Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway - Books read, late January [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

[ website | My Website ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Books read, late January [Feb. 1st, 2014|04:24 pm]
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
[Tags|]

Lawrence Block, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. The good news is, Lawrence Block is just the same as the last time he was writing Burglar books. The bad news is, Lawrence Block is just the same as the last time he was writing Burglar books. I think I am still reading this series out of nostalgia, but on the other hand I still do have the nostalgia.


George Dyson, Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship. Workmanlike and moderately interesting. Does what it says on the tin, talking about the design of a nuclear-powered spaceship.


P. V. Glob, The Bog People: Iron-Age Man Preserved. Also does what it says on the tin. I think this book is why all this information was out there circulating so people like me could take it for granted.


Bernd Heinrich, The Snoring Bird. Kindle. This was my Grandpa’s birthday present this year. (Today would have been Grandpa’s birthday.) I was not really done picking out books for Grandpa when he died, so…I kept doing it, things we might both have liked. This one was a bit disappointing. Too much boyfriend, not enough roller derby. In this case, too much annoying horrible father, not enough birds and ichneumon wasps. Not the best Heinrich, and also not at all the most self-aware Heinrich. And the titular bird was almost completely absent in any detail, alas.


Crystal Lynn Hilbert, The Trickster Edda. Kindle. I’m not sure how I am to handle things I read for blurbing as opposed to review. I have had things I’ve read for review lifted for blurbs before, and that’s fine? I hope I’m not violating any norms by talking briefly about this novella here. It was a romp with junk food and Norse mythology and dating and laundry. Good fun.


Adam Hochschild, The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin. Fascinating book. Hochschild interviewed not only those who had suffered but also those who were still, in 1991 or so, fans of the late dictator. Disquieting and horrible but very, very interesting.


Kyung Moon Hwang, A History of Korea. This is not where to start. It is where I started. It is not a good place to start at all. It’s a good thing I have another book of Korean history on my desk and probably more to come, because this is sort of an “interesting anecdotes” history of Korea, and…really you need more than that. Really. It is a brief romp through the history of Korea. One can enjoy brief romps, but one can enjoy them even more when one is entirely clear on what one is romping through. So: more needed here.


Ari Marmell, Lost Covenant. Start early in the series for full impact, but still swashing and buckling and thievery and joking and fun.


Nnedi Okorafor, Kabu-Kabu. This is a rare short story collection in a few ways. 1) It is pretty thematically unified. 2) None of the short stories annoyed me enough that I quit reading them. 3) I am pretty sure they were all short stories rather than novelettes or novellas. Anyway, mostly African settings/origins, interesting characters, many tie-in points with Okorafor’s novels, highly recommended. Oh, and Whoopi Goldberg wrote the introduction, which made me think not a bit more highly of Nnedi Okorafor and quite a bit more highly of Whoopi Goldberg.


Philip Reeve, A Web of Air. Very much a sequel, but a fun one. Structurally a bit odd–I was expecting the younger child’s POV to go further and was a bit disappointed when it didn’t.


Marie Rutkoski, The Winner’s Curse. Discussed elsewhere.


Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil, Bad Houses. Graphic novel about hoarders and estate sales and…yeah, very much off the beaten path.


Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience. Ah, a sherbet book. Chilly and insubstantial? Yes, but what I meant was: okay, sure, but…. The argument this book makes is fine; there are all sorts of things the current state of neuroscience can’t touch. I don’t really understand why New Scientist recommended it, because anyone who reads New Scientist even a little bit should have found this book not in the least bit surprising. How is that a useful book recommendation? “Books to bore our regular readers!” Thanks, New Scientist! The other thing is: once you’ve gotten into the minefield that is Stuff MRIs Can’t Show Us About Culpability, 150 pages is not nearly enough to handle questions of culpability and forms of justice, so then you end up with a very slick and shallow version of philosophical questions that people have been wrestling with for thousands of years. Disappointing.


