How about a round-up?
The Fracking King by James Browning
I’m trying to read through the various books saved on my Kindle and I’m pretty sure this is one I selected from the Kindle First program. If you’re not familiar, Amazon Prime members get to download one book a month (from a group of 4 that won’t be released until the following month) for free and even if I don’t have time right then to read it, I try to remember to check them out so I’m getting my Prime money’s worth.
ANYWAY! The Fracking King revolves around a boys school, the effects of fracking on local communities, and scrabble. There’s a lot of talk about how the main character knows a lot of obscure words and their point values on a Scrabble board, but doesn’t know the meaning of the words, connotations and subtleties escaping him. I sort of felt that way about the book as a whole: lots of words, lots of odd characters, lots of scenes, not a whole heck of a lot of meaning. I didn’t get a sense of resolution from the book, or that anything important had been said. It just didn’t resonate with me.
The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, and Mort (Discworld books 2-4) by Terry PratchettÂ
For more than a decade I’ve been hearing really awesome things about the Discworld books from people I generally trust and respect. So when I found the first several books on sale I snapped them up, read the first one (The Color of Magic) and promptly wondered what my collective friend-base had been smoking. It wasn’t that I disliked the writing (not at all, Pratchett is fabulous at turning phrases) but I could not connect with (I’d even go so far as to say I loathed) the main character, Rincewind. It just didn’t work for me. So I ignored the other books for a good long while.
I’d been assured that Rincewind does not take center stage for the rest of the series, and since the Discworld books were the next-oldest in my reader’s unread list, I figured it was time to go back in. I’m so glad I did!
Rincewind’s story wraps up in The Light Fantastic, but it’s not all about him–we get to see a lot more of the rest of the Disc and Rincewind even develops a bit–he’s still not my favorite, but I can deal with him as he continues to pop up throughout the rest of the series. Equal Rites, though, was awesome. A story about the 8th son of an 8th son (go directly to wizard, do not pass go status on the Disc) that happens to be a daughter, and girls cannot be wizards. Granny Weatherwax is a trip, their journey across the Disc, and everything that happens in and around Unseen University is a good standalone read if you just want a taste of the Discworld without committing to the full series. Finally, Mort reminded me a lot of On a Pale Horse (the “death” installment of Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, a long-time favorite of mine). The similarities are prettyÂ obvious (Death being the central character, a new office holder vs an apprentice, learning the ropes, etc.) and I just had fun reading it.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
That this is a book club selection should tell you a lot: it’s that erudite, supposedly-deep and pithy story. The fact that it appends it title with “:A Novel” tells you a lot more. I’m sorry, but a book that has to clarify that it’s a novel (as opposed to what?! It’s fiction, it’s not poetry, what the hell else is it? A pony?) usually tells me it’s pretentious beyond belief, but it was a book club selection and I’m trying to stick with this one, so here goes.
The story is set during WWII–an era I enjoy reading about in that morbidly curious way a lot of us have–and involves two young people over the course of a couple of years. One is Marie-Laure, a blind daughter of a locksmith at the National Museum of Paris, the other is Werner, a Polish orphan who is a whiz with radios, and is recruited into the Reich. The book flips between each characters experiences (with a few secondary characters getting their own chapters as necessary) and keeps parallel timelines but isn’t exactly linear. We start at the not-quite end, then flash back to the beginning, getting a bit more of each timeline as we go until we finally meet up with the “present” in the books narrative and approach the end. It’s an interesting tactic and one that works well for this sort of story.
I appreciated the insight that Werner’s story gave us into the side of WWII we don’t often see: the German soldiers that aren’t the higher-ups. WWII narratives usually focus on the prisoners of the work camps, the different community being persecuted by the Reich, or the soldiers on the winning side. Seeing the deprivations of the lower-rung soldiers is a bit more humanizing, and (of course) Werner is sympathetic as he’s not exactly drinking the Kool-Aid, he’s just doing what he has to, but not without realizing the gravity of the situation and the unfortunate part he plays.
The two teenagers stories are intertwined in wonderful ways and Doerr does a great job of putting those puzzle piece out there without being heavy-handed, even though it takes 3/4 of the story before they actually interact. It was after that point, the last quarter of the book, where Doerr starts to lose me. Without giving anything away (this isn’t alternate history, the war ends as we know it did), once the plot of our two main characters intersects and reaches the climax, the story could have ended. It would have felt complete, resolved, and given the reader a sense of satisfaction.
But no, Doerr draws out a prolonged epilogue that includes more than we really need to know. While I love a good wrap-up and appreciate knowing what happens to the characters I’ve just spent many, many hours becoming invested in, I want that epilogue to be snappy and succinct. Not 15% of the book. I don’t need to read a chapter about a secondary character undergoing a horror of war (while realistic, it really serves no purpose to the story, it’s just for shock or to take a jab at the other side). I don’t need the hop-skip, I just want the jump to the end. Instead of moving on I was still reading, wondering what was really left to tell.
It was that last 15% of the book that put a bad taste in my mouth and took it from a thoughtful story to a pretentious doorstop. If it weren’t on my Kindle, of course.
Thankfully the next book club selection is Yes, Please. Even though I’ve heard so-so things about it, I’m sure it’ll at least be a bit more lighthearted and entertaining in it’s own way.
I finished my multi-month marathon of Criminal Minds this month, started back in November, I think, when I was on the hunt for classic CSI but came up empty on the streaming front (well, aside from pay-per-episode/season on Amazon). I have long suspected CBS of being stingy with their shows and recently learned about CBS All Access subscriptions, confirming the suspected motive.
Next I watched Twin Peaks. The talk of more coming from that well in the near future made me curious about the show. I know I watched some of it, but since it originally aired when I was 14, I’m not sure how much I really kept up with. I also didn’t realize that the first seasons was only a handful of episodes: they packed a lot of crazy in 8 or so hours! Turns out I remembered bits and pieces of season 1, but none of season 2. So when I got to the answer to “who killed Laura Palmer” I thought we were done! Nope, instead they tacked on a whole extra storyline that really could have been its own season. But, hey, cross-dressing David Duchovny makes it all worthwhile.
I remembered I had an Acorn TV subscription going to waste (British TV service, great for all sorts of fun shows if you’re a fan of the BBC and Australian programming). I found the 2008 show The Palace about a fictitious royal family where the king dies unexpectedly and his 24 year old son is suddenly king. Back-biting, squabbles, and scandals ensue and I’m more than a little sad there wasn’t a second series (what we call seasons). Then I switched over to a family drama, Drop Dead Gorgeous. Middle class girl scouted by a modeling agency and a social-climbing stage mom is born in the process. Fun show with a bit of culture shock as a bonus.
Finally. I wandered over to Amazon and saw they had The White QueenÂ (Starz miniseries)Â available as part of Prime Instant Video. Back to the royals, this time pre-Tudor. It got very good reviews from another blogger, and it’s definitely worth the watch. I love costume drama and this one is populated by incredibly strong women. It was a little more like The Tudors than Reign, but not a bad addition to the collection. Only 10 episodes, it can easily be binged in a weekend (as I did).
Handmade in January
I completed one scarf,
technically completed a cross-stitch stitch-a-long with some online friends (I’m adding to the pattern, so it’s not quiet done to my liking just yet, but close!),
and two design team projects: one for Helmar (that went up on their blog yesterday)
and one for the revived Gauche Alchemy (which will post tomorrow). There was also work done on the beds for the dolly-dorm (a lot of little snips with my wire-cutters, not a lot to actually show for the blister it earned me) and some bits and pieces of other projects that aren’t quite ready for prime time just yet.
One other fun thing of note from last month was our Cloak and Banner craft day. We were planning to go to a Renn Faire in Gainesville at the end of the month (preempted by me getting sick, boo!) which led to Mary proposing we make banners/standards that could, supposedly, be worn as a small cape. We all went with the banner theme in our own way and I, of course, decided a house banner was most appropriate for me.
Work on the store plans continue (more on that in another post) and we’re finally working on house stuff again (posts forthcoming).
Got any achievements to share from last month?