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Total for the year was 127 books and somewhere over 100 volumes of manga (erratic list-keeping, but have definitely read all of those - 104 - listed plus probable others). 18 for the [community profile] 50books_poc community, 6 others in translation (books, not manga), 23 re-reads, 10 non-fiction, 4 by people whose fanfic I've read, and 2 unpublished novels for critique.

The most impressive thing I've read all year is Akimi Yoshida's Banana Fish, which was just brilliant – amazing, inventive, unpredictable but deeply satisfactory plotting, great characters, art which definitely grew on me (I agree the first few volumes are a bit wooden) and just an all-round fantastic experience. Highly detailed recaps for my own obsessive purposes at this tag (all contain massive spoilers) – have not yet done the last volume. Less spoilerish description here at Shaenon Garrity's Overlooked Manga Festival post.

None of the books I read were as good as either this or other books from previous years (e.g. Robert Graves' Goodbye to all that, Jan Morris' Last letters from Hav). Close, but just quite not there, were Queen of the South and The Count of Monte Cristo, When the Hipchicks Went to War, Native Speaker and Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which all serve to reinforce my intention to read more books in translation.

In manga, after Banana Fish there are a number of consistently excellent ongoing series - Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys (brilliant use of multiple time-lines, great characters, strangely reminiscent of Stephen King's It while being about world destruction and giant robots) and Pluto (Atom/Astro Boy rewritte), for starters, but also Real (wheelchair basketball) and the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (slackers with psychic powers). I also finished After School Nightmare and Monster (also Urasawa), and both have a lot of very good stuff in them but wobble - After School Nightmare in resolving its central premise but undermining its characters, and Monster just doesn't really pull off the ending. Hikaru no Go is only not on here because I have read it about three times already in previous years. And, for manga once-offs, A Drifting Life (autobiography of a manga artist who started working post-WWII, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and was behind gekiga) was absolutely fascinating and I could have kept reading it for another 840 pages.

Books read, 2009. )
Manga read, 2009. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Total for the year was 127 books and somewhere over 100 volumes of manga (erratic list-keeping, but have definitely read all of those - 104 - listed plus probable others). 18 for the [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc community, 6 others in translation (books, not manga), 23 re-reads, 10 non-fiction, 4 by people whose fanfic I've read, and 2 unpublished novels for critique.

The most impressive thing I've read all year is Akimi Yoshida's Banana Fish, which was just brilliant – amazing, inventive, unpredictable but deeply satisfactory plotting, great characters, art which definitely grew on me (I agree the first few volumes are a bit wooden) and just an all-round fantastic experience. Highly detailed recaps for my own obsessive purposes at this tag (all contain massive spoilers) – have not yet done the last volume. Less spoilerish description here at Shaenon Garrity's Overlooked Manga Festival post.

None of the books I read were as good as either this or other books from previous years (e.g. Robert Graves' Goodbye to all that, Jan Morris' Last letters from Hav). Close, but just quite not there, were Queen of the South and The Count of Monte Cristo, When the Hipchicks Went to War, Native Speaker and Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which all serve to reinforce my intention to read more books in translation.

In manga, after Banana Fish there are a number of consistently excellent ongoing series - Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys (brilliant use of multiple time-lines, great characters, strangely reminiscent of Stephen King's It while being about world destruction and giant robots) and Pluto (Atom/Astro Boy rewritte), for starters, but also Real (wheelchair basketball) and the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (slackers with psychic powers). I also finished After School Nightmare and Monster (also Urasawa), and both have a lot of very good stuff in them but wobble - After School Nightmare in resolving its central premise but undermining its characters, and Monster just doesn't really pull off the ending. Hikaru no Go is only not on here because I have read it about three times already in previous years. And, for manga once-offs, A Drifting Life (autobiography of a manga artist who started working post-WWII, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and was behind gekiga) was absolutely fascinating and I could have kept reading it for another 840 pages.

Books read, 2009. )
Manga read, 2009. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
This year I wrote Mistaken for Strangers, which is a short story set in Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel universe (The Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and at least one short story – Fire Watch – with two more novels due out next year). Basically, a short sequel to To Say Nothing of the Dog (the lighthearted Victorian time-travelling romp one, rather the middle ages plus plague one) from Verity's point of view.

Far too much detail about writing for Yuletide, this and other years. )

Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog (re-read). )

Connie Willis, Uncharted Territory (re-read). )

Jack London, People of the Abyss. )
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One more post after this, and that's all of 2009. I've also been using this to get used to sitting down in front of the computer each night and writing something, which does seem to be working, and which I hope to continue with.

Richard Morgan, Black Man (“Thirteen” in the US). )

Rafael Sabotini, Captain Blood. )

Stieg Larsson, The girl with the dragon tattoo
Stieg Larsson, The girl who played with fire
Stieg Larsson, The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest


Three excellent thrillers. I read them over a long weekend within which I also ran a half-marathon and then promptly lent them out to everyone, so details are now somewhat hazy. Basically, though, the series goes from a more standard serial killer plot in the first to an exposé of corrupt government/politics at the country level, and does so with a tight plot and intriguing characters, not to mention a refreshingly mature and fluid approach to relationships and sexuality, which is possibly the whole translated from the Swedish thing (also, good use of cell phones and other technology). It's also very much from a feminist point of view - the original Swedish title of the first one is "Men Who Hate Women" - as well as a more general activist one. Both Salander and Blomqvist are great, and it's a shame these three will be all we'll get (allowing for rumours about a fourth manuscript currently being argued over by the now-deceased author's partner and his family).
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Last of the books I read for [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc in 2009. I started the challenge in April, so I'd definitely like to hit 25 by then. Advance warning that if you liked Slumdog Millionaire (the book - I haven't seen the film) you should probably avoid this review.

Chang-Rae Lee, Native Speaker. )

Vikas Swarup, Slumdog millionaire (original title Q and A, contains spoilers). )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
I was convinced I picked this first book up off the memoir/biography table at the bookshop, and despite the author and the first-person protagonist having completely different names read it as such until I’d practically finished, and then felt let down by the discovery that it was fiction. This is completely unjustified, but hard to separate out from my actual impression of the book

Marc Acito, How I paid for college. )

Rachel Manija Brown, All the fishes come home to roost. Definitely a memoir. Starts in a very promising fashion, with the eleven year-old narrator reading Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword while her parents argue over how to get from a deserted railway station in India to the place they are supposed to be staying, a holiday break in the hills as opposed to the hot, obscure, town in India where they are living on their guru's ashram (Baba is, inconveniently, dead, but his presence lingers). Rachel is the only child on the ashram for much of her childhood – she's there from age 7 to 12 – and the only Western white child at the archaic Holy Wounds convent school she attends. Books, and reading, thread throughout the memoir, as the only consistent and reliable form of escape/comfort in a very arbitrary world where everything Rachel thinks or experiences tends to be denied by adults with significantly more power.

It's dark and funny, and very good at getting across character in a short space, particularly in dialogue (her paternal grandfather's introductory comment: "The American Communists were very misunderstood."). It's also about trauma, and the powerlessness of childhood, and the stories people tell themselves, as well as the ones they don't ask. I liked it a lot.

Assorted YA

Jan. 6th, 2010 10:36 pm
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
The Runaways probably is more children's, although some of the subject matter is more YA. The other three are all 2009 launches (The Hunger Games came out in the US in 2008, but this is the UK launch), with fairly big promotional campaigns, and they're all series, which is a tendency I would, personally, like to discourage. I like The Demon's Lexicon best of the three, but even there it's going to be interesting to see if there's enough for a trilogy.

RJ Anderson, Knife. )

Suzanne Collins, Hunger games. )

Sarah Rees Brennan, The demon’s lexicon. )

Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The runaways. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Two more for [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc.

Kamila Shamsie, Broken Verses. I picked this up because of [livejournal.com profile] puritybrown’s enthusiastic review –- and am very glad I did. About a woman, Aasmaani, in Pakistan, whose mother was a radical activist, and is now missing; her mother's lover, the Poet, murdered; and how Aasmaani deals and fails to deal with these stories, especially when new information comes to light that challenges her beliefs about the past… It's well written, it's complex and different, and every character feels so clearly a part of their world and their community. I definitely want to read more books by her, although I also feel I should read more explicit Pakistani history first.

Spoilers for ending. )

American-born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang. Overall, I liked this, and the art, but I found the Jin Wang American high school angst storyline the least appealing of the lot. Partly, this is because I feel like I’ve seen it too many times before, and it’s always a straight male teenage angst US high school thing within which all the women become weirdly two dimensional (arggh. Apart from being a comic) and shiny quest objects. Partly, though, it just felt less real – and less interesting – than the monkey king and Chin-Kee storylines – as if the author were relying on a cliché rather than transforming it.

I do like Wei-Chen's line about Jin's hair looking like a broccoli, though.
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Eighteen books to go after these. Reviews of ones I like seem to be getting longer, so I'm trying to cut back.

Morris Gleitzman, Grace. )

TT Garland, Judy carries on. )

John Krakauer, Into thin air. )

Matthew Reilly, The five greatest warriors. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Well, NZ book month was actually in October, but that's when I read these. Along with the Witi Ihimaera edited collection I reviewed earlier (actually, with the current plagiarism revelations I'm unlikely to read anything of his own work for quite some time, although I read the collection before I knew this), and half of Keri Hulme's Lost Possessions, which keeps disappearing on my desk.

Mo Zhi Hong, The year of the Shanghai Shark. )

James George (Ngapuhi/English/Irish), Hummingbird. Event but not person-specific spoilers for ending. )

I'd definitely read another book by George, especially if it were historical - and, conveniently, that's what Ocean Roads, his latest, looks like. Mo Zhi Hong - short stories yes, novel maybe.

mixed bag

Jan. 4th, 2010 10:26 pm
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Apologies to those who keep catching these entries between when I put them up and when I once again realise I've used smart quotes and thus broken all the cut-tags. I've just finally changed the defaults in the word doc I use for draft reviews.

Kathleen Duey, Skin hunger. )

Neil Gaiman, The graveyard book. )

Christina Hardyment, Dream babies. )

Proceeding

Jan. 3rd, 2010 09:40 am
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Another assorted collection - two nonfiction. I have the vague intention of intending to read more nonfiction (distancing deliberate), because I never feel all that guilty about reading fiction, but I do enjoy nonfiction when I get around to it. I still feel baffled by Helene Hanff's (84, Charing Cross Road etc) attitude towards fiction as being not worth her time (with a grudging exception for Jane Austen).

Eva Ibbotson, The dragonfly pool. )

Marian Keyes, The brightest star in the sky. )

Greg Williams, The accidental father. )

Anne Enright, Making babies: stumbling into motherhood. )

Carolyn Bernstein & Elaine McArdle, The migraine brain. )

Jennifer Crusie, Getting rid of Bradley. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
When catching up on book posts I do tend to start off with the books that worked less well for me, and save the really good ones until I have the time to do them justice. The disadvantage of that is never getting around to posting, and, for example, finding that I still haven't written up Morris Gleitzman's really excellent book Then from 2008 (brief summary: brilliant, heart-crushing children's book about WWII; technically a sequel to Once, but can be read without it and is I think better that way).

So, this time I'm trying to alternate. First of a loose group of books that I really enjoyed - I'd recommend them all, although I would also be prepared to critique them.

I loved Perdido Street Station, stalled on The Scar and hated Un Lun Dun, so was a bit iffy about picking this up at all. I'm glad I did.

