Monday, March 28, 2005

Black Sheep

Georgette Heyer
My second Heyer book, and I liked it much better than the first – and I very much liked the first. This seemed a little more sophisticated in character, ever so slightly more deeply drawn, and addressed some really interesting issues about one’s obligations to family, personal happiness, and independence. And it had a male lead who was funny, a female lead who was smart and strong, and they seemed to like each other a great deal. The plot twist was ever so slightly predictable, but the ending, in its abruptness, was really terrific.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Old Man's War

John Scalzi

This is kind of a bare-bones hard-science fiction pulp, and was as pleasant and easy to read as those kinds of books frequently are. It was also not nearly as sophisticated as I expected it to be in the wake of Scalzi's own discussions of what he owes to Heinlein's pulp, in terms of inspiration.would be, but it was smart, frequently amusing, occasionally didactic and sometimes kind of doofy. At points, the level of Mary Sue-ism made me cringe. But the book was quick and definitely competent and entertaining, and isn't that what you look for in your sf pulp?

Monday, March 21, 2005

False Colours

Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer, she is the inventor of the regency genre, and her books read like a very dishy, unserious Jane Austen – instead of commenting on regency society, Heyer is interested in immersing herself in it and all of its trappings. She’s slangy and gossipy and fabulous and a little ridiculous in kind of a winking way – False Colours is about twin brothers who swap places, so that wackiness ensues. There’s a thing with an engagement and debts and true love with a bright girl, but it’s all second place to the comedy and the loveliness with how Heyer sketches her characters so deftly and juggles plot elements seamlessly and flawlessly into place.

The slang, the cant, was sometimes impenetrable, even in context, but this was overall a fun and light kind of read that didn’t make me feel as if I were wasting away my mind on trash.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Heat Stroke

Rachel Caine
This is a series about a Sassy Supernatural Chick. It is light and a little goofy, but a lot of fun. A bright, strong and strong-minded main character, a basic suspense kind of action plot where shit blows up and it is very exciting, and the supernatural elements are really interesting. It reminds me of what the Laurel K. Hamilton books could have been – smart and engaging with straight-ahead storytelling, satisfying in the way that junk food can be.

Chill Factor

Rachel Caine
I read the first of these ages ago, and immediately ordered the next one from the library. But it was out and out and finally I had to go to the bookstore and buy both the second and this one and read them both in one sitting. Like the first two, it’s all about a light read, fun and cool and explosions, strong gal main character. This one, however, was more complicated, plot-wise, a lot going on, and Rachel Caine’s control didn’t seem as strong and effortless, and occasionally it got less engaging (also, she’s clearly never been to the Luxor in Vegas); despite not being quite as satisfying, it was still a fun read.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel

Susanna Clarke
This book felt as if it were a series of beautiful and intricate pen and ink drawings. It was slow-paced and steady with a wonderful, weird story that was at once fantastical and perfectly ordinary - sort of combination of Jane Austen and Neil Gaiman, both in language and story, very British – and culminating in the kind of ending that ties everything together, is surprising and unexpected and expected and completely satisfying in a way that glossed over any flaws the book had.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Nanny Diaries

Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Again with audiobooks, it is hard for me to distinguish between how I am reacting to the reader and how I am reacting to the story. I liked it as I listened, because the reader had a lovely voice. Afterwards, not so much. The story was fairly predictable, and as I was with The Devil Wears Prada, I was irritated by the way the narrator complains about terrible things that happen to her at her job that are more or less her own stupid fault, and was not particularly interested in the narrator’s life outside of being a nanny. She was way more interesting in her position than as a character, and it is interesting that the narrator is named Nanny - and yet they try to make her more than an Every Nanny. It's not surprising that that's not entirely successful.

The depressing thing about the story was that from the beginning, it was an untenable position and a story with an inevitable ending, despite the authors’ attempts at mitigating what you’re left with.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction

The Writers of the Daily Show, Jon Stewart

John Stewart and his Daily Show cronies, they are funny people, and they are smart people. That Jon Stewart is a very pretty man is not the only reason I watch the show, no no. And that he is the pretty face behind the book is not the only reason I wanted to read it, not at all. I am as into incisive political commentary and satire as any young(ish) liberal, believe you and also me.

The book ended up being ever-so-slightly disappointing. Funny, smart, chock full of incisive political commentary and satire, frequently hitting the mark and frequently silly – and the textbook format was brilliant – but I guess I was not left feeling fresh and invigorated by political outrage. And I was amused, but I did not chortle. I expected a chortle. Is it wrong for a girl to expect a chortle?

I suspect I would have enjoyed this more on audiobook, with pretty John Stewart whispering sweet nebbishy things right into my ear.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


My first attempt at being an audiobook kind of person, that did not pan out. I was listening on and off to Jane Eyre, which did not particularly grab me, and it was read by a woman with some kind of palsy and an unhealthy fondness for overarticulation, and I found myself zoning out constantly as I listened to it on my little Otis player, which had crappy sound that faded in and out and soon broke and then I canceled my subscription and gave up on audiobooks.

Cut to many years later (maybe two) when I started Exercising, and decided, for no good reason at all, that to keep me motivated and distracted what I really needed when I exercised was to listen to audiobooks, and iPods were the best thing for audiobooks so what I clearly needed to do immediately was to buy an iPod, and glory day, I should subscribe to audible because you get a hundred bucks off the price of an iPod!

Please note the keen and incisive logic.

I got that subscription, my iPod arrived an achingly long time afterwards, and the first book I picked I decided would be chicklit trash. That was clearly the only thing I had the attention span for (see above, re: my zoning out) and trash is awesome for working out.

It was The Devil Wears Prada. It was wretched and bad and I hated the book. But man, I loved listening to it. I loved the narrator right inside my head and the way she did all the characters with varying degrees of skill and the expressiveness of lines being read with their appropriate inflections and I found that this crappy book was living for me. Living! I heard the voice of the narrator in my head every time I thought about the thing, and the characters were little people also in my head with lives of their own and it was disconcerting and creepy.

And also kind of awful, because you have to understand, this is a really, really bad book.

I'd been totally captivated by books I've read before, but not to this kind of independent extent, if that makes any sense.

It's happening again with The Stupid Nanny Diaries (which is possibly not its real name). It's way, way better-written and much less annoying than Fucking Prada, but it is still mediocre chicklit, and it is again inside my head, these voices. In my head. It is weird. Weird. Also, the reader keeps saying "rum." Which is totally the wrong way to pronounce "room."

My next audiobook is somewhat more respectable – All is Vanity, by the woman who wrote Drowning Ruth, about writing. I am a dork, and worried I won't be able to follow something sort of intellectual on audio. I am a dork who is overthinking these things.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

books, books, reading and books that I have read

That is a lie. I haven't been reading. What I've been doing is listening to Fresh Air, to which I have a subscription on Audible, and thinking Deep Thoughts about constitutional law and Bonnie Raitt's dead father and how Seth Green is a classy fucker with whom I should like to spend some quality time.

I love totally random interviews. But they're taking up all my time. I listen to one a day, on the bus, at lunch, and going home, and it eats up all my reading time. It is not worth it. I am getting a lot of embroidery done, towards the finish of a Christmas present (Jesus Christ, I still have Christmas presents to finish! What's wrong with me?). But when it is up for renewal, my periodicals subscription, I am sure as hell not choosing something daily. Daily is too much goddamn pressure.

My Book, By Me, Jen

So there's that long piece of fiction that I wrote last summer. I won't call it a book, because it's not a book – it's a big flabby interconnected mess with duplicated scenes all over the place and a huge, gross, ridiculous number of brackets with the words "insert stuff here" where there should be other scenes and there's not really an ending and it begins three or four times with yet more duplicated material and some sections where I started to hate the narrator so I wrote those bits in an entirely different way and it's really kind of bad.

So I'm trashing it. No, that's not true. I'm "setting it aside." I'm letting it "lie fallow." I'm trashing it. Temporarily. And I'm starting all over again. I have this cool idea about a bowling alley and this guy and there's a ghost and stuff and this summer, I'm going to write it. And it's going to suck. But in a good and salvageable first draft kind of way.

Thus, I have totally spoken.

One Stick Song

Sherman Alexie

I like Sherman Alexie. I think he is frequently brilliant. I also think he's a big asshole. Sometimes he is a wretched poet and sometimes he's so perfect he pisses me off. Mostly, though, I am amazed at the way the guy can write something that leaves you with such an immediate, visceral reaction. You can't read his stuff without responding in some way.

Mostly I responded positively to One Stick Song -- it's good poems! It's bad poems! It's obnoxious poems that make me want to slap him! It's good and obnoxious poems that make me want to slap him for very complex reasons!

There is something really interesting, though, about the way this book of poems tells a story – I haven't seen that in a poetry collection before. It gave the thing momentum, propelled me through to the end in the way a novel usually does. I did not need to put it down occasionally, as I do when I generally read poetry collections. Because I am so cool and intellectual that I generally read poetry collections, generally and in general. Except for not.