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tamaranth

January 2017

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2016/59: Europe in Winter -- Dave Hutchinson
"Europe is inherently unstable. It's been in flux for centuries; countries have risen and fallen, borders have ebbed and flowed, governments have come and gone. The Schengen era was just an historical blip, an affectation."[loc. 5535]


Third in the series -- trilogy? or will there be more? -- that began with Europe in Autumn and continued with Europe at Midnight. I liked Europe in Winter a great deal though suspect I need to reread the entire sequence before I can make sense of the ways in which the various plot threads weave and tangle together.no spoilers )
2016/58: Fool's Run -- Patricia A. McKillip
"I learned something strange. When you run, you run backwards, you never reach the future. The past runs faster than you and waits for you to reach it. You have to walk out of danger, out of the past. Because you look back when you run, but you look to the future when you walk."[loc. 1737]


Reread: I absolutely adored this novel when I first read it, but haven't revisited it for years. Having recently read Kingfisher -- which reminded me of Fool's Run in its mythic resonance and its relatively sparse imagery -- I wanted to reread this and see if my memory had become rose-tinted.
non-spoilery review )

Farewell, 2016

Jan. 5th, 2017 10:28 am
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
A quick review of my cultural outings in 2016. Everything is reviewed! (Sometimes rather cursorily.) Check out my monthlyculture tag.

I am not going to investigate the ticket box, so won't 'fess up to seeing anything more than once. Also, with the advent of e-ticketing, I don't have physical tickets for everything. Come the apocalypse and the demise of the internet, I will have to rely on actual memories. Eeep.

Bracketed figures show range over the last 13 years [eeep! see year-in-summary tag for my Cultural History for over a decade].

Film: 8 (4-20). Best three = Arrival, Captain America: Civil War, Hail Caesar.

Theatre: 15 (1-15). Best three = Queens of Syria, Callisto: A Queer Epic, Acedian Pirates

Concerts (classical): 11 (2-22). Best three = Haydn 'War and Peace'; Brahms Piano Concerto #1; Bach, Mass in B Minor

Opera: 6 (0-6). Best three = Don Giovanni, Eugene Onegin, Lucia di Lammermoor

Gigs: 6 (0-9) Best three = Fred's House, Mitch Benn, Status Quo

Books: See 'em all here; reviews here (ongoing: am behind on reviewing). Read 76; 55 by women, 21 by men; 9 rereads; 2 non-fiction.
04-DEC-16: Tchaikovsky - excerpts from Eugene Onegin, Swan Lake, Nutcracker: RFH
Veronika Dzhioeva, soprano, has a fantastic loud clear voice that was perfectly audible from the cheap seats behind the orchestra. Tommi Hakala, as Onegin, slid and flowed through the orchestra to face her. Jac van Steen, conducting, clearly really enjoyed the Swan Lake excerpts, which were joyous though a bit heavy on the brass/percussion. I loved the Swan Lake finale especially, and still find the Nutcracker rather tedious.

05-DEC-16: Arrival, Greenwich Picture House
A late contender for my Best Film of Year. Beautiful, understated, intelligent. I need to see this again, as it took me a while to get to grips with the non-sequentiality.

09-DEC-16: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Greenwich Picture House.
Meh.
That is: yes, great CGI; Redmayne rather sweet; Twenties New York (though oddly monoracial) nicely filmed; er; that's it. Did not engage me.

11-DEC-16: Status Quo, O2
Hurrah for my lovely employers and their box at the O2! We knew nearly all the songs; were surprised by the energy and enthusiasm of the band, who played for nearly 2 hours; were, for a change, among the younger members of the audience. A good night out.

15-DEC-16: Rogue One, Barbican Cinema
Need to see this again as I was suffering from a surfeit of boozy Christmas lunch. Definitely wasn't in the right mood -- and some scenes were far too close to the news footage from Aleppo that I'd been watching that morning.

