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04 June 2010 @ 08:20 pm
#23, #24, #25, #26, #27  
Dragon Haven, Robin Hobb



There's not much to say about this book. It concludes the journey started in the first book, ending up at Telsingra, which naturally was the place Fitz discovered yonks ago with the travelling stones. Some people died, several fell in love, plot twists were exposed with a single yank. Hobb did not exactly exert herself with this one. Although I enjoyed it going along, I kept waiting for it to get better. It didn't. It's a shame; she's clearly passed her peak as a writer.



The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan



The story: unfortunately told in the first person present tense, it's basically an amalgam of the Village and (my reference point) the attack of the Red Ships in Robin Hobb's Assassin Trilogy. However, that part is basically a fill-in-the-blanks of any zombie story/movie you've ever read. As zombies are not my Thing, the Red Ships are the only thing I have to go on; it doesn't mean the story felt any fresher or unique to me. Zombies are part of the Jungian consciousness now.
Anyway, for some reason, you can only kill zombies by cutting off their heads or setting them alight, which begs the question of why they weren't all firebombed when the issue first became a threat.

It all begins when protagonist Mary's mother chooses to become a zombie instead of leaving her father to his fate. It strikes me that if anyone understood what that meant - essentially becoming a mindless predator, albeit an uber-slow one - no one would think it romantic. A series of reveals means Mary discovers the local religious are hiding secrets about the past; they also happen to sacrifice a unique visitor to the village to the zombies. I am still not clear on why they did this.

Eventually, the zombies overwhelm the village and Mary, with some others, escapes. There's a really tiresome, poorly plotted and overwrought romantic subplot that makes about as much sense as anything in this book. I was super annoyed at the conclusion of the book because it wasn't. Even as a setup for the next book (presumably in a trilogy or series, as everything is these days) there was remarkably little in the way of forward momentum. Perhaps this would have had a better impact on me had I read it at sixteen. Some books are clearly meant to be read at sixteen. Still, I may read the next book, if only because of the clearly gay romance and to see if anyone does come up with the firebombing plan, or if they're all just as dumb as they seem.

He places his hands over mine, the feeling so warm and so familiar. "Those days back there, in the house. That is my world. That is my truth," he says. "That is my ocean."

This was pretty awwww. I wasn't surprised that she had to kill Travis, but it still made me think hard. Maybe because I read this on a plane and there wasn't much else to do.



The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon



I've put off writing this up for ages, because I loved it a lot but I also had some issues with it. As I go to describe the plot I hit one of them: it's EVERYWHERE. I mean yes, it has two protags, so it has two storylines - but they're supposed to be entwined, yet they actually feel like two different books. And I suppose the most - good? bad? - thing was that, although it was supposed to be set in the forties and fifties, it reads like modern day. Which is good because I hate reading these doomed-for-their-time gay love stories, but bad because when it came to Sammy's outing at the trial I was all "... so?"

The romances felt way too ... convenient. Like, I realise they were vehicles to lead to the unlikely event of Rosa and Sammy's marriage and all the other tragedies - like Bacon's death and Joe's immolation - but a little more exploration of why an heiress and a hot film-star fell for these two particular men would have been nice. And while Joe's moving return to the bosom of his family was moving, the reasons why he stayed away were flimsy to say the least.

But that's just me caviling. The two scenes between Bacon and Sammy - their first kiss in an electrical storm and their first sex in a miniature city, oh my heart! They were A-MAZING. I learned quite a lot about comics, too.

There were a couple of quotes about the creative process that made me go "... YES. I DO THAT. ♥______♥"

As he watched Joe stand, blazing, on the fire escape, Sammy felt an ache in his chest that turned out to be, as so often occurs when memory and desire conjoin with a transient effect of weather, the pang of creation.

At such moments, she did not invent her plots or design her characters; she remembered them.

And the philosophical points he makes about the use of books as an escape from reality - really, all I can say is HEARTS. IN MY EYES. HEARTS.

[...] the usual charge levelled against comic books, that they offered merely an easy escape from reality, seemed to Joe actually to be a powerful argument on their behalf.

That was magic - not the apparent magic of the silk-hatted card-palmer, or the bold, brute trickery of the escape artist, but the genuine magic of art. It was a mark of how fucked-up and broken was the world - the reality - that had swallowed his home and his family that such a feat of escape, by no means easy to pull off, should remain so universally despised.

The newspaper articles that Joe had read about the upcoming Senate investigation into comic books always cited 'escapism' among the litany of injurious consequences of their reading, and dwelled on the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life.

And some parts made me cry.

He wondered what he would have put on his own parents' tombstones had he been given the opportunity. Names and dates alone seemed extravagance enough.

Sammy felt, that morning, [...] that he would rather not have love at all than be punished for loving. He had no idea how long his life would one day seem to have gone on; how daily present the absence of love would come to feel.

I want to see this, thought Rosa. In fact, there had been nothing in her life that she had ever wanted to see more.

Some parts made me laugh!

"And he was driven mad."
"Well..."
"And that's why he puts on the bat's clothes."
"Actually, they don't go so far as to say that," Sammy said. "But I guess it's there between the lines."


And some amazing imagery.

the iron mantilla of Queensboro Bridge.

Thunder harried the building like a hound, brushing its crackling coat against the spandrels and mullions, snuffling at the windowpanes.

Sammy would feel his small, damp palm and bitten fingers absorbed into the deep, sober Presbyterian fastness of Tracy Bacon's grip.

Bacon ;___________;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;



Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby



This book has an interesting premise: Annie breaks up with her long-time boyfriend, who is the ultimate fanboy of Tucker Crowe, singer. Annie emails Tucker about some archived music he released and they strike up an internet romance. It's very much chicklit as written by a man - Annie is thirty-nine and wants a baby for what any woman would describe as totally irrational reasons:

And she wanted a child for all the usual reasons [...] to feel unconditional love [...] she wanted to be held by someone who would never question the embrace, the why or the who or the how long.

Like, hello? Who has unconditional love for their parents or puts up with endless hugs from them? I HATE when people think like that. You're going to have basically the same relationship with your kids as your parents had with you; you won't magically turn into the Brady Bunch through wishing hard enough.

As I said, man's perspective: Annie is 'just as pretty' as a former model who's Botoxed to the hilt, but doesn't realise it. And is kind of ... fine with it. Men just seem blithely unaware of the body pressure women suffer daily and involuntarily.

Anyway, Tucker is majorly fucked up and has an amusing son called Jackson. Some of their dialogues made me laugh out loud. (On the PLANE.) I enjoyed the story, too, although it was a bit depressing - certainly Annie's thought about happiness -

final, incontrovertible truth that there was no point in trying anything that might make her happier, because she'd fail regardless.

- made me cry because I think I'll probably end up forty and unloved, too. Still, I'd probably read it again. When I’m forty.

Luck is a disease/I don't want it near me

Cool (and only, lol) lyrics.

Nobody gets forgotten any more. Seven fans in Australia team up with three Canadians, nine Brits and a couple of dozen Americans, and somebody who hasn't recorded in twenty years gets talked about every day. It's what the internet's for. That and pornography.

I love this. Hornby GETS the internet, the good and the bad bits.

"He was impeccably behaved," said Natalie. "A pleasure to be with. And he knows more or less everything there is to know about snakes."
"I don't know how long all of them are," said Jackson modestly.


See? Jackson is AWESOME.



Life of Pi, Yann Martel



This was a very difficult book for an atheist to read, as it was full of the worst kind of pompous, self-satisfied religious prosing. I was recently introduced to the idea of 'questioning the narrator' and I do question this narrator, who perhaps retrospectively embraced religion after KILLING AND POSSIBLY EATING ANOTHER MAN.

The book has two halves, the boring first half where Pi describes his life in Pondicherry - very badly; I usually get a strong flavour of India from Indian writers, but this could have been anywhere, so long as it was beige - and the second half, where he's lost at sea with a tiger. There were a bunch of other animals too, but they devour each other. Then it turns out this might have been an allegory for the death of the other survivors of the shipwreck, one of whom as I mention Pi KILLED AND POSSIBLY ATE.

These are some of the quotes that literally made me gag:

in the thrall of reason, that fool's gold for the bright

I know zoos are no longer in people's good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.

I can well imagine an atheist's last words: "White, white! L-L-Love! My god!" - and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, "Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain," and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story.

How dare he, who has no more proof than any atheist of what happens after we die, belligerently assume he is right?!

What if his words had the effect of polio on me? What a terrible disease it must be if it could kill God in a man.

I say what a GREAT disease, but YMMV!

I never forget to include this fish in my prayers.

What a waste of time. Praying and this book.



Previously, on Book Glomp 2010:
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, Anton Chekhov | I'll take you there, Joyce Carol Oates | Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides ♥ | The School for Husbands, Moliere | On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks | The Famished Road, Ben Okri | Lord of the Flies, William Golding | Moby Dick, Herman Melville A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway | Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell ♥ | The Sea, the Sea, Irish Murdoch ♥ ♥ | Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad | Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy | The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman | The Sea, John Banville | paddy clarke ha ha ha, Roddy Doyle | The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough ♥ | The Godfather, Mario Puzo ♥ | The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman | Possession, A.S. Byatt ♥ ♥ ♥ | Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales | The Mysteries of Pittsburg, Michael Chabon
 
 
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Kat: [bandom] gerard + bookskyasuriin on June 4th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)

I've read both Forest & Juliet and felt kind of 'meh' about Forest too. It left me feeling rather empty inside, which I suppose it was supposed to but I don't know... I don't think I'm going to be picking up the sequel (although maybe I should because I might be talking to the author next month through skype with one of our library's book clubs).

Juliet Naked I liked a lot more than i thought I would. Although it really did feel like Hornby, I also liked the protagonists more than I have in his other books. So that was good.

I should really read Kavalier and Clay. I started to but there were too many other things I was reading too and it sort of got put aside. I should go back to it, yes?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: maskscoradh on June 5th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
Wow, it's hard to imagine a library actually talking to a reasonably well-known author. The only ones they get on at my local are self-published poets, lol. Anyway - I think it suffers from the common fault of this new-brand YA: jerky, stop-and-start narrative flow. The action parts are always rushed and they're broken up by exposition that takes days or months of time. Augh.

I've read About a Boy and High Fidelity and ... I didn't like them. Maybe because I was expecting something different. I know him better by now, so I wasn't hurt by the lack of real romance, I suppose.

I think yes. It's pretty amazing if you can get over the fact that yes, it really is set in forties NYC and not twenty-tens NYC! It's a minor quibble, though, really.
pir8fancier on June 5th, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
I just finished Juliet, Naked, and I found it profoundly misgogynistic for a host of reasons. It was one of those very well-written books that failed me completely. I was incredibly angry when I finished it, coming to the conclusion that it was, in the end, nothing more than some pathetic male fantasy. Although I did think what he had to say about fandom very interesting.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: socksscoradh on June 5th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
That's so curious! It didn't ping my metre at all, although now I'm worried that said metre only picks up really blatantly obvious misogyny. What was it that did that to you? Was it Duncan? Or Gina maybe?
pir8fancier on June 5th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
We have this man (the musician) who is described as a layabout who lives off of women he impregnates. He has children scattered all over the globe that he doesn't seem to care about. What's even better is that the partners of his former girlfriends seem to have no problem assuming responsibility fo ris children. Aside from one child (and why this one child is so much better than the others remains a complete mystery), they all irritate the shit out of him. Just because he admits he's an abysmal father doesn't mitigate the fact he is one. And we, the reader, are supposed to give him a pass because he ends up sacrificing his art because of a ten-minute fuck? Sorry. No. No. And can I say no. He does not get a pass. As much as the author would like us to like him (as the female protagonist clearly does), it doesn't wash. I acknowledge his charm for one second, and then I think about all these children he could care less about. And I think, you know, if you had this epiphany in the bathroom, why didn't you invest in condoms and STOP POPULATING THE WORLD WITH CHILDREN YOU ARE AT BEST INDIFFERENT ABOUT?

This is such a male fantasy. This guy is a jerk and yet all these women fall in love with him and bear his children. Not that I want this fantasy where's he's this amazing guy, so therefore, our female protagonist falls in love with him, because how Barbara Cartland of me. No, I want these women to stop falling in love with an asshole. I want them to grow a pair.

And now we get to the real crux of why this book is so sexist. Because the women are idiots. Because they don't use birth control. Because this man has a history of impregnating women and them dumping them. In fact, they have a little club together, Dumpees United, where they can commiserate over what a horrible father this man is. And yet our female protagonist thinks that it's a really good idea to have a relationship and a child with this man.

For the life of me, I don't know why she's so desperate for a child that she doesn't sleep with her old boyfriend. Because, frankly, it doesn't matter. She's leaving one selfish man for an equally selfish man.

I disliked everyone by the end of this book. For their choices, for their lack of choices, for their apathy, for their stupidity, for their shocking lack of self-respect. Not even the beautiful, beautiful writing could save this book for me. That's why I thought it was misogynistic. Because all these women forgive him over and over again. Even the kid (female) that he abandons and barely acknowledges forgives him. Asshole with a functioning dick. That is about all I can about this character. And the women keep on taking and abetting his selfishness.
skull_bearerskull_bearer on June 5th, 2010 12:43 am (UTC)
The guy who did Pi has just released another book, again with animals as allegory, only about the Holocaust, with the first half being a self-gratifying rant about how teh ebil historians have kept all authors from writing anything that was not utterly factual about the subject, and how he was breaking free from this mold.
Yes, he was actually boasting about the lack of research he did. He came across as such a douche.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: singingscoradh on June 5th, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
I saw a review for that in the Times - they didn't seem too impressed by it either. I have no idea why it's so raved about; I think it was the best-selling Booker ever? Makes no sense to me!

Clearly he is a douche, then, and not just his characters. It's not something you can hide for long!