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Forum nameReading Challenges, 2010
Topic subjectTianne's Reads
Topic URLhttp://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=505&topic_id=469
469, Tianne's Reads
Posted by tianne, Fri Mar-12-10 11:53 AM
getting a late start on this.

Reflections on my reading list this year:
-I didn't get into this with a specific goal in mind, just an idea of tracking much I read in general, and what.
-I apparently read 38 books in something like 43 weeks, for an average of 88% of a book in a week.
-There was a lot of comfort-reading: authors that I generally like, series that I was following. Major releases by authors I seriously respect, like Butcher and Bujold and Willis.
-I exhausted my patience for "outside the box" reading early on, with "A Suitable Boy."
-It only just occurred to me that between Audie Murphy and Connie Willis, I've read comparatively a lot about WWII lately. :P
470, An Evil Guest, by Gene Wolfe (spoilers)
Posted by tianne, Fri Mar-12-10 12:30 PM
A reread, my first complete runthrough after
a). reading the vaguely related story "The Tree is My Hat"
b). reading a convention report where the perennially cagey Gene Wolfe made certain admissions about who he considered AEG's villain to be, and what the heroine was trying to accomplish at the end: http://lists.urth.net/pipermail/urth-urth.net/2009-September/013774.html

I somehow overlooked the racial stereotyping the first time around, but noticed it this time and got the impression that it seemed to be limited to Cassie's pov and therefore reflective of her own ideas and prejudices. Cassie strikes me as Wolfe's attempt to get into the head of someone like Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jean Baker, maybe w/ elements of Judy Garland: she's an emotionally damaged, insecure woman, with a hazy grip on reality and a potentially powerful effect on the male of the species. From that POV, I think he succeeded, at least moreso than he usually does w/ female characters.

In the crackpot theory department (since you're not supposed to walk away from a Gene Wolfe reading w/o a crackpot theory)...

-The injured son of the narrator from "The Tree is My Hat" survived (possibly due to some self-sacrificing gesture on the father's part) and had descendents, including a woman with first-name Martha, Cassie's mother. This explains Hanga palling around with her (he swore some kind of blood-brothership with the Tree narrator), and offers a political angle on Bill Reis's and eventually King Kanoa's interest in marrying Cassie; Hanga is a potentially valuable ally against the Storm King.

-Madame Pavlatos is either the still-undead Pat Gomez or a relative of hers.

-The variant Bill Reis identity/personality known as "Wally Rosenquist" is in fact a clone (there are anticloning laws in this universe), and is the one in love with Cassie. Wade Rusterman is either another clone or a false identity for Bill Reis. The deal Gideon was negotiating between Reis and the FBI involved flushing out their real mutal enemy the Storm King, and the staged death of at least one version of Reis (to get the US President off his case), with Gid smuggling the surviving Reis off-planet to Woldercan when he (Gid) took up the ambassadorship. In going to Woldercan, Cassie knows that Wally, the version in love with her, is dead, but is gambling that Gid can unlock her glamour potential again and that she can then win surviving-Bill over.
488, Origin in Death, by JD Robb
Posted by tianne, Tue Mar-16-10 04:56 PM
I picked this one off a library shelf at random-I've read others in the same series but it had been a while.

I was impressed by alot of the tech details-not so much in terms of scientific plausibility but in terms of, "yes that's what people would use that for if they had it." The faux tough talk among the characters was as tiresome as I remembered, but the "mushy stuff" was pretty well-done.

