June 2012 Round-Up

Several days late with this one, and I haven’t blogged in over a week! Bad me, I know. It’s my fault, but I have chosen to blame the Xbox. And Borderlands.

Anyway. A rather slow month, thanks to two long, tough reads – The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and Existence by David Brin. Both very good but very challenging novels. The Diamond Age I read to complete a reading challenge that ended on 19 June. I had to read the longest of the first 5 books on my Goodreads tbr list.

Existence was a review book from NetGalley, apparently a comeback for David Brin. This was actually my first Brin novel, but what an impressive read! Some truly epic, high-concept, genre-defining sf. It demands a lot from the reader, but rewards it at the end. Read my review here.

Luckily the challenging reads were tempered by easy ones. I started the month off with Kingdom of Strangers by Zoë Ferraris, a murder mystery set in Saudi Arabia. The setting of the novel is it’s drawcard – it’s very interesting to see the ways in which the extreme modesty policies of this Islamic state affect crime, police work and personal lives.

Next up was Niceville by Carsten Stroud. I tore through this genre mash-up of ghost story and crime fiction, but by the end I felt that the two genres weren’t combined well enough and the ghost story (the more interesting of the two) was neglected.

I re-read the wonderful Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge in order to write my review. I first read it about two months ago, a bit too far from the release date, but I was quite happy to read it again since it’s only 96 pages long and is absolutely brilliant. In this collection you’ll find deliciously dark fairy tales with modern twists, all written in the form of poems. Koertge brings out the violence and eroticism of these stories, so that even though it’s marketed as YA, I think it’d be much better appreciated by adults.

Another quick easy YA read was Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Even at 430 pages I zipped through it. This was for a reading challenge in which you have to read the favourite novels of the other participants. Before I Fall was on Lu’s list. It’s about a girl who keeps reliving the day on which she dies until she figures out how to change something on that day that will set her free from this loop. She’s a popular girl in an American high school, the kind of person who joins her best friends in tormenting other students for the sake of status and entertainment. By reliving her final day she comes to realise what a bitch she is, how much she hurts other people and fails to appreciate those who care about her. For the most part it was a really good book, up until the last day/chapter, which I thought was a total cop-out.

The Bay of Foxes by Sheila Kohler was the last in my line of short, easy reads. It’s about an illegal Ethiopian immigrant named Dawit living in Paris in 1978.  Dawit’s beautiful young face catches the attention of M., a bestselling literary author now in her sixties. She invites Dawit to stay with her in her luxurious apartment, thus beginning a strange, complex relationship characterised by inequality and unfulfilled desire.

My last read for the month was Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, an unusual combination of Islamic mythology and science fiction. I had intended to post the review last week, but then I was hit with a bout of laziness, unexpectedly having to host a birthday party (long story) and Xbox/Borderlands addiction. I’ll post it for you tomorrow, I swear.

Happy reading everyone!