Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Books read, late January

Robert Nisbet Bain, Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire 1682-1719. This is a reprint of a book written in 1895. There is some bewilderment in areas where a modern historian would not have any; applying the concept of probable homosexuality to Charles XII would probably have cleared up a great many of Mr. Bain's confusions. It is also and always strange to read a book about wars that was written before WWI. Before WWII, not so strange to me. But before WWI, the way they talk about wars is just a gut-punch; you know how it's going to go, you know that the gas is coming, and the trenches, and you can't back up and warn them and say, "Are you so sure? Are you really so sure?"

Istvan Deak, The Lawful Revolution: Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians 1848-1849. Good stuff, but I want more books about the '48ers. Mooooore. I want someone like Mark Kurlansky to write a big book about 1848 the way he did about 1968. If you know where I can get stuff like that, let me know.

Diane Duane, Door Into Fire. Oh the first-novelliness. Oh my land the first-novelitude. The romantic melodramas. The anguished shouting of the partner's name with extra vowels spelled out rather than presumed for the reader. I'm going to read the second one in this series, but -- she got better after this. Realio trulio. If you haven't read any Diane Duane, this is not, in my opinion, where to start.

Jo Graham, Black Ships. This is a forthcoming retelling of the Aeneid, free in my WFC bag. I didn't particularly need or want a retelling of the Aeneid, but this one held me anyway. I don't know that I'd recommend it to people who have no love of the ancient Mediterranean for its own sake, but if you do, give it a whirl.

Eino Jutikkala with Kauko Pirinen, A History of Finland. When you are a Finnophile who doesn't speak Finnish, you end up reading a lot of things in hopes of finding one or two little tidbits in them that weren't in the others. The most rewarding in terms of cool tidbits for me in that regard was Tony Griffiths's Scandinavia: At War With Trolls, but this had some things I hadn't known before, mostly stuff about shifts in the way taxation was calculated under medieval Swedish kings. Which may not sound interesting to you but was both relaxing and fascinating to me.

Chris Mann and Christer Jørgensen, Hitler's Arctic War. This is mostly a book of photos from the northern campaigns. The title is not misleading: Mann and Jørgensen are interested in the fighting primarily in the context of major powers, and the people whose countries were directly involved are pretty neglected by the text. Happily the same is not true of the photos, which were the reason to have this book in the first place. You could tell, too, where they had pictures they wanted to use and didn't have room for elsewhere, because the text will be rattling along blithely about something else, and boom, portrait of Vidkun Quisling. Which reminds me of two of the textbooks I did, but those had no pretense of collaboration between the author and the person who chose the illustrations.

Richard Powers, The Echo Maker. I usually like Powers's non-sfnal geekages. This one completely missed for me, I think partly because I already knew enough about weird cognitive neurology stuff and about Nebraska not to find those things interesting as he handled them. They were not new to me, and he didn't do anything particularly good with them, from my perspective. Mostly I was worried about the dog, and I found the ending way too simple. Part of the problem here, I think, is that if this book had left the realm of "mainstream" fiction there would have been a million more interesting possibilities for the climactic revelation. Even within it there were half a dozen. As things stood: meh.

Cherie Priest (cmpriest), Wings to the Kingdom. Second in a series; I read the third one first and the first one second. I think this one suffered less than the first one for being read out of order. Anyway I enjoyed it; I have no particular interest in Tennessee history, and so it's more of an accomplishment when someone makes me care how it's handled, and Cherie did.

I think the nonfiction skew will be far less strong in February. I'm reading a thumping big book about Central Asian history as regards the European colonial powers right now, but I have a stack of SF novels that will soon occupy my attention.
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