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A Review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1), by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)

Goodreads Rating: 3.97 Stars
247 Pages
Feiwel & Friends Publishing
Get a copy here!

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

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5Penguins
Quick Reasons: lyrical, beautiful prose; TONS of character growth and wise-reaching moments; the whimsy in this read is FANTASTIC; the characters are well-rounded and entertaining; the plot is action-packed and fast; there was one huge plot-twist I didn’t see coming; overall, plot twists were not an integral part of this read; the descriptions are poetic and easy-to-imagine

HOLY IMAGINATION AND WHIMSY, BATMAN!

I mean, seriously—this book is packed with vibrant prose, creativity, and lyrical wisdom patched to readers in subtle, small moments. Overall, this was exactly my kind of book—and now I’m wondering why it took me so long to get to it!

But no one may know the shape of the tale in which they move. And, perhaps, we do not truly know what sort of beast it is, either. Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.

I have nine highlighted sections in this book. Which, for me, is a fair number—I usually only find one or two (three, at most) moments that REALLY stand out to me as “quotable.” This book, on the other hand, I found such moments practically on every other page. The prose is lyrical, poetic, and absolutely beautiful. It seeps from the pages, into the readers’ pores, to burrow and spread like fungus. It sweeps readers out of their personal realities and into a world far-away and much-different—into a world where dreams come true and adventures are found on the wind. Of course, if you’re not a reader who appreciates or likes poetic reads, this book probably isn’t the best choice for you—there is a LOT of abstract language and open-ended descriptions to be found.

There are also a great many “wise” moments hidden within the poetry. There are moments when the narrator, semi-unreliable as it is, breaks off from the story to shove a moral into readers’ faces at full-speed. These were the moments I most appreciated the narrator—when the story stopped, just for a moment, to tear back the fourth-wall and remind me that I WAS reading, not actually living the story. And despite the wisdom to be found, there’s also a ton of snark and sarcasm coming into play. Little things introduced in the very beginning are brought back pages or chapters later. Catherynne M. Valente put her heart and soul into weaving this tapestry of a story together, and she did it with a sort of fairy tale-esque, whimsically delightful poignancy.

“That’s what a map is, you know. Just a memory. Just a wish to go back home— someday, somehow.”

The characters are well-rounded and complex, always breathing in and shaping up the ways they view the world or tackle their battles. There were a few “plot-twist” moments, but for the most part, this relied more heavily upon a thriving and artful imagination to drive the plot, not on things leaping out at readers to startle or take by surprise. There was really only ONE moment that caught me off-guard—a key point made pretty early on in the read brought back in one sweeping, sort of half-whispered moment of “hey, remember me?”

“This is for washing your wishes, September,” said Lye, breaking off another of her fingers with a thick snap. “For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets. The trouble is, not everyone can tell when they ought to launder their wishes. Even when one finds oneself in Fairyland and not at home at all, it is not always so easy to remember to catch the world in its changing and change with it.”

This book is filled with whimsy, magic, and wisdom. I recommend to lovers of mid-grade novels, coming-of-age tales, and those with a stomach for poetically beautiful prose. If you don’t mind a story that sweeps you out of reality and plops you into a wholly new and as yet-unexplored world, this is definitely the read for you! I can’t wait to jump into the second book of this series; I have a feeling there’s many more surprises yet in store for me.

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A Review of The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers

Goodreads Rating: 3.63 Stars
320 Pages
Crown Publishing

A lyrical and moving debut in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, introducing an original and commanding new voice in fiction

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, sending the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

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5Penguins
Quick Reasons: lyrical, poignant writing; an intriguing, unique sort of dystopia; imaginative, vivid world-building and imagery; heavy, emotional prose; unexpected, surprising twists; small snippets of a lot of different perspectives woven into the two main ones—and it works; endearing, complex characters; lots to love in this read

They’d done the funeral waltz before, but not like this.

He was not supposed to lift her.

He was not supposed to roar.

Did he understand that it was just a show?

For everyone who read the blurb and scoffed because NO WAY could there ever be a book close to the genius of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus…you might want to reconsider your words. Kirsty Logan breathed poetry into this book—and created something caught between whimsical and realistic, between horrifying and unique, between beautiful and heartbreaking.

The poetic, lyrical quality of the writing works wonders for the stories found within these pages. There’s a sense of awe and child-like wonder that sparks to life from page one; I found myself ensnared by the descriptions, the world building, and the characters. The way this story is set up allows for small snippets of lots of different, fresh perspectives. Instead of focusing solely on the two main ones, there are little chapters spaced throughout with different characters taking the lead. While it gets confusing if you aren’t paying attention to chapter headings, I found this both refreshing and beautifully done—it’s not awkward or stilted, but instead allows minute glimpses into other characters’ heads we wouldn’t have been given otherwise. The poetic language helps to smooth over these jumps, and make them make sense in the grand scheme of the story—after all, a circus is not just one person performing all the acts, but a variety of personalities and conflicts. I enjoyed that we were given small windows into these otherwise private lives.

When people are cruel it’s often said that they have no heart, only a cold space or lump of ice in their chest. This was never true of Avalon. She had no heart, everyone knew, but there was nothing cold about her. In her chest burned an enormous coal, white-hot, brighter than the North Star. North knew the truth about Avalon: she was made of fire, and she would burn them all.

Regardless, the two characters who shine most brilliantly in this sea of color and whimsy are North and Callanish—our Bear Girl and our Gracekeeper. And while North does not have very far to travel in regards to her character growth…Callanish goes through such a transformation, it’s astounding! At the beginning of this book, I’m not ashamed to admit that I sometimes found myself bored by or frustrated with the Gracekeeper. She was flat, almost one-dimensional; set to live her purpose and only that. But after she meets the circus, and North…she changes. I LOVED watching this happen, it’s such a beautiful, redeeming, and heartbreaking growth.

There’s also not really “romance,” at least not for the two main characters. Instead, there’s a sense of…finding oneself/finding a family. North and Callanish both feel segregated and lonely in their lives before meeting; the hope for a new beginning and companionship comes through the read after this beautifully, connecting readers to the pair. We’ve all had this sort of friendship: almost effortless, instantaneous, and immediately accepting/understanding. It’s easy enough to relate to the women and what they’re experiencing.

And in the center of it all she saw two figures: one draped in white, one furred black; both with eyes open moon-round and empty. A small girl and a small bear, hands and paws still linked.

This is a gorgeous read, filled with lyrical prose, whimsy, and a sense of wonder. The larger morals, also, are worked into and woven throughout the journey, a juxtaposition of beautiful and horrifying events that works well to keep readers both entertained and enthralled. The world-building, also, is imaginative and unique. I definitely recommend this to lovers of unique dystopians, beautiful and smooth language, and The Night Circus. I promise this book won’t let you down!

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Regarding Reading (#1)

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Happy Monday, everyone!

If you’re new to my neck of the internet…Hi!  Welcome!  How are you?  I’d shake your hand…but that might be weird.

If you’re old hats in these here parts…Hello!  Welcome!  How are you?

I know, I know.  I’m bad at this.  I’ll work on it, I swear!

Anyway, welcome to my new discussion post…er…thing!  Aren’t we just so exciting?!  I can barely contain myself!

I decided I wanted to “talk” to you all more…so this is one of the ways I hope to do so!

This week, I want to talk

Poetic Language/Purple Prose

Don’t know what I mean?  Let’s get an example up in here!

In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself.[1] Purple prose is characterized by the extensive use of adjectives, adverbs, zombie nouns, and metaphors. When it is limited to certain passages, they may be termed purple patches or purple passages, standing out from the rest of the work.

Purple prose is criticized for desaturating the meaning in an author’s text by overusing melodramatic and fanciful descriptions.

Still confused?  Here’s an example:

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city, their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist breath through manhole covers stamped “Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N. J.”

I, personally, LOVE purple prose.  I grew up writing and reading poetry, and while I haven’t done much of either lately, I adore authors who bring it into their work–there’s just more room for personal interpretation that way, I think.  Sometimes I like being able to imagine things my OWN way, instead of trying to fit my thoughts around the author’s narratives.  It’s more fun that way sometimes, I think!  Not quite as strict or “forced.”

 Some of my absolute favorite books that have this?

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So… YAY or NAY to purple prose in your books?  If yes, what are some of your favorite books that employ this technique?  If no, why not?  Let’s discuss!

Until next time, happy book-ing!

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