various books

I’m clearing out my drafts for the new year; this is what I read but never wrote up. Some of these were rereads; others were from the library and will probably get an individual post upon a reread.

Lois McMaster Bujold: Paladin of Souls and Curse of Chalion, in that order. I was looking for a comfort read, and chose to reread Paladin of Souls; I ended up rereading The Curse of Chalion as well, mostly because I was curious about Foix and Ferda’s characterizations (Foix was the one listening at the door; otherwise they were Foix-and-Ferda). These are two of my favorite books for any number of reasons; I like Bujold’s writing style and the worldbuilding. I like most of the characters, and am interested in the ones I don’t like; (notably, Cattilara in Paladin is the type of character I usually dislike, but Bujold made her sympathetic). Both have a good mix of action (more in Paladin), political intrigue (more in Curse), and romance. They also have adult protagonists (Cazaril is 35, and Ista is 40) who have had difficult lives and who are given a second chance at happiness.


Liz Williams: Snake Agent and Demon in the City (reread)

These are her Inspector Chen novels, which are mystery/thriller/political intrigue type books at heart; they both start with murders which prove to be related to much larger schemes. The world itself has both science fiction and fantasy elements; the technology level (for the rich, at least) is very high, but Heaven and Hell and various gods exist (the Christian version exists somewhere, but is not relevant here.) Detective Inspector Chen is a member of the Singapore Three Franchise Police Department and often handles supernatural crime, and eventually ends up with a demon as an assistant. I received the third book for Christmas (Precious Dragon) and will do a full post once I’ve read it; more people should read these.


Sarah Monette: The Mirador

I had this from the library, and read it without rereading Mélusine and The Virtu and was occasionally confused; the large spoiler in the front flap did not help (it’s a spoiler for something in the first few pages). Felix and Mildmay are still having disfunctional lives, Mehitabel Parr is added as a viewpoint character (with a marginally more functional life). I think this is also part one of two; the pacing was a little off. It started very slowly, and then there was extreme amounts of action at the very end. Part of me wishes I had stopped after The Virtu; Felix and Mildmay are too messed up to be truely happy, but they had both found some measure of contentment there. I am currently expecting everyone to die at the end; I am doubting that both Felix and Mildmay will survive the series. I liked it well enough (Mélusine is still my favorite, though) and plan to buy it in the near future and will do a full review later (or I may reserve judgement on this one until after the next is released).


China Miéville: Un Lun Dun

At some point, I tried to read Perdido Street Station and ended up setting it aside to try again later; I liked the setting and was somewhat interested in the plot, but wasn’t interested enough to finish it (I think I didn’t like his writing style and wasn’t interested enough in the plot or characters to continue). I saw Un Lun Dun; it looked like exactly the sort of thing that I like, and was young adult (or lower) so I hoped the issues I had with his writing style would be minimized. This starts off as a “chosen one on a quest for plot coupons to save the world” type fantasy, but bends or breaks all of the tropes of that sort of fantasy. UnLunDun is created from the trash of London; the lead ends up with a milk carton as a pet, and there are buildings made from things like old record players. I adored this book and will buy it eventually; I’m going to wait to see the paperback, though, since it’s out later this month. If the illustrations are still there and look good, I’ll get that; otherwise I’ll get the hardback.


Matt Ruff: Bad Monkeys

I got this from the library; I was very surprised that they had a copy, and glad that that copy was at the nearest branch. I have all of his other books: Sewer, Gas & Electric is one of my favorite books; Fool on the Hill gave me severe college flashbacks; and I have Set This House in Order (and have since it was a new trade paperback), but have not yet read it. This starts with Dr. Vale, psychiatrist, interviewing Jane Charlotte, inmate of the psychiatric wing of the Las Vegas jail, about the murder of Mr. Dixon; she says it’s going to be a very long story. She claims to be a member of an unnamed vigilante organization that deals with people who avoid legal punishment; her particular section is the assassin’s section, codename “Bad Monkeys”. Mr. Dixon was not an official target. Each visit, her story changes slightly (due in part to Dr. Vale’s investigations about the previous part), until eventually the truth is revealed (maybe). She blames some of the inconsistencies on other parts of the organization changing history; they are apparently very close to omniscient (anything with eyes can be used for spying) and omnipotent. I liked Jane Charlotte more than I should have; she ought to be a completely unsympathetic character. I got this for Christmas and am looking forward to reading it for the details instead of hurrying through to see what happens next.


Georgette Heyer: Cotillion (reread)

Pure fluff! I had a library discard of this, but bought it again recently; it was reprinted (by someone other than Harlequin; my Waldenbooks had it in fiction instead of romance). Kitty is the ward of an elderly man; he will make her his heir if she marries one of his grand-nephews and he summons his nephews to tell them this. His favorite (and Kitty’s crush) is Jack, who is a bit of a rake. The other nephews are George (married), Hugh (a rector), Freddie (nothing special, of average intellect, rich, with a minor title), Dolph (a bit slow (on the verge of needing a keeper), poor but highest title), and Claude (in the military and in France, not there). Jack doesn’t show up, both Hugh and Dolph propose and are rejected; Kitty runs away, meets Freddy, and convinces him to participate in a fake betrothal with a trip to London to meet his parents. Once in London, there are measles, Freddy’s sister, Jack and Dolph, Kitty’s French cousin, and Olivia (a chance acquaintance of Kitty’s, also Jack’s intended mistress). This is one of my favorites of hers.


Diana Wynne Jones: The Pinhoe Egg (new) and Conrad’s Fate (reread)

These are both Chrestomanci novels; The Pinhoe Egg is set in Chrestomanci’s world, with other magic-users trying to avoid the Chrestomanci’s notice, and Conrad’s Fate is set in another universe with people trying to use power in inappropriate ways (and a lack of Chrestomanci himself). I liked Conrad’s Fate better than The Pinhoe Egg; I liked the latter, but found most of the characters unsympathetic.


Carol and Nobuo Akiyama: Barron’s Japanese Grammar (second edition)

I did actually read part of this and skimmed the rest; I was looking for an overview of Japanese grammar and ran across a mention of this online. I flipped through it at Borders, decided it looked useful and the price was right ($6.95) and bought it. It’s divided into sections by parts of speech, with a section at the end for things like numbers, dates, family members, common phrases, etc. There are tons of examples, most of which translate the relevant words individually and also convert them into proper English sentences. I like the way it’s laid out; I knew a lot of this anyway, but it helps to have the information in an organized format. It is definitely a beginner-level book; everything is romanized.

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