Once in a while, books come along that feel special, books that leave me choked up for no reason, books that make me feel like I’m on a runner’s high when I read them.
The Good Luck of Right Now is one of those books. It almost feels like it was written for me.
The plot is unremarkable: Bartholomew Neil, a man implied to have an intellectual disability who recently lost his mother, processes his grief with the help of his doubting priest Father McNamee, his troubled grief counselor Wendy, his cat-obsessed, alien-fearing therapy buddy Max, and Max’s sister Elizabeth AKA the Girlbrarian AKA Bartholomew’s dreamgirl.
The events are relayed through Bartholomew’s letters to Richard Gere, his mother’s favorite actor, with whom Bartholomew feels he shares a spiritual connection.
Epistolary novels are my favorite–you as the reader learn so much from the narrator’s limited (and often unreliable) perspective by what they exclude, focus on, and misunderstand.
I started to love the book almost midway through when tensions escalated between Bartholomew, Wendy, and Father McNamee. The book gave an honest and accurate portrayal of what it’s like to live with an abuse victim, struggle with doubt, and deal with negative self-image. Throughout, Bartholomew describes an “angry little man” who lives in his stomach and shouts abuse any time he makes a mistake, a phenomenon any self-conscious person can relate to. Though not directly related, these lines stuck out all the more because of it:
And what is reality, if it isn’t how we feel about things? What else matters at the end of the day, when we lie in bed alone with our thoughts?
The ensuing scene, where the Father and Bartholomew fail to convince Wendy to leave her boyfriend, was spot-on–not sure if Quick has had loved ones in abusive situations, but he nailed it.
While the emotional moments were good, I kept reading because I was desperate to know: WOULD THEY EVER MAKE IT TO CAT PARLIAMENT?
I was still wondering down to the last 10 pages, speedreading like crazy to find out.
If I had one critique, the ending seemed a bit rushed because so much was packed into the final pages. Still, I preferred it to the more ambiguous ending of Silver Linings Playbook. I like, too, that it was happy; endings don’t need to be tragic to be satisfying.
This isn’t the firsttime I’ve posted about Fruits Basket. I finished the series this weekend, so expect a few more Mondays featuring upsetting manga moments.
Megumi is all right as far as characters go. He’s Saki Hanajima’s precocious younger brother who could pass for her identical twin and hangs out with her friends so often everyone forgets how young he is.
Occasionally, Megumi’s perspective helps the older characters move on and/or deal with romantic heartache.
Arisa Uotani, for instance: she’s in love with a guy named Kureno, who for one reason or another has decided never to see her again.
Arisa doesn’t know that Kureno has issues. Major issues. Issues that in America would land him in jail.
Tohru tries to intervene and speak to Kureno on Arisa’s behalf, but their conversation doesn’t go well.
Megumi walks in while Arisa and Tohru are crying it out and drops some wisdom:
There are some things that take a long time to acquire. Friends. Loves. Really… Nothing has been a waste.
I’m struck by how different things stick out to me whenever I reread Fruits Basket. Rin’s story hit me at a time when I felt I didn’t have any friends. I just graduated from college; for the past year, I’ve teared up whenever I read about beginnings and endings.
This scene with Megumi got me because of where I am right now. I’m jobless, single, living in my home town, separated from most of my friends by 160 miles, road construction, and some mountains. I’ve spent the last few months wishing I could fast-forward to the time when I have a job, or have moved to Oregon, or am rocking a sweet mohawk and owning my church’s “Fiddler on the Roof” auditions, because right now sucks.
Yet Megumi says what I’m going through now won’t be a waste. The things I want take a long time to acquire. I really want to believe that.
Megumi ends this section by saying:
Whatever happens in the night, morning still always comes. Always. Has there ever been a night that had no dawn?
Crazily enough, that’s biblical. I looked it up.
For His anger lasts for but a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
Amen. That’s what I’m believing today.
Need cheering up? Feast your eyes on the wonder that is Kakeru Manabe. He’s the funniest character in the manga and has some of the best lines (“IT’S A NATURAL PRINCESS OLD MAN!”). One of my friends is the female version of Kakeru and I feel so lucky to have her.
See, for example, how Kakeru comforts his closest friend:
Warning: So many spoilers. If you’d like a summary, scroll to the bottom of the review.
Hey, Shadow and Bone. C’mere. I wanna talk to you.
Sit down, Shadow and Bone. How have you been? I’ve been hearing really great things about you.
You know, I really liked you at first. I mean, really liked you. Your first 90 or so pages had some of the tightest writing I’ve read in a while. I just tried to read A Court of Thorns and Roses and had to put it down after 50 uninspiring pages. With you, I was hooked immediately. You established a world populated by Grisha, this universe’s version of benders. You introduced me to your main character, Alina Starkov, tricked me into caring about her by giving her a shady past and an unrequited crush on her best friend, and didn’t skimp on action. You told me everything I needed to know in a manner of pages: the country of Ravka (AKA Fantasy Russia) is at war with its many neighboring countries and travel anywhere in the country is complicated by the existence of the Shadow Fold.
What is the Shadow Fold, you ask? Well, that’s ridiculous, Shadow and Bone, you should know, but I’ll remind you: the Shadow Fold is a region in the middle of the country completely covered by darkness and populated by terrifying monsters called the volcra. Travel across it is dangerous – characters are counted lucky if they die quickly.
Barely 30 pages in, Alina and her friend Mal are attacked on the Shadow Fold. Alina saves Mal by unleashing a hidden power and driving away the volcra. Turns out not only is she a Grisha, she’s a Sun Summoner, the only one of her kind.
Alina is introduced to the Darkling, the leader of the Grisha with “great powers.” All I’m really clear on is he can create darkness and cut men in half. I am clear on how hot he sounded. Thank the internet for fanart.
Shadow and Bone, you had me where you wanted me. You gave me great action, an interesting protagonist, and the promise of hot romance.
So, what I want to ask is this:
I have three big problems with your story.
1. You turned an interesting story into high school politics
I’ve read books before, Shadow and Bone. This is not the first time I’ve read a story where the protagonist learns new skills at a prestigious academy and faces difficulty and social rejection. Heck, there’s a pretty well-known novel about a boy wizard who goes through the same things!
I loved Harry Potter and The Lioness Quartet. I’m not saying you can’t make this the plot of your YA fantasy novel.
My problem is that magic wizard school ISN’T WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR. You spent 90 pages throwing me scary monsters and quasi-Scandinavian assassins, and you followed that up with Alina’s struggles with homework. FOR 100 PAGES.
2. I was promised “heady” and “poignant” romance and you didn’t deliver
As I mentioned before, the Darkling was pretty hot. He and Alina had some chemistry, which I was interested in seeing develop.
Instead, the Darkling disappears.
When he does speak to Alina, it’s to pass on exposition. Your Exposition Fairy, hard at work. Their relationship didn’t so much develop as…happen. Out of nowhere.
One minute, it’s all exposition about a magical stag that could help them destroy the Shadow Fold. Then this happens:
He looked down at me. The cold air had put a flush in his cheeks, and the lamplight shone in his gray eyes. “Alina, if I tell you that I believe we can find the stag, would you think I’m mad?”
“Why would you care what I think?”
He looked genuinely baffled. “I don’t know,” he said. “But I do.”
And then he kissed me.
Not 20 pages later, he and Alina almost have sex against a wall during a raucous party. WHAT IS HAPPENING? It’s Octavia and Lincoln all over again!
What really peeved me was how you brought Mal back in. For the BULK OF THE NOVEL, Mal sleeps with other women, expects Alina to be his wingwoman, and generally doesn’t care as much about her as she does about him.
I’ve been in this kind of friendship. I know how this feels. There’s no point in hanging on to an uneven relationship. Alina realizes that though she has made Mal a priority her entire life, he doesn’t care about her. I thought her letting go of this friendship was a good step toward character development.
Then you brought Mal back.
Up to this point, you had done nothing to make Mal remotely likeable. To remedy this, you have Mal slutshame Alina for being into the Darkling. Later, while helping her find the stag, he picks fights and is nothing but rude to her the entire time.
SUDDENLY, he’s declaring his love for her. “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina,” he says. “But I see you now.”
