31 December 2010


I'm very ashamed of myself for taking this long to update. *peers around, desperately looking for a fitting distraction* Look! My first ever review of a short story collection! :D
In my Foundations of Literary Studies class, we were assigned to read James Joyce's novella "The Dead," which is featured in his collection Dubliners. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Dead," so I decided to read Dubliners over my Christmas break. I love short story collections, and Dubliners by far is one of the best I have ever read. I consider it the literary equivalent of a concept album, for each story is united by a common theme of social, psychological, and personal paralysis afflicting Dubliners of all ages. Joyce himself was terrified of the prospect of ending up like these characters--jaded and internally suffocating--and listed this fear as one of the reasons he fled Ireland. I think Joyce's strong feelings about the subject, justified or not, is exactly the reason why these stories are so powerful.

The fifteen short stories are divided up in four sections that span childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and public life. Most of the story lines are fairly commonplace--unrequited love, jealousy, and inferiority complexes. But, if you're even the slightest bit familiar with any of Joyce's work, you'll know that you don't read Joyce for plot. Joyce is a genius at creating complex characters and evocative atmosphere and absolutely gorgeous prose. And those three things are exactly what stand out so much about these short stories. Even if you've read a hundred stories about someone in a relationship with commitment issues, I dare say Joyce's "Eveline" will be the most exquisitely crafted one you'll ever read. That being said, as much as I liked the stories about children and teens, the aforementioned "Eveline" and "Araby" being my two favorites from those sections, I think the latter stories about adults and public life are the most memorable. My three favorites are "Little Cloud," a riveting tale of frustration and friendship; "A Painful Case," a heartbreaking story that relates the doomed relationship of lonely bank clerk and closet socialist Duffy and the wife of a sea captain; and "The Dead," the novella that chronicles painfully awkward intellectual Gabriel Conroy's night at his aunt's party, which leads to a startling revelation about Gabriel's own wife.

As you're reading this review,you may be thinking, "Ahem, Zella, it's all fine and good that you want to read dreary stories about sad people in Ireland, but I don't need to read a whole book full of it." I can understand that. The stories are certainly sad--a book devoted to the study of figurative paralysis isn't exactly a pick-me-up read. And because of the emphasis on character and atmosphere, the pacing is measured and the stories can seem a bit anti-climactic, if the endings aren't flat-out sorrowful or shocking. I know that type of fiction isn't for everyone. In that case, perhaps just read "The Dead," easily the most famous of the selections in Dubliners. The story is full of the superb characterization, atmosphere, and wordsmithing that is a hallmark of the other stories and is perhaps the most blatant in its portrayal of paralysis. The final paragraph is one of the most analyzed in all of literature. Regardless of whether you want to delve into the text that deeply--though it actually is fun! No, really! Don't glare at me and curse English majors under your breath--Joyce's beautiful prose, which there are not enough adjectives to adequately praise, is well on display here.

If you're looking for some meaty reading this holidays, give Dubliners a read. This selection is probably one of the more accessible of Joyce's works. If you want to sample Joyce but would prefer not to read through the whole book, at least give "The Dead" a chance.


Announcements: I am so, so, so, so sorry for not having posted a book review in three months. Things have been crazy lately, but I would like to return to posting regularly, if not weekly, in 2011. Next semester, I am taking four literature classes *gulp* and I am going to have a slightly easier work-study job, so maybe I'll be able to keep up better than this semester.


This Week in Literary History: 29 December 1916: This ties in so well with my review today, but on this date in history, James Joyce published his novel Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Though Dubliners was published in 1914, this novel is the one that brought him fame. Of course, Joyce being Joyce, he followed this success with his landmark stream-of-consciousness novels Ulysses, which was censored for years after publication, and Finnegans Wake, which is widely considered one of the most difficult novels in the English language.


Next Week: Probably a review of Stephen King's The Green Mile.

15 September 2010

I Am The Messenger

I am sooooo sorry for being gone for so long! Forgive me!

Ed Kennedy's life is, well, rather bland. He works as a cabbie and hangs out with his fellow deadbeat friends. He's madly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and his mother despises him. Poor Ed. Then Ed thwarts a bank robbery and gains his fifteen minutes of fame. Shortly thereafter he begins receiving playing cards with times and addresses on them. Ed soon realizes that each time and address represent a task he must complete, sometimes of the good-hearted kindness to random stranger nature but also sometimes vigilante-type actions, and simply not cooperating is not an option, as Ed learns the hard way. Ed's missions, which he at first undertakes reluctantly, soon turn into an obsession and, ultimately, a life-changing experience.

After reading Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, I wanted to read more of his work and Penguins recommended I am the Messenger, originally published as The Messenger in Zusak's (and Penguins'!) native Australia. The Book Thief, which is one of my absolute favorite books ever, is a hard act to follow, but this novel, which was written before The Book Thief, was just as engaging and captivating. Thanks for another stellar recommendation, Penguins! Zusak has a knack for mining humor from situations that are not even remotely funny. The bank robbery that opens the book is hilarious, and gems of offbeat humor are scattered throughout the novel. Ed, the narrator, is a likable soul whose sarcastic narration adds much to the novel, but, even more importantly, he's believable. His reactions to being in his situation are logical and fit his personality. Most vigilante tales, which is sort of what I am the Messenger is though not exactly, feature an ordinary person who morphs into a larger than life superhero overnight. Not Ed. He's scared and confused and wants no part in what he's being asked to do. I have read quite a few books with the proverbial unwilling hero, but few are as realistic as Ed in their motivations and actions. Though the book is entertaining, it is also thought-provoking and much like The Book Thief, heartwarming without being sappy. This book didn't make me sob uncontrollably like The Book Thief--it's not quite as heartbreaking--though it does have its moments of brief sorrow.

