lizzardgirl: (books)
There is no beating about the bush - I failed spectacularly at keepin a 2014 booklist.

I did read, however, and quite a bit.

At the beginning of the year, I'd said that I wanted to read more about American history/culture/politics, and I did do that. I read an utterly fascinating book about the Dutch origins of New York that opened a complete new world to me and was meticulously researched. I forget the title but the author was Russell Sholto, I think. I also read a very interesting book about the history of the settlers from the Mayflower and its interaction with the other early settlers and the Native Americans, and about how certain negative trends in the treatment of Native Americans developed very early on. I read a rather neat little anecdotal book about the Founding Presidents that didn't leave any lasting impressions apparently because all I remember is that Hamilton died on a cliff? Apparently. Then I read a totally convoluted, badly translated gigantic tome claiming to be the ultimate wisdom on the military campaigns of the Civil War. It was not uninteresting, and I learnt quite a bit, but ultimately, the style of writing both of the author and the German translator were completely off-putting and I sort of stopped with American-themed books after that and I don't think you can blame me for that.

I also said I wanted to read about the First World War. I read Three Emperors by I'm-forgetting-who-right-now-but-I-can-look-it-up-if-anyone-wants-to-know. It was vastly fascinating, a close study of the characters and interactions of Wilhelm II, Nicholas II and George V. Then I started The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clarke, some time in the summer, and it embarrasses me to say I'm still on it. It's good, don't get me wrong, but oh-so-many Yugoslavian names that I just can't keep straight. Very interesting view though on how even though really anything could have started the fire that the Great War was, the fact that it happened in Serbia was not by any means random. I hope to finish it eventually.

I had also hoped to discover a new series to read. Well, I did re-read the Jasper Fforde Dragonslayer series or rather, the first two, then read the new one, but that doesn't exactly count, although I liked it a lot. I also read/re-read Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series (still waiting for Foxglove Summer though!) and that one is awesome, but not exactly new to me either. (ETA: Forgot that I also re-read all the ASOIAF in order. That was after I became convinced that Tywin may be impotent. But I guess even this fascinating new insight won't make it count as a new series.) And before Christmas I started a re-read of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, but that won't really count either.

Of independent novels that I read this year, All That I Am by - I think - Anna Funder (Finder?) stands out. It's a rather quick, but very deep, gripping tale of Weimar Germany and the rise of Nazism, and also deep love and friendship and betrayal.

Non-fictionwise, apart from the above, I want to give a shout-out to Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne, which gets all the thumbs ups I can give (seriously! Eye-opener! Completely!) and I'll also recommend Bill Bryson's 1927: One Summer that changed America (which I guess might count as another of my American books, now that I think about it?).

There were heaps more books, also quite some re-reads, the dearest of which were perhaps the first four in Lindsey Davis' Falco series, because I just love Falco. But I can't think of any specifics quite now.

I don't really have any reading goals for 2015, apart from that I want to continue with reading more non-fiction, and I already have three vastly interesting-looking books on three diverse topics (Bletchley!Women's Education!Georgian London!) that Caroline kindly lent me. I might continue with the themes of America and the First World War, too, if anything comes up or looks interesting, but I might also try some other topics.

I will also make trying to find/possibly buy new, which as you may know I do rarely, both for financial and spatial reasons, the Connie Willis books everyone is raving about lately.

Oh and I so have to get Foxglove Summer, and soon.


Jan. 2nd, 2015 10:33 pm
lizzardgirl: (books)
So I read Longbourn over Christmas. It was the last book of 2014 I read and since I plan to make booklist posts again in 2015, I want to start by talking about this one.

My feelings are ... complicated. It's not bad or anything, it's just ... I probably have very high standards when it comes to anything Austen-related, and it fell short. There are parts of it that are modelled very closely on the novel, and parts of it that are more independent. From talking about it with Caroline, I gather she liked the independent parts better - I'm torn. I think if it'd been a non-JA novel, I really would have liked those parts fine. They were quite catching, and fascinating, and also a little heart-breaking.

However, since it was a JA-novel, I found them sort of - not exactly jarring, just slightly out of place. I did like the JA-parts. There were some very interesting insights into what might have gone on behind the scenes of P&P and how much the world of P&P really was a world of servants. However, while a certain dreariness is realism, I thought that the author - although most of her period research seems to have been extensive - took a bit too much of the dreariness of P&P'05. Especially compared with the army of servants that she has populate Pemberley, Longbourn as she describes it can't be much more than a hovel. It was A++ gritty but overdone. Also I thought that the bit with Pemberley at the end was too rushed. However, the actual ending was quite sweet and I also liked the characters a lot, as well as the main romance.

So, I guess my overall recommendation would be, don't necessarily buy it but if you can lay your hands on it through library etc means, or as an e-book offer, it's an interesting take on P&P.


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