Archive for ‘Books read in 2013’

April 1, 2013

March Reading

I’m on the jury for this year’s SFF translation awards, so some of my non-column reading time has been taken up by the things I’m  reading for that. Which means (since I’ll not be talking about the books I’m reading for the award publicly) that my monthly reading lists are probably going to look a bit shorter for a while.

Leaving out the books for the award, it seems I read one book by a man this month. My twitter followers will be heartened by this clear evidence of #misandry.

 

Ankaret Wells, Firebrand: I’d been hearing good things about Wells’ books for a while, and then this one showed up on the Tiptree list. I really enjoyed it, and wrote more about it here.

Samhita Arni, The Missing Queen: Arni is now a friend, which means I’m not going to review her books anymore. But I enjoyed this, a noir-ish thriller in which a naive young journalist goes off in search of The Truth in a city where this is all rather inconvenient.

Noel Streatfeild, The Painted Garden: A reread for the column, which is here.

Tamora Pierce, Trickster’s Choice/ Trickster’s Queen: A friend asked why I found these books so awful (I like a lot of Pierce’s other books) and I didn’t have a strong recollection of them beyond “white girl fixes colonialism”, so I decided to do a reread. At some point I should write about them; for now, yep. They’re awful, un-nuanced, racist, and rereading them was very unpleasant.

Amruta Patil, Adi Parva: I should have a review of this out soon, and will link to it when I do. It’s not perfect, but it is very beautiful.

Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Reviewed in the column, here.

Keshni Kashyap and Mari Araki, Tina’s Mouth: This was also reviewed for the left of cool column, here.

Andrey Kurkov, Death and the Penguin: I wrote a column, and will post it on the blog in a few days. I loved this.

Elsie J. Oxenham, Finding Her Family: I’ve written in the past about Enid Blyton’s suddenly-terrible parents and guardian figures; I think with Finding Her Family Oxenham may have outdone her. This book is about a girl who discovers in her teens that the person she thought was her mother was actually her aunt; her mother died when she was a baby, her aunt didn’t have a child but wanted one, and “naturally” her father couldn’t take care of such a small child. The aunt is dead, the uncle (who has never seemed to love her that much) wants to go abroad for a job and hits on the clever idea of sending her back to her biological family. Which consists of her two older siblings (both too young to remember her existence), her father (who is abroad and uncontactable) and his second wife and their children.

Things are going well-Hazel and her “new” sister Audrey are close friends and Hazel also becomes close to Audrey’s best friend Brenda. Hazel looks nothing like the rest of her family-she resembles Brenda’s mother. Who died, when Brenda was very young, along with her baby. In the same house as Audrey and Hazel’s mother died, and around the same time. What a coincidence!

Obviously, it turns out that the babies were switched- there was no hope that Brenda’s mother would survive, and Audrey’s father thought that his wife might have a chance of living if she thought her own child was alive. Fair enough, I suppose, but what I’m more interested in is how the father who has been reliably loving and honourable (at least as far as his daughter is concerned) up to this point is suddenly revealed to be a coward who transfers the whole family (barring Hazel, obviously) to another continent rather than face up to what he has done. Once again adults in children’s literature world are proven to be horrible people.

 

 

March 3, 2013

February Reading

My reading this month was determined by reviews, the Delhi Book Fair, and Delhi Comic Con, as will probably become clear.

Jhangir Kerawala, The Adventures of Timpa: The Red Hooded Gang, Operation Rescue, The Golden Horn, The Legacy of the Gods: The Timpa comics were inspired by the Tintin series, but set in Calcutta. Timpa is a teenaged? possibly? boy who solves crimes with the help of his very trusting policeman father and a grumpy grandfather who always seems to get things wrong. I’m writing a longer piece on them elsewhere, but for now know that I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Mridula Koshy, Not Only The Things That Have Happened: My review should be appearing in The Hindustan Times in the near future. When Koshy’s book of short stories came out a few years ago most of the Indian critical establishment was raving about her style. I somehow managed not to read If It Is Sweet but I think I will have to. At the level of the individual sentence Koshy is better than most writers I can think of. Not Only The Things … is a book whose plot sounds potentially very annoying and Indian Literary Fiction-y, but it manages simply by being playful and nuanced and gorgeously written to avoid that awful fate. I really, really liked it.

Roma Singh, The Magic Feather: Part of my bookfair loot. I talked about it here.

Francesca Xotta, Owl Ball: See above.

Dr Zakir Husain, Samina Mishra, Pooja Pottenkulam, The Bravest Goat in the World: See above.

Mark O’Connell, Epic Fail: An exploration of bad art gone viral. I wrote a column about Epic Fail here. It’s clever and personal as well as being very funny, and I really enjoyed it.

Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time: A reread, in honour of current events. I wrote about it here.

Gwyneth Jones, Divine Endurance: I can’t remember when I last bounced off a book so badly. I’ve enjoyed Jones’ writing, both fiction and nonfiction, before, and while I was wary of a book by a British author set in postapocalyptic Asia I was quite looking forward to engaging with the set of issues that that raised. But I could never enter the book even that much; it’s possible other people will enjoy this, but to me it felt like running repeatedly into a brick wall.

Anjali Purohit, Ragi-Ragini: I wrote about this for the column and will post it on the blog soon. Ragi-Ragini is a fictionalised memoir disguised as a recipe book, but the memoir parts do not only tell the story of “Ragini”, but (second-hand) that of her mother; and the whole is interleaved with poetry that traces the life of yet another woman. It’s a bit stilted or overwritten at times but it is also doing a number of things and it’s a lovely, warm book about female communities and some of the recipes look quite tasty as well.

Gail Carriger, Etiquette and Espionage: Reading the first pages of Carriger’s new series (set in the same universe as her Parasol Protectorate books but some years earlier) I had a sense of deja vu; surely we’d already seen our young heroine, a Disappointment to her Family, have a dessert-spillage related incident as our introduction to her? It’s possible that the series will pick up, but I found this first book weak. Plus, it is almost criminal to have 19th century fictional boarding schools for girls and boys to teach them things like espionage and hand-to-hand fighting (and curtseying) and not make use of that fantastic 19th century school story genre that already exists for you to play with. In short, I was underwhelmed.

Christian Morganstern, Sirish Rao, Rathna Ramanathan, In the Land of Punctuation: I loved this, and wrote about it here.

Vidyun Sabhaney and Shohei Emura, Mice Will Be Mice: I first discovered Sabhaney’s work in Blaft’s Obliterary Journal last year. Mice Will Be Mice has a more conventional narrative than her piece in that (about an exploding donkey); a lab experiment goes wrong, there are giant mice, there are some funny visual jokes and the solution is surprisingly simple. There isn’t much to it that I can see, but I enjoyed it anyway.

February 5, 2013

January Reading

Not the most impressive month, in terms of the numbers.

 

Abby McDonald, Getting Over Garrett Delaney: YA romance. Or anti-romance, really, since this is all about Finding Oneself (or at least admitting that one hasn’t already achieved this) and does not end in a relationship, only the potential for one. There was nothing really remarkable about this, but it’s mostly well done. I’m interested, though, in YA authors using Kerouac-fandom as a sort of shorthand for a certain sort of teenage boy- this is the second time I’ve seen it in the last few months (the other was Anna Carey’s Rebecca’s Rules) and it makes me wonder how many of us have been thus afflicted.

 

Evelyn Smith, The First Fifth Form: The only thing by Evelyn Smith I’ve read. I liked this, it was both funnier and more character-driven than a lot of school stories. I bought this for the kindle- I’m hoping with this (and GGBP’s recent adoption of ebooks, though not in the most efficient of ways) internet publishing is going to mean things like out of print school stories are made more easily available.

 

Mayank Austen Soofi, Nobody Can Love You More: I wasn’t a fan. Review here.

 

Suniti Namjoshi, The Fabulous Feminist: I was a fan. Review here, quotes here.

 

Keith Ridgway, Hawthorn and Child: I don’t know if this book became the darling of the whole internet this last year or if I just happened to be aware of (many of) the sort of people who embraced it. I finally read it this month and it’s as good as was promised, wonderfully clever and frustrating. I’m going to read it again, and I think it deserves a separate post, but for now, know that it is good.

 

Antonia Forest, Peter’s Room: I have about 2000 words on this and will be adding more before I unleash it upon the internet. This is probably Forest’s best work, and you all know how much I admire her.

 

Musharraf Ali Farooqi and Michelle Farooqi, Rabbit Rap: I was not a fan. Review here.

 

Jash Sen, The Wordkeepers: I’m working on a long-ish piece about Indian fantasy that bases itself in Hindu myth, and have belatedly realised that this will mean reading a number of books I really don’t like. Next, Amish Tripathi.

 

Simon Crump, My Elvis Blackout: Reviewed for the column. As I say there, I’m not sure how far I can talk about enjoyment with a book like this- but it’s very well done. Sincere respect, then.

 

Georgette Heyer, The Unknown Ajax and The Convenient Marriage: We have adopted a puppy. His name is Oliver, he’s tiny, and he’s only now becoming comfortable in his new home. Heyer kept me company on a few long nights of new parent panic/ puppysitting. I have nothing new to say about these books though; I’ve read them too many times before.

 

Richard Jefferies, After London: Reviewed for the column, and will be on the blog in a few days. This was nothing like I expected it to be but I think I really liked it.

 

Stephanie Laurens, The Perfect Lover: The good thing about Laurens is that one can read her very quickly by skimming past all the sex. If you do this, and ignore the main couple who have both independently decided to marry (he because he’s inherited a house and wants a family to put in it, she because she craves children) it is a country house murder mystery. Kitty Glossop, the flirty, flighty young wife of the eldest son of the house, is found strangled in the library. Kitty has a habit of flirting with all the men (who are disgusted, of course, by this behaviour), and is pregnant with a child that is definitely not her husband’s. To everyone’s amazement, it turns out that the one young man who the text does not encourage us to think wonderful and noble is the culprit (I was unamazed).

The thing that really annoyed me about The Perfect Lover is the set of ways in which the text demonised Kitty. We’re told over and over that all the heroes of these books have had multiple affairs, often with married women. Here we see them recoiling in horror from the idea of this particular woman cheating on her husband … because they know him and he seems nice? Meanwhile, our heroine is shocked to hear Kitty complain that her husband is pressuring her to “give him children”; our heroine, being a proper woman, knows that being a mother is the best thing ever. What possible reason could any woman give for not wanting children? The text gives Kitty one – pregnancy will make her fat and men won’t want her anymore. Because not only is she an unnatural creature who doesn’t want babies and a raging slut, but she’s letting her raging sluthood get in the way of babies. And I’m not even going to talk about our heroine who can quote Virgil but doesn’t know how to get herself a man, or some of the evasive half-truths that lead this couple to sex. In conclusion, fuck this book.