Book Review: Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

Book Review: Rump by Liesl ShurtliffRump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
Published: April 9, 2013
272 pages
Genres: Fairy Tale, Middle Grade, Retelling
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.
4 Stars

Rump is a fun, humorous retelling of a traditional fairy tale that we all know, Rumplestiltskin.  The writing was charming.  The characters were funny and interesting.  Here’s a little demonstration of both the delightful writing and the great main character, Rump, who wrote this poem.

Home is a place to get out of the rain

It cradles the hurt and mends the pain

And no one cares about your name

Or the height of your head

Or the size of your brain

– Liesl Shurtliff, Rump, pg 8

This book was written before Once Upon a Time came out, but I can’t help comparing the two since they are both intelligent retellings.  There’s a scene in this book where Red is talking about the consequences of magic and I couldn’t help but hear my favorite character, Rumplestitlskin from Once Upon a Time, say “All magic comes with a price!”  Another similarity to Once Upon a Time is the ability of this story to get us to empathize with the “villain.”  I was really impressed that Liesl Shurtliff was able to keep the plot so close to the traditional fairy tale but give us back story and motivations in a way that made me see the story in a new light and not see Rump as the bad guy. It also kind of felt like a prequel because of the back story about his parents that the author went into.

Rump has a beautiful message about the importance of names and labels and our destiny.  It’s a story about not only learning from your own mistakes but the mistakes of others.

My one and only (and very small) complaint is that it felt like it ended very quickly.

Overall, it was a charming fairy tell retelling about finding your destiny that will appeal to everyone – especially if you are a Once Upon a Time fan.

Content Rating: Everyone.  There is some very mild potty humor.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.

About Liesl Shurtliff

Liesl Shurtliff

Liesl Shurtliff was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the mountains for her playground. Just like Rump, Liesl was shy about her name, growing up. Not only did it rhyme with weasel, she could never find it on any of those personalized key chains in gift shops. But over the years she’s grown to love having an unusual name—and today she wouldn’t change it for the world!
Before she became a writer, Liesl graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in music, dance, and theater. She now lives in Chicago with her husband and three young children, where she still dreams of the mountains. Rump is her first novel.

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

So I have this friend Karena who is a writer.  She started a writing group and invited me because I write a little bit and I review books.  I told her about the one and only book idea I had when she asked if I wanted to be a writer.  She thought I should write it. So I did. I brought one scene of my book idea to writing group and everyone thought I should finish the book.  But I couldn’t.

I was scared of writing a novel.

I used to be a piano major in school and it was HARD.  I worked my butt off and eventually decided after two years that piano wasn’t for me.  I had learned enough in college to teach, which is what I loved doing, but I no longer loved piano like I used to.  The hard work had made my beloved hobby a chore.  I haven’t played the piano for fun in over 7 years.  I told myself it was because I didn’t love it anymore but I think the real reason was I let myself believe that I wasn’t good at playing the piano.

I love reading. I love this book review blog.  I love the short stories that I write.  What if my last hobby that I love dearly turns into a dreadful job that I hate, too? What will I have left after that?

It’s a real fear to me, but when I told that to my husband he said, “That’s the weirdest reason for not doing something I’ve ever heard.  How will you know if you like it if you don’t try it?”

Good question.  I thought I wouldn’t like book blogging. My sister talked me into blogging because she loves it.  I didn’t have anything to talk about besides books so I decided I would blog every day for 30 days just about books to see if I liked it.  Turns out I did since I’m still doing it 3 1/2 years later.  I should write every day for 30 days to see if I like it and hey what do you know but that’s what NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is.  You write 1500 words a day and at the end of the month you will have a novel length thing of words.

Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile

Friend me on NaNoWriMo – I’m “booksatruestory”

I have officially signed up for NaNoWriMo.  My goal is to be creative, have fun, try to turn my internal editor off, get to know my brain a little bit, and write every single day.  I know that I could go through the tedious process of editing and revising but the big question mark for me is – will I like the creative side of writing?  I’m going to use everything I learned from Laini Taylor about brainstorming and finding a story cat.  My fingers are crossed that I end up loving this crazy hobby called writing.

I like challenges.  I like little progress bars. I like badges (OMG did you see the badges? I want them all!)  I like online community.  I think NaNoWriMo is going to be a blast since it is all of those things in one.

And if it turns out making up stuff isn’t my thing, there’s always book blogging. :)

P.S. I decided to start playing the piano again and guess what? It’s fun and I love it just as much as I ever did.

P.P.S. If you want to friend me on NaNoWriMo I’m “booksatruestory”

 Sponsor Me

As I mentioned above, I love getting badges and one of the badges is to raise money for the charity that runs NaNoWriMo.  If you would like to sponsor even a little bit, it helps run creative writing programs for kids.  You can deduct it from your taxes AND I promise to name a character after you :) (But only if you want to be a character)  Click here to donate or at the button below.

My Word Count Badge

If you want to see my progress of how many words I’ve written, I will have this badge in the sidebar that will update all month long.

My Dream Job

My Dream Job

I finished reading Quiet by Susan Cain and it brought up the point that a lot of introverts (which I consider myself to be) are so used to repressing their natural instincts that when they grow up they often find themselves in professions that they don’t enjoy and that don’t suit their temperaments.  She had a few tips on how to find what you really want to do, but the one that stuck out to me the most was the question, “Who are you jealous of?”  Career-wise anyway.  Jealousy is an ugly emotion but what if you used it to tap into what you really want to do?  I’d never thought of that before.  So I did some thinking and came up with people who’s jobs I’m jealous of.  I’m jealous of authors and book editors and my husband’s job.  I had to sit down and think about the reasons.

jealous

I’m jealous of authors because of the book tours they get to go on.  I love the idea of traveling.  I love going new places.  Let’s be honest though.  I don’t have to be an author to travel.  Plus if I travel for fun I don’t have to give presentations.  The reality of traveling for work is probably more along the lines of this:

travel

and not this:

paris

I stand in terror of the idea of giving an author presentations, but if I overcame stage fright for my piano playing I could do it for being an author as well.  I love writing, but I’m not the kind of person that is just bombarded with ideas that I want to turn into books.  I think I could be an author someday if I studied the craft of writing a novel a little more, but I have a feeling that coming up with a story will be a lot of work that might not come naturally to me, which I don’t have the time or motivation to do right now.

I’m jealous of book editors because I love critiquing books.  I think I could do well as a book editor because, after reading a job description, I found that they also do a little financial work to keep projects on task and are involved with the marketing.  That job just sounds so awesome to me.  I majored in finance in college and I feel like I could do a great job with understanding marketing trends with my experience as a book blogger.  There are some problems with this dream job.  I have no experience as an actual editor and most of the jobs are in New York.  Utah does have a few small publishers that I could work for but they don’t always publish the kinds of books that I’m interested in reading.  As cool as the job sounds, it seems like being an editor is less reading and editing books and more group/project work which doesn’t appeal to me quite as much, though I think I could do it and do it well.  The thing that I love the most about the idea of being an editor is reading tons of books and critiquing them.  When I said that to myself, I had to laugh.  Because reading tons of books and critiquing them is exactly what I do now as a book blogger.

laughing

Is it possible that I am doing my dream job right now and I just didn’t see it before? I think the answer is yes.

And when I sat down and really thought about it, I saw other reasons that being a book blogger was my dream job. I get to work on a computer which is what my husband does all day and the reason I’m jealous of his job.  He works on computer databases which I would never want to do, but for some reason I love working on a computer and I always wonder if he knows how lucky he is to work on a computer all day long.  I love that as a book blogger, I don’t have anyone bossing me around or telling me what to do.  I read, write, and say whatever I want with no one to answer to.  It’s flexible.  I can work as much or as little as I’d like.  I’m passionate about this.  When will I ever get tired of talking about books?  Apparently never.  I don’t get paid a dime to do this.  In fact, I actually spend money on this dream job of mine.  Which brings me to my only complaint about being a book blogger.  I don’t actually get paid.  Is it still a job/career if I don’t get paid?  I think it is.  Though it did bring up the idea that maybe someday I could be a professional book reviewer for a site like Kirkus.  They hire free lance book reviewers and I could do essentially what I do now but get paid for it.  The down side to that being that I would then have a boss of sorts and I would lose some freedom.  So considering that getting paid is not an essential requirement for a career, I think it’s safe to say that I have my dream job right now.  And maybe some day, when I’ve got more time and I’m ready to move on from book blogging, I could be a professional reviewer.  After being a professional reviewer for a while, I could take writing classes and become an author.

I’m glad I’ve figured out what I want to be when I grow up since I’m turning 30 next week.

What is your dream job? Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Whose job am I jealous of?”  I’d love to hear your answers!

Book Discussion: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Book Discussion: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Whered You Go Bernadette by Maria SempleI love book club discussion questions! These are the questions for Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple from the Little and Brown website.

If you’ve read this book I want to discuss it with you!

If you haven’t read this book, here’s why you should!

SPOILERS AHEAD

1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is told from the point of view of a daughter trying to find her missing mother. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from Bee’s perspective? What light does it shed on the bond between Bernadette and Bee? Bee was the least biased character in the book.  She was a window to show the exaggeration of all the adults around her.  I think it shows how close they were since Bee didn’t give up hope and collected a huge amount of documents just to find her.

2. What are your thoughts on Bernadette’s character? Has she become unhinged or has she always been a little crazy? What, if anything, do you think sent her over the edge? Have you ever had a moment in your own life that utterly changed you, or made you call into question your own sanity? I thought her character was a little extreme.  At the beginning of her life she picks a fight and holds a grudge to the point that she loses her house.  She was very hot headed.  I think her extreme swings in personality were a little crazy.  She then became apathetic when she went to Seattle to the point that their house sounded like a health hazard. I wonder if it was the miscarriages that really sent her over the edge.  I think at first it seems like she was moping over her lost house, but I think she was really mourning for her lost kids.  It was an interesting experience reading about her because from an outside perspective she did seem a little crazy, but at the same time she was so relatable that it felt like I really understood why she did things.  Maybe crazy people are just people who have motivations that we can’t see or don’t understand.  In my own life I wondered if I could even handle having a kid.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but three kids later it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done.  Hard things make you grow the most.

3. When Bernadette relocates from Los Angeles to Seattle, she must cope with being a transplant in a new city. Have you ever moved, or even stayed put but switched jobs, and had to adjust to an entirely different culture? What was it like? I moved a lot when I was first married and I really empathized with Bernadette feeling outside the community.  To feel a part of any community you have to make an effort.  Being on the outside feels like this constant, small fear that you are doing something wrong or that there is something wrong with you.  It’s unsettling and I could see that her reaction would be to hate all her neighbors.

4. The idea of going to Antarctica becomes too much for an already frazzled Bernadette to bear, but the trip itself, surprisingly, turns out to be exactly what she needs to get back on track. How do other characters in the novel experience their own breakthroughs? Which character is most transformed? I kind of think her gossipy neighbor, Audrey, changed the most.  She really started to see Bernadette’s side of the story and put other people first.  Audrey faced reality for the first time and dealt with it better than I thought she would.  Bee realizes she wants to stay with her family.  Bee’s father realizes he works too much.

5. How are Audrey Griffin and Bernadette Fox more alike than they realize? This question surprised me.  I think the thing that they have most in common is that they are a little disconnected with reality.  I couldn’t think of anything else!

6. Bernadette often behaves as if she is an outsider. Do you think she is? If so, do you think her feelings of being an outsider are self-imposed, or is she truly different from the other members of her community? Do you ever feel like an outsider? I think she is different from the community but that doesn’t mean you have to be an outsider.  Like I said before, feeling outside a community often comes from distancing yourself from the community or not being involved or not putting yourself out there.

7. The book has a very playful structure. Do you think it works? Why do you think the author chose it rather than a more straightforward, traditional structure? Think about other books with unusual structures and how their formats influenced your reading experience.   I love the structure and humor of the novel.  I wish more literary fiction was written this way.  I would read more of it if it was.  I think this structure added to the mystery since it allowed you to come to your own conclusions by seeing things from many perspectives but without being confusing.  I also think it did a great job of showing the story so the reader could use their imagination which made it very entertaining and fun to read.  I can’t think of many stories that have a unique structure but one that comes to mind is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children that was partially told through photographs.

8. What do you think of Bernadette and Elgie’s marriage? Is it dysfunctional? Is there real love there? How has their marriage changed over time? Think about romantic relationships you’ve been in that have evolved, positively or negatively, and why. I don’t think it’s dysfunctional but they have grown apart.  I think they do love each other, but they have stopped talking to each other and have stopped trying.  They had different expectations about the other person and about their relationship.  Elgie just assumed that Bernadette must be happy and would start doing her work again eventually.  He doesn’t really bother to find out why she never fixes their house.

9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is, at its core, a story about a woman who disappears, both literally and figuratively. Were you able to relate to the book? How and why? Do you feel Bernadette’s disappearance was unique, or do all women, in a sense, disappear into motherhood and marriage?  I could relate a lot to the book.  It’s easy to feel sometimes that your personality and your goals get lost in marriage and family.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the responsibility and stop having yourself as a priority sometimes.  I love the service and satisfaction of being a mother but sometimes I even feel guilty just taking time for myself to be happy.  I think it’s very easy to let yourself disappear into a marriage and being a mom.  I know that for me, when I set aside time for myself, I’m much more relaxed and patient with my children.  When I’m giving more of myself than I’m capable of, I blame the stress on my kids which is not true.  They deserve to be loved unconditionally and I do that best when I’m happy.

About Maria Semple

Maria Semple

Maria Semple's first novel, This One is Mine, was set in Los Angeles, where she also wrote for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She escaped from Los Angeles and lives with her family in Seattle, where her second novel takes place.

Book Review: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Book Review: The Story of My Life by Helen KellerThe Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Published: 1902
240 pages
Genres: Classic, Memoir
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

An American classic rediscovered by each generation, The Story of My Life is Helen Keller’s account of her triumph over deafness and blindness. Popularized by the stage play and movie The Miracle Worker, Keller’s story has become a symbol of hope for people all over the world. 

This book–published when Keller was only twenty-two–portrays the wild child who is locked in the dark and silent prison of her own body. With an extraordinary immediacy, Keller reveals her frustrations and rage, and takes the reader on the unforgettable journey of her education and breakthroughs into the world of communication. From the moment Keller recognizes the word “water” when her teacher finger-spells the letters, we share her triumph as “that living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!” An unparalleled chronicle of courage, The Story of My Life remains startlingly fresh and vital more than a century after its first publication, a timeless testament to an indomitable will.
4 Stars

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller is a beautiful memoir about the power of love, language, and learning.  It was sad and humbling to hear Helen describe how desperate she was to communicate with people.  Since Helen was deaf and blind, she would go into a rage after being so frustrated that no one could understand her.  That really struck home with me.  In college, I babysat a 5 year old boy who couldn’t talk because he had cerebral palsy.  He could answer yes or no to my questions by shaking or nodding his head.  There were times when I asked every question I could think of and he would break down in tears of frustration – just like Helen Keller described.  It was heartbreaking to see.  When the boy I babysat went to school and learned more complex sign language, he lit up.  I still remember the first time he was able to tell me a story.  He was absolutely glowing with joy.  Helen Keller’s story of learning was very touching to me since it similar to the experience that the boy I knew had.

How she was able to learn language was very interesting to read about since she was old to enough to remember the experience of understanding words for the first time.  Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, used a method of teaching with Helen that had never been done before.  The pedagogy behind how Annie taught language to someone who couldn’t hear or see was fascinating.  She had to break down and really think about how kids normally learn language and translate it into the senses that Helen had access to.  She realized that kids acquire language through imitation and through hearing it all day long every day.  So Annie would spell words into Helen’s hand all day long about everything they were doing even though Helen didn’t know what the words meant yet.  Helen learned that words represented the things that she could touch.  It was a bittersweet moment when Annie tries to teach Helen what love is and Helen can’t understand why her teacher won’t show it to her.

…how happy your little Helen was when her teacher explained to her that the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.

-Helen Keller, in a letter written to Rev. Phillips Brooks, June 8, 1891.

Before reading this, I had never realized how important books would be to Helen Keller.  They were a huge part of how she experienced a world that she couldn’t see or hear.  She talked about books as if they were her friends.

I have not shown how much I have depended on books not only for pleasure and for the wisdom they bring to all who read, but also for that knowledge which comes to others through their eyes and their ears. Indeed, books have meant so much more in my education than in that of others …

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Chapter 21

There was a huge list of books that she read.  You know me.  Of course I wrote them all down.

Books Helen Keller Read

  • As You Like It By William Shakespeare
  • Speech on Conciliation with America by Edmund Burke
  •  Life of Samuel Johnson by Thomas Macaulay
  • Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens
  • The Arabian Nights
  • The Swiss Family Robinson
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Little Women
  • Heidi
  • Ivanhoe
  • Iliad
  • Aeneid
  • Treasure Island
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Jungle Book

Because reading had such an influence on her, she often described things the way that someone could see would.  She would describe trees as green even though she had never seen the color green because that’s what books described them as.  That being said, I noticed that a lot of her descriptions – especially of nature – centered on their scent and feel.  Also, I want to write book reviews the way that Helen Keller does.

The “Iliad” is beautiful with all the truth, and grace and simplicity of a wonderfully childlike people while the “Aeneid” is more stately and reserved. It is like a beautiful maiden, who always lived in a palace, surrounded by a magnificent court; while the “Iliad” is like a splendid youth, who has had the earth for his playground.

– Helen Keller, in a letter to Mrs. Laurence Hutton, October 23, 1898

Helen desperately wanted to go to college but practical things made it extremely difficult.  She struggled with being able to even take tests since they had to be dictated to her.  Books weren’t available in braille quickly enough and she would fall behind in classes. Lectures had to be written down in advance for her to follow along.  It makes me appreciate not only my education but the technology today that allows equal access to books for people with disabilities.  I just wanted to travel back in time and make her books because they were so hard to get in braille!  As much as Helen loved books, she hated tests.  Like really, really hated them.  She describes the feeling of forgetting an answer on a test perfectly.

You are sure it is somewhere in your mind near the top—you saw it there the other day when you were looking up the beginnings of the Reformation. But where is it now? You fish out all manner of odds and ends of knowledge—revolutions, schisms, massacres, systems of government; but Huss—where is he? You are amazed at all the things you know which are not on the examination paper.

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Chapter 20

She talks about the administration of the school and how they sometimes unintentionally made things even more difficult for her.  But instead of letting it frustrate her, she felt accomplished that not only had she gotten an education but she had overcome the challenges in getting one as well.

Overall, it’s an amazing story of overcoming difficult trials and making the best of what is given to us.

Content Rating: None. Clean read.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Helen Keller

Helen Keller

Helen Keller would not be bound by conditions. Rendered deaf and blind at 19 months by scarlet fever, she learned to read (in several languages) and even speak, eventually graduating with honors from Radcliffe College in 1904, where as a student she wrote The Story of My Life. That she accomplished all of this in an age when few women attended college and the disabled were often relegated to the background, spoken of only in hushed tones, is remarkable. But Keller's many other achievements are impressive by any standard: she authored 13 books, wrote countless articles, and devoted her life to social reform. An active and effective suffragist, pacifist, and socialist (the latter association earned her an FBI file), she lectured on behalf of disabled people everywhere. She also helped start several foundations that continue to improve the lives of the deaf and blind around the world.