Oh, wow, it's been longer than I thought. Nobody say the "H" word.
I haven't read any really great books lately anyway.
Anthologies: I've been striking out on anthologies lately. Karen Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves, and Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners, and Theodora Goss's In The Forest of Forgetting are all either a little or way too strange for me, although the first and last of those did have some memorable imagery. I tend to pick them up because I like the titles. Maybe I should learn better and check out a Gene Wolfe anthology instead.
Sergei Lukyanenko's Nightwatch (translated into English by Andrew somebody.) I was expecting great things after I read about this book in so many places, but in the end it seemed dull and worldly to me. The premise is there are two kinds of forces, Day and Night, and they have a truce with each other that means there's a Day watch and a Night watch (and perhaps a Twilight Watch, since that's the name of the third book) that is allowed to keep the balance between them by, err, fining those who do good or evil deeds to tip the balance. What I got out of it in the end was that the Night Watch, the guys who are supposed to be good, are at least as corrupt as the Day Watch. Depressing.
The Phoenix Guards, by Steven Brust. I'll borrow someone else's description: It's the Three Musketeers in English, with some fantasy elements tossed in (like "flash-stones" instead of guns.) The chief draw is probably the witty and meandering dialogue, and possibly the character interactions that go along with it. Five Hundred Years After is the sequel, not quite in the same line, (although it's still the same characters--they seem to be exceptionally long-lived in Brust's world), and there are more sequels after that but I quit reading the next one when a traveler was about to be consecrated to a dark goddess in the first chapter.
The Woman Who Loved Reindeer, by Meredith Ann Pierce. This is kind of like Eva: a semi-classic, short, YA book. I'm not sure what to say about it except I guess it isn't really that great, even if it's readable, since I can't remember much of it now.
Tamora Pierce's Alanna series. I don't have much to say about Tamora Pierce; most of her books are similar in some hard-to-define way. At least you get what you're expecting after the first couple: comfort reads, basically. Even though these weren't rereads for me.
The Hound and the Falcon, by Judith Tarr. A monk centuries ago who is also an elf deals with his heritage. I enjoyed this more than the premise probably called for. I'd say the monk wanders into heresy about halfway through, though, with the traditional "How can it be bad if it feels so good?" line. Technically an omnibus edition of a trilogy.
Freedom and Necessity, by Emma Bull and Steven Brust. A book written in the form of journal entries and letters between characters. I thought it was supposed to be fantasy—after all, it's published by Tor—but if it really is, it's too subtle for me to see it. It's an 1850s-ish adventure around England with maybe too much philosophy and too little adventure for me to really have enjoyed it. It is completely possible that I utterly missed the point, though.
Territory, by Emma Bull. The Wild West of Tombstone, Arizona, with magic. Very open-ended with the ending. It's well-crafted, I guess, but once again it didn't really strike me.
Water Logic, by Laurie Marks. It has the wit and charm of the previous two books (Fire Logic and Earth Logic—there are some memorable lines in these, or at least one that I remember a year or two later regarding the crossing of boundaries), but also the repeated emphasis on homosexuality being completely normal and accepted. I had forgotten just how much she pushed that button. If you can ignore, overlook, or accept that element of it, these books are perfectly delightful, but I'm not sure it's an element that should be ignored. This series, like the book A Door Into Ocean, deals with how to win peace rather than war. It seems to me the use of magic to make the stones in the former enemies' wall refuse to stand on top of one another kind of defeats the profound points she might be making. But, it is funny having a main character who is a seer that tends to dream of trivial things (or seemingly trivial) in great detail, and then gossip about them. If you judge these reviews by the number of words I put into them, I obviously liked this book despite the objections mentioned above.
The Burning Girl, by Holly Phillips. I picked it up for the name, and it was about what I deserved as a result. Lots of stream-of-consciousness in it. The girl of the title has lesions all over her skin that feather open and bleed when she gets feverish, which is quite often, even though they don't apparently hurt her. She also seems to be the key to traveling between worlds. In the last two pages (I may be slightly exaggerating the lateness of this revelation) you find out why. Not very well resolved, and definitely not clearly written. I don't know whether it is well-written or not because the stream-of-consciousness interfered with my enjoyment quite a bit. It may have been profound but it looked like gibberish to me.
Only Forward, by Michael M. Smith. It starts off sci-fi and (SPOILER AHEAD DON'T READ THIS:) turns into Tam Lin, sort of. (END OF SPOILERS?) Weird book, quite witty at times (the "hero" has things like lethargy bombs that make you feel like you missed a week's worth of sleep), and it has some surprising (to me) plot twists. It also has quite crude language.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. Not what I expected. This is a huge, fat, heavy book, but most of it is pictures (the author's note at the end says there are 26,000 words.) It's kind of like a movie in book form: one picture for each page turn, for the pages that have pictures, and then some text to interconnect them. But, not everything is spelled out in the text. A boy who keeps the clocks in the Paris(?) train station running repairs the automaton his father had been working on before he died, and finds an adventure. This is sort of historical fiction, though, not magical fantasy.
Betsy and the Emperor, by Staton Rabin. Another historical novel. Tells the story of Betsy Balcombe and Emperor Napoleon once he had been exiled to St. Helena. Includes real events and even dialogue, but the author took care not to read Betsy Balcombe's book before finishing her own "as I feared it would be so charming that it might discourage me from having the temerity to attempt to tell Betsy's story in my own way." Enjoyable, I guess. Makes Napoleon seem more interesting and human, certainly.