Apr 23 2013

Review: The Space Between, by Brenna Yovanoff

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doesn’t know much of anything about Earth other than what she’s seen in TV shows and much of what she knows is terribly outdated.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.

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.

Apr 2 2013

Books Completed in March

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

Click to read my reviews on livejournal.

Mar 27 2013

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton

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.

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.

Mar 22 2013

Cedar Toothpick

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.

Stamp from Poland

Inside, however, I found my long-awaited copy of Cedar Toothpick: The Tomboy Dioramas, a collection of “nutshell” poetry by Stefan Stefan Lorenzutti with illustrations by Laurent Le Deunff and book design by Pilar Rojo. The book was published independently as part of a kickstarter project that I had backed and forgotten about.

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.

Cedar Toothpick

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.

Cedar Toothpick

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.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.]

Feb 27 2013

Books Completed in February

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

Click to read reviews on my livejournal.