Welcome!

Aug. 31st, 2020 11:39 pm
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
Greetings, traveller! Welcome to Highly's House of Batshittery. Here you will find musings, rantings, sniggerings and occasional coherent thoughts on life, friends, medievalism, the Internet, and the oddities of expat existence. Oh, and cleaning. I tend to talk about cooking and cleaning a lot.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
What are you currently reading?

Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelisation, mostly. Plus a book of Australian short stories. And some stuff for work.

Recently read?

Summer's EndSummer's End by Harper Bliss

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Blech. I mentioned to a friend I'd been reading some Riptide romances, and said friend recommended Harper Bliss for f/f romance. This was on kindle, so why not? Many reasons why not, it turns out: white people in an "exotic" location of emotional self-discovery or whatever. White people in S-E Asia who have lived there for many years and yet inexplicably still go swimming at midday (seriously, recipe for DYING OF SUNBURN, much?).

Many of these things I could overlook. I could even, on the basis of genre, overlook "healthy summer romance turns into co-dependent long-distance wtf". But if I wanted Magical Healing Cock (seriously! It was a dildo, but nevertheless, it was a Magical Healing Dildo) I'd go read early 2000s slash fiction.



Star Wars: Before the AwakeningStar Wars: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was fun! I wasn't sold on Rucka's Finn story - especially not when Alan Dean Foster's Finn POV snippets in the novelisation are much more plausible, and do more with less - but Rey and Poe's were both great.



Funeral Games: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC)Funeral Games: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic by Mary Renault

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmmm. I'm not sure that I liked the super-wide scope of this one, with so many focalising characters. It was necessary, I suppose, to encompass the full political spectrum, but it felt like it was short-changing most of the possible character work. Bagoas, in particular, had no character development. I felt like I would have rather read a novel solely about Ptolemy, or solely about Euridyce, than one which tried to do all these things at once: but neither of those would necessarily have been a good conclusion to the Alexander trilogy.



Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty One-Pot Meals That Are Ready When You AreFresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty One-Pot Meals That Are Ready When You Are by Robin G. Robertson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Less interesting than I'd hoped.



Up Next:

Well, I bought a compendium of novelisations of the prequel trilogy, which might allow me to revisit Attack of the Clones with less pain than would be induced by having to watch Hayden Christian and remember that I once found him attractive.
highlyeccentric: Angel Coulby's feet in red boots (angel's feet)
you guys, [personal profile] redsnake05 has started posting scans from fashion magazines, amply improved by her telling 100% true and reliable stories about the people pictured therein. Thus far, she has explained the fashion choices of A distractingly sexy railway engineer and two angsty lesbian sirens.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: "Funeral Games", the last of Renault's Alexander novels; "Something Special, Something Rare", an antho of Australian short stories; and "Welcome to Nightvale", which is still like eating prawn crackers: crunchy, tasty in small doses, but utterly lacking in substance.

Recently Finished:

The Fifth Elephant (Discworld, #24)The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a re-read, but for the first time in a long time. I hadn't noticed, when I read Snuff, how much of Snuff was a reprise on themes from this one.

Things that are good about this book: Carrot. Bless his little socks, he's perfectly and earnestly genuine in his praise of Angua's brother, the *prize winning* sheepdog. But he's not actually simplistic: he has a carefully sorted out set of priorities and values that aren't merely adhering to simple rules or regulations. I'd forgotten that he'd resigned his post in this one.

noodling around )

A Modern Way to Eat: Over 200 Satisfying, Everyday Vegetarian Recipes (That Will Make You Feel Amazing)A Modern Way to Eat: Over 200 Satisfying, Everyday Vegetarian Recipes by Anna Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Haven't actually cooked anything yet, but from reading, impressions:

I’m pretty happy with this cookbook. It’s a bit fussier than I usually am (i see no reason to purchase quinoa, or chestnut flour), but more practical than, say, Yottam Ottolenghi.

On the other hand, it got my hackles up right from the introduction, where Jones explains her food choices in terms of “too much healthy food leaves me miserably hungry, but equally I don’t like to rely on a lot of heavy carbs or dairy...”. I just... if it’s leaving you miserably hungry then it is not a healthy diet! OK so you don’t like heavy carbs, fine, but your definition of “healthy” needs rethinking. I’m also not keen on the fetish Jones seems to have for feeling “light” and praising foods as “light”. On the one hand... ok, many people have a personal preference against rich or carb-laden foods, for reasons of digestive comfort or whatever. But fact is fetishising “light” food translates to performing food virtuosity and implied thin-ness.

The Giant, O'BrienThe Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I... don't know what to make of this. It was interesting. The characterisation was interesting. The description was interesting. The interlace of 18th c cultural and political issues was interesting.

Problem: there wasn't really a plot. It's a short novel, but such plot as it had would be better suited to a short story.

Close to Spider ManClose to Spider Man by Ivan E. Coyote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Now this, I really enjoyed. It had two of my most favouritest things: a strong sense of place, and queers.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars was that I found myself *irritated* by the fact that it's short story collection, memoir, and novel all at once. The use of first person means that few of the stories have a named protag, although in all of them she's a gender-nonconforming AFAB person. In one she's named Ivan. It seems logical to read them all as the same person, but in that case, is it fiction or essays?

That confusion is probably part of the Art. But it annoyed me.


Also finished: a short romance novel, and the ST:TFA prequel novella thing.

Up Next: I have the ST:TFA novelisation on my kobo. Tempted to fix my "haven't seen all the prequels" problem via the novelisations.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
Things that happened today: walking down the street, gesticulating with one hand, I collided with the hand of a man gesticulating and pontificating in arabic. For a brief, and somewhat alarming, moment we were holding hands.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
For some reason I feel like books read were even bigger figures than usual in my life this year. Possibly because I have really struggled to care about my thesis. Maybe because I didn't really go head over heels for any media fandoms until Star Wars in December. Maybe because I spent a lot of time on planes. Who knows?

Anyway, I swear I used to do a book meme, but I can't find it, so I've taken a list of qs from Catherine Pope.

How many books read in 2015? According to goodreads, 87 books. Well, it says 86 but I only just filed one of my academic books, it hasn't updated yet. I don't file all my academic reading on there, but that's a good enough barometer.

Fiction:Nonfiction ratio: Huh, I'll have to count this one up. 71:16, but again, I don't log all my academic non-fiction. And some which I do I haven't read cover-to-cover, so that's a bit fuzzy.

Male:Female author ratio: 20 male : 2 m&f coauthored : 65 female (of which one now IDs as genderqueer, but was IDing as a butch woman at time of publication; three are woman-edited collections including work or substantial interview material from some men, all of which I think were likely queer men, and some non-binary people)

I... had not realised my reading list is so heavily skewed to women! That makes me want to track my academic reading more assiduously, as it would tip the balance back - but I'm not sure it would be enough to produce the usual majority of dudes.

On the other hand I only counted five authors I know to be non-white (six if you include Melina Marchetta, which for this purpose I reckon you should, because of how race politics in Australia are not the same as the US), plus two or three who I have a feeling might be Jewish but don't know for sure.

Favourite Book Read:
Ooohkay let's subdivide this:

Non-fiction for personal interest: Maybe Polikoff, 'Beyond Straight (and Gay) Marriage' - it put into (now slightly out of date) words a lot of things qualms I have with the marriage movement.
Academic reading: hum. Rosenwein, 'Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages', maybe? I didn't even list that one on goodreads until I was answering this. Oops.
Fiction for fun: I think the two Renaults from the Alexander trilogy, Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy, take the biscuit.

Least Favourite: Dawn French's 'Dear Sylvia' is an awful book that should feel bad.

Oldest book read: Excluding various medieval primary sources, you mean? Looks like it was Emily of New Moon, pub 1923.

Newest book read: If you mean read most quickly on the heels of its publication date, that would be the two New Smut Project compilations in early April (publ late March). The book released latest in the year was... I was going to say The Shepherds Crown (publ August, read October), but, embarrassingly, it was one of the Riptide romance e-books, Stuck Landing. It was a pretty good read, too. Totally worth the nine dollars or whatever it cost.

Longest Book Title: I had thought this would be academic, but no, it was The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window And Disappeared.

Shortest Title: David Auburn, Proof

How many re-reads? Sixteen, plus I think I mustn't have logged my audiobook re-read of Wolf Hall.

Most books read by one author in the year? This was the year of Kerry Greenwood, apparently. Ten all up, most of them while travelling.

Any in translation? I think only The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.

How many were from the library? Not enough. Plenty of the not-logged academic reading, of course. Of the ones I logged, only three, and one of those I subsequently purchased. The uni's english lit collection does not meet my requirements for leisure reading, I'm afraid, and I refuse to pay to use the American church's library (I could spend that eighty bucks on, oh, books!)
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: The Fifth Elephant (not Jingo, why did I think I had ordered Jingo?), my Christmas Eve pressie to myself. Convergence Culture. Technically, Welcome to Nightvale, but i got bored after a few pages and will try again some other time.

Recently Finished:

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a re-read, with newly-purchased e-book. It must have been four years or so since I last read any Fforde, and that is just too long.

I cannot review in any serious mode. It probably has weaknesses. I don't care, I can't remember them. I can't explain it's brilliance, either, except to say that when I owned the hard copy I photocopied the poster advertising TOAST (approved by the TOAST MARKETING BOARD) out of the back and pinned it to my walls everywhere i went. And I d0n't even really like toast. Just. The delightful surrealness that's only a tiny step from plausible (to anyone who sees the number of adds for APPLES or BANNANAS sponsored by their respective peak bodies in Sydney, at any rate). The genetically re-engineered dodos. The fact that this is not set in the "future" but the mid-eighties. I can only flail.

The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and RealityThe Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality by Rachel Hills

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I keep dithering on the rating for this. I *enjoyed reading* this. It told me nothing I did not already know (except for tidbits about frat culture, meh), and didn't always manage things I knew in newly insightful ways. But there were a lot of times I pointed at the page and said "yes this!". Hills is quite good at breaking down theoretical frameworks into accessible chunks, but then a lot of her data/stories from interviews is just... cycles of stuff, under-analysed.

I felt like I was not the target audience for this book (I am too academic and abstruse) but I *have been* the target audience. This book would have been very much what I needed 5-7 years ago.

It's also really quite surprising that, in a book about sex, she talked to only one asexual person and no one in a poly relationship? She talks ABOUT polyamory, but not *to* poly practitioners, and although she's read widely on a bunch of feminist topics, does not seem to have read secondary material on either asexual relationship styles or poly ones. Which... given both of these groups do a *lot* of talking about how sex doesn't have to be the crux of any given relationship, from very different perspectives, that omission seems odd.

Note to self- excellent summary of 'heteronormativity' on p. 79. Use on undergrads.

NamelessNameless by Sam Starbuck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Oh, this was *pretty*. It isn't perfect - its pacing is slow and at times non-existent. But it's so pretty.

As usual I'm disappointed with the barely-thereness of the romantic plot: I actually feel like it would have been a stronger ending *without* any kissing. Or if the romance had had more weight earlier. And this time I'm side-eying the Miraculous Healing scene - I feel like it would have held enough weight if Lukas had merely Magically Fixed the problem-in-the-moment, not the problem-for-good. I mean, people with chronic heart conditions still get to decide they *choose* their lives? And could even manage to have a boyfriend inna big city! That could've strengthened the flimsy relationship conclusion, too.


Not substantial enough to review individually: Starstruck, There's Something About Ari and Stuck Landing, by L.A. Witt, L.B. Gregg and Lauren Gallagher respectively. All of them are low-priced gay romance ebooks from Riptide Publishing, all set in the same "Bluewater Bay" story-world. I really liked Witt/Gallagher's work (same person, different names, one for m/m and one for f/f stories), whereas I won't be picking up any more LB Gregg after There's Something About Ari, which was a hot mess of inexplicably poor characterisation and messy plotting.

Witt/Gallagher seems to do a fine line in "Uptight Man/Woman With Issues Must Overcome Issues To Woo A Man/Woman Who Is The Embodiment of All Those Issues", which is basically what I buy Riptide books for. Closeted man must overcome fears to woo the fearlessly out! Biphobic lesbian must get her head out of her arse to win love of hot bisexual stuntwoman! I'm cool with this. And deeply amused by the Totally-Not-Teen-Woolf-RPF "statistically improbable numbers of gays make a werewolf show" setting.

My one problem with the Witt/Gallagher ones is that Levi's bisexual-or-not status seems to flipflop wildly. I mean, I could grok "man identifies as gay although bisexual is technically more accurate", but I cannot grok that his *ex-girlfriend* and closest female friend hasn't figured out he is not totally unattracted to women? The scene were he gave said female friend a dressing-down for her biphobia re: her current ladyinterest was delightful, but the the entire rest of the narrative of Stuck Landing presumes he's gay, both before and after that conversation. It's weird.

Up Next: ... idek. Finishing the current ones, then stocking up e-books for travel, I guess.
highlyeccentric: Manly cooking: Bradley James wielding a stick-mixer (Manly cooking)
Because I have made this twice lately and it's brilliant.

Accessibility and dietary notes )

What you need and what you do with it )
highlyeccentric: Manly cooking: Bradley James wielding a stick-mixer (Manly cooking)
Loosely based on a recipe from budget bytes which calls for italian pork/fennel sausage, which I cannot find.

Accessibility and dietary notes )

What you need and what you do with it )
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Also I have read very little in the last month.

What are you currently reading: pottering through Portrait of a Lady, still; made inroads on 'The Sex Myth', and right now rolling around gleefully in a newly-purchased e-book of "The Eyre Affair". Plus for work I'm getting back to Convergence Culture.

What have you recently finished reading: ie, in the last month.

The Persian Boy: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC)The Persian Boy: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic by Mary Renault

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I liked this *very much*. Renault seems to have got over her weird euphemistic compulsions around sex; Bagoas makes a great narrator; and my fixation on historical accuracy when it comes to minor details is pleased with the fact that the horses have no stirrups, and this is regularly indicated without mentioning the word 'stirrup'.

I just. Alexander. D'aww. Hephastion. D'aww. Bagoas, triple D'aww.



The Secret RiverThe Secret River by Kate Grenville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I... don't know what to make of this. I was gripped by it, and spent a lot of time trying to track geographical details on the Hawkesbury via googlemaps. It's so easy to forget how *isolated* those parts were from the main settlement. On the other hand, I do not understand why Grenville has her protag trade coal with a penal colony in Port Stephens. There is neither penal colony nor coal in Port Stephens - that's Newcastle, any basic wikipedia user can tell you that.
spoilers, inconclusive thoughts on race dynamics )



What will you read next? I bought myself a copy of Jingo for Christmas. :D
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
What are you reading? Not much. Meandering through Portrait of a Lady, and consuming 'The Persian Boy' by inhaling big chunks then putting it down for a while.

What have you recently finished?
The Green Mill Murder: Phryne Fisher's Murder Mysteries 5 (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries)The Green Mill Murder: Phryne Fisher's Murder Mysteries 5 by Kerry Greenwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was both a good read, and a *fascinating* exercise in examining the show's adaptation choices, perhaps the most fascinating of which was to make Charles a sympathetic character in a Doomed Love Affair. I can ABSOLUTELY see why they did that for the TV show, but the original was far more interesting and complex a character arc.



Trick or Treat (Corinna Chapman, #4)Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This is the point where I give up on Corrina Chapman. I'd borrow them from a library if I was in Aus, but they are just not worth the $ for buying the e-books.

I remain utterly baffled that you could NOT BE AT ALL UNNERVED THAT YOUR BOYFRIEND IS WORKING FOR A FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.



Ruddy Gore (Phryne Fisher, #7)Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was FUN. No one appreciates technical crew! Amen, folks. The book also revealed that my major perplexity with the TV episode is an addition: the TV episode had Lin Chung's wife be an arranged marriage shipped out from China, and that puzzled me - arranging immigration after 1901 should have been very difficult. The book has her from a rival established Melbourne chinese family. On the one hand, she's a much smaller part; on the other, I liked the way that subplot resolved itself around Phryne, without her needing to intervene. Less of the 'dramatic white intervention' effect, which is nice.



Hawkeye, Vol. 3: L.A. WomanHawkeye, Vol. 3: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Eh. I had trouble getting into this one - I'm just not that interested in Madame Masque, I think. Plus the embarrassment squick. I know it's good character development, Kate needs to have a few pratfalls, but I miss the version where Clint fucks up and Kate is awesome.



The WellThe Well by Elizabeth Jolley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Interesting! I picked this up on the way out of Sydney, but didn't get around to reading it on the long-haul (too engrossed in Alexander the Great). I liked it a lot, but it seemed a little... rough around the edges. The opening section was just a little too long and the ending too rushed.



What will you read next? Who even knows? I will try to put off buying any more Mary Renaults until next payday...
highlyeccentric: Divide by cucumber error: reinstall universe and reboot (Divide by cucumber)
I last bought paid time in August 2014, a twelve months subcription, but my paid time does not expire until 2016.

... I have no idea when someone gave me paid time or how to figure out if they did, but if someone did and that someone was you, thank you!

Ed: *scours inbox* apparently someone bought me paid account time in FEBRUARY and I didn't notice. SO SORRY, KIND ANON. BUT MY BUDGET IN NOVEMBER THANKS YOU GREATLY.
highlyeccentric: Manly cooking: Bradley James wielding a stick-mixer (Manly cooking)
So I accidentally tipped WAY TOO MUCH rosemary into the first stage of this recipe and the result was amazing.

Diet and accessibilty notes )

What you need and what you do with it )

Adapted from a recipe in Jack Monroe's 'A Year in 120 Recipes'.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: Not much. Slowly working through Portrait of a Lady again.

Recently Finished:

Things You Get For FreeThings You Get For Free by Michael McGirr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This had been on my TBR list for a few years: I think I kept putting it off because closer inspection reminded me it was by a Jesuit priest. At any rate I was craving travel books recently, and ordered a copy. It made *excellent* plane reading, but was not actually a very good travel book. The tour of Europe was pretty standard and not the focus of the book: rather it ranged over McGirr's family and his early experiences in the priesthood. In that respect, I liked it a lot: he was surprisingly honest about the mix of noble and unhealthy drives that sent him into the priesthood in the first place. His narrative is not shy of his faith but not preachy, either, and when it comes to Europe and the places he and his mother went, it's massively nerdy. McGirr was a Jesuit, they tend to be nerds. It was like talking to the best kind of minister: yeah, a bit uncomfortable in places because we no longer share certain common assumptions of christianity, but also fascinating.

I left my copy with my Mum, who will probably puzzle over the religiosity, and it might also have been terrible timing, since it deals with the death of parents in some depth. Still, it's a book about a bloke who loves his mum, she ought to like it.



Fire from Heaven: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic (Alexander The Great Trilogy)Fire from Heaven: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic by Mary Renault

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmm. I found this really engaging: I liked young Alexander from the bratty start, and the childhood scenes built into a fascinating character plot as the young adult alexander was continually torn between his parents. I'm not sure the adult scenes would have *worked* without the childhood ones.

I adored Hephastion. Sweet pining darling. I'm a bit sad about moving on to the next book, since it does not promise a vast amount of Hephastion. Speaking of which, I did very much love Mary Renaults snark in the afterward about the pointlessness of trying to claim Alexander as 'gay' or indeed straight. You go, Mary Renault.

My quibble remains, as with The Last of the Wine, with Renault's peculiarly euphemistic handling of sex. In 'Fire from Heaven' it got better as it went on, but the opening sex scene was a bizarre hash of metaphors involving forests and vixens and I literally did not realise we were supposed to assume the Great Consummation of Hephastion's Pining Passion had taken place until the narrative moved on to their friends paying up bets.



The Shepherd's CrownThe Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a good last hurrah. I was worried it'd be a disappointment, like Raising Steam, but I think Pratchett's late-stage writing was better suited to Tiffany and the voice/style he'd set up for her. A bit more linear than the adult discworld novels, a bit simpler and less prone to totally left-of-field swerves.

I wasn't expecting to cry at this, and no doubt my fellow plane travellers thought I was quite odd. But I did cry, at wee bit spoilery )



Also two Kerry Greenwoods that I'll catch up reviews of later.

Up Next: IDEK
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: Mary Renault, 'Fire from Heaven'

Recently Read:

The Demon's CovenantThe Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked this book a *lot* better on second reading and with a few more years' age difference between me and Mae! I still like the version of her you see through Nick or Sin's eyes better than her as POV narrator, but being sigifnicantly older, old enough not to *need* to identify with her, goes along way to dissipating my aggravation with her. (I know, I was one of those people SRB objects to who disliked Mae and particularly disliked her kissing-many-boys coping mechanisms. It wasn't that I thought no one should kiss many boys: it's that I'd hyper-invested in Mae's little speech in book one about not getting caught in Nick and Alan's weird powerplay, and then she got caught in it anyway! Anyway that annoyed me less this time.)

Jamie is fab. Witty repartee is fab. On the other hand, Nick and Mae's relationship has not got less fucked-up with time. I know from experience that SRB and I both love dubious bonding magic stories but I pretty consistently dislike at least one major aspect of how she handles them, so yeah, that's a thing.



ProofProof by David Auburn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Well. This was a hell of a ride.



Firstly the production I was working on was *magnificent* - a couple of people who'd seen professional productions and disliked the play said they liked GEDS' handling of it. It concerns a recently deceased genius mathematician who had an unspecified mental illness that looks a lot like paranoid schizophrenia; his youngest daughter, who gave up school to care for him; his elder daughter, who is not a genius but does think she knows best when it comes to caring for impractical geniuses; and Hal, a former grad student of the deceased who believes there might be genius maths work among his papers, despite his illness. The script is *difficult*: pitch it just wrong and you get something dismal, or too far the other way and you're callously laughing at mental illnesses.

It was tough going in places: the opening scene, where father and daughter argue about their respective mental illnesses, hit hard the first time I saw it. But then it was full of amusing academic jokes. And at the end of act 1 it abruptly turns from amusing family drama with some heavy themes to Joanna Russ's 'How To Suppress Women's Writing' in dialogue form and applied to pure maths.



I got irrationally angry at audiences for LAUGHING at "I didn't find it, I wrote it". I had to sit on my aggravation with my lighting tech tutor, who didn't think it was outrageous that the young prof disbelieved the twenty-something girl because "things like that happen all the time, people plagiarise things". Yeah, dude, and you're way more likely to suspect women regardless of whether or not they actually have plagiarised things! Aaargh.

My only quibble with the play is that Hal, the young prof, is kind of an entitled well-meaning white dude dick. In order for the play to resolve properly it has to allow him to *prove* to himself (and thus the audience) that Catherine has in fact written this ground-breaking mathematical proof. Which gives him a credibility I'm not sure he deserved. Cathy did get to smack him down, telling him none of his logic counts and he should have trusted her. But, because Cathy is also struggling to assert herself against her overbearing sister, Hal gets enlisted on team "there's nothing wrong with Cathy!" and instead of going to New York to be taken care of, she stays to talk maths with Hal. BUT. Cathy *had* been having hallucinations of her recently deceased father! (or were they dreams? Open to interpretation). Cathy took to her bed for a week and is clearly very depressed! She might be a maths genius, but she *is* ill, and while her sister's overbearing control would be a very bad solution to leave her with, I'm not sure Hal's "omg let me adopt the hot baby genius" is any better.

The ending holds together on a Doylist level: you get what you want, Cathy not going to New York and showing confidence in her mathematical skills. On a Watsonian level, I forsee either Hal sliding into controlling her, or total meltdown.



The Demon's Surrender (The Demon's Lexicon, #3)The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Now this, this I wholeheartedly loved. Sin is fantastic and I adore her, and this book gave so much to Mae's character through Sin's eyes. Plus, SIBLING LOYALTIES yes good. Sin's dad is pretty awesome. I like Sin's grandma, too.



The Last of the Wine: A Virago Modern ClassicThe Last of the Wine: A Virago Modern Classic by Mary Renault

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read most of this on the plane from Geneva to Melbourne via Abu Dhabi, and it kept me pretty much enthralled the whole way. A+ ten points, Mary Renault.

THIS BOOK IS REALLY GOOD. It's slow to start, and starting from early childhood gives the first part a distinctly different pace to everything after Alexis first rides out with Lysis. But it's good! Alexis is complicated and interesting - my only complaint would be that Lysis is a little less so, perhaps because of Alexis' narrow perspective. The historical narrative of the last days of the Pellopenesian War is gripping, and I loved how much it made me look up: Renault simply refers to things as if everyone knows them, and you have to just go with it. She's even better at that than Hilary Mantel, actually, who can be a little ponderous in giving explanations via character introspection.

grumbling about the romance narrative )

In short, I loved the book, but the m/m plot did not live up to the "tell gay stories in a setting where there is no stigma!" hype.

Up Next: For once, I know exactly because I plan my plane reading in advance. I have the Shepherd's Crown (hard-copy), and two more Kerry Greenwood e-books, for the plane after I've finished Fire From Heaven.
highlyeccentric: Book on a shelf, entitled "Oh God: What the Fuck (and other stories)" (Oh god what the fuck (and other tails))
Currently Reading: SRB, 'The Demon's Covenant'; Hawkeye vol 3; Henry James, Portrait of a Lady

Recently Finished:

Silver On The TreeSilver On The Tree by Susan Cooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Well, it was nice to finish the series, but this was not the best-structured of the lot. It was beautiful, with delightfully woven myth and literary references, but the great final question of Free Will fell terribly flat, since hardly anyone involved had exercised much free will along the way. I am now assigning Merriman to the Cryptic Manipulative Magical Mentor's Drinking Club (he will drink whiskey with Gandalf, Aslan, Dumbledore, and various others). The three non-magical children got particularly short shrift: their 'tests', especially the boys, were particularly frail, and there was no strong sense of what else they could have done and how they could've done it.

On the other hand: like all the others, this was *absolutely, intricately pretty*, which is worth a lot.


The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a.. peculiar book. The quality of the prose is high: Ishiguro's narrator voices are engaging and I read at a fairly fast pace. I like the general premise, the meditation on mixed-race societies and on healing after war. BUT. It's obvious that Ishiguro isn't a historical/fantasy writer and I got the feeling he didn't _care_ as much about the social questions he raised as he did about the airy-fairy questions of memory and love. I have a strong suspicion I've read the 'Arthur brokers peace between Saxons and Britons, but it's tenuous and eventually his hand is forced and it all gets away from him' logic somewhere before - it's not medieval, but someone's done it. And they, whoever they were, did it *better*. This book needed to be about 1/4 longer in order to better flesh out the social aspects and deal with the fall-out of the death of the dragon.

Also I have absolutely no idea what to make of the ending, with the boatman, and I can't even tell if it's deliberately opaque or not. It might be supposed to leave you wondering if the boatman has tricked them, but if so, it's not signalled clearly whether it's MEANT to be ambiguous and what the other option is.



Among OthersAmong Others by Jo Walton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This book's strengths: excellent narrator voice; interesting, sharp insights on the world around her; immensely attractive evocation of the experience of being a teen sci-fi nerd, and what books come to mean in that context. Decent world-buidling re: fairies, magic, etc.

This book's weakness: plot, what plot? Nothing *happens*. There's about 1/3 of a plot missing: the book begins after the boss battle and proceeds to a peculiar final showdown where the protagonist is Now Free of Her Mother, but never explains what the boss battle was or how it had taken place. I expected asynchronous narration, telling the story of the 'main' events in retrospective, which is what I got, only most of them were missing. How did M&M discover the plot? How did they prevent it? WHO KNOWS.

Characterisation: Their mother is a ridiculous villain, her only motivation explained as 'crazy' and 'egotistical'. The only way this makes sense, given the scarcity of information on the actual conflict between mother and daughters, is if the mother is seriously mentally ill (narcissistic? untreated bipolar? IDEK i am not here for diagnosing flat characters) and Mori is, reasonably enough, traumatised by neglectful parenting but also delusional herself. If that was what we were meant to take away then the storytelling is fucking lazy for refusing to engage properly with the protag's experience and her mother's. If that wasn't meant to be the take-away then doubly lazy: why does this woman have no character? TL;DR Sarah Rees Brennan did 10 million times better with the 'malevolent magic-addled mother' plot.

Issues/subplots: there are SO MANY LOOSE ENDS in this. But the most irresponsible is the bit where the protag's father made a move on her, was rebuffed, and then neither he nor the protag EVER DEALT WITH IT AGAIN.



Walton/Mori criticises 'Teen Problem' books but I can't help but feel that if Walton had more respect for the genre she might not have left that great irresponsible gaping hole. Less offensive but still lazy writing, the witch-aunts and the part where Daniel is being abused by said witch-aunts is acknowledged but never dealt with properly.

Conclusion, what conclusion: it was crap. The showdown with her mother was crap. The reunion with the Three Important Men In Her Life was crap. Great gaping questions remain - *what* did Wim tell her father to get him and Samuel down to Wales? How did Daniel evade the witch-sisters? Is no one going to notice that Mori is acting extremely peculiarly? What became of her mother wandering around in the hills anyway?



The Demon's Lexicon (The Demon's Lexicon Trilogy, #1)The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a re-read, but I haven't got a goodreads review of it for some reason. Short commentary: I LOVE THIS BOOK. IT IS VERY EXCELLENT. Also it is 10 million times better work than Among Others.

In 2009 I picked up K's copy of this, and she wouldn't let me take it away so I went promptly down to Kinokunia to demand my own copy because I could not continue to exist without it. In 2015 I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find I had not brought my hard copies to Europe with me, so I bought the whole series in e-book and then devoured the first one in a single evening.

highlyeccentric: Julia Gillard making a Lleyton Hewitt salute (Gillard)
Draco grabbed Pansy's arm and pulled her behind the nearest tapestry. 'We've reached peak flag,' he said. 'It's on!'

It was the matter of moments to explain the situation to Crabbe. Most of them belonged to Malfoy: 'I feel our styles are divergent: you're all classic Death Eater, I'm more complex anti-hero with a possibility of later redemption. It's just not working for me. Also, I've been planning your public downfall since you rolled me four years ago and I can't think of a better time than four days before you meet the criteria for your Prime Ministerial pension supplement.'

Pansy's message was simpler: 'You're dumped, Crabbe. And you're taking Goyle with you.'

Even Rita Skeeter couldn't argue, epsecially when Malfoy fronted the media with his hair glinting perfectly in the afternoon sun and with no phalanx of flags to make his argument for him, but rather words, more than three, constructing an actual argument. Draco looked earnestly into the camera. 'We need advocacy,' he said. 'Not slogans. We need a different style of leadership, one that respects the people's intelligence."

Two hours later, Crabbe replied. 'We're not the Labor Party!' he declared. 'We are not the Labor Party! WE ARE NOT THE LABOR PARTY!

'Alas,' muttered the Australian Voting Public, remembering well that – mad as they may have been, and in all honesty they put cut snakes to shame – the Labor Party under both Harry and Hermione had provided stable government, passing legislation, negotiating intelligently with the opposition and cross benches and rarely embarrassing us on the international stage.

For hours they pretended there was still a decision to be made. Goyle announced: 'We cannot and we must not become a carbon copy of the Australian Labor Party.'

But it was all to no avail. Of the 99 votes, Draco received 54, Vince 44, and Kevin Andrews drew a picture of a penis.

Crabbe was out, having served less time than any Australian Prime Minister since the one who was eaten by a shark*.

*Probably


The full saga of Vincent Crabbe and the Goblet of Bile can be found at blamebrampton's LJ.
highlyeccentric: Demon's Covenant - Kitchen!fail - I saw you put rice in the toaster (Demon's Covenant - kitchen!fail)
This is a simplified and budget-ised version of Melissa Clark's Rosh Hashana recipe at the New York Times. (Which, by a co-incidence of menu planning, I have cooked on the first night of same. Happy New Year, anyone observing!) Australians might want to save it up for late summer / early autumn, when plums are a thing.

Dietary and accessibility notes )

What you need and what you do with it )
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: Henry James, Portrait of a Lady (re-read); Susan Cooper, 'Silver on the Tree'; Kazuo Ishiguro, 'The Buried Giant', loan from a friend.



Recently Finished:

Land of the Seal PeopleLand of the Seal People by Duncan Williamson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a really interesting little collection - mostly selkie stories, with a number of 'Jack' stories thrown in (Jack being the folklore character found in Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Horner, etc, but in these stories he's Scottish or Irish). Duncan Williamson was a noted storyteller amongst the Scottish Travellers (not Romani - Highland travellers are an indigenous Scots group, who tend to be closely affiliated with the Gaelic speaking towns), and this is a posthumous expanded collection of one of his earlier publications. He attributes some tales to his own family, and many more to the crofters and fisherpeople he worked with and for during his years as a roving odd-job man. The source notes on some of the stories are fascinating, and the tales themselves are diverse - what struck me as most common to all of them is that all are set in small communities where most people get by on subsistence living, and you can tell that this is Williamson's own community, because there's no fuss made of it. I like that - the books must be intended for a wider audience, but the stories are told as if the audience is part of his community.



De la petite taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sur la têteDe la petite taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sur la tête by Werner Holzwarth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I did not immediately realise, when I picked up this book and started to read it to a small person, that it was a book about poop. It is a very good book about poop, though! Plus it's good pronunciation practice - my reading comprehension is far ahead of my ability to articulate words, so I keep falling over my own tongue.


Flight BehaviourFlight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmm. I really enjoyed this book, after a slow start, and a few times where I had to put it down and cringe in fear of expected embarrassments. I was terribly afraid Dellarobia was going to make a fool of herself over Dr Byron, but that was handled *beautifully*.

I ended up loving it for the sensitivity to class, opportunity, and rural mindsets. The confrontation between Dellarobia and the environmental activist whose recommendations were either beyond her means (buying hybrid cars, say) or something she and everyone she knew already did *because they were poor* (eg, buying second-hand) - that was glorious. And I loved the passage where Dellarobia starts thinking in technical terms, because... well, that's why my phone can spell heteronormativity. I am a big fan of 'plain english', and yet.





Structurally, the ending of the book was rushed - there were threads left hanging, especially re: Hester, and questions unanswered, and I ended with a dismal presentiment that Dellarobia's new life as a community college student would probably be unsustainable, given the realities of single parenting, poverty, etc.



Up Next: IDEK
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
It's Wednesday in Australia already, does that count?

Currently Reading: Kingsolver, 'Flight Behaviour'

Recently finished: Where recently means 'since 9 Aug 2015'...

Looking for Alibrandi: Australian Children's ClassicsLooking for Alibrandi: Australian Children's Classics by Melina Marchetta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I bought this in e-book form and I am really regretting it. Usually I only buy e-books of... light reading? Phryne Fisher mysteries, or most YA. And this is YA, so that's the format I bought it in. Up side is, I won't now be tempted to cast off the hard copy when I move house or countries, because damn, how have I not owned this book and not read it since high school?

Longish review hereunder )



Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet: New EssaysFan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet: New Essays by Karen Hellekson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a quick re-read of about half of the articles - I revisited ones I'd liked before and ignored the rest. The essay on 'archontic literature' remains brilliant, and I'm astounded I've survived this far without citing it.



Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the WorldGetting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World by Robyn Ochs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


as a book overall, I don't think the tiny-quotes-and-contributions format worked well; it read like a bizarrely large pamphlet. However, it was pretty nifty reading up on 2000s bi... everything; slightly disappointing to think how little has changed; and the last few sections, on politics, were very interesting, especially when some of the authors had fine-tuned their ideas since 'Closer to home: Bisexuality and feminism'.



Bad Feminist: EssaysBad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Well, I binge-read this in the space of a few days, that's how much I liked this. It's very, very good.

Thoughts as list )



Also finished: Land of the Seal People, which I'll write up when I've had time to think it over a bit more.

Up next: IDEK, are we pretending I ever have any clue what I'm reading next?

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