Calendar Girl (kirilaw) wrote,
Calendar Girl
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BOOKS!


Oh my goodness, this list is ridiculous. See what happens when one falls behind? I'm going to stick this behind a cut, to save your friends pages.
 

26. Redwall (Brian Jacques)
I (vaguely) remember reading this as a child, and decided to read it again after hearing about Brian Jacque's death. It's much more violent than I remember, to be honest -- the number of henchment Cluny the Scourge goes through is quite remarkable! It is clearly still intended as a children's book, though -- the prose is straightforward and a little bit didactic, and the story isn't overly complex. It stands up pretty well, though, all things considered. ***

27. The Sea Thy Mistress (Elizabeth Bear)
This is the third book in Bear's "Edda of Burdens" series, and just like the other two, we have temptation and redemption and lots of people being foolish because they're embarrassed. It's probably the most optimistic of the three books (perhaps because it's dealing in no small part with the aftermath of a sacrifice), and it seems to show the semi-divine characters starting to see humans as actual people, which is a nice change. ****

28. Les Guerillères (Monique Wittig)
I have to confess that this is the first time I've actually read this. It's an interesting piece, and very much of its time -- the separatism, the focus on female sexual organs as a source of sacredness... It's something of a puzzle as a book, making the reader work to put the pieces together and figure out what's going on. ***

29. Secrets of the Fire Sea (Stephen Hunt)
There is something truly strange about Hunt's world (just one something? Well, no. Lots of strange somethings.). Steam-driven robots nonetheless have practically "positronic" minds. Electricity is a dangerous force that warps the user, suggestive of nuclear power. It's a very odd place even before you get into the multiple humanoid species and the idea of a firey ocean. But the stories are as rollicking as ever, and the writing as readable. ****

30. Aliens and Others (Jenny Wolmark)
I'm both surprised and impressed at how much work has actually been done on sf from a feminist perspective -- the last time I looked, I was clearly looking in the wrong places, because this time I've turned up quite a bit more. This is an interesting book, and it does a good job of pulling together a lot of the women-as-aliens tropes. ****

31. The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (Justine Larbaleister)
Focusing specifically on works that address "battles of the sexes" allows Larbaleister to narrow the field a bit. It also allows her to set feminist and proto-feminist works against overtly sexist "fear the women" texts, which makes for interesting reading. ***

32. Tea from an Empty Cup (Pat Cadigan)
I don't think I'm sufficiently zen to appreciate or review this book! It's cyberpunk, sorta -- much of the action takes place in virtual reality -- but even the detective-story and the muder-mystery aspects seem less hardboiled than is traditional. I like the idea of the search for an authentic Japan, in the absence of a lost physical Japan, and the emphasis on authentic, racially-pure japanese-ness felt almost appropriate for that culture. But I still wouldn't say I entirely understood the book... Which may have been the point. ***

33. Barney's Version (Mordecai Richler)
Whether or not you like this book probably depends a lot on whether you find Barney charismatic. The book is entirely in his voice, and if it doesn't pick you up and whisk you along, you'll probably hate every minute of it. That said, Barney may be a reprehensible character in a lot of ways, but he does have a way of telling a story. I generally enjoyed the book, mostly by just letting it carry me along for the ride. In part, it's about all the ways a life can go wrong, even when it seems to be going right. It's about regret and atonement, and, of course, guilt and innocence. And the fragility of memory. ****

34. Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (Drubravka Ugresic)
This is a lovely book that plays with myth and symbolism, and then goes out of its way to point out what it's doing. It has that chracteristic postmodern self-consciousness that is both amusing and appealing and occasionally causes eye-rolling. I enjoyed it, but it's the kind of thing that a lot of people would probably hate. ****

35. The Drowning City (Amanda Downum)
Part mystery, part spy novel, part fantasy, this is a good piece of work. It's well-written and enjoyable, the magic system is well thought-out, and the world is appropriately cmoplex and well-imagined. The choice of a necromancer for a heroine is different enough to be interesting -- in fact, that's a pretty good description of the whole book -- different enough to be interesting. And I don't mean that to be faint praise. ****

36. Nine Tailors (Dorothy L. Sayers)
Ooh, I liked this one! It's a mystery, but it has none of the artificiality of the "twelve people trapped in a house" genre. By the same token, it's not trying to be scary or thrilling or gruesome -- it's very much about the intellectual puzzles. And the resolution just fits together so nicely! I will be reading more of these. *****

37. Health at Every Size (Linda Bacon)
This is something of a seminal book in the fat-acceptance and (obviously) the Health at Every Size movements. It's an interesting thing -- I had gotten used to the more polemical side of things, and this is very much a self-help non-diet. It's much more about teaching people to look after themselves, and much less about the political issues around food and weight loss. It actually reads quite a lot like a diet book, which made it uncomfortable for me, but I think it's doing a very good job of what it's actually trying to do -- it's just not what I really wanted from it! ***

38. Fables vol. 10: War and Pieces (Bill Willingham et al)
A nicely climactic volume in the Fables series. After much preparation, the Fables take the war to the Adversary, and do... well, quite well. I guess they've had a lot of time to plan. That doesn't mean there isn't suspense and sacrifice, of course -- there absolutely is. And it all works quite well. This is definitely one of the better volumes in the series. ****

39. The Mermaids Singing (Val McDermid)
Val McDermid is very good at being unsettling. She also does quite a good job of putting you in a serial killer's mind without revealing the killer's identity too soon. And she's not afraid to hurt her protagonists. All this to say, this is not for the squeamish. But it is quite a good procedural. ****

40 + 41. Blackout, All Clear (Connie Willis)
I do love Connie Willis. She's compulsively readable, no matter what she's writing. This duology is not, ultimately, my favourite of her books, but it's still well worth reading. I've seen a lot of people complaining that the plot only works if her characters are foolish, and it's true, there are quite a lot of bits and pieces that would fall apart entirely if the characters actually sat down and talked to each other instead of trying to protect each others' feelings. That did get a bit frustrating, as did the extended middle sequences when they always seemed to be rushing around and not accomplishing anything. I did kind of want to shake them (all of them!) and say "for crying out loud, stop wittering and just *do* something for a change!" ***

42. The Curse of Chalion (Lois McMaster Bujold)
I don't know how I've missed out on reading Bujold before now. This is really, really good. The characters are appealing, the world-building makes sense, and the writing just pulls you along through the story. Cazaril makes a great, unconventional hero, and I found the book hard to put down. Recommended. *****

43. The Wire in the Blood (Val McDermid)
Like all good crime sequels, this one raises the stakes. The killer is nasty, and Our Heroes are, of course, quickly put into an untenable situation. ****

44. A People's History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and "low mechanicks" (Clifford D. Conner)
I'm always interested when people write histories from "alternative" viewpoints. This book purports to be about "people's" science, as distinct from the "traditional great man theory of history". So it includes discussion of the mechanics and engineers who actually built many of the devices invented or required by "great men" for their scientific discoveries, and descriptions of discoveries in areas like agriculture where no single "great man" can properly be credited for the development of human knowledge. It's a good overview, and generally does a good job of countering traditional scientific histories. Some of the attempts to credit "people" with discoveries are a little strained, especially in cases where specific people are credited, they're just not the traditional famous ones. ***

45. Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell) 
I honestly can't decide if I like this book or not -- I spent most of the time I was reading it trying to decide, and I still don't know. It's something of a stunt writing piece -- it involves a series of mostly-independent stories interleaved together: abcdefedcba. There's a hint that the stories' respective protagonists are in some way reincarnations of each other, although some of the stories seem to be fiction within the others' universes. Structurally, it's very complex. And, for the most part, it's very readable too. But it sometimes seems to be trying too hard to be ironic and clever, and it's just too self-conscious. The dystopian capitalist future, for example, felt like a satire that wanted you to know it wasn't really serious about anything, it certainly didn't want to be accused of being *strident* ... And yet, some of the writing was really quite good. ***

46. Contact (Carl Sagan)
Carl Sagan is not really a writer of fiction, and it does show. The ideas, the story are interesting and well-developed, but the actual writing is a little problematic. It's stilted, and prone to "telling" and to long discursive asides about the mathematics of whatever is going on at any given time. The chracters, while they've been well-thought-out, feel stiff, which is something of a problem for a book that's trying to be a chracter piece. Still, it's an interesting read. ***

47, 48. Cordelia's Honor: Shards of Honor + Barrayar (Lois McMaster Bujold)
Yes, I'm officially a Bujold fan now. She's got an impressive ability to write things that just suck me in and compel me to keep reading. These two books have that in spades. Cordelia is a great character, and the romance between her and Aral is surprisingly convincing while being utterly inevitable. The events of Barrayar, too, make for a compelling story. *****

49. The Paladin of Souls (Lois McMaster Bujold)
Bujold is, apparently, really good at writing adventures for not-young-anymore heroines. I love the idea of a dowager queen being so utterly bored that she needs to go on an adventure just for the change in scenery. And I also loved that she got to have a love interest! And the mysterious problem, and its solution, were well-developed and never quite what you would expect. A good read! *****

50. The Last Temptation (Val McDermid)
And, of course, things get bigger and more serious in this book, the third in the series about Carol Jordan and Tony Hill. Yikes. This one's several different kinds of upsetting, and McDermid doesn't pull her punches. I admire her for that, even as it makes her stuff too serious to qualify as a summer mystery. ****

51. Runaways, vol. 1: Pride and Joy (Brian K. Vaghan et al)
A group of teenagers discover that their parents are super-villains and decide to run away and try to take their parents down. It's a great set-up, and the story is pretty good, too. I liked the art, especially the fact that the girls all had different body types, and that Molly looks like a real pre-teen girl. This one is justified in the praise I've heard for it. *****

52. Runaways, vol. 2: Teenage Wasteland (Brian K. Vaughan et al)
The second volume is a little weaker than the first, since the kids are trying to establish themselves as quasi-superheroes, and they turn out (not surprisingly) to be pretty bad at it. This does not bode well for their goal of beating their parents. The introduction of obscure-to-me superheroes Cloak and Dagger didn't work as effectively as it might have for a more serious Marvel fan, either. Still, the art is good, and the writing is solid. ****

53. The Memory Keeper's Daughter  (Kim Edwards)
I started out quite liking this book -- it deals with a doctor's decision to give away his daughter and to tell his wife that she's died, when she's born with Down Syndrome. It sets itself up to really address complex emotional reactions. But I don't think it really fulfills its potential. Most frustrating is that we get the viewpoint of almost everyone involved -- the doctor, his wife, the girl's adoptive mother, the twin brother... but not of Phoebe herself. This is particularly glaring when we get the adult son's viewpoint. It feels a bit like the book or the author are as uncomfortable with her as her father is, and that's problematic. Now, maybe one could argue that it isn't responsible to appropriate the voice of someone with Down Syndrome... but it really just feels like a glaring omission, like an abdication of responsibility. A shame, really, because the rest of the book is pretty good. It's interesting, but ultimately flawed. ***

54. Lady Chatterly's Lover (D.H. Lawrence)
I've never really been a fan of Lawrence. I understand why this book was banned: it's chock full of explicit sex and explicit language. What I don't entirely understand is why it's also considered to be a masterpiece. I'm not saying the banning was a *good* thing, but I do think it probably helped the book's reputation, and Lawrence's, in the long run -- it made people look at him as someone who was willing to say daring, shocking things. What really gets to me about this book is how incredibly *un*sexy all the sex is. It just seems utterly unappealing. And I'm very skeptical about the lasting power of true love as proven by simultaneous orgasms. Bleah. I do understand that there's more going on here, that there's a message about materialism versus authenticity, and so on and so forth... but surely there are ways to tell that story without the endless, detailed, frankly boring sex? *

55. Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)
Henry VIII is a popular subject these days. There was _the Other Boleyn Girl_, the Tudors tv series, and now this book. This one tells the story from Thomas Cromwell's viewpoint, making him a sympathetic character rather than the traditional ruthless opportunist. It's a well-written book, and clearly thoroughly researched. I enjoyed it. ****

56, 57. Young Miles: The Warrior's Apprentice + The Vor Game (Lois McMaster Bujold)
Okay, so this is something of a confession: I miss Cordelia. I'm not (yet) as much of a fan of Miles as I am of his mother. I'm ready to admit that this may change, and that it may just be him-as-young-man that's not quite working for me -- certainly the stories are still plenty fun. I just... really liked Cordelia, and I miss her. Anyway. Having gotten that out of the way, let me just say that these are still quite enjoyable books, and that it's easy to get just as caught up in events as Miles does. How does any one person end up with that much luck? One has to wonder. ****

58. To Say Nothing of the Dog (Connie Willis)
This is Willis in her "humourous" mode -- the whole book is a classic farce, rife with misunderstandings and missed connections, and wrapping up with true love and weddings and everything in a neat little bow. It's probably one of her best books, and it's hard to be glum about the world when Connie Willis wants you to believe in the fundamental good will of the universe. Also, Penwiper is a great name for a kitten. *****

And the list so far...

1. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen) ****
2. The Kingdom Beyond the Waves (Stephen Hunt) ****
3. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) ****
4. The Last Unicorn: the Lost Version (Peter S. Beagle)
5. The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis) ****
6. Maelstrom (Peter Watts) ***
7. Secret Daughter (Shilpi Somaya Gowda) **
8. Cloud's Rider (C.J. Cherryh) ****
9. Among Others (Jo Walton) *****
10. The Great Divorce: A Dream (C.S. Lewis) ****
11. Delusions of Gender (Cordelia Fine) *****
12. Behemoth: B-Max (Peter Watts)
13. Behemoth: Seppuku (Peter Watts) ****
14. Her Fearful Symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger) ***
15. The Rise of the Iron Moon (Stephen Hunt) ****
16. The Unwritten, vol. 2: Inside Man ****
17. I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith) *****
18. Death Note, vol. 5: Whiteout (Tsugumi Oba) ***
19. Preacher, vol. 4: Ancient History (Garth Ennis et al) **
20. To Write Like a Woman (Joanna Russ) ****
21. Master and Commander (Patrick O'Brian) ****
22. Grail (Elizabeth Bear) *****
23. The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms (Helen Merrick) ***
24. How to Suppress Women's Writing (Joanna Russ) *****
25. Thief of Souls (Ann Benson) **

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