An Homage to the Ghost Story; Gillian Flynn’s The Grownup

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An Homage to the Ghost Story; Gillian Flynn’s The GrownupTitle: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
Published by Crown
Published: November 3rd 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 64
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books
Goodreads

I get really critical when it comes to genres. Especially critical when the genre is a glossed-over one. The Grownup is touted as an homage to the “classic ghost story.” There aren’t any ghosts in Flynn’s short story. Not really. After I read this, I thought back to my courses on Gothic literature and sensation fiction. This is a story meant to titillate the senses, to make you jump out of your skin a little bit. There’s an old house with blood stains, a “psychic” woman, a “psycho” woman, strange children, and stranger behaviors emanating from an even stranger house. The Grownup felt more like an homage to the Gothic style rather than the ghost story. Ghost stories come in all forms, so I feel like that’s not descriptive enough. And I do get it, the average reader will be more interested in the ghost story as the word “Gothic” brings up romantic silliness and grandiose language.

The story starts out normally. Well, normally for Flynn. It gets progressively weirder the more the narrator gets involved with Susan Burke. And by act three, shit hits the fan. Is Susan trying to kill the narrator? Is her stepson? Is anyone trying to kill anyone, and is everyone just a little off their rocker? It ended on an open note, and you can’t really get from the ending whether or not it’s going to end well for the narrator. However, if you are reading it as if she’s writing this herself, the end of it is quite literally the end. She possibly never got the chance to finish writing her story.

I like Flynn’s writing. I wanted more of The Grownup. I didn’t realize it was a standalone printing of a short story I read in George R.R. Martin’s Rogues anthology until I received it in the mail and read the front cover (sometimes I like to be surprised by things by authors with whom I’m familiar). I admittedly have only read this and Gone Girl (I own the other two), so this makes me want to bring up her other titles to a higher spot on my TBR because she writes fascinating women.

This book was provided to me by Blogging for Books for review. All opinions are my own.

The Cyborg Cinderella; Marissa Meyer’s Cinder

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The Cyborg Cinderella; Marissa Meyer’s CinderTitle: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published: January 3rd 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 390
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I love love love fairy tales. I especially love imaginative retellings of fairy tales. Some of my favorite books of all time are retellings, and they are often the titles I recommend to people first. I couldn’t honestly tell you what got me into retellings initially. I grew up on Disney movies, and some of my favorite movies are Ever After (a Cinderella “history”) and The Princess Bride (which plays on fairy tale tropes). The first retelling I vividly remember reading was Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I think that one might have been the tipping point. After reading it, I sought out every other retelling I could possibly find (and this was in the early stages of internet searching, so it was a difficult and arduous task!). My searches led me to Robin McKinley, Donna Jo Napoli, Cameron Dokey, and many others. I’ve got an entire overflowing shelf filled specifically with retellings.

When a few friends told me about Cinder, I had to read it. When I read it for the first time back in Feburary 2013, I devoured it in a single day. It wasn’t until I finished it and had some more conversations with friends about it that I found out about Meyer writing Sailor Moon fanfiction and everything fell into place. It’s the perfect mix of fairy tales and Sailor Moon. While I worked in a bookstore, I would recommend it based on that alone. Love fairy tales and anime? You’ll love this series.

I love how Meyer weaves in several fairy tales in one overarching narrative. It’s not an entirely new concept (and admittedly I’m using a similar one for a series of novels I’m planning), but the little science fiction twist to it is something I like most about this series. Most fairy tale retellings I’ve come across have a very high-fantasy/historical twist to them, but this adds space and science to the mix. I didn’t know how much I wanted to see princesses in space and cyborg princesses until I came across The Lunar Chronicles.

Cinder follows the traditional Cinderella storyline. Cinder is a ward who was adopted by her now-dead father. She is raised by her step-mother, and she has two step-sisters. There’s a handsome prince, a cute android sidekick, a ball, a terrible queen, and mild drama sprinkled between. It’s a perfect setup for a series. The events leading up to the ball bring everything together and set the stage for the rest of the series. The only thing I really wanted more out of Cinder is more about New Beijing, the culture of a future world in which China is the leading world entity, and the day-to-day details of that culture. Why China? What happened? I can’t remember if much of it is touched on in the later books as its been a while since I’ve read the second and the third, so hopefully this reread will be a bit more revealing!


I’m trying a sort of new format with my posts! I love the images other book bloggers use, so I’m trying out some new styles from Canva! I feel like my blog needs a few more graphic elements, so this is a good place to start.

A Lyrical Reimagining; Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time

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A Lyrical Reimagining; Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of TimeTitle: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare #1
Published by Hogarth
Published: October 6th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Retellings
Pages: 273
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books
Goodreads

Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time is a modern reimagining of William Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. None of the names or situations in Winterson’s novel reflect those from Shakespeare’s play, but thematically it felt very Shakespeare. I remember reading A Winter’s Tale forever ago in my Shakespeare course in undergrad. What I remember  from that reading of the play are themes of family and jealousy, and those themes are heavily prevalent in Winterson’s reimagining.

While at times I thought the story felt a little too contrived, I recalled that Shakespeare’s plays feel the same way sometimes too. They’re constructed to explore a certain aspect of humanity, and that construction must be tight enough for a staged production with a wide audience. Some suspension of belief must be used. Everything in Shakespeare’s plays happen for a reason, and I think Winterson worked with that well. It’s also incredibly poetic and felt like I was reading an amazing dream.

I read this in a single day. Something about it was so engaging that I literally could not put it down. I like that; Shakespeare’s plays can be read in one sitting.

Hogarth, a division of Penguin Random House, is publishing a series of books (The Hogarth Shakespeare) written by critically acclaimed authors reimagining and reinventing Shakespeare’s famous plays. Winterson’s The Gap of Time is the first. Coming in 2016 are Howard Jacobson’s The Merchant of Venice, Anne Tyler’s The Taming of the Shrew, and Margaret Atwood’s The Tempest. I am so looking forward to Margaret Atwood’s! You can read more about the series and the other authors participating at Vintage’s website!

This book was provided to me by Blogging for Books for review. All opinions are my own.

Top Ten Tuesday!

Jamie at The Broke and Bookish hosts a weekly prompt, and I’ve been thinking about it all morning. Strangely enough I haven’t read many debut authors this year, so I had to do some digging on my Goodreads account. And I may have cheated just a little bit for some of them because I haven’t read their sophomore novels yet! I also really think I should be reading more debut authors, because I’ve seen some great lists on other blogs. 😀

  • Victoria Aveyard – I loved Red Queen and can’t wait to read the sequel!
  • Andy Weir – The Martian was fabulous, funny, and opened up entire discussions about going back into space, so yes! I want more!
  • Erin Morgenstern – It’s been so long since I’ve read The Night Circus, and I really can’t wait to read what she writes next (I haven’t even heard if anything’s coming out soon!).
  • Leslye Walton –  The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was a really beautiful and haunting story that had so many good elements of magical realism and fairy tales woven in. I’m hoping her next novel is just as enthralling.
  • Helene Wecker – Her debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni, had such a fantastic underplot that I wish was developed more, even though I enjoyed the rest of the novel!
  • Hannah Kent –  Burial Rites is a gorgeous novel set in 1850s Iceland that involves a woman and her husband’s murder. It’s a character study, and it’s a great study of women in that time and place. It was a Waterstones pick while I was studying in London, the cover drew me in, and I wasn’t disappointed.
  • William Ritter – Jackaby was such a neatly woven mystery with elements of Sherlock Holmes and magic that I can’t wait to read the sequel (even though it’s been out!).
  • Samantha Shannon –  I’m fully aware The Mime Order is out, and I haven’t yet gotten to it. I’m still excited for her career though. I listened to a chat with her and Sarah J. Maas last year, and she’s delightful.
  • Carrie Patel – Her second novel in her Recoletta series is out, and I just finished reading the first, The Buried Life. It’s a magical Victorianesque, sort of steampunk mystery that’s super engaging with great characters.
  • Scott Hawkins – He’s written computer manuals before, but his debut in fiction, The Library at Mount Char is so terrific and weird, and very reminiscent of Neil Gaiman. I hope he writes more in that universe or with those characters, because they’re so creepy and I’m still thinking about them.

A Disjointed Dystopia; a review of Howard Jacobson’s J

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A Disjointed Dystopia; a review of Howard Jacobson’s JTitle: J by Howard Jacobson
Published by Hogarth
Published: September 1st 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Blogging for Books
Goodreads

You are no different today from who you were a year ago, a month ago even. What’s changed is how you appear. How you appear to yourself and how you will appear to the world. It’s all illusion. Identity is nothing but illusion.

J took forever for me to read. FOR-EVER. Partially because I’ve been in a weird state of mind, but mostly because of the book itself. It’s touted as dystopian fiction reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, but it just falls flat. I wanted to know more of WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED. I think I got spoiled by Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy in which she does reveal the backstory to everything throughout the course of the trilogy. J just trudged on disjointedly. Had it been about one hundred pages shorter, it might have been more engaging, but there were too many offshoots of irrelevance that distracted me from the main story at hand and left me disinterested for weeks at a time. Jacobson can write, however, and there are several sections in the novel that left me rereading more for the sake of grammar and sentence structure than for the story itself.

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As an aside, I still haven’t figured out what the “qualifications” for a Man Booker are. Either I should research this, or read more nominees and winners (which I should do anyway). I also think I’m getting tired of the whole view of “identity” from an older white male’s point of view, which is probably another small reason I didn’t personally get much out of this book.