Archive for kindle

a journal of the plague and pestilence [and war] year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2022 by xi'an

Received my first biking ticket ever, not for [cautiously!] Xing one of the 60⁺ red-lights on my bike route but for driving [most respectfully!] on the sidewalk in order to reach Dauphine as roads are currently under construction in the area, traffic is a mess, and bike lanes are closed. Had I realised this was at all possible (considering the absence of sanctions on reckless car and truck drivers!), I would have stopped before reaching the Paris traffic police which was already ticketing another cyclist.Read Upright Women Wanted [on Kindle, a courtesy gift from Tor] for just a few dozen pages and then almost gave up out of boredom! I found of limited literary or scenarist interest, despite its nominations to both Hugo and Locus Awards 2021, but finished it in the train to Roissy airport… I am still stuck (and much disappointed!) on the first pages of Susan Clarke’s Piranesi, as the story (?) takes place in an endless complex of empty rooms and the descriptions are endless. By comparison, the growing madness perspiring through the Gormenghast series is at least providing a leading line that makes it worth reading! Although it won the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was praised everywhere and nominated for many prizes, imho, Piranesi stands as far as possible from Clarke’s earlier masterpiece Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell… I do not think I will manage to ever finish this book!

Cooked a batch of kouign amann but failed to include enough butter! Still eatable. And made a rather successful attempt at tortillas, following a NYT recipe.

Watched Witch at Court (마녀의 법정), which proposes a [of course] highly unrealistic story of an evil policeman turned politician and eventually being faced with his crimes by the daughter of one of his early victims. As often in K drama, everyone is connected to the case, with prosecutors being relatives of victims or culprits (but not bothered by conflicts of interest), red herrings abounding, and trial outcomes being decided on the flimsiest proofs. Nonetheless, this is the one series I (fast-forward) watched that addressed the most frontally women exploitation and sexual crimes.

2021 World Fantasy Awards

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on November 16, 2021 by xi'an

Here are winners for some categories of the 2021 World Fantasy Awards:

Somewhat surprisingly, not only I have not read these books, although Riot Baby is sitting in my Kindle, courtesy of Tor Books, but this is also the case for most winners of the past years. The first author I could recognise is K.J. Parker, in 2013, and the first book I had read is Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore in 2006…

the traitor Baru Cormorant [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2021 by xi'an

“I deal in costs, not faiths.”

I read The Traitor Baru Cormoran by Seth Dickinson over my Corsican vacations, as it was saved on a Kindle conveniently available… I had this book courtesy of Tor, as one free book of the month, and I did not know what to expect. In the end, I read the book over two days as I could not let go!, and I found it a great story, despite its shaky moral stand, which makes the title sound like an understatement. And leaves me with a feeling of being swindled by the author when finishing the book!

“Without any outward sign or motion, in the wreckage of herself, she donned her armor, made it firm around her heart. Raise her mask: a cold discipline, a steel beneath her skin. Grow comfortable, she told herself. It will never come off.”

The story is a Venetian variation, in that a Republic uses trade to conquer nearby duchies and turn the local inhabitants into its own citizens. While imposing its restrictive moral rules and repressing dissent. I have read it in half a dozen books, at least, but this particular variation is nonetheless fresh, due to the novelty in the depiction of the alternative cultures and the strength and depth of most of its characters. They really come to life under the pen of Seth Dickinson and it hurts to see them go when they die, mostly unexpectedly.There is furthermore a mathematical flavour to the story in that the main character Badu Cormoran is (spoiler alert!), an accountant, elected to high functions by a common entrance exam! A less palatable connection with our field is the enforcement of experimental eugenic policies throughout the empire. The final section is a page-turner as the description of a major battle and of its consequence. Again I have read dozens of such descriptions, including the volume long battle of A Memory of Light that brought the Wheel of Time to its close, but this one is quite gripping and not the end of the story. As written above, the main reservation I have about the plot is that Badu is too nicely rendered for her deeds. She has become the mask she was planning to use to bring the Empire down. I was unaware while reading it that this book was the first in a trilogy: the author could and maybe should have stopped at the final scene, which is both the most devastating and the most brilliant part, but also from which it seems impossible to recover…

a journal of the plague year [deconfined reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2020 by xi'an

Watched two Korean films, Train to Busan and then Psychokinesis, both by Yeon Sang-Ho. The first one is a mostly traditional zombie action movie, loosing one character after another to the disease with a few funny moments. The second one is also involving supernatural features, rather poorly done, but it offers some political satire on a corrupted real estate project that make it somewhat tolerable. If barely.

