I think there are 10, at any rate. These are the books I’ve read so far this year.
(Hi and what’s up, guys. Been a while. May be a while again, not sure. My summer is busy, which means blogging time is hard to come by…but I do have a working laptop now, which means writing posts is so, so much easier.)
(a book about aliens & stuff by Brandon Sanderson)
Where Skyward was Star Wars: A New Hope* and Starsight was Ender’s Game, the classic sci-fi Cytonic is modeled after is less obvious…but I think I’ve decided it’s Star Trek. Not quite TOS, so maybe TNG? I haven’t watched enough Next Gen to know, really.
*[ok so my sisters and I rewatched the Star Wars trilogy, and we enjoyed the whole thing, but we were like wow, the first one really is a quality story]
- That signature Star Trek-ish philosophicalness. M-Bot’s identity crisis comes to a head, there’s Chet and his whole character, Spensa once again questions her beliefs, that plot twist…also people having memory loss from the nature of this in-between reality place, what is reality actually? And just. Questioning the origins and implications of things. Even though it comes from a completely different place than me (and makes assumptions I don’t necessarily agree with), it’s fascinating.
- The setting (also Star Trek-ish?) is literally the coolest sci-fi setting I’ve ever read. Ever. The nowhere, the belts, the in-betweenness, the different-and-slightly-untethered relationship to time—I was silently screaming inside while I read it. IT’S SO COOL.
- Chet. I love him. Explorer through the “nowhere,” very bold and gallant and amnesia-afflicted. Calls Spensa “Miss Nightshade” and M-Bot “abomination.”
- Doomslug is still the best blue-and-yellow-striped galaxy-travelling snail.
Bits That Drove Me Batty:
- Sanderson’s prose in general is not all that good, but this was extra not all that good.
- Why, pray tell, was there not more Jorgen?
- The plot twist was cool in some ways, but mostly it was a letdown. It explained too much, I guess? Or was too mundane an explanation for things that seemed way cooler before? I don’t know. The climax fell quite flat for me because of it.
- And DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON WHAT THE PLOT TWIST DID TO CHET—
- Spensa pre-character growth was endearingly and stupidly defiant. By this point she’s just…annoying? She’s supposed to have improved, but I liked her better even at the beginning of Book 1: she was unique and she was driven and you understood why. You cringed when you knew she was about to do something stupid—and you knew she was going to, because she was Spensa. Now she’s slipped into Generic-YA-Heroine-ness. Do you know how much I hate it when good characters do that???
In short: I will read Book 4 (I’m even excited about it), but what I like best about this series is Book 1. It’s exciting, endearing, Star-Wars-y, and it has all the good characters in it and an epic ending (with a plot twist that does knock your socks off, in all the right ways). I see no reason one couldn’t just read it happily as a standalone.
The Tall Stranger
(a book about shooting people, also building a good life for your family or something idk, by Louis L’Amour)
I’m 99% sure I read a shorter novella form of this a long time ago and L’Amour expanded it into a novel. I remember the plot twist. Also I remember my identical feelings of disgruntlement about it.
Some Opinions in No Particular Order:
- The main character is boooooring.
- Oh, of COURSE he’s related to him.
- This is a fine trope, it really is. But I DO NOT LIKE IT, SAM-I-AM.
- “I’m a MAN so I’m gonna do MANLY THINGS” (sometimes it just gets to a point where it’s hilarious)
- The bit where he crosses the ridge in the lightning storm is awesome though. L’Amour’s love of the land and gift for vivid scene-setting always comes through somewhere, seems like, even in his most mediocre novels.
Plain Tales From the Hills
(a short story collection set in the hills of British India by Rudyard Kipling)
This is the first I’ve read of the set of Kipling books my sister got me. The titles of all the other ones are in normal letters with the appropriate capitals, like: “Soldiers Three,” “Barrack Room Ballads,” etc. But this one, for whatever reason, is in all caps: “PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS.”
Rendering me unable to know if I was supposed to capitalize “from” or not. Why.
Anyway, there were a few duds (including the first story), but OH BOY CAN KIPLING WRITE A SHORT STORY. His prose, you guys, his PROSE—*weeps*
Qualities of Kipling’s Prose:
- Reserves judgment (I love when authors write like this, and Kipling does it to the extreme, so you genuinely have no idea what he actually thinks; he’s kind of just making fun of everyone involved, including the narrator)
- Makes my mom laugh, sentence after sentence, when I read a bit of “The Rescue of Pluffles” to her over the phone
- WHATEVER IT NEEDS TO BE FOR THE STORY. IT’S SO GOOD.
One must also love the recurring characters, particularly Mrs. Hauksbee.
A Sampling of Favorite Passages (or, the 3 passages I remembered to write down):
Very many women took an interest in Saumarez, perhaps because his manner to them was offensive. If you hit a pony over the nose at the outset of your acquaintance, he may not love you, but he will take a deep interest in your movements ever afterward.from “False Dawn”
When a man is a Commissioner and a bachelor and has the right of wearing open-work jam-tart jewels in gold and enamel on his clothes, and of going through a door before everyone except a Member of Council, a Lieutenant-Governor, or a Viceroy, he is worth marrying. At least, that is what ladies say. There was a Commissioner in Simla, in those days, who was, and wore and did all I have said. He was a plain man—an ugly man—the ugliest man in Asia, with two exceptions. His was a face to dream about and try to carve on a pipe-head afterward. His name was Saggott—Barr-Saggott—Anthony Barr-Saggott and six letters to follow. Departmentally, he was one of the best men the Government of India owned. Socially, he was like unto a blandishing gorilla.from “Cupid’s Arrows”
His business was to stir up the people in Madras with a long pole—as you stir up a tench in a pond—and the people had to come up out of their comfortable old ways and gasp—“This is Enlightenment and Progress. Isn’t it fine!” Then they gave Mellishe statues and jasmine garlands, in the hope of getting rid of him.from “A Germ-Destroyer”
To Say Nothing of the Dog
(a book about cats, sleep deprivation, and overbearing women in all time periods by Connie Willis)
This book features:
- So much Victorianness
- And so many Lord Peter references (that whole “you look just like Lord Peter in that boater—oh, Ned, it’s just like Harriet and Lord Peter!” sequence, oh my)
- Time-lag (“One of the first symptoms of time-lag is a tendency to maudlin sentimentality, like an Irishman in his cups or a Victorian poet cold-sober.”)
- The narrator’s sleep deprivation being embedded in how the book is written
- Me being very very sleep-deprived while I read it and therefore every nonsensical thing Ned thought making a disturbing amount of sense to me—yes, yes, that’s exactly how the world works, I am not questioning any of this, why would I?
- Professor Peddiwick and his excellent theories on the importance of the great individual in history (and his unparalleled hatred for Overforce)
- A most impressive butler
- A pure-hearted bulldog, by name Cyril
- A man taking care of cats who does not know how to Cat. (He thinks if you put them down they hop back into your arms upon request, a misapprehension which leads to Problems)
- Really, really funny writing. So very deadpan. I love that kind of writing
- Time travel
I should by all rights hate it for the time travel, but I don’t. The thing is that they don’t make you think about it too hard; instead they make worried speculations that they don’t know the answers to, wave their hands a lot, and say: “chaos theory!” which soothes me considerably. Plus it hits me right in the wish fulfillment—historians who have developed the technology for research purposes??? They get to go back to these historical eras and learn about them and actually see and meet the people???
The Legend of Sam Miracle
(a book about a time-travelling priest and a vulture-man with pocket watches chained to his heart and a twelve-year-old gunslinger with snakes instead of arms, don’t ask, it’s by N. D. Wilson okay?)
Things that gave me glee:
- The Ranch Brothers. Bless these borderline criminal orphan kids, looking after their brother Sam
- Glory. Can authors trying to write strong girl characters, and just real, smart kids in general, take notes
- “His father had always been as sure as sunlight, as full of laughter as the great gold maples in fall.”
- Sam just being Confused, about everything, all the time (relatable)
- Father Tiempo
- “Time is the Poet speaking the next word.”
- The Southwest (the desert ❤️)
- The high stakes and the intensity and the pain
- Cindy being horrible
- The fact that I had just watched Tombstone before reading it, so I heard all of Doc Holliday’s dialogue in Val Kilmer’s voice (and saw it coming out of his face) and it was grand
- N. D. Wilson’s writing is just beautiful, always, and I love his sense of setting and scope and meaning and morality
The Fatal Flaw:
- TIME TRAVEL DOES NOT MAKE SENSE AND YOU CANNOT MAKE IT MAKE SENSE NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO
- TIME TRAVEL IS FURTHERMORE A NATURAL EVIL AND AGAINST THE NATURE OF REALITY
- TIME TRAVEL IS FURTHERMORE A MORAL EVIL IN THAT IT UNMAKES THE CHOICES OF HUMAN BEINGS AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS, NO SIREE BOB I WON’T
So in case it wasn’t clear…I really hate time travel.
(a book about the Monmouth Rebellion and why you should probably equally steer clear of politics, gossip, marriage, and treason by Rafael Sabatini)
This should be a movie. It would have great action sequences, set-pieces, and dialogue, with minimal adapting. I also think the character arcs (which are great, if a little brushed over in favor of excitement) would show to advantage in the movie format.
Characters in this book who need to stop being headstrong fools and have a little humility:
- Sir Rowland
- EVERYONE, pretty much
Blessings be on the heads of:
…for they are, respectively, surely the only reason Anthony or Ruth survives anything in life.
