Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Books read, late December

I don't talk about manuscripts I've read to crit for friends. I do talk about ARCs when they come my way. Just a reminder.

Henry Chang, Chinatown Beat. This wasn't a horrible book, but it was choppy and unfocused and ran into some Exotic Other problems (which don't disappear when the group you're Exotically Othering is, if surnames are any indication, at least partially your own). The mystery was not very compelling. It was...I don't know whether the problem was that it was a first novel, but its strengths were not sufficient to make me seek out the sequel, even though Soho Crime has given it an awesome cover that whispers to me that I will like it. I whisper back that I don't really think I will.

Garret Freymann-Weyr, Stay With Me. This was really well-written and compelling all the way through. I loved it. Freymann-Weyr puts our cultural attitude about teenagers to shame with the respect and sensitivity she gives hers. This is not a Problem Novel: no one would ever hand a kid this book to Deal With A Sibling's Suicide. Leila deals with her sister's suicide in as much as anyone ever can, and Freymann-Weyr knows that answers are few and hard and other parts of life will always make their presence felt. Such a good book. Highly recommended.

Tony Hillerman, Listening Woman and People of Darkness. These did get better--in fact, you could watch Mr. Hillerman pulling his brain around on the subject of women and what we can do. It's right there on the page where he's going, Hey. Tony. Don't be a jerk about this. And the reader (by which I mean me, but probably pameladean too) goes, Hey, yeah, Tony, don't be a jerk about this! Good advice, dude. Also the latter of these two got "Point Hope" in my head, but there are worse songs to get in one's head, especially if you don't mind a little ostinato from time to time.

Nalo Hopkinson, The New Moon's Arms. Selkies and drowned islands and unreliable narration. Not my favorite Hopkinson, but still good, worth reading, particularly for those of you with more affinity for salt water than for ice.

John A. Lynn, The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714. This dragged on towards the end. Probably appropriate given the topic. Useful but not one of those books that transcends its topic--I'd only recommend it if you actually are interested in the wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714, like it says on the cover.

Nick Sagan, Edenborn. Second in the series, and I liked it better than the first. Not a cheery book. One of the things I liked is that unlike many other writers who have chosen post-apocalyptic settings, Sagan doesn't let "it would be really convenient to the survival of the human race if people reacted that way" imply that people will react that way. I think the particular way that one of the narrators lacks self-awareness would probably be painful for some of you, because Sagan is an honest dystopian (if dystopian is the right word): the flaws that make up his characters are flaws at least some of his likely readers have shared at some points in their lives. (Honest dystopia: "things can suck a lot because of flaws in people, sometimes including people like us." Dishonest dystopia: "things can suck a lot because of flaws in people, but it's all the fault of those people not like us. Man, they ruin everything. Also they smell funny.")

Bruce Sterling, Shaping Things. Worst book design I have ever encountered. Wow. I read the designer's notes, and she clearly has a different impression of reading used textbooks than I do. This was like when you buy a used textbook and you can tell that the idiot who had it before you was writing a very shallow paper on Hume, because every time Hume's name appears in the text, it has been carefully highlighted in a bilious green, regardless of whether there is anything useful about that sentence. The main difference is that textbook-highlighting idiots usually get bored and wander off to earn their D within two or three chapters, whereas the book designer has made sure that some words and phrases appear in brilliant green, all caps, and/or a separate font every time they appear, all the way to the end. Also, portions of the text are put in all caps and inset JUST TO MAKE YOU FEEL THAT THE BOOK IS YELLING SOMETHING FAIRLY OBVIOUS AT YOU. When one paragraph has three points in it, there are swoopy lines from each point to the following paragraph that discusses them. From what she wrote in the endnotes, the designer was completely successful in her goals, which are antithetical to everything I want in a reading experience. As for the content itself, Sterling had his usual mix of interesting ideas, poorly supported but not necessarily wrong ideas, and tangents of received wisdom that made me want to wander off and ignore the whole thing. It had some interesting thoughts, and it was short.

Wil Wheaton, Dancing Barefoot. And speaking of interesting thoughts and short: this was material cut from the previous Wheaton book I read. Some really good stuff here, some repetition, but the repetition was of material I didn't mind reading again. This one talked somewhat less about acting and the acting business and was more personal. I liked it, and it was short enough that it didn't need any more of an overarching structure than it had.
Tags: bookses precious

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