The sparsely settled West was lawless and chaotic. Men dueled, drank, poached, grazed their cattle, and cut trees on the land of others. The sold whisThe sparsely settled West was lawless and chaotic. Men dueled, drank, poached, grazed their cattle, and cut trees on the land of others. The sold whiskey to Indians, raped and whored. Banditry was endemic. Men took what they wanted and disappeared.
wow. so, lots of people die in this book.
and it's fun as shit.
i personally love a good western/grit lit novel and am willing to withstand all of the unsavory things the genre entails: causal murder, torture, rape, and scalping among them. if you prefer our modern sanitized america with its organic produce and child-safety locks on the silverware drawers, you will not like this. this is rowdy olde america - kids with guns and porcine blood from the slaughterhouse running insalubriously in the gutters. this is a land without accountability until the wrong man learns your name. there are no heroes here.
august winter starts the novel as a young boy with a back twisted and crisscrossed with a thousand scars, looping in and around one another like a pile of rope or a ball of rattlesnakes, courtesy of his reverend father's lessons, and he grows into the hardest man you will ever meet. while fighting in the civil war on the union side at age fifteen, he is exposed to the violence of his world, and the lessons in cruelty continue.
the war encourages all types of violence: masters kill slaves, slaves kill masters, men hang slaves for killing masters, soldiers on both sides kill dispassionately in the permissive climate of a civility suspended by war, and opportunistic sadists join up just for the pleasure of killing. entire towns of civilians are sacrificed for strategy, and the genocide of native tribes is perpetuated by soldiers as well as warring tribes.
"The world's a hard fucking place…A little hard to get by with just please."
after the war, winter finds that he has become an outlaw - that those who gave the orders are all too willing to wash their hands of the unpleasantness they set in motion, and along with other similarly-discarded individuals, he crosses this wild america, providing the muscle for those too squeamish or civilized to do more than give the orders. these men form their own kind of family (HENCE THE TITLE), but it's a singular kind of family comprised of people who have saved each others' lives but don't necessarily trust one another, just a shifting group of men who have nothing to lose and are well-suited to the life of a mercenary.
"Not everyone in this room is smart, or handsome. Ain't nobody in here a good person. But everyone here has fought together. Everyone here has put his life on the line for everyone else. Everyone here was out in the woods together, out in enemy country, with bushwhackers looking to take our scalps and Klansmen looking to burn us alive. Everyone here put everything he had in the pot. Everybody".
winter is watchful, careful, and ruthless and he disdains the hypocrisy of those who use the law as a shield while twisting it to keep themselves in power and safe from scrutiny. he understands that violence springing from idealistic intentions is no better than killing for profit. some of his speeches made me think of my future husband's:
this in no way makes winter a hero, or even an antihero. he is just a man who sees the world as it is - a violent grasping place where opportunities arise for men willing to recognize it when they see it. cowardly men hidden underneath white robes, dishonest politicians exploiting newly-arrived immigrants, genocide in the name of progress - all offer winter and his men a place to exercise the skills they learned in war, by the very men who are now horrified by their actions. august's worldview is chilling, but it isn't entirely inaccurate. he has adapted to the violence powering the entire machine of america, but at least he's not bullshitting himself about it, like so many on both sides of the law:
It was the age of the outlaw, but the Winter Family were not like the other bandits, who hit soft targets for money and then hid with those who would hide them. Other bandits carefully crafted a romantic image, courted the newspapers, and dispensed largesse like Robin Hood. The James gang cast themselves as Confederate partisans, while the Reno Gang started out as bounty jumpers, accepting money to enlist in the Union Army and then deserting. The Winter Family never gave a damn what anyone thought of them, and if men gave them shelter, they did it out of fear.
it's a story of the history of america, and an acknowledgement of the cruelty that made it all possible. in a very "sing of walls" moment, winter speechifies:
"Everything out there is a lie," Winter said. "Can't you see it? It was them behind us in Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi. It was them behind us yesterday. And then they just pretend. They just talk. 'Cause they can't face this."
Winter made a gesture that encompassed the blood, the flesh, the clattering steel and steam, the darkness, the herds of terrified pigs.
"Jan," Winter said. "This is what's real. This is how the meat you eat gets on your plate. This is how everything works. Everything they tell you is just a lie to hide it."
rereading what i just wrote, i realize i made it sound like some kind of cranky anti-america polemic, but it's not. this is all pretty standard in neo-western fare - an honest examination of the lawlessness of the times and how the brutality of war and territorial expansion carried over into the supposedly civilized areas of politics and business. but it's way more action and shoot 'em up than moral exhortation. lots of killing, many unexpected turns. there were some things i didn't understand, motive-wise, around the 3/4 mark, but by that point, you're all caught up in momentum and rains of bullets, so you're less concerned about the "why" and more concerned about who's still gonna be left at the end of it all.
it's a propulsive, bloody romp for those of you into that sort of thing.
and as a shout-out, i just have to say that sevenkiller is one of the most phenomenally creepy bad guys i have ever read (view spoiler)[and i wished he'd made it through a little bit longer. (hide spoiler)]
bang bang bang. good times.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
All he had was his memory of remembering. And memory could betray him.
this is a really fun little book. it's also the kind of book that is hard to revAll he had was his memory of remembering. And memory could betray him.
this is a really fun little book. it's also the kind of book that is hard to review without ruining. not that there's a big twist or anything, but it's a very complicated, intricate plot, and unless you're addressing someone who has read it themselves, you kind of sound like a lunatic when discussing plot-points because you have to do too much backstory explanation for anything you say to make sense.
if you are a fan of jonathan carroll, stop reading this review right now and just automatically add this book to your to-read list. this theme is one that j.c. has approached from a number of different angles in his stories and novels. in fact, this book is basically just a longer version of carroll's story alone alarm, which can be read in its entirety here.
not that this is a rip-off, or derivative, but it felt familiar to me in a very favorable way. it's about time travel and being (literally) held hostage by future and past selves and trying to "fix" the things that have gone wrong in life and all the different kinds of love and sacrifice and distance and … sound. and squalor. it's a little sci-fi, a little rom-com, a little funny, a little sad.
i especially like the parts that highlight all the little excuses made to justify one's moral slips in life, like when gabe is trying to/trying not to hook up with henry's val:
Gabe knew at that moment that they would not be resisting forever. They wouldn't be resisting at all. He told himself it was for the best. The longer they went without touching each other, the better it would feel when they finally did, and when Gabe really thought about it that meant that the ethical concerns underpinning their mutual resistance were more or less moot. Better to do it sooner rather than later. They'd enjoy it less. Which in turn would make it more acceptable.
there's quite a bit of stoner-logic in this book. and it's funny.
the time travel bits get a little misty, but that's probably just my own inability to deal with time travel in fiction. and i have one really spoilery question, (view spoiler)[am i the only one who sees all the bits where gabe is just a violent dick to val and etc? how on earth is this guy considered by henry to be better for her than he is? i am not shipping val and gabe. i might ship gabe and henry, though. (hide spoiler)]
i can't really say much more without digging myself into that hole of "so then this happens, but you have to know this first which doesn't make sense until you remember this" and it will just get all murky.
time travel. it can be confusing.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
part of me wants to write a proper review for this book about a photojournalist who goes to alaska and discovers a sexxy polar bear shapeshifter amongpart of me wants to write a proper review for this book about a photojournalist who goes to alaska and discovers a sexxy polar bear shapeshifter among the regular polar bears just hanging out at a hot spring. and how she has sexual relations with him.
but the more frazzled part of me realizes i am 18 book reports behind and i just don't have the time to do them all justice, so instead i will just quote my favorite typo ever:
The bear man raised his head and yowled a release of his own. His thick cock twitched inside Abigail. She felt it contract and then spurt hot liquid deep into her worm.
this book is just insane amounts of fun. the premise is very simple: danny iTHIS BOOK!!
in the words of the author(s)
where have you been all my life??
this book is just insane amounts of fun. the premise is very simple: danny is a greedy little boy who learns an important lesson about why we don't try to test the limits of santa's generosity. because santa has tricks up his sleeve, and ways to make naughty boys into nice boys for next year's reckoning.
santa leaves danny a single present - a giant dinosaur egg.
and the dinosaur goes nuts, eating everything in sight - the tree, the decorations, danny's family…
also santa, which seems like an oversight on santa's part.
and this makes danny sad.
which makes the dinosaur sad
With the feeling of guilt In the dinosaur's gut, Its brain brewed a plan involving its butt. It knew there was only one thing it could do: To put Christmas right, it needed to…
please forgive those squiggly lines - i still haven't learned how to photograph off of a NOOK properly. the camera sees things invisible to the naked eye.
but so back to the poo
and it's a christmas miracle.
christmas is restored, just with a little more poo than anticipated on the decorations and whatnot.
and everyone learns a lesson.
i love this book so much.
and i MUST read the other books in the series, because one can never have too many books about poo.
also - behold - there is a GAME attached to this book that you can play for FREE and it has just eaten up a lot of my time. i am very bad at it, but it is FUN.
one is from a blog, one is from a twitter - you're asking the wrong person if you want further distinction. all i know is that both books feature photographs of animals who have been ineptly stuffed and preserved in various ways, many of them humiliating.
and many just bizarre
now, i know taxidermy makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but i'm a monster. while i love the little animals as much as anyone else who knows what youtube is, and while i don't advocate going out and killing animals for fun or art, i do enjoy the animal displays at the museum of natural history, and i enjoy these too, on a totally different level.
and how can one argue with people who wish to lovingly preserve the memory of their beloved pet in a more tangible way?
that other book is much longer and more comprehensive (i.e. more horrifying), and it has better photography and text, but this one is still well worth checking out. there's some overlap between the two - some repetition of photos, although i'm pretty sure there is no end to the things people can come up with when they suddenly find themselves in the possession of a dead animal WHO HAS DIED PEACEFULLY IN ITS SLEEP AFTER A LONG AND FRUITFUL LIFE.
even the most tender-hearted has gotta smile at these little guys, right?
whatever this is wants you to laugh. it really, really does. laugh for the creepy monster.
and even that cranky yuckoon has come around!!! it's FUN being stuffed!
for the record, i would also enjoy this book if it were filled with humans who had been taxidermied. or plants. or ... geodes.
i give all the authors three chances to impress me. you know the old saying: fool me once - shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me. fool me three tii give all the authors three chances to impress me. you know the old saying: fool me once - shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me. fool me three times - it's back on you.
and sometimes it pans out - hermann hesse had a great last-minute save with Demian after failing to wow me with either Siddhartha or Narcissus and Goldmund. jane austen, i am sorry to say, got her three shots and none of them made me understand what all the fuss is about.
this one… well, this one's on me.
that is a picture of each poem in this collection that i found problematic in some way: sloppy rhyme/meter/rhythm, misused words, empty anthropomorphism, vague intention masked by "pretty" conceits, and just general "offness."
i will review this book properly, but i'll need some distance from it first so i can approach it more ... clinically.
pulitzer prize nominee maya angelou, in the year of her death, writes a poem commemorating the life of nobel peace prize recipient nelson mandela, (who died in december 2013, but that's pretty much 2014), and we honor their lives by allowing this to win the 2014 goodreads best poetry award?:
The words I heard from you today, are said when there's nothing left to say.
What I would give to make you stay,
I would give it all away.
i was hoping i wouldn't have to read this, but goodreads voters have forced my hand.
"Child, just handle it. Whatever it is. Handle your business. Handle your fear. Because whatever you can't handle is just going to come back round and"Child, just handle it. Whatever it is. Handle your business. Handle your fear. Because whatever you can't handle is just going to come back round and handle you."
this book surprised me. i wasn't expecting it to be as good as it is, since it is a) compared to Bastard Out of Carolina, which i was not a fan of, and b) because feels so familiar: young girls coming of age on the streets of los angeles, fleeing unhappy homes only to get sucked into the dead-end cycle of sex work, violence, poverty, drug use, and despair.
but her writing impressed the hell out of me, and while there were shaky parts at the end, the strength of the much more frequent excellent parts made this a solid four star read for me.
from the first paragraph, it's clear that we are already in disturbing territory:
The first job Taylor ever had was pulling down her pants and peeing in front of the old man who lived in the wash behind the Hollywood Freeway. It was easy money. Steady work. Flexible hours. He never touched her, never frightened her. Just gave her dimes for every puddle she made. She was seven.
and that sets the tone for the book - discomfort mixed with humor. shock value schtick doesn't usually work for me. i read at an emotional remove, so i'm generally unflappable. attempts to horrify reader-me with scenes of abuse and violence bounce right off of me, and i generally feel a little embarrassed for the writer; a little scornful. it's easy to get an emotional response for normal, non-robot readers: put a child in a terrible situation, sit back and await the gasps. and that's really easy to do, so i consider that kind of emotional manipulation to be lazy. HOWEVER. there is a scene early on in this book that penetrated my sensors and gears and made even ME gasp. it involves david, and that's all i will say about that.
taylor leaves her drunken, abusive mother's house when she is fifteen. at first, she survives by dealing pot, but she soon finds herself turning tricks on the street. taylor is already a tough kid after a lifetime enduring her mother's fists and a childhood running wild with a bunch of young hooligan boys, but here, among the other teenage prostitutes, she finds a sisterhood of girls who have been beaten, molested, humiliated and are calcifying into a fierce, unapologetic womanhood. the narrative shifts in between taylor's story alongside stories of the other girls, most frequently taylor's new girlfriend jackson, who get together after jackson intervenes, with her trusty knife, when taylor is being assaulted by a john, and when taylor later returns the favor:
When in doubt, steal. I laugh to myself. That white girl loves to steal. Everywhere she goes, everything she does, she's gotta take something with her. Me, I prefer to leave my mark, leave something behind for them to remember me by. My mama says when I was little she'd have to whip me for always writing in other people's books. "But Mama," I'd tell her, "I've got something to say, too." And I know that trick is going to remember my mark on his behind a lot longer than he will the few hundred dollars the white girl stole from him. I like to leave my mark. That's why I write. The white girl, she's just trying to get back something that was taken from her a long time ago. My mama says the white girl's a fool, says you can't ever get back what's been taken. You just gotta go on and make your way in the world.
for a while, things are as good as they can be for two vulnerable girls living in abandoned cars in a junkyard. their love is based on shared painful experiences, and they believe they are just passing time until their dreams are going to take root and flourish. the life is hard, and their friends continue to fall prey to the brutal life of the street, but their solidarity strengthens them.
there's a sort of freedom to be found in their self-destructiveness and pain because at least this time, there is "self" involved. they are defiant in the way they handle the consequences of their lifestyle, and the tone of it reminded me of this one scene from one of my faaaaavorite movies, head-on, where sibel kekilli is assaulted in an alley and keeps rising up laughing, with this "fuck you, what else you got?" look in her eyes that is both pitiful and majestic.
i could not find an image of it on the internet, but you should watch that movie.
the book does a great job addressing both the overt and the subtle humiliations girls are subjected to:
She thought about the pool of blood her friend Edeena left on the seat in their sixth-grade homeroom when she started her period. She thought about how everyone laughed at her, laughed at Edeena, ruthless king of the tetherball court, the most feared girl on the playground, tougher even than Taylor. She thought about how the P.E. teacher wouldn't let Edeena play sports when she was on her period, and the look on the girl's face as she sat on the bench, slumped and shamed.
and, if it's not too much menses-fixation on my part, there's also great depiction of the faux-tough posturing of teenage girls
"Guess I just don't see what the big fuckin' deal is anyway. All this talk about periods, cramps and shit. You ask me, it all ain't nothin' more than just another goddamn way to bleed in this world."
busman has a knack of weaving the episodic threads into little chunks. this isn't linear or cohesive, but it shouldn't be, not with the subject matter. i remember greg saying that what really pissed him off about Go Ask Alice, and how he could never understand why people believed it was a genuine diary and not just a marketing ploy is that she became much more articulate as she fell deeper and deeper into her addiction. and while this isn't first person, or written as a journal, i think it does a good job capturing the pattern of the girls' lives - it's frozen incidents, memory-flashes, choppy fragments of the stories of the girls no one acknowledges clamoring to be heard. stories of racism, sexual abuse, identity, and discrimination, the impermanence of love, the casual way girls are made to feel inconsequential, and the sometimes horrifying ways they fight against that dismissal.
i kind of lost interest in the (view spoiler)[post-jackson (hide spoiler)] storyline. the flashbacks remained strong, but the main story was less interesting - taylor is here doing this and now she is there doing that, and the way-too-long closing sequence/extended metaphor was a real letdown after so much solid writing before it. i was very disappointed with all that ocean-stuff.
but the bulk of it was terrific. busman has a really strong voice, and i will be looking forward to her next book with grabby-hands.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
oh, mina shay - you've done it again. you have made a girl have some bizarre-assed intercourse with something no one has ever had intercourse with - t
oh, mina shay - you've done it again. you have made a girl have some bizarre-assed intercourse with something no one has ever had intercourse with - the man in the mirror.
don't be fooled - this story is not about michael jackson, but rather about a man in a mirror named jeremiah, but it's almost too easy, right?
soooooo in this story, we have a hottie named leah who bought a mirror at an estate sale one day only to take it home and find - GASP - there is a MAN where her reflection should be! a man dressed like he was roaming around a hundred years ago.
so, i guess like this:
she gets over the shock pretty quickly, and over time, she and jeremiah form an unusual friendship.
the mechanics of the mirror are not important here, so let's not get into any discussions about optics or plausibility. just know that jeremiah has been cursed to live there for reasons unknown, he can vanish at will to give leah the privacy to check out her booty or whatever, and that leah gabs to him all the time in these late night slumber-party like sessions where she totally friendzones him.
Leah knew he was a captive audience, but she used him as a confident for almost every aspect of her life. Especially her sex life.
jeremiah does not approve of leah's taste in men. she's prone to temporary arrangements with broad-shouldered jerks with whom there is no chance of a proper relationship. she wants to "live her life to the fullest" which means, to her: fucking all of the hot bad boys she'd been too shy to approach in college.
aim for the stars, leah! fill up that life! (where "life" roughly translates into "vagina.")
jeremiah tries to be the voice of reason, cautioning leah that bad boys aren't all that great (hence - "bad")
and that she should set her sights on someone a little more gentlemanly (HINT HINT!!)
"Look, we've gone over this Jeremiah. No more weak-willed guys for me. I'm tired of men who don't know how to take what they want. Nice guys finish last for a reason."
oh, leah. you sound like some character in a shitty romance novel. oh, WAIT!
after dismissing jeremiah and his advice, he fades away from view so she can get dressed. but it's really more like she gets undressed. and then she starts getting a little frisky with herself and her newly shaved nether regions. and of course, her full breasts.
She wasn't sure Jeremiah really could leave her completely alone, however he was good at remaining completely silent and giving her the illusion. Some nights she secretly hoped he was still present. Leah had found engaging in some light exhibitionism to be titillating, but she was too afraid to do it in public where real people might be watching. With Jeremiah it didn't seem quite so hard.
1) of course, the very definition of "exhibitionism" pretty much necessitates that it be public. 2) it's rude and bigoted to not consider jeremiah "a real person" considering how much of her bullshit he's had to listen to. 3) heh. she said "titillating." 4) heh. she said "hard."
so she decides to put on a little show, something she'd never done in this room before, either solo or with a lover, out of courtesy for her mirror-buddy. but it's a day of firsts: first time shaving her woo, first time getting all hot and bothered in front of her mirror.
Maybe a little more graphic exhibitionism wasn't so bad after all. She had some time to kill before her date tonight. Besides, Jeremiah was still living in the past. Maybe he should know that modern woman can be sexual creatures.
These were just excuses and Leah knew it, she just wanted to play with her newly shaven pussy in the comfort of her own bedroom.
and so she does.
description of masturbation ensues until
Leah became aware of some kind of change in the room.
She couldn't pinpoint it and opened her eyes. She didn't see anything different immediately.
Her eyes went next to the mirror. The reflection showed a nude male in her bedroom standing by her bed.
Leah panicked and looked again to the foot of the bed, where the reflection showed a man standing in the room. There was no man. She looked back to the mirror and clearly saw the form of a nude male. He had short, dark curly brown hair and a sinuous grace about his shoulders. The mirror only showed his back from this angle, but it was oddly familiar.
come on leah, use that college education of yours!
DING DING DING! IT'S JEREMIAH!
and while she can't see him in her immediate surroundings, she can see him in the mirror, but it's all backwards and crazy. a night of firsts, indeed.
for example, the first time jeremiah gets a little snippy with her:
"Leah, you've always gone for the bad boys. You are living proof that it's not that nice guys finish last, but that they never finish at all. I'm tired of being the nice guy."
uh-oh. mirror boy is rising to meet her challenge of men who take what they want. and now it's ON!
he climbs into her bed, which she can discern from the indentation of the duvet and what's happening in the mirror, but she can't actually see jeremiah on the bed. she can feel his hand on her as he pulls her own hand away from its pitiful attempt to cover her boob, but she can't see it happening in front of her. DISCONCERTING!
here's an outline of what happens next:
-she feels his lips on her neck -he squeezes her boob -he climbs on top of her, pinning her to the bed. -he kisses her savagely -more boob-action: pinching and pulling and hands moving roughly
all of that takes an entire NOOK-page and then she tries to push him off, with a cry of "What are you doing?"
leah requires exposition, to the groaning of the audience who is reading this for the sexxy bits but to the delight of the ME, who loves how long it takes these girls to clock what's going on. silly girls!
"I'm just taking what I want. You said you preferred men who take what they want, remember?"
OH RIGHT I DID SAY THAT!!
but leah is still stuck on this jeremiah not being a "real" man thing, just cuz he's a reflection in the mirror and an invisible weight in the where-she's-at.
she shoves at him some more, declaring that he isn't a real man, and he's all "I'm real enough, and I've listened to you talk about real men for far too long. Time to find out if you really believe the things you say."
and this is why we don't masturbate in front of mirrors.
so he keeps at it, even though he complains about how skinny modern chicks are, which i think is supposed to make the readers cheer? and eventually leah starts to get into it.
Leah looked down her body, still trying to reconcile not being able to see Jeremiah but seeing the evidence of his flesh against her chest.
which i think means she sees her boobs getting all smooshed, which would be pretty funny.
He was rougher than she might have asked for, but Leah soon realized that her body craved the stronger touch.
yeah, leah! commit to all that shit you been saying about bad boys. bad boys don't bring flowers.
His insistent touch was undeniable and thrilled her in a way she didn't understand.
this does not surprise me. i'm beginning to think leah might be a little dumb.
She gasped with relieve when she finally felt his balls slap up against her. She may not be able to see what was going on, however Leah knew he was buried hilt deep into her.
yes. that is what it means when you can feel the balls, leah.
so they have all kinds of intercourse for a few pages and there are orgasms.
Jeremiah's entity had a physical aspect that she could touch and feel, but when his supernatural fluid splashed into her core she was genuinely shocked.
but then we don't get to learn anything more about this fluid, which is very disappointing.
is it like this??
enquiring minds want to know!
sated, leah tries for some pillow-talk, like their late night chats of yore, but jeremiah totally burns her:
"That was unbelievable," she whispered.
"You are unbelievable yourself, in your own way," he replied.
but leah doesn't seem to notice his dis, and the tale ends on this zinger of wordplay:
Leah picked up the cell phone on her bedside table and called to cancel the date with Bobbie. She wouldn't be seeing him again. She was done with seeing men.
GET IT!!! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHA AMAAAAZING! i actually did like that.
so, hopefully there will be more sexxytimes in store for leah and jeremiah. she's got a lot of invisible joy in store for her, i'll bet!
so, obviously, you should listen to blair before you listen to me. her glowing review is the review i wish i'd written for the reading experience i wiso, obviously, you should listen to blair before you listen to me. her glowing review is the review i wish i'd written for the reading experience i wish i'd had.
i didn't dislike this book, but i wasn't able to get past my frustration at the narrowness of the scope of the story. it takes place in england, on an isolated piece of property deep in the countryside known as "the well" which ruth ardingly and her husband mark purchase after fleeing a scandal in london. their plan was to start over in this new idyllic location, to see if living away from the hustle and scrutiny of the public eye would give them enough private space to save their marriage. and for a while, it was all working out.
and then the drought began.
for three years, no rain falls anywhere in britain, except at the well. as the rest of the nation dries up and panic sets in, mark and ruth again find themselves the center of attention by desperate people who want answers. reporters, government officials, and ordinary folk approach the borders of their property, treating it like some kind of new holy land. their wayward daughter angie shows up with their beloved seven-year-old grandson lucien and a caravan of travelers; a nomadic "family" formed to keep each other clean and sober, letting their children run wild and free in a sort of hippie lifestyle. besides angie and her friends, the only other people allowed onto the property are a group of nuns: the sisters of the rose of jericho, led by the charismatic sister amelia. the sisters are quick to elevate ruth to the status of a saint, and spread her words far and wide to promote their own fanatical feminist-spiritual views. amelia falls under their sway, discovering the cleansing effects of spiritual ecstasy, and leaving mark to handle the practical aspects of running a farm. this puts further strain on their already-wobbly marriage.
this is not how the novel begins. it begins in the aftermath of all of that, with ruth, alone and newly released from prison after being incarcerated for arson and the suspicious death of lucien. she is sent back to the well and placed under house arrest, monitored by armed guards and allowed the weekly visits of a priest, but otherwise completely isolated, having lost contact with both mark and angie, and with no way to get in touch with the dispersed sisters. she wanders through the rooms of her former paradise, backtracking to where it all began to go wrong, trying to piece together the events of the night lucien died; not sure whether she is guilty of his death, but needing to know if not her, who?
so my problem (and it's really MY problem - it probably won't bother other readers in what is a pretty solid debut novel) is that the drought element didn't seem "real;" it seemed like an unnecessary distancing/isolating device to add another layer of conflict. i wanted to know more about the water crisis - what was happening outside of the well. i don't need to know whether it's science or supernatural or why the well is spared, but i did want more information about the rest of the nation. i understand this is not that story - this is the story of one woman in a personal crisis who doesn't have access to that kind of information, but since we do get dribs and drabs of how the drought is affecting people outside of the well's splendor, i just wanted more of those worldbuilding aspects.
while i am a fan of some books that have used apocalypse as backdrop only: Zone One, The Reapers are the Angels, etc. - this one seemed cluttered and claustrophobic; too specific to one person's POV for me. this story could have been told without the water crisis and it would have been enough for me. it's enough that her grandson was murdered, her husband (view spoiler)[had that kiddie-porn scandal - and all those scenes with him and lucien are maddeningly ambiguous, in a good way (hide spoiler)],her daughter was a junkie and she herself has fallen under the spell of a manipulative woman. but the eco-crisis is the hook for the modern reader, and would have been for me too, with more focus - if it wasn't just running in the background the whole time.
also (view spoiler)[it's unconvincing to me how safe the well was from outsiders. desperate people do desperate things and i feel like there would have been more rioting, more bold approaches. this seemed too polite, that people would line up on the edge of their property but not, you know, try to get at that sweet water. i have seen people on the subway less well-mannered than these people who are in more serious straits. (hide spoiler)]
i did enjoy reading this. i liked the voice and the description - my problems were attached to my own personal expectations and wishes, which shouldn't cause anyone else to stumble.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
these photos were taken from a physical arc, and don't do any justice to the actual illustrations and color palette, which is more like this
these photos were taken from a physical arc, and don't do any justice to the actual illustrations and color palette, which is more like this
this book is one of those graphic novels that uses anthropomorphized creatures to address real-world situations. but unlike The Complete Maus, in this one the cat gets to be our heroine. and i am on board with catgirls as heroines.
i'm pretty sure this is intended for a young adult audience, as it concerns the typical YA theme of "the journey of self-discovery." it follows the experiences of a young catgirl named henni, an inquisitive soul born into a constraining society, as she enters the wider world for the first time, ripping the veils away from everything she has been taught along the way. it's about toppling superstitions, unmasking corrupt spiritual leaders, art used as revolution, religion misused as crowd control, the socially imposed limitations of gender, strength in the face of injustice and choosing one's own path.
henni starts out the book as a young and carefree creature, shown joyfully chasing a dragonfly, innocent enough to be genuinely shocked by her father's lie to her mother that they were going to temple, when he was really going to talk to some guy. in a mere five panels, her illusions of marriage are shattered.
shortly after arriving home, her father is sold out by her mother, stuffed in a bag by cruel men, and mutilated. henni is told by her mother: Don't you dare cry. He brought this on himself.
years pass, but henni retains her curiosity and her spirit. she has always been a high-spirited catgirl; always questioning, always having difficulty with the "obedience" part of her role as a woman. she is told that it was a waste for her father to have taught a mere girl to write, told that she should just be quiet and obedient, told that the elders would make all decisions for her, through divine guidance.
she is apprehensive about her upcoming arranged marriage, and mistrusts the unfair traditions she has been told to obey.
henni begins her solitary quest away from her homeland after seeing something she shouldn't have seen and subsequently doing something she shouldn't have done. she meets an unexpected ally who saves her from punishment and sets her on her path, which first takes her to another village much like her own (except with rounded rather than pointy rooftops), but steeped in the same hypocritical and self-serving leadership
the scoffing of the "primitive" by the "civilized"
and the unfair treatment of women.
henni's stubborn resistance to blind subservience lands her in trouble again, but this time, she is resourceful and clever enough to talk her way out of punishment on her own, using the leaders' own xenophobia against them.
but she hasn't become wicked, she has just learned how to play the game.
the final part of this book involves henni's meeting the rebel known as "the disruptor" who teaches her that there's a difference between obeying and agreeing and gives her a gift - a special and personal item that fills her with hope and purpose, her adventure presumably to be continued in another volume.
it's a charming and occasionally very dark little book. its themes are treated a little shallowly for the adult reader, but henni's transformation from questioning being to acting being is well-handled, and there is one scene in particular where she is balancing her impulse to help someone against her instinct for self-preservation and her respect for the traditions of others that is very effective.
i would be interested in seeing where the rest of the story goes....more
Somehow the smallest things can break us, and the hairline fracture deep within the young scientist spread over the next several months.
okay, i am inSomehow the smallest things can break us, and the hairline fracture deep within the young scientist spread over the next several months.
okay, i am in the minority here, so make of this what you will, but i really enjoyed this book. and if blurbs can be trusted, so did tom franklin, and if i'm going to be in any minority, i feel perfectly comfortable with that if he's standing beside me.
this book grabbed me from the first page, and i was hooked like a fishie.
jay mize is an environmental scientist studying soil for the farm service agency when he becomes obsessed with compost and the deterioration in soil quality by modern farming practices. no one seems interested in his alarmist warnings and rants, and he is subjected to whispers and pranks and the bewildered patience of his wife as his bizarre experiments take over their property.
He felt rather like a young suburban Moses, entrusted with critical information from on high that the general rabble was too distracted to glean. The agency confirmed this by requesting his resignation.
with the loss of his job, he is free to indulge his increasingly unstable prepper/prophet mentality, and moves his wife sandy and son jacob to a piece of property off the beaten path where they will be able to live off the grid in bucolic self-reliance.
What the naysayers didn't understand was that it wasn't some quaint old notion or a naive fondness for yesteryear, not even an entrepreneurial move toward trendy organic farming that made him come out here, all the way to nowhere, to invest the family savings in this house and the soggy fields and all the tools and equipment required to make a proper start. He'd read the books on climate change, energy crises, and colony collapse. He'd read The Road. He'd studied the ancient prophecies, the newer ones too, noting all the harbingers of environmental and economic ruin. A comeuppance was due, and he didn't want to be stuck in town among the bleating mobs when it all went down. He aimed to be prepared, to protect his family from it when it came, whatever it was and however awful, this thing he'd begun to believe like a religion.
they pick up stakes and move to this new eden, with all of jay's knowledge and training and ambitious ideas.
A year later they were ruined.
which is a grim way to open a book, but it's going to get much worse.
the property has been completely flooded - to the extent that it can be traveled over by boat. the tender crops and greenhouse are ruined, his equipment submerged, his wife and child gone to live in less insalubrious surroundings. jay is completely bankrupt, barely surviving in his wreck of a house without heat or electricity, "near starvation," given over to the scrawny, longhaired, wiry-bearded state of a paranoid man living in isolation, utterly destroyed.
and then he finds a body on his land.
and then things get really bad.
Every time he guessed he'd hit rock bottom, it was just slow sinking mud underfoot, and there was no telling how low he might get, how long it might take to disappear completely.
jay's loner paranoia and general suspicion of others has made him an outsider, and a target for the suspicion of others, and while he doesn't think that he is responsible for the corpse, he knows that he won't be believed if the police get involved. his appearance, his soapboxing, and his family name with its attached historical scandal make him hesitate to call the authorities, and he twists his idealistic embrace of self-reliance to include "what to do when you find a dead body on your property."
considering how well self-reliance has served him thus far, you can guess how well this goes for him.
i found this to be a completely engrossing and entertaining book.
i loved the story, and the way events escalate based on misperceptions and unfortunate coincidences. we get shifting third person limited POVs from a number of characters, so the distance between one character's intentions and another's interpretation of their actions is crystal clear and occasionally shocking, but always completely true to that character's own perspective. and i thought that was perfectly, intricately managed.
and speaking of perspective - DAMN - the reader is jostled about like crazy. the very first chapter is kind of a flash-forward where you're not really sure what you're looking at. and once you return to that scene later, it's both a great POV shift, and a bit of a sympathy shift as well. and the book uses this structure-shift a few times - a scene will occur only to recur later from an alternate viewpoint, with new information to adjust your understanding of what is happening vs. what the characters involved think is happening. and i thought he handled that so well.
this perspective thing is handled in a more humorous way with the character of deputy danny shoals. we follow along with his POV stuff, unquestioningly accepting what we learn about him through his own veil, but the first time he is seen through the eyes of someone else, it is … different. and it's a great bit of forced reader-adjustment. it made me think of my very favorite scene in And the Ass Saw the Angel, when there is a sudden shift from first to third-person and you are looking down on a character whose head you have been living in for the duration of the book, and it's a very revelatory moment of yikes. but it's not at all funny in nick cave's version.
as far as the negative reviews go - yeah, i understand the criticisms. the characters don't have a ton of depth and there's some iffiness when it comes to motivation. but i honestly thought that sandy had some extremely strong scenes, and i remember being pretty impressed with how a male author was able to get into the head of a woman just starting to lose her beauty and all the attendant self-consciousness that goes with it.
and jay's decline into paranoia seems sudden at first, but i think kornegay did a pretty good job of dropping in backstory throughout the text that made it clear that his transformation was a gradual process. and reading those first couple of chapters again after finishing the book is kind of chilling.
and yesssss the ending was a little … unexpected, and was kind of a convenient synthesis of nearly fantastical components, but we're in southern gothic/grit lit territory. it's a genre with some wriggle room when it comes to vérité.
and yesssss there was some unfinished business, but none of that bothered me in the slightest. i genuinely enjoyed the story and the writing, and i thought it was a very strong debut.
oh god this book is just wonderful. not only is it freaking adorable, but it is one of those children's books that teaches a Very Important Lesson abooh god this book is just wonderful. not only is it freaking adorable, but it is one of those children's books that teaches a Very Important Lesson about how being the one polite creature in a world full of rude animals gets you delicious rewards.
and how, at least between this book's covers, those rude animals will get nothing except sorrow and bewilderment.
an adorable panda has a box full of donuts to give away, but they're not for just any old animal - this panda has a healthy respect for good manners, and animals who are rude and grabby don't stand a chance.
and in his quest to find someone to give the donuts to, he will leave behind a trail of disappointment, and a particularly rude ostrich
until he is able to find one creature, a polite and enthusiastic lemur, whose good breeding is evident in the way he says "please."
it's the cutest thing ever, and i always appreciate a good lesson.
don't be an ostrich, people. be a lemur. always be a lemur....more
my review for this book will be a kind of open letter to the people on my thread for The Book with No Pictures who were critical of my underwhelmed remy review for this book will be a kind of open letter to the people on my thread for The Book with No Pictures who were critical of my underwhelmed reaction to it and scolded me that since i don't spend time with kids, my opinions are "basically useless." i was very clear in my review that i was an adult reader with no child-contact, and that my response to the book was one of someone who was nowhere near its target audience. i didn't need to share my personal backstory, but i chose to, thinking it would be helpful for readers of the review to know, so they could feel free to dismiss my opinion on those grounds. quietly. to themselves. but b.j. novak is someone whose successful day job is going to attract a lot of readers to the book who are not the intended audience, and i read it when it crossed my desk out of curiosity, and that was my honest response.
one user asked:
Then why are you reviewing children's books? Childrens books are not written for adults to love, but for children to love.
because some books intended for children can still be appreciated by adults, duh. Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball, Sparky!, Hedgehog in the Fog are all books for kids that i have loved. and now there's this one. that i love. and like b.j. novak, jenny slate is someone whose acting and comedy career is going to attract even childless readers who are interested in what kind of book she might produce. so to you poo-pooers - POO ON YOU because i LOVED this book. and here's the kicker - i'm not really a fan of what little i have seen of jenny slate's acting. a few snl episodes, bob's burgers (which i do love) and parks and rec, where she plays one half of the most annoying duo in the everlovin' world:
and obviously that character is meant to be annoying, so it's a success in terms of her ability to BE incredibly annoying, but it doesn't prevent me from prolonged cringing every single time they are onscreen.
but then connor showed me a video, and i completely fell in love with this little lopsided shell-creature.
there are some scattered others, but it gives you a good sense of what this shell is all about. marcel is such an endearing little guy, and her voice is just perfect - soft and gentle, a little vulnerable, and you just wanna pick him up and give him a gentle hug. or i do, anyway.
and this book is different from the first marcel book, from what i can tell from the reviews. this is an all-new story, not just a static version of the videos.
and it's so weird. in a good way. it's a tiny little story about the most surprised marcel has ever been, but like the videos, it's not a linear narrative - it is told in that little kid way of telling a story, with digressions and off-kilter details that aren't important to the actual story, but veer off into the fascinating territory of what pops into marcel's head as he is telling the tale. it's a surreal little journey, with words and paintings.
this is my favorite page of the book
and people of ANY age can enjoy it, which is what characterizes a successful children's book in my eyes. because it's not the kids who are shelling out the money for these books. it has to appeal to an adult on some level in order to get into the hands of a child, and this one stands out from the pack and it made this barren old wench smile. so there. ...more
Raindrops turned to leaves. Leaves gave way to objects.
"Mom! There's debris falling!" said a teenaged boy.
"Stop playing!" said his mother.
The boy poi
Raindrops turned to leaves. Leaves gave way to objects.
"Mom! There's debris falling!" said a teenaged boy.
"Stop playing!" said his mother.
The boy pointed at a tree branch drifting down from the sky, featherlike. What looked like a twig grew into a limb. In a blink, it became a full-sized tree hurtling directly toward them. As it hit the ground nearby, green lightning spidered out of the clouds and seized it like a hand.
even without sharks in them, tornadoes are terrifying
this book covers the superstorm event of 2011 in which 358 tornadoes occurred over a three-day period.
the storms spread out over twenty-one states, but this book's focus is on alabama (where 252 people died) and parts of mississippi, using interviews, facebook posts, emails, and news reports to reconstruct the devastating event. the story contains accounts from survivors, the families of the deceased, meteorologists, emt workers and doctors, storm chasers, and the heartbreaking internet posts of the dead which remain online, outlasting their authors. it is both comprehensive and immediate - a genuine nail-biter - as the tornadoes approach, destroy, pause, and resume - sometimes five at a time.
i am terrified of tornadoes. which is why i read this book. i am also terrified of volcanoes and earthquakes. i am grateful to live in a region where these giant natural forces are uncommon, and it is mind-boggling to read the nearly blasé reactions expressed at the beginning of this book by individuals so accustomed to tornadoes and so used to experiencing false alarms that they barely even react to the warnings:
Smithville's tornado siren, an ear-splitting 50 feet from Patti's house, had been screaming so often this spring that she found herself sleeping through the warnings.
When the sirens screamed she sighed and joined her colleagues in the stairwell, stopping by the coffee pot on the way to pour another cup.
now, i completely understand that repetition dulls alarm, and that after several false warnings, a person can overcome their natural instincts of terrified awe, but not me. first hint of an alarm, and i am in my custom-made bomb shelter with my hands over my ears. true story: when i was 6 or so, there was a hurricane warning, and i overreacted because - 6 - and i spent HOURS toting all my beloved stuffed animals and toys down to the basement. that i was able to do this for hours points to how very unmonitored i was as a child, but i was very cross indeed when i was finally discovered and made to bring everything back up. "but mommy, my yooooonicorns!!" i am pretty much still like this when i think about tornadoes and such. false alarms or no, if i lived in tornado country (and i would NOT), i would be in the basement with my yoonicorns at the first peal of a car alarm. and a mobile home?? that's just hubris, man.
but the book discusses the danger of false warnings in the way they decrease that respectful fear, and explains why false alarms are so common:
In an age when we can map the human genome, gather dust from a comet hurtling through space, and engineer synthetic DNA, science cannot predict exactly when and where a tornado will form. A radar cannot "see" tornadoes. It can only detect conditions known to be present when they form, such as signs of strong rotation. And the presence of those radar features does not prove a tornado exists. The only way to confirm a tornado is for a human to lay eyes on it.
good thing THAT'S not terrifying. but it's why there are so many warnings that come to nothing. and why there is only an average 13-minute warning time.
this is a terrific book, and it's very intense. it's extensively researched, she's a very clear and vivid writer, and even her organization is excellent; a great balance of heart-pounding action and factual material. and it was smart of her to choose to relay the information about "how does a tornado form?" by structuring it around an assembly where a beloved local meteorologist addresses a group of fifth-graders, which makes the science both comprehensible and also very lively.
The tornado had ripped off his jeans and his shirt, had stolen his watch and his glasses. A 3-inch shard of wood pierced the tender arch of one foot, and blood was pooling beneath it. A Bic pen was impaled in the flesh of his side. He wrapped his fingers around the pen and winced as he yanked it out.
and like all these stories about communities destroyed, in the aftermath of the storms come the accounts of altruism. of the healing and hope and the endurance of the human spirit and the way in which survivors and strangers both step up to help a community in need. and it manages to not be treacly about it. much.
at any rate, it is a gripping account of an unprecedented event, and it only reinforced my fear of tornadoes. i will be in my bunker if anyone needs me.
it's easily one of the best contemporary family dramas i have ever read, and i have read more than a few.
ng's prose isthis book is absolutely perfect.
it's easily one of the best contemporary family dramas i have ever read, and i have read more than a few.
ng's prose is outstanding, and her characters are vibrant, completely three-dimensional, and the way their stories knot up in each other is superb.
it opens with the death of sixteen-year-old lydia, the beloved middle child of marilyn and james lee. marilyn and james are a mixed-race chinese/caucasian couple living in a small town in ohio in the seventies, where such relationships were still extremely uncommon. in the united states, anti-miscegenation laws were only declared to be unconstitutional by the supreme court in 1967, which is a little mind-boggling, but there it is.
race plays a role in the conflict(s) of the novel, but it's just one component in what is really a story of family dynamics.
How had it begun? Like everything: with mothers and fathers. Because of Lydia's mother and father, because of her mother's and father's mothers and fathers…Because more than anything, her mother had wanted to stand out; because more than anything, her father had wanted to blend in. Because those things had been impossible.
marilyn grew up in virginia, the daughter of a home economics teacher who always wore gloves outside the house and whose greatest dream for her daughter was to meet a lot of wonderful Harvard men. marilyn has more ambitious plans - with her scholarship to radcliffe, her ultimate goal is med school, and she excels in her physics and chemistry classes, enduring the condescension of her all-male classmates (which is confusing to me, because in 1955, radcliffe was still an all-female school, as far as i know), in order to achieve her real objective - to end up nothing like her mother.
Late at night, bent over her textbooks while her roommate wound curlers into her hair and patted cold cream onto her cheeks and went to bed, Marilyn sipped double-strength tea and kept awake by picturing herself in a white doctor's coat, laying a cool hand against a feverish forehead, touching a stethoscope to a patient's chest. It was the furthest thing she could imagine from her mother's life, where sewing a neat hem was a laudable accomplishment and removing beet stains from a blouse was cause for celebration. Instead she would blunt pain and stanch bleeding and set bones. She would save lives. Yet in the end it happened just as her mother predicted: she met a man.
the man is james lee - fourth-year graduate student and marilyn's teacher for "The Cowboy in American Culture," who is, in the terminology of the day, an Oriental, specifically a Chinaman. after the very first class, marilyn goes to his office and kisses him. and from then on, they're together. which abruptness seems a little out of left-field, but it makes sense somehow. for her part, she thinks He understands. What it's like to be different. and he does. and his attraction to her comes from the completely opposite direction: because she had blended in so perfectly, because she had seemed so completely and utterly at home.
james' father had emigrated to america under a false name, after a ban had been placed on chinese immigrants. james was born in america but he always felt alien. at best a novelty, at worst the object of ridicule and casual racism. self-taught and trying to shed the stain of the immigrant; the shame of being the son of a janitor and a lunch lady, eating his mother's dumplings in a sea of privileged white faces, james had always been aiming for assimilation. lonely, friendless, unathletic, james has felt "other" his whole life. until america - in the shape of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman, accepts him - marries him despite the protestations of her mother.
this is probably too much detail tl;dr and all, but i am just so gobsmacked with how perfectly ng has set this family up to be doomed. this is thomas hardy-level cause and effect intricacy. and i'm not going to give too much away, this is just backstory - the real meat hasn't even been served up yet.
quickly, quickly, because there's still so much more to celebrate: they have three children, the first of which, nathan, effectively ends marilyn's career dreams. lydia is the middle child, dead on page one; the daughter each parent has hung their own missed opportunities upon - her father wants her to make friends, to be popular as he never was, and her mother wants her to have the academic success and career she gave up for her family. and then there's hannah. the youngest; an afterthought, frequently overlooked even when she is in the same room, but the keenest observer, and the only one able to see the big picture.
so the story is manyfold - finding out how lydia ended up at the bottom of a lake - and you will - this isn't one of those ambiguous endings, but although she is the center of the narrative, by the time all is revealed it almost doesn't matter. this book is more about character. where the idea of "family" is a character all its own. it's about the pressures put on children by parents, children wanting to please, parents making assumptions, siblings caught between jealousy and sympathy, infidelity and sacrifice, the poison of the american dream, racial identity, and what happens to a family after their lynchpin is removed.
everything about this book kicked my ass. each and every character had a story that was profound and devastating and i cried like a kitten on fire. which is very rare and always a delicious surprise.
the more i think about this book, the more i love it. so many tiny moments that splintered into my feeling bits. such quiet, understated scenes that are haunting me still.
i cannot believe this is her first book. and i cannot wait for the next one.
Heroic Measures is one of my all-time favorite books, so i was thrilled when this little slip of a book landed on my desk.
it's nothing at all like h.Heroic Measures is one of my all-time favorite books, so i was thrilled when this little slip of a book landed on my desk.
it's nothing at all like h.m., and i didn't like it nearly as much, but like the iridescent mushrooms that spur this story along, my appreciation of it was one of those creeper kinds that grows larger after some time has passed.
it's kind of a quiet book - it's funny and sad and brisk and a kind of fabulist-noir story whose real heart-kaboom lies in its characters and the way they are changed by what is, admittedly, a kooky series of events. on paper, it seems like it could be silly - edith and kat glasser are twins in their sixties who have led wildly different lives; kat has been out living her life with wild irresponsible abandon while edith is the steadfast retired legal librarian, keeper of secrets as well as an archived collection of their mother's letters from her successful career as a beloved advice columnist. these letters are not the only things that are threatened when a phosphorescent fungus starts to invade their brooklyn townhouse, the spread of which results in their being evacuated by a hazmat team along with their distracted actress landlady vida cebu, and the 18-year-old russian girl who has been living in vida's closet, completely unnoticed.
it sounds like it should be a farce, but the story starts to tread a darker path than i'd expected, as the women struggle to find home and safety, forgiveness and second chances as the fungus spreads farther and wider, displacing more people. ciment has that same quality that millhauser has - it's a writing that manages to make the everyday human concerns somehow simultaneously more and less familiar by virtue of setting them in this just slightly off-kilter context. there's nothing here that we haven't experienced ourselves: loss, love, guilt, longing, rootlessness, purposelessness, financial and career panic, redemption - and yet they seem to hold more fascination here than they would in a more conventional story - they shine a little more brightly.
it's a lovely little book, and i think that after my second skim-read before writing this review, i felt a little more warmly towards it than i did on my first go-round. which might come down to my notoriously numb feeling-parts when reading, because this is one of those books in which having fully-functioning emotions will help a lot, particularly towards the end.
this book is a perfectly good bit of entertainment, if you can disarm your logic and incredulity buttons.
it's about phoebe hall; a newly single and dthis book is a perfectly good bit of entertainment, if you can disarm your logic and incredulity buttons.
it's about phoebe hall; a newly single and disgraced celebrity biographer, who has fled the glamor of new york, world travel, and talk show appearances after a plagiarism scandal to teach writing at a private college in a tiny town in pennsylvania. glenda johns, one of her oldest friends from her own boarding school days, is the president of the college, and when a girl is found murrrrrderrrred, she asks phoebe to quietly investigate the rumors of a secret society of girls known only as "the sixes" to determine if there is a connection. phoebe is reluctant, because she herself had been victimized by a similar group of girls in her youth, but since researching celebrity dirt is pretty much the same thing as solving violent crimes, she agrees.
here's the thing - just as celebrities don't like it when you spill the secrets from what little they have of private lives, post-adolescent girls do not like having light shed on their own less-than-ladylike behavior. as her investigation progresses, phoebe becomes the target of several invasive scare tactics - break-ins where increasingly-creepy things are left behind for her to find, harrowing adventures in the dark, and then - more murrrrrderrrrr. but phoebe is plucky, and she will not quit the hunt just because (view spoiler)[half-frozen rats spring out at her face from her freezer (hide spoiler)].
oh, and is there a love interest? is he dreamy with a dark past, a psychology degree, and a habit of doing all sorts of suspicious things in her presence?? check and check.
and why does the feminist studies teacher seem to dislike her so much? and why does the dean of students keep throwing wrenches into her investigation? and why is glenda's husband acting so shady? and what about all the other students who drowned or near-drowned or went missing in the past? and what's with the campus police? and what's up with the townie bar that seems to have been the "victim last seen at" point in so many cases? and why is that new york post reporter sniffing around? and why are all the boys at the school so dumb? and how have the sixes been able to operate in secrecy for so long when some of their rituals are kind of high-profile? (view spoiler)[i mean, really - if there were more than forty members this one year alone, wouldn't they have run out of "important" people to seduce and destroy? and if this had been going on for as long as it had, would none of it have come out before?? it's a small town, but in the cloistered world of academia, there would have been rumor mills a-chugging. (hide spoiler)]
red herrings abound.
there are a lot of things that usually drive me mad, but they are pretty minor incidents. (view spoiler)[it's weird that a first fight, albeit one with serious accusations, translates into a breakup and communication blackout between two adults, especially when one ends up in the hospital right after that. it defies normal human behavior that duncan would call glenda and say "yeah, we're not together anymore, but how is she? tell her i asked about her but nooooo i can't contact her now or for a long time after this because - WEIRD!" that's just one of my personal bugbears, and it's one of those things so common in books and so completely removed from the way people actually behave. someone with whom you have been having the intercourse with a couple of days ago ends up in the hospital, you call. a case with which you have both been preoccupied comes to a close, you call. i don't care who accused whom of what. (hide spoiler)] again - this is just something that bugs me, and it's not a huge part of the story, but it speaks to a certain kind of writerly laziness. tana french wouldn't go there.
now, i have this on my "books claiming to be just like secret history" shelf, but this book doesn't actually make that claim. and it's not ultimately anything like secret history except that it involves a ritualistic secret society in an academic environment and there is a murder. which is enough for it to go on the shelf, but it is not at all a readalike.
it's a diversion-read - it holds the interest and it only takes a couple of hours to read, so it's a good vacation, beach, airplane, or wine-bath book. they can't all be life-changers. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
this is not the kind of book i would ordinarily read - on first glance, it seems like the kind of touchy-feely sentimental stuff i tend to avoid becauthis is not the kind of book i would ordinarily read - on first glance, it seems like the kind of touchy-feely sentimental stuff i tend to avoid because i am a robot and all, but it was sent as part of a care package from the kind kind people of goodreads when i was going through my cancerish surgery over the summer, and GR-staffer suzanne said that alice munro told her this was the book she wished she had had when she was going through her own cancer battle.
so i gave it a shot, because i was so grateful and bewildered that the place i have lovingly come to think of as my second home actually cared back.
and while much of it is advice that i cannot or will not apply to my own life, there's something satisfyingly honest in reading how someone else dealt with their obstacles and remained chipper and willing to give back to fans who might be going through a similar struggle. although my own circumstances were much less severe than hoffman's (knock three month's worth of wood), the sentiment was still appreciated, in the way her experiences made her both vulnerable and strong.
so i am taking some wine-drenched moments on this lovely thanksgiving evening to say "thank you" to the goodreads employees who so thoughtfully reached out to me, and for all of you here who sent well-wishes during my crummiest moments and who every day make even the not-crummy times better. i love you all, my little booknerd buddies, and i embrace you with sloppy drunken sincerity and well-wishes times a billion.
this book is a hoot. it gets five stars for concept and design, and a solid 3.75 for execution. i didn't realize when i started this book that the aut
this book is a hoot. it gets five stars for concept and design, and a solid 3.75 for execution. i didn't realize when i started this book that the author was guy who wrote yeti vs. bear in Tall Tales with Short Cocks Vol. 4, which was one of the funnier stories in that collection, and has one of the best opening scenes in the broader collection of "stories ever written."
this book is set up like an IKEA catalog, and walks that line between humor and horror without ever putting a ring on either one.
the audience that will get the most out of this is anyone who has ever worked for a significant period of time in a retail environment. not you retail dilettantes who worked a summer job at a bookstore after college before you went off to your lucrative careers in whatever it is people have lucrative careers in nowadays. i'm talking to you people who have been in the trenches. who have been beaten down by the atrocious behavior of customers, the inane made-up terminology in handbooks and orientations, and the complete disconnect between the corporate ideals and the reality of the sales floor. those of you who have smiled through verbal abuse, been used as pawns to test new company directives you knew were destined to fail, been called a "nazi" when relaying policies you had no hand in creating, been victims of ever-decreasing perks as the mucky-mucks cut your hours and benefits from the plush safety of their private jets. who were told you were part of a family, and then forced to sit at the kiddie table with juice boxes and pbj. told that you were important but that loyalty means taking one for the team sometimes for the good of the company. told that Your brand connection is weak, your presentation leaves a lot to be desired, your attitude is aggressive and confrontational and not at all consistent with Core Values. this one's for you, my beleaguered brethren.
this all takes place at orsk, a beige box store IKEA wanna-be whose headquarters are in milwaukee but adopt the faux-european elegance of their competitor:
Over on the wall was a large banner that read: "The hard work makes Orsk a family, and the hard work is free." the completely fake, slightly stilted Euro-phrasing was part of Orsk's fake Ikea act, and Amy couldn't decide if it was slightly annoying or totally offensive. In her opinion, nothing was worse than a store that pretended to be something it was not.
amy is like many poor souls in retail jobs - complacent and unambitious, going through the motions, struggling with student loans, both resenting and needing the work.
The more Amy struggled, the faster she sank. Every month she shuffled around less and less money to cover the same number of bills. The hamster wheel kept spinning and spinning. Sometimes she wanted to let go and find out exactly how far she'd fall if she just stopped fighting.She didn't expect life to be fair, but did it have to be so relentless?
she hates the job, the customers, her younger-than-her boss basil and his commitment to babbling corporatespeak, her hipster co-workers, and the sameness of her days. she's all set to transfer to a different branch to escape some of the irritants when basil offers her a deal: he will approve her transfer and give her 200 dollars cash if she works an overnight shift with both him and another worker: relentlessly upbeat team player/cashier ruth anne. it is to be a very special shift, designed to catch in the act whomever is responsible for a number of incidents of vandalism occurring inside the store. and while it might sound a little inappropriate to invite two female workers to spend the night in the store; workers who are completely unqualified for any sort of security task force, it is all innocently-intended. all the strapping young men were unavailable, and there is an inspection in the morning that needs to go off without a hitch, so time is of the essence. the cash is too tempting to turn down, so amy agrees to spend the night in the dark and spooky store with people who annoy her.
she knew it was going to suck, but she didn't know it was gonna get bloody.
because the orsk store isn't the only building to ever stand on this spot, and tonight the past is coming back with a vengeance, and if you thought retail was torture, you ain't seen nothing yet.
the book is great fun, with fantastic attention to detail as the catalog items introducing each chapter get more and more sinister as the book progresses, and the allusions become darker as what arises out of the "retail hypnosis" maze of the store unleashes its judgments. it's a clever spin on the haunted house story, a parody of consumer culture, and it pokes fun at teevee ghost hunters, hipsters with daddy's credit cards, and companies whose products are sold in shades of "flamingo" and "beaver oak."
okay, here's how this "review" is going to go. this is the dictionary i used for my etymology class back in undergrad, so i have read this inasmuch asokay, here's how this "review" is going to go. this is the dictionary i used for my etymology class back in undergrad, so i have read this inasmuch as anyone "reads" a dictionary
so it's totally valid for my little project.
to celebrate dinovember, and to make kaethe happy, i am going to do my own series of daily themed tableaux. since i am starting this on the 12th, there will have to be some jumbly crowded bits at the end, but mooops. jumbly crowded bits of what you ask? well, every day i am going to post a picture of dinosaurs posed on or near things that begin with the letter of the day, because - relevant!
these are our stars:
they will not factor into the day's letter. they are just there to scream and be enthusiastic.
these will not be anywhere near as fun as dinovember, but hopefully at least 3 of the 26 will be amusing. next year, i will plan this better, but for now you get what you get.
i gotta step up this staging. this is amateur hour...
which i set up in the tub intentionally, hoping maggie would jump in and sit on that cat pillow, since she is fascinated by the bathtub lately, and then it would be an all-cat tableau.
this is as far as i got. she wasn't feeling picture-y
and of course, once i DON'T want her in the photo
close-up detail for erica and evie
T is for thanksgiving!
and, finally - Z
which is for "zoo." which is an a-z animal goodbye. thanks for all the fun, guys!! see you next year!!!
close-up details, like we are the world is playing in the background...
there are some outtakes and bonus material for this project. i may or may not add them at a later date. but for now - goodbye from all of us here in karenland!!!...more
erin was good enough to send me her copy of this book, which i had already requested from netgalley, but since i have had really poan enthusiastic 3.5
erin was good enough to send me her copy of this book, which i had already requested from netgalley, but since i have had really poor luck lately getting approved in a timely manner, she offered to mail me hers. and wouldn't you know - the day it arrived in my mailbox was the same day i got approved on netgalley.
and after all those folks throwing the book at me, i just wish i'd loved it more than i did.
i love the cover, the font, the premise, and when i read the list of comparisons on the back cover:
but when the words "chilling" and "creepy" are used, i have certain expectations. i thought this would be a perfect companion book to The Supernatural Enhancements - spooky and dark with a hook for bookish types.
and it's a good book, but when it's put in that lineup, there's an element missing. i just didn't find it sinister enough. it's more
there's a quirky charm to it that overshadows anything even a little creepy. so if you go in knowing that, i think you will have a more realistic expectation of what's in store. there are things that are odd, whimsical, and eerie, but nothing to keep you up all night.
i like the writing, although there's something about it that is also that ineffable "something" that i have found in pretty much every book i've read from a nordic country - it's a stylistic similarity that leaves me feeling a little flat - like i'm missing something, like it's written at a remove.
and be prepared for a lot of unresolved bits at the end. there's a kind of abrupt twisty bit at the end that answers one question, but leaves a lot of danglers.
i know this sounds like i didn't like the book, but i did. i enjoyed reading it, and there are parts of it still in my head, but i also feel slightly befuddled. i can point to the parts that didn't work for me, but not the ones that did.
and yet i have a positive feeling overall when i think of this book.
perhaps this review will be improved with wine. it's worth trying.
nope, wine just made me sleepy.
regardless, i enjoyed reading this one, and i would be really interested to hear other people's reactions because for some reason, i am unable to articulate my own. ...more
i mean, how could i NOT read a monsterotica book about a god made of wood? i mean, he is MADE of WOOD. and he is a GOD. and he is MADE of WOOD!
i mean, how could i NOT read a monsterotica book about a god made of wood? i mean, he is MADE of WOOD. and he is a GOD. and he is MADE of WOOD!
just when i had begun to despair that i had reached the very apogee of imaginative monsterporn, and would have to slog through MORE werewolves, MORE aliens ad nauseam, mina shay comes through with a GOD of WOOD. which isn't even a thing. so thank god for the fertile imagination of monsterporn writers. you are all stars.
unfortunately, this one wasn't awesome. strictly in terms of being funny/fun to review, if you are reading these for the sexxy bits, this one has them. and it's got a truly gobsmacking premise, but it's very short, and it lacks some of the silly bits i have come to crave from my monsterotica. but never fear - there is still fun to be poked!
lindsay has started her own business. lean in, girl! she and her boyfriend aaron, described here as "blundering" but "persistent," run a dildo company called "hemlock creations." aaron is in charge of gathering the hemlock, while lindsay carves it into custom-made dildos. because when i sit around, thinking "what would i MOST want to ram into my vajayjay right now??," the answer is always
varnish doesn't solve all of life's problems.
so one day, lindsay is blithely carving up one of her creations when she hears someone enter her studio. but it is not aaron, oh no - aaron has been incapacitated by a creature wanting to know who has been cutting down all the hemlock, and has come to investigate.
why, it's THE GOD OF WOOD!
He was roughly humanoid in shape. Two arms, two legs and a central trunk and head…His legs looked like two thick tree trunks and were covered in bark. His arms were smaller, smoother tree limbs that bent where an elbow should be and ended in several long vine-like tendrils instead of a hand with fingers. His face was more smooth bark, however moss grew on his face and formed a kind of beard. In fact, she noted the patches of moss occurred wherever a human man might have hair: on his head, the area that correlated to the armpit, there was even a patch of moss down where the two leg trunks met up with his hardwood abdomen.
and what does he want?
"I am the god and protector of this hemlock wood, and you will answer for your crimes."
lindsay is much cooler under pressure than i would be if a giant tree came into my place and started bellowing at me.
"Hey slow down a moment there, Mister Hemlock! What crimes do you think I committed," she challenged him.
ummmm maybe all the DILDOS YOU MADE FROM MY FRIENDS???? he more or less says.
"Oh," she said, realization crossing her face. "These are all made from hemlock branches. It's the hardest of the soft woods, you see. And there's a marketing angle, too. Hemlock causes death if taken in large doses. But our product means women all over the world can take in smaller doses so as to achieve the 'little death,' It's our company tag line."
he is unimpressed by this businesswoman's (s)explanation, but that doesn't stop her - she babbles more of her mission statement, like she's a girl scout selling calendars in july.
"Oh, but don't you see? This little death from our hemlock dildos is providing the ultimate service to our, er, human customers. Every dildo is hand carved and to exact specifications from our clientele. This is a boutique operation, and every piece of hemlock that we've harvested has been used for the countless joy of people everywhere. Sometimes that joy is brought several times per night! The wood may not be used for fire or building shelter, but it's most certainly being used to benefit humanity."
i mean, a-plus for effort, but were the situation reversed, i doubt lindsay would be super-thrilled to learn that her toddlers were being harvested by tree-creatures to shove into their knotholes
and the GOD of WOOD is not swayed by her sales pitch.
he notices a shelf of dildos, and SOMEHOW surmises that these have not ever been used. lindsay stammers about how this is her first business venture carving dildos out of wood, and that those were failed practice attempts, not fit for customer use. that she for some reason keeps on a shelf instead of disposing of. but GOD of WOOD does not like waste, and wonders aloud if she has ever even used them on herself.
"Hey, that's a bit personal isn't it?"
i think that when you make sex toys out of another person's buddies for profit, you automatically forfeit the right to get offended at personal questions.
and GOD of WOOD agrees. so he's going to make sure that all the trees stolen from his protected grove are used and used well. he is going to test drive those puppies all up in their creator. but does a tree even know how to please a lady?
"I possess the collective knowledge of every tree in this forest. I know what's been done under the boughs and the cover of darkness. It's time to put some of that knowledge to use."
not the most compelling argument. if watching porn made you an expert on sex, 14-year-old boys would be AMAZING at it. please don't field test this unless you are yourself under 18. and if you are under 18, please stop reading this right now.
and it begins. and GOD of WOOD begins to disrobe her.
Lindsay's chest was small enough that she didn't always wear a bra. She briefly wondered how the tree god would have managed the intricate clasp on a bra had she been wearing one.
answer soon revealed:
The prehensile vine-fingers pulled at her top button until it popped free. Hemlock then deftly unzipped the cut-offs.
and then FINALLY she asks herself the question that these heroines always ask themselves, always way too late:
What am I doing?"
you are doing the GOD of WOOD, sweetie.
and he is bringing in all of his sexxy leaves and vines, along with her not-good-enough-to-sell dildos. oh, the humanity.
and he uses the first one upon her, with all of his observed skillz, and brings her a little death.
there, that fwiend has served his purpose.
"No waiting," he said. "We begin again."
lesson one: you are never free of your own past failures.
Lindsay gasped for air. She turned her head to the side and looked at the storage shelf of her practice dildos. She groaned as she saw several more unused hemlock dildos on the shelf. Lindsay hoped she could survive this rapid succession of little deaths.
lesson two: take out your damn trash.
and then, on page 10 of 11, this happens
Realization struck home. Lindsay was being mounted by a god of the wood.
because now, after an hour, the GOD of WOOD has gone through all of the faulty dildos. and now he's ready to see what this sexual intercourse is all about.
SEED DISPERSAL IS FOR CHUMPS!
because, suddenly, he has a penis. but don't worry - there's no bark on his cock. because that would be weird, right, if there was bark on the tree's cock? or if trees had cocks?
but science and monsterporn are like clark kent and superman - never the twain and all...
His fucking grew hard like the shaft of wood he was thrusting into her.
and then science rolls over in its drunken stupor and vomits a little
Lindsay felt a distinct change in the wooden cock buried deep inside of her pussy. Unlike the dildos from before, Hemlock seemed to be pulsing inside of her. Natural wood couldn't do that.
this is so true.
Hemlock twitched and spurted hot liquid against her inner walls. Lindsay could feel the odd cock pulsing in her, spraying more of his seed deep into her womb with each pulse.
science, please come back!! please!!! bring socrates and explain this to me! what is this liquid?? is this going to poison her to death?? i need to see a cross section of a GOD of WOOD so i can understand how this is happening.
mina shay is mum on the subject.
but, as always, she leaves it open (heh) for a sequel.
GOD of WOOD, you have pleased me. and taught me a valuable lesson.
The first thing you should know about me is that I am very handsome, nice, smart, athdodge THIS!
welcome to dodgeball, bizarro-style.
here's the opener:
The first thing you should know about me is that I am very handsome, nice, smart, athletic, and funny. Basically, I'm the coolest kid on the planet. And I've even got the coolest name in the universe.
Are you ready for it?
Whoa, I flip out a little every time I think about it.
justin lucas is what you might call …confident. and why shouldn't he be?? he is all of the above, he's got a marvelous mustache, the most awesome collection of novelty t-shirts ever, says cool words like "tarnation," and he's basically god's gift.
he has just transferred from his old high school in orlando (where he was the most popular kid, naturally) to finish out his senior year at one of the best schools in new jersey: lungville high. he's ready to kick ass and take names, to be the center of everyone's attention and admiration.
he muses: Sometimes it's really hard being the coolest kid on the planet.
poor justin lucas.
especially since some of the kids at this new school don't seem to recognize how very cool justin lucas is, and that they are lucky to even be attending the same classes as he is. classes like the history of dodgeball, dodgeball lit, psychology of dodgeball and yoga. see, lungville high, one of the best schools in new jersey, is completely structured around dodgeball. and all the kids there are a little strange. chicks in three-piece suits smoking cigars, kids with mohawks and skull-patched jackets, kids who stab other kids.
because this isn't your pansy-ass momma's dodgeball
it's not even the kind of dodgeball you might still have nightmares about
this is full contact, no holds barred dodgeball, and killing someone is just smart strategy.
things are about to get dodgy.
will justin find himself on the winning team? will he get the girl? will he get to the bottom of his family's secret legacy? will he learn where meat comes from? will he catch his parents in the most compromising situation ever? will he crack up over the word "tutu?" will he say things like
Those guys are probably gonna watch child pornography after this and kiss each other's dodgeballs.
I didn't really mean their dodgeballs. More like their testicles. I was trying to be hilarious. And I succeeded, because I am hilarious.
will he ever have a single moment of self-doubt??
only one way to find out! well, two i guess. you could read it or you could ask someone who has read it. but you should read it.
another item to add to the list of "ways in which i was failed as a child."
1) not born a redheaded princess 2) no pony. not even one. 3) made to eat canned green beans. seriously - i know it was the 70's but COME ON! we had a GARDEN!! 4) never once woke up to a tableau of dinosaurs behaving badly, complete with smashed dishes and dino-graffiti all over the walls.
because the four children belonging to the authors of this book get to wake up to such tableaux THIRTY DAYS OUT OF EACH YEAR!!! and probably have never even heard of canned green beans.
this book is, i think, a book of professionally-photographed reenactments of previous dinovembers, judging by the impeccable lighting and staging compared against the images available on their own internet places like here and here, and also the fact that so many of these pictures seem to be catching the dinosaurs in the midst of their tomfoolery, rather than a scene being discovered the morning after by lucky, cherished children.
for example, detective karen notes that this sink hasn't overflowed and the bubbles are still fresh and frothy
and this popcorn in still in midair:
which reminds me - so very many of these stagings involve butter. so much butter wasted. but also - not smooshy as it would have been after several hours.
and whatever is happening here definitely hasn't been there for too long.
i don't even know where you get enough ice to do that, let alone thinking you can fool the reader of this book into believing this was a stage set and left for the kids to find in the morning. a kid looks at that picture and thinks "FUN!" a grown-up looks at it and thinks "who is going to pay that bill?" thankfully, "FUN!" was my first thought, so i'm not quite grown yet.
and while it must be so magical to wake up to mischievous dinosaurs every morning for a month (although i have no way of knowing for sure because of how shamefully i was deprived of dinosaur stagings) i have a couple of reservations about the irresponsible behavior these dinosaurs exhibit.
never mind how much food they waste
or the dirrrrty-play they encourage:
but this - THIS!!!
this is crazytown!! this is a scene you stage for children ranging in ages from 1-7??? i mean, i understand you wanna thin your herd, considering how high your food-and-freezer bills must be, but this is basically an encouragement to misadventure! dcs would see this as a confession. watch your back.
i love that a great deal of the time, the funniest parts of the scenes are things that are happening off to one side or in the background. there's a lot going on in here, and i love it.
this is my favorite of all the dinosaurs:
because his expression can either be rage or terror or glee depending on what is going on around him.
and i liked this bit of evolutionary cannibalism
but most of all, i like that this book finally taught me what killed the dinosaurs:
"food" poisoning. guess i won't be going extinct anytime soon!
great pictures, usually funny captions, genius idea.
i will leave my door unlocked for you please....more
"I love you," I say to him, only it comes out, "Hey."
"So damn much," he says back, only it comes out, "Dude."
i think this one was also a 3.5 for me."I love you," I say to him, only it comes out, "Hey."
"So damn much," he says back, only it comes out, "Dude."
i think this one was also a 3.5 for me. there were things i liked SO MUCH about it, and then there were things that bothered me a little. (and not just my fear of twins this time)
first to the good.
i enjoyed the unusual structure - the fact that it alternates between the voices of twins noah and jude where noah's story takes place when they are 13 and jude's takes place when they are 16. in the three years separating the stories, a number of circumstances have driven them apart to the point where they have gone from being spookily twinclose to barely speaking.
both threads are compelling - in noah's, we see an introverted young artist falling in love for the first time; discovering that with brian, he is able to really be himself, gawky dorky bits and all. this is the first time in his life he has been able to make an emotional connection with someone he hadn't once shared a womb with, and their scenes are all giddy excitement and quiet uncertainty and incredible attraction. it is perfectly written. but things in his life are not all puppy love and romps through the woods. the twins have always been competitive for their parents' attention, and at this point in their lives, the feisty cliff-diving surfer girl jude is daddy's favorite, while the talented noah is the apple of his artist mother's eye. their parents are going through a rough patch, fighting constantly. jude is growing into a young woman and carrying her wildness and risk-taking into new realms, and she's in a reckless emotional tailspin as she begins to covet what little noah has of his own - his mother's affection, a spot at the art school he desperately wants to attend, and even brian.
three years later, so much has changed. jude is living a life of self-imposed penance, dictated by superstitious rituals, wearing only baggy jeans and sweatshirts, talking to the ghost of her dead grandmother, and on a complete boycott from boys. she is attending the school of noah's dreams, but is wracked with guilt over what she has done to get there, and what has happened between herself and noah to drive them apart.
the writing is very gimmicky in noah's thread. it is full of these little imaginative flourishes like
Jude barfs bright blue fluorescent barf all over the table, but I’m the only one who notices.
Mom picks up a knife and thrusts it into his gut, twists. Dad forges on, oblivious.
We're sprinting at the speed of light when the ground gives way and we rise into the air as if racing up stairs.
and he captions every scene as though it is a painting:
PORTRAIT: Jude Braiding Boy After Boy into Her Hair
PORTRAIT, SELF-PORTRAIT: Gray Noah Eating Gray Apples on Gray Grass
PORTRAIT, SELF-PORTRAIT: Brother and Sister on a Seesaw, Blindfolded
which can be cloying after a while if that kind of thing irritates you, but once you get past the first couple of instances, you just kind of roll with it and it didn't personally bother me overmuch. however, because of this writerly quirk, this is one of those books i hope they never ever try to make into a movie, because the temptation to film those bits would be there, and would be the worst kind of student-film indulgence to attempt to reproduce visually. seriously - big shudders when i think of it.
okay, now on to the other stuff that i wasn't crazy about.
oscar. oh, oscar. i assume we are meant to swoon over oscar, a boy who appears in both noah's 13-year-old and jude's 16-year-old storylines, but i just couldn't take him seriously. oscar is the boy who tests jude's boy boycot, and he's essentially just a collection of every stereotypical teen-girl dreamboy list.
- older man - english accent - motorcycle - scars - tattoos - dark past. says things like "I'm pretty sure the things I've done are far worse than whatever it is you've done. - bad boy vices - romantic cheesy lines: "Your eyes are so ethereal, your whole face is. I stared at pictures of you for hours last night. You give me chills. - leather jacket - james dean slouch - tomcat tendencies but oh-so capable of troo luv if given the opportunity - tough-guy posturing but also soooo sensitive - orphan - enigmatic - unconventional good looks - charismatic and passionate speechifier: he's like a roller coaster that talks.
he's just a little silly, to me. but i am not a teenage girl, so that probably accounts for it.
here is something else that bothered me: (view spoiler)[the jude and zephyr thing. so, yes, i get the fact that jude feels, in hindsight, that she was too young to have lost her virginity to an older dude, and i get that the fact that their sexytimes coinciding with her mother's death is completely psychologically scarring. but he was not an asshole, and she is putting him in the asshole role, to the extent that she spits on him when he is in the middle of helping her. he gave her several opportunities to say "no" during the act, making sure she was okay with it, which is more than most teenage boys would do in the heat of the moment. he tried to contact her after her mother died, and she refused to speak with him. he continued to watch out for her brother, as promised, despite her cutting all ties with him, and he never told anyone about what happened when noah got that unfortunate erection. these are all positive qualities in a human, and yet he is being being blamed for something she went into consensually. he wasn't some sexual predator going after the jailbait; they were both teenagers and it was clear that he had feelings for her. so while she seems to think it is really empowering to spit on him when his back is turned, it just seems really petty. there are much worse ways to lose one's virginity. better ones, too, yeah, but also much much worse ones. (hide spoiler)]
and another rant about something that seems to happen in every book ever and MAKES NO SENSE: (view spoiler)[why don't people talk to each other when confusing and upsetting things happen? i understand why writers are fond of preventing these conversations - it prolongs the tension and it makes the inevitable reunions so much more satisfying because of all the unhappiness that was allowed to fester FOREVER FOR NO REASON, but why don't readers complain about it more? i seem to be the only person that this rankles.i think it's completely lazy writing. your characters can't manage one three-minute conversation? really? brian goes away after that party without bothering to say, "oh hey, by the way noah - i totally didn't kiss your sister. we cool? miss you!" but no - he goes back to school without a phone call, without an email, without a LETTER to this guy who has been the center of his social life all summer and not a peep until he comes back for break, and the misunderstanding goes on and on for the purpose of what - character building?? deferred passion allowed to grow in absentia?? it's bullshit. it just doesn't ring true. teenagers don't behave like that. NO ONE behaves like that. and yet it's practically a convention in novels. and it grates on me like nothing else. (hide spoiler)]
there's one or two other things that bothered me - their father's transformation, the convenient arrival of oscar at the end, that other novelistic convention of characters making revealing speeches when (ostensibly) alone that other people overhear, a couple of other things i can't recall just now…
but overall, i liked it. i don't think i looooved it as much as most people seem to, but the early scenes between noah and brian are themselves worth the price of admission. which in my case was free (thanks, nancy!) but you get my point. it's a sweet and sad little book that gets a little cloying in parts, but its heart is in the right place, and it's ultimately a charming little book.
"When Castor died," he says, "Pollux missed him too much, so he made a deal to share his immortality with him and that's how they both ended up in the sky."
"I'd do that," I say. "Totally."
"Yeah? Must be a twin thing," he says, misunderstanding.
...I feel my face flush because I'd meant him, duh, I'd share my immortality with him. I meant you, I want to holler.
you kick oscar's ass in the "romantic dude" contest.
Someday I'll wake up and find they've built a maze around me, and I will be relieved.
fans of karen russell, kelly link, aimee bender - i'm looking atSomeday I'll wake up and find they've built a maze around me, and I will be relieved.
fans of karen russell, kelly link, aimee bender - i'm looking at YOU! this book is your JAM! as long as it's understood that your jam is going to be spread on top of delicious human flesh.
Penny Wilson wanted a baby of her own in the worst way. That's what I figure, because she was only supposed to watch me for an hour and a half, and obviously she loved me a little too much. She must have hummed a lullaby, fondled each tiny finger and toe, kissed my cheeks and stroked the down on my head, blowing on my hair like she was making a wish on a dandelion gone to seed. I had my teeth but I was too small to swallow the bones, so when my mother came home she found them in a pile on the living room carpet.
The last time my mother had looked at Penny Wilson she'd still had a face...Even when my mother noticed the gore down the front of my OshKosh overalls, even when she registered the blood on my face, she didn't see it. When she parted my lips and put her forefinger inside - mothers are the bravest creatures, and mine is the bravest of all - she found something hard between my gums. She pulled it out and peered at it. It was the hammer of Penny Wilson's eardrum.
and that's what happens on page one.
it is a charming little story of cannibalism and girl power. our girl maren has been a people-eater her whole life. she doesn't know why, but when she senses love being directed her way, her automatic response is to devour the source. during maren's childhood, her mother was forced to sacrifice all hope of a stable life and career in order to protect her from the fallout of her unfortunate meals. parents do not like it when your kid eats their kid, so their lives were a series of temporary homes, suitcases, and midnight flights. everything was pared down to the essentials:
We'd never had throw blankets at home - if we got cold we'd just take the comforters off our beds. Throw blankets, like placemats or window ornaments, were not necessary.
but that kind of life can only go on for so long, and the day after maren's 16th birthday she wakes to find she has been pushed from the nest. her mother is gone, leaving only an envelope of cash and maren's birth certificate, where she learns her father's name for the first time.
and what follows is - adventure! she sets out to finally meet her father and along the way, she eats meets new people, including others with her devouring nature. they are not exactly like her - everyone has their own triggers, methods, and reasons for munching, but it's a sort of familial bond that is completely new to her.
this is the cheekiest cannibal novel i have ever read, and maren is a hell of a heroine. the book is full of cuddly themes like love, family, and self-discovery, but never forget how dangerous love can be, with people like maren. (view spoiler)[I wasn't jealous. Not really. I just wanted Lee's attention - if not forever, then at least for the seven and a half minutes it would take for him to polish me off.(hide spoiler)]
and for all the light, there's plenty of dark. and metaphor. and the melancholy of a childhood lost:
The pillow was cool on my cheek. I understood now why the smell of laundry soap was so comforting: things couldn't be too hopeless if somebody was still bothering to wash the sheets.
hair rope, unfinished books, souvenirs, drunken cowboys, unrequited lust, road trips, cannibal etiquette, hobo stew, awkward requests, college dorms, carnies, all good things.
it is a companion book to Shake, which shows grown dogs shaking their stuff in adorable, sometimes terrifying ways, alloh my god, so this book exists.
it is a companion book to Shake, which shows grown dogs shaking their stuff in adorable, sometimes terrifying ways, all jowls and teeth and drool. this one springboards offa the knowledge that anything that is cute becomes doubly cute when it is smaller. is this true?? you tell me.
that's pretty much a "yes."
but here's the thing - i didn't notice this as much in the first book, but in this one, there are a lot of pictures where the puppy eyes are just bananas. crazy, rolling in different directions, wacky marble eyes. i don't know if it is because their skin is looser and it hasn't yet set like a fine crème brûlée, but it's alarming!! adorable, but also - yeesh!
what is happening to those puppies!!!???
and how is it still so adorable???
and is that drool or water???
and does it matter?? all that matters is that this book is insanely cute.
64 puppies. more than 130 photos. that is some adorable math there.
i have never envied a woman her job more than i do carli davidson.
even though i do not have a puppy-hat, at least i can enjoy the book. and i do. a lot....more