Posted on Leave a comment

Books read, late September

Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric’s Demon. Kindle. This is a novella in the Chalion universe. The Bastard is making his presence felt again. Unlike some of the other Bujold stuff in this universe, the characters don’t have the bite of experience to lend them interest–it’s a perfectly readable novella, but it’ll only scratch the setting itch here, not the character itch.

Joyce Chng, Xiao Xiao and the Dragon Pearl. Kindle. Kids’ book (MG novel) about an imperial family interacting with Chinese myth. There seems to be more coming, and I enjoyed this much, but note that a large portion of its very short length is taken up with recipes. Depending on what kid (if any) you’re dealing with, this may be part of the charm or a distraction.

Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown. One of the most charming books I’ve read all year. Delightful without being lightweight. Regency setting with non-white characters as were realistic for that era (rather than the unrealistic whitewashing we’re used to), romance plot without the fantasy being overbalanced by the romance aspect. Faerie aspects all their own, global politics of great interest. I immediately added this to potential Christmas shopping idea lists for half a dozen quite different people, who would enjoy it in their quite different ways. Highly recommended. Great fun.

Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations. I think this book was trying to do too much and too little. It was covering mostly “lost” countries in Europe, things that were countries that have now disappeared from the map, but while Burgundy, for example, is instructive to the modern mind–while there is plenty to say about how the current map is by no means eternal and inevitable–trying to cover modern Irish history or the collapse of the USSR in less than 100 pages each is a bit foolish even if you have a focus on the rise or fall of each. Davies’ two-volume history of Poland shows much better focus and is a better use of one’s time.

Peter Dickinson, A Summer in the Twenties. Kindle. Labor relations and railroads and the Roaring Twenties. And Peter Dickinson! This should really have been the ultimate book for me, but I ended up feeling pretty lukewarm about it, I think because the characters felt more like types than like people. I’d recommend almost any of Dickinson’s other historicals over this one.

Alyc Helms, The Dragons of Heaven. The superhero intro and cover copy were not at all the meat of this book, which was a lot of kung fu human/dragon family relations. It reminded me of Kylie Chan’s first trilogy, except that Alyc’s book had a beginning, a middle, and an end, all in one book. The superhero plot did eventually tie back in, but I had been hoping for more of it–maybe in a sequel? because even more integrated superhero and Chinese mythology stuff would be so great.

Reginald Hill, Dialogues of the Dead. Another of the Dalziel and Pascoe series, this one themed around a very nerdy referential word game. It’s only the first half of its story, so don’t make the mistake I did and pack to go out of town without the second half in your bag. Well. Soon.

Gwyneth Jones, Castles Made of Sand. Second in its series. Family formation overlaps with trying to keep a nation together overlaps with neurological implant…interest. And magic. This is sort of a kitchen sink series, but I love every bit of it. This volume, however, makes me writhe substantially throughout, for various reasons (not that I don’t love it!), and I probably should not read it away from home again. Do not start here. This is not a stand-alone.

Judy Jordan, Kallie Falandays, and Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, Floodgate Poetry Series Vol. 2. Discussed elsewhere.

Charles Kingsley, Sir Walter Raleigh and His Time. Kindle. This is why we shouldn’t read really old history as a reference. Everyone in this supposed work of nonfiction was Incredibly Noble For Sure. Even when they disagreed. Especially when they disagreed! Oh So Noble. I believe I was looking for a lot more Throckmortons when I downloaded this, but I download a great many things, so who knows; anyway, it was not greatly satisfying, and I do not really recommend it.

Alethea Kontis, Tales of Arilland. Kindle. Tie-in short stories and outtakes from her series. Some fun stuff, some stuff that’s probably best suited for the true fan.

Nicole Kornher-Stace, Archivist Wasp. Post-apocalyptic ghost-hunting book, vivid and interesting, in no way to do with archives or wasps. I tried not to be too disappointed about the lack of archives, because it really was a fun post-apocalyptic ghost-hunting book. (But wasps who archive! Sigh.)

Jodi Meadows, The Hidden Prince. Kindle. Novella that’s interstitial to the main books of her Orphan Queen series, basically promotional material for the true fan.

Ty Nolan, Coyote Still Going: Native American Legends and Contemporary Stories. Kindle. These legends and stories come with recipes and a great deal of context and exegesis. Particularly useful for non-Native writers, teachers, parents, etc. who want to think hard about how they are using/teaching cultural material not their own. Far-ranging. Entertaining. Not very long, though.

Hannu Rajaniemi, Collected Fiction. Somewhat variable. Unsurprisingly, the more Finnish it got, the better I liked it.

Ruth Rendell, The New Girl Friend. When my mother-in-law gave me this volume, she warned me that it was not a volume of murder mysteries but merely a volume of murder stories, and this is entirely true: there was no mystery about it. Someone was going to bash someone’s head in, and you could usually tell who. This…is not a favorite mode for me. It is labeled “suspense” on the cover, but I think that’s as a genre label for “things we call mystery that have no actual mystery to them”; there was certainly no emotion of suspense, nor even dread. Other Rendell is better.

Jonathan D. Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: the Chinese and Their Revolution and The Question of Hu. The former is a microhistory outside his period and definitely not where you want to start if you don’t have good knowledge of the Chinese Revolution(s). Interesting about three scholarly figures of those eras, if you do. The latter is about a translator/calligrapher hired for Westerners and shipped to France, and the problems of cross-cultural work, mental illness, and translation as a whole-body problem. Poor Hu. Oh dear. I’m glad it wasn’t much longer, because it was not much less upsetting than the Chinese Revolution(s).

Lynne Thomas and Michael D. Thomas, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 and  Issue 4. Kindle. Mostly I had read the contents of these online by the time I got to them on my Kindle–hard to know which direction that will go–but I had missed at least one really good thing that will go in my recs post next time. And it is nice to have them on my Kindle when airplane mode is required.

Helen Zimmern, The Hansa Towns. Kindle. A very old book–Germany was still finishing its unification–and it left out some of the things one would most want to know. For example, Zimmern wrote, “We cannot sully our pages by detailing the thirteen different ‘games’ or modes of martyrdom that were in use in Bergen. Our more civilized age could not tolerate the recital.” The hell we can’t! Sully away, lady! Still, stuff about the Hanseatic League is hard to come by, so we get what we can, even when it’s not as impure a recital as we might like.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *