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Gen's Shelves

Occasional rambles about books I felt strongly enough to review, when I had free time enough to do it.

Currently reading

The Isle of Glass
Judith Tarr
The Broken Crown
Michelle West, Michelle Sagara
Deep Atlantic: Life, Death and Exploration in the Abyss
Richard Ellis
L'élégance du hérisson
Muriel Barbery
Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England
Keith Thomas
A History of Ancient Egypt: From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid
John Romer
Tiger, Tiger
Lynne Reid Banks
Julie E. Czerneda
Tomorrow's Magic
Pamela F. Service
Marie Brennan

Loved it!

Artificial Condition - Martha Wells

I borrowed a kind friend's ARC, so no spoilers here, but I loved it!  All the charm of the first Murderbot book, with some new revelations and plenty more details about the world.  I loved it just as much as the first.  Definitely pick this series up if you're interested in grumpy AIs who really want to just be left alone to marathon tv (and definitely never ever want to talk about feelings) but maybe kind of secretly like some humans a little anyway.

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years - Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years - Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times - Elizabeth Wayland Barber Marvelous! Somewhat outdated now in terms of archaeological discoveries, since it's some years old, but that's the inevitable effect of time. My one major complaint is that it's pretty much focused on Europe and the Mediterranean basin; some of that is an effect of the focus on woven textiles, but what about the entire millennia of Asian silk work? It would be five stars without that major gap, because within its region of focus it's clear, readable, and fascinating.

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years - Sarah Delany, A. Elizabeth Delany, Amy Hill Hearth Deeply interesting if very much mass-market oral history of two very interesting women, who lived through a whole lot. This feels like a very sparse review, but I'm tired and can't think of a better; anyway, if the oral history memoirs of two black sisters who were born around 1890, became educated professionals in a prominent family of the black middle class (or "colored," as they both insist upon), and were interviewed in 1992 when they were both over 100, sound interesting to you, then you should check this out sometime.

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled - Dorothy Gilman Ouch. Read this once, and firmly determined to put it out of my memory and focus on the earlier, stronger books. Very much a faded carbon copy of the sparkle and charm of earlier books, with all the ongoing flaws brought strongly into the light accordingly. Do yourself a favor, and reread The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax instead.

Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish

Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish - Dorothy Gilman Not, alas, one of the best -- Dorothy Gilman's earnestly patronizing orientalism comes out to an awkward degree in all her books set in the Middle East -- but still a Mrs Pollifax, with fun moments as such.

First Rider's Call

First Rider's Call - Kristen Britain Started slow, but got much more compelling once characters started telling each other about the plotlines they were in. The series continues to be rather like a somewhat grittier and more desaturated Valdemar, with all the pros and cons that entails, and in some moods that's just what one wants.

Green Rider

Green Rider - Kristen Britain If you liked Valdemar but you want something a little less sparkly and more down-to-earth, aimed at your inner 17-year-old instead of your inner 13-year-old, this is a good series for you!

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe - Kij Johnson Gorgeous and deeply thoughtful, and highly recommended.

Healing of Crossroads

Healing of Crossroads - Nick O'Donohoe What a very weird book with SO VERY MUCH going on. But a lot of what there is is fun! If often confusing! Certainly it's very more-ish, though.

(And then there's the entire Gek... everything. That whole plotline. I have some other quibbles -- I would have liked a few more things spelled out about the Stefan plotline, I have some serious questions about the griffins, I'm not sure what the deal was with Matt -- but that's the big one. Oh, and Needs More Gredya, but there sure was a lot of other plot going on, and I can't really fault her for taking one look at it and deciding to be elsewhere for a while.)

Garden Of Love

Garden Of Love - Marcus Malte Je l'ai presque aimé beaucoup, mais c'est trop masculine -- les femmes ne sont que accessoires aux hommes -- et j'en ai marre de ce genre de méchant. Mais l'écriture se lise très bien et j'ai aimé l'inspecteur, Alex.

En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule

En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule - Édouard Louis À la fois attachant, dégoutant, intime et trop intime (parce que c'est des mémoires romancés, et l'auteur est le seul qui les a approuvés)... j'ai des sentiments contradictoires.

The Magic and the Healing

The Magic and the Healing - Nick O'Donohoe There are basically two books in this: vet hijinks with fantasy animals sentient and otherwise, shadowed by the main character's looming potential terminal illness (all of which I loved!) and an epic plot about WAR and TORTURE and INEXPLICABLE FANTASYLAND KINGS MAKING TERRIBLE CHOICES (which I mostly didn't care about.) But the vet hijinks are the majority of the book, so on the whole I loved this!

Victoire: My Mother's Mother

Victoire: My Mother's Mother - Maryse Conde,  Richard Philcox (Translator) Très beau, très troublant, très déprimant -- mais surtout, très beau! Maryse Condé montre sa maîtrise comme écrivaine. (Je parle de la version originale et française.)

The Secret Service Girl

The Secret Service Girl - J.M. Walsh Does pretty much what it says on the tin! If you're looking for a '60s thriller containing a dastardly plot to blow up Gibraltar, a family (husband, wife, & her brother) of spies whose intelligence varies somewhat with the needs of the plot, and a climax containing the DIRE THREAT of being torn apart by Barbary apes(?!) -- and if you're willing to overlook an unfortunate amount of Hollywood Racist Caricature Arabs, which I found rather difficult to overlook at some points -- then this is the book for you. If it's not, you're probably not planning to pick up a book called The Secret Service Girl anyway.

Miss Marjoribanks

Miss Marjoribanks - Margaret Oliphant I've only read two books by Mrs Oliphant (the other being A City Besieged, which is fascinating, weird, and extremely different from this), and enjoyed both. But Miss Marjoribanks makes it very clear why she was a bestselling author in her day. It's a power fantasy, but not unalloyed; it's delightfully snarky, but affectionately so, and well leavened with compassion for everyone on the page. (It's also got the unthinking classism, colonialism, and occasional offhand racism one might expect from a Victorian popular novel, so be warned there.)

Miss Lucilla Marjoribanks comes home from school with the earnest and implacable aim of being a comfort to her dear papa (a widower who, while very fond of his only child, doesn't particularly feel he needs comforting). And, just incidentally, of rearranging the society in her hometown -- for everyone's benefit, of course. What makes this a delight instead of insufferable is the narration's wry wit, and the ongoing martial metaphors. Because, make no mistake, this is the tale of a latter-day Tacitus or Alexander the Great. But one who was born a bourgeois woman in Victorian England, and thus one whose weapons are dinner parties, and whose campaign arena is the drawing rooms of Carlingford. Great fun, a fascinating slice of history, and an excellent diversion from an author who really ought to be better known today.

Black Ships

Black Ships - Jo Graham This book is so far up my alley that it's in my backyard, or possibly in my living room. I adored it! I don't know if I'll enjoy the sequels as much, since I loved these specific characters so much and as I understand it there's a lot of reincarnation ahead, but I look forward very much to finding out. Jo Graham's writing is lovely, lyrical and very readable.

If you like Rosemary Sutcliff, Rosemary Kirstein, Susan Cooper, and/or Jo Walton's The King's Peace books, odds are pretty good that you'll enjoy this Aeneid reworking.

Be warned, though, if you're the sort to want trigger warnings. This book takes place during an ancient period of warfare, and every single major character is a refugee from messy wars. There's a lot of rape and child death; none of it's graphic or onscreen, but it's very much a reality that all the characters deal with, as people who've survived the sacking of a city and possibly enslavement thereafter.