Monday, April 30, 2007

Reading Diary April 2007

Books read online are in green.

  1. Willy Burke; or, The Irish Orphan in America, Mrs. J. Sadlier. Overly didactic, overly sentimental tale of a Catholic boy making his way in pre-Civil War New York. Moderately interesting for its insight into how Protestants viewed Catholics at that time (Sadlier's no fan of multiculturalism either) , but not nearly as entertaining or naturalistic as her Bessy Conway; or, The Irish Girl in America. Hero is an exasperating prig; I sympathized with his tormentors' desire to knock him out of his smugness.
  2. Lincoln, Gore Vidal. Starts off strong but quickly turns dull. Some interesting tidbits, but Vidal's more concerned with showing off his research than telling a story.
  3. The Thirteenth House, Sharon Shinn. One of the things I most admire about Shinn is her ability to write about love in a way that makes each set of lovers unique, and this book is no exception. But although the sequel to Mystic and Rider, somehow the canvas feels smaller and the stakes lower, with a disappointingly limited climax. I sure hope some fireworks are coming up in the next book, because they've been in relatively short supply so far.
  4. Blue Shoes and Happiness, Alexander McCall Smith. See post April 10, 2007.
  5. Petty Treason, Madeleine E. Robins. A good second outing for Fallen Women Sarah Tolerance, in a Regency England just slightly askew from our own. Robins is thoroughly grounded in the Regency period, and her books are prime examples of how to do historical fiction right. Her grasp on plotting and pacing is not quite so sure: she telegraphs her twists well ahead of time and could have brought the book to a close many pages earlier if Miss Tolerance had gone to the magistrate with her evidence sooner.
  6. Sister Noon, Karen Joy Fowler. A well-written exploration of sex, class, race, and history in Victorian San Francisco. I wasn't sure what attitude to take to Mrs. Pleasant -- was she a good guy or a bad guy? Not quite sure the book qualifies as fantasy; while there are hints of supernatural activity, they could just as easily have naturalistic explanations.
  7. The Accomplice, Elizabeth Ironside. Interesting story of history, family, identity, and murder, with well-drawn characters. Naturally asks the question, who is the accomplice? Shows that we all may be complicit in the crimes and tragedies around us.
  8. A Personal Devil, Roberta Gellis. A mixed offering in the Madgalene la Batarde series. Interesting characters and situations, although Magdalene wasn't the only one who found the Mainard/Sabina romance hard to take. Not much mystery, and the resolution is both unsatisfying and slightly nonsensical.
  9. Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones. Terrific, fun, and utterly satisfying. Jones plays beautifully with fairy tale conventions, and Sophie is an admirable heroine. Must find the movie.
  10. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides. See post April 25, 2007.
  11. Ruddy Gore, Kerry Greenwood. Moderately stylish, moderately entertaining mystery set in 1920s Australia. Don't think much of the heroine's detective powers: on learning that the case involves a baby given up for adoption, she fails to ask even the most obvious questions.
  12. The Oxford Murders, Guillermo Martinez. See post April 24, 2007.
  13. Death at the Rose Paperworks, M. J. Zellnik. Pedestrian in the extreme. True, I didn't figure out the solution ahead of time; but on the other hand, I was too bored to care. Has Zellnik ever read a Victorian novel? She has no conception of how people spoke and acted in those days (pregnancy openly discussed! ladies inviting seamstresses into parlors!).
  14. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. Greed is bad. So is racism. Also, slavery. Gosh, Mr. Mitchell, thanks for clearing that up for me.
  15. Holmes on the Range, Steve Hockensmith. Pretty entertaining story of cowboy detective who models himself after Sherlock Holmes in 1890s Montana, with his brother serving as sidekick and Watson. Takes the interesting narrative stance that Holmes is a real person.
  16. The Rebirth of Pan, Jo Walton. Don't understand the point of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day (other than a shoutout to my sister, who also uses the term "technopeasant"), but thanks to Jo Walton for posting so much of her work for free online. Really enjoyed this unpublished beautiful, evocative tale of the death of an old age and beginning of a new, filled with memorable characters.
  17. Seeking Whom He May Devour, Fred Vargas. Quirky characters and interesting rural French background. Solution comes a little too pat for the hero's romantic dilemma.

No comments: