I will tell you what to enjoy

I’ve been reading a whole hell of a lot lately and I figure I’m pretty qualified to tell you what books to read since i a) am bipedal and b) have this here bloggy to write upon.
Here we go in no particular order:
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
This book kind of sucked. I get a ton of my reading recommendations from the NPR book review podcast and this came recommended and it definitely sounded interesting. In fact it SHOULD have been interesting. The premise of the seedy underside of Japan, repressed school girls gone wild, murder, deception, prostitution and jealousy. It should have been good. At first I attributed my issues to a poor translator thinking that maybe something was lost, but as time wore on (and I mean WORE ON) I discovered that it would not be fair to blame the poor translator. Nothing was even remotely believable, all of the characters talked in the same exact voice, situations were so forced as to even make the reader uncomfortable. Bad bad bad. And the ‘twist’ at the end? The twist sucked. It was a stupid ‘twist’. It wasn’t even really a twist, just a meager way of maybe apologizing for this crapfest
Un Lun Dun By China Mieville
If you love Neil Gaiman, specifically the Neil Gaiman of the Neverwhere/Mirrormask type stories, you will adore this book. It’s definitely written for teens, but amazingly so. It’s a simple girl saves the world (and the secret unknown world) type story but it is delightfully fun. If you’ve read other China Mieville novels you will be surprised. It is as unique and creative as any of his books but still covered in an innocence you would not have expected. I really enjoyed this book, also, the illustrations are done by him.

King Rat
by China Mieville
Again with the China Mieville thing you say! It’s his first novel and it is definitely rough around the edges, but the story is solid and fascinating. And speaking of Neil Gaiman similarities, written 2 years before Gaiman’s American Gods (also an awesome book), the stories are surprisingly similar, but this one is all Mieville, from the grit to the sewers. Like American Gods, there is folklore and father troubles played throughout. I’d say read it, but it’s not as good as the Bas Lag books.
Jamestown: A Novel by Matthew Sharpe
an unhistory? a fantastical retelling of the Jamestown story? Post apocalyptic Jamestown. Hard to say. The story of the Jamestown settlement is set in the near, post apocalyptic future. Strange. I found the writing to be easy to read, I blew through the book in a days or so. The story was…eh. It was good and it had funny moments, but the characters just weren’t developed well and I had a terrible time keeping all the Johns and James’ apart. It also seemed unnecessarily violent, or perhap crude and gimmicky in its violence.
Schrodinger’s Ball by Adam Felber
This book is just pure fun. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Chaos Theory and Schrodingers Cat all told around 4 friends, the president of Montana and a crazy lady who rewrites history. Of course there’s a dead guy who can’t be dead because nobody has actually witnessed him being dead and therefore all states of dead and undead are still possible, a cat in a box and the world’s largest molecule. Read it for fun. Being one who gets quite angry at the idea of quantum physics and string theory (see, I can’t imagine the universe as a sheet of fabric because a sheet of fabric is very very flat and the universe is very very 3 dimensional. But I also think time is a construct, that the laws of physics are immutable regardless of how fast you’re going and YOU CAN’T JUST PULL CRAZY THEORIES OUT OF YOUR BUTT LIKE THAT! I NEED SOME DAMNED PHYSICAL PROOF)
Whoa…yeah. I got problems with science. I adore science, but mostly I adore real, calculable science. Taking a 65 million year old bone out of the ground, finding the markings that indicate where the muscles attached and extrapolating information like that. THE BONE EXISTED WHETHER OR NOT I OBSERVED IT.
Dammit. Anyway, I learned more from the afterword about the theories than I did from the book, but still, it was fun and I finished it yesterday and I am just tickled by it.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
I just finished this book an hour ago, started last night. I could not put it down. I don’t even know how to describe the story in this book. It’s considered a teen novel, which surprised me, I think it’s a bit beyond young teens, though older ones might appreciate it. There is nothing childish about this book and rarely is there fun or joy. Octavian is a boy born as an 18th century slave into an experiment. Both he and his young, slave mother are housed and lavished upon, educated to the highest degree, the boy not realizing even that he is a slave. Then things change. It gets ugly. And yet it is beautifully written.
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
AWESOME! It’s everything House of Leaves or Memento could have been if they weren’t so self aware. It’s fun, it’s a mystery, a thriller, a romance and much much more. It bounces everywhere equally, a wild ride that you can’t get bored with (with which you cannot be bored). Words as a shark released and attacking a man with no memory. He must use the words of others, of anonymous people to shield himself from the words of a life he does not remember. The words are a shark, a real shark and that shark is trying to eat him.
Drowning Ruth by Christine Schwarz
Meh. It wasn’t a bad book, but it was predictable. The characters were fleshed out and sympathetic, but ultimately you just got to the point where you knew that what the author was trying to get you to believe was a ploy to surprise you in the end and you can figure this out because they are pushing you too hard to believe this idea without actually saying the idea. See? Imagine a book is a flat sheet of fabric and sometimes the threads get…wait DAMN SCIENCE! Get out of here!
Okay, yeah. I read too much!
I totally forgot a book!
The Day of Small Beginnings by Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum
This was a really…cute(?) book. I enjoyed it while I was reading it though it was flawed. The writing style kept me engrossed, a story of 3 generations losing and reconnecting with their Jewish faith in pre and post war Poland. The scope of the book was immense and in an effort to keep it manageable, it felt like much was cut out or glossed over, bringing some characters to an abrupt end. Also the love story felt forced and unnecessary. And this is kind of a little pick, but every once in a while the author would go into too much detail regarding what Ellen is wearing (“I was glad I was wearing a silk bias cut skirt…” or something like that). Don’t get me wrong, I was fascinated by the story and I got to learn a lot about Eastern European Jewish customs and whatnot.
Also, I started Black and White by Dani Shapiro last night and I am almost done. It’s an intriguing portrait (see, I can write like book reviewers, too) of a dysfunctional family and the aftermath. The mother, a controlling, narcissist uses her young daughter from the age of 3 as a model in her photography. The photographs of the child are not only in the nude, but somewhat provocative, perhaps bordering on the pornographic. The mother becomes an overnight success in the art world with the photos of her 3 year old daughter and must continue to use her daughter to feed her own success machine. The daughter leaves home, the sister who was not photographed is angry for being ignored throughout her childhood and no one is happy. The mom is pure creepy overbearing. If she were a real person you’d have a hard time not punching her (well, except she’s all dying of cancer and you can’t really punch 65 year old cancer patients)