Calendar Girl (kirilaw) wrote,
Calendar Girl
kirilaw

Books!

42. Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping (Judith Levine)
Freelance writer decides she and her partner are going to buy nothing but "essentials" for a year. She then spends the year angsting over what constitutes an essential expenditure, mooching off of her friends, and navel-gazing. Nothing particularly major is learned, except that middle-class North Americans probably spend more than they need to on disposable stuff, which... well, duh. The writing is light and engaging, but this "project" was almost too obvious and too easy. Why write the book at all? **

43. Understanding Comics (Scott McCloud)
Develops a theory of comics/sequential art and identifies some terminology to help discuss it. Does it all in the format of a comic book, which is a cute self-referential twist and works surprisingly well. I could quibble with some of the theory and terminology -- for example, I think the use of "icon" rather than "symbol" is more confusing than helpful -- but the work is, overall, both useful and fun. I would have loved to see him take this newly-enunciated theory and apply it to some actual comics to show how "this specific example" works (or doesn't), but maybe that's for the next book. Respectful of even the most "lowbrow" of comics, which is nice to see. ****

44. Promethea vol. 3 (Alan Moore et al.)
Okay, I know it's unreasonable to complain about didacticism in Moore's explicitly didactic comic book, but come on now. When there's actual story going on, this is a great book. It just keeps getting bogged down with way too much detail about kabbalistic spheres and tarot. It's frustrating, because the art is gorgeous, the concepts are interesting, and the story has the potential to be really really good. And yes, I'm going to grab the last two books (especially since I've been borrowing them from the library!) to see how it all turns out, but I'm more than a little disappointed by what's starting to look like a missed potential. Alas. ***

45. The Colour of Magic (Terry Pratchett)
A great many people are huge fans of Terry Pratchett, including many people whose opinions I respect. And yet, I had never gotten around to reading a Discworld novel until now. Partly, this is because I never happened upon the first one, and I am pretty stubborn about reading series in order. So I finally put a hold on the library's copy so that I could see what all the fuss was about.
It's certainly fun. And legitimately funny. A substantial chunk of its humour comes from satirizing the conventions of fantasy, usually by taking them to extremes. It doesn't always entirely make sense, but when you've set your series on a world that rests on the backs of four giant elephants on the back of a really giant turtle, you're not obligated to make sense in the traditional way, at least not all the time. It was an entertaining read. I look forward to reading more... ****

46. Gender Trouble (Judith Butler)
You know, for a book that had such a huge impact, there's surprisingly little in the way of original argument here. By which I mean not that the arguments aren't original, but that the vast majority of the book is dissecting and critiquing other thinkers. It's only at the very end that Butler starts trying to lay out her own thinking. Now, I know addressing existing schools of thought is an important part of theorizing, but I was surprised by the amount of critique. Of course, part of the critique was laying the groundwork for the original theory, and shoring up support for it, but even still. It's unfortunate, because the sheer emphasis on dissecting in detail Lacan and Kristeva and Wittig makes the book even more inaccessible than the jargon or deliberately difficult writing style alone. And this is a book that's (justly) famous for the revolutionary theory it presents! This is why academic writing gets accused of being insular and overly self-obsessed. ***

47, 48. Path of Honor/Path of Blood
The artificial fantasy language issues that I complained about in the first book are still present and still distracting in the remainder of the trilogy. In fact, it's even worse -- we have the introduction of a quasi-Aztec society with q- and z-heavy names and female magic workers who are alternately "witches" and "nahuallis," while other countries have "wizards" or "sorcerors" (and exactly how they're different is never really spelled out). There are other problems with this continuation, too: the supporting characters (notably the love interest) are sadly lacking in personality, which is especially frustrating considering that it's the personality of the heroine that makes the books worth reading at all. But they're all resolute and honourable and courageous and BLAND. We're told that they have a sense of humour, but we never really get to see it. I'm also going to complain that the resolution gets increasingly arbitrary and forced as the story goes on. Things happen to people for no real reason (except because it's tragic, or convenient), and the magic system gets so complicated that ultiamtely solving the problem becomes too complicated to present clearly and dynamically. And I am thoroughly unimpressed about the killing off of sympathetic characters offscreen for no good reason than that they were distracting from the already overly-complicated story. In the first book, the heroine's personality and the pace of the story managed to overcome some unfortunate weaknesses in the writing and world-building, but I can't say that's the case here, which is really too bad. **

1. Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (Douglas E. Hofstadter) ****
2. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) ****
3. Od Magic (Patricia A. McKillip) ****
4. The Walking Boy (Lydia Kwa) *
5. The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't Be Jammed (Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter) ****
6. The Girl Who Was Plugged In/Screwtop (James Tiptree, Jr./Vonda N. McIntyre) *****
7. Tori Amos: Piece By Piece (Tori Amos and Ann Powers) ***
8. Coldheart Canyon (Clive Barker) ***
9. The Infinite Plan (Isabel Allende) **
10. Ysabel (Guy Gavriel Kay) ****
11. Stardust (Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess) *****
12. Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson) ****
13.The Ladies of Grace Adieu (Susanna Clarke) *****
14. An Embarassment of Mangoes (Ann Vanderhoof) **
15. The Lions of Al-Rassan (Guy Gavriel Kay) ****
16. Shake Hands with the Devil (Romeo Dallaire) ****
17. Rollback (Robert J. Sawyer) ****
18. Singularity Sky (Charlie Stross) ****
19. The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (Susan Faludi) *****
20. White as Snow (Tanith Lee) ***
21. Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge) *****
22. The Visitor (Sherri S. Tepper) ***
23. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Bryan Lee O'Malley) *****
24. Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection (ed. Ellen Datlow, Kelley Link and Gavin J. Grant) ****
25. Madras on Rainy Days (Samina Ali) **
26. The Prestige (Christopher Priest) ****
27. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Michael Chabon) ****
28. The Day of the Triffids (John Wyndham) ****
29. The Android's Dream (John Scalzi) ****
30. Promethea Volume 1 (Alan Moore et al.) ****
31. Starman Omnibus (James Robinson et al.) ***
32. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) *****
33. Slipstreams (ed. Martin Greenberg) ****
34. Flat Earth: the History of an Infamous Idea (Christine Garwood) ****
35. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Bryan Lee O'Malley) *****
36. Promethea Volume 2 (Alan Moore et al) ***
37. Dust (Elizabeth Bear) *****
38. Path of Fate (Diana Pharaoh Francis) ***
39. The Lottery and Other Stories (Shirley Jackson) *****
40. The Drawing of the Dark (Tim Powers) ****
41. Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair (Laurie Perry) ****
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