Friday, February 25, 2011

A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster by Wendy Moffat (2010)

I read A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster by Wendy Moffat (2010). It's nominally a biography of E.M. Forster, but really it's a biography through a gay lens, which I LOVED. I believe a person's homosexuality really does shade the typical gay and lesbian's life. Our experiences make us different, both sexually and socially. This may be changing - younger gays don't have to hide their sexual orientation in the same way that E.M. Forster and his friends did back in the good old days. But even so, gay men are different from straight men, and pretending otherwise is just silly. E.M. Forster certainly celebrated his homosexuality through friendships, lovers, letters, and support for the first very limited gay civil rights. Moffat does a tremendous job of writing what is essentially a sexual biography; Forster's life seen through the lens of his homosexuality.

There is this tremendous scene from Forster's life at the beginning of the book; he's on walking tour of England, meets a young shepherd, and falls for him in a minute, a rush of passion and romantic love, and I thought "That's how it was; you're a young gay guy, you aren't sure who can be trusted; you meet someone and have a sexual and spiritual connection, maybe for the first time, and it's all fireworks for a while." Years later, Forster meets the shepherd again, but it's not the same - he's moved on in his gay journey, and fantasy fireworks have been replaced by reality, both positive and negative - that's how it is too!

I love Forster's writing, and now I consider him kind of a gay hero. It's never been easy being a gay man, and that was certainly true throughout Forster's life. But he carved a healthy, happy, pretty normal life as openly gay as it was safe to be back then. He's pretty damn cool.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shades of Sorcery and Cecelia... Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (2010)

I read Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (2010), which is set in the same time period as my all time favorite The Sorcery and Cecelia by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede, but isn't even close to being as good. All the reviews I read mention Jane Austen and magic, which is completely accurate, and Kowal does an excellent job of catching the Austen tone. But I kept wondering what the point of including all the magic - it seemed really wasted. The magic in Sorcery and Cecelia seemed appropriate and added to the plot; but replace the word "glamor" with "art" and you'd still have the same story. Still, I finished the book, and I'd certainly read a sequel (if there is going to be one).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The good book well has run dry...

At least this week. Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey (2010) was disappointing. In the first book in the series, Skin Hunger, a veil of doom and gloom hung over the book in the most heavenly horrifying way. And while I wanted that same feeling in the second book, I also wanted something to happen! I was okay with the heavy hand of fate knocking slowly at the door in Book 1, but I guess I need action at some point. Sacred Scars was literally Skin Hunger revisited. Not a sequel, but a continuation - and I wondered why they were even two books ( a publishing thing, I guess). I think I would have continued reading if they had been two books, but as it was, I just couldn't get in the mood. Maybe some other time.

I also tried to read Peony in Love by Lisa See (2007), and was disappointed as well. I just didn't care enough about the characters, and the story really drug along. And the story was weird too. I made it half way and skimmed the rest.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (2007)

I read Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (2007). I thought I had read this before, and I know I red at least half of it - but the end was a complete surprise. So I must not have finished it! Who knows why - because this time I definitely couldn't put the book down. Duey has written an anti-Potter - what if magic were used for power and influence, what if wizards were evil? Not in the comic book style of Voldemort and Co. - as fun as that is - Duey's evil wizard is crazy as a loon, Stalinist in scope. Let's say that George Orwell's Animal Farm decided to have a baby with Harry Potter, and you get Skin Hunger. I loved the Easter eggs Duey hides throughout the book, tying the two time lines together. It's something I certainly missed the first time around, and but read with more care this time, and was able to constantly amazed. And constantly scared - that Somiss is one evil son of a bitch, and the more you read, the more you realize just how serial killer dead eyed no conscience evil he really is. I can't wait to find out what happens next -- something good I hope. Or maybe Duey will upset the apple cart, and what we think is going on is actually something different!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (2007)

I am re-reading Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (2007) in preparation for reading the second book in this series, and I forgot how deliciously creepy and different this book is!

The Whale by Philip Hoare (2010)

I tried to read The Whale by Philip Hoare (2010) and it was way to high falutin' for me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (2010)

I read At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (2010). I forgot how much I like Bill Bryson. I like his writing style, I like the way his brain works, and where he can take us. It's definitely storytelling - nonfiction storytelling? Engaging, sometimes dramatic, always interesting. The little tidbits of information buried in each chapter are a pure delight.

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen (2010)

I read Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen (2010) and was not as enchanted as her other books. The history was weak (from what I gather, Bulgaria had a tsar not a king, and if you are going to write about the Romanian royal family, the least you can do is mention Queen Marie, the most famous Romanian of all!), and the plot was maybe trying to cash in on the latest (again) vampire craze. Okay, those little quibble aside, it was still a fun little jaunt. I love all the bedroom hijinks (naughty but not too naughty), the Agatha Christie-ness of it all (Agatha Christie shaken not stirred). I will definitely continue reading this series - every series has ups and downs, and while this one was definitely a downhill addition, it was still well worth the ride. God save froth!

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