January 4th, 2016

book collector

Book 1

Blue on BlackBlue on Black by Carole Cummings

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I went into this not knowing what to expect and I still don't know what to call it. It's not quite steampunk or fantasy. It's more like Weird West though it's not really that since it's not the West. Spec fic, I guess but it doesn't matter what genre I try to shoehorn it into; what it really is, is a great read. I enjoyed this one a lot, my only frustration was my stupid ereader with its crap battery that kept me from reading it all in one gulp.

Bas is a tracker for the Directorate. He's hunting down the killers of one genuis Gridtech, Kimolijah, on the behalf of Kimo's sister. Also Bas is sort of half in love with the image he has of Kimo in his head. He has read all of the young man's research and thinks he knows him through that (In a way it reminds me of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Geordi does pretty much the same thing, falls in love with the holodeck construct of a woman scientist using her papers and then in a later episode meets her and she's nothing like his fantasy). Bas can 'taste' the various types of Grid and Kine tech (we're never quite sure what that means exactly but in Kimo's case it seems to mean he can harness some sort of naturally occuring power and use it as a weapon or to propel a train).

Bas heads to Stanslo's Bridge to find Kimo's killer and because more than one Gridtech has disappeared in that area. It's pretty much the wild wild west from the descriptions. Bas knows that "Baron" Stanslo is probably the killer of Kimo and his father, found as burned bones in Kimo's workshop. He's pretending to be a gunslinger, having gotten in good with some of Stanslo's flunkys. The train ride to the town is a surreal one, made more so when he finds out that the train seems to be running based on Kimo's plans, plans the Directorate said wouldn't work. Bas assumes that Stanslo killed Kimo for his tech designs which would make Stanslo both powerful and deadly, more so than he already is.

Mild spoiler here (but pretty much you could guess what comes next from the set up but if not, here's your chance to bail).

The man driving the train turns out to be the very short, very foul-mouthed, very very sarcastic Kimolijah. Even more shocking is yet another of the missing Gridtechs is also in Stanslo's Bridge. Bas has to find out if they are there willingly or not. This will be no easy task given Stanslo is crazier than a shithouse rat.

Naturally Bas wants to get Kimo free of this place but that is easier said than done. Kimo is nothing like Bas imagined and neither is anything in Stanslo's Bridge. It takes all he's got just to survive, especially after he meets the inhuman looking siblings in Stanslo's employ and takes in the strange hold Stanslo seems to have on the whole town.

Worse, Kimo trusts no one and Bas can't tell if he's willingly Stanslo's bed warmer or if he's being forced. No one can get straight answers out of Kimo who loves to deflect queries with random trivia. His relationship with Bas is a bizarre one that fits the situation well.

To say any more would ruin the onion layers of storytelling. I will say I loved Bas (he reads comic books illo books and loves the pulp heroes. How could I not love that?) Kimo's a snarky little bastard and that's just my type of character. I enjoyed the world building. This story was tons of fun. It's not billed as a romance, which is fair since while there is a romantic subplot that is not the driving force of the novel and for me that's how I like it.

I will say the middle is a bit soft with me wanting to nudge it along instead of retreading the same ground but that is a minor quibble. I loved the story. The end wraps it up nicely but does leave it open for more. Honestly, I'm hoping for more of these two.


Book #1 (2016): The Professor by Charlotte Brontë

Number of pages: 268

This was Charlotte Brontë's first book, and it is noticeably shorter and less melodramatic than her more well-known novels.

It is written in first-person, memoir-style narrative from a male point of view, which is probably not too surprising when you remember that Charlotte Brontë used a male nom de plume, Currer Bell.

The book starts off feeling very Dickensian, with descriptions of the story's hero, William living in squalid London conditions, before the narrative moves to Belgium, where William is teaching at a school for girls. The story then tells of his romance with the head of the school, before he falls in love with a student, Frances Henri.

When I first read about the book's plot, I was expecting huge levels of controversy, but when I realised that Frances was nineteen, this started to feel less shocking and scandalous, although the book still has some social commentary about William's behaviour, through comments made by other characters.

I found this to be quite a difficult novel to read, as it alternated between long sections where William expressed his feelings or described events (including the final chapter, which flashed forward ten years) and long conversations between characters. I noticed several moments where the characters mostly spoke French, without the book giving a translations (I have noticed this in at least one of Charlotte Brontë's other novels). Since I don't speak French, it was hard to follow these sections.

Since this felt a bit long-winded, I wouldn't count it as one of Charlotte's best novels, and sometimes it was a bit hard to care about the characters, although it was nice that I couldn't always tell where the plot was heading.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Against all my expectations, the book ended with William marrying Frances, while I'd expected for him to end up on his own, although there was some implication at the end still that he made the wrong choice in life.

Next book: White Teeth (Zadie Smith)

Tramps Like Us, Volumes 8-14 (final) by Yayoi Ogawa

I can't remember which of these I finished in 2015 versus this year, so I am just going to post them all on the new list.  I met the goal last year, and I figure I will do the same this year.  So, I figure, it's all good. :)

books 1-7:  Tramps Like Us, Volumes 8-14 by Yayoi Ogawa

I find this manga series bittersweet.  Sumire and Hasumi break each other's hearts, and I don't deal with pain like that well.  Mostly everyone ends up in a happy situation, which is not always guaranteed in Japanese comics, so I got through it okay.  I had to read in a marathon to get past the pain and to the happy stuff, though, to ease my mind. 

