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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Agathon #14 The Sittaford Mystery (1931)

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Kathryn and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things!

Yes, it’s been a while, but we’re still going! The Sittaford Mystery is also sometimes called Murder at Hazelmoor.

sittafordKATHRYN:

First I need to say that I didn’t actually note the giant spoiler on the front cover, until I was photographing it for the blog…

This feels like a fairly ‘typical’ Christie murder mystery, although it has the distinction of including neither Miss Marple nor Poirot. Instead the detective in charge of the case is an Inspector Narracott, who is described as competent and intelligent, but doesn’t have much in the way of defining features otherwise. Indeed for the first ten chapters of the book I was wondering if Christie had written a mystery in which the detective had no personality at all. Come chapter eleven, however, it becomes apparent that Inspector Narracott is not the star of the book at all. Enter Emily Trefusis, determined to clear her fiance, Jim Pearson, who has been wrongly accused of the murder…

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The Month of Good Books #1 – When We Wake and Caution: contains small parts

Monday, January 13th, 2014

I’m reading books this month, and it shouldn’t feel quite so revolutionary a concept, but there you are. Having spent a year reading classic novels, rereading Doctor Who tie ins and generally slacking off, I now have a very short time to inhale all the books that are CURRENT and RELEVANT and potentially AWARDWORTHY SF and fantasy of 2013, especially those by female authors. In other words, Galactic Suburbia Recommends type books. I feel I’ve let the side down a bit over the last 12 months in that regard.

Luckily, having come to the end of the year, I have a very condensed list of books I’m pretty sure I’m going to love. And this is the month when I end up with heat-exhausted small children collapsed across me, which works out well for reading.

Of the seven books that I am really desperate to have read before nominations for things become urgent (I nominate for Nebulas now! Nebulas are cool!) I have covered 2 in the last week, which is pretty good going for me. I’m sure the list will

Only tiny reviews, to ensure I actually write up the things.

whenwewakeWhen We Wake by Karen Healey is really wonderful. It was pitched as a science fictional Sleeping Beauty tale, but I found elements of Snow White in there too – only fragments, though. Sixteen-year old Tegan is shot and killed by a sniper bullet at an environmental rally ten years in our future, and thanks to signing a ‘donate my body to science’ form, is awoken from cryogenic freezing a century later as part of a program to revive dead soldiers. I appreciated so many things about this story which uses smart extrapolation from current issues (especially politics and the environment) to build a credible near-future Australia. It reads at times like the novel is in direct response to some of the more public failings of the Abbott government, which makes it all the more clever (and depressing) as it was written published when Gillard was still Prime Minister.

But a diverse cast, a nuanced future (in which some social issues have improved, and others have gone quite down hill) this is a book I would love to see taken up by the Australian curriculum as there are so many elements of this futuristic Australia for teens to discuss – immigration, cultural and race issues, anti-military bias, climate change, faith religion drug legality and more. The protagonist is Christian, which is something you don’t see in YA that often, and the characters closest to her include a Muslim and an atheist – and for those seeking positive-but-casual representation of queer or trans characters, the book provides both.

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2013: A Year in Reading

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

A strange reading year for me – after reaching new heights of reading the previous year, getting the closest to my pre-motherhood numbers of books read than ever before, I put my feet up and took it all VERY casually this year. Not as much actual reading as I would like – as has been the case a lot lately, my reading desires have been rather stomped on by my love of listening to audio books and plays – but the books I have read have been decadently unstructured. Once I made my way through Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford and the entire Song of Ice and Fire thus far, I kind of felt like I didn’t owe the household library gods ANYTHING ELSE for the year.

It’s been mostly classic literature, re-reading and Doctor Who tie-ins. Which also, actually, means a much more gender-balanced year instead of my usual 80% female authors. I’ve read whatever the hell I felt like this year, and mostly it has not been science fiction and fantasy at all – or published this year.

I even stopped keeping track of titles read in my log. Sooooo slack.

Here’s an equally slack and slapdash rundown of it all:

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If You Go Down In The Woods Today [WHO-50-2011]

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

2011Until now, I haven’t read any of the New Who fiction tie-ins. I’m not sure why. Maybe I bought into the fan snob idea that the tie-in fiction for an ongoing series can’t possibly be as interesting or involved as the Wilderness Year fiction was? Or that the new stuff was aimed ‘at kids’? Or maybe I was just a little too co-dependent with my Big Finish Audios to let anyone else in…

In any case, this is very much a year for reading books about Doctor Who (I’m not getting any other reading done!) and the recent Verity! interview with Una McCormack about writing tie-in fiction pushed me over the edge.

So I picked up the Kindle edition of The Way Through the Woods by Una McCormack, a book featuring the Eleventh Doctor and the Pond newlyweds.

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XX-Men

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

xmen-marvel-oneThe new X-Men series caught my attention because of the all female line-up. All female characters, that is, as both the writer and artist on the series are in fact male. Intriguing then that it’s the female editor of the series, Jeanine Schaefer, who has been doing the promotional rounds to talk up this book.

So far I’ve spotted interviews with Jeanine at Bitch, The Mary Sue and Jezebel.

For a start, this tells me that Marvel are actually interested in getting the attention of a female readership as well as the ‘default male’ comics fans, which is rather nice to see. It doesn’t hurt that the awesome cover of #1 shows the ensemble cast fully dressed, and posed in reasonably practical and character-specific ways. I kind of love the way they’re all eyeballing the camera with different shades of suspicion and/or friendly challenge.

The interviews with Schaefer are worth reading – she’s obviously very creatively invested in the comic and it’s pretty cool to hear such in depth perspectives from the comics editing side of things – we don’t often get an insight into that world except to some extent through the letters column of any given comic, and considering that there are far more women editing comics than writing or drawing them at the Big Two, it’s pretty cool to see X-Men through Schaefer’s eyes.

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Genesis of the Timewyrm [WHO-50—1991]

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

19911991 was the year of Doctor Who novels. Virgin Publishing had purchased Target books a few years earlier, which Doctor Who fans remember for the long line of excellent novelisations which we had instead of videos back in the day. Editor Peter Darvill-Evans had tried to get the license for Virgin to publish original Doctor Who tie-in novels, but this was refused until the cancellation of the show was official.

So in 1991 a mini-series of four linked novels was released to test the market. The Timewyrm series: Genesys, Exodus, Apocalypse and Revelation were written by John Peel, Terrance Dicks, Nigel Robinson and debut author Paul Cornell.

I ate these books up with a spoon when they came out. I was thirteen, I had pocket money (which I was supposed to spend on clothes, sorry Mum!) and I wanted more Ace and the Seventh Doctor. With these books, I got my wish. I remember very clearly that I loved Genesys and Exodus, was ‘meh’ about Apocalypse, and was confused, disorientated and slightly alienated by the much weirder and more experimental Revelation, which broke the mould from a literary point of view and is the one of the four that other fans tend to get most excited about.

Later on, as the New Adventures (and Ace in particular) got a lot darker, angstier and more WEIRD, I did rather blame Paul Cornell for starting them all off on that particular track. Sorry, Paul. I’m pretty sure I forgave you once Bernice Summerfield turned up.

So. Timewyrm: Genesys. The first of a series of books that would define Doctor Who for the next five years, and a medium that would define Doctor Who for more than a decade. Does it stand up to a re-read, what with all those things about feminism I’ve learned over the last 21 years? LET’S FIND OUT.

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Agathon #12: The Mysterious Mr Quin (1930)

Monday, May 27th, 2013

imagesKathryn and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things!

TANSY:

What a bizarre collection of stories!

I’m not sure if these are terribly meta or actually paranormal – it seems to me that in these tales Christie is actually pointing out the inherent ridiculousness of the coincidences and highly mannered events of her own novels by making the coincidence factor so terribly high that it borders on magic.

Satterthwaite and his odd friendship with Mr Quinn is a hard relationship to pin down – it feels almost seductive in some stories (totally slashtastic) and in others something more innocent and playful, reminiscent of when the Doctor breaks in a new companion in Doctor Who.

Many elements in the stories feel deeply like Christie – the characters and backgrounds – but the stories themselves are so tangled up with gothic romance, ghostly prediction and a kind of magical realism that they feel also totally unlike her other work.

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Gender, Ambivalence & the Women of Westeros

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Game Of Thrones CerseiSo, I have finally come to the end of my several-month-long quest that is the five books of the unfinished A Song of Ice and Fire saga, AKA A Game of Thrones The Books.

I’m not feeling the entitled outrage that GRRM hasn’t finished writing them yet, but I’m sure it’s gonna kick in any day now.

I’m still digesting it all, but wanted to start processing some of my thoughts about this series, its incredible popularity and acclaim (even before the TV series started, but way more now) and its role at the centre of so many discussions about what’s right and wrong with the fantasy genre when it comes to the representation of women, gender issues, and sexuality.

What intrigued me most, to tell you the truth, is that whenever the big discussion about female characters in epic fantasy fiction starts up again, ASOIAF (Game of Thrones is SUCH a better series title, just saying) is frequently cited on both sides of the argument – that is, as an example of a male writer writing a variety of female characters in a rich, nuanced and substantial way, AND a male author writing female characters in an extremely problematic way.

Looking at the books from the other side, I have to say – well, yep. Both those things are true.

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Perfections, by Kirstyn McDermott

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

9781922057174-500x763So far this year I’ve been pretty slack on the AWW front, and indeed in the reading books front at all. I blame it on Ford Madox Ford, who sucked me in with the possibility of Benedict Cumberbatch and made me read four books under the guise of being just one book that was so enormous that almost a month fell into it. And that was my experience reading Parade’s End.

Possibly it’s unfair to blame Ford Madox Ford for Benedict Cumberbatch, but then again we have to blame somebody, right?

In any case, I have officially just finished by first book by an Australian woman writer: Perfections, by Kirstyn McDermott. I’m pretty sure Kirstyn describes this one as a gothic fairytale, or something along those lines. I think I’d go for more of an ‘urban suspense’ line, though if it was in actual bookshops I would hope to see it with more of a Fay Weldon cover than anything with overt genre markers.

Oh, did I mention Fay Weldon? That’s probably because she came to mind while I was reading this novel – something about the realist, cynical tone and themes to do with women’s careers and quiet household despair mixed with sneaky supernatural, magic and horror bits. The tone also reminded me a great deal of Donna Tartt. I really hope Kirstyn reaches the wide audience she deserves with this one.
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Tales from the Library: Parade’s End Won’t

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

I want to write more about what I’m reading this year. Not book reviews as such, because I burnt myself out on formal book reviews a few years back, but I’d like to do more of the written equivalent of what we do on Galactic Suburbia – chatting about current reading.

Which is how I end up here, talking about a book I haven’t finished yet! But oh, READING Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford has taken up so much of my thoughts and reading energy over the last couple of weeks, I am not sure I will have the strength to write about it at all when I finally make it over the finish line.

I ordered Parade’s End from the local library because there’s an adaptation with Benedict Cumberbatch which I plan on seeing at some point. I thought for once, how about I read the book first? But whoa, what a whopper! At over 800 pages, it turns out that it’s actually four books in one.

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