Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Books read, late May

Books read, late May:

Joan Aiken, The Stolen Lake. This must have been the one I read borrowed from a friend when I was in junior high. The rhythm of the mountain names was too familiar for me never to have read this before, but all I remembered was the mountain names and the list of falling-apart treasures.

Kathleen Alcala, Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist. Short stories. I decided which ones I liked best before looking at where they'd been published -- but the ones I liked best had all been published in distinctly genre venues. Go figure. I think it's that they were plottier.

Margery Allingham, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Gyrth Chalice Mystery. These were in an omnibus. The first one demonstrated the dangers of reading British mystery novels of the '30s: rampant, totally offensive sexism. Sigh. The second...well, I've said this to a couple of people now: it read to me as though Allingham had been reading The Man Who Was Thursday and just couldn't stomach the allegory part of it. So she knocked Campion over the head at the beginning of the book to give it some of the same hallucinatory quality without the allegorical bits. I disapprove of convenient-to-the-author temporary amnesia. Also Amanda reminded me a bit of Philippa Somerville, and not just because I like them both far better than the men they're teamed with. Also, for heaven's sake people, will you stop giving books different titles in different English-speaking countries! Aaaagh! It's hard enough keeping track of which of a gazillion books by a single author I've read without having you change up titles on me without warning. It makes me cranky. Americans can buy books with Philosopher's Stones in them and books without Shoes in the title and books with references rather than direct labels -- what is this? It is a mystery. What is the mystery about? Something called the Gyrth Chalice. Oh. Any title ideas? Well, in Britain it was Look to the Lady. Oh. I think we'll call it The Gyrth Chalice Mystery. Yaaaarg, it made me feel like Trixie Belden and Honey Wheeler were going to come bouncing out of the underbrush to solve the thing for Albert Campion at any minute. And then I realized I was a bit disappointed that they didn't.

Edmund Crispin, The Long Divorce. A satisfying end to the Gervase Fen mystery series.

Peter Dickinson, The Yellow Room Conspiracy. It was another of those Dickinson things where there's a great deal of flashback, and the mystery only appears gradually. I like those things, apparently, because when I finished this one, I immediately asked the library for another. It does, um, highlight the importance of clear and honest communication in a romantic relationship. But it's an ongoing relationship thing, not one of those, "Tell the other person you love them, you idiot," plot point things. So.

Edward Eager, Half Magic. I hadn't read this since I was 11. I forget whose lj mentioned Edward Eager, but it was good fun to reread it, and I think I'll get the others from the library as well.

John M. Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Reread. Sort of entertaining to read in close proximity to various other alternate histories and The Daughter of Time. Mike did that thing I hate in alternate histories, where the entire history is different for a fair chunk back in time and somehow several key historical figures seemed to exist in more or less their actual historical roles. I did not hate it when Mike did it. Go figure.

Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm. This turned out to be a comedy not only in the sense of funny things happening but also in the other, "Jack shall have Jill" sense. Here is a partial list of things vindicated by the end of the book: fancy city ways for them what wants 'em, book-larnin', birth control, airplanes, modern hussies, making an effort to make things pleasant, and generally doing things you actively enjoy rather than sombre duties. Yay! I like all those things! If you've ever slogged through something dreadful like A Stranger Came to the Farm or The Return of the Native, go read Cold Comfort Farm and be immensely cheered by all the things you fear will happen not happening. Also if you are tempted to read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, this will do instead, though not for any surface reasons.

Rumer Godden, Coromandel Sea Change. Extremely vivid Indian resort setting. The ending was convenient, and not in a good way. Also I had to wonder when, exactly, it was supposed to be set. The indications felt extremely contradictory to me, sort of like those late Rex Stout books where you trip on the math a minute and say, "Wait, so this is set in one week that's in 1932, 1946, and 1973 all at once?" Look, can anybody tell me which are the other ones I might want to read? I loved In This House of Brede and liked Kingfishers Catch Fire, but this one and Pippa Passes were not so much my cup of tea.

Gloria Hatrick, Masks. Here is the problem with magic in books that are about serious real world problems: if the magic is totally useless, it feels sort of unsatisfying. But if the magic solves the real world problem, I am at least as unsatisfied. It's a very fine line to walk, and frankly I don't feel Hatrick walked it very well. I never felt any suspense about the central problem of the book, and I never felt that there was any difficulty or danger, so...why bother, basically.

Diana Wynne Jones, Wild Robert. Diana Wynne Jones seems to have a few books where there's really not much to them -- more the level of fun and engagement I'd expect from a single short story in a collection, without the rest of the collection to keep one anchored in. This is one of those: not a problem per se, but not one I ever hear people talking about passionately.

Ellen Kushner, Swordspoint. Reread. Swash, buckle, yay. People who say there are not women in this book ought to pay more attention, though. Great huge chunks of the active choice-making come from the Duchess; other people mostly scramble and react to her. Which is how the world works, really.

Justine Larbalestier, Magic's Child. Last in its trilogy. I was most satisfied with the middle book; the wrap-up didn't suit me all that well, particularly the very ending.

Hilary McKay, Forever Rose, Caddy Ever After, and Permanent Rose. Also The Exiles. I read the rest of the Casson family series as soon as I could get each of them. Lovelovelovelove them. So very fine. The Exiles was the first in a far earlier series, and unless somebody pipes up that the series improves from there, I won't be reading it. It was better than the average run of children's books in some ways, but the characterization just wasn't there. I kept having to glance back at the book jacket to remind myself which sister was Naomi, which Ruth, which Rachel. It wasn't until halfway through the book that I finally had Rachel sorted out from the older two, and not until the absolute end that I had them all sorted. And I never, ever, ever could have that problem with any of the characters in the Casson family book. Ever. Telling Caddy from Saffy from Rose is just obvious. I'm going to try the first one in the series she wrote between the two to see whether I like it better, but the Casson family series is something really special, and I don't expect she'd have written another. I can't tell from the ending of Forever Rose whether there will be another in that series. This would be a perfectly satisfying end book, but she could still do another.

Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword. Reread. This book keeps changing from what it was when I was 8 or 9. Never for the worse, and I loved it then.

K.J. Parker, The Escapement. I kept getting less and less satisfied with this series as I read on. I was enchanted with the engineering-ness of the first book, and sadly, that was part of what totally fell apart for me by the end of the series. I'd recommend the Fencer Trilogy over this one, definitely.

Ruth Rendell, From Doon With Death. This was another of those books where the mystery was far less mysterious with modern assumptions than it would have been at the time it was written. Still, I like Rendell enough and have been told that the Wexford books have character arc over them, so I'm reading them in order, and it was not bad really, not enough to put me off doing so. I'm not attached to not knowing whodunnit before the book spells it out.

Alistair Reynolds, Galactic North. A collection of short stories of variable quality. Some of them I liked all right, but I still think it was a waste of the title. Sigh.

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash. Reread. Some of the anachronism is clearly deliberate, cyberpunk as alternate history for this post-cyberpunkish thing. But some of the anachronism is still cute: awww, someone is returning his video tape. The passage of time does weird things to a book like this one. Also I got to the ending and said, "Oh, right! Neal Stephenson Ending Syndrome! I thought I remembered, but I forgot really."

Josephine Tey, The Man in the Queue. I'm pretty ambivalent about the ending here as well. On the one hand, some of the things Inspector Grant is wrong about were immensely satisfying to me, because the text shouldn't have supported him in them, so I was glad it didn't. On the other hand, the replacement situation once he was wrong about things was less satisfying. I was glad I didn't expect this one to be on a par with the first ones I read, because I could just have fun with it despite the ending rather than raging at it for not being what it isn't.

Scott Westerfeld, Blue Noon. Another end of a trilogy, another not-as-satisfied me. I don't think I have very many trilogies to finish reading in June, and that may be just as well. Still some extremely striking images/ideas, though.

Okay, so it's not entirely an involuntary vacation. I'm still working. Just slowly. But a lot of the time I will work a bit and then have to go sit and read or play the piano and get my head to settle down, and this is the result: lots and lots and lots of library books.
Tags: bookses precious

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  • Access, ability, health: this week’s round

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