Last week I talked about some of the books I’d read sort-of recently. This is the second installment, where I talk about some of the books that I’ve read even more recently :) Links to books on Amazon are affiliate links!
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux: Sometimes I listen to musicals soundtracks while I’m editing, and I listened to the Phantom of the Opera over and over one day. It made me want to read the novel. I found it for 99 cents for Kindle so I read it. To be honest, it was a little weird reading just the story, when the biggest part about POTO is the music. It was a little bit of a letdown. The Phantom is much less pitiable in the original version — he’s more of a real villain. At least when Gerard Butler plays him he seems more sympathetic. But this is a quick read, and gives a more thorough backstory than what we’re used to if we only know the musical version :)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: After numerous people mentioned how good this novel was, I had to read it. The Book Thief is written from the point of view of Death, and takes place during WWII. I’m a big WWII nut (well, not that much of a nut, but nuttier than many) so this intrigued me from the beginning. The book follows the story of one adopted little girl in a small German town. As she learns to read and bond with her foster father, she learns more about the war, kindness of people, and the depth of human experience. It’s a slow, poetic novel to read. Hard to digest. When I finished this, I sat in bed for a while and just let it sink in. Then I went to take a shower and while in there I just burst into tears — full-on ugly-crying. I love books that can do that to me. I’d wholeheartedly recommend it.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: I have die-hard Atwood fans as friends (however, I am terrible and still haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale). Oryx and Crake tells the story of Snowman, a guy who survived the death of the human race somehow, as he remembers how his survival came to be. I loved the storytelling — as Snowman hops forward trying to solve his current problems, his mind flashes back to the beginning, when he met his best friend Crake and his lover Oryx, and how they were involved in the world’s ruin.
This book was pretty amazing. It was easy to read, but the information was heavy. The scary thing is that I could see this happening sometime in the future. The past that Snowman remembers is like our present — the book was published in 2002 so it includes the internet and genetically modified food & product companies having a large influence over our everyday lives. In my mind, if certain chips fell a certain way in our current world, this could happen to us (in a worst-case-scenario). Really freaky. It was hard for me to fall asleep the night I finished this.
I hear there is a sort-of sequel, The Year of the Flood, which is now on my to-read list…
Angelfall: Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee: I was on a dystopian kick so I next went for Angelfall. It’s actually more of a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel than a societal fall-out (in this case, angels-from-heaven came and kicked off a wave of human genocide) and follows Penryn, a kick-ass heroine determined to find her little sister. I have to admit, young adult fantasy is not typically my cup of tea. I wanted something light and I’d heard that this was good. I thought the beginning (the first half of the story) dragged. The characters were in an obvious predicament. The story played out like I thought it would, with a few small surprises. But it was entertaining, fast-paced (after we got past the first half), and the characters were endearing enough for me to wonder what might happen next.
To be quite honest, my favorite character was Penryn’s missing sister, even though she wasn’t in the book that much.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: I really respect Laura Hillenbrand. I was assigned to read her autobiographical short story about her illness (she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome) in college, and realized how much effort she puts into every sentence she writes. I read Seabiscuit a few years ago and was amazed by her level of detail. And this is the big thing: she can write. Some historians are awful writers — they understand the topic brilliantly, but deliver the information in dry, undigestible chunks of text. Hillenbrand actually puts you in the story of Unbroken, and to be honest, had I not seen the pages and pages of endnotes and works cited in the back of this book, I would have thought it was a beautiful work of fiction. Some characters are so well-fleshed-out, and the twists and turns in the story are almost unbelievable.
Unbroken is about Louie Zamperini, a once-Olympic runner who survived a plane crash during WWII and survived weeks in the Pacific. When he was finally “rescued” from the life raft by enemy forces, he was sent to a POW camp and abused. These aren’t spoilers, mind you; the book deals with his life story and his strength of will. The Pacific theater isn’t dealt with much when people talk about WWII — it’s usually about the European side, Nazis, Holocaust, D-Day… and when the Japanese involvement is described, we usually only hear about Pearl Harbor in 1941 and then the atomic bombs in 1945. So this book shows a bit more about what happened over there in the interim.
As I said before, I love WWII history, so this was an amazing treat. This book is seriously one of the best books I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor and read it.