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Quick Take On A Short Book: Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

During a recent trip to the library, I picked up a couple of intriguing short works of fiction.  I finished the first, Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente.

Publisher

Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.

It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.

But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze…

But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?

My quick take

I enjoyed it for the odd novella that it was but, like many, wondered if it delivered on its promise.

It was creepy and atmospheric in some ways; a sense of building panic, of something wrong just off page. Not sure I would call it horror or even a thriller (the book cover says “terrifying new thriller”). And the language and prose is wonderful in that unique Valente style. But the mystical feminist or anti-men ending with its Biblical language and imagery was both weird and a little unclear.

I read it in one sitting. Can’t imagine buying a copy unless I was a big time Valente fan, but I did find it an interesting diversion on a cold Monday night.

For me the quickness of the read, and the fact that I checked it out from the library made it a low risk.  Others have reacted differently. Check out Goodreads to get a flavor.

For other reviews see below.

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home (Fairyland #5) by Catherynne M. Valente

One of results of this extended slump/funk I have been in is that I have not reviewed many of the books I have read (even at Goodreads I have left many books with only star ratings and no comments).

So it is that we come to the end of one of my favorite young adult fantasy series (Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series) without my having reviewed the two previous books. Awkward.

Anywhoo … So, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home is the last book in this series.  And I not only bought a hardcover but also grabbed it on Audible so I could listen to it on the daily commute.

My take?

An absolute gem! I adore this series. And I honestly think I like listening to it better than reading it. Valente’s imagination combined with her voice and personality in the audio version can’t be beat. This final book in the series was as enjoyable as the first and brings the series to a satisfactory conclusion.

I particularly like the role that characters from the last book (the alas un-reviewed The Boy Who Lost Fairyland). It made having read that book, which was different in that September did not play a central role, seem worthwhile and rewarding.

But again in this volume, September shines and Valente shines through her as an author and a narrator. What a great character and Valente brings her to life. I think Blunderbuss was my second favorite character. Just a great personality and Valente also does a wonderful job giving her a voice that matches the personality.

I am going to stop gushing and just reiterate that this is a great conclusion to a great series. If you haven’t read or listened to it I highly recommend it.

The books narrated by Valente herself are a must listen for sure.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

Here is what I had to say about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente:

Bluntly, I loved everything about this audio book. The story is a wonderful blend of fairytale, epic quest, and fantasy adventure. It is full of gorgeous language, imaginative characters and world building and a unique combination of hilarity and human wisdom and compassion. Everything is just right: the blend of action and character, the balance between world building and language, and the mix of friendship, adventure and tragedy gives it a depth and beauty that is rare these days.

This led, however, to a semi-tragic or comi-tragic mistake on my part. When I finished the first book in the series I panicked a little and rushed to the library to grab what I thought was the next book so there wouldn’t be any gap in my listening pleasure. But I accidentally picked up the third not second book.  And alas, the third book is narrated by the author while the second is not.

So not only did I skip a book and not realize for a few chapters but I had to stop listening to the voice of the author, who I adore, and return to the second book narrated by someone else.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There was nevertheless a second great adventure in this amazing series.

Blurb? Blurb:

Fairyland2audioSeptember has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.

Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There … Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem.

I have to agree as the second book is, like the first, full of wonderful language, description, and imagination; a mix of fairy tale, epic quest, reworked mythology and coming of age story. Great characters, hilarious and often moving dialog, and a constant sense of new things just around the corner.

And once I got over my heartbreak at not hearing the author herself read her work I enjoyed S.J. Tucker’s narration.  I think Publisher’s Weekly gets it right:

Narrator S.J. Tucker captures the book’s bedtime-story quality and delivers an enchanting performance. In addition to softly spoken narration—that is soothing and almost musical—the narrator produces an entertaining range of voices for the book’s strange and wonderful characters. Tucker’s narration will easily keep young listeners enthralled.

On our recent vacation we listened to both books in the car and the kids, like their father, were somewhat disappointed to not hear the author’s voice.  But Tucker is a skilled narrator and drew them deep into the story.

If you haven’t read (or like me listened to) this series yet I suggest you get started.  It is not to be missed

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

On one of our many trips the local library I found myself in the kids/young adult section hanging out while my kids used the computers or browsed for new books.  I stumbled on the audio book section and figured this was a good time to pick out a book to listen to in the car. I had tried some more serious non-fiction of late, to mixed results, and figured some creative YA might be just the thing to make the commute more enjoyable.

As luck would have it, my inspiration paid off. I had been wanting to read the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente for some time and figured listening to the audio version would  be the next best thing. So I grabbed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and added it to our pile. When the work week started I popped it in and began my adventure.

If you are unfamiliar with the story here is the publisher’s blurb:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

I have to say I enjoyed this book immensely from start to finish and gave it the rare Five Stars on Goodreads. (In fact, when it was over I panicked a little and rushed to the library to grab what I thought was the next book in the series so there wouldn’t be any gap in my listening pleasure. But I accidentally picked up the third not second book.

Bluntly, I loved everything about this audio book. The story is a wonderful blend of fairytale, epic quest, and fantasy adventure. It is full of gorgeous language, imaginative characters and world building and a unique combination of hilarity and human wisdom and compassion. Everything is just right: the blend of action and character, the balance between world building and language, and the mix of friendship, adventure and tragedy gives it a depth and beauty that is rare these days.

To top it all off, the author herself reads it in just the most perfect voice (or voices) I could imagine. [I will admit I developed something of a crush on her during the process of listening to this book in the car.]

It was just an amazing experience to dive into this world and the characters Valente has created. I never wanted to get out of the car but wished instead I could embark on a long journey so as to continue listening to the story and the voice spinning the tale.

This has immediately jumped to the top of my list of young adult fantasy books. Which is interesting because I wasn’t exactly blown away by Six Gun Snow White.  As soon as my daughter is a little older I will be reading it again with her. It has the sound and feel of a classic to be read and enjoyed for years and years. Not sure why it took me so long to start the series but I am glad I finally did.

So if you have not yet experienced this amazing series, what are you waiting for?

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

On one of our many trips the local library I found myself in the kids/young adult section hanging out while my kids used the computers or browsed for new books.  I stumbled on the audio book section and figured this was a good time to pick out a book to listen to in the car. I had tried some more serious non-fiction of late, to mixed results, and figured some creative YA might be just the thing to make the commute more enjoyable.

As luck would have it, my inspiration paid off. I had been wanting to read the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente for some time and figured listening to the audio version would  be the next best thing. So I grabbed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and added it to our pile. When the work week started I popped it in and began my adventure.

If you are unfamiliar with the story here is the publisher’s blurb:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

I have to say I enjoyed this book immensely from start to finish and gave it the rare Five Stars on Goodreads. (In fact, when it was over I panicked a little and rushed to the library to grab what I thought was the next book in the series so there wouldn’t be any gap in my listening pleasure. But I accidentally picked up the third not second book.

Bluntly, I loved everything about this audio book. The story is a wonderful blend of fairytale, epic quest, and fantasy adventure. It is full of gorgeous language, imaginative characters and world building and a unique combination of hilarity and human wisdom and compassion. Everything is just right: the blend of action and character, the balance between world building and language, and the mix of friendship, adventure and tragedy gives it a depth and beauty that is rare these days.

To top it all off, the author herself reads it in just the most perfect voice (or voices) I could imagine. [I will admit I developed something of a crush on her during the process of listening to this book in the car.]

It was just an amazing experience to dive into this world and the characters Valente has created. I never wanted to get out of the car but wished instead I could embark on a long journey so as to continue listening to the story and the voice spinning the tale.

This has immediately jumped to the top of my list of young adult fantasy books. Which is interesting because I wasn’t exactly blown away by Six Gun Snow White.  As soon as my daughter is a little older I will be reading it again with her. It has the sound and feel of a classic to be read and enjoyed for years and years. Not sure why it took me so long to start the series but I am glad I finally did.

So if you have not yet experienced this amazing series, what are you waiting for?

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