“My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories” edited by Stephanie Perkins

Image result for stephanie perkins my true love gave to me book coverThis book is really just an anthology of short stories by pretty well known young adult authors, all Christmas/holiday-themed, of course.

The authors that I recognized were Gayle Forman, Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, and Jenny Han. Other stories were written by Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Matt de la Pena, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White.

I really liked the variety of this book. Even though all the stories happened roughly around the same time, there were many different backdrops and cultures represented. Some of them had some common themes of unhappy-teenager-turned-happy, or “Omg I want to leave this place so bad,” but they all faced some kind of adversary that changed their perspective.

Most of them were realistic fiction, but a few were pretty mythical. For those, I almost felt like you needed more time than just a short story to explain the magic behind the plot. Like actual magic needs to be explained. Where does your power come from? Why are you the only one using it? Why are these characters not freaked out that you are performing magic?

Anyway, I stumbled upon this book on my library’s website and thought, “‘Tis the season.” It was a nice change listening to short stories instead of novels.

I haven’t decided yet what is next on the list, but I’ll figure it out. I’ve been reading “My Name is Memory” by Ann Brashares for a while, and I’m finally almost done with that one, so I’ll be posting about it soon I’m sure. Then I may tackle my to-be-read list, or I may reread something for the 14th time.

We shall see,
Maegan

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“Bossypants” by Tina Fey

Image result for bossypants by tina feyThis book is hilarious. It’s been out for a little more than six years now and I have wanted to read it for a while, especially after I read Amy Poehler’s memoir a little while back, and I finally got around to it. If you ever wondered, yes, Tina Fey really is that funny.

There were several moments where I actually laughed out loud during this book. It was even better because I mostly listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author, so I heard the book exactly as it was intended, with all the little voices in Tina Fey’s mind.

Saturday Night Live was mentioned, along with 30 Rock, but it also had a lot about Fey’s childhood and her family. It was also pretty cool to get a little glimpse into what it looks like behind the scenes at a show like Saturday Night Live, but you also get that some when watching 30 Rock.

In the ebook and print versions (and supposedly in a PDF on the audiobook version) there are also lots of pictures of Fey as a kid and from different stories that she tells, which are amazing. It’s always so weird to see pictures of celebrities before they were celebrities. Like “No way, they were a real person once too!”

Overall, this book was fantastic, even if I didn’t understand all the references or know every SNL character.

Ta-ta for now,
Maegan

“Tales of the Peculiars” by Ransom Riggs

Related imageTechnically this book is written by “Millard Nullings,” who is a character in the “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” novels. His peculiar ability is that he is completely invisible, so you don’t even know he’s there unless he speaks. Or he’s wearing clothes. It’s kinda weird to think that this kid just goes around stark naked all the time and no one knows and/or is bothered by it.

Anyway, “Tales of the Peculiars” is a collection of old folk tales that peculiars would read to their children. The book was mentioned in the “Miss Peregrine’s” books several times, and a few of the stories were mentioned in the later books. One, “The Pigeons of Saint Paul’s,” was read through in the books, but the story in this collection was totally different. Another, “The Tale of Cuthbert,” was exactly the same, with an added ending by “Millard.” The changes and the annotations go to show how much the stories have theoretically changed as they’ve been passed down through generations of peculiars.

Some of them were a little weird, but they were still pretty family friendly for the most part. It was nice to see some of the other abilities that peculiars can have other than just the peculiars we’ve come to know in the prior books.

If you pay attention to the book, there’s a nice little Easter egg on the copyright page:

Image result for tales of the peculiars copyright page

I was amused. In the books previously, it was mentioned that the word “sydrigasti” is an old term for peculiars, so Syndrigast Publications is born.

For my next read, I’ve gone in a totally different direction and started reading “Bossypants” by Tina Fey because I love her and I’ve always wanted to read this book.

I’ll tell you when I’m done,
Maegan

“Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

Library-of-Souls.jpgThis story keeps right on trucking, into villainous territories and treacherous time loops. Just like “Hollow City,” this book picks up as if the last one never ended, and the whole things only spans a couple of days.

