30 September 2002

Reads & Listens, September 2002

Reads:

The Rules for Marriage by Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider
Agree with whatever he says, do what ever he wants, and feel free to speak your own mind (as long as it agrees with his). Fuck that shit.

The Rules II by Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider
As a woman, your whole life is dedicated to getting and keeping a man. You are incomplete without a man. You must have a man. To get one, you must entrap him by following the Rules.

The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake
Raw, gritty, and much too good to put down. Read it all in one marathon session and then re-read the sections I twitched through.

Water: Book Two (Reunion) by Kara Dalkey
Nice play on the whole Lady of the Lake/Merlin & Nimue mythos.

Thrush Green by Miss Read
All Creatures Great & Small without the veterinary practice. Are Ella and Dimity the most horrible stereotype of a lesbian couple or what? Not as if most of the characters aren't stereotypes, anyway, but I find Ella and Dimity's to be particularly annoying. I know these are supposed to be "charming," "simple," and "gentle" reads, but I think I'll stick to James Herriot.

The V Book: A Doctor's Guide to Vulvovaginal Health by Elizabeth Stewart & Paula Spencer
Every woman should own a copy of this book. Every heterosexual man, too.

Mmm ... Christmas presents ...

Water: Book Three (Transformation) by Kara Dalkey
Too much happened in too little book. I'm reading along and stuff's happening happening happening and then *bang* here's the end and there's Merlin with King Arthur and I feel like I have whiplash it all happened so fast.

Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Less magical than The Mistress of the Spices, but still quite a fairy tale.

The Faded Sun: Kesrith & The Faded Sun: Shon'jir by C.J. Cherryh
Hard going in some places, but that's more due to Cherryh's style than to the content of the books. Her aliens are, after all, alien and so understanding some points requires close reading. Also, as there is very little that is light or humorous about these books, it can all get a bit depressing. On the other hand, considering the topics, how could there be anything light or humorous? Still, quite interesting and well worth the extra effort. If you want light science fiction, go read Anne McCaffrey.

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.

30 June 2002

Reads & Listens, June 2002

Reads:

Pages for You by Sylvia Brownrigg
Highly seductive and bittersweet coming-of-age novel. I am a little worried by my own indifference to the age difference and power imbalance between the characters -- if Anne were a male TA or professor, I know I would have been repulsed by the whole affair. Instead, all I could think of was the achingly long hours I used to spend in lectures with women I really, really, wanted to make love with. A good read for a lazy summer afternoon.

Upstairs, Downstairs by John Hawkesworth
This is a novel based on the television series so mostly just a cludged together version of the scripts. Therefore, it is even less a real book than some of the romances I've read lately. It might even have negative literary value. Regardless, it was light, amusing, and a good advertisement for the series.

Sarah & Rebekah by Orson Scott Card
These are the first and second books in a trilogy about women of Genesis. While these books spend a fair amount of time fleshing out these women's childhoods and early married years, as soon as we enter into the known scripture stories everything becomes very rushed and choppy. It's as if Card is saying "oh, you know this part all ready so I'll give you the Cliff Notes version." Also, these books follow the Mormon interpretation of scripture and so some events (and characters) seem a little distorted to me.

Poetry Speaks narrated by Charles Osgood
Mmmm ... wonderful book. Great poems and essays as well as amazing recordings on the poets reading their own works. Now I know how "anyone lived in a pretty how town" should be read. However, I wish the editors had decided to clean up some of the early recordings as they were nearly unintelligible without the read-along text. Is that Tennyson or static I hear?

Falling to Earth by Elizabeth Brownrigg
Falling is a wonderful little novel -- a weirdly delightful blend of mysticism and realism. This book is marketed as a lesbian novel, but I think many readers might be disappointed because the books does not focus on Alice's lesbianism. On the other hand, why should the book focus on her lesbianism if it's not important? The book was, for me, about trying to let go of the safe predictable life to rediscover one's creative self.

Freeze My Margarita & Strawberry Tattoo by Lauren Henderson
"Miss Marple crossed with weedkiller." Sexy and wicked.

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
Fast paced and generally well written YA. Mel and her brother Bran make a promise to their dying father that they will free Remalna from the oppression of King Galdran's rule and uphold the Covenant. Unfortunately, their rag-tag army is more of a nuisance than an actual threat. Mel is repeatedly taken hostage again and again by Shevraeth whom she detests, but ... do I sense an attempt at romantic tension?

Court Duel by Sherwood Smith
The romantic tension in Crown Duel comes to a head in this book. Unfortunately, so much of it reads like a watered down romance novel. The whole secret admirer scenario was so obvious, I wanted to smack Mel with a clue stick.