Fifty favourites: April 2017

Inspired by Jillian, and entirely for my own pleasure and amusement, I’ve made a list of my favourite fifty novels. The first ten are in a Strict Descending Order of Belovedness, but it gets a bit more lax after that. She did hers in January, like a sensible person, but I am doing mine in April, like a person deep into thesis procrastination. If I remember, I’ll review the list in a year or two, and see how it’s changed. I’ve been incredibly inconsistent about whether I count a series as one entry or multiple, but hey, it’s my list. I couldn’t possibly pick my favourite Swallows and Amazons book, for example—it’s always whichever one I’ve read most recently. Some of these are books I will never read again, because they are too devastating—others I pick up at least once a year. A handful of these I read as a child or young teenager, and they might actually be terrible and I am being nostalgic. Continue reading

On Mary Bennet, Hermione Granger, and two centuries of progress

I have a sneaking, uncomfortable suspicion about Pride and Prejudice; a dreadful secret, the nature of which I am about to relate. I’ve confessed before that I disliked the book the first time I read it. That is shameful enough for a book blogger. But here is the truth: perhaps the reason I could not stomach Pride and Prejudice the first time round is that I’ve known all along that I am, in form and substance, far more Mary Bennet than Elizabeth—the frump, the prig, the awkward girl in a corner with a book. It is not pleasant to read a novel in which a character I strongly resemble is constantly, viciously skewered by the narrator. Continue reading

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells

Hmmmppppphhhh. I have reached that stage of my PhD that all postgrads eventually hit: I hate it, I wish I’d taken that nice student health visitor post when I had the chance, do you know how much I’d be earning by now, 70 hours a week is too many hours to work, I’m probably going to fail anyway… If you’ve been through the process yourself, you know. You know. It’s looking likely that this is going to be the case until June at the earliest. Continue reading

On excellent, horrible books.

This is not a professional book review blog. I don’t work for a newspaper or a publisher. I’ve even stopped accepting books for review, because that affected my enjoyment of the whole process. I read, and blog, entirely for pleasure. That said, I still feel compelled to think critically about the books that I read, to consider the quality of the writing and content and not just my own enjoyment. Of course, most of the time, a well-written book will be one I enjoy reading. Even if the content matter is dark, there will be things for me to love in it—beautiful turns of phrase, or superb character development, or unexpected plot twists. (The reverse is not necessarily true—I take huge pleasure in rereading Nancy Drew books, which I am sure only have six plots between all 200+ of them). Continue reading

Starship Supercrew

I wrote a little while ago about my discovery of the Women at Warp podcast. Since then, I’ve been working my way through the back episodes that sounded interesting. I particularly enjoyed this one, in which the hosts talk about which excellent feminist people they would crew the USS Enterprise with given the chance. I enjoyed hearing their choices from fiction, science, politics, military history, and other fields, plus I was stuck on a train at the time, so I decided to entertain myself by making my own list. (I love lists). I did make a rule for myself that I couldn’t have any of the same picks as the hosts, but it turns out that the world is full of fantastic fictional, historical, and political women, so that didn’t really hold me back. My excuse for publishing it here is a) it was really fun to make, and b) some of my choices are characters from books. Please note that the formatting for WordPress was being screwy, so photo credits/sources are listed in the footnotes, rather than in captions. Enjoy. Continue reading

Lord of the Rings: a love letter

Lord of the Rings holds a place in my heart that will never be taken by any other book. Although I’ve mentioned here and there on this blog that it’s long been one of my favourites, I don’t think I’ve ever unpacked exactly why I love it so much. I thought I’d do so here. Now, in case the title wasn’t sufficiently clear, I am not going to even attempt objectivity here. I am not going to engage with any of the criticisms that could be made of Tolkien. This post is a thank you to Lord of the Rings, and to Tolkien, for having brought so much joy into my life on so many occasions. Continue reading

2017 Plans and Priorities

I’m not going to set goals for my blogging this year, exactly. Last year, my biggest goal was to finish my PhD, and here I am, still doctorate-less, when almost everyone I started with has graduated or will be doing so soon. That’s not a failure (quitting would have been a failure, and it was a pretty close thing sometimes) but looking at that post still makes me feel sad. However, there is a difference between goals and plans, which is that plans can be adapted and discarded as needed. I can lay out my priorities for the year, safe in the knowledge that I can throw them out or completely rewrite them if that is what I need to do.   Continue reading

Five Favourites 2016

2016 hasn’t been a fantastic reading year for me. I don’t know why. Lots of books I read were just *fine*… not bad, but not remarkably good either. However, I did find a handful of books that stood out amid the ones that didn’t really register, so here we go. None of them were perfect in the same way that I found Gilead, Lonesome Dove, and Gaudy Night perfect last year, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t still great. I didn’t actually review any of these books here, so it’s nice to have an opportunity to bring them up. Continue reading