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Kraken, A Wild Light, The Medical Detectives, St Peter’s Fair

China Miéville, Kraken
Oh China Miéville, I forgive you for Iron Council. This book is marvellous, the best kind of thriller — the kind where you start out with no idea what’s just happened, three quarters of the way through the book you realize that everything you’ve learned so far still gives you no idea what’s happened, and in the last quarter you get an explanation that is nothing like what you expected but makes perfect sense. It’s gloriously masterful writing, and that’s even without introducing the wonderful scenery of Kraken’s mystical London. Every bit of it is spectacular, from the Londonmancers to the familiars’ strike to the horror of the Tattoo and his minions. And the characters, everyone with a startling amount of depth and sincerity, even the people who start out seeming to be nothing more than scenery. I loved it, and I wanted to read it again as soon as I was finished. Alas, library New Book loan times…

Marjorie M. Liu, A Wild Light
Third in her Hunter Kiss series, an urban fantasy series by a paranormal romance writer. I’ve never read any of her romance novels, but I’m tempted to, because one of my favorite parts of the series is Maxine’s relationship with Grant, her long-term boyfriend. They’re together when the series starts, and their mutual support and understanding is wonderful. None of this “I have to lie to you to protect you” crap with them. Their relationship is a focus in this book, for the first time, when Maxine loses her memory of the past few years along with her memories of what happened the night her grandfather was killed. (Well, the body that her grandfather was living in was killed, actually. Her grandfather is…complicated.) And then it starts to get epic. I swear, every time I read one of these books I think, It can’t possibly get any more epic than this, and then in the next book, it does. I’m loving it.

Berton Rouché, The Medical Detectives
This is the book the TV show House is based on. You can tell, because almost every single story in this book is an episode from one of the first couple of seasons. (It’s possible some of the other stories were made into episodes later; I stopped watching partway through season three.) These are, of course, real-life stories of epidemiologists — specialists whose job it is to determine how an outbreak of a dangerous disease or medical situation occurred, so as to prevent it happening again. The story about the pesticides on the jeans (also an episode of House) has made me paranoid about new clothing for quite a while. The book is excellently written; at times Rouché constructs a narrative almost devoid of direct quotations that nevertheless allows the perspectives of the individuals involved to shine through, but when he’s got a patient or doctor who’s a good storyteller, he’ll just quote them directly, sometimes for pages at a time. I admire a nonfiction writer who knows when to get out of the way of the people they’re interviewing.

Ellis Peters, St. Peter’s Fair
Still more Cadfael — possibly the last for a while, as I’ve gone on a noir kick and Cadfael is not really compatible with Phillip Marlowe. My favorite part of these books, I think, is the strength of the characters. Like any mystery series, there’s a strong focus on the one-off characters in each story, but they’re always interesting, powerful, and strong in their own way. I particularly like Peters’ ability to write strong female characters who nevertheless fit perfectly into their role in a society that offered them fairly limited options. Strength of character isn’t in opportunities, it’s what you do with them, and the young women in these books are always holding themselves up high.

30 Days of Books: Day Twenty-One

Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)

Eddi and the Phouka in Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks. I’m not usually a fan of romantic relationships, because in order for me to like them, I have to first like the male character, and then like the female character, and then be convinced that they would be even better together. Most writers…don’t even make the second, never mind the third.

But I’ve always loved Eddi and the Phouka, since I first read the book (and reread it, and reread it, and reread it), while I was studying abroad in Ireland. I think maybe it’s because it’s only one of three romances of Eddi’s, and it’s clearly the most stable and potentially longlasting, for all we only see the beginning of it. But it’s the Phouka’s declaration of love that’s always gotten me.

“How do you know it’s love? Maybe you haven’t learned anything after all.”

She expected a joke, an impassioned protest, an airy denial. Instead he looked gravely into her face and replied, “I’ve no surety that it is. I know only the parts of what I feel; I may be misnaming the whole. You dwell in my mind like a household spirit. All that I think is followed with, ‘I shall tell that thought to Eddi.’ Whatever I see or hear is colored by what I imagine you will say of it. What is amusing is twice so, if you have laughed at it. There is a way you have of turning your head, quickly and with a little tilt, that seems more wonderful to me than the practiced movements of dancers. All this, taken together, I’ve come to think of as love, but it may not be.

“It is not a comfortable feeling. But I find that, even so, I would wish the same feeling on you. The possibility that I suffer it alone — that frightens me more than all the host of the Unseelie Court.”

How can you not love that?

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