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Books read, early May. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Books read, early May. [May. 17th, 2013|06:39 am]
Marissa Lingen
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Mike Carey, The Unwritten: The Wound. There were some fun bits in this, and the plot actually moved, but upon reflection I didn't much care for one of the major plot points. I know why it's there, I just...story is not the same thing as print. This series has understood that elsewhere. Ah well; still interested in continuing.

C.J. Cherryh, Protector. Sometimes it's very frustrating to read the latest installment in this series and realize that I can count on one hand the number of people I can talk to about what it's doing. This is #14, and it's very much a middle-book in its sub-trilogy. But the things it's doing with small events like a child's birthday party having interstellar ramifications--this is what SF is for. It's just not what immediately accessible SF is for. I recommend this entire series, but starting at the beginning.

Nils Cleve and Istavn Racz, Treasures of Finnish Renaissance and Baroque Art. This is mostly black-and-white pictures of what it says on the tin. Some of them were interesting, some lovely, and some neither, but in general it was extremely useful and will be more useful yet if I get back to writing my Finnish stuff.

Megan Crewe, The Way We Fall and The Lives We Lost. YA disaster SF, not dystopian but not sunshine and roses either. I really liked these, as you can tell by the fact that I got The Lives We Lost from the library as soon as they had it checked into their system, once I'd finished The Way We Fall. A lot of speculative YA is aimed more at feelings than at exploring hard speculative conceits, whether fantasy or SF. These two books (and presumably the last in the trilogy, but it's not out yet) have logistics, but they also seem to recognize the value in keeping the speculative conceit relatively simple. The virus in these books is not earth-shaking, not dreadfully new, but it does what it needs to do in the story and then gets out of the way so that it's not competing for focus with the characters' direct feelings and experiences. I recommend these. They're really well done.

Emily Dickinson, Poems. Kindle. You know, if you're reading Emily Dickinson for pleasure, the dose I would recommend is something like one at a time. Not all of them at a time. That was...maybe not the best way to appreciate her unique voice.

Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire. Every year I buy myself a book for Grandpa's birthday, a book we might both have enjoyed. This is this year's book. It's really chewy fascinating stuff about the Comanche exploitation of colonial resources and empires in the 18th and 19th centuries. Very much a worthy Grandpa's-birthday book.

Faith Erin Hicks, Friends With Boys. This is a perfect example of why I don't like graphic novels as well as prose, even though I liked this reasonably well. The setup seemed to me like it was going to go farther in several directions, and then...didn't. And I get it--you just can't put as much story in with that much page space being taken up with pictures. I need to expect smaller chunks of story out of graphic novels. It's just mildly dissatisfying, is all.

Val McDermid, The Distant Echo. The story of a murder and its aftermath, including very long after. Also the story of four men's friendship; I am a sucker for books about friendships. Halfway through, I had not guessed who the murderer would be, which is extremely rare for me, and when I started to have suspicions, it was still exciting and interesting to try to figure out how it would be proven and what else might happen (including who else might die) before it was. I have been frustrated because one of the things I want in life is to be in the middle of reading a mystery writer whose work I like and who has already published a gajillion books I have not read yet, most of which the library has. (This also works if it's not the public library but the library of a close friend I see regularly.) It's a pretty specific thing to want in life, I realize, but up until fairly recently I had not been reading mysteries long enough to have gotten through very many of the good ones. I started reading mysteries in my early-mid-20s really. (Dorothy Sayers and Lawrence Block, together again for the first time.) And I have not been dedicated about it the way I am with SF. But it turns out that I'm reading on the order of 50 mysteries a year, and that uses up a lot of the good ones eventually. So hurrah for Val McDermid! Who is good, and who is in supply at the library!

E. Nesbit, The Wouldbegoods. Kindle. I have no idea how many times I read this as a kid. Several. It's not one of the ones with magic, but the Bastables are generally good fun anyway. Even if I did write them into WWI once. Oops.

Susan Palwick, Mending the Moon. Discussed elsewhere.

Doris Pilkington, Rabbit-Proof Fence. This was a very short telling of the author's mother's experiences as a young mixed-race Australian woman, escaping her placement at a white school and returning to her Aboriginal family. I'm not sure how much of the sparse nature of the telling is culturally required, but I had hoped for more here. It seemed like the details Pilkington wanted to provide were pretty much orthogonal to the ones that would have interested me. On the other hand, this is not a perspective one finds much in books in the US, so it's valuable for that.

