Calendar Girl (kirilaw) wrote,
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Bookery

Books! Lots of books! That I read!



43. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Catherynne M. Valente)
This is a lovely fairy tale that deals with growing up, and with shadows, and with the perils of sequels. Valente does a lovely job of both living up to what a sequel is supposed to do – give us more of our favourite characters having adventures – and of subverting and messing with that expectation. And the illustrations are lovely, too. *****

44. God's War (Kameron Hurley)
I’m having a hard time describing this book. It’s set on an Islamic-ish planet where there’s a longstanding holy war between two countries who follow different variations of the same religion. There are bounty hunters, and government assassins called beldames, and there’s a magic/science system based around the manipulation of bugs. It’s really quite unlike pretty much anything else out there. It’s also awfully violent, which I find a little hard to deal with, although the characters and the story are great. ****

45. Lucifer, vol. 8: The Wolf Beneath the Tree (Mike Carey et. al.)
46. Lucifer, vol. 9: Crux (Mike Carey et. al.)
47. Lucifer, vol. 10: Morningstar (Mike Carey et. al.)
48. Lucifer, vol. 11: Evensong (Mike Carey et. al.)
I’m just going to wrap these up at once – there’s a reason this series was so acclaimed. It’s a great story, with great characters, and excellent series resolution, although it manages not to resolve things quite as I had expected them to be resolved. ****

49. Embassytown (China Mieville)
Once again, Mieville does something completely different. A science fiction novel about – in part – linguistics? And yet, it works. Mieville has clearly really thought things out. He's so smart, he makes my head hurt sometimes. I really liked this book, actually, and the way it deals with a truly alien world and people. *****

50. The Door Into Sunset (Diane Duane)
Oh, I had quite forgotten the ridiculous wedding at the end of this! It's so great, and so charming and sweet. The only real downside to going back to this particular fondly-remembered series is that I am once again reminded that we still don't have the fourth book. Alas! *****

51. The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)
This is a light and fluffy read, but it’s quite charming all the same. There are very few surprises – I bet you can figure out most of the plot yourself if you read the jacket copy – but it’s still an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. ***

52. God's War: A New History of the Crusades (Christopher Tyerman)
This book is massive, and full of names and dates that I’m never in a million years going to retain. It’s well-written, though, and mostly doesn’t assume any historical expertise on the part of its readers, which is always a plus in a massive piece of non-fiction. ****

53. Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. (Susan Cain)
I didn’t realize when I picked this up that it has become a bit of a pop-culture phenomenon. It’s an interesting book, although I have to admit that I had to keep saying “what, that’s not obvious to everyone? Huh.” The discussion about how introverts need quieter working spaces is really making me dread my office’s impending move. ****

54. The Half-Made World (Felix Gilman)
Gilman’s a great writer, but I didn’t find I enjoyed this book as much as his previous works. I think it’s the weird-west setting that doesn’t work for me. I don’t have a lot of emotional investment in the American West as a concept, so something like this that’s playing with the concept doesn’t really resonate with me. Still, it’s a good story, and I do have the sequel on hold at the library, just so I can see what happens next.  ***

55. The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)
It has been a long time since I read this book. It's funny how re-reading a book, even when you don't remember any of the details at all, can feel so utterly like coming home. There's a reason this is something of a classic of childhood for fantasy-readers. It's got the classic fantasy structure, with a destined hero and magic and everything, but it's also got great characters and a word that really feels lived-in and full of history, something hardly anyone manages to do well. *****

56. The Hero and the Crown (Robin McKinley)
Aerin's Damar is a much more traditional fantasy kingdom than Hari's -- it's got dragons, and princesses, and gardens. It's interesting, then, that the book is, in a lot of ways, a more "mature" story -- morality is more complex in a lot of ways, and the emotional relationships are less straightforward. I admit to preferring Hari to Aerin, the the Blue Sword to the Hero and the Crown, but they're both legitimate classics, and that doesn't mean I'm complaining. *****

57-69. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket): The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, The Miserable Mill, The Austere Academy, The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, The Carnivorous Carnival, The Slippery Slope, The Grim Grotto, The Penultimate Peril, The End
For all that these are allegedly kid's books, they're definitely written with an adult audience in the back of the mind. The puns, the literary allusions, even the definitions of "unfamiliar" words -- are all hilarious, and liable to go over the heads of even the most well-read child. And yet, I think they would work for a kid, too. I enjoyed the story more and more over the course of the series -- the way it gradually evolves from an episodic structure to a genuine overarching mystery is very well handled, although things do get a little over-complicated towards the end of the series. ****

70. Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)
Oh, wow. This is an excellent book. It rips your heart out repeatedly, and does it brilliantly. I don't want to say much about it, because part of what makes it so effective is the reversals and revelations. It's about friendship, and courage, and what it means to do the right thing. Recommended. *****

71. River of Stars (Guy Gavriel Kay)
This is a good book, well-written and well-told, but it doesn't seem to have the same thrust of story that I'm used to looking for in Kay's work. Over time, he seems to have been bringing his fantasy worlds closer and closer to variants on real history, and in doing so he is finding himself more interested in a sense of faithfulness to events than in a traditional plot. This particuar book is probably best described as elegaiac, and it's lovely in that context, but I kept finding myself wanting the characters to stop mourning and reflecting and start taking active steps to make things better. ***

72. Redshirts (John Scalzi)
Meta book is meta. And then even more meta. It's cute, and clever, and I enjoyed it very much, but I don't feel I can say much about it without giving away the twists that make it fun to read. I will say that you pretty much have to be able to enjoy the silliness of so much television science fiction to enjoy this book -- it's building on the way we love Star Trek despite the fact that the science makes no sense at all, and it justified it, but you still have to accept it in the first place. ***

73. Discount Armageddon (Seanan McGuire)
This book is like candy: it's cute and sweet and funny and thoroughly enjoyable. The tone is a bit lighter than McGuire's Toby Daye series, which makes it a fun read -- almost a romp, monsters and violence notwithstanding. I admit I would never have picked this one up if it wasn't one of hers -- the cover just seems to telegraph a kind of story I would be unlikely to enjoy! (although it is justified by the text, to be totally fair) -- but I'm glad I did. ***

74. A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (Marie Brennan)
This is a lovely book, and it does a great job of living up to its title. Here is a world with dragons, who are treatest as interesting animals and objects of study for naturalists, and here is a lady naturalist (in the Victorian sense), who wants nothing more than to be able to study them. Of course she succeeds, and of course there are more difficulties than simply the rules of society. Our heroine is, perhaps, a little too much of a "remarkable woman," with a rather modern outlook on things that doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the world. The conceit of having her be an old woman writing her memoirs allows for quite a bit of leeway, though, and also is effective at allowing her to criticize some of the more problematic attitudes to other cultures you would expect to see in such a period. It's nicely done. My biggest complaint, really, is that I wanted more dragons, and was almost bored by the human antagonists because they were getting in the way of the dragons! I suspect Isabella would agree with me on that. ****

75. Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language (Douglas R. Hofstadter)
I really enjoyed Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach, but unfortunately, this book left me feeling much more "meh". I think it's that translation, language, and poetry are just a little too far outside Hofstadter's field of expertise, and as a result, his "intuitions" about the way they work are just not as convincing. There are bits of the book that are genuinely good and affecting, and it is in many places a lovely tribute to his late wife, but as a piece of scholarship, it just doesn't fly. And it's not just his excessive snarkiness about modern blank-verse poetry -- although that is awfully suggestive of the reality that he's out of his element here. Some of the translations are very nice, and it's certainly interesting to see the range of possible interpretations that his translation challenge evokes, but ultimately, I just wasn't sold on many of his arguments. **

76. Midnight Blue-Light Special (Seanan McGuire)
Another fun, quick read. The stakes are higher, but the tone is still light enough that I didn't ever really believe anything too horrible was going to happen to the characters I've already grown so fond of. ***

77. The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (Steven Pinker)
This is an interesting book. It doesn't contain any really profound revelations, but it doesn't really set out to, either -- it's really what it says on the tin: looking at the way people use language to understand the way people think. Pinker is an engaging writer, making for a good and surprisingly quick and easy read, with some interesting ideas and ways of looking at things that seem obvious. ****





1. The Door Into Shadow (Diane Duane) ****
2. Murder of Angels (Caitlín R. Kiernan) ****
3. An Artificial Night (Seanan McGuire) ****
4. It (Stephen King) ****
5. Bring Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel) ****
6. A Slight Trick of the Mind (Mitch Cullen) *
7. Late Eclipses (Seanan McGuire) ****
8. Busman's Honeymoon (Dorothy L. Sayers) *****
9. One Salt Sea (Seanan McGuire) ***
10. Ashes of Honor (Seanan McGuire) ***
11. Joseph Anton (Salman Rushdie) ***
12. Ash: A Secret History (Mary Gentle) ***
13. The Strain (Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan) ***
14. The Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie) ***
15. The Book of Negroes (Lawrence Hill) ****
16. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami) ***
17. The Killing Moon (N.K. Jemisen) *****
18. In Great Waters (Kit Whitfield) ****
19. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (Lois McMaster Bujold) ***
20. Divergent (Veronica Roth) ***
21. A Civil Contract (Georgette Heyer) **
22. Jack Cloudie (Stephen Hunt) ****
23. Insurgent (Veronica Roth) ***
24. The Fall (Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan) **
25. The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton) *
26. The Shadowed Sun (N. K. Jemisen) ****
27. Shattered Pillars (Elizabeth Bear) ****
28. From the Deep of the Dark (Stephen Hunt) ****
29. The Night Eternal (Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan) *
30. Zoo City (Lauren Beukes) ***
31. Cold Magic (Kate Elliott) ****
32. Finch (Jeff Vandermeer) ****
33. Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg) **
34. City of Saints and Madmen (Jeff Vandermeer) ****
35. Cold Fire (Kate Elliott) *****
36. The Windup Girl (Paolo Bacigalupi) ****
37. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman) *****
38. Soft Apocalypse (Will McIntosh) *****
39. Shriek: An Afterword (Jeff Vandermeer) ****
40. Gilgamesh (Stephen Mitchell)
41. Cold Steel (Kate Elliott) *****
42. The Best Laid Plans (Terry Fallis) ***

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