My laptop has been a hot mess for over a year. If you breathe on it funny, the plug falls out and it dies. If you dare open two programs, it chugs. If you leave Facebook open and it goes to sleep, you have to reboot it–as soon as it finally stops giving you the spinning icon. So when I post, I usually start a draft on my tablet and take it to the laptop only when I need to do things that the tablet isn’t great for. It also means I’m not always looking at my goal lists and my to-do lists. This is probably a good thing, because otherwise I’d feel overwhelmed all the time.
My 2014 WIB list still has over 100 items on it. Let’s see how much I can get through with just a line or two. I’m starting to think I should just write real Goodreads reviews, since trying to write once a week means I get busy and my week is gone, and suddenly it’s a month later.
Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah is the teen version of her book Falling Leaves. I meant to get Falling Leaves, but it had been years since I read another of her books and when I saw Chinese Cinderella, I assumed that was the right book and got it. I think she also did another version for even younger readers. It’s an important story to tell, about what it’s like to be an unloved child, and how some families do not blend well, but I think I would’ve preferred the older version. Good for teens, though.
There is a new translation of Albert Camus’s The Stranger, and I don’t like it. It’s meant to be more noir, a reflection of the author’s intent and influences, but the sentences are often so short that they come off as the narrator being simple-minded rather than terse. It made for a difficult read.
Alethea Kontis’s Enchanted, the beginning of the Woodcutter Sisters series, was not my thing, and I gave up on it pretty quickly. Part of the problem was insta-love; I forget the others by now but I think maybe an anachronistic feel? I gave away the other book I had in the series without even opening it.
Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things felt like more of the same and not quite enough from an author I usually really enjoy, if not flat-out love. A disappointment.
I was supposed to read Anthony Trollope’s The Warden for a book club, and while I thought I could read it no problem, I wasn’t in the mood and I didn’t care whether I finished it, so I didn’t. I’ll maybe get back to it one day but it’s not a high priority.
Anne Tyler and I are not what we once were. I used to love The Accidental Tourist, and now I’m not quite sure why. Muriel is incredibly irritating, whereas once she was one of my go-to Manic Pixie Dream Women. I had forgotten that a huge part of Macon’s life revolved around the grief of losing a child. Macon annoyed me; his family annoyed me; I wanted to punch almost everyone in this book. When I read another Tyler this year, I didn’t quite feel the same way, but close. Oh well. I guess I have little tolerance for “quirky” anymore.
I wish I hadn’t finished Becca Fitzpatrick’s Black Ice. It’s a mess of a book, a Harlequin romance mixed with a bad thriller to give us some sort of YA book, but not a good one.
I don’t get the hype over Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. It might just be a harder sci fi than I prefer, or maybe it’s a great book and I don’t see it. But mostly I was confused–not by the gender stuff, but by the plot and the time jumps. It was like two books smooshed into one, when two would’ve been much better.
I also read Foxtrot Beyond a Doubt, Camp FoxTrot, and Wildly Foxtrot, things I do when my daughter leaves her books on the table and walks away. Of them all, Wildly Foxtrot was my least favorite (not that they aren’t all entertaining) but it’s also the oldest, so it seems like maybe Amend came into his own in the late ’90s.
I did some Clive Barker rereading and I’m still of the mind that while Weaveworld is pretty good, it’s a bit draggy and Imajica is the best book he’s ever written, possibly one of the best books ever. He’s a more visceral Neil Gaiman, and I mean that in the medical sense. Barker immerses himself in a world that has functional bodies: not just the blood-n-occasional-guts of horror, but spit, semen, sweat, and his characters and worlds are richer (if messier) for it. I really want to read his new one, but it’s a bit down the list right now, unfortunately.
I am really enjoying Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9, and last year I read the first three trades. I always go back and read again when I get a new one, and the latest one always seems not as good as the rest, and then the next one comes out and I see how it all fits together, and then I bump the previous trade from 4 to 5 stars.
I reread Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency for the first time since high school. I have never been a rabid Adams fan; I couldn’t really read dry sarcasm on the page when I was young so British humor was a problem for me with Hitchhiker’s Guide. I had to see a movie version before I realized how good it really was. The end of Dirk Gently is kind of muddled, and holy heck does Adams have an issue with writing women in his books. But other than that I was entertained. Not enough to read the other one again though.
I think Adams was at his best when he wrote Last Chance to See, a non-fiction book about his travels around the world seeking endangered animals. It’s a great book and I highly recommend everyone read it.
While I’m at it, other favorite first-time reads from the year:
Fairest: In All the Land – Bill Willingham can be great. He isn’t always, but he can be. I will miss Fables, despite some of its sexism issues.
Jim Butcher keeps knocking it out of the park in Skin Game, the latest Dresden Files book. This one reads like Butcher binge-watched Leverage, but it’s not loosely disguised fan fiction (KELLEY ARMSTRONG) so I’ll take it. It’s a heist book, woo! I love heists. I’m so excited for Ant-Man.
Jo Walton’s My Real Children is an amazing alternative history book about a woman who has Alzheimer’s and remembers two distinct sets of memories, with different partners and children. It’s the kind of book you can recommend to a wide range of people because it’s literary enough to draw in the literary readers, and spec fic enough to draw in the sf people. The only people you can’t really recommend it to are people who need high levels of action. I loved it. You should read it.
John Scalzi’s Lock In is a near-future thriller in w…
Sigh. The plug fell out.
John Scalzi’s Lock In is a near-future thriller where a portion of the population is completely paralyzed in body but not mind. Technology comes to the rescue, and people can have meaningful lives with manmade bodies or online existence. Chris, who primarily chose the former, is an FBI agent who is assigned to a murder case related to the illness that causes lock-in. Don’t read anything about this book ahead of time, then Google it and have your mind blown.
Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series ends with Dreams of Gods & Monsters, a satisfying conclusion, if a bit rushed at the end. Not my usual fare, this YA fantasy series is rich and beautiful, and I recommend it for contemporary fantasies readers.
Not every story in Margaret Atwood’s new collection, Stone Mattress, is five-star, but overall, the book itself is. Here she gives us her look into the minds of average people, artists, murders, victims, including the characters from one of my favorite of her books, The Robber Bride. Sequel-ish!
The first issue of Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction blew me away (no pun intended) and when I bought the first volume, I was even more impressed. I’ve never read anything so good at discussing and portraying sex the way real people discuss and think about sex.
I read Orange is the New Black and while I don’t love everything about Piper Kerman, that’s no different than how I feel about the show too. Seriously though, this might be a privileged look at women’s prisons, but it’s still a good one.
Rob Thomas (not THAT Rob Thomas) continues the world of Veronica Mars in two novels, the first of which is The Million Dollar Tan Line. It’s always great to see Veronica again, and the book does the show justice. Excited to read the second…one of these days.
Finally, my favorite book of the year was Rainbow Rowell’s Landline. A romance with a Twilight Zone twist, it’s the story of a woman who’s been working more than her family needs her to. When she chooses to work instead of leave with them for Christmas break, something very strange happens that causes her to reevaluate the relationships in her life. I loved this book so much I made my first decorated cake to celebrate it. It was a delicious but amateur-looking cake. But Rowell appreciated my willingness to embarrass myself for the Greater Book Good, and that’s what matters.
Whew, almost 30 books, right? Good for me. Maybe good for you too? Not just for reading but I hope you’ve found a rec in here somewhere.
(Jillian: My Real Children, it’s all you.)
Until next time…