Monday, March 18, 2013

three links

It feels like there have been a lot of distractions around lately, so I thought why not share some of these distractions with the world?

Firstly, a list of books mentioned or read on the Gilmore Girls! This is a fun reading challenge idea as well. For fellow Gilmore Girls fans- enjoy! I found it through Book Dirt.

Secondly, Ronni's boyfriend has started a blog with another medievalist friend about the Anglo-Saxon riddles, called The Riddle Ages. Since uni ended I haven't been reading much Old English at all, and I miss it, so I'm hoping that this blog sticks around. The riddles are largely found in the Exeter Book, a manuscript which also contains most (all?) of the poems known as the elegies- which are my particular favourites- and some riddles have similarities with the elegies. They can be very poetic, and there is the added fun of trying to solve the riddles. I'm looking forward to reading a discussion of the possible solutions. So far there is an introduction to Old English riddles and Old English text and translations of three riddles. Definitely worth a look, especially if you're interested in Medieval literature.

Thirdly, and perhaps my favourite, is this blog about Sydney- particularly its history, its hidden and forgotten spots. I found Mirror Sydney through a tweet about this post on 'memorial stores': "shops that are no longer open but remain a part of the street, quietly anachronistic." It's a chronicle of pyschogeography, urban exploration and history. The author, Vanessa Berry, also has a blog called Biblioburbia, a blog about Sydney libraries.

I don't know how interesting this is to people who don't live in Sydney- do I just love reading these things because it's my home? I do love reading about cities- I particularly enjoy urban fantasy set in London with lots of London history and geography wrapped up in it- but I rarely read these more personal and detailed perspectives. The one London blog I really enjoy is Everyone in Dalston is Weird, which kind of reminds me of my own home, but is sadly not very regularly updated. So Sydneysiders, nostalgic ex-Sydneysiders, and anyone interested in having a glimpse into life in Sydney, I highly recommend Mirror Sydney.

Monday, March 11, 2013

recent reads

I thought I was getting onto a roll with blogging, but then February happened and no blogs got written at all! Worse than that, even, is that I got into a bit of a reading slump, though I had to push through to finish my book club book, which has helped. And I haven't even started my reading challenge yet! So what better way to get back into things than a short round-up of recent reading? Here are the last five books that I read:

Image from Goodreads
Unspoken - Sarah Rees Brennan

I ended up buying this because I couldn't get it from the library- and sadly I didn't get this cover, which I like, but the book itself made up for it. I really enjoy Sarah Rees Brennan's blog (I think I first heard about her from Ronni) and this book sounded great to me- it's a Gothic mystery YA book with a small English town, an aristocratic family with secrets and a telepathic connection between a high school girl and her 'imaginary friend' who turns out not to be imaginary. With a dash of romance. 

I have to say that I read The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, and while I liked a lot of it (interesting concept, well-drawn characters) something didn't quite click for me. I'm not a big fan of fantasy about demons, and the writing style was not exactly my thing. I was keen to read the rest of the trilogy to find out what happened, but then I didn't get around to it. So I approached this book with excitement but also caution. But in the end I really enjoyed it! I think the writing worked well here, with the main character being quite bubbly and funny and there's a nice mix of light and dark. And I liked the romance, I know that she is kind of subverting the bad boy tropes of Gothic novels here, but I still got swept up in them because I enjoy them so much, and I really liked the relationship here between the main character, Kami Glass, and the boy in her head. Will definitely get around to reading the second book of these.

Image found on LibraryThing
The Long Ships - Frans G. Bengtsson

Again, I like this cover but it's not the one I read! I got this through inter-library loan, the first time I've actually done that at my local library. I feel like I saw this all over the blogosphere a little while ago, but I have just managed to find it on A Striped Armchair. It sounded very appealing to me- vikings! Adventure! Epics! And it delivered it all with a large sense of humour. This book was written in the 1940s but it definitely feels like you're stepping back into the past reading it- the characters and their attitudes feel very of their time. But while the characters' attitudes to women and slavery (for instance) are very foreign, they also manage to be quite likeable. I think Eva sums it up well in her blog post: "it manages to ‘feel’ medieval without being at all musty, upbeat without romanticising the period, and most of all very, very funny..." Plus it wins points in my book for having a chapter on the Battle of Maldon. 

Image from Goodreads

Wildwood and Under Wildwood - Colin Meloy illus. Carson Ellis

I'm lumping these two together because they are in the same series and I read them right next to each other. Not quite sure what I think of these though- I mean yes, again I do love the covers, I saw them in the bookshop and wanted to read them- and who can resist a magical wood sitting just outside the town limits? At times these feel like Joan Aiken, especially with the orphanage in the second book, and I found the political situation of Wildwood interesting, if unexpected. I love the underground tunnels in Under Wildwood  and there are some great moments with the bandits in particular. 

But then there were times when it felt too allusive, a bit too knowing, like the writer was winking at the reader. There were times when it was missing not as child-like or wonder-inducing as I could have hoped (it is a children's book). I'm not a child anymore, so I don't know how it would read if I was. Mostly I enjoyed it but occasionally it grated a little.

Inverted World - Christopher Priest

I'm not going to write too much about this because it is a book club book, and I'm saving it to discuss on Saturday. This is a sci-fi novel about a town which is always on the move, winched along on railway tracks, co-ordinated by a strict guild system, though tensions build between the guilds and those who stay inside the city. The concept reminded me of China Mieville's Iron Council (though of course this pre-dates it)- if you're looking for books about societies that move on railway tracks, these are two I would recommend.

Inverted World feels very sci-fi, with a focus on a concept rather than a character, though maybe that's unfair since it does concentrate on one character and it does talk a lot about perception. I'm sure I'll have some more interesting things to say about it after book club!

So there you go, all fantasy/sci-fi/adventure novels, a lot of children's or YA books and a lot of fun reading. At the moment I'm switching it up a bit and reading some non-fiction, though it is about fairy-tales- From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner. I've heard a lot about this and have been meaning to read it for ages, so far it has talked a lot about the transmission of fairy-tales and about their tellers.