Ok, so I didn't exactly get these in before October like I planned, but better late than never right? The last three books on the list were:
Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler
The Scribe: Irin Chronicles Book One by Elizabeth Hunter
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
So, without further ado, here are my thoughts...
I should put a disclaimer on this review. Full disclosure, Octavia Butler is my FAVORITE author. Not one of my favorites, not in my top 5 authors of all time, she is THE favorite. In the characters she has created, I have found myself. In the stories she has woven I have felt a deeper connection with the world, and gained new understanding and insights into the human condition. It was while reading her works, and learning about her life, that I began to feel it would never be enough for writing to just be a "hobby." Reading her work has helped me to know myself better, and I am forever grateful for the beautiful body of work she created.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get down to these amazing and "unexpected" stories. They are incredible. The first story, "A Necessary Being," is a complete tease. You can not help but wonder what that story might have been had Butler had the time to flesh it out into a longer story, or as she was so fond of creating, a series. But in the short glimpse of this alien-world, Butler immediately draws you in to a culture and society that while extraordinarily unique, that also feels vaguely familiar and entirely plausible. She weaves a story of caste systems, and extinction and war and unlikely courtship, that leaves you spinning all kinds of permutations in your mind of what may have happened next. "Childfinder" reads like a spin-off of Butler's earlier "Wild Seed" series. This story is equally as riveting as the first, although, one can take comfort in re-reading the aforementioned series, when you come to the end and are left wanting more.
Unexpected Stories is only available via ebook, much to my dismay, as I own a hardcopy of every book Butler has written. I would suggest downloading to any and every device you own as soon as you are able. You won't regret it.
I am going to do my very best to contain myself as I write this review, but OH MY GOD, this book is amazing. If you have not heard of the amazing self-published author, Elizabeth Hunter, do yourself a favor and go to her website right this minute. Not five minutes from now. Not in a couple days. RIGHT THIS MINUTE. I finished this book about 36 hours after I started it. I immediately recommended it to my sister, and I think she finished it in less than 24 hours. In my defense it was a very busy time for me when I picked up The Scribe: Irin Chronicles Book One, or I likely could have finished it in one sitting.
The world of The Scribe is a world of the children of angels, and ancient cities and hidden societies, and epic love stories… oh, the love story. The love that exists in these pages is the kind of love people spend their whole lives searching for, and just reading about it makes you feel warm inside. Hunter crafts a world that is entirely believable, and you find yourself completely immersed in the journey of the characters she has created, almost as if they were your own dear friends.
I was elated to find out that this book too, like the others she has written, would be part of a series. When I complete all the books on my Fall Reading List, The Singer, which is the second book in this series, will be my reward. Hopefully that will tide me over until the third book, The Secret, comes out in the Winter of 2015. Here's hoping she means early winter, like January...
The Invention of Wings
So, as you may recall, when I set out to finish these last three books from my Summer Reading List, I had 38 days to finish them. The end of that 38 day timeline was marked by the first day of Fall, and time to begin a new reading list. Well, I finished the two books above, in barely over a week. That left me with almost a solid month to finish The Invention of Wings. I figured that was more than enough time. I remember devouring The Secret Life of Bees in a matter of hours. Surely another book by the same author would be equally as quick. Easy, peasy. Right? Wrong.
I could not for the life of me get into this story. I think it was because I didn't believe her. And when I say I didn't believe her, I mean, her character's voice, in particular one of her narrator's voices (a female slave named Handful), did not feel real to me. In the books above, part of why I was able to dive so deeply into those stories is because despite the whole other worlds they created, they still felt entirely plausible. I could have been reading an autobiography… but something about Handful's voice felt contrived, and a little forced…
It's entirely possible that this is my own hang-up. I am always a little turned off when white women write in the voices of slaves, or maids for that matter (I could never get into The Help). So, I fully acknowledge that that is part of the lens through which I read this book. There are a great many people who loved it… Oprah Winfrey included. So much so that she included it in her infamous book club. But, for me, it fell short. I still love The Secret Life of Bees though :)