Island of the Aunts
(a book about kidnapping children and de-oiling mermaids by
Al Gore Eva Ibbotson)
My Reasons for Reading Such a Disappointing Book:
- I’ve been meaning to try Eva Ibbotson forever
- It was 25 cents at the thrift store
- I like whimsical middle-grade fantasy
- The characters started off interesting, with potential, and then…were never developed or focused on any further
- I’m sorry but I just don’t like cartoon villains
- The portrayal of Lambert, which is something that’s begun to bother me more and more in kids’ books. It’s not that he was an awful little snot with no appreciation for the Things That Truly Matter in Life; it was that he could never be anything different. It wasn’t that he refused the enlightenment achieved by Minette and Fabio; it was that he was incapable of receiving it. Apparently. Some people are just inferior. (To be clear, I do believe some people are evil. There are moral differences in people, but there are not differences in worth based on what you like and don’t like, are interested in or not interested in.) Like, as a kid I read so many books that treated people like this. And I feel like it really messed with my perception of reality and human worth? So I do not believe it’s an attitude that should be present in children’s books.
- The author was trying to inspire wonder and delight in nature, and she just failed because (I think) there were no margins? Like, the kraken was the greatest most wondrous thing there could possibly be, so of course it fell short. It wasn’t the tip of the iceberg, it was the iceberg, and suddenly, when the iceberg was fully exposed, it wasn’t that impressive anymore. This is all??? This is the pinnacle??? There needed to be More than the kraken. (I think this is a principle that applies broadly to stories? There always needs to be More than what you show, if inspiring wonder is one of your aims. Maybe.)
- Also the conservation messaging. Like golly gee, I’m not a tough crowd here, conservation is something I really care about and I think people should care about, I think everyone’s life is enriched by nature and a love of it…so to make ME bored and weirded out by the conservation elements of your story is quite a feat, but Eva Ibbotson accomplished it without breaking a sweat. Somehow.
Sorcerer to the Crown
(a story about magic and idiot British aristocrats by Zen Cho)
Reminds me of:
- Georgette Heyer
- W. R. Gingell (a little)
- Faulkner (in that sometimes yes, you can use fifty-five words to say “please pass the mustard” but should you?
- Weird feminists (because women are powerful because BLOOD or something)
- A Sorcery of Thorns (because the heroine was unscrupulous Chaos and I loved it)
It was overall quite enjoyable.
Decline and Fall
(a book about an unfortunate schoolteacher by Evelyn Waugh)
Things Considered, in This Book, Suitable Matter for Farce:
- Racism of so many varieties (including racial slurs)
- Religious doubt
- Sex trafficking
- (of children)
- Also murder (with saws)
Anyway, this book was hilarious. And so dark.
Writing style: understated British comedy—“That is the man who shot my son.” “Oh, how too shattering for you! Not dead, I hope?”
(The fate of Tangent in general, guys. Treated in matter-of-fact parentheses. I don’t know how to explain how dark it was.)
Main classic British mid-century trope utilized: Main Character Who Does Nothing But Things Happen to Him and His Life Falls Apart While He’s Infuriatingly Passive But Also Endearingly Normal.
Most relatable line: “The next four weeks of solitary confinement were among the happiest of Paul’s life.”
Margot Beste-Chetwynde can go and die.
So she was a bad human being, but I can’t decide if she was supposed to be charming? I mean, her character’s introduction was “eccentric racist socialite,” so maybe not. Maybe she was supposed to be as painful as she was, but Paul, being but a Human Male, was fascinated and we were supposed to pity his fascination. (Pity is what most things that happened to Paul evoked, so.)
As far as prose goes, this Evelyn Waugh fellow certainly has a Gift.
Liesl & Po
(a book about a girl and a ghost and many coincidences by Lauren Oliver)
A good book, but disappointing. (I just…wanted it to be better? And more my thing? There were a lot of elements that muted my enjoyment that weren’t necessarily bad; they just weren’t my Vibe, if you know what I mean.)
Things That Weren’t Bad (But I, Being Unreasonable, Insisted on Disliking Them Anyway):
- Cartoonish villains
- Kinda one-note characters? (Like do I really demand deep characterization from my whimsical middle grade? Apparently yes, at least if it’s a book about the Human Experience in some way. I’m not even a little bit interested in some universal human experience; I’m interested in each human’s experience…but this means that if your character is a stand-in for The Average Human Dealing With Human Stuff, I will be unfortunately bored.)
- The whole…Vibe??? I feel like the kind of person who really likes A Series of Unfortunate Events would really like the vibes of this. I happen to loathe the vibes/setting of A Series of Unfortunate Events (that sort of comically macabre steampunk variation on our real world??), so…
- Ghosts (even though there were nice things about how this book did them)
Things That I, in My Magnanimity, Admit Were Good:
- Henry Morbower. Bless this man. My favorite character. Should have been in it more.
- The prose was lovely!
- The good characters, although pretty one-dimensional and all that (in my opinion), were without a doubt dears. Which I do appreciate.
- Po Amused me.
- Mo. Bless this man as well; bless him for his insistence on boys who need hats getting hats, his large heart, his small brain, and all strays (animal or human) he adopts.
Things it reminds me of:
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (as aforementioned)
- Oliver Twist (one of the only Charles Dickens books I don’t like…heh)
- this webcomic (because…steampunk? I guess?) (also this webcomic is excellent and should be read) (and should be caught up on by me) (oops)
- Winnie-the-Pooh (because Mo is just that wholesome)
Well, and that’s it, you guys. I have…not read that many books this year. What are outros I hate them