Found the mystery angle weak-I don't recall Robb/Roberts tipping her hand this badly in the other ones I'd read.
497, Gate of Ivrel by C. J. Cherryh
Posted by tianne, Fri Mar-19-10 11:35 AM
I thought I'd already read one of the books in this cycle and not cared for it (maybe gotten it confused with the Fortress cycle?), but this wasn't familiar to me at all, and I quite liked it. The heroine is cool (sort of a Belle Dame Sans Merci crossed with the male Lone Warrior archetype), the main POV character is a wet noodle by the standards of his macho barbaric culture, but he still has alot more spine than the average human male Cherryh character. The setting is also interesting: sword and sorcery but with some SF underpinnings.
509, Pirate Sun by Karl Schroeder
Posted by tianne, Tue Mar-23-10 01:26 PM
I think this was the weakest of the books in the Virgo cycle so far. Yes, Schroeder has a lot of fun w/ zero/low-g water physics. Yes, it's amusing that Chaison's doing the Dejah Thoris thing of being constantly captured and rescued by all and sundry, just as it was amusing that his wife Venera spent the previous book doing the John Carter thing of going from kingdom to kingdom stirring up trouble in her quest to either find her husband or avenge his death. But I just didn't care that much about any of it.
510, Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hambly
Posted by tianne, Tue Mar-23-10 01:37 PM
Man, I am definitely losing my touch when it comes to mysteries. I didn't see "whodunnit" coming despite a couple of things that should've tipped me off. Abigail Adams was pleasant, but except for the cultural trappings pretty much indistinguishable from any other Hambly heroine in a less than modern setting, John Adams was a barely noticeable bit player compared to his more volatile brother Sam and the jovial Paul Revere. Hambly's rendering of the complicated political setting was cool though.
536, Pawn of Prophecy, by David Eddings
Posted by tianne, Sun Mar-28-10 06:23 PM
I'd heard fairly negative things about the Belgariad from people I trusted, so I didn't get around to reading it when it was new(ish) but reading some of the reminisces about the author after his death made him sound like a fun kinda guy so I checked out the five-books-two-volumes release of the Belgariad and started reading.

The first one was very slooooow to get off the ground. It did some interesting tweaking of conventions, and I liked its take on the Boy of Destiny's POV on these events-what it would be like to be the youthful and blissfully ignorant human maguffin surrounded by ancient and/or powerful people. There were some good zingers but not enough to justify Eddings's reputation as a writer of witty dialogue.

Plodding through Queen of Sorcery right now. Not sure whether I'll continue or not.
626, Blackout by Connie Willis
Posted by tianne, Tue Apr-13-10 01:53 PM
I found this one...curiously distressing, even though I went into it knowing it would end on a cliffhanger. The family members who'd only read To Say Nothing of the Dog were particularly puzzled by me being upset and kind of depressed by the book; but then again, I've read The Domesday Book and they haven't. It's well written and fairly engaging even when it doesn't look like it's going anywhere particular-I read it pretty much straight through in a couple of days.

My own hunch is that things will end comparatively well, plotwise, in part 2, but I still found it kind of an emotional rollercoaster.
636, First Lord's Fury, by Jim Butcher
Posted by tianne, Fri Apr-16-10 10:04 AM
I think I sped-read through 2/3rds the previous book, Princeps' Fury, in a bookstore, because although I remembered the broad situation everyone's in, some details that would have popped up towards the end of Princeps (like the ice ships and the hero's grandfather once again having Fun Wi' Volcanoes before he dies) didn't seemed to register when they were mentioned here. On the whole, it's a good book, although it kind of felt like everyone but the head villainess stopped evolving as characters about two books back. Lots of slambangpow and excitement, lots of good times with interesting people. The details of the worldbuilding never cease to amaze me, from the hero's revival of lost ancient "tech" to supplement the elemental magic his people uses, to the "sand tables" that earthworkers can use to plot combat strategies.

It was also interesting to meet the old school Canim ritualists, who are classier and more cooperative in some respects than the ritualists the hero's been dealing w/ up to this point, but also ALOT scarier.
658, A Play of Treachery by Margaret Fraser
Posted by tianne, Thu Apr-22-10 08:34 AM
Well, the period details were interesting, especially since it takes place in Rouen in the late-ish stages of the Hundred Years' War, but the English characters all beating their chests about how much nicer they were to the peasants than those awful French nobles got tiresome, and there's a massive plot/motivation hole relating to the mystery.

Essentially, there's a character who knows whodunnit but conceals the fact because it will draw unwanted attention to another character's secret. Never mind the fact that the investigator's boss is on the Big Secret and has as much reason to conceal it as s/he who knows whodunnit does. Never mind the fact that the investigator's boss is *fabulously* well positioned to suppress the question of whodunnit and its implications for the Big Secret. S/he STILL doesn't tell him, and in the process makes all sorts of trouble for the protagonist, the boss, himself/herself and the character s/he's trying to protect. And s/he isn't stupid either, or not meant to be taken as such. Gaaah.
729, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Posted by tianne, Thu May-20-10 10:39 AM
What's it about? India in the 1950s. Religion, politics, marriage. Family. Society. Music, "pop" and "classical", within Indian culture. Passing references to Jane Austen's Emma, the collected works of Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and the ancient Bollywood film Deedar. It's also about 1474 pages long, so I think I have a legitimate excuse for taking this long to finish it :P

I've been mildly interested in Indian culture for some time, and I found this illuminating to a point but not nearly as radically exotic as some western reviewers seem to. Found the characters interesting without getting genuinely invested in them, my best memories of it are all linguistic/cultural discoveries.
749, Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
Posted by tianne, Mon May-31-10 02:31 PM
There were things I really liked about it-the attack poodle, the mystery surrounding the new baddie and how it plays out, the Pack politics, Saiman being back to his old self after the events of Magic Bleeds where he seemed a little out of character.

I didn't care for the handling of the Jewish mysticism angle, or the lover's spat between Curran and Kate taking up half the book, and I didn't care for the "evol white guyz being all racist against shapeshifters" subplot-it's not inconsistent with the setting, but it felt like it just got trotted out as an excuse for moral posturing.

Aaand, the excerpt from the new Edge book, featured at the end of Magic Bleeds, sets up the Weird's Louisianans as borderline Nazi analogues. Marvellous. I may have to drop this author.
773, Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks
Posted by tianne, Tue Jun-08-10 01:43 PM
This is kind of an interesting glimpse into the great mystery writer's brainstorming process, but it can be kind of dry, and the editor/commentator really assumes that you have all her books memorized, which I don't (he also assumes you care about the hangups he has with some of Christie's plot holes. I don't). And there just isn't that much documentation for some of the most famous ones.

Still, there's nothing more reassuring to an aspiring writer than seeing how messy the creative process can be, even for people who know what they're doing and whose work has stood the test of time.
774, Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
Posted by tianne, Tue Jun-08-10 01:44 PM
I stopped caring about this character a couple of books back, but I was short on things to read. lots of interesting vampire politics in this one.
778, Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
Posted by tianne, Fri Jun-11-10 04:38 PM
I don't believe I've read the prequel novella that leads into this series about Charles, but I followed the goings-on ok anyway. In another time, the novella would've been published in a magazine, not an anthology, and the author likely wouldn't have had any qualms about expanding the novella into a book of its own.

Anyway, found the book fairly interesting. Even w/ the third person POV and Anna's radically different backstory and confidence levels compared to Mercy, it's fairly clear that Briggs only knows how to write one "female voice." Also a bit lacking in narrative drive compared to the Mercy books-it feels too much like "random stuff about the werewolves that Briggs always wanted to tell the readers but Mercy wasn't interested in passing along."

But hey, I've read worse.
811, Hunting Grounds by Patricia C. Briggs
Posted by tianne, Tue Jun-15-10 11:36 AM
Better than the previous Alpha and Omega book, but still kind of glib and unfocused.
835, Changes, by Jim Butcher
Posted by tianne, Fri Jun-25-10 12:05 PM
Well, it kept me turning the pages, and in some ways I found it more satisfying than the last two, but...eh.

not one but two duel type scenarios against Red Court vampires. Endless trudging from point a to b to call in favors and call up old contacts. It just felt like there was alot of wheelspinning going on.
894, Obsidian Prey, by Jayne Castle
Posted by tianne, Sat Jul-24-10 04:47 PM
The romance is your standard alpha male/feisty chick thing this author does no matter what pseudonym she writes under, but I found it reassuring in the particular mood where I read this one. Also the world-building seemed much better thought out that I remember this particular series being, and the dust-bunnies were adorable: not just space-dogs or space-cats, but things that really felt like a new and different species that humans *would* keep as pets.
895, Talyn by Holly Lisle
Posted by tianne, Sat Jul-24-10 04:49 PM
It was an interesting read with likable heroes, and I feel like it taught me some new things about the writing craft. But dear heavens, it came off as so pretentious in places and so in love with its own grittiness and cleverness. Definitely not bothering with the rest of the books in this series.
922, Dawn Star by Catherine Asaro
Posted by tianne, Tue Aug-03-10 11:57 AM
Ah the joys of Catherine Asaro. No matter where you start in one of her series, you're equally lost :)

