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Damn, I have a lot to say about books.

First, thanks for the sudden insurge of alphabet meme fun.  It helped a great deal.  :)  Now watch me spend all night writing it up.

Second, with all the time I haven't spent on TV lately, I've been reading like a fiend.  Early on at work, the other girls asked which authors I like to read, and my response was more or less "Bzuh?  Favorite authors?"  Um, with an entire library to pick through, I don't know how a person could possibly aim for specific writers.  I just wander along the shelves until I see interesting titles/covers.  I read far too many books to remember much about any of them.  However, since I do write down all the books I read (twice - once by hand and once online), I do recognize some names that keep unintentionally making repeat appearances.  Let's talk about them. 

OK, between Unwind and Sara's Face, I am officially FREAKED OUT by the concept of near-future medical technology and need to stop reading such novels now.  *shudders horribly*  Diving into 1665 London now, plague = much less terrifying!    [book in question here would be "Forged in the Fire," sequel to "No Shame,No Fear" by Ann Turnbull.  I do not actually remember the specific details of NSNF, but I know I enjoyed it, and this one looked interesting on its own.]

Really, I'm not even kidding; I thought Unwind was bad - I picked it up because it was Neil Shustermann and he made magic with Everlost, but this one?  I kicked it aside like five times before I finished, annoyed as hell by the author's hardly disguised commentary on societal values of life (abortion is illegal, but babies can be "storked" i.e. left on doorsteps with the recipients legally obligated to keep it unless the mother is caught in the act, and anyone under 18 can, if their parents/guardian sign an order, be "unwound," i.e. completely dismantled - but not technically killed!  99.4% of you will be alive, just in different places - with your working parts neurografted onto people in need of limbs, organs, new skin, etc.  At one point an older character actually laments that maybe it wouldn't have happened "if only more people had been organ donors," which I agree with and yet, HAMFISTED MUCH?) ... that was a really huge parenthetical aside...and yet in the end, I couldn't put it down until I'd found out everything that happened.  It was chilling as hell.  
And then I get to Sara's Face and it's just terror and heartbreak and such intense characters and a gripping plotline combined with UNPARALLELLED, JUST-BARELY-PLAUSIBLE-SOUNDING MEDICAL HORRORS (face transplants from the living) that I actually felt cold when I closed the back cover.  I almost stopped reading in the first few pages, what with the F-words and scene of, I quote, "boob adoration," but then I kept going because it's Melvin Burgess, and while I am slightly annoyed with his success given that he writes in stuff like the above, and "Lady" (which he actually references in this book, ugh) was just AWFUL - he also wrote what I've found to be one of the most definitive drug novels ever (Smack...which as I recall was originally Junk in the UK), and the man is usually pretty good at what he does.  

The format of this novel, for example, which broke standard form in a good way. He wrote it as if it were a true story and he was merely novelizing what happened; his voice interjects from time to time, and it's also interspersed with video diaries and such.  But not in that annoying, space-wasting way that women do when they do "innovative format" by e-mails and IM.  This keeps the novelesque narration, but just hands off the voice.  It's really rather remarkable.

I was in no way influenced by the fact that my brain decided to cast Billie Piper in Sara's role.  Nope.  OK, maybe a little, especially when, after flatly rejecting any further characters from Doctor Who, I decided that creepy protagonist, Jonathon Heat, could be played by Jason Isaacs (a/k/a Lucius Malfoy).  The casting was odd in and of itself, though, because normally, unless there's a really striking cover photograph, book characters don't have faces in my imagination - their bodies just have indistinct, blank, flesh-colored spaces where a face would be.  It takes a really good book for me to put that much effort into seeing real people.
Yesterday, in between horrifying quasi-sci-fi novels, I took a breather to retire to the early 80's with A Fabulous Creature by the fabulous Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  I love reading summertime stories in the summer; it helps remind me to enjoy this fantastic time without school.  This one was a boy spending his vacation at a summer cabin in the Sierras (or rather more of a cabin development, with a central compound, tennis courts, swimming pool, etc), and worked the metaphor as much as it could to apply both to a majestic wild stag and the Hot Girl in a Pink Bikini he meets the first day.  

I kept blinking and reminding myself that this was in fact 1981, because especially for a female author, there were a surprising amount of sexual references (everything but, pretty much, even if nothing was explicit).  I found it funny more than anything, because it's sort of ahead of its time; its cover looks properly retro, clothbound and nondescript, and then there's this thoroughly modern stuff inside.  

Mostly, though, what had me rolling was the pop culture references, as the main character's friend tells him that some women like the scrawny look as opposed to muscle.  "Look at Peter Frampton and Rod Stewart."  Cue helpless laughter. 

I did love the book, predictable plot and all, and there were great description of the outdoors, as there always are.  (her last installment I read was the 1910's-California-set And Condors Danced)  That bit just made me laugh.
*takes deep breath* And finally, one of the best books I've read all year, You Know Where to Find Me as done by the fabulous Rachel Cohn.  I liked Gingerbread as a light read (not enough to read its sequel, though, as I pass it every single time I'm at the library) but then I saw this one's cover - look at the cover!  Tell me that's not intriguing - and was sold.  Then I started reading it, and holy hell, I didn't want to put it down.

It's set in summer, for one thing, which is awesome.  It deals with the fallout from her beloved cousin's suicide; they used to be best friends but grew apart in high school (o hay, that sounds sort of familiar), so there's depression and loneliness mixed up with suicidal tendencies.  Win.  There are plenty of memories interspersed in the text, which itself changes style a few times - drug abuse gets brought up here as well, as the girl abuses prescription medication, and when she floats off into her dream-like state, she often switches to third-person narration to talk about herself.  Is kind of word-arty.

The girl is the opposite of her beautiful, smart, willowy blonde cousin; she's overweight and at one point diagnoses herself with "anorexia envy," but unlike just about every other book with this scenario, she never does get around to losing that weight. 

(sidebar: seriously, I don't even know how many books I've read where a girl hates her size, tries various healthy and unhealthy attempts to get thinner, sometimes succeeds and sometimes doesn't, but ultimately finds that the weight just starts dropping off as soon as she finds other sources of fulfillment in her life)

She's in love with her best friend (a guy, so don't go jumping to other places), who adores her but also has zero interest in her romantically - another fact that doesn't change by the end of the book, which gets another point in my favor.  As much as I love fluff, I also love books that deal in reality.

I don't know, I'm not describing it very well, but it was powerful to me, as it included just about everything I hope for in a novel and very little of what I don't.
I lied.  I have 1 more book to discuss.  Right here, though, is just an interjection to say that I am haphazardly browsing some of those "great books for teens" lists on Amazon, and I have to say that if one more person recommends The Giver, I'm going to hit myself in the head with a brick.  Freaking stupid book.  Boring.  Don't understand why it's required reading in schools all over the place.  

Same goes for you, Speak, because at least The Giver was slightly intellectual.  "Speak" just makes me angry on sight, because the first time I read it - long before it became popular - I remember thinking it was a complete mess; nebulous writing yet cliche plotline, and a completely unsympathetic main character.  Rolling my eyes at it became a regular routine at the library after that.  AND THEN SUDDENLY IT WAS ON OUR BOOKSTORE SHELVES AS AN ANNUAL STAPLE FOR THE "LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS" EDUCATION CLASS. 

And finally (for real this time): A Great and Terrible Beauty.  Or rather, The Sweet Far Thing.

So, I read the first book.  Before it became mega-popular.  And as soon as I finished, I put it down with a satisfied slap and said "YES.  THERE.  THAT is how you sit down and write a damn good YA novel, MEG CABOT PEOPLE."  

(sidebar: I...am sorry.  I have this intense and nigh-unparalleled hatred for Meg Cabot; I'm not entirely sure why - maybe the undeserving length of the Princess Diaries series?  No, I think I the camel-back-breaking straw was the content of Ready or Not - but she has become the symbol of all that I despise in YA fiction.  Probably I should direct my hatred to whoever writes the Gossip Girls series, except that my brain will not actually acknowledge the fact that it is possible for something so horrible to exist).

Anyway.  Then it exploded in popularity, and it came about that there were sequels, and I was all "Woohoo!  I should read those someday!"  Except that I now pass The Sweet Far Thing on a regular basis, and every time I see it, I feel this twitch of loathing. It may be that it keeps getting mentioned in all the same circles as Twilight, which contaminates it, and the slashy-subtext talk my flist has been having (seriously, did not see)is not helping.  But mostly, I think I may just actually hate things that are popular!

I don't do current books, you see.  Normally.  I mean, I do now, because my college library gets infusions of new novels every year which hardly anyone ever checks out, but normally I am all about reaching for the copyright date from the 60's.  The public library's new books are snapped up like hotcakes, which means I don't get around to reading most of them until at least 3-5 years after they come out.  I read them, but only because the library insists upon regularly selling off its older stock (usually at branches far away, that I have no chance of getting my hands on.  -.-)  The idea of always reading books the year they're published is sort of baffling to me.

Anyway, with Harry Potter being the obvious exception, I am normally leery of anything with widespread popularity.  People are idiots.  Just like you should never follow the movie critic's guide at the cinema, because 89% of the time he is Wrong, you should never listen to the masses of sheep.  Ergo, this book is undeserving of its praise and will make me angry if I waste time on it.

And I feel like I should just go back and read AGTB, and it would erase all those feelings, except that I have a dire and obsessive need to read as many books as possible every year.  I've only got til the end of August and I haven't even hit 100 yet.  I don't have time to waste on rereads!  Also SFT is really long and thick. I mean, um, length isn't an issue, but rereading is, and I don't want to take on a sequel that epic without a solid idea of where the plot's already been.

Not that I want to take on the sequel at all right now.  Someone should remind me why these books are awesome.
I have to go think about koalas now.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 10th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
I loved the Gemma Doyle trilogy. But if you really have a problem with slash then you probably need to stay away from the last 2 books. They're still YA so there's nothing too overt, but, well, yeah. It's there. And the third book, as I mentioned when I read it, made me sob like a baby. I can't think about it without wanting to cry. Think emotionally devastating in terms of "Doomsday".

I suck at saying why the books are awesome, just that I think they're awesome, and I don't give 2 stars freely, but I gave them to those books. And I read them without even realizing they were popular.
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
Think emotionally devastating in terms of "Doomsday".
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
But only if you're attached to certain characters! Um, I can't really say more without giving it all away.
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
But I do get attached to characters! Alarmingly easily. If I do end up liking the other books, I will probably be devastated, and it would be so much nicer to spare myself heartbreak. Think how happy I would be in a world where I'd never seen Doctor Who!
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
But the pain fades! Eventually it becomes a dull ache and eventually you'll be able to watch "Doomsday" without crying . . . I'll let you know when I'm there.
Jun. 10th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
They are awesome! I promise! In spite of the popularity. And I'm with you, too; I tend to get all grumpy about stuff that's overwhelmingly popular. Of course, frequently, this doesn't stop me from liking it anyway. But, yeah, I totally understand that feeling when something obscure-ish that you love suddenly gets all hip and beloved by everyone and it prompts odd prickles of irritation in spite of yourself. That seems to happen to me with ships a lot in particular. (Seriously -- who saw Guy/Marian or Michael/Jan ever catching on in the mainstream, ever?)

HOWEVER. Don't give up on this series! It only gets better and better! I promise! And even though The Sweet Far Thing's gigantic, it's really engrossing and I think I finished it in like two days. Also, have you read Rebel Angels yet?
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC)
OK, first of all, I flat-out refuse to believe that Michael/Jan has caught on in the mainstream. That makes my brain go all breaky-like.

Back to Libba Bray's books, I am so glad someone else understands the whole "popularity: not greatest thing ever" reaction. Thanks for talking them up. I think maybe I should just schedule a reading date. Hot, lazy weekend in July, I'm thinking. It's worked for both Pride & Prejudice and Wuthering Heights...hot July weekends seem to be my favorite time of the year to tackle the stuff with a big reputation.

Except, uh, I was under the assumption that SFT was the second book, and did not have a clue what "Rebel Angels" was until I looked it up. WHOOPS. I have apparently been out of touch with current fiction longer than I thought.
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Hahaha! Oh, Michael/Jan. They've caught on in the relative mainstream, at least. Back in the eeearly days of season three, it was, like, me and ONE OTHER PERSON shipping them, and then as season three went on there were suddenly at least a few hundred! And it was weird, and disquieting, and I sort of missed the days when everyone else was too sane to like them. But then Michael/Jan became the Suckiest Most Depressing Insane Ship That Has Ever Sucked Depressingly And Insanely, so I'm afraid I've jumped that . . . ship. No pun intended. Or, well. Maybe a little intended.

And, hee, I was getting the impression that you might have not known about Rebel Angels! Yeah, it would definitely be disorienting to randomly start with TSFT. :D Both are phenomenal, though. I promise.
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
*facepalm* Man, I feel dumb. Too late for surreptitious post-editing now, I suppose. But at least you pointed it out before I got myself completely lost!

Also: I apologize, but "Suckiest Most Depressing Insane Ship That Has Ever Sucked Depressingly And Insanely" is kind of hilarious and/or my favorite ship moniker ever. It also makes me glad that I stayed far away from that particular brand of crazy at all times, because even I'm kind of like "huh" about how it turned/is turning out.
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, dude, no kidding! I so, so miss the days when Jan was sane and straightlaced and just had this horrible inconvenient weakness for Michael. Even though they have always been disastrous, I neeeeever would have expected them to become as completely TERRIBLE as they have. The, er, development of Jan's character has really made me sad. Once upon a time, she was my favourite! And now . . . not. So, so, so so so so so so very not.
Jun. 11th, 2008 02:09 am (UTC)
I need to get back into reading now that all my shows are done for the year. There are several books out there I've been curious about for a while.

Why koalas?
Jun. 11th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
*surreptitiously pushes you in direction of library* Reading is good. Makes excellent substitute for TV. What have you had your eye on?

Koalas are one of the alphabet meme topics, which is what I was planning to work on before I ended up reading another book and going to bed.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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