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Uh. So. I have pretty much no idea what actually happened in this entire book, which makes it very like Queen's Play from Lymond.

What I think happened (with commentary):

Spoilers )

- [livejournal.com profile] riemannia's collected posts
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The short review: Dunnett! I had forgotten how much I loved you and your labyrinthe prose, insane plotting, high angst, and random funny animal bits. Dunnett being Dunnett, I feel it may even be slightly spoilery revealing who exactly Niccolo is, as he doesn't really show up for a good chunk of the book.

Thankfully, despite everyone in the book being fairly multilingual, all the dialogue is transcribed in English. This one thing already made the book much easier to understand, particularly when compared to the Lymond chronicles.

The other thing is that the hero is much, much less labyrinthe and fucked-up than Lymond, though really, that's not very difficult. I think pretty much everyone is less labyrinthe and fucked-up than Lymond. The strange thing is, I found that I actually quite liked Niccolo, which I wasn't expecting at all. I thought I'd admire him and be amused by his angst and woe, but he seems to be a genuinely nice person who tries to do good. How fresh! How astonishing! ;)

Also, there is an ostrich.

Spoilers for the book )

I feel obliged to ask: are there any cool women who get to do a lot? Katelina was ok, as is Marian, but they don't do too much.

In conclusion: Ostrich!

- [livejournal.com profile] riemannia's collection of Niccolo posts
- [livejournal.com profile] tenemet's review

2004 book round up

Sun, Jan. 9th, 2005 02:11 pm
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Heh, the ability to do this post was the reason behind why I started book blogging last year, and of course, now it's about a week late and I don't have much energy to write it. But write it I will.

I am shamelessly copying [livejournal.com profile] coffee_and_ink's format (I hope you don't mind, Mely), whose posts are the main reason why I started book blogging at all.

This being the inaugural year, I have no idea how this matches up to my reading habits of previous year. Just off the top of my head, I would say that I feel like I've read a great deal of books this year, and most of them good. A big reason for that is because of LJ, because of all the recs that have come in, and for that, I am eternally grateful. I read many things I wouldn't have touched previously because of that. And now, my ten favorite books of the year, out of all the books I have read this year (excluding rereads), not out of all the books published this year. They may not be the best books I've read this year, or the most technically proficient, or the like, but they are books that grabbed me somehow and will most likely end up being reread very often. I'm cheating quite a bit on this list and including multiple books by authors and such, but hey, it's my list ;).

Listed alphabetically by author. I've blogged each book before, which you can find in my book memories section, if you want to read me blather on even more.

  1. Megan Chance, Fall From Grace

    Both romances on this list are ones that push the boundaries of the genre. I love Megan Chance's romances because she doesn't bother to whitewash history; her characters are rarely the rareified nobility that populate most romances. In this book, they are outlaws, and there is no romance at all in the way Chance portrays their lives. She also inverts the trope and makes the hard-living, hard-hearted character the heroine, with a hero painfully in love with her. This is not a fuzzy romance; it's on the smothering of dreams and hopes, on the choices that life gradually takes away.

  2. Michael Dirda, Readings

    Dirda is a kindred spirit in the book world, although I can only sit back and wish that I have read as broadly and as deeply as he has, as well as wish that I could write about the experience of reading and of books so beautifully as he does. But I can't, so I am incredibly glad that he exists in the world and writes the reviews he does. His book reviews are like recommendations from a close friend.

  3. Dorothy Dunnett, The Lymond Chronicles

    If I had to pick just one book of them, it would be Pawn in Frankincense, where all the build-up of the previous three books comes to head in a tense climax that left me breathless. Dunnett is very often manipulative, I still don't like Lymond as a person, and Checkmate is pretty flawed, especially when you look at how Dunnett throws in every single romance cliche in the book, but the series as a whole is so large and epic and grand that they occupied a very sizeable chunk of my head and heart for a very long period of time. And despite the criticism, nothing I've read this year has swallowed me whole the same way this series did -- I read the first book over a few months, the second in a week, and by the time I had gotten to Checkmate, I had spent an entire week reading till 5 in the morning, and was so sleep-deprived that I went home sick from work and finished the last book at home in a frenzied rush.

    Also, it's hard to beat Dunnett for sheer amount of influence on other authors.

    The Lymond books consist of The Game of Kings, Queen's Play, The Disorderly Knights, Pawn in Frankincense, The Ringed Castle, and Checkmate

  4. Kij Johnson, Fudoki

    This book is set in the same universe as Johnson's first book, The Fox Woman, and it has the same delicate touch in bringing Heian Japan to life in a way that feels very authentic to me. Finally, a fantasy set in Asia that doesn't grate on my nerves. The setting, while wonderfully done, is just one of the many beautiful parts of this book. The narrative centered on the dying princess Harueme is elegaic and full of regrets; the one on the cat-turned-warrior-woman is properly sharp around the edges, with charming touches like dreams of rice balls. A very good book that leaves a lingering sense of mono no aware.

  5. Laura Kinsale, Shadowheart

    After I read this, I was nearly incoherent with glee over how it smashes romance genre tropes left and right, with the added bonus of sex scenes that don't just develop the characters, but are also so intrinsic to the plot and the meat of the book that it is unimaginable without them. While the plot in and of itself doesn't make too much sense (though it is much more coherent than many Kinsale plots), the heart of the book is in the character dynamics and the exploration of gender roles and issues of power and control. Also, Kinsale manages to do all this while writing a scorching romance.

  6. Maureen F. McHugh, China Mountain Zhang

    Science fiction set in a world where China has become the one superpower and America has turned socialist. Instead of using the set up to explore overtly political issues in a larger setting, McHugh chooses narrate from the POV of the titular character and a few of the other people in the world whose lives he affects, no matter how obliquely. Because of this, the book has a much more intimate tone, even while it explores the larger issues of race, ethnicity, and cultural authenticity without ever losing sight of its characters, who are always human first.

  7. Patricia A. McKillip, multiple novels

    I discovered Patricia McKillip this year, after many years of never understanding her books, and it has been a joy going through her backlist. It's probably unnecessary praising McKillip to most people who read this LJ, but for anyone who hasn't read her books, the beauty of the prose and the images, the clarity of the visual metaphors and, above all, the underlying humanity in all her characters have completely won me over. My favorite of her books, Winter Rose, is actually a reread, although I don't actually remember my first read of it at all.

    I read her The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy, Alphabet of Thorn, The Book of Atrix Wolfe, The Changeling Sea, In the Forests of Serre, Ombria in Shadow, Song for the Basilisk, The Tower at Stony Wood, and Winter Rose this year.

  8. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

    While I wanted a non-Nafisi POV at times for balance, Nafisi's memoir is still an effective look at not only a woman's life in Iran, but also the importance of reading and imagination. For me, it works better as an investigation into why we read than a chronicle of post-revolution Iran, but that is largely because of the constraints of the memoir format. This book hit some very deep spots in me regarding questions of morality and art and why the great books are always revolutionary in some way. A perfect demonstration of how books at their best can push boundaries and shape the mind.

  9. Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis

    Like Nafisi's book, Satrapi's Persepolis is a memoir of the Islamic revolution in Iran; however, Persepolis is also a wonderful graphic novel with stark black-and-white art and an often bizarre sense of humor. Satrapi's memoir is much less overtly political than Nafisi's, and it is more effective for me because of that. Satrapi focuses on the commonplace, on the seemingly trifling changes that the revolutions causes, and because of this, the truly horrific things that happen in her country are made that much worse in context of the everyday. Smart, funny, and engaging.

  10. Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

    An epistolary fantasy Regency novel! This is the book that I've been pushing on all of my friends, to the point of buying a copy and bringing it all the way over to Taiwan just so I could make yet another person read it. There's something incredibly joyful about this book -- one can sense how much fun the authors had writing it, and it makes for a delightful reading experience.

Also recommended: Lloyd Alexander, the Westmark trilogy; Connie Brockway, The Bridal Season; Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa; Jennifer Crusie, Bet Me; Judy Cuevas, Bliss and Dance; Karen Cushman, Catherine, Called Birdy; Pamela Dean, the Secret Country trilogy; Patricia MacLachlan, The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt; Margaret Mahy, The Tricksters; Ellen Raskin, The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues; Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America; Elizabeth A. Wein, The Winter Prince

ETA: Added more books to the also recced list, because I am hare-brained and forgot a few.

Total read: 167 (8 rereads)

Books finished in 2004 )

(no subject)

Sun, Jul. 25th, 2004 02:00 am
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Random thought of the day:

Whoa. I just realized Jean Ewing Ross' Illusion makes about ten times more sense now that I've read the Lymond Chronicles.

Wow. Talk about Dunnett influences.
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
I'm still sort of vaguely blah from the loss of the entire Lymond world, but luckily found Figgs and Phantoms in the store. Except now I have a real hankering to reread Perlious Gard, given the Elizabethan period thing. Hrm.

It's so strange how I feel such a loss because I've finished a series, but it hurts.

Spoilers )

- [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija's review

(no subject)

Mon, Jul. 19th, 2004 11:18 pm
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Well. I've finished the Lymond Chronicles, and now I feel very dazed and vaguely empty inside, like always when an entire universe has held me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me from this world entirely. And now it is done with me, and I am not quite sure what to do with myself.

I feel like I've been through a wringer many times over, and every time I thought things could not possibly get any angstier, Dunnett proved me very, very wrong. I nearly had a heart attack or something at the last bit, several times over.

My world feels a little smaller now, but all the same, I'm quite glad my boy is wonderful and not nearly half as insane as Lymond is.

Gah, I haven't had a read like this in a very long time, when the withdrawal symptoms (heh, books are my addiction) hit so hard.

A more coherent review of Checkmate to come...

(no subject)

Mon, Jul. 19th, 2004 05:56 pm
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Am taking frequent breaks from reading Checkmate because, oh, the angst!!

Checkmate spoilers )

Apologies for spamming the FL, but am one giant mess of emotion right now.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
I think everyone in RL who knows me now thinks I am entirely insane because most of me is still living in Dunnett's world. Plus, there's the fact that I grin crazily every so often thinking about the books and what's going to happen next.

So, to get this out of my system, below are many incoherent thoughts and many strange noises, mostly incoherent (I was scribbling these down at work because as I said, I am insane and entirely obsessed):

(the incoherency can mostly be summed up as: OH THE ANGST!!!)
Spoilers )
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
Many thanks to those who told me to have Pawn right in hand after I finished this, or else I would probably be writhing in agony at this moment.

Dunnett is wreaking havoc on my already horrible sleeping patterns. Could not put down Disorderly Knights, despite the whole having to get up for work the next day thing.

Warning: there is pretty much nothing intelligent under the cut, just lots of wibbling.

Spoilers )

- [livejournal.com profile] rilina's review
- [livejournal.com profile] oracne's review
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
Ok, that one went by a lot faster than Game of Kings! And now I'm torn between reading LJ and jumping along headfirst into Disorderly Knights, because eep! So caught up in the world now!

Possible spoilers )

- [livejournal.com profile] rilina's review
- [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija on the first 50 pgs. and on the entire thing
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
I took a very long while getting into this, which was mostly my own fault -- it's a bit hard falling headfirst into Dunnett's labyrinthe plot when you read the book in vast intervals. The plot's still not very clear in my head.

It's funny because I began wondering what all the fuss was about Lymond. I could intellectually note everything that would have made him very appealing to me, but I had already heard so much about him via LJ that he had some pretty high expectations to live up to. But then, gradually, Dunnett kept revealing lines Lymond would not cross, and that, coupled with the sheer ruthlessness of him had me quite in his thrall by the end of the book. *wibble* Especially that scene when he and Richard duel. *wibble*

I spent a long time trying to decide if I generally liked the women in the book or not, and what I thought about the fact that certain women were just pure beyond reckoning. I also found it interesting that one of the big things against Lymond was his willingness to use women ruthlessly. I'm still not quite sure what I think.

I very much like Sybilla though. She is cool. I don't particularly like Mariotta, although I wibbled at the scene with her and Richard. Ditto Will Scott (minus the wibbling)... I can't decide if I want to hit him over the head for extreme vacillation or dubiously like him for the end. I am also quite fond of Richard just because everyone likes Lymond better than him, it seems, and I feel bad for him.

Spoilers )

So. On to the next book!

[livejournal.com profile] tenemet's review
[livejournal.com profile] rilina's review
[livejournal.com profile] inklings_lj's GoK entries
[livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija's first impressions, first 150 pgs, complete review
[livejournal.com profile] loligo's spoilery review and non-spoilery review


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