Read (an old, cellar-relegated, somewhat mouldy) Henning Mankell’s Sidetracked (book #5 in the Kurt Wallander series), which was good enough to be enjoyable, albeit with a serial killer plot (always a lazy plot idea!), but it definitely made me regret the Martin Beck books of Sjowall and Wahloo which had a stronger social and political perspective (to the point of this book sounding like a pale replica). The more because Maj Sjowall passed away in early May. (Having survived Wahloo by 45 years and never revisiting the series.)

Baked more breads, including rye bread, and experimented with new dishes, like a jollof rice attempt with wild garlic, which tasted a wee too mild and took more time at the cleaning stage of the cocotte (French oven) than the cooking one. As it is one of these rice dishes like tahdig that call for a slightly burned bottom! Cooked several clafoutis with garden cherries and strawberries. Started making weekly rhubarb compote since available at the farmers’ market.

And now growing tomatoes and beans and peppers and onions and potatoes and butternut… We also found a woodcock most unusually and inexplicably stranded in the garden, feeling the worse for a cat attack as shown by a few feathers in the grass, but it was impossible to catch and hence protect from all the stray cats in the neighbourhood. After a day or two, we did not find any remain of the bird, so it presumably escaped.

Also watched A Sun (陽光普照), a psychological Taiwanese film about an “ordinary” family unraveling when the youngest son goes to jail. With an astounding Muter Courage as the central character. And a surprising sequence of characterial twists in the story that makes the movie less bleak that the first 30mn could induce, revealing layers in most characters that were carefully left hidden in the beginning of the film. (Except for the unfortunate girlfriend of A-Ho, who hardly utters a word and never seems to join the family.) With a beautiful final shot relating to the early years of A-Ho. (As one character is named A-Ho and another one A-Hao, it took me a while to spot the difference and stop thinking there were two parallel time-lines in the story!) A really strong film!

Succumbed (!) to ordering and reading the True Bastards, by Johnathan [pardon my] French. Which is the second volume in the Lot Lands trilogy and about as fun as the first volume, although the role of cursed magics is somehow over-done. But the change in this book from a male to a female viewpoint is definitely a worthwhile rarity in fantasy novels, showing how much harder the main character, Fetch, has to work to lead her troop of ½ orcs. And a constant threat of being belittled as such by other characters. (Any resemblance to real life problems being obviously coincidental!) Don’t expect real depth though, from the plot which keeps running in hogs’ circles to the point where everyone seems to be the hidden relative of everyone else (still alive!) to the underlying message, if any!

Got tricked by a Guardian article into watching The Vast of Nights. Frankly, I do not understand the praise heaped upon this academic-oh–so-academic exercise in film making! Yes, it does sound like the Twilight Zone, as the story is the usual trope on aliens being here with only the military being aware of it, trying to bank on their advanced technology, &tc. The hapless characters confuse agitation and action, while speaking, speaking, speaking all the time… It should have been a radio show. In the 1950’s. Not in the current times, already awash in conspiracy theories (although, far from it!, the film is clearly seen as an exercice de style recreating the mood of a 1960’s rural town in the South of the USA, with an endless sequence in a vintage car park).

Murderbot 2.0 [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2020 by xi'an

After reading (for free) the (fab) four “murderbot diaries”, I got enough infected to fall for the fifth installment, Network Effect, and buy it upon release on May 5. This is definitely a continuation of the on-going development of the growth of the central character, SecUnit, a rogue android operating free-lance after it hacked its own OS. With private name Murderbot. And  with biological human parts and a more and more human way of thinking. Except it is faster and seriously multitasking. Characters that came to life in All Systems Red (an Amazon bestseller in Science Fiction!) and the following diaries are still around and active, including the super AI ART which is the closest to a friend Murderbot can think of. Corporate entities are still revolving around the story, with an unlimited greed that leads to catastrophes on new planets they turn into mines and often abandon if the economy does not come their way. As previously, a large part of the plot is hardwired in that it involves hacking, killerwares, unfortunate reboots, and hidden recovery files, which sounds like lazy plot lines at times but remains enjoyable. The fact (!) that some characters are androids means that they can even die and be rebooted if a safe copy of their OS is available. Which makes for a schizophrenic and hilarious inner dialogue at a point of the book. The part I found the least convincing cannot be divulged without being a spoiler, but it made the explanation for the bad guys being bad guys lame. And reminded of a terrible short story I had written in high school involving a sentient blurb which… (Well, it was getting worse from there!) But overall, this is quite a fun and enjoyable if rather geeky novel, with witty exchanges (although AIs with deep minds should have been able to come up with better ones!).

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