WARNING: This post contains copious amounts of TV Tropes. Proceed at your own peril. You have been warned.
When I was a kid, I devoured books. This changed when I became an adult, privy to all the distractions of fancy technological distractions. Like blogs! So I’m proud of myself for recently reviving my love of reading, and I’ve realized that part of my problem was that I had a horrible methodology for finding new books. Because all that stuff about cups of tea?
Tea + cups with mustaches = my kind of thing
You see, there are books that aren’t my thing. Good books! Great books, even. I’ve been lucky; I haven’t read that many bad books, but what I have read a lot of are books that were Just Not For Me. For a while, I assumed that I would enjoy all bound collections of paper with printed words, and this worked about as well as one might expect. I’d pick up a book, read about halfway, become despondent, and fret that I was no longer a reader.
But. BUT. I am still a reader. A voracious reader. And there are books – lots of books – that I personally believe the universe wrote Just For Me.
The universe always has time for Annalise!
So how did I find books that were written just for me? Well, I’ve taken to reading blogs. Blogs about books. And I’ve discovered that sometimes, on the Internet, people recommend books that they enjoyed. And there are usually reasons for this, such as: the book is good. And if I trust the blogger, and I know that the blogger likes the kind of things that I like, then I will go out and get these books and devour them with tea.
So! Internet. Here are three books that I enjoyed recently. Maybe they’re your cup of tea, too. (And I would appreciate more book recommendations in the comments. Just sayin’.)
Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham
- Amazon summary: “Max “the Wolf” is a top notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering and a master of being prepared. So it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat)—all of whom talk—and who are as clueless as Max.”
Bill Willingham is famous for writing Fables, an epic fairy tale comic that I’m sad to say I’m not too familiar with. Down the Mysterly River makes me wish I were familiar, because I’m kind of addicted to his writing.
For me, the charm of the book comes down to three main facets:
The characters. All four main characters are memorable. Especially McTavish the Monster, who I’ve written about. If you’ve forgotten, here’s what I said:
“If Salem just feigns at being evil and/or wicked, McTavish actively IS evil and/or wicked. He’s also, unlike most talking cats, actually a cat and not just some other thing masquerading as a cat, which means that his particular brand of evil cat logic is so catlike that anyone passingly familiar with cats will have to smile (or grimace) and nod. McTavish is also hilarious, largely due to the fact that he’s a bad guy forced to work with good guys, and there are just so many conversations where you can hear the crickets chirping after McTavish suggested a particularly sadistic/evil/wicked/cruel/callous solution to a problem.
McTavish is the fiction character you never knew you needed.”
The second charming thing? Clever references to children’s genres. Part of what makes the characters so charming – and what I think is ultimately the selling point of the book – is that each character is a reference to a particular type of children’s book, and character POVs are written in the style of the books they’re referencing. If you’ve read a lot of children’s books, then Down the Mysterly River should be a nostalgic experience for you.
And the third wonderful, charming thing?
The pictures. They’re drawn by Fables artist Mark Buckingham, and they’re gorgeous. Behold:
Plain Kate by Erin Bow
- Amazon summary: “Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade” — a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square.”
Few books are as beautifully written as Plain Kate. Erin Bow is a poet and a novelist, and it shows. (Here are some excerpted poems, if you’re interested.) But I’ve read novels by poets before, and sometimes the story suffers. Not so here – in Plain Kate, Erin Bow has crafted a suspenseful, exciting tale. But the attraction of Plain Kate isn’t just that the sentences and plot are good. Plain Kate is essentially a story about grief, and it has a powerful emotional undercurrent.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- Amazon summary: “When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.” Annalise’s addendums: “And the Glade is part of a maze. Like, a big maze. A maze that you can run in! And there are gigantic monster-things that attack them, so they have to run fast.”
I used to be able to devour 400 page books in a single day on a regular basis. Nowadays, I have the attention span of a fruit fly that just found ALL THE FRUIT. Therefore, books that I finish in a single day are rare. But The Maze Runner? Yeah, I finished that shit in a single night, a feat previously reserved for Harry-Freaking Potter. The Maze Runner is what scholars commonly refer to as an OMGPAGE-TURNER.
If you’re a writer, I recommend reading this book to help learn about stakes, foreshadowing, cliffhangers, as well as ways to use information and clues to intrigue and entice the reader. If you’re a reader, then I just recommend reading this because do it already.
My only gripe is that for a book called The Maze Runner, there’s actually a minimal amount of running in mazes. At least by the main character.
Anyway, apparently Hollywood agrees with me about the gripping story bit, because a movie is in the works. And I’m pretty okay with that.
Are these books you might want to read? Or have you read any of these books – and if so, what did you think of them?
But most importantly -