Friday, April 22, 2011

Listening to Detectives

By default, I'm not much of an audio book person. I get distracted easily and realize I haven't been paying attention for the last five minutes, and it isn't always easy to go back! After trying several different genres, I have found that one genre that really works for me in audio form is detective novels - hard boiled, or fantasy.

Now, now, let me explain. I know you didn't expect to see the word fantasy in there, but I don't have a better way of explaining The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, that tell the story of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, the only wizard private investigator I've ever heard of. Add to that an excellent reading by James Marsters (ahem, Spike from Buffy), and I actually found myself carrying my iPad around with me in the mornings so I could listen to Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) on my Audible app while getting ready.

Even better than the Butcher was a book I downloaded through Overdrive, which one of my local public libraries gives their users access to. Elliott Gould played Detective Phillip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye, but also reads The Big Sleep in the audio book. His voice is perfect for the dry sarcasm and overly detailed descriptions of each female character's legs. This is prose that is best heard, not just read. Short sentences, constant analogies, just so great in audio form.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nebula Award 2010 - Novel

I've been racing through some of the 2010 Nebula Award Nominees. I plan to give my take on most of the categories, but for today I want to talk about the novel nominees.

Who Fears DeathMy absolute favorite of the bunch was Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. This is a brilliant combination of post-apocalypse and magic, set in a tribal Africa of the future. It was different, fresh, and I couldn't put it down.

Blackout (All Clear #1)All Clear (All Clear, #2)
The close second would be Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. These chronicle time traveling historians during the Blitz, in London of World War II. These are more historical novel than science fiction, but I enjoyed learning, and really developed a deep attachment to the characters trying to find their way "home" to Oxford in 2060.

The rest of the books were mediocre for me, or maybe just not my favorite genres. I read at least 50 pages of each one. The one I finished, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, made me decide I didn't need to force myself to finish a book I wasn't enjoying. It was a weird combination of magic and regency romance, I wasn't really feeling it. Echo by Jack McDevitt just was kind of blase, not enough interesting stuff for a world of the 27th century! Native Star by M.K. Hobson and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemison fall into the category of fantasy novels I can't even pretend to care about. No offense to the authors, of course. Everyone has a niche.

Stay tuned for my slightly skewed views of the nominated short stories, novellas, novelettes, and YA novels.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Disagreeing with Award Winners

Lord of MisruleLord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ugh, really? This won the National Book Award over Nicole Krauss? Or even Peter Carey? I have to admit, I read the first 60 pages pretty closely and then decided to skim the rest. It is a very detailed account of a world I just couldn't make myself care about, apart from the occasional interesting tangent with Maggie, the girl with the wirey red hair. If it won the award because it had a unique setting, well, I guess aspiring authors can use that as their strategy. Because I just don't see any other merit to it.

View all my reviews

This is not the first time I have forced myself to finish a book because it had received great acclaim (Freedom, anyone?). I always start to doubt my literary prowess when this happens. Is it a matter of taste or am I not open enough? Do awards get given for reasons I don't understand? Should I force myself to figure out away to enjoy something I find excruciating?

Let's face it. I only read for fun. I can't help but push myself into reading outside my comfort zone, and don't usually regret it. Possibly only when reading books like this.

So who I think should have won the National Book Award? I would have given it to Great House or Room. I'm still going to read some of the non-fiction finalists, at least the winner, since I bought it a month ago. Eventually. Right now I'm reading the finalists for the 2010 Nebula Award, so expect some posts about those!