Saturday, September 24, 2011

Girl on Book Action: Top and Bottom Books

Well, my dear pumpkins, it’s the end of an era here at Girl on Book Action.  Out of the blue (or so it might appear) we’re no longer giving you weekly reviews.  As a send-off, here are my top five best and worst books of the last 20ish months (click the title in the headings to jump to my reviews).  What's that? Wren said we were giving our top three with some honorable mentions?  That can't be right...

The Good (ranking reflects the order in which I thought of them, not some sort of antiquarian idea that any of these are better or worse.)

      1.      The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

I don’t really think there is much more I can say about this novel and the impact it has had on my life and my imagination.  I’ll likely continue to re-read it at least once a year for the foreseeable future.  It would take a herculean effort to supplant this book's deep-rooted hold on my heart and the only real contender is Kiernan's next novel, The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. The review is admittedly not one of my best, but you really should just read the book and see for yourself how amazing it is.

     2.      Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja

There are moments when this novel comes back to haunt me in a pleasant sort of way.  The characters are still alive inside my mind and I remember their tragic beauty with great fondness.  I also still love how it feels like it has a supernatural current in its depths, but it’s not at all a supernatural story.  While I might not re-read it as obsessively as I do The Red Tree, I imagine I'll be returning to this one again in the not-too distant future, as well.


3.    The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente

I had a really hard time picking which one of Valente's novels to put in this list, but I think that my review of The Habitation of the Blessed is probably the most coherent (the others might have too much unadulterated gushing).  I think this book is probably also the most challenging of hers that I've read so far and deserves so much praise and love.  Although, if you're just getting started on Valente, I would probably suggest you read Palimpsest first.  It's still breathtakingly beautiful, but maybe just a touch more accessible.  Either way, I love her books and more people need to read her stuff (so that I can discuss with someone!  I still have lots of tea!).

4.  All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear

My last review on the blog and for a book that touched my heart with its combination of bleakness and hope.  Since I talked about it recently I won't write a lot here.  I think the review speaks for itself and if you haven't checked out Bear's work I once more want to encourage you to do so.  Everything of hers that I've read has been great, so unless you hate good, imaginative writing, you really can't go wrong.

5.  Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

I know what you're thinking, I just wrote a top five list and I'm including two posts about the same author.  I have two reasons for this repetition.  The first is that Rosemary and Rue is a very good novel.  The second is that I selfishly think that my review of it is one of my best pieces and as much as this list is about books I've read it's also about what I had to say about them.  Of course, I'm in a similar position to what I already said about the sequel to Feed, which is to say that I haven't yet picked up the second October Daye book.  Rest assured, I aim to remedy that...just as soon as I can.  Anyway, Rosemary and Rue was great fun and you should read it if you haven't already.

Honorable mentions: Mauve Desert by Nicole Brossard, Feed by Mira Grant, Frostbite by David Wellington.

Y'know, it's no easy task picking these tops and bottoms.  In going back over everything I've read for the blog I realized how many good books I've had the pleasure of immersing myself in.  I've really tried to narrow it down to stories that have left some sort of mark on me, the ones that haunt me and call me back to them again (re-reading has been in short supply with the reviewing schedule, sadly).  Alas, they were not all gems.

I think this is the worst book I read in my time writing reviews for GoBA.  Somehow, that also makes this my favourite piece.  I really sunk my nails into this one and I think my gleeful spite for its ridiculous badness makes for an eloquent, funny read.  Also, I got to use the word “uncouth" (twice!).  For all its flaws I think it serves an important lesson in how not to write a novel.  In retrospect, I'd also say that in some ways it carries on the family tradition, since Bram's prose wasn't exactly worthy of praise either (and I feel so strongly about this fact that I refused to read and review the original Dracula and got our good friend Din to do it instead - clicky to go to her awesome review).

Oh, Stephen King. I've come to the conclusion that maybe I just don't like your style.  When I set out to read the whole Dark Tower series, I was excited - gunslingers! alternate universes! a quest to reach a mysterious tower! - all of these things led me to believe that I would thoroughly enjoy these books.  Well, The Drawing of the Three nearly broke my resolve.  I very nearly abandoned my own quest to reach the end of these novels.  Alas, I've prevailed regardless of this obstacle and I'm still determined to finish the last few books.  They can't possibly be worse than this one, although they continue to disappoint.

      3.      Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Like father, like son?  Every so often I think about this book and it makes me angry.  The main character is such a jerk and he really doesn't deserve anyone's attention, ever.  On the whole, this book was extremely disappointing, especially since I'd heard mostly good things about it before picking it up.  Even now I feel my hackles going up, so I best move on before someone gets hurt.

4. The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

Ugh.  This book.  I know it's not high literature, but it was so, so aggravating.  I still don't see why reading historical romance novels means subjecting myself to such anti-feminist tripe.  I don't want to root for the meek, dutiful wife character.  I want be on the side of the strong, independent women, the ones who dare to make a play for power, even if they are unsuccessful.  Okay, deep breath, I'm not going to go on another lengthy rant - I did that in the review, which I think is one of my stronger ones.  Funny how the terrible books bring out the best reviews.

5. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

Another recent review.  I'm still gnashing my teeth about the incessant whining that happened between the cover of this book.  Oh, Lestat, I mourn for your charming ruthlessness, you were never meant to be such a whiny jerk.  In my heart, I will try to remember you as you were, in your prime in Interview with the Vampire.  I bet it's somehow Louis' fault that you turned into such a wretchedly boring whiner.  Damn him!  Damn him forever!  Umm, I mean,...uh just go read my review.  I'm going to go weep into my tea for all the wonderful anti-heroes who have been ruined in the course of authors trying to make them into likeable creatures (I'm looking at you, Dracula: The Undead).  I don't care what Wren says about Interview with the Vampire (the movie), all these irritating whiny vampires need to go sit in the sun for a few hours.

Honorable mentions (or maybe not-so-honorable mentions): Fathom by Cherie Priest, Monster Island by David Wellington, and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

So, there you have it.  Nearly two years distilled into one short post.  I'm looking forward to giving your much-assaulted eyes a rest (reading these walls of text must have been very hard on you).  Of course, now I'll be assaulting your ears with my harpy's voice.

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