The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender
I don’t really know about this book. I hoped to find it light but charming, but it’s not really light and only the premise is charming, and the rest of it just sort of gets too much. I mean, there’s a point where it just gets beyond magic realism and becomes absurd, for me. The idea of tasting emotions in food doesn’t seem so strange to me, but there’s a point where this story crosses the line.
Some of the writing worked okay for me, but the narration didn’t, quite: when is she narrating this? Why? To whom? The lack of speech marks and the sentence fragments didn’t bother me too much, it all seemed to be part of the voice Aimee Bender was trying to build up for her character, but… For a story that could be so rich and sensual, it ended up being “hollow in the middle”, like the flavour of sadness the protagonist tastes in her mother’s cooking and baking.
The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Maria Tatar
The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales is a pretty good discussion of, not the origins of the tales in the Grimms’ collection, but in how the Grimms treated them and why. It looks at some of the publication history and the issues surrounding different editions, the changes in audience, and it deals with some pretty common interpretations of some of the tales (e.g. why Bluebeard is considered a cautionary tale about the evils of curiosity instead of, you know, the evils of killing your wives and butchering their dead bodies and then marrying again) and how they came about.
I guess it’s probably a bit dry if you’re not particularly interested in the topic, but I found it perfectly readable. It does help that I recently reread selections from the Grimms’ work, and looked at some of them in my SF/F class — I notice myself falling into some of the traps of thinking about these stories which Tatar discusses and evades — so that the whole topic is fresh in my mind and relevant to what I’m thinking about lately.
If you’re looking for salacious details of the “real” Bluebeard, or the real Hansel and Gretel, seek elsewhere. Tatar doesn’t really go in for that kind of interpretation of fairytale/folklore origins.
The Antigone Poems, Marie Slaight, Terrence Tasker
I originally entered the LibraryThing Early Reviewers draw for this and didn’t get it, so when I spotted it on Netgalley I picked it up right away. Antigone is a figure who always fascinated me: her burning passion for her duty, her righteousness, her tragedy… but also the sense that this was a sort of teenage rebellion against authority; the worry that she was acting more for her own sake, to be a symbol, than for her brothers.
This collection of art and poetry was apparently originally created in the 70s. I’m no particular judge of art (but I know what I like, as people say), and the art didn’t really appeal to me. The poetry felt fragmentary, hard to connect with the figure of Antigone at times and then at other times perfectly clear. There are some bright, sharp images that I really liked; at other times I was ambivalent.
What did you recently finish reading?
Parnassus on Wheels (Christopher Morley). I’ll be posting the review on the blog once I’ve finished reading the sequel, The Haunted Bookshop, but I really enjoyed it. It’s available on Project Gutenberg — I do recommend it if you love books and talking about books or heroines who are nearly forty and describe themselves as fat and have adventures and fall in love. Or preferably both.
What are you currently reading?
Other than The Haunted Bookshop, there’s also The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairytales (Maria Tatar), which is a very readable study of the Grimms’ work, the various editorial decisions they made and why, etc. I haven’t finished reading it yet, obviously, but I think I’d recommend it, for all that it’s from 1987.
There’s also Alphabet of Thorn (Patricia A. McKillip), which is gorgeous and has me enthralled, and Hangwire (Adam Christopher), which I received as an ARC. I’m enjoying the writing, but am a little bit confused right now with the plot. Must get round to reading my other Adam Christopher books, anyway.
What do you think you’ll read next?
The Iron Wolves (Andy Remic) is pretty high on my list, plus a bunch of Chuck Wendig’s books. And because of my partner, it’s totally her fault, The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger). And I do want to finish reading the Ultimate Spider-man comics. But I think you know by now that I am terrible at reading what I think I’m going to read.
I don’t think I’ve bought anything this week. Pretty sure I haven’t! I’m doing so well. But I did receive a bunch of ARCs from Angry Robot in the mail, including Hangwire and The Iron Wolves, and I picked up The Seers (Julianna Scott) and Known Devil (Justin Gustainis) from Netgalley, although I haven’t finished the previous books in either series.
I’m trying to mostly keep my blog about books, since that was what I established it for, but sometimes I come across things I really want to share, and this is one of them. Depression Quest is a text-based game (with audio), based on living with depression. It isn’t an easy game to play, emotionally, though it’s very simple in style — basically choose your own adventure — but I think it’s an important one.
You play as an unnamed, ungendered person who has a girlfriend called Alex, and the world is peopled with a support network — Attic, an online friend; Sam, a co-worker; your mother; your brother Malcolm; a therapist who an old friend helps you find. All of these react in different ways if you turn to them for help with your depression, just like real people.
I played through on more or less the route I’ve been able to take in real life: seeing a counsellor, getting on medication, talking to my partner and family fairly openly about it. Even so, parts of the game made me cry. I don’t want to open it up again and play through a different route. It isn’t perfectly representative of all the possible problems you can have when you’re depressed, but it offers a little taste that does, to my mind, two important things. 1) It tells people with depression that they’re not alone, that that uselessness and darkness they feel is experienced by others, and 2) it can provide a way for them to demonstrate to other people both what it feels like and the obstacles that face you.
Depression Quest is a game, a story, and an important contribution to openly talking about depression. It really makes me wonder if I should offer to write a script for “Anxiety Quest”…
Uncorked Thoughts giveaway
Just thought I’d pass this on to everyone who reads here: Leah at Uncorked Thoughts is doing a Christmas giveaway!
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
Another one read for my Coursera SF/F class. As usual when I’ve just finished a book, I have no idea what I’m going to write my essay about, but I have one day left to figure it out…
The thing that interests me most, I guess, is that Mars colonises the colonisers. In different ways in different vignettes, but it’s there — particularly in that last chapter/section. In a sense it feels like a recent book: the commentary on the spoiling of the world, and on colonisation; in others it feels so dated — the treatment of people of colour, women, the obsession with nuclear war (which is still an issue, but not the same kind of deep-seated fear, I think)…
The science itself (how long it might take to fly to Mars, being the obvious example) isn’t really important to the story/themes: it’s there as a backdrop, not at all used in the way H.G. Wells used science.
As with most of Bradbury’s work which I’ve come across so far, there are some gorgeous sections of prose here, and it’s all very well crafted and easy to read, as you’d expect.
Today Angry Robot announced a new acquisition — a new author, even. Today they’re giving a big welcome to Carrie Patel, which is extra-special to me too because I finally — finally! — get to tell you a bit more about the acquisitions meeting I went to, i.e., the name of the author we acquired. And pssst, it’s a secret, but I was rooting for Carrie all along.
The first book is called The Buried Life, and here’s the summary:
The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Ricoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.
When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…
I’ve read the first five chapters, in preparation for that acquisition meeting, and I was really intrigued. There are strong characters — particularly strong female characters — and an interesting world. Lee Harris described it to me as a “steampunk adventure”, which seemed to fit what I was able to read: a steampunk adventure with cool, strong women — women from different walks of life/social classes, too.
I’m looking forward to seeing Carrie Patel’s book in print (I get an ARC, right? right?!). In the meantime, go say hi to her on Twitter @Carrie_Patel, or browse her website.
What did you recently finish reading?
A lot of Spider-man comics. I’m trying to read all twenty-two of the Ultimate Spider-man comics before I leave my partner’s and head back to Britain. I’m on volume thirteen. I don’t know if I can do it.
I also read a book from the local library, Tanith Lee’s White as Snow.
What are you currently reading?
Uh. Spider-man! And… more Spider-man. I’ve still got Molly Beth Griffin’s Silhouette of a Sparrow partly read: I thought I’d finish that easily, but there have been so many distractions.
What do you think you’ll read next?
Well, I know I need to read The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury) for my SF/F class this week, so that’ll probably be next. There’s also… a ton more Spider-man!
I don’t think there’s been anything since last week! I’ve been tempted, but I’ve been good. Nothing on Netgalley yet, either, though I’m hoping for the latest Flavia de Luce book, and the conclusion of Maria V. Snyder’s current trilogy. Fingers crossed!
White As Snow, Tanith Lee
There are some beautiful aspects of this book, and then there’s the fact that nearly every female character is raped, often multiple times. The beauty is mostly in some of the writing and descriptions, though some of the ideas are also pretty interesting in theory — Lee blends the story of Snow White with the Greco-Roman myth of Hades and Persephone.
This isn’t either story as you know it, though, and for me it ultimately didn’t work. The two stories didn’t blend very well, because I was spending so much time drawing parallels, and because some of the parallels seemed a little laboured. Some of it is very sensual writing, while during a lot of it the heroines act like pieces of cardboard: I understand that is the reaction of some rape victims, some of whom may never “snap out of it”, but it does unfortunately cut out a lot of the potential feeling of the story.
I did enjoy the introduction, which goes into the background of the story, and introduced me to a glorious poem by Delia Sherman, “Snow White to the Prince”, which ends:
Do you think I did not know her,
Ragged and gnarled and stooped like a wind-bent tree,
Her basket full of combs and pins and laces?
Of course I took her poisoned gifts. I wanted
To feel her hands combing out my hair.
To let her lace me up, to take an apple
From her hand, a smile from her lips,
As when I was a child.