Review: Emilie du Châtelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment by Judith P. Zinsser

Amazon.com: Emilie Du Chatelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment  (9780143112686): Zinsser, Judith P.: Books

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Émilie du Châtelet is one of the many historical figures who deserve to be brought back from the obscurity they faded into. Her name mostly being mentioned as a lover of a more famous man is an injustice – admittedly, that’s how I first learned of her myself but…18th century woman scientist and philosopher? With such an interesting life? I had to know more, and this is probably not the last book about her I read.

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April 2021 Monthly Wrap-Up

April again proves my reading habits are pretty much back to normal. Aside from a little slump at the end of the month after a book majorly disappointed me, I’d even consider it above average. I hope I can finish Bingo in the next two or three months.

Finished:

  • Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer: Short stories telling the history of an imaginary empire. Beautifully written, but I hoped they’d be more connected than they were.
  • Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray: A very, very sweet m/m retelling of Beauty and the Beast set during WWII. Wasn’t too into it at first, but it gradually won me over.
  • Triggernometry and Advanced Triggernometry by Stark Holborn: Wild west and mathematics. Really short reads and so, so much fun.
  • Lifelode by Jo Walton: Exactly the kind of small-scale, stange slice of life fantasy I normally enjoy, so of course I liked it. 
  • From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back edited by Elizabeth Schaefer (ARC): I liked the first anthology a lot, but this one was a major disappointment. Though there were a couple excellent ones, it felt like that the stories were a lot less memorable overall and had less charm. Made me really grumpy.
  • Emilie du Châtelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment by Judith P. Zinsser: After the disappointment that was the previous book, I needed something to cheer myself up, and there’s nothing better to cheer me up than history. A great biography of a woman who is often overlooked and remembered only as only a more famous man’s mistress, but actually had plenty of achievements of her own and a short but very eventful life. Might post my review in the next few days.

Currently reading:

  • When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

Books read in 2021: 20 (+ 1 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 6/25 (24%)

Review: Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford

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I haven’t been able to read or review much in quite a while. My sudden, intense shift of interest to 18th century history, combined with inability to stick to one book or finish things (“start all the books and let god sort it out” is a phrase I keep using) and general 2020 melancholy, and my blog ended up being on hiatus for months.

But this? This brought joy. History presented in a readable, snarky style, with plenty of drama and general ridiculousness, it’s all I needed.

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July & August 2020 Monthly Wrap-Up

This is going to be long, but then again, I did have to combine two months. For some reason, I took a completely unplanned hiatus in August, unable to even finish the July wrap-up, or read much worth reviewing. My fault for parallel-reading two massive books I guess. There was one week in between when I was sick – regular sick, not the plague – but otherwise, there isn’t really any explanation other than “idk, time just went somewhere, you know how 2020 is” or “I was too busy being a massive Hamilton fan” (more on that later), none of which is really much of an explanation, but there you go.

But, after some reshuffling, I am 12/25 done with the Bingo challenge.

And also, I ordered a shit ton of books.

Posted:

Read:

July

  • By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey: Had a rather annoying first part (a lot of “not like other girls”) that nearly made me quit, but then, after everyone grew up a bit, it got good. Kero is competent, decisive, and you don’t often encounter a protagonist who puts career before everything.
  • Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender (DNF): Picked this up for the sake of a bookclub, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. It felt very repetitive and I was not in the mood for completely unlikable villain protagonists.
  • A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian: Delightful. Liked it a lot more than the first book. The emphasis on trust and consent is wonderful.
  • Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian: Perfect romance novel as far as I’m concerned. I’ve always been a sucker for stories where a character is sick and their love interest takes care of them, and the dynamic is just…ahhh I love it so much. I already reread it once and I think I will do so many more times.
  • Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh: I had high expectations based on my friends’ reviews, but unfortunately, it’s another of those novellas that would have worked better as a novel, with more space to breathe. Oddly paced and not quite enough.
  • Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky: I was a fan of the concept – what happens after the dark lord is gone – but not at all a fan of the execution. The plot was incredibly repetitive.
  • Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole: A whole lot of fun. I really enjoyed all three novellas, and I’d highly recommend it if you like historical romance that’s a bit different from the norm.

