The Books!

Jun. 21st, 2016 11:05 am
imbecamiel: (BookStackLight)
[personal profile] imbecamiel
Finished getting together my traditional list of books read on the trip and review-ish thoughts on them!

So without further ado, here are the books! My feelings on them this year were a bit more of a mixed bag than has been the case in recent years, I think, but there were plenty that I really loved.

The Soul of Wit: Chesterton on Shakespeare (G.K. Chesterton, edited by Dale Ahlquist) – Chesterton is always amazing, and this is no exception. Having read his biography of Dickens a couple years ago and enjoyed his approach of analyzing his life and personality through the lens of his works rather than primarily a chronological recounting of events, I’m sad that he didn’t finish his planned comprehensive book on Shakespeare... but still, the collection of thoughts on Shakespeare from other writings throughout Chesterton’s life gives a broad-ranging and fascinating picture.

The Tears of the Singers (Melinda Snodgrass) – My reaction on this one was pretty much “meh.” I don’t really expect much from a Star Trek novel – give me reasonably solid characterization and I’m happy. Give me some interesting alien species/culture development and I’m delighted. On this one, though the culture and setup were interesting enough, the characterization was tenuous at best. Some of the behavior and choices at key moments left me pretty much “????why??????” And then Uhura, who should’ve had some great opportunities to shine in a key role, ended up derailed by the dumbest romance with a guy who had no apparent redeeming qualities other than being good at music, and also attractive, maybe? Not the worst I’ve read, overall, but most fanfiction I’ve seen is much better. :P

The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, and The Hostile Hospital (Lemony Snicket) – This series continues to be brilliant and absolutely hilarious and I love it. :D

Raptor Red (Robert T. Bakker) – DINOSAAAAAURRRSSSS. Heh, my dad was so confused when he found out I was reading a novel about dinosaurs with no humans whatsoever in it. But it really was very much like all the things I enjoyed most about the Jurassic Park books. He’s got the paleontology background to have a really in-depth factual basis for his speculation and a real skill at weaving that animal perspective and science into a good story. Very good book.

Warriors: Into The Wild (Erin Hunter) – Very Serious Research. I like animal books, mmkay? Very enjoyable – interesting premise and cultural development, and a fun read, despite in the latter half of the book falling into a particularly annoying instance of “I know something super important and dangerous to multiple people, but I’m not going to tell anyone to whom it’s relevant because... uh...” that didn’t even have a discernable plot reason (I.e. “even though it'd be the logical thing, if he told so-and-so at this point, xyz would never have happened, derailing the whole chain of events") as justification for characters getting hit with the stupid stick. Yeah, it annoyed me greatly. Still, the book as a whole was good enough to over come that issue for the most part, so thumbs up.

Wired for Story (Lisa Cron) – Very interesting! Some good advice and insights. I liked her take on “commercial” vs. “highbrow/literary” fiction, and the way people like to make distinctions between the two and the constraints of the different types of literature—where in reality, even if the product looks somewhat different, the process and requirements are not very different at all. Also the fact that, if commercial fiction doesn’t hold attention we’re a little more likely to blame the book/author, where if literary fiction doesn’t... the impulse seems to be to blame the reader as not intellectual or dedicated enough. In reality, people have a natural need and love for story, but no one owes a particular author their attention—it’s the writer’s responsibility to earn it, and keep it.

The Winner’s Crime (Marie Rutkoski) – This has been a really, really interesting series. I guess I’d say the closest thing it reminds me of is Meghan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series? Not quite the same level of funny-witty, but good writing and great political intrigue and maneuvering. Suuuuuch a cliffhanger ending to this one, though. I’m impatiently waiting for my turn at the library with the last book of the series.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (Mary Norris) – Eh, mixed feelings on this one. It was just okay, basically. Interesting enough when talking about the subject (the English language, grammar, punctuation), and I enjoyed her anecdotes from her work as an editor in the demanding environment of the New Yorker. But my interest plummeted during random digressions into her own life unrelated to those topics. Oddly enough, she comes across as much more likeable and relatable as a person when talking about editing than anything else. I don’t know if that’s partly because I’m an editor or if the impression really is accurate on the basis of the writing itself, but there you are.

Death By Living (N.D. Wilson) – Loved it, so much. His is exactly the sort of abstract, poetic, non-linear style of writing that tends to leave me cool to moderately annoyed regardless of how much I like the subject material, but his execution is spot-on beautiful and a delight to read. And his digressions into family history (whether talking about his grandparents’ lives or incidents with his children or particularly vivid memories from his own life) are the polar opposite of what put me off in Between You & Me. Even when not immediately relevant to the point at hand, they’re always interesting – funny, touching, and told in a way that leaves you wanting more, not less.

A Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan) – Oooooh, so good! I saw this years ago in a bookstore and thought about picking it up, but it was so expensive and I rarely spend that much on a book I’m not absolutely certain I’ll love. Now I’m sad that I didn’t, though, because I forgot afterward that I’d meant to request it from the library and never read it until now. It was delightful, though – both the style and the material – and I’ve already got the sequels on my to-read list.

Animal Wise: The Thoughts & Emotions of our Fellow Creatures (Virginia Morrell) – Excellent book. Just a fascinating look at animal intelligence and learning, including some really unexpected species. Loved it.

Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska’s Wildlife (Bill Sherwonit) – Eh, it was okay. There was some genuinely interesting stuff, but for the most part it wasn’t either informationally in-depth enough to be interesting on that level (like Animal Wise), nor were the stories themselves told in an engaging enough way to really hold interest in their own right. Most of them just seemed pretty mundane, the kind of thing that’s wonderful to experience, would elicit a “oh, cool!” from friend if mentioned in passing, but in retelling in this format mostly just produces an, “...okay. So?” I don’t know, maybe it’s largely that I’ve myself had encounters very similar to what he describes many times, so they don’t strike me as unique enough to be book-worthy. But I think it is mostly that his style and experience level falls into a particularly “meh” spot of not authoritative and knowledgeable enough scientifically nor engaging enough anecdotally, and so a lot of the time it felt like the point was lost.

The Convenient Marriage (Georgette Heyer) – Loved this, so much. Maybe my favorite of the trip, though it’s hard to call. It was absolutely hilarious, and struck me as a blend of many of my favorite parts of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Emma. Heyer is brilliant, and her books are ridiculously satisfying.

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) – I have been meaning to read these books for so long and I’m kinda embarrassed I didn’t get to them earlier. (It's not so often that I watch movies before reading the books.) Very engaging read, though, and I can see why they’ve gotten so big. I was also struck by how well she handles both first person and present-tense. Neither is my preference by any stretch, but most of the time I forgot tense and POV entirely, which is always a good sign it’s being done well. Looking forward to reading the third one!

Dauntless: Valiant Hearts (Dina L. Sleiman) – I’ve had a lifelong love for all things Robin Hood-related, so when I saw this, billled as a Robin Hood retelling about a group of outlaws, set shortly after King John came to the throne, and was able to pick it up free in a Kindle sale, I thought it’d be worth a try. I’m, uh, glad I didn’t actually pay anything for it. Okay, so it seems to be pretty historically grounded, and isn’t the worst-written book. Buuuuut in the end it basically ignored every potentially interesting angle to the plot or characters in favor of one of the most endlessly repetitive love triangles (quadrangle, even, maybe? I lost track of whether or not one guy was actually involved in passing) I have ever been bored to tears by. Like, there wasn’t even any genuine tension to the relationship to keep things mildly interesting. Also, halfway through the main villain’s occupation apparently somehow morphed from the stablemaster into a soldier/guard??? Anyhow, disappointing, not gonna bother with sequels.

C.S. Lewis: A Life Inspired (Christopher Gordon) – Pretty good biography! I liked his use of both Lewis’ fiction and nonfiction works to shed light on various periods of his life.

2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, & Writing More of What You Love (Rachel Aaron) – Very interesting! Not sure how much I can effectively apply a lot of the advice, given my personal writing style/struggles, since the very things that she’s found key to speeding along her process tend to be the steps I have a very hard time rushing. But, if taking a stab at that approach to organization helps at all in upping my average wordcounts, it’d definitely be worth trying. (I'm never going to be writing 10k a day, though. XD)

Total pages read on the trip: Approximately 5880. (Some estimation necessary, based on other version lengths, to account for the fact that the library only had the large print version of one, which obviously has... a lot more pages. XD)

So yeah. Not a record-breaking trip, but definitely a good one.


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