Showing posts with label helen ellis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label helen ellis. Show all posts


Book Style: Eating The Cheshire Cat

Eating The Cheshire Cat

Eating the Cheshire Cat by Helen Ellis is the first real YA I ever remember reading that wasn't a classic. It's also the first time I read a book review in a magazine and actively sought out the book in question. Before Eating the Cheshire Cat I'd never gone to a store looking for a specific title that wasn't either a) Nancy Drew or b) assigned school reading. As a result this novel, Helen Ellis' debut, truly was my introduction to the world of making my own reading choices and developing my own unique literary taste. I love this book is what I'm saying. It's got dark comedy blended with Southern Gothic themes. It's got real teenage girls struggling to mature in the extremely homogenized and image-centric South - something I was struggling with a lot when I first read it. I clearly remember being intrigued by the Wonderland reference in the title (Alice fangirl for life!) and it's crazy to me that this book only came out in 2001 because I feel like I read it before 11th grade, which clearly is inaccurate, but this book was so momentous to me that it seems like it's been part of my life for much longer. My little sister currently has possession of my coveted copy, long overdue since I spent a good few years trying to prevent her from reading it, convinced the more adult themes would be exposed to my mother and she would try and keep me from reading more realistic YA (which is pretty crazy when you consider that the same year I was assigned Ellen Foster and The Poisonwood Bible as school assignments...). And I am now going to stop blathering on about how much I adore this dark and twisted coming of age story and how life-changing/shaping it was for me because I will just keep on talking and we'll never actually get to the discussion about the Book Style and Brandi just stop talking just type a period and start a new paragraph come on you can do this...

This is a hard, I mean hard book to Book Style. That's why, besides it's apparent nearness and dearness to me, I haven't tackled it before now. You can thank my wonderful sister for the prompt. I wanted an outfit that I could see a young woman of good social standing in the South wearing, needed it to have at least some tie-in to the book (there's not a lot of blatant symbolism that would work), and I needed to match a neon green, orange and floral cover?! All in all, I'm pleased with the result. This maxi dress is way beyond my budget reality but I will now be actively looking for a suitable lookalike. I added a light cardigan on top in "Fire" because it matched the goldfish and it also ties in to the story's fiery conclusion. "Sarina Billy" slingback heels keep the look a little dressier while referencing one of three main characters, Sarina. The "Vendetta" purse also ties into the twisted relationship between Sarina and another main character, Bitty Jack. An axe ring and earrings are another nod to Sarina, her mother, and the shocking opening to Eating the Cheshire Cat where a (deliberately) drunk sixteen year old Sarina allows her mother to smash her crooked pinkie fingers with an axe so that they will be reset straight, thus eliminating her one physical imperfection. A "Roll Tide" necklace and an Alabama necklace reference the novel's setting. The "Southern Belle" lipstick, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" nail lacquer should be pretty obvious references - it's a book about three Southern belles after all. I tossed in some cat-eyed sunglasses because I think sunglasses are a crucial part of any wardrobe and they're catty, just like Nicole (the third main character), Sarina, and Bitty Jack. 

I wholeheartedly endorse this novel. Just don't confuse Southern Gothic with goth. For that matter you probably shouldn't confuse Gothic with goth when it comes to literature, or you, like many disgruntled reviewers, will be confused and disappointed. 


Book List


I've been seeing tons of direct and not so direct requests everywhere on my plethora* of social media accounts recently for book recommendations. Now I know that the majority of the askers do not actually share my taste in literature but I have personally discovered great new literary loves in several ways over the years, so I will be giving my personal recommendations today; this is not a reading list designed to coddle the masses. I've already outlined my favorite series, and I must remedy the fact the I neglected to include Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide series at the time, so I will be focusing more on stand alone novels this go round. Let the top** 20 recommendations commence:

  1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  2. Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
  3. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
  4. The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett (These two are the beginning of the Discworld series, but the rest of the books almost all stand alone.)
  5. Black Swan Rising by Lee Carol (This is also the start of a series, but I was not as enamored with the sequel.)
  6. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  8. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (Also the first in a series, the sequel is not due out until this year.)
  9. One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy by Stephen Tunney
  10. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  11. Eating the Cheshire Cat by Helen Ellis
  12. The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
  13. In the Woods by Tana French
  14. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (I recommend the No Fear versions for all Shakespeare reading.)
  15. From Russian With Love by Ian Fleming (Clearly part of the James Bond canon, but the books all stand alone.)
  16. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  17. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  18. Having Our Say by Sarah L. Delany & A. Elizabeth Delany
  19. Confessions of a Teen Sleuth by Chelsea Cain
  20. Jar City by Arnaldur IndriĆ°ason (This is actually the third book in a series, but I found it stood alone just fine and I haven't managed to read the prequels or sequels yet.)
Have you read any on the list? What should I read next?

*Fun Fact: This was my first favorite "big word". I am certain that I wedged it into inappropriate sentences far too often in middle school.

**More likely the first 20 that pop into my head. I've read so much I often forget titles but never plots!