inulro: (Default)
Wow, I am spectacularly bad at this. Once again I had a lot of thoughts at the time but have undoubtedly forgotten everything I wanted to say.

55. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Or That Book What Won All the Awards This Year.

It's space opera, which is really not my thing unless it's by Iain M Banks or Ken Macleod. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the world building. I didn't find the use of all-female pronouns as distracting as I feared, and I totally get what Leckie is doing there. For me, however, that wasn't the most interesting thing about the society described - it's a massive culture on a Culture-level scale but built on class and family and clientage. That was interesting as in theory it shouldn't work at that scale. Also the use of dead bodies as vessels for an AI was interesting, as was the AIs' development of personality.

Having said that I didn't care much about the plot (big honking space gun, whoopee), the scene where the two main characters fall off a bridge is a treat; really visceral. Ow.

I'm not going to run out and buy the sequels but will probably grab them at the library at some point.

56. The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey

ie Mike Carey, author of Lucifer, Hellblazer, the Felix Castor novels etc.

This one is hard to talk about without massively spoilering, but it's fair to say that it is a zombie apocalypse story that is very tender and human but violent and horrific at the same time. The ending is predictable on one level but with the most wonderful twist.

I can't recommend this highly enough, it is beautiful.

57. Women in the Crucible of Conquest: The Gendered Genesis of Spanish American Society, 1500-1600 by Karen Vieira Powers

I thought this was going to be academic and difficult, but it is a very good basic introduction to how women's roles changed in the Aztec and Inca empires after the Spanish conquest, and then goes on to discuss the roles of Spanish and mixed race women in Latin America. I knew most of the introductory part about women's roles in the Aztec and Inca worlds; the rest was new to me. It's clearly told and really, really depressing. It left me wanting to know more, but there are not a lot of English-language sources and my Spanish is a long way from being up to that.

58. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

December's book club book.

I expected to hate this because I don't play video games, but it's a pretty good ripping yarn about a disenfranchised youth in a distopian near-future playing a video game to become the richest person in the world, and then to save his life. It is oddly paced and so there are parts I ripped through and parts that dragged, but a good waste of a few hours.

It probably didn't help that I figured out where the first part of the puzzle would be found because I knew that ludus means game as well as school and was waiting for the character to catch up.

59. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The BBC were making a big thing out of their production over Christmas, and I hadn't read the book since I was about 13, so I grabbed one. It takes about 4 hours to read. The characters are cutout stereotypes but the plotting and tension are first rate. Good fun.

So far I've only watched the first part of the adaptation. It's pretty good but the changes made have all been completely unnecessary, and it looks like there are more, and stupider, changes in the concluding two parts.

60. The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093-1343 by RR Davies

This is all a bit High Middle Ages to be in my comfort zone. I meant to read it when it came out over a decade ago and I came across it in the library recently. It's the write-up of a series of lectures so it is more a collection of essays than a comprehensive narrative of how the English put their stamp on the rest of the British Isles - culturally as well as politically. Also why, unlike other European countries as they expanded and cohered in this period, why Wales, Scotland and Ireland remained culturally, linguistically and politically separate. My interest is in the north of England which, at the time of the Norman conquest, was not necessarily destined to be part of England (or Scotland) at all.

Recommended, if this is Your Thing. It's a reasonably easy read for the non-specialist but with good notes if you wish to follow anything up.
inulro: (Default)
34. The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

The second in his Last Dragonslayer series for young adults. I read the third one first (got charmed by him at an event & bought the book he was pimping), then the first one, so this one nicely fills in the middle.

I so wish I'd had these books when I was a kid. They are funny (my favourite line: "Reader, I punched him"), peppered with little bits of wisdom, and have a strong female main character. The setting is a post apocalyptic UnUnited Kingdoms which are, frankly, unpleasant and where underprivileged kids have to grow up fast.

I read the whole thing on the bus to and from London on Saturday. There's even an unexpected touching bit at the end, but maybe that was because I was tired.
inulro: (Default)
I am so far behind with this.

45. The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V by Hugh Thomas

The second part of Thomas' history of the Spanish empire. Where Rivers of Gold was dense but fascinating, this was just dense. This was a surprise - as I mentioned in my review of Rivers of Gold, I've read some of his earlier books and they've always been readable.

Somehow he made the discovery and conquest of Peru not that exciting, ditto the first voyage down the Amazon.

I struggled with this till the end because it was full of things I wanted to know, but it just got too bogged down in names and backgrounds in Spain of all the characters. Also it doesn't help that my stupid brain has to pronounce all the Spanish words in Spanish, but unlike French (which happens in the lizard brain), this makes me slow right down.

I learned a lot, it was just hard. Now I'm sitting here eyeing the last volume with suspicion - I got the first two from the library, but as they didn't have the third one yet I bought it.

46. In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

No, not the cool Murakami (who I went off some years ago, law of diminishing returns and all that, but who is at least sound in principle). Last month's bibliogoths book.

It was short and easy to read, but nothing about it appealed to me. If he was making any statements about Japanese society he was doing it with a sledgehammer. I've already read a lot about Japan's lost decade in the 90s, so it wasn't even like I was learning anything. It rambles and doesn't make sense.

47. Exploring Old Highway Number 1 West: Canada's Route 66 by J Clark Saunders

Bought this in the gift shop of the Moose Jaw tunnels mainly for the photos, which are superb. I feel like a bad Canadian, but I didn't know what a recent creation the Trans Canada Highway is, and that it's changed its route over the years. This book is a lovely nostalgia trip from the Ontario/Manitoba border to Victoria, BC. I've been on all of it over the years, but only as a means to an end. I now want to do it as a longer road trip taking time to see all the really nifty things along the way (which you sort of forget are really pretty or really cool because you live there, and because you have standard Prairie memories of your dad shoving the whole family in the car and driving for 12 hours, so that if you did see something cool, it's not like you ever would have been allowed to stop and look).

I highly recommend this book. The photos, as I said, are gorgeous, and the text is evocative of a Western Canada which I am barely old enough to have known.

48. The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

I bought the third volume when Jasper was speaking earlier this year. He was a guest at BristolCon in October so I grabbed the first and second books off the Forbidden Planet stall so I could get him to sign them (so I could tell him how much I love the line "honour is what happens when you weaponise manners".

I know they're aimed at the lower end of the YA spectrum, but I love these books so much. They are very funny, there is adventure and peril and some quite dark moments too.

49. The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

Of Mosse's previous work, I thought Labyrinth and Citadel are OK, and I loved Sepulchre and The Winter Ghosts, so I got this one from the library just in case.

I really rated this one. It's set in Sussex in 1912. The title character lives in isolation with her father, who used to be a famous taxidermist, but taxidermy has gone out of fashion and there's little work any more. She had a head injury when she was 12 and can't remember anything about her life before they moved to Fishbourne. Then the past catches up with them.

The actual plot and back story are OK, but nothing to write home about. However, the atmosphere is something else. It's low-level creepy right from the beginning and the suspenseful bit are well written, and the storm and floods which are the climax of the book are incredibly real. Maybe because we just lived through a winter of similar floods, but still. Also it was really easy going and I finished it really quickly. Definitely recommended.
inulro: (Default)
41. Spirit Walker by Michelle Paver

The sequel to Wolf Brother. At first I thought it was less good than the first book, but read the second half in one sitting. Picked up volume 3 from the library today.

In this book there is a sickness amongst the peoples of the forest and Torak sets out to find a cure which the mage of another clan is rumoured to have. Adventures ensue, and he finds out more about himself and his family.

Yes, it's for kids and very linear. I wish it had been around when I was a kid.
inulro: (Default)
39. Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

I started this some years ago, wasn't that grabbed by it and was too busy to persist. Much later the penny dropped and I realised this was the same person who wrote the wonderful Arctic horror story Dark Matter, so I tried again.

This is definitely aimed at the younger end of the "young adult" market and is a very simple, linear story about a boy, Torak, living during the ice Age. His father dies and makes him swear to go on a quest. Along the way he makes friends with a wolf cub and a girl called Renn, and adventures are had.

Despite being aimed at quite young readers, this was good fun. I have somehow radomly bee given the first and fourth volumes in the series. Volumes two and three have been ordered from the library.

I liked this, but it's not a keeper - shout if you want it.
inulro: (Default)
28. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde

Up till now I had not read any of Fforde's works. However, he was also speaking at the Ben Aaronovitch and Paul Cornell event in May, and he was witty and funny and lovely, so not surprisingly this one ended up coming home with me.

It's a young adult novel. Aimed at the younger end of the spectrum, I think. It's very silly. But very silly in a really sharp way most of the time, offering good comments on our own culture by use of an alternative country, the unUnited Kingdoms. There's a line to the effect of "honour is what happens when you weaponise manners" which I thought was just perfect.

For a YA book, the body count is really high.

Definitely going to get the first two books in this series now, and I eagerly await volume 4.
inulro: (Default)
66. Elidor by Alan Garner

Four siblings chase a football into a church about to be demolished in post-war Manchester and come out in another world. It's a dying world, and the man that they meet entrusts them with the Treasures of this world for safekeeping, and sends them on their way.

A year later, they are followed into the "real" world by men who wish to ensure the destruction of Elidor.

I really liked this. The pacing is good, and it touches on a lot of issues that would have been relevant to children reading it when it was first published - slum clearance, moving (or, in the case of overspill estates, being moved) to the suburbs, class snobbery, and the fact that in those days adults never listened to children and always assumed they were lying.
inulro: (Default)
33. Among Others by Jo Walton

Recommended by [ profile] nwhyte on one of those rare occasions when I was at a real computer so could move over to another tab and reserve it at the library.

This is a completely wonderful book.  It's about a girl from the Welsh Valleys who, due to family difficulties, has to go live with her father, except he's posh(ish) English so actually she gets sent to a distinctly third-rate English boarding school.  But she still sees fairies, and does magic, and eventually finds other people who share her love of science fiction.

Mostly, it's for everybody who only survived childhood because of public libraries, and who grew up feeling they didn't belong.

I can't do this one justice, so I'm not even going to try.  I loved it so much I was about to buy my own copy, which I never do when I've read something from the library.  As I'm having a temporary cash flow problem, it's going to have to wait, but I will have my own copy one day.


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