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Marissa Lingen

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Books read, late January [Feb. 1st, 2010|10:26 am]
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The disinclination to read nonfiction continues. Not sure how long it'll last, but there's not a shortage of good fiction out there, so I expect I'll survive it.

Laurie Halse Anderson, Catalyst. Anderson is an author of whom I think, "Perhaps if I'd read this when I was that age." Because cliched plot twists have to be built into cliches sometime. Before you've read a million of those, you have to read one. I suspect that's what happens with Anderson novels. But when I was that actual age I wouldn't have read books like hers anyway, because I ran far and fast whenever anything smelled even faintly of a Problem Novel. So I don't know. Her prose goes smoothly.

Peter S. Beagle, A Fine and Private Place. Lovers of The Graveyard Book should go get this one now. The other category of people who really need it are people who want to study setting, because it was one of the most intensely set books I've ever read. It is not set in Vague Movie New York. It is set in a specific neighborhood of an actual New York. It is the kind of New York that we got from children's books written in that era (mid-20th century), where New York is actually a place or more accurately a set of places, rather than a fuzzy generic dream concept. Early 21st century New York setting writers, for heaven's sake, go back to that New York! It's much more interesting, and I suspect people still live there, albeit 50 years in the future!

Terry Bisson and Stephanie Spinner, Be First in the Universe. Children's SF with gadgets and twins. Fun but not astounding for me--but I suspect that I might be a great deal more in love with it if I'd been its target audience.

Greg Egan, Crystal Nights and Other Stories. Some good, some okay, and one that crossed my lines on what is and is not acceptable for use of real people in stories. I really enjoyed the early part of the volume. "Oracle," however, struck me as profoundly tacky. If you want to argue with CS Lewis's worldview and work, do so; putting words in his mouth around the death of his actual real live wife is just not okay. And giving him a completely transparent different name doesn't help when the circumstances are so obvious that you might as well write an introduction saying, "THIS DUDE IS ACTUALLY CS LEWIS AND THIS OTHER ONE IS ALAN TURING EVERYBODY GOT THAT OKAY THANKS."

Reginald Hill, Death Comes for the Fat Man, Good Morning, Midnight, The Price of Butcher's Meat, and Underworld. So. Underworld is one of those inflection points in a series, and having read a lot of what comes after it made it clear that Hill is good at what he does: I knew what would happen. The consequences of this book were known to me in some detail. And it was still a compelling read. That's a good writer. The Price of Butcher's Meat--well, I wish they'd kept the British title, The Cure for All Diseases, for the American edition. It's a better title and suits this book well. Also I like the character Charley but did not like her e-mail style, so I was relieved when her e-mails were sprinkled much more lightly through the last two-thirds of the book; I would not recommend starting here for that reason. Still loving this series. Not many more to go.

Walter Mosley, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. Stories of an African-American ex-con living in Watts. Very, very well done. They were shelved in "Mystery," though. I said to a friend on e-mail, "This is like shelving a cake in short SF because I was the one who baked it."

Mike Shepherd, Kris Longknife: Defiant and Kris Longknife: Deserter. Sometimes the level of clueless privilege the main character exhibits is really trying: the bit where she says she didn't know they had really poor people on her planet, in the same book where she wasn't sure they had minorities on her planet, made me stop and think very carefully about whether I wanted to continue. Happily, Shepherd is, um, shepherding his heroine along the path to clue. And she does know quite a lot about some other things, so she's not stupid, just incredibly sheltered. And things do go boom, so there's that.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: wild_irises
2010-02-01 04:32 pm (UTC)

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A Fine and Private Place always amazes me because he wrote it when he was 16, in the early 1960s I believe. So the middle-aged and old characters, rare enough even now as protagonists in books by middle-aged and old people, are stunningly innovative. Also, the first sentence. However, I wouldn't have quite made your point about setting, and once you make it, I completely agree.

Is the Bisson/Spinner about identical twins? (She said, storing up ideas for the fraternal twins in her life, who are still far too young for such things, but will indubitably get older.)
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-01 04:33 pm (UTC)

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No, it has three sets of fraternal twins.
[User Picture]From: zalena
2010-02-01 05:47 pm (UTC)

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I, on the other hand, have been preferring non-fiction. I was thinking about this yesterday and realized it is not because one has any virtue over the other, I just use them in different ways. I also miss mid-century New York. I'm not sure I ever found it while I was living there, but I am sure it still exists. I caught glimpses of it in various neighborhoods.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-01 06:21 pm (UTC)

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I use them in different ways, too, but not always predictably different ways. I got some really interesting-looking nonfiction for Christmas, but for some reason I just haven't reached for any of it.
[User Picture]From: matociquala
2010-02-01 06:34 pm (UTC)

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I love Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned.

