Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pro v Con

I'm completely stymied by this book, The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson.

Pro: An alternate history YA novel about Scotland in the 30s, where terrorists are blowing up buildings.

Con: It appears to be about spiritualists and mediums more than political upheaval.

Pro: Thrilling cover.

Con: Confusing inside cover flap copy. Possibly supplemented by confusing plot.

Pro: So far I like the main character.

Con: Ghosts are real. Or maybe they're not. It's unclear. And what does this have to do with things exploding, anyway?

Pro: Girls' boarding school!

Con: Main character is a day student.

Pro: It's a fairly quick read.

Con: It's 450 pages long.

I've gotten to page 50, which is about my 10% rule, and I really can't decide if I want to read it yet. Grr! And to complicate the question, a lot of the other books I have to read are nonfiction, which is a big psychological jump to make. Humph.

PS: Thanks, JLMC, for the confirmation that I really don't want to read that book!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Failed Renaissance

Sigh. I really meant, on returning all those library books today, to seize the moment and read some of my own books. Alas, it is not to be. And not because I was distracted and surprised by things on the shelves (or, not entirely so), but because I was so excited to go to the library that I immediately went through my list of books to read and found all the ones that were in stock at Malden.

So, after I finish Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (at least that one is PLR--it's Mike's copy) and The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson, I have five new books to read. One is a religious memoir, for which I'm a sucker, and one is a collection of short retellings of stories from English history (because God help me, I don't have it in me to read a whole nonfiction book about Oliver Cromwell). Then Ever, by Gail Carson Levine, whose Fairest I just finished and really liked. And something by Ursula Leguin that was, unsurprisingly, near it on the shelf. And The Buffalo Soldier, by Chris Bohjalian, which is, sadly, the last of his books that I think I want to read.

I blame this on The Double Bind, which I couldn't get into, so I read spoilers for it, and I'm glad I didn't read it and a bit nervous of his new stuff. Then he did a Holocaust book, which might or might not be good.

At home, I have something called World Without End waiting for me--high fantasy that Brenda highly recommends. Also Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and Children of God (do you see a theme in these titles? It's an accident, I swear), the sequel to The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Plus I have a new Gaiman book that I got for Christmas.

In December, so far, I've read five books, and I think that's all it'll be. Not bad; below my average, but you know, new baby. I cut me some slack.

So, onward! I'll report back soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Very Vampire Christmas

13 Bullets, by David Wellington. I spent Christmas reading a pretty good vampire book, and doing some thinking about my relationship with vampire stories in general. The conclusion I've come to is that I have little use for stories that are about the tortured inner lives and sensual, lustful natures of these misunderstood sex-godlings. This is why I will not read or see Twilight. What I like in a vampire story is a monster story--they can be like animals or like zombies or whatever, but they're not sexy, and they don't wear frilly collars.

In 13 Bullets, they're mostly naked. They have intelligence, but it's definitely a monster story, not a romance. It wasn't a perfect story, but it had a lot of great action and a pretty cool twist near the end. The last page was kind of a let down--it seemed like it was leaving us open for a sequel, when the rest of the story tied up pretty neatly. But that's one page, and kind of a subplot that was treated oddly. In general, this was a pretty cool story, action-packed, detective-style.

Only don't read the back cover copy. It's misleading, or at least confusing. I'd love to write back cover copy for a living. What kind of job do you think that is? How do I get it? Anyone?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trick Question

Audiobook addendum: I've started seriously listening to Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon, and I have to say, as much as I like the reading and the story and the language, Chabon's sentences are a little too complex to work perfectly on audiobook.

So I finished The 19th Wife, which I enjoyed, but didn't pack quite the punch, in the end, that I was anticipating. But I've moved on now, and I'm reading Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine. This is one of those books somewhere between YA and Juvenile, so I'm almost done by now, but it's quite good--she does this thing where she retells fairy tales, and even gives you a title that tells what she's doing, but they're so different and unique and hers that I don't even realize it's the fairy tale until the major plot point near the end. In Ella Enchanted, it was the ball at the end--here it was the poisoned apple. There are elements that would clue you in, but I get so caught up in the story that I don't even notice. That's impressive to me.

I have a couple more books out, but I think after those (including a very scary (so far) vampire book called 13 Bullets) I'm going to turn to a Personal Library Renaissance. This might not be the best idea, since library runs are some of the only times I get out of the house, but I have so many books to read, and being mostly at home (in the snow, with the baby) makes a good excuse to plough into them.

Including (starting with!) the many books I borrowed from Brenda. Even some of the ones she lent me against my will. But not The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Sorry. I'll never get past how boring that movie was.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Audio Update

I passed up the opportunity to listen to The 19th Wife instead of reading it. At the time, listening seemed like a good idea, because of the baby--and I was right, it's definitely easier to find time for audio than actual books. I'm pretty proud of having predicted that--though I do manage to read over his sleeping head often enough.

The reason I didn't buy The 19th Wife, though, is because of the sample. The readers (a man and a woman, for the two different first person narrators) seemed pretty good, but within the first two minutes, there was an online chat transcribed in the text. Try reading a chat transcript out loud. Remember that you have to read the attributions, too. And note that both chat participants have long names.

PrettyGirl2005: What u up 2?
HotGuyLivesInUtah: Not much u?
PrettyGirl2005: Nuthin.

Just that. Read that out loud. You're already irritated, aren't you? You can read that to yourself in a second and a half, but it takes half a minute to read out loud. And it gets embarrassing and confusing to read "PrettyGirl2005" over and over again. You see why I couldn't do it.

Amusingly, this was the only chat transcript in the book.

I have been doing some listening, especially during late night feedings, when I can barely see the baby anyway. He's mostly asleep, I'm actively trying NOT to talk to him to keep from waking him up any further, and it helps to have something to distract me. Mostly I've been listening to old This American Life podcasts, though I do have Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road on my mp3 player. It's read by Andre Brauer, which is pretty exciting, but the sound quality of the beginning is kind of mediocre, so I haven't started it yet. Also, TAL is easier to dip in and out of during short feeding sessions.

I need to pick another audiobook soon--I'm pretty sure I'm only allowed to roll over a certain number of credits, and I'm nearing my max. The search for a good audiobook can be frustrating--the books I want to read are often not available or have lousy narrators--but the triumph is worth it in the end.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Library Run!

The other day, Mike sent me out into the world on my own to go to the library. It felt kind of weird, in that way that things feel when they used to be part of your life and now are very far away--remember your old commute to work? Or even imagine climbing on a school bus. Like that, kind of.

Anyway, a few days later, I had to stop at the other library to return something. This was on my way home from the doctor, so I only stopped in, but I had a list. So I've had two library trips in the past week, and let me tell you, I'm way more stocked up than I need to be! It's absolutely fabulous.

So, what did I get? Well, when I picked up my reserve book (The 19th Wife, which I already mentioned and am still loving), I grabbed a few other YA titles. One is Fairest, which is by the author of Ella Enchanted, which was pretty good. That's almost more of a kids' book, which means it'll be a quick read, but I like retold fairy tales, so I'm excited. I also got something new by the classing YA author Norma Fox Mazer. I can't even call to mind any of the books she wrote, because she wrote about 1/3 of the YA books people read. (Okay, I looked it up--Silver is the one that I loved by her, but she's written about 30 books, including the A My Name Is Amy series.) This new one is called When She Was Good, and if nothing else it should be nostalgic.

At the other library, I got The Explosionist, which is an alternate history about terrorism in England in the early 20th century, and 13 Bullets, which is a vampire book that has been on my list since Unshelved did a book talk strip on it a few months ago. It was right there in the vampire books display--how could I resist?

So I'm all stocked up, even though The 19th Wife is 500 pages long and a fairly small type and I only get about an hour or two per day to read. I feel so full of books, it's delicious. Like carbs for the soul.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Still Progressing

Not surprisingly, I read very slowly now. Occasionally I'll read out loud to the baby--today I was reading from The Paradox of Choice, which was very easy to make cheerful and kiddie sounding, but I realized you read more slowly that way. Still, it's nice for us to share Barry Schwartz's ideas about how having to decide things is stressful. I sort of want to tell him that if he wants stressful, he should try sleeping in two hour chunks, but for all I know he has kids, so he might already know that.

Anyway, I'm also reading The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff, because I love Mormon fiction. So far I'm really enjoying it. It's two stories; one is excerpts from the fictional memoir of Brigham Young's 19th wife, written after she left the church. The other is the modern story of a young man who was excommunicated at the age of 14 from a fundamentalist sect (called the First Church of Jesus Christ etc., clearly based on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ, etc., who have been in the news lately). Apparently, when all the powerful older men take all the teenage girls as wives, you need to excommunicate a handful of boys to tweak the ratios. His story revolves around his mother going on trial for killing his father.

It's really a good book, and I think the segue back and forth between stories makes it easier to read in the little dollops of time I have available.

Also, I know it's not about books, but we watched the movie Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day yesterday, and I really loved it. It did the best job of capturing the feeling of a movie from the 30s that I've ever seen in a modern movie--no matter how hard George Clooney tries. I usually don't care for Amy Adams, but she was great. So I wanted to plug that for all you guys.

Okay, I'll keep plugging--for the fans!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Baby Books

I'd love to do a review of some kids/baby books, but I've discovered that a two week old can't even look at my face, let alone a board book. So it'll have to wait. But, amusingly, a poster at the doctor's office tells me that chewing on books is a developmentally appropriate way of appreciating them, on the path to becoming a reader.

So, needless to say, busy. But I wanted to point out that The Other Side of the Island, by Allegra Goodman (of Intuition fame) is a really great YA book. It's about a rigorously controlled, totalitarian society in the future, after environmental devastation has limited the habitable world to a large handful of islands. A girl, Honor, moves with her parents to a new home. She tries to be good, to be everything she's supposed to be, but her parents are strange and rebellious, and she finds herself caught between them and what society teaches her is right.

A lot of what drives the book is world-building, but it's great world-building, with plenty of payoff in the plot. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and I'm afraid I may have to go out and read more of Allegra Goodman's work, though some of her earlier novels appear to be family dramas, of which I'm not generally a fan. Worth a try, I'm thinking.