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I’m sure I must at some point have read Poul Anderson, possibly sci-fi rather than fantasy, but if I have it hasn’t been for ages and obviously didn’t leave a huge impression. So when looking for fantasy works to read as part of a challenge, I scoured our bookshelves and came across Three Hearts & Three Lions. I don’t consider myself a shallow person (who does?) but I will confess that what first drew me to this book was the very lovely cover (by Paul Gregory). It has a knight in shining armour. It has a rather handsome horse. Most importantly, it has what appears to be a dragon. How could I resist?
This is the story of Holger Carlsen, who, while fighting the Germans on a Danish beach in the middle of WWII, suddenly finds himself transported to a completely different world. He quickly finds the above mentioned horse, handily supplied with clothing and weaponry, and sets off to find his way home. He comes across a variety of mythical characters, including a witch, a dwarf (with a suspiciously Scottish turn of phrase if you ask me) and a young woman who can turn into a swan. He also discovers that a Saracen may be looking for him…..
This is good fun. Holger’s search for a way home becomes a quest of an entirely different sort as it becomes clear to him that he may not be quite who he thought he was. It is humourous in places (my favourite line = “Big women had no business acting kittenish” – which I shall try to keep in mind), and I enjoyed the protrayal of the tricksy Faerie Court very much.
It is simply a great story, and certainly one I plan to re-read it at some point in the future. The Book God has several other Poul Anderson books so don’t be surprised if you see the name again.
This has been my third read for the Once Upon a Time II challenge.
Pan’s Labyrinth , directed by Guillermo del Toro
This is my first Weekly Geek post and it’s only fitting that Mr Spock is here as this week’s theme is different forms of storytelling, and for me TV is the main alternative to books. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies (see the Film Page for evidence of that) but I don’t interact with films in quite the same way as I do with TV. When I go to the cinema I sit quietly, enjoy the film, stay until the end watching all of the credits, and then have a conversation about it afterwards. With TV, the Book God and I tend to watch together, and during commercial breaks we’ll talk about what we’re watching and try to work out what’s coming next – a bit sad, perhaps, but it works for us.
When I started to think about TV I realised that it falls into three categories for me:
- non-fiction stuff, usually something historical
- sci-fi or fantasy themed series
I realised also that the series I have been most committed to have tended to have story arcs as well as really good stand-alone episodes, and the best ones don’t forget what has happened and blithely go on as if nothing has changed (I’m looking at you Star Trek).
So what do I watch? Favourites of the past have been The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5 (despite some really terrible dialogue) Lost (which I kind of lost interest in but am picking up again) and current favourites Heroes and Dr Who. Dr Who in particular has caught my imagination; I used to watch it religiously from the end of the Patrick Troughton Doctor (showing my age here) right up to half-way through the Colin Baker years (when it just got silly), and the current relaunch has me fully committed and not just because of David Tennant (though that helps). I love these series because more often than not they are trying to do something new, and even when that doesn’t succeed they are still interesting to watch.
My attitude to the crime series I watch is very different; what I like about these is the formulaic approach to each episode which can be just as comforting as the classic cosy country house murder mystery. What I mean is you know roughly how the story is going to pan out, but it’s how they get there that’s fun. A good example of this would be Cold Case, where there’s a crime in the past, new evidence opens the case, the detectives talk to all of the witnesses and almost invariably come back to the first person they interviewed as they hold the key, the mystery gets solved and the victim appears at the end. House (although I know it’s not crime, but hey it does have Hugh Laurie) is very similar in that it almost always uses the same story structure each week. The main thing for me is that I find these shows really relaxing after a hard day at work: Criminal Minds, Criminal Intent, CSI (except Miami where I got really annoyed with Horatio), Without a Trace and so on. What’s interesting is that I tend not to watch much UK crime, though Messiah has been very good in the past, and Ken Stott as Rebus is always excellent.
It’s often said that TV is a passive experience when compared to reading, but I don’t think that has to be the case if you are willing to engage with the games that the series creators play. And the Stephen Moffat Dr Who episodes have been some of the best TV I have seen in a long time, lingering with me for days after I’ve watched them, just as a good book does.
I knew a little about Julia Strachey from some of my Bloomsbury reading, especially the reminiscences of Frances Partridge, but had never read any of her fiction. So I was interested to see what I would think of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, in its lovely Persephone edition.
The word that kept on springing to mind as I read this was brittle; not a criticism as such, but the story struck me as being one of those bright and witty pieces produced by many in the twenties and thirties, some of which were much more successful than others.
Although there was much to enjoy in the story of a wedding party with undercurrents, I felt that a lot of the humour was lost on me, being perhaps too much of its time. But there were pleasures; the bride’s mother was a remarkable character, and one of the lasting images for me is of the bride herself drinking more or less discreetly from her bottle of rum as she prepared for the rigours of her big day.
What did really catch my interest was the introduction by Frances Partridge, and sure enough after rummaging in the bookshelves I found her memoir of Julia, made up of her recollections alongside Julia’s own words. Having dipped into it I think I will find more of interest in the real life than the fiction, which is a shame.
This was my second read for the Novella Challenge.
I pinched this from Musings from the Sofa.
- Bold what you have read
- Italicise books started but not finished
- Strike through books hated
- Add an asterisk to books read more than once
- Underline books on your tbr list
So here goes:
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
- Anna Karenina
- Crime and Punishment
- One Hundred Years of Solitude
- Wuthering Heights
- The Silmarillion*
- Life of Pi
- The Name of the Rose*
- Don Quixote
- Moby Dick
- Madame Bovary
- The Odyssey
- Pride and Prejudice
- Jane Eyre
- A Tale of Two Cities
- The Brothers Karamazov
- Guns, Germs and Steel
- War and Peace
- Vanity Fair
- The Time Traveller’s Wife
- The Iliad
- The Blind Assassin
- The Kite Runner
- Mrs Dalloway*
- Great Expectations
- American Gods
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (though hate is probably a bit too strong….)
- Atlas Shrugged
- Reading Lolita in Tehran
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- The Canterbury Tales
- The Historian
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- Love in the Time of Cholera
- Brave New World
- The Fountainhead
- Foucault’s Pendulum
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- A Clockwork Orange
- Anansi Boys
- The Once and Future King (planning to re-read this as part of The Arthurian Challenge)
- The Grapes of Wrath
- The Poisonwood Bible
- Angels and Demons
- The Inferno
- The Satanic Verses
- Sense and Sensibility
- The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Mansfield Park
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- To the Lighthouse*
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles
- Oliver Twist
- Gulliver’s Travels
- Les Miserables
- The Corrections
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
- The Prince*
- The Sound and the Fury
- Angela’s Ashes
- The God of Small Things
- A People’s History of the United States
- A Confederacy of Dunces
- A Short History of Nearly Everything
- The Unberable Lightness of Being
- Slaughterhouse Five*
- The Scarlet Letter
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves
- The Mists of Avalon (planning to read this as part of The Arthurian Challenge)
- Oryx and Crake
- Cloud Atlas
- The Confusion
- Northanger Abbey
- The Catcher in the Rye
- On the Road
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Zen and the Art of Motocycle Maintenance
- The Aeneid
- Watership Down
- Gravity’s Rainbow
- The Hobbit*
- In Cold Blood
- White Teeth
- Treasure Island
- David Copperfield
- The Three Musketeers
Result (rough count, not validated!): books read = 38, books hated = 1, on my tbr list = 14 (though between us the Book God and I have some of the others, they’re just not on my radar at the moment) and books unfinished = 5 (and look how many of these are by Jane Austen, oh dear)
Yesterday, a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in London, I had the pleasure of seeing one of our greatest living actresses performing in Joan Didion’s play based on her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, which I read back in March 2006.
I was very impressed with the book which deals with Didion’s reaction to the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and I think I read it virtually in one sitting. The play expands on the book by covering the illness and death of her only child Quintana which happened some 18 months after Dunne’s death. So I jumped at the chance to see how it would work on stage.
The play opens with these lines:
This happened on December 30, 2003. That may seem a while ago but it won’t when it happens to you.
And it will happen to you. The details will be different, but it will happen to you.
That’s what I’m here to tell you.”
I found the play deeply moving, and Vanessa Redgrave was as wonderful as I had hoped she would be, a commanding presence on a stage bare except for one chair and a backdrop depicting the sky (which changed at various points) holding everyone’s attention for the whole 90 minutes of her monologue. A fantastic experience.
This is my hundredth post, and I am so glad that I can use it to write about a book I enjoyed very much. The Dreaming Place is the second Charles de Lint book that I have read; I think I mentioned in a previous post that he is an author fairly new to me, but I have been really impressed by what I have read so far.
This is the story of Ashley (known as Ash) and Nina, cousins thrown together after Ash’s mother dies and she comes to live with her aunt and uncle. Inevitably, the two teenagers do not get on; their styles are too different, they resent each other, and Ash is consumed with her feelings of grief and abandonment. But magic enters their lives as Nina begins to experience vivid dreams of inhabiting the bodies of other creatures and Ash gets involved in the world of the spirits. Can Ash save Nina, and what will it mean for their relationship?
I haven’t read much young adult fiction, at least not knowingly, and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but as I’ve already said I thoroughly enjoyed this. I love the way de Lint weaves the various mythological traditions into the story, and I really liked the book’s construction, as each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the girls, and they alternate throughout the book. In my copy, the blurb inside the back cover quotes de Lint as saying that the only real difference between writing for a teen audience is that the protagonists should be younger, and by inference everything else should be approached as if writing for adults and that seems absolutely right to me. Heartily recommended.
This is my first read for The Novella Challenge.
Juno , directed by Ivan Jason Reitman (oops!), starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, JK Simmons.
Iron Man  directed by Jon Favreau, starring Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Bridges & Gwyneth Paltrow.
I have a tendency to enjoy things on the dark side of life, so when I saw this mentioned on Deanna Raybourn’s blog I just had to go and have a look, and so I now know that roughly 124,066 people died worldwide on the day I was born!
People who have died on January 31 over the years include:
- Bonnie Prince Charlie (of Jacobite rebellion fame) in 1788
- John Galsworthy (of Forsyte Saga fame) in 1933
- AA Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame) in 1956
- Moira Shearer (of Red Shoes fame) in 2006
Gives a whole new perspective on the day, but won’t stop me enjoying the cake and party hats when the next one rolls around!