Recent Reads and Recs: September 2013 Edition

Brief thoughts on books you may or may not want to explore on your own.

Care to chat with me more about these books or others? Leave a comment or find me on Twitter – @ProfeJMarie.

ADULT FICTION

in caddis wood cover In Caddis Wood, by Mary François Rockcastle

Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel tracks the final year or so of Carl’s life, a life shortened by a disease affecting his nervous system. Throughout this year he and his wife, Hallie, relive memories of a long marriage marred by family tragedy, a career-driven spouse, and an affair, ultimately solidifying their relationship in the end.

For those who love novels with a deep sense of place, Rockcastle fully delivers. Caddis Wood is a character in and of itself as it mirrors the lives of Carl, Hallie, and their children while also taking responsibility for them. The prose is beautifully written and is the novel’s biggest strength. Each chapter represented a snippet of time, which for the most part gave enough to get a feel for Carl and Hallie’s lives and more specifically, marriage. I enjoyed the novel, but confess to feeling like some chapters fell short of giving me enough. I left the story satisfied, but would still have liked more.

 

Snow Hunters, by Paul Yoon snow hunters cover

If I had been able to read this novel in a shorter amount of time, I probably would have liked it better. It is less than 200 pages, so to have stretched it out over 2 weeks is a little ridiculous on my part. 🙂 On the other hand, while the prose was beautifully written, there was not much story to go on, which contributed to my slower read, too.

The story is of a North Korean POW (Johan) who, after the war, resettles in Brazil, working with a Japanese tailor. Throughout the story there are some memories back to Johan’s POW days and later a foray into his pre-war days. I’m for quiet stories here and there, but I really wasn’t sure there ever was a story in this one, which is disappointing, because it had potential for one.

 

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

wonder cover Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

I loved every bit of this novel. Auggie is a 5th grade boy who was born with a cranio-facial deformity and until now, has been homeschooled primarily because of the multiple surgeries he’s had to go through. Now he approaches entering a mainstream school with rightful nervous, predicting difficulties in being accepted with his severely affected appearance.

Predictably, there are the select few who do not avoid him and get to know him for who he is and the majority of others who start the game of “The Plague” where anyone who comes in contact with Auggie catches it. The story is told from multiple viewpoints and gives some great, realistic reactions to the whole situation and above all else, shows how ultimately, most people adhere to the obvious theme of, “above all else, be kind.”

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon the bone season cover

Reviews all over the place are touting this as the next big thing and considering that Shannon’s publishing deal included international and film rights already, it’s quite the set-up. This paranormal dystopia offers an alternate history and future of our world. It takes place in 2059 in London, which is run under a tight security that focuses primarily on keeping everyone safe from the “voyants” – people who run a wide gamut of clairvoyant abilities. Paige, the protagonist, is one such voyant and one with an even rarer gift of being a “dreamwalker”. She works with an underground group of voyants, but is soon kidnapped and taken prisoner in Oxford, where the true reigning force appears: a race from another world.

If you’re already confused, I don’t blame you. The first chapter, especially, is full of what writers and agents like to call “info-dumping”. This book requires a lot of world building, which is not a problem, but Shannon tries to do way too much of it in that first chapter. Additionally, it was full of slang and jargon. If you are a Brit and familiar with the your own slang, then that part will come easier, but for this Yank, I was actually pretty frustrated at first. (And as an author wannabe, I want to guess that this was not Shannon’s original first chapter.)

However, the middle eventually makes up for it. Shannon includes a lot of very realistic character behaviors given the situations that they are all in, and that is one of its biggest strengths as you ride right alongside all of the characters developing your own trust and curiosity. I can’t say I ever fully grasped everything by the end of the book, and the last few chapters wound about unnecessarily, but it’s a strong story and a unique, original world. And unlike other dystopia novels out there (including The Hunger Games, and Divergent), the immediate world of the protagonist addresses how the same issues are being addressed in other parts of the world, showing that Shannon recognizes that her characters do not live in a vacuum.

Shannon indicates having a 7-book plan for this series and while the end definitely keeps open the plotline, at this point I have a hard time fathoming as many books as that for what we’ve been given. Though likely entirely wrong, I sense a possibility that Paige will not always be our heroine and perhaps a time jump will show up somewhere down the line.

Bottom-line thoughts of “must-reads”: Wonder

Currently I am reading Jamie Ford’s newest release, Songs of Willow Frost

More importantly: what are YOU reading? What should I be reading next? Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Leave a comment or send me a shout out on Twitter – let’s chat!

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One Response to Recent Reads and Recs: September 2013 Edition

  1. I enjoyed your review of the Bone Season!

    Like

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