I’ve taken a break from reviewing/blogging the past couple of months, but I really got back into reading in January after only reading half of Dune and nothing else in December. I’ll get back to doing full reviews in February, but for now some mini-reviews of everything I read in January in the order I read them:
Dune by Frank Herbert (novel)
This book is exactly why I hate reading my friends’ favourite books of all time. It’s not that I hated it, I just felt ‘meh’, the worst of all the book reactions. I think Herbert is a great world-builder and I can see how elements of the story influenced a huge number of people, but I just didn’t care about any of the characters. If it had ended with a huge asteroid plummeting into the building, it would have been an annoying ending but I wouldn’t have cared that all the characters were dead. Unfortunately, meh.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling (novel)
Continuing my slow read-along with the Witch, Please podcast (you’re listening already, right? Smart and funny feminist critique and love for the series – you must). Harry is annoying in this (he’s supposed to be), but I found him less annoying than the first time I read it. This book has some interesting things/issues to think about. For example, I don’t like that as Tom Riddle starts creating more horcruxes (and crossing the line over to ‘evil’) he loses his good looks and becomes more disfigured. Yay for disfigurement = evil. Sigh. The final book has always been my favourite (I ignore the epilogue), so I’m looking forward to seeing what I think when I get to that in February/March).
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan (graphic novel – fiction)
I absolutely loved this. The whole book is this really beautiful depiction of depression and sadness; he almost doesn’t need the short sentences that accompany each picture. I think it jumps to a happy ending a bit too quickly and I wish it had been a bit longer, but this is definitely my favourite read of the month. Stunning.
Bitch Planet #6 by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Taki Soma (comics – fiction)
It’s back! Again! This is one of the special third issues, this time about Meiko Maki’s history. A short, dark origin story with some really great lines and imagery. There’s also an absolutely brilliant reply by Kelly Sue to a ‘not all men’ letter, and a nice tease on the back page about the beginning of the second arc…
The Killing Joke by Alan Moore & Brian Bolland (comics – fiction)
It’s taken me ages to get to this, possibly because I don’t often read superhero comics. I like the idea behind it that anyone could become the ‘bad guy’ given a bad enough day, but I think it needed an extra few panels, maybe a page or two, as his final conversion to the Joker felt a bit too quick. It’s Alan Moore, so it’s dark, but not long enough to be as great as it could have been.
Sum by David Eagleman (short stories)
I like the ideas behind this collection (different versions of the afterlife – like working as a character in other people’s dreams), but I ended up giving up half-way through, despite how short it is. I enjoyed a couple of the stories, but quickly felt bored and unmoved. Life’s too short, ironically.
Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin (novel)
I’m not really sure what I think about this, and it’s hard to talk about without giving everything away. It’s a coming-of-age-in-later-life story, moving backwards and forwards in time as the pivotal moment in Diana Dodsworth’s life is slowly revealed. I think the balancing between the two time periods, and the timing of the reveal, is well-handled. There were just a couple of moments that made me cringe at the language dealing with an issue (when it was the narrator and not tied to the views of another character).
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (non-fiction)
This came extremely highly recommended, and I like Amanda Palmer, so I think my expectations were too high. I nearly gave up during the first part because I didn’t like the writing style at all. I don’t mind when books rapidly switch between periods of time, but it was very repetitive and felt more like a rushed first draft. I am glad I stuck with it, though, as the writing does smooth out as it goes on (though still repetitive at times). I agree with some of what she says and disagree with other things, which is much the same as what I think of her outside of the book. As it needs another couple of rounds of editing, I’d skip this and just watch her TED talk, which has everything the book does, except her relationship with Neil Gaiman, in a much more concise way.
Also on the blog this month:
Currently reading: The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm (for the Women’s Lives Book Club – an online book club dedicated to reading biographies of women. There’s still plenty of time to join in – just contact Rachel Syme)