This was interesting-I particularly enjoyed the political maneuverings-but the transplanting of her usual schtick from space opera to faux-medieval fantasy only makes her stuff feel less exotic and more generic.
928, In The Forests of Sere by Patricia McKillip
Posted by tianne, Thu Aug-05-10 12:26 PM
Liked it pretty well. It had been a long time since I read anything by this author.
929, Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip
Posted by tianne, Thu Aug-05-10 12:29 PM
I liked this one better than Sere-great ambience. It felt kind of like the Gormenghast books, only not written by a parochial misanthrope with no sense of psychology or plotting. :P
955, Odd Girl Out by Timothy Zahn
Posted by tianne, Wed Aug-25-10 08:12 AM
Not as good as earlier books in same series, but entertaining.
956, Mouse and Dragon by Sharon Lee and Steven Miller
Posted by tianne, Wed Aug-25-10 08:14 AM
Does a pretty good job of wrapping up the story of Daav and Aelliana, but the subplot about the baddies gunning for Daav was not well-integrated into the whole, and that made the segments after the timeskip kind of disconnected from the whole.
957, Passage, by Connie Willis
Posted by tianne, Wed Aug-25-10 08:16 AM
The early chapters were suitably spooky, but it got alot less interesting once the Titanic entered the picture, and the fallout from the heroine's fate was not handled particularly well.

Not to mention, the heroine is SUCH a self-righteous pill.

I guess it says something about Willis's writing skills that I read the whole thing inspite of the above.
958, Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Posted by tianne, Wed Aug-25-10 08:21 AM
Weird experience-I could only vaguely remember the incidents of the story from my last reading of ten/fifteen years ago, so I didn't really "know what was going to happen next" for the most part. But every individual sentence, as a piece of prose, rang the bell of familiarity as soon as I read it. Now I read a great deal of Kipling's juveniles growing up: the Just-So Stories, *all* the Jungle Book stories, and I've been heavily exposed to people like E.R. Burroughs and Heinlein who were clearly influenced by him. But I didn't really expect this reaction to the Kipling "style."

Oh, and some lines were highly disturbing due to Tim Powers appropriating them as chapter headings for his novel Declare.
1007, Knights of the Cornerstone by James Blaylock
Posted by tianne, Thu Sep-23-10 12:54 PM
I hadn't had "great" experiences with Blaylock up til this point, but this was fairly interesting, in a "poor man's Tim Powers" kind of way.
1008, Rainy Season by James Blaylock
Posted by tianne, Thu Sep-23-10 12:59 PM
I've seen reviews described this as an older, better-done riff on the same themes as Knights, and I have to say that I agree with that assessment.
1009, The Face, by Dean Koontz
Posted by tianne, Thu Sep-23-10 01:03 PM
The thriller side of things is well-done, though the bad guy comes off as a weak reiteration of the sinister literary critic from That Other Koontz I Can't Remember The Name Of. On the other hand, this has one of Koontz's more convincing riffs on his precocious child archetype. He also has alot of fun describing the movie star's super-mansion.

As for the supernatural side of things, all I can say is that *someone's* been reading Screwtape again, and it's not me. :P
1019, Days of the Dead by Barbara Hambly
Posted by tianne, Thu Sep-30-10 09:12 AM
Hambly's take on Mexico City at the era in question (eve of the rebellion by the gringo settlers of Texas) is really interesting, and I was pleased by her choice of baddie for kind of complicated reasons.

She often comes off as an intellectual elitist congratulating her favorite characters on how informed and enlightened they are compared to everyone else, and for once she had various fairly unsympathetic characters being self-congratulatory in that way.
1048, Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer
Posted by tianne, Tue Nov-02-10 03:09 PM
Still my favorite of her novels, very awesome.
1049, The Quiet Gentleman, Georgette Heyer
Posted by tianne, Tue Nov-02-10 03:10 PM
I went through a period of loving this one, then not caring for it, but I really liked it quite a bit this time. The pseudo-mystery angle is really tiresome once you know how it turns out though.
1050, A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer
Posted by tianne, Tue Nov-02-10 03:16 PM
This is one of the most admired of her novels, and I remember really liking its "anti-romantic" tone and multiple secondary pairings the first time, but this time around I spent a lot of time wanting to clobber the hypersensitive, oh-so-noble male lead, when I think Heyer instead wanted us to simultaneously feel sorry for him and be indulgently disapproving of his more uptight moments. I also didn't get the vibe that his wife was getting all that fulfilling of a life out of this situation: yeah, she apparently enjoys the domestic organizational stuff, and the motherhood stuff...so Heyer says. But she didn't really manage to sell me on it this time.
1104, All Clear by Connie Willis
Posted by tianne, Thu Dec-09-10 10:14 AM
This was a cool reading experience in that I was sharing the library copy with two members of my car pool, and we were all reading this somewhat frantically in turns, with lots of audible chuckles and "uh-ohs" from whoever had the book at the moment. Book itself was much like the first one; structured in a page-turning but irritating way, wasn't entirely happy with the resolution, but was an entertaining ride.
1105, Flight of the Eisenstein, by James Swallow
Posted by tianne, Thu Dec-09-10 10:21 AM
Read this because I was flirting with the idea of doing a space opera with Marines for NaNo, and a Warhammer 40K fan of my acquaintance lent this to me by way of, uh, research. It was interesting and suspenseful, even to someone with only a hazy familiarity with the setting. It would probably be too dark and anti-heroic (in the sense that even the good guys are violent, oppressive, and prejudiced people by 20th c. American standards) for some tastes, but it made a decent change of pace.

Oh, and the horrifically lame dialogue was the only place where the author's background as a scriptwriter for Star Trek: Voyager became truly obvious. :P
1106, Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
Posted by tianne, Thu Dec-09-10 10:25 AM
I liked it ok-felt like one of her "Miles saves people" novellas fluffed out to novel-length by giving us POVs from the people who have to interact with him. I think it's pretty obvious that she's not particularly interested in Miles anymore. She took a fair amount of flak for ending the novel with a particular incident rather than beginning with it, but I'd just as soon NOT have an entire novel overshadowed by that, thanks.

She's reportedly working on an Ivan-centric novel in the same universe, which could be interestng.
1112, No Name On The Bullet: A Biography of Audie Murphy
Posted by tianne, Fri Dec-10-10 08:50 AM
First off, the author Don Graham does an impressive job of pulling together a lot of different sources and information to draw a picture of a man with extraordinary reflexes and survival instincts, and some potential but largely undeveloped literary abilities, but whose judgment and emotional development were badly stunted by his harsh childhood environment and by his wartime experiences. I found it really fascinating at that level. There's a lot of gaps, a lot of places where I felt like we were getting only a fraction of the story, places where a novelist like Tim Powers would have a field day. But that's par for the course with a second-tier Hollywood celebrity with a reserved personality.

There are complaints about the book's reliability on certain points of fact which I am not qualified to judge; the one thing I can say is that he's probably misrepresenting some of the incidents where Murphy gets bullying or intimidating towards other men in his social circles. Graham glides very quickly past the fact that two somewhat notorious incidents where Murphy got into physical altercations involved people with criminal or shady backgrounds. He also talks constantly about Murphy intimidating people on sets or playing harsh practical jokes without noting that macho posturing and gross/dangerous pranks were par for the course in "Cowboy Hollywood" at the time (see almost any story ever told about the John Wayne/John Ford clique, for instance).

Worth reading if you're interested in the subject, though.
1115, To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy (& "Spec" McClure)
Posted by tianne, Fri Dec-17-10 10:03 AM
There's some confusion about who wrote what on this, with both Murphy and the uncredited McClure (a somewhat parasitical friend of Murphy's who the actor eventually distanced himself from) claiming at different times to have written most of it. The general consensus seems to be that Murphy, despite his fifth-grade education, did have a way with words, and that the terse, intense accounts of life on the frontlines of war are probably his work, either dictated to McClure or written out and with the grammar and spelling cleaned up.

It's easy to sneer at the few female characters who show up, idealized yet prurient figures, or at the middlebrow, pseudo-poetic passages usually blamed on McClure, or at the uncouth, half-heartedly censored soldier-talk. But it's still a compelling account of a compelling military career, very much worth reading by anyone even slightly interested in WW2.
1121, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout
Posted by tianne, Sun Dec-26-10 01:27 PM
A very different kind of biography from No Name on the Bullet. Don Graham's book made me want to argue with him constantly-about his stylistic choices, about his attitude towards his subject and towards his subject's world.

Terry Teachout, by contrast, is a smooth, meticulous stylist who knows comparatively a lot about jazz, Louis Armstrong and his world and wants to share it with nonspecialist readers like me. He's careful to emphasize also how much we don't know about this world, and how difficult it is to truly understand some parts of what we do know. He also likes his subject, and treats him in a respectful but not too "fannish" way, noting Armstrong's failed marriages, ability to hold a grudge and marijuana use in a neutral, fairly nonjudgmental way that allows the readers to make up their own minds.

Plus it's about a famously cheerful man who refused to let hardship or discrimination get him down, who successfully made a living over a long, full life by doing something he loved and was extraordinarily good at. So it ends up being a very mellow, comfortable sort of read.