Hi peeps! Let’s do books again.
I’ve read 4 books since last we talked in February, putting my count at 11 since the New Year–12 if you count my recent re-read of OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman, and 13 if you also count the book I beta-read for an author. I should probably talk here about beta-reading at some point, it’s fun, frustrating, and informative.
THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, Brian Selznik
This gorgeous volume I picked up mostly because I saw the movie a few years ago, and was thinking of revisiting it. The book is Middle-Grade historical fiction, told through text, beautiful pencil drawings, and images from old silent films. The book is as much a love-letter to very early cinema as it is a children’s book. And, as it reads almost like a story-board to a movie, it’s no wonder the film adheres so closely to the text. Anyone who likes art, film, and charming children’s books should check it out.
ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY, Charlie Jane Anders
This debut novel by io9 editor Anders is the definition of genre-bending. A blend of sci-fi and fantasy, at times it reads like Neil Gaiman, Eva Ibbotson, or Lev Grossmen, but is never derivative. BIRDS is a knowing genre book, written by an author steeped in online nerd culture, inhaling it and breathing it out to create a wonderful exploration of friendship, life, the end of the world, and our relationship with science and nature. It manages to be both a large story and a small story–the apocalypse happens around our two main characters, but the camera stays focused on them and their development, creating an intimate story in a sweeping canvas, something I’m fond of. The conclusion to the story is not something I predicted, though on retrospect I go “oh of course”–and that is one of the best kinds of endings that exist.
THE BELL JAR, Sylvia Plath
Presumably most people have heard of this one. I had a moment of ‘I should read something other than sci-fi/fantasy’ and for some reason this stuck. I’ve been curious about Plath ever since watching the Crash Course episode on her. I’d heard her name before, but read any of her work, not being a particularly emo teen nor handed her poems in school.
JAR is…ok. The first half, in particular, has lots of good imagery and barely repressed rage at the audacity of being a woman with independent thought in the mid-century. But the book is, in the end, a study of mental illness, and while parts where the cracks begin to appear are compelling and relate-able, by the end it’s disjointed and depressing. Part of that is my bais–I have a hard time reading about serious mental illness due to some ‘stuff’, and so the lack of closure and fragmentary nature of the second half lost me. I got similar vibes to it as THE CATCHER IN THE RYE–they are both tales of growing up, seeing the world both expand and shrink in front of you, and what happens after. Holden Caufield leaves me with the sense that he’ll be alright, but Esther does not. Her story–and Plath’s–is angry and tragic and never resolved.
THE BONE CLOCKS, David Mitchell
If Time Lords have literature, this decades-spanning, interlocking tale is probably required reading. It’s a story about one life and the other lives that touch hers, on the outskirts of a grand battle between good and evil. The writing is lovely and compelling, drawing me through the different point-of-view characters and the 600+ page tome with ease.
Unfortunately part 5 of 6 lags and drags with fantasy technobabble, reminding me that both of Claire North’s books* I read last year told stories like this one, but better. And yet, the final act nearly brought me to tears, so for that alone the book gets 4/5 on Goodreads. If you make me feel things, you deserve a good review.
That’s all for now, book-people! Enjoy the slow march to spring.
(Get it? Eh?)
*TOUCH, THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST