January 18, 2012

2012 Reading Challenges

I am a bit of a reading challenge addict.  I love the organization and strategy involved in trying to find books that I both very much want to read and can fit into tasks across various challenges - and preferably multitask those books to fit in to more than one challenge at a time.  Perhaps it's a bit fussy, but I've read so many wonderful books through challenge task choices that I might not have ever read otherwise.

This year, I am being conservative regarding my challenge choices.  I am going to steer clear of many challenges I know I would really enjoy but which are very specifically thematic (historical fiction, classics, debut authors, non-fiction, etc.) and focus on speculative fiction.  I know this will help me not only to read more of the books sitting lonely on my home bookshelves patiently waiting for me to finally get to them, but also to review more of what I read and more consistently update this blog.  Sometimes I need to find little tricks to help motivate myself, and this is one such trick.

January 17, 2012

[Book Review] Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

by Patrick Süskind

Published (edition):  2001 Knopf Publishing Group
First Published:  1985 (Germany)
Awards Won:  World Fantasy Award, PEN Translation Prize
Notes:  English translation by John E. Woods
My rating:  5 out of 5

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer isn't the sort of book that will be everyone's cup of tea. What book is? But this book is likely to polarize its readership into the "loved it completely" camp and the "ugh...no thanks" group. I fall firmly into the former, as I found the story wonderful in so many ways. 

I read a lot of unconventional fiction, including a lot of things that some folks might find disturbing or overly bizarre. I love it when an author surprises me, and it doesn't happen nearly often enough. Perfume was surprising, but not so much for the plot or characterization as for the language. The language of Perfume is unabashedly sensual. There isn't a single sexual situation in the book (barring one very strange event near the end which is not described in any sort of explicit detail but is only suggested), but nearly every line is verily dripping with descriptors, with wording so florid and visceral you can almost (pardon the wordplay) smell it. Clearly this is intentional, and Süskind has really done a bang-up job. 

December 22, 2011

Regarding My MIA Status: An Update

As visitors may have noticed, I've been AWOL for a while now.  I still intend to blog here, but much of Autumn has seen me sidelined with illness and family issues and Real Life:  Killer of Best Intentions.   Please check back mid-January, as I have updates in the works to kick off 2012!

August 8, 2011

[Book Review] Bottomfeeder

by Bob Fingerman

Published:  2006, M Press
My rating:  4 out of 5

Bottomfeeder by Bob Fingerman was gritty, grotesque, laugh-out-loud funny, and somehow (despite the supernatural underpinnings) believable.  I originally discovered this book when looking for something to suggest to my boyfriend for reading on a plane trip, and as he's a fan of Bob Fingerman's graphic novel work, I thought this would be good for him. Then I ended up having it re-recommended to me by him. The circle of stories, or some-such...but I'm glad to have read it. 

August 2, 2011

Do Nothing But Read Day is Saturday, August 6!

It has been said that a book is a vacation you take at home, and who couldn't use a vacation?  Amanda Lanyon-LeSage is hosting another all-you-can-read marathon this Saturday, August 6, 2011.  The rules?  "1) Read.  2) Have fun!"  Sounds easy enough!

Amanda is holding sign-ups at her dedicated blog, Do Nothing But Read Day, and she's also hosting an optional  contest for those who would like to opt in by providing their name and info.  You can find the sign-up form for the event here.

Now I just have to decide which book (or books) to focus on!

July 31, 2011

[Book Review] After Dark

by Haruki Murakami

Published: 2007 Knopf Doubleday
First published: 2004 (Japan)
Notes: English translation by Jay Rubin 
My rating:  4 out of 5

After Dark by Haruki Murakami reminded me of carefully-shuffled cards. Two decks representing two separate (yet ultimately and intimately related) stories are slowly merged, chapter by chapter, until they make one cohesive whole that is far more beautiful and evocative than either story would be if taken alone. Murakami is a master of this technique, and he is in fine form here. 

July 23, 2011

[Book Review] Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

by Kate Wilhelm

First published: 1976, Harper & Row (NY)
Awards won: Hugo (1977), Locus (1977)
Notes:  SF Masterworks #67, original cover art by M.C. Escher
Full Disclosure:  I received my review copy of the 1998 Orb/Tom Doherty, Assoc. printing of this novel (ISBN 0312866151, different cover) via the Goodreads First Reads program. 
My rating:  5 out of 5

On one level, Kate Wilhelm’s Hugo-winner Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is a brilliant and insightful musing on one possible set of implications of cloning.  On another, it is an environmental/ecological cautionary tale.  But at its heart, it is a family saga spanning several generations.  I was immediately charmed by this story’s warmth and humanity. The first few chapters perfectly set the stage for what is to come, introducing the central family at a time when things are mostly normal, a time before the world began to disintegrate and life took on a thousand forms of adversity and complexity. I liked this family, appreciated their strong loyalties and values. I wanted things to go well for them.

But things do not go well, or at least not as planned. Ecological, economic, and environmental turmoil ensues, and the process is wholly believable to a modern reader. Wilhelm was remarkably prescient in her writing, and the book feels neither dated nor far-fetched in its allusions to these societal troubles. She writes as a realist, neither heavy-handed nor preachy. Yet she is unflinching in authenticity, and I was fully convinced that her future is not only plausible, but at least partially probable. This apocalypse makes a bang for the world at large, but in the microcosm of the world of the central family, the effect is more akin to a whisper spreading out through the generations, impossible to ignore, until finally it is the only sound left.