Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Books read, early January

You know what I've been well enough to do this fortnight? Read. And watch DVDs and nap, but mostly read.

Iain M. Banks, Matter. To me, this was Banks Being Banks, or perhaps to be clearer it was M. Banks being M. Banks. I enjoyed it well enough, but it didn't seem like it was doing enough differently from the previous Culture novels that it was worth seeking out over something earlier like Player of Game or Use of Weapons or Against a Dark Background.

Gillian Bradshaw, The Sand-Reckoner. A novel about Archimedes, skipping the bath bits. I am usually not keen on novels set in the ancient Mediterranean (not enough women, not enough snow), but as the friend who gave it to me suggested it would, it had the physics nature. For people who like geeky books and are more interested in the Classical world than I am, I expect it would be even better. But even with that obstacle to overcome, I liked it very much.

Christian Cameron, Tyrant. The other historical novel set in the Classical world--Scythia, this time, but with an Athenian main character. Again, I had fun with it even without much caring about the setting on average, so I expect it would be an even bigger hit with people who don't share my inclinations that way.

W.E.B. Griffin, The Corps: Call to Arms. Grandpa's. This is the second in its series, which is more installments than complete novels. Various characters are gearing up for their role in WWII. It was very like talking to a particular one of Grandpa's Marine Corps buddies.

Max Hastings, Victory in Europe: D-Day to VE Day in Full Color. Grandpa's. These photos were interesting because they were taken in color, rather than colorized later. They were, quite frankly, not very good as photos, but it was an interesting combination of documentation of important events and evidence of technology of the time.

Reginald Hill, An April Shroud, Bones and Silence, On Beulah Height, Pictures of Perfection, and Recalled to Life. I'm still loving this series, and I have decided to allow myself to gobble them as fast as the library can provide. I don't really want to specify which of these had an ending I thought was a cheat and which had an ending that delighted me for its turn off into an area of special interest for me. But in general: good, good stuff.

Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson, Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. This is the second element-themed collection from McKinley and Dickinson, and I liked it well enough. I'm pretty firm now in the opinion that Peter Dickinson is better at mysteries than at speculative stuff, though, or at least more to my taste. What we've got left is Earth and Air, and I'm a great deal more interested in Earth, particularly as some of Fire struck me as rather airy.

Olive Beaupre Miller, Little Pictures of Japan. Grandpa's. Or rather, Mom's: it's an old enough book that it could have been Grandpa's, but the names in the "from Grandma and Grandpa" inscription are Grandpa's parents, not his grandparents, so this was a gift to Mom when she was small, and Grandpa kept it. It is lots and lots of translated haiku with pictures for little kids. I think translated haiku do better when the translator doesn't try to make them rhyme, but it was interesting to me that they had made that choice--said something about cultural assumptions of the time (in this case, the 1920s when the book was compiled, not the 1950s when my mother would have had it). I am also interested that it seemed like a good thing to give a little granddaughter in the 1950s, not that long after the end of a war with Japan.

Finnish Touches: Recipes and Traditions. This is the sort of book people give to prospective in-laws who are from a different ethnic background than their own, and for that it was good. I didn't really find anything I didn't already know, but we've gotten to the point where it's hard to do that with English-language materials about Finland. Still worth trying.

Cherie Priest (cmpriest), Boneshaker. Okay, look. I'm not mad keen on steampunk, and I really don't like zombies at all. And this was still a fast, fun read. It zipped and clattered along, and I was very pleased with the revelation in the ending, and...yah. Good stuff. So if you actively like steampunk and don't actively hate zombies, just think how much better it'll be for you.

Alistair Reynolds, Minla's Flower and Thousandth Night and The Prefect. His thing: he does it. It was not as gruesome as some of his things, but not completely free of grue, either. Sometimes an Alistair Reynolds novel (or novella--the first volume listed is a back-to-back novella double) is the thing, and when those times come around, these will do nicely. Like the Banks, though, I wouldn't recommend them as starting points.

Karl Schroeder, The Sunless Countries. The fourth in its series, and I think the worst. It's not bad enough to be unreadable, or bad enough that I'm stopping the series after this. It just had such a tedious start, and I never really warmed to it after that. I'm otherwise fond of the series, just not keen on this volume.

Mike Shepherd, Kris Longknife: Mutineer. Straight-up space opera. I would at some point like to see a heroine of a space opera who isn't from a rich family that handled her childhood trauma poorly and disapproves of her military service--and in fact I scribbled down a few notes on a character who started to come from that reaction. But it's diverting, which is what I want of a space opera. There are spacecraft landings managed only by a hair's breadth, and there are cliffs climbed, and there are civilians rescued. I will keep borrowing more of this series, I think, and hope that the best friend's Chinese-Irish fusion culture fuses a bit more.

James Thurber, The Thirteen Clocks. I thought this one was tonally similar to The Phantom Tollbooth or Haroun and the Sea of Stories, but less complicated than either in some ways. I enjoyed it but did not have the passionate love for it that some of its dedicated fans seem to.

Chris Turney, Ice, Mud, and Blood: Lessons from Climates Past. I am in this unfortunate middle ground where not only am I not a physicist any more, I never was a geologist, a biologist, etc. So I think, "Oh, I shall pick up this popularization," and then there it is being a popularization. There was at least one thing that was simplified past the point of "easier to understand" and into the territory of wrong, here, and it was not at all important to Turney's general point in writing the book in the first place. But it did make me nervous about the bits I didn't know as well. (Also I wanted more ice. Actually perhaps more of all three.)

Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan. Steampunk WWI. The characters were very much standard YA Fantasy Hero And Heroine sorts of characters, but they worked well in their setting; I have no complaints there really, just that I noticed them being standard a bit. The steampunk elements required learning to use and worked best in the environments for which they were designed, two things I like in fake technology. I'll look for the next one. Oh, and also: this book was really beautifully done, as a physical object. A pleasure to hold and read.
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