Neil Gaiman is a long favorite of mine. I’ve read almost all of his bibliography, so I was thrilled to learn this novel was coming out.
The story revolves around a man who returns to where he grew up and begins to remember a series of terrifying events when he was a child. As a seven year old, he made friends with Lettie, the youngest member of the Hempstocks who live at the end of the lane. When a border within his home commits suicide, it sets of a series of strange events and unleashes frightening creatures.
This story didn’t disappoint me one bit. It’s interesting that this has been described as an adult novel, since its so clearly from the young boy’s POV and Gaiman captures that youth, wonder, and fear perfectly. The boy is fully realized and made me remember my own youth. I saw one reviewer describe the sex scene as awkward, but it wasn’t. It was sex from a child’s perspective, which makes it seem strange and undefinable at the same time. The scene was well executed and showed the character’s youth even more as the rent seemed unimportant to him.
I especially loved the Hempstocks and how they are portrayed. The three women are so clearly more than what they appear and have latent power. They are loving and warm and fascinating characters. I would love to see them turn up in more stories.
Gaiman also has a way of making magic seem matter of fact, just another part of the natural order, which I LOVE. It’s one of my favorite things about his writing in general. That, along with his invention of creepy creatures that are dark and terrifying and yet somehow sympathetic, too. Ursula was evil and wicked and cruel and yet I pitied her in the end.
1. The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir by Wenguang Huang
2. Horns, by Joe Hill
3. Paper Valentine, by Brenna Yovanoff
4. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
5. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (audio book), by Lisa See
6. A Blackbird Sings: a book of short poems, edited Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita Thompson
7. No Roses for Harry! by Gene Zion
8. Unnatural Creatures, edited by Neil Gaiman
9. Emiko Superstar, written by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Steve Rolston
10. Wave (audio book), by Sonali Deraniyagala
As I’m still playing catchup, so here’s my be-lated reading list.
1. Hands of Flame, by C.E. Murphy
2. 17 & Gone, by Nova Ren Suma
3. Arthurian Romances, by Chrétien de Troyes
4. Late Eclipses, by Seanan McGuire
5. Anya’s Ghost (graphic novel), by Vera Brosgol
6. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
7. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (audio book), by Muriel Spark
Did not and won’t finish (at this time): The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
The verse written by 12th century poet Chrétien de Troyes represents the earliest of the Arturian romances as we recognize them today. These poems have been widely popular and have influenced the shape of every King Arthur and his Knights tales that came after. This translation of these five tales puts the verse into prose format, which has it’s pluses and minuses.
“Erec and Enide” follows the story of the two title characters, starting with Erec’s adventures and eventual winning of Enide’s hand, followed by Erec and Enide riding off to wander the land in search of quests together.
“Cligés” is a more meandering tale, which begins with Alexandre of Greece’s journey to King Arthur’s court in order to win renown, and then his son Cliges’ adventures and his romance with his uncle’s wife.
“The Knight of the Cart” is Lancelot’s tale, in which the queen Guinevere is taken away by an evil knight. Lancelot pursues her and fights many adventure in his great love for her. It’s an interesting one, because Lancelot is made to look foolish more than once in his love for her.
“The Knight with the Lion” is Yvain’s tale and follows a similar format as the other in that a knight goes off to meet a great adventure. Along the way he wins the love of a maiden, who then casts him off when he fails to return when he’s told to. He goes temporarily insane and has to fight many adventures before he can win her back.
“The Story of the Grail” is Perceval’s quest, though it also includes much of Gawain’s adventures. Perceval starts out as an idiotic ass, leaving a wake of damage on his way to becoming a knight. The grail has less of the Christian affiliations in this version and has to do with the Fisher King (not Arthur), who suffers from wounds that will not heal. There’s a lance that bleeds from its tip, as well as the grail in association with the Fisher King. This tale was not finished by Troyes, but the translator gives a nice round up of the various continuations written by other poets of the time period, which begin to bring in the more heavy handed Christian elements.
Some random thoughts, in no particular order:
1. The storytelling skill gets better with each subsequent story, which makes me think that “Eric and Enide” was written first and Troyes skill improved with each story he told (though I can’t be sure of that). The last three tales are the best in the book, and “The Knight with the Lion” is probably my favorite.
2. There’s a lot of redundancy. Characters will say one thing, repeat it in a slightly different order, then repeat it a third time, just to make sure you really know that they mean what they say. Also, the plot lines repeat fairly often and by the end of the book it’s easy to tell exactly how each battle will turn out: with the knights starting on equal footing, landing many great blows, and the blood flowing and so on. This repetition can make the reading kind of tedious.
3. The people in this era apparently believed that a fight could prove guilt or innocence. If you’re accused of treason or a crime, welp, facts don’t matter as long you have the best knight to fight for you. The winner is proved right, because God would only let the right one win. Uh-huh.
4. People were also rather obsessed with beauty. Beauty = good. Ugliness = evil. All the heroes are the most handsome of knights and draw the eye of every spectator to them. All the good maidens are beautiful and fair.
5. Arthur is kind of a fool. The most obvious demonstration of this is in “Eric and Enide,” in which it essentially goes:
Arthur: I want to do this thing, because it would be sooooo coool.
Gawain: That’s a very bad idea, because something bad will happen.
Arthur: You’re right, but I’m going to do the thing anyway, because I’m the king and the king should do whatever he wants.
*does the thing*
*the bad starts to happen*
Gawain: I told you if you did the thing something bad would happen.
Arthur: I know. You’re so smart. Now tell me how to fix it.
6. Kay is interesting in that he starts out noble and well loved in “Eric and Enide” but gradually becomes more of an ass by the time “The Story of the Grail” rolls around, when he’s called evil tongued and rude and worse and yet they still love him. I would have booted him to the curb.
7. As much as maidens and women are almost never given names and act as objects for the knights to win, they also have a surprising amount of autonomy and strength. Women are often found hanging out alone in the woods and it’s not uncommon for a girl to take up a horse and ride over hill and dale in search of a knight to help her, essentially having her own form adventure. Many of the women also own their own lands and rule their own castles. However, when women have power over men, their demands tend to be rather arbitrary and often have to do with keep the man by her side. In the end, the demands seem not to be so much about her wishes as they seem to be about setting up an adventure for some guy.
8. Morgan le Fay, sister to Arthur and always a favorite of mine, appears only in passing in these stories. But when she does, she is presented in a positive light, as a powerful healer and known for creating the best tinctures and good potions. Apparently, it’s not until later versions that she begins to play the part of the evil traitor.
9. The people are ridiculously prone to emotion. When saddened, they pull their hair, scratch their faces, threatened suicide, faint from sorrow and boredom, but all that can turn around in an instant to beaming dancing joy. A knight leaving darkens the skies and is an end to all good feeling; his return that very night is a cause for feasting and celebration. I’m surprised anyone got anything done with all this flailing about from one mood to another.
10. Oh, I have lots more thoughts about this and that, but this list is already long, so I’ll just leave off here.
“Girls go missing every day. They slip out bedroom windows and into strange cars. They leave good bye notes or they don’t get a chance to tell anyone. They cross borders. They hitch rides, squeezing themselves into overcrowded backseats, sitting on willing laps. They curl up and crouch down, or they shove their bodies out of sunroofs and give off victory shouts. Girls make plans to go, but they also vanish without meaning to, and sometimes people confuse one for the other. Some girls go kicking and screaming and clawing out the eyes of whoever won’t let them stay. And then there are the girls who never reach where they are going. Who disappear. Their ends are ends are endless, their stories unknown.”
I adored Nova Ren Suma’s previous book Imaginary Girls (and even mapped out how I would approach making the movie, if I could), which was a wonderfully surreal and creepy tale of two sisters and their loyalty to one another. So, 17 & Gone was a must read for me. It hooked me from page one, and by page three I had chills and was smiling from ear to ear.
When Lauren finds a missing poster for Abby, she begins to be haunted. Abby appears to her, tangled and lost, a seventeen-year-old girl gone missing, a girl who wants something from Lauren. But Abby isn’t alone and following behind her are other girls, all seventeen years old, all missing without a trace, all wanting their stories heard, all wanting to be remembered. As the visions of these girls multiply, Lauren begins to loose the tether to her own life and, seventeen herself, she begins to wonder, if maybe she’ll be the next girl to vanish.
Lauren’s self becomes submerged beneath beneath the stories of the girls and we get to see bits and pieces of her personal life like we’re coming up for air. In a sense this makes it a little hard to get to know her as the main character, but her story unfolds as the novel goes on and this erasure works as she looses herself under the tide of girls and their stories. It fits with the storyline and the discoveries at the conclusion.
Her writing is rich and vivid, and it’s really impressive how Nova Ren is able to layer the stories of the girls with Lauren’s thoughts and personal life, creating a complex web of narratives that is nevertheless easy to follow. She makes it look easy, though I know it couldn’t possibly have been.
As a side note, I suggest that you do not read the Author’s Note at the end of the book (as I did) before you finish, as it will spoil the ending. But even with the ending twist spoiled, I still loved this book, wholeheartedly.
My ultimate sadness is that Nova Ren only has one other book out, her first book Dani Noir (which was later republished under the title Fade Out). After I devour that one, I’ll have to patiently (or not-so-patiently) wait until 2015 for her next book, The Walls Around Us to be released.
1. Pilgrim of the Sky, by Natania Barron
2. The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (audio book), by Susan Orlean
3. Preacher: Gone to Texas, written by Garth Enis, illustrated by Steve Dillon
4. Preacher: Until the End of the World, written by Garth Enis, illustrated by Steve Dillon
5. Dr. Suess’s ABC An Amazing Alphabet Book!, by Dr. Suess
6. The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke
7. Searching for a Pulse: poems, by Nazifa Islam
8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (audio book), by Hunter S. Thompson
9. Baba Yaga’s Daughter and Other Stories of the Old Races, by C.E. Murphy
1. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
2. Kim (audio book), by Rudyard Kipling
3. The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, edited by Rose Lemberg
4. Tank Girl (Remastered Edition) (Bk. 1), by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin
5. Park Songs: A Poem/Play, by David Budbill
6. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
7. Scheherazade’s Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation, edited by Michael M. Jones
8. Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan
9. The Count of Monte Christo, by Alexandre Dumas
“I want to go moonwalking
on it or under it I don’t care
I just want to go moonwalking
— from “Werewomen” by Ursula K Le Guin
The Moment of Change assembles speculative poetry that addresses feminism in a variety of ways and from a multitude of cultural points of view. As such, many of these poems address not only feminism, but colonialism, race, culture, and broader gender issues in moving, lyrical and vivid portrayals.
“The world is wrong and I am wrung,
a bell of cloth dripping salt
into an earth too broken for roots.”
— from “Pieces” by Amal El-Mohtar
Most of the poetry is myth-based, delving into fantasy and folk lore, with only a few poems that focus on science fiction themes. I don’t know if this is because poets tend to be drawn to myth more than science fiction, or if perhaps it is more that Lemberg, as editor, is particularly interested in these kinds of stories. Regardless, Lemberg has done an excellent job of selecting and arranging the works within this anthology.
“Perfection is frictionless —
I need to stub my soul on yours,
I need to lick the slivers in your wounds.”
— from “In Defiance of Sleek-Armed Androids” by Lisa Bradley
You could, perhaps, have a discussion as to whether all of these poems are truly speculative or feminist; some poems seem to be only peripherally so. I could easily see this book or selections therefrom be included in college courses on literature and/or women’s studies. I’d like to read each poem again and then sit and think about them more, maybe break a few of them down and analyze them line-by-line. These poems leave plenty of room for reflection.
“She makes no magic. Although the stories won’t tell you,
witches are magic.”
— from “The Witch” by Theodora Goss
But even without such deeper analysis, the quality of the poems is excellent throughout the anthology and there is something to be said for the pleasure of the experience alone. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading these words, and many poems I’ve gone back to read twice, or more than twice. I’ll be picking this book up off my shelf and enjoying the poetry within for years to come. Highly recommended.
“This is a story,
and it is true of all stories
that the sound when they slam shut
is like a key turning.”
— from “The Girl with Two Skins” by Catherynne M. Valente
Edited to Add: On LibraryThing, I was asked: “How big is the time-span this anthology covers? And would you say the majority of the writers are mainly known as prosaists? Are there many “pure” poets who are exploring speculative themes?”
My Answer: The oldest poem seems to be from 1990, but most are from 2000-2012, so all very recent.
If by “pure” poet you mean someone who writes only poetry, I think considering how modern the poets, chances are that few of the are. I believe most have written novels and/or stories as well. Though I don’t think writing prose as well as poetry makes one any less of a true poet. 😉
At any rate, while the majority of the poetry is free verse with a few prose poems, I would say all of the poems are true poetry. They are not (as far as I would judge) just prose broken up into lines. Many are rich with imagery and challenging to “get” on the first (or even second) reading. All of them will make you think about the world or tales it tells in a different way.
Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. She lives in Pandemonium, a city of steel and heat, where she coddles little treasures from the human world brought to her by her brother, Obie. Life for her is dull, slow, and unchanging, until one day her brother vanishes. Determined to find him, Daphne travels to Earth, where everything is colder and dirtier, and time flashes by far too quickly.
With the help of Truman, a lost and self destructive boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne begins to unveil clues to her brother’s whereabouts. As the back of the book says, “she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.”
After finishing The Replacement, which is currently one of my top reads for 2013, I immediately had to pick up another Yovanoff book. I didn’t quite enjoy The Space Between as much as I enjoyed The Replacement. The beginning was a bit hard to get into and it was hard to get a sense for Daphne, who seems to emotionless. However, once Daphne finally got herself to earth things picked up and became very interesting.
As Daphne is presented with the reality of Earth, she’s forced to really choose who she wants to be. She can be like her sisters, the Lilim, who feed on humanities desires and despairs, or she can be something else — even if she doesn’t know what that is yet. Yovanoff does a great job of portraying Daphne’s confusion and naivete. She doesn’t know much of anything about Earth other than what she’s seen in TV shows and much of what she knows is terribly outdated. She is both vulnerable and yet strong, because while she doesn’t know how things work, she carries with her a deeper wisdom stemmed from her life growing up in the eternal timelessness of Hell.
Then there’s Truman, who’s pain is so raw, you can practically feel it peeling off the page in shreds. Somehow, these two people manage to work together, build trust, and grow from friendship into something more and it’s kind of beautiful.
I’m also a huge fan of moral ambiguity, and this novel which has a demon as its central character is wrought with it. Not only Daphne is likeable but other demons, too, are multi-dimentional, complex, engaging. Even the ones you might not like so much turn out to have layers, facets and raw edges you didn’t expect to find.
There’s also a touch of the horrifying, a few chills along your spin here, a little blood splatter there — another thing I love to see.
Overall, this turned out to be a great read. I may just have to pick up Yovanoff’s next book Paper Valentine.
1. The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub
2. Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carl
4. Cedar Toothpick: The Tomboy Dioramas, poetry by Stefan Lorenzutti and art by Laurent Le Deunff
5. The House of Mirth (audio book), by Edith Wharton
6. my name on his tongue: poems, by Laila Halaby
7. The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door, by Karen Kinneyfrock
Since I can’t seem to find a way to some it up on my own, here’s a description from the back of one of the editions: “Lily Bart, beautiful, witty, and sophisticated, is accepted by “old money” and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches. But as she nears 30, her foothold becomes precarious; a poor girl with expensive tastes, she needs a husband to preserve her social standing and to maintain her life in the luxury she has come to expect. While many have sought her, something—fastidiousness or integrity—prevents her from making a “suitable” match.”
Lily was raised to love splendor and wealth and to be an ornament in that world. She cannot help but strive for the comfort and ease (even if it is marked by falsehoods) that that world offers. And yet there is a part of her that strives for some greater, higher ideal, some deeper truth beyond the finery.
Her downfall is in part due to circumstance (being a woman in her time period and raised to desire wealth and shun shabbiness) and in part due to her own poor choices. There are many times she could have prevented a mishap, only to blindly (out of naiveté) or purposefully (out of selfishness and her desire for wealth) step right into it. And many other times she could have saved herself, only to reject it due to her own sense of morality. Witnessing her mistakes is to see all the little ways she is guilty, while simultaneously discovering the multitude of ways she is innocent. It’s all just so profoundly human.
The story was easy to follow and compelling to read. the scenes unfolding with eloquent language and open frankness. By the end of the book, i found that my commute wasn’t long enough and I sat in my car upon arriving home listening to the conclusion, unable to wait until morning.
I often cry at books and movies; I’m easily moved (sometimes even a TV commercial will illicit a few tears). But this was an experience beyond mere crying. This was me with my hands pressed to my face, snot running out of my nose, abjectly weeping in the front seat of my car. I can’t fully express why this book plucked that inner string in me, but it did.
I’m sure a part of it was the spectacular reading given by Eleanor Bron (who also, as it turns out, played Lily’s Aunt Peniston in the 2000 movie adaptation) in the audio. She strikes just the right tone of reserve and emotions, her voice soothing and adaptable to each character. I don’t know if my wrought emotional reaction would have been the same had I read it in text, but that’s not something one can speculate on, since each individual experience is based on a multitude of circumstances that can’t be recreated.
All I know, is I started this book thinking I would merely enjoy it, and ended it being madly in love.
Recently, I received a package from Poland with one of the coolest stamps I have ever seen. I didn’t know what I could possibly be receiving from Poland, but I was all smiles as I ran my finger over the cloth, feeling the fibres of the shiny postal stamp. I almost didn’t care what was inside, because the stamp itself was just so gorgeous.
Like the stamp, this gorgeous little book was texturally beautiful, and I was dazzled by the quality of paper and the hard back binding, as much as I was eager to read the words on the pages. Honestly, the sheer quality of book alone without having read any of the words is amazing.
According to the poet, he was inspired to the write this collection of poetry as he was walking the trails on the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. That experience combined with the concept of individual dioramas in natural history museums. The author writes: “Each poem is a description of a diorama, such as one finds in ethnographic or natural history museums—bell-jar spaces in which wolves, frozen in time, thread soundlessly through twilit forest; and wigwam inhabitants, cross-legged and ringed round their storyteller, shiver as the wind outside rattles frame of shelter.” Through this landscape romps the playful figure of Tomboy.
These poems are small, but each one packed with imagery that evokes a deeper understanding than what’s on the surface. Each poem is full in an off itself, and deserves lingering over, as you would linger over a bit of scenery on a long walk in the woods.
The art stands alone on individual pages, complementing the poetry perfect with soft pencil drawings of stones or wood, the kind of nature imagery the poetry relates.
This is by far the highest quality book I’ve helped fund through kickstarter. It’s just so lovely on many fronts, from the concise, compact poetry that evokes so much, to the gorgeous line drawings, to the beautiful binding itself — this little book is a work of art.
Only 500 copies of the book were printed, all of which are signed by the author and numbered. I don’t know how many copies are left, but if you’re interested, you can order the book here.
1. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem
2. The Fairy Ring: or Elsie and Frances Fool the World, by Mary Losure
3. Light in August (audio book), by William Faulkner
4. The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff
5. On the Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman
6. The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, Volume 2: 2000–2010, by Peter Dendle
Mackie is a changeling, a fairy child left as a replacement for a human one. Instead of dying as such a child is expected to do, he survived by making himself invisible and avoiding contact with iron that infuses just about everything, from steel to human blood. All he wants is to be human, to fit in with the people of Gentry, but when a little girl goes missing, he finds himself journeying into the town’s underworld to meet the creatures that once abandoned him.
I fell for this book as soon as I saw it’s uber-creepy book cover, featuring a litany of knifes, scissors, and horseshoes dangling precariously over a child’s carriage.
I loved it even more when I found out the purpose of those dangerous objects is to protect rather than harm, each of them made with iron to save the child from being taken — which is a perfect reflection of the world that lies within this books pages. What at first appears ugly and dangerous may turn out to be good and kind. What appears beautiful may be deadly. And I love that reversal of expectations.
I love that Mackie is a member of the family, even though his mom, dad, and sister know he is not the same human boy who was robbed from the crib that night. They know, and yet he is accepted and loved. They do all they can to accommodate his disabilities (removing all the iron they can from the house, building an unconsecrated part of church so he can go to Sunday school) and protect him from the potential malice of the town (which refuses to admit the existence strange creatures, even though deep down they know).
Mackie, for all this love, is lost and lonely. Though he has friends and family who care for him, he casts himself as an outsider, feeling that often come up for adopted children in general. When Tate comes after him for answers, for someone anyone to listen to her about her sister, he tries to avoid her in an effort to protect himself, but finds himself unable to pretend that he doesn’t care.
There is a general creepiness and sense of unease that fits perfectly with the book cover, and the hairs on my arms are standing up right now — partly from the creep factor, partly from delight — even as I think about it. If it’s half as good as this one, then I can’t wait to read another Brenna Yovanoff book.
1. Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
2. Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, by Alison Bechdel
3. Demon Hunts, by C.E. Murphy
4. Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell
5. The Foot Book, by Dr. Suess
6. Blood Magic, by Tessa Gratton
7. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
8. The Game of Boxes: Poems, by Catherine Barnett
Are You My Mother? is a meta-memoir in graphic novel format, which on the surface is about Bechdel’s mother. However, it is also about Bechdel’s therapy process, her relationships with her lovers, the history of psychonanalysis (particularly in regards to Donald Winnicott), Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, and the act of writing memoirs itself and how it effects the lives of those you write about.
This book has layers upon layers. How we feel about the past and our family is not linear. Disparate events, having no immediate relation to one another in reality, come together in out mind and combine into an emotional arc. The narrative here explores and loops, more like a thesis than a story. Sometimes Bechdel presents a conversation with her mother, then drifts away to talk about Winnicott’s work and writing on to a few scenes of her in therapy sessions, only to come back later to that same conversation with her mother, which now has a new light based on the new information.
The tone of the narrative is analytical, and Bechdel seems to be distanced from her own history as she tries to put the pieces together. There is no melodrama here. Bechdel neither condemns nor idolizes her mother in these pages. Nor does she condemn nor idolize herself.
One of the major themes of this book comes from Winnicott and his work on self-other, specifically how the mother becomes the self for babies and vice versa, as well as the concept of mirroring. I remember thinking while reading how strange it was that Bechdel was writing a memoir about her mother that turned out to be more about herself. But as I continued and learned more about Winnicott’s work on self-other and mirroring, this began to make perfect sense. Are not memoirs truly about the self, being from our own perspective anyway? And if as children we incorporate the mother into the self, then by writing about herself, Bechdel is also writing about her mother. This book seems to be a way for her to disentangle her self from her mother.
You can see in the image below an example of her art, where after finding a sequence of photographs of how she performed literal mirroring of her mother as a baby. She’s placed them in what she perceived was the correct sequence and has drawn them into the comic. Overlaid with the images, she narrates her own actions as a baby, while she quotes from Winnicott’s work on mirroring, and incorporates part of a phone conversation with her mother. Many, many layers, all in just two pages.
Another aspect of mirroring is revealed in the ways Bechdel projected her need for mothering onto her therapists and her lovers. Behavior that is only understood after the fact, through this kind of analysis.
I was deeply fascinated by this book, which may not have moved me emotionally, but had the gears of my mind churning. I’m sure reading it again would reveal new layers to the narrative, new understandings. And now now that I’ve read this book, I’m dying to read her first memoir about her father, Fun Home (which she discusses in Are You My Mother?). If this is a sign of the quality of her work, I definitely want to read more.
Total Fiction – 72
SF/Fantasy/Horror* – 38
General/Misc – 24
Classics – 6
Mystery/Noir – 4 *SF/F/H grouped together because it’s too much of a headache to mentally debate which book falls into which category.
Young Adult – 17
Short Stories Collections – 13
Audio Books – 10
Digital/Ounline – 1 **These numbers does not contribute to overall total as they also fall into the alternate categories.
Total Nonfiction – 8
Literary & Art Criticism/Creation – 4
Science & Health – 2
Memoir – 1
Miscellaneous – 1
Comics/Graphic Novels – 11
Poetry – 9
My Favorite 10 Books Read in 2012
(in no particular order)
Best Science Fiction Book
I’ll go with The Man Who Fell to Earth,
by Walter Tevis, because I just loved the subtlety of the tale of an
alien on earth. It was so much the plot but the overall feeling of
isolation and alienation.
Best Fantasy Book
I’m really torn between Seraphina and Deathless. They were both fantastic books that I want to own and read again.
Best Graphic Novel
Easily Daytripper, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. Amazing art with a moving story and creative plot structure.
1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (audio book), by Robert M. Pirsig
2. Dune, by Frank Herbert
3. The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis
4. The Diamond of Darkhold: The Fourth Book of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
5. The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories, by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff
6. Krik? Krak!, by Edwidge Danticat
7. Nova, by Samuel R. Delany
8. Coping with Color-Blindness, by Odeda Rosenthal and Robert H. Phillips
9. The Final Solution: A Story of Detection, by Michael Chabon
10. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
11. The Whistling Toilets, by Randy Powell
My sister, Pilar, was in a mood yesterday — happy, but bored, floating around the house, poking me in the ribs, doing whatever she could to entertain herself.
This boredom led her to throw on Mansfield Park (from 1999), a movie she and I both love. Though the movie follows the plot of the book, one could argue that the additions and subtractions to the movie don’t necessarily follow the spirit of the book. The movie drops some of the propriety, revealing some playfulness, and slips in some commentary on the slave trade, which as I recall doesn’t exist in the book. I can see why these things might bother die hard Austen fans, but I enjoy the choice of actors in the movie and the style of cinematography, so I think the movie stands as a great movie on it’s own, as a story separate from the book.
Next up my sister threw Persuasion (2007) into the DVD player, because it’s her new favorite Austen movie and she insisted that I see it. I haven’t read the book, but I need to. The story is unusual, because the two main characters know each other already, because Anne Elliot was persuaded by family and friends to drop her engagement to Mr. Wentworth, who had little fortune at the time. Eight years later, their paths cross again, and there is a large share of hurt and awkwardness and cruelty between them. I love these kinds of stories, because there’s something so fascinating to me about existing intimacies, as opposed to new flirtations.
The style of the movie is great. Many scenes involve our heroine sitting with her back to a group of people talking. They speak, either not knowing she can hear or not realizing that their words affect her, but the angle of the camera draws us into her space as outsider, and it’s very moving. Also, the ending = love.
Since we were already on a role with the Jane Austen movies, we decided to keep it up. So we put in Sense and Sensibility, the BBC miniseries from 2008. My sister is still very much attached to the Kate Winslet/Emma Thompson version from 1995, which I also enjoy. But despite the shocking (and unnecessary) opening sequence, I ended up falling in love with this new miniseries. The actresses are younger, closer to the ages of the actual characters in the books. It’s kind of a quieter depiction, the acting more subtle, though it’s been ages since I’ve seen the 1995 version. This miniseries actually made me believe that Marianne Dashwood could fall for Colonel Brandon, something other versions couldn’t do. So, yeah, fantastic.
We intended to conclude the night with the 2005 movie version of Pride & Prejudice, with Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfayden (another one I love for being exactly what it is, even if it doesn’t follow the book exactly). However Sense and Sensibility was longer than I thought it would be and by then it had got too late in the evening.
It was a great night of Jane Austen movies, though, and my sister and I had a great time chatting about the books and movies. We have another night planned of watching first Becoming Jane, followed by Miss Austen Regrets. I’d also like to do a marathon of watching several versions of Pride and Prejudice in a row, though that would be an all day event if the miniseries is included.
I still have 11 more books to read in order to meet the goals of the category reading challenge I started at the beginning of the year, which I think I just might accomplish. It’ll be a photo finish though. In the meantime, I thought I would split the month, so the post isn’t too long.
1. The Walking Dead: The Calm Before, by Robert Kirkman
2. The Walking Dead: Made to Suffer, by Robert Kirkman
3. Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater
4. The Crack in Space, by Phillip K. Dick
5. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
6. Watership Down (audio book), by Richard Adams
7. The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain
8. Zombies Are Us: Essays on the Humanity of the Walking Dead, edited by Christopher M. Moreman and Cory James Rushton
9. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
10. Duel, by Richard Matheson
1. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. Nebula Awards Showcase 2012, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly
3. The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker
4. Leaves of Grass: The “Death-Bed” Edition, by Walt Whitman
5. Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices, by various authors
6. Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente
7. The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy
8. Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey: Vampire Slayer as Feminine Chosen One, by Valerie Estelle Frankel
9. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
10. Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together, by Bryan Lee O’Malley
11. Scott Pilgrim VS. the Universe, by Bryan Lee O’Malley
12. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, by Bryan Lee O’Malley
13. The Valley of the Horses, by Jean M. Auel
This week was rather productive writing wise. No, I didn’t start work on my untitled werewolf novel, but I did come up with a potential title for it — Beneath the Midday Moon. Why “midday”? Well, because in winter in Alaska it is perfectly possible to see a full moon during the middle of the day. 🙂
I also finished the drafter of one short story and sent it to my Writing Gang for review and started sketching out random phrases and ideas for yet another story. Both of which I will have finished and off to their respective anthology markets before the end of the month. Huzzahs!
Reading it over though, I had to cringe because there is a rather blaringly bloody mess of a mistake that was left in the review when it was published. One of the sentences just cuts off halfway through and is painfully incomplete, neither I when I was putting it together, nor the editor caught this. *sigh*
In other other news, a friend pointed out Book Crossing, which is a way of assigning a number to books and tracking them as they are shared around the world. I had heard of this site before and loved the idea, but lost the link and couldn’t find it again. So, I’m thrilled to see it, because I love leaving copies of books in the hostels when I travel for other people to pick up. 😀
I’ve been somewhat sick half the week, but I’ve discovered that taking Nyquil before bed = awesomeness. What? Sleep through the night? Without my head congested and generally unbreatheable? Wake up feeling better not worse the next morning? Yeah! Why haven’t I done this before?
Because I’ve been a head full of mucus this week, I’ve use this as an excuse to be lazy. Thus no progress has been made on my anti-nano goals — I can’t, at the moment, even bring myself to open the untitled werewolf novel to even see where I’m at with it. However, I have been making some progress on a piece that will probably end up being just a little too long for flash fiction.
Book you are currently reading:The Hobbit by Tolkien, Nebula Awards Showcase 2012, and Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente Last book you read: Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey: Vampire Slayer as Feminine Chosen One, by Valerie Estelle Frankel Book you could read again and again and again: The Hobbit and Beloved by Toni Morrison and a handful of others. Book you are glad you read once but will never ever read again: Most recently? Probably The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. (But I never really know what books I’ll read again.) Favorite book (if it differs from a book you could read again and again…): Too many, but a novel that is my current favorite is Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman Writer whose stories you enjoy immensely: Neil Gaiman, for one, Holly Black, Nova Ren Suma, Libba Bray, for others. Writer whose style blows you away: Mostly poets, such as Ai, or Walt Whitman, or David Perez, or Karen Finneyfrock. Also, Toni Morrison.
1. The Robber Bride (audio book), by Margaret Atwood
2. Bellweather, by Connie Willis
3. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama
4. Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami
5. Blackout, by Mira Grant
6. All About Emily, by Connie Willis
7. Rues (poetry), by Philip Kobylarz
8. Carnage Road, Gregory Lamberson
9. The Clan of the Cave Bear, but Jean M. Auel
10. Mr. X, by Peter Straub
11. Seraphina (audio book), by Rachel Hartman
Also, “The Call of Cthulhu” (short story), H.P. Lovecraft
From the book jacket: ““Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.”
As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to start reading it all over again (that doesn’t happen often for me). There are many, many reasons why I love this book, but here are a few that stick out for me.
1. Seraphina herself is a compelling character. The dangers of her life are wrapped intimately with her sense of self (or lack of it) and the secrets she keeps, which is in direct challenge to her passion for music. She cannot let loose her music without drawing attention and risking revelation and danger. So she is trapped on a tightrope of life with nothing to do but ford ahead and maintain balance. But music is just about everything to her, and it’s this passion that launches her into the series of adventures she finds herself on throughout the book.
2. The culture of humans and dragons is delightfully complex, as it should be in any world where a treaty between two previously warring societies are now at a fitful peace. Every character in this book, no matter how small has their own unique spin on the situation. There are humans and dragons alike who hate the treaty, humans and dragons alike who admire the treaty, and even more humans and dragons alike who are indifferent or entirely confused on the matter. Even if two human characters might together agree that dragons are terrible, awful, horrid things, it’s clear that the motivation for their hatred comes from different sources.
Hartman takes the world further by showing how there are many societies of humans, who have previously warred, and are now also in alliance as well, because the of the human-dragon treaty. But again, even if two people are of the same culture, it doesn’t mean they agree on things. It all make the world delightfully rich and real, and gives the side characters some meat.
3. This is the most compelling portrayal of dragon culture I’ve ever read. Really. One of the things that’s great is that science and mathematics and complex machinery are dragon innovations. I love that the mythical creatures are the rational ones, but that their science and math are considered otherworldly mysticism. There’s a little more uniformity of thinking for dragon kind (or, perhaps, there is illusion of uniform thinking), but this isn’t because of a lack of divergent points of views, but because emotion is considered insanity among their kind, and any dragon who shows too much of it gets the equivalent of a lobotomy.
4. The romance is lovely and moving, all the more so because it grows out of a foundation of friendship. The man she falls for is very much a man — not because of some deep mysterious brooding and dangerous side (as seems to be so popular in many romances), but because he is so human, so flawed, while maintaining a strength built on truth and respect. This truth and friendship that grows between them unravels so naturally into love. They hit bumps in the road, times when they are angry or almost hate each other, but they come through it with forgiveness and new strength. This is what love should look like, because not once does either one expects the other to be anything other than what they are, they don’t want to change the person they love. Instead they except the whole of them, and love them for their “flaws” all the more, and I think that’s beautiful.
These things combined with a beautiful writing style that manages to both be poetic and perfectly capture Seraphina’s voice are just some of the reasons as to why this book has made it to my all-time favorites list.
As a side note, the audio book version I listened to was lovely. There are several moments where the reader had to sing the lyrics of songs, and it made the book all the more wonderful.
Aunt Lute Celebrates 30 years: Unsung Voices — They publish books by women authors “not being represented by mainstream publishing.” I had the pleasure of interning with the company for one summer, and I’m thrilled to know they are still thriving.
One of my favorite books ever is Her, by Cherry Muhanji a story of queer African American women set in Detroit in the late ’50s/60s. Such a beautifully written and moving novel. I participated in proofreading the second edition and have reread the book a couple of times since then for the sheer pleasure of it.
THE BOOK: In this blood and gore soaked tale, a class of 40 junior high school students is brought to an island and told by the fascist government that they must kill each other in an all out battle with only one survivor.
This book is definitely comparable to exploitation films and literature, in which violence over storyline is key. It starts with a brief introduction to the kids and its main character Shuye, before launching almost immediately into the slaughter of the kids (unlike its successor Hunger Games, which has a long lead up and gives you time to care about the main character). So, as the first bodies started to fall, I was not fully attached or bothered much by it.
However, this changes as the book goes on and each character is explored more in depth. Takami uses omniscient narration to jump from character to character. So that as the students wander the island, some looking to kill, some trying to just survive, others trying to plot escape, you get to know a little bit more about each one, including what their life was like before and why they are the way they are. (This omniscience also helped me keep the 40+ characters straight and helped to root the main characters in my mind.) So, by the middle of the book, I was definitely invested in seeing what the handful of good guys, who were trying to fight back, would do.
Along with the overriding theme of distrust and betrayal, followed by bloodshed, there was another interesting theme that I’m not sure gets talked about much. Almost all the students had crushes on someone, and who they loved and who loved them was a conversation that was repeated over and over again. Several characters were driven by their need to connect with the person they cared for, but never said anything to, even if its the last thing they do. Even the main character Shuye is focused on saving and protecting Noriko in order to honor his best friend, who had a crush on her. I’m not sure what all this is supposed to mean, but I thought it was very interesting that in a book so filled with death that there would be such a focus on unrequited love. Perhaps it has to do with life and what we really regret when we leave it behind.
I can definitely see why some people would hate this book; it is very bloody and bleak. But as a teenager I spent many of my days avidly reading the horror novels of Stephen King. They, too, were blood-soaked and filled with gore and I read them obsessively. Reading Battle Royale felt like a similar experience, in which I would sit at my desk, eying the book out of the corner of my eye and resenting the fact that I had to get work done instead of read. (Apparently, this comparison to Stephen King is apt, as Takami notes him as a great influence in the afterword.) Neither the works of King, nor Battle Royale are great literature, but they are most certainly readable and, if you’re into horror, very entertaining.
THE MOVIE: I didn’t quite understand why the director made some of the choices he did. In an interview (which was included in the back of my version of the book), the director talks about making these changes so the story will be more believable. However, I didn’t quite buy that students boycotting school would make adults so afraid of them that they would start a program like the Battle Royale, as they do in the movie. It seemed more likely to me that the book’s version of using the Program as a way to institute fear and control made more sense.
Also, because the book was so fresh in my mind, I had a bit of a hard time with the movie, because there is almost zero chance to get to know and care about any of the characters. The students do die in bloody and entertaining ways — a lot of spinning is involved, actors pirouetting when shot multiple times — but it wasn’t as gory as other movies I’ve seen. Some of the dialog was kind of cheesy, too.
However, I ended up watching the movie twice, and in the second go around, I definitely was able to stop over critiquing it and enjoy it more. In fact, I really liked it the second go around, which makes me think that I probably would have loved it, if I hadn’t hadn’t read the book first.
1. Poems of Stephen Crane, by Stephen Crane, selected by Gerald D. McDonald
2. Scarlet, by A.C. Gaughen
3. Habibi (graphic novel), by Craig Thompson
4. Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie, by Holly Black
5. Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost between the Pages, by Michael Popek
6. Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to be Haunted, by Eric Nuzum
7. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
8. The Dark and Hollow Places, by Carrie Ryan
From the back of Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted, by Eric Nuzum:
“Eric Nuzum is afraid of the supernatural, and for good reason: As a high school oddball in Canton, Ohio, during the early 1980s, he became convinced that he was being haunted by the ghost of a little girl in a blue dress who lived in his parents’ attic. It began as a weird premonition during his dreams, something that his quickly diminishing circle of friends chalked up as a way to get attention. It ended with Eric in a mental ward, having apparently destroyed his life before it truly began. The only thing that kept him from the brink: his friendship with a girl named Laura, a classmate who was equal parts devoted friend and enigmatic crush. With the kind of strange connection you can only forge when you’re young, Laura walked Eric back to “normal”—only to become a ghost herself in a tragic twist of fate.
Years later, a fully functioning member of society with a great job and family, Eric still can’t stand to have any shut doors in his house for fear of what’s on the other side. In order to finally confront his phobia, he enlists some friends on a journey to America’s most haunted places. But deep down he knows it’s only when he digs up the ghosts of his past, especially Laura, that he’ll find the peace he’s looking for.”
When I first saw the eerie cover and read the above description, I assumed this was a novel. It’s not; it’s a memoir. The instant I realized this was not fiction, the story became all the more compelling to me. A book about being really haunted? YES!
Nuzum neither presumes that ghosts are real or not real, he simply tells his own story with being haunted and how it became a contributing factor in a downward spiral of despair in self-destruction. While a teenager, Nuzum did many things that were unlikeable, and was, as he admits, not a very likeable guy. He drank, did lots of drugs, acted crazy, was rude and mean and occasionally vicious. Some memoir writers might describe these same sorts of events as a way to garner sympathy, or to pawn off and blame their faults on somebody else, or to revel in the freedom or coolness of the act. Nuzem, thankfully, does none of these things. Rather, he states the facts as he remembers them (perhaps not accurately, he notes), while accepting and taking responsibility for his mistakes. He seems to tell the story the way many people tell ghost stories — matter of factly — and perhaps will the aim of exorcizing some of his past ghosts.
As much as the story is about his downward spiral, it is even more so about his rise and the friend who held him up and kept him sane. Laura, who was very much a mystery in his life, unwilling to share much (or any) of her own truths, helped Nuzum keep track of, organize, and make peace with his own sorrows and fears and wobbliness. Their friendship is entertaining and touching to read.
Giving up the Ghost is a well written and compelling read. There’s no ultimate resolution, of course, because life doesn’t have many ultimate resolutions. Many mysteries stay mysteries, and human beings can’t help but be haunted. Tthe ghosts of our past linger, hiding on the other side of the door whether we want them to or not.
Habibi is a beautiful book. I mean that, first and foremost, in the literal sense. The hardcover edition is physically gorgeous with an maroon embossed cover and a heft and weight that reminds me of a spiritual tome, like a Bible.
(All photos of the book taken by Parka81 on flickr.)
Open it up and the beauty continues. Craig Thompson blew me away with the art he produced for Blankets and his ability to capture emotion and soul in his art. His skills have, if anything, improved since then. Habibi is visually rich, interweaving Arabic script with detailed patterns and characters that come alive on the page. If I could do nothing other than flip through the pages and immerse myself in the art, this book would still be worth reading.
Beyond the art the story is beautiful, too. As the website notes, “Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.”
While being sold as a slave, Dodola saves Zam from death and after they escape into the desert (where they live in an abandoned boat stretched across a dune), she begins to raise him as though he were her brother/son. They’re love and friendship grows more complex as they grow older and as life confronts them with its brutality and tears them apart. Through all the uncertainties and fears, poverty and despair, there is always a thread of hope, as Dodola and Zam and each turns to scripture and stories to sustain them.
That said, there are definitely problematic issues of Orientalism and cultural appropriation. For more information on that, I turn you to this article, “Can the Subaltern Draw?: The Spectre of Orientalism in Craig Thompson’s Habibi,” by Nadim Damluji. While I was certainly immersed in the story, I was also wondering about the stereotypes he was using to tell the tale. I certainly recognized a few (the sex-obsessed sultan, for example), but I was there were others that I was less certain about. Damluji a great analysis of Tompson’s book, discussing the beauty of its research on Islamic scripture, as well as looking at the Orientalism.
I’ll end with saying that despite the few reservations I mentioned, I rather loved this book and its beautiful art.
I love the Robin Hood myth, the Merry men, Maid Marian, all of it. So, when I saw Scarlet (with its really gorgeous cover) in the library and learned that it was a retelling of the myth with Will Scarlet — thief, knife expert, and sneak — as a girl, I was stoked. I love retellings, and I especially love retellings in which typical male roles are presented to women. They fill me with joy.
Unfortunately, I built up a lot of expectations in my mind before reading, and the book went contrary to my expectations. There are things I liked and things I didn’t like with the end result being that I really want to like the book as a whole, but can’t quite love it.
First, what I liked. I love Scarlet. I love that wears boys clothes and tucks her hair up under a hat, that she could chop it off, but chooses not too, because it something that’s hers, her own personal secret. I loved that she’s tough, she’s slick with knives, clever with plans, and is one of only ones of the group that can sneak in an out of Nottingham castle through secret passageways. The men turn to her in working out plans, trusting her skills in dire situations. And I like that she’s though she’ll stay silent and hidden, but when she wants to speak, she’s smart mouthed and opinionated (in fact her voice throughout the book is consistent and very well done). She would give up her food to someone less fortunate even if it meant she had to go hungry. She’s also guilt-ridden and dark humored, which is hard sometimes hard to read, but you get the sense that hard living has led her to be that way and she doesn’t wallow all the time. Often she desires to run away from the situation, the boys, everything, but she sticks around despite the risks and makes sh*t happen.
I also love Much, one of Robin’s crew, who only has one hand, but still keeps up with the rest of the group. He’s good with the villagers and is kind in a true and honest way. He’s also the only one who shows and receives kindness from Scarlet without expecting something sexual to come of it.
Then there’s the stuff I didn’t like as much…, which I can’t really talk about without throwing in a few spoilers, so fair warning:
Robin Hood was not the hero I was expecting. He’s handsome (stormy eyed) and smart and uses the bow, but Scarlet outshines him with her agency that he seems pale in comparison. Yes, he’s young and inexperienced (and very moody) in this version, but Scarlet keeps telling the reader what a hero he is, what a great leader he is, but we never really see either of those things acted out with the exception of him occasionally barking orders and helping a villager out. There’s only one scene with Robin using his bow, and all the planning comes from Scarlet. Since this is supposed to be a team and Scarlet is supposed to be such a lone wolf, I would have liked to see Robin have a little more cleverness and agency of his own so that he wasn’t quite out shadowed.
But that’s a small concern for me compared to his continual jealousy because of Little John (which I will get to in a bit), and his turning into a complete ass-shat when he learns her true identity. His explanation for all this bad behavior was “I hurt you to hurt myself,” which is such BS and I can’t believe Scarlet would accept that as an excuse. I do think the characters work well together as a couple, because of they are both wounded people trying to find some redemption for themselves, but I’m still annoyed with the instant turn around at the end.
There’s a general sense and belief among the men that a women, even Scarlet, MUST belong to a man. A general belief in ownership is involved, which fits the time period, but is still very annoying, especially when it comes to Little John and his pursuit of Scarlet after he sees her in a dress. He starts flirting with her and toying with her, and no matter how many times Scarlet says, “No, John, I’m not interested in you as a mate,” John says the equivalent of “You don’t know your own mind” or “You know you want to,” which makes me very uncomfortable. There are some confused emotions for Scarlet, because she sees him as a teammate and a brother, and when she’s at her most low, John shows her kindness, which she accepts because she’s so desperately in need of kindness. But every time John takes this acceptance of a kindness as a tease, a sign that she really MUST be attracted to him, even though she says she’s not.
What makes it worse is that compiled on top of John’s inability to accept her “No” is that Robin doesn’t believe her “No” either. Because John likes her, she must be with John, thinks and speaks Robin. Scarlet even shouts at them all, saying that they don’t take her feelings into account, and they absolutely do not, which is an awful situation, especially if they are supposed to trust each other. The only one who gets her feelings is Much, and he’s not given much say.
This feeling of ownership by her companions is especially disheartening in the face of the main villain, who is another man treating her like an object, wishing to possess her. Though the boys are not as extreme in their sense of ownership, it still rings ugly to me.
Then there is Scarlet’s SECRET IDENTITY, which I pretty much figured out as soon as she blushed when Robin glanced her way. She’s Maid Marian. I get why the author made this choice. Gaughen loved the myths, but never liked Marian, because she always thought of her as weak (which is pretty much how I feel about Buttercup in the Princess Bride). So, she changed things up and made Marian a thief and knife thrower. Cool.
I don’t mind too much that Scarlet and Marian are the same . . ., except when I picked up the book, I kind of hoped and expected to have Scarlet be a different character. For all the times Marian has to be rescued, I never thought of her as weak. She had a different kind of strength from the men, an ability to stand tall and help the cause as a lady from a different front. She had to smile in the face of her enemies while secretly helping Robin. She was clever in her own right. But she was always the only woman in the stories, the only women among all the men, so I kind of feel that by melding the two characters together, Gaughen lost the opportunity to have not one, but two strong women become part of the Robin Hood myths — one who stood tall as a lady, and one who was a thief and knife thrower. I would have liked to see that.
She made another choice, and that’s fine. Scarlet is a great character. But I can’t help but be a bit disappointed nevertheless.
So…, look. There are things I really love about this book, and there are things that really annoy me, too. That leaves me with mixed feelings. Will I read more books by Gaughen in the future? Most definitely, yes, because I do think she’s a great writer even if this book was contrary to my expectations.
Despite the inexplicable cuteness of my newborn niece (I AM SO OBSESSED!!), which has taken up a significant about of my time, it’s been a rather good reading month. 🙂
1. Fast, Cheap and Under Control: Lessons from the Greatest Low-Budget Movies of All Time, by John Gaspard
2. After the Apocalypse, by Maureen F. McHugh
3. The Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri
4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
5. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. The Waking Moon (published on wattpad), by T.J. McGuinn
7. The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham
8. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (audio book), by Mary Roach
9. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
So, I found out via twitter that Margaret Atwood has joined and has been promoting this site called wattpad. Essentially, its a way for writers to post stories online and connect with readers. Normally I wouldn’t look twice at this kind of site, in part, because its a self publishing venue in which there is no way to earn money (it’s completely free all around), but I figured since Margaret Atwood and has posted some of her poems, it lends the site some credibility and so I would check it out.
As a Writer
Writers post stories (either short stories or novels in serialized format or snippets or poetry), which readers can vote or comment on, and they can “fan” their favorite authors to find out when something new is posted. According to the website, it has millions of readers every month. It also has an associated phone app and the option to promote your story on other sites (such as GoogleBooks, Sony eBookstore, and Scribd). All of which, suggests that there is an opportunity to connect with readers. You still have to find ways to promote your work on the site by chatting with readers and commenting on other works, and so forth, which is a lot of work in itself.
Though, I’m aiming to be professionally published, I can certainly see the appeal of instant gratification provided by self publishing your work (in any format). So, though I initially intended to join the site simply to read Margaret Atwood’s poems and to explore, I couldn’t help but post something of my own. The Poetry Project, as I’m calling it, will be a place where wattpad readers can suggest prompts that I will respond to with an original poem. I do have two poems completed (“Dreaming of Water on These Hot Sunny Days” and “The Butterfly Effect“), both of which you can read without being a member of wattpad. And I’m considering posting some of my Fay Fairburn stories on there, since I’ve already posted them on my blog, anyway.
I can already see that it’s a lot of work to get attention and move up in the stats (really based on popularity), which is fine — but it is something I also recognize as a distraction from doing the work to prepare and submit manuscripts for professional paid publishing, which is not so fine. I’ve been holding off on doing the final work to edit and submit some of the short stories I’ve written — there’s fear involved of the I’m-not-good-enough variety — and I really need to make sure that happens. So, I’ll keep with wattpad for a while as a side project to see how it goes, but only under the provision that it doesn’t keep me from my main goals.
As a Reader
As to be expected, since there is no filter system (no editor selecting what appears and what needs more work), you get a lot of writing on the site that is not great (in fact a portion of it is really bad). You kind of having to skim through first pages and opening lines until you find something that’s worth reading. There are recommended stories and poems, which I tend to go to first, and various ways of searching to come up with unique reads, but there’s a ton of content on there to sort through to find something you like.
Despite that, I did find The Waking Moon, by TJ McGuinn. The book description: “Paulette’s life is in shambles. Her sister is dead, her mother is a drunk, and she’s been forced to transfer into a chaotic public school full of bullies. Things go from bad to worse when, one night while driving them home from dinner, her intoxicated mother hits and kills a teenage boy and is sent to jail. Now Paulette is truly alone. But when the teenage boy mysteriously comes back from the dead looking for Paulette, she finds herself face to face with the purest love on earth.”
McGuinn presents a story with clean, crisp prose. I say this not just in comparison to the work on wattpad, but in comparison work published in general. It’s good clean writing that draws you into the story from sentence one. Paulette is an interesting character, who is understandably downcast, based on the various problems she has to face. Life is rough, but she’s not so despondent as to be depressing or boring. I was definitely on her side.
The character I absolutely fell in love with, though, was the one friend she made in high school, Rhodes. He’s quirky and fun, and sticks up for Paulie. He’s kind to Paulie and though he’s fallen for her, he doesn’t push her too hard. He does make mistakes (at one point, jealousy rears its head), but he’s quick to back off and apologize for him. He even manages to respectfully help her out of her clothes, when she’s injured, which is tough thing to do when it’s someone you’re crushing on. He’s a character that I wish was real, cause I would love to have him be my friend in real life.
The super-haught dead boy (whose name I can’t remember) is rather generic and bland in comparison to Rhodes, who has so much personality. In fact, I didn’t quite get why she falls for him, except that there is an immediate emotional connection based on common tragedy.
The story overall held my interest the entire way through, and I found myself crying by the end. Definitely worth reading, and I hope I get to read more work by McGuinn in the future.
Finding other works on wattpad that I liked as much is slow going. I have found some “good” stuff, and lots of “okay” stuff, but not much that falls into the “great” category. There is definitely some of that in there, though.
1. Kinderbard – Songs for Children Sung by Characters from Shakespeare
Kinderbard is an awesome project to create that uses Shakespeare and music to inspire and educate children.
“We want to bring into the world the first in a planned series of books, music, and interactive apps containing songs for children. Each song is ‘sung by’ a character from Shakespeare, and is true to the quotation spoken by that character, and on which the song is based. Many of our songs address issues with which children can identify, such as anxiety, sibling rivalry, even bullying. Some are just silly or funny. But they are all lovingly created, and professionally performed, produced, and mastered.” — quoted from here
If you watch the video on the kickstarter page, you can see the love that has gone into making all of this. Daeshin Kim is organizing the project, while his wife is creating the art and his young daughter is singing the songs. The project is in fact inspired by the challenges the daughter had to face when the family moved to Paris and how music and Shakespeare helped her adapt to a new language and culture.
The project only has a few days left to gain funding, so I’m trying to signal boost and get others to join in. It certainly helps that in every interaction that I’ve had with Daeshin, he has been generous and kind, so I hope, hope, hope that the funds for this project come together.
2. Rereading The Martian Chronicles The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories that have been strung together into a novel, which presents earth’s colonization of Mars. The first expeditions meet with challenges from the Martian natives, who are an advanced race in their own right. In one such story, “The Earth Men,” the company lands hoping to receive acknowledgement and fanfare in this first interaction with an alien race, only to find the Martians to be bored and annoyed by their presence.
As the colonization continues and more and more humans come to Mars, we see new kinds of stories, stories of people reshaping a stranger world, of strange people finding peace in solitude away from the red tape of Earth, of people fighting back once Earth tries to bring it’s red tape to Mars. Some stories are better than others of course — and certainly, being written in the ’50s, there’s not much space for women who are little more than background — but on the whole they are stories with interesting characters, stories that analyze humanity and society by situating it on an alien world.
I actually picked up the book to reread just a few days before Ray Bradbury passed away, the coincidence of which added a new level of poignancy to the reading. I remember being immediately smitten with the book when I first read it in school. “There Will Come Soft Rains” remains one of my favorite shorts stories, and in rereading it again now, I’m still amazed by the way he spun the story and how it still both moves me and gives me chills. Really a fantastic book — just one piece of evidence showing how amazing Bradbury was, and I’m already looking forward to reading it again someday.
3. Snow White and the Huntsman and the fabulous witch
I was going to write a post all about how, while Snow White and the Huntsman was a flawed movie in many ways, Charlize Theron was gorgeous and wonderful, bringing a haunted, unhinged depth to Queen Ravena (that pretty much carried the movie), and how I really do love the queen in the Snow White stories in general, because Snow in her purity is rather boring, but Gemma Files (aka handful_ofdust) already wrote about it in her fabulous column and said it so much better than I ever could.
The only thing she didn’t mention is Theron’s fantastic costumes throughout the movie. Her gowns were amazing, like this one with the amazing headpiece and bird’s skulls around the neckline or this one that’s made with dung beetle carapaces or this one that looks like chain mail. Gorgeous.
4. Speaking of fairy tales…
I was introduced to this story at PANK Magazine by Rachel Rodman, called “Experimental Breeds: Bears, Clothed In Rumpled Hoods, Pipe “Rapunzel” To The Sleeping Pigs,” which fractures multiple fairy tales and mashes them together. It blew my mind. I mean, literally I was left sitting in my chair, slack-jawed, and unable to think properly — mind-blown. Go read it.
Yesterday, I arrived at work, only to immediately rip a hole in the seat of my pants. It was NOT awesome and set a bad precedent for the day. However, that evening I went to the mall to replace the pants that ripped, and … I ended up buying myself a whole new outfit, pants, shirt, sweater.
Considering the fact that shopping can sometimes be a stressful and/or depressing event for me, finding a whole outfit that works perfect, makes me feel good, and that I love is a really great feeling.
1. Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror, by Jason Zinoman
2. Paradise, by Toni Morrison
3. The Black Unicorn: Poems, by Audre Lorde
4. Tender is the Night (audio book), by F. Scott Fitzgerald
5. Skin Folk, by Nalo Hopkinson
I’m thrilled to be included in this issue with so many clearly talented writers. I loved C.L. McFadyen‘s evocative poem, “The Bottom of a Circle,” and Val Dering Rojas‘ “Things That Are Still Broken” made me deliriously happy. And then, there’s the flash story, “I Would Rather Death by Chocolate,” by Elizabeth Akin Stelling, which is a lovely exploration of sweetness, along with so many more great works.
In other news, if you haven’t seen it, the trailer for the The Great Gatsby has been released, and it’s so good it gives me chills. I had no idea until seeing the trailer that Baz Luhrmann directed it, which I think is a perfect fit. His best movies (Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge) start off with a kind of manic decadence that fits the roaring ’20s, but the stories then slip beneath the superficiality of the spectacle to reach the muted undertones and hidden emotional depths of the characters. Needless to say, I’m rather excited.
I haven’t read The Great Gatsby since high school. I vaguely remember the not hating the book, but it also not making much of an impact on me. I didn’t get it at the time. I am certain that a part of that was my inability to appreciate and absorb the poetry of language. I’ve grown a lot as a reader since then.
My interest in E.M. Fitzgerald in general has been sparked recently, in part due to Tom Hiddelston’s portrayal of Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and in part because I recently picked up Tender is the Night and have been enjoying it (as a side note, Tender is partly based on his relationship with Zelda, which is also fascinating).
At any rate, I’m definitely going to have to pick The Great Gatsby up, and read it again with more focus. Perhaps I’ll like it better this time around.
I’m a huge fan of horror movies and I love seeing behind the scenes of how movies are made, so it’s no surprise that I would totally dig Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror, by Jason Zinoman. The book presents a history of how filmmakers, such as Wes Craven, Roman Polanski, George Romero and others, took the old schlocky stories (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.) to the next level, with stories that push the boundaries of politics and social commentary, as well as gore.
Zinoman didn’t go into deep analysis of the film (I’m sure there are plenty of other books that do), but explored the lives of the directors and writers that became known as auteurs in the industry (whether or not it was truth), revealing how they came to develop the movie that are now classics of horror. Keeping in mind that I did not live in the era and have not seen several of these movies (though I have heard and know about all of them), I can’t judge whether the author’s point of view accurately reflects the movies or the time in which they were made, but I can say that it worked for me. I was thoroughly fascinated and entertained, so much so that I plowed through the book in under two days. It was a great, fun read, and I now need to do a marathon and see all the movies that I have not seen.
The one flaw, for me at least as I have a deep love (read: obsession) of lists, is that the author did note compile of filmography of movies mentioned in the book. How else am I supposed to easily quantify which movies I have and have not seen?
So lacking a proper filmography, I skimmed through the book and made my own list of all the movies discussed or mentioned, and posted it on my blog.
1. No Surrender: Poems, by Ai
2. Dead West, written by Rick Spears, illustrated by Rob G.
3. An American Tragedy (audio book), by Theodore Dreiser
4. I am J, by Cris Beam
5. The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You (poetry), by Caits Meissner and Tishon
1. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
2. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein
3. Anthem, by Ayn Rand
4. Born Wicked, by Jessica Spotswood
5. Rasl, Vol. 1: The Drift, by Jeff Smith
6. Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J.M. Lassen
7. Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson
Following economic collapse, Toronto dissolves into such chaos that the central city, known as “the burn”, is abandoned by Canadian government. Those who live there do so without proper infrastructure, no electricity or plumbing, no hospitals, no police, etc. Yet, these people manage to create lives in the slums, small businesses built in what ways they can (one person fixes shoes by replaces the soles with old tires), and doing what they can to avoid the dangerous gangs that proliferate.
Ti-Jeanne is a woman who feels trapped by the burden of her baby son, while wanting to end her relationship with her drug-addicted boyfriend Tony and dealing with her gruff, overbearing grandmother. On top of that, Ti-Jeanne begins having frightening visions, which means she’s inherited some of her grandmother’s gifts. Ti-Jeanne can’t seem to escape her attraction to Tony, especially after he gets in trouble with the gangs and seeks her help.
Nalo Hopkinson draws on her Caribbean roots to infuse this novel with such folk creatures as Jap-Jabs and duppies and other strange spirits. It’s a richly textured novel with a well-realized sense of place and community.
Ti-Jeanne is a strong character, a woman who may not always be sure of herself, but has the strength to act when action is required. And as a whole, the characters in this book are complicated and interesting, with the main villain Rudy being truly terrible and terrifying. A really great book that has me wanting read a lot more of Hopkinson’s work.
As I mentioned, one of the presentations at FOGcon was by Nalo Hopkinson, in which she played ring games, one of which was the “Brown Girl in the Ring” game (here’s a link to the words and here’s a video of a disco star singing it is in 1978), which is quoted several times throughout the book. I didn’t understand the quote when I read it the first time, but seeing Hopkinson in a group, singing the rhymes and showing how the game is played (one person stands in the center, while other stand in a circle around her singing, then the girl in the center makes a body movement, which the circle repeats, at which point someone else is chosen to be in the center), added a whole new element to the reading of the book. It makes me want to go back and read the book again and see how that new understanding of the game may change how I perceive the text.
In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Time Out New York create a top 50 list of best books for kids, which of course I had to immediately go through to see how many I’ve read. There are a bunch on the list that I’m definitely interested in reading, and there are several I barely remember and wouldn’t mind reading again. It’s kind of a nostalgia grab bag, reading this list. I haven’t even thought about Are You My Mothere? in ages, but now the entire story vivid in my mind and making me smile.
Of the 50 I’ve read 19— Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Holes by Louis Sachar Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg Coraline by Neil Gaiman Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman The Bone series by Jeff Smith The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
1. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
2. Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kibuishi
3. Sophie’s Choice (audio book), by William Styron
4. Great Classic Science Fiction (audio book)
5. The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder
6. Daytripper, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
7. A Rope of Thorns, by Gemma Files
(Via mrissa) I will add my monthly reading list later today.
The book I’m reading:I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, which is enjoyable, but very old fashioned in tone and sentiment. I’m also reading The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You, a lovely book of poetry by Caits Messner and Tishon that I got through their kickstarter project, as well as Z: Zombie Stories, a young adult story full of exactly what the title says.
Books I’m writing: I’m inching along with the Untitled Werewolf Novel, and the way things are going with my Fay Fairburn stories, I may just end up with a novel out of that.
The book I love the most. There are so, so many books I love, but a couple of new favorites are Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma, and The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder.
The last book I received as a gift: I think it was a cookbook of simple, low-cost recipes that I never actually use.
The last book I gave as a gift: I bought The Last Days of Dead Celebrities, by Mitchell Fink, from the $2 bin at B&N for my sister, cause she likes that sort of thing, but I haven’t given it to her yet.
The nearest book:I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, which is currently sitting in my purse, along with an issue of NANO Fiction.
The book I want someone else to please write for me: Oh, goodness, I don’t know.
Book two has Reverend Rook and his Lady Ixchel constructing “Hex City,” built on blood and carnage, but also the only place where hexes can live in peace with one another. Meanwhile, Chess, the red-headed little man of grit and violence, barely in control of his new abilities, seeks his revenge against his former lover, Rook, while avoiding the attacks of angry hexes, Pinkerton agents, and other darker creatures, with Ed Morrow along for the ride.
As the middle book in the trilogy, A Rope of Thorns widens the the scope of the story, interweaving new characters and plotlines into Gemma Files’ vision of a blood soaked west.
As always, violence follows Chess wherever he goes, as well as a strange new red weed that is spreading through the desert in the wake of his footsteps. But Chess has changed. He still laughs at the world and it’s brutal misery, but his laughter is more bitter and without glee. The unfolding of Chess’s character that began in the first book, continues in the second. His layers are stripped away and the profoundly human that lays at his core is unveiled. I’d be madly in love with him, if it weren’t for the fact that he is fictional, gay, and unlikely to take my affection kindly.
The addition of Yancey Colder into the story is wonderfully refreshing. She’s a spiritualist with her own unique power and is drawn into Chess’s circle of violence. She’s a strong female character, one who knows how to act quickly and smartly in the face of threat, and who manages not to be crushed under the weight of disaster that transpires.
Morrow, too. I find I’m even more fond of him in this book, because for all that happens, he stays loyal and true to his friend, Chess. He’s a good brave man, who knows that justice isn’t always what’s written down in legislature books.
Most every one is given a wider breadth in this one, though the Gods that are playing board games with the world remain somewhat one-dimensional. Though, as they are far from human, I suppose that’s to be expected.
Like the first book, there’s plenty of sex and gore in gripping, graphic detail, and the story moves along at a fast pace. I’m looking forward to reading the final book, A Tree of Bones. Based on the ending of book two, I can’t even imagine the carnage that will have to take place.
Yesterday, I read a blog in which someone wrote a love letter to The Great Gatsby in honor of Valentine’s Day. I loved the idea of writing a love letter to a book, and I immediately started thinking about what book or books I would want to write a love letter, too. There are many, many possibilities, of course, many books I’ve loved.
But its the books of Stephen King that hold a certain nostalgia for me, because I connect them so clearly with high school. I was obsessed with his books during that time, and I read them one after another, whole days and weekends vanishing as I climbed into King’s bizarre worlds. It just made sense to me that those books deserved a love poem.
In other news… It just so happened that my local Los Gatos Library was having a grand opening today. I had no idea until I stopped in upon the suggestion of a friend. The new building is rather fantastic, very retro and clean and full of large windows and bright comforting colors. It’s a wonderful design and they had several different performers, including a couple of guitarists and an author presentation to celebrate.
Upstairs, I found a presentation going on in which Kasu Kibuishi created sketches of his fantastic world and talked about how he made his work. Technology is rather awesome. We got to see the sketches go up on the big screen as he drafted them out on his computer tablet. Made me wish I was a better artist and that I could just throw stuff out like that. Anyway, I bought Book One of Amulet and got it signed. He included a cute little sketch of one of the characters, too (see below).
Of course, I had to read it right when I got home. I was hooked right away and breezed straight through. After facing a tragedy in which their father dies, Emily and Navin and their mom move to the families old home in a small town to build a new life for themselves. But there is something mysterious about the basement, and a tentacled creature appears, grabbing their mother and dragging her away into a strange world. Emily and Navin set chase to rescue her.
Book One is the set up for the series, so there isn’t room for complete character development yet. Hints are there, though, and the three family members are sweet and loving and rather likable.
There’s some really great ambiguity going on, too. It’s not entirely clear. The potential ally my be a dangerous threat, and the supposed enemy may not be all that evil. I really like that depth, which will allow a larger more complex story to potentially unfold.
Kibuishi has created a wonderfully creative fantastical world. The art is gorgeous — bright and colorful sometimes and shadowy and mysterious, all depending on the mood. The only frustrating thing is that I now have to go out and buy the other four or five books in the series. I’m that hooked.
1. Howards End, by E.M. Forster
2. Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse (poetry), by David Perez
3. The Yo-Yo Prophet, by Karen Krossing
4. Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day, Ben Loory
5. Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma
6. I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (audio book), by Steve Earle
From the inside flap: “Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.”
Reading Imaginary Girls is like walking through the halls of a haunted house. Everything on the outside is normal, but strange things happen from time to time and you can’t be sure whether the ghosts are real or if its just your mind playing tricks. Events in the book are subtly strange in this way, and the surreal tone of the tale is entirely appropriate, because hauntings abound. The lost town of Olive haunts the bottom of the reservoir, Chloe is haunted by the memory of the dead girl, Ruby is haunted by the secrets she tries to hide.
The title is also wonderfully appropriate, as the uncertainty of what is imagined and what isn’t unfolds throughout the story. Not to mention, what makes a girl imaginary? Is Chloe imaginary because she isn’t entirely her own, because she’s possessed by Ruby (and willingly so, as she offers her devotion wholeheartedly to her sister)? Is Ruby imaginary, because how can that kind of girl, the kind of girl that gets everything and anything she wants really exist? Or is the imaginary part of Ruby dependent on how Chloe sees her, how Chloe idolizes her and in a way shapes her with that idolatry that no person can live up to? And London? Oh, there are many, many ways that London could be imaginary, if she exists at all.
Imaginary Girls is a book that is multilayered and achingly beautiful, one that leaves just the right amount of questions for you to sit with on rainy Sunday and ponder, while outside the water swirls. It’s a book I want to hold in the hollows of my heart and never, ever let go.
It’s also one of those books I want to see made into a movie right now, damnit, now. In fact, as soon as I put the book down, I began to imagine how I would adapt the screenplay and shape the work into a finished film.
It would a be a difficult book to adapt, due to its subtly and Hollywood has a tendency to want things clearly explained, especially in movies geared toward young adults. No doubt the immediate inclination of any screenwriter would be to use voice over. I can understand the temptation, as it would allow Chloe share the inner workings of her emotional state.
However, I would squash this temptation. A movie made from this would be better off if the images and events stand for themselves, letting the strange be strange, making it the “surreal nightmare” someone described it as on the cover. Use of camera angles and direction would make it clear that the movie was filmed from Chloe’s point of view and the scenes as they unfold would let us in to how she feels about it. (The right actress would also be vital for this, someone who could express the internal while saying nothing.)
Color would be a vital part of this movie, reds would be too red, blues too blue, but all or most of the color would be for the girls, especially Ruby, who’s eyes would be the most green thing in all the movie. The rest of the town, compared to Ruby (and at points Chloe, too) would be gray and brown, dull in comparison. Ruby, too, would appear subtly sharper, more in focus, than everything and everyone around her. The cinematic tone in the town where Ruby rules would be different than everywhere outside of town or when Ruby is not in the scene.
Light would also play a large part, especially at night, when shadows have greater impact and the reservoir (a character in and of itself) would be inky black, like oil. It would lick at the shore, it would seem to reach up around the edges. Sometimes the reservoir would reflect the starlight with perfect clarity, so it looks like Chloe is swiming in the sky, sometimes it would reflect nothing at all.
People who come to see the movie should leave at the end feeling joyfully unsettled, as though they had just walked into amd experienced someone else’s dream.
My Favorite 10 Books of 2011
(not in any particular order)
1. Fated, by S.G. Browne
2. Happy All The Time, by Laurie Colwin
3. A Room with a View, by E.M. Forester
4. Locke & Key (series), written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
5. Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki
6. Peeps, by Scott Westerfeild
7. Push of the Sky, by Camille Alexa
8. Ceremony for the Choking Ghost (poetry), by Karen Finneyfrock
9. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
10. Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
11. Shine, by Lauren Myracle
12. Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill (a reread and I still love it)
13. The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim C Hines
14. Boy Meets Boy (audio book), by David Levithan
15. The Door to Lost Pages, by Claude Lalumiere
16. Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest
17. A Book of Tongues, by Gemma Files
18. Blindness, by Jose Saramago
19. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
20. Sharp Teeth, a novel in poems by Toby Barlow
1. Fast, Cheap, & Written That Way: Top Screenwriters on Writing for Low-Budget Movies, by John Gaspard
2. Siddhartha (audio book), by Hermann Hesse
3. Sharp Teeth, a novel in poems by Toby Barlow
4. Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist, by Brooke Kroeger
5. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
6. Screencraft: Screenwriting, edited by Declan McGrath
7. At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror, by H.P. Lovecraft
8. The Mermaid’s Madness, by Jim C. Hines
9. Sons and Lovers (audio book), D.H. Lawrence
For some reason, I didn’t post about my category reading challenge for 2011, huh (well, here it is on Librarything). I’m not done with it yet, and it doesn’t look like I will finish — I’m currently at 90 books, with 9 more to be read. I’ll post my reading stats at the end of the month once I have a full tally.
In the meantime, I’m planning to do the category reading challenge again this year (what can I say, it’s fun, and gets me reading what I might not read otherwise.), so here are my planned categories for 2012 (my Librarything thread is here). Some categories have more required reading than others, but the ultimate goal is to read 100 books.
1. Hello, I Love You (0/6)
I’ve read one book by an author and loved it. Now I want to read at least one more by the same author.
2. Oh, How I’ve Missed You (0/6)
Books by an authors I once loved, but haven’t read in a long time. OR, rereads of favorite books.
3. It’s a Smoldering World After All (0/7)
Apocalyptic and Post Apocalyptic books, as well as some dystopian novels.
4. Unicorns from Space! — Science Fiction (0/10)
5. Unicorns from Space! — Fantasy (0/10)
6. I Don’t Wanna Grow Up (0/9)
Books for children and young adults.
7. Bam! Pow! Wham! (0/9)
Graphic novels and comics.
8. Just the Facts, Ma’am (0/8)
9. The Universe in Verse (0/9)
10. From My Bookshelf (0/8)
I have a tendency to jump at the new and shiny in bookstores and the library, rather than reading the stacks already on my shelves. This is meant to rectify that.
11. From the Modern Library’s 100 Best Books (0/10)
There are actually about 200 books, since there is also the publicly voted list (with some overlaps). I’m working off the list from 2009, which is posted on my blog.
12. Miscellany (0/8)
The catch-all category for whatever doesn’t fit in the above.
First, let me say that this was a fantastic and appropriate conclusion to the trilogy. Now, I’m going to go into more detail about my reasons — without getting into too many specifics — so if you don’t want to risk a spoiler, turn away.
The conclusion of the Hunger Games trilogy finds Katniss as a symbol (and perhaps puppet) of the revolutionary forces housed in District 13. All of the districts, to varying degrees, are at war with the Capital, and a large part of this book deals with the public relations aspects of war. Katniss is allowed out into the field only so that District 13 can record her actions for PR commercials leaked illegally into the districts to inspire them to keep fighting.
It an interesting point of view for a young adult book to take. So many present the main characters as “the one” that will save the day and they become the most important aspect in the war and are the key to ending it. Katniss is vital to the war and is important as a symbol. But the war is so much bigger than her, and in many way’s she’s powerless against the tide. The war would carry on and end one way or another without her.
Katniss is certainly a strong character throughout the series, even as her emotions and actions have been coopted by one cause or another. She stands up, she fights even if she’s sure that doing so will mean her own destruction, but another important part of her internal struggle (which occasionally is reflected in her external actions) is finding a space for herself, to feel, to live, to love, to be, that doesn’t belong to someone else. For example, at one point, Katniss overhears Peeta asks who Gale thinks she will choose, and Gale responds that she will choose whomever will most help her survive, implying that Katniss is cold, calculating in how she approaches relationships. She never openly addresses the accusation, but is angered by it, as she acknowledges that she has never been allowed the emotional space to consider how she really felt about either of them on her own terms because the games and the war for so long has decided for her. I think Katniss’ emotional journey is powerful, because she goes through such darkness, and yet finds her way out of despair to light and life and hope again.
I won’t go into details about the ending, except to say that it’s a war, people die and those who survive are left emotionally and physically scared. Some people, I have heard, were upset by the ending. I thought it was thoroughly appropriate, and I appreciated that Collins gave space and feeling to reconstruction, as well as recognizing the kind of sorrow and depression that can be felt while recovering from war.
1. The Gaslight Dogs, by Karin Lowachee
2. My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland
3. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
4. Shine, by Lauren Myracle
5. Burn This Book: PEN Writers Speak Out on the Power of the Word, edited by Toni Morisson
6. Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld
7. How Long, poems by Ron Padgett
8. Kissing Kate, by Lauren Myracle
1. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
2. Sweetly, by Jackson Pearce
3. Push of the Sky, by Camille Alexa
4. A Room with a View (audio book), by E.M. Forster
5. By Grit and Grace: Eleven Women Who Shaped the American West, edited by Glenda Riley and Richard W. Etulain
6. Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
7. Paper Covers Rock and Triplicity: Poems in Threes (poetry), by Chella Courington and Kristen McHenry
8. The Canterbury Tales (graphic novel), by Seymour Chwas
9. Deadline, by Mira Grant
From the back cover: “Ayla Hammond is taking on Paris.
Hoping for a romantic getaway in the City of Lights with her girlfriend, Shannon, she finds a city under the dark thrall of Le Monstre.
Getting caught up in mystery and murder was the last thing Ayla and Shannon expected in the City of Love, but as the body count grows and tension rises between Parisian werewolves and humans they find themselves stalked by an unknown terror.
What is Le Monstre and why does it make Ayla’s wolf want to turn tail and run? Can it be stopped before they become its next victims?”
I was quite lucky to have been a beta-reader on this one, while it was still in the draft stage and as such, I’m quite fond of it. (In the name of full disclosure, I should point out that I have been internet buddies with Naomi (naomi_jay) for a while now. However, I am not the sort to joyfully rave about something unless I actually enjoy it.) I have no idea what edits Naomi made since then, but I have no doubt it only got better from there.
Reasons to read this book: 1. Ayla is rather awesome. She’s strong, independent, conflicted, and easy to care about. She’s a whole person, who has been beat up and bashed in, and yet, manages to hold it together without sacrificing the people she loves and who love her.
2. Ayla and Shannon’s relationship is of the healthy kind that happens between two (mostly) mature adults. As much as I enjoy books about two people falling in love for the first time, I love books about the messy aspects of being in a relationship and the kind of compromise, compassion, and forgiveness it takes to hold it all together. Naomi does this
3.Le Monstre is as threatening and frightening as a proper monster should be. Naomi gives just the right amount description to draw you in, while leaving enough to the imagination to unsettle you. I love a good monster and this is one.
4. It’s set in Paris, and everyone loves Paris in the Springtime or the Fall. Well, at least I love the idea of Paris, even though I’ve never been there.
5. I could probably pull out the old “because I said so,” but instead I’ll end with this is a fun book to read, and if you like your urban fantasy with werewolves, you”ll most likely enjoy it.
1. A Sentimental Journey and Other Writings, by Laurence Sterne
2. Tonight No Poetry Will Serve (poetry), by Adrienne Rich
3. Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
4. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Pia Guerra
5. Fated, by S.G. Browne
6. The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim C Hines
A little while back, I submitted a poem to a feminist speculative poetry anthology. My poem was rejected. That’s quite all right, because while it would be awesome for my poem to have appeared in the anthology, I’m frankly just excited that such an anthology is coming out.
The anthology, called Moment of Change, is edited by rose_lemberg, and will be published by Aqueduct Press. Lemberg has posted the table of contents, and it looks like there are some rather fabulous writers who will be appearing. How exciting!
I can’t wait until this hits the presses, so I can read it. (^_^)
1. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams
2. Blindness, by Jose Saramago
3. Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld
4. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
5. Boy Meets Boy (audio book), by David Levithan
6. 101 Best Scenes Ever Written: A Romp Through Literature for Writers and Readers, by Barnaby Conrad
7. The Door to Lost Pages, by Claude Lalumiere
8. You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing, by John Scalzi
9. Castle in the Air (audio book), by Diana Wynne Jones
10. Ceremony for the Choking Ghost (poetry), by Karen Finneyfrock
A man stopped at a traffic light, waiting for the light to turn, suddenly goes blind, a white blindness, like you’re viewing the world in a fog so great it obliterates all the world from view. He stumbles out of the car, calling out, I can’t see, I can’t see. A man takes him home. His wife takes him to the eye doctor.
