Reading Wednesday

Wed, Apr. 10th, 2013 09:42 am
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What I've read: I finished Alison Bechdel's Fun Home after seeing her at a City Arts & Lectures event. The event itself was great; Bechdel herself isn't all too talkative, but there was a short video clip of her creating a comic page and discussion of her process, which I hadn't been expecting and was really interesting. I don't have much to say about Fun Home yet, especially since I'm still in the middle of her next memoir about her mother, but it's definitely worth reading, and I kind of wish I had read her stuff before going to see her. Oh well! At least it was incentive to get some of her books!

I also finished Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London, which I like, but possibly not as much as everyone else. As most people have said, the voice is fantastic, as is the sense of place, but every time I was getting into it, more murder mystery details showed up and I would promptly lose track of what was going on. Clearly plot brain has disappeared again.

A lot of Meljean Brook )

What I'm reading now: I'm still in the middle of Bechdel's Are You My Mother, which is an interesting experience because it has therapy and mothers, but Bechdel's relationship to her mother, problematic as it is, is very different from mine with my mother. (Me: I WISH my mom would not talk to me!) I also started Aaronovitch's Moon over Soho because I wanted to see how a few dangling threads at the end of Rivers of London were resolved, but now the mystery has hit and, predictably and sadly, I have lost interest.

What I'm reading next: Who knows! I feel like a fantasy + romance fun blend but don't like most paranormals and their more dominant than you heroes, but I can't really think of anything. I should also read vol. 2 of Wandering Son before it's due back at the library.
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Spoilers for The Vanished Child )

The mystery in this book isn't nearly as interesting as the mystery in The Vanished Child; while one of the mysteries reflects on the main character conflicts in this book, the other mystery seems completely unrelated. I suppose there is a way to connect the mysterious notes from Her Artist to the concerns about women's roles in art and how they are often silenced and left to be the muse, the inspiration, the passive object to be acted on, but I didn't think Smith did a good job in executing it.

And yet, I still love this book for the way it looks at women and art and women and work. It reminds me a lot of Gaudy Night. I'm still trying to debate if it's a problem specific to white women; the book itself is very white. And clearly women of color would have different blocks and would probably not even get a role of muse or inspiration. But some of the conflicts I think do apply, and while I don't know as much about female musicians of color, I thought a lot about the black women dancers whose stories are told in Waltzing in the Dark.

But the way Smith writes about how women are written out, how the music instructor teaches the men to play the piano as if they were caressing a woman, how women are the subjects of art or the inspirations but never the creators and often not even the subject or inspiration depending on class and race, I love it.

Aside from that, Smith's prose continues to be lovely, as are her period details. I'm not entirely satisfied by the conclusion of the book but am curious to see how the next book continues the story.
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I first heard of this via [livejournal.com profile] delux_vivens' link to an NPR segment, and while the talk of writing a book with the idea of a movie as well tends to scare me off, Underwood, Due and Barnes' comments about the book were very interesting (aka, I hope the movie-talk doesn't scare off other people either).

Tennyson Hardwick is currently a wannabe-actor, formerly a gigolo and a bodyguard, and always handsome and smooth with women. He soon finds himself a suspect in the murder of his former client, rapper and actress Afrodite, and runs about trying to clear his name (which is the very appropriate "Ten Hardwick." Hi, I am twelve!).

I was a little hesitant at first because the plot involves gangster rappers and how one of them thinks of women as whores, etc. etc. But the authors are much more nuanced than that, and a lot of the plot with the LAPD reminded me of the politics of Homicide: LotS in how nicely complicated and complex and multilayered it was.

I wanted to shake Ten every two pages because he kept doing stupid things! Like, if you are the prime suspect for a murder case, it might be a good idea to not compound your case with things like breaking and entering and illegal possession! I mean, I get that this must happen for Ten to be the protagonist and to solve the mystery himself and that every thriller hero/heroine ever does this, but I kept going "Ack! Don't do that! Not good!"

I wasn't as sold on the erotic part of this book (Underwood mentions that he was inspired by a character in a script and by Zane's erotica); I suspect much of that is because it's from Ten's first person POV and it just feels very male. Clearly it is meant to be very male, so YMMV.

