Stuff and Nonsense

“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don’t you know?”

Life has gotten very full lately. Between typical year-end stuff at work, buying a home, and missing Texas and the people there, my stress level is full. This is about the time when my need to get in the car and drive becomes the most prominent thought in my head.

I love to go places. Any place. Whether it’s driving 2-20 hours or hopping on a plane. Doesn’t matter. I just want to go. I need to go. I can feel when I start getting antsy deep down – like now. I’m not running; I’ll be back. 🙂 I just need a break from the “life” of it all. It’s amazing how much calm I can accomplish just by driving for a couple of hours. I get the same peace from hiking and camping. This is why I usually keep several little trips and one big trip planned throughout the year, spaced just far enough apart that I never get too complacent or anxious.

I am fortunate enough that I have a good job and a son with the same wandering bug, so getting away for a weekend or a week is doable. But I think this is also where my deep seeded love of fantasy/science fiction/fairy tale/retellings comes from. Nothing will transport you the way a good storyteller can. You go from a favorite chair in your home to an endless maze in Wonderland chasing a dream that wasn’t yours until several chapters in, or a terrifying battle for your life in a game you never signed up for. From courtships in the 1800s, to towering skyscrapers in New York in the year 2118, to video games so lifelike it decides the fate of the human race. There is nowhere I can’t go when a book is written by a true storyteller.
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On my recent trip to Houston, Texas to celebrate turning 36 (yowza!), I started Marissa Meyer’s book Heartless. A retelling of Alice in Wonderland, but from the point of view of the Queen of Hearts. It follows her from a young woman full of dreams, and hope, to a woman who falls in love only to lose him, and becomes the cruel heartless Queen of Hearts we all know. It’s is a brilliant story. All the best characters (large and small) and perfectly quotable moments from the Lewis Carroll classic make an appears in an intricately woven story. Creating an amazing backstory for the Queen of Hearts so believable I can imagine Mr. Carroll himself smiling with joy.

“When pleased, I beat like a drum. When sad, I break like glass. Once stolen, I can never be taken back. What am I?”

Catherine, the future Queen of Hearts, falls in love with Jest. The Court Jester who is hired by the King of Hearts.  Jest is not from Hearts, but from Chess where the White and Red Queens have been at war forever, or so it seems when time continuously resets itself.  On a mission from the White Queen, along with his companions the Raven and Hatta (the Mad Hatter), Jest must steal the heart of the Queen of Hearts. Expect time is a tricky thing and he arrives in Hearts before there is a Queen.

Instead, he finds Catherine, the daughter of a Marquess. She and her closest friend who is also her servant, have big dreams of opening Hearts’ first bakery (Sweets and Tarts: The Most Wonderous Bakery in All of Hearts). It is this talent of baking that also makes the King of Hearts take notice. As Jest and Catherine fall in love under the radar of the King who is also trying to court her, we watch as all the things we love about Alice in Wonderland come alive – the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Chesire cat, even Alice is referenced briefly.

But as fate works, we can only outrun ours for so long.

She spoke without feeling, unburdened by love or dreams or the pain of a broken heart. It was a new day in Hearts, and she was the Queen.
“Off with his head.”

The characters and storyline are strong throughout. Three of my favorite characters are the three creepy (not sure a better word for them) sisters who protect/guard the well that separates Hearts from Chess.  When Jest, Catherine, Hatta, and Raven come to them looking to cross, they are understatedly dramatic and terrifying. If this were ever done in film form, I pictured the girl from the Ring, only younger and with a sing-song voice, complete with that giggle and smile that always sends chills down your back. (I shudder just thinking of it! I hate kids in scary movies… there is nothing scarier…)

“One to be a murderer, the other to be martyred, One to be a monarch, the other to go mad.”

Fate is an unforgiving thing and once you learn yours there is no avoiding it.  So when the sisters share the fates of Jest, Catherine, Hatta, and Raven there was no turning back. It was locked. Because once you know your fate, no matter how hard you fight against it or run the other way, it always finds you, or rather you, it.

“We will all greet fate, on the other side.”

This will become one of the few books I end up reading several times.  I can only imagine the new details and moments that’ll stand out next time. ❤

Normally I would break into the coffeehouse I visited while reading this one.  And I did go to one (well, a few if I’m honest). It was Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company in Cypress, Texas.  But they do a lot of great work and have great coffee so my blog reviewing that place will come soon.

In the meantime, I highly recommend this book.  If you enjoy retellings at all or if you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland, I promise you will not be disappointed! And if you are….well….we should probably reconsider our friendship 😉  ❤
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