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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in alobear's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, August 24th, 2019
9:39 am
To Be Taught If Fortunate
I *love* the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers, which actually won the Best Series at the 2019 Hugo Awards recently - yay!

So, I was very excited to find out that Becky Chambers was publishing a novella in early August. It's called To Be Taught If Fortunate (a reference to a speech by the UN Secretary about space travel in 1977) and it's about a group of astronauts who are travelling many light years from Earth to study other planets that might harbour life.

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Friday, August 23rd, 2019
10:55 pm
Hail Satan documentary
Tonight, I watched 'Hail, Satan?', a documentary about the founding and development of The Satanic Temple. It started off in quite a disappointing way with the early activities seeming ridiculous and counter-productive. I also thought it was unfortunate that two of the co-founders refused to show their faces, which seemed hypocritical if they were trying to say their organisation was something to be proud of. However, Lucien Greaves stepped forward to be both the face and the voice of The Satanic Temple and made for an excellent spokesperson. Dave suggested to me that the use of Satanism was needlessly provocative and would be detrimental to them actually achieving anything related to political activism. But the controversial associations that Satanism bring up are entirely the point. What they're trying to do, in the main, is to prevent state government in the US from promoting a Christian message. And by quoting freedom of religion in the Constitution, they are using the fear of Satanism (as Greaves said at one point - "it's a socio-political counter-myth) to block Christian monuments and Christian practices in state government. I thought it was particularly telling that the only people who mentioned anything objectionable in relation to Satanism were those protesting the Satanic Temple's activities. I find nothing to disagree with in any of the Temple's Seven Tenets, which preach inclusivity, open-mindedness, compassion and freedom. The story of one chapter leader getting a bit out of hand with threats against the president demonstrates that Satanism is a label that might be easy to abuse, but she was ejected from the organisation, which is entirely non-violent.

So, after a slightly rocky start, the documentary had some very interesting things to say, and presented the Satanic Temple in a very balanced and reasonable light overall. If I was interested in joining a religion, that's definitely the one I'd choose.
Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
3:50 pm
Grave Mercy
Next in the Novel Predictions list is Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers. Based on the premise, it sounds pretty terrible. Set in the 1480s, it's about a convent that takes in young girls believed to be sired by Death himself, and trains them to be assassins. The protagonist, Ismae, accepts her third assignment to pose as mistress to Lord Duval in the court of Brittany, working with him to protect the young duchess, whose reign is threatened both from without and from within. Things get complicated when Ismae's instructions from the convent start to go against her own conscience and heart.

Ridiculous? Yes. But it's very well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a bit concerning that a 17-year-old female protagonist enjoys killing quite so much as she does, though she claims it's in service to her saint rather than bloodthirstiness for it's own sake, but still... Anyway, there's lots of political intrigue, a classic romance plot and some great interactions between the various female characters. Ismae discovers an utterly ridiculous power she didn't know she had towards the end, which made me cringe a bit, but otherwise I found this book very immersive and richly described, with appealing characters and an interesting plot. I'll definitely be reading more by this author.
1:22 pm
Graceling Review
Graceling by Kristin Cashore is the only book prompted by the Novel Predictions podcast that was available as an audiobook and it was already in my library so I must have at least started listening to it before, though I don't remember doing so.

It's set in a fantasy world of seven kingdoms where a small percentage of people are 'graced' with a special ability, denoted by them having different coloured eyes. The protagonist is Katsa, niece to a vindictive king and graced with killing. Her uncle uses her as an enforcer but she has set up a secret council of her own, which goes on missions to protect the innocent. During one of her covert missions, Katsa meets Po, another graced fighter, and teams up with him to find out who kidnapped his grandfather and why.

It's a good premise and Katsa makes for a complex, layered, flawed and sympathetic protagonist. I also like a lot of the peripheral characters, but there are other aspects of the book I'm not so keen on. There are long stretches of very little plot, too much rather painful focus on the developing romance, and a perhaps somewhat troubling attitude to domestic violence. This last is down to the fact that the violent party is female - though Katsa's struggles with her temper and her grace are a big part of the story and her violence towards others is never excused or endorsed.

I particularly like Po, as a character, not least because his Welsh accent in the audiobook is delicious. I also really like the Princess Bitterblue, who gets her own book later in the series (looking forward to that one). And the mystery and political intrigue are great. It just feels as if the actual plot is spread out too thinly over too long a period, with too much slogging through wilderness and angst-ridden navel-gazing in between.

I was getting a bit bored towards the end, but also utterly baffled as to how the main plot would be resolved with only two hours to go, when the protagonist was travelling *away* from the conflict, with the intention of hiding for several months. Then - BOOM - there was an unexpected twist that led to an extremely speedy climax, followed by nearly 90 minutes of aftermath, which was great.

So, after thinking there might be a cliffhanger ending and the whole things was just setup for the next book, it all got resolved and it turns out the other two books in the series are about entirely different characters! I'm glad I persevered and have already bought all the other books by this author on audio. I'm also really looking forward to the Novel Predictions episode about this, because there's no way Kales is going to be able to predict how this book works out!


I just found my review of my first read of this book, from February 2009 - just goes to show how your views of something can change over time (though the romance aspect was still my least favourite bit) - also, I can't quite believe how patronising this is!:

"Graceling, by Kristin Cashore - this had early promise. The world it described (seven kingdoms with uneasy alliances, certain people born with superhuman talent at one particular skill - anything from fighting to flower arranging) was well-drawn and interesting; the characters were engaging and likeable, and there was an intriguing mystery at the heart of the plot. Then the romance element was introduced and it all went downhill from there - the protagonist was annoyingly idiotic when she was being oblivious to the love interest's regard, and then it just turned unbearably mushy once they fell into bed together. Even the intriguing mystery petered out like a damp squib, leading to an unsatisfying conclusion where there could have been an excellent book. This is Cashore's first novel - I think, if she dials down the 'icky love stuff' (reference, anyone?) and concentrates on the politics and the action, she might have a career as a good writer."
Monday, August 19th, 2019
4:26 pm
Sharp Objects
The other podcast that is prompting me to consume particular media is Ink To Film, in which two friends read and review books and their film adaptations. While they do heavily recap the events of both book and film, it's obviously more interesting to listen if I'm familiar with the material. So, this week, I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.

I haven't read Gone Girl, but I did watch the film when it came out and pretty much hated it - not because it was bad, but just because it was horrible. So, I was a bit wary going in to Sharp Objects.

My review isn't going to give away actual plot twists, but discussion of the structure might ruin the arc of the story.

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Saturday, August 17th, 2019
2:24 pm
A Curious Beginning
My second book prompted by the Novel Predictions podcast was A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, which is the first in a series charting the adventures of forthright lepidopterist, Veronica Speedwell in the late 1880s. When I was compiling my list of books to read from the podcast, I almost didn't add this one, as it didn't sound that appealing, but I'm glad I did because I absolutely loved it.

Veronica is awesome. She speaks her mind, does her own thing, and stands up to anyone who tries to tell her what to do. She is capable of defending herself and enjoys romantic dalliances while on her expeditions. This book sees her thrown into the company of Stoker, the irascible taxidermist, as they attempt to solve the murder of his friend and her would-be protector, Max. I loved the interactions between them, and the story rattled along at a considerable pace. It did get repetitive in places, and the main reveal was a bit ridiculous, but I will definitely be reading more of this series.
Thursday, August 15th, 2019
12:14 pm
Pirates and Poison
Last night, we spent a fun evening with friends at Draughts, and played Treasure Island, a game that was entirely new to me. One player is Long John Silver, who has hidden his treasure somewhere on the island but can't go and get it because he's in prison. The other players are pirates, trying to figure out where the treasure is before John escapes and retrieves it for himself.

The pirate players move around the island map, picking up hints and searching for the treasure, with Long John doling out snippets of information as they go along. Some hints are provided to the whole group and some just to individual pirates, so it's up to the players how much information they share. Also, not all the hints are reliable, and players have to use up actions to determine whether or not they may be true.

It was quite a fun set-up, but the kind of game I'm usually really bad at. However, as the countdown to Long John's escape grew nearer and my fellow players revealed more and more of the information they had gathered, I used a clue I'd received quite early to work out that we had been fooled. We were all searching in one corner of the map, thinking we had narrowed the treasure location down, but I realised there was a whole other section that was still viable. So, I used my one-use-only fast gallop ability to teleport to the other area and found the treasure immediately!

On the way home, I finished reading my latest book, Poison Study by Maria V Snyder. I picked it up because it's one of the books reviewed on the Novel Predictions podcast, which I really enjoy, but which is obviously more fun if I'm familiar with the book. It tells the story of Yelena, a self-confessed murderer, who is given the opportunity to become the military dictator's food taster rather than be executed. She takes the job, gets trained in poison detection and has to navigate various threats to her life while trying to figure out secrets from her past.

I liked the world building - it's unusual in a high fantasy setting for the monarchy to have been overthrown by a military coup, and the rules of the society are interesting. I thought the writing was a bit clunky in places, with quite a bit of telling, but the story overall had lots of intrigue and action to keep it ticking along. Overall, I enjoyed it enough to carry on with the series, which is a good job because I bought a box set of all six.
I liked Yelena's journey from totally lacking in agency, to getting herself trained in self-defence, figuring out how to use her burgeoning magic and eventually being able to take action to help resolve her predicament.

But the romance aspect was wildly unconvincing and felt very forced. The main male character is the Commander's spy master, Valek, who is the one who offers Yelena the job, subsequently trains her, and basically controls her whole existence, as she is still essentially his prisoner. So, it's a bit concerning from a power dynamics viewpoint that she falls in love with him. It also comes out of the blue with no development of the relationship in that direction. He does spend a lot of the book rescuing her from physical harm (which is also annoying) but it just didn't feel natural or satisfying to me. There are other male characters that would have been better suited as the love interest, and that I liked a lot more than Valek.

There is also a trans-gender character, which is good to see in this kind of book, though the treatment of this plot point felt a bit clumsy. At the end, one of the bad guys shouts out that the Commander is really a woman dressed as a man and all the soldiers laugh at the 'ravings of a madman'. There's then a whole paragraph explaining that they're not laughing because the idea of a woman in command is ridiculous, but because the Commander is so strait-laced they can't believe he would deceive them in this way. So, the author is certainly trying to avoid making the trans character a point of ridicule but it feels very clunky and over-done.

There's also some homophobic joking from one of the guard captains earlier on, which jars a bit.
Sunday, August 11th, 2019
6:13 pm
Blinded By The Light
I'm a real fan of Gurinder Chadha films, so I was excited to see a new one coming out in cinemas.

Blinded By The Light tells the story of Javed, growing up in a Pakistani family in Luton in the 1980s.

It's a classic tale of wanting more and having to fight against familial and societal expectations to follow your dreams.

There's also a lot of Bruce Springsteen music, which inspires Javed to pursue his ambitions.

It was pretty good, but it didn't blow me away. I think it would have had more impact if I'd been a Springsteen fan, but I can certainly relate to the experience of being inspired by particular music. It was all quite predictable, though, and I felt some of the minor characters got short-changed.

It was effective in showing a UK in turmoil and economic trouble, which I'm hoping is not an accurate prediction of where we're heading over the next few years...
Friday, August 9th, 2019
3:23 pm
Podcasts, Steerswomen and Glamourists
I just finished listening to Glamour in Glass, the second glamour book by Mary Robinette Kowal, and it was - fine. It's basically Austen with a bit of magic thrown in. It's pretty light and the books don't actually fit my criteria for buying audiobooks because they're too short. The author's British accent on the narration is a bit off-putting as well. So, I think I'll stick to her Lady Astronaut series from now on, which is *awesome*.

Yesterday, I finished The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein, which was recommended by Anita Sarkeesian on a recent Feminist Frequency radio episode. It's the first in a 1980s fantasy series about an order of women (and a few men) who travel the world, gathering and disseminating knowledge. They have to answer truthfully any question put to them, but can also ask questions in return and anyone who refuses to answer will never be answered by a steerswoman in the future (it's not clear how they know who has refused one of their number). The story follows Rowan, a steerswoman who is investigating the appearance of strange gemstones she thinks are connected to the secretive wizards. I was enjoying it to begin with but it started losing my interest about halfway through. It may be because my reading of it was interrupted a few times and there were too many days between reading sessions for me to keep the flow of the story. But I think it also had something to do with the sudden introduction of a new point-of-view character (and not a particularly sympathetic one) partway through, which felt very jarring after the first half being exclusively from Rowan's point of view. So, I'm not going to be continuing with this series either, though I liked the world, the concept of the steerswomen, and Rowan as a character.

On Wednesday, I finished So You Want To Start A Podcast by Kristen Meinzer, who co-hosts my favourite podcast. A couple of weeks ago, I said something apparently amusing to Dave, who replied, "We're really funny. We should do a podcast!" I really liked the idea and I've been thinking about it a lot ever since. I remembered that Kristen's book was about to come out (serendipity or what?) so bought the Kindle version and read it while travelling around Norway this week. It's a fun read, and also tremendously useful. I was particularly amused by the bit that said, 'I hope one of your reasons isn't the second-most-common thing I hear from aspiring podcasts: "My friend Dave and I are really funny." ' Luckily, Dave and I have come up with what I think is a pretty decent concept and a strong show outline, and Kristen's book has been very informative in helping develop that, as well as pointing is in the right direction for getting going. So, highly recommended if you're thinking about starting a podcast!

And speaking of podcasts, I've been listening to a lot lately, but realised I haven't reviewed any of them. So, here are the ones I'm subscribed to:

Ink to Film - Luke and James review a book one episode and its film adaptation the next. The episodes are long for a podcast and the discussion is in depth, but very interesting and quite fun.

The Bechdel Cast - Jamie and Caitlin invite a guest to nominate a film, which they then all watch and analyse from the point of view of the presentation of the female characters. Also long for a podcast, with perhaps a bit too much waffle sometimes. But I like the lens through which they view media and it's always a fun discussion.

By The Book - Kristen and Jolenta pick a self-help book, summarise its rules and attempt to live by them for two weeks, then report back on how it went. This is the perfect length, extremely well produced, hilarious and tremendous fun. I love spending time with these ladies, and especially like it when the husbands and dog get involved. Highly recommended.

Novel Predictions - Kales and Alison take turns nominating a book that one of them loves and the other has never read. After five chapters, the newbie predicts what's going to happen in the rest of the book, and then they review both the predictions and the book itself in the next episode. Great fun, and I'm actually planning to read all the books they've done (if I haven't read them before) so I can get the most out of the show.

Unladylike - Kristen and Caroline pick a particular issue and take a deep-dive into its history and impact on women both today and in the past. They interview interesting people and reveal horrifying historical facts about the patriarchy. Informative, unsettling, but also very entertaining. Another great pair of ladies to spend 40 minutes with.

Dear Hank and John - Hank and John Green answer listener questions, give dubious advice and provide all the latest news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. Very silly but good fun.

The Guilty Feminist - Deborah Frances-White hosts a weekly live stand-up show from a feminist point of view and releases it as a podcast. Very funny, but also kind of horrifying in the issues they highlight.

The Book Club Review - Kate and Laura discuss the books their book clubs have been discussing. They also do interviews with people in other interesting book clubs (an interview with me is upcoming!) and with people who run interesting book clubs. Bad if you want to avoid adding too many books to your reading list, but otherwise great fun and really interesting.

Our Opinions Are Correct - Annalee and Charlie discuss scientific topics in relation to science-fiction and fantasy media. Another pair of ladies I enjoy spending time with. Their discussions are both interesting an entertaining.

And that's my list! Hopefully, I'll soon be adding a podcast by Dave and me to it...
Tuesday, July 30th, 2019
8:15 pm
Audio, Text, Film and TV
Lots of completed entertainment this week!

Lock-In by John Scalzi (read in the audio version by the delectable Wil Wheaton) is about a near future where millions of people suffer from Locked-In Syndrome after an outbreak of a virus. They can either use android bodies to move around and interact with people, or share the brain of an 'integrator', controlling their body for a set period of time under contract. It's a well-thought-out concept, applied in an interesting way to the murder mystery format. Protagonist Chris Shane is locked-in but has just started work for the FBI and gets pulled into a shadowy conspiracy after the death of an integrator. I liked the characters, I liked the world-building, I liked where the story led, and I loved having Wil Wheaton in my ears again. I've just discovered there's a standalone follow-up set in the same world, so I've added that to my audio library.

Another unexpected sequel discovery was The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik. I thought the ending of Sofia Khan is Not Obliged was a bit abrupt and really wanted to know what happened next - so the sequel was a pleasant surprise. I'm not sure I liked where this one went - though following the characters through another book after a romantic happy-ever-after ending to the first one wasn't likely to be all sunshine and rainbows. I enjoyed spending more time with the characters, but I felt the first person POV left some of them without enough page-time to fully explore their motivations. There also didn't seem to be quite enough plot to stretch out over another book, and yet the ending felt really abrupt again. So, while I enjoyed it overall, it was still a bit disappointing.

My trip to the cinema yesterday was to see The Current War, charting the competition between Edison and Westinghouse to corner the market in electric light. Tesla turned out to be the key, and one of the more interesting characters. I did enjoy the film, though for a story about electricity, it wasn't very dynamic (see what I did there?). The music in particular tried to lay on masses of tension when there wasn't really anything exciting going on, which was weird. Lovely to see Tom Holland in a role other than Spider-Man, though, and the rest of the cast were also good.

And today I watched the last ever episode of Orange Is The New Black. I won't spoil anything, but it was pretty good overall, though what really made me cry were the farewell videos from the cast that played over the credits. I think this has been one of the best TV shows in recent years, and an emotional rollercoaster every season. Fantastic characters, brutal storytelling, great acting, wonderful ensemble - if you haven't ever seen it, I envy you the first-time experience, but I would advise spreading it out as much as you can.
Saturday, July 27th, 2019
1:36 pm
Theatre and Fantasy
Fourth trip to Come From Away this week - it's still awesome! And I have three more converts.

I also went to see Noises Off, which was fun and impressively staged.

Last night, I went to an all male modern-set version of Coppelia, which is one of my favourite ballets. The dancing was good and it was a fun performance. The emotion was played for laughs, though, which seemed unfortunate as it played into stereotypes of men crying being week and unmasculine. The conclusion was also very abrupt and went in a weird direction in terms of tying up relationships neatly, so I didn't think any of the people should have ended up with who they did.

Still, it was silly and enjoyable and had good male paired dancing.

Last night, I also finished reading A Conjuring of Light, the final instalment of the Shades of Magic series by VE Schwab. I love the characters and the setting so it was great to spend more time in this world. It felt a bit repetitive, though, as if the threat from the second book basically just came back in a more powerful form. Still, all the inter-relationships were excellent and the whole thing had a very satisfying conclusion all round, with over 60 pages dedicated to aftermath and character resolution, which made for a very refreshing change.
Sunday, July 21st, 2019
1:39 pm
Empire of Sand and Children of Ruin
This week, I finished listening to Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri. It's a fantasy book about a desert-based people, some of whom can control potentially dangerous spirits through mystic rites. The leaders of the society imprison those people and force them to perform those rites to keep the spirits under control. The protagonist, Mehr, is tricked into marriage and kept prisoner at the temple in this role. The audio recording is 17 hours long and it didn't feel as if all that much actually happened. The relationships are all very complex and well-drawn and there's a lot of emotional angst, but it was very drawn out and quite repetitive. However, it kept me listening and the ultimate conclusion was very satisfying. It's about finding hope in adversity, making choices under restrictions and learning to trust and love after a long period of coercion. All of that is presented very effectively and I was certainly invested in the characters, so I'll probably read the next in the series when it comes out.

I also read Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky, the sequel to Children of Time. Again, it was long but not particularly eventful, though there were some periods of unpleasantness scattered throughout. I liked how the humans and spiders of the first book had developed in the interim, and Tchaikovsky is very good at presenting alien intelligences - this book had a further two, both of which are completely different from each other and those that have come before. The slow road to comprehension, communication and diplomacy is well-plotted and I liked where everything eventually ended up. Plus, yay, octopuses!
Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
2:43 pm
I was intrigued by Yesterday and mostly enjoyed it. It has the kind of high concept you just have to go with, though aspects of the ending didn't make sense to me, even within the context of the plot.

Ed Sheeran as himself was a stroke of genius and he evidently has a good sense of humour about his fame. It's always great to see Sanjeev Bhaskar (even better with a Lowestoft accent). And I loved the two people who come to confront the protagonist towards the end.

The increasing pressure of dishonest fame and the growing expectations of others takes its toll on Jack in a very credible and painful way. But I'm not convinced Beatles songs released now as new would garner such acclaim.

Still, all the music is fantastic and I particularly like the scenes where Jack was trying to remember some of the more complex lyrics.

But the central relationship didn't work for me at all. Ellie blames Jack for wasting ten years without figuring out she loves him, but she's wasted all that time without telling him. She also gives him a ridiculous and very unreasonable ultimatum, then proceeds to lead on someone else who definitely deserves better.

So bad relationship politics all round.

But overall a fun movie.
Friday, July 12th, 2019
9:42 am
Spiderman: Far From Home
Went to see latest Spiderman last night - it was pretty fun overall. Some of the humour didn't land for me, and bits of it didn't really make sense. But Tom Holland is still adorable and eminently watchable, there was some good supporting character stuff, the effects and action were great, and it was nice to see a lot of European locations I'm familiar with. So, worth a watch, but not stellar.
Thursday, July 11th, 2019
4:07 pm
The Lives of Others
This month's political film night choice was The Lives of Others, subsequent to our host suggesting we move away from US politics and try something else.

This film is about a Stasi operative conducting surveillance on a potentially subversive writer in East Germany in 1984.

It's a very cleverly constructed film, portraying a quiet struggle against internal conditioning and a more external struggle against censorship and tyrrany.

It was horrifying, but also quite funny in places and the characters felt very real.
Tuesday, July 9th, 2019
1:46 pm
A Gathering of Shadows
Book two in the Shades of Magic series by VE Schwab turned up in the library really quickly so I dived in. It's fast-paced, fun and exciting, with an undercurrent of deep emotion, and I loved it. I found it more enjoyable and more compelling than the first one, with great development of the existing characters and some wonderful new ones as well. I love Kell and Lila, and their motivations and obstacles in this book are very engaging. The world continues to be interesting and the growing threat from a newly restored White London makes a good counterpoint to the exuberant excitement of the magic tournament in Red London. There's a lot going on, and some aspects feel under-served, but perhaps these will be explored further in book three, which I've already got on hold at the library.
Friday, July 5th, 2019
1:40 pm
Wits and Wagers
Some friends introduced me to a fun game while I was away visiting them this week. It's called Wits and Wagers, and initially I wasn't that keen to play. There are seven rounds, where a trivia question is posed and each player has to come up with a potential answer (always numeric). Where it becomes interesting, and what persuaded me to play (because it means what answer you give doesn't really matter) is that each player then gets to bet on which answer they think is correct. The answer that gets the most points is the one that's closest to correct without going over the correct number, which results in some tricky calculations in terms of which option is best to go for. The questions were generally about dates, percentages and other estimated values of things - it was very US-based, but still possible to make a guess, regardless of actual knowledge.

I came last in the first game and actually won the second game, but my proudest moment was when I guessed the actual correct answer to the first question of the second game.

Definitely one I'd like to play again, and an excellent time filler as one game only takes about 20 minutes, and it works best with six or seven players. It's fun and also really interesting as the answers to the questions are often very different to what you might expect.
Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019
12:11 pm
A few weeks ago, I went to a workshop run by Tade Thompson and bought his first book, Rosewater. The workshop was excellent and Tade was lovely so I was looking forward to reading the book and hopeful of enjoying it.

To begin with, I really did. It has an intriguing setup - an alien organism creates a dome in Nigeria and opens it once a year to heal all those within a certian radius. And I liked the protagonist enough to be invested in what happened to him. The writing is good - pacy, exciting, but does not ignore inner conflict.

It took an odd turn about two thirds of the way through, though, and entered much ickier territory, also introducing a series of very weird aspects that weren't presaged by earlier content at all. It lost me a bit towards the end, and the fragmentary nature of the structure did get a bit confusing.

I don't think I'm going to carry on with the series, but I also don't think Rosewater is a bad book. More hardcore sci-fi fans may well get on better with it than I did, and I do think it's well-written.
Saturday, June 29th, 2019
12:58 pm
Six Month Review Stats - Jan-June 2019
Perhaps a bit early for six-month review stats, but I don't think I'll be completing anything new today or tomorrow, and I otherwise won't have time to do them until next weekend:

Film & TV:
Positive – 16 (76%)
Negative – 5 (24%)

Positive – 24 (65%)
Negative – 13 (35%)

Live Entertainment:
Positive – 30 (94%)
Negative – 2 (6%)

Positive – 10 (83%)
Negative – 2 (17%)

Positive – 5 (100%)
Negative – 0 (0%)

Reviews total for the first half of 2019:
Positive – 85 (79%)
Negative – 22 (21%)

Overall, a slightly more negative result than usual, but not overwhelmingly so. I struggled a bit with my reading earlier in the year, which hasn't helped. But I've gone to a ton more live performances than usual (mostly thanks to reviewing at The Vaults and Brighton Fringe) and that has been almost entirely positive, which is excellent.

Here's to another six months of excellent entertainment!
12:34 pm
Next month's Family Book Club book is Skios by Michael Frayn, picked apparently because the selector thinks it will make me 'go ballistic'. Hmmm...

I deliberately didn't take it on retreat with me during the week, despite the looming deadline, because I didn't want to be annoyed during my holiday, and I approached it with some resentment last night, as it meant setting aside another book I've been very much enjoying so far. However, having started Skios at 22:30 last night, I finished it around noon today and am now free to go back to my regularly scheduled reading.

As evidenced by this, it's an easy read and quite short. It seems in the first half to be parodying holiday romcoms, but not very successfully as it initially came across merely as vapid and uninteresting in the first half. It then quickly turns into a farce, with similar-looking suitcases being bandied about, people taking on other people's identities (both on purpose and by accident) and an awful lot of misunderstandings. I found the Chaucerian sexcapades off-putting, and little of the running about amusing.

The book got briefly interesting about halfway through, with an unexpected and quite profound exploration of personal identity and how it relates to external circumstances and context. And then it devolved back into farce, concluding with a great deal of very unfunny violence and very unsatisfactory endings for all involved.

I only really liked one of the characters, and he very much did not deserve what happened to him at the end, so overall, I would say - yeuch! I look forward to the book club discussion, though!
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