The Other Alice
by Michelle Harrison
What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This is a story about one of those stories . . .
Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and ? most of all ? stories. Especially because he’s grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.
When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.
But every tale has its villains ? and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all . . . (goodreads.com)
Oh, internet. How can I express how much love I have for this novel? I have all of the feelings but I cannot find the words. So let me first tell you a bit about why I read this book – I read the book because it was written by Michelle Harrison, an author whose books have filled me with such joy and wonder that I need to read EVERY! STORY! SHE! EVER! WRITES! I kid you not.
Her first book was about faeries. If you know me, you know how I feel about faeries. The title even had the word “treasure” in it, and I looooooooove treasure. And the title also had the number 13 in it, and that’s like, my favourite number. And the story captured me fully. As did the next novel, and the next. I was sad when I ran out of Michelle Harrison books to read. I was reading them faster that she was writing them! (Work on that, MH.) Then I found out that a new story was being written, and this story had the name “Alice” in the title, and I looooooove the name Alice because: Alice in Wonderland. So of course I was mega-excited.
And THEN Michelle asked on the facebooks to help name something in her novel. There was a narrowboat in the book that a character lived on and she was trying to name it. I commented with a few brilliant ideas (note this was at the same time the internet named a research ship Boaty McBoatface, so you can get an idea of my brilliance!). I also added one real idea: Elsewhere. Because that word is just everything to me.
Best word/concept/feeling EVER.
And I won the comment poll, or whatever you want to call it. So my name is actually IN this book in the acknowledgements at the end and I am so excited to see my name in print. It’s almost like I wrote the entire novel MYSELF. (Right!?)
So, this new novel (that I totes helped write) is about a girl who vanishes and leaves a story unfinished, and about her brother who is trying to find her and help finish the story. Because scary things are happening, and magical things, and all of the things, and it’s just such a fantastically written story about stories that I never wanted it to end. I wish I had this book in my life when I was 10 years old. I seriously do. It has every element within it that I love dearly. The whimsy and magicalness of it all made me so giddy I was bouncing while reading it at times. I am 40 years old, internet, and I was so giddy about the whimsy in this book that I could not contain my happiness while reading.
I even love the concept of having a Museum of Unfinished Stories. Doesn’t that just sound delicious and delightful? The idea of it just swells around me with possibility!
I pre-ordered a copy of this book myself, but I also received a signed copy from the author because, as I mentioned, I did help write the darned thing. I will be gifting the non-signed copy this month to someone I hope enjoys it as much as I did. Here’s hoping. It was tough to find a hard copy of the book outside of the UK. It seems to be available only as an eBook on Canadian retailer sites, though I got my BOOK from the Book Depository UK shop (which I think was because I am in Canada. If you are in the US I don’t think it lets you order from the UK site?)
I haven’t blogged much at all this year, nor have I read very much (I’m up to 16 books though!), but I wanted to write about The Other Alice because it was a book that my soul needed so badly this summer. It was a perfect weekend escape for me when I needed to find solace in a more imaginative, whimsical space than what real life throws at us. I am now, sadly, out of Michelle Harrison books to read once more. I guess I’ll send her a note to help with the writing of her next novel, since I am obviously a much needed part of her process. 😉
If you love magical middle grade books, with very well developed characters, then I highly recommend you read everything you can get your hands on by Michelle Harrison. Her novels are worth everything.
Stolen (Magic Thief, #1)
by Sarah Prineas
Hullo! I’m actually going to blog about some books. Can you believe it? In fact, I’ll be blogging about a few series I think. I have been on a huge Middle Grade reading roll thanks to my newly awesome library and I have discovered a few series that I can’t believe I waited this long to check out.
The first amazing series I discovered–and devoured!–is The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas. The first book, Stolen, introduces us to Conn, a young boy who lives in the gutters in Twilight. He is a pickpocket and a thief. He has quick hands and is somewhere between the age of 12 and 14 (he doesn’t know). He semi-successfully picks the pocket of Nevery, a Wizard. From there a relationship is formed, although slightly one-sided. Conn is certain that Nevery took him home to be his apprentice, whereas Nevery was under the impression he was taking Conn on as a servant. Conn does NOT make a good servant.
The books are narrated by Conn, though broken up by journal entries by Nevery, Rowan (the Dutchess’ daughter), and letters between Conn and Nevery. These little interludes are artistically done, so it feels like you’re reading handwritten pages. They break up the narration nicely and add to the story. Conn eventually becomes the apprentice he hopes to be and searches for his own Locus Magicalicus (magical stone) so that he might be a real wizard. Odd things tend to happen around Conn, and he seems to have a connection with the city’s magic that no one else has.
The narration is humourous and Conn is such a likable character. He’s not very talkative, and I love the way his responses to what people say to him are actually more to himself, inside his head. He isn’t a typical protagonist in that he’s not surprised that he has magic, or whining that he has to undertake tasks or quests. He is very matter-of-fact about what is presented to him and it’s refreshing in some ways to read a book like this. He is so certain that he’s Nevery’s apprentice that it ends up being so. As though Conn knows what should happen, and what will happen (not in a telepathic way) and it just takes others a little longer to see the logic of Conn’s original thought.
Lost (Magic Thief, #2)
Conn is convinced that the magic in their city is alive, yet the other Wizards (including Nevery for a time) don’t believe him. Conn can hear the magic speak to him when he creates explosions. Only explosions are illegal in Wellmet and to be caught would mean being exiled from the city. Of course Conn isn’t one to follow rules he feels are illogical, so he continues to do his own thing. And although I thought I would find this bratty, I was never once annoyed by something Conn did. He wasn’t the sort of main character who makes stupid decisions. All of his decisions, you learn quickly, are actually logical and he’s never out to harm anyone or cause trouble. Not intentionally. Conn just has a way of looking at things that make sense to him. If something seems out of tune, he can figure out how to tune it back up. The problem is everyone else doesn’t see his path and therefore think he’s up to no good. Eventually Nevery, along with Rowan, and Nevery’s bodyguard/cook/housekeeper Bennet, clue in to Conn’s intelligence and they try to help him in his own way.
In the second book, Lost, Conn is exiled but takes this opportunity to travel to another city, the city of Desh, because that seems to be where the magic is telling him to go. The magic keeps Conn out of Wellmet, exile or not. Until Conn can figure out what the Magic wants from him in Desh, he’s going there on his own. He does spend some time in the company of Rowan and her diplomatic envoy, but mostly, he’s up to his own devices and almost gets himself killed a few times.
This poor boy ends up in so many dungeon/prison cells. Oy.
Found (Magic Thief, #3)
The third book in this series validated my own guess about what the magic was back in the middle of book one. I was quite pleased with myself about this you know. Heh. Again, this series surprised me with how the “unoriginal” plot ended up being original. I was certain that Conn was going to have some sort of magical connection with all dragons and that he and Pip would be fast, fast friends. In fact I thought a dragon was going to be Conn’s new (and second) Locus Magicalicus. I was slightly wrong. He’s no dragon whisperer, but he still approaches dragons like he does everything else. Logically – to him. He thinks something should be a certain way and he just acts as though it already is, even if it isn’t.
I don’t know if I am explaining this correctly, but it’s the only way I can think of to verbalize it.
All three books have those fun letter/journal snippets breaking up the narrative and I just adore them. I love Nevery to pieces. He’s so grumpy and gruff, but he’s got this soft heart that he tries to hide. The manner in which is journal entries are written always made me giggle and just made me love the character more. I think it helped that he reminded me of someone I used to work with. 😉
There is so much adventure, magic, humour, and fun within these pages. I am shocked that I didn’t look into this series sooner. I think I was just sceptical that it would seem too Harry Potter-ish (it’s NOTHING like HP), or too unoriginal, but it’s not. Unlike the Septimus Heap series (which is a little too Harry Potter-ish, and silly for my tastes), this book held me captive. I only borrowed the first two books of the three the library had. Just in case I didn’t like them, or someone needed the third book. (Don’t ask. I feel greedy if I take out an entire series at once.) but I read those two books in less than 24 hours and I headed right back to the library to pick up the third book. I am thrilled to find out that the fourth book – Home – is due out in about a month’s time. I think I want to buy this entire series for my niece. Or, you know, myself.
I tried writing about these books without giving too much away, but since I seem to be one of the last people to actually read them, you might not be spoiled by anything. But if you haven’t read them, and you’re a Middle Grade and Fantasy fan? Go out and get yourselves some copies now. They are amazing. Enchanting. Magical. Super fun and entertaining!
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
by Rita Leganski
Conceived in love and possibility, Bonaventure Arrow didn’t make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. No one knows Bonaventure’s silence is filled with resonance – a miraculous gift of rarified hearing that encompasses the Universe of Every Single Sound. Growing up in the big house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, Bonaventure can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He can also hear the gentle voice of his father, William Arrow, shot dead before Bonaventure was born by a mysterious stranger known only as the Wanderer.
Bonaventure’s remarkable gift of listening promises salvation to the souls who love him: his beautiful young mother, Dancy, haunted by the death of her husband; his Grand-mere Letice, plagued by grief and long-buried guilt she locks away in a chapel; and his father, William, whose roaming spirit must fix the wreckage of the past. With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed. (goodreads.com)
I am a failure at blogging lately. I’m still here, just seem to have other priorities and am enjoying reading more than writing lately. That being said, I haven’t read much in June at all (what’s that? Oh, yes, I will be back-dating this post. ;)) May was an epic reading streak for me this year and I also have to say that HarperCollins has been on an epic streak of publishing AMAZING literature in 2013. The last bunch of books I have been reading have been from HarperCollins and I have BOUGHT them all.
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is a book you want to savour as you read it. Much like The Golem and the Jinni this is a book you want to spend quality time with – just you and the book. I actually read this book in 5 hours from start to finish and carried my eReader around the house with me and read as I did various things that day. I was completely captivated by the story-telling in this novel. I felt cocooned by the warmth and magic of Bonaventure Arrow’s life and story. I felt warm and safe and content all through reading this book and the feeling stayed with me long after I was done.
I loved the idea of a Bonaventure in the world. A being who never speaks but can experience life in a magical way through sound and feelings. The mystery of Bonaventure Arrow’s father’s death was also completely enthralling and the ending of the novel took me by surprise. Not once did I make a connection as to how the events would unfold.
Every single character in this story is so rich and full you think they might be people you know in your every-day life. You know them, you can almost touch them. They are tangible beings whom you miss deeply the second the story ends.
My one regret about this novel is that I don’t own a hard-copy edition of it. I bought it on my Kobo and I think that having read it being able to touch and smell the paper it’s written on would have added so much more to my experience. I have a habit of loving the experience of a book from story to physical object. Those elements always come together and make my love of a good book even stronger. I am pretty sure I will eventually have to buy a copy of the physical book to have in my collection because I will certainly read this story again and I now need to experience it on paper.
However you experience this book, I truly encourage you to experience it. It will make your insides all warm and fuzzy and you’ll be happy knowing you have witnessed an extraordinary piece of art.
The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master-the husband who commissioned her-dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free-an unbreakable band of iron around his wrist binds him to the physical world.
Overwhelmed by the incessant longing and fears of the humans around her, the cautious and tentative Chava-imbued with extraordinary physical strength-fears losing control and inflicting harm. Baptized by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, the handsome and capricious Ahmad-an entity of inquisitive intelligence and carefree pleasure-chafes at monotony and human dullness. Like their immigrant neighbors, the Golem and the Jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place while masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them. (snipped for length)(goodreads.com)
This was not a book I was able to read quickly. That isn’t a bad thing, just a weird one for me. I am so used to just skipping through books like they are candy. I tried to read this book in small bursts and on the train ride to Toronto, but I just couldn’t focus on it. There was an entire middle-grade class AND a screaming baby on the 4.5 hour trip and even with my headphones on I could not find the brain space to focus on this book.
The Golem and the Jinni is a beautiful book. The writing, the mood the characters are all so dense. This is real literature and therefore I have trouble reading it at my regular pace. I needed to savour every word and sentence. I was lost in the many side stories for each of the characters we met. I loved the Rabbi who ends up caring for Chava. I loved Chava. The Jinni grew on me because at first I didn’t care much for him.
The way all of these stories are woven together was just magic. Think of liquid gold swirling through the night sky. Fire and fog mixing together. There was a hushed sort of feeling surrounding me as I read. I was comforted and disturbed at the same time. Curious and calm. And then, with the last quarter of the book, a sense of urgency as things started to come together.
I felt like I was reading forever when I really only read about 20 pages in a sitting at the start. The story wasn’t boring in any way, it was just a story you cannot rush through. You really have to wade through each page in order to digest and savour it. It’s such a dense and meaty book that you need to devote the time to spend with it, lest you be robbed of the magic it holds.
I first heard about this novel from The Savvy Reader back in the fall. She tweeted that she couldn’t wait for spring and the release of this book into the world. Once she linked to the summary I knew I had to obtain this book. The title, the cover and the summary just ate at my soul until everything ached for this book. The only way I could stop thinking about it was to go out to the store and buy it and that’s what I did, the day before it was actually due out. However, because I couldn’t find the time to devote to the novel, I ended up reading it slower than I wanted to. In the end, I am happy I spent a day, once I was home from my trip and off from work, to finish this story. I read outside in the sun on the back deck in my rocking chair. I read in the shade. I read in the house. I read all over the place that one day until every last drop of story was done and I could close the book with a contented sigh.
The Golem and the Jinni truly is an amazing, beautiful book and I am so happy it came into my life.
House of Secrets (Book 1)
by Ned Vizzini & Chris Columbus
The Walker kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games . . . but everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by Denver Kristoff, a troubled writer with a penchant for the occult.
Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Walker family’s secret history and save their parents . . . and maybe even the world. (goodreads.com)
Ever since I heard Ned Vizzini speak at the 2010 Teen Author Carnival in NYC I have been a huge fan of his. I loved It’s Kind of a Funny Story and The Other Normals very much so when I heard he was co-authoring a middle grade novel I was beyond delighted!
I broke my book buying ban to get this book because I needed something fun in my life and the book was just so GORGEOUS. See below!
I packed this monstrosity of a book in my suitcase as soon as I picked it up from the post office. It was coming with me on my weekend trip to Toronto whether or not we could fit it in the baggage. (I was going to make sure it fit!) The book was SO GOOD that I almost didn’t want to go and do the things we’d gone away to do because I wanted to stay in the hotel bed and read! However, we didn’t spend all that money and promise to visit people only to have me locked away in a hotel room, so I sucked it up and did what I needed to do. heh
This book was just so much fun. So. Much. Fun! I like stories where siblings get along and discover magical, fantastical places and have to work together – each with their own strengths! – to save their lives or the world, or whatever. I just love those kinds of stories. And this story and the house in San Francisco, is magical and adventurous and there are giant bugs and warriors and pirates and, unfortunately, sharks (my only negative about the entire book. THAT FIN ON THE COVER GAVE ME NIGHTMARES!)
This story has something for everyone, girls, boys, kids, adults… you name it! I think that’s part of what I loved so much about the story, there’s mystery, magic, adventure, action and you can laugh and be scared at the same time. It was certainly a quick and enjoyable read and just hit all the right spots when it comes to middle grade adventure!
I liked all three of the kids in this book, too, which surprised me. Normally there’s at least one that I won’t like (and sadly, it tends to be the brother almost all of the time!) but in The House of Secrets I liked all three siblings, but I didn’t care much for the additional “friends” that were made along the way. I didn’t hate them, but I thought the Royal Airforce dude was a little snooty for my liking.
I even liked the pirates and I’m not normally a pirate fan. As scary as they were, I found them very enjoyable.
So, yeah, imaginations have full permission to run wild with this story and I can’t wait to read more from these two authors. I gather what with this one being all “Book One!” and everything that there will be more adventures lurking around the corners in Kristoff House and I cannot wait to find out what those adventures will be!