Tag Archives: reviews

Return to regularly scheduled service

Hello! I have not updated this blog since March, but let’s not worry about that now.

I’ve been reading! Some new stuff, some old stuff, some stuff from the Literary Exploration Challenge (it turns out that I don’t have a lot of experience with actually sticking with anything for a year, so it feels good to chip away at that).

I’m splitting this up into a few chunks. Here’s the first one!

Ragemoor cover

Auto/biography. David Sedaris. Me Talk Pretty One Day.

It’s been a while now, but after reading this, I remember thinking “I get why people like this guy now”. I felt like I understand Sedaris’s schtick, and that maybe I won’t go out of my way to read any more of him in the future. It’s like Woody Allen or weird ice cream flavours: it’s good! I get why people like it! But I get it. Now I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Chick lit. Ben Schrank. Love is a Canoe.

Predictable. Stock characters and tropes. Occasional weird (stiff? robotic?) writing (“Yes, totally. I touched his shoulder this morning and we got into this intense sex. We’re doing it constantly”). But it’s relatable, realistic (ish) and fun to read. I read it in a day without putting it down, and I guess that’s my review.

Classics. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment.

This took me a month to read, which I think is the longest any book has taken me in my life. I finished it at the beginning of March, which is stupid long ago, and I don’t remember how I felt about it. It’s a classic, so it must be good, you know? But I’m always wondering about translated work. There’s always a clunky sentence or odd construction that takes you out of it; that reminds you that this isn’t the work’s original form. I wonder what Crime and Punishment is like in Russian?

Espionage. John le Carré. Call for the Dead.

Another one I read at the beginning of the year. The “call” in the title is literally a wake-up call from the telephone exchange. So it’s definitely aged somewhat.  I love the old-school 60s “tradecraft”, and the names are brilliant (protagonist George Smiley; nemesis “Blondie”; the British Intelligence Service being known as the Circus). I love Smiley.  I’m going to read more of him some day.

Fantasy. Brandon Sanderson. The Way of Kings.

The first in a ten(!!!)-part series from known psychotic/unstoppable force of writing Brandon Sanderson. I enjoyed this because it’s so firmly based in video game ideals. Money can also be used as a source of light; there’s epic/unique armour and weapons; gravity-defying assassins; even class levels. I can’t help but think I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t so clearly the first tenth of some ridiculous epic. Lots and lots of worldbuilding and ideas, but could have used a little bit more interesting character interaction.

Graphic novel. Jan Strnad & Richard Corben. Ragemoor.

I was so disappointed by this. Look at that dang cover. This book is stylish as hell, and I absolutely love the pulpy concept, tone, and blurb writing. “Ragemoor! Born of the stars, nurtured on pagan blood… Those who oppose it, it kills! Those it would enslave, it drives insane!” Ridiculous. Too bad the story inside is kind of boring.

 

Come back tomorrow for some more!

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what I read: The Ottoman Motel, by Christopher Currie

The Ottoman Motel.

Christopher Currie.

Text, 2012.


Admission: I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I wanted to.

Possible reason for my dissatisfaction: based upon blurb-skim in the bookshop, I was prepared for a creepy paranormal story about missing parents, uncaring townsfolk, a boy lost and alone, a (literally) shadowy conspiracy.

I was wrong. This is a story of old crimes: unsolved mysteries, haunting memories. A small town with a long history of tragedy and lies. A thoroughly human, scarily plausible story.

Looking back, the blurb doesn’t actually point to a a creepy supernatural story – way to jump to conclusions, self! – so I needed to do a little bit of mental rebalancing.

The Ottoman Motel wasn’t a bad read. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t much care for unreliable child narrators (though I do seem to keep reading books featuring same). However, the protagonist Simon is a convincing picture of a confused kid with traumas both old and new. His interactions with the slightly ‘off’ town of Reception and its similarly haunted inhabitants are evocative and realistic.

I was less satisfied with the overall story, however. The overarching mystery – the disappearance of Simon’s parents – is approached from a number of different angles, but none of them seem to really stick, and are lost in the sea of complications the other characters bring. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s all interwoven almost perfectly. But the breadth of the story elements ultimately leaves the book as a whole feeling a little shallow.

The creepiness of the setting, and most of the town’s inhabitants, is communicated very well; overall, the writing is excellent. I’m really excited to see where Currie goes next.

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