It’s December, and the only way I’m going to get through a fraction of the reading I wanted to have done by the end of the year is if I read a book a day (I’m not counting things I read for academic purposes, which are supposed to take up most of my day anyway). I am not impressed with myself this year. But here are the few things I managed to read in November.
Nicholas Blake, Malice in Wonderland: Still not great at women-who-aren’t-Georgia, still pretty good at everything else. Far from the best of the Strangeways books, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Anita Desai, The Artist of Disappearance: I wrote about this here, though I think it could use some more writing-about.
Ali Smith, The Accidental: This talk was a good excuse for a reread. I don’t think it’s my favourite thing by Smith (who is lovely, and who recognised “the girls who have the blog” and who now, to my horror, knows that this blog exists) but I was glad to reread it as an adult.
Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam: Weak in ways that really upset me. I don’t think I’ll be reviewing, or even generally talking about this one.
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl, Attachments: So Rowell’s written teenagers in the 80s (Eleanor & Park, which I wrote about last month), new adults in the 2000s and people-my-age in the 90s. Fangirl did nothing for me; it’s very familiar (I too went to college at the height of Harry Potter’s popularity, I had friends who wrote fic that mattered to a lot of people, I read a lot of fanfic both then and now), but that wasn’t enough for me to feel particularly affected by it. Attachments did a better job of its characters but I think it wrote itself into a bit of a corner–having based its entire premise on a pretty awful violation of privacy, and an acknowledgement of how awful said violation is (I’ve read books that would skip over this and hope we wouldn’t notice) it jumps to a happily ever after that feels hurried and unearned–the heroine’s (rightful) anger is mentioned, but never worked through and I can’t imagine it not coming back to sabotage this relationship.
Tove Jansson, Fair Play: Perfect.
Shimon Adaf, Sunburnt Faces: This is a difficult book to talk about–as Adam Roberts says in this review, it’s really not like anything else. But its people are difficult, they have real, ordinary lives, and occasionally things happen that are … bigger than ordinary life. I’m doing a terrible job of this, and I think I’ll have to go back to the book before I can say anything worthwhile about it, but it’s rough and powerful and kind of amazing.
Susan Elizabeth Philips, Call Me Irresistable, Match Me If You Can, The Great Escape: Read a bunch of SEP romance novels, don’t remember much about them except that The Great Escape (all of whose adult characters are white) is Really Concerned with the correct ways to talk about race.
Bennett Madison, September Girls: I’ve been wanting to read this for months and I’m glad I finally did. It does clever, clever things with The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Anderson and Disney), and with constructed gender, and beauty, and masculinity, and turns male virginity into a plot point, and it just really pleased me. What I’d like now is for someone to read it alongside Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts; I think something wonderful might come of this.
Patrick Ness, More Than This: Mixed feelings about this one. I think it starts out with a good premise, and Ness is great on teenage feelings (though I’d have been happier if the bisexual who has sex with multiple people and breaks their hearts was at least a pov character). And I think there’s a lot to be said about how the book deals with narrative, both in the ways its structure allows for a dipping in and out of plot, and in its very narrative-aware protagonist. But the science fiction plot (which is one of a couple of explanations the book offers of itself) felt really week, and its alternative felt underdeveloped. Mixed feelings, as I said.
Jean Yves-Ferri and Didier Conrad, Asterix and the Picts: It feels more Asterix-y than Asterix and the Falling Sky? But I didn’t think this was great.
David Sedaris, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: Resounding meh.
Julia Quinn, The Sum of All Kisses: Has a heroine who is holding a grudge that feels more annoying than sympathy-arousing, and a maths-genius hero whose genius we really don’t see enough of. But it’s Julia Quinn, so it’s generally likeable and warm and full of big loving families (not counting the hero’s dad, who is obviously vile and a big part of why this book doesn’t really work that well) and safe in ways escapist fiction is allowed to be.