Les Semaines

February 22, 2009

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


Nothing to See Over Here

I have had the cold from hell--one of the worst ever, and still sound like Lauren Bacall, if Lauren Bacall was a congested, coughing, underslept mess.

This has to stop NOW.

I'm still at the stage where I am made of whine, so I'll end here. Just to let you know that I live and breathe (well, sort on that last one).

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Not much space for music recently in my aching head, except samples of Bat For Lashes' new album sound vry like the first, so good.

last week's listening § next week's listening


I have, however, been reading a lot when I was awake and my head could stand it:

Brian Hall's novel (young adult? it's certainly more dense than the usual YA novel despite its 13-year-old heroine) The Saskiad is an odd and wonderful book. Saskia is a devotee of classical texts. She's been raised in a religious commune, and lives in its remains with her mother and various children from another woman on the commune. She lives partly in a fantasy world, without friends until Jane moves into town. When her wandering father invites her on a long hike, Saskia brings Jane. She idolizes her father. This is a book focuses on the unique point of view of its heroine, which will make or break the book for you. I loved it most of the time, though at one point got impatient with it. Overall it's a rich book and a worthwhile read. I doubt you'll come across anything else quite like it.

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society believe it or not is as delightful (and not smarmy unless you're looking for it) as the reviews say. The story takes place just after World War II when people were just realizing the full extent of the horrors that took place during the war. A young writer who has just had a success with her first book and is looking for a subject for her second gets a letter from a man on Guernsey, who mentions the reading society they had there during the war. Despite being pursued by a rich, young playboy. she goes to visit the island. There she learns just what happened to its inhabitants under the German occupation. It's a bittersweet book, and it's the realities of the war situations that keep this from being too cute or too charming. So it worked for me.

Lesley Livingston's young adult fairy tale, Wondrous Strange is a bout a young actress in New York City who gets caught up in a battle between the Fey, only to realize she isn't who she thinks she is, and she finds one of the King's human guards attractive and strange. A fine addition to the growing group of such recent novels.

Jonathan Carroll used to be one of my favourite authors. His last couple of books, though, haven't been quite so much to my tastes, and I'm afraid The Ghost in Love is the same, though I did enjoy it. THis is the story of a man who should have died and the ghost that is set to watch over him. The ghost falls in love with the man's ex-girlfriend. The man srts inhabiting the life of another woman, who was supposed to die and didn't. Something is wrong with the entire set-up of the afterlife. While I always like Carroll's insights into interpersonal relationships, I am increasingly bothered by the mechanical nature of the fantastical elements--they just seem so contrived that they get in the way of me enjoying the story. I think I'm supposed to enjoy that element, too, but it makes the whole contrivance of reading too arch for me, and the sotry comes apart in my head. Fine once, but now every story? No thanks. I would probably have loved this if it were the only one I'd ever read.

Robin Benway's young adult novel Audrey, Wait! follows the travails of Audrey as she deal with the fame that follows when she breaks up with her boyfriend who is in a pop band and he writes a sng about it tht becomes a huge hit. Audrey is a delightful, believable character, and I quite enjoyed the tale of her exploits and sufferings.

Carrie Jones' girl, hero is a young adult novel about a girl from a messed-up family who writes letter to John Wayne to help tech her how to be a hero herself. Well handled. Easy to understand how she leaps at things to help her get through the day. The story of how things eventually get better is well done, too.

Monica M. Roe's young adult novel, thaw is about how the perfect, perfect athletic boy, Dane, deals with a disease that causes him a sudden physical paralysis that he may or may no be able to beat. He is a very real character in a real situation, and the book is powerful.

Lani Diane Rich's Tims Off for Good Behavior is the story of a loser hitting bottom and trying to fix her life. Somewhat funny, with an interesting main character. The only problem is that the romance felt entirely unbelievable which undermined the story. It was one of those times when you couldn't figure out what the guy saw in her to make him so perfectly patient. It made me wish I were reading a Jennifer Crusie novel instead.

Kathe Koja is one of my favourite young adult authors. Her stories are just so clearly written and ring emotionally true. Headlong did too. It's about a girl who has been going to a private school and decides to finally become a boarder when she meets a new girl and likes her detachment from the school. THey do become friends and the friendship helps both of them grow up a lot. Well handled.

Roby James' Beyond the Hedge is a Brigadoon romance. Jennifer Paul is a modern career woman who when driving in the wilds of Wales suddenly finds herself stuck beyond the hedge into a pocket of 18th-century Britain, where she meets a gorgeous man riding a horse. There are nuns and a royal romance and dragons and learning how to cope with 18th-century culture. She is desperate to get home. A little predictable but diverting.

Marie Rutkoski's children's fantasy The Cabinet of Wonders is delightfully imaginative. The young daughter of a magician goes to the casetle as a servant to rescue her inventor/magician's father's eyes from the printce who has stolen them. Great, fiesty heroine with good friends (especially the philosophical, mechanical spider who lives in her hair), a fun plot, and most inventiveness. Recommended.

Patrick Ness's young adult SF distopian novel The Knife of Never Letting Go is bleak, violent and depressing, and yet I kept reading. That's something. It managed to capture me despite that, which has a lot to do with the humour, with the main character winning me over, though he's definitely not perfect, with watching him grow and learn so quickly. Todd grew up in an isolated town, believing that the town and its members were all that was left of a large group of settler to another planet. He's the youngest, the last, boy--all the women died years before. In this world everyone can hear everyone's thoughts, and they're noisy and painful. They can also hear the thoughts of other life on the planet, including their pets (Todd has a dog). One day, out near the swamp that borders the town, Todd finds a silence, a silence that moves. From that moment on, his life will never be the same. Well-handled, but yes bleak, violent, depressing.

Margo Lanagan's children's novel, The Singing Stones, which is book 2 of a multiple author series, is a slight but entertaining book. Here two children are digging for semi-precious stones when they're whisked them off to another world, where a stone call them to rescue it. A fine read, but has none of the power of Lanagan's usual work.

Jeanne DuPrau's children's novel, The City of Ember is about Lina and Doon, who switch the jobs they are assigned by lot. Lina gets to be the messenger she wants to be and Doon gets to work in the steam tunnels, where he hopes to be able to fix the underground city's failing generator. Gradually the peril their city is in come home to them, with goods and food disappearing from store shelves and the generator failing for hours at a time. How Lina and Doon find a solution is fun reading.

Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart, and Lani Diane Rich's fantasy romance novel Dogs and Goddesses is a romp. Three women find themselves drawn to a god obedience class, where they drink a strange tonic and suddenly find themselves understanding their dog's barks. Each of them also meets an intriguing man. But the woman who leads the class is strangely demanding and the women, too, start strangely affecting the world around them. Not as good as Crusie's solo novels. Entertaining, though.

In Naomi Novik's fourth Temeraire novel, Empire of Ivory, England's dragon fleet has been felled by a virus that weakens them so much that many are dying. None seem immune or to recover--except for Temeraire, who had had and recoveredf rom a similar disease on their previous travels. Off they go to Cape Town find out what cured him. This is another rich, detailed tale of nineteenth-century dragons. And about honour. A good read.

Tana French's mystery novel, In The Woods is told by Rob Ryan, an Irish murder dectective working with his partner on the case of a murdered child. The girl was found in the woods--a woods where twenty years before Rob was found with blood in his shoes while his two best friends were missing and never found--and Rob has no memory of what happened. Rob's tale of the investigation, the little he remembers of what happened to him, of the politics of the site (an archeological site due to be developed into a motorway), the politics of the office and his deep relationship with his partner makes for fascinating reading. Dense and well-written.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Ha! I have no brain cells with which to write.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

November 18, 1996 (snow)

from Elizabeth Berg: "She used her own hand to turn her face away / hands weighed down by their emtriness.

April 8, 1997

Wait--the world holds water,
they say. It's water that will
save us. The earth is a perpetual
motion machine fueled by water.
And where there is no water, by wind
and what it makes of water's absence.
sand. I can almost feel the drop of
each grain in my palm. Each tiny
thinness of it against the fat
lushness of a drop of rain. It overwhelms
those desert seeds and they swim
will I add more and they swallow
the water whole like some creature
starving for air. They'll wonder
why I say this, why I need
to trouble them with this explanation
of why it's all just another
round of paper covers rock breaks
scissors cuts paper. Each grain
of sand wears the stone and
sicssors down till they join them
water dissolves the paper into it
And the rain is lost in the dunes
and the dunes in the sea.
And they both astonish the skin
of my open palm. Yes, I can wait.

[Later became part of the poem "Paper Rock Scissors Stone Water Air" in Blood Memory.]

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