Tanya Huff, Blood Price, Blood Trail. Rereads, but it’s been quite a while. I’m not sure what made me pick these up besides that I like Tanya Huff’s writing in general and had forgotten most of the books. It’s strange reading them after so much other urban fantasy. Also strange reading them after a lot of banter-heavy Tanya Huff in recent years. There’s some banter, but mostly, other things are going on.
The first book is good, the second not as satisfying; I like the intersection of real- and unreal-world problems, so the werewolf thing is cool-- and little-kid werewolf! I like him so much! But then… it’s a problem with most crime/mystery stories. At some point, you have to deal with the killer. A lot of books take the easy way out, having something go wrong and the killer ends up dead by his own machinations, and that’s not totally bad. Suicide, though, is just a cop-out. Struggles where the bad guy ends up dead are okay as long as not too many of them involve falling off things, a la Disney.
Robin McKinley, Peter Dickinson, Fire. Companion to Water. This collection is apparently why Sunshine and possibly Chalice exist. I don’t pick up new McKinley with the same assurance of quality as I did before Dragonhaven and reading her blog, but her stories are the better ones in the collection-- I’m not a Dickinson person, I guess. The last story, “First Flight”, is simultaneously good and frustrating because I want to do a blog-and-Dragonhaven-ectomy on it. She occasionally pulls out perfect bits of writing, but then she goes and tries to be a teenager and it just doesn’t work.
Still, I liked her two stories, the Dickinsons weren’t bad, just not my thing, and it’s an interesting idea for an anthology. I kind of wish someone would do it with more writers than two.
Book I Did Not Finish: I find it interesting that you feel the need to explain the obvious and oft-used honorific the characters use toward their elders, yet not the philosophy that leads them to not warn anyone of the action that will bring about doom doom doom. “Oh no, X is going to happen! It will be caused by Y. Let’s not tell anyone about Y and hope it never comes about, okay?”
I feel guilty for not finishing it.
Susan Krinard, Kinsman’s Oath. I spent a fair amount of this book trying to figure out why Krinard’s stories leave me so unaffected, and the only thing I can come up with is too many climaxes (dear Mozart). It’s like Catherine Asaro, whose books I keep reading even as I shred them with gleeful wrath, like Lowachee’s Warchild, which I would have read last month except the library seems to have gotten rid of it, and yet... I should have liked this book more than I did. There are so many really, really cool things about it. Betrayals! Unknowing moles! Family ties, big fat history in the background, boy raised by aliens!
Cynthia Voigt, Homecoming, Dicey’s Song, Seventeen Against the Dealer. I read the first and second sometime after fourth grade, potentially well after because I remember feeling kind of guilty for the delay. I never read the third because I couldn’t find it. It’s entirely possible that the library had it, but I wasn’t a looking-around kid all the time.
I read Homecoming expecting to pick up more than I did the first time, especially about the college students. That was about the only part I remembered, to be honest, that and the end. Now, being older and reading foster care blogs, I see different things. James waking up every morning with, “It’s still true.” Assumptions of the era and what clothes everyone has to wear. The police officer’s comments to Dicey.
I still think I’m missing something about the college students, though.
I didn’t remember much of anything from Dicey’s Song. This is the one I remember a classmate giving a report on in fourth grade-- the bit I remember is Maybeth learning to read. It was my first introduction to ways other than phonics, and I still think the way I learned is best. Toward the end, the book really affected me. I’ve been picking books for months now that don’t get to me, but this one caught me off-guard and I’ve been pretty easy to feel this week.
I started Seventeen Against the Dealer and immediately cringed. It is set further along, eight or so years after the first two, and everything is fine and dandy. Boat shop, money in the bank, plans for future, beloved boyfriend.... Oh, bad things are going to happen.
And indeed they did, with many of them Dicey’s fault, many of them based on knowledge that I assumed she had. It makes the book less satisfying. One family against the world is good. One woman against her own lack of experience, when I have not picked up on the same flaws as the world has, not so much. The first two books left me feeling like everything would be all right, and this one really didn’t.
Elizabeth Moon, Once a Hero. This is the one I reread most-- this is the third time. Why? It’s the Esmay book that has the right balance of what I don’t like-- rejuvenation, politics, Familias Regnant, Texas in Space-- and what I like-- Esmay (and associated people) Being Awesome.
Perhaps I would like one of the three coming before this one, but the library doesn’t have them and I’d rather buy the rest of the Vatta books.
Regardless, I am variously meh, eyeroll, and irritated by anything really series/set-arc in this book and the ones after it. Doesn’t mean this one’s not fun, only that I pretend not to know what comes later because it’s not what should come from this book.
