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One of the things I can do, when my brain is too scattered from deadline-watching to give me new words (or, often, to even focus enough to revise), is read. Reading seems to use different muscles, so to speak, and it’s a breath of fresh air for my poor, overworked thinking apparatus.

Lately, therefore, I’ve been reading—on the bus, sitting at the table over breakfast or lingering over the remains of dinner, in the half-hour after evening chores are done and before time for the TV show I’m trying to stay up with. Some of this is comfort re-reading and some is research…and then there are the books I’ve been wanting to read, waiting for the moment to be right (if I’m actively writing, I don’t do a lot of reading).

Allow me to give a shout-out to Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth. It’s general fiction, I guess, though I’m pretty bad about figuring out genre. And it’s a book about werewolves, but don’t let that or the conceit of its free verse format put you off; this is a book whose format matches its content, a refreshingly low-angst and modern take on the werewolf mythology. Recommended if you want a good read that’s not overly complicated.

Another new-to-me book I recently finished was Steve Brust’s The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. Like most of Brust’s work, I really enjoyed this one—an hour and a half that might have seen me in the chatroom was spent instead lingering over the last third of the book. I was reminded with wistful pleasure of the touch Roger Zelazny had with words and with narration; that hint of bitter-but-wiser-now self-deprecation that informs so many of Brust’s (and Zelazny’s) protags strikes me just right. As Greg, the protag in this book, says, some artists’ work hits you just right and it becomes impossible to offer an objective critique. I will say instead that this book now goes on my permanent bookshelf, alongside the Vlad Taltos books and Freedom and Necessity and all the Zelaznys in the world.

(I found a copy of Jack of Shadows recently – squee! I think with that volume I now have all the novel-length work Zelazny published.)

And now I’m going to go open mail and let my brain poke around with thoughts of the Brust-and-Zelazny protags’ attitudes and how they manage to convey that bitterness with a soft touch and without dwelling in backstory.
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I did manage finally to finish a couple of more books on an enforced break from beating my head against the plot problems in the current work in progress and herewith are the reviews.

Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic: Wow. In the previous book review I asked for scholarship. I got it in spades with this book, which took me an unprecedented week+ to work my way through - and even then I really only read about two-thirds of the book, up to the point where the era I'm researching got left behind. I take notes as I read on the bus, or at work, or at the dining room table, on strips of white paper about 8" by 2" (obtained from someone else - free note paper is free note paper, eh, and they fit well in nearly any book), and I have a sheaf of notes ready to be transcribed for this one. If you have any interest in the forces that brought about the settling of the British colonies in the Americas, or the golden age of piracy, or the availability of labor for said settling, this is a terrific resource. With endnotes!

It really was enlightening, let me say, to see the role of the indentured servant (as originally sketchily taught to me in grade school) from the point of view of the person driven to this servitude, rather than that of the former colony which benefitted from their labor and would rather not note how many of them were truly forced to lay the literal groundwork for this state and nation. And to understand the effects of enclosure from both perspectives. And to be given a glimpse - the entire purpose behind reading the book at all - into the mindset of ordinary people of the time and place, so as to extrapolate what went into the thought processes of Josh and his acquaintances.

A great read. Really.

After the Linebaugh/Rediker work came Steven Brust's Dzur - how the hell did I miss this one coming out? I've been waiting, in a sort of back-burner sense, for the book in which Vlad discovers he's procreated, and I missed it! I didn't realize it existed until I went to buy Jhegaala. Ah, well. Now I have both--and I have Vlad's reaction--yes! I'm going to wait on Jhegaala for a little while, however, the better to press onward with the work in progress, at least while it wants to give me progress.
clarentine: (Pirtate!)
The bad thing about this time of year is that I always end up being pulled in so damned many directions it's hard to really accomplish anything.

The work on Satisfaction is progressing nicely, though I had to bow my head and accept a mocking last week. Last round I missed not a day, but last round was in the winter and I did not have design work and preparing for various and sundry summer vacation things and a dog who insists I go outside and play with her every other hour when I'm home. Nevertheless, I'm something like 76 pages (SMF) ahead of where I was at the start of this round, and that is a hell of a lot of words. Progress is incremental, but it is being made.

*****

Research since I last reported in included such varied topics as species of bamboo native to Central and South America, amongst which is something that is called chusque, out of Colombia and Ecuador; antique bone/amputation saws; ship's lamps; plantains; and the symptoms of the onset of malaria.

*****

Last weekend, [livejournal.com profile] matociquala broke my heart yet again. If you haven't read New Amsterdam, I recommend you find a copy. Lovely bittersweet collection of separately-published short fiction that, taken together, makes a nice narrative. And yes, damn it, the ending killed me...but, after gnashing my teeth over it, I had to admit that it wasn't as if I didn't see it coming.

Brava, Bear. Keep on slaying me.
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It's said that every book has a reader for whom that book hits every touchy spot, scratches every itch, meets every need.

This book does that for me. I finished the book the night of Christmas, retreating to a quiet room away from all of the noise and hassle of family so I could concentrate without being expected to make conversation. And then I promptly re-read the ending, and again.

And again. *g* Before another week had elapsed, I'd gone back to find the "best parts" and ended up staying to read the entire thing through once more.

As such, I'm probably the least possibly objective reviewer the book could have, but I want to encourage those who occasionally read this journal to pick up Bear's latest and, hopefully, love it as much as I did.

Carnival is the story of two spies intriguing for their governments, against their governments, and for and against each other. (In case you hadn't noticed, spies are one of my beloved themes.) It's the story of two old(er) men, deciding that friendship and love mean more than success on someone else's yardstick. It's a great tale if you like to see evil governments and their manipulators getting what they deserve.

Plus it's got spaceships and a utopia that isn't, and broken idealism, and chases to the death through the steamy jungle, and some really cool techno stuff that I actually understood. (Not the science head, here.)

So. Go, find the book, and read it. I promise you won't regret it.

::clears space on most beloved book shelf for this one::

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