February 1st, 2015

picture icon iv

Books January

Not "books read" because I didn't finish one and bounced off two others (the difference being how far I got into the book).

Madeleine Ashby
Angry Robot, 2013
Second in a set of three books about von Neumann machines coming into human culture. At first I was annoyed by some character interaction at the start of the book, but something happened that was quite gripping and kept me intrigued throughout. I like the little jokes that refer to other robot movies and books (mostly movies, particularly Blade Runner).

Starbird Murphy and the World Outside
Karen Finneyfrock
Viking, 2014
Starbird Murphy has been raised on a farm (outside Bellingham) that started as a utopian commune in the early 70s. It's a bit decayed now: the charismatic leader left a couple years before the novel opens, supposedly to look for her older brother, who also disappeared unexpectedly. No one has heard from the leader for a while. Starbird leaves the farm for the World Outside, Seattle. I thought the details of Starbird encountering the world outside were well done, but they didn't go deep enough for me. Finneyfrock is a poet, so the descriptions were occasionally vivid and the writing overall is quite good. Finneyfrock also avoids the more lurid possibilities of utopian communes with charismatic leaders. At times it seems a little predictable (the complicated project is pulled off to great acclaim, but claims a personal price) but finally the choices Starbird has to make are deep and defining.

California BOUNCE
Edan Lepucki
Little, Brown, 2014
I bounced off of this one, didn't make it through the first chapter. Too much of it seemed completely unrealistic to me. For one thing (and not the least) I've never seen a glass turkey baster.

NB: I posted to Facebook asking if anyone had seen a glass turkey baster and found out, in fact, that such things do exist. There were other details about the division of labor in their supposed survivalist duo that really bugged me.

Liz Prince
Z'Est Books, 2014
This was a lot of fun, a graphic novel memoir of growing up as a tomboy in the 1980s and 90s. Prince tells the story without valorizing or over-dramatizing her situation. It's very warm and heartfelt, and the happy ending feels both earned and completely justified.

Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches
Cherie Priest
Roc, 2014
Not much of a fan of horror, the genre just doesn't appeal to me. Maybe it's a squeamishness over being scared, or a prejudice that the genre only involves shock and gore. I did like this, and because I'm not emotionally connected to the genre I could see the bones of story better: the increasing tension; the red herrings about who was affected and who not; the accelerating pace to the next incident, then backing off a bit (but never quite as far back as before the previous incident). And so on. So this is a very well done book, and I read it pretty avidly, but don't think I'll follow up the series. I really disliked Boneshaker, for what that's worth.

Almanac of the Dead DIDN'T FINISH
Leslie Marmon Silko
Penguin, 1991
I feel like I didn't give this a fair shot, but I just wasn't getting involved in it. I could see how the wandering tense (shifting within a single paragraph and even single sentence) played into the dislocations felt while being as drugged up as the characters were. But it just wasn't going anywhere fast enough to suit me. I gave up somewhere in the 100s of a 700+ page novel.

The Dubious Hills BOUNCE
Pamela Dean
Tor, 1994
Not my type of fantasy at all. I bounced off this less than 50 pages in.

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed
Patrick Rothfuss, words; Nate Taylor, illustrations
Subterranean Press, 2010
Not a children's book, which I knew when I picked it up. It's actually very creepy, and begins distorting the reality of the characters and of children's books earlier than I noticed on the first reading. There's a sequel, which I have just put on hold at the library. I tried reading one of Patrick Rothfuss's novels before, but bounced off it within a few pages.

The statistical/demographic breakdown: Eight books, seven were fiction. Seven women, one man. One person of color. Two bounces, one didn't finish.