August

After Hamilton, I got a serious case of a time period fixation. Get out, medieval fantasy, it’s 18th-ish century (17th or early 19th also acceptable) or bust. Fantasy set in that era proved surprisingly hard to find, especially since I very much did not want fantasy of manners, but I make do. And there is always historical nonfic (if I don’t post much in September either…well…).

I may have only finished two books, which sounds shamefully little, but with them being about 200k and 400k words respectively, and slow at that, it’s really more like six.

  • Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry: A book set in the 18th century, just as I got obsessed with the time period? Yes please! Plot-wise, it’s pretty much a straight retelling ot the French revolution, except with magic, but that suited me just fine. It was a bit slow at points though.
  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow: This was what I was busy with for a large chunk of August. Of course because of the musical, what else? At near 400k words, it’s longer than a lot of epic fantasy books, and dry, and massively, annoyingly biased at points, but I still found it surprisingly engaging and easy to read. There are a lot of fun anecdotes (as my friends are all too aware of, since I couldn’t resist a regular “you gotta hear this shit” monologue and I ended up with 15 pages of notes) and reading about all the feuds they had was super entertaining. Go in with a massive pinch of salt and ready to think critically…and bring popcorn.

Books ordered:

2020-july-august-orders

Sometime in the past couple weeks I realised I have only ordered two physical books this year. And since I also got some money, I decided it’s time to fix this.

  • Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman: It’s a western, it has a pretty cover and..honestly that was more or less it. I’d really like to continue with my westerns project.
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (preorder): My most anticipated book of 2020. I have tried and failed to get an ARC, but with how erratic my reading habits have been, that’s probably for the better.
  • Congress of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis: I have wanted to read it for ages, but I especially want to read it now with my…history thing…and all. Found I could get it used, and that was that.
  • Vermilion by Molly Tanzer: Been eyeing it for a while since it looks like it could be western-ish. Another one I was able to get used.
  • Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger: Asexual MC (I still need something for that Bingo square!), indigenous #ownvoices, and illustrated chapter headers. And the hardcover was cheap.
  • The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso (preorder): For when I’m feeling up to epic fantasy again.
  • Revolutionary by Alex Myers: It’s set during the American revolution and it’s queer and I could get it used. That was enough for me 😂

…and I’m also thinking of getting Maria Dahvana Headley’s new Beowulf translation and preordering the omnibus of the Ambergris series by Jeff Vandermeer, since two books in there are out of print.

Musicals:

A little unusual of a header, but I figure that since there were a couple months where I listed movies I watched, it’s not too odd. And given how embarrassingly deep down the Hamilton rabbit hole I went, it at least deserves a mention.

I decided to join a Hamilton watchalong on, of all days, July 4th because why not, group watches are fun and I have heard a fuck ton about it and was curious what all the fuss is about. Little did I know I would end up completely, head over heels, love at the first song, wanting to know everything about it obsessed. I was never really into musicals, or rap, or American history, but something about Hamilton just works. It’s catchy as all fuck. It has incredibly dense, complex lyrics with lots of references and connections that are fun to pick apart. There’s humour and tragedy. The choreography with the turntable is fantastic. There’s so much going on you don’t know where to look (me, on the first watch: at the subtitles 😂). From the technical aspect, it’s a masterpiece. I do have my issues with it, namely how it plays into American nationalism and the whole bootstraps bullshit, but honestly, being highly critical doesn’t mean I don’t still absolutely adore it.

Hadestown was my next conquest. I haven’t managed to find a watchable version, but I did listen to all three versions in one day – concept album, Broadway, off-Broadway, in that order – while doing commentary and came to the conclusion that the concept album and the off-Broadway versions are superior and Broadway has a boring Orpheus. While I have listened to it quite a lot since, I haven’t really done a deep dive as with Hamilton, mostly because it isn’t nearly as dense (I also had a Greek mythology phase as a kid already).

After that…I actually haven’t felt the need to check anything else. It was a bit uncertain whether my interest once I finished going through all the song annotations and wanted more would swing towards other musicals or towards history, but then it swung towards history hard. My journey essentially went from song annotations, to tvtropes, to tumblr history blogs, to biographies.

It’s quite possible September will be spent reading a lot of nonfiction, and I honestly don’t know what am I going to do, I can hardly start posting my rambly, super casual, excessive notes on early American history on a SFF blog and I’m still more than a little wary of talking about my latest interest online.

Currently reading:

  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark: I expect to finish it today, it’s a novella and pretty good. Much funnier than I expected.

Books read this year: 35 (+ 9 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 13/25 (52%)

Review: Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole

Courtney Milan 🦖 on Twitter: "We have a final cover! TA DA.… "

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I said I was back to SFF, but sorry, this is going to be another historical romance review. I tried to keep it too short to post but it, er, got away from me. By a lot.

So, by now pretty much everyone who knows me is aware that I’ve falled madly in love with a certain rap musical (in fact, I’m having the soundtrack on as I write this). Completely, head over heels, talking about it non-stop obsessed. It took me only a few minutes from learning this book exists to starting it. Initially, I felt a little bit silly since I still haven’t quite internalised that being a huge fan of something is nothing to be ashamed of but like…dude, you went on a “fun historical facts” screenshotting spree at 2 am several days in a row and can barely stop quoting lyrics, reading a themed romance book is hardly the most excessive thing you’ve done.

(It’s also pretty funny that in a weird circlerec, I somehow managed to successfully rec this book back to the very same person who brought it to my attention in the first place. But I digress.)

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Review: Seducing the Sedgwicks series by Cat Sebastian (Seducing the Sedgwicks #1-3)

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I know, this is historical romance, not SFF, and that this is supposed to be a SFF blog. But screw it, my blog, my rules, and when I find a perfect book, damn right I’m going to yell about it. It all started when I heard about Two Rogues Make a Right from Sara back in April – I have some extremely specific romance preferences, and when a book satisfies one of them, that’s usually plenty. This one seemed to tick off the whole damn list. Of course I had to. The only issue was that it was the last book of a series, but whatever, the other two can’t be bad – and indeed they were not.

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Mini Reviews: Shatterpoint, Proper English, Hither Page, Mirror: The Mountain, On a Sunbeam

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Time for another backlog cleaning!

While my goal is to review everything I read, I don’t always quite succeed. I finished Shatterpoint in early April, and thought it deserved to be talked about, but a full review just wouldn’t come. I also don’t write full reviews of graphic novels or non-SFF, but I encountered two historical romance books so good I thouth they were at least worth a mention, SFF-themed blor or no.

So there it is, an odd mix of a Star Wars tie-in, two romance books, and two graphic novels.

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Review: The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

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Spoilers in this review are marked like this: [spoiler] (highlight to reveal). If this doesn’t work for you, proceed with care.

Okay, first off: I went into this book with no great expectations. I picked it up on impulse, in a random kindle sale, intending to save it as light reading for the first time I go to the beach, whenever that will be. I knew I was probably the wrong audience and that there were likely to be things that’d piss me off, but whatever. Give me historical fiction about fencing and 19th century Spain. No need to be quality, just quick and readable.

Well, today the day has come. And turns out that yes, it pretty much lived up to those expectations – entertaining with a shit plot and more than a bit cliché. Which I was luckily more amused than irritated by.

Still, I would not recommend it.

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Review: The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman

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Once in a while, I’ll take a break from fantasy and read a nonfiction book. This one in particular has caught my attention because I have read City of Lies a few months before – a fantasy book focused on poisons – and wanted to know more about how it worked in real life. I was not disappointed and ended up enjoying myself very much.

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Review: The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

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I want to shove this book at everyone I know.

Can I find the right words? I can tell about how I shot. But about how I wept, I can’t. That will be left untold. I know one thing: in war a human being becomes frightening and incomprehensible. How can one understand him? You’re a writer. Think up something yourself. Something beautiful. Without lice and filth, without vomit…Without the smell of vodka and blood…Not so frightening as life…

This is a collection of accounts of Russian women who went through WWII – soldiers of all kinds, partisan fighters, and medical workers mostly, but also washerwomen, bakers, mechanics, civilians…both about the war and what happened afterwards. All of them women whose stories were forgotten; silenced or forced to keep to a certain, more traditional narrative of glory. It’s hardly a traditional war book. No listings of great battles, victories, losses. Only very human, personal stories from the perspective of those who did not get to tell them until then.

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