related to each other. (This is a comment many OUAT viewers have made after many different episodes, thinking each time that finally the family tree has acquired so many twisted branches it can't possibly survive any longer. And somehow it keeps on getting worse.)

(A family tree with epiphytes. I am tempted to expand on the metaphor, but I have better things to do.)
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
… for Person of Interest to commence operations, and by operations I mean open-heart surgery that takes three weeks to complete. (Or more, in my case. I'm hoping to get to watch the third part sooner than five days after it airs, but no guarantees.)

a) I take back what I said about Sleepy Hollow. Well, no, I don't, but all is forgiven for the delightful sequence in which Ichabod decides to leave Abbie a voice mail and, because he has barely managed to grasp that his words can be recorded and listened to, and has not yet proceeded to phone etiquette, basically writes a letter out loud, beginning Dear Miss Mills and ending Your Faithful Servant (or something similar; I can't remember). I can be very picky about more aspects of this show than the aforementioned historical inaccuracies, including the ways in which Ichabod adjusts and does not to the 21st century (I have written several novel-chapters in which an 18th-century man adjusts to the 20th century, and I had to think about it constantly to get it right, and he didn't run into any black female police lieutenants), but bits like the above make it all worthwhile. And I think I see where they were heading with the Sally Hemings conversation, even if the circumstances made a full and frank discussion rather impractical. So, all in all, I'm going to keep on watching.

Also, Orlando Jones.

b) Currently reading (after having finished Broken Homes thanks to [personal profile] pendrecarc, bless you and I will mail it back soon, and oh Lesley what are you doing?): Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, though all in the wrong order because of library availability. So far have read #s 7, 9, 6, 1, and 3, the last two bought over the weekend at Houston's Murder by the Book (my son literally lives around the corner from this delightful place, where Julia Spencer-Fleming was reading and signing her new book today, a day after I left alas. I declined to buy the hardcover. Maybe the Kindle edition). Anyway, I really like Penny's writing: interesting descriptions, gentle sense of humor, intriguing characters, long development arc which I am getting all chopped up and mixed, but whatever. The setting is mostly divided between Montreal and a fictional Quebec village, which reminds me rather of Martha Grimes's Inspector Jury books, but these have a deeper sense of place, less repetitive characterization, and more grit. (The comparison seems to have occurred to the Murder by the Book staff too, since they have Penny shelved under "British," meaning, I gathered when I mildly complained, "cosy." Which I wouldn't say she is at all (nor by any means could one define all British mystery novels that way). But they don't have a Canadian section, just British, American, and Foreign. The placement just strikes me as really weird considering how fundamental the francophone-anglophone conflict is to the plots.) There is a lot about art and a lot about bone-aching resentment, and they should be very sad and aren't, and I am enjoying them greatly.

c) Oh shit it's cold. I am not ready for Suddenly Twenty-Three Degrees Fahrenheit. At least it didn't snow today.

Damn, still not ten o'clock.
hedda62: pay phone with "green roof" (phone)
Things:

1) Final big garden show-off event of the season tomorrow. And we are already planning next year's events, which is cool with me; I think I'll need the lead time.

2) I have, however, failed at posting every day on the garden blog. It's hard! Not so much finding things to say, as long as I accept the inconsequential and the inane, but remembering that it is a day and I have to put words online before it's over. Oh well.

3) Both having trouble remembering/scheduling and having trouble making decisions are symptoms for me of mild depression, so I'm watching out and moderating expectations. But it doesn't take much to get me revved up again, and I think what little time I have next week I'll use for working out more book details - I've done a lot; I need to fill in gaps and make a firm schedule now. And the following week Younger Son and I will hopefully be photographing a teacup on the rocky shores of New Hampshire.

4) In the meanwhile I've been editing Time and Fevers more, so that will be ready to go when Time for Tea is out. I think a few months' gap between is reasonable, and then a nice anticipatory wait for Time Goes By. I'm still taking out words; this is good.

