30 July 2002

Reads & Listens, July 2002

Reads:

Raising the Stones by Sheri S. Tepper
Stones shares the same universe as Sideshow and Grass without actually impinging on either of those novels (or they on it). Obviously, it can be treated as a stand alone novel, but linking it in with Tepper's other works brings a different spin to it. I've read this book three times. First, as the very first Tepper I'd ever read. Secondly, in conjunction with Sideshow. And now, having read all the rest, I come back to Stones.

The very last thing we want is a god that works -- what happens when we get one? Is it a convenience, a kindness?

Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman
In the same vein as The Midwife's Apprentice, this is a coming-of-age story about a bonesetter's assistant. Matilda has largely been raised by her priest so she knows a lot about suffering and saints, but nothing about love, laughter, and friendship. All this changes when she moves to Blood and Bone Alley, blahdy, blahdy, blah. All they all lived happily ever after.

I Thee Wed by Amanda Quick
Take a slightly "eccentric" paid companion, a wealthy member of the Ton, the search for a stolen "magical" recipe, add some really bizarre quasi-Eastern mysticism/martial arts, and the result is this ... drivel. For the last time, who (besides Clark Kent) honestly believes that wearing glasses makes you look completely different?? The plot is silly (think Eric Van Lustbader attempts romance) and the character development is ... well ... what character development?

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman
California Morning Whipple hates her name, hates the state, and wants to go back East. Much of the book consists of her complaining about California and plotting to get back East. Same characters and similar plot development to other Cushman novels.

A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity by Whitney Otto
Interconnected stories about a collection of beautiful and intelligent young women in 1980s San Francisco. They're all over-educated, under-employed, and looking for something more to life, although unsure of what "more" is. Each story (or chapter) is prefaced with a Japanese print and analysis -- sometimes, I wasn't sure where the analysis ended and the story began. I found the characters to be weirdly compelling and, although this book is set in the 80s, their problems are quite familiar.

Cats, Cats, Cats! by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Erika Oller
Charming children's picture book about Mrs. Brown, her sixty cats, and why they sleep all day. Oller's watercolor illustrations fit the text purrfectly. (Interestingly, Newman is also the author of Heather Has Two Mommies).

Affinity by Sarah Waters
A wonderfully atmospheric novel with a truly clever, not just "I see dead people" clever, ending. Historically sound plot with well developed characters. Painfully realistic and completely addictive. Am I incoherent? Yes? Well, it was that good.

Fair Warning by Robert Olen Butler
Ostensibly, this is the story of a thoroughly modern woman who finds the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, the characters are unglossed stereotypes and the plot developments aren't particularly interesting (Did her parents hate each other? Will Missy get divorced? Which man will Amy pursue? Do I care?). This is a romance novel for the emotionally stunted, perhaps. On the other hand, I could describe this book as a good summer read for those days when you want to read something, but haven't the patience for depth -- it is short, light, and uncomplicated.

Toot & Puddle: You Are My Sunshine by Holly Hobbie
I grew up on Holly Hobbie's girl-with-the-enormous-bonnet collection, so discovering the Toot and Puddle series was quite a nice surprise. The illustrations are excellent and the stories are really quite cute without being stupid. This isn't Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, too. Sunshine is nice change from the rabidly happy children's books I usually shelve. Golly gee, it's okay to be unhappy for no good reason!

Tipping the Velvet
Fingersmith
by Sarah Waters

Yummy! Borrow the first, buy the second.

The Ring of Five Dragons by Eric Van Lustbader
First volume in The Pearl series. Vast, sprawling, unintelligible, unoriginal, and often boring. As if someone kludged Dune and The Wheel of Time together. Space opera at its worst.

Wish You Were Here by Rita Mae Brown
First book in the Sneaky Pie series. Cute, but not particularly engaging. The scenes with the pets are amusing, but the human characters are about as interesting as cardboard cutouts.

Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
Okay, but not nearly as compelling or provocative as I had expected from everything I've heard. (At one point, I found myself desperately wishing Carrie would fall in love with the lesbian poet, because maybe then I'd give a damn).

Mr. Maybe by Jane Green
Unfortunately, what with the success of Bridget Jones's Diary and all, it has become trendy to publish disastrous books about English girls who have "fun" careers and a nice ("zany") circle of friends, but desperately think they need a man. The ending of this novel is quite predictable -- if you haven't guessed it by the end of the first page, what the hell is wrong with you? Basically, it's a sweet and not-too-cutesy romance. I had to squash most of my feministic sensibilities in order to enjoy it properly. What is this obsession with The One, The Big Day, The Ring??? Maybe it's because I was never a girlie girl, but I don't get it at all.