My friend Matt has Web pages listing the books he has read since 2004. I wanted to keep better track of what I read, so at the beginning of 2007, I started keeping a list here. For one thing, changing jobs at the end of 2007 meant I had lots more reading time than I used to, because I now have what amounts to a public transit commute.
The seventh of the Expanse novels. It's well-put-together and reasonably satisfying, except....I had questions. 1. You mean they have JAMES HOLDEN on the station and don't have enough information to know that they should immediately put him under lock and key? 2. Wait, it's been 25 years and there haven't been scientific advances that would let them get [character]'s medical issues under control? This was followed by "oh I see, you had to keep them unresolved for plot reasons? I could solve the whole plot issue for you without [incident] if only you'd asked." Sigh.
Mediocre. A young policewoman and the Oxford coroner collaborate to solve a current murder and resolve some questions about an older death. The writing isn't great; there are anachronisms (plastic bags in common use in England in 1955? Discussion of depression and anxiety?) and one plot point was practically shoved in your face. Ultimately, not all that interesting. I won't be reading the rest of this series.
The Bennets, Gardiners, Bingleys, and Darcys had servants, who are largely invisible in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. This most excellent novel brings them and their daily routines to life most wonderfully, weaving an entire story in parallel to what's going on upstairs.
Second novel by the author of the best-selling novel The Night Circus. This one has a wildly complex plot, in which the author is juggling maybe six or eight plotlines, not all of them satisfactorily executed. It's a book about books and stories, and the stories are nested like matryoshka dolls. I liked or loved most of the characters, especially Zachary Ezra Rawlins, who is at the center of the book, and loved the settings and the writing. I was also somewhat perplexed at the wild complexity and think that perhaps it should have been simplified somewhere during the revisions. Apparently she revised the manuscript three times, so...one wonders what it looked like before that There are lots of allusions, some explicit, some not quite, to other books, including specific mention of The Shadow of the Wind and The Little Stranger, and, well, it's hard to miss the general nod to Alice.
Quit because it???s bad: poorly written, poor world-building, poor character construction, fights that are almost right but not quite. The queer side of the story is also very flat.
The first volume in the 10-book Martin Beck series, the pioneering Swedish police procedurals. Apparently it was the first Scandinavian detective/mystery series where the detectives were seen in their normal lives, time passes, there's emphasis on procedure and character development. They were published from 1965 to 1975, and to some extent they show their age, in stereotypes of various kinds, in adult women with children referred to as girls, in other ways. It's not surprising that telegrams, printed photos, and pay phones figure in the book, considering when it was written. It's pretty good, fairly straightforward without being particularly exciting, the characters are well-drawn although I'm not that convinced by the bad guy. I might intersperse the whole series with other books I read. I'm also thinking of re-reading the Inspector van der Valk series, by Nicolas Freeling, which I adored when I read it in the 1970s and 80s.
Charming and well-written romance involving two young women, one with Indian immigrant parents, one visiting from India. The book handles consent especially well.
The eighth and next-to-last of The Expanse, with the presume-last book slated to be published this year. A lot of interesting things happen. Noting that the authors are (again) killing off people you care about.
Memoir by a Black doctor (ER doc, in this case), touching on her childhood, the breakup of her marriage, work challenge, and what she learns as a doctor, yoga practitioner, and thoughtful person, about how people break, spiritually, and how they heal. I expect Dr. Harper is a really good physician; she certainly is self-aware, smart, and comppassionate.
The latest Laundry Files novel even though Bob Howard isn't involved and neither is his organization. This is the start of a new area in that world, though. A magical family, a book you really shouldn't touch, and all of the people who want to get their hands on it.
I wonder if I finished a different book between Feb. 24 and now, although this book did go fairly slowly. Unlike French's previous books, this isn't set in Dublin and isn't a Dublin Murder Squad book. It's about an American, Cal Hooper, former Chicago cop, who settles in a small town in rural Ireland, folllowing retirement and the breakup of his marriage, which he is baffled about. There's a kid who needs help, and, somewhat against his better judgement. Cal provides it, and finds deep waters in town. It's excellently written, meditative, and quite a book.
Imagine a world where the Wars of the Roses didn't....quite...end, and you'll have the Unified (not United) Kingdom of this novel. A world where there is a lot of mistrust between the Yorkist North and the Lancastrian South, and the genes of Anne Boleyn are visible in her royal descendents. That's where you are at the start of A Queen from the North, where Lady Amelia literally runs into Crown Prince Arthur at the races. Complications ensue.
I liked this book a lot; the writing is excellent and the characters, diverse along several axes, are strongly drawn. As usual, many complications could be avoided if people would only talk to each other! I also don't buy that the Crown Prince's mother simply disappears half-way or so into the book with not a word to Amelia, the viewpoint character. But whatever! It was very satisfying and I can hope that there will be more books in this series - this was published in 2017....
A very short novel about a nameless mother, father, child, and also the child who wasn't, owing to serious genetic issues discovered during a pregnancy. Heartfelt and quiet.
A meditative and very beautifully written short memoir, started at a time when the author's husband was ill enough to be hospitalized and when she was on the verge of leaving a job. She focusses on the idea of wintering, of living through, suriviving, and embracing all that we can learn from winter, the season of snow, of hibernation, of extremely cold water. Really, I loved this enough to want to visit very cold places during the winter.
Dani Shapiro, author of this memoir, is the only child of her father's third marriage. She's 54 when her half-sister from her father's first marriage gets an Ancestry.com DNA test, and Shapiro and her husband, on a lark, do the same. When the results arrive, it turns out that Shapiro and her sister are not related. Thus begins not only her efforts to discover how this could be, but a meditation on her identity and the nature of self-knowledge. Shapiro is an excellent writer, and was by the time this happened an accomplished memoirist, for reasons you learn more about in the course of Inheritance.
If you had spent as much time packing up your house as I have recently, it would have taken you three weeks to get through this slim volume too. A somewhat twisted noir-ish novel of blackmail and other crimes, set in Los Angeles (of course). The mysterious Lady Upstairs runs a business based on blackmailing powerful men; working for her are Lou, Jo, and Jackal. Things....might go wrong from time to time.
Young adult novel about a group of just-adolescent girls attending a private school in Sea Cliff, San Francisco, around 1984. The viewpoint character, Eulabee, isn't wealthy like her peers, and she is also sharper and more perceptive in various ways. Her closest friend, Maria Fabiola, is a charismatic beauty who enthralls everyone. I loved this book, which seems to be right on about the interpersonal dynamics among the girls, their parents, their teachers, their world.
Superb novel about what a marriage is like; the viewpoint characters are Graham, his first wife Frieda, their son Lucas, his second wife, Anne, and their daughter Sarah. Your relationships with people can change even after they're gone.
Short and brutal novella set in a violent world, though I think there is a good ending.
Long, involved space opera that the author descrbes as Alexander the Great in space with gender switching. Princess Sun is the hot-headed daughter and heir of Queen Marshal Eirene, and if you think you have family problems, you really need to read this book. Superb.
The second Martin Beck mystery. A Swedish journalist goes missing, Beck follows him to Budapest. Complications ensue. Considering that Beck is the viewpoint character, he is surprisingly blank.
A Murderbot novel, perhaps the first of several! A kidnapping, the return of SecUnit's friend ART, and a number of mysteries. A most excellent continuation of the Murderbot's journey of self-discovery and maturity as a not-quite-human sentient being.
The third Martin Beck novel. A serial killer is loose in Stockholm. A very fine novel, with Beck's personality coming more to the fore and more detail about his colleagues.
Sister and brother Marianne and Robin arrive in London at some point during the Regency era, and thanks to their charm, wit, intelligence, and looks, soon ingratiate themselves into London Society. But can they manage to wed wealthy aristocrats before their secrets come out? An entertaining, well-plotted, and sexy romance.
A hilarious and very wry novel taking place in the 19th and 21st centuries. At the center of the story is a never-completed English dictionary, where the same family has been in charge since the beginning. In modern times, it's down to one employee, a young and shy lesbian in the third year of a paid internship. She discovers that there are numerous fake words and definitions worked into the dictionary, and starts to investigate. In the 19th c., well, I hestiate to say much about just how the fakes made into Swan's.
The second book in the Teixcalaan series, a masterly continuation set a few months after the events of A Memory Called Empire. I love these books so much; the carefully-drawn cultures (and cultures within a culture), the characters, the plotting. Three Seagrass and Mahit Dzmare are back; Eight Antidote, the eleven-year-old heir to the Empire, has a large role. New to the story are various military people, of whom I especially love Twenty Cicada, and bureaucrats, as well as a very alien species of ppeople.
The third, an apparently last, of the Will Darling Adventures (sob). Family troubles, a murder, Kim's awful blood relations, everyone else's chosen family. I figured out the Who and also it seems that I long ago figured out another plot point. The conclusions are quite satisfactory, and I hope that there will be more even though this is supposed to be the last of these books.
Third in the author's queer Feminine Pursuits romance series. Not actually as good as the first two but fun anyway. Romance/heist between a weaver and a pianist. I'm extremely annoyed that the main characters on the cover are the same height and skinny. One is definitely taller than the other and the shorter is described as "round" in a positive way. Also, one of them is a redhead. It's not that hard for cover artists to get this kind of thing right.
The fourth and last of the Wayfarers books is so ernest that I was tempted to throw it across the room when I realized how the plot was set up, but it was on my e-reader, which I didn't want to break. I love the characters and how they intereact -- MOSTLY -- but the kumbaya ending is just a bit too much for me.
After a bit more thought, let me post a GIANT SPOILER WARNING and say more.
The way she wraps up Pei's situation is REALLY A PROBLEM. She's extremely heavy-handed about how we all have and should value bodily autonomy, but really??? The way she presents the reproductive option open to Pei makes it sound really nice! A short gestational period, weeks of FUN and being TAKEN CARE OF, and then, possibly best of all, you don't have to raise the resulting child yourself. It is not in any way comparable to a human pregnancy, where you're pregnant for nine months, you could die from pregnancy or childbirth complications, if you're in a heterosexual relationship there's a very good chance that you don't get any kind of break or special caretaking from your husband, and then you will be the primary person responsible for it for like the next TWENTY YEARS or at least until Junior becomes fun for dad to play baseball with. It only took me about twenty minutes to figure this out. Didn't any of Chambers' readers OR HER EDITOR notice this????
Science fiction mystery/thriller. An AI researcher is now working security on an asteroid because she is so deeply in debt for medical care following a disaster that ended her career. A communication from a former colleague sets her off on a search for The Truth. Pretty good, though I was left with a lingering question about why one character never developed language.
Honestly bad. Convoluted plotting, some of it not at all credible, revolving around the murders of four teenagers at a summer camp 20 years before the action in the book.
The long gap is because of a slightly draggy book that I hadn't quite finished before accidentally returning it to the library. ANYWAY, Fugitive Telemetry is the most-recently-published Murderbot book (novella?), and it is typically weird and delightful.
A complicated novel involving a world where the French won at Trafalgar and afterward conquered Great Britain. There???s a city called Londres where French is spoken, for example. There is also a portal open between 1805 and 1897 (or so), and most of the complexity involves what happens when, not to mention major questions of identity. I started reading it in early July some time and it was something of a slog for the first half. I managed to overrun the period I had to read it in, then had to take it out of the library again. Pretty good, not great.
Sigh. A popular book club book right now, it's an overly earnest young adult version of Life After Life, except that Kate Atkinson is a far more subtle and interesting writer. Alternatively, you could think of this as "There's no place like home!" writ large.
A thoroughly preposterous thriller that is either badly written in the original German or badly translated or both. It ranged from the ridiculous to the unbelievable to the mawkish and wasn't good in any of these...moods? I read a good review of it and took it out of the library, so it was FREE, but I won't be reading any other books by this author.
This is a lovely book and something of a hybrid. It's a personal memoir and journey of discovery wrapped around a brief and riveting biography of David Starr Jordan, who was many things, some of them good, some very bad. He was the first president of Stanford, an important icthyologist, and a eugenicist. He made significant contributions to human knowledge and helped pass laws that injured tens or hundreds of thousands of people. Miller has such a strong and charming voice that it's as if she is in the room reading to you. Highly recommended, and yes - you do eventually learn why fish don't exist.
Oh, this is so very ernest and conflict-free, except for some mild internal conflict in the viewpoint character. The first in a new series, Monk & Robot. Maybe the monk and robot become sidekicks? Will I continue to read her? Only time will tell!
Delicious Regency romance between a man and a woman who've known each other since their teen years, with political and other complications.
Set in a world where superheroes and supervillains are real, but the heroes leave a trail of disster and ruin behind them as much as the villains. The viewpoint character, Anna Tromedlov, might have some superpowers, but the puberty-age scans found nothing. She's basically a data miner, and through various twists and turns she winds up working for a supervillain....and various things happen. Fast-moving, violent, clever, a fun read.
Weird that two thrillers I've read have similar plots (something bad happening on a plane, something bad happening to a passenger's family on the ground); I must have gotten both recommendations from the same review. Big difference, though: Mackintosh can really write. I mean, there are some twists and improbabilities in Hostage, but it is so muuch better than Seat 7A!
Some of the backstory of The Duchess War, that is, how the parents of Oliver Marshall, brother of the Duke of Clermont, met. Novella.
Oliver Marshall advances his career...will he also find love?
Anya von Bremzen grew up in the Soviet Union, leaving with her mother when she was around 14. Despite the title, this is a memoir, not a cookbook, of food, family, and life in the Soviet Union, as seen through its food and cooking, over the course of a century. It is fabulously written, hilarious and poignant by turns. There ARE a few recipes in an appendix, some of which are for demonstration purposes only, because who would want to eat them? But others are for real and look excellent.
The next of the Brothers Sinister series; Sebastian lets go of his work as a front, Violet comes to the fore, Benedict accepts how things are.
Dr. Greta Helsing's friends and patients include vampires, banshees, ghouls, weres, and other monsters living in modern London. An entertaining riff on Bram Stoker's Dracula, first in a series.
The viewpoint character is Sister Johanna, who has been a nun for many years. A central figure in her life is Halla, her roommate when both studied at the Sorbonne; another is now-Cardinal Raffin, a manipulative climber. When she was younger, Raffin sent her to Iceland to investigate (or suppress)...allegations. Now she has been sent back again. (A few days after finishing this, I can't help but think that the author should have tortured Sister Johanna less, through her own indeciveness.)
Past-middle-ages lesbians in 19th c. London.
The further adventures, and there are many, of Oliver Marshall's younger sister Free, now a Girton College graduate and editor/publisher of a women's newspaper.
This mystery novel wrapped in a fantasy novel, or maybe it's the other way around, is written with such confidence and skill that I can hardly believe it's a first novel. It is astonishing; strongly plotted and paced, full of unforgettable and boldly drawn characters, and EXTREMELY INTENSE. The first 75 pages are confusing and comparatively slow-moving, but stick with it and you will have no regrets. The book takes quite a while to unfold and to introduce the important characters, which would be all of them, and it takes even longer to understand exactly what is going on.
Short stories from the author of the Old Filth novels. A couple include characters from that world, most do not. Stories of varying quality, though there is always some charm or wit to each.
The next in the Chronicles of St. Mary's series. As you might guess, LOTS can go wrong, and it does. Introduces some new Historians, who are a fine lot, and answers an old question.
I was genuinely shocked at how poorly written this is. This novella feels like the outline of a longer and more complicated book.
It's about a school for children who have found a doorway to another world, a world where they feel they BELONG, but somehow they are back in the "real world." There's no sense of just how big the school is and how many children there are; my sense of this changed completely by the end of the book. Its history is overly vague. Viewpoint transitions are badly handled to the point where there isn't always a transition at all, just an abrupt shift; characters are where they shouldn't be and behave in ways that seem inexplicable even within the fantastic context; there's not nearly enough background. The characters mostly felt badly underdeveloped.
The first novel by Arkady Martine, who is actually a historian/urban planner named AnnaLinden Weller. It's a big book, first of a trilogy, involving interstellar diplomacy, empire, the clash of cultures, the notion of empire. There's a complicated mystery at the heart of the book: what happened to a young diplomat's predecessor, and why? Exceptional book, now a Nebula nominee. (Parenthentically, Martine is married to Vivian Shaw, whose first Greta Helsing book I liked so much.)
Novella. It is definitely about a monster, and also about the horrifying history of the town where he lives and the personal history of someone he...becomes close to. It is rather gothic and written in perhaps overly florid prose. I did not much like it - it is not intended to be likeable - but a quick read, so I finished it. It's rather giving me shudders.
Greta Helsing attends a conference in Paris and disappears; complications ensue. The Palais Garnier plays a surprising role in the proceedings, and so do remedial psychopomps, a werewold, and several old friends
Greta Helsing temporarily fills in for a friend at a mummy health & medical spa; meanwhile, in NYC, a wealthy woman / amatuer Egyptologist and a couple of angels from another world start to upset things. A most excellent continuation of the previous two books, as friendships and love relationships develop. The series could reasonably end here or could continue!
The fifth of the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series. Suspicious happenings in a town outside London.
The sixth Peter Grant/Rivers of London book. Lady Ty's daughter gets into a scrape and she calls in a favor....which doesn't work out quite the way she had thought. We learn of an alternate magic tradition; the Faceless Man is a factor in the book.
Presumably the final Murderbot novella, but Network Effect, a Murderbot novel, comings out on May 5! In any event, it is wonderfu: Murderbot, the rogue SecUnit, needs to extract his former owner from a dangerous situation. The Murderbot's unintentionally droll takes on human behavior and burgeoning, uncomfortable, human-like emotions, are a great pleasure in this series.
Sherlock Holmes meets Lovecraft meets Bierce meets Chambers meets Steampunk meets queer, and to me it's all a bit much and doesn't work all that well. The basic plot is laid out decently and resolves in a Holmesian way. But the whole thing seems much too long and langerous, especially considering how much incident there is. The viewpoint character, John Wyndham (Watson), is much too prissy and the running not-quite-joke of his prissiness gets old very fast. Either there are points made early on that the author just never acted on or there will be sequels. I think it's back to Lady Sherlock for me.
Kennicott, the art and architecture critic of the Washington Post, is also a musician and has written insightful journalism about music. His mother was a deeply unhappy, probably clinically depressed, definitely disappointed, woman, who wanted a life in music or medicine, and instead married young and was a housewife. She and Kennicott had a relationship that was unhappy in many ways. As she was dying, Kennicott was fixated on the Bach Chaconne for solo violin, and after she died, he set himself to learn the Goldberg Variations, a great monument of the piano and musical literature. This memoir is the result. He's a beautiful writer, about his life and about Bach the man and Bach the composer, and about his own relationship with the Goldberg variations. Highly recommended.
This book is Scalzi's first novel, a book he wrote as a test to see whether he could write fiction. He didn't look for a publisher, but eventually sold it on his web site for a small contribution. He made $4,000 from this and figured that was cool. Then an editor asked if he could publish it and it's been in print ever since. It is funny, wry, and moves at a more leisurely pace, especially in the first 2/3 or so, than most of his books, to th point that I wish he'd write more books with this pacing.
The premise gives away a bit of the plot, but I think it doesn't much matter: an alien race that's been observing Earth for some years would like to make friends, but there are two problems. One, they look like a heap of goo. Two, they smell bad. To overcome this....well, read it and you'll see.
Novella set in the Charm of Magpies world. Queer, magic, 19th c. London.
Suspense/thriller. "Anne Stevenson" was the pen name of the mother of one of my favorite people on Twitter; Stevenson's books appear long out of print in the US - my local library had no copies - so I picked up a couple. This book was fun to read, for the complexity of the underlying plot (I am sure I missed a lot of nuance, because a lot happens), the art historical aspects, the driving to and fro from Rome to Perugia to Florence, and the glimpses of Italian life in the 1970s.
The seventh Rivers of London book. We meet another river, bells are important (which you might guess from the cover), Leslie and the Faceless Man are back with more mayhem. Of course I immediately put a hold on the eighth book at the library.
Long novella in the same world as Rivers of London, but set in Germany, featuring police practitioner Tobias Winter and some long history. I hope there will be more of these!
The third and last of the Interdependency trilogy, or, as Scalzi says, the first time he intended to write a trilogy. Well, it's a disappointment! As he also says, he wrote this book in way less time than he should have, putting a lot of pressure on his editors and copy-editors, and it shows. I winced multiple times over bad preposition choices, which I think must have been a matter of haste in both writing and copy editing. Worse, the plot seems a little too skeletal, with too much of Kiva cursing and Nadashe plotting, and not enough of the Cardenia-Marce romance and other areas that could have been better developed. Some of the twists and surprises are both weirdly unprepared ("I have to do SOMETHING here!") and gosh-I-could-see-that-one-coming.
It's particularly disappointing to read this immediately after Agent to the Stars, which, as I noted, has more leisurely pacing, considerable charm, and real people. This book could have been so much better. So here's hoping that the outside world improves enough at some point to improve Scalzi's writing habits, resulting in better books.
A Peter Grant novella, involving a kidnapping, ghosts, and the London Underground. Not one of the best, but amusing nonetheless.
A novella outside the universe that Chambers has established in her three novels. I liked this, but hoo boy I am deeply unhappy with the ending, which I thought totally out of character with the characters in the novella. Yes, I'm glaring about this.
A retelling of the Bluebeard story, more or less, but it is not only terrifying - it's funny and kind and full of fascinating women.
First in a new spy series/romance series, set in 1920s London and lots of fun.
A magical Regency romance, sort of. Zacharias Wythe, a Black man, is the new sorerer to the Crown, owing to the demise of his mentor and teacher, Sir Stephen Wythe. Surprise: the white thaumaturgists would like to see him gone from that post. Enter Prunella Gentleman, a talented magician in a world where women just don't do magic. A most excellent fantasy/historical novel/romance!
First of a series of crime novels featuring cold cases and the detective Carl Morck, who, after a professional tragedy, is put in charge of the newly-established Department Q. He has an assistant who knows more about police work than she should, given the position he has been hired for. Okay, but too long for the plot and gracelessly written (or translated), plus, no, I don't need more Nesbo-style torture of victims.
A delightful epistolary novel. A late-middle aged farm wife writes to the author of a book she first read as a child, about a bog man in Denmark. The author is dead, but a curator at the museum where the bog man is on display writes back. A wonderful correspondence ensues.
Historical mystery, first of a series, set in Ediburgh in 1880, if I've got that right, starring a policeman who is loosely based on a real 19th century detective. Eh. Okay, not great, pacing a little odd, writing on the flat side.
A novel in fragments, glimpses, vignettes, of a marriage that hits a crisis point. A lovely book!
Novelette set in a fictional, scary London of 1870, based on Sweeny Todd.
I became aware of this book through a NY Times review and put a hold on the ebook at my library. The premise is that a killer seems to be on the loose in New England...and the killings appear to be modeled on those in a list of classic mysteries published on a mystery bookstore blog as representing perfect murders. Are they connected? Do they connect to the bookstore owner, Malcolm Kershaw? The book is....very clever, perhaps trying too hard for cleverness. I figured out a couple of plot points before they were revealed, perhaps out of a certain...suspicion over the cleverness of the plot and a sense that the surface was missing something. Good, not great.
The most recently-published Peter Grant / Rivers of London book, complicated and fun. Peter has gone undercover to infiltrate a high-tech company whose CEO/owner may have done something bad with regard to Falcon assets. My only regret is that I will have to WAIT a year or more for the next of these to be written or published. Also, who knew that SRE could mean Software Reliability Engineer/Engineering? At Google, it's always Site Reliability Engineer/Engineering.
A type of book I usually like, but Dr. David isn't a very compelling writer. I've read maybe 2/3 of it and I don't need to read more.
Set in the same world - loosely speaking, Regency England - as Sourcerer to the Crown, with many of the same characters. Two young women wake up on a beach in Janda Baik, with no memories. Mak Genggang points them toward the Sourceress Royal, and thus begins quite a journey, which becomes exceptionally complicated when they're separated, one of them getting lost in Fairy, the other reaching England. Delicious in many, many ways.
The second book in the giant Expanse series, and it's a humdinger. I raced through its approximately 900 pages pretty fast. The story moves quickly, and this time there are really great female characters: Naomi Nagata, whom we met in Leviathan Wakes, the diplomat Chrisjen Avasarala, and the Marine Bobbie ("Don't call me Roberta") Draper.
This continues the story of the protomolecule that we met in the previous book, and moves its sphere of influence into the moons of Jupiter. Lots of other good stuff, as this is now not only space opera, but diplomatic SF.
Three days is about the fastest I have ever zipped through an 800-page book. I am thoroughly hooked. At the close of Caliban's War, Venus had ejected an enormous object that made its way to the edge of the solar system, called the Ring. At the openings of Abaddon's Gate, a foolish thrill-seeker sends a tiny ship, with himself inside, into the Ring. Complications ensue, involving people we've met before (the Roci's crew), people related to people we've met before (Miller), and a new cast of most excellent characters, basically trying to save the Universe.
My one complaint might be that a particular turn of events was entirely foreseeable and I only half-believe would not have been prevented.
The last of the very charming Brothers Sinister romance series. Novella length and very sweet indeed!
One of the Hugo nominees this year. I basically liked it, with some mixed feelings. I think the author works out some of the central plotting very well, both about Locke and his people and January, her father, and their various people. I ultimately liked the explanation of the doors. But I think the book is too short and needed more time, space, and pages to fully work out the remaining open questions.
The fourthe Expanse book. Seriously amazed that anyone survived, also that Avasarala didn't more accurately gauge what was going to happen.
Short stories, and a couple of short-shorts that he calls Moments, from the world of Rivers of London. Charming enough! Also, I learned that I need to read the graphic novels. Be warned that there appears to have been a production error in one of the stories, where Peter knocks at a door, you turn the page, and you see the beginning of a new story.
Gripping, harrowing non-fiction, about a family with 12 children, of whom 6 of the 10 boys develop schizophrenia. The parents were not really equipped to raise 12 children, let alone 12 children half of whom have a serious mental illness. Their story is central, but in parallel, the author tells the history of schizophrenia as an illness and of its treatment, from the late 19th c. to the present. It's a tiny side note, but the Lieber Institute at Johns Hopkins was started by relatives of mine, on my maternal grandmother's side of the family.
Regency era lesbian romance, with bees and printing. Light fun and refreshing after Hidden Valley Road, from the author of the wonderful Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics.
The second Invisible Library book. I feel about the way I felt about the first: the writing is competent, but given the combination of ongoing plot aspects, I wish it sparkled more. I want to be transported among the books....and this one isn't really about books. Not only that, but The Language isn't very magical and seems to be a sort of deus ex machina that be called up for rescue in otherwise hopeless situations. Not sure whether I will read any more.
Holy cow! A page-turner of a novel, combining a mystery (dead woman mysterously mutilated, found in a library), magic, a boarding school, and a complicated family relationship, from th point of view of a hard-boiled detective whose antecedents you'll probably recognize. First-class, highly recommended.
Billed as a steampunk novel and set around 1889 in London, this is both steampunk and a romance, or looks to be developing that way. It's also the first in a series, about an 18-year-old noblewoman with aspirations toward being a scientist, whose family is having financial problems at the beginning of the book, and winds up in worse straits than that. Steam runs cars (landaus) and also what sounds like a gigantic pneumatic tube system for house to house mail delivery, but some kind of perpetual motion machine also runs what's called a mother's helper, which is, well, a Roomba of sorts.
I wonder about some details, such as use of "corn" rather than "maize" for that thing with kernels on a cob, and also about whether at that time you would have gone to Fortnum & Mason for children's clothing.
In any event, the story is amusing and so are the waifs whom our heroine winds up caring for. I enjoyed the book enough that I picked up more in the series just to see the character and plot development.
Okay, I'll just collapse books 2, 3, and 4 of this series here, to say that Claire, the Lady of Devices, brilliant incipient engineer, noble down on her luck, does well by herself and by the ragged children whose guardian she becomes in the first book. She gets into scrapes, aand gets out of them through her own ingenuity and that of her wards; she breaks into Bedlam, she meets famous people, she makes many friends, solves problems, finds love.
The steampunk world she's in IS a bit distorted; Tetrazzini and Caruso are in San Francisco in the 1880s (Caruso was a teen at the time, not a world-famous singer). It's weird to me that the author has given the world amazing advances in science but they don't have telephones, also. Telephony was seriously in the air in the 1870s and 1880s!
Nonetheless, enjoyable books, and likely I'll burn through the whole now-10-book series eventually.
I somehow missed this book when it was published in English in 2004, which is a little surprising because it is just my kind of book. It's about books, it's about the terrible things that happen in wartime, and it's a great big mystery wrapped inside an enigma, etc. Intertwined stories, somewhat parallel and set over decades, it starts in the Cemetary of Forgotten Books and goes on a wild ride from there, concerning a vanished writer named Julian Carax and his novel, The Shadow of the Wind. I heard about it when its author died earlier this year, too young, and now I will have to read all of his books.
The first of the Rivers of London graphic novels. Thank goodness several of the characters look the way I figured they would look, excepting Peter! who is much more buttoned down than my internal idea. I can live with that. Weirdly, the copy about this book in Aaronovitch's list of the order of the books does not actually describe what is in it. Plenty of fun, though!
The second of the Will Darling / Kim Secretan romance / espionage books. More of Maisie aand Phoebe and a bunch of others. Lots of fun!
I bought this book before I realized that there is controversy over the author's identity, cultural appropriation, and whether she has the right to be writing fiction involving the Navajo / Din?? people. I am sorry not to have investigated further and kind of regret having read it.
Novel centered around Thea Kronborg, child of Swedish immigrants, who grows up in Colorado about an hour from Denver. She is musically talented and her parents make sure she has piano lessons, from a faded German musician who has drinking and other problems. She doesn't have much in the way of friends among her peers, though there are rivalries; she does have a large family and a loving, perceptive mother. Her closest friends are adults, including Ray Kennedy, a railway man who adores her, and Dr. Howard Archie, unhappily married and 20 years or more her senior. Eventually, she moves to Chicago to study with a far better piano teacher, who discovers that she has a voice. Singing lessons, and eventually a career, ensue.
This is a famous novel by a well-known author, and it's partially based on the life of Olive Fremstad, a famed soprano active at the Met from about 1903 to 1914. Cather was a music critic at one time in her life, sharp and perceptive in her observations, and gets all of the musical and operatic details right. However, as a novel, it's very much a mixed bag. Thea's relationships with others and herself are done well and there are lovely observations about life in the high desert.
But the book is also deeply flawed. Cather builds her plot to a particular possibility, concealing certain facts from Thea but not you, then yanks the rug out from under you and jumps 10 years into the future, leaving all details about what happened with the possibility unexplored. We see Thea and the two primary male characters in NYC in that ten-years-later period, briefly. Then there's an epilogue, and some things have happened, but they are unexplained, although certain events are implied. This wasn't Cather's first novel, and this must have been deliberate, but oh boy, I am so curious about why she made some of these choices.
In addition, none of the discussions of the book that I've seen mention the casual racism, toward Black people, Native Americans, Mexicans, and Jewish people, even in Alex Ross's Wagnerism. There is some stereotyping of Swedish and German people as well. I'm....kind of shocked that nobody mentions this.
Extremely amusing caper novella involving several rogues in a world where hippos are farmed for meat and as domesticated transportation.
Wraps up the story that starts in River of Teeth. I liked these two books a lot; I thought Magic for Liars was great; looking forward to reading the rest of Gailey's other books.
A very silly mystery set in a fictional Oxford college, Warlock College, where the vice-chancellor is found dead on the chapel roof with a knofe in his back. Many entertaining elements and probably quite funny when read aloud by the right actor; also fun to read.
This book seems too long for the premise, the premise seems extremely improbable, and the revenge isn't nearly as revengeful as it ought to be. Meh.
This spy novel/thriller was the basis of a Robert Redford film called Three Days of the Condor, which also starred Max von Sydow and Faye Dunaway. Looking at the plot of the movie, the scriptwriter changed a lot, perhaps unnecessarily. Redford and Dunaway certainly make a flashier and more glamorous couple than the leads in the book.
In any event, it's about a backwater CIA researcher who survives a hit on the tiny branch he's in that leaves everyone else dead, so he goes on the run. There's a mole, we learn very early The book is...okay. It's short, an easy read with some entertaining, and probably no longer accurate, background about the agency. I like the comparatively ordinary schlub who is at the center of the story, who is a great improviser. (I'm certainly he looks nothing like the unbelievably handsome Robert Redford of the 1970s.) This is the first in a series of books that ran into the 2010s, but I don't think I'll be reading the rest.
Fun and sometimes charming novella set in an alternate Cairo, one in which Egypt c. 1900 or so has become a world power again owing to the introduction of advanced technology owing to supernatural beings. A djinn is dead under suspicious circumstances and a queer-inflected woman, Fatma el-Sha???arawi, who is a government investigator, is in charge of figuring out what happened. I liked this a great deal, better than The Haunting of Tram Car 015M, and look forward to reading more of the author's work.
Oy. Story of a lesbian minor noblewoman who has served as a horse vet in WWI, returning to the UK and escorting her superior officer's horse back to him. She discovers that his household is extremely troubled and promptly falls in love with his eldest daughter. Complications ensue. Honestly, the basic love story is not quite believable; the sex is badly written (maybe I'm alone in thinking that "scream" is basically negative and you should use some other word describe verbal responses) and should probably be more fumbling; there are too too many anachronisms in how people talk to each other; there's not nearly enough misery and weeping and wailing when [bad thing happens]. Oh, well.
I read the NY Times review of this book a few weeks ago and immediately reserved it at the public library. Now I wish I'd bought a copy, just so I could lend it out. I'll be trying to force it on people, left and right.
Yes, it's about American grocery stories, with an initial focus on Joe Coulombe and Trader Joe's, because TJ's, during its earlier years, worked contrary to every other grocery store. After it was purchased by the German ALDI grocery corporation, not so much, although it does still seem to treat its employees more like people, less like replaceable cogs in a machine. The author contrasts TJ's with Whole Foods, which - guess what? - has changed, and not for the better, since being acquired by Amazon.
You get a pocket history of how the grocery store came to be. It's a very American institution - on my first trip to France, in 1979, Parisians were still shopping in small, specialized neighborhood stores.
Lorr gets into how products get to the shelves via several special areas: the truck drivers who move products around the country, a condiment called Slawsa, made up of cabbage and salsa, which has quite a history, and shrimp. The story of Slawsa tells you a lot about how very difficult it is to take a product from a family kitchen to a grocery's shelves, and why, and what happens to that family recipe when it's produced in large quantities.
The trucking story is fascinating and mostly extremely sad. If you already hate deregulation, well, this will give you a chance to hate St. Jimmy Carter, whose administration deregulated trucking. Truckers have truly terrible lives and are more or less married to their trucks.
Lastly, by the time you're done with this book, you'll be seriously wondering whether you should stop shopping in grocery stores altogether. The shrimp story is completely appalling and not at all a secret, though Lorr manages to get very close to the Thai shrimp fishing industry. Basically, what you learn is that there is so much unethical and downright criminal behavior in the production of food that unless you're buying pretty directly from the producers, you have absolutely no idea how it got from production to your refrigerator. If you're buying your fruits and vegetables from farmers markets or community supporter agriculture, and your dairy and meat, poulty, or fish very locally, you might be okay.
But this isn't the case in the most of the US. If you're inland, you might or might not have access to freshly caught fish. (I live a few miles from the Pacific.) If you're in Maine, you don't have the year-round growing season we have in California (I have a lemon tree in my yard!), and the citizens of Maine should be able to get oranges in February. Locally grown and processed chicken and beef is expensive and simply out of reach of most people.
I zipped through The Secret Life of Groceries for several reasons: it's a great story, the book is short, and Benjamin Lorr is a terrific writer. He's eloquent, personally involved, can turn a phrase beautifully, is sometimes very, very funny, and almost always wryly witty. I don't have a huge interest in yoga (Pilates is more my style), but his book on Bikram yoga sounds fascinating, so....it's on my list.
The subtitle says it all: Memoirs of Neurotic Filmmaker. The stories about how he became a filmmaker, how he found his wife (known as Sweetie), and what it's like making movies are pretty funny and often get into interesting technical details. The stories about his parents...they were terrible parents. Really. I mean, if you ever wondered why he regularly knocked his mother in NY Times interviews, this tells you everything you need to know. They were psychologically abusive in and enabled sexual abuse of the future photographer / cinematographer / director and other kids close to him.
Book 5 of The Expanse. The past comes back to haunt Amos, Alex, and Naomi in various complicated ways. More of Avasarala, more of another person from their collective past, more disasters, more mystery.
As before, superb story-telling, narrow escapes, great military and political science fiction.
Book 6 of The Expanse. The continued fight against the Free Navy; mostly military and political science fiction. I spent most of the book thinking "Gosh, [character] has pretty poor judgment," so I was...surprised...when that person was aboout to be handed more responsibility. Very intense, continues multiple story lines that started in Nemesis Games, and of course there is plenty more to come. I must mention that I am greatly enjoying [character2]'s story arc and also that I love Amos a lot more than I should.
Someone on line said that "reading this was like curling up with a classic Agatha Christie", but I only saw that after I finished this potboiler. There's a wedding, of a deeply self-centered woman and her handsome fianc??, on an island, with many people from their respective pasts present. There are many secrets and hidden entanglements, and about 80% of the way through I tweeted that I hoped the right person would be dead or in custody by the end of the novel. Apparently this is Foley's method: put a bunch of people with seeeeeekrits in an isolated location and blow things up. Not buying it a second time, although, to be honest, I took this out of the library.
The most recent John Rebus novel. Rebus is retired, and as the book opens, he has moved into the flat below where he used to live, owing to the worsening of his COPD. His daughter, now living in far northern Scotland, calls because her partner has mysteriously disappeared. Meanwhile, Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox are working on a murder case involving a bunch of rich people (and Morris Gerald Cafferty). The mysteries aren't that compelling, with the Rebus end being more interesting, but the character interactions are.
Some reviews are calling this a thriller, but I would not. It's about the psychological history of a woman who has done something wrong, and the choice she makes whether to reveal or conceal what she has done. It is not exactly two novels in one, but the author follows Joanna, the woman in question, down both possible paths.
I liked The Choice better as it progressed and Joanna developed more complexity and thoughtfulness, and came more into focus as a person. I also liked her shifting views of the people around her who were important to her.
A branch of sorts from the Reluctant Royals series. Prince Sanyu must wed before his father's death; Shanti has planned her life as a queen since childhood. Can this arranged marriage work?
I'm finally able to appreciate this classic novel.
The Booker Prize-winning novelist has another side, the one that writes mystery novels. This is the first published under his name rather than as Benjamin Black. A priest is murdered in a violent and horrifying way in the vicinity of Wexford, Ireland at the home of a well-off, or previously well-off, Protestant family. The viewpoint character is Inspector Strafford, sennt from Dublin to figure out who done it. Lots of strongly-drawn characters, excellent writing and plotting, mostly unpleasant people. I will be looking for the Benjamin Black novels.
Date completed is approximate, because I spent most of January either unable to read or struggling to finih one library book and one book we own without finishing either. One of the Reluctant Royals series, related to A Princess in Theory and very entertaining.
A stand-alone novel, not one of the author's Dublin Murder Squad series. A densely-plotted book involving a very close family, a first-person narrator who is beaten nearly to death early on, and any number of spoiler-ih plot points I won't mention. I have mixed feeling about this; some of the plot points are....almost a improbably as those of The Likeness, one of the author' earlier books.
The latest John Rebus novel. A body turns up ten years after the person went missing; complications ensue. Up to the high general standard of these novels, but not all that memorable.
Lightweight fun involving swords, Scotland, ADHD, and a title. I pre-ordered two more books in this entertaining romance series!
The ninth in the Laundry Files series. Viewpoint character is Mhari Murphy, the PHANG, now Baroness Karnstein. The Lovecraftian Singularity i about to arrive and the President of the United States is missing - from Americans' memories.
Alternate history related to our time: a disastrous meteor strike destroys Washington, DC and surrounding areas, resulting in a familiar-sounding but nature-induced climate change. How to save humanity from impending environmental disaster? Space colonies. Told by the viewpoint character, Elma York, a brilliant mathematician who is a "computer" on the space project.
I liked the book and I will read any sequels, but Elma, who is Jewish, didn't come across that way; the Jewishness felt more layered on than embodied. (Minor example: pretty sure she would not have had the first name she has and even more sure that if she did, her nickname would have been Selma rather than Elma.) I do like the Black characters and wonder whether Black readers felt about those characters the way I feel about Elma and her husband.
The very short fiction, mostly quite amusing, of Scalzi. One was so funny I had to read it out loud to my girlfried.
More of the time-traveling, biracial, lesbian, highwayman Alice Payne!
Gay romance novel. Fun, very unlikely, and by the way, non-Jewish Englishmen of the era when this book is set wouldn't be circumcised.
A young-adultish, Korean-folk-tale influenced novel by the author of the brilliant Machineries of Empire series, it's the story of 13-year-old Min. She lives with her family on a backwater planet; her brother has joined the Thousand Worlds space force and is now accused of desertion. Min, a fox, goes in search of Jun and proves herself fabulously resourceful and brave. She encounters various spirits and animals. A really fine novel, gentle where Machineries is on the brutal side.
Another in the Reluctant Royals series. Love among the nerds!
That's all I'm telling you about it just now!
The page-turning story of Elizabeth Holmes and her blood-testing startup Theranos. She migt have believed in her creation and she certainly managed to fool an awful lot of people who might know better if she hadn't been beautiful and if she hadn't presented herself as the second coming of Steve Jobs. Great reporting by Carreyrou, who has won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting twice.
The third and concluding book in the Amberlough Dossier. I could imagine several ways that this thriller / spy series might have ended, and I'm satisfied with the author's choices. I liked this book a great deal and overall love the trilogy.
Hilarious and serious quest novel, starring a ninja accountant, an assassin, a Paladin, and a scholar. Odd company makes excellent book.
The sequel to Clockwork Boys. Continued adventures, this time more serious, of the ninja accountant, the Paladin, the scholar, and, of course, the gnole.
This very sweet novel presumably wraps up The Reluctant Royals series, since every possible couple among the characters in A Princess in Theory has now been dealt with. There IS a teeny open thread, opera-related, in the book, so I may have to contact the author about that....
The first of a long (17 books? 18?) series of mysteries starring Arthur Bryant and John May of the Pecular Crimes squad. Set in a theater and full of interesting history and terminology - very thoroughly researched. Not particularly sparkly or engrossing, but I plan to read one more of the books to see whether I want to read the whole series.
The plague comes to a small village in rural England, where a charismatic young rector persuades the villagers to voluntarily isolate themselves from the outside world. The viewpoint character is Anna, who is the housemaid for the rector and his wife, and a friend to the wife. Intense, moving, gorgeously written.
It's the Regency, and something very odd is going on between Alistair, the haughty Marquess of Pembroke, and the young man Robert Selby.
The World Fantasy Award-winning first novel in a trilogy about gangster families on the island of Kekon, the source of extremely rare, bioactive jade, the most valuable gem in the world. Exciting, fast pace, intense, clever; fantasy meets Hong Kong film meets noir. The second book will be published next month and I'll probably pre-order it.
Clever but shallow book that starts with a murder, then works its way backward to why.
Poignant character study of Edward Feathers, a Raj orphan - born in Malaysia to a British civil servant and his wife, but sent Home (to England) to be raised - who really is more or less orphaned, by the death of his mother two days after his birth and by being emotionally and physically abandoned by his father. The book is very much interior; Eddie is often bewildered by what's going on around him and seems emotionally distant as well. The plot unfolds slowly and allusively; often parts of the story have to be put together from incidents far apart in the book. Masterfully written.
Regency romance with lesbians and astronomy. Delightful and very well written!
The world of Riverside and the unnamed city of which it is a part, a generation or so before the events of Swordspoint. A chocolate trader named Kaab, a student named Rafe, a neuroatypical math genius name Micah, and the mighty Diane, Duchess Tremontaine.
More from the world of the Hexarchate, fleshing out a number of areas of Shuos Jedao's life. Includes a fabulous long novella with Jedao and Cheris written for the collection.
Lady Madeleine, 28-year-old spinster, prefers acting, a forbidden pleasure indeed, to being a proper lady. Ferguson, inheriting a Duchy after years of absence, needs a chaperone for his much younger sisters. Somehow, they fall in love.
Rev. Willie Maxwell apparently killed several of his relatives for the insurance money; he was never convicted...and at the funeral of one of those relatives, he was gunned down himself. Harper Lee, famed author of To Kill a Mockingbird, observed the trial of his killer, intending to write about it. She never finished that book and never published another novel, unless you count the late-in-life publication of Go Tell A Watchman, which is likely the first draft of Mockingbird. This marvelous book tells the tale of Maxwell, his death, and Lee's struggle to write another book, going into a lot of detail about her life in Alabama and NYC and why she never wrote that next book. Highly recommended.
Second of the Murderbot Diaries novellas. The Murderbot solves a mystery and does good work on behalf of a client
A long and involved novel, with interesting characters and an interesting set-up...but less than riveting, which is why it took me more than three weeks to finish. Good, not great. I can't tell whether it's too long for the material, too diffuse, or what.
Novella, lesbian romance, sweet!
Light entertainment (love & romance in the age of men owning women) while reading the informative but grim Dark Money.
The Murderbot obtains useful information, protects humans, loses a friend
Lesbian romance plus, well, you'll see. The author is a very, very good writer. The woman on the cover doesn't look at all like any of the characters in the book.
Audiobook. I picked this up before driving to Santa Cruz for a concert a few weeks ago. The first thing I have to say is that the reader is terrible, ghastly. He has...a borderline Texas accent, which is inappropriate for a story set in Los Angeles. He mispronounces some names and place-names and just isn't such a good reader. I can just barely tell whether the story is any good; I find an awful lot of it implausible, from the company and board member that somehow care so much that they hire private detectives to re-open the death of a scientist employee from a year back to the police apparently never having talked to the murdered scientist's ex-wife to the scientist's radical change of personality to the fact that he wouldn't even try to get another academic job about a tenure denial to the extremely rambling plot to....well, there's a lot. I don't think I'll be reading another book by this writer.
Charming, sometimes slightly overwritten, fantasy novella set in Cairo c. 1906 or so. The city is inhabited by humans from all over and also supernatural beings who apparently gave the world science and STUFF more advanced than one would have had otherwise. It's a detective story, sort of. Will have to check out the authors other books.
The story of Red and Blue, who are on opposite sides of a war fought across centuries and great distances between two mysterious and very different factions for unknown reasons. Epistolary novella, complicated and pretty great
A wounded war hero, seeking justice, encounters a Portuguese Jewish fop at a country house party. Also in attendence, Pat and Fen from Proper English, with lots of complications.
The first in a LONG series called The Chronicles of St. Mary's. In this case, St. Mary's is a time-travel laboratory with historians and a great cast of characters. I was expecting the series to be funny but in fact it's a spy series and pretty serious. I liked this book enough to have promptly purchased the second in the series. The writing is good and the author is not afraid to be brutal with her plotting.
Why, yes, I did like the first book enough to immediate buy the second, which continues the ongoing characters and multiple story lines (personal, professional) that started in Book 1.
The second in what I suppose I should call the Old Filth trilogy, but actually it's more about his wife, Elisabeht (Betty) Macintosh Feathers. I had a moment of thinking that this would not end well, when he makes an unreasonable demand of her and she agrees, but in fact...There's a lot about Betty, more about Filth, more about something hinted at in Old Filth (BUT I PICKED IT UP), more about Veneering and his son and the pearls. I loved this, and oh she is such a great writer.
Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, from the standpoint of Duke Michael's men; what really happened that eventful summer in Ruritania. With a very charming gay twist and very well written.
The third in the Chroncles of St. Mary's. Excellent, and the chapters that take place during the fall of Troy had a superb internal soundtrack. Second chances abound and there are some surprising plot twists here.
The fourth in the Chronicles of St. Mary's.
The third of the Old Filth books. Terry Veneering's book, and what a life that was, with significant mistakes. Also a good deal more of Dulcie and Fiscal-Smith. I rather wish there'd been more of Isobel throughout these; she remains quite a mystery. Must say that I am also not entirely sure what is real in the last chapter or so.
Pretty good romance of trauma, homosexual love, and interracial love in Regency London.
Jewel thieves, revenge, family secrets, gay love in the 1890s.
The second of the Green Bone trilogy books. Picks up more or less where Jade City left off. Lots more of the Kaul family saga; fabulous and brutal all at once. Long, without any wasted plot or words. Can't wait for the third, but I expect it will be a year or more since Jade War was just published.
More of Templeton Lane,gentleman jewel thief, and Susan Lazarus, enquiry agent. Also, fabulous opals and bad, bad people.
I started this a few weeks ago, got 70% of the way in, and was ready to give up, owing to the violence and my disorientation in a book with a complex and hard-to-follow timeline. So I gave up and read a few other books, then picked it up again. The going was easier and I finished it. I think now that perhaps I should have read it more slowly, although it is NOT a pleasant book. I found it reasonably rewarding in the end.
The handsome and rich Lucien Vaudrey, returned from exile in China, finds a mystery at the family home after nearly being killed through magical means. Romance follows
The continued adventures of Lucien Vaudrey. Happenings from his life in China catch up. Not recommended for anyon with a rodent phobia. Introduces a couple of new characters.
The third of the Lucien Vaudrey/Stephen Day novels. I see that there are a couple more books in the Charm of Magpies series, which I am pleased about.
Noting that because I wasn't taking notes on WHEN I finished these books, I'm not exactly sure when I finished them. This is the first Rivers of London book, and that was the British name of this. Peter Grant is a young, biracial, trainee policeman on the London police force, and in the first chapter he finds himself talking to a ghost right in the Covent Garden plaza, immediately after a murder. This gets him....an interesting and offbeat assignment on the force. The riot of the title takes place during an opera performance, and could not ACTUALLY have started at midnight. Anyway, I liked this a lot and will continue with the series.
Short story or novella in the Lilywhite Boys series; how Stan met Christiana
Simon Feximal is a sleuth of a special type, specializing in ghosts, demons, and additional otherworldly beings. The book is a Holmes pastiche; the narrator is Feximal's scribe and companion Robert Caldwell, who is far more competent than Dr. Watson. The Diogenes Club and the Fat Man eventually come into play, and in fact several of the stories are riffs on Victorian detective or horror stories.
Lindsay Somerville is a 150-year-old werewolf with an unfortunate past and, in the present, some very good friends. A trip to Scotland brings attraction and danger. Not sure how I feel about this one, between something bad that Somerville does and some plot clumsiness. Also, aren't there any lesbian fantasy romances out there??
The fifth in the Chroncles of St. Mary's; a bit of a mashup, with several small adventures rather than a huge overarching adventure, but it does advance the overall plot in several ways: Max and Ferrell's relationship, the history of St. Mary's, the horrors of the Bad Guys.
The next in the Rivers of London series. Peter Grant continues to cause mayhem chasing non-human criminals and also continues to learn about and analyze magic. Lots of fun!
A Sherlock Holmes pastiche of a complicated kind. The plot develops fairly slowly, but eventually you see how it merges with the Holmes canon. Cleverly written and plotted and probably I will read the next in the series. There IS an anachronism or two, but whatever.
The third Rivers of London novel, combining the London Underground, the sewers, magic, and a few other things.
The fourth Tensorate novella. Outstanding, as usual. You???d be right to wonder how reliable the narrator is, for various reasons. Fills in some backstory about how the Tensorate became what it is.
An important scholarly (and very readable) book about Americans' attitudes toward death, mourning practices, views of the afterlife in the mid-19th century, during and after the Civil War; the effects of that war on such attitudes how the views & attitudes were expressed; the effect of the war on the Federal bureaucracy and on poetry; how the Civil War Dead affected reconstruction and the survival & augmentation of Lost Cause propaganda. Here is a review of the book, to give you a better idea.
The fourth Rivers of London book. I vaguely think that there's at least one loose end that isn't tied up in this one, which feels a little discursive and unfocussed. Nonetheless, I will say that the Faceless Man and efforts to locate him are not far from the center of the book, and also that there's at least one big shock here.
My latest romance writer discovery: Milan is a very well-known writer, and right now she is in the news on Twitter owing to extremely bad and racist behavior on the part of the Romance Writers of America. So I picked up a couple of her books in support, and shes good! Her heroines are smart, well-rounded, and frank, often with a trauma or scandal of some kind in the past. Her heros are complex and interesting and....decent! I enjoyed this a lot and will undoubtedly finish the series it's part of.
Novella; the continuing story of Lydia, the best friend of Minnie, who is the heroine of The Duchess War.
Space opera that will take you a while to figure out. Calendrical heresy? Hexarchate? Kel? Shuos? Brilliantly plotted and written; fascinating characters. Can't wait to real the sequel.
The most recently published Laundry Files novel. Things are getting very, very serious, as in seriously bad, leading the Senior Auditor to actions that will surprise you. Bob, Mo, Persephone, Johnny, Mhairi, Alex, Cassie, and others to the rescue following the return of Rev. Schiller and his horrible minions.
