Category Archives: books and reading

Southern Angelic: Adrienne Kress’ Outcast

I don’t usually review the random YA books I read, as I prefer to keep my trashy-fantasy obsession to myself, but I just couldn’t resist with this one.

Also, Outcast is not trashy, and I’m cool with giving it my seal.

“They come out of the sky and take you.  Everyone knows that.”

So begins Outcast, a sweet, sexy, and immensely readable little YA treat, set in religion-happy small-town southern USA, and starring kick-ass Riley Carver, who might just be my new favorite narrative voice in the genre.

Outcast, Adrienne Kress

Once every year, for the past six years, angels have come out of the sky in Riley’s small town and stolen people into the sky.  They never come back.

Riley has been mourning her best friend (and first kiss), taken the year before, when one of the kidnapping seraphim lands in her front yard.  So she does what any self-respecting modern woman would do under the circumstances: she pulls out her mother’s shotgun and shoots the thing in the face. Except she doesn’t just kill an angel… she transforms him into a hot, naked guy from the 1950s.  What?

The action expands from there, evenly divided between the budding friendship and sexual tension between Riley and Gabe (the hot ex-angel in question), and the mystery of annual angel abductions.  Kress also includes some run-of-the-mill dystopian social commentary into the seams of her story, including, but not limited to, some really spot-on-creepy evangelical priest weirdness, and a haunting by one of Magritte’s lovers.  Right up my alley.

The best part of the book, however, is Riley.  She’s strong, funny, and appealingly weird.  I would have stuck around until the end, just to keep listening to her quirky inner commentary.  In a genre where girls are either pathetic (Twilight), or strong, but downright unpleasant (The Hunger Games), it’s a relief to find a truly lovable female lead.

All in all, Outcast is a sweet little book, appropriate for all ages (adults, too), and a very quick read.  It’s well-written, fast-paced, and damn good fun.

So there.  No trashy YA fantasy here.

I’ve read “Green Eggs and Ham” so many times over the past week, I’m starting to go a little crazy.  Luckily, world-renowned, award-winning author Neil Gaiman heard about my predicament, and decided to perform said classic piece of literature on Youtube, to the joy and jubilation of my entire family.

In the full spirit of the Doctor (Seuss), Gaiman has done his utmost to resemble a Seuss character in this video.  Although I’m anti-screen-time for little kiddies in general, somehow this doesn’t bother me, and Charlie has listened to it/watched it approximately 5 times this morning.  Gaiman, judging from this video, lives in a boat-house.  How cool is he?  SO COOL.

Gaiman actually read this in honor of a fundraising goal reached by Patrick Rothfuss’ (another great author) wonderful Heifer International fundraising organization, Worldbuilders.

Art / Fate / Life / Death: Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”

The Goldfinch

So, you’ve decided to read The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.

The scene opens on a young man languishing, feverish, in a hotel room in Amsterdam, pacing and frantic and desperate for escape from tragedy of his own creation: a tragedy we know, somehow viscerally, must involve orphans, Las Vegas, pills, unrequited love, Russian mobsters, murder, and international art theft.  To understand the relevant details of the drama, we are told by our narrator that we must go back to a tragic spring day, 14 years earlier… Continue reading Art / Fate / Life / Death: Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”

“Toward a More Expansive Definition of ‘Princess'”

“Toward a More Expansive Definition of ‘Princess'”

My childhood best friend gave my 19-month-old daughter (read = me) the first two of Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest chronicles for Christmas.  My friend and I read these books together when we were 9 or 10, and we loved every minute of them then.  What we didn’t know was that we were also adding some significant building blocks to our feminist sensibilities in the process.  The above article, published last May in The Atlantic, is both entertaining and thought-provoking.   And, since I’m now re-reading the entire series, in honor of little girls everywhere and the fantastically-low temps outside our windows, I thought I’d share.

Just adding to the princess debate, y’all.

The Secret Life of Wolves: Hilary Mandel’s “Wolf Hall”

I heard an interview once (the source of which has since fallen prey to time and my unreliable memory) with the late, great Madeleine L’Engle.  The great woman of magical-letters says that she created Meg’s family to be perfect, because her family never was.

Margaret Murry, for those who do not know her intimately (as I do), is the heroine of A Wrinkle in Time, and a recurring star in many a L’Engle novel to follow.   She is loving, and clever, but perhaps a bit too clever–nerdy and self-conscience, at least in her youth.  Most important to her story, and those of her brothers, and children: her dedication to her family knows no bounds.
Although Meg is hardly a flawless character, I cannot imagine a young girl (or boy) who could not relate to her, just a little bit.  And how many of us, even now, wouldn’t love to be a child of the Murry family? There is so much love there, and also comfort, between the magic and mystery: isn’t that what we all aim for, in our families?  We could all cross tesseracts, and vanquish the forces of entropy, if we slept in the attic of that big old house, and found angels in the garden. Continue reading The Secret Life of Wolves: Hilary Mandel’s “Wolf Hall”

Surviving Motherhood: things to get excited about, right now

A friend’s dad, visiting from the UK, told me he thought that women made better stay-at-home parents.  This was within the context of my friend, his son, taking 6 weeks off in-between jobs, and going on and on about how great he would be at stay-at-home-dad-ness.  His father didn’t agree.

“It’s just natural [for women to stay home to take care of kids],” he kept saying.  “It’s biological.  It comes naturally to you.”  (By “you”, he apparently meant “all women, everywhere.”)

Really?  Because I don’t know that it comes naturally to me, let alone to most women I know.  Sure, we can give birth, and breastfeed, and all those hormones can make us superhuman, especially when it comes to getting up in the middle of the night.  But being a full-time parent is hard, people!  It’s not the running-about-after, cooking-for, cleaning-up-after a toddler that does me in; it’s the mental exhaustion of doing all these things, all day long, every day, without the built-in adult stimulation that full-time, paid employment brings to the table. Continue reading Surviving Motherhood: things to get excited about, right now