Book Talk and Thoughts: Miss Peregrine’s book and movie

So a few posts ago I mentioned that I would be reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And I did. I finished it several days ago actually. The problem is I don’t have much to say about it, but I’ll give you what little I’ve got. I feel that calling this a “review” would be a bit of a stretch, not only because I don’t have much to say about the book, but also because I’m going to talk about the upcoming movie.

It’s nearly impossible for me to talk about the Miss Peregrine novel without comparing it to the upcoming movie (September.)  I’m really looking forward to seeing it, or, as my inner valley girl would put it- “I mean, I’m like, SUPER excited to see that movie! Oh my god I can’t wait!”  I’m absolutely certain I’m going to like the movie more than the book. The trailers for that movie are amazing and they’re 99% of the reason I decided to read the book. Based solely on the 2 minute trailers available, I can see that the book and movie are going to differ in some major ways. In fact, I wonder if these major differences will disappoint or annoy the fans of the novel.

So . . . Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As I previously explained, I think it was about this time last year, or maybe during autumn and winter of last year, I kept seeing this book at my local grocery store. Copies and copies and copies of this book with the strange and creepy (yet alluring) cover would stare at me every time I walked by the book/magazine/greeting card section of the store; beckoning to me- read me, read me , read me. I can’t deny I was drawn to it. Not only does the cover of the book draw you in, the title does too. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children— that is a great title.

Despite its obvious success and mainstream popularity, despite its unique and alluring cover, I opted at that time not to read it. I can’t tell you how many times I picked up a copy and read the story description and plot synopsis. But I came to the same conclusion each time- too scary. I can’t do scary. No scary movies, no scary books. I didn’t want to read it because I was concerned it would keep me up at night.

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Turns out I was right. This book is scary. Those strange old photos in the book are very creepy and eerie and, yes, it kept me up at night. However, I am a bit sensitive when it comes to that stuff. I’m easily scared. My mother-in-law mentioned that it kept her up at night as well, but she really liked it- said she couldn’t put it down. That wasn’t my experience at first but, yes, towards the end of the book I couldn’t put it down. As quoted from the review in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Brace yourself for the last 70 pages . . . “
I definitely agree with that.
Apparently CNN said “Readers searching for the next Harry Potter may want to visit Miss Peregrine’s . . .”  It’s also been compared to X-MEN. (Entertainment Weekly) As for the Harry Potter comment, for me that would be a No. I don’t think so. This is not the next Harry Potter. Reading Harry Potter, especially the early years, is fun!
Miss Peregrine’s is . . . not so much fun as it is creepy and scary. Thrilling and suspenseful too! (To be fair.) But not exactly fun nor uplifting the way Harry Potter was (is) for me. As for the X-MEN comparison, yes, I agree. X-MEN definitely came to mind when I was reading this.

The movie previews made me think I had misjudged the book, but I don’t think I did. The previews of the movie present a quirky, colorful, fantasy-adventure, but I found the book to very dark, which is what I suspected in the first place. I like what McClatchy Wire Service said, “Got a tweener child with a taste for creepy horror and time-travel stories? Send them Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

“Creepy horror.” Exactly. Oh, and time travel.
This is such a crap “review” I’m doing here that I haven’t even mentioned the time-travel aspect of the book, which is a major part of the story/plot so how could I not have mentioned it?! I don’t know. I just don’t know. I have no satisfactory explanation. All I can say is that the whole time-travel part of the plot didn’t leave a big impression on me. I was too distracted by the “creepy horror.”

I will say this- the fact that the book contains old photos makes it very unique. That was a very creative idea. The photos definitely create a different kind of reading experience. The plot is smart and very well organized, which is very cool and impressive considering there is time-travel involved. The depiction of the Welsh island where the story takes place is very well done. The characters are good, especially Miss Peregrine herself, but I don’t think I’ll remember the personalities of the other characters as much as I will their “peculiar” abilities- levitation, fire, invisibility, etc.
All in all, I thought the book was ok. Most, if not all, of the reviews rave about this book, but I’m not raving. Just not my cup of tea, I guess. I like how the book ended- it had a well written ending, but I don’t feel the urge to read the next one in the series. With all of the books on my to-read list I doubt I will read the other books in this series.
I’ll just go see the movies.

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Review: After Alice, concluding thoughts

“All of life hinges on what one does next, until finally one makes the wrong choice. But was this that moment?” 

“Alice, I’m coming.”

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After Alice, by Gregory Maguire, tells the story of what was happening in Alice’s world after she chased the white rabbit and fell down the rabbit hole. It can be a difficult book to read and follow, especially the first few chapters, but the more I read the easier (and better) it got. The more I read, the more I liked it, and by the end I really liked it. It isn’t going on my “Favorite Books” list, but I liked it well enough to maybe read it again one day. It isn’t a long novel, but it also isn’t a quick read.

In between the telling of the actual story the author inserts thoughts and lectures on a variety of topics– philosophy, theology, evolution, architecture, even the city of Oxford itself. It’s all very smart and interesting, but it’s also what makes the book difficult to understand at times. The topics the author touches on, and themes he hints at, add to the novel in a way I can barely comprehend- I can’t deny that. But you really could take those parts out of the book and the story itself would remain in tact.

After Alice switches back and forth between the underworld and the “upper world.” The narration also switches from character to character. Usually I don’t like this in a book, sometimes I absolutely despise it, but in this case it wasn’t so bad and it didn’t bother me that much.
Alice is mentioned throughout the story, and we learn a lot about her peculiar personality, but she isn’t an active character in this novel. She doesn’t appear until the very end and has only a few lines of dialogue, but they’re great. Quintessentially Alice.

The main characters are Alice’s older sister Lydia, her friend Ada, and Ada’s governess, Miss Armstrong. The reader learns a lot about Alice’s older sister Lydia, which I found really interesting. You also learn a great deal about Ada, “a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” (Many of the well known characters from the original Wonderland novel are also in After Alice– the Mad Hatter and the hare, the White Rabbit, the White Queen, and the Queen of Hearts, as well as others.)

Ada is a curious character and I liked her. There is a lot of description about her physical appearance. She is described as having a “distortion in her skeletal structure,” and walks with “a stoop and a gimp.” In an attempt to correct this Ada has to wear an iron corset, and all of this comes into play throughout the story.

We also learn a little about the members of Ada’s family, her quiet father the Vicar, her “dropsical” mother, and her new-born baby brother who has a large impact at the start of the story. I found it both fascinating and annoying that the author referred to the baby in 15 different ways within the span of only 5 pages!
Good god, I had no idea what the hell was going on at first! It took me forever to understand that the author was only talking about a colicky or sick baby. The problem was he didn’t just come out and say it. Apparently Mr. Maguire has something against clarity! Or maybe laziness. Gregory Maguire wants you to work for the story, he isn’t going to just hand it over to you, you mental loafer!
So, as I was saying, Ada’s baby brother is referred to in 15 different ways in the space of only 5 pages. First it’s the poor creature and then pink smudge of infant, infant in peril, wretched offspring,
“His Lordship the Infant Tyrant”
“The Tiny Interruption”
“Boy Boyce,” etc.

There are also several minor, but very interesting characters. Mrs. Brummige and Rhoda, two servants in Alice’s household.  Mr. Winters, an American man visiting England with his adopted son. Siam, Mr. Winters’ adopted son, a young boy rescued from slavery in the South. And, the biggest surprise character of all, Darwin. Yes, the Darwin is a character in After Alice.

So, as I said, even though I got off to a rough start with After Alice, in the end I really liked it. Actually, it was the surprise, very clever plot twist at the end of the book that sealed the deal. There is a very unexpected “witness” in the trial at the Queen’s garden party- it’s brilliant! I loved it. I also think I got more out of After Alice because I had previously read Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, so I definitely recommend that.

Also recommended, Confessions of An Ugly Step-Sister.
“An arresting hybrid of mystery, fairy tale, and historical novel. . . . Confessions . . . isn’t easy to classify or forget.”
  -The Detroit Free Press. (From the back of the After Alice book jacket.)

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A hybrid of mystery, fairy tale, and historical novel that isn’t easy to classify?!
How could I not read it! How can I not accept this challenge? Because a challenge it will most definitely be. A friend of mine told me a few weeks ago that she read Confessions, and she confessed to encountering the same difficulties that my mother-in-law and I had with Wicked and After Alice- a hazy, patchy style of storytelling, too many obscure words, a lot of philosophical sidebars that do not seem to further the plot or character development. She said she didn’t know what was going on until several chapters into the book, and even then the story still wasn’t very clear most of the time.
Still, I don’t think I’ll be able to resist reading it.

However, that won’t be until September or October at the earliest. The next book I’m reading is, of course, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

 

 

Quotes: After Alice

When I share my (many) thoughts on a book I’ve read, one thing I really like to do- one thing I feel compelled to do- is list my favorite quotes. Because I have so many thoughts on Gregory Maguire’s After Alice, and because I found so many interesting quotes, I decided it would be best to break it up into two parts, which will actually make it three parts as I already did a First Impressions review on June 26th. That was only about 16 or 17 days ago but feels as though it was months ago!

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A full review subtitled “Concluding Thoughts” will be posted next Sunday, July 16th.
This book was full of clever and witty quotes, but I had to narrow it down. The following lines are my favorite quotes from After Alice. Some of them are repeats from my First Impressions post.

 

” . . . where in all these enterprises of thought and institution is Lydia herself?  What is the character of Lydia, and where the soul of Lydia . . .

“And where, for that matter, is Alice?”

“It’s as if a botanical display and an athletic contest and a gypsy circus have all set themselves up in a hippodrome of some sort.”

“Up until ten minutes ago, Ada had not had much experience in the practice of imagination.”

“Miss Armstrong was aware that imagination, often a cause of temptation and unrest, could also serve the soul. . .”

” . . . . the tilting of an eyebrow. This was too obscure a hieroglyphic for the Vicar to decipher, no matter how Miss Armstrong concentrated the pure fire of her being in the muscles of her forehead. One day she would self-immolate . . . . Spontaneous combustion caused by an eyebrow left to smolder a moment too long.”

“The world pauses for royalty and deformity alike, and sometimes one can’t tell the difference.”

“Her gait was still lopsided, but so was the world, so she kept on.”

“Evolution a mighty power, could it yield up creatures capable of argument.”

“I have no use for tea, after all. My mother has died . . .  She is, consequently, dead. She had a big head like mine and Alice’s and it’s my opinion that it simply exploded.”

“The instinct toward panic, once experienced, cannot be unlearned.”

“The Queen of Hearts has a robust temper, you see. And anger gives one an appetite. So her edible guests do try to keep her from losing her temper.”

“I understand there is to be an execution.”
“What is to be executed?” asked the Lion.
“Manners and fine taste . . . .” 

They were going to the garden party . . . and we will be wanting to get there before long.” [Said Ada.] You may want that,” said the White Queen.I want peace among all nations. Either that or lemon drop, I can’t decide.”
(Lemon drop?  A nod to Professor Dumbledore? I suspect so, because the White Queen also has a magic cloak.)

“My,” said Ada, laying the dead rose on the peaty moss. “Life is a very cheap thing here.”
“Cheap and dear all at once,” said the Rose from her grave. “That’s the thing. You’ll figure it out sooner or later.”

” . . . the White Queen and the White Knight. Generally adults were a failure, but these two managed failure well.”

“All of life hinges on what one does next, until finally one makes the wrong choice. But was that this moment?”

“She had no intention of stripping to her smalls in a court of law, however deranged the audience.” 

Though usually a dreamer of commonplace notions, once in a while Ada had enjoyed dreams of flying. So she was hardly surprised to find herself not only capable but skilled at this . . . She moved upward in a spiral . . . She disobeyed earlier advice and looked up rather than down.

” [The] essayist’s point is about the urgency of not being dislodged from one’s deepest beliefs. No matter how beset one might be.”
“Perhaps we are meant and made to shift our beliefs.”
“If we are ‘made’ or ‘meant,’ then someone must have made or meant us.”

 

 

 

 

My To-Read List: books and blogs

Books, books, books, books, books, books, books!

A frenzy of reading! I haven’t read this much in a very long time. It’s great to be back!

I fully intended to start reading again. I went through a little reading lapse about this time last year, but I always knew I’d get back into it. I guess it kind of started with The Snow Queen and other winter tales. Then things really took off when my mother-in-law gave me After Alice and a fellow blogger lead me to An Old-Fashioned Girl. And somewhere in there I also started Vanity Fair although I have no idea why . . .

Anyway, I had to put Alice on pause while I read Old-Fashioned Girl. Now I’m almost finished with Alice and I already have two new books lined up- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Yes Please by actress Amy Poehler, given to me by a friend when I mentioned I had been recently binge-watching Parks and Rec on Netflix. (And loving it.)

As for the other one, when I went to see Alice Through the Looking Glass with my son and mother-in-law we saw previews for an amazing new fantasy/sci-fi movie- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Let me tell you, we are pumped about seeing that movie!
I for one was totally shocked because I remembered seeing that book everywhere last year, but the whole time I thought it was a horror novel! I mean, look at that cover! Creepy. Very creepy. And I CANNOT read horror stories or watch scary movies, I can’t sleep for months if I do. So I never read that stuff.

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But now after seeing the previews for the moving, and finding out that it’s actually a fantasy novel, I really, really want to read that book! During the movie preview for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children I mentioned to my mother-in-law that it was also a book. I’m pretty sure that she said, right then and there, that she would get it for us so we could read it before the movie came out. Well, she called me last week to let me know she was in Barnes & Noble buying the books and that she would be mailing mine to me the next day.
It arrived on Thursday and it’s been taunting me ever since.
I’m dying to read it!!!
But I have to finish the others first.

However, I will take a sneak peak at the first line of the novel. I have a strange love and thrill for the first line in novels. The first line is special. It’s like when two people meet for the first time not knowing they’re going to end up spending the rest of their lives together. An entire lifetime together, a family’s whole history starts with that one tiny moment. With books it starts with that first sentence, a sentence that was written not knowing it would become part of literary history.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged . . .”

 

And the first line of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, 

 

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

(Very promising start!)
Reading After Alice and being part of the Louisa May Alcott reading challenge has been quite the learning experience. It’s been fun and enlightening, but also exhausting!- especially taking part in the reading challenge with other bloggers. I’ve been reading and writing my heart out and it’s been great! I’ve learned so much about blogging, I’ve “met” some new people, and discovered some really cool and interesting new blogs and websites.

AmberSeah.worpress.com | She’s an 80’s girl, an 1880’s girl
InTheBookcase.blogspot.com | a place where books belong 
AnneBronte.org
ItsSimplyGrace.blogspot.com Fictionally. Books. Writing. Imagination
SusanBailey.org
RelevantObscurity.com
 A book centered life
And, probably my favorite website name of all time, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com.

I don’t expect to very often find anything for me on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books because I just can’t get into “trashy” romance novels, but I had to include it here because the name is just so damn awesome! But also because it really is a very good site, and they do review more than “trashy” romance novels.

Well, I guess that’s it for now. I’m off to finish After Alice and then it’s on to Miss Peregrine’s.  After that, maybe Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, or I might go back to Vanity Fair.
We’ll see.

Review and character analysis: An Old-Fashioned Girl

I’ll be honest. The first several paragraphs of this post are me sharing my random thoughts and research about Louisa May Alcott, and the random things that happened leading up to me joining the LMA reading challenge. While I find my random thoughts to be most interesting, you might not.
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So if you’d rather skip to the actual review of An Old-Fashioned Girl, just scroll down until you come to the novel’s cover.

I had no idea I’d be reading a Louisa May Alcott novel this summer. There wasn’t one on my list. In fact, up until a few months ago I didn’t know about 99% of what LMA wrote.
So how did I come to read An Old-Fashioned Girl?  Well, about 2 weeks ago, Tarissa over at In The Bookcase invited me to take part in a Louisa May Alcott reading challenge. The challenge was to read 3 books either by or about LMA within the month of June. I couldn’t complete the full challenge because I came in and got started so late, but I wanted to read at least one LMA novel that I had never read before.
Since the only novel by LMA that I’ve ever read was Little Women I had tons to choose from. Louisa May Alcott wrote a lot of novels and short stories. She is definitely one of the most underrated, under appreciated classic authors. Her work, and the amount of it, should be just as well known and as much celebrated as Dickens and Austen. True, there is ample respect, admiration, and reverence for Little Women, but LMA did so much more!

So, as I was saying, there was a lot to choose from. Tarissa, as well as some others at In The Bookcase, chose An Old-Fashioned Girl as one of their reading challenge selections. I remembered coming across that title a few months ago when I did a little research on LMA after a chance encounter with one of her short stories, Ripple The Water-Spirit.
Also suggested on In The Bookcase: The Skipping Stones, a short story by LMA found in the book Faerie Gold, Jo’s Boys by LMA, March by Geraldine Brooks, Pedlar’s Progress: The Life of Bronson Alcott by Odell Shepard, Little Women Next Door by Sheila Solomon Klass, and Illuminated by The Message by Susan Bailey.
Susan Bailey also took part in the LMA reading challenge and is creator and host of the website LouisaMayAlcottIsMyPassion. And here’s an interesting little coincidence- I actually came across that website a few months back when I was doing my first round of research on LMA after finding Ripple The Water-Spirit. My review of that story is how Tarissa came to find me and invite me to take part in the LMA reading challenge. Talk about coming full circle! Wow! What are the odds that this would happen?! …..Amazing.

Well, back to the actual review I’m supposed to be doing…..
So, as I said, there were several good LMA options suggested on In The Bookcase. Through my own research I also came across Rose In Bloom and A Long Fatal Love Chase– one of LMA’s gothic novels. Apparently she wrote several somewhat dark and edgy gothic novels. Who Knew!? Again, something I was not aware of and very pleasantly surprised to discover. I am now very curious to read some of those and compare them to the more tame stories that LMA is better known for. However, I decided that I wasn’t in the mood for a gothic novel, so I narrowed it down to Rose In Bloom and An Old-Fashioned Girl. My final choice was Old-Fashioned Girl.

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No surprise, I really enjoyed reading An Old-Fashioned Girl–  memorable characters, themes to make you think, and that beautiful language! I absolutely love the “old-fashioned” language of 19th century literature. They just don’t write them like that anymore.

