September Reading Frenzy!

Hi internet–let’s talk books.

This month has been a watershed month in terms of reading quantity. After a much-needed vacation, I discovered how to get e-books from our library, and so now I’ve read everything I could get my hands and eyeballs on. Also B&N had a sale on SFF, so. You know.

CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY, Guy Guvriel Kay

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I’ve been told by many that I ought to read Kay’s work, given my proclivity for fantasy, and I finally have. This tale is a gorgeous, sweeping look at an enormous cast of characters across an alternate Southern Medieval Europe. It’s softer and more musical than Game of Thrones, the narrator ‘more’ omniscient and distant than Martin’s grittier take. I enjoyed several of the characters, though I have to admit–if I open a book and the first thing after the title page is a character list, my motivation dies at a rate proportional to the length of said list. Still, an enjoyable book, and I recommend it to anyone interested in epic fantasy or historical fiction.

THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE, Michel Faber

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Have you ever read JANE EYRE and thought “this could use more sex” ? Well then here is the book for you. This 800+ page tome is a beautifully-written response to that famous Victorian novel. It unspools slowly, at the pace of the omniscient narrator determined to guide the reader toward the story of these particular characters. I don’t want to say too much about it, honestly, as it’s not really an original story, but what matter is the way it’s told. Thumbs up.

HOTEL RUBY, Suzanne Young

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“Hotel California” meets teen angst. Yep. That’s about it. Meh.

DO NO HARM, Henry Marsh

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I have a weakness for the medical memoir. Part of it is my fascination with anatomy and physiology, part of it is, well, I’m a bioengineer. It’s sort of expected. This particular memoir features the stories from an elderly British Neurosurgeon, a re-cap of sorts of his career. The most entertaining part, aside from the procedure/diagnosis details, was his whining about healthcare systems though the ages. Most doctor-books I’ve read are from the US perspective, so it was nice to see a different angle. Clearly, no matter the country, everyone hates red tape.

MORE THAN THIS, Patrick Ness

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True story: after reading HOTEL RUBY, I turned to Sven and said something to the effect of “I just have to accept that I don’t like reading YA novels. I’ve had enough of teen angst.” Yeah. About that. MORE THAN THIS is YA, and it’s flippin’ fantastic. And yes, there is teen angst, but it is real and well-drawn. The characters are fully-fleshed, the structure of the narrative creates suspense, and the flavor of ambiguity in the ending is some of the best I’ve read. So yeah–I *can* like YA, it just has to be a good book. If you like thinking about and questioning the nature of reality, check it out.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM, Cixin Liu

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So here’s the deal. This is a famous book: it’s won a Hugo Award, it’s gotten a bunch of fuss for being a best-seller in China, where sci-fi traditionally hasn’t done too well, and it’s translated by a gentleman who himself is a renown author. And my impression is ‘meh’.

I have a real problem with translated works–I can never shake the nagging feeling that I’m missing a huge part of the subtext, cultural context, and overall meaning. For all its renown, this book is no exception. Dialogue is often a bit stilted, cultural references require footnotes that, while helpful, pull me out of the narrative, and the overall structure I found confusing. I’m glad I gave the book a shot, and there are many sci-fi ‘ideas’ in it that are interesting, but it didn’t pull me in.

MY LUCKY LIFE IN AND OUT OF SHOW BUSINESS, Dick van Dyke

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Dick van Dyke is of those people who–and I mean this with the warmest of affections–I have to stop and think “wait, he’s still alive?” And indeed he is, having racked up 90 years on the Earth. This book is his autobiography, a lilting, easy-talking summery of his remarkable achievements in film, theater, and TV from the studio Golden Age to now. I’d recommend it to all ages–from youngins’ interested in entertainment history to old folks remembering the many characters they once saw on the screens, silver and otherwise.

APOLLO’S ANGELS, Jennifer Homans

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Oh my gawd this book guys. So it should not be a surprise to anyone reading this blog by now that I am a dancer–more specifically, I am a ballet-turned-ballroom-dancer who is currently attempting to turn myself into a choreographer. Why does this matter here? Because this book is a history of ballet, from 16th century France to today–AND IT WAS AWESOME.

Let me elucidate–over the years, I’ve gathered a lot of intuitive and practical knowledge of the flow of ballet history, but never before have I read such a complete examination of seminal creations and their relationship to historical trends. I was highlighting sentences in glee and going ‘yes! this!’ all throughout the book. It’s further fueled the fire in me to dive into dance, into the history, the theory, and the practice. Gee it’s almost like I want to go back to school……

I AM PROVIDENCE: A Novel, Nick Mamatas

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Oh boy. This was a fun one. It’s a murder mystery set at an HP Lovecraft fan/writer’s convention, and is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds. The best part for me, really, was the darkly humorous lampooning of the con-goer personalities. Mamatas revels in the dark side of fandom, and I’ve been around Tumblr and Twitter enough to know it’s not remotely exaggerated. It doesn’t quite stick the landing in the end, but I had a good enough time in the lead-up to not care much. All hail the tentacular horror!

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