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February and March

5. Possession by A.S. Byatt (fiction, booker winner, 1001)-  A modern man and woman studying poets of the previous century meet as they search for possible connections between the two poets, guided by a set of previously unrecorded letters.  The story follows the relationships of both modern and Victorian poets.  I really liked this one.  I'm a sucker for the Victorian era and the time leading up to it.  Very romantic, very sweet.  The only beef I had about it was that sometimes it was difficult to determine who was speaking for a while, which tends to bother me.  The ending was sad but well-handled, I thought.

6. Accelerando by Charles Stross (fiction, sci-fi) - Lots of people make copies of themselves, betray each other, set up a kingdom on Jupiter's moons, and never actually die.  This was supremely odd, but I really, really liked it.  I don't think I'll ever look at a lobster (or for that matter, a robotic cat) the same way ever again.  Charles Stross is an excellent writer - I have a strong sense that I missed a lot, but not enough that I couldn't get the idea.  The legal aspects of being punished for something another version of yourself did is really something to think about -  you can't NOT punish it, but if the version who did the deed suicided, is it really ethical to punish the other version?  Weird stuff.

7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (fiction, glbt, 1001) - I have wanted to read this one for a while, and finally got around to it.  Here, by the way, is where my slough of glbt books begins.  I recently discovered I'm bi, and wanted to know more about that.  My automatic reflex: READ MORE!!!  This being the most famous book in the genre, I started here.  I was actually a little disappointed in this book.  I heard tell through the rumor-ether that it was blatantly homosexual.  I totally missed any hint of homosexuality, except if it was indicated by frequent mentions of the uselessness and annoying-ness (pretend it's a word for me, there's a love) of women.  Then again, I am notoriously bad at seeing subtext.  Help, anyone?

Well, that was February.  I'm on a roll.  Here's March.

8. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (fiction, glbt) - Another glbt story.  Lesbians and a straight couple during WWII, traveling backwards through time to the last war to see the beginnings of the relationships presented in the start of the novel and how all of their lives intersect.  Warning for semi-explicit sex.  Um.  The unusual timeline bothered me a bit, mostly due to a sort of chapter-title blindness I suffer from - I was confused when the lesbian couple I'd seen in the first section just met in the second.  Then I looked at the section name, and said, "Oh."

9. Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (fiction, 1001) - I read this because it was on the 1001 list.  The narrator tries to discover which of a number of parrots was the true parrot which inspired Gustave Flaubert to write one of his stories.  I didn't really like this one - of course, it would probably have made more sense if I had actually read anything by Flaubert. :-P  The chapters which devolved into straight timelines of Flaubert's life, though entertaining in a few cases, irritated me.  I wouldn't really recommend this one.

10. Atonement by Ian McEwan (fiction, romance, 1001) - This one was sitting on my TBR shelf for a while.  Briony (aspiring writer extraordinaire) sees her sister Cecelia and Robbie engaged in questionable activites, makes assumptions (and makes an ass of herself), and Bad Things Happen.  They both hate her for the rest of eternity.  I was not overly fond of this one either.  Briony is a whiny, annoying, loud child.  I didn't like the author's style.  There was the same plot of escaping the reach of the overly-authoritarian, careless military that I recognize from Hemingway's Farewell to Arms - and it was better the first time. 

And that's a wrap for March.  More to follow... eventually.

January books

Hey, it almost looks like I planned that this would be a monthly posting thing!  Well, that turned out well.  Anyway, this is going by the books I've finished this year.

1. Glasshouse by Charles Stross (science fiction)
So this amnesiac walks into a bar...  seriously, he does, and meets a four-armed woman, and they have a drink.  She tells him about an experimental pre-accelerated polity (that is, now, seen as the far-off past from the future), and after an assassination attempt and some stuff he decides to give it a go.  Naturally, it doesn't turn out as expected, and he shortly wants out.  I really, really liked this book, and I will certainly be seeking out more from this author.  In fact, I have Accelerando sitting in my bookshelf now.  The ideas behind this book are absolutely awesome, and this book definitely deserves a read.

2. Hay Fever by Noel Coward (drama)
I read this for my technical theatre class.  It is a farce; it has more than five doors.  Essentially, a semi-retired actress, her author husband, and their two odd grown children live in the English countryside.  Their behavior reminds me of my relationship with my parents - which is odd but overall, incredibly amusing.  In a very farcical decision, each person decides to invite over a romantic interest on the same day without telling anyone else.  All arrive, all switch romantic interests at the drop of a hat (or rather, a barometer), and chaos shortly ensues, with no shortage of drama.

3. Emma by Jane Austen (fiction, classic, 1001 books to read before you die)
Well, I did not enjoy reading this book.  I read it for my book club, whose sudden passion for classics by women writers coincided precisely and not at all well with my sci-fi bender.  So I read a third of this, read three other books in a week, and then finally came back to this to make my slow and no-longer-so-painful way through it.  I could only stand to read a couple chapters at a time, so it took quite a while.  Jane Austen as an author irritates me, I don't like Emma as a character, simply because she annoys me to no end.  She's a spoiled brat who sticks her nose in everybody's business.  Anyway, summary: Emma plays matchmaker and makes things worse, while soothing her hypochondriac father, and in the end everybody gets married and everything is wonderful.  So this is not really my cup of tea. :-P

4. Blue Covenant by Maude Barlow (non-fiction)
This is about water, the coming water crisis (yes, there is one), water conservation, and why the privatization of water is bad, bad, BAD.  I am reading this for a project, though I am actually interested in the subject.  This is the sort of thing one has to read in a quiet place with few distractions.  I tried to read part of this while on a moving bus with squishy seats, and ended up drifting in and out of weird dreams featuring lots of costumes (I was designing the costumes for a play that would open the next day at the time).  I succeeded in reading half a page or so, which I had to reread later to actually take it in.  If you are at all interested in the subjects mentioned above, then I recommend you read this - it is very thorough.  The only part which bored me to tears was her explanation of the world water forums and the anti-privatization forums which coincided with them.  It then (but only then) became rather a laundry list of who was there, who said what, and how many reporters showed up.  But all in all, quite helpful, though more so for information on privatization than on conservation.

2009 Suspense and Thriller Challenge

So I've joined another challenge.  This one will be blogged about by editing this post, apparently, so here goes the setting up of the magic post.  Voila!  That was anticlimactic.

Anyway, this challenge is to get through twelve books in different subgenres of suspense and thriller.  That probably will not take long.  :-)

Look! More stuff!

I read eight more of the short stories of Sarah Monette, available on her site, http://truepenny.livejournal.com/.  Just pretend I know how to make a cut.  I'm just going to review them as a collective whole and ignore them entirely in my count for the year.  Monette has an extraordinary ability to worldbuild.  Even through a short story, she can make the reader feel as though the world is very there.  I usually felt that I wanted to see more of the world she created, and I liked all of the stories.  Monette also jumps genre a bit, so while her style is recognizable the setting is different from stories and so the reader gets to peek into all her wonderful worlds.

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (fiction)

This was a book for my book club.  This for some reason reminded me of Sandor Marai's Embers.  The writing style was surprisingly similar, possibly because they were both translated into English.  I liked the story, and the only downside for me was the emphasis on philosophy.  I took a short thing in philosophy one summer and loathed and despised it, possibly because the teacher didn't really do it for me.  But even though this book was very philosphical, I still enjoyed it a lot - the author managed not to make the religion and philosophy seem pretentious and overbearing, even though it should be, given that it's kind of the point of the book.  I enjoyed this.

Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham (1001 books..., classic, fiction, literature)

This one was for pleasure.  This story follows the life of one boy from when he is very young until middle age, with all his ups and downs.  Warning: it is very long.  I actually didn't mind this, because I liked the story behind the length and wanted to see how Philip got on.  However, his taste in ladies is rather deplorable.  I found myself thinking repeatedly, "Why does he keep falling in love (lust?) with such disagreeable women?  And so freaking many?"  And Philip knows that these women are not what he wants, and yet he yearns for them.  This bothered me a bit.  I am also never investing more than $100 in the stock market.  Yowch.

Anyway, this brings me to 7/75 (by the end of next year, after upping my goal).  I may drag the the short stories back into the count if I get desperate this time next year. :-)

Decline to State

Getting Back by William Dietrich:  thriller, post-apocalypse (sort of)  (11-14-08)

I was introduced to this book through a day-by-day calendar of book reviews.  The book was great, and the review really gets you interested in reading it (hence the fact that I read it), but the wording of the review and the long wait before I could get my hands on the book made me make my own idea of what I thought would happen, and that threw me for a ridiculous loop for the first four chapters or so (chapters are short, so it wasn't too long).  From the review: "Daniel Dyson... signs up for a wilderness survival course that will drop him and other rugged types into the middle of Australia.  But instead of fighting the elements, they end up fighting for their lives against murderous criminals. ... Dyson and his friends get creative, turning a skyscraper into a castle, wearing auto parts as armor, and using office furniture as weaponry."  So for some reason my brain got fixed on the idea that this was set in the present, which it is not.  So I got thrown for a loop by the internet's changes and societal changes.  I don't know where I thought the office employees were during this battle, at all.  Australia in this book has been decimated by some event which I can't remember whether it's a spoiler or not, so I'll play it safe.  Anyway, Australia has no people there.  But ignoring the wonky review, this book is awesome.  Also, the criminals don't play nearly as large a role as the review implies, and the mysterious Raven isn't even mentioned there.  Travesty!  But this is great, really.

"Sundered" by Sarah Monette:  short stories, etext, sci-fi  (11-19-08)

I found this recommended on ze internets, and true to the recommendation, it was really good.  It involves a girl whose bright older sister has just died, and she discusses it with her late sister's lover and an alien, along with the larger concepts of friendship and love and resentment.  The author pulls the concept talk off really well by using the aliens.  It's absolutely wonderful.

"Draco Campestris" by Sarah Monette: short stories, etext, sci-fi, fiction  (11-19-08)

Same source as "Sundered," same quality.  This one was a little more confusing, but I got the general gist.  This is set in a museum which takes artifacts form different universes, as far I can tell.  (This and the names of the universes (?) got me a little confused.)  The story is more about the people who work in the museum, though.  One of the main exhibits are the dragons - I'm a sucker for dragons, and for Latin, and I was bound to read this story :-D.  As for the characters, I think the tithe children are my favorites, and the occasional wandering ghosts add a little entertainment to the museum life.  I really liked this one as well - I am planning on reading the rest of this author's work.

Well, this is what I have for this time.  I really need to get to work, but it's just not happening.  Anyway, as to my goals, this brings me to (5/50) previously personally unread works.  10% done!  I think that if I'm going to be reading so many short stories I need to up my goal... yeah.  Definitely.  I am now upping my goal to 75 works I have not previously read by next November December.  While I'm wiggling my goal, I might as well get caught up with the rest of the reading universe.

"The Damned" by Algernon Blackwood

Well, this is "book" #2 for me.  This is one of those early-1900s "short" stories that are not actually short, much like Lovecraft wrote only short stories, very few of which are by any stretch of the imagination short.  I really liked the premise behind this - a widow calls two friends of artistic temperament to her home to determine their impressions because she thinks it is haunted.  The story itself was a little slow, and I was confused at times what really happened and what was hallucination or whatnot - however, I think that was the idea.  Not sure, though?  Anyone got a Ouigi board to make sure?  Overall, I did like this story - very interesting.  It's on the project Gutenburg horror page, if you want to read it.

1. The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft    (8/10)

I must admit, for a book I was convinced to read by a video game, this is pretty great.  I picked up on Lovecraft after looking for his "The Call of Cthulhu," which was in absolutely NONE of the collections in my library.  This is a collection of his short horror stories, but they are very low on blood and gore.  There was only (I think) one story where my interest flagged and I moved on to the next one.  Lovecraft is the acknowledged master of psychological horror, and I agree with this assessment.  However, if you don't like writers who end their works with the exciting last line in italics for spooky emphasis, and it makes you want to hurt things, then you might want to skip this book.  Lovecraft does do this a lot.  And a warning: the man does like his spooky adjectives (particularly eldritch and cyclopean - look these up and you'll be fine). 

And if you want to know what the subject line means, you'll have to read "The Call of Cthulhu," won't you?  Nah.  Not really - it means "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu lies dreaming."


I am joining the 50bookchallenge community, as of 11-7-08.  By this time next year, I hope to have read 50 NEW books (ones I haven't read before, even if they are ridiculously awesome and I would like to reread them 472 consecutive times).  I am going to include books that I started before yesterday, because I am.  Therefore, The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre is finished, as of this morning.  :-)