Calendar Girl (kirilaw) wrote,
Calendar Girl
kirilaw

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This is getting ridiculous

Moving tends to turn one's brain inside out. So I'm going to use that as my excuse for my failure to post this list before now. It's been almost ready to go for a while, but I do insist on continuing to read, which necessitates further additions to the list, and it becomes sort of a never-ending vicious circle.


59. The Swan Thieves (Elizabeth Kostova)
I am sorry to have to say that this book earned something of a "meh" from me. I enjoyed Kostova's _The Historian_, with the spooky Dracula story holding it all together, but this one just doesn't work as a novel. Also, I find myself completely unable to care about any of the characters, which is sort of a fatal blow for any book. I was unimpressed with the psychologist-narrator's ethics (and with his protestations that he knows just how unethical he's being), with the artist's melodrama, and with the women's apparently falling in love with them just because they have to. And then the central mystery seems so slight, after all that build-up. Sigh. *

60. The Forever King (Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy)
I've read a lot of Arthuriana, and although this is a pretty decent book, it's not the best example of the genre. The magic seems to follow whatever rules it needs to in order to accomplish the plot, and the whole thing feels a little old-fashioned, overall. **

61. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
Follett is a very engaging writer, and he's really quite good at getting me caught up in reading without thinking too terribly deeply about anything. This continues to be a good, enjoyable read, although there are plenty of things to complain about when you start thinking of them: the female characters, the looseness of the plot... but that doesn't stop it from being fun. ***

62. The Habitation of the Blessed (Catherynne M. Valente)
Valente has an amazing ability to create images that just stick with you. The book-tree, whose fruits have to be read/eaten so quickly, lest they rot... that's beautiful and terrifying, all at once. And the world she's created here is an incredibly strange and complex one. It's lovely, and heartbreaking, because you knowit's already being destroyed. More, please. *****

63. The Unwritten, vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock (Brian K. Vaughan et al)
This is really quite a wonderful comic, and it continues to hold my interest. This volume contains revelations, and also more questions. Plus, there's an entire issue that's presented as a choose-your-own-adventure story, which is encouragingly meta. The unreliability of narrative makes for an appropriately pomo subject matter. ****

64. Cetaganda (Lois McMaster Bujold)
It's a murder mystery AND a Bujold book. Two great tastes, etc, etc. This hasn't been my absolute favourite of the series, but it was still able to make me keep reading, almost addictedly. The story itself is not, perhaps, overly great, but there are some truly wonderful moments, both funny (Ivan and the anti-aphrodisiac) and disturbing (the kitten tree! Oh, my goodness, that's just wrong.). ***

65. The Bone Palace (Amanda Downum)
I'm not going to comment on the handling of the trans character because I'm not really qualified -- plenty of others have spoken on the matter more eloquently than I can. So I'll set that issue aside entirely and talk about other things. The setting is well-done, a little more traditional than in _The Drowning City_, but with enough originality that it doesn't feel stale. The characters are appealing, although one does start to wonder if there aren't any other good guys in the entire city who called upon to help out. And the writing is engaging and enjoyable. ****

66. Come Twilight (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
This is a strange book. It's about family, in a way, and shows what happens when St-Germain doesn't follow his own rules and creates another vampire, who is not interested in the way he's found to live. The time periods -- presumably worked in between St-Germain's known locations in other books -- are a little erratic, and it seems a little strange for him to conclude that a reign that lasted, what, 500 years or so, is a failure. Although I suppose he tends to take the long view. ***

67. Runaways vol. 3: the Good Die Young (Brian K. Vaughan et al)
68. Runaways vol. 4: True Believers (Brian K. Vaughan et al)
One story arc wraps up -- complete with the Big Reveal of the traitor's identity -- and another one starts. The teen angst and heartbreak is consistently well-handled, and doesn't take over the book too much -- there's still plenty of energy devoted to superheroics. I do love watching the team try to figure out how to actually be superheroes. They have powers, but that doesn't automatically make them successful, which is a nice touch. And it's still very nice to have a variety of girl characters, with a variety of physical types and personalities. ****

69. Collected Fictions (Jorge Luis Borges)
I can't believe I'd never read Borges before. These stories are really good. I, naturally, am more drawn to the fantastic and surrealist ones than to the portraits of famous gauchos, but nonetheless. I wish I'd found these sooner. *****

70. Whose Body? (Dorothy L. Sayers)
This is, according to Wikipedia, the first of Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, so I was therefore prepared for it to be less "full-formed" than the Nine Tailors. And it is, but it's still a surprisingly good read. Lord Peter is younger here, and the severity of his shell-shock is actually quite bad, which creates problems for him as a detective. I liked seeing more of Bunter, as well -- you can see here that he's not just your standard hyper-competent butler; he's actually a full partner to Lord Peter in a lot of ways. The mystery works, too, and Sayers manages to deal with Jewish characters and to describe some of the real racism against them without (to me, anyway) coming across as racist herself. Which is quite an accomplishment. ****

71. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M. Valente)
It's not often that a newly-written children's book feels like an instant classic, but this one does. It reads like a story that's been around forever, like something I might have read in my own childhood, and yet, at the same time, it's convincingly contemporary and avoids most of the "isms" that are all too prevalent in actual old children's books. This is a book that I expect to buy for some of the young people in my life. *****

72. Tiassa (Steven Brust)
This book reads like it was written for the fans. It includes all kinds of little bits and pieces that people who've been reading the season will seize on and adore. We now know how Vlad started telling his stories; we also know who Devera's father is. And we actually get the interaction of a Vlad adventure with Paarfi narration, which is kind of astonishing no matter how you slice it. So this is not a book I would ever recommend to someone who wasn't already in to Brust's Dragaera series, but for a fan, it's a real treat. ****

73. Deathless (Catherynne M. Valente)
This was really depressing. Good, excellent writing, absorbing story, but depressing. This is not the kind of fairy-tale world I want to have anything to do with! ****

74. Ethan of Athos (Lois McMaster Bujold)
I really enjoyed this book. It had intrigue in abundance, and clever people solving puzzles and working out capers. I also really liked Ethan, whose terror of women (after having grown up on a planet populated by men only) was somehow endearing. It was also interesting to see a men-only planet -- those are awfully rare in fiction. And I did like that men-only didn't mean aggressive or military or any of the other stereotypes you would have expected. Instead, they're pacifist and caring and devote huge resources to their children... kind of a feminist utopia in a lot of ways! *****

75. Post Captain (Patrick O'Brien)
I must agree with Jo Walton that there's something off with the pacing of this book. There is far too much time spent at the beginning on shore! And I am sorry to say that I am not a fan of Jack ashore. He's so moody! But once they finally find a ship, there is plenty of excitement to be had. ***

76. Clouds of Witness (Dorothy L. Sayers)
It's kind of remarkable, when you look at the list of books in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, to think that the very second book in the series deals with Lord Peter investigating a murder in his own family -- that is, a murder for which his brother (a Peer of the realm!) has been charged, and in which his sister may possibly be implicated. The family complications make this a particularly odd reading experience, and it's hard for both the reader and Lord Peter to take any fun from solving the case. Although Lord Peter's sister does seem to be even more of a black sheep than he is, and the romance element is rather sweet. ***

77. Shades of Milk and Honey (Mary Robinette Kowal)
This is something of a trifle of a book, but it's quite an enjoyable trifle. The elevator-pitch description is, essentially, "Jane Austen with magic" and it does, indeed, capture a very Austinian world. It's probably unfair to say that is fell short of being truly Austenesque, but the comparison is inevitable. It did feel as though the stakes weren't really high enough -- Jane had her plan for spinsterhood a little too well thought-out. I liked the way the magic worked, and the way it fit into the world -- very effective. I found the writing generally very good, although it occasionally veered into over-explaining. The ending, alas, felt rushed, and I could have done without the rather abrupt "here's how everything worked out" of the last few pages. Still, a pleasant read for days when you need something really pleasant. ***

78. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson)
Jackson really is the master of the creepy and the atmospheric. I had solved the central "mystery"/twist from the back-cover blurb, but that's not really what this story is about. It's a portrait of a profoundly strange household that's almost, on its own terms, functional. The relationship between Constance and Merrykat is the real center of the story, and it's beautifully-drawn. *****

79. Who Fears Death (Nnedi Okorafor)
This is a really good book, really original and well-written. It is also rather the opposite of cheerful. It's not your average fantasy novel; your average fantasy novel doesn't deal with genocide, rape as an instrument of war, and female genital mutilation. I don't want to say "but it's good for you," because that makes it sound like "eat your spinach" and this is, above everything else, a really good book. So I'll just say it's recommended, but probably needs a "mature themes" warning. *****

80. Water for Elephants
I got the distinct feeling, reading this, that it was meant to be a tear-jerker. It did not succeed in jerking any tears from me, though. Maybe the memoir format of the main story prevented me from getting too emotionally engaged. But I felt that the author had her finger on the scale throughout, and that she was working things to ensure the happy ending. I think it was meant to be bittersweet, but it was really as happily-ever-after as you get. **

81. H.M.S. Surprise (Patrick O'Brian)
There are certainly none of the pacing issues I complained about in the last book here -- this is a single adventure, for the most part. Things get serious all over the place -- Stephen is tortured and Jack has to rescue them, there are deaths and duels, and nothing works out well for Stephen. It's hard not to feel sorry for him in this book -- life just keeps hammering him. I don't know what it is about these books -- I'm not really all that interested in the subject matter, but O'Brien just sweeps you up and you don't care that you're reading about ship manoeuvres and sail trimming. ****

82. Bone (Jeff Smith)
Y'know, this is hardly original, but it really is impressive how well a traditional fantasy epic works as a story about a trio of funny-looking little cartoon guys. I very much enjoyed this series, and having the entire story in one (rather thick, admittedly) book was very handy. The art is lovely, and does a wonderful job of telling the story. *****

83. The Owl Service (Alan Garner)
This is a nice, understated, spooky little story. It does a good job of creating a sense of the supernatural, and never fully explains what's going on and why, expect in general terms. I think that's an asset for this kind of book. Too many ghost stories are ruined by a too-literal explanation of exactly what's going on. ****

84. Unnatural Death (Dorothy L. Sayers)
Sayers isn't typically writing the kind of mystery that the reader is supposed to be figuring out -- she doesn't necessarily provide us with all the clues that Lord Peter has. However, in this case, I did manage to put the pieces together even before the characters. Since I generally prefer fictional sleuths who are smarter than me, this was a bit of a let-down. And I don't think this is my favourite mystery. Although I do <3 Miss Climpson an awful lot. She's wonderful. I'd love to see more of her. ***

85. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Dorothy L. Sayers)
The plotting in this one works much better, I think. The emotional aspect feels much deeper, as well. Once again, Lord Peter's own social circle is impacted, and he has to deal with the reality of the effects of his investigations. The portrayal of George Fentiman -- who suffers from shell-shock, is at least verbally abusive to his wife, and desperately wishes he could support himself, but can't -- is nuanced and both sympathetic and critical. There's a lot going on in this book, more than just a simple mystery. ****

86. Brothers in Arms (Lois McMaster Bujold)
So Miles has a clone. Well, okay then. And it's handled seriously! And it actually works, kind of. There's an awful lot going on here, and it seems perilously close to collapsing into farce (especially with a clone double -- it's hard to take something like that seriously). Bujold pulls it off, but I'm not going to rank this as one of my favourites. ***

87. Mirror Dance (Lois McMaster Bujold)
Wow. This was really, really, really good. Not cheerful, mind you. But really good. I am beginning to think that, much as I am enjoying the series and like Bujold as an author, I'm most engaged when she's writing about somebody other than Miles -- because Miles is absent from a good chunk of this book, and I think it's one of the best I've read so far in the series. Mark, who was almost a stereotype in his last appearance, is a real character here, and he's utterly believable in his messed-up-edness and his growth as a human being. I think I was more worried for him than I was for Miles! Also, there's some good Cordelia stuff in here, and since I like her an awful lot, that pleases me greatly. And it balances, somewhat, the rather dark elements that are also rather significant here. *****



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) **
26. Redwall (Brian Jacques) ***
27. The Sea Thy Mistress (Elizabeth Bear) ****
28. Les Guerillères (Monique Wittig) ***
29. Secrets of the Fire Sea (Stephen Hunt) ****
30. Aliens and Others (Jenny Wolmark) ****
31. The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (Justine Larbaleister) ***
32. Tea from an Empty Cup (Pat Cadigan) ***
33. Barney's Version (Mordecai Richler) ****
34. Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (Drubravka Ugresic) ****
35. The Drowning City (Amanda Downum) ****
36. Nine Tailors (Dorothy L. Sayers) *****
37. Health at Every Size (Linda Bacon) ***
38. Fables vol. 10: War and Pieces (Bill Willingham et al) ****
39. The Mermaids Singing (Val McDermid) ****
40 + 41. Blackout, All Clear (Connie Willis) ***
42. The Curse of Chalion (Lois McMaster Bujold) *****
43. The Wire in the Blood (Val McDermid) ****
44. A People's History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and "low mechanicks" (Clifford D. Conner) ***
45. Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell) ***
46. Contact (Carl Sagan) ***
47, 48. Cordelia's Honor: Shards of Honor + Barrayar (Lois McMaster Bujold) *****
49. The Paladin of Souls (Lois McMaster Bujold) *****
50. The Last Temptation (Val McDermid) ****
51. Runaways, vol. 1: Pride and Joy (Brian K. Vaghan et al) *****
52. Runaways, vol. 2: Teenage Wasteland (Brian K. Vaughan et al) ****
53. The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Kim Edwards) ***
54. Lady Chatterly's Lover (D.H. Lawrence) *
55. Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel) ****
56, 57. Young Miles: The Warrior's Apprentice + The Vor Game (Lois McMaster Bujold) ****
58. To Say Nothing of the Dog (Connie Willis) *****
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