Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Books read, late January.

Guess what? When I'm Officially Resting, I read a lot. So this took me awhile and did not get posted yesterday. Ah well. I bet you all coped.

Boris Akunin, The Winter Queen. Historical Russian mystery, set in 1876. So apparently Mr. Akunin decided to write one of each of what he considered the types of mystery novel, in this series. I find this to be a fascinating undertaking, and I will seek out more of his books, although that may be difficult since most of what the library has is in Russian.

Rae Carson (raecarson), The Girl of Fire and Thorns. It is always such a relief to find that you like a friend's first published novel. I am not surprised to find Rae using some YA fantasy tropes to her will, discarding others that do not suit her, and stabbing still others repeatedly through the heart until there is no hope of their revival. Not surprised, but definitely pleased. I borrowed this book but will be buying my own copy for lending and rereading purposes.

Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming. Okay, when it says "a handful"? They really mean a handful. Of the same people. With tobacco and acid rain and...gahhhhhh, the liiiiiiies. And the arguments from authority. And The Physicist Problem. It's the arguments from authority where I feel Oreskes and Conway have their weakest position, though, because they seem to be skipping the bit where scientists are not to be trusted because they are authorities, they are authorities because their work can be checked and replicated. But anyway: the historical stuff here is boggling and worth knowing if you can stand yelling at the book. (After I yelled, "Gaaaaah! Lyndon LaRouche! GAHHHH GEORGE WILL!" at the book, timprov poked his head into the library to suggest that perhaps I might do something else for awhile.)

Stella Gibbons, Nightingale Wood. Stella Gibbons is clever and funny and fun. Sometimes the fact that she doesn't like much of anybody gets in the way, but often not, and there were some really good moments in this.

Elizabeth Goudge, Linnets and Valerians. A very nice kind of children's book. I needed something nice without too much stabbenating. This was it.

Barbara Hambly, Sold Down the River and Wet Grave. I like this series a lot. The setting, the characters...the whole thing really. Astute readers of Barbara Hambly's work will notice that there's a book missing between these two; the library lacks that, so I will have to go fill it in later. But I will not let later wait too long, because I like these.

Barbara Hamilton, A Marked Man. Even more astute readers of Barbara Hambly's work will notice that she's the same person as Barbara Hamilton. Instead of the titular "free man of color" in 1830s New Orleans, the detective here is...Abigail Adams. I would expect to find this obnoxious. I do not. I have deliberately read two of these. This is an astonishing feat.

Paul Hoffman, The Left Hand of God. The world-building here is kind of half-assed, and the prose is melodramatic, and...I found it compulsively readable anyway. Eeeeevil! And dooooooomful! And fun and readable and fast. Doooooom!

Matthew Hughes, The Other. Mr. Hughes is a bit too enamored of a) patterns like Jungian archetypes and b) character tags like "the fat man." (Yes, Imbry is fat! We know! Onwards!)

Kameron Hurley, Infidel. Sequel to God's War. Fast and fun and full of bugs--not the kind that mean something has gone wrong, either. I like this series.

Joseph Kanon, Alibi. Post-WWII Venice is not always nearly as pleasant a place as it would like to be. This was shelved as a mystery, but the murders are...no mystery whatsoever. And most of the war crimes aren't either. So as a mystery it would be a complete failure, but it's not mostly trying for that, it's just that there isn't a much better label for what kind of fiction it is.

Ronald Kessler, In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect. This was a gossipy amusing thing, and I'm not sure I believe more than half of what's in it. "Some agent I talked to said this! And then the family in question said that never happened!" Oooookay then. On the other hand, LBJ driving an amphibious vehicle top-speed into the lake without telling passengers it was amphibious? I totally believe that that happened on multiple occasions.

Robert Ludlum, The Icarus Agenda. Grandpa's. This book was almost sweet in a way. Late '80s publication date, and Ludlum wanted to have Arab terrorists without making a statement that all Arabs were terrorists. And then he didn't want to go too far and seem unsympathetic to Israelis either. So there is a lot of bending-over-backwards in this book. And then some of the generation he was raised in comes screaming through: he knows, he knows that someone's race should not have to do with criticisms of them, so when he makes the one joke he can't resist, he has to immediately back up into, "Not that race has anything to do with it!" Handy helpful tip from me: if race has nothing to do with it, don't bring up race. Okay good the end. But other than that, I found this to be satisfying on the "what the hell are they doing next I have no idea" level of not being a predictable spy novel. I may well stop somewhere in the pile of Ludlum and Ludlum-franchise, but this is not where.

Ian McDonald, Planesrunner. Okay, get this: it's nerdy YA SF...without any dystopia...that was published in this decade. Seriously. There were a few bobbles, but I was so happy with what it generally is that I could ignore them pretty easily. I will be so glad to keep reading this series. Hurray! I mean, the societies/governments the kids live in are shockingly imperfect, but not, I think, to the level of dystopia. And teenagers have already found out that their societies are imperfect. This is not news to them. Complexity rather than general suckitude seems occasionally called for, and lo, here it is.

Christopher McGowan, The Dragon Seekers: How an Extraordinary Circle of Fossilists Discovered the Dinosaurs and Paved the Way for Darwin. I bought this book for myself for my grandpa's birthday. I have started getting myself a book the two of us might have shared, each year for his birthday. I don't guarantee I will do it for always, but I find that it is a satisfying observance for me now. Anyway, this was a fun quick read, not packed with new knowledge for me but with some new tidbits. If you haven't read much about this group, it'll be worth your time.

Carla Speed McNeil, The Finder Library Volume 2. What I really like about this series is how many things it's doing. This makes the collections somewhat less unified, but I think also more satisfying.

Alice Duer Miller, Are Women People? A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times. Kindle. This is one of the free things that has been getting linked by people here and there, and it's fast and funny and good. A window into political humor of other times, but not in a way that is obscure or difficult to follow.

Tamora Pierce, Beka Cooper: Mastiff. Sometimes knowing what an author is doing interferes with enjoying a book, and sometimes not. In this case I felt that having a structural sense of what Pierce is doing with her books in general made the conclusion somewhat inevitable. I also felt that the level of intervention from entities who supposedly could not intervene somewhat undermined the overt message that was consciously expressed. So...a very readable Tortall book, but not likely to be a favorite.

Robert Reed, The Cuckoo's Boys. Some interesting ideas, and mostly very dislikable characters. I remember Dragons of Springplace as more to my taste than this one, but it may be that my taste has just shifted. Probably will have to go back and reread to find out.

Ruth Rendell, The Vault. There were a lot of coincidences in the climax of this, but the thing I liked was the sense of passage of time so often absent from this kind of mystery series. Wexford is not only older, he's retired, and it shows not only in the routine of his days and the things he is and isn't allowed to do with questioning suspects etc., but also in the fact that he is not up on all the most modern investigative techniques. I found that solid and satisfying.

Greg Rucka, Queen and Country Vol. 1. Spy novels may be looking like a theme around here for awhile. I particularly enjoyed some of the detailing in this one: the graph paper look of the chapter breaks and various other things that cued in even this not-very-visual reader that it was doing something different and, well, spy-y.

Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, Whiteout. A murder mystery comic set in Antarctica. Pretty cool, very fast read.

Thomas Siddell, Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 1: Orientation and Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 2: Research. Poor Kat! Everybody fixated on her anti-gravity generator, nobody paying attention to her lovely proteins. I like Kat. I mean, I like some of the others in this speculative school comic thinger. But Kat! And her proteins! I relate.

Anne Ursu, Breadcrumbs. I was a little leery at first, because I get nervous when it seems like a girl with imaginative or tomboy interests is being set up in direct opposition to traditionally feminine interests, as though the two can never coexist in one person, or as though people with different interests can never be friends. But she got past that and into some pretty cool stuff and also some hard truths people often like to lie to kids about, about friendships and growing up.

Elizabeth Wein, The Empty Kingdom. I found the ending to this abrupt, and if you haven't read the prior volumes in the series I expect it would hold little appeal, but if you liked spending time with the characters before, you will probably like spending time with them again in this one.

Laurence Yep, Child of the Owl. Apparently there is a long and interlinked series Yep is doing, of historical children's books centered around Chinese immigrant and Chinese-American families. This is a topic of interest to me, given the work I've done in this area before, and Yep's characters and setting are vivid and interesting. I was a little surprised that some of the content got published in a children's book (and when I say that, I mean pleasantly surprised--I'm not in favor of restricting or talking down to children), and then I checked the copyright date, and oh: it was from the '70s. Never mind then. Rise of fundies and their approach to books not quite so complete at that time, and now it gets to be A Children's Classic.
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