Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Readings

I gobble books and stories like candy. Sometimes, I read so fast and so often that I'm already on the next book before I've taken a chance to reflect on the one I just finished. As a result, I forget almost as quickly as I read.

This year, I'm trying to reflect just a little bit more on the books I read. When I finish, I'm writing myself a paragraph of notes on each book. At the end of the month, I plan to list the books I finished that month and write a quick summary*.

Here are the January books:

  1. Chalice by Robin McKinley (Jan 1): is a sweet little fantasy novel. I gobbled it down in a single sitting, and was left with a sweet taste in my mouth and a desire to re-read it in a few months.
  2. The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer (Jan 2): is your classic late-Heyer Regency. I hope some day I can make my prose look so effortless.
  3. The Magic or Madness Trilogy by Justine Larbalestier, which includes Magic of Madness (Jan 4), Magic Lessons (Jan 10), and Magic's Child (Jan 20): is a young adult urban fantasy** series about which I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I'm disappointed. Everything happened in such a hurry that each book was over just as I was starting to enjoy it. On the other hand, I really liked the characters. I wish there had been a chance to get to know them amidst all the craziness that kept flying at them.
  4. Extras by Scott Westerfeld (Jan 8): This is a young adult science fiction roller coaster ride with a deeply satisfying ending. Like a roller coaster, it took a little time to get up the first big hill. Once we built up some momentum, though, it was an amazing ride.
  5. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (Jan 12): is an urban fantasy, possibly marketed as young adult. Some of the main characters were young, but some were very old people who just looked young. Whatever. I couldn't shake the feeling that something important was missing from either me or the book. I finished the book, but only because I wanted to see what happened. Overall, the experience was disappointing.
  6. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Jan 18): is a young adult urban fantasy. I had to force myself to keep reading but eventually I found my way into this book. I enjoyed it, but I didn't think the story was particular memorable. Until I found myself in the shower, thinking about some of the story's ideas. Mostly, I disagree with them, but they've still got a hold on my brain. I've got the second book in the series queued up for later reading.
  7. Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin (Jan 19): is another urban fantasy. I tried to force myself to read this one too, but by page 55, I decided that I didn't deserve such punishment. The constant use of colorful similes kept jerking me out of the story so hard that I was getting whiplash.
  8. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool (Jan 24): is a fascinating look at some of the differences between our world and 19th century England. I want my own copy on hand for the next time I read a novel set in that milieu.
  9. Prom Nights from Hell (Jan 26): is a paranormal story anthology. The stories are by Meg Cabot, Lauren Myracle, Kim Harrison, Michele Jaffe, and Stephenie Meyer (yes, THAT Stephenie Meyer). Michel Jaffe's was satisfying; Kim Harrison's story was deeply unsatisfying, and the rest fell somewhere in between.
  10. Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica (Jan 27): is a memoir about stressed out, cranky waiter who is also something of an asshole. Just not to the customers, which puts him far ahead of most of the customer-service people in the world. I was also glad to learn that I usually fall into the average 70% of the dining population. With very few exceptions, it's not good to be outside the norm.


* Why not just paste in the original paragraphs? Three reasons. First, I'm long-winded so paragraph just means "a block of text with a more-or-less single topic." Second, I'm not making any attempts to avoid spoilers in my personal summary. We all know that some people find spoilers to be crimes worthy of corporal punishment. Third--and probably most important--my first impression of a book is not necessarily my final opinion. A good opinion needs a little time to grow and develop.

** There's a lot of urban fantasy on my list in the coming months. My second and third novels are urban fantasy. I thought I should get to know the genre before I started revising my first drafts. Nobody likes a dilettante. And people save a special hatred for newcomers who act like they're the first to discover ideas that other people have been exploring for years.
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