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Archive for the ‘Books Read’ Category

Books read, December 2014

December was light on non-research reading, but I did get a few things in:

Stranger, Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith. This novel is famous for being the “gay YA” book, but it’s easy for that to overshadow the fact that it is also a story. One set in a post-apocalyptic California, generations after something mutated half the wildlife and knocked humanity on its butt, technologically speaking. I appreciate the fact that this is not a Mad Max crapsack post-apocalypse: it isn’t cozy, limited resources are an everpresent fact of people’s lives, and there’s a lot of tension between the Changed and the Normals . . . but the town of Las Anclas is generally cooperative and functional, in ways that seem realistic. The story itself danced on the edge of having too many pov characters for my taste — every time a narrative shifts perspective, I get kicked partway out and have to re-engage; hello, George R.R. Martin — but ultimately things dovetailed well enough to keep me hooked. The sequel will be out soon; I’ll post when that happens.

Rogue Spy, Joanna Bourne. Fifth in the series of Napoleonic spy romances I started inhaling last March. The timeline of these books turns out to be more convoluted than I realized: I’m pretty sure the bullet wound Hawker’s recovering from in this book is the one Justine put in him partway through The Black Hawk is the one Annique dug out of him in The Spymaster’s Lady. Since The Black Hawk itself went back and forth in time, the impact of this story is slightly defused; there’s a pretty awful revelation in that book which sets up the main conflict for this one, but the “present moment” timeline there takes place after this novel, so you know things work out just fine for the hero. Which you would pretty much guess anyway, since it’s a romance novel and they tend not to end on a sad note . . . but guessing and knowing are still different things.

Anyway, this book is still enjoyable. Bourne puts a twist on her usual formula by having her hero and heroine technically be on the same side of the Britain/France divide — but under such conditions as to make both of their loyalties rather complicated. And there’s still the underlying virtue of this series, which is that it’s about people who respect and admire each other’s competence at espionage as part of their True Love, and makes True Love the key to solving external problems, rather than treating those problems as a side dish to the main (romantic) course.

Mortal Clay, Stone Heart: And Other Stories of Black and White , Eugie Foster. Another short story collection, this one based around the conceit of stories which involve black-and-white things (e.g. skunks, black swans and white swans, etc). I had bounced off one of these when Podcastle ran it, but it turned out to work better for me on the page. Enjoyable overall, though nothing in here really got me in the gut.

Books read, last several months

I realized a few weeks ago that I’ve been forgetting to make book posts. So this is September, October, and November — but it is also an incomplete list. (I’ve decided to omit my research reading, because it would constitute a minor spoiler for the fourth Memoir.)


Books read, August 2014

Surgery meant lots of time on the couch. Lots of time on the couch meant lots of reading. (Also lots of photo-editing. And movie-watching. And passing out so I wouldn’t be awake to hate the boot.)


Books read, December 2013

A bit belated — I didn’t want to post anything in the first days of the year because I was busy getting my WordPress setup functional.

Mother of the Believers, Kamran Pasha. A novel about the founding and early days of Islam, from the perspective of Muhammad’s wife Aisha.

It’s always tough, reading a fictionalized account of something like this: I find myself going “oh look, another enemy has converted to their side, geez, this ‘Messenger of God’ guy is such a Gary Stu.” Which, you know, missing the point. At the same time, though, it gestures in the direction of an actual problem, which is that it’s Pasha’s responsibility to sell me on the events he’s describing, and he didn’t always succeed. He could have done it one of two ways — either by emphasizing the numinous and miraculous, or by digging into the motivations of the people involved to help me understand why they acted that way. I would have been fine with either. Sadly, Pasha didn’t quite manage to do that consistently. Couple that with the fact that I really disagree with his handling of Aisha’s age (I think his reasoning is flawed and he failed to follow through on it anyway), and it’s surprising that I found this as engaging and readable as I did. But: engaging and readable, so recommended if you want to read a novel about the founding and early days of Islam.

A Tale of Time City, Diana Wynne Jones. Re-read for Yuletide (look for a post about that soon). It is still a lovely book. And I have even more fondness for Elio than I did before — writing fanfic will do that to you.

Ancient Hawai’i, Herb Kawainui Kane. Read for research, on the recommendation of Kate Elliott. It’s a brief and abundantly illustrated book about pre-contact Hawaiian society, ergo useful to me.

Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch. Once again, I feel like the two plots in here were just happening to share a book, rather than tying together very well. I was also deeply uninterested in Peter’s romantic relationship — or rather, his sexual relationship, since I got very little sense of any substance to it other than bedplay. (In fact, that skew had me convinced for a while that his fixation was going to prove to be a Significant Thing, to a much greater degree than turned out to be the case.) Having said that, I still enjoy the general feel of this series, and I very much liked the way the consequences of the previous book played out. To some extent, this is the denouement I felt was lacking before — though I still would have liked more at the end of Book One.

Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch. Better plotting! In part, I think, because the B plot here is actually just a continuation of what got set up in #2, and isn’t looking to be resolved any time soon, so it tooled happily along being its own thing and I didn’t expect it to interlock with the A plot the way I kept wanting before. Mind you, I found the thing they uncovered at the end to be a little O_o . . . but I may be okay with that, if the series follows through on what it’s been hinting about for a while now. There’s a point at which you really start questioning how much longer the world can go on failing to notice all the weird shit going on — I’m just sayin’.

(Ten points from Ravenclaw, though, for atrociously misleading cover copy. I expected this book to heavily feature Peter working with Agent Reynolds and having to dodge around her evangelical faith. Instead Reynolds just shows up sporadically and shows virtually no signs of being the “born-again Christian” she was billed as. I’m not sure the former would have actually been good, but it’s what I was led to expect, so the lack was annoying.)

Also: more Quicksilver. Because I have always been reading Quicksilver. And I will always be reading Quicksilver.