Also, it's Les Miserables. And this becomes even more apparent with the sequel.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-01 08:50 pm (UTC)

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Might you have been the source of this recommendation? My old library book list was four closely written pages of scribblings rather than the lean, mean electronic system this one is, but it had the advantage of noting who said I might want to read things, and sometimes even why. I would have noted "Bear !!" for this one, or "Bear ~" if you were iffy but thought there were worthwhile aspects to what you had recommended.
[User Picture]From: matociquala
2010-02-01 09:01 pm (UTC)

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I'm gonna guess it was me or snurri, as I know he's even more of a Mosely fan than me.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-01 09:18 pm (UTC)

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Well, Blame snurri is generally a good strategy.
[User Picture]From: gaaldine
2010-02-01 07:21 pm (UTC)

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Right now I am regretting not living nearer to you so we could trade YA and child lit books back and forth.

Speaking of which, do you own any Alcott? I'm going to have to force myself to read her soon . . . I'm been gearing up with Yonge and Coolidge.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-01 08:47 pm (UTC)

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One of many reasons we should get the teleporters installed, yes.

I do have a bunch of Alcott. Really a bunch. I think I'm missing Under the Lilacs of the children's stuff, and that's it. I am even fond of some of it, although An Old-Fashioned Girl gives me hives.
[User Picture]From: gaaldine
2010-02-01 08:55 pm (UTC)

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Hmmm . . . I may try to borrow your collection (if you'd let me) the next time we're up that way. I am currently amused that the public library here has most of Alcott's stuff, but the university library doesn't.

At this point I'm figuring that if I can handle Yonge, and I can handle Coolidge's _What Katy Did_ series, I can handle Alcott. And by handle I mean force myself to read it.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-01 09:21 pm (UTC)

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Sure, as long as markgritter and timprov don't expect they'll want to be reading them in the interim.

Heeheehee. Sorry. Hee.
[User Picture]From: gaaldine
2010-02-01 09:26 pm (UTC)

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Feel free to tell them I'll fight 'em for it. I know how much resistance they'll put up!

Yet more evidence for Scott re: how beastly huge, scary, and intimidating I am. Mark and Tim wouldn't even dare to fight me over Alcott books!

[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-01 09:40 pm (UTC)

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He needs more evidence?
[User Picture]From: marykaykare
2010-02-01 09:46 pm (UTC)

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I've been reading all fiction too; mostly murder mysteries because they're so comforting when I'm depressed. Last time I was depressed it was all serial killers all the time. This time it's been extremely fluffy cozies and Margaret Frazer's 2 series, both set in 15th century England.

I don't like Hill's Dalziel/Pascoe books, but I just acquired one of the Joe Sixkiller books I hadn't read yet.

MKK
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-01 10:04 pm (UTC)

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Nice comforting murder mysteries. Yes. I think I should try the Joe Sixkiller books next, but I still have one more Dalziel/Pascoe on hand.
From: diatryma
2010-02-02 03:50 pm (UTC)

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I think I like Laurie Halse Anderson better now than I would have in high school-- I certainly like what I've read recently better than Speak, which I think I read in college. I've looked at Catalyst, but it didn't grab me.

It's tough figuring out what I would have liked ten years ago.
[User Picture]From: snickelish
2010-02-03 02:08 am (UTC)

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The other category of people who really need it are people who want to study setting, because it was one of the most intensely set books I've ever read. </i. Ooh! This book has been marked "eventually" on the to-read list for a while now, but knowing this about its setting bumps it up substantially. Really strong setting is one my very favorite things in fiction.
[User Picture]From: akwilliams
2010-02-17 07:49 am (UTC)

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Read Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned on the basis of this rec - loved it. Thanks =) It has a great way of being quiet about its truths.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-17 03:46 pm (UTC)

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At the time I read it, I thought, "This is really good, but it's not my sort of thing." And now I'm thinking, "I wonder if the library has more of that series." Because it's just that good.