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

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Books read, early April. [Apr. 16th, 2013|12:36 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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R. J. Anderson, Ultraviolet. This was mentioned as non-dystopian YA SF, which makes me sit up and take notice. It's set in a mental hospital, and I don't hate it! Seriously, that's really notable. There is an entire cluster of issues around mental hospital settings, and...yeah. Steering through them is no small task. So I'm even more excited about the sequel, which ideally will not be set in a mental hospital. Synaesthesia stuff was also handled well.

Ira Berlin, The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations. Each of the four migrations in question--the Middle Passage, the move west within the slave South, the move north in the early 20th century, and the fresh waves of immigrants of African descent in the late 20th and early 21st centuries--is covered in more detail elsewhere, but this book gets at context and commonality as well as differences. Quite well done.

Paul Cornell, London Falling. Discussed elsewhere.

Shelley Emling, Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family. This focuses later in Curie's life and into the lives of her daughters, Irene and Eve. It also brings to the fore a figure I had not previously known, Missy Meloney, who was kind of awesome: an American journalist who did a lot of tour arrangement and fundraising for Mme. Curie, among other things. Emling had a lot of access to the third generation of Curie women in science, Helene, and the book really showed it. Short and quite readable.

Judith Herrin, Women in Purple: Rulers of Medieval Byzantium. Giving context without hand-holding the reader through every last thing is hard and important, and I felt like Judith Herrin did a good job here. The rulers in question are three fascinating Byzantine women, but the book does not neglect the men and commoners around them. It's probably not going to transcend lack of interest in the medieval Byzantines, but if you have even mild interest, it's very well done.

Rawn James Jr., The Double V: How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military. This book was exactly the opposite of what I expected. I expected it to be a detailed historical account of the process of desegregation and the experiences of the African-American (and other non-white) soldiers going from a segregated to a desegregated armed forces. My grandfather had often talked about how desegregating the services was the best thing Harry Truman ever did, because it got him smart black people to work with and also got rid of some of the...I will paraphrase and say "undesirable white persons" who would refuse to take orders from a...and here is where Grandpa made a mean-stupid face and a sneery noise to indicate what words the undesirable white persons would use without having to repeat them to his granddaughter. And so I thought, oh, cool, I will read this book and hear more about it from multiple perspectives. But this was the opposite. It was the lead-up to desegregation, basically a detailed history of African-American participation in the US military in the nearly two centuries prior to desegregation. And that was fascinating. That was very cool. It was just not the cool thing I was expecting, so I hope someone writes that cool thing. (The titular "double v" was the thing that many African-Americans were calling for during WWII: victory over the forces of fascism abroad and victory over the forces of oppression and prejudice at home.) I'll be looking for James's other work.

Mary Robinette Kowal, Without a Summer. Discussed elsewhere.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Birthday of the World and Other Stories. Generally Hainish, generally quite engaging. Recommended.

Marie Lu, Prodigy. I was disappointed in this one. I liked the first in the series a lot, and I liked some things about this sequel that are unfortunately spoilerific, but I felt like not enough happened in it. There was an awful lot of wibbling and angst and even some idiot-plot. Also, in the first volume the sections were printed in black and sepia, alternating by point of view, which was mildly annoying but not too bad. In this volume they were black and bright blue. Which was particularly annoying because the two characters' voices were entirely adequately differentiated, different things were happening to them, each section began with their name alongside the chapter title, and they were in different fonts (one with serifs and one sans). So: really? Bright blue? Sigh. I'll still finish the series, but not with as much anticipation.

Michael Merriam (mmerriam), The Curious Case of the Jeweled Alicorn. Steampunk James Bond-ish adventure fantasy, complete with hand-rubbing villainy (cackles and all). I knew I had to have this novella when I heard Michael read from it at Minicon and knew exactly where to insert, "No, Mr. Bloom, I expect you to die!" Fun stuff.

Ivan Morris, The Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan. I will quibble with the title: AD/CE 800-1200 is not ancient, not in the west and certainly not in Japan. But whatever, titles, what can you do. It turned out I already knew a fair amount of this stuff about the Heian Era and the work of Murasaki Shikibu (and secondarily Sei Shonagon), but if you don't, this is probably a reasonable introduction. For me the most interesting part was the introduction itself, written by one of Morris's female grad students about him as a mentor and about how things had changed in Japanese history/Japanese studies/grad school in general since this apparent classic of the field was written in the mid-60s.

Obana Miho, Kodocha: Sana's Stage, Vol. 7-10. Manga with a pre-teen/teen pop star main character, part of an ongoing conversation with alecaustin. Got even less believable than the first six volumes, but whatever, fast and fun.

Ellis Peters, The Grass Widow's Tale. Another in the Inspector Felse series, but in this one the Inspector's wife Bunty gets to be the detective that any reader of this series could immediately spot she was capable of being. I liked Bunty getting to take center stage in the author's and her own mind. Mainly of interest if you've read at least some of the rest of the series and like mid-century British mysteries.

Freda Warrington, Grail of the Summer Stars. Discussed elsewhere.

P. G. Wodehouse, Uneasy Money. Kindle. The last thing I finished reading on that Kindle before it bricked, sigh. It was not a Wooster and Jeeves novel, but it had all the same general hallmarks, the style of humor and accounts of '20s upper class life. The position of Designated Sensible Party was taken by a love interest rather than a servant. It was fun but not life-changing. Probably best to read it if you already know you like Wodehouse and are just in the mood for another one.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: supergee
2013-04-16 08:56 pm (UTC)
I had not encountered the four-migrations idea before Berlin and found it fascinating.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-04-16 09:19 pm (UTC)
Oh yes! I had read about them all, but not labeled that way; going into the book, I could only name two for sure and was curious about what the other two would be.
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From: dsgood
2013-04-16 10:29 pm (UTC)
I've requested Ultraviolet from the library. There isn't all that much fiction which gets synesthesia/synaesthesia anywhere near right.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2013-04-16 11:56 pm (UTC)
The Scarlet PimperPedant strikes again, freeing facts from the guillotine of wrongness: Uneasy Money is actually a little earlier than you'd think. It was first published in 1916, and generally has a pre-War ambience. As does much of Wodehouse, in point of fact: his first book came out in 1902, and even Jeeves first appeared in 1915. We always tend to label Wodehouse as a creature of the '20s, but his instinct is really Edwardian.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2013-04-16 11:56 pm (UTC)
*slinks off into the night, mysteriously*
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[User Picture]From: rj_anderson
2013-04-17 01:51 am (UTC)
I am very glad you did not hate Ultraviolet, because I too know what a minefield the subject of mental illness and treatment can be. I'm also happy you felt I got the synesthesia bits right, and I can assure you that indeed, the sequel does not take place in a psychiatric hospital.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-04-17 02:45 am (UTC)
I am willing to quit reading for things that I'm just kind of not feeling, so "did not hate" is probably an understatement. But it was that weird kind of "I usually hate this trope...I have just read another 50 pages without looking up...huh, I really usually hate this trope...oops, there goes 50 more..." sorts of things.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2013-04-17 03:24 am (UTC)
There are so few Byzantine books, generally, that it is always worth my notice.

There are 2 topics I could never get enough of as a kid, simply because there weren't materials available in my library:

The Byzantine Empire - brought to my attention by Peter Dickinson's The Dancing Bear

Islamic Spain - there was this book called Casilda of the Rising Moon by Elizabeth Borton Trevino, it was probably my first exposure to Islam. (Although it's about an Islamic girl who becomes a Catholic saint), but it stuck with me.

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-04-17 12:03 pm (UTC)
How interesting that they're both topics Guy Gavriel Kay later wrote about. Timing is key, I suppose.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2013-04-17 12:04 pm (UTC)
Yep, and I've ready the Guy Gavriel Kay books as well. But I was looking for non-fiction. ("Is this real?") Even that was in short supply.
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From: diatryma
2013-04-18 05:48 pm (UTC)
Do you have any good English resources for Islamic Spain? It is a particular favorite of mine but all my books about it are in Spanish, so less good for casual devouring.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-04-19 03:17 am (UTC)
I liked Menocal's The Ornament of the World.
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[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2013-04-21 01:07 am (UTC)
I do hope you fine the book you thought Double V was going to be, as well.
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