|Books read, late March.
||[Apr. 1st, 2011|10:34 pm]
Steven Brust (skzbrust), Tiassa. This is the book I was wanting. Of course now I have switched to wanting Vallista next, and will be perfectly happy to want something else once we have Vallista. (Note: I have no insider information that Vallista is coming next--odds are it isn't. I've been wanting Tiassa to be next since before Dzur. I like tiassas.) This is full of plots and plans, just as it ought to be, and also it unites the two largest threads of Dragaera narrative, and having Paarfi telling some Vlad story is brain-breakingly awesome. Definitely do not begin reading the series here. This book wants the rest of the spear for its spearpoint.
Mike Carey, Thicker Than Water. I have said since the first book in this series that Mike Carey has a strong sense of place, and in Thicker Than Water I felt he made that clearer than ever. Shifting some of the locale to Felix's childhood home worked very well for me indeed, and I'm glad I have the fifth one sitting on my pile to read soon, because the ending is simultaneously satisfying to the plot threads in this book and quite...a bit to be going on with in the larger series plot threads. I keep saying "if you like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books, read these," but I really mean it: I think the Felix Castor series should be getting more attention from that audience than it is. And also from people who are annoyed by Harry Dresden, but.
J. H. Elliott, Spain and Its World, 1500-1700. The title of this book makes it sound much more unified than it is, but the book is actually better (for my tastes) as it stands. It's a collection of essays Elliott wrote in his field, on the way to writing various books on that period, so it's the bits that don't fit in quite right or that make a point he wanted to make separately. If you have an interest in this setting, this is a good thing to read; even if you don't, it's kind of cool.
Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Lord of Derkholm. This is what I happened to pick up when I heard of her death. I stared at the shelf and found that I had vague fond griffiny memories, nothing more solid. When I started reading, I remembered immediately what I didn't like (the worldbuilding more or less en masse--the villain makes no sense, and much of the worldbuilding follows), but happily it didn't take long before I was reminded of what I did like very much: the cross-species family stuff. That's handled well in small details and in passing bits while the book is overtly doing other things; the relationships among the siblings and parents, both human and griffin, are really lovely and remind me of some of pameladean's stuff and Brat Farrar and some of the best bits of Rumer Godden. So I expect I'll be going on to Year of the Griffin before too long, because there are only limited amounts of that thing she's doing, and it's such a worthy thing.
Philip B. Kunhardt Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, and Peter W. Kunhardt, Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography. Grandpa's. This was mostly photographs from an extensive collection this family had, but there was also a bit of written biography--not a lot new to me (and I'm not a big Lincoln buff), but watching how even the formalities of extremely old photos could map the changes in a Presidency was interesting.
Lisa Mantchev, Perchance to Dream. Second book, and what I said about the first book was that it was just exactly perfect for a particular audience (theater-struck teens) and lots of fun for people who were not that audience. I think the second one is less skewed towards the theater-obsessed--there's still quite a bit of theater stuff, but other elements crept in also, to good effect.
Michael Merriam (mmerriam), Should We Drown in Feathered Sleep. Kindle. This is the one and only thing I've bought for Kindle so far, but it's an ebook; you can't get it any other way. I don't mind paying money for ebooks when that's the format you can have. Anyway. I think it was good timing to read this just after I'd read alecaustin's thesis, because it meant that alecaustin and I have been talking a great deal about signaling expectations for an audience, genre expectations and series expectations and format expectations. Should We Drown intersects a great many genres and sub-genres simultaneously, and Michael has to signal all of that to the reader at the start of the novella not just because of the intersection but also because of the format: his ebook publisher promotes their selected titles for a month to an audience that won't necessarily have tagged authors' names, and while there are larger genre cues in the sections of the publisher's website, they're not enough by themselves to signal to the reader what kind of thing it is they're looking at--the text has to do that. So I got a lot more out of that aspect of things than I would have if I hadn't been thinking about it recently. Should We Drown is post-apocalyptic fantasy paranormal romance...Minnesotan...um...something something else with sub-genres. Seriously intersectional stuff. With loons. No, actual loons, the birds, not just, y'know, loons.
Arthur Ransome, The Crisis in Russia. Kindle. There was a year of my childhood devoted with bizarre and joyful near-adolescent thoroughness to the Swallows and Amazons books (if I talk about my childhood friend Peggy, you should know that none of her names are remotely Margaret or Peggy, and this is all explained if you note that she occasionally calls me Cap'n Nancy still, and never, ever Ruth). This makes it all the more jarring to find out as an adult that Arthur Ransome married Trotsky's secretary and lived in Russia for some time immediately following the Communist Revolution. Once you have that information, this book makes utter sense: he is talking very chattily and accessibly about the practicalities of the situation in the newly born Soviet Union. How easy it is to buy eggs vs. matches, for example, is a detail I had not thought about before, and Ransome puts it in context. The other interesting thing about this book, of course, is that it was written before Lenin's illness and death, much less anything else in Soviet history, so there's a great deal of "let's see how they handle this or that" where our viewpoint makes that a wince-worthy question. This is exactly the sort of thing for which the Kindle free books are really useful for me: The Crisis in Russia is not readily available and not something I'm passionately concerned about finding, but it was very interesting reading and worth the time it filled.
Alex Storozynski, The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution. Kosciuszko fought in the American Revolution before coming back to Poland and leading their revolt, and then getting crushed by Russia. This book had a rather breathless style, and the author's attempts at avoiding hagiography were...not entirely successful, shall we say. Also, the more cheerful early years were not very well-documented and thus got covered very lightly, and the depressing end was documented from hell to breakfast. Sigh. Still, the connections with Benedict Arnold, West Point, John Paul Jones, Tsar Paul...all good stuff to know about.
Catherynne M. Valente, Deathless. Discussed elsewhere.
Walter Jon Williams, Deep State. Sequel to This Is Not A Game, which was the book that tipped me over from, "Walter Jon Williams, oh yah, I should read more of his stuff sometime," to, "Sometime needs to be soon." Dagmar, the heroine of TINAG, is in Turkey running a game that gets into social networking and its tentacles in the political and social situation of a country in revolt. Very fast read, fun stuff.
Wendy Williams, Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid. I didn't actually find this as disturbing as Williams seemed to hope I would. But there is much awesomeness to read about squids, octopuses, cuttlefish, and what have you. Light, quick, fun, with a little more hand-holding than people with a science background are likely to need, but on the other hand that should make it accessible to people without one.