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In rough ascending order as to how excited I am about it. It is weird, yes, that I was way more excited about movies than books this year. It was a great year for music.

Books (first read, fiction): The King Must Die and Bull from the Sea (Mary Renault); Hmm. I think this means it was not a good year for books for me. At least for transcedental experiences of books, as I read tons and tons of books I liked very much (thanks, flist!!). But there was nothing this year of the level where I start talking madly about it to every random person I meet (whereas both movies, below, fell into that category).

Reread: Sayers' translation of the Inferno, which is still fabulous, and definitely has the most fabulous notes/introduction out there, and, who knew, is apparently the perfect airport layover book (well, for me; I'm warped that way) when ill and frustrated.

Book series: Kage Baker's Company series :) The Antonia Forest Marlow series probably should also make an appearance here, but doesn't, because they are so bleepingly hard to find, so I've only read the first book, which in my brain doesn't really count as a series.

Books (first read, nonfiction): Galen Rowell's photography books. The man could take pictures AND write! Honorable mention to Tony Sweet's photography books, which are beautiful and inspiring, more so than many beautiful photography books.

TV: Veronica Mars season 3 (which, of course, I watched mostly in DVD form). Yeah, some things sucked about it, but Veronica Mars sucking is better than most TV shows ever get. And I loved it anyway because Veronica has grown and matured so very much since season 1, and the end broke my heart. Not least because the ending eps melded all I loved about season 1 with the richer, more mature Veronica of season 3, and just when it was getting good they canceled it. WAH.

Movies: Stranger than Fiction and A Man for All Seasons, in two very different ways... and, on the other hand, in some very similar ways as well; they're both about what it means to be human, and what essential parts of being human can't be given up, and what makes greatness. A good year for me movie-watching-wise.

Music: Rene Jacobs' version of Mozart's Nozze di Figaro, which won out with flying colors in a long and grueling comparison of all the Figaros out there. Mozart, in general, sweeps 2007! Chandos Opera in English. Vivaldi's Gloria recorded by Alessandrini (completely changed the way I think of the Gloria).
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So, um, I was sick. Which meant I spent the entire day reading this book instead of, say, working. I'm not even going to try to talk about this without spoilers. )
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So, Dumbledore. Ever since I started trying to formulate excuses for his behavior back when rereading book 5, I started thinking about the HP books in conjunction with Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy. They're very different books-- HP is, of course, the old "child in muggle world finds out he is actually Magic!" and is told in an intentionally humorous and mundane style to match the world of magic being much like ours. Riddlemaster, contrarily, is all in high fantasy world, and told in McKillip's wonderfully lyric style.

(A digression before you do or don't read the rest of my ramble: I LOVE the Riddlemaster books. To little bits and pieces. I read them as a wide-eyed adolescent, and I read the first one by flipping to the last page first-- which I totally, very much, really do not recommend, unless there is no possible way you will read it otherwise-- and I love McKillip's writing in general, and I love Morgon and Raederele and Eliard and Lyra and Deth and basically all of them, and it presses a good many of my buttons. But at least two people whose judgement I respect found them all but unreadable. So... your mileage may vary. I'd imagine they are better read during adolescence.)

However. Both feature a sweet main character who turns out to be more than he seems, a character who Tries (though with flaws) To Do The Right Thing. This main character archetypically goes through a number of fantastic and interesting elements (Harry through Hogwarts school, Morgon through traveling). But what I'm really interested in is the main plot element in Harpist in the Wind and the almost identical main subplot of Deathly Hallows, which I think McKillip did exactly right and Rowling did clumsily. Cut for massive book-destroying spoilers for the Riddlemaster trilogy, and book-wounding spoilers for DH. )
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Kate Nepveu has a post talking about a panel on taboos in fantasy, which made me think about my own personal taboos and how they've been violated recently.

I recently read this book Burned by Ellen Hopkins, a YA book about an adolescent girl who is part of an abusive family and is looking for love, and the ways that sex plays into both of those. The problem is not that it's a bad book. In fact, despite the part where it's in "poetry," it's actually a good book. More than that, it's a powerful book. First of all, it deals with powerful themes (abuse, teenage sex), and furthermore it is good at what it does-- it seared its message into my brain the way that the best YA-targeted novels do, like Chris Crutcher's (more on him in a sec!) did when I was a teenager, and I'm not even an adolescent now.

So why am I about to tell you NOT to read this book, that I would prefer you to avoid this book at all costs? Because it's riddled with inaccuracies of portrayal of something I feel rather strongly about, mostly implicitly but sometimes explicitly, and because I think the message is both incorrect and damaging (both to an external group and to its target audience).

Cut for severe incoherent rantings about the confluence of religion-abuse-sex, and thoughts on what YA authors owe their audiences. Also, if you need to read gritty YA about troubled adolescents, go read Chris Crutcher. )

I don't know. That's where I draw the line, at what emotionally sets me off, but I'm not entirely comfortable with it, since I know it's not entirely consistent.
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(I would totally read a book or story with that title. Anyone want to write one for me? :) ) Okay, so, I recently read all these Robin Hobb books, and I'm racing through these Kage Baker books, and this has reminded me forcibly of the Fallacy of the First Lover, as I will call it. This is the theory that I feel like I've seen in just about a million books that your first lover/boyfriend/girlfriend/childhood crush is Special and that you will Never Find Anyone Better Than Him or Her No Matter How Hard You Try, Because Your Heart Has Been Stolen Away Forever Because It Is Clearly Fate. (See also, for example, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, where the main character is told by her own mom that she will never love anyone the way she loved her first love, and Emily of New Moon.) (Disclaimer: Since I haven't finished the Baker books, I don't know that they will end this way, but it's sure seeming a lot like it right now.) This, of course, doesn't mean that I won't like the book, but it is certainly a trope that drives me a bit nuts.

It drives me nuts because in my limited experience, I can't actually think of anyone in real life for which this is true (with one possible exception). In my case, the first time I fell shatteringly in love, I was flamingly adolescent and extremely silly and not very good at picking attractive long-term-mate qualities. ...And it's true I've never loved anyone the way I loved him, but I'm inclined to think that this is a Very Good Thing, as my love was all about drama and emotion and selfishness and not at all about building a future together and becoming a better person/partnership.

(I'm totally willing to make an exception for medieval-like settings in towns where you know all ten eligible girls and you're not likely to meet any more than that, or where you are royalty and therefore have to make the best of whatever alliance you're given-- although points off if said alliance just happens to be with the strange girl you fell in love with but had to disdain because of your impending marriage, but double points if the strange girl actually happens to be your mortal enemy's fiance (I have particular books in mind here, but won't name them for fear of spoilering-- though comments are fair game if anyone wants to play). But Fitz and Mendoza have no excuse in this regard.)

To get major points from me: Be honest in this regard and let the characters have several (or at least two, come on) relationships which may or may not be dysfunctional in various ways, and loving in various ways, until they get to the One That Is (More) Right, the way that most of us bumble about it. Miles Vorkosigan (you knew I was going to say that). Vicky Austin (kind of) and Polyhymnia O'Keefe (somewhat more so) in the L'Engle books. Janet in Tam Lin.
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I keep thinking that the Kage Baker books remind me of the Brust books-- a large part of it is the snarky tone. (I love Joseph. I love him ten times as much as Mendoza. More on that in a bit.)

The Graveyard Game is like Teckla-- it's where I realize that what was a mostly fun fantastical romp (time travel! Assassins!) with perhaps some minor elements of seriousness (2355? Reincarnation?) suddenly, well, the world blows up (well, not literally. At least, as far as I know, though I'm not discounting the eventual literalness of this possibility in either series), and I'm left scrambling for what's going to happen to the pieces...
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Raced through In the Garden of Iden. This is, I feel, mostly the fault of [livejournal.com profile] joyce, with a liberal helping of [livejournal.com profile] ase. Well, I did like it quite a lot, and I'll definitely be picking up the rest of the series. Mendoza is a lot of fun!

It spoke directly to a lot of things that make me happy. I like snark. I also like examining paradoxes of time travel, sometimes (though it didn't work for me in Time Traveler's Wife... mostly because there was less examination and more resignation, I suspect) (Heroes, though I love Hiro, is driving me crazy right now-- I'm mostly through season 1-- what with the traveling blithely through time without examining it at ALL). I really, really like HenryVIII/Mary/Elizabeth-an England. Really. I really like thoughtful examination of religion. (Obviously given my background I prefer positive thoughtful examination, but negative is okay too as long as it's thoughtful and nominally balanced, which I thought this was.)

One thing that kind of annoyed me: )

I realized, too, that it took me so long to pick them up because this book is impossible to describe-- D was like, what are you reading? and I was all, "Time-traveling cyborgs!... No, wait! it's not like it sounds..."
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This post is for [livejournal.com profile] ase, who refused my protestations that I did not like Cherryh's novels but did like her short stories, and convinced me to read Rider at the Gate and Cloud's Rider by telling me that there were proto-sentient black horses (well, horse types) that liked bacon.

So... I'd been complaining for a while that there was nothing else Bujold-like to read, but... this is almost it. (The "almost" will come in a bit.) Weber doesn't count; he's nothing like Bujold except that they have both written books that take place in space and sometimes contain space battles. But ahem. The Rider books did several things for me:

-it sucked me into the action to where I forgot who I was and was totally immersed in the story. This is neither a necessary (e.g., John M. Ford, even Megan Whalen Turner, who writes in a slightly distant style) nor sufficient (Mercedes Lackey...at least before she got really silly) condition for me to love a book, but there is a really really high correlation there. And the absence of this in the other Cherryh books I'd tried was a huge barrier.

-The world was actually pretty well imagined, though the first book in particular suffered a bit from a heavy-handed religion (though this was greatly mitigated in the second). There seemed to be actual thoughts about economy and ecology! wow!

-there were sympathetic characters. This is a necessary condition for me. I was also happy that some of the unsympathetic characters in both books turned out to be more complex and sympathetic, just like in real life. (When I first met the people who are now my best friend and husband, I didn't think much of them, and they didn't think much of me. This changed.)

-you were given enough insight into the villains' heads that you could understand why they acted as they did, even if you thought they were kind of lame. Bujold is pretty good at this. Orson Scott Card used to be the king of this (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, the Call of Earth series, Pastwatch), before he got old and maudlin and started inventing psycho supervillains (yes, Shadow series, I am looking at you). I really think this is a good thing, because in real life? No one actually thinks s/he is a supervillain; everyone feels justified in his/her actions.

Now for the almost: this differed from Bujold in that Bujold has a penchant, which I share, for world- and universe-shattering events (and people-shattering events) to happen in her books. I feel kind of like the world has been put back together in a different way when I'm at the end. Cherryh is much quieter. The inside of one or two people's heads is maybe shifted around, hardened in some places, softened in others, cracked in a couple of places, opened up in others. The world is explained, but not necessarily obviously changed or split open. This is, of course, a perfectly valid mode of telling stories, probably with some advantages over the shattering kind in its subtlety-- it's just that I wasn't expecting it, so it threw me a bit in the first book, and then I was much happier with it in the second.

Also, the nighthorses were brilliant. They are like Valdemarian Companions on crack.
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Okay, I gave Song of Arbonne a good try, and I... actually ended up liking it. Quite a lot. Unfortunately, GGK's style still drives me nuts, with the result that I read only about half the book (see last bullet point).

-The plot rocked, actually; the last hundred pages was very good. It completely took me by surprise. I had pegged the book as a certain sort of mediocre redemption story with the obligatory lines, yeah, whatever, and it turned out to be... a more subtle redemption story, kind of. Very nicely done, and very well done blindsiding me.

-I was happy to get the totally long deathbed scenes, cause they explained everything, but geez, I sort of feel like in real life they would not be able to, you know, tell their whole life story on the way to dying.

-A Song for Arbonne reminded me of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. Everyone who recommended Arbonne to me, go read Kushiel.

-Shouldn't it be obvious if Ending spoiler ) I didn't buy that one. Fortunately it was not essential to the plot, really.

Okay, here's why GGK still bothers me, even though I enjoyed the book:

-GGK thinks he can write moving high fantasy. Whenever he tries, it makes me laugh. ("Lisseut['s heart] had left her unknowing, like a bird in winter, flying north to a hopelessly wrong destination... [She] watched, even as she felt the flight of her heart from her breast across the bright green grass." This gives me the mental picture of a) a bird with a really messed-up compass in its brain, with all the other birds pecking at it: "Don't fly *that* way-- what are you, dumb?!" and b) a beating heart with little white wings, bouncing merrily across the grass.) Mercedes Lackey (for instance) actually bothers me less in this regard; I don't think in general that she is as good a writer as GGK, but she doesn't try to do things she can't do. Jacqueline Carey has her own particular style which sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn't, but she's true to that style and doesn't pretend to be working off of, I don't know, Chretien de Troyes when she is So Not. (Same with his Epic Poetry, which is an order of magnitude worse than Tolkien's.)

-The thing that annoys me most is GGK's irritating habit of having the mysterious POV character think of something mysterious-- "Ah, my brother's wife whom I had sex with but did not love!"-- that clearly is related to the character's mysterious Past, and then drop it without ever explaining who these people are or what the Past is or whatever, and without having any good reason to drop it except that it would be narratively inconvenient to reveal at that time. The point, I'm pretty sure, is to Build Tension about the Mysterious Past. The actual result for me was that I skipped the first half of the book and went straight to the part where the Mysterious Past is actually explained (again, for no particular reason; the character just decides to ruminate on it more closely just because it is now narratively convenient). It was really kind of surprising how little I actually missed by skipping the first half.

Now, don't get me wrong-- I understand that The Character with a Mysterious Past is a staple of fiction. But if you're going to have that character be the POV character, you've got to make it realistic and not so's I can tell it's convenience-driven. Let's take Bujold's character Caz in Curse of Chalion. (Is this whole LJ a love song to Bujold? Quite possibly.) He has a Mysterious Past to which he rarely alludes and that turns out to be useful to the plot. But. He's traumatized by that past; and furthermore, he has good reasons for not wanting to bring attention to that past, to even think about it more than he needs to, and there's no reason why he needs to think about it. (We, the readers, are hooked into the story by other hooks than That of the Mysterious Past.) So... he doesn't. It's only when events make that past directly relevant that he actually has to think/talk about it.
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...but ranting about Legacy is more fun. I will pay for this later.

Okay, Beguilement made me think of Fawn and Ekaterin; Legacy made me think about Dag and Miles (and Gregor and Cordelia). I really felt like, with the ending of Legacy, LMB was rying to undermine everything her books stand for to me.

Spoilers for Beguilement and Legacy and Memory and Shards of Honor )
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My homework for last weekend was reading Legacy. (Next weekend it will be to start looking up all these fabulous book recs I keep getting, yay, thanks!) I... didn't hate it. Probably from the Magic of Low Expectations-- I knew not to expect much, and, well, I wasn't disappointed.

It is a romance book. Fortunately, I was warned multiple times of this in advance. And seeing as how a) romance as a genre kind of bores me, and b) Bujold doing romance presses none of my adoration buttons and many of my rant buttons (more on this in a sec), well, there was a limit to much I'd like it, and I knew that going in.

I see (and I saw dimly after the first book) what Bujold is trying to do-- because she is a Real Writer, she can't stay in stasis doing the same thing forever; she needs to experiment. And I'm glad she does, because what she did in Chalion she could never have done on Barrayar, and in that case her experimentation was a grand success. However, her experiment with romance... well, now you've done the experiment, and now I hope you go on to experiment with something else. Please. Because romance is simply not Bujold's strength, though she may believe it is from the success of ACC. Although I loved ACC, the actual romances were not its strength; the comedy of errors and the tight plotting and the weaving of romance together with ruminations on biology and politics were its strengths.

What I liked: It was nice to get more backstory and more insight into the world, although... the mysteries set up were really relatively mild, and nothing really got resolved.
No specific plot spoilers for Legacy, though general spoilers abound; spoilers for Beguilement )
What I didn't like: The May-December romance thing really kept squicking me out, because it would not die-- characters kept commenting on it. Which on one hand is a testament to Bujold's careful writing craftsmanship, because in reality, yeah, everyone would be commenting on it. However, since I was kind of on everyone else's side and not on Fawn and Dag's side on this, it didn't really work.

