Scarlet Pimpernel
les mis, grantaire
...So I would like to officially apologise to my younger self for not reading The Scarlet Pimpernel aged ten.

Back when I was in full-blown Treasure Island-Prisoner of Zenda-Kidnapped-Secret Garden-Count of Monte Cristo L-space, and could have given it the kind of unequivocal love it deserves, without going "oh, values dissonance" and "for the cleverest woman in Europe she could be brighter here" .

Because as an adventure story it is AWESOME.

But my favourite thing was totally Marguerite and Armand St Just. I ADORED Marguerite. I would totally read a book that consists entirely of Marguerite being a witty socialite by day and a KICKASS REVOLUTIONARY by night, instead of the part where she follows Percy Blakeney all over the Calais coastline and gets blisters to prove her devotion, with some casual anti-semitism thrown in along the way.

Also if there is fanfic about the Saint Just's crazy co-dependant revolutiory childhood, I would eat it up with a spoon.

 I mean, I liked Percy Blakeney. Percy Blakeney is great fun.

But Marguerite St. Just, I HEART YOU SO MUCH.

I'm sorry ten-year-old self. You really should have had this book.

the fork of truth

It is the end of the holidays, and what I have been doing with my holidays (besides writing) is, basically, watching large amounts of television, including the first seasons of Copper and Orange Is The New Black plus all of Ripper Street,

I'm not sure what to say about Ripper Street apart from that apparently Victorian police dramas are a Thing I Love.

Random stuff I  ended up researching after watching it: the Anglo-Egyptian War and Pinkertons.

Also, the fact that every episode is unofficially themed on a Nineteeth Century Invention.

vague spoilers, I guessCollapse )

CopperCollapse )

I'm not sure that I can articulate all the things I liked about Orange Is The New Black. Transgender issues! Race! Social inequality! Gender and sexuality! All the ladies! About the only downside is that it was not fluffy enough for me to watch all of it in one go.

thoughtsCollapse )

Possibly reading Les Mis at a young and impressionable age has left me with an irrational love for Convict Dramas About Social Justice.

(no subject)
the fork of truth

A while ago I was miserably ill; in the space of two weeks our household came down with scarletina, infections and ruptured cysts. Yeah, I know: gross. So I did what I do in times of stress and reverted to comfort-reading kidlit. Have some kidlit reviews!

Twilight Robbery (Frances Hardinge)Collapse )

The Abominables (Eva Ibbotson)Collapse )

West of the Moon (Katherine Langrish)Collapse )

Peter Pan quotesCollapse )

Mary Kingsley VS The Universe
Travels in West Africa is one of those books that I found in a charity shop as a teenager and read until it literally fell apart. A while ago, I decided to source a new copy and see if it was as much fun as I remembered. After several weeks, wherein Amazon sent me variously no books, or the wrong book, I finally got a copy.

So let's talk about Mary Kingsley: my favourite Victorian Lady Adventuress OF ALL TIME.

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Mary Kingsley did eventually lose to fever, aged thirty-seven. Kipling said of her: “Being human, she must have been afraid of something, but one never found out what it was.”

Of course, the book is problematic: being written by a Victorian explorer and anthropologist, its outlook is inherently racist. Part of the problem of getting a copy was that most of those available were abridged and, for reasons of nostalgia and completion, I wanted the one I'd originally read. And Mary Kingsley wasn't a feminist. She believed in traditional gender roles and stereotypes (although not to the extent of ever actually letting them get in her way). But she was an amazing and formidable lady, and Travels in West Africa is hilarious. (And in my opinion, much more fun than Isabella Bird's A Lady's Life In The Rocky Mountains, which Amazon sent me by mistake. Because hey, those Victorian lady adventurers: all the same, amirite?)

What do you think? Did you enjoy it? Who's your favourite Awesome Victorian Lady?

(no subject)
the fork of truth

Around this time last year, I was wandering round circus school in a sad and miserable way, lamenting the doomfulness of performance (or at least my doomfulness at performance). To distract myself, I turned to the internets - and the internets failed me not!

I was reading this interview with Marie Brennan, when she happened to mention... The Second Defenestration of Prague!

This was an actual historical event.

It is kind of terrible how happy this made me.

For weeks after, in times of stress, I had only to take a deep breath and mutter “the Second Defenestration of Prague” to myself, and my equanimity was once more restored. (Sadly I'm not sure it did as much for the reputation of my sanity, or indeed that of the many, many people whom I regaled with details about it, but I feel this is a small price to pay)

So I thought I should repay the internets with my headcanon version of Prague's Defenestrations! (Disclaimer: these may or may not bear any resemblance whatsoever to actual historical events.)

DEFENESTRATION #1 : Prague 1419

HUSSITES: Let us march in a peaceful procession to protest against the town council and their refusal to release our prisoners!

TOWN COUNCIL: Shameless Hussites. Someone chuck a rock at those guys.


TOWN COUNCIL: Whatcha gonna do?

HUSSITES: *throw the Judge, Burgomaster and thirteen council members out of the Town Hall window*

GOOD KING WENCESLAS IV: *dies of shock*

DEFENESTRATION #2: Prague, 1618, The Chancellory of Bohemia

COUNT THURN, LEADER OF THE PROTESTANT LORDS: We have summoned you four Catholic advisors of teh King who is nicking off with our lands to ask you: are you guys responsible for this sharply-worded letter he sent us?

CATHOLIC LORDS: Can we phone a friend?


COUNT THURN AND THE PROTESTANTS: Okay, you two can go. You are clearly TOO HOLY to write nasty letters. * turns to remaining two lords * So, was it you guys?

CATHOLIC LORDS: Yep. Whatcha gonna do about it bitches? Write us a sharply-worded note in return?



CATHOLIC BYSTANDERS: And the two men miraculously survived by the angels hanging on to their shirt-tails

PROTESTANT BYSTANDERS:...angels in the shape of a large pile of horse manure under the window.

Then there was the one-and-a -halfth Defenestration, consisting of seven dead guys and a portreeve. Not to mention the mysteriously postmodern Third Defenestration. Was he pushed? Did he jump? Does it exist at all? NOBODY AGREES.

Prague, I am jealous of your history.

Fortunately, the milk...
the fork of truth

The other day we ran out of milk for the breakfast cereal. So instead of going out to buy some more, like normal people, we decided to read about someone else doing it.

I actually bought Fortunately, The Milk as an xmas present for my four-year-old padawan.

Naturally, however, it is IMPERATIVE that I read all the book-presents before giving them to people. To, um, check the quality. And that there are no pages missing. Or...crumbs in the binding. Yes.

Anyway, as I was undertaking this noble endeavour, I realised that this book was in fact so good I had to share it with her right now .

You see, Fortunately, The Milk has managed to incorporate in one book pretty much all of my daughter's favourite things, including: aliens, hot-air balloons, ponies, time-travel, a talking Stegosaurus, a Pirate Queen, vampires, a volcano, and DINOSAUR SPACE POLICE.

With pictures on every page.

The Pirate Queen was a particular hit, as my young padawan has long had this formidable alter-ego and her time-travelling ship featuring nightly in her bedtime stories. (Luckily, the illustrations met with her approval. “She looks just like me!” )

Fortunately, The Milk combines nicely the familiar dangers and worries of a small child's life with funny, imaginative fantasy - and, as is often the case in real life, the kids were the smart, sceptical ones. While the first person voices were those of the big brother and the father, it was nice that there were some awesome ladies in there – and some ponies too. I loved that for most of the book we assume, along with the main character, that

[Spoiler (click to open)]

the deep-voiced Professor Steg is male and then find out otherwise.

Books for small children often either feature only male characters or are sharply divided along gender lines, so it was really nice to find something written equally to appeal to all children. It can sometimes be hard to find things for a little girl who loves pirates and dinosaurs as well as ponies and princesses, and whose current great ambition in life is to grow up to be a ninja.

I've loved Chris Riddell's illustrations since I was a kid, and Neil Gaiman's work for almost as long. (Although she's not quite old enough yet for The
Graveyard Book
, there's a signed copy just waiting. The dedication has her name written in a tiny, hand-drawn tombstone, which is equal parts awesome and creepy.)

It's great that these two have produced a book that means my kid gets to share that love too. But the biggest acheivement of all is that this is the first time my young padawan has ever sat down for forty-five minutes with one book.

This is one of those stories that is as much fun for an adult to read as for the kid being read to.

Which is lucky, because I have a feeling that I'm going to be forced to read it an awful lot in the near future...

Yes, more books
the fork of truth

She Rises is by Kate Worsely, and sits comfortably on my shelf next to Sarah Waters (note: if you do not know who Sarah Waters is LEAVE THIS PAGE IMMEDIATELY AND FIND OUT). The alphabetical serendipity also extends to the content: Kate Worsely was mentored by Waters and they both write historical fiction featuring lesbian and transgender characters.

The shelving is also relevant because where I found She Rises was in the children's section of my local Oxfam. Not that there shouldn't be more children's LGBT historical fiction; I just think it probably shouldn't include graphic sex, rape or indeed vivid depictions of eighteenth-century Navy life. So (having re-shelved it to my satisfaction): if rum, sodomy, the lash and cross-dressing lesbians are your cup of tea, you will probably enjoy this book. Especially if you also like decent writing and Plot Twists. I like all of those things, and so I enjoyed it quite a bit, although

[Spoiler (click to open)]

the ending was a little bit ambiguous and Literary Fiction-ish for my tastes, and Rebecca came over as a bit of a twat who did not deserve to be the subject of an Epic Love Quest. However, these flaws were cancelled out by the pretty writing (so pretty!) and shiny historical detail, because I am shallow like that.

Also in the children's section at Oxfam was the Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea. This is one of those book that I know I read numerous times as a kid, and yet rereading it I had NO RECOLLECTION of the story whatsoever (the opposite happened with Diane Duane's So You Want To Be A Wizard, which I was convinced I hadn't read until I finally bought it and promptly went "oh yeah..that's familiar")

Anyway, some of the things I TOTALLY FAILED to recall about
Hounds of the Morrigan were 1)how very, very Irish it is 2) talking animals and how well-done the shift between here and Tir nan n'Og is done, 3) the relationship between Pidge and Brigit – and also that Brigit is FIVE, which possibly sets new standards of extreme youth in saving the world in alternate-fantasy-land and 4) how much I LOVE the Police Sergeant and his surreal position as an adult authority figure in a crazy children's fantasy adventure. He is, to be fair, mostly played for laughs BUT I LOVE HIM ANYWAY, with his grumpiness and dogged persistence and the TERRIBLE TRAGEDY that he will never be friends with the store manager who also loves growing roses. Also the dramatic irony of his life being TOTALLY REFORMED by seeing the Morrigan's face fall off.

I'm not sure what I think about the Pidge and Brigit forgetting everything at the end. On the one hand it seems a bit of a cop-out, but on the other, it'd be a bit much to go back to their ordinary life after all that and also, as a kid, it offers the lovely, tantalizing possibility that this could have happened to you.

Which is rather cool.

The weirdest thing, I think, was seeing all the ways that a book I have no memory of affected the ways in which I see the world and think about writing. And, looking back, it must have been a huge influence on my crazy childhood obsession ongoing love affair with Irish mythology (come on, who can resist a mythos with a Giant Heroic Saga that's effectively based on snafflin' coobeasties?)

Over-analyzing kids tv
the fork of truth
Justin and the Knights of Valour was awaited with much anticipation in our house; mainly by a four-year old girl currently obssessed with All Things Knightly. So yesterday we cycled into town with our jammy new Yepp bike seat to watch some knights being valourous.
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As knightly movies for little girls go, it was no match for the likes of Brave or How To Train Your Dragon, which is a shame as neither of those contain any actual knights.

Luckily, she also discovered the awesomess that is Mighty Morphin Power Rangers today. (Total sidenote: why are sabretooth tigeres and mammoths classed as dinosaurs in that show? Were the writers like "okay, so we've got T-rex and triceratops...can anyone think of any more? No? Oh well, lets just use some other animals from a TOTALLY DIFFERENT time period...I mean it's all The Past, right? What kid knows anything about dinosaurs, anyway?"

Come on guys, the UNDER-FIVES can do better than that!)

Books read in July
combeferre, to be free
So, it now being mid-August, here are the books I read in July. I had planned to try and keep track of the books I read over the course of a year but I fear I am far too lazy.

1)Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett - Read because I'd just finished Les Mis.
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2)The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents-Pratchett again. I am a little scared by how many of my thoughts about stories and the world stem from a lifetime of reading Pratchett

3)Good Omens, Pratchett and Gaiman - Reading this caused me to go out and search the internets for GO fic, with two terrible side effects:
a)Having to restrain myself from gouging my eyes out at all the Aziraphale/Crowley slash.
b)Thanks to this: -my OTP in this fandom is now Hastur/Ligur. Oh dear.

4)Blood Magic, by Tessa Gratton -This was not actually as bad as I rather expected it to be, (although this may say more for my expectations than for the book itself.) But the evil stepmother turned outSpoilersCollapse )I liked that the first thing the heroine did on discovering magic was tell her sibling. I liked that the male MC was a bit of dick in quite a realistic way, and also not that much of a dick to the female MC. Not amazing, but not terrible either.

5)Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare -Read more...Collapse )

6)So You Want To Be A Wizard, by Diane Duane - This is one of those books that I have no memory of reading as a child, yet seems oddly familiar. It is a mystery. But I did enjoy the book.

7)Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein- This book is like being repeatedly stabbed in the heart BUT IN A GOOD WAY.
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8)Queenie, by Jaqueline Wilson - Set in a children's hospital in the '50s. Not bad, but not as good as Lily Alone,

9)Regeneration 10)The Eye in the Door 11) The Ghost Road by Pat Barker - The story of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sasson meeting in Craiglockhart, an asylum for victims of shell shock in WW1.Read more...Collapse )
However if there is any Billy Prior fic out there I will read the hell out of it, because she is a decent writer and  totally made me care about him BEFORE THE END OF BOOK THREE.

Also, have a link to Indiana Jones hanging out with Graves and Sassoon, because why not?

10) The King Of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner - I enjoyed this, but read it far too late at night. All I remember is: Poor Eugenides! I don't think I liked it as much as The Queen of Attolia, but may need to reread it at a later date.

11) The Orange Girl, by Jostein Gaarder.

12) Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta - We may have a new contender for the Fantasy Books of Angst!

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13)A  Face Like Glass, by Francis Hardinge - One of the best/most original takes on fairyland I have read in a long time. Possibly ever. Francis Hardinge is one of those writers who just makes you want to WEEP WITH ENVY at how awesome she is. I would sell my soul for the ability to write like this. In some ways - especially in its sheer, delighted inventiveness it reminded me of the Edge Chronicles. I loved how Neverfell's innocence is destroyed just one step behind the reader's, and the idea of erasing and restoring memories made an interesting plot device, similar in some ways to time-travel. I also loved the egregious use of Cruel and Unusual Geography (writing that sentence has given me a terrible desire to read a three-way crossover between this, Discworld and Labyrinth.)

Also Kleptomancy: "the art of divination by theft." LOVE.

 Random Favourite Quote: "Brilliant people didn't predict everything, just things that made sense...I'm not clever like the rest -I'm just a bit mad.But maybe a bit mad will do"

14) This Dark Endeavour, by Kenneth Oppel - A YA prequel to Frankenstein. Fun, if a bit silly (rather like the original then, apart from this novel 'fun'
concept...) I like how Victor is still an arrogant, whiny brat and also the awesomeness of Elisabeth. But I felt that Henry Clerval did not get enough love. Go Henry! He does not partake of this tree-climbing, vulture-fighting adventure nonsense. Because THAT IS WHAT BOOKS ARE FOR. So true, Henry.

15)Froi of the Exiles and 16) Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta - The sequels to Finnikin of the Rock. These were hilariously awesome in a WTF?! kind of way.

No, really, it is like reading David Eddings on Trauma!Crack.

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I'm sorry Victor Hugo...
So...this was meant to be a semi-serious actual review. But here are some macros instead.Because I just think it is hilarious that NOBODY COULD ACTUALLY KILL ENJOLRAS until Grantaire woke up. Because he is Too Pretty To Die.

And also that Grantaire slept through the ENTIRE REVOLUTION.cut for picturesCollapse )


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