Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read”. Which… it should be an easy one for me, because I get embarrassment squick really easily, and there are various topics that don’t do my brain any good. My mind’s gone blank as I type this, but let’s see what I can do.

  1. Assassin’s Quest, Robin Hobb. Stop hurting Fitz! That’s pretty much a universal in Hobb’s books, but still. The books are great but oh my god, stop hurting Fitz.
  2. Hold On, Alan Gibbons. I read this way back because my sister asked me to. Both of us were bullied pretty badly in school, so it was difficult to read both because it’d happened to me, and because I knew it was still happening to my sister.
  3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling. Yeah, I doubt this one is going to show up on many other people’s lists. But it’s true. I’ve studied it 2-3 times in English Lit, and between that and the massive hype, I have difficulty picturing myself enjoying it now. Or I did: I think I’m starting to feel like giving the series another go now.
  4. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Solely because I read it too much.
  5. The Mermaids Singing, Val McDermid. Rape, torture, gore, violence, suicide, all kinds of triggers. It upset me very much back when it was a set text for a Crime Fiction module, to the point where I actually requested in the end of term feedback that the lecturer put a warning about it on the syllabus, particularly for the benefit of people who have been raped or have the kind of gender issues described. (The lecturer said no and called me a fragile flower in front of the entire lecture hall, but that’s another story.)
  6. The Farthest Shore, Ursula Le Guin. I never used to like going past the first two books of the Earthsea series. I didn’t like how Le Guin developed the world, and the way her concerns within the world changed from fairly typical fantasy tropes to something much more examined. I’d like them better now, I think, particularly now I’ve read the final book and seen how it all comes together.
  7. The Double Helix, James Watson. I have actually enjoyed more recent work by Watson, but this memoir of the discovery of the structure of DNA drove me nuts. He’s so dismissive and awful about Rosalind Franklin and her achievements, with numerous comments on her appearance and how a bit of makeup would improve her. Ugh.
  8. The Innocent Mage, Karen Miller. I loved what Miller did with building up characters, even with world-building. But it was so slow, and her villain was practically a cartoon. I expected him to say “mwahahahaahaaa!” any moment.
  9. An Evil Guest, Gene Wolfe. Gene Wolfe is a really clever writer, but this book seemed like a mess. I can’t even really remember much about it; I certainly didn’t enjoy it. Sadly!
  10. Revealing Eden, Victoria Foyt. It may be possible to do justice to this idea, in the hands of a very good writer. Flipping racism around so that white people are the ones without privilege… it could make for a really interesting story, I guess. But oh man, did Foyt not think it through.

Looking forward to seeing what other people pick!

Review – The Sorcerer’s House

Cover of The Sorcerer's House by Gene WolfeThe Sorcerer’s House,Gene Wolfe

I picked this up to read a couple of chapters, and ended up staying up to finish it. It’s deceptively simple to read, to just race through: epistolary novel, check; unreliable narrator, check; creepy twins and doors to Faerie, check. It’s Gene Wolfe, though, so you can bet it’s not as simple as that, and reading other reviews — particularly Neil Gaiman’s, to whom the book is dedicated — showed me I missed a few tricks. Which is fine: I like books with rereadability, even if I’m not really inclined to reread this one in particular. If you can craft a book so it reveals more of itself over time, that’s good going, in my books.

Obviously, everything I said about the narration is true. It is an epistolary novel, with a central character who has a very distinct character-set. He can turn his life story around so that you pity him or hate him, cast him as the villain or pity him as one who has been cast in that role, and I think that’s entirely intentional. It’s not that he’s unintentionally creepy. I actually found the character to be more so than the supernatural events around him — a certain lack of affect, the feeling that something’s come loose inside this guy.

I’m not overwhelmed with the treatment of women in this book — every woman wants to sleep with Our Hero, for example, and quickly opens up to him, and I don’t see why. He’s not charming, he’s unsettling. But maybe that’s because we see him through his own report of himself to his brother… I don’t know. I’m not a fan, anyway. Even if it works for the character, I could have done with a female character who really stood out.

I do think the narration is very clever, the way Wolfe makes the epistolary novel work for him, and works around situations where there might be some difficulty with the form in a way that… well, it seems contrived, but it also fits the world and characters.

Worth a try, I think, though I probably agree with other reviewers that it’s not Gene Wolfe’s best.

Rating: 3/5

Stacking the Shelves

I’m trying not to buy too many books, still, despite my book ban being over. That did not stop me from going to the library and picking up a new book/one with a voucher… Time for Stacking the Shelves a la Tynga’s Reviews!

Fiction (bought)

Cover of Lock In by John Scalzi Cover of Dreamwalker by J D Oswald

I didn’t intend to pounce on Lock In when it came out, but I spotted it in the shop today, so I thought I might as well pick it up. As for Dreamwalker, it involves dragons, so, hey! Plus, free voucher because I filled my stamp card, so.

Fiction (library)

Cover of Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock Cover of We Are Here by Michael Marshall Cover of The Sorcerer's House by Gene Wolfe

Cover of Homer's Odyssey by Simon Armitage Cover of Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K Dick Cover of Timescape by Gregory Benford

Cover of Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee Cover of Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg

Various things for various challenges, here, plus some I’ve been meaning to read for a while — I like Michael Marshall’s SF, and I love Gene Wolfe in general. Simon Armitage’s work is generally awesome, too. All in all, pleased with this library haul.

Library (non-fiction)

Cover of the Selfish Genius by Fern Elsdon-Baker Cover of The Hidden Landscape by Richard Fortey Cover of Eating the Sun, by Oliver Morton

Cover of On My Way to Jorvik by John Sunderland

While Dawkins has more business commenting about biology and genetics than he does about babies with Down’s syndrome or religion, it’s interesting to see someone challenge some of his ideas. I already reviewed that one here. And of course, I just really enjoy the way Fortey writes.

Review copies

Cover of Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton Cover of Poisoned Pearls by Leah Cutter

I’ve been hoping for Unspeakable for a while, so thanks to Little, Brown for that! Poisoned Pearls came via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, which is always awesome. Thank you to them and to Book View Cafe! I think I’ve read something else by Leah Cutter and quite enjoyed it…

What’s anyone else been getting their hands on?