The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
2015
HarperTeen

Source: Public Library

Format: Print

Summary from Goodreads: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

This book was amazing! I read it halfway through as an ebook, had to return it, then finished it once the hard copy came in at the library. The characters were real people, with flaws. Events that would have been melodramatic in another book were emotional in this one, because they focused on Mikey’s relationships with his family and friends.

Mike lives in Washington state with his mom, dad, and two sisters. Their small town is overrun every generation or so by some creature or other–Gods and Goddesses, vampires, aliens, the walking dead. The “indie kids” are the heroes and heroines of YA paranormal/fantasy novels: “That group with the cool-geek haircuts and the thrift shop clothes and names from the fifties. Nice enough, never mean, but always the ones who end up being the Chosen One when the vampires come calling or when the alien queen needs the Source of All Light or something. . . .They’ve always got some story going on that they’re heroes of. The rest of us just have to live here, hovering around the edges, left out of it all, for the most part.” As a regular kid, Mikey just wants to hang out with his friends before graduation casts them out into the world. And make out with his friend Henna, before she leaves for Africa with her doctor parents.

His sister Mel, aka Melinda, is a year older than him, but was held back by a eating disorder. Mike struggles with his OCD–washing his hands until they bleed, counting anything over and over. Fortunately, he has his best friend Jared to get him out of “loops.” Jared is gay, and possibly in love with Mikey. He’s also a demigod of cats. Mikey’s sister Meredith is ten, a genius, and the only one in the family not messed up, according to him.

I liked the way Ness told two stories in one book. The main story in each chapter was Mike’s story. The other story was a basic YA paranormal novel told in the chapter headings. For example: “Chapter the First, in which the Messenger of the Immortals arrives in a surprising shape, looking for a permanent Vessel; and after being chased by her through the woods, indie kid Finn meets his final fate.” Mike and his friends only see Finn run into the forest, followed by strange blue light. That way of storytelling made the book more than just a spoof of popular YA fiction.

I also liked that the emotional scenes were about Mike’s family for the most part. His dad is an alcoholic, but the sad depressed kind, not the scary abusive kind. His local politician mom appears to care more about her run for U.S. Senate than her family. His grandma has Alzheimer’s, but not “kooky Alzheimer’s” where she says cute things, the real kind where she doesn’t know who she is anymore. So Mike just talks at her when he visits her. His life sucked relative to the indie kids’ lives, which became part of the main theme of the book, friendship. He loves his family and friends for the messed up people they are, and makes do the best he can.

Weird Wednesday: New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird edited by Paula Guran

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Weird Wednesday is a monthly feature about “weird” fiction, which is a combination of science fiction/fantasy and horror, or sometimes pure surrealism. 

New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird

Edited by Paula Guran

Prime Books

2011

Source: Ebook from the library (OverDrive)

For this first installment of Weird Wednesday, I chose a book of stories based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, one of the “fathers” of weird fiction. I’ve read some H.P. Lovecraft, but I don’t like his Cthulhu stories much. I don’t see the universe as inherently frightening and overwhelming.

It took me a long time to get through this book as it was too much of the same thing. A lot of the stories in this were about people stumbling on or discovering the Lovecraftian monsters. My favorites were the ones where the monsters were known to some people but not to others, or the monsters were known to everyone.

My favorite stories were:

“Fair Exchange” by Michael Marshall Smith: A thief in London steals a mysterious artifact from the house of a strange American family.

“A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman: One of my favorite Gaiman stories! In a world taken over by the Elder Gods, a man much like Dr. Watson meets a man much like Sherlock Holmes.

“Bad Sushi” by Cherie Priest: An old Japanese man encounters the monster he fought decades before.

“The Essayist in the Wilderness” by  William Browning Spencer: A man decides his life’s work is to write essays about nature. He observes the life cycle of “crawdads,” which are baby Cthulhus.

“The Dude Who Collected  Lovecraft” by Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt: A story where the characters discuss Lovecraft himself.

“Cold Water Survival” by Holly Phillips: An update of sorts to “At the Mountains of Madness.” Explorers in the now melting Arctic find Lovecraftian monsters have adapted to climate change.

“Mongoose” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette: A science fiction novella about a man who uses a small tame Lovecraftian monster to hunt giant ones in a space station.

So a mixed bag of stories. I might look into the second book, New Cthulhu 2.

June-July 2015 Round Up

I’m behind on my goals! Here is an update. I got all of these books from my library in print or ebook.

