Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. One of the things I gave Grandpa for Christmas on the theory that it might be entertaining. It...didn't really do what it said on the label. It spent a great deal of time on defining what Mr. Cahill considers civilization and why it's worth saving. It spent some time on early Irish history. Then, boom, Irish monks start monasteries all over the continent, civilization saved from barbarian hordes (=my people), rah rah rah well done skool skool skool, and we're done. The monasteries all over the continent, how they worked, what opposition they felt--all of that could make a very good book. But it would have been a much more scholarly book than Cahill was really aiming to write. Oh well. It was a fast read, for sure.
C.J. Cherryh, Regenesis. I loved Cyteen. This sequel had the Cyteen nature. That is all I wanted. It also cohered, and did better SF interior design than anything else I recall. That was all a bonus, because what I really wanted was "more like that," and I got more like that, and I was pleased. (And amazed. How hard is it to write "more like that" and hit the mark after this hiatus? Uff da.)
Georgette Heyer, Charity Girl. Predictable. Mildly enjoyable along the way.
Sharon Kay Penman, Devil's Brood. The end of her Henry II/Eleanor trilogy. Big and chewy and faintly purple in spots, but the early Plantagenets sort of encourage purply prose. (Hmm. I'm not sure the late ones discourage it much either.) Now I have the urge to go reread her Welsh border wars trilogy, in part to see where it joins up with this one, but that's really quite a lot of Penman all at once, so it'll almost certainly go on the back burner.
Malcolm Pryce, Don't Cry for Me Aberystwyth. Fourth in its series. Surreal and noir and funny and Welsh and...stuff. Now with bonus international spy stuff! I wish we got these in the US, but I suppose I can sort of see where they might be just on the other side of what one would really expect an American audience to buy. Still, I was very grateful to have a friend willing to bring it back from the UK for me.
Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680: Volume One: The Lands Below the Winds. Good stuff. Cultural history of Southeast Asia, focusing on the period before Western influence became very strong and in the early period of Western influence. I was not expecting to be reminded of Icelandic history, but in one way I was: that the influence of external empires and religions pushed a region of comparative gender equity towards less gender equity, but not entirely successfully. Interesting stuff. It's got festivals, it's got things about harvesting, it's got stuff about hairstyles, and it does all this cultural stuff while keeping sight of variations and making a point of where a source is telling us more about the source than about the culture it was observing, which happened with outside Christian, Islamic, Confucian, and Buddhist sources. It's often frustrating to try to find books that acknowledge that Southeast Asia has any history aside from the wars of the 20th century. This is one of that does so in fascinating detail.
Patricia Wrede, Thirteenth Child. This book has been discussed a great deal elsewhere and has drawn more assumptions and misconceptions than just about any book I've ever heard of. I started out trying to correct misconceptions and did it about three times before it became clear to me that repeating, "No, Thirteenth Child doesn't do that thing you're objecting to! It does something else you find offensive!" was not particularly useful to me or to anybody else. Especially because the central point of discussion--the complete absence of First Nations/Native American people from the Americas of this book--was not, in fact, one of those misconceptions. Not every extrapolated objection you read on the internet is to something that's actually in Thirteenth Child. That one is. Clearly. And I have felt very geek-twitchy on the, "Actually the constant is 6.673, not 6 2/3," front, while simultaneously noticing that responding to someone talking about a major issue they're discussing by correcting them on a minor point is not generally helpful. So I moved from the talking to the listening about this book, and I'm going to keep listening to multiple people and learning from the commentary--not just in the points various people make that I think are dead on, either about the book itself or about related issues, but also in its points of divergence from what Thirteenth Child actually does, because that's interesting and valuable information, too.