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Thirteen books - Qualified Perceptions
Thirteen books
(Soon to be able to read lots of new Xmas books, in case you're wondering why I'm not talking about the new Daniel Abraham or the new NK Jemisin or other things I'm looking forward to)
*The Moonstone (by Wilkie Collins)
Okay, I've now read (listened to) the two most famous Wilkie Collins books. Like The Woman in White, The Moonstone is written with multiple narrators, and the audiobook does a really lovely job with that. Betteredge, the 70-year-old butler with a religion centering around Robinson Crusoe, is adorable. "It is one of my rules in life, never to notice what I don't understand." It's definitely a slow story, and the class differences get in everything's way (which is kind of Collins' point), but still a charming example of one of the First Mysteries. Three and a half stars.

The Stone Man (by Luke Smitherd)
One of the "free" Kindle books, and kind of an odd duck. There are two ways of telling stories. In one way, each scene has a purpose, whether that's to advance character development or advance plot or do some exposition or hang a gun on the mantelpiece to be used later. (This is particularly common in TV shows, which is why "Hmm, this scene of the guy and his car has lasted for more than half a second; the car must be about to explode" is such a thing.) In the other way, there's plot, and there's also random stuff that just happens. A lot of the Stephen King books I've read start this way, setting the scene with a lot of random stuff just happening, to flesh out the characters that awful things are about to befall. That works well, but I don't think of King as having random stuff scattered throughout the rest of the book. Anyway, The Stone Man feels to me like it should be the sort of tightly plotted drama - first contact with hostile inexorable scary aliens, and what comes of that - but there are a number of Odd Random Scenes which made me think "what the heck was the point of this?" Which made me wonder, why do I think scenes must have points? The inexorability and the main plot are done pretty well. The ending is... a little anticlimactic, sort of like defeating an AI by asking it to calculate pi. Then there's an odd 10% or so of the book which is the author talking about being self-published and trying to get the reader to leave Amazon comments for him and/or read some of his other books, and talking about how he was pleased with himself for having added a female character, not that he tries to write to particular demographics (sigh). I'm used to the promotional bits being a page or two, rather than thirty, and I concede I didn't read most of it (so maybe there was more in there), but it's not like it was wasting paper. (And it was another example of having the percentage of book left mislead the reader, which always amuses me.) Three stars, I suppose. Decent but flawed.

Little Fuzzy (by H. Beam Piper) and Fuzzy Nation (by John Scalzi)
I thought I should read the original before reading the remake. Little Fuzzy was definitely old-school SF (electronic data transfer seems to be all about recording audiotapes and transmitting them at 60x speed; the cast seems to include "people" and "women" as distinct categories, but the women aren't terrible other than that), but more charming than not. Fuzzy Nation was a nice remake; it has some of the traditional Scalzi fingerprints rather than old-fashioned fingerprints (everyone has the same sort of mildly snarky voice, for example). Also more charming than not. Both books did kind of have the good guys outnumber the bad guys, which makes for a light fluffy story. Three and a half stars.

Ticker (by Lisa Mantchev)
(Amazon prime pre-release thingy) A steampunky steampunk book about bio-clockwork. The serial killer who did it all to perfect his technique to save the life of the main character (bio-clockwork Ticker heart) at the center of the plot is an unusual conceit; I found it kind of distasteful, because I kept thinking that the book was trying to trick me into thinking he was a sympathetic character, but in the end, I think I was mistaken - the character wanted to be seen as sympathetic, which is entirely different. This is definitely the book for people who have been disappointed by recent steampunk for being insufficiently gear-driven. Three fully automated pneumatic key-wound stars.

The Shadow Of What Was Lost (by James Islington)
A first novel, clearly first in a Big Long Series (well, it says the Licanius Trilogy). It has clear roots in Robert Jordan and George R R Martin, but with a flavor of its own - and that flavor is Betrayal. So, there are the two boys and a girl from the magic academy, who each have a (different) Destiny, and get (partly differently) whisked away to Adventure. But a very recurring trope is encountering someone who knows more about what's going on, and points them in a direction about what to do - but then later, someone else who knows more about what's going on says that the first person lied. That happens a lot, to the extent that it could be a drinking game if it were a shorter book. (The most convoluted example of this is where the amnesiac meets someone who knows more about things than he does, who basically tells him "Don't trust your companions! They'll kill you if they find out what you're up to!"). There's amnesia, of multiple kinds; there's plain normal lying by trustworthy-looking people; there's cryptic message from the future, and prophetic (though possibly wrong) messages from the past. There are shapeshifters and mind controllers and "detect lie" powers and also "evade detect lie" powers. It's an ambitious book, and it's hard to know if it really succeeds because it's so clearly a Book One. Plot Devices are making their first Mysterious Appearance, rather than their final Revelation. I suspect that I'd want to re-read it again before reading the rest of the series, once it's out. (On the other hand, one possible argument in favor of reading it now is that it's free with Kindle Unlimited.). Maybe three and seven-eighths stars; there's a lot going on, the whole everyone-betraying-everyone theme is interesting, but it doesn't set me on fire, possibly because there's a bit of a sameness to the voice and characterization.

The Seventh Bride (by T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon)
A really nice creepy fairy tale, with a Watership Down callout that made me squee but might be an inexplicable plot twist for others. Four and a half stars.

Carpet People (by Terry Pratchett)
So, Terry Pratchett wrote this book when he was seventeen, and then polished it much later. You can see see the seams in places; the wording is wiser than the plot, but the plot has fun enthusiastic bones. I think this is to read if you are a Pratchett completist but otherwise you need not.

All the Paths of Shadow (by Frank Tuttle)
This was interesting. (YA, I think.) The "court mage" position seems to be something like an overworked postdoc. There are a lot of plots going on, but since it's all set in the one city (and mostly set at the four locations of Tower, Court, Laboratory, and Apartment), it's not meandery so much as... getting up in the morning and deciding which plot you have to work on, and sighing that the other ones aren't getting accomplished. The main character is nicely feisty; the twin guardsmen, and the houseplant, and the coffee-fetching captain, and all the other characters, are entertaining. Ah, I have figured out what feels so odd about it; in the PvP plots, there are more good guys than bad guys; while that usually makes a book light and fluffy, in this case there's also a huge PvE research mechanic that the main character has to do, so it's harder than it appears from the lack of bad guys. Four stars, and I shall pick up the sequel.

The House of Silk and Moriarty (by Anthony Horowitz)
The author has official permission from the Doyle estate to write these, which is unusual. House of Silk is written by Watson, sealed away for a hundred years because of the importance of some of those implicated in the crime, and the tone feels reasonably accurate, other than more concern for the Baker Street Irregulars than was canonical in the original. Moriarty is very nicely done, but I'm going to avoid spoilers. Three and a half stars for the first, four stars for the second, though I have an extra fondness for Holmes which you may not. You could undoubtedly read the second without needing to read the first.

Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and Cold Steel (by Kate Elliott)
I really enjoyed these books, but I am not as clear how good they are. The romance is enjoyable (it looks like it's going to start as Cats in a Barrel, but it goes off the rails and then gets better from there). The world-building is interesting. The giant cat is adorable. The relationship between the two sisters is perfect. But the plot just has a very lot of escaping and fleeing and being captured and getting away and dashing off and having the escape go awry, and and and. It gives the plot a very haphazard feel, as if it's being written as a serial, or a transcription of an adventure game. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing - I just couldn't really tell where it was going. And I did get the second two books. So... maybe three and three-quarters stars.


2 comments or Leave a comment
hr_macgirl From: hr_macgirl Date: December 25th, 2014 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I read House of Silk when it came out, and I'm expecting Moriarty for Christmas. I loved House of Silk and find an eerie similarity between the story and what's going on in England with the sex crimes (allegedly) committed by famous people such as Jimmy Savile.
jdbakermn From: jdbakermn Date: December 31st, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Laura. Was just search for more books for my flight home and picked up three from your list (wanted 2 more, but they weren't available on NOOK)
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