juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
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Title: The Beginning Place
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Narrator: Rob Inglis
Published: Recorded Books, 2006 (1980)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 225
Total Page Count: 214,400
Text Number: 652
Read Because: personal enjoyment, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A young man discovers a gate that allows him to escape from the burdens of his mundane life into a twilight world where time seems to stop. This is a fairytale—a small, understated one. It reminds me of Diana Wynne Jones's depictions of troubled family life and fantasy lands, and carries a similar sense of the numinous, but is significantly less whimsical. Instead, Le Guin's voice is precise, restrained, and cut through with moments of piercing insight. The discovery of the premise is the bulk of the book; the action is profound, but secondary. Instead, the focus is the characters (the shifting PoV allows the readers to see them through each other's eyes, a touch which Le Guin writes particularly well), what they set out to escape, and what escape turns out to mean. I'm not content with the conclusions: they're so heteronormative and grounded in normalcy as to feel timid. But the overall themes, the constrained and beautiful atmosphere, the gently mournful tone, are all I could hope for—this is a small, beautiful comfort read.

Title: Lady of the Lake (Witcher Book 7)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Translator: David French
Published: Gollancz, 2017 (1999)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 530
Total Page Count: 214,930
Text Number: 653
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Ciri gains control of her powers as war comes to a head. The narrative framing makes for a slow start, but for the most part, this longest book in the series doesn't feel that long. The middle political section, while still distant from the main characters, has strong PoVs and is more interesting, and easier to follow, than series's norm. And it's the reunion of Ciri, Geralt, and Yennefer that makes up most of the book. Emotional investment has always been the center of this series, and that's especially true here; it grounds the bittersweet, ambiguous, fairytale-esque ending, an ending that transitions beautifully into the games—and while I take issue with those, the entire multimedia narrative is a success. And, always, everything comes down to Ciri, to the investment she inspires, to the strength of her character; a bittersweet finale suits her well. I've had caveats on and off with this book series, but the underlying emotional appeal is so consistently strong as to make the effort worthwhile right to the end.

casually finds and finally attends to review notes from, uh, last november

Title: Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire)
Narrator: Paula Christensen, Jesse Bernstein
Published: Hachette Audio, 2010
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 580
Total Page Count: 215,510
Text Number: 654
Read Because: personal enjoyment, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After a worldwide zombie outbreak, blogging has become the news. A trio of bloggers embark on coverage of a presidential campaign. I sure do hate zombies (it's a good question, then, as to why I read this), but this book held my attention. The zombies are distinctly not different, but the worldbuilding elements are intelligent and unique, from the mechanics of infection to technological developments to post-outbreak social structures. On a local scale, moment to moment, this has energy and conviction. The relatively simple conspiracy plot is less successful, and the frequent action sequences grow tiresome; but that anyone can die creates significant risk and consequence, and that's what sells the ending. Characters are distinctive (the protagonist's disability, which informs all aspects of her experience but isn't her singular defining trait, is particularly well-rendered) and the relationships are engaging, but the urban fantasy-style banter destroys the dialog. I can see why some readers find this series so engaging, and I was pleasantly surprised, but just this book is enough for me.


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