Reading 2015 (1)

I’m writing a mid-year reading post (like my end-of-year reading post) because I added it to my calendar back in January and I couldn’t very well tell my past self UGH I’M BUSY LEAVE ME ALONE, even though ugh I’m busy leave me alone.

Actually, I could, and I would have, but the first half of this year has been weirdly amazing for books, so I should mark this brief and shockingly positive outlook with some words.


BOOKS I LOVED

UPROOTED BY NAOMI NOVIK

Uprooted comes from the author of the Temeraire novels and I could not BELIEVE how good this book was. I read almost 500 pages in eight days—that’s genuinely unheard-of for me because I have very little patience for sitting still and reading the same text for 1+ hrs at a time. Fantasy does that, though: I binge-read the last three Harry Potter books on their release dates, and I hate-read The Magician’s Land in a day just to put myself out of my misery once I saw The Magician’s Land was a boring misogynistic shitswamp that I had to exit immediately. Uprooted was beautiful; the characters were “yell at them as if they can hear you and will listen to you” compelling; I’m slowly dissecting the world-building and plot for an essay languishing on the back burner. I said when I finished that it might be the best book I read all year and I stand by that. Other books on I’ve read so far this year made me just as giddy, but Uprooted also shocked and horrified me, and I loved every second.

THE TIFFANY ACHING SERIES BY TERRY PRATCHETT

The day Terry Pratchett died, BFF Courtney bought me the Kindle bundle of Tiffany Aching books because I had never read any Pratchett (aside from Good Omens and oops apparently all my favorite parts are the Pratchett parts, sorry Neil). Impressions:

  1. OK, I GET THE PRATCHETT THING NOW
  2. HE ISN’T OVERRATED. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? LITERALLY NO ONE IS RATED HIGHER THAN TERRY PRATCHETT, AND I WASN’T DISAPPOINTED. AM I DISAPPOINTED I WASN’T MORE DISAPPOINTED?? REALLY????
  3. Ugh I teared up at least once per book, s2g. Where were these books when I was an impressionable teen?
  4. Only downside of mainlining four Pratchett novels this year is that my reading gender ratio is totally messed up now and I’ve definitely read more men than women so far in 2015. THANKS A LOT, TERRY.

THE ROYAL WE BY HEATHER COCKS AND JESSICA MORGAN

I read this on a Saturday, whole thing in one day. I think I’ve now told myself it was raining and that was why I read this book literally from morning to night. I’m probably lying. It was probably a beautiful day outside and I opened the book on my Kindle and didn’t care about all the missed hours of sunlight because AMERICAN GIRL AT OXFORD MEETS ROYAL PRINCE WHO LIVES DOWN THE HALL AND THEY FALL IN LOVE WATCHING A SUPERNATURAL KNOCK-OFF. It’s Kate Middleton/Prince William RPF and having read a lot of RPF across a lot of different fandoms, I can say it’s really good RPF. Perfect beach read except you might lose track of time and get sun poisoning by the time you remember you’re outside, so use the buddy system???

THE MARTIAN BY ANDY WEIR

Another 400-page book I read in a week because I couldn’t put it down. It did bring up a question, though, and I (unsuccessfully) polled twitter to find a female science fiction writer who writes in a tone similar to Weir’s. Semi-related: can female protagonists in science fiction get away with being as giddy and occasionally flippant as The Martian‘s Mark Watney?

Think about it: if this novel’s protagonist was genderswapped and a reader didn’t have the movie poster starring wholesome corn Matt Damon, would thousands of people have been able to make it through all those pages of math and engineering without calling her a dumb bitch stuck in an unrealistic scenario, and a dumb bitch that doesn’t know what she’s talking about when trying to MacGyver herself a life on Mars? I hope I’m wrong! I hope this female protagonist exists and I just haven’t heard of her!

Twitter poll suggested that Connie Willis writes witty sci-fi (To Say Nothing of the Dog, for one) but:

  1. that book is 17 years old and
  2. if I recall, Willis’s women are absurd, but humorless. Her humor is absurdist, so no one’s funny, they just find themselves sighing a lot in a put-upon manner because they’re trapped in amusing-to-us situations.

Anyway, if you think of a sci-fi story (flash, short story, novel, anything) with a FUNNY female protagonist, let me know!


BOOKS THAT JUST UGH

I haven’t hated any books so far. I’m just disappointed.

ZULEIKA DOBSON: OR, AN OXFORD LOVE STORY BY MAX BEERBOHM

I liked the book Melville House’s marketing team tried to sell me rather than the book I got:

The all-male campus of Oxford—Beerbohm’s alma mater—is a place where aesthetics holds sway above all else, and where witty intellectuals reign. Things haven’t changed for its privileged student body for years ... until the beguiling music-hall prestidigitator Zuleika Dobson shows up.

THAT BOOK SOUNDS GREAT. But I should have listened to Virginia Woolf, quoted at the end of the blurb:

…the book takes some surprising and dark twists on its way to a truly startling ending—an ending so striking that readers will understand why Virginia Woolf said that “Mr. Beerbohm in his way is perfect.”

Virginia tried to warn me across time and space with her quiet British shade at this male author who loves the sound of his own voice, but I didn’t listen.

(PS: the “ending so striking”? The young men of Oxford start killing themselves to impress Zuleika; she’s flattered, but unimpressed. Someone rewrite this from her POV because that’s chillingly, interestingly cold.)

THE GOOD SOLDIER BY FORD MADOX FORD

Bored me to tears, which is unthinkable?! I read Parade’s End. ALL FOUR NOVELS. YES, EVEN THE LAST POST, which totally justified its place in the tetralogy for the Sylvia/Valentine confrontation at the end. I LOVED Parade’s End, but The Good Soldier was nothing like it: the characters were dull, the writing wasn’t nearly as good, and the “twists” at the end weren’t worth the buildup.

Anyway, not a good year for dead white guys to impress me.

WAIT, EXCEPT TERRY PRATCHETT.


IN CONCLUSION

Honorable mentions to Half Resurrection Blues and the four Temeraire novels I read in January and February. Both were comforting in their own weird ways: Daniel José Older’s novel made Latino culture integral to the plot of a fun and exciting supernatural thriller. The Temeraire books comfort me because I have read a LOT about that damn dragon in advance of the final book this year. Our adventures will come to an end soon and I can’t think about that too much.

Also, Voyager (aka Outlander #3) was so good that I finished it in February and have yet to pick up #4 because things will just go WRONG again and I can’t HANDLE IT.

Apparently the only plan for reading in 2015 is avoid literary fiction at ALL COSTS. So far it’s served me pretty well! Things happen in genre fiction and people do things, and I’m not ready to trade that in for respectable literary wallowing just yet.

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3 thoughts on “Reading 2015 (1)

  1. I have all the Discworld novels if you’d like to borrow any (or all) of them. They start off a little rocky-the Aching novels are from later in his career when he’d really hit his stride-but that does include all the Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg novels, characters I really missed as he started focusing more on Ankh-Morpork and Vimes.
    Also, if you’d like some literary genre fiction, I just reread Brian Francis Slatterly’s Spaceman Blues. A man goes missing sending his boyfriend on a quest through a phantasmagoric New York to transform himself and find his lost lover. Doesn’t have characters so much as pillars to hang language upon to create a place that is more metaphorical than literal. Something I’ve reread many times.
    I don’t know about literary fiction, but I read a passage from Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl that was so good it’s making me head over to Paley right now to pick it up. She’s doing a reading from it at the Free Library next Thursday so might be worth a visit.

    1. shhhh don’t tell anyone but i have all the pratchett books kindlefied- thanks for the offer!! also i’ll totally check out that sf book- i love a good metaphor

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