Robin McKinley's Deerskin is her "except" book; any description of her accumulated novels will probably include an " . . . except Deerskin." It's a re-write of "Donkeyskin" in its Charles Perrault version, in which a widowed king wants to marry his daughter. (McKinley talks about her problems with Perrault's version on her website.)
In case you don't follow those links, Deerskin gets an "except" because the pivotal event is the beating and rape of the princess, Lissar, by her father. It's a brutal yet non-exploitative piece of writing: an amazing sense of foreboding and dread before, and very little physical detail during, just reactions and effects—which are more than sufficient. I have heard that Lissar's reactions ring very true to people who have been severely traumatized; I personally couldn't say, but the force of her trauma, and the distance she must travel to healing, makes the book a powerful and lingering one.
That said, I still want to argue with quite a lot of it. It's possible that fairy tales—particularly the kind with helpful goddesses—might not fit very well with psychologically realistic trauma. It's not that Lissar couldn't use the help, or wasn't due for something easier than her life to date—but I can't help but obscurely feel that the magical help diminishes her very real accomplishment of recovering (partly this is because I think some of the magical help wouldn't actually have worked). The conflation of her with the Moonwoman also makes me slightly uncomfortable in ways I am unable to articulate.
I should point out that there's at least one way in which this isn't an "except" book for McKinley: the ending jumps up several levels of abstraction, going as mythic or more as Spindle's End, which is to say, very mythic. I think I followed it, but it's too bad that because it went so mythic, it couldn't answer a few practical questions I had about the aftermath.
(I think I'm going to put spoilers over on my LiveJournal, for people who've read the book and are wondering what I'm talking about. I'll leave the link in comments.)
For people interested in taking apart fairy tales and getting them to work as stories, Deerskin is worth looking at. I'm not convinced that it succeeds, but I freely admit my reaction may be idiosyncratic.
In a Sunburned Country is Bill Bryson's Australia book. Bryson is probably best known for A Walk in the Woods, which is still my favorite of his books. In a Sunburned Country is much in the mode of his travel books generally: Bryson bops around the area he's chosen, whether the Appalachian Trail or Australia, and offers up frequently-funny descriptions of his travels along with bits of social, economic, and political history.
As Chad has said offline, the problem with this book is that Bryson likes Australia too much. He explicitly says it's part and parcel of his nostalgia for 1950s America, which I frankly distrust [*]; and that colors my reaction to his assertions about Australia's recent immigration history, for instance (though to his credit he does discuss the history and current status of Australia's aborigines). It wasn't a major part of the book, and most of the time I was happy laughing about cricket or the very many ways you can get killed in Australia, but every now and again he'd go into nostalgia rapture and I would twitch.
[*] The xenophobic moment at the start of the book doesn't help. Did he really say that after traveling so far, he instinctively expects "swarthy men in robes . . . and a real possibility of disease on everything you touch," but instead is pleasantly surprised to find that "these people are just like you and me"? I'm afraid he really did. Ugh.
Australia still sounds like a very cool place, mind, and as soon as they invent reliable teleportation (and personal force-field shields to keep the spiders and snakes and so forth away), I'll be there.
(I listened to this as an audiobook, read by the author. Other than the occasional dialogue that was a little too deadpan, and the footnotes that weren't read (I've read it before), it was excellently done. I'm just annoyed that A Walk in the Woods is only available in abridged format read by Bryson; I know that book too well to listen to an abridged version, even if I cared for such things, but it would be wrong listening to anyone else narrating it.)
(I also have listened to part of A Short History of Nearly Everything on audio since then. It's narrated by someone who has an unfortunately snooty British-accented voice, and I'm not in any hurry to get back to listening.)
My Sayers re-read has stalled out after the next two in the series, Strong Poison and The Five Red Herrings. I've logged Strong Poison fairly recently, so I'll just say that in spite of its flaws, I will forever adore it for the seance bits, the lock-picking bits, and for not marrying off Peter and Harriet at the end, because what a disaster that would have been.
The Five Red Herrings, however, I just do not care about. Harriet is not to be seen or even heard of; instead we get a (nearly) emotion-free venture for Peter into a positive orgy of timetables, and I just don't care. Timetable mysteries aren't my favorite anyway, but this is such whiplash after Strong Poison, and such a step back in terms of Peter's development as a character, that I can not think well of it.
Also, there is an egregious trick early in the book, where Peter tells the police a critical deduction, and instead of the conversation, the reader is given an otherwise-blank page with a note at the top: " . . . as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page."
I have never thrown a book at the wall. I do not expect to ever throw a book at the wall. But sometimes I read a line and my hands twitch convulsively, without conscious direction, as though they'd really like to get this book away from them. (If I were Vlad Taltos, this would be when Loiosh says, "Can I eat him, boss?") The Five Red Herrings came very close to leaping away from me when I read that line.
Have His Carcase is next, which is why I'm stalled on the re-read; yes, it has Harriet, but I recall it as being extremely long, dreary, and contrived. Maybe I'm wrong; Truepenny had a lot to say about it in her series of Sayers posts (warning: huge spoilers in all of those posts). But it's hard to work up the enthusiasm for it.