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

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Books read, late January [Feb. 3rd, 2015|03:49 pm]
Marissa Lingen

Ben Aaronovitch, Foxglove Summer. It seems that Aaronovitch is alternating arc plot books with monster of the week books. This is one of the latter, and it’s a fun monster of the week sort of thing, Peter out of his usual setting, but if you were looking for an immediate follow-up to the ending of the last volume, this is not it. There’s just enough to let the reader know that he hasn’t forgotten, isn’t neglecting it, and otherwise this is pretty locally focused. I would still recommend starting at the beginning of the series, but you might be able to make this work as an entry point that’s atypical in some key ways.

Samit Basu, Resistance. This is another “start with the first one” book that’s still a pretty worthy sequel. The suddenly superheroic universe of the last book has evolved by a bit, and this book is fairly strong on following up/piling on consequences. If you wanted a book wherein mechas fight kaiju in a superhero universe, that happens here, but a lot of other stuff happens too.

Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory. Discussed elsewhere.

Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, Stranger. Post-apocalyptic mutant adventures! I think my favorite part of this book was the variety of imagined fauna and flora. The human parts were well-handled also, but I found myself hoping that the characters would leave their town (as they sometimes did) so that they could find out about more strange plants and critters. I’m looking forward to finding out what else that world contains in the sequel.

Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory. I didn’t mean to have an incredibly morbid nonfiction week, but sometimes that’s what hold requests at the library do to you. This is short, a very easy read, and yet provides a lot of detail about modern cremation and the modern funeral industry in general. Some of this may be difficult for some people to read–I particularly want to flag that Doughty is detailed about how they handle infant corpses as opposed to adult corpses–but it’s very interesting stuff.

Amal El-Mohtar, The Honey Month. A synesthetic exploration inspired by twenty-eight types of honey–some poems and some short fiction, hard to genre-typify. The sort of strange intense project I wish we had more of.

Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. This was the second unintentionally morbid book in the week that Mark’s Grandpa Gritter died, and it had a lot more intellectual/emotional depth than the Doughty. Gawande is a doctor who has written extensively about process in some very usefully nerdy ways, and he looks at some process questions here. Much of it is stuff we’ve already handled or are aware of others handling, in my family, but there was still interesting detail that was new to me, and I think it’s a worthwhile book for many/most people. Recommended.

Robert Hughes, Goya. This was physically heavy enough to be a problem to read sometimes, so I’m afraid I had a more fragmented experience than I would otherwise have had. The progression from young artist attempting to make his mark with court to satirist and on to darkly humorous old man pleasing mostly himself was fascinating, though, and I enjoyed having a closer look at a painter I didn’t know much about.

Tove Jansson, Moominland Midwinter. Most of the Moomins hybernate, so this is a limited-cast Moomin book. Still fun, interesting, so very Finnish, but again probably not my first choice for where to start. (There’s no Thingummy and Bob, so there you have that.)

David Liss, The Day of Atonement. The story of a Portuguese Jewish man in the 18th century returning to Lisbon after having lived safely in England, seeking revenge on those who wronged his family and finding it harder than he expected to determine where and how that revenge should be dealt out. It’s the sort of thing Liss does very well, and I liked this latest volume of it a lot.

Karen Lord, The Galaxy Game. I would have liked more elephants, but it was still another worthy book in the universe of her previous. I also would have liked slightly more perspective balance among the young characters, but that isn’t really very important; it was still a space SF book of the sort that I loved when I was 12 and miss very much right now: different types of human with different abilities, navigating galactic politics and local variations as best they can.

Allan H. Ropper, Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease. I do love neurology when the topic of it isn’t a family member. This contains bunches of weird stories of what the brain does and what people do around their own and others’ brain glitches. If you like that aspect of Oliver Sacks, Ropper is not quite as engaging but still a quite reasonable example of the genre. He also handles being Michael J. Fox’s neurologist quite well in the text, walking the line between name-dropping and minimizing with ease.

Janni Lee Simner, Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer. Kindle. Tiernay hunts for very personal treasure. This is a middle-grade novel, but I think it’s almost better suited for adults, because the perspective on Tiernay’s awesomeness and juvenile limitations is very adult. I’m always on the lookout for good adventure fiction for the MG audience, so I was glad to get this one.

Sylvia Townsend Warner, The Corner That Held Them. Every time I read Sylvia Townsend Warner, I say, “What a strange book,” and this was too. It was the story of a bunch of nuns over several decades of the 14th century. For the first half or so, it’s extremely fragmented, with through narratives not always easy to discern, but they do come together eventually.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: pameladean
2015-02-03 08:59 pm (UTC)
I'm not finished with Stranger yet, but I too am very much enjoying the strange plants and critters. In fact, I don't at all like action-filled beginnings like Stranger's but was easily resigned to this one by the extremely cool and creepy crystal trees.

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From: nenya_kanadka
2015-02-03 10:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, the pit-mouths from Stranger are sheer nightmare fuel. Gaaah! And the crystal trees are by turns intriguing and scary. I liked the book a lot, and yeah, was split between liking the characters more or the worldbuilding more. Though I really love that it's a story where teenagers are part of a community, not the clichéd "No adult could ever understand us!"

The Galaxy Game just arrived from the library, and I'm looking forward to it! The protagonist's sister & nephew were a plot thread I loved last time and wanted more of, so I'm really looking forward to a Rafi book.
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[User Picture]From: txanne
2015-02-04 12:03 am (UTC)
I loved Stranger, and I'm also really enjoying Hostage. The extended world is pretty cool so far, including some mutated horses. I wish I lived in a world where menopause led to pyrokinesis, I tell you what.

I mostly liked The Galaxy Game, but I had no idea what was going on for...pretty much any of it. I was confused by the POV changes--maybe an ebook issue, or maybe just a matter of the narrative not fitting with the way I think. Either way, I consistently had to go back and figure out whose head I was in. Actually I didn't know it was a sequel until we actually saw Grace and I went "huh." (I bought it because KAREN LORD YES). I'll keep buying the series because I trust her, but I hope the next one makes me feel less incompetent as a reader.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-02-04 12:19 am (UTC)
I don't think it was an ebook issue. I think the POV changes were not handled very clearly, but it didn't ruin the book for me.
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[User Picture]From: txanne
2015-02-04 12:35 am (UTC)
Well...a book has to work very hard to ruin itself for me. I just never got to where I could immerse myself, which is what I always hope for. (The Just City and Karen Memory: books I can swim around in.) And it wasn't the focus on politics, either, because I eat that up with a spoon. I do wonder if the fact that Rafi was also deathly confused for most of his parts had something to do with it.
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[User Picture]From: tool_of_satan
2015-02-04 01:28 am (UTC)
I also thought the Gawande was good. Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant might make an interesting companion piece, at least for those who can stand to read two books on the subject in a short period of time.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-02-04 01:47 am (UTC)
I'm now #27 in the library queue for that, thanks.
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[User Picture]From: sprrwhwk
2015-02-04 04:25 am (UTC)
Most of the Moomins hybernate

At this stage of winter that sounds positively civilized (he says from under four feet of snow).
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