This trip to California is a weird length. It's not "clean out everything fresh from the fridge" length, but it's also not "it'll all still be good when you get back" length, either. It's not "stop the mail" length, but the mail will be a pile to deal with. And to make it stranger, markgritter is staying longer than I am, so we can't pack together but have to do two toothpastes and like that.
And now, books read. The way to read a lot of books is apparently to read old mysteries and juveniles. If I was reporting on books I didn't finish, I think this would be a record fortnight. But I'm not, so it's merely a large-ish one. And, I think, a good one. I fell head over heels for a couple of series. I am not saving later books in series for later these days. This is the rainy day on which I'll want to have more of various things to read.
Eleanor Cameron, The Court of the Stone Children. This is the Eleanor Cameron who did the Mushroom Planet books, so I thought I'd look into this one. It was okay, but I do wish people would either leave quantum mechanics alone when they're writing ghost stories, or else acknowledge that quantum mechanics does not actually explain their ghost story in any way. Or else...I don't know...maybe learn something about quantum mechanics beyond the "um, there's this cat, right?" level.
Cecil Castellucci, The Queen of Cool. This was a fine enough mainstream YA, in which the eponymous character (a high school girl) learns some things about herself and other people and also zoo animals. What I'm wondering -- and this is not a rhetorical question if anyone has a good answer for it -- is who the audience is for this type of YA novel. Is it read by the girls who consider themselves the cool ones at their school? The girls who wish they were? The girls who enjoy seeing the cool girls figure out that their values are screwed up? How old are the readers of this kind of YA? With speculative YA, I have some idea of the range of answers to these questions; with mainstream, not the foggiest.
Sarah Caudwell, Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, The Sirens Sang of Murder, and The Sibyl in Her Grave. This is the first of the things I fell in love with. pameladean spotted them looking for something else she was going to lend me, and she thought they might be the thing, and they were. I gulped them down as fast as I could manage while still reading something else between volumes. So very fine. For the record, I read Hilary Tamar as entirely female -- if Lois Bujold was lanky and British, she would resemble my concept of Hilary Tamar in some key details -- but I am not the least bit argumentative about this. (For those who haven't read it, Professor Hilary Tamar is the narrator, and a gender is never assigned to Professor Tamar.) The thing I wished someone had told me about Patrick O'Brian I will now tell you: Sarah Caudwell is funny. There were a few scenes that made me clutch the couch and laugh and laugh. I did wish that there had been another last volume in the series besides The Sibyl in Her Grave, but I'm told one can't have everything.
Edmund Crispin, The Moving Toyshop, The Case of the Gilded Fly, Holy Disorders, Swan Song, Love Lies Bleeding, and Buried for Pleasure. Sometimes Crispin gets a bit patronizing; a great deal more often, his detective character, Gervase Fen, does. I wonder, thinking of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, whether it's a hazard of the profession? But anyway I've been tearing through these and enjoying them well enough, although I haven't fallen in love.
David Gilmour, The Long Recessional: the Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling. In which we confirm that a vertiginous Mris does not mix very well with nonfiction. It was, I think -- not having read any other Kipling bios -- a pretty balanced biography. Gilmour stayed at arm's length throughout, able to approve and disapprove of his subject when it seemed fitting, able to place him within the context of his time but also point out where his worse behavior couldn't be excused by it. I don't think Gilmour attempted to make Kipling any less difficult, but he also didn't attempt to make him any more difficult to make the book more "colorful." (Still and all, I had stuck The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714 in my bag to go to California, and I've pulled it back out again. It can wait for me to be less vertiginous.)
Diana Wynne Jones, Witch's Business. One of the convenient things about getting my library books online is that I can open my "books read" file and compare it with the listing for a prolific author to fill in the gaps in my reading. This was apparently her first book, and it's not one of my favorites of hers, but it was entertaining, and it was sort of neat to read the first one after reading severalmany of her others, to see the germs of some ideas that were developed better later.
Justine Larbalestier, Magic Lessons. I don't always like the middle book of a trilogy best, but it's the way to bet, and I certainly liked this one better than its predecessor. Which I didn't dislike, or I wouldn't have read this one. Still. It was definitely the sort of middle book where you had to remember the events and characters pretty well from the first book, because not a lot of time was going into refreshing you, but that was fine.
Hilary McKay, Saffy's Angel and Indigo's Star. This is the other series that is a newfound love. Oh goodness. I added all five to my wishlist immediately (and will be getting the other three from the library right away when we get back from California, or if not right away, at least as soon as I can manage it). The thing that the Bagthorpe books has when it's Grandpa and Jack and Zero, and less so with the other Bagthorpes? This series has that. It's gentler than the Bagthorpes, and the zany bits are less over-the-top. And I love the characters, all of them, down to Saffy's best friend's dad fixing the fountain. And I love the way that when Hilary McKay tells you it'll be all right, she's not telling you it'll be perfect, she's not telling you it'll be what you want, she's telling you that with the people you love, you can cobble together something, and it'll have bits in it you didn't dream of in what you thought you wanted. <3 <3 <3 <3
Jean Merrill, The Toothpaste Millionaire. This is the author who did The Pushcart War -- several of the things on my library list were along the lines of "I liked that one thing -- did they do another?" This was not as good as The Pushcart War, but it was quick and fun.
Josephine Tey, The Singing Sands, A Shilling for Candles, The Daughter of Time, and To Love and Be Wise. One of those was a complete accident. Unfortunately, my phrasing for being sarcastic about this sort of accident is, "I tripped and fell on an open copy of The Daughter of Time," and that's no longer immediately recognizable as a joke, I'm afraid. But I only intended to read the ones I hadn't read before, but it'd been a decade since I read The Daughter of Time, and there it was in the omnibus, and there I was on the couch with a snuggly dog on my shoulder, and...well, you can see how this sort of accident happens. Anyway, I think this is one of those times when having appropriate expectations is a good idea: I didn't go into this thinking that one of these would be another Brat Farrar or Miss Pym Disposes, and they weren't, but they were fun Tey mysteries anyway. One of them features no known or demonstrated/witnessed corpse, so it would technically be a disappearance mystery rather than a murder mystery, which I like; I like it when series detectives solve other crimes than outright murder sometimes. It's sort of like the opposite of having to raise the stakes in every book so that if you've saved the universe in this book, you've saved three or four universes in the next.
Ursula Vernon, Nurk. It's about a shrew. There are lots of dragonflies. It's by the person who did the art in our kitchen. Do you need more than that? I'm really not sure you do.
Scott Westerfeld, The Risen Empire and The Last Days. I am not on the list of people who are sorry Scott Westerfeld is writing YA. As heretical as it may sound, I have liked several of his YAs better than The Risen Empire. I like several of his YAs kind of a lot, though, so I certainly wouldn't advise against the space opera weirdness of The Risen Empire. As for The Last Days, jenfullmoon warned me that it was less "let's save the world" and more "Dude, we're in a band!!!!! Oh, and also we'll have to save the world. Because the future of the band is at stake!!!!!" And she was right, but that wasn't actually my problem with it. My problem with it was that I didn't feel like the band stuff resolved all that well. Also, not enough parasitology. Sigh.