Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman


This wonderful collection of short stories is full of astonishing, intricate, and compelling portraits of women and the animals, men, and family history that round out their worlds.  I found it very affecting and some of these women will be with me for a long time.  Bergman is a fantastic writer, very concise, precise, and yet her words are delightful, painful, emotionally evocative and make each of her stories strong and beautiful.  These are real women trying to find their balance – with the world, with nature, with their families, their husbands, mothers, fathers, and with themselves.  Highly recommended read.

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City of Dragons by Robin Hobb


Volume Three of the Rain Wild Chronicles was pretty much on par with the first two in the series.  Not my favorite series (that would be the Farseer Trilogy) but I enjoy Robin Hobb’s worlds and will certainly read the last, hoping of course that the dragons show the Chalced’s and all the others coming to ransack their new City what’s good for them!

I think one of the main reasons I’ve enjoyed all I have read by Robin Hobb’s is her ability to make me interested in her protagonists even though I don’t think I would much like them if I met them in real life – and then watching them evolve – some for the better, some not.  I love the dragons because each one is a real character – with some things in common with humans, and some very much alien.  Her characters (people and dragons) are all complex creatures – none of them are all good, none are all bad – but all are real.  Well, real to me while I’m reading!

This one ended before I was ready (which is a good thing, right?), and I wished for a lot more.  Hopefully, the last book, Blood of Dragons, will satiate me.

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11/22/63: A Novel By Stephen King

I have read Stephen King since Salem’s Lot in 1978 (I had to backtrack for Carrie),  so saying I am a fan is an understatement.  His latest novel, 11/22/63, held my interest to the same degree as his first novel.  Time travel, JFK, writing, love, obsession, not to mention Derry and some old acquaintances from ITwhat isn’t there to love?

As usual, it’s a very long novel and some might consider it too fat in some sections, but I adore a book I can totally forget myself in and don’t mind the length or the sub-stories, since they only contribute to the characters development in my opinion.  The protagonist isn’t exactly heroic but he and the people he cares about were important to me while I was reading and that is what I love about King – he makes you care.  He is a fantastic story teller and a master craftsman.

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Abarat by Clive Barker

I have had Clive Barker’s Abarat series on my To Read list for the longest time but for one reason or another, never got around to starting it.  While it is probably blasphemous to read it on the Kindle rather than a hardcopy with the wonderful illustrations, I’ve pretty much stopped buying “real” books.  I did look at the on-line representations of his paintings and they are marvelous.  I found, however, that the story stands just fine without them.

Barker is one of my favorite authors.  I own (hard cover up to Abarat no less!) every book he’s written and enjoyed each of them.  Abarat, being a so-called “Young Adult” fantasy, reads quite differently for me, but Barker’s genius at creating extraordinary visions with words overflows the pages.  I love the island world of Abarat, and the colorful, multi-dimensional characters he’s filled it with.   I’ve got the next two volumes waiting on my Kindle and I am sure I will be just as swept away as I gulp them down.

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The City & The City by China Mieville


Thank goodness for another highly creative, thought-provoking, fascinating, and infinitely readable novel by China Mieville. This is first and foremost a murder mystery.  But it is the setting, two cities, Besźe and Ul Qoma, co-existing in the same geographical location, that makes it so intensely satisfying.  How can a police detective solve a crime when he is constrained, trained since birth, to “unsee” half of everything going on around him?  When it requires going miles out of one’s way to leave one city and enter the other, to open a door that was only inches away from one’s original location? Not to mention the possibility of a third city, Orciny, hiding in the cracks between the first two?

The tone of the story, told from the perspective of Inspector Tyador Borlú, is so matter-of-fact that the introduction of the odd juxtaposition of the Cities seems totally normal.  Indeed, don’t we all everyday ignore, “unsee”, that which we do not want to see?  It is not that big a step to imagine where, if we step outside those boundaries and actually “see” what is really around us, we would be “breaching”, breaking the (self- or society-imposed) law and subject to whatever horrific measures necessary to ensure the structure we created does not collapse around us?

Borlú may be trying to find the killer of a young archeologist, but his function is to serve and protect, and it is the City and the City that he is protecting in the long run.

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Play With Fire and Blood Will Tell by Dana Stabenow


Since they recently came out on Kindle, I’ve been buying and re-reading the earlier Kate Shugak novels by Dana Stabenow, one of my favorite writers.

Play with Fire is a rather disturbing mixture of mushrooms, fire, and fanaticism.  This was the first Stabenow book I ever read.  I checked it out of the library because of the cover, curious about a mystery series based in Alaska and featuring a native protaganist.  I read it and was immediately hooked.  Disappointingly, the library did not have the early volumes but I read every one after that over the next few weeks.   You cannot believe how happy I was when they released the e-book versions of A Cold Day For Murder – and free no less!

I think part of what hooked me on the series and the writer was the ending.  While not wanting to spoil it, it was satisfying in that it fit the story and the character (Kate), but unsatisfying as well.  I closed the book feeling pretty much the way I would imagine Kate felt.  Freaking unsatisfied, wanting to dish out some justice personally, but knowing that she had done all she could at that time, and having to live with it.

As for Blood Will Tell – Kate in Nordstroms.  What more can you say.  I laugh every time I think back on it.  And I can just see that little smile on Kate’s face as she witnesses Jack slowing realizing what he has unleashed on the men at the gala.  Priceless. 

This series is very much recommended for anyone interested in a strong woman protaganist, a community with great depth, an excellent writer and story-teller, not to mention Alaska from someone who knows it and loves it deeply.

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Houdini Heart by Ki Longfellow

Once I began reading this novel I could not put it down.  Ki Longfellow writes extremely well and the haunting tone with which the protagonist tells her story remained with me long after I finally finished.  A ghost story?  A murder mystery? A Hollywood expose?  A psychological supernatural suspenseful suicide note?  I was swept along and thoroughly engrossed in her tale, and I laughed, cried, wished for the finale (so I would know it), and sad when it was done.

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Cybill Disobedience by Cybill Shepherd

Every now and then I read an autobiography.  Cybill Shepherd’s version of her life came out on Kindle as a freebie and what the heck, I loved Moonlighting and always thought she was an amazing woman for more then just her looks.  It takes a lot of bravery to look into one’s own past and put it out there for everyone to judge.  I admire her for that.

It was an interesting read.  I was never one of those that men fell over so getting a perspective from that side of a woman’s world was fascinating.  She used and was used by her own beauty and the men that thought that was all she was.

The autobiography’s voice seemed very much Cybill – Aimee Lee Ball, her collaborator, did a great job.

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Give Me Your Heart by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates takes creepy to a whole new level in this unsettling collection of short stories.   Oates is an intelligent, concise, and horrifying wordsmith and storyteller.  These stories left me with some intense emotional reactions which stayed with me well after I laid the Kindle down and tried to go to sleep.  Love can be a very dark and disturbing thing, and a human being can be driven down some long convoluted paths by it.  The lucky ones don’t get lost down that road.   The people in Oates’ stories are not, unfortunately, lucky.

I have not read any of her work in a long long time.  I’m going to have to add her to the list of author’s whose backlist I’ll have to start going through – although the sheer immensity of it is daunting to say the least!   According to the wikipedia, over seventy books.  That will certainly keep me going for awhile.

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The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

I absolutely loved this little gem of a novella by Steve Martin.  You would think from the title that it is the autobiography of one of our feline companions.  Daniel Pecan Cambridge, the protagonist, may not be a cat, but he certainly has been given a sweet, twisted, intense and yet gentle character that one cannot help but love while shaking one’s head in exasperation.  I was sucked in from the very first lines and couldn’t put it down.  Every word, every phrase, every sentence seemed a perfectly crafted jewel that expressed Daniel’s obsessed inner self in such a way that I kept crying through my laughter.  Steve Martin seems like such a Renaissance man; I admire his writing, his imagination, his ability to match his writing style to his beautiful character studies, his humor and his loving attitude towards his own creations.  Daniel is so intensely human, flawed, vulnerable, and yet ultimately hopeful and able to love and be open and willing to allow himself to change for those he loves.


But I still think the title makes it sound like Nekoka’s autobiography.

Posted in 2011 Reading List, Modern Literature | Tagged , , | 2 Comments