31 January 2010

What I am reading: January 2010

  1. Exposure: A Novel by Brandilyn Collins: Another Kindle freebie. Decently written thriller. I had no idea of how the two separate streams of writing were connected until the very end.
  2. Five Little Peppers and How they Grew
  3. Five Little Peppers Midway
  4. Five Little Peppers Abroad
  5. Five Little Peppers and Their Friends
  6. Five Little Peppers Grown Up by Margaret Stanley (1844-1924): I am missing a few of these but I was interested to read them again.---Margaret Sidney was the pseudonym of Harriett Mulford Stone (June 22, 1844–August 2, 1924). She was an American author, born in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1878, at the age of 34, she began sending short stories to Wide Awake, a children's magazine in Boston. Two of her stories, "Polly Pepper's Chicken Pie" and "Phronsie Pepper's New Shoes", proved to be very popular with readers. Daniel Lothrop, the editor of the magazine, requested that Stone write more. The success of Harriett's short stories prompted her to write the now-famous Five Little Peppers series. This series was first published in 1881, the year that Stone married Daniel Lothrop. Daniel had founded the D. Lothrop Company of Boston, who published Harriett's books under her pseudonym, Margaret Sidney."--- I didn't know this and was very interested to discover it. The books were fascinating to me because I had read only the first one or two as a child and they were very much as I remembered them: sweet and in the style of other period writers. But then as I read further into the series, I saw blatant racist terminology and behaviors, written without any self-consciousness. As these novels are set in the North East, in what seems my home area (the tri-State area), I was intrigued to wonder what brought these tropes into Sidney's writings when they did not exist before? Were they a result of the mass migrations after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation or were they the result of being sold in the South and an attempt to pander to that mind-set? It's the very unconsciousness of the writing that I find fascinating, coupled with some later blatant attempts at a patronizing love of the "little black child" at an orphanage run by Phronsie- interesting stuff reminiscent of my feelings when reading some of Sayers' antisemitic references.
  7. Wizard's Bane by Rick Cook: a re-read from the Baen Free Library. An old-fashioned hacker in a world where magic responds as if a programmig language. I enjoyed it again.
  8. Spindle's End by Robin McKinley: A re-telling of Sleeping Beauty (or Dornroschen) in a particularly charming manner. I am always left so desirous of a sequel by McKinley and she never gives us one. Lovely writing, as always.
  9. The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond: This is the first hard copy book I have read in almost two months and I am glad to read it. Diamond always does interesting work and I think that this book is better than his Plagues and Peoples. It explores the evolution of modern man and how that evolutionary history effects art, communication and our ability to control (and destroy) the world. Fascinating stuff.
  10. Star of Danger by Marion Zimmer Bradley: Written in 1965, this was a blast from the past for me in so many ways. This Ace paperback was a pass along from an expat who moved back to the States last year but I first read MZB as a child in the 70's, when the covers were a bit too torrid for me not to be embarrassed about! This is really the first of the Darkover novels, although she wrote prequels and all sorts of other history about this particular period. It was through exploring SF after this that I found my first local SF con and the world of fandom within which I have dabbled and within which I have found so many of my longest friendships and connections. This is a classic Golden Age story, very pukka pukka in its way and I can clearly see how MZB was heavily influenced by Tolkien at this point, which would have been only a few years before she was involved in founding the SCA (another youthful passion, from which I have fallen).
  11. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper: Another hard copy book off my TBR shelf, this novel from 2009 was really good. Good enough that I wish I had not left it languishing for 19 months on my TBR shelf. The protagonist is a non-practicing Jew, from a Westchester family, who return to sit shiva with his mother and siblings at the death of his family. Through their interactions we understand how his background has affected his life and how his familial emotional dysfunctionality (and, in their own ways, the dysfunctionalities of the other actors within his web of relationships) has changed the way he has lived and how it affects his desired outcomes.Most interesting in that the protagonist is male and the tropes seem more commonly to have been used with female leads. Interesting to look at family interactions and mid-life struggles through male eyes, although Judd never really seems to understand women. A stiff way to say that I found the emotional truths shown here to be strong and how much I empathized with some of the emotions and backgrounds and how much I enjoyed the book. I'll be looking for other books by the author.
  12. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson: This was a book that I didn't want to read. One of the blogs I follow regularly had reviewed it negatively and in such a way that I felt it would be a horrific and misogynistic read. I make a point of not reading books that I feel are misogynistic. But this was chosen for my book club and another blogger that I read had more positive things to say about it, as did other reviews that I read, so I gave it a try. I think it was very good. I don't think the descriptions of the murders were titillating or meant to be so. I also don't think that Lisbeth Salander was necessarily unbelievable, in the context of thrillers. Her model is clearly close to that of James Bond and I actually think that her back story (as far as we can understand it in this first book) is more pertinent to her behavior. The criticism of the technology is naive: this book was submitted no later than 2004 (published in 2005) and probably written over many years, as the three (large!) books were submitted as one, so the technology as described really would have been cutting edge at that time. I have the other two books waiting in my TBR pile and I expect to get to them relatively soon, if not within the month. The delay will be caused because the next two books are actually one, and I have some other books I need to get through before I dive into the equivalent of a 1100+ page book!
  13. One Drop: A True Story of Family, Race & Secrets by Bliss Broyard: As I start looking around to pack the apartment up (we are moving—to another apartment in Berlin—in the next few weeks) I am gathering together all the books that I don't want to keep. But some of them look interesting enough to read before selling on Amazon (or more likely, donating somewhere). This was one of them. Bliss Broyard found out only on her father's (the famous NYTimes book critic Anatole Broyard) deathbed that he was black: he had spent his adult life "passing" as white. After a great deal of struggle, she starts researching her family. The aspect I found most interesting was how, relatively, easy she found it to do so: to research my family would require me to resurrect burned records, destroyed villages and countries, read Czech, explore closed Nazi records in German, speak Hebrew, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian. Bliss is able, with help from her father's still large and living extended family, to trace her family's path through history for hundreds of years and it is terrible to see how the rights of Blacks were slowly stolen from them after they had been gained, especially in New Orleans, where French law had granted "free persons of color" significant property and other rights, which were removed by the US when they took Louisiana. A very interesting read from slavery through the current day. I also found the view of Greenwich village in the 50's and later fascinating.