BOOOOO! BOOOOOO! BOOOOO! After “graciously” forgiving Alina for considering sleeping with the Darkling ONE TIME, Mal says, “We found our way back to each other, Alina. That’s all that matters.”
NOT TRUE! Call me crazy, but I think sleeping with every other girl ever and being a terrible friend still matters!
3. You didn’t foreshadow your big twist
Come on, Shadow and Bone. I JUST POSTED about obvious foreshadowing yesterday. You went to the opposite extreme with no foreshadowing at all.
As I said yesterday, when I come to a twist ending, I want to be surprised, but I also want to feel like I should have seen it coming. When I reread a story or rewatch a movie, I want to see all the little clues I missed that lead up to the big reveal.
There were no such clues with you, Shadow and Bone.
Page 236, the wise old mentor reveals that the Darkling…is eeeeeviiiiil!
And Alina feels so foolish, because she should have known!
Because he killed a guy by cutting him in half? He’s an immortal being with intense power. That guy was trying to kill his Sun Summoner. Still on the Darkling’s side.
Because he can create darkness?
Because he wears black on the time? Seriously, where were your clues, Shadow and Bone?
You gave me no reason to hate the supposed villain! It’s not a good twist if it came out of nowhere!
I wanted to love you, Shadow and Bone. I gushed about you to my little brother, telling him “this is how you write a fantasy novel.”
Shadow and Bone, you made me look like a fool.
Want to know my final verdict, Shadow and Bone?
Excellent first 1/3. Disappointing latter half. Don’t read it for the romance. Worth a read…as long as you get it from your local library.
Minor Fruits Basket spoilers today. If you don’t want to know who the horse of the zodiac is, read no further.
I have a pattern: whenever I read Fruits Basket, I cry.
The series’ halfway point is usually where I get emotional. People think Fruits Basket is just a dumb shojo manga (I could name names…you know who you are), but there’s some really intense stuff in it.
This time around, I started sobbing in volume 4.
However, I just finished Volume 14, which is a real doozy, so today’s post is about Rin Sohma.
Rin, much like Ronan Lynch, has had a messed-up life. It would be hard enough being possessed by an ancient spirit. Imagine your love life complicated by the fact that whenever someone of the opposite sex hugs you, you turn into a horse.
Imagine your happy family shattered the first time you questioned the sincerity of its happiness.
Imagine developing ulcers due to the stress and having your parents punish you for it.
This all happens to Rin Sohma BEFORE the story even starts.
You might have noticed some similarities in the characters I’m drawn to. A lot of the characters I like are really, really mean. Rin lashes out at everyone, does questionable things to obtain information, and says hurtful things to little kids. She hits her boyfriend and, as a horse, tries to kick Tohru in the face.
But Rin would do anything for the people she loves and is honest about what she needs. After the head of the family calls her “pathetic,” “completely hopeless,” and “rotten to the core,” then PUSHES HER OUT A WINDOW, all Rin thinks as she falls is:
But Haru did want me. There was someone who wanted me, even though I had been told that I was unwanted. I’m happy… What a happy thing.
Rin later admits why she is so mean to “kind” people:
I hate for kind people to suffer. To see them get hurt.
She pushes away her loving boyfriend and Tohru Honda because she can’t stand to seem them become collateral damage.
She finally breaks down in front of Tohru and admits her weakness. She ends up crying in Tohru’s arms for hours.
Tohru tells her something that hit me really hard: “Being by yourself is scary. Being alone is a frightening way to live.”
Later, Rin reflects on why Tohru is such a calming influence for everyone around her.
People can’t help but be drawn to someone like her. People who know how scary it is to be alone can’t help loving others.
This makes me wonder about the people in my life who are always happy. What sorts of things have happened to them that I don’t know about?
Stop relating to my real life, Fruits Basket!
Need cheering up? Look at this picture! All the animals! See how happy they all are!
Yeah…not my best find.
[Note: I realize today is Tuesday. I was doing some other writing yesterday and completely forgot about blogging.]
I was not a Thorne fan when I started reading. It had something to do with his bravado, self-appointed title of captain, and sensitivity to prison soap. Kai puts it perfectly in Scarlet.
[Thorne’s] prison photo showed him flippantly winking at the camera. Kai hated him immediately.
Thorne grew on me, though. He has a roguish charm and enough street smarts and survival skills to last a few days in the Sahara. He’s funny, too, finding time for sarcastic repartee during battle.
Much as I love Kai, I ship Cinder and Thorne because while he drives her crazy, he always has her back. It’s hard to find guys willing to unfasten your control panel and reboot your system these days. No, that isn’t a euphemism.
Thorne provides a good bit of comic relief as the series gets more intense. Still, his more cinematic moments make me roll my eyes, and his relationship with Cress is one of the series’ weaker aspects. I’ll take my men with more savvy and less swagger, thank you.
You don’t woo women by being sassy (*ahem* Thorne). You listen to them, buy them thoughtful presents, and invite them to balls. In these ways, Kai has the jump on his fellow love interests. Kai is young, angsty, inexperienced, and honestly kind of dumb, but he tries. Out of all the girls vying for his attention, he pursues Cinder. He’s not put off by her manly hobbies, her sarcasm, her alleged lack of femininity, or her status. He finds out she’s both Lunar and a cyborg and is only upset she didn’t tell him sooner.
Plus, he keeps the cyborg foot Cinder leaves behind at the ball. That’s precious.
Cinder kidnaps him on his wedding day and it is perfect. They are perfect. I lied about shipping Cinder and Thorne; Kai and Cinder are wonderful.
Wolf (AKA Ze’ev Kesley)
Freaking Wolf. He’s basically Kai, minus the sassiness and quintuple the angst. Throw in some murder, tattoos, animal instincts, intriguing scars, and physical perfection.
I’m a sucker for antiheroes and characters who strive to be better. Wolf does messed-up stuff, but he wants to change.
All that I love about Wolf is evident in the way he treats Scarlet. I love how he goes out of his way to protect her. It’s sweet…and kind of really hot. Of all the ships in the series, the Scarlet/Wolf romance made me swoon the most (so far). Palpable sexual tension, much more so than witty banter, is my favorite thing.
My favorite part in Scarlet is when Wolf nearly drops Scarlet off a train and freaks out, thinking he might have hurt her. All Scarlet wants is a hug, and this is the moment he finally allows himself to give her one. When I read that part, I cheered through my tears (I get really emotional about Lunar Chronicles, okay?)
Wolf gets a little annoying in Cress when he’s rendered nearly catatonic after Scarlet is kidnapped. Even so, I like how Meyer addresses it. I know how wrecked I would be if my significant other was in danger and I couldn’t help them–that’s some traumatic stuff. Wolf consoles himself by sleeping in Scarlet’s bed because it smells like her–ADORABLE. Even while mired in anguish, Wolf helps his friends when they need him.
And, even though it’s just a bunch of numbers, Wolf has a tattoo. Win.
Oh, Jacin Clay.
Jacin’s big problem is he’s mean. Really mean. And snarky. He’s angsty and bitter and does questionable things in order to survive. Marissa Meyer made a comment about readers not liking him. Despite everything I just mentioned, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t. I mean, come on:
He’s super brawny.
He has “beautiful eyes and the rising sun in his smile.”
He manages to be my favorite while having a blonde ponytail. That’s some good writing right there.
Part of it might be the forbidden love angle (I have a thing about bodyguards who crush on their charges.) Though he claims not to be, Jacin is SUPER into Princess Winter. Rereading Cress with this in mind made for much squealing.
Also, how can you not love this quote?
“I serve my princess. No one else.”
This is why I can’t read Lunar Chronicles in public.
No video this week, as well as no book. Time for something a bit different, namely complaining about terrible lyrics!! Hurray!
I’m disappointed in Andy Grammer. I bought his first album in 2011 and loved it, even if certain songs of his haven’t aged well.
Grammer dropped “Honey, I’m Good” in October of last year, but I’ve just now started hearing it on the radio and I hate it. The gist of this song: “Cool it, hot girl who clearly wants me! I’ve already got a girlfriend and I’m trying to stay true!”
I might be reading too much into the lyrics. I’m assuming the speaker of the song has been flirting with the aforementioned hot girl up until this point, and is only chickening out now that she seems interested in sealing the deal. It’s not cheating unless it’s sex, right?
I could be wrong. This interpretation might be solely based on what I bring to this listening experience. Still, the multiple references to this other woman’s good looks–specifically her butt–make me uncomfortable. LOOKING DOESN’T COUNT, RIGHT?
All that aside, the part of this song that really rubs me the wrong way is the tone. Here’s what the chorus sounds like:
So nah nah honey, I’m good
I could have another but I probably should not
I got somebody at home,
And if I stay I might not leave alone
No, honey, I’m good
I could have another but I probably should not
I gotta bid you adieu
To another I will stay true
To me, it sounds like he’s bragging, as in, “Hey babe, I almost had sex with another girl, but I didn’t!” It’s like he wants his girlfriend to be impressed with him for not cheating. Worse, it’s like he expects extra recognition for not doing damage to his relationship.
I’m reminded of an episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” where Robin’s younger sister defends her loser boyfriend Kyle. “He could have cheated on me but he didn’t…because he knew he’d get caught!”
How gallant of him.
Call me crazy, but I thought fidelity was supposed to be the foundation of a good relationship, not a bonus. I wouldn’t want to be with someone who exceeded expectations by staying faithful. Talk about low standards.
At least Grammer didn’t write a song that glorifies cheating, but “Honey, I’m Good” doesn’t go far enough in the other direction. I don’t need the music industry promoting mediocre relationships; people do that well enough on their own.
Astonishingly bitter and wickedly funny. Better flow and rhymes than most mainstream rappers.
I became a Sondheim fan after stumbling across “Company” on Netflix a couple years ago. The only downside to liking Sondheim is he’s not what you would call an optimist.
I’ve never seen “Assassins”, but I’ve listened to its soundtrack many times. It’s a bummer. I’ll be the last to argue that America is perfect, but coming out of a musical with a takeaway message of, “America is broken and can’t be fixed?” I’ll take “Memphis” with a side of “Sweeney Todd” instead, please.
“The Ballad of Booth” is one of my favorite songs from “Assassins,” offering both a biography of John Wilkes Booth and speculation about his motives. Booth himself joins in and pleads his case.
It’s obvious from this song that Booth and the rest of the assassins are nuts, yet they remain convinced they’re doing the right thing by killing the president. In Booth’s case, he thinks he saved the country and will be vindicated by history, when in fact his actions had the opposite effect. There’s something depressing about this misguided optimism–it makes his wrongful actions seem even more pointless.
There’s a line in this song that floored me when I first heard it. The mullet-tastic Balladeer sings of Booth: But traitors just get jeers and boos/Not visits to their graves/While Lincoln, who got mixed reviews/because of you, John, now gets only raves.
This song might not bring on all-out sobs, but you’re not going to feel good after you listen to it. You’re welcome.
Need cheering up? Not all of Sondheim’s stuff is depressing.
Bonus: this is the perfect song to put on your angsty “No one loves me” playlist. (No judgment. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t have one.)
I bought Cinder in 2011 when I ran out of books my freshman year of college. I no longer have my original copy due to my annoyance when what I thought was a standalone ended on a cliffhanger.
It took a good friend of mine to convince me to give the series another chance.
Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t love this series right away. The Lunar Chronicles was made for me: it’s a female-led space drama with straightforward romance, bad boys, and princesses, which is what I secretly want out of every book I read.
The intense plot of Lunar Chronicles would have had me sold but Marissa Meyer makes it with her excellent characters. I want to marry all (well, most) of the men and be all (well, most) of the women; for Meyer, I’d call that success.
Strangers who have seen me reading Lunar Chronicles ask me about it when they see my crazy reactions.
Like with Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, I’ve had to stop reading Lunar Chronicles in public. It’s rare that one series can make me cry/blush/squeal/scream with rage. Never have I been so invested in four different ships at once.
If you want to understand why I love these books, I need to introduce you to the characters. Let’s start with ladies first.
WARNING: Lunar Chronicles spoilers ahead
There’s a lot to admire in Linh Cinder.
I love the cyborg as a binary-challenging device. I also love that Cinder actually does something and kidnaps the emperor/love of her life to save the planet.
At times, I find dorky, sarcastic, relatable girl a bit too cool. There are things about her I can’t connect to, like the fact that she can remodel cars (no big) or that she carries the fate of Earth on her shoulders (whatever). There’s also the whole “burn victim with cybernetic enhancements” thing. And, as Cinder acknowledges, she’s nothing without her supporting cast; I didn’t get into the series until they were introduced.
Cinder’s character benefits from the others’ presences. Her interactions with them are what make the series interesting. Still, I like Meyer’s exploration into Cinder’s psyche as she deals with her (lack of) humanity, her new responsibilities, and the mystery of her past. I’m down for more heroines who save their male counterparts through abduction and spaceship hotwiring. Meyer has created a funny, smart protagonist that is easy to cheer on.
The little I know about Princess Winter hints that her mind isn’t a very fun place to be.
Canon states that if a Lunar doesn’t use his or her gift for an extended period of time, they will go insane. Winter’s intense hallucinations are proof of this.
“But you are crazy.”
“I know.” She lifted a small box from the basket. “Do you know how I know?”
Scarlet didn’t answer.
“Because the palace walls have been bleeding for years, and no one else sees it.”
How great a euphemism, though, does her psychosis provide? “That girl is not using her Lunar gift, if you know what I mean…”
So far, Winter terrifies me, but I’m interested to see the world from her perspective.
Also, she must be pretty cool if someone as awesome as Jacin Clay loves her.
Cress is my least favorite of the four mains. I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about her.
A lot of my dislike stems from Cress’ character type. I have a hard time not interpreting “naive and innocent” as “stupid.”
Finefinefine. Cress was trapped in a satellite by herself for 7 years. No doubt that would make for naiveté and poor social skills, but COME ON. I got tired of her wide-eyed newcomer act pretty quickly, especially since she’s a newcomer to MY PLANET. I don’t share her fascination with SAND. Cress tends to make choices that get her sold into slavery. Not surprisingly, she’s a bad judge of character. She manages to convince herself Carswell Thorne is a virtuous soul. Carswell Thorne. The Lunar Chronicles version of Han Solo and Mal Reynolds. Virtuous.
Two other counts against Cress: she doesn’t like Iko and she doesn’t trust Wolf. As I love Wolf with every fiber of my being, this last part is offensive to me.
Lastly, Cress thinks she lives in a romance novel. She fantasizes constantly that she’s an opera singer, a beautiful actress, an adventurer… Reading Cress’ POV chapterswas like watching “UHF,” only not as fun.
Thankfully, Wolf doesn’t like Cress much either, resulting in one of my favorite scenes:
Wolf was scowling at a mirror and trying to pat down his unkempt hair. He wore an impeccably fitted tuxedo with a classic white bow tie and pressed lapels.
He caught Cress’s eye in the reflection, and she couldn’t help but stand a little straighter, but though his gaze skimmed over her, he had no reaction whatsoever.
Deflated, Cress clasped her hands. “You look great, sweetheart.”
He did, in fact, look like a romance hero, all muscles and edges and chiseled bone structure. He also looked miserable.
Suddenly nervous, Cress gave a little twirl, displaying her full regalia.
Wolf only gave her a crisp nod. “The hover is waiting.”
She let her hands drop to her sides, resigned to the fact that Wolf would dress for his role, but he would not play it. “Right. You have the invitations?”
He patted his breast pocket. “Let’s get this over with.”
I lovelovelove Cinder, but Scarlet is my favorite heroine as sole representative of Team Normal.
Scarlet is 1/4 Lunar, but she doesn’t have–or hasn’t yet exhibited any signs of–the Lunar gift. Unlike Cinder and Michelle Benoit, Scarlet can be manipulated by Lunars. I appreciate Scarlet because I know how useless I would be in these intense situations. Scarlet has more weaknesses than the other characters and still manages to be SO COOL.
Shooting thaumaturges? Like a boss.
Flying ships? Of course.
Withstanding mental torture and chopping off her own finger to defy Lunar royalty? You bet.
Rescuing her grandma? …well, she tried.
I’m sad there wasn’t more of Scarlet in Cress, somethingI hope will be remedied in Winter. Less Cress! More Scarlet!
Each of these ladies gets me pumped to save the galaxy, and each one has a hot male counterpart to help them do so. I can’t wait to talk about the men…