Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What I've Been Up To (Basically Books and More Books)

I think it says something about myself that I tried to save the background picture for my header and got this:

So anyway, my internet hiatus gave me a lot more time to read, and made me rediscover how much I love reading. One of the best feelings in the world is reading the last sentence of a book and finding it so beautiful that you just sort of stroke the page and then hug the book to your chest and read the last line over and over again.

Plus I lucked out on thought-provoking, strongly written books in the past two months or so. Here are some brief reviews--think of them as book popcorn. Being thrown at you. Through a computer screen. I've always had trouble with analogies.


The Unwind Dystology
Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman is now one of my favorite authors, thanks to Aimee at To the Barricade, whose rave reviews got me hooked.

His character development is impeccable, his plotting is twisty but makes sense, and his prose is slick without trying too hard to be YA-ish. He's especially good at describing things in a way that reminds me of those "relatable posts" on Pinterest--he comes up with the best little details. For example:

Roland glares at Connor and Connor glares back. Then he says what he always says at moments like this.
"Nice socks."
Although Roland doesn't look down right away, it derails him just enough for him to back off. He doesn't check to see if his socks match until he thinks Connor isn't looking. And the moment he does, Connor snickers. Small victories are bet­ter than none.

^^I tried it (as a joke). It works.

Anyway, the plot of the Unwind Dystology is that there was a full-out war between the pro-life and pro-choice groups, and the terrible compromise they made was to only permit "retroactive abortions," which meant basically killing teenagers to solve the problems of teen crime and population growth. The main characters are teenagers living in the aftermath of this legislation and trying to stay alive, and maybe change the world while they're at it.

Yes, it's a disturbing plot. But this series made me think more than any other series I've read, and Mom and I still find ourselves discussing the moral issues and character development a month later. Plus it's pro-life in the long run.

Content: PG-13. (Detailed violence, language, suggestive content, and adult themes, all handled with teens in mind.)

The Schwa Was Here
Neal Shusterman

You knew I wasn't done with Shusterman, didn't you?

This one's in first-person, narrated by an easily distracted teenage boy in New York. It cracked me up and, unexpectedly, made me cry. The symbolism is great, and it kind of reminded me of The Great Gatsby.

It's too weird to explain properly. Just read it.

Content: PG (mild language and a few crude comments)

Neal Shusterman

Yep, still not done with this guy. Let's just say this is by Neal Shusterman so it's good, although it's basically a darker version of The Schwa Was Here.

Content: PG-13 (Intense domestic violence, some language, and the occasional crude comment)

The Name of the Wind
Patrick Rothfuss
Also entitled, "A Huge Disappointment but Not Quite a Waste of Time...?"

I LOVED this book. I'm not sure whether I should have, but I did.

It had all the necessities: complex characters, a very sweet friendzone, a dark and brooding protagonist, dragons, a scientifically described magic system, and humor. And a GORGEOUS writing style. Probably the prettiest writing style I have ever read (besides Tolkien's, of course).

Check this out:

“Go out in the early days of winter, after the first cold snap of the season. Find a pool of water with a sheet of ice across the top, still fresh and new and clear as glass. Near the shore the ice will hold you. Slide out farther. Farther. Eventually you'll find the place where the surface just barely bears your weight. There you will feel what I felt. The ice splinters under your feet. Look down and you can see the white cracks darting through the ice like mad, elaborate spiderwebs. It is perfectly silent, but you can feel the sudden sharp vibrations through the bottoms of your feet.
That is what happened when Denna smiled at me.” 

So, you ask, why did I just call this gorgeous book a huge disappointment?

Because of its STUPID SEQUEL. See, the thing about this series (which I believe is projected to be a trilogy) is that it starts out with the main character as a disillusioned middle-aged innkeeper who is "waiting to die." Then it has a massive fast-backward to the MC as a kid, and goes from there to describe how he massively messed up his life.

It sounds depressing. And it is. And it sounds like the suspense would be ruined because you already know what happens to him, but it's not. It's just that instead of wondering what will happen, you wonder how it will happen. Also the writing style is so gorgeous that it's hard to stop reading anyway.

Anyway, the problem with the second book, which I'm not even putting on this list because I stopped reading it, is that it takes the main character's flaws too far, and in an explicit direction that was demeaning to women. That put me off the story enough to put it down even though it was so, so good.

In conclusion, it hurts to say this, but DON'T READ THIS BOOK. You will just be disappointed because the second one is so immoral and lame. But The Name of the Wind will nevertheless go down as one of my favorite fantasy books of all time.

Content: PG-13...? (Violence, the occasional bit of explicit language, and a lot of suggestive stuff that would probably push the PG-13 rating. Mostly because the main characters are immature teenage boys.)


Ta-da! Lots of intensity. I think I literally cried over every one of those books, so yeah, you should read them too.  ;P

I will leave you with a highly satisfying gif:

Have you read a particularly awesome or affecting book in the last month or two? And if you've read any of the ones I've just reviewed, what's your opinion?


  1. Hmm, I just may have to check out this Neal Shusterman guy. I remember my older sister checked out Unwind from the library when she was pretty little and my mom made her return it, much to my sister's anger. To be fair though she was really young at the time and it was probably a good call. But now that both my sister and I are older, it may be a good book to revisit since we never did read it.

    Oi! That quote from The Name of the Wind! Perfection! A literal shiver ran up my spine when reading that. Wowzie.

    1. Good call on your mom's part--Unwind freaked me out, and I can't imagine how scary it would be for a little kid! It made me think though, and I think you would appreciate that aspect of it.

      I know, right? Rothfuss has ridiculously beautiful prose. The Name of the Wind seemed to have passages like that every other page. I just wish he included more moral principles in with the awesome writing...

  2. I already had Name of the Wind off my official reading list (though still in the back of my head). It's always sounded too trendy to me, though I do read the big names in SFF. I'm not that worried about pretty prose. I think it can work, especially in first-person, but it often just weights stories down, for me. You've also pointed out the sketchy content. There were a few small things in 1984 that I didn't really mind when reading it for school, and I made it through Ringworld despite some R-rated scenes, but I prefer to stay away from that. Maybe in twenty years the trilogy will be finished and I'll give them a read.

    1. Sounds good. The content in the Way of Kings is so pervasive that it's impossible to skip except for the very most R-rated stuff, so I'm not really comfortable recommending it. (That being said, it is really really well-written. xD)


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