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on February 3, 2012
I honestly don't know how to write this review. I don't know what I can say about Castles that will be informative to the reader without exposing something that the reader really has to find out for him or herself. I can't tell you the emotions I felt while reading it because I felt all of them, often many of them at the same time. I can't even tell you what kind of a book this is: literary, horror, psychological, supernatural, allegorical, because it is all of those things and more.

But I suppose I can tell you what Castles isn't. It isn't a book you will be able to put down. It isn't a book you will be able to forget. And, most of all, it isn't a book that you will read without spending nearly as much time thinking about it as you spent reading it.

I suppose the best thing I can say, perhaps the only thing I should have said, is this: Castles is a work of true brilliance. If you read it you will not regret it. If you don't read it, know that you will be missing one of the great literary achievements of the 21st century. I know that sounds a bit much, but that it truly how I feel about this novel. If there is any justice in the literary world the name of Benjamin X. Wretlind will be spoken alongside those of Steinbeck and Hemingway as a truly great American novelist.
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on March 17, 2013
This was a VERY well written journey into Disturbia. I wasn't sure that I'd finish the story, actually, although I'm glad I did...kinda.

This wasn't a book with a neatly wrapped up ending, where one could rest easy knowing the fate of everyone involved. This wasn't a book with a cliffhanger ending, where you're either irritated with the authour or eagerly awaiting the next installment.

This was a book that left you with uneasy doubts and unanswered a good(ish) way. I'll read any other books by this authour....during the a room full of people......and noise.
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on May 1, 2012
Often, you can tell on the first page whether a writer knows what he or she is doing. There's a flow, a grace to the way these writers construct their sentences that makes reading a joy.

Ben Wretlind is one of those writers, although his story is anything but joyful. Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors, fits into the "magic realism" category, although I did not know that when I started reading the book.

The story begins with Maggie at age six, living in a trailer on the edge of the desert, somewhere in the US, in fear of dust storms and her drunken, abusive mother. The only light in her life comes from her Grandma, who protects her from her mother's worst and advises the young girl to listen to the voices in the wind. When Grandma dies, Maggie is literally on her own.

Maggie learns quickly to stay out of her mother's way, not to engage with her mother's boyfriends and how to "clean up her messes." That's the central theme of the novel.

This novel is one of those where you can take the possibly magical elements and view them as only symbolism, and as a childish or psychologically damaged mind's interpretation of strange events. For example, there's the old school bus on the edge of the desert, just outside the trailer park. It's irresistible forbidden adventure to children, whose parents tell them not to go inside for their own good. Of course, the kids can't resist it. It represents forbidden adventure, the dangerous wild beyond the fences, the untameable forces of nature that erode anything made by humans.

And it's also a portal to the unknown and to the underworld. You can take it literally or as just the way that Maggie sees it. Beyond the bus is the desert. It periodically sends dust storms that smash through windows and clean up messes.

As I said, this is not a joyful book. Maggie is abused by her mother and others, she's raped by her mother's boyfriend, her boyfriend disappears, presumably murdered, her dog is butchered and she takes a series of abusive boyfriends, herself.

On the surface, it's a story of a girl in a very hard life, learning how to cope with pain and terror -- how to "clean up her mess." And she also learns how to integrate the unknown terrors of the world beyond the abandoned . Maggie learns also to listen to the wind, finally. And within the wind and the dust storms, she discovers ... well, I don't want to spoil it. Let's just say that within the storms, she finds the agents of just retribution and the strength to clean up her mess and take control of her own life.

And yet, you can also read this as the warped interpretation of a woman forced through years of abuse to do ... again, I don't want to spoil it.

There's a lot to like in this book. It reminds me of Palahniuk in his darker moments. Wretlind is not afraid to put his readers and his characters through horrible situations, and to describe them clearly, without pretense and without squeamishness. But if you're squeamish, you might have trouble in some parts.

Wretlind writes with that fluid, clear, spare style that the big publishing houses all say they demand (and then publish crap that does not adhere to it). So, even though the situation was horrible, Wretlind tells the story very, very well.

5 stars

Highly recommended
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on May 23, 2012

Are you done? If you said "yes", I'm assuming you're lying, because after reading the book you're not going to need to read this review. So I'm going to assume you're either a bald faced liar, or you're just really bad at following directions.

Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors is, without a doubt, the best book I've read in years. Part horror, part lit-fic, Castles tells the story of Maggie, a girl who lives in a trailer park on the edge of the desert. It is the chilling tale of the psychological effects of a childhood of abuse, and the damage that can be done when a child is raised in a culture where violence is used to insidiously strip young women of their senses of autonomy and self worth. But it's also a story that gives us a perverse sense of hope, that when the world is damaged beyond the hope of justice, sometimes retribution can be divine.

The brilliance of Castles is not just in Maggie's voice, which is itself sublimely woven; it is in the universality of Maggie's tale. This story RESONATES. The effects of a culture of violent and sexual oppression on the psyche of young women are universal, and Maggie's story could have just as easily taken place in the streets of Compton or Calcutta, or on the border of the Australian outback or the jungles of Brazil. And this is the genius of Benjamin X Wretlind's writing--you cannot help but identify with the all-too-human Maggie.

Woven through the story is a tale of dark horror and divine retribution. But in the end we're left to wonder if the supernatural elements are the work of God or the Devil, or the product of a mind brought past the point of breaking by a world out of control. Without trying to spoil the book, in the end Maggie's story is one of retribution and redemption.

Now, go read the book.

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on November 2, 2011
I came across author Benjamin X. Wretlind in the twitter-sphere, clicking on an amazing blog he wrote about paying it forward. From there, I clicked on his novel Castles and read one line on Amazon: "When I was six, I hid in the corner of the kitchen, under the sink where the Comet and Windex were kept." I was captivated by that line and instantly downloaded the book before I ever knew what I was getting in to. (My 2nd book in one week that deals with such extreme topics.) I kept telling myself the author used the word "Fictional" in the title to constantly remind his readers this is not real. Finishing the story of Maggie was like going through the most extreme marathon I've ever attempted (and I'm not a runner). The rawness of the writing. The struggle of this poor girl for acceptance. The hope you have as a reader that her life will get better. Then I read some of the reviews and suddenly felt silly as I'm not a speculative fiction/horror type of reader. Sure, I enjoy a good scary movie now and then - but I find truth to be scarier than anything the horror gods can throw towards us. I had a completely different reaction to many other reviews I read - more like "A Child Called IT" which is a true memoir. I didn't take the events for face value: I saw things more as an internal escape, but perhaps that is where Mr. Wretlind has truly shown his mastery as a writer. To create a story that allows all sorts of readers to be pulled in. Read it and decide for yourself.
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on October 31, 2011
When I read the description for this book, I was very intrigued because it isn't a normal book one would read. I was intrigued about the bodies, and this castle Maggie was trying to built. The story starts out about a little girl in the trailer park. I have to say, I'm glad this is a fictional memoir and not a real one, to think that anyone would have to go through a childhood like Maggie's is just painful to think about. It does however read like a true memoir and I had to remind myself that this didn't happen.

During the story you can start to see why Maggie might be insane, but you can also see how this may just be her fantasies to deal with the life she has been given. She is obsessed with this rusted Volkswagen Bus, and the things that she dreams of and the things that she sees in the bus and when the storms come is very odd and freaky. The detail about her pain and suffering is very well written, but I was constantly waiting to hear about these dismembered bodies that she places inside the bus. It wasn't until close to the end for me that it all started to get a little horror story-ish. The things she dreams about doing with her boyfriends tongue will have you squeamish for a very long time. I won't spoil it though.

Aside from waiting for different things in the story to finally appear, this book was very emotional and very compelling and you will not want to put this book down. Make sure you check it out!
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on May 31, 2011
Have you ever wondered about the scissors that cut our dreams and stop the bad words that come out of our mouths? How far would you go to get revenge or end the source of your suffering?and would you do it with scissors?
Maggie is wondering if her madness is really mad; or perhaps all she has done is righted the wrongs done to her.
Castles brings us into a world of a young woman who can't get beyond a trailer park, finds peace in her dead grandmothers words, & has an odd interpretation of dust storms and creepy eels. Theres no prince charming, but there will be a castle. It gets dark, macabre, sexual, and abuse is common in her life. And in the dusty corners of your brain you may recognize the vengeful thoughts she has. Will you feel empathy for the protagonist?
Wretlind is a fantastic writer. His hard work and passion will pay off. Get more of Wretlind on Amazon, his blog, twitter and facebook accounts. He is out there, ready to accept his "likes" and the climb UP. He gives us much to read, and not much less then the raw meat of his psyche. And That's a rare find!
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on May 21, 2012
I must admit I started reading "Castles" back in march and after a few chapters I put it aside. It wasn't because it was terrible but in the beginning it felt more like a fantasy novel(which I'm not a big fan of). After reading all of the great interviews and praise for the book I felt compelled to go back and read it.

Am I glad I gave it another chance? HELL YEAH! "Castles" is a slow burning fuse that builds throughout the beginning chapters preparing the reader for the explosions that are to come. You will not be prepared for the big bangs, trust me. Once it explodes all hell breaks loose and you just have to hang on for a horrific and brilliant ride filled with twists and turns.

It's disturbing but not like some of Edward Lee's works. There's rape but Wretlind doesn't go into hyper realistic detail like Lee. "Castles" isn't just a book it's an experience that can't be missed.
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on November 6, 2013
The story is a sad one – one of a woman who struggles to find her way out of a life that has been filled with abuse and alcoholism since she was a child. Throughout her life she clings to the idea that Heaven is full of castles “built for little girls by little girls” and that the men in her life will be forced into an eternity of labor to care for the women in the castles when all is said and done.

In the very end, the woman becomes the monster she so feared herself – someone who is abusive and unforgiving and longs for the moment when another opportunity comes along for her to take her vengeance on another.
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on March 2, 2012
Wow! Not what I was expecting at all. I read this book on my kindle, and by the second page was sucked in, as in I couldn't put it down. I had the unfortunate experience of living in the Mojave desert, and this authors description was perfect. My heart broke for Maggie and I wanted to slap her mother and all the men in their lives. I don't know what I was expecting when I bought this book but it wasn't this. Its a coming of age story filled with womens issues, hallucinating psycho killers and trailer park life rolled into one gory tale. And the tongue thing, well I don't think I will ever be able to forget that. Can't wait to read more books from this writer. Its definetly worth more than the 99cents I paid for it. And I can't tell you how many times I've repeated "zoo of freaks", I just love saying it!
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