liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired:
  • A wild sheep chase, by Haruki Murakami. Valentine's present from [livejournal.com profile] ghoti, since she's a fan of Murakami and I haven't read anything of his yet, and I like sheep-themed stuff because of my offline name, and also I often notice the cute ears in animated films we've watched together, and this book has a girl with exquisite ears, apparently.

  • The secrets of enduring love by Meg John Barker and Jacqui Gabb. This was a present from me to all of my quad collectively. There are too many combinations to make it very practical to celebrate VD in couples, so both this year and last year we've mostly done something along the lines of all of us celebrating eachother. (Last year we were really new, mind you.) And I am a massive fan of Barker, because of their really unique approach to studying and discussing relationships, sexuality, and identity. For one thing they seem to blend rigorous academic scholarship with personal involvement and activism in a way that seems really unusual, though it fits in with their general approach to avoiding binarist thinking. And secondly, because they don't do inclusivity starting from a default model of straight, monogamous, dyadic couples but then make sure to mention that not everybody fits this default, rather they treat all relationships genuinely as equal. So I'm particularly interested in a popular account of their research into long-lasting relationships which seems to include a wide range of what is called a "relationship", not even necessarily assuming romantic and sexual, let alone straight and monogamous.

Recently read: Not a lot, various miscellaneous internet things but nothing that I'm burning to share with you. So have the always worthwhile Debbie Cameron on Crap apps and female email, where she takes down the idea that sexism is caused by women being too feminine, particularly in their style of communication.

Currently reading: Ghost spin, by Chris Moriarty. The third in a trilogy where I loved the first two, but I'm dubious about this final book because so far the first chapter has killed off my favourite character. I suspect he's going to turn out to be complicatedly dead, but I dislike Gandalf plots where the vitally important character isn't dead after all nearly as much as I dislike my fave characters dying, so I'm suspicious. Given how much I loved the first two books I'm not giving up yet, though.

Up next: Don't know, I've only just started the Moriarty. Probably one of my exciting valentines presents.

In other news, I had a weekend I crammed way too much into, but the scraps of time I got with my people were really good. I had a sort of rushed semi-date with [livejournal.com profile] ghoti late Friday night and Saturday morning before breakfast and the day's obligations. And then the afternoon at Andreas' fourth birthday party; I've not recently had enough young children in my social circles to do that much, but I do enjoy parties that are based on playing and food and where you get a party bag to take home.

In the evening I managed to go out for a meal with [personal profile] jack, at The Plough, a local gastropub we're quite fond of. But again, only a fragment of a date, really, and we had to leave early on Sunday morning to squeeze in a brief visit to my grandmother, her daughter who is my aunt and who is currently visiting from Australia, and my brother Screwy who is Granny-sitting while parents are travelling. Which was rushed mostly through my own fault because I also wanted to see [personal profile] doseybat and [livejournal.com profile] pplfichi at the latter's birthday party, and before Bat goes abroad for fieldwork for some weeks.

Lots of my people are going through hard times right now, and I'm helplessly sad about it. If I talk about it at all it'll be in locked post, but it's getting me down a bit even though my direct actual life is really good at the moment.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read:
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
Work has been intense lately, mainly because I'm about to go to Amsterdam for a conference where I'm presenting the data that my senior PhD student only actually finished on Friday. So apologies for radio silence; more when I get back.

I'm also studiously ignoring Holocaust Memorial Day because I just can't deal with the pieties in conjunction with the actual treatment of refugees and disabled people. Being away is a good excuse not to have to attend this kind of event. And yes, I know some people are actually doing valuable educational work, both on the internet and in person, but those people are not the ones who keep inviting me to stuff.

So, anyway, Reading Wednesday, just quickly.

Recently acquired: I had a very successful charity shop raid with [personal profile] angelofthenorth when she visited a couple of weekends ago, even acquiring some clothes that fill gaps in my wardrobe. We drove out to Buxton mainly to enjoy the view of the Peak District in the snow, and Buxton is one of those down-at-heel towns that has really good charity shops and antique shops and not much actual economic activity.

So anyway, I snagged King's Dragon by Kate Elliott, an author I like in principle but I'm a bit scared of her tendency to write huge multi-doorstep fantasies. So since I found the first in a definitely finished three-part trilogy, I thought I'd give it a go. And The constant gardner by John le Carré, which I've been intrigued by for a while.

Recently read: No fiction. I have been thinking a lot about this longread on disability by Johanna Hedva: Sick woman theory. I am not often convinced by the kind of extreme social model view that what we experience as illness is mainly a problem with capitalist society, but Hedva is saying something a lot more nuanced than some of the examples I've come across, and certainly doesn't fail to note that chronic pain is in fact objectively unpleasant, regardless of how society is organized. She's also discussing a wide range of interconnected topics, including the concept of "public", and she brings in a lot of fairly serious references to contemporary feminist thought.

Currently reading: More or less nothing, which is less weird for me than it was a few years ago, but still weird.

Up next: I'm not sure if I'm going to have time for reading when I travel or not, there's quite a lot of time on trains and ferries involved. Perhaps some long fanfics will get me back into the reading mood; I have both Your Blue-Eyed Boys by [archiveofourown.org profile] laleitha and and The World that You Need by [archiveofourown.org profile] dsudis on my e-reader, so I'll see.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Between planets by Robert A Heinlein. (c) 1951 McCall Corporation and Robert A Heinlein, Pub 1968 Gollancz. [livejournal.com profile] ghoti lent it to me as a book she liked when she was a kid, and indeed, it's just the sort of book to appeal to my inner 12-year-old: a fun adventure story that feels sciencey and doesn't benefit from too much thinking.

thoughts )

Currently reading: In theory, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, in reality I just haven't touched it in two months. I don't know why, I don't have anything negative to say about the book, it just somehow doesn't have momentum.

Up next: I'm somewhat tempted by Chocolat by Joanne Harris, another present from [livejournal.com profile] ghoti.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired There were three books I positively wanted in the campus Blackwells' 3 for 2 offer, so my physical to-read pile has grown by:
  • How to be both, by Ali Smith. I like Ali Smith a lot, especially Girl meets boy, which has really stuck with me. And this one is getting a lot of buzz and seemed like something I'd be excited about
  • Being mortal by Atul Gawande. Gawande is a really amazing writer on medical topics, and death is an important one, and I feel reading his non-fiction will help me get better at training future doctors.
  • Fields of blood, by Karen Armstrong. I mean, I'm a huge huge fan of Armstrong and I'm basically interested in reading her shopping list, and the subject of religion and violence seems particularly acute right now.

Recently read
  • Not actually recent, but I was reminded that ages ago I meant to link to this article about historical changes in the nature of phone calls, by Ian Bogost. It's better on the history of the tech and hardware than on the social history, but it does include some of the second. And my Dad worked for a telecommunications company for many years so I was already a bit interested in technological solutions to maximizing sound quality for voice calls with really very limited bandwidth.
  • And this is more images than words, but it's a fascinating summary of How Richard Scarry updated his children’s book.

Currently reading Still The Dervish House by Ian McDonald. I don't have much new to say about it, it's one of those books that I enjoy a lot while I'm reading it but don't have much urge to pick up again when I'm not.

Up next Not sure. The next item on my Bringing up Burns challenge list is a book at the bottom of your "to be read" pile, and my TBR pile doesn't actually have a physical instantiation, it's scattered between my two households and some mental notes about what I have my eye one that I should probably write down.

Likely the draft of my junior student's first year report at some point in the next couple of weeks, plus an ongoing pile of undergrad coursework that I'm probably going to be marking through about January.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble, from the giveaway shelf at work. I sometimes like Drabble and sometimes don't, but I find it hard to resist free books. And if I don't get on with it I'll put it back on the giveaway shelf.

Recently read
  • Via [personal profile] khalinche, The lonely death of George Bell, by NR Kleinfield. One of those really excellent pieces of non-fiction writing which takes a single individual who's not particularly famous or exceptional, and conveys their character and situation. This is a portrait of what happens when someone dies having no real social connections, while also showcasing a bit what the bureaucracy manages to discover about Bell.

  • And from the other pole of human life, Parenting and pronouns, by Dorian at Beyond the Binary. Some really interesting observations about what happens if you actually take seriously the idea that you can't guess a baby's gender by looking at its genitals, an experience some of my friends are are also going through.