5) In TV World, we've just barely started Breaking Bad s3; watched the opening episode of the new season of The Good Wife, which I thought hit the ball out of the park; and of course watched Person of Interest. The first two episodes of this season were strong for character re-introduction, nice ensemble moments, and setting up interesting potential conflicts. And I'm finally watching s2 of Once Upon a Time, which for some reason I dropped the ball on last year; I'm not fannish enough about it to care about being a year behind, and hey, now I finally get all the Lost jokes. :)

6) I'm making regular visits to the library to check out CDs; what they have is totally unpredictable, but it's free music and I am doing a lot of walking and weeding and other activities that require distraction (since I don't happen to be plotting a book at the moment, though I'll need to start that in the spring). There was this great ultra-nostalgic day last week when I picked up Rod Stewart's "Every Picture Tells a Story," which we had on vinyl when I was a teenager, and REM's "Document" and "Murmur" which are uselessly on cassette tape somewhere. Also the soundtrack of "Pippin." Music insinuates itself into your brain chemistry in a way nothing else does, and the physical reaction I have on hearing songs again always amazes me, and the way it stimulates memory, and how well I recall tunes and lyrics that should be long-vanished. Oh, and yesterday: Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris" - wow, I hadn't heard that in *guesses* 25 years? And it's all there.

7) Current state of the Oh, Mr. Finch playlist under the cut, just in case you're interested.

albatross, blackbird, blue jay, bluebird, buzzard, crane, crow, cuckoo, dove, eagle, goose, heron, lark, nightingale, raven, rook, skylark, sparrow, vulture, wren, etc. )

8) I have finished all the Rivers of London books that are available in the US, and am tapping my fingers with impatience for February (I mean - February??) but I'll manage. So, any guesses on how Nightingale is related to Finch? *grin* Although the crossover I really want is with the Bryant & May books.

Wow, we just had a little rainstorm. I mean, really brief, and it won't make any difference to speak of in this drought (which has been unusually hard to adjust to after all the rain earlier in the season) but at least I don't have to water things today.
hedda62: Ben Linus, well-bruised (bruised ben)
I have "Walk Through the Fire" (yes, from Buffy) stuck in my head. Dammit.

Definitely not doing the Ten in Ten challenge (I like my inner editor, thank you, and also what I need right now is more like Organize Ten Things A Day) but it is fun to have all the new fics popping up, especially [personal profile] pendrecarc finally running with the Punxsutawney plot bunny, or I should say groundhog, that I played with ages ago.

I'm fiddling with the Henry Gale fic, though it's also hitting the "what is this for?" button and when I have time I'll have to take it for a walk and figure that out. One thing I do appreciate about writing it is how thinking through Ben's motivations brings into sharp relief Lost's deliciously convoluted plotting and presentation: this is set during season two and I'm pulling stuff from two or three seasons later to explain it. But so far it's totally interior monologue (which my brain doesn't want to assign to past or present tense, grr) and I think it would be better with snippets of dialogue. So we'll see.

Yesterday I was a bit under the weather (so to speak: it's hot again, although not unbearably so, but I think this was ragweed-related edge-of-migraine) and decided to splurge on Kindle books: not just Whispers Under Ground (having finished Moon Over Soho, which I liked even better than the first one) but also Naomi Novik's Blood of Tyrants (which I'm about two-thirds through and enjoying muchly), Laurie R. King's The Bones of Paris, and M.M. Justus ([personal profile] mmegaera)'s Finding Home. It is a good time to read the hell out of things before all the TV shows start up again.

I still have to make lists. I need to put "make lists" on my list.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
... and to let you all know you can't spoil me, I guess. I'm now caught up on "Welcome to Night Vale" and have finished season 1 (aka ALL THERE IS DAMMIT) of "Orange is the New Black." Also reading Moon Over Soho. All delightful.

