Yesterday I finished listening to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. I really enjoyed all of it, even the dystopian future stuff, which isn't always my cup of tea. Last year I read Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was very good, but I prefer this one. It's funnier, but still smart and energetic. I keep finding myself constructing mental maps of the structure, playing with all the pieces. Some might find that frustrating, but to me, it's delightful. The interlinked stories were each intriguing in their own right, and I always enjoy picking up on the themes that unite each - the Hydras and falls and so forth. Plus, now I'm really worried about corporations taking over our lives.
I also read Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire last week, by Margot Berwin. Talk about escapism for those stuck in winter's icy grip. Not that Berwin's rendering of a New York City summer is where you'd want to be, but when the action moves to the Yucatan, things heat up. The plants are lush, the threats are pulse-raising, and the local lore is mystical. All in all, it's an extremely solid debut with a good sense of whimsy and a strong quest storyline.
And just so you don't think I'm always about tricksy literary stuff with themes and memes and all, I'll tell you about the first in Susan Mallery's Lonestar Sisters series, Under Her Skin. These have been out for a few years, but I've been working my way through Mallery's various novels (trying to get my various libraries and audio libraries to coordinate to give me a full series in order is sometimes a challenge! At least this series is shorter - when I'm dealing with something like Stephanie Laurens's Cynster series, I end up with a spreadsheet to keep track. I grant you that it's a strange way to spend my time, but no stranger than fantasy football or train spotting, right?) Anyway, this is the first novel about the Titan sisters, daughters of a rich powerful Dallas-type dad who is no good at the emotional stuff. The sisters are, of course, all beautiful and unique and have their own personal hang-ups due to their parenting, or lack thereof. I presume that all the heroes will be gorgeous and strong-willed and will present some sort of obstacles to the relationship that will make each side of the couple grow and overcome before finally uniting. Cause that's the way this goes. It's a rough but sex-filled road to Happily Ever After, and Mallery is quite good at portraying it. She's got a great narrative sense and never falls into clunky exposition or stilted dialogue, which is why I've now read a huge chunk of her contemporary romances.