I read my second re-read book after reading Life After Life. It was The Servants by M.M. Smith. Since I’ve reviewed this before in the lifetime of this blog, and since I’m intending to do a summary post about the re-read project itself I’ll not do a re-review, see the link above for that.
A few thoughts – I read it as a palate cleanser I suppose. It was an instant favourite of mine and so a guaranteed pleasant read, plus it’s short and simple. I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as the first time. Perhaps that’s because I knew the ending, perhaps because of where I am in my life right now. I was a little more overcome with the sadness in the story than last time. Still highly recommended though.
TBR is up again. It’s standing at a healthy 265 now. Which is 14 up on 1st Jan and 30 up on my target. I think we can safely say that goal has gone. Even if I manage to read 30 books for the rest of the year I can think of at least 3 books, probably 5 that are upcoming releases I that I almost certainly will buy.
I suppose the other thing is that I’ve removed from my “currently reading” list everything that I’m not currently reading. So all those books I started but set aside are now in a shelf called started-not-currently-reading.
So the overriding principle of “try to enjoy it” has translated to:
- do keep up the spreadsheet
- don’t worry about getting new books on a whim
- don’t force yourself to read books because they’re in a series or whatever
- pick books you think you’d like and set aside ones you’re not enjoying
Which seems to be fine. One example of the third point is that I’m probably not going to re-read Wool which is S&L’s May pick. Part of me would like to – because then it’ll be fresh for the discussions and because I’ve read every pick this year so far – but it’s not a quick read and it’s ok but only ok. Also last time I got stuck half-way because of life events causing me not to feel like reading. Oddly similar events have just re-occurred and maybe re-reading Wool would stir up memories I don’t want to re-vist right now. Or maybe I’ve just got too much other stuff to read right now.
Posted in reading
Tagged reading, tbr
I’ve had Started Early, Took My Dog on my TBR list for a while. I bought it after I watched and enjoyed the TV adaptation of the other Jackson Brodie books (“Hello to Jason Isaacs” btw). Somehow or other it was one of those books that never rose to the top of the pile. However when I saw this book was being released – it was by the same author, but was stand-alone and had an intriguing premise – I thought I’d get it and read it.
Life After Life‘s premise is the idea of living a life over and over until you get it “right”. Ursula Todd was born during a snowstorm in Feb 1910 to a middle-class English couple living in the suburbs of London. In this book we see various “versions” of her life – which sometimes is cut short very soon and sometimes takes us through both the first and second world wars. It’s a bit like the movie Sliding Doors in that whilst we get to see what could have happened if different paths were taken we don’t really know why it’s happening. This is not a fantasy or supernatural book about the process of re-living lives, it’s a book comparing various versions of the same life.
It’s well-written and I did enjoy it but I think my initial impression on finishing it was “is that it?” I suppose I’d let the idea of the premise lead me into thinking that there would be some final payoff, that there would be a version of her life which was clearly “right” and clearly “the best” and so on. And there sort of was and sort of wasn’t. Maybe I just had the wrong idea about what was the “best” and maybe that’s what the book is exploring.
Along the way there’s some great writing and I liked several of the characters. You also get to see them grow and change – several times. I felt slightly sad that her mother – whose POV you tend to follow when Ursula herself is very young – seems to start as a vibrant, interesting woman with her own definite ideas about life and turns into a crotchety, slightly superior and disapproving matron. But again maybe that’s the point.
There’s also a lot of suffering in this book. We go through the wars as I said, more than once and from more than one side and as well there are just the usual vicissitudes of life. Which can make for a tough read (I kept thinking of the title of one of her Brodie novels “When Will There Be Good News?“). Occasionally I felt that none of this suffering mattered anyway because it would be wiped out in the next go around – but that happened less than one might expect which is to the credit of the author.
7/10 – overall a good read, glad to have read it, pleased it’s over.
Dragonflight was S&L’s April book pick. I’d long been aware that there was this series with dragons in it that looked interesting. However when I was younger and more liable to read such a book there just seemed too many to start. Anyway this gave me a reason to check it out.