What I hated so much that the margins of this post cannot contain it: Well, the ending. I was all, hey, this isn't so bad, and then the ending happened and if I had been reading my own copy I would have thrown it, well, across the bed. I have a whole other rant about Dag and responsibility and girls and Miles, but I'll post that later.
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Have I mentioned that everyone needs to read The Chosen and The Promise by Chaim Potok? Yeah, well, there it is. I've read a couple others by him and wasn't able to get into them, but... wow, these two belong in the category of "every time I reread they blow me away." It's about a genius and his best friend, except that it isn't: it's about family and religion and love and textual criticism and fathers and sons and Judaism and silence and grief and love. And just so well done. This is in my Top Twenty Of All Time. (I made a list of my Top 10 last week, just for kicks, and it just narrowly got edged out of the ten by To Kill A Mockingbird, but not by much!)

I probably shouldn't have reread these in close conjunction with the Mary Russell books. This weekend was The Game. I do really like these books-- they are rather addicting-- but as a person who takes religion more-or-less seriously (even if my faith fluctuates wildly) it really annoys me when it's not done right in books. (Someday I shall rant/rave about Curse of Chalion, which does it so very right that I actually hated it the first read through; it's now one of my Favorite Books Ever.) And Russell's religion frustrates me no end. She's always pointing out that she's a Jew, where by "always" I should say "whenever there is a pig or pig products around." And she gets all huffy about it, and how annoying it is that she's expected to eat pork, whatever. But she never displays any other sign of being Jewish (as opposed to a Christian, or a secular humanist). Does she go to synagogue? Ever? Does she celebrate any of the feast days? Does she observe the Sabbath, like, at all? Does she even know any other Jewish people? She saw a miracle happen to a Christian: did this have any impact on her Jewishness at all? Argh. Plus which she seems to be okay in this book with eating lobster (well, okay, that's not explicitly stated) and curry, which last time I checked was often made with meat and, uh, milk.

Also, this morning I was pointed to this article on the Atonement which also frustrated me, because it purports to explain why the Atonement was necessary and then... doesn't. He's all, "The innocent always suffer when someone sins, like Jesus on the cross, therefore the Atonement makes sense!" Uh, no. If I committed adultery, my innocent husband would suffer, yeah. But if he then commits suicide (which is the basic logic equivalent of this guy's argument), that doesn't make any sense. Look, stop trying to apply logic to these things. You'll just annoy me.
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okay, so I went to Gaudy Night last night to look up one of the conversations, and was blown away. I had forgotten how utterly fantastic the book is, and how much deeper than the Russell books. (And how much deeper it is than the pre-Harriet Lord Peter books, for that matter, a couple of which I've been rereading lately.) There's no comparison. The external mystery and the internal narrative and the bigger questions (of which there are many: woman's role, personal loyalty vs. principles, what is owed to one's work...) work together seamlessly. (Whereas in the Russell books I do get the sense that she's trying to do something like that... but it doesn't really work.) And it is still compulsively readable for all that.

That being said, Russell is still delightful-- I identify with her probably more than I do with Harriet (which is as it should be, as Russell is a bit of an anachronistic 21th-century-girl (oh, yeah, this reminds me: can you read double subjects at Oxford, as Russell claims to do? I think not!), and Harriet is clearly a product of the early-20th-century; another reason I love Gaudy Night more), and I find her geektastic!weirdnesses and weaknesses rather charming in a completely-nerdy sort of way.

In RL news, the Kid is visiting. She shall tell me what clothes to buy and what clothes in my closet to throw out and what glasses to buy and how to put makeup on, and I shall force-feed her books (ok, I already started that part) and we shall watch Veronica Mars together and have a most excellent time! She has already approved my recent shoe purchase (inspired by A's wedding), which is possibly a first in our lives.
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Okay, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, which I bought yesterday immediately after work, read while walking home, and stayed up late reading, simultaneously delighted and frustrated me. A lot.

Russell continues to be a character I just absolutely adore. I think I love just her utter delight in living and learning. And the snark!

