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

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Books read, late September [Oct. 3rd, 2015|01:26 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric’s Demon. Kindle. This is a novella in the Chalion universe. The Bastard is making his presence felt again. Unlike some of the other Bujold stuff in this universe, the characters don’t have the bite of experience to lend them interest–it’s a perfectly readable novella, but it’ll only scratch the setting itch here, not the character itch.


Joyce Chng, Xiao Xiao and the Dragon Pearl. Kindle. Kids’ book (MG novel) about an imperial family interacting with Chinese myth. There seems to be more coming, and I enjoyed this much, but note that a large portion of its very short length is taken up with recipes. Depending on what kid (if any) you’re dealing with, this may be part of the charm or a distraction.


Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown. One of the most charming books I’ve read all year. Delightful without being lightweight. Regency setting with non-white characters as were realistic for that era (rather than the unrealistic whitewashing we’re used to), romance plot without the fantasy being overbalanced by the romance aspect. Faerie aspects all their own, global politics of great interest. I immediately added this to potential Christmas shopping idea lists for half a dozen quite different people, who would enjoy it in their quite different ways. Highly recommended. Great fun.


Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations. I think this book was trying to do too much and too little. It was covering mostly “lost” countries in Europe, things that were countries that have now disappeared from the map, but while Burgundy, for example, is instructive to the modern mind–while there is plenty to say about how the current map is by no means eternal and inevitable–trying to cover modern Irish history or the collapse of the USSR in less than 100 pages each is a bit foolish even if you have a focus on the rise or fall of each. Davies’ two-volume history of Poland shows much better focus and is a better use of one’s time.


Peter Dickinson, A Summer in the Twenties. Kindle. Labor relations and railroads and the Roaring Twenties. And Peter Dickinson! This should really have been the ultimate book for me, but I ended up feeling pretty lukewarm about it, I think because the characters felt more like types than like people. I’d recommend almost any of Dickinson’s other historicals over this one.


Alyc Helms, The Dragons of Heaven. The superhero intro and cover copy were not at all the meat of this book, which was a lot of kung fu human/dragon family relations. It reminded me of Kylie Chan’s first trilogy, except that Alyc’s book had a beginning, a middle, and an end, all in one book. The superhero plot did eventually tie back in, but I had been hoping for more of it–maybe in a sequel? because even more integrated superhero and Chinese mythology stuff would be so great.


Reginald Hill, Dialogues of the Dead. Another of the Dalziel and Pascoe series, this one themed around a very nerdy referential word game. It’s only the first half of its story, so don’t make the mistake I did and pack to go out of town without the second half in your bag. Well. Soon.


Gwyneth Jones, Castles Made of Sand. Second in its series. Family formation overlaps with trying to keep a nation together overlaps with neurological implant…interest. And magic. This is sort of a kitchen sink series, but I love every bit of it. This volume, however, makes me writhe substantially throughout, for various reasons (not that I don’t love it!), and I probably should not read it away from home again. Do not start here. This is not a stand-alone.


Judy Jordan, Kallie Falandays, and Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, Floodgate Poetry Series Vol. 2. Discussed elsewhere.


Charles Kingsley, Sir Walter Raleigh and His Time. Kindle. This is why we shouldn’t read really old history as a reference. Everyone in this supposed work of nonfiction was Incredibly Noble For Sure. Even when they disagreed. Especially when they disagreed! Oh So Noble. I believe I was looking for a lot more Throckmortons when I downloaded this, but I download a great many things, so who knows; anyway, it was not greatly satisfying, and I do not really recommend it.


Alethea Kontis, Tales of Arilland. Kindle. Tie-in short stories and outtakes from her series. Some fun stuff, some stuff that’s probably best suited for the true fan.


Nicole Kornher-Stace, Archivist Wasp. Post-apocalyptic ghost-hunting book, vivid and interesting, in no way to do with archives or wasps. I tried not to be too disappointed about the lack of archives, because it really was a fun post-apocalyptic ghost-hunting book. (But wasps who archive! Sigh.)


Jodi Meadows, The Hidden Prince. Kindle. Novella that’s interstitial to the main books of her Orphan Queen series, basically promotional material for the true fan.


Ty Nolan, Coyote Still Going: Native American Legends and Contemporary Stories. Kindle. These legends and stories come with recipes and a great deal of context and exegesis. Particularly useful for non-Native writers, teachers, parents, etc. who want to think hard about how they are using/teaching cultural material not their own. Far-ranging. Entertaining. Not very long, though.


Hannu Rajaniemi, Collected Fiction. Somewhat variable. Unsurprisingly, the more Finnish it got, the better I liked it.


Ruth Rendell, The New Girl Friend. When my mother-in-law gave me this volume, she warned me that it was not a volume of murder mysteries but merely a volume of murder stories, and this is entirely true: there was no mystery about it. Someone was going to bash someone’s head in, and you could usually tell who. This…is not a favorite mode for me. It is labeled “suspense” on the cover, but I think that’s as a genre label for “things we call mystery that have no actual mystery to them”; there was certainly no emotion of suspense, nor even dread. Other Rendell is better.


Jonathan D. Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: the Chinese and Their Revolution and The Question of Hu. The former is a microhistory outside his period and definitely not where you want to start if you don’t have good knowledge of the Chinese Revolution(s). Interesting about three scholarly figures of those eras, if you do. The latter is about a translator/calligrapher hired for Westerners and shipped to France, and the problems of cross-cultural work, mental illness, and translation as a whole-body problem. Poor Hu. Oh dear. I’m glad it wasn’t much longer, because it was not much less upsetting than the Chinese Revolution(s).


Lynne Thomas and Michael D. Thomas, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 and  Issue 4. Kindle. Mostly I had read the contents of these online by the time I got to them on my Kindle–hard to know which direction that will go–but I had missed at least one really good thing that will go in my recs post next time. And it is nice to have them on my Kindle when airplane mode is required.


Helen Zimmern, The Hansa Towns. Kindle. A very old book–Germany was still finishing its unification–and it left out some of the things one would most want to know. For example, Zimmern wrote, “We cannot sully our pages by detailing the thirteen different ‘games’ or modes of martyrdom that were in use in Bergen. Our more civilized age could not tolerate the recital.” The hell we can’t! Sully away, lady! Still, stuff about the Hanseatic League is hard to come by, so we get what we can, even when it’s not as impure a recital as we might like.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: thistleingrey
2015-10-03 09:39 pm (UTC)
Good to know about the Davies in particular--and about his history of Poland, actually.
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[User Picture]From: tool_of_satan
2015-10-04 02:29 am (UTC)
Unlike some of the other Bujold stuff in this universe, the characters don’t have the bite of experience to lend them interest–it’s a perfectly readable novella, but it’ll only scratch the setting itch here, not the character itch.

This is true. To me it felt more like the first section of a novel, and if she ever writes the rest of that novel I expect the characters will get more interesting (the demon has potential, at least).
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2015-10-04 06:46 am (UTC)
I will shamelessly leverage my friend-of-the-author status to say that yes, the sequel to The Dragons of Heaven will indeed have more superhero stuff in it, and also more shadow realm stuff. (I know because she told me not ten hours ago. <g>)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-04 10:21 am (UTC)
Good to know!
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-04 01:18 pm (UTC)
I know, sometimes when people only do one of the thing I do alongside them, I want it, but...sigh. You are right that it is not very good.

I was a bit disappointed in David Liss's fantasy novel compared to his straight-up historicals, but I am hopeful about his new SF YA (perhaps MG? I don't care really, I'm going to read it either way) thing. I'm hopeful that he's figuring out how to do speculative. Even though I would happily read his mimetic historical fiction for as long as he cared to write it.
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2015-10-08 10:15 pm (UTC)
Is Castles in the Sand (or maybe its predecessor) as much like Wrack and Roll as Amazon makes it sound? (Or did W&R flicker out too briefly for you to have come across it? Pity, if so. I always kind of liked that book, not least for the character Tycho - not the original one, but he does have the appropriate silver nose.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-08 10:21 pm (UTC)
Hahaha I would say I am the biggest Bradley Denton fan around, but I am not even the biggest Bradley Denton fan in the house; Tim has a good eight inches on me.

However: still a pretty big Bradley Denton fan.

However: not much.

However: still enough like Wrack and Roll that you might want to read the series. Starting with the predecessor.
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2015-10-08 10:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, cool, I didn't realize there was that much other Bradley Denton around! (I just checked.)

Two books of that series bought and another from your review put on my "to buy later" list. I've said before how helpful I find your reviews!
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-08 11:14 pm (UTC)
Victory!
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