[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’d said last month I wanted to split these up during the month so they aren’t so long at the end, but computer trouble prevented me from carrying through in April. So, here’s one long-assed Book Bits post again!
I’m now reading The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein. I got it on sale in February for only $2.99. The story itself didn’t sound hugely appealing to me (I prefer journeying off into space in my SF), but it’s one I hadn’t read before and for only three bucks I figured why not? Especially since I haven’t read any Heinlein since I was a teenager, except for a re-read of Stranger in a Strange Land about four years ago.
Well, despite my kinda ho-hum attitude before starting the book, I think it aptly illustrates why Heinlein is the Master. The writing is smooth and effortless and it drew me in immediately. I’ve raced through the first 30% before I hardly blinked. The plot is worthy of a Lawrence Block novel, done Heinlein futuristic style.
It’s a mix of near future, and somewhat farther future story, from the standpoint of when it was written. It was originally published in 1956, with the first part of the book set in 1970. The current year in the book is 2000. It’s fascinating to see the projections Heinlein made for both those future years, especially since they’re both now in our past. You have to be willing to overlook what he got wrong, but if you can it’s a really entertaining read.
I read a dud, Enough of Sorrow by Lawrence Block. This is one of his lesbian pulp fiction books he wrote in the 1960s under the pen name Jill Emerson.
It’s the first time I’ve been let down by Block. I didn’t like the writing very much, it was odd in places and created distance from the characters based on word choices. I dunno if any of this was intentional for style, but it didn’t work for me at all. The last half of the book is better than the first half, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The only reason I read the whole thing is because it was short, about 2300 locations, so it didn’t take much effort on my part to find out how it ended. (There are also a lot of errors in the book, presumably from conversion, but many of them aren’t the typical OCR errors/artifacts, which makes it even more jarring.)
I’m now about 20% into Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. I was lucky enough to get it on sale for only 99 cents in January. It’s the first in the Tales of the City series and the setting is San Francisco in the mid-1970s. I was even luckier when a year or two ago I got a book much later in the series, Michael Tolliver Lives, for free, which put me in the general mood to revisit these books, which I originally read in the early 1990s.
These books are about a quirky group of people living at 28 Barbary Lane and their relationships and adventures. Maupin does an amazing job of capturing the city at a very specific time and breathing that into the stories. I’ve already laughed out loud a few times.
What’s interesting to me is that after I read Michael Tolliver Lives and the next book, Mary Ann in Autumn, last year I ended up acquiring the TV mini-series for the first three books on DVD. The casting was so wonderful, and they were such faithful adaptations, that I find I’m now seeing those actors as I read the book. That’s something I almost never do. (Buy them on the Amazon UK site if you’re interested in acquiring them.)
I finished Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. Lots of fun! And I’m still amazed at how closely the mini-series followed the book. It’s rare to see not only so little deviation, but not cutting much out either.
Then I started I Want to Die in Drag: The Transgender Classic by Ed Wood, Jr (of bad movie fame). My friend gave it to me for my birthday when it was cheaper. I was expecting something that would be kinda campy and offbeat, but really it was boring and occasionally confusing. I only read about 15% and decided I wasn’t interested enough to keep going.
Then I started Marsh Heirs by Rufus Miles. It’s still only 99 cents. This book has been mentioned several times (with mixed opinions) in the monthly poll, so when the price went down in December I snagged it.
This one didn’t grab me at the start either. But it seemed like the sort of book that you might need to give a bit of extra time to, so I kept going. The longer I read the more I was into it. It’s full of crazy, zany characters, most of whom are unethical some way or another. But there’s something weirdly compelling about seeing what they will do next. I’m about 60% into it and I’m glad I stuck with it.
I finished Marsh Heirs by Rufus Miles. I mentioned that I didn’t get into it right off the bat, it was one where I slowly grew more interested, until I knew for sure I wasn’t going to quit until it was all done. The main attraction is the characters and trying to figure out what trouble they’ll get into next, since they all seem rather unbalanced in some way. Most of them have elastic ethics (to put it kindly for some of them). It ended up being a fun read and well worth the buck I spent.
One thing that did bother me quite a lot though was the blatant racism. If it had only been one or two characters using ugly words it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. I’d just pass it off as them being ignorant, part of their individual character traits, and they’d be balanced out by the other non-racists. However, all of the characters expressed similar attitudes and thoughtless epithets, which not only made me squirm, but question the necessity.
I’ve now started Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. It’s on sale right now for only $1.99, which is a good deal. I originally read this book over two decades ago, after I’d seen the movie at a film festival. I have the movie on DVD, so I’ve seen it more recently, but had forgotten what a delight the book is. I’m only 5% in, but loving it.
I finished Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. I’d call it sort of a person, time, and place book, where all three combine to capture the mood and feel. It’s short, and very well written.
The one thing I didn’t like, and it’s not specific to this book, but any book, is the too-frequent mini-stories. You know, a side story, fairy tale, fable, that is intended to shadow the plot or further illuminate a theme. I just find them distracting and irritating. There must be some people out there who get something from including that sort of thing in novels, because writers keep writing books with them. But not me.
I then gave She Flew Bombers a go, and ugh. I got it for free, it’s $9.99 now which is beyond ridiculous. It’s a good example of poorly done self-published work. I was very interested in the topic and story. But I only managed to slog through a couple chapters.
Now I’m reading Endurance by Jack Kilborn (AKA JA Konrath). I got it for free a while back also. I thought I was facing another ditch it early book because there was almost nothing I liked about the first chapter. It read like a horrible, low-budget slasher pic.
But when I finished the chapter I saw that the next one started with different characters, and kept reading just to see where the book might be going. The writing from there on has been similar to what I expected based on the two previous novels of his that I’d read, and so far is keeping my attention.
I finished reading Endurance (A Novel of Terror) by Jack Kilborn and ended up being pretty “meh” about it. The title says “a novel of terror” and the events were terrifying to the characters, but not me. Grotesque is the word that comes to mind. The writing was okay, but this type of story just isn’t my cup of tea I guess. I did manage to make it to the end, so I guess that’s saying something. I think it was because the characters were interesting.
I thought the book was getting rather redundant with all these people going to the inn and having to each go through the process of finding out what strange stuff is going on and reacting to it. It’s interesting that in an afterward he says the editor who wanted to buy it at a publisher wanted him to make some changes, so he refused the deal. If the editor wanted him to tighten it up and reduce some of that, the editor was right! It also wasn’t proofread as well as it should have been.
I have no clue what I’m going to start next. I might need to play eenie-meenie-minie-moe on my Kindle menu.
I decided I’m in the mood to read The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, which is the second book in her Darkness Rising paranormal YA trilogy. It just downloaded on pre-order last week. But I realized that I remembered almost nothing from the first book, The Gathering, so decided to read through it again first.
I’m enjoying it again as much as I did the first time. In fact, I’d forgotten just how much I liked it. While a few of Armstrong’s adult Otherworld books are more miss than hit with me because I’m not as interested in some of the characters, she’s truly a pleasure to read. Her characters are complex, her writing is so smooth, her pacing is just right. I’m already 45% through it!
For anyone interested in giving this trilogy a try, the first one is on sale right now for $2.99. They’re set in her Otherworld alternate reality, but not directly connected to the adult books. They also make vague reference to events in the Darkest Powers YA trilogy.
I finished both The Gathering and The Calling by Kelley Armstrong in two days. I can sum it up by saying, Good Stuff!!
I highly recommend this trilogy (third book won’t be out until next year though) to anyone who likes urban fantasy, even if you don’t normally read YA (which I don’t read much of myself). Though this isn’t technically urban fantasy because it takes place in isolation on Vancouver Island, BC., I’d call it contemporary paranormal fantasy. You do need to have the temperament to not want to throw a book at the wall if it ends abruptly though.
I’m now reading Roller Coaster, which is the most recent book from my favorite lesbian romance author, Karin Kallmaker. I’m about 40% through it and enjoying it quite a bit. It’s not a formula romance, the whole first part of the book is developing the characters and their lives, no sparks yet.
I finished Roller Coaster by Karin Kallmaker. Not one of her best, but a decent read. It did get a bit saccharine at one point near the end, which didn’t really match up with the rest of the book.
I’m now reading Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey. I was lucky enough to pick it up for $2.99 last month. I’d been wanting to give Carey a try for quite a while now, so this was a good opportunity. It’s not at all a fast-paced book, at least the beginning, but it’s holding my interest. The style is a bit reminiscent of Atwood’s in The Handmaid’s Tale, bleak and spare.
I finished reading Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey and liked it a lot! Combine a dystopian setting with a dash of Zorro and a splash of gladiator combat as a means to freedom, along with some genetic manipulation to create better humans, and you have an idea of what the book is like.
When I was about 80% in I was all hot to read the sequel, Saints Astray, and went to the page on Amazon to buy it so it would be ready to go, but alas. The book only had lukewarm reviews and when I saw the price was $10 I balked. If it had been a regular mass market price I probably would have gone for it, but I just can’t see coughing up that much for a book that disappointed so many.
I’m currently reading Treasured Past by Linda Hill, which I got as a freebie a few months ago on the publisher’s (Bella Books) website. I’m about 20% in and it’s okay. I’m liking the story but the writing is only so-so.
I finished Treasured Past by Linda Hill and can sum up my opinion with one word: meh.
I’m now 10% into Strange Flesh by Michael Olson. It’s $11.99 right now, which isn’t unusual since it was just published at the beginning of this month. What is unusual is that the publisher had it on sale then for only $1.99, which is when I bought it. Maybe the price was a typo?
I’m not quite sure why I pulled the trigger on buying it because it’s just not the sort of thing I normally read. I’d never heard of the author or the book until someone posted it in the Price Drop/Discount thread. And I’ve been trying to be extremely selective about which sale books I buy as my TBR list grows longer and longer. Maybe it being so different is what attracted me, but whatever it was, it’s there on my Kindle and I’m reading it now!
I’m not far enough into it to comment much, except that the writing is good and the protagonist is sort of a self-destructive lost soul that I can’t help but feel some sympathy for. It’s supposed to be sort of a cyber thriller with virtual world stuff.