Calendar Girl (kirilaw) wrote,
Calendar Girl
kirilaw

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Book blogging would be easier if I did it a little more regularly.

11. Stardust (Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess)
I'm a big Neil Gaiman fan. I love fairy tales and fantasy. And I'm a sucker for pretty pictures. Do I really need to tell you how much I like this book? For the record, I did like the movie -- I was able to enjoy it for itself without fretting too much about how it wasn't the book. The book's better, though. *****

12. Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson)
This is a big brick of a book, but Neal Stephenson does have a gift for making big epic books light and fun. It's worth noting that for such a big book, not a lot happens -- at least not in the present-day sections. Our hero mainly seems to be in the right place at the right time, and happens to be good with computers -- but he's pretty likable despite his passivity. The love interest is a little less credible -- I think she's supposed to be a quasi-feminist tough girl, but of course she's secretly lonely and looking for emotional fulfillment. Meh. That aside, it is a fun book. I liked the WWII sections quite a lot. ****

13.The Ladies of Grace Adieu (Susanna Clarke)
One of the wonderful things about Susanna Clarke's writing is that it's completely unique (at least in this century). This collection has the distinction of being quite dated and utterly contemporary. As a book of fairy tales, it reminds me of collections I would have dug out of the library shelves as a kid. And yet, the female characters -- while belonging entirely to their time and place -- are as feminist as any modern work. I don't want to rush her, but if Susanna Clarke would like to write another book, I'd be very happy to read it... *****

14. An Embarassment of Mangoes (Ann Vanderhoof)
This is well-written and enjoyable book about self-discovery and empowerment and all that good stuff. The author and her husband took a year off from their jobs to cruise around the Caribbean. I have to confess to a certain amount of cynicism about their supposedly tight budget, given that they bought a boat in the first place. There's also something in me that rolls its eyes at the white folks' journey of self-discovery among happy black folks whose lack of material possessions makes them more authentic or something (also, in this recipe-laden book, better cooks). So while this is a good book of its type, it is very much of its type. **

15. The Lions of Al-Rassan (Guy Gavriel Kay)
Candy for my brain. This isn't one of Kay's strongest -- he gets so caught up in the characters, he forgets the whole epic plot side of things. But it is lovely to spend some time with those characters. ****

16. Shake Hands with the Devil (Romeo Dallaire)
Whoa. This is a passionate, agonizing book, all the worse because it's real. Dallaire is angry and understated, pointing fingers while trying to shoulder "appropriate" blame and to offer praise it's due. It's both a horrifying story of how bad people can be to each other and (perhaps even more so) the self-portrait of a man in an impossible situation. Although the events in Rwanda are dealt with in exhausting detail, the real focus here is on Dallaire's self-examination, his struggle to convince himself that he did what he could. It's devastating to read. ****

17. Rollback (Robert J. Sawyer)
This book is classic Sawyer, full of well-meaning people doing their best. Sawyer does a great job of imagining the early years of rollback (age-reducing) technology and its pitfalls. If I have one criticism, it's that the aliens (oh yes, there are aliens too!) are a little too easy to understand. When one of the major plot points is that only one scientist was able to figure out their original message, you'd expect their psychology to be a little less humanoid. But that's a relatively minor quibble, all things considered. ****

18. Singularity Sky (Charlie Stross)
There is a lot going on in this book. Sometimes too much -- it got to be a little hard to keep track of everything and everybody, and this isn't a big enough book that that should be a problem. I have to confess, the Russian names didn't help much. For some reason, Russian names always trip me up. Admittedly, that's just me. But there is a too-much problem here, and I don't think that's just me. However, it is a good, well-told story, with lots of interesting (and sometimes complicated) ideas. Those characters I could keep track of were appealing and interesting, and there was plenty of suspense to keep me reading. ****

19. The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (Susan Faludi)
I've developed a bit of a crush on Susan Faludi, I'm afraid. Her dissection of the way culture and gender politics have played out in reaction to 9/11 rings true. She's a great writer, too, with a tone of white-hot rage that makes her very readable. *****

20. White as Snow (Tanith Lee)
This is a Snow White retelling. It's also playing with the Demeter-Persephone story. It's an interesting piece, bringing together a lot of different elements. It was a little frustrating to be initially drawn in to have sympathy with the mother, only to have her become a crazy monster. The change is justified by the story, but it's difficult for the reader. Sometimes Lee seems to want to be grotesque for the sake of being grotesque, and it doesn't always feel necessary. There's an over-the-top element that starts to show up in the last third of the book that's a little hard to take. I was also (perhaps unfairly) annoyed, not at the use of the fantasy world, but at the creation of a fantasy world that's basically our world with less research. The paper-thin analogues for deities like the Virgin Mary, Demeter, and Persephone just rubbed me the wrong way. ***

21. Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge)
This book is full of big ideas,including multiiple strange and fascinating alien civilzations, and yet it hangs together amazingly well. The storylines all fit together, and are interesting enough on their own that you want to know what happens in their own local contexts. The "zone" universe structure is new to me, but works both as a gimmick to allow faster-than-light travel without breaking the known laws of our universe, and as a significant plot device. The aliens are legitimately aliens, not humans, and there are traces of this difference in their personalities and ways of speaking. These aren't just humans in funny suits. I'm a little surprised by how much I liked this book. But it was really good. *****
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