Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jumping The Pages

It is snowy, cold and blech outside...seems to be the perfect time to curl up with my computer, a cup of coffee and write a rambling.  Today I shall ramble on about a book that caught my eye called The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser.  I was at the bookstore looking for a completely different book, when the cover jumped out at me...and seriously with a cover like this I pretty much had to buy it.  It ended up being a bit hit or miss for me, though it did re inspire the return of my book journal...but before we get to that, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Amy and her young mother Alexis are both in the throes of heartache.  Alexis has been dumped by her married boyfriend and Amy is experiencing the teenage angst of betrayal and embarrassment by a friend via social media.  They flee from their town in Germany to the tiny Scottish isle of Stormsay and their family home called the Lennox House.  They arrive fittingly in a storm and are greeted by the stern matriarch of the family Lady Mairead, Alexis's mother and Amy's grandmother.  They are welcomed on the condition that Amy learn how to become a book jumper.  What the heck is a book jumper?  I'm glad you asked.  You see on this little tiny isle there are two families, the Lennox family and the Macalister family.  These two clans have been responsible for hundreds of years for caring for the storylines of books.  They accomplish this by lying in a circle of standing stones, laying a book over their face then voila! they are in the book.  Amy chooses The Jungle Book as her practice book, but finds that she can easily move between stories, making friends with various characters.  Amy also discovers that she can jump into her e-reader and that she does not need to be in the standing circle to do so.  She is in a class with Betsy and William, the daughter and nephew of the current Laird of the Macalister clan.  Betsy is not a fan of Amy's, feeling she is too old to be properly trained...also she is a Lennox.  Will is cordial.  The three are taught by three guy's who are kind of monk like and are all scarred by burns.  While exploring the various literary worlds, Amy discovers that idea's are being stolen, altering the storylines in all the books in the world (yeah...we will discuss this later).  Nobody believes her, until she and Will discover the body of Sherlock Holmes in the real world.  Apparently Will would pull Sherlock out of the book to talk to him.  He vanished one day and it turns out he was murdered.  Apparently the Sherlocks in the other stories agreed to help out in the dead ones book so all was well.  The three students are taken to a place deep in the library and shown a story that explains a lot.  Apparently the Lennox family used to have a castle, but after a tussel, a fire broke out and destroyed it along with a one of a kind manuscript of a story not written down anywhere else.  The three teachers turn out to be the only characters rescued from the destroyed story and now live on the Stormstay teaching the new jumpers.  Amy discovers her mother making out with Desmond, one of the rescued book guys,  and after a bunch of angst and back and forthness learns that he is her father.  Yep, I guess when you spend most of your life on an island that only houses two families and a less then a dozen other people, you fall in love with the ageless book character...and then have a kid with him.  This helps explain why Amy is such an advanced jumper as in reality she is half fictional...yeah...anyways moving on.  We continue to go back and forth, Will and Amy fall in teenage love, accusations and suspicions fly 'cause nobody actually talks to each other and finally we figure out what is going on.  The old burned manuscript that had only fragments of pages and the three men saved had one more surprise.  Somehow the princess in the story also managed to escape the destruction and has been hibernating on the island.  She is a young, spoiled petulant thing who enchanted Will to be her Knight and jump into the stories to steal ideas.  She is trying to use these ideas to restore her story.  Once we know this we are able to piece together her story...which is not a very nice one. Most of the info finally comes from Desmond, who was the original Knight in the story.  Essentially the princess, when she get's bored, enchants a man to be her Knight, sending him out to slay a monster that is ravaging her kingdom.  The sick part is that the princess has actually turned the Knight into the monster, having him commit heinous acts, then sending him out unknowing to find the monster.  The only way to stop the monster is for the Knight to kill himself...starting the cycle all over again.  Will finds a way to stop the princess, getting himself killed in the process and Amy is able to return the idea's back to their original books.  She takes Will's body into his favorite book, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell is able to bring him back to life as a story character.  Amy spends most of her time in the books, exploring them with Will and that is how the book ends.
World Building - There is a lot of different ways to look at the world building in this book.  The island of Stormsay is fairly well realized, I could probably find my way around it if I needed to, and the atmosphere of it is complete.  The rest of it however is patchy.  I never got a full sense of the family, the history or the mechanics of the book jumping.  I felt I wanted either more information, or better merging of the different pieces of this complicated world.  I unfortunately did not get the feeling of full immersion that is the hallmark of a well built world.

Story - We have the problem of too many stories to accurately judge this category.  Some of these stories are more successful then others.  The best story in my humble opinion was the one of the ruined manuscript.  Through out the book, there are fragments given to us that make it sound like a fairly typical fairy tale, to find out that it is a pretty dark and twisted story is pretty awesome.  I feel like I did with the world building that if we had more information it would have been easier for the reader to see where all the various disparate stories tied together.  For me it was a bunch of flipping back and forth and wondering if I missed something.  In general, each story line was pretty good, they just didn't completely gel to create a whole.

Character - This book had a ton of characters in it.  Some where created just for the book and some were pulled from the literary world.  I was pretty ambivalent about most of the characters, didn't really hate any of them...but didn't really fall in love with any of them either.  For the most part, most of the characters where just there to further the story without a whole lot of personality, history or motivation.  Will, Amy and Alexis where the most formed of the characters, and I liked Will the best of those three.  Amy and Alexis where your fairly typical young mom/teenager duo that seems to be popular lately, didn't hate them, didn't love them.

Editing - So this book was translated from it's native German, which is pretty cool 'cause I love getting view points that are not typically American.  That being said, the flow of the book was not my favorite.  I felt that the there were to many storylines and not enough information.  While this is mostly on the writer, I feel an editor can maybe point out to an author that maybe the reader isn't in the author's head and needs some background, or history, or consistency for the book to work.  It isn't horrible editing, but like the rest of the categories...meh

Book Jumping - Ok, here we have one of my biggest issues with this book, and a particular literary peeve in general.  For me the overall concept of the book jumping left me with a ton of questions and very few answers, in fact it inspired me to get out my book journal again so that I could write down all my questions about book jumping.  Here are just a few thoughts I had.  Who discovered it? Why only these two families?  How diluted can the blood get?  Seriously how do these two tiny families keep track of EVERY book?  What is their purpose again?  If they are the only ones who can jump...aren't they the only ones who can mess up the story? Why are the characters aware of the jumpers?  Umm...about the timelines?  How do you turn the page?  Seriously, other then the mechanism of lying down and putting the book on your face there is not much given to us about the jumping.  I hate it when an author has a concept, especially a potentially good concept and then the execution is poor.  I understand that I will never have all the info or answers I want for things like this, and I don't always need them...I just want a concept to make sense. Since the book jumping was such a huge part of the book, I don't feel like I am wrong in wanting to know how it actually works.

Books About Getting Into Books - I have not yet found a book that has successfully executed a concept where characters from the real world can get into book worlds.  I have read some great ones that deal with elements of books in the real world, or authors or things like that, but anytime I read about a character actually getting into Wonderland, or Neverland, or just does not work for me.  I think it's cause for me a good book world is complete and personal to the reader.  If you asked me to draw, or describe Pemberly and then you asked my baby sis to do the same thing, I bet you would come up with two equally valid, yet very different pictures.  So when an author tries to put a character into that world it infringes on my view of the world.  As for my own personal self, I'm always torn.  If I had the opportunity would I want to jump into a literary world, or is the bigger appeal the fact that I am completely outside of it?  Ok this is getting very philosophical and may require it's own post.

Fictional Father - After all of my mehness about the book...I have to admit I kind of liked the idea that Amy had a father that was a fictional character. Aside from the zillions of questions it brings forth, it also had the added advantage of me paring up literary characters and wondering what their offspring would be like.  I may have also had some literary fantasy's on which literary crush I would allow to father my fictional kids...

Overall Impression - Overall I feel pretty meh about the whole book.  It seemed to have a ton of stuff in it without really going anywhere.  There were moments of awesome and the concept was pretty cool, but the overall muddledness, lack of info and too many literary pet peeves made this book disappointing.  I feel that it had a lot of potential and if this author exports any other books over the pond, I will probably give her another chance 'cause I feel like she has good ideas.  I give this book 5 out of 10 inkpots and realize that other people enjoyed it more then I did which is also awesome.   Also the book cover is worth it just to have on my book shelf.   Happy Reading Everybody!

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