lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
8) Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. A re-read for Bibliogoth. My original review just said Just lovely (sometimes in a very dark way). Go read it, if you haven't already. Bechdel pass; the narrator's mother talks to her neighbour about the latter's daughter. It stood up very well to a second reading; if anything, the darkness struck me even more forcefully, and since Bibliogoth always starts by discussing characterization, I paid more attention to that this time round.

9) Edwidge Danticat (ed), Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora [sic] in the United States. A series of autobiographical accounts by Haitians who now live in the US; interesting context for my reading about Vodou. I think the most interesting to me was Assotto Saint's piece about growing up as a gay Haitian under Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier.
lizw: photo of a flower on a printed page with the word "love" visible (love)
4) Kurt Vonnegut, Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons. A collection of Vonnegut's speeches and other short pieces. I didn't find much in it that particularly struck me, with one notable exception: his piece on his visit to Biafra, which is full of the distinctive mix of tragic sadness and biting sarcasm he was so good at.

5) Mambo Vye Zo Komande La Mefo, Serving the Spirits.
6) Mambo Chita Tann, Haitian Vodou.
7) Sallie Ann Glassman, Vodou Visions.
All reviewed on my Druid blog.
lizw: photo of a flower on a printed page with the word "love" visible (love)
1) Isabel Allende, Eva Luna. I decided to start going to Bibliogoth, and this was January's book. I thoroughly enjoyed both the read and the discussion. I think we all agreed that the book's strength was in its character portraits; I found the plot a bit weak in the first half, but it picked up later. I read it in Spanish, with the help of a Kindle dictionary, so I felt rather pleased with myself. Still can't really speak it beyond basic tourist phrases, mind you, but I'm definitely making progress. Bechdel pass.

2) Terry Chimes, The Strange Case of Dr. Terry and Mr. Chimes. Autobiography of my chiropractor, who was the first drummer with The Clash and subsequently played with Black Sabbath and other bands. I don't think writing comes naturally to him, but it's full of interesting anecdotes.

3) Tanith Lee, Women as Demons. Short story collection exploring the stereotype of the femme fatale. There were several of these I really liked, and inevitably one or two I skimread. My favourite was the exquisite The One We Were, which is also one of the few to pass the Bechdel test and, unlike most of the others, provides another woman with power and agency besides the femme fatale to give the story some balance.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
99) Bruce Sterling, Holy Fire. Near-future SF in which almost limitless life extension has become a reality. Sterling does a good job of following through the social consequences, and some of the sequences are quite thought-provoking on what makes us who we are. Bechdel pass - there are numerous named female characters, who talk to each other about a range of topics from clothes to politics. 18 more behind the cut; TW for nos. 116 (brief mention of domestic abuse) and 117 (mention of disturbing rape tropes) )
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
98) Anne Ross, Druids: Preachers of Immortality. Reviewed over at my Druid journal.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
97) Nora Chadwick, The Celts. One of my Dad's. Good overview of Celtic art and history up to the end of the first millennium CE, very readable.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
96) Ronald Hutton, Blood & Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain. Excellent and highly recommended; fuller review on my Druid journal.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
92) E.J. Weber, The Church of the Wood. Original fairytale, utterly charming, and a Bechdel pass.

93) Alex Langstone, Spirit Chaser: the Quest for Bega. A psychic researcher's memoir of his attempt to carry out a quest that was entrusted to him in a vision. Yes, yes, I know; not my usual kind of thing, but it was another Kindle freebie, and I was curious to find out whether the St. Bega of the title was related to the St. Beya or Veya who once lived on Wee Cumbrae. The answer to that seems to be that while the author of one of the early guides to the Cumbraes did think so, no-one else does. Still, this made quite an enjoyable read, although I don't think I'll be reading more widely in the genre.

94) Aliette de Bodard, On a Red Station, Drifting. This is just superb. No doubt I must have been missing a lot of references, as it's an SFnal version of a Chinese classic, A Dream of Red Mansions, which I have not read; but I got plenty out of it as it was. I particularly liked its take on AI and on ancestral memory (and in this world, those two are closely related.) I gather de Bodard has written more in the same universe, which I shall have to look up. Bechdel mega-pass.

95) Jean Markale, The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year. Oh dear, one really shouldn't revisit one's adolescent heroes, should one? It was through Jean Markale that I first started to contemplate the possibility of becoming a Pagan, but reading him again now, his writing style seems way over the top and his scholarship sadly lacking. Ah well.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
It seems more of my processing still happens in German than I realised.

The other day, while helping R with her maths homework, I suddenly became aware that in my inner monologue, x2 is not "ex squared" but "ex-Quadrat". Apparently I don't go all the way and turn the "ex" sound to "iks", though.

Then this morning, it suddenly dawned on me that the reason my brain sometimes substitutes "children" for "kindred" in Druid ritual phrases that I've committed to memory is that "kindred" is a lot like the German Kinder, which of course means "children". Does this mean that everything I memorise is getting translated into German before storage and then re-translated into English on retrieval, I wonder? That would certainly explain why remembering stuff sometimes feels so hard...

Brains are weird.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
Apparently I somehow managed to miss some of the Kindle books last time - all freebies apart from the first one:

87) Christine Hoff-Kramer, Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies. I thought I'd reviewed this before, but after checking both my journals, it seems not. The author (who is an online friend) sets out to give non-Pagans a starting-point from which to understand the diversities of Paganism, and Pagans a starting-point from which to answer the question "But what do Pagans believe?" - a common question in a culture conditioned by Christianity, but a surprisingly difficult one to answer if your religion emphasizes practice over belief, as many Pagan traditions do. In keeping with these aims, it's a 101-level book, but it does a considerably better job than most such texts of including minority points of view, and controversial topics such as hard vs. soft polytheism, contemporary Pagan foundational myths, etc receive a balanced treatment. The exercises and discussion questions at the end of each chapter would make this a good choice for an introductory class or study group.

88) Joanna Leyland, The Sacred Wood. Fairly standard "everywoman gets drawn into mystic battle between ancient good and evil", but well enough executed that I will probably read the rest of the trilogy when it comes out. Bechdel pass: one woman asks for and receives help from another.

89) India Drummond, Blood Faerie. An exiled fairie joins forces with a psychic cop to investigate serial killings in provincial Scotland. Basically fluff, but I liked the main character and the way magic was described. Might read more.

90) James Baldwin, Old Greek Stories. Retelling of some of the classic Greek myths in Victorian style, aimed at children. Rather nicely done, although it rather coyly describes Zeus etc as "Mighty Beings" rather than gods.

91) Pat Cox and Mike Hanagan, Legends of London. Unbelievably bad, showing signs of having been put together by cut-and-pasting from a miscellany of websites. I finished it mostly because I was on a journey with nothing else to read and no 3G or Wifi.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
A clutch of Kindle freebies, which I've been reading to ease the pressure on my bank balance. This means the quality is (even) more variable than usual. Paganism, Buddhism, fantasy, folklore and time travel )
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
72) Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski, Soccernomics. Updated edition of Why England Lose; applies the statistical methods of economics to questions such as "is it worth spending money on the transfer market?", "do managers make a difference?", and "which country has the most dedicated football fans"? Highly recommended if football is your sport.

That just leaves the Kindle books to write up - 14 of them. Gulp.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
I'm not quite sure why I'm reading so many books this year compared to previous years; my average for previous years in which I've kept a log has been 69, and this year I hit that point some time in August or September. I'm not conscious of spending more time reading than I did in those years, so either I'm wrong about that, or I'm tending to read shorter books, or else I'm reading faster. Anyway, I've built up such a backlog that I'm going to have to split them into several posts and depart from the chronological order. Here's the first batch: some fitness-related books that I read after I came back from Scotland with a renewed enthusiasm for exercise. Note: most of these have nutrition sections that could be triggery for people in ED recovery; as ever, I recommend skipping those chapters and reading Paul Campos's The Obesity Myth (also published as The Diet Myth) instead.

66) Courtenay and Doug Schurman, The Outdoor Athlete. Good for understanding how to adapt generic fitness advice to your activity (trailwalking, in my case). Useful little icons for each activity that help you see at a glance which ones are recommended for you.
67) David Musnick, Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness: Functional Exercise and Nutrition for Everyone. I don't remember much about this one, which probably means it didn't add much to The Outdoor Athlete.

68) Mark Lauren, You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises. Recommended by [personal profile] rosefox. The title is slightly misleading; this is not a list of every conceivable bodyweight exercise, but a structured program for improving your strength (and other aspects of fitness in the process). I liked it a lot, but in the end decided to go with Body By You (below) instead.
69) Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark, Body By You: The You Are Your Own Gym Guide to Total Women's Fitness. Similar to You Are Your Own Gym, but with a differently-structured program that I found easier to understand and to tailor to my own level of fitness. It also only requires three sessions a week rather than four, which suits my schedule better, as I can use my two working-from-home days plus one of the weekend days. Despite the title, both programs can be used by people of any gender; Body By You just spends a bit more time addressing some of the myths about strength training for women. I'm currently on week 3 of the BBY program and finding it challenging, but effective, and not so difficult as to be disheartening.

70) Brian Baxter, The Sports Mindset Gameplan: An Athlete's Guide to Building and Maintaining Confidence.
71) Jeff Galloway, Mental Training for Runners: How to Stay Motivated. Both of these look at the psychological element of exercise, Baxter in a workbook format and Galloway in a more conventional textbook style. I found Galloway more useful overall, but both contained useful advice, not just for exercise but for motivation and de-stressing in general, which I needed at the time I read them.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
61. Prudence Jones & Nigel Pennick, A History of Pagan Europe. This provides a decent basic overview of European paleopaganism, with a shorter section on the 18th/19th century Revival and modern neopaganism. Read more... )

62. Garrett S. Olmsted, A Definitive Reconstructed Text of the Coligny Calendar. The Coligny Calendar is one of only two Celtic calendars ever found and by far the most complete. I've been using it as the basis of my own ritual calendar, and this is a really useful little book containing photographs of all the pieces of the calendar as well as a computer reconstruction of the missing portions and some commentary on the word meanings. Read more... )

63. Ceisiwr Serith, Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. This is basically a how-to book for people who are interested in reconstructing Proto-Indo-European religion, but I think people following later Indo-European religions would also find it useful, as I did. Read more... )

64. Gerhard Herm, The Phoenicians. Borrowed from my mother when I ran out of reading material, but it's an interesting, well-written overview of what was known of Phoenician history, culture and religion as of 1975.

65. Miguel G. Aracil, Guía mágica del Camino de Santiago. This is an odd little book, by someone who drove the Camino rather than walking or cycling it, but clearly still got a lot out of it. His main area of expertise seems to be Masonic symbolism, which is not so much my thing, and I think he overinterprets in places, but I still found it interesting.
lizw: photo of a field of poppies (from the ground there blossoms red)
My son saw this competition and decided most of the entries at that point were too triumphalist, so he submitted this. It's currently in danger of getting knocked off the no. 1 spot by a Harry Potter fan campaign, so he'd really appreciate your votes :-)
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
54. Guy de la Bedoyere, Gods with Thunderbolts: Religion in Roman Britain. I got this mainly to look up a reference, but it turned out to be a great buy.Read more... )

55. Trevor Jones and Liz Williams, Diary of a Witchcraft Shop. I read this while I was in Germany supporting my Mum after my Dad's death and needed light relief, which it provided admirably.Read more... )

56. David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Covers similar ground to Mallory's In Search of the Indo-Europeans, and reaches similar conclusions, but from the perspective of a professional archaeologist with some understanding of linguistics rather than the other way round. I found it interesting, but had a little difficulty keeping track of which of the cultures mentioned were thought to be Indo-European and which were not.

