chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Driveby, b/c I suck tonight. I have been killing time on Tumblr while a messy kitchen awaits me.

Finished DWJ's Time of the Ghost. Limp ending: endings are DWJ's chief weakness. (That is part of why the ending of The Homeward Bounders is such a shock: she nailed that one.)

Read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones. She seems to be getting her Catherynne Valente on in this one: it's told in a slightly distant myth/fairytale voice. It's the backstory for two of the characters from Every Heart a Doorway: Jack and Jill, a pair of twins who ended up in a dark fantasy world. Jill's half of the story seems to me much weaker and less interesting than Jack's, and I think the novella is the poorer for that.

Then I re-read Peter Dickinson's mystery King and Joker, which used to be a bulletproof comfort read for me. And sadly, it didn't really work for me this time. I'm not sure what's up. :-(

ETA: Next up will likely be Ann Leckie's Provenance. I'm more in the mood for a comfort read, but given how flat the last one fell, I don't want to try one.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Yeah, I seem to be doing this monthly. *sigh*

What have you just finished reading?

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. YA fantasy with a Slavic-based setting. The heroine is a prickly, skinny girl who is a cartographer with the army, but she turns out to be The Chosen One and gets swept off for special magical training. She's a duck out of water in a way that reminds me a little of Menolly in the Harper Hall in McCaffrey's Pern books, with the queen bee girls being rude and prickly to her. About midway through she suddenly becomes healthier and prettier because Plot Reasons, and then she starts to like to try on dresses, and I realized that I didn't like her nearly as much. I then had to castigate myself for this, because I'm sure lots of the intended readers would love that part. There was some silly romantical stuff too, which I also disliked. And then Bardugo completely confounded my expectations about what the last part of the book was going to be like. Well done, author! I still don't think it's a great book: too many things happening with too little run-up (for example, Alina's relationship wth her childhood friend Mal would have been better with more showing, less telling, of their shared history), but I think I'm invested enough to get the sequel.

The Snake Stone, by Jason Goodwin, is the second Master Yashim book. I begin to see what [personal profile] flemmings was saying about the hero's sex life. It's annoying because Yashim might as well not be a eunuch, except that it means he can visit the seraglio in the palace. He's starting to read more like a man with a slightly low-ish sex drive instead. The cultural and culinary details remain interesting, and I liked the info about pre-Victorian archeology and book-collecting.

The Little Death by Michael Nava is the first volume of a mystery series about a gay lawyer, Henry Rios. It features a tragic Boyfriend in the Refrigerator and lots of Evil Plotting by the rich and the famous. I like Henry, although his situation is somewhat depressing. I will probably try the next one as well.

Four British Fantasists, which is a critical study and comparison of authors Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, and Diana Wynne Jones. The author, Charles Butler, is a member of the DWJ online mailing list. The book was interesting, and now I'm wondering whether I should fill in some of the books that I haven't read that are discussed, especially by Lively and Garner. Although I remember bouncing off Garner's Red Shift, and the things he wrote after that are apparently even more experimental.

What are you currently reading?

Another re-read for a writing challenge, and also volume 10 of the manga Bunny Drop, which basically short stories about Daikichi and Rin that didn't make it into the main series (which ended, plot-wise, with vol. 9).

What do you think you'll read next?

I just got an Amazon order that includes volume 1 of Fumi Yoshinaga's manga series What Did You Eat Yesterday? Also, volume 3 of the hard yaoi manga Crimson Spell (by Ayano Yamane), and the latest volumes of Marjorie Liu's Hunter Kiss series (Labyrinth of Stars) and Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series (Broken Homes). The Aaronovitch has been getting mixed reviews, but I have to at least give it a try because the earlier books were so awesome. (These are both urban fantasy, for those unfamiliar with them, but very different in tone and scope.)

 

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Maybe I can get around to this ... monthly?

What have you just finished reading?

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, at last. For a while, it seemed like everyone on my f-list was reccing this. and I got a copy for Hanukah … but kept putting off reading it. It sounded like it was going to be unrelentingly sad, and also, as a Jewish child of the 60s, I was subjected to loads of documentary footage on Holocaust atrocities as part of my religious school curriculum, so I was very reluctant to read a story involving a Nazi prisoner. When I finally did read it. I was actually charmed by some of it, and parts were really quite funny. It is tragic, and simply intensely sad in parts, but it also ends with a sort of calm joy.

The Janissary Tree, by Jason Goodwin, is a charming and yet occasionally gruesome murder mystery set in early 19th century Istanbul, with a eunuch court official as investigator. There is the potential for all sorts of cultural shenanigans (orientalism, obviously, and misrepresentations of Turkish Islamic culture) here, and I don't know enough about any of it to say what kind of course Goidwin has steered. I did enjoy the book and appreciated its representation of a spectrum of human sexuality (although there was definitely a "kill your gays" moment). I did find it rather odd that Goodwin in general represents dialog in other languages by choice of phrase and occasionally non-English vocabulary, but for some reason, uneducated Greeks are given the sort of eye dialect familiar to me from British naturalist Gerald Durrell's Corfu memoirs.

Also, I should note that as [livejournal.com profile] flemmings pointed out to me, this is a great book for foodies. Our hero, Master Yashim, loves good food and cooks as a diversion as well as for nourishment.

Finally, I read the last volume of the manga Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase, which ended about as could be expected. I was relieved that the young king didn't have a tragic ending. Also, I read volume 4 of CLAMP's Gate 7, which continues to be both pretty and pretty ridiculous, albeit entertainingly so. I understand it is now in hiatus, which rots. WTF, CLAMP publishers? People actually like your sparkly silliness. Don't you want to cash in on that?

What are you currently reading?

I am several chapters into the second Master Yashim mystery, The Snake Stone. I'm also doing a re-read for a story I'm writing.

What do you think you'll read next?

I still need to make myself start the manga Vinland Saga. Also, Fumi Yoshinaga's What Did You Eat Yesterday? has just started coming out in English. I'd read Yoshinaga's adaptation of the DC telephone book (supposing such a thing existed), so I'm definitely going to get this one. I also have a couple of YA novels lying around that I got for the holidays and never read. And who knows, maybe the put-one take-one shelf at work will produce the third Master Yashim mystery (that's where I got the other two).

 

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Guys, I have not done this since November. I will try to get back on track!

What have you just finished reading?

Marie Brennan's ([livejournal.com profile] swan_tower's) historical fantasy A Star Shall Fall. I liked it fairly well. I'm not sure what would have made it better for me. I need to think about that. I got this copy from last year's Con or Bust auction, so it's taken me a while to decide to read it.

The latest volume, 9, of the manga Ooku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga. I really liked it and found it much less grim than this series usually is, so I expect the other shoe to drop and the series to go back to normal - or worse - by next volume. There's a great new character, Hiraga Gennai. I will not spoil you about Gennai and what makes Gennai great. XD

The first two volumes of the manga Thermae Romae, which is awesomely silly and beautifully drawn. (The book production values are spectacular too.) It's about a Roman engineer who keeps being transported off at random intervals to present-day Japan, where he encounters various modern-day Japanese public and private baths and invariably returns with new inspirations to try out in Rome. Some of the inspirations are relatively believable, and some are wonderfully absurd in a Flintstones-cartoon sort of way. (Wait'll you see his shampoo shield and shampoo hose.) His interpretations of what he's seeing in Japan are really funny.

What are you currently reading?

I just started Marjorie Liu's The Fire King, which is one of her Dirk & Steele paranormal romances.

What do you think you'll read next?

I grabbed Jason Godwin's The Janissary Tree from the take-on leave-one collection at work. This is a historical mystery set in the early 19th-century Ottoman Empire. I seem to recall reading a favorable review of it at one point, and it won the Edgar Award in 2007. Also, I have the first two volumes of the manga Vinland Saga, but it looks awfully grim. It may be a while until I can get myself to read it.

 

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

This is going to be brief (for once). The series is still interesting. Toby is still creating "Oh, Toby!" moments, but this time, she's joined in her faux pas by most of the cast. Toby's liege sends her after his missing (adult) niece, who is in charge of a small independent Faerie political unit named Tamed Lightning. Most of Tamed Lightning is a computer company, and it turns out that the place is hosting a serial killer: especially problematic for Fae, who otherwise can expect to live forever. What follows is a semi-locked room mystery, because communications in and out of Tamed Lightning are ... problematic.

Cut for lots of spoilers )
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (shigure-book)

Harriet Vane is a woman of the world. She has a degree from Oxford, writes mysteries for pay, and lives with her lover. Today her lifestyle would scarcely raise an eyebrow, but in the Britain of 1930 depicted in Strong Poison, she's a scandal. When her lover is found dead of poison, few hesitate to assume that she is his killer - especially given that she had been purchasing and researching poisons, ostensibly in preparation for writing a new book. Her initial trial, however, ends with a hung jury. While she is still languishing in prison, the wealthy dilettante investigator Lord Peter Wimsey hears of the case and becomes intrigued - much more so once he meets Harriet in person. With the deadline of a new trial pressing him, Lord Peter must race to complete his case vindicating Harriet, with whom he has become so infatuated that he wishes to marry her.

The book is essentially cool and logical in tone, with an emphasis on uncovering the pieces of the puzzle-box plot: the answer to the question of who actually killed Philip Boyes, why, and how is intricately complex. I was certainly interested enough to finish the book, but if I had read it first - which would have been the proper order - I might never have continued on with Gaudy Night. I was not really engaged by any of the characters, and I don't know that I will ever re-read it.

Gaudy Night takes place a few years after Strong Poison (it was written 5 years later). Harriet, now well-established as a popular mystery author and still resisting Lord Peter's marriage proposals, is attending the annual Gaudy Night celebration - part of a weekend-long reunion - at her Oxford college, Shrewsbury, when she becomes involved in an unsavory mystery. A series of unpleasant and increasingly vicious pranks is being played on women of the college, from professors ("dons," of course, in the Oxonian tradition) to the youngest undergraduates. Harriet herself becomes a victim, and when the Dean of the college asks her to investigate, Harriet of course agrees. The case takes months to crack, and eventually Harriet requests assistance and advice from Lord Peter.

In tone, in approach, and in characterization, Gaudy Night is a contrast to the earlier novel. The focus is entirely on Harriet (with one tiny exception, and that will have to be covered below the cut), and although I can't say that I think that she is completely Sayers' proxy here, it seems that she is much more comfortable in inhabiting this protagonist's skin. I liked Harriet, and was interested in her thoughts about what was going on. The details of the life in an Oxbridge women's college of the time were presented vividly and entertainingly, and Lord Peter was not as nearly obnoxious as he was in the earlier story. In fact, I enjoyed re-reading the novel a month or two after I'd first read it and expect to do so many times in the future, as I do with Peter Dickinson's mysteries.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

Note: as smillaraaq as explained to me, another book actually comes between these two in the joint saga of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane: Have His Carcase. I haven't yet read it.

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