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annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
I had an odd experience yesterday while reading on the plane. I picked up a copy of a book I'd read and loved as a teen - the House by the Dvina by Eugenie Frasier - the story of her childhood in Russia just before the Revolution.

I remembered it as being a bit like Agatha Christie or Gwen Raverat' s memoires - you know - lots of adorable stories about eccentric relatives and rocking horses. And I thought it would be a comfy airport read.

My reading journey went something like this...

...oh. She's a bit bitter about the Bolsheviks, isn't she?

...yeah, she's definitely in favour of the old regime. Makes sense, as her family were pretty aristocratic in Russia. Except for great-grandmother who was a serf.

...so, World War One went badly. I knew that. Also, goddamn Britain treated Russia badly.

...wow. She used the word 'insolent' to describe how some revolutionary spoke to her mother. Check your privilege, Eugenie!

...um. And then the revolutionary arrested her elderly grandfather for no reason and sent men to ransack their family home every couple of days for months.

...oh. And the local Bolsheviks would randomly confiscate anyone's stuff they wanted. I guess it is a revolution and Eugenie's family had been very well off before.

...and they raped and murdered people who objected. Whole families died. That's...

...ok. Now she's telling the tale of a mass execution she and her friends witnessed while playing in the woods as children, and how one of the people executed was a teenage boy in his school uniform.

...and how this same group of friends once chased a stray goat down so they could take turns trying to milk it because they were starving due to civil war. This is one of the upbeat comic interludes in the civil war section of the book.

...phew. She, and her mother and brother managed to escape as refugees, because her mother was Scottish and they were able to get exit papers on that basis. Now, I wonder what happens to the rest of her wonderful, loveable, larger than life family and friends that she's been describing this whole book.

...they are all murdered. Well, some die of starvation. A few more a murdered by Nazis and not communists. And two commit suicide to avoid being executed. One disappears. Probably executed. And the rest are all murdered. Every single one. Mostly under Stalin.

And I sort of sat there in horror. Yeah, too right she is bitter about the Russian Revolution. And what's worse is that I hadn't expected it. I mean, I kind of knew Stalin was bad and the Russian Civil War was awful. I've seen death stats. I did know. Yet it hadn't properly connected. For Chrissakes, as a teenager I had a hammer and sickle badge on a jacket (I thought it was cool). In my twenties I role played cool Russian revolutionaries in LRP where I never would have thought of playing a Nazi. I laughed at "how retro" when I saw protestors with the hammer and sickle outside the American Embassy in London when I'd never have done that over a swastika.

No real moral lesson. Just a weird sense that somehow we as a society aren't great. Probably because we don't believe in evil without atrocity photos and case studies.

By the way, it's a good book.
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
So I'm reading the Benjamin January mysteries by Barbara Hambly and they are, to my mind, pretty much perfect.

Review, with some spoilage hinted at )

Also, it appears that LJ is still the best place I know for things like book reviews. Tumblr won't let me put in proper paragraph breaks, and G+ and facebook don't really feel like the right place to discuss anything with more complexity than you can fit in a single sentence. So here I am.
annwfyn: (seasonal - bonfire night)
So, after some consideration, I've decided to do another 50 book challenge. This time, however, I am not just doing the [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc challenge. Oh no! Instead I am combining that with the [livejournal.com profile] queerlit50 in a giant quest to read books by the marginalised, to support diversity within the publishing industry and, in all honesty, to kick myself into reading books which aren't just trash. Which isn't to say I won't read trash, but I think it would do me a lot of good to stretch myself occasionally.

I'm using this entry to keep track of the books I've read and link to the reviews that I've written of them. And hopefully, this will be useful in the future.

My List )
annwfyn: (Default)
So, after some consideration, I've decided to do another 50 book challenge. This time, however, I am not just doing the [community profile] 50books_poc challenge. Oh no! Instead I am combining that with the [profile] queerlit50 in a giant quest to read books by the marginalised, to support diversity within the publishing industry and, in all honesty, to kick myself into reading books which aren't just trash. Which isn't to say I won't read trash, but I think it would do me a lot of good to stretch myself occasionally.

I'm using this entry to keep track of the books I've read and link to the reviews that I've written of them. And hopefully, this will be useful in the future.

My List )
annwfyn: (raven - woodcut)
I am currently reading 'The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders 1811'. And it's awesome. I mean, really really good. PD James really captures the atmosphere of 1811 well, she stops to explain enough that the murders are properly put into the context of the judicial system of the day, but she zips along nicely and doesn't let herself get bogged down.

It's not Serious History (tm) but it's a lot of fun.

However, it will soon be over. Can anyone recommend to me any other interesting-but-mostly-light-history books?
annwfyn: (mood - sleepy otter)
So, I've now read the eARC of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, the latest (and I suspect last) in the Vorkosigan series, as it's up at Baen books.

Thoughts with spoilers )
annwfyn: (mood - dandelion thoughts)
As some of you may know, [profile] pierot is currently doing a theology degree, and as such there tend to be theology text books around the house, and I've been periodically reading them. And they are really interesting.

The main thing I'm realizing is how very little I actually know about religion. I am currently reading about Intelligent Design, and although I don't believe in it, I love some of the philosophy that has gone into it - Lucilius Balbus writing about 'the distinctness, variety, beauty, and order of the sun, moon, and all the stars' or Paley writing about his watch, and the vivid way they describe the amazing world we live in. And I'm thinking that intelligent, beautiful philosophical arguments deserve so much more than 'it's all crap, innit?'.

Thankfully, David Hume is there for me, with the most awesome (if terrifying) critique of design theory ever. Any man who can put together a coherent philosophical argument featuring giant spiders, the phrase 'copulating animals' and a suggestion of insane infant deities really deserves...I don't know...my attention at the very least, if not some sort of peculiar philosopher's shrine.
annwfyn: (mood - dandelion thoughts)
As some of you may know, [profile] pierot is currently doing a theology degree, and as such there tend to be theology text books around the house, and I've been periodically reading them. And they are really interesting.

The main thing I'm realizing is how very little I actually know about religion. I am currently reading about Intelligent Design, and although I don't believe in it, I love some of the philosophy that has gone into it - Lucilius Balbus writing about 'the distinctness, variety, beauty, and order of the sun, moon, and all the stars' or Paley writing about his watch, and the vivid way they describe the amazing world we live in. And I'm thinking that intelligent, beautiful philosophical arguments deserve so much more than 'it's all crap, innit?'.

Thankfully, David Hume is there for me, with the most awesome (if terrifying) critique of design theory ever. Any man who can put together a coherent philosophical argument featuring giant spiders, the phrase 'copulating animals' and a suggestion of insane infant deities really deserves...I don't know...my attention at the very least, if not some sort of peculiar philosopher's shrine.
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
I’ve been reading Jerusalem: The Biography for some time now (it is a big book, in mental more so than physical terms) and am finding it amazing, depressing, fascinating, and horrifying. It is the history of the city, from the days of King David, onward. So far I’ve just got to the fall of Jerusalem to the Ottoman Turks in the 13th century, and I’m already feeling exhausted. So far I feel like I’ve learnt that Jerusalem has mostly created bloody handed psychopaths, and that the three faiths who have based their creed around the city seem to have been shaped by men who cared less for God and more for power. Or maybe more for mass public executions, which may or may not have been designed to gain power. They might just have liked killing people.

The review I linked to comments that this book is likely to confirm atheist prejudices, and I must admit, I found it more effective at seriously denting my faith than anything Richard Dawkins has ever written. How many massacres were carried out by the early Christian Church? The Jewish theocratic state did what?

I would turn to paganism, but then someone would cruelly give me an account of the Boudiccan revolt and the sacrifices she made to Andraste, and then I’d just have to give up and settle for a God of my own invention. I could call him ‘Flufficus, the Ever Loving’ and pray for chocolate and soft bath towels every night.

I think I understand that there is no faith, no creed, no philosophy which a flawed human race cannot pervert. But still, I sometimes wince when I think just how effective mankind has been at doing this. And the history of Jerusalem is a painful and unflinching example.
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
I’ve been reading Jerusalem: The Biography for some time now (it is a big book, in mental more so than physical terms) and am finding it amazing, depressing, fascinating, and horrifying. It is the history of the city, from the days of King David, onward. So far I’ve just got to the fall of Jerusalem to the Ottoman Turks in the 13th century, and I’m already feeling exhausted. So far I feel like I’ve learnt that Jerusalem has mostly created bloody handed psychopaths, and that the three faiths who have based their creed around the city seem to have been shaped by men who cared less for God and more for power. Or maybe more for mass public executions, which may or may not have been designed to gain power. They might just have liked killing people.

The review I linked to comments that this book is likely to confirm atheist prejudices, and I must admit, I found it more effective at seriously denting my faith than anything Richard Dawkins has ever written. How many massacres were carried out by the early Christian Church? The Jewish theocratic state did what?

I would turn to paganism, but then someone would cruelly give me an account of the Boudiccan revolt and the sacrifices she made to Andraste, and then I’d just have to give up and settle for a God of my own invention. I could call him ‘Flufficus, the Ever Loving’ and pray for chocolate and soft bath towels every night.

I think I understand that there is no faith, no creed, no philosophy which a flawed human race cannot pervert. But still, I sometimes wince when I think just how effective mankind has been at doing this. And the history of Jerusalem is a painful and unflinching example.
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
You know what I’d like in a Young Adult novel?







  • A hero or heroine whose parents were actually totally normal people. Ideally one raised in the suburbs.

  • An ‘ugly duckling’ heroine whose ugly duckling quality is not that she is skinny and waiflike. A heroine who angsts about being podgy would make my day.

  • A quality which makes the hero or heroine extraordinary which is actually earned or chased after in some way, as opposed to being bestowed by the angels of snowflakeness.

  • An ugly duckling heroine who is actually plain and doesn’t discover that she’s secretly beautiful underneath it all. But instead stays plain until the end of the book whilst still kicking arse.

  • A positive depiction of teenage sex. Because wanting sex at the age of 16 is actually OK, and does not inevitably lead to death or pregnancy.

  • A hero or heroine who gets scared about things. Ideally sometimes silly things. Infinite bravery is all well and good, but it gets a little tiring.

  • A love interest who is also flawed, and exasperating, but has enough positive qualities to make the hero or heroine stay interested, instead of Pure and Perfect Love all the time.


I think I may work on this more later. For the rest of you who read YA fiction, what would you like? And what drives you insane when reading?
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
You know what I’d like in a Young Adult novel?







  • A hero or heroine whose parents were actually totally normal people. Ideally one raised in the suburbs.

  • An ‘ugly duckling’ heroine whose ugly duckling quality is not that she is skinny and waiflike. A heroine who angsts about being podgy would make my day.

  • A quality which makes the hero or heroine extraordinary which is actually earned or chased after in some way, as opposed to being bestowed by the angels of snowflakeness.

  • An ugly duckling heroine who is actually plain and doesn’t discover that she’s secretly beautiful underneath it all. But instead stays plain until the end of the book whilst still kicking arse.

  • A positive depiction of teenage sex. Because wanting sex at the age of 16 is actually OK, and does not inevitably lead to death or pregnancy.

  • A hero or heroine who gets scared about things. Ideally sometimes silly things. Infinite bravery is all well and good, but it gets a little tiring.

  • A love interest who is also flawed, and exasperating, but has enough positive qualities to make the hero or heroine stay interested, instead of Pure and Perfect Love all the time.


I think I may work on this more later. For the rest of you who read YA fiction, what would you like? And what drives you insane when reading?
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
So, it's the fiftieth anniversary of 'To Kill A Mockingbird', and there are lots of essays on it all over the internet. Some of them are very clever, so I linked to them here.

Reconstructing Atticus Finch. Was he really that good a lawyer?

Malcolm Gladwell on Atticus Finch and Southern liberalism.

A defense of To Kill A Mockingbird

I must admit, my experience of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' comes from having to study it at GCSE. I suspect this both ruined the book for me (as studying a book at GCSE almost always does), and also was a bit of a waste of time as far as teaching my class any of the lessons Harper Lee wanted to teach the children who read the book. We were a vile collection of privileged white kids in rural Berkshire, who really had little interest in racism, and that which we did pick up mostly taught us that it was something that happened in the American Deep South, which seemed almost entirely alien. We also studied 'Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry', which had much the same effect. Neither White nor Black Southern society seemed anything like our own, the characters felt utterly 'other' and the whole thing became a long grind about strange foreign people doing awful things to other strange foreign people.

I also found Scout very tedious from the word 'go'. This didn't help.

I wish now we'd studied something else if the school wanted us to learn about racism, something which didn't let us opt out of the whole learning process quite so much. Even something about British history in that time period, like the 'Jewel in the Crown' series might have been a bit more useful. But my school determinedly decided to teach us about racism, focusing on racism in the American Deep South. These days, I suspect that might sum up everything that's wrong with the British attitude towards race and racism.
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
So, it's the fiftieth anniversary of 'To Kill A Mockingbird', and there are lots of essays on it all over the internet. Some of them are very clever, so I linked to them here.

Reconstructing Atticus Finch. Was he really that good a lawyer?

Malcolm Gladwell on Atticus Finch and Southern liberalism.

A defense of To Kill A Mockingbird

I must admit, my experience of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' comes from having to study it at GCSE. I suspect this both ruined the book for me (as studying a book at GCSE almost always does), and also was a bit of a waste of time as far as teaching my class any of the lessons Harper Lee wanted to teach the children who read the book. We were a vile collection of privileged white kids in rural Berkshire, who really had little interest in racism, and that which we did pick up mostly taught us that it was something that happened in the American Deep South, which seemed almost entirely alien. We also studied 'Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry', which had much the same effect. Neither White nor Black Southern society seemed anything like our own, the characters felt utterly 'other' and the whole thing became a long grind about strange foreign people doing awful things to other strange foreign people.

I also found Scout very tedious from the word 'go'. This didn't help.

I wish now we'd studied something else if the school wanted us to learn about racism, something which didn't let us opt out of the whole learning process quite so much. Even something about British history in that time period, like the 'Jewel in the Crown' series might have been a bit more useful. But my school determinedly decided to teach us about racism, focusing on racism in the American Deep South. These days, I suspect that might sum up everything that's wrong with the British attitude towards race and racism.
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
As some of you may know, I recently joined a community called [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc. The challenge is to read 50 books written by People of Colour over the course of a year. It's meant to run between IBAR and IBAR the next year, but as I've no idea what that is, I'm kinda letting it run from February to February for me.

What is the point of this?

Well, for me it means two things.

1) It encourages me to step outside my comfort zone, read books by people who are Not Just Like Me, and hopefully supports a more diverse publishing industry whilst also expanding my own horizons.

2) It means I get a lot of really good book recs, and read some books I wouldn't have read otherwise.

I'm using this entry to keep track of the books I've read and link to the reviews that I've written of them. As a note, I also want to sing the praises of [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc. It's a really friendly community, with lots of nice people. I've found it an incredibly positive experience so far, and already got some shiny new books I'd never have read any other way.

My List )
annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
As some of you may know, I recently joined a community called [community profile] 50books_poc. The challenge is to read 50 books written by People of Colour over the course of a year. It's meant to run between IBAR and IBAR the next year, but as I've no idea what that is, I'm kinda letting it run from February to February for me.

What is the point of this?

Well, for me it means two things.

1) It encourages me to step outside my comfort zone, read books by people who are Not Just Like Me, and hopefully supports a more diverse publishing industry whilst also expanding my own horizons.

2) It means I get a lot of really good book recs, and read some books I wouldn't have read otherwise.

I'm using this entry to keep track of the books I've read and link to the reviews that I've written of them. As a note, I also want to sing the praises of [community profile] 50books_poc. It's a really friendly community, with lots of nice people. I've found it an incredibly positive experience so far, and already got some shiny new books I'd never have read any other way.

My List )
annwfyn: (Mood - jovial hippo)
1) I have World of Warcraft again, and got a small cute penguin pet in return for merging my WoW account with a battlenet account. This makes me happy. It's also Hallow's End which is really really fun.

2) Work is going really well - my boss said my first week's work was 'excellent', and my first school trip was a huge amount of fun. I got to do the lightning experiment and play with the tesla coil. And lo! It was glorious!

3) There's a really lovely small gelateria just up from Embankment which I discovered yesterday. Amazing dark chocolate ice cream, and wonderful rum and raisin. It's like ice cream heaven.

4) I get paid this week. Then I get paid again on the 13th November. So, I'm about to enter a short and glorious period of being rich! I may go quite mad with wealth.

5) I have just discovered a new, and very entertaining trashy historical writer. 'Mistress of the Art of Death', or CSI: 1172. It makes very little sense, but is great fun. I do recommend it. Oh, and if you're one of the very few people on my flist who likes romance novels, I also want to recommend Sherry Thomas for the most amazingly cheerful and non-creepy alpha male-tastic set of costumed romps I've ever encountered.

So, this is me. How are you?
annwfyn: (Mood - jovial hippo)
1) I have World of Warcraft again, and got a small cute penguin pet in return for merging my WoW account with a battlenet account. This makes me happy. It's also Hallow's End which is really really fun.

2) Work is going really well - my boss said my first week's work was 'excellent', and my first school trip was a huge amount of fun. I got to do the lightning experiment and play with the tesla coil. And lo! It was glorious!

3) There's a really lovely small gelateria just up from Embankment which I discovered yesterday. Amazing dark chocolate ice cream, and wonderful rum and raisin. It's like ice cream heaven.

4) I get paid this week. Then I get paid again on the 13th November. So, I'm about to enter a short and glorious period of being rich! I may go quite mad with wealth.

5) I have just discovered a new, and very entertaining trashy historical writer. 'Mistress of the Art of Death', or CSI: 1172. It makes very little sense, but is great fun. I do recommend it. Oh, and if you're one of the very few people on my flist who likes romance novels, I also want to recommend Sherry Thomas for the most amazingly cheerful and non-creepy alpha male-tastic set of costumed romps I've ever encountered.

So, this is me. How are you?
annwfyn: (love - lego letters)
Don't take too long to think about it. 15 books you've read that will always stick with you. They don't have to be the greatest books you've ever read, just the ones that stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

1) Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
2) Hard Times - Charles Dickens
3) A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula le Guin
4) Anil's Ghost - Michael Ondaatje
5) Sword at Sunset - Rosemary Sutcliff
6) A House at Pooh Corner - AA Milne
7) The Emperor's Babe - Bernadine Evaristo
8) The Murder of Roger Akroyd - Agatha Christie
9) The Black Riders - Violet Needham
10) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
11) War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
12) Through Violet Eyes - Stephen Woodworth
13) The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years - Brian Moynhan
14) Cordelia's Honour - Lois McMaster Bujold
15) Collapse: How Society's Chose To Fail Or Survive - Jared Diamond

With [personal profile] alasdair's variation: If you'd like to know more about a book, or what it means to me, leave a comment explaining what you'd like to know about my relationship with that book, and I'll tell you.
annwfyn: (love - lego letters)
Don't take too long to think about it. 15 books you've read that will always stick with you. They don't have to be the greatest books you've ever read, just the ones that stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

1) Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
2) Hard Times - Charles Dickens
3) A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula le Guin
4) Anil's Ghost - Michael Ondaatje
5) Sword at Sunset - Rosemary Sutcliff
6) A House at Pooh Corner - AA Milne
7) The Emperor's Babe - Bernadine Evaristo
8) The Murder of Roger Akroyd - Agatha Christie
9) The Black Riders - Violet Needham
10) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
11) War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
12) Through Violet Eyes - Stephen Woodworth
13) The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years - Brian Moynhan
14) Cordelia's Honour - Lois McMaster Bujold
15) Collapse: How Society's Chose To Fail Or Survive - Jared Diamond

With [personal profile] alasdair's variation: If you'd like to know more about a book, or what it means to me, leave a comment explaining what you'd like to know about my relationship with that book, and I'll tell you.

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annwfyn

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