my library had this book marked as YA, and apart from the spare, straightforward language, i'd disagree. Donoghue has woven together most all of the c...moremy library had this book marked as YA, and apart from the spare, straightforward language, i'd disagree. Donoghue has woven together most all of the classic heroine-driven fairy tales (cinderella, snow white, sleeping beauty...) into a series of nested/linked retellings. some of the "new skins" these tales are wearing are looking at the same events from a different perspective, while others take off on a completely different and very feminist slant. the women in these stories are witches and innocents and victims and dreamers, and none of them have as simple or gentle an outcome as "happily ever after".(less)
"this is the book it is, which means it may not be the book you expect it to be. CRK"
she warned me about this right up front. even the blurb telling yo...more"this is the book it is, which means it may not be the book you expect it to be. CRK"
she warned me about this right up front. even the blurb telling you that this is the memoir of crazy India Phelps, that she may be seeing things and has trouble distinguishing which version of reality is factual, wasn't quite enough to get me in the right headspace for this. i'm not entirely sure you can be in the right headspace, unless your head is in the same space as Imp's, which is to say, crazy (her word, not mine).
the similarities between this and Kiernan's earlier The Red Tree are thick enough that i was convinced i was reading a riff on the same book for about half of this one's length. both are the first-person narratives of lesbian new-englander painters-who-sometimes-write that become haunted/obsessed with an eerie past event that's deeply steeped in local folklore. Kiernan's prose is amazing in both - the murky world of mental illness is rarely drawn so clear, and each narrative is peppered with Truths that didn't occur to me until they'd been said just that way. where 'the red tree' left me befuddled by the end, though, 'the drowning girl' had a transcendent section 3/4 of the way through that snapped things into sharp focus, and a far more relatable narrator.
it's a very difficult book, but the praise being heaped upon it is richly deserved. give yourself a quiet space and a nice long spell to sink into it.(less)
i love stories that take old mythology or fairy tales and see how those creatures or gods or beings would adapt to living in this modern world. instea...morei love stories that take old mythology or fairy tales and see how those creatures or gods or beings would adapt to living in this modern world. instead of putting our characters up on a pedestal and gazing up at ancient ideals, McBride has them get dirty and live & breathe. a wonderful short, and i really wish she'll feel the need to expand on this snapshot into a full novel.(less)
not every tale in here is 5-star flawless, but so many of them are 6- or 8-star amazing, you have to round up. there's a real trick to catching the wh...morenot every tale in here is 5-star flawless, but so many of them are 6- or 8-star amazing, you have to round up. there's a real trick to catching the whole of a reader's interest in a short story, without the longer narrative's space to spin out exposition, and Johnson absolutely has that trick. each of the tales here takes a unique "what if?" and spins it out into uncharted territory, with the human response to the what-if being infinitely more important than any gee-whiz factor. there are themes here (love of animals, especially dogs, self-reliance, perseverance of the individual's dream through adversity), but no repeats.
"26 monkeys, also, the abyss' and the title story are masterworks. highly recommended. (less)
beautiful, lyrical, and occasionally heartbreaking. after amazon recommended this to me a dozen times, and a book group selected it for a BOM, I read...morebeautiful, lyrical, and occasionally heartbreaking. after amazon recommended this to me a dozen times, and a book group selected it for a BOM, I read this knowing almost nothing about it other than really liking the shade of blue on the cover. the back-of-book blurb is fairly vague, and I'll keep my review specific-free as well: this should be read as unspoiled as possible, so that all the flourishes of this world are wholly unexpected. gorgeously atmospheric in a way reminiscent of 'pan's labyrinth,' and just as much a YA book as that was a kids' movie, this one is highly recommended for people who love the crafting of words. (less)
I wonder very much if I would have liked this book better had it not been written by Dave Sedaris. I thoroughly love his short-story anecdotes, and re...moreI wonder very much if I would have liked this book better had it not been written by Dave Sedaris. I thoroughly love his short-story anecdotes, and reading a few books' worth of them has him firmly pigeon-holed in my head into the "hilarity" category. though this book remains in the short-story format, it's most definitely rarely approaching anything resembling hilarity.
a dozen or so stories in the format of fables (i.e., anthropomorphic animals have some distinctly human desires), some of them bring a smile to your face, but not much is really LOLsome, and a few are downright uncomfortably gross or cruel. additionally, framing these as fables had my mind primed for the pithy final "life lesson", and few delivered on that front, either. a few gems are to be had, but for the most part we're learning the various ways that people are fools or assholes, and I kinda already knew that. (less)
**spoiler alert** a pretty solid and fun read, but wow! way more heavy-handed/manipulative than most kids' lit tends to be.
our hero percy, long a misu...more**spoiler alert** a pretty solid and fun read, but wow! way more heavy-handed/manipulative than most kids' lit tends to be.
our hero percy, long a misunderstood and "troubled youth", has plenty of issues. his stepdad is just awful (a drunk with foul body odor), he's all kinds of dyslexic & ADD, and he keeps getting kicked out of schools his martyred mom can't pay for anyway. he gets to find out that instead of this less-than-wonderful life he's been dealt, he's really a son of the ancient greek sea god.
from here on, percy gets to learn that being ADD is just the speed of one's demigod battle reflexes, and being dyslexic is just because "your brain is really hardwired for ancient greek." he doesn't have daddy issues because the deadbeat left them, but because the king of the gods decreed that none should have contact with their kids. monsters show up, attracted to his godling fabulousness; he dispatches them.
make no mistake, this is most definitely a homage to harry potter, right down to the ron & hermione sidekicks and dumbledore stand-in. the greek myth aspect is a fun twist for kids' lit, but the "you're not a crappy kid, you're just secretly awesome" schlock is a bit hard to swallow.(less)
I honestly have no idea wha to make of this book. maybe I'll ponder it for a while, and come to some final epiphany, or maybe this meandering bit of n...moreI honestly have no idea wha to make of this book. maybe I'll ponder it for a while, and come to some final epiphany, or maybe this meandering bit of notes is all that's going to come of it.
I haven't the slightest who recommended this book to me, I just remember it was described in such amazingly glowing terms that struck just the right chord with me, and I knew I'd love it. I'm not at all sure whether or not I liked it, though, and right now, it's just a wandering bit of contradictions.
though it was pitched to me as a fantasy supernatural-flavored horror novel, that's not this book. 'the red tree' is a southern-gothic, creeping-dread sort of descent into madness, with a narrator so unreliable that there's no assurance of anything fantastic actually happening at all. Kiernan writes some amazing prose. the words are sharp and precise and then spin out into flowy description that's all so sparely lovely that it made the heavy use of the word "fuck" almost a distraction. written as a journal, the immersal into the author's mind was intimate almost to the point of voyeuristic - in her head, at least, she's very frank about her sexual desires and exactly what she thinks of the whole useless world. the dreams she writes in her journal are amazingly rich journeys begging for archetypical dissection, but then noting actually happens in the waking world.
wow, I'm going to have to read something properly fluffy next. (less)
somewhen during WWII, there was a boy on the verge of young manhood whose mother died. his grief understandably made him perhaps just a little crazy,...moresomewhen during WWII, there was a boy on the verge of young manhood whose mother died. his grief understandably made him perhaps just a little crazy, or else opened a gap between his world and the next; either way, his nightmares were made incarnate, and he set off to understand them, if not outright do battle with them.
Connolly is more known for his detective fiction, but his infrequent fantasy novels (this one and 2009's The Gates) come highly recommended to me, and I now find myself wondering why on earth I've ignored those recommendations this long. the book starts off with a "once upon a time" and continues in the stately, deliberate pace of a fairy tale, though with plenty of divergent kinks in the old familiar stories. some of those little twists are slyly hilarious (the diamond-hoarding seven dwarfs are a communist collective), but most of them are rather sinister. insinuations of child abuse and a high body count mean that no one is safe or protected in this story, proving neatly that every coming-of-age tale about a not-yet adult main character is not automatically shelved with the kids & young adult books. full of inevitable danger and stylized peril, and graced with an ending that's utterly perfect, though that of course isn't a carbon copy of mother goose, either.
"Um, and what about 'happily ever after'?" asked David, a little uncertainly. "What does that mean?" "Eaten quickly," said Brother Number One.(less)