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Marissa Lingen

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Books read, early February. [Feb. 17th, 2013|08:03 am]
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I'm in the middle of another large trade paperback nonfiction tome that hurts my wrists and neck--seriously, just make these things hardback, or at least a type of trade paper binding that will let the book lay open on a table or lap rather than requiring the reader to hold it open! this seems like such a small thing!--so I ended up interspersing a lot of Kindle books with it to save my wrists. Nonfiction tome still in progress, Kindle books finished merrily right and left. And some other stuff too.

John Joseph Adams (johnjosephadams), ed., The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination. Discussed elsewhere.

Iain M. Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata. What a waste of a title. I mean, this was not the best Culture book ever (felt a bit like he was rehashing his own stuff), but if you want a new Culture book, okay, here's one. But the title! It's such a good title, and the piece in question just was not named well or utilized well. I can't even see how the book would be different if he'd named it The Boron Nocturne. That's the sort of thing that might not matter if you're tone-deaf to chemistry or music, but I am not tone-deaf to either, and I was sad and frustrated by the waste of such a good title.

Alan Bradley, Speaking From Among the Bones. Fifth in the series, and I would read the others first. Flavia continues charming, the overall plot continues advancing, and really, I think a great many of us need 12-year-old girl chemist mysteries in our lives. But start at the beginning.

Juliana Horatia Gatty Ewing, Jackanapes, Daddy Darwin's Dovecot, and Other Stories. Kindle. Not my favorite Mrs. Ewing stories. I'd recommend going another way. These were much soppier.

Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford. Kindle. The overall plot does not really show up for most of this book, which made it incredibly easy for me to put down, particularly since I was reading it on the Kindle and would not have the half-finished book sitting around reminding me. I liked it while I was reading it, but somehow did not find myself thinking of it when I was not reading it. It will be interesting to see if the other Gaskells I have on my Kindle are like that also.

George MacDonald, The Golden Key. Kindle. This reminded me of Susan Cooper's Seaward, although clearly the influence would have to go the other direction, temporally speaking. It was a dreamy fairy tale sort of a fantasy novel, very early version thereof.

Kathleen Norris, Undertow. Kindle. Incredibly didactic. I'll try some more Norris, because it's free and I know someone I respect likes her stuff (although I can't remember who), but this was very very predictable and tedious about a young couple learning to manage their money, spend time with their children, live simply, and not follow the fashionable crowd. Meh.

David J. Schwartz (snurri), Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib Episode 1. Kindle. I hate serials. On the other hand, I like Dave's stuff. So I figured I'd sign up for the serial, and if I found the serial nature of it too annoying, I'd just wait until all the installments had stacked up and read it as a book. So far, reading it as a serial is working fine. I like the community college notion, the idea that people who are learning magic can vary quite a bit in background and demographics, and Dave's set up the plot to be hooky enough that I won't have any trouble with who's who and what's what when the next episode pops up on my Kindle.

Jonathan Strahan, ed., Edge of Infinity. Favorites in this anthology were by Elizabeth Bear, An Owomoyela, and Paul McAuley. A lot of good stuff, very few stories for which I read a few pages and skipped (which is a common anthology mode for me). It was also a good theme for me, lots of solar-systemish stuff when I'm just starting a big project of that type.

Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy, Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Disease. Lots of interesting stuff here, about rabies itself and zoonotic diseases in general. Some funny tidbits I went around sharing with people, too, and the whole wasn't long enough to make me feel tired of rabies. (Tired of rabies? Tired of life! Wait. That's something else.) You probably have a good sense of your tolerance levels for reading about a really nasty disease, though; it's just not some people's leisure time choice, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier. Kindle. This could have been a sentimental mess, but instead it was pretty well done. Soldier returns from WWI with amnesia and still cares for the sweetheart with whom he quarreled fifteen years ago, not remembering his wife of about that long. Perspective is not soldier, wife, or sweetheart, but a cousin who genuinely wants the best for all parties, and I particularly like interesting perspective choices in this kind of book. Onwards to more Rebecca West, I think.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind. Spanish novel, literary style and thriller plot. Full of books and sex and more books and secret books. If that summary doesn't make you go, "Ooh," probably you will be happy enough skipping it--but I liked it, and I'll be glad to read more.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sartorias
2013-02-17 02:13 pm (UTC)

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Cranford was never actually a novel. She wrote short stories about the same group of people, which were later bound into a novel.

IMO she was still learning all along--her greatest is Wives and Daughters which (I think) would be considered one of the top novels of the nineteenth century had it been finished. (She died before the last chapter was complete, so all you get is the editor relating how the story would end. If nothing else, that profoundly shows the difference between 'show' and 'tell'!) It is absolutely and unrepentantly the female gaze, the other side of the male-written fictional commentary on how the society of the day "should" be run, with the 'strong' sex in charge, and the 'weaker' sex happy to serve.
[User Picture]From: txanne
2013-02-17 02:28 pm (UTC)

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Stop making me want to buy books, Mris. Wait, no, strike that, reverse it.

Once when I had pneumonia I alternated Cranford and Lemony Snicket, which worked surprisingly well.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-02-17 02:31 pm (UTC)

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In some ways that's better than my Sean Stewart With High Fevers habit, I expect.
[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2013-02-17 08:42 pm (UTC)

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Already reading Bradley (my inner 12-year-old is, at least) and off to read Schwartz. My mother loved Cranford, and I kept trying, but never could quite get there. Rebecca West is an old favorite, though I haven't read that one. I will recommend The Fountain Overflows and The Birds Fall Down, though I read them both long ago, and,hmmm, time to re-read.

ETA: Very best of all is Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, though it's non-fiction. It's about the Balkans...1100 pages about history and ethnography and landscape. It makes you want to go there.

Edited at 2013-02-17 11:02 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-02-18 02:37 am (UTC)

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I have heard good things of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Unfortunately it will probably not be the thing I get to next because my main filter at the moment is "things I can download for free," so it'll have to join the queue with the rest of the things I can't. As opposed to, for example, The Judge, which is on my Kindle ready to be read already.
[User Picture]From: ethelmay
2013-02-18 10:28 pm (UTC)

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The Judge is a hot mess of a book, though I recall it having some interesting stuff in it.
[User Picture]From: between4walls
2013-02-21 12:43 am (UTC)

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West's The Birds Fall Down is flawed but definitely worth reading- it's loosely based on the case of the double agent Evno Azef in early twentieth century Russia. Heavy-handed in places about culture and politics, and some of the characters verge on caricature, but the protagonist, who could easily have been the standard ingenue-in-danger, is fantastically well-drawn, and from about half-way through to the end it's very suspenseful.

The trouble with pretty much any novel on early-twentieth-century Russian terrorism and espionage is that it's up against Joseph Conrad's Under Western Eyes, and most people end up looking like they can't write next to Conrad. But I quite enjoyed West's book.
[User Picture]From: adrian_turtle
2013-02-17 11:50 pm (UTC)

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I found Cranford rather disappointing when I picked it up because I liked North and South so much. It seemed like Cranford expects me to laugh at characters like Mrs. Williams (Sophie Aubrey's mother), or find them sympathetic, and that's always a strain for me.
[User Picture]From: papersky
2013-02-19 05:21 pm (UTC)

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Gaskell's other novels have plots.

Norris's short work is all kind of sucky, her natural length is novels.