July 5th, 2011

Polar Bear - sleeping

Books 34-37: Running with Scissors, Dry, Madness, Along for the Ride

Title:Running with Scissors*
Written and Narrated by:Augusten Burroughs
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Title:Dry: A Memoir*
Written and Narrated by:Augusten Burroughs
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Title:Madness: A Bipolar Life
Written by:Marya Hornbacher
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Title:Along for the Ride*
Written by:Sarah Dessen
Narrated by:Rachel Botchan
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37 / 75 words. 49% done!

Book 61: An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas

Book 61: An Uncertain Place (Commissaire Adamsberg 06) .
Author: Fred Vargas, 2008. Translated from the French by Sian Reynolds, 2011.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Gothic. Folklore.
Other Details: Trade Paperback. 408 pages

Commissaire Adamsberg and two of his men are attending a three-day conference in London. After hours they accompany Chief Inspector Radstock, their New Scotland Yard colleague, on a tour of the unseen side of London. They encounter an eccentric aristocrat, well known to Radstock, who directs them to Highgate Cometary saying there is something there they need to see "if they have the stomach for it". There just outside the entrance a pile of shoes is found. Perhaps not so strange in itself, but these shoes contain severed feet.

As Scotland Yard's investigation begins, Adamsberg and his colleagues return home and are confronted with a brutal massacre in a suburban home. Soon Adamsberg is drawn in to a trail of vampires and vampire-hunters that leads him all the way to Serbia, a place where the old certainties no longer apply.

What can I say vampires - they get everywhere these days! Still one of Vargas' earlier titles centred around attacks from a suspected werewolf and she did such an effective job there that I was confident that any vampires were going to be a long way from the beings found in paranormal romance titles and much more akin to Old World vampiri.

Having now read all the Adamsberg books that have been translated to English, I am such a firm fan of Vargas' style and just love her characterisations and the way she handles her plot. I also felt that I was able to understand the working practices of Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his unit at the Paris Serious Crime Squad much better after watching the French TV series 'Spiral' on BBC3. I know many of these books have been made into TV films in France, so do hope with the popularity of Euro Crime in the UK that they might be acquired.

As always Vargas, who is an archaeologist and historian, does an excellent job in capturing a sense of place whether it is Paris, London's baroque Highgate Cemetery or a remote village in Serbia. She has a wonderful sense of detail that brings her settings alive. I will warn that there are a few scenes here that are not for the squeamish and this novel possibly contains one of the most graphic and disturbing crime scenes that I've ever encountered in any context.

Quirky and unpredictable; it is easy to see why Vargas has been the recipient of so many awards for her crime fiction and I am rooting for 'An Uncertain Place' to win the CWA International Dagger in 2011.
goku doll

Books 17–22

Title: The Monkey King
Author: Timothy Mo
Pages: 327
Rating: 2/5
Book: 17/50

The Monkey King was recommended to me by one of my professors but ultimately wasn't to my taste. A Macanese (Portuguese/Chinese from Macau) man marries into a Chinese family in Hong Kong and must learn to live with his in-laws. Hilarity ensues. I really wanted to like it (because of both the recommendation and the setting), but I just wasn't that into it.

Title: The Girl Who Played Go
Author: Shan Sa
Pages: 288
Rating: 4/5
Book: 18/50

Beautiful, if tragic, story. I'd been on the lookout for this book for years (I don't buy much online) and was sooooo happy to come across it during a trip to SF a few months back. Alternating chapters follow a teenage girl and a Japanese soldier during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria prior to WWII. Short chapters and poetic prose (originally published in French, I read the English translation) make it a breeze of a read. I got a little bit of a Lust, Caution vibe at times, probably because of the time period and revolutionary bits, and maybe also because I watched Lust, Caution around the same time I bought this book.

Title: My Name Is Memory
Author: Ann Brashares
Pages: 324
Rating: 3.5/5
Book: 19/50

The author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants takes on a (mildly) paranormal romance featuring a boy who remembers all of his past lives, and the love of his life(s), who doesn't. The angsty romance factor (namely the angsty male romantic lead) did not bother me as much as I expected, so kudos to Brashares for that. I'm still of the opinion that Brashares peaked at the second Sisterhood book, but I liked this much better than her other non-Sisterhood book, The Last Summer (of you and me).

Title: Sisterhood Everlasting
Author: Ann Brashares
Pages: 349
Rating: 3.5/5
Book: 20/50

Brashares revisits the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, set ten years after the fourth Sisterhood book. While I like the idea of seeing what the girls are like as adults, they certainly don't feel ten years older than the last time we saw them. In terms of maturity, I really didn't see that much difference. But I must say, when it comes to writing emotion, Brashares really knows how to pack a punch (which is why I rank the second book as the best in the series, and her best work, period). An emotionally rough thing happens fairly early in the book and becomes the core of the rest of the book as both characters and readers try to make sense of it. Basically I was heartbroken and wanted to cry the whole time.

Title: Welcome to Bordertown
Author: edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner
Pages: 544
Rating: 5/5
Book: 21/50

I am in love with the new Bordertown anthology, which revolves around the premise that the way to the Border has reopened after being closed off for 13 years – for those in the World. For those in Bordertown, only 13 days have passed. Am I in love with every single story in it? No, but I am in love with many of them, and I love those stories enough to give it the 5/5 rating. The eponymous opening story by Ellen Kushner and Terri Windling won me over completely. Do I wish my favorite B-town character, Orient, had more than a 2-page cameo in Will Shetterly's Wolfboy-centric story? Yes, but I'll take what I can get, and at least there was a whole Wolfboy story amidst the newer fare. A great collection featuring the creme de la creme of urban fantasy writing.

Title: Paper Bullets: A Fictional Autobiography
Author: Kip Fulbeck
Pages: 282
Rating: 4/5
Book: 22/50

Multiracial identity, as well as racial politics, sexual politics, and the place where the two meet. More of a series of thoughts and episodes than a cohesive story with a clear ending, but I certainly found it fascinating.

22 / 50 books. 44% done!

Also had two rereads (maybe more, can't recall), bringing the reread tally up to nine (at least).