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Ten books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Ten books
# are ebooks, * are audiobooks (which I belatedly realize I have not finished any of this time.) This one is pretty e-book heavy, because I stocked up on ebooks for the cruise. Argh, there's a comma in a title, I have to use semicolons, not serial commas!

D'Shai and Hour of the Octopus, but Joel Rosenberg
Little mystery fantasy novels (I think of them as "Written back when fantasy novels didn't have to be over 500 pages"). The mystery is fine, but the world-building is lovely, and some of the characterizations are nicely poetic. Three and three quarters little twinkly stars.

#What Ho, Automaton! (by Chris Dolley)
rifmeister recommended this to me. It's a fun, lightly steampunk Wodehousesque comedy. Quite short (hmm, "written in the future when ebooks don't have to be any particular length at all"); the initial short story is cute but oddly abrupt in ending, but the longer novella has a full plot, and a damsel in distress who can hold her own. Four even littler and twinklier stars. (Ooh, I think this is the first Kindle book I've bought which is officially loanable, as opposed to unofficially loanable).

The Secrets of Jin-shei (by Alma Alexander)
I read this a long time ago, before I did reviews; it snuck onto my to-read list again, and was well worth it. Oddly, I bought it as a hardcover, which I rarely do and almost never for an author I haven't read before. It's a story of women and friendship and empire, in a slightly fantasy China. It's lovely and tragic and poetic and haunting. In the afterword, the author describes it as evolving from ten characters in search of a plot, and though there is certainly a plot, there is far more character. Five summer stars shimmering to life in the evening sky at the end of the book.

#The God Engines (by John Scalzi)
This is more of a novella. John Scalzi held a Planned Parenthood fundraiser after the Komen foundation punted its support (before it realized that it had underestimated the flak that would result and recanted), so I bought some stuff. It's a creepy dark little horror piece; I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it in a full novel, but it's nice at its size.

# The Rook (by Daniel O'Malley)
So, the TV show 30 Rock was highly recommended to me. I started watching it, and I thought it was funny, but I would just get bugged by things. Why are these people so awful to each other? I would find them all unsympathetic and get turned off, even though it was funny. But then I had a sort of viewpoint shift - they aren't real people. Yes, I know that the people on TV aren't really tiny people inside my television box, that's not what I mean. I mean, they're archetypes, in some way stick figures of people, larger and stupider and more over the top than life. And that works for comedy, but I do have to intentionally shift into that viewpoint, it doesn't come naturally to me. (Even worse than 30 Rock is trying to watch something like the Marx Brothers and try to think of them as real people. It's like wondering why the people in musicals keep bursting into song, when real people never do that, except sometimes at Twinknj). Anyway. It took me a little while to get this sorted out in my head for this book, because it seemed like a tense modern fantasy sort of novel, not a goofy comedy novel, so I started taking notes in preparation for a rant - but no, it's just far enough into comedy that they Aren't Real People. The premise is that someone comes to, surrounded by dead bodies and completely amnesiac, with a note in her pocket from her previous self. She works for more or less the Weird Shit MI-6 team, and she knew that something was going to happen to mindwipe her, so she made preparations. See, sort of like the Bourne Identity, but with weird shit - it sounds intriguing. Not a comedy. Except it kind of is. Having taken all these notes, I feel compelled to rant about them, except that they really aren't as off-putting once you have the contezt right.
  • All the section bosses (chess pieces - she's a Rook) have secure residences in the secret base. The main character has inherited the secure residence of a previous Rook, and it is decorated in plush carpets and mirrored ceilings: "It was designed specifically to get women to go to bed with its occupant." It's a running joke that the previous Rook keeps asking after it, so she hasn't redecorated. But... a bachelor seduction apartment IN THE SECRET BASE? Does he bring in his pickups with a blindfold? Is there a secret back entrance that the main character doesn't know about?
  • The new-personality Rook is worried that the other Rook will figure out she's not sure what's going on, so she decides to rattle him. He notes that she's late into work. She says "I... had an appointment. A gynecologist appointment. To have my vagina checked." O...kay. Because "inexplicably talk about your vagina to your coworkers" is the best way to convince them that there's nothing strange and different about you today. (But - with the new mindset, I can totally see Liz Lemon name-dropping her vagina to Jack Donaghey if she wanted to rattle him. Of course, it wouldn't work...).
  • "Yes, Minister, it turns out that there was a mysterious force that caused that plane crash. Yes. Yes. What was it? We call it gravity." I think I might not be so randomly punchy to a Minister about a plane crash, I have to assume some people died there.
  • Another bit I highlighted had to do with one of the many many one-paragraph random plots that go by at high speed - I really liked those. They gave a good impression of a world full of strange and mysterious things going on behind not-very-shut doors, and I liked the way that came across. ("Gentlemen, please shoot His Highness. In the left head this time, I think." or "In the Northern Territory of Australia, they suppressed a seam of sentient opal that had entombed an entire district." (Though I have no idea how they would keep that latter one undercover.))
  • Do not, when you are the head of the Secret Ops group, say flippantly "Perhaps we should have them all killed." Even if you think it should be obvious that you are just kidding. Just don't do it. On the other hand, all the other characters are more aware of their genre than I was, so there was not an accidental massacre.
Anyway, it's a much better slightly wacky romp than a weird-flavored spy novel; I'd give it three and a half stars.

#Leviathan Wakes (by James S. A Corey)
A remarkable combination - a high plot, high action, character-driven space opera. The main characters are both virtuous and flawed, completely different, and both persuasive in their point of view in a way that makes them seem like real people (though there are, admittedly, a few people who are a little too Weyland-Yutani to make human villains). The author has a light touch with humor - not comedy, but dry humor in what the characters say to each other - that sort of thing is a lot of what takes a book from good to great for me. Four and a half stars.

So, I was reading through this book on my iPad, and it kept giving me page count percentages that differed wildly from the location percentages. As in, page 450 out of 530, and 48% done, or something like that. It made it very disconcerting to know how far I was into the story (and having just read The God Engines, which was a lot shorter than I was expecting, I really had no idea how long to be prepared for). I think there was a chapter in Godel, Escher, Bach about this, and in an ebook, you can actually mess with the reader in a way that you can't in a print book. (Hah ha ha! I google searched for "godel escher bach number of pages" to try to get a better reference, and Google told me it thought the answer was 777.) Anyway, I got to the end of the book, and there was a sample chapter from the sequel (which, alas, kind of makes the victory at the end of the first book a bit less victorious. But if there wasn't plot, there wouldn't be a book.) But there was still about 50% of the content left. And then there was a WHOLE ANOTHER BOOK sent along with it! Not only that, it was a whole another book that I had asked for for Christmas because it was by one of my favorite authors. And I had even gotten it, but not read it yet. But still, here it was, as a free inclusion in a different book! So I read that book, somewhat boggled by the BOOK WITH FREE BOOK INSIDE thing, and then got to the About the Author page, which clarified for me that Daniel Abraham (author of the Free Second Book) wrote with a co-author under the pseudonym of James S. A. Corey (author of the Original First Book). Okay, that made sense finally. And he also writes under a different third pseudonym, in the genre of "covers with women showing off their lower back tattoos" so I will have to go investigate those too. I do wish authors would stop using different names to confuse me - the authors I like publishing books I don't notice, or the authors I dislike publishing books I foolishly buy (Mr. So-Called-Dan-Chernenko, I have forgiven you neither for being a bad writer on your own merit nor for being Harry Turtledove).

#The Dragon's Path (by Daniel Abraham)
(Also available for borrowing in paper form). Probably my favorite part of this book is the banking subplot, where one of the main characters evolves into one of mjperson's role-playing characters. Abraham describes it as "an epic fantasy without much violence", which is interesting as a premise, and there's the same dry dialog humor and lovely characterization that I mentioned back when the author had a different name. There was one thread that I thought dangled a little too long (until the preview chapter of the next book, in fact), but I otherwise have no complaints. Five stars for this one.

Note that both this and Leviathan Wakes are the first in unfinished series. Speaking of unfinished series, I give you the opening song from the JoCo cruise we just got back from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-ZeaS_QJ8w (the youtube is of its premiere, not from the cruise).

#Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (by John Berendt)
Someone (I forget who) told me to read this before going to Savannah. I didn't manage it until afterwards; I think it worked out well that way, like reading an article about someone you've briefly met. Not at all my normal sort of book - it's non-fiction(-ish?), sort of about a series of murder trials, sort of about very eccentric eccentrics, sort of about Savannah as a character of its own. I found it strangely compelling.

The Road to Bedlam (by Mike Shevdon)
I forgot to mention that I read this one when I reviewed the book before it, Sixty-One Nails. I bought them together; I think it's not quite as engaging for me as the first book, but if one really liked the first, the second is worth picking up. Included here mostly for completeness.

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Comments
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: March 2nd, 2012 01:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Even worse than 30 Rock is trying to watch something like the Marx Brothers and try to think of them as real people"

AHA! That's explains it all!
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: March 2nd, 2012 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I want to read the Dragon's Path!

I should return your ebooks to you first.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: March 2nd, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
(But you decided you had already read it, right?)

You don't technically need to *return* the ebooks, just delete them and tell me. :)
visage From: visage Date: March 2nd, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ok, I'm now quite wroth with Daniel Abraham for writing under pseudonyms without telling me. (...not that he has any idea who I am, of course, but my favorite authors should know to alert me to these sorts of things.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: March 2nd, 2012 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly!
treiza From: treiza Date: March 2nd, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you seen the film version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with Keven Spacey?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: March 2nd, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nope, I was unfamiliar with it before the book. (Well, I knew it was a movie, but I somehow thought it was about vampires.)
marcusmarcusrc From: marcusmarcusrc Date: August 20th, 2012 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
What Ho! was indeed quite enjoyable. I appreciated the price point too. I wonder if any of his other stuff is worth reading - there were a lot of 1 to 3 dollar books listed at the end...
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