57. Maggie Craig, When the Clyde Ran Red. A history of Red Clydeside, read as a sort of tribute to my great-grandfather, who was a dockers' union leader in Glasgow during much of the period it covers. Read more... )

58. Satish Kumar, Earth Pilgrim. Interviews with one of the co-founders of Schumacher College; I get the impression he must be a riveting speaker, but on the screen I didn't find I got much out of this.

59. Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers of London. I was really disappointed by this; the characters are interesting enough, but I didn't get on with the writing style at all. Read more... )

60. Morgan Daimler, Where the Hawthorn Grows - An American Druid's Reflections. I think this probably started life as a series of blog entries, and it could have done with another editing pass to eliminate some odd redundancies and repetitions before being published as a book. Otherwise, it was okay, but I think I'd have enjoyed it more in blog format, so I should find out where Morgan blogs; we have some Facebook groups in common, so that shouldn't be too hard.

Bechdel score:
Rivers of London: Just about passes if you're not too pedantic about how you interpret the "not about a man" criterion.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
For light relief inbetween dealing with undertakers, doctors and sympathy calls, I am currently reading Diary of a Witchcraft Shop by [ profile] mevennen and her partner. This has led me to the belated realisation that as well as sharing a name, both hanging out in SFF circles (professionally in her case, strictly for fun in mine) and both being published authors (albeit in very different fields), we are now both involved in Druidry.

So that isn't going to add to the confusion at all.

Sorry, [ profile] mevennen. All I can say is that you surpass me in all of those endeavours, except possibly the use of the name ;-) And perhaps it's just as well that I usually introduce myself as Eilidh in Druid circles.
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
The ebooks, as promised:

48. Ken Dowden, European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Does pretty much what it says on the tin, and for the most part I really liked it. Read more... )

49. Jack D. Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals - The Wétiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism and Terrorism. Uses cannibalism as a metaphor to examine imperialism and related evils from a Native American perspective. Read more... )

50. Tim Clarkson, The Men of the North - The Britons of Southern Scotland. A fascinating account of the Brythonic tribes that used to rule southern Scotland from a base at Dumbarton, and a salutary reminder that Celtic history is not as simple as "Scotland and Ireland = Goidelic, everything else = Brythonic".

51. Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys. People have been telling me to read this pretty much since I read American Gods and liked it; people were right. Read more... )

52. Kevin Hearne, Hounded. This is the first in the Iron Druid trilogy; the cover describes it as "Neil Gaiman meets Harry Dresden", and it was probably unfortunate that I read it immediately after Anansi Boys, because yeah, it suffers badly by the comparison. Read more... )

53. Kiya Nicoll, The Traveller's Guide to the Duat. At the moment, this is probably tied with Anansi Boys for Best Thing I've Read This Year. Read more... )

Bechdel scores:
Anansi Boys: Pass. Early in the narrative, Daisy and her flatmate Carol talk about food and various other things, and there are other examples later in the book.
Hounded: Fail. There are named female characters, and they talk to each other, but only about things that relate to the protagonist; even the two goddesses that appear seem to be there largely as sex objects (they do, in theory, have their own agendas that relate to the plot, but the characterisation is pretty one-dimensional.)
lizw: photo of Blake with text: "reality is a dangerous concept" (Default)
This is a quick roundup of the paper books I've read since my last post; there will be another one for the ebooks at the weekend. Probably.

43. Polly Lloyd, About Glastonbury
44. Nicholas R. Mann, Glastonbury Tor
Two guidebook-ish things that were in my B&B when I went to Glastonbury for the Starhawk workshop, the former an okay-ish account mostly focused on the Christian remains and the second mostly describing a rather romantic vision of the prehistory.

