Finished this week:
Three library books plus lots of old favorites.
Three library books:
Spanish Dagger by Susan Wittig Albert – This mystery is part of Albert’s China Bayles series. Most of the books of her series is standalone, but this is the middle one of a planned inner-series “trilogy” that has a sub-story arc about the mysterious death of China’s father. The main plot of this book is about China’s best friend’s boyfriend’s murder. Fast read.
Austenland by Shannon Hale – Shannon’s first adult novel; she recently won the Newberry Medal for Princess Academy. Although with only five books up her sleeve (with more in progress), she’s turning into one of my favorite authors. Austenland follows Jane, a Colin Firth’s Darcy-obsessed thirty-something single woman whose wealthy relative sends her on vacation to a place best described as Jane Austen immersion to try to kick the obsession. Jane waffles between wanting to indulge in the fantasy while feeling like a complete fool. And when love finally looks her way… is it also just a big sham, part of the storyline? This was a fun read, with delicious little tidbits about all of Jane’s previous “boyfriends” at the beginning of each chapter.
The Overlook by Michael Connelly – Another mystery featuring Connelly’s main character, Harry Bosch, this time, investigating an execution-style and possibly terrorist-related murder while clashing with the FBI… as usual. Another fast read.
Almost everyone I know has been rereading the Harry Potter series in anticipation of the movie and new book. I chose to start rereading The Vorkosigan Saga, now that I have all of the books related to Miles (I don’t have Falling Free or Dreamweaver’s Dilemma).
Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold – Two books (Shards of Honor and Barrayar) in one volume. These are the initial two books of this science fiction series, introducing us to Miles’ parents.
Shards of Honor introduces us to Cordelia Naismith and her run-in into future husband Aral Vorkosigan as his prisoner — or ally? From completely different cultures (and planets) and on opposite sides of an impending war, their relationship goes through and survives betrayal (or is it?), a top-secret plot, and well-meaning psychologists bent on proving that Cordelia was tortured or brainwashed by Vorkosigan.
Barrayar throws Cordelia, newly married and pregnant, into the midst of political intrigue on her new home planet. The dying emperor appoints her husband as Regent until the emperor’s grandson comes of age. Will they survive assassination attempts, a political coup, and hostage situations? Among the many physical and emotional wounds incurred by the characters is the significant physical damage incurred by Miles, still in utero, as a result of one of the assassination attempts. This physical disability plays a major part in his character development and choices in the rest of the series.
Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold – This is another compilation or “omnibus” edition, which includes The Warrior’s Apprentice, a short story called Mountains of Mourning, and The Vor Game.
The Warrior’s Apprentice follows Miles Vorkosigan as he fails to get into the military academy because of his disabilities. Sent off on vacation to help get away with it, he ends up mortgaging some of his inherited land to purchase a spaceship, accepting an impossible mission to help pay off the mortgage, somehow acquiring a mercenary fleet, breaking a military blockade, and avoiding a sinister plot against himself and his family. Despite the often humorous escapades of falling into deeper and deeper… holes, his adventures come at great cost to himself and those closest to him. Barrayar provides some backstory but Bujold actually wrote this one before it (and after Shards of Honor), so it is a standalone book if you want to dive into it first.
Mountains of Mourning is a novella or short story where Miles is sent by his father to investigate a murder charge, in the process, exercising his wits and maturing a bit more.
The Vor Game feels like three books in one because so much happens. After graduating from the Imperial Service Academy, Miles gets assigned into the middle of nowhere to “prove” his ability to be a good subordinate. He ends up averting a massacre by being insubordinate, and is then sent off-planet (to allow things to die down) to help investigate some mysterious arms-building and military movement in a nearby system. He meets up with his former mercenary fleet, deals with layers and layers of intrigue, rescues his emperor, and generally saves the day, of course. You may get a bit dizzy while trying to follow who has captured Miles now, but it is well worth the effort. One of my favorite scenes in the whole series is near the end of this book. (Specifically, when Miles is negotiating with Cavilo.)
Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem by Lois McMaster Bujold – This edition includes Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, and the novella Labyrinth. As discussed in Bujold’s afterword, the three books/novellas are linked chronologically and also topically, as they explore the related ideas of “uterine replicators” (a small tank where babies can develop ex-utero) and genetic alterations.
Cetaganda follows Miles Vorkosigan again, this time sent on a diplomatic visit along with his cousin Ivan to the distant planet Cetaganda — which in Miles’ grandfather’s day had tried to conquer Barrayar unsuccessfully but with very bloody results. The Cetaganda Empress has died, so Miles and Ivan are there to represent Barrayar. Naturally, Miles falls into the middle of some high-level plotting, political machinations, assassination attempts, and is nearly framed for a theft and murder, to boot. On top of this, you get to learn a lot more about the Cetagandans themselves; they have taken genetic alterations to a new level of art form…
Ethan of Athos doesn’t have Miles appear in it at all, except when referenced by one his mercenary fleet commanders, who is one of the main characters. The book primarily follows Ethan, a doctor from an all-male planet (see, more genetic stuff again), and his first foray off-planet to try to obtain ovarian cultures. Unfortunately he gets captured by some unsavory characters, gets saved by aforementioned mercenary fleet commanders, and the story goes on from there.
Labyrinth brings us back to Miles again, who has been tasked (under his alternate identity as mercenary fleet admiral) to retrieve a geneticist from the amoral cesspot known as Jackson’s Whole, where you can get anything as long as you have the money.
What I love about Bujold’s books are that they involve political intrigue (usually), twists and turns (which are plausible without being too hard to follow), and plenty of humor, while still preserving the humanity and soul of the characters.
With a bookmark:
(Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)
- The Power of a Positive No by William Ury
- Miles Errant by Lois McMaster Bujold
- The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
- A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson
Library book box:
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- Magic Street by Orson Scott Card