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
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.