What I've read lately

Abe Gross argross at bigpond.net.au
Mon Jan 27 07:07:12 EST 2003

Hallie wrote:

> _Time Stops for No Mouse_, Michael Hoeye.  Possibly would work well
> for younger Redwall fans (though I'm not, so can't say with any
> knowledge of the books).  I found it a bit heavy on the whimsicality,
> though it was fun.  Again, I found the ending a bit of a let-down.
> I have already mentioned _Thursday_, and Becca read _Summerland_, by
> Michael Chabon, and said it's excellent.  It's next on my to-be-read
> pile.

I've read this one, too, and had a similar reaction. I enjoyed it very much,
but it was a touch precious at times. There is a sequel, _Sands of Time_,
which I wouldn't mind reading if I can get it inexpensively. I do like the
world of animals it's set in; despite the sometimes overdone whimsicality
(as you noted) it seems to me to have a genuine charm.

_Summerland_ is one that I want to read, since I very much enjoyed _Kavalier
and Clay_, mainly on Melissa's recommendation (waving to Melissa). The
latter had a special level of meaning for me because my father grew up in
Prague like one of the main characters and survived concentration camps...I
shouldn't say any more, as I'm getting dangerously close to spoilers. I was
deeply impressed by the book, by its emotional power and its many complex
layers, especially the variations and levels on the theme of escape or
escapism. Anyway, thanks for the recommendation, Melissa.

I thought I'd write up my own list of books that have impressed me this year
and that I've been reading lately. Apart from _K and C_, the best books I
read were probably _The Thief_ and _The Queen of Attolia_, both of which
have been discussed already. I also loved le Guin's _The Other Wind_.
Perhaps the book I Enjoyed and Admired Most in 2002 is tied between
_Passage_ by Connie Willis, and _The Curse of Chalion_ by Bujold. I won't
say much about either of them except that they are both wonderful! (How's
that for a scholarly response!:-)) _The Curse of Chalion_ amazed me in its
ability to deal with the topics of fate, faith and the divine with ease and
delight and intelligence, and without labouring. And the characters! I was
really impressed.

The prize for the most Disappointing Book goes to Sharon Shinn's _Jenna
Starborn_. I love nearly everything Shinn has written, particularly her
Archangel books, though I was somewhat disappointed in the ending to the
last one. The resolution was weak and a real anti-climax. I especially love
her _Wrapt in Crystal_, and her next-to-last one, _Summers at Castle Auburn_
(though it isn't flawless by any means). So I was really looking forward to
_Jenna Starborn_. What a disappointment. It's basically the story of Jane
Eyre, set in a futuristic society. It does have a few cute quirks, but it
just doesn't work. Putting Jane in the society Shinn posits here makes a
nonsense of the story; the characters (almost the same as the original
novel) feel like cardboard, including the main character, whose main dilemma
and decision (exactly as in the original) makes no sense whatsoever. So
Shinn has taken the Jane Eyre story and used it almost exactly as it stands
in a different context in which it just doesn't convince. OK. Rant over.

What I've been reading recently: _Death in a City of Mystics_ by Janice
Steinberg. This is a murder mystery set in the town of Safed in Israel,
exploring the theme of Jewish mysticism and kabbalah. Not heavyweight
reading, but I really enjoyed it.

_White Apples_ by Jonathan Carroll. People either love or hate Carroll. I
hate it when he writes horror, but enjoy most of his stuff. This is vintage
Carroll, except this time, he has an upbeat ending; for once, things feel
resolved and whole and "right" in the end in a Carroll book.

_Remake_ by Willis: loved the concept and the love story. _The Wishing
Garden_ by Christie Yorke reminded me of Alice Hoffman. I thought this was a
better story than her previous novel, _Magic Spells_.

Right now I'm reading _Necromancer_ by Martha Wells (waving at Hallie) and
so far am finding it hard to put down. I hope to get hold of other books by
Wells as well.

BTW, which of Catherine Fisher's books would you most recommend, Hallie, for
a new reader of her work? I've never heard of her.

A last question to everyone in general (though of course, everyone feel free
to comment on the above!): if you'd never read a single Pratchett, like me,
what book would you start with?


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