Monday, May 02, 2011

What I read -- April 2011

“My mother she killed me, My father he ate me” edited by Kate Bernheimer. Yet another library book, this one a request. A collection of modern fairy tales. I’ll admit I don’t know every fairy tale on the planet, and in fact I might only know a couple of dozen of the more obvious ones, probably from Disney books and movies. I thought the Gregory McGuire intro was annoying, but then I read the first story, and I had to google John James Audubon, because I had no idea what he was really like. What I totally enjoyed was that I could chat about the story as being about Baba Yaga, and people knew what I was talking about, because these are all archetypes. That’s what (in my opinion) copyright has removed from Canadian literature – we can refer to the same places, but we can’t build archetypes the same way, because that’s “stealing”. The Karen Joy Fowler and Stacey Richter stories were standouts. A couple of the stories were just punishment.

And I see it’s been nominated for a Shirley Jackson award! Awesome.

“Kill the Dead” by Richard Kadrey. Library book. The boy read it first, in less than a day. Ed read it next and had weird zombie dreams. I didn’t read it as fast as the boy, but I totally enjoyed it. The plot and characters were easier for me to keep track of than the first one in this series. My only quibble would be that when Stark’s human half died off, I didn’t really sense much of a difference in the voice of the story, and then when the human half came back, the same.

“Napier’s Bones” by Derryl Murphy. Bought this one at the Chizine book release party during Ad Astra. There was something strange about the style or the editing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but that was far outweighed by the well-constructed magic system. Right at the start of the story two characters start sharing one body, and this was really interesting to read. The Billy character (I thought he was going to turn out to be Shakespeare, but I was wrong) seemed like he was in the car, in the plane with the other two, and then I would realize again that there were only two bodies, but three people. Worth the read.

“Dogsbody” by Diana Wynne Jones. This had been on my list for ages (I’ve read several other of her books, mostly the Chrestomancy ones, which I loved), so when she died, I requested it from the library. When it came, it had a card pouch in the front! It had stamps from around 1978 or ’79! The ending was awesome, with Sirius getting what he wants, for the most part, but not being happy with it. She so got into the head of what it was to be a puppy, and I loved how Kathleen was picked on for being Irish, which is so much how the real world works and brought into the story real world issues (I didn’t love that she was picked on, I loved that the children did not get along wonderfully all the time and in fact were quite cruel). DWJ really knows how to build a story to a climax. Ed picked it up when I was done because I’d talked it up so much, but he kept asking me questions like “what’s a zoi?” and “who’s the old lady?” Oh, just go with it!

“My Date with Satan: Stories” by Stacey Richter. I got this from the library because I liked her story in “MMSKMMFHAM” so much. I think all the stories but one were in first-person. I guess that’s her schtick. I personally have been trying not to write every story first person, because it starts to seem like an easy out sometimes. They were very entertaining and didn’t seem all that dated to me.

“Ash” by Malinda Lo.
Reminded me of “Book of a thousand days” that I read last year, maybe because it’s a retelling of a fairy tale (in this case Cinderella) for a YA audience. In this story Cinderella does not wind up with the prince, but winds up with someone else instead. It had other fairy tales all worked through it as well, which was neat but didn’t totally work for me stylistically. Still, it was a quick, entertaining read. I’m starting to notice style more, and which authors’ styles resonate with me, and which don’t, which isn’t to say they’re bad books, and also stories where the author seems to be taking a risk, walking a tightrope between what shouldn’t work, and what does.

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