Monday, January 19, 2015

a quick update on the reading

Ah, January. That month when you can't decide whether you would rather sleep all day or load your entire family into the car before dawn and be a hundred miles away by the time the sun rises. Hardly even matters which direction you're driving (although we only have a choice of three; driving east would take us precisely half a block before the trip ended in damp fashion). And sometimes, this month, you wonder if the road trip urges are just so you would have an excuse to eat junk food. Winter pudge! Get on my butt!

So, am I going to update this blog more than twice a month going forward? We can hope so, but life has been utterly crazy lately. The upcoming "Baby FAQ, Month 9" post may be nothing but SHE'S BUSY ALL THE TIME. NO, ALL THE TIME.

This month's reading:

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. Trundling my way through this series years behind everyone else. It's fine; I've seen the movies; like everyone else, I get bored with our heroine's dithering over boys. 

To Dwell in Darkness, by Deborah Crombie. Minor and efficient entry in a series. Man, lady police officers will fall in bed with sexy suspects at the slightest opportunity, if the literature is to be believed. 

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime, by Judith Flanders. This book was awesome! I expected it to just be sort of sensationalist and maybe a bit interesting, but Flanders is crazy-smart, crazy-accessible, and hilariously funny. She inserts deadpan comments throughout that made me laugh out loud, and assumes her readers know all the Victorian literature, which I appreciate even when I missed a reference (I just looked it up, which is what good books assume the reader will do, instead of dumbing everything down). 

War of the Whales, by Joshua Horwitz. I wanted to like this, in that environmental law is interesting to me, and a book about the legal battles to protect whales from the US Navy's sonar testing seemed like a good fit. But it just never quite grabbed my interest. 

The Tooth Tattoo, by Peter Lovesey. Talk of not grabbing my interest. Terribly dull mystery.

Re-read The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley. It doesn't age as well as I wanted it to: something's odd about the pacing, Aerin's success relies too much on being the chosen one instead of her own efforts, and I remembered all too well how, as a pre-teen, I was jarred out of the book's world and back into the real one when we get into the love interest bit. I'd been thinking, Yes, I can identify with this woman, maybe I can be a warrior in my own little way; and then, boom, immortal wizard is swearing literally eternal love for her once she is done living a mortal life with the king who  is also ready to die for her, and I remember SO clearly the coming-down-to-earth thump of Oh. Warriors have to be worthy of male desire too, just like every other woman. 

Somebody tell me, please, that there is a book out there for young readers in which the story does not give the tiniest shit how universally-desired the heroine is or which dude she ends up with. There must be one! Somewhere! I don't have time to write one!

The Divorce Papers, by Susan Rieger. I only borrowed this book because a main character has a last name you do not often see in literature - in fact, I have only seen it once before, in Rob Roy. This last name being, well, mine, I could not resist. But Rieger is no Sir Walter Scott, and though she might have gotten away with a non-epistolary novel, she does not at all get away with her attempts at Doesn't Everyone Lay Out Their Character Development in E-Mails to Their Bosses? and when my Kindle made a command decision to keep crashing whenever I opened this, I took it as being let off the hook. 

The Abbott's Agreement, by Mel Starr. My Early Reviewers book. A medieval surgeon solves crime, as they surely did. The research is unobtrusive and comprehensive, and this was a nice book to read in the bath, and that is not to be sneezed at. 

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. I have more incoherent noises to utter about this book than I do words, but in a good way. So mash up David Copperfield and Great Expectations, set the story in modern times with lots of drug use and illegal activity, make it kind of about a piece of art, have nothing likable about our hero, and stir for 900 pages and I should have HATED this book and instead it kind of blew my mind. It struck me as a book worthy of Tartt's talent - no one could ever deny she has talent, but the absurd story and suffocating pretension of The Secret History overwhelmed everything else, and while The Goldfinch did occasionally fall into the same trap of, erm, Donna, people don't actually talk like that, reading it was - apart from the story's momentum - the very satisfying experience of a writer living up to her abilities. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. No, I had not read it before. It's... well, sigh, I can see all the Clever Satire, yada yada, but it's boys doing boy stuff, and that induces despair in me these days.

The Dark Vineyard, by Martin Walker. Mystery set in rural France. I like this series, but this one was all about wine, and wine is a topic I have always found duller than a great thaw. So I glazed over a fair amount.

The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson. A novel about performance artists who decide to use their kids in their art, and how those kids deal with growing up. Painful to read at times, but very good. 

Stay warm, everyone. 

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