Sunday, November 7, 2010

september/october reading

Our Tragic Universe
by: Scarlett Thomas

I find Scarlett Thomas immensely likable. There's something so ordinary and friendly about her characters, even in the midst of all the strange and bizarre details that she sweeps them up in. The previous novels of hers that I've read (PopCo and The End of Mr. Y) are witty, sharp, and addictive. I did not, however, particularly like this book. It has one of the most eye-catching covers that I've seen recently, but the story itself was a bit of a drag. Mostly, it provoked that feeling I get when a friend persists in doing something particularly unbearable in the name of romance.

Girl Parts

by: John M. Cusick

I picked up this novel because I couldn't quite believe the cover. A pretty red-headed girl wrapped up in bubble wrap and Styrofoam pellets lies smiling in a pink box. Then I read the cover copy and couldn't decide whether it would be amazing or absolutely terrible.

Yes, it goes there. The idea of beautiful, artificial "Companions" designed to teach disaffected and disconnected teenage boys the ways of emotional intimacy will obviously drag all kinds of lumpy baggage behind it, but this novel is actually charming, compassionate, and unabashedly prickly. It reminds me of Melvin Burgess in the way it doesn't balk from emotion--from being foolish, sentimental, lusty, or cruel--and in the way its characters are less than what you might expect, and so end up being much more haunting and memorable in all their messiness.

Zombies vs. Unicorns

edited by: Holly Black and Justine Larbaleister

I don't particularly like zombies *or* unicorns, but this was a fun collection. The introductions to each story are hilarious.

The Limit
by: Kristen Landon

Read this for my youth book club. It's a thriller complete with corrupt corporations, shadowy government agencies, the consequences of fiscal irresponsibility, and a revival of the workhouse institution. It doesn't sound like it would be a compelling idea for a young person's novel, but it is. The kids loved it.

by: Connie Willis

It has been a really long time since I've read a "grown-up" novel that absorbed me so completely that I didn't want to put it down. I read a lot of books that are beautifully written, elegantly conceived, and thoughtful to the point of insulation, and however much I like them, they aren't difficult to put down at night when it's time to sleep. Blackout is responsible for a few days of sleep deprivation.

It's an extravagant story: Oxford in 2060, historians who travel in time to complete their dissertations, WWII, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie. It is completely believable, even in the middle of difficult to believe things. It's a historical novel and a contemporary novel, all dressed in the immensely attractive guises of science fiction.

I Shall Wear Midnight
by: Terry Pratchett

I like all of Terry Pratchett's books, but there are some that go right past liking and straight to instant happiness. This is one of them. There is a kind of settled wisdom in it, a definite recognition of what makes life worth being around for, and skill enough to convey the sense of it while keeping the reader swinging on the edge of either laughing or crying.

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