Happy Day of Sloth!

You probably won’t believe me (okay, maybe you will), but I’ve been looking for an excuse to publish a post about the best lil’ beast in the world: the sloth. Maybe you’ve never heard of these creatures. Maybe you think they’re a deadly sin (for shame!) or a unproductive way of life. Not so! Sloths are so efficient, your boss wishes her whole company was a sloth. You wish your house’s heating or cooling system was a sloth. Hell, you wish your KIDS were sloths. It’s true. They use practically no energy to go about their day-to-day lives. And what do they produce? Must you even ask? They produce ADORABLE!

You may wonder, do they never speak? Of course they do! They speak the language of LOVE ME.

So I nominate tomorrow as the official Day of Sloth. Because yesterday was Gluttony (Thanksgiving), and today is Greed (Black Friday). Really, there ought to be Seven Deadly Sins to come before the Twelve Days of Christmas. And they should all be adorable—the sins I mean. We’ll use bonobos for Lust and kittens for Wrath.

And just in case you needed one more reason to respect the sloth…

It SWIMS! Good Lord, it swims like a champion. And while it’s casually outperforming your best Labrador Retriever, it turns to you and says, “Hey, just in case you didn’t know, slothfulness is not laziness; slothfulness is being awesome without effort.”

In Which I Gush: Part Two

I don’t want anyone to think this is a review because it’s not. It’s just my response, really. My response to something AWESOME!

This! This is what I am responding to: this magnificent book that drew me into its world before I was even aware I was being drawn.

The whole story plays out in one building—an enchanted theatre, to be exact—but it didn’t feel like one building. It felt like a labyrinthine super-building with oceans and stars and ancient history thrown in for laughs. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten addicted to a book. And by that I mean I felt the pull of the book even when I wasn’t reading it. Most often, I have to tell myself it’s time to read, and it takes a while for me to get back into the story. But in this case, I never left the story. I was always thinking about what was going on with the adorable fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, whether the pirate Nate was really as sweet as he seemed, and what the hell that rapscallion Ariel was up to.

Which brings me to the only part of the story that nicked me in a bad way: Ariel. (Don’t hate me, Lisa Mantchev!) The truth is Ariel was the key to my picking the book up as soon as I did. I knew I wanted to read it eventually. The idea of an enchanted theatre, in which all the characters in the world exist in the flesh, was just so irresistible. But I grew up loving Shakespeare—in particular The Tempest, which was always one of my favorite plays—and the character I clung to most was Ariel. So when I found out he would be playing a major role in these books, I about tripped over my own shoelaces trying to find the nearest copy of the first one.

But, as is often the case when an old character is reinterpreted, Mantchev’s Ariel was not the Ariel I fell in love with as a child; he was strong-willed, rebellious, slightly wicked, and arrogant; he was Caliban wearing Ariel’s pretty face and wielding Ariel’s powers. What I always loved about Caliban and Ariel in The Tempest was the way they became their own polar opposites. Caliban was powerless, ugly and unwanted, but he was a rebellious, strong-willed character. On the other hand Ariel, with all the powers of the storms and sea, was weak-willed, subservient, a slave in body and mind. He begged to be free, but he never fought for it. He groveled, even though he was just short of a demigod. I loved Ariel for that weakness because it made him human, but he did not have it in Eyes Like Stars.

That said, I know that Mantchev’s Ariel was not meant to be my interpretation of Ariel, but her own. And as soon as I realized my Ariel would not be making an appearance, I was able to let go of my expectations and just enjoy the story. Then I could appreciate Mantchev’s Ariel for the egotistical, seductive trouble-maker he was.

So if you have a chance to pick this book up, do it! If you have any familiarity with Shakespeare, you’re in for a fantastic show. Eye’s Like Stars let me spend some time in a delightful world, with a main character who could charm the pants off Ebenezer Scrooge, and a couple high quality love interests I’d be hard pressed to choose between.

In Which I Gush: Part One

Imagine you have a serious shortage of new, wordless music, which you often use for inspiration. It’s been rough, but you’ve managed with a few of the old standbys. Then you find this:

And wow. It blows you out of the water and a hundred feet into the air with its magnificence. You are positive there is NOTHING else like this anywhere. You are sure this will provide infinite hours of inspiration. So you buy an album, put it on, and sit down to write.

HA! Hahahahahahahaha! No. It doesn’t work.

The music twists and turns. It flies through the air and plunges into the sea after setting itself on fire for 3.45 seconds. Every time you bow your head over your work, you hear something new. A new layer. A new everyday sound, warped and used like music. And it all WORKS! That’s what amazes you. It isn’t that you’ve never heard experimental music before; you’ve heard plenty, but it was never anything you would have chosen to listen to on your own. This… You can’t stop listening. You can’t do anything BUT listen. It keeps doing new and interesting things, discomforting you, throwing you into another world… telling you a new story.

And the story it tells is fleeting, like a dream you can’t remember, but you try your darnedest. Maybe listening to the album again will remind you.

That’s what discovering World’s End Girlfriend was like for me.

Holy Irony, Batman!

I wanted to write a post about a book cover that made me read a book for no other reason than I just had to know what inspired its artwork. And coming up with a cover to write about was pretty much the easiest task in the world.

Because if you saw this cover for Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement in the bookstore, what would be your reaction?

Mine went like this: “Oh, my god, that’s creepy. Is there a baby in that pram? Those are sharp, pointy things to be hanging over a baby. So dangerous. And fog… And where are the parents? That baby just got left in the woods in the fog with a bunch of sharp, pointy things tied over its pram. WHY? The book is called The Replacement and those things could be iron things, so… is this about a changeling? NO WAY! A creepy YA changeling story? I’ve been waiting for this! Changelings are supposed to be scary, for god’s sake. They mean someone STOLE your baby. People were terrified of this when they actually believed in it. It’s about time we got an appropriately terrifying book.”

My immediate action: Carry book to front counter. Pay for book. Cradle book all the way home like it’s my own precious, infant child, and begin to read after shushing The Other Lamm, who wants to talk about something else.

There was one downside to this cover. The pram—as well as the sharp, pointy things hanging over it—looks old. I was expecting a period piece, or at least something that felt like a period piece: something timeless. But this book took place in a modern town, in high school, and included a fairy rock band. There was nothing timeless about it. It was quite obviously Now. And that did not match my expectations at all. I never found out about the baby in the old-fashioned pram, all alone in the woods, with sharp, pointy things hanging over its head. It was a changeling story, yes. And it was a creepy one. The fairies in it were every bit as terrifying as the ones I expected to find in Wicked Lovely. But I was just too angry at the story to appreciate it, I think because it had replaced the story I originally wanted to read…. Wait. It’s… IRONY! Yes! Who even knew that was coming? I didn’t. Did you? Awesome.

Anyway, while looking up the book again, I found it had another cover, this one from the UK, and I thought I’d quickly compare it because it is so completely different from the first. I can tell you right now what my initial reaction would be upon seeing this cover: “Oh, it’s a model in the woods. Could be a movie poster or an ad for a department store. This must be an urban fantasy with brooding and cell phones.” In short, I would not have bought or read the book because I was not in the mood for it. But at the same time, the second cover better represents the time period and would have given me more appropriate expectations. So I would not have been angry at… wait for it… the REPLACEMENT story. Ha! I feel like replacement is the new magic word, and you should all scream every time I use it. Did I just date myself there? Probably. If you don’t catch the reference, just never you mind. You are young and free of the mind-numbing memories that come with having your childhood haunted by the likes of Pee-wee Herman.

So what’s more important in a book cover: accurate representation or intrigue? I think every cover needs a little of both, honestly. Like if this book had taken the whole pram-with-iron idea and modernized it, that might have been cool. I would have probably read the book with more appropriate expectations. But I still maintain the first book cover is the coolest book cover ever, and I still want to read the creepy story about the abandoned baby in the old fashioned pram, with sharp, pointy things hanging over it.