May 17th, 2013


Books read, early May.

Mike Carey, The Unwritten: The Wound. There were some fun bits in this, and the plot actually moved, but upon reflection I didn't much care for one of the major plot points. I know why it's there, I just...story is not the same thing as print. This series has understood that elsewhere. Ah well; still interested in continuing.

C.J. Cherryh, Protector. Sometimes it's very frustrating to read the latest installment in this series and realize that I can count on one hand the number of people I can talk to about what it's doing. This is #14, and it's very much a middle-book in its sub-trilogy. But the things it's doing with small events like a child's birthday party having interstellar ramifications--this is what SF is for. It's just not what immediately accessible SF is for. I recommend this entire series, but starting at the beginning.

Nils Cleve and Istavn Racz, Treasures of Finnish Renaissance and Baroque Art. This is mostly black-and-white pictures of what it says on the tin. Some of them were interesting, some lovely, and some neither, but in general it was extremely useful and will be more useful yet if I get back to writing my Finnish stuff.

Megan Crewe, The Way We Fall and The Lives We Lost. YA disaster SF, not dystopian but not sunshine and roses either. I really liked these, as you can tell by the fact that I got The Lives We Lost from the library as soon as they had it checked into their system, once I'd finished The Way We Fall. A lot of speculative YA is aimed more at feelings than at exploring hard speculative conceits, whether fantasy or SF. These two books (and presumably the last in the trilogy, but it's not out yet) have logistics, but they also seem to recognize the value in keeping the speculative conceit relatively simple. The virus in these books is not earth-shaking, not dreadfully new, but it does what it needs to do in the story and then gets out of the way so that it's not competing for focus with the characters' direct feelings and experiences. I recommend these. They're really well done.

Emily Dickinson, Poems. Kindle. You know, if you're reading Emily Dickinson for pleasure, the dose I would recommend is something like one at a time. Not all of them at a time. That was...maybe not the best way to appreciate her unique voice.

Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire. Every year I buy myself a book for Grandpa's birthday, a book we might both have enjoyed. This is this year's book. It's really chewy fascinating stuff about the Comanche exploitation of colonial resources and empires in the 18th and 19th centuries. Very much a worthy Grandpa's-birthday book.

Faith Erin Hicks, Friends With Boys. This is a perfect example of why I don't like graphic novels as well as prose, even though I liked this reasonably well. The setup seemed to me like it was going to go farther in several directions, and then...didn't. And I get it--you just can't put as much story in with that much page space being taken up with pictures. I need to expect smaller chunks of story out of graphic novels. It's just mildly dissatisfying, is all.

Val McDermid, The Distant Echo. The story of a murder and its aftermath, including very long after. Also the story of four men's friendship; I am a sucker for books about friendships. Halfway through, I had not guessed who the murderer would be, which is extremely rare for me, and when I started to have suspicions, it was still exciting and interesting to try to figure out how it would be proven and what else might happen (including who else might die) before it was. I have been frustrated because one of the things I want in life is to be in the middle of reading a mystery writer whose work I like and who has already published a gajillion books I have not read yet, most of which the library has. (This also works if it's not the public library but the library of a close friend I see regularly.) It's a pretty specific thing to want in life, I realize, but up until fairly recently I had not been reading mysteries long enough to have gotten through very many of the good ones. I started reading mysteries in my early-mid-20s really. (Dorothy Sayers and Lawrence Block, together again for the first time.) And I have not been dedicated about it the way I am with SF. But it turns out that I'm reading on the order of 50 mysteries a year, and that uses up a lot of the good ones eventually. So hurrah for Val McDermid! Who is good, and who is in supply at the library!

E. Nesbit, The Wouldbegoods. Kindle. I have no idea how many times I read this as a kid. Several. It's not one of the ones with magic, but the Bastables are generally good fun anyway. Even if I did write them into WWI once. Oops.

Susan Palwick, Mending the Moon. Discussed elsewhere.

Doris Pilkington, Rabbit-Proof Fence. This was a very short telling of the author's mother's experiences as a young mixed-race Australian woman, escaping her placement at a white school and returning to her Aboriginal family. I'm not sure how much of the sparse nature of the telling is culturally required, but I had hoped for more here. It seemed like the details Pilkington wanted to provide were pretty much orthogonal to the ones that would have interested me. On the other hand, this is not a perspective one finds much in books in the US, so it's valuable for that.

Greg Rucka, A Gentleman's Game. ...and this is why I like prose novels better than graphic. This is a prose novel that's a sequel to a set of graphic novels. And I like it so much better, because it's able to do so much more. I've heard people complaining that the Queen and Country series is a Sandbaggers ripoff, but I think that what Rucka does with the basic setup is immensely more interesting than Sandbaggers. I don't just mean that, unlike Sandbaggers, he has female characters who are allowed to do stuff and male characters I don't want to kick repeatedly. But it turns out that matters to me.

John Ruskin, Mornings in Florence. Kindle. This Victorian travel guide with an art focus was remarkably personable, modern, and chatty in tone. Also it was not excessively long. If you're at all interested in Florence and art and stuff, I'm sure he has his flaws, but it was a fun read anyway.

David J. Schwartz (snurri), Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib (episode 6). Kindle. That thing I keep saying about letting episodes pile up and reading them all at once: you notice how well that's working out for me with this one. Possibly it's some kind of sign.

Daniel Tammet, Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant: A Memoir. My dad heard this guy giving a TED Talk and was interested, so I got this from the library for us to talk about. Tammet is very clear and expressive, and while he is indeed autistic, he's also synaesthetic, so between the two (I am synaesthetic but not autistic, but I know several autistic people pretty well) it was a pretty familiar, comfortable read for me--of course both conditions vary substantially, and Tammet's expressiveness about his experiences was fascinating.

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates. Kindle. Lapidary and preachy. Ah well, win some etc.

P. G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves, The Adventures of Sally, and The Politeness of Princes and Other School Stories. Kindle, all of them. Right Ho, Jeeves was a reread, and also one I've seen staged and filmed. Wodehouse on my Kindle is not the most amazing thing ever, but it's a quite reasonable thing to have if I'm looking for something that won't be too much of a commitment while I'm waiting for a big order of library books to come in or some such.