Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Books read, early July

I managed to get two pieces of nonfiction in this fortnight, but not particularly challenging types of nonfiction. One memoir, one barely requiring reading instead of skimming. Still, we'll see; maybe I can sneak up on it.

Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak. Possibly this book would have been better if the deep dark secret hadn't been really, really obvious to me from the first two or three pages. Probably we would live in a better world if the deep dark secret hadn't been really, really obvious to me because it was so shocking and painful to contemplate. But that's not the world we live in. Too many of the characters in this book were pretty much jerks, including the main character herself. Yes, I know that undergoing major trauma as an adolescent doesn't always make people the most considerate in the world to deal with. Still, feeling sorry for the main character did not actually make me like her.

K. A. Applegate, Remnants. The first installation in what appears to be a long YA SF series. Meh. Applegate is very focused on making the characters hip-sounding, with "cool" nicknames, and not very focused on good prose or plotting. There were some passages dealing with the end of the world that were all right, but far too much eye-rolling per page to make the rest of the series worthwhile to me.

Pat Barker, Border Crossing and Double Vision. I loved Barker's WWI trilogy. I thought it was brilliant. These...were very competently written, but they felt to me like thrillers with the spark pulled out. Thrill-less thrillers. So I decided, after the second one, that I would only read Barker from here on out if I had special interest in the setting/material of the book. I went and looked at the one remaining on my library list, and I do have special interest. Figures.

Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth. Memoir of WWI from a young volunteer nurse's perspective. By the end of the book she meets some people her own age she can care about who do not die immediately. This is some relief. It was good to read this book, and I recommend it, but cheerful? no. Not in the slightest. The Great War, for heaven's sake.

Amanda Cross, In the Last Analysis and The James Joyce Murder. The first of these was fairly unsatisfying to me as a mystery but reasonably satisfying as a book: the characters were very fine, and their milieu was fascinating. The things that are "liberal" and "unconventional" in the early 1960s are just astonishing. Anyway, the mystery picked up considerably in the second one, and I will be pleased to read the rest. (There are two major ways in which a mystery can be unsatisfying to me. One is if I find the solution completely implausible. The other is if I find that it is completely plausible but so are a number of other things, and it seems the purest coincidence that the detective can happen upon this explanation when, "And then some Jesuits teamed up with the local university's women's hockey team to hide the body!" seems just as likely. This was the latter kind. But there was eventually proof of the implausibly derived theory, so all right. As I said: characters.)

Edward Eager, Magic or Not?. One of my least favorite Eagers. I prefer to know for a fact whether it is magic or not. I tend to find the books that dance around the question annoying. Especially if the other alternative is coincidence: Magic or Coincidence? is a far less appealing title, I think for good reason.

Stan Fischler, Fischler's Illustrated History of Hockey. This ought to have been called Fischler's Photographic History of Men's Major League Professional Hockey. And in the difference between those titles lies the book I wanted to read. Sigh. Fischler worked as a publicist for a hockey team at some point, and you can sort of tell: the whole thing reads like a series of breathless publicity shorts. He does much better in the one I'm inching through now, where he's interviewing old players, coaches, and referees extensively, so I'll have more to say on that when I'm done with it. But if you want a history of the game of hockey...well, I'll be trying other books, because this was so not it.

Ruth Rendell, A New Lease of Death. Another Wexford novel. Satisfying but not standing out for me.

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind. Despite my frustrations with this, I do intend to read the sequel. I really liked that Captain Supercompetence was not Captain Immediate Callouses, for example, and that alchemy required safety precautions. I think I am reading somewhat at cross-purposes with many high fantasy readers, which is frustrating.

Karl Schroeder, The Engine of Recall. Short stories, some of them good, some of them sort of standard-issue.

Helene Tursten, Detective Inspector Huss. The translation on this one was not as bad as some of the books I quit, but it wasn't as good as I'd hope, either. I hope that later books in the series have different or better translators. Still, apparently I was in the market for some excessively Swedish mystery novel time, and this certainly fit the bill. The personal resolution stuff was...rather simple for my tastes. One hopes that part of the series will get more complex with time. But the gender and ethnic police force stuff was fascinating: the Finnish minority interactions with the Swedish majority particularly caught my eye, watching how the descriptions of the Finnish policeman were like descriptions of African-American or Hispanic police officers in American fiction from several decades ago and how they were completely different. Neat.

Jacqueline Woodson, From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun. I'm not sure how I completely missed what this was going to be like. I was expecting it to be post-apocalyptic. It was not. A young African-American man finds out that his mother is a lesbian involved with a white woman, and he has to cope with the notion. Full stop. There is no reason why I should have expected this to involve extrasolar planets in natural disaster. So, um. If you can expect it to be a teen problem novel rather than SF, go for it. Not the book's fault.

Patricia Wrede, Calling on Dragons. I have no idea how I missed this one before, but I did. It fits nicely in the Enchanted Forest series but is not very satisfying without the rest of the books in that series. But since I've read the rest of the books in that series, I could be satisfied to have this bit filled in.
Tags: bookses precious

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