The middle book of the author's Machineries of Empire trilogy. Another wild ride; great characters, extremely good plotting with a lot of moving parts to juggle. Will have to wait until June when the last book of the trilogy comes out. I am fonder of General Jedao than I feel I should be, all things considered.
The second book in the Craft sequence. A little confusing, but ultimately it all came together. Set elsewhere than the first book. Perhaps there are multiple story lines that will eventually merge?
The long break since the last completed book is because I was reading two other books that I have interrupted to read this, a library book. Dark State is the second in the current cycle of Merchant Princes books. Once again, he's leaving us about to go over multiple cliffs, with several plot strands hitting nasty-looking inflection points. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until next January or February to read the third book.
Third book in the Craft Sequence. A pool, a dying idol, a young leader of urchins. Characters from the earlier-published books make their appearances and we get more tantalizing bits about the God Wars. Also there's a poet.
The first in the gigantic Expanse series, now up to seven books and the basis of a popular TV series. Space opera; lots of politics and interesting human interactions. Two viewpoint characters alternate chapters, so you get parts of the story from very different viewpoints. One, a somewhat down-at-the-heels homicide detective on Ceres (which has been colonized), is straight out of Chandler. Only issue I have so far is the paucity of female characters, and this book is from 2011. I hope that improves. I'll continue to read them, though I am in the middle of multiple series at this point plus I have this pile of nongenre novels and nonfiction I want to read.
A masterpiece, one I'm finally mature enough to understand. The first two times I read it (in the 70s and 90s), I think that the political and personal aspects of the book went completely over my head. All I remembered, or even LIKED, was the trip across the ice. It is enthralling and brilliantly written, but the political and interpersonal relationships are the heart of the book.
I have sort of thrown in the towel about 320 pages into this 550-page behemoth. It is due back at the library and I've been trying to get through it since the beginning of April. I may try again, but for now I'm out of renewals.
Police procedural set in a small town in New Hampshire, with a twist: a huge asteroid is heading toward earth, and in some months, life on earth as we know it will end. This affects how people behave, and adds a couple of layers of complexity to what the policeman in question - a young mn who always wanted to be a cop - has to do
The most recent Harry Hole novel, yet another bizarre serial killer story, still more dead women, still more of the tortured detective. Why do I go on reading this series? I do like the supporting cast, it's true.
The follow-up to Lock In, set in a world where an infectious disease left millions of people with the equivalent of locked-in syndrome and a major research effort led to the use of new technology to provide the affected people with the ability to more or less inhabit robots (threeps) as physical extensions of their minds. Further adventures of Chris the FBI agent, of unknown gender and sex, this time following the suspicious death of a Haden-affected professional player of a particular sport. It gets...complicated. Fun, not deep.
First of the Murderbot Diaries, the Murderbot being a robot-human hybrid, designed to provide security, who has hacked its own governing module and become a freelancer.
The first is background for Scalzi's novels Lock In and Head On, which feature people who survived Haden's Syndrome. The second is a story about a starship, and a very good one it is.
Interesting novella about a world where gods power spaceships and things are not what they seem.
It's Bloomsday and I feel as though I should be reading Ulysses, but somehow that is not what I've been doing. The long delay in finish this book is largely because I've been spending so much time reading articles when I'm on the bus, instead of reading novels. Also, this week I was out at the opera Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. This book is very charming, about a universe that decides which species are sentient and admissible to the galaxy-wide civilization based on their performance in a Eurovision-like contest. It is funny and warm and, like Valente's other books, full of words and sometimes a little overwhelmingly dense.
OMG OMG OMG a tremendous roundup to the trilogy that started with Ninefox Gambit. General Jedao is an extremely complicated person and so are most of the people around him. I can't recommet this trilogy more highly, if you like military s.f.
Second book in the Last Policeman trilogy. The story continues; crime and a young man who only wants to be a small-town cop in New England in the last days of Earth.
It's 2144; Big Pharma is about what you might think, and pirates reverse engineer their drugs for a black market. There's a strong free patent movement. Also, nearly everyone is indentured to some company or organization until they work off or buy out their indenture and buy a franchise - including robots. The nature of autonomy is one theme of this excellent novel
Indeed it is. The last of the Last Policeman trilogy; intense and sad and moving. The end of the world is nigh; Henry Palace is looking for his sister Nico. Superb.
An exceptionally charming novel about a circus that springs up as if from nowhere, is only open from dusk to dawn, and has mysterious origins and rather unusual acts. I am not at all sure whether to call it fantasy or magic realism; I am sure that lots of people would find it too twee. I think the author came up with an unnecessarily complicated (though very dramatic) resolution of the central problem when she had set up her situation and characters for a straightforward resolution; still, I'd be happy to go live in the Le Cirque de Reves, at least for a little while.
Long novella, the first in the Tensorate Series, about the family in power, the ways that science works, and siblings. Superb.
Another long novella. While the advertising says you can read this and Black Tides in any order, I don't recommend it. Read Black Tides first! A continuation, wrenching in many ways, of Black Tides.
Third in the series - presumably there will be more - adding layers and complexity. First-rate. I especially appreciate the presence of children in this series and the gender/relationship flexibility.
Not sure when I completed this; s.f., not set in the world of the Tensorate, I think.
I gather this is the backstory of the Wakanda series, on which the film Black Panther is based. Excellent storytelling, lesbians, and Wakanda!
First in a gay, alternate-history, spy thriller. Extremely intense; the author does not pull back a bit from the bad things that can happen to you when the fascists come to town. (It only looks as though I read nothing in August; I am part way through three books, one of which I am probably abandoning and two of which I will finish.)
The second book in The Amberlough Dossier. Intense, suspenseful, full of culture class and bravery. Introduces a number of new characters, continues the stories of several from Amberlough. I can't wait for the third, Amnesty, which won't be published until next year.
Gold's memoir of growing up with a mother who becomes increasingly disturbed over time and a father who is at least somewhat neglectful, as a smart but socially inept child and aspiring writer. Superbly written; ignore the Times reviewer who thinks there is too much detail in it. That is one of the book's glories. I'm wondering whether there will bea second volume of memoirs.
A Hugo nominee; a mystery set on a generation ship of sorts, where you get the murders more or less on the first page, then the back stories are filled in. I like it a lot, but I think this book has a number of minor flaws that should have been caught at the editorial stage and one ENORMOUS problem, unless the electronic copy I read it from is defective. ENORMOUS is that you never get the back-story of one of the characters - REALLY??? A couple of the minor issues: the claim that because there is no forensic lab, they can't collect fingerprints. C'mon, it's 2200-something; use any goddamn powder and a digital camera. Also, it's 2200-something, and a character whacks another over the head with a piece of a WOODEN PALLET. C'mon, by then, for a ship on a centuries-long trip, there will be much, much better ways to pack up supplies. These really jumped out at me as implausible and I'm shocked that nobody pointed them out to the author in time to fix them.
The first in chronological order of the five published Craft Sequence books. Where Temoc, especially, came from; more about the King in Red and Elayne and Caleb. Possibly I should have read it first.
Wow, I re-read this for the first time since childhood. I see why I found it so magical back then, and today...mostly it annoyed the hell out of me. Yes, it's a coming of age story for Meg, who learns to appreciate herself, and learns that in her faults are her greatest strengths, but OMG little genius-I-am-so-different! Charles Wallace is such a fucking annoying mansplaining five-year-old! I wanted to smack him about every five minutes! I also disliked the religious aspects, which aren't to the fore, but they're there enough to bug me.
I will say that having found the book so annoying, I am more inclined to see the movie, which will not damage my past experience of the book and might improve how I feel about the story!
The third in Chambers' Wayfarer series. Superb. Well-written, convincingly plotted, characters I liked a whole lot, and with some very moving moments. It is somewhat anthropological, deliberately, and I liked that a lot too.
A thoroughly charming book about the life and times of the Ravenmaster, Chris Skaife, and his life with the ravens of the Tower of London.
The entertaining continuation of The Collapsing Empire. I liked it a lot, I really did, but it is so facile that I feel like it misses an awful lot of potential depth. Well, perhaps it's supposed to be this breezy and smooth.
The third of four novels concerning the former detective Jackson Brodie. Also includes Louise Monroe, who was a character in the previous book (and who is wonderful in her own way). New: a 16-year-old named Reggie Chase is one of the viewpoint characters, and how I hope she will be back. She is smart, VERY smart, perceptive, and imaginative. Central to the story is Joanna Mason, who, in the first chapter, witnesses her mother and two siblings killed by a completely stranger. Everyone in this book seems tangled up with everyone else; it is very intricately plotted.
A book looking at a number of unusual brain conditions, with an attempt to situate them both in the human condition and in neuro science. Fun but not exactly deep. Subtitled "An Extraordinary Journey Through the Brain", it's not quite as extraordinary as the author thinks.
A romance between an epidemiology student and a man she knows as Jamal, but who is actually an African prince and her betrothed from childhood takes interesting turns. This was fun and the first of a series. It was GREAT to have all characters be black people.
The first Jack Reacher novel and the last I'll be reading. Didn't his US agent tell Lee Child that a certain school in Boston is universally referred to as BU, not Boston U.? Not very interesting, although it's a page turner of its type.
A pretty good year. I finished around 33 books. Not listed below are the two John Adams-related books I read part of: Halleluja Junction, his memoir, half-read, and The John Adams Reader, essays, which I read a few of. I didn't finish SPQR (quit 3/4 of the way through) and there were a couple of novels I started but didn't get too far in, including The Girl on the Train, which was a big seller a couple of years ago.
Third book in the Old Man's War series. The return of John Perry, complete with second wife and adopted child, this time as head of a new colony??....where things do not go as expected.
First in Swedish mystery series feturing Irene Huss. Probably the last I will lead. Maybe the translation stinks, maybe the author isn't very good, but oy. Confused plotting, irrational behavior all around, terrible translation, or maybe everyone does use the phrase "get hold of" on every page.
Entertaining and often charming story of a "tunneling" spaceship with a multispecies crew and an AI with quite a persoanality. First of a series, of which the second is already out. Looking forward to the rest.
Well, sometime in January, I gave up on this book, which I'd gotten 3/4 of the way through. I liked it a lot; Beard ia a terrific historian and a great writer. It just hit the point where it seemed to be past the most interesting material she had to work with, about the founding myths, social structure, and history of the Roman empire. Damned interesting stuff!
Space opera with only female characters. Intense, not much fun to read. I was way more creeped out than I would have expected by the intersection of the organic and mechanical, and the way the worlds seemed to be controlling the women who lived on them.
Scalzi's alternate take, from a different viewpoint, on the same story as The Last Colony. Well done, vivid, but is everybody really such a wise ass in the OMW universe?
The expanded version of Calvin Trillin's loving hommage to his beloved wife, who died younger than she ought to have of damage to her heart caused by intense radiation treatment for lung cancer (she was a never-smoker).
Fifth book in the Old Man's War series. A novel published as a series; very well done, more of the people we hve come to like a whole lot. That business with the dog, though: first, you could see some kind of problem coming a mile away, especially when caves were mentioned.
Sixth and last book in the Old Man's War series. Lots of fun, and things mostly work out reasonably well. I would have liked more of the terrifying Consu, I must say.
The second Harry Hole novel and the last one I hadn't read, because nos. 1 and 2 were the last two to be translated from the Norwegian. Typically convoluted and unlikely plotting.
Not exactly a sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but yeah, sort of! Contains some of the same characters, but set elsewhere and with a very different, less funny, plot. Continuing themes include AIs in an organic world and interspecies replationships.
The first October Daye series, it's a cross between urban fantasy and the hard-boiled detective genre. Half-human, half-fae, October Daye has gotten herself into, and clear will continue to get herself into, a lot of trouble, much of it unnecessarily. She is hard-boiled and hard-headed, not necessarily in a good way, as she seems to have no common sense at all. She's surrounded by an entertaining cast of humans, half-humans, and full-fae. I enjoyed this but was also driven slightly mad by it. I mean, after living parallel to humans for so long, wouldn't the fae have figured out how to have their own health-care system??
Lesbian history, San Francisco History, fantasy, and various other themes meet in a delightful novella that must have been a ton of fun to research.
Sequel to Binti. Superb Africa-centric s.f.
The first in a series of detective novels. Well written, interesting, tangled. I'm not entirely convinced by some of the events at the end of the novel, but I liked it overall and will read the rest of the series.
Spy novel, the latest of Furst's. Decent but seemed perfunctory. I'm told his earlier books are better.
First in a fantasy trilogy, set in a world where the Western Hemisphere wasn't invaded and colonized by Europeans; Africans are integrated into Europe, the Roman Empire lasted to 800 AD or so; there's no Christianity; Carthage was a power for a long long time. Oh, and there's magic. Excellent, will finish trilogy.
Second the Spiritwalker Trilogy (I don't love that trilogy name, but whatever). Continues the story started in Cold Magic, but mostly outside of what's called Europa. Many mysteries!
I can't believe it took me a month to finish this book. What? The conclusion of the trilogy, with lots of incident and a few battles.
A book about what happens when sentient and non-sentient spieces live among humans, there's an ancient organization dedicated to stamping them out, and one family opposing that organization. Entertaining and sometimes funny, first in a series. Maybe my library has it?
Space opera, positing a means of interstellar travel and an interstellar empire, but the means of travel is....changing, and very few people know it. What happens next? Very enjoyable, a fast read, and my feeling is that Scalzi's affection for snark and making a joke keeps him from being an even better writer. Or maybe this is his thing and he won't write anything really deep.
Tales of neurosurgery, English-style. A memoir by a prominent (I think) neurosurgeon, nearing retirement and looking back at his successes and failure. He writes with a wry tone and you get a real sense of both the skills and emotions behind what he does and how it affects him, especially his genuine misery over errors of judgment, when he shouldn't have even attempted a particular surgery, and errors of technique. He is now 67 and one thing that amazed me is that he was able to get into medical school despite having had NO science courses as an undergraduate. At the time, there was one med school in Great Britain that would accept such students; they would get a couple of years of science classes, then medical training. It's true that the US has programs that prepare humanities majors for med school (many years ago I briefly considered going to Columbia's), but then you're competing with the science nerds with straight As.
In any event, a good book from an evidently humane surgeon.
Stross picks up on the Merchant Prices series, some years after the last incident in the last published book in the series. Major spoilage if I say much more than WHERE IS THE NEXT BOOK?
The latest (2016) Rebus novel. Big Ger, still out there; Darryl Christie, still out there; Rebus, still alive and unable to let go.
One of the last, and probably worst, Inspector Wexford novels. The plot is poorly worked out, the pacing is draggy. I got this from a Little Free Library and I'm sending it right back there.
Novella with quite an interesting premise and room for sequels. It didn't take me three weeks to read; I've been trying to read about John Adams.
Scalzi's riff on H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy, which I read decades ago and only half remember. Very entertaining and I'll have to re-read the Piper.
An older Rebus novel, which I'd started and bounced off long ago. It is about the worst of the last dozen of these, something of a slog and weirdly unfocussed.
Beautifully written, hopeful, and profoundly sad memoir by a brilliant young neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at 36.
The second Jackson Brodie, set in an Edinburgh that is somewhat familiar to me from the Rebus novels. VERY complex plotting, many intertwined stories.
Well, around December 2, anyway. Not actually sure. Charming fantasy/detective novel hybrid built around the existence of a time-spanning, world-spanning Library and its Librarians. Firs of a series and I think a first novel. Not perfect but I'd probably read the second in the series.
A friend of mine read one or more of Gladstone's books and wrote that they reminded her of P.C. Hodgell, a favorite author of mine, so it was inevitable that I'd eventually read one or more of his books. I see exactly what reminded her of Hodgell: the relationship between gods and their followers. (His writing style is very different from Hodgell's.) Throw in vampires, gargoyles, Deathless Kings, Justice personified, and the enforcement of contracts through magic, and you've got quite the world. I especially love how much he fills in about the world, the fact that it's done subtly and naturally, and how much he leaves you wanting more. I picked up two more books in the series before I was done with this one.
Set in the same universe as the author's Ancillary series, but on a different planet and with different characters....it's a novel of politics and ephemera and justice.
I more or less read 25 books this year, a dismal count. I got stalled out for a couple of months by feeling like I should read all 2500 pages of Dream of the Red Chamber aka Story of the Stone, then got stalled out for weeks after I started making some progress in the first volume of the book.
It's more or less because one of the listed books is three short stories/novellas, one is a novella, and one I threw against the wall and didn't finish. I read one and a half nonfiction books (I'm in the middle of Mary Beard's SPQR) and the rest is mostly science fiction and mysteries.
Dr. Gawande looks at how doctors, hospitals, and other institutions work with the dying and the very old, learning a lot along the way and applying some of it somewhat successfully within his own family. Not much that was new to me, except perhaps how assisted living came into being and why it's nothing like what its originator intended.
The first two books were pretty good, but obviously she couldn't figure out a good way to wrap things up cleanly. I got bored at the pacing and repetitiveness and lost all interest in the characters, and stopped reading half-way through.
Hard-to-describe fantasy novel of power struggles among mortals and among the gods. Well worth reading, first of a trilogy.
Mashup of a Josephine Tey or Agatha Christie novel and an alternate history in which Great Britain makes peace with Hitler in 1941 but eventually things start going wrong politically. Surprising number of odd errors; the first Dior lipstick was in 1955, so you wouldn't have found it in 1949; there's a paragraph where names are, I think, mixed up, because I'm sure that a particular married couple are not siblings, etc.
Excellent sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, better-written and equally persuasive. What happens after two of the head gods exile the third to mortal life.
Second in the alternate history series. Features Inspector Carmichael, Himmler, Hitler, and Normanby; a cross-dressed Hamlet, and a family bearing quite a resemblance to the Mitfords. You probably won't have any problems telling who is who.
