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bookish posts monthly book list reviews

September 2015 round up

Books I’ve already talked about
A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand
Hissing Cousins by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Silence of Medair by Andrea K. Höst
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers

Other books
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds: This book is on the quiet side, with lots of reflections on grief, family, love, and growing up. But it also has some really funny moments! There’s lots to like here, and I’ll definitely be looking out for Reynolds’s books in the future.

Ms. Marvel: Crushed: AHHH MS. MARVEL, YES! I am always so surprised by just how much I love this story–it keeps getting better. The arc on this one was really great and I just want mooooore.

Lord Peter and Little Kerstin by Ian Crumpstey: A review copy offered by the translator of Scandinavian folk songs/stories. It was interesting to note that sometimes I was able to predict where the story was going and other times it surprised me. I really enjoyed the language chosen for this translation.

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie: Audiobook. Not my favorite Miss Marple, but it does introduce the idea of her as a nemesis.

Baba Yaga’s Apprentice by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll: I’m fascinated by the Baba Yaga story, and I loved Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. So I thought this one might be good and I ended up really liking it. It’s set in the modern day, but I liked the way McCoola’s story and Carroll’s art interact.

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson: I had a mixed reaction to this one, but I’m not sure entirely why, and I’m not sure I can tease it out in the time and space I have here.

Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers: I read this one but didn’t end up writing a post about it. Partly this is because of the DLS books I just re-read, it’s the only one that’s really focused on the mystery, with Peter and Harriet’s relationship second. Also, it’s just vaguely grimy and depressing. Murder Must Advertise is sad; HHC is just unsatisfying.

Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault: I enjoyed this first book about Alexander the Great, but also I became very anxious about MWT’s Gen because of parallels. Arrghhhhh. Anyway, on its own merits this is immersive & beautiful.

Outskirter’s Secret by Rosemary Kirstein: Second in the Steerswoman series. This one starts off a little slowly and ends with an emotional gut-punch. Ow. Also, I really appreciate that Kirstein pays attention to the physicality of her world, and gives a sense of the time it takes to do things/move through the land.

A School for Brides by Patrice Kindl: Great readalike for last year’s Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place! It had something of the same school story + irreverent vibe. I wasn’t in love with the first book, but I really enjoyed this one–maybe because it was less an Austen retelling and more vaguely Austen-esque.

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander: This is unusual in historical mysteries that I’ve read in that the detective is a real historical figure. Sir John Fielding was a magistrate and social reformer. The book itself is told as reminiscences of a fictional servant boy. I’ll probably try reading at least the next book.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth: Being a big fan of the TV show, I wanted to try Worth’s memoirs. It was interesting to track the places where it was exactly the same and the places where changes had been made. In general, I appreciated the book, but I didn’t love it as much as I did the show itself.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones: I absolutely loved this one, which is told via letters to and from Sophie. It’s funny, and heartfelt, and I found it truly enjoyable and charming.

Cuckoo’s Egg by C.J. Cherryh

Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton

Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner: review coming closer to the release!

Other posts
Made and Making
Links 9-3-15
Links 9-16-15
Links 9-29-15
Series I need to finish
Mystery books I want to read
Fall TBR
Favorite middle grade mysteries

TV and movies
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries!!!
Doctor Who
Call the Midwife

Categories
bookish posts reading notes reviews

Dorothy Sayers reading notes: Busman’s Honeymoon

busman's honeymoonThe triumphant return of reading notes! This month, I plan to re-read and talk about four mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. Specifically, those which feature both Harriet Vane & Lord Peter Wimsey, since Harriet + Peter = otp forever. As always, these posts may (will!) contain massive spoilers so beware if you wish to avoid them.

Busman’s Honeymoon is the last full length Lord Peter Wimsey novel, coming immediately after Gaudy Night and describing the events of Peter & Harriet’s honeymoon. It’s one that I have not read very often. Gaudy Night is so perfect and therefore I’ve tended to resent the mere existence of another book which couldn’t possibly be as good. Now, having re-read it, I recognize that there are some really lovely moments, and yet it never has that transcendence that Gaudy Night does.

But also, Busman’s Honeymoon is hard for me to synthesize. It operates on three levels throughout the book, which on the face of it seem fairly disparate.

On the lightest layer, there’s a lot of piffle in this book. Four of the main characters are excellent pifflers: Peter, Harriet, the Dowager Duchess, and (surprisingly!) Superintendent Kirk. Both Miss Martin and the Dowager write extremely charming letters and diaries at the beginning of the book. (The Dowager’s “kissing one another madly in a punt, poor things,” has to be one of my favorite lines ever.) And through the murder investigation, Peter, Harriet, and Kirk make a kind of game of trading quotations and allusions. It’s even in the flights of imagination that all three detectives embark on as they try to create a possible explanation for Mr. Noakes’s death.

The next layer deals with the fact that this book shows Peter & Harriet adjusting to actually being married. This pervades the story in ways both large and small, and also gives us some of my favorite lines in the book. If at the wedding Harriet is “like a ship coming into harbor with everything shining and flags flying,” the rest of the book is both an echo and a test of that moment. “One is afraid to believe in one’s good fortune,” Peter says, and more than that even, the case presents them with a number of issues that would have to be worked out at some point but which are thrust upon them in the days that ought to be entirely halcyon.

Both Peter and Harriet have moments where they look at the other person and see them newly. Harriet, in seeing Peter’s competence with village dealings realizes “why it was that with all his masking attitudes, all his cosmopolitan self-adaptations, all his spiritual reticences and escapes, he yet carried about with him that permanent atmosphere of security.” Peter looks at Harriet and sees “a skin like pale honey and a mind of a curious, tough quality that stimulated his own. Yet no woman had ever so stirred his blood; she had only to look or speak to him to make the very bones shake in his body.”

But they are also wrestling with the realities of being married to each other. Not only the sweeps and Bunters and dead bodies, but the knitting together of these two people. Being married is a source of great joy. (“All my life I have been wandering in the dark–but now I have found your heart–and am satisfied.” “And what do all the great words come to in the end, but that?–I love you–I am at rest with you–I have come home.”) and that is presented as a reality itself.

At the same time, as Harriet notes, “Being preposterously fond of a person didn’t prevent one from hurting him unintentionally.” There are several crisis points in this book, where if Sayers were a different writer, if Peter and Harriet were different people, the whole thing might end in tragedy. But because they are themselves, they refuse to let their affection corrupt their judgement. At one of these points, Harriet says, “What kind of life could we have if I knew you had become less than yourself by marrying me?” It’s that gift of clear sight and integrity that she has carried with her throughout the books that holds them fast and in the end, wins them through.

In the last layer, there’s a bleakness that underlies the two happier strands and which at times seems quite jarring. Even in the description of the wedding day, there’s the mention of “a statement about Abyssinia,” by which Sayers means this. Busman’s Honeymoon was published in 1937, and thinking about it I did feel the shadow of WWII looming over the story. On the more personal level, Peter’s nightmares and his anguish over Frank Crutchley’s fate take this somewhere other than the earlier, lighter books, or indeed the honeymoon story one might expect. The village characters, with the exception of the delightful Superintendent Kirk, are not terribly appealing in some ways. Frank Crutchley’s unkindess, Miss Twitterton’s hopeless grasping after him, Mrs. Ruddle’s venomous tongue: these are not the stuff of which idylls are made.

And yet, in this last re-read, I begin to see that Peter’s distress (which is clearly tied to his PTSD from the first World War) shows the measure of his growth, and of his growing together with Harriet. At the very end, when Harriet can only wait for him to come–where the waiting is an active choice to let him make his own decision–he finally admits that he has this broken place within him. It’s only then that he can realize that he doesn’t have to be alone. “You’re my corner and I’ve come to hide,” he tells Harriet, in a more desperate version of his earlier declaration. But now it is true, and stripping away of this barrier allows the book to end with tempered joy: the distress over Frank Crutchley isn’t any less, but they are at the last, together.

Book source: personal library

Looking for my other posts about the Lord Peter and Harriet mysteries? 

Strong Poison

Gaudy Night

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bookish posts reading notes

Dorothy Sayers reading notes: Gaudy Night

The triumphant return of reading notes! This month, I plan to re-read and talk about four mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. Specifically, those which feature both Harriet Vane & Lord Peter Wimsey, since Harriet + Peter = otp forever. As always, these posts may (will!) contain massive spoilers so beware if you wish to avoid them.

gaudy nightAs much as I love the other books with Peter and Harriet, for me Gaudy Night is the apex of the series (which led to me not re-reading Busman’s Honeymoon for years). It’s not a coincidence at all that this is also Harriet’s book, told almost entirely from her point of view, and centered around her journey. (So much so that Peter hardly appears until page 300 out of 500.)

Part of the reason I love re-reading this book is that the writing itself is so beautiful. There’s a clarity to the narrative voice which begins with the first line and never lets up; I keep thinking of bells, appropriately enough. The descriptions of Oxford and depictions of Harriet’s inner life are some of Sayers’s best work, and she has a fine command of motif and imagery.

Harriet herself is not simply a stand-in for Sayers, but at the same time, she is writing out of personal experience. This lends the whole a richness and integrity that really makes it shine. It’s also a wonderful example of a writer writing about a writer writing, in a way that both matters to the overall story and rings true.

This is especially apparent in the thread of Wilfrid, Harriet’s detective. Sayers is very clearly mirroring her own evolution in terms of Peter’s portrayal, but at the same time she uses this to point out Peter’s attitude towards Harriet’s work. She writes about the process of making Peter human, by writing him being human, which is a great kind of meta. And she’s similarly clear about the cost and reward of Harriet’s pushing herself to write a better book, full of her own integrity.

But Harriet’s mystery writing–while important to the story–perhaps pales beside poetry, both hers and others. This book is rife with references: even before the first original words, we have Donne, Shakespeare, and Philip Sidney quoted. Each chapter opens with an epigraph from an Elizabethan or Jacobean poet. I’ve said that Peter & Harriet conduct their courtship via quotation, and I stand by it. There’s a memorable line from Harriet: “Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?” And Peter’s answer: “So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober.” Partly this is due to the kind of intellect-loving people they are. But also, it shows their similarity of mind; even at the beginning of Strong Poison, they start their relationship by quoting at each other.

And there’s also that sonnet, written between the two of them. I find it tempting to read it as a microcosm of their temperaments: Harriet’s sestet, full of emotion and clarity, and Peter’s octave, full of technical brilliance hiding depth of feeling. (I also love the way Sayers pulls an image from the poem into her own text, noting Harriet’s writing “like a large top on a small spindle.” And since the spindle is the still center of the world within the poem, what does that say?)

******

The book opens with Harriet deciding to go back to Oxford for the first time since she graduating, and Oxford becomes another character within the story. Additionally, Harriet and Sayers are concerned with Women’s Colleges, and the plot gives a chance for both to meditate on the joys and perils of women in academia. When we first encounter Shrewsbury College, there’s a tension between the memory of its perfections and the expected reality. Harriet has put aside her well-loved past and exiled herself, but now she is going home, uncertain of her welcome or whether its beauties will endure.

The sense of Oxford as a space set aside runs through the whole book; even when that becomes complicated by events, it remains that still center. It’s Harriet’s fears of being unwelcome, of finding it changed, of finding its heart rotten that provide the tensions propelling the story. So much of what is not about Harriet and Peter is about the complications of female community and the beloved ideal which both is and is not true. But it’s only when Harriet comes home, literally and figuratively, that she can find her own value and so see Peter’s truly as well. Of course it’s here that their relationship finally comes right.

It also gives Sayers a chance to voice some trenchant remarks on the subject of Men. “All the men have been amazingly kind and sympathetic about the Women’s Colleges…But you won’t find them appointing women to big University posts. That would never do.” It’s made quite clear that much of the anxiety over the Poison Pen letters is the fact that Shrewsbury will be judged more harshly because it is a Woman’s College, which we see in the unequal consequences Miss Cattermole and Mr. Pomfret face. Sayers is concerned with women and the intellect, with women’s places (how much of Annie’s anger is driven because she sees the dons has having taken men’s jobs?). So much of what she writes here is still horribly relevant, right down to Mr. Pomfret. (I feel that most of us know a Mr. Pomfret.)

******

But always the center of the book comes back to Harriet. I never felt that she was two-dimensional, even in Strong Poison and Have His Carcase, but in Gaudy Night she is shaded in. Partly because the narrative is centered on her, and partly because it’s here that she finds the fullness of that integrity she already had.

This is really exemplified in the way she approaches the idea of her job. At the very beginning, she thinks: “To be true to one’s calling, whatever follies one might commit in one’s emotional life, that was the way to spiritual peace.” But this peace eludes her at first, and it’s only when she immerses herself in Oxford that she finds “a deep inner certainty that somehow, after long and bitter wandering, she was once again in her own place.” This certainty manifests itself in poetry, “the singing voice,” which is of course part of her calling and the part that had been most lost to her.

At the same time, she’s forced to strip away her misconceptions of herself. She leaves behind that idea of herself embittered and alone and ungifted. At the end of the book she sums it up herself by saying: “It isn’t only that I have found a value for myself,” although this is in fact the most important part of it.  Most of this book is about that coming to see herself clearly, finding that singing voice again. For Harriet, her self and her job are wound up in each other and in being true to one, she is true to the other.

And yet, it’s also about learning to see Peter clearly. Her conceptions of him are not false, exactly, but they are not complete either. Until she has entered into the fullness of her self, she can’t admit him either for fear that he’ll take over; it’s only when she can stand firmly in the heart of her power that she can turn outward in the truest sense.

******

But Peter isn’t a stagnant character either. The moment he actually steps onto the stage, he oversets Harriet’s images of him by appearing completely at home in Oxford (“He came into the quiet room as though he belonged there, and had never belonged to any other place”). It acts a space set apart for Harriet,  but it does the same for Peter, allowing him to put aside the mask of jolly piffler to show his true self.

In their first meeting after he comes to Oxford, Harriet thinks, “She had fought him for five years and found out nothing but his strength; now, within half an hour, he had exposed all his weaknesses, one after the other.” Until this point, he has appeared in the book mostly in the form of correspondence, but it’s the letters that he and Harriet exchange which, I think, open the door to the intimacy that he shows once he is physically present.

If Harriet finds her value, Peter can finally strip away his vanity and arrogance, admitting this last great fault in his asking forgiveness for the years he spent trying to keep her in his grasp. Although we’re not privy to his growth the way we are to Harriet’s, it’s clearly there nonetheless. “I set out in a lordly manner to offer you heaven and earth. I find that all I have to give you is Oxford–which was yours already,” Peter says in the final pages. All he can really give is himself.

******

Early in the book, Miss de Vine tells Harriet, “Detachment is a rare virtue, and very few people find it lovable…If you ever find a person who likes you in spite of it–still more, because of it–that liking has very great value.” Of course, it is precisely that detachment, her “devastating talent for keeping to the point and speaking the truth” that Peter loves in her. While he changes, this does not, and it provides that central core of respect that he demonstrates towards her here.

Harriet spends the course of the novel learning how to believe that if she lets Peter in, she will not lose herself; Peter spends it learning how to give himself without overwhelming, giving that self he keeps masked from the world. This, for me, is where the real attraction lies: not in Peter himself so much (though, ahem, I don’t object) as in the idea of a romantic relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.

But even before this, neither of them is willing to be less than honest. Peter offers that to Harriet in his critique of her work, paying her the compliment of taking it seriously. Harriet demands it of Peter, saying, “If you are not [honest], then I shall lose you, because you wouldn’t be the same person, would you?” I think it’s this foundation of honesty, with and about each other, which convinces me that the rest is possible. It’s this mixture of respect and truth that lets Peter say–and mean it–“But I know that, if you have put anything in hand, disagreeableness and danger will not turn you back, and God forbid that they should.”

Most of all, perhaps, it’s the fact that their journey is to see each other clearly and to love what they see there. Rather than leaving themselves aside and becoming the other person, they learn to become more truly themselves together. “Give me your hand, and we’ll fight on until we drop,” Peter says at the beginning of the book, and by the end we see that coming to fulfillment. The beauty of the final pages is only possible because they have left behind their old arguments and defenses and labored to deal honestly with the other person. And so the reward for the reader is a belief in the rightness of their marriage, because it is based on things which endure.

Looking for my other posts about the Lord Peter and Harriet mysteries? 

Strong Poison

Busman’s Honeymoon

 

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bookish posts reading notes

Dorothy Sayers reading notes: Strong Poison

strong poisonThe triumphant return of reading notes! This month, I plan to re-read and talk about four mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. Specifically, those which feature both Harriet Vane & Lord Peter Wimsey, since Harriet + Peter = otp forever. As always, these posts may (will!) contain massive spoilers so beware if you wish to avoid them.

Strong Poison is the fifth book in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, and the first to feature Peter’s love interest and eventual wife, Harriet Vane. As the book opens, Harriet is accused of the murder of an ex-lover, Philip Boyes, and it’s up to Peter to prove her innocence and save her life.

I have strong feelings about Harriet Vane which are: HARRIET IS THE BEST AND I LOVE HER FOREVER. She is actually one of my all-time favorite heroines/main characters and have said on the record that I aspire to be part Harriet, part Tiffany Aching, with maybe a dash of Miss Marple and Sophie Hatter thrown in.

So, it’s somewhat odd to remember that when I first read Strong Poison, I actually felt fairly resentful of Harriet. Here she was, not appreciating Lord Peter! Refusing to marry him, which I both understood and found very frustrating! Partly, I was 19 at the time, and partly I had not read Gaudy Night, which is a perfect book full of perfection which I would not change or alter in any way.

And the more I’ve read and re-read Strong Poison, the more I’ve come to appreciate Harriet’s choices in that book. There’s a certain narrative set up that implies she will swoon gratefully at Peter’s feet, accepting his embrace and adoring him forever. But then she doesn’t. She refuses his offer of marriage and the book ends with them separated, with Harriet surrounded by her female friends & supporters.

Harriet refuses narrative inevitability. She refuses loss of integrity (in fact, this fits very well with her refusal to marry Philip Boyes when it becomes clear that his offer of marriage is in the nature of a prize for passing a test). She refuses to lose herself in Peter which, because he is still himself a character in flux, she is quite right in thinking she would. And in doing so, she allows the growth of real love, passion, and respect between the two of them.

*******

So, having written a several hundred word paean to Harriet Vane (<3 ❤ <3), the actual book is also one of my favorites to re-read. It’s on the slim side, as Sayers’s earlier LPW books all are. And the mystery itself is complex and ingenious.

The judge’s speech at the beginning of the book is a marvelous example of how to write a character without agreeing with them, and who the narrative will totally disprove, and who you want and expect the readership to disagree with and dislike. I always finish that section by, quite frankly, wanting to bop him on the nose.

I also love the way Sayers plays with expectations in the person of the “elderly spinster” One assumes she will disapprove of the worldly and immoral Miss Vane, but then she marvelously turns out to be the stubborn and conscientious Miss Climpson! Who saves Harriet by refusing to accept a guilty verdict when she doesn’t believe it! Hurrah Miss Climpson!

In both of these cases–and in fact throughout the book–Sayers’s facility of description is on display. She paints a vivid image of people and scenes in a few sentences and a scattering of dialogue. And here she has not only Peter & Harriet (who converse largely in quotations and allusions) but Miss Climpson, Bill Rumm, the artistic sets Harriet & Philip Boyes were involved in. There’s a sense both of deep understanding and a quick sketch.

But at the same time, Sayers does have her blind spots and I can’t ignore the fact that the way the Jewish characters in this book are talked about was really gross–the more so perhaps because of real-life situations at the moment. For someone who is normally so generously understanding of her character, it’s all the more glaring. Regardless of whether Sayers herself was anti-Semitic, the words on the page are. And while I love this book forever, it also forever has that asterisk.

On the plus side, the treatment of the female characters is thoughtful and nuanced. Sayers was very concerned, both within and outside of her fiction, with questions of women & and their place in the world. We see that here, in Harriet’s refusal to be treated as an object, either by Philip Boyes or by Peter Wimsey, as well as in Miss Climpson and her Bureau–which basically exists to take down men attempting to prey on vulnerable women. And as well, in a different light, in the fact that Peter himself does see women as people, accepting them on their own terms (as in the case of Eiluned and the tea kettle). This was for me, one of his nicest and most human points in this book.

*******

In Strong Poison, as opposed to Have His Carcase, which I’ll talk about next week, the mystery is at the service of the romance. And I want to end by talking about this. I love Harriet and Peter separately, but I love them maybe even more in their relationship with each other.

In large part this is because, as Sayers herself said, it isn’t until Peter falls in love with Harriet (immediately, desperately, hopelessly, and yet not entirely egotistically) that he turns into a real person. In the earlier books, he is the pattern of a gentleman detective, flying in from America to save his brother at trial, just to pick one example. But Harriet (I like to imagine) was always too much herself to allow him to remain a monocled cliche.  And so he becomes “a complete human being, with a past and a future, with a consistent family and social history, with a complicated psychology and even the rudiments of a religious outlook.” (quotation from the essay above)

And so, necessarily within Strong Poison, there is a sense of alteration, of the world unmade and remade. Of yourself unmade and remade. When an old friend asks Peter not to change, he feels, “for the first time the dull and angry helplessness which is the first warning stroke of the triumph of mutability…Whether his present enterprise failed or succeeded, things would never be the same again.” (Strong Poison, Chapter 8) On the one hand, he is being transformed into something arguably better; on the other hand, he is necessarily leaving past foolishnesses behind (and finding a new set, to be fair).

So, Strong Poison does not end in lovers’ meeting–not yet, at any rate. But Sayers, by writing a story which shows the main characters within it as real people, by resisting the easy ending that she might have written, has begun to turn her detective stories–wonderful but trope-filled–into something else, both harder and more beautiful.

Book source: personal library100_4112

Book information: 1930, adult mystery

Finally, I am unable to resist adding a picture of my cat because I named him Wimsey and he is a glorious creature.

Looking for my other posts about the Lord Peter and Harriet mysteries? 

Gaudy Night

Busman’s Honeymoon

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links

Links from around the web: 11-17-2014

An illustrated version of one of the myths from the Queen’s Thief series. (via helen eddis on Tumblr)

– A nice post from Theodora Goss about telling stories.

– Michelle is a former coworker and general awesome person who has a nice perspective on the stresses of AR-centric reading.

– I found this post about the maker movement really fascinating. (via Karen Jensen)

I WANT THIS DOOR. (via R.J. Anderson)

– If you’ve read Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, you may already know some of this information, but I found this Twitter essay on the relationship between Heinlein and new religions to be very interesting. (via Natalie Luhrs)

– A long, wonderful essay about Lord Peter Wimsey and nostalgia from Doris Egan: “Busman’s Honeymoon, the last book by Sayers herself, is lapped in that mellow, golden-age light. Bunter driving the car with the port in the trunk; the meeting between the Dowager Duchess and Harriet, and the story of how Bunter first took over Peter’s postwar life; Peter singing French songs as he chops wood on his wedding night… Bunter’s letter to his mother. My god, such gifts to the long-time readers. (And I will pause and say in passing that the Wimsey series reminds me of the Vorkosigan series by Lois Bujold, in its way of seducing readers to become entangled with the characters and wishing to see what becomes of their family over time.)”

– There has been a great deal of discussion about the Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew situation which I had been reading about until I realized that I was accidentally triggering myself. And also, I am wary of the way the people most directly affected by the situation seem to be forced out of the discussions. So I’ll just link to this post on The Radish and leave it at that.

Categories
bookish posts reviews

December 2013 reading list

Books I’ve already talked about
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

All the other books
This is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky: I found this one to be a touching, tender look at families and identity, and what it means when a parent struggles with mental health. Sophie was a sympathetic protagonist, and I found a lot to like here.

United We Spy by Ally Carter: Perhaps it’s because I came to Carter’s writing via the Heist books, but the Gallagher Girls don’t have the same deep appeal for me that they do for many others. That said, I do think this was one of the weaker books in the series; despite a relatively strong resolution, it just bounced all over the place.

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan: For me, this one was a classic case of English majors run amok. It has a lot of separate elements which are really interesting, but taken as a whole, the symbolism came across as very heavy-handed, and both characters and plot failed to convince me that they were worth taking seriously.

Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin: My reading experience for this title was probably marred by the fact that it included both a forward and afterword purporting to be from the editor and claiming that this manuscript ‘mysteriously appeared in their offices’ and since I hate that kind of intrusion with a BURNING PASSION, it really messed up the rest of the book for me. But also, I had trouble with Ritchie and buying his transformation. I wanted to, but it just didn’t work for me.

Forget You by Jennifer Echols: An enjoyable read, but my favorites are still Such a Rush and Going Too Far.

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron: I was hoping to really like this one; I enjoyed it, but it was a bit more stereotypically high fantasy than I was expecting and it never really wowed me. I do plan to read the next book or two, to see if the series as a whole delivers on the promise of what it could be.

Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers: I tried re-reading this one to see if I liked it any better. I didn’t, though possibly for different reasons than when I was younger.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: I’d been hearing rave reviews of this title even before I managed to get my hands on a copy and WOW. Yes, they were all right. This is a stunner of a book, with a wonderful world and narrator. I loved how much Leckie trusted her readers–there was never a moment when I felt hammered over the head with anything. This would absolutely have been a favorite book of 2013 if I had finished in time.

Above by Leah Bobet: This is a very difficult book to describe, so I won’t try. But I was seriously impressed by the world, by the writing, by the characters. Bobet shows people making hard choices, but does it with a lot of understanding and grace. I never quite tipped over into absolute love, but I really respected what the story did.

Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil
All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer