Ryan Armand, Minus. This was a gift from a friend who came to 4th St., and I would not likely have picked it up on my own. It's comics--Sunday newspaper style comics, mostly--about a young girl who has magical powers, only she actually acts like a 10-year-old girl with magical powers, instead of an authorial construct. The comics, like 10-year-olds, are sweet and sometimes horrible. I like sweet and horrible. I like Minus.
Chester Brown, Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John. Also a gift from the same friend. I wound up much less impressed by this book. I think one of the reasons is that while I support decriminalization of prostitution--I think its current status hurts the people who are most vulnerable most while doing very little to deter the people who are most likely to hurt others in this scenario--I felt that Brown's stated reasons for doing the same had giant holes in them, and he seized on arguments that were shaky and self-serving. So that just left...a guy paying for sex with women and treating most of them like coffee shop pastries, which it turns out does not impress me greatly.
Since this comes up just as my birthday is approaching, I will note that a book that I turn out not to like can still be a very good present and in no way reflects negatively on the giver. The opportunity to try a book is a good present whether or not the book ends up to my liking.
Steven Brust (skzbrust), Dragon and Issola. Discussed elsewhere.
Steven Gould, 7th Sigma. Discussed elsewhere.
Carla Speed McNeil, Finder: Voice. Too many blondes, not enough lion-people. I mean, it did not make me any less likely to read more Finder. But I know where my preferences lie in that universe.
Josh Ritter, Bright's Passage. Josh is one of my favorite singer/songwriters--I am terrible about total orderings, but possibly my very favorite. He has some songs that do a beautiful job of telling stories in very compact packages, and this is a very compact book, so I had high hopes for it. I don't think he's there yet, though. timprov's comment about how Bradley Denton novels only work when they're funny was really apropos: it read a lot like misfired Denton. This gives me hope, because it's only his first novel, and Denton has done a lot of stuff I like in addition to his own misfires.
Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. This was a rather short and padded book, like a lot of pop psychology, but some of the studies were very illuminating of other people's crazy behavior. I am myself an extreme satisficer, and I have in my extended family one of the most extreme maximizers I have ever met or heard of, so the various studies and experiments about that were useful. Also sometimes horrifying. But usefully horrifying.
Laura J. Snyder, The Philosophical Breakfast Club. This was a story of four friends--William Whewell, John Herschel, Charles Babbage, and Richard Jones--and their effects on science and learning in their time. I get why Snyder wanted to tell this story, since this was some pretty big stuff around the historical line between natural philosophers and scientists, but the result was extremely disorganized and disjointed. The four men did not stay particularly close through their lives, and Jones was a distinctly lesser light than the others. What's worse, having been friends with people who wrote history and had to include explanations of things that should be known to any adult of any level of education (self- or otherwise), I have great sympathy with Laura Snyder without feeling that she did a particularly good job in this task. I get that people's knowledge of history of science is less than nil, even people who would be interested enough to pick up a popular history of science book like this one. But having to detour into Descartes And Bacon 101 would have made me tired, and doing it abruptly mid-chapter was worse. Fascinating period, fascinating people, but the book just didn't quite gel as a book.
Ian Tregillis, Bitter Seeds. I found this book interesting but with curious detachment. The British characters never really felt fully connected to me, I think because of the time scale used for the interpersonal interactions: there was just too much war to cover in the amount of time he had available for the rest of the stuff to get where it needed to be to have the full impact for me. Still, I am interested in where the next one is going now that we are through the somewhat alternate World War II--Cold War stuff feels like it's less handled in contemporary work, and has a great deal of potential with this alternate bit.