Dragonflight follows Lessa on the planet of Pern. At the start of the book she’s a lowly servant girl, a “drudge” in the hold once owned by her family but which was taken by force when she was ten. She’s now twenty-one and a chance for revenge occurs when the hold’s new lord arrives for a visit. He brings with him a couple of dragon-riders. One of these, F’lar, will soon become an unwitting tool of her plans but also she becomes interesting to him in another way. Pern is overshadowed by the Red Star – another planet whose orbit brings it close to Pern once every few generations. So close in fact that there’s a threat from the Star, a threat that Pern’s dragons are uniquely suited to protect against. However the dragon numbers are down and the riders are no longer held in the respect they once were. F’lar believes Lessa could be the key to restoring the dragon-riders’ fortunes and saving Pern itself.
One interesting thing about this book that I’ll get out of the way first is whether or not it’s fantasy or not. Of course it is – dragons! – but it’s set up in such a way that many consider it SciFi. It begins with a prologue that tells how Pern was colonised from Earth but that the colonists have long since lost any contact with or knowledge of their home planet. Also their technology and society have regressed to medieval levels. I see this merely as a way to clear the decks. Sure it’s also saying that this world could exist (apparently in later books explanations are given for some of the more fantastical elements including dragons themselves) but really it’s just saying this is the way it is, deal with it. Similar to “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…“
I have to say I wasn’t very taken with this book. There were things about it I liked. There’s a certain puzzle element to the way the plot resolves that’s quite pleasing, I liked the logic of it. The descriptions of dragon lore and how the society was organised were interesting too.
However the sexual politics of the book were questionable. To be fair this book was written in the 60s when it was probably seen as forward-looking and even radical. But some of the attitudes felt off to me. Yes it’s a medieval hierarchical society with defined gender roles – but it’s that way because that’s the way she made it up so that doesn’t immunise it from all criticism. Having said the thing that bothered me most was the way the characters were written. Lessa was clearly stated to be a woman in her early twenties but she behaves and is treated like a young teenager. You could see her I suppose as an independent woman making her own way with her own agenda and unwilling to be cowed by male authority, but she does it in a rebellious and mainpulative manner rather than hit opposition head on. Meanwhile F’lar treats her like a child. He berates he for the actions she takes to find things out but deliberately keeps her in the dark about what’s happening to her. He teaches her about dragons and lore but only as much as he thinks she needs and he disciplines her if he thinks she needs it. His favourite way of making an emphatic point seems to be to shake her.
In the end because it was hard to like either of these characters I think it hurt my enjoyment of the book. I do wonder if I’d read it when I was 12 whether the sheer fact of dragons and my naivety would have meant I liked it more.
6/10 – dragons are cool but you need more for a good book.
(I know, lots of blog posts today!)
So I’m 3 months into 2013, I thought I’d give you a little update as to where I’m up to.
In January I read 5 books (#6 finished on 3rd Feb) – which is less than the 7 I read in January last year. It’s more books than I read in the whole of 2008 however.
By the end of February I’d read 11 (#12 on 3rd march). It was 10 last year and I only read 14 in 2010.
Yesterday I finished my 19th book as compared to 15 this time last year. I read 19 in 2009.
So I’m on track to beat 30 for 2011, and 34 for 2012 as well as my official target of 40 for the year. But I don’t take anything for granted. I may well have a slump later in the year and not read for weeks. We’ll see. The important thing is I’m enjoying it.
My current TBR is 260 down from 263 last time I mentioned it. I have bought books since then but I’ve also read books and removed a few duplicates that were lurking in my Goodreads queue and throwing off the figures.
My currently reading list on Goodreads is up to 12 (from 10) because I’ve started a couple of books only to move on to something else quite quickly. Of all my reading goals this is the one I’m most relaxed about. Ultimately if I want to read something else I will. If I happen to have added the book I’m 20pages into to my currently reading list, ah well, never mind.
OK, that’s enough blogging and enough about books – I’m off to watch some TV.
So. I mentioned this in my last review, what is it?
Well, you may have noticed that recently I’ve made reference to my less-than-great memory. I do feel like it’s not as good as it was and when it comes to reading I seem to forget more easily what’s going on (one reason to try to read books more quickly).
Also, I tend not to re-read as much as I used to. I tend to put this down to two things:
- I have access to more books than I used to (both because of the internet and because I have enough money to not worry about buying them (I can afford to buy them far quicker than I can ever read them))
- There’s simply so many to choose from (boy-with-too-many-sweets syndrome)
I was also pondering the fact that I seem to be able to remember a fair amount about books I read a long time ago. Is this because I laid down memories more permanently back then? Is it because I re-read more often and the ones I remember are one I read more than once? Is it a perception thing and actually if I try can I remember the more recent ones too?
