A couple of weeks ago, Joan, a friend from high school tagged me to do the #10bookschallenge. It had been going around Facebook, but unfortunately, not a lot of people read books these days so it didn’t gain much traction compared to other memes and tag games.
The challenge goes like this:
I shared my list on Facebook and Instagram, but I thought I’d expound on my choices here, because why not? If you care to read and one of the books strike you as interesting, then I would be so glad if you went ahead and got a copy to read as well.
And of course, if you haven’t done this challenge yet, then I tag you!
“The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” by Cassandra Rose Clarke
“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”
Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is now to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion…and more. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world, and in Cat’s heart.
This book strikes me as an angst-filled version of The Bicentennial Man. It’s that movie starring Robin Williams as an android who falls in love with a human. I had so many feels as I devoured this book in less than four hours. The characters are flawed and the development of their relationships are actually realistic. Every time I think of this book, I get a lump in my throat. It’s heartbreakingly good.
“The Game” by Terry Schott
A virtual reality simulation played by over a billion children around the world. The best players are celebrities, adored and worshiped by countless fans. Zack is a superstar among players.
His final play may change the world, forever…
What if this world we live in is actually a simulation, and we are all video game characters created and played by someone else? Kind of like The Sims. If that intrigues you, get this book now.
I picked up The Game because I was browsing for the top most downloaded free e-books on Amazon Kindle. At first, the book’s pacing didn’t sit well with me, because the beginning chapter read more like reality show recaps than a story. There was too much telling and little showing. But I stuck with it, and finished the book in under twelve hours.
The author did a great job humanizing the characters. No one was absolutely “good” or “evil”. They all had qualities that made them infallible, even the heroes Trew/Zack and Danielle/Alex. Heck, even the villain Carl was likable in a way.
The Game is the first book in a series.
“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns” by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
I was not the biggest Mindy Kaling fan when I first saw her in No Strings Attached. But I grew to love her in The Office. I thought her humor was spot on and I was even more impressed when I learned that she was actually one of the writers on the show.
This book is funny without trying too hard. Mindy’s reactions to many things mirror mine, so I really felt a connection with her. Unlike most celebrity memoirs that I’ve read, Mindy’s doesn’t sound over-indulgent or inauthentically wacky.
“A Certain Slant of Light” by Laura Whitcomb
In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen–terrified, but intrigued–is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.
This is probably the first non-popular book that I actually liked. The story is unique and I am so glad I picked it up from the bookstore even back when I had very little money to spend on anything.
A Certain Slant of Light is a story about a benevolent ghost named Helen who takes over the soulless but functional body of a high school girl who is raised in a very strict Christian home. Helen also meets James, another ghost who inhabits the body of a a high school boy.
Admittedly, it seems wrong that Helen and James do as they wish with the bodies that they took, but I forgave that because the rest of the book is actually sad, infuriating (Jenny’s family especially), and and heartbreaking.
There is a sequel to this book called Under the Light, but I didn’t find it as gripping.
“‘–All You Zombies–‘” by Robert A. Heinlein
First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction – March, 1959 – the story involves a number of paradoxes caused by time travel. It further develops themes explored by the author in a previous work, “By His Bootstraps”, published some 18 years earlier.
This is actually a short story that you can find online. I chanced upon ‘–All You Zombies–‘ a few years ago because I was taking a Science Fiction and Literature class. One of the authors we covered was Heinlein.
By the end of the story, I can say that my mind was blown. It is a short read, so I highly recommend that you check it out.
“Quicksilver” by Stephanie Spinner
Hermes—also known as Mercury, Wayfinder, and Prince of Thieves—has many talents. Wearing his famed winged sandals, he does the bidding of his father Zeus, leads the dead down to Hades, and practices his favorite arts of trickery and theft. He also sees the future, travels invisibly, loves jokes, and abhors violence. And he’s an entertaining and ideal narrator on a fast-paced journey through ancient Greek mythology—from Medusa’s cave to Trojan War battlefields to the mysterious Underworld.
I love Greek mythology. When we covered it for almost an entire semester of English class back in high school senior year, I was ecstatic. There is just something very fascinating about a plethora of gods and goddesses influencing human lives and starting legends and origin stories.
So when I came across Quicksilver at the bookstore, I was immediately intrigued by the cover and the summary. Hermes, a lesser known god, is front and center in this retelling of Greek mythology. The books follows his adventures doing Zeus’ bidding. It is a fast-paced and witty story about the elusive messenger god. Entertaining and perfect for some light reading.
“Bringing Up the Bones” by Lara M. Zeises
Bridget Edelstein is taking a year off before she goes to college, to try to recover from the the recent death of Benji, her longtime best friend-turned-reluctant boyfriend. Rather than accept support from her friends or family, Bridget turns to Jasper, a wonderful guy willing to nurse her broken soul-when she lets him. As she comes to terms with life without Benji, and the truth about their relationship, Bridget learns that being able to love deeply and truly is essential, even if the one you love doesn’t feel the same. More importantly, she discovers that happiness pinned to another person is only an illusion-now it’s time to find happiness on her own.
I regret trading my copy away on Bookmooch because I really miss reading this book. It’s a YA novel that I picked up on a whim back in college. It was more mature than the Harry Potter novels that I was so crazy about.
Bridget is depressed about the untimely death of her boyfriend Benji, so she takes on a friends with benefits relationship with Jasper, a boy she met at a party. Neither of her relationships are perfect nor do they end well, which I think makes this book more real. There is no clear-cut happy ending for Bridget, and that’s okay.
“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury
The advanced technology of a house first pleases then increasingly terrifies its occupants.
Like ‘–All You Zombies–‘ , I ran into The Veldt during Sci. Fi and Lit. class because it was actually an assigned reading. It is a short story available in PDF format from this website.
This short story is so creepy, but that didn’t stop deadmau5 from producing a music video based on it. The song is more upbeat that the story, I assure you.
I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but it basically involves a high-tech house, a room that simulates an African veldt, two spoiled children, and two very unlucky parents.
“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.
My mom kept a copy of this book in her office and when she left the Philippines, the book migrated to our house. It was then that I read it, intrigued by its cartoon-like cover and endearing premise involving a boa constrictor that resembled a hat.
I have to be honest, as a ten-year-old, my first few readings didn’t make much sense. The story seemed too fantastical and philosophical for my tastes. But as I grew older and revisited its pages, I found myself nodding thoughtfully rather than raising an eyebrow and going “Huh?”
The Little Prince is a heart-warming and magical book that I think everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…
I feel like The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of what happens if Republicans ruled the country. The theocratic government is ridiculous–no separation of church and state at this point.
The people in power get to dictate what women do with their bodies and minds. Women’s names are taken away and replaced with Of-*name of her master*, such as Offred and Ofglen. They are not allowed to read and have any access to knowledge. Even their wombs are no longer their own. Once a month, Handmaids must have wordless, passionless sex with their Commander while the Commander’s wife watches, in order to get pregnant because in Gilead, infertility is rampant. This infertility is caused my pollution and chemicals, something that is probable in the real world.
The characters of this book are not one-dimensional. They are not the kind that you can just classify as good or bad. What I did notice is complacency across the board. Possibly resignation as well. Offred grew resigned to her life when she has bearable moments with Nick. Moira, once independent and rebellious, gave up and became a prostitute at Jezebel’s. Serena Joy, while unhappy of her domestic arrangement, relishes in the power trip she gets in the household and uses it as a chance to get back at Offred. The Commander, although seemingly lonely and kind, is really just using Offred’s companionship for selfish reasons. The characters are human and not without fault, which I really liked.
The Handmaid’s Tale is now definitely in my list of favorite dystopian novels.