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Dreams and books - The Lyorn's Den

Sun Feb. 11th, 2007

10:16 pm - Dreams and books

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Bad dreams, again, but this time, at least, they clearly came from too-enthusiastic reading (if there is such a thing). I awoke frantic, with a long list of things I needed to do at once to prevent a bad situation from devolving into all-out catastrophe, started mentally working through the list and discovered that all of the problems were someone else's, who, author willing, would be well on top of it soon.

Which is not the worst way to wake up, all things considered.

And because I did nothing but reading this weekend (it's raining), and I haven't heard from any of you folks at home, I'll just talk about books again. I read these in November and never got around to talking about them.

Kitty Goes to Washington, by Carrie Vaughn, 2006

As I said when reviewing "Kitty and the Midnight Hour", I was sceptical about this book, because I had liked the first book and felt it likely that the second would either go into the "same old" or the "monster of the week", or a combination of both, which I have complained about here.

But I felt like getting something easily digestible, and I had really liked the first book, so I gave the second one a try.

I haven't regretted it, not in the last because my expectations weren't high. In "Kitty Goes to Washington", Kitty, the werewolf late-night radio talk master gets cited before a senate committee -- her talk show has blasted the flood gates wide open, has shot what WoD-players would call "The Masquerade" or "The Veil" to hell, and the government would like to have a clue what these supernatural going-ons are all about. To complicate matters, the chairman of the committee is a religious type who'd like to re-introduce the inquisition.

As usual for second instalments in these kind of series, more and stranger creatures appear, but fortunately they are not the latest big bad, but more the "oh, so you're an [x], cool, I didn't know those existed". Which reminds me of my favourite WoD crossover game, where this line commonly gets used, and no one makes too big a fuss about another strange creature. So the book neatly avoided one set of cliffs that I had anticipated.

After the sightseeing is done (including a reasonable and civilized hostess who happens to be a Vampire), the hearings commence, a hanging thread from the first book is solved with the help of a shady reporter, and finally the chairman and the shady reporter in their desire to get good images of a raving werewolf try something really stupid and are foiled by the heroine who gets them to do something even more stupid.

A fun book, the opposite of deep, but in a nice way. If there's ever a third in the series, I think I'll get it, too.

Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey, 1951

IIRC bellatrys rec'd this some time ago, though I have forgotten in which context.

When talking about Michael Connelly's "The Last Coyote" some weeks ago I noted that it was tricky for an author to get the reader interested in a murder that happened thirty years ago. Tey easily tops that: In "Daughter of Time" (who is not a person, but an abstract concept, btw), the police detective, while having to lie flat in his back in hospital, decides to look into a five hundred year old case, namely, Who Killed the Princes in The Tower.

If you go "???" now, you are probably not well acquainted with Shakespeare, who in "Richard III" very clearly states that the murderer was said Richard of York, a Really Bad Guy. Shakespeare gives Richard a rare motivation for being a bad guy: He knows he can't be good, he's not made for it, so he'd do his best to be a villain. (Nope, I didn't see the play. I saw the 1995 movie with Ian McKellen.)

But, the detective wonders, is Shakespeare a reliable witness? Where did he get his information from? And whom did he serve? Might he lie? Might his sources lie? Are there better witnesses to be had? And with the help of a young American graduate student, who is only in Britain because he fell in love with an actress, and only a student because that's the only way his father will continue to pay the bills, the detective checks the witnesses' statements, sorts out first hand accounts from hearsay, considers who was where at what time, who had an alibi, and how the principals stood towards each other: Means, Motive, Opportunity, the old triangle.

"Daughter of Time" is a short book, not complicated but clever, occasionally funny, with a solution that, if you happen to have looked into the matter of the Murder of the Princes in The Tower before, is unsurprising. I always enjoy seeing the convention of one genre used upon another one in an interesting way, and a criminalistic analysis of history is right up my alley. Besides, the book is very finely written, with every word in exactly the right place. Read it, but not when you're tired, unless you can follow genealogies in your sleep.

Fragile Things, by Neil Gaiman, 2006

I can talk about novels that I do not have lying before me, but doing so with a collection of short stories and poems is hard, and for some reason I can't even browse the index of the book at amazon.com.

OTOH, what's there to say? If you are a Neil Gaiman fan, you'll either already have this book, or are waiting for the paperback (good idea: the hardcover is, fitting or not, really fragile -- I had doubts if I could get it home undamaged), or are waiting to borrow it from me (in that case, you know where it is, but wash your hands!) If you haven't yet read any Gaiman, try this page or this one, and this. Or read "Good Omens", which is out in a new edition, black or white, with one additional chapter. (Grrr.)

"Fragile Things" contains the Sherlock Holmes/H.P. Lovecraft crossover "A Study in Emerald" (which I have talked about here), the novella "Monarch of the Glen", where we learn the real name of Shadow (from "American Gods"), a lot of thoughts on Beowulf, some really scary stories about people who lack the sense to stay away from the ogres (and I want to register a complaint about hurting the cat! I have enough bad dreams as it is!), a "The Matrix" fan fiction, ghost stories, a Vampire Tarot (without pictures, though), the story of two boys accidentally crashing an extraterrestrial party, a lady and two tigers, the tale of the emperor who wanted a map (déjà vu if you read Michael Ende's "Momo", but again, not quite), the somewhat-disturbing and unresolved "The Problem of Susan" (a Narnia commentary) and a lot of other strange things.

BTW, if you observe the rabid debates about the author's duty to create their own sand to build sand castles from (debates in which I hold what seems to be a minority opinion), the whole collection will either make you snigger, or it might make you angry or uncomfortable -- I wouldn't know, as I said, solidly minority opinion here.

I do not remember any story in it as sweet (in a good sense) as "Chivalry" (which was in "Angels and Visitations"), the whole collection seems darker to me than the previous ones. And it's more a "one story a day" type of collection than a "read in one go" type.

I have asked myself why I am writing those reviews. It's not as if there is a lack of book reviews in the world. My first idea was that I needed something to fill the pages of my LJ. Which might be true. Or that I'm obsessive. Which is true. But mostly it's, I think, that over the years I read a lot of books and forgot them. Forgot that I read them, or forgot what was in them. And every time someone (like mad_freddy in his comment here) talks about them I can only say, I read it when I was in school, but I can't remember. Which I feel is embarrassing, and I do not want that to happen anymore if I can avoid it.

In short, yes, I'm obsessive.


[User Picture]
Date:February 14th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)

well (started saying this before realizing I was hattipped!)

the thing about reviews is that they're personal. I trust a review from someone I know FAR better than a random review in a magazine, unless I've read a bunch of prior reviews (and the books or movies) by the same reviewer and know what they like/dislike, in which case I kinda do know them, at least their taste. So "OMG!JustLikeTolkien!" on the back of NewFantasyBlockbusterWannabe says very little to me; "This is cool" by CJ Cherryh on Death of the Necromancer turned me into a Martha Wells fangirl; and any book unfortunate enough to have a blurb by Terry Goodkind will be put back on the shelf unopened by me - unless one of you guys says "No, really, it isn't horrible!"
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