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Books read, early March - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Books read, early March [Mar. 17th, 2013|08:54 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Elizabeth Bear (matociquala), Shattered Pillars. Discussed elsewhere.

Deborah Coates, Deep Down. Discussed elsewhere.

Michael Collins, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey. Grandpa's. Interesting to have the perspective from the Apollo 11 astronaut who didn't set foot on the moon, and Collins is perfectly ready to talk about all sorts of technical challenges in a conversational, self-deprecating tone. His innermost thoughts and fears are not really where this book goes--he's got that mid-century male voice of jovial confidence--but not every autobiography needs to be in confessional mode.

Stephen Coote, Napoleon and the Hundred Days. Napoleon's back! Wait, no he's not. This is not a stunning example of historical prose, so you should probably only read it if you're interested in the subject matter.

Karen Engelmann, The Stockholm Octavo. I loved this. It's an historical novel set in the reign of Gustav III (which is to say, late 18th century), one of my favorite periods in Swedish and generally European history and a setting in which there is bafflingly little Scandinavian historical fiction. The Stockholm Octavo has just the right balance of budding scientific rationalism and batshit insanity for its period. It features highly artful fan design, tarot-type cards, Bellman, apothecary work, and scads and heaps of Swedish politics. Almost like if one of the better David Liss novels was set in 18th century Stockholm. Greatly recommended.

Barbara Goldsmith, Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie. This is a slim volume, a very quick read that made me want to know more of the details about Mme. Curie. The early history in particular--I had no idea about the Flying University in Poland in the mid/late 19th century. That was awesome. Luckily there are much longer biographies out there, so I will seek them out.

Angelica Gorodischer, Trafalgar. This says "A Novel" right on the cover. It is not a novel. It is a set of linked short stories in the same picaresque mode as, say, Lord Dunsany's Jorkens stories. With different planets. It eschews over-explaining and is generally fun and delightful, it's just--not a novel. Does not have to be a novel.

Bruce Levine, The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South. Do you know what Levine did? It made me want to hug him, and it seems so simple. He did not use the term "Southerner" interchangeably with "white Southerner." I mean, he couldn't and have the same book, because the ways cultural shifts worked and information disseminated in the South around the Civil War were not rigidly divided. But this is a mistake I see so often. He also has not mistaken "white Southerners" for "rich white Southerners" or for "slave owners" or for "pro-slavery/anti-Union people," as all of these groups get discussed in context. Go him.

Ellis Peters, Flight of a Witch. The next one in the Inspector Felse series. They're very quick reads, not amazing but not too bad. Post-WWII British setting. If I didn't know that Ellis Peters was a woman, I would probably have subconsciously assumed she was male because of the completely male focus of both of the series I've read from her, but whatever, people write different things.

David J. Schwartz (snurri), Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib (Episode 2). Kindle. Much though I hate serials, I am sticking with this serial so far rather than letting it pile up. I find it compulsively readable.

Jim Steinmeyer, Who Was Dracula? Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood. Discussed elsewhere.

Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. Second volume in the Pinkwateresque children's series. Puzzles and traps and kids' spy stuff. I really think I would have adored these when I was 8 or 9, but as it stands I still have fun with them.

Genevieve Valentine, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. I know there are a great many people for whom a circus is a major draw. For me it's a neutral, but the post-apocalyptic characters--the people who had thoroughly absorbed their upended culture into their skin and bones--carried the book for me. It has repeatedly changed tense and person, but not accidentally changed, so my initial prejudice against that structure was pretty easily overcome also. This is the sort of thing people mean when they say that doing it well will make all the difference.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Angel's Game. This is related to The Shadow of the Wind but not a direct enough sequel to require the previous volume. It's got a lot of the same book-haunted early-20th-century Spain aspects, a lot of the semi-speculative thriller plot aspects. I liked it a lot and am looking forward to the third one available in English.

Roger Zelazny, Manna From Heaven. Short story collection. Thank heavens Zelazny did not do what he advised skzbrust to do in writing short stories and write merely the last chapter of a novel for each, or this book would have been much worse.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: athenais
2013-03-18 02:03 am (UTC)
Now I must read The Stockholm Octavo. That is right up my alley, you bet.
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[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2013-03-18 02:58 am (UTC)
A really fascinating book on all the races and classes in the south is The Mind of the South by WJ Cash. He too addresses the cultural overlaps and interchanges--it's an old book, but excellent. Also Charles Joyner's Shared Traditions.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2013-03-18 07:03 am (UTC)
Looked up the Flying University. Now I kind of want to put something sort of Flying University-like in Isabella's memoirs. Except not so much avoiding government control as educating people the universities won't let in because of various institutionalized barriers.
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2013-03-18 07:05 am (UTC)
That would be a worthy thing to do, and also a pretty natural development for later volumes, given how the early bits of what you sent me go.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2013-03-18 07:38 am (UTC)
I mean, it's kind of how the Royal Society got founded. She might be doing more basic education than they did back when they met at Gresham's College, but there's no reason she can't be the nexus of salon-type instructional events, personal library lending, etc.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-03-18 01:28 pm (UTC)
That would be awesome. I approve.
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2013-03-20 05:38 pm (UTC)
Ditto Mris on the awesome.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2013-03-21 05:47 am (UTC)
As of today, the opening lines of Chapter One in the third book:

At no point did I form the conscious intention of founding an ad hoc university in my sitting room. It happened, as it were, by accident.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-03-21 12:26 pm (UTC)
I am so pleased.
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[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2013-03-19 04:49 am (UTC)
So, is Coote usefully more informative than, say, this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred_Days ?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-03-19 11:46 am (UTC)
Oh yes. Several hundred pages of book vs. one wikipedia article? Definitely more informative.
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