John Sayles, A Moment in the Sun. Oh, oh, oh, this book. This gigantic wrist-busting book. I’m not even sure it works as a book, and I loved it, and I’m so glad I read it, and I want more books like it even if it sort of doesn’t really work. Yes. Because John Sayles is a one of us. Like a you and me and Jon and that other lady, that us! It’s a good us. John Sayles is a voracious inclusive polymath one of us. I mean, you can tell that from the better end of his movies. You can tell that from Lone Star and Matewan and Brother, right, that he’s one of those people who will set out wondering about something and look up five years and four bookshelves later telling you about the mating habits of pandas and how it relates to the silver trade. And he’s a one of us because he can’t look at those things and just see white dudes. I read this book and felt less alone in the world because John Sayles wrote this book about the American war in the Philippines, so naturally it started in the Yukon, like, of course. Naturally. You just let your breath out because we’re like that and there it is. And he’s allowed to do a book like that because he’s John Sayles, but I love him because what he wants to do with being John Sayles is a book like that and not, like, buy a yacht or fancy grills or something. It goes all over the damn place and is so full of people named Mei and Frantisek and you don’t even know who next, white people, black people, Filipinos, Chinese people, men, women, able-bodied, disabled, sick, whoever. I am not coherent about this book. I am not reasonable about this book. I don’t have to be reasonable about this book; it is not a reasonable book. The things people say about James Michener, I don’t really get those things, because Michener has point A, and then he has point B, and eventually you get to Z, and then you are done, and he has gone through the alphabet, whereas John Sayles, he teaches you four alphabets and perspective drawing, and then you’re not sure why, but it’s okay, because you know four alphabets and perspective drawing and whether Jessie’s family is okay maybe. Yes. This book. I would be mad at anybody else who went and made movies instead of writing me more books like this book, but it is John Sayles, so I am not mad, except maybe about Silver City, because that sucked. But this book, oh, oh.


Karl Schroeder, Lockstep. Discussed elsewhere. Kindle, in case you were keeping track for some reason. More to the point in case I was.


Evelyn Sharp, Rebel Women. Kindle. Guys, this was awesome. It’s free, go download it for your own device. It’s an early 20th century British feminist fabulist writing thinly fictionalized stories of her own experiences in the suffrage movement, and they’re sharp and real, and some of them are funny, and they really won’t take you long. And then some of the early 20th century perspective is so “Whaaaaaa?” Like the idea that the 1910s were short on cranks, seriously. It was an eye-opener. And free. Go, acquire, acquire like the wind.


C. J. Underwood, An Army of Judiths. Indifferently-written historical fiction about Kenau Hasselaer of Haarlem. Who was awesome, and honestly, no, the book was not that great on its own, but yes, I did want a novel about Kenau, thanks all the same. I mean, there are things like: if you are writing in English, do not give two of your major characters the nicknames Am and Erm. (Or Um and Is. Or whatever. Common words and mumble-noises: try to avoid as nicknames.) Do not make your readers stop and think about why Dutch servants are speaking with Cockney accents. Etc. But really: Kenau Hasselaer, I am not spoiled for choice in novels about her, I will put up with a lot.


Jean-Christophe Valtat, Luminous Chaos. Sequel to Aurorarama, and I think you’ll want that first. I missed New Venice; the steampunk Paris was fun and interesting but not as vivid and polar-bear-ridden, not as Mris-targeted. Still worth the time. Still will follow Valtat, despite the…central Parisian pun in part of it. (Ow.) I think one of the things that I enjoyed about this is that I don’t as often see time-travel within parts of someone else’s timeline, and I liked that.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: thistleingrey
2014-02-01 11:08 pm (UTC)

(Link)

(Hi! I skim your LJ via RSS.)

It’s a good thing I have another book of Korean history on my desk

May I ask which one?
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-02 12:20 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Hi, welcome! The one I have on my desk is Peter H. Lee and Wm. Theodore de Bary's Sources of Korean Tradition Volume One: From Early Times Through the Sixteenth Century. If you have recommendations for other books/authors, I would be absolutely thrilled to hear. As you can tell from that title, my interest skews early. I am not uninterested in 20th century Korea, but at the moment my main interest is pre-19th century.
[User Picture]From: thistleingrey
2014-02-02 05:15 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Thank you. The Sources book seems definitely worth the time to me. (Peter Lee has enabled a lot of useful translation projects, but it makes me wonder how far he's inflected English-language Korean studies as a result.) I don't have a recommendation for a single-volume historian's overview because I haven't found one that appeals to me yet....

How far back, re: pre-C19? This far? Farther? (Link is to my WordPress blog, which I cross-post to Dreamwidth; this LJ acct is now only for reading/commenting.)

On my tbr pile are Lee Ki-baik's New History of Korea, trans. Wagner (1984 revision), and Jonathan Best's A History of the Early Korean Kingdom of Paekche. I've only dipped into Epistolary Korea so far (ed. JaHyun Kim Haboush)--its coverage is at least partly pre-C19, I think.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-02 05:32 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Oh, that's definitely of interest, thanks for linking it. Farther back is also of interest. I don't have a specific date of sole interest, since what I'm looking to do is Korean-inflected/Korean-inspired rather than Korean per se, so a good solid grounding is what I'd like. (Also I don't like having holes of ignorance, so I am trying to just fill in.) I'm deeply frustrated by how much Korean history in my library (and in Amazon searches and etc.) seems to map to history of the Korean War and thereafter. One of my Twitter friends responded to this frustration with a lovely line about history starting when we start shooting at people, which I have modified with permission to be the first line of an unrelated short story, but it doesn't help my bibliography any.

Anyway: if any of those tbr are interesting when they have br, I would love to hear about it.
[User Picture]From: thistleingrey
2014-02-02 05:55 pm (UTC)

(Link)

*nods* Makes sense. I tend to look for earlier materials, too--a lot is in Korean, naturally, which I can't read well at all. :( Off the conventional history path but perhaps of use for grounding: also Traditional Korean Costume (ISBN 9781905246045) by Lee Kyung-ja et al., if you have a means for interlibrary loan, or less comprehensively, Profusion of Color: Korean Costumes & Wrapping Cloths of the Chosŏn Dynasty, ed. Kumja Paik Kim and Huh Dong-hwa.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-02 06:23 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Ooh, that sounds lovely. I will look into whether the U has it to ILL.
[User Picture]From: heliopausa
2014-02-01 11:51 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Thanks for the tip about Rebel Women; it's also available on Gutenberg - http://www.gutenberg.org/files/42136/42136-h/42136-h.htm
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-02 12:17 pm (UTC)

(Link)

That's what I meant by free, yes!
[User Picture]From: tool_of_satan
2014-02-02 04:21 am (UTC)

(Link)

The good news is, Lawrence Block is just the same as the last time he was writing Burglar books. The bad news is, Lawrence Block is just the same as the last time he was writing Burglar books.

I hope it's not as problematic as the last one; the last few before that might have been getting a bit tired but I was still able to enjoy them.
[User Picture]From: timprov
2014-02-02 06:30 am (UTC)

(Link)

I cannot speak for what you find problematic but there is nothing remotely similar to the rape plot in Prowl.
[User Picture]From: tool_of_satan
2014-02-03 09:53 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Thanks, that was indeed what I wanted to know.
[User Picture]From: zalena
2014-02-04 01:40 am (UTC)

(Link)

John Sayles writes BOOKS!? Will read.

Also, if I haven't shoved Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking your way it's only because I've run out of copies. It's a social history and family memoir of Soviet Russia via food. The best book I read last year (which is saying something.)
[User Picture]From: zalena
2014-02-04 01:44 am (UTC)

(Link)

Now that I'm looking at it I think the reason it's a book is because it would be a VERY expensive movie.

Speaking of which, Michael Winterbottom's The Claim is a Gold Rush (California, I think) retelling of Hardy's Mayor of Castorbridge and it is one of those films that will make you reconsider Hardy and Westerns and everything. And there is a shot of them moving a house up the hill in the snow, which alone, is worth seeing the film for. Warning: it's sad.

(Though as a older person I'm starting to think that Hardy's books are less about personal tragedies, then social ones. About the legacy, not just of choices, but social position... how poverty plays out over time, for example, even when you think you've got it beat.)
[User Picture]From: timprov
2014-02-04 05:11 am (UTC)

(Link)

It wouldn't be that expensive on a per-hour basis. Very few people want to go to a 14-hour movie, though.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-04 05:13 am (UTC)

(Link)

No, it's not a movie because John Sayles has some understanding that it would be a bad movie. He made Amigo because he could make that part a pretty decent movie. But it's interesting too.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-02-04 05:12 am (UTC)

(Link)

Fear not! It's at the library.