Books of June

A writer’s notes about books. 

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


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.