June 1st, 2009

reading

Books read, late May

Kage Baker, The Empress of Mars. Discussed elsewhere.

Thomas A. Day, A Grey Moon Over China. Discussed elsewhere.

Frederick Forsyth, The Phantom of Manhattan. Grandpa's. One of my grandpa's readerly traits is that he was a very loyal reader. So because he liked spy novels, he had things by spy novel writers like this, which is a continuation of the Phantom of the Opera, correcting the bits Mr. Forsyth found...insufficiently romantic. I know that I should have been hearing "Masquerade" as played on a music box. I know that's what Forsyth wanted the reader to hear. But instead...well, last week nihilistic_kid linked to a couple of songs from Spamalot on YouTube, and I watched them, and I kept getting "Song That Goes Like This" in my head. Because this--was the chapter--that went like thiiiiiis. Seriously, it was all so pat, and way too much exposition--did we need to hear about the childhood of every minor character? Did they have to be Colorful Types? Really? And the ending rewrite was...as conceived by a 12-year-old girl. Grandpa, as I recall, was kind of bemused by the whole thing, but where his authors went, he would follow, albeit with a sort of scrunchy face.

Georgette Heyer, The Nonesuch. This is one of the kind of Heyers I like best: where the sensible people get together and are amused by the non-sensible people. Also there was at least one of my expectations overturned in the ending. So generally pretty entertaining.

Tony Hillerman, The Fallen Man and The First Eagle. Okay, now, look. When you start to have the romantic sub-plot go the same way with different other-halves in it, it's starting to look like the problem is not perhaps a coincidence? I am tired of this sub-plot. It is time for a new sub-plot. (She said, glaring balefully at Hunting Badger on the to-be-read pile.)

Victory Kayfetz, Ulrich Herz, et al, Sweden in Brief. Grandpa's. From the date and the price sticker on the back, this looks like something Grandpa purchased the first time he and Grandma went to Sweden, before I was born. It's a little booklet with pictures and those things a committee in Sweden decided were most important for English-speaking travelers to know in the mid-70s: the most famous Swedish architects, yes, but also the current Swedish attitude towards Southeast Asia. Fascinating not for new information but for selection of information. Also fun to imagine Grandpa and Grandma as far less experienced than they were by the time they took me to Sweden--I only knew them as fairly knowledgeable about Swedish basics.

Walt Kelly, Impollutable Pogo. Grandpa's. Like my grandfather, never missed an opportunity for a silly joke. I hadn't read Pogo before and enjoyed this one for the sheer Grandpaness of it.

Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books. Grandpa's. This is the edition I first read. I had forgotten that it had a couple of far-north stories in it, one where Kipling has noticed that it isn't maybe the best idea to club baby seals to death en masse. I remembered a lot of it, though, Kaa and Rikki-tikki-tavi and other favorites of Grandpa's and mine together.

James Patterson, 1st to Die. Grandpa's. Grandpa was a big fan of James Patterson, so I have a bunch of these ahead of me. The chapters are extremely short, and the narrative is...pushy. It tells you how you ought to be reacting at every turn. I'm wondering how much I'm going to keep thinking, "Yes, of course your background is as a marketing exec," as I read these. Also I suspect that the title was chosen just so there could be numbers in the other titles.

David Quammen, The Song of the Dodo. Grandpa's. I got this for him because I'd liked another book by the same author. Popular naturalism. It read fairly smoothly, with interesting tidbits (what I want out of popular naturalism is mostly interesting tidbits), but there were a few spots where Quammen bent over too far backwards on the, "You don't have to get math to understand this! Nobody gets math! Hahaha we are so incompetent at math!" idea, which made me mutter to myself.

Ruth Rendell, Kissing the Gunner's Daughter. This is not the most recent of the Wexford novels, but it's the only one I hadn't read yet. It was a satisfying one of these. What's odd is that I haven't been reading many long mystery series lately where the author is still alive and writing--the series I've been reading have been bifurcating into "new and ongoing but short" and "old and finished but long." This is old and ongoing and long. I'll look forward to the new one in the fall. How odd, to have a new one to look forward to in the fall.