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!

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Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

This isn’t going to be a positive review, so if the book is one of your favourites? You’ve been warned.

Eleanor & Park has been flooding my Goodreads feed and WordPress dash for ages now, and after finally getting my hands on a copy, I prepared myself for the cutesy, adorable, “intelligent” book I had been promised by so many reviews.

“Different”, they said. “Redefines the genre”, they said. “Rowell is like a female John Green”, they said.

Oh, no. No no no.

I am extremely upset with this book. Maybe it’s because I’m “Asian”, I don’t know, but the endless stereotypes that kept appearing – one after the other – just got on my nerves.

To start with – Park’s Korean mother speaks in terrible broken English. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! You’re going to go there? I’m so furious about this. We’re told that she came from a big family, and when she met Park’s Dad, a veteran, she relocated to Omaha. And that’s it. That’s her entire cultural history. Does Park’s upbringing have any Korean influences? No. Are you telling me that once you leave your country and set up camp elsewhere – no matter what your reasons – your cultural identity isn’t going to bleed through? Into whatever it is you decide to do after that?

And Park is 16 in the book, yes? That gives his mother – what? 20 odd years to perfect her English even if it wasn’t that great to begin with? (something I’m still not happy about – but it’s Rowell’s story and let’s just assume that’s the case.) And what? We’re supposed to believe that because she’s Korean, she talks like that and yet, has managed to shut out all her cultural allegiances? Really?

And she left Korea for love, we’re told. Okay, gotcha. This isn’t a story about her “escaping” her country for whatever reason, right? The only reason she left was because she was madly in love? Then why on earth isn’t she in touch with her family?

I’m sorry. I find all of this a little hard to digest.

Also, Park. While I think he’s probably the only character in the book I sort-of like, his endless complaints about his “Asian appearance” is just ARRRGH. Of all the things?! Of all the things that could bother him?! You know what, I’d get it if it was one of the things, but the only thing?

Don’t even get me started on Eleanor. I’m trying to excuse the things about her that I find…shall we say problematic? Anyway, I’m trying to attribute it to the fact that she has a lot on her plate. A truly huge list of things she has to deal with. Let’s just leave it at that.

I’ll tell you what my main issue with this book was? It tried too hard. It tried to be about Nerd Culture. It tried to be about Teenage Angst. It tried to be about First Love. It tried to be about Coping, and Dealing With Unfairness and Body Issues and a Great Many Other Things. And ultimately, about having that one person be there for you to pull you through all the crap happening in your life.

And in trying to achieve all that, not enough attention was paid to what could go wrong. Eleanor and Park are cute from time to time, but do I believe in them? Do I believe that what they have is more than bonding over music and comic books and the pangs of first love? No, I don’t. Eleanor and Park found each other at a time when both of them needed someone to lean on. And that creates a strong bond, yes. But it’s been my experience that that just isn’t enough. And I cannot help but point out that they don’t really know each other all that well. They don’t. And no matter how madly in love you are, no matter how somebody makes you feel, no matter how many voids it feels like that person fills – that kind of thing is going to catch up with you.

There’s this scene in the book where the class is reading Romeo and Juliet and their English teacher asks Eleanor if she thinks it’s tragic. And she rolls her eyes and says it’s obvious that Shakespeare is making fun of them.


“Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they wanted. And now, they think they want each other.”
“They’re in love …” Mr. Stessman said, clutching his heart.
“They don’t even know each other,” she said.
“It was love at first sight.”
“It was, ‘Oh my God, he’s so cute’ at first sight.”

 

And that. That is how I feel about the two of them. Maybe not the ‘at first sight’ part, no. But far too much emphasis is placed on how they see each other physically and almost nothing about how they connect on an intellectual and emotional level. And no, that is something that should be apparent without the author having to state it. It should just be there. In their conversations, in the things that make them laugh – but all we get is how cute they think the other is.

Which is a huge problem for me because that’s what is supposed to get them through all the other emotional baggage in the book. That’s what EVERYTHING rests on, and if the foundation is shaky then what are you building your castle on?

 

[Spoiler: Highlight to read]

Also, all throughout the book, somebody keeps scribbling distressing notes on Eleanor’s notebooks and at one point in the book, Park accuses Eleanor of writing them herself. She storms out (I approve) and after not seeing each other for – two weeks? – Park raps on her window in the middle of the night, they meet in secret, he greets her with a kiss (without any preamble), apologizes, and she’s just okay with him again. What the hell? What. The. Hell?

I don’t know. I wanted to love this book so much, because all said and done, I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned romance. And books peppered with pop-culture/comic book references. But all these things just got in the way and I spent a majority of my time feeling irritated. While I can certainly see the appeal, this book just wound me up far too much to enjoy it.

To: The Knife of Never Letting Go


To:
The Knife of Never Letting Go
Patrick Ness

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.
But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

Dear Knife,

I’m writing you a letter because I feel the need to address certain issues that you’ve no doubt noticed we have. Now, there’s no need to overreact, okay? I just want to talk.

I’d been looking forward to our first encounter for ages. After all, every single person that had met you seemed to have fallen in love with you. And while I must admit I’m quite infatuated with you myself, you also make me want to tear my hair out and direct every swear word in my vocabulary at you.

There. I said it.

Look, you know I’m a huge fan of how creative you are. You know that. I have immense respect for the world you built – come on, Noise? Constantly broadcasting everything you think about to everybody else? Who thinks of something like that?! Also, the way you handled how different towns reacted to women being Quiet and men being Noisy? That was well thought out, well executed, and very very smart.

So that’s not the issue at all, here. YOU are brilliant. My problem is with that Todd kid of yours.

Okay, I’ll be honest. I admit to a little bias here.  I’m a HUGE dog-person, so every time Todd did anything that made poor little Manchee go, “Ow, Todd?” I wanted to just take a gun and shoot the damn kid. I know it’s not an ideal world. I know there are people out there that treat their own pets terribly. I know you talking about it is just your way of being “realistic”, but that doesn’t make it okay. There’s a reason I avoid books with animals in them like the plague and THIS IS WHY. I have a dog – an adorable little fluffball whose purpose in life is to get us to chase him around the house while he chomps on his squeaky toy and to make us feel like the world wouldn’t exist without us. I kid you not. ALL dogs just want to give their People love. They’re astoundingly selfless, and as long as you’re happy and safe? They’re happy. So when people treat their pets – dogs, especially – like little mister Todd here? IT MAKES ME MAD.

There are going to be a few spoilers now. I suggest you keep this letter away from those that don’t know you too well, yet.

People are awful, Knife. There’s no use trying to avoid talking about it. People do terrible, terrible things. And I know you understand that – it’s pretty evident from that 500-paged long conversation we had. Yet, I can’t help but feel you place a certain emphasis on “innocence being lost” when Todd has to kill another person, rather than the act of killing itself. Which is something I CANNOT agree with.

You know the Spackle? And Lemon Meringue? (Avoiding spoilers is a deeply ingrained habit, it would seem) Not okay, Knife. I could argue that leaving someone to die – someone that was put in that position in the first place because he was trying to save your worthless hide – that’s a whole lot worse than killing someone. I’d say that if you ever made the decision to do that, I don’t care what your excuse is, your “innocence” has already flown out the window.  Also, killing a non-human when it’s clearly terrified of you and has done nothing to provoke you? That, too.

ALSO. Leaving villages and towns to die because of you? Not cool.

Why was there so little thinking? You must warn them, the writing on the map said. What are the immediate questions you think of? Warn whom? Of what? Why? Where could the answers be? Possibly the book that came with the map or the map itself? Oh, I can’t read? Then why don’t I swallow my effing pride and ask somebody who can before something bad happens?!

I don’t get it, Knife. I just don’t get why so many bad things had to happen, one after the other.

And for what? I haven’t met your siblings yet, so maybe there’s more to Todd than meets the eye. But all this fuss just because he’s the only one in Prentisstown that hasn’t killed anybody yet? I find that a little hard to swallow.

Look, with Harry (have you met Harry?) – there’s a reason he needs to be kept alive. And a solid, unquestionable reason for Voldemort wanting him dead. With Todd, I can’t say I understand why the whole village is so eager to get their hands on him. I understand what he represents just fine. The extent they go to to capture him is just a little unrealistic, I think.

And, yes. I am aware that I survive on a healthy diet of fantasy – but when you create a setting, things are supposed to make sense within the frame you created. I had so many questions – and none of them deep or philosophical. They were mostly just along the lines of, “Why is this happening? What’s the point of all this?”

I know that it might seem like I…um…hate you. I don’t. Really. There were so many instances that made me want to give you the biggest bear hug in the history of Ever. It’s just that all these things were bothering me and I needed to clear the air. You understand, don’t you?

I’m still going to emphatically recommend you to every reader I know. And have heated debates about you. Don’t you worry.

Yours,

Tanya.

Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

Oh my god, this woman.

I’ve been walking around like a zombie the entire day, trying to find the words that will do justice to how I feel about Melina Marchetta‘s (On the) Jellicoe Road, and I’m still unable to wrap my head around what this book did to me. I want to gush and use words like beautiful and poignant and heart-wrenching, but they don’t even come close to describing the depth of emotions I’m drowning in right now.

You know how there are books you want to keep a closely guarded secret because you know – you just know – it would kill a part of you if somebody didn’t appreciate it as much? And then there are those books that restore your faith in humanity and are so real and honest that you want to cry because such a thing exists and you’re frustrated that it took you so long to find it and you’re just downright giddy with happiness because reading them does something to you and you suddenly want to make changes in your life because you haven’t been living the way you always dreamed you would and you want to share it with the world so that they can feel the same way?

That’s what Jellicoe Road is – a gift to the world. I’m not talking about its literary merit here, although Marchetta’s writing by itself is astounding. I’m talking about it being a tiny voice contained in these 300 pages telling you to be the kind of person you’ve always wished you were. That little voice that gets lost in our constant rush to get somewhere. We have moments – I know I do – when we just take a step back from whatever we’re “supposed” to be doing at the time and ask ourselves just where the hell we’re going with our lives. And then it’s gone. It’s back to finishing assignments, studying for exams, working.

Not living.

You know what I want to do?

I want to write this book on my walls. I want to stare at it everyday and remind myself of what is important to me. I want to wake up to Marchetta’s unbelievable ability to say exactly what I wish I could say to myself sometimes, and to say it in a way that is just.. right. Wake up to her ability to create characters that make me howl with laughter and sob hysterically in equal measures. I want to read every book she’s ever written and carry them with me everywhere I go, because just knowing they are there for me, should I need them, is comforting.

I want to change the summary of this book on Goodreads, because it doesn’t come close to even being in the same continent of what this book is about.

I want to praise Melina Marchetta to the skies for creating secondary characters that aren’t just accessories, but are as vividly alive as the main ones. I want to point at Taylor Markham and tell whoever is willing to listen, “THAT. That is how you create female YA characters.” I desperately want to be able to stay separate from all the Jonah Griggs-love that is floating around on Tumblr (I’m failing miserably).

I want to flood this review with quotes from the book, just to show you how lyrical and soul-shattering her writing is, but I really really think I’d be taking something away from you if I did. Her words deserve to be consumed with full knowledge of all that came before it because only then will it resonate as strongly as it should.

I want to buy a thousand copies of this book and go up to every human being I know and thrust this at them with the hugest smile on my face and say :

Yetisays

And most importantly, I want to thank Raya with everything I’ve got for introducing me to such a wonderful author.