Steven Brust (skzbrust), The Phoenix Guards and Taltos. Rereads. I almost didn't let myself read Taltos, because I don't want Taltos to be the book I read when I'm grieving and not at other times. But the not at other times seemed, upon reflection, to be the important bit, so I did read Taltos, and it was just what I wanted, and it was full of Noish-pa, which I knew it would be, so I was prepared.
Jennet Conant, The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. This was moderately interesting, but the problem with structuring your book around the spy experience of someone who didn't have a grand culminating dramatic caper is that it sort of feels anticlimactic when he's done spying. And to have the writing of James and the Giant Peach be anticlimactic to anything was decidedly strange.
Daniel Fox, Dragon in Chains. I found this extremely immersive at the time, but truth to tell, it's one I will probably have to reread before making a go at anything sequelish, because much of the detail has gone out of my head in the blur of the last few weeks. I liked the jade. There was lots of jade, and I liked it.
Georgette Heyer, Cotillion, Frederica, Friday's Child, Regency Buck, and The Grand Sophy. One among you (I don't know if she wants her generosity known) sent me a big box of Heyers. I went to papersky's ranking of Heyer, put the ones I'd received in order in the stack, and started at the top. You know what doesn't happen in Heyer novels? People's beloved grandfathers don't die from medical mistakes. Also, they exemplify the difference between "you don't have to concentrate too hard" (which is good right now) and "you have to turn your brain off" (which I can't reliably do and don't really want to). So far my favorite is The Grand Sophy. So far I am in agreement with papersky's rankings, but I have several left on my pile, and several I can get from the library after that if I want them, so we'll have plenty of data on that point.
(The one papersky likes best is listed as lost from our library, which makes me mutter dire imprecations about people who lose library books.)
Bill Holm, Coming Home Crazy: An Alphabet of China Essays. I always read Holm books in sort of a "dealing with the crazy uncle" frame of mind: he has so many interesting things to say, and then sometimes he is so wrong-headed, and so I can't get upset about the wrong-headedness, because I know it'll be there, and it doesn't detract from the interesting bits.
Anthony Hope, The Prisoner of Zenda. As long as I was reading for discussion of Westmark I thought I should go back to the source of the Ruritanian romance. It was light and fun and short, and I hadn't read it in nearly eighteen years. How smart of Hilary's mother to know to pick it out for my twelfth birthday present; it is just what I wanted then, and just the sort of thing it's useful for me to have tucked away in the back of my head.
Graham Joyce, The Exchange. This felt like a much older YA novel than I usually find, almost the reverse of the pattern where the protag is supposed to be a few years older than the intended audience. I liked the ending. It was a book that was about people doing the best they could with what they had. I don't think I sympathized as well with some of the characters as I was meant to, though.
Emmet Kennedy, A Cultural History of the French Revolution. Erm. This is another one I don't remember a great deal about, I'm afraid, except that it was what it said on the label.
Clea Koff, The Bone Woman: a Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo. This was, as one might expect, a very difficult book to read. Koff started her work in Rwanda, and she had relatives in I think she said three of the countries bordering on Rwanda, so her personal experience was as fascinating as the comparatively more objective facts, and just as difficult to get through. I recommend this book highly, but only to those with strong stomachs.
Nancy Kress, Steal Across the Sky. Discussed elsewhere.
Laura Miller, The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia. A few interesting bits. The line between "light" and "shallow" is sometimes a very thin one, and I think Miller spent the whole book darting back and forth across it. She found things fascinating and revelatory that I found obvious, dull, or irrelevant. There are few things more tiresome than people who are sure they were exceptional children making statements about the limitations of even exceptional children, when it turns out that they were fairly ordinary little beasts, compared to my friends' children, and have completely pulled those limitations out of their orifices. Also if you are going to do lit crit about Narnia, you at least have to be able to paraphrase Puddleglum correctly, even if you're going to argue that he's wrong. Sheesh. Reshpectobiggle.
Elizabeth Moon, Marque and Reprisal and Engaging the Enemy. I am enjoying this series quite a bit. The last two volumes are on my pile to read, and I'm waiting to get my copy of the first one back from my mom (who got it back from my uncle already, since he read it after her, and they both liked it), so that I can pass it on to others. The timing on this was just perfect. Go space opera.
David Pietrusza, 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents. This was my grandpa's. I'm going to be reading through my grandpa's books a bit at a time. This one he actively wanted me to read: I had picked it up for him for a present, and it's a breezily written popular history he found fun. I found it fun, too. It was hard to get to the first of the passages he saved out to read me over the phone, though. Anyway: it chronicled a time when people really didn't know who was going to get the nomination going into the conventions. Gosh.
Alistair Reynolds, The Six Directions of Space. Novella in book form. I found the premise completely unremarkable and the execution mediocre. There is better Reynolds to read than this.
Simon Schama, A History of Britain: Wars of the British 1603-1776. This was one weird book. See how it says right there on the label, 1776? Nuh-uh. Nope. I figured that was the signal that Schama had decided to deal with the ups and downs of late eighteenth and nineteenth century colonialism in a different volume, but no: we get a great deal of American Revolution past 1776 in this book, and some India past 1776, but other Commonwealth territories, not so much. It was bizarre. Also some of his segues made him look dumb. Also he thought more highly of James I and VI than I did (note: not hard). But still a good intro sort of book, and I'll read the last one in the series just for completeness's sake, and also because I feel gappy about the early part of Victoria's reign and the early part of Elizabeth II's.
Paula Volsky, Illusion. This is the worst book I have actually read through to the end in years, which goes to show you what I will put up with when promised peasant uprisings. The heroine was this terrible horrible Mary Sue, and there was no reason to want her to prosper in the slightest, or in fact to care what she did at all. And it went on, and on and on and on. Also there was a dog who was there to garner our sympathy for the stupid odious heroine when it was killed by the Meany Mean Meanhead Peasants, which was really a waste, because the Volsky could have killed the girl to garner our sympathy for the dog instead and improved the book immensely. Also, the notions of what is okay to do if you're really hungry and what is Just Too Wrong were really stupid. Bah. Give me something else with peasant uprisings in it. Preferably something in which the author thought about the peasant uprisings more than she/he thought about what color dresses the queen's ladies in waiting were wearing on which days.
Jo Walton (papersky), Lifelode. Beautiful book. Lovely book. Weird, weird book. When papersky was talking about this book many moons ago at Minicon when she was just some writer I had barely met and not my friend Jo yet, Timprov and I agreed that if it was anybody else we would think they would screw up the details enough on the time flow things to make it completely unreadable, but that we trusted Jo to do it. We were right to trust Jo. sdn compared it to The Dubious Hills in the intro, and other people have noticed that, too. For me, beyond the setting and the tone, the thing that made it most like The Dubious Hills is that they are each the book (so far) out of the bibliography of these two writers that is most like curling up and having my friend tell me a story. With tea and maybe biscuits.
Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Stories. I think I encountered this too late in my life. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but I think it would have been shinier and more formative earlier.