Since I am rubbish at keeping track of what I've read, I'm going to be listing what I read in 2010 by month here on the blog. How many books I read in a month and how much I talk about them will, of course, vary. I'm dividing this month's reading into a few parts so as not to scare myself out of writing, or you out of reading.
Laini Taylor - Lips Touch: First, this book could do with a better cover, particularly when you consider the sheer brilliance of the illustrations inside . I would never have picked this up if I hadn't already read a number of positive reviews. Lips Touch is a collection of three separate stories about young girls and desire. The first, "Goblin Fruit" is the one that pleased me the most, though it's not the best of the stories. "Goblin Fruit" bases its back story on Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market - the protagonist is the granddaughter of one of the sisters (the good one) in the original story. Yet the other text that informs "Goblin Fruit", and the comparison is, to me, inevitable, is Stephanie Meyer's Twilight. The story works for the same reasons Twilight works: there's the sense of danger, there's the centring of female desire that is shown to be overwhelming, there's the consummation of that desire, continually postponed. But there's also the knowledge gleaned from the Rossetti story that that danger is concrete; that desire is being used to manipulate the protagonist; that this Goblin, however attractive, is not a sparkly vegetarian. So you have a text that positions itself between two opposing attitudes to female desire and then (to me, at least) manages the best possible resolution. And the artwork really is wonderful.
Karl Alexander - Jaclyn The Ripper: I'm supposed to be reviewing this, so will not begin here to go into all the reasons this book amazed me. But I find myself full of questions. Why was this published? Did anyone read it before it was published? Was it edited? Will I ever again experience this horror, this indignation, this hysteria all at the same time?
John LeCarre - A Murder of Quality: At some point in December I decided to read (and in some cases reread) a set of crime novels set in schools, including Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey (magnificent - also, here is some amazing crossover fanfic for anyone who is both a Tey and a Forest fan), A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake, and Report For Murder by Val McDermid. More suggestions would be welcome; I find myself appreciating these more than ever after a year of researching public school stories in general. I'd read A Murder of Quality years ago and had completely forgotten everything about it. As usual, LeCarre is excellent.
L.T Meade - A Modern Tomboy: See here.
Kate Douglas Wiggin - Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm: I had never read this before, and I wish things had stayed that way. Imagine all the twee bits of Anne of Green Gables interspersed with the creepy bits of Daddy-Long-Legs. The only redeeming factor, if it can be called that, is that the child character who grows up to (presumably) marry the benefactor who has waited for her does not refer to him as "daddy".
L.M Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables: After the awfulness that was RoSF, I had to revisit it. I am very fond of all of the Anne books up until her marriage to Gilbert - though I think Rilla of Ingleside has its moments. Anne and Rebecca remind me, though, that I've noticed that young Budding Writers in these books (all the examples I can think of are female, presumably due to the quantities of Girls Own literature I scarfed down as an infant) are always too florid and wordy and over the top, and they become good writers as they learn to turn this down. Even as I write this I realise it doesn't apply to Rebecca; either because Rebecca is Perfect or because Wiggin was genuinely unable to recognise bad prose when she saw it? But it's interesting, because when I was growing up and trying to write I often had the opposite problem. I very rarely let loose the adjectives, and tried so hard to be understated that I often ended up stating nothing at all. Different times, I suppose.
Anil Menon - The Beast With Nine Billion Feet: I've been looking forward to Anil Menon's young adult novel for ages. This is a work of science fiction, it's set in Pune, and it is incredibly satisfying. I came into this with perhaps unrealistically high expectations, having already read some of Menon's shorter work (and fangirled his blog) - as a result it didn't blow me away quite as much as it could have. But it's good, and layered and thoughtful and never overdoes things, and there are so many angles (Tara's relationship with Sanskrit and her Sanskrit teacher, for example) that I really want to revisit and think about some more. I will be rereading this, and soon.