At first I thought for sure I was going to go with Rose In Bloom by LMA because I felt that I could relate more to the independent Rose rather than the “old-fashioned” Polly. In order to decide which book to read I read the first chapter of both books then slept on it. An OldFashioned Girl was the one that stuck with me the most. Even though I didn’t feel that I completely related to either Polly or Fanny Shaw, I wanted to see how things would play out in this story of “Old-Fashioned Meets (or collides with) Modern & Trendy”.
Besides, its clear that the personality of Polly and Fanny were somewhat exaggerated (purposely), so it was no wonder that I didn’t completely relate to either of them. No matter- a good story is a good story, and excellent writing is excellent writing. Also, it would be fun to see if I could find within myself a little bit of each girl/character. I suspect it’s true for most of us.

One thing that definitely struck me about Polly was her strong sense of self and her resolution in her beliefs and morals- and I admired her for this. She is shy, yes, and self-conscious at times, but when it came down to it she defended herself and her family, their “country” way of life and their values. That type of character was very new and interesting to me. In my reading experience, when a character compares herself to others, or finds herself in situations where comparisons are inevitable, she initially doubts herself quite a bit.
Polly was almost unshakable, even when she experienced moments of uncertainty about herself and her un-modern ways they were very brief, and she kept her doubt to herself. Again, I found all of this very interesting. I’m used to Jane Austen characters who either show their vulnerability at all times, or have at least one confidant to whom they admit their insecurities. I think this is what usually happens in real life.
Most of us experience a lot of self-doubt, sometimes even to the point of trying to be something, or someone, that we’re not. But Polly never did that. She has her own brand of confidence; a confidence that obviously stems from her loving family, the bond she has with them, and the respect she has for them- especially her mother.
I’m sure I read somewhere a comparison between Polly and Melanie Wilkes from Gone With the Wind. I definitely see their similarities, but Melanie always seemed to me to be unaware of how different she was, whereas Polly is aware of the differences between herself and Fanny, and Fanny’s friends. Speaking of Fanny, it is the character by the same name (Fanny Price) in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park that Polly most reminds me of. They would both be considered “goody-two-shoes” and old-fashioned, both have very high moral standards and stick to them even when faced with ostracization.

Polly is a unique and interesting character, but not realistic. However, maybe she wasn’t meant to be realistic; she represents an ideal, a model to follow- LMA said as much in her preface to An Old-Fashioned Girl.
I think I do have a little bit, just a teeny bit, of an inner Polly. My morals and feelings regarding some things probably would seem old-fashioned to many people today. In fact, I know they are because my husband tells me so! (Haha!) However, I do also have a wild side and I’m certainly not the most conservative person I’ve ever known. I’ve got a little bit of an inner Fanny Shaw too- sometimes I have a temper (like she did with her brother!), I make mistakes, sometimes I have to go back and apologize, and, of course, sometimes I like to dress up, go out, and have fun!
Like many others, I was definitely more of a Fanny Shaw when I was young but- I grew up. The older I get and the more I grow as a person, the more I become like Fanny Price, Melanie Wilkes, and Polly too- smart, kind, and confident.

 

Review: My first impressions of After Alice

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After Alice is a Gregory Maguire novel. He’s the guy who wrote Wicked, the novel that tells the Wizard of Oz story from the perspective of the so-called wicked witch of the west.
After Alice is, obviously, a spin on the Alice in Wonderland novel(s). To me the title has a double meaning, and the book, in fact, tells two separate stories. What was going on with everyone else- friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances- after Alice fell down that rabbit hole? The reader is also introduced to Ada, the little girl who also somehow falls down into Wonderland (although it is never called that) sometime after Alice had already descended. Once down there, Ada comes to the conclusion that maybe this strange place is where Alice has disappeared to and decides to go after Alice, to find her and bring her back home, if she can.
So, that’s a brief synopsis.
Now, my first thoughts and impressions of After Alice. . .

Big words. This is why I think Gregory Maguire writes- to use big, obscure words that most people have never heard of, let alone understand.

For example,

aspidistra      comportment      miasma      cozen/cozened      descants
bucholia         ellipsis                   vatic            self-immolate       martinet
camphor        churlish                 gibbet         dipsomania            crepuscular
farrago            purloined             unguent      opodeldoc               hydrocephalic
pellucid          portents                denizen       bosh                         folderol
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Yes, I actually wrote them all down. As I was reading After Alice I became so fascinated by the incredible amount of unfamiliar words and phrases that I felt compelled to start making a list. What I listed above is only part of what I recorded on paper here at home, and includes only up to chapter 7!
Now, to be honest, I haven’t done any research on Maguire at all, so maybe there is an article or something out there that explains why he writes using such obscure language. With that said, I think one possible explanation as to why he uses such strange words in After Alice is that he is writing for the time period in which the story is set. Just a theory…

However, on the back of the book jacket of After Alice there is a quote from the Los Angeles Times regarding Wicked which describes that novel as “A staggering feet of wordcraft. . . .”

Exactly. Wordcraft. The words come first. The story- the tale being told- is secondary. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance, and determination for me to read a Gregory Maguire novel. And I state this unequivocally despite the fact that I’ve read only 1 and 1/2 books by him. A few years ago I read Wicked. It was difficult, but I did finish it. (I also saw the play. The play is much better.) And, a bit challenging though it may be, I WILL finish After Alice. I am, as I’ve said, determined. I will conquer it. That’s why I stuck with and ultimately finished Wicked even though it took me forever to get into it, and it’s why I will do the same with After Alice- TO CONQUER IT, to beat it, to win! I can’t let the book win!
This is a new sensation for me.
I’ve never read any book to “beat” it. I read books that I actually like, books that are fun and interesting with characters and stories that I love, relate to, and learn from. I read books to relax, I read books because I enjoy them- not to conquer or beat them as though reading is some sort of battle or struggle between book and reader. Or reader and author.

At this point (Sunday June 26th, 2016, approximately 1:00 am) I am a little more than half way through After Alice. It took several chapters but I finally understood what was going on, and now that I’m getting close to finishing the book I can say that the story– once the author finally gets to it- is actually pretty good and interesting. It’s also, from what I can remember, much easier to follow than Wicked.
I was just talking to my mother-in-law about this today (well, yesterday, technically.) She’s the one, as I mentioned in a previous post, who gave me her copy of After Alice. She’s  read Wicked as well, and we (along with several other readers we know) share the same sentiments regarding Gregory Maguire’s unusual writing style. We don’t care for his style of storytelling, but he is a good writer. The following are some of my favorite quotes (so far) from After Alice.

“Depending upon the hour, a governess in a troubled household is either a ministering angel or an ambulatory munitions device.”

“Ada, not a deeply imaginative child, believed the cows were resistant to conversation.”

“But she was a good girl. On the way out, she slammed the sewing room door only a little.”

“Mrs. Boyce lay squalid in self-forgiveness.”

“Miss Armstrong was aware that imagination, often a cause of temptation and unrest, could also serve the soul. . .”

“Miss Armstrong sometimes tried to communicate her yearning for recognition as a feminine entity by the tilting of an eyebrow. This was too obscure a hieroglyphic for the Vicar to decipher, no matter how Miss Armstrong concentrated the pure fire of her being in the muscles of her forehead. One day she would self-immolate . . . . Spontaneous combustion caused by an eyebrow left to smolder a moment too long.”

“The world pauses for royalty and deformity alike, and sometimes one can’t tell the difference.”

“She’d fall forever and never land. She’d be the world’s first internal asteroid.”

“She’d stood there for sometime, poking the pyre of coals so that no evidence of her own corruption survived. . .”

“Up until ten minutes ago, Ada had not had much experience in the practice of imagination.”

“Marmalade has to make its own way in life, like the rest of us. . . .”

“She’d have to take up a hobby of some sort if she were to fall for eternity.”

“Her gait was still lopsided, but so was the world, so she kept on.”

“No one can ever know the answer to that question. It is existentially, hyperbolically, quintessentially unknowable.”

“Evolution a mighty power, could it yield up creatures capable of argument.”

 

 

 

Lady Susan and movies

I recently put it out there that maybe I would read Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland novels before reading Gregory Maguire’s After Alice, or that maybe I would just go ahead and dive right into After Alice.
But then I somehow found out that another one of Jane Austen’s novels has been turned into a movie, and pretty good one apparently! Yay!
It’s titled Love & Friendship and is based on Austen’s novella, Lady Susan. Apparently the movie is pretty funny because, apparently, Lady Susan is considered Austen’s “comedic gem.” (I read that somewhere, but I can’t remember where.)
So I haven’t been able to read anything to do with Alice or Wonderland because I had to re-read Lady Susan. It was bothering me.
I read Lady Susan a year or two ago, but I did not remember it being funny. I liked it, but I did not remember it making me laugh- maybe a few mildly funny things here and there, but certainly not a “comic gem.” A gem, yes. Comic, no. Bridget Jones’s Diary now that’s a comic gem! So is Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, as well as Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy. 
Anyway, what do I know? If the real experts say that Lady Susan is a very humorous novel then obviously it is and I just don’t get it. I probably took it way too seriously. Oh well, I’m still looking forward to the movie and I’m very excited that it looks like it really will be hilarious.
Oh, and I loved reading Lady Susan again. I couldn’t put it down!

So what else have I been doing….
I’ve been watching movies actually. It all started with Bridget Jones’s Diary. I happened to see last week that it was available on Netflix, and because I’m such a nerd I was so excited! I’ve been wanting to see that movie again for years! So I watched it. Loved it!
Then, a few days later, I tried to watch it again but it wasn’t there anymore.  : (
And that’s how I found Notting Hill and One Day.
I had seen Notting Hill back when it first came out and I was very interested in watching it again. I was very curious to see if I would react to it differently considering I’m about 15 years older than I was when I first saw it. And, I was right. I remember liking it before but this time around I loved it! I loved Julia Roberts. I’m going to watch it again.
One Day (starring Anne Hathaway), on the other hand, I probably won’t watch again. It’s a really good movie- and sorry to give too much away- but it’s just too sad.

There was one part where Dexter, the movie’s male lead character, was lying at the top of the stairs a bloody mess. No, literally, the guy really was a bloody mess. He had been out at a club the night before, got drunk, then got into a fight with a guy who smashed his face into a mirror. So he (Dexter) somehow gets home, passes out at the top of the stairs, and his little daughter, about 7 years old, finds him there like that. Fortunately, her mother, who has divorced Dexter,  gets there just seconds later and she attends to him immediately. She firmly tells her daughter to get dressed and ready to go, but it’s Dexter she’s attending to- lifting his head, trying to get him to come to, trying to get him to stand up. In other words, she responded compassionately. Now, I know she’s a character and it’s “only a movie,” but that situation is entirely plausible. It’s obviously happened to someone somewhere before- it could be happening to someone somewhere right now.

In that situation a person has several different options– I don’t need to go through all of them, use your imagination. Anyway, as I said, the character in the movie responds with compassion. She, in my opinion, responded appropriately.
What would you do in a situation like that?
What would I do?
I know exactly what I would do. My first concern would have been my daughter. My instinct would have been to go to her first. I would have stepped right over him.
That’s not compassionate, not compassionate at all. What does that say about me?
And even after I had taken my daughter to another room, I don’t think I would attempt to physically help the person. I mean… I don’t know…  I don’t think I would. I’m an avoider. I would call an ambulance! That’s probably overkill, but that’s what I would do.
But that isn’t natural, is it? Isn’t going straight to the injured person more natural than avoiding them? Al-Anon teaches “Detachment with love.” Or detachment with compassion.
Detachment- that’s the part I’m good at! Its the other stuff I’m not so good with. My detachment isn’t balanced with much love or compassion. But it isn’t hate either. I don’t hate anyone in my family…. I think I love them…. In a way…. But I’m also, I think, alarmingly indifferent.
It’s just that they make me so sad and so uncomfortable, and I just can’t… I just don’t want to be around them…

Anyway, how did this turn into me going on about my family woes?

I was talking about movies.

So, yes, Bridget Jones’s Diary– great movie (even better book), very funny. Definitely recommend.

Notting Hill– loved it. Like I said, I will watch it again. Soon. Julia Roberts was mesmerizing, especially in the first half of the movie. Hugh Grant was also excellent. And quite funny. I really want to watch it with my husband, I think he’ll really like it too. I don’t know why it has only 3 stars on Netflix, it deserves more. The only thing I can think of is that maybe it was a book first and the fans of the book didn’t like how the movie was done.

That’s definitely what I think happened with One Day. It also has only about 3 stars on Netflix. Again, I think it was a book first and the fans of the book probably thought the movie left out too many important details. And, like I said, it’s a very, very sad movie, and not just the ending- the entire story line is a bit depressing. The male lead, Dexter, isn’t very likable, but I don’t think he’s meant to be. Like I said, probably won’t watch it again, and that’s even despite the fact that Anne Hathaway is amazing. In fact, if I ever watched it again the only inducement would be that Anne Hathaway is so great in that movie, but still, I doubt it. Just too sad.

This is why I try to stick to Jane Austen and Bridget Jones and the like. I like happy endings, I don’t care if they’re cliché or unrealistic.

I don’t like sad endings. I avoid them whenever possible.

Self-soothing my way through depression

Ho-hum. ; (

I’m a little bummed.

Sorry for the lame rhyme…

But I really am a little upset, maybe even more than a little- maybe a lot. I’m a lot upset! I’m mad and sad and frustrated and… I think, basically, I’m a little depressed. I’m sure lack of sleep has something to do with it, and a sinus headache…. But mostly it’s because I’m putting a lot into this blog and I’m not getting much in return. It’s very disappointing.

Yeah, yeah, yeah– I know I need to give it more time. It hasn’t even been a year. And I know there are other things I need to do in order to gain followers and readers. But I put a lot of hard work into “The Alice Coincidences” and “Ripple, the Water-Spirit”!
And for what!? I get zilch! Nothing! Nada!
And it isn’t fair. It’s good stuff- I know it is, and I think it deserves to be read by somebody. It may not be the best writing or blogging ever, it may not be award-winning, but it is good; and, like I said, I put a lot of hard work into it. And a lot of time! I deserve for it to be read, not ignored. (To be fair, I did get three likes on Ripple, the Water-Spirit.)

I’m sorry I’m whining about it but not talking about solutions, or even asking for them. What to do to make this blog more successful is not the point of this particular post, neither is wallowing in self-pity. Given my mental and emotional challenges (anxiety, depression) it’s best for me to not wallow in self-pity, it can snowball very quickly. Although “snow” isn’t really the best visual representation.

Wallowing in self-pity can get pretty dark pretty quickly. For example, all because I was a bit sleep deprived, had a headache, and was feeling disappointed about the lack of activity on my blog, I was ready to completely give up- just delete the whole thing and then cry about it. That’s probably not an entirely atypical reaction, I’m sure many bloggers have felt like giving up- especially when sleep deprived.
However, it got worse. From there I started to question my whole life! I started to become majorly dissatisfied with my house, with myself, with my position as a stay-at-home parent. I started to go down the path of thinking that I have no value at all, that I’m not good at anything, I’m pathetic, I don’t do anything “cool” or significant and I never will, my life is pathetic, I’m pathetic, everyone probably looks at me like I’m pathetic, why bother with anything- everything is pointless…

In other words, I was spiraling. I felt very, very sad and quite hopeless- that is depression. And it’s a problem. I shouldn’t start questioning and doubting myself so harshly just because a blog isn’t going the way I had hoped. It’s okay to be disappointed, but it’s only disappointment– a temporary emotional state. My perspective was obviously way off kilter. I had to remind myself that there were still plenty of reasons to be happy.

It was time for a little “self-soothing” and some left brain activities. So I made myself mentally list all of the little things that make me happy, and what activities I could do that would calm me down. I learned about self-soothing in one of Dr. Marsha Linehan’s books on Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I think it may have also been her book that talks about engaging the left brain when the emotional right brain gets too hyper. At any rate, they’re both about calming down when you feel yourself becoming emotionally overwhelmed.

So, like I said, I made myself think of what makes me happy.
What always makes me happy no matter what? What do I have that will always be there, solid and true, and can’t be taken away or denied?
Well, obviously my first thought was books– namely, Harry Potter and Jane Austen. Because, no matter what, I always have them.
At almost any time I can open a copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone and poor, abused, orphaned Harry will find out that he is actually a rich and famous wizard. Every time I open a copy of Jane Austen, her beautifully written words will be there on the page- chocolate for my brain- and the heroine will prevail.
Harry Potter and Jane Austen make me sooooo happy.
My list got easier from there. Next thing I know I’m thinking about how much I like the light-blue interior lights in my car. I decide to wear my red stripped shoes because they make me happy when I look at them. The shoes make me think of my current favorite nail polish, Cherries in the Snow- a bright and cheerful pinkish-red.
Color therapy.
Cherries in the snow reminded me of my snowflake-themed adult coloring book, which reminded me of other color infused left brain activities, like card making and cross-stitching. I think about the Christmas cards or cross-stitch project I could work on. Or I could make a thank you card for my mother-in-law.
I keep going with the Christmas theme. Christmas makes me so happy!  I think about lighting my Holiday Garland scented candle, or going to that one gift shop at the mall that smells like Christmas year round. Or I could go to Macy’s and sample the perfumes.
Aromatherapy.

All very good ideas, but I ended up not doing any of these things. I didn’t need to. Just the thought of them, just simply knowing they were there as options, was enough. Reminding myself of what makes me happy saved the day!
I’m very thankful, and very lucky, to have been introduced to the work of Dr. Lineham and her concept of self-soothing .

What makes you feel better when you’re feeling low? What are your self-soothing activities or exercises? What’s on your Happy list?

