Hello old friend, it’s been a while

I know, I know. It’s been a fair bit since my last post (sometime in August, I believe).

To be fair, I’ve been pretty busy reading and working on the curation of large mammals (also known as taking care of the husband, but let’s just keep that between you and me).

I’ve got a little over a month until my big trip to New Zealand and I’m pretty preoccupied with planning my reading for the trip.

I’d like to say I’m planning on rereading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, but to be honest, even at the best of times Tolkien can be a bit of a chore, as seminal as he is.

But I will be reading at least one Kiwi author on my trip, as I’ll be tackling Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy (Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, and Child of the Prophecy).

For my dose of steampunk, I’ve got Gail Carriger’s Prudence and Imprudence. And just because I’ve read the first book, I’ll be enjoying Daniel O’Malley’s Stiletto.

I’m also planning on reading Not Just Jane, Shelley DeWees’s treatment of unrecognized female voices in English literature, as well as Kameron Hurley’s Geek Feminist Manifesto.

Yes, that should do for two 14-hour flights and an extended vacation.

See you in January, my fellow bibliophiles!

lisasimpson

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Adventures in eReading: Or, My Journey As a Kobo Neophyte

Finally, I have crossed over to the dark side. One rather imagines this is what Darth Vader must have felt like, the thrill of a forbidden longing finally satiated. (That sounds kind of dirty but I’m leaving it because hey, my blog, my rules).

So, what caused me to finally cave in? Ultimately, it was my upcoming three-week trip to New Zealand next year. Combine two 14-hour flights with the attention span of a sugar-addled toddler, and there was no way I could bring enough physical books to last the plane rides, let alone the rest of the vacation.

And it certainly doesn’t help that I also like to read on my lunch break in a lovely little greenspace near my work.

(Also, having an eReader means nobody can look at your cover and start up an unwanted conversation by making a remark about what you’re reading. BONUS!)

To the detriment of my credit card, however, I have discovered that it is entirely too easy to add books. I kind of ran through my complimentary store credit before I knew I even had it. Oops.

As to the actual reading experience, it’s surprisingly easy on the eyes and super customizable in terms of brightness, font type/size, margins, spacing, etc. I love the storage capacity and the concept of being able to bring a massive amount of books with you, without all the weight.

My one quibble is that it could be a tad lighter, being a little too heavy to read one-handed. Still, quite a fair bit lighter than the equivalent amount of books.

Granted, I’ve only been using my Kobo for a couple of weeks, but on the whole I’m quite happy with it. I’m really looking forward to taking this puppy on the road next year and putting it to the test!

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Top five Tudor-tastic reads

As I’m sure most of my friends (and really, anyone who has known me for a decent amount of time) could tell you, I have a fascination with all things Tudor (and, the Medieval and Victorian ages, although we’ll leave that for another time).

Consider my work desk, at which I have a cloth poster of Henry VIII and his six wives, as well as a tin with a picture of a cat dressed as everyone’s favourite ginger tyrant. I am not even close to kidding on this one, folks.

As a result, I’ve certainly read my fair share of books about and inspired by the era. So, ranging from cookbooks to bodice-busters, here’s my list of top five Tudor-tastic reads.

  • Shakespeare’s Kitchen (Francine Segan) A superb survey of dishes popular during the late Tudor/Elizabethan eras. Most are based on actual recipes of the period, which are present along with adapted versions for the modern cook. Lots of pictures!
  • The Autobiography of Henry VIII (Margaret George) Although the book does have its problems (such as stereotyping the wives pretty heavily), it offers a portrait of Henry VIII that is certainly more nuanced and contextualized than many predecessors.
  • Tudor: The Family Story (Leanda de Lisle) Designed for the layperson and amateur history buff, the book gives a good general history of the Tudor family, with a surprising amount of detail along the way.
  • Tudor Monastery Farm A companion book to the TV series (HIGHLY recommended), which details the minutiae of running a monastery farm during the Tudor era. Very fine example of domestic history. Lots of pictures!
  • Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel) Part of a planned trilogy, these books illuminate the character of Tudor mover-and-shaker Thomas Cromwell, who emerges as a much more complex character than usually portrayed.

And the honourable-mention awards go to:

  • The Other Boleyn Girl (Philippa Gregory) Made into a meh movie, the novel details the fraught relationships between Henry VIII and siblings Mary Carey (nee Boleyn) and Anne Boleyn. I am sincerely glad my relationship with my sister is significantly more cordial than this hot mess.
  • Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (David Starkey) Exactly what it says on the tin. Amazing level of detail, with the lion’s share going to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.

