I have also been doing my share of rejecting lately: I've had to withdraw a couple of stories because they'd just gone too long without queries getting answered. Also I seem to have had a rash of library books that made me run screaming before page 20. But here's what I did get through lately:
Cory Doctorow, Overclocked. I'd read some of the stories in this one online, so I skipped those, but I enjoyed the rest. None of it felt like a major departure from his last short story collection, for better or worse.
Rebecca Goldstein, Betraying Spinoza. This was an impulse library book, well worth it. It puts Baruch Spinoza in the context of his background and his time, focusing mostly on his upbringing in and departure from Judaism. It was a pretty tidy complement to the Jonathan Israel book about Enlightenment radicals -- what Israel didn't cover, Goldstein did, and vice versa. I'm a good deal more interested in Spinoza than I realized last year at this time. I don't know if it'll be my Year Of Spinoza or if it'll last beyond that. We'll see, I guess.
James Howe, The Misfits. Howe is the author of the Bunnicula books, but while this is also a kids' book, it's very different. It deals with bullying and school politics, and it's warm-hearted without being sappy. desayunoencama recommended it awhile ago, and he was right: it was my sort of thing. I think I'd be careful about recommending it to kids in specific, because it could easily feel like a Problem Novel to them if it was too pointedly recommended, and I think it transcends that. But then, I don't think much of giving kids a book because it fits some specific problem you think they have; I far prefer giving kids access to a bunch of books and letting them find the good in them on their own.
George Maude, Historical Dictionary of Finland. Very useful, but it made me rant and snarl. Hindsight is proverbially 20/20 for a reason, and knowing now that the USSR was not, in its lifespan as the USSR, going to do any harm to Finland past the Continuation War is not the same as having good reason to know it then. Also -- well. I think Maude wanted to write a book about modern Finnish politics and didn't have another structure in mind, or something. Because some of the things he left out of the "historical dictionary" format just look like spite and pettiness. (Yah, Alvar Aalto, who's he? How could he be of any importance to anyone? Tove Jansson? I mean, I know you can't include every artist in every field, but those two are pretty important to the outside world's view of Finland.) I will use this later, I feel pretty sure, and I'm glad to have gone through to see what was in it, but -- I can't really say I'd recommend it for someone who didn't already have a fairly strong sense of Finnish politics and art in particular, because the skew might not be as clear.
Lane Robins, Maledicte. I met Lane through tmseay, and I am glad to say I enjoyed her first novel and would recommend it. It is not for the faint of heart. It is an extremely bloody book. But it did some lovely things. I was particularly pleased with the way she deliberately undermined one of the probably-unintentional genre conventions about childhood. (Probably-unintentional from the rest of the genre, definitely intentional for Lane's undermining, clear?) Also, very few books come with a favorite line for me. The Lies of Locke Lamora may be the last one that did. This time it was, "How like [character] to confuse intelligence with competence." Ah. Yes.
Shashi Tharoor, India From Midnight to the Millennium. This is another book that lurked on my library list for years. I put it there because I wanted to remedy some of my crashing ignorance about South Asia. Mr. Tharoor is extremely opinionated about Indian politics, but I don't think he's mostly wrong about them -- it's hard for me to argue with someone who is saying, for example, that Muslim women should have the full protection of the law. One of the unintended interesting bits of this book is that it was written ten years ago, and there are bits of US/India interactions that are the same now but some bits that are significantly different. I ended up wanting to know more about the British presence and more about Indian Independence, but one book can only do so much, and this one wasn't making claims to more than general politics and economics from 1947 to 1997.
Rob Thomas, Slave Day. Thomas is the creator of Veronica Mars, which is my favorite TV show ever, even though it doesn't feature the character Susan Ivanova. (Who is still my favorite TV character ever. I don't know what it is about TV stuff that lends itself to total orderings for me. Generally I can't stand total orderings.) I don't mean to say that this was a bad YA novel, because I don't think it was. But I ended up geeking over it, picking apart how he would have handled similar things differently if he'd been writing it for TV. It could easily have been an episode of VM, I think, and unlike the other Rob Thomas book I read (Rats Saw God), it didn't have a strong focal character, so I didn't have a problem hearing too much of Veronica's or Logan's voice in this one. I could see a few prototypes for later characters -- Beaver pretty strongly, Wallace a bit -- but it stayed itself for me. I think Thomas is better off writing for TV, though. The way he cut things, the stuff he was trying to convey, seemed like it could easily have been done for TV and done better for TV. So. I hope he gets another show one of these days, I guess. One of the things I have always liked about Thomas's work is that I think he treats teenage characters with both compassion and respect. Some people manage one or the other, but both at once is rare and good.