Treehouse Monster

My daughter, who is six, has decided she also likes to write stories and begged me to put hers on the internet. So I did. I think it’s cute, and not too bad for a little kid. Of course, I’m terribly biased. 🙂

Chapter One

The books

It was almost nigt, and to freinds, little Harry, and little Angilina, were going to the tree house, and they were reading a monster book called ‘the monster of dawn’ and it was scarey.

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A monster they understand

This is a guest post by my friend Anne Graue. She was invited to write a review of Hag-Seed by the Margaret Atwood Society. Of course she said yes! She retains the rights to her review, so it is reposted below, with her permission.

Anne is a wonderful poet, as well. She has her first chapbook coming out in the fall, writes reviews for a ton of various literary journals, and has her own poetry published in a multitude of print and online journals an magazines, including The Fem Lit and The Five-Two. You can (and definitely should) follow her at @agraue on Twitter. And buy her chapbook when it comes out this fall. I can guarantee I’ll be writing about it when it comes out!  ~KM

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This Brave New Rendering: A Review of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold

By Anne Graue

It’s all there: the isolation, the vengeance, the forgiveness. Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold is the story of Felix Phillips, a modern-day Prospero making magic in the theatre until he is set adrift by those who want him to disappear. His boat is a cabin without modern amenities, and he’s accompanied by the spirit of his dead daughter Miranda. Her presence “began when he was counting time by how old Miranda would be, had she lived….Call it a conceit, a whimsy, a piece of acting: he didn’t really believe it, but he engaged in this non-reality as if it were real” (45). He renames himself Mr. Duke and becomes a teacher with revenge always on his mind, consuming him as it would any of Shakespeare’s protagonists. Atwood’s novel takes the reader from exposition to denouement with Shakespearean precision, demonstrating how Shakespeare’s characters and themes are universal and eternal while shedding important light on the themes of literacy, art, and human nature.

Hag-Seed is primarily the story of Felix, the Art Director of an annual theatre festival. His attention to Shakespeare’s work and language in his theatre productions is unappreciated and misunderstood by coworkers with aspirations of ascending through the ranks of local politics. Felix’s plans to stage a production of The Tempest are thwarted, and he vows revenge on those who have unseated him. With careful attention to dramatic irony, readers are told that Felix “needed to get his Tempest back” and that “he wanted revenge” (41). The second story in the novel is the retelling of the play as social commentary on the need for education in prisons. The characters in this play, the medium security inmates of the Fletcher County Correctional Institute, read and perform in Felix’s class; they are the ones deemed most unworthy, the ones who most identify with Caliban in his exile and disgrace. He is a monster they understand. Atwood explores the connections her characters make with literature and the resulting connections to their own humanity.

Atwood’s meticulous use of Shakespeare’s language is so nuanced that the movement from one episode to the next is seamless and credible even as readers are invited to understand the presence of spirits and even magic in lives that on the outside might appear ordinary. Time is masterfully handled with titles and subtitles that indicate the divisions of the work that mirror those of the play. As Felix’s plans for revenge meld with the performance at the prison, he is sure that “whatever the form the thing assumes, it will depend on exact timing” (113). Atwood’s storytelling dexterity takes readers through Felix’s years of teaching until time catches up to the opening scene, and readers, with dramatic irony in tact and waiting with baited breath, experience the denouement with all of the catharsis expected from Shakespearean drama in this brave new rendering of archetypal themes.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold. Penguin Random House, LLC., 2016.

Graue, Anne. “This Brave New Rendering: A Review of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold.” Margaret Atwood Studies Journal, vol. 10, 2016, https://english.sxu.edu/sites/atwood/journal/index.php/masj/article/view/103. Accessed 22 February 2017.

 

The Dark Days Pact

the-dark-days-pact-alison-goodman-133x200Picking up the narrative in 1812, just a few weeks after the end of the preceding book, The Dark Days Pact jumps right back into the action with Lady Helen Wrexhall and Lord Carlston. Now removed to Brighton in disgrace, Lady Helen begins her Reclaimer training in earnest with Carlston and his Terrene (a sort of supernatural bodyguard), Quinn, learning about her new abilities to fight the Deceivers and keep them from overrunning England. At the same time, Carlston seems to be getting overwhelmed with the Reclaimer vestige, the residual dark energy all Reclaimers retain over time from killing Deceivers and which, if ignored, will render him insane. Adding to Helen’s burden, Lord Pike, the odious bureaucrat in charge of the Dark Days Club, has tasked her with a secret mission to track down a lost journal written by a renegade Reclaimer which has the power to destroy all Deceivers or Reclaimers. And Duke Selburn just doesn’t know how to take no for an answer to his marriage proposals…

Sequels often have a hard time living up to the hype. Many times they do not compare in quality to the first book of a series, or are not as fun or well-written or any number of other sins. Such is definitely not the case with The Dark Days Pact. Goodman keeps the pace going strongly throughout while still generating a lot of terrific character development along the way. And the ending! I am not sure I will be able to stand the wait until the third book in the series. Hugely fun, highly recommended.

The Apothecary’s Curse

the-apothecarys-curse-barbara-barnett-133x200In Victorian England, apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune, whose knowledge comes from a mysterious manuscript passed down through his family for generations, is viewed with the usual skepticism reserved for members of his profession. His friendship with Dr. Simon Bell leads him to make a tonic to cure Bell’s wife of cancer when Bell begs him for help. Through a mishap, the elixir is ruined, Bell’s wife dies, and Bell, seeking to commit suicide, drinks the leftovers, only to discover that they made him immortal instead. Over the years, he and Gaelan learn that they both share immortality. They join forces to recover Gaelan’s lost manuscript so that they can reverse the effects of the elixir and release themselves from never-ending life.

The novel seamlessly weaves dual timelines together, shifting from Victorian England to modern-day America. In each, Simon and Gaelan work to hide their immortality while either striving to evade “mad doctors,” recover the missing manuscript and keep it (and themselves) out of the hands of unethical pharmaceutical researchers, and unlock the modern marvels of genetics.

I loved this book. I thought at first that it took too long for the modern-day geneticist, Anne Shawe, to make her appearance, but upon consideration, it seemed a very deliberate choice on Barnett’s part. Delaying the love interest’s appearance, then making her immediately interesting and invaluable, gives readers a sense of what it might be like to live forever, want to die, and then be faced with something worth living for. I also loved that the novel touched on many facets of medical ethics. It highlights a lot of things we need to discuss within the medical community. I don’t know if Barnett did that intentionally or not, but it was nicely done all the same, and goes to show that sci-fi/fantasy is an ideal medium in which to discuss some heavy topics.

Review originally published on the Historical Novel Society website: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-apothecarys-curse/

The English Agent

the-english-agent-phillip-depoy-132x200I’ve often found that when I inadvertently pick up a book that is later in a series, I have a difficult time getting interested in the characters or plot. That was not at all the case with The English Agent, second in DePoy’s Elizabethan England/Christopher Marlowe mystery series. Immediately, I was intrigued by the plot, which revolves around the infamous Babington Plot to murder Queen Elizabeth in which Marlowe played a role. DePoy uses the Marlowe angle and his suspected involvement as a secret agent in the employ of Sir Francis Walsingham and puts them to good use in a storyline that twists and turns throughout. It is fast-paced and fun, even for those of us well-versed in Tudor history.

DePoy’s writing is a genuine delight. In the space of a single page, I found myself laughing at a witty line, choked up at a poignant comment, and tense with excitement. His fictional characters are just as well developed as Marlowe, Dr. Lopez, Walsingham and Philip Sidney, and I found myself caring particularly about one of them. Dialogue moves smoothly, as did the general narration. I appreciated also how DePoy sprinkles into the characters’ conversations fragments of Elizabethan poetry from Marlowe, Shakespeare, Sidney, and Kyd, easily and without pretension. It suits the novel very well. Very highly recommended.

Review originally published on the Historical Novel Society website: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-english-agent/ 

Read Harder 2017 – My List

As I posted a few weeks ago, I’m planning to do the Book Riot 2017 Read Harder Challenge. I probably would have gotten a lot of the tasks checked off just in my own reading life anyway, but I wanted to make it official. I also like to make lists. I’m weird. Mostly I like to cross things off of lists. I am also lazy and I don’t want to have to think about things when it is time to make a decision. Having a list I already made ahead of time saves me from having to make a decision or do more research. I can just pick the book!

So I did a lottle research (which was really a lot but it was kinda fun because I’m a nerd, so it only felt like a little, thus a lottle) and came up with the below list for the 2017 task list.

I don’t feel stress about the list, either, because I reserve the right to change my mind about a book on the list. So there.

  1. Read a book about sports: Wild (Cheryl Strayed). Hiking is totally a sport in my world.
  2. Read a debut novel: Cinder (Marissa Meyer)
  3. Read a book about books: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Katherine Howe)
  4. Read a book set in Central or S. America written by a Central or S. American author: House of Mist (Maria Luisa Bombal)
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative: Funny in Farsi (Firoozeh Dumas) or maybe Kabul Beauty School (Deborah Rodruguez)
  6. Read an all-ages comic: Phoebe and Her Unicorn – DONE
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950: I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith); The Door in the Wall (Marguerite DiAngeli); And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie); 1984 (Orwell); House of Mirth (Edith Wharton)
  8. Read a travel memoir: Gorge (Kara Richardson Whitely)
  9. Read a book you’ve read before: undecided. 2017 was going to be my year of rereads, so…
  10. Read a book set within 100 miles of your location: for me, one of these will do. I’ll probably pick a Kingsolver or maybe a Hillerman I’ve never read his stuff.
  11. Read a book set more than 5000 miles from your location: Flirting with French [Provence] (William Alexander); The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones [London] (Jack Wolf); The World We Found [Bombay] (Thrity Umrigar); Wave [Sri Lanka] (Sonali Deraniyagala); The Light Between Oceans [Western Australia] (ML Stedman)
  12. Read a fantasy novel: Miranda and Caliban (Jacqueline Carey) – DONE
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology: Innovating Women (Vivek Wadhwa); Rise of the Rocket Girls (Nathalia Holt); She’s Such a Geek! (Annalee Newitz); Dot Complicated (Randi Zuckerberg)
  14. Read a book about war: The House of Splendid Isolation (Edna O’Brien); One of the Guys (Tara McKelvey)
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author of color who identifies as LGBTQ+: Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel (Sara Farizan)
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country: The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  17. Read a classic by an author of color: Lakota Woman (Mary Crow Dog)
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead: Captain Marvel (Kelly Sue DeConnick)
  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey: Ceremony (Leslie Marmon Silko)
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel: Tipping the Velvet (Sara Waters)
  21. Read a book published by a micropress: Deer Woman (Elizabeth LaPensee) – DONE
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman: Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri)
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love: Old Norse Women’s Poetry (Sandra Balif Stranbhaar)
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color: A Bollywood Affair (Sonali Dev); The Association of Small Bombs (Karan Mahajari); might be time to read another Amy Tan…

Ultraviolet

511g2ibwypl-_sx331_bo1204203200_I have mixed thoughts about this novel. On the whole, I liked it. But it was like two very different stories in one, which I kind of think would have been better told as separate to themselves.

One was the story of a teen girl, Allison Jeffries, who thinks she is mentally ill and may have murdered a classmate. Sweet! A story discussing mental health and its care, especially as it pertains to teenagers, would be excellent and interesting reading. Such is how this novel started. Learning about synesthesia, which is a real sensory condition and NOT a mental illness, was interesting and I wanted to have more of that. I wanted to have more about Allison’s time in the psych hospital, learning about her condition, how to cope with it, and learning that she is not insane despite a lifetime of being told the contrary.

Then enter storyline number two. The girl Allison is accused of killing, Tori Beauregard, is still alive and is, in fact, an alien. So is the neuropsychiatrist who had been helping Ali with her synesthesia. Tori had been snatched back to the mothership or something to get healed when Allison injured her (non-fatally, obviously) in a fight. The plot points of this particular story arc are really fun and would make an awesome sci-fi novel of its own. But added into the existing plot of mental health, it just felt disjointed to me.

I think my main issue with the novel was that by having aliens be the deus ex machina, it relegates some very real mental health issues to something of a silly role. Oh, you’re not crazy, aliens did it. I’m sure that is not what the author intended, but that’s kind of how it felt. Mental illness is a real problem, not something that can be handily fixed or explained by aliens, even though that second plot was fun and I would have loved to see it as its own separate, hard sci-fi book. Nor is mental illness itself a prop to be used as a way to solve the trouble the characters are in and hey look, I just happen to have a rare condition that everyone thinks is a mental illness and only I can get us home using my weird sensory abilities that are actually almost driving me insane. That part really hit me wrong.

Format: hardcover

Source: public library

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Pages: 312

Miranda and Caliban

51gxk0vib3l-_sx328_bo1204203200_I adored this book. I’m a sucker for a good back story, and Miranda and Caliban rang that bell but good. With her typical skill at building magical worlds, Jacqueline Carey crafts Prospero’s island, a place abandoned by people yet filled with spirits and mystery. She brings Miranda to life, a sweet and innocent girl who has no idea that her father is not all he seems. Caliban, a feral child who learns to speak but not to comply, shows a side of himself and of Prospero that throws an entirely new light on The Tempest.

I loved seeing Miranda through her growing up and how she changed throughout the book. At the opening, she was barely six and her thoughts reflected her youth. She had pet chickens that had names and she was devastated when her father made her kill one to eat because it stopped laying. She was delighted by her birthday present, which was a sewing kit. It is interesting to see her grow and change as she takes on the mantle of teacher when Prospero gives the teaching of Caliban into her care. She takes her role seriously but she still adds many elements of play, because she and Caliban are both still children.

Caliban himself is a rich and interesting figure. He hates Prospero, not because he is a warped person as depicted in Shakespeare’s play, but because he sees Prospero clearly. He knows Prospero is not a kind or good man, he hates how he treats Miranda, and fears for his friend’s safety. Caliban is supposed to be a wild and savage person, yet is the kindest and most compassionate one of the book, the one who sees the most clearly and the most honestly.

As they grow up, Miranda and Caliban are their only friends, literally the only people they could turn to on the island since Prospero is not a person to whom anyone would learn to trust. Through heartbreak and betrayal, we see these characters play out a new version of events that put a whole new light on The Tempest, one which I find remarkably sad and realistic and human. I can’t really say how much I loved this book.

This novel was full of gorgeous imagery and writing, which is only to be expected from Carey. Little Miranda explaining to still-mostly-wild Caliban that there are qualities other than speech or clothing that make us civilized was one of my favorite scenes. Later, when Miranda got her first period, I loved her thought about how gods generally are not kind to women who eat fruit. I also loved the comparison of sunlight to goodness throughout the book. That might not be a terribly unique interpretation, but it made for some lovely scenes and lines. “You in the sunlight” will always make me feel bittersweet and sad and hopeful from now on.

Format: e-galley (though I loved it so much I preordered a hard copy for myself)

Source: Netgalley.com

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 352