Shortly after coming into contact with him, all of these people go blind as well, following by all of the people they come into contact with. An epidemic of blindness spreads through the city. The government in an immediate and swift effort to quell the spread, take all the people who are blind and all the people who have come in contact with them an lock them into quarantine, a sanatorium without doctors or anyone to aid them.
In order to stay with her husband, the doctor’s wife claims that she is blind too, in order to join her husband in quarantine. She is certain that her time to be blind will come, but in the meantime, she is the only person with vision in a ward of the blind, the only true witness to the horrors that all the detainees experience.
The first thing you will notice about this book is that there are no names. In a world of the blind, Saramago asserts, identity is eliminated. The characters in this book are known only as the man, the doctor, the woman with dark glasses, the boy with a quint, etc. Unable to see each other and recognize each other, names have no meaning.
Likewise, and to assert this point, dialog is not separated out into separate paragraphs. Whole strings of conversation flow into one another within a single paragraph. To give you a sense of what I mean, here’s a string of dialogue:
“What does reading do, You can learn almost everything from reading, But I read too, So you must know something, Now I’m not so sure, You’ll have to read differently then, How, The same method doesn’t work for everyone, each person has to invent his or her own, whichever suits them best, some people spend their entire lives reading but never get beyond reading the words on the page, they don’t understand that the words are merely stepping stones placed across a fast-flowing river, and the reason they’re there is so that we can reach the farther shore, it’s the other side that matters, Unless, Unless what, Unless those rivers don’t have just two shores but many, unless each reader is his or her own shore, and that shore is the only shore worth reaching.”
What you get are dense blocks of text, paragraphs that occasionally go on for several pages. Surprisingly, this did not throw me. Saramago is a skillful writer, and I was soon able to pick up the pattern of his writing and make sense of where the dialog began and ended. I wasn’t confused and the reading was easy, despite the thick chunks of text. Descriptions, scenes, dialog, and musings tumble one into the next, just as in life one day’s emotional and physical events and toils tumble into each other. The story maintains clarity and carries you along as though you are merely on a boat at the mercy of the flow of the river.
Saramago’s writing is philosophical, pondering, and beautiful, even as he is describing the horrifying events that occur. He manages to bring out the humanity in his characters even as he asserts that this mass epidemic of blindness eliminates the humanity of the population, which suddenly unable to care for itself is starving and desperate to survive.
Blindness is a beautiful book, one I would love to read again some time as I’m sure I would take something new away from it the second time around.
As a side note, a movie was adapted from the book, staring Julianne Moore. The movie is a fair adaptation and a good movie, though clearly it lacks the philosophical depth of the book.
1. Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukyanenko
2. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin
3. Midnight’s Children (audio book), by Salman Rushdie
4. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
5. The Last Days, by Scott Westerfeld
6. Dream Work (poetry), by Mary Oliver
7. Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows (graphic novel, volume three of a series), written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
1. Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill
2. I, Claudius (audio book), by Robert Graves
3. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones
4. An Artificial Night, by Seanan McGuire
5. Locke and Key: Head Games, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
6. Unbeknownst, Julie Hanson
7. Desert Places, by Robyn Davidson
1. Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami
2. Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
3. Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler
4. Aya (graphic novel), by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie
5. Peeps, by Scott Westerfeild
How do I even begin to describe this book? Let’s start with the bare facts. Kafka is a fifteen year old boy, who runs away from home, in part to escape the Oedipal curse his father lays upon him, and in part to find his mother and sister, who abandoned him as a child. Meanwhile, Nakata is an old man who, due to an accident when he was a child, is a bit slow mentally, but has the ability to talk to cats and has an internal wisdom that leads him to know exactly where he needs to be (if not the reasons why). The lives of these two characters are deeply connected, and yet not.
Things in Murakami’s world involve strange twistings and surreal happenstances. For instance, there’s the boy named Crow, who may be real and may not. A person may be a ghost while they are still alive. Things are unsettled in this book; nothing is certain. Just when you think something is what it is, it isn’t. It’s something more, or perhaps nothing of importance at all.
Reading, you don’t quite know how all this cacophony can possibly fit together and yet it does. It’s a logical disorder, full of metaphysical musings on the nature of the universe. It’s a very strange and beautiful book, or possibly a very strange and deeply unsettling book. But mostly it’s a book that you have to sit and think about for a while, because things are all tangled up after reading it — which is rather quite wonderful really.
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, by various authors
2. Horror Vacui: Poems, by Thomas Heise
3. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
4. The Civilized World: A Novel in Stories, by Susi Wyss
5. From Alice to Ocean: Alone Across the Outback, by Robyn Davidson, with photography by Rick Smolan
6. Life of Pi (audio book), by Yann Martel
7. 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson
8. Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, Vol. 1, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
9. Monster Island, by David Wellington
John Green and his brother Hank make youtube videos, which is how I found them and learned that John wrote books and that they had created this wonderful, weird community of people called Nerdfighters, who battle against world suck. John and Hank are charming, lovable goofballs, and I honestly fell in love with them and their antics in the videos before I ever read a word of John Green’s writing.
Then I picked up Paper Towns, and I’m not sure what I expected. It was sweet and funny and full of real world mystery and adventure and fun, the kind you can only have when you’re sixteen and not fully tied down to all the things you should do yet. It’s a wonderful book.
So, of course, I had to read more of John Green’s work.
In Looking for Alaska, Miles, aka “Pudge,” decides to leave the ease and safety of his home and current high school to head off to a prestigious boarding school instead. Pudge is looking for what poet François Rabelais called “the Great Perhaps,” for adventure, for a life fully lived. At Culver Creek Boarding School life for Pudge is certainly less safe and far more chaotic, especially after he meets Alaska Young, who is sexy, smart, crazy, mysterious and definitely trouble. He makes other friends, too, but his center of focus pivots around Alaska, who drags him into the chaos of her world and he soon finds that after meeting Alaska, things will never be the same.
Don’t think that this is the perfect set up for a romance, however, for while love is certainly present, it’s mostly one sided, and things don’t work out to according to the neat fantasies the boy’s dream up. Life is too complex; it’s too messy.
I would like to point out here that Looking for Alaska has one of the greatest passages I’ve ever read. It’s widely quoted among Nerdighters, and I have to share it, too.
“I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”
Isn’t that gorgeous? It’s one of those quotes that will stick in my mind, that I will savor and remember the taste of, because it’s just that good. And really, the book is that good, too, with a character who’s all mixed up and a story that is funny and full of longing and loss and redemption. (You’ll notice that writing about John Green’s writing makes me want to use a lot of “and”s, because it’s so rich and multi-layered.) Looking for Alaska is a deeply moving book, and I loved it even more than I loved Paper Towns.
As a side note: Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns are very similar. Both have slightly geeky, awkward young men as their main characters, who fall hard for their beautiful schoolmate, almost to the point of obsession. Both women are highly opinionated, clever, mysterious, dangerous, sexy, and have a flair for the ultimate prank.Both stories center around the deep mystery of a person. But despite their similarities, both novels are unique, set in different worlds with a unique cast of interesting characters. Both are worth reading.
1. Lola: A Ghost Story, by J. Torres
2. 20th Century Ghost, by Joe Hill
3. Tropic of Cancer (audio book), by Henry Miller
5. Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki
6. Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda
7. Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
I am very, very sad about the closing of the Borders in my local area. I loved being able to just wander down the street from the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company (or occasionally from Rosies, my favorite bar) and explore she shelves looking for something good to take home.
However, I also rather like sales, and the one benefit of the stores closing is that I’ve been able to stock up on a whole heap of books that I might have not been able to afford otherwise. Therefore I present to you the bookstack of awesome. I visited three Borders stores (all of which are cloasing) to be able to create this stack.
From top to bottom:
1. At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft
2. Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld
3. The Last Days, by Scott Westerfeld (sequel to Peeps)
4. The Mermaid’s Madness, by Jim C. Hines
5. Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, whatever the latest edition is
6. Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukanenko (I love the movie and didn’t even know there was a book until I saw it in the store.)
7. Fated, by S.G. Browne
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
9. Zombies v.s. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
10. The Search for Wondla, by Tony DiTerilizzi
11. Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot
12. Demon Hunts (book 5 of the Walker Papers), by C.E. Murphy
13. God’s War, by Kameron Hurley (Love the cover of this one.)
14. Sandman: Brief Lives, by Stephen King (my favorite storyline of the Sandman series of graphic novels)
15. Preacher: Until the End of the World, by Garth Enis (writer) and Steve Dillon (artist)
16. Monster Island, by David Wellington
17. Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld
Newly Released Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente () is now available. The cover is gorgeous, very reminiscent of woodcut drawings, and the story — a modern retelling of the Slavic folktale, “Koschei the Deathless” — looks rather kick ass, too, as you can in this exceptionally done book trailer.
Valente also has a list of ways that people can help her promote her book on her blog, all of which is great advice for helping out any of your favorite authors when they release a new book.
Naomi Clark () is currently finishing up edits and formatting for her book Wild, which will be released on the kindle. This book has been in the making for five years, and she’s venturing back through her blog as a restrospective look at some of her challenges and thought processes along the way. (Now that she’s releasing books on kindle, I’m considering finally getting one. E-readers never held an appeal before, but now I must partake in the awesome that is Naomie’s writing.)
Speaking of Steampunk… a quick review: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is a rather good collection of steampunk tales. It has it’s ups and downs, but overall the stories are enjoyable. Along with the stories, there are a couple of interesting non-fiction pieces and a round-table interview about the future of steampunk.
Here are a few of the stories that I especially enjoyed:
In “The Unblinking Eye” by Stephen Baxter, Europe has advanced steam technology, but has never ventured toward the new world. Rather it is the Incas, who have developed their own advanced technology, and have ventured into lands unknown, colonizing each new territory they come across. come to pay Europe a visit.
Caitlin R. Kiernan tells the story of a maimed young woman, who has been outfitted with steam-powered limbs in “The Steam Dancer.”
“The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar” by Shweta Narayan, presents a new take on a traditional folktale, involving the beautiful clockwork birds of the Emperor’s aviary.
“Wild Copper” by Samantha Henderson can barely be labeled steampunk genre. It’s more of a fairy story, in which a girl offers to serve Oberon to save her brother. Steampunk or not, this is still a great tale.
An lonely orphan builds himself a mechanical friend in “Tanglefoot (A Clockwork Century Story)” by Cherie Priest. But his souless begins to take on a life of its own.
“The Anachronist’s Cookbook” by Cherie Priest Catherynne M. Valente (listing the wrong author goes down as the worst typo ever; so, so sorry) rails against the accepted politics of a steampowered era as it presents the exploits of an angry and vicious young woman.
While there were a couple of stories that I was not a fan of (i.e., “A Secret History of Steampunk” by The Mecha-Ostrich and “Flying Fish Prometheus” by Vilhelm Bergsøe), overall I enjoyed this collection of steampunk fiction and art. In fact, I would say it’s better than the first installment of this anthology series.
I bought this collection of Pablo Neruda’s poetry (translated by Stephen Mitchell) in 2001 and its taken me until now, ten years later, to finish it. This extremely slow pace should not be mistaken for dislike of the book, however. I had not read Neruda’s work before I boughtFull Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon. Traveling Mexico, I was looking for a book in Spanish and English that I could read, enjoy, and practice my Spanish with and I remembered that my Spanish teacher had mentioned this poet’s name in class at one point.
I began reading the book by first reading the poem in Spanish, then in English, then in Spanish again, to begin to get a sense of the poetic phrasing and how the language was translated.
As I began reading, however, I fell in love with each new ode and the way Neruda was clearly in love with life, the universe, and everything. He wrote odes to socks, to birds, to onions, to anything and everything this world has to offer. All of these ordinary things, which he layered with sensual and resonant language, suddenly had new mystical properties. I could not look at the armored artichoke the same way again as I dropped it into a pot to boil.
One would think I would have powered through the book to read every single poem, but the truth was I could not leave my favorite poems behind. This was a book I always had at hand, on a night stand or in my stack of TBR books. No matter what other books I was reading, I always eventually came back to these poems, returning to them like old lovers. I reread my favorites again and again, while every once in a while progressing forward to the another poem, a new favorite to be added to the list.
Now that I’ve finally finished the book, beginning to end, I will still be keeping it close. There is so much beautiful language to revisit and rediscover. This is a book that will probably always be by my side. I love it so.
The concept (or gimmick, if you prefer) for this anthology of stories came from an episode of Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics. In a nutshell, each of these stories is set in a world in which a machine has been invented that tells you how you will die. To quote from the back cover: “The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. It didn’t give you the date and it didn’t give you specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed, in careful block letters, the words DROWNED or CANCER or OLD AGE or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. It let people know how they were going to die.
The problem with the machine is that nobody really knew how it worked, which wouldn’t actually have been that much of a problem if the machine worked as well as we wished it would. But the machine was frustratingly vague in its predictions: dark, and seemingly delighting in the ambiguities of language. OLD AGE, it had already turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or shot by a bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machine captured that old-world sense of irony in death — you can know how it’s going to happen, but you’ll still be surprised when it does.”
Reading the premise, I would be easy to suspect redundancy in the stories, as with any gimmick. However, each of these authors pushes the boundaries of storytelling, using the concept of the machine to present a variety of possibilities and some very human reactions. The morbid is a natural part of each tale, but it stands as a back drop for exploration of human spirit and potential. These tales are touching, sad, experimental, thrilling, exciting. They are full of love, hope, loss, despair, joy, and humor.
It’s hard to pick out a favorite, because there are so many great stories to read, but here are a few, I especially enjoyed (the titles are all death predictions the machine might put out):
“Suicide” presents the story of a man bent on proving the death machine wrong, no matter what it takes.In “Aneurysm,” the machine is used as a rather unusual party game, with unusual and comical results.
“Loss of Blood” presents a frightening dystopian future, in which the world is divided along new class lines — the “good” deaths and the “bad” deaths.
Following several years of loss and sorrow, a couple seeks out the death machine’s prediction as a beacon of hope in “Miscarriage.”
In “Cassandra,” a young woman uses her knowledge of quantum mechanics to try to find a way out of the death machine’s prediction of a terrible disaster.
Many, many more could be mentioned, of course, the entire book in fact. There was not one story that I disliked outright, making this the one of the best anthologies that I’ve ever read. Not only was each story great in it’s own way, but many were also carried with powerful, poetic writing, not to mention the bonus of having each story include an illustration, provided by some great artists. (I’m even more jealous and regretful that I did not write and send in a story when submissions for this market was open.) Definitely worth having on your bookshelf.
I picked up this book because someone in an Amazon review called Creating Poetry a “muse disguised as paper”. It may not go that far, but it’s close. This book is full of writing prompts, each focused on the chapter’s subject, from Beginnings to Tone, Form, Research, Sound, Inspiration and more. There is plenty here for a poet to use and learn from, especially if they flip around from section to section, picking out prompts on an area of their writing they want to focus on. (I don’t think the best use is to read it from cover to cover as I did).
Occasionally, I thought the prompts for a particular subject were to specific, however, Drury encourages you to use this book as a jumping off point. It’s not necessary to follow the prompts to the letter, if the poem goes off in another direction.
Also, here is on of my responses to one of the prompts in the book. I followed a prompt focused on ghazal’s a form of poetry traditionally from the Middle East, which arranges the poem in a series of 5-10 couplets, rhymed on the same sound throughout and using the subject of love or wine to represent mystical experience. The prompt I used asked that the reader write a ghazal of my own. You’ll note that I dropped the rhyme, like many American poets do.
An Untitled Ghazal
The water in the vase is stagnant; the stems slimy.
A halo of petals on the table are emptied of fragrance.
We are always new, he says, always in the state of becoming new,
each dead cell replaced with its replicated offspring.
The leaves are dancing like translucent tissue paper.
The mottled light is bounding along the grass.
The days are an amalgamation of eyes blinking, hair growing,
lips parting, fingers thrumming over the flesh of the world.
He says, its not that time moves too quickly.
It’s that it moves too quickly.
The stars glimmer like fireflies trapped in tar.
The stars are a map of the freckles on your skin.
He says, silly rabbit, you have to have lived
what you lived in order to know what you know.
The Gerber Daisy leans against the glass.
A sun resides at the heart of its petals.
1. A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
2. A Book of Tongues, by Gemma Files
3. Muse and Reverie, by Charles De Lint
4. Beastly (audio book), by Alex Flinn
5. Magic or Madness, by Justine Larbalestier
I’m not quite sure how to summarize A Book of Tongues, so I’m going to take the lazy route and quote from the back cover:
“Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West’s most dangerous outlaw gangs-the troop led by Reverend Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned hexslinger and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow’s task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook’s power, then bring that knowledge back to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic itself.
Because magicians, despite their awesome powers, have never been more than a footnote in history: cursed by their own gift to flower in pain and misery, then feed vampirically on each other-never able to join forces, feared and hated by all. But Rook, driven by desperation, has a mind to shatter the natural law that prevents hexes from cooperation, and change the face of the world-a plan sealed by unholy marriage-oath with the Mayan-Aztec goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men, who has chosen Rook to raise her bloodthirsty pantheon from its collective grave through sacrifice, destruction, and apotheosis.
Caught between a passle of dead gods and monsters, hexes galore, Rook’s witchery, and the ruthless calculations of his own masters, Morrow’s only real hope of survival lies with the man without whom Rook cannot succeed: Chess Pargeter himself. But Morrow and Chess will have to literally ride through Hell before the truth of Chess’s fate comes clear-the doom written for him, and the entire world,”
A Book of Tongues is a wonderfully brutal read, all the more so, because Gemma Files manages to finagle sympathy for what could otherwise be a rather unsympathetic group of characters. Many of these characters are not what you would call nice. Chess is an unapologetic murderer; Rook is desperate and ruthless; and even Morrow is a liar.
Files’ merciless prose reaches out and reveals what they’re made of as each of these rough-shod gentlemen is trapped, bound like a fly into the webbing of the story. They’re lives quickly become interwoven, and eventually they learn that they’ll need each other to find their way out.
At first Chess’ character is the hardest to sympathize with, as he is the most openly violent and cruel. And because you see him through the lens of first Morrow and then Rook, it’s hard to get a read on him other than his love of absinthe and bloodshed and his desire for Rook. But by the end of the book, as more and more of Chess and how he’s put together is slowly revealed, it was Chess that I came to love the most. I feel deep rooted sympathy for him and what has befallen him in his life. He has had the hardest road, and in the face of it has stood up and laughed in its face. More than any other of the characters I want him to succeed; I want him to win.
A Book of Tongues is very graphic, not only in blood and gore (of which there is plenty), but also in sexual situations. Sometimes the events were so vivid in my mind that I didn’t quite know what to do with them, and I had to lower the book for a moment and take a breath before continuing.
This is the kind of horror that leaves you shaken (in more ways than one), with your head spinning, and not quite sure where you stand. While actually reading the book, I don’t know I could actually say that I liked it — the experience was a little to visceral for that — but that now I’m done reading I desperately want to read more. Thankfully, A Book of Tongues is book one of a trilogy, and the sequel, A Rope of Thorns comes out this June.
Last night I started read Machine of Death (MoD), an anthology of stories centered around the premise of a machine that lets people know how they are going to die, but is annoyingly vague about it. So far, so good. The first couple of stories have been fantastic, but that’s not the point of this story.
The point of the story is: I’ve known about this book for quite a long time. When the editors first started asking for submissions, I became thrilled at the idea of this book and knew I wanted to submit something to it. So, I came up with a couple of story ideas, started writing, got bogged down and lost in the writing, and never submitted anything.
While I started reading the stories in the finished book (while feeling a little jealous about it’s shiny and clever cover, as well as the awesome illustrations at the front of each one), I kept thinking about the stories I didn’t finish. Once upon a time, in one of MoD’s emails or blogs, I remember reading that if this book sells well, then they will consider making a second book on the same premise.
Suddenly, a story that I’ve had in the back of my mind jumped up and kicked me in the frontal lobe, announcing that it would work just wonderfully as a MoD story.
But that’s silly, I told the story, why would I work on writing a story for a market that’s not even open. Instead I should be working on things that I can actually submit and share when I’m done with them.
My protests did not, however, stop the story from jabbering in my ear and making a general nuisance of itself, insisting at grabbing my attention at every turn to the point that I finally had to give up on reading for the night and go to bed. At which point the story continued to lay itself out in a provocative display before me, dazzling me and enticing me with plot, dialog, and clever descriptions.
There is no winning against such an onslaught. So I dragged myself out of bed, scrambled around for the nearest legal pad and pen, and began my bleary eyed scribbling — bleary eyed not only due to exhaustion, but also because I’m half blind without my contacts in.
In the end, I had several pages filled with practically illegible writing, consisting of a nearly finished scene and some outline notes for the rest of it. I’m sure I’ll have a fun time deciphering the mess later.
But all I cared about was that the beast was appeased, and I was allowed to sleep.
ETA: I think I may know a way to make this story work without the MoD element to it, which would make it viable for other markets. Hrmm….
I always loved Stephen King’s opening line for The Gunslinger, book one of the Dark Tower series:
The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.
This is an excellent example of a great opening line. It’s not as poetic or witty as some famous opening lines, but it serves its purpose well, by immediately hooking readers (well, this reader at least) into the story. It gives and immediate (albeit brief) introduction to the setting and two main characters of this storyline, while setting up questions that make you want to know more, which also letting you know what the main tension of the story will be — the act of pursuit. Immediately you want to know: Who is the man in black? Who is the gunslinger? And why is he following the man in black?
This initial hook and interest was followed by a storyline that absorbed me completely. I loved The Gunslinger when I read it (even though my interest in the series dwindled as the wait from book to book accrued and the ongoing storyline became more convoluted), and that opening line was the first time I thought to myself, damn, that’s a great opening line.
Perhaps, this book was where my interest in opening lines first began, or perhaps it was always there, and this was what made me aware of it. Either way, I know that every time I read the back of a book, I flip open to the first page to see if the opening line catches at me. Opening lines appeal to me for many reasons, for example:
Introduce characters in an interesting way, like The Gunslinger line. Another example — “I am an invisible man.” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Present an important or central conflict of the story, again like The Gunslinger. Another example — “Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” – Franz Kafka, The Trial
Set the tone or mood of the book, especially if the narrator has a sense of humor — “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Opening lines can also feature the setting or introduce the theme, among other things. However, I find that the most memorable opening lines, the ones that catch my attention and draw me into the story, tend to include one or more of the three things I listed above — characters, central tension, or a feel for the mood.
Planning my opening line of a story or book is not the first thing I think of when I start writing. I begin with the overall arc of the plot, the character’s wants and challenges, and how to get it all across at the right pace, because while opening lines are important, they don’t mean much if they’re not followed up by a great story.
But once I’m in the rewriting stage, I do try to think about what I want to get across in that first line and how I might try to hook the the reader and draw them in with a (hopefully) great opening line.
What are some of your favorite opening lines, and what do you love about them?
Written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou
Illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna
Bertrand Russell, British logician and philosopher spent his life in pursuit for truth and for a clear, logical system for understanding that truth. He began with the study of mathematics (until one of his own discoveries undermined the foundations of truth upon with math stood) and later integrating philosophical logic.
The graphic novel is interesting in the ways that it is layered — a story within a story within a story. It opens with the author of the graphic novel talking directly to the reader and explaining that this is a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and going into the process of making the book. Then it shifts into the story itself with Russell meeting up with a group of antiwar protesters while on his way to giving a lecture on logic. The protesters call for him to join them, because he once protested against WWI when he was younger. Instead, he invites them to listen to his lecture, wherein he begins to tell his life story and how he began his life-long pursuit of truth. The graphic novel shifts back and forth through these layers of storytelling (and even eventually uncovers a fourth and arguably a fifth layer).
At first I was put off by the self-referential aspect of Logicomix. I didn’t like that the author and the artists interacted with the reader. However, I soon came to realize that including this multi-layer aspect to the graphic novel, not only allowed the authors to creatively explain certain aspects of logical theory that get lost in the storyline, but the layering actually begins to embody some of the logical theories being discussed.
The graphic novel in a sense contains itself, or at least the discussion of itself, which seems to touch upon “Russell’s Paradox”, a theory discussed in the book, and which I’m sure that I can’t rightly explain on my own. Honestly, thinking about it makes my head hurt, but it goes something like, if it contains itself, then it doesn’t; if it doesn’t, it does. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t ask me, because I can’t wrap my mind around it either.
Fortunately, Logicomix doesn’t dwell too much on the complexities of logic theory, but rather focuses on the people who developed them, what motivated them, and the conflict between thinking theory and trying to live it.
At the end of the graphic novel, the authors admit to bending some of the factual history to make for better storytelling and follow that up with a glossary of sorts that presented a slightly more in depth and factual look at the various logic theories and logicians that the readers encounter in the book.
Logicomix turned out to be a supremely fascinating book with gorgeous art and a passion for intellectual discovery. Definitely worth a read.
Katie Chandler has left New York and returned to her family in Texas, said to be devoid of all things magical. However, when strange things start happening in her home town, Katie starts to suspect the forces of evil are up to something. This is the fourth book in the Enchanted Inc. series, and I hope it won’t be the last.
One of the great things about this series is the relationship between Katie and Owen. There’s a continued tension of will it/won’t it that stems directly from the characters themselves, rather than some artificial outside influence or being dependent on any overly orchestrated love triangle. There’s a sweetness to their friendship and a genuine affection that is built on more than lust or sex appeal.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this fun chick-lit series, unfortunately, sales on the third and fourth book were not high enough for the publishers to pursue publishing the next books in the series. Very disappointing, because I would love to see more of this storyline and see what happens as Katie and Owen’s relationship begins to grow, not to mention all the rest of the assortment of lovable and bizarre characters throughout this world.
Here’s my plea, if you like fantasy and/or chick lit, please check out Enchanted, Inc. the first book in this series, in which Katie first stumbles upon the magical world. If you enjoy it, then buy more books in the series, especially the third and fourth books and spread the word to others. Hopefully if the sales improve, the fifth and sixth books will be able to be released. This would thoroughly please me. (^_^)
I enjoy playing with what I suppose should be considered my own internal fan fiction. Typically this involves taking a character of my own invention and trying to fit them into the world of Buffy or Stargate SG-1 or Fringe, or whatever I’m currently obsessed with at the time. I never write any of these inventions down. Rather it’s a sort of mental puzzle that I enjoy trying to work through, because I often can’t incorporate the my character into the world without corrupting the structure of the world building or messing with the chronology of events. It think it’s a typical writer thing, and can be a good way to toy and practice with plot structures.
Last night, I finished reading Tithe*, by Holly Black, and then tuned into the premeire episode of Being Human** (because I happened to be actually at home when it came on) — both of which I enjoyed.
I noted this to myself before, and it became clear once again last night, that I have to careful what fantasy story lines I read and/or watch before going to bed because it will often invade my dreams. Last night, my brain decided to play my fan-fic puzzle game with me while I was trying to sleep. It kept trying to incorporate the faery realms into the world of Being Human and kept trying to see what the characters, especially the werewolf would do in the face of this faery threat. (A short version is that the faery queen wanted to make the werewolf her pet, so that she could use him as a guard and a weapon against anyone who would threaten her. Yeah.)
My brain kept wanting to puzzle this story line out through some very odd dreams, which meant that my sleep was restless. I kept tossing and turning and wanting to fall into a deep sleep, but also a part of me didn’t want to loose the thread of this storyline that my mind was inventing, because I kind of liked where it was going, too.
I woke up very tired this morning.
*sigh* Sometimes, I wish I could turn my writing brain off.
*Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale follows the story of Kaye, a girl who follows her nomadic mother quest for fame through dive bars in Philadelphia. Kaye is grateful when their nomadic lifestyle comes to an end, however, and they are forced to return to her grandmother’s house, offering her the opportunity to reconnect with fairy friends both human and faery. It isn’t before long, however, before she finds herself entangled in a political and dangerous intrigue between the faery courts. The faeries in this book are tricksy and deadly throughout, just as they ought to be. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read with enough adventure and well-wrought surprises to keep me excited. I’m definitely looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy.
**Being Human, apparently based off of a British version, is about a vampire and a werewolf, who are tried of feeling and behaving like monsters. So they decide to become roommates in order to look out for one another and keep each other out of trouble. It’s not the most original story around, but it has enough story and character going for it that I’ll stick around watching it for at least a few more episodes. Besides I love Sam Huntington (from Detroit Rock City), who plays the werewolf. He’s that geeky, awkward cute that I just love.
1. The Red Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang
2. The Pleasure Seekers, by Tishani Doshi
3. Morning in the Burned House (poetry), by Margaret Atwood
4. Talking Back to Poems: A Working Guide for the Aspiring Poet, by Daniel Alderson
5. Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing, by Barbara Guest
6. Behind the Mountains, by Edwidge Danticat
7. Island Beneath the Sea (audio book), by Isabel Allende
8. The Good Neighbors: Kind, by Holly Black
9. Post Meridian (poetry), by Mary Rueffle
10. Flight of Shadows, by Sigmund Brouwer
11. Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece, edited by Jennifer Crusie
12. Damsel Under Stress, by Shanna Swendson
13. Yarrow, by Charles De Lint
14. The Penelopeia, by Jane Rawlings
15. Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti, by Frances Temple
16. Breath, Eyes, Memory (audio book), by Edwidge Danticat
When Odyseus returns home from his long journeys, he finds that his wife Penelope has not only been steadfast in her defense of her home, but that she has managed to keep secret the birth of Odyseus’ twin daughters — a secret kept to spare them from the suitors ravaging their home.
But the gods are not done with this noble family yet, as it has been decried that Penelope and her two lovely daughters must travel to Pythia to visit the oracle and on from there to visit Helen so that her daughters may learn her secrets of healing.
Rawlings writes this continuation of The Odessy in the epic poetic style of Homer, mimicking the tone and voice of her favorite translation of the work. She accomplishes this quite well, for except for the fact that her poem is in first person, it sounds almost exactly like the Odessy as I remember reading it years ago.
I was slightly bored by it at time, though, because much of the epic poem is spent in convincing Odyseus to allow them to leave and in the sharing of only mildly interesting tales. It takes quite a while for Penelope to even get on the ship, let alone begin her adventures. Further, her adventures, being those of a woman are much tamer than her husbands. There is very little reason for her to use her cunning, which she clearly has as seen in the Odessy. The most exciting moments are those that came more than half way through the book, when she is taken up by the great Amazon warrior women who wish her to join their ranks. My interest was only roused then, and was diminished when she left their ranks.
In some ways Rawlings had to cheat to make this story happen, had to invent and secret in aspects of the story that were not in the Odessy in order to make it work. And even, the restrictions of women according to the time and culture in her characters lived meant that she could have gone further with this story, to delve deeply into strength and potential of women as I had hoped. Any attempt to have women go off on adventures on their own in ancient Greece, unless their were Amazons or in some other way free from men and the burdens of reputation, ultimately results in a story that sounds forced. Or perhaps it can be done, but it came out sounding forced here, despite Rawlings best efforts. In the end I was a bit disappointed with this tale.
I picked up this book of poetry, because I read and loved A Little White Shadow, in which she took an old Victorian manuscript and whited out text to create what she calls erasure (or whiteout) poetry. It was a fascinating way to approach found poetry, which has inspired me to play with the form in my own writing.
Post Meridian is a collection of her original poetry. It is sometimes heavy as tree branches bowed under the weight of snow, though it is also often playful. Mocking in a kindly way. Poking fun at the ghosts and shadows and day to day terrors that we often take far too seriously.
I enjoyed this book of poetry, though at times there was a disjointed quality, one line encapsulating a thought process that collapses upon another. Sometimes this made it difficult to take the whole poem in as a whole. Though each line in and of itself would be captivating, the entirety of the work assembled could occasionally be somewhat baffling.
Not that poetry has to have clear meaning — being multilayered as a puzzle box is part of the enjoyment of reading poetry, though I admit that my own enjoyment comes from discovering how each piece fits into the next. The resulting imagery and meaning as perceived by me allows me to (perhaps delusionally) believe that I have tapped into the secret key of the poem and discovered a truth denied to others. Egotistical? Maybe. But I doubt I’m alone in this experience.
The poetry in Post Meridian, however, often denied me this. The pieces did not always neatly fit, and I sometimes felt as though I were standing on the edge of the poem rather than being let in to its secret chambers — a confounding experience, but not necessarily negative. Perhaps these poems open more wholly to others; perhaps I need merely return to them at another time when I can look at them from an altered perspective. Either way, this is an enjoyable collection of poems that I would definitely recommend.
Reading poetry is a vital part of writing poetry. Alderson takes it a step further, however, by suggesting that poets not only read poetry, but respond to it, to talk back to poetry with poems of their own. Part I presents four short sections that briefly introduce the aspects of Sound, Image, Form, and Meaning in poetry, while Part II follows with a collection of poems, each followed with instructions to copy the poem by hand, note down what you notice about the poem, and then a prompt for writing your own poem in response to it.
There is a long history of poets writing in response to poets, and I’ve even written a few poetic responses myself. However I was not very impressed with the prompts in this book as Alderson presents them. His idea of talking back to poems is far too much like mimicry to me. In the examples of his students’ writing that he includes in the book, the students (using their own themes and ideas) echo almost exactly the form and flow of the poem being responded to. This is far too restrictive for me, especially when it comes to mimicking strict forms, such as sonnets that have tight rhyme schemes. This restriction of form often has the tendency of causing me to freeze up when I’m writing rather than opening up and becoming loose as one would hope.
My experience with writing in response to poetry involves not mimicry, but a playful dialogue. The few poetic responses I’ve written have little relation to the original poem (one example is here), but is rather reacts to the subject matter of the poem in kind of debate. Of course, this is not the only way to go about this, and Alderman’s way of talking back to poetry is equally valid. Just as there are many poets who comfortably play in rhyme and strict forms, which I do not.
The practice of handwriting out a poets previous work also did not appeal to me. Though I understand his reasoning for having a writer first copy the poem by hand (in order to get a feel for the rhythms and voice of the poem), I did not feel that it helped me gain any greater sense of the poem. Rather, I found that reading the poem out loud was a much better way to get a feel for the rhythm and sound, as well as a sense of the residual meaning.
I’m sure that there are many poets out there who would find this book very valuable and inspiring, however I am not one of them. Of the 20 or 30 poetry prompts in the book, I found myself interested in responding to only a handful of them. And when I did respond, I often found myself jumping outside of the prompts and guidelines, coloring outside the lines as it were, and responding to the poems as I damn well felt like it — which is really how it should be anyway.
1. The Walking Dead: The Heart’s Desire, by Robert Kirkman
2. The Walking Dead: The Best Defense, by Robert Kirkman
3. The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life, by Robert Kirkman
4. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
5. Fables: War and Pieces, by Bill Willingham
6. Fables: The Dark Ages, by Bill Willingham
7. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, by Brian Lee O’Malley
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, by Brian Lee O’Malley
9. Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness, by Brian Lee O’Malley
10. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, by Margarita Engle
11. Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen
12. The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
13. Under the Volcano (audio book), by Malcolm Lowry
Bastian is a fat, ordinary boy, who is always picked on by his fellow students and ignored by his father. Escaping a band of bullies, Bastian slams into a books store. Inside is a grumpy old man is reading a strange book with two snakes curling around each other eating each other’s tails — The Neverending Story. Drawn to the book, Bastian steals it when the man’s back is turned. He runs to the attic of his school and begins reading. As he follows a young hunter’s journey to save the Childlike Empress, Bastian is surprised to discover that he is drawn more and more into book itself, into a world that is very much real.
I always loved the movie as a kid and I still love it now. I wanted to hang out with Atreyu, the hunter, and ride Falcor, the Luck Dragon. I wanted to visit this dangerous beautiful world in which a childlike empress was in charge of everything. I even liked the subpar sequel with the super cute Jonathan Brandis as lead.
As is to be expected the book has far more subtlety and depth than the movie. Though I was surprised to find that both movies were adapted from the book with the end of the first movie being the midpoint of the book.
The childlike empress is much so much more in the book, closer to the spiritual soul of Fantastica. She loves everyone and everything equally, including those considered evil by other, because all has a purpose and a place to her. Atreyu is even more steadfast and brave, and Falcor is beautiful and far less creepy.
Bastian’s journey throughout The Neverending Story becomes more of a spiritual quest in the book than the simplified adventure that the movies (especially the sequel) present. He does have many grand adventures, but as he looses his memory, he loses a part of himself. He rises and falls, does grand deeds and fails, and in the end he must find his way back home.
This is really a brilliant story, and I wish I had had the chance to read it before seeing the movies that affected me so much and left such an imprint on my mind. I still the love the movies for what they are and as a part of my childhood nostalgia, but the book is amazing. I almost wish it really was never ending.
1. Pride and Predjudice, by Jane Austin
2. The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart (audio book), by Mathias Malzieu
3. The Sun Also Rises (audio book), by Ernest Hemingway
4. The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho
5. After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti, by Edwidge Danticat
7. Chasing the Dragon, by Nicholas Kaufmann
8. Brideshead Revisited (audio book), by Evelyn Waugh
9. Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy
10. Fables: The Good Prince, by Bill Willingham
In this darkly comic take on the zombie story, Browne presents a world in which the dead arise, but instead of being brainless shuffling corpses, they are actually intelligent and only occasionally shuffling corpses. After a car crash in which both he and his wife die, Andy finds himself embalmed and shuffling away from the mortuary on a distortedly broken ankle. His afterlife is immediately beset with problems, as he is now considered a worthless subhuman with out any of the basic rights that the living enjoy.
Andy spends his time watching reruns in his parent’s basement (with the door locked, because they are embarrassed of him), being shouted at and pelted with food when he walks down the street, trying to keep from falling apart by getting his fix of formaldehyde, and once a week going to Undead Anonymous meetings with others who are in his same situation. His daily depression is compounded by the fact that he cannot even speak of his problems to his therapist. Things begin to turn around for him, however, when he falls for another zombie who sucks on lipstick and makeup to get her fix of formaldehyde.
I love the dark humor and the clever writing style. You are made to wholly sympathize with the zombies and their plight to the point that humans, also known as breathers, seem to be one dimensional. Every breather is so disgusted with zombies that they are cruel and vicious to them (even the mother who tries to be nice still falls short). The reaction of just about every Breather when they see a zombie is either to scream or to quiver in fear. In a way this was necessary to your sympathy for the zombies, but it also made the world seem somewhat flat. For it seems to me, if zombies were a regular occurrence in the world, they would be treated just as often as a mundane annoyance rather then always objects of terror. Furthermore, we are really attached to our loved ones, and I have to imagine that a percentage of humans would look on their undead family members as slightly smelly loved ones, and that they would insist that their loved ones be treated by respect at large. But then I may be over analyzing, and the hateful and oppressive treatment of the zombies in this book — who often seem more human in comparison — is what allows the reader to maintain sympathize with them.
But all that aside, Breathers is a great zombie love story, or zombie revolution story (depending on your point of view).
1. Ash, by Malinda Lo
2. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, by Lola Shoneyin
3. Essential Do’s and Taboos: The Complete Guide to International Business and Leisure Travel, by Roger E. Axtell
4. A Concise History of Germany, by Mary Fulbrook
5. Top Ten Berlin, by Juergen Scheunemann and Dorling Kindersley
6. The Children of Men, by P.D. James
7. A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire
8. Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness, by Reinhard Kleist
1. The Dead-Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan
2. Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan, by Richard Hittleman
3. New Direction in Altered Books, by Gabe Cyr
4. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
Boy, it’s been a really slow reading month for me. Hmm. Anywho, if you want to read my reviews for these, click here.
I need some inspiration to post more often, so here goes, another meme. This book meme was created by alg.
(I’m not even going to pretend that I’m going to finish this in 30 days. Pfft, I say, pfft to you [that], sir.)
Day 01 – A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)
Some series certainly go on for-ev-er, don’t they. I can’t really name any that should have ended, though, because I tend not to read series past the fifth book or so, especially if they rehash the same storyline over and over and over and over and over again. I got bored with Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events for precisely that reason and quite reading after the fourth book (however, I later learned from a friend that things in the series got more interesting after that point, so I ended up going back to finish the series).
In general, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too long or too short. If the author enjoys writing a series and readers enjoy reading, then there’s no reason why it might not go on indefinitely. Those who do get bored are free to quit reading, as I’m apt to do.
Vice-versa, if an author feels she’s done with a story, then, hey, she’s done. The story ends there. So be it. I can reread if I love it that much, or I can sit and imagine how the world might unfold in my own head (I do that a lot anyway). Besides there are plenty of other books out there that I would love to discover.
Although, if Cornelia Funke wanted to revisit the the characters and world of Inkheart, I certainly wouldn’t mind it. (^_^)
The Rest of the Days:
Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about
Day 03 – The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months
Day 04 – Your favorite book or series ever
Day 05 – A book or series you hate
Day 06 – Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time
Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise
Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once
Day 09 – Best scene ever
Day 10 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 11 – A book that disappointed you
Day 12 – A book or series of books you’ve read more than five times
Day 13 – Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)
Day 14 – Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)
Day 15 – Your “comfort” book
Day 16 – Favorite poem or collection of poetry
Day 17 – Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)
Day 18 – Favorite beginning scene in a book
Day 19 – Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)
Day 20 – Favorite kiss
Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 23 – Most annoying character ever
Day 24 – Best quote from a novel
Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack
Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending
Day 27 – If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!
Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession
Day 29 – Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)
Day 30 – What book are you reading right now?
Since I cannot resist a list, I feel I should mention that NPR has up their audience picked list of the best 100 thriller books. They range from horror novels to spy games to mysteries. There are some I have read, some I really should read (I’m looking at you Children of Men), and some I probably won’t ever read (The Da Vinci Code, for example).
So, I’ve only read ten out of the 100 books (I”m not a big thriller reader, though I love horror), and of the ten, six are by Stephen King (due to my fixation with his books in high school).
7. The Shining, by Stephen King< (Loved this one when I read it. In fact, maybe I should read it again. Hmmm.)
12. The Stand, by Stephen King (Another King fav.)
14. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton (I actually read this for my freshman English class, and it was good fun.)
17. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton (Good, but not super memorable to me though.)
22. It, by Stephen King (Ooooh. Yes. This one gave me some joyful chills.)
37. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King (Mmm. Battling vampires…)
44. Pet Sematary, by Stephen King (Yeah… This one was fab, too.)
45. Dead Zone, by Stephen King (As I was saying…)
74. Feed, by Mira Grant (This was a great read. I <3 zombie politics.)
1. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
2. Inkdeath, by Cornelia Funke
3. FEED, by Mira Grant
4. Feed, by M.T. Anderson
5. The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
6. The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti, by Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell
7. Gothic and Lolita Bible (v. 3)
Since I’m not keeping up too steadily with my writing posts, I’m going to start posting some book related posts here, too. Maybe some reviews, maybe some things like this book meme, which a couple of people are doing over at the LibraryThing forums, and I thought I would post it here, too. Just for the hell of it.
Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
What ever is available really. Something salty usually, and easy to grab while keeping my eyes on the page, like pretzel sticks. If I were to go for something sweet, it would probably be peanut M&Ms.
What is your favorite drink while reading?
Water, since that’s my default drink. Though if I’m in the mood I’ll brew myself a cup of black tea with milk and sugar as a close second.
Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
While it doesn’t horrify me, I don’t mark my books for a couple of reasons. First, because I’m often reading a library book, and I would never mark something up that doesn’t belong to me. Second, because I usually don’t think about it. I’ve always liked the idea of marking up books while you read though. It helps you to think critically about what your reading, and would be very helpful in writing book reviews later. I would have to learn to develop the habit though, and I just don’t think it’s going to happen (unless I started to get paid for writing book reviews).
How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ear? Laying the book flat open?
I strive to use a book mark each time, but the real answer is all of the above. I like using real books marks, ones that look cool or were constructed by me, but I’ll use whatever’s lying around, from envelopes to payment slips. I only lay it flat open when I’m reading at lunch and want to just pause for a moment in reading to either grab my food or some other necessity. And I dog-ear only as a last resort when there are no other means of keeping my place in the book.
Fiction, Non-Fiction, or Both?
Both! More Fiction than Non-Fiction, but I always enjoy learning about something new or seeing something discussed from a new perspective, which is a really great thing about non-fiction.
Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
My slightly OCD self definitely prefers to read to the end of a chapter, or at least a denoted section. If that’s not possible due to time (or that there are no chapters or sections), then I can stop in the middle, providing I at least get to the end of the paragraph, preferably the end of the last paragraph or the first paragraph on the page.
Are you a person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
Only on really rare circumstances. I have to hate, and I mean hate, the book, which doesn’t happen often. Crime and Punishment got close to being thrown, but is too much of a classic to disrespect. The novelization of the Stargate movie did get thrown (I still don’t know why I even bothered with it).
If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
Rarely. I just assume I’ll figure it out from the context of the rest of the sentence.
What are you currently reading?
The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti by Mariléne Phipps-Kettlewell – Good, so far, though I’m not eagerly reading them. They seem more like portraits than stories.
The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan – Sequel to the zombie novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which I loved for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that the word “zombie” was never actually used.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – Just started to read the introduction, so not much to say yet.
The Gothic & Lolita Bible, Vol. 3 (U.S. version) – Japanese fashion and pop culture fun
What is the last book you bought?
I bought a stack of books when I last bought a book.
Are you a person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?
As you can see from above, I have a habit of reading lots of books at a time. At least two, usually. Though if I’m feeling overwhelmed by life, the universe, and everything, I might revert to reading only one book.
Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
My favorite is reading late at night, laying down on the couch or in my new recliner. It feels like I’m skipping out of school or cheating or something if I read during the day – so I like to do that too! EDITED: Whoops! I copied this over from the other page, and so accidentally left one of the old answers in. My real answer: I read anywhere and everywhere. I always have a book with me. (My family mocks me for it.) I love finding a quiet nook to read in, though, especially if there’s a comfy chair that I can curl into.
Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?
I mostly reach for stand alones, as I’m not always willing to commit to a series. But from time to time, I’ll go for a series if it captures my fancy enough. I usually don’t read past five books or so, with the exception of Harry Potter and the Series of Unfortunate events, both of which had clear endings in sight.
Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
Neil Gaiman, being one of my favorite authors gets recommended the most. Lately I’ve recommended Eat, Pray, Love several times. It all depends what kind of book a person is looking for, really.
How do you organize your books? By genre, title, author’s last name, etc?
At home, it’s by genre (poetry, speculative fiction, nonfiction, etc) and then it’s by the size of the book and how it can best fit on the shelf so that all my books fit and the room doesn’t look cluttered. Really. My organizational skills pretty much break down at the book shelf level. I always have a vague idea of where a particular book might be, but it’s always did through the whole stack for it.