The romance, such as it was-- it actually took up very little time page-wise-- I actually very much enjoyed, because it was almost note-perfect (the "first time I saw you" line was clearly a kiss-induced fog, thanks [livejournal.com profile] joyce!)-- I did not appreciate the reference at the very end to the fact that they are in fact master and journeyman, so to speak-- brought the ick back-- but that they shook hands at the end was just superb. They're so weird, they're definitely right for each other. Um. I think I'm raving like a madman. I think I'll stop now. Anyway. Liked it. And the first chapter where Russell gets slapped down? hee! That alone was a great set piece and probably worth the price of admission.

I actually would have liked more romance, in the sense of more introspection-- why did Russell want to propose? Why was she refused, but accepted later? What was going on in their heads?-- but, you know, those are all very girly questions, and we know that Russell isn't girly. So I'm willing to concede that point-- both love interests are not really very interested at all in introspection. However, I cannot tell you how much I would've liked a scene, maybe with Veronica-- instead of the insipid one we got where we learn that Ronnie thinks Holmes has sex appeal-- I've had a crush on him since middle school; you don't need to tell me he has sex appeal!-- where Russell, prodded by a more girly friend (I can see how she wouldn't say anything, possibly even think it, unless prodded), discusses the situation a bit. Maybe the friend could point out that he is head-over-heels in love with her, and see what she does with the idea. (Well, run away, probably.) It's enough to get one started writing fic!

The mystery was well put together, although not so well put together that I didn't figure out the villain way before the end, which is rare for me and which probably means it was not particularly well-hidden. And I enjoyed getting to see more of Russell's theological training.

However, the theological part of the book was all Over the place. There doesn't seem to have been a whole lot of point except for the author to show off her feminist-theological leanings. I was expecting there to have been some point to the feminist Biblical readings, which I enjoyed very much while they were there, but they were just tossed into the mix and then summarily ignored. At least the luxury/asceticism debate got a faint bit of play in the Epilogue. But I kept feeling like there were deeper things that could have been done with it, and weren't. And then there's a Strange Occurrence which is given relatively a whole lot of space, near the end explained as a miracle, and then, again, just ignored. Um, what? I could tell myself that the ramifications will be in later books (because yeah, I could see seeing a miracle as something that you couldn't process all at once), except that I fully expect this to also be ignored in later books, and that just makes me want to beat my head against the wall. If you're going to start bringing in heavy guns like that, they have got to actually have effects; you can't fire them and then pretend their effect is that of a popgun. This was probably my biggest problem with the book. (Please feel free to enlighten me if I'm wrong about this, because I'd love to be proved wrong.)

(Also, a minor point that bugged me? Russell, I don't know if you meant this seriously, but chemistry and theology actually don't have much in common. Math and theology, okay. Logic and theology, yes. But chemistry? no.)

I've seen reviews unfavorably comparing this to Gaudy Night. I agree that Sayers wrote what is a far better book. However, while there are points of similarity, and King has definitely read Sayers, I'm not sure that it is fair to compare the two. Harriet was trying to come to terms with what a woman's role is in what was very definitively a man's world, and how marriage fits in with that, and how she can reconcile all this with her suitor, and indeed what her feelings are for said suitor in the first place. Russell, by virtue of her training, has no problems with her woman's role, because she can step in and out of it as needed. She doesn't ever seem to have worried about the impact of marriage on such a role, and she knows pretty much what her feelings are. This is not trying to tackle the ground of Gaudy Night, and it shouldn't be judged by that. (That being said, of course you must all go out and read Gaudy Night, if you haven't already!) On the other hand, I think it was trying to make theological points, maybe, and it failed miserably if so.

I'm not expecting a Busman's Honeymoon from this series. I loved that book because Harriet and Peter had to figure out how to live together. The partners in Monstrous Regiment already know that.
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Okay, so I spent the whole of Beekeeper's Apprentice wondering why the romance between the two main characters (okay, there's not so much of one in this particular book, but unless you are blind and deaf you KNOW what's going to happen) doesn't bother me very much at all, and definitely not nearly as much as Dag and Fawn's romance.

Because honestly, if someone had described this book to me before I read it I would have run away screaming: MUCH older, wiser mentor starts having feelings for Mary-Sue-like-young girl whom he is teaching and whose personality he is molding, and vice versa! I mean, squicky ick!

