2014 reading roundup

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Preliminary disclaimer: I dislike end-of-year overviews. At least I dislike the circumstance that from, well, the end of November until the beginning of January everything is end-of-year overviews. When we still had a subscription to a newspaper (er, last year) I avoided the last issue of the year because it was nothing else than that.

That said, I promised someone to recapitulate. Here you are, you-know-who-you-are.

I did a lot of rereading in 2014 because most of the time I was just too tired and distracted to handle new stuff. I still haven’t read some of the must-reads (The Goblin Emperor, Ancillary Justice) but I did get Daughter of Mystery for my birthday, bought a couple of books in Germany which may not have been new but were new to me, got On a Red Station, Drifting when the author had a special offer, bought a book I thought I’d read but couldn’t remember, retrieved Alex Kourvo’s Christmas present, and treated myself to Katherine Kurtz’ latest as soon as I knew it had come out.

Old books

I didn’t keep track of everything I reread, but here are blog posts about Miss Marple, Elemental Masters (and again, and again) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Also, reread almost all of Dorothy Sayers and Sayers-and-Walsh (rereading Gaudy Night is always painful because the wrapup is so damn good that it makes me almost agree with Annie, every bleeping time) but got stuck halfway through The Attenbury Emeralds. The Walsh-only novels are fanfic, of course; A Presumption of Death is decent Harriet Vane fanfic but The Attenbury Emeralds is… well. More than half of it is people telling each other what happened before they knew each other, with the book’s action as stage business in between. One review (update: gone in February 2018) uncharitably says that the first quarter “reads like a bad drawing room comedy between two people who are doing their best to appear that they know and love each other but don’t really”, and I wish I hadn’t read that before finishing because now I can’t read it in any other way, or at least not without saying all the time “but they do love each other!” Couldn’t finish it this time around, even though I slogged through the quagmire and got to the part where boys take a lot of sensible initiative.

I picked up The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the last week of the year– I’d forgotten how delightful it is. I’ll probably seek out some sequels because I think I’ve never read any.

New books

Daughter of Mystery Blogged about here. I’ll reiterate that it’s AWESOME and EVERYBODY SHOULD BUY AND READ IT before the next book in that setting comes out in April 2015 or so.

Gritlis Kinder A nineteenth-century tear-jerker by the author of the much better-known Heidi. It does help to have your book made into a film. (This promptly makes me want cast Daughter of Mystery in my head. Stop doing that, head.) Children die of consumption and that seems to be not only a normal thing, but a good thing because they die angelically and go straight to Heaven. Instant culture shock and good for my German. Read it mainly while waiting for buses, for some reason, and will forever associate it with that (as I do Year of the Griffin, only that one has rain as well).

Es hätte auch anders kommen können A historian explores crucial points in history — not only German history but also what influenced it — and how it could have worked out differently. Very good for my German; almost beyond my skill in parts, so I’m still reading it off and on, very slowly. It’s splendid background for my alternate-history universe, telling me exactly what to do to have Germany still a federation of little kingdoms and duchies in the 1960s.

On a Red Station, Drifting Strong story, intriguing culture, but I couldn’t help being influenced by Judge Dee which I cut my imperial-Chinese-culture teeth on. Must read more in that universe to shake off that priming.

Tante Mathilde en de sterren van de Grote Beer Blogged about here. Disappointing; not by far Paul Biegel’s best. I know it must have been in our house at one time, and I probably even read it but I’m not surprised that it was singularly unmemorable.

Gratitude Alex Kourvo’s Christmas present. Poignant and touching. What I liked best about it was the slow lead-in; I wasn’t actually sure what was going on until about two-thirds into the story.

The King’s Deryni I was on an IRC channel for a while where Katherine Kurtz also hung out, but timezone incompatibility made me stop trying to keep up (every other Sunday after midnight…) But I knew it was coming, and ordered it in hardback because I refuse to buy ebooks with DRM. I got it well before Christmas and finished it just before the New Year. That it took me longer than I expected has two reasons: (1) It’s in very light, smallish type on large pages, so hard for my middle-aged eyes to read by lamplight. If I hadn’t had that annoying anti-DRM principle, I’d have got the easy-to-read ebook and would probably have finished it much sooner. (2) It’s mostly filler, set before the first Deryni book ever, and I know how good Katherine Kurtz is at killing sympathetic characters for plot reasons so I keep thinking with anguish “how will she get rid of him/her?” whenever the protagonist makes a friend or turns out to have a relative who isn’t in Deryni Rising. (In fact most of them don’t die, at least not before he’s fifteen and the book ends.) Also, it suffers from some of the same shortcomings as Tante Mathilde: one thing after another, some in excruciating detail, some that I would like to read more about glossed over. Will blog about it when I’ve digested it.

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