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I am a big fan of The Princess Bride--it's been one of my family's favorite movies since we first watched it about 20 years ago. So, when I heard there was going to be a book about the making of the movie, I knew I had to read it.

Let me start with what I loved about this book.
I loved reading the anecdotes of things that happened on-set and learning details about what was going on before and after (and sometimes during) some of the most memorable scenes of the movie.

I loved that it wasn't just Cary Elwes' perspective but that there were snippets from others in the cast and crew interspersed throughout the book.

I loved hearing about what each actor was like off screen and how well everyone got on.

I loved the pictures, though I wish there were more "behind the scenes" shots rather than pics that looked like screenshots of the movie or were just the cast posing.

Okay, now for what I didn't love. Honestly, if I had to sum this book up in one word it would be "gushy."

Elwes makes it abundantly clear how much he admires Rob Reiner, William Goldman, et al. by sounding like an over-excited fanboy. I was barely a chapter in when I already wanted to shout at the book "WE KNOW! GET ON WITH IT!" but I carried on (Caryed on?) and hoped that it was just the intro of each cast/crew member that would be filled with gushing protestations of how amazing and talented he or she was. Alas, it was not to be. If you were to go through this book and cut out all but the initial praise of each person, I have no doubt that it would be 1/3 shorter. (taking out the phrase "just the nicest person you'd ever want to meet" alone would probably cut out a full page of the book)

It was a bit of a frustrating read in this respect, because I got the feeling from the writing that Cary Elwes genuinely admires the rest of the cast, loves their work, and is an all around humble guy--but I don't think it came off the way he intended.

The writing, in fact, was all around bad. The beginning chapters have tons of wooden recreated dialogue, and readers are walked through every.step.of.every.action. Lines like "I thanked him and bid him good night before hanging up." are just not necessary.

Then there was the the repetition. Not just the repetition of each person's praises, but of facts, feelings, and even events. It really does surprise me that the book was not developed and edited more professionally. Cary Elwes is an actor, not a writer, and that's fine--but he co-wrote the book with someone who IS a writer, and presumably they also had a separate editor. Did neither Joe Layden nor the editor realize that the writing was so repetitive and mediocre and the tone was so fawning?

I don't want to be too down on the book, because I love The Princess Bride and Cary Elwes, but I get so disappointed when something that could have been SO great ends up just being okay.

When I looked up other reviews on Amazon and Goodreads I saw most of the reviews are 4-5 stars (clearly they weren't rating the editing of the book) but I also noticed that a lot of the reviewers had listened to the audio book read by Cary Elwes. That might have made a difference in the tone and even the annoyance of the repetition but as a print book it came off as  mostly dead.

Generally I'm not a re-reader. I know some people have favorite books they read again and again and there are even some (somewhat obsessed) people like Christopher Lee who religiously re-read the same book every year (Lord of the Rings, for the record). It's not that I don't read some awesome books that are well worth re-reading, it's just that if I find myself with time to read, I'd rather embark on a new adventure than one I've already been on.
That said, I do have a few long-time favorites that I have read multiple times and enjoyed just as much each time. I think for someone who is generally not a re-reader, that says something about these books.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
I first read this book as part of a Robert Louis Stevenson collection (which included his less-famous but still good Black Arrow) and though I liked it, I think my image of the book was heavily shaped by the various movie adaptations I'd seen (the best of which remains Muppet Treasure Island) and I didn't digest it as well as I could have. However, several years ago I re-read it in preparation to teach it to my high school class. I am convinced there is nothing so good as studying a book to help one to appreciate it like-new. Sitting down and examining to characters, their development, the plot flow, etc. all gave me a completely new view. I've since read it again, and likely will in the future. It is the quintessential pirate book (treasure, adventure on the high seas, mutiny, hostages, ghosts, gun fights, murder, maroonees!) and even more than 120 years later I think the story appeals to adventurous people of all ages.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
When I was a very young child my dad read these books to me and my older brother. We got them from our church library one at a time, and he would read a couple chapters to us each night. Let me tell you, having to wait until the next day to find out what happens in the next chapter was both agonizing and fun. But I was too young to read them myself and imagining what might happen next was part of the fun. I don't think much of the stories themselves sunk in for long. They took on a specialness due to my dad's excitement as he read them, but I was left with good if fuzzy memories of the books.
It was many years later (I was probably 12 or 13) that I re-discovered the books. A friend gifted me with the whole set and I read through them in record time. They remain some of my favorite books and some of the easiest to re-read when I need something magical in my life.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Firstly, let's get the travesty that is Miyazaki's interpretation of this book out of the way. The movie took characters and elements from Jones' wonderful book, and, as much as I generally like Miyazaki I have to say, he completely ruined them.
Now the book on the other hand is one of my all-time favorites. I've both read it multiple times as well as listened to it brilliantly read by Jenny Sterlin (great Welsh accent) and enjoyed it just as much each time. Something about Diana Wynne Jones' writing makes me happy. Her stories always have a fun magical atmosphere and keep you reading--I usually finish her books quite quickly because I enjoy the worlds she creates so much that each time I pause my reading (for something mundane like going to bed, or going to work) I want to get back to them as soon as I can.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
I've read other writing by Bram Stoker and have to say that based on his other writing it almost seems that Dracula must have been written by someone else. The other books and stories are rather a mess. The biggest puzzle to me was The Lair of the White Worm which not only appears to have been written by someone with multiple personalities, but also while they were on drugs.
However he did it though, Stoker really struck gold with Dracula. One of the older vampire books (though not the first) Dracula is wonderful at making vampires not only scary but truly evil. Stoker's brilliant use of religious imagery corrupted and distorted into something evil makes for the creepiest and best vampire book I've ever read.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I think part of what makes Alice such a re-readable and beloved book is that you can get as much out of it as you like. If you read through quickly and focus on it as a story you get to adventure through some very strange places and meet some truly ridiculous characters. If you read through with a bit more concentration you get to appreciate Carroll's wordplay, puns, and wit. He was rather brilliant and liked to try out words in many different ways as he could. I definitely missed a lot the first time I read through it (I was rather young as well) and the second time I read it I realized how much he was playing with words and phrases linguistically.
The book is great for quotations as well...
"'Take some more tea,' the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
'I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, 'so I can't take more.'
'You mean you can't take less,' said the Hatter: 'It's very easy to take more than nothing.'"
I won a free copy of the audio book at the Brooklyn Book Fair this past September and am in the middle of listening to it. Jim Dale is very good as the narrator, but I do find his Cheshire Cat voice quite creepy.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

This book is SO good. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are two of my favorite authors and are my hands-down favorite living authors. Each time I read this book it's just as funny as the first time. As with many books in which Pratchett has had a hand, there are so many cultural references and in-jokes you're sure to find new ones each time you read; I've had many "oh, that's what that's from!" moments.
It's currently being made into a radio play (due out this Christmas) and I couldn't be more pleased.

This is a mini-review for a mini-book. I read this book in one sitting, in about half an hour. Still, it was enjoyable enough that I felt it deserved a review.

I bought this book at last month's Brooklyn Book Festival which, by the way, is definitely worth checking out if you're in the area next September. My husband Simon and I had gone mostly to browse around and listen to some panels, not with the intention of buying anything (despite nearly 100 tempting booths and pop-up stores selling books of all genres).

This one caught my eye though. On his website, author Ali Almossawi says, "The cover is inspired by one of my favorite games growing up: LucasArts' Monkey Island series. The title's typography and the general feel of the whole scene borrow a bit from Monkey Island and a bit from Indiana Jones." That must be why I was drawn to it amongst the gazillion (yes, gazillion) other books at the festival.

Guilt by Association

Illustration by Alejandro Giraldo
An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments is a charmingly easy-to-understand guide to errors in reasoning which are often used in arguments. If you are one of those ever-hopeful people who engages in online arguments or "discussions" then you'll love this book as it equips you to recognize and avoid (or point out) faulty logic. Each page spread gives a short explanation of a specific type of bad argument (straw man, appeal to fear, equivocation, etc.) along with an illustration showing it in action.

I actually bought this book with my younger brother in mind since he has strong opinions and seems to get into online debates fairly often, but I don't think he reads this blog so I might pretend that I totally didn't read this gift before giving it to him.

A bonus that I only discovered later is that the entire book is shared under a Creative Commons BY-NC license. Which basically means the book is available in its entirety online for free, and you are allowed to share it, provided you give proper credit.
I do recommend donating if you enjoy it though, or even buying the print edition as it makes a fun book to flip through.

I bought this book on a whim from a library used-book sale. It had an intriguing title and description and I seemed to remember a friend mentioning it to me a few months earlier—though I couldn't remember if she’d liked it or not.

If I had to sum up The Thirteenth Tale in a sentence I’d say it was a compelling story badly executed. I love over-the-top Gothic tales that involve completely unbelievable combinations of dramatic elements like people wasting away from grief, insanity, secret love affairs, secret children, murder out of love, people driven mad by love, houses crumbling to pieces around a family deserted by their servants etc. and The Thirteenth Tale had all of it.

The book opens with our main character, Margaret, getting a letter from a famous but mysterious author, Vida Winter, telling her that she wants Margaret to write her one true biography. Throughout her life Vida has told many fanciful but obviously fake versions of her life story, but as she is now ill and dying she’s decided it is time to tell someone the truth. The book flips back and forth between Margaret’s life and her chats with Vida Winter, and Vida’s own story. Vida’s story starts more than 70 years in the past, before her own birth, in a large house called Angelfield. It involves all the above-mentioned Gothic elements and more—governesses, incest, twins, ghosts.

It took me a couple months to finish this book because I kept putting it down in exasperation, or stopping to angrily read bits to my husband because I couldn't believe the level of bad writing. The main issues I had with this novel were twofold: the heavy-handed writing and the at-times completely unbelievable characters.

One expects a certain level of unbelievability in Gothic characters—the nature of the genre lends itself to exaggeration. However, in the, perhaps 1/3 of the book which takes place in the *present* (which I believe is meant to be sometime around the 1950s, though I don’t think it’s ever stated) the characters were very hard to believe or connect with. So many times I couldn't stop saying out loud “nobody would act that way!” For instance when Margaret stumbles across a man hanging out in the ruins of Angelfield, they have a conversation, eat something together, and go on a walk before she bothers to ask him what he was doing there. These sort of things, when they occur many times in a novel, are very distracting to a reader.

I could have dealt with the issue of the characters, but not the heavy-handedness. There were times when one could tell the author was pleased with her own knowledge or turn of phrase and wanted to make sure the reader DIDN’T MISS IT. Certain story elements were so over-stated or repeated so many times it was completely exasperating to try to get through the section of writing. It was as if the author was peering over my shoulder saying, “Did you get it? Did you get it? Do you see what I did there? Wait, let me say it again a little differently. Wasn’t that profound? Don’t worry, I’ll come back to it and say it again in case you missed it.” I wish she had a little more faith that her readers would pick up on things. Certain metaphors or pieces of the prose were beautifully written. And then written again slightly differently. And then again, and again. This author comes off as one of those people who likes to hear themselves talk or who couldn't decide on the best way to say something, so she said it all the ways. Setterfield could have used a better editor to help guide her through slimming down some sections and stating her main points more subtly.

The book does have some things going for it though. Part of the reason I was so upset by the writing was that I found the story compelling and wanted it to be delivered better. At times I found myself reading much later into the night than I had intended. The twist at the end, while not 100% unexpected was still very good. To sum up, I would recommend this book if you’d like to read a good Gothic story and don’t mind trudging through some very silly writing.

I am a huge fan of audio books. I remember being a child listening to the read-along cassette tapes from the library (the ones that would come in a little plastic bag with snaps at the top). I have such fond memories of flipping through Owl at Home and Frog and Toad are Friends with my klunky cassette player whirring along next to me.

As I got older and grew too old for read-along books I sort of forgot they existed. Except for a gift of The Hobbit on cassette tape when I was around 12, I barely listened to any for most of my teen years. I still read ravenously, even progressing to the upstairs “grown up” part of the library where they kept all the classics. Then one day, as a college student, I suddenly stumbled upon the library’s secret (so it seemed) stash of hundreds of audio books on CD. I’d been going to this library my whole life and never knew about them. It was like finding a hidden treasure. I was suddenly able to read twice as many books as before because I could read while driving (not advisable with print books), walking the dog, cleaning, whatever.

Now, I never go on a long drive without a book to listen to, and often have one to listen to during my daily commute as well (currently: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas).

Simon Jones recording
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
There is something extra wonderful about a good audio book. Audio books are lent a life of their own by the reader. It’s true, for a great audio book you do need to start with a good book. But a good reader can truly lend a new dimension to a book while a bad reader can make it unbearable.

Some might say listening to an audio book doesn't count as reading, but I think it really depends on what you are aiming to get out of your books. Listening to a book opens up some new opportunities. It means that you can “read” more than you otherwise might be able to, because you can do it while driving, cleaning, doing laundry, exercising, etc. Though you aren't reading the words, you still expand your imagination, improve your attention span, learn new things, discover new worlds, and identify with characters perhaps even more than you might if you were reading the words silently. Audio books can also encourage people who aren't so great at reading (dyslexic people for instance) to still “read” and expand their imaginations.

I would never suggest that audio books replace print books. There is a wealth to be gained from reading words on paper, especially for young people:  learning to recognize correct spelling (seriously, so many people need this), learning to imagine character voices and attitudes based on description, learning to sound out unfamiliar words,  improving your comprehension speed, etc. But I think that audio books should definitely have a place in everyone’s life alongside normal reading.

My favorites and recommendations:

The Bartimaeus books by Jonathan Stroud, read by Simon Jones – I have never had any other book where I would recommend someone with a choice listen to the audio book INSTEAD OF reading the book, but Simon Jones is just amazing. He IS Bartimaeus. I’m currently listening to the trilogy for the third time.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, read by Lenny Henry. Though I love Gaiman, I wasn't a big fan of American Gods, and probably by extension wouldn't have been a fan of Anansi Boys had I not heard it brilliantly brought to life by Lenny Henry. I've listened to this one twice, and probably will again.

Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne, read by a full cast including Judi Dench, Geoffrey Palmer, and Stephen Fry. This should be required listening for anyone who needs to lower their blood pressure. One if the loveliest books, read by some of Britain's best actors.

Where to get audio books for free

Audio books are really expensive to buy (and rightly so), however there are a lot of options for audio book lovers who aren't financially well endowed (poor people,like me).

Library – Seems like a no-brainer but I think many people don’t realize that most libraries have an audio book section. You may be surprised if you start looking into your library’s collection, many often have not only a large CD selection, but more and more are offering digital collections to their communities and you may be able to listen online. If you are in the US you can find your local library here - - All the books on this site are in the public domain, so you won’t find any new releases, but there is still an impressive range available – all free. All the readings are done by volunteers - there is no screening process since each reader is doing it out of the goodness of their heart and their love of books. This can lead to varying quality in the readings.

I have a love/hate relationship with Librivox. I have listened to some truly good readings and also some truly truly awful readings. One woman ended every sentence with rising inflection, as if it were a question. Another guy read every sentence like it was a radio announcement. Impossible to listen to and frustrating as well, because they were ruining good books. Still, I encourage you to check it out, because for every bad reader there are several good ones. You can download Librivox books from their website, or from their channel in the iTunes store.

Spotify - Another free option is Spotify. I haven’t looked to extensively into this but I have found a few free books there. I am never sitting still long enough to listen on my computer, however, so I haven’t checked out the quality of what is available.

Have any other sources for free books? Email me and I’ll check them out!

I know this isn’t a new book - in fact it's 21 years old - but it’s certainly newly in the public eye what with the upcoming movie (due to be released in theaters August 15), so I thought it was a good time to revisit it.

I first encountered The Giver when I had to teach it for a high school class in Japan. I had never heard of it before, and based on the cover I wasn't too optimistic (yes, I judge books by their covers). An old bearded guy in black and white and the silhouette of trees at twilight just wasn’t as inspiring as some of the other books in my to-read-to-teach pile. (Later, I loved finding out the story of the man on the cover which Lowry explains in her beautiful Newbery acceptance speech here.)

I'm so glad I decided to eventually read (and teach) this book, because The Giver is fantastic. 

Dystopia has become a very popular theme in YA lit recently, but Lowry did it in 1993, so I think she got the jump on the trend.

I was able to hear Lois Lowry speak last year at the Brooklyn Book Festival. She said that she didn't deliberately set out to tell a dystopian story, it just developed that way. I think this comes through in the book where the focus is really on memory and emotion and how they inform our individual personalities and give us wisdom.

"The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared."
For those who aren't familiar with the book, it takes place in a society where sameness and conformity are valued and it is impolite to point out differences. One's role in life is assigned at the age of 12 by the Elders and is based on where the child's talents seemed to lie. Later in life, their spouses and even children will also be assigned to them.

The book follows a young boy named Jonas who is just turning 12.  At his assignment he is given the role of "Receiver" - a role which is only assigned to one person per generation. Jonas is not allowed to talk to anyone else about what his assignment entails, but he discovers that he must receive the collected memories of his society from "the Giver." For the first time he is exposed to things like weather, pain, joy, music, and the idea that there is history beyond what he has seen and experienced. He learns from the Giver that memories of the past were removed from society in order to remove people's desire to choose one thing over the other and to avoid negative emotions and feelings such as jealousy and pain.
The Giver alone holds these memories and uses them to advise the council in times when they are unsure how to act. As Jonas's eyes are gradually opened to all the joy and pain that nobody else in society can experience he starts to realize the wrongness of it all and finds himself ultimately faced with a difficult decision of what to do with his knowledge. I won't spoil it totally. If you haven't read it, go read it.

I loved Jonas's gradual discover of color and the fact that when he finally could see colors he could no longer un-see them or go back to the way he used to see things. It's a great picture of what memories do to us - once we experience something it stays with us forever and shapes how we view the world.

It was very interesting to hear my students' takes on this book. Japanese society highly values conformity. US society values independent action and looks down on conformity. In our class discussions it came out that my students didn't react as strongly against the idea of sameness as I had when I read the book. They saw many aspects of the society in The Giver as positive, though they all agreed that completely taking away freedom of choice was a negative thing. Japan is hardly a dystopia, so it was through provoking to hear  how for many sameness = safety and comfort. It made it easier to sympathize with a society which had started out simply trying to protect its citizens from what was negative and painful.

I am certainly looking forward to the spin the movie will put on it. I have read some interviews with Lois Lowry and she seems pretty chill about the changes, so hopefully even if it's not 100% accurate, it will still be an awesome movie.

The Monkey Island games:  an exemplary series featuring pirate shenanigans of all sorts, not to mention demonic talking skulls, voodoo ladies, and ships of the damned - as any respectable pirate tale ought.
I was so pleased to be able to read an advanced reader copy of Hook's Revenge which will be out in stores on September 16 this year (just in time for International Talk Like a Pirate Day on the 19th). I love adventure books – ever since reading books like King Solomon’s Mines, The Lost World and The Twenty One Balloons as a younger person I’ve had a desire to go off and discover mysterious lands and strange people (off to Zanzibar, to meet the Zanzibarbarians!).

I also love pirate stories. Treasure Island is one of my favorite books of all time. There really aren’t enough quality pirate books out there (though there are some excellent pirate computer games), so finding a fun, adventurous book which was also about pirates really made my day (thanks husband!)

 Anyway, on to the book. Hook’s Revenge follows the adventures of young Jocelyn Hook – daughter of the infamous Captain Hook (who she has never met). Jocelyn takes after her pirate father in that she causes chaos and destruction wherever she goes, despite being only twelve. In an attempt by her grandfather to civilize her, she is sent away to finishing school where Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb does all she can to whip her into shape. This goes as one might expect, with frustration and disastrous results for all. That is until Jocelyn is whisked off to Neverland after receiving a message from her recently dead father (composed before his death, of course. This isn’t that sort of book) setting her the task of taking revenge on the Neverland crocodile in whose jaws he met his demise.

I won’t spoil the plot, but it’s a great adventure with some very likable and some very dislikable characters all very well brought to life. The fact that Jocelyn does have moments where she fails or doesn't know what to do next makes her solid and someone you truly want to root for.

The storytelling moves at a good pace with lots of action and just the right amount of humor - perfect for both middle grade and older audiences alike. The narrator is one of the highlights of the book. He (?) is a rather cranky pirate who dislikes children and is only begrudgingly telling us the story because he’s getting older and the story ought to be told to someone. He isn’t ever-present, but he pops back in at regular intervals to remind us that we really are very annoying.

My only dislike of this book was the representation of Peter Pan, strangely enough. He is a very minor character, but he SO annoying. I would much have preferred that he not appear at all rather than have him be represented as a little dictator and such an ass. It is certainly a new take on a classic character, but I think it kind of ruins him for readers who might potentially go on to read Peter Pan for the first time. Of course, Peter was never completely likeable, even in his own book (“Oh the cleverness of me!”) but then again he was an archetype of boyhood, so who can blame him?

I also would have liked to have found that the hateful little girls at the finishing school eventually got their comeuppance, but perhaps that's something for the next book.

Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed Hook's Revenge, but reading an advanced copy comes with the downside that I’ll have to wait even longer than everyone else for the second in the series.

For more about Heidi Schulz visit her piratey website. To pre-order Hook's Revenge visit Barnes and Noble, or order it to your local independent book store.

New York City has not been the same since terrorists attacked Times Square with a dirty bomb. Since the attack, the city has been in a downward spiral of violence and crime where only the rich are safe - behind heavily guarded doors. Both rich and poor have become addicted to a new type of drug – virtual reality simulations where they “tap in” to a whole other world, sometimes for days at a time.

This is the setting of Adam Sternbergh's novel, Shovel Ready, which immediately gripped me. The book is written in first person from the perspective of Spademan, a garbage man turned hired killer. Although the voice in which the novel is written annoyed me at first, I eventually found Spademan’s matter-of-fact descriptions and deliberately emotionless narration served to bring the bleak and hopeless world to more vivid life. I was compelled to read on as the world sprang to life in my imagination. I’m not sure if the setting was easier for me because I work in New York City, and thus personally connected with the references to the various locations, or if it was simply because any city turned to chaos by fear and apathy never seems too far fetched.

Spademan is a quintessential antihero; morally depraved, emotionally absent, not even driven by a desire for revenge for a past wrong (though it is hinted that he may develop that desire in the next book). He is not very likable... in fact, none of the characters in the book are likable, and they all do horrible things, yet still they are compelling. I was reminded of American Hustle  in that none of the characters were good guys, but I still wanted the worse ones to lose.

For all of Sternbergh's vivid world-building and engaging plot, the book had its flaws. I found the main issue to be the lack of character depth. A few of the main characters have back stories, the rest just exist in the story alone, but there is little to inform motives for anyone’s actions. Even Spademan can’t explain why he decides to get involved in the life of one of his targets (the decision that drives the plot). This would be fine if it was revisited and examined as his relationship with her was built, but it was never satisfactorily developed. And while history has proved that a character doesn't need motive to be a fantastically evil villain (look at Shakespeare’s Iago), the shallow motives for the antagonists’ actions really left me feeling like a lot was missing. Overall the last quarter of the book seemed rushed, and this was the section that had the most potential for really digging deeper (see what I did there?).

This book is not one I would normally have picked up to read. While I enjoy dystopias and post-apocalyptic settings, I tend to steer away from crime novels, so I am glad that it was on the Blogging for Books list and I decided to branch out. Despite the novel's drawbacks the plot was compelling and I am looking forward to Sternbergh’s next Spademan novel.

For more info on the book or to purchase it, visit the RandomHouse website.

*I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

I am back, and that is all, and I will endeavor to be a good blogger and not forget about my blog again.

I have just finished reading (listening to) The Man Upstairs, and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse. I won’t  review it other than to say that the stories were good in a classic Wodehouse way. If you don’t know what that way is, I recommend reading at least one Wodehouse in your life. The plots tend to be similar but that doesn't matter because the brilliance of Wodehouse is in his descriptions. He can turn a humorous phrase like no other.

But that’s not what I am reviewing, I am reviewing another book I recently finished – The Girl who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente.

I have been a fan of Valente ever since my husband bought me The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (the titles are a mouthful) for Valentine’s Day in place of flowers because, well, books are made of paper, and paper comes from trees, so it’s really basically the same thing as flowers…. ?

The Fairyland books follow the adventures of a young girl, September, as she travels through fairyland finding a new adventure each time she visits. TGWSOFACTMIT (the abbreviation isn't any better, is it?) is the third in the series and just as with the other two does not disappoint in the area of fantastical landscapes, vibrant descriptions and creatures of all sorts. September’s character development is great to see – she does not remain the same girl we met in book 1 but continues to learn and develop and in this particular book, even start to become adult (oh no!).

One of the things that first attracted me to Valente’s writing is the way she almost poetically weaves in statements of truth – sometimes profound, and sometimes just very well put. I constantly find myself reading along, and suddenly stopping and going back to reread a section. I almost wish I had a notebook with me sometimes to write down some of these bits.

"It's saying no. That's your first hint that something's alive. It says no. That's how you know a baby is starting to turn into a person. They run around saying no all day, throwing their aliveness at everything to see what it'll stick to. You can't say no if you don't have desires and opinions and wants of your own. You wouldn't even want to. No is the heart of thinking."

I do feel that in book 3 some of the characters and landscapes are thrown in just because Valente liked the idea of them rather than because they were important to the plot. When more text is spent describing a character than on their actual involvement in the plot, things become a little unbalanced. I found myself more than once having to flip back because I couldn't remember how a scene ended or *why* they met the people made of paper, or how September ended up in a new place when I’d just got my head around the previous location. The Fairyland books are Alice in Wonderland-style adventures where the plot is moved along by each new location or character, but I felt that book three was a little too fragmented and may have been improved by a little more plot and a little less description.

All-in-all it was still a great read and I do look forward to the next book. I’m also currently reading Valente’s short story collection The Bread We Eat In Dreams and enjoying it very much.

You can also buy Wodehouse, but if you like listening, you can do that for free via LibriVox.

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