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Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

So, I've read the last of the Hunger Games series, and now I understand why the Divergent trilogy ended with the discovery of a completely new world-frame in the third book, and what's at stake in deciding how your main female protagonist ends up at the end of it all. I did quite enjoy this, although was interested by Katniss' original disenfranchisement and her reclamation of agency - there's a lot here about authority structures and being a teenager and existing within them and sometimes doing some really quite daft (but brave but daft) things despite the restrictions imposed on you. I think the ending... yeah. There are things there I disagree with, I think, but I suppose if you're looking at a pushing-to-the-edge narrative, that's what you're going to get. Never mind. The classical stuff has more or less faded out by this point, unless we're thinking of the decline of empires motif, but I can see why the trilogy's managed to be so popular.

The Cnpleasantness at the Bellona Club - Dorothy L. Sayers

Another Peter Whimsey mystery, which I think I picked up because it was there and fancied reading something fairly lighthearted. Because murder mysteries are totally light-hearted. It's a typical Whimsey, full of red herrings, dead ends, interesting bits of gentlemanly detection, modern science used for good, people doing slightly daft things, the intersection between bohemia and the aristocracy... all generally good fun, and good to read. I might get a bunch of these in for the next few weeks...

The Venus Throw - Steven Saylor

This is the one where Saylor decides to work in the Pro Caelio as part of a broader picture about Roman politics, revenge, sexual abuse of slaves, poison and Graeco-Egyptian political manoeuvring. It's rather good, not least for the stuff about Clodius and Clodia and the Galli, but I will admit to finding the bits where we go into close paraphrase of the ancient sources and the exposition of historical background a wee bit tiring. Still, I would, wouldn't I? But I do think Lindsey Davis does it better.

Percy Jackson and the lightning thief - Rick Riordan

Yes, I know, I've never actually read these so it's about time I did, really. Two things. One, this novel doesn't have the same video-game-style format that the film uses to make its narrative fit the Hollywood deal - it's a lot more meandering and random, and with more detours/serious engagements with characters in ways that don't make it a road trip with questing. There are similar moments of inspiration with creating the links between the old and new worlds, which is good stuff, and I'm interested in what happens in the next book. However, the second thing - the language/jargon grates on me, which isn't surprising as I'm not the target reader, but there's an attempt to be - well, cool. This is going to date really rather quickly.

The Affair - C.P. Snow

The next of the Sons and Brothers series, modelled on the Dreyfus Affair - an intriguing tale of scientific integrity and research falsification. I'm a bit amazed this isn't as well known as The Masters, given its engagement with serious questions of scientific honesty and standards of research, not to mention generational culture clashes, but there we are. A very enjoyable snapshot of an episode within the life of the college to which Lewis belongs, with strong characterisation and stronger moral imperatives, working together in really quite interesting ways. I found this very easy to read because of the academic background and content, easier than the previous book which was so interested in Lewis' love life, but that probably says more about me than Snow's writing...

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December 2016

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