Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What I read -- Jan 2011

"Spiral Hunt" by Margaret Ronald. I read a lot of nonfiction last month and really needed a novel. This book was not perfect – it had an early, very long and seemingly pointless scene in a magic shop (that did, to be fair, turn out to be important later on). I didn’t feel like the cop character acted like a cop all the time, but then I don’t know any actual cops, so I’m basing that totally on cop TV shows, which are probably not accurate, either. The magic system was very complicated and took a while to get into. It had a likeable, complicated protagonist and an excellent sense of place. Boston is very much a character in this novel.

“My Misspent Youth” by Meghan Daum. I requested this from the library because somewhere I saw mention that it had an essay about playing oboe. And then, on the first page of the title essay, I thought to myself, “she’s going to move to Omaha,” and knew I’d read that one before, online, a couple of years ago. But I was wrong, she actually moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. So close!

In the Polyamory essay, what was sad was that I knew exactly what the “Winter is coming” t-shirt was referring to, and in fact have coveted that t-shirt. That indelibly marked me as not the audience for this book. And then I thought to myself, there must be a connection between polyamory and consumerism, but I can’t guess what it is.

The oboe essay resonated when I was at band practice– about the breathing, especially the thing about exhaling, which is something non-oboists don’t understand. And about being tuned to, which is something my band doesn’t do. But maybe should. It would maybe be a good step for me to push the issue. Perhaps I should at least start carrying a tuner (as if I don’t carry enough junk already...)

“The Ammonite Violin and Others” by Caitlin R. Kiernan. Wish I could do the accents required in her name. It would be nice. I read her blog, and her fiction style is very similar at least to my ear. Also I read her novel “silk” a couple of years ago, and this is part of my short stories thing... since I’m writing a lot of them. Not that I’m not reading a lot of shorter stuff, with OWW.

In general I loved the details, and the risks she took. “The Hole with a Girl in its Heart” particularly stood out. A while back (years not months) I tried to write a story about someone swallowing a black hole, but I could never make it work. It was nice to see it executed. What she got that I didn’t with that one was the POV. I always tried to write it from the POV of the person with the black hole in them, which I guess is the obvious choice, and never really worked.

Now that I’m writing this down, I want to go back and study her use of POV more closely, in the various stories. Wonder when I’ll find time for that.

“Farthing” by Jo Walton. I sat behind her at a panel at Contario. My sister gave this to me for Christmas (because I asked for it), and of all the books she’d given me, she thought this one was good. It doesn’t look on the outside like something she’d like, being parahistory and all, but I guess Jo can tell a story. OMG I have this urge to order a whole bunch of copies of this book and give them to people I know.

“Unusual Suspects” edited by Dana Stabenow. Ed got this out of the library, I have no idea why. It’s a collection of short fantasy mystery stories. I picked it up and read it because I suppose I’ve sent stories or will send stories to similar anthologies. One of the stories was a Sookie Stackhouse, and since I’ve read three of those books, it was interesting to see how the world worked in a short. I thought the author explained more background than was necessary – I’ve written a story that tries to work in the universe of “Apocryphal” while giving as little as possible explanatory information about the characters and world. It’s a neat puzzle to try to do that.

Some of the stories were good, and some were not so good. Mostly it seems that trying to pack too much world-building into a story is the bad. A lot of these authors are award-winning novelists according to their bios, so the varying quality was surprising. Most of the short story reading I do is by authors who have put out a complete collection, like the Caitlin Kiernan above, so it’s good to read some variety. I probably ought to read more magazines. Maybe I’ll subscribe to Weird Tales...

OWW: 6.

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