Monday, February 01, 2010

What I read -- Jan 10

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" by Mark Haddon. I saw this book on many "best of year" lists maybe four or five years ago, but I'm not sure I ever put it on a list. The boy was reading it for school, so I picked it up and read 106 pages the first day, and then finished it two days later when the boy brought it home special so I could finish it (he'd already finished it). He thought Christopher was arrogant. I thought Christopher did some amazing things, especially considering his challenges, and his parents were a pretty disfunctional lot, and it was a good thing he had Siobhan, a sane, rational adult. I gather from the intro that the author spent a lot of time with autistic people, which made the characterization good. The details -- lists of items, etc. -- were hysterical and totally appropriate for the character to notice. Some of them I sort of skipped over, like the descriptions of the signs in the train station, but the box of meusli was brilliant.

"Debugging" by David J Agans. This looked a lot more interesting on the shelf of the R&D library than it was when I got it home, but I did slog through. It kept referring to the more interesting bits that would be in the next chapter, and laughed at its own jokes, but it was informative.

"Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower. Short stories. I read a couple of rave reviews, or maybe the same rave review twice. As I'm writing a lot of short stories right now, reading a lot of them seemed like a good idea. The first two I didn't like that much. I felt like they wanted more editing. The characters were interesting, and the situations, and the sentences were grammatical, but it felt like he didn't read that much fiction. The third story, the one about the dad with something like alzheimer's, really resonated. The other stories were okay, I got through them, but then the title story, which closed the volume, was awesome. I loved the voice in that story, because it was the same modern voice as the other stories, but displaced into whenever the vikings were doing their thing, like 700 AD, and applied our relationship values and work ethic to their social order. It was extremely entertaining. Though I'm glad there was only one of those in the book. More would have been too much.

"The Changeover" by Margaret Mahy. This was highly recommended by Justine Larbalestier. The author is a New Zealander, and as such, there were some sentence structures that seemed odd to my ear. Particularly, the use of "for" in the middle of sentences where normally I would have "because" in the first draft, and then take it out in the second and make a separate sentence. Once I got used to that, the story moved along nicely. Justine was right -- it was a neat way to show a relationship between two teenagers in an imbalance-of-power situation (she's 14, he's 17, he's a prefect and a witch...). There was magic, and that was cool, but really the interesting thing in the story was the complex and evolving relationships between all the characters. It made me think in Toothbrush, I need to work on the relationship between Claire and her sister, and Claire and her mother, and maybe even her sister and her mother....

"The Magicians" by Lev Grossman. Bought it in North Conway in August, at an independent bookstore for full price. Who does that anymore? Started it in August. It was a good story, but I found it very put-downable, maybe because it's a hard cover so not portable, and also, whenever characters in a story start doing too much coke, I tend to be put off. That's just me. It's my issue, but it makes me really uncomfortable. I can read two or three pages of that, and I have to take a break. It took me forever to read Lost Girls a couple of years ago. Unbelievably, this book took me longer to read than the sleeve of Morrigan, which I finished on January 30. There were some good sections, where I could read 50 pages at a sitting, but then it would bog down and lose its lightness and fun and become a slog for 20 or 30 pages. Not sure if it was me or the book. I loved the mash-up of Narnia and Harry Potter, and how adult interpretations of everything kind of bog them down, but the ending was harrowing.

OWW: One. Meant to read another, but also meant to put something up there, and never did that either. Feb will be better.

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