|Books read, early March
||[Mar. 16th, 2010|08:19 am]
Today is the anniversary of my grandpa's death. I am doing about like you'd expect with that. Over the last year I've gotten more perspective on how much he would have hated to lose mental acuity etc., so I am grateful he never did. But I still could have done with lots more Grandpa time. I keep thinking about how he told us dying was like learning to breathe underwater. I think I'm going to turn that one over in my head for quite some time.
Anyway. Books this fortnight.
Tim Blanning, The Pursuit of Glory: Five Revolutions That Made Modern Europe, 1648-1815. This is not what it says on the label. It's a really good history of Europe in the 18th century (acknowledging that neat and tidy dates don't always match up with social changes), with all sorts of chewy stuff about agriculture and manufacturing and travel and art and science and the good bits--if it slights anything, it's the Napoleonic Wars, which you can get elsewhere easily. I highly recommend it. But if you're primarily interested in revolutions, it will not be much good to you. I strongly suspect that the publisher felt that it needed a hook to get people to buy it, because for a lot of people "Hey, look! The 18th century!" is not that great a draw. But it should be that great a draw, because the 18th century has all sorts of fascinating bits.
Steven R. Boyett, The Architect of Sleep. Evolved raccoons! This was one of those books that was essentially an exploration of a setting, but done in a way that did not become annoying to me. It does not, however, end. It just sort of stops. I'm told that Boyett has published a sequel to another of his books from the same period, so I suppose I can hope for an ending one of these days, but it looked like it was really starting to go somewhere, and then I was out of book. Sigh.
Kylie Chan, White Tiger. This is pure wish-fulfillment fantasy. The main character starts out as a dumpy, mousy Australian nanny in Hong Kong, and with every skill she acquires, I thought, "Yyyyyeah, of course she's awesome at this too." But it was done so charmingly that I didn't actually mind and will be reading later books in the series as soon as I get my hands on them. It was fun. And, y'know, I think it's okay to have a book wherein the heroine discovers her own true level of awesomeness with the help of her new even-more-awesome friends. For some of us that's called college, but there are other places for it, too.
Mette Ivie Harrison, Mira, Mirror. I was all right with most of this book, which goes on from the Snow White story from the perspective of the mirror. But I hated the very ending. I thought it was implausible and badly set up and also not incidentally encouraged one of the major lines of excuse abusers try to make for themselves. Wheee! So: not recommended. Really not.
James Reston, Jr., Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536. This is not what it says on the label either. Publishers! I blame them, I do. In this case there was remarkably little Suleyman the Magnificent, not enough Charles V to really account for half of the book (much less the 85% the comparative dearth of Suleyman left), and lots and lots of stuff like the English Reformation. My theory is that anybody who is really fascinated with this era already knows the basics of the English Reformation, thankyakindly, and would have liked to find out more about the rest, particularly as we were promised parallels between how Charles V had to deal with Protestantism and how Suleyman had to deal with the Sunni/Shi'ite split in Islam. Those parallels were not delivered because there was--I tell you again--not nearly enough Suleyman. Ah well. Still had interesting tidbits here and there.