Weeks of Reading Highlights 6-10-11

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these things, so I’m definitely not going to cover everything I’ve gotten through cover to cover. (It’s just as well. One of the best was nigh-on-impossible to acquire.) I’ve read a lot more than these, but these are the highlights; blame computer issues for my concision.

One of my favorite recent reads was Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory, from the Vorkosigan series, the last one of her books I managed to acquire (due to being the only one not in electronic format on the CD that came with Cryoburn, nor in any of the two-volume-and-a-shorter-piece omnibus volumes with which one of my friends introduced me to the series). There’s something nifty about the idea of a primary character who can wreak as much damage on himself as Miles does in the first few chapters and still make it through, and the theme of questioning and establishing his identity, particularly when contrasted with a similar arc for Illyan, renowned throughout the earlier books for his untouchability, fascinates me every time. (Besides, it has the elephant story.)

Then there was the mystery in a completely different vein I just picked up, We’ll Always Have Parrots, a murder mystery set at a fandom convention for a fictional TV series. There were plenty of draws for me even before I got too far in; I’m a sucker for birds, and the parrots looked like they were going to play a greater role than the birds in the last book in the series I’d picked up—and besides, the early explanation about the characters in the series being named out of a medical dictionary? Too much fun. I’m rather prone to stereotype threat when it comes to geeks like us, so I was glad to see that her references to some of the odder habits of the fandom was more in the laughing-with range than the laughing-at, and the bit where the narrator walks in on a few of the actors engaging in a dramatic slashfic reading (made even funnier by the fact that her brother, an actor in the series, plays one of the characters involved) was priceless. It’s all in the details!

I also managed to come across the text of The Story of the Stone, by Barry Hughart (believe you me, this is the kind of thing that practically requires hunting up electronic texts, as while the first and third volumes of this series are in print and affordable, this is the out-of-print second, and the only way I’ve ever seen it purchasable is as part of a hundred-dollar omnibus volume. Not at my pay grade!) After being wowed by Bridge of Birds, I had to read this one, though I wasn’t quite as impressed in some ways—maybe it was that the novelty of the world had worn off a bit, or that the characters weren’t quite as quotable. But I still can’t say no to plot meets Chinese legend, Master Li and Number Ten Ox were as fun as I remembered them, and I wanted to know where the obligatory reference to the Dream of the Red Chamber (a classic I ran into in college, of which Story of the Stone is also an alternate title) would come in.

Happy reading!

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