Reading Wednesday

Sep. 20th, 2017 10:35 pm
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
What I've read: short fiction
Actually read this week:Some of the backlog (all DSF):

What I've read: long fiction

Banishment by M.C. Beaton, which is the first of six apparently-fluffy Regency romances about six beautiful sisters and a malevolent stately home, recommended as a Yuletide fandom (thanks [personal profile] ceb for the pointer!)  This one was indeed the promised fast, lighthearted read, in which the family lose their beautiful stately home and much of their wealth, and (some of them) begin to learn Important Lessons About Not Being Awful To Other People.  And the first of the beautiful daughters finds true love, etc.  The remaining five in the series are now on their way so I can find out just how malevolent the house gets ...

English usage

Sep. 18th, 2017 07:24 pm
damerell: NetHack. (Default)
[personal profile] damerell
Note: food eaten between supper and breakfast is incorrectly referred to as a midnight snack. The correct term is "dark lunch".

Fitbit goal check

Sep. 17th, 2017 10:26 pm
major_clanger: Clangers (Royal Mail stamp) (Default)
[personal profile] major_clanger
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (John Le Carré, 1963)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (dir Martin Ritt, 1965)
A Legacy of Spies (John Le Carré, 2017)

‘Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, has retired to his family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London are to be scrutinised by a generation with no memory of the Cold War. Somebody must be made to pay for innocent blood once spilt in the name of the greater good.’

From that advance plot summary, I expected A Legacy of Spies to be a follow up to the events of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or its immediate sequels. In fact, it turns out to be a quasi-sequel to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Le Carré’s third novel but the one in which he broke out into mainstream success. I say ‘quasi-sequel’, because A Legacy of Spies revisits, and even to an extent retcons, the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and indeed can to a substantial extent be seen as a prequel, setting up some of the important plot points and filling in some key events between that book at Le Carré’s first novel (and introduction of George Smiley), Call for the Dead.

I’d never actually read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, although I’d long ago seen a plot summary that revealed the key twist. (So, by the way, does this review, hence the cut below.) I read A Legacy of Spies when it came out, saw that it referred back heavily to the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold so then read that, and then out of curiosity watched the 1965 film, which currently features on Netflix’s list.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (book)

I won’t spend too much time on the original novel; if you’ve read it, you’ll know how good it is. If you haven’t – well, rather than have it spoiled, I suggest that you go and read it yourself. It’s short by modern standards, very readable, and although the underlying plot is complex (as much as I can say without spoilers) everything is clearly explained.

(Spoilers from here)

Discussion of crucial bits of plot )

A Legacy of Spies is highly recommended, although if you’ve not read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold I’d strongly suggest reading it beforehand. And once you’ve done so, look out the 1965 film, which stands up very well indeed.




My Who Do You Think You Are? moment

Sep. 17th, 2017 04:25 pm
sparrowsion: (home page portrait)
[personal profile] sparrowsion
Or, Who The F*** Are You? as we call it. Specifically, Lisa Hammond and "why her paternal grandfather Harry Hammond never spoke about his experiences in World War II". Well, my paternal grandfather never spoke about his experiences in World War II either, but at least we knew he'd been taken POW in Italy and was ultimately liberated by the Americans, so I was curious to hear this story.

Turns Hammond too had been taken prisoner in Italy, and almost certainly was suffering from PTSD as a result of his experiences in the POW & labour camps. And the Who Do You Think You Are? magazine (which [personal profile] 1ngi takes for her genealogical research) had some hints for chasing up similar stories.

So, well, I had to do that. And this is what I learned.

My grandfather was with the 2nd Battalion of the North Staffs during the Battle of Anzio. Anzio, if you've not heard of it before, was probably the biggest Allied cock-up of the war. From the small, personal perspective, the 2nd North Staffs were at the forefront and lost 323 men capturing a ridge which they were unable to hold because their ammunition supply was exhausted.

"Unable to hold" means many were taken prisoner. I don't know how many, but I'm guessing from the list which includes my grandfather's name that it was at least 50. That would be about half the battalion taken out in one day.

I don't know what happened to my grandfather in the immediate aftermath—that's going to take a lot more digging to try and find records. But I do know that he wound up in Altengrabow along with 60,000 other POWs. And that leads to the one piece of information I'd had passed down which is missing from these accounts: at the end, the Commandandt, having arranged for the Americans to evacuate the camp, took his own men and departed the scene.

I'm sure my grandfather was traumatised by his experiences in the camps, just as Harry Hammond was. But more traumatic, I feel, would have been that day on the Italian coast when so many of his comrades fell.

Reading Wednesday

Sep. 13th, 2017 09:21 pm
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
So, it has been nearly 5 months since I last did one of these.  This is necessarily incomplete because I didn't keep notes, and also because where I did keep notes (e.g. Daily Science Fiction stories), I have way too many to post all at once, so I'll dribble them out over the next weeks.

What I've read: poetry
I Speed Toward The Moon by Constance Hanstedt
At The Forestry Institute, Hanoi by Pepper Trail
Father Son Haiku by Kelvin River
Fallers by Alex Harper

What I've read: short stories
The Family Ghost by Jamie Lackey
Vervain, Grasshopper, Sun by Marissa Lingen
The Thing About Heisenball by Stewart C. Baker
Last Long Night by Lina Rather

While we were in Helsinki I noticed that Lois McMaster Bujold had another Penric novella out - and that it was in the middle of the existing novellas so she'd renumbered the series.  I enjoyed it very much, both for the plot in itself and for the additional worldbuilding about the shamanic and sorcerous magic systems. Then I reread my way through the entire series:
Penric's Demon
Penric and the Shaman
Penric's Fox
Penric's Mission
Mira's Last Dance


What I've read: long fiction
Bookburners: Season 1 by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty and Brian Francis Slattery.  If I'd read this as it was published weekly at Serial Box, I'd probably have listed each episode up in the short-fiction section.  Instead I read one collected ebook with all 16 episodes. A New York police officer ends up getting drawn into a secret society of magical book collectors operating out of the Vatican, and joins the team in hopes of helping her brother.  The overall arc plot gets resolved satisfyingly while leaving an opening for more, and I note that Series 3 is currently unfolding on Serial Box.

I finally read A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and found it pleasant enough but less amazing than some of the hype had led me to believe. It's a good found-family series of minor adventures (in fact, in that sense it reminds me quite a bit of Bookburners) and I'm glad I've read it and will happily read more by Becky Chambers.  But it didn't grab me in the way that e.g. Ancillary Justice or All Systems Red did.

Bewitching Benedict by C.E. Murphy came out last week. It's a historical-romance comedy of manners, which I really enjoyed, especially the grand farcical climax. I am hoping it does well so that the author feels like writing the books to pair off the rest of the eligible bachelors she's introduced here.

Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner is another in her Lively St Lemeston series, this time focusing on a valet and a housemaid who have lost their jobs due to events in the previous books.  There's a good job for both of them in the local rectory, but the vicar insists he only wants a married couple in post. Luckily they fancy each other like mad; it takes them a bit longer to figure out how to solve some trickier conflicts.

What I'm reading next
Well, now my degree is done, anything I like!  Ahahaha. 

A Taste of Honey by Rose Lerner just came out and is waiting on my kindle, which is what prompted me to read Listen to the Moon first. From my long-neglected physical to-read pile, I've pulled out The Scientist in the Crib by Alison Gopnik and The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. 

And DONE

Sep. 11th, 2017 07:22 pm
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
I took my exam this afternoon, and unless I completely failed to understand the requirements, I should have passed comfortably.  So now it's all over bar the marking and formal graduation. 

Apart from the specific course content, I have learned:
  • I love to learn new things when I actually sit down and do so
  • I default to deadline-driven when it comes to other people's deadlines
  • but I can manage to do 'a little bit most days' and I'm happier when I manage that
  • blocking out specific times to get a little bit done most days works a bit more than 50% of the time
  • given the choice between producing 'good-enough' and 'truly excellent' work with 25% more effort ... I will do good-enough work and spend the 25% extra on something else
I have ceremonially deleted my recurring daily 'study' reminder.

Now for all the things I have been neglecting for the last few years, especially this last year ...

Fitbit goal check

Sep. 10th, 2017 10:54 pm

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