The Brides of Rollrock Island

The Brides of Rollrock Island

By: Margo Lanagan

(http://www.amazon.com/Margo-Lanagan/e/B001IQUOLA)

Ember 2013

A Young Adult fantasy review

Isolated on the sea, Rollrock is a simple island where everyone knows the rules: Work on fishing boats, bear children, and fear the witch.  For a witch can draw beautiful women out from the seals of the sea, and when these changed selkies come to Rollrock the island will also transform.

The shame of seal lineage marks Misskaella, but with power instead of beauty.  The love of seals will only take her so far, but the enchantment of them gives her the means to remake Rollrock completely.  What will men pay for the allure of a seal maid, how strongly will seal blood course through new children, how far can the seal witch reweave her island?  With the voices of witches, and the young of generations, Lanagan weaves a tumultuous, but bewitching tale.

The pace pitches and rolls unevenly, but with the suspense and surety of a sea voyage.  The characters bring you into their depths less with likeability and more with the vividness of their thoughts and the universality of their emotions.  Loneliness, bitterness, and betrayal all become part of Lanagan’s siren song alongside love, desire, and success.  “The Brides of Rollrock Island” explores the importance of control, follows the speedy lanes and jagged byways of blame, and showcases the pull of looks.  Yet the heart of this book, is that everyone must be true to themselves, even though that self may transform completely.  The selkies yearn for the sea, a man alters in response to his home, and “a lad that loves his mother above all” can explain a mire of heart-wrenching evolutions.

Lanagan’s honeyed writing lays a glistening coat over the bitter chocolate of her characters’ rough tales.  Thick with the caffeinated inevitability of time and awakening readers’ taste buds with plenty of sea salt,  “The Brides of Rollrock Island” is something to savor, that sticks with you as the sweet only enlivens the dark.  This book will enchant you with words, steer you through the waves of multiple minds, and submerge you in powerful emotions.  It’s a dark fairytale bursting with magic and connections, strong with life’s tides and haunting choices.  For a look at life’s layers, coats, and hidden currents, Lanagan’s work provides a beautiful vessel.

Top Ten Non-Romance Relationship Books for Thanksgiving

This week I made my own Top Ten list, in honor of the coming holiday: the Top Ten Books where Gratefulness/Support is Key in People who are NOT in Love with One Another. So much of the time in stories, real support or gratefulness is just there to show which person the protagonist should romantically wind up with, and it can and should be there so often when romance is not at all part of the case. Alternatively, it is there as a background plot-point or a side story, rather than being celebrated. I just want to showcase some of the works where non-romantic relationships are the big deal, not a side story.

1. Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennet
-All about new friends, and the food they feed you!
little witch3

2. Diamond Willow by Helen Frost
-Family and animals, and how they overlap!

3. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie
-Family, new friends, and even new acquaintances who turn out to be allies, no matter how good they are at it.

4. Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger
-Family, friends, and animals.
Gwinna

5. The Silent Gondoliers by S. Morgenstern (William Goldman)
-The acts of friendship here, oh how they trump all romance!

6. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
-I love how friendship and support clearly undermines other relationship terms and keeps the heroine going. This is perhaps one of the great reasons why shipping Bitterblue/Giddon revolts me-this book is about the warmth and triumph of friendship-and these readers are flying in the face of that by reading into one of the best friendships in it a romance that was never there!

7. The Merlin Trilogy by Jane Yolen
-Oh, how he connects to people! Family, memories, even the ultimately unworthy who still held his gratitude for a time, it’s all beautiful.

8. The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett
-When Tiffany is your friend, you will wind up grateful.

9. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
-The deepest relationships in here are about family, about friends who become family, and about trust. This is another instance where I get very upset at people who insist that a close friendship ought to have been a romance just because it was the most honest and strong relationship-real gratitude and reliance happens in friendships, too!

10. Entwined by Heather Dixon
-All about family, right to the core, and none of the romances get in the way of that in the slightest.

And 11, because I can: The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas
-Allies, friendship, and teamwork.

How about you? What are some of your favorite non-romance relationships or books?

Top Ten Characters Who Should Get Their Own Books

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week was the top 10 characters we’d like to receive their own books. This was rather tricky as a lot of the books I love, I love because of the protagonist and even when I want there to be more, I want to keep that perspective. Alternatively, there are some books that I would greatly prefer to be rewritten from someone else’s point of view, but that seemed like a separate issue. So, here’s what I’ve got:

Top Ten Characters Who Should Get Their Own Books

1. Lord Akeldama from The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
(Review of first here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/soulless-the-parasol-protectorate-series-1/)
-He’s just so charismatic I don’t care what the book’s about.

2. Madame Lefoux from The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
-I imagine this as her tween/adolescent years where she’s becoming shocking instead of already established, encountering loves, criticizing everyone’s fashion sense, tinkering with everything and getting into lots of trouble, and obviously messing with local hives.

3. Lord Calliston from Incarceron/Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
-I long for this prequel with the creators and first recorders of the prison.

4. The Persian from The Phantom of the Opera by Gason Leroux
-How he got mixed up with the sultan, how he befriended the Phantom, what he got up to after the Phantom…anything.

5. Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
-Of her youth, of course. I imagine it would be a combination of a Miss Marple in-the-making and Harriet the Spy, only one who can get her spy equipment to do things separately, can partially transform her self into what she needs, will fly her broomstick all over getting into the thick and the mess of things, and who always, always, always speaks up, even when she shouldn’t. Now am imagining her meeting a young Sherlock Holmes and how he would deduce that she was a witch and she would make his life miserable for being so uppity, and he would try and steal her broomstick, and she would convince his parents he was going peculiar in the head, and then they’d take him to psychiatrists who put him on awful didn’t-know-they-sucked drugs to prevent it, and THAT’S HOW HE GETS HOOKED ON DRUGS. Every so often she checked in on him because the older-self Minerva felt kinda guilty, but then the Dark Lord popped up and when she remembered him then it was really just to make snarky comments about how much easier he had it with his nemesis. Okay, this is head-cannon now.

6.Saf from Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
(Review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/bitterblue/)
-He has the best grace and I want tales of him traipsing around and using it.

7. Dame Okra Carmine from Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
-She’s so feisty, and had to have had so much trouble covering up her condition, and has such an interesting talent, and somehow became ambassador! I want to know!

8. Maddie from Fever by Lauren DeStefano
-I love her and want her to control the new world and I need to know how she’s doing and that she’s totally going to grow up and achieve a leadership role and make everything better.

9. Bramble from Entwined by Heather Dixon
kn_12dancing
-I want her to go around detecting nefariousness and protecting the weak with her husband’s support and money, and to burst in on all her sisters and their marriage prospects, etc. It’d be nice to get inside her head.

10. Felix from Frederica by Georgette Heyer
-Can you imagine the story of his scandals-come-apprenticeship in early technology and how he falls for the geeky aerator girl and winds up crashed with her and nothing but a jar of restorative pork jelly and the weird science metaphors he’ll use about his feelings, and how the girl’s father will judge him but then be won over and secretly helpful? It would be great.

How about you? Which characters do you want more of? Would you read the Minerva/Sherlock crossover? If Saf used his grace on you what would you want out of it?

Top Ten Books I ReRead

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday (and a Day) by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week was the top 10 Books to Reread. I puzzled about that…Books I’ve reread the most? Books I’d like to reread for the first time? I decided to go with books that I’ve reread a lot in recent memory, as opposed to of all time. So, here it is:

Top Ten Books For My Rereading Pleasure

1. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Every spring. “There had been a long debate in Council on ‘The Advisability of Inviting Fairies to the Christrening.'”
ordinary princess

2. Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger
Gwinna

3. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Every fall, this retelling of Tam Lin. “The Night is Hallow’een, my love, the morni s Hallows’ Day-”
perilousgard2

4. Let Your Mind Alone by James Thurber
-This book includes several wonderful satires about early self-help advice and just humorous essays about life that work wonders about putting things in perspective, covering issues like travel, wanting a javelin, turtle-catching, and solving life problems with index cards, plays, and ghostly visitors. I reread it whenever I need to take my mind off of life-problems or just laugh.
typewriter ribbon-1

5. The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

6. The works of A.A. Milne
“Forget about the crackers, And forget about the candy; I’m sure a box of chocolates Would never come in handy; I don’t like oranges, I don’t want nuts, And I HAVE got a pocket-knife That almost cuts. But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all, Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”
alg_winnie_and_friends_001

7. A Royal Pain by Ellen Conford
-It’s just such a fun one to read out loud. “Right off the bat I have to say that no matter what you may have read in the papers, I don’t think I was such a terrible princess.”
a-royal-pain-img

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
-Have you read those ogre and bird languages out loud? It’s marvelous!

9. The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern (William Goldman)
Princess-Bride-movie_572

10. My Mother, She Killed Me, My Father, He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer
-This collection of fairy tale retellings is spooky, and funny, and touching, and haunting, and wonderful.
My-Mother-She-Killed-Me

Top Ten Characters I’d Dress as for Halloween

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday (and a Day) by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week was the top 10 literary characters I’d want to dress up as for Halloween. This took a lot of pondering as a lot of my favorite characters don’t have any distinguishing costumes…So, here I go:

Top Ten Characters I’d Be for Halloween:

1. Millie Chant from “The Chrestomanci Chronicles” by Diana Wynne Jones
-Extra set of arms, magic, cats, count me in. I’d have to go around explaining who I was and a lot of people wouldn’t know her, but Millie’d be worth it.

christopher-chant

2. Christopher Chant from “The Chrestomanci Chronicles” by Diana Wynne Jones
-This is mainly so I can swan around in his fantastic robes. I need some of those robes in my life.

3. Tiffany Aching from “Wee Free Men” etc., by Terry Pratchett
-I long to wear a green dress and wield a frying pan and measuring tape while eating excellent cheese and feeling witchy. This is also kindof a life goal.

4. The White Witch from “Narnia” by C.S. Lewis
-This just feels like the perfect costume for both eating/distributing sweets and celebrating approaching winter. It also gives the coming season a “This time shall be mine!” spin, which I always like.

5. Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
-I go around quoting him anyway, this character would be a piece of cake. Of sharp, on-point, delicious cake. And if they didn’t recognize this outfit with a girl in them, there’s the easiest fix in the world.

6. The Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carol
-I like hats, I like tea, and I like him. Another character I go around quoting, I feel this would be best for a sit-down costume party.

7. Dorothy from “Wizard of Oz” by Frank L. Baum

-Feels perfect for the night of ghouls to run around going “lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!!” Plus, this is probably the easiest and most recognizable of my choices.

8. Calcifer from “Howl’s Moving Castle” etc., by Diana Wynne Jones
-He is the best and I’m sure whatever costume one could come up with would keep you warm.

9. Jane from “Ironskin”
Ironskin-cover
-She has so many striking looks and one could go around muttering outrageous ragey thoughts whenever taking off your mask…She has a built-in mask!

10. But my ultimate costume, if I could pull this off, would be to go as Baba Yaga in her house on chicken-feet from Russian folklore. Or just the house. Skull fence, chicken-feet, in-character tricks and turns, and getting to cackle all night while demanding payment/food…it would be glorious. Glorious, I say! (If anyone has seen this done or pulled it off themselves, I need pictures.)
babayaga

And that’s me! What costumes appeal to you from the literary world?

“Spinning Straws”

“Spinning Straws”

Afraid my Here’s just a pile of straw,
The flimsiest place of all to hide,
And I see a wolf pacing outside
With dollar-sign eyes and a gaping maw.

Just here spinning dreams of gold,
But can’t know what is real
Or let fears start to heal,
Til the man says one dream’s taken hold.

I entered this space to win more,
Yet what I own is depleted,
And I feel defeated,
So many wisps scatter over the floor.

Maybe I promised my future away,
For what I can’t guess
And now I feel less,
Grasping straws at a name I can’t say.

What name will finally fit?
It seems I have tried-
I know I have sighed,
But still I have failed to find it.

Have I been spinning false gold?
Tossing in my straw bed,
May be losing my head,
I’m not sure I want to be told.

Perhaps there is a one who knows,
Who wants my labors to bear fruit,
And sees the future’s my strong suit,
Where my gold dream is so real it glows…

I’m trying to spin this straw to gold,
As the wolf paces to inspire dread,
And my mind races to ask what’s ahead,
Which name will describe what I hold-

Straw?….Or is it gold?

Bring Me….a Fairy Tale Shrubbery!

So, I was thinking about fairy tales, as you do, and something occurred to me: on a surface, practical level, the lesson of an awful lot of them seems to be that the better gardener will win. Check this out:

1. Beauty and the Beast-The Beast gets the girl because he has the garden with the best roses. If Beauty’s family were better at gardening, she wouldn’t have had to ask for a rose and they wouldn’t have found themselves in that problem in the first place.
beautybeastrose

2. Twelve Dancing Princesses-The gardener just is the one who gets the princess, because she would rather marry a gardener.
kn_12dancing

3. Rapunzel-If the young couple could have just grown their own garden, they never would have had to deal with the witch.

4. Red Riding Hood-If her family had a pretty flower garden, she wouldn’t have needed to wander about the woods for a bouquet or admiring the floral scenery and the wolf’s trick wouldn’t have worked.
Little-Red-Riding-Hood-Final_small_hr

5. Cinderella-how did she manage to get to the ball so quickly and snazzily, AND run away in time for the prince not to see her transformation back to rags while wearing just one flimsy glass shoe? They had a thriving pumpkin patch.

6. Snow White-If the dwarves or Snow White could grow their own fruit they wouldn’t bother with apple-sellers, would they? (Clothing items like combs and ribbons are a different matter of course, but then those were absurdly easy to undo in any case.)

7. The Princess and the Frog-The only positive thing about the princess in most portrayals is that her family had a wonderful garden for the prince-turned-frog to live in, and that is clearly the underlying reason why she manages to marry well. Also, when you’re a frog beautiful gardens are clearly what you look for when you need a princess to kiss you, so that garden lies at the base of the happiness of both title characters.

8. The Juniper Tree-A well-kept tree can even resurrect the dead, in this one!

9. The Wild Swans-If the sister could just have maintained a royal garden once she was queen, she could have slipped some nettles in and not needed to go running around graveyards, getting accused of witchcraft and all the shirts might have been finished!
plucked-nettles-hans-andersens-fairy-tales

10. The Firebird-With no well-grown cherry orchards, this magical creature would not have shown up.

11. Jack and the Beanstalk-If those giants had simply been attentive gardeners, they could have weeded out troublesome beanstalks and kept all their own treasure, at least before a third visit!

As a matter of fact, a lot of fairy tales seem to show that problems arise when people use being in the woods as an excuse not to do their own gardening. It leaves them open to wildflower delays and poisoned fruit. Clearly, we all need to grow our own gardens instead of just hiding behind trees, which is actually quite disappointing since even as a young girl I wanted a yard full of blossoming flowers so I could have that beauty without having to really garden. Yet, look at the evidence! Witches win when they grow thorns. Beautiful gardens attract firebirds, princes, and insightful beauties. Gardening well can get even “villains” new children or keep them out. Maybe I should get one…

Any other fairy tale gardening/shrubberies you can think of? Bring it here and place it here beside this shrubbery, only slightly lower in the comments, so we get the two-level effect…

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