Also have edited through chapter 24 of Time for Tea, written nothing on the Simon/Alys story alas (I know what I want to write, just having a block probably due to some lack of significance and import in the outline), temporarily suppressed a desire to write "a few little vignettes" ha ha ha about Henry Gale ("but now there was this evil balloon again" Stephen Maturin keeps saying in my head), walked many miles, watered many plants, and not done enough yoga. Well, not done any yoga, but I hope to remedy that today.

Also been weirded out by certain approaches to fandom on tumblr, but that's the old story writ new, so sigh.

Away for the weekend starting tomorrow afternoon and probably not checking anything but email.
hedda62: pay phone with "green roof" (phone)
Whoa, it's September; how did that happen.

We're getting a late (probably not last) gasp of actual summer, and I came home from yesterday's putting-in-the-fall-garden session soaked through and filthy, but all I need to do today is stop by and water if it doesn't look like rain. Probably will be driving over to some obscure corner of VA to have lunch - third time eating out this week, but it is the week that contains both my birthday and our anniversary, so. Had anniversary dinner (26th, if you're wondering; it impressed the waitress) at a place that specializes in cocktails, so had a thing with bourbon and peach and hot peppers called a Back Porch, and then a Ginger Rogers, which I think is going to be my "cocktail I can make without looking at the recipe" after a few more tries. I made ginger simple syrup the day after, and produced a version of the drink, though we had no ginger ale so I made it with ginger beer, and yum. I think this is a sufficiently different recipe that I can name it, therefore: Backwards and In Heels.

I have practically a mint lawn on one side of the house now, so can make All the Mint Drinks Ever.

Working away at the really-now-final edit of Time for Tea, taking out unnecessary words, and happily falling in love with my characters all over again. Need to make a list for the next steps. Under the cut, a bit from chapter 12 I've always been fond of (slight spoilers and relative incomprehensibility; the "bastard son of a sacked stable boy" does have a reference point).

minuet )

Tumblr is still fun, but I have decided the rule is: the more clever I think a photoset is, the less likely anyone is to reblog it. (If you want to know: this and this.) Or maybe it's just: nothing gets reblogged unless it's tagged "Michael Emerson." Whatever. I am happy to post All the Ben Linus Ever, With Side of Harold Finch, but there are going to be bits of paper and parallelism and obscure quotes floating around too.

I'm just surprised I'm actually doing anything there. It's like the good old days when I ferreted out all the animal imagery in the Vorkosigan novels. Obsessive latching-on-to-specifics fandom, enabled by the ease of posting visuals.

Up through episode 10 of "Orange is the New Black" and still enjoying it. The plot arcs are somewhat predictable and yet compelling (or maybe it's "predictable and compelling" - being able to guess what's going to happen when it's a thing that appeals to storytelling sense is good, yes?) and I'm fond of a number of characters. Red and Crazy-Eyes are my favorites.

Reading (finally) Rivers of London, or Midnight Riot as it's called in the US for some unknown reason. Will report later.

And that is enough for now!
hedda62: Harold Finch in his HAT (hat baby)
Okay, so we really need either a) another bookcase that will go who knows where or b) serious book-weeding. I managed to get all the alphabetized books to fit into the library by moving all the drama to Younger Son's room (and a smattering of I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-this miscellany to an inaccessible shelf in Older Son's room), but all the shelves in other rooms are still over-stuffed. I will think on't.

Anyway, it's always fun to do shelf-shifting because of rediscoveries, including the copy of a 1972 literary journal with an article by my late English professor father-in-law on Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, which Younger Son acted in earlier this year. He read it and kept saying "Cool!" so, intergenerational posthumous connection forged. Cool.

Also this (slightly photomanipped):

emerson
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
A few months back [personal profile] isis did a post about her negative reaction to present tense fiction, in which she discusses how despite being supposed by many to be more "immediate," to her present tense is distancing. It's a good post *pause for you to read it* and I understand what she's getting at even though I don't "bounce off" present tense in the same way. I do often feel there's an excess of This Is The Now in fanfic, but as long as something's well written I don't care much what tense it's in, and there are lots of things that will throw me out of a story faster than verbs with s on the end.

However, I'm as prone to navel-gazing as the next writer (you all have figured this out by now) so I do think about tense along with all the other elements of a story (also, being a writer of time travel books gets you noticing it even if you're committed to using standard past tense narrative). Until last year, I wrote almost exclusively in past tense, and when I moved into using present I thought of it as an effect of suddenly writing a lot of visual media fic - that "immediacy" thing. (A lot of other things changed this past year, of course; one could make all kinds of false assumptions about, say, menopause or hyperthryroidism or empty nest syndrome causing present tense to break out. I don't think we need to go there.) Certainly when I'm writing, to choose a totally random example ha, Vorkosigan fic, I'm going to write in past tense, because my style is not wildly different from Lois Bujold's, and to some extent I'm modeling on the books. I can think of a few examples of Vorkosigan things I might choose present tense for - it would be interesting to write Memory fic from Simon's POV that way - but in general I don't consider anything but past tense.

(I'm not sure "consider" is the right word, actually. But more on that later.)

Some published fiction is written in present tense, of course; most of what got me thinking about this last week was finally getting around to reading Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, which by the way is just as wonderful as Wolf Hall, and let me tell you, reading about Thomas Cromwell and writing about Ben Linus (even a Ben Linus on the way to reformation, if I may confusingly use that word) is an interesting and strikingly appropriate combination. Oh my. No, I do not want to read the crossover, though I would like to watch the chess game, or listen to the trash talk. Anyway. WH and BUTB are in present tense, which I remember clearly not noticing until well into WH, which tells you how well it works. And I suppose if I were to write Mantel fanfic (there is a vanishingly small chance of this) it would have to be in present, or it wouldn't sound right. The opposite (writing present-tense fic based on something in past tense) is somewhat more likely (for me, I mean; other people do it all the time).

you are reading more )

*The Past, the Present, and the Future, not the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Thanks again, Ebenezer.

Books!

Oct. 31st, 2012 07:47 am
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
Yes, I did say I would post about books read. Have not been doing much of this, as I also said, because all my leisure has been taken up with reading and writing fanfic and watching television. Ah, decadence. Not that reading books isn't.

Anyway. I finally got to reading Repeating History by M.M. Justus ([personal profile] mmegaera) and I really enjoyed it; it's a lot of fun. You know I am a sucker for time travel plots, and this is the classic paradox, the man who ends up becoming his own great-grandfather. Actually, the "classic paradox" aspect isn't delved into too much, but the emotional punch is certainly there, though I personally would have been a little more freaked out at going to bed with my great-grandmother. Though by the time that aspect of things hits home, I suppose he's pretty thoroughly immersed in his new selfhood; there's plenty of lovely freaking out earlier. Charley is an attractive, well-fleshed-out protagonist, the settings are great (Yellowstone geyser as time travel device, yes indeedy) and the research is wholly evident but not intrusive. This book and her next are available as e-books only (you can find info here) and this one is, just noting, pretty darn cheap, so if you wanted to download it as a backup book (the "oh dear, two hours in line to vote, better pull out the Kindle" sort of thing) I'd say it would be an excellent choice. I may do this with True Gold. Definitely looking forward to reading that.

I also read Laura Lippman's latest, And When She Was Good - I don't think Lippman is capable of writing a bad book, though this wasn't one of my top five or anything. It's the Suburban Madam story, Her Dangerous, Criminal Yet Slightly Boring Life And How She Got There, and it's got lots of interesting twists and turns and the protagonist is sorta likeable, though she doesn't have a Heart Of Gold, more like iron.

And I read a Chief Inspector Gamache novel by Louise Penny, A Trick of the Light, which I thought was great. I'll be going back to read the earlier ones. Great characters, interesting Quebec setting, compelling writing, the sort of writing that makes you stop and think about the imagery and metaphors (sometimes I said, "whoa, that doesn't work," but still was intrigued) while enjoying the story.

And that's all the recent reading, aside from the Classic Work But I Won't Mention Which that is going to help me with the Lewis Secret Santa.

Now back for a bit to the why-does-this-work-so-well crossover cascading out of my fingers...
hedda62: my cat asleep (hathaway's hands)
First, FYI those who I've been reading on both DW and LJ, I will probably be reading you on DW and may defriend on LJ (or just take you off my reading list).

Second, obsessive but unfortunately dim DW icon and epic fic in progress aside, this is mostly a non-Lewis post! Well, partly, anyway.

Since I am spending my free time otherwise (ahemrewatchinglewisepisodes) I haven't been reading as much, but one book I did get to in the last month was Stephen King's The Dark Half. I had never read a Stephen King novel, so thought I should remedy that. It's a horror story about a writer whose pseudonym comes to life and kills people horribly, and the writer is horrified and it's all very horrid. It was enjoyable reading. There's lot of nice stuff about who we are when we write, which I always find fascinating because I don't know. I mean, there are character voices, and I've long accepted the illogic that being in total control of the writing process and letting the characters take over can happen simultaneously, and that they are completely real and merely a part of my imagination at the same time. (I'm talking about original characters mainly, as characters in fanfic are part of someone else's imagination too - but then of course I hope that my characters will be part of other people's imaginations as well, so perhaps it's all the same in the end.)

That's different, though, from the writer's voice and how it is and is not me. I suppose I can say that when I write things I would never feel or think or do, that it's the characters making me do it, but if I've made up the characters, then...? It's actually kind of fun to think about, but I can see how it could drive someone crazy. Not that that's what the Stephen King book is about, exactly; it might have been more interesting in the end if it had been.

Another writing topic I've been considering, this one fanfic-related, is: what does it do to our writing brains when we make up stuff about characters from TV/movies as opposed to from books? I was mostly a book-fic writer until I launched into "Lewis," and it really does feel like a different process. I'm good at dialogue (she said modestly; I keep getting comments to that effect, though) but it's so different writing dialogue in, say, Vorkosigan fic, when I've never actually heard the characters say anything and have to make up their voices in my head, somehow synthesizing the canon dialogue (which, not irrelevantly, was written by an American about people with European-like voices) into something not too different but in my own voice, than it is writing dialogue between characters I've heard talking. And seen, too, though that in my brain seems yet a different process and oddly similar no matter what media I'm working with. I'm not intensely visual, though I try to make an effort. I describe people's facial expressions far too much, of course.

I don't actually think one fic-type is easier than the other; in the visual-media fic, of course, you have to satisfy your audience with a more precise echo of the original, but it's not like book-fic audiences can't be picky as well. But I find that writing dialogue for "Lewis" I can hear Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox saying it in my head, and can usually tell if it doesn't sound like something they'd say. When I write dialogue for Miles Vorkosigan or Gregor Vorbarra, they often end up sounding like me if I'm not careful.

And this is again all different from the process in original fiction, where the characters are one's own and therefore merely need to be internally consistent (and not remind people of characters they've seen elsewhere). Which isn't always easy either.

Thoughts?
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
... quite the investigative team, actually, if one were to do that meme again, but more just shorthand for what I've been reading (and watching).

I have just finished the e-ARC of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, and this one is just an unqualified YAY, though I reserve the right to qualify later. For now: Ivan! Tej! By! (though not noticeably) Simon & Alys! Nicely brief Miles appearance! "The Gregor"! Charming understatements! Vast sinkholes! And yes, to answer Lois's question, it's a gift to the fans, and would be an awfully weird way to start reading the series, although if you could ignore all the little digs and references and concentrate on the main story, it might work.

