Assorted

Jul. 26th, 2013 09:54 pm
cyphomandra: (tamarillo)
I started my annual leave at midday on Wednesday, and since then I've read six books and rather a lot of fanfiction. Herewith the books, for starters; one good, the other five loosely clumped in descending order.

Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles. )

Brian Farrey, With or Without You. )

Linwood Barclay, Trust Your Eyes. )

Maria Padian, Out of Nowhere. )

Gordon Korman, Ungifted. )

Josie Brown, The Baby Planner. )
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
I need to start keeping better track of these. Anyway. List of those I can remember at the moment, and subsequent commentary:

Edmund de Waal, The hare with amber eyes
Gordon Korman, The War with Mr Wizzle (re-read)
Mandy Hager, The Crossing
Josh Lanyon, The Dark Horse
Josh Lanyon, The Dickens with Love
Josh Lanyon, Don't Look Back
Housuke Nojiri, Rocket Girls

The Hare With Amber Eyes was brilliant - nonfiction, family memoir, a book about objects (of art) and collections, the connections between them and their people, and what we lose and what we keep. I will attempt to go on about it again in more detail once I have my own copy and am not doing it from a week-old memory of a library book. The Gordon Korman is a cheerfully comforting re-read, although the degree of personal manipulation it involves always makes me worry more about what would happen if in the future Bruno decided to take a job with pretty much any branch of the government. The Josh Lanyons are all enjoyable but slight, and not as good as his two series, although I approve strongly of his taste in fiction (Dickens, obviously, but The Dark Horse involves a film version of Mary Renault's The Charioteer). Don't Look Back is the possibly obligatory amnesia story, which treats amnesia as a kind of extreme personality reboot (there's a fair bit in the text to suggest this is all psychological rather than organic, but the disconnect feels too easy as opposed to, in a slightly odd counter-example, William Monk's amnesia in the Anne Perry books, where his previous self is much more of a character).

The Mandy Hager is first in a trilogy - post-apocalyptic Pacific Island (Cook Islands based, I think) story in which strong female lead rebels against all her society's constraints. So, some of the same problems as Juno of Taris (lead shares contemporary mores and is positioned as correct by the text for this, despite conflict with all of her upbringing), but much less irritating - no secret psychic powers and some interesting stuff going on with race and religion, although there is the feeling in the text that everybody good has been waiting for Maryam (the lead) to show up to start acting on their secret rebellious feelings. I am also irked that the blurb indicates who will form the core group at the end of the book, but that's not the author's fault - I do want to read the next one, and will comment more then.

Housuke Nojiri, Rocket Girls. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Which are in progress. Technically, the dog is recuperating from his operation (neutered yesterday) and is a delicate flower who needs to be coddled and fed a light diet, according to the info sheet from the vet; in reality, he is massively hungry and keeps charging down two flights of stairs to see if there are any unattended shoes that need chewing (I have gotten much better at concealing socks, so he's branching out).

Gordon Korman, Son of the Mob. Vince is a high school student whose father is a mob boss (I know, massive surprise after the title); his attempts to avoid getting sucked into the lifestyle himself are complicated by his own generous impulses (attempting to save a couple of low-lifes who owe his dad money) and the fact that the girl he is currently dating is the daughter of the FBI agent who runs the wire tap on his family’s house. I liked this about as much as I’d expect to like anything where organised crime figures are sympathetic (my “no mafia, no yakuza, no pirates rule”), mainly because I like Korman’s stuff, but although the plot is fair, it’s still a sanitised version of things – the body in the car boot is unconscious, not dead.

Seth Stevenson, Grounded. American couple travel around the world without using planes – trains, cargo ships, bike, etc. I liked bits of this, but an awful lot of it is logistics rather than actual experiences. In particular, it’s unclear to me why they have to go so fast – there’s a bit where they have, basically, two hours to do all of Sydney – when there isn’t a specific deadline (he’s a travel writer and sometime Slate journalist, she does law but has quit her job for the trip), or at least not one that’s apparent from the book. I also found it irritating that obviously at least part of the reason for doing the trip is to do this book, and yet this is never acknowledged. Having said that, I liked the train bits, the bike tour of Vietnam, and the occasional observation. I am, however, still startled at how few books he appears to have taken with him.

Nigel Smith, I think there’s something wrong with me. British comedian gets near fatal weird brain illness, spends considerable time in ICU and then undergoes a slow rehab process, with the aim of getting home before the birth of his child. Bitter and sharp and funny, possibly unfair at times (his mother does, however, come across as giving as good as she gets, visiting him faithfully everyday only to retell in excruciating detail the latest plot of her favourite soap opera), and a good sample of just how difficult it is to be sick. Nice tribute to the NHS, as well.
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (hare by durer)
Back to some semblance of a normal life (or, at least, no deadlines before Thursday). These are all old books, and there are two more that I wanted to spend a bit more time on, and then two more that I've read over the last week. And then there's the manga post...

Gordon Korman, Everest 3: The Summit. The trouble with this sort of series is that there’s a predictability to book 3 that’s very hard to rise above. Someone has to die (to justify the nameless funeral scene at the beginning) and at least one someone has to get to the summit (hence the title), and both these identities are pretty clear at the start of the book. )

The only previous Vivian Van Velde book I’ve read (or started) was one I found in a home furniture store some years ago, on a display bookcase with a bunch of other blue hardbacked books, all with dustjackets removed. Most of the rest were stats texts. I read the first fifty pages or so and liked it but had to go, so I took it up to the counter and asked the staff if I could buy it. I probably would have got a better reception if I’d held up my pyjamas and said I was going to nap in one of the display beds. They sounded absolutely horrified at the thought of considering a book as a reading object rather than a form of décor, and took the book away from me to stash it behind the desk rather than risk my sullying its pages further. I’d be less irked by this if I could remember the title.

I don’t think it was this one, although I liked this and if you find it in a home furniture store it probably also deserves to be liberated. Vivian Van Velde, Heir Apparent. )

Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The Unseen. )

Atul Gawande, Better: a surgeon’s notes on performance. Not as good as Complications (his previous book), but that’s largely because a) I loved Complications and b) I’ve read half a dozen of these essays before on the New Yorker website or in the New England Medical Journal. )

Mary Stewart, My brother Michael. Spoilers for ending. )

CP Snow, The Affair. The title refers to the Dreyfus affair, which prompted one of those conversations between myself and my boss where both of us were aware of the existence of this notorious scandal, but completely vague as to details.Anyway, this scandal involves a Cambridge college where one of the Fellows is accused of scientific fraud and forced out; and then evidence appears suggesting that he may not be guilty. )

And two re-reads: Eva Ibbotson and Mary Cadogan & Patricia Craig. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
I have all these half-finished manga and anime posts that require inspiration, fact-checking and finishing off all the reading/watching in various combinations. I'm also behind on books - I read the first one of these about a month ago - but these are easier to catch up on.

I took an irrational dislike to this book when I heard the author read an extract from it, less because of the extract (from the first chapter, with Ista being contemplative) than because of the hordes of Bujold groupies (it was at Worldcon) who listened in an overly intense fashion with fixed beatific smiles on their faces. I thought Curse of Chalion was interesting but not outstanding, and Hallowed Hunt was neither. However, a lot of people seem to like this one best, so I – finally – gave it a chance. Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold. )

Everest: Book 1; The Contest and Book 2: The Climb, both by Gordon Korman. )

Precious Dragon, Liz Williams. )

And I'm also part of the Harry Potter re-reading horde - currently half-way through Order of the Phoenix, which should put me on track to finish Half-Blood Prince before next Saturday. Obviously, some sort of sheep icon would be appropriate at this point, but I'll have to settle for a hare...

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