Books of June

A writer’s notes about books.

Here are the books I read and lis­tened to in June.

Read:

A Brief His­tory of Seven Killings — Mar­lon James

In which there are a damned sight more than seven killings. Some of the nar­ra­tive is true in a broad sense. The pol­i­tics of Jamaica, the US efforts to direct Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean activ­i­ties, the CIA fetish of Cuba, and the involve­ment of the Columbian car­tels in every­thing — all mostly true. But beyond that? It’s pretty much up in the air, I can’t tell you what’s true and what’s fic­tion. The attempted assig­na­tion of a char­ac­ter known as The Singer (a thinly dis­guised Bob Mar­ley) anchors the book. All the other actions and actors spin into and out of that one act.

It’s a tough read because of the wild num­ber of POV char­ac­ters that you have to track (each chap­ter is help­fully labeled) and the heavy use of patois. You get used to the patois and you spend a cer­tain amount of time flip­ping back to see where you left that cur­rent POV char­ac­ter. It took a lot longer to read than most things and it’s really long to start with. Still, I found the whole thing worth the trou­ble for the trip to times and places that are utterly unknown to me and the intro­duc­tion to Mar­lon James. I have his The Book of Night Women in the To Read pile.

The Book of Phoenix — Nnedi Okorafor

Pre­quel to her well-known Who Fears Death which I liked a good deal. The term spec­i­Men jarred me every damned time I came across it. It’s a haz­ard, try­ing to fig­ure out names for future things. Good, read­able early-disaster sci-fi. Okorafor’s writ­ing is reli­able and occa­sion­ally spe­cial. A story of gen-tech gone wrong — which is noth­ing new. A giant tree in the mid­dle of NYC — new. Two things that looks like angels but aren’t — only sort of new. A phoenix-human hybrid would kind of look like an angel, no? Oh, and those spi­der things from the other book (Who Fears Death) and that alien seed/nut thing. That’s never really explained. Set up for another book?

Lis­tened to:

Bossy Pants — Tina Fey
Yes, Please — Amy Pohler

Go lis­ten to Bossy Pants. Not read it, lis­ten to it. Really, it’s so much bet­ter if you lis­ten to it. Tina Fey play­ing Tina Fey. It’s all here. Sec­ond City, SNL, 30 Rock, the Sarah Palin sketches, and the real­ity of being female over 40 in com­edy. She might be my new idol. Amy Pohler was (and still is on occa­sion) Tina Fey’s part­ner in crime. Amy’s book is in some ways fun­nier. It’s got a lot more gags. Fey’s book is about being funny. Pohler’s book is funny. You know what I mean?

I Shall Wear Mid­night — Terry Pratchett

The last of the four Tiffany Aching sto­ries pub­lished while Terry Pratch­ett was alive. (There is one more com­ing in August.) I picked it to lis­ten to on my daily walk to remind myself where the story had ended and because I remem­ber lik­ing it a lot. Maybe my favorite of the series? Until I remem­bered Win­ter­smith which has the bet­ter plot, and per­haps the most human Tiffany of the bunch. It cer­tainly has the best of the other witches in it. Okay — I should have lis­tened to Win­ter­smith

Ink­heart — Cor­nelia Funke

Why didn’t I like this? Pre­co­cious 12 year-old. Okay, that’s enough for me to not like some­thing as much as I might. And yes, I under­stand that I am about to admit to lik­ing a book about a young boy. Go read the com­ments on Ocean, the part that I don’t like is when we end up inside the head of the boy with­out the man.

The rest is okay. A lit­tle juve­nile — but hey, mid­dle grade book. One of those door-stopper books that mid­dle graders and tweens like. Think Harry Pot­ter but not so good for adults because the adults are one-dimensional. If you have an avid young reader of your own hang­ing around some­where they just might love it.

Ocean at the End of the Lane — Neil Gaiman

Thor­oughly reviewed a dozen times in a dozen places. Either you like Gaiman’s lush brand of fan­tasy prose or you don’t. If you do, you won’t be dis­ap­pointed. Either you like grown up sto­ries that really con­cern chil­dren and vv or you don’t. If you don’t, I sug­gest Nev­er­land instead.

Some­times the blended adult/boy voice of the main char­ac­ter leans a lit­tle too far to the boy. Yes, it’s a story about a boy, but the story is the expla­na­tion of the man and it’s the man’s reac­tion to it that we’re watch­ing in the meta-view. SO the times when the narrator’s voice totally aban­dons his adult per­sona I feel a lit­tle cheated.

I started and aban­doned The Girl with All Gifts — M.R. Carey.

The set up and the two main char­ac­ters in the first hand­ful of chap­ters were inter­est­ing. But then it turned into a zom­bie infec­tion story. There’s just not much you can do with a zom­bie story that’s going to keep me inter­ested once you’ve hit me with the sci­en­tist, the griz­zled old mil­i­tary guy, the green mil­i­tary kid, and an ide­al­is­tic young woman, in an escape vehi­cle bro­ken down in the mid­dle of nowhere and oh, by the way, there’s a zom­bie with them. Nope, not even a child zom­bie that seems to have retained all her human fac­ul­ties. I stopped lis­ten­ing to it at the end of my walk one day and the next day sim­ply didn’t care what hap­pened to the char­ac­ters, so I picked up some­thing else.

In non-fiction I’ve picked up the sec­ond and third Food52 cook­books. Rec­om­mend the 2nd Vol­ume. Not so enam­ored of the Genius Recipes, too many over com­pli­cated preparations.

As well as iMovie: The Miss­ing Man­ual. I urge you not to go there.

All In

Russian Prints Quilt

Recently, after many years of being away from the art of putting pieces of fabric together with lengths of thread, I bought a new sewing machine. A sewing machine that requires not one but two getting acquainted classes for the new user, and whose … [Continue reading]

Calamari

I don’t like calamari. It’s not a big deal, but it’s emphatic. I really don’t like the stuff. It’s rubbery and unpleasant in the mouth and it tastes like dead fish. So I don’t like calamari. I’m surrounded by people who loooove calamari so I … [Continue reading]

Toddler Head

Am I the only one here who’s sick unto death of managing myself like some balky damn toddler? When you have a toddler in the house every single moment of your life is consumed with managing the toddler. They are ingenious, … and they can walk. In … [Continue reading]