Third in the alternate history series. Structured similarly to the first two books in the series, alternating chapters of Inspector Carmichael and a female character, in this case his young ward. I wound up feeling as though the entire series doesn't quite get into the characters' emotional reactions and inner life as much as it might. Enjoyed the series greatly anyway, as it could all so easily happen here.
Modesty Blaise short stories, mostly pretty good, but the last one is appallingly racist. I needed something to get me kick started and reading again after a somewhat difficult month.
Second book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. Some of the same problems of tone and ahistorical behavior as Grave Mercy. Took it out of the library rather than spend money on it. I might or might not finish the last book in the series.
Third in Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy, and the most puzzling. Never mind that the biology of the gods is....odd...but I did not see how she got from the situation at the beginning of the book to the situation at the end of the book. The plotting seems muddled; it takes a peculiar turn most of the way through, and the very end is a bit of a cheat.
Interconnected short stories telling the story of a town and its inhabitants, also its bears. Extremely charming and sometimes unexpected.
Yes, two months between finishing books, because I got bogged down in the first volume of The Story of the Stone and in this book. I did not like it nearly as much as the others I know who've read it, and I cannot tell whether it was the translation, opacity in the plotting, difficulty in actually following the plot, or what. I think I had some difficulty in following the time frame - which shifts - of the novel. Not sure whether I will finish the series or not.
Future Scotland, after the Faith Wars and a general social revolt against religion. Robots, religion, and a police procedural - what more could you want?
The latest John Rebus / Siobhan Clark / Matthew Fox novel. The return of Big Ger Cafferty, criminal orgs at war, a very old scandal, and a small dog.
Not exactly a sequel to Life After Life, but, well, it is. More of the Todd family, especially Teddy. Another wonderful book.
The latest - no. 7 or 8 - of the Laundry Files novels. We have a new viewpoint character, Dr. Alex Schwartz, whom you might remember as a PHANG. He is completely adorable. Also, we've got an interesting invasion. Also, possible the best dinner scene ever. Perhaps we'll see more of Alex's family.
What it sounds like. A novella and two short stories, all lots of fun.
Fantasy novel set in Arab/Muslim - ish world. Excellent writing and imagination; first of a trilogy.
The sixth Dublin Murder Squad mystery. The viewpoint character is the not-always-likeable detective Antoinette Conway. The mystery is...complex.
Extremely disturbing, yet excellent, dystopian novel, set it a world where an infection has turned the infected into a ravening hoard. The premise is not far off the Parasite series I read last year and this, in some ways, but this is a much better book. I note that I did not realize until 100 pages that M.R. Carey is male.
The last Moist von Lipwig novel, sigh, about the coming of steam and locomotives to Discworld. Superb.
A young nurse-midwife becomes a lay member of an order of nuns and goes to work in London's East End, c. mid-1950s. A memoir based on the author's experiences; fascinating and horrifying in various ways, between the extreme poverty of the postwar East End, the absence of ongoing medical care & birth control, and the author's clear but unexamined class issues.
Space opera / cultural anthropology, and excellent.
Space opera set in a world where humans on earth can enlist in an off-earth army that defends human space colonies. First in a series. Yeah, I'll probably read the rest; the premise is well executed, though I can see exactly how he structured the first 45 pages to provide the background information.
The second novel in the Old Man's War series. Learn about the mysterious Special Forces.
I finished 31 books in 2015 and left Graham Robb's wonderful The Discovery of France unfinished. Still trying to finish Sleepwalkers about the start of WWI.
Of the 31 books, one was nonfiction, Helen MacDonald's H is for Hawk. Eleven were by women, 21 by men. Several of the books by men had excellent female protagonists, including those by Pratchett, Stross, and O'Donnell, as retro as Modesty Blaise might be.
Uh, why has this book been such a huge hit? It is a page-turner, if you don't get so bored with the title character's unending calculations of air, water, food, energy, etc. that you roll your eyes and find something more interesting to read. That's all necessary for his survival (he is stranded on Mars after being separated from his crewmates during a sandstorm and accidentally, though understandably, left for dead), but OH MAN does it get old. It also leaves no room for character development beyond "this guy is very persistent and very nerdy." And also there is an elementary arithmetic error on page 12 that I thought might turn out to be a plot point....until the people at NASA repeated it many pages later. Why, oh, why, did I not throw this book against the wall immediately???
First novel by Alastair Reynolds, a 575-page brick with a number of interwoven strands: a vanished race, a man obsessed with studying it, politics, the history of the universe. I like it but can't help feeling that it is too damn long for the story it is telling and takes an awfully long time to bring the story to a conclusion.
Third of Leckie's books about Breq, former ancillary, now a free-standing person, and the world she lives in. An excellent more or less wrap-up.
Oh, waily, waily, waily! The last Discworld novel and the last Tiffany Aching novel; the world is changing and it's easy enough to see that Sir Terry had plans for the future. I am just so sad to have finished this book and know that there will be no more.
The worst Rankin I have read. Not a Rebus mystery; a free-standing crime/adventure/mystery novel. It's as though he had two plots about the same character and mashed them up, badly. They kind of detract from one another and some of it is over the line of believability.
It's science fiction and mystery, two genres at once! A well-executed novel about a world where a mass illness has resulted in millions of people with locked-in syndrome, here called Haden's syndrome after a famous sufferer. A huge expenditure on researched led to a way to implant a neural network in the heads of the locked-in, enabling them to remotey control and effectively inhabit a robot-like device. A small class of people can also temporarily accept into their own bodies the minds of the locked-in. Yes, any number of interesting crimes can be committed. I would not be at all surprised if this is the start of a series.
An early and really pretty bad Christie, the very first Poirot. Written in 1916, published in 1920; shallow and very clockworkish.
An 18-year-old boy, youngest son of an Emperor father who has abandoned him, unexpectedly becomes Emperor after his father and more acceptable brothers die in an airship crash. A coming of age novel as well as a novel of court intrigue.
Policing, economics, and 21st c. nerds.
The most recently-published Laundry Files book: Mo gets the spotlight and mostly Stross gets the musical details right. He seems....a bit unclear about musical forms (unlikely you'd have a violin sonata inside an opera) and the Royal Albert Hall IS in fact unusually large for a classical music venue; otherwise very satisfying, especially Mo's developing professional friendships and relationships.
The second Modesty Blaise novel.
The first appearance in novel form of the reformed super-criminal turned super-spy, and her excellent sidekick Willie Garvin.
More of Bob, Mo, and Angleton, plus VAMPIRES.
Bob goes to Colorado with an outside asset code-named BASHFUL INCDENIARY, who wears her hair in a chignon, and has a great male sidekick.
The third of the Laundry Files books, and really excellent.
Strange and wonderful book about the magical Owens women.
Indescribably fascinating novel of parallel worlds and deja vu, and maybe about whether you can rerun your life.
A missing cop, presumed dead; his bereaved wife; two killer in pursuit of someone who might know their secrets. Dalziel is back from near death and proves that he still has it.
A wonderful book writing in a distinctive voice, that of a young Welsh woman recovering from a terrible tragedy, adjusting to a new life and new family configuration, and about how books save lives. I loved the dailiness of the book. It is a diary, so you get the ordinary, about good and bad food, and how classes went, along with the extraordinary (were fairies seen that day?). Also, the young woman is remarkably sensible and grounded as well as having access to the extraordinary.
A not-entirely-satiricle space opera; the main plot, then three follow-ups that round out the story quite well. Curious whether this is characteristic os Scalizi, whose blog I read, and a little shocked by some poorly-constructed sentences in the first chapter.
Classic-era British murder mystery by a journalist/novelist who wrote 225+ books, including something approaching 100 novels. This was represented to me as being rather better than it turned out to be. Somewhat entertaining (but not enough for me to read anything more by this guy), poorly paced, shallow, and completely implausible.
The third in Ranajiemi's space opera trilogy, finally resolving the stories of Mieli, Jean le Flambeur, and Josephine. Well worth reading, but start from The Quantum Thief.
Bad 1920s murder mystery, more or less
When Helen Macdonald's beloved photographer father dies suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack, she goes a bit mad. In her grief, she decides, on impulse, to purchase a goshawk, reputed to be a fearsome bird and difficult to train. (She was already an experienced falconer.) This is her memoir of training the goshawk, whom she names Mabel, and it's also an exploration of T. H. White and his books, which include The Goshawk, about his own attempt to train such a bird. Macdonald is a magnificent writer and this is a superb book.
The first of the Bernie Gunther detective novels. Gunther is a former policeman, in Berlin, in...the 1930s. This book is set in 1936, with a slight backdrop of the Olympic games, held in Berlin that year. I started reading this MONTHS ago and it was very stop and start. I will probably finish the trilogy, but I did not love this book. It is hard-boiled but attempts to use, in English, the equivalents of presumably-contemporary German slang, and...that holds things up for me.
Second of three novels (third is not yet published). Things only get worse for the gang from Parasite
Science fiction / horror / thriller novel involving a biotech company that has succeeded in selling the US and perhaps much of the world on a biological implant that treats autoimmune and other diseases from the inside. The implant is based on tapeworms. Things....eventually go wrong. First of three novels
This is a thoroughly charming book, the author's debut novel. A golem and a jinni meet in NYC, around 1890, and various complications ensue. Magical realism on the lower east side? Well, kind of, yes. I love both the title characters, too.
YA novel about a nerdy young girl who winds up in Los Alamos starting in 1943 - a time when Los Alamos wasn't even on the map owing to a certain secret project. Moving, and an entirely excellent portrayal of what it's like to be a young nerd, how people makes friends, and how adults can really really be good to the children around them.
Another Gervase Fen mystery, this one set before the war, in Oxford. Ridiculous coincidences, especially that lorry driver who conveniently turns up twice, an overly convoluted plot, one where the murder is basically completely implausible. Do people REALLY write wills like that?? Only in pre-war British mysteries.
An extremely silly mystery about the murder of the baritone during rehearsals for a postwar performance of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurenberg by a British cast, in Oxford. The silliness includes blatant mishandling of evidence and, of course, the involvement of an amateur sleuth. Not to mention, for a book set in 1947 or 48, everyone is remarkably well fed and there's no sign of RATIONING. Crispin gets the musical details right, except perhaps for the soprano's repertory, which includes Eva, Salome, and....Mimi? Not impossible, I suppose. But whoever named the book blundered: obviously the opera in question should have been Lohengin.
In 2014, I finished 28 books. The list below includes two books I did not finish, the novel Rupert of Hentzau and the musicological study The Sound of Medieval Song. As I'm writing this at 6:27 p.m. on December 31, I suppose I could wrap up Rupert. I am in the middle of, and will be finishing, The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark's study of "how Europe went to war" in 1914. The count below includes one play, four graphic novels, six books I'd call mysteries, eleven fantasy and science fiction novels, three books that might be considered historical fiction, and some odd ends. Note that two of the fantasy novels were the fourth and fifth Song of Ice & Fire novels, which are worth two or three normal novels each. The best book of the year might be The Hare with Amber Eyes, which I am pressing into peoople's hands, but boy, did I love Hild and Code Name Verity a lot.
I read four novels by Charles Stross, two by Anne Leckie, two by Elizabeth Weidn, two by Hannu Rajaiemi, two by Jo Nesbo, and two by George R. R. Martin.
The sixth of the Merchant Princes books. His publishers announced a while back that three more of these books would be coming, with the first to be published in 2015, and a good thing it is. DEFINITELY feels like a middle book, because it is.
The sequel to Leckie/s award-winning Ancillary Justice, the continued tale of Breq, now assigned Fleet Commander of Mercy of Kalr, and the continued story of the evens of Ancillary Justice. I'm betting that there is a book called Ancillary Mercy coming, because the story isn't over.
The sixth (fifth?) of the Merchant Princes books. Hoo boy, are this one and number 5 "middle books," but I am not picking up Trade of Queens just yet to see whether and how he has wrapped up the story.
French's latest Dublin Murder Squad book; like the others, it is intricately plotted, with bits of detail revealed slowly over the course of the book. Her special trick here is that there are two timelines running parallel. One, in the present, takes place over the course of one day. The other takes places in the past over a period of months, closing in on the present. It's set, mostly, in an exclusive girls' high school, with lots of characters from the parallel boys' school nearbye. As always, very, very well done.
More of the Merchant Princes.
A shady character dies in dramatic and highly suspicious circumstances, and a pile of other events makes it look like it's not an isolated incident. Artificial intelligence, central Asian politics, CDOs, 21st century policing, alternative sexuality, all rolled into one highly entertaining ball.
Billed as a Matthew Fox novel, but it's both a Fox and John Rebus novel. A car accident, a suspicious death, an old, old case involving Rebus and his fellow police from his first assignment. Unusually has some third-party viewpoint sections.
Multiple-award-winning space opera/political thriller/gender bending mystery. It won all those awards for a reason; highly recommended. You will eventually stop being confused, too.
I flirted with this when it was newly published, but somehow never bought a copy. A friend gave me her extra and now I have read it. A book that I am going to force on everyone I know who hasn't read it already. A wonderful and almost indescribable family history/memoir revolving around a collection of netsuke assembled in the 19th century by one of the author's relatives. Although he is an Englishman with a Dutch name, he comes from a once-fabulously-wealthy and prominent Jewish banking family, and, well, thereby hangs an involved, fascinating, and sometimes heartbreaking tale.
If you like Tana French, you will like this very complex suspense/murder mystery.
I started this about six or so weeks back, right after reading Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, but had to take a break. The two books cover very much the same territory: the slow decline of two old couples, told as graphic novels.. Where they differ is that Chast's book is hilarious as well as poignant and sad, while Farmer's book is straightforward, sad, and doom-haunted. You can see the catastrophes coming, you know they will be bad, you know the book will be merciless and that you won't have anything to laugh about. That said, the parents in Special Exits seem much less neurotic and self-centered than Chast's parents, and certainly much more endearing that Chast's really awful mother. (The awfulness is reserved for their Siamese cat, Ching, who bites and scratches all the time, gets underfoot, and hates most people.) There's no sense that the daughter in the book is anything but loving; she has none of the ambivalence that Chast has about helping her parents out. It is harrowing in some ways, but mostly because you want Lars and Rachel to accept more help, and you want them to get help, especially medically, much sooner than they do. The drawing is beautifully expressive, the story poignant.
Interesting historical fantasy about a convent of nuns trained as assassins, working for St. Mortain, an old god now viewed as a saint because the world is Christianized. Also, it is the late 15th c. It is not exactly historically accurate; there is some clumsiness in the plotting (wait, you're telling me they send one of their assassins out without making sure she has actually studied relevant background materials? They train the assassins in poisons but not the antidotes? Really??) and in the writing (uh...I see that "quirk" is a verb, but I don't have to like it...also, why weren't those shifts of tone to modern idiom not edited out?), but entertaining YA anyway. I won't buy the next two books - I got this one used - but I'll take them out of the library.
My girlfriend got this from the library because we are seeing Jake Heggie's opera of the same name in a couple of weeks. Man, Greene sure could write, but oh my god. The principal narrator, Maurice Bendrix, is an odious human. The book is mercifully short, so I didn't have to spend that much time inside his head. A little tough to disentangle the religious material from the slightly sordid base story, also.
The wonderful cartoonist's funny and poignant graphic novel about her parents' decline, old age, and deaths. Highly recommended.
I spent about six weeks reading 100 pages of this 180-page book, and here's a quotation that will tell you why.
To be a longa the first note of the phrase (case 1) must be the pitch of the modal final. The second note of a multi-note syllable (case 2) is only a long if it is not preceded or followed by another one of the five exceptions. A single plicated note (case 3) is a longa when the note plicated is itself written as a longa. If it is separately written it has the value of an imperfect longa, but if it is ligated it could be a perfect longa or even a four-unit longa. (The actual value would depend on neume shape and notational context.) Also, a pair of plicated, ligated notes with the written value of two breves could have the value of breve-longa if they are followed or preceded by a longa.
It's about interpreting medieval music notation according to medieval theorists. Let me put it this way: that very pure line and sound that you hear on chant recordings is nothing like how the stuff soudned way back when. But don't ask me to explicate the above paragraph. I'd have to read a couple of hours' worth of material to be able to explain it to you. I only half understand it myself
The sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda. Even more complications.
A grand adventure story that spawned a genre, the Ruritanian romance: the younger brother of a British lord goes on holiday to Ruritania just in time to stand in for the King at his own coronation, which the King can't attend because he has been drugged and imprisoned by his evil younger (illegitimate) brother. Add in the villain Rupert of Hentzau and the beautiful Princess Flavia, and complications ensue. The basis of many films and parodies, and a ripping good yard of its type.
Sequel to The Quantum Thief. I am not entirely sure I understand the plots of these two novels, but I did enjoy reading them. The story is not yet done, too.
Complex science fiction story concerning a possibly resurrected thief, a woman on a mission, the secret masters who really control things, and a couple of different civilizations? societies? more or less co-existing in our solar system.
I've been reading this one for a couple of weeks, but put it down a couple of times. Quite a bit weaker than the fabulous Code Name Verity, with pacing and tone problems and perhaps too much story packed into a comparatively short book. Also, less believability on some level or another.
Shakespeare's bloodiest play, a swift and brutal revenge tragedy.
Well, he could have reduced the Dany story line by 80% with no harm, eliminated another story line completely, and shrunken almost everything else by simply omitting his description of every step everyone takes and every meal they eat. Doesn't this guy have an editor??
GOD what a slog. SO much worse than the first three books. Also, what a damn stupid decision, to split up the original monster into two books in which the action is simultaneous/parallel rather than consecutive/serial. Of course, I bought A Dance with Dragons the second I finished it.
A few pages into the book, an explosion near kills Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe, leaving Dalziel comatose and Pascoe trying to figure out what happened and why. A fine, fine mystery, with some oddities, and perhaps an open question or two at the end.
