All It Takes Is One Book

I just finished The Book Thief (a fantastic book, one I’ll treasure forever, thank you so much for the recommendation Raya, please get your hands on it if you haven’t already read it, review to come) and I noticed something. My love for the book is separate from my love for the author.  Sometimes, I don’t make that distinction. Most of the time, I end up being a fan of an author because of a large body of their work. Think Tamora Pierce or Robin Hobb. It’s not the first book – even though that’s what sucks you in – but the series as a whole that I fall in love with. And even if an author writes stand-alones, it usually takes more than a book or two for me to start declaring my undying love for them.

In the case of a very few authors, though – all it takes is one book. And I can usually tell by the tenth page or so when I’ve found them. And, more often than not, it has very little to do with what they’re writing about. It’s how they write – you can TELL they’re pouring their soul into their writing – they don’t hold back. They bleed words and you treasure their books more because of it. Maybe this is why books can make me cry like nothing else can, I don’t know, but I get really choked up over things I think are beautiful, okay? And the way some of these people write? It makes you just want to drown in the words and never, ever stop reading them because real life just pales in comparison to the depth of the worlds they create.

So here you go. Here’s a list of authors that drive me insane with how beautiful their writing is.

Neil Gaiman

This will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me, and I couldn’t in good conscience make this list without him being at the very top. This man needs no introduction, and whether you’re a fan of his work or not (which I’ll find a little hard to believe, but okay), you cannot deny the fact that he just knows how to find the right words. His writing has a life of its own, and every time I pick up one of his books, I’m often left speechless and shaking my head in wonder. You cannot put him in a box – every book is different from the other and you almost never know what to expect.

My favourites: Sandman (review here), The Graveyard Book (review here)

Markus Zusak

I’ve only ever read The Book Thief and honestly? Two pages in, and I was in love. Fans of the book will know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t read it already, PLEASE go out and get it. Trust me on this. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and a lot of it has to do with the way Zusak writes. He’ll make you cry and ache to just reach into the book and hug all his characters – to protect them from everything you know is about to happen.

Susan Ee

Ever since I read Susan Ee’s debut, Angelfall (having found a review on The Novelettes’ Blog), my expectations of the entire YA Fantasy genre have gone up hundred-fold. Angelfall was such a surprise – a refreshing take on the done-to-death angel theme with a sensible female protagonist who had her priorities straight. And I think a lot of my respect for Susan Ee stems from that. Her writing seems effortless and everything that happens in the book is so natural. Not once did I have to exclaim, “Seriously?” – which I’ll admit, I do a lot. My point being, in Fantasy, a lot of authors create settings and then sometimes their characters do things that don’t make any sense in that setting. And that ruins everything else for me. Not with Angelfall. This one was easily one of my favourite discoveries of the year.

Melina Marchetta

onthejellicoeroadcoverOh, man. How do I talk about Marchetta without sounding like I worship her?

I discovered Marchetta through Raya’s review of Saving Francesca, and that book just messed me up. It was so good. I then went and devoured Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock and I fully intend to read everything she’s ever written. Ever. She’s so lyrical and she has a way of making you oscillate between emotions without giving you any choice in the matter. One second you’re crying your eyes out and the next you’re clutching your stomach, laughing hysterically.

She’s a wordbird. There’s no other way I can describe it.

Brandon Sanderson

Here’s my story: I got Mistborn. Page 1. “Ash fell from the sky.” That is all. The end.

Helps that he creates fantastic characters, though. And his world-building? Don’t get me started.

Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge is an author I can gush about for HOURS. She’s terribly underrated, and trust me when I tell you I’m doing everything in my power to change that. When you need an instant pick-me-up? Read Frances Hardinge. When you need an author that appreciates the power and beauty of the written word? Read Frances Hardinge. When you need an author that can cleverly weave a story about twenty different things without you even noticing what it is she’s doing? Read Frances Hardinge. When you want weird and witty and an author that takes insane creative liberties and makes it work so that it feels completely normal? Yep. Frances Hardinge.

(Twilight Robbery reviewed here)

Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one of those books I read as a kid that defined me at the time. I read it when I was 13 or 14, I think, and I’ve read it more than ten times since. Extremely Loud is like my personal Lion King in book form. Oskar’s equation with his dad reminds me so much of Simba and Mufasa, and they’re both childhood treasures I keep locked up inside of me.

And there you have it. Are your favourite authors on my list? Do you have authors that make you feel the same way? Recommendations? Let me know!

Why Frances Hardinge’s Twilight Robbery Should Be On Your Reading List.

Just LOOK at that gorgeous cover.

I can’t tell you how much I love this woman’s writing. I simply can’t. Ever since I read Fly By Night, I’ve been a fan. I can’t tell you much about what reading this book was like – I was in a daze for most of it – but if I said I was reduced to a creature that fervently kept turning the pages, marveling at how she makes words bend to her will, laughing really loudly every once in a while, staring wide-eyed at the book every time something unexpected happened (which, towards the end, was every ten minutes or so), all the while silently promising to go out and pick up every single book she has ever written and yell about how amazing she is to anybody willing to listen – I’d come somewhat close.

You need convincing?

#1: This is the sequel to Fly By Night. If you’ve read that? Just that sentence should be enough to get you running to the library/bookstore. If you haven’t read that – you’ll want to. Trust me.

#2: I’m going to give you little snippets from the book, okay? When I say this woman has a way with words, I’m not kidding.

Lost: one bonnet, two clogs. Kept in spite of the odds: two thumbs, one life.

*****

“I generally find,” Clent murmured after a pause, “that it is best to treat borrowed time the same way as borrowed money. Spend it with panache, and try to be somewhere else when it runs out.”

*****

Revenge is a dish best served unexpectedly and from a distance – like a thrown trifle.

#3: I’d love to keep quoting from the book all day, but I’m afraid I’d be throwing spoilers at you in the process. Instead, I present to you, Exhibit A:

option one reszI keep an emergency stash of bookmarks on my bedside table because, well, I’m lazy, okay? I hate having to look for one every time I need to put the book down. But then, as I settled in to start reading, I remembered that this was a Frances Hardinge book I was reading and that there were going to be LOTS of passages that I’d want to mark – far more than the seven bookmarks could cover. So I just tore up a sheet of paper I didn’t need and there you have it. Keep in mind that we’re not counting the ones in the parts of the book where I just gave up keeping track of them and concerned myself only with what came next. I definitely need to re-read this again, and soon.

#4: Every time, e-v-e-r-y blooming time I thought I had this book figured out, it just slapped me across the face and turned everything upside down. Now, I’d like to think I’m a fairly sharp reader and usually, I can figure out the general direction a book is going in. But Hardinge is able to wreak more havoc in ten pages than more most authors I’ve read do in a hundred.

#5: It’s got a homicidal goose. Yep. You heard me.

Since that time Saracen had been making a name for himself. That name was not ‘Saracen’. Indeed the name was more along the lines of ‘that hell-fowl’, ‘did-you-see-what-it-did-to-my-leg’, ‘kill-it-kill-it-there-it-goes’ or ‘what’s-that-chirfugging-goose-done-now’.

Look. You could wave your hand dismissively and say, “Oh, but it’s a book for children.” And you’d be right. It is. But you know what? It doesn’t read like that at all. From the very beginning you’re sucked into the world Hardinge creates – growing attached to the characters, puzzling things out as you go along, living the book. She  makes your brain jog, she does, and if I had been lucky enough to read this growing up, I’d be a LOT smarter than I am today. Without a doubt.

And the themes in this book? They’re beautifully handled. I had to write about the trends/taboos in YA and Children’s Literature for college last year, and my main complaint? A lot of parents and teachers ban books that give children “dangerous” ideas – somehow, they’re under the illusion that if things don’t get talked about, then they cease to exist in the child’s world. And I personally think that it’s the worst way to go about it. It’s the sensitive issues that need talking about. And that’s why authors that don’t talk down to children deserve to be applauded. Frances Hardinge is one such author. Between the two books, you have books being banned and burned because “Everybody knew that books were dangerous. Read the wrong book, it was said, and the words crawled around your brain on black legs and drove you mad, wicked mad.” She brings in atheism – the quiet questioning of whether upholding superstition would really do more good than simply being quick-witted, political injustice, coping with desperation, rebellion and the need for equality in society. All this without you even noticing. All this while you’re swiftly turning pages, silently cheering little Mosca Mye on.

As far as characters go – Mosca is a breath of fresh air. Armed with her “winged warzone”, Saracen, and accompanied by Eponymous Clent (poet and Manipulator of Words),  Mosca sees the world in a way I haven’t heard described before. You cannot help but fall in love with her – she’s smart, and hot-headed, and if she doesn’t like what’s going on, she’ll say exactly what’s on her mind, thankyouverymuch. She’s small and scared and resourceful and fearless and a very strong contender for my favourite book character of all time.

In conclusion? World-building? Amazing. Characters? Extremely well-rounded. Intelligent content? And then some. Writing? I can’t even come up with a good enough adjective.

Fly By Night and Twilight Robbery are books about the power of words. The power to create, destroy, manipulate, protect – the power of words to shape ideas in minds, to offer comfort, to overthrow oppressive regimes. The power to think.

Also, I really want a pet goose.

Psst! Have you checked out her website? It’s ridiculous. While you’re at it, read her About page.
For people in the US, you’ll find Twilight Robbery listed as Fly Trap. As far as I know, this only applies to the US.