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March Backwib

June 19, 2013

I have so many posts I want to do!  And so many real-life things to do!  So I curl up in a ball and play Candy Crush.

That can’t be healthy.

I want Chiclets.

…And now it’s several days later.  I had to go to NJ and drop off all those BEA books to my old library.

I kind of want to do a video post about all the BEA bags, but I’ve got some summer cold thing so…just no.  Not yet, anyway.

On to the backwib!

After my lackluster review of Mary Gaitskill’s short stories in 2009, you’d think I wouldn’t pick up one of her novels, but that’s exactly why I did it.  The novel is not the same form as short story, and Gaitskill is always interesting, if not always, you know, cheerful.  Or, really, ever cheerful.  Boy, for once I can say I’m glad I’ve read some Ayn Rand (actually, I’m always glad to say that, because I LIKE that I can discuss Rand, good and bad), because Two Girls, Fat and Thin is in part about Rand, or her fictional counterpart.  The two girls of the title are a journalist and a woman who, when she was young, was involved with the fictional-Rand’s politics and movement, and the former is interviewing the latter.  We delve into their backgrounds, their troubled associations with sex and their bodies and generally being women, and of course it’s depressing (being a woman can be, in this world), but it was good.  More recommended for those who’ve read Rand than those who haven’t, though. Gaitskill’s thinly-veiled counterparts to Rand’s characters are almost worth the price of admission alone.

Having loved the Newsflesh books, I was disappointed by Mira Grant’s urban fantasy alter ego, Seanan McGuire (er, Grant is really the alter ego, because I think McGuire is her actual name), and the first book of the InCryptid series, Discount Armageddon.  I’d heard a lot of good things about her October Daye series, but not so much this one, and I’m sorry I started with it.  (Although ultimately, if October Daye is as good as I’ve heard, then maybe it was for the best.)  Everything SHOULD have worked: Buffy-esque world with strong heroine, religious mice, but it all falls a bit flat, especially in the romance department. (I felt the same way about Newsflesh too, but, um, let’s not discuss that here.)  Oh wait, here are some bits I wrote for my book club on it:

Too fast. This book goes at a breakneck speed that I’d appreciate if it gave you a chance to like anyone at all. It drops you right into Verity Price’s life with very little sense of what’s going on. I can handle that, if I felt like the book ever wanted to deepen the world. I do believe that the author has a grasp on the world Price lives in; I just don’t believe she ever effectively lets the reader in.

At first, I figured we weren’t being let into the other characters because they’re Other; eventually, I realized that’s how it works for everyone. No one gets personality traits. They have two possible personalities: the kind that gets Verity’s humor, and the kind that doesn’t. With the exception of some fangs, Alex may as well be Ryan, Carol may be Candice. I had to work hard to tell the bland extras apart.

For someone who twisted my stomach and heart several times over in her other works, I was also disappointed by how the author undercut her own tension with awkward statements like “That was the last time I saw her alive” (paraphrased). Even the [spoiler]-twist is called a chapter ahead of time. But really, it’s the former that bothered me the most. Verity spends a chapter or so on a rescue mission, and we already know it’s a failure. It would maybe create pathos, if the pacing allowed us to breathe. Instead, it falls flat.

Even the thing I was sure I’d love–the mice–weren’t given anything but the prerequisite amount of page time for the lulz. I’ve seen Coraline, so large groups of mice doing interesting things are great, but if you give them voices, let them freakin’ have them. I don’t expect her to have long, drawn-out conversations with the mice, but they just seemed like another hilarious piece of window dressing. And I don’t really laugh at window dressing, you know?

As for the actual plot, there were some interesting things going on, but I was a little confused as to why Verity kept asserting things that she hadn’t proved–like the existence of the cult. As for the romance, well, I felt like our hero got to be whatever was needed for the page.

Oh, and the dancing thing. It felt so shoehorned in, no pun intended. I was terribly disappointed that the author didn’t decide to set the novel as the reality show began. It was just another choice that made me lack a connection to the main character, and really any part of the book.

God, I even forgot that dancing was supposed to be a thing.  The main character is supposed to be a dancer who is suffering her way through the family business of Dealing With Monsters.  At the beginning of the book, we’re told she won some sort of Dancing with the Stars-esque competition.  Now THAT would’ve been worthy of a first book.  So why didn’t McGuire start there?

So yeah, problems.

I’m still going to try the October Daye books.  One day.

I read Ultimate Comics X-Men Volume 1 or whatever and seriously, I cannot remember a thing about it except that some of them–maybe Johnny, Ice Man, and Kitty, are hiding…underground?  Maybe with or near Morlocks?  I don’t WANT to be out of the Ultimate world, but the X-Men never caught me the way Spidey did.  They tried too hard to be gritty, but didn’t know how to be gritty with teenagers.

A friend from the book club bought me Jennifer Matarese’s Heroine Addiction as an e-book when it went on sale, and…again, more disappointment.  I was looking for more superheroine fiction, other than the very romance-y Jennifer Estep, and she suggested Matarese as a counter.  The main character is bisexual, with a female ex.  Nice change of pace.  Howeverrrrr…and I hate to say this YET AGAIN…things do not fall into place correctly.  The plot is muddled.  The author’s so far into her own head she forgets to make the world clear to us.  Things only really start to feel like they have flow toward the end of the book, and it’s too little, too late.  I think there’s a great book in Heroine Addiction, but it’s not the one Matarese published.  I felt, honestly, like I was reading a draft.  The crap e-book formatting and errors (I want to say there was one letter or character that was always missing, or doubled, or something) didn’t help.

I picked up the second book of the Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet, and she knocks her second book out of the park by giving us the strong second book that most series just don’t have.  Although there’s a lot of the usual running around and setting things up, we get all sorts of other things going on to make us aware that there’s more going on than just the usual running around and setting things up.  We get new characters to like and world-building to be proud of, and and and I just loved it.  I liked Cinder but I didn’t completely love it, and Meyer was like “Oh yeah?  Well, wait till the next one.”  Well-played.  Excited for Meyer’s growth as an author, and excited for the next book already.

I read Ex and the Single Girl by Lani Diane Rich with a huge sense of deja-vu.  Did I read it before I started tracking everything on Goodreads?  I believe I did.   Was it forgettable enough that even the cute title didn’t tip me off? Yup.  Is it filled with things I loathe in romance, like overbearing families that the main character does little to actually deal with, whereas I in real life would just walk off and be like “Well, see y’all at Christmas, don’t write, don’t call”?  Yup.  This trope is starting to make me full-on sick and I am over it.  In a decade or so, we’ll be writing books combatting this the way that now we are writing to undo the damage of the ’80s and early ’90s with all of its slut-shaming, berating, and control from the partner.

No offense.  I did somewhat enjoy the book, especially the guy.

Laurie Halse Anderson takes us on yet another ride with Catalyst, the story of a teenager who is overwhelmed with the pressures of being a teenager.  Specifically, being the daughter of a pastor, not having a mother around, and dealing with college choices.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The book goes places I didn’t expect, and hurts more than I expected.  It’s no Speak or Wintergirls, and probably suffers a bit because of that, but not everything can be.  It’s still a solid, perhaps imperfect, book.

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor gives us some creepy moments, and a “OH!” at the end.  It’s a good read for those already involved with the series and, perhaps, the show (I don’t watch it), but not sure it matters much to those who don’t.

I recently met Rainbow Rowell (great hair) and got a signed copy of her new book Fangirl, which I am reading right now even though I love my book club selection for the month and really should be reading that instead.  But Rowell is amazingly talented.  Her name is going to be up there with Dessen and Green.  Her book Eleanor & Park broke the teen librarian’s heart at my old branch, and she declared it her best pick of the year so far.  For me, Eleanor & Park wasn’t quite as rending, but I totally cried, and did love it.  Not sure why I gave it four stars on Goodreads instead of five, but I’m wondering if it was because there was just…something…missing for me, something that wasn’t missing for my co-worker.  I’m hoping to find that something in Fangirl.  I liked Eleanor, I liked Park, and I was invested, but I wasn’t so invested I lost myself, which is what I was expecting after she made her declaration, you know?  The book is very, very good and I think you should read it.  I really do.  Don’t let the four stars sway you.

Given all the Wonder Woman reboots I’ve been reading lately, it’s not unusual that I’m totally blanking on the Straczynski storyline Odyssey, except that, of course, it’s the one with the hideous outfit.  The end, because it’s over already, yes?  And who cares.

I can’t believe how much I’d forgotten about The Glass Lake, the Maeve Binchy book I read in honor of her death last year.  I thought I remembered exactly how it worked out, and um, yeah, I wasn’t even half-right.  It was such a great book, and reminded me of why everyone in my family loved her, including me.  I kind of wanted my daughter to read it, but if it’s not YA or manga or Jennifer Crusie, she doesn’t want much to do with it lately.  Ah well.  Maybe when she’s older, she’ll see why everyone in my family couldn’t stop thinking they were twice the Irish Americans should be.

I completely put off reading Bridget Jones’s Diary for my book club because I’d read it before and I couldn’t find where I’d packed it.  However, I think I did myself a disservice.  I finally unpacked it and guilted myself into rereading it, and–huh.  Now, I’m not going to change my mind on the whole “Post-Bridget Jones-world” thing, because I think it’s true: This book caused a literary revolution.  (So did Twilight.  So has/will Fifty Shades of Grey.)  However, the revolution kind of sucked.  But Bridget Jones doesn’t.  She may be neurotic and end up in stupid situations, but unlike the ones that came after her, she didn’t act like an utter moron through them.  She keeps a wry sense of humor that I appreciate so much now that I’m old enough to get it.  (I’m kind of a literal reader that way.  Wry humor can go right over my head in text.)  She works through the bullshit.  Can’t remember if the second book lets that go, but whatever.  The point is: Bridget Jones is not a terrible book.  There’s a reason it was the beginning of chick lit as we know it today.  Too bad the publishers who were looking to make sure they made money off the trend didn’t look for more than “neurotic women in silly situations.”

Oh, and I got a poster signed for her new book too, at BEA.

Finally, the last book I read that month was my beloved Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  Reading it when the weather was lightening up was much smarter than last time, with winter in full swing.  This book is amazing, and I loved it as much the second time, although it moved much faster for me.  (Then again, so did PopCo.)  My speculative fiction book club enjoyed discussing this book, and enjoyed it in general. (Usually, there’s a bit of disagreement.  Even the one who liked it the least liked it.)  There was a LOT of talk about the mother, to whom the club was less sympathetic than I was in the past and probably won’t be in the future.  All very interesting stuff.  If you haven’t read it already…well, I just don’t know why.

Next up: A quick overview of the new Christopher Pike, Buffy season nine, classic lesbian lit, and more!

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