Saturday, July 27, 2013

YAck Attack: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things
by John Connolly

Published: November 7, 2006

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From Goodreads:High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Heidi: Has anyone else started reading The Book of Lost Things yet? I'm about 1/3 of the way through the audiobook and really loving it. Very fairy tale-esque, but dark and humorous as well. I love books that make me keenly remember the injustices suffered in youth. Also the voice of the Woodsman sounds so much like Hagrid to me that I think I became instantly overly attached to the man.

Chachic: I've started it but I'm only at page 4. Haven't had a chance to continue yet. I really like the 4 pages that I've read so far!

Nicole: I'm still hunting down a copy...

Donna: There are so many WORDS here. WORDS. *clutches book to chest and rolls around on the floor*

Sya: I read it years ago and loved it but have a copy and am planning on reading it again before YAcking.

Donna: *drools*

Donna: Have we all been stunned silent by this one? I have to say I kind of saw the ending about mid-way through. It just had that CLOSEYOUREYESIFYOUHAVEN'TREADITYET Wizard of Oz vibe going for it. But I loved it all the same and cried a bit at the end. I was in the lunch room at work. I snotted into my food.

Nicole: Mine just came in at the library, so I'll be getting it soon.

Laura: So many feelings. This book. Just. Yeah. Here are all the WORDS one will ever need. It has moved in.

Sya: I'm struggling to find time to read this one and feel that I need to re-read it in order to YAck. However, it is an exceptionally beautiful book that made me cry (which is not as shocking as Donna's melted heart of stone, but still...). If I get a chance, I'll re-read and contribute properly next week but I'm in the midst of a complex job application (to be a Reader in Residence - what even IS that... I mean, I'm one already in my own home) so may have to bow out this month. Le Sigh. Again.

Chachic: I'm about halfway through, I think? I put it on hold because I got sucked into The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand. Will go back to reading this one during the weekend. But yes, I do agree that this book has WORDS.

Donna: Laura and I had a role reversal for this group. She felt sorry for the Crooked Man. I applauded his demise.

Laura: Donna, he would happily take away someone's unwanted brother or sister....All they had to do was WANT IT REALLY a way, he was your Jareth...minus, well, you know.....THE BULGE.

Laura: While I didn't want The Crooked Man to win, I really did feel sorry for him, and sorry to see him go. I think it had more to do with the idea that he was such an old being (that whole since-dawn-of-time and imagination thing), and that he fed off of children's little immature selfishnesses (that's a word now if it wasn't before) and survived for a very long time doing it. Those things didn't possibly cease existing with his death, they just ended for David. So where do they go now? And I had no problem with him eating baby hearts because KIDS JUST DON'T MOVE ME IN STORIES.....and very rarely in life.

Laura: RICHARD ARMITAGE TO PLAY THE WOODSMAN BTW. I called it. Now, for those of you still reading the story, picture King YAck as the Woodsman and read on. YOU ARE WELCOME.

Laura: So the, how, HOW is another book going to follow THAT?! It's just....OH MY. So many, beautiful wordies all over the page. Connolly's voice in this book...I WANTED TO SWIM ALL UP IN THOSE WORDS. Stories about the power of stories are my weakness. Nothing hits my heart harder than someone who truly gets how stories can shape everything about your world and how you feel differently, believe differently, and in turn live differently because of a book. And he gets it.

Laura: I'll come back in a minute and fangirl about THE DWARVES.

Laura: And then we will talk more about Richard Armitage AKA The Woodsman.

Laura: And then we will discuss Roland, because that was an interesting direction to go in there....

Chachic: I finished reading it this afternoon! I'll come up with comments later (having dinner now). But Laura, you didn't consider Richard Armitage as Roland? He'd be great as a knight.

Chachic: I'm with Laura, I love books that are about the power of stories because I'm sure all of us will be able to relate with that. I loved that David and his mother were both readers and they devoured books as much as they can. Here's a quote early on (page 3 in the hardcover) that I loved:

"Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by flashlight beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world. They were like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth, or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being. They lay dormant, hoping for the chance to emerge. Once someone started to read them, they could begin to change. They could take root in the imagination and transform the reader. Stories WANTED to be read, David's mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life."

Chachic: I thought the writing was beautiful and I liked the fairy tale feel of the whole book. I thought the stories within the story was a nice touch as well - there were several familiar tales that got retold in a different way. Although I did feel like the book had a darker tone that I'd usually prefer in my fantasy novels.

Nicole: I just started it and I'm three pages in and WORDS.

Donna: 1. Laura, don't you ever compare the Crooked Man to Jareth. I can't even right now. HOW COULD YOU? The man glitters and bulges and you compare him to the hunchback of Drury Lane? I hate you. 2. Chachic, Roland only has eyes for Raphael. By placing Artimage into that role he would no longer have eyes for any of our dear YAcks that fawn over him at every turn. While he would still be [apparently] pretty to look at, he'd be untouchable to females. As the Woodman, at least, therein remains a chance. That is my scientific analysis on that one. 3. Snow White and the dwarves was, by far, my favorite story within the story. OMFG the Jerry Springer bitch eating all their food. I kept picturing Honey Boo Boo's mom. Is that bad? And the WORDS. Laura's right. No other book will compare. WE'VE RUINED OURSELVES. We've just damned ourselves to reading crap from here on. Porn it is, then.

Laura: 1. BULGE. tee hee. 2. Donna IS CORRECT. That is the exact reason. While we're playing pretend, we really want to play pretend. Ya know? 3. OMG YES.

Donna: Well, that image is forever seared into my mind. Thanks.
Sya: Gosh. I mean.... Gosh.

Chachic: LOL I really liked the version of the dwarves and Snow White in this one.

Nicole: I just got to that part and was cracking up. I'm about 75 pages in and while the writing is beautiful, I feel... disconnected from the story as a whole? It's very fairy-tale-esque in that respect: beautiful writing, beautiful world, but I have no emotional investment in the characters.

Donna: I am rubbing off on far too many people.

Heidi: The dwarves cracked me up as well. This was my favorite bit:

“You mean they killed her?" asked David. "They ate her," said Brother Number One. "With porridge. That's what 'ran away and was never seen again' means in these parts. It means 'eaten.'" "Um and what about 'happily ever after'?" asked David, a little uncertainly. "What does that mean?" "Eaten quickly," said Brother Number One.”

Heidi: But yes, overall I'm left a little speechless in regards to this one. It's the type of book I feel I should review because I want to push it on everyone, but at the same time I'm at quite a loss for words about the WORDS. I loved the darkness of it (I DO like dark things). I find Laura's take on The Crooked Man very intriguing. I never really felt sorry for him, but I did find him to be more of a complex villain in the end than he appeared to me in the beginning, which I like. I love that, in the end, all of the villains of this tale were really driven by selfishness, even David until he overcomes it.

Chachic: Heidi, I liked that conversation as well - the "eaten quickly" tidbit was hilarious. Also very true for their world. Seems like the creatures their are very hungry for fresh meat.

Nicole, sorry to hear that you're not invested in the characters! I hope that changes as you go along. I could really relate to David and how he lost his mom, reminded me of what it was like when my dad passed away. Could also relate to how he found comfort in his books.

Sya: Nicole, I totally agree. While I found the book moving, I found it hard to get emotionally into the characters themselves. I think that it's testament to the beauty of the writing that I still felt affected by the story. Although with RA as the Woodsman I think I might have had more success committing to him...

Heidi: I didn't really feel emotionally attached either, despite my love of the story. No tears from these eyes. I think part of that was likely that I was listening to the audio, and it takes me much longer to build up attachment there. Also I was leaning with Chachic toward Roland for RA because on audio the woodsman sounds like Hagrid, and RA did NOT COMPUTE. But in the end I have to go with the woodsman for women argument (in fact, I think that would look good on a button).


Nicole: I didn't know Donna had tearducts.>

Donna: It's true.

Laura:I did get a little choked up when David died and went back. Richard Armitage was there waiting for him, all fatherly and stuff and yeah, there were tears. My tears aren't nearly as remarkable as Donna's though. I cry at episodes of The Golden Girls.

Laura: I was thinking more about The Crooked Man, and what I said earlier. I guess I would have liked it more if David had beaten him and he had simply gone away until the next time a child's story needed him as the bad guy. What he represented didn't die for all of magical fairytale land. It just died for David. I don't know. And while I get that David was having a little struggle with selfishness and whatnot, I don't think that's the right word to give to a child who watched his mother die slowly and painfully and then finds himself in an entirely different, flipped-upside-down life that doesn't include her. I didn't see it as David overcoming selfishness, so much as a mad adventure through his own grief. And I liked that The Crooked Man foretold of future grief (i.e. LIFE) that David would have to face as well. Hey, in that way, David is still battling evil (of a sort, because grieving can be some of the most evil of evils) and The Crooked Man isn't dead! See what I did there, I brought him back. You can now blame all present and future unhappinesses on The Crooked Man. I have brought a little bit of fairytale into your lives. You're welcome.

Nicole: I'm finishing up my read of this and I noticed -- there isn't a single positive female character. The only one I can think of is David's mother, who fits the woman-in-the-fridge trope down to a T. The rest just... suck. There's no female equivalent to the Woodsman.

Chachic: Hmm I didn't notice that until you pointed it out, Nicole, but you're absolutely right. I can't think of a positive female character except for David's mother and she's not really in there. Since it's a fantasy world, it would have been great if there was a female kickass character.

Also, I just remembered that the book reminds me a little of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cat Valente.

Nicole: I've heard great things about A Monster Calls and I ADORE Cat Valente. (I really, really need to read DEATHLESS.) And I hadn't noticed until we got to the scene where David's basically being seduced into kissing this lady because she gets power from that or something and he kills her? And I'm staring at it going, "Well, all of the characters in here are the whore archetype (his stepmother, Red Riding Hood, that lady) or just so painfully evil that you can't deal with them (Snow White, the huntress)" and that SUCKS.

Donna: Why does every story need a positive female role model? In this book that is written in a classic form, reminiscent of classic fairy tales, it would be like Mark Twain saying African-American. It doesn't fit. Of the 23 books we've YAcked to date only 4 didn't have a female protagonist as the main character (Anna Dressed in Blood, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, I Hunt Killers, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children). However every one of those has one strong female role somewhere in the book (Carmel/Cas's mom, Jepp's love interest at the end, the protag's girlfriend, the teenager that dated the protag's grandfather). Yet we don't complain when there aren't any positive male role models to be found if we happen to read something as such (because young boys need good, well-rounded role models just as badly as young girls). I don't think every book needs the big, fat, hairy vagina stamp of approval on it before going to print and I'm perfectly content with bitches being bitches in this one (because, let's face it, sometimes they're just fucking bitches) because I don't believe anyone impressionable is going to read this and think her only lot in life is being a villain, completely overriding anything and everything she's ever been taught in her life. Sometimes we just need to keep the guns as guns and not digitally alter them to be walkie talkies. No one will buy it, no matter how hard you try.

Laura: Yeah I'm going to go with Donna on this one. Female representation of almost any type was particularly unnecessary in this story because at this time in David's life, the only woman that mattered was his mom. Rose (who was for David, a wicked step-mother), the huntress, the chick in the tower, even the helpless girl in the jar- were all women who weren't his mother and represented different aspects of his grief. In some ways, if we get all morbid and psychological, they could all be seen as different stages in her illness. example- The girl in the jar? Trapped and dying? She was the one thing David could save.

David had a positive female role model, his mother. He didn't need a host of fairy tale twats to reinforce that. Really. He was struggling so much with the idea that his mother could be replaced, could he have handled or responded well to a randomly inserted, strong female character who would serve no purpose for him other than to further cement the fact that he CAN'T HAVE HIS MOM BACK.

