Shirley Jackson: A rather haunted life by Ruth Franklin, 499pp
A biography of Shirley Jackson, an American writer, famous for "The Lottery" short story and books like "The Haunting of Hill House" and "We have Always Lived in the Castle". I'm not a fan of horror stories and I never read much of her (I do believe I read "The Lottery" in high school though) but I saw a review of this biography and I like reading about women writers. Biographies are also about the time period the person lives in and she died young, so it was 1916 to 1965. She had four children and published books and I figured that would be interesting. But it was just ok. I didn't like how the author was speculating too much and taking the details from fictional work and was trying to fit it to Jackson's real life a little too much. And she spent a big chapter on Stanley Hyman, Jackson's husband. he was a critic and a professor in Vermont. And I also didn't particularly liked Jackson herself. I couldn't relate to her as much I guess.
I do want to read her books that she wrote about her kids though - she didn't just write horror books, she wrote essays and books about her kids and women's issues that sound like fun. She is a major American writer and I'm glad I learned more about her but sometimes it was a slug to get through this book and I think part of it was how it was written.Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold [Vorkosigan Saga], 487pp
This book was so much fun. I loved having a book from Ivan's perspective with Miles only making a cameo, since it gave the book a different energy. The beginning of the book and the end was a bit faster read - after the family shows up in the middle of the book until the actual heist it started to lag a bit but then it picked up again and ended on a high note. I really loved the wedding scene as it was so frentic and crazy and the energy just carried off the page. I was really rooting for Ivan and Tej too - they really do seem so suited to each other. And I liked all the time we spent with Simon and Alice as well. A slightly different perspective on them.
I don't think I ever quite realize just how close Ivan was to the the throne (I knew Miles referred to that possibility for himself but it was even closer for Ivan, and it was good for this book to give us some Barrayar's history and geneological information - like I knew most it yet it was spelled out so much better when the characters had to give Tej an info dump - and just why he wanted his life a certain way to avoid that possibility. He is very efficient and good at his job too - but he is so careful to stay where he is happy with his life. Different kind of ambition than Miles. I am really happy we got a book from his point of view.
And everyone has been having babies since the last book - Miles now has another daughter (a glimpse at him as a father using military language was fun), and Duv has two kids, and now Ivan is contemplating it. Everyone is growing up.
Next year I will get to finish the series. Such a great series. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, 370pp
This book won a Hugo and since I read five Hugo winners a year, I picked it up. I knew it was an apocalyptic thing and it is a very possible apocalypse but I didn't expect it to be so depressing because it is certainly the kind of economic and global catastrophe that can happen and probably will happen. The world ran out of fuel and felt effects of climate change and food disaster and started contracting and the whole global trade collapsed. On top of that food corporations and various genetic engineering destroyed a lot of food supply and you had to get through these powerful corporations that really control the world now to survive various food blights and diseases and plagues. The corporations are trying to encroach back into the rest of the world. This book takes place in future Thailand, a kingdom that managed to survive and hold its own against climate change and food blights and all kinds of environmental disasters and is trying very hard to keep apart from the rest of the world to survive. There are many characters whose fates sort of mingle after a while. The book is named after a windup girl, a Japanese genetically engineered woman who was bred to be a servant and was pretty much dumped in Thailand to die after she served her purpose since it was cheaper to leave her than to bring her back to Japan - she survives in a brothel and at one point does serve as a critical linchpin to start the action, but the book is not really about her, although her plight is the most sympathetic one. For a while I wondered why the book had that title. Most people are not sympathetic in this book but they are realistically drawn people who suffered all kinds of trauma in their life. I think this book is hard to read because this is not a kind of future one wants to live in and yet this kind of future looks very likely - it is really depressing because if it. It is a very well plotted book and certainly worth reading. I see why it won a Hugo. I am just glad I don't have to be in that world anymore. Заповедник Сказок [Fairy Tales Sanctuary] by Kyr Bulychev, 156pp [in Russian].
I never did finish reading it to Tanya - she sort of lost interest and moved on to other things. I decided to pick it up and finish it when I needed a break from a more serious book. It really stands up well. Still funny and I was remembering the story as I was reading it. Pretty amusing. The villain is obvious from the start and he escapes justice but the book was never about that. Alisa just got to have an adventure and to hang out with fantasy creatures who work at the Fairy Tale Sanctuary. I remembered where the missing director actually was. I was surprised, not for the first time rereading Bulychev, that he puts his main character in an actual deadly peril - but then I remember, this is not Disney or American stories. Actual goat got to be eaten. The Wolf was hilarious and so were all the characters really. Enjoyable reread but still not one of his best works. The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik, 388pp [Scholomance 2].
So, so good! I spoiled myself since I was taking a walk during lunch and stopped by the bookstore, right after this book came out but before I got it through the library ehold. I just wanted to look at the physical copy, mostly for the maps, but I couldn't help it but peak at the vert end. So I knew the last line before I read the book and that line is quiet a punch. But I knew nothing else other than the general premise based on the last books. And it didn't detract me - I was curious on how we would get there and why and it made some other scenes in the book much more poignant. And I wonder what the third book will be about and I just wish it was here already. I want to see what happens next!
And this book was much better for me than the last one. I liked the last one but I loved this one - there were more emotional punches in it and I liked the ethical dilemma and how it all worked out. El was really coming into her own here. I think part of it is also being used to worldbuilding and not needing the mental space to figure it out, so the story itself was flowing much better. ( Collapse ) Денискины рассказы и о том как всё было на самом деле [Denis' Tales and about how it all really was] by Victor and Denis Dragunskiy, (Oct 12).[in Russian]
"Denis' Tales" is a book of short stories for kids published in the Soviet Union around 1960 that was and is very very popular. Probably every kid in all the former republics of Soviet Union has read it or had it read to them. I read them as a kid and still own a copy - we shipped a lot of books to my uncle when we came to US to join him. I read a few stories to Tanya, especially a story about kasha, when the main character dumps the kasha he is trying unsuccessfully to eat out of the window and discovers that his mother's saying that everything hidden will come out is very true as a man shows up with kasha all over his hat to complain. Tanya loves that story and laughs and laughs when Denis tries to eat that kasha and just can't. The stories have a lot of humor and punchlines too. All the stories can be read independently but they are all based on one main character and some other characters recur like his friends and teachers. The boy Denis Korablyev is a regular kid and the stories take place in his apartment, in the courtyard, in the school, in the circus, in the summer dacha etc. And these stories stand up to any age of the reader too.
Victor Dragunskiy, the author, had a son named Denis, but the stories were mostly fictional. As his actual son Denis puts it, what real in the stories is the details of what life was like in the late 50s and early 60s in Moscow. The book that I just read is a combination of the classic stories by Victor Dragunskiy and then Denis the son describing what his life was like and which details are true in the stories and what is made up. Mostly it is about his life as a kid. Hence the double title and double authors.
So instead of a typical order of tales I'm used to, the book organizes the tales by theme: home, courtyard, street, school, circus, dacha and after each section Denis Dragunskiy writes his commentary about what his home was like or his friends or school or circus, etc. It is a really fun look at what late 50s was like.
I also have not reread many of the stories since I was a kid. I read some to Tanya but not all of them. So it was my first full reread. But I discovered that I remembered almost all of them really really well. I remembered the jokes and the punchlines. And they were still hilarious and so relatable. It was all so familiar and cozy. And it stood up to time really well as well. As an adult, I did catch more nuanced things than I did as a kid. And there was a story about the car crash that I didn't remember at all. But otherwise it was just fun to read these again and to get a commentary from the author's son about all the stories.