Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ah, Pessimism

Waste waste waste! I have all this time on my hands and I can't, somehow, find a good book to read. Well, if I'm honest, I'm looking for a PILE of good books so I can read them all at the same time. But still, how hard can it be?

I finished Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett, this morning; now that was good. They're always funnier and more engaging than I can think to expect, though I love the idea of a pregnant pause giving birth to dozens of tiny little pauses, each more uncomfortable than the last. I think I'll have to get the next one, Making Money--it always seems like a safer investment to read about characters you already know and love. Also there are golems.

But I just can't seem to get into The Sweet Far Thing, the third Libba Bray about the realms. It's just SO long, and it doesn't really build, just meanders. Similar things happen again and again. And it's a shame, because you'd think that the potent combination of girls' boarding school/Victorian society drama with epic fantasy empire management would be rich and delightful. I rather like the society stuff (with its tinge of misused magic) better than the fantasy parts. It really should be tightened up, in spite of the fantasy world's new fondness for "lots more" of anything they like.

Brides of Eden by Linda Crew is my other current letdown. It's the novelization of a true story about a small town in Oregon in 1913 or so, in which a charismatic preacher seduces many, many otherwise upstanding young women. This sounds like a pretty good premise, especially the idea of how a bunch of normal, religious young women can be caught up in the fervor. But, 20 pages in, they're all under the spell of the new preacher, and there's no explanation of that fervor. Everyone's just suddenly a swooning fanatic, because "he's so goodlooking." Yawn.

Sold, by Patricia McCormick, is another one that I was looking forward to, but am not getting into. This is the story of a girl in a village in Nepal whose stepfather sells her as a prostitute to the city. I was expecting an emotional drama, but it's much more poetry than prose, and (I suppose not unexpectedly), very depressing. I made it pretty far in, and so far the girl still doesn't know what's happening. There are very, very long descriptions of village life, and of the many sights there are to see whenever she goes somewhere. The descriptions are lovely, but there isn't much going on in the story, and the impending awfulness is just getting to me.

I don't know why I even thought I'd take on Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Extras will of course take work to get into--Scott Westerfeld builds up his lingo to fast, you really need to get in a good headspace for it.

So I'll finish The Sweet Far Thing, and try something called Bad Monkeys, and Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, which has the dual advantages of being nonfiction and a known quantity. Muddle through, I guess. I wish me luck.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mucking About

I can't seem to settle anywhere comfortable, bookwise. I'm not really into anything special, and so of course I've checked out a bazillion library books. What am I actually in the middle of reading? Let's see...The Sweet Far Thing, which is the third Libba Bray book, and is long, very long, very, very long. I started American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, though it's unlikely that I'll finish it before I work my way through some of my library books. I never read the ones I own.

I'm having a lot of fun with Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett. I like each of his books better than the one before. He's funny, but the books are still pretty plotty. So that's nice. I think this is the closest I am feeling to actual enthrallment with anything I'm reading right now.

But today I was feeling kind of blah today, so I picked up Against the Odds, a book of short stories by L.M. Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame. I usually have a problem with short stories, but so much of the Anne books are made up of vignettes that you get into a sweet, nostalgic, moralistic groove when you read her work, and the stories don't make a difference. I also started the story collection Come to Me, by Amy Bloom. Brenda likes it, and I wanted to try Amy Bloom. I maybe should have picked a novel, but who knows? It's literary. The first story was pretty good, but me and short stories...I don't know. If I think about, maybe I'll be able to come up with an explanation.

Anyway, not a bad list. I have at least eight other library books out right now, though, so we'll see if anything sweeps me away. I have River Secrets, by my beloved Shannon Hale, waiting for me, as well as Powers, which is the next Western Shore book by Ursula K. LeGuin, and a book called Brides of Eden, which is about a religious sex scandal in 1913 Corvallis, Oregon. I know someone who lives in Corvallis, Oregon, and I like religion books and sex scandals. What can go wrong?

So I can't go too wrong, right? Am I spreading myself too thin? Ah, well--it's all good. I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I have this thing I do with unpleasantness, which is to shut my eyes and cover my ears and shout "lalalala!" until it either goes away or, more often, hits me over the head. It makes me a procrastinator at work and school (ugh, voicemail, it'll probably be someone who wants something from me, what do you say we just don't listen to it, huh?), and when I watch movies by myself at home, I often have to stop them for a while to get away from the tension. When I watch them with other people, I just fidget and squirm and sometimes leave the room when there's unpleasantness--like, say, romantic misunderstanding or bad guys lurking behind closed doors.

So right now I'm reading a book called Annie on My Mind, by Nancy Garden, which is one of a long list of young adult novels, past and present, that I've brought away with me from my summer class. This is a book from the early 80s, and is one of the first books to feature young gay protagonists whose "experimentation" is not ended abruptly when one of them dies in a pointed car accident or drug overdose. Anyway, of course that doesn't mean that the course of true love would run smooth, and our heroines are not only caught in a naughty position by the conservative and fussy school secretary (I will point out for the record that they are NOT in a naughty position at school--no one would respect that), but their exposure is about to ruin the lives of two very nice adult characters.

And for the life of me I can't read any farther. It's a fairly short book, and I breezed through 50 pages this morning, then I got to The Scene that had been foreshadowed, and I put it down, but no, I can't do that, so I picked it back up, and put it down a paragraph later, and picked it up and read another paragraph and DARN IT I can't read anymore. It's the equivalent of reading through a crack in your fingers, like how you watch the monster coming in a horror movie.

Incidentally, if the monster really scares you, I've found that watching on mute, without the scary music, can really make those scenes more manageable.

Because I have control of all my neuroses, oh yes.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Opposite of "On A Roll"

In a rut, maybe? It seems like whenever I come off a spate of regular posting, I stop posting entirely.

I like to think I'm entering a period of serious reading--I have a window of about three months here, between summer classes letting out and the baby arriving in November, to get all my reading done for the next year or so. I'm saving some good audiobooks and podcasts for after the baby comes, but I doubt I'll have a lot of time to read then. Luckily, most of the books I'm waiting for--The Wordy Shipmates, Half a Crown--are coming out in early fall, so I should be able to gobble them all up in a mad dash.

So, I finished Fire Study, the third in Maria V. Snyder's series. It was, I'm sorry to say, not great. It was, I suppose, not awful, but it's missing the fast-paced rush of plot that swept you right past any smaller flaws in the first two books (an example I can think of is how not-complex Yelena's reunion with her parents in Magic Study is, or how she suddenly becomes The One who will solve all this country's problems, as though no one else is competent to have an adventure around here). The plot of the new one jumps all over the place--characters move around, each scene and part is cohesive to itself, but it's not clear what direction it's moving in. Still, the last half starts you rolling along in a more satisfying way. I maintain that Poison Study was an amazing, wonderful book, and I kind of want to reread it now.

I'm running up to the library in Arlington today to get Letters to Judy, which is a collection of letters written to Judy Blume by her teenaged readers. I read an excerpt from it in one of our nonfiction readings for class, and I have this love for Judy Blume (Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is such a great book) that I suspect is going to get bigger and better when I read something written by her, in her own voice. Usually, I try to avoid things that get me into the real-life personalities of authors, actors, musicians, etc.--they're human, and I'm so often disappointed. But I think Judy Blume might be an exception here.

Okay, I should run if I'm going to make the library promptly. Here's hoping I can get caught up again!