First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday is hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea! I’m also cheating a little bit this month by posting more than the single line that functions as the first paragraph.
Lately I’ve been really interested in what is published by New York Review Books, and I came across Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes in a bookstore. It’s about a single woman living at the beginning of the 20th century who decides, in middle age, to live alone, out of her brother’s house and away from polite society. John Updike’s blurb on the back reads “This is the witty, eerie, tender but firm life history of a middle-class Englishwoman who politely declines to make the expected connection with the opposite sex and becomes a witch instead.” Perfect for Halloween! 🎃
When her father died, Laura Willowes went to live in London with her elder brother and his family.
“Of course, ” said Caroline, “you will come to us.”
“But it will upset all your plans. It will give you so much trouble. Are you sure you really want me?”
“Oh dear, yes.”
Caroline spoke affectionately, but her thoughts were elsewhere.
Title: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Published by Quirk Books
Published: May 17th 2016
But she remembers when the word “friend” could draw blood. She and Gretchen spent hours ranking their friendships, trying to determine who was a best friend and who was an everyday friend, debating whether anyone could have two best friends at the same time, writing each other’s names over and over in purple ink, buzzed on the dopamine high of belonging to someone else, having a total stranger choose you, someone who wanted to know you, another person who cared that you were alive.
Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
I found My Best Friend’s Exorcism on a book list for things to read after you’ve finished watching Netflix’s Stranger Things. Needing something to fill in that void, I picked this up and started reading it immediately. I couldn’t put it down.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is set in the late eighties and follows Abby’s friendship with Gretchen during a series of strange events. When Gretchen begins to behave differently than usual, Abby eventually figures out that a demon has possessed Gretchen and Abby does everything she can to exorcize that demon.
While the plot was a little slow at first, I thought it worked for this book because rather than it being an action-packed adventure through devils and demons and exorcists, this book is an exploration of the friendship of teenage girls and the ups and downs that occur in high school friendships, whether or not one is possessed by demons. Having grown up with a lot of eighties references and eighties films, this book also evokes a similar kind of nostalgia for that decade that Stranger Things did. While Stranger Things seems to evoke those action-packed, Spielberg films of the eighties, My Best Friend’s Exorcism evokes those heart-filled John Hughes films of friendship and budding relationships.
If you’re left wanting more between seasons of Stranger Things, I definitely recommend My Best Friend’s Exorcism!
Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers #1
Published by Harper Voyager
Published: July 5th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Trade Paper
Humans’ preoccupation with ‘being happy’ was something he had never been able to figure out. No sapient could sustain happiness all of the time, just as no one could live permanently within anger, or boredom, or grief.
Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.
When she joins the crew of the Wayfarer, Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect the motley crew of oddballs, but she comes to find that group of oddballs family and learns a lot about herself, about what makes a family, and about her place in life throughout the journey the Wayfarer takes throughout the course of the book.
I absolutely loved this book. It reminded me of Firefly and Star Trek (The Original Series), and it is such a happy science fiction book that made me giddy every time I opened it up to read more. It seems so rare that we have positive, happy, not-too-cynical science fiction that explores identity, gender, and existence. It’s fun, campy, and smart, and more likely than not, you’ll fly through this book and be left wanting more.
My only disappointments were that I felt that there were too many perspectives for so short a novel and that the characters didn’t develop that much throughout the course of the novel, and that might be because of the wide cast of characters explored throughout. However, it is the first in a loosely connected series (or duology), so I’m looking forward to seeing Chambers’ writing in her second book.
I’ve been recommending this to everyone, from die-hard sf fans to people who have rarely, if ever, dipped their toes in sf. It’s a great addition to the genre – especially because we need more happy, hopeful sf books – and it’s a great introduction to the genre.
Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1
Published by Quirk
Published: June 7th 2011
Genres: Young Adult
We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is one of those odd books that I liked but also didn’t like. It’s difficult to explain, and the only thing I can come up with is that I like the premise and I like the atmosphere created, but I found the characters and a lot of the writing to fall flat. I couldn’t put it down while I was reading it, but after I finished the book, I just felt sort of ehh.
It’s pretty much a meh execution of a really excellent idea. I was expecting something scarier, but it wasn’t all that scary. The writing most of the time felt juvenile, and I feel like I might have liked this book had it been shelved in the children’s section rather than in Teen/YA. I have expectations of depth of writing when books are categorized in certain sections, and this being shelved in the YA section most of the time is misleading in terms of the depth of the story.
The best parts about this book are the weirdly manipulated photographs that add more to the story than just the words (which shouldn’t be the case, but it is) and Miss Peregrine herself. I like the idea of time loops and that the children are stuck in them forever, and I wish that idea was developed a little bit more in this book (and maybe it is in the following books!).
I wish the book had a different narrator. Jacob seemed bland and boring, and I’m over the whiny rich boy narrators because I felt he had no depth and no change in character, but I do understand the bland character as a narrator as it allows the reader to self-insert and connect with the story more (which is not the greatest tactic in grabbing your reader’s interest).
I may eventually pick up the rest of the series (or borrow them from the library) because while I enjoyed this story for what it was, the executed concept fell flat and didn’t totally wow me enough to rush out and read the next two.