The Girl With All the Gifts is a surprise favorite for me this year. My literary catnip is authors who can make me empathize with unlikeable character...moreThe Girl With All the Gifts is a surprise favorite for me this year. My literary catnip is authors who can make me empathize with unlikeable characters, which this book has in SPADES, my friends.
Melanie is a child genius who’s locked in a military compound with other orphans in a United Kingdom that’s been ravaged by a viral outbreak and hunted by legions of “Hungries.” All she knows of the world is limited to a tiny classroom and its small band of teachers and military personnel who march the children from one daily task to the next.
When I first picked up this book, I was like “OK, dystopian post-apocalyptic blah blah blah, whatever.” I read a few pages on my e-reader and forgot all about it. Then I crossed paths with the audiobook and decided to give it another try. And holy flying bananas, I LOVE it. It’s like Kazuo Ishiguro meets Max Brooks with rad lady characters. And references to Greek myths. And just the right amount of creepy sciencey stuff. Whether you like to read for character, language, action, or setting, this book is bound to hit one of your sweet spots. Best yet, Carey nails the landing with twisty outcomes that I never saw coming.
As narrator, Finty Williams is the bee’s knees. She has the range to make characters seem like monsters in one moment, and misunderstood heroes the next. And also a cute British accent. Read (or listen to) this!(less)
When my friends at The Larryville Chronicles tweeted “There’s a line about ‘basic bitches’ in #LongDivision,” I knew I had to check it out. A little d...moreWhen my friends at The Larryville Chronicles tweeted “There’s a line about ‘basic bitches’ in #LongDivision,” I knew I had to check it out. A little digging revealed that this debut novel by Kiese Laymon was actually a finalist in the 2014 Tournament of the Books. After 14-year-old City Coldson becomes an overnight YouTube sensation for shouting at some racist judges during a nationally televised quiz contest in Jackson, Mississippi, he picks up a mysterious novel called Long Division and discovers a way to travel into the future. Here are more reasons to love Long Division, in no particular order: Hip hop lyrics. Time travel. Love. Revenge. Badass women. Talking cats. Grammar jokes. Post-Katrina racial politics. Time traveling Klansmen doing 80s dance moves in front of a laptop camera. Weird and wonderful teenagers creating the lives they want to live. An open-ended conclusion that made me cry like a baby. Kiese Laymon is completely rewriting and reinventing literary fiction, and it gives me shivers— I think I like it.(less)
Some book clubs plan their reading list and meeting schedule a year in advance. Friends, that is not my book club. We’re what I’d like to call "charmi...moreSome book clubs plan their reading list and meeting schedule a year in advance. Friends, that is not my book club. We’re what I’d like to call "charmingly" disorganized; we often don’t know when or where we’re going to meet until the day before.
So when we spontaneously decided to meet at the Taproom this Tuesday to talk about Michel Faber’s Under the Skin , I knew I had to get reading… fast. Because books about Scottish alien cannibal women do not lend themselves well to spoilers.
You guys, Under the Skin is the most fun I've had reading since Gone Girl in June. Part morality tale, part horror story, and part dystopian sci-fi, it's a lightning-paced read with a serious literary backbone, featuring an embattled, tough-as-nails heroine. Better yet, it taps into pop-culture's beloved hitchhiking motif, but in totally new and unexpected ways. I promise you'll want to hitchhike even less after reading this book.
Although I don’t typically read horror or sci-fi, I loved Under the Skin. It’s a genre-bending tale in the vein of some of the best science fiction classics out there: 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451; the genre is such a great vehicle for exploring those big juicy human questions, and Faber writes with such economy and control. And if you’ve ever been in a book club, you’re hip to the fact that they’re fabulous for getting you to pick up stuff you might not have read on your own.
You might already know Michel Faber as the writer behind the awesome historical mini series The Crimson Petal and the White. But he’s about to enter pop-culture consciousness in another big way — Scarlett Johansson is slated to take the screen as the leading lady in the film adaptation of Under the Skin, due out next month. If you want to read the book first, here’s a tip — the audio version is worth it for the Scottish accents alone.(less)
Imagine your favorite futuristic dystopia, hashing out socialist versus capitalist values: Brave New World? Fahrenheit 451? 1984? And now imagine that...moreImagine your favorite futuristic dystopia, hashing out socialist versus capitalist values: Brave New World? Fahrenheit 451? 1984? And now imagine that the nuances are a tad bit richer, the characters are a little more flesh and blood, the philosophical explorations are somehow just a smidge deeper and the solutions more ambiguous and complex.
I don't even really like Sci-Fi, but The Dispossessed was pretty perfect. The two worlds LeGuin creates in opposition to each other -- the socialist, utopian Anarres, and the wealthy, earth-like Urras -- are so complete, so believable. But what really sets this book apart from others in the genre is the way she interprets and explores the two worlds -- not as good versus evil, but rather that each is beautiful, corrupt and challenging in its own way. The hero Shevek, in navigating between the two worlds, must learn to understand and live in them both. In choosing this approach, LeGuin really gets at the heart of something more human and rare than you often get to see in novels.(less)
This is a really cool kids' book. So many layers -- mystery & intrigue; maturity & sacrifice; identity politics; socio-economic and mental hea...moreThis is a really cool kids' book. So many layers -- mystery & intrigue; maturity & sacrifice; identity politics; socio-economic and mental health challenges; evolving relationships with friends; evolving relationships with parents; even bizarre sci-fi elements. Stead handles all of this with absolute confidence and finesse. The outcome might be a little predictable for adult readers, but that doesn't mean it's any less satisfying -- in the end it delivers an interesting message about love found in unusual places.(less)
OK, so I didn't really finish this one, which is kind of a new thing for me -- not finishing books. I was listening to this collection of short storie...moreOK, so I didn't really finish this one, which is kind of a new thing for me -- not finishing books. I was listening to this collection of short stories on audio, and I was really getting into some of them. "The Wizards of Perfil" in particular was pretty spectacular. Kelly Link has definitely created her own aesthetic with recurring themes of dragon tattoos, spaceships, board games and magic tricks. But I just got bored with it about 5 stories in. This would be a fun book to have around on your nightstand and pick up from time to time when the mood strikes you.(less)
I know, I know... I was supposed to love this! The audio performances were phenomenal, and it was a cool book, but ultimately I think World War Z is b...moreI know, I know... I was supposed to love this! The audio performances were phenomenal, and it was a cool book, but ultimately I think World War Z is best for people who love action and world-building stories. And points for lots of juicy speculative elements, too.
For me, though, the story's structure as oral histories came at the cost of more interesting character development and wordplay, the two things I usually love most in books. So while I enthusiastically liked this, I wouldn't put it up there with my favs. Glad I gave it a shot.(less)
This looks like it's going to be a really fun series! It didn't blow my mind away as the best graphic novel series of all time, but it's an all-around...moreThis looks like it's going to be a really fun series! It didn't blow my mind away as the best graphic novel series of all time, but it's an all-around pretty solid package ~ smart, hilarious, suspenseful, exciting. While the premise might seem kind of militantly feminist (some mysterious accident kills all of the men in the world except for one), I find its treatment of women (and men) to be pretty fair. I love the complexity and sheer variety of the female characters, and Yorrick, the "last man", is just a pretty sweet guy. I hope Vaughan and Guerra keep it up in the rest of the series!(less)
Wow, so I just finished reading Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, and what a ride! For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure yet, let me bring you up to...moreWow, so I just finished reading Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, and what a ride! For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure yet, let me bring you up to speed: Tally Youngblood lives in a futuristic society where all the teens get mandatory plastic surgery when they turn 16. Turning everyone from “Uglies” into “Pretties” is supposed to eliminate all the insecurity, jealousy, inequity and general suffering in the world. But of course, it can’t really be that easy…
It is a pretty silly book, but it also has otherworldly addictive powers. The feminist in me wants to throw up when Tally must make a huge sacrifice in order to save the world and be validated by an older and wiser guy–who, incidentally, is always “touching her shoulder softly.” But I think one of the reasons I actually liked this book is because it walks that line that so many young women have to walk, between wanting to be fearless, independent and "off the grid" awesome-warrior-women, yet still longing to be that pretty girl with pretty things that we've all been conditioned to want to be since girlhood.
There are also some pretty chewy ethical dilemmas, and I loved the rad futuristic toys: hoverboards, crash bracelets, wallscreens, SpagBol, etc. (less)
This is so not the same book I remember reading when I was 14! I remember really loving it because of the anti-censorship and book-loving themes. This...moreThis is so not the same book I remember reading when I was 14! I remember really loving it because of the anti-censorship and book-loving themes. This time around, though, I was super surprised how elitist and hateful the story seems! A bunch of Harvard hobos hide out by the railroad tracks while the rest of the world is destroyed by nuclear war. . . really???
I can understand the use of heavy-handed approaches when tackling a topic of heavy philosophical import, and here Bradbury is questioning our ability to maintain critical thought in the age of 30 minute TV segments. So Fahrenheit 451 isn't about censorship at all -- its about why Hamlet is superior to Superman, a claim that I'm going to go ahead and challenge!
Bradbury's canonization of dead white guys is also troubling, as well as his view of women just in general ~ no wonder Montag's wife wants to kill herself! Instead of trying to reach out to her after a traumatic suicide attempt, Montag laments her stupidity and ridicules her friends. The only positively portrayed female in the book is Clarisse, the crazy 17 year-old who smells like strawberries. Ah, this must be because all women turn into stupid hags when they pass their twenties!
Anyway! It is written beautifully, and Bradbury does raise some interesting philosophical dilemmas. After all, isn't the whole point of anti-censorship to read and discuss even the ideas you do disagree with?(less)