More books! To see the first round of book recommendations, please check out Part 1.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Books good enough to warrant a gif (with flickering candles) are just on another level – ’nuff said
- Amazon Summary: Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author’s tale of gothic strangeness — featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess,a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
Um, yeah. If you don’t see what’s attractive about this story, then don’t mind me. I’m just going to hit you over the head with this frying pan. I mean, come on. Feral twins? A ghost? A governess? Topiary gardens? Fires and books and painful histories? It’s like this book was written just for me.
The Thirteenth Tale is also a rare breed, because it’s a story that works on both the sentence and the plot level – too many stories emphasize one over the other. The Thirteenth Tale indulges in beautiful, poetic writing, but also intrigues with a scandalous and suspenseful plot that will have you turning pages while chowing down on popcorn.
Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
- Amazon Summary: On another world entirely, a harassed Sector Controller gets a letter from a maintenance team apparently trapped in Hexwood. A small boy called Hume encounters a robot and a dragon there. Ann Stavely, lying in bed with a virus in her nearby home, watches person after person disappear into the old farmhouse and not come out again.
- When she feels better, Ann decides to investigate. She goes into the wood, where she meets a tormented sorcerer called Mordion who seems to have arisen from a sleep lasting centuries. Yet Ann knows she has seen him enter the farmhouse that morning. Nothing seems to happen in the right order. Nothing quite makes sense. And things keep getting stranger and stranger until, long before the end, the strangeness has spread from Earth right out to the center of the galaxy.
I’ll admit it, Internet. I’m hesitant about this one. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, because the plot is confusing as hell. I read it very carefully and I’m still not sure that I understand it. Let’s put it this way – those Amazon paragraphs are actually a simplified summary of the plot. (I think it’s also incorrect? Because I’m pretty sure that the people are disappearing into the woods behind the farmhouse, not the farmhouse itself. But I could be wrong, and technically I’m citing it, so I don’t want to change it.)
Hexwood is strange and confusing, but also brilliant. It all comes together at the end, which seems like a miracle considering how muddled things get towards the middle of the book. But more importantly, it’s one of the most romantic love stories I’ve ever read – and you know that Diane Wynne Jones is good at understated, actually romantic romance – considering that she also wrote Howl’s Moving Castle.
Best gif ever? I think so
Let me put it this way – if you’re not cheering for Ann and Mordion at the end of the book, then I just give up. And raise my frying pan.
Oh, yeah. Diane Wynne Jones dedicated the book to Neil Gaiman, which inspired him to write the following thank-you poem:
There’s a kitten curled up in Kilkenny was given a perfect pot of cream,
And a princess asleep in a thornwrapped castle who’s dreaming a perfect dream,
There’s a dog in Alaska who danced with delight on a pile of mastodon bones,
But I got a copy of Hexwood (dedicated to me) by Diana Wynne Jones.
There’s an actress who clutches her oscar (and sobs, with proper impromptu joy),
There’s a machievellian villain who’s hit on a wonderf’lly evil ploy,
There’s wizards in crystal castles and kings on their golden thrones,
But I got a copy of Hexwood – dedicated – to me! – by Diana Wynne Jones.
There are fishermen out on the sea today who just caught the perfect fish,
There’s a child in Luton who opened a genie-filled bottle, and got a wish,
There are people who live in glass houses have managed to outlaw stones -
But I’ve got a copy of Hexwood, dedicated to me by Diana Wynne Jones.
So that’s another wonderful thing about Hexwood.
Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe
- Amazon Summary: Young Wataru Mitani’s life is a mess. His father has abandoned him, and his mother has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Desperately he searches for some way to change his life–a way to alter his fate. To achieve his goal, he must navigate the magical world of Vision, a land filled with creatures both fierce and friendly. And to complicate matters, he must outwit a merciless rival from the real world. Wataru’s ultimate destination is the Tower of Destiny where a goddess of fate awaits. Only when he has finished his journey and collected five elusive gemstones will he possess the Demon’s Bane–the key that will unlock the future.
Brave Story is uniquely structured, in that it’s basically two books pasted together (and I mean this literally; Brave Story is rather long at over 600 pages, making the two halves of the story about 300 pages each). The first half of the story is about Wataru’s life falling apart, while the second half focuses on Vision and the archetypal fantasy quest contained within. Each half is fully realized enough to be its own book, with a detailed world and vibrant cast of characters. Ultimately, the two parts work together to create a meaningful and satisfying whole.
To be honest, I’m extremely fond of the first half, because Miyuki Miyabe writes with incredible incision about the impact of divorce on children; she’s great at getting into the mindset of children witnessing a divorce. For this reason, I found Wataru to be infinitely sympathetic, and my heart broke for him.
Tonally, the second half of the book is quite different. But not in a bad way. In the second half, the story becomes more concerned with the events occurring in Vision; you might have noticed that parts of Vision sound cliche, what with towers of destiny and goddesses of fate and elusive gem stones and all that. In my opinion, Brave Story surmounts the cliches by embracing them so wholeheartedly that the story eventually breaks through to the other side, becoming original simply because most stories don’t dare to be so cliche. Brave Story doesn’t try to dance around the fact that the fantasy elements are a parable for finding inner strength – and behind the fairy dust, there are some dark consequences and raised stakes, not to mention moral dilemmas.
Brave Story is translated from Japanese, and was made into an animated movie in its country of origin. I’ve never seen the animated movie, but I think it’s important to point out that not all books receive their own movie, nor are they translated into other languages. (Especially when you consider the fact that Brave Story is the size of a small tome.)
In other words, Brave Story is good stuff.
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? If you haven’t already, would you be interested in reading any of them? Finally, any book recommendations for me?
MONDAY LINK LOVE
- I really appreciated Neil Gaiman’s New Year wish about being willing to make mistakes.
- I’m a little iffy about this Game of Thrones videogame, starting with the fact that you have to work to unlock the website…BUT but but it’s Game of Thrones. So there’s that.
- There’s a Doctor Who themed bar? WHY AM I NOT THERE, INTERNET.
- Michael Offutt shows us how to write good.
- Want to know more about how to write good like me? I appreciated/agreed with this article by E.J. Wesley: ‘5 Realistic Ways We’re Going to be Better Writers in 2012‘.
ROW 80 UPDATE
Well, I was doing good this week…until the weekend.
Saturday was extremely-extremely busy, what with me moving back into my apartment. Sunday wasn’t much better, and I made it much much worse by Bootcamping my Mac in order to play PC games, which hasn’t quite worked out yet. To give you an idea of what that’s like, let’s just say that I’ve restarted my computer more times in the past 24 hours than I have in the entire year that I’ve owned the Mac.
BUT. Last Monday through Friday, I wrote at least 750 words a day, ultimately totaling in 3917.
That’s something, right?
I might have taken a couple steps back over the weekend, but I’m ready to wade back into the waters. Starting…now.
Wishing you all a merry and productive week!
THERE ARE NO PICTURES OR VIDEOS ON THIS POST. Surely this cataclysmic event has ushered in the apocalypse – sorry about that.
Sunday Link Love
- Ohmygosh, I forgot to link this in my post 7 Favorite Talking Cats, Part 2! It’s a Puss In Boots custom My Little Pony. Appropriate, no? Awesome, yes.
- I’m loving Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read tradition.
- Did you know that there’s an Occupy Writers? It’s true. There is.
- Major thanks to KD Sarge for pointing me out to Set Phasers to Lol! And now I procrastinate on everything forever.
- There’s a BABY MONKEY CAM ON THE INTERNET. And now I procrastinate on everything forever.
- Informative video about how the NYT Bestseller List works:
- More video madness – Kiersten White posted a video this week that somehow managed to make me love Nathan Fillion even *more*:
- Okay, so I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this November. I admire everyone who does it, but I just don’t think I’m made of the right stuff! Nonetheless, I’m loving all the NaNoWriMo humor that’s going around, such as this handy NaNoWriMo Pyramid of Consumption.
ROW 80 Update
To recap, my ROW 80 goals:
- 1. Finish outlines for the three books.
- 2. After the outlines are finished, write 4000 words a week on KtLO.
- 3. Write a short short for every meeting of the monthly critique group.
Something surprising happened this week, from Wednesday evening into most of Thursday. I just got absolutely possessed by my outline. It was bizarre – suddenly, after spinning my wheels for a couple weeks, I knew what I needed to do! And then I did it. And I felt like this:
No lie, probably some of this:
But don’t tell anyone
Well, sort of. I reached the end and wrote the summary for the last chapter. But it’s not completed. I kind of developed this habit of changing important things but not going back to make it consistent. For example, there are several characters that feature in the first few chapters that no longer exist in later parts of the outline. So that’s something to work on this week, but I’m still kind of stoked because I know a lot of important things now. There will be around 50 chapters spread over 4 main parts. It’s close third person past tense with 3 POVs.
I also made some important decisions about that first ROW 80 goal. You see, I don’t want to take another month (possibly longer) to write an outline for a book that may never be. Ditto on the third book. Moreover, I don’t think I’m ready to write the second outline. For me to write an outline, I have to know the big points on the map – writing the outline is basically an exercise in connecting A to B and so on. But for this second book in the series, I don’t have the major points yet. And from what I do know, all the events in the first book should remain the same. So, the way I see it, there’s no harm in just jumping into writing the first book. I won’t lie – I’m pretty itchy to get down to the whole writing thing!
Long story short, I’m modifying my ROW 80 goals from finish outlines for the three books to finish outline for the first book. And since I’m pretty much done that, I can cross that first goal off my list! Yay!
As much as I would love to start writing KtLO like right now, I really can’t. I never got around to working on my short short for my critique group, and the deadline is approaching fast. It would also be nice if I could rework another short story (not a short short, about 4,000 words) and send it out. In addition, my dad is visiting with his girlfriend this weekend, which is fantastic since I have not seen my dad in two months, but writing time? Not a thing. I don’t know about you, but I think revising two short stories and an outline is enough work for one week.
So! The week after this coming week, I will definitely start writing KtLO. Like, for reals.