Archive for June 2nd, 2015

June 2, 2015

May Reading

Books! Carnegie books, other books. In addition to these I’m partway through Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World and Indra Das’s The Devourers, but May has gone by alarmingly quickly.


Geraldine McCaughrean, The Middle of Nowhere: (Read as part of this year’s Carnegie shadowing) The early parts of this book would make for a fantastic horror movie. There are bits and pieces in the later parts that would also make for good things. As a whole, it’s underwhelming, rather dull, and I find its treatment of history’s good and bad actors trite.

Tanya Landman, Buffalo Soldier: (Also part of the Carnegie shadowing project).This is a lot better than it might have been, considering the horrors we were subjected to last year. I was never really gripped though, and I find the later parts of the book abrupt and rather disappointing (and I’m talking about this elsewhere, I know, but I WISH I was seeing more books where characters’ political opinions were a bit less about their personal feelings for individuals and more … political).

Jenny Offill and Chris Applehans, Sparky!: Jenny Offill wrote a children’s book! About a sloth! Called Sparky! That does nothing because it is a sloth! I knew, vaguely, that Offill had written children’s books, but I’d never come across any and am used to thinking of her in the context of Dept. of Speculation (the Literary World’s narrative of her seems broadly to be that she wrote her first book, then spent a few years silent, then produced her second in 2014), so this still came as a big surprise to me. Sparky! is great–it’s dryly funny and has a genuine warmth to it but is also filled with long silences, and Applehans (whose work I’d also never come across before)’s illustrations remind me a little bit of Jon Klassen. So good.

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, Sex Criminals (vol I): I’ve been hearing how great this series is for a long, long time now, and I’ve had this first volume for months. Okay. You were all right. It is very good.

Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, This One Summer: I wrote about this here, and it is gorgeous.

P.G. Wodehouse, Sam the Sudden: It’s getting rarer and rarer to find an entire Wodehouse novel that I haven’t read, but the Everyman reissues over the past few years have made it slightly more possible. I picked this one up at a book fair last month, read it on a sick day recently, and it’s very definitely Lesser Wodehouse; charming, impulsive young man is less charming than usual, beautiful, sensible girl next door is also less so than usual (though for once it’s nice to have a Wodehouse heroine object to having the hero rush in and paw at her?), &c. Set against that are some excellent Soapy and Mrs Molloy and Chimp Adair moments, and also lots of Lord Tilbury, the Rupert Murdoch of the Wodehouse world. I’m glad I read it, but it’s not exactly a classic.

Elizabeth Laird, The Fastest Boy in the World: Another Carnegie book that I was wary of because last years shortlist was so awful at the one book set in Africa. This one’s about a boy who likes to run, in Ethiopia, and it manages to take Mysterious Relatives Concealing Something, Granddad’s Secret Past, Ethiopian history, deaths in the family, and running and somehow turn the whole into something quite inconsequential and low-stakes. Which is an achievement of a sort, I suppose.

Naomi Novik, Uprooted: I’m writing about this elsewhere, and I’m still a bit confused about what makes it so good. Because it is. It’s patchy, and unashamedly trope-y and there are sections (the forest bits in particular) where I couldn’t help but think of other authors whose prose would be more suited to this in my head but it is so satisfying, and so good at women caring about (and being angry at) one another, and at protecting people who need it, and other kind, real things. And it is a book that gets that sometimes you want your teenage heroine to be not pretty but have special powers and eventually a relationship with a grumpy older wizard. Satisfying, as I say. Possibly even fulfilling.

Brian Conaghan, When Mr Dog Bites: Another Carnegie book (only two left! she gasped, relieved). This one has more meat to it than some of the others and for that reason alone I quite enjoyed reading it. Unfortunately this meant it also managed to do many more things to annoy me than they, merely being dull, did.

John Conway, C. M. Kosemen and Darren Naish, All Yesterdays: Dinosaurs! I really enjoyed this, and will be putting my column about it up soon.