Saturday, April 30, 2011

Books of March

Hello friends, it's that time again where I tell you what I read and how I liked it. March was a good month for me because I powered through 8 books AND took a day off from reading. I'm ahead by 3 books on my pace of 100 for the year, so I'm super stoked.

First up was Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire.

This was a difficult book. Coming on the heels of Hunting Eichmann, it was a bitter pill to swallow. The initiatives put in place to keep another Holocaust from happening were completely neglected in Rwanda, because the timing was bad. Dallaire was the chief of the UN Mission there, and he reports the red tape, the inhumane and nearly indescribable torment and sheer scale of awfulness that humans can do to each other. Simply chilling and a very, very important book. It made me rage at my own government -- the US, France, The UK, and Belgium take their share of blame from Dallaire's book -- it was, as I said, a difficult book. I think everyone should read it, but keep in mind it is a very difficult story to get through.

So after that I had a hard time deciding what to read next, and since the show was starting a week from the day I finished SHWT, I decided on A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin (who is on Livejournal, but I don't know his username. It's probably something like his name or some such.) Anyway, I only got my feet wet in fantasy by reading a Renaissance-inspired world (the Kushiel series) and GoT is set in a medieval-esque world, so that helped me get into it a little bit. And when informed me that the book was vaguely based on The Wars of the Roses, it snapped into place a little bit more for me and helped my enjoyment of the first book. There is however, trigger warnings for incest (which helpfully discovered for me beforehand). I have yet to watch the show but I think I will, and read the next book at the very least.

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, has long been at the top of my To Read list. And I found it on a bargain rack at Borders so I picked it up. SO GLAD I DID. It opened with a heroine researching into a life of someone else, much like that horrid Pink Carnation book, so I side-eyed it but continued on anyway. I was rewarded with a book about memory, love, loss, and a mystery that wraps itself up into a nice, tidy ending. It was a little too convenient, but very enjoyable nonetheless. I kept turning pages and alternately not wanting the book to end.

On the same trip that I picked up that book, I also got Three Days to Dead, by Kelly Meding. The blurb on the back cover embedded itself in my brain -- a bounty hunter wakes up in the body of another woman on an autopsy table and has three days to solve her murder. It was a good concept, but it was slow and boring in its execution. If the author had twisted the tale in different directions, or hadn't made the supposed love interest into a boring, wooden character who would risk everything ever for the Mary Sue I mean main character, it would have worked. There are more books in the series, but I won't be continuing it, tyvm.

Then I got out one of my dollar books to kill an evening: Podkayne of Mars, by Robert Heinlein. NB: I had known of Heinlein, and only that he was one of the Sci-Fi Gods (authors that people revere for leading the heyday of SF works) but never had read anything of his.

Nor will I again -- this sexist piece of garbage was about a I think 16 year old girl, but the "saviour" of the book was her eleven year old brother who of course was better at everything than her. I just wanted to punch this book in the face several times.

I decided Finding Nouf (by Zoe Ferraris) would be a good palate cleanser. This is a murder mystery set in Saudi Arabia -- one of the wealthiest men in the country's daughter is found murdered in the desert, pregnant at 16 and unmarried. A friend of the family and a female medical examiner take on the case of trying to find out who killed her, working within the confines of their society's laws and regulations. It's an interesting look at a place I don't read a lot about, and while I didn't love it, I think I'd read the rest of the series too.

Next up was Amalia's Tale: A Poor Peasant, an Ambitious Attorney, and a Fight for Justice, by David Kertzer. This is a case study of a woman from rural Italy who worked as a wet nurse for a foundling home. When she contracted syphilis, she did what was an unexpected thing at the time -- she contacted a lawyer, who just happened to be looking for a case to make his name. He sues the foundling home on her behalf, and finds out that this was a common practice and many women had been given syphilis from infants who were too young to show signs of the disease before being "farmed out" to these mothers. It's a good look at a time period and a place that normally go unnoticed by historians.

Finally, I read The Other Queen, by Phillipa Gregory. I had been wanting to read this for a while and nearly bought it off the bargain rack but when I was cleaning I found I already had purchased it at Christmastime. Whoops. Anyway, this was Gregory's interpretation of Mary, Queen of Scots and her imprisonment in England after she fled there for sanctuary from Scotland. Gregory used the same tri-partite structure that she did in The Boleyn Inheritance but here it just falls flat and turns repetitive -- she has the three characters replay nearly every scene from their POV and it's so boring. The chapters are a page to a page and a half at some points, and it's just frustrating. Not worth the read.

I haven't started a new book yet. Back in January I started a collection of short stories mostly set in Nova Scotia by Alistair Macleod, and tonight I read four more of them, but I haven't picked up a new tome yet. We'll see how it goes though.