Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi was the last book I'd read before the two-week hiatus from reading. Oyeyemi manages to tell a unique story that stands well on its own, discussing complex ideas likes miscegenation in an elegant fashion. It was less dense than I thought it would be, as most retellings I've read tend to be heavily embroidered, as though the author's scribbling "mine" all over the story. I also enjoyed the two POV characters, as they had very individual voices that complemented each other.
The Magic Kingdom by Stanley Elkin took me a while to get through because of the main storyline (terminally-ill children visit Disneyland). But while a lot of the content and characterisation made me raise my eyebrows, the writing is very engaging, and Elkin's style makes the book difficult to put down. I felt a bit cheated by the ending, but the whole plot was a bit nebulous to begin with. Sometimes I feel as though a book is structured a certain way in the service of the themes of the story, but Kingdom just felt as thought it'd been hastily wrapped up, no matter how many parallels I can draw between the pacing and the brief lives of the children, etc.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer was terrifying. I'd seen the title floating around on book blogs and websites months back, but I really hadn't thought much of it other than wonder how the entire Southern Reach Trilogy, was going to be published this year. But gosh, this book was so creepy, like pervasively creepy, that I actually stepped out of an airconditioned café so that I could sit in the sun while I read this. In the Philippine summer! The novel builds up really well too, and by the time I was two-thirds through it, I was (mentally) panting with the pace. It escalates exponentially, and I am really glad that the next novel's coming out in May, because otherwise, the momentum would have been broken??? I don't know how else to explain it without spoiling it. I don't even know how to spoil it coherently without giving the whole game away.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson was a quick read, relative to the other Sanderson books I've read. As a semi-retired fan of superhero comics, I appreciated the use of the evil overlord superhero trope. It was interesting, but I felt as thought most of the story were drawn in broad strokes, and the Sanderson cascade at the end didn't sit well with me. Sanderson usually writes worlds with contrasting supernatural/superpowered elements in them, and usually, they gel well together. But in this novel, the other half of the powered coin doesn't quite do it for me? I'm definitely reading the rest of the series, because I'm hoping that the succeeding novels will manage to fill the world in a bit more and help me get more attached to the main characters.
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida (translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell) hadn't been on my radar until I was browsing the bestseller list in National Bookstore. It's a fairly slim book and it comes with David Mitchell's name on the cover. I haven't read Cloud Atlas (yet) but I do know that Mitchell's a heavy-hitter in the publishing scene, and a good thing too or this book would never have legitimately made it over to English-speaking markets. It was originally written in Japanese, by a teenage boy with autism, and it's a sort of FAQ for those who would want to understand those who are on the spectrum. I've got a cousin who was diagnosed around five years back and his mum's always looking for literature to help her properly address his needs, so I gave it a read before tossing it at her. I found it very enlightening and matter of fact, and written in a clear and engaging voice.
My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl is a raunchy novel that I was not prepared for. I've loved Roald Dahl since I was a kid (the first book I'd ever lent out and lost was Matilda) and while I'd known that he was a bit naughty for kid's lit, AND read Skin, a collection of mature short stories, I was absolutely staggered by the adult content. :)) Once I got over it though, wow. It is possibly the most cheerful and delightful novel one could ever read about its subject matter. I am really convinced that Roald Dahl could have written anything he wanted to and made it a whimsical romp through depravity. GOSH. It has quite a bit of objectionable stuff in it, non-con being the first on the list, but I really highly recommend this to anyone who thinks they can stomach it. Please read it and come talk to me about it because it is difficult to discuss it with someone who hasn't experienced its morality-bending powers.
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson is one of his earlier novels, and the first in his YA series about evil librarians (it's in the title). It's almost unrecognisable from the other Sanderson novels I've read, and seems to be closer in kin to surreal adventures like Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series, or Fforde's entire bibliography. It's only just interesting enough that I might consider reading the next books eventually, but I'm not in any rush to get to them. The characters are not very well-developed, and the pacing was too quick for all the stuff that was packed into it.
The Martian by Andy Weir is easily the best thing I've read in April. I won't feel guilty about telling you the premise, because it's all right there in the first chapter: an astronaut is left for dead on Mars following an accident that makes his team scrub their mission. The astronaut then needs to figure out how to survive until the next mission gets there.... in four years. You would think that it would be a really depressing novel, similar to other shipwreck stories we have read, but this was really such a joy to read. Most of the book's written through the astronaut's journal entries of his attempts at survival, and he is such a lovely dear person that I was protective of him by the time I finished his first entry, and probably in book-love with him within seven sols. I definitely recommend it to everyone! Read it, and rekindle your faith in humanity! Also Chris Hadfield, actual astronaut and space survivor, liked it and praised it for its accuracy. COME ON.
Next 20 Reads:
1. S by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
2. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
3. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
4. Countdown City by Ben Winters
5. Adaptation by Malinda Lo
6. The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow
7. Iron Council by China Mieville
8. A Highly Unlikely Scenario -or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor
9. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
10. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
11. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemmingway
12. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
13. Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
14. Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
15. Off to be the Wizard by Scott Meyer
16. Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
17. Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach
18. The Witch Queen by Jan Siegl
19. Sous Chef by Michael Gibney
20. Dancer by Colum McCann
Jesus fuck it took me so long to finish this post.