August 1st, 2009


Books read, late July

A lot is up in the air right now, but I'm going to see some people I love this weekend, and also some people I simply like a lot, and that is a good thing. And books are good things. So let's talk about books.

Mary Alexandra Agner, The Doors of the Body. Poetry collection, with a focus on women in myth and legend. My favorite was "Like Father, Like Son," but there were several contenders. For me, the fact that Mary (full disclosure: Mary is an online friend; I had a lovely brunch with her once) doesn't always spell out, "I AM TALKING ABOUT THIS MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURE AND ALSO THIS OTHER ONE," is a good thing, respectful of my intelligence as a reader, but I expect some people might find a few of the references obscure. And by "some people" I mean "not most of you if any."

Fred Anderson, Crucible of War. This is a really, really good book. It's about the Seven Years' War, focusing on its North American incarnation as the French and Indian War. I said, "This book made everything make so much more sense!" and timprov said, "Did we read the same book?" But it's not that the people made a lot of sense. Because, whoa, did they not make any sense. There was so much stupid in this war. It was like they knew they weren't going to be able to stretch it out as long as the Hundred Years' War, but they wanted to fit the same amount of stupid in anyway. But a lot of how things fell out with the American Revolution makes a great deal more sense in the context of what that generation had lived through beforehand.

Colin Cotterill, The Merry Misogynist. Latest in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series of magical realist Laotian murder mysteries. I wouldn't start with this one--it leans pretty strongly on already knowing the characters and their relationships, and there's a less-favorite bit for me towards the end. But on the whole it's a solid entry into a series I love.

Stella Dong, Shanghai 1842-1949: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City. If you know nothing about Shanghai in the century under discussion, this book is a very good entry point. Unfortunately, it was another situation where I knew more than I thought, so the introductory book was not very interesting to me.

Tony Hillerman, Skeleton Man. Pointless framing device, aaaagh! Also, some of the Jim/Bernie interactions were...tedious at best. Still I'm not sorry I'm finishing the series.

Jim C. Hines (jimhines), The Stepsister Scheme. I really liked the glass sword. That's not the only reason I'm giving a copy to a favorite teenager as a birthday present, but I had not added "glass sword" to the list of "tropes with which mrissa can be bought," so that's good to know about myself. Also I like Talia. I'm not sure I would have found the book particularly outstanding without Talia, but I will want to see what else she does and where else she goes and who else's ass she kicks.

Elizabeth Moon, Winning Colors. The last in the Heris Serrano trilogy, and some loose ends were wrapped up quite satisfactorily. It's not my favorite of the Moon space operas, but it was still entertaining.

Delia Sherman, The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. This was just exactly the right tone of thing for me to read while grieving. I know, I know, that's an odd tone for a compliment to take. But it was briskly paced and put the characters in interesting jeopardy that was not likely to overlap with anything bad that's happened in my family in the last little bit. Also, while this is not a revolutionary book, there were some conventional expectations neatly overturned, and I enjoyed that greatly. It's a school story and a quest story and several other things wrapped into a YA length. Good stuff.

Sharon Shinn, General Winston's Daughter. Colonialism goes to Ruritania. I found most aspects of this book predictable, but every time it was "either she'll do this thing or this other thing that would suck," Shinn did not choose the other thing that would suck. And for me the predictability did not make it a less vivid or compelling read.

Barbara Sjoholm, The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland. This book was a very good example of how a good focus can still let you discuss tangents of interest. Sjoholm was very focused on travel and tourism in the north of Scandinavia, and it allowed her to discuss the Inuit, Greenland, and various other related issues when they touched on her main vein of interest. I also forgave her very rapidly for using "Lapland" in the title because 1) she made it very clear that Saami politics and interest were of utmost concern to her and 2) she used "Sapmi/Saamemaa" and other terms preferred by Saami to mean very specific and sometimes different things from the political areas known as Lapland, Lappland, and Lapponia. And in case that makes it sound daunting, it's really not--if you know nothing about the far north and are interested in snow sculpture, modern Saami life, the ecology of eco-tourism, and other related issues, this is a good introduction.