Some books I have read before

REREADING IS AMAZING.  Sometimes I forget how many amazing books I have already read, because I am busy reading new books, which are also (sometimes) amazing.  But this is what I’ve been reading lately.

Magician’s Ward, Patricia C. Wrede

Much like Mairelon the Magician.  Too many names of people, but I don’t care because I am more interested in Kim’s learning magic and having a Season and Coming Out at a ball and having Offers of Marriage to turn down.  In pretty dresses.  Can there be more pretty dresses?  And God, pretty shoes?  I need new shoes so much.  My favorite shoes are all reaching the end of their lives – the pink ones that go with all my red-toned tops; the adorable tan strappy sandals that I wore all over the place and I love them and I don’t want them to go; and the little black ones I wore to prom (I KNOW I HAVE TO LET THEM GO) and then forgot about for several years and then rediscovered, with the sweet little kitten heel.  Sigh.

Sorcery and Cecelia, Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

I love Sorcery and Cecelia.  Know why?  Because the two authors wrote it using the letter game!  The letter game!  They really did!  Kate has gone to London to have her Season, and poor Cecelia is stuck at home in Essex.  They have all sorts of fun with a marquis and a magical chocolate pot, and a wicked witch called Miranda, and beautiful friends and relations.

Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede are obviously having fun here, and they manage a plot that hangs together really well over two locations and considering they were making it up as they went along.  Reading this again for the first time in a while, I am extra triple curious about what they changed when they decided to get it published.  I would think to play the letter game, you’d have to be quite attentive to minor details in the other person’s letter, and also be flexible enough to ditch elements of the plot you had planned if the other person said something that messed it up.  Tricky!  But it sounds so fun.  One of these days…

Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters

Amelia Peabody makes me laugh.  I don’t necessarily read this series for the mysteries, though I recall finding some of them quite satisfying.  I really read them for the characters – Amelia is so determined and brilliant, and Evelyn is sweet without being sweety-sweet (usually, and when she is sweety-sweet it just makes me laugh, and she’s all There is an image enshrined in my heart – oh, Elizabeth Peters, why are you so funny all the time?); and the Emersons are charming.

Elizabeth Peters has a wicked sense of humor, and as many times as I’ve read her books, they always make me laugh.  Well-done her for giving her detective a family without making her boring – and carrying on adding family members and not forgetting them in subsequent books.  She does make oodles of good characters, though at a certain point there are too many all at once.

But I’ve strayed from the point.  Um, yes, Crocodile on the Sandbank.  Did I say, it’s set in Egypt at the end of the nineteenth century?  There are pyramids all over the place, and the characters all have sumptuous fun complaining about the treatment of antiquities (it is really shocking, to be fair – it makes me want to cry even when the antiquities in question are fictional). Plus, whenever silly characters show up, everyone makes fun of them!  Hooray!

What are some books you return to repeatedly?  If you like them so much perhaps I will like them too…

Giles Goat-Boy, John Barth

This book and I got off to a rocky start. Last time I was at the library, I picked up a bunch of books that I thought might be good, by authors who are all those weird fantasy realists and postmodern and metafictiony. I got the rest of Salman Rushdie’s books that I haven’t read – except, annoyingly enough, The Satanic Verses, which is the one I wanted to read first because I was pretty sure I was going to like it the least – and I got several books by Italo Calvino, and I got Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth. (And Invitation to a Beheading, which is neither here nor there.) So I asked my sister what I wanted to read, The Baron in the Trees or Shalimar the Clown or Giles Goat-Boy, and she thought Giles Goat-Boy was a sweet little children’s story so she said to read that one so I did.

I mean, I don’t know if you know this, but it’s about a kid who’s raised as a goat, and the university is the universe; so there you have the central conceits. There are a lot of things like the Second Campus Riot and then the west side of campus and the east side of campus had the Quiet Riot and like – okay, whatever, I will admit that the long segment of world history refigured for a university became a little trying (I guess if I’d thought it was funny, it might have been better), and the I-am-a-goat bits irritated me. I kept having to put the book down and have a brief silent soliloquoy about Why, why, why, why? which is how I sometimes feel about postmodern things. This book is damn weird, and I didn’t like it at all, so I set myself a goal: Read until chapter four of the second section, and then you can quit. After I decided that, I had a dream in which I was in jail for something, and they took us on a field trip to the bookshop, but they wouldn’t let me look at any of the good books. I could only look at the lame books. And inside my head I was thinking I will not let them break my spirit!

I was very, very close to abandoning the entire enterprise. But I sensibly consulted The Internet, and The Internet assured me that I was quite right. Giles Goat-Boy does get off to a weird start, and the university-history thing is dated and weird. The Internet also told me that The Sot-Weed Factor might be more my thing, and that John Barth, in spite of all his weirdness, does some damn good storytelling. And I am all about plot. I know a lot of people just rejoice in the joyous joys of writing, and I do too, but honestly, if there’s not a good plot there, and if it’s not being advanced well, it’s just no good. That was why (I know it’s not the generally-held opinion) I like The Ground Beneath Her Feet so much better than Midnight’s Children, which was a very cool idea and a beautifully written book but sort of carried the plot along in fits and starts. Whereas The Ground Beneath Her Feet goes steadily along, with things happening – love story, goats, photography, and all the rest and so forth.

I really was determined to get to my chapter-four cutoff point, and the thing is, I just didn’t do it. After a while I tipped it off my bedside table in my sleep, and then I read Ender’s Shadow and Ender’s Game, and then I obtained from another library branch The Satanic Verses and read that, and then I wanted to read Walk Two Moons which I always see all over my house so I looked and looked and I couldn’t find it so instead of that I read Chasing Redbird and then I hunted for Walk Two Moons some more and the damn book was nowhere but I did find Back Home, which I’d been frantically hunting for after I read Good Night, Mr. Tom earlier this month, so I read that, and then my mother got Understanding the Borderline Mother, which my family’s been dying to read because we love reading about BPD, on PaperbackSwap, and I was halfway through that and I realized that there is just no part of me that even remotely wants to read Giles Goat-Boy.

So I stopped trying.

Oh well.

Er

I just realized I haven’t posted here in like ten years. Oops. It’s not because I suddenly ceased to read; it’s because I had exams and graduation. But now I’m a college graduate with a degree! A useful degree! And a shiny gold medal (but it’s not real gold, and I know because I bit it)!

But I have been reading. I’m trying to remember what I’ve been reading, and here is what I came up with, and I’m posting in brief:

Fallen, David Maine – mainly research for a story I’m writing, and I found this book unremarkable. It starts with Cain at the end of his life and works backward, back and back and back, all the way to Adam and Eve and their Eden situation. Kind of blah, though I liked this line:

For long disorienting moments Cain hovered outside his body, calmly looking down from above at two young men tussling at the edge of a cliff. Then one of them became a murderer and the other one died.

Otherwise, I could have lived contentedly without it. Just not that interesting. Oh well.

The Diary of Adam and Eve, by Mark Twain – made me smile. Not really a book, just a collection of individually published pieces, most of which were quite delightful. Mark Twain. God bless him.

A graphic novel whose name I just can’t even remotely remember right now. Um, that’s very annoying. I quite liked it, even though it was on the predictable side and the writing as writing didn’t touch Neil Gaiman, to whom I compare all graphic novels everywhere (very unfair). It was all about a guy who lost his soul and this girl Laurel was his guide taking him on a walking quest to get his soul back, and if they didn’t get it by the end of the year, he would turn into an evil green dude. That’s so strange because I Just finished it last night and I am so chagrined to find that I can’t remember the name of the author or the book. Damn.

Midnight Nation.  That’s what it was.  Midnight Nation and the author was J. Michael Straczynski – and to be fair to me, that is a name that is very hard to remember.

Affinity, Sarah Waters – Couldn’t finish it! Of all things! I just got totally bored and returned it to the library. Very out of character. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

So that’s the four I can think of right now. I will update again when I remember what else I have been reading. I guess I’ve been doing some rereading activities, and then of course I’ve been very busy with exams and finishing watching Angel (of which I now own all seasons but the last, and I do own all the seasons of Buffy, and oh what a happy birthday girl I was when that happened).

The Chatham School Affair, Thomas H. Cook

Meh.

Everyone kept comparing other books to The Chatham School Affair with favorable-sounding opinions, so I picked it up at the library a little while ago and started reading it, and I have to confess that I found it somewhat trying.  I couldn’t get into the story because of all the frantic foreshadowing.  It kept being all Little did we know when first we beheld that peaceful landscape how much BLOOD AND DEATH AND MISERY there would be there later on, and I only read a little bit of it, but I just got fed up with the way Mr. Cook was caking on the foreshadowing.  Like those cakes with that vanilla frosting where normal people have to scrape off the flowers and leaves but some people love it so much that they demand to have the pieces with flowers and leaves on top and even accept your discarded frosting flowers and leaves.  I am scraper-offer, and this foreshadowing was way the hell too much.

(I am apparently really really into dessert similes.  I am now putting a one-month embargo on dessert similes.  Or metaphors.)

Maybe sometime I’ll try to read this again.  Maybe not.  We’ll see.