Sherryl Woods, Harbor Lights. A while back, I picked a book by her off the new shelf, and it didn’t suck. Not great-- somewhere between Hallmark, Lifetime, and Seventh Heaven World-- but readable. This one’s also been on the new shelf a while, and it wore me down.
Not great, but readable. I like Nora Roberts World better. Now I won’t see it all the time and think I should pick it up.
Devon Monk, Magic in the Shadows. I read these books with the expectation that they’ll be kind of eh, and I don’t know how much my opinions are affected by that. I do kind of wonder when urban fantasy secret societies will run out of names. I like that the magic is mundane in this set, too, though the secret society still isn’t.
Not terribly surprisingly, my favorite character in this book is Shamus; the previous book had Davy Silvers, and that was good. Minor characters usually win.
Anne McCaffrey, Jody Lynn Nye, Elizabeth Moon, The Planet Pirates. Encouraged by Once a Hero and kind of wanting to read The City Who Fought, I finally picked up this one, which has two authors I usually like well enough. The volume is interesting in that there’s a publisher’s note declaring that due to its sheer physical mass, it cannot be published in mass market paperback. SHEER PHYSICAL MASS.
The first novel doesn’t stand alone and left me a little disappointed that I hadn’t realized how dated SF can be. I’d gotten used to that by the second, and was happy to find that the dialogue was better, even if I didn’t understand exactly what transpired at the end-- I read some books not paying attention to names and affiliations and assuming that I’ll know who’s who when shots are fired. The third… too much piling up gunpowder, not enough blowing things up. It takes a lot of blowing things up to justify SHEER PHYSICAL MASS levels of gunpowder-piling.
Alex Sanchez, Bait. The cover grabbed my eye. It’s a coming-to-terms-with-abuse book, which is no spoiler at all; this book says exactly what it is.
I feel like I should be able to say something profound about it, but this isn’t my genre, and while I find therapy books satisfying, I often feel a bit voyeuristic and exploiting-others’-pain about the good ones.
My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding. A worthwhile anthology.
Mercedes Lackey, The River’s Gift. I don’t know how long these little books are, but I like them. Sweet little romance, predictable but that’s what I was looking for.
KJ Parker, Purple and Black. I opened the book, read the first line in black, and decided Evil Rachel had to read it. It is an Evil Rachel book. It is very fun to read right up until it isn’t; I’m glad I didn’t bring it to blood tomorrow, because two making-me-giggle books in a row is a bit much. It’s a novella, not a novel, which means it can be darker and less optimistic at the end; I wasn’t so much prepared for that, so I went from loving the voice to upset to writing this in about ninety seconds. I wouldn’t have been if it had been labeled ‘short story’ in my head.
I do wish that there had been more than two named women, and that any woman mattered at all. The book’s not written to make it easy, but it should have been possible.
Harry Connolly, Child of Fire. This one went up at Scalzi’s Big Idea, which is why I recognized it and grabbed it. It’s fun, very like early Dresden Files, the ones where Harry’s in over his head and the rules of the world haven’t been set up yet. There’s a teaser for the next book at the back, which screwed me up a bit pacingwise, but it looks like that book might have more of the mundane/unreal interface I love so much. I really liked this one.
Mary Balogh, A Summer to Remember. Quite good, just about exactly what I wanted. I spent some time figuring out which of her books to read-- there’s one set of titles that go together, all about the Bedwyn family, and of course they’re not listed in any clear order at the front of the book. But this one said it introduced them, and so it does, as minor characters in a sweet and satisfying romance. No spies, no vicious or otherwise unsuitable suitors, just a man who needs ease between himself and his family and a woman who feels like she’s missed out on something her entire proper life. One of several heroine therapy books, and I’ll pick up more of Balogh’s work.
Except probably not the Bedwyns. I don’t like the Bedwyns. They’re unconventional and have an interesting family dynamic, which is good, but instead of a cheerful us-against-everyone outlook, they are intimidating, broody, and a bit manipulative. The Bedwyns, you see, are werewolves.
It’s not written. It’s not hinted at except, maybe, by the names. The covers do not have wolves on them and as far as I know, the synopses do not mention them. This is straightforward miscellaneously historical England. There is no evidence that they’re werewolves except that it is completely boneheadedly obvious.
Laurie Halse Anderson, Twisted. I didn’t know what this one was about-- there’s nothing on the cover to explain. I liked the voice of it, perfectly fine book. It intersects with what I read on Smart Bitches this morning: http://sylviasproblem.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/what-happened-to-hope-witsell/ .
One thing that did bother me, and that bugs me a bit whenever I read books about high school, is the grades/class thing. Tyler, the main character, is taking APs and other high-level classes, and that’s a problem for him, but he doesn’t act right for them. I know I was (and probably am) atypical in my approach to classes, I know I was and am atypical in my school history in general, but… the guy cheats. He is very up-front about his lack of comprehension. He uses his struggles for bonding with the reader.
I am not this kid. I never really get this kid, when I read about him. Usually, I shrug it off or handwave it as something different between me, my high school peers, and everyone else, but in this case, he would be my high school peer.
It’s one little wrong thing in the book.
Kelley Armstrong, Bitten. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books reviewed this around the time I realized I didn’t mind either the short or YA fiction, even if it didn’t thrill me. It took me a while to get a library copy. I’m okay with that.
Not hugely satisfying, mostly because Clay didn’t interest me. I spent most of the book waiting for him to grovel, but that would be a wrong thing for his character. I liked the infodumps, weird as it is to write that. It feels very much like a first book, if first books have a feeling. I’m still going to go to Briggs for my werewolf fix. What can I say? I’ve imprinted. Besides, thirty-seven werewolves in the entire world? Not enough. This book managed to kill ten percent of the global population.
Book which I returned to the library without even opening it: I’m sorry, I picked you up automatically because I read the two previous books and they were good enough. Maybe later.
Mary Balogh, Simply Unforgettable. One of a set, not involving werewolves. The hero spent most of the book on the line between ‘persistent’ and ‘pain in the ass’, but it was still interesting.
Simply Love. It is weird reading this set of books; I read the one immediately before the Bedwyn set and these are set immediately after, so I went from a pack of unmarried werewolves to a pack of married-with-children werewolves. Part of my evaluation of romance writers is how they handle previous relationships-- do they summarize books in a paragraph, do they ignore them, do they just slip the existing marriages in along with the ones that didn’t get books? Balogh isn’t as elegant about it as Julia Quinn, but I really like how Quinn managed it. In any case, I read the first sentence of the second chapter, in which we meet the hero, and said aloud, “Oh, good.” Sydnam, tortured artist (and I mean that literally) is interesting. The misunderstandings and miscommunications are realistic--
Him: Woe, she cringes from me, I am so repulsive.
Her: Why am I cringing? Oh, rape survivor, right. I’m never going to have sex, am I?
--but I think that Balogh’s writing is a little too… if there’s an opposite of ‘intense’ that isn’t ‘insipid’, that’s the word I want. It’s missing intensity. It’s not going to stop me from reading them in the next few days, but it’s like listening to piano music on a harpsichord.
Simply Magic. I read this… well, in a lousy mood while making bad nutritional decisions too late in the evening. It did what it had to do, and while it could have done so harder, I write this just after one in the morning.
Simply Perfect. Last of the set, in which the headmistress is married. Once again, disappointed by the fact that the final book in the set is a heterosexual romance.
I felt bad for the Unsuitable Bride, having lost two husbands to heroines. And Freyja is still a werewolf. Tamed somewhat, but a werewolf.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey. Huh.
I knew this was the early one published late and that it was the one making fun of gothic novels. I did not expect, though I should have, the authorial intrusions. I liked Catherine, who is endearingly clueless-- even knowing it’s not true, this is how I see myself sometimes. Usually, I like conversations in which one party is completely missing the point a bit more, but that’s not saying much, since I liked these a lot. I’m glad the book was only two volumes, though; I don’t think I could have gone on for a third.
Here endeth the Jane Austen; I’ve read all but Emma, which took three chapters to persuade me that even if I liked the book in the end, I could not stand the heroine right then. I’m glad I’ve read them, if only because now I can talk about them. They weren’t the transcendent feminine experience they are sometimes said to be, but what ever is?
Kelley Armstrong, Stolen. I didn’t expect more Elena, and I’m glad I got some. It’s weird disagreeing with the worldbuilding of a book the way I do with this one. Interesting, certainly something to think about, but weird.
Of the werewolves, Jeremy’s my favorite, possibly because there’s so little of him. Secondary characters always come off best, don’t they?
Mary Balogh, The Gilded Web. First in a set of three, I think, and I forgot that while reading. My thoughts were approximately, “Oooh, a twofer! That’s nice. Even better, threefer! Wait, the C romance is not... oh, come on, B romance... I have no pages left and two more books.” It’s a good book nonetheless, with abusive pasts and things hinted at, people who learned certain survival skills which now make them a bit off to the rest of the world and vice versa, and agency as a driving force.