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Old 07-28-2011, 02:30 PM   #10283
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Originally Posted by beppe View Post
I just read an interesting little book. An Iliad (2006) by the Italian author Alessandro Baricco. It is a reduction/condensation of the Homer monumental tale.
Ooh. I have that out from the library's New Books shelf, though I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I've also got Zachary Mason's The Lost Books of the Odyssey, which is a broadly similar sort of retelling, to contrast and compare it with.

As for me, it's finals crunch season, so I haven't had as much time for leisure reading as I would like.*

Most notable recent stuff that I finished:

1) The Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Homer's The Odyssey, in an annotated public domain prose translation dating from the 1920's. I found it easier to read than the B&N version of The Iliad, which kept the verse-line cutoffs which broke up in annoying ways when I upped the text size.

A nice edition with good footnotes for various proto-Greek cultural terms and mythological references, but it's a shame that B&N has doubled the price of their e-book classics to 3.99 each, as while the extras were a pleasant added value, they were only 1.99 worth of value-add and would need a lot more background/analytical essays and stuff to merit the higher cost, imho.

2) The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which is one of her rare straight (relatively speaking) historical novels, re-released into e-book format, which I picked up during a Fictionwise sale (already own in a thick paperback with tiny squinty text).

It's a bit weird re-reading this given the subject matter and the situation surrounding MZB's 2nd husband, but the parts about the thinly-veiled history and mechanics of circus aerialist performances and the depiction of the repressive 50s attitude towards gay men and women in general were just as fascinating (and depressing) as I remembered.

Recommended with caveats for people who are interested in the latter subjects above and willing to overlook the former situation.

3) Chinese Clothing by Hua Mei. One of the few non-coursework related non-fiction books I got to finish this semester. Part of a new Cambridge University Press series of slim but informative and lavishly illustrated low-cost volumes (back of it says $20 USD retail) on Chinese history and culture from ancient to modern, apparently translated from a Chinese-language series.

Highly recommended, although mildly flawed in having a lot of references to presumably Chinese-language texts which it could include a bibliography for (and maybe add in the characters for special terms mentioned throughout the text, for people interested in looking up more info).

4) The Dickens With Love, an m/m romance former freebie from Samhain by Josh Lanyon.

This had some nice references to various Charles Dickens works, as the premise is that an underemployed-due-to-scandal rare-literature hunter is sent to evaluate the unpublished Dickens manuscript that's being auctioned off by an eccentric Englishman and hilarity ensues seduction occurs.

The writing was pretty decent, but it felt like half the story was missing as it ends right after you'd think that an unsavory type involved in the story would try some sort of theft/revenge scheme. Instead, there's the standard romance Happily Ever After in which two characters act kind of out of character in order to get to their happy place together. And the apparent scandal associated with the text was very anticlimactic, unless there was much more to it than I thought I read, because it turned out to be the sort of thing that no one cares about any more.

5) Unnatural Issue, the latest in Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series based on fairy tales set in Victorian-5th-incarnation-Georgian (if I've got my Kings George numbere right) England.

This one part-stars "Lord Peter Almsley", who's a thinly-disguised Peter Wimsley clone who's been a background character throughout the series. At 7+ books so far, the series is now digging into the more obscure fairy tales and to tell you which one would spoiler the first third of the book, so I'll just say that it's one of the more disturbing Charles Perrault ones redone surprisingly staidly.

It's also got WWI-era magickal zombie attacks in the English countryside, for those who've always wanted to read about WWI-era magickal zombie attacks in the English countryside.

Standard Lackey disclaimers apply: expect a lot of self-justifying internal monologue ranting from the villain's point of view†; more ranting, whining, and angst from the hero/heroine's point of view (not so bad this time, actually); a number of deus ex machinations to help the plot along; Sudden Realization of Romantic Feelings All Along; and Ye Aulde Funetically Speilt Dialektikal Aksent rife among the speech of the lower classes (surprisingly not that bad this time around; I guess faux-Yorkshire doesn't bother me as much as made-up apostrophe-dropping).

I did like the historical background detail of English countryside life and WWI preparations, although some of it felt like it was going into overload for the benefit of the severely Commonwealthily-deprived. I'm only a Canadian and even I know how Xmas pantos work and don't need every little thing of the bare basics described to me over most of one page without adding much to the story beyond infodump.

Now onto this year's Hugo Voter Packet, which I'm only about 20% of the way through, with voting due on Sunday.

Mild recommend if you already like the series and can get this from the library as I did.

* Also I've been doing online gaming which is eating up my eyeball time like crazy. But I expect I'll get bored with that pretty soon.

† Look behind you!
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