In June and July 2015, I read:
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
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This was a really good YA historical novel. I have a review coming up!
You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren
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I’m interested in adding bodyweight training to my running routine. This seemed like a good place to start. (He has a woman’s version, Body by You, which I might look at too.)  I ended up not using the program from this book, but this was very inspiring and scientifically sound, so I would recommend it. Lauren also made the program into a book and app.

Living with Less: How to Downsize to 100 Personal Possessions by Mary Lambert
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This was a basic primer on minimalism by an English organizing consultant. I agree with some of the reviews on Goodreads that this was repetitive and a little sexist. (“Men collect sports equipment!” “Women collect clothes!”) Lambert shares excerpts from her blog when she decided to downsize to 100 items. By the end, one of her items was “T-shirts (13).” I understand grouping some things into categories, but to me 13 t-shirts is 13 items! I’m looking forward to going more in-depth on minimalism by reading The 100 Things Challenge by Dave Bruno, who invented the challenge, and The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.

The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff

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This book explored “natural science” from around the 17th century to the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was very long, but I enjoyed learning about many of the people who “stocked” US and UK natural history museums and their adventures in other countries.
Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War by H. Donald Winkler
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Winkler covered women from both the Union and the Confederacy. I ended up only reading about half of it due to time. I liked that each chapter was about a different woman, and was a good overview of each woman’s life. I recognized Harriet Tubman, Belle Boyd and Mary Surratt, but the rest I didn’t know. I would recommend it!

Deep Secret (Magids #1) by Diana Wynne Jones

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I finally read this after hearing about it on Neil Gaiman’s blog a few years ago. I thought it was a children’s book, as I know Diana Wynne Jones wrote mainly for kids.  It turned out to be a novel for adults, but teens could read it too.

A Magid is a magician who handles the political relations between many worlds in the Multiverse. Each world has three Magids. Magid Rupert Venables’ superiors send him to find Earth’s third one. He finds good candidates at a science fiction convention. He doesn’t know anything about science fiction and finds it all ridiculous. He just wants to find the third Magid and save the Multiverse from evil. I liked the world building and characterization. I understand the second book is for children, elementary or middle school.

Focusing in on Reviews

So that’s what I read recently. All of those tie into my new focus of reviews:  nonfiction I want to write about, science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction. (I didn’t read any classic novels this month, but want to add that too.)

Ironskin by Tina Connolly (Ironskin #1)

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Ironskin (Ironskin #1)

by Tina Connolly

Tor, 2012

This book is a historical fantasy set in a place very much like England. It’s loosely based on Jane Eyre. It was nominated for a 2012 Nebula Award.

Five years after the Great War with the fey (fairies) ended, Jane Eliot comes to work as a governess for the mysterious and handsome Edward Rochart. His little daughter Dorie has had a “fey-curse” from birth. Jane thinks she can help, as she was also cursed by the fey during a battle. She has to wear an iron mask over half her face, so her curse won’t hurt others. In a subplot, her newlywed sister Helen and her husband are also keeping secrets.

The world building here was very good. Jane finds it amusing that her book of children’s tales (a spoof of A Child’s Garden of Verses) tells how to protect yourself from the copperhead hydra, but also has “fictional” stories about dragons. I thought that was a good choice–in a world where humans live with dwarfs and fairies, something else magical doesn’t exist in this world! As Helen is into fashion, there were many descriptions of clothes. The pre-war fashions were long Victorian-type dresses, and the post-war ones were short dresses with fringe, like the 1920s.

Besides the clothes, the theme of the book reminded me of England after World War I–a sense that the wonderful easygoing time of the aristocracy is now lost, and how those times won’t return again even if Jane wishes they could.  Both Jane and Rochart have regrets about what happened during the war. The fey gave humans technology to run their cinemas, cameras, and lights. This magical light was blue. After the war, the fey disappeared, so humans must go back to using coal and steam, and no more blue-and-white movies or photos.

Now, about the Jane Eyre connection. The name “Rochart” was too close to “Rochester” for me, but they are different characters with different motivations for their secrets. (From what I remember of Rochester at least; I haven’t read Eyre since high school.) Jane Eliot is young, in her early twenties, but more worldly than Jane Eyre due to her wartime experiences. Connolly does mention “no madwoman in the attic” and mentions Charlotte Brontë in the acknowledgments.

This is the first book in a trilogy. The second book, Copperhead, is about Helen, and the third, Silverblind, is about a grown-up Dorie.

Besides writing, Tina Connolly reads flash fiction stories on her podcast Toasted Cake.