Monday, January 4, 2010

What I'm Reading Monday -- Jan. 4

For the Monday What I'm Reading blog; also, these are my reviews for the Winter 2010 challenge (hence the repeat of "Agent to the Stars."

"Agent to the Stars" by John Scalzi (finished Dec. 27)

This is a lightly likable first-contact novel, in which the hideous but friendly aliens contract with a Hollywood agent to manage their first appearance to humans. It's a very fast read, as compared with some of the other novels and short-story collections I read this year, and it was great to finish off on winter break. I particularly liked the main character, Tom Stein, an agent with a literary bent -- maybe too good to be true, but this is SF, after all. I'll read more books by John Scalzi. 
Challenge: Winter challenge (read a book written in the first person)

Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland
Doug Coupland's novels are enjoyable, in a lightly likable way. He has a knack for creating characters and situations that resonate with people born after 1960 -- in some ways, he resembles William Gibson, in the way they both create characters who fit into new niches that a technologically savvy society has created. Here we have a movie producer and a former child star-beauty pageant queen who both chuck it all in different ways, return, then meet each other in a restaurant in Los Angeles. The plot points are consistently odd -- the novel is set in the late 1990s, in the early years of the Internet and just after grunge. The novel is light, humorous and not all that profound (plus there are several grammar errors and typos), but Coupland's impromptu families are fun to spend time with. Can you re-create yourself? Sort of. 
Challenge: Winter 2010 challenge (book with Mr. Mrs. or Miss in the title)
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
Olivia and I listened to the book, read by Stephen Briggs, on the road to and from Atlanta over New Year's. Olivia has listened to it before, so she enjoyed alerting me to the really funny parts. This novel was more meandering than Wee Free Men or A Hat Full of Sky, but it's still a wise and witty look at entering the teen years Discworld-witch style. Tiffany's back, and she dances with an elemental -- big mistake -- but with the help of Granny Weathewax and the Nac Mac Feegles, she should be able to shake off winter's bite. One interesting part of the book is a descent into the Underworld, where monsters await to eat memories -- a chilling reminder of the author's self-announced medical condition.
Challenge: Winter 2010 challenge (book with winter, frost or snow in the title)

The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen

Nothing like not being able to renew a library book to spur one on to finishing it. This exciting sequel to Here, There Be Dragons takes us back to the Archipelago of Dreams, into the Underneath and into Western mythology. The first glint of Christian reference occurs as well, which is surprising, because the three main characters -- John, Jack and Charles -- are Toliken, Lewis and Williams. But Owen's intention is to weave a tapestry of myths and stories -- like the tapestry at appears at its unweaving at the beginning of the novel -- into a whole, and that itself is pretty entertaining, if intentionally derivative. Owen's development of Jack's character is especially strong; Jack's struggles, interwoven with what we know of Lewis, ring true. Anyway, it's fantasy, and I think I may read the rest in the series as well.

Now reading
Mr. Sampath -- The Printer of Malgudi: I'm reading this one, by R.K. Narayan,  for the South Asian book challenge as well as the clearing your shelf challenge (it's one of three novels in a volume that will count as one book). So far, it provides a brilliant, atmospheric look at a post-independence Indian city. Since my metadata class doesn't start until next week, I hope to finish this by next weekend.
Challenges South Asian writers, Twenty-Ten (book written before I was born), Winter 2010 (book not set in UK or US).  

On audiobook: How I Paid for College: This is a very funny novel by Marc Acito about theatrically inclined high school students in New Jersey in 1984 -- once again, I seem to be reading about myself. 


Marie said...

I have the same problem -- I can't renew a book any longer so I finally get motivated to finish it :-) Miss Wyoming looks really good!

Richard LeComte said...

Yeah, it is fun -- in a light sort of way.

Anonymous said...

Every family member likes Terry Pratchett. Not sure what I have against his writing...maybe it's the