Happy October-versary to me!

October costume
Of course Toby’d wear a bloody Tolkien t-shirt under that leather jacket.

Five Octobers ago, sj introduced me to a wonderful selkie novella called In Sea-Salt Tears, and thus pulled me into Seanan McGuire’s amazing Faerie-verse. Like a totally normal reader, I immediately started my October Daye adventure with Book 5 (because that’s where all the mermaids are, duh), and promptly got confused (but pleasantly so) by all the references to knowes and changelings and such, but also absolutely delighted with all the everyday details of McGuire’s world-building – the scent of each person’s magic; the way they swear using phrases like “Oak and ash” and “Root and branch” and “Oberon’s balls”; the way they blend 21st-century mortal life with the older/more timeless Faerie forms; the way the faery characters are both unearthly and totally human in their feelings and actions; the way Faerie completely accepts LGBT characters as just a natural part of society…

I love the way this world is structured, from its roots to its youngest branches, from the Big Three to the Firstborn to all the faerie races, from the purebloods to the mixed-bloods to the changelings, from the deeper realms to the Summerlands to the mortal-side San Francisco apartments. I love the urban fantasy adventures we get to go on that blend mundane mystery/adventure plots with supernatural settings and details – murder mysteries involving magical weapons, missing children trapped in half-mortal shallowings, drug rings selling goblin fruit…

These books aren’t perfect. The series, like October herself, goes through a learning curve, working out the plot holes and the characters (*cough* Toby *cough*) making stupid decisions and Maeve’s teeth the repetition and Captain Obvious comments (see my October Daye drinking game for some more fun Toby tropes). Even the newest books have a few kinks in the story thread, a few places where I went from

popcorn

to

confused

But the memorable characters and incredible world-building make up for the pitfalls, and keep me wanting to know, What happens next? Will the Luidaeg end her contract with the selkies? Will Simon Torquill be saved? Will Luna and Rayseline ever forgive Toby for waking him up?  What the freaking oak and ash is going to happen with the county of Tamed Lightning after April and Toby’s totally world-altering actions in Of Things Unknown?

So far, we’ve seen Toby avert two wars, solve a bunch of murders, find dozens of missing children, thwart a plot to turn Faerie completely digital, battle the ancient and nasty inspiration for the Snow White story, perform a few resurrections, consistently turn the male-hero-rescuing-female-damsel trope upside down, and now… and now. And now, she’s finally getting to the heart of Faerie’s biggest issues. Now she’s getting closer to figuring out why the Big Three left in the first place and locked up the deeper realms. I have a feeling we’ll be meeting Oberon, Titania, and Maeve in person by the series’ end. I’m calling it. I’m ready to place bets. I’m with this series for the long haul.

P.S.  On a totally random note, this is my mental movie cast:

jennifer-connelly-2
Toby/May Daye

Benedict Cumberbatch
Tybalt, the local King of Cats

Ziva Temptation
The Luidaeg, singing “Poor, Unfortunate Souls” at Toby’s bachelorette party.  Best moment in the whole series.

Seven_of_Nine_2376
April O’Leary, the cyber Dryad

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Posted in fantasy, folklore/fairy tales, Halloween, LGBTQIA, mermaids, selkies | 2 Comments

Ghastly stories for the biggest scare-seekers

Do you keep a night light on on Halloween, just in case?  Do thoughts of the undead keep you unrested?  Or are you all about the vampire bats and the plague-haunted castles and the vengeful murder victims come back to punish the criminals?  If you’re a Halloween thrill-seeker, these next three books may be for you.

The first is a recent work of nonfiction aimed at middle-grade+ readers, while the second and third are collections of literary comics and short stories more appropriate for readers with a higher tolerance for horror.

Anna Claybourne.  Don’t Read This Book Before Bed.  Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2017.

Don't Read this Book

Scare Level:  5 out of 10 Gruesome Guinea Worms

This recent book from National Geographic Kids is an encyclopedia of the world’s spookiest subjects, from the terrifyingly true to the positively paranormal, from zombie ants to presidential poltergeists, with several creepy quizzes in between (“How Woooooooo Are You?” was one of my favorites).  The neatest thing about this book is that each subject is accompanied by a Fright-O-Meter rating that warns readers just how scary that subject is.  Those with a low tolerance for terror might want to stick to the sections on space jelly and déjà vu, while those who don’t mind more mind-bending subjects can check out the sections on scary skin-dwellers and the Tower of London.

Though, some of the Fright-O-Meter ratings had me scratching my head; frog rain gets a whopping 10 on the meter, while parasites that eat your tongue and then live on in its place only gets a 2 (well, ok, so they really only affect fish, BUT STILL!!!).  And they actually have a section on butterfly migration.  Butterflies.  Granted, that one gets an understandable 1 on the meter, but really?  Butterflies?

Manny butterflies

To each their own phobias, I guess.  (Turns out, there is such a thing as lepidopterophobia, or the fear of butterflies.  Who knew?)

. . . . .

Gareth Hinds.  Poe: Stories and Poems.  Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2017.

Poe cover

Scare Level:  6.75 out of 10 writhing, ravenous rats

For this collection, Hinds has chosen some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories and poems to illustrate, from “The Tell-Tale Heart” to “The Cask of Amontillado” to “Annabel Lee.”  What I thought was especially neat was how, before each of the stories, he includes a “Poe Checklist” of the biggest themes in Poe’s work — from angels and demons to creepy animals to guilty consciences (or lack thereof).

I have to say, the art itself took a second reading to grow on me.  At first, I was a little underwhelmed by characters and scenes that looked a bit too cheerful and bright.  This is purely a matter of personal taste, of course, (and maybe a touch of snobbery) but with my reading of the mood of Poe’s stories, I was expecting something more sinister throughout, something that really captures the horror at the center of the story, even in the initial, more benign scenes that build up to the main horrifying scene or event.

For example, the walk through the catacombs in “The Cask of Amontillado” seemed too quick and too well-lit to really give you a sense of growing dread as you go deeper and deeper underground.  And in “The Masque of the Red Death,” the ball certainly looks delightful, but you don’t really get a sense of how desperately outrageous and over-the-top and dream-like it is, in contrast to the ironically simple, yet too-offensive appearance of the final visitor.  It feels like those scenes are rushed-through on the way to the main event, and so you lose the sense of dread that really builds up the scary event.

Where the art does get creepier, though, it’s pretty darn creepy.

Red Death

I will say, “The Pit and the Pendulum” was the one story that benefited from being condensed, skipping Poe’s long description of the trial before you get to the torture chamber, which I think already has enough build-up to the horrifying pit and pendulum.  And I really liked the way Hinds depicted the narrator’s exploration of the chamber in a series of wordless chalk-like images against a simple black background.

I also really liked the illustration of the raven in the eponymous poem, with its feathers that transform into skeletal hands and skulls.  That was really cool.

Raven

Overall, it’s a good introduction to Poe’s most famous stories and poems.  You get the gist of each story, and you can’t go wrong with images of swarming rats and dismemberment when you want to seriously creep out your readers; I definitely recommend going back and reading the original works, though, to get the full measure of dread and horror.

. . . . .

Deborah Noyes, ed.  The Restless Dead.  Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2007.

restlessdead

Scare Level:  8.75 out of 10 realizations that you dug up the wrong grave

II’m giving this one such a high Scare Level purely because of “Bad Things” and “Honey in the Wound,” the most gruesome stories in the collection.  You’ve got your devil worshippers, your corpse mutilation, your amputations gone wrong, your homophobic teenage guys who use the idea of being gay as an insult…what more do you need for a truly terrifying Halloween read?

These are stories of the dead not resting in peace, the dearly departed souls who want revenge, or company, or just to play some pranks or keep partying in the living world some more.

A few notable titles besides “Honey” and “Bad Things” include:

“The Wrong Grave,” by Kelly Link — my favorite part was the matter-of-fact, somewhat sarcastic first-person p.o.v. that never reveals who exactly he or she is, other than someone who knows the protagonist from school (I do have a theory), but somehow knows all the innermost thoughts and feelings of Miles Sperry, a doofus who goes grave-digging one night for his recently departed girlfriend (more specifically, for the poems he mistakenly buried with his girlfriend), only to discover he’s dug up some other girl’s grave instead, and now she wants to ditch her dirty digs and follow him around instead.

wah wah

“The Heart of Another,” by Marcus Sedgwick — This is a Poe-inspired story about a graduate student who recently had heart surgery, and who now finds she has some new abilities and personality traits, along with some really unsettling re-occurring dreams.  Unable to simply enjoy her second shot at life, the narrator becomes obsessed with finding out whose heart she was given.  Except the answer reveals something terrible she might have been better off not knowing.  This was definitely one of the spookier stories in the collection, with a twist as good as the one in “The Wrong Grave.”

“The Gray Boy’s Work,” by M. T. Anderson — This was my favorite story, next to “The Wrong Grave,” because it has the most unique paranormal characters.  Ezra and his family live in a valley visited by singing omens and angelic chariots that give news from the Revolutionary War.  When Ezra’s father leaves to serve, the family is personally visited by a pair of angels, Victory and Despair, one blindfolded and one fanged, who just sort of hang around, being mysterious and a little creepy.  And then, when the father returns, the angels bring forth another spirit, the Grey Boy, to haunt the family for the father’s sins…or maybe it’s not so simple as that.

. . . . .

What about you?  Are you a Halloween thrill-seeker, or do you prefer to let sleeping corpses lie?  What are some of your favorite literary chillers?

Posted in comics, Halloween, nonfiction, poetry, short stories, spooky | 6 Comments

Halloween board books for the youngest goblins (and anyone who likes a fun story)

Halloween Month continues with the following series of seasonal stories for the youngest readers.  Today, we are going to look at five board books perfect for getting babies and toddlers (and anyone who enjoys a fun story) into the spirit of the season.

First, an ode to a classic Halloween treat, and other things shaped like it:

candy-corn

Candy Corn is a cat who loves looking for all sorts of triangle shapes on Halloween.

candy-corn2

candy-corn3

It’s a short book, showing five triangle-shaped items before ending with a wish that “Halloween went on and on!”  Be sure to check out the other Halloween shape books by Kelly Asbury:  Frankensquare and Witch Dot.  Apparently, they all glow in the dark!

* * *

Next, the tale of a wiener dog who goes from joke butt to hometown hero on Halloween night.

hallo-wiener

It’s not Oscar’s fault he reminds everyone of an Oscar Mayer wiener.

hallo-wiener3

All the other dogs at obedience school (and the neighborhood cats) make fun of him, and his mother doesn’t help when she makes him a hot dog costume for Halloween.  Not wanting to hurt her feelings, Oscar agrees to wear it, secretly expecting this Halloween to be a bummer.

hallo-wiener4

Little does he know that tonight will be an opportunity for some Halloween heroism.

It’s an adorably funny story about discovering your talents and using what you have to help others.  Also, that dog catcher costume is the cleverest, amirite?

* * *

Third, a tribute to the Halloween tradition of Trunk or Treating:

Trunk or Treat

It’s apparently a tradition at some schools, churches and in rural areas for people to decorate their cars like parade floats, fill their trunks with goodies, and gather in big parking lots for children to trick or treat from car to car.  The book follows one girl and her family as they attend their own Trunk or Treat festival, starting their journey with a Noah’s Ark car:

Trunk or Treat2
Friendly PSA: “Native American” is a diverse group of living cultures, guys, not a Halloween costume.

And moving on through pirate cars and Wild West cars, and so on.  This book will inspire readers to find their nearest Trunk or Treat festival, or even start one of their own!

* * *

Fourth, a lift-the-flap/pop-up book full of creepy crawlies.

halloween-bugs

Halloween Bugs4

Halloween Bugs5

Who’s behind the magical door?  And the whimsical door?  And the rusty iron door?  Just lift the flaps to find out!  The story ends with all the creepy crawlies gathering in a graveyard full of funny tombstones (srsly, be sure to read each one 🙂 ).

* * *

Finally, a hilarious book about a group of chickens who apparently didn’t get the memo about Halloween.

Eek! Halloween!

“There’s a big round moon in a dark, dark sky.  The chickens are nervous.  Do you know why?  It’s because…”

Eek! Halloween! 2

Flickery-eyed pumpkins, witches and wizards, ducks with  monster feet…what could it mean?!  Silly chickens, it’s just Halloween!  This book is an awesome addition to the Boynton library of goofy animal tales.  These bug-eyed, bewildered chickens are sure to elicit plenty of giggles from your favorite trick or treaters this Halloween.

* * *

How about you, Postcardians?  Do you have any favorite Halloween board books that aren’t on this list?

Posted in board books, Halloween | 2 Comments

Enough

I really debated posting this. Is a book blog really the place to get political? Shouldn’t I just stick to the fun, uplifting posts that let people forget about the terrible things that happen in Real Life? But at some point, I can’t just look away anymore and say nothing. At some point, enough. Is. Enough.

No, we’re not the only country with this problem. PolitiFact has a great post comparing the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. versus in ten other countries.

But just because it’s common doesn’t make the situation acceptable. At some point, we have to decide that these constant mass shootings are not simply “the price of freedom” in America.

And let’s get one thing straight: talking about gun control is NOT talking about banning all guns, or preventing law-abiding citizens from owning guns. It’s NOT about denying law-abiding citizens their second amendment right to bear arms. It’s about paying attention to the first half of the second amendment – the part that says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” (emphasis mine) – in addition to the more popular second half. It seems the Founding Fathers intended “the right to bear arms” to be a controlled, orderly business, not a free-for-all.

Now, I don’t know if universal background checks or closing the gun show loophole will prevent the next shooting. I really don’t. I just know I don’t want to wait around for the next shooting to have an honest, rational discussion about how to make it harder for the wrong people to get their hands on a weapon intended to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. It’s not impossible to stop this from happening again. It’s not just something we have to get used to as members of a “free country.”

And I know. I know you can’t tell with every person. I know there will be people who show no warning signs and jump through all the legal hoops and still find a way to commit mass murder. But can we at least make it less likely for that to happen? Isn’t that a worthwhile goal?

 

 

Posted in opinion | 7 Comments

Nostalgic Double Feature: October Edition

It’s that awesomest time of year again, the month for reading spooky, paranormal stories; stocking up on snack-size Butterfingers; and putting together your kick-@$$ October Daye costume.

This month, I’m prepared with several Halloween posts featuring nostalgic middle grade titles, a series of seasonal board books, and (true) stories for the biggest scare-seekers.

Today, we take a look at two haunted house stories from the late 80s and early 90s. Both books feature a move from the “soul killing” city to a small town out in the country—a move celebrated by one protagonist and hated by the other—and historic houses haunted by long-ago tragedies that seem to be affecting the behavior of the new inhabitants/neighbors.

Wait Till Helen ComesMary Downing Hahn. Wait Till Helen Comes. New York: Clarion Books, 1986.  Kindle ed.

Rating: 3.95 out of 5 hidden graves with your bratty stepsister’s initials carved into the stone

Molly is seriously bummed when her mother and stepfather announce they are moving away from the excitement of Baltimore to an abandoned church in a sleepy small town in Maryland. What’s worse, their new home is next to a scary old graveyard. And worst of all, Molly will have to constantly watch her stepsister while the parents are busy with their art projects. Heather hates her new stepfamily, and is constantly getting Molly and her brother in trouble. But when a local ghost latches onto Heather and beings luring her away from the family, to a dangerous ruin in the woods, Molly realizes that sometimes, the most difficult people are the ones who need the most love.

Mary Downing Hahn is known for her scary stories, and this one is certainly creepy enough, with its focus on a skeletal seven-year-old ghost girl with bluish-white skin and dark holes for eyes. And Hahn builds up the creepiness in other parts of the story, like in the narrator’s contemplation of her own skeleton that would someday lie in a grave, and her eerily beautiful description of the forest, with its “unfriendly” trees that “[brood] like giants on the verge of waking from bad dreams.” [1]

About the same age as Molly when I first read the book, I could definitely feel the unfairness of the whole situation from her perspective – especially the part about her having to miss out on a creative writing class in Baltimore 😦  And I totally hated the way the stepfather, Dave, was so wrapped around his daughter’s finger and always put her interests above the other two kids’ – especially Molly’s. He’d do everything in his power to keep Heather from being upset, but he’d completely dismiss Molly’s feelings.

“Just don’t inflict your own fears on Heather, Molly. You’ve been fretting about that graveyard ever since we moved in here. It doesn’t bother anybody else, so forget it, okay?” [2]

What a jerk, right? Of course, looking back on the story from an adult’s perspective, I can better understand why Dave acts the way he does; he’s grieving over the death of his first wife, and has translated that grief into an obsession with keeping his daughter happy, to keep her from remembering the trauma she experienced. I also better understand Molly’s mother when she seems to unfairly take Heather’s side – she’s trying to be sympathetic to her stepdaughter despite the girl’s hostility, yet she also does try to understand how tough the situation is on her older kids. She sees how important Heather is to Dave, and she wants to make Dave happy, but she also wants to be loyal to Molly and Michael.

Still, even as an adult I was offended for Molly every time Dave scolded her or made fun of her concerns, or when her mother told her she wasn’t trying hard enough with Heather.

The one thing that really didn’t work for me this time was the ending. Not to spoil anything, but it doesn’t make sense, first of all, that the scene in the basement only happens now, after a hundred years. I guess maybe ghost time is a lot slower than living time? It just feels like a conflict that could have been resolved decades earlier.

And the way everything so easily gets better after the climax is a little unbelievable. Certain characters’ behavior just changes suddenly, with no need for professional counseling or anything. Yeah, it’s suggested that the presence of the ghost girl was amplifying the bad feelings between the family members, but there were issues that already existed before they moved out to the country that wouldn’t simply disappear along with Helen’s unfinished business.

Overall, though, it’s a pretty good ghost story. It probably creeped me out more when I was a middle-grade reader, but it was still pretty enjoyable now.

* * * * *

Kathryn Reiss. Time Windows. Orlando: Harcourt, 1991.  Kindle ed.Time Windows

Rating:  5 out of 5 terror-inducing waves of magnolia

Now, this was an awesomely eerie, unique haunted house story! Time-warping dollhouses, airtight hiding places, an old house that has some sort of hostile influence over its inhabitants, and all around, the nauseating scent of magnolia blossoms. Why is Miranda so afraid every time she smells magnolia blossoms? The extreme sense of unease and déjà vu build up throughout the story until Miranda finally figures out why her new house seems to have such a negative effect on the people who live there.

Miranda is thrilled by her family’s move from the overly hectic and crowded New York City to the wide-open spaces of Garnet, Massachusetts. She loves their spooky old house, and is immediately drawn to the attic, where she discovers a dollhouse that is an exact replica of her new home. And then she discovers the most amazing thing of all – when she looks through the dollhouse windows, she sees into the past, watching the lives of the house’s previous inhabitants. She soon becomes obsessed with the dollhouse, determined to find out what exactly happened so long ago that has given the house such a hostile atmosphere.

Besides the spookiness, I loved the juxtaposition of the earlier time periods with the present day attitudes toward women who work outside the home. Even the cold, cruel Lucinda becomes a somewhat more sympathetic character when you consider what a chauvinist her husband is about her wish to be a lawyer or work in business. Contrast that with the present-day inhabitants of the Galworthy house – Miranda’s mother is the one who provides for the family as a doctor while Miranda’s father stays home with Miranda.

And I really liked the history-laced setting; Garnet is a traditional New England small town involved in the Revolutionary War. Miranda lives next door to a family-owned museum that used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. She watches through the dollhouse windows as a family from the 1940s discusses sugar rationing and air raids.

And this is random, but I always like when stories describe music as something powerful, almost magical. Ok, not actually magical in this case, just emotionally magical — something that can entrance you, that can soothe or stimulate, a dream-like experience.

She didn’t know whether what happened when she played was a strange thing or not—maybe, indeed, all people experienced the same sort of thing when they concentrated on something important to them. But when Miranda played her flute, she would find herself falling into the music, into the story it told. After the first few minutes of warming up, she no longer noticed her fingers on the keys or her mouth on the mouthpiece, controlling the flow of air. Instead, she was off in some other place, listening to the music as if she herself were not playing it, but as if it flowed through her from some other source. [3]

And finally, again not to spoil anything, but the Happily Ever After makes a lot more sense in this book than in the previous one; there’s a much stronger reason things get better so suddenly.

There’s more I could say about this book, but it would be getting too deep into spoiler territory. I’ll just say that I definitely recommend Time Windows to anyone looking for a unique haunted house story.

Let the Halloween Month shenanigans begin!

________________________

[1] Wait Till Helen Comes. Pg. 73

[2] Pg. 57

[3] Time Windows. Loc. 2379

Posted in family, fantasy, Halloween, historical, nostalgic, re-reads, spooky | Leave a comment

Out of Book Experience: selkie-hunting in Maine

For one last summer adventure, my mom and I decided to travel northeast for a week, soaking up some mermaid vibes and writing inspiration in Kennebunkport, Maine.  It was also a throwback to one of my childhood favorites, the first selkie book I ever read — Sylvia Peck’s Seal Child (previously reviewed here and here) — as well as a chance to practice some (very amateur) wave watching as learned in Tristan Gooley’s How To Read Water: Clues, Signs & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea, and even to take a Seven Tears
at High Tide
-inspired trip to a local amusement park.

Gooch's Beach selkie
Yup.  I totally met a real-live selkie, posing for tourists.

I’d forgotten how cozy the mood and setting of Seal Child are, but re-reading it before the trip, I was taken back to long winter nights by the fire, drinking French-style coffee and eating hot fudge, listening to local sea lore; long summer days picking berries and making pies, taking long beach walks with your dog, buying candy sticks from the general store; summer nights spent swimming in the local pond…

Of course, my trip to Maine was a lot more touristy than Molly’s; I stayed at a hotel instead of a cottage, ordered lobster rolls and clam chowder from the famous Clam Shack instead of preparing my own meals, and spent my week partaking in such touristy activities as souvenir shopping and lobster boat touring instead of baking pies and listening to stories told by old friends.

Kylie's Chance

To be fair, my biggest reason for taking the Kylie’s Chance lobster boat tour was the promised stop at Bumpkin Island, a well-known gathering place for harbor seals.  They were kind of hard to spot that day, but they were there.  And I did ask around a bit about local seal stories, and discovered this absolutely lovely book by local artist Mimi Gregoire Carpenter, the tale of a boy who pretends to be a harbor seal for a day.

Henry Harbor Seal

The illustrations are wild and whimsical full-page images of seal pups and mermaids and sea dragons, and the story teaches good lessons for beach tourists, like which sandy treasures to leave alone (anything that’s still alive).

Another day, inspired by Kevin and Morgan’s trip to the county fair in Seven Tears at High Tide, I took a day trip thirty minutes up the coast to Old Orchard Beach to check out the beachside Palace Playland.  I didn’t go on any rides (unfortunate motion sickness as discovered on the otherwise-awesome lobster boat tour), but I dutifully spent some quarters at the arcade (I recommend the giant Connect Four and the classic Ms. Pac-Man), and stopped for a Morgan-inspired plate of fried fish ‘n chips at The Shack.

Palace Playland 3

Back in Kennebunkport, I spent the late afternoon/evening sitting on Gooch’s Beach, watching the surfers and boogie-boarders ride the waves.  I watched the foam spilling off the tops of the breaking waves like some invisible hand folding over the edges of a pie crust.  Back home, I re-read the chapter on ocean waves in Tristan Gooley’s book to decide whether I’d been watching spilling, plunging, or surging waves.

Old Orchard Beach copy
Spilling waves with spindrift (wind whipping off the crest of the wave in an airy spray)

Some non-OOBE experiences worth mentioning

Where to eat:

Those lobster rolls at the Clam Shack were worth every penny of the $20 price.  I also really liked the ones at Linda Bean’s Lobster Cafe at the Portland Jetport.  Pro tip:  order a bowl of clam chowder on the side and dunk the sandwich in periodically.  You’ll thank me.

The best breakfast of the week was at the Edgewater Inn’s On the Edge restaurant (thank you, Yelp!).  They bring you French Press coffee and a mini appetizer tray before your meal — a spoonful of polenta and another spoonful of pineapple upside-down cake in our case.  As for the meal, I highly recommend the Cove Side Benedict, with its baked polenta base, pesto, and basil hollandaise sauce.

IMG_2107

For dessert, check out Rococo Artisan Ice Cream, which boasts unique flavors like Goat Cheese Blackberry Chambord, Maine Whoopie Pie, and Sweet Avocado Cayenne, among less hair-raising options like Dark Chocolate, Honey Vanilla, and Passion Fruit with Chocolate Chips.

Coffee

Besides the French Press coffee at On the Edge, I also really enjoyed the Dirty Chai at H. B. Provisions, a general store along the main drag (Western Ave.), and the medium-dark roast Old Port blend at Mornings in Paris, a small cafe near the corner of Western and Beach Ave.  For even more coffee and coffee-related products, check out Coffee Roasters of the Kennebunks, where you’ll find plenty of French Press and Chemex coffee makers, lots of whimsical mugs, as well as variously flavored olive oils, habanero chili lime peanuts, and Korean roasted seaweed (tastes kind of like zucchini).

Where to stay

My mom and I chose the Franciscan Guest House next to St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery, for its low rates and Lithuanian connections.  The monastery was bought by Lithuanian Franciscans in 1947, and is surrounded by shrines and monuments, as well as a beautiful set of woodland walking paths that take you along the Kennebunk River.

Stations
Shrine of the Stations of the Cross

How about you, fellow Postcardians?  Any exciting trips this past summer?  Any Out of Book Experiences?

Posted in out-of-book experiences, selkies | 4 Comments

Sovereign

April Daniels. Sovereign. New York: Diversion Books, 2017

Sovereign

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 epic space battles involving the Hubble Space Telescope

You know what’s really fun? Reading superhero stories while listening to my Chillectronic station on Pandora. The eerie, techno, sometimes surreal strains of Tycho, Monolake, Yppah, and Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra are awesome accompaniments to superhero battles.

Sovereign begins nine months after the events of Dreadnought. Danny is officially Dreadnought #4, in charge of protecting New Port from criminals and supervillains, and she’s loving every fighting minute of it. After years of emotional abuse at home, she’s finally free, and she finally has the power.

But things aren’t perfect for the fifteen-year-old rookie hero. She may be “mightier than a battleship, faster than a jet, and so on,” but she still has to deal with the media hounding her about her private life, the transphobic Graywytch still trying to screw things up for her, the increasing tension between herself and Sarah/Calamity, and oh yeah, there’s this huge mass of “exotic matter” approaching from space that could affect the magic and superpowers of everyone on Earth.

So, there are plenty of new battles for Danny to fight, but Sovereign also does a great job following up on the conflicts it introduced in Dreadnought. Danny may be physically free of her parents, but all those years of abuse don’t just disappear. The emotional scars are affecting her in battle, and the people around her are beginning to worry that Danny is abusing her powers.

“Do you know how to make someone become a dangerously violent person?” Doc stops pacing. “It’s basically a recipe. You hold them down and treat them like shit. Destroy their self-esteem, strip away all their pride, all their self-respect. Then you give them a chance to solve a problem with violence, and when they do, you immediately reward them.” Doc takes a breath. “Does that sound like anyone you know?” [1]

This is an important part of the world-building in Dreadnought and Sovereign.  The story not only raises questions about where magic and superpowers come from, and how “capes” have to work with the regular law enforcement and abide by government regulations, but also just what happens to someone who can suddenly superpower their way out of their problems.

A few more awesome things:

  • I mentioned the world-building in terms of the philosophical and ethical questions surrounding superpowers, and the tense relationship between “capes” and the police, but there’s also the awesome fact that Danny isn’t actually the first or only transgender superhero in this world – she’s just the most “mainstream” one, and she realizes pretty soon how her rise to fame is affecting the other trans “capes” who’ve been working longer, with fewer social or political rewards.
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  • And then there’s also just these really awesome little aspects of this society, like the fact that superheroes have their own global convention every few years in Antarctica – a convention with vendor booths selling hypertech gadgets and “bystander insurance,” and panels on superhero involvement in social media.
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  • I totally called it! The good ship Calaminought is full steam ahead, and as much as I like Dreadnought for focusing on non-romantic conflicts, I’m also fully in favor of Danny/Sarah being explored in the sequels.
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  • This is the kind of story that can really pull off the present tense p.o.v. because it’s full of blow-by-blow action that feels even more intense in the present tense.

Some nitpicks:

  • The one thing I’m really ambivalent about is how freaking long it takes Doc to get Danny proper help after she realizes Danny might be abusing her powers. She keeps acting surprised every time Danny goes too far, and wondering if maybe she should be benched for a while, but… well, ok, I get it. There’s this life-and-death situation that really needs to be dealt with, and it seems like Danny’s the only one who can deal with it at the moment, and also Doc is dealing with her own demons that are clouding her judgment, so maybe her slowness in getting Danny help isn’t so unbelievable.  It’s just really unfortunate.
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  • There is one issue I wish Sovereign had picked up again from Dreadnought.  Doc Impossible briefly explained the situation between the old Legion and Calamity’s father, which raised questions about superheroes’ right and responsibility to hold the government accountable.  I would have expected that to still be a sore spot between Calamity and Doc, and between Sarah and Danny, something they’d continue to debate, but the issue was just dropped after Dreadnought.
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  • Ok, I can’t really talk about the final conflict without spoiling, so I’ll just say that the effects of said conflict are kind of confusing; the story could have been clearer on why some characters were affected and some weren’t.
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  • I don’t like the way Danny refers to her friend Charlie as “a skinny black kid” when she first introduces him to us, and comments that his mother has “a black June Cleaver vibe going on,” instead of just saying she has “a June Cleaver vibe going on.” It feels disrespectful to emphasize a character’s skin color as the first and most distinctive thing the reader should notice about them.  It might be different if race were an issue in the story, something that Danny would have reason to point out… although, now that I think about it, she did grow up with a homophobic a$$hole shouting derogatory things at her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had some pretty racist attitudes as well, which affected Danny’s view of the world.  But if that were the case, it should have been explicitly addressed as something problematic that Danny realized about herself.

Overall

From the Teen Brigade and Young Avengers, to the Jersey City super community, to the new Legion Pacifica, I’ve met some really kick-ass superheroes this summer.  Sovereign and Dreadnought are awesome additions not only to the LGBT-centric superhero sphere, but to the superhero genre as a whole, addressing age-old questions about the ethics of “beat[ing] people up for money,” how far a superhero can and should go in the name of justice, and when justice really becomes catharsis.  Basically, just because you can punch a person into next year doesn’t mean you should.

I’m not sure if April Daniels plans to continue the Nemesis series; as far as the “Nemesis” aspect of it goes, there was a pretty good sense of closure at the end of Sovereign.  But I could certainly see there being more to explore in this world (like the aftermath of that final conflict, for one thing.  It was kind of a big deal).  If Daniels keeps going, I plan to keep reading.

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[1] Pg. 93

Posted in fantasy, favorites, LGBTQIA, music, romantic, summer of superheroes | Leave a comment

Comics follow-up: summer of superheroes (and Nordic kid adventurers)

Back in late April/early May, partly with the help of Free Comic Book Day, I dipped into several new (or at least recent) franchises, discovering some awesome titles such as America, Ms. Marvel, and the Hildafolk comics by Luke Pearson.  I spoke a little about the awesomeness of watching a lesbian Latina superhero punch Hitler, and the first Muslim American teen superhero fighting stereotypes and totally-not-bird-men-supervillains in not-quite-New York (Jersey City, NJ), and a stylish little girl adventuring across a “Nordic mythscape.”

Since then, I’ve delved deeper into the origins of America Chavez and Kamala Khan, and all the pre-FCBD adventures of Hilda, and have discovered several more awesome themes across this slice of the comicsphere.

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Note:  SPOILERS ahead for all of the comics discussed.

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LGBT representation

Ok, so I already mentioned LGBT themes in my last comics post, but America wasn’t actually the first or only LGBT character in her previous comics.  The 15-issue Young Avengers series, in which America first came out as gay, features a nearly-all-LGBT cast — from the bisexual Prodigy, Marvel Boy, and maybe Kate “Hawkeye” Bishop, to the couple at the center of the story, Hulkling and Wiccan, who actually save the multiverse with the power of their True Love.

Young Avengers 2
See what she did there?

The more recent issues of Ms. Marvel also feature a lesbian character — Zoe Zimmer, who started out as a concern troll/bully, but turned a complete 180 after an almost apocalypse made her reconsider her priorities and admit some things to herself she’d been trying to ignore.  Her secret crush on Kamala’s best friend, Nakia, is a big plot point in the latest collection, Damage Per Second, in which a particularly nasty computer virus threatens to publish her not-quite-deleted love letters to the whole school if Ms. Marvel doesn’t do its evil bidding.

Oh, and ok, I know I already had a whole post on the awesomeness of Lumberjanes, but I just have to share this adorable Mal/Molly moment from the latest issue:

Lumberjanes
Awwww

Family is not a hindrance

In one of their page-bottom notes in Strong Female Protagonist Vol. 1, authors Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag comment on the tendency for writers to make their superhero protagonists orphans so that family life doesn’t get in the way of their superheroing duties (and also to give their heroes a properly tragic backstory).  This is certainly the case for America, whose mothers sacrificed themselves to save the multiverse when she was six years old.  Most of the members of the Young Avengers team are also parentally-unencumbered, and in fact, the central plot of the series has them trying to fight/escape the possessed ghosts of their parents led by one soul-eating monster simply called the Mother.

Like Mulligan and Ostertag, the writers of Ms. Marvel subvert this no-family trend, making family a central component of Kamala’s life.  She may be a superhero tasked with saving Jersey City from evil gerrymandering and “downtown revitalization” plots and well-meaning-but-totally-unethical Minority Report-style precrime-fighting endeavors, but she still has to make time for important family functions.

Ms Marvel 2
And Iron Man’s like, Of course you should hang out with your family, kid! That’s your real job!

The Hilda comics also subvert the trope of parents being oblivious to and uninvolved in their kids’ magical adventures (well, ok, that’s partly because Hilda and her mom live in a world where magic is just a part of life, like the constantly migrating bear heads that float past their house…they’re called woffs).  Hilda’s mom knows exactly what’s going on every time Hilda claims to just be going out for some fresh air or to return a library book.  Hilda’s mom wants in.

Hilda 2

Social Media and other 21st century world-building

So, as I mentioned in my last comics post, characters like Kamala and America appeal to a modern audience by using modern vocab and technology.  Young Avengers was billed as a comic for the Tumblr generation.  Three months of superheroing are summarized in a page of Twitstagram posts.  The members of America’s first teen superhero team in Vengeance text each other mid-battle and mid-night-clubbing.  Ms. Marvel de-stresses by writing Avengers fanfic and playing an online RPG game, and fights that nasty virus I mentioned earlier by joining forces with her fellow players (in an admittedly not-advisable real-life midnight meet-up in an empty convenience store).

Ms Marvel 3

Only the Hilda comics resist this trend by focusing on a more timeless fairytale setting.  Even in the big city of Trolberg, TVs are the most advanced technology they have, and Hilda would much rather spend her time outside, playing with salt lions by the sea and flying over the hills on giant thunderbirds.  Honestly, I like both styles, the modern and the timeless; they’re both relatable in their own way.  I like watching Kid Loki’s online banter with Marvel Boy and Hawkeye about the use of the word “smooch,” and watching Kamala (a.k.a. SlothBaby) fight giant boss battles in World of Battlecraft, but I also like stepping back into that “Nordic mythscape” with its nature-based adventures — hills full of rock trolls and mountain giants (like, giants that are also mountains).

Overall

One of the most fun parts of exploring the America and Ms. Marvel ‘verses has been meeting characters from other series, and having my interest in their stories piqued. Characters like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Miles Morales!Spiderman, and the members of A-Force.  I want to know more about Wakanda and what’s been going on with the Dora Milaje (I think it’s a super team led by King T’challa? Please feel free to make fun of my lack of knowledge, if you’re a Black Panther fan).  I want to see how Civil War II went down in the other parts of the Marvel ‘verse.

And of course I’m totally waiting for the next Hilda collection, to see how the changeling story continues, with Hilda as a newbie troll and the troll baby stuck in Hilda’s home.

I like being a newbie comics nerd.  I like going back to my local comics shop (and library.  My local library system has the best comics collection, and if they don’t have something? Inter-library loan FTW!) every month for the latest issues, and discovering new characters to follow.

Fellow comics nerds, sound out!  Who are your favorite characters?  Has Free Comic Book Day introduced you to any new favorites?  Want to school me on some of the story arcs and characters I briefly mentioned just now?  Go for it!

Posted in comics, family, fantasy, folklore/fairy tales, LGBTQIA, romantic, summer of superheroes | 2 Comments

Dreadnought

DreadnoughtApril Daniels. Dreadnought. New York: Diversion Books, 2017.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 color-changing costumes with built-in USB ports

It’s been a summer of superheroes for me. I’ve been keeping up with the new America comics every month, as well as catching up on some of America Chavez’s previous iterations in Young Avengers, The Ultimates, A-Force, and her very first appearance in Vengeance. I’ve also been catching up on all the Ms. Marvels, but more on all of those in a future post.

First, let’s talk Dreadnought. There have been a couple of great firsts in the superhero sphere in recent years – the first lesbian Latina super, the first Muslim American super, and now the first transgender super.

New Port City is home to a super team called the Legion Pacifica, and their MVP is Dreadnought. “Mightier than a battleship, faster than a jet, and so on,” Dreadnought is America’s first and most famous metahuman, and he is not supposed to be lying in a crumpled heap in an alley after a supervillain attack. [1] But that’s exactly how Danny Tozer finds him. And that’s when something completely surreal happens.

In his dying moments, Dreadnought passes the mantle onto Danny (apparently being “Dreadnought” is like being “the Dread Pirate Roberts”), and part of taking the mantle means that Danny’s body gets to transform into what she’s always wanted. But the awesome thing about this story is that it doesn’t make this The Moment Everything Was Perfect From Now On. Danny still has to fight for her happily ever after. She still has to deal with terrible people like her father, her former best friend David, and some of the members of Legion Pacifica who aren’t ok with the new Dreadnought being a transgender woman.

Basically, Danny may have gotten an opportunity that no one outside of a fantasy book ever gets, but she still has to deal with real life obstacles, and neither her superpowers, nor her new body, make those obstacles any easier to overcome.  Which is not at all to say that I enjoyed reading the terrible way Danny was treated at home, or the snarky comments Graywytch kept making.  Some parts were pretty hard to read, actually.

So, Dreadnought is no Queer Utopia. On the other hand, does it fall into the equally problematic category of Queer Tragedy™? The story does pile a series of more-than-microaggressions onto Danny, plot points that lead to a semi-climax that centers on her queer identity. And one of those plot points is a pretty horrible father who bullies Danny with classic derogatory language and hatred of anything that’s not hetero-manly.  I might have called him a straw homophobe at first glance, but there are people who are just that cruel and abusive.

But notice how I said the agressions only lead to a semi-climax. The major climax has nothing to do with Danny being transgender, but rather her identity as the new Dreadnought. In other words, I think the story balances well between showing real-life problems that do happen to some members of the LGBTQIA community and focusing on plot points that have nothing to do with a person’s queer identity.

Oh, and the other great thing is that the story doesn’t suggest that Danny’s fantasy transformation makes her more “real” as a woman than she was before, or that there’s such a thing as the “right” female body, or even that Danny is no longer transgender now that her body more closely matches her identity.

A few nitpicks

One thing that lowered my rating was the way the metahuman community is separated into categories of “whitecapes” and “blackcapes,” the former of course being the good guys and the latter being the villains. I’ve said before how I really don’t like that dichotomy of whiteness = good vs. blackness = evil. That kind of ideology can and has been used against people for centuries. It’s just become so easy to use these black and white categories in our language, but there must be some other way to label good and bad. Any fun ideas? Leave them in the comments!

There were also some moments that required some pretty big suspension of disbelief – like how quickly Danny’s school administration adjusted to her transformation. They knew her only as a boy before, and all it took was her mother vouching for her identity for them to agree that the new girl was actually Danny Tozer. I guess the whole superheroes-and-magic-exist thing made the admins much less easily surprised by unusual events?

And then there was the moment where Danny privately wondered whether a person who became disabled could continue superheroing, and her view was never challenged.

Overall

The sequel, Sovereign, just came out at the end of July, and I’m totally going for it. OtherSovereign than that problematic whitecapes vs. blackcapes business, Daniels has done some very nice worldbuilding in Dreadnought that I’d like to explore a bit more. What’s going to happen with the Legion now? How is Danny going to fit in with them, and how is she going to handle her new fame as the official Dreadnought #4? What is Nemesis and how is it going to affect Earth? Are Danny and Sarah going to become an item? (wait, is that just me hoping that? 😉 ) On that last note, though, I will say Dreadnought is another of those refreshing new YAs that don’t tack on an unnecessary romance for their teen female protagonists.

Let the Summer of Superheroes continue!

 

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[1] Pg. 8

Posted in family, fantasy, favorites, LGBTQIA, summer of superheroes | Leave a comment

Classic Juv/YA Fantasy: The Princess Bride

PrincessBridecoverWilliam Goldman. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure. Orlando: Harcourt, 2007.

Rating: 4.85 out of 5 chocolate-covered resurrection pills

Rating #2: This book is so good I read it twice in a row, and I keep going back to all the pages I dog-eared, re-reading all the clever lines and funny moments.

So, this is one of those instances where I saw the movie first. Of course I saw the movie first – it’s a childhood classic. It’s the “good parts edition” of Goldman’s “good parts edition,” leaving out most of the (admittedly awesome – more on that later) authorial interruptions. It’s one of the most quotable films ever, with such gems as “As you wish,” and “Have fun storming the castle!” and “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Inigo Montoya sticker

And Goldman doesn’t blame me one bit. He already knew, by the time the 1998 edition of the book was published, that most new readers would have seen the movie first. “I doubt that my publishers would have sprung for this edition if the movie hadn’t happened,” he says in his intro to the 25th anniversary edition. “If you’re reading this, dollars to donuts you’ve seen the movie.”

Now, I may be cheating just a bit, calling this a Classic Juv/YA fantasy. At least at my local library, the book is located in the adult section. But Goldman-the-narrator insists that The Princess Bride – at least his “good parts edition” – is a children’s classic. And I, too, am positive it’s the kind of story that would appeal at least to teen readers (younger readers might get bored by all the authorial interruptions, and there’s a brief, mild sex scene in the Buttercup’s Baby chapter), so I’m going to take blogger’s license and say it counts.

There’s so much I want to talk about with this book – the meta-ness, the memorable characters, the way it both parodies and yet matches the fairy tale style – but some of what I want to talk about includes spoilers – even for those of you who’ve seen the movie – so I’m going to split this post into two pages. For the non-spoiler edition, you can safely continue reading. For the spoilers, go to page 2.

Meta Madness

This is one of the most meta books I’ve ever read. I mentioned in my review of My Lady Jane that that book mimics The Princess Bride with its authorial interruptions and parenthetical comments. Well, MLJ is a totally straightforward, one-level story compared to The Princess Bride. The premise of Goldman’s story is that it’s an annotated abridgement of an original, much longer book by an obscure writer from a small European country, which is based on real people and events. Even Goldman’s introductions add to the story, describing his travels to Florin; his legal battles with the Morgenstern estate; his fight for permission to abridge at least the first chapter of the sequel, Buttercup’s Baby; and his interactions with the cast and crew of the movie.

Did you know Andre the Giant actually climbed the Cliffs of Insanity in preparation for his role as Fezzik? I didn’t know that. And you can actually see the six-fingered sword if you go to the Morgenstern Museum in Florin!

giphy1

Throughout the story, Goldman-the-narrator interrupts the action to remember his childhood reactions to the story as read to him by his father; to mention the long, boring passages his father had skipped, and which Goldman in turn left out of his “good parts edition”; and to warn us about upcoming events that just don’t seem fair or poetically just, considering this is supposed to be a fairy tale, and fairy tales are supposed to be fair, aren’t they?

A Modern Fairy Tale (Parody?)

The thing about fairy tales, though, is that even the original tales weren’t always fair or in line with the rules of poetic justice. Sometimes the villains got away. Sometimes the heroes died before their “happily ever afters.” Sometimes “true love” fizzled at the first inconvenience. Read stories like the “The Yellow Dwarf,” “The Princess Mayblossom,” and Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood,” for examples.

So Morgenstern/Goldman’s “unfair” fairy tale really isn’t out of line with other tales. It’s a satire on tales of true love and heroics, but even some of the classic tales seem like a challenge to the happily-ever-after type.

Fairy tale characters

One big way in which The Princess Bride mimics/parodies classic fairy tales is through its use of extreme characters – people with extraordinary talents or attributes, like Buttercup, the most beautiful woman in the world; Domingo, the hermit who makes swords that are more than masterpieces, swords “for the ages”; Inigo, the fencer who is so good he can fence with his non-dominant hand, using a sword made for someone with an extra finger; Fezzik, the giant fighter who was adult-size since he was a toddler; Humperdinck, the expert hunter who’s so good he builds himself a five-level Zoo of Death just to exercise his skills; and Westley, the lover so true he can ignore torture just by focusing his mind on his beloved.

Yet, Goldman’s protagonists are more than two-dimensional wonder men and women. Fezzik and Inigo get fully fleshed-out backstories describing their childhoods and the work it took to become who they are today. Actually, they remind me a lot of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with their insecurities that they keep proving wrong without realizing it. Like when Inigo insists he can’t accomplish his ultimate goal of avenging his father without Vizzini doing the thinking for him, but then figures out a plan all by himself. Or when Fezzik keeps insisting on his own stupidity and uselessness, but manages to find Inigo and nurse him back to health all by himself, and also gets those horses when they’re most needed.

Westley apparently has a backstory, too, though it’s in the unpublished chapters of Buttercup’s Baby, but his realism comes more from those moments when, despite his extreme strength of will, he does get a little weary of all those heroic deeds. “I’m tired, Buttercup,” he tells his beloved. “[D]o you understand tired? I’ve put in a night, is what I’m trying to get through to you.” [1]

Even Princess Buttercup herself is more than just a stereotypical damsel in distress.

Princess Buttercup

I’ve got mixed feelings about Buttercup. Just in that description of the wonder characters, you can see the problem – the one female protagonist is just there as eye candy, while the men get to do all the action and heroics, right? Goldman, Westley, and even Buttercup herself like to periodically comment on her airheadedness. She spends most of the story just sitting/standing by and waiting for either Westley or Humperdinck to rescue her. There’s even a moment (and this is where the book lost some points with me) when Westley refers to Buttercup as his property and orders her around. Oh, and slaps her at one point.  And the movie lost points in the Fire Swamp, when Buttercup just stood helplessly by while Westley was being attacked by an R.O.U.S. (ok, she did eventually pick up a stick and start swatting at it, but for the most part? She’s pretty useless in that scene).

Fire Swamp

Yet, this is all part of the parody, isn’t it? Goldman is poking fun at those fairy tales in which the princess just sits in a tower or sleeps for a hundred years or passively goes along with whichever man wins her in a contest.

But Buttercup isn’t entirely passive, and this, too, is part of the parody. “Enough about my beauty,” she tells Westley at one point, after he’s been waxing poetic about her physical attributes. “Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I’ve got a mind, Westley. Talk about that.” [2] And though her mind never “expand[s] horizons,” she does eventually see through Humperdinck’s lies, tries twice to get away from her kidnappers, and takes charge several times when all the male protagonists are at their wits’ end.

And she doesn’t let true love get in the way of her self-interest. It may be an unattractive quality according to other characters, but I kind of give Buttercup props for that moment of selfishness in the Fire Swamp, even as I love the more noble Buttercup in the movie.

So, on the one hand, Goldman makes Buttercup a typical damsel in distress waiting for her true love to rescue her, but on the other hand, she doesn’t want to be just “a silly girl” with a pretty face, and over the course of the story, she develops more independent thought and heroism, putting her more in line with the clever girls and women in fairy tales like “The Snow Queen,” “Allerleirauh,” and “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.”

A Modern Tale of True Love and High Adventure

And so, Goldman’s story is both a meta satire on true love tales, and a pretty classic fairy tale in and of itself. In any case, it’s one of my new favorite books ever. The movie I loved just as much, though its tone is totally different. Yes, there is still the frame story of the little boy being read the story while he’s sick in bed, and there are the few interruptions, but for the most part, the movie is a straightforward love story. My best friend and I were talking about this recently, and we realized the big difference between the movie and the book — you can really feel that Buttercup and Westley are in love in the movie, whereas the book is a satire that makes you keep questioning the depth of that love (at least on one side — more on page 2). And I love them both.

Posted in Classic Juv/YA fantasy, fantasy, favorites, folklore/fairy tales, humor, meta, movies, romantic, satire | 4 Comments