BONE GAP by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap is a quiet and masterful tale of two brothers living in a small town whose lives are changed by the mysterious appearance of a beautiful Polish immigrant. Roza is a friend and beacon of hope to 18 year old Finn, known for his dreamy, absentminded behavior – and a spark in the heart to older brother Sean, who gave up his dreams long ago after their mother abandoned them. Just as suddenly, Roza is gone again – abducted by a stranger Finn can’t describe.

The town of Bone Gap puts its head together and murmurs – was it foul play? Did she abandon them too, fly away as fast and thoughtlessly as their mother? Does Finn know more than he’s letting on?

I don’t want to spoil it – but let’s just say this book was not what I expected. It was wonderful, which I did expect, but it was always unusual and spell-casting in a way I’ve not experienced in another book. Simplistic moments merge easily into surrealistic moments. The two brothers are memorably brought to life – the barn animals, the goats and horses and chickens – the eccentric neighbors, the beekeepers daughter, the best friend, the bullies. The writing was lyrical and yet sparse, never lingering too long anywhere, always moving the plot steadily forward through the corn fields.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – A MEMORABLE READ – MAGICAL REALISM AT ITS FINEST.

RATING: FIVE STARS

Title: Bone Gap
Author: Laura Ruby
Originally published: March 3, 2015
Genre: Young adult fiction

 

MAGONIA by Maria Dahvana Headley

art by Artem Rhads Chebka

Just finished Magonia by Headley – which had excellent characters, families, and a surreal and highly unusual fantasy world floating above our own. In this book, there is a  world above the clouds, filled with shapeshifting birds and other surreal creatures who have long roamed the secret spaces of the air. These creatures aren’t quite human, though many can transform themselves into humanoid forms. Unable to breath in the lower atmosphere, they have a strange relationship with the human world – basically “fishing” out food and supplies when needed. I must say – it was intriguing.

Unfortunately… it had two severe draw backs. The antagonist was shockingly undeveloped- which was unfortunate. And my biggest qualm, the two main characters were stupidly smart.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love nerd characters. I like obsessive research characters. I have no issue with clever and ingenious young people. Give me Hermione and Willow any day. Math nerds. Astrology nerds. Kids obsessed with poets and literature. But don’t me some insane mega genius who can do literally everything – hack governments, quote ancient philosophy, create robots in his garage, blah de blah. It’s too much. BOTH teenagers were such Renaissance mega minds. Sigh. I will forgive such over indulgence in ‘the smarts’ when dealing with ancient vampires or goddesses or aliens or some such… but no. Not in 16 year olds. Not in 46 year olds. Just… no.

Though I confess I enjoyed reading all the obscure references.

I’m glad I read book but I will not be continuing this series.

That said – I’ll keep an eye out for this author as this was her first book and she’s definitely a good writer – gripes aside, the girl has a fantastic imagination and a way with words.

RATING: 2.5 STARS

Title: Magonia
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Originally published: April 28, 2015
Genre: Fantasy Fiction

FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel

Today I read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, a memoir graphic novel. As Alison described it, it’s the story of “how my closeted gay dad killed himself a few months after I came out to my parents as a lesbian.” It was… profound, honestly.

I don’t think I can review it briefly – the literary references, the drawing style, the story itself… thankfully, someone else already created a video review covering all these things:

The book had me sniffling a bit, but mainly overwhelmed me with the weight of the topic. My mind raced in a million directions. My mind generally does this when something hits too close to home. It almost shuts down by scattering out, refusing to focus on one thing, avoiding discomfort and personal reflection. These things invariably come later, but my flight responses are subconscious and have been internally developed over years.

Since my brain was pinging through the clouds, I knew I couldn’t do anything else. Read a new book? No way could I focus for that. Instead I went to the internet to find out how other people had responded to the book. I needed another voice – someone who had stepped back enough to let the material digest. I found the above video.

And I also found the Broadway play. Which I did not know existed until that moment. Intrigued, I got cozy and watched the whole production. The play drew a completely different emotional response from me. I was raised on musicals, so it’s no surprise that my brain at last surrendered to the story through song.

Unlike the book, the sets are minimal, the solemn nature of so many scenes in the book transformed with expression and song. Though I liked the source material better, emotionally I connected with the musical. Oh my god, that end song? Why am I standing here? I sobbed my eyes out.

But the play wasn’t just sad – it also felt much more vivacious and joyous – something not found in the monotone ink and watercolors of the novel. The children played, the family drew together and apart beautifully, and our leading female fell in love (I’m Changing My Major!) in technicolor.

Both pieces of work are groundbreaking, original, and necessary. I highly recommend both.

RATING: FIVE STARS

Title: Fun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel
Originally published: June 8, 2006
Awards: Stonewall Book Awards – Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award, MORE
Genres: Comics, Memoir, Graphic novel

THE EMPEROR OF ANY PLACE by Tim Wynne-Jones

 

The Emperor of Any Place is about men. Specifically, the Canadian son of a draft dodging American, his military grandfather, and two soldiers shipwrecked on a mysterious island from opposing sides of WWII.

It deals with growing up, grief, responsibility, fathers and sons, male mentors, and male friends. There’s a nice mystery that baited me enough that I actually finished the book, even though I was only halfheartedly invested. The author went on and on about things I found tedious and boring (constructing forts, shelters, miniature boat models). There were tangent plotlines that felt irrelevant, mainly the bits about the grandson, his band and his friends. But there were also very intriguing elements – the diary of the two men on the island, for example.

The author did a excellent job of capturing the language construction of a Japanese soldier and his diary entries were generally the most interesting. The other interesting thing was the island itself… home to restless ghosts, monsters, and other strange beings. It’s not presented a fantasy though, merely a place where Japanese mythologies and folklore exists… and it’s as baffling and terrifying to the two men shipwrecked there as it was to me, the reader. In fact, the men on the island knew no one would believe what happened to them, thus their years of secrecy and the heart of the mystery.

My favorite weird plot element was the concept of each man’s lineage were unborn spirits… existing as ghostly children waiting to be born. And that the men could tap into these memories, of their unborn selves following their ancestors… well, that was fascinating.

Still, it just didn’t do it for me. I don’t generally like historical novels or mysteries, so this just isn’t my cup of tea. 

RATING: THREE STARS

Title: The Emperor of Any Place
Author: Tim Wynne-Jones
Originally published: October 13, 2015
Genre: Fiction

The Noise Must Become Music – Ronan Lynch / Adam Parrish

The art of Fumi Mini Nakamura seamlessly folds basic elements into a cosmic narrative. Flowers, hands, faces, skulls, birds, and wolves – with teeth and nails and thorns – wrap around each other to create ethereal, moody images. Her 2009 Untitled works – (which are titled) “WE FIND NO VESTIGE OF A BEGINNING – NO PROSPECT OF AN END” and “THE NOISE MUST BECOME MUSIC” are, to me, the perfect embodiment of The Raven Boys. In particular, of Adam & Ronan.

See more art by Fumi Mini Nakamura

Adam – all dreamy and conflicted, a mix of longing and defeat.

Adam Parrish drawing by Maggie Stiefvater

Ronan – all teeth and noise.

Ronan Lynch drawing by Maggie Stiefvater

The magical woods, their blossoming romance, their tragic pasts, the spaces only they share. They are so different – but such a beautiful compliment.

Like drifting into this song…

Read the Raven Boys Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater if you haven’t (what are you waiting for? get on it!).  The new Dreamer Trilogy will be out soon… starting with Call Down the Hawk, so you better get on it.

Image result for the raven boys cycle