Tom Finder, Martine Leavitt

I just bought a bunch of new books.

Tom Finder is the fifth from the bottom.  Two of the other books I got, I have not included in this picture, because I am going to get them for my oldest sister for Christmas, and although I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this blog, I don’t want to take chances.

See, it turns out I was entitled to get this gift card from Amazon for $100, so I claimed it, and then I spent it.  I spent my money very sensibly, which allowed me to get free shipping and two of those books for free, and I ended up with a dozen of them.  A baker’s dozen.  I mean, fourteen – the dozen of an extremely generous baker.  I am exceptionally pleased with myself, and I am most excited about Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me, which I am putting off reading because I enjoy to delay gratification.

Anyway, I read Tom Finder first of the new-to-me books above pictured (only three are new), because I want to read the book to which Getting the Girl is the sequel, and it’s not yet in at the library, and because I thought I wasn’t going to like it that much.  I knew it was about a boy living on the streets, and I didn’t like Heck Superhero, which was similarly themed; whereas I loved The Doll-Mage and Keturah and Lord Death.  But indeed it was quite, quite, quite wonderful.

Tom finds himself on the street and can’t remember anything about his life before.  But he meets a man called Samuel who tells him that he is a Finder, and he must find Samuel’s son, Daniel Wolflegs, who has gone missing.  Samuel says that Tom has to find Daniel before he can find his own home.  Tom gets good at finding things – money, books, library cards, food – and he writes down all the things he can figure out about himself, so he won’t forget again.  He comes up with a theory that words are in charge of everything – because he writes things down and discovers they are true.  He writes down “Tom is nice”, and he always tries to be nice after that – because he remembers that he has written down that he is.

I really, really liked this.  I am about to write a geeky fangirl letter to Martine Leavitt and tell her how much I admire her.  Because honestly, her books are very very good.  Tom Finder was.  I feel guilty for reading it as a substitute for Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me.  I completely forgot about Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me while I was reading it, which is funny given how much I’ve been yearning to read Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me for the past, I don’t know, week and a half.  And I forgot all about the stabbing pain about which I am too much of a lady to say more.  And I was too absorbed to stop long enough to write down in my commonplace book the bits I wanted to write down in my commonplace book.  So props to Martine Leavitt.  Again.

(Did I already discover she was Mormon, and then forget I had discovered she was Mormon?  She’s Mormon.  Who knew?)

Edit to add: This afternoon I went grocery shopping with my mum, and we stopped at Bongs & Noodles just for fun, but mainly I believe so she could get Chalice, and I was looking at bargain books, and I got Eleanor Rigby and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, both in hardback, for just shy of twelve dollars.  It is a banner week for me and new books!  So while I watched the very exciting LSU football game, I covered all my new paperbacks in contact paper, and I put plastic dustjacket covers on my new hardbacks until I ran out of plastic covers (need to order more).

Heck Superhero, by Martine Leavitt

Martine Leavitt is still my new BFF, and great respect to her for raising seven kids and still managing to write books, but I didn’t like Heck Superhero as much as The Dollmage and Keturah.  I think that writing in the present time may just not be her thing, and it may actually be necessary for her to set her stories in strange, alternate versions of England from back in the day.

Heck Superhero is about a kid whose mother goes MIA, and as a result of some pretty spectacular magic thinking (he’s only a kid, so this is permissible), he thinks that he has to be a superhero in order to find her, by doing enough really fantastic and amazing Good Deeds.

It was good.  Just not as good.  I wish I had Martine Leavitt’s other books instead of this one.  It was a teeny bit of a letdown.

The Dollmage, Martine Leavitt

My people, lay down your stones.

Before you stone this Annakey Rainsayer, you know it is the law and her right to have her story told. It is my duty as Dollmage to tell it. Each villager has the right to one stone, and no one will forbid you to throw it. But listen to me, and when I am done each of you will decide for yourselves if this Annakey is worthy of execution.

That is right. Lay the stones at your feet, keep them close by if it comforts you. So few of you? The stones will get heavy before the story is done.

Martine Leavitt! You are totally my new best friend! I’m so glad I decided it was worth it to stop at the library on the way to class and picked up the other two books of yours they have! Only I mustn’t get too excited because this is the way I felt about Salman Rushdie and then he went and let me down with Fury and Shame (that sentence is funny because – whatever, you know why that sentence is funny). Here is another bit of The Dollmage, which made me smile when I read it. I heart Martine Leavitt.

It comforted my heart to know that Annakey was afraid of something, and I said thank you to God. He seemed cold to me, as if I had not gotten the point.

The Dollmage was maybe even better than Keturah and Lord Death. I’m in the middle of Heck Superhero, which I think I am liking slightly less but I haven’t finished it so maybe I will turn out to be wrong. The Dollmage was so good that the thirty minutes of exercising I did while I was reading it flew by in a snap, which is not normal for me because exercising makes me tired and normally when things make me tired I quit doing them, except I know I can’t quit exercising because of Health Reasons, so I carry on even though I really, really, really want to stop, and every minute goes amazingly slowly.

The Dollmage is a bit like Keturah and Lord Death in that it has that same dreamy, haunting, fairy-tale sort of quality, but this one’s a little less light-hearted. (Hi, irony, I’m Jenny.) It’s about a small village that is protected and looked after by a person called the Dollmage, who makes dolls to sort everything out, but when she goes to choose her successor, there are two girls born at the right time with the appropriate powers – Renoa and Annakey. She chooses Renoa, but the book’s about Annakey. Annakey is a surprisingly sympathetic character given that she’s kinda flawless, and I really think it works so well because of the fairy-tale feel of the story. And this device, telling the story before the stoning, works absolutely beautifully. I loved this book ever so much. I just – mm, it was one of those books that reminds me why I write. (And read, also.)

And now a word about Martine Leavitt. I saw that she had seven kids, and I was like, And she wrote seven books? so I went to her website to check it out, and apparently there was a five-year period in which she was a single mother with six of those seven kids, going to university, and still publishing two books and working on a third one.

Wow, Martine Leavitt. Respect. You’re a better woman than I.

Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt

“Tell me what it is like to die,” I answered.

He dismounted from his horse, looking at me strangely the whole while.  “You experience something similar every day,” he said softly.  “It is as familiar to you as bread and butter.”

“Yes,” I said.  “It is like every night when I fall asleep.”

“No.  It is like every morning when you wake up.”

Recommended by: Brooklyn Arden

Oh how I liked this book.  It’s about a girl called Keturah who goes into the forest after a white hart and meets Lord Death.  She doesn’t want to die without having known love (it sounds a little hokey when I say it like that, but I swear it isn’t at all!), so she tells him part of a story, and he lets her live for another day, and if she can find her true love in that day, he’ll let her live entirely.

I was mighty impressed.  I will for sure be swinging by the library and picking up more of Martine Leavitt’s books.  My libraries only have two other ones, because Martine Leavitt is Canadian I suppose, but she has written like six more…  I am hoping this is one of those times where I am on the brink of having a new favorite author, rather than on the brink of being really disappointed by all the other crap I read by her.  Like that time I thought I was going to marry Salman Rushdie after I read Midnight’s Children and The Ground Beneath Her Feet and then I read Fury and Shame and now I’m totally scared to read Shalimar the Clown or The Satanic Verses or The Moor’s Last Sigh (which I’m saving, anyway, because it’s meant to be the best of those three).

Keturah and Lord Death was haunting – which is funny, because it was also light-hearted and cheerful.  It had the feel of a fairy tale, and furthermore it was a tidy-minded kind of book, which I am strongly in favor of.  I completely loved it how Keturah got back to the village and immediately started sorting things out and arranging things and making lemon pies.  Like Flora Post.  Loved it.  I even made a new “loved it” category, just for this book.