Once again those fine folks at The Broke and Bookish came up with a Top Ten Tuesday list I found irresistible, so I put my thinking cap on and came up with these – hopefully you’ll forgive the fact that it isn’t Tuesday…
Snowflake by Paul Gallico
A delightful story of the life of Snowflake, who was “all stars and arrows, squares and triangles of ice and light”. Through Snowflake’s special role in the pattern of creation and life, Paul Gallico has given us a simple allegory on the meaning of life, its oneness and ultimate safety.
A teacher read this one to us when I was in the equivalent of today’s Year Six and I was enchanted. I tracked down a lot more of Paul Gallico’s reads – and to be honest, many of them are unlike anything I’ve ever read, before or since. But they certainly fired up my taste for something different…
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmares.
We were on a caravan holiday in France and I’d scooped this one off the shelves to take with us. I read it one heavy, hot summer afternoon while nibbling on chocolate – suddenly very glad for blazing sunshine and comforting presence of family. And as soon as I got to the end, I started reading it all over again, wanting more of that alluring prose and dark ideas.
Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over. And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.
There is no one whose imagination works in quite the same way as Tricia Sullivan – and this amazing offering is certainly unique. I loved this quirky story and the directions in which it went, while following the fortunes of all the remarkable characters who seem perfectly reasonable – until you realise the prism through which you are looking at them has refracted into something different…
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
The Jorgmund Pipe is the backbone of the world, and it’s on fire. Gonzo Lubitsch, professional hero and troubleshooter, is hired to put it out – but there’s more to the fire, and the Pipe itself, than meets the eye. The job will take Gonzo and his best friend, our narrator, back to their own beginnings and into the dark heart of the Jorgmund Company itself.
Another extraordinary tale that swept me up, held me rapt and then – finally – released me with a doozy of a twist ending I certainly didn’t see coming. This roller-coaster read snaps off the page with memorable lines and exuberant characters – see my review here.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment? Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother, Lowell. Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.
This is a remarkable book – more so as it is based on a true event. And as we follow Rosemary when she goes on a quest to try and track down what happened to Fern, we discover a heartbreaking story of loss and abandonment that started with the best of intentions and ended up blighting the young lives of all the siblings in the family – see my review here.
Touchstone – Book 1 of the Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
Cayden Silversun is part Elven, part Fae, part human Wizard—and all rebel. His aristocratic mother would have him follow his father to the Royal Court, to make a high society living off the scraps of kings. But Cade lives and breathes for the theater, and he’s good—very, very good. With his company, he’ll enter the highest reaches of society and power, as an honored artist—or die trying.
This remarkable series is a tour de force. I haven’t read anything quite like it and I don’t think I ever will… Cayden is a remarkable, spiky character cursed with genius and flashes of prescience. No one else has ever managed to depict the cost of this type of talent so thoroughly as Rawn in this magnificent series, which deserves to be a lot better known – see my review here.
Among Others by Jo Walton
When Mori discovers that her mother is using black magic, she decides to intervene. The ensuing clash between mother and daughter leaves Mori bereft of her twin sister, crippled for life and unable to return to the Welsh Valleys that were her own kingdom. Mori finds solace and strength in her beloved books. But her mother is bent on revenge, and nothing and no one – not even Tolkien – can save her from the final reckoning.
The writing is extraordinary in the pin-sharp description of the everyday, alongside the remarkable and Mori’s character is so compellingly realistic and nuanced, I’m undecided whether there is a large chunk of autobiographical detail wrapped up in this book. And I don’t really care – other than to fervently hope, for her sake, there isn’t too much that is borrowed from Walton’s own life. Memorable and remarkable art invariably is a fusion of imagination and reality – and this is both a memorable and remarkable book. See my review here.
A Kind of Vanishing by Lesley Thomson
Summer 1968: the day Senator Robert Kennedy is shot, two nine-year-old girls are playing hide and seek in the ruins of a deserted village. When it is Eleanor’s turn to hide, Alice disappears.
Thomson immediately plunges into the world of young girls, depicting first Eleanor’s rich interior landscape and then allowing us to access to Alice’s carefully modulated world, where her doting parents watch her every move. Thomson paints an exquisite picture of each girls’ fragilities, their aspirations and pin-sharp awareness of adult expectations. She beautifully inhabits the terrible, wonderful world of childhood – and the girls’ growing antipathy towards each other as they are forced to play together – until that disastrous game of hide and seek. This thriller/mystery is like nothing else I’ve read – see my review here.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This is the first of the acclaimed Man Booker prizewinning books about Henry VIII’s bully boy Thomas Cromwell, who oversaw the dissolution of the monasteries. Mantel instantly had me off-balance with her present tense, third person deep POV when we first meet Cromwell being beaten by Walter, his drunken father, and he is lying on the ground trying to summon up the will to move. So Mantel quickly gains our sympathy for her protagonist – but rather than chart his adventures in Europe where he spent time as a mercenary and scholar, we then jump to when he is in Cardinal Wolsey’s employ and establishing himself as a man of substance.
The biggest problem for Mantel in choosing this period of history, is that many of us know the progression of events all too well. But while that is the frame and backdrop in this compelling read – it is Cromwell’s intense presence throughout that had me turning the pages and mourning the fact when there were no more pages… See my review here.
Embassytown by China Miéville
Embassytown, a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. On Arieka, Humans are not the only intelligent life. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Miéville’s brilliant imagination produces a truly unusual alien species with a Language where emotion and meaning are inextricably linked, requiring human identical twins raised to be able to think and talk in tandem in order to keep the isolated human enclave, Embassytown, supplied with food and resources. Until it all goes horribly wrong… A fabulous examination of what it means to communicate. This book should be required reading for all prospective diplomats, in my opinion… See my review here.
Yikes I have not read any of these! Anything by China Mieville has got to be pretty unique though! I’ve read a couple of his other books, but not Embassytown and it’s definitely on the tbr! I’ve also got to read Jo Walton! Among Others is on my to read list too, and I even have a copy of that one signed by her!
I don’t always find Mieville a satisfying read – but this one is one of my all-time favourite books. So clever, so sharp – and such a cracking story. As for Jo Walton – she is one of the best speculative fiction writers out there, in my opinion. She has such an original take, with a lovely smooth writing style that snags you in until you realise what you’ve just experienced. I always put her books down fizzing with excitement!
I really enjoyed reading this post and have added a couple of books to my wish list! I especially love the sound of Among Others and definitely want to get a copy of this to read soon.
Thank you, Hayley:). I’d love to hear your take on Among Others – Jo Walton is an amazing writer.
I haven’t read any of your unique reads, but you sure made me want to! They look both good and unique, and that’s always a plus.
Have a great day and happy reading 🙂
Thank you Lexxie – I hope your day is a wonderful one, too:).
I’m reading now Wolf Hall – thanks to your suggestion. What an amazing book! Thanks!
I’m delighted you’re enjoying it so much:)).
This is such a neat post idea. I might have to tackle it in the future. 🙂 And yours is probably the third or fourth Top Ten Unique Reads post I’ve read in the past week, and it’s been fascinating to see how different everyone’s picks have been. As for your list, I haven’t read any of the 10 books, but I’m pretty sure the Jo Walton and Melanie Rawn books are on my wishlist.
It was such fun to compile – I don’t normally take part in this one, but I couldn’t resist… In fact, I’m also about to write up a second part – because there were so many OTHER unique books that I couldn’t talk about… Jo Walton and Melanie Rawn are both brilliant authors and well worth reading:)
A Part 2? Nice! I’ll keep an eye for that. 🙂
Interesting selection, Sarah. I know a few titles on your list, but was unfamiliar with the others. It makes me think of what I’d put on my list of unique reads. I might follow your footsteps with a post.
Oh do join in if you have time – it’s so much fun… to the extent that I’m probably going to compile a Part 2 as there were a LOT I had to leave out:).
Looking forward to part 2 then :). And I’m hoping to get back on track with my blog posts (and reading blogs), and share my unique reads “soon”.
Looking forward to reading your blog posts again when you’ve time. But I’m well aware that Life can intervene. As for Part 2, it has been rather pushed to the bottom of the pile as my illness last week seriously messed up my schedule.
Sorry to hear about your illness. I hope you’ll recover and get to enjoy blogging again 🙂
Thank you Joanna:). I’ve more or less recovered, though it’s taken longer than I would have liked and my energy levels still aren’t normal.
I have heard of Snowflake before and intend to check it out. And, We Are All Beside Ourselves is one of the most unique/strangest books I have ever read. I am unable to forget it, though I couldn’t answer the question, “Did you like it?” with anything but, “I don’t know.”
I hope you like Snowflake – I think that teacher set me on the course for loving quirky, unusual reads. And as for We Are All Beside Ourselves – it really is different… and something of a heartbreak, but I’m very glad I read it. Have a great week, Rae:)
I love how Embassytown sounds! this concept of another intelligent way of life with such a unique interesting use of language! 🙂
It is one of those books that has stayed with me – I regularly find myself pondering it, and that’s always the mark of a fabulous read, isn’t it?
I’ve read a couple off here and would like to read a few of the others. I still haven’t read Mieville – I have City and the City but just need to get round to reading it.
But I would say that if you don’t get on with it, don’t think Embassytown is the same – I have a love/hate relationship with his work…
I was JUST writing about Bradbury’s SOMETHING WICKED for an upcoming post! Great minds! 😉 xxxx
It is an amazing book and was certainly a major gamechanger in the genre, I think…
Pingback: The Mystery Blogger Award | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog
Pingback: The 2017 Blogoversary, Part 1: Ten Unique Reads I Highly Recommend + Giveaway | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog