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

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Books read, early July [Jul. 19th, 2015|06:27 am]
Marissa Lingen
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Matt Christopher, Ice Magic. So…we have a Little Free Library in our next door neighbors’ yard, and Tim mentioned that it had a hockey fantasy in it. That is my wheelhouse! But, he continued, it was a Matt Christopher book. Well. No harm no foul, I could just take it and put it back when I was done. Lordy. LORDY. I had forgotten how TERRIBLE Matt Christopher books are. They are proof that short books are not necessarily lean, taut prose, because there are random things like the protagonist greeting a squirrel that are completely pointless. The magic plot evaporates on the last page for no reason except that the world must be normal or something. I love hockey fantasy, but…seriously, do not read this book.


Wesley Chu, Time Salvager. Discussed elsewhere.


E.K. Johnston, The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim. LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It’s the story of a dragon slayer in modern small-town/rural Ontario. The alternate history bits are endearing and lovely. (Buddy Holly! The Red Wings logo! Non-American politician references!) The kids’ relationships with each other are so great and do not descend to love triangles and mean girls and other cliches. I cannot WAIT for the sequel SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD. (Tim wishes to add that this book post is three days late because he had difficulty putting The Story of Owen down long enough to put the links in.)


Michael Pye, The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe. You know how I often say of nonfiction that it does what it says on the tin? This does not in any way do what it says on the tin. It is about the North Atlantic and the Baltic at least as much as it is the North Sea, and it includes not one but at least five transformations of Europe. That said, as a book about interesting stuff that happened in the north of Europe, it’s golden, lovely, very much recommended. Somewhat random! But recommended.


Kazuki Sakuraba, Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas. This has won murder mystery awards in its original Japanese, but to me it is no more a murder mystery than a randomly selected novel with a romantic relationship is a genre romance. Instead it’s a personal account of young women’s culture and cultural change in (non-Tokyo) Japan. I have all sorts of thoughts about the translator’s choices, to the point where I am saving them for another post, but it’s basically Japanese magical realism about the above themes, so it’s not something you’re going to be reading and thinking, “Oh yes, another of these.”


Russell Shorto, Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City. Shorto really doesn’t understand the what happened with the English Parliament in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, and he doesn’t go into the Hansa or Beguines or several other really cool things like that. Also he starts with Amsterdam being knowably Amsterdam, so I am still missing a good source on early Frisians. (WHY WILL NO ONE GIVE ME SOLID FRISIANS WHY.) But it’s still a charming and interesting book, and he gives props to both Spinoza and Jonathan Israel, so good on him.


Dana Simpson, Unicorn on a Roll. Second volume of the series (the first was Phoebe and Her Unicorn), and I liked it better. Partly I think that Simpson has hit a stride, and partly I think it’s expectation management: telling me that something is the next Calvin and Hobbes is the best way to get me to say, “Huh, sez you!”, whereas I knew this was not, it’s its own thing, and it’s a fun and funny own thing to be. (Also my goddaughter Lillian lent me this book because she thought of me and thought I would like it. And because she is SO GROWN-UP OH WOW.)


Adrian Tchaikovsky, Guns of the Dawn. Stand-alone military fantasy novel. A few class-based things made me wince, but for the most part it was worth the leisurely pacing, an enjoyable read throughout–and interesting to see what Tchaikovsky does when he’s not doing a ten-book series.


Jen Williams, The Copper Promise. This book was a very weird mix of grimdark and lighthearted fantasy romp. It was in a very epic fantasy setting, with some gods still around and others dead. It’s more of an “if you like that sort of thing” than an “everyone, everyone! Go read!”, but I still found it quite readable.


Jacqueline Winspear, Birds of a Feather. Second Maisie Dobbs mystery. Lacking the flashback structure of the first, and I think this is all to the best. Gentle 1930s British setting. I’m glad the library has a bunch of these.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: whswhs
2015-07-19 01:31 pm (UTC)
I totally loved Guns of the Dawn, which was the first thing I've read by Tchaikovsky. I'd be curious to hear more specifically about the "class-based things," at least with pointers to scenes. A big part of what I enjoyed in it was the theme of bourgeois uprising against aristocracy, but I'm not sure if that has any relation to what you're thinking of.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-07-19 01:38 pm (UTC)
That may have been the theme, but it was not what we saw. At all. The bourgeois rising up against the aristocracy almost all happened offstage because it was mostly in another country completely. What we got for a POV was a gentry/noble (not entirely clear on the distinction in Tchaikovsky's world, so I will be careful there) girl who was magically the only one who had ever fired a ranged weapon? in a pack of farm girls? Pull the other one, I know farm girls. If guns hadn't reached that economic stratum yet, they'd have had bows and arrows that would have either been of use to the army or the focus of some argument about why not. Because someone has to do something to keep the foxes out of the chicken coop, and guess what, if your menfolks go away to war or die of a plague or lose an arm in a threshing accident, it's you.

Acting training and a plucky sense of humor are not the only things working class women have to offer, especially in a war, but the rest of the useful skills working class women might bring to bear were swept completely away in a fit of Our Heroine Is Special.

This did not ruin my enjoyment of the book, but I am very, very tired of women from farm families getting patronized from all angles.
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2015-07-19 03:14 pm (UTC)
Well, okay, I take your point about about the skills of farm women, that's a fair call. I don't agree about the bourgeoisie/aristocracy conflict being offstage, though; it seems to drive the romantic relationship, which is one of the major plotlines.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-07-19 03:17 pm (UTC)
Errm. At the risk of major spoiler, its relationship to the romantic relationship is at the very least not apparent very early.
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[User Picture]From: dormouse_in_tea
2015-07-19 05:33 pm (UTC)
I understand that all of the Amazon links are affiliate links, and I'm down with that! But I don't buy physical books. If I click on your link and get to amazon, then click over to the kindle page and buy it, would it still count? Are kindle purchases even eligible?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-07-19 05:36 pm (UTC)
I think it still counts? Other things still count once you've navigated from there.

Um, thanks!
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[User Picture]From: dormouse_in_tea
2015-07-19 05:44 pm (UTC)
You reliably point me to fiction that I can read with immersion (well, not all of them, but if it catches my attention as a thing-I-read, it's a good bet). Given that so much of my reading of late is page at a time dragging myself desperately through it because NO, REALLY, READING IS A THING THAT I DO, that is worth /diamonds/.



eta: and to think I do html copyediting. *SHAME*

Edited at 2015-07-19 05:45 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-07-19 06:14 pm (UTC)
Oh! Thank you! Glad to be of assistance.
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[User Picture]From: timprov
2015-07-19 05:44 pm (UTC)
Yes.
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[User Picture]From: nipernaadiagain
2015-07-21 03:39 am (UTC)
Another question - does it still count if I put it on my Amazon wishlist and buy later (sometimes couple of years later)?
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[User Picture]From: timprov
2015-07-21 03:41 am (UTC)
No. (It might if you go through a link here to get to Amazon when you're going to buy it, not sure how wishlists work that way.)
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2015-07-19 05:55 pm (UTC)
I now have a completely random desire for a quartet of short stories: one about solid Frisians, one about liquid Frisians, one about gaseous Frisians, and one about plasma Frisians.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-07-19 06:15 pm (UTC)
I have known some gaseous Frisians, and it was not the best time ever.

Wait, no, that's gassy.

Never mind.
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[User Picture]From: takumashii
2015-07-21 11:17 pm (UTC)
I flail my arms gleefully about The Story of Owen!

SO GOOD indeed, and -- entirely its own thing, you know? Not trying to be anybody else's idea of YA urban fantasy.

I have Red Girls in Japanese but have not read it yet (but I absolutely love one of Sakuraba's other books), so I would be very interested in your thoughts about the translation -- I'm always intensely curious about what kind of choices translators make.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-07-22 02:06 am (UTC)
Oh good, I will be interested to hear whether I'm interpreting it correctly.

The blog post in question is on the to-do list for the next few days.

AND YES STORY OF OWEN YES.
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[User Picture]From: asciikitty
2015-07-22 03:34 pm (UTC)
STORY OF OWEN.

I mean. I have not yet been steered wrong by your book posts, but Story of Owen was particularly wonderful. My only complaint is that now I'm done with it.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-07-22 03:38 pm (UTC)
But there is a sequel!
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[User Picture]From: asciikitty
2015-07-22 03:43 pm (UTC)
YES and my local bookstore has it on the shelves and I have to go there anyway tonight for work and I'm not seeing a downside.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-07-22 03:45 pm (UTC)
I too am unable to spot the flaw in this plan.
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