Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what. (from goodreads)
i do now and always have absolutely loved fairy tales. it seems so innate and natural to me that there is more to this world than we can manage to perceive. whether you call it magic or science, i don’t really mind, but i lean a little more towards magic. one of the things neil gaiman does so well is exploring things at the edge of our understanding, and just dipping into the other side. this book is just a perfect example of that.
it is a daydream of mine to imagine hayao miyazaki making this into a movie (even though he’s technically retired… but he’s retired before and come back to makes movies, right???). it has several hallmark features of his movies: a sassy and powerful grandma, a sensible and resourceful girl, an eerie and unsettling villain, and scads and scads of adventure. anybody got an in with hayao miyazaki? wanna pitch him my daydream?
(EDIT: oh my gosh! whilst searching for an image of the book cover after writing this post, i found out that focus features bought the rights to this story, and joe wright is going to direct it!!! ahhhhh! excuse me while i run around fangirling and squealing! it’s still technically in developement… hopefully it doesn’t get backburnered and forgotten about.)
i’ve been in an awful drought in terms of reading recently, and it was really starting to weigh down on me. i kept starting books and never finishing them, through no fault of their own, which can get to feeling fairly oppressive for me.
there are two sure fire ways to break a drought for me: a mid grade novel, or a bodice ripper. this time i chose mid grade novel. one i actually read before, back when i was very much the target audience. but, obviously, it’s been a little while. i remember ruby in the smoke as being quite good, but when i revisit things i loved as an early adolescent, the results are pretty… mixed. but then thea of the book smugglers reviewed it and that rekindled my memories of it. and then i actually won the giveaway for it! (true story: it was kind of thrilling. ok, totally thrilling!)
so i figured now was a great time to revisit it. and it was fabulous to re-read it. have i ever mentioned that i am a total sucker for victorian mysteries?
a few quotes:
“Lodgings, in the East End, is a word that covers a multitude of horrors. At its worst, it means a room steaming with damp and poisonous with stench, with a rope stretched across the middle. Those far gone in drink or poverty can pay a penny for the privilege of slumping against this rope, to keep themselves off the floor while they sleep. At its best, it means a decent clean place where they change the linen as often as they remember. Somewhere in between, there is Holland’s Lodgings… You were never alone at Holland’s Lodgings. If the fleas disdained your flesh, the bedbugs had no snobbery; they’d take a bite out of anyone.”
“Jim looked up and released a jet of language that might have blistered a battleship. He was no respecter of clerks: they were a very low form of life.”
“He shrugged. ‘What d’you think, Jim?’
‘She’s mad. Best leave her be, in case it’s catching.'”
based on my selections, you’d think jim was the main character. sally is a great main character (thea says more on the subject, and i happen to whole-heartedly agree, to the point where i’d feel a bit redundant telling you about it), but i do love a well-meaning rapscallion, and jim is a good one.
here’s hoping the drought is over! (incidentally, it’s storming outside at the moment)
now…. to finish some of these half-read books? or cut my losses and start something fresh? have you read anything fantastic recently? any books you think i should for sure/definitely/have to read?
i’ve been reading north and south by elizabeth gaskell. i watched the mini series a few weeks ago on the suggestion of a friend, and fell in love with it. it took me a bit of hunting to get a copy in my hands, but i’ve been tearing through it at a pretty good pace.
i’ve been working on a test knit of sierpinski’s hat.
and i started margaret dashwood’s shawl the other night while watching game of thrones (season two). i’ve been enamored of this pattern since it was first released, so i’m hoping the end result will live up to my expectations.
other than that, i’m recovering from being ill. today is the first day i have really started to feel better. the world always seems extra cheerful and wonderful the first day after being ill, don’t you think?
cubicle refugee i stumbled upon this color-centric blog recently, and i totally love it.
this clip from parks & rec. there’s something extra hilarious about lesley doing an impression of tom, and jake and i have been quoting this a lot this week.
there’s no such thing as too much princess bride, am i right? if you clicky-click on the image, it’ll bring you to the tumblr where i found it. BUT! nathan pyle is the dude to whom the credit of creation goes. check out some of his other stuff, i flippin’ love it. i was giggling. real hard. in public. warning: his stuff might crop up again.
modcloth’s road trip retreat skirt is pretty much perfect, as far as i can tell. i’m kind of obsessed with this color, i love the high waist and the full skirt. perfect.
what are you enjoying, lusting after? have you read any of the YA books? is lesley knope’s tom interpretation almost better than tom to you?
and… we’re off!
j. crew seafoam jackie cardigan, widdle elephant necklace target thrifted grey henley tee, and probably these earrings pink thrifted jeans unisa thrifted stamped orange huaraches
try not to be too jealous of the finger-crocheted bracelet that my colleague put about 15 seconds of effort into for me today (including tying it onto my wrist).
these shoes are nearing the end of their shoe life. i’m a little concerned, because i love the spice they add to any outfit. i’ve already had them resoled. where do you find replacement tomato-red stamped leather huaraches?
i was so busy trying to pick items for this remix this weekend that i never put a thought into what my first outfit should be. so i went for comfort this morning. turns out it was a good idea, as i ended up cleaning out a storage closet at work today!
check out my lovely fellow remixers: rebecca, ness, and tara. now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a novel that’s already stolen several of my leisure hours today, and i’m quite eager to relinquish a few more.
It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.
Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.
But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.
description from goodreads
this book had me at ‘sci-fi adaptation of jane austen’s persuasion’. in fact, that description might have… gotten me a little over-excited. there were several things i liked, and some that fell flat.
while i definitely enjoyed this book from a jane-austen-adaptation standpoint, it raised a lot of interesting and valid questions about the balance of progress and responsibility and never truly answered them.
elliott is a good main character, but kai felt slightly under-developed (“kai is your romantic lead so you must find him dreamy”). at 50 pages to the end i honestly didn’t know how the book was going to wrap up, but when it did, it felt over-simplified and tidy.
while it might sound like i didn’t enjoy this book, that is untrue. i really liked this book, these were just a few points where i felt it didn’t live up to the potential it created for itself.
before i move on, a quick note regarding the cover: in the book, elliott is described as black haired, dark-eyed, and given to tanning very easily. WHO IS ON THE COVER? cuz it ain’t the main character. excuse me while i go grumble to myself about this, but i hate it when they do that…
It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, this is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
description from goodreads
it’s fundamentally unfair that the more one enjoys a book, the more difficult it is to write a review. i’ve been meaning to read this for several years, but similar to the fault in our stars, i needed a some ramp up time before reading a book set in nazi germany. what i desire in a book, more than almost anything else, is characters. complex, interesting, well developed, sympathetic characters. and this book provides them by the dozens. the character of death, who acts as narrator, is great in both his familiar approach to things, and at the same time, his very alien perspective, and throughout, his wry voice. i love his role as narrator, as it provides both an interesting frame to the book, and also a little emotional distance at times when that is just what you need to pull yourself together.
i could go on forever about each of the characters, but i’m having a difficult time trying to summarize my feelings on the book. it’s good, guys. it’s very very good. here’s a quote: “I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”
several weeks ago, in a PoPS update, i asked for reading suggestions, as i’ve been tearing through books recently. these were the first two suggestions i took.
the princess bride by william goldman
What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?
As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the ‘S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride’. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears.Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.
What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex. In short, it’s about everything.
description from goodreads
i’d been meaning to read this for forever. it’s a great favorite of several of my favorite people, i don’t know how i’ve managed not to have read it up until now. and it totally stood up to the weight of my expectations: meta-fiction, tongue-in-cheek, high adventure, and true love at it’s best. many classic fairy tale and adventure tropes are tackled and improved by william goldman’s witty rapier of a pen. if you’ve seen the fabulous movie, you have a pretty good idea of the book. this is one of the few examples where the movie does the book justice, helped tremendously by the fact that william goldman wrote the book and the screenplay. and while they both feel true to the other, they each have their own charms, because william goldman really understands the merits and differences between telling a story as a movie and a book.
related story: this is among my cousin sara’s favorites, and she is nothing if not a discerning reader. her 1977 paperback copy that she’s had since childhood has been read so many times that it was beginning to fall apart, and the spine had cracked so that it was in two or three sections, and she took to transporting it in a sandwich baggy so as to not lose any portion of the book. i asked her once why she didn’t buy a new, sturdier, copy to replace it, as it is still in print and fairly easy to find. she is, it turns out, very partial to the old cover, and most of the new ones involve photographs from the movie as part of the cover (those are never as good, are they?). so i hopped onto abebooks and found her a copy with the same cover, just as old, but in better condition. i can’t tell you if she’s started toting that one around or not, as i haven’t seen her with her own copy of princess bride since then… but i thought i’d tell you the story anyways.
the fault in our stars by john green
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
description from goodreads
i knew if i asked for book recommendations from the PoPS audience, john green would be an inevitable one. he is, after all, one half of the youtube sensation that is the vlogbrothers, and our audience is nearly entirely made up of nerdfighters. i had a certain amount of hesitation in beginning this book, because, you know: dying kids. from the first page, hazel never pretends to be anything but terminal. but i’d read the reviews, so i knew (as much as you can know) that i would like this book. and guess what? it was great. i finished it a couple of weeks ago now, and it’s still lingering around in my thoughts, not ready to be shelved, which speaks well of it. i think i like it even more in retrospect than i did when i closed the book. one thing i really appreciated about the fault in our stars is that the characters were less interested in completing a bucket list of things that meant that they had really lived (a pretty standard dying-kid-story trope), and more interested in what kind of impact their lives would make. hazel repeatedly thought about how to minimize the impact her life had on other living beings (she was vegetarian, for example), and how to minimize the tragedy of her death on others, because this was what she could offer up to the world. this book is sweet, heartbreaking, and validating, but not necessarily in the ways you would expect it to be.