Sunday, November 06, 2011

from eons ago

A note about the blog now in case you don't want to read to the end: content will now focus more on adult fiction, as, in my new position, I will interact with t(w)eens rarely-- the children's librarian will oversee birth through 18, and I will pick up from there.  I may also experiment with including more media reviews-- in addition to traditional print, I will also be ordering all AV.  So if the new focus isn't helpful for you, it won't hurt my feelings if you stop following me.

Even though we don't know when we'll be moving, I am already packing the books and other things we can live without for a few months.  I found my old pre-blog binders, books organized alphabetically by title and, sadly, entries undated.  I am surprised by how many of these I can actually remember the basic plot or characters for.

I like how I have them organized and formatted.  At the time, I was still planning on teaching high school English (and being one of those against-the-system!-read-outside-the-canon! cool teachers), so these reviews were written between 2001, when I was a college sophomore at Olympic Community College, and 2006, two years after finishing my undergrad in English @ WSU, and at which time I moved to the blog.  Some of these entries sound pretty pretentious; I blame my undergrad English classes.  I hope my writing has improved since.  Bleh!  Anyway, in case you are bored (I am), some are below.

Beginning in the A-H volume:

Abarat by Clive Barker.
[Page blank.]
(I have read this three times and I don't know what to think.  Apparently I need to read it a few more times.)

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn.  Although I cannot name one aspect of this book which was spectacular, it strikes me as one I would yet label "good."  And yet, it is best described as "satisfactory": the language was not amazing, the character developments left a little missing, the plot progression felt just a smidge lacking, and the background behind this imaginary world left questions.  And yet, it was good.
(I don't remember this one at all.)

Ahab's Wife (or, The Star Gazer) by Sena Jeter Naslund.  I enjoyed this book very much.  It is a recent publication, but has the more classic feel to it.  Although it is based on Moby Dick, it is not reliant upon it.  I like how it used letters-- both written and received-- to augment the story telling, as well as a few short chapters written from the point of view of other characters, mostly Ahab.
What I didn't like was how it gave away at the beginning some important life events.  It changes how the reader perceives the story, waiting for the out-of-place bits to fit in.  Knowing from the first that the character would marry both before and after Ahab, for example, makes one overly-examine every male character introduced and second-guess the relationship.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.  This was more a children's than the rest of his Discworld series-- about on the level of The Wee Free Men.  It was a good story, but lacked the satire of many of his books.

Angel of Midnight by Jo-Ann Power.  Although uncomfortable with the forced language, like most historical smut, I appreciate that this one was actually based on something believable: It uses a Robin Hood kind of character as a hero, who helps the heroine thwart King John.  To complete the cast is even an evil sheriff kind of guy, although this character adds a twist to Robin's background.
Smut, but not the worst I've ever read.
(I don't remember this one at all.)

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.  This story has the same general background as American Gods, but wasn't as good, for reasons I can't really identify.  The sense of mystery was sadly lacking.  Also, the characters seemed less real, or maybe just less personable to me.
(I don't know where my review for American Gods is, but I definitely remember reading it.)

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison.  Not only was this book funny and enjoyable, it was entirely believable.  The writer did an amazing job of sounding like the character she was portraying.
I think this will be a great book for girls of the teenage persuasion, because it talks about things they are interested in (Sex Gods and snogging, for example) but doesn't tell them anything about it; it just lets them think about it on their own.  A great book, really.

Area 51 by Robert Doherty.  This was an interesting book, with a well-developed plot line and reliable characters.  I enjoyed this author's writing style in many ways.  The one flaw, if I remember correctly, was a strong tendency to end phrases with prepositions.
He brought together his facts marvelously, very convincingly, but 15 minutes of internet research showed that he was misrepresenting some facts, giving others spins or ties they did not have, and even totally making some up.  It was a great conspiracy theory until one looks elsewhere.
(Apparently I expected fiction authors to tell the truth...?)

Area 51: The Reply by Robert Doherty.  Other than what happened within the plot and one character's change in personality, this book was not appreciably different from the first in the series.

Ars Magica by Judith Tarr.  I didn't especially like this book, although I can't pin down why. The writing style was alright.  I didn't like how it just skimmed over (or ignored) huge spans of years (as many as 20).
The characters didn't seem to grow or change; nominally, they aged,but stayed the same.
It is supposedly based on an historical character and stayed true to the known details, few though they are.

The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket.  My opinion has not changed (see The Ersatz Elevator).  I am beginning to be concerned about the emotions that pervade the books-- how much melancholy can a 7-year-old handle?

The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The story is interesting, but the ideas expressed, and language/vocabulary used to express it, strongly reflect certain prejudices of the time.  All of the other characters are presented as so very beneath Tarzan and Jane.  They are described constantly as "brutes" and painted as barely civilized.
I think this book would be a good example of supremist [sic] attitudes and could be studied as such, but it probably is inappropriate in any other light.

Beauty's Punishment by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice).  It's been a while since I read this, so I can only say with surety that this is some seriously messed up stuff and I want to see what abnormal psych students do with this.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King.  Although I cannot entirely see the Holmes of this series as the Holmes of the original, the two are very close, and the characters discrepancies (a slightly more personable manner, etc.) can mostly be brushed off and attributed to the passing of years, although the character in this book (as well as the following ones) does not act like any near-60-year-old.
I have no complaints about the writing style and quite enjoy the other characters.  The author does make some minor references to the original Doyle series but they are mere mentions (i.e., "this is similar to the circumstances in the Empty House case all those years ago," etc.).

Birds of Prey by Wilbur Smith.  I'd consider recommending this book, because it tells one of those coming-of-age stories.  There is alot of violence-- though not too much gore-- and a fair number of sexual scenes.
The character and plot developments were fair, and I can't fault the author's grammar.  However, he tried to use a mode of speech appropriate for the time period: it was clear that he was not used to or uncomfortable with it.
[I don't remember this one at all.]

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong.  This is a series, yet the position of 1st person jumps among characters.
I furthermore disliked this book because the main character doesn't jive with the character she later becomes.

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik.  This was, unfortunately, the worst of the bunch.  The punctuation and grammar failed to improve and, although the attempt was made at being action-packed like the first book, it was not, nor did it have the inter-character relationship tension that the second book had.  All in all, a sub-par reading.

The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey.  I've said it before about this author and I am forced to say it again: The only way this author has of distinguishing that her books are not for younger readers is through the inclusion of sexual elements.  These types of scenes can be done well; hers are not.
Besides that rather unfortunate element, I usually enjoy her stories of fairy tale remakes.
I have to accuse this one, however, of being substandard.  She employed the bad tactic of having characters show up places or do things that make no sense, because the story needs them to do so.  Rather than giving a reason for them to act in such a way, she ignores it, hoping it will go away.

Book of Enchantments by Patricia Wrede.  This was a book of short stories; several were in the Enchanted Forest and one even used the characters from those stories.  A few had modern settings, while some were more random.  I especially liked "Roses by Moonlight" and "Stronger than Time;" these may be useful in a high school or English 101 class.
Almost all of the stories were up to the par I expect from this author.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milano Kundera.  I really enjoyed this book and look forward to using it in a classroom.  It was set against the backdrop of historical events, which effect and shadow the tales, which were very good insights into the nature of humanity.
[I don't remember this one at all.  How can I completely forget something I claimed to love?]

well that was fun.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

Whew! Glad you got another job so quickly but will miss your YA reviews. May consult you when I need a break and want to read adult stuff! good luck!