Books 2013

Jan. 1st, 2014 12:50 pm
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (misc girl reading)
First Time Reads

(These are not in order, I was slack about recording things, and I'm pretty sure I'm still missing some things.)

1-2. Mary Robinette Kowal - Shades of Milk & Honey and Glamour in Glass. These are straight-up Jane Austen pastiches with bonus magic. The first was quite charming, but the second one dragged enough that I didn't feel compelled to move on to the third. Hard to maintain the momentum when the romance plot is complete.

3. Robin Sloan - Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
I need to re-read this but what I particularly liked about this novel was a sense that it was very much written for my generation/people like me, i.e. people whose lives are well mediated by the internet. It reminded me a bit of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson - the sense of someone describing experiences that felt incredibly true to my own life in specific detail.

4-6. Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer - Sorcery & Cecelia and its two sequels
The middle one suffers from being diaries rather than letters and Sorcery & Cecilia is by far the best, but these were charming and soothing. Like Shades of Milk and Honey these are novels of manners with bonus magic; despite a dip in the second one, the third one picked up a lot of the first one's charm again.

7. Jo Walton - Among Others
Beautiful book. It reminded me a little of Diana Wynne Jones' The Merlin Conspiracy, oddly, but is probably better written. Hard to summarise in a few sentences but I loved it to pieces - it is a rural urban fantasy (if that makes sense) - I think that's what reminded me of the Merlin Conspiracy - about a young woman who gets sent away from her immediate family to attend school - but it's actually about what happened to her before that.

8-10. Ben Aaronovitch - Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground
I LOVED TO PIECES. What the Dresden Files would be if it grew up, got less sexist, five times as clever, funnier and was set in London (and really set in London, not just window-dressing).

11. Elizabeth Wein - Code Name Verity
MINDBLOWING. Possibly best book I've read in a few years. About the friendship between two young women in the war effort in World War II, one working for Britain's secret services and one a pilot.

12 & 13. Ellen Kushner - Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword
On the whole I preferred Privilege to Swordspoint. Didn't find Alec or Richard sufficiently likeable in Swordspoint to really fall for them, although I thought they had a fascinating relationship. But Alec picking fights to find Richard people to kill really soured me. OTOH in Privilege Alec has mellowed a lot and I understood him much better, and Richard's relationship with Katherine was just sweet. I thought Privilege was profoundly brilliant around, well, privilege. The scene with Artemisia and her family after (extended plot spoiler) was incredibly disturbing and well-written. I guess I found the politics in that book a bit more directed and clear, so that when characters were nasty I felt it was in service of something. Whereas in Swordspoint I think the politics and their relationships to how the characters act were much less clear. Which made it a more complex book but, also, made me mad.

14. Emily M Danforth - The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Beautifully written, a really enjoyable YA novel, but didn't scratch my itch for just regular old gay protagonists.

15. Karen Healey - When We Wake
Really good fun, I'm looking forward to the sequel, but very YA without transcending the genre the way I thought, e.g., Code Name Verity did.

16. Ben Aaronovitch - Broken Homes
See what I said about the other Aaronovitch books above. I had a lot of complicated, spoilery thoughts about the ending that I should summarise in a post sometime.

17. Max Brooks - World War Z
This is very very good and compulsively readable, but once I started noticing that there were something like one or two women to every ten men, I couldn't stop.

18. Rainbow Rowell - Attachments
I liked it a lot - a fun modern(ish) (well, 90s) epistolary basically-romance. If you've read Meg Cabot's Boy Next Door books, a bit like those with slightly less romance.

19. Wil Wheaton - Just a Geek
Enjoyable enough, no complicated feelings.

20. Rainbow Rowell - Fangirl
Like Attachments, I liked this a lot, but I felt weirdly troubled by a gap in the experience, viz, where are all her internet friends for this entire book?

21. Tamora Pierce - Battle Magic
This felt very ... bitsy to me and a bit rushed. I didn't mind (as I was sort of expecting to) the bits where people went off on their own, but on the whole it felt like a book that could have been longer or possibly two books. I thought a lot of the supporting characters were not as well-drawn as Pierce's usually are - the God-King was perfect but the bloke and his twin sister (whose names I've already forgotten), despite getting a lot of screentime, I didn't really "get" them.

22. Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling - The Cuckoo's Calling - this was a really enjoyable modern crime novel, a bit Kate Atkinson-y, perhaps? I liked it.

23. Ian Tregilis - Bitter Seeds
This is the first book in a three-part World War II AU in which British blood magicians battle Nazis with various supernatural powers. It is well-written and compelling and I haaaaated it and will not be reading the rest because there was basically not a single character who was likeable by about a third of the way through. In the end the character I liked the most was a Nazi assassin (the only character in the entire book who had a moral qualm and tried to alter their actions, rather than having qualms, being very sad and drug-addicted about it, and then going ahead and doing the bad thing anyway). I have some very complicated feelings about the extent to which I have enjoyed British-based fiction about WWII. Unlike WWI I find it quite easy to buy into some fairly heroic narratives about the British during that time, which I know is not completely just; and I know that the Nazi atrocities are so horrendous and so well-documented that repeating them in fiction can be tasteless or revolting or just pointless. But, the thing is, if the actions of the British during that period are so monstrous that they begin to look like only somewhat an improvement over Hitler (partly in their treatment of British people but more significantly in their treatment of Europe), I feel like you're kind of doing it wrong.

However, if you like your characters to be extremely, extremely gray, this could be the series for you!

24. Jo Baker - Longbourn.
This is a book about a maid at Longbourn during the events of Pride and Prejudice. I have to say I really enjoyed it and it was a bit of a soothing balm after Bitter Seeds. Not quite as smart as Jane but very smart and thoughtful indeed; a bit like Downton Abbey if it was thoughtful and realist and not classist and hopeful.

25. Rainbow Rowell - Eleanor and Park
WONDERFUL BOOK! I cried. Really beautiful book about first love and also about small towns, poverty, abusive families.

26. Elizabeth Knox - Wake
This was the first Elizabeth Knox I've really really gotten alone with. I liked this book a whole hell of a lot. Creepy science fiction, John Wyndham-style but more horrifying/gory/graphic, set in a fictional town in Golden Bay - fourteen people are the sole survivors of a strange illness which causes people to become incredibly, obscenely violent. But when they try to leave, they find they can't get out. Anything more is spoilery, but I highly recommend it to people who like horror, science fiction, and genre books set in New Zealand.

27. Suzanne Collins - Mockingjay
I liked it, but having just seen Catching Fire I'm increasingly convinced that these books are books that were really destined to be and improved by becoming movies. It helps, of course, that the adaptations are really good. I can almost read every thought Katniss has off JLaw's face.

28. Pamela Dean - Tam Lin
I read this ages before the end of the year and forgot to write it down with my thoughts immediately that I'd finished. However, I liked it very much.

29. Scott Lynch - The Republic of Thieves
Another one I forgot to note down at the time. I was SO excited to finally get the new Locke book and, by and large, it lived up to expectations, with a very dramatic conclusion. Loved getting a look at Sabetha, loved all the flashbacks to the Camorr childhood, etc.

30. Matt Fraction/David Aja - Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon
Yeah, this is as good as everyone says it is, I'm excited to read the next trade. &Kate;;;

31. Meg Wolitzer - The Interestings
Really enjoyable litfic, quite immersive.

32. Donna Tartt - The Secret History
I thought I might have read this last year, but not according to last year's post. I liked it a lot.

Re-reads

1-5. Diana Wynne Jones - The Pinhoe Egg (and a shitload of other Chrestomanci)
6-7. The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas under Red Skies
8-11. Tamora Pierce - the Daine quartet.
12-14. Anne McCaffrey (& Jody Lynn Nye) - the Doona trilogy.
15. John Green & David Levithan - Will Grayson, Will Grayson
16-30. Just about every Vorkosigan movel.
31-33. Garth Nix - Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen (plus Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case, which was in point of fact new to me)
34-40. Arthur Ransom - a shitload of Swallows and Amazon books for YT canon review
41-??. Terry Pratchett - FaustEric and then a whole lot more Pratchett that I couldn't be bothered counting

Upcoming to-read list
Beau Geste
Jerome K Jerome - 3 men on a boat
K S Robinson - Mars books
Seanan McGuire - Chimes at Midnight
Neil Gaiman - The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Max Gladstone - Three Parts Dead
Wen Spencer - Tinker, A Brother's Price
Top of the Rock - Warren Littlefield
Robopocalypse - Daniel H Wilson
The Girl who Fell to Earth - Sophia al-Maria
Ken Dryden - The Game
The Revolution was Televised
Jo Walton - Farthing series
Les Miserables
London Falling - Paul Cornell
The Luminaries
Henry James - What Maisie Knew
Elizabeth Gilbert - The Signature of All Things
Libba Bray - Beauty Queens
Ann Leckie - Ancillary Justice
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
What are you currently reading?

I just started Karen Healey's When We Wake, which I've been meaning to get around to for a fortnight or so. I feel like everyone knows what this is book is about already but if not - protagonist Tegan, a teenager, is killed in Australia in 2027 and wakes up, having been cryogenically preserved and then resucitated, in Australia in 2128. That's more or less all I know so far, although being set in Australia and in the future it has some unsurprising environmental themes handled with reasonable deftness. It's fairly gripping; although the setting is less to my taste than Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering, I feel like you can really see a development in her writing since then.

What did you recently finish reading?

I just finished two re-reads. First Gaelyn Gordon's Prudence M Muggeridge, Damp Rat, which is a wonderful New Zealand children's book. The titular Prudence is being raised in complete isolation from society (other than her brothers and the staff) in New Zealand at an indeterminate point in the future by her unbelievably wealthy and rather dotty grandmother, who has peculiar ideas about childrearing. She runs away. It's awesome. So was Gaelyn Gordon, by the way, whose works were rather seminal in my childhood, particularly Prudence and a novel called Tripswitch. She wrote fantasy that portrayed poverty and a multicultural New Zealand very well and very understatedly.

The other one was Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang, a novel I wholeheartedly adore (I guess I don't really re-read novels that I hate). Another near-ish future book, this novel is set in a future post-socialist revolution and Chinese political takeover (sort of) in the USA. Which makes it sound horribly racist but it's not at all. It's a little bit like David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (EXCEPT BETTER) in that it's a study in close, deeply immersive first person of several different people whose stories connect a little. Its titular protagonist, Zhang, is an engineer, a gay man living in post-revolution New York. He is closeted in multiple ways, because he is also bi-racial but passes as Chinese due to in utero genetic manipulation. Other protagonists are Maxine, a tough ex-Army Martian colonist with a military background who meets a younger refugee and his daughter - I love Maxine because she's a Ripley-esque gender reversal of your standard ex-military gruff noble science fiction protagonist; also, she keeps goats and bees - Angel, who flies silk kites in races in New York for the pleasure of spectators, and several other characters who have smaller chapters. It's a wonderfully rich, populated world and it's so easy to get completely immersed in each character's story, completely personal.

There's a line early in the book which goes something like government is big; we are small, we slip through the cracks. My flatmate remarked that she was surprised when the big political reveal at the end of the book turned out to be "things don't happen for a reason, things happen because of how the world is at any given time"; but in a way I think that's not really a message for the reader but a message for the protagonists. The messages for the readers are much more diverse and personal, which is why I enjoy this book so much. It's not a book about The Tyranny of Socialism. It's a book about people who are just trying to negotiate the world they live in. Often, they are just as important to their own situation as the government is.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Um ... I promised Lucy that I'd read the last Wheel of Time book, but I picked it up in the bookshop today and read the blurb and realised I had no idea what any of the characters were doing. So I think I might, shamefully, just re-read the Brandon Sanderson-penned WOT books (trusting that I can remember most of the Jordan ones well enough to get by, although probably not enough to pick up all the huge mystery reveals) and then move into A Memory of Light. I'll probably want some fantasy after all this near-future science fiction, anyway.

Miscellany

Dec. 27th, 2012 09:00 pm
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (misc girl reading)
1. Merry Christmas and/or best wishes for whatever holiday you celebrate <3 I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

2. I spent my Christmas semi-camping in a valley in Wanganui. The weather was ungodly hot which was nice for three days (but couldn't have stood it much longer). It was in a funny place with two so-called cabins, one of which was really pretty nice where my parents stayed and one of which was basically a garden shed where my brother and sister and I slept (in sleeping bags on skanky mattresses on a rather dusty floor ... but mustn't grumble, and much better than tents, truly). There was a cooking area with running (but not hot) water and a solar shower which was totally exposed to the elements - which was actually sort of fun since it was just family there (and the shower was way off round the side so it's not like people were coming past all the time or anything). There was a sort of lake which you could kayak on but not swim in (I daresay swimming wouldn't have killed you, but it was kinda brown and mucky) - somewhere to swim would have improved the ambiance immensely, I must say. Anyway, for a few days it was quite fun and I didn't murder anyone and only had one everyone-crying miserable fight with my mother, which is pretty good for us. We all read a lot and played a bunch of cards (completely shockingly considering my family, we're actually pretty good at not fighting over cards).

We did have a little bit of excitement. On Christmas day the running water stopped running. It later transpired that the line that ran to fill the tank had had a break in it and so we'd run down the tank and it hadn't got refilled. This was a bit of a test for everyone as it involved rather a lot of water conservation (the shower was still running and we used this to fill a lot of water bottles, the kettle, etc. And flushed the loo with lake water).

Then on the day we were supposed to leave, we packed everything up, and Dad took Mum and Helen (staying with us, had her own car) up to Helen's car. Now the valley we were staying in was reachable only by a narrow and rather slippy dirt road, which was fine when we came down because it had been dry. However, when Dad had gotten up there it began to BUCKET down, and H and F and I were all still in the valley with our stuff. We hung out and played cards for awhile - I got crushed at P&A, a game I used to be unbeatable at :( - until the guy who runs the cabins came roaring down on a quad bike and picked us and our stuff up (took two goes). This journey was sliiightly terrifying, sitting on the back of a quad bike (having just read that health and safety report that went on about how dangerous they are) clinging onto my stuff AND the bike and fairly ROARING up some steep and muddy hills in a pine forest - not on the track, because that would have been too slippery. When it was over it was quite fun, but fairly scary doing it.

3. I stocked up my Kindle intensely in preparation, but ended up mostly binge-re-reading Chrestomanci books. I did read Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal. These are professionally published Austen fanfic with the serial numbers filed off in a with-magic AU. (NB: I'm not sure whether they were ever published as fanfiction, but I would assume so after this series of tweets:



)

The magic is called "glamour" and is confined to various visual, auditory and olfactory illusions (they can also do hot and cold, but it's implied that these are very difficult and take a lot of energy). It's also considered to be mostly a female art. I found them quite delightful although I should add that they don't have the depth of Austen in terms of the social satire or wit. Good fun as romances though. (And "not as good as Austen" is rather praising with faint damns, if you see what I mean.)

4. I'm also working my way through The Game by Ken Dryden, which is a memoir about the author's last season in the NHL - he was the starting goalie for the Habs in an era where they won a BUNCH of Stanley Cups, and he retired at 31 when he was still an extremely good goalie (which although I don't have a real great sense of it I think is pretty unusual for hockey players generally). I'm struggling to remember if I've ever read a non-fiction book about sports before and I'm pretty sure I haven't. Anyway, it gives a whole lot of really interesting and entertaining information as well as being an interesting portrait of the dude himself and is pretty well-written on the whole (I'm having a bit of trouble with the way the tenses are structured, but I think this might be a formatting issue - I bought the Kindle version and I think possibly some paragraphs that should be indented or set aside aren't).

5. Other stuff I'm reading: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (nowhere near as captivating as Middlesex) and Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (just started it, no opinion yet).

6. I was going to talk briefly about food but this post feels long already. What are you reading? How was your Christmas or other holiday? Isn't not having to go to work blissful, those of you who are on holiday still?
labellementeuse: animated icon with shots from various fantasy novels or flicks followed by "fantasy. what more do you want?" (misc fantasy pride)
I outlined this to my flatmate tonight while I was doing the dishes so it's not fully thought-out or anything but it's a complete thought, so I thought I'd make it a post.

extremely general tone spoilers for Being Human UK, the Dresden Files novels, and Mike Carey's Felix Castor books )

End o' rant. I need to catch up with the Toby Daye books so I can see how they fit into my Grandiose Theory.
labellementeuse: Edmund from BBC Narnia looks back over his shoulder as the White Witch drives her sledge on. (narnia: rien de rien)
1. [personal profile] aworldinside and anyone else who might be on the way to having Kaner feelings might enjoy tied if we stay, which includes a PRETEND RELATIONSHIP aka one of my favourite tropes of ALL TIME. I also really enjoyed Your Moves and Your Grooves, which is about people who, honestly, I don't know who they are, so if you ever wanted to read a kind of delightful romance novel about guys who are stripping to fund their way through college, this one's for you! And me. (I never *knew* I wanted to read that romance novel, but it was great.)

2. Thank you so much for all the supportive comments and advice on my last post. <3 I am applying for other work and trying to do a good job without letting myself get involved in the bullshit.

3. Today I bought the irresistibly-titled "Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse". Who could walk past that in a bookshop? Not me. I am also going to try to finish a book sometime soon - any book will do, but I'd like it to be Blackout by Mira Grant because I'm part-way through it or Middlemarch by George Eliot because I have a lovely copy of it that I paid an exorbitant sum for from Arty Bees or The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst because I borrowed it from a friend. It will be like the third non-re-read of the year which is probably a product both of a new fandom, lots of knitting, and my general malaise this year.

4. I hit a horrible set-back in my knitting the other day when it turned out my gauge was off and the jumper I was knitting for my friend Liz was going to turn out raaaaaather too large. It really killed my momentum and I think I'm going to have to knit myself a Honey Cowl in the lovely wool my mum spun for me to get over it. At one point I thought I might make it double-sided like this one, with the other side in black - the wool Mum spun for me is like a silvery purple - but then, IDK, maybe I should just value the precious homespun. The long and the short of it is I'm paralysed by my knitting and it sucks. However, I did finish up the lace blanket I started in some kind of obsessive I-need-a-square-lace-blanket-stat mood last month (pictures">) so I really need to get a move on. I'm also planning future projects like, hopefully, another jumper for me. (Probably for next winter, if I'm honest with myself.)
labellementeuse: lucy and susan pevensie, on a wall, looking up with awed expressions (narnia sistren)
Like a month ago I promised [personal profile] china_shop that I would try to keep updating on account of I love you guys and don't want you to defriend me/decide I'm boring and move on (although that's true and I don't want to lie about it.) I keep thinking of things to post about and forgetting, which is at least an improvement on a month ago when I couldn't even think of anything to post about? Unfortunately I'm not really in touch with anything fannish right now and I'm just finishing up three weeks housesitting for people who I don't know what their internet's like, but I unilaterally decided not to download anything while I was here.

Consequently, here are some things I have not yet watched:
- Doctor Who (well OK I did watch the first half but I want to wait til I've seen the second half to post)
- Game of Thrones
- Anything else that just started again
- Anything that aired in the last 18 months.

Therefore, I have not really been reading my flist, because it is a frustrating experience.

Here are some things I have been watching lately:
sporadic seasons of the West Wing, spoilers all the way through )

There are all these political thoughts that I have and can't articulate, like:
- If Sue Bradford ends up on the Mana Party ticket I can't not vote for them
- If not I might end up voting Green
- But I feel kind of sick at the idea of voting for a party that doesn't believe in flouridation of the water supply
- I believe there are still great people in the Labour party but Phil Goff is such a twit, argh.

Then there are all these worries I have, like:
these are really silly OK )

ALSO last time I posted I made a list of the books I'd gotten out from the library. Since then, I have finished:
embarrassment )

Okay, that was a pretty crap post, BUT I'm thinking it's kind of like you have to practise to get back into the swing of things, you know? So yeah, I'm going to do that. Here, have an embarrassing confession: I had to google how to spell embarrassment. Because I always spell it with one r. I'm hoping writing it out here will sufficiently embarrass me that I get it right from now on. Possibly that would be ironic?

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labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
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