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WIB: Jan 25-31

March 29, 2015

I’m skipping on the book club backlog for this entry because there were so many books this week.

The first thing I read was The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, for our speculative fiction book club. I am very, very happy we chose to read this, because I do hate reading out of order, and I didn’t realize this was the first in a series. The next, To Say Nothing of the Dog, is a selection for my online book club later this year, so everything ended up falling into place–or, rather, in order, which is how I like things. (The books are, I hear, only loosely connected. Still. I haven’t stopped being me.)

This is one of those books where I’m glad I didn’t read the back and/or inside covers before diving in. To sell the book, they give away a major plot point. The book has a bit of mystery to it, and that mystery drives the first half of the narrative. I can tell you this, though: it’s the story of a world where time travel is used by historians, and of one young woman’s passion for a certain time period being used in a tug-of-war between her mentors. Maybe that sounds exciting. I can’t say “exciting” is a good word to describe this book. There are times when it’s tense, when it’s tough, but only the end is fast-paced. The book itself relies on the commonplace and mundane, both in the present and in the past. I could see people giving up on this book. But they shouldn’t. Thrillrides aren’t necessary for good literature; this story is engrossing because of the day-to-day, not despite it. All of us in the book club really enjoyed it, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book this summer.

Next up I slogged my way through Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun & Spite by June Casagrande. It was recommended by a member of my online book club who didn’t enjoy our selection of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. While I understand why people don’t like Truss, I couldn’t understand why anyone would enjoy Casagrande, who is nowhere near as clear in her describes and is, frankly, mean to the point of nasty. She believes she’s on the other side of this language war, the side that’s cool and casual and snarky, but her blows are low and personal; her slut-shaming is way past okay into Just Plain Wrong. I almost didn’t finish this book because of it.

I decided I needed a palate cleanser, so I reread Judy Blume’s Deenie, a wonderful book that had much more going on than I remembered. Deenie is not just a girl who has scoliosis and has to learn to deal with getting a brace, although Blume’s specific descriptions of what that’s like are so helpful; it’s also the story of a young girl whose mother is, frankly, terrible to her, and Deenie’s sexual and relationship maturity. How do I forget all this masturbation stuff in Blume’s work? And yet I do. I think it went over my head because I was probably 7 or 8 when I read this book for the first time. As an adult, I want to praise Blume for what she’s done for young people. So many books–except the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor–vague up or flat-out ignore young people’s libidos, when it’s such a huge deal, a new, confusing experience. But if someone wrote now the way Blume did? I’m not sure how that would go over. Deenie is a good book, if not a great one, and if it’s dated, the content is so rare yet so universal that I don’t think it matters.

Emily St. John Mendel’s Station Eleven is the story of a pandemic, as it begins and years after it ends, when the world is very changed indeed. It’s gotten so many positive reviews, and it is very good, but to me it has such a Purposefully Literary feel that I couldn’t give it five stars. If you want capital-L Literature in your Dystopia, this is the book for you.

I also finished UnDivided, the last book in the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman. This book is a highly satisfying conclusion to the series, and perhaps the strongest installment since the first.

I finished the week by giving up on Chelsea Cain’s One Kick at about fifty pages in. It didn’t make any damn sense, everyone was so douchey you couldn’t figure out why anyone would do anything with them, the nudity seemed like a sort of “hey, this’ll make a great screenplay” move, and I can’t believe this is the start of a series. Ugh.

Well, that didn’t seem like it took very long at all. So I guess I’ll use this space to post a tally of where I am in my reading goals.

Shelf books: 10/50 (2 given up on)

New books: 8/20 (3 given up on)

Total books: 47/100 (1 other given up on)

Next up: nostalgia, the new Gayle Forman, a by-the-numbers Roswell High rip-off, and me quitting on another book. I think it’s going to be that kind of year.

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