Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Confessions of a Fallen Angel" by Ronan O'Brien

Picked this one up in a used bookstore despite not liking the title much (or its font). I was drawn to the premise (Irish boy has premonitions of the deaths of his loved ones) but I think it was Maggie O'Farrell's praise on the front cover that actually sealed my decision to buy it. 
This was a fast read that I really enjoyed, but I don't have much to say about it. It was somewhat predictable, though in a sinister and chilling way rather than in the annoying way that makes it clear the author thinks his readers are idiots. 

However, I don't think I've yet forgiven this book for making me cry real tears. In public, no less. Ever since the movie Fried Green Tomatoes tricked me into crying over a boy's arm I've internally frowned upon shedding tears when It's Not Real. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Version Control" by Dexter Palmer

Surely it's not just because the last book I read was pure torture. And it also can't be the influence of my lovely surroundings (see the photo. Are you jealous?), because I finished that last book in the same surroundings and had no positive feelings about it. It's got to be the book itself. I thought it was brilliant! And I really enjoyed it. Nice to have my faith in reading restored once again!

Rebecca is a physicist's wife. Her husband's life's work is what he calls a "causality violation device," or, in layman's terms (to the annoyance of those involved with the project)... a time machine. But the theory behind the device, and its potential use, are neither as impressive nor as functional as the sorts of time machines you read about in all the sci-fi books, where you can input and travel to any specific date you'd like, anywhere in the past or future, no matter how distant. The device in this book is much more limited in scope, making the possibility much more realistic. Besides the fact that it's not really working.

The beginning of this book reminded me a lot of the novel Time Out of Joint, in a really good way. And the ending was satisfying and thorough without being annoyingly neat, which was great, because it too often seems like really promising books have very disappointing endings (including TOoJ!) as if the author didn't know where to go from there, and just gave up; or as if a grand gesture was the aim, but the reality falls short. But not here! And the middle is part mind-f*ck, part excellent character development, and part thought-provoker, bringing up a lot of interesting questions (about religion, privacy vs data collection, even race) without being didactic or otherwise annoying.

Two thumbs up, in every iteration of the multiverse! I wish I could remember how I heard of this book . . . I'm pretty sure the Internet told me to read it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Nights at the Circus" by Angela Carter


Looking back, I'm not sure why. It's short (less than 300 pages) so it shouldn't have taken me forever to read... although it did. I wouldn't describe it as boring... although it bored me. It wasn't poorly written... although there were a small handful of instances where Carter used the same word twice in close proximity when a synonym would have flowed more nicely (it seemed like laziness rather than emphasis).

So it took a long time for me to read, it bored me, and the writing was occasionally a minor annoyance, and I don't have a good explanation for why I didn't like it. Not even the cute little penguin clown icon on the cover could salvage the experience.

Nights at the Circus tells the story of Sophie (more often called by her Cockney nickname of Fevvers), a winged wonder in Colonel Kearney's circus. She's an acrobat (or arialiste) aided by the giant, feathered wings that sprout from her back, and she's the acclaimed and beloved star of the show. But are her wings real, or a clever sham? That's what reporter Jack Walser would like to know as he interviews her (while simultaneously and unsuspectingly falling in love with her).

I'm pretty sure this is the first book I've read by Angela Carter. She's supposed to be a pretty important writer or something. Maybe she invented magical realism? (I can't be bothered to look this up, so if you're curious and want to know the truth, it's on you.) This book is certainly rife with it. But the book's unfettered strangeness runs amok with no explanation. I really like the "is she real or is she fake" premise, with the possibilities questioned but never really answered; unfortunately none of the rest of the oddities in the book are treated this way. The weirdness just shows up, no explanation, no questions asked.

I'm definitely ready to move on (and have been since about page 12).