May. 3rd, 2017

muccamukk: Boromir with a blue filter. (LotR: Boromir Blue)
What I Just Finished Reading
The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien, narrated by Christopher Lee
About 80% of my positive feelings about this are because of Christopher Lee reading the audiobook. He seemed to be having a good time, and I enjoyed listening to him. The other 20% is for a couple added characters and the general prettiness of Tolkein's writing. 0% is for Turin, who I've never liked, and this book makes even more unlikable. The entire story always struck me is completely pointless. I was never sure what the curse was meant to be? Was it just inflicting Turin on as many people as possible? The man had no redeeming features other than he was pretty and good in a fight, but all the decent characters kept getting in fights over him like he was the best thing ever. In any case, it was certainly a very effective curse. I don't know why Morgoth didn't just curse all his enemies and let them finish each other off.


Updraft (Bone Universe #1) by Fran Wilde, narrated by Khristine Hvam
Very different from the short stories I've read by Wilde (which tend to creepy), but still really enjoyable. I've never read a setting quite like this, and the details and practicalities of it seem very well thought out. I liked how the language shaped around the air world. The origins of the world aren't explained at all, but I hope future books will get more into what the towers are and where they came from.

The culture built on the world was shocking in its brutality. The contrast between the physical beauty of the place and the ruthlessness of the laws worked really well. As is usual for heroines of YA dystopias, our girl is the right person at the right place at the right time, but it worked for me here more than it often does.

Our Heroine was an interesting character. She was easy to identify with her ambitions and hopes, but was occasionally frustrating to read as she rarely seemed to think a proposition through and only felt moral quandaries when she came at them face to face. Which I suppose is not unlike many teenagers. She did seem to be learning by the end? (I'm not sure if this is an offshoot of an uncritical heroine or editing errors, but there seemed to be continuity errors where the same thing would occur to her for the first time more than once.)

Really looking forward to the next one.


Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington, narrated by Noah Waterman
This is essentially 100+ pages of pamphlet trying to raise funds for his school, and is thus relentlessly optimistic and positive. I think the only things he said he didn't like in the whole book were lynchings and unions.

I found Washington as he presents himself here somewhat difficult to relate to, but still found this book compelling. It's certainly an ode to bootstrapping and respectability politics, but on the other hand it's very hard to speak against the sincere effort the man put into doing as much good as possible, for as many as possible. At one point, he's asked what he does for fun, and he basically says that for fun he likes to get his work done early in the day so he can do more work later in the day. Which I believe. He seems to have married a series of workaholic women and produced with them an equal number of workaholic children. We hear very little about his interior life, though the sections about his anxiety and love of gardening were touching.

I'm very interested to read an outside look at his life, as so much of this book was positioning himself very deliberately in the political situation of 1900. Which was probably the most interesting part of the book, though I'm somewhat lacking on context.

(I'd queued up a bunch of these books for February, then ended up not listening to many of them.)


All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
Our Hero in this is a pretty standard Wells character: The lost young person with out a family or home, who falls in with a new group of people and has to decide who they are in relation to their new circumstances. We saw it with Moon in the Raksura books, and all the way back to Cade in The Element of Fire. This book crams a lot of emotional journey and backstory into a very small space, but when we meet the Murderbot (no name, no gender), it's already in the middle of its story, already traumatised, newly free, it mostly just wants to hang out and watch tv, and not interact with people at all ever. Given my recent brushes with depression, boy do I feel that damn Murderbot. The secondary characters are pretty vague and I mostly couldn't keep them straight, but I think that was mostly a sign of how little the Murderbot cared about them.

I've heard a couple different opinions on where the story goes from there (I was spoiled on the ending going in). It's certainly a different place from where I would have thought it was going to go, based on having read a fair bit of Wells, but for me the ending worked. It especially resonated with my interaction with depression and coming out of depression. I'm interested to read the next one.

(ETA: SPOILERS for this in comments)


What I'm Reading Now
Library: A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder by Ma-Nee Chacaby with Mary Louisa Plummer. I'm somewhat stalling out as it's really bleak, but she's just gotten sober, so I hope the rest of her life will be less horrible.

Audio: Guest of Honor by Deborah Davis, about Booker T. Washington's dinner at the White House. Just started it, so far retreading Up From Slavery as context.


What I'm Reading Next
May continue my abandoned black history month reading and hit Souls of Black Folks on audio. Also library books.
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