Utterly gripping, engrossing puzzle of a novel, about two young women who are best friends during WWII. That doesn't begin to get at the story, really, but a great read, wonderful book
Hilarious memoir-in-drawings by a woman with a long-suffering boyfriend, two dysfunctional dogs, and chronic depression. You might know her drawing style: Clean all the things!
I am completely caught up on the Harry Hole series, excepting no. 2, which will finally be published in English this spring some time. This is perhaps the most twisted and terrifying of the novels yet.
Harry is back from Hong Kong, for an unfortunate reason. Can he do what he needs to do? And what happens next with...
Fantastic and very funny graphic novel about an ongoing war between corporate food/cooking and crunchy organic food/cooking, with possibily recognizable real people making appearances in leading roles on the organic side. (One of them is EASILY recognizable; the other will take most people a little work.) Helps if you've read something by Bourdain and seen the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
Really wondering whether I omitted a book, because I started this one on December 9, buying it from Kobo in Honolulu Airport two minutes after reading a friend's comments about it. (Oh, wait; I read 90 pages of The Dante Club, in hard copy.) Anyway, this is a superbly written and researched historical novel about Hild, following her in the early 7th century from childhood to young adulthood as King Edwin of Northumbria's niece and seer. I do not want to say much more than that, but it is wonderful and I cannot wait for the NEXT novel to come out, whenever that is, considering that this took ten years of research.
Maybe I'll finish two excellent nonfiction books I started last year.
Well, I didn't finish those two nonfiction books, and apparently I did not complete ANY nonfiction books in 2013, although I have two in process. I hang my head in shame.
What I did read was approximately 27 books, nearly all of them genre novels, either mysteries (mostly police procedurals) or s.f. The best book of the year was Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset's great historical novel of medieval Norway, in the wonderful new(ish) Tiina Nunnely translation. Highly, highly recommended. Other favorites include Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother?, Neil Gaiman's American Gods (a superb dark fantasy novel), and Christopher Priest's The Prestige..
That's an arbitrary finish date because I can't remember when I finished it. Interstellar banking and economics made fun; also family conflict, fraud, interplanetary travel, and pirates. Great fun, though I thought it would be longer, somehow
These books are getting enormously convoluted in plot (and I figured out part of it in advance of harry), but I am definitely enjoying his personal development, such as it is.
I am starting to beat Harry to the solution! Not the full story, but I figured out the Bad Guy before he did. Terrifying ending here.
A Croatian contract killer meets the Salvation Army, Oslo. Bad things happen.
While I wait for Harry Hole No. 2 to be published (February, 2014) and as long as I am home sick, catching forward on the series, as it were. Yet another serial killer on the loose in Oslo; Harry's alcohol problems, etc.
The return of John Rebus - as I said a while back, Rankin left his future somewhat unsettled at the end of Exit Music. Here he is on the cold case squad, investigating (and eventually solving) some old missing persons cases - and also butting heads with Matthew Fox of the Complaints
This novel was the basis of a pretty good film by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. I've wanted to read the book ever since, and what do you know? It is a more complex and subtle story, beautifully told and really rather spooky, than the story told in the movie. Highly recommended.
The first of the Harry Hole books, and fairly weak by comparison to 3 & 4.
The last Culture novel from the late Iain M. Banks, who died earlier this year of cancer, and sadly not quite as good as most of the earlier Culture novels. I had some ideas about the eponymous sonata; they turned out to be wrong, but it might have been more satisfying if I'd been right.
Fourth (second published in English) in the Harry Hole (pronounced HOO-ley) detective series. Grim and complex.
One of the later Parker books. The parrot is not actually an important plot point.
In preparation for Tobias Picker's opera, natch. King can't QUITE keep from writing a horror novel, no matter how hard he tries. It'll be interesting to see what the librettist and composer do with ths plot.
The second Malcolm Fox (& co.) Complaints novel, the Complaints being the police unit that investigates allegations of wrongdoing and other complaints against the police.
Bechdel's graphical memoir, which is not exactly about her mother, but much more about Bechdel's internal process and therapeutic process of dealing with her mother. Gorgeously drawn and fascinating, because Bechdel writes about her mother and her mother's life, her own life, her therapists, the writings and life of Virginia Woolfe, and the writings and life of analyst Donald Winnicot, who was clearly a brilliant and sensitive man. LOVED, although this book has not been loved by people I know to the extent that Bechdel's first memoir, Fun Home, was.
Superb fantasy novel by Gaiman, not readily describable.
I've read somewhat more than half but I need a BREAK from these people. I'll finish it in the fall some time.
Book 3 of A Song of Ice and Fire; further adventures of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and all of their friends, enemies, and rivals.
I have only read half but plan to finish it before returning it to a friend. Background for Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.
The first available Harry Hole novel in English (the first in the series will be available later this year, finally). Well-written, complexly plotted, interesting and strongly drawn characters. I am surprised by only one or two loose ends, though one of them leaves open further encounters in future books. I will read more of them.
The second Laundry files book. Not quite as funny as the first but very entertaining nonetheless.
The third Merchant Princes book. Things get more complicated, yes, they do.
Finished the second and third books of Undset's giant historical novel, in the newish (and really great) translation. What a book! It's a deeply detailed, very readable, complex novel set in 14th c. Norway, featuring Kristin, her reckless and feckless husband Erland Nikulausson, their children, and their extended families. Densely plotted, memorable characters, a lot of fun, with some intense and touching scenes and plot points.
The first of Charlie Stross's James Bond meets Cthulu meets Office space series, the Laundry Files, about a branch of the British civil service that fights occult manifestations among us. Smart and very, very funny, but it helps if you are um a bit of a geek.
A really weird novel, possibly a juvenile?, riffing on Moby-Dick, and not only weird but wonderful
The children's classic about a couple of neglected, yet spoiled, upper-class children who meet and, with the help of a "magic poor boy" and his kindly sister & mother, renovate a neglected garden and turn into decent humans. Well, that's what you think it's about. It's actually Christian Science propaganda: Medicine bad! Nature good!
Somewhat of a cheat here: I have finished the first of the three volumes making up the saga-like historical novel Kristin Lavransdatter, by Norwegian Nobel Laureate Sigrid Undset, but since each volume is around 350 pages...A fabulous book, fairly slow-starting but with plenty of human drama to come. Set in the 14th century, it's the story of a young woman's coming of age. You learn a lot about her family (nobels, but they farm for a living), religious life, social mores, in a world not far from pagan society but now Christian. If you're going to read this, don't even think of getting the older (1920s? 30s?) English translation, which badly misrepresents Undset's forthright prose by burying it in thee and thou. Make sure you read the newer translation by Tiina Nunnely, published by Penguin. (Tiina is not a typo.).
Second of the Merchant Family series. I liked this one better than the first, will probably proceed with the series.
The last book of the Chaos Walking trilogy. Brrrr. Still brutal, though in this book, the Spackle have a voice and...some good things do happen. Still, almost unrelieved misery and awfulness, and all too realistic in that way.
One of Rankin's John Rebus books, and a very good one indeed. Less drunkness, more of the great cop. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I read this one eight or ten years ago.
Look, it's 167 pages long, it deserves to be listed here. I'll buy the complete book....in a while.
As always, the goal was to read more non-fiction. I didn't succeed, in part because I started, but did not finish, two important nonfiction books, Tony Judt's Postwar and Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert. Perhaps in 2013?
Meanwhile, I read a total of 29 books. I'd feel worse about that low total if the two George R.R. Martin books and the two Trollopes weren't each the length of two or three typical novels. I also started, but have not finished, The Hobbit and Bleak House. I did not list a book I read in manuscript, so I guess I can reasonably say I read 30 books in 2012.
The second book in Martin's long-running, perhaps never-to-be-finished, A Song of Ice and Fire. This is roughly parallel to season 2 of the HBO series. Reading it fills in a bunch of background and clarifies a few inexplicable bits in the series; it also provides an object lesson in what you have to do in adopting a long book for another medium. I am still bothered by his difficulty with maintaining a consistent tone, and occasionally I wanted to take a red pencil to the book.
The author's latest, with all the strengths (gripping plotting, tangled relationships) and weaknesses (he WHAT?) of her previous novels.
A marvelously lyrical and beautiful book, with the force and power of a fairy tale and exceptionally strongly drawn and believable characters
Funny and charming book about baseball, being a baseball fan, being a Yankees fan, and being a sportswriter.
The first of several doorstop-sized novels in Martin's will-he-ever-finish series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Well done, gripping, lots of plot and lots of character.
Actually, I got bored and threw it against the wall.
First novel by a friend of mine, a mystery set in modern Tokyo in several different worlds: it's a police procedural, a novel about the clsh between the modern and the traditional, and a look at some of the odder subcultures of Japan. I learned a few things, too! Did you know that in Japan, an email address can be tied to a phone, not to an email provider?? Lots of fun, recommended.
The third Kurt Wallender.
The continuing adventures of Jame, the Kencyr; her brother Tori; those around them. Curioser and curioser!
I made a big mistake: this book is a direct follow-on to Dialogs of the Dead, its immediate predecessor, and it would have read very, very different if I had known that and read Dialogs first. Don't make my mistake.
The second of Mantel's Thomas Cromwell historical novels; as good as Wolf Hall, the first.
Finally! Non-fiction! Dr. Sanders writes a NY Times column about diagnosis and, more recently, a You Be the Doctor column. This book is about the art of diagnosis and, less obviously, the importance of the physical exam.
Still home sick, so in the last 24 hours, I read my second Ian Rankin of the week. This one seems to be the first in a new series (The Impossible Dead appears to be the second) about the cops who clean up after corrupt or misbehaving cops. Well-written, well-executed, absorbing, with a fine central character, Malcolm Fox.
Two mysteries in two days = home sick. This is a stand-alone novel, not one of the Wallander novels. The first half is better and more interesting than the second, because the base premise is so unfuckingbelievable. Also, as seems typical of him, major unanswered questions that he doesn't seem to realize are unanswered.
Ian Rankin is best known as the author of the John Rebus detective novels. This is a one-off caper novel, set in Edinburgh and making one brief passing reference only to Rebus (an in-joke that you wouldn't even get unless you've read the Rebus books). The plot is preposterous in many many ways - SO MANY - but the book is reasonably entertaining.
I remembered a lot less of this than of God Stalk. It is very, very good, continuing the story of Jame and continuing the terrible copy-editing.
Bad 1920s thriller. Why? I LEFT MY REAL BOOK AT WORK and read this in 24 hours, mostly on the shuttle.
Third or fourth time I've read this one, though the last time was more than 20 years ago. EXCELLENT book, still, though I quailed at "effect" for "affect" and "pallet" for "palate."
Whoa. A wry and sometimes funny novel of music in England and the life of a young composer who....um, well, I think you should just read it. I do wish there had been better copy-editing; the character name spelled differently on two pages, the extra word here, the two different statements of the age of one of the characters.
The second Wallender; jumps the shark pretty badly a couple of times.
The first of the Kurt Wallender police procedurals. Bleak, cold, bleak, cold. I think he misses one great plot opportunity; why don't the police immediately hire that young woman with the great memory?!
The third of the Palliser novels, another 750-page doorstop. You could read this one as a stand-alone; the Pallisers and their circle appear, but they are peripheral to the story of Lizzie Eustace and her diamonds. Well, perhaps I mean "her" diamonds. The ownership of the gems is in dispute from the first pages of the novel. Lizzie is quite something; young, beautiful, charming, clever (but not intelligent) and pathologically incapable of telling the truth. Whether she is deluded, scheming, unable to see the consequences of her actions, or some combination of the above, I do not know, but Trollope as ever paints a fascinating picture of society and women's lives. And the eternal question of who will marry who, and why, and of course there is a fox hunt.
Archie & Nero, at it again, this time with help from Nero's daughter (or "daughter").
I think this is no. 15 of 25 of the Dalziel & Pascoe books. It's intricately plotted and pretty intense. Probably helps to have some familiarity with Mahler's Kindertotenlieder.
The Irish member of Parliament, that is. A great coming of age novel; a young man finds his way in world, in Parliament and in government. The second of the Palliser (aka Parliamentary) novels. Trollope is also concerned with whom Phineas will marry and with the fate of a woman who marries the wrong man.
I last read "Gatsby" in high school or junior high. I now must ask: Whatever is this book's enormous reputation based on? The writing is often clunky and graceless, the dialog wooden, the plot trite, and the people loathesome. Not much to like! So much a young man's book about other young and very immature people.
The third book in the Deptford Trilogy, World of Wonders is everyone's second fav book in the trilogy except mine. I have always like The Manticore better. But this time around, I liked World of Wonders more than in the past (I think). For one thing, I have a greater appreciation of Magnus's growth. For another, I was fascinated by both the Tresizes and the look you get at their style of acting and theater. For a third, I greatly enjoyed the third view of Dunstan Ramsey and Boy Staunton, and the different views of Magnus and the Tresizes that you got from Roly.
The second book in the Deptford Trilogy. Like Fifth Business, just as good the fourth time as the first. Maybe better, because I have more understanding of why I like it so much.
I like the Manticore better than anyone I know. I have some insight into why I like it so much, from this reading. I believe it's because you get one narrative from Dunstan Ramsey in Fifth Business, then David Staunton goes over quite a bit of the same ground and suddenly some things look rather different. It's not that Ramsey is an unreliable narrator. It's just that he is not at all interested in Caroline or Netty or some of the complex relationships within the Staunton family. For that matter, he is not very interested in David. Some of what David explicitly discusses can be inferred from Ramsey's narrative, but more easily in retrospect, after reading The Manticore.
Also, I really love how the analytical process is discussed.
Three novellas or long short stories or something. Nero & Archie. The usual.
This year's goal: read more non-fiction.
It's January 1, 2012, and I did, more or less, manage to read more non-fiction. I did this by doing a little jamming on non-fiction at the end of the year.
I think I am starting 2012 with non-fiction - a new book and also by finishing a book I've been 95% done with for almost a year.
The 2012 count: 3 nonfiction books (four if you count the one I'm almost done with...), 27 fiction (including a couple of very short books and a couple of very long ones), 1 novel thrown against the wall partway through. I'm also still picking up Berlioz's memoirs from time to time and will finish the book eventually. Also about 180 pages into Phineas Finn on my phone and thinking I need hard copy.
A popular history of both the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition and the serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes, who killed at least 9, probably closer to 30, possibly as many as 200 people in the 1880s and 90s. Pretty good, definitely an overview, but with many exceptionally interesting architects and other people among the personages.
When this novel opens, you're apparently in the London many of us know and love; within fifteen or twenty pages, things start to get odd and just keep getting weirder and weirder. About 300 pages in, I started wondering wondering how on earth he would keep the plot going for another 200 pages; somehow, he does, and it's quite a virtuoso performance. Great characters and plotting and two of the creepiest assassins for hire you will ever meet.
Finally finished this one, which I've been reading off and on for quite some time. One of the NY Times's Best Books of the Year for 2010, both fascinating and frustrating. It needed somewhat heavier editing to give it a better story arc, not to mention heavier editing to avoid the several places where the author repeats himself two pages apart and, worse, the usually-breathless, journalistic prose. Also: integrating illustrations with the text would have been smart.
Just as good the fourth time through as the first three. I wish the jacket copy did not unreasonably focus on what is not really the central question of the book, though of course the desire to explain does drive Dunstan Ramsey's memoir.
I appreciate gravity ever so much more than I did even two weeks ago.
A talking cat, some talking rats, and a stupid-looking kid: the Pratchett take on the Pied Piper. Hilarious.
The second book in the Chaos Walking series; equally brilliantly written, equally grim. Superb working out of the situation set up at the end of The Knife of Never Letting Go. Sure, the middle book of a trilogy but does not have that unfinished feel to it. Must run out and buy book 3.
A mystery novel set in Iceland, featuring Inspector Erlendur; I take it to be one of a series. It is understated and took a while to gather momentum; the translation has some jarring Britishisms. A decent read; might take more of the series out of the library.
Elegant, but I would not have given it the Man Booker Prize.
Early 1920s British espionage novel; xenophobic but Francophile, also contains some random anti-Semitism. Fun otherwise, wish it had more cool gadgets. Not particularly well written.
It took about 1/3 of the book for me to realize that I disliked the characters, the voice, the pacing, and the plot. She's no A.S. Byatt, is all I can say.
I finally finished A. S. Byatt's "The Children's Book," which was absolutely wonderful, probably the best novel I have read in....I don't know how long. It was short-listed the year "Wolf Hall" won the Man Booker - now, I liked "Wolf Hall" a whole lot and am looking forward to the sequel that Hilary Mantel is evidently working on, but holy moley, WHAT were the judges thinking? "The Children's Book" is a magnificent accomplishment, even better than "Wolf Hall." Every sentence is so, so beautiful, and Byatt is a master of an intricate plot. I completely loved it, will be telling all my friends to read it.
If you read any of the reviews that were published when "The Children's Book" came out and they discouraged you from reading it, ignore them. Some of the things I saw in the reviews - which I read after finishing the book - are just wrong. Yes, the book has a whole lot of historical background in it, and the history acts to enrich the lives of the characters, in fact, the history is essential to how Byatt captures the time in which the characters live (a couple of decades plus a few years, starting around 1894).
The pacing of the book is one of its marvels, and I'm reasonably certain that reviewers, reading under the gun of a deadline, read it _too fast_. I read it at a leisurely pace, over the course of about two months. Partly, we have the hardcover and it was a pain to lug around - but mostly I wanted it to last as long as possible. I did NOT want to hurry through it. That's because every sentence is so, so beautiful.
If you like Byatt and have not read it, you have a marvel waiting for you.
The latest by the Irish mystery writer. A lost love, family secrets, three generations of a fairly messed-up family.
The most recent Culture book. A satisfying read!
A harrowing story, also a heartening one, written in a most unusual and sympathetic voice. I hesitate to say more, but highly recommend this.
One of the later Parker novels, fast-moving and strongly plotted.
Not a Culture book (apparently), though it's listed with the Culture books on the Also By page opposite the title page. Eh. The plot doesn't come together all that well and is presented in a fragmentary fashion. I hope Surface Detail is better.
The first of the Merchant Princes books. Okay, I'll probably finish the series, but not in a huge hurry.
Space opera. Really, really good space opera.
The first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. An even bleaker and more dystopian future than that of the Hunger Games trilogy.
The first children's book by the author of the Hunger Games trilogy. It's....okay. The writing is a bit flat and there are tone problems; she's trying to make a contrast between the viewpoint of an 11-year-old boy and the Underlanders, who live, yes, under the earth. It doesn't quite work. The story wasn't that enthralling; I think there are continuity issues; probably won't read (and definitely won't BUY) the balance of the series.
The first of the Palliser novels, focussing on the parallel stories of Alice Vavasor (the titular her), who is torn between two potential husbands, one a scoundrel and one a near-saint; Lady Glencora Palliser, who is torn between the man she loved and didn't marry and the man she did marry; and Mrs. Greenow, torn, but not very hard, between two men who might become her second husband. A good deal more fun than the first time around some years ago.
One of a series of mysteries about English cop (now retired) Frank Elder. Flat writing, mediocre pacing, not going to read any others.
I started James's psychological ghost story last month, in advance of seeing Britten's opera of the same name, then put it down, picked it up, etc. It is a great tale in so many ways, from the dense yet slippery style to the vividly drawn characters to the murky atmosphere. Are there ghosts? Is the Governess imagining things? I have an opinion on that, but you should read it and draw your own conclusions.
"Richard Stark" was Donald Westlake's pseudonym for his Parker books, Parker being a cold, calculating, murderous heist guy. I've read several in the last year or so, and picked up a half-dozen in the free box at a party recently. I might have read enough of them.
A police procedural set within a pair of cities, Beszel and Ul Quoma, that are physically co-located, but which have separate governments, cultures, economies, and laws. The citizens must learn to "unsee" each other and cannot interact unless they have traveled to the other city - in which case they cannot interact with their co-citizens. They are harshly and immediately punished for breaches of the accepted behavioral protocols. Mieville handles this premise brilliantly and surprisingly persuasively; the story is told from the viewpoint of a policeman caught up in a bi-city investigation of the death of a young archeologist.
The fourth, and probably last, Tiffany Aching book, funny, touching, wise, as usually, and a satisfying wrap-up that nonetheless leaves the door open for more if he's willing (and able, sigh) to write more. Please give the set to all the girls you know.
Blue-tongued mango voles, a felon-turned-wanna-be-Disney, a washed-up journalist, the requisite women with hearts of gold, and Skink. Hilarious as usual.
Ho-hum. I'm told that the Inspector Lynley novels are variable, and this one...well, I spotted something before the sleuths did, the setup is schematic, and the ostensibly adult characters don't seem to actualy learn much about how to talk to each other. Should I read more?
One of the early - 1963! Parker books - the amoral caper/heist/killer guy.
Many charming characters and funny scenes, but a diffuse plot that doesn't quite hang together.
I read 40 books in full and four more fractionally (from one-half finished to 3/4 finished) in 2010.
Huge reading break from late-Feb to early April as I IGNORED Luc
Sante's Low Life, which I started in February while in NYC. Log jam
now broken; I'll finish Low Life
There were several books I read only half or three-quarters of the way through in 2010. They're listed among the books I finished, for some reason - probably so I could keep chronological track of what I read.
The books I read in 2010, most of them completed:
The third book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Chew on the plot and character development. An extremely strong and tough-minded series, not sure, given the violence and political complications, whether they're really YA books.
Book 2 of the the Hunger Games trilogy. What happens afterward.
A follow-up of sorts to In the Woods, though with a completely different plot line and new characters. Again, not your usual police procedural. You will want to kick the protagonist occasionally.
A gripping double mystery, very complex and sometimes convoluted, about which i shall say nothing more.
Beautifully written and almost indescribable, though I have to say that I found the connections among the different parts a little more tenuous than I'd been led to believe they were.
I interrupted my reading of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas because when in Florida, read about Florida. Double Whammy is typical Hiaasen, populated by assorted rednecks, crazy people, cops, losers, criminals, and freaks. In this case, several of those are bass fishing pros, so the book also stars some fish. Hilarious, and, as usual, people die in various horrifying, yet funny, ways.
Sir Terry at his best. The Watch, the dwarfs, the trolls, a giant painting, Young Sam, Sibyl, and a lot of history.
Only read about 90 pages, got distracted by other things, had to return it to the library, could not take it in to renew because I was walking the dog. Will probably finish, though! Interesting alternate history novel of a world in which Elizabethan England is ruled by Spain.
An excellent, complex Dalziel & Pascoe novel, involving suicides, two of them, a decade apart, a stepmother, and deep secrets.
A remarkable coming of age novel set in a horrifying dystopian future. I've seen some advertising copy or blurbs/endorsements calling it an 'adventure story,' but no. First of three books. I will need to get "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" from the library as they are hardcover only just now.
Chaim Potok's best-selling 1967 novel about two Jewish boys, one Orthodox and the son of a great scholar, the other Hasidic and the son of a rabbi, in line to inherit his father's rabbinate. I read this as a teenager and remembered some of the key plot points, such as how the boys meet. I had forgotten a great deal of detail, and I'm sure that I never noticed that women are essentially invisible in the novel. Reuven's mother: dead. Danny's mother: in poor health. Danny's sister: no name. And Reb Saunders's way of raising Danny still enraged me. Also I think the plot and characters are laid out rather schematically. I'm touched by the relationship between Reuven and his father and by Dany and Reuven's friendship.
Rankin's second book ever, after the first Rebus novel, Knots & Crosses, and not nearly as good as the bulk of the Rebus novels. On the flat side for a complicated spy novel.
The third book in the series started with Mistress of the Art of the Death. Slightly better, but not enough to get me reading the second or any subsequent books.
An Ellie Pascoe mystery. Seriously, while Dalziel and Peter Pascoe are in the book, Ellie is the major focus. The embedded tale of ancient Greece is a really treat, too.
Mantel's Mann-Booker Prize-winning novel about Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation. Fantastic book, beautifully written, strongly plotted, deeply reflecting how people thought and lived in the 16th c. That's one of the best things about it: you can see the ways that Cromwell is more modern than his contemporaries: he plans, he analyzes businesses, he knows accounting. (That was a BIG DEAL in 16th c. England.) It's about a tumultuous time in English history, given Henry VIII's thirst for an heir and the creation of the Church of England as a result, and it's fascinating to see from such a personal standpoint. Highly recommended.
Threw in the towel half-way through because Werther is such an immature, self-centered, impulsive drip.
No, wait! After seeing the opera, I finished the book. Okay, I skipped the long recitation from Ossian! But I had to see if it ended the same way the opera ends (i.e. Charlotte really IS attracted to him...)
Entertaining but incoherent, and ended so abruptly I wondered if I'd managed to lose half the (electronic) book.
Experiment: I read this very long book - 100 chapters - on my smartphone, using the free Aldiko reader. I was astonished at how successful this experiment was. I felt free to put down and pick up the book, which I read over the course of about a month or five weeks. I read a few other books between chapters of TWWLN. The advantages of ebook format for it included not having to lug a thousand-page novel around, being able to pull it out of my pocket any old time, and not knowing exactly how far I had to go. I strongly disliked the Kindle the one time I had my hands on it - I don't feel a strong need for a hard keyboard when I'm reading, for example - but like reading electronically on the phone just fine.
One of the great books by my favorite 19th c. English writer, a superb novel of business life and social manners in the 1870s, with plenty to say about class and anti-Semitism. Many points of view and many fascinating characters, of which I must say the women are mostly more interesting than the men. Mrs. Hurtle is a magnificent creature and how I wish her the best. Georgiana Longestaff is a shallow and self-centered fool (though perhaps in the end she does well since she does the unexpected). There's one character we barely see about whom I'd like to know more, Mr. Brehgert, since he is the only man to speak with a woman as if she were an intelligent and independent being who can make her own life decisions.
Also, Sir Damask Monogram is the best character name ever.
A vanished brother, an unsolved murder, a psychopath, mistaken identity, and a lot of withheld information.
This novel was the basis of the 2006 French film Ne le dis a personne, which kept almost all of the plot and relocated the action to France. IMDB tells me there is an English-language film called Tell No One under development. You might as well get the French version, which includes Kristen Scott Thomas.
In any event, it's a complex and reasonably well-put-together mystery/thriller, though I think there are plot holes you could drive through. This seems to be Coben's stock in trade, based on reading this and another novel of his in close proximity.
The second Richard Hannay book. A mysterious message, a trek across Europe and into the Anatonlian peninsula, traveling companions of various sorts, amazing coincidences, a vengeful German, an elusive woman plotting to lead an Islamic revolt of sorts (!). And a lot of random racism, too. This is the sequel to The Thirty-Nine Steps. I have not decided whether I need to read (or can bear to read) Mr. Standforth, the next Richard Hannay book
You don't need me to explain this to you, do you?
My first-ever reading of the great classic. It is extremely charming and while the famous movie musical doesn't follow it exactly, it's pretty close. I love the illustrations, too. I plan to read a couple more of the series.
After 110 pages, I didn't give a damn about any of the characters, AND I was annoyed by the operatic and Spanish errors. Putting it another way, I found the book so annoying I would have CHEERED if the terrorists had lined up all the other characters and shot then one by one, just to get the damn thing over and done with.
Yes, indeed: it's a Nancy Drew book. When I helped my mother clean up her house in 2006, I packed and took to CA a fairly small number of books, and my childhood "series" books were among them.
I have not read a Nancy Drew book since my childhood, though I have read a number of articles about them. Did you know that in the originals, which started to come out in the 1930s, Nancy was a more independent person than in those that were published in the 1950s and 60s?
This particular book was published in 1937, and indeed, Nancy does what she wants, even when it shows poor judgment or puts her in danger. It's an entertaining read, and I can see why it made such an impression on me when I was 8, but oh dear. The writing is stilted and stiff; the plotting full of unlikely coincidences. A current adult mystery - or, for that matter, the best adult mysteries from the 1920s and 30s - would be better-constructed and written. (Yes, I know that most don't have the quality of the best of Sayers.) Still, it's easy to see why these books are so appealing and have lasted so long as a series.
Among the other books I brought back from NJ were some that my father had read as a child in the 1920s, by Jeffrey Farnol. They are not the copies he read, which probably came from the public library; they're copies he bought in the 1960s and 70s at used bookstores and at garage sales. This puzzled me at the time, but now I understand the impulse to re-read beloved books from childhood; for the sheer pleasure and to see how they stand up to one's memory of them.
Sam Vimes is appointed ambassador to Uberwald on the occasion of the coronation of a new Low King of the dwarfs. Various disasters and hilarity ensue; I'd consider this one of the best of the Discworld novels.
The second Thursday Next book, continuing the adventures of the LiteraTech operative in a most unusual alternate universe, where there's a Shakespeare voting bloc, the Crimean War continued until 1985, time travel is real, and dodos (plock plock) have been genetically engineered back into existence. An excellent read, often funny, with a couple of marvelous virtuoso turns of writing.
I made it half-way through. I read a bunch of the Fu-Manchu books as a teenager; I'm almost certain I picked up this hardcover first American edition for more or less nothing in a thrift store in Waltham, MA when I was in college. It goes nicely with The Thirty-Nine Steps in terms of the threat-from-the-other. In the Buchan, it's Jews and Germans, in Rohmer's books, Asians. Yes, there's lots and lots about the Yellow Peril and the threat from the east, a truly appalling level of racism, with secret agent Nayland Smith explictly standing for the whole white race, especially the British white race.
Fu-Manchu is both brilliant, the greatest living genius, and a monster. And also an opium addict. I couldn't take more than half of it, with the endless running around to no purpose, the beautiful young woman who instantly falls in love with Dr. Petrie, the murderous fiends, etc.
No, I did not read this in one day, though it is so short I almost could have. Read on a Google Nexus One using the Aldiko book reader.
If you've seen the famous Hitchcock film, you'll barely recognize the book. Parts of it, yes, but Hitch's screenwriter invented whole swaths of the script and changed its time period. There's plenty of casual classism (okay, that nearly goes without saying) and casual anti-semitism as well. Scrambling over the highlands, yes; beautiful female sidekick, no.
Keegan's overview of four great naval battles: Trafalgar, Jutland, Midway, and Atlantic.
The third and possibly the last of the Tiffany Aching books; a fine coming-of-age novel, as the whole trilogy is, and a great look at the education of a witch.
The third and possibly last Jimmy Paz novel, but the door is certainly open for more. Especially memorable for its attempts to represent how a person from an Amazonian culture would see the modern world and for the internal transformations of two of the other characters.
I've been reading this for a while - was about half-way through when the Stieg Larsson books landed in my household. A really superb historical fantasy novel set at the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King. One of Vonda's best, I would say.
Since he died shortly after turning in the mss. of the three Lisbeth Salander mystery/thrillers, no more. I caught the first big implausibility and likely consequences long before the consequences played out. There's a lot I don't believe for a second, but perhaps the biggest implausibility is the genius hackers using INTERNET EXPLORER, the most bug-ridden, slow, and overloaded of web browsers. For crying out loud, she's Swedish - she'd be using Opera.
Utterly preposterous and again full of giant holes in the plot. Fun, though!
Yes, I'm reading the Swedish mystery series, like everyone else I know. I can't tell if the clumsy writing is a result of a clumsy translation; the plot has holes you could drive a truck or three through. And yet, compelling!
Moist von Lipwig, in charge of a bank? Yes, indeed.
At this point, I find Adam Dalgliesh's sidekicks at least as interesting as he is, and I still don't quite get the relationship between him and his 20-years-younger fiancee. This novel has a fairly convolunted plot, and you truly don't get enough information to figure out who done it until mighty late in the book. Even then, I'm not sure I could tell you why done all of it.
Rebus finally retires. A fairly complex plot, involving a dead Russian poet, various Russian businessmen, and, eventually, Big Ger Cafferty. I am not completely convinced that Rebus is gone, but we'll see. After 20-odd years of documenting his life, Ian Rankin might want a change.
Another elegantly-written and sometimes quite funny novel by Hare, this time set somewhere on the south coast of England. While it revolves around the murder of a fine violinist, it also involves the nuances of organizing and rehearsing an amateur orchestra by a conductor who is clearly better than they deserve. However, I have to say: the big break revolves around what I would consider a complete impossibility, given the several amateur orchestras and bands I've played it.
An elegantly written and reasonably well-plotted English mystery from the 1930s, set in the wake of the financial collapse of a group of related companies all owned and run by the same swindler.
No, it did not take me nearly three weeks to read this book. I spent a week or so hauling around The Orphan's Tales without touching it, and another week hauling around and sometimes reading part of The Great Influenza. Now you know why I don't read nearly as many books as I'd like. I should go back to leaving my laptop at work during the week.
That said, this is another Tiffany Aching/Nac Mac Feegle book, an excellent ongoing coming-of-age tale. Great stuff, but you knew I'd say that.
The great author, cook, and TV personality, an eccentric of the first water, tells her life story, sort of. It's less a memoir than a chronological series of charming anecdotes, as told to her nephew Alex. It's always entertaining, sometimes touching, and often hilarious. Running through the book is the ten-year tale of the writing and publishing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a suprising cliff-hanger. (I cried when they finally sold it!) The book also contains a great love story, that of the late-blooming Julia and her beloved Paul.
The first Tiffany Aching novel. She's nine years old and has THE POWER, as well as having had a remarkable grandmother. Also contains a lot about and co-stars the Nac Mac Feegle, one of Sir Terry's great, great creations.
I read 26 books in 2009, up from 23 in 2008, but still behind the 33 in 2007 and far under what i read before the internet took over my life. I spent too much shuttle time on line answering email or blogging, I think. I read a disproportionate number of books while home sick or on vacation (two-plus during a short stay in Santa Fe, for example). I still wish I were reading more nonfiction.
Books I finished:
A fairly brutal but very good Dalziel & Pascoe novel, with many strongly drawn characters and a good subplot.
Putting this here belated because I think I read it in 2009 - might have been the first few days of 2010, however. Apparently the next-to-last Rebus novel, involving finance and government and Siobhan's parents.
I liked the movie, so I got the book, which typically turns out to be better fleshed out and more interesting, and you can easily see what got grated on for the movie. Tristran's father in the book is happily married, so there's no happy reunion with Lady Una. And the whole De-Niro-the-gay-pirate bit was invented for the movie. Anyway, charming and very beautifully written. I need to read more Gaiman.
George Gissing, a British novelist and journalist of the late 19th c., is probably best know today for the novel New Grub Street. I picked up In the Year of Jubilee in a Dover edition several years ago and finally read it this year, inspired by two friends who'd read Gissing within the last 18 months. It is both fascinating and frustrating because it is so much of its time. Set in 1889, the year of Queen Victoria's jubilee, it tells the story of Nancy Lord, her ne're to do well brother Horace, their family tributions, and Nancy's disastrous involvement with the immature Lionel Tarrant, which nearly ruins her, though in the end it appears to more or less be working out reasonably well. But you can easily see the ways that women's lives were limited by circumstances and especially by the circumstance of their being women.
An art-historical thriller of sorts, one about which it's hard to say much without major spoilage, so I'll just say that it's lots of fun and will send you diving for the art history books.
This book is wild with anachronisms; the characters act much too much like modern people; I do not for a minute believe that a Spanish Jew of the 12th century spoke Yiddish (he would speak Ladino); for that same minute, I do not believe that the famed medical school at Salerno followed 19th and 20th c. practice to determine how bodies decayed after death; and I do not believe for a second that they trained women as doctors. (It has been brought to my attention that perhaps Salerno did train women as doctors. That would be interesting to read about.)
