Monday, November 26, 2012

have been on a journey, read a lot

Hello, dear readers! I am sorry for the long silence, but first I was preparing for vacation, and then I was on vacation, and then I was standing in line to have my dogs' picture taken with Santa. It's very glamorous being me.

There has been a lot of reading in the meantime. I will try to sum up:

When Will There Be Good News?, by Kate Atkinson. I continue to love Atkinson. Her books aren't really mysteries; they're character studies, and absorbing as hell. And in this one the Patented Atkinson Dog Fatality gets out of the way in the first seven pages (it's awful, though) and then we can all move forward.

Daisy Bates in the Desert: A Woman's Life Among the Aborigines, by Julia Blackburn. This is a very strange biography of a very strange woman, who did in fact live among the Aborigines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but who lied about so much of her life that no one really knows who she was or what was going on in her head. Blackburn accordingly writes this as mostly a dream-like first-person narrative with an extremely unreliable and grandiose narrator, and I kept forgetting that it was non-fiction. I found it pretty interesting, though.

Speaking From Among the Bones, by Alan Bradley. This was my Early Reviewers book and the latest in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, about an eleven-year-old chemist in 1950's England. It was quite charming and quite melancholy, and a return to form after the disappointment of the previous one in the series, a flimsy Christmas story. I look forward eagerly to the next.

Rebel Angels, by Libba Bray. This is the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty, which I liked a lot despite its flaws (neither the rules of the magic nor the geography of the magic realm are clear; a protagonist who by birthright is the Chosen One always interests me far less than one who has to struggle). Both the charm of our heroine's realistic sixteen-year-old thought process and actions, and the aforementioned flaws, continued in this book. The geography in particular got even more confusing, and the book definitely didn't need to be almost 600 pages long. But I liked it enough that I'll read the third.

I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, by Nora Ephron. This made me laugh occasionally (and cry once), but I was definitely not its target audience.

Silver: Return to Treasure Island, by Andrew Motion. The premise of this is that Jim Hawkins' son and Long John Silver's daughter team up to return to Treasure Island and retrieve what was left behind. This was a good, fun book despite the fact that I didn't understand some of Motion's choices and the ending was narratively messy. Also I think we might be expected to believe that two eighteen-year-olds who fancy each other and share a room go a night without anything happening. Uh-huh.

Murder Being Once Done, by Ruth Rendell. An Inspector Wexford mystery. The mystery was a really small part of the book; it was slow-moving and, while not quite boring, didn't keep me awake on a plane. But I'm not sure I wanted it to, so that's okay.

Bad Boy, by Peter Robinson. The latest Inspector Banks novel. It's pretty weak: the villains are two-dimensional and the title character's transition from "charming" to "emotionally abusive" happens in the space of a paragraph and the girl with him totally goes along with it. "Oh, you were praising me two seconds ago and now you're telling me all my clothing is hideous and my makeup makes me look like a slut? Great! Let's go shopping for new stuff! This doesn't send up any red flags!" We're supposed to believe she's emotionally fragile enough to get into this relationship, but also that being called "slutty" by the man she worships is something she can shrug off. Not likely.  

And I tried to read Railsea, by China Miéville. I really did try. I've never read any Miéville, but everyone I know raves about him, and the premise of this book was steampunk Moby-Dick on trains, and really how can you go wrong? Well, it turns out you can, and I'm not entirely able to articulate why. The scene-setting was pretty decent, but the writing style didn't grab me and the characters actively repelled me, in that I simply couldn't care what happened to them no matter how hard I tried. I made it forty percent of the way through before I decided my vacation reading was not allowed to be a chore.

I think that's it, for now. I hope everyone had a lovely holiday!

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