Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (11)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The Fall of Arthur, by J.R.R. Tolkien (author) and Christopher Tolkien (editor), from HarperCollins, May 23, 2013.

The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea-battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.

Unhappily, The Fall of Arthur was one of several long narrative poems that he abandoned in that period. Associated with the text of the poem, however, are many manuscript pages: a great quantity of drafting and experimentation in verse, in which the strange evolution of the poem’s structure is revealed, together with narrative synopses and very significant if tantalising notes. In these latter can be discerned clear if mysterious associations of the Arthurian conclusion with The Silmarillion, and the bitter ending of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, which was never written.

Tolkien was actually a pretty decent poet, and I enjoyed another of his forays into alliterative verse: The Lays of Beleriand presents his treatment in that format of one of his own Great Tales, the Song of the Children of Hurin. I'm also a fan of most things Arthurian, and the closer they stick to early stories the better I generally like it. On the other hand, I bounced off The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, so I'm not positive I'll love this one! But I'll definitely give it a shot. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

River of Stars

At the age of fifteen, to defend a government official his father works with, Ren Daiyan puts arrows in seven men, killing six of them, and walks into the forest they had just come out of, becoming an outlaw. Lin Shan, educated as her dead brother would have been had he lived, marries into the outskirts of the imperial family, where her songwriting and artful calligraphy can pass as harmless eccentricities like her husband's interest in cataloging antiquities, at least until a letter of hers catches the attention of the emperor himself. Their paths converge at the imperial court as Daiyan works to put himself in a position to help the empire regain the territories lost long ago to the northern barbarians, but one of the northern tribes has different plans for the empire.

Another beautiful book by Guy Gavriel Kay. This one, unlike many most of his, did not make me cry at the end, but I'm not complaining. It did make me want to read more about the actual history of Song Dynasty China and the real lives of the historical figures a couple of his characters are based on. That's one of the great things about Kay's quasi-historical fantasies; he's done his research, and while he doesn't hit you over the head with it during the story, his fictional reflection of the real historical period is so evocative that when I read up on the history it already feels familiar. Highly, highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (10)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The Rose Throne, by Mette Ivie Harrison (Egmont USA, May 14, 2013).

Ailsbet loves nothing more than music; tall and red-haired, she's impatient with the artifice and ceremony of her father's court. Marissa adores the world of her island home and feels she has much to offer when she finally inherits the throne from her wise, good-tempered father. The trouble is that neither princess has the power--or the magic--to rule alone, and if the kingdoms can be united, which princess will end up ruling the joint land? For both, the only goal would seem to be a strategic marriage to a man who can bring his own brand of power to the throne. But will either girl be able to marry for love? And can either of these two princesses, rivals though they have never met, afford to let the other live?

I have not read anything by this author, though she's been on my list of Books I Want to Read Before I Die for a while now; but this cover keeps jumping out at me, and the description sounds like it would be right up my alley.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Heaven, I Mean Circle K

by Elsa Panizzon.

Ordinarily I'd try to put a little synopsis of the book here, but I don't think it can be done without draining all the life out of this sometimes harrowing, sometimes inspirational, always fabulously entertaining memoir. Elsa's true stories leave most fiction in the shade. 

So here's a story instead.

When I first started blogging at Xanga back in 2002, I heard about some of the oldtimers on the site, people like Fauquet and Notforprophet and VeryModern. "Old" was relative, of course; Xanga had only been around for a couple of years at that point, and had only added blogs (and spammed a number of people into starting them with a very artful fake email signed by "Bianca Broussard") about a year and a half earlier. VeryModern, in fact, had already come and gone by the time I signed up in March 2002; her blog was shuttered, with no visible posts, and it was kind of a shame from what people told me, because she had been wise and funny and told the most amazing stories. 

When I started seeing her name in other people's comment threads, I went to see if she'd reopened her own blog, and I've been following her ever since. She blogs on her own site now, ElsaElsa, which also includes a very active set of message boards. What little I know about astrology is thanks to her; it was also thanks to her that I got professional help for my clinical depression after my mom passed away. She's good people, Elsa P.

And her memoir is well worth reading. It's only available as a Kindle book at the moment, but Amazon makes it pretty easy to read those even if you don't have a Kindle (I don't).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The Human Division, by John Scalzi (one-volume edition), coming from Tor on May 14, 2013.

The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance—an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.

Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant “B Team,” centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.

I am specifically looking forward to the collected edition because this has been coming out as a serial since January; I could have been collecting the thirteen segments on my e-reader for a buck or two apiece, but chose to wait for the hardcover. I've had a Nook for over a year now, but I have not been using it nearly as much as I could have, mostly because I'm cheap like that and prefer to get my leisure reading from the library.

Anyway, I quite enjoyed all of the Old Man's War series to date, so Scalzi's return to that universe makes me happy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (8)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Inferno, by Dan Brown (from Doubleday, May 14, 2013)

 In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante's Inferno.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante's dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.


Say what you will about Dan Brown, the man knows how to write an immensely entertaining potboiler. I quite enjoyed the other books in the Robert Langdon series, though it took me a long time to get around to reading the third one, and if nothing else, I'm looking forward to seeing him back in Italy for this one.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Eighty Days

Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World, by Matthew Goodman.

On the morning of November 14, 1889, New York World reporter Nellie Bly set sail for England, aiming to travel around the world in 75 days, just to prove it really could be done. That evening, The Cosmopolitan magazine literary columnist Elizabeth Bisland caught a train for San Francisco, aiming to travel around the world faster than Nellie Bly. Bly had proposed the trip to her editors almost a year earlier, but had only gotten their approval that week; she had three days to get ready. Bisland's editor only came up with the idea of sending her in the opposite direction when he read the World's announcement of Nellie Bly's departure that morning, so Bisland had all of about ten hours to prepare.

I am not sure where I first heard of Nellie Bly, but I've been a fan of hers for years. I read a biography of her some time ago, so I knew about her round-the-world race, and even recognized the name of her competitor Elizabeth Bisland, but a lot of the details were new to me: like the fact that Bisland was shipped off by her editor with less than a day's notice, and Nellie Bly didn't even hear that she had a competitor until she got to Hong Kong, more than halfway home. Fascinating story!