booklog, early September
On to the books....
Jenny Lawson, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir). By the Bloggess, and if you know her blog, you know what the book is. I don’t think it’s a memoir and I don’t see the message in it that others have; it’s very much like reading about three months of her blog in one evening. I tried to pace my reading out, but her writing is like potato chips. I always want just a little bit more, and then I’m overfull and my hands are greasy.
Susan Andersen, Some Like It Hot. Second in what is apparently a trilogy; sequelbait is obvious and might be interesting. Angela had warned me about the use of the words ‘exotic’, ‘tribal’, and ‘politically correct’ , and I’m glad of it. The book was exhausting in terms of emotional whiplash-- and geographical, too, as the protags stormed out in rages only to come to their senses soon after and go looking for the other. Something like four times.
I’m disappointed in the book, and I kind of feel like I’ve been disappointed in Andersen’s books in general lately. I do not want this to be true. I want more than Julie James for my contemporary romance fix.
Julie Berry, The Amaranth Enchantment. Picked up because it was shelved YA and looked easy and comforting. It’s more middle-grade and also more shallow and exasperating. Every time the putative heroine did something, I compared her intelligence to that of her accidental pet goat... and she always came up wanting. Not an indictment of her, actually, as Accidental Pet Goat won vs nearly everyone at all times, but argh. A very, very shallow book, where the heroine makes bad decisions left and right, but so does everyone else.
Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni. This is a first fucking novel.
How the shit.
Angela and I stayed in the kitchen preparing night food and talking about the many layers of the book-- not hugely so, just naming a contrast and swearing because how. The contrasts, the questions of nature and identity, the fact that throughout the entire book I was so Team Golem, so completely Team Golem, that I hardly registered that she’s meant to be inhuman in some way beyond the obvious. What does that say about me, that I see the Golem as something to aspire to?
Anyway. This book. Damn.
Paula Brackston, Winter Witch. Sometimes I read a book and realize a significant way through that it has something ridiculously standard about it, but it’s been hidden behind an interesting conceit. If this book had been set in Walesia rather than Wales, it would be clichéd and overtired. In Wales? With drovers? I am set. The Welshness covers up the general predictability and slight eyerollingness.
Oh, drat. I may have missed a book in here. Um? This is what happens when I don’t write them up immediately after reading them.
Courtney Milan, A Kiss for Midwinter. I made the library buy this e-novella because why oh why don’t they buy everything Milan writes. Except they do. Because I make them.
I envision Milan sitting down to her desk, stretching her arms and neck, looking the world straight in the eye, and saying, “Slut-shaming and abstinence-only sex education. BRING IT.” And then she wrote this novella, which doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is: it leads with a prologue in which a fifteen-year-old girl is told that, having become pregnant, her parents should put her away and never speak of her again because a) she will continue her sluttish ways and end as all whores do, or b) she will realize her error and die of shame. Also, prussic acid for morning sickness.
Cheery prologue, isn’t it?
Then Milan continues and manages to include historical medicine, Christmas traditions, hereditary anxiety disorders manifesting in different ways, and a sex scene which contains the word ‘vagina’-- not only that, but ‘vulva’, as well, and they are two different things.
I mean seriously.
Courtney Milan, The Heiress Effect. Angela mentioned recently that it’s hard to recommend Milan as Milan. There’s all this context, so it might be best to start with other historical romances and move on from there. Sort of like a sestina-- to appreciate the really great sestinas, you have to read enough of them to background the structure itself. Then you learn about wordplay. Historical romance has a lot of history as a genre and not everyone knows a marquess from a marquis (I’ve won arguments about that one even though I can’t pronounce ‘marchioness’) much less the tropes that Milan uses, subverts, and examines. If you haven’t read a lot of duchess-in-training-makes-good stories, you aren’t as surprised when one of the women refuses.
But it isn’t that historical romance sets up an expectation of bad books or tropes. That is too simplistic and insults a genre I have come to adore. I can only compare it to an epic fantasy about restoring the true king, and then the true king establishes a parliament and works to create a middle class to balance the strong aristocracy.
So anyway, the book: it’s Milan, so you know what I think of it. Halfway through, I thought, “Every author has to write something I don’t love. Not every book can be The Duchess War or Unclaimed. There’s always going to be a favorite in each set. I can handle this.” I worried that my expectations were too high. Then the second half of the book happened.
That’s what Milan does. She presented a perfectly sound premise: woman pretends to be insultingly stupid and too well-meaning for anyone to cut her directly, man is offered power in return for humiliating her, love, kiss, triumph against odds, everybody sing. That would be a good book, especially considering my thing for characters pretending to be stupid. Then Milan goes on and complicates it.
If A Kiss for Midwinter is the sex-ed and slut-shaming book, this one is the tone argument respectability politics.