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Happy New Year

Happy 2017 LJ-ers! How was your holiday? I hope you had a good one. Mine was a quiet one with family and friends. I had a whole week off work and I'm starting 2017 feeling very well rested and ready for what the year might bring.

I really enjoyed reading this year's Yuletide stories. Here are some of my favourites.Collapse )

All the best to you in 2017! May it bring you lots of adventures, good days, peace and love.

The Fault In Our Stars

I wasn't going to read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  The premise of the book sounded like a story I did not want to read.

I changed my mind after listening to John Green reading the first two chapters aloud on his YouTube vlog, and enjoying that a lot.

I picked up and starting reading an unexpectedly available copy of the book at the library this week, during a couple of spare hours (I was 20th on the wait list for the other copies!).  And then I found I couldn't put the book down, and ended up checking it out to finish the last 100 pages that evening.  It's that good.

The book spoke to me on a much more personal level than I had expected.  I wonder how John Green can know those particular things with such understanding when he hasn't lived them.  He must be really good at drawing people out; really good at listening.

I was pretty sure from a fairly early point in the story that John Green was going to break my heart a little.  And then he did.  But the book was so good I couldn't be mad.  I like how responsible and compassionate he was towards all his characters, not just the protagonists.  Well, except for Patrick.

I think that this book probably means a lot of different things to different people, depending on where you stand.  It could be really depressing.  But I found it very gentle, honest, and life-affirming.  It's not something I would have given to my teenaged self to read, though it's marketed to a YA audience.  I don't think I would have enjoyed it very much, though the story's certainly compelling enough to pull anyone through from beginning to end.  I probably wouldn't have understood much of the emotional content of the book.  But as an adult at this place in my life, I'm really glad I read it.

I heart John Green.
"The tale is not beautiful if nothing is added.  Folktales remain merely dumb until you realize that you are required to complete them yourself, to fill in your own particulars."  -- Italo Calvino, Italian storyteller

I was reading Canadian Fairy Tales by Eva Martin and Laszlo Gal today, and read this quote at the end of the collection.

My immediate thought was, Fandom.  That's exactly how we tell our stories.  That right there, in a nutshell.  It warms my heart to think about the direct link between the folk and fairy tales of past years, past centuries, from all over the world, and of the stories that we tell each other in the 21st century, over the internet.  Of the basic human desire to hear and tell stories.


I love the internet

Questions I've asked the internet today:

1.  How much it's customary to tip a taxi driver in my province.

2.  How to substitute maple syrup for granulated white sugar in baking.

3.  The names of the unidentified performers in a particular 2005 recording of Dvorak's Dumky Trio that I've been listening to on iTunes.

The internet gave me excellent and comprehensive answers to all three.

Honestly, how did I ever get by back in the days before I had access to the collective knowledge of the world at large??


Brahms Cello Sonata

I've been listening to lots of string music lately:  chamber music.  This clip is one of the ones that makes YouTube such a treasure trove.  Not only do you hear the music but you actually get to see the musicians expressing it.

Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim when they were young and brilliant and in love, playing the 2nd movement of the Cello Sonata No. 2 in F, Op. 99 by Johannes Brahms.  They must have been married for about a year when this was made.

I love this music and their playing so much.  The cello and the piano sound passionately in love, the way they weave so intimately around each other.

But maybe I'm just projecting!  :D

Movements 1, 3 and 4 of the Cello Sonata are also stunning.

YouTube comments tell me that the page-turner is Pinchas Zukerman, world-famous violinist and conductor in his own right, a personal friend of the couple.  Not too shabby!

Sarah Rees Brennan long short story

I'm really loving Sarah Rees Brennan's The Turn of The Story, a not-at-all-short story in 2 parts, with more to come.  It's a portal fantasy and a magic boarding school story.  Elliot Schafer, Luke Sunborn and Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle are an adorable and awesome trio of friends who have each others' backs from the age of thirteen.  (One is an elf.  The other two have personal angst.)  I want a whole series about their adventures as they go through school together in their fantasy land.

One feature of the fantasy land is reverse sexism.  The female characters are gently patronizing to the male characters about their sensitive souls and need for protection.  It makes me laugh every time.


Cloud Atlas

I saw the movie Cloud Atlas this week. It's gorgeous. My favourite movie I've seen in ages.

I read David Mitchell's book about 5 or so years ago, lightly skimming the many pages in short bursts and zeroing in on the parts that caught my attention. So I didn't remember it very well when I sat down in the movie theatre this week. That turned out to be a great way to see the movie.

The Cloud Atlas Sextet is a piece of music composed by a character in the movie. And the movie is indeed a sextet. There are six interconnected storylines. Adding yet another layer to the theme of patterns and everything being connected, the movie's creators had the brilliant idea of having the main actors play multiple roles. It's fantastic, and so is the makeup for their many transformations. It adds a whole other dimension to the movie.

I remembered only three of the six storylines from the book. And two of those were mostly vague outlines without the details. The movie is, I think, very faithful to the book, because as I watched, characters and lines and events prompted my memory. Oh yes, that's what happened. Right, that bit. The feeling of deja vu as the storylines were slowly revealed, a piece at a time, was very fitting for the movie. It's a three hour movie but not once was I bored.

I loved the actors and the visual content and the philosophical and emotional content of Cloud Atlas. There were a few details I remembered from the book that didn't appear in the movie. Whether they were edited from the script to make it a better movie or whether I misremembered them, I'll have to re-read the book and find out.

I'm looking forward to it.

Here, have David Mitchell talking a little about Cloud Atlas, book and movie. What a lovely guy!Collapse )


Dear Yuletide Author

Dear Yuletide Author,

Hi! I'm so glad we've been matched. Thank you so much for writing for me! I can't wait to read your story!

Read more...Collapse )


Mini Book Reviews

Summer is for reading, and this year I got back to my YA roots. Now that my computer's repaired I can finally type these up!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This is a very good book. I wasn't sure I liked what the author was doing until about page 50, when the book started to get really good, and kept on getting better. On the strength of the first half of the book, while still reading the rest, I got a copy for my sister for her birthday because I knew she would love the stuff about flying small planes: plane types, controls, the art of navigation, the thrill of flying. I liked it a lot myself. I also thought she would love the two main characters and their friendship, the centre of the book. Yay!

I liked the very interesting stuff about operating early radar systems and the methods of British wartime spies and French Resistance Circuits. Interesting, and never done in a Let me tell you these things I know! way, but a seamless part of the story. Elizabeth Wein walks the difficult line between making the Nazi characters human while not diminishing the tiniest bit the horror of what they are doing.

Female pilots and spies may have been the exception rather than the rule during World War II, but exceptional courage and self-sacrifice and friendship were not. Reading this book gave me a renewed appreciation for what my grandparents' generation went through.

more reviews for Keeping the Castle, Team Human, and Frances HardingeCollapse )