Tag Archives: fiction

Finished this book: How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

 

Cover of "How Should a Person Be?" by Sheila Heti

Cover of “How Should a Person Be?” by Sheila Heti

It’s hard for me to decide whether or not I liked this book. I think partly that’s because I don’t know exactly what it is. Is it autobiography or fiction or memoir or fantasy or love letter? I feel as if it is important to know if it is factual or invented, even though “factual” memoirs or autobiographies can easily contain lies or falsifications or dramatic enhancements. But for some reason, it really bothered me to not be able to tell where Heti was telling the true story, and where she made things up or altered them to be true to the story, if that makes sense.

This reads partly like the diary of a shallow young adult, and partly like a love letter from one friend to another Continue reading

Finished this book: Flashback by Dan Simmons

Cover of "Flashback" by Dan Simmons

Cover of “Flashback” by Dan Simmons

After a long reading hiatus (as in a hiatus from reading, not a hiatus in which to read), I was suddenly in the mood for a book again. Something easy, something fast, something maybe a bit on the sci-fi side. I’d picked up a pile of books from my uncle in Steinbach after the Pride Parade, and Flashback was the hardcover supporting the stack.

This book is set in a dystopian not-too-distant future in the United States of America in which that country and indeed much of the world has broken up into warring factions, and in which many people are addicted to a drug called Flashback which allows users to fully relive the memories of their choice. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a big fan of dystopian fiction (dystopian reality is a whole different thing!) so I flipped it open and gave it a go.

Was I ever disappointed. Continue reading

Finished this book (ages ago): The Writing Class by Jincy Willett

Cover of "The Writing Class" by Jincy Willett.

Cover of “The Writing Class” by Jincy Willett.

I have already forgotten a lot of this book since I finished it back around the May long weekend and just didn’t get around to writing about it. I did like the main character, Amy, a misanthropist introvert author who hasn’t published anything in ages and who teaches writing classes. Her thoughts and feelings about her students were entertaining, although I admit I do have a preference for this type of sarcastic protagonist. The premise of the book was that weird events and deaths were befalling the class, and Amy was going to try to figure out who the culprit was by analysing the writing of her students. As a premise, it was fascinating, but it’s not how the story actually worked out. (The plot was kind of vague that way.)

Some of the characters were quite interesting while others were flat. I felt the trope of mental illness as an explanation for violent or bizarre behaviour was overused (you don’t have to be crazy to be an asshole or a murderer, and not all crazy people are violent, so chill already with the casual slurs and assumptions). The plot was not particularly believable, There were lots of interesting bits and pieces (Carla’s amazing house, Amy’s hilarious blog, the writing samples), but not enough substance in the story to hold them together in a memorable form. Amy seemed like she’d be a good protagonist for a series, and in fact I think there was another book about her before this one.

I don’t actually feel like I wasted my time reading this book, but it didn’t particularly engage me, and it’s already in my giveaway pile.

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett. 2008.

 

 

Finished this book: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic (by Emily Croy Barker)

Cover of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker.

Cover of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker.

This book had most of the right elements—the main character being transported from our world to another one, magic, a woman standing up for herself and trying to change her circumstances, the importance of literacy and education—but somehow it didn’t capture me as much as I thought it would.

One of my frequent complaints about books set in other worlds is that these other worlds replicate ours so faithfully in so many of the manifestations of power and oppression. Baker’s alternate world is no exception: in it, women are subordinate to men, the poor are hungry and overworked and ill, and the characters are all presumed white (as becomes obvious when much is made of a Black woman from a land far, far away). I guess I’m just tired and bored of finding myself in the same old feudal society, as if there is something romantic and adventurous about a world where there is so much misery and despair and fixed hierarchy. Continue reading

Finished this book: Babel-17 (by Samuel R. Delany)

Cover of Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney

Cover of Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney

Babel-17 is an oldie-but-goodie from my dad’s science fiction collection, which he passed on to me when I moved back to Canada ten years ago. I was allowed to dip into that sci-fi collection at a young age, and was reading Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham, Brian Aldiss, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Larry Niven, Frederick Pohl, and more starting from the age of ten. At twelve, I was sweating my way through Asimov’s essays about science and the universe, not understanding much, but feeling as if I was being opened up to an amazing awareness of atoms and galaxies. My dad also had some women writers in his collection, like Leigh Brackett, Zenna Henderson, and Andre Norton, but it was my mom who introduced me to Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Doris Lessing, and Anne McCaffrey (whom I met once, but that’s another story). Continue reading

Finished this book: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden (by Jonas Jonasson)

Cover of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Cover of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

This book was passed on to me by a friend who liked it when she first started reading it but was more ambivalent by the time she finished. I was curious and started it that same night. I read the first two-thirds of the book fairly quickly, but then put it down and wasn’t too motivated to go back to it. I wasn’t sure why, since I enjoyed the writing style (or, I should say, the translation), the plot was fast-paced, the bizarre twists were definitely bizarre but still had internal consistency, the politics involved were interesting, and the characters were entertaining. Continue reading

Finished this book: The Art of Racing in the Rain (by Garth Stein)

Cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This is a lovely book, telling the story of Denny (a racecar driver), his partner, and their child over the span of a number of years. The story is told from the point of view of Denny’s dog, Enzo, is a canine philosopher who bases his musings about the world and the afterlife on television and racing. Enzo is convinced that in his next incarnation, he will be a human, and he works hard to practice human traits so he will be ready for his next life

The book avoids being cutesy in its use of a canine perspective, but instead manages to capture Enzo’s love for and admiration of Denny, as well as Enzo’s fervent (and sometimes conflicting) desires to both please and protect his master. The way Enzo relates his ponderings back to the words and actions of racecar drivers, whom he views as philosophers in their own right, is sometimes surprisingly moving.

This book is a quick read, and is one of the better “from-a-dog’s-perspective” books I’ve read. Very different from, but as well done as, one of the first books I reviewed on this blog: Dog On It by Spencer Quinn. I like a dog book that doesn’t rely on the stereotypes of canine simplicity, good cheer, and blind loyalty, but rather treats dogs respectfully as the complex and alien people they are. That actually goes for any animal-perspective book.

I’d highly recommend this book. Even though I have no interest whatsoever in race cars, racing, or even cars in general, Enzo’s commentary and insights on his own life and the lives of his humans used images and experiences in these areas to tell a great story. I will read this one again.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.