What I've been reading otherwise (for the last month or so, which has contained a lot of reading, damn mysterious health issues): the Bryant & May series, by Christopher Fowler. Superannuated detectives in London's Peculiar Crimes Unit keep getting to the bottom of things, despite the continual threat (and occasional realization) of being shut down. I didn't read them in order, which in this case doesn't matter much (still have the last two to go). The general air is cozy and witty and full of odd factoids, even if the crimes are sometimes modernly gruesome and the occasional bad word slips in. Charming if not really understated. I want them to meet Dalziel and Pascoe.

To balance this, the much more gritty series (or two dovetailing ones) of Georgia crime novels by Karin Slaughter (which I hope is not a pen name), starring medical examiner (and pediatrician) Sara Linton, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, and later on Special Agent Will Trent. The characters and stories are well drawn and though I'm somewhat put off by the reliance on shocking horrible stuff (the usual parade of torture, rape, child abuse, etc.) I really can't stop reading them (madly out of order, again). This may not be a good thing.

And then I'm watching Inspector Lewis and adoring it, but am only on series 2, so don't spoil me. Too much. I think I will go off and watch more now. (Or after I've seen what some of you had to say about the Ivan book.)
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
I've been falling behind on documenting books read, but I did want to note that I cruised through Naomi Novik's latest, Crucible of Gold, last night, and really liked it. The last one, Tongues of Serpents, read like a transitional chapter in the series-as-novel, an exercise in getting from here to there; it's not like nothing happened in it, but it felt like a set-up for the next thing. Which in some ways it was, though in retrospect it was more a way to give Laurence a job to do while he was out of the service because they can't let him back in right away. Of course I can't help comparing it to The Letter of Marque which is the anomaly in the Aubrey/Maturin series, the one where Jack is out of the Navy, and Jack is up and down the Med and sailing to Sweden and cutting out ships and getting shot and avoiding being kicked by horses, an unreasonable number, for a naval engagement, and then there is the absolutely lovely ending with Stephen and Diana and the tower and the balloon dreams and singing Mozart. It is perhaps my favorite novel in the series, and the first one I read; those things are not unrelated, of course, but I love the way it fits into the series as a whole despite being an odd bit out. I don't think if I'd read Tongues of Serpents first in the Temeraire series I'd have gone back to read the rest.

But, on to the new book, which works much better in the Novik method of sending our heroes to a new place and making them cope. I really liked the idea of the Incas having forced out the Spanish with the help of their dragons - one can't help wondering how they would have gone on without that conquest, and here it is, although naturally the dragons change everything. And I liked seeing Hammond again, and oh dear poor Granby. So, I will read the next one (though perhaps not buy it) and look forward to seeing them back in England. For a while.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
I think I posted on LJ about the Mertensia nomenclature problem a while back - I finally figured it all out today. You can also read there about my adventures in vermicomposting, if you are so inclined.

Someday (and it is something I should take notes for as I go along) I need to write an essay about how historians fail fiction writers, without meaning to of course, but oh dear God it should not be so difficult to find out when things happened. Though the above example is more about people who blindly copy from Wikipedia failing fiction writers who are eccentric enough to name people after plants.

Speaking of historical fiction, I'm launched on reading another mystery series, which I'm quite impressed by: C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake novels, which I found out about by looking Thomas Cromwell up on Wikipedia (which is good for lots of things, really) after reading Wolf Hall. They are set slightly later (starting with Jane Seymour's death) but concern a lot of the same people and events (the first one is called Dissolution; you get the drift).

Early voting this evening! I would really have time on election day (next Tuesday) but I will be gardening all morning and getting on a plane in the early evening, and I don't want to count on fitting it in. And my 18-year-old will not be here then so has to vote now (his first time!), so I'll do it now too. We have been moved to a new congressional district, which provides some minor drama.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
I need to catch up with documenting my life in all the various places I do it, but I seem to be alternatively busy and migrainey, and doing silly things like going all the way over to Derwood just to plant onions, which did actually need planting, but perhaps it was an excuse to drive through the cherry-blossomed streets while playing Mozart's Requiem really loud. (It is not good car music because parts of it are very soft, and my car makes noises. But I needed it.)

The calendar gets checked pretty often these days, as it's hard to believe it's still March; all sorts of stuff is blooming and leafing out that has never done that before this early. What will come of this, I cannot say, but it is hard to harrumph ominously while the weather is so gorgeous. And I ordered a thousand thousand slimy things red wiggler worms yesterday, which is very exciting, at least to me.

We have made a sudden plan to go to South Carolina for spring break, although I can't go for all of it, so I will fly down several days after J. and P. have driven there. Beach house! Charleston! Yay.

Book catch-up: am reading a mystery series by Frank Tallis set in turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna, with a police inspector and a psychologist who are friends and play music together and solve crimes and eat lots of pastry. Good sense of place and attitudes/preoccupations/obsessions; I think one should occasionally get annoyed with characters whose worldview is different from one's own, and I do (especially with regard to Clara. Liebermann: My, she has unexplored depths after all! Me: Well, duh. Why are you marrying her again?) but basically they are both sympathetic dudes who hold my attention and make me want to keep reading. Part of it is context, of course, like the bit in the current book where the killer has painted an oddly-shaped cross in blood on the wall, and you read the description and think and then say "oh shit, it's a swastika." In 1902. And Liebermann (the doctor) is Jewish, and rather Panglossian with it (listen to your dad, Max; he knows what's coming).

More reading before bed. Yes.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
Summer temperatures today (well, ideal summer, not actual summer), and everything is in bloom.

Playing catch-up, as usual. Let's see. I taught my gardening class, which went really well aside from the emergency dash home just before it started due to a technical difficulty (always, always bring the laptop, even if it has battery issues; don't count on the thumb drive working). That (and a good dose of Imitrex against the inevitable morning baby migraine) gave me a bit of a rush, which likely helped me then talk for two and a half hours straight.

Went that night to a concert at the National Cathedral that included Mozart's Requiem (mmmm) which then made me want to watch "Amadeus" again, so I did the following evening - the director's cut, which I'm not sure was worth staying up till midnight on a school night. I suspect my great affection for that movie says something about my attitude toward historical accuracy along with, no doubt, much else. But oh dear God, F. Murray Abraham, I adore you. And I've had little Papageno bits stuck in my head all week.

Read: the latest Nevada Barr novel, The Rope which is another example of the doubling back phenomenon, in this case documenting Anna Pigeon's debut as an investigator and a Parks employee. No one can torture her protagonist like Nevada Barr; this is the place to go for lessons. Also read: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, finally, which made me think a lot about... present tense, for one thing, and why it works for historical novels. Sense of immediacy, I guess. Makes me wonder more about my choice to use present tense for the one thing I've written in the voice of a character from the past (doubt I could keep it up for a whole novel, though). I also greatly admired the use of language, how it managed to grab and shake and stir while never breathing too hard, and the way the book as a whole compels sympathy for someone who likely didn't deserve it (without twisting the facts too badly; it's no "Amadeus").

Speaking of telling stories, I'm still following "Once Upon a Time" and being sufficiently intrigued by it to keep going; it is, in some ways, a very silly show, and some of the acting reflects this, but I like the way the fairy tale background is revealed out of order and sets up contradictions and parallels to the modern day story, and I can guess what plot gaps need to be filled without being able to predict how that will happen. Keeps me amused.

Also, not to appear too fantastically behind the times, but we switched phone providers recently and along the way acquired a new phone with (ta da!) caller ID, which has Changed My Life; I cannot tell you what a relief, especially in these days of political robo-calls and (worse) live appeals for donations. Also we got a new and amazing printer that actually works (mostly) with wireless, instead of failing at the worst times as the old one routinely did. So I am technologically pleased.

That's all for now, I think.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
And in non-reading news, managed to see "Hugo" (on small screen) and "The Artist" (on large) on sequential evenings this weekend, which might be too much silent film homage at once, but they were both quite good.

Reading: as mentioned before, John Lawton's A Lily of the Field and Philip Kerr's Field Gray, both of which bring up another phenomenon of series fiction, the looping back and filling in effect that happens when a series starts out covering a wide period of time and then the author wants to keep writing and so dips back in and elaborates on parts of the protagonist's life that were ignored or merely summarized before. It tends to lead to odd structures: the Lawton book spends the first half with newly introduced characters and then turns into yet another Troy of Scotland Yard Solves a Case, war period and post-war respectively; the Kerr starts out in 1954 and has flashback sequences in 1931 through 1946 (IIRC). They work because the grip on the central character is so good, at least for the author and the faithful reader, but would be odd for a first-time reader.

Also, two nonfiction books: Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff, which tells the story of a plane crash on a recreational flight over the territory of an isolated New Guinea society during WWII; and Measure of the Earth by Larrie Ferreiro, the tale of a French-Spanish expedition to "Peru" (currently Ecuador) in the 1730s to make measurements that would determine the shape of the planet. Both of them deal to some extent with the attitudes of whites toward colonial or otherwise-dominated lands, but (aside from the sheer adventure, which is related pretty well in both cases) I would read the first as an example of what happens when military people get bored and need another outlet besides actually fighting (and this applies to the native New Guineans as well - no noble savages these), as well as a case study of sensational journalism (not Zuckoff's, I mean, but that of the contemporary journalists), and the second as a carefully-researched report of stunningly bad personnel and mission management. The most interesting part of Measure is actually the description of how they all got home again - or not, in some cases. It's also fun to have read enough in this period to appreciate stuff like one of the Spanish soldiers going home on a ship that stops to pick up the survivors of Anson's Wager. And Voltaire pokes his nose in a lot.

Then I zoomed through Laura Lippman's novella The Girl in the Green Raincoat, which is "Rear Window" with preeclampsia, and I'm well-started on the newest Charles Todd. I should be reading Gaia's Garden, too. I have been PowerPointing my head off in preparation for Saturday's class.

In other news, I am now the mother of two adults, as Patrick turns 18 today. OMG.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
Too busy for a comprehensive post, but just mentioning that I have watched a) the Downton Abbey Christmas special, which does indeed redeem its predecessors somewhat, though only somewhat; b) the second series of Sherlock (not even going into what we went through to do that). With regard to the latter, I am 1) intermittently intrigued by the editing; 2) regularly entertained by the writing, especially the canon references; 3) okay with the plots and characters, more or less; 4) still and forever in love with Martin Freeman. Also: I) the trick of the ending i) was expected (canon, again), but still moving; ii) pings my "how the hell" meter only moderately but just enough to cry out SHERLOCK/JONATHAN CREEK CROSSOVER NOW!! II) speaking of crossovers, but of the chronologically-impossible vein, Molly/Daisy. That is all.

The other day at the library I somehow managed to pick up both John Lawton's A Lily of the Field and Philip Kerr's Field Gray, so I am happily immersed in WWII-era fiction that I might post about, or not. Aside from that, reading classic gardening texts of the last few decades that I never quite got around to before and have to know about for a class I'm teaching in a few weeks. As you do.

It is by-god more than halfway through February. In fact, almost all the way done with February. How did that happen? Shit.

ETA: have been enjoying the xojane Downton Abbey recaps, and the latest one is no exception. "Meanwhile, Bates is sad in a sad grey prison outfit sitting in a sad grey cell in a sad early-20th-century prison and it’s all very sad." "Matthew -- who is everywhere and hears everything when Mary is concerned! Like BATMAN!..." And, speaking of crossovers, a very decent possibility to integrate Kreacher into the Downton menage. Because how else does the prosecution know?

...yes, I am getting back to work...

June 2016

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