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Marissa Lingen

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Books read, late March [Apr. 1st, 2015|06:11 pm]
Marissa Lingen

I honestly don’t know how people who don’t read nonfiction do it. One needs such a lot of fiction to make up for it. I hope to regrow my ability to read nonfiction for fun in April, with some more rest, but in the meantime I am constantly surrounded by loads of good fiction, so I’m not actually suffering.

Lloyd Alexander, The Beggar Queen. Reread. I picked this up because it went with the “fantasies about countries dealing with not having a king any more but not really being over the concept” group I was reading. I love that he lets Sparrow and Weasel grow up. I love that the political realities of deposed monarchs are considered even when they’re personally awesome. This is probably my least favorite of its series, which still puts it very high on my all-time list. Always happy to discuss these books with whoever.

Alan Bradley, The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse. Kindle. This is a Flavia de Luce short story; it was entertaining, but mystery shorts tend to be a bit monofocus, so I don’t love it as much as I do the Flavia books. Still, though, 11-year-old chemist: hurrah.

J. Kathleen Cheney, The Seat of Magic. I think this is pretty dependent on having read the first series, but it does fun things with Portugal for a setting and all sorts of magic sea creatures I am not at all tired of at this point. And also race and class, in a way that’s integral to the story and its setting rather than tacked on as a message about ours.

James S. A. Corey, Cibola Burn. Simultaneously gross and grim and not gross and grim enough. (Seriously. Way more people should be dead at the end. WAY MORE. And not in the “I hate that guy” way, either.) Also the villain is very mustache-twirling. If you want very dudely space opera, well, this dudes like anything. If I was not starved for good space opera, I would not still be reading this series, but it’s reasonably written, and…well, I am, in fact, starved for good space opera.

Pamela Dean, Tam Lin. Reread. So very much of this is so perfectly, so exactly, resonant with my college experience. Some of that, of course, is that I read it before college, so in addition to having the moment where Janet is dealing with a particular kind of professor resonating, I remember that when I got my similar professor, I thought OH GOSH LIKE IN TAM LIN at the time. So many small perfect things. So lovely so lovely.

Ellen Kushner, The Privilege of the Sword. Reread. I think every Kushner fan has their Riverside book, and this is not mine, but it’s lots of fun anyway. Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge…well, the torture is mostly emotional. I really liked that Katherine ended up a swordfighter without having spent her whole childhood being That Girl. There should be room for all sorts of roads to swashing one’s buckles.

Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, and Jingo. Rereads. One of my questions, as I barrel towards my favorite Watch book and in fact my favorite adult Pratchett novel (Night Watch) is where people have to start to get the full effect of Night Watch. So far I have kept thinking that each succeeding volume would actually be fine as a place to start. Lois said that she thought you had to start with Vimes in the gutter to get his full arc, but Vimes in the gutter is fully implied by Vimes as he exists in each later book–you can see the trail it left–and Guards! Guards! is not deep stuff. It’s fun–it’s just not deep. Vimes is a cardboard cutout of a drunk copper–this is even more clear to me now that I’ve spent the last decade watching quantities of cop shows. And Lady Sybil is practically Honoria Glossop. (For the record, of all the toffs in those books, I expect I’d get along fine with Honoria Glossop if I was socially thrown together with her–we could talk about dogs and, when I was steady enough, go for walks–whereas nobody else in Bertie Wooster’s social circle would be worth talking to for more than five minutes. Well, possibly Gussie on the topic of newts. And Barmy for that whole [college friend’s name redacted] experience of never having any notion what was going to come out of his mouth next. I DIGRESS BOY HOWDY.) My point being: the characters add depth as the series rolls along, but not linearly with each paragraph. Yes. I think that’s what I was trying to say. But: I had forgotten how much “fantasies about countries dealing with not having a king any more but not really being over the concept” Guards! Guards! was, and in fact the other two directly after it too, so that was interesting.

Delia Sherman, Young Woman in a Garden. Lovely stories, just lovely. Most of them explicitly historical fantasy, variety of voices and settings. Did not skip a one. Recommended.

Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner, The Fall of the Kings. Reread. Remember what I said above, about every Kushner fan having their Riverside book? This is mine. It goes with The Beggar Queen and the early Watch books in the “fantasies about countries dealing with not having a king any more but not really being over the concept” category, and it goes with Tam Lin and Caroline’s “of Magics” books (below) in the “academia fantasies” category. But I don’t love it for its categories, I love it for its lush precision. (Okay, I’m a sucker for its categories too.)

Caroline Stevermer, A Scholar of Magics. Reread. I want more fantasy inspired by this general era: the time when motor-cars were new and no one had fought a world war (but they might be thinking of it), basically. I chose this rather than the one before it because I hadn’t read it in awhile and had reread A College of Magics not long ago, and they’re very different for being so related to each other. Visiting scholar experience vs. undergraduate. Both with some cool world magic. Recommended.

Karina Sumner-Smith, Radiant. Lots of chewy interesting stuff in this, and it was also good fun to read. There is a minor plot element that…I don’t want to spoiler it, but there is a very small plot element that looks a lot like a trope I hate. But there is plenty of room for Karina to develop it in later books to have its own depth/complexity, so I was satisfied with that part. Also with the towers and the magic currency ideas. Next one went on my list right away.

Jo Walton, Farthing. Reread. This is almost the perfect inverse of the structure of Pratchett’s Vimes novels, which there is no reason to notice unless you’re reading them right next to each other, which I was, so. I have read more of the influences on this book since last time I read it, which only makes it better. Also, Jo is one of the best out there at actually managing theory of mind: that is, keeping it feeling reasonable when you know something and not all the POV characters do. Very hard in an ordinary mystery. Even harder with two very different POVs.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: klwilliams
2015-04-01 11:24 pm (UTC)
I read the Flavia short last month, then started looking at the other Christmas short I picked up in December, I believe it's called "Mary's Christmas" by Laurie R. King. This has led me to another Laurie R. King short, "Mrs. Hudson's Case", and now I'm poking around at various shorts I've had on my iPad for a while. It's nice to read something I can finish in less than an hour.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-04-01 11:58 pm (UTC)
That is indeed useful sometimes!
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-04-02 01:28 am (UTC)
I only say that it's hard from observation, because so many (no, really: SO MANY) of the mystery writers I read/watch screw it up. But the particular problem appears to be keeping the not-knowing consistent for the characters when the reader and the other characters know stuff, without having them look foolish. It's totally reasonable what Carmichael and Royston don't know, even when we know better. They would have to be psychic superhumans to know it. But at least once a month (not kidding) I have to demand of either a cop show or a mystery novel, "How did they find that out? I know how we did, but how did they?"
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2015-04-02 02:11 am (UTC)
I think the real beginning of the development of the City Watch is Men at Arms. If you haven't read it you aren't 100% prepared to grasp the way in which Feet of Clay carries the theme forward. And besides, seeing the beginning of Carrot/Angua is rewarding. (I see that you left The Fifth Elephant out of the series; it seems to me to be more essential to it than, for example, Jingo, in further defining Carrot/Angua, in showing the Duke of Ankh-Morpork at work, and in exploring dwarven society and interspecies relations. But then, it was the first Discworld book I read. I have to say I was a lot less out of my depth than with Mirror Dance!)

The frightening thing about Bertie Wooster's social circle is that he seems to be the most intelligent of the men in it.

I totally love Tam Lin, even though I read it decades after attending UC San Diego, a very different college, where I studied very different subjects, biology and mathematics, and learned that I wasn't a mathematician. (If I were mentally transported back to my 18-year-old body I would be deciding between economics, history, linguistics, and philosophy as majors. I actually tried philosophy, but after four of the six required history of philosophy courses I couldn't face any more classic philosophers.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-04-02 02:13 am (UTC)
I'm not sure where you got the idea that I had left The Fifth Elephant out of the series, as I have not talked about Thud! either. I haven't gotten to them yet.
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2015-04-02 02:56 am (UTC)
I beg your pardon. You're quite right. I somehow confused myself into thinking that I had seen the title of a later work and that you had skipped over one of the intermediate ones, but I see that that's not so at all.
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[User Picture]From: sillylilly_bird
2015-04-02 04:31 pm (UTC)
in re: space opera - have you read any S.L. Viehl?

I really liked the Stardoc series.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-04-02 04:52 pm (UTC)
I have not! Thank you for noting.
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2015-04-02 05:41 pm (UTC)
I have the opposite thing: fiction has zero interest for me anymore. It's all nonfiction, all the way forever. I don't know why. I certainly WRITE fiction....
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2015-04-02 06:09 pm (UTC)
Given recent events, I guess it's not purely coincidence that I've been rereading the Sam Vimes books too. I've been reading them out of order though (they are stored in different houses).

What I had forgotten is that though Vimes is at the center of the books and it's Vimes who develops the reputation, it's actually Carrot who precipitates the change from a moribund group of three ineffectual coppers to a city-wide Watch force with an international reputation. It's funny, because everyone knows Carrot, everyone knows he was born to be King (even though hardly anyone ever saw the evidence) and yet it seems that no one realizes how much he changed the whole city. Makes me wonder if he could somehow become the next Patrician without ever being King. (Though I don't think *he* would think it possible.)

Also, the reread has reminded me that I'm finding paperback books annoying these days(you have to hold them with your hands, which makes it more difficut to do other things while reading - knitting, say, or brushing your teeth) though not quite as annoying as the lousy proofreading in some of the e-books.
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[User Picture]From: ethelmay
2015-04-02 06:18 pm (UTC)
The title of the Flavia de Luce story makes me think of Dorothy Sayers's "The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers." Any resemblance?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-04-02 06:51 pm (UTC)
Not much.
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