Books read, early June:
Joan Aiken, Dangerous Games. This one didn't strike me as well as the last, I think because it felt more like more of the same than any of the previous ones have. I have another on my library pile.
Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing. Ohhhhhh dear. Okay, look. I am not opposed to long stories. I read the Baroque Cycle! And liked it! at least in several ways. But this was not 800 pages worth of story. It was 400 or 500 pages of story crammed into 800 pages. Smack in the middle, one of the characters makes a disparaging comment about authors who go on and on and can't just tell you what they mean, and I thought, you know, you think you're being funny, but no. If the first book in this series had been written this way -- never take one scene to do what you can do in five! -- I don't think I'd have continued with it. The ending was okay, I guess. I had been hoping for something more.
Jim Butcher, White Night. Definitely well into the part of this series where it's no longer stand-alone. The climax felt kind of over the top to me, but one doesn't read the Dresden Files for under the top. Shifting alliances good.
Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses. This was such trashy good fun. Read classics, kids! They are juicy! Except the tacked-on "and then everybody suffered horribly horribly horribly for their sins" ending; you can skip that part.
Peter Dickinson, Play Dead and The Last Houseparty. The latter of these was more like the Dickinson mysteries I'd read before: heavy on the flashback, from decades or more away. It was fine but not outstanding in that regard; I'd recommend The Yellow Room Conspiracy or Death of a Unicorn above The Last Houseparty if you're looking for that type of Dickinson. Or papersky's Farthing for some other aspects of it. Play Dead was something different: the mystery was solved within a year of its occurrence! Not just in the same decade but in the same year! So that was novel. I liked the main character. I found her companionable.
Edward Eager, The Time Garden. I had forgotten the connection to another of his books in this one. I remembered that I liked it as a kid, and I like it now, too.
Alan Garner, The Owl Service. I'm not sure what I expected, but this definitely wasn't it. Weird book. Not in a bad way, just dated. I really liked the paper owls. Also can someone write me a fantasy spy novel featuring owls?
William Goldman, The Silent Gondoliers. This is also not what I expected at all. It was shorter, slighter, less overtly fantastical, immensely more straightforward. It was a charming little book, but I don't think I ever got over the jolt to my expectations. I will have to give it another think next time I read it, when I know what it is. Also, now will somebody please write me a very thick overtly fantastical novel with silent secretive gondoliers in it?
Allegra Goodman, Intuition. To continue with a theme: not what I expected. This one wasn't even in the same category and genre as I'd expected: I thought it would be YA fantasy, and it was adult mainstream. Fiction about scientists, not science fiction. Mostly pretty good that way. I really felt pulled into characters on more than one side of the central issue of the book, so hating one of the major characters didn't harm my reading of it, because I liked so many of the rest. I did feel that the bit where the concern was dragged outside the scientific community was a bit much. It just strained my disbelief a bit. Felt like it was done that way because Goodman wasn't trusting the inherent drama of the situation. But in all, I'd definitely recommend it to people who like fiction about science and the subculture that it works inside. (I finally did figure out why I felt it was likely to be YA fantasy: the cover of the paperback was drastically different from the cover of the library hardcover. It had pink in it. I ask you.) Also can somebody write me a YA fantasy about John Donne and a young girl studying biology?
Maureen Johnson, Devilish. This one was sort of structurally messy, and it felt like it was written by and for someone who had seen too many of the romantic comedies of the last three decades. But it did not actually feature Meg Ryan or anyone who could have been cast as Meg Ryan, and that saved it and pushed it into the realm of light fun.
I don't have any book-writing requests from this one. Sorry to break the chain.
Diana Wynne Jones, Power of Three. I am a really hard sell on stories that center around human development harming small creatures the humans don't even know are there, because I read the NIMH books and saw the movie when I was very small. It's odd, because when I started reading DWJ, I wasn't reading the cover flaps, I was just checking to make sure the thing I picked up wasn't a later book in a series I hadn't started yet, and then I was just reading whichever one came to hand next. But it seems like I got to a lot of the really awesome stuff early and have been filling in with the lesser works since. I have another on the pile; we'll see if that continues.
Rebecca Pawel, Death of a Nationalist. Soho Crime wins again. I do not have a strong sense of what mystery covers are trying to convey, mostly, except that Soho Crime's entire line is trying to convey, "YOU MUST BUY ME NOW, YES, YOU, MARISSA K. LINGEN OF EAGAN, MINNESOTA, MUST BUY ME NOW NOW NOW." So far this is absolutely correct. Well, nearly correct: I must borrow them from the library at the very least. I mean, sure, Colin Cotterill will bring the average up with me for anyone who publishes him; Colin Cotterill is awesome. (Go. Read.) But I've now read a couple that weren't by Cotterill, and they really seem to be doing a great job with that crucial sales demographic, mrissas and people like them. This one is a murder mystery set during the Spanish Civil War of the '30s. It's not nearly as outstanding as the Cotterills (Go! Read!), but I really liked the details of the setting. At the end of the book WWII had broken out, and I am not eager to find out what the detective is up to next so much as I'm eager to find out what she does with that particular setting for a mystery novel. The sequel went on my library list -- but so did a lot of the Soho Crime backlist by other authors, because it's looking like their priorities may intersect with mine pleasantly.
Mary Renault, The King Must Die. Okay, so. This was my first Mary Renault. I spent most of the time wanting to kick Theseus sharply in the shins. Those of you who read Mary Renault: is this typical? Am I going to want to kill all her protags? Or is it just Theseus who's Obnoxious Sue?
Ruth Rendell, Going Wrong and Wolf to the Slaughter. The former was really pretty creepy -- filled with creepy people, in fact, not just the immediate and obvious one. Very well-done if you want to read a suspense novel where it's the personalities, not so much the physical actions, that creep you out. The latter is the second in the Inspector Wexford series, very late 1960s. Not in a bad way. I will keep on with those.