Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Books read, late November

Christmas shopping thought: how important the difference between "personal" and "personalized" can be!

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife: Passage. I like rivers. I like riverboats. I like Lois. Romance fantasy I don't so much like. So it's taken me awhile to get to this book, and...well, I can tell she does a good job with what she's doing, and there were some interesting parts to it. But it's still not really my thing. On the other hand, I'll still read the last one in the series.

Michael H. Kater, Hitler Youth. I was hoping that this would trace more the effects of Hitler Youth membership in the ultimate fates of its more avid members: once they were adults and out of the direct influence of Hitler Youth, how did they regard it? How did it affect them? This was not that book. This was about Hitler Youth before and during WWII, period and full stop. Not bad for that, but it felt rather incomplete to me.

Geoffrey Parrinder, African Mythology. This was fairly simplistic, and certainly racist in spots. It is, however, what my library had on sub-Saharan African mythology, and I would really like to avoid complete ignorance of huge regions of world culture if at all possible. But as an example: in the mid-1960s when Parrinder wrote this book, it was apparently considered completely acceptable to say that South Africa is peopled by white folks of European descent and therefore not of interest. Oh yah. That was all that was in South Africa at the time. Just white folks. Riiiiight.

Eliot Pattison, The Skull Mantra. I am interested in how people construct evidence and proof under a totalitarian government. This one's set in Tibet. I'm probably not interested enough to read the rest of the series, though.

Daniel Pinkwater, The Artsy Smartsy Club. Children's book, for those of you who don't know Pinkwater. It was...not so much with the plot. It seemed to be substantially constructed to give kids who were interested in art tips on how they could get better at it, with a congenial set of fictional children, adults, dogs, and chickens as teachers. It was quite good for that sort of book. (I think maybe Robin would like some Pinkwater, and I'm trying to figure out which.)

Ruth Rendell, Road Rage, Harm Done, and The Babes in the Wood. Have you ever noticed that when I get towards the end of a long mystery series, I tend to want to read them closer together? Yah. Me too.

William Sleator, House of Stairs. YA SF/psychological horror. The premise of it did not make much sense to me, or rather, I didn't believe that what was revealed as the ultimate purpose of the experiment would be even slightly successful. I also...hmm. I feel like one of the dangers in writing an essentially dystopian book is letting one's own kind off the hook too easily. Without directly spoiling it, I will say that the people who come off the best in this are the people who are "our kind" for most of Sleator's geeky young audience, and the ones who don't are very definitely "them" rather than "us." And on the one hand, it's good to see and reinforce positive traits in one's own subcultures, and presumably one picks those subcultures because they do have what one views as positive traits. But on the other hand, I have the strong suspicion that if there was some kind of totalitarian control system, I would not find all the opposition to it congenial personalities who would be invited to my parties in ordinary circumstances. People surprise you. In this book, they really don't.

Barbara Vine, The Blood Doctor. This was my first Barbara Vine novel, as opposed to Ruth Rendell novels, of which I've read plenty. Same person, different pen names. This one was a lot quieter than the Rendells, tenser, somehow both more and less violent. Differently violent? Well, something like that. Anyway, it had hemophilia and changes in the House of Lords and a trip to Switzerland, and it was good. Once I started reading it, I wanted to keep reading it, even through very worthy interruptions related to having a happy family Thanksgiving.

E.T.C. Warner, Myths and Legends of China. Apparently it was my fortnight for totally racist mythology books. This one came with a warning label, though: not only did porphyrin and dlandon tell me in advance that it had some interesting stuff but you had to go past the first chapter, but it was written in 1922, which changes one's expectations a bit. Willingness to ascribe libidinousness and sloth to Chinese people in general, possibly as a result of their smaller-than-white-people brains: ack. Hurried assurances that this doesn't mean they're as primitive as more barbaric (read: darker skinned) people: double ack. Just plain alarming. Lots of pre-Communist era mythology and folk practice detail, though, once he was done with the hideous racism and racialism. Still, I'd only recommend this one to people who are really dedicated and have strong stomachs for that sort of thing.
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