In the end, my favorite relationships in the book were the non-romantic ones, particularly with a secondary character who shows up halfway through the book.

The plot was very page-turning, I liked the characters, and I'd be interested to see what happens in the next book, particularly if Underwood, Due and Barnes keep the characters changing and growing. And I'm a little surprised to say this, given my general antipathy toward books-turned-movies, but I'd be really interested to see how this would be adapted to a movie, especially with Underwood at the helm.
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(I think [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink recced this two Thanksgivings ago. Look! I do remember recs; it just takes me a while to get to them?)

Eighteen years ago, wealthy William Knight was killed and his heir and possible witness to the murder, ten-year-old Richard Knight disappeared. His murder and Richard's disappearance were never solved. Later, for rather complicated reasons, Alexander von Reisden agrees to be introduced as the long-lost Richard and is thrust into the confusing family politics of the Knights.

The beginning of this book reminded me of Dickinson's Sleep and His Brother for some reason; either a) I have read so few mysteries that they all feel alike or b) there is some actual similarity in the feeling of oppressive secrecy and things unsaid. It really could be either. But the claustrophobic nature opens up slightly as Reisden gets more involved with elderly Gilbert Knight, who desperately wants him to be Richard; Gilbert's adopted heir Harry, who stands to inherit a lot if only Richard is finally declared dead; Richard's old doctor Charlie Adair; and Perdita Halley, Harry's fiancee, Charlie's niece, and Gilbert's daughter of the heart.

I generally don't read many mysteries because I tend to be far more interested in character than plot; what I love about this book is how it uses the mystery of Richard's disppearance and William's murder to reveal things about the characters. Reisden's presence unravels everything, even his own sense of identity, and he soon finds himself in much deeper than he expected. I also love the quiet way Perdita begins to grow and realize that maybe there are things about herself that she does not want to give up for marriage, even if Harry wants her to.

Spoilers )

Very good book full of lovely and quiet prose and things not mentioned in the open but explode anyway.

Links:
- [livejournal.com profile] rilina's review
- [livejournal.com profile] ginny_t's review
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Er, I may spam LJ in the vain attempt to relax after about six straight hours of doing Problem Set of DOOM.

I liked this, but not as much as the first book, Point of Honour, but that's because the twists near the end weren't as shocking or as personal for Sarah as they were in the first. Thankfully, Robins doesn't lose sight of the impact the events of the first book have on Sarah, and the new recurring character is quite fun and noble and upright in a good sort of way.

On the other hand, I'm not quite sure how I feel about the ending.

Spoilers for this book and Point of Honour )

Anyhow, despite my qualms, I like that Robins is writing intelligently, looking at consequences, and not forgetting the events of the first book.
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Everyone was right. I loved this book.

It's 1810, and Queen Charlotte, the appointed Regent to King George III, has fallen ill. Miss Sarah Tolerance, Fallen Woman, continues to support herself by being an agent of inquiry instead of a prostitute, and somehow she gets tangled into the politics of the realm while trying to hunt down an Italian fan.

The voice is a distant third person, and Sarah is nearly always referred to in the narrative as "Miss Tolerance." It's nicely restrained and polite, though not above sarcastic comments, which made me very happy.

And Sarah Tolerance herself is just plain awesome. She isn't overtly kickass, but she means business and knows how to wield a sword quite well, thank you very much. I just love how methodical and smart she is; she's not a flashy heroine, and she doesn't want to be. She's practical!

By the time the ending rolled around, she had earned my respect as well as my love, because she made hard choices, because she could have done the easy thing but didn't, because she respected herself too much.

Alas, I cannot comment on the history, since I don't know much about it. The mystery wasn't too brilliant, as even I could tell roughly what would happen. But still, some of the turns at the end were still effective, more because of the emotional cost than because of the surprise factor.

Really looking forward to reading the second one, and I'm now trying to hunt down Robins' backlist, including her Regencies.

Links:
- [livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu's review
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Second of the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries.

I read this book over several weeks, and for the life of me, I can't tell you what the plot is. I think this is why I don't do well with mysteries, just maybe. Anyhow, somehow Falco gets caught up in a case of mistaken identities and dead bodies, and then he ends up on a road trip to somewhere for a reason that I can't remember.

I would like to note that this probably isn't because Davis doesn't plot well. It's because I do not particularly care about mystery plots and as such, do not pay much attention to what's going on unless absolutely necessary.

And yet, I keep reading these and will probably pick up the third book! This is because I really love the characters, and, most importantly, I adore Falco. He's the first-person narrator for all the books (?), and he's irreverent and attempts to be sarcastic and aloof, usually very unsuccessfully. He has a giant family which he grouses about; one of his sisters sends her son along not for Falco to watch over, but so that Falco has someone to watch over him.

Senator's daughter Helena Justina also features prominently, and while I probably should be annoyed by them getting together and breaking apart and getting together and breaking apart, I'm not, because Falco is so obviously in love and Helena Justina is so wonderfully herself.

There's a plot twist involving the two that made me grit my teeth a little, but really, it isn't handled with a heavy hand, which makes all the difference.

Fun and fast, and really, I just love the narrative voice so much.

Links:
My review of The Silver Pigs, the first book of the series
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I'm blogging books and manga separately this year, just because I read so much manga. I feel like I've read remarkably few books this year; last year my reading had gone down in total, but I didn't separate the books and manga out, so I'm not sure if I read more books this year or last year. I definitely read way more manga this year, which is why the book count is only at 90. It's really weird; not reading many actual books makes me feel like a slacker, particularly since much of what I did read was YA.

Thoughts about the year in books )

I've blogged nearly all of these previously; the ones that haven't been written up yet are asterisked. You should be able to find everything via tags or LJ memories, and if you're curious about one of the unblogged ones, leave a comment and I shall expound upon it.

And now, without further ado, my top ten books of 2006:

  1. Gillian Bradshaw, assorted novels )


  2. Sarah Dessen, Just Listen )


  3. Scott McCloud, Making Comics )


  4. Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds., This Bridge Called My Back )


  5. Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing )


  6. Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night )


  7. Beverley Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations about Race )

  8. Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia )


  9. Jo Walton, Farthing )


  10. Scott Westerfeld, Succession )


Also recommended: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre; Christina Chiu, Troublemaker and Other Saints; Sarah Dessen, Dreamland; Emma Donoghue, Life Mask; Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Susan Vaught, Stormwitch; Cornel West, Race Matters; Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White; Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

Total read: 90 (3 rereads)

All books read in 2007 )
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Inspector Jimmy Pibble, recently laid off, managed to stumbled into the McNair House for cathypnic children, courtesy of a tip from his wife. Cathypnic children tend to be sluggish and very, very sleepy, with low body temperatures; some of the staff call them dormice. They seem to be vaguely creepy and yet loveable and tend to inspire obsession in people for some reason.

The atmosphere of this book is great; it's slow and creepy and draws you in little by little. I particularly liked the portrayal of the cathypnic children; some of the characters in the book become enamoured of the idea that they are somehow telepathic and that Pibble may be a telepathic sender.

Unfortunately, I seem to do very badly with any sort of mystery when they don't involve characters that I like or find myself drawn to. That, plus my current inability to keep track of complex plot (or possibly I was always unable to do so?), made reading this very difficult.

The plot honestly isn't that complex, but the small hints and tips that make a mystery are entirely too subtle for me, and I ended up not picking up on any of them. I ended up having to reread the entire middle of the book because I had no idea what was going on, but I lost track of who was who and what their motivations were on the second time round as well.

I'd probably rec this to people who were a fan of claustrophobic mysteries in which nothing is quite solved, but alas, I don't seem to be one of those fans.

Links:
[livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija's review
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Like the other people on my list who started reading Davis, I put the books in my to-read pile after seeing [livejournal.com profile] minnow1212 pimp it in her fifteen favorite fictional couples post.

Marcus Didius Falco is an informer in Vespasian Rome; I know next to nothing about Roman culture and history, so this doesn't mean a great deal to me. On the other hand, like everyone else, I was highly amused by the Dramatis Personae (Minnow, Kate and Mely quote from it, links below), and when I finally remembered to get the book and start reading it, I was also greatly amused by Falco's narrative voice.

I have absolutely no head for mysteries in and of themselves; to be honest, I'm not even sure what Falco ended up investigating, except that it involved a blonde in distress and stolen Imperial silver. But then, there's enough fun character interaction to tide me through. In fact, there's a great deal of fun character interaction, and I really loved both Falco and the heroine and how they worked together.

I don't know enough about noir or mystery or ancient Rome to figure out how factual Davis' setting is and how much she's riffing off noir and mystery conventions, but I can tell that she is a bit, and it's really fun to read.

I'm really looking forward to reading the next few in the series; Falco cracks me up.

[livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu's review

[livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink's review
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Much like Walton's Tooth and Claw, this is a fantasy take on a different genre, only this time, it's an English country-house mystery set in an alternate history instead of Trollope with dragons. It's equally brilliant.

It's 1949. Lucy Eversley Kahn is the daughter of a rather eminent British family. Her mother and her father both run in a political circle called the Farthing Set, notable for brokering a peace with Hitler in 1941 that has allowed him to take over most of Europe. Lucy has pretty much exiled herself from her family by marrying David Kahn, a Jew.

They've gone back to Farthing, the Eversley country house, for a party her mother is throwing, only an important politician of the Farthing Set is found murdered, and all clues point to David.

All the odd-numbered chapters are told from Lucy's POV (first person), and the even-numbered ones are told from the POV of the inspector assigned to the case (third person). I very much loved Lucy's voice; she sounds frivolous and feathery, but she's actually quite smart and down-to-earth under her mannerisms, and I really adored her. Carmichael's voice is less distinct, given the third person, but he turns into an interesting character of his own as well.

I also really like how the book proceeds as a "simple" murder mystery, but because of how Walton has structured the world, the characters, and the plot, each additional revelation about the mystery also becomes an additional revelation about the alternate history she's created. Even better, all this becomes a commentary on class and politics and anti-Semitism without being didactic in the least.

There are so many nifty details in the book that I don't want to say too much about them.

Anyhow, this is definitely a very good book, and I am still completely in awe of how Walton manages to write a perfectly cool mystery along with really awesome world-building and characters and manages to delve into anti-Semitism and fascism as well, all without ever preaching.

Highly, highly recommended.

Someone else on my LJ recently read this and adored it as well ([livejournal.com profile] jinian?), but I can't find the link for the life of me.

ETA: yay for people sending me links! Also, if you wrote something on the book, I'd love even more links (hint hint)

Links:
- [livejournal.com profile] sartorias' review
- [livejournal.com profile] oracne's review
- [livejournal.com profile] oursin's review
- [livejournal.com profile] gwyneira's review
- [livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu's review
- [livejournal.com profile] yhlee's review
- [livejournal.com profile] tenemet's review
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I liked this much better than all the other Sayers I've read, possibly because it's so different from all the others. It didn't hit the "OMG SQUEE" button in me, but I love it in a more quiet way. It's a surprisingly quiet book, and an extremely satisfying read.

I'm usually not that big on stories set at an academic institution and focus on the academics, possibly because I'm jealous, or really, who knows. But I really loved how big a role Oxford played in Gaudy Night and how much the book was about the intellectual versus the emotional, the different choices you can make with your life.

Harriet ends up celebrating a reunion in Shrewsbury, the all-female college at Oxford (made up by Sayers), and gets caught up in a round of increasingly malevolent pranks intended to publically embarrass the college. Despite this being touted as the big Harriet/Peter book, there is relatively little Harriet/Peter interaction. In fact, most of the book is on Harriet, on her attempts to figure out what is most important to her, where her values lie, and what she'll end up doing about them. Peter is, of course, a large part of these decisions, but I really appreciate that Harriet's attempts to decide if Peter will fit in her life are only part of the decision. He's affected by her choices, but he's not necessarily the sole driving factor of them.

This is probably a stupid thing to say, but GN is a remarkably feminist book. Obviously, I do realize that feminism existed back in the 1930s, but the commentary on women's career choices and how said choices affect husbands and children and what society thinks of women who don't go for motherhood are sadly contemporary. Yes, progress has been made, but on the other hand, recent articles on how feminism has ruined the nuclear family would fit right in Harriet's world and Harriet's dilemma.

And, oh, I liked Harriet before because she is stubborn and grumpy and not bowled over by Peter's charm, but I adore her now. I had a problem with Have His Carcase because of the imbalance in Peter and Harriet's relationship. It wasn't just that Harriet was resentful of how much she owed Peter, it was that she thought he was so far above her in terms of class, charm, intelligence, and everything. I still wish there were more in Peter's point of view as to why he fell for Harriet so quickly (maybe I need to reread Strong Poison), but I like that Peter loves her for her integrity and honesty.

One of my favorite scenes in the book isn't the final one on the bridge (though that's a good one). Rather, it's the one in which Peter directs the discussion of the various dons and scholars to that of professional integrity, and how they would choose if they had to sacrifice the personal or the professional. I especially like that the question isn't phrased in a way to make it a choice between a family life and a career; instead, the professional realm consists of one's values and one's notion of integrity. And I love that Harriet can't put the personal over what she thinks is right, and that that is why Peter trusts her so much. It actually reminds me a great deal of Freedom & Necessity (that probably should be the other way around, given the publication dates), in which James says that he couldn't love Susan if she put him over her own beliefs.

I had a problem with the mysteries in other Sayers, mostly because I could honestly care less who killed whom and for what reason. Thankfully, there's a wonderful thematic resonance in this one; the culprit literally attacks the world of Shrewsbury and the female, non-nuclear-family space there. And while I had problems with Peter always being the one to solve the mystery in prior books, his solving the mystery here works because it is too close to Harriet and she can't conceive of someone making the choices that the culprit does.

Hrm. It looks like I have actually descended into incoherent squee ;). But oh, I loved the layers in this book, I loved all the things it talked about and had to say, I loved watching Harriet grow and choose, and I loved watching a romance between two people who needed an equal relationship and would fight for one.

Links:
- [livejournal.com profile] sophia_helix's review
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Oops! I was reading some of [livejournal.com profile] truepenny's very good posts on the book and realized in my great fear of having a mob of Sayers fans, uh, mob me, I forgot to note the meta aspects of the book, which I did enjoy to some degree.

I'm probably going to just end up repeating what [livejournal.com profile] truepenny has already written, but I haven't actually read all hers yet and wanted to make observations.

It's perpetually interesting having Harriet involved in a mystery, given that she is a mystery writer. [livejournal.com profile] truepenny makes the point that Harriet approaches the body on the beach much as she would in a hypothetical book; she constantly asks herself what Robert Templeton (her fictional detective) would do. I did very much like that in the beginning, particularly the bits in which Harriet thinks that really, investigating a corpse on the beach isn't half as much fun as it seems in the books.

I also thought it was interesting that many of the breakthroughs in the book happened because Harriet would say something like, "Well, if this were in a detective story, such-and-such would happen." Same with Wimsey debating how truthful some alibis were, simply because they were so perfect. Sadly, I would probably have more to say about this had I read more mysteries in general.

There was also the fact that the murderer seemed to be working off what he thought a proper mystery should be; vague threats, impractical suggestions and all, which highlighted the artificiality of mysteries.

Unfortunately, I got rather irritated because Harriet would say something reminded her of such-and-such, and then Peter would end up having the epiphany. I should probably stop grinding this axe, but it kept bothering me. I like Harriet. I like that she is grumpy and fumbles and is cruel to Peter and doesn't always think things through. I would like Peter much more, except he seems entirely too perfect and too clever; he solves the ciphers while Harriet spends days substituting words, he figures out all the twists and turns of the mystery while Harriet only realizes after he mentions a few things, he is also hopelessly in love. It felt incredibly unfair, and I ended up taking Harriet's side.

Er, I do realize that this is probably a highly atypical reaction to the book, but I seem hard-wired to first sympathize with the female character no matter what.

Also, in the end, despite all the meta-narrative about detective novels and the inherent artificialities of a murder mystery, particularly one with an amateur sleuth, Peter and Harriet still end up solving the mystery. There would be moments in which the deciphered letter would prove to be a comment on how a mystery should work, which I liked, but right before that, there would be a long, drawn-out scene in which Peter and Harriet would go carefully through the cipher, which I had a difficult time suspending disbelief for.

I suspect much of this is unfamiliarity with the genre.

ETA: First reaction
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I didn't like it.

Harriet Vane wants to take a nice vacation after the rather unsettling events of Strong Poison (where she first meets Lord Peter Wimsey, amateur detective extraordinaire). Unfortunately for her, she ends up finding a body on the beach. Peter drops by to help with the investigation, and ensuing mystery gets resolved.

I suspect I'm not much of a mystery person, because every time Harriet or Peter started to question witnesses or untangle alibis or the like, I had an extremely difficult time continuing with the book. Unfortunately, this was about 90% of the book.

The strange thing is that the only part of the mystery-solving that I enjoyed was when they were deciphering a letter. I didn't understand any of it, but I liked codes and ciphers.

I also reverted to grade-school reading techniques. I.e., every time Harriet and Peter were working on the case together, I mentally awarded each one points on how far they were getting, and got perpetually irritated because Peter would almost always come out on top. I get that he's the hero of the series, and I do know that it's a horrible grade-school thing. But it still annoys me. (does not put in horribly over-generalized rant about why the woman is never the expert in these things)

On the other hand, I really liked all the Peter-Harriet interactions that had more to do with the emotional side and didn't have to do with questioning witnesses or the like. I think this happened with Strong Poison as well. Alas, there was very little of this and very much mystery. I especially liked the heart-mind conversation that the two had (I'm pretty sure that's this book, right?).

Fear not, loyal Sayers readers! I am still reading Gaudy Night, and I am actually enjoying it a lot. This is quite likely because there isn't all that much mystery in it.

ETA: Further notes
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I ended up liking this much better than Strong Poison, mostly because I found the mystery more engaging.

Wimsey's brother, the Duke of Denver, has been accused of murdering his sister's fiancee. Despite the fact that the mystery is centered around the Wimsey family, Lord Peter doesn't make that much of an impression on me in this book, even when compared to the not-so-character-based Strong Poison. I didn't mind so much, though, because the supporting characters were for some reason more appealing to me. Also, as mentioned before, I was more interested in the mystery itself and so the resolution of it was more satisfying for me.

There seemed to be much more hidden passions and secrets in this book than in Strong Poison (this is going to get compared to SP very often, because I have no other Sayers benchmark), and because of that, the backstory geek in me was much happier about the revelations concerning Denis Cathcart (the murdered man), Mary Wimsey and Gerald Wimsey.

I also grew rather fond of the Wimsey family as the book progressed. Come to think of it, I grew rather fond of Peter as well, so nix the bit about him not making that big of an impression. I was quite possibly won over by his affection for his brother and his rather dashing last minute... er... dash to save Gerald.

Have now bought Murder Must Advertise and am trying to save it for the flight back.
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(cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] inklings_lj)

I feel rather blasphemous, but I didn't like it all that much. I can sort of see why people would like the series -- I liked what little I saw of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, but for some reason, I was expecting more character interaction and got a rather mundane mystery instead.

Of course, I say this because I'm not as big of a fan of the mystery genre as a whole, and so I don't care all that much to find out who did it and how. I think because of this, I had a very difficult time following the plot.

The few other mysteries I've read have been a handful of Mary Higgins Clark one summer (not that interesting), an Agatha Christie (scared me to death), and eight of the Stephanie Plum books, which I thought were hilarious but which got a little old after reading one every day. When I binge, I binge.

So I'm sort of wondering -- is this book rather characteristic of the Wimsey books? I do mean to read the rest of them anyway, just because everyone loves Gaudy Night so very much, but I sort of want to know what I'm getting into. I think I was expecting something with a little more character development. I loved the scenes with Peter (Lord Peter? Wimsey? How does one refer to him?) and Harriet, and particularly his nonchalant-seeming proposals and Harriet's hesitant, sad answers. Wimsey was actually a surprise for me -- I've almost been expecting someone like Lymond. I think part of it is because both authors are named Dorothy and another part is because both men have this sort of aura around them when readers talk about them. But he seemed rather sweet and rambled on a lot, and there was this small, quiet moment at the end of a chapter which totally stole my heart.

And I think I would have liked Harriet had I more time to get to know her, or so to speak. I found it rather strange that Dunnett didn't spend very much time with her, considering that she was the prime suspect and was probably going through some mental trauma, to say the least. I wanted to see more of her and Wimsey interacting. I did very much like the bits with Miss Climpson and her very enthusiastic letters, along with her struggles with her conscience.

It's a bit silly of me to resent the fact that the mystery plot takes over the book, given that it is a mystery, but I just wanted more characters to spend time with.

Spoilers )

Links:
- [livejournal.com profile] inklings_lj's review roundup

(no subject)

Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004 09:52 pm
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Question (because obviously, my FL knows everything): I managed to get my hands on Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter, Unnatural Death, Clouds of Witness and Gaudy Night, since I am planning on reading them sometime. Is there any sort of handy reference out there that tells me what order I should read them in?

The boy showed me an organizational chart of Time Warner and all the companies it owns and said, "Look, it's the world!" Truly it is the evil empire ;).

I continue to enjoy the Assassins soundtrack, albeit in a slightly strange way. I can't help it. Some of the songs are just so peppy. I love the Sousa-esque "How I Saved Roosevelt" and the banjo-y "Ballad of Booth" and the folk song-y "Ballad of Czolgosz." The Czolgosz song particularly reminds me of "Big Rock Candy Mountain." I just realized while listening to this how much Americana music (is that even a term? Probably not) I listened to while growing up, mostly thanks to the wonderful "Wee Sing America" and "Wee Sing Around the Campfire." Also, the insanely optimistic "Ballad of Guiteau." But while I'm sitting in my car and enjoying listening to them, there will inevitably be a point in which my brain realizes that the songs are still about the assassination of American presidents, and as such, are pretty violent and unhappy. I don't think I'll ever quite get over that disconnect.

I think Sondheim does a particularly good job in reconciling the funny and the horrific in "How I Saved Roosevelt," which could have very easily been a straight comic piece. But every single time I'm giggling like mad because of Sondheim's rhymes (they remind me of "A Weekend in the Country" in A Little Night Music) and the fact that assassinating the president is somehow a solution to one's aching belly, Zangara bursts into the song screaming, "No laugh! No funny!" with a terrifying fury, and suddenly it's not funny anymore. Also, it's a frightfully cheery song for something that ends with the buzzing of the electric chair.

"Something Just Broke" will forever make me think of 9/11. I wasn't even alive for the assassination of JFK, I don't remember the Challenger, or most other national tragedies. I would like to say that 9/11 changed my entire outlook on life, but I'm not sure if it did. It's not as though there was much violence of that nature in Taiwan, though we would sometimes joke about China bombing us. I think it was just that even though most people were pretty sure China wouldn't be so stupid as to blow up our island, the threat was always sort of there. And even if not, it was dangerous territory politically, and just the fact that no one could really say what would happen to Taiwan come ten years makes for some uncertainty.

American never used to feel that way to me, though. American always seemed so safe and so stable, like it was something that would always be there, despite a relatively short national history. That was what 9/11 changed for me. Unlike the rest of my roommates that day, I was awake because (ironically) I was getting a new cell phone. I still find it strange that my old cell phone bill has the start date of 9/11/01. And my friend and her dad and my mom and the guy selling us the cell phones just stood there listening to the radio, because there was no TV in the store, and we heard the news when the second plane crashed, when another one hit the Pentagon, when another one crashed in Pennsylvania. And then the towers fell down. And it felt like the end of the world. Things like this weren't supposed to happen in America. They happened in the Middle East and in Ireland and other places, and it's so horrible to think of tragedies like that, like something that always happens in other places, to other people, but that's how it felt. Prior to 9/11, it felt as though the world was on track... there was the boom of the nineties, we weathered the Asian financial crisis (pretty glum in Taiwan during that time), etc. After, people were screaming for retaliation, which frightened me. My mom was convinced World War III was going to start. The economy, which was already not doing so well, really started going down. And I interned at Merrill Lynch and got seriously depressed, then I graduated from college two years later and had to look for a job and got even more depressed. Because of that, 9/11 always feels to me like the dividing line between adolescence and (fledgling) adulthood, the stepping stone between optimism and cynicism.

But that's what that song reminds me of now.

Despite the sobering associations, I can still listen to Assassins over and over just because the tunes are so peppy. And somehow, it doesn't depress me as much as Sweeney Todd. Also, Sweeney Todd is just incredibly difficult to listen to because of the almost painful whistles in the theme. Sweeney Todd feels like there is no hope at all in man, that everything beautiful only ends up destroyed and broken, but Assassins feels like even though horrible things happen, there is a reason behind it (albeit occasionally insane), and that there are people who still care. It's tragic, but not nihilistic.
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Everyone who told me to read this was right on the money. I think this may be my favorite Raskin book. It's a little hard to describe, but it feels more human than her other books, with the possible exception of The Westing Game.

Tattooed Potato is structured as a series of mysteries, sort of like an Encyclopedia Brown book (without the upside-down solutions). Dickory Dock, who silently suffers numerous jokes because of her name, manages to get a job as an assistant to Garson, a slick portrait painter who also occasionally helps the police paint portraits of crime suspects. Garson actually reminds me of Lymond a little (then again, pretty much everything does nowadays) -- he's extremely facile and Dickory senses that he only presents certain facets of himself to the world to protect himself, but it also must be said that Lymond would probably never take on the alias of Inspector Noserag.

The first few crimes that they have to solve are very fun and zany and felt like Raskin's other books (esp. Leon/Noel), but as Dickory's powers of observation and deduction get better and better, and as everything starts coming together, the mystery of Garson starts to unravel. And while I guessed most of what was going on with Garson (a rarity in a Raskin book), I wasn't prepared for the final ending. And it was good, and everything fit in that wonderfully satisfying way when all the clues and hints in a world come together. Kind of like a well-built sci-fi book actually...

Links:
- [livejournal.com profile] rilina's review
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
Quite fun. Although I was completely stumped by the puzzle, much like the one in The Westing Game. I can never quite decide if I like watching the mystery unfold or if I like watching the absolutely random and strange characters do their thing.

The mystery is that of the disappearance of Leon/Noel, and Mrs. Carillon (his wife) and her very long search to find him. Along the way, she gathers twins who are not really Siamese, lots of purple-flowered dresses, and lists of places beginning with "New."

It's just a weird and charming little book that reminded me a lot of The Westing Game and made me quite happy.
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
I've stopped my mad speed through the books -- I'm stuck at the beginning of the eighth book, and sadly, I don't think I really am going to keep going for now. Maybe read too many at once or something.

And while I would like it more if the characters went through some growth and didn't remain static, in general I'm ok with that. I think what annoys me the most right now is the love triangle. For those of you luckily not subject to my Sydney/Vaughn rants, I really dislike love triangles. This is why I never liked Guinevere (prior to GGK). I'm ok if it's a couple in love and then an unrequited love or something, although for those, I tend to feel extremely sorry for the unrequited love person. What annoys me the most are those stupid love triangles in which one party cannot make up his or her mind and ends up waffling for all time. It makes me feel very nidgy and uncomfortable.

So unsurprisingly, I started liking the series less around book five or six, which is when Ranger steps in as a romantic interest as well. Right now I cannot stand Stephanie's indecision between Morelli and Ranger. Luckily, I am not seething at Stephanie (unlike Vaughn), but it still causes that nidgy feeling. Plus, I like Morelli better, and I absolutely hate taking sides in a love triangle as well because of the sheer level of nervousness involved. Either that, or I am way too involved in my books. But we all knew that.

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