Greg Rucka, A Gentleman's Game. ...and this is why I like prose novels better than graphic. This is a prose novel that's a sequel to a set of graphic novels. And I like it so much better, because it's able to do so much more. I've heard people complaining that the Queen and Country series is a Sandbaggers ripoff, but I think that what Rucka does with the basic setup is immensely more interesting than Sandbaggers. I don't just mean that, unlike Sandbaggers, he has female characters who are allowed to do stuff and male characters I don't want to kick repeatedly. But it turns out that matters to me.

John Ruskin, Mornings in Florence. Kindle. This Victorian travel guide with an art focus was remarkably personable, modern, and chatty in tone. Also it was not excessively long. If you're at all interested in Florence and art and stuff, I'm sure he has his flaws, but it was a fun read anyway.

David J. Schwartz (snurri), Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib (episode 6). Kindle. That thing I keep saying about letting episodes pile up and reading them all at once: you notice how well that's working out for me with this one. Possibly it's some kind of sign.

Daniel Tammet, Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant: A Memoir. My dad heard this guy giving a TED Talk and was interested, so I got this from the library for us to talk about. Tammet is very clear and expressive, and while he is indeed autistic, he's also synaesthetic, so between the two (I am synaesthetic but not autistic, but I know several autistic people pretty well) it was a pretty familiar, comfortable read for me--of course both conditions vary substantially, and Tammet's expressiveness about his experiences was fascinating.

Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates. Kindle. Lapidary and preachy. Ah well, win some etc.

P. G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves, The Adventures of Sally, and The Politeness of Princes and Other School Stories. Kindle, all of them. Right Ho, Jeeves was a reread, and also one I've seen staged and filmed. Wodehouse on my Kindle is not the most amazing thing ever, but it's a quite reasonable thing to have if I'm looking for something that won't be too much of a commitment while I'm waiting for a big order of library books to come in or some such.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: buymeaclue
2013-05-17 11:45 am (UTC)
I had the same reaction to Friends With Boys. Oh, well.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-17 03:27 pm (UTC)
The thing is, if this was a short story I was critiquing, I would advise the author to prune some of the threads so they could focus better on the story they did have room to do. And this doesn't seem to happen to graphic novel writers, like, ever as far as I can tell. It's just a different set of assumptions about pacing, I think.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-17 03:00 pm (UTC)
This is an excellent plan. I have put it on the list, since I am hauling some Irish-Canadian guy around the town today and will not have time to post really.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2013-05-17 04:57 pm (UTC)
Yay Val McDermid! May I recommend her A Place of Execution, if available? I found it just stunningly good. (Usual caveats re old friends bragging up each other's books, but even so...)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-18 11:52 am (UTC)
What a lucky chance: that's the second one I picked up from the library. I'm enjoying it muchly.
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[User Picture]From: lollardfish
2013-05-17 12:11 pm (UTC)
I really like these posts from you. You have a relationship to books that I envy. To writing, too, now that I think of it, although my essay writing lately has more closely mirrored what you do.

I've never read Ruskin on Florence. I should, one day.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-17 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

The Ruskin on Florence was honestly so fast. It really took no time at all. I mean, the looking up of things to look at, okay, but.
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From: diatryma
2013-05-17 12:23 pm (UTC)
I cannot read physical graphic novels because I forget to look at the pictures. I dart from text to text so quickly the pacing is off, then I have no idea what's going on because I haven't been able to tell who's talking. I can do webcomics very easily, though, as I have only one page a day to read and take my time about it.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-17 03:41 pm (UTC)
I am the opposite: the one page per day (or two per week!) rate makes me insane, so I can't read most webcomics until they're collected or until I've piled up a bunch of pages.
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[User Picture]From: arkessian
2013-05-17 12:44 pm (UTC)
Count me in for a Protector spoiler thread! Also for the recommendation of the whole series. And for total admiration of the way the whole things keeps flowing without getting stale, and the way things come to fruition that were set up books ago...
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[User Picture]From: sam_t
2013-05-17 03:23 pm (UTC)
I keep meaning to ask you: do you listen to much Finnish music? I'm in a choir/ensemble thingy that sings Finnish works for a cappella upper voices and I like it a lot but tend to get a lot of blank looks when I talk about it. You're one of the few people I know who has an existing interest in Finland, so I thought I'd ask.

On the subject of mysteries, have you read the Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson? They've been recommended to me by a couple of friends but they haven't made it to the top of my reading pile yet.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-17 03:44 pm (UTC)
I listen to a little Finnish music. That sounds interesting, what you're doing in your ensemble.

And no, I haven't read those. The booklog indicates that I bounced off Behind the Scenes at the Museum, but not badly enough that I shouldn't try something in that series.
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[User Picture]From: sam_t
2013-05-20 09:37 am (UTC)
Our 'core composer' (as in the person whose music started people thinking "I want to sing stuff like that", and whose music is always in the repertoire somewhere) is Tellu Turkka, who writes interesting and slightly weird stuff somewhere on the border between classical and folk. Some of her music is available on Spotify (and probably also on YouTube - I can chase down links if you'd like), sung by the group Suden Aika (who are also worth investigating in their own right).

What Finnish music do you listen to? Other than the specific things we're singing, I've just got things that have turned up on random Spotify searches, so I'm looking for recommendations.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-20 12:12 pm (UTC)
I've mostly been focused on Aho and Sibelius, but I have some traditional stuff and some metal like Nightwish. I'm probably not extensively into it enough to have good recs, but I appreciate yours!
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[User Picture]From: guppiecat
2013-05-17 07:14 pm (UTC)
I've not read Rabbit-Proof Fence, but I've read a lot (LOT) of Australian mythology. All of the stories are sparse, so I would lean towards cultural requirement. One of the analyses I read indicated that the stories in print form were missing the song, dance and visual art components, which is why they felt thin to Western readers who expect the text to carry all. Perhaps, due to that, post Cataclysm* aboriginal natives feel that written stories should be sparse.

* I am uncertain whether the forced Western acculturation of children with native eradication of adults has a proper name in Australian history. "Holocaust" seems wrong. "Cataclysm" seems somehow less wrong, but not yet right. However, this is the Internet, so I am sure that, if wrong, a correction will shortly be presented.
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[User Picture]From: thomasbull
2013-05-18 11:28 am (UTC)
a proper name in Australian history

The term "Stolen Generations" has been used, at least for the part about children.

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From: dsgood
2013-05-17 11:34 pm (UTC)
What kind(s) of synesthesia do you have? Mine include sound to sight and touch; tickertape; sight to kinesthesia.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-18 11:52 am (UTC)
I don't care to go into all of the details. One of the types is scent to spatial-kinetic, though.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2013-05-18 10:33 pm (UTC)
So outside of LJ I actually have a sense of humor, so I was relating the 'cunt cake' episode from work while decorating cakes with some friends. (This will be a priceless anecdote for years to come.) We joked about doing a cake version of Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, in which she decorates the 'plates' of famous women. I saw it at the Brooklyn Museum of Art when I was still living in NYC and noted that Emily Dickinson's was especially memorable. "It seemed excessively frilly in comparison to her poetry," I said.

Here's a picture: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/place_settings/emily_dickinson.php

I agree Dickinson is best in short bursts. And I still can't explain that visualization, which seems in no way in keeping with her style.

Also: your Comanche book sounds like the one I've been looking for. I keep getting pointed towards Empire of the Summer Moon, which is interesting in its own way, but about the end of the nation, not about its trade routes in full bloom, which is really what I'm looking for. (If you are a Searchers fan Empire of the Summer Moon might interest you in a trivial way. I recommend the wikipedia overview of the parties involved rather than the whole book.)

And Friends With Boys. Sigh. It's not that it was bad so much as it felt like it didn't live up to either a) what it promised to be, or b) what I expected it to be. If it makes you feel any differently, the author developed it first as a serial web comic, or meta-web comic in which she explored the process of creating the comic at the same time as she made it. I haven't spent a lot of time exploring that aspect, but it exists.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-19 02:42 am (UTC)
That really is frillier than I think of her. And less flying off in her own directions.

And yes, this is the Comanche book you're looking for, I really do think.
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[User Picture]From: doubtingmichael
2013-05-19 11:30 pm (UTC)
"Story is not the same as print". I read The Wound, and I had exactly the same reaction at that point as you did, so yes, thank you.

I want to be careful about spoilers, but is possible that Carey is actually doing something clever that hasn't been revealed. The person relevant to your remark may have other qualities than the ones identified. If you see what I mean.

Since I'm replying anyway: thank you for these posts about what you've been reading. They are always interesting, and I've had some good suggestions from them.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-19 11:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks, glad you enjoy them!

Yeah, I also wondered whether that plot point was there to start the ball rolling on special traits for that character, but I wish he'd done it some other way.
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[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2013-05-26 12:57 am (UTC)
A couple things you might be interested in; first, a book recommendation: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/the-theory-of-interstellar-finance/

Second, perhaps Rabbit-Proof Fence might be better/was intended as a movie all along. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252444/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-05-26 03:30 am (UTC)
The odds that I would not read a new autopope novel are pretty darn small from here, but thanks for the recs anyway.
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