November has been… eventful here. Some of that’s been good eventful, and some very stressful eventful. Stressful enough that I don’t want to talk about it further. Still, stress means displacement activities, and that means reading. So brace yourselves:
What I Read
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan – Powerhouse good although I have to admit, now I’m typing this one up, it doesn’t feel quite as great as when I read it. Like, still great, but not stay in the memory fantastic. Loved the characterisation, the prose, the slow and powerful plot… just, I can’t quite remember the zing now. But maybe I’ll have that zing in my mind come the end of the year?
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers – Very good. This one’s grown in my memory. It’s weirdness and big scenes stick with me. Little slow to develop, but it’s a vivid and slightly screwy adventure when it does.
Tribe Novel: Bone Gnawers and Stargazers – One of the better ones in the series thanks to more interesting characters.
Mort by Sir Terry Pratchett – Really held up for me on this re-read. Lot of What You Do vs Who You Are stuff that brings the book and comedy together together for me. Some really great scenes.
The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen – A trippy little novella. I can see how it had shock impact back in the day, but not so much now.
Night’s Master by Tanith Lee – A really trippy created mythology. Feels so rich and awe inspiring. Glad I finally finished this one.
Winter Warriors by David Gemmell – Officially a Ripping Yarn. Just a breathless piece of action and meditation on staying a warrior even in the winter of your soul.
The Hills Have Spies by Mercedes Lackey – Finishing these to finish them.
Finch by Jeff VanderMeer – I will need a bit more time to sort out what I think of this. Ambitious, and interesting, and the mystery really hooked me… but how good it is as a book? I dunno. I feel like some of the ambition worked against it on my part.
Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber – Some top picaresque S&S, with a nice psychological base.
Hound of Ulster by Rosemary Sutcliff – I love Sutcliff’s recountings, and this is no exception.
The Gigantomachy of Antonio Costas by Dan Jones – Thoroughly deranged novella, a bit too much talkiness for my liking. If you want to read it yourself, click here.
The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris – Aimed for the feeling of Malory; got the weaknesses and not the strengths.
The Princess Who Didn’t Eat Cake by SL Dove Cooper – Charming little short story and collection of essays on demisexuality.
Sharpe’s Eagle by Bernard Cornwell – Richard Sharpe remains Britain’s greatest fictional hero and anyone who disagrees is clearly some chinless wonder officer.
Sharpe’s Gold by Bernard Cornwell – Bit too over the top this one.
Thank You Jeeves by PG Wodehouse – A classic piece of relaxing wit.
The Greek Qabalah: Alphabetic Mysticism and Numerology in the Ancient World by Kieren Barry – Some useful info, but more for dipping into than actually reading
How To Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain by Ruth Goodman – Drier and more focused on general cultural context than I was hoping for. Useful, but not one I’d recommend unless specifically interested.
Perdurabo by Richard Kazcynzski – A very thorough biography of Crowley. Too thorough for reading through honestly. But still interesting.
Slaine: Demon Killer by Pat Mills – Reminded me a lot of The Invisibles in its themes and message, but a lot more crudely done.
Slaine and the Treasures of Britain by Pat Mills – The preachiness in this one was too much, and the action didn’t feel up to much either. Tbh, I think that’s the sound of me tapping out on these. Shame, as the best is bloody brilliant.
Asterix and the Cauldron by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (trans Anthea Bell) – Absolute banger.
Asterix in Spain by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (trans Anthea Bell) – Not my fave. Fun but the plot’s a bit simple, the exploration of Spain a bit shallow and tourist orientated
Asterix and the Roman Agent by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (trans Anthea Bell) – This however might be the best Asterix yet.
What I’m Reading
I’ve decided to make this a biweekly thing simply to keep track for my own sake.
Khaled by F. Marion Crawford – An interesting piece from a pre-1900s American author that was picked for the Ballantine masterpiece work, covering a djinn who is made human at Allah’s will – but will only gain a soul if his wife falls in love with him. I cannot comment on any fidelities or failures with Arabic culture or Islam, but it is a fun story.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – Still taking bits and pieces here and there.
Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine – Got shuffled onto the backburner by other interests and a sense that following chapters have largely been the first, just on slightly different parts of the experiments.
The Pegge and the Pendrel by Christopher Bean – Starting to get my teeth into this beta read, particularly now it’s got to the bluff and distinguished possibly scoundrels.
Return of the Sorcerer by Clark Ashton-Smith – Think I’ll be putting this compilation down for something less (then) contemporary horror focused by him.
Kai Lung’s Golden Hours by Ernest Bramah – Fallen a little by the wayside, but the tab is still open.
Winterlight by Kirsten Britain – The more I get into it, the less the twists keep me.
Fantasy and Mimesis: Responses to Reality in Western Literature by Kathryn Hume – Chewy.
We Break Immortals by Thomas Howard Riley – This one is also chewy and I’m a little lost. Happy to go along with the ride for now, but it’s very much small bites until it takes hold.
Steams of Gold, Rivers of Blood by John Kaldelis – The rise and fall of the Byzantine state around the turn of the first millenium so far. Cogent and clear so far.
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton – One of the greatest books about speculative fiction I know. Flipping through it is a fantastic palate cleanser.
Legend of the White-Haired Demoness by Liang Yusheng – The search through wuxia continues, although I’m not sure it will stick as this is wordier than some of the other works I’ve read.
Scottish Myths and Legends by Daniel Allison – Fun collection
Besides, if I am going to read 200 books this year, I need to stick to short-ish works, and there’s enough long reads on this anyway.
The Rest of Life
Food and Drink: I did a double Thanksgiving this year and honestly might not be fully recovered from the second one, where I ate the amount of meat normally associated with Brazilian steakhouses. The cook basted the turkey repeatedly with apple juice and it really, really worked. Other standout meals include the pork shoulder donut I had from From The Ashes (although that was more standout for concept), the schnitzel with nduja mayo sandwich from Greek Street (my wife picked better than me), and the numerous chocolate scones with nutella and Twirl fillings. Complete glorious overload.
Speaking of such things, I can highly recommend Siren’s Caribbean Chocolate Mole Cake stout. I am not 100% sure on whether Caribbean and Mole should be in the same sentence, but it does make a good beer. Also very memorable was Arkane Aleworks’ Grandma Fingers: Guava Mango Cake Roll. I had a lot of good beer. I also had a barleywinefrom Little Earth Project that tasted like balsamic cough syrup which is equally memorable but not for entirely good reasons.
TV and Movies: Maybe I should start a weekly feature for this so I remember things.
Obviously we watched the ending of Bake Off. Obviously. I shall not share too many thoughts in case some people somehow remain unspoiled, but I feel like the semi-final went better than the final. The standard of baking there was crazy. And speaking of crazy baking – you watched Baking Impossible? No? Do so. It was just stupidly fun and interesting. Not everyday you see engineering with cakes.
The standout movie watch was Free Guy. It was a great mix of intriguing concept, snappy dialogue, heartwarming characters, and absorbing action. There were times when I thought the plotting could have been made tighter in order to really bring the emotional oomph. That was the thing that would have taken it from pretty darn good to great.
Other watches include Endeavour, which has replaced Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as my background British period mystery, and some bits of Taskmaster, which has been great as ever.
Fitness: I nearly played my first game of rugby in forever but failed my late personal fitness test. Something I’ve only recently twigged is that I’ve managed to erode my shoe’s edge so much it’s inherently unstable again, due to extreme pronation. I should probably see a professional about that, as well as being better about my stretches and weights.
Music: I’ve been finding bits and pieces of new things. I’m excited about the forthcoming Dave Gahan and the Soulsavers Imposters album, which I discovered due to a few great songs, including this cover of Not Dark Yet that frequent commenter Bea pointed out to me.
Other frequent listens – at least, of things that won’t make Music Monday, is this shoegaze compilation and Blackheart by Two Steps from Hell, which reminds me strongly of the Game of Thrones theme in the best way.