June 22, 2004
24. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
There are so many big mainstream books from the past year that I haven't even looked at, but if nothing else, this job has given me a chance to get my hands on them and start reading. The Lovely Bones was another lunch hour book, and that may have been a mistake, because it nearly made me cry on several occasions.
It's interesting, because here's another literary book with a strong speculative element to it. For folks who haven't heard of it, The Lovely Bones starts with the murder of a middle school girl, and the rest of the book is from her perspective, looking down on her family and friends (not to mention her murderer) from heaven. Don't let that fool you, it's not as treacly as I feared it would be. Instead, it has some pretty powerful things to say about how different people deal with tragedy. I don't know if I can say that I enjoyed it, necessarily, that seems like the wrong word to use. But it will stay with me, of that I have no doubt. Well worth a read.
June 19, 2004
23. Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian
Like a lot of people, I went and saw last year's movie version with very little notion that there was a whole slew of novels about Aubrey and Maturin. I was intrigued by what I'd heard about them, and had them on my to-read list. Then, while the managers at work were cleaning out their offices, one of them turned over very nearly the entire series on audiobook, read by Patrick Tull. So I grabbed them up and have been listening to them on my commute to work ever since.
The first book, Master and Commander, was fascinating. Mer describes the series as sort of the male side of Jane Austen's world, and I can see that (especially now that I'm listening to Post Captain, the second book, but that's a post for another time). The level of historical and naval detail is a little daunting, especially since O'Brian doesn't coddle his readers. You're left to sink or swim based on what little clues he's left in the text. I may end up trying to find a reading guide or naval dictionary at some point. Still, hearing someone read it, I think, makes it a little easier to follow the action.
For me, the selling point was O'Brian's characterizations. Not just Aubrey and Maturin, although they're both fabulous characters in their own right (Maturin got such short shrift in the movie!), but all the supporting characters as well. I felt like I knew every man on board the Sophie, like I was right in the middle of their lives.
There are worse ways to spend a sometimes long, sometimes frustrating, often traffic-clogged commute.
June 09, 2004
22. Codex, Lev Grossman
If I'm going to keep reading books that are touted as another Da Vinci Code (and I have a couple waiting for me right now), I should really probably read The Da Vinci Code at some point. Thrillers revolving around old literature are very big now, in case you're like me and didn't notice that fact at all.
Codex was solidly okay. I didn't feel any real connection to the characters, and at times I was confused by the abruptness of some of the action (why did she just say that? Why did he just do that?)--which got annoying--but overall, it was a pleasant way to while away a few lunch hours. Definitely light reading. If anyone wants to borrow it, I'll bring it home, otherwise I'll probably toss it back on the free pile where I found it.
21. Aria, Vol. 2: The Soul Market
Aria is the only comic/graphic novel I've ever gotten into, aside from a brief infatuation with Gaiman's Sandman collections. I snapped up the first several issues of Aria when it started back in 1999, but I stopped finding new issues, and the website went defunct, so I figured the comic fell by the wayside. So, when I found the above collection in the free pile I work, I was only too happy to snatch it up.
Aria is like someone took a Changeling game (the way I think it should be played) and turned it into a comic book. The artwork is breathtaking, and the storylines have a neat little Gaimanesque urban fantasy twist to them. The Soul Market manages to introduce Puck and toss in a side reference to True Thomas as well. Puck is fantastic; they got the amorality just right.
If I can just find Vol. 1, as well as any issues after Vol. 2, I'll be a happy happy woman.
20. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah, Stephen King
I make no bones about the fact that I think King's Dark Tower series is great literature, and I'm utterly delighted to see my belief reaffirmed in Song of Susannah. King left us on sort of a cliffhanger after Wolves of the Calla, and I will warn you, he does something similar in this one, but with the final DT book coming at Christmas time, it's easy to forgive him.
In Song of Susannah, King not only continues the time- and worlds-warping storyline he's been building all along (now we're currently traveling through NYC of 1999 and Maine of 1977), but he adds some astonishingly self-referential touches, almost to the point of surrealism. Some people will hate it, or cry ego, but I thought it was freaking genius, and spent the last half of the book grinning like a maniac.
There is heroism in this book that will take your breath away; one scene in particular tore my heart out and makes me dread the last book even as I anticipate it. (Yeah, this one has a lot of the emotional pull that Wolves seemed to lack for me.)
Oh yeah, and I said last time that I thought King's accident in 1999 seriously influenced his decision to wrap up this series. After finishing the last page of this book, I feel completely vindicated in that assumption. The last page is a little mindblowing, and it's a doozy.
June 01, 2004
19. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
After about fifty pages or so, this book was added to the "Holy shit, why didn't I read this years ago?!" list. For the rest of the weekend, every spare moment I could find (and a not a few I stole from other planned activities, like packing) was spent reading this book. I finished it last night at about 11:30. Wow. I admit, when I bought it on Saturday, I was a little disgruntled to have bought a book shelved in the romance section. I discovered that there's romance novels, and then there's romance novels. Outlander is one of the latter. The writing's good, the story is taut, and while yeah, a big part of the plot has to do with the main character's romantic relationship with the hero, there's a lot more going on.
I was a little startled to realize, in fact, that this is the sort of book I want to write, that I've tried to write, in fact. I don't just mean Sword in the Mound, but in fact, The Exile's Daughter could well end up classified as a 'romance', should I ever manage to rewrite it and get it published. Scary, that.