The King’s Peace
2002, originally 2000 • 544 pages • Tor Fantasy
Now this was how I wanted to kick off my 2016 reading—with a gloriously chunky fantasy novel by an author that I both trust and trust to treat me like a human being. And, specifically, I wanted to start with this book, this specific mass market paperback edition copy of this book.
This was one of the last books I bought from the used bookstore in my hometown before it closed—not because of poor sales (another one, albeit part of a local chain, popped up instantly across town), but because the lady who ran it retired. The immediate response, from both myself and a friend who grew up the town over, was “Damn, I still had used book credit there!” But it still felt odd to drive past the floral shop in its place when I was picking up baguettes for Christmas dinner. I find something very odd and poetic about the fact that I have managed to, through no fault of my own, lose both of the two-story bookstores that played major roles in my life. (The other one, at least, is still standing, just a bit closer to the ground.)
The fact that this copy also passed through my favorite used bookstore in college, which is happily very still open and, I assume, still trying to get the cursed cardboard standee of the Tenth Doctor I sold to them last month off their hands, just completes the circle. With the fiercely curated remains of my library finally coming to join me sometime soon, my literary universe feels much more immediate and contained.
The King’s Peace just seemed like a very fitting way to kiss the contours of what my literary universe used to be like goodbye.
My Real Children
by Jo Walton
2014 • 320 pages • Tor Books
Jo Walton is an unmitigated genius.
Everything I have ever read by her—Tooth and Claw, Among Others, and the astonishing first two installments of her Small Change trilogy—has been consistently spectacular, so when My Real Children was first announced on Tor.com, I was over the moon. But over the course of my move, I lost track of it. Which is why it was meaningful to come across it in the new fiction section at my new local library. That’s in hindsight, of course; in the moment, I snatched it off the shelf and scurried home to binge read it.
My Real Children is the story of Patricia Cowan, an elderly woman suffering from dementia in 2014. Or is that 2015? Patricia’s memory is deteriorating rapidly, and she finds herself remembering two lives that overlap and differ in significant ways. In one life, Patricia was Tricia, wife to the cruel Mark but mother of four beloved children. In the other, Patricia was Pat, a travel writer who raised three children with her beloved biologist Bee. The novel opens and closes with the elderly Patricia, but otherwise tells Patricia’s life story, from her childhood and schooling (the same in both lives) to the divergence point (a marriage proposal cum ultimatum) to the twilight of her lives.
It’s the last Sunday of the year, so you know what that means. Either I’m getting stingier or this year hasn’t been the best reading year for me—while last year’s year in review post was agonizing to curate, I did this year’s in a few hours. Hopefully, 2013 will ring in a higher batting average for my reading. But it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed my reading this year; I definitely have, especially my nonfiction reading—I mean, I discovered Tom Wolfe this year, so that is a definite plus. As ever, this list is culled from what I read in 2012, not what was released in 2012 (although I read more recent titles this year than in past years).
Ha’penny by Jo Walton
Sometimes, life just comes at you, you know? I tend to do everything in my power to make my life uncomplicated—I’m using my words more, courtesy of Captain Awkward, I make time for sleep and exercise, and I try and do my work in a timely fashion. For the most part, it works, but sometimes life, the ornery thing it is, catches up with you, and I ended up spending a few days feeling utterly crushed by work. In such a fix, I needed a book and an author I could rely on for a quick but mindblowing read—who else could I turn to but Jo Walton?
Name a book you love in a genre you normally don’t care for. What made you decide to read it? Did it make you want to try more in that genre?
What genre do you avoid reading and why?
Hey, that’s four questions!
As the name of my blog and self-appointed title suggests, I’m a literary omnivore. I will and do read anything, if I think it’s worth a shot. That qualification is usually based on whether or not the story sounds interesting, not genre, which I define more as setting than anything else, although I am currently coming to grips with the fact that there’s more to it than that, but those don’t apply to my taxonomy. I don’t avoid any books.
That said, I’m not overly fond of “urban fantasy”, which is actually an awful misnomer for supernatural fiction (assuming fantasy means secondary world with or without magic, which is how I define it, urban fantasy would be something like The Lies of Locke Lamora—fantasy with a focus in urban environments) or mysteries that aren’t Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been burned before, but I still maintain my faith that any story is possible of being amazing. In the supernatural fiction camp, I’m awfully fond of Michael Thomas Ford’s Jane Bites Back. In the mystery camp, I really liked Farthing and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, both alternate history mysteries.
Farthing by Jo Walton
I’ve really enjoyed the Jo Walton novels that I’ve read—Tooth and Claw and Among Others—but neither blew my world up. I’d heard really good things about her Small Change trilogy (so named because the novels in it are Farthing, Ha’Penny, and Half a Crown), but my past experience with her didn’t send me out to the library immediately to pick up Farthing. It sort of meandered across my currently hypothetical desk at the end of June, languishing until I needed something to break the good-but-average rut my reading was in. Said rut was absolutely shattered.
Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate it—but it’s also the last Sunday of the year, which means it’s time for my top ten list. As usual, these are my top reads of 2011, not the top published books of 2011. But I’ve also added my favorite film adaptation and my favorite audiobook of the year, since I’ve started really keeping those posts up. I was lucky enough to have a good handful of five star books, but that meant leaving off a lot of four and a half star books that I honestly loved off the list. I invite you to rifle through those categories to your right. And here’s 2010 in review and 2009 in review, if you’re so inclined. I think that’s all the housekeeping, so let’s get started.
What’s the oddest book you’ve ever read? Did you like it? Hate it? Did it make you think?
Ultimately, I’ll have to go with Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw, which is Anthony Trollope with dragons. Walton’s not going for just weirdness there; she makes biologically literal a lot of Victorian ideas about sexuality and class and runs with it. If you’ve never read Walton, I recommend it—it’s good, it makes you think about gender and class, and it’s a lot of fun. My runner-up would have to be Galatea 2.2, which is essentially a construction for Michael Powers to just let rip about human consciousness. I enjoyed it, but, for the life of me, I can’t think of anyone to recommend it to!
I’ve never mentioned it, but I absolutely love poking at my site stats. How people get to my blog (I’m apparently linked on my college’s website! This is completely new information to me!), which posts people read the most (my review of the film adaptation of Atonement and my review of A Clash of Kings), and, of course, the search terms that lead people to my blog. There are many paths to my establishment, it seems, and several of them are paths trod by very confused people. Today, then, I will help these poor souls by answering their search terms, as culled from search terms that led actual people to my blog this September.
Alternate history is a particular favorite of mine—I love the idea of how just one event can change the course of the world, and seeing that changed world. On top of that, contrasting it against our world usually brings up some very interesting issues. Today, we’re looking at two alternate history novels that take Nazi domination as their divergence point from our own history.