Enjoyable, not in the least believable.
The second of Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe books. Compact, swift, and well done.
I'm home with a cold, that's why the three books finished in three days. Today's was one of Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford novels. As usual, she is both great and maddening, for these reasons: 1. The felis-ex-machina without which.... 2. The young cop who is a pure caricature of a feminist - it's far from the first time Rendell has pulled this crap 3. The incredibly convoluted plot in which a lot of trouble could have been avoided if, say, some of the characters had bothered to speak honestly to each other 4. In a book with two English characters of African ancestry and one English character of Indian ancestry, she still manages to have a "magic Negro" (ask me if you're not familiar with the term) 5. The sheerly idiotic and immature behavior of yet another character from one of the subplots. Is that enough reasons?
The first Parker book I've read, a superb and tightly-plotted and -writen heist novel.
A girl named Polly runs away to join the army and find her brother. She finds a lot more, and finds OUT a lot more. Typical Pterry.
Rats was a surprise best seller a few years back. Considering the subject matter, it is surprisingly charming. Still, given that the author spends quite a lot of time in an alley observing the subject rodent, perhaps this is not for the squeamish.
One of Ellroy's L.A. Quartet books; if you've read L.A. Confidential, you'll know some of the characters. A good read of sorts, but the stench of corruption and horror is so great that I think I need to go shower now.
Nero, Archie, a perfume-related contest. Pure comfort reading, and I'm absolutely certain I'd read it before.
Flat, flat, flat. Flat writing, poor plotting, has to invent a work by Aaron Copland, then claims there would be only one percussionist. I don't think so. Must be the only writer to set a book at Oxford and pay no attention to the town and university's age and beauty.
The gap isn't as long as it seems; I read most of two books that I need to finish since The Moonstone. I picked up the Tanenbaum book because the excellent Michael A. Gruber ghosted this and several other of Tanenbaum's books. However, this one is not nearly as good as the books Gruber has been writing under his own name. The writing isn't as good and the characters and plotting....I can't begin to tell you how many times I wanted to kick one of the main characters
A famous 19th century crime/detective novel, now more entertaining as a period piece and for the charming characters than for the plotting. You could say I don't buy a word of the explanation of who and how done it. Still, I'm glad to have read it, some thirty years after I first heard of The Moonstone.
The second in Gruber's stylish Jimmy Paz series. Terrific writing and plotting. If I'd been able to buy a copy of the third book today, I would have done so.
Horrible people doing horrible things to each other, often behaving stupidly in the process, the exceptions mostly being in Lynley's immediate circle. Please stop torturing Havers immediately, and if this series doesn't improve in the next book or two, I am done with it.
If you're following along, you'll have noticed the weeks-long gap since my last-completed book. During that time, I started a Pratchett book, then lost it at work. I spent more time working on Remix, which is hugely annoying. I am also more than 100 pages into a Java textbook and have been spending one evening a week in class and more time doing homework.
I started In the Night Garden months ago, and then got distracted, perhaps by my first run at Remix. In any event, I finally picked it up and dashed through the last 150 pages. All I can say is "Wow." It is an amazing, intricate, wonderfully-written fantasy. I can't wait to read the next book.
A superbly written thriller/police procedural/fantasy novel - really - that raises all sorts of questions related to the recent cultural appropriation and racism debates on LiveJournal. Judging by the photos, the author, with whom I have a slight online acquaintance, is European-American, but the central subjects include African American identity, Africa, santeria, anthropology, anthropology's role, and what, exactly, it is possible to learn by trying to become part of a culture not one's own. I am troubled by the way some of the character development goes, no, wait, by quite a lot of the character development. I also liked the book a whole lot and plan to read the next two Jimmy Paz novels.
Recommended by someone on the Potlatch Good Reads panel. An odd cast of characters set off in a spaceshit to save the world. Well, not exactly, but sort of. The cast includes an autistic man who is a genius at synthesis, a military commander of notable nerve, the Gang of Four, and a vampire. A creepy and sometimes scary book, worth reading.
The latest Culture novel. It took a long, long time getting off the ground and ends, well, you know Banks.
A placeholder; I've been intermittently reading this since mid-February. So far, I'm somewhat disgruntled.
Between finishing The Rest is Noise and starting Carpe Jugulum, I also read about 50 pages of Joseph Horowitz's controversial Understanding Toscanini, which I will get back to in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the usual assortment of wisdom, wit, and belly laughs from Sir Terry. As usual, do not mess with Granny Weatherwax.
I started Noise last April at Wilbur Hot Springs, read another chunk in Santa Fe in July, then set it aside during the Great Reading Drought of 2008. Finally decided I had better finish it. So you could say I read 300-odd pages last year and 200-odd this year, making two decent-sized books. I liked what I read, am not happy at all about some important omissions and feel like a statement up front that this is an AMERICAN view of 20th c. music would have been a good idea. Maybe it's there and I have forgotten - I will check before I write my blog posting about the book. But if a Brit or German had written the book, there would be a lot less Copland and Bernstein, and Will Marion Cook wouldn't have gotten a mention. I have a lot to say in addition to that and won't try to put much of it here.
Giant, fast-moving, often scary novel with a large debt, both plot and structural, to Stoker's Dracula. I liked it quite a bit, though I think it stumbles a bit toward the end, perhaps because it's simply difficult to close out such a big book. The multipart denoument seemed both too drawn out and too short; at the end I wanted a bit more. However, a damn good read.
Well-written and reasonably entertaining, though a bit too convoluted in trying to set out a great deal about the mystery at hand, problems within Lynley's family, and telling us about Simon and Deborah's prehistory.
Okay, if you've read the first three Lynley novels, details about how Simon and Deborah FINALLY get together aren't exactly spoilers. But MY GOD how stupidly these people behave. He doesn't communicate with her for THREE YEARS even though they are quite clearly the best of friends when she leaves England for three years. He BROODS and BROODS about how he can't possibly be acceptable to her because of his injury and limp. What? He's presented as sensitive, brilliant, kind, well-read, and good-looking, and a limp and a brace are supposed to be disqualifying?
Other stupidity: EVEN I could figure out that the camera bag disappeared because of the film! And what is with the concealed evidence and the drive across London that takes an hour when Tommy and Simon know Sasha is dead or dying? Sheesh!
This is the second time I've read Growing Up Weightless, a coming-of-age/YA novel by the late John M. Ford. I like the book's characters, details, and plot, but I feel like it has one serious problem: it doesn't have what I would call a real plot climax, and so it feels structurally weak. This might be because there are multiple plot threads, any of which could have been further worked out, or because the denoument happens very, very fast, in a small number of pages both absolutely and relative to amount of plot to be unwound. It is typical of Ford that he alludes to a lot without spelling it out, which is, in this book, a serious problem with respect to one of the ongoing plot threads. I truoly wish the book had been longer, both for better working out of the plots and for more depth of detail in some areas: how the theater works, the mechanical systems of Luna, what happens with all of the kids, etc. Okay, the latter probably isn't necessary.
I'll also say that the musical economy of Luna is different from anything I am familiar with. There is no way the composer could finish his work and have it performed two weeks later in the current world musical economy. The implication of what happens in the book is that the composer lives in a world like Haydn's, where the music was performed by Esterhazys' private orchestra as soon as it was written, without a long rehearsal period. I am not convinced that a complex modern work, and that's what the symphony to be performed is, could be rehearsed and performed under those conditions.
Well, I had a crappy book-reading year in 2008. I blame it on blogging a lot more than in previous years, reading other blogs too much, and the election. I also got badly bogged down, to the point of blockage, by The Rest is Noise. I read part of it in April, part of it in July, and remain stuck half-way through. Read the index to see why, she said cryptically; I still haven't figured out what to say about it on my blog.
My goal for 2009 is just to read a lot more, of whatever type of book.
A survey of how several facets of the popular TV show work in the real world.
Grazing only. I read the excellent introductory chapter and parts of the string quartet and piano music chapters. I have the second edition (Thanks, Patrick!), which was published ten years ago. In the decade since, Carter, still composing at the age of 100, has written another 20 or 30 works. Hold off a while on that third edition, Mr. Schiff.
I read this because it was in the house and easy, even after having sworn off Donna Leon. I had been told the later books in the Guido Brunetti series were better the earlier - not true at all. Never again!
The enormous gap since I last finished a book has two reasons: the election, which killed my concentration for reading anything but political news, and the length and complexity of a couple of other books I was reading in the late summer/early fall. I seem able to read again now that the election is, thank goodness, OVER.
A mystery/fantasy novel set in an England where it's 1985 - and the Crimean War is still going on. Where there are internal combustion engines, but no jets, and air travel is by propeller-powered airship. Where dodos are common pets. Where crimes against literature are quite common.
How music got rocks in it; also, Death's sensible granddaughter saves the day - again.
The third of the New York Trilogy. This book appears more humane than the first two, or at least the protagonist seems less trapped in convention and more spontaneous than those of the first two. Still, there are many unanswered questions; the atmosphere of the book is disturbing and disquieting, as in the first two books. Not fun to read, not challenging; the books read more like intellectual experiments than anything else. Just how far can I stretch this genre before it breaks?
Book Two of the New York Trilogy, just as creepy as the first. A man (called Blue) is hired by White to watch Black, and destroys his life by doing so.
I read City of Glass in the 80s, but never got the rest of the New York Trilogy; gave away my copy of City of Glass, then picked up a copy of the trilogy that a friend was giving away. MY, what a creepy book. I suspect I both liked and understood it better this time than 20 years ago, and will be starting the second book in the trilogy later today.
A complicated and very entertaining literary thriller, with a great cast of characters.
Salman Rushdie came to Google for a talk a few weeks ago. I had never heard him speak before. He turned out to be smart, funny, and very charming. The talk was mobbed, and he got an enormous hand before and especially after. You can watch his talk on YouTube.The Enchantress of Florence is about a number of things: power, and fate, and magic, and love. It's a lovely book, and as he says in his talk, he didn't make up some of the seemingly wildest things he wrote.
A female wizard? Are you kidding?
A strange and mostly wonderful book, about a world in which the Jews who survived WWII are given a limited-term home in Sitka, Alaska. I liked it a great deal, especially the wry and tortured Mayer Landesman, cop. I suspect it's funnier than I found it; dry wit often goes over my head in print.
The first of MacDonald's Anthony Gethryn novels. I read several of these in the 1980s, and recently used MacDonald for the Well's Mystery Logout Quote game. My copy of The Rasp looked as if it had never been read, and I didn't remember a thing about it - strange, but possibly true. In any event, one of the worst mysteries I've ever read, with conclusions lept to and vast amounts of unmotivated and poorly-explained behavior. I'm now afraid to reread Warrant for X or The List of Adrian Messenger, which I remember as being pretty good.
Much better than the previous two Anita Blake novels, largely because it's heavy on the mystery, better on the human/monster relationship issues, and light on gratuitous violence
No problem with the improbability of talking dragons and Nelson's survival past Trafalgar, but the insanity of the decision-making in this book and the lost-kingdom aspect in the center put me over the edge. I also looked ahead to the ending - WTF? I don't buy it and am done, done, done with the series
Hmm, two Pratchetts in a row and separated by weeks. That's largely because of the amount of time I have recently put into researching and writing a forthcoming article, the longest I've written as a music writer. In any event, Death's sensible granddaughter saves the world.
Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, love, unicorns, and....those you don't mention.
One of the great New Yorker writer's collections of food essays. Hilarious, and you will drool straight through.
I read a review in the Times a few years ago when this translation of the Stendahl classic was published. On a visit to my mother, probably in 2001 after she broke her wrist, a bookstore across the river in Hackensack was going out of business. I picked up a few books, Charterhouse among them.
Now, I was not expecting to like Charterhouse. It's a long, early 19th century classic by a writer with a one-name pseudonym. I was expecting serious, heavy, unpleasant.
Boy, was I surprised. The tone throughout is light, ironic, very modern; the action is paced swiftly; the book is full of charm. world. At its heart, it's a novel of politics and court intrigue. It tells the story of the young nobleman Fabrizio del Dongo, as foolish a dolt as has ever been found on the pages of a novel: you will often want to smack him. Possibly more importantly, it's about his aunt, the marvelous Duchess of Sanseverina, and her lover Count Mosca della Rovere, who try to get Fabrizio established in the world.
Subtitled "Tales of Music and the Brain," that's exactly what this superb book by Dr. Sacks is about. Music, neurology, brain damage, unusual conditions, all fascinating.
The third novel by an author best known for her writing about artificial intelligence and other aspects of computer science. Set in Santa Fe, partly at the Santa Fe Institute, about love, death, and other aspects of life. A really good book, interestingly plotted (the characters' lives unfold very slowly) and vividly written. I wish the typeface were more readable - the book designer made a very bad choice.
DEATH LEAVES HIS JOB FOR A WHILE.
The second of the Nurse Matilda books, with a plot that can be summarized in one sentence: The Brown children go to London, mayhem ensues, Nurse Matilda puts things right. Beyond that, really, it is rather annoying. Too much picking on both thin and far people and people with accents. I wish there were either a plot or some characterization beyond the very broad characterization of Aunt Adelaide, Evangeline, and Nurse Matilda.
The third of the Inspector Lynley novels. The plot is about two layers of complexity past plausibility, plus, I thought one character's self-torture implausible based on my knowledge of one of the other characters. I was vastly relieved when....but completing many of these thoughts would require a big spoiler warning. I should note that since I've been sick for two days, this was fine sick-bed reading anyway.
Longer than the previous two novels and less effective than either, with an overly long plot with insufficient motivation for the primary activity and a couple of all-too-obvious long-range setups, plus not quite enough elucidation of an intruiging character. Perhaps he'll appear in the fourth book, perhaps not. Moreover, those dragons can be so annoying! Just imagine a talking cat the size of a first-rate man o' war who can fly and speak intelligently in multiple languages.
Don't mess with Granny Weatherwax or Greebo.
I've wanted to read this book since it was first published in, get this, 1993. McCloud gave a captivating talk at Google a few months ago about his new book, Making Comics, and I decided I'd better start at the beginning.
Why ever did I wait so long? Understanding Comics is sheer genius, as he wittily deconstructs and reconstructs comics through the ages. Not only that, the book is in the form of a comic. Brilliant; I'll be ordering his subsequent two books ASAP.
For some reason, his talk isn't up on the Authors@Google web page. Hmmm.
You see the huge gap between finishing The Civil War and finishing His Majesty's Dragon? Blame Battle Cry of Freedom, a magnificent one-volume history of the American Civil War. It's about 900 pages long, and I have finally wrapped it.
Battle Cry won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, and it's easy to see why. McPherson starts in the 1840s, and he's 250 pages in before the first shots are fired at Fort Sumter. He covers the causes of the Civil War, the social and political conditions of the period, the battles, the generals, the politicians, the enormous changes wrought by the war. He is deeply eloquent and deeply learned. A great accomplishment and worth every minute I spent reading it.
More of the Napoleonic wars plus dragons. There are two anachronisms: use of the words "mindset" and "sideburns." I wonder about the design of the dragon transport and may consult a naval architect of my acquaintance. Otherwise, lots of fun, and boy, those dragons are very high maintenance.
The usual mix of screwups, heavies, and entertaining improbabilities, all very, very funny.
The Napoleonic Wars plus dragons, from the English viewpoint. What more could you want?
I'm reviewing San Francisco Opera's production of Philip Glass's new opera, Appomattox, in a couple of weeks. I have not studied American history since high school, and though I had better review the history of the American Civil War before the opera opens.
The Civil War is a superb short history of the conflict. With about 300 pages of narrative and 100 pages of back matter, it's very much the 20,000 foot view. Still, it takes in the causes of the war, at least from the perspective of 1960, and its course. Catton vividly conveys the conditions of the war and the characters of the men who led it.
Still, we've learned a lot since 1960. I have a more recent, longer history of the era on board; I may even finish it by October 5.
The second is also annoying! There are a couple of implausible plot points that I won't discuss, as they are spoilers; she tips her hand badly on a couple of plot points; the pacing is not so good; there's a huge tangle set up and not undone by the end. I think she is setting up future plots, most likely; giving Guido a nemesis of some kind. I thought of John Rebus and his nemesis Cafferty -- if you want atmosphere and great writing, try the Rebus novels rather than these, unless they get a lot better. Also, perhaps she took that Chekovian dictum a little too seriously.
Given that it's Stephenson, you might expect fantasy or science fiction, but Cryptonomicon is a generation-spanning historical thriller. You don't need to know about the history of cryptography, or to have read an Alan Turning biography, but after you're done, you may want to.
I found Katherine enormously annoying for the first hundred pages or so; if you do too, stick with the book anyway. She changes a lot during the course of the story and the plot eventually gets underway in interesting ways. There is, I think, a big plot point left hanging at the conclusion, so perhaps we'll get more set in the same world.
If you're new to the series, read Swordspoint
then this book, and finish with The Fall of the Kings. Yes,
you should try to find the two Alec & Richard short stories too.
This time it took, though, and I zipped right through, wishing at the end that there were more (and in more than one way). It's an alternate history, set in a 15th century where Byzantium is a power nearly across Europe, numerous gods are worshipped (among them Jesus Christ - but Christianity is a minor cult, not the dominant religion), magic works, and, oh yes, there are vampires. Highly recommended, for its elegance and the vivid characters especially.
Adding to the fun, one of the sous chefs at Google used to work at Babbo; he found me reading Heat one day and signed my copy on the page where he's mentioned. On the down side, whoever edited Heat needs remedial lessons in how to ensure that the verb and subject match in number.
Books I've been in the middle of since 2009 and might finish some day:
Books I started in 2010 or 2011 and am in the middle of right now:
Books I started and will not be finishing: