Posts Tagged: ebook

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

August 2, 2013 Books 4

owenmeany

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.

Where do I even begin? There is so much to say. So many FEELINGS. How I wish I had been given the opportunity to read this in college! Seriously, you guys. I don’t even know how to begin to describe how much this book touched me. If you had told me a coming of age story about two boys, a baseball, and God, religion, faith, Vietnam, politics, and more would stir me up this much, I probably would have laughed at you. I’m not much for baseball. Or politics.

In case you’ve been living under the same rock I had been, here is basically what the book is about. It is about John Wheelwright and his extraordinary friendship with Owen Meany. Owen Meany is a tiny boy with a larger than life voice and a powerful personality. That purpose is slowly revealed throughout the book.

So many interesting things to discuss! The most amazing thing to me is how relevant a book set in the 60s, 70s, and 80s remains. Sure, Irving is ranting on Reagan and a completely different government, but so many of the thoughts he expresses remain the same. In some cases, change the names around, and you get the same problems we are facing today! Normally I don’t find politics interesting at all, but history, oh that is a completely different story.

“WE HAVE A GENERATION OF PEOLE WHO ARE ANGRY TO LOOK FORWARD TO,” Owen said. “AND MAYBE TWO GENERATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO DON’T GIVE A SHIT,” he added.

“How do you know?” I asked him.

“I DON’T KNOW HOW I KNOW,” said Owen Meany. “I JUST KNOW THAT I  KNOW,” he said.

And how true is that statement? So many people are angry now!

“…THE COUNTRY WANTS A SAVIOR. THE COUNTRY IS A SUCKER FOR POWERFUL MEN WHO LOOK GOOD. WE THINK THEY’RE MORALISTS AND THEN THEY JUST USE US. THAT’S WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU AND ME,” said Owen Meany. “WE’RE GOING TO BE USED.”

Owen is talking about Kennedy there. Kennedy!

“THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET AMERICANS TO NOTICE ANYTHING IS TO TAX THEM OR DRAFT THEM OR KILL THEM,” … “IF YOU ABOLISH THE DRAFT,” said Owen Meany, “MOST AMERICANS WILL SIMPLY STOP CARING ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD.”

Come on. Doesn’t that give you just a bit of a shiver?

Another interesting thing, to me, in this book, was just how much John loves idolizes (and loves) Owen. He has him on a gigantic pedestal. Owen is brilliant, much more so than John. Everything Owen does, from school work to manual labor at the quarry, the ease in which he engages in relationships with others and, oh, just everything; John thinks Owen does it perfectly. It says a lot that the kid killed John’s mother (by accident) and it was never a threat to their friendship. John never blames Owen. It’s not like Owen doesn’t make up for him. The poor boy pulls John through life, kicking and screaming.

I want to go on being a student,” I told him. “I want to be a teacher. I’m just a reader,” I said.

“DON’T SOUND SO ASHAMED,” he said. “READING IS A GIFT.”

“I learned it from you,” I told him.

“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU LEARNED IT- IT’S A GIFT. IF YOU CARE ABOUT SOMETHING, YOU HAVE TO PROTECT IT. IF YOU’RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND A WAY OF LIFE YOU LOVE, YOU HAVE TO FIND THE COURAGE TO LIVE IT.

Another thing I loved was Irving’s writing-obviously by the amount of quotes I highlighted. By turns witty, hilarious, heartbreaking, and dogmatic; he never failed to make me FEEL something. He made me feel so much! So much I didn’t expect! And damn it, he made me love Owen Meany. Yes, I love Owen Meany.

Can’t we have him back?

Other bits I liked:

“YOU ABSOLUTELY KNOW SHE’S THERE—EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN’T SEE HER?” he asked me.

“Yes!” I screamed.

“WELL, NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT GOD,” said Owen Meany. “I CAN’T SEE HIM—BUT I ABSOLUTELY KNOW HE IS THERE!”

If watching television doesn’t hasten death, it surely manages to make death very inviting; for television so shamelessly sentimentalizes and romanticizes death that it makes the living feel they have missed something – just by staying alive.

Every American should be forced to live outside the United States for a year or two. Americans should be forced to see how ridiculous they appear to the rest of the world! They should listen to someone else’s version of themselves–to anyone else’s version! Every country knows more about America than Americans know about themselves! And Americans know absolutely nothing about any other country!

A Prayer for Owen Meany
By John Irving
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
Ebook
Ebook publish date: 3/13/2012
Originally published: 1989
ISBN: 9780062204103
640 pages
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
Rated 5/5
Read for The Estella Project

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The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

October 23, 2012 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 10

The Brides of Rollrock Island
by Margo Lanagan
Publication Date: 9/11/12
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Acquired from NetGalley

I have two things to admit. Firstly, I don’t quite know how to review this book! How many times have you heard me say that? But it’s true! There is SO MUCH going on here, not in a bad way, it’s a good way, but there is so much to discuss!

Secondly, I went into The Brides of Rollrock Island with trepidation. Sure, I read, and loved Tender Morsels, last year, but it took me three (THREE!) tries to get into that book. I was vigilant! Determined! Too many of my reading buddies loved Tender Morsels for me to NOT love it too! And so, I conquered! Finally! Hoorah for me!!! But, that small, irritating voice in the back of my head asked, would it be that hard to get into her new book?

Thankfully, no. I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

On Rollrock Island, the men make their living from the sea. They are fishermen. They have always been fishermen. And their wives, while unremarkable, plain, and dull, were also steadfast and loyal. Until the witch was born. Misskaella, ugly, hateful Misskaella, has the power to draw the human out of a seal, and the men pay handsomely for their beautiful sea-wives. Long, dark, mesmerizing hair. Night dark, liquid eyes. Easy, trusting, sweet demeanors. Perfect as perfect can be. The price is dear, but the men are willing to pay it. The wives live on the island and bear them sons and watch the sea. They watch the sea with their quiet, questing eyes.

One son, out of all the sons, recognizes the aching in his mother’s soul. This boy loves his mother more than anything else in the world and he worries. He worries and he watches. He watches her like she watches the sea. Will his love for her lead him to help her back to the sea, or his father in keeping her there with them?

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Nothing with Margo Lanagan is simple. Her writing is beautiful. Her message hauntingly and lovingly rendered. And her characters. Oh, her characters. Misskaella. I loved Misskaella. She’s fascinating. From the beginning, she’s called fat, and ugly, and she takes it to heart. Once she discovers her talent with seals, she discovers her means for revenge. She takes a sort of malicious delight, but Lanagan’s skill is so great that, even as Misskaella is delighting in her exploits, you can also feel the pain under it all. She becomes the mean, ugly witch they take her for, but Lanagan left me wondering what Misskaella could have been, if she hadn’t been treated the way she was. As the stories unfold, telling the stories of different men and their seal wives and their sons, one comes to know Misskaella better as well. I’ll say it again, she’s fascinating. One of the most fascinating characters I’ve met in a long time.

Lanagan’s setting is like another character in the book. The island on which this all takes place is a barren place. I pictured rocky beaches, swollen, angry seas, overcast skies, yet starkly beautiful for all this. I was reminded of pictures of the Scottish coast. Using this setting to tell what is essentially a selkie story, a fairy tale where men steal the skins of seals to make them their wives, fitting.

Some of my favorite bits of writing:

We walked on, and everything was different, just as Jeannie had said-outlined in gold, things were, in the late sunshine, funnel- and mast-shadows crisply black on the sunlit storehouse walls. Every gull flew in a more purposeful arc, or arranged its folded wings more importantly; every stone and plank went toward making a different stage of life from the one that had passed on from us, moments before. “this is the day you tell your grandchildren about,” I said, and Kitty squeezed my hand.

During the time I lived in the sea, nothing happened in the sense that humans know happening. Seals do not sit about and tell, the way people do, and their lives are not eventful in the way that people’s are, lines of story combed out again and again, in the hope that they will yield more sense with every stroke. Seal life already makes perfect sense, and needs no explanation. At the approach of my man-mind, my seal life slips apart into glimpses and half memories: sunlight shafts into the green; the mirror roof crinkles above; the mams race ahead through the halls and cathedrals and along the high roads of the sea; boat bellies rock against the light, and men mumble and splash at their business above; the seal-men spin their big bodies by their delicate tails as lightly as land-lads spin wooden tops, shooting forward, upward, outward. Movement in the sea is very much like flying, through a green air flocking with tiny lives, and massier ones more slowly coasting by.

I felt freed to please myself, to find my way as I would, in a world that was much vaster than I had realized before, in which I was but one star-gleam, one wavelet, among multitudes. My happiness mattered not a whit more than the next person’s – or the next fish’s, or the next grass-blade’s! – and not a whit less.

Other thoughts: things mean a lot, The Readventurer, Reading Rants!, and more….

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Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

August 20, 2012 Books 3

You may have seen this for like a MINUTE the other day when I accidentally hit publish. This is what happens when you are running two blogs. *sigh* Whoops. Sorry about that.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
By Matthew Dicks? Green? Who are you today?
Read by Matthew Brown. I do not think this is the same Matthew, but who knows with this identity crisis of his.

Yeah…. So….

This is the sort of book that I close and go “Okay, so, now Heather, just how are you going to review this one without giving anything away?” And that sneaky little voice in my head goes, “Honey. I have no idea.”

And I had so many difficulties with this book. The publisher sent me the audiobook out of the blue and I read the book and was like, wow. That sounds so amazingly new and original! A book, told from the point of view of a young autistic boy’s imaginary friend? And it’s compared to Room? “Let me get on this right now!” I thought. And I did, as soon as I was able. Then, well, things got rocky, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, so, what is this book about? Thanks for asking! What would I do without you?

So, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is about the life of an imaginary friend, right? Budo is the imaginary friend of Max, a young autistic boy, and Budo will only exist as long as Max believes in him. Budo helps take care of Max, deal with awkward social situations, and loves him. Most importantly, loves him. Budo loves Max more than anything else in the world. Budo has lived the longest of any imaginary friend that he knows, which he is glad of, because he is afraid of disappearing. So Budo knows there is a fine balance between helping Max along, and keeping himself needed. So, when something completely out of the ordinary happens, Budo has to make a decision; how does he help Max without loosing himself completely?

Like I said, I had huge problems with the listening of this audiobook. I couldn’t get into it! I couldn’t connect to Budo at all, Max was a mystery (although I think Max is SUPPOSED to be a mystery), and I just felt like I was struggling to get through the book. In talking with a friend about it, I realized that it might be the listening itself. I didn’t even really have a problem with the reader, except that his reading felt somewhat emotionless to me and I didn’t think he sounded very much like a child. Since I had the eGalley from NetGalley, I decided to switch over and, suddenly, I was in the narrative. Totally into it. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. Into it.

The beginning of the story takes us through Budo and Max’s days at school. Budo shows us how Max struggles with his classmates, his father who refuses to believe something could be wrong with him, and his mother who desperately wants to get Max the help he needs. Budo tells us how he helps Max go to the bathroom, how he helps “the bravest little boy in the world” do things other children do without batting an eye, and most of all, just how much he loves this little kid. In many ways, Budo seems older than Max, like an older brother even. Budo is special in the world of imaginary friends, in that he can be away from Max. This could get Budo into trouble. Budo is Max’s special protector, so what will Budo do when he can’t get to Max to protect him any more?

That’s all I can tell you. To tell more would be to give so much away. The second half of the story becomes one of such suspense. Something happens to Max, something Budo witnessed all by himself, and, being an imaginary friend, can’t tell any one. Budo has to be smart, very smart, to get to Max and help Max see that this time, Max is going to have to help himself. No matter the cost.

I can see where this book would be compared to Room. A young protagonist is telling the story, and there is a measure of suspense in the second half of the narrative. Yet, for all the suspense, the writing wasn’t quite as tight as Emma Donoghue’s in Room. There were times where it felt like I was just hanging around, waiting for something to happen because Budo didn’t know what to do next. This kept me reading, but at the cost of a tiny bit of irritation. Irregardless of that little bit of nit-pickery, Matthew Dicks (I’m picking Dicks because that’s what’s on my ebook) has created one of the more imaginative characters (Ha! See what I did there?) I’ve encountered yet. Budo is the kind of imaginary friend I know I would want (no disrespect, Penelope, you were fun and all, I swears) and any kid would be lucky to create. Max, like most autistic kids, is distant, hard to know, and so endearing. You just want to wrap him up in that hug he wants no part of. It’s been a couple of months since I finished this book and it has really stayed with me. Highly recommended.

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I Did It! The Stand!

August 3, 2012 Books 15

The Stand
By Stephen King
ISBN-13: 9780385528856
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 6/24/2008
Format: eBook
Pages: 1163

It was touch-and-go around the 750 page mark, I was even considering skimming. But I finally did it. I finished The Stand. I closed my Nook’s cover with a snap and felt like celebrating. I think this may the longest book I’ve ever read.

So, did I like it? Hells yes. And I am SO surprised by that. The only other King books I’ve read are Misery, which was kinda meh, and One Writing, which while pretty good, got my jealous up when he talks about how he spends his days; writing, then reading. I mean UGH. So I wasn’t looking to read any more King, for, oh probably the rest of my life. Yet, when Trish decided to host her readalong of The Stand, I found myself considering. I’ve heard of The Stand, I’m not sure you can be a serious reader and not have heard of it. People started joining in, people who I like and then, there was Debi. My dear, dear, sweet Debi with her love of this book and I thought, what the heck. If Debi loves it, it must be good.

Thank you Debi.

So, what did I love about this book? The characters. All of them, except maybe the Walking Dude, the dark man, the one who must not be named (oh wait…). Stu, Frannie, Nick (Nick!), Mother Abagail, Tom Cullen, Glen (Glen!), Ralph, Larry, Lloyd, The Trashcan Man (but also, ugh!), and on and on. Because this book has all the characters, laws yes. M-O-O-N, that spells characters. One would expect quite a few in a tome that clocks in at 1,163 pages and it delivers. One would also worry that it would be difficult to create any well-rounded characters, with so many to move between, one would be mostly wrong. There are a few that are somewhat single-minded (hello Trashcan Man!), but they serve their purpose (and how!).

There is so much I wanted to talk about. I don’t even know where to begin. This is why I need to learn to take notes when I’m reading. I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to post my favorite quotes first and take it from there.

Favorite stuff:

“If I were being psychoanalyzed, I suppose the shrink would say the dream expresses my unconscious fear of some leader or leaders who will start the whole thing going again. Maybe a fear of technology in general. Because I do believe that all the new societies which arise, at least in the Western world, will have technology as their cornerstone. It’s a pity, and it needn’t be, but it will be, because we are hooked. They don’t remember-or don’t choose to remember-the corner we had painted ourselves into. The dirty rivers, the hole in the ozone layer, the atomic bomb, the atmospheric pollution. All they’ll remember is that once up on a time they could keep warm at night without expending much effort to do it. I’m a Luddite on top of my other failings, you see. But this dream…it preys on me, Stu.”

So, um, is Stephen King prophetic? I am assuming this is a section he added, or added to, in the 1990 edition. I would have been 12 then and I vaguely remember issues of the environment and such being discussed, but nowhere close to how it is now. And, actually, this is where I think King is at his scariest. It’s not the crucifixions, or the dismemberment, the supernatural walking the world, or the lack of medical care even. It’s the things we are doing now, the pollution, the possibility of chemical warfare, of any warfare, the cautions to clean up our act or we WILL wind up like this-that’s scary.

The seawind struck him full force, lifting his heavy growth of hair back form his forehead. He lifted his face into it, into the harsh-clean salt-smell of the blue animal. The combers, glassy blue-green, moved slowly in, their slopes becoming more pronounced as the bottom shallowed up beneath them, their peaks gaining first a curl of foam, then a curdly topping. Then they crashed suicidally against the rocks as they had since the beginning of time, destroying themselves, destroying an infinitesimally bit of the land at the same time. There was a ramming, coughing boom as water was forced deep into some half-submerged channel of rock that had been carved out over the millennia.

I just love this bit. Not only is it beautiful writing, it’s a message that the Earth is going to keep on keeping on, whether we’re here or not.

When he got back to the Zone-if he did get back to the Zone-he would have all of them he wanted. He would gorge on Pringle’s chips. And bask in the love of his friends. That was what was missing back there in Las Vegas, he decided-simple love. They were nice enough people and all, but there wasn’t much love int hem. Because they were too busy being afraid. Love didn’t grow very well in a place where there was only fear, just as plants didn’t grow very well in a place where it was always dark.

Can I just say I love Tom Cullen?

Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long.

And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again.

That’s the last two lines of the book. Somewhat bleak, yes? King doesn’t have a high opinion of civilization, does he? I find myself wondering what The Stand would be like if he took it, as he did in 1990 and updated it again. So many things didn’t exist then. The Internet. No iPads or iPhones. Social networking. The Simpsons. How would humanity react if something happened like this? We are so completely connected now, would we be able to bounce back? It’s a horribly fascinating thing to think about, isn’t it?

Okay, now that this post is reaching Kingian lengths, I’m going to wrap it up. Plus, I’ve been working on this for an hour and it’s time to go to work! Am I glad I read The Stand? Yes. Yes I am. Will I read more Stephen King? Uh…I’m not sure. I know there is another readalong coming up, this time of IT, which I’m pretty sure (sorry Jill!) I’m going to pass on. I hate clowns, I find even the cutest of them freaky, and I can’t stomach books where children are harmed. But yes, I do think I’ll be reading more sometime very soon.

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The Robber Bridgegroom by Eudora Welty

July 31, 2012 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 11

Oh Eudora, you rascally old broad. You were rewriting fairytales before it was cool, weren’t you. You savvy trendsetter!

I don’t know where to start. Do I tell you about the genius that was Eudora Welty? Do I explain to you the unfamiliar fairytale, The Robber Bridegroom? Or do I just drive right into telling you about this book and hope I intrigue you enough that you will go look up Welty and the fairytale on your own?

Decisions, decisions….

Okay, I figure at this point, you are well acquainted with my tendency to ramble, so I’m going to try to briefly (that made me giggle a bit) touch on Welty and the fairytale, then dive into the book. Is that okay? If not, skim folks.

So, Eudora Welty. Queen of Southern Literature, in my oh so humble opinion, was a downright brilliant author. And what I find the most fascinating about her, is how long she lived. She was born in 1909 and she died in 2001. I kid you not. Think of all the things she saw. She won the Pulitzer (for The Optimists Daughter). She lectured at Harvard. She sat on the New York Times Book Review. Received a Guggenheim Fellowship. And I’m pretty sure you cannot get out of school in the South without reading something written by her. For me, it was her short story A Worn Path and excerpts from her novel Delta Wedding. I don’t remember much about Delta Wedding, probably because we didn’t read the whole thing, but her story A Worn Path stays with me to this day. In reading about her, I’ve found she loved fairytales. A woman after my own heart! Why it took so long, somehow, despite always meaning to read more of her work, it took me 12 years out of college to finally read her again, I’ll never know. Let’s just say I was stupid. Let’s just ask the question, what took me so damn. long? I won’t take me that long again.

The Robber Bridegroom (the fairytale) has several incarnations. I’m going to give you a shortened Grimm version. There was this miller, once upon a time, who had a daughter. When she comes of age, of course he wants to get her married. At least he wants to get her a respectable husband. Wants to. He just doesn’t try very hard. The first man who pops up is by all appearances very rich and finding no fault with him (there is no mention as to how hard he tried, I’m betting not very hard) the father promises his daughter to him. Time passes, and the daughter never visits her intended (do you blame her??). You see, she didn’t like the look of him, didn’t trust him, and the very thought of him, “she felt within her heart a sense of horror.”

Take about gut instinct.

Her intended calls her out on it and she replies that she doesn’t know where he lives. He tells her it is in the dark woods and she returns basically with the reply that there is no way on God’s green Earth that she’s going out there. Undeterred, he tells her to come on Sunday, he’s already invited guests and he will leave a trail of ashes for her to find her way. Ashes. Invokes a wee be of unease, yes? She goes, leaving a trail for herself of peas and lentils and finds her way to his house. His empty house. Empty except for a black bird that tells her “Turn back, turn back, you young bride. You are in a murderer’s house.” Have I got your attention now?

Up to this point, Eudora follows the story mostly. She changes the father, his story is much more, well, more and the groom has a name and an occupation. He’s a handsome scoundrel. The daughter is an idiot, in my opinion, because she acts like a complete airhead. And she has a wicked stepmother now! After she finds the house, things change. In the fairytale, she finds an old woman who hides her from the men who would murder and eat her (yes, eat her) and helps her escape. In Eudora’s story, she does something completely different.

No, I’m not going to tell you what. Although, if you look at the cover verrrry closely, you may get an idea.

In the fairytale, the old woman and the young bride escape and expose the bridegroom at the wedding. He and all his cohorts are put to death for their crimes. In the book, well, again, it’s very different. Again, not going to tell you how. You have to read it people.

And read it you should. I love love love Welty’s way with words. The way she takes the South, the Deep South, and mythologizes just sends me to the moon with love for this book. She takes this fairytale and mixes it with the South and creates something new, something slightly crazy, something slightly manic, something completely fascinating. The only thing I didn’t like was the attitude towards blacks and Indians, which, knowing the time period the story is set… well, I know it’s the way it was, but it doesn’t make it easier. At least I know Phoenix from A Worn Path is out there in Welty’s canon. If you haven’t tried Welty’s work, what are you waiting on? I’m definitely going to be reading more, very soon.

I bought this from Barnes & Noble as an ebook. If I was you, I would avoid this ebook at all costs. It looks like a 3rd grader typed it.

This counts for the Classics Club challenge and also my personal challenge of reading more classics in July.

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A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter

July 19, 2012 Books 10

So, I realized this past weekend that the month was half over and I’d read like, one, classic book the whole month. I was meant to be reading ONLY classics this month! But then I still had The Stand going, which I am totally going to count by the way, and I promised Andi I’d read Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, which has been all kinds of wicked fun, but still. I want to read more classics for pete’s sake. So, I took my trusty Nook and randomly picked one out. And I picked A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter.

Why? I don’t know…. The cover is pretty.

A Girl of the Limberlost is about a girl. Ha! I kid you not! This girl lives in… guess what? The LIMBERLOST. I know, right? The title is soooo specific. This girl though. She’s like the most perfect creature ever created. At the start, she’s like maybe 14. This is 1909, so she’s wearing gingham and she’s walking 3 miles in the snow. Well, not really the snow, but you get my meaning I hope. She’s actually walking through the swamp. You see, the Limberlost is a swamp in Indiana . And she lives in the middle of it. So she’s walking to through the swamp to the city. She’s the typical backwoods, tomboyish girl. She’s made fun of for her clothes. She’s without lunch because she was so embarrassed to take the lunch pail her mother sent with her, that she ditched it, and her food, along the way. Well, she hid her food, but some drifter saw her and stole it. She doesn’t know where to go when she gets to the high school. She doesn’t know she has to buy her books. She doesn’t know she has to pay tuition. She doesn’t know ANYTHING. She doesn’t know what to wear, how to talk, but by golly she knows math! And natural science!

Now, one would think her parents would have helped her out a bit here, right? You’d be wrong! LOL on you! No, her dad died in the swamp, with her mama watching. Her mama couldn’t help him because she had JUST WENT INTO LABOR. With the girl! Hey, let’s name this girl, shall we? Her name is ELNORA. Really. Elnora. Anyhoo, since her mama lost her daddy because she went into labor, her mama hates this girl. Can barely stand the sight of her. So yes, mama sent Elnora off to school fully aware of these things, but instead of helping her, she thought it would teach her a lesson. In the My Mama Can’t Stand Me School of Hard Knocks.

Despite spending the last 14 years with a mother who can’t lift a finger to protect her from the evils of the big city girls, Elnora is a smart, kind, wise-beyond-her years, plucky kid. She has spent her life wandering the swamp and knows all about it. She knows the plants, the moths, the butterflies, the insects, everything. She’s a swamp genius. She knows her mother hates her, and why, and just lifts her chin and goes on with life. Her neighbors, the Sinton’s, childless thanks to disease, love and dote on her. They do all they can to help, but Elnora (and her beastly, neglectful mother) are Proud. Elnora needs things to go to school and Elnora will get them! How? You’ll have to read the book SILLY. I’m not going to tell you.

You may think my flippancy means I didn’t like this book. You would be WRONG my friend! Girl of the Limberlost has its schizophrenic tendency’s, yes. There were several WTF! moments. The transitions are moodier than a June bug in a soda bottle. However, Elnora is really the angel I suggest and it doesn’t…feel…forced, I guess. I never felt… preached at. She is very wise beyond her years, which is actually completely understandable. Her mother….Wow, she is a piece of work. Here she is talking about how she knew about school:

“If any doubts are troubling you on that subject, sure I knew it! She was so anxious to try the world, I thought I’d just let her take a few knocks and see how she liked them.”

“As if she’d ever taken anything but knocks all her life!” cried Wesley Sinton. “Kate Comstock, you are a heartless, selfish woman. You’ve never shown Elnora any real love in her life. If ever she finds out that think you’ll lose her, and it will serve you right.”

“She knows it now,” said Mrs. Comstock icily. “and she’ll be home to-night just as usual.”

Do they ever come to understand each other? I’m not going to tell you that either! Read the book! One thing I will say in the mother’s favor, she does teach Elnora some important things. AND my most favorite part is how they live off the land. More uncommon now, but making a comeback, many people lived off their land back in these times. The Comstock’s had their own garden, their own animals, their own butter, etc, etc, and they did it all by themselves. Plus, they knew their land. Elnora is definitely someone you would say “knows the land like the back of her hand.” Anyway, just had to mention that.

So. Then the second half of the book comes and it becomes a romance! This poor girl hooks up with a rich guy name Philip Ammon! There are lots of lovely-dovey comments on her innocent beauty, her shining hair, her shining eyes (she’s not long on adjectives, is Stratton Porter), her delightful intelligence, and Philip’s engagement. Yes! He is already engaged! To a socialite! Which whom he has nothing in common! It’s delicious I tell you. Delicious! Do they get together? Who gets their heart broken? Read it and find out!

More yummy prose:

And remember this: What you are lies with you. If you are lazy, and accept your lot, you may live in it. If you are willing to work, you can write your name anywhere you choose, among the only ones who life beyond the grave in this world, the people who write books that help, make exquisite music, carve statues, paint pictures, and work for others. Never mind the calico dress, and the coarse shoes. Work at your books, and before long you will hear yesterday’s tormentors boasting that they were once classmates of yours. ‘I could a tale unfold’–!”

Wish more people thought that way….

I have learned that I am a common man. I admire beauty and beautiful clothing quite as much as I ever did; but, first, I want an understanding, deep as the lowest recess of my soul, with the woman I marry. I want to work for you, to plan for you, to build you a home with every comfort, to give you all good things I can, to shield you from every evil. I want to interpose my body between yours and fire, flood, or famine. I want to give you everything….

*swoon*

I am so glad I picked A Girl of the Limberlost. I can’t wait to read more Stratton Porter, especially when I’m feeling a little down, jaded, and pessimistic. She’s a great cure for that.

I got this ebook for free from the kick ass GirleBooks!

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Railsea by China Mieville

June 19, 2012 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 9

Railsea
by China Mieville

Published by: Del Rey
May 15, 2012
Pages: 448
Source: NetGalley (thank you Del Rey!)

Me and this book? We almost didn’t happen. I literally tried 4 times to get into this book during the month of May. And I always quit at the same place; chapter 4. I’m not sure what made me pick it up again that fourth time; I generally only give books 3 chances and usually a little more spaced out than that. Being such a moody reader leads me to do such things, but still, 3 times is usually a good indicator of whether a book and I are going to see eye to eye. Still, about 2:00 am, on the train back from Florida, I had just finished Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend and I knew there was no way in this good, great Earth that I was going to read The Stand at 2:00 am, so I opened Railsea one final time. I scanned back to page one (since it was on my Nook) and I gave a great sigh and plunged in again.

Somehow, with the combination of the hour, the rocking of the train (coincidence? I think not!), the extreme tiredness I was feeling, and the fact that I was miserable with a cold; Railsea and I clicked. I know that sounds somewhat strange, but there you go. I’m strange. C’est ma vie. Bienvenue! All I know is I’m glad it happened because I wound up loving Railsea and I may have a new author crush to boot.

So, I don’t know if you heard, but Railsea is like a re-imagining of Moby Dick. However, instead of chasing a bone-white whale, we’re chasing a bone-white mole. Yes, a mole, a “moldywarpe”, but not like the little moles who tear up our yards and cause us to tear our hair out until we’re bald and bleeding. What? You don’t do this? Anyway, THIS mole is huge. I mean, freaking huge. A huge as a house. Maybe even huger. And instead of the ocean, our sea is rails. Train rails. An ocean of trail rails, hence, the Railsea. The train, the moletrain, Medes is chasing this moldywarpe, called many things but mainly Mocker Jack, and Captain Naphi, a woman with a passion for vengeance and just as determined as Captain Ahab.

Also onboard the Medes is a young man named Sham Yes ap Soorap. Sham is young in many ways, not just by age, and he does a lot of growing up during the course of this story. The reader meets Sham on deck, covered in blood, watching as all the hands on the train dismantle a small moldywarpe. Sham, bless his heart, seems lost, confused, on the train he’s traveling. The cousins who raised him helped him get the position of doctor’s assistant, but he’s no more interested in being a doctor than he is a mole hunter. He figures there’s more to life than chasing moles and riding the railsea. A chance encounter with a derailed train, and a chance discovery onboard that derelict train, sends Sham off on the adventure of a lifetime.

There is so much going on in this book. It took me awhile to grasp that it was (and honestly, I’m still not completely sure) dystopian, and it’s a bleak future. The land is covered in trail rails. There are two levels to the sky; the upsky, where weird, otherworldly creatures fly, where the air is so polluted you can’t always see the tops of mountains, and the downsky, a sliver of breathable air between the upsky and the rails. Many people sell what they call salvage, which is essentially the piles and piles of trash left behind by the people of the past. These salvagers often don’t know what the things they sell actually are, they make up names and uses for unfamiliar (but familiar to us!) things. There is no real discernible government, other one brief appearance by some sort of dirty “train cops.” Then there are all the insanely huge insects, flesh-eating rabbits, and other such monsters trolling around under the ground. Families are not the typical “nuclear” family of old. Families are whoever sticks around, either by choice or by necessity. Sham is raised by two male cousins after his parents die. He makes friends with a brother and sister who have three parents; a woman and two men. As complex and completely strange as all this is, Mieville manages to keep the story on track and, strangely, believable. At least for me.

The real star of the book though, in my opinion, is the writing. Holy rusted metal Batman, but Mieville has a way with words. The prose alone was like feast of words. The plot, as twisted as the rails, which I think was completely intentional. The story splits, about halfway, into three or four different subplots, eventually meandering back together and I couldn’t help but exclaim about halfway through that this was JUST LIKE THE RAILSEA! My joy was strange and complete. I love it with authors play with words, plots, ideas and by golly, Mieville plays like a champion wordsmith. And the characters! I quickly fell in love with Sham. And Captain Naphi? What a puzzle. My favorite, besides Sham, has to be his pet day bat, Daybe. I would have never thought I would find a bat adorable, but I do. Many of the characters are not as well-rounded as Sham, but the are still memorable. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his books, just to see if he’s always like this. Is he always like this?

A few quotes I noted:

People have wanted to narrate since first we banged rocks together & wondered about fire. There’ll be tellings as long as there are any of us here, until the stars disappear one by one like turned-out lights.

Heaven might not be what everyone thinks it is, but that don’t mean it’s a myth.

Technically, our name, to those who speak science, is Homo sapiens— wise person. But we have been described in many other ways. Homo narrans, juridicus, ludens, diaspora: we are storytelling, legal, game-playing, scattered people, too. True but incomplete. That old phrase has the secret. We are all, have always been, will always be, Homo vorago aperientis: person before whom opens a vast & awesome hole.

“I await your improvements eagerly. & complaining is awesomely helpful. (I hope to add this to my sarcasm vault as soon as possible.)

There was a time when we did not form all words as now we do, in writing on a page. There was a time when the world “&” was written with several distinct & separate letters. It seems madness now. But there it is, & there is nothing we can do about it.

Humanity learnt to ride the rails, & that motion made us what we are, a ferromaritime people. The lines of the railsea go everywhere but from one place to another. It is always switchback, junction, coils around & over our own train-trails.

What word better could there be to symbolise the railsea that connects & separates all lands, than “&” itself? Where else does the railsea take us but to this place & that one & that one, & so on? & what better embodies, in the sweep of the pen, the recurved motion of trains, than “&”?

Okay, enough talking your ear off about this book. I’m afraid I passed tl; dr 600 words ago. I can only hope I managed to convince you to give this modern day adventure story a try.

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Looking for Alaska by John Green

July 28, 2011 Book Reviews, Books 8

Imma gonna try a new tactic with the review writing. I believe it’s called “being concise?” Foreign concept ’round here, but, but, but… I’ll give it my best.

How’s this? DUDE. I LOVED THIS BOOK.

I totally nailed it, right!?!?!

Yeah, I know. Concise, but not good enough, not by far, right?  So lemme tell ya ’bout this book. (Apparently concise, to my brain, means droppin’ letters.) (Go figure.)

So. Looking for Alaska by John Green. I totally read John Green’s books backwards. This is his first, I read it last. I freaking adored PAPER TOWNS and that Katherine’s book? While not comPLETEly tripping my trigger, it was still pretty darn good. Looking for Alaska? Totally blew them all out of the water. If I was a teenager, I would be completely worshipping John Green right now, just like all those other Nerdfighters do. Okay, yeah, I do. He blows my skirt up a bit, I will not lie.

Plus, he’s pretty darn cute.

….

Ah, yes! The book! You want to know what the book is ABOUT, yes? Egads! Forsooth!

First and foremost, Looking for Alaska is a coming-of-age tale, something I have always loved. Miles Halter, social misfit and purveyor of “Famous Last Words” has talked his parents into sending him to boarding school. I know, total reversal of tropes, yes? Miles wants to leave the safety of home and high school to go and seek “The Great Perhaps.” (Famous last words of François Rabelais.) So off to Culver Creek Preparatory School where he meets the Colonel, another… oh gosh… the Colonel is what I would normally call a “character” if I knew him in real life. That’s just what he is. A “character.” He is so lovely conflicted, hilarious, brilliant, witty, sarcastic… can you tell I loved him? And Miles meets the eponymous Alaska, who is also what I would call a “character” and whom Miles quickly comes to adore. And she has an additional characteristic. Mystery. She’s so mysterious, a trait she affects with gusto, and I couldn’t help but be sucked it just as much as Miles was. AND she’s a book lover.

These kids go through so much together. They “grow up” a lot in the few months the novel covers. And they are so smart! The dialogue in this book? It’s completely brilliant. Witty. Sarcastic. It’s exactly what I love in a YA novel, a John Green novel, a book I want. to. read. (I’m pretty sure I’ll be rereading it soon.) (I read it to fast last time). Miles, the Colonel, Alaska and their friends navigate the waters of boarding school and all its tests, pranks, hookups and breakups, and revelations about life. These guys reminded me so much of my friends when I was in high school. The banter, the love, hate, competition, the friendship. The pranks! I was totally taken aback as the direction Green was going became abundantly clear. I was shattered. Sobbingly so. Which just goes to show just how much Green made me care for, hay LOVE, these characters.

WIth this last John Green novel under my belt, I can confidently say he is a favorite writer, which is big. I usually only have favorite books. I can only say with certainty that I have 3 favorite writers now. Neil Gaiman. Wilkie Collins. And John Green. Oh, and JK Rowling. Why does I always forget her? Oh yes, stay on point Heather. Yes, John Green is a favorite writer, for his amazingly real characters, his way with words, with dialogue, with pulling at these heartstrings. I can totally see why it won the Printz award, despite being a first novel.  He kills me with every book and I know the next one will be even more killer. My heart is bidding it’s time until January. Thank goodness I already preordered The Fault in Our Stars. And it will. be. signed. Fangirl swoon.

I have so many favorite quotes I want to share, but I’ll try to keep it to two. Or maybe three. Quite possibly four. Let’s just see how this goes….

“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”

“It’s not because I want to make out with her.”

Hold on.” He grabbed a pencil and scrawled excitedly at the paper as if he’d just made a mathematical breakthrough and then looked back up at me. “I just did some calculations, and I’ve been able to determine that you’re full of shit”

“Have you really read all those books in your room?”

Alaska laughing- “Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.”

The Colonel led all the cheers.
“Cornbread!” he screamed.
“CHICKEN!” the crowd responded.
“Rice!”
“PEAS!”
And then, all together: “WE GOT HIGHER SATs.”
“Hip Hip Hip Hooray!” the Colonel cried.
“YOU’LL BE WORKIN’ FOR US SOMEDAY!”

I particularly love that last one. :)

So, I don’t think I was particularly concise, okay yeah, I wasn’t AT ALL, but I didn’t really think I could be. And at least I got it written. I hope I’ve encouraged you to give Looking for Alaska a try. It’s an amazing book, by an amazing author and one not to be missed.

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