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Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Every year I try to read one Thomas Hardy book. I feel like I missed reading his classic books at school and after watching Mayor of Casterbridge mini-series a few years ago, and then reading the book, I thought I should read more of him. I can get most of the books for free on my Kindle too. (I also share a birthday with Hardy, which always amuses me). I am usually surprised by his characters and his points of view and there is enjoyment in his plots, even if there is a lot of coincidence at times.

Jude the Obscure is the fourth book of his I read (after Mayor of Casterbridge, Far from the Madding Crowd, and Tess of the d'Umbervilles) and it might be my least favorite, mostly because more characters were somewhat annoying. Especially Sue- she was just terribly annoying -why are two characters so in love with her. Incidentally, this book is the only Hardy book my Dad read when he was in school in Soviet Union. And I can see why - and why this book was so controversial for its time, with its ideas of institution of marriage. A lot of problems like social consequences of divorce would not be big problems today. But a lot of problems would also not happen if the characters themselves were not so silly at times. Sue was also probably asexual and would have been a lot happier if she was born in modern times. This book also had a fairly dramatic turning point, not often found in books with the dead kids, which was pretty dreadful to read, especially as you sort of suspect it is coming. (being pregnant when reading that section was not helpful). So, I can see why this book is a classic but it was not my favorite of Hardy's.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

After I read Gaiman's American Gods in 2010 I really wanted to read up on Norse Mythology. I knew some of the gods but I wasn't as familiar with that mythology unlike the Greco-Roman one. So a couple of months later in 2010 I borrowed The North Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland from the library and read that. I enjoyed the book - the language was more formal there but I felt I learned a lot.

Neil Gaiman's book is in more popular language, and I think it will be fantastic for Tanya and baby sister when they get older. I did enjoy it, despite being familiar with the stories, it was a nice refresher. And I found the writing very funny, especially anything related to Thor and his dialogue. Gaiman is also fond of Loki - so Loki comes out as an interesting character. There wasn't a lot of Odin in this one. Definitely an amusing book. But for some reason it took me a while to read it - I enjoyed it when I was reading it but didn't feel as compelled to keep reading.

Among Others by Jo Walton

I read this book pretty fast - love the ability to read on my commute. I do have a goal of reading more Hugo winning books (and more female sci-fi/fantasy authors) so this was certainly one book I heard good things about and wanted to check out. And I did like the book but it did not feel like a fantasy book at all. This felt like a normal coming of age story with some fantasy elements but we can never be sure if the fantasy elements are inside Mori's head or real.

Several things I loved: The story takes place post-event, it's about the aftermath of a tragedy and coming out of that tragedy. The mother was defeated and the twin died, Mori herself has a disability and leaves home for a new environment. It is not typical of stories to take place in the after and I liked that idea. I loved that Mori loves to read, especially sci-fi. I can't really buy just how many books she goes through in a week but maybe she is a quick reader and she really does have a lot of time on her hands. I also loved finding your group of people that you relate to - it was basically finding fandom before internet. And I liked all the book discussions as well. I was into books when I was a kid and I could certainly relate to Mori on many levels.

Things I'm not sure about: The fantasy elements and the magic didn't feel real. It seems so vague and impossible that events could be so manipulated backward. I could never be sure that all was not in Mori's head. Which is fine, but it just really didn't feel like a fantasy book itself. And Mori at times felt a little too mature for her age.

Overall, good book that I'm glad I read but I'm not sure if it will be a favorite or how much more of Jo Walton I want to read.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

I was going to do a book post on Tuesday once I finished Walton, but I kept putting it off. So by the time I got to writing up the post, I finished another book - go commute and some free time yesterday. I gave this book to my Dad for his birthday with an intent to read it myself, so I ended up reading an actual physical book.

I did like the book. Again, I probably won't read it again but I can see why this book is highly regarded. I certainly found it an interesting take on alternate history and I enjoyed the intersection of the characters. There weren't too many women, which is typical of classic 60' sci-fi, but the one we got like Juliana, despite many stereotypes, still were able to kick ass - in Juliana's case, literally.

I was most amused by all the characters reading and discussing the book of alternate history in their universe which did not mirror our reality at all, just some elements. I thought it was clever to work out many hypoothesis on how the word could have been.

Most characters are not too likable but felt real enough although some feel like stereotypes. I had a slight problem with the prose Dick used for Japanese characters - patterns of thought and speech. I get that he was trying to convey their Japaneseness but it came off a little racist there.

But it was certainly a good take on alternate history and held my attention very well.
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