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This month's theme: the reread. I don't think I read a single new novel the entire month.

There was, however, a lot of fanfic. Fanfic's easier to deal with during exam stress.

I started the month with fast skims of the last two books in the 'Children of the Star' trilogy. )

Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian. )

Post Captain, Patrick O’Brian. )

Patriotism, Yukio Mishima. )

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien. )

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien. )

And that's 2003. By my count, I read 56 books between May and December, and I know I read more before May that didn't make it onto an organized list. So on average I finished a book every. . . 4 and 3/8 days in the last 245 days of the year, and every three days in September, when I finished ten novels in thirty days. (Some of them were very short novels.)

This year's reading goal, I think, is nonfiction. It'll kill my rate, but I need to get out of my predominantly SF rut, and learn a bit more about the world.

(So what am I currently reading? J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, by Thomas Shippey.

I'll be good. I'll read The Origin of Species that's been kicking around my room next. Promise.

If I'm not seduced by Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien first, of course.)
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Cutting for length and spoilers.

Silverlock, John Myers Myers. )

Stations of the Tide, Michael Swanwick. )

The Anvil of the World, Kage Baker. )

Tam Lin, Pamela Dean. )

If you haven’t read the original ballad form of, "Tam Lin", you really ought to read it at some point. It’s a lovely ballad, I think.

This Star Shall Abide, Sylvia Engdahl. )
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Books under cuts have big honking spoilers and lots of direct quotes. You've been warned.

Teckla, Steven Brust: Reread, because I was irrationally stressed, and because I haven’t reread Teckla since my first time though a couple years ago. Still relatively grinding for a Vlad story, other than a very few scenes. Kept me occupied while waiting for other books to show up.

Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold )

The Lord of Castle Black, Steven Brust )

Orca, Steven Brust: Another reread. It's like the pringles commercial: you can't stop with just one. Inspired to reread because of certain authorial narrative tricks Brust used in Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille one of my September reads. Orca holds up surprisingly well to second and third passes.
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. . . so maybe I read a little bit more than I think I do. I’m chalking September’s long list up to that hurricane-shaped thing that came through in the middle of the month.

Putting all comments behind cuts, regardless of length, for formatting and to save friends pages.

The Paths of the Dead, Steven Brust. In Which the Writer Enacts the Dance of Fangirl Glee. )

Two by Octavia Butler: Adulthood Rites and Imago )

Butler’s protagonists tend to be thrown into situations nearly as stressful, upsetting, and invasive as Cherryh’s protags; at some point I may have to do some sort of Cherryh/Butler comparison.

Lirael, Garth Nix. )

Abhorsen, Garth Nix. A bit sharp. )

Sabriel, Garth Nix. )

1602, Issues One and Two, by a Numeber of Hands )

The Phoenix Code, Catherine Asaro. In Which Romance Fails to Overcome Theme Underdevelopment. )

A College of Magics, Caroline Stevermer. Solid not-medieval fantasy. )

The Secret Country, Pamela Dean. )

Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille, Steven Brust )

Sorcery and Cecelia, Caroline Stevermer and Pat Wrede. )

I've heard it said more than once that Stevermer and Wrede are working on a sequel, The Grand Tour. If this ever comes out, I'm definitely going to read it.
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See? Not as late as July! Go me!

Cutting for major spoilers and some space. May come back and cut for space more once I post this and see how much space it hogs.

(Nine books. Nine. Shoot. Granted, some of them were short, but others were five hundred pages. Probably won't read this many novels again until I get another insane commute like August's. Given where I live, it shouldn't be more than three years... anyway. On to the stories.)

The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson (Nominated for the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel): The Black Plague devastated Europe in the Middle Ages, killing an estimated third to half of the continental population. What if it had wiped out 99% of the European population? How would history play out if Chinese and Islamic culture dominated, rather than European? And what if souls reincarnated, grouping together in multiple lifetimes, so that stories set a thousand years apart might be the adventures of the one protagonist? Kim Stanley Robinson throws a monkey wrench in the mechanics of history and writes down how it might play out. Sort of.

Spoilers? What spoilers? You mean the ones under this cut? )

On the balance, it’s KSR. If you like his relaxed writing style and socialist/environmental politics, you’ll probably enjoy The Years of Rice and Salt.

O Jerusalem, Laurie R. King: Mary Sue Russell and her mentor/partner Sherlock Holmes temporarily escape a messy and potentially lethal case in London, risking their lives in the Holy Land in January 1919. Set smack in the middle of The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the first book in the series, but written between The Moor and Justice Hall (see below).

If I recall correctly, I first read this during a Laurie King binge a couple years ago. Beats The Moor hands down.

Justice Hall, Laurie R. King: A very direct sequel to O Jerusalem. The most striking thing about it, for me, is a theme it shares with LRK’s Martinelli series: an authorial love of generational continuity and expensive houses intersecting with some less rooted or more ambiguously rooted characters. Russell gushes about the centuries of history imbued in Justice Hall's very walls; Kate Martinelli and her partner Lee sink sweat, time and money into Lee’s dead... aunt’s? mother’s? house on Russian Hill. The central mystery, such as it is, unfolds with authorial deliberation and enjoyable twists, but is almost incidental to LRK’s interest in continuity and the changing British social landscape of the 1920's.

The King’s Peace, Jo Walton: Would you believe I didn’t pick up that this was an Arthurian retelling until two hundred or more pages in? Comments waiting on finding and finishing The King’s Name the second half of the story.

The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. Le Guin: Everyone dreams; most people’s dreams don’t affect reality. George Orr’s do, and it terrifies him. The state-assigned psychiatrist he is forced to see after a drug overdose read as an apparent suicide attempt is fascinated by these "effective dreams" and uses George to rewrite the world a bit. Okay, more than a bit. George is disturbed. The reader resists the urge to earmark and pencil in examples of Le Guin’s bulletproof literary kinks pet ideas.

Dawn, Octavia Butler: The War is gone, as is most of the human race. Lilith Iyapo (people famliar with Bible-based religious traditions will note the significance and irony of the name) is one of the survivors saved by the Oankali, aliens without the human biological imperative for conflict, but with an imperative to "trade" genetic structure with other species, willing or otherwise. The novel narrates Lilith’s reluctant acceptance of a role as the resentful bridge between the humans and the Oankali.

The Oankali have a classically cool S.F.nal idea going for them: a three sex reproductive system, involving up to five participants. They also subvert a lot of classic memes. Their behavior toward humanity is peaceful, benevolent and more invasive than any "conquer the puny Earthlings" military campaign. Their trade imperative is read by most of the characters as infecting the human genome with frightening, alien characteristics. Science fiction has reiterated the clash of cultures theme from a dominant culture’s point of view plenty of times; Dawn is about the effects on (and by) the "weaker" culture. Humans hate and fear the Oankali, but are prized by that species of assimilators for their adaptability and creativity.

This has some obvious applications to the history of the United States, and the Americas at large.

Ill Met in Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber: All hail the adventures of the indomitable Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser! Old school sword-and-sorcery of the type much mocked by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, but with a flair for dramatic language and humor. The city of Lankhmar has probably inspired a number of D&D games, and several series currently in production, such as Steven Brust’s Vlad novels and P.C. Hodgell’s Jaime books, very likely also trace some roots to Fritz Lieber’s novels. If you find any of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser novels, they’re slightly dated in attitude and their use of language, but very much worth reading for their lively protagonists and fantastical plots.

The Service of the Sword, David Weber et al: latest collection of stories set in the Honorverse. People who have read the previous three collections know the drill: Weber writes a story about Honor, the Navy, or the treecats and other authors fill in gaps that interest them. This time, Jane Lindskold, Timothy Zahn, John Ringo, Victor Mitchell, and Eric Flint step up to the Honorverse. )

A Wolf at the Door, and Other Retold Fairy Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds: Short story collection filed under YA at the library. I checked it out for the Garth Nix story, a rather gruesome retelling of Hansel and Gretel, but really enjoyed several other stories in the collection. A fast, easy read, including contributions from a lot of big name authors, including Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee and Jane Yolen. Possibly my favorite story in the collection was "Swans" a retelling of the same myth used in [ profile] pegkerr's The Wild Swans, which was about family, love, noise and silence when I wanted to hear about those things.

Edited Sept. 12 to add: The Cinderella retooling annoyed me, though, smacking into current buttons regarding the importance of self-motivation and determination in life.

Edited Oct 17 to add: Forgot about Sorcery and Cecelia, which I had to have read sometime in August.

September's book list will almost certainly be shorter, unless people are keenly interested in a blow-by-blow account of my struggles with functional groups in two different courses, but I've got some good stuff on hand: more Octavia Butler, The Paths of the Dead (finished it this weekend, and... oh. Even fangirl squeals fail. I think Brust may be leaping up the purchase priority list as soon as I confirm the pub date for The Enchantress of Dzur Mountain. And oh, thank any and all deities and divinities for interlibrary loan, which granted me Paths and will eventually eventually land The Lord of Castle Black in my trembling hands.)
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I know exactly how late this is. I'm still posting this, so I've got it on hand if I want it.

Fortunately, the August book list needs only formatting, so anyone who's eager to see that up (me, and... me, I suspect) isn't going to have to wait nearly as long.

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Perky K. gave this to me for my birthday in June. It is as funny as advertized. I suspect I would have gotten more out of it if I watched more B-grade apocalypse horror flicks; even with that, ah, cultural handicap the book rolls along. I can see why people wanted to make this into a movie; I can guess why it failed. Read the book, people; this parody of apocalyptic flicks will never translate to the big screen, and will leave you falling off the couch with laughter.

The Bones of the Earth, Michael Swanwick: Nominee for 2003 Hugo for Best Novel. (Winner will be announced at the Toronto Worldcon. Hit the con if you have a chance, it's a lot of fun.) Paleontologists are given the opportunity to travel back in time and observe dinosaurs live in their natural habitat. Research, restrictions and the occasional disaster ensue.

Reactions and spoilers. )

Other than my inner feminist getting in a tiff, the novel was a fun romp - Swanwick obviously did his research on the field, burying me in scientific names and strange plants. I'm not sure I've vote for it to get the Hugo, but I think the nomination is justified.

The Other Wind, Ursula K. Le Guin: A sorcerer visits Ged on Gont. Ged sends him to Tenar and Therru, visiting Lebannen in Havnor. Therru grows up. Lebannen resigns himself to marrying his beautiful bride. Le Guin breaks her worldbuilding and a bit of my heart.

I knew going in it wasn't going to be high on the list of books I liked, but it wasn't until I started typing that I really got on a roll about why. )

Anyway. World messed up. Author fanficcing her own universe. May try to read The Other Wind again in a year or three, when the sting's worn off a bit.

August books to follow RSN. I hope.
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I haven't even cleared the Cast of Characters in The Paths of the Dead and I'm already falling off the futon mattress, laughing in delight. Mica! The Sorceress in Green! Tazendra! Sethra the Younger!

I'm going to resolutely ignore the hour and finish at least the Prelude, Preface and Chapter the First.

And for the record, I adore interlibarary loan.
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In June, I read a heap of new novels, a nice change from rereading pieces of old favorites. Almost everything was of fair to good quality, which was a nice change from the large number of "eh" novels I read in May.

The Riddle-Master Trilogy, Patricia McKillip:
The Riddle-Master of Hed
Heir of Sea and Fire
Harpist in the Wind

Read these in one large gulp at the end of May/early June. I think. This was my first time reading the trilogy; I suspect I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd read it when I was younger. As it stands, I want to natter on about its similaries and differences to Le Guin's original Earthsea trilogy, with an occasional side slant to Duane's Door series for style comparisons. Watch this journal for further developments.

A Wizard Abroad Alone, Diane Duane [Edited 08/07/2003 to correct my fingers' hardwiring; thank you Sam L.] : The latest in the Young Wizards series. Came out last October, but life in the form of classes kept me from the library for a long time. Duane doesn't go anywhere significantly new thematically, but does write an enjoyable romp in the established YW canon. One aspect of the book bugged me a lot, but I need to check some facts and hash out the autism thing with [ profile] herewiss13 before posting any definitive statements (read: publicly shove my foot in my mouth).

Night Work, Laurie R. King: The one novel in one of King's series I hadn't read. The intersection of religion, feminism and murder was reminiscent of A Monstrous Regiment of Women, which either says something about the author or about the endurance of some themes throughout the twentieth century, take your pick. This and Monstrous Regiment might make an interesting paired reading for that reason.

Green Rider, Kristen Britain: Written up seperately. Short version: if you think Mercedes Lackey and Robert Jordan ought to collaberate, this may be the book for you.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: I came, I read, I owe [ profile] norabombay for letting me have first crack at her copy. Still haven't posted my own emotional fangirl response, but the short version is, I'm definitely keen to see what happens in book six.

