Wednesday, 22 October 2014

(Wednesday) Reads - 21 October 2014

I've let this drop a little, in part because I felt like I was only reading sci-fi: and I'm reading so many things and taking so long to finish them, that my lists were getting monotonous.

But this week I've got two new genres (one of which I don't entirely know how to classify) in my "in the middle of": queer action-adventure/thriller/romance, and something vaguely girlsowny.

The Honor series by Radclyffe
This is not the Honor Harrington series by David Weber.  That one is military sci-fi and although I'm getting close to the point where there's going to be a marriage between three people, I'm not entirely sure that Weber can cope with queerness all that well.  (If I'm wrong, I apologise.)

This is the long (looong) running series starting with Above All, Honor starring Blair Powell, daughter of the US President, and Cameron Roberts, Secret Service agent.  In the last two weeks I've reread books two and three, and purchased and read books four and five and started book six.  I've also got book seven already, and am planning to buy the final book in the series as well as the First Responsders series, which contains a crossover in the third book.

So: my recent reads from this series are

  • Honor Bound
  • Love and Honor
  • Honor Guards
  • Honor Reclaimed
  • Honor Under Siege - currently reading.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (Audio, read by Jenny Agutter)
For my trip down to Melbourne, I - not realising that the e-version of Dowager Empress Cixi by Jung Chang was only available as an e-Audio, not as an e-Book, I'll get into this later - borrowed the CD book of I Capture the Castle, mostly because it was read by Jenny Agutter, who I adore.

I've never previously gotten past the first chapter, and since I read A Brief History of Montmaray I've not entirely wanted to go back to it, simply because I adore Montmaray and am a little uncomfortable with just how similar it feels at the beginning to Castle.  But the name "Jenny Agutter" on the cover was enough to get that set of CDs in my hand.

I got through the first three CDs on the drive down.  I will admit that I'm not entirely sure when I'll get to listen to the rest, necessarily, but I do own the book (the film tie-in cover, and given that Henry Cavill is in the film, I'm pretty sure we'll be watching it fairly soon, as M is a massive fan of Cavill.  But I am really enjoying it, far more than I expected, even though The Starlight Barking is a dear and favourite book.  I love the way Smith writes, and I do love a lot of the characters already.

I know I have a few friends for whom this book is a favourite, and I'm looking forward to finishing it and being able to discuss.

A note: this book is not a historical, because it is set in the 1930s and published in 1949.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Read in September 2014

If you read over on the other blog, you'll know that the Project Life app has rather captured my imagination.

Also, I follow Megan of the Nerd Nest on Instagram, and I've really loved her monthly reads posts.  After a bit of chat with her, I came up with something I hope I'll now be doing monthly here (and possibly over at Chez Stutters as well): a PL Layout of the books read this month.

I think most of the books above have been mentioned in a post somewhere, except for Pearlie's Pet Rescue and Wagons West, because both of those are historicals and I plan to post about them separately soon - I hope.  

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sunday Reads - 5 October 2014

I'm still working my way through Kaleidoscope - it's finally on my Kobo, yay! - and I've also been working on Freedom Climbers, and have now finished everything but the Appendices and have marked the book as finished.

The rest of the week has been dystopias and sci-fi.

 On Thursday I finished reading Frozen, book 1 in the "Heart of Dread" series by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnson.  It worked so well, right up until the end, when it was high action, but conceptually a little disappointing.  I adored the drip-feed of world building, so very slow burn, just little bits and pieces that slowly put the world together.  But in all that world building, the drakon just wasn't there.  Sure the voice was there, but the idea seemed to me to come out of nowhere.  And so the last few chapters just didn't work the way I wanted them to.  I wanted to believe the buildup, and I just couldn't.  It was good, but I had such high expectations that had been built up through the book.

I loved Sean Williams' story in Kaleidoscope - "The Legend Trap" - and I was thrilled to find out that it was a short story from a universe that he's written in a LOT.  So I've started the first of Williams' "Twinmaker" series, Jump.  I seriously love the concept of d-mat and what Williams seems to be doing with it - at least in "The Legend Trap", and I assume it will be just as awesome in Jump.

I've also finally begun to read Gemma Malley's The Killables, although it almost broke me in the first few pages with the religious fundamentalist imagery.  This book may kill me.  I'm just warning you.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Changes to the blog

As you may have noticed, there's been a change in flavour around here. 

This has never really been much of a Library blog: the social media rules of my workplace (and the lack of interesting blog posts to write about such things) keep me from really digging into that the way I might have liked.  And I wanted to focus this blog a little more narrowly than the sort of scattergun approach it has had.

And so it is becoming a predominantly "history/ical" blog. 

Yep - an entirely made up term.  By which I mean that my focus is going to be on works of historical fiction and nonfiction history.  I doubt that I'll ever be reading the very latest releases when they're released: I've got a lengthy backlog of both Chadwicks and Gregorys, not to mention my "Reading the Morlands" or the fact that I'm working my way through most of what Jean Plaidy ever wrote.  I'm also hoping to start posting about historical TV adaptations like The Tudors or the bits of history in the Great British Sewing Bee (love those!  Also hoping to blog the rest of the show on Chez Stutters at some point soon.)

With the introduction of the Sunday Reads posts I've established a place to discuss non history/ical current reads - at the moment that seems to be predominantly sci-fi.

I will still post other things here: other topics, reviews of other types of books.  I'm not giving up on my obsession with dystopias any time soon!

But as it (now) says up the top - "Heidi Reads - mostly history/icals"

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Reading the Morlands: "The Princeling", completed

The Morland heirs definitely improved in this particular generation.

On looking at the next book in the series (The Oak Apple), I found that it had skipped James I and VI entirely, and I found this to be quite a shock.    But in thinking about it, there's a reasonable gap between The Dark Rose and The Princeling as well.  Long enough, at least, for Nanette to spirit Mary Seymour away in really interesting use of the ambiguity of history.

The Princeling opens with Nanette and James Chapham at home with Jan, their own boy Alexander, and Mary Seymour.  One probably has to be a devotee of Tudor history, and particularly of Henry VIII's final wife, Katherine Parr, to realise what a shock that was for me to read.  'But Mary Seymour died!' I said to myself - and dashed off to do some cursory internet research.

Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour, almost certainly did die, probably around age two.  But the point is, there's no absolute proof of her death, just her disappearance from the historical record at about age two.  Her mother died giving birth to her, and her father died - executed for treason against Edward VI - less than a year later.

By breaking the narrative for ten years between the end of The Dark Rose and the beginning of The Princeling Harrod-Eagles forgoes what might have been an interesting tale of bringing Mary Seymour to the Mill House and Morland, but she also avoids the tangle of explaining exactly how that happened.  By the time The Princeling opens, Mary is well past the age where there is no more mention of her in the historical record, and so she is able to fall in love with John Morland, marry Jan Chapham, and go entirely un-merrily through the rest of her life.  (I do wish she had been a bit pleasanter a character, but her resentment regarding the loss of her fortune rang entirely reasonable to me.)

Also on the topic of the ambiguity of history - I was worried for a time that Will was going to turn out to be the "real author" of Shakespeare's plays.  My timeframe may have been a little wonky there, but I'm VERY glad that Harrod-Eagles didn't go in that direction.

But still, a ten year break in narrative is not that much.  Nanette got a book and a half, after all (for which I'm pleased, even crochetty and old, I still loved Nanette.)  Going into The Oak Apple (arrived on hold at the library today) we're about to skip an entire reign and thirty years, going straight to Charles I.  I realise that the series began with the intention of covering "great moments" in British history rather than the whole of it, but why do so few writers of historical fiction cover the succession of James I?  (Plaidy skipped the accession of James I as well, focussing instead on the story of Robert Carr and Frances Howard.) 

Does anyone out there have any recommendations for James I era fiction?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday Reads: 28 September

I have read so much less than usual this week.

I think this is because the GF is home on school holidays, and so the routine is different.  I did finish The Princeling (post to come), but there were a lot more blog posts and reading-on-the-internet than reading books.


 Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald - After a few tries, I managed to move from the preview on my Kobo app to the full version, and I'm now pretty much half way through.  This is about Polish mountaineers, including Wanda Rutkiewicz and Jerzy Kukucza, and the extra barriers faced by Polish climbers until the fall of the 'Iron Curtain'.  Technically this is a book of history, but I'm counting it as a non-history read for the purposes of this post or I'd really have nothing else to write about.

I've got Gemma Malley's second dystopian trilogy from the library (it starts with The Killables).  It's unrelated to her Declarationverse, and I'm looking forward to it - once I get it out of my bag.

And I really need to move Kaleidoscope onto my Kobo instead of just having it on my computer, because I want to read all the other stories (and to see if anyone has answered my "same sex couples in dystopias" question - it really is frustrating that Veronica Roth is such a conservative Christian and wouldn't even consider such things.)

Review: Escape from Cockatoo Island, by Yvette Poshoglian

It is 1879, and life in the Biloela Industrial School is tough for eleven year old orphan, Olivia Markham.  Her windswept days are filled with sewing, washing, aimless roaming, avoiding the girls from the Reformatory School, and hoping to be apprenticed by the colony.
Sydney is rapidly growing and modernising, but Olivia can only imagine what life is like byond the shores of Cockatoo Island.  She dreams of freedom, friendship and above all, family.  Can she ever escape?  From the back cover.
First things first: I picked this book up having confused Cockatoo Island with the Quarantine Station, and probably Fort Denison as well.

(Secondly, when I looked up Cockatoo Island while writing this review, the website was advertising School Holiday Activities which, after reading this book, I don't think I could cope with At All.)

Although I really liked Olivia from the beginning - her connection with Newcastle, home town of my partner, helped a lot - it took me a while to get into this book, which is sad for a book that's only 162 pages long.  Once I finally did (one day when I was home sick and could read without interruptions - except from the cats) I pretty much raced through it.  The problem I'm now finding with the Australian Story series is that they're too short in comparison to Our Australian Girl's four-book series: the character development is so much shallower than I want it to be.

I don't know that I have a lot to say about this one really.  I guess it may be falling victim to Showing Its Research, but I didn't really mind that (even though I need to know how to avoid that failing myself).  I perked up at the mention of Sydney places I know, like the Pitt St Church (one of my churches, when I lived in Sydney).

The book has certainly piqued my interest in the history of Cockatoo Island itself - but I still wouldn't be going to school holiday activities at the former site of an Industrial School and Reformatory for Wayward Girls...

Monday, 22 September 2014

Reading the Morlands: "The Princeling", pt 1

Currently at p326 - my thoughts

So, I was wrong on the identity of "The Princeling".  Instead of  the Queen, it's John Morland's intended.

There seems to have been a definite improvement in the character of Morland heirs.  At least for the moment.  

Nannette remains the most interesting character for me, and following that, Jan, John and Mary Percy.  Mary Seymour, of course, is fascinating.  Impressive use of uncertainty in recorded history - I'll write more on this in the proper review.

It's funny looking at the backs of books further on in the series: I have no sense of connection to those characters, and won't until I know how they connect in with the characters I know.  The whole thing is fascinating.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sunday reads - 21st September

So this week, I finished The Jewel, read Ally Condie's Matched in less than 24 hours, and began Kaleidoscope.

Matched, by Ally Condie, is the first of a dystopian trilogy. On the back cover, one of the blurbs (from Family Circle) is something along the lines of "For those of you who like romance with your totalitarian government". Which is ... interesting.

I'll probably pick the next one up when it comes through returns at work, but I don't know that I'll seek it out.

As a result of reading this book, I did begin to formulate a theory of reality TV and YA dystopias: I posted  my initial thoughts here earlier this week.

A question I've been pondering this week: why are there no queer couples in these YA dystopias?  Does no one ever Match with another girl or another boy?  And how would you write something like that without it basically happening in one of those pre-existing universes and being fic.  Part of me hopes that question will be answered in the other book I've just started reading...

Kaleidoscope, from Twelfth Planet Press and edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein, is an anthology of YA sci-fi and fantasy with diverse lead characters.  So far I've only read Tansy Rayner Roberts' "Cookie Cutter Superhero", the first story in the collection.  It was so brilliant I had to put down the book and walk away to let it sink in.  Even though the very next story is by Ken Liu, and I've heard amazing things about his work, I couldn't just go straight on to his story after reading Tansy's.  I think this is going to be the book of the year for me.

(Also, "Cookie Cutter Superhero" puts an awesome turn on my abovementioned reality TV theory of dystopias.)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

On the Reality TV theory of YA Dystopias

I doubt that this is original at all, but in my recent bout of dystopia-reading (The Selection, Matched and The Jewel) I'm starting to wonder whether there are a finite number of streams to which YA dytopias adhere, all of them related to reality television.

There's the "Survivor" stream, which includes The Hunger Games and Divergent.

There's the "Bachelor" stream, to which The Selection and The Jewel most definitely belong.

I feel like Matched might be a sort of "Survivor"/"Big Brother" crossover, and now I need to look at the other dystopias I've read to see if they fit into this pattern.  That said, I'm mostly thinking the post-Hunger Games books: I've been reading YA dystopias since ... well, since a random not-entirely-post-apocalyptic story on For the Juniors, on the ABC, when I was a kid.  And a lot of those pre-date reality TV.

But so many of the books these days seem to stem from either "Survivor" or "The Bachelor" - am I totally off the planet, or do I have a point?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Sunday Reads - 14 September

I know I used to do Wednesday Reads, but this is a bit of a change-up to accommodate the change in direction of the blog, and a bit of a pun, as well.  And with this I'm thinking of Sunday Reed, owner of "Heide", a house (and now gallery) in the Melbourne suburbs with a grand historical art connection.

So: non historicals that I've been reading include:

  • The Jewel, by Amy Ewing.  Part of my current attraction to craptacular dystopias seemingly based on contemporary reality TV.  Like Kiera Cass' "The Selection" series, this is part of the "based on The Bachelor" subgenere of dystopia - although this one has definite links to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale as well.  Which just makes me think I need to write posts about my first reading of Handmaid's Tale as well as her historical Alias Grace as well.

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.  This year's Hugo winner for best novel.  The Galactic Suburbia girls were so pleased that this book was nominated, and so was John Scalzi, that I put it on hold the day the Hugo win was announced.  I will definitely be reviewing this on Goodreads once I finish it, and linking it to a Sunday Reads post.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Reading the Morlands: "The Dark Rose", completed

So - I haven't been entirely put off this series yet.  I finished The Dark Rose this morning, and am still intending to dig into The Princeling later today (point of interest: The Princeling is about Elizabeth I, not about Edward VI.  On the one hand, I get it, especially as I'm expecting a lot of Oh, Noes, Womenfolk cannot rule, look at Queen Matilda!  But I expect it confused a few people on publication, too.)

But back to the book I've just finished reading.

Nanette = awesome.  Especially for inserting an entirely fictitious character relatively well into real events.  Kudos to Harrod-Eagles for not overplaying her hand, and for keeping Nanette's close involvement with the court to only two Queens.  Nanette's taste in men = far better at the end of the book than in the middle.  I still say that the majority of Morland heirs are utter gits.  Young Paul seems to be a little better, though.  (No idea if he'll still be alive when I open the next book.)

Religious conservatism of the Morlands: not as well explained/justified as I would have liked.  I could have done with the conversation between Nanette and James Chapham on such things going on for another page to actually talk about it instead of just stating the position.  H-E's (it's too long to type, I'm lazy today) position seems to be "they're Northern, therefore".  Don't know whether this doesn't satisfy me because I'm Protestant, or because I'm not English, or what.  But I'd certainly like further explanation - I may get it later on, of course.

H-E does have her favourites, doesn't she?  But then so do I, it's just that they're not hers.  And on the continuum of Jean Plaidy through to the HBO? Showtime? series The Tudors, H-E isn't all that bad.  She doesn't delete an entire line of the family, leaving the kingdom without an eventual heir, for example (I just recently watched all the way through The Tudors.  I'm not sure I can manage a blogged rewatch - not for a few years, anyway, but I do want to post something about it here at some point.)

So yes - not giving up on it just yet.  :-)

Friday, 12 September 2014

Reading the Morland Chronicles: "The Founding", completed

My thoughts, having finished:

I really do find the overly romanticised versions of Richard III tedious. 

As I read, I really did try to keep in mind the characters as people of the time, without instantaneous communication, the knowledge of history books, and etc.  These were Yorkists, through and through, and their support for Richard makes sense - but I still think we got the plaster-saint version of Richard, and that just irks me.

Eleanor was a fabulous character.  The connections to the Courtneys are going to make things interesting as the series goes along, and her strength and determination were well calculated to catch my attention.  It was a good thing - from my perspective - that Harrod-Eagles decided to focus on a female character for the first book.  If I had instead been confronted by the male characters as the focus, I might have given up already.  (I've already commented, in my first post about book two, how little respect I have for Ned and Paul Morland, son and grandson of Eleanor, and this is because of their lack of respect for women.)

I told a colleague I wasn't sure I'd stick with the series.  Perhaps I was having a generally negative day that day, or feeling hurt on behalf of Henry Tudor (and more to the point, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville - both women I have a great deal of time for, but who were rather hard done by in the latter parts of this book.)  As I write this I'm more than halfway through the second book: The Dark Rose, and have the third, The Princeling, on loan to start reading straight away.

So I may not be *loving* this series, but I'm finding enough in it to enjoy critiqueing and exercising my mind that I'll keep going for the moment.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Reading the Morland Chronicles: The Dark Rose, part 1

(I've finished The Founding, but haven't managed to write up my thoughts yet.  Or rather, I'd written them up, but they didn't save (damn the iPad app).  But I went straight on to the second book in the Chronicles.)

My opening thought - as shared with Twitter - about this book is that Paul, like his father Ned, is a jerk.

I'm at page 385 now, and that opinion hasn't really changed much.  I still really dislike Paul and (vague spoiler) I have massive issues with Nanette's taste.

I did love the beginning, and the connections being made with the Parr and Boleyn families, and can see Nanette's childhood connection with Katherine Parr making her time as Queen quite interesting for Nanette.  It's an interesting portrayal of Anne Boleyn, too, although I am bristling at the implications being made towards poor Mary Boleyn.

I also have problems with Harrod-Eagles' preface, which says that Henry only ever had two mistresses.  1) That's only counting the ones he didn't eventually marry, and 2) isn't counting Madge Shelton, for at least another one. And it's just being disingenuous.

I don't really want to end up hate-reading this series, but it just galls me.  She seems to have taken all my pet peeves and used them in the books so far.

I still like Plaidy better.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Reading the Moreland Chronicles: "The Founding", pt 2

Where I am up to: p 428.  I had hoped to finish reading The Founding this weekend, but I had a busier weekend than I'd expected... and then there was this:

When I say "I should have known" - they're in York.  Quite apart from the fact that Eleanor is in love with the 3rd Duke,, *and* that I know it's decidedly unfashionable to not be a Richardian in historical novel circles (in case I need to say it again, I consider myself a Richard-cynic, and although I have read Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time I found it utterly infuriating.  I'm not an anti-Richardian, but I'm definitely not a Richardian.)

And so having the Moreland's so completely pro-Richardian has put a bit of a spanner in the works of my reading.  (Picking up The Princeling and discovering they're Catholics in the reign of Elizabeth I hasn't helped either.  Every time I read such things I tend to rediscover just how Protestant I am - which is a reminder that I really should re-post my review of Gregory's The Queen's Fool.)

Anyway.  I was really quite saddened by the death of Isabella, and am quietly pondering what her death says about Harrod-Eagles' approach to things:  I will be keeping it in mind as I read further.  Her presentation of Jocosa is similarly thought-provoking, bound up as it is in her presentation of Edward IV's army vs Richard's, and where she's going with that.  Dickon is fascinating, but I don't think that H-E will spend nearly as much time on his motivations as I would like her to.

I found myself skimming last night rather than actually reading: the Richardian proselytising just got a little much.  But I am trying to actually read it properly - truly I am.  I've got the second book The Dark Rose out of the library in anticipation of finishing this one, so I certainly hope that by next Monday I've moved on to that one from this.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Reading the Moreland Chronicles: "The Founding", pt 1

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' "Moreland Chronicles" is an unfinished multi-volume family saga intertwined with British history from the 1430s to the 20th Century.

I plan to post as I read through the Moreland Chronicles with observations and comments.  I can't guarantee to read the books continuously, and I will need to get some of the in from other libraries, but each week while I'm reading a Moreland book, I will post. (Or at least attempt to do so.)

Book 1 - The Founding

The Moreland Chronicles begin in the reign of Henry VI.  Eleanor Courtney is the ward of Edmund Beaufort, uncle to the King, from the Swynford line.  She is married to a farmer, Robert Moreland, son of Edward Morland, whose house stands just beyond the gates of York.  But Eleanor, married late by the standards of her day, has already given her heart to Richard, the 3rd Duke of York (father of the future Edward IV of England.)

Where I am now: page 168 - Eleanor has been married to Robert Moreland for enough years that her eldest daughter is fifteen and herself married into Eleanor's Courteney relations.  Robert has risen, in great part through the ideas and influence of Eleanor, to be a great merchant of the north of England.  The family's  marital allegiance to Edmund Beaufort and Eleanor's emotional attachment to the Duke of York are beginning to cause tensions for the Morelands as the rifts that will eventually become the Wars of the Roses grow deeper.

Comments: I love, love, love the agency of Eleanor within a time period when we tend to view women as very passive.  Yet, Eleanor is far removed from court, and the episode when she goes out with the men to defend her husband's flocks reads as entirely possible, although not the sort of thing likely to make it into the formal histories.  I adore her tomboy daughter Isabella, and look so much forward to seeing what happens to Isabella through the years, moreso than Helen (although that's totally authorial bias.  You're drawn away from Helen at this point.)

I'm really enjoying this life of people removed from the royals of the time - as much as I love Plaidy and Gregory, this is a gorgeous telling of the story from that one level removed.

Goodreads tells me I'm 31% through the book so far.  I'm looking forward to the upcoming 69%.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Wednesday reads, sort of - 20 August 2014

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth, although I don't blame you for thinking I had.

I'm just snowed under by an adverse roster at work, and various other brain-and-time related issues.

I haven't really been reading much, either.

Poor old Hild is getting sent back to her home library without having been read, and Hugo-winner Mary Robinette Kowal's Glass and Glamor is having the same treatment.  I hope to get them back and actually READ them this time before the end of the year.

I'm working on Plady's Star of Lancaster on my Kobo app on iPad, and Captains of the Soul in tree-book, and I've also picked up (but haven't actually started reading yet) the first book in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' ridiculously long and yet unfinished Morland Dynasty, The Founding

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Wednesday Reads - 23 July

Some things never change... But at least I'm posting on Wednesday?

What I've just finished reading:
A Lesson for Lina, by Sally Rippin
Passion's Bright Fury, by Radclyffe
Madam President, by Blayne Cooper and T Novan

What I'm reading now:
First Lady, by Blayne Cooper and T Novan
The Star of Lancaster, by Jean Plaidy
Bonegilla: 'A Place of No Hope', by Glenda Sluga
Musketeer Space, by Tansy Rayner Roberts

What I'll read next:
Hild, by Nicola Griffiths. Really. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Wednesday Reads (on a Thursday night, again) - 17 July

I'd change it to Thursday reads, but then I'd probably just end up posting on Fridays.

What I've just finished reading
The Captive of Kensington Palace, by Jean Plaidy
- as I said last week, I never really intended to read the Victoria books, but it was one of those moments when they were just There. It has confirmed that I definitely want to read the Georgian saga, however. 

The One, by Kiera Cass.  This was basically a scan-read to find out how the story ended.  I did enjoy it, and I have to admit that a blurb quote mentioning The Selection as something that would interest readers of Allie Condie's Matched has got me interested in Matched.

What I'm reading now
Musketeer Space, by Tansy Rayner Roberts - the serialised genderbending Musketeers in space.

Escape from Cockatoo Island, by Yvette Poshoglian

What I'll be reading next
Hild.  Really.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Wednesday Reads (on a Thursday night) - 10 July 2014

What I've finished reading:
Blue Holes to Terror, by Trish Kocialski
Helping Little Star, by Blaze Kwaymullina and Sally Morgan

What I'm reading now:
The Captive of Kensington Palace, by Jean Plaidy - I never really meant to read the Victoria books.  I guess I'm reading them now.
Four Queens, by Nancy Goldstone - picked it up again one morning this week when I couldn't sleep.  Really enjoying it now that I'm back into it.
The Shadow of Saganami, by David Weber - I needed something lightweight to read on the bus trip to OzComicCon, that was on my Kobo.
Deadly Challenge, by Trish Kocialski

What I'll read next:
Hild, by Nicola Griffiths
A Lesson for Lina, by Sally Rippin
The One, by Kiera Cass

I have some ideas for this blog into the future and I hope that I'll get working on those plans sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Wednesday Reads - 2 July 2014

I'm on holidays from work this week, so I'm consciously staying away from my ponderings about library users as citizens.

But I am doing some reading!

This may or may not represent current or future reading.

What I've just finished reading:
Forces of Evil by Trish Kocialski (e/web)
The Maid and the Queen by Nancy Goldstone (review to come soon)

What I'm reading now:
Helping Little Star by Sally Morgan and Blaze Kwaymullina
Blue Holes to Terror by Trish Kocialski (e/web)
Musketeer Space by Tracy Rayner Roberts - a serialised gender-swapped retelling of The Three Musketeers set in space.  I'm contributing to this project through Patreon.

What I'll read next:

Hild.  Definitely Hild.  Also The One.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wednesday reads - 25 June 2014

Getting back into the groove of this one (I hope):

What I've just finished reading:
Jean Plaidy's The Murder in the Tower (ebook) - disappointing, for a Plaidy.  I guess I was hoping for a lot more about James I and Charles I, and she seems to have focused on Charles II and thereafter with the Stuart books.  I do think I'll enjoy the books about Mary and Anne when I get there.

The Agency, by Y S Lee - Awesome.  My only quibble is how easy it was to forget that it was Victorian and assume it was Regency.  I don't know if that's because I'm so used to reading Regency, or whether the setting just wasn't *quite* explicit enough.  But I really enjoyed it, and have the next two on my TBR pile.  (It's a very big pile.)

What I'm reading now:
I'm doing my usual: in the middle of far too many things all at once.

The Maid and the Queen, by Nancy Goldstone.  The third Goldstone I've started and probably the first I'll finish.  Which isn't to say I don't like the other two, I've just been more easily distracted by them.  This one is about Joan of Arc (the Maid) and Yolande of Aragon (the Queen - of Sicily) and Yolande's influence on the reception of Joan.  Seriously fascinating, and will make for a good review post given that I'll have to mention Tessa Duder's Song for Alex and Shaw's Joan as well.

The Body in the Tower, by Y S Lee.  Second in the Mary Quinn/Agency series.

Also on my Goodread's "Currently Reading" list: The Lord's Day (Michael Dobbs), Passage to Pontefract (e) (Jean Plaidy), Escape from Cockatoo Island (Yvonne Poshoglian) and Four Queens (Nancy Goldstone).

What I'll read next:
Hild, by Nicola Griffiths
The One, by Kiera Cass
Our Man in Tehran (e), by Robert Wright
Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal

among others...

... by the way - it's still Wednesday somewhere in the US.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Cross-post: (academic) Libraries and Access

The bulk of this is a cross-post from my Discernment blog - a bit of a rant about the UCA's theological library and the fact that I would have to pay to borrow.  As I say, it's a rant.  I may get around to some helpful, logical reasoning in a future post.

I love libraries.  I'm a librarian at the moment (and some might say, by birth), so that's not surprising.

And I love the Dalton McCaughey library.  In my third year of uni, I spent a lot of time in the DML's predecessor library, in part because of the subjects I was doing, and in part because my room at St Hilda's College overlooked the library therefore I had continuous reminders of how gorgeous the rooms themselves were, and it was close when I wanted a change of scene.

The library has a fabulous collection.  There are a lot of books I'd love to read, and the access to journals, etc... but there's a couple little problems.

I live in the country.

I work full time, and am rarely in Melbourne when the DML is even open.

These two things wouldn't be such an issue, given that there are processes available

And the biggest issue?

These are the people who are allowed to borrow/have electronic access without a membership fee:

-  Students of the University of Divinity
-  Members of staff of the United Faculty of Theology
 -  Other lecturers and tutors of the United Faculty of Theology and visiting scholars recommended to the Library by the Principal of one of the three member Theological colleges
-  Members of the Society of Jesus and members of staff of bodies or institutions sponsored or supported by the Society who are recommended to Council by the Provincial
-  Ordained ministers of the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
-  Staff of the Centre for Theology and Ministry
-  Lay Pastors, Youth Workers, Community Ministers, Accredited Lay Preachers, Pastors (or equivalent, such as youth leader, pastoral visitor, worship leader or children and family worker currently in a recognised placement or appointment) in the UCA, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
-  Candidates for Specified Ministries of the UCA, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania undertaking required studies (including candidates not at UFT or the University of Divinity)
-  Endorsed UCA members in ministry with children
-  The staff of Trinity College and members of Trinity College who are students of The University of Melbourne and/or Trinity College Theological School
-  Licensed clergy of the Anglican Province of Victoria
-  Faculty members of a Recognized Teaching Institution of the University of Divinity, including adjunct lecturers who are recommended by the Principal of their institution.
-  Faculty members of the Presbyterian Theological Hall.
-  The Master, Deans, Fellows, Directors of Studies, Resident Tutors and Librarians of Ormond and Queen's Colleges at The University of Melbourne
-  Student residents of Ormond and Queen's Colleges
-  Undergraduate and postgraduate students, and staff, of The University of Melbourne
That's a lot of people, yes.  But it's not lay people.  Regular old (and young) lay people who may well still want to educate themselves further on issues of theology. And for whom $250 per year plus postage may be rather expensive.

My mother - an accredited lay preacher - could have access, and in fact I will probably suggest it, as following the Metaxas, she wants to read decent books about Bonhoeffer, which I'm sure the DML has.

But I'm doing the PoD and I can't have access; because I live in the country I can't even go in and browse for a day or something like that.

I understand that there need to be restrictions (sort of - I mean, I understand the concept of a private/academic library), but for a church that keeps going on about how sad the state of lay education is, I find it problematic that I can't improve my own education through access to the theological library.  (Also, as an Old Hildarian - why is St Hilda's excluded from student membership?)

With the DML presumably needing to be reviewed in the near future, perhaps this is something that can be taken into consideration.  (Or, perfectly selfishly, just open up membership to PoD as well as accepted Candidates?)

Monday, 16 June 2014

This is so very me...

I love this Google doodle for the World Cup.  I suspect there are many readers out there who thoroughly identify!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Developing thoughts on libraries and citizenship

I dream of being able, one day, to apply for a Ramsay or a Reid scholarship from the State Library of
Victoria, and I think I've finally come up with a topic.  I've got until December this year to refine, it, too (if I want to apply for 2015).

I'd like to study how libraries in Australia and perhaps the US or UK (no harm in aiming high) deal with issues of security and the need to have security guards.

I mentioned when I first posted the Caitlin Moran quote that I felt it had some major implications for the library I'm at.  I'd really, really like this quote to be true of my library, but we're dealing with some major behavioural issues, and none of us have the requisite training to deal with the troublemakers as actual citizens (within their understanding of citizen, not the library manager's understanding, or the little old lady who wants the library quiet like it was in her day, or etc.

Yes, citizenship brings responsibilities, but I really don't think anyone has ever taught these kids, or modelled for them, the idea that swearing isn't considered polite in public places, or that they need to consider the wishes of others.  And we have neither the time, the skills, nor the authority to be the ones to teach them that (nor do we really want to).

So now we have a security guard.  And while I acknowledge that it's making things a little pleasanter for us, I hate it.  I hate the visual.  I hate what it's doing to a reputation for being welcoming that we have worked incredibly hard over the last four years to build.  And I hate that our reaction to these kids is just to throw them out.

So yeah.  I want to start thinking about whether going to some of the Melbourne libraries - Broadmeadows, Craigieburn, various other outer suburbs, perhaps some Western Sydney libraries - would give me some insights that could be used for us.  Long term project, obviously, but I think I'd have support from Management.

(Also, I really dislike the "customer/consumer" approach for libraries, and I do wonder if we'd do far better with a 'citizenship' approach.  More thoughts to be developed there.)

Because I really needed a new academicy task/goal.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Review: The Houseguests - a Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery

The Houseguests - a Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery
The Houseguests - a Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery by Mark Lijek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the epilogue to The Houseguests, author Mark Lijek expresses the hope that the movie Argo, whatever its inaccuracies, will encourage viewers to find out more about what really happened. It worked. It was for that exact reason that, on arriving home from seeing Argo, I went searching for other information, and Lijek's book was one of the only books immediately available to me. Mark Bowden's book on the wider hostage crisis was at another library branch; Robert Wright's book on Ken Taylor is seriously rare in Australia; now Mendez's book is more widely available, but we saw the movie rather early. "The Houseguests" was available on Kobo, and able to be bought in Australia (thank you for self publishing, Mark Lijek).

Honestly - it showed that the book was self-published. Editing issues, typos, etc. But when you're interested enough, you can totally get past all that, and that's what this book did. Editing aside, I was captivated: and now that I've got my copy of the Argo DVD, I'm inclined to read the book all over again. Something about the way Lijek writes is very refreshing. It's so easy, with the Hostage Crisis, to descend onto jingoism and exceptionalism. Mendez does this a little, but then, he's CIA, you kind of expect it. Lijek just writes.

Obviously one is going to get a positive picture of a man's wife in a book he writes. What he wrote about Cora made me like her even more, and I'd been inclined to like her from the movie because she was played by the awesome Clea Duvall.

Now I've read the Bowden book, and Tony Mendez' own book. I'm still trying to track down the Wright book about Taylor. The Lijek gave me a wonderful view of what actually happened in the story told by Argo, and even more than that, it pointed me in the right direction to find out even more. The movie did exactly what Mark wanted it to do, and Mark's book just further whet my appetite. Thank you.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

On a cold, rainy island...

Quote from Caitlin Moran: image via Missoula Public Library

Boy does this quote bring up a lot to think about; the way that as staff we are forced to think about our users as consumers rather than citizens, just for starters.

I don't particularly love Caitlin Moran at all, but I do appreciate this quote - and I think it's an important one for keeping in mind as library staff. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Bonhoeffer by Metaxas. A blog post.

As part of Blog Every Day in May, I posted about this month's Otira Book Club book, the Bonhoeffer bio by Eric Metaxas.

The post is here.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Queer Australian Women Writers month at AWW

I didn't know until this morning's post that the AWW challenge is having a focus month on queer Australian women writers.

As a queer (part-)Australian woman who reads (and writes), this is awesome!  (I just wish I'd known about it sooner.)

I am, as usual, in the middle of multiple books right now.  (Goodreads shows the following:
  • Passage to Pontefract
  • Sarah's Key
  • Joanna: the notorious Queen of Naples
  • Three Strong Women
  • Four Queens: the Provencal sisters who ruled Europe
  • Crown of Slaves
  • The Kingmaker's Daughter
  • Where the Streets Had a Name
  • Little Black Bastard)
But: in the light of AWW's focus, I'm going to put a few of these onto my "On Hiatus" list where they belong (the bottom four listed above), and pick up a few others I've been meaning to read by queer Australian women:
  • Ghost Wife, by Michelle Diconowski - I picked it up last year but didn't read it.
  • Her Sister's Eye, by Vivienne Cleven
  • something by Katherine Howell (whatever I'm up to in her series right now)
  • something by Melissa Lucaschenko 
  • Act of Faith, by Kelly Gardiner - which I've been meaning to read absolutely for ever.  Like, since before it was published when Kelly Gardiner was telling us about it at a YA librarians event at the State Library.
I certainly can't guarantee to get all of these read this month - hopefully we'll be moving house during March.  But I'd love to get through a few of them.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Australian Women Writers signup 2014

Somehow it's already 2014.

I dropped off on my reviews and challenges last year, which does make one thing easy for this year: rolling over last year's challenges to this year.

Last year I managed to read three of my ten planned books for the Australian Women Writers challenge. Therefore, seven are back on my list this year.

1. The Boundary, by Nicole Watson
2. Paving the New Road, by Sulari Gentill.
3. Exile, by Rebecca Lim,
4. Black Glass, by Meg Mundell.
5. El Dorado, by Dorothy Porter.
6. Chasing the Light, by Jesse Blackadder.
7. Whitening Race, edited by Aileen Moreton-Robinson.
8. Manhattan Dreaming, by Anita Heiss. 
9. Tea with Arwa, by Arwa El Masri
10. This is Shyness, by Leanne Hall.

The three new books are the next Rowland Sinclair (Sulari Gentill), Chasing the Light by Jesse Blackadder,  and Tea with Arwa, a biography by Arwa El Masri, wife of Hasim El Masri, the rugby player who is probably Australia's best known and definitely best-respected Muslim.  I've been wanting to read Tea with Arwa for a long time.

Another note: Meg Mundell's Black Glass went missing in the transition between library systems (damn whoever has it) so I'll have to borrow that one in from another library.

I'm going off to do my official sign up now, then back to my writing project before my editor discovers a way to transport herself through the internet to encourage me in person.  Hopefully I can get chapter three off to her this week and then come back to update my GWC and Rainbow Reads challenges for this year.

Happy Reading!