Monday, February 6, 2012

Random Day: January Books

You know how they say if you have a question, ask; because probably ten other people have the same question and are just too embarrassed to admit it? Don't. I was in a class today, and a hexadecimal question cratered my brain. So I asked for clarification, and the instructor wanted to know who else was confused. Turns out the class has seven engineers and two math tutors. I guess I'm the comic relief.

Moving on...

I read some amazing books last month, and I wanted to bask in the euphoria a little longer, so rather than try new books, I just reread old ones that I already love. Silly; I know. On the other hand, I tried a new movie and wished I hadn't. The movie is based on a totally hilarious book, but it seems the screenplay writer didn't actually get the appeal of the book. I'm assuming it didn't last much beyond opening weekend.

So on to the stuff I did like!

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Genre: YA

I know this is THE book John Green's been writing for something like a decade. But for me, THE John Green book will always be An Abundance of Katherines, a book I love so much that I hand-pimp it to anyone who talks to me for more than eight minutes, yet which I identify with so personally that I can't even write a blog post about it.

But I can see the brilliance of The Fault in Our Stars. I liked the characters. Yes, even the flawless love interest. I don't get the appeal of "manic pixie dream girls" who pepper stories written by men ( Zooey Deschanel, who is amazing, plays that role a lot. Weeds, 500 Days of Summer, and to a lesser extent The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and New Girl, from the 2.5 episodes I saw), but I do get the appeal of the hot, cheerful boy who always says unbelievably witty, brilliant things with perfect timing. That version of unrealistic love interest doesn't come up nearly often enough. In fact, the only other examples I can think of are all womanizing rakes from regency romances, a character trope I despise.

I'm babbling about Deschanel and regency rakes in order to avoid talking about The Fault In Our Stars. Because it's about kids dying of cancer. It's amazing. I cried and I laughed and I felt awful for laughing. I know many people have lived this story in their own painful, unique way. I think only John Green could have written about it like this.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Genre: literary/magical realism

Celia and Marco have trained their entire lives for an epic duel set up by their instructors, and the black-and-white Night Circus is the magical battle field. Despite their growing love for each other, leaving the fight is physically impossible, and only one of them can win.

This is one of very few books I've read that hurtled towards such a terrible ("terrible" as in "depressing", not "badly-written") end that I couldn't even begin to imagine how the author would resolve it. And then she did, and it wasn't tragic or ridiculous or eye-roll-inducing. It just made perfect sense. The world-building was amazing. And the magic seems to have no discernible rules, and yet feels completely believable.

Tangent: I've heard a lot about the tortured artists who supposedly make up the bulk of the writing world, the people who suffer for their craft and whatnot. I have to say Erin Morgenstern is my idea of what a writer would be if I were making one up. She's quirky and adorable and takes cool pictures and says cool things and does cool stuff. Authors tend to be very...normal. Which is not at all surprising. It just doesn't fit with the popular narrative. Oscar Wilde and J.D. Salinger and the like were so unusual that they've come to define what people picture when they think "writer".

The Future of Us by Jay Ashby and Carolyn Mackler
Genre: YA

It's 1996, and Josh gives Emma an AOL cd so she can log on to the internet. Except once it's installed, it logs them on to Facebook, fifteen years in the future. From the updates, they can see that 2011-Emma hates everything about her life (with good reason), and 2011-Josh is rich, successful, and married to the hottest girl in school. Emma's determined to change her future, but everything she does changes Josh's future, too, and he's not happy about it.

I'm so glad I've found another book by two authors! There's another I want to write about, and I couldn't think of any books to recommend along with it. I'll leave discussions of the merits/issues in this book to other reviewers, but I thought the concept was fascinating. I graduated from high school at the same time as the kids in The Future of Us, so the nostalgia factor totally works for me. I'm not sure who the target market is, though - one of my friends is in her early twenties, and was completely unmoved by the premise, which makes sense to me. I can only assume teenagers would feel even more so. But the book definitely reads like YA. On the other hand, I loved Ready Player One, and I certainly don't remember the 80s.

Okay, here's a list of all the books I reread this month:
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan
Lion of Senet by Jennifer Fallon
Eye of The Labyrinth by Jennifer Fallon
Lord of the Shadows by Jennifer Fallon
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Among Friends by Caroline B Cooney

All speculative fiction or YA. Well, Among Friends would probably be sold as middle grade now. I'll have to do a post on Among Friends at some point. It's crazy, going back to that book 22 years after I first read it, and seeing how much my sympathies with specific characters have changed now that I have an adult perspective.

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