September 2014 reads

>> Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A pretty good month. No huge duds, just a couple of books that weren't for me, and the wonderful Bone Clocks, which I adored.

1 - The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell: A
review coming soon

This is one of the few books on the Man Booker longlist I would have picked up even if it hadn't been on in. I loved it, by far the best on the list so far, and it's a travesty that it didn't make the shortlist. It's similar to Cloud Atlas in that it's made up of 6 chunks that feel like novellas in their own right, but the narrative thread that links them all together is much clearer. It's also very much a fantasy novel, even though the prominence of the fantastical element varies throughout the book. It's a big, chunky read, but I didn't want it to end.

2 - Borders of Infinity, by Lois McMaster Bujold: B+
review coming soon

Short story. Miles is stuck in a Cetagandan prison camp which is a clear example of their propensity for fine-tuned psychological. He is at his most Miles-ish here, and I thought it was a really clever and well-crafted story.

3 - Labyrinth, by Lois McMaster Bujold: B+
review coming soon

Another short story. Miles is contracted to rescue a scientist from an earlier contract in Jackson's Hole, but the man refuses to leave until Miles recovers some genetic material... which the man had earlier stored on the product of a super-soldier genetic experiment. I liked this one. I was initially a bit queasy about a certain sexual element, but felt a lot more comfortable with it by the end.

4 - Jovah's Angel, by Sharon Shinn: B+
original review here

Reread. The whole Samaria series is one of my favourites. This is the second book, where we get some quite shocking revelations, shocking to the point that they even change the genre of the series. The plot involves the main protagonist, the angel Alleluia, becoming Archangel when the holder of the post gets injured in an accident and can't fly. It's a difficult job, particularly because everything is going wrong. The god is listening to angels' requests and prayers less and less, and this is diminishing the angels' power at a time when they need it to protect the more vulnerable sections of society. It's a really interesting plot and I also liked the romance very much. Alleluia's love interest is an atheist engineer and inveterate tinkerer whom I thought was just lovely.

5 - Have Mercy, by Shelley Ann Clark: B
review coming soon

So this is what it takes for me to like a rock star romance: just make the star the heroine, rather than the hero. This is BDSM, not usually my thing either, but again, when it's femdom, there's a chance I might actually like it, and I did.

6 - Clouds of Witness, by Dorothy L Sayers: B-
original review here

Another reread. Actually, I'm listening to it this time around, since my library has the entire series on audio. In this, the second in the series, Lord Peter must investigate the death of his sister's fiancé. It's particularly important because Peter's brother, the Duke, stands accused of the murder.

I liked a lot of it, like the portait of increasing class tension, but I found sections of this almost unreadable. Mainly, it was the ones that dealt with Mrs. Grimethorpe and her abuse at the hands of her husband. The attitude is "oh, well, that's such a shame, but nothing we can do about it". Probably historically accurate, but I found it so upsetting that it made me hate the "Establishment" characters, even Lord Peter. There's a point, particularly, when they're talking about whether it's right to put this woman's life in mortal and certain danger if it turns out it's the only way to keep Peter's brother from being hanged for murder. And the response is, again, "oh, well, sometimes these things must be done". Because of course, the life of a Duke is so much more important than the life of a working class woman. Bollocks!

7 - The Man In the Brown Suit, by Agatha Christie: B-
review here

Not really a mystery, but an adventure/caper/international conspiracy type of story. It features a young plucky girl who gets involved in a dangerous plot. I thought it was fun, but the oblivious racism of the sections set in South Africa was upsetting. Also, I used to love the romance here many years ago, but it just didn't work for me as a grown-up.

8 - Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell: B-
review coming soon

I feel guilty for not liking this more. I liked the characters and was interested in their lives and their struggles, it's just that I found the romance really corny, and it was a huge part of the book. Also, the heavy nostalgia for something I never knew didn't work for me either.

9 - Grimm Tales For Young and Old, by Philip Pullman: C+
review here

Pullman's version of 50 of the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. His versions were too straight for my taste, not doing anything about what I see as the weaknesses in logic of the stories.

10 - How To Be Both, by Ali Smith: DNF
review coming soon

My first DNF of the books on the Man Booker list. This one sounded interesting, but the characters never felt like people, and I found the whole thing a bit pretentious and not really very interesting.

11 - The Clockwork Scarab, by Colleen Gleason: DNF
review coming soon

Steampunk. The premise is that Mina Holmes (daughter of Mycroft, niece of Sherlock) and Evelina Stoker (sister of Bram) are recruited by Irene Adler to perform a service to the crown by investigating a string of murders of young women of good birth. A bit too preposterous and silly for my liking.

12 - Black at Heart, by Leslie Parrish: still reading
review coming soon

Romantic suspense. Someone's killing (horribly) some very bad men, and the hero suspects the heroine. She used to be part of his FBI team and almost died in a way he feels was his fault, so a massive amount of guilt is mixed up with those suspicions. I'm finding it a bit hard to get into, but hope things will start moving soon.

13 - The Lives of Others, by Neel Mukherjee: still reading
review coming soon

Another book from the Man Booker shortlist. It's set in late 1960s Calcutta and centred on a family living all together in a large house, with all the rivalries and relationships that ensue. I'm not loving it (every single character is nasty and petty, at the moment), but I'm still reading.

14 - Possession, by AS Byatt: still listening
original review here

I read this ages ago and was inspired to reread it when I found an audiobook version in my library. It's basic structure is a literary mystery, with two young scholars in the present day (well, 25 years ago, not present day) investigating the relationship between a well-known Victorian poet and a woman author whose work has been neglected over the centuries. I've only just started it, but I'm finding it incredibly absorbing (plus, it's been long enough since I last read it that I've forgotten most of the plot details).


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