Tuesday, February 24, 2009


AUGH. I'm trying to figure out spring break and while I now have a rough idea of itinerary, lodging is proving to be a massive headache.

In other news, we're off to Scotland in the morning! I won't be online again until Friday.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book connections

One of the very neat things about being here is noticing connections to books I've read. The first one of these to pop out at me was when we visited the British Museum. In the section on Roman Britain I saw the tombstone above. Just a piece of stone with an inscription, right? Then I looked at the plaque next to it. This particular tombstone was set up to commemorate one of eight men to return from the Ninth (Hispana) Legion. The Hispana is, of course, the Ninth legion referenced in the title of The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Sutcliff had a great gift for bringing history alive. So to actually see the tombstone of one of the returned soldiers seriously gave me shivers up and down my spine.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oh, and...

I've just responded to various comments so if you had a comment languishing without a reply, it has now probably been replied to. (I really hate having to make these kind of announcements. One of the reasons LJ software > Blogger software, in my humble opinion.)

Err, anyone here?

I have been a terrible blogger recently. I apologize. I've been finding myself, oddly enough, without that much to say recently. I mean, I'm in London. It's amazing. There are only so many times I can say that without it sounding redundant. But I suppose that I should just keep saying it. Because it's true. It's amazing.

The other reason is that this blog has turned so much into a book blog and I haven't been doing all that much reading. Aside from gulping down Jane Eyre and Shakespeare for class, that is. A few pages of The King of Attolia here and there while on the Tube has been about it. It's a strange experience for me, the person who usually reads 25-30 books a month. I suppose in a certain sense it's restful. I've just written off February-April as non-reading months so I don't feel that pressure to keep reading that I sometimes do. But I miss it. I keep thinking of books that I want to read and then realizing that short of buying them (expensive and bulky) there's essentially nothing I can do.

I did get a copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell from Foyle's the other day (I would pick out the most enormous book to buy) so I have that to look forward to.

This has been a very rambly sort of post. Hopefully it's not been too utterly boring! And I will post more here, I promise. If you're interested and you haven't seen it already, you can read about a recent trip to Bath here.

Monday, February 09, 2009

London posts

I've got two new posts up on my London blog: Orientation! and Catching up. I hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

January Reading List

The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf by Gerald Morris: A re-read. Love these books, especially this one. A re-telling of Arthurian legend, complete with dwarves, enchantresses, the Seelie Court, and hidden identities. Oh, and some great lines. “You’ve clefted my dinner!”

Friday’s Child
The Black Sheep
Devil’s Cub
Venetia (twice)
Bath Tangle
The Grand Sophy
Charity Girl
The Quiet Gentleman
by Georgette Heyer: Okay, so I’ve been reading a lot of Georgette Heyer for awhile now. Quick run-down: Loved Devil’s Cub, Venetia, The Grand Sophy. Was so-so on the others. The Black Sheep and The Quiet Gentleman were okay, just not amazing.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: This was the first book in a long time, maybe ever, that made me scared to get into bed at night. (I used to get scared by Agatha Christie adaptations and be afraid that someone would poison me while I slept. Yeah, I know, logic was not a strong point.) Anyway, back to the book. Basically I thought it was fabulous, a weaving of history and legend and flat-out fantasy. All in all, I thought Kostova did a marvelous job of evoking the different countries, many of them unfamiliar to most western readers. I personally had a little more familiarity with the places since most of them are Orthodox. Rila Monastery, for instance. And I realized that I’ve had the salty cheese pastry she talks about at a couple of points. It’s a story of love and loss and quite fascinating. There were a few moments when I could tell she was writing from outside the culture but these were minor.

Death in a White Tie
Grave Secret
Enter a Murderer
Night at the Vulcan
Killer Dolphin
Death of a Peer
by Ngaio Marsh: I’d taken a long break from Ngaio Marsh but was glad to discover that I love Rory Alleyn just as much as ever. Seriously, he’s up there with Peter Wimsey. *swoons* Oh yes, and the mysteries are pretty good too. ;) I really enjoy Death in a White Tie, Night at the Vulcan, and Death of a Peer. Enter a Murderer is early Marsh, and you can tell.

Deep Secret (twice)
Charmed Life
The Lives of Christopher Chant
The Merlin Conspiracy
by Diana Wynne Jones: So, I could have (and should have) written a whole post on Deep Secret because I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Maybe not quite as much as Howl, which is probably the epitome of Diana Wynne Jones. But Deep Secret…man, I love that book. Hence reading it twice. In one month. Basically Rupert Venables is amazing. And all the other characters are too, but I can’t say much more for fear of ruining it. The Merlin Conspiracy follows one of the main characters (Nick) from Deep Secret. READ IT SECOND. There are huge whacking great spoilers for D.S. all over the place. I loved it too, but I really wanted Rupert and *mumbledy mum because of spoilers* to be in it and they weren’t. Not even mentioned. Sigh. This was strange on one level but made sense on another because Nick is just about the most conceited being in the universe and it’s a bit out of sight out of mind with him. Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant, being my favorites of the Chrestomanci series (although The Pinhoe Egg is lovely too), were also amazing.

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck: LOVE this book. It’s a sequel to A Long Way From Chicago, which is also nice. But A Year Down Yonder…I can’t even tell you. It’s the story of Mary Alice who has to go live with her crazy Grandma Dowdell during the Depression. It’s funny, tender, tragic, and realistically awkward, all at the same time.

Skin Deep by E.M. Crane: A shy, lonely girl accidentally winds up helping a local eccentric and in so doing gains a new perspective on herself and the people around her. Put like that it sounds kind of hokey, but this was a good book. While Hyacinth is definitely an earth-mother type, she has the lifestyle to back it up, so I didn’t mind that aspect. There’s a little hint of romance for Andrea but it never is explicitly stated and it certainly doesn’t take over the novel. I enjoyed this and I’d recommend it, but it didn’t blow me away.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute: A friend recommended this to me. Actually, when she learned I’d never read it, she ran out of the room, returned with it, and stuffed it into my hands. A story of romance during and just after World War II although it was set in Malaya and Australia. I enjoyed seeing WWII fiction not set in Europe. And it was a very sweet story.

City of Masks
City of Stars
by Mary Hoffman: I didn’t get to finish the series! *pouts* The first book was excellent. The second was good. The third…oh, I don’t know. I guess by the third book I felt like Hoffman had gotten herself stuck in a bit of an Issues rut—separated parents and major illnesses are all over the series. It just ended up seeming a little…improbable after awhile. Still, I’d like to finish that third book.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn: I have major mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I really did like the main character and the mysterious detective, Nicholas Brisbane. On the other, well, there’s a reason this was shelved in adult fiction. And some stuff I can handle and other stuff I can’t. So, approach with caution.

Book of Enchantments by Patricia Wrede: Short stories by the author of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles (LOVE THEM!) and the Kate and Cecelia books. I must have read this years ago because I remembered all the stories. For some reason my abiding favorite is “The Sixty-two Curses of Caliph Arenschadd.”

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer: I was telling my sister that when I first read this I said it was like “Jane Austen WITH MAGIC.” I didn’t know what I was talking about. This is really like “Georgette Heyer WITH MAGIC.” Seriously. If you like GH and you like fantasy, read this. Hey, even if you just like one or the other, read this.

Crown Duel
Court Duel
by Sherwood Smith: I really like this series for no good reason. Well, I guess I have two reasons. One, Meliara is a wonderful narrator who manages to be spunky without feeling like A Man In Disguise, which some overly spunky heroines sometimes end up as. Second, I love the hero. With a deep and abiding love. Even though I could see the setup coming from the first book.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale: A beautiful, beautiful book. Goose Girl is probably my favorite Hale, but Book of a Thousand Days is a close runner up, if it’s not tied. The writing is crystal clear and gorgeous. A re-telling of a Grimm’s fairy tale, transposed to a version of Mongolia.

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey: Another fairy tale re-telling, this time of Sleeping Beauty. It’s interesting to compare this to Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End, which I also love. This was MUCH shorter, but very well done. I liked the fact that I really didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next. At the same time, I think I would have liked a little more volume.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke: Short stories by the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I would have re-read if I thought I had time. Clarke continues her amazingly versatile writing style in this collection. I think you pretty much had to read Jonathan Strange for most of these to work at all. But if you read and enjoyed that, I think you would like collection.

The Road to Yesterday by L.M. Montgomery: L.M. Montgomery=joy. Although…these are all set in Avonlea and several of them mention Walter and…okay, I hope I’m not spoiling Rilla of Ingleside for anyone, but Walter was my favorite Blythe child and I cried buckets of tears in Rilla, and whenever anyone mentions Walter my throat starts getting all tight and my eyes start watering and I have to blink rapidly so as not to start bawling.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett: This was a lot of fun. A middle-school grade mystery, I’d say. It was nice in that there were a lot of puzzles but even if you couldn’t figure them out, you could still read the story. However, the solution left me annoyed because I don’t see any way the reader could have independently deduced the villain, except by the old Unlikeliest Person trick. And even that’s shaky.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Orientation...or not

We were supposed to have orientation this morning at ten. But it snowed and they cancelled classes. No orientation today. It's supposed to snow more this afternoon so tomorrow is questionable as well.

I knew I was going to have adventures. I just didn't realize there was going to be snow involved.

UK Yahoo article on the snow.
Both runways at Heathrow Airport in west London have been closed, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights. London City Airport has also been closed.

I'm so glad I flew in yesterday.

A picture of the garden, taken from my window:

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I made it!

Here I am in London! My host is really sweet and there are two other American students staying in the house. They share a room and I have one to myself. Everything is unpacked but we'll see if it all stays as it is now or if I change the set up.

I wrote a post about my travelling experience and will be writing another shortly.

My host has wireless so I'll probably be able to update pretty regularly.