Sunday, January 26, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

Sandra Newman, The Heavens

The Heavens by [Newman, Sandra]I read Newman's first book, The Country of the Ice Cream Star, though I don't seem to have reviewed it here (hmm!), and I remember liking it well enough. This one, The Heavens, sounded interesting from the blurb I read on someone's blog (I think here), so when it showed up at the library, I checked it out.

It's pretty good -- the writing is excellent, and the story is intriguing, if depressing, in this darkest time-line. Basically, our main character, Kate, is psychically linked to the Dark Woman of Shakespeare's sonnets. She keeps jumping back in time, while she dreams, into that woman's life. While she's there, she can, and does, change things.

The result is that every time she wakes, in her own life, the world has changed -- and never for the better. When we first meet her and her friends, they're living in a semi-Utopia. It's not a perfect world. People are still depressed, economic disparity still exists, the climate is still messed up. But things are getting better, and people are working together.

Each time Kate returns, she finds everything is worse. Cars are still burning oil. Bush is President. Africans were enslaved. Then she finds she's not the only one who is dreaming changes to the world. This is where the novel gets interesting.

I don't know that I like the ending, exactly. But the rest of the book is great.

Mira Grant, Kingdom of Needle and Bone

A novella from Seanan McGuire, under her pen name, this starts out really well. Or I guess I should say if you like books about pandemics this starts out really well. An eight year old gets something like the super-measles and dies, but not before spreading the disease to half of Florida; and from there it is spread to the entire planet.

I mean, I'm in.

But then the book sort of wanders around, and nothing much happens. There's some information about herd immunity, and why vaccinations matter -- information that doesn't really connect to the narrative -- and there's a lot of time spent on scenes that are entirely non-essential, like six or seven pages devotes to a boat ride. And then we just skim over what seems like it should be the important part of the story, which is building and defending the sanctuary communities, and finding a cure for the disease. Also the big reveal at the end does not work at all.

Extremely readable, but nothing I would recommend.

Micheal Gilbert, Blood and Judgment

Another Michael Gilbert mystery novel, this one from 1959, and pretty good. A young detective goes out to investigate a body found by a reservoir on Guy Fawkes Day, and is involved in the ensuing investigation. Again, this is more interesting (at least for me) for the details about life in England in the 1950s than for the quality of the mystery. But the mystery is pretty good too.

Also the main character in this one, the young detective, is also fun.

Kevin Wilson, The Family Fang

I liked this one, though not as much as Nothing to See Here. It's a lot less coherent, and Wilson seems less sure of himself. Still pretty good, though.

The Family Fang creates performance art. That is its raison d'etre, the entire reason it exists. The parents married as a kind of performance art; their children, Annie and Buster, exist to be performers in the performance art. All their lives, one act of performance art after the next. We get many descriptions of these acts of art, some of which are hilarious, all of which are appalling.

As Annie and Buster grow up, they grow less certain that their parents are right about the importance of this art they are creating. The conflict between the insulated world of the (maybe demented?) parents and the world that Annie and Buster move out into powers most of the novel.

Nice writing, great characters. Kind of hard to read in places.

D.E. Stevenson, Mrs. Tim Christie, Mrs. Tim Carries on

More books from England in the 1930s and early 1940s. These are just cozy. They're fictional diaries of a military wife, a woman to whom nothing bad ever happens, not even when WWII has begun. Things happen around her -- people get married, children are born, officers are shipped off to India -- but nothing bad happens to any of them either.

Read these if you want something charming and safe. TW for occasional offhand racism.

No comments: