Cooking Dirty, by Jason Sheehan
This book was a huge amount of fun, and I find myself recommending it all over the place to people I know whom I imagine to have led a similar existence in the kitchens of decidedly NON-haute-cuisine restaurants. If any of them actually read it I'll be curious to think if THEY think it's as dead on as I do .... very well written! very funny! Not for those with delicate stomachs or manners.
Reading the OED, by Ammon Shea
I do NOT need a crazy reading project, I do NOT need a crazy reading project... OK better stop before I say it three times. This book was SO much fun to read. I love this genre (people doing weird [frequently geeky] things so the rest of us can vicariously enjoy them - "Immersion Journalism" is the best name I've heard for it so far), and I love the OED. It's like some eccentric guy living in NYC said, "I know, let me write a book that maribou will love so much that she will drive her husband CRAZY reading it out loud to him." I mean, dear reader, I read almost THE WHOLE BOOK out loud to him. And he didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. The only quibble I had (and I only had it because I liked the writer so much in general) is that I got really irritated at his complaint about how the students IN THE PRIVATE COLLEGE LIBRARY where he liked to read were too loud and he had to shush them all the time. If he tried shushing MY students in MY college library I would politely explain to him that the students were there to enjoy the building that THEIR tuition was paying for, as opposed to his non-belonging-to-the-college self, so he should deal with it or find a different part of the library to read in, and if he shushed them some more I would kick him to the curb! *shakes tiny our-private-school-is-not-your-public-li
Prey, by Rachel Vincent
Dude. It's a romance-novelesque book about werecats. That get in violent political fights with each other and have to hold the clans together in the face of infighting and years of ingrained anti-female prejudice. AND as a bonus this volume had spoilerspoilerspoiler that I always wanted to happen but didn't expect would. Yeah, it's not great literature, but it was fun. I do wish the author wouldn't make weird claims about one aspect of werecattery that don't jibe with other things she's said and/or basic mammalian biology, as it takes me out of the story going wait, what? that wouldn't work, but that only happened a couple times, they were small things, and I'm just scientifically fussy when an author starts getting really detailed and they are WRONG and/or IMPOSSIBLE.
Red Sails Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch
Treason's Shore, by Sherwood Smith
I believe this is the first time I ever read ONE pirate-heavy fantasy book and then read a SECOND pirate-heavy fantasy book right afterward! I was very excited about both of these books, and enjoyed them very much. I think the Lynch suffered a bit for being read right before the Smith because I inevitably made comparisons that I wouldn't normally make, and of course I liked the Smith better. Lynch has very strong central characters (and minor characters who might seem more like actors than people, but they're GOOD actors) and they make HILARIOUSLY witty banter together and the plots are always breathtakingly quick and convoluted - this one really reminded me of an Alexandre Dumas story, and that's always a good thing. However, Smith makes you believe in the wholeness of ALL the characters (even the walk-ons feel realer than a lot of people's main characters somehow). She also brought the entire saga of Inda to a very satisfying close in this volume, without having to bend any of the characters past a plausible growth/development arc. I mean, there were places in the book where I got Quite Frustrated at some character for not being cooperative enough with what was obviously the best thing to do - except for THEM it was far from obvious and the characters sort of ... won my internal argument and so it was much more satisfying that they acted how they WOULD act and not how I wanted them to. This is much more ... engaged... than I normally get in a book. Normally I'm either immersed to the point where I don't notice that I'm reading the book or I'm quite distant. Whereas this was more of a "WHAT did you just say? Oh you bastard! How can you do that ? Augh, this will all end in tears!! Oh honey, see, that's what I told you would happen... wait, what? oooo, I didn't see that coming" etc etc talking-to-the-theater-screen kind of experience, mixed in with long stretches of immersion and other juicy pieces of marvelous and delightful sense-of-wonder stuff ..... with everything settled at the end in a way that made me happy without feeling like "fluffy ponies for everyone!"
Non stream-of-consciousness version: If you like character realism with your competent-hero martial fantasy, or if you just like really solid breathing characters in general, please please give the first book in this series, Inda, a try - and know that the series is more-but-better all the way through. If you've been reading this series and haven't gotten the last one yet, go find it.
Unsuitable for Ladies, edited by Jane Robinson
Very British selection of short excerpts from books written by women travellers. Mostly 17th and 18th century. Quite diverting and I have a nice long list of books I now want to read. The editor inserts herself into the book rather a lot but she's entertaining so it all works out.
Hokusai's Mount Fuji, paintings by Hokusai, compiled and with notes by Jocelyn Bouquillard
A lovely set of reproductions, with interesting commentary. I went through once and just looked at the images, dwelling on my favorites, and then went through again and read the information Bouquillard provides. If I were looking to own these prints in some (non-original) format, this is the book I would buy. And, obviously, they are beautiful.
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, by Robert A. Heinlein (reread)
Fun! And didn't have any (or at least not much) Augh, Heinlein in it, mostly I think because most of the story doesn't HAVE any adult female humans in (which is a meta-augh-Heinlein but doesn't bother me while I'm reading, see). There were eye-rolling bits but not throw-the-book-across-the-room-bits (I really hated wanting to throw Door into Summer across the room once or twice when I reread it last year.) Everything is dramatic and exciting and just goofy enough, and Heinlein was doing a great job doing genius kids that genius kids like reading about LONG before Orson Scott Card came along. My inner 9-year-old was VERY happy with this book.
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell (reread)
Oh man. I was hesitant to reread this book because I thought it couldn't possibly be as brilliant as I remembered it, and then it was even BETTER. Because I already knew all the plot bits I was able to linger and enjoy how well everything is put together, and savor the excellently, realistically constructed conversations between the all-too-loveable characters, before EVERYTHING AWFUL AND HORRIBLE STARTS HAPPENING TO EVERYONE BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A JUST UNIVERSE. (I know that's a spoiler but man, I would not want to sic this book on ANYONE without due warnings. Well, there are some people who would appreciate said siccage as much as I did the first time I read it, but I'm thinking most of those will have read it already.) Anyway, it's an incredibly philosophical/theological book for a literary-cum-science-fiction novel and I'll be mulling it over (again) for weeks.
The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner
Second book in the series, just as superb as the first, the third is on order now. Turner has an incredible gift for laying hugely emotional scenes out in this clean clean understated almost emotionless prose that knocks my socks off everytime! Much more powerful than actually writing the emotions, when it works, and so very difficult to pull off - I'm honestly having trouble thinking of another writer who can do that.
Steward of Song, by Adam Stemple
Murgh. This was a good book, but not a brilliant book. Normally that wouldn't be a problem - I like good books! They don't all have to be geniuses! But the problem here is that this book is a sequel - and the original book (Singer of Souls) was boneshakingly awesome - I really loved that book. So this one let me down just by not being amazing. Even though it's still quite good! Interesting story! Fun characters! Delightful use of language & mythos! Sigh.