Sunday, 2 August 2015

Month in review: July

Hello to you all. In the books world, July was all about Go Set a Watchman. Whether you couldn't wait for it, or were nervous about it, or tried to avoid it entirely, it was everywhere. I used the two weeks running up to Watchman's release to read through the small pile of library books, loans, and gifts, which I did not count towards my "read 3, buy 2" policy for this year. After Go Set a Watchman, with all the hype and discussion, I fell into a little bit of a reading slump, a sense of "Now what?" It may not be a full-on reading slump; I've still read four books (plus a penguin mini-classic) in the past two and a half weeks, which is still pretty good, but I haven't felt that draw to my bookshelves, or that immersion into a really engrossing novel. That's okay. It happens, and it's nothing to beat myself up about.

What I read

Abarat - Clive Barker
The Rabbit Back Literature Society - Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
The Coincidence Authority - John Ironmonger
The Outcast Dead - Elly Griffiths
Nunslinger - Stark Holborn
The Night Guest - Fiona McFarlane

The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee
The Beginner's Goodbye - Anne Tyler
Weirdo - Cathi Unsworth
Interesting Times - Terry Pratchett

And (Penguin Mini Classics)
The Fall of Icarus - Ovid
The Night is Darkening Round Me - Emily Bronte
Lord Arthur Savile's Crime

With a new to-read pile for August, I'm starting to feel a bit more excited about reading again. I bought two new books yesterday, both from the children's section: First Class Murder, the latest in the Wells and Wong series about schoolgirl detectives in the 1930s, and Katy by Jacqueline Wilson, a modern-day retelling of What Katy Did. I'm often very wary of retellings, but I think that some of the literary webseries, such as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Green Gables Fables (as well as, recently, Project Green Gables.) have softened my purist's attitude, and I find it very interesting to see how they translate to the modern day. And What Katy Did is a book full of really good characters, incidents and stories... but it is ultimately very Victorian in its moralising in the second half, and the "character development" turns an adventurous, ambitious, feisty little girl into a dull, sanctimonious little angel. I think the characters and family life of Katy and the Carrs would fit quite well among Jacqueline Wilson's original novels: she writes about dysfunctional families, often with lots of children and maybe a single or remarried parent, and her characters are believable children. Let's see how she handles this classic.

Provisional August To-Read Pile

Thief of Time - Terry Pratchett
First Class Murder - Robin Stevens
A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula Le Guin
When We Were Orphans - Kazuo Ishiguro
Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
HhhH - Laurent Binet
Goodnight, Beautiful - Dorothy Koomson
Reasons She Goes to the Woods - Deborah Kay Davies
Katy - Jacqueline Wilson
The Rook - Daniel O'Malley

I've really got stuck back into my writing in the last month or two. Where I work part-time, I'm trying to make the most of my days off as an opportunity to work on my novel, which I began for NaNoWriMo last year. I'm setting myself achievable targets and am really pleased with how it's coming along now. And I've also come up with my idea for this November's project: a children's book set in a girls' boarding school, involving time travel. But unlike the usual time-travel narrative in which someone goes back from the present day into the past, this girl, Olive, comes from 1940 and has to figure out how to pass as a 2015 teenager, with many lessons to learn, while trying to get back to her own past and her family. It's taken inspiration from Charlotte Sometimes, Cross Stitch and Captain America, and I'm going to have to reread a load of my old school stories from childhood, in order to figure out Olive's character and world. 

Which is handy, seeing as Bex is organising another ReReadathon for September, not one but two weeks this time. I fully intend to reread last year's favourites: 11.22.63 and The Martian, as well as at least one Sarah Waters novel, but I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to read a Chalet School, Malory Towers and maybe a Trebizon or two for comparison. 

And away from the world of books, reading or writing them, I've finally got around to buying Star Trek: Deep Space 9. We don't have many places left on the Island which sell DVDs, and especially not older ones or box sets (although CEX the exchange shop opened this week - yay) so I'd been looking in every HMV or CEX whenever I went to the mainland, with no joy. But suddenly I remembered that Hive sells DVDs as well as books. Hive is an online shop I don't mind using - normally I go out of my way to buy in a shop if at all possible - because it supports local independent bookshops.

My Trekkie friends either seem to like DS9 best of all, or hate it. I'm really impressed with it so far; I've only seen about half a season, but I already like it more than The Next Generation. (Gasp! Controversial!) TNG is pretty much how I imagined Star Trek to be before I ever had any interest in Star Trek. It's got some good characters, and some really interesting, thought-provoking storylines, but I never quite warmed to it the same way I did the original series. I felt like it was trying to be more of the same. Picard's crew is still seeking new life and new civilisations, boldly going where no-one has gone before, their ship is even called the Enterprise. DS9, by contrast, is set on a space station, and it's not even a Federation space station; instead, a team from the Federation has been called to work alongside the Bajorans, whose space station DS9 really is, and there is the conflict as the two teams learn each other's ways.

Deep Space 9 ties in nicely with the franchise so far. The pilot opens with a flashback to the biggest season finale of The Next Generation - the Borg attack in which Captain Picard was assimilated, and the battle of Wolf 359, where a Starfleet officer's wife is killed. This officer is Benjamin Sisko, three years later the commander of Deep Space 9, who has been bringing up his son alone. It was good to have some of the issues I'd had with the series so far addressed: the throwaway nature of the doomed redshirts and unseen nobodies, and why it is really not a great idea to have civilian spouses and children onboard the Starship Enterprise. Yes, she is a ship of exploration, not of war, but you might be forgiven for forgetting that, considering the number of space battles all her incarnations have seen, and of course the redshirt mortality rate!

1 comment:

  1. Hooray for Re-Readathon! Do you have all the Trebizon books? I only ask as I'm getting rid of a few and am happy to pass them on if you don't!


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