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21st-Feb-2025 07:35 pm - Sticky: Introduction Post!
Combeferre
Hi there! I'm Sophia, and this is my journal. If you want to know more about me and about what you can find on my journal, this is the place!Collapse )
Combeferre
The contents of "Mike and Psmith" have been published both as the second half of the novel known as "Mike" and on their own as a standalone novel. I began "Mike" and then remembered that the first half is just a whole bunch of cricketing and I simply cannot care that much about cricket, especially since we have Mike without his Most Important Person.

So I abandoned that and decided to just reread "Mike and Psmith" instead. Much better. Still too much cricketing, and Psmith is not quite as main a character yet as one might hope, but contains some thoroughly enjoyable elements. Mainly seeing Psmith interact with the world, and seeing Mike and Psmith interact with each other. (I love Mike and Psmith a great deal!) But DEAR GOD the cricket is still interminable. If I recall correctly the next two books are a great improvement. We'll see if my brief re-spiked interest in the Psmith books carries me on.

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Combeferre
Yep, continues to be a lovely feel-good re-read. Nothing new to say about it this time. Except that I'd REALLY like to get an audiobook version of this someday so that I can make myself actually pay attention during the purpley nature descriptions, because I inevitably find myself skimming over those even when I don't intend to.

The Blue Castle is published three years too late for me to be able to find it on Librivox though, which would ordinarily be where I'd go to look for a book like this. And I can't find any evidence of a professional audiobook existing. There is a fan reading posted on youtube that I found? But that's such an inconvenient format, since I'd usually listen to audiobooks when I'm going for walks or things like that. SIGH. Dear United States: fix your messed-up copyright issues, please.

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Combeferre
This is the last book in the Temeraire series. The end of an era! I've been following these books for so long and I just have so many FEELINGS.

This is not going to be a coherent review with, like, structure and stuff. Have a list of things I thought about!

- I JUST LOVE EVERYONE IN THIS BAR. BOOK. THING. All the characters are the best and the world is the best and I just. Yes. Good. More of this forever please. (It's so sad that this is the last book!)

cut for spoilersCollapse )

- I feel like I ought to say something wrapping up my thoughts about the series in general. I don't even know what to say! I've been following these books for something like a decade, and while the strength of my love came and went somewhat over that time, I've never stopped loving them. In a lot of ways it felt like this series was written to cater directly to my tastes, and though these books are not perfect in every way they are certainly thoroughly excellent at delighting me. I'm gonna miss having new Temeraire to look forward to, and the fandom, though generally enthusiastic, is not what I'd call large and prolific. But I look forward to seeing what writing projects Novik will take on next!

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Combeferre
This book does nearly what it says on the tin. Two of the seven wonders it discusses are actually from the early 20th century!

The seven projects:

  1. The Great Eastern
  2. The Bell Rock lighthouse
  3. The Brooklyn bridge
  4. The London sewers
  5. The US transcontinental railroad
  6. The Panama Canal
  7. The Hoover Dam


It is an interesting and well written book, and I enjoyed the reading of it. And I certainly learned things! But I had definite frustrations and concerns.

For starters, the book was rather more invested in great man history than I am. Each of the seven sections had undue (imo) levels of attention focused on the visionary men who spearheaded the projects instead of all the people who were necessary to its realization. Though at least the book didn't ignore the existence of the workers entirely!

And the railway chapter makes me uncomfortable with its rhetoric about how great this railway was for bringing the US together into one country, when earlier it talks about the (very real!) concerns the Native people had about how the railway was an exception to the land treaty and how their way of life would be eradicated. Apparently that doesn't matter because country-building is more important! And a lot of the violence between the Native people and the railroad construction crews is framed as "look at this incredible difficulty the railways had to overcome!!" instead of really feeling like it ever sympathized with the Native perspective of trying to defend against colonialism. So that sucked. Also all the rhetoric about how obedient the Chinese workers were was rather unfortunate.

The Chinese and Native people never got humanized the way the (clearly pretty terrible!) white men leading the project did. And the way some of the white men's horribleness was casually brushed aside in a single sentence was appalling too, like how the wife of one of them was afraid of him whenever he came home, and this is portrayed as an example of how obsessed he is with the railroad instead of an example of how he is a TERRIBLE PERSON.

So yeah. The railroad chapter was the worst for this kind of stuff, because racism and sexism is apparently particularly front-and-centre when talking about 19th century US, but the book as a whole is kinda like that. (I mean, the author has the sort of mindset that leads her to use the terminology of "man" to refer to humans!)

And the other thing is how not all these projects were like...good ideas? I'm thinking particularly of the Great Eastern. And yet the book has nothing but good to say about all of this, as if the massive ego of white men to take on ridiculously outsized projects and succeed on the backs of the dead/injured lower classes is an admirable trait or something. And several of these projects are inescapably colonialist in nature: The Great Eastern, with its Australia intentions; the US railroad with its western expansionism; the Panama Canal, which takes place entirely in Panama and yet there are maybe two sentences about Panamanians (one of which is an offhand mention of the fact that the manmade* lake floods lots of villages) because the entire project is so white-driven.

I did mostly enjoy reading the book though. I was particularly riveted by the chapter on the Bell Rock lighthouse. And I bet I would have also been particularly riveted by the sewer chapter if I didn't already know a lot of what it was discussing. And probably the Brooklyn bridge chapter would have been more interesting to me if I hadn't listened to a podcast episode on the same topic not too long ago that very deliberately focused much more on the experiences of the workers than on the chief engineers.

So in conclusion, if you don't mind a book written from the unexamined perspective of white colonialist patriarchy this book is worth a look. But really. Can't we please be over this kind of thing?


*I use this word consciously. It was men.

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Combeferre
Valor's Choice (Confederation #1), by Tanya Huff

A fun space opera/mil-sf book about people being competent and about cross-species interactions! It was great. Not deep literature but an enjoyable time, and I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.


The Better Part of Valor (Confederation #2), by Tanya Huff

These books are really in a lot of ways about a variety of competence porn, watching Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr be hypercompetent at everything she does, which is pretty great. I particularly enjoy watching her competence at managing up (manipulating her superior officers to make sure things work out correctly despite the superior's incompetence) which is something I have some familiarity with in my work history so it's particularly fun to watch.

The books are also highly dedicated to getting the largest ratio of snark-to-dialogue possible, which is largely fun but gets a bit much occasionally.

Relatedly, the constant offhand references to how sexual the di'Taykan are is mostly fine but also I'm just SO CURIOUS whether there are any di-Taykans who don't fit in with this monolithic understanding of the species, whether being less sexually inclined, less sexually adventurous, interested in only their own gender or their own species, or uninterested in sex entirely. Somehow I doubt this is ever going to come up BUT ONE CAN HOPE.

oh am I actually getting around to plot spoilers? apparently I am!Collapse )

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Combeferre
This weekend was a bachelorette weekend for a friend of mine. It was great fun! And of course we watched some movies of the sort that one watches at events like this. Namely: the two Magic Mike movies.

I'd been kinda interested in seeing them for a while, given the type of reaction I saw a lot of people having to these movies, but also it didn't ever seem like a priority. I mean, I'm not exactly the correct audience for a pair of movies where a great deal of the point is to watch men being sexily mostly-naked.

So hey, now I've seen them. And turns out I did mostly like them!

The original movie, Magic Mike....well, people are right in saying it's not as good as the second one. There's a lot more angst and drama and attempt at a plot. I spent most of the movie wanting Adam to just shut up and go away, and he's one of the main characters, and the main driver of plot. But I did care a lot about Mike (and about Brooke) despite myself.

cut for thematic spoilers but not really plot spoilersCollapse )

The second movie, Magic Mike XXL is not nearly so confused about what point it's trying to make. This is a movie where stripping is unapologetically great if that's something you want to be doing. And you know what, watching the stripping was enjoyable even though I have no personal interest in naked bodies or sex - I like watching people be competent at things, and there were some pretty competent strippers in these movies!

HOWEVER: The best thing hands-down about this movie to me is definitely Rome. She's just so great? Completely poised and in control of every situation she finds herself in. Apparently the role was originally written for a male actor and CAN I JUST SAY how glad I am that they decided to switch that up. Good work movie, A+ secondary character choices here.

But also, all through the movie I just kept finding myself giggling in delight because I couldn't believe that the kinds of things this movie chose to focus on were things that a real life actual hollywood movie would choose to focus on. It was an experience. And one I'm glad to have had.

(even though I have no real interest in ever rewatching either of these movies.)

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Combeferre
This was the only Brother Cadfael book I hadn't read! And now I've read it, and I'm done the entire series, and I don't have any more new Cadfael books to look forward to in my future, sadface. But what a good series! And I now own ALL of the books so I can reread whenever I want. Maybe I should make the effort to reread this series but this time in order, so I can follow the long arc of the Stephen-Mathilda civil war B-plot.

Anyways!

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Combeferre
Ages and ages ago, @hernaniste on tumblr made a post offering to share a copy of her thesis with anyone interested. The thesis is about Les Miserables and religion and it is GREAT, hot damn. What a delightful piece of academic literature to read. I don't have anything intelligent or insightful to say in response, but if you are a person at all interested in the intersection of those topics, highly recommended! It has some excellent insights, and I now know a lot more about perspectives on christianity in revolutionary-era France than I did before. And also dang I just love Les Mis forever and how it's endlessly accessible for new ways to engage with it because there's just so much going on.

I'm not naming the thesis here because hernaniste didn't in her post but if you're interested I'm guessing you can probably still message her and ask for a copy!

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Combeferre
This is a novelized account of Mary Anning's life! Super exciting, yes? For those who are not massive dinosaur nerds, Mary Anning was a working-class woman in the early 19th century who was a fossil hunter and made some pretty significant finds (including ichthyosaur and plesiosaur fossils) and had a thorough understanding of what she found, which were really important in the development of scientific thought on the history of life on earth. She was very knowledgeable and capable, but of course never seen in the same light as the educated high-class men who talked with her, studied her fossils, and published papers on them.

This book was a very enjoyable read. It's from the perspective of two women, in alternating chapters - Mary Anning, and her friend Elizabeth Philpot who was also a fossil collector.

I liked the generally female focus of the book, and how the important relationship was always the friendship between Mary and Elizabeth as opposed to with any of the men who come in and out of their lives. And I like how it legitimizes these women's interest in and role in the scientific discourse of the time.

But I also felt like it did a bit of a disservice both to the friendship and to Mary's character.

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Combeferre
I was really excited to start this book! But from the very beginning I was disappointed, and it never managed to live up to what I hoped from it.

I mean, it starts by saying that it hopes to act as an introduction for both what queer is and what theology is, and I'm not exactly in need of 101 level discussion of either of those things. So it's possible that this book would have more to offer to someone who is a beginner on these subjects, since a lot of the book is a) defining terms, and b) acting as a lit review of previous relevant works on the subject of queer theology.

BUT even so I disagree with some of his beginner elements?? Read more...Collapse )

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Combeferre
This is a collection of fairy tale-related short stories and poems, many of which T. Kingfisher had earlier posted on her blog as Ursula Vernon. So a number of these stories I'd read before, but some were new to me, and at any rate I don't object to rereading a good short story!

I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the stories and poems in this book. Kingfisher's just so good at writing stories with emotional impact, striking details, and thoughtfulness. And with both love for and a critical eye towards the fairy tales she's riffing on.

There were only two entries that gave me an "eh" reaction, those being Night and Odd Season. Everything else was really great!

In my opinion the strongest entries were the bluebeard story, the loathly lady story, and the snow white story. And the titular story, Toad Words.

Dang though, I just want to read T. Kingfisher's fairy tale reimaginings forever and now I'm out of ebooks to buy! I hope she writes/publishes more soon.

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Combeferre
You guys this book is so gooooood

And okay there are many things to squee about but let me start with everything is spoilers, whoopsCollapse )

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14th-May-2016 08:01 pm - Eurovision 2016 [fandom: eurovision, thing: music]
Combeferre
Today was Eurovision time! Such a great event, I’m so glad it’s a thing that exists. I didn’t liveblog Eurovision this year but I did make notes to myself on my phone as I watched!

TO NOBODY’S SURPRISE the meta self-referencing interlude act “Love Love Peace Peace” was my favourite Eurovision song this year.

My runners-up: Armenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Australia, Cyprus. Clearly the way to win my heart is to be a female singer with a neat aesthetic and a strong voice. (cyprus being the obvious exception)

This year I watched alone instead of with last year’s politically-savvy friend, which means the voting part wasn’t nearly as interesting to me since I didn’t get explanations about various countries’ relationships with each other. The Ukraine win definitely came as a surprise to me, and I’m guessing that’s more about the politics than the performance, though the singer did do a good job. I was also surprised by how close Australia came to winning!

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Combeferre
Okay, so I may have semi broken up with MCU but apparently that didn't stop me from going to see the new movie. Well, I'd heard T'Challa was great in it, and that sold me!

And I must say, Captain America: Civil War is definitely better than Age of Ultron! (Not that that's saying much, I know....) I actually genuinely enjoyed myself for the majority of the movie.

HOWEVER.

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At any rate: an enjoyable evening out, and I'm glad I went so I could form my own opinions on the movie, and I'm sure I'll inevitably read the fic based on this movie, but I am still not back into MCU fandom.

EDIT:

this is why I shouldn't post late at night without letting myself pause to review - I forgot to include something important re: the politics that I wanted to!

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Combeferre
Sings-to-Trees!!! Gosh I love the dude. I was first introduced to him when Ursula Vernon* posted about him to her livejournal, lo these many years ago. And now he's in book form! Along with a bunch of goblins.

(Here's a round-up of what Vernon posted about Sings-to-Trees back in the day, all of which is definitely worth reading; incidentally, my god, I've been following Vernon's online activity for more than a DECADE. )

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Combeferre
This is a Star Wars novel set just after the Original Trilogy, and the first official star wars novel I've ever read! Actually the first tie-in novel I've ever read for anything, I'm pretty sure. A new experience for me. And I understand that as tie-in quality goes this one is actually pretty good.

I found this book varying in quality - in some ways it was good, and in some ways it was not so much. But overall I definitely did enjoy it!

I was not a fan of the prose style (so choppy that I could never settle comfortably into the book because reading it didn't flow, resulting in me having to read much more slowly than I'm usually able to), and I found the action scenes boring and confusing, and there were too many viewpoint characters who were switched between too rapidly. And the "interlude" chapters felt like interruptions, as opposed to an essential part of the story, though they did add interesting details about what was going on in the rest of the galaxy.

I liked seeing how after the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader, the Empire is not actually all the way gone yet: there's still work to be done, lots of it. And there was a great collection of characters used to show this, a number of characters who are complicated, not all good or all bad, and obviously affected by life under the Empire.

My faves: Sinjir Rath Velin and Mister Bones. Sinjir is an ex-imperial officer and Mister Bones is a modified battle droid. I liked them both a lot. But I also enjoyed reading about all the characters!

Plus: there's actual queer characters in this! Which is wonderful. Including one of our main characters, Sinjir! And among the secondary characters there's a lesbian couple and neither of them die! (my standards for queer representation, they are so low, wow)

I'm interested to see what'll happen next - I gather this is going to be a trilogy?

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Combeferre
Martha Smith Good was one of the first female ministers in the Mennonite church in Ontario, back when women in leadership in the church was a Really Big Deal. (This is tragically not that long ago. Also it's still a Really Big Deal in some parts of the mennonite church.) This is her memoir.

It's a self-published book, and has the various minor flaws that come with that fact. Could have used an editor to tighten some things up, that kind of thing. BUT. It is still really worth reading, because Martha Smith Good is clearly a really impressive person.

She was raised in a pretty conservative church, conservative enough that she did not get any education above grade 8 because that would be too worldly. But she still managed, in her adult life, to go on to college and eventually get her D.Min.

She was a pastor, and found churches who wanted her as their pastor no matter her gender. And when the denomination didn't want to ordain her despite it not being technically against the rules (and wanted to change the rules so it WOULD be against the rules!), she stood her ground for her right to be ordained and won. For a number of years she was the campus minister at Goshen College (a mennonite university in Indiana) and while there became the faculty sponsor for the first gay/lesbian student group because she felt called to work on behalf of the oppressed.

And she talks with openness about her various life struggles (including dealing with anxiety and stress, and getting married at 39 and acquiring 4 step-children at once, and of course all the sexist bullshit the church had to offer) and how she overcame them, and without any castigation towards people who made things harder for her.

And she never really makes a thing of what a big deal she was, the incredible things she was doing. She's just telling her story.

I'm glad she chose to publish this book, even though there (presumably) wasn't any publishing house interested in it. It's an important story and I'm glad to have read it.

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Combeferre
I was disappointed by this book. I'd heard great things about it! But apparently it is not for me.

LOTS OF SPOILERS.Collapse )

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Combeferre
It's like this book was written JUST FOR ME and it is SO GOOOOOOD.

It's a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Snow Queen", which was one of my favourite fairy tales when I was a kid. I reread that story about a million times! And unlike things like Cinderella it's not a story that anybody ever bothers doing a retelling of or deconstruction of or analysis of (I'm not counting Frozen because like hell is that actually connected in any meaningful way with The Snow Queen, whatever Disney says).

But T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) manages to capture in this book everything I loved about the original story while also making it BETTER.

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