books read, late November
This also applies to naps.
Rhys Bowen, In Like Flynn, Oh Danny Boy. I continue to be annoyed by Daniel Sullivan, who sucks, and by the narrative of love that has Molly, Terrible but Lucky Investigator, swooning into his arms at every turn. She says no! She has boundaries! Then he kisses her and all bets are off.
In the latter book, she encounters a female police officer who is competent and driven. Why am I not reading that series of mysteries?
Also, I think this is as close to an abortion as I’ve ever read a fictional character come. Dammit. Why so many convenient miscarriages, fiction? I mean, I know why, but why?
Margo Lanagan, Black Juice. Read bit by bit over the course of more than a month. I didn’t study my CW instructors well enough beforehand; I have more questions for Lanagan now. Her stories are almost entirely about systems, whether it’s an execution or, in “Yowlinin,” the heartbreaking lack of empathy toward the orphaned survivor of random tragedy. I couldn’t take more than a couple stories at a time-- the bleakness in them, the almost universal lack of vindication, gets to me, and then I’m not able to take in the next story.
Anyway. Margo Lanagan, one more voice recommending her if you like dialect, interesting culture-building, and people trapped in systems that no one fixes.
Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races. I want to compare this to Lanagan’s Brides of Rollrock Island and I don’t think it’s just that there’s an island in a similar time period with magic and the sea and a community. Lanagan is interested in portraying the broken system; Stiefvater is interested in her characters and how they navigate it. This doesn’t lessen either of them and I certainly don’t mean to say that Lanagan doesn’t care about her characters because seriously, no, but they deal with a superficially similar premise in completely different ways.
Also, Sexy Other Hero is convincingly other. He’s not a Sexy Werewolf or a Sexy Dolphincentaur or anything, he just doesn’t have the same priorities as the heroine does... but he doesn’t have the priorities other people think he has, either. And in the end, they are kind of the same priorities.
The weakness of the book is in the putative and actual villains. The former was cardboard, though he did have motive; I wondered how he managed to convince people to go along with his stupid ideas after the first friend got killed, and I seriously wondered if anyone was ever going to call him on anything. The latter is even less sensemaking, as he lets the former do whatever he wants apparently just to watch people struggle because... I don’t know, because banality of evil? He’s bored.
Anyway! I have thoughts about this book in comparison to both the Lanagan and the latest Holly Black, which I read in December so it’s in the next booklog, oh and also many other books including Shiver. I want to talk about wishes and horses made of sharks.
Rhys Bowen, In Dublin’s Fair City, Tell Me Pretty Maiden. Why do I keep reading these if I also roll my eyes at them? Mostly because they’re safe, to be honest, and they’re bad in a way I can explain and make people laugh at. Like Daniel the Deceiver, the ostensible love interest, who is... he comes onstage and immediately becomes Captain Asshole.
Unfortunately, I think we’re stuck with Captain Asshole, though at least Molly’s going through the Turn of the Century Travelogue enough to have more interesting people around. Random Irish Republicans! Nelly Bly! A shoutout to Evelyn Nesbit!
Philippa Bornikova Box Office Poison. I wish I liked the narrator better. I wish I did. I wish I believed she was actually a kickass lawyer. But instead... I just don’t. She thinks so much about working out and how much she eats, she brings riding boots to a work trip to Los Angeles because she’ll find a stable somewhere, surely she will, she misses the villain when I had figured out method, motive, and opportunity and the outcome of the B plot, which I posited to Angela as a problem.
If someone who hasn’t read the book and knows nothing of the problems can solve your complicated legal matter in ten seconds, it is really not a complicated legal matter now is it.
And the thing is, I will read the next one. I like the books even though I feel like I’m missing Linnet entirely. She’s skew to me, just a bit, and it bothers me that I should like her and I don’t.
(Also, the copyeditor made some really terrible mistakes in here. Bad copyeditor!)
Naomi Novik, Blood of Tyrants. More travelogue, horrifying Russia, and no resolution, but it does say ‘penultimate’ in the blurb. And is there any reason for amnesia? Ever?
Tamora Pierce, Battle Magic. I didn’t like The Realms of the Gods. That’s important. This book had a lot to live up to, as it’s part of why I was annoyed at The Will of the Empress at first; it’s the missing piece, and it has to be one damned fine piece to be worth it.
I loved the bits between Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy. I loved the bits between Rosethorn and Lark, though Lark isn’t in this book at all. I liked the little gods and the God-King and all the things around the edges... and unfortunately, this book is not about traumatizing characters I love and forcing them into a losing battle that will affect them for the rest of their lives. This book is about a war that happens offstage for the most part, and the parts that are onstage aren’t worse than how they affect Briar and Evvy later. Plus it has memory-stealing, which generally means that something has gone wrong with your worldbuilding.
I wanted worse. I wanted precise, ruthless failure. I wanted to be wretched when I finished the book. And it’s not like it’s a bad book! It is a good book! It’s just a good book that has deus ex mountaina throughout.
I am putting a veil over my memories of this book so I can have worse things happen to Evvy and Briar. And like I said, I didn’t like The Realms of the Gods either. Gods as gods generally mean that events are too close to the cosmology of the world for me to enjoy them.