The Glass Castle


The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
2005, 288 pages

I must make a confession. I never planned to read this book, for a couple of reasons. The first is that biographies and memoirs are very hit or miss for me, and I don’t often seek them out. The other is that, back when I worked in Borders, it was one of the “sell this book to everyone and their mother this month” books. I hated those books with a passion. I just do not like recommending books to strangers. What if it’s awful and then they blame me for forcing them to buy it? I’m just not a natural book-hawker.

At any rate, a friend gave it to me a while ago. This past week I was going through my bookshelves trying to see what I could get rid of to make space for new purchases and figured I would give it a try.

The story is this: Jeannette and her three siblings live with a couple of very dysfunctional parents. They travel all around the country, always one step ahead of the bill collectors, picking up odd jobs and the kids taking care of each other. So, it’s not super heartwarming. It’s really a little depressing. I mean, I just feel bad for the kids who don’t have money for clothes that fit, or a roof that doesn’t leak all over them.

It is, however, told in funny anecdotes that make it an easy read. My favorite quote is this: “The few teachers the town did have were not exactly the pick of the litter, as Dad liked to say, and despite the shortage, one would get fired from time to time. A couple of weeks earlier, Miss Page had gotten the ax when the principal caught her toting a loaded rifle down the school hall. Miss Page said all she wanted to do was motivate her students to do their homework.”

That might not be the most politically correct quote, because of everything that is happening now, but in the context of the 60s, it’s a little amusing. Because, safety wasn’t necessarily invented then. But it also shows just how improbable so many of the different events in the book are.

So, it’s an interesting book, and a quick read. It does not, however, put you in a necessarily happy place. So, you are warned.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Linger and Forever


Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
2011, 368 pages


Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
2012, 400 pages

These are books two and three in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, following Shiver.

As a quick recap, the first book ended with the young lovers trying to figure out how to both be human at the same time, forever. The trick here is to tell you about the books without giving anything away. Sometimes I’m okay with spoilers, and I even read the end of some books to make sure they end happily (yes, sometimes it is that important) but that is not true of everyone.

Linger focuses on the two of them being together and trying to figure out how to make that work. After one of you is convinced that you will turn into a wolf and will never be human again, that seems to be a bit pressing. There are also some awesome things happening. For example, Sam (Wolf-Boy), make paper cranes to hang in his bedroom and that is pretty awesome.

While the first book focuses on just Sam and Grace, this book introduces two new perspectives. Cole has just been turned into a werewolf to let the pack continue, so that there is always someone who is human to take care of the pack when they are changing from human to wolves and back again. Isabel, Grace’s friend whose brother was also turned into a werewolf and then died, is the other perspective given.

“Here was one folded out of a glossy magazine cover. Another from a paper beautifully and intricately printed with flowers and leaves. One that looked like it had once been a tax worksheet. Another, misshapen and tiny, made out of two dollar bills taped together. A school report card from a correspondence school out of Maryland. So many stories and memories folded up for safekeeping.” These cranes are then hung from his bedroom ceiling and that is a great idea.

Another great part of this book is friend Rachel, who talks about herself in the third person and calls Sam “Boy.” There is even a brief conversation in which she mentions the “Boy and his Boyfruits.” Some needed comic relief.

The problem that I had with Linger is that, in order for there to be the usual teenage angsty bits, the author had to come up with a reason that they cannot be together. In the first book, Grace, the girl, has absentee parents. They pretty much didn’t care what she did or when she did it or with whom, but suddenly in the second book it becomes super important that they keep Grace and Sam apart. It just didn’t seem to work with the first book. Why would their characters suddenly change so much?

This book leaves much to be explained, so I moved immediately into the next book, Forever. This book keeps the same four characters, Sam, Grace, Isabel and Cole, and now they have a new problem. A couple of wolves have shown up dead, and one of them had been turned back into a human. So, people are thinking that the wolves are busy killing off people. People suspect Sam, because of his past, so that makes things a little tricky for him. Isabel’s father, after the death of his son, has made it his personal mission to get rid of the wolves, and how can Isabel fight that? The main question of this book is how can they save the wolves so that they do not die? Who can they trust?

Ratings: 4 and 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles, respectively (And the first one gets 4 because I had to immediately start the next book.)

Zorro


Zorro by Isabel Allende
2005, 390 pages

We all know the legend of Zorro. And when this is Zorro:

you take notice. That image just makes me happy.

Anyway, this book recounts how Diego de la Vega became Zorro. Diego was born in California to a Spanish hidalgo and a half Indian mother. He is reckless and does ridiculous things that are probably a bad idea. He then travels to Barcelona where he meets new people and begins to create the identity of Zorro to fight injustice. He falls in love with a woman who doesn’t love him, such is the fate of the masked hero. He then sails back to America and makes a pit stop near New Orleans where he meets the pirate Jean Lafitte. When he returns to California he takes on a man who he has sworn vengeance against from Spain, who has kidnapped his father and sentenced him to death.

The book is written so well, I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Take, for example, the beginning of part two. “I am encouraged to continue. I do so with a light heart, since you have read this far. The part to come is more important than what happened before. A person’s childhood is not easy to recount, but it is necessary…Childhood is a miserable period filled with unfounded fears…from the literary point of view it has no suspense, since children tend to be a little dull.” While I do not necessarily think children are dull, I like that there is humor.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Also, I leave you with this:

Northanger Abbey


Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
1817, 192 pages

I do love me some Jane Austen. I read Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice at least once a year. I watch the movies, I occasionally dream about finding said Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth because, let’s face it, there’s a reason so many people read these books all of the time. Northanger Abbey was the last one that I hadn’t read, and it was pretty much my least favorite. Thank goodness it was short!

The story centers around Catherine Moreland, who lives with her family and read a lot of novels. “From fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.” This is her undoing. She goes with a family friend to Bath, meets some friends, Isabella who is just awful, and Henry and Eleanor who are not awful and falls in love with Henry. She then goes to stay with Eleanor and Henry for a while, and starts making up stories about the past and thinking of secret passages and creepy things because they live in an abbey, so it must be creepy, right?! However, a misunderstanding causes her to be turned out of the house and she goes home in shame, without boyfriend Henry. Henry however comes to save the day and proposes marriage anyway, even though she is poor. And they live happily ever after.

My problem with this book is that Catherine is so damn gullible! Her friend Isabella is off canoodling with two different guys in Bath, but pretending that it isn’t really happening, and Catherine just believes all of it. I’m sure Austen had a point about this, but seriously. It just annoyed me. Toward the end Catherine finally catches on, “why he should say one thing so positively, and mean another all the while, was most unaccountable! How were people, at that rate, to be understood?” Yes, Catherine, that is the trouble.

This quote, on the other hand, made me laugh. “To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.” Note to the ladies: don’t be smart!

So, this is not great. I will go read one of my favorites instead, to get rid of the annoyance.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5 bedazzles

Shiver


Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
2010, 400 pages

This is an overdue review. This is the first of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. I was going to wait and review all three of them together. I read this one a few weeks ago and it has since become abundantly clear that
a. my life has gotten a little bit busy which is seriously cutting into my reading time and
b. by the time I get to finish the second book, much less the third, I will have forgotten what happened in the first one.

So it is time to write a review! I picked this book up for a couple of different reasons. One of the students that I tutor was reading it and asked me to read it aloud to her. It was within the first five chapters, and I will admit I was intrigued. I then asked my friend the Pooka, queen of all things young adult, for a second opinion. She said go for it. And so I did.

Like all good paranormal teen romances, it begins with a girl, living in a teeny town somewhere, this time in Minnesota. Girl gets mauled by wolves. One wolf is particularly memorable (not part of the mauling). Girl falls in love with wolf. Girl sees wolf in woods and longs for wolf. Wolf turns out to be a wolf in winter and boy in summer (yes, naturally there are werewolves). Boy-wolf doesn’t talk to girl because he is afraid she will not love him the way that he loves her. Boy-wolf turns into a boy and they fall in love. But!!!! Wolf-boy is going to turn into a wolf soon and will be unable to turn into a human again. What is young love to do!?

So, knowing that YA is not my genre, you may now be wondering why, exactly, I read this. While it has the standard YA formula, it does actually provide a few twists and turns that makes it acceptably different and less formulaic than you would think. Secondly, it is well written. Some of the sentences are just awesome, and that makes up for a lot. Take, for example, this:

“Some days seem to fit together like a stained glass window. A hundred little pieces of different color and mood that, when combined, create a complete picture.”

Yes, that is lovely. Another lovely sidenote is that each book is a different color. Not just the cover, but the actual words! Shiver is written in blue ink, Linger is green and Forever is red. Probably relevant to the actual plot, but as I don’t know why yet, it’s just neat.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles