Friday, March 22nd, 2013

retsuko: (fierce!)
In the midst of all the brouhaha that is life, I have been reading! Huzzah!

In Books:

Cold Days, by Jim Butcher: SPOILERS AHOY. In a nutshell, though, this book was the very definition of enjoying something whilst acknowledging its problems. )

I don't want to make this sound as if I didn't like the book; I did, but I was distracted by side problems too often to really feel invested in the main problem. Thomas was my favorite character in this one, and Murphy gets plenty of kick-ass page time, much to my great satisfaction. I really do hope the next one is a little less frenetic, though.

A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire: This started slowly, but then it picked up quite a bit, with a tremendously gripping set piece in the middle of the narrative that was worth the price of admission alone. If the first book in this series was a tense thriller, this installment was more like a Miss Marple or Poirot locked room murder mystery... except that the violence was more visceral and the stakes were even higher for the heroine. There's an overarching sci-fi tone to this book that was lacking in the previous one, and I'm curious to see how that thread of plot will play out (if at all) in the future books.

American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld: Reading a fictionalized biography of Laura Bush presented some strange challenges; for example, I kept trying to substitute back in the names of the real people involved with dealing with the events of 9/11. In fact, that cognitive dissonance made the whole work read a little eerily--I'm reading about Charlie Blackwell no, George Bush, no, Laura Bush and Lindy Blackwell and the Blackwell clan, no... wait a minute, that can't be right... I went round and round in circles for a few minutes every time I picked the book back up after a pause. (This sensation reminded me of the semester at Smith where I took an immersion German literature class and a Japanese class back-to-back on Tuesday/Thursday mornings. For the first ten minutes of the second class, I would sit there, completely dazed, waiting for everything to start making sense in the other language again.) Still, regardless of the fiction vs. real life problem, this was a very good read, gripping and swift. If anything, it's the most compelling argument I've ever read for the continuation of the modern feminist movement, but it's also a good story of a woman who married a man who completely surprised her with the scope of his ambition.

In Illustrated Books:

Drawing From Memory, by Allen Say: This beautiful book chronicles Say's development as a very young artist, mostly immediately after WWII, as Japan rebuilt around him, up until his departure to the United States at age 15. As is always the case with Say's works, I was struck by the genuine sense of nostalgia and true emotion that suffuses the work with a larger than life quality that's very rare in children's books these days. This book has probably ended up on a lot of YA shelves, but I think this is an instance of a work that is truly "all ages" without being dull or condescending. I cannot recommend this enough.

Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, by Kazu Kibuishi: I really love Kibuishi's sense of style and layout; the characters in this sepia-toned story inhabit a world of robots and gunslingers--a Deadlands game come to life. My major problem with the narrative is that the story that's told starts without a lot of preamble, which would normally be fine, except that vital parts of the story are somehow untold, and therefore confusing. Daisy Kutter, gunslinger/outlaw turned shopclerk, is bored silly with her new (to her, anyway) life and volunteers/is coerced into taking the proverbial One Last Train Job... except, of course, that it's not what it seems. The story that unfolds has some pretty predictable betrayals and twists, but the characters seem flat and underdeveloped. I far prefer the short story at the end of the volume, which better showcases Daisy's strengths and spins a tenser, more gripping tale in a shorter space of time.

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