I’d love to time travel to this period. Providing I didn’t die in childbirth, catch the plague, or be burned as a witch, of course. Unfortunately, all of these were extremely likely outcomes for a sassy lady like me. Think I’ll stick to reading for the mo.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my ruff needs starching.

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Summer Readin’

Given that most major shows are on hiatus for the summer, I’ve spent a lot more time reading. And, going by the fact that favourites such as Agent Carter and The Muppets were recently cancelled, will probably continue this trend into next year.

Among the works I’ve picked up at some point this week are

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)

Shirley (Charlotte Bronte)

Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)

The Explorers Guild: Volume One: A Passage to Shambhala (Kevin Costner, Jon Baird, Rick Ross)

Quite honestly, if I could clone multiple copies of myself solely for the purposes of expanding my reading potential I totally would, transcription errors be damned.

As with all summer-reading initiatives, I’m usually tempted to go the way of the beach read and gorge myself on the kind of fluff I would normally approach with, at the least, a fair degree of trepidation or a couple of glasses of wine.

(Oh, who am I kidding, AND is the word I want there. There’s always room for wine. It’s basically grownup Jello.)

However, my usual method involves balancing out less-strenuous reading with something a little more serious. It’s essentially a teeter-totter with fluff on one end and Literature on the other; ideally, you’re aiming for a happy balance.

My favourite option is to read a reputable book of Tudor history at the same time as Tudor-themed chick-lit and point all the factual inaccuracies (such as noticing that they have Katherine of Aragon in a French hood instead of a gable hood). I’m small and petty like that.

I feel it’s a good balance between the warring halves of my personality.

Which would be pretty cool to see animated, by the way.

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No thanks, Mr. Rochester, I don’t want to be a sister wife

Rereading my way through Charlotte Brontë’s work, I always come back to Jane Eyre.

This, her first published novel (The Professor was written previously, but was only published posthumously) is arguably her most famous work. One could even make the point that it’s the most well-known of all the Brontë oeuvre, although Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall come in fairly close.

Which is funny when you stop to think about it, because Mr. Rochester would probably have been the worst guy to end up with out of the three leading men (Heathcliff, at least, is honest in his volatility and Gilbert,  a bit of a wet blanket, is dependable).

Compare that to a man who locks his crazy wife in the attic and only comes clean when his attempt at bigamy is thwarted by her brother stopping the wedding. (In retrospect, locking a crazy person in an attic is probably a reasonable alternative to Bedlam, but still. Not cool, dude)

Let’s not forget he also turns Jane into a doll, dressing her up in finery that is not to her taste at all, and idolizes her to a point where the reality is completely subsumed by an eerily Blanch-like illusion.

And while we’re at it, telling your virginal, soon-to-be wife/mistress about your international smorgasbord of past sexual liaisons is not exactly romantic there, buddy boy. But one does have to admire his thoroughness in running the European gamut.

The fact that he’s only a suitable husband for Jane is when he’s crippled and blind, a neutered Byronic hero shambling about, should really tell her that maaaaybe there’s other, better options out there?

(Not St. John Rivers, though, he’s a whole ‘nother bucket o’ issues)

But all of this doesn’t really weigh much when as a child you read Jane Eyre and fall in love with Mr. Rochester because he’s damaged but I can save him and damn that shit is romantic.

Which, if nothing else, is a testament to both the eternal allure of the bad boy and the stupidity of youth.

I’ll just close by saying that I would have loved to see the book end with Jane and Bertha ditching Rochester and starting a ladies detective agency.

Any takers?

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Knowing When It’s Time to Go (or, 50 Ways to Leave Your Series)

Originally, this blog post stemmed from my recent decision to jettison A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones (and no, this isn’t going to be one of those tantrum-y  I’m leaving ASOIAF/GOT and here’s why posts).

Although I’ve stopped following series before, it’s not been a franchise that’s been as popular or stirred up quite so much controversy.

It made me wonder what makes a person leave a series. Is it because it’s too problematic? Is it because the quality dipped? Is it because one simply loses interest?

All these, it turns out, are entirely valid reasons for failing to keep up with a series.

However, a useful guideline could be that when you are no longer able to enjoy reading/watching the series (or able to justify that enjoyment), it might be time go to.

From a personal viewpoint, there’s simply too much out there I haven’t yet tried to shackle myself to something I’m not enjoying in the first place.

You could argue the fine line between giving a series the chance to prove itself and cutting your losses and moving on. There’s also something to be said for setting aside a series until you’re more of a mood to appreciate it.

