The OF Blog: April 2012 Reads

Sunday, May 13, 2012

April 2012 Reads

Read 51 books in April, most of them first-time reads for me.  More non-fiction, due in part to reading some Civil War/Southeastern Amerindian books early in the month (including a day trip to the Shiloh battle site).  Not many genre fictions, but that's been the case for the past few years now.

113 Mario Vargas Llosa, Los jefes/Los cachorros (re-read; Spanish; will attempt to review at some point on Gogol's Overcoat)

114  Stephen Sears, et al., The Civil War:  The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It (excellent Library of America edition that collects primary source documents from late 1860 to the beginning of 1862)

115  Larry J. Daniel, The Civil War Series:  The Battle of Shiloh (informative chapbook on the Shiloh site, read during my visit there)

116  Ronald N. Satz, Tennessee's Indian Peoples:  From White Contact to Removal, 1540-1840 (good, but somewhat dated, look at the "Civilized Tribes" that lived in Tennessee prior to the Trail of Tears)

117  Matthew Stover, Caine's Law (had planned to write a review, but for now, let's just say its the best of his four Caine novels)

118  Petter J.J. van Thiel, The Genius of Rembrandt:  his Life and Work (decent but too short biography of the Dutch painter)

119  Joe McKinney, Flesh Eaters (winner of this year's Stoker Award for Best Novel, it was a zombie novel.  Most of those do not appeal to me and my enjoyment suffered because of this)

120  José Saramago, Deste Mundo e do Outro (Portuguese; very good)

121  Mercé Rodoreda, Aloma (Catalan; very good)

122  Phil and Kaja Foglio, Girl Genius:  Agatha Awakens (interesting steampunkish graphic novel compilation of the webcomic series, but it wasn't more than just solidly done in my opinion)

123  Keigo Higashino, The Devotion of Suspect X (Edgar Award finalist; good but not great)

124  Machado de Assis, Casa Velha (Portuguese; very good)

125  Brian Evenson, Immobility (plan on writing a review sometime in the near future)

126  Kim Lakin-Smith, Cyber Circus (BSFA Award finalist; decent but weak compared to most of the shortlist)

127  Sherri S. Tepper, The Waters Rising (reviewed last month; ¿Como dice "chupó los cajones de un burro muerte" en inglés?)

128  Ismet Prcić, Shards (won this year's LA Times Book Prize for First Novel; excellent)

129  Elizabeth Hand, Available Dark (worthy successor to her excellent Generation Loss)

130  Jean Echenoz, Lightning (finalist for the Best Translated Book Award; very good)

131  Amal Al-Jubori, Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation (poetry finalist for the Best Translated Book Award; bilingual English-Arabic edition; outstanding)

132  Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero (devastating in the sense that it moved me while reading it)

133  Mario Vargas Llosa, La ciudad y los perros (re-read; Spanish; will be reviewed at Gogol's Overcoat at some point in the future)

134  William Faulkner, Big Woods (some of these stories have already been reviewed at Gogol's Overcoat)

135  Jan Morris, Hav (omnibus; outstanding modern classic travelogue of an imaginary city/culture)

136  Simon Morden, Equations of Life (won the Philip K. Dick Award this year; this trilogy opener was decent but not all that appealing to me)

137  Anne Enright, The Forgotten Waltz (Orange Prize finalist; started slow, but its conclusion was very well-executed)

138  Philip Kerr, Field Gray (Edgar Award finalist; spotty but mostly good)

139  Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles (Orange Prize finalist; may review in near future)

140  N.K. Jemisin, The Kingdom of Gods (Nebula Award finalist; uneven but mostly very good)

141  Herta Müller, The Passport (excellent)

142  Nathaniel Philbrick, Why Read Moby Dick? (nice intro-level discussion of why Melville's story has captured the hearts and thoughts of generations of readers)

143  Jac Jemc, My Lovely Wife (this debut novel is one of the better novels I've read this year.  Had hoped to write a formal review, but for now, I can only note that it is an excellent novel that utilizes a deceptively-complex narrative to tell two stories (and an absence) with an economy of words)

144  Drew Magary, The Postmortal (Clarke Award finalist; better than the Bear or Tepper, but not award-worthy.  Some interesting commentary on American socio-cultural clashes is dampened by a dull narrative point of view)

145  Christopher Priest, The Islanders (BSFA Award winner; review shortly)

146  Cynthia Ozick, Foreign Bodies (Orange Prize finalist; good but too uneven to be worthy of award consideration)

147  Donald Antrim, The Hundred Brothers (very good)

148  José Saramago, A Segunda Vida de Francisco Assis (Portuguese; play; very good)

149  Judith Hermann, Alice (Independent Foreign Fiction Award finalist; very good)

150  Wisław Myśliwski, Stone upon Stone (Best Translated Book Award winner; excellent)

151  Diego Marani, New Finnish Grammar (finalist for both the Independent Foreign Fiction Award and the Best Translated Book Award; outstanding)

152  Sheri Holman, Witches on the Road Tonight (Shirley Jackson Award finalist; very good)

153  S.P. Miskowski, Knock Knock (Shirley Jackson Award finalist; excellent)

154  Livia Llewellyn, Engines of Desire:  Tales of Love & Other Horrors (Shirley Jackson Award finalist for Best Anthology; excellent)

155  Giannina Braschi, Yo-Yo Boing! (re-read; Spanglish; outstanding prose-poem dealing with the realities of bilingual life for the puertorriqueños)

156  Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars (poetry; won the Pulitzer Prize this year; outstanding collection)

157  Olympe Bhêly-Quénum, Le Chant du Lac (re-read; French; very good)

158  L. Timmel Duchamp, Never at Home (this anthology contained a story that was a finalist for this year's Tiptree Award; very good)

159  Sjón, From the Mouth of the Whale (finalist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Award; excellent)

160  Brian Evenson, Windeye (outstanding just-released collection by one of my favorite weird fiction writers)

161  Angélica Gorodischer, Menta (collection; Spanish; excellent)

162  Giannina Braschi, United States of Banana (this loosely-themed novel, originally written in English, continues some of the thematic explorations Braschi did in her earlier works; very good)

163  Mo Hayder, Gone (Edgar Award winner; very good)

Which ones have you read?  Which ones have you heard mentioned but want to know more about?  Which ones did you dislike and/or do not care to read?


Foxessa said...

I've failed over the years to get a copy of Hav, to my disappointment.

The Miller's on my list.

I do enormous amounts of research into Civil War era matters, but the battles are generally not a part of what I do. There are exceptions to that, because of their importance not just to the outcome of the war of southern aggression, but due to the ongoing political and cultural influence of the character of Grant -- the siege of Vicksberg and the Battle of the Wilderness; and Gettysburg, which was the hinge of the war -- Lee's objective to invade and conquer, his failure, and it all was inevitable thereafter. Though many say it was inevitable after the surrender of Vicksberg too -- though I'm not necessarily convinced, I pay attention. The other thing about the Pennsylvania invasion was the rapine and pillaging of the Army of Virginia, including and in no way limited to grabbing every person of color, free or not, to sell back home as part of their swag. They stole everything -- even dismanteling things to take back, so short of supplies they were. They also burned and raped. I've often thought that the mythology behind every ex-Confederate protagonist, who always owned a plantation which the Yankee always burned while raping his wife and then killing her and his family, comes out of this. You know, that psychological trope of accusing your victims of doing what it is you did to them.

lampwick said...

"Cajones" should be "cojones." At least, I'm pretty sure that's what you meant. I did laugh, though.

Larry said...

Interesting, as I have not heard much at all about the Army of Virginia's conduct leading up to Gettysburg. I suspect part of that might deal with certain things being sugarcoated or neglected here in the mid-South.

And yes, I meant to type "cojones." I usually spell much better in Spanish than that :P

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