Thursday, January 08, 2009

Books read in 2008

Following Rachel's entry (since she's the one who got me logging my reading habits two years ago), 2008 was not a particularly big reading year for me, though I was pretty much reading steadily throughout.

January

  • Scardown - Elizabeth Bear
  • Worldwired - Elizabeth Bear (These two comprise the rest of the trilogy following the first book, Hammered, which I read in Dec 2007. I enjoyed this trilogy a lot; they're my favorite Bear books so far, particularly the first book, Hammered, as it was the most personal of the three. The two sequels were a little more far-reaching in scope, a little less intimate-feeling, so what happened to characters didn't hit home quite as hard as it did in the first book. But all in all a fine, exciting trilogy. A very fast read.)
February
  • Giacomo Puccini - Conrad Wilson
March
  • The Naked and the Dead - Norman Mailer (this book, as I said before, took me months to read, cuz it was heavy wading through each character's section. I've read several books this year that really helped me pinpoint what I like and don't like in books. This was one of them.)
  • Dust - Elizabeth Bear (based on the back cover's description, this novel sounded right up my alley... only it simply didn't work for me. There's a few reasons for this. 1) I don't think I'm the right audience for this book, 2) I think a lot of references that might have helped me understand things went right over my head due to my own ignorance, 3) the main characters never engaged me, and I think I need to read it again to figure out why, cuz I liked them, I just couldn't feel them or feel with them. I felt the entire book was telling me what to think, but not letting me truly feel along with the characters, which is an odd reaction to a Bear book; and 4) I'm told (there we go again with the telling) who the main villain is, and I'm told she did bad things, but I never actually saw them firsthand (other than briefly in the beginning, but while she did rather gruesome things, she didn't seem evil), so the entire end didn't work for me because I couldn't buy why I was supposed to be rooting for one team over another. Now, secretly, I'm hoping the assumptions the main characters make with their second-hand knowledge about the villain's supposed evil deeds is going to play into some greater plan (because this is the first book of a trilogy after all), but that could be wishful thinking on my part. This whole book was a surreal reading experience, like I was outside looking in at where all the good stuff happened, and I could see it and hear it, but not feel it, not get it. It was supremely frustrating because I like her work. I will read the rest of the trilogy when she finishes it and it comes out and hope the second two books work better for me.)
April
  • The Satan Bug - Alistair MacLean (A re-read. While MacLean is the author of my all-time favorite book, I'd only ever read Satan Bug once before, back in high school. I should have known there was a very good reason for that. This book just makes me angry. It's a prime example of how not to write a book, particularly in showing authors what information they should never keep from their readers.)
July
  • South by Java Head - Alistair MacLean (A re-read - This one got rid of the bad taste left by Satan Bug. This is one of the best by him. Personally, it gives me everything I want out of book. Very satisfying.)
  • A Darkness Forged in Fire - Chris R. Evans (loved it! If Sharpe was an elf and had to fight the evilest of magic and his own past, that would be this book. I was mildly disappointed that one of the characters seemed headed towards the predictable, and I'm really hoping that's authorial deception and the next book will prove me wrong! But still a quick exciting read and I can't wait for the next book!)
  • Atonement - Ian McEwan (Ugh, not even worth going into again)
August
  • Foot Soldier: A Combat Infantryman's War in Europe - Roscoe C. Blunt, Jr.
  • Odalisque - Fiona McIntosh (One of my favorite fantasy authors. This was the first book in the Goddess series, and I devoured it in one day. Fiona McIntosh's one of those author's whose books I start only when I know I don't need to do something else, because I will not stop until the book is done. So far, I have loved every book of hers I've read. They are exciting, adventurous, violent, scary, heart-breaking, never boring, characters grow and change, no one is safe, no one is spared. They always leave me satisfied and remind me that yes, I still really do love books, and not to be discouraged by the bad ones. I think I've bawled my eyes out somewhere in every trilogy of hers.)
  • Emissary - Fiona McIntosh (book 2 of the Goddess series, finished the very next day. Unfortunately, I didn't have book 3 then, can't remember why, now, and I got left hanging but good! I was just able to get the concluding book a couple weeks ago, and Goddess was the first book I read of 2009. Again in one day, all 550 pages of it, because there was no way I was stopping until I found out exactly what happened to everyone.)
September
  • Casino Royale - Ian Fleming (quick, easy read)
  • Diplomacy of Wolves - Holly Lisle (a good exciting read... again, I got left hanging because I don't own the next books in the series. Grrr.)
October
  • The Road - Cormac McCarthy
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway
  • The Crazy Man - Pamela Porter
  • Cairo Kelly and the Mann - Kristin Butcher
  • I, Coriander - Sally Gardner
  • Silk - Alessandro Baricco
  • Catalyst - Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Foreshadowing - Marcus Sedgwick
My, but October was the month, wasn't it? The first three I read over my birthday weekend, while visiting a friend. All these books were picked for me by my friend, and all these books were fantastic. Favorites were: The Road, a post-apocalyptic setting, very dark, very affecting, very sparse and yet so vivid. It'll stay with me a long time. Catalyst - wow, powerful book. The Foreshadowing - great combo of WWI, family, and what one can do with the ability to see the future.

December
  • Vellum (This book took me forever to read. I started it a year and a half ago, gave up, then started re-reading in earnest back in September. It took me the full four months to get through it. And it is another book, like Dust, definitely not written for me. I like the writing, I like the characters, but honestly? This book made me work too hard for too little payoff. It's told in multiple little circles that all interconnect and swirl and re-tell each other's little mini-stories to produce the big picture. And that's cool and rather beautiful, but I prefer a straightforward narrative, it's that simple. I stuck with it, got to the end, and came away still not knowing what the hell it was really all about or what I should carry away with me when I closed the book. I know a lot of this one referenced things that went right over my head, although, because of following the wonderful journal of writer Catherynne M. Valente, I actually knew the story of Inanna. Loved the WWI bits, and everything with Finnan, but... ultimately Vellum is not for me.)

4 comments:

  1. Based on your reasons why you didn't dig "Dust," don't let me try to talk you into reading "Catch 22," as it's also very circular. I love it -- it makes me laugh because it's so crazy and random, but as we well know, what makes me laugh and what makes you laugh are two very different things.

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  2. You mean "Vellum," right? Cuz, yeah, from the descriptions I've read of "Catch-22" it sounds similar, in that you read the same event from different view points, etc. Vellum adds in the same event in myth/legend/history too, so you watch history repeat itself. Not my cup of tea, and I don't think "Catch-22" would be remotely up my alley. Besides, "crazy" and "random" when associated with potential entertainment are two words that make me cringe. (Which is probably why most screwball comedies do nothing for me, huh!) ROFL!

    And now we can just remember the food connection if we have doubts about what to recommend... needs to be straightforward, not mixed, and not-seasoned. :-D

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  3. Lol, yup, got the title wrong there, oops!

    And I will totally keep the food thing in mind from now on -- it's so handy!

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  4. You read more books in the month of October than I read in the entire year. :)

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