April 8th, 2008

Reading List 2008 (14/39)

I wish I could say “This Week’s Reading,” but I haven’t posted since February. Oops!

Watch this space for a slow catchup on my reading list. If I post more than fifteen books at a time, I won’t end up saying anything interesting about them, and I did read some pretty interesting books in the last six weeks ….

So, without further ado:

Day Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko
Twilight Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko
Stir of Echoes, Richard Matheson
S is for Silence, Sue Grafton
Bad Blood, Linda Fairstein
The Time Bind, Arlie Russell Hochschild
Against Love, Laura Kipnis
The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars, Miriam Peskowitz
The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington
The Book of Three, Lloyd Alexander
The Black Cauldron, Lloyd Alexander
The Castle of Llyr, Lloyd Alexander
Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander
The High King, Lloyd Alexander

… which takes me up somewhere through the first week of March, as best I can recollect.

The Lukyanenko books were quite good - increasingly good, I might even say. Sadly I discovered about thirty pages from the end of the third book that there is, indeed, a fourth book in the series. Argh! I hate not being able to finish a series right away. So I have a bit of sour grapes about that.

The Grafton and Fairstein books were totally “I can’t sleep and I need something cheesy” reads. Sadly, the Grafton is the last in the series that’s available in paperback; her books are consistently entertaining and remarkably well-written for a long-running mystery series. Even more sadly, the Fairstein was just terrible on every level. The writing was mediocre, the characters barely believable, and the so-called mystery alternated between obvious and incomprehensible. I picked it up because I was looking for a new emergency-anxiety series, but clearly Fairstein won’t be it.

The Tarkington was sadly also depressing, but possibly only because my expectations for it were a bit too high. I was hoping for a family saga a la Buddenbrooks, when instead what I got was The Thorn Birds. Still, looking back five weeks later, I’m very glad I read it, and I like it much more than I realized at the time. The characters are sharp and distinct, and for once the female lead shows some good sense when it comes to avoiding involvement with the arrogant, self-obsessed moron who’s after her. The parallel love story between the protagonists’ parents is heartbreakingly sad, and probably worth the price of the book all by itself. It’s easy to forget the kinds of social responsibilities that people thought they had - though given my own background in a very duty-conscious community, I found it not only a sharp reminder, but a sharp commentary on how closed societies function.

Stir of Echoes was a re-read, as was the Alexander series. I like Stir of Echoes more every time I read it; I think I’m on my third or fourth time through it. What I really appreciate about it is that the protagonist gains telepathic powers - but stays rooted within his very small community, and uses it to deal with interpersonal problems that are relevant to his own life. I’ve always found the “I gain powers and then I GO SAVE THE WORLD” to be less interesting than the personal consequences of ability, and Matheson does a really lovely job with it.

The Alexander is a series I grew up with; as long as I turn off my feminist brain while reading it, I can take great pleasure in it. But, er, I have no personal intention of giving up my great talents so that I can be the nice pretty wife of an important man, so I just pretend that I get to be Taran and not Eilonwy. Though I admit I don’t like Taran all that much either. He’s kind of a whiny fucker - think Luke and the vaporators. I really read the books for the lovely adventure and the wonderful secondary characters, like Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi. Munchings and crunchings is a household term for us!

Finally, I read some books that probably require longer responses: The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars, The Time Bind, and Against Love. Against love! I am against love - or, more accurately, I’m against what Kerr calls the “culture of romance” that we like to pass off as love. Of course, I’m not sure I can get behind Kipnis’s position either, which is very much anti-commitment and monogamy-as-discipline. I’m more or less built monogamous, and I can’t imagine being any other way, so although I hate many of the things she hates, I also felt fairly alienated by her very entertaining polemic.

Happy reading, folks. More books tomorrow!