    Currently reading The Dervish House by Ian McDonald. I'm reading this slowly, because it's dense, but in a good way. I love the world-building of near-future Turkey, seen through the eyes of disparate characters who have the sorts of totally coincidental connections that only happen in fiction. As with some of McDonald's other stuff, it's SF in that it has nanotech and political extrapolations, but the atmosphere feels more like fantasy in some ways, partly because magical things happen and it's very ambiguous whether there's an underlying scientific explanation, and partly because the language is really lush and poetic.

    Up next Not sure; I've got a bit under a third of The Dervish House still to go. I'm kind of pining to read Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, partly cos the whole internet's talking about the third in the trilogy and I'm behind! The main reason I didn't get to it sooner is because [personal profile] jack lent his copy to someone and we can't remember whom, and I'm irrationally reluctant to buy it again when I "could" just borrow it from J. Except that's silly, because obviously I can't borrow it if we don't know where the copy is, and I'm rich enough these days that it won't hurt me to buy the same book twice and I'm happy to support Leckie, she's writing good stuff and seems like a really nice person.

    Today I did good adulting. I saw the nurse practitioner at the campus GP practice, and endured her telling me off for being two years behind on dealing with minor medical stuff, in exchange for her prescribing me some non-expired asthma inhalers and administering a flu vaccine. And I have another appointment for a proper asthma review, which will be tiresome as I've been taking the same medication for 25 years and I know it works for me, but I understand why they want to do this with a new patient, and the nurse agreed to combine (!) this with a cervical smear, which I'm also overdue for and won't be any fun, but hey.

    And I dealt with some email, and other generally useful but boring work tasks, and I showed my face at the Remembrance service in chapel this morning. They got about a hundred people, I think, some of them in military uniform. And the Catholic (with a red poppy) and Free Church (with a white one) chaplains did one of those very Keele ecumenical services which was sweet and sincere and generically theistic rather than intensely Jesus-y, and definitely not about glorifying war and brave soldiers' heroic sacrifices etc.

    I'm doing our Remembrance in synagogue this Friday; I usually try to do it the Friday before Remembrance Sunday, but I ended up just picking the closest Friday to the actual date of the 11th without looking up when the official commemoration was going to be. My Facebook is absolutely lousy with arguments pro and contra marking the day at all, and honestly the people whose politics are generally most congruent with mine are against it. There's not really any question that I'm going to mention it in synagogue, because it's something we've always done since 1918, you don't change the community's customs based on how you feel about Cameron versus Corbyn. But I think it's time for some Sassoon; he was at least arguably Jewish and it feels like this year is his year, everybody's quoting him.
  • liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read: The first fifteen lives of Harry August, by Claire North. (c) Claire North 2014, Pub Orbit 2014, ISBN 978-1-4055-2825-2. The first fifteen lives of Harry August is the sort of book I normally really like, intelligent SF which explores a cool idea. but it didn't quite work for me.

    read more )
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read:
    • A couple of striking pieces on people talking about their experiences of living in their bodies:
    • A thorough and informative long read about my brother's poetry book and the political background: Poets Of The Rifle: Cultural Resistance From Saharawi Refugee Camps, by Jen Calleja.

    • [personal profile] commodorified's thinky essay and discussion about how fandom talks about writing about rape. I've been meaning to link to this for ages, it's very complex and nuanced and I don't think I can really summarize it, but if you're at all interested in fandom culture and communities of trauma survivors more broadly it's well worth reading (if you can cope with a meta discussion about rape and trauma, of course).
    Currently reading: The first fifteen lives of Harry August, by Claire North. I'm actually most of the way through, I'll probably finish it next time I have half an hour to spare. It's... ok, there's nothing obviously terrible about it, but it just doesn't give me any sense of wanting to read on to find out what happens next. It should be exciting, because it's all about Harry's arch-enemy trying to alter the timeline so that Harry never exists, risking destroying the whole world in the process, so there's plenty of both personal and global peril, but for some reason I'm not emotionally engaged with the plot.

    It feels like much of the book is North exploring a cool idea, that rare people are "Ouroborans" who when they die return to their own births with their memories of their lives, now in the relative future, intact. But she never really moves on beyond exploring the implications of this cool idea, tFFLoHA just doesn't quite hang together as a story. I think a lot of my problem is that I don't like Harry August as a character, he's very self-centred and just annoying, and that's preventing me from engaging with the plot.

    Up next: Next on my Bringing up Burns challenge list is A book by an author you love. So maybe it's time to read the third in Chris Moriarty's Spin cycle, Ghost spin. Or perhaps The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, which I was really excited about a while back but then didn't read because Brasyl really disappointed me.

    Also I'm thinking of reading Das Kapital by Karl Marx, along with a friend who is looking to fill a gap. I love the idea of reading seminal texts collaboratively, but it's possible that this may be a bad idea as said friend is quite a bit to the left of me politically, which might make me an annoying reading partner. And if I do pick up a big scary political tome I will probably read a novel at the same time.
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (c) 2006 Liu Cixin, translated Ken Liu, translation (c) China Education Publications Import & Export Corp Ltd 2014, Pub Head of Zeus 2014, ISBN 978-1-784-97154-0.

    detailed review )
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read: The examined life: how we lose and find ourselves by Stephen Grosz. (c) Stephen Grosz 2013; Pub Random House Vintage 2014; ISBN 978-0-099-54903-1. This is a book of vignettes from Grosz' practice as a psychoanalyst, lent to me by [personal profile] angelofthenorth.

    reviews, including glancing mentions of genocide )

    The last two weeks have been a roller coaster, I've had loads of fun including a couple of long weekend breaks, and also quite a lot of stress both work and personal, and all that adds up to never getting time for DW. I feel a bit deprived that I'm only managing to talk about books here, I have lots of thoughts and lots of articles I want to link to and I miss all of you. But anyway, talking about books is a start.
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read: The Fresco by Sheri S Tepper. review has minor spoilers and some abortion politics )
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read:
    • Lady of mazes by Karl Schroeder. (c) 2005 Karl Schroeder, Pub Tor 2006, ISBN 0-765-35078-5.

      long reviews with political commentary )

      OK, wrote this on the train yesterday, it's actually Thursday by the time I've got online to post it.
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read

    Currently reading: Lady of mazes by Karl Schroeder. I'm enjoying it really a lot. It's sort of doing that slightly clichéd thing of whether it's better to have safety or freedom, but it's also got some really interesting world-building exploring post-human civilizations, with some very nice characterization and plenty of exciting plot.

    Up next: I don't know. I think I should maybe stop answering this question as I'm pretty rarely right about what I'll pick up next; I often don't decide until I find out where I physically am and what's available when I finish what I'm currently reading. I'm thinking of trying out the Your Blue-eyed Boys Captain America fanfic that people have been raving about, even though I'm not terribly into the canon; does anyone have a reading guide?
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read
    • The girl with all the gifts by MR Carey. read more )
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read:
    • Finished the draft of my friend's unpublished novel that I've been reading for some weeks now.

    • In a blue velvet dress by Catherine Sefton. read more )
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Recently read
  • I don't believe in God, but I believe in lithium by Jaime Lowe. It's a really gorgeously written ode to the element lithium, centred around Lowe's experiences taking lithium to control her bipolar illness. She's not taking an ideological pro- or anti- meds stance, but is really clear-eyed about the compromises involved in medicating mental illness with blunt-tool drugs.

  • On Tumblr, [tumblr.com profile] helloelloh wrote a very sweet thing about romantic relationships, specifically about established relationships where love is not a fire in your soul, but one in your hearth, keeping you warm and comfortable. I mean, I haven't been in a really long-term relationship, I'm looking forward to finding out what living as a couple is like after decades, but I have been with [personal profile] jack for 7½ years now. And it's nothing like the story in pop culture where you get a few months of happy sparkly being In Love and after that it all degenerates into bickering over chores and feeling vaguely resentful that you don't get to hang out with your friends any more. It's not exactly like Elo describes either, but much closer to that.

    Currently reading
  • Still reading my friend's long unpublished novel.

  • And we've got up to The shining wire in [personal profile] rmc28's Watership Down readthrough. It's an amazingly powerful, and terrifying, piece of writing, to the point that I keep trying to compose a comment and get completely blocked on how emotionally intense it is. I mean, there's a scene in my friend's novel which I read in an earlier draft 10 years ago, and it had a similarly powerful effect on me, but coming back to it my reaction is much more detached, cerebral. And that's not the case with The shining wire; rereading it now, probably closer to 30 years later than the first time I encountered it than ten, even knowing exactly how it turns out, I'm just as much caught up in the emotions.

    Up next I have a yen to read The girl with all the gifts by MR Carey, mostly based on [personal profile] rachelmanija's informative review. I have borrowed it from [personal profile] jack, partly because I couldn't find his copy of Ancillary Sword (has anyone reading this borrowed it, by any chance?)
  • liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Recently read Some very good stuff on my DW reading page:
  • [personal profile] lizcommotion is hilarious on the subject of cats and internet security

  • [personal profile] seekingferret challenges the popular simplification that Einstein overthrew Newton

  • [personal profile] jack wrote some interesting meta on Magic in Jo Walton's Among Others. Personally I found that one of the most satisfying depictions of magic I've encountered in fantasy, precisely because it falls into neither of the traps of being completely random and depending on the needs of the plot, nor completely systematic so that it's just like a parallel type of physics or a dice-based role-playing system. The linked posts are somewhat spoilery, mine more than [personal profile] jack's, but don't completely reveal the main plot; anyway they probably won't make much sense if you haven't read the book.

    And one Tumblr post, which is just quintessentially Tumblr, a conversation between people geeking out about the ridiculousness of folk song tropes. I particularly liked [tumblr.com profile] elodieunderglass' contributions, including a playlist of I guess my corpse is a swan now: a weird folk education. Well worth following that link for [tumblr.com profile] elodieunderglass' annotations and the discussion, even if you don't want to listen to the songs themselves.

    Currently reading Most of the way through my friend's long unpublished novel, so hopefully there will be interesting reading Wednesday posts again soon.

    Up next Possibly Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, as I'd like to read that before Worldcon.

    I'm also pondering what leads to interesting online conversations. I had my first actual interesting discussion on FB in the decade or so I've been (mostly reluctantly) using the site, because I Tweeted that I'd found myself trying to explain to a Christian child the difference between magic and miracles. Turns out lots of people have opinions about that topic. And FB have sort of half-heartedly introduced threading, which maybe helps a bit. Whereas over here, people had absolutely masses to say about the topic of modest dress, which I had expected would be one of those obscure things that only one or two religion geeks would care about. I'm really enjoying the discussion, anyway.

    My post about the broken system that is PhD training still reliably accounts for nearly a fifth of all the traffic to my DW, even two and a half years after I wrote it. Again, I didn't expect it to be of more than specialist interest, but it's turned out to be the thing that made me internet-famous. And I'm reminded of it right now because both my PhD students are having struggles and I'm trying to be more supportive than a typical bad supervisor, but we'll see.

    Also today I initiated my newer student into mammalian cell culture, and I'm reminded of when I got sent to a collaborator to improve my technique and she informed me that her culture hood was 'The Holy of Holies'. I'd been missing the mental focus of trying to work 'in total purity', and I even almost miss my hands smelling of disposable gloves. And now my student knows I talk to my cancer cells; I reckon she still respects me.
  • liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Currently reading: Still my friend's unpublished novel (which is awesome and also long, so apologies for the rather samey and uninformative Reading Wednesday posts).

    Up next: My plans for this weekend include a charity fête which usually has a very good second-hand bookstall, so I shall see if I can pick something solely for the cover.

    This being the case, my recently read is just a handful of links I think deserve more attention, so:

    linkies )

    I have spent a very long and tiring day running practical exams, so I'm kind of exhausted. If anyone's around and would like to chat in a not too energetic way, I'd enjoy some company.
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read I've been travelling and had more time than usual for reading, so there's a few reviews to catch up with. read more )

    Also, I'm having lots of fun with [personal profile] jadelennox's Dreamwidth Friending meme. Welcome, new people, and current readers, if you are looking for more people for your DW circle, the meme is well worth checking out.
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read Balancing act by Joanna Trollope. (c) Joanna Trollope 2014, pub 2014 Doubleday Black Swan, ISBN 978-0-552-77855-8. read more (includes spoilers) )

    Soundbite

    Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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