One Thousand and One Nights, Volumes 1-4 by JinSeok Jeon

books 8-11:  One Thousand and One Nights, Volumes 1-4 by JinSeok Jeon

This manhwa series is, as probably expected, based on 1001 Arabian Nights.  In a "boys' love" twist, the Shahrazad character is a well-educated boy named Sehara who takes his sister, Dunya's, place in the sultan, Shahryar's, harem.  Sehara is trying to save Dunya because the sultan, as in the original stories, has taken to killing the harem girls after spending one night with them.  Sehara does not beg for his life but instead offers the sultan stories which bring out truths behind the sultan's own behavior.  It is discovered that the sultan was betrayed by his wife, Fatima, who in turn had been in the harem of his father who mysteriously died (some think at the hand of Shahryar).  Shahryar could not kill Fatima, so he banished her (it turns out into the arms of his brother).  It also is discovered that Shahryar's mother was condemned to death for adultery by his father in front of his eyes based on information Shahryar inadvertently gave him.

Tim Tyler's Luck and the Plot of the Exiled King... by Lyman Young

book 12:  Tim Tyler's Luck and the Plot of the Exiled King... by Lyman Young

This is an OLD children's book, 1937, that belonged to my grandmother.  I'm a little surprised that it was hers because it seems to have more of a "boy" theme, but perhaps it was part of a collection or she liked adventure stories or she had a crush on one of the characters...can't ask because she is gone.

Like other older books I have read, I am amazed by some of the ignorance.  The story is set in Africa, and, even so, the black characters, while dressed like Masai warriors, kowtow and refer to the white people as "Massah".  The author also had no clue about African cultures or wildlife, or did not care.  The Masai used their "canoes" to paddle the white people across a lake with a horse swimming alongside...  Do they have canoes in Africa?  I thought that was a Native American term.  Wouldn't the horse, and perhaps the people, have been eaten by the crocodiles that thrive in African waterways?  But, anyway, while the story is fairly ridiculous, it has all the required elements...horse chases, gun fights, a princess, and corrupt villians.  And the title character, a boy in his early teens I would guess, naturally saves the day.
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Divine Old Sleeping People; Paper Dragon Days; East Bloomer on the Road;

My niece came to visit me in early October! So most (not all) of this post consists of the sort of books that 6-year-olds like read aloud to them.

People I Sleep With, by Jill Fineberg
This is a lovely (grown-up) photo book of people sleeping with animals. Mostly their pets although there are a few others. Wide variety of animals and wide variety of people. Kind of new age-y backstory but in an interesting rather than an irritating way.
(302, O66)

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, by Phyllis Tickle
So I've kind of sort of been doing fixed-hour prayer? I'm doing it more because I miss liturgy (and my paternal grandmother and maternal great-grandmother) than because I miss praying. (Not that there's a hard and fast division between liturgy and prayer in the Catholic tradition anyway.) I'm also extremely haphazard and do it when I am in the mood to do it which often is 4 times a day in a regular fashion for weeks but SOMETIMES means skipping for several days and then catching up all in a burst, or just skipping bits that are non-productively irritating instead of nostalgically and engagingly frustrating. In any case, if you are interested in such things you might like to request this volume; it's quite representative (though without the special sections for Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas that the other 2 volumes have, obviously), and very well put together. The Compline sections in particular show Tickle's soul as well as the weight of tradition.
(303, O67)

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves, by Lucille Colandro
So if you know the old lady who swallowed a fly song, this is like that only seasonal. Apparently it is my niece's comfort reading book that comes with her everywhere. I found this highly amusing because I was obsessed with the original at her age. The illustrations are appropriately playful.

Sleeping Dragons All Around, by Sheree Fitch
One of my niece's current favorites, which I had never read, despite Sheree Fitch being a popular kids' author when I was growing up (in Canada). It's pretty cute. I can see why she loves it.

The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko (reread)
Still one of my favorites of all time, she said with relief. (I was afraid it wouldn't have aged well.). My niece likes it too, and was very surprised to find it on my shelf. "YOU have this TOO??" she said. "Oh yeah," her mom said, "Your auntie used to read that ALL THE TIME when she was your age."
(306, O68)

There's No Such Thing as a Dragon, by Jack Kent (reread)
This was one of my husband's favorites as a kid. I liked it fine but there's a mystery to kids' favorites, you know? My inner kid thinks all my favorites are WAY better.
(307, O69)

Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus, illustrated by José Aruego (reread)
Another of my kid favorites that my niece really liked. I think as an adult the best part was the illustrations, but as a kid I freaking LOVED the story. Even though I was a bit of a prodigy, not a late bloomer, I still found it super reassuring.
(308, O70)

East of the Sun and West of the Moon, by Mercer Mayer (reread)
This was a book I loved as a kid but had almost forgotten until I found it in a box of remainders at the bookstore where I used to work. Mayer's illustrative style here is VERY different than in the little critter books - lush, old-fashioned, and glowing. I grew progressively hesitant about reading it to my niece as I belatedly realized that it was a fairly dull and complicated storyline that I would think was more suited to 9 year olds... but then the next night it was the very FIRST thing she wanted to read, even before her own books. I think she was as entranced by the illustrations as I am.
(309, O71)

Grasshopper on the Road, by Arnold Lobel (reread)
Another classic, this one wasn't one of my favorites as a kid, but I like it more every time I read it.
(310, O72)

Days with Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel (reread)
This was a fun one to read aloud because my sister and I kept breaking off the story to tell my niece one or another anecdote about ways that this book had featured in our lives - trouble we got into, comfort we found, and the time my mom dragooned us to act it out for one of her lesson plan presentations when she was getting a certification. Good times.
(311, O73)
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