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Posts Tagged ‘other people’s books’


Spent a chunk of this evening reading a YA novel . . . that I didn’t actually like or care about very much. The prose was painful, the characters were shallow, the world-concept interesting but not deployed very well at all, and I’m still not sure why I finished it. The obvious answer is that the author somehow got me to invest in the story enough that I wanted to know how it ended, but it didn’t feel like that was true while I was reading it, and then I got to the end and was not surprised to find it disappointing. I may have to chalk this one up to inertia, pure and simple: having started, I just kept coasting.

At least I was semi-skimming for the last half or so. It therefore ate less of my evening than it might have.

moonandserpent? ombriel? This one’s for you.

It’s rare that I look at a book and think, I know who needs to read that. A generalized, “oh, so-and-so might like this,” sure — but not the sort of surety where I would drag people into the store and push the book into their hands if only they weren’t two-thirds of the way across the country from me.

The book in question is Catherynne Valente’s Palimpsest, out as of today, and I’ve been waiting for the chance to plug it (since plugging seems mean when a book is not yet available). What’s it about? Well, it has an attention-getting tag line: it’s about a sexually transmitted city. Yes, you heard me right. But you know, I’ll be honest with you; when I first heard that, aside from thinking “holy jeebus do moonandserpent and ombriel need to read that, not to mention some other friends of ours” that concept didn’t really hook me. I am ambivalent about a lot of the New Weird grotesquerie — it just isn’t my cup of tea — and Palimpsest sounded a lot like that.

What won me over was hearing Cat Valente read from it at Vericon last month. The thing I can be a sucker for in the New Weird, if the grotesquerie doesn’t put me off, is awesome worldbuilding, full of fantastic weirdnesses that are not the same stale ideas you’ve read again and again. The passage she read, about a school for the upper-class children of the city of Palimpsest, hit a bullseye on my cool-worldbuilding target. Plus it did so with lovely language that wasn’t obtrusive in its loveliness; it had sufficient clarity that I could follow it aurally without any trouble at all. And that’s something I care about, too.

Anyway, Cat’s done some awesome promotional stuff for this book, the kind of promotion I wish I had the wit, energy, and social network to do — S.J. Tucker (sooj) recorded an album of music inspired by it, there’s tie-in art and a Palimpsest corset and chocolate and perfume and all kinds of awesomeness. You can find out about that stuff here, and let me see if I can embed the book trailer:

Continuing the theme of this post, I rarely like book trailers, but that’s among the best I’ve seen — thanks to good music and no cheesy-sounding voiceover, mostly.

(Also? I didn’t realize, a couple of months ago, when I came across the Tabula Rasa website via kniedzw‘s computer, that it was actually a piece of marketing for Palimpsest. But when your city is a tattoo passed from person to person, it totally makes sense . . . .)

My ability to witter on about the book more or less ends there, since I haven’t read it yet. But I have the car today, and various errands to lure me out of the house, so there may be a stop at the bookstore — and then I’ll have to bait myself through the remainder of this story I’m writing by promising I get to read when I’m done. It will make a lovely change of pace.

halfway to disappointment

I adore Robin McKinley’s writing; she is on that short list of authors whose books I will pick up without knowing anything about them except they’re written by Robin McKinley.

Chalice . . . is my least favorite Robin McKinley book.

I won’t say I didn’t like it, but I don’t know how much of me liking it was due to the author, rather than the book. Too much of it kept backtracking to tell me about things before the narrative began; for a while there it felt like two pages of present story, twenty pages of backstory. Too much of it was told in summary, the narration describing what happened when Mirasol talked with Clearseer or whoever, rather than actually showing me that interaction. Too much repetition — Mirasol lamenting her lack of apprenticeship, for example — for too little in the way of new development in character and plot.

I think there ultimately wasn’t enough here to fill out its length (and it’s a short book for all of that). It might have compelled me ten times more had it been a third as long.

There still would have been the inherent conservatism of the setting — the wholehearted embrace of the connection between family lineage and talent/magic/right — but I can be okay with that, inasmuch as I don’t require fantasy only to explore concepts I want to live with in real life. But it needed more exploration of that conservatism, or else less time spent dwelling on it. More story, or else less book.

It reminds me, though, that I still haven’t gotten around to reading Dragonhaven, which I remember people quibbling with back when it came out. Maybe I’ll make time for that one soonish.