The Shameful Book Club: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This was my fantasy pick for 2018.

Stardust-Neil-GaimanI love Neil Gaiman! Much like Alice Hoffman and Stephen King, I feel like I will enjoy anything that Gaiman puts out, but I am woefully behind on his works. I haven’t really read a whole lot, although I own copious amounts. So when I was trying to decide what fantasy novel to pick this year, Stardust caught my eye sitting on my shelf! I thought the movie was really fun, but slightly juvenile. I hoped that the book would be a bit more mature, a bit more complex, and maybe a bit spookier. I was super wrong.

Here is the description from Goodreads: “Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall – named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…”

I felt incredibly blah about Stardust. The tone was very confusing to me. There were parts that were very intense, mature, and yes even a bit spooky or graphic, but they were then followed up by some incredibly childish nonsense. I know I’m reading a fairy tale quest inspired by children’s literature, but I’ve been reading those my whole life. The ones I read as a child (like the Snow Queen) were more engaging and intense than this book. Frankly, I was bored.

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The Shameful Book Club: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This was my fantasy pick for 2017.

Right off the top I want to acknowledge that Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband have been accused of some really awful child sexual abuse. I did not know that when I bought this book, but I probably won’t be buying anymore of her work. If I feel the need to read further in the series (which I don’t), I will borrow the books.

This audio book is fifty hours long. FIFTY HOURS. LONG. Y’ALL. So understandably it took some time to get through.  I’ve been riding a serious witch high lately, learning about moon religions and pagan practices. The world has been very scary, and I haven’t felt very powerful as a human and especially not as a woman, but learning about these practices and the honoring of female strength has really been uplifting for me. That’s why I selected this one for my April fantasy read in 2017. Mists of Avalon seemed like just what I needed at this point in time. I was not 100% correct, however.

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A print of Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallot hung in my childhood home and had a profound effect on me. I always loved the Aurthurian legends, but this painting made me think, “What about the women?”

So as many know, Mists is a retelling of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table told from the perspective of the powerful women involved in putting Arthur in power and working toward saving their country and identities. It’s pretty much a badass version of the saying, “Behind every great man is an even greater woman.” I don’t know where that saying came from, and I generally hate it, but in this context it’s pretty interesting. Another incredibly interesting (or depressing) thing about this book (and series) is how it examines the demise of the old religions, the pagan traditions, and the matriarchal attitudes that were more common before Christianity became the law of the land.

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The Shameful Book Club: Atonement by Ian McEwan

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2017 was the summer of Dunkirk, seriously. I saw the movie in theaters twice (I firmly believe it’s one of the best movies ever made. I will talk about why for hours), I read Atonement which has important plot points and scenes based in Dunkirk and around the entire ordeal, and I got engaged on a beach…after seven years of dating, I’d call that my own personal Dunkirk.

I loved Atonement, and thank god I did because I have a quote from the book tattooed on my right inside forearm. And the reason why this book is extra shameful for me is that I got that tattoo years ago before I even read the entire book. I read just far enough to find a cool quote about writing and then was like, “THAT’LL DO!” But I did love the movie, and I’m really happy that I enjoyed the book just as much. It was beautifully written, totally gut-wrenching, and thoroughly entertaining. And man, Briony is quite the character. This was the perfect beach read (pun intended).

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Shameful Book Club: 2017 Recap, 2018 Preview

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Look at all those movie tie-in covers…hmf.

Well, 2017 was not a 100% success. I was unable to finish my personal reading challenge, aka the Shameful Book Club. I read 10 out of 12 books, leaving 2 in the dust of yester-year. I’m even more behind on posting my thoughts on the books I did manage to read. I learned a lot, however, and will be tackling 2018 differently. This personal challenge has evolved quite a bit over the three years I’ve been attempting it, so eventually I will get it to a place that is manageable.

I had a lot of favorites this year, including The Princess Bride, Under the Banner of Heaven, and Practical Magic, but the one I can’t stop talking and writing about is The Haunting of Hill House. Just ask my friends who were over on Halloween for a movie night…I cannot and will not shut up about this book. It really grabbed me and meshed with a lot of other books I was reading at the time; the right book at the right time. I’ve been very attached to Shirely Jackson lately, and this book really spoke to me.

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The Shameful Book Club: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirely Jackson

Note: I read/listened to The Haunting of Hill House months ago because I couldn’t stay away, and because this one is ready on time and my June/August/Sept aren’t even close, I’m going to just post our of order. I think it’s safe to say that I have failed my own book challenge for the year.

Oh my god. Oh, my god. This woman is just…damn. I love her so much. This is not the first time I have read her for my Shameful Book Club. I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle in 2015 and it blew me away. Before TSBC, I had only read The Lottery. Welcome to high school. I also knew I should be ashamed of myself for this, because Jackson is everything I love in a writer: demented, tortured, eerie, subtle, full of magic, lover of murder…you get the picture. I knew I had to pick The Haunting of Hill House for this October’s creepy AF read. Perfect for Halloween!

Show of hands, how many of you were just as obsessed with the 1999 adaptation The Haunting as I was? If you came to my 12th birthday slumber party, your hand better be up! I hadn’t seen it in a while, so I ordered it and the ’63 adaptation from my library and refreshed my memory. Listen, some things should be left in the past. That ’99 version was probably one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen as an adult, and it’s so different from the book. Not in a good way. The ’63 version, however, was wonderful! I thought it was very true to the book, both in plot and spirit, and it stars one of my favs, Russ Tamblyn (Riff from West Side Story). It was so much fun that I later bought a copy.

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The Shameful Book Club: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman for June

And the crunch begins for me to finish this book challenge! I’m months behind in all aspects. Ugh. But I’m finally at June, so here we go! As a very witchy person who absolutely loves the film adaptation of this book, it was really quick surprising to me that it took me so long to pick it up! When I worked at a small public library in the next county over, I saw a beautiful hard copy of Practical Magic in the pile for the book sale. I had to have it for so many reasons, but honestly the book jacket is everything…

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I just started reading Hoffman this past year. I started with her newest release, Faithful, and then jumped right to Practical Magic. Very rarely in my life do I feel that I encounter the right thing at the right time. As you read through my Shameful Book Club posts you will see a trend of me saying, “Oh, if only I read this when I was 15/13/18/24!” But no, I believe that picking up Hoffman at 29/30 is the best thing I could have done. She writes with such an amazing subtly, and her work drips with feminine power/pain/strength. Just what 29-year-old me needs! I love it!

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