Hey, look! It’s another month and another look at some things I read! Astounding!
February was largely hit or miss for me — the plan was to read a bunch of kissing books, but when the first one I found made me roll my eyes across the room, I kind of stumbled (being eyeless and all).
First though, I finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and am very torn about the book. The voice of the book is amazingly confident and carries the reader solidly through. But Diaz doesn’t treat his women characters with much dignity. No matter how fabulous they could be, they fall into the same old traps, and Diaz writes those traps off in a flippant way. When one woman is attacked in a cane field, multiple rapes are carelessly thrown in. I also wish Oscar had a little more motivation than being the pudgy geek who wants to get laid. (Not a kissing book.)
The next read was definitely a kissing book, The Lumberfox by Ava Lovelace (who is also Deliah Dawson). The cover of this one made me laugh, so I hoped it would be exactly what I needed to kick off a month of romantic reads. I think my first mistake was expecting a full length novel — this is more of a novella or novelette. Hero and heroine hook up and sexy hijinks take place. The end. It’s not much deeper than that, and one continuity error in the text made me doubt the rest of the adventure (as well as doubting the hero’s word — did he lie to our blindfolded heroine?), so I had some trouble with this one. Alas.
I picked up The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman for two reasons. One, I like Hoffman a lot. Two, I wrote a story in the same setting she uses here, the freak shows of Coney Island in the early 1900s. I loved the freak show aspect of the entire book, but was less in love with our starcrossed lovers; it takes them a long long long time to actually interact, so for a long time felt like two separate stories, though it was easy to see how they would finally come together. I read this one in paperback, and also had some trouble how the book was designed. The story gives you a first person accounting and then a third person accounting from each of our main characters. Each first person section is set in italics, and these italics were not the best font to read for long stretches.
I picked up Trading Rosemary by Octavia Cade on a whim and because I love the cover. In this book, our heroine maintains a library of memories, memories that can be sold, traded, and experienced by others. When Rosemary sells a stash of memories, she discovers her estranged daughter rather wanted one of them, so Rosemary embarks on a quest to get it back — but getting it back involves trading her own memories. I felt the set up here was a little too thin and neither Rosemary nor her daughter are very likeable people (certainly not a requirement in my reading as you’ll see); I could never figure out why Rosemary did this, given that in her own words, doesn’t really love her daughter.
Under the Skin by Michel Faber has been on my shelf a while; I wanted to read it ever since seeing the amazing movie (which people either seem to love or hate). Our Heroine is not very likeable in either the book or the film, which made me adore her more. She is very much out of her element in every scenario, but soldiers on. She picks up male hitchhikers along a stretch of Scottish highway, and brings them back to her farm. The book and the movie are very different beasts — they both tell the same story in a very different way. Both are haunting and gorgeous. (This book will probably influence some of the next book I write.)
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is a book I think I read in high school, but as I read it this time, I honestly remembered so little of it, I wonder if I confused it with another book. I liked a lot of this book — how it combined relativity and war, and how we got to see these long lifespans and relationships. I was also surprised to see Haldeman using gender-neutral pronouns along the way. That feels very progressive for 1974? It did to me.
The last two kissing books I grabbed are the only two by Laura Kinsale that I hadn’t read yet — Midsummer Moon and Uncertain Magic. I adore Kinsale, because she usually subverts all the romance tropes, but here…
Midsummer Moon was, in a word, terrible. Our Heroine Merlin is clearly not right in the head (a trope I love), but Kinsale never pairs her with a hero who might understand, respect, and not abuse that. The hero here is nothing but abusive — Ransom is perfectly awful to Merlin over the entire course of the novel, telling her the work she loves has no merit, taking advantage of a memory loss to make her believe they are engaged (!?), and going so far as to burn her work/research/notes. And she held essentially prisoner–how dreadful, not even a wee hedgehog can redeem this book.
Uncertain Magic was somewhat better, the POV solely our heroine’s, as she has the curious ability to hear what other people are thinking. But this book still felt like it was missing something to me — Roddy and Faelin don’t talk about the things they should talk about — plenty of things happen that no one ever questions, and it could have been miles better. Perhaps both books suffer because they are earlier books from her — I don’t know.
I closed out the month with Sing Me Your Scars, a short story collection from Damien A. Walters. Of late, Damien has been my partner in crime when it comes to writing short stories, so it’s great to see a collection from her. There are eight new stories in this book, so if you love her work, be sure to grab this, as you can’t find any of those stories anywhere else! Damien was kind enough to send me the ebook early, but I’ve got the paperback coming, and can’t wait to see its pretty design.
So hey, that was some of what I read in February! Wonder what I’m gonna read in March…