Here are the things that save it:

-It goes really slowly. I mean, this book takes place over a number of years, enough for them to get pretty solidly attached *before* any monkey business starts happening. (Though I've been informed that the horrible! horrible! line "I've wanted to do that since the first moment I saw you" is used after their first kiss. I think she was, what, 15 at the time? Eww yuck! I will simply chalk that down to temporary insanity due to kiss-induced hormones and assume that it does not actually mean anything corresponding to their actual relationship.) I can't deal with these love-in-two-weeks things. I really can't, not combined with a huge difference in age.

-Really, Mary's character is supposed to be molded by her mentor/eventual-lover, but I can't really imagine that anyone's going to mold her without her molding the molder right back.

-It's beat home to us during the entire book (although having Mary say it explicitly in the first ten pages is a bit too much!) that there is no one else for either of them. Can be no one else. They won't settle for anything less than an entire, complete partnership, and their minds are sufficiently, well, different, that there aren't too many people who will do.

-This is related to the previous point: they are partners. The last confrontation where they work so tightly together like two parts of a machine? Yes! I will forgive a lot for partners like that. John/Aeryn in Farscape also have that sort of vibe, and I love it.
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-The Winter Prince (Wein)? Yes! Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] mistful! Totally lovely. Medraut is Just Awesome; was in love with him from approximately the first chapter). Lleu drove me nuts, but got better. And Lleu Llaw Gyffes is quoted! And dark family issues! And Morgause! Love, love, love. I was smart and also got out the two sequels. The second book was, enh, I didn't like it as much, except for the dreadful scene at the beginning-- which isn't even shown, just told-- where you realize that the happy ending of the first book doesn't mean that history is going to be rewritten (and it's the Welsh version-- Wein really knows her stuff! Yay happy me!!) -- I think for some reason I don't find Goewin a compelling narrator, and I was expecting more Medraut, and, well. The last book in the trilogy, The Sunbird, is again lovely, because the main character Telemakos is so very cute.

-All of you who told me I had to read The Beekeeper's Apprentice (King)? Yes! And thank you (I don't know if this was intentional) for not spoiling it at all so that I could have the shock of opening the first page and going, "...oh!" (Not that I shouldn't've guessed from the title and the subtitle, but what can I say? I'm thick, and have read too many substandard books lately.) I have more to say here (about romance, what else?), but I was not smart enough to get out the second book in the series, so I am currently trying to figure out how I can get it the most quickly :)
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This is kind of what I would call a "trashy book"-- it reads very quickly, there's a fair amount of romance and sex, the heroine (such as there is) is a bit of a Mary Sue, and the evil "villain" character comes to a bitter end (well, one of them does, at least)-- but it has the virtue of sticking pretty closely to actual fact. (I guess a character can't be a Mary Sue if she, you know, actually existed, huh?) I really, really liked this book, for whatever reason (I wasn't really expecting to-- I absolutely despised her book on Elizabeth I, The Virgin's Lover, but then again I really adore Elizabeth I and specifically hated the portrayal of Elizabeth as a simpering lovesick girl-- I mean, come on, remember the imperial young princess of The Perilous Gard? I can imagine her falling in love, but not simpering.) and I suspect that calling it "trashy" is slander, as I think it probably took some amount of skill to write.

In particular, the book is narrated by Anne of Cleves, Jane Boleyn (the late Anne Boleyn's sister-in-law), and Katherine Howard, all of whom are unreliable narrators (though for very different reasons), so it's hard to pin down exactly what's going on (though you can pin down Katherine immediately-- she's just flightly as a sparrow, and there it is) until the middle of the book or so. Until then, if you know the history, and especially if you're like me and you know just enough of Anne Boleyn's story to be uncertain of what you know, and very little of what happened after Jane Seymour, you're sitting there going, "Wait... But I thought... Is that really what's going on?" And then you figure out what's really going on, and yes, oh, okay. I really like books with unreliable narrators, especially several of them, because then it's like a puzzle.

I especially just adored Katherine Howard, who manages to be completely airheaded and yet cute and sympathetic (and even sensible in a peculiar and ultimately useless but still sympathetic sort of way) -- in the sections she narrates she never descends to a point where I feel annoyed at her for being stupid, more amused, as if one were watching a home movie of a really, really cute little kid who keeps saying funny things that are silly half the time and spot on the other half.

I liked this rather better than THe Other Boleyn Girl (which is the story of Anne Boleyn as told from her sister's point of view-- did you know Anne had a sister who was also Henry VIII's mistress? I sure didn't), to which this book is a kind of sequel, more-or-less. Probably because I didn't find Mary Boleyn's character all that interesting or appealing in that book, and I thought all three of the narrators here were rather more engaging. If one were to read The Other Boleyn Girl first, though, I'd let some time elapse before reading The Boleyn Inheritance-- I suspect reading them both together would be too much. Plus which I suspect it makes it much harder to have the sympathies you need to before the plot twists.

Also, I think that she ought to have used more of the characters' actual (or at least reported) words, instead of having them talk like romance-drama characters (like Bolt in Man for All Seasons (not to, you know, obsess that you should all see/read this!!)-- Bolt could not have improved on More's totally awesome speeches if he'd tried. Of course, Thomas More was the Man, and Jane Boleyn not so much, but still, she sounded better than that incoherent mess), but you can't have everything.
cahn: (Default)
Parents are visiting. Within two hours of their arrival they had pressured us to buy a house (even though now is quite possibly the worst time imaginable in terms of the real estate market), dissed the company we work for, and pointed out that my cousin makes four times as much as I do "even though she only went to a three-year college." (The institution in question, mind you, is Cambridge University. Yes, that Cambridge.)

The hilarious thing is that once that was out of the way, we had a great visit, and I learned all sorts of unbelievably juicy family gossip. (My ex-aunt is a Major Korean Scandal! Like, national front-page news! Who knew?)

Anyway, so meanwhile, most of the reading I've been doing has been either Dante or Harry Potter, which D and I are rereading (so far, halfway through Book 2) in preparation for the 7th book. Oh, and I continue to snarfle through Josephine Tey: Miss Pym Disposes and The Franchise Affair, this time around.

I keep having this problem with Tey where I start the book thinking of her as sort of a better Agatha Christie, and then becoming distressed a couple of pages through where I realize that no, indeed, Tey actually has real characters and so I actually have to pay attention and not speedread blithely the way I can do with Christie, whose characters are all kind of clones of each other... it's like Christie is, I dunno, chips and salsa, and Tey is more like a really good soup; if you go too fast you miss half the fun. And-- this is related-- Tey is not really about the mystery. I mean, I guess they're mysteries, but they're books first. I especially loved Miss Pym Disposes, which had some just heartbreakingly wonderful characters, which therefore made me care about the central conflict (which is not, in fact, a crime; though a crime is committed, it's not actually the emotional centerpiece of the book. Can you say that about any Agatha Christie?).

HP thoughts:

-The first book actually starts pretty slowly.

-I had not noticed before that Hogwarts is actually a very small school! There are 5 Gryffindor boys Harry's year. This equates to about 40 students in Harry's year entirely, right? How can he not know everyone's name after the first year?

-Words cannot express how much I hate Dobby. He's, like, the JarJar Binks of Harry Potter for me.

-I have clearly been reading too much HP fanfic, because every time Crabbe and Goyle appear on the scene I'm all, "Oh, how cute!" Strangely enough, Draco is still canon Draco for me.

-Also, it was completely and unbelievably stupid for Harry and Ron to take the car to Hogwarts in Book 2. Would it have killed them to, you know, wait 5 minutes for his parents to come back first?!
cahn: (Default)
Okay, Bujold is wonderful and all. Loved her writing style, and the way she changes it to fit the characters, and her humor, and her worldbuilding, and all the other things she does so well... but this book drove me up the wall. Partially because of the half-of-one-book thing (and the resulting lack of folded-up deft plot), but everyone else is annoyed about that too... The other main reason is Fawn.

Spoilers for TSK, plus mild spoilers for Komarr and Curse of Chalion )

Also, I had (even more) issues with the romance, but I thought that might necessitate its own post, which is here.

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