3 on a theme: living houses

I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

It’s a common trope, the haunted house.  But not so common when the house becomes its own character…

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All read between October 2016 – May 2017

And the Trees Crept In reminded me a lot of House of Leaves, and both books could be on this list.  Even more so than House of Leaves, And the Trees Crept In treated the house like a character.  It also treated the trees like their own character, so it felt everything around the main character was creeping in on her in some threatening way, and feels very much alive.

The Woman in the Wall is about a young girl who feels invisible and disappears into the walls of her house.  She builds intricate tunnels so that she can move about unnoticed, walls off rooms for herself and spirits away food and sewing supplies to make clothing for her family.  The whole novel had a sense of magical realism, and it was clear that members of her family had forgotten about her and thought of the house as being alive.

The final book on this list was the one that got me remembering just how many other stories I had read about houses that felt alive.  In this case, the house in The House IS alive, brought to life by a misplaced spell, and it has raised a child up to be a boy… and it isn’t very happy when a girl comes along and tries to steal him away.

Have you read a book that fits this theme?  Tell me about it in the comments!

3 on a theme: books within books

I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

Well, I started this blog post with three recent titles, then I kept finding more.  I’ll try to keep it to these three, because their inclusion in the novels felt more important to the plot than some of the other fictional titles.

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All read in December 2016-January 2017

The premise of Melanie Raabe’s The Trap includes a mention of the fictional book right on the cover blurb: “I know who killed my sister.  I wrote this book for him.”  The narrator, an author, writes a book called Blood Sisters about her sister’s murder in an effort to lure the murderer, a journalist, to her secluded house, where she plans to get him to confess.  There are chapters from the fictional book, which later one wonders how closely these chapters actually follow the truth.

A fictional book called The Bubblegum Reaper brings together two teens in Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing.  The fictional novel involves a teenage boy who falls in love with a twin who talks to turtles, only he isn’t sure which of the identical twins he’s in love with.  The characters, in their obsession with this book, discover that the author lives nearby and after striking up a friendship with him, also discover that The Bubblegum Reaper seems to be a thinly veiled story of his own life.  Every Exquisite Thing reminded me a LOT of The Fault in Our Stars, which has its own fictional novel, An Imperial Affliction.  Still no idea why the book is called The Bubblegum Reaper.

Finally, and you knew I’d be back to talk about this one, A List of Cages features an entire SERIES of fictional novels: the Elian Mariner books, which sound suspiciously like The Little Prince to me (and I just finished reading Everything, Everything, in which the main character reads and re-reads The Little Prince).  I haven’t actually read that book, so I could be way off, but basically Julian uses these books both to remind him of Adam, and to escape into the stars much like Elian Mariner does.

I often find that characters in books read other books, and most of the time they are real books that exist.  Obviously, authors are readers and they want to pay homage to the books that inspire them.  The use of a fictional book gives the characters the ability to interact with the authors’ lives – obviously, The Trap wouldn’t have worked with a real novel, because it’s all about the author, and the same for Every Exquisite Thing (and The Fault in Our Stars).  For A List of Cages, I think the reason for using a fictional series is largely for one scene, in which one of Julian’s classmates asks what he’s reading, and he gets excited to talk about his favorite books, and we as the reader don’t know what level these books are until the classmate makes a terrible comment, and suddenly we realize that high school freshman Julian is reading books meant for elementary school children.  In that way, The Little Prince wouldn’t have worked, because many adults read it.

Lots and lots of other books include fictional works.  Probably the coolest example of this is Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, in which the main character writes fanfiction for the Simon Snow series (it bears close resemblance to Harry Potter).  So many people were writing fanfiction for this fictional series that Rainbow Rowell actually wrote the fic Cath was working on, and it was published as Carry On Simon.  Doesn’t always happen, but I sure would like to read The Bubblegum Reaper!

Addition, 3/10/17: Found another one!  Currently reading The Man in the High Castle, wherein there is a book titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.  I keep getting the feeling that there is a parallel universe where people read the book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which refers to a fictional book called The Man in the High Castle.

 

3 on a theme: brotherly (and sisterly) love

I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

I’ve become accustomed to YA books that heavily rely on romance.  So YA books that do not have a romance as the central theme stand out to me, and within the past month and a half, I read three such books, and they all focused on sibling relationships.

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Cuckoo Song, which I wrote about in my last 3 on a theme post, focuses on the relationship between two sisters.  Ha – you might have thought it would be the relationship between a brother and a sister, since my last 3 on a theme post was about brothers.  But the actual plot of Cuckoo Song is about Tris, a changeling, who her little sister Pen realizes is not the real Tris.  Fake Tris and Pen’s relationship develops in a positive way, even improving the relationship between Pen and Real Tris.

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics starts out like it’s going to involve romance – Amanda sneaks out of the cabin to be with Henry, and lies to her sister Emily about it.  Amanda also lied to Emily about seeing a demon last winter, so Emily doesn’t really trust her.  But after their family moves to the prairie and Amanda miscarries her baby, Emily pulls through for Amanda.  In the end, it’s all about Amanda and Emily fighting to survive and save their family.

In A List of Cages, which I just finished last night (a book you will be hearing about a lot because I loved it so much), the focus is on two foster brothers.  Julian and Adam are both only children, but Adam’s used to the foster kids his mom brings home, but Julian is different, especially because Adam keeps finding himself in Julian’s life.  While this book has a little bit of a romance between Adam and his girlfriend, the story alternates between Adam and Julian’s voices and is most definitely about their relationship and how it saves Julian’s life.

When I think back to my teen years, I’d have to say that my relationships with my brothers and sister were far more important than any romantic relationship I had.  Really, they knew me best, both because they lived with me and because my friends at school only saw a little part of me, the one I wanted to show them.  With siblings we can usually fight loudly and make up easily, annoy each other to no end yet still be there for each other to play with.  It makes me happy to see that sibling relationships are continuing to be important in YA novels.

 

3 books on a theme: brothers who died in the war

img_3252I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters included among its characters a set of brothers, one of whom is “killed in the war” (the war being World War I).  Stephen’s ghost returns to haunt the narrator and resolve some things that happened between the brothers.

Shortly after reading this one, I read Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, which took place shortly after the end of World War I, and featured another brother killed in the war.  Sebastian “returns” via letters that are deposited in a desk, and haunts his fiancee as well.

Then I started reading an advanced copy of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, and yet another dead brother showed up.  No World War I this time, as the story takes place in a fantasy universe, but Fox dies in the war, and his sister brings him back from the dead.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  In any case, very strange that three books I read within a month’s time had brothers who died in a war and then returned from the dead.