On the Shelf: This One Summer

THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
Published by Groundwood Books in 2014
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

This is a book filled with nostalgia. Countless blogs and professional reviews have called this book the story of the summer—and I understand why. This One Summer is a simple tale. There are no big twists or shocking moments. Rather, the narration is laidback and unusually focused on the "everyday" life of a young girl and her friend at a summer lake house. The art mirrors the relaxing story, perfectly emulating a relaxing summer near the water.

Rose hopes Awago Beach will help her escape the troubles in her home life. Of course, it doesn't, and this coming-of-age story has just as much to do with a girl growing up as it does learning to accept that we can't run from our troubles. Rose and Windy aren't typical young teenagers; there's more character to these girls than in most 500-page novels. It's an honest portrayal of a very vulnerable age, and I think anyone who was once a young girl will understand what the creators are trying to portray.

This graphic novel is set in Ontario, where many people escape to a lake house or a cottage or a cabin once or twice a year. Most people in Ontario have fond memories of family escapes during the summer. While I'm not one of those people, This One Summer made me feel like I am: reading this book made me feel nostalgic for something I never did have. I imagine the story will have an even stronger pull on those who spent days lounging at a cottage with nothing to do but read, swim, and relax with family.

Pick up This One Summer as soon as you can, but consider keeping it tucked away somewhere safe until next summer's travels. This is a book that needs to be read in one sitting while sitting on a dock, surrounded by water.


Bookography: Gregory Maguire

Since Gregory Maguire is my favourite writer, I thought it best to start this new series by looking at his collection of books. Known for both adult books and children's books, Maguire's fairy-tale inspired tales are immensely popular. His unique command of the written word is unlike any other writer, and he has the ability to twist a well-known story until it is no longer recognizable.

Bookography: Gregory Maguire >> I Believe in Story

Gregory Maguire has quite a few out-of-print children's books circulating used bookstores. I'm on a mission to collect them all, but some are quite difficult to find.

The original trilogy: The Lightning Time, The Daughter of the Moon, and Lights on the Lake. A series of fantasy books set in the Adirondack Mountains. Maguire's earliest work is a sign of things to come.

The Hamlet Chronicles: Seven Spiders Spinning, Six Haunted Hairdos, Five Alien Elves, Four Stupid Cupids, Three Rotten Eggs, A Couple of April Fools, and One Final Firecracker. This series went on for nine years. It follows Miss Earth's class and the all-girl Tattletales Club on various adventures (which include fire-breathing chickens, aliens, ghosts, and spiders).

Other hard-to-find books: The Dream Stealer, I Feel Like the Morning Star, Lucas Fishbone, Oasis, The Good Liar, and Crabby Cratchitt. These children's books are a mix of fantasy and reality, and even include a couple picture books.


Let's move on to the books available for purchase.

Missing Sisters, originally published in 1994, was re-issued in 2009. It's an odd one out from Maguire's current published books because it's a realistic middle grade novel (nothing like his usual fairy tale-inspired stories).

Leaping Beauty: And Other Animal Fairy Tales is the perfect collection to introduce a young one to the wacky world of Gregory Maguire.

What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy is the namesake of this blog. That one line ("I believe in story.") stuck with me for years.

The newest item in the Maguire collection is Egg & Spoon, a book for all ages inspired by Russian folk tales. (It will be published later this month.) This book has beautiful prose, quite like Maguire's adult books. Which brings us to...


Most of Maguire's adult books are fairy-tale inspired. But that doesn't mean they're meant for children. Maguire has a special way with words, and the content is often politically, morally, and ethically inclined. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is based on Cinderella, Mirror, Mirror is based on Snow White (this one is a personal favourite), and Lost pulls inspiration from Ebenezer Scrooge and Jack the Ripper.

Maguire also has an odd adult book in his bookography: The Next Queen of Heaven. It's truly nothing like any other Maguire book.


Of course, the most famous of Maguire's bookography is Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Yes, it inspired a Broadway play—but the musical is nothing like this story. Maguire continued the world of Elphaba in three more books: Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz.

>> Gregory Maguire also has a handful of short stories and essays published in anthologies—but I won't go into all of those today. Let me know your favourite Maguire book in the comments, or which one you're most excited to add to your to-be-read list!


On the Shelf: Let's Get Lost

On the Shelf: FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell >> I BELIEVE IN STORY
LET'S GET LOST by Adi Alsaid.
Published by Harlequin Teen in 2014.
Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named Leila. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most. There's Hudson, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And Bree, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. Elliot believes in happy endings... until his own life goes off-script. And Sonia worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love. Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth—sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.

Let's Get Lost has many of my favourite things that can be found in a book: mulitple perspectives, stand-alone stories, and a focus on character development. I love the format of this book—each section is from the perspective of a different chararacter—so it feels like you're reading five different stories. Leila is the common factor in all of them, but the sections don't connect together as much as I thought they would. The sections stay focused on the narrating character with a few artifacts and themes tying everything together.

I like intelligent writing, and Let's Get Lost begins with clever narration and dialogue. The point of the story is never entirely clear, and beginning with Hudson's section is the perfect starting point for Leila's journey. This section is by far my favourite of the book. It accurately portrays small-town life as Hudson shows Leila around his hometown and all the treasures within it. It had me thinking about the treasures from my hometown: the "corner store," a tree named 'Spike,' a trail in the woods... seemingly forgettable places for anyone else, but incredibly important to me. Hudson's attempt to show Leila his own seemingly unimportant places becomes even more special by the end of the book... but I don't want to give away too much.

I would have been happy if Let's Get Lost was only the first and last sections. Still, the other characters have merits too, and all are on their own journey. The plot lines aren't repetitive, and they all feel hauntingly realistic. Alsaid hasn't written an over-the-top look at teenage life: Let's Get Lost is simplistic and it's this simplicity that makes it work.

In the end, Let's Get Lost is a story about Leila told from the perspective of other people in her life. As the reader, we get little glimpses of Leila's personality and story as she meets new people on her roadtrip, but it's not until the end that we learn any of her truth. Getting lost every now and then is a good idea, if only to find ourselves again.


My Literary Bucket List: Bookish Goals I Will Most Likely Never Accomplish

I’m not sure if I believe in the bucket list. Writing lists can be therapeutic, but only a rare few list makers ever accomplish what they write down. My birthday is too close for comfort (this is the first year that I’m not ready to grow up), and it’s customary to make a bucket list of things you want to accomplish over the next year, the next ten years, the next, well, lifetime. So I’ve brainstormed a literary bucket list, which is essentially a bunch of things I would love to do (and have thought about many times)–but we all know it’s very unlikely that I will accomplish any one of these things.

Read all the books chosen for Oprah’s Book Club.
I had an English teacher in high school admit to me that she had read every book on this list. I’m assuming she started around the same time the book club was formed, but catching up sounded like it would be fun. I told myself, at that moment in grade nine, that I too would one day read all the books on that book club list. I just did some quick research: Oprah’s Book Club started in 1996 and there are seventy books on the list. (Seventy-three if you count the books selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.) It looks like I have only read five of the books that Oprah deems worthy. I’m confident that this goal won’t be crossed off my literary bucket list anytime soon.

Have a black and white bookcase.
I love the look of a bookcase filled with spines that only use black and white on the design. It is lovely? Yes. Is it practical? Sadly, no. When I first saw an image like this, probably six months ago now, I was determined to make it happen. I looked through my book collection and made a pile of all the books that would work. I don’t think I even had enough to fill one shelf, never mind an entire bookcase. Unless I start purchasing books only because they have black and white spines, this item seems impossible.

Read every Ernest Hemingway novel.
I really like Hemingway and I have no good reason why. I’ve already read three of his novels, and there are only ten in total, so this goal could technically be within reach. That being said, I’m not sure how many of his books I could get through before I want to simultaneously hug him for being such a good writer and punch him in the face for being such a jerk. I imagine I’d need a few bottles of wine and a better working knowledge of bull fighting and hunting.

Join a book club.
This has been at the top of my “I totally wish I could do this” list for as long as I can remember. I never seem to be at the right place at the right time. I just want to be that person who brings vegan food to a potluck and sits around and talks about books with people. Is that too much to ask? My life says, “Yes, Maria. Yes it is.”

Meet J.K. Rowling.
There are very few people who would not want to shake this woman’s hand.

Read one short story every morning for an entire year.
This could be the only item on this list that has a slight chance of being accomplished. I really, really, really love short stories. I also really love mornings. And reading. Putting all these thins together sounds almost perfect. Okay, so maybe this one might be worth a try…

>> What ridiculous bookish goals would you like to pretend to accomplish? Let me know in the comments!


On the Shelf: Fangirl

On the Shelf: FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell >> I BELIEVE IN STORY
FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell.
Published by St. Martin's Griffin in 2013.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I'd be shocked if anyone reading this hasn't heard of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The book made its rounds on blogs and websites quite some time ago, so this post is really late to the party. I read the book a couple months ago, but I've been mulling over just what to say about it. It took some convincing before I picked up the book (months after its release; months after what felt like the whole world was talking about). I was worried that the subject matter wouldn't be dealt with appropriately: there are a ton of negative stereotypes surrounding fandom and fanfiction. Thankfully, Rowell knows what she's talking about.

I knew Fangirl was special the moment I started reading it. I saw so much of my University self in Cath. It's no secret that I've dedicated hours of my life to fandom. I understand what it's like to lose track of time while writing fanfiction, to prefer the company of "online" friends to "real-life" friends. Reading about Cath's journey reminded me so much of my own – growing up often means letting go.

What I love about Fangirl is that it's a character portrait more than anything else. There are great things about friendships and relationships and learning how to survive life on your own, but by the end of the book I realized that the true story is how Cath learns to balance fandom and reality. The truth is that the two are so often combined – there's no need to choose sides.

Rowell's writing is fantastic. The dialogue is clever. The excerpts of fanfiction make this book truly unique. If, for whatever reason, you still haven't picked up Fangirl, you need to change that. For those of you who grew up with fandom as part of your life, you'll connect with Cath on a personal level. For those of you who have never even heard of fanfiction before, hopefully Fangirl will introduce you to a whole new part of online life that deserves a little more attention.