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.
All Fall Down by Ally Carter
Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:
1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.
As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.
Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. (goodreads.com)
I didn’t know about this new series from Ally Carter until I saw it mentioned on a friend’s blog. I was thrilled when I discovered my library actually had it in stock. I don’t think anything else Ally Carter will write will ever compare to the Gallagher Girls series in my mind, but it’s a fun mystery. What I missed in this story, that I loved in the GG series, was the depth of the side characters. I felt like all the “friends” that Grace had in All Fall Down were sort of flat, and bland. Perhaps they will be better fleshed out in the sequel. I’d like to know more about them.
I do like stories where you can’t trust anyone though, and this was certainly one of those! Even Grace isn’t the most reliable main character. 😉 Suppose I should keep an eye out for the second book to show up at my library.
The Truth About Alice
by Jennifer Mathieu
Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party.
But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car?
It’s true. Ask ANYBODY.
Rumor has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control. (goodreads.com)
Look at me! Two books read so far this year! And just yesterday, my Goodreads challenge widget was yelling at me; telling me I was already behind schedule to reach my goal of 50 books read for the year. That challenge widget is a bully. It needs to chill out a little. I mean, I get most of my reading done in the summer, so two weeks into the new year, it shouldn’t be all “WHY AREN’T YOU DOING ANYTHING BUT READING RIGHT NOW? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” Chill out, widget. Chill.
Ok, so I am going to admit that I thought this was a suicide book. You know, a book about suicide. Or depression and stuff. And since I have a (healthy) obsession with mental illness novels, I was very interested in reading it. I have been wanting to read The Truth About Alice for a while now, but since I wasn’t really buying books last year, I didn’t. My library did not have it in their system. But then I got gift cards for Christmas (yay!) and so the book buying, I had been avoiding for most of 2014, was happily reactivated in 2015. Woo!
Thing is, this book is NOT a suicide book. (Spoiler? I guess not. I mean, it’s not like I’m ruining any part of the plot. It’s not part of the plot at all.) It is a book about bullying though. And I also like to read about those stories, too.
I realize this makes me sound… crazy? Or something. But really, when I am in certain moods, I find books about these subjects slightly comforting. It’s like listening to sad songs when you’re, well, sad. You just wallow and let your emotions run rampant. It’s freeing. It might be a little Emo, but whatever. It’s better than holing up in a dark room and hiding from the world. I was in a sunny, living room, surrounded by my husband and fluffy dogs and reading. It was cathartic.
The other thing about this book is that it is told in multiple points of view. Not something I normally care for, but a) this caught me my surprise (because I don’t read reviews anymore, and just pick books up when I read a summary that clicks with me) and b) I realized very quickly that I liked the flow of the story from the points of view of the characters.
Four characters. None of them Alice herself.
The popular girl.
Alice’s best friend, and in the popular crowd.
The best friend of the popular boy who died.
The weird, genius kid that no one ever speaks to.
And they all talk about Alice. They tell you their versions of her story. And I can hear each individual so clearly through their chapters. I found them all believable. I could actually see this happening and how it happened, and why it happened.
Teenagers are shallow creatures. Social status is often way more important that long-lasting friendships. Meaningful relationships. Teenagers are cruel. Teen girls are mean. Teen boys can be hurtful.
Anyone can be a bully. Anyone can be a friend. Anyone can be an enemy – even if there’s no reason to be an enemy. Sometimes teen years are a constant battle between opposing forces that appear and disappear overnight. Jealousy, insecurity, pride, are all accelerants in the explosive fires of teenage drama. And sometimes there are innocent casualties.
So, yeah. I did think this was a book about suicide. Especially since the story is told by everyone except Alice. So I was expecting the worst and yet… the story has an ending I wasn’t thinking I was going to get. And it surprised me. And it made me sit back, close the book, and say out loud, “Huh.”
This was a quick read; it’s not a very long book, but it’s one I enjoyed. It makes me happy when I start the year with books that really click with me. Especially when I have been so meh about books lately. I have had such trouble with stories holding my attention. So these two books I have finished since January 1st? They make me happy.
Which is why I wanted to blog about them.
PS – I found it immensely weird to be reading a book about a town with my last name. Seriously. That is highly unusual.
by Meg Wolitzer
I stopped blogging about books last year. I wasn’t reading many books as it was, and the thought of having to find time to write about what I just read (and edit the cover images the way I do) was way too overwhelming. I was broken for a while; I was healing for a while. I think I am still healing, and always will be. And although I am still not reading nearly as much as I used to, I have rediscovered the desire to blog about the occasional book I have read.
So, to start things off well for my OCD… I am going to tell you about the first book I read, and finished, in 2015. Belzhar is a young adult novel about a girl named Jam who experiences a bit of a breakdown and is sent away to a school in Vermont called The Wooden Barn. This school helps teens heal from their problems without medication and without having to go to a psychiatric hospital. It’s a sort of half-way house in a way.
I thought this book was going to be a lot more like a retelling of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar because that book is one of the topics in this story. I was surprised with the turn the story took and the way everything unfolded. It wasn’t what I thought the book was going to be and I liked that a lot.
Jam is selected for an “elite” Special Topics in English class. Elite in the way that only four or five students are selected in a semester. The class, taught by the older Mrs. Q, only learns one author for the semester. The semester that Jam enters, that author is Sylvia Plath. There are four other students in the class, two other girls, and two boys. Each student is given a red leather journal to write in. They are two write twice a week and turn in the journals at the end of the semester.
There was something about this book that resonated with me. I always have a special place in my heart for books about teens with mental illness, and although this wasn’t exactly the kind of story I thought it would be, I was very engaged in the story. I might have thought Jam was a little over-the-top with her infatuation over her dead boyfriend (after knowing him only 41 days), but I got that she was trying to deal with the grief of losing him, so of course she would be dwelling on their time together. Jam was actually the character I found the least interesting of all 5 students in that class.
There are many mixed reviews out there about this book. I was reading some after I read the book myself and enjoyed it. I wanted to see what other people thought. I completely understand the problems some readers had with the story, and yet for some reason, I don’t have the same problems. I feel like I would have them normally because the points made are really very valid. There is little character development in the story, but that honestly didn’t bother me when I read it. I was fully enjoying what I was reading as it was presented, and I didn’t think much into what wasn’t there. I think there are many ways to tell a story about mental illness, and this was one that had a twist I wasn’t expecting. I don’t think this makes it less meaningful, or disrespectful of people with mental illness. I like to think of it as art. Not everyone will paint a flower or an apple the same way. There are different ways to visualize your interpretation of an object. Someone’s flower might look nothing like a flower, but to them, that’s how they want to show it to the world, or how they see it. There was nothing in this story that made me think that mental illness is a joke, or not a real thing. It was just a lighter version of a very heavy subject.
I am pleased with my first read of 2015, and I hope that my ability to read, and get lost in story, will come back to me this year. I have a bunch of “outside-of-my-comfort-zone” books on a list that looked interesting to me, and I hope to branch out in my reading this year. I will stop when I need to stop a book, I will read whatever interests me at the time. And perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll blog about the books I read. Obviously that’s all happening here on my personal blog, as I closed up shop on my book blog last year.
I’m trying to find the joy in my regularly enjoyed activities again. I feel like 1 3/4 years after my trauma, I should be able to find myself again. No pressure, but sometimes you have to manually put yourself back up on that horse and let muscle memory take over.
Have you read any great books about mental illness (not just YA)? I’d love to know about them. I have a nice collection of books about issues like this: depression, suicide, eating disorders. I know it sounds weird, but I find these sorts of books comforting. And helpful with my own healing process.