Well, only three days left of my vacation and I am pleased to say that the sitting there has been a success. I have sat there so long I am now ready to get up again. In order to ease my way back into the swing of things, I am beginning with this post. Baby steps, I know. But the calendar is filling up quick and I am not quite ready to take the blinders or the pyjamas off quite yet.
Here are some of the books I read during my epic sitting-there phase, form the most recent read on.
I just finished this novel yesterday and loved it! Set in 1862 London, with a very Dickensian cast of rogues and schemes, this novel kept twisting and turning like a kid trapped by a fat aunt wanting a kiss. Just to give you an idea- Waters is credited for inventing the “lesbian picaresque”. This was a great vacation read- fun, gripping, smart and long.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Lyrical, tragic, funny. For those of you living under a literary rock (and don’t worry, I live under other kinds of rocks- social, technological, etc.) this book was nominated fro most of the huge literary prizes in the Commonwealth and even won some of them. Deserved? Oh yes. The story is told through the eyes of a five year old boy who has never left the room he was born in, due the fact that his mother was kidnapped by a psycho at age 19 and locked away like a princess in a tower (except way more nasty). Donoghue must have had a 5 year old living with her at the time because she gets the voice perfectly. The hardest part of this story is that the Room is completely normal for the narrator, but through his innocent eyes we see the struggle of the mother. Although this book is hard (especially if you are a mother) it is worth reading. The scenes with the kidnapper are few and not overdone- it is mostly a study in how the world can be huge even if it is only one room. Highly recommended.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
There is a student at the school I work at that has been recommending this book to me for over a year. I finally broke down and read it and am very glad I did. If you are looking for quality coming of age fiction, look no further. Funny, sad, witty, Green takes us on a road trip with a washed up child prodigy and his Judge Judy watching best friend. Child Prodigy dude has just been dumped by his 19th Katherine (he only dates Katherines) and, in a desperate bid to contribute to the world’s knowledge, to “matter”, he devises a mathematical formula that should be able to predict the arc of a relationship. A Printz Honor Book (for those of you who don’t know, the Printz is the big cheese award in the U.S. for young adult literature).
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
So this one actually won the Printz Award. And is about the kookiest book I’ve ever read. In fact, maybe a little too kooky.
Cameron is a 16 year old boy who doesn’t really do much. Unless getting stoned in bathrooms and making daily trips to the record store count. He doesn’t really have friends, while his twin sister is cheerleader perfection and hates him, his mother is an indecisevenees quake of nerves and his father, a physicist is having an affair with one of his students. But then he gets mad cow disease and is about to die. The thing about mad cow disease is that, well it makes you mad. Cameron starts seeing things – Dulcie, a cute punk rock angel, fire monsters, a black knight (that reminded me way too much of Monty Python’s Holy Grail). His hallucination becomes more and more complicated and more and more real. He ends up having to go on a road trip (all in his mind) with his friend, a hypochondriac little person who lives in a world of video games.
The manner in which Bray makes this quest seem real at the same time as giving the reader no doubt that Cameron is still in his bed at the hospital dying is masterful. She also treats the fact of Cameron’s death with beauty and subtlety. Bray is always funny and witty, sometimes satyrical and at times moving. A very interesting, unique novel. My only beef with it is that it sometimes gets a little too kooky, though hallucinations and quests based on a life of reading comic books and video games, perhaps they would be filled with talking yard gnomes and crazy science projects that can cause interdimensional travel through the vibes of a good rock’n’roll song….
La maison aux 52 portes by Evelyne Brisou-Pellen
This is a book my youngest daughter had to read. She’s in Grade four and I have to say, I’m impressed and a little mystified. A classic ghost story about a family who moves into an old house they inherited from a dead, recluse uncle, the young girl starts seeing things as soon as their car hits the dirt road coming their house.The mystery is a historical one, and involves a young woman, a horrible father and a dead soldier/lover during WWI. Heady stuff for nine-year olds, don’t you think?
The Gryphon Project by Carrie Mac
Okay, so I read this at the beginning of the month and I think my brain is a little muddled about it. I remember thinking that the premise was very interesting: a near future where the structure of society seems similar to ours except for some very important details. The class lines are now determined not only by income, but your income determines how many resurrections (called recons) you are allowed. The most powerful, important people in society – doctors, lawyers, etc. Are allowed 3 resurrections in their life – 3pers. Then you have the middle class, 2pers, the working class, 1pers, and then the poor, nopers. The story follows a teenage girl name Phoenix and her popular brother Gryphon – a star athlete. Once the perfect big brother, kind, loving and inclusive, lately he had been distant and harsh. When he dies in a weird accident that seems like suicide and might not be resurrected, Phoenix is determined to unravel the mystery.
I liked the idea a lot- however, I don’t feel like Mac explores the dysfunction of the world that she created enough. She spends a lot of time on Phoenix, who is self-absorbed and prejudiced (although part of the story line is how she has to confront this). I think this might be one of the most difficult thing about science-fiction: creating this one to one correspondence between the world building and the plot. The plot needs to have a reason for residing in this world, it needs to allow the author to explore the set of problems posed, exposed, circled and highlighted by this particular vision of the future. In this case, our fear of death, and how that might affect the socioeconomic aspect of our future. The idea of having people alotted more lives than others is extremely Orwellian and worth more time than Mac gives to it.
So that’s all I got folks. In all, a pretty good month for reading. Oh! I also listen to books. I have a subscription to audible. They sometimes give freebies. This month I listened to some of O. Henry’s holiday short stories and a Robert J.Sawyer short story, “You see but you do not observe” about transporting Sherlock Holmes into the future to solve the Fermi paradox. All good, entertaining stuff.
Right now I am rereading Wuthering Heights (book club pick) and listening to the Complete Sherlock Holmes.
Ok. Now that’s really all I’ve got…