Monday, November 16, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

Our heat is still not fixed. It was 38 degrees last night and is only 49 now.  Right now I have the fireplace going and three burners on the stove. It is still very brrr in here. I put a message in to the landlord, and he is good about dealing with problems, so.

Here is what, huddled under my big comforter, I am reading lately:

Kira Jane Buxton, Hollow Kingdom

Zombies, but from the point of view of the animals, both those who live with humans (domestics); those who do not, but who live in cities and zoos and on farms and so on; and wild animals. A bit of 'nature is healing' vibe, but still pretty good, mostly because of the voice of the main character, a crow named Shit Turd.

S.T. (as he is mostly called) lived with Big Jim before everything went wrong, and he spends most of the book taking care of Dennis, the bloodhound who also lived with Big Jim, and hunting for non-zombie MoFos, as Big Jim, and thus S.T., calls humans. Eventually he gives up on that (mostly) and sets about freeing animals who are trapped in human houses -- dogs, cats, and birds left locked inside when their humans turned.

Maybe a few too many characters here, and the humans-are-the-real-plague trope made me roll my eyes; but otherwise I enjoyed it. A fun read.

Stephanie Barron, Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor; Jane and the Man of the Cloth

These are mystery novels told in the point of view of Jane Austen, beginning in her 27th year. (I believe Jenny F. Scientist recommended them -- thanks, Jenny!) The mysteries are okay, but the fun part is being immersed in Austen's world. There are some delightful footnotes, explaining details that are left unexplained in Austen's novels; and characters who show up in Austen's novels also show up here -- or I guess the other way around, except the conceit of the novels is that these "real" people are used by Austen to build her characters. There are also bits from Austen's letters, and we visit places that show up in the novels.

I expect if you don't love Austen passionately, you won't like these as much as I do. But if you're a Janeite, these are definitely for you.

Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes in the Museum

This is the only Kate Atkinson novel I had never read. I think I started it once, years back, and wasn't gripped by it. But since I'm a completist if I am anything, and since our library had it, I went ahead and read it.

It's Atkinson's first novel, and not bad. I see a lot of themes and ideas she would develop in later novels -- the fascination with the World Wars, for instance, and with accidental death.

Readable, but probably only for big Atkinson fans.

Emily M. Danforth, Plain Bad Heroines

Danforth is best known for her earlier YA book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which I started but DNF. It made some minor waves in the writing community, though.

This one, billed as her "first adult novel" I liked better, though it has some of the same faults as MCP -- that is, it's very discursive, without much tension propelling the plot forward, and despite the billing, more YA than adult. There's a lot of overt symbolism which doesn't add up to much in the end.

The writing is better, though, and I was (just barely) interested enough in the characters to keep reading. We have two stories, running in tandem, both queer stories -- one, set in 19th century Rhode Island, is the story of dark events at a girl's boarding school and the even darker fate of the two women who run the school. The other is the story of a movie being made about the school, and the three young women (all in their early 20s) involved with that. 

Lots of queer passion, which is nice, and there is a happy ending for the 21st century women, though not for the women in the past.

If this is your thing -- ghost stories, creepiness, LA and rich people, a long leisurely narrative, you might like this better than I did. Good footnotes here too.

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