cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Probably about a month's worth.

Just finished:

Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests. Things did indeed go wrong - it turned into Lesbian Noir, with a side of court drama and class issues, but although it was still very well written it lost me quite a bit in the process - it's a tenuous thing, maintaining sympathy for characters in these circumstnces. Part of the problem is that the viewpoint character isn't at the very centre of the story - this does make for some interesting tensions but it shuts down options for action. I also had the same problem with this as I did with Waters'Affinity; moving into the novel's endgame, two options for resolution are presented, one of which opens up the story and the other shuts it down. As the pages tick by it becomes apparent that there is only space left for the latter option. Waters does pull a grace note out at the end that makes me like this better than Affinity, but it's still mostly shutting down. I haven't read The Little Friend yet but possibly the reason I've enjoyed The Night Watch most is because its structure means the ending isn't actually there at the end to bother me.

Mercedes Lackey, Wizard of London. Lackey seems a bit unclear whose story she's telling here. We start off with Sarah, the psychically gifted orphan with an African Gray parrot companion, being sent from her parents' incredibly tolerant mission in Africa to London for training, and then it's all about Nan, the Cockney girl she befriends who is also a psychic warrior and gets one of the Queen's Raven's from the Tower for her companion, and then it jumps between Nan and Isabelle, the teacher who runs the school the two girls are at, and juggles a psychic threat to the school with an Elemental magician Isabelle used to be in love. Most of the Elementals series have a fairy-tale basis, as well, but this didn't really - bits of A Little Princess and The Snow Queen, perhaps, but nothing more. Oh, and Puck has a significant guest role. It wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't particularly good. However. I have just picked up A Study in Sable, which has the same characters plus Sherlock Holmes, and I'm fascinated to see what she does with it - her not-quite Peter Wimsey is endearing.

Jane Duncan, My Friends from Cairnton, and My Friend My Father. Arrgh. I finished the latter in the work lunchroom and then had to avoid eye contact with everyone as I was crying. Cairnton is lighter - it goes back to her time in Cairnton, and then forward to St Jago, and basically ends up with one of those nightmarish dinner parties to which an impeccably decorous married couple, the longstanding mistress of the husband and the drunk platonic companion of the wife have all been accidentally invited. My Father goes back more, into early childhood, and has some great sections on the process of realisation children go through, that click in the mind as they work out how to count, or to tell the time, and then this carries on into other realisations. There's a particularly neat piece about realising for the first time that everyone else exists at the centre of their own universe (something quite a few adults have yet to realise), there's the relationship between Janet and her father changing and deepening over the years, there's the war again - and then the end. I think I need a small strategic pause, not least because I have half a shelf of pending reads, but she's such a great writer that I just want to keep going.

Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor and Park. The romance in this worked much better than that in either of the other two of hers I've read, possibly because I am a total sucker for a couple bonding over sharing issues of Alan Moore's Watchmen. I'm just a little bit younger than these characters (I read Watchmen in the collected trade) and the references really worked for me. As did the story. It's a very delicate book, neatly constructed, and I liked it a lot.

Stephen King, End of Watch. More sobbing at the end. It's good; not as good as Finders' Keepers, and I felt King ducked out a bit on really pushing the villain here, but it still ticks along and I still cared a lot. Nice use of social media and ereaders. I do wish King would do more historicals, because his research is always so solid.

Not entirely:

Leslie Parry, Church of Marvels. Turn of the century (20th) New York, an odd assortment of characters interact in the darker parts of the city. A nice hook where a night soil guy finds a baby and takes it home with him, which is why I picked it up, but then it becomes yet another book about People with Secrets, about which they will allude frequently without elaborating until the inevitable revelation at the end. I skimmed most of the middle. Nice writing, some good images, but I didn't really connect with it.

In progress:

Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning. Arrgh again, but for different reasons. I want to love this book - it is doing so many interesting things! The prose style, which is 18th century with universal personal trackers generating the (apparently) omniscient point of view, the unreliable narrator, the post-Scarcity future semi-utopia setting, the toying with gender (the narrator assigns gendered pronouns according to what they think will make things easier for their imagined Reader, who is, um, definitely not us), the use of languages, the fact that I love the author's blog and want her to do well. Etc etc etc. And yet I'm 307 pages in and it's still a bit of a slog.

It's a weirdly static book. Reading it makes me feel as though I'm contemplating a series of paintings while a very educated guide with their own peculiar agenda describes them to me (everyone in this book apparently picks out every piece of clothing and accessory to convey a particular message, which is not "this was the nearest thing on my floor and it's comfortable"). It's an enjoyable experience, but not what I want from a novel. There's very little actual witnessed action and when it does happen, it's not convincing - Cherryh's Cyteen is equally full of people who sit around talking incessantly, but when she does action, I'm there. Arrgh. It is also two days overdue from the library and on hold, so I have to finish it tonight.

Louise Doughty, Apple Tree Yard. Woman has affair with the wrong man. Framing sequence has everyone in court, for what I am not yet sure. Not really my thing, but I am finding it compelling enough to keep going.

Up next:

The next Mercedes Lackey, plus a bunch of thrillers I have picked up, and Yoon Ha Lee's Ninefox Gambit to which I am looking forward.
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Just finished:

Tim Pratt, Heirs of Grace. Arts student grad Bekah, adopted at birth, inherits a house from her biological father, who turns out to have been a near immortal and powerful magician. The house is full of magical gadgets and traps, and Bekah also has an older half-sister who thinks the inheritance should have been hers.

I like Bekah herself, and there are some fun bits to the book. I am less convinced by the romance with the handsome lawyer Who Knows More than He's Telling, and there's a tendency to set up each danger/conflict and resolve or defuse it very quickly. I was also deeply irked by the "Little did I know that everything was going to go wrong" comments that are far too frequent, largely because I have no idea where they were coming from - Bekah at the end of the book, knowing the ending? Bekah from the next day? On the other hand, the time-travelling spoon and the cost for its use was great, and the opening where Bekah writes down three questions for the lawyer, who then presents her with the answers written by her father years earlier worked really well.

Tiny spoiler. )

Jane Duncan, My Friends the Mrs Millers. Absolutely brilliant. The first few books set on St Jago set me on edge a bit at times with Janet's reaction to the black inhabitants there, and her apparent reliance on the opinions of the established white locals. What becomes perfectly clear in this book is that the author has been aware of these weaknesses all along, and this is where she exposes them. It is also a book which deals with something I knew was coming and didn't want to have happen, and does so with impressive and unflinching specificity. I am very glad the library seems to have all of this series available but I think I am going to want to track down my own copies as well.

Rainbow Rowell, Carry On. Hmm. I liked it more than I feared, less than I hoped, and I am still not a Harry/Draco fan. This book has to do a lot - set up an imaginary fandom, riff on it and on the original inspiration, resolve everything - and it does this via multiple points of view, some of which worked for me better than others (Lucy and the Mage did not work at all; on the other hand, Simon worked better for me in Baz's viewpoint than in his own). I enjoyed it but it didn't really have much of an impact (apart from Ebb. I liked Ebb a lot). Also, I have yet to read anything by Lev Grossman that doesn't irk me, and he continues this by providing a blurb here that says, "you have never, ever, seen a wizard school like this". This is not even slightly true. The only unexpected thing about Watford for me was that they used to have a creche for the children of the staff, which although a good idea is hardly world-shaking.

In progress:

Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests. Post-WWI genteel poor mother and daughter take in married lodgers, daughter falls for the wife. I'm about halfway through and am pretty sure I'm at the bit where everything is about to go horribly wrong but as I have avoided reading the blurb I'm not entirely sure how this is going to happen.

Jane Duncan, My Friends from Cairnton. Just started.

Mercedes Lackey, The Wizard of London. I am sure I've read this before - it's the fifth Elemental Masters book - but can't remember details. I am not sure if it's going to turn into a specific fairy tale or carry on being vaguely like A Little Princess with all the typical Lackey bits where people explain the best way to do things to each other. Soothing.

Up next:

All the books listed in this update are library ones - I'm trying to clear my account out. Finishing all of these will leave me with one random acquisition that I think is about a magic circus, another Rainbow Rowell, two more My Friends and a book about the emotional life of the toddler. This will justify my picking up Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning, which I just got the reserve notification for today and am very excited about.
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
Arrgh. So much for keeping this updated.

Most significant literary discovery:

I have owned Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity for at least six years, and read it a reasonable number of times. Last week my daughter turned over what I have always thought was the last page and revealed an unseen epilogue. I am now eyeing up many of my other books cautiously.

Just finished:

Jane Duncan, My Friend Cousin Emmie. The first one of these I've re-read, and there are many apparently casual phrases in it that become positive fishhooks when you read it knowing what else the book contains. And this time around it has the depth of the previous ones behind it as well. I look forward to eventually re-reading the others, but first I have to get through the unread ones.

Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl. Hmm. This is readable and enjoyable and has many great moments of fan experience while also having lots of bits that I didn't buy into at all (e.g. the idea that Cath is actually doing any other classes at university besides the plot-necessary and equally unlikely creative writing class). I have Carry On on my shelf and will try and come back to them both once I've read that one, assuming I can get through it (I am not, usually, a Harry/Draco fan).

Abandoned;

The Anne Perry, which was not grabbing me at all.

Somewhere on my Kobo:

KJ Charles' Jackdaw, which is poised just under half the way through, at a delicate point that means I could a) press on to the end or b) re-read all the rest of the Magpie series in order to refresh my memory of important details and then tackle it again. Hmm.

Up next:

I optimistically ordered a bunch more My Friends from the library at the same time as having a lot of commitments that didn't fit with reading (I haven't had my usual bus trips for the last three weeks), plus a bunch of other things I grabbed from the library shelves (yet another Mercedes Lackey etc) plus various electronic commitments. Will see what happens.

Picture book section:

In addition to the revealed epilogue, I will state that "The Highway Rat leapt off his horse. Into the cave he strode. The duck took hold of the horse's reins, and galloped down the road," from The Highway Rat, by Julia Donaldson, is a couplet that always brings me great satisfaction to recite.

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