Archive for February 5th, 2014

February 5, 2014

January Reading

I spent the second half of January being thoroughly on holiday, much of it in a garden overlooking a lake. Much of my reading this month has been holiday-ish (the first half of the month was spent producing many thousands of thesis words and I read very little as a result) as a result. It has been a good month.


Mhairi MacFarlane, You Had Me At Hello: There’s so much about this book and its characters that is charming and likeable, and then there’s the thing where grand romances are easier if the wife of your beloved is a bitch.

Alison Lurie, Foreign Affairs: I read this on a plane. It begins with a children’s literature scholar travelling to England, on a plane. And having a relationship with England and English literature that is  uncomfortable and familiar. And some other stuff happens, but the real point is this is my future and that is terrifying.

Georgette Heyer, The Reluctant Widow: Not one of her best, but I found myself appreciating it more on this read than on previous ones.

Shoma Narayanan, The One She Was Warned About: Wrote about this here.

Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, Redheads at the Chalet School: Which is actually a meta-commentary on fictional worlds including but not limited to Brent-Dyer’s own. I can totally prove this.

Adam Roberts, The Riddles of The Hobbit: I don’t plan to list things I read for academic purposes in these posts, and I’m quite sure I’ll be citing this particular book a few times because there are parts of it that are very useful to me. But I’d have read it even if I was studying something completely unrelated because I enjoy Roberts’ criticism and I love The Hobbit. I have a whole rant about What’s Wrong With Tolkien Criticism (it is full of generalisations but I am willing to perform it for anyone who will listen) and I read this book during a month when I was drowning in it, and it was exactly what I needed. Sometimes I need to be reminded of how much criticism allows you to do with a book. This was a good reminder.

Anna Katharine Green, The Affair Next Door: Wrote about this here.

Patricia McKillip, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld: I seem to remember thinking that the Riddlemaster books were great and find that I remember nothing about them. This book has made me think they need a reread; not much happens but it’s very good anyway.

E.J. Swift, Osiris: I feel like I need to think about this one a lot more, but I also think I liked it.

Edmund Crispin, The Glimpses of the Moon, The Long Divorce: The Long Divorce contains possibly the least convincing romance I’ve ever read—shy, attractive man and reserved, attractive woman’s eyes meet across a murder (in a manner of speaking) and they Just Know. But there is a crime that is vaguely solvable for once (I can never solve a Gervase Fen mystery, and hours after reading one have usually forgotten who the criminal was and how they did it and that’s okay) and there is a cat who sees Martians and everything is delightful. Glimpses of the Moon is one of the weaker mysteries, but it’s hilarious. With this I’ve read all the Fen books, and I am rather sad about this and I wish there were more.

Anoushka Ravishankar, Jerry Pinto, and Sayoni Basu, Phuss Phuss Boom: Three excellent short stories about farting. I was a little concerned, reading Jerry Pinto’s introduction to his story, that he thought some creatures were more deserving of having their eyes farted out ( … spoiler?) than others; I was happy to find that that was not the case.

Courtney Milan, The Governess Affair, The Duchess War, The Countess Conspiracy, The Heiress Effect: Reread The Heiress Effect for a post I’d been wanting to write for a while (coming soon, hopefully, along with another post about Milan I didn’t think I was going to write), and therefore read the others in the series for context + completion. Milan really seems to like pitting her hero and heroine against one another in situations where their aims come directly into conflict: see Selina’s attempts to bring down the Duke vs Hugo’s need to keep the Duke afloat for his own payoff, Robert’s inciting the workers vs Minnie’s hiding her past, Oliver’s political aims vs Jane’s need to remain oblivious for her own (and her sister’s) protection. A thing that is good about this: Milan’s characters are always people with lives and concerns outside of their romances. A thing that is annoying about this: if you read them all at once it’s hard not to notice their sameyness of plot.

Nadifa Mohamed, The Orchard of Lost Souls: I read this for a review, which I should maybe get around to writing.

Nicholas Blake, The Sad Variety: I think I’ve also read all the Nigel Strangeways books now, and while some of them have made me angry or unhappy, I’m genuinely sorry I’ll never have another. This one is very much Of Its Time—published in 1964, with frequent references to the revolution in Hungary, the horrors of communism (the villains are communists—though when Blake has characters argue its benefits he generally comes down on the leftier side of things), nuclear fission. There is not enough Clare, there’s one tragic Motherhood Is Everything figure who the other characters seem to think belongs in Greek tragedy but to me belonged in Agatha Christie, and there’s a precocious child with adorably bad spelling. It’s also not so much a detective story as a thriller; Nigel does very little detecting. I enjoyed it anyway.

Shalini Srinivasan, Vanamala and the Cephalopod: This is so good. It reminded me a bit of Valente’s The Girl Who books, a bit of China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun, even a bit of Kipling’s Just So Stories. There may be an H.P. Lovecraft reference. Our heroine calls all older people mama or mami, whether they be god, underwater dictator or local grocer. I’m still not entirely sure what a Boopy is.

Jeanette Winterson, The Daylight Gate: This is awful. It’s not Winterson-y at all, which is fine, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t branch out into other things. But it is actively, (objectively?), bad.

Beatrice Alemagna, A Lion in Paris: Gorgeous, though I find myself wanting to read it alongside a mummy story I read in December. Which is not something I was expecting.

Geeta Dharmarajan and Wen Hsu, How To Weigh an Elephant: Is a Women in Science book, and I think I must write a column about it sometime. This, and the books above and below it on this list, were the result of a visit to the children’s sections of various bookshops to see what I’d missed. A lot, apparently.

Komilla Raote and Vandana Bist, The Princess with the Longest Hair: Lovely, and I’ll put my column that is mostly about it on the blog soon.