20-DEC-16: The Three Kings -- The Sixteen, Cadogan Hall
A varied selection of seasonal songs, from Palestrina and Handl (not Handel) to popular carols. I think I'd have been happier if they'd stuck to the older, more classical songs -- I enjoyed the Palestrina most, either because of the Latin (not listening to words helps me focus on music) or because of the harmonies. Also, could have done with knowing the year of composition of each piece, to build up a relative chronology.

The Sixteen were on excellent form: the phrase 'ceasing never' in 'We Three Kings' felt like a doom in and of itself. Warlock's 'Bethlehem Down' had, for me, a distinctly modern feel, with sprung rhythm and grace-notes in the bass line. And Anerio's Magnificat -- written in 1614, apparently, so my note 'earlier than Bach?' is accurate -- was a delight: echoes of the Coventry Carol and of Pergolesi.
2016/57: A Little Familiar -- R. Cooper
That was one of the problems with dating ordinary humans; eventually it became necessary to either tell them the truth or break up with them. Relationships with them could be done, of course, with the right sort of person, the kind already inclined to gaze longingly at full moons, the ones who searched for fairies when they saw a circle of mushrooms, or ran toward breaking waves instead of away from them.[loc. 44]

spoilery, though predictably so given genre (romance) )
2016/56: The Villa in Italy -- Elizabeth Edmondson
It was odd how English people had reverted to their old habits of reserve and suspicion after the war. Conversations with strangers at bus stops and on trains, being invited in for a cup of tea by neighbours you had never spoken to before, the very unEnglish sense of camaraderie -- all of that had vanished. While queues and saving string and old envelopes had stayed.[loc. 698]


The mid-Fifties: long enough after the Second World War for wartime tragedies to lose their bite, and for a semblance of normality to return, but not long enough to heal every wound. Four people are summoned to the Villa Dante in Italy for the reading of Beatrice Malaspina's will. None of them knew Beatrice Malaspina: none of them have very much to lose. So five travellers -- Delia's best friend Jessica accompanies her -- make their way across post-war Europe to the beautiful, sunny Italian coast. non-spoilery review )
2016/55: Daughter of Smoke and Bone -- Laini Taylor
In all the world, there was only one place humans could get wishes: Brimstone's shop. And there was only one currency he accepted. It wasn't gold, or riddles, or kindness, or any other fairy-tale nonsense, and no, it wasn't souls, either. It was weirder than any of that. It was teeth.[loc. 460]

16OCT16
Karou is a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague, smarting over the treachery of her ex-boyfriend Kaz and enjoying city life in the company of her friends. She is also errand-girl to Brimstone, a kindly monster who collects teeth -- or, rather, has Karou collect them for him -- and creates wishes out of them. Wishes aren't exactly magic, but they bestow powers: the more powerful the wish, the greater the chance that it might go awry. Brimstone, meanwhile, won't tell Karou anything about her origins, or about his own purpose: but he does give her a new language, wish-granted, every birthday.not spoilery review )

Singularity

Jan. 5th, 2017 07:42 am
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
In the next few days I will be deleting my LiveJournal account.

I will no longer be crossposting reviews to LiveJournal: they will only be posted on Dreamwidth.

This is why: http://www.metafilter.com/164293/LiveJournal-represents-social-media-without-borders

Everything is already here on Dreamwidth (and frankly I am barely using either site any more): still, it feels like the end of an era.
Tags:

Read in 2016

Jan. 2nd, 2017 06:51 am
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)


I'm a bit behind on reviews ...
Tags:
Am hideously behind on reviews: luckily (?) November was a very quiet month culturally.

12-NOV-16: La Boheme (Puccini, version by Robin Norton-Hale) - Cutty Sark Theatre, Greenwichreview )
15-NOV-16: Acedian Pirates, Theatre 503, Batterseareview )
Brief reviews this month, due to November. Click the links to see what other people thought, and more details about performances etc.

07-OCT-16: Don Giovanni, English National Opera
Utterly splendid production, which managed to introduce a twist! Several twists, actually, including Donna Anna being complicit in her own seduction: I'm not sure this entirely makes sense. Beautifully staged, too: a highlight was Masetto, perfectly silhouetted by stark light, tipping over one of the two figures on his wedding cake. Maybe a new translation of the libretto? I'd surely have remembered 'let my peasant eat my pheasant' ...

15-OCT-16: The Libertine, Theatre Royal
I know this play quite well, having seen it performed live at least once (maybe this performance) as well as owning the DVD of the film starring Johnny Depp. There were a couple of innovations (or possibly things I misremembered) in the Theatre Royal version: I was especially taken by the theatre scene ('play within a play', ha) near the beginning, where it became obvious why Restoration actors relied so much on exaggerated gestures and poses: their audiences made such a racket, there was little chance of anyone hearing the actors declaiming their lines.
Sadly, Dominic Cooper didn't really work as Rochester, at least not for me. He lacked not only the charisma, but the requisite air of danger: and it never felt as though he actually enjoyed the company of his friends, or felt like one of a group. In this production, Billy Downs wasn't central enough, so Rochester's friendship with and abandonment of him lacked impact.
The Theatre Royal is a beautiful building, and this play still makes me laugh: but it could have been better.

21-OCT-16: Bach - Mass in B Minor, Milton Court
'Like being wrapped in a velvet devore shawl," I wrote, '(and slowly smothered?)' The slower movements were beautiful, if ... relaxing: but oh, baroque brass and kettle-drums! The Gloria and the Sanctus Spiritus both sparked exclamation marks in my notebook. The sheer attack on the Resurrexit was like electricity going through the room. And the gradual slowing at the end of the final movement worked very well.
Milton Hall, which is part of the Guildhall School for Music and Drama, is smaller than the Barbican's main concert hall and has great acoustics: I like it, and hope to see more concerts there.

22-OCT-16: Welcome to Night Vale, London Palladium
Not nearly as many women in the audience as the last show I attended. And it didn't seem, from my sparse notes, to appeal to me as much either. Some interesting lines, but the show's accomplishment was the slow build of Cecil's ghost story. Excellent opening act Eliza Rickman: I loved her cover of Let's Dance and recognised the chords before she started to sing.

25-OCT-16: Doctor Strange, Odeon Leicester Square
Not very far up my ranked list of MCU films: it's visually spectacular, but the character arcs don't make much sense, and Cumberbatch is an oddly uninteresting Strange. (Or perhaps Strange is uninteresting? Compare and contrast to the first Iron Man film for how to introduce a new, engaging character.) Some nice lines: 'What's this?' asks Strange in a Tibetan hideaway. 'My mantra?' 'The wi-fi password.' I liked Stan Lee's cameo, reading The Doors of Perception. Tilda Swinton: awesome as ever. The best bit was the first credits scene. Also, is that a new Marvel title sequence? Does not want.
2016/54: We Have Always Lived in the Castle -- Shirley Jackson
... all during those days when the change was coming Jonas stayed restless. From a deep sleep he would start suddenly, lifting his head as though listening, and then, on his feet and moving in one quick ripple, he ran up the stairs and across the beds and around through the doors in and out and then down the stairs and across the hall and over the chair in the dining room and around the table and through the kitchen and out into the garden where he would slow, sauntering, and then pause to lick a paw and flick an ear and take a look at the day.[loc. 679]


Mary Katherine Blackwood -- Merricat -- is eighteen. She lives with her cat Jonas and her elder sister Constance in a grand old house. All the rest of her family are dead, except for enfeebled Uncle Julian, confined to his wheelchair and obsessed with the events of the night when the rest of the family died. To Merricat falls the task of going to the village to buy food: the villagers hate her, and it's mutual. Merricat has also assumed responsibility for protecting the house: her methodology includes burying teeth and jewellery, nailing a book to a tree, establishing magic words, et cetera.

But one day her efforts fail, and Cousin Charles shows up. He has their best interests at heart, but he and Merricat take a more or less instant dislike to one another. Cousin Charles is an agent of change, and Merricat does not want anything to change: so Cousin Charles will have to go.

I have never really understood why We Have Always Lived in the Castle is described as a horror novel. There's certainly that sense of claustrophobia, of being trapped, that I associate with the genre. It is true, too, that an act of mass murder looms large in the background of the novel: but that is not the focus of the story. Nor is magic: Merricat, for all her rituals and observances, is probably not really a witch (though I could make a case for a degree of solipsism). She is not a reliable narrator, either: the slow unfolding of this novel is especially intriguing because of the things that Merricat never thinks to tell her audience.

This was a reread after many years: I was (as usual) surprised by what I remembered -- Jonas' stories, the spider in the sugar bowl, the house on the moon -- and what I'd forgotten. I think when I first read this novel, I felt as though I might have a certain amount in common with Merricat. Those familiar with the novel will be pleased to hear that I no longer feel that way.
2016/53: Kingfisher -- Patricia A. McKillip
Rituals with letters, rituals with cauldrons, a bloody gaff, a missing knife, everyone in a time warp, looking back at the past, wishing for the good old days, hinting of portents, speaking in riddles, knowing things but never saying, never explaining — [loc. 760]


Pierce Oliver is sorting crabs on the pier, for his mother's restaurant Haricot. Along come three knights in a black limo. Their shadows reveal their ancestry, though they seem surprised that he can see those shadows. They're somewhat bemused, too, about where it is they've ended up. Cape Mistbegotten, says Pierce. If it's not on the map it's because my mother hid it.
not specifically spoilery )
2016/52: The Trespasser -- Tana French
I was doing exactly the same thing as Aislinn: getting lost so deep inside the story in my head, I couldn’t see past its walls to the outside world. I feel those walls shift and start to waver, with a rumble that shakes my bones from the inside out. I feel my face naked to the ice-flavoured air that pours through the cracks and keeps coming. A great shiver is building in my back. [loc. 7950]

slightly spoilery maybe )
2016/51: A Darker Shade of Magic -- V.E Schwab
Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible. The first thing he did whenever he stepped out of one London and into another was take off the coat and turn it inside out once or twice (or even three times) until he found the side he needed. [loc. 66]


There are several Londons, in different worlds: the one we might think of as 'ours' is Grey London. Kell, an Antari blood-magician raised as a prince's foster-brother in Red London, is one of the few who has travelled to Grey London (where mad King George III reigns) and White London (the latter a starving post-apocalyptic wasteland) and knows the stories of Black London, destroyed by the magic it embraced. not significantly spoilery )
2016/50: The Obelisk Gate -- N. K. Jemisin
It shouldn’t work at all, that willpower and concentration and perception should shift mountains. Nothing else in the world works this way. People cannot stop avalanches by dancing well, or make storms happen by refining their hearing. And on some level, you’ve always known that this was there, making your will manifest. This … whatever it is. [loc. 1543]


The Obelisk Gate starts where The Fifth Season stopped: Jemisin doesn't provide a recap, so it is worth reminding oneself of what happened in that novel. non-spoilery review )
A quiet month: two lectures, one gallery opening. Read more... )
2016/49: The Essex Serpent -- Sarah Perry

'It’s a sort of blindness, or a choice to be mad – to turn your back on everything new and wonderful – not to see that there’s no fewer miracles in the microscope than in the gospels!’
‘You think – you really think – that it is one or the other: your faith or your reason?’
‘Not only my reason – there’s not enough of that to set against my soul! – but my liberty.' [loc. 1604]

no spoilers! )
2016/48: The Many Selves of Katherine North -- Emma Geen

The shiver of my cheeks is slowly becoming more pronounced. When I turn my head from side to side, it’s as if the water varies in excitement. And there – my whiskers fizzle, hitting the zenith of a gradient but what that means, I don’t know. Understanding a new sense can take hours, sometimes days; in the end all you can do is get on with the work. I push along the line of agitation. About me, water dances in a lime glow; the disturbed silt a cascade of stars. [loc. 1948]
unspoilery for majority of plot )
2016/47: It -- Stephen King
Home is the place where when you go there, you have to finally face the thing in the dark. [loc. 1605]
not very spoilery, maybe some structural spoilers )