The Tropic of Serpents (Memoir by Lady Trent, #2)The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In spite of initial reservations, I loved the whole series -and the second one I liked better than the first. The characters are .. better shaped, more credible as people. The dragons themselves are quite believable on the whole as an object of interest to a scientist. Some things still jar a bit -one, for me, was that for some reason I found the use of German, French and Italian names (and perhaps stereotypical national characters). On the whole, though, it was an enjoyable book, an enjoyable series.



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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (Memoirs of Lady Trent)A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is the book set for the next Bibliogoth meeting. I was fully expecting not to like it and, at first, it seemed to confirm my fears -a bit twee, pseudo-Victorian fantasy, the memoir of a woman who is a naturalist in a world where women are supposed to be dainty and fragile -and not capable of intellectual pursuits. There's the corresponding bag-load of clichés to accompany that. And yet, I loved the book. The main character turns up to be quite credible (if her husband and some of the support cast somehow less so), the story is to an extent predictable (but the dragons whose natural history this is about are almost credible) but enjoyable nonetheless... I loved this book and have now bought the rest of the series!



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I seem to have survived another Valentine's Day, one with the potential to be a particularly painful one. Managed instead to have a good time with friends at a double birthday party (there are pictures) and later at the Slimelight. I've never really really had a very bad night at the Slime but this was a good candidate, although not for lack of good company, having arrived with the birthday boy and girl and their entourage that included [livejournal.com profile] londonjon and [livejournal.com profile] rougeno1 and running into [livejournal.com profile] djpsyche and a few other peeps. The one dancing room I found painfully loud (it did feel like much louder than usual, it may have been me) and didn't have ear-plugs with me so I stayed in the courtyard talking to people. Lasted about an hour and a half and left for home. Better than other possibilities for the night. Next month I'll be at Reptile. This last one.. no, I couldn't do that to myself. Funny how it works. All these things (Christmas, birthdays, etc) are arbitrary markers, this day is significative because we decide it is. And many of those days are just vehicles for the commercial juggernaut to make us buy things. And yet we need them and they often work. Except when they work in a way that makes us feel worse not better.

Sunday brought the monthly [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meeting, this time discussing 'Libra' by Don Delillo, a sort of history-fiction account of Lee Harvey Oswald's life leading to John F Kennedy's assassination. The person in the group that was the most familiar with the book hated it. I, the only person in the group that was alive at the time of the events, quite liked it although I did find the first few chapters difficult to get on with, particularly with the swarm of Federal agents that all 'looked' identical and in my mind were all like copies of the Matrix's Agent Smith. A very interesting discussion that centred more on the events that the book explores rather than the book itself.
In trying to avoid reading 'Infinite Jest' by David Foster Walace, which is the book marked for discussion on the next [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meeting -book which I'm finding extremely tiresome to read, I have been reading or re-reading a few other books, including a couple of the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch, the whole Merchant Prince series by Charlie Stross, re-reading 'Matter' by Iain M Banks, which was the first Culture book I read and finding that I had missed so much detail and reference the first time round, and also now 'Starship Troopers' by Heinlein. Have enjoyed all of these in different ways; Aaronovitch books present bits of London that are part of my life in a different light; the Stross series is yet another Parallel Worlds story but a very well told one -and although it is a bit late it is nice to see G W Bush and Cheney dispatched like that, at least in prose. 'Troopers' is a slightly different case. I'm enjoying reading it but I can see I wouldn't be able to see eye to eye with Mr Heinlein on practically any social or political issue, I find him profoundly reactionary, the society he depicts borderline fascist. It is a good read, though.
flaviomatani: (book of g-quan)
( Oct. 26th, 2015 10:31 am)
... and a good week-end it was.

On Thursday there was Tufguitar: (some of) my pupils met to play at the Rustique café, as they do once a month. A very good one, had five pupils present which is good going for something like this, including a new face.

On Friday there was A New Dusk at Aces and Eights; this was a lovely night of dancing to post-punk music and catching up with friends and making a few new ones. A small basement in a bar in Tufnell Park, a lovely atmosphere, a very good night.

Saturday promised to be a bit hectic: I had lessons to do and other things, then there was the Renaissance Festival at Electrowerkz and the Gothic Valley WI's Hallowe'en party. I managed to attend both, or at least the first four or five bands at the festival, a few hours at the party and then the last couple of bands at the festival again and, again, a little bit of dancing and, again again, catching up with people. Both good, in very different ways. I still missed a couple of things that were going on, mainly Shenanigans which -oops, I forgot it was that evening. Sorry Sal and Zeke... I don't think they missed me, though; all reports were of a very good night there.

This is half term week so no school. Today, a couple of lessons and meeting a friend for coffee (me, she doesn't do coffee much) and book exchange. On which topic, just finished Charlie Stross's 'Merchant Princes' trilogy -very very good, gripping story that I read almost in one sitting but with a rather rushed ending with some loose ends left. He must have had a lot of fun writing this -it takes place (and was written) in the mid 2000's in the aftermath of 9/11 and he gets to have G W Bush die in a nuclear attack, replaced by Dick Cheney who, in the story, is in league with a cartel of drug smugglers from a parallel Earth. Ok, that's kind of a spoiler but you weren't going to read it anyway, were you. And the story is much more complex than that. I don't think he can write a follow up book to the series, given all the things in it that have become anachronic. More's the pity.
flaviomatani: (guitar)
( Sep. 14th, 2015 07:24 pm)
Another week-end went past.

Friday is better left unmentioned.

Saturday was better but had a sting in the tail for me. Still, dancing and catching up at Reptile was good. In the afternoon I'd met a friend at the Rustique Café in Tufnell Park and spent a very pleasant couple of hours catching up and sipping coffee in the garden.w

Sunday was the [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meeting, discussing Michael Marshall Smith's 'Only Forward'. This was an interesting discussion over a book that, as I have mentioned already, I fully expected to hate and ended up loving. Also, that passage..

Today would have been normally a school teaching day at St Al's in Highgate, but they changed my timetable from very convenient Mondays to very very inconvenient "Fridays. Bah. So, I spent this rainy Monday indoors, practising Bach's Chaconne (I have two pupils playing it at the moment so I thought I better play it; it is quite a difficult, challenging piece and a fantastic finger work-out as well as being a beautiful work) and reading again 'Wild Swans' by Jung Ching, at the instigation (not the right word..) of my friend Jennie WOLJ who is reading it atm. Amazing book and terrific but also terrifying accounts of life in China throughout the 20th Century for three generations of women. I'd read it many many years ago in one sitting and i'm pretty much discovering it anew again as I'd forgotten it all.
This is the set book for the next meeting of [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth.

I really disliked the basic premise of the book when I started it and thought it'd be a hard slug. It was, for a bit. At some point it started to grab me. I'm at the half-way point in the book and completely transfixed with it. It is not perfect and it did take me a lot of effort to get going with it, but at the point I am, it is just beautiful.

It is not science-fiction, really, although I suppose if you have to put it into categories that's where it would go. The characterisation is ... not subtle, to say the least, the plot thus far has perhaps too many 'not this, you've got to be kidding' moments, the general feel, at least for me, is of a comic book in words instead of pictures -and yet. Any details would contain spoilers, mind, so perhaps none.

Thus far, enjoying it enormously. We'll see how it ends.
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The Long Utopia: (The Long Earth 4)The Long Utopia: by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Not sure how much Pratchett and how much Baxter there is in this book, I suspect mostly Baxter, given the circumstances. It is the last and final (probably) part of a series that plays on one version of the 'many worlds'. I found (again) the characters believable and human (well, at least one of the main characters is not exactly human). The plot has an enormous scope and you very likely do need to have read the previous books for it to make sense. It draws on what seemed to me a variant of the 'grey goo' self-replicator problem -but I'll stop at that. I enjoyed being in that world once again, I found it an easy and absorbing read.



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This was the book set for this month's meeting of [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth.

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked the book quite a bit. Was initially confused about several aspects of the narration -which I think was intentional: the vague situation regarding the nature of the first person narrator (which does eventually become clear) and the gender of the various characters, which is never quite defined -you do get used to this. I had more difficulty with the characterisation -I seldom felt these were believably real, living people, only in most cases just devices to move the story forward.

The world in which the story is set feels a lot like Iain Banks' The Culture gone very, very wrong.



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The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the CosmosThe Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this but of course I'm a layman -from outside, the idea of the various types of parallel universe posited here seems almost absurd, a sort of mathematical game. Greene goes some way to explain how some of these ideas could make sense and perhaps be proved (to the extent that positing the existence of realms of reality -sorry- that are completely inaccesible to us could be done at all). One little point: he tries to put together arguments for and against each of these postulates (and of course, again, many look very reasonable but I haven't got the tools to judge) but he seems to put a bit more weight (and expound much more at length) in the arguments for than against. A good read nonetheless and one that offers breathtaking vistas and thoughts on what may be reality and the universe(s).



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... and there is an arepa on the griddle, bacon in the grill, orange juice and no hurry. Perfect.

Later, a first-time lesson, a guy who's done Grade 8 guitar a long time ago and had stopped. Then, the [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meeting, today discussing 'Saturn's Children' by Charlie Stross.

At the moment, reading a couple of other books: 'The Glass Painter's Daughter', by Rachel Hore (which is not perhaps the sort of thing I'd normally read but enjoying it a lot thus far) and 'It Ain't Necessarily So', by Richard Lewontin. If you follow the links you'll see they could not be more different. Variety is the spice, etc.
flaviomatani: (harpya3)
( Feb. 14th, 2015 12:57 pm)
Friday started with a couple of lessons away and an empty diary. Had an idea to have posters for the march gig printed and deliver a few copies at the Kentish Town City Farm where I'll be playing. So I finished the final version, took it in a USB stick to the printers down the road, had it done, delivered it to KTCF and stopped at Housepresso in Gospel Oak for a chat and a hot choc. Then, why not, to Borough Market for mozzarella and yums and from there to the London Guitar Studio for guitar strings and guitar chat and finally home for guitar practice. I also finished reading 'Smashing Physics' by Jon Butterworth, on his part on the quest and discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN and thoughts about why fundamental science is important and worth the while and a few windows into the world of science at that level. A few equations more than I could decipher but a very good read.Now re-reading 'Saturn's Children' by Charlie Stross for the next [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meeting.

Today, a few lessons and Reptile later tonight.. I understand some people seem to be celebrating something that involves chocolate and flowers. Happy Day to you all.
Just finished reading, maybe for the third time in my life, 'Foundation' by Isaac Asimov. , which is the set reading for the next meeting of Bibliogoth How times change (even though admittedly they need to change a lot more). Apart from the rather quaint galaxy the story takes place in, where everything is 'atomic' (but of course he was writing this at the end of the 1940's so nuclear energy was a promise rather than a threat), the first thing that strikes me is the fact that all the characters of any consequence are men and the only woman that has a voice at all in the book, although fierce, is still just somebody's wife and somebody's daughter.

The book is also an hymn to unbridled capitalism, which Asimov clearly believes to be a force for good...well, what we're dealing with in the world, with the consequences of greed on the part of corporations and banks may have put paid to any such beliefs.

Having said all this, though, I enjoyed the book enormously again. It cannot help being a product of its time and has all the corresponding flaws but it's a very good story and a good example of what I feel science-fiction should be, entertaining and thought provoking, a mirror held at us from a distance
Just finished reading, maybe for the third time in my life, 'Foundation' by Isaac Asimov. , which is the set reading for the next meeting of [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth How times change (even though admittedly they need to change a lot more). Apart from the rather quaint galaxy the story takes place in, where everything is 'atomic' (but of course he was writing this at the end of the 1940's so nuclear energy was a promise rather than a threat), the first thing that strikes me is the fact that all the characters of any consequence are men and the only woman that has a voice at all in the book, although fierce, is still just somebody's wife and somebody's daughter.

The book is also an hymn to unbridled capitalism, which Asimov clearly believes to be a force for good...well, what we're dealing with in the world, with the consequences of greed on the part of corporations and banks may have put paid to any such beliefs.

Having said all this, though, I enjoyed the book enormously again. It cannot help being a product of its time and has all the corresponding flaws but it's a very good story and a good example of what I feel science-fiction should be, entertaining and thought provoking, a mirror held at us from a distance.
flaviomatani: (zBSG raider)
( Sep. 11th, 2014 08:22 pm)
Just finished 'Manifold: Origin' by Stephen Baxter. Head still spinning. Going out for drink w/Gothsluts but may not look up at the Moon.
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10 books that have stayed with me:
For once, an internet meme that I can go along with. The ten books:


1- Anathem - Neal Stephenson

2- Nineteen Eighty-Four - G Orwell

3- Lord of the Rings - J R R Tolkien

4- Historias de Cronopios y Famas - Julio Cortázar

5- Caves of Steel - Isaac Asimov (the whole Robot series, really)

6- The Master and Margarita - M Bulgakov

7- Se il Sole Muore - Oriana Fallaci

8- ‘Eva Luna’ - Isabel Allende

9- ‘Sinuhe the Egyptian’ - Mika Waltari

10- ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ - John Steinbeck


These are not necessarily the best works for each author or even the ones I like the best of their production (I much prefer the Silmarillion to LoTR, but the latter had a bigger impact when I first read it and a lasting one). ‘Rayuela’ is a much more substantial and important work by Cortázar than ‘Cronopios’ but again the latter touched me in a way that the former didn’t. ‘Eva Luna’ is a very recent read for me but it resonated a lot, it being the product of Allende’s 10 year sojourn in my country and home town. Asimov… the Robot series and the ‘Foundation’ series are all linked and, to my mind, are one extensive work but you have to point out one book so it’ll be this one. This list would probably be different if I did it next week, or the week after… as I probably would think of a few different books. ‘Anathem’, ‘Margarita’ and ‘Cronopios’ would still be there, though.

I'm not going to nominate anybody, I dread being 'nominated' for anything so I won't do that to anyone :D
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This is not a review, in that I'm only half way through the book. Just a note to say I'm enjoying it rather a lot more than the previous [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth book (yes, the 'young adult' vampire novel). It is essentially the story of a woman's life -no, lives. Many lives. This one gets a bit long and, half way through it already feels like I've read three or four books and in a way I have. Spoiler: Not sure whether the author is playing with the Many Worlds theory but she does play with the possibility of alternative lives. I am finding interesting how she creates connections between the different possible lives. One thing that I've run into at least once, though, is the being put through a heart wrenching situation that tumbles down to an end and then you got thrown back to another version of that world, with different developments where that situation that had been wringing your heart doesn't exist and some of the main characters are just background figures.

I'm just waiting to see how the author ties in the development of the story so far with the rather cinematic opening. As I said, thus far enjoying it.
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This was a displacement activity. Had to read, for the next [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meet-up, 'The Coldest Girl in Coldtown', by Holly Black. I kept finding something else to do or read instead; this is rather rare as I'm a compulsive reader -it is very unusual that I don't finish a book, but I don't think I'll finish this one.

I was, then, reading 'The Long Earth' to avoid reading 'Coldtown'. And quite a bit of a difference. The characters aren't entirely believable and the two main ones are rather difficult to like, both being astonishingly self-absorbed and conceited, but the world depicted becomes very believable very soon (although a lot of the stuff is never fully explained -but then so also happens in the real world..) and, alas, being easily entertained, I enjoyed all the references to classic science fiction that I seemed to run into all the time, in this book where there is no space travel and the most advanced gadget (not counting AI) is an airship. Even Solaris seems to get an oblique reference. Now I'm beginning the second book in the series and, although as often happens in sequels, the plot feels a little less tight it still is enjoyable and some of the characters are actually better fleshed out. Then I remember I have to read that other book for Bibliogoth and I do try and persevere with it but I find it so tedious...

Then today I saw the news about Pratchett cancelling engagements because of his advancing Alzheimer's.. :(
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I'm currently reading, for the next [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meet-up, Holly Black's "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown". What follows is a short review -or, rather, first impressions (since I've only read a third or so of it) of this book:

It's utter, utter rubbish -at least for me, to me, E&OE, &cc. I get the feeling the author can actually write but either chooses not to (maybe because teen-age vampire books will sell more), or is in the situation of an orchestral composer who ends up doing commercial jingles. Not sure whether I'll bother finishing it.

flaviomatani: (book of g-quan)
( May. 22nd, 2014 09:56 am)
Today should be a quieter day than yesterday. Not a lot to do apart from YES, GO AND VOTE and fetch a guitar being repaired at Juan T's shop in Duke St. Tonight, my pupils (my adult pupils, that is) meet again to play together at the Rustique Café.

So, time for guitar practice and finish reading The Throne of the Crescent Moon and perhaps get started with re-reading Consider Phlebas for the next [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meet....
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