Book recommendations

Kyra Jucovy klj at sccs.swarthmore.edu
Mon Sep 3 05:39:50 EDT 2001


Complete With Happy Tie-ins to Other Threads!!!!

	Disclaimer: Ai-yi-yi, this turned out long.
	Hmm.
	For some reason I am feeling a terrible urge to write book
recommendations to the list rather than going to sleep.  I have no idea
why.  You people are e-ville ;-).
	Anyway, not only do I not have any time to read, but I'm also in a
kind of Japanese mood at the moment (and since I don't read Japanese, that
means anime and video games), so I can't list "books I've enjoyed
recently".  Well, okay, there's _"Death in Venice" and Other Stories_
by Thomas Mann, but does that fit?  Anyway, I do feel like running through
a list of favorites from my childhood, for some reason.
	Now, the books I'm about to list are _second-string_
favorites.  That's my very old term for books that aren't actually my
favorites, but are really fun and worth some rereads.  Some of these have
probably been discussed on the list before, but I am forgetful.  Coming
back after having written this, I should point out that there is _much_
rambling.  Apologies :(.

_The Book of the Dun Cow_ by Walter Wangerin - this is an odd one.  As far
as I can recall, it was one of the very few books shelved in the adult
section of the library that I read at an early age, mainly because it was
listed under "B" in the computer catalog under the category fantasy and I
was curious about what a fantasy book was doing in the adult section
;-).  Then I could never remember the title or author and, the couple of
times I reread it, had to search under the category fantasy again to find
it.  In looking at it again, which I did very recently, I was surprised by
just how adult it is, in some ways, and by the fact that I didn't seem to
have noticed at all as a child.  Also, I was very surprised to learn when
I went searching for it that it was explicitly Christian.  Anyway. . . 
seriously disturbing book about farmyard animals (in the days before
humans) who have to protect the world from Bad Evil.  Depressing but not
so much so as to turn me off from it as a fairly small child (supposedly
there's a sequel which is much worse!).

Jenny Nimmo - wrote two children's fantasies which took place in
Wales.  In rereading them last summer, I decided that the first was
infinitely better.  Part of why I like them is because they are so nice
and Welsh.  They're also a good meld of sf and fantasy, although heavily
fantasy-weighted in tone.

_Three Lives to Live_ by Anne Lindbergh - The daughter of Charles and Anne
Morrow.  She wrote other stuff, none of which is as good as this
IMHO.  It's about Garet, who lives with her grandmother and mysteriously
gets a new sister (who is her age), Daisy.  One great thing about the book
is that it's written as an assignment that Garet has to do for school,
and she has to keep on rewriting it - I'm a sucker for authors who do cool
things with 1st person (obDWJ: DWJ is, of course, my idol for this!).  The
last chapter is just hysterical, btw.

Daniel Pinkwater - Surely he _must_ have been mentioned on list
before?  My favorites are _Borgel_, which reminds me strongly of Douglas
Adams, and _Alan Mendelsohn, Boy From Mars_, which is one of those books
where I feel a passionate envy for the main characters and the
experiences they get to have.  Very funny author in general.

I'm absolutely positive that Jane Yolen's _Sister Light, Sister Dark_ and
_White Jenna_ have been mentioned here before, but I'll just add my voice
to that of whoever else recommended them.  Wish I could find the third
one.

_The Third Magic_ by Welwyn Wilton Katz - This one ties in the music
thread.  Right after I first read this, my mother, who is a dancer,
choreographed and performed a dance to Madonna's "Like a Prayer."  For
some reason, I always _really_ strongly associate that song with this
book.  Then, bizarrely enough, I took a class on philosophy of music
wherein one of the books discussed said song and described some of the
things the author thought it was doing (things that had never occurred to
me and that I take with a grain of thought) which happened to tie in
directly with blatant themes of the book.  It was a weird
experience.  Right.  That was a tangent again.  Anyway, this is a _very_
nice book - certain of the ideas in it have directly influenced at least
one thing I plan to write.  Authurian - but in nice, happy, original
ways.  Strike the happy, though - I've never been able to decide why I
find the ending _quite_ so depressing as I do, but it's not entirely
gleeful either.

_User Unfriendly_ by Vivian Vande Velde - I've read a couple of other
books by her, both fantasy-romances, which, intriguingly enough, had the
exact same male romantic lead, only in one book he was a vampire and in
the other a dragon.  He happens to be very much just my type, though, so I
can't say I minded ;-).  Aside from that, though, I liked this one a lot
better.  Probably because it cracks me up - it's about a group of kids who
illegally use a virtual reality program to run a RPG campaign.  One of
them takes his mother along.  There's a whole running gag about dwarves
and family honor, not to mention other funny bits.  Plus, there's a twist
which surprised me enough so that I had to read the whole thing over
immediately after the first time I finished it, which is always a Good
Thing.

_Charmed_ by Marilyn Singer - The main character is named
Miranda!  Yay!  (Err, it's one of my favorite names).  Anyway, a book
about how Miranda and various companions travel to different universes in
order to combat the evil Charmer.  I _really_ like the universes in this
one, and I like the way the intelligent animals act.  

_Colors in the Dreamweaver's Loom_ and _The Feast of the Trickster_ by
Beth Hilgartner - I still remember rereading these for the first time
right at the beginning of some summer (maybe 1995?), after I had spent a
school year not reading very much, and thinking, "Oh, yes, _that's_ why I
love reading so much."  Anyway, these books are about a girl, Alexandra or
Xan or Tsan, who gets transported to another world and has to help some of
the people there.  The former (Colors) has what seems like a very cliched
plot, but has _really_ likable characters (IMHO) and is less
earth-shattering that a lot of fantasy, more personal, which I have to
admit I like.  The second is more original - at least, it's the only book
I've ever read in which a mischievous goddess goes to a
psychologist.  They're both just very _yay_ books.

and

the Seven Citadels quartet by Geraldine Harris - I don't think I can
emphasize enough how much I love these books.  But the copies that my
library has of them has a DWJ blurb on the back, so maybe that'll pursuade
people to read them.  This is just a fantastically detailed world,
and, again, I _love_ the characters.  Yum, yum, yum.  Basically, the book
is about an ancient empire which is clearly doomed.  A young prince and
his half-brother (IIRC the son of a concubine) must save it by
encountering seven immortal sorcerers/esses - and persuading them to give
up their powers.  These books just rule.

Oh, and people were talking about Gnosticism b/c of DWJ's answers.  My own
fascination with Gnosticism comes largely from PKD's _Valis_, which I know
I've mentioned before (by the way, as long as I'm recommending books, I
should recommend Dick's _A Scanner Darkly_, which is even better than
_Valis_.  It's about drugs, which I never thought would have interested me
as a subject, but is just amazing with it.  And then - you know how you
read a book, and somewhere towards the end you think, "Oh, cool, those
plot points are actually playing a role in the theme of the book as
well!"  Well, with _A Scanner Darkly_, I thought (at the very end), "Oh,
cool, those thematic issues are actually also plot points,
wow!").  Gnosticism of course proposes that the God who created the world
is in fact evil and is merely deluded into thinking that he is the true
creator of existence.  Anyway, PKD's version of it has this truly _lovely_
version of the world where all sorts of things that look just random
actually have important meaning - so if you see a commercial which ends
with the word "King" right before "Felix" the cat, it's actually a secret
message from the true God about Christ.  I've always really loved the
idea of that kind of world, in which everything has a hidden meaning and
you have to decipher it.  Anyway, I have explicitly described the
attraction of Gnosticism as presented by PKD as: "Wouldn't it be great if
the world were a story?  Written by Diana Wynne Jones?"  I suppose that 
DWJ must be sort of my ideal deity, in a way (wonder what she'd have said 
if I had mentioned _that_ in my question to her.  Eep.).

					---Kyra


---
Me: How do you ever expect to write fiction if you can't get inside a
woman's head?
Ethan: Well, I can with a knife.




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