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Bunches of books - Qualified Perceptions
Bunches of books
* for ebooks, # for audiobooks.

*Uncertain Places (by Lisa Goldstein)
I couldn't figure out how I picked this one up, but it appears to have been due to an Amazon sale. Which makes me feel better, because I liked it middling well rather than loved it. The writing is humorous and warm; the premise of trying to navigate the rules of fairy tales, making bargains and getting out of them, throwing the frog against the wall and bandaging the wounded guy and sleeping for seven years... There's a lot of interweaving of old and new stories, a lost Grimm's Fairy Tale and diaries and accounts of a generation ago, all in this somewhat muddled but still enchanted story. But that leads to probably my biggest frustration with the story - in all the interweaving of stories, written accounts, narrated accounts, the first person narrator of the book - they all sound the same! They all have the same warm humorous casual voice, and if I put the book down and picked it up a bit later, I would forget who was talking or what decade it was. Someone would be telling about how they went and read something in a book, and talked to this guy, and got enchanted, and I would have totally forgotten if this was the top-level story or the top level characters were reading someone's diary, or what. It was an odd thing to be confused about, sort of like the hilarious bit of The Eyre Affair where the fictional character is the one who loses track of who is saying what in the dialogue. A lot of good writers said very nice things about this book, so I think maybe I was an insufficiently dedicated reader. A good reader wouldn't have lost track of who's talking. Three stars.

*Half Way Home (by Hugh Howey)
Wool is still his best, though this one was pretty good. Basic premise: grow-in-vats colony ship has something go badly awry at the beginning, the few half-grown survivors try to survive and cope, with some Lord of the Flies and some SF explore-the-planet. But the plot tries to shoehorn a moral in, in order to make a better villain, but it didn't quite work for me. For instance, I don't think that the question "what should we do if we determine that our potential colony planet is incapable of sustaining life?" has the unambiguously good answer of "Choose life! Grow them anyway!" Also three stars.

#14 (by Peter Clines)
I think I picked this up because it was one of Audible's favorite audiobooks of 2012, and I didn't know much other than that it was in the SF/Fantasy category. The basic starting point is "Nate moves into this apartment building in LA. There are some weird things about the place, like the roaches are green, and the light fixture in his kitchen turns any bulb in it into black light. Then it gets weirder." It keeps slowly ratcheting up the weirdness, and the stakes, and I kept being surprised, so I recommend not learning any more about the story before you read it. I really like the "PCs Investigate a Weird Mystery" genre that is the focus of so many Call of Cthulhu runs, and this is a really good example. I could totally see this being a run. (Very nice audio narration, too). Four stars.

#Bossypants (written and read by Tina Fey)
This was a kind of meandering set of recollections by Tina Fey, which was amusing and had some serious observations, but in general was fairly quick tasty popcorn. Nom nom.

* Child of the Northern Spring, Queen of the Summer Stars, Guinevere: the Legend in Autumn (by Persia Woolley)
I like different retellings of the Arthurian legend, though I'm not a completist by any means. This one is Guinevere-centered, grounded in non-fantasy, and casts her as a "working Celtic Queen". It provides for a strong and vibrant Guinevere, and both Arthur and Lancelot feel like real people, and Arthur/Guinevere feels like a real marriage, for better and worse. There's a lot of countryside and farming and plants and beekeeping and such that makes it feel like a Real Place on the one hand and makes it drag a little on the other. I sometimes skipped the descriptionary bits. And a lot of the tension is put into religious tension, pagan versus Christian, and the anti-Guinevere faction is in part pushed by the Christian priests who think she isn't properly subservient to her husband. Which I have more sympathy for than the "she's the bad guy because she's a faithless adulteress" version. But Arthurian legend is all about the inexorable tragedy, and here I have slightly more mixed feelings. Woolley makes sure to touch on a lot of the familiar bits, reworked as needed, but sometimes they feel like required set pieces, and require some out-of-characterness for everything to play out the way it has to. Arthur definitely comes out the worst here - when your sister has taken central stage in arranging for your wife to be framed for murder and nearly executed, it's unforgivably dense to take the tack of "[Morgan] told me how you've taken a dislike to her, Gwen, undermining her position among the women whenever possible. I think, considering your attitude, that she's been most forgiving and helpful. I don't want to hear any more about it, but I suggest you try to find some way to make amends." That was probably the worst, and I never forgave Arthur after that. Which is a flaw in the story for me - I want to love all three of them equally. Most often Guinevere seems to be the weak link, but here it's Arthur. The other minor complaint I have is that book three scatters foreshadowing of doom like anvils raining from the heavens. Look, it's the story of King Arthur. I know it's going to end like Hamlet with everyone dead except Fortinbras. You don't have to spend the end of every chapter on a warning that there will be later doom. Still, in general I enjoyed it; for me it's like seeing the same play over and over with different interpretations, and I'm not sure I have other bookish examples of that. Three and a half stars.

*Fated (by Benedict Jacka)
This is a nice compact urban fantasy with a precog as the main character. I like the conceit of the precog as having great tactical power but no actual power, and it worked pretty well in practice. I remember another series where I became kind of cranky that the main character got given some precog in the first book but after that rarely used it, because (I imagined it) it's hard for the GM to mechanic; here, the author is pretty careful to keep the character's power set in mind, and when he occasionally gets surprised, there's a plausible reason. Anyhow, it was a fun series introduction, and I'll go look for the next books. I give it the three and three quarter stars of "I enjoyed reading it but won't actually proselytize for it."

* Cursed and Taken (also by Benedict Jacka)
Books two and three. Still enjoying them. Some nice creepy bits, some good "precogs are a force multiplier" bits, and a few bits that made me think "well, just because Harry Potter had X doesn't mean your wizarding world has to have one...".

*Sasha (by Joel Shepherd)
Book One of the Trial of Blood & Steel. I think someone pointed me to this as having Complicated Politics, and while it took me a while to keep track of all the politics, I definitely liked it once it got going. The main character is an ex-princess turned fighter, who I would want to call "feisty" except that that's a little too stereotypical, and she's more like "idealistic and petulant" with all the both good and bad that that implies. As a fighter, she's a little too amazing, though there's interesting backstory behind it, but the petulance and temper makes her more human and less Mary Sue. The politics has religious wars and invaders and the Third Way and racial hatred and feuds and honor versus realpolitik... complicated and compelling to follow. Four and a quarter stars, and I must investigate the rest of the series.

The Siren Depths (by Martha Wells)
Third in the Raksura books. I continue to adore these. We actually get some of Moon's history in this, plus the Moon / Jade relationship continues to be fraught with plausible alien misunderstandings. (An Amazon reviewer calls this "the next episode of Days of Our Draconic Lives"). More Fell being terrible, more other Raksura colonies being interesting. Look, just go read this series if you haven't yet. It's always a little weird talking too much about book N in a series. Five stars.
#Emma (by Jane Austen)
I've been on a Georgette Heyer audiobook spree for a while, but I thought perhaps I should mix it up with some Austen. I think I must have only seen the modernized movie version of this, so I had a rough idea of how things went, but didn't have the details. The narrator was perfect.
10 comments or Leave a comment
jofish22 From: jofish22 Date: January 23rd, 2013 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Did you read Kip's book yet?


It's very readable: I think of it as Scott Westerfield meets the Dresden Files. I think it still needs a bit of tweaking, but it definitely gets you staying up late reading it. Recommended.

(Bonus points: see how many of the characters you recognize.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: January 23rd, 2013 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, neat! I hadn't heard of the book, but will investigate!
ironrat From: ironrat Date: January 24th, 2013 02:03 am (UTC) (Link)
If I were to ask you for your top 3-4 fantasy book recommendations, what would you suggest? I'm looking to put together a reading list for the next several months with a solid fantasy component.
From: tirinian Date: January 24th, 2013 02:20 am (UTC) (Link)
If I've never made you read any Guy Gavriel Kay, you should read either Tigana (stand-alone book) or the Fionavar Tapestry (a trilogy).
ironrat From: ironrat Date: January 24th, 2013 02:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I read those in high school. :)

mjperson From: mjperson Date: January 26th, 2013 05:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's also all the rest of GGK.

firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: January 24th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Standalone single books? Fantasy so often wants to come in series. :)

Martha Wells Death of the Necromancer is an old favorite and seems oddly obscure.
N. K. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, if you don't mind a good dollop of romance. You can ignore that it is a series; it isn't really.
Walter Wangerin's Book of the Dun Cow, something like Watership Down crossed with Narnia.
Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana.

(If first books of series count, add Name of the Wind and Mistborn and The Dragon's Path or A Shadow in Summer. But Name of the Wind and Dragon's Path are unfinished series, if that matters; Mistborn and Shadow in Summer are finished.)

(Oops. Which others of these have you already read?)

Edited at 2013-01-24 02:33 am (UTC)
ironrat From: ironrat Date: January 24th, 2013 02:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Awesome! I have only read Guy Gavriel Kay. In my younger days, I was quite up on the fantasy genre, but then I became A Serious Person, and am now trying to repent that.

I will consider the unfinished series, but I am still wounded from Robert Jordan's betrayal of his duties, and I am convinced that GRR Martin is going to also go skipping off to the afterlife with the the plot resolution to Song of Fire and Ice hidden in his ridiculous beard.

Edited at 2013-01-24 02:41 am (UTC)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: January 24th, 2013 02:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I must defend Jordan - putting all his notes and plots in order for Sanderson to finish it out for him is about the best devotion to duty I can hope for an author suddenly faced with a limited life expectancy. (Forgetting that he was writing a six-book series, on the other hand, I might ding him for).
ironrat From: ironrat Date: January 24th, 2013 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I am bitter about Jordan's death mostly because when I picked up the series in my distant youth---when book 5 or 6 came out, I think---I remember at that time saying something about hoping he didn't die before he finished it. And then he did.
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