We’re back from our interrupted camping holiday to Scotland, thanks to my body deciding that relaxation meant a fever was in order. Let me tell you, it’s really not nice to get a fever in the middle of what is probably the nicest weekend in two years in Britain and when you’ve been lucky enough to choose that weekend to go away! The only good thing about this is the fact that I’ve finished two books since we got home yesterday.
The first, Pompeii by Mary Beard, was a mix of history and popular archaeology, a really insightful look into how the Romans actually lived in Pompeii. Beard dissects a lot of established knowledge about the buried city, compares it to the current remains, and separates her findings into chapters that focus on one particular aspect of the city and the Roman world. She very quickly does away with the idea that Vesuvius’s eruptions caught the citizens as they were going about their ordinary lives, demonstrating that they were mostly fleeing or had fled already, and then goes into the details of what has been found and what it might mean.
My immediate reaction was of course a desire to go to Pompeii, which I’ve never seen. A lot of the book also underscores how much we’ve lost even seen the ruins were discovered; early excavators in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries didn’t know what they were doing, and once vivid paintings and messages have almost completely faded.
Anyway, a brilliant book, I’d completely recommend it for anyone at all interested in Pompeii or Rome.
Second, I finished The Heart of Valor by Tanya Huff just a few minutes before I sat down to write this post. This is the sequel to A Confederation of Valor, actually an omnibus of the first two books in the series which I sadly didn’t review, but which I loved. This is what I like to think of as character-focused military science fiction, and I think if you enjoy the Vorkosigan saga, you’ll enjoy these too. Torin Kerr, the main heroine of the series, isn’t quite as crazy as Miles, but she’s a very strong and smart heroine who knows exactly what she’s doing and the comparisons to Ellen Ripley of Alien fame are justified. What I mainly love about these is how quickly we get to know the characters and how they really feel as though each situation is life threatening; Huff gets what I think the military should be like exactly right. I could be completely wrong, and I would hope to never find out whether I am or not, but for me, these books work.
That leaves me with what I’m actually reading now, which is The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. This is a library book that I picked up because it was pretty. Not a joke; this is the benefit of using the library again, because all it takes for me to choose a book is the fact that the cover stands out. Here it is:
Lovely, and different. It’s a classic about four English women who go to an Italian castle and that’s really all I know so far. I can’t wait to find out more.
What are you reading this week?