This was a boy's story. I liked that the good people David encountered were strong men who helped him on his way. Everyone he came across was a bit of his dad....which is who David needed more than anyone.

Nicole: Oh, I'm not saying that every book needs it, but that it's worth noting. I don't think that he would have needed a mother character, or a sister character, but none of the women he encountered along the way were even friendly; in a story where you're flipping around traditionally told fairy tales, it's interesting that none of the ladies end up in a positive light. Part of that, of course, is the nature of fairy tales and the nature of the time period (he wasn't living in exactly the most female-friendly time) but I like noting these things because it's very rare to find a book that doesn't have a big hairy positive dick in it. This doesn't make it a bad book by far, but it's worth noting.

Donna: The mere presence of a hairy cock in a book does not default it to positive. But you'll just see what you want to see. I haven't had the same reading experience. I've come across many titles, especially in YA, where the male role is detrimental to male character and not in any way a positive role model for boys to have. If you're going to complain about one you're going to need to complain about both because both are worthy of pointing out. This is the last I'll say on this because I value the cohesiveness of this group too much. My opinions on things like this are incredibly strong and sometimes mouths need to be shut in order to prevent regrets. Consider mine shut.

Nicole: That was less of talking about dicks and more a rebuttal to your "needs the big, fat, hairy vagina stamp of approval" comment. And I'm not saying they aren't there; I was just making a reference to this one. Both are problematic.

Nicole: I didn't mean to offend anybody; I was merely making on observation that the women fit into the two tropes. Laura Smith Because it is a child's story (though it is not a children's book), I hereby motion to remove all reproductive anatomy from the discussion on the grounds that it is unseemly and unhygienic.

Angie: I really was going to fit this one in. Really. But then LIFE. And needles. Lots of needles. So I'm a bit bleary-eyed, but I've followed the discussion and thought I'd just say that what you pointed out, Nicole, does seem worth noting to me. And, of course, the converse is worth noting in other books. But since this is the book we were reading, your observation seemed a fair one.

Nicole: Thank you, Angie.

Heidi Frederick I agree that this one certainly wouldn't pass the Bechdel test, but that also didn't both me. Honestly, I feel like all of Laura's words about the meaning and symbolism in this one pretty much sums things up better than I ever could. I also found this one reminiscent of A Monster Calls, but I enjoyed this one much, much more because I didn't feel as close to the story. I suppose in a way that's completely counter-intuitive, but MEH. *shrug*

Donna: A Monster Calls made me sob. Like literally sob. This one only gave me wet eyes. A Monster Calls?

Nicole: So what we're saying is that I should put A Monster Calls on hold at the library.

Donna: This is what we're saying, yes. If there are others ahead of you, hunt them down, punch them in the face and steal their copy.

Sya: I agree that the female characters were negative but, like Laura, believe that this was intentional and linked to aspects of David's grieving process not least a subconcious anger/resentment at his mother for leaving him. I felt that the Crooked Man largely represented chaos and disruption - something David was obviously experiencing in real life - while the Woodsman represented his deep desire to know that his father wouldn't leave him regardless of Rose, a woman who (due to her work at the hospital type place) clearly he has linked negatively to his mother (something which again feeds into the archetypes seen in terms of the women in the other world). I wasn't remotely bothered by the lack of a positive female character as I felt that the entire book WAS about a positive female character - David's mother. If none of this makes any sense, then please remember I read the thing five years ago but I DO remember mulling such thoughts then. I thought it was all rather clever and admire the author for not feeling as though he needed what would surely have ended up being a rather obvious positive female - in THIS story (and by no means in all) it was entirely unnecessary. Also, Nicole Brinkley, really - you HAVE to read A Monster Calls. There's an interview with Patrick Ness somewhere on my blog about it in which he is very interesting and in which I totally DO NOT manage to not ask about Chaos Walking.


  1. What a fabulous review format! I so,enjoyed reading this. Not only does the book sound very unusual, but it actually sounds like a mix of great writing and a high concept reselling. Stellar combo in my book!

  2. Dang, now I feel bad for skipping this one. :-(