Saturday, March 31, 2007

Reading Diary March 2007

As before, books read online are in green.

  1. The Silver Bough, Lisa Tuttle. Like Singer of Souls, an urban fantasy set in Scotland, but very different. Happenings both weird and wonderful, with a satisfying conclusion. Can't help feeling not everything adds up, though.
  2. Legacies, A. Paul Wilson. Repairman Jack's still fun, but didn't like this as much as The Tomb. Chaotic, rather episodic, with shocking waste of an interesting character's death.
  3. Making His Way, or Frank Courtney's Struggle Upward, Horatio Alger. Missing wills, chance encounters with benevolent millionaires. Character never really struggles or suffers.
  4. Andy Grant's Pluck, Horatio Alger. Pretty typical of his country-boy-goes-to-the-city tales. Hero gets numerous lucky breaks, but turns them into prosperity through hard work and virtue.
  5. Frank and Fearless: or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent, Horatio Alger. One of the most boring of Alger's works. All nonsensical "adventure" story, no real boy-rises-through-industry.
  6. Romance Island, Zona Gale. Weird Lost-Horizons-like adventure tale.
  7. A Fatal Appraisal, J. B. Stanley. Not bad, but I wouldn't run out to buy the next one. Murderer and motive pretty obvious, not least because the motive is plastered all over the front cover.
  8. Ragged Dick, Horatio Alger. Alger's first and probably best work. Informative, unsentimental look at social and economic conditions. Dick is a genuinely likeable hero, and his rise is accomplished through his own resourcefulness and industry, with a minimum of coincidence and lucky breaks.
  9. The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas. A mind-blowing ride through cosmology, phenomenology, epistemology, theology, and no doubt many other -ologies I've missed. How can you not love a book that stars Apollo Smintheus, god of mice? It's amazing to me how a book like this can be embraced by the mainstream critics when it's so clearly science fiction, but more power to Thomas for pulling it off.
  10. Miss Lulu Bett, Zona Gale. This couldn't be more different from her insubstantial, fantastical, rather boring Romance Island. Closely observed, deeply felt tale of female oppression and liberation about a spinster of 34(!) in a small Midwest town. Too bad Lulu has to settle for marriage with the nearest man at the end.
  11. Miss Lulu Bett, Zona Gale. Gale's historic Pulitzer-winning stage adaptation of her novel. Interesting dual endings. In the original, Lulu does not settle for the nearest man, but goes off to make her own life. Audiences didn't care for this strong feminist message, so Gale rewrote it so that Ninian's first wife has died, and he and Lulu wind up together.
  12. Dope, Sara Gran. It's noir, baby. Gritty, entertaining tour through post-war New York with hookers, con men, petty thieves, and junkies -- and those are the good guys. Must admit I was blindsided by the ending.
  13. Conspiracies, F. Paul Wilson. A Repairman Jack living off the grid, dispensing his own idiosyncratic brand of justice, running into the occasional weird, inexplicable event? Sure, bring him on. A Repairman Jack as the sole defender of the universe against chaos and Eeevil? Oh no, no, no. Wilson just isn't a good enough writer to bring this off. I'm done with this series.
  14. Solstice Wood, Patricia A. McKillip. See post March 18, 2007.
  15. A Torrid Piece of Murder, C. F. Roe. One of those books that make me think people in the UK live in an alternate reality. Heroine's kids talk like teenagers and behave like 30somethings. Only real twist is that when the seriously ill heroine collapses while confronting the murderer in her deserted office, he goes for help rather than trying to polish her off.
  16. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War, Deanne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook. First of three books I bought during my visit to the battlefield at Manassas, VA. Should have been fascinating, but snooze-worthy instead. Badly structured, with a laundry-list approach to the evidence.
  17. Eyes of Crow, Jeri Smith-Ready. A post-apocalypse tale for the crunchy granola set. Completely lost interest after the third or fourth repetition of "Rhia evades her destiny; Rhia accepts her destiny."
  18. Alice Adams, Booth Tarkington. Wanted to read this after seeing the movie, which turned out to be a very faithful adaptation aside from the ending. Real ending much more realistic, both heart-breaking and encouraging, with the family reduced to taking in lodgers and Alice entering secretarial school. I really think they'll be much more comfortable on their proper rung on the social ladder, without the strain of trying to reach so high all the time.
  19. Beguiled, Alice Borchardt. Borchardt has written one good book. This isn't it.
  20. Dirty Blonde, Lisa Scottoline. Post to come.
  21. Firethorn, Sarah Miklem. Beautifully written, thoughtful tale of love between high and low. Never settles for the easy answer.
  22. Shane, the Lone Ethnographer, Sally Campbell Galman. See post March 28, 2007.
  23. The Good Fairies of New York, Martin Millar. Neil Gaiman recommends it and so do I. What else do you need to know?
  24. The Book of Jhereg, Steven Brust. Contains the books Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla. How glad I am that I read Brust's mock-heroic, Dumasian romances The Phoenix Guards and its sequels before picking up this book, because I really enjoyed them and I never would have sought them out had I read this first. Protagonist was so whiny in third book I really grew to dislike him.

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