Greetings Ladies and Gents, and welcome to “Look! A Book!” My name is Aryn, and you’ll be hearing from me monthly with a review from at least one of the books I’ve read during the last month. Since you’re going to be reading my reviews, I wanted to give you a little bit history regarding my love of reading.
Reading has always been a part of my life. My parents have a “study” in their house that we might as well call the library. Every wall is shelved, all the books are spined, in two layers, the floor is covered in books, and we have stacks of novels we haven’t had time to get to. You know how most kids remember learning how to read? I don’t. I remember my mother reading to me at bed time, every night; I remember her reading to me during every spare moment in fact, even while feeding my sisters. The next thing I remember, is reading to her at bed time. I have some vague recollection of learning to write, but I feel like I’ve always known how to read. When I was growing up, I was always reading years and years above my grade level – I tackled a Jane Austen novel when I was 10 (which scarred me for life) – we have some 120 Babysitter’s Club novels in my basement. Hell, I think I really learned about sex from a Piers Anthony novel, that I was way too young to read. Books raised me.
I’ve never been one to have an easy time picking a favorite book, so what follows are mini-reviews of a bunch of my favorite books from various genres.
Favorite Book of All Time:
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
While I’ve only read this novel once, it blew me all the way out of the water. I’ve never read anything like it, which is a big f***ing deal because I read so much and so often. The novel is about a man who finds a transcript of what may or may not be based on reality of a house that is bigger on the inside with something dark that lives inside it. The novel twists and turns and descends into madness. While the house twists and turns, the pages and the formatting of the prose mirrors the decent into madness with blank pages and footnotes and upside-down/sideways/diagonal text.
I always have a hard time reviewing this novel, because I was just so … amazed by it, that it rendered me speechless. Let me put it this way, I loved it so much that I got the dedication: “This is not for you.” tattooed on my lower back. So just, read it.
Favorite Science Fiction:
Feed, by M.T. Anderson
For my favorite science fiction novel, I hemmed and hawed a lot about whether I’d mention Feed or Ender’s Game (ZOMG, Have you seen the movie trailer!? SQUEEEE!), but I decided to go with Feed, because it’s a little bit lesser known.
The novel starts with a line that stuck with me, for whatever reason: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” In the not so distant future, every child born is implanted with the Feed in their brain. Through this implant, they can text-message, watch shows, get advertisements based on their thoughts. For example, if they’re cold the feed will advertise warm jackets. Everything changes when Titus and his friends go to the moon and their feeds get hacked.
This a love story between Titus and a girl who fights the feed, who could not afford to have it implanted at birth and therefore didn’t have it put in until she was a little older. This is a horror story about our technology and where it seems to be heading. I am so paranoid these days about technology; I wish I didn’t love novels like this, I’d be a lot saner.
Favorite Historical Fiction:
Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean M. Auel
This is a novel that I need to replace every few years because it is one of the few that I read again and again and again. I simply wear out the binding of the book.
The novel begins with Ayla, a young girl losing all of her family in an earthquake. She is found by a clan of ancient people, who cannot make the same sounds that she can, who do not look quite as she does, who cannot stand as straight, have much larger brows, and can remember their entire histories. When two species of human are forced to live together, to learn from each other, the most amazing, magical, and horrible things can happen.
I remember reading interviews with Jean Auel, who did years of research before publishing her book. The anthropology is some of the most accurate that I’ve ever read, which just adds to the overall story. This novel is a fascinating account of our evolution and our growth as people even over a single lifetime.
Favorite Political Fiction:
Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo
This book punched me right in the heart when I read it. This book was published in 1939, but after Germany invaded Russia in 1941 during WWII, the book was pulled from the shelves. I’ve heard that Trumbo didn’t want it pulled, but I’ve also heard that he decided with his publishers to pull it. Either way, I think it says something for the force and the importance of the novel.
Written as a stream of consciousness, Johnny Got His Gun, is about man lost his arms, legs, and most of his face and ability to communicate in an explosion. The wrong place at the wrong time in a war is everything. The narration is depressing, frustrating, and utterly insane – but it all adds. I mean, truly, how would you feel after being blown to bits and surviving?
Favorite Fantasy/Vampire Novel:
Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler
Because it is such a popular genre at the moment I decided to talk about my favorite vampire novel. Fledgling is written by one of my favorite science fiction/fantasy writers, and even better she’s a woman. If that weren’t rare enough, she’s an African American woman. It really brings a tear to my eye that she died so young. I legitimately cried after reading Kindred and learning that the author was dead (you should read that one too).
Shori is a 53 year old vampire, with the body of a young black girl. For some reason she’s got severe amnesia, so we learn of this particular universe’s vampires as she does. It gives it a feeling of authenticity, because while she does not know of them, she is one of them … well, almost. Shori is a genetically modified vampire, an experiment to give the ancient species the ability to walk in daylight. Fledgling tackles the race issue in a refreshing way.
Be warned, there is a little bit of weird (pedophilia-ish) sex stuff, but that’s seems to be the norm with vampire novels. Though I still think Twilight was creepier in that way.
Favorite Chapter Book:
So You Want To Be A Wizard, by Diane Duane
Many years before Harry Potter, I found this book and quickly became obsessed. A young girl is running from her bullies and takes cover in her favorite place to hide: the Library. While in there she comes across a book, So You Want To Be A Wizard. She takes it home with her. From that book she learns everything that she needs to be a wizard, and embarks to prove her worth along with a young boy who lives down the street. Nina has an affinity for living things and Kit has an affinity for things that are traditionally non-living, though they will talk to him. Their powers stem from their strengths and together they complete each other’s abilities.
There is a rather large series that goes with this book, I’ve read a few of them and I’ve enjoyed them, though So You Want To Be A Wizard holds a special place in my heart for being one of the first fantasy novels I ever read (only one Tamora Pierce series came before).
Favorite Dystopian Fiction:
Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde
I shake my fist at Fifty Shades of Grey for tarnishing such a wonderful novel. The sequel has actually been delayed a great deal, and I can’t help but wonder if it is at least partially in hope for the hype to die down. This is a dystopian satire, not porn, try not to confuse the two.
Shades of Grey is a world where social statue is decided based on the colors that you can see. Those that can only see black and white (shades of grey) are the bottom of the social pyramid. Purples are at the top. People are constantly trying to marry up in the color spectrum, though they can never marry those of a complimentary color, there are long reaching family rivalries that go along with that. On top of that, there is a spoon shortage. People are passing spoons down through the generations, to preserve their ability to eat with them.
Yes, the novel is that ridiculous, but it is also wonderfully written and clever. The social commentary is amazing, as a boy befriends a wild grey girl who would do anything to question the world that he has grown up accepting without question. She forces him to ask why, which made me ask why. Oh, man, I cannot wait for the sequel.
That’s all folks. See you next month.
Next month, I’ll start with longer, more “traditional” reviews.