Monday, June 6, 2011

A couple of half-baked book reviews...

Since my boss went dark on all things interwebs, I've read a bunch of stuff.

Except that I didn't take notes and now I'm trying to catch up.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal: Great! I really liked the mixture of regency and magic. And the true-to-form combination of wit and brooding. Downside: the diary. Upside: glamours. Definitely enhanced by having known Mary and what a mixture of whimsy and propriety she is. Her book so beautifully reflects her.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: GAH! I was so addicted to these. So believable and dark and addictive. I know I was the last person in the world to read these, and I'm very glad I did. Wish I could start all over again.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen: Oh, I like her. They've gone from whimsical to a tiny bit guilty pleasure, but I like her voice nevertheless. This one was a bit fluffy, but I did like how the man in this one was non-butch. Not many mainstream writers extol the appeal of androgynous men.

Somewhere in there I re-read Jane Eyre. Reinforcing (again) how I would never ever have married in that era based upon her portrayal of male behavior. I've loved this book since I first learned to read, but DANG, Rochester gets worse upon every read. And St. John? Mother of all things manipulative. Ugh!

What else...? I've stayed up late a handful of times finishing books. I'll have to think harder about what those were...

Monday, May 30, 2011

The state of the blog

...I haven't posted forever. I blame my employer's block of the internet. Sad sad sad.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones - A sad day for readers everywhere

Diana Wynne Jones died Saturday, March 26, 2011. Something I learned from reading Neil Gaiman's online journal entry today.

DWJ is so far and away my favorite author that there isn't really a 2nd-favorite, and even though I'm just one of millions of fans, I feel devastated, as if she was a favorite relative or someone else I knew well.

Really, though, I merely knew a small piece of her world, through which she created a small piece of mine.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March Birthday = NEW BOOKS!!


In honor of turning the magical number forty-one, my mother-in-law gifted me a generous Powell's card, with which I purchased:
In addition, I won a GoodReads contest!! (Favorite new discovery - free books in exchange for free reviews! Best magic thing in 2011 to date!!)
AND! I won one of the Locus Challenge giveaway books:
Sadly, the book, had I but paid attention, is #3 in a series, prompting me to spend my own money on books 1 and 2. Despite bleeding my own money: WHEEEEEE!

Again, March proves why it's my favorite month of the year: Many delicious books to read!! Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

12 books, 12 months #6: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, by Alison Arngrim

This is part 6 of my portion of a book review series brought to you by The Latter Day Bohemian via Middle-Aged Woman.

Holy fun. Clearly I've been blocking a key part of my childhood - the one where I watched 3000 hours of Little House on the Prairie, obsessively read the books, wore prairie skirts, and played out endless Little-Housian stories with my staff of dolls and toys.

Last night it all came roaring back as I read Alison Arngrim's snappy autobiography about growing up playing Nellie Oleson in the wildly successful prairie TV (melo)drama. This is a fun, quick read, and Arngrim definitely keeps everything fresh - light-handed with the serious stuff and laughing companionably (and often) at the histrionics of actors everywhere.

There's not a lot to pick apart. Her narrative is quick-paced and sweet. Arngrim had eccentric, fairly bohemian parents who were bent on their own and their children's success. Money was iffy and her family's coping mechanisms - which could easily sound bleak and sad in other hands - come across as upbeat and quirky.

Even the heaviest piece of her childhood - long-term sexual abuse at the hands of her also-famous brother - is dealt with matter-of-factly. Not dismissively, but not overly sentimental. I had to admire her ability to say "I will share this with you, stranger, and give you the summary. But keep your pity out of my way." It's certainly good for the sake of her mostly comic memoir, and keeps her overall persona glib, humorous, and slightly detached.

Arngrim clearly could write another story about her life, interpreting her odd parents, her brother, some post-Little House life experiences in a much more untangling, wallowing way. But she chooses at every point to make the glossier, humorous punchline. And it works. It IS a memoir and she IS an actor, but for all the layers of narcissism inherent in those two things, it's a good, candid, non-precious read.

Arngrim knows she's writing a book that will primarily be read by fans of Little House, and uses that as her motif, despite the many non-actor things she's done since Nellie (most notably AIDS activism and campaigning for the rights of incest survivors). And she isn't all sunshine and lollipops: she's candid about a few people, including the (scandalous!) rudeness of Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary) and Katherine MacGregor (Mrs. Oleson)'s infuriating habit of directing other actors. But (aside from Anderson, who sounds difficult to know), Arngrim's voice is generally fair and loving, even when she describes some of the most difficult situations in her life.

Given that, it's tough to call her to task for her glib, defensive humor. Lots of people use humor as a wall, and Arngrim at least acknowledges that her humorous shield has saved her. She calls it bitchiness, born from playing a well-known girl-you-love-to-hate. But, you know, not so much. I'd call her direct and humorous and admirable - not much of a bitch at all.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

More challenge!

I'm attempting another book challenge through Locus Magazine. The list of possibles is LONG and DELICIOUS! I've been wanting to read Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (squee! I know her!) and the new Jasper Fforde... wish me luck!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Book of Johns: 12 books, 12 months #5: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This is part 5 of my portion of a book review series brought to you by The Latter Day Bohemian via Middle-Aged Woman.

I can't do it. Much as I believe the payoff would be pleasurable, this book is the most difficult to enjoy audio-book I've yet tried.

I own 2 hard copies, so I WILL try again with the bound copies, so I can make mental notes as to the page upon which someone named John appears. That way, when the eleventy-seventh John says something dry and witty, I can remember which effing John it is - or at least page back to figure it out.

8 hours into an approximately 32 hour audio-book, I throw up my hands.

The good: It's a fun capture of regency-era stiffness and linguistic quirks in a parallel universe where magic lurks in the shadows. The bad: the cast of thousands, the interchangeable stuffiness of address, and the footnotes, OH, the footnotes...AAAAAHHH! I can't do it. I drift off into a deaf mental fugue whenever I try to sit and listen. Or jog and listen. Or anything and listen. A few paragraphs into the narration and I'm completely bored AND have to cull my brain to remember if this is the John who wrote the treatise on Magic in Britain, or the John who is the selectman, or the John who is going to marry the fussy Miss R, apprenticed to the fussy magician Mr. Norrell. Or possibly it's the one married to the brought-back-to-life Miss C? And by the time I've figured it out, I've once again lost what may be critical information to the book's plot.

I really like Clarke's voice. But this is a book to be careful over, and my life, full as it is of job, family, and etc. is not allowing the careful, note-taking reading required.

My vote: A- for Clarke (I don't care for the narrator choice, and think his dry voice contributes to my dilemma) and an F- for me for the realization that my life needs books with more spoon-feeding.