So I’ve decided to do a little (hopefully fun) experiment. I created a little shortlist of 20 books I wouldn’t mind re-reading. They all had to be relatively short, enjoyable reads or there’s no point but other than that they vary according to how many times I’ve read them, how long ago I read them first, whether I feel like I can remember a lot about them or not. In order to not bias the experiment too much (the act of choosing a book involves a little bit of trying to remember things about it) I decided to choose at random from the list. The experiment will be done once I’ve read ~5 books. I’ll intersperse them with the books I am reading anyway and review as normal however when I do a re-read book I’ll:
- Roll some virtual dice and choose the next re-read title
- write down as much about it as I can remember
- read it
- write down what I got wrong, any major plot points or ideas I missed and so on.
Once I’ve done the 5 or so I’ll write up a summary and see how I did. I don’t want to do this as part of the reviews themselves so I’ll keep that separate.
Posted in book, rereads
Tagged book, re-read
This book is part of a new mini project I’m doing over the next month or so which concerns re-reading. I’ll cover this in more detail in another post shortly but for now all you need to know is that I chose this book at random from a shortlist.
The World of Ptavvs is one of Larry Niven’s early books in the ‘Known Space’ universe. It opens with an alien, Kzanol, escaping from his ship which is about to crash by getting into a stasis suit which will keep him safe, with no time passing, until he can be rescued. Unfortunately that takes a rather long time, 2 billion years in fact. He is eventually dug up on Earth and is named the “sea statue” and becomes a cultural artifact. However when he is accidentally let out of the suit he wreaks havoc trying to find his other stasis suit in which he left a valuable tool. Kzanol is part of a race that enslaved other races using mind control and he uses that talent to try to recover the other suit.
I enjoyed this book. It’s short and a quick read and although, like all early Niven it’s not great on character, it has a lot of ideas. I’ve left out quite a lot in the description above. There’s a chase through the solar system, inter-system politics and possible war, a man who becomes convinced he is Kzanol and Pluto being set on fire. It’s also very interesting how primitive some of the future tech is. They have spaceships with fusion drives but the on-board entertainment is a video game which involves connecting lines between grids of dots on a screen.
In a reflection perhaps of when it was written (1966) the politics surrounding who gets to have and control what’s in the second suit take on a kind of Mutually Assured Destruction aspect.
As for the re-read aspect I’m not going to comment on that now but I made various notes.
7/10 – big ideas and a fun romp through space, if a little dated.
So… Discworld #30 (there are currently 39) so hurray for progress! Maybe I’ll catch up by the end of the year.
Wee Free Men concerns a young girl, Tiffany Aching, who lives in a sheep-farming part of the Disc known as The Chalk. He grandmother was a wise if somewhat awkward old woman who knew a lot about sheep. Tiffany stumbles upon evidence that another world is about to collide with the Disc. It’s not going to be pretty and someone needs to do something. Tiffany decides that someone will be her.
Along the way she’s aided by the Nac Mac Feegle, who are the Wee Free Men of the title. We first met these in Carpe Jugulum and they are, I suppose, entertaining though I could never quite get over the obvious stereotype they draw from.
Wee Free Men is another Discworld YA book and again I had the feeling it wasn’t aimed at me. Doubly so because the protagonist is a young girl and there’s a lot in there about not being taken seriously because you’re a) a girl, b) smart/bookish and c) not interested in being a girly girl. All of which is fair enough and a great thing for its target audience, it’s just not who I am, obviously.
That said I did like Tiffany. I also liked her grandmother, who was similar to but identical with Granny Weatherwax (who makes a brief cameo). It’s no huge spoiler to say that a large part of the book took place in a world where dreams and reality inter-mingle and I felt like I’ve seen that done a lot better, including by Mr Pratchett, before. I did however like the the scene where an over-indulgent queen gives a small child every kind of sweet he could ever want, and he freaks out because as soon as he chooses one he’s automatically not choosing any of the others – which is kind of how I feel about choosing the next book to read
7/10 – a Discworld book about witches – therefore fun.