12.19.2009

Lists of Things: Books III

As I am now officially on Winter Break, (even though I started writing this post when I still had a week of class left to go), I shall be embarking on a marvelous endeavor: to read the 34,209,234,589,234 books that have been lingering on my ever-growing to-read list for the past several years.

Of course, I say this every break (winter and spring and summer) and I haven't progressed very far. It's gotten worse since grad school, though, since sometimes I have to finish two novels a week and be in mental shape to intelligently discuss them or at least try to sound intelligent while discussing them (two different things, people, two different things), so skimming and skipping aren't such great ideas even when the books are excruciatingly obtuse, boring, or stupid.

What more usually happens is that I end up reading moderately crappy YA and/or romance novels as fed to me by Krispy, such as the Twilight series and, more recently, Hush, Hush.

So since Krispy made a list of books she wants to read (and wants me to read, yes yes, dear, I have Havemercy as one of the top three books I'm to read this time around), I shall follow up with a list of some of the books I have read this year.

1. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick: Krispy brought this book to my attention because it looked like it was trying to be the next Twilight, only with fallen angels instead of vampires. (Plus it has fantastic cover art.) We didn't expect it to be very good—but we weren't expecting it to be as bad as it was, either. (Edit: I stand corrected. Krispy actually expected it to be good; I was the only one not expecting much. She has also reminded me that, despite my disappointment, I'm still interested in reading the upcoming sequel, Crescendo, in the miniscule hope it will get better.) It's a sad thing when a book doesn't live up to your already low expectations. The story suffered from the loathsomely annoying and criminally stupid main character's BFF, a "bad boy" love interest who was so bad that he…skipped school once in a while in order to play pool at a pool house (and at the bar, he drinks…7-Up), gratuitous use of…ellipses, a lack of sufficient fallen angel backstory, implausible and incredulity-inducing circumstances that were meant to be funny or dramatic but only ended came off as crudely forced and badly written, an overabundance of badly-done and not-funny clich├ęs, sundry other writing problems, AND, most importantly, an extremely large plot hole. No spoilers here, but suffice to say that it made it so that pretty much the entire plot failed to make sense. Whoever was the editor for this book did a sucktastic job, sorry to say. The main thing I liked was the purported bad boy's name: Patch.

2- 5. The Deepgate Codex Series by Alan Campbell: A darkly atmospheric, amazingly-written series of books set in a beautifully developed and lavishly detailed fantasy world with its own mythology and cultures. The first book was the best, the second one was still good, and the third one was good but got a leeeeetle bit weird. Okay, a lot weird. But even though I still have mixed feelings about the third book (God of Clocks, and featured on Krispy's list), I salute the author for taking a risk and plunging ahead where he wanted. The series includes Scar Night, Iron Angel, and God of Clocks, and is apparently ongoing. There is also a prequel novella called Lye Street that was released as a limited edition hardcover and is now sold out, but for some reason my local library has a copy. An autographed copy. What the hell.

6. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: I confess that I haven't actually finished reading this book yet. I started reading it, er, a long time ago—many months, in fact—on the recommendation of a friend. The reviews for this book are stellar and my friend also loved it, and I just could not finish reading it in one go, as I often do. I found the story to be very slow, with a lot of dramatic buildup that never sees surcease, and I had very little sympathy for the main character; at the point where I left off reading, some bad things had happened to him and I lacked any amount of sympathy or empathy for him because I felt like he'd had it coming. There were also a couple inexplicable plot contrivances that, rather than having a reasonable or even lame explanation, have no explanation at all. The world is beautifully crafted, and the writing style is nice and even occasionally lovely, although overall it is not amazing. The main problem seems to be that this book is mostly setup for the next book, and while there are amazing descriptions of how Kvothe has rescued princesses and killed angels and been kicked out of this super awesome school younger than most people are admitted—well, none of that happens in this book, apparently. I'm still interested enough to keep on reading and am determined to finish reading this book, but—we'll see when I get around to it.

7. The Penguin of Death by Edward Monkton: A picture book containing a poem about the penguin of death. One of the most amazing books ever written about penguins of death. Srsly.

8. A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami: Uh, I had to read this one for class. It was interesting. It was first-person narration featuring a nameless protagonist who is threatened by some yakuza-esque organization's number-two man and is forced to go running across Japan in pursuit of a magical sheep from Mongolia or wherever that can possess people and make them immortal and also wants to take over the world. This makes it sound more exciting and thrilling than it actually was, because it wasn't really a pulse-pounding adventure or pulse-pounding at all. Apparently the book was also about fascism, although I was not aware of this until my professor announced it in class; although bemusing, he supported this announcement with explanations and citations from the book, so I bought his interpretation. Did I enjoy reading it? Well, it was okay and interesting enough, but not anything I would've picked up on my own and not something I'd really want to spend time rereading either.

9. Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami: The sequel to the book above, although it was published five or six years later and the author wrote a book or two in between. Can be read as a standalone work, though reading it after the first book makes it make more sense. Despite the whole magical sheep thing in the first one, I found the second book to be more puzzling and kind of random, although this could be because I read this one first (also for class). The ending was a little unsatisfying because there were about a hundred dangling loose ends and a lot of weirdass surrealistic WTF-ery going on and no real immediate resolution. I mean, sure there was resolution—the protagonist finds himself and understands Deep and Meaningful things!—but it's that kind of, hmm, "literary" and "intellectual" resolution where you have to interpret things and draw your own connections in order to find any of it at all. Again, it was an interesting book, but once again, not something I'd read on my own or want a copy of. (Except I had to buy my copy since no libraries nearby had one.)

10. Modeling in Wax for Jewelry and Sculpture by Lawrence Kallenberg: I feel like such a jewelry nerd. I actually sat down to have a leisurely skimming read-through of this—skimming the parts that I already knew or wasn't as interested in, and more closely reading those sections pertinent to my interests. Between this and what I've gleaned from research online and from other books, I feel fairly well-informed about the basics of carving wax and would like to try it some time over break. I don't have the facilities to do casting myself (not yet—but someday…) but there are casting houses and services available to do all that stuff. Even if you're not interested in the actual nitty-gritty, this book is still great to peruse because of the 5 or so color inserts of finished jewelry, including the fancy silver-and-gold unicorn featured on the cover.

11. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: The same friend who leant me Name of the Wind leant me this one too. This YA fantasy was highly acclaimed and she really loved it, but I was less than impressed. I found the pacing to be incredibly slow—they set out on a journey at the beginning of the book, but due to plot contrivances and the limitations of first-person narrative, you don't even find out where they're going or why they're going there until 3/4 of the way into the book. The preceding 3/4 is basically them walking or riding along the way and getting tidbits of the world and mythology—which was very well-crafted, beautifully Greek-influenced, and enjoyable—up to a point. I guess I'm impatient. Also, I didn't really like the narrator that much. Also, there's a point where first-person trickery comes into play wherein the narrator is perfectly aware of something very important but the reader doesn't find out about this obvious thing until the end of the book, which I found to be unsurprising and unimpressive.

Why does it sound like I'm bagging on all the books my dear friend gives to me? I LOVE most of the books she tosses my way. In fact, to do her justice, I'll just list a few here, regardless of whether or not I've read them this year:

12. Beauty by Robin McKinley: Another YA fantasy and another angle on the whole Beauty and the Beast tale, this book is brimming with lush description, luxuriant detail, and a practical, down-to-earth narrator who finds herself frequently at odds with her surroundings. Beauty's attitude coupled with McKinley's attention to detail and the flow of the story made it quite an enjoyable read. I like a lot of Robin McKinley's books and Beauty is one of my favorites.

13. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: One of the most classic science fiction novels evarrr, and simply astonishing. Pacing, character, plot, worldview, politics, psychology—this book exceeds in everything. What is it? It's the story of a boy named Ender and how he deals with being trained to—never mind. I can't do the story justice in a simple summary. Suffice to know that it is a story that will tug upon your emotions and grip you until you stay up all night reading and your eyeballs are bleeding from not blinking. Or at least that's what happened to me.

14. Enchantment by Orson Scott Card: Another marvelous book by Orson Scott Card that takes on Russian fairytales (including, of course, Baba Yaga) and connects the past and the present in the way that only a master storyteller can. Time travel in a fairytale? Why, yes. Yes, please, thank you. Explanations for how certain details came about in fairytales, such as Baba Yaga's chicken-legged house? Why, yes. Yes, thank you, please. Humor and emotion and an engrossing tale? GIVE IT HERE.

Okay, I'd better stop there because my friend has loaned me so many great books and if I don't stop now I'll go on forever. So here are a few books that I recommend, a few that are meh, and a few that I didn't personally like so much even though they had potential. I must note that with The Thief, at least, I did finish it, and even went on to read the sequel and have the (borrowed) third book sitting on my shelf awaiting my attention. The sequel picked up a bit, but I still had Issues of Implausibility with it. But still! Interesting enough that I wanted to find out what happened. And hope that it will get better.

2 comments:

Krispy said...

Hey, hey! I'd like to say, I did expect Hush, Hush to be good to good-ish. So actually I did not have low expectations for it. It just sadly did not live up to my expectations, which I suppose is the risk one runs when one is in love with the cover art. :( Okay and also I still like Patch, but everyone knows I have a soft spot for the celestially inclined. :) I'm curious about the sequel though, not gonna lie.

READ HAVEMERCY NOW PLEASE.

I work and I'm sick, but I've already finished TWO BOOKS on my list (except they're all listed under one number because they're in a series).

Alz said...

Duly noted and edited, O Krispy One. XP I generally go into YA romance with low expectations though. Actually, I go into ALL romance with low expectations. So far my expectations have either been met (but not exceeded) or have failed to be met, both on a fairly regular basis.