Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2012

.

[At the Amazon Kindle Community forum there is a monthly thread where participants list and comment on which books they’re reading at the moment on their Kindles. These aren’t usually full reviews, often  just relatively brief impressions. I’m copying over some of my comments made there into Book Bits posts here.]

.

Originally posted on 1/2

After I spent a good chunk of December reading traditional fantasy I was in the need for a change of pace and finally selected The Spellman Files [private investigator] by Lisa Lutz from my lengthy TBR list on my Kindle. (I got it on sale for $1.99 in Sept.) Boy howdy was it a change of pace!

The Spellman Files is probably classified in the mystery genre, but a couple mysteries are not the focus of this book. The uniquely dysfunctional Spellman family is. All but one member of the family work as private investigators. I thought things dragged a bit between about the 2/3 and 3/4 portion of the book, but overall it was a very entertaining read. Though you have to have a high tolerance for imperfect, bizarre people (and an unusual novel structure).

Here’s one of my highlights that kinda sums it up:

==========
The Spellman Files (Lisa Lutz)
– Highlight Loc. 2630-31 |

We all have deadbolts on our doors and, with the exception of the two-year period of time when mine was removed for drug-related offenses, this is standard fare in the family. We’re really into privacy, especially since we have no respect for it.
==========

And now I’m not sure what I’m going to start next!

.

Originally posted on 1/5

I really enjoyed Origin [horror] by Konrath also, Amelia. To me it was a good old-fashioned monster story, mostly. It wasn’t great, but it was a fast, very fun read.

Right now I’m about halfway through Decoded [FBI thriller] by Sara Marx. (Link is for the paper book because the ebook is only available on the publisher’s site right now.) It’s a real slog, and I’ve almost ditched it because the writing is sub-par in irritating ways. But the story itself is just mysterious enough to keep me going to find out if what I think is going on is really what is going on.

.

Originally posted on 1/9

I finished Decoded by Sara Marx. Pretty awful book. I did a review and gave it two stars. It took me almost a week to read it, when normally a book that length takes me 1-2 days.

Though I have to admit my reading is down anyway because I received The Sims Medieval for Christmas and have been a bit obsessed with playing during times I would have normally been reading.

My brain was so numb from the bad book I had no idea what to start next, nothing sounded good. So I started In Every Port [lesbian romance] by Karin Kallmaker. I read it when it was originally published in 1989, it was her first novel, and it’s an old favorite. It’s just a fluff lesbian romance, but reading it is like slipping into sweats and old comfy slippers. (It’s only $2.99!)

.

Originally posted on 1/13

After finishing In Every Port by Karin Kallmaker, which is an old favorite, I decided it was time to read The Giver [dystopian] by Lois Lowry.

A few years ago a co-worker told me “you gotta read this book”, referring to The Giver, but he didn’t say anything at the time about what sort of book it was. I never looked into it, but the title did stay in the back of my mind all this time. When someone here mentioned it a while back I put it on my wishlist and then snagged it when it went on sale for 99 cents. So it was great to finally read the book after all this time (and put to rest that little nagging “you should read this” voice!).

It’s definitely written at a level for older grade school or middle school children. The language and story telling style are quite simple and straight forward and there isn’t much complexity. Despite its simplicity it was still thought provoking. I don’t normally read children’s fiction, or I might wax more enthusiastic about it.  I’m glad I read it, but I won’t be reading the other two in the trilogy.

After I finished that I read Specimen 313 [horror short] by Jeff Strand, which someone in this thread recommended. It’s a short story offered for free as a teaser to a horror anthology. It was a really cute horror story. I know “cute” and the horror genre don’t naturally go hand-in-hand, but I think it fits in this case. It’s sort of a triffids-meet-cackling-mad-scientist story. Very enjoyable and definitely worth the time to download and read.

Not sure yet which novel I’m going to start next, but I’m heavily leaning towards finally digging into The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I bought it a long time ago when the price first dropped, but had been waiting on it because I figured I’d also want to buy and read the next two in the trilogy. Since I still have some of a Christmas gift certificate left, now seems like a good time!

.

Originally posted on 1/15

I did decide to read The Hunger Games [dystopian] by Suzanne Collins ($4.69) and the word “Wow!” sums up my response. I expected to like it because of all the positive comments I’ve read about it in the monthly poll over the last couple years, but I don’t think I expected to be as completely swept away as I was.

It’s told in first person, present tense, and I very much dislike present tense narration. Yet, after saying “ugh” at the first sentence it rarely bothered me again for the duration of the book, it was just that good. There were several very emotionally charged scenes that had me choked up, but it was a loaf of bread that finally elicited tears.

Of course, the minute I finished it I immediately turned on the wireless on my Kindle and bought and downloaded Catching Fire, the second book in the trilogy. (It was about 1am when I did this, but didn’t have to budge from bed! I looooove my Kindle!) I’m 30% through it already. The nature of the story in the second book makes it not quite as fast-paced and riveting, but I’m still enjoying it a lot.

.

Originally posted on 1/18

So I finished The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins and WOW still sums it up for me. I know a lot of people didn’t like the third book, Mockingjay, as much as the first two, but for me it didn’t disappoint. (Though as is frequently the case, I thought the epilogue was superfluous and it would have been a stronger ending without it.) I loved the trilogy so much I had to do a gushing review on my blog.

Of course, then I faced that terrible problem. What to read next after being blown away? Sometimes the next book falls flat, not because there’s anything really wrong with it, it’s just that your expectations are too high. So I figured I had to try something so completely different there would be no chance for comparison, and no disappointment if I didn’t like it.

That led me to delving into my small pulp fiction collection from Lawrence Block that I picked up a while back when the books went on sale for 99 cents. I chose Threesome [pulp], which is $2.99 right now. It was originally published under his pulp pen name Jill Emerson in 1970. I’m not very far into it but so far I’ve laughed out loud once and am enjoying Block’s writing style. It appears I made the right “has to be very different” choice.

.

Originally posted on 1/19

I finished Threesome by Lawrence Block. I was expecting a quick, pointless, trashy read, but got so much more. It was surprisingly good, and even more surprisingly, very funny. Block really is a fantastic writer, even when pumping out salacious pulp fiction.

Now I’m back to: what in heck should I choose to read next?

.

Originally posted on 1/20

I read Storms [lesbian romance] by Gerri Hill. (Link is to the paper book, I got the ebook during an end of the year sale on the publisher’s site.) Hill is one of my favorite lesbian romance authors, but this one was a disappointment. It read like a first novel. Great story, characters, and setting, but the writing itself felt forced and was much too repetitive. I’m bummed.

Not sure what’s next, but it will probably be a big genre shift again.

.

Originally posted on 1/21

I’ve just started The Strain [apocalyptic horror]. I got it on sale quite a while back, and I assumed I’d like it based on comments in this thread, so when the second one in the trilogy came on sale recently I picked it up too.

But now I’m less than 10% into it and struggling. The story itself so far has me extremely intrigued and I definitely want to know what happens. But the writing is driving me absolutely bonkers. Rampant use of similes that make me think WTF?!, injudicious use of adjectives, and so on. It’s like one minute I’m really into it with tension rising, and the next I’m wanting to hurl my Kindle. So we’ll see how it goes. :)

For those considering calling the Kindle Abuse Hotline on me, the key word there was “wanting”. I would NEVER do anything to harm my precious!

.

Originally posted on 1/27

I finished The Strain, first book in The Strain Trilogy last night. I said when I’d just barely started it that the writing was driving me batty. If there were a prize for the worst similes ever published, this book would be a top contender, if not the hands-down winner! I’m talking coming to a screeching halt and thinking “WTF?!” bad.

However, the story itself had me interested enough to give the book a serious chance and I’m glad I did. Once things started happening and there was more dialogue the book moved along better. It also helped that I forced myself to read faster. I’m normally a relatively slow reader for someone who reads so much, but by speeding up I found it’s easier for me to skim past the ugly writing parts and still enjoy the main points of the story.

At least, that worked for me in this book. (If often doesn’t help.) It worked because the story itself is good and I keep wanting to know what will happen next. It’s not like the plot is unique. It’s following the same path a lot of other apocalypse-by-monster books have already tread. But it’s fun reading anyway.

I’m now about 10% into the second book, The Fall.

.

Originally posted on 1/31

My reading has just taken a sharp left turn. Yesterday I was 31% into The Fall, which is the second book in The Strain Trilogy. And I decided to quit.

It’s not that it’s an awful book, though the writing has problems at times. It’s just that I realized I was really only reading because I wanted to get to the end. I was not enthralled with the journey. I can understand why many people have enjoyed the trilogy, but I concluded this is an instance of “just not for me”. Since I had bought the book on sale, I didn’t feel like I was wasting too much money by quitting, which helps in making that decision.

I think part of the problem is that there are no important female characters. That in and of itself isn’t always an issue for me, but then there needs to be something else about the book that is compelling, or the book needs to be short. In this case, the only even kinda major female character is Nora, and in one and a third books she only seems to be in the way. It feels like the authors wrote her in to attract female reader interest, but then had absolutely no idea what to do with her. Maybe she does something useful or interesting later on, but I’ll never know.

The other major thing is that there are other books waiting on my Kindle that I really want to read, so I finally asked myself why I was putting in the time on The Fall. Especially since a friend gave me a book for my birthday that had been on my wishlist for some time.

I’m now reading that one! It’s Gladiatrix [historical/female gladiators] by Russell Whitfield. I had read a sample quite some time ago and wasn’t totally sold on the writing, but I wanted to read the story and was waiting for a price drop. But since the book has been out for three years that didn’t seem to be happening. Makes it a perfect gift book. I’m only 10% in so don’t have any comments yet.

[Note: My full reviews for In Every Port, Decoded, Storms, and Threesome can be found by clicking on the Lezzie Books tab at the top of this page.]

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Why I Don’t Blog Much

.

A glance at the Archive list on the right bar provides a graphic representation of how erratically and infrequently I blog. Being a master level procrastinator accounts for a large part of why. But the other major why has to do with how my brain works.

If there was a way to jack my computer into my brain, so that what I write in my head appears as a text file on my computer, there would be a lot of blog posts. I write stuff in my head what seems like almost constantly. There would be several posts a week if that jacking thing were possible. (Should I note that in my head I’m a really good writer? But somehow, when I write for real it, comes out merely adequate.)

To prove what I intended to write for this article, I almost went off on a tangent just now about why I even bother to blog. I’ve done almost nothing to drive traffic here, other than tagging. It wasn’t until I added my Lezzie Books page the other day that I even put the URL into my profile on Amazon. Ah, now see? I did go on the tangent. I’ll stop here and proceed with what I meant to say.

Okay, so constantly writing in my head. Last night I was hit with the burning desire to write a post rhapsodizing about a specific song. (This is Love by Mary Chapin Carpenter.) As I was thinking of how to start the post it morphed into a lengthy discussion of how listening to music has changed from my childhood until now. That was interesting to me and I might have written that post.

