Thursday, October 27, 2011

WOW Books

As a writer, English teacher and bibliophile, I love talking about books. Some books excite me more than others. Obviously if I hear someone even whisper the name George R.R. Martin, I butt into said conversation in a heartbeat. The TV show had even more people talking about it, which would send me into a Matt Foley-esque tirade about the awesomeness of beheadings, infanticide and something called (SPOILER ALERT) the Red Wedding. There was a creepy moment earlier this school year when talking about what happened (allegedly) to Prince Aegon during the Sack of King’s Landing with a fan of the TV show with an ear to ear grin that made one of my colleagues look at me very, very differently. While GRRM and “A Song of Ice and Fire” have had a major influence in my life and my writing, there are other books that blew me away and made me say “WOW!”

A book that makes you say “WOW” is special. It not only blows your mind away, but it causes a physical reaction. A reaction that can be as subtle as having to put the book down, to hurling the book across the room out of frustration, anger or shock, to feeling as if someone has just hit you in the face with one of those cartoon sized mallets. Now, I’m not going to carry on and on about “A Song of Ice and Fire,” I’ll do enough of that over the course of my career/this blog as time goes on. For now, I want to talk about some recent books that have completely blown me away.

In no particular order:

1. “Ship Breaker” Paolo Bacigalupi

From the opening pages of this book, I was hooked on the story and the further I read, the more I wanted to read. Nailer and his friends lived in a scary, alarming, almost hopeless but all too real feeling world that I was completely drawn into. Every moment of that book had my heart racing and my eyes twirling as I tried to keep up with the story and absorb everything that was happening to Nailer. Really a remarkable and amazing book that is easily among my top 10.

2. “The Hunger Games”/ “Catching Fire” Suzanne Collins

Now, I loved the Gregor books. Thought they were brilliantly fun and exciting (something I think is lacking in YA fantasy right now….but that’s another blog entry). I was hesitant to read “The Hunger Games” because of my disdain for 1st person POV (that’s yet another blog entry), but I got a copy of it with my SFBC membership, so I picked it up one day and started reading it. And read. And read. I was drawn in and couldn’t stop reading. It was such an amazing story. I bought “Catching Fire” and put it on the TBR pile, choosing it for last year’s vacation. I read it on the red eye home from Vegas. The whole thing. At the end, I was sick. I was not ready for the ending and felt as if I’d been punched in the face. I stared at the people next to me on the plane who had no idea why I was gaping. The book has left such a scar on me, I still haven’t read “Mockingjay.” I’m not emotionally ready for it.

3. “The Lies of Locke Lamora” Scott Lynch

Scheming priests of a scheming god in a eldritch, alien city. Nice. You’ll notice a certain love that I have for world building (yet ANOTHER blog entry) and there hasn’t been a world that wowed me the way Camorr did. Lynch’s storytelling, the use of flashbacks intermixed with what they characters were going through, is one of my favorite’s I’ve seen in a long time. And while Locke is the main character of the story, it gave me one of my most favorite characters in a long time: Jean Tannen. I’m a big guy. I like big guy characters, what can I say.

4. “The Hunchback Assignments” Arthur Slade

The steampunk adventures of a teenaged, hunchbacked, shapeshifting spy in Victorian England. Why didn’t I think of that? Really? I found this book by accident and hunted local bookstores for it. I found it at my now deceased Borders and LOVED it. Such a simple concept, one that I feel I could come up with, and executed perfectly. All the hangups of being a teenager with the lack of realization of just how badass he really is, Modo is a character I can sympathize with…not just because of my own crooked spine!

5. “Aurelia” Anne Osterlund

Pretty sure I’m not the target audience for this book, but since “Winter’s Discord” and my “Seasons of Destiny” books have a lot to do with courtly intrigue and I’m aiming for a YA audience, I thought I’d give it a try. It was perfect for those purposes. The character Robert helped mold a character I really liked but was becoming less important to the plot into something that was very crucial to the plot.

I’ve included links on all of them and encourage you to try them out. They are books that have really helped me as a writer and books I think that are just AWESOME!

What are some of your “WOW” books? I’d love to hear about them.


vanyelmoon said...

One of my "Wow" books was "Destination Void," by Frank Herbert. I read it when I was a teenager and I am still hooked to Sci-fi today.
I love George R. R. Martin as well. My brother-in-law and I can discuss Game of Thrones for hours. I am almost done with the second book and can't wait to get to the third.

Mike Winchell said...

Hunger Games and Ship Breaker would both be on my list too. I'd add The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Emerald Atlas is also on my MG "wow" list.