labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
[personal profile] labellementeuse
All authors write in English unless otherwise noted.

1. - 1st Jan - Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm - this is quite brilliant!

2. - 6th Jan - Fiona Farrell, Limestone - saw this in Whitcoulls (sigh) with two other books to read in my bag (double sigh) but still had to have it and read it RIGHT THEN because you know... I love her stuff. Very much enjoyed it but I wouldn't recommend it as unhesitatingly as Mr. Allbones' Ferrets or Six Clever Girls Who Became Famous Women.

3.- 11 Jan - Mary McCallum, The Blue (Penguin NZ 2007) - wonderful book with the slight problem that it didn't, IMO, end, just sort of trailed off. However, it was a real pleasure to read.

4. - 13 Jan - Connie Willis, Uncharted Territory (Bantam - Spectra 1994). My first Connie Willis, definitely not my last. I absolutely loved the conceit of this novel, which I can't describe without spoiling the reader, so all I can say is: this is a very short book, and if you like science fiction, especially classic science fiction, you will like it; you will also like it if you enjoy critical thinking about gender and a l'il bit about race. Also, it's funny!

5. - 15 Jan - Jeff Mariotte, Angel: Haunted (Simon & Schuster - Simon Pulse, 2002). This is, yeah, a franchise novel. It was cheap and second hand and I thought, hey, maybe if it's good it'll be almost like getting a bit more Angel and Cordelia in my life, since I miss them. Sadly, it just wasn't that great. It may have been the writer, of course - I bought two, so we'll see. But in this one.. well, the conceit is, Cordy goes on a reality tv thing, 9 people stuck in a haunted house. She figures she'll be fine because, like, she lives with a ghost! I read that blurb and thought AWESOME, it'll be like those terrific first season episodes where Cordy gets a bit scared at first and then she remembers HEY, she's from Sunnydale, she used to hang out with a Slayer, she's CORDELIA, and becomes badass and saves the day. Except... she didn't do that at all and it was boring and there was no tension. Um. Sigh?

6. - 17 or 18 Jan - John Scalzi, Zoe's Tale (Tor, edited PNH, 2008). I greatly enjoyed this and would recommend it to SF fans. I became a big fan of Zoe, I thought she was funny and practical and clever and wise, although occasionally maybe a little too wise. As a book it reminded me a great deal of some Anne McCaffrey novels - Nimisha's Ship and The City that Fought, mainly. The book is part of a series of novels called the Old Man's War universe, which I gather are mainly about Zoe's father (although if someone can tell me that they're also a lot about Zoe's mother, I might be a bit more inclined to read them.) I decided I didn't have a problem with reading the fourth book first, and indeed I enjoyed it very much and wasn't at all lost. I still don't get why Roanoake didn't just become part of the Conclave at the end though, so Zoe and her family could stick around! Perhaps that's in the other books.

7. - 20 January - Arundhati Roy, God of Small Things (Harper Perennial, 1997) Well, this won a Booker prize, so I expected beautiful, post-colonial literary writing and I got it. I enjoyed it very much, although I mostly read it in lunch breaks/on the bus in the mornings/evenings/eating dinner/in bed, none of which except maybe evening bus rides are really conducive to reading passages about spit and vomit. I really dislike this thing some authors have for writing great prose about spit and vomit (Maurice Gee, bro, I'm looking at you.) It grosses me out and since I like to read while I eat it also really annoys me. Writing about spit and vomit surely hasn't made you special, edgy, and clever for about a hundred years?

8. - 21 January - Ron Koertge, Boy Girl Boy (Harcourt, 2005) I was genuinely surprised to find that this book was only four, five years old, because the plot felt distinctly dated to me, and the book felt like it was from, oh, 1990, 1995. In fact, the plot was the least interesting thing about this book, which I have to say didn't grab me as a whole. I enjoyed the writing and thought the characters were well-drawn. I thought Elliot's characterisation was a bit confusing and I never fully understood the movements he made, and I'm not sure that his issues have really been resolved in the end - but perhaps that's because the decision he made is the one I am least likely to make. Anyway, it wasn't a waste of time, a satisfying read, but not a book to re-read for me, I think. Possibly I'm just too old for it: I read a lot of books about teenagers with a gay subplot when I was 15, maybe that's why it feels dated. But you know, I compare this to a book like Boy Meets Boy and I can't believe it was written two years after that in terms of its queer content. Simultaneously, there are a lot of other books which I think rely in the same way on their writing to get them through a book where nothing much happens (like for instance, Bloomability by Sharon Creech) and yeah.

9. - 25 January - Sharon Creech, Hate That Cat (Bloomsbury 2008; first pub Joanna Cotler, HarperCollins US). Sharon Creech writes deceptively simple, very beautiful literary fiction for children and teenagers, which I highly recommend (Bloomability is my fave). Hate That Cat is a sequel to Love That Dog, which you should read first. Both are novels in verse (a fairly popular style in young adult and children's lit in the last decade-ish) about a boy called Jack, told through the poems he writes for his English teacher, Miss Stretchberry. They are quite charming and I would really recommend them for your children, if you have them, and if you would like them to grow up to be poets, because the books are poetry about a boy while also being poems about poetry.

10 - 26 Jan - John Scalzi, The Android's Dream (Tor, PNH, 2006). Quite enjoyable, with a plot that moved fast enough that I almost didn't notice that you get well over a hundred pages before you meet a woman with more than one throwaway line (and the woman who spoke in the previous hundred pages was a secretary, and she said "there's someone here to see you") and that there may not be any people of colour in the whole thing. Classic military SF, she said sarcastically. Also, I sort of think the title is a cop-out, because the reference to the classic novel makes you think it's Thinky SF, whereas the reference is actually just an ironic joke.

11 - 31 Jan - Jessica Mitford, Hons and Rebels. I knew vaguely that there were Mitford sisters and that they were English and literary, and that's all I knew before I read this - and wow, those whacky Mitford sisters, huh! A great memoir, easy to read and entertaining, but it did feel a lot like the first volume of many - yet briefly perusing her wikipedia page, it seems like she did write more memoirs, but not in a direct sequelly thing a la Janet Frame (or whoever.) At any rate, I found the ending abrupt, but otherwise a funny, fascinating book.

12. - 02 Feb - Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey - deeelightful! I loved it, probably it's my favourite Austen I've read.

13 - 03 Feb - Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. Although this is really just a Battle Royale rewrite in a more Western dystopia, it's still pretty freaking brilliant. I loved Katniss, like LOVED her, and unlike others, I didn't find the ending annoying at all. Possibly that's because I can go buy Catching Fire tomorrow, but as cliffhanger endings go, it's really not bad. Notes I particularly liked: the muttations (heh); Rue (oh man ;.;); the way it's hopefully going to turn out to be freaking awesome break-up/make-up in the next book.

14 - 10 Feb - Mary S. Lovell, The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family - Abacus 2002 (Little, Brown first pub 2001) - biography. Enjoyed it although took me awhile to get through, really pretty interesting, endnotes drove me nuts - why don't people put discursive (i.e. interesting) endnotes as footnotes and leave reference endnotes (i.e. mostly boring or repetitive) til the end? Nonfiction book.

15 - 17 Feb - Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna, HarperCollins US/Faber & Faber GB, 2009 - This has had uneven reviews but I enjoyed it very much. The writing is terrific, although I already knew I loved Kingsolver's work. Criticisms seem to be that it becomes too much of a soapbox, a tendency that I would say is not exactly new to Kingsolver's work, or that the main character is unknowable/unappealing, to which I sort of want to say that just because you, reviewer, did not like or could not identify with HWS doesn't mean nobody else could. Anyway. I liked it a lot. YMMV.

16 - 19 Feb - Octavia E Butler, Kindred, Beacon Press 2003 (first pub 1979, Doubleday). READ THIS BOOK. Clean, compelling writing, amazing story, what The Time Traveller's Wife wants to be when it grows up. I had pretty high expectations of this because everyone says how amazing Butler is, although I was aware that she is mostly known for science fiction. As might be deduced from the way I just compared it to Niffeneger's book, this is a bit more genre-busting. I would usually call it science fiction on account of the way it combines genre elements (time travel) with an eye - both eyes - on sociological concerns, but Butler herself has said that it isn't SF, so there you go. Urban fantasy is perhaps a good call although it's not at all urban. Anyway, whatever, who cares what genre it is, this is a fantastic book about a woman, Dana, who travels back to slavery-era Maryland. Highly highly recommended.

17. - 22 Feb - Diana Wynne Jones, Enchanted Glass, HarperCollins Children's, 2010. A known quantity, sort of. DWJ is fantastically varied and I imagine that reading Dark Lord of Derkholm, say, when it was published, could have been quite shocking. This one though I would slot in fairly neatly with Archer's Goon, and probably the most modern of her books I can remember reading - although AG was probably pretty up to date when it was published in 1984 (what a peculiarly appropriate year of publication, by the way), it's just that I wasn't born then. Anyway, I enjoyed it, thought the dedication was very sweet, etc, but I can't say I found it surprising. I do think some of the touches, notably to do with race, were not quite as deft as I would usually expect.

18 - 23 Feb - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink. Gladwell writes smart, accessible, and interesting popular science-ish books (he describes them as 'intellectual adventures'.) He is a reliably good read and there's always something intriguing about what he writes. Blink is about judgments - especially snap judgments - and when it is, or isn't, a good idea to listen to your instincts. It is really a good read, but I think it has one problem in that it's not always clear to me exactly what the difference is between good blink decisions and bad ones - for example, compare the case of the firefighter who got his team out of a burning building before it collapsed because of good instincts, with the four policemen who shot and killed a man standing outside his own apartment building doing absolutely nothing to provoke them. What's the difference between their snap judgments, except one saved lives and the other destroyed one? However, a good read.

19. - unknown date, feb - Randa Abdel-Fattah, Ten Things I Hate About Me. Pretty cute, will read more of her for sure.

20. - unknown date, feb-march - Margo Lanagan, Black Juice. Loved it, freaked me out, highly recommended especially if you like Neil Gaiman and other creepers. I can't wait to read her new novel, Tender Morsels.

21. - 14 Mar - Connie Willis, Passage. Yeah, I'm still not reading the stuff Willis is famous for, because I can't get ahold of it second-hand (presumably because people like them enough to hang on to them). Anyway, Passage is a terrific thriller, really gripping.

22. - 16 Mar - Octavia Butler, Clay's Ark (London: Arrow Books, 1985). Hm. I didn't love this the way I loved Kindred. It's just so grim and depressing and I've never been a big fan of dystopic or apocalyptic fiction, especially when the lives of the people living it are also apocalyptic. I think you can usually have one element or the other before it just gets grating. However, like Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, this has a lot of redeeming qualities so I liked it anyway, just in a very qualified way (it's a lot grimmer than Snow Crash.) I guess at least a chunk of my difficulty with it was that it's super unclear who's in the 'right' in a way that just wasn't true of Kindred. Kindred gives you a rounded and sometimes sympathetic view of people doing terrible things, but you never feel unsure about whether or not what they're doing is actually terrible. I can't say the same of Clay's Ark. Pretty seriously gripping though.

23 - 25 March - Eleanor Catton, The Rehearsal (Wellington: VUP, 2008). Brilliant! Absolutely compulsive reading. This first novel is fascinating, tres pomo but somehow not in an infuriating way, layered and fascinating, especially if you've spent any time in an all-girls' school or a drama school. Recommended.

24 - 30 March - Lili Wilkinson, Pink (Australia 2009). Loved it! And my love for it was only barely dimninished by the fact that, in this book about a bisexual character (or at minimum a bicurious lesbian), the bi word is mentioned precisely never.

25 - 31 March JUST IN TIME to have read a quarter of the necessary total, a quarter of the way through the year - Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (London: Scholastic, 2009). Weirdly, although I found the first book absolutely compulsive reading, I found the first half of this book a huge drag. It just got grimmer and grimmer and it seemed Katniss kept having the same problems and just. not. getting. it, although there was some stuff that was genuinely amazing - the District 11 part of the tour, for example. (Sob.) Images there that were utterly inspiring and devastating (the old man getting shot.) Anyway, the second half was back into seriously compulsive territory which is why it's 3:45 am on a school night and I'm still awake. (Sigh.) This is a cool trilogy that is beginning to remind me a lot of Winter of Fire, which reminds me I must lend it to my classmate Rachel. Real issues: the ending. Jeeze, what happened, they realised it was only going to take up 4 pages of the final signature and they made her cut it? the other thing is that it wasn't awesome break-up/make-up storyline. I realise that the romance has to be drawn out but can Katniss please just break up with Gale already. She's just not that into him. On the positive hand, in some ways I feel that this is a more creative book than the first, which is basically a Battle Royale rehash - Rue's death was, of course, devastating but also absolutely inevitable in #1, whereas the shakedown here was quite different.

26 - 01 April - Naomi Alderman, Disobedience (London: Viking, 2006, now Penguin) I liked this a lot, although it gave me a feeling I occasionally get when I'm reading books about being Jewish, which is a slightly icky feeling that I may be enjoying it because I find it exotic. I very rarely read books about being Christian - possibly never, if you don't count CS Lewis' fiction (maybe Screwtape counts?), and rarely books about being X religion (I've read some Randa Abdel-Fattah, which are these fairly cute books about growing up Muslim in Australia, and.. that's it, I think.) On the other hand, religious feeling is a meaningful human experience that I think is probably good for me to read about, yet I usually find I can't read meaningfully or tolerantly about Christianity in fiction because of the whole went-to-an-xtian-school-etc thing. So. I dunno. *shrugs* Anyway, I enjoyed this very much, I think Alderman was pretty clever here, I could wish it had a slightly better cover though (it's all... pink.)

27 - 02 April - Janice Hardy, The Pain Merchants. As I was going through this book I felt myself getting angrier and angrier. Not because it was especially badly written - in fact, I really think this book has only one flaw. Maybe two. It is entertainingly paced, the main character is likeable but not too likeable, she is surrounded by a colourful cast of characters including many women and girls... except actually, she isn't surrounded by a colourful cast of characters. Because her friends and her family are all... blond/e. Or red-haired. Pale. The bad guys? Not so much.

This book is set in a fairly typical Venice-style fantasy city/island, Geveg. Our hero is Nya, a Gevegian orphan struggling to take care of herself and her sister, mostly by stealing. She needs to do so because Geveg has been invaded and taken over by the Baseeri - a race described as usually having dark, coarse hair and brown skin (one is blonde with brown skin, a very bit character who incidentally is the only even a little bit sympathetic Baseer we meet) who now get all the good jobs, money, etc. All of Nya's friends are Gevegian or Verlattan - not Baseeri. And as I read on, I kept waiting and waiting to meet a sympathetic Baseeri. I didn't meet one. And that's why I got angrier and angrier - because I would have enjoyed this book. I like Nya, the worldbuilding includes a fairly original twist, the plot is fun. But seriously, and let this please be a lesson to faux-European fantasy everywhere, pale does not mean good. Dark does not mean bad. Take this shit the fuck out of my favourite genre, assholes. In short, I will not be buying the second or third novel in this trilogy.

28 - unsure of date - Banana Yoshimoto, Hard Luck & Hardboiled - two novellas, basically, but screw it, I'm counting them. Beautiful, elegant writing in translation from Japanese. Like reading two really good short stories.

29. 6 April - Karen Healey, Guardian of the Dead (Aus: Allen & Unwin, 2010) - Technically a re-read but fuck it, I'm counting it. Loved it!!! Highly recommended.

30. 13 April - Carrie Jones, Tips on Having a Gay (Ex-)Boyfriend - An easy, pleasant enough read, well-written, that nevertheless did not move me especially. Carrie Jones is a white American woman.

31. 13 April - Nancy Mitford, In Pursuit of Love (London, 1945; this edition Penguin Classics, Love in a Cold Climate and Other Novels, 2000). Enjoyable, funny, not as funny as Cold Comfort Farm but still recommended. English novel in the spirit of people like Gibbons and Austen - witty social commentary wrapped up in romance - but with a bit of a sudden downer ending, perhaps inevitable in a novel published in 1945. I'm looking forward to the sequel, Love in a Cold Climate, which is generally reckoned to be better, apparently. Great value for dosh - $30 for the book which contains three of Mitford's novels, but annoyingly not the three related ones - there are four novels, I believe, that she's quite famous for: In Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate, and Don't Tell Alfred, which all follow the same family; and The Blessing, which follows a different group. Frustratingly, The Blessing rather than Don't Tell Alfred is included.
32. 14 April - Diane Duane, A Wizard of Mars (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) sadfgh AT LONG LAST omg when I got home to the amazon box sitting outside my room it was the Best Moment Ever. AWESOME, obviously.

33. 15 April - Megan Whalen Turner, Conspiracy of Kings (NYW: Harper Collins Children(Greenwood imprint), 2010) So the package that brought WoM also brought this (seriously: Best. Moment. Ever.) This was, of course, terrific, although not quite as poetically brilliant as I usually expect from MWT. Still, well worth waking up early this morning to finish it.

34. 15 April - Lois McMaster Bujold, Shards of Honor (1986; in Cordelia's Honor omnibus, NY: Baen Books, 1999) My first Vorkosigan book - in fact, my first Bujold, I believe. I was really in the mood for space opera when I picked this up and I've heard a lot of good things about the Vorkosigan saga, so I was excited and I very much enjoyed it. I'm not enjoying Barrayar, the sequel and second half of the omnibus, quite so much (more politics, less badassery), but it's a good bus and lunchtime read. Interesting look at reproduction that I imagine has been examined further in other books?

35. 15 April - Author redacted, title redacted. This is the as-yet unpublished book I had to review for my reader's report. Since I hated it, I am definitely counting it as a read - it is book-length but took me rather more time than usual to get through it! I can't really comment on it here but rest assured I've said a lot elsewhere.

36. Sometime between 15 and 22 April, Charles De Lint, Widdershins - yeah, it was terrific, big shock, it's by De Lint. Not wild about the sudden loss of disability, though, or about the idea that somehow Jilly needed to be deserving (?) to get healed. still and all, a great read

37. Sometime between 15 and 22 April, Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar. Didn't enjoy it quite as much as Shards of Honour because well, Cordelia doesn't shoot anyone. That strikes me as a shame. But she's still a bit of a badass and I'm sad that this is the last Cordelia book.

38. 22 April, Seanan McGuire, Rosemary and Rue (Daw, 2009). Great fun, classic American urban fantasy in the Emma Bull mode though more than slightly less artful, I fear. Nearly gave up on this half-way through because of [spoiler], but I asked [ profile] kitsuchi who loaned it to me and she said keep going, and I did, and I'm very glad I did. Toby is pretty cool.

39 & 40: 23 April, Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles, Murder, and Mayhem. This is an omnibus containing Cetaganda and Ethan of Athos, as well as a short story, Labyrinth. I found Cetaganda mostly kind of dull, although I did finish in a day so... apparently not that dull? It's the first time I'd met Miles as an adult and I liked him very much. On the other hand, I LOVED Ethan of Athos, can't believe it's taken me so long to read it, and I thought Labyrinth was super, super cute.

41. 24 April, Joshilyn Jackson, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. I don't know that I liked this as much as I liked Between, Georgia or Gods in Alabama, which I read last year. However, it was more than readable.

42. 25 April, Octavia E. Butler, Fledgling. BRILLIANT BRILLIANT BRILLIANT, read it obsessively. I'm starting a mental list in my head of 'Good books by Octavia Butler to give to people who liked X book by a white person.' So far my list is: If they liked Time Traveller's Wife, pitch them Kindred as TTW with a social conscience; if they liked Twilight, pitch them Fledgling as terrifyingly amazing with equally weirdo sexual dynamics (just don't explain how much better explored those dynamics are.)

43. 27 April, Lois McMaster Bujold, The Warrior's Apprentice. Not much to say really, I'm getting into the usual series swing and will probably race through them. Um... poor old Bothari? Miles improvising the Dendarii Free Mercenaries into existence is fabulous? Pretty standard reaction really.

44. 27 April, Lois McMaster Bujold, Borders of Infinity.

45. 27 April, Lois McMaster Bujold, Brothers in Arms - see, I said I was getting into the swing of the series! (it helps that I'd already read a big chunk of Borders of Infinity, the novella Labyrinth). Currently I really just don't know how I feel about Ivan. He seems to be written weirdly inconsistently - well, not him, but more Miles' feelings towards him. Sometimes I can't even tell if Miles likes him.

46. 27 April, Seanan McGuire, A Local Habitation (Daw 2010). In some ways I liked this better than Rosemary and Rue, although I'm not sure that I get how high Toby got in [ profile] chickfight. OK, yeah, she'd take Anita Blake, she'd take Agnes Nutter, she'd mayyybe take Door (I don't think so, though. House of Arch, baby). But Hunter? Yeahhhh... no. Well... I can sort of see her taking Hunter, but I doubt it. As for MINERVA MCGONAGALL... Oh dear. Oh, dear. No, my dears, I fear Minerva would rip Toby into tiny little Daoine Sidhe pieces.

47. 30 April, Lois McMaster Bujold, The Vor Game.

48. Sometime between 30 April and 4 May. Lois McMaster Bujold, Mirror Dance. Terrific, I really like Mark in this one.

49. Sometime between 30 April and 4 May. Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate. I liked it, but I actually didn't like this one quite as much as Pursuit of Love (perhaps because I put it aside for about a month in the middle, though.) Still very light, funny, entertaining.

50. 4 May. Lois McMaster Bujold, Komarr. Good-good, but not up there with my favourite Miles books, I don't think. I do LOVE Ekatarin, though, and I think it's really clever treatment of their romance. I really miss Elli and Taura and Elena, though.

51. 4 May. Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign. Definitely as great as I was hoping!

52. 5 May. Lois McMaster Bujold, Diplomatic Immunity - OK, I didn't love it as much as ACC, but I still liked it a lot because I really love Bel. Like a lot. And sort of sad that this book is basically writing the herm out. :(

53. 8 May. Connie Willis & Cynthia Felice, Promised Land. This is basically marriage-of-convenience Mary Sue curtainfic. I enjoyed it a great deal. Not sure how to deal with the firemonkeys as indigenous people, whether they were meant to be or not... because this is also a novel of colonialisation and from that perspective it's fairly problematic.

54. 8 May. Fleur Beale, End of the Alphabet (2009, Random House NZ). I enjoyed this a great deal, I always think Beale's work is good. However, I think it's a fairly curious protagonist: Ruby, the protagonist of the book, is functionally illiterate - she can't read or write except with great difficulty (we're not talking dyslexia but a more serious problem, I guess.) That is to say, the protagonist of the book is someone who could never read the book, and one of the book's underlying messages - that there are successful and worthwhile contributions to be made outside the field of schoolwork, and that you shouldn't feel bad if you can't read - will never reach its intended audience, although I suppose it might engender some compassion.

55. 8 May. Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos, Annie Di Donna. Logicomix. I enjoyed it very much: this is a graphic novel about the life of Bertrand Russell, a significant figure in the foundation of modern logic and computer science as well as a noted pacifist &c. The book is mostly about narrating his life, but it explains some basic logical concepts and, IMO, illuminates some of the empty foundations of some kinds of philosophy. Recommended.

56. 10 May. Dylan Horrocks, Hicksville 1998 (Wellington: VUP, 2010)

57. 14 May. Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison 1930 (London: New English Library, 1968)

58. 15 May. Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night 1930 (London: New English Library, 1968)

59. 17 May. Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer (NYC: HarperCollins, 2000, I'm guessing.) The reviews for #s 56-59 are here

60. 20 May. David Levithan and John Green, Will Grayson, will grayson (2010).

61. 21 May. Renee, The Skeleton Woman (Huia, some year.)

62. Sometime in May - Maureen Johnson, The Bermudez Triangle. TBH I found this fun but not amazing, and therefore a bit disappointing (especially because I had MJ confused with Maureen McCarthy whose stuff I think is always really excellent and quite a bit more literary than this NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT).

63. 24 June - I did read stuff in early June! It was all re-reads tho since I was ahead and desperately needed some re-reads. Also I re-read like two of the Otherland books which as you know are by Tad Williams and frigging doorstop books. Anyway. Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Eighth Grade Super-Zero. This is a wonderful, wonderful middle-grade book highly recommended. I don't know why books about middle-school elections are always so good (erm, the only other one I've read is John Howe's The Misfits, which I also recommend) but they seem to speak directly to a passionate, awkward preteen in me.

64. 24 June - Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle - Let It Snow. Cute but nothing special, I'm afraid. Probably suffered from being bracketed by what I bracketed it with.

65. 24 June - Adam Rex, The True Meaning of Smekday. Eleven-year-old Gratuity (known to her friends as Tip), her cat Pig, an alien called J.Lo on the run from his own planet's colonising forces, and their flying car Slushious, roadtrip over the [former] USA to find Tip's mother and save the world. As if that wasn't great enough, this book is a super, super clever post-colonial novel [but if that's not your thing and you weren't looking for it you'd hardly notice, honestly!] SO AWESOME. Go forth and buy it.

66. 29 June - Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

67. 29 June - Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - these are the first two (of six) volumes of a series of graphic novels about Scott Pilgrim. They are a satire on hipsters with 90s video-game style super-fighting, so obviously I <3 them. I was a bit worried at first that they didn't realise that Scott was a ASSHOLE, but they do, so it's OK.

68. ?? July - Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant. Huge fun, one great line that I talked about here.

69. ?? July - Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgim & the Infinite Sadness

70. ?? July - Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

71. ?? July - Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex. I enjoyed this book hugely but I had some weird feelings about the intersex stuff, mostly because Cal says things like: "I was never uncomfortable being a girl. I am always uncomfortable being a man." and you generally get the impression that the reason he considers himself a man is because he's attracted to women, which, um: not a requirement? OK, unreliable narrator, but still. However, I still found it hugely readable.

72. 4 August - Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

73. 5 August - Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim Vs The Universe

74. 5 August - Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour

75. 11 August - Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me. AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING. Yet another reminder that some of the finest, most precisely elegant writing being done today is being done for children. Really really beautiful.

76. 22 August – Jaclyn Dolamore - Magic Under Glass. I found this just kind of eh. I didn't really feel like I got to know Nim – I knew a lot about her background, but not about her or her ambitions, and I didn't care for either of the male leads (although the slashy subtext in the older guys was cute, but one of them's dead so it was more sad.) I did like that Mr whatsit didn't end up with his wife though, I thought that was realistic. The world-building is fairly nice (although I think the UK cover still counts as damn' whitewashed.)

77. 24 August – David Hair – The Return of Ravana 1: Pyre of Queens (originally Penguin India 2010, I read it through for -ize endings and checking which words needed glossing) – I very much enjoyed this. I liked all the protagonists, I liked that Vikram/Aram was very clearly the Nice Guy and the text DIDN'T reward that, I liked that Deepika and Darya were both badass, and I really dug both Amanjit and Shasti. I thought he managed the similarities and differences between the reincarnations really nicely and it was all very clear right up until the last bit, where I was all, why is Vikram Rama all of a sudden? SO CONFUSED. But anyway, other than that, pretty nifty! Kicking myself that I didn't get a copy of the manuscript to the sequel before I left.

78. 24 August – Linda Olsson – Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs (Penguin NZ, around 2005 I think, would have been Geoff Walker) – this took me awhile to get into and I'm still not wild about some sections – frex chapter (blah) – they just don't talk like real people. However, I found the memory bits wonderful and the developing relationship between Astrid and [dammit, her name] touching. OTOH, I could see where it was going (Astrid dying, etc) from about a third of the way through, so that's sort of a shame. However, in terms of observations about human nature, etc, this novel is pretty stand-out in its accuracy (to me). Sometimes they're presented just a little didactically and literally, though, which I think is this book's fatal flaw.
79. 26 august – david mitchell – black swan green - a wonderful little book. Very, very different from Cloud Atlas - I read CA first, and my friend Clare told me she didn't like it nearly as much as Black Swan Green. At the time I thought she was crazy, but they really are extraordinarily different in scope, purpose, method. I like them both very much, though.

80. 31 August – Alan Hollinghurst – The Line of Beauty. This was recommended to me at book group as having lovely writing and it does, indeed, have very beautiful writing and from that standpoint I highly recommend it. It flows easily and absorbingly, it is careful, fine and thoughtful without ever losing track of readability. On the other hand, its subject matter strikes me as fairly tired for a 2004 Booker Prizewinner (or perhaps that's the point), and I found myself getting increasingly frustrated with Nick Guest, the narrator. The subject matter is basically the Grim Gay Eighties, although a strength of the book IMO is that this is not relentless and it does also deal with class issues, sort of.

There's a term someone at Tiger Beatdown came up with, Fond Memories Of Vagina, to describe a certain type of literary novel written by older men about their, indeed, Fond Memories Of Vagina (ah, it was Garland Grey here), and the Grim Gay Eighties strikes me as a similar thing for gay men except, of course, for the fact that Fond Memories Of Vagina is a story that is told non-stop and fully supported, while the Grim Gay Eighties, not quite so much: these books (usually fiction, sometimes pretty clearly lightly fictionalised autobiographical writing, and occasionally memoirs) are about how difficult it was to be a gay man in the 1980s, as HIV spread rapidly in the closeted culture of the time. Now, to be clear, I think these books are important in a way I don't think Fond Memories Of Vagina are important: they tell a story that is not often told and they tell it in a way that humanises a population that has been fairly demonised (even by young gay people), and also in a way that can make it very clear that the spread of HIV was deeply related to the way society forced gay men into a position as social outsiders, usually closeted. However, like Fond Memories Of Vagina, I do find this getting pretty tired sometimes. (I haven't read any Grim Lesbian Eighties books except the Nancy Garden oeuvre, though. Recs?)

The writing in The Line of Beauty, though, is so good that it almost makes up for it – except the protagonist is a) a fucking idiot (pun intended) and b) a hideous, horrible snob. I spent the whole second half of the novel wanting to shout at him to stop dating closeted rich people, get over himself, get his own flat. And of course I suppose the novel punishes him for that (no spoilers) or, rather, makes it clear that he probably should have done all these things. But it's very frustrating because Guest is out – to his family, to his friends, to the people he stays with, even to the extent of willingly pissing people off – and he's not at all political so, fine, and I really liked that about him, but he makes the dumbest, dumbest decisions. But he persists in dating closeted people who are really unhappy with him pretty much, as far as I could tell, because he wanted to be close to rich people – not in a grasping way, really, but because he was insanely attracted to beautiful, expensive, tasteful things, including people. And this ties into the other annoying thing, the snobbery, which set my teeth on edge – especially because it seems to be not just Nick but the novel: everyone in the novel who can't tell you what an ogee curve is or who gets confused between Caravaggio and Carpaccio or who can't recognise a Gauguin (and not a famous one!) on sight is tasteless, tacky, and insensible to the beauty of art.

And yet at the end of the day I really enjoyed reading this novel. The ending is very powerful and sort of alienating, but that's OK to my mind. It does try to force you into feeling sorry for Guest (and I think the last line is absolutely unforgivably abstract) and I resisted that but, still. The characters in the novel all seem very real; you can see them all as whole people. The language used to describe Catherine's manic depression will stick with me for awhile. But Nick annoyed me so! Sigh.

81. Sarah Rees Brennan, The Demon's Lexicon. Yeah yeah I hadn't read this before, yeah yeah I wish I had (except not really because I only have to wait a week for Unity to order in The Demon's Covenant, so there.) My one comment on this book (other than that I very much enjoyed it) is that I have rarely felt so very clearly the influence of another writer in the book I was reading. That writer, of course, is Margaret Mahy, and I was completely unsurprised to see her acknowledged as one of Brennan's literary influences in the author blurb at the back of the book.

82. Emily Horner - A Love Story: Starring My Dead Best Friend. So this is a sweet, lovely story, very much in the David Levithan mode of storytelling (more Nick & Nora/Will Grayson, Will Grayson than Boy Meets Boy, though): sweet, everyday high school romance, teenagers who are articulate about their feelings, literate, and slightly too charming to be real, and teenagers who perform spectacles for love - romantic or platonic. Levithan, of course, is past master of the Grant Adorable Indie Gesture; Horner is not quite so OTT, but still really charming. Cass' best friend Julia dies in her junior year, and two things happen: Cass bikes across the USA with Julia's ashes, and Julia's drama friends put on a musical called Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad (yes, best title ever.) Along the way, Cass tries to deal with her unresolved, unnamed feelings towards Julia. This is one of the first YA novels I've read that deals with closeted gay teens being in love with their straight best friend, which kind of surprises me, since I think this is one of those pretty universal teen experiences. I think it did a pretty good job from that perspective; I think Cass' romance is pretty cute and I think her adventures are pretty incredible. Really a sweet book.

83. Sarah Rees Brennan - The Demon's Covenant

84. Diane Duane, Omnitopia Dawn

85. 22 september. Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog

86. 30 october (LOLOLOL IKR. I think I did read some stuff in there that I didn't write down, but generally it was a terrible month and I did a lot of scrappy re-reading). Geektastic, ed. Holly Black and CC.

87. 8 November (JFC, I've got to get my skates on!) Beautiful Malice.

88. 12 November - Gifted, Patrick Evans

89. 16 November - Robert Muchamore - Class A

90. 17 November - E L Konigsberg - The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place

91. 19 November - Curtis Sittenfeld - Prep - I'm in two minds about this book. On the one hand it in some ways has that first-person POV problem where everything that's going on for them seems small and insignificant and I just want to shake them; on the other hand, many times reading this book I nearly cried because I felt it was so precisely describing me, or someone I knew, or a feeling I know intimately. It is a bit tell-don't-showy and I'm not sure comparing Sittenfeld to J D Salinger is all that deserved, but it certainly moved me.

92. Julie Anne Peters - Between Mom & Jo - made me cry. Aw! Just nice.

93. Wendy Cope - Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis

94. 12 December - Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson - Towers of Midnight - I KNOW, I KNOW, but it was actually sort of borderline OK ish. Nynaeve is awesome again. Egwene gets more awesome every second. LAN. LOTS OF LAN CONTENT (comparatively). Amazing shit happened to Perrin. Actually it was just ... a really satisfying read, coming at it from the perspective of someone who no longer really cares about prophecies and unanswered questions and stuff, just about what happens to My People. And it's all kind of working out! Brandon Sanderson Gets Plot-related Shit Done.

95. 22 December - Caroline Stvevermer - A College of Magics - I find this hideous cover & shocking print absolutely awful design for a charming little alternate-history fantasy (Europe 1909, a bunch of extra countries + magic). Classic college story, classic Edwardian, really charming, the design should have been way different. Great, unusual ending. Jane & Faris both = fabulous although I did want Faris to end up with Reed.

96. 27 December - Patricia Duncker - Hallucinating Foucault - this is a lovely gem of a book which I really shortchanged by reading in fits and starts. I don't know why, since I liked it very much, but I just wasn't able to sit myself down with it - especially odd since it's very short and the writing is extremely concise, clean and clear. But there was a real density of thought and idea, so perhaps I just needed a lot of time to digest.

97. 28 December - Sarah Laing - Dead People's Music. This was what I was looking for when I picked it up: a comfortable novel, about a character with whom I had immediate sympathy. Rebecca was born in Wellington where, as a teenager, she learned the cello on an instrument made for her grandmother - a Jewish woman who escaped Germany as a child during the second world war, only to die young, of breast cancer, on the other side of the world. Rebecca eventually travels to London on a music scholarship, drops out, moves to New York to become an indie musician. I enjoyed the novel tremendously, its careful detailing of the Wellington most familiar to me, and its equally careful renditions of two cities where I've spent hardly any time but want to desperately. It was by no means a worldshaking novel: it was, simply, a good novel, not a great one, but comfortable and readable and warm, and I'll be looking out for more books by Laing.
98. 29 December - as you can see I'm rushing determinedly to hit my 100 - Laurence Cosse, A Novel Bookstore (originally Au bon roman, translated by Alison Anderson). This 416-page novel took me more or less the whole day, solidly, taking a little time out to eat and do some washing and the other small chores of existence. I liked it very, very much, I think it's a terrific book; I read it with my Harrap's Compact French Dictionary next to me so I could look up the French jokes. Of course it's a bit ironic. Francesca and Ivan open a bookshop in Paris called The Good Novel. They are determined to sell only the very best novels, not what's popular or populist or new, not essays or scientific books: old novels, mostly, that have stood the test of time, novels from all over the world, novels that are necessary. And I mean, to me - I read everything, not just Good Novels, in fact I don't read that many novels of the standard traditional sort. I read piles of crap, light books, books that are just like others, books that are easy. And I don't think, at all, that that diminishes my tastes for books that are wonderful, books that are uplifting, books that make me cry. And I think that there's an element of rank snobbery about that whole some-books-are-good. But then again some books are good, better, best. IDK.

99 OMG SO CLOSE - 30 December - Alyssa Brugman, Girl Next Door. This was a real disappointment to me, a so-so YA book not that different from anything else on the market. I am chiefly a Brugman fan on the strength of her first two novels, Finding Grace and Walking Naked. I've only read Being Bindy once but I remember it having a similar quality to those books - lucid, bright, intelligent writing for/about older teens, soaked in teenager-ness without adopting that particularly self-centered way of being. Essentially they brought wisdom to the genre and were just lovely. Girl Next Door ... is clearly written for a younger audience. It tackles problems fairly adeptly but the ending felt unearned, pure luck and chance. The central problems were not precisely improbable, but they were moderately unlikely (demanding a series of very bad decisions and very bad luck). I just ... didn't like it very much, I'm afraid.

100 SOME POINT DURING THE YEAR THAT I DIDN'T WRITE DOWN DAMMIT: Barbara Kingsolver, Homeland, a frankly ordinary book of short stories.

101. Also at some point during the year that I didn't write down: Teachers for South Africa, by Ellen Ellis.


labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
worryingly jolly batman

October 2017

8 91011121314

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 18th, 2017 06:13 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios