Saturday, August 1, 2020

Book review catch-up post

Whew. Time to dust off the old book reviewing part of this blog. I don't think I need to explain why the blog hasn't been updated beyond some Miami Vice posts, but maybe for the sake of posterity I'll clue my future self in. I was laid off from work in late March thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and thanks to a combination of stress and health problems, I found I couldn't get much reading/writing done. I was back at work at the start of May because the bookstore was overwhelmed with online orders. Coming back was nice, even if the government of Canada's emergency benefits were actually a raise(!) compared to my regular wage, but the stress of working again resulted in less reading and definitely zero writing. What a strange time to live through. I mean, that's about all that needs to be said, right? The COVID-19 world will surely be the background of numerous forthcoming novels and short films and romantic comedies; the texture of everyday life will be fictionalized for decades to come and my personal experience wasn't particularly unique enough to spend hours recounting. Despite all these troubles, I did accomplish some reading.

The Millstone by Margaret Drabble
Days of Awe by A. M. Homes
Victory over Japan by Ellen Gilchrist
The Quiet War by Paul McAuley
The Reality Dysfunction: Emergence by Peter F. Hamilton
The Reality Dysfunction: Expansion by Peter F. Hamilton
The Neutronium Alchemist: Consolidation by Peter F. Hamilton
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
The Galton Case by Ross MacDonald
Close Range by Annie Proulx
The Safety of Objects by A. M. Homes
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting
Moon Deluxe by Frederick Barthelme
Actress by Anne Enright
Kentucky Straight by Chris Offutt
A Nest of Nightmares by Lisa Tuttle
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
New Hope for the Dead by Charles Willeford
Furnace by Livia Llewellyn
Things You Should Know by A. M. Homes
What Belongs To You by Garth Greenwell
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Stonefish by Scott R. Jones
The Rise of Life on Earth by Joyce Carol Oates

I read 23 books since March 6, 2020 (when I finished the first volume of Richardson's Pilgrimage). That's one quarter of a book per day, assuming the books are all the same length, which they definitely are not. You can see this is a slowdown from the rate pre-COVID (21 books over 66 days, or 31% of a book per day). Is this a regular rate? Hard to say as the first two months of 2020 were the hardest two months of my entire life. Anyway, this post isn't about the previous calamity but the present calamity, lol.

The books I liked the least, but still liked a lot were Victory over Japan and Stonefish. Both of them were just almost shy of good, but had some stumbles. For the Gilchrist, the problem was the doofy final suite of stories and for the Jones, it was the doofy dialogue and the length (too long!). But both had moments of fantastic writing, great ideas, and enough for me to want to read more by both writers.

The ones I loved the most were the Greenwell, the Oates (obviously), the two latter Homes story collections, and Drabble's The Millstone which blew my socks off. Everything else I read was good to great. An extremely solid offering. I mean, the Peter F. Hamilton stuff, the first half of the Night's Dawn Trilogy, is stupendously stupid and I had to take a break or my mind would have shattered irreparably. But it's still entertaining. The most recent Homes story collection, Days of Awe, had some terrific stories but also a couple of duds.

I wish I had the energy to write anything.

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