Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Books read, February

So I didn't get my fortnightly post in, because I was in Omaha with Grandpa in the hospital. (He's still in the hospital. Still making progress towards getting out of the hospital. Still not getting out of the hospital today or tomorrow.) So all the February books go in one big post.

Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself. Um. I have been describing this one as "loathsome people fling themselves about melodramatically." I didn't like anybody in this book, and I didn't care what they did to each other, and I did wish they'd stop whispering and shouting and said-booking their way through all of it. markgritter said he thought their loathsomeness was part of the charm, which may well be true, but I was not really in the mood for more loathsome at that point. He'd bought the other two books in the trilogy and read them. When I got home, I took them off my to-read pile and shelved them unread, with the caveat that I can always go get them off the shelf and read them if I change my mind and feel more tolerant of loathsomeness, said-bookisms, and dubiously placed (or unplaced) commas.

Steven Brust (skzbrust), Brokedown Palace and Teckla. Rereads. These two were on my pile to reread with reference to the Westmark discussion project, in case they sparked anything interesting there, but I'll tell you, one of the deciding factors for rereading Teckla when I did was knowing that it was a book that had Noish-pa in, and Noish-pa got out of it a little frustrated and upset but physically just fine. And that's a shallow factor for choosing to read a good book, I realize, but it's not as common as a person might hope, books with a grandfather character who is important and who comes out of it just fine. Also there were barricades, which I like and also apparently find comforting. I begin to suspect that a reread of the later Taltos books will result in an objective judgment that several of them may be better than Teckla; we'll find out one of these days. But: barricades. I mean.

Cecil Castellucci, Boy Proof. Oh there you are, high school baggage! I was wondering where I'd left you. So this is a book about one of the types of person who made me most unhappy in high school, in part by providing a model for How The Smart Girls Are that was not, in fact, how I was, but all sorts of people assumed I would be and acted accordingly. In the beginning, Egg/Victoria is outright mean to everybody but her dad, and her dad could maybe use a little kick in the pants. She is also status-obsessed and has decided that she is better than everybody else for stupid, trivial reasons (when there are reasons at all). Great. So this is one of the YA books where I mind less that some boy comes along and fixes the protag, because she so totally needs fixing, being a barely redeemable jerk to begin with rather than, y'know, a reasonably interesting person with "bad" eyebrows. However. One of the lessons we learn is that if you want to have friends, you have to betray the confidences of people close to you! Great! Wonderful! I think I am done with Mr. Castellucci.

Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends. I kept thinking, "Sir, you are so very worried about things it has never occurred to me to worry about. And now that you have brought them to my attention, I will still not worry about them." Don't get me wrong, there were interesting bits and funny bits. (And depressing bits, like the person who had both been to Alaska and read The Yiddish Policemen's Union and yet did not realize it was an alternate history rather than our own history. Uff da.) But for the most part: get on with telling your stories, Mister, and do not angst about respectability.

David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. Boy, it's a good thing I didn't go into this book thinking General MacArthur was the world's biggest sweetheart, or would I ever have been in for a shock. Seriously, there was too much MacArthur and not enough roller--er, sorry, there are places where that metaphor just doesn't go. Too much MacArthur, yes. Also, the subtitle was apparently meant to indicate that Halberstam was not going into much detail about the Korean and Chinese sides of this war, which is sensible, as the book was already quite long enough and no book can cover everything. But I had hoped that it would indicate, instead, that it was an exploration of homefront/civilian America's relationship with the Korean War. I will have to find some other book for that. And I really shouldn't complain about the overabundance of Gen. MacArthur in this book, because there was apparently quite an overabundance of Gen. MacArthur in the war in question as well. Some seriously good US soldier interviews here.

Tony Hillerman, A Thief of Time, Coyote Waits, and Talking God. Chee and Leaphorn continue to solve crimes, not usually so much together as sort of around each other. This is interesting in itself.

Elizabeth Ironside, Death in the Garden. Mystery. Fine enough. What it makes me wonder, though, is why a particular era of British mysteries seems to be obsessed with finding out decades later what people did in the interwar period? I have read several other books of that description in the last year, where everyone involved in the primary mystery is dead or dying and their children/nieces/biographers are figuring out what happened. It's making me wonder if we're going to see a bunch of this from US authors with returned-from-Vietnam era stuff when a similar amount of time has passed.

Luo Guanzhong, Three Kingdoms: Volume I. This is the Moss Roberts translation and is much better than the previous translation I was reading. It was first of four volumes, so you can expect to see the others coming through from time to time. I need to have a fair amount of brain available to read Chinese epics, though, because there are so darn many people, and they don't always get signaled upon appearance such that I can tell whether they are about to die on the next page or about to become a major recurring character I have to keep track of, so I end up trying to keep track of them all. It is a trivial observation that there are lots of people in China, and yet it's both true and relevant.

Elizabeth Moon, Trading in Danger. I like this. I want the rest of the series. I immediately lent it to my mother, and now she wants the rest of the series, too. It's space opera, and it's fun, and I think I see the influence of Lois McMaster Bujold in it. It is not, at least in this volume, revolutionizing the genre. It doesn't have to.

Lucy Moore, Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France. The organization of this was attempting to be both chronological and divided out by the six women in question. That part didn't always work so well, particularly as I wanted more de Stael. But it was generally interesting stuff, worth reading.

Juliet Nicholson, The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm. If you think you're buying into sudden change in and following WWI too much, read this one and find precursors like crazy. In this case the temporal structure over the course of the summer worked a lot better.

Terry Pratchett, Night Watch. Reread. This is really really one of my favorites, one of the ones that's special to me out of all the Discworld books. Blame the barricades if you like, but I think it's more Sam Vimes doing what he's doing and thinking about it.

Kit Reed, Enclave. Discussed elsewhere.

Ruth Rendell, The Best Man to Die. This is the first of the Inspector Wexford books I've had to fill in because I couldn't get it when I was reading the rest of the series in order, so it's sort of fun to look at it and know what's coming for the characters. A perfectly good one of these.

Moss Roberts, Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies. I found these interesting but not inspiring.

Elizabeth Royte, The Tapir's Morning Bath: Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest and the Scientists Who Are Trying to Solve Them. I love sort of broad-spectrum naturalist books, where they're talking about a bunch of very different species in one place or else a bunch of very different places with similar species. My complaint about the Royte book is that in the last third or so, Royte starts getting in the way of her own book for me. I am, alas, a mean and unsympathetic person: I don't really care about her pregnancy. I care about ants. Beetles. Monkeys. (Probably I would care more about her pregnancy if she seemed to care about her pregnancy other than letting it intrude on her book. Ah well.)

Nick Sagan, Everfree. Last in the series. In some ways better than the previous volumes and in some worse: the pacing has gone all to hell. Towards the end, more than one major social upheaval is summarized rather than shown, even though at the beginning there are all sorts of things put in full scenes that wouldn't have to be. On the other hand, I'm really interested in the world Sagan's summarizing, and in the things people get wrong for good reasons and with good intentions. He's really good at that part.

Simon Schama, A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? 3000 BC - AD 1603. I had only read Schama's stuff about revolutions in the Netherlands and France, so I was expecting this to be...chewier than it was, I guess. But "chewy" is not the only positive adjective for histories. If you're looking for an overview of the British monarchy and politics, this is a very good place to start, except ignore him about Richard III because he is very wrongheaded. Also he sort of gives short shrift to Henry IV through Henry VII, which to my view is all the best stuff from after Eleanor of Aquitaine until you get to Cromwell. But one can't have everything, and one is apparently required to have lots and lots of Tudor, and I even see why. Also this is only a history of Britain intermittently, when it remembers to be: occasionally you will get a section he might as well have labeled, "Oh, right, Wales, I forgot that bit," or, "Better catch up on Scotland, hadn't I?". Still, if you don't know a lot about British (or at least English, in this period) monarchs, it's a very good place to start, and if you do know a lot about British monarchs, it's breezy and well-written. Except for the bits about Richard III. Really. Uff da.

Ekaterina Sedia, The Secret History of Moscow. Remember when urban fantasy didn't mean romances with vampires? (People younger than me: I am totally not making this up. It really didn't used to.) This is that kind of urban fantasy. Nobody swooning. Late-20th century Russian history and cultural changes. Earlier Russian myths from various cultural influences on Russia. Also birds, many many birds. Good stuff.

Charles Stross (autopope), Saturn's Children. I had something interesting to say about this, but that was at the beginning of February, and it has completely run out of my head. Which is too bad, because if only I could think what it was we could all talk about robot societies and post-human stuff being influenced by humans and like that. Ack. Oh well.
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