45. Kim Stanley Robinson, The Wild Shore. [ profile] boxcat had this with him in Millport, so I read it after he'd finished it. Robinson uses the tropes of a coming-of-age novel set in a postapocalypse North America to explore how stories shape our identity, and how we deal with conflicting desires. Passages in it reminded me of Kerouac. Recommended.

46. John and Carole E. Barrowman, The Bone Quill. Second in a children's fantasy trilogy set on an altered-geography version of Cumbrae (the island of which Millport is the only town). I read the first last year and enjoyed it, but expressed some concern that the ethical implications of the worldbuilding were not fully recognised; the sequel did nothing to lead me to expect that these will be addressed at any point, and I was more conscious of being the wrong age group for this one, so I think I may not bother with the third.

47. Kate Bornstein, My New Gender Workbook. I never read the old edition, but from what I gather, the main difference is that the new one has a lot of discussion of intersectionality. I get the impression that the concept was still quite new to Bornstein when she wrote the revisions, and it shows a bit; it approaches intersectionality very much as something that may shed additional light on gender and never really looks at how some gender discourse might inadvertently contribute to other forms of oppression. That said, the theory section does explain the basics of gender theory pretty well and would be worth giving to a newcomer to the issue for that alone. I probably got most out of the second part of the book, which consists of exercises to help you understand your own gender better; the third part, which offers suggestions for how to "do" your gender, assumes that the reader is trans and therefore didn't have much for me as a cis person. Normally I wouldn't mind this, because more stuff that isn't about the privileged people is generally a good thing; but there was more than a whiff of "everyone's trans really" about the way the assumption was presented, and that grated.

Bechdel scores:
The Wild Shore: I didn't make notes, but I think it fails by not having its named female characters talk directly to each other (always a risk with a male POV character).
The Bone Quill: Again, I didn't make notes, but I think it also fails, this time because the conversations between the female characters are all about their male relatives (one of whom is effectively the Big Bad.)
lizw: text: an apple a day keeps the... ah, no, never mind (an apple a day)
There's been a bit of a kafuffle in the Pagan blogosphere recently about the worship of pop culture figures or "invented" deities (if you've missed it, I'd start with this post on Allergic Pagan). This is my response, essentially an expanded version of a comment I left on Raise the Horns:

Having spent a lot of time around Doctor Who fans for whom the Doctor is very clearly a mythological figure who inspires their politics and informs their moral compasses, it makes sense to me that someone could choose to worship a pop culture hero. (None of my friends do AFAIK, but for some of them it would be only a small step.) Like Jason, I'm fascinated by the process by which people become heroes become gods, or fictions become heroes become gods, and I wish we knew more about how it happens. To me it's kind of cool to think that we may be witnessing it happening around us, even though I don't think the beings in question will ever be my gods. I'm quite happy with the Brythonic/Gaulish pantheon that seems to be calling me, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the beauty in other faiths, ancient or modern.

To those who would say this is an example of keeping my mind so open that my brains are in danger of falling out: no, it's an example of not judging without sufficient information. I know that my deities are real because I experience them like I experience our postman. I don't experience pop culture deities, but that doesn't mean they're not real; it means I'm lacking a key piece of information, one that's only directly accessible to those who do report interacting with those beings. I don't experience your delivery person either, but that doesn't mean they're not real. When I do have sufficient information, I'm quite capable of making judgements. Ask me about Scientology in private some time. But mostly, if you tell me about your experience of your deities or the things that are sacred to you, and you seem sincere, then I'll take you at your word. Just the other day, I wrote on my ADF journal about piety and how, to me, it includes being respectful of the deities of others. Mocking others because the process by which their deities became divine isn't to my liking is pretty much a textbook example of impiety, in my book. I'm pretty sure my gods would rather I listen, and learn, and see if I can't find something to appreciate.

February 2014

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