Recent reads #10 - 14 / Possible summer reading list?

I've been neglecting my recent reads lately, although not the reading portion.  Since I'm sure many of you have been seeing Summer Reading Lists gathered on the interweb these past few days, I'm going to rank my recent reads for the past few weeks on a scale of 1 - 10 for Summer Reading Acceptibility (1 being the worst and 10 being the best):

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely - 5

Pete Tarslaw's ex-girlfriend has invited him to her wedding and in an effort to give her the ultimate middle finger, Pete decides that he is going to write the next best selling fiction novel.  And so begins our tragic hero's quest to redemption.  This is written as a satire on the publishing world but also reveals the real, ugly and hilarious side of human nature.  Pete's character is flawed but Hely allows the reader to easily relate to him and his motivations for what he defines as success.  The book is a riot at times - particularly the Top 10 Bestsellers Lists.  If you've ever read a book and thought "I could've written that," then this book is for you.

Galore by Michael Crummey - 4

I shouldn't have read this novel so soon after reading We, The Drowned.  I would have had greater appreciation if I had not read one with a similar setting (cold, in the north, by the sea) and storytelling style.  Galore is set in the Newfoundland village of Paradise Deep and tells the story of the generations of family and inhabitants that live there.  It invokes a mysticism that is typically seen in Latin American literature but I'm discovering it in different parts of the world.  Please give yourself a break between reading We, The Drowned and Galore and you'll be able to enjoy both independently as good yarns about the sea and the people who live by it.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville - 7

As you may have already gathered, I have an author crush on China Mieville.  Perdido Street Station is one of the earliest examples of the strength of his writing (second published novel).  Mieville's country of New Crobuzon set in his fictional world of Bas-Lag is populated by the most fantastical of inhabitants - cactus-people, beetle-women, bird-people.  Mieville's world has been described and personified in such detail that you begin to wonder how someone could have ever come up with this in his head.  I, for one, could be convinced that all if it is somehow fantastically true.  I can't classify this novel into a specific genre - it has characteristics of fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, etc.  But enter Mieville's alternate universes in any of his novels and you won't ever look for a way out.

The Scar by China Mieville - 7

The Scar is the non-sequel sequel to Perdido Street Station - same world, different characters.  And I do think this one is just as good as the first.  Mieville explores the oceans of Bas-Lag in this novel, in a Water Worldesque setting where a floating city of pirates is on a mysterious mission across the seas.  For me, one of the missing pieces of Mieville's writing begins to make itself apparent in this novel.  Mieville is never able to develop any chemistry between his characters on the page.  Its not that Mieville never presents the perfect opportunity for this to take place.  It's just that its never capitalized upon.  This, I realize, is a personal critique and others may not feel the same.  However, I do feel with such intense settings that the characters are often left so alone.  I have the third novel in the series on order and will definitely let you know how everything rounds out.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - 7

I bought this book for my dad as part of his birthday present and read the entire thing on Sunday.  This novel broke my heart with its depiction of American POWs in Japanese camps, the descriptions and images of the damage and death to the young men who fought in WWII and the sorrow and emptiness of families who were back at home.  It also left me inspired by the spirit and determination of Louie Zamperini, the main character whose will to live and unwavering ability to never give up serves as the backdrop of the novel's title and theme.  It was quite an appropriate read on Memorial Day and an excellent read for any other time as well.  I smell a movie coming out of this novel, as with Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit.


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