sometimes internet sensations do not make the transition into book sensations gracefully. this is one of those times.
and it might just be me. before everyone started reviewing this book on here, i had never heard of pusheen. this is a theme with me. grumpy cat, dog shaming - all that stuff i learned existed as websites and memes only after a book crossed my path.
i am barely a part of this world.
and so i read this book because that cat is cute, and everyone seemed to be celebrating pusheen with great fervor.
and the book?? it's okay.
there are some things like this that made me laugh with recognition:
(take note, greg!!)
things that were just too precious for words:
and this term i had never heard before but came across twice in one day, in two different books:
which on my cat, are mostly little black beans:
but then i went to the website (http://pusheen.com), and i realized what a difference a little wiggle can make. because while it is in no way the height of cutting-edge animation technology, it's just so much…. cuter than the motionless pusheens in the book
see what i mean?
is a mazillion times cuter than this:
and this, which is also in the book, wins the day in cuteness when you can see the tiny little movements.
and then i kind of went a little pusheen-crazy, leaving the confines of the site itself and finding little pusheens EVERYWHERE!
this is how pusheen makes pizza!!!
these are helpful cat-owner tips:
have you heard of tumblr?? there are many adorable things on tumblr!!
sweet pusheen - a cat after my own stomach
so without this pusheen background, the book felt a little flat to me, but the more i hunted down pusheens-in-motion, the more i started to think "there's something to this little chubby cat!" and maybe someday i will learn about an internet thing on the internet, the way it was meant to be...
okay, before you guys all start bracing yourself to read yet another monsterporn review from me - unclench. despite the suggestive title, there is not...moreokay, before you guys all start bracing yourself to read yet another monsterporn review from me - unclench. despite the suggestive title, there is not one scrap of monsterporn in this book. sometimes a dickenstein is just a dickinstein.
nor is it one of those campy monster mashups where famous authors fight vampires or zombies endeavor to bring austen's prose back from the dead.
this is, believe it or not, a serious and sensitive treatment of "what if emily dickinson read frankenstein and decided to try to recreate its experiment in her spare time??"
i know. how can that exist and not be camp?? but it's true.
it seems that shannon yarbrough has done his research into the life of emily dickinson. i say this with authority even though the things i know about emily dickinson's personal life are:
not super-outdoorsy, but really into celebrating nature preoccupied with death dressed in all-white secretive about her poetic outpourings hope = thing with wings
but after a quick wikipedia-gloss, and having read the author's note:
I gave much attention to preserving the character and real-life persona of Emily Dickinson within my fictional realm I created for her, though I know scholars who have studied her longer than I have will certainly find fault in my depiction of her. Any mistakes are my own or purely fiction. Her poetic themes of death and immortality were the easiest for me to rely upon. During my research, I focused on and included other real life events and acquaintances of Emily. The biggest change I made to fit my story was the timeline surrounding when Emily attended school. That, and oh yeah, I made Emily into a mad scientist.
that's a man i can trust to give me the skinny on emily dickinson's time and family and background.
as for the mad scientist part….so emily is all hopped up on milton and transcendentalist emerson and "Nature is God's interpretation of science" and all, and after reading frankenstein, she thinks to herself, "huh. bet i could do that." but in more appropriate emily dickinson words.
and she does.
she is conflicted about it; the meddling with god's will and all, but she manages to find some biblical verse to guide her in her experiments, particularly corinthians 15:21 and :26
-For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
-The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
She interprets those passages thusly:
Those verses helped Emily to find reassurance that her work did not go against the teachings of God. Others (koff)* might think she was taking those verses out of context, but to Emily the Bible as a whole didn't make much sense unless it was studied out of context. The themes of its stories or the matter of its verses were meant to be applied to one's life however they saw fit and just. The Bible provided guidance and direction, but it also supplied inspiration. That was the joy of any book; each individual reader received a different message from it.
* koff mine. but it's not like the bible hasn't been broadly interpreted to justify all manner of behavior and belief. parables: no way to run a business.
While a second life, with breath aided by human hand, went against everything organized religion believed in, as long as it served nature well, and man's purpose behind doing it remained good, there should be no harm.
right? indeed not.
but she only grants "second life" to god's small, soulless creatures who are not eligible for a proper afterlife. this is her gift to nature. and she gives herself a set of rules, one of which is that she doesn't create dead bodies upon which to experiment - sixth commandment and all. she's emily freaking dickinson - she's not gonna go out and strangle a raccoon just to bring a raccoon back to life. and fortunately, she manages to come across quite a few dead animals lying around on the ground that suit her other rules: natural deaths only, fresh corpses, no visibly destroyed limbs or disease… death kindly stops animals for her time and time again.
as for the science. i mean - emily dickinson was a smart cookie, and very progressive for her time, and while she does remark upon how frankenstein does not give a description of its galvanizing machine, she still manages to make one that works. basically, all you need is some salt water, a bell jar, a corpse, a battery, some copper and brass, and some blue lightning-stuff. is it the most convincing reanimation novel i have read? nah, but this book isn't about the science. it's not about convincing you this could have happened; it's just a philosophical and spiritual character study of a woman with a big heart who tried to give a gift back to nature.
but of course, once you tell a man you've brought animals back to life, he's going to see all the human applications of it with the medicine and military and progression of science and decide that one fragile white-clad woman bringing bobolinks back to life is not thinking big enough. men, amiright?
I must say I am captivated by all this. It really is brilliance defined. Have you considered making the machine larger to accommodate other species, a horse perhaps?" "Or a human?" Emily asked. "I didn't want to say that, but the thought did cross my mind." "No. I have not considered it." She tried not to sound disappointed, but she knew the words came out that way. "Oh? You want no part in that?" "I don't think so." "That is where science is unfortunate at times. A discovery of such aptitude should really benefit others, I'm afraid." "I'd rather be selfish and have it only benefit me," Emily said. "Vanity, Miss Dickinson?" "If I can return one robin to its nest then I have not lived in vain." "Well spoken. So, just hypothetically speaking, why not a human then?" "I believe when it's our time to go, God shall take us," Emily said. "But you don't feel the same applies in nature?" "Oh, it applies, but there is a difference." "And what is that difference, Miss Dickinson?" "There are no mistakes in nature. Only humans are aware of the mistakes they make, and sometimes die because of them." "Humans can often fix their mistakes if the result is not death." "And I see death as the only mistake in nature, and I am fixing it."
but despite her vague and presumptuous objections and reservations, it all comes down to that old adage: teach a man to fish and he'll spend all day reanimating fish-corpses, and so things get a little bigger than emily had planned, and she is forced to make some difficult decisions. which she does, in typical practical-capable emily dickinson fashion and with a chimp in a hat.
dickinson's poetry precedes each chapter, and once it is slid into the context of this story, it makes for some interesting interpretations of her work. this world is not conclusion, indeed.
it's fun without being campy-fun, and if you are a dickinson fan, it's worth a read, the way i read all the byron-lit i can because it is fun to see your heroes in new and interesting situations.
this was fine. maybe if i had read it closer to when i read the book itself, i would have appreciated it more. it's cute, but i hadn't felt any real u...morethis was fine. maybe if i had read it closer to when i read the book itself, i would have appreciated it more. it's cute, but i hadn't felt any real urgency to gain readerly access to brief origin story-episodes in the life of young penumbra, so this didn't answer any big burning questions or make me cry "thank goodness i know that now!"
i would gladly read a full-length prequel or sequel, and maybe this was just testing the waters - putting out e-feelers to see if there would be interest in continuation stories involving penumbra, and i'm sure there would be, but it's just a little tease. fun, but just extra fun, not seminal fun.
if you are a san francisco person, you will enjoy all the clever little references and jokes - some of which i caught, many of which i'm sure i missed, having never been invited to san francisco.
write me a biggun, sloan, and then i will be more on board. biggun!!(less)
i grabbed this off of netgalley because i thought it was a new jellaby adventure, but it turns out, it is just a reissue of the first...moregrumble grumble.
i grabbed this off of netgalley because i thought it was a new jellaby adventure, but it turns out, it is just a reissue of the first book that i already read way back in 2008. i can't read!! i just saw a giant purple jellaby on netgalley and i get excited and grabbed it!
when will you write a third one, kean soo?? when??
if you are like me, and cannot read, this book will still be fun for you, because it has a lot of pictures like this:
and it is cute enough that you can enjoy it even without the words. although words help. without words, you would have thought this was a new story, and it is not. without words, you might not understand that this is a story about a lonely little girl who discovers a giant purple monster in her backyard, and once she meets an equally lonely little boy, together they try to help jellaby find his way home. in toronto.
i loved jellaby back in 2008, and after rereading this, i still love him. the way soo draws jellaby just makes me smile, and the relationship between portia and jellaby is free and sweet and reminiscent of calvin and hobbes, especially in scenes like this:
i don't know if there is going to be a third book. i hope so, because the more books there are, the greater the chance that we might see jellaby merchandise, and if i could have a plush jellaby, things would be better in my life.
and if the second one shows up on netgalley, i will probably fall for it again, but maybe, maybe, the third time will be the charm, and i will one day get an all-new jellaby story.
if you like your police procedurals to be wacky slapstick adventures where groups of the elderly are always getting toppled over like bowling pins and...moreif you like your police procedurals to be wacky slapstick adventures where groups of the elderly are always getting toppled over like bowling pins and there are no criminal repercussions to a detective running over a woman in a car, this is probably one for you.
this book gives a nod to the casual racism and misogyny of pulp mysteries of a certain era. because, how long has it been since you heard a chinese character described as "inscrutable," right? or as a "gentle oriental" who responds with martial arts skills when called "mr. chink?" or sexual harassment played for laughs?? when was the last time your grandfather wrote a mystery novel? but then it adds camp and stirs, so we also have a tranny club and some drug-addled astrology hippies and many spittakes and falling-into-poo scenes and also people falling down the stairs, falling off roofs, falling into cleavage (SO much cleavage) and generally running a police force like eagleheart, with less shooting and blood. although there is some blood. and a corpse-eating dog.
humor is the bane of the readers' advisory profession. "i just want a funny book!" is the trickiest request, because humor is the most subjective thing of all, and also the most likely to cause offense if you get it wrong. so not every humorous book is going to be universally effective. i personally am not wild about slapstick - just because that constant level of comedic energy is wearying to me, and humor gets me more if i am allowed some downtime in between to process it. but i do like camp. particularly ensemble-cast murder mysteries based on board game camp. (and this one has a dr. body, which is almost like mr. boddy!)
overall, it was a pretty fun read, but as someone who gravitates towards dark melodrama over goofiness, it is definitely not my usual fare.(less)
okay, so this is just a perfect, sweet love story. and i don't usually go in for perfect, sweet love stories, but i loved these characters in the firs...moreokay, so this is just a perfect, sweet love story. and i don't usually go in for perfect, sweet love stories, but i loved these characters in the first two smoke & bone books, and here they are allowed to experience their first meeting and first kiss without any pesky tensions like supernatural war or death mucking it all up for them.
and it is so charming.
two sweet quirky kids finding love and magic in a snowstorm in prague. and there is cake! and it is written by laini taylor with all of her gliding lyricism and humor; what could be better than that? she writes the love story i want to live and it never once felt treacly to me, and i am hypersensitive to barfy treacle.
and dana - i know you don't like these characters, 'cuz they are all whimsy and bubbles, but if you just read this and pretend they are two dudes, i think you will really like it. try it!! TRY IT!!!! DANA TRY IT!!!(less)
jake whyte is an australian who has emigrated to a remote island off the coast of england to live alone on an isolated sheep farm, with only a dog for...morejake whyte is an australian who has emigrated to a remote island off the coast of england to live alone on an isolated sheep farm, with only a dog for company. jake whyte has nothing in common with this similarly-named individual
because she could probably snap him in half over one of her muscular thighs.
jake is a tall, big, strong woman with a troubled past, a deeply scarred back, and very good reasons for staying hidden. her only human contact is with don, the man from whom she bought the house and land, on his occasional passes by to assist her with various tasks. he is always trying to encourage/strongarm her into being more sociable - to go into town and meet a nice fella at the local, because although she is capable of meeting most of the demands of the farm, he sees her stubbornness and antisocial behavior as unnatural, and insists that regardless of gender, farmers need to form a sort of community, and her isolation is detrimental to herself as a woman, and to the success of the flock.
this belief seems to have merit as jake's sheep begin to be attacked - torn apart by some kind of animal much larger than any witnessed in the area. jake initially believes it is the work of the local teenagers who give her attitude when she goes into town for supplies, but then other strange things start happening - noises in the middle of the night, the feeling of being watched, rumors of a mysterious beast… and then one night jake discovers a man, lloyd, in her shed sleeping off a night of drinking. the two of them enter an arrangement that becomes a sort of friendship, despite jake's reservations and emotional resistance.
intercut with the story of jake and lloyd is the story of jake's past, told in reverse order, as we learn what drove her to flee australia, and the source of her physical and emotional scars.
it's a definite page turner, but not in a fast-paced sort of way, more of a reader's need to find out what happened. it has all the things i like in my literary fiction, with the dark secrets and perseverance in impossible situations, and despite the ambiguous ending, i don't really think it is really a story of redemption, or even acceptance. it is just a story of one woman who makes a terrible mistake, finds herself getting into more trouble with each of her attempts to run from her past, and discovers that even self-exile brings its own set of difficulties.
now, about that ambiguous ending. that's one of the few things i wasn't wild about. i don't mind ambiguity as a rule, i liked the is-it-or-isn't-it dusting of magical realism, but the last two epilogue pages confused me, and clouded the situation for me a little. it felt soft, tacked-on, and while i have a thought about what it could signify, there isn't enough textual evidence for a confident assertion. i think i would rather it have ended on the harder ending that came before, which was still ambiguous, but in a somewhat more satisfying way - where possibility-seeds were planted in the reader's mind, without feeling so… misty.
but it is still a gripping story with plenty of depth and surprises for its size, and i am really interested in seeing how other people respond to it.(less)