Wednesday, July 8, 2009

some intriguing recent reads...

My one (and only) reader, Maureen, informed me recently that she wished that I would keep up the blog with more consistency. Her assessment is entirely correct. Where as I'm excellent in starting blogs, I have considerable trouble when it comes to actually keeping them going.

It's frustrating, because I'm always consuming new reads, always digesting new reads, and I spend a ton of time thinking about what I read... yet, it almost never makes the transfer to a written form or any kind of recorded discourse. It usually only makes an appearance in an off-hand comment to a co-worker or customer or friend. "Oh, I just read the best book." "The book I just finished was really disappointing." "Have you read that? It's great!"

I find myself so often engaging in empty pleasantries, I'm often horrified by the bland nothings that come out of my mouth. I know that writing these posts do more than externalize my feelings for the books that I consume. Writing posts allows me to sharpen my insights, purify my thoughts from the bullshit and generalizations. Like writing in college, only focusing on the stuff that I want to focus on, and without the need to over-intellectualize (but, admittedly, that is still fun to do) or fit the analysis into a specific theoretical framework.

Not only does writing allow for a better, cleaner thought process (in all manners of thinking), but it also will allow me a better retention over what I've read. When you consume book after book, you tend to even let go of details of even the best reads. Lately, I've had a hard time recalling the specifics of what I've just finished, and that simply will not do.

Basically, I will try to post more. For now, however, here is a list of recent reads, with brief (very brief) assessments.

Read on vacation: The following books were read during my trip to the Southwest the third week of May,
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog: Loved it. Get past the first few dry parts, and you find a story that's every bit as warm and funny as it is intellectual.
-Coraline: Read it for Mother-Daughter Book club. I've got a lot to talk about regarding Neil Gaiman, so I'll save most of my comments for another post. But of course, I thought it was great.
-Bonk: Mary Roach can make anything interesting, so her coverage on the history and practices of sex research was bound to be hilarious and endlessly entertaining. It did not disappoint.
-The Savage Detectives: Apologies to Bolano's multitude of fans, but I have not finished it. I think I'm going to need another vacation before I really get into it.
- Pure: Thought McEvoy did a fine job covering what could have been a melodramatic, borderline absurd teen morality play. Minor quibbles aside, it's a decent YA read.

The Savage Detectives was preempted by a copy of Catching Fire arriving in the mail while I was gone. I have a ton to say about Catching Fire and The Hunger Games overall, so I will save it for another post.

Liar: This is the first Larbalestier release that I really got into. It’s surprisingly complex, with an unreliable narrator/protagonist and a fluctuating storyline that spins into a mix of teenage angst, murder mystery, and fantasy suspense, but even more surprisingly, doesn’t lose its tense, unpredictable quality. This one comes out in October, I believe.

When I Reach You: I read this book in only a few hours, but it takes a while to sink in. It comes out next week, and I've been tempted to re-read it, to see how I've changed my mind about it. I really enjoyed it. It's a perfect blend of 1970s era coming of age story and the slightly fantastic, all loosely connected with A Wrinkle in Time, which I've also been tempted to revisit. A charming, remarkably well told work of children's literature. I especially liked the mother-daughter relationship in the book. Very true to life, very relatable.

It gets a little fuzzy around here. I think I started and stopped a lot of stuff. I re-read The Westing Game, which remains one of my favorite children's books. Raskin is smart about genre: she knows just how playful to be with her young audience, but doesn't dumb anything down regarding the mystery, the action, or the chracter development. Plus, the writing is near perfect for a who-dunit.

Sometime around then, I read an upcoming Bloomsbury release, A Whole 'Nother Story, which I didn't fall in love with, but I can definitely see the appeal. It's got a bit of Mysterious Benedict/Lemony Snicket thing going, but at this point, that style is starting to get used to a degree of quirk and preciousness that I'm not sure I'm comfortable with. Style won't save you, not even in children's literature.

Then... eek... when did I pick up Shiver?... So, I don't go in for paranormal romances. I'm just not the type. I've certainly tried them out before - and yes, I am currently reading Twilight, for the I Heart Teen Lit book club - but they've just never stuck. I tried out Cassie Clare's "The Mortal Instruments" trilogy, but ugh... I didn't make it past page 70 of the first book, City of Bones. Normally, it's the writing that puts me off, not the romance or the paranormal or the revived/altered/changed/blended version of mythical figures... always the writing. Shiver did not have this problem. A werewolf story, of sorts, but not the kind you might expect. I imagine I'll have more to say when it's released in August.

Okay, from there, it was Chronic City, the upcoming Jonathan Lethem. More to say on that. It's Lethem trying out his inner Philip K. Dick, with mixed results.

So, I just finished The Graveyard Book, hence having so much to say about Neil Gaiman. Let me just say that he earned that Newberry. He's one of the most continually exciting authors out there, and it's because he's a brave writer, not just a good one, and he treats children's literature with the same dignity bestowed upon contemporary literary fiction.

Now, I'm splitting my time between Twilight & The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday. Weird combo, and I almost never read two things at once - I don't usually have the patience for going back and forth, but these are two such disparate works, it's somewhat more suitable.

My favorites of 2009, thus far:
- Tunneling to the Center of the Earth
- The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
- More of This World or Maybe Another
- Catching Fire
- Netherland - Despite being released in 2008, I'm counting this for its paperback release. It's good enough for two years.

At some point, I will finish both The Savage Detectives and Thirteenth Child (which I started right before... something... I can't remember... maybe The Graveyard Book?).

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