Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RTW #115 Best Book of January

The Demon in the HouseA Posse of PrincessesEthan of Athos (Vorkosigan Saga, #6)
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best FriendLeviathan (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)
Across the Great Barrier (Frontier Magic, #2)

Cetaganda (Vorkosigan Saga, #5)
Doomsday Book

Lordy, lordy, do I love break.  I read this pile of books from Jan 1 to Jan 22, and on the 23rd, classes began again, and I haven't read a book since.

(I also reread Ella Enchanted during that time, for research purposes.)

But how can I choose between them?
I found Code Talkers to be interesting and historically satisfying, but it wasn't a great book.  It was just a great way to tell a true story of a whole group of people that needed to be told.  It was totally worthwhile, but not the best book I read in January.

I enjoyed Demon in the House, because it was silly, and crazy, and got me back into the world of High Rising, which I missed.  But I wanted to kill Tony by the end, or at least box his ears thoroughly.  And Laura was a bit more of a wet blanket than usual, so no, though enjoyable, not the best.

Posse of Princesses was also 'research.'  I did enjoy it very much.  The characters were a mix of identifiable for kids and identifiable for adults, which allows a few in-jokes that might have been jarring when I was younger.  I liked that it used solid Shakespearian-style tropes to tell the story, and that the girls got to save the day properly, according to the rules of the world, and not breaking them.
But all in all, it didn't leave me with that !zing of realization and knowledge that I require of a best book.  (It did not !zing as much as The Paper-Bag Princess, (also research) which was hilarious and brilliant, if not entirely sensical.)

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend was lovely.  It made me cry.  I reviewed it, talking about how the first time I was like 'oh yeah, this is real High School, not TV High School.'  I thought it was great.  But... it could have been better.  The writing was solid, but it wasn't always entirely clear.  It could have been sharpened for more emotional depth.  But it was great.  :D

Ethan of Athos was good, but it definitely felt like it had been published in 1986.  It felt like it could have been cutting edge at one point, though already in a campy sort of way.  If we assume that an all-female culture will turn into warlike amazons, it makes sense that an all-male culture will turn into a group of communes that prize fatherhood above all else.  I liked it, but the end, which didn't really resolve the ambiguous morality of some of the characters, left me feeling a little unsettled.  Telepathy really is a bit unnerving, when you get down to its real-world implications, and though a closed race of telepaths could function, their ability to be abused by non-telepaths or abuse non-telepaths is always there.  I would have liked a little more resolution in that area. 

Leviathan, I enjoyed, but like a lot of books these days, the cut off ending, making it clear that it is only the 1st part of 3 without the satisfaction of a real book, was frustrating.  I can't really say what I think of it until I read the other two, as this seems to be only a teaser.

The top three of the books I read this month have to be Across the Great Barrier, Cetaganda, and The Doomsday Book.

Across the Great Barrier was unlike any of the other books I read.  You wouldn't think so, what's more pedestrian than MG fantasy?  But Patricia Wrede isn't afraid to break all the rules.  She breaks the rules of History, and she breaks the rules of narrative.  It's the middle book in a series, and it feels like there's something building, but it also feels like a real journal of a real person, who's a little bit special, but not terribly special, who doesn't particularly want to change the world, and is willing to face problems as they come, not look for the overarching thread of them all.  I really enjoyed it, but she's built up so much to take on in the last book, that I can't judge until I see if she pulls it off.

Cetaganda was brilliant.  If I had to say my favorite book of January, it would be this one.  It was a perfectly plotted and paced mystery, that relied upon the reader gaining an understanding of an alien culture (clearly based on Heian era Japan).  It was the perfect blend of Mystery and Sci-Fi, and Miles Vorkosigan is the best hero ever.

The Doomsday Book is a frigging TOME, 600 pages, two interlocking narratives, and a heartrending story of life, death, reality and hope.  It's a time travel story set in a future that's more like the past and set in a past more real than your own reality.  I admired and adored it.  It made me miserable and gave me hope.  It contained power and meaning, and characters that I loved, even after they had been lost.  So yeah, this was the best book I read in January.  Others were good, but few had the guts to make them worth comparing.


  1. Sounds like some very cool picks! So many books to read, so little time....

  2. I seriously recommend finishing the LEVIATHAN series (no surprise there if you read my pick of the month). There is a conclusion to the LEVIATHAN story, but, yes, it's very clear that's not the end of the story. If you were expecting an ending like the ending of Episode IV of Star Wars (the original first movie), then you're right, and I can understand your frustration. It's more like the ending of Episode V, where the problem of the book has been resolved, but that's clearly not the end. But, at least IMO, the rest is so worth finishing the trilogy. :)

  3. Hard to choose the best read for this month, don't you think? I had the same problem :-)

  4. If anything this post has really intrigued me as to what you're researching and writing...

  5. Wow---I had not heard of your two favorites, but they both look amazing! I'm a sucker for sci-fi and time travel, so uhhhh, sign me up!

    I'm glad you clearly made the most of your break! You got through a ton of books :)

  6. I haven't heard of a lot of these, but I totally agree with this: "like a lot of books these days, the cut off ending, making it clear that it is only the 1st part of 3 without the satisfaction of a real book, was frustrating." Can we get some stand-alone books, please?? That's part of why I am so into contemporaries, since they are rarely trilogies.

    LOVE STORY STARRING MY DEAD BEST FRIEND looks awesome. Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad? Yes, please.

  7. That's an impressive list! You must read a LOT. A friend of mine keeps recommending The Doomsday Book, too, so I'll have to check it out.