Books Read, April 2011

A longer list than March’s, but the post will be shorter, because the DWJ books have all been discussed elsewhere already.

(And while it may be a longer list, I’m not sure it amounts to more pages read. March included a Wheel of Time book, and a bunch of Bujold; April is lots of DWJ and two graphic novels. I won’t be surprised if this turns out to be more like my usual level, as opposed to January and February, where I was mainlining books like a woman who hadn’t read much fiction in, well, ages.)

Tokyo Babylon, vol. 1, CLAMP. Manga, re-read. Urban fantasy about a sixteen-year-old boy who works as an onmyoji, a kind of sorcerer. Man, it’s interesting going through this now that I know the whole story; good lord is the situation between Subaru and Seishiro messed up. I kind of just have to stare in awe.

The Mirador, Sarah Monette. Third in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series. I haven’t done myself any favors by letting years elapse between my reading of each volume; clearly I’ve forgotten many, many things, which doesn’t do much to impair my understanding of what’s happening here, but does undercut the impact of those events. But I continue to love Mildmay (his narrative voice is infectious, and his broken-ness is effective without wallowing), and the setting has a truly beautiful depth and complexity, with all the kinds of casual references to history and plays and gossip and everything else that we take for granted in real life. Felix . . . is getting better? I still don’t like him very much, and am not very invested in him as a character, except in those brief moments where he makes an effort to be better. But those moments are getting more frequent, I think, so that’s growth, and growth is a good thing. I should try to read Corambis before I forget everything again.

The Lives of Christopher Chant, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed here. Warning: contains spoilers in the latter part.

Fire and Hemlock, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed here. Warning: contains spoilers in the latter part.

Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed here. Warning: contains spoilers in the latter part.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy Sayers. The WWI context of this one was very interesting. I know just enough about that war to see it, but not enough for my brain to auto-fill the kind of associations that her contemporary audience would have had; I do not know anyone who was gassed, nor anyone with shell-shock. (I do know people with PTSD, but their particular inciting traumas are different, and so are the results. Not to mention that our conception of that experience has changed a lot anyway.) Peter’s mental defense of George — something to the effect that the guy criticizing George had no idea what the man had been through — got me anyway, because my subconscious can do enough auto-filling for that. As for the mystery itself . . . I don’t think the solution-gun was placed on the mantel quite clearly enough for me to feel satisfied when it went off, but the journey to that point was interesting anyway. Peter did a very nice job of suspecting lots of things well in advance, but hiding his suspicions for good reasons.

Emerald Eyes, Daniel Keys Moran. Re-read. First book in the Continuing Time series. I’ll probably post more about these books later, but for now, I’ll say that it’s interesting to go back to this book with more professional eyes. I still enjoy it, but man, is its structure weird. Very pointillistic, and the denoument stretches out oddly, in ways that make partial sense if you know the larger context of the series, but even then is a strange choice.

Between the Woods and the Water, Patrick Leigh Fermor. Holy cow, it’s some non-fiction! That’s right, I’m finally sating my thirst for fiction enough that I can face the prospect of doing some research reading. This is a travel memoir with an unusual history: in 1934, at the age of eighteen, Leigh Fermor set off to hike across Europe, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. Near the end of that trip, he lost his diary. Decades later, that diary was found and returned to him, and he decided to write up his experiences, starting with The Time of Gifts (which I skipped) and continuing with this volume.

This means the story has the odd effect of simultaneously existing in the mindset of the 1930s (when he was traveling) and the 1980s (when he wrote this book). It partly shows the perspective of a nineteen-year-old boy, and partly the perspective of a man in his sixties. There are conversations about the Nazi party, followed by sadder parenthetical asides. There is a lot of casual racism about Gypsies, who are simultaneously mysterious people with beautiful girls and exotic music, and dirty horse-thieves Fermor is afraid will kill him in his sleep. And there is very much a world of Eastern European aristocracy that fell to bits not long after Fermor completed his trip. I read it largely because I’m trying to seed my brain with some cultural fodder, and it didn’t quite get into that as much as I would have liked — he digresses a lot about the broader sweep of history, rather than the immediate local detail — but it had some good material nonetheless, and it certainly paints an interesting portrait of the region at that time.

The Language Construction Kit, Mark Rosenfelder. More nonfiction! Crazy, man. Anyway, I didn’t read this book cover-to-cover; it isn’t really meant to be approached that way. This is a collection of Rosenfelder’s work on the website Zompist, going into the nuts and bolts of how to create a language. I found the organization of the book mildly lacking (and the layout much more seriously so; this, folks, is why publishers employ typesetters), and in places I really wish he would have slowed down a bit to unpack some concepts and give more illustrative examples of them. But it is still a very useful book that can help avoid the trap of inventing a language that’s just English with a bad phonetic paint job. My thanks to yhlee, who I think is the one that first mentioned this book in my vicinity, thus alerting me to its existence.

The Homeward Bounders, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed here. Warning: contains spoilers in the latter part.

Girl Genius, Vol. 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank, Phil and Kaja Foglio. I know I can read these comics online for free, but man, I’d rather curl up in a chair, and supporting the creators ain’t bad, you know? Anyway, this was fun steampunky reading, with indications of a political backstory that I’m interested to learn more about. I’m not wildly fond of the art, but that’s usually par for the course with me and comics.

Onward into May! The month in which I start working more actively on A Natural History of Dragons (rather than just prepping for it), so we’ll see what effect that has on my reading.

0 Responses to “Books Read, April 2011”

  1. bookblather

    Quick question about the Sarah Monette books: does Felix get better enough to make it worth slogging through his early parts? I started to read the first book in that series (The Virtu?) and I adored Mildmay but I simply could not fight my way through Felix’s sections of the book. He got on my last nerve so fast. But Mildmay I could have a literary love affair with, if only. If Felix gets better I might give it a second shot.

    • Marie Brennan

      The first book is Melusine, and it is by FAR the weakest Felix material, because he basically spends the entire book as the mostly-passive victim of events around him. Later on I still don’t like him, but at least he protags more, and some of the characters around him start to call him on his insufferable bullshit.

      • bookblather

        Oh, good. Felix needs people to call him on his bullshit. I think I will give it another shot, then, because Mildmay was just that incredible awesome.

        • starlady38

          If you can make it to the third and especially the fourth books, I found them much better, as a confirmed Felix-disliker. Particularly Corambis.

Comments are closed.