Monday, October 31, 2011

Interstellar Pig --A Creepy Halloween Read

Mwah-ha-ha! Today is a good day for finding a chilling and frightening read. Call me naive, but this YA book, Interstellar Pig, really scared me. In a good way. I read it as an adult and one would think I wouldn't have gotten so caught up in it. But I did. I was really surprised by some of the plot turns and was very satisfyingly creeped out by it. I really like that shivery feeling you get when a book really plays with your mind.

Interstellar Pig has to do with a beach house, some teens, some interesting neighbors and a fantastic and eerie board game. I like the idea of the game that sucks you in. I loved Jumanji and Ender's Game as an adult reader. And when I was small, the croquet game in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  made me very satisfyingly uncomfortable.

I'll be honest, I haven't re-read it since that first time many years ago. It left a powerful impression on me but I think it's one of those books that you wouldn't enjoy as much the second time as you know how the plot turns out. And if you do decide to read it, for goodness' sakes, don't look at any reviews that might have plot spoilers. You want to be surprised.

So if you're in for a quiet Halloween evening and have read all your Poe short stories to death, check this out of your local library or borrow from a friend. I may have to go to the Kingston  library and pick up the sequel called Parasite Pig.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another way to find a good book--Write your own!

Once upon a time, I decided that the only way to read the chick lit novel I was looking for was to write it myself. Which I did. Snarky and Sweet was the product of my first Nanowrimo contest. I've done two more since then and have signed up for another year. National Novel Writing Month is one of the craziest and most amazing ideas ever. You have one month to write 50,000 words. Sounds impossible but divided up into small chunks it's more than possible.

I strongly encourage anyone who loves to read to give this a shot. And if you've ever wanted to write a novel, this is your big chance. I've learned more about creativity from Nanowrimo than from anything else. Knowing that you have to write X number of words each day really makes those juices flow. Some days it was awful. I thought I was writing junk. Some days it just seemed to flow into unforgettable art. Strangely enough, when I went back to re-read my stuff, I found that the junk and the art were pretty much the same quality. Both needed heavy rewriting, but both had some pretty fun stuff that just popped out of my brain and ran to my fingers.

Join me in this adventure. You won't regret it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Photo by Damon White
If you are longing for a good, long read I cannot recommend more highly A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Written in English, it is according to Wikipedia the longest novel in English published in one volume. But its claim to fame is far more important than its stupendous length.

The novel tells the story of four Indian families in the 1950s. Written with grace, wit, humor, some satire and great historical detail, the novel centers around one character's search for a suitable husband for her daughter, Lata. Mrs. Rupa Mehra leaves no stone unturned in her search for the right husband for her daughter. Lata is equally determined to make her own choice. But besides this central plot there are also the stories of four families, three of whom are Hindu and one Muslim. The book gives the American reader an insight into an ancient and complex culture.

There are disturbing incidents in the book. No saga of four families can be without tragedy. But there are also sublime moments of joy and even lighthearted fun. Throughout, the importance of family is a thread which ties the whole book together.

Vikram Seth's first book was in verse and you can see the influence of his poetic skills on the prose in the novel. While A Suitable Boy  was written in 1993, it is topical to review it now because the sequel, A Suitable Girl, is due in 2013.

You may or may not be surprised by Lata's choice. I was. But you will be surprised by the depth and breadth of A Suitable Boy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Grand Georgette Heyer

Who else would I choose but Georgette Heyer as my first author in this blog about books that make you feel good? Georgette Heyer was a twentieth century English author who wrote mysteries and historical romances. Most of us love her best for her Regency romances. She wrote about the fascinating period in English history at the beginning of the nineteenth century so well described by Jane Austen. If you loved Jane, you will find Heyer's romances charming and entertaining. Although not the works of art that Austen's books are, Heyer's books use witty dialogue, a romantic setting and a deep understanding of human nature to produce an enjoyable read.

I read her books for the first time as a junior high school girl. They were recommended by my librarian. Then I forgot about them until graduate school told me she loved them for late night reading when she couldn't sleep. So I started looking for copies, all of them out of print. For the longest time, I guarded my copies found in used book stores. Most were held together with rubber bands. Then the Internet appeared and I could replace the most fragile ones on eBay. Now many of them are being reprinted for a new audience.

I couldn't possibly pick my favorite Georgette Heyer novel. But The Grand Sophy would be in the top ten. Amazon sells it here as either a print or Kindle book. . And find it at Barnes and Noble here in print or Nook versions. And, of course, you can find used copies floating around on the Internet as well.

In this novel, a troubled family receives a visit from their unfashionably tall and impossibly liberated cousin, Sophy Stanton-Lacy. She quickly decides to remedy the family's ills while finding romance for herself. She pulls out all the stops to get her cousins well-married by defying convention, meddling, matchmaking and generally creating havoc. And, of course, since it is a romance, all of her plans work out exactly as she wished. I love Sophy's style, her determination and her outrageous sense of humor.

I read and reread my Georgette Heyer books. They're witty. That's so hard to find in literature today. And they're fun. And they are squeaky clean in terms of language and sex. Read the ones in print and then seek out the ones out of print. Abebooks, one of the largest online used bookstores, lists her here in their top ten authors ahead of J. K. Rowling and Charles Dickens. You won't be disappointed.