The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

[17] “A Fable for the Living”

kevin brockmeier

What a BEAUTIFUL story, and in only seven pages!

The general plot outline of “A Fable for the Living” by Kevin Brockmeier (who’s BOMB ASS picture can be seen above – I WANT THAT TYPEWRITER! also that wooded hollow) is one of a world where, after the dead die, it is possible to communicate with them through letters that are absorbed into the ground. A recent widow writes letters to her husband for a year until she wonders – is he even really there? So she asks him, and when she gets an answer back, the entire world around her changes. The idea of writing to the dead, complete with functional delivery system, is not only endearing – it’s wonderfully hopeful!

There is something so creepy about the idea of letting the Earth just swallow you into itself (when the widow decides to join her husband in the land beneath the soil, she delivers herself as she would a letter – settling herself into a fissure in the ground until she is just kind of…absorbed), but I can’t say I wouldn’t necessarily let myself be taken if it meant being back with all those people I really love in life. I REALLY wish we’d gotten to hear more about the land of the dead beneath the Earth, but what we got of our world was so sweetly rendered. I will say that, looking back over the reading of this story, the whole thing seems to exist under a kind of grey haze, a feeling of fond detachment that made me picture the whole thing in my mind as if it were being done in some kind of charcoal sketch – black, white, fuzzy around the edges.

However, I think this is a story worth returning to later because of the way that Brockmeier was able to create and write the kind of meaningful details of love and relationships that I find myself trying to write in my own stories. Only when I do it, it doesn’t work – it seems cliche and corny. So I need to figure out if he’s really doing something different (which I imagine he is, in which the question then becomes WHAT, DAMN IT!) or if I just have a problem looking objectively at my own writing – which is probably also true. I think that this if one of the most fun results so far in my short-story reading journey: the ability to seem some truly great masters working out issues in their writing that I have in my own (it seems to be easier to see this in short fiction rather than novels, for some reason).

One thing is for sure, though – I need to look into more of Brockmeier’s stories in the future!

Rating: OMFGZ

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[15] “The Years of my Birth”

Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich writes absolutely AMAZING yet amazingly simple to understand short stories, usually concerning Native American family and culture. “Years” tells the story of a woman who, crushed in the womb by her twin, is cast off as a cripple, given up by her white family. Adopted by her Native American nurse and raised alongside others on the reservation, the most touching aspect of the entire story is how our narrator builds for herself an entirely new family after being so cruelly rejected by her biological one.

The color imagery of the color and confusion that is attached to the color white (such as when she’s in the all white room of the institution after the state removes her from her adopted home, and all she can do is scream and cry because of how empty the color makes her feel). It’s especially interesting considering that our main character is a white disabled woman created from the mind of a Native American author. I’m still not quite sure what to make of this social commentary through color symbolism, but I think that’s the subtle force of the story – to have to, as readers, suss out the difference in this narrator’s life opinions because of not just her skin color, but the skin color of her family and the skin color of those she was born to.

To be honest, the ending of the story left be at a bit of a loss for words. I’m not sure what to do with the narrator’s biological brother in need of a kidney but laughing manically in her face because she suggests that he may owe her something if she donates an organ to him. What I do know, though, is that the underlying feelings of rage and indifference in the story is  visceral, a punch in the emotional gut. I’m not sure that the right question to ask is “why”. Erdrich does a delightful job with her direct diction and treatment of cultural conflict.

I got this story from America’s Best Non-Required Reading 2012, which if you don’t own you should – if for no other reason than Ray Bradbury dictated the introduction, and it was one of the last things this  genius mind ‘wrote’ before he passed away.

Story Rating: Okay

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[11] Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

penumbra

‘I did not know people your age still read books,’ Penumbra says. He raises an eyebrow. ‘I was under the impression the read everything on their mobile phones.’

Clay Jannon is a young man of the Google age who, after losing his job marketing the start-up NewBagel, gets a job working the overnight shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore. There, a significant part of his job is to keep track of all the people who come into the shop – what they look like, what they buy (or borrow!), and what their mental state is. Soon, noticing an number of oddities about the job, the shop, and the clientele, and with the help of a tech-savvy roommate, rich best friend, and computer-genius quasi-girlfriend, he discovers a secret code buried deep within the books of the store – as well as a loyal cult dedicated to unraveling the code. Soon, Clay and his friends are harnessing the full power of Google, the expertise of librarians, and 15th century letter punches, to unravel the secrets of eternity. It’s an ancient tale spurred by the full reaches of contemporary technological power.

The shelves were packed close together, and it felts like I was standing at the border of a forest – not a friendly California forest, either, but an old Transylvania forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach.

One of the more stand-out things about this novel is the really beautiful and philosophical nature of technology. Not only is Google the most used search engine, but to hear Robin Sloan describe it, the people there are also pushing the boundaries of human existence. While I don’t believe I’m one of those “OHMIGOD FACEBOOK AND THE INTERWEBZ IS JUST THE BEST THANG EVA” people, but as this book points out, technology gives us the chance to question how we define and conceptualize what it means to be immortal, how we define time and space relative to factors like our instantaneous ability to share information over the internet, and what happens when classic and modern meet (ebooks? audiobooks? Goodreads and Librarything? Podcasts?)

To be honest, I wasn’t super thrilled with the actual plot of this book – weird book cults and rouge Google employees sounds good on the surface and is just…awkward on the page. I loved the scenes at Google (and naievely hope that they’re all true), and by far my favorite character is Kat Potente, the female Google goddess who, while expectedly pixie-like and psuedo-individualistic, is still totally adorable. All in all, the ideas in this book were way more exciting than the plot or process of reading the book itself.

Remember this: A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. A bell above the door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.

Rating: Okay

PS (because I’m me and I can’t kind of talk about philosophy – or do a post in general ever – without my favorite philosoraptor EVER):

philosoraptor-professor-x

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[09] Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

lamb

For what is curiosity if not intellectual temptation? And what progress is there without curiosity? On the other hand, can you call such a profound weakness a gift, or is it a design flaw? Is it temptation itself at fault for man’s woes, or is it simply the lack of judgement in response to temptation? In other words, who is to blame? Mankind, or a bad designer?

Lamb follows Christ (called Joshua, or Josh) and his best friend Levi-called-Biff from childhood (when they first meet Mary “Maggie” Magdalene0 through Joshua’s crucifixion. Covering both the later events covered in the Gospels, the book describes Josh and Biff’s adventures East to search for the three Wise Men – whom Josh believes will teach him how to be the Messiah. From the Wise Men, Josh learns about the Great Spark (that the power of the universe is in and around all of us – something Josh ends up calling the Holy Ghost) and sees a caste system at work in India that is so abhorrent to him that he vows to make sure all who ask to be allowed in his future kingdom will be allowed in – including sluts and Romans. After returning to Bethlehem and following the events of the Gospels, Biff and Maggie watch their best friend tortured and sacrificed. Learning it was Judas who was responsible, Biff runs off after after him and kills him, shortly after which he kills himself. We learn all this because Josh, from Heaven, has decreed that Biff be brought back to life in order to write his gospel and finally have the chance at life with the woman he loves – Maggie Magdalene. Maggie will always love Josh more, but then again, so will Biff.

This book was not only a quick read, it was FREAKING HILARIOUS and surprisingly thought provoking and mostly just really really filthy. Of course, as the afterword reminds us, there is no real knowing what happened to Josh during the 30 years the Bible doesn’t cover, but this explanation seems as good as any to cover how Josh became the man the world knows, as well as some of the strong similarities between the teachings of Jesus and the philosophies of many of the Eastern religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism). It was also a favorite part of mine to see Josh’s really early years of life, when he was being a petulant brat and causing accidental miracles and giving Joseph shit about not really being his father, so why should he listen. There is something so touchingly real about a teen Josh wondering if he’s really the Messiah, and if he is, how to be that way and what to do. It turns like, like, literally larger than life story into something relate-able and understandable – in a way other mediums fail to do.

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Turning this story into essentially a bromance between Josh and Biff not only made me laugh my ass off, but it helped to provide insight into a “character” that is difficult to consider as a character. Perhaps one of the unintentional effects this book had was making me think that, rather than being a spin on the “facts” of Christianity, it’s really a spin of a story: we don’t really have many ‘facts’ about Christ, and what we have in the Bible is still a collection of stories – Josh himself teaches in stories and parables throughout the Bible.

‘Compassion is the same way,’ said Joshua. ‘That’s what the yeti knew. He loved constantly, instantly, spontaneously, without thought or words. That’s what he taught me. Love is not something you think about, it is a state in which you dwell. That was his gift.’

Rating: OMFGZ!

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[07] The Fault in Our Stars

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‘All salvation is temporary,’ Augustus shot back. ‘I bought them a minute. Maybe that’s the minute that buys them an hour that buys them a year. No one’s going to buy them forever, Hazel Grace, but my life bought them a minute. And that’s not nothing.’

Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace are both 17 years old, and both have cancer. They meet one another one week at a support group, and begin the process of changing each others lives. Augustus uses his Make a Wish to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet her favorite author, to get questions about her favorite book answered. The author is a lout, drunk and cruel, and the two leave the authors house without any answers. Their trip isn’t wasted, however: they fall in love, have sex, and Gus tells Hazel he’s no longer in remission.

Once they’re back in the States, Gus quickly goes from bad to worse, and he has to leave Hazel behind. But not before offering Hazel’s favorite author a little redemption, and not without leaving Hazel a eulogy worthy of both her and Augustus.

You clench your teeth. You look up. You tell yourself that if they see you cry, it will hurt them, and you will be nothing but A Sadness in their lives, and you must not become a mere sadness, so you will not cry, and you say all of this to yourself while looking up at the ceiling, and then you swallow even though your throat does not want to close and you look at the person who loves you and smile.

The kids in this book are all smart. Like, smart talkers in the vein of The Gilmore Girls or Dawson’s Creek. And while normally this annoys me to no end, I felt here it bordered on just possible enough that I enjoyed it – I found it endearing without being too obnoxious. However, although I really did love the characters, and felt myself being sucked in to the story, I’m not sure how I feel about the novel now that I’m on the other side of it. Of course it was romantic and sad and made me ‘le sigh’ – its a book about terns with cancer who fall in love. Its a well-written Lurlene McDaniels book. I also appreciated and loved the sense of humorous that John Green managed to keep alive (pun intended, obvs) throughout the book:

‘I don’t think you’re dying,’ I said. ‘I think you’ve just got a touch of cancer.’

But, for a book that spends a great deal of time and glib attention talking about stereotypical cancer books that heroize their children heroes, the book does essentially just that. Hazel and Augustus are ultimately the brave, kind, cancer-fighting people they mock; even if they do curse and have sex and make mean jokes about each other. The book makes some interesting differentiations between Hazel, who has always been a terminal patient, and Augustus, who went in to and came out of remission – how that difference effects their views, their hopes, and especially Augustus’s ceaseless obsession with feeling that he has to do something to make his life and death mean something.

Rating: Okay, with some Hell Yeah! bits

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[06] Tumbleweeds

Oh, Tumbleweeds. There you are, just out there, floating in the wind (cue wonky sad guitar music). Which is basically just my horrible metaphor for saying that this book took off STRONG, gathered a brambly bunch of steam, and then just rolled across the prairie kind of…meh.

GOODREADS ACTIVATE:

Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives. Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age.

In the pursuit of complete mostly honest revelation, I mostly picked up this book because the book jacket talked about a super-smart girl who moved to Texas to grow up around some potentially not so smart individuals. And also because the book jacket is really, REALLY pretty. So, maybe not the best reasons to read a book, but it works. And for the first, like, sixty pages, I wasn’t at all regretting whatever reasons had led me to it.

Cathy Benson is a rather remarkable heroine, not because she silently bears her burdens a la Hester Prynne, but because she gets mad and pissed and ends up stuck in a life she didn’t intend – but she gets herself out of it. She makes due, she gets by, she isn’t the eternal victor. But she’s strong. And she’s determined. And, at the end of the book, she’s relieved of the confusion of her life and is rewarded for her experiences. Her two male counterparts are nice but obvious foils for one another (John is sweet and nice and caring, while TD is all tortured and dark and feels less-than: think Cory v. Sean, which is basically how I pictured them in my mind the whole time), and the tensions between the three are developed rather realistically, which was nice pacing to see take place in a book that’s essentially just one long love-triangle.

Keeping up with Dark Places, this is one of those books that kept me guessing as to the next plot point for a good majority of the book. The first big “GAH!” moment takes place about 1/4 of the way through the book (ask my husband – I literally, like, slammed the book shut and said “ohmygodohmygodohmygod” for, like, five straight minutes. And yes, I know you can’t really ask him. Just take my word for it, mmmkay) and from there the whole book operates on this level of “OH CHARACTERS! IF YOU ONLY KNEW THE TRUTH!” Which, of course, they never do, which really just amped up the engaging reading tension. It literally kept me turning the pages as quickly as my eyes could physically read them. But then I was just over it. Tumbleweeds is one of those books that just keeps throwing big “GAH” moments at you until they basically lose their effect – kind of like getting shot with one bullet, which hurts like a bitch, versus a million bullets, which really you probably won’t even feel after the first few.

That’s basically how I felt the last few 100 pages of the book or so. And I was just done. The book wrapped up in  way that felt satisfactory, the characters got what I felt like were their “just rewards”, and there were certain mysteries that were solved in a way that made me go “hmmmm”, but seriously? By the time I closed the book, I was wishing that the final 1/4 of the book had been about 100 pages and 3 big twists shorter. Over it.

Rating: Okay
PS: That GIF doesn’t really make sense. I know that. I don’t care. It’s my favorite GIF of all time.

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[05] Prisoner of Heaven

Believe it or not, Prisoner of Heaven is the first Carlos Ruiz Zafon book I’ve ever read (although I’ve heard that The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game are both incredibly fantastic), the first book I’ve sought out especially because it’s a BIT (book in translation), and the first book I’ve ever read set in Spain. I know. You can now pick your jaw up off the floor. I assure you, all of those things are true. But I’m SO GLAD that, even with all of those things being true, I’m SO GLAD that I read this book. Fermín is one of the better characters/narrators that I’ve come across in a really long time.

GOODREADS TAKE IT AWAY:

arcelona,1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermín Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city’s dark past. His appearance plunges Fermín and Daniel into a dangerous adventure that will take them back to the 1940’s and the dark early days of Franco’s dictatorship. The terrifying events of that time launch them on a journey fraught with jealousy, suspicion, vengeance, and lies, a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives.

This book is one of those books that has a structure that, while it’s done ALL THE TIME, I don’t even care because I love it with a million loves. It starts with Daniel, who quickly meets a stranger and realizes that something right isn’t happening. He then talks to Fermín, and through Fermín we’re taken back to his time in prison under a despicable and petty man named Valls, into a place where people we’re told are criminals live in damp, dank cages that soon rob them of either their humanity or their sanity. David Martin, the author Fermín meets in prison, who asks of him a promise that changes the entire scope of both Fermín and Daniel’s life, is described as the kind of man who I wish I could meet in real life – the kind who, when he looses his mind, looses it in to words and books and the fictional life he creates. So Martin, along with Fermín, quickly became two of my favorite characters of late, and definitely my favorite characters in the book.

I’m curious what it is I’ve missed in the first few books – which, of course, means that I’m already on the road to getting them read. I have a feeling that there is something rather large/important I’m missing about The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, but nothing that kept me from being able to understand the plot of Prisoner of Heaven. It’s more like there’s this feeling that there’s a bigger picture that’s already been painted, only I can’t see the horizon line so the whole painting’s a little…off. That’s probably a really bad metaphor. But there were a couple of moments in the book, especially later on, where I was just kind of like “what?!”. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand – the plot was formatted brilliantly, I think – but it was more that I didn’t understand EVERYTHING.

I think one of the most enjoyable parts of the book for me was all of the incredibly witty, incredibly off-the-cuff revolutionist/atheistic dialogue spouted by Fermín at what felt like every available opportunity! I think that Zafon really deserves the credit on this one, because it creates for the entire book an atmosphere of political involvement and change without ever being preachy or didactic or, well, dry and boring. There was so much humor that even some of the more inflammatory things just made me smile and chuckle and go “Oh, Fermín!” However, I felt like the ending was a bit…abrupt. It was definitely one of those ones that didn’t really resolve much so much as put a pause on the story while clearly opening the door for the next book (maybe. If there is another one. Which I’m assuming there will be). When I first read the book, I wasn’t aware that Zafon’s books were a kind of series, so knowing this now it makes much more sense. But at the time, and if you read Prisoner of Heaven without knowing it, the ending may leave you feeling a little…jilted.

Rating: Hell yeah!

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[04] Dark Places

Oh, Gillian Flynn. My heart, in some weird and disturbed way, beats for you in this myster/thriller/horror book set all over the home state I love SO much! It was, I have to admit, a bit titillating and surreal to see places I’ve been and know fairly well (KCK, KCMO, Lawrence, Topeka, etc.) described in a book that has such, well, creepy as all hell plot components.

Most of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the Lady Flynn’s most recent best seller Gone Girl. This book, with its dark and yet somehow nondescript book cover sat on the shelves where I work for, like, months, quietly whispering to me every day “you haven’t read me yet. You keep recommending me to people. people keep recommending me to you. Reeeeaaaaddd mmeeeee……” (the last part was always in some creepy, Jacob Marley voice, complete with chain rattling). But I didn’t want to. Mostly because the plot didn’t quite make me go all

But also because, you know, I refuse to read a book that a billion people and the whole universe is telling me to read all at once. I just can’t. It’s silly rebellion, but so was buying hundreds of dollars worth of Breakfast Club t-shirts and black rubber bracelets when I was a freshman in high school. But I did feel bad about continuing to recommend a book to others that I hadn’t read just because it was on the best seller wall (NO, FIFTY SHADES! I WILL NOT HAND YOU TO A SINGLE PERSON.), so I decided to compromise with myself and I read this book instead. And I LOVED it.

GOODREAD SYNOPSIS MAGIC:

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her. The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

First of all, Lady Flynn has quite the mouth on her. Secondly. I was bat shit terrified staying up late and reading the chapters when Libby goes back in her own mind and describes what it was like to wake up and hear her family being murdered, only to run away and have to live with not only the survivor’s guilt but with the memories. I also want to give the Lady MAD PROPS for creating one of the few books I’ve read in a while that truly kept me guessing as to who the killer was, why the killer killed, and what this could mean for Ben, for Libby, and for the family that they both, in one way or another, lost. Libby was the kind of narrator that at once infuriated me – she refused to actually do anything with her life, instead excusing it all away because of what happened to her – while also making me feel sympathetic to this girl who lost her family, and then has to deal years later with all the possible “what if’s” that come with being that young and testifying in such an intense case.

The book also touched on some of the “darker” aspects of the legal system – what can happen when well meaning people encourage young people to say things that they feel the adults want to hear, and when the system has already made decisions about certain people in certain walks of life. It was frustrating to read, and was one of those situations where I felt myself going “THAT’S NOT FAIR! IF YOU ONLY KNEW THE TRUTH!” I found the ending to be surprising, although I will say that, probably about a dozen pages out or so I was kind of able to put it all together. BUT, most books don’t even string me along for that long. So I thought that this plot was really well done, and the plot twist was one that, as I understand it, is one of the Lady Flynn’s typical gusto storytelling maneuvers! Here here!

Rating: Hell yeah!

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Sussing Out my Twilight-y Feelings

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So, here’s the thing. I recently went with my cousins and my mom to go see the latest and last Twilight movie. And it was, without a doubt, one of the most fun and entertaining movies I’ve seen in quite some time. And, yes, I’m mostly aware of how ridiculous that sounds. But I’ve been watching them from the beginning, and although the beginning was SO. BAD. SOBAD. SO SO SO SO BAD. I still really love watching these movies. I mean, there’s just so much of this face:

And, of course, Kristen Stewart doing this a lot:

When I watch the movie and listen to that terrible dialogue (SPIDER MONKEY. He calls her a spider monkey. Seriously. Not to mention there is at least one reference to heroin) and I laugh and laugh and laugh, but I’m so addicted that I literally can’t turn it off, and will watch movie after movie all while thinking in my mind “stop. don’t be doing this. it’s a little embarrassing. a lot embarrassing”. So, to turn this rambling love-gush in to something resembling a coherent post, after seeing the epic cinematic conclusion of the YA saga, I felt inspired to go back and try to give the books another read, for the first time since the last time I read them in high school. This is a feeling I often seem to come down with after I see a movie based on a book/play/author/generally about semi-bookish people (I can personally thank The Gilmore Girls and a weird kind of fictional-character peer pressure for reading the number of Russian authors I’ve gotten through). The movie often reminds me how much I love the stories that lie within books, which is just a hop skip and jump from reading them again.

And there in lies the rub.

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Because, you see…turns out I HATE these books. Which is a very disconcerting thing for me to write, primarily because of how much I LOVE these movies. I go back to read the books and the only things that pop out at me PAGE after PAGE is just how whiny Bella is, how freakishly and intensely overprotective and stalkerish Edward is of Bella, and how SERIOUSLY, SERIOUSLY bad the writing is. While in the movies this bad writing tends to come off more humorous and just kind of, you know, “um…what?!”, in the book it literally causes my brain to hurt. I also have my personal qualms with Bella re: being a completely awful role model for teenage girls and her entire relationship with Edward being a really codependent and unhealthy relationship. However, even more than that, the more and more I try to go back and read the Twilight books, the more I’m struck by how these kinds of books maybe just aren’t up my alley anymore. It’s not YA – I still like quite a bit of the contemporary children’s and YA I run across. It’s these books. These paranormal romance love triangle overwrought teen heartthrob squee books. The kind of books I would have flipped over at 15, and just can’t do anymore.

Weird. Maybe I really am growing up, no matter how often it seems like that’s just not true.


BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Then again…maybe not.

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[01] The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

September is a willful, stubborn girl who, like most willful, stubborn girls, is one day approached by the spirit of the wind and a green leopard, who whisk her off to Fairyland, where she meets witches, goes on an epic quest for a magic spoon against an evil leader, and has all kinds of adventures – and some sadness too.

Hello, girl version of The Phantom Tollbooth (only not really, because I don’t think that books have genders, and especially not THAT book). But for real, this book follows a general format that definitely echoed Juster’s amazing tale about a bored boy named Milo. But I had absolutely no problem with that, as The Phantom Tollbooth has long been one of my favorite books, and I have a feeling that Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland might just one day join it. There are not only crazy adventures and memorable characters (the “wyverary” – a wyvern/library combo – and a marid named Saturday), but the whole book is written with this tone of the absurd, mixed with literary wordplay and a certain meta-recognition (*note to self: ass*) of fairy tale tropes. It allows the book to poke fun at itself, it’s genre, and to relate to children and tell them a story without teaching down to them or making them feel like using their imagination is a stupid or frivolous thing to do.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the entire book was when September when to visit the Worsted Wood in the autumn kingdom. Valente created such AMAZING descriptions of the nightly feast and marriage of the prince and princess of autumn, for the entire kingdom is one where nothing changes and everything is gold and amber and smokey and fall and, in my opinion, absolutely wonderful. True, halfway through the Worsted Wood, September begins to turn in to a tree, which was odd, but overall the adventures she had there were the ones I most wished I had been able to have when I was little.

The fact that this book was originally published online raises some interesting discussion about the nature and value of self-published books, especially those that may get picked up by traditional brick-and-mortar publishing houses, which this author desires to make NO comment on, but who would recommend the following article as a starting point!

Rating: OMFGZ

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