China Mieville, The city and the city. )
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I've been reading pre-1950s school stories for years (predominantly British or Commonwealth) and find them soothing, in similar ways to detective stories and other strongly formulaic genres; some transcend the form, some exemplify it, some have occasional good bits and some fail completely (there's also the entertainingly bad form). I do find them interesting as social history as well, in terms of what's expected and what isn't, although attitudes and expectations can sometimes be a bit difficult to calmly accept (class particularly in these ones, although gender sometimes gets a little bit of consideration).

Margaret Biggs, The Blakes come to Melling (re-read). )
Margaret Biggs, The new prefect at Melling (re-read) )
Margaret Biggs, Last term for Helen (re-read). )
Margaret Biggs, The head girl at Melling (re-read). )
Margaret Biggs, Summer term at Melling (re-read). )
Margaret Biggs, Susan in the sixth (re-read). )
Margaret Biggs, Changes at Melling. )

Angela Brazil, The youngest girl in the fifth. )
Angela Brazil, Monitoress Merle. )

Dorothea Moore, Tenth at Trinders. )

Helen Barber, A Chalet School Headmistress (re-read) )

Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, Janie Steps In. )

onwards

Jan. 2nd, 2010 04:39 pm
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
I should find out if there's some way to cut space out of itunes files to edit all those massively long silent gaps preceding hidden tracks. Message brought to you by Placebo's Burger Queen, which in my version has about 12 minutes of silence, but I could also do with editing down Neko Case's Marais La Nuit, otherwise known as 30 minutes of cricket noises. Possibly I am missing the point of the artistic choices involved.

Kate Grenville, The secret river. )

David Almond, The savage. )

Naomi Wolf, Misconceptions. )

Merryn Williams, The Chalet girls grow up (re-read). )

Catching up

Jan. 1st, 2010 10:12 pm
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
I read 127 books in 2009 and am (consider this advance warning) hopefully going to log all the outstanding ones over the next few days, although probably not in great depth. I also intended to post about Yuletide, as the author names should be going live shortly, but have run out of time for a detailed recs post, and keep finding more stories to read whenever I go back there. I received a great short fic in Lisa Barnett and Melissa Scott's Points universe (a series far too tragically short) - here, which slots neatly into the books and also makes me really want to re-read them again, apart from the minor drawback of not having a copy of the first one. Apart from that, probably my favourite so far is Five Stories the Reader Never Began, fan fic for Italo Calvino's If On a winter's night a traveller..., for its sheer audacity and playfulness, and the way it works in - and springs away from - the original book.

Helen Dore Boylston, Sue Barton – Superintendent nurse (re-read). )

Pauline Cartwright, Meg’s last springtime. )

Douglas Kennedy, A special relationship (re-read). )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Who have already sent me one polite note. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I always found it odd to encounter, in fiction, book-mad children who had deep sympathetic bonds with their local librarians. In converse, my relationships with libraries involve a superficial layer of civility covering the fact that they have BOOKS and I want to take them all home (the books, not the librarians) and keep them, especially the ones that I would appreciate better.

Jennifer Sey, Chalked up. )

Edited by Witi Ihimaera, Where’s Waari? A history of the Maori through the short story. )

Cindy Pon, Silver Phoenix. )
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Star Trek was the first show I read fanfic for, although given that it was all published it's never felt quite the same. Anyway, I actually started with the James Blish episode summaries, which were handy given that I only saw a handful of episodes, and I was a bit baffled about where all the books were supposed to fit in for quite some time. Then again, I did also try and work out how old the Famous Five should actually be, given all the holidays they managed to have. I have yet to entirely let go of my desire for a tenuously believably backstory :)

So. Two of these were re-reads - I didn't count The Wounded Sky, because skim-reading it in a secondhand bookstore over fifteen years ago did not leave me with anything other than a vague impression of aliens. I'll start with the entirely new (to me) one first. Those with fond memories should just skip to the last review, because the first three are a touch grumpy.

John M Ford, How much for just the planet. )

Diane Duane, The Wounded Sky. )

Janet Kagan, Uhura's song. )

Barbara Hambly, Ishmael. )
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I have somewhere a half-finished post about reading on the iPod that I can't find. Anyway, in summary: bought iPod Touch over a year ago as part of a university deal on a desktop, and was then startled by the App store thing bursting up a couple of months later, as I’d just thought of it as a slightly nifty music player. Didn’t really appreciate the utility of it (my first iPod was seriously faulty, which didn’t help) – I’d downloaded a few games, but nothing else - until someone somewhere on the internet mentioned there were e-reader programs for it. Wild enthusiasm ensued (plus a number of other apps outside the scope of this discussion).

I went with Stanza as my e-reader program, although I can’t remember exactly how I achieved that decision, and dumped a bunch of books from Project Gutenberg on to the iPod. Technical points: I like the reading interface (although the recent upgrade defaulted to a very annoying page-turning effect; I prefer sliding), I adjust brightness more often than type size (both done by relatively easy finger movements within an existing text), I like the baseline indicator for distance within book (a shaded line where the shading creeps across with % read) as well as the more detailed within chapter/book announcement you get by tapping, and I have no idea why there needs to be a whole special icon for switching the text to white on black. And it annoys me when I hit it by mistake.

Copying over .doc and .pdf files has worked relatively well, although the chapter breaks often fail (I should actually try trouble-shooting this) – one .doc file broke about 3 paragraphs before each actual chapter break, which gave a weird feeling of suspense, and a 500k word .doc that should have come through as ~120 chapters ended up as 7 chapters, one of which is 2 pages long, one ~200 and the rest all about 1500, which I think is its maximum text chunk. One .pdf file copied over without paragraph breaks and was breathlessly unreadable. Chapter epigraphs confuse it and usually end up in the previous chapter.

Actual reading experience – screen rather than paper doesn’t bother me, but I have been reading large chunks of fiction on-screen for the last 15 years so may be an outlier in this respect. My personal disadvantage list for screen reads is losing the text awareness memory of the physical location of an extract (still happens on the iPod) and not knowing how far through a story I am if it’s not all on one page (fine on iPod). Stanza also has the electronic bookmark option, which I use quite a bit, although I still did most of my critique notes (see below) on paper so I could relate them to each other. Portability, slightly increased tolerance of rain (I have it in a protective case) and reading without convenient external light source (buses at night) all go to the iPod; battery issues favour books. The battery life isn’t bad if I just read, but internet usage does go through it a bit faster (fortunately there are very few free unsecured wireless networks where I currently live. Well, actually, this is unfortunate, but weather formation, silver lining etc). Also, I can’t shove things in between the pages, which is both positive and negative when I think about the number of frantic book-shaking searches for crucial pieces of paper that I have had to conduct in the past.

Walter Scott, Ivanhoe. )

PG Wodehouse, Psmith, journalist. )
PG Wodehouse, Jill the reckless. )
PG Wodehouse, Mike at Wrykyn (re-read). )
PG Wodehouse, The adventures of Sally. )

Eleanor Farjeon, Martin Pippin in the apple orchard. )

Johanna Spyri, Heidi (re-read). )

I also read two unpublished novels for critique.
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Writing myself notes to remember things is a good idea in theory, but I am let down on a number of occasions by my past self's confident belief that only a few key words will be needed to remind me of a complex chain of events. So, currently, the notepad next to my computer says "number 3 mech academy", which could be an anime reference (I am slowly working through various Gundam serieses) or a mangled street address or neither. The comment underneath that says "Antique ribboned autumn" (I think it's "autumn". I thought it was "ottoman" at first, which might have actually made sense (not that I am looking for an antique ottoman, with or without ribbons), but there's a definite "aut" at the beginning, even if everything after that deteriorates into my usual scrawl), which doesn't help at all. Anyway. Fortunately I have slightly more detailed notes on these. Although then I hit the iPod books, which I believe contain a number of electronic bookmarks that no doubt made sense at the time...

Rumer Godden, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy. )

Helen Lowe, Thornspell. )

Doreen Tovey, Making the horse laugh. )

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