silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
Uh, I've just discovered that Blofeld's garden of death exists. It is a garden at Alnwick Castle instead of in Japan, but nevertheless. I...would go visit that garden, actually. But the fact that they've had to put a bench in one part of the garden since people sometimes pass out from the smell of one of the flowers is slightly alarming.

book cover of The Wolf Hunt Anyway! I read The Wolf Hunt, by Gillian Bradshaw. It's based on Bisclavret, one of the twelve famous lays by Marie de France - it's a poem about a man who turns into a werewolf, and he's treacherously betrayed by his wife and trapped in wolf form.

Review under the cut. Spoiler: I loved it )bo
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I read The Sand-Reckoner the other day (the one by Gillian Bradshaw, not the one by Archimedes) and now I have all these feelings about Archimedes and Syracuse and Hieron.

The novel's about Archimedes as he returns from his studies at Alexandria - it begins with him coming home to a city on the verge of war, his father dying, and a sick sense that coming home will mean he must close off the part of him that lives and breathes mathematics, and do work he hates to support his family. Archimedes comes to the attention of Hieron, the king of Syracuse, as an outstanding and remarkable engineer - outstanding because he can devise new, original, and effective machines that work well from the very outset, because he can derive the basic principles from mathematics. With Archimedes is Marcus, his Italian slave, who looks after his absent-minded master despite conflicting loyalties. Marcus denies being Roman - the affiliation is dangerous - and Archimedes is too * and doesn't think it useful to press.

Like Island of Ghosts, which is about troops of Sarmatians - having been sent west as part of their treaty with Rome - settling into Roman Britain, this book is similarly more internal and character-driven. Which isn't to say there isn't external conflict; the book is set during the first Punic Wars (paging [livejournal.com profile] dhampyresa - though it's not really about Rome or Carthage so IDK if you're interested?) and Syracuse is caught between the two. Hieron is trying to avoid having to fight either or both of them at once, but needs siege engines to prevent either from eating his city. But he recognizes that Archimedes is brilliant - and also not an engineer by choice, merely to support his family; he knows Archimedes loved Alexandria and the Museum and Library there, and wrestles with how or if he can keep Archimedes in the service of his beloved city.

More discussion with spoilers )

Generally very recommended! I love Bradshaw's writing, the characters are all great and well-drawn (with human, sympathetic motivations), and is set in Classical antiquity if that's a selling point, though it doesn't rely on you knowing anything about it.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
cover of Island of Ghosts, simple picture of Roman cavalryman on rearing horse
Island of Ghosts, Gillian Bradshaw

I swapped ebooks with [livejournal.com profile] weekend, who very kindly sent me a copy of Island of Ghosts. (We were talking about Gillian Bradshaw's Arthurian books, which are Hawk of May, Kingdom of Summer, and In Winter's Shadow. All of you should read these books! They are my favourite retellings of the Arthurian mythology. More historical and less fantasy, and they follow Sir Gawain, and completely heartbreaking by the end.)

Island of Ghosts is about three companies of defeated Sarmatians who are marched to Britain to form part of the Roman forces in the second century AD. The protagonist, Ariantes, is the scepter-holder of his company who struggles to make his new life in northern Britain.

A lot of his struggle is that all of them, the men he commands--and his peers, Gatalan and Arshak, both nobility--deeply distrust and feel contemptuous towards the Romans. Their customs are almost completely alien to each other. The Romans see the Sarmatians as barbarians, citing their custom of cutting and keeping enemies' scalps, their nomadic civilization, the various acts of war. The Sarmatians, who are now minorities in this new land, are unwilling to assimilate, afraid of losing their identities. The Sarmatians don't like the bread that are the Romans' staples; they refuse to sleep in the barracks indoors; they are all cavalry, no infantry at all, and value their horses enormously; they do not share a religion; they are horrified with the Romans' custom of burning their dead, believing it to destroy the soul. The novel begins with the Sarmatians nearly mutinying when they are told they have to go to Britain by ship: they are convinced the Romans are tricking them and that there is no land beyond the water, and they've been marched there to be killed.

Review )

Final verdict: do recommend! 8/10

NOTE: My classics history is very poor. (I'm really only good for medieval history, I'm afraid.) I think I have missed a lot regarding all the ranks (eg: how do legates and tribunes differ?) Clearly more reading is in order.

--

According to my kobo e-reader, which I have been using since mid-March, I have logged a total time of 389 hours and completed 53 novels on it. I'm a bit stunned. The kobo counts books as finished when you read cover to absolute end and does not count re-reads, halfway through, marked as read, etc titles. I'm sure the actual number of hours is a little smaller (sometimes I left it on while charging) but not by more than 10 hours. That's a lot of time I've spent reading, considering everything, and also there were the months of May/June when I was abroad and didn't bring it at all. I...yeah. You know what probably took up the most time? Les Misérables. God, there were so many hours burned on that book.

Also interesting are sometimes the page statistics. I'm currently reading Fragments du Passé which is a Dear Canada book from the perspective of a Holocaust survivor: they're books for young girls published by Scholastic. They're epistolary novels which are set in different points in Canada's history. When I was in elementary and junior high school I read a lot of them--there was that traumatizing one about the filles-du-roi (see, her husband dies of this poisoned mushroom and she screams and raves before accepting he's dead, and then she has to survive the Maritime winter by herself--terrifying, have you seen what the weather is like in the Maritimes?, she barely makes it--AND give birth by herself in the spring) and there's one about the Spanish influenza which introduced me to the prayer "if I should die before I wake" (atheist household so I never encountered this; I still think this is a horrifying prayer to teach kids), the one about immigration to the Prairies, the one about the Loyalists, the one about the War of 1812, I think I read the Plains of Abraham one too, probably more I'm forgetting. I grew out of them but man, I read a lot of them...they cover a lot of geographical ground and time and probably taught me more Canadian history than I ever learned in class. Anyway, I saw this one in the ebook library of the public library and decided to try one. My French isn't strong enough to take on the books I really want to read--they're just too long--so I decided to pick up this one. See: fondness for this series. Anyway, what I was going to say before I went on this long tangent--someday I should really put together a post about the Dear Canada books--is that usually the pages per minute count is 5-8 pages per minute, but it's all the way down to 1 on these. I only just realized Terry is not, in fact, a boy, twelve pages in. I don't know how I missed that.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I'm apparently on a re-read kick, and I have too many to review in the same way I did Mistborn (words! words everywhere!) so here's a quick thing:

The Sky is Falling, Looking at the Moon and The Lights Go On Again by Kit Pearson

The novels are about Norah and Gavin, two siblings who are sent to Canada as war guests as the Blitz ramps up in England. I'm struggling to think of a good descriptor of the books that involve plot, but the core of the books is really the emotional journeys that Norah and Gavin go through. They move into the house of Florence Ogilvie and Norah immediately has personality conflicts with Aunt Florence.

One thing I think Pearson did really well was portray unusual grief/emotions. Norah is young but she's twelve or so, and she doesn't want to leave England. She's angry with her parents for sending them away, afraid for them, ashamed of running away, angry she's being put in charge of her younger brother, resentful that he can't help being afraid and distressed himself. She's not happy with being put with the Ogilvies and she's not fitting into her new school. It's an ugly combination of emotions that nevertheless feels really honest.

There's also Gavin in The Lights Go On Again Major spoilers )It gets resolved and I love their grandfather, but I thought that his anger mixed with guilt towards him and Norah, too, was really honest.

Also I learned that Pearson is gay! That is pretty cool. I read her books when I was a kid and never looked at author bios (nor do I think they would have mentioned it). She's also from Alberta!

The Secrets of the Jedi by Jude Watson

Ahh, yes, my Star Wars obsession. When I say I love Star Wars what I actually mean is "the Prequel EU books" and Jude Watson is at least 50% responsible for this. I think the only post-RotJ books I've read is Zahn's Thrawn trilogy (which is really good, I get why people keep trying to sneak it into yuletide).

Secrets of the Jedi is about Obi-Wan and Siri's relationship. Watson also wrote Jedi Apprentice (about young Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon) and Jedi Quest (about Obi-Wan and Anakin) and The Secrets of the Jedi tie into Jedi Apprentice; this book ties into the Jedi Apprentice series. Obi-Wan and Siri, along with their respective masters, are assigned to escort a talented young boy named Talesan Fry to Coruscant after he discovers the plot of a group of bounty hunters. They're partly successful even though the Padawans get separated from their Masters halfway through, but Tal's parents are killed. Years later, when the galaxy is consumed by the Clone Wars, the Temple is informed that Tal, now a successful businessman, has created a perfect codebreaker and is offering the Republic the first bid.

Being Jedi, love is forbidden, and the book has an interesting treatment of it. In one of the Jedi Apprentice books Obi-Wan actually left the Jedi Order once; he felt that the Temple was not helping the civil war on Melida/Daan enough and refused to go back to Coruscant, staying to help. Spoilers for how they handle it )

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

Dragon Rider )

Snakecharm by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Snakecharm )

Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw

Hawk of May )

Airborn and Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel

Airborn )

Among Others

Among Others )

--

I'm working on Conspiracy of Kings by Turner and enjoying it a lot so far, though I'm having some trouble with the different perspectives. I think I've reread the previous three books altogether too many times already and I understand them really well now, but there is a lot here I'm skimming--the political bits for one. Sophos is growing up though! Awww.

This post took long enough that I finished a book while writing it. I wish I was faster!
silverflight8: Barcode with silverflight8 on top and userid underneath (_support)
Title: Hawk of May
Author: Gillian Bradshaw
Length: 279 pages

Read more... )

Title: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke
Length: 782 words

Read more... )

Title: Moscow Rules
Author: Daniel Silva
Length: 443 pages

Read more... )

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