Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Week of July 2-8

Three rejections. La la la rejections.

Also I seem to be getting nosebleeds again. They had mostly stopped at puberty. I did not miss them, and I do not welcome them back now. Still, there are worse problems to have.

So the rest of what I've been reading:

G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday. I had not read any Chesterton before, so I didn't expect it to get quite so metaphysical as it got. But I got a title out of it, and I was very pleased with its pre-Batman deconstruction of The Batman Villain Problem. (The Batman Villain Problem: the villains always look sinister somehow. You can tell that they are The Bad Guys because they're physically warped or weird or something. Sometimes fat people get stuck with the Batman Villain Problem, in the thinness = moral strength idea. (ICKICKICKEWWWW!) Drives me up a wall. The refined version of this is that the bad guys' physical flaws -- as defined by the author as "flaws," of course -- are signs of their deep underlying ickiness, while the good guys' physical flaws are signs of their charming quirks. Bah.)

Ann Patchett, Bel Canto. Lovely. Refreshing, melancholy, lovely. I almost didn't like the ending, and then I thought about it and decided it was all right.

Sharon Kay Penman, Prince of Darkness -- hey, wait, what's this doing here? This was a murder mystery. All right, I've changed my book log. Anyway, I think I'm done with her murder mysteries now. I like her straight-up historicals, especially when I'm ill or traveling, but the mysteries aren't chewy enough to succeed as historicals for me, and as mysteries they just kind of miss.

Kate Constable, The Singer of All Songs. It was an all-right YA, didn't pull punches, but it contained some pretty big idiot-plot moments. Someone who makes ice sculptures out of thin air with her magic for fun -- and who wants to convince someone that magic exists -- has some obvious immediate courses of action open to her. Harumph.

Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light. I have a great deal of trouble with heroines who are entirely overridden by their hormones. Even though I know actual people are sometimes entirely overridden by their hormones.

Jeanne DuPrau, The City of Ember. Post-apocalyptic society with worldbuilding set up to Make A Point rather than make sense. Writing that sort of thing for children is no excuse.

Mary Downing Hahn, Stepping on the Cracks. Leaned too heavily on assumptions of what the modern reader's attitudes would be for an historical, even a children's historical.

Look. Some things get shorthanded in a children's book due to length and directions of interest. That doesn't mean they can get done wrong.

Garth Nix, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, and Sir Thursday. And Amazon doesn't list a release date for Lady Friday! Groan moan whimper despaiiiir!

Seriously, as I said before, these are smack in the middle of their well-established genre. They are not "innovative" in any way. Nor are they interstitial. They're just good.

Kenneth Oppel, Airborn. I blame this book for the improvement in dream quality for a few days. I think I'll give the second one a chance to overcome some of the things I didn't like about the first and expand on some of the things I did like. And I realize that the dynamic of "poor/working class girl, rich boy" is significantly different than the gender-reverse, but I'm still a little tired of the "poor/working class boy, rich girl" set of standard genuflections to class difference, and also it makes me start humming Simon and Garfunkel: "I am just a poor boy, though my story's seldom told...." Except that it's told all the freakin' time, so can we use class in a more interesting way next time? Thanks.

Jill Patton Walsh, The Green Book. Meh. At several, several points I cried, "Stupid! Stupid people! Stupid!"

Arthur Ransome, Missee Lee. Reread for the first time in years. Fascinating: sometimes totally, horribly racist (the accents, oh, oh, the accents! it is the "you no go eat chop-suey, misseeee! I bang gong!" school of horribly racist awful offensive bad bad bad fake Chinese accents) and sometimes surprisingly enlightened for its copyright date (1941). The title character, Miss Lee, was a Classicist and a field hockey player -- essentially totally assimilated as an intelligent Englishwoman but drawn by family pressure to return to her father's land. Which is pretty three-dimensional for a kids' book at the time. Also I knew a great deal more about 20th century Chinese history than I did when I read it as a kid, so I keep thinking, oh boy, are you people so extremely screwed.

Jim Butcher, Fool Moon. In this book, it becomes even clearer than in the first one that Jim Butcher's gender ideas and his main character's gender ideas are not the same thing. Yay, Jim Butcher! for noting that if you treat a fellow knight as a damsel in distress, the fellow knight and the universe will tend to join forces to kick your butt! This book sold me on the rest of the series.

C.J. Cherryh, Destroyer. Umm. This is in a long series. It goes where it's supposed to. Don't start with it if you're interested in this series.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Effendi. This, on the other hand, made me think that maybe I'd better get further volumes of this series from the library if at all. On the other hand, the next one was convenient on the new books shelf at the library, so it's sitting on my to-be-read pile.

Theodore Judson, Fitzpatrick's War. It was really fascinating the way Judson reconstructed both the virtues and the flaws of the historical memoir genre in a future version. Unfortunately, the flaws of that genre really detracted from this book as a work of fiction rather than a thought experiment about historical memoir. I think the crit-group version of this is, "I see what you're doing, and you've done it really well, but for me it's not enough."

Naomi Novik, Black Powder War. Weakest entry in this series. If I hadn't read the excerpt from the fourth book, I would be ambivalent about whether I even wanted the fourth book. I do want it, though, having read the excerpt -- but reading the excerpt is so rare for me that this is essentially sheer luck.

And that's what I've been reading since early June. So okay then.

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