The Sherwood Ring, Elizabeth Marie Pope: Have you ever read a book that you're reasonably certain would have had you on the edge of your seat earlier in life? When I was ten or twelve I would have adored this book. Unfortunately, it's ten years later, and I merely liked it a lot. It was very interesting to read a book written in the '50's set in a house deliberately preserved in the colonial era; it gave the story a more historical bent than I suspect the author intended. Also, I think I found a fandom tie-in, though; certain wine glasses from The Sherwood Ring may have migrated to fic author E. H. Smith's Harry Potter/Vorkosigan crossover "Without Enchantment." (Note: second in a trilogy. Fortunately, all three are available on Fictionalley or the Sugar Quill. And if anyone is aware of any other fics by Ms. Smith, I'd be ecstatic if you sent me the URL. She's a great writer, in my opinion.) I like The Perilous Gard more than The Sherwood Ring, but definitely want both on my shelves, and wish Pope had written more before passing away in 1992.

The Moon's Shadow, Catherine Asaro: Jaibriol Qox the Third assumes his forefathers' throne in the wake of the devastating Radiance War. Political maneuvering ensues. M'sS is a middle-of-the-road novel in her Skolia series, focusing on political fallout from the recent war and shaping the groundwork for the uneasy detente/cold war in Catch the Lightning, set fifty years later. The romantic and cutting edge science that have pervaded Asaro's novels are a bit subdued in this novel, but are still very present. Asaro does slide in some nifty science metaphor stuff, not unlike the romance/quantum bonding metaphor in The Quantum Rose. A moon's shadow on a planet is an eclipse, of course, but somehow I didn't make the connection until Asaro pointed it out in the author's afterward. At which point a planet with a complex moon system and a tradition of naming those moons after the Emperor's consort goes all sorts of interesting places. The Radiant Seas remains my uncontested favorite Asaro novel, but The Moon's Shadow is worth reading if you're fond of Catherine Asaro's novels.

I'm hoping July will continue the trend of good fiction, especially since I have a long list of Hugo nominees I haven't touched yet. And I think I really need to read some books not written by women. Nothing wrong with female writers, but I seem to be reading a lot of them at the moment, and not nearly as many men.
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One of my friends got a kick out of this novel and lent it to me; she neglected to mention at the time that she read it during a long plane ride and derived a huge amount of enjoyment from ticking off the numerous cliches. As a result, I went in thinking Green Rider would be a lot better than the boilerplate Fat Fantasy Epic it turned out to be.

Warning: gratuitous potshots and general snarkiness. )
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Have not managed to do that chem studying. Sprawled out with the textbook, started trying to remember why enthalpies were so important, and was out for two hours before I knew it.

Am slightly annoyed with myself for this. Am tempted to take it out by enumerating the people who have annoyed me in the last two days, but that's incredibly childish, and besides, the rest of my life's going too well. This evening brought a fantastic thunderstorm that tempted me to dance in the rain like I was twelve again, I had delicious french toast for dinner, [ profile] miriel is back from her Japan trip, and I've still got a day before the Class That Will Move Fast (at eight in the morning!) starts.

Also, am looking back at May as June comes roaring up. Unremarkable reflection on two months. )

Books read this month:

Brightness Falls From the Air, James Tiptree, Jr. [Alice Sheldon]. I want to say I started it in April, but it's been long enough I'm not sure. Interesting premise, but something about Tiptree's characterization always irritates me, which made the story drag.
A Grave Talent, Laurie R. King. A little light rereading during exam week.
Vacuum Flowers, Michael Swanwick. Nifty but overwheling. Of course, my opinion's probably been influenced by the astonishingly middle-of-the-road '80s cover. Not as incredibly awful as the Warrior's Apprentice Battle Nightie cover, but bad in a similar, less dynamic style.
The Secret Garden, Francis Hodgson Burnett. A fluffly reread on one of the few sunny afternoons.
The Memory of Whiteness, Kim Stanley Robinson. And I thought Icehenge was irritatingly manipulative in the name of Making A Point. The Memory of Whiteness annoyed me even more because I couldn't figure out what the Point was.
Also skimmed significant portions of several B5 novels- To Dream in the City of Sorrows and most of the Psi Corp trilogy- during an IM conversation with [ profile] herewiss13.

This month I am so reading better books, or I'm going to go into withdrawl. I'm backlogged on multiple authors- Diane Duane (blog feed available for LJ at [ profile] outofambit), Kim Stanley Robinson, Steven Brust, and Garth Nix, to name a few- so if I can get myself to a library, I should be set for weeks.


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