There’ll be a few more of these in the next few days!
Holes – Louis Sachar. I bought this second hand in Paddington at /Karen’s/ prompting (I bought a few things in Paddington that day at her prompting :) and really liked it. It has a real American tall-tale feel.
Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle – Georgette Heyer. Lots of fun, as usual – a young authoress is too clever for her own good and creates thinly disguised characters based on influential members of the society she is about to enter. No Grand Sophy, but then what is?
Lady of Quality – Georgette Heyer. I was prepared to hate Annis Wychwood. Rich, beautiful and with narrow feet, she embodies almost everything that usually cues a character I will dislike. But she was wonderful – smart, independent, strong-willed and clever. By the end of the book I had forgotten that she was bewitchingly pretty (and had narrow feet) and just wanted to set up my own establishment, balance my own books and throw splendid parties.
Faro’s Daughter – Georgette Heyer. I didn’t expect to like this one – something about gambling hells as a setting always turns me off – but it was great. Kidnappings, double-crossings, people biting off their noses to spite their faces and a splendid display of deliberate vulgarity.
April Lady – Georgette Heyer. I’m a fan of Heyer and don’t mind romances of the married-couple-discover-they-are-in-love-after-all variety, so I enjoyed this but otherwise did not find it memorable among her other books, and tended to be more annoyed at the heroine’s choices than inspired by her quick wits and cleverness.
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan – Isabella Bird. Just stunning. Letters from Isabella Bird’s through the interior of Japan accompanied only by her translator (an intriguingly brilliant and amoral individual) and a series of increasingly ill-natured horses. As well as the adventures of the trip, the viewpoints it records are remarkable: Not modern Japan, nor the Japan of the 1800s seen by most European travelers, but the interior of Japan shortly after it first opened to the West, a country which was in the process of transforming itself but which, in the areas through which Bird traveled, was still in many ways unchanged. It is Japan seen by an outsider, but not by a modern outsider, and by a traveler who was also a single, highly educated, highly opinionate and fiercely independent Victorian woman, whose views are sometimes familiar, sometimes very modern, sometimes so distant from what seems now expected or acceptable. It’s a brilliant and fascinating book – as a historical record, travel journal, adventure story, and vivid example of the vicissitudes and difficulties of travelling through pre-industrial landscapes on horseback and therefore an excellent text for fantasy authors.
Bachelor Girls – Betty Israel. Enjoyable, enlightening, interesting account of the representations of single women living alone through the last 100 years. For the most part it wasn’t glorifying or demonising single life, just recording experiences and views of it. Unfortunately it is too lightweight and often reads like an extended magazine article and there are generalisations and oversimplifications, but it made me want to read and know more, and made me see new sides and corners of history and society and it was frequently entertaining. Deb has it at the moment and I am looking forward to hearing her thoughts.
Angel Rising – Dirk Flinthart. I like Dirk Flinthart’s writing a lot (‘The Ballad of Farther on Jones’ was the first SF story to make me cry and it isn’t even sad) and I found this enjoyable and well-written, but it didn’t quite grip me. It may be because I don’t have the background in the New Ceres universe in which it takes place – although I was never lost – or it may be that either the story or I found a novella not quite long enough to really make me like and care about the characters to the extent I wanted to.