But then something from that mental composing process prompted me into thinking about Women’s Music. Mainly wondering if there even is such a thing anymore, with newer artists making their own contributions. I’m not talking about lesbians making music, like Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman. I’m talking about music that was written and performed by women, usually lesbians, specifically for other women, usually lesbians. People like Chris Williamson and Alix Dobkin. (If you’re under the age of forty do you even know who they are?)

That whole line of thought then morphed into how aging, and changes in life situation and where I live, has created a culture void for me. There could be a very active Women’s Music thing going on and I’m just out of the loop. Moving from the heart of the city to the northernmost city limits, which might as well be the hinterlands when it comes to being in contact with queer culture, means I would have to actively work at keeping up with what’s going on. Something I’m not any good at.

That then prompted me to start thinking about my upcoming 50th birthday, which is in less than a week. Those thoughts were no longer being written as a blog post in my head, they were just personal reflections on how changes in my life dictate how that milestone will or won’t be celebrated.

So there you have it. One blog article that I was burning to write last night became four or five almost fully written, potentially interesting, articles in my head in the span of a few hours. And what I ended up actually writing was this. Go figure.

Read Full Post »

New Page Added

At the top of the site you’ll see a new tab with the “Lezzie Books” label. I’ve started a project to list books with lesbian/bi characters or content. Currently it’s only a list, using a basic, three-category rating system. Eventually it will have active links to the Amazon book pages to get descriptions and reader reviews, and links to my own reviews or brief comments on this blog. The intention is to provide a place to help those looking for some good, or at least interesting, reading material.

All the linking, and copying of my Amazon reviews to blog pages, is time-consuming, so it will be an ongoing project for quite some time. I hope it will be of at least some use to readers!

Read Full Post »

.

Words are powerful. They have the means to uplift or to tear down. Many words are only imbued with power because of how they are strung together or because the speaker/writer is charismatic or hateful. Some words are imbued with power because of how they have been specifically used. In the case of pejoratives, some have centuries of ugliness held within them.

I was coming out as a baby dyke in the 1980s, a time of reclamation for many words relating to being gay. Like “dyke”, for instance. It has always somewhat amused me that I never had any negative associations with the word “dyke” and I used it from the beginning. To me it’s a strong word, both in sound and meaning.

The word “lesbian” on the other hand flustered me. It was imbued with all sorts of emotions. Not negative, because I was lucky to escape internalizing any homophobia. But I think because I’d been questioning whether I was a lesbian or not for several years before coming out it was a word that was too personal at first, if that makes any sense. The first time I ever applied it to myself in a conversation with another person (who was a lesbian) I tripped over it. Embarrassing!

Because I had not had to deal with any real blatant homophobia directed my way, or internalized negative associations with being gay, prior to coming out, many of the historically pejorative words simply had no demeaning power for me. It helps that I was a teen in the 70s and coming out as a young adult in the 80s. I suspect my feelings may have been quite a bit different if I’d been struggling to accept myself in the 1950s.

So I came to the gay community at a time when “queer” was in the process of being reclaimed. And I liked the word. If you remove the emotional baggage of the word being hurled in hatred or disgust, you come up with a not-so-bad descriptive word. We are queer in the sense that we have our own subculture and we are only a small segment of the overall population.

But what I like most about the word is its inclusiveness. Rather than having to string out all the “alphabet soup” labels, I can say the word “queer” and it’s understood that it applies to everyone under the umbrella. Not only that, but it applies to people who are not so easily defined under one of the existing labels.

Personally I have no problem with the older labels, and in fact will have to admit that because of the time in which I came out, they have deep meaning to me and I cling to them. I am a lesbian and that label fits me perfectly, so I hold on to them even though the world has moved on and our understanding of orientation has expanded. The labels have lost some of their usefulness due to the fact they are in many cases too narrow or specific to accurately apply to many individuals.

Not so the word “queer.” No matter what your orientation (other than straight), no matter how muddled your self-definition might be because you’re not quite exactly this or that in how you perceive your own reality, the word “queer” covers it. And it covers not only orientation in regards to how you relate to other genders, but how you define (or refuse to define) your own gender. It’s a good, multi-purpose word that includes, rather than excludes, and I like it.

Read Full Post »

[At the Amazon Kindle Community forum there is a monthly thread where participants list and comment on which books they’re reading at the moment on their Kindles. These aren’t usually full reviews, often  just relatively brief impressions. I’m copying over some of my comments made there into Book Bits posts here.]

.

I got really lazy about putting my monthly Book Bits posts up here, but finally decided since I have them in a file on my computer I should stop procrastinating (one of my best skills!) and do it.

12/2

I finished reading Burglars Can’t Be Choosers by Lawrence Block, which I received as a random act of kindness gift. It’s the first of the Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries. I’d put it in the “light, fun read” category and recommend it to anyone who thinks the synopsis sounds interesting.

I did notice one kinda funny thing while reading. In my head I have a strong association between Block and pulp novels of the 50s and 60s, so as I was reading I had to keep reminding myself that Burglars was published in 1977, not 1957. I’ve read two crime novels from Block now and he does a pretty good job of writing in a way so that his stories don’t feel too horribly dated, despite the fact they were published 30-50 years ago.

12/6

I finished reading Shadows of Aggar by Chris Anne Wolfe ($4.99). This one is an old, beloved favorite of mine, originally published in 1991. Wolfe had an extremely annoying love affair with exclamation points, not just in dialogue, but all through the narration. However, I love the characters and the story, and this is probably about the fifth time I’ve read the book. (First time on my Kindle.) It was wonderful visiting an old, dear friend. It’s a science fantasy novel (similar to the Darkover and Pern books, in which there are SF underpinnings, but the story reads mostly like traditional fantasy).

Not quite ready to leave that world behind yet, I’ve now just started Fires of Aggar ($4.99) which is a sequel, but set in the far distant future from the first book.

12/9

I finished Fires of Aggar by Chris Anne Wolfe. I love the world building and characters, and it’s a pretty good story. But the writing gets in the way sometimes, lessening enjoyment.

I’m now about 25% into The Ambassador’s Mission by Trudi Canavan. I was blessed that a fellow Kindler gifted this book and the second one in the trilogy as a random act of kindness a few months ago and I was now in the perfect mood to start reading them.

This is the third trilogy from Canavan that I’ll have read. The first one, The Black Magician Trilogy (first book is The Magician’s Guild), is in the same world but the events take place 20 years earlier. The other trilogy, The Age of the Five (first book is Priestess of the White), is a fantasy trilogy in a totally different world. Both of them were very good, so I’ve been looking forward to reading this one.

And with good reason evidently because it absorbed me right away, even though my memory is very hazy about events in the first books because it’s been a few years since I read them. Which means that anyone who hasn’t read the first trilogy can easily read this one without feeling terribly lost. Info about previous events is handed out in the narrative as needed.

12/12

I finished The Ambassador’s Mission by Trudi Canavan, first book in the Traitor Spy trilogy, and it was great. The book constantly hops around between four main characters and in some books that would drive me nuts, but in this case it helped keep the story moving at a fast pace and kept things interesting all the way through. It’s a 560 page book but I devoured it very quickly.

12/17

I finished The Rogue by Trudi Canavan, which is the second book in the Traitor Spy trilogy. Good stuff! It started a little slow in a few places but then picked up steam and I tore right through it. Unfortunately, the third book isn’t out yet or I’d be in the middle of it right now. Can hardly wait!

Then, needing a change of pace I read Rebeccah and the Highwayman by Barbara Davies. Fluff lesbian fiction about an upper class woman who becomes involved with Blue-Eyed Nick, a woman posing as a male highwayman in the early 1700s. Not great fiction, but it was a fun read.

That book put me in the mood for more “woman with a sword” fiction, so I started The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. I’ve just barely started it, so can’t comment too much except to say that I’m enjoying the writing.

12/22

I finished reading The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. This book was a little difficult for me to get into. It was different than I was expecting and at the start I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters or what was happening. But Kushner is a good writer and that encouraged me to keep going to give it more of a chance, whereas if the writing had been more clunky or amateurish I likely would have dropped it and gone on to something else instead.

I ended up liking the book quite a bit, but it was a slow growing thing. As it went on I became more intrigued and wondered where things were going. By the time I was about 70% into it I was dismayed that book was nearing the end much sooner than I was ready for and was wishing it was twice as long.

I’d love to read a direct sequel with the same characters, but the following book set in the same world is about different characters in the central roles. Just as this one centered on different characters than the first Swords of Riverside book, Swordspoint, which I had read a few years ago.

12/29/11

I finished reading StarCrossed by Elizabeth Bunce ($2.99). This was one of those books I wasn’t too sure of at first, it didn’t really grab me hard, but it became more and more interesting the further I got into it. In the end I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever go on to read the sequels.

There were two things in the writing that did bug me. The author’s choice of names for people and places were often awkward. I don’t know how to explain it, but a lot of them didn’t flow in my head easily, so I was always having to force myself to pronounce them correctly. (An example is one character named Eptin Csomething, and my brain kept calling him “Captain”.) Another issue was that sometimes she did a poor job of explaining things, so that later what was going on didn’t match my initial understanding. This was especially true in the placement of an important pass in the mountains.

There was also an issue with the Kindle edition where a lot of words with more than one syllable were broken up with spaces between each syllable. Strange, and obviously should have been caught in proofreading the digital edition before publishing. However, even with those issues, I still ended up liking the story quite a bit, which involved a lot of political stuff and a young female thief caught up in situations beyond her control.

Read Full Post »

[At the Amazon Kindle Community forum there is a monthly thread where participants list and comment on which books they’re reading at the moment on their Kindles. These aren’t usually full reviews, often  just relatively brief impressions. I’m copying over some of my comments made there into Book Bits posts here.]

.

I got really lazy about putting my monthly Book Bits posts up here, but finally decided since I have them in a file on my computer I should stop procrastinating (one of my best skills!) and do it.

11/5

I’m still reading It by Stephen King. Good gravy this is a long book! It’s taking me forever. I’ve been reading it for a week and a half and I’m only about 60% through it.

I’m enjoying re-reading the story because I’d forgotten huge chunks of it in the intervening twenty or so years since the last time I read it and it really is a great story. But my inner editor has been wanting to get out the blue pencil and strike parts to get things to speed up!

I used to have a lot more patience with, and actually prefer, very long books. I’ve noticed that since getting my Kindle that’s not so true anymore. It has to do with getting antsy about having so many other unread books waiting on my Kindle that I want to read. The longer a book is the fewer books I get to read. (Life is finite!)

A large part of the reason I have so many unread books on my Kindle is because I buy a lot of books on sale for 99 cents to $2.99. Whereas in the old days of paper books a long book meant getting to put off having to rush out to the bookstore to buy another stack of full price paperbacks to replenish my TBR stack.

11/15

I finally finished It by Stephen King. I was down to the wire. I had it on loan from the library and the loan expired the same day I finished, which means it took me 21 days to read it! (I might have gotten done a bit sooner if not for NaNo being this month.)

For the most part the plot and characters are brilliant. I don’t read a lot of horror, but of what I have read It scared me more than any other novel the first time I read it. There’s plenty of really scary stuff, though thankfully, reading it a second time it was more in the creepy category than terrifying. Also thankfully, I’m not suffering sudden terrors around sink and bathtub drains like the first time.

I will say I think it could have been edited down into a much tighter novel. It was 21,000 locations and there were times when I was groaning just wanting things to move on at a better pace. A lot of the extra description just isn’t necessary. Also, since it’s an older book there are quite a few OCR errors in it, though not so many as to make for difficult reading, just mildly annoying reading at times.

I’m glad I read it again, but it’s going to be a while before I start another long book! Here’s a couple highlights of things I enjoyed:

=======================
It (Stephen King)
– Highlight Loc. 3471-72 |
He wandered off into the stacks, pulling a book here and there, looking at it, putting it back. Choosing books was serious business.

=======================

It (Stephen King)
– Highlight Loc. 18580-84 |
What would he assume if he found out that she had called him from a room where there was a dead man on the floor with a jagged bottleneck planted in his guts? That she and four other strangers had just come into town the day before for a little reunion and this guy just happened to drop by? Would she buy the tale if the shoe were on the other foot? Would anyone? Of course, they could buttress their tale by adding that they had come back to finish the monster that lived in the drains under the city. That would certainly add a convincing note of gritty realism.
=======================

Then I started The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff . I had pre-ordered it and it downloaded on November 1st, but I had to get through It before I could finally dig in! This is one of three expensive books that I’ve splurged on this year. I’m about half way through it and it’s been worth it to me so far.

The Wild Ways is a sequel to The Enchantment Emporium, which was originally intended to be a stand-alone novel when it was published two years ago. In The Wild Ways the main character is Charlie, who was a secondary character in The Enchantment Emporium. Huff has made me laugh out loud several times already with her trademark humor and I’m enjoying the plot, which involves an evil Cruella de Vil type villain who is trying to obtain a permit for oil drilling in the Atlantic by blackmailing a family of Selkies.

Here’s a couple of my highlights from The Wild Ways so far:

==========
The Wild Ways (2) (Tanya Huff)
– Highlight Loc. 477-78 |

The aunties’ response to people stuffing their noses in where they didn’t belong was not subtle by several fairly terrifying degrees of not.
==========
The Wild Ways (2) (Tanya Huff)
– Highlight Loc. 2595-97

“You know what the T-shirt says.”
Charlie glanced down. “If we’re attacked by zombies, I’m tripping you?”
“Not that T-shirt.”
=================

11/26/11

I finished reading Blood Debt, the fifth and final novel in Tanya Huff’s Blood series. Great stuff! It’s my favorite of the five. Though when I think about it, for me it has the least interesting central plot (illegal organ transplants and murders, along with some vengeful ghosts), but I love the interactions between the characters.

It’s kinda funny. There’s one scene from that book that has stuck out in my mind since I read it the first time over ten years ago. I remembered it so vividly, I thought. Yet when I got to it this time there wasn’t hardly any detail. Somehow Huff managed to create a scene that I fully filled in with my imagination and it became memorable because of how I’d seen it all in my head.

I’m now half way through The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. I got it on sale for 99 cents. It’s the second Wyndham book I’ve read this year. The first one was The Day of the Triffids, which someone gave me as a random act of kindness gift. (Thanks again!)

I’m coming to the conclusion that Wyndham is a brilliant novelist. It’s a bit unusual that I would like his books so much because his characters don’t have a lot of depth. They’re merely tools to tell the story, and I tend to prefer character-driven fiction. But dang, he sure knows how to tell a story. His prose is fairly spare, yet like Atwood makes great use of the words he chooses to use. And his pacing is exactly right. In Midwich Cuckoos the Big Question is asked at almost exactly the halfway point. That can’t be accidental.

One other thing that struck me about Midwich Cuckoos is that I suspect it might have been a partial inspiration for Stephen King’s Under the Dome.

Read Full Post »

[At the Amazon Kindle Community forum there is a monthly thread where participants list and comment on which books they’re reading at the moment on their Kindles. These aren’t usually full reviews, often  just relatively brief impressions. I’m copying over some of my comments made there into Book Bits posts here.]

.

I got really lazy about putting my monthly Book Bits posts up here, but finally decided since I have them in a file on my computer I should stop procrastinating (one of my best skills!) and do it.

10/1

I finished Greywalker by Kat Richardson and have mixed feelings about it. I was really expecting to like this one, especially because it’s set in Seattle. Richardson has a great idea and I can see lots of potential, but I thought execution was really uneven.

The first thing that really bugged me is some really awkward word usage. It’s sprinkled throughout the book and always brought me to a screeching halt. Here’s a couple examples:

“No problem,” he agreed and began to scramble around in his pack.

I know what the author meant, but the visual image I get is some guy climbing into a giant backpack and moving around in it.

I tickled my computer and got it to spit out a copy of my bill, just in case.

Tickling a computer? If the book was replete with these kinds of offbeat verbs then it might not stand out, but the book isn’t, so it did.

There were also a few logic issues that bugged me. A couple examples:

There was only one name left on Colleen Shadley’s list, and it had no phone number. I’d be making another drive to the Eastside.

She’s a private investigator. Why would her first choice be to drive across the lake to another town rather than access information resources to find the phone number and call instead? (A while later in the book it’s mentioned that the person she went to see doesn’t actually have a phone. But she wouldn’t have known that at the time.)

“Yes,” I replied. “I was wondering who the leasing agent for this building is.”

The building in question is described more than once prior to this as being a condominium. Condos don’t have leasing agents, each unit is privately owned. So I was wondering why she was asking for something that makes no sense. It does turn out that the entire building is owned by a company and the units leased out. So they aren’t in fact condos. Either way, the part about her asking for a leasing agent was just wrong.

She used a lot of descriptive language that often ended up just rolling right over me without actually describing anything, or was just kinda weird and repetitive. A couple examples:

A rush of horrors poured out of the room.

That was it really. No defining what these horrors were that poured out of the room. Sure it’s descriptive, but only if some context is given to provide the description some meaning.

He laughed obsidian shards.

There was LOTS of that kind of stuff.

A lot of what I’m saying is probably sounding weirdly nitpicky. But these kinds of things ground on me throughout the entire book. I suspect this is an issue of some readers will react like I did, and others not only won’t be bothered, they’ll never even notice.

I was also never really sold on why a PI would become involved in vampire politics as a job. She wasn’t hired to track someone down, do a background check, etc. She was basically hired to meddle in things she knew nothing about. It’s just not what PIs do. I could have bought that more if it was later in the series when she’s better established as a character so the reader understands her motivation.

If it was an issue of buying the next book and seeing if I like it better, I wouldn’t risk it. I didn’t like this book enough. However, now with this nifty library lending, I discovered that not only does my library have a copy, but it was available. So Poltergeist is sitting on my Kindle now waiting for me to start reading. This way I can decide, with no monetary risk, that the books get better or this series just isn’t for me.

A lot of my response to this book is really personal taste stuff. Her writing over all just didn’t truly grab me. Others will love it.

10/6

I finished reading Poltergeist, which is the second book in the Greywalker series by Kat Richardson. It was my first library book on my Kindle. I liked this one quite a bit better than the first book. I had mentioned in a previous post that a lot of the things that really bugged me in the first one were missing or toned down in this one. Oddly enough some of those issues crept back in quite a bit more in the second half of the book.

I think the main difference was that the story/plot for this second book was more focused and made sense in context, etc. Though there weren’t really any subplots, so the book was a bit on the long side considering how focused it was on the main plot threads. There was lots of interesting stuff included that relates to real life events, not all just figments of the author’s imagination. Which is prompting some online searches to get more info. I enjoy it when books get me to look into things to learn more! [Note: I had borrowed and downloaded the third book from the library also, but then never read it. I just didn’t like the writing enough to continue the series when there are other, better books waiting to be read.]

After I finished that I read The Princess and the Penis by RJ Silver because it was mentioned here several times. It’s back to 99 cents now, I got it free. It’s a longish short story with a bit over 700 locations. As others said it was a fairly amusing and pretty well-written adult fairy tale. Part of its cleverness is that it’s never really crass or explicit.

10/20

I finished reading Blood Price by Tanya Huff. As I mentioned when I posted that I started reading the book, this is visiting an old friend. I’m a huge Huff fan, but I’ll try to take a more objective stance in talking about the book. It’s not flawless by any means. The writing is a bit awkward in places, the main character isn’t the kind most people will immediately like (she’s a bit moody and testy) – she has to grow on you, and there’s one thing that drove me bats through the whole book. That is the author constantly mentioning Vicki pushing her glasses up on her nose. I hate repetitive stuff in books.

Because the ebook originated with a scan (originally published in 1991), there are OCR errors in the ebook edition. They aren’t enough to ruin the book for me or cause more than a mild irritation, but they might be more than those who are highly sensitive to that sort of thing are willing to put up with.

With that said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book again. While Vicki is the main character, Henry the vampire is kind of the star of the show. The third main character is Mike, a police detective. The main plot is about a nerd who is getting back at the world by summoning a demon that is serially killing people. Key to most of Huff’s writing is her humor. In some books it’s more blatant than others. It’s more subtle in the Blood books, but there’s still plenty of things that made me chuckle. Here’s a couple examples:

(Henry, the vampire, writes bodice rippers for a living.)

“I suppose you’ve got a lot of material to use for plots,” she muttered dubiously.
“I do,” Henry agreed, wondering why some people had less trouble handling the idea of a vampire than they did a romance writer.

Vicki could practically hear her mother’s ears perk up. “What’s his name?”
“Henry Fitzroy.” Why not? Short of hanging up, there was no way she was going to get her mother off the phone, curiosity unsatisfied.
“What does he do?”
“He’s a writer.” As long as she stuck to answering her mother’s questions, the truth would serve. Her mother was not likely to ask, “Is he a member of the bloodsucking undead?”

10/23

I finished reading Blood Trail by Tanya Huff, second in the Blood series, and enjoyed it. This one is about werewolves instead of a demon, but they’re not typical werewolves. They’re sort of halfway in between dogs and wolves and they can shapeshift in a flash, no horrible transformations.

I said after reading the first book that Vicki is a protagonist who isn’t necessarily easy to like at first. When reading this one I realized some of the reasons I do like her. She’s not a girly girl. Doesn’t fuss around with makeup, doesn’t head out to kick arse in high heels, etc. She’s very independent, including not feeling the need to be tied down to just one man in a monogamous relationship. And there was something else I was gonna mention, but now it’s flown out of my brain. Anyway, she’s a refreshing change from a lot of the female protagonists I read about, who even if they do tend to kick arse, also still tend to be pretty girly, even the ones described as tomboys growing up.

I’m on a roll so went ahead and bought and downloaded the third book, Blood Lines. I really want to start reading it, but my hold on It by Stephen King FINALLY came in from the library. (I put it on hold at the beginning of the month and was the only one waiting for it.)

Read Full Post »

[At the Amazon Kindle Community forum there is a monthly thread where participants list and comment on which books they’re reading at the moment on their Kindles. These aren’t full reviews, just relatively brief impressions. I’m copying over some of my comments made there into Book Bits posts here.]

.

I got really lazy about putting my monthly Book Bits posts up here, but finally decided since I have them in a file on my computer I should stop procrastinating (one of my best skills!) and do it.

Originally posted 9/2

9/2

After reading three books in a row with a dystopian urban fantasy setting about a junkie, self-destructive protagonist I knew I needed a change of pace. I wanted a genre shift along with something with a lighter tone.

So uhh… I’m now reading a crime novel about a serial killer with a recovering alcoholic protagonist who was fired from the FBI. At least it is a different genre? The book is The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams. I got it on pre-order for $9.99 and it downloaded this last Tuesday.

I ran across this book by accident. I was looking through the upcoming releases section for crime fiction on Amazon and saw the author’s name, which halted me in my tracks. I’d read some espionage books by Amanda Kyle Williams that were published by Naiad Press in the early 90s, then she just kinda dropped out of sight. It’s an unusual name so I didn’t think it could be someone else, but looked up info on the web to be sure. So even though the book was $10 I pre-ordered for old time’s sake. Heh.

The book got off to a bit of a rough start. I thought the prologue was a bit awkward with long, wordy sentences. Then when the book starts in chapter one I was surprised it was in first person. For this type of book I usually expect third person. I’m about 25% into it now though and am definitely caught up in the story. This is apparently the first book in an intended series, so some extra time is spent on introducing the characters and laying out what the protagonist’s life is like. But I haven’t felt that has bogged things down too much.

Originally posted 9/4

I finished reading The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams and it was pretty darn good. Not great, it had a few rough edges, it was a little bit repetitive in a few places (something I’m highly sensitive to), and there was a sort of odd change in pacing for a section in the last quarter. But the book kept me really engaged the entire time and I’m ready to read the next one. Unfortunately, since this is the first book in the series and it was just released this last Tuesday, I’m gonna have to wait on that.

There were several things I liked about the book. Williams has a light way with humor. It’s not a funny book by any means, but there are little tidbits here and there that made me grin. She balances that well with more philosophical stuff and then of course info about crime scenes and investigating, which is the heart of this kind of book. I’ve never been to Atlanta, but since she lives there I’ll assume that she portrays it accurately. I know she managed to really bring it alive in my mind, what it’s like there with the various parts of town, the variety of people, and the weather. I also enjoyed that the book didn’t completely focus on the serial killer case, that we got to see her going out and working on other jobs, including the case of the missing cow.

When I finished I finally did read something very different for a change of pace. I read Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block. I got it as a freebie a couple years ago, it’s $8.99 now. That price is insane to me because it’s extremely short, less than 900 locations.

It was an unconventional piece of fiction about unconventional people. It’s targeted to a YA audience I believe, but it’s written in an almost sing-song cadence, rather like a children’s book. (Though the subject matter is more adult.) The entire thing is telling, not showing, also more like a children’s book. Obviously done intentionally as a stylistic choice. I’m glad I read it, but it hasn’t inspired me to read anything else by that author.

Originally posted 9/11

I read Parties in Congress by Colette Moody. This is her third book and I think her writing is actually deteriorating, rather than improving. I thought her first book was really good, second one kinda so-so. There were a lot of amateur type writing issues that ended up outweighing her skill with witty, bantering dialogue in this one. I  had to wonder why the editor wasn’t more on top of it. I doubt I’ll be reading anything further from her.

Then I read a really surprising (in a good way) and unusual book, Command of Silence by Paulette Callen. ($5.99). The main character was severely abused as a child and developed MPD. With the help of a psychiatrist she’s gotten to the point of functioning on a somewhat consistent level as a company of personalities.

I have no idea how realistic a portrayal or not of MPD this was, but it was fascinating. The main character works as a private investigator, often assisting police investigations. Her various personalities somehow work to often provide her with unique insight. In the book she is hired to help find two missing children. I started out not sure what to expect from the book and was extremely pleasantly surprised. It was an excellent read.

Right now I’m 70% of the way through Songs Without Words by Robbi McCoy. (Another lesbian novel.) I love the writing and I’ve been highlighting quite a bit in this one, but unfortunately the story itself isn’t particularly appealing to me.

Originally posted 9/13

I read Miles to Go: A Rennie Vogel Intrigue by Amy Dawson Robertson ($9.99). You have to go into it expecting to suspend quite a bit of disbelief because there are quite a few improbable elements, kinda like when starting a James Rollins novel. Through the first half of the book I was irritated with POV switching to relatively unimportant characters I didn’t care anything about, especially when they often ended up dead not long after. It seemed pointless. (Not talking about inappropriate head-hopping, but POV shifts at “correct” times.) But after a while when more things in the story came together I think it served a purpose some (though not all) of the time. It ended up as a decent adventure type story.

Then I read Doan & Carstairs: Holocaust House by Norbert Davis. It’s 99 cents, but I got it as a gift. This is a short story that I was expecting to like a lot, but ended up feeling it was just okay. The dog, Carstairs, barely makes an appearance. I didn’t particularly like Doan through the first half. If it had been a full length novel I might have stopped reading, but since it was short I finished it. There’s nothing really bad to say about it, this was just an instance of it not suiting my specific tastes.

Originally posted 9/15

I’ve started reading Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin. It’s $9.99 though I was super lucky to get it for free quite a while back.

It’s the 7th book in the Tales of the City series. I read the first four books way back when, late 80s and early 90s, then somehow missed the two that came after those and prior to this one. Normally I’m anal about reading in order, but this called out to me from my Kindle menu and I can’t afford to get the other two right now. So far it’s not really hurting things to not have read the two I missed.

I don’t remember many details about the first books because it’s been so long. But this book is feeling a lot more introspective than what I recall of the others. It’s making me that way too. I’ve been feeling this strange, bittersweet nostalgia as I go along that is affecting me surprisingly strongly. I’m also having that feeling of being reunited with old friends after a long absence.

For anyone interested, the first book is Tales of the City. It’s set in San Francisco in the 1970s with a colorful cast of characters and really captures the specific feel of The City in that time.

Originally posted 9/19

I enjoyed my reunion with Michael Tolliver and gang so much that I gave into temptation and bought Mary Ann in Autumn, the next and (currently) last in the Tales of the City series. It was most excellent and left me wanting more! Though it was annoying that a couple things that were established in the previous novel were different in this one. That kind of continuity blunder is irritating and it’s really surprising that no one, author or editors, caught them. I might not have noticed one of them except that I read the two books back to back. (There are still two books that I’ve missed in the middle of the series that I’ll need to go back and read at some point in the future.)

Originally posted 9/26

I finished reading Kinflicks by Lisa Alther ($8.99 at the moment but I got it on sale for $1.99) and it was an interesting experience. I had read it once before when I was either 22 or 23, with all my adult life still stretching out in front of me, and I remember that I liked it quite a lot. I suspect that at that age I thought the main character, Ginny, was a lot more free-spirited than she actually is. And it was talking about people from the generation I thought I should have been born into.

Now at almost 50 years of age all I could see was that Ginny never takes control of her life and just drifts from one thing to the next based on whoever has the strongest influence on her at the time. I didn’t really like her very much. So it was rather fascinating to see how my response to a book is so heavily influenced by where I am in my own life. I also suspect that the book hits a little too close to home, with my middle adult years now behind me.

Read Full Post »

.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a book that I’ve seen consistently mentioned in glowing terms in the Amazon Kindle Community Forum ever since I got my Kindle in early 2009. And pardon the tangent so early on, but this is one reason I love being a Kindle owner so much. I’ve been exposed to so many great books since getting mine, books that I never would have given a second thought, or even have heard about, in my paper book days.

Being solidly in my middle-age years I’m not much of a YA Lit reader, but I do very much enjoy a good dystopian tale now and then, and… I will have to sheepishly admit that gladiatorial stuff is appealing to me in a guilty pleasure kind of way. So with all the rave comments I knew I’d eventually want to read it.

I just finished reading all three books in four days, which very well may be a record for me. I’m a voracious reader, but not a particularly fast one compared to most bibliophiles. But once I got going I just could not stop. It is difficult for me to put into words just how much I loved this trilogy, but I’m inspired to at least try.

I already admitted to the gladiatorial aspect as being appealing, along with a dystopian setting. I’ve also always heavily preferred books about girls and women having to find the inner strength to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. The final major aspect that tapped into long-held fictional interests is the emphasis on the out-of-doors and survival skills. This all made for a winning combination, sure to capture my imagination.

But of course, setting and general plot elements are only part of what goes into making an excellent book. It doesn’t matter how great the idea is if the author can’t pull it off in the execution. Despite the fact that I normally dislike present tense narration, Collins captured me on the first page and swept me away, not releasing me again until the very last word was read.

One thing that really worked in my (and the author’s) favor is that, despite the trilogy’s popularity, I had managed to remain ignorant of plot points in all three novels. I was along for the roller coaster ride and I couldn’t see the twists and turns until they were quickly approaching. This was especially true in the second book, which I didn’t think was quite as riveting in the first part. But then BAM! Right before it happened I thought “oh no,” and then the roller coaster was off and racing again, in a very different direction than I first thought we were headed. I know a lot of people did not like the third book nearly as much, but for me it was in no way a disappointment.

I could go into all kinds of detail about why the trilogy worked for me and why they’re the best books I’ve read in quite some time, but I’m just going to touch on two main points. The first is that Collins played my emotions like a violin. I love escapist reading, but escapist reading that also makes me feel strongly is on a whole other level. Especially when it is almost constant throughout the book and not just at a couple key points. I laughed, I cried, I mourned. I felt love. I felt angry, dismayed, and betrayed. Can’t ask for more than that.

The second point is that Katniss is a very real character. She is a teenager, and thinks and acts like one. At times she is self-indulgent, both emotionally and in actions. At times she is able to look beyond herself, and reason on more abstract levels. She’s not super human. (Aside from her accuracy with a bow. If you’ve ever spent any amount of time watching how squirrels move you know it’s unlikely to almost always hit an eye shot!) She reacts to the situations in which she finds herself in a manner that is completely believable, including barfing a few times.

There were only two issues that were slightly problematic for me, and one of them really couldn’t be helped. The first is that the reader is given no historical or global context for the setting. It’s alluded to in the second or third book that wars and environmental disasters are responsible for the current situation, but the reader is left asking all sorts of questions about how far into the future this is, what happened to the USA, and why is nothing mentioned about any other countries existing in the world.

While I was wondering these things frequently all through the three books, I can also say that if Collins had attempted to satisfy my curiosity it would have been a significant, and ultimately pointless, distraction. Such context is normally important to me because I like understanding how the culture got to that point. But in this case providing those details would have bogged things down with exposition that didn’t actually add anything to the story.

The other issue is more of a logic one. It’s obvious that the population of what used to be the US has been decimated by past events and that the districts are much smaller than even the smallest current states. What seems extremely odd to me is that a central government would be able to manage these very few small districts which are so far flung as to be a couple thousand miles away in some cases. Not only manage them, but keep them so securely under its tyrannical thumb. Added to that is how each district is so narrowly focused on one type of production. This still kinda bugs me, but I’m willing to let it pass because the books were just so damn good otherwise.

The only other disappointment is that I read the trilogy so early in the year. The rest of the reading year is going to have a very difficult time trying to live up to the standard that The Hunger Games has set for 2012.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: