Veronica Buckley, Christina, Queen of Sweden: the Restless Life of a European Eccentric. What I found fascinating about this bio was not the subject -- the subject made me realize that what I really want is a thick and chewy bio of Axel Oxenstierna, in English, which latter part is the problem. But what I did find fascinating here was that Buckley did not seem to really get emotionally attached to her subject the way a lot of biographers do. Even the ones who recognize their subjects' faults have writing that seems more keen on them. This was not bad, but it read like the chronicle of someone the writer knew well but was not entirely sure she liked.
Sarah Murgatroyd, The Dig Tree: A True Story of Bravery, Insanity, and the Race to Discover Australia's Wild Frontier. This...was not what I expected at all. It was the story of one particular bit of frontier discovery, so by the end of the book, great swaths of Western Australia weren't even a little bit explored by white folks. I had picked this up in hopes of remedying some of my ignorance of Australian history, and it didn't really do much of that, nor -- and this is key here -- did it provide an interesting look at a tiny slice of it, which would also have done nicely. Most of my reaction to this book was to want to avoid the human race at large for several days after I finished reading it. I think polar exploration annoys me less than other kinds because I don't want to reach back through history and grab the explorers' lapels to shout, "There were people there! Why didn't you try to ask them how to survive? Stupid, stupid, stupid!" when, in fact, there weren't people in much of the Antarctic, and a few Arctic explorers could be prevailed upon to listen to the people who were up there.
Kenneth Oppel, Skybreaker. If you are a person who sees books as movies in your head -- and likes the state of the movies today -- this is a book for you. It was easy to see how it would all look as a movie, because much of it has been done in various forms there -- not the specific speculative creatures, but the discovery scene, the development scene, etc. The romance also felt very paint-by-numbers to me, and they were not numbers I particularly care about. This was not an offensive or bad read. It was just...done. Very, very done.
Cherie Priest (cmpriest), Not Flesh Nor Feathers. And here is where I make a guilty face: this is the first of cmpriest's books I've read. We've known each other on lj for quite awhile, and I've enjoyed her writing here, but I looked at the covers of her books and said, "Horror. No thanks. Better to preserve a cordial friendship by not reading her books and saying mean things about them when I'm not the target audience anyway." I was wrongety wrongety wrong. Friends, so wrong. If you parse what is and is not horror by the tropes, this has ghosts and zombie-like-things in it, making it horror. But that's not how I parse horror, and the level of hope in this book -- including, I think hope for some pretty terrible real-life situations -- would move it into "dark fantasy" in my head. I will definitely seek out the others. If you like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books, these are about that level of horrific. If you don't like them, forget I said anything! Absolutely dissimilar in every way! No one sane could possibly compare them. (Really, Eden has about six million times the self-awareness of Harry. Among other things.)
Ruth Rendell, Means of Evil and Other Stories. This was a discard from a friend's pile, and she indicated very clearly that she likes Rendell, and that this was far from the best of Rendell. I'm glad she did: it was a fine enough book of mystery short stories but nothing particularly special, and I'm not sorry to have read it, but if I thought this was as good as it got, I would not seek out any more Rendell. But it was fine enough, and if the rest is better, it'll certainly be worth a look.