But if it’s truly time to go, then just drop of the key, Lee, and get yourself free.

(I love that song)

 

 

 

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I’m back!

Hi all.

Sorry about the unplanned, nearly year-long absence. I’d been feeling a tad overloaded and needed to take a bit of a break.

But yes, the bibliophile you know and love is back!

I’m planning on a biweekly blog posting. While this isn’t as often as I would ideally like, I think it will allow me to do a better post each time. Quality rather than quantity, right?

Anywhoo, stay tuned, my lovely bookish friends.

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Three books (written by women authors) I will always revisit

Because I haven’t finished a book yet this week (I believed I referred to it on Twitter as flitting from book to book like an attention-deficit butterfly), that’s why.

His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik)

I think this book (first in the author’s entirely-too-drawn-out Temeraire series) works best if you picture it as a stand-alone novel. The premise is fresh (think Master and Commander, but with dragons), the characters really do come alive, and the relationship between William Laurence and his dragon Temeraire is absolutely a joy to see unfold. I even picture Temeraire speaking in a friend’s cultured, pseudo-English accent. Sorry, friend who shall remain nameless.

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

What little girl doesn’t fall in love with Mr. Rochester? And what budding proto-feminist isn’t outraged at the barbaric treatment of Bertha? So many appeals you guys. But seriously, this is hands down my favourite Brontë book. I’m pretty sure I’ve gone through at least 3 mass-market paperback editions of this one. If nothing else, it’s a tribute to the assertion of a fundamental right to happiness. Plus, it’s got a crazy chick locked away in the attic, so you know shit’s gonna go down.

Castle Waiting (Linda Medley)

An as-yet-unfinished graphic-novel series (although collected in two smart-looking hardcover editions), Castle Waiting riffs on classic fairy tales, giving them a sassy modern twist. Ostensibly aimed at the YA crowd, it’s easily enjoyed by older readers. I’m totally hooked on learning more about Jain’s backstory and the identity of Pindar’s father. There’s also a knight character, which happens to be an anthropomorphic horse, and his name is Sir Chess. This makes me so very, very happy.

The sausage edition is coming next weekend.

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Butterbeer and zombies: My top 5 literary restaurants

A quickie this week, I think. And yes, I totally want to eat and drink myself silly at all of these places.

  1. The Leaky Cauldron (Harry Potter) Butterbeer. ‘nuff said.
  2. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) I totally endorse travelling untold distances for a good meal.
  3. Gil’s All Night Diner (Gil’s All Fright Diner) Who wouldn’t want their greasy spoon-style hamburger to come with a side of zombies?
  4. The Inn at the Crossroads (A Song of Ice and Fire) Because sometimes you just want every fucking chicken in the room, amirite?
  5. Merlotte’s Bar and Grill (Southern Vampire Mysteries) The sheer supernatural potential would be worth the standard bar fare.

FYI, I’ve had the Butterbeer they serve at the Harry Potter studio tour in England. SO GOOD YOU GUYS. I even got to keep the little souvenir plastic stein it came in.

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A pleasant surprise: Sarah Hoyt’s Ill Met by Moonlight

In taking a break from my A Song of Ice and Fire reread (they’re great and all but are just so dang long; also, to be honest, the sexual violence is starting to get to me), I decided to revisit Sarah Hoyt’s Shakespeare-faery mashup Ill Met by Moonlight.

It completely didn’t cross my mind when I first read it, but Ill Met by Moonlight is a really wonderful treatment of LGBT issues as pertaining to fluidity in gender and sexuality.

The novel tells the story of how a young, pre-theatre William Shakespeare falls in love with the beautiful faery Quicksilver. However, it turns out that this faery is of a royal house and can change from male aspect to female aspect at will.

As it happens, Quicksilver too falls in love with Shakespeare, but in both of his aspects. He also expresses affection for the female faery Ariel. It should be noted that he is not entirely comfortable with any of this. A tangled web, indeed.

As shape changing is viewed by faery society to be distasteful and lowbrow, Quicksilver is regarded as something of an outcast merely for exhibiting a trait that comes naturally to him. And although the faery is clearly struggling with his dual nature for the greater part of the book, he eventually reconciles both parts of his personality.

Overall, the treatment of Quicksilver’s dual personality (and its obvious transgender/bisexual implications) is even handed, dignified, and above all, sympathetic.

All things considered, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Ill Met by Moonlight, both in terms as an entertaining novel in its own right and as an example of how to treat LGBT issues with sensitivity and grace.

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