Sep 17

Airplane Reading: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Coming of Age, Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult Fiction 3

Hello bookworms! I’m back! I was on vacation, but you’re not supposed to say things like that on the internet, because 20/20 says that’s an invitation to burglars to, um, burgle your home. As we did not want to be burgled, I claimed to be an international super spy instead. Smoke in mirrors. (Mark it off the bucket list- I used three forms of “burgle” in two sentences.)

Jim and I went on our first “real” vacation. We went to Florida this past January, but it didn’t count because Jim had to work while we were there. THIS counted. 10 days at Walt Disney World! Don’t you dare go judging, we are simply young at heart.

I went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party as the Cheshire Cat. The Queen of Hearts was suspicious…

The first of my three meetings with Alice. What can I say? I’m a fan!

This is one of Mary Poppins’ penguins! All time favorite movie. All time favorite animal. Mr. Penguin is preparing to give me beak kisses here.

I learned several important things on this trip. First- the concept of personal space is one that is not shared by all cultures. Second- no matter how much zumba SHOULD prepare you for walking all day, it does NOT. Bring Advil and blister bandages (I was actually prepared for this, but still. Ouch.) Third- I am still not quite ready to have my own children. The vast majority of kids were adorable, but there were enough jerky little punks to make my womb shut tight for a while still.

What does this have to do with reading? Other than my obvious obsession with Alice in Wonderland, nothing. So…Let’s talk about what I read on the plane!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs was my choice for travel reading. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from this book, but whatever my expectations were, it certainly wasn’t what I got. Miss Peregrine combines aspects of A Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter, and the TV show Heroes. Our protagonist Jacob is a teenage boy traumatized by witnessing the tragic death of his grandfather. He sets out to learn about his grandfather’s childhood in the orphanage he inhabited during WWII. What Jacob doesn’t realize is that his grandfather was more than just a Jewish refugee from Poland given asylum on a remote Welsh island. He was “peculiar.”

“Peculiar” people basically have super powers. Some are invisible, some can fly, some can light fires, some can resurrect the dead, and some can make things grow into elaborate tree sculptures (if teleportation is not an option for my personal super power, I wouldn’t mind having the ability to grow hedges into amusing shapes. Runner up super power acquired ). It is said that the peculiars often hid out in plain sight- as sideshow acts in circuses. That’s kind of brilliant, because as I mentioned in my post on The Night Circuseverybody expects crazy fakery in circuses.

Another trait amongst the peculiars? Some of them can see the invisible monsters that are trying to exterminate the peculiars by devouring them. Yes, the MONSTERS that want to EAT peculiar people. Are you still with me? Good.

In order to keep the peculiar  children safe, they live within time loops that allow them to hide from the monsters. A time loop is essentially the same day played over and over again- so the children never age and are hidden from the monsters. The time loops are overseen by… how do I describe this without it sounding stupid? There is no good way. The time loops and the peculiar children within them are overseen by shape shifting bird-woman nannies.

Jacob stumbles across the time loop and discovers that his grandfather was devoured by a monster, not a pack of wild dogs (a pack of wild dogs in Florida. Really? Gators are so much more glamorous.) Jacob and the peculiar children work at solving some mysteries, chaos ensues, the day is saved by a team effort of super powers. You know the drill.

It sounds a little ridiculous, but it’s actually a pretty good book. The only gripe I have is that it was left sooooo open ended. I’m a little concerned that this story won’t hold up as a series, but hey what do I know? I certainly liked it enough to check out book 2.

Also! I was apparently nominated for THREE blog awards while I was away! Thank you, thank you, thank you to Pocketful of Joules, Quirky Chrissy, and The Life of a Thinker for nominating me! The rules for accepting the award include some extra odds and ends, so it may be a while before I get around to all of it. But thank you from the bottom of my wormy little heart! 🙂

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Sep 14

Confession Friday: The Perks of Being A Wallflower and Katie's Teen Angst

Coming of Age, Young Adult Fiction 19

Confession Friday: I was an angsty teenager. That’s not much of a confession. But I used to dress like this:

Photo of me and some friends in high school. Tragically hip.

I went through what I like to call my “grunge phase” in high school. What can I say? I was a socially awkward girl in the late 90s, and it was perfectly acceptable to hide one’s perceived imperfections underneath layers of enormously baggy pants and giant t-shirts. It wasn’t EXACTLY the age of Nirvana, but you know, trends hit the suburbs a few years late.

Anyway, being a teenager and tending toward the angst ridden, you may understand why I list The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky among my favorite books of all time. It was given to me by my friend Kim (the girl conveniently hiding half her face in what she must have known would someday be an embarrassing photo) and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once. It’s the ultimate teen misfit tome- it was published by MTV, for heaven’s sake!

This book was hipster before hipsters were ironic. Or something. I don’t “get” the hipster thing. I HAVE mentioned that I’m uncool, right?

Our protagonist is Charlie, and he is a freshman in high school. He’s brilliant, but awkward. Two seniors take him under their wing and introduce him to all that high school has to offer angst ridden teenagers (sex, drugs, and rock and roll, obviously.) Charlie’s English teacher also takes a particular interest in him and supplies him with a series of novels that shape his world view. This book was billed as a modern day Catcher In The Rye and it lives up to this when Charlie breaks down and is admitted to a mental hospital at the end. It’s not all bad news though- Charlie seems to be making a steady recovery and we leave him hopeful for the coming school year.

I’m not sure if I would love this book so much if I were to read it today without having my nostalgic connection to it. I mean, it’s good, but I think what makes it so special to me is the time it invokes. Despite all my brooding, I too had moments of feeling “infinite.” Picking up this book is like listening to Nirvana’s “Unplugged in New York” for me- it takes me right back to that point in time (in the case of that album, it takes me to my BFF’s bedroom above the garage of her parents’ new house in Maryland. We haven’t lived in the same state since we were 14, but we are so awesome that it doesn’t matter.)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been made into a movie that is due to be released later this year. I hear Emma Watson is playing a starring role (is there anything Hermione CAN’T do?!) Obviously, as it has not yet been released I can’t review the movie, but I’m going to go ahead and say that the book is better. Even with Emma Watson (although I am VERY curious to hear your American accent, Emma dear.)

Bookworms, do you have a nostalgia book? What did you love during your awkward teen years?

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Sep 13

Life Lessons Courtesy of Harriet The Spy

Children's Fiction 2

One of my all time favorite childhood books is Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Harriet is a precocious 11 year old girl who aspires to be a spy. She wanders around New York City (yeah thinking about that NOW is a little scary, but suspend your disbelief for a moment.) She observes her neighbors and classmates while writing down her notes in her special spy notebook.

Harriet’s regimented existence delighted me. Despite the fact that I didn’t care for tomatoes until my teen years, I suddenly had cravings for tomato sandwiches. And chocolate egg creams. (Not that I knew what they were. I finally had an egg cream when I was 20. It was awful. Why such a thing would exist in a world where milkshakes are readily available, I will never understand. Moving on…)

Harriet lives with her parents and her nanny Ole Golly. She is absolutely devastated when Ole Golly leaves after a blow up with her parents. To add to her fragility, Harriet loses track of her super secret spy notebook during a game of tag on the playground. Harriet’s notebook not only contained her observations on her oddball neighbors, but also her private thoughts on her classmates- and best friends.

This part breaks my heart. Every time I read it, I feel the terrible sinking sensation I get in my stomach when I know I’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Poor Harriet is devastated when she’s shunned by her friends and classmates, but she’s confused. Everything she wrote was true! Luckily, Ole Golly writes Harriet a letter and offers her some sage advice- she has to apologize, and she has to lie in order to get her friends back.

I’m not big into poetry, but I do enjoy Emily Dickinson, and this poem reminds me of Harriet’s plight:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.

Harriet’s childish bluntness got her into a heap of trouble. Just because you THINK someone might turn into a mad scientist or acts like a little old lady doesn’t mean you should SAY it. And even if you didn’t mean to go public with your thoughts, you should apologize for them anyway. Because hurting people’s feelings sucks. (Keep that in mind all you internet trolls who are reading my blog! I cry easily!)

Eventually though, it all works out for Harriet. She publicly retracts her meanness toward her friends and classmates and all is forgiven. The lesson here? If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it. I think every kid should be required to read this book before signing up for Facebook. I thank God every day that Facebook wasn’t around when I was a tween. What a nightmare.

Have any of the bookworms out there read Harriet The Spy? What did you think?

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Sep 12

Pearl of China

Asia, Memoirs, Women's Studies 6

Hello Bookworms! I’ve mentioned that I’m highly susceptible to marketing tactics, have I not? I purchased the latest entry in my Kindle because Amazon was having a sale. A girl’s got to budget, you know?

Pearl of China by Anchee Min is a novel based in part on the life of Pearl S. Buck. Pearl S. Buck, in case you were unaware, is a Nobel Prize winning author. A Nobel Prize winning author yours truly has never read, shamefully, although now I fully intend to add some of her work to my never ending reading list.

If this book hadn’t taken some historical liberties, it would be a dry-as-toast biography that nobody would want to read. So, Anchee Min, I’ll forgive any historical inconsistencies that might exist here because it was so enthralling. Pearl of China is written from the point of view of Pearl’s childhood best friend, Willow. Willow is largely fictional, but as a fictional character the author has the freedom to give her the sort of life story that is most compatible with Pearl’s legacy, so it all works out in a nice little package.

Willow is born into abject poverty. Her father was born into a wealthy family that falls to ruin and has a difficult time adjusting to his new circumstances. He goes so far as to rent out his wife as a prostitute (yeah, Chinese women really get the raw end of the deal A LOT.) Unfortunately, when Willow’s mother becomes pregnant as a result of this encounter, she is killed by an attempted herbal abortion. So. Willow is poor. She is motherless. And she’s a thief so she doesn’t starve to death. It pretty much sucks to be Willow.

Pearl lives in Willow’s village. Pearl is the daughter of American missionaries who have come to China to convert the heathens. In a way, this book reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible as that was about a missionary family living in Africa (you should read The Poisonwood Bible if you haven’t- it’s very good.) The biggest difference between the two though, is that the daughters in The Poisonwood Bible are brought to Africa as adolescents (except for little Ruth.) They are old enough to experience the culture shock that comes with leaving 1960s Georgia and trying to make a life in the decidedly less industrialized African Congo. Pearl, though, is brought to China as an infant. She learns the language the way a Chinese child would and identifies more closely with the culture she is raised in than the culture she was born into.

Pearl is an outcast because she’s not Chinese and her father is more than a little overzealous about converting the townspeople. Willow is an outcast because she and her father are thieves. Luckily for both girls, they find each other and their families intertwine to their mutual benefit. They forge a friendship that will last them a lifetime.

Unfortunately for our heroines, China in the 1930s was NOT where you wanted to be if you were foreign. First a bloody war with Japan, and then the Communist uprising meant that a blond haired-blue eyed woman was a walking target. Eventually, Pearl and her family flee to the US, but her heart remains in China.

Willow, upon Pearl’s departure, marries a man who turns out to be one of Mao Zedong’s closest advisors. I don’t like to take sides in political battles. In fact, I hate it. However, it’s difficult not to get a little bit political when discussing early Communist China. In theory, Communism sounds great. Everyone is equal, everyone has enough food, everyone is taken care of. Unfortunately, that is NEVER the way it works in practice. If you don’t believe me check out what Stalin did in Russia. Mao totally wanted to be Stalin, so killing off dissidents and imprisoning people who happened to have ties with “outsiders” was par for the course. It really didn’t end up being “Communism” at all because there was totally an elite class favored by the dictatorship, and millions of people starved anyway. Sigh.

If you want to learn more about China and it’s less savory chapters in history, read Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. You’ll get first person accounts of this time period, as well as two generations previous. It’s excellent. You’ll learn things.

Anyway, poor Willow gets the short end of the stick with the Communists. Despite being married to a big wig, her friendship with Pearl (who started publishing novels critical of the regime) lands her in prison on several occasions. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel on China that wasn’t absolutely devastating in one way or another, but beneath that devastation there’s always a stoic beauty about the place.

So my Bookworms, as this was a book centering on a lifelong friendship, let’s talk about it! Do you have any friends you’ve kept since childhood?

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Sep 10

Snow Flower and The Secret Fan

Asia, Coming of Age, Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 10

I promised you we’d “travel,” didn’t I, Bookworms? Let’s got to China! Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See takes us on an adventure though 19th Century China. More historical fiction, I know, but this is in CHINA, y’all! Totally new perspective.

Our heroine Lily is paired up in an “old sames” relationship with another young girl named Snow Flower. Because women were kept in near total seclusion at this point in history (at least women with any social standing) they didn’t exactly get to go out and meet people. Being in “old sames” was sort of like having a matchmaker find you a BFF. Then you and your BFF would exchange notes via your matchmaker on a fan using a secret phonetic form of women’s writing. (You remember having code names in your middle school notebooks for the boys you liked? It’s kind of like that, but it allowed you to actually communicate with other women without censorship, which is pretty cool.) Being “old sames” Lily and Snow Flower were destined to begin their foot binding at the same time.

Oh yeah. Foot binding. In graphic detail. Before I read this book, I really had no idea what foot binding entailed. I imagined ace-bandages wrapped tightly around the foot in an attempt to keep it small. There was no “attempting” in foot binding. They would essentially force young girls’ feet to fold over on themselves. Then the bones would break and they’d heal in a grotesque distorted version of a foot. Assuming you didn’t die of blood poisoning before the healing could take place, of course. The women were then doomed to wobble around on these “golden lilies” for the rest of their lives. Learning the truth about foot binding is reason enough to read this book.

The problem was, the foot binding was culturally NECESSARY. If your feet weren’t bound, you had virtually no prospects for marriage, and marriage was by FAR the most appealing life option for a Chinese woman at this point in time. It was like, all the dudes in China had a foot fetish. For real. Only the men would only see the feet while perfumed and wrapped in slippers, because naked deformed feet are stinky and unattractive. (Since we’re on the subject of feet, I think it’s worthwhile to mention that my feet are quite lovely. My toes go in perfect descending order, and although I’ve heard that having a long second toe is a sign of intelligence, I’m content to embrace my toes for their esthetics.)

My feet are gorgeous. Perhaps my best physical feature.

Lily and Snow Flowers’ childhoods are spent preparing for their marriages. They spent their time embroidering slippers for their newly deformed feet, making clothes, creating gifts for their future mothers-in-law,  and writing each other letters via the fan. When their marriages do occur, the girls are separated- Lily to a life with a respectable family, and Snow Flower to a life with an abusive butcher. (Being a butcher was NOT a well respected occupation. It was seen as one of the lowliest ways to earn a living, but when your father is an opium addict who has squandered his fortune on drugs, you don’t exactly have the reputation or dowry to “marry up.”)

Anyway, the poor girls suffer a misunderstanding at the hands of the secret fan, they have a falling out, then they have a dramatic deathbed reunion. It’s all very touching, I promise.

I recommend Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to anyone who is interested in Chinese history, women’s history, or the gruesome spectacle that is foot binding. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll learn something!

I realize that as a modern American woman the idea of foot binding disgusts me, but it was the utmost form of beauty in China until a little over 100 years ago. What sort of beauty rituals do you Bookworms indulge in that may be considered barbaric by other cultures?

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Sep 07

Confession Friday: I Have a Penguin Problem

Children's Fiction, Personal 15

I have a penguin problem. When I was in the 3rd grade, I made a penguin habitat out of a shoebox and a white mold-a-rama penguin from the Brookfield Zoo. Ever since then I’ve been a crazy penguin lady. Penguin jewelry, penguin trinkets, penguin teapots, an entire drawer full of penguin pajamas…

Halloween 2006. Yes. I’m a “grown up.”

The Penguin Tree. It is GLORIOUS.

This is my wedding cake, complete with penguin topper. That’s COMMITMENT right there.

It should come as no surprise that I count Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater among my favorite books. I do NOT approve of the blasphemy that was the recent Jim Carrey debacle of a movie. Okay, I guess I can’t really DISAPPROVE of penguins being adorable in a movie, but as an adaptation of a book, it was abominable.

I first read Mr. Popper’s Penguins when I was… I don’t really remember. Somewhere between 9 and 11 I’m guessing. We’ll say 10. Obviously, I loved it. I’ve since read it a few more times over the years and it never ceases to amuse me. When I was a kid, I loved the idea of turning my house into a giant skating rink for penguins to play around in. Who wouldn’t love to have a house full of penguins?! (This was before I thought about the grossness of bird poop in one’s dwelling…) Penguins doing circus tricks and forming a travelling show? I would have spent my allowance on that ticket!

It’s award-winning, y’all!

When I read this as an adult, I am not immune to its whimsy, but there are a few things that make me giggle. The bit that stands out to me the most though is Mrs. Popper. This book was written in 1938, so you’d expect the mother figure in a children’s story to be a homemaker. Poor Mrs. Popper, all she ever does is complain about what a mess Mr. Popper (a house painter by trade) makes in the house. It takes some SERIOUS penguin charm to get her to be on board with a pack of antarctic birds hanging out in her house. In the winter. With the windows wide open.

The Mrs. Popper moment that is (probably unintentionally) hilarious to me is at the end. The Poppers realize that it isn’t a good idea to keep a flock of penguins living in their home, so they agree to send them off to pioneer a new penguin colony at the North Pole. (Because if you didn’t know, penguins are a South Pole thing. And they hang out on some islands too. But they most certainly do not live at the North Pole naturally. Which is why I sometimes get annoyed at holiday items that show penguins and polar bears together, because that just doesn’t happen in nature. Of course, then I remember that penguins don’t really wear hats and scarves either, but that doesn’t make it any less adorable, and I get over it. Also, polar bears are ruthless savages that would EAT penguins, which is not a good thing.)

Anyway, at the end of the book, Mr. Popper is devastated that he’s got to let his beloved penguins go… Until the arctic expedition captain pipes up and offers Mr. Popper the opportunity to hop aboard the ship and join the penguin pilgrimage. Wait- this is where it gets funny. Mr. Popper turns to Mrs. Popper and his children and goes, “Hey are you guys cool if I’m not home for supper… or at all… for the next year or two?” And his kids are all like “Yeah that’s cool, take care of the penguins.”

But Mrs. Popper’s reaction is priceless. Mrs. Popper says something to the effect of “I’ll miss you, but it’ll be really nice to not have to clean up after your messy self for the next two years. I think we’ve got enough in the bank. Later!” Sigh. Whimsy goes with everything.

So bookworms, do any of you have silly animal obsessions or oddball collections? (If anyone says “jars of urine,” I’m seriously going to rethink this question segment…)

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Sep 06

I'm A Spy. Shhhhh… Don't Tell.

Personal 2

Hello Bookworms! I am going to be out of the blogosphere for the next week and a half or so. I’m going to be super busy doing things I cannot tell you about. Yet. (Please feel free to assume that I’m a spy and that I’m saving the world and such.)

BUT! I wanted to let you know I have not forsaken you! I have posts ready for your enjoyment that will pop up while I am indisposed. However, I probably won’t be responding to comments or checking in overly frequently.

So, if you leave me a note and I don’t acknowledge it, it’s not because I do not LOVE you. It’s because I am not going to be attached at the hip to computerized devices with full keyboards.

Rest assured I am still reading voraciously.

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Sep 05

Gardens in Literature: Secret, Forgotten, and Red

Classics, Historical Fiction, Mystery 12

Good day, Bookworms! As you probably recall from an earlier post, I enjoy flowers and gardening nearly as much as I enjoy reading. Today we’re going to discuss a trio of books concerning gardens. Are you excited yet? I’ll take that collective groan as an enthusiastic “Yes!”

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic that’s been enjoyed by children for generations. Sadly, I was not one of those children. I wasted an awful lot of quality childhood reading time on RL Stein and Christopher Pike. So, at the age of 29, I finally got around to The Secret Garden. Better late than never right? At the beginning, I felt really badly for Mary being orphaned in India, but her parents sounded like douchebags so it doesn’t seem like too big a loss. She literally barely knew them anyway. Plus, when she came to England she got to hang out with Dickon, the wild mystical younger brother of the house’s maid. Later she discovers the young master of the house, a mewling wretch named Colin who has been tucked away in back rooms and not told of her presence.

Luckily, the three little misfits discover a garden hidden on the property that once belonged to Colin’s mother. The children gradually nurse the garden back to health, and in the bargain, sickly “I’m going to die any minute” Colin manages to get over his hypochondria and walk. There’s never anything wrong with Dickon (except that he seems to have a little Dr. Doolittle vibe about him, but that’s eccentric, not annoying), but Mary and Colin are a hot mess of brattitude when they start out. It’s a romantic notion that obnoxious children can spend a few hours in a garden and  get their problems ironed out. Realistically, Mary and Colin probably would have needed intensive therapy to get over the neglect and drama that made up their early childhoods, but doctor’s offices aren’t as pretty as GARDENS, now are they?!

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is our second foliage filled selection. A young Australian girl named Cassandra spent most of her childhood living with her grandmother (thanks to an unstable mother). Upon her beloved grandmother’s death, Cassandra inherits a cottage in England, but is given no explanation. Cassandra has never been to England, and to her knowledge, neither had her grandmother. As far as Cassandra knew, her grandmother was a native born Aussie. Cassandra sets out on a journey uncovering the secrets of the cottage and learns the truth about her grandmother’s mysterious beginnings as a foundling on a ship’s dock. Unfortunately, Cassandra’s grandmother Nell never fully uncovered the truth about her past and her biological family, but Cassandra has better luck. What we end up with is a story within a story within a story. Frances Hodgson Burnett even makes a cameo! This appeals to historical fiction buffs AND mystery mavens.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman is the final selection in our trio. Alice Hoffman writes with a sort of magical realism, so there’s always a mysticism and other worldliness about her novels. The Red Garden tells the story of a small American town from European settlement to present day. We follow the lives of a myriad of characters who pass through the town, and it centers particularly on one patch of land where the earth is quite red. Hence the name of the novel. The magical elements makes this book a hoot. (Yeah, I just said “hoot” like my grandma.) We see a woman making friends with a bear (and not being eaten!) Johnny Appleseed makes an appaerance as a barefooted hippie-like character who leaves more than one kind of seed in town before he leaves (if you know what I’m saying… cough.) We see a teenage boy become a recluse, friendships dissolve, and a lot of ladies growing tomatoes. It’s a good time, I recommend it!

How do my Bookworms feel about gardens?

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Sep 04

I Want To Join The Night Circus

Fantasy 13

Good Morning, Bookworms! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday weekend! In case anyone reads this who is not in the USA, this weekend was Labor Day, where Americans celebrate ye olde working stiffs. Once a year we all pay tribute to the laws that keep children out of factories and give us weekends. Huzzah! Now, as much as we may honor those who work for a living, there isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t thought at some point, “dang it all, I want to run away and join the circus!” (Maybe it’s not the circus for everyone, but if people are willing to applaud looking cool in a tutu and doing poorly executed cartwheels, I’m a shoe-in for the acrobat job…)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern takes you on a magical journey through an enchanted circus. This book falls into the magical realism category, but don’t be discouraged if fantasy isn’t your thing. This book has plenty to offer.

The Night Circus begins with two mysterious old magicians. They each choose a young pupil to begin training for an epic battle of magical wits to prove with of the two old men is the better magician. Why not just battle each other one on one? I don’t know, I supposed they have  a penchant for ruining young lives. Besides, when you’re ageless (which these two appear to be) you have to find ways to amuse yourselves, and hand-to-hand combat gets old after a couple hundred years.

It is determined that the “arena” for this magical battle will be a circus. What better way to disguise from the world that you’re having a magical war than to invite the public in to watch. Seriously. You expect to see the unbelievable at a circus, but if you’re just walking down the street, you’d be pretty suspicious of the elaborate display of bouncing clouds. This isn’t just any circus though. It’s a circus that arrives in towns without notice and is only open at night. It’s all spooky and mystical and delightful that way.

Anyhow, eventually the two magic pupils realize who they are competing against, which sucks for them,  because they’ve fallen in love. The only way the “battle” ends is for one of the magicians to die. As you can imagine, years or putting together spells and holding up elaborate illusions wears one  out, so the couple faces a real dilemma. They can’t keep up the competition indefinitely. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it’s a bit of Romeo and Juliet with a dash of Tuck Everlasting and a pinch of Harry Potter.

What I liked best about this book was Morgenstern’s imagery. I could see the black and white striped tents appearing unannounced in a field. I could visualize the exquisite clock that was the circus’s centerpiece. I could smell the food, taste the caramels, appreciate the wonder that the circus provided its patrons. This book is great escapist literature- I recommend it if you want to take a hiatus from real life.

So Bookworms, if you were to run away from reality, where would you go? Anybody joining me in the mediocre circus?

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Aug 31

Confession Friday: It's About To Get Mushy

Children's Fiction, Personal, Young Adult Fiction 18

Hello, Bookworms! Today I thought we’d branch out a little bit and discuss the man I married. Why? Well, he keeps pointing out clever and odd things that he does, which is a not-so-subtle hint that he wants to be famous on my blog. I tried to tell him that he probably doesn’t want the entire internet to know about his terrible jokes and made up songs, but he refused to listen. Plus, it’s still about reading, so it’s totally appropriate.

Jim is a pretty good sport about the amount I read- most of the time. Every once in a while he’ll claim “husband neglect.” This usually occurs after he’s FINALLY put down his iPad and exhausted his amusement at playing with the security cameras he hooked up. (He’s a part MacGyver, part crazy paranoid guy, and 100% nerd.) It’s at this point I lovingly tell him to “bite me.”

This was our engagement photo. Highly functional relationship!

Jim is NOT a bookworm. He doesn’t understand the allure of spending hours reading literature when one can go to Wikipedia and almost immediately know the major characters and the ending. I know, it’s tragic. However, he’s not entirely opposed to having ME read things that he would theoretically LIKE to read and having me explain them to him. Case in point, Slaughterhouse Five. He seriously tried to get me to read every book that Sawyer was reading during LOST because it might provide him with clues. I refused any more of his suggestions after the Vonnegut incident. (Click here for more on THAT debacle.)

Books have always been a weird sort of background character in our relationship. I met Jim in college. He was my audio lab monitor, and I was (still am, really) technologically challenged. After a few months of putting up with me stalking him (most CHARMINGLY, I assure you), he asked me out on a date. After a few months of dating, he graduated and moved back to his hometown- 70 miles from where I was. I know, I know, that’s hardly a “long distance” relationship, but if you can’t see one another daily, it’s a long enough a distance to completely suck.

He hates having his picture taken. He either makes weird faces or tries to attack a camera with a camera of his own. It matters not, because I make these antlers look awesome.

Luckily, by this point in time we both had cell phones (It was 2003, okay? They weren’t completely ubiquitous yet!) and had free night and weekend minutes. But, let’s face it. There’s only so much you can tell someone you talk to every day. So… (This is where it gets schmoopy, fair warning.)

Ladies, in case you were wondering, THIS is how you know a guy is butt-crazy in love with you:

1. He agrees to listen to you read Harry Potter aloud. (The whole series available at the time, 5 books.)

2. Over the phone.

3. Using weird voices for different characters and a terrible British accent. (My Umbridge is LEGENDARY.)

4. Just so you can spend more time “together.”

And they lived happily ever after. Once they got over the shock of having married such weirdos.

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