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Book talk and thoughts: The Alice Coincidences

Something strange…
Something very, very strange has been happening…

strange: (adjective) unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.
Synonyms: extraordinary, unusual, odd, peculiar, funny, bizarre, weird, unexpected, puzzling, mystifying, perplexing, baffling, curious

Alice in Wonderland has been popping up in my life the past few weeks, but especially over the past weekend. First of all, I knew several weeks ago that the movie Through the Looking Glass was coming out soon. I was looking forward to seeing it since I like movies like that and I really liked the first one.
Then, enter Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 1.
About 14 days ago I got a book from the library to help me with part of my current ‘family situation’- Understanding The Borderline Mother by Christine Lawson. It drew me in right away. I took to it and liked it immediately, not only because it’s one of the most validating books I’ve ever got my hands on, but because the author incorporated quotes and themes from the novels Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Brilliant.
Absolutely brilliant.
Why, you ask, is that so brilliant?
Because the quotes and themes from Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland novels fit Lawson’s book, or any book about BPD, like a pair of True Religion jeans. (So I’ve heard.) The home life of a child being raised by a parent who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) truly is like living in the “Wonderland” depicted in Lewis Carroll’s novels.

A place full of contradictions, denial, and doubt. Consistency is unheard-of, everything is unpredictable, nothing makes sense- riddles with no solution, questions with no right answers, questions you have no right to answer, and you have no right to ask questions! Up is down, down is up. Wrong is right, right is wrong. Quietly accept the unacceptable. Silently tolerate the irate, intolerant tyrant. Trust is fantasy, denial is reality. Every path you choose is the wrong way. There is no right way! It’s not a maze, it’s a trap!  A game with ever-changing rules made up by the self-appointed tyrannical “queen.” (She has mistaken the horns on her head for a crown.) You have to follow the rules she’s made but she doesn’t. And when you try to tell her that there seems to be no way to win or end the game, she insists there isn’t a game at all! She looks at you like you’re crazy! But you know she’s the crazy one!
The audacity! The absurdity! It’s maddening!
But you know the truth. You do. You know it… You know you do…. and yet…. and yet… When the “queen” decides to play nice again you start to doubt your former perceptions… And before long she bullies, corners, traps, isolates, confuses, and silences you yet again. And on and on it goes, back and forth, back and forth-  until the anger and frustration build up within you so much that you really do start to feel crazy.

Understanding+the+Borderline+Mother

The author of  Understanding the Borderline Mother has dubbed this “Borderland.” When I talk to my therapist, husband, or close friends about my mother and the things she has done and said, I like to use the term “the twilight zone.”

twilight zone: (noun) a situation or state of mind seemingly between reality and fantasy, a region or context located in between others and therefore not subject
to their norms, a region in which surreal, bizarre, and incongruous events occur . . .
I’ve never watched an episode of The Twilight Zone, but I heard people use that phrase when I was growing up so I guess it just kind of stuck with me. I have, however, read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I had to read it for a lit class back in high school and I really, really loved it. When I picked up Understanding the Borderline Mother I was pleasantly surprised to see quotes from one of my favorite books. I love quotes! Especially when used so creatively. I wish I could go into further detail about how well the author incorporated the themes and quotes from “Alice” into her book, but that will be for another post. Below are some of my favorite “Alice” quotes used the book:

“I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”

 

“. . . they don’t seem to have any rules in particular: at least, if there are, nobody attends to them- and you’ve no idea how confusing it is . . .”

 

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”  “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

 

“Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in all her life before, and she felt that she was losing her temper.”

 

“You know very well you’re not real.” “I am real!” said Alice, and began to cry.”

 

“I know they’re talking nonsense,” Alice thought to herself, “and it’s foolish to cry about it.” So she brushed away her tears and went on, as cheerfully as she could.”

This really makes me want to read  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland again. I always planned on reading it again, and I will, but it will be a slightly different experience this time around. I’ll never think of that book the same way again. I also want to read Through the Looking Glass, which brings me to Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 2., After Alice.

I saw the Through the Looking Glass movie with my mother-in-law this past weekend, but the interesting part is that before we even discussed going to see the movie together she gave me a copy of Gregory Maguire’s After Alice. I had no idea that he had done an “Alice” book. I read Wicked and I’m a little familiar with some of his other books- Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Son of a Witch, etc. But I had no idea about Alice.
When my mother-in-law gave me that book I just couldn’t believe it. Here they were AGAIN!
Alice. And Wonderland.
What do they want with me?
Enter Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 3.
Well, like I said, we saw the movie, and I noticed it was heavy on themes that really hit home for me- family, time, and the past. Namely, that we should treasure our family and understand that “we cannot change the past, but maybe we can learn from it.”

Family and learning from the past- these are both challenges for me, especially the family part. However, another very interesting thing about this past weekend, I spent a lot of time talking to my mother-in-law. I told her about the ‘situation’ with my mom. She asked me how my mom was doing, so I told her the truth. And then some. I told her things about my mom and my childhood that I had never told her before, and I’ve known her for 12 years.
I don’t know why I so strongly felt the need to tell her, but I did. It was very therapeutic. But why? I suppose it’s about validation again. Validation is so important. Author and psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen emphasizes the importance of having someone “bear witness” to our story. I get that, I really do. I agree that having someone listen to your tragic “tale of woe” is, somehow, immensely helpful and healing.
But how many times do I need to tell my story?
How many therapists have I told? How many times does my husband have to hear the same stories? And my friends? And now my blog. How many people need to bear witness before I’m satisfied!? And what, or who, is it in me that feels the need to purge all the time!? And is it really purging if it’s all still in there? Because even though I keep repeating and retelling- it’s still in there…
I know you can’t change the past. You can learn from it.
Well, I have learned from it! And now I’d like to move on!

facepalm

Now, about these Alice Coincidences- the new movie, the quotes popping up very unexpectedly in a mental health book, my mother-in-law giving me After Alice, seeing the movie with my mother-in-law (and my son), and then sharing details about my “Borderland” mother with my mother-in-law….
Are these coincidences pointing to a path? Should I follow? Should I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass before finally reading After Alice?

Or are these just silly coincidences that have no profound meaning and I should just let it go? Maybe that is the message. Let it go. Don’t go chasing Alice like she chased the White  Rabbit down the rabbit hole, don’t fall down into that dark hole…
Eh. It’s probably not that serious! Haha!

Well, I might read After Alice. I don’t like Gregory Maguire’s writing style, but I like the concept of revisiting well known stories from a different angle. And I like the challenge of reading his stuff-  ’cause it ain’t easy! Not for me anyway. However, I feel like I’ll get more out of After Alice if I read the original Alice stories first… We’ll see.

(After finishing this post I noticed another strange coincidence- I used an Alice clip art pic in the second post of this blog many, many months ago. So I went ahead and inserted it in this post as well.)

 

Must read: Ripple, the Water-Spirit

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I don’t know how in the world I didn’t know about this story before…

Back in February I bought myself a book at Barnes & Noble, The Snow Queen and other winter tales, a collection of 100 short stories. I’ve been working my way through the book and really enjoying it. There are some amazing stories in there, but Ripple, the Water-Spirit overshadowed them all. I was blown away! It’s amazing! Not only is the plot flawless, the writing is amazing as well. It’s an incredible story. Obviously, I’m very excited about it!  I had very high hopes for The Snow Queen and other winter tales, but still I was very surprised by Ripple, the Water-Spirit, it definitely exceeded my expectations. Even more surprising was the author- Louisa May Alcott. I did not expect a fantasy story from the author of Little Women.

All I knew of Louisa May Alcott was Little Women, I did not know that she also wrote and published a small book of fairytales Little Women is one of my favorite novels and is definitely on my ‘books-that-saved-my-life’ list. I was very influenced by its innocence and wholesomeness. I had never read anything like it, it was so tame, so sweet, so domestic and down-to-earth, but Ripple, the Water-Spirit is almost the complete opposite. It’s just as smart, sweet, and inspiring as Little Women, but far less tame, and definitely not at all domestic or down-to-earth.

“So farewell to the pleasant earth, until we come again. And now away, up to the sun!”

The story is about Ripple and the journey she undertakes to bring a little boy back to life because his mother is so bereft. Ripple is, as the title states, a water-spirit. In the story “spirit” and “Fairy” are used somewhat interchangeably so I gathered that a water-spirit is a sort of fairy.
In order to bring the little boy back to life, Ripple must get a flame from the fire-spirits. The problem is that the fire-spirits live next to the sun!

“It is far, far away, high up above the sun, where no Spirit ever dared to venture yet…” 

Even though some try to dissuade her, Ripple is still determined to keep her promise to the grieving mother. She leaves the sea and comes to dry land in search of someone who can tell her the way to the fire-spirits’ home. One by one, Ripple encounters the four Seasons of the year- first Spring, then Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The personification of the seasons is some of Alcott’s best work in the story.

Soon she saw Spring come smiling over the earth; sunbeams and breezes floated before, and then, with her white garments covered with flowers, with wreaths in her hair, and dewdrops and seeds falling fast from her hands, the beautiful season came singing by.

 

“Now I must seek for summer,” said Ripple…
“I am here, what would you with me, little Spirit?” said a musical voice in her ear; and, floating by her side, she saw a graceful form, with green robes fluttering in the air, whose pleasant face looked kindly on her from beneath a crown of golden sunbeams that cast a warm, bright glow on all beneath.

 

…with bright wreaths of crimson leaves and golden wheat-ears in her hair and on her purple mantle, stately Autumn passed, with a happy smile on her calm face, as she went scattering generous gifts from her full arms.

 

…Winter, riding on the strong North-Wind, came rushing by, with a sparkling ice-crown in his streaming hair, while from beneath his crimson cloak, where glittering frost-work shone like silver threads, he scattered snow-flakes far and wide…
“Do not fear me; I am warm at heart, though rude and cold without,” said Winter, looking kindly on her, while a bright smile shone like sunlight on his pleasant face, as it glowed and glistened in the frosty air.

Each Season gives Ripple a gift to help her on her journey. From Spring she receives a breeze that will “never tire nor fail”, from Summer a sunbeam, from Autumn a yellow leaf, and from Winter a snowflake that will never melt.

“Now, dear Breeze,” said Ripple, “fly straight upward through the air, until we reach the place we have so long been seeking; Sunbeam shall go before to light the way, Yellow-leaf shall shelter me from heat and rain, while Snow-flake shall lie here beside me till it comes of use.” 

Each of the first three gifts has an obvious use- the breeze is her means of transportation, the sunbeam is to light the way, the leaf is for shelter and comfort, but what about the snowflake?

At this point in the story I was both very excited and on the verge of being a little disappointed. I was thrilled that Winter gave her an eternal, never melt snowflake- I love the idea of a magic snowflake! But I was disappointed because it didn’t seem to have much use. You see, I have a thing for snow. Some people have a thing for hearts or roses, dolphins or sea turtles, tigers or butterflies- I like snow. I even have a snowflake tattoo on my wrist. So, I wanted the snowflake to be special. I wanted it to be the best of all the gifts that Ripple received. Snow never gets to be the best! It’s always the sun! And for a minute there it looked like that was going to happen again. When Ripple laid the snowflake to the side I got concerned that it was going to play only a minor role, or not appear again until as an after-thought in the end.

Well, in this story, snow got to be the hero for once. Finally!
That’s probably one of the main reasons I adore this story. There was just so much about it that was unexpected. In the end, it is the snowflake that saves Ripples life. Winter’s magic snowflake is the final and most important piece she needs in order to complete her quest. And I noticed something else interesting about that. Ripple is a water-spirit and she’s saved by a snowflake, i.e. frozen water. That detail wasn’t lost on me. I don’t really know what it means, if anything at all, but it does seem significant. Although, I will admit that because I have a thing for snow I might be focusing on the snowflake more than most people would.

In less the twenty pages Louisa May Alcott created multiple worlds and told one incredible story. The settings and plot are unique, and just when you think the story has come to its logical conclusion it takes another turn and surprises you yet again. The writing is excellent because the language and detail are rich but concise. I was, as I mentioned above, very impressed with Alcott’s description of the Seasons, but I was most impressed with her depiction of the fire-spirits, especially considering it was published in 1854! But maybe I’ve got it wrong, maybe these long-ago authors are exactly who I should expect such deeply imaginative stories from.
Check it out,

“…little Spirits glided, far and near, wearing crowns of fire, beneath which flashed their wild, bright eyes; and as they spoke, sparks dropped quickly from their lips…”

And, believe me, that is only a taste- only a fraction!- of what Alcott wrote about the fire-spirits. I don’t want to give it all away! I really want people to read this incredible story for themselves.