honeypiehorse said...

What are these Kindle freebies? Does the author get money? Thanks for tip about Jonathan Tropper.

Lynda said...

How do you find the time to read all of those! I was just thinking of treating myself to a Kindle and bang! this morning I read that Amazon has caved to Macmillan... the price of books is going to go up. Might just wait a little.

G in Berlin said...

I can take the Kindle with me,in my purse or backpack, wherever I go. Ballet, swimming, waiting to pick up--- it makes things easier. And we drove back from NRW last month, too.
I will push back against Macmillan- I already have. I will not, ever, buy an e-book that costs more than a physical book. So in their case, for the very few authors I need, I'll buy them in physical copy. But they said they want dynamic pricing- let's see. They have not ever used it before and they do have had that option at other stores.
There are lots of free e-books for the Kindle, it's just a platform. Over 100,000 public domain books, including Alcott, Dicken, Swift, Defoe, Stevenson, Barrie and so on. I don't need to get them from Amazon, although I can. Also Baen has reasonable prices and no DRM and Fictionwise has great prices, if you can strip the DRM (for fair use). I need to make a Kindle post one day soon.
@Honeypiehorse: Amazon throws out a free Kindle book or two (new release, not the regular public domain free works)every few days. There were 10 on January 1st and they pop up here and there. Lots of romance, but also some good to great other stuff, meant to pull you in to the store regularly or to get you to buy further books in the series/by the author. Reminds me of the Costco paradigm: great stuff that changes regularly as well as regular every day good stuff at good prices.
But I was in retail for 10 years and I appreciate customer service and intelligent (dynamic) pricing.

J said...

Strangely enough, the free Kindle books are not free on the Ipod Touch version of Kindle.

G in Berlin said...

J- Are you using a European account and downloading through Whispernet? If you have an American account and download to a computer (and then transfer by USB to your Ipod) you may find that these are free.