That’s one thing I like about these books. I don’t feel like anything has been left out. Usually when you read a book, the characters say two sentences to each other and then magically discover that hours have passed, but Ransom Riggs is excellent at explaining where the time has gone.

There are more unusual photos throughout the book. It’s kind of fascinating to think that the author built his story and his characters around these collectors’ treasures. Even though I thought they were creepy at first (and some of them still are pretty creepy), I feel now that the pictures are mostly just interesting and they make you take a second look.

Anyway, our heroes find themselves in Devil’s Acre, which is basically the time loop that outcast peculiars go to. The wights have taken over and are conducting horrible experiments on peculiars. The ymbrynes have all been captured and it’s up to two kids and a talking dog to save them. Seriously.

Of course, there’s backup from new characters who may or may not be trusted. Jacob discovers some powers he didn’t know he had, teenage romance ensues, etc., etc.

The group is split up at the beginning of the book, so for almost half the story we don’t know what’s going on with a majority of the secondary characters. I’m still upset over why Jacob was able to make his way to the present without Miss Peregrine, because that was never explained, unless you could Emma’s hypothesizing, which I don’t.

Eventually, the gates are stormed, a battle is waged, but I can’t give everything away. Jacob is reunited with his parents, who consider him certifiably insane and try to ship him off to a *treatment facility.* That part of the book actually made me angry. I know he’s spouting crazy stories, but the fact that his parents and therapist wouldn’t listen to him or let him get a word in edge-wise AND they stole his mail, it made my blood boil and I wanted to jump into this book just to smack them all.

Other than that, the story ended pretty nicely with a happy conclusion. Only thing I’m wondering about is why Ricky was even a part of the story at all. He was Jacob’s “only friend,” yet they had one spat and he was never seen nor heard from again. I guess he was replaced by the peculiars.

Too bad for him,
Maegan

“Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

hollowcity_final_300dpi.jpgBack so soon. The second book in the series, “Hollow City” picks up right where “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” left off, and the whole book takes place within just a few days. Even so, the peculiars meet many new faces and see many new places (and times).

When the last book ended, the ymbrynes were being captured by the evil wights, but the children managed to save Miss Peregrine. Then they set off on a scavenger hunt-type mission to find another ymbryne who they believed had escaped the wights, Miss Wren. Through it all, the peculiars (literally a band of children with special abilities) manage to evade capture all while blatantly demonstrating and discussing their abilities to anyone who happens to be near. I guess that’s the magic of fiction.

Like I said, the entire story spans only about five days, and the first book happened only over about two and a half weeks. And yet, main character/narrator Jacob is already professing his love to *other character* and literally choosing to leave the present, his family, and all he’s ever known to be with her. After three weeks. Dude. Stop letting your hormones do the talking.

Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed is that the peculiars tend to look to Emma to make all the decisions. Seems like it would get exhausting, but she handles it like she’s been doing this her whole life. It just makes me feel like Ransom Riggs is putting too much emphasis on this one girl, while the rest of the peculiars just wander around in the background.

Just when I was starting to wonder about how all these kids were traveling from time to time without messing up the future, Ransom Riggs tied up that loose end nice and tight. Usually, books about time travel harp on the fact that you can’t mess with the past because it will screw up the future, but in this universe, if you mess with the past then it will just heal itself some other way. I would have liked to see this in action, but it was just mentioned in passing, seemingly to keep questions about it from cropping up later.

By the end of the book, the peculiars have gotten out of one mess just to dive right back into three more and we’re left with a ton of questions, but they weren’t meant to be answered yet. It’s pretty clear that this series is written as one giant continuous story, across all three books, which I love.

I’ve already started the third book, “Library of Souls,” and I’m excited to see how the story ends.

I’ll tell you what I find out,
Maegan

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

Related imageThis book has been on my radar for a while, but honestly, I was a little scared to pick it up. The covers of this series are pretty creepy and I really didn’t know what to expect, but I figured it if was in the young adult section then it couldn’t be just outright horror-filled. And it wasn’t, just some startling photos sprinkled here and there.

Miss Peregrine is a woman/ymbryne who watches over “peculiar” children, which are kids who have special abilities thanks to genetics or some such. Emma can create fire with her hands, Millard is completely invisible, Olive can lift right off the ground if she is not weighted down, and Hugh has bees living in his stomach. There are a few others too, and they have all been living in Miss Peregrine’s time loop, where it is always September 3, 1940, over and over again.

Enter Jacob Portman who discovers the peculiars after his grandfather whispers a cryptic message to him on his final breath. Jacob and his dad travel to a mysterious island that used to be home to Grandpa where Jacob tries to find clues as to his grandfather’s early life. He stumbles upon Emma and Millard and follows them right back into the time loop.

By the end of the story, the kids are being hustled off the island while hollows (super evil death creature things that prey on the blood of the peculiars) and wights (basically a hollow’s sidekick) chase after them and attempt to kidnap Miss Peregrine.

It’s a very interesting book and I think the use of old photos is really effective throughout, even though some are a little creepy.

I’ve already started the second book in the series, “Hollow City.” It’s longer than the first but now that I’m invested in the series I’m excited to find out what happens.

For now,
Maegan

“Sisterhood Everlasting” by Ann Brashares

This next book in the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series is actually set about 10 years after the fourth one. Lena, Carmen, Tibby, and Bridget are still besties, but their lives have been going in different directions. Lena is in Rhode Island, Carmen’s in New York, Bridget is in California, and Tibby moved to Australia on the fly.

One of the biggest surprises to me is that three of the four girls are still involved with their original love interests, which developed when they were teenagers. None of them are married, even though they are 29 and two of them have been in relationships for more than a decade.

Anyway, only a couple new characters are introduced, such as one character’s new man and Eudoxia, who Lena spends time with to practice her Greek. I actually think there are more new places than new people, even though the old places are mentioned plenty too.

On a totally different note, I think that Ann Brashares is the angel of death because every book by her that I’ve read so far has at least one family that’s been affected by a tragedy, and this one is no different. Granted, this one gives you a one-two punch because there’s a death you didn’t expect that’s kind of glossed over, and then there’s a death you REALLY didn’t expect that is focused on for the rest of the book. But even though it’s sad, it’s also happy in that the girls actually seem like they’re figuring out what they want by the end of the story. Which is weird considering they’ve had this long so far and they’ve been doing pretty bad at it.

Today I picked up “My Name is Memory,” the next book written by Ann Brashares, from the library, so I will probably start it soon. I also started “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs today, but I’m only on chapter 2 so far.

But that’s all for now,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The End” by Lemony Snicket

Related imageWell, here we are. The Baudelaires washed up on an island and found some more mysteries before being confronted with Count Olaf yet again. Some surprising things happen, there’s some death, a birth, more questions.

The island is facilitated by a man named Ishmael, who perseveres in his quest to convince everyone to call him Ish, even though it happens like once in the whole book. Ishmael has everyone on the island under his control, thanks a little coconut cordial and some peer pressure, but the Baudelaires aren’t fooled.

We get somewhat of a view of the islanders’ stories after they leave the orphans’ presence, but nothing is much for sure. One of the Snicket siblings arrives because “everything washes up on these shores eventually.” There is a little bit of a power struggle, but then eventually the Baudelaires are left to their own devices and fair quite well for themselves.

One thing I want to know though, what happened to the Quagmires? What about Fiona and Fernald and Captain Widdershins? Where’s Esme? What is the big squiggly question mark thing in the water? Maybe it’s meant to be left to the imagination, but I would appreciate a little more closure.

Anyway, I will likely finish “Sisterhood Everlasting” by Ann Brashares tonight, which is the last book in my jumbled up series kick. But then it will get more twisty after that because I’m about to start the “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” series by Ransom Riggs, but I’m also going to start “My Name is Memory” by Ann Brashares. I think I just can’t be satisfied with only one story at a time, even if they do get just a little twisty in my mind.

See you later,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Penultimate Peril” by Lemony Snicket

220px-ThePenultimatePerilI remember when this book first came out and I was in seventh grade, my childhood best friend and I were discussing the story. I was so in awe that she knew the meaning of the world “penultimate” (next to last) because to that point, I actually figured that it was just a word that Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) had just made up. Even now, I don’t know if I would have known what the word meant without her telling me that way back when because it hasn’t really come up since then. Maybe I would have looked it up on my own, but we may never know.

Anyway, this is the 12th book in the “Series of Unfortunate Events” series. The Baudelaires go from the Queequeg straight to the Hotel Denouement, which is the where a big meeting is supposed to happen in just days. There’s lots of confusion about who is noble and who is a villain, and we really don’t get much of that cleared up by the end. There’s no sign of the Quagmire triplets, but they’re mentioned, so I’m sure they’ll show back up soon.

I’m again confused about the timeline of the story. It seems like there’s been quite a bit of time since the events of the first book took place, but this book happens over mere days. Maybe it’s meant to be ambiguous.

Another thing I noticed is that there are no families safe from Lemony Snicket’s power, which means that every family has someone who has died, whether it is parents or siblings or spouses. I guess it just adds to the unfortunate events.

I’m interested in what happens next to wrap up the whole series. There are still plenty of loose ends and I’m not yet sure how they will be tied off. It’s been so long since I’ve read this book that I don’t remember any of the plot, except one critical issue for one particular character.

At the same time, I am listening to “Sisterhood Everlasting,” which is the next book by Ann Brashares. I have the ebook, but I’m mostly listening to the audiobook. I’m not too far in but I already have some thoughts about the story.

More on that later,
Maegan

“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls

9781416550600_p0_v11_s1200x630.jpgI honestly did not expect to finish this book before next week, but it was better than I expected it to be and I wrapped it up a little early.

Of course, I wanted to read it because I saw the trailer for the movie of the same name and apparently a lot of other people felt the same way, because I had a hold on this book at the library for almost two months before it actually came my way. Before I started the book, really all I knew was that it was a memoir.

The book chronicles Jeannette Walls’s childhood, which consisted mostly of living in rundown houses and moving place to place in the desert with little or no notice to evade creditors and the law. About half the book covers her first 10 or so years, and it amazes me how much she recalls from that time. I’m assuming she got some help from other family members who were there, because I sure know I can’t remember that much about my life when I was that young. She grows up with her parents, older sister, and younger brother and sister.

Next up, the family moves to Welch, West Virginia, where Jeannette’s father grew up. Throughout it all, the family is poor and neither parent seems to be able to hold down a job. The house they live in has no running water or indoor plumbing, spontaneous electricity (depending on whether the power bill was paid or not), and holes in the roof that let in water whenever it rains.

Eventually, Jeannette’s sister Lori, who is an artist, decides that she wants out of West Virginia, and the kids hatch a plan to send her to New York. Of course, their parents try to sabotage them, but she makes it anyway, with Jeannette soon to follow.

Maybe my point of view is skewed because I grew up with a supportive parent and never wanted for anything, but I almost hate Jeannette’s parents. It seemed like more often than not, the kids went hungry (Jeannette mentions literally digging around in the school trash trying to find food for lunch) while Rex, her father, drank all their money away, when they even had money. Rose Mary, Jeannette’s mother, had a teaching certificate, but hated teaching and would throw temper tantrums when her children tried to make her go to work so they could put food on the table. Instead, she claimed she was an artist, but an artist who was also unemployed and never seemed to sell any of her work. The parents were unaffected by the multiple sexual assaults that Jeannette faced, and seemed unconcerned that they were dirty and unclean and happened to get into lots of fights with other kids.

I just can’t believe a parent would be so selfish and do such a poor job of taking care of their children. It seemed like the kids had a stronger head on their shoulders than either of the parents. They were the ones focused on budgeting money and bettering their own situations, while Rex was gone for days at a time and Rose Mary announced that she was going to “focus more on herself,” even though she barely made any contributions to begin with. It’s just outstanding to me that people like this exist, but it makes Jeannette all the more impressive for not falling into that trap and doing well for herself, despite the situation she was raised in.

Jeannette’s young adult years are barely chronicled, but by the end of the book, the family has gotten back together to celebrate Thanksgiving. They are not necessarily a close family, and each has gone their own way, but none seem to hold much resentment for their past.

The book is just astounding at some points and almost seems like a work of fiction, but I don’t even know if an author could come up with some of the experiences that the Walls kids went through. Definitely a good book, though.

Off to read more books,
Maegan