I will admit the ending of the book did initially rattle me. It's not that I didn't buy it so much as I had to think about it before I eventually came to my own rationalization of it, which likely is not correct. Then again, the ending is not nearly what this book is about so much as the journey, so it's small issue.

I really like Markus Zusak's work. The two books I have read by him both feature complex sympathetic characters, offbeat stories, profound messages, humor, and a distinctive readable style. I am the Messenger is not as depressing as The Book Thief, but it possesses the same magical infusion of fantastical elements into reality. If you like inspirational reads that are free of sappy Hallmark crap, definitely read this book.


P.S. I would be remiss to not add, though, that if you're turned off by profanity, you should be aware that this book is chock-full of it. The language didn't offend me because I thought it was essential to the story. I mean, these kids are slum kids, after all--they're not going to sound like saints. But I feel it is my duty to warn my younger readers, lest their parents tar and feather me for a book recommendation.

Next Week: Stephen King's The Green Mile

Also, I need to apologize for not keeping up with comments (on both of my blogs). I am terribly sorry if I do not post a prompt response to your comment, but I will respond as soon as I can. I love reading your comments and I do read (and enjoy) every single one. It's just sometimes it's a couple of days before I have time to sit down and type up a response. Don't let that stop you from commenting! I will not ignore you! :)

Just one more announcement before I get to my trivia section: I am now settled in at my new college and am really enjoying myself. I love being a history and English major. Most of my homework is my two favorite things: reading and writing. Yeehaw! However, this also means I do a lot of reading and writing. Reading and writing that sometimes deprive me of pleasure reading. *sniffle* So . . . if you get a glut of reviews of classic novels from me in the next couple of months, it's because I am reduced to blogging my assigned reading. (And I think you guys would prefer classic lit. reviews over reviews about the academic books I am reading on the Russian Revolution. Unless you are a fellow history geek, then I would be more than happy to recommend Russian history books. ^^) But I will try my best to mix it up with more contemporary and genre fiction. :)


This Week in Literary History: 15 September 1890. British mystery writer Dame Agatha Christie is born in Devon, England. If you know me, you know I adore Agatha Christie! In fact, my very first blog post was a list of my favorite Agatha Christie novels. At the very least, read the first four on that list. They are all superb witty mysteries full of twists and turns and are not too scary. They're perfect brainteasers. :D

08 August 2010

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Dent is having an exceptionally crappy day. First, his house is going to be bulldozed to make way for a new highway and his impromptu protest is having mixed results. Then, his quirky friend Ford pulls him away to the pub because the unemployed actor has something of great importance to tell Arthur. And, then, Ford tells him that the world is going to end in a matter of minutes--undercover aliens like Ford sort of get a hands up on these kinds of announcements. And then Arthur finds himself on a bizarre outer space adventure with Ford, a two-headed politician named Zaphod, a rather attractive scientist named Tracy who found Arthur quite boring at a party six months earlier, and a chronically glum robot named Marvin the Paranoid Android on a quest for a lost planet while aboard the Heart of Gold, a magnificent spacecraft gained by somewhat illegal means and powered by the Improbability Drive.

Several times on this blog--and in chats--I have lamented my lack of knowledge of the hard sci fi genre. I like sci fi, but most of my readings in the genre have been in dystopian sci fi. My familiarity with sci fi tales sporting aliens and space ships is sadly limited. To remedy this, my good friend Scott, an avid classic sci fi reader, has recommended several sci fi books to me, chief of which is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the premier sci fi comedy book. I mentioned blogging it last week and was pleased when Serena and Penguins commented on how much they love the book. As always has happened with book suggestions I get from my readers, I was not disappointed. I loved this book and can't believe I have lived 21 years without reading it. *beats head with book* Thanks to all of you!

First and foremost, this book is just flat-out, laugh out loud funny. Though I had moments that were my favorites--the Vogon poetry reading, the mouse experiments *wink wink*, and the police shootout--the whole book was full of delightfully weird characters, silly situations, and witty deadpan narration that reminded me very much of both Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde, two of my favorite writers. I also adored the absurdity of so much of the story. I was trying to remember where I had heard Adams' name before and was not too surprised when I flipped the book open and read his bio, which notes that he wrote for Monty Python. This book reminds me very much of Monty Python with the zany verbal exchanges and frequent use of irony.

One thing I particularly loved--and I'm not sure how much sense this is going to make, but here we go--is how Adams embraces the novel's insanity and runs with it. I've read several books where the author creates an interesting world but then tries to smooth over any reader disbelief by adding convoluted "logic" to back up the plot and any deviations from the real world. Adams, on the other hand, never relies on this, which more often than not backfires. Adams makes no attempts to logically explain away the craziness that's going on and that actually makes the novel even more enjoyable than if he had tried the alternative.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the perfect end-of-summer read. Its wildly inventive world will appeal to sci fans and the hilarious plot and narration will delight humor fans, especially for those who are fond of absurdist British humor. Penguins has told me that after finishing this one, I'll have to read the whole series. Indeed! :D
This Week in Literary History:
4 August 1792: Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley is born in Sussex, England. A talented poet--and born rebel--Shelley was kicked out of Oxford, famously ditched his wife for Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and drowned in a boating accident at the age of 29. Along the way he wrote some outstanding poetry, of which "Ode to the West Wind" and "Stanzas Written in Dejection" are some of my personal favorites. I also highly recommend his fascinating prose treatise "A Defense of Poetry" in which Shelley reiterates the need for poetry and provides what may have been a defense of his own notoriously tumultuous personal life in the process. I must admit, for years I was more of a fan of Shelley's wife, Mary--I adore her classic Frankenstein--but as I have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate Shelley's work, as well.


Somewhat Important Announcement: This pains me to write, but I'm going to have to take a break from Blogger for the next few weeks. I don't want to! *nerd tantrum* But I am leaving on Friday for my new college's one week long orientation. Judging by the schedule, my internet time will be extremely limited, as will my reading time. After that, I am going to be carrying a full class schedule at a new school, working a new job, and living in a new residence. I don't want to make promises that I can't keep or post substandard posts, so I think I'm just going to take a little break and resume blogging in early September around Labor Day after I get adjusted to my new life. I'll be around until about Thursday--and plan to post a final post on my other blog later this week--so I should be able to respond to comments until then. Likewise, if you don't see me here on Blogger or Sparknotes or Critique Circle or Facebook or Twitter until early September, don't freak! I am not ignoring you and I have not been abducted by mutant giraffes bent on world domination. I will try my best to keep up with PMs and my e-mail, but it may take me a few days to get to it. I am going to miss all of you so much! But I am not abandoning you. I already have some reviews in the works, namely Markus Zusak's I Am the Messenger--a suggestion from Penguins. :D


A Somewhat Less Important But Less Solemn Announcement: My more observant readers--those of you who looked at the upper right hand corner today--may have noticed that I added two Goodreads widgets. (I stole the idea from Lucy and Bruce and needed help to do it from Windsong. :D) Now all of the books I have most recently read--along with how many stars I give each one--will be on the first widget, and the books on my immediate to be read list will be on the second one. In case you're wondering, yes, I most certainly joined a website just because I wanted awesome book widgets. (Hence, I was slightly disappointed when I uploaded all of the books I've read this year to the site only to find that only a third of them were displayed on my widget. Poor me.) Regardless, I like the site and I love the widgets! If you have a Goodreads profile, feel free to friend me on the site, though, as with my other internet playgrounds, I may not be active until September.

See all of you in a few weeks! *waves* :)

01 August 2010

The Poisoner's Handbook

This week I was filing a book away in my library's true crime section when the title A Poisoner's Handbook caught my eye. I am a bit ashamed to say that my first thought was "Oh my God! We have a book on poisoning people!" and, as a consequence, I couldn't resist picking it up. (In my defense, I am not plotting to poison anyone's tea. I am merely stumped on a short story I have been working on for quite some time, in which poisoning plays a vital role to the plot. And I'm a little morbid, but that's a different story . . . ) As I thumbed through the book--rather than filing the other books I should have been attending to--I quickly saw that, no, this book is not a literal handbook for would-be poisoners. Author Deborah Blum does one better. She relates the strangely engrossing saga of forensic science in the 1920s New York City, as NYC's first medical examiner, Charles Norris, and his brilliant toxicologist, Alexander Gettler, transformed forensics from a little understood discipline to a highly respected science crucial to crime investigation.

In the 1910s, NYC's coroner's office was a joke. In one disturbing anecdote, Blum relates that a corpse found holding a gun and sporting an obvious gunshot wound to the mouth was declared dead as a result of a "rupture of thoracic aneurysm." Um, right. But this isn't too surprising, seeing as one didn't even have to be a physician to be a coroner at the time. Coroners ranged from carpenters to milkmen, while many of those who did hold medical degrees were incompetent. But the aristocratic Norris, a Yale graduate, cleaned up the department when he took over in 1918 and turned the city's pathology department into one of the best in the country. Alexander Gettler, the son of poor Hungarian Jewish immigrants, pioneered toxicology research during his tenure as the department's chemist. Along the way, Norris and Gettler's work helped solve crimes, paved the way for industrial safety standards, and provided a blueprint for other pathology departments across the nation.

The Poisoner's Handbook is a fascinating blend of science, true crime, and history that brings Jazz Age New York City to life. I have always been fascinated by true crime, as far back as I can remember, and one of my favorite historical periods is the Roaring Twenties, so I naturally enjoyed the cases Blum presents and the evocative description of the era. And as someone who finds medicine and pathology interesting, despite possessing a severe science handicap, I enjoyed the explanations of how different poisons work. One thing I did not expect to enjoy--let alone understand--was the explanations of the chemical compositions of poisons. I mean, I am Zella "Chemistry hates me and beat me up and called me names and stole my lunch" Kate. Chemistry and I are not good friends. But Blum's descriptions of the chemical nature of poisons was straightforward and fairly easy to comprehend, so I didn't mind reading them.

However, for me, the true draw was the colorful characters. Though I was familiar with a few of these cases--including the bizarre story of Michael "The Durable" Malloy, a homeless alcoholic who survived over thirty murder attempts when a group of his acquaintances decided to kill him for his meager insurance money, and the pathetic case of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray, who conspired to murder Ruth's husband so they could be together, and inspired two of James M. Cain's most famous novels as a result of their inept murder plot--most of these cases were ones I was unfamiliar with, and not all of them were tales of vindictive or greedy poisoners. In fact, quite a few of the tales involve accidental poisonings, which were alarmingly common in a time when everyday household products had ingredients like cyanide and arsenic, and alcohol-related poisonings that were caused by drinkers indulging in industrial products for their alcohol content to dodge Prohibition.

I enjoyed this highly original book very much, but I will say the book's structure takes some getting used to. Each chapter is devoted to a specific poison and a specific point in chronological time in the department's history. (Hence, chapter 5 deals with mercury and the years 1923-1925). For the most part, I thought the author did a great job of chronicling Norris and Gettler's work while balancing it with a specific poison's profile and related true crime cases, but sometimes a few of the stories seemed a bit random at first read, though they always did tie together in the end. I didn't find the structure distracting--in fact, I was impressed with Blum's skill in juggling so many story lines so thoroughly and so seamlessly--but I can see how some readers may find this approach frustrating. Also, I am not a science person by any stretch of the imagination, but I was reading on a forum that there are a few minor errors in the book, like with measurement conversions. But I am not sure how qualified the people posting those comments were, so I'd love to hear what my more scientifically-minded reader think.

If you're interested in history, crime, and science--or any combination of them--you'll probably enjoy this intriguing tale of poison in the Big Apple. After reading this one, I want to see a CSI: 1920s New York edition. :D


Announcement: As some of you already know, I celebrated my one year blogiversary on my second blog earlier this week. Feel free to stop by and partake in e-cookies, which I swear are absolutely 100% poison-free. :D


Next Week: Not sure. I'd like to blog Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I promised Scott I'd read this summer, but I can't promise anything.


This Week in Literary History:

25 July 1897: Jack London departs from his native California for Alaska, joining hundreds of others en route to Alaska's gold rush. While living in Alaska, London begin sending his short stories off to publishers, eventually leading to the publication of his classic novel The Call of the Wild, which was one of my absolute favorite books in middle school, though I remember very little of it now. (All the more reason to unearth my copy and reread it. ^^)

25 July 2010

Jamaica Inn

Mary Yellan arrives at Jamaica Inn thinking that she'll be cared for by her recently deceased mother's sister and her aunt's husband. Mary has not seen her aunt in years, but she remembers Aunt Patience as a jovial soul who sent letters fawning over her husband Joss's general wonderfulness. Instead, she finds her aunt a broken woman and her uncle Joss a maniacal tyrant who rules over the Jamaica Inn with an iron fist. He allows no travelers, which is just as well, seeing as none are willing to stop at the inn in the first place. But he does have the occasional visitors who arrive with mysterious wagon loads and disappear into the night. And Mary is determined to learn where her detestable uncle gets these wagons from and what they contain . . .

All right, I know I blogged a Daphne Du Maurier book a few weeks ago, but that was a horror novella and this one is a historical suspense novel. Very different tone here! Ahem. I warned you that I was prone to binge on authors and seeing as Du Maurier is one of my favorites it was only inevitable. Do not judge me.

As with all of the Du Maurier stories I've read, the best part of this novel is the atmosphere that she creates. Du Maurier had an amazing talent for creating suspense in her plots and she certainly does that in Jamaica Inn. There were several parts in this novel that had me on the edge of my seat as Mary attempts to find out her brutal uncle's secret. Du Maurier also does a wonderful job of vividly portraying the wild Cornish countryside where this story is set. (In fact, there is a real Jamaica Inn in Cornwall that you can still visit today.) The wild moors and rural countryside come alive in Du Maurier's narration.

The plot concerning Joss's mysterious past is intriguing and he is a great villain. He's a character you just love to hate. Mary herself is a plucky heroine, especially considering the restraints that early 19th century society place upon her. Though the plot details are unique and intriguing, the basic characters are all ones you've seen before--dastardly villain, innocent heroine, charming rogue, etc. And though I wasn't 100% sure, I had an inkling how the plot would turn out about fifty pages from the end, which is the first time that's happened to me in a Du Maurier novel. Daphne always keeps me in the dark to the very end. But this was one of her earlier novels, so I assume she was still refining her craft with this novel. That didn't lessen my enjoyment, though. I am a big fan of Gothic novels, which this novel basically is. Just because I recognized some of the characters didn't make the book any less enjoyable. In fact, it added to the fun, sort of like seeing old friends. (Not that I have old friends who are demented criminals . . . )

If you're looking for an engaging tale of suspense this summer and like eerie Gothics, try Jamaica Inn. It's a great introduction to Du Maurier's work, though I still like Rebecca better. But read it only if you dare uncover the secrets of Jamaica Inn yourself . .. ^^
Next Week: I have no earthly idea. The marathon reading sessions continue . . .
This Week in Literary History:
24 July 1901: Short story writer O Henry gets released from prison after building 3 years for embezzlement. Henry had issues, as the jail term may have tipped you off, but he crafted some fascinating short stories, the best known of which is "The Gift of the Magi." O. Henry had a knack for twist endings and irony. He's one of my favorites. Check him out if you've never read any of his work before.

18 July 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray is gorgeous. No, really, he is. Just ask anyone, including Dorian. If 19th century England had People magazine, he'd snag Sexiest Man Alive every year. Sadly, though, as so many wise sages have pointed out, "Beauty fades." And Dorian is terrified of the idea that his youthful good looks will leave him. One day, after viewing a painting that his artist friend Basil has done of him, Dorian has a sudden fit of petulance, in which he wishes the portrait would age for him and that he would never have to have his stunning face marred by the effects of time. As luck would have it, his wish is mysteriously granted. He never ages, but the painting does. In fact, the painting doesn't just age; it also reflects all of the nasty sins and debauchery that Dorian engages in. Dorian initially finds this amusing and tries to see how much he can alter the picture through his own actions, but then things get complicated. As in involving murder complicated . . .

The Picture of Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde's only novel. I am more familiar with Wilde's plays and his famous witty one-liners, of which I am a big fan. (Nobody comes close to Wilde when it comes to wielding sarcasm.) When I finally sat down to read this Victorian horror classic, I knew with Wilde as the author, it would be a true original. I was not in the least disappointed.

This is not one of those stories that's going to keep you up at night, expecting to be attacked by a boogie man. But it is creepy and very atmospheric. What I especially liked about it was the story's setting and tone. Most Victorian Gothics feature brooding country mansions and remote settings. I love these kinds of Gothics, but this tale is set in London and follows Dorian through the superficial urban upper class society that he is such an intrinsic part of. The resulting tone is amusing and at times more reminiscent of a comedy of manners that lampoons society's hypocrisy. This novel was denounced as hedonistic in its time, which amuses me because at one point in the book, Dorian's mentor, Lord Henry, explains that "The books that the world call immoral are books that show the world its shame." Speaking of Henry, he's easily my favorite character here. No, he is not the noblest character in this book. In point of fact, he's actually even more dissolute than Dorian. But Wilde gives Henry all of the best lines, including somewhat mystical sounding philosophical quips that never failed to put a smile on my face, even when they made absolutely no sense.

This book was written in the 1890s, so if you dislike the more flowery style of the 19th century, you may find this book a bit slow in spots. Nevertheless, The Picture of Dorian Gray is the fascinating tale of one man's moral collapse and the portrait that reflects his inmost secrets and haunts him relentlessly. Extra kudos for one of the best ending paragraphs I've read in a horror tale. If you're a fan of atmospheric literary horror or Victorian literature, you'll love this book.


Next Week: Hmm . . . I am not sure. I have a huge stack of books I am reading through as summer winds down, so I can't guarantee what will be reviewed next time.


This Week in Literary History:

16 July 1951: J.D. Salinger's classic coming of age novel The Catcher in the Rye is released. I must admit, when I first read this novel, I sorta hated it. Holden's rambling narration nearly drove me to the brink of insanity. But I talked to so many people who said the book changed their life and I felt like a bad English major for hating on it (and secretly I did love the episodic plot and the extremely realistic dialogue-like tone of the narration), so I kept reading this novel. It became a bit of an obsession to uncover what it was that was so magical about this book. Each time I read it, I liked it more. Finally, after the third read, something clicked and now I really like this novel and defend it to people who hate on it. The Catcher in the Rye features a complex protagonist with a memorable voice in an adventure that is alternately poignant and hilarious. I'd venture to say that you won't soon forget Holden Caulfield.

11 July 2010

Fever 1793

Mattie Cook dreams of the day she can escape toiling in her family's Colonial Philadelphia coffeehouse for European luxury shops. Her daydreams must take a backseat to reality, however, when the worse yellow fever epidemic in memory strikes the city, causing widespread suffering and chaos. When her mother falls ill, Mattie and her grandfather flee the city to escape the pestilence, but when a cruel twist of fate sends them back to Philly, young Mattie learns far more about life than any jaunt to Europe would ever have taught her.

Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever, 1793 is a pleasant read that I enjoyed and recommend for history buffs and those who like coming of age tales, though it had some minor flaws. Anderson writes Mattie's first person narration with a natural tone that does not come off as too contemporary or sophisticated. I have always found disease tales fascinating. (I am morbid--I will not deny that.) The plot has the right touch of suspense generated not by humans so much as by the dreaded fever, which seems inescapable. The character's seemingly never-ending wait for frost to come adds a nice touch of the proverbial ticking time bomb. The novel's greatest strength is the historical accuracy. Anderson--who lives in Philadelphia--meticulously researched the real life yellow fever epidemic of 1793 that claimed the lives of 10% of the population and caused thousands more to evacuate the City of Brotherly Love. The period details are perfect without bogging the narration down and the scenes that depict the the city's descent into virtual anarchy are compelling.

If the historical detail is the novel's biggest strength, the tale's biggest weakness is Mattie herself. Oh, don't get me wrong: She's a likable enough character. The problem is she's just too . . . predictable. Other than the fever, her problems are all fairly standard--young love, a loving but frustrating relationship with her mother. I have seen a thousand YA protagonists like Mattie--not really a bad kid but slightly disillusioned and annoyed with her mother, just in need of the right crisis to set her squarely on her path to adulthood. I love a good coming-of-age story and the best ones have complex characters that you may on occasion want to kill, but they are complex and unique and, as consequence, all too human. I'm thinking of Gene in A Separate Peace, Holden in The Catcher in the Rye, Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird, and Anne of Green Gables, just to name a few. Mattie's not a bad character--and she's not totally bland and she has her charm--but she's nothing that you haven't seen before in YA fiction. And that is what makes this book, which is a fine read, a good book but not a truly great book, in my opinion.

Though I found Mattie a bit too two-dimensional for my taste, she is not a distasteful main character and her tale of fever, courage, and survival is a gripping read that will appeal to fans of historical fiction and coming-of-age tales. I have long wanted to read a Laurie Halse Anderson book. She's considered a premier voice in YA fiction, and I definitely want to read more of her work. She's a talented writer who is adept at spinning a fine tale and maintaining an impressive historical authenticity at the same time. I have read that her contemporary YA fiction is far more edgy and intense than this novel, so I look forward to sampling more of her work.


Next Week: Um, we'll see.


This Week in Literary History:

10 July 1931: Canadian short story writer Alice Munro is born. Famous for her masterfully crafted literary short stories, Munro is considered one of the best living writers. I read her delightful short story "Walker Brother Cowboy" in World Lit II last semester, and I can't wait to read more of her work.

04 July 2010

The Unblogged Chronicles: April to June

I recently realized--much to my everlasting shame--that I have totally forgotten about my "Unblogged Chronicles" series for the past couple of months. Eeep! When I sat down to review the books I read but didn't review, I realized there were waaaaaaaay too many to properly cover without this post being a mile long. Fortunately, most of my reads were in different series, most of which I finished, so I'll just save those for another day, which should save quite a bit of space. I also deleted In Cold Blood from the list, because I have read and reviewed it before. Also, since this covers the months of April, May, and June, I was going to post this one at the end of June, but I got busy and instead decided to post this today. Without further ado, let's cover some books:

Endgame (Samuel Beckett): Okay, this is technically a play that I read for my lit class last semester, but it's an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett. Personally, I adored the sheer insanity of this work, which Beckett intended to be absolutely inscrutable. Try not to think too deeply about what's going on in this apocalyptic tale that features a crotchety old man verbally berating his crippled caretaker and his legless, elderly parents, who are conveniently stuffed in garbage cans. (I swear I am not making this up.) I'll admit this play is weird--and the hilarious screen adaptation of it, which I cannot find anywhere online, is even weirder--but I adored it. Beckett is a master of non-sequitor and absurdist banter. Your tolerance for this play will depend very much on your opinion of postmodernist and absurdist literature. If, like me, you enjoy those two literary traditions, you'll love this play. If not, stay away. Stay far away.

Stressed-Out Girls (Roni Sandler Cohen): This is a non-fiction psychology book geared toward parents and counselors. I am a bit of a psychology geek, so when I saw this book, which delves into the pressures that so many middle school and high school age girls face, at the library, I was intrigued and checked it out. Sandler is a psychologist who specializes in teenage girls and seems to have a good understanding of what makes teens tick. She is neither condescending nor patronizing as she explains the social and academic stressors that young women struggle with. Though this is geared more toward adults who work with or raise teens, I found the book quite helpful in identifying some self-destructive tendencies of my own. I always knew I was a pathetic perfectionist, but I didn't realize how bad I was until I realized that the 2 case studies for perfectionists in this book sounded just like me. The fact that I frequently use all of the catchphrases that are indicative of an obsessive perfectionism also was a bit of a wake up call . . . Well worth reading if you're working with/raising teen girls or are a teen girl who is feeling stressed out.

The Oath (Frank Peretti): When I was a teen, I was a big fan of Peretti's YA series The Veritas Project. (The Hangman's Curse made my arachnophobia so much worse and Nightmare Academy reminded me of Pink Floyd's "The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall part 2" . . . ) Peretti writes Christian horror, which I know sounds like an oxymoron, but he crafts some genuinely scary tales. I had mixed feelings about his adult horror thriller The Oath. On one hand, the tale of a rural town haunted by a murderous . . . something is suspenseful and even though it was a 650 page book, I finished it in two days because I simply could not put it down. On the other hand, sometimes I felt the book's message was a bit too preachy, even when I technically agreed with what was being said. Other moments are a bit cliched in typical horror story fashion, though not too badly. As a lit geek, I did enjoy the elaborate allegory and symbolism that Peretti used to illustrate the effects of sin. If you like scary reads and can overlook the occasional blatant preachiness, this book isn't a bad way to while away a summer weekend.

The Painted Veil (W. Somerset Maugham): My professor was talking about this book the day before school ended, so I decided to check it out and read it for myself. This book, which relates the story of Kitty--a spoiled English socialite--who, as punishment for an extramarital affair, is dragged into a raging cholera epidemic in China by Walter, her infuriated physician husband, was a strange book, though I did enjoy it. I have never watched the film adaptation of this book, but I think the commercials for it did influence my initial perception of this book. Based on the movie previews, I assumed this novel would be a tale of a troubled marriage renewed during crisis. Erm, that's not quite what happened here. Without giving too much away, this book is not a romance by any stretch of the imagination. Instead it is the portrait of an incredibly flawed woman who is really not all that likable--I was on Walter's side the entire time. How dare she!--who gradually matures and realizes how pathetic she's been. If you want a beautifully crafted literary exploration of guilt--and can stomach a somewhat distasteful protagonist and a depressing ending--definitely check this one out. If you're looking for a cheery upper class English romance, look elsewhere.

Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk): Hehe I will admit, I absolutely adored this novel. In fact, I sat down to read it and had it finished in less than three hours because I absolutely could not put it down. I know this book sounds like an odd choice for me--in fact, my good friend Genius93 said so on Twitter--but I do enjoy darkly funny reads and this quirky, twisted, apocalyptic, anarchist, subversive book is certainly that. Yes, this book is about a brutal weekly club for men to beat the living crap out of each other in some strange form of therapy that also doubles as a way to vent against modern society, but the focus of this book is more the underground movement that springs up from it; the friendship of the nameless insomniac narrator, who attends meetings for terminally ill patients as part of his social life, and Tyler, the charismatic militant who starts Fight Club; and the downward spiral these two face when their organization rapidly spins out of control. Bonus points for having one of the absolute best surprise endings I have ever read. I hesitate to recommend this one, because it is disturbing on many levels, yet that's what makes it so good. If you're reading this and thinking, "Meh, I don't think I like the sounds of that one", steer clear. But if this one has you intrigued, give it a try. It does have quite a bit of adult content and some scenes that will make you squeamish, but it'll also surprise you . . . literally. ^^

I'll try to have the reviews of the different series I read up in a couple of weeks.


Next Week: Maybe Laurie Halsie Anderson's Fever 1793. Maybe an Edith Wharton book. I am not sure. :D


This Week in Literary History: 4 July 1776: The Declaration of Independence is signed in Philadelphia. Okay, okay, I know this is more of a historical event, but the Declaration is a powerful document and is a superb example of rhetoric. I once wrote an essay on Jefferson's masterful use of literary technique in the Declaration, so you could say I am a big fan. It's a relatively short piece and well worth reading. Now if only we used such stirring legal language today . . .


I also have a quick announcement to make to my teen readers. My friend lgkelso wants to start doing a weekly feature called "Teen Talk Tuesday" on her blog. She wants to hear teen opinions on, well, everything from peer issues to college to fashion trends to your opinions on Twilight. (I know you guys will have fun with that.) If you're interested, check her blog out for more information and leave a comment. :)


Happy 4th of July! Adios! :D

27 June 2010

I Capture the Castle

English teenager Cassandra Mortmain lives in a crumbling castle with her delightfully dysfunctional family, which includes her father, a writer who once scored it big with a literary masterpiece but now spends all of his time doing crossword puzzles and reading detective novels because he has a decade long case of writer's block; her stepmother, a ditzy but wise flower child model who means well--no, really, she does; her older sister, Rose, whose idea of romance and marriage are outdated by a good century; her younger brother, Thomas, who is almost as sly as Cassandra herself; and Stephen, a young retainer who is obsessively devoted to Cassandra. Cassandra--a budding writer--decides to record her family's impoverished life in a journal, thinking that it will improve her writing. What she doesn't count on is recording the hijinks that occur when the Mortmains, who are living the best they can on virtually no income, meet their new American landlords. Perhaps all of those years of not paying rent are going to come back to haunt the Mortmains unless the quirky family can ingratiate themselves with their extremely wealthy neighbors, preferably through marriage. ^^

Miss Marm recommended this novel for all devoted Anglophiles and I am so glad she did. (Thank you, Miss Marm!)I loved this charming book! This is an odd book to describe. The best I can come up with is it is as if Anne of Green Gables kept a diary, a la Anne Frank, but was a character in a Jane Austen novel. Cassandra is a wonderful narrator: funny, perceptive, sympathetic, and always believable, even when she isn't on her best behavior. Her spunk leads to a series of comic adventures, some painful, others hilarious. Overall, the funny far outweigh the sad, with my favorite one being the scheme Cassandra and her brother concoct to cure their father of his writer's block. I don't want to give anything away, but I laughed out loud for a long time while reading it.

As much as I Capture the Castle is an amusing comedy of manners, a touching coming of age story, and a wry tale of a writer's development, it is also a romantic comedy about Cassandra and her sister's often inept attempts to ensnare their young and quite available landlords. I am not a huge fan of romances--Terminally Single Zella can be jaded in these matters--but the resulting comedy of errors is genuinely engaging and author Dodie Smith crafts a charming romance that is neither too sappy or too serious. (Bonus points for a perfectly fitting ending that is neither too sappy or too serious as well.) Though the male characters are not quite as charming as Austen's heroes--who is?--they are definitely likable.

I used to think that the sad thing about being a Jane Austen fan is there are only six novels and once you've read them all, well, there is nothing else to read with Jane's trademark wit and style. Ah, but I was wrong. If you're a fellow Jane fan seeking a new favorite read, look no further than I Capture the Castle. Even better, you don't have to like romances to like this book. If you also enjoy a good coming of age story, quirky crazy British families, and light domestic comedies, this book is the perfect summer read.


Next: The Return of the Unblogged Chronicles. I forgot about them the past two months until Eric mentioned a book I hadn't blogged about. I shall try to post this before the end of June, but I may have to wait until next Sunday. We shall see. ^^


This Week in Literary History: 24 June 1842. Ambrose "Bitter" Bierce is born in Ohio. Ooooh, I so love Bierce! I say we celebrate by being snarky to each other. Ahem. Allow me to explain: I adore Bierce's delightfully wicked Devil's Dictionary, a must read for all fans of acerbic cynical humor, which sports such definitions as "To be positive: To be mistaken at the top of one's voice" and "Politics: Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles". Bierce was also a talented fiction writer. You have not lived until you have read his haunting Civil War short story "The Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge." (Here, I am so nice, I'll give you a link to it.) In addition to being a superb writer, Bierce led an exciting, adventurous life, which culminated in him disappearing off the face of the earth in 1914 while tagging along with Pancho Villa in Mexico.

20 June 2010

Harvest Moon

Dancing Cat is despised by her tribe for circumstances that she had no control over. Stripped of her prized role as the tribe's messenger and condemned to a life of taunts and cruelty, she decides to peek into her tribe's sacred bundle to see what her future holds. But she doesn't get what she bargained for. Rather than seeing what is to become of her, for better or worse, she angers her powerful ancestor Small Tree. Dancing Cat is cursed by Small Tree and finds herself transported into the midst of enemy territory . . . transformed into a man. She is discovered by a kind man named Bearclaw, who nurses her back to health and treats her with a kindness she had forgotten humans were capable of, but she remains in a state of constant confusion and terror, for she knows she cannot evade her tribe or the truth about her true identity forever.

Author Krista D. Ball contacted me about doing an early review of her soon to be released novella Harvest Moon, and I am so glad she did! (Thanks, Krista! :D) I enjoyed this well-written novella very much. In fact, my only disappointment was that it ended after only thirty four pages. I have read a few gender switch tales before, and usually I dislike them just because the premise is used as more of a plot gimmick than anything. Not so in Harvest Moon. Dancing Cat's already miserable circumstances are further exacerbated by her punishment and the psychological trauma that she endures as consequence are not skimmed over, which makes for a suspenseful and psychologically fascinating read.

I also liked the unique atmosphere this novella offers. I have always been interested in Native Americans, so I enjoyed this tale about the First Natives of Canada. The tribe's culture is vividly portrayed throughout the story, yet the description never bogs the narrative down. Instead, the atmosphere greatly enhances the story and provides a nice change from the Northern European setting of much fantasy, though I enjoy those, too.

As much as I enjoyed all aspects of this novella, the best part for me was the protagonist Dancing Cat. I am often frustrated by female main characters. So often they are either completely unbelievable or utterly unlikeable. Dancing Cat is neither of these characterizations. She is sympathetic and likable but never glamorized or glorified. Even better, she shines as a complex, intriguing character, which is hard to create in so few of pages.

Harvest Moon is a fascinating, well-crafted novella that delves into the nature of identity, rejection, and friendship. Fantasy fans will enjoy this story, and fans of historical fiction will relish the vivid historical details. You guys will need to be a little patient before you can get your hands on a copy, though the wait will be more than worth it. Harvest Moon will be early released as an e-book by MuseItUp Publishing on October 1st, 2010, with the official release in December. You can read an excerpt from the first chapter on Krista's blog.


Next Week: Maybe W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil but more probably Dodie Smith's I Capture The Castle.


This Week in Literary History: 14 June 1811: Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, is born in Litchfield, Connecticut. Stowe's classic abolitionist novel was an influential text in the pre Civil War anti-slavery debate and is still considered a classic. I wish I could add some personal anecdote about the book, but I have never actually read this novel. I plan to remedy that. :D

13 June 2010

The Birds

Part-time farm worker Nat Hocken is a quiet man who is not easily excited or rattled. But when he watches the local birds suddenly become vicious, Nat begins to suspect that something is very wrong, though nobody else chooses to believe him. Birds will birds, right? As others shrug off the threat of berserk birds as a bit daft, Nat is determined to protect those dearest to him from this bizarre menace, which leads him to a desperate fight for survival.

How many of you have seen Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film The Birds? Hitchcock is one of my favorite directors--he shares that title with Joel Coen. Well, Joel has him slightly beat, but I still adore Hitchcock's work. (Everyone must see The Trouble with Harry, I demand it! Do it now!) But I have never watched The Birds. I am a bad Hitchcock fan. Whatever. After you watch The Trouble With Harry, watch Strangers on a Train, too. It's extra creepy in a weird way. I am getting distracted. Ahem. How many of you know that The Birds is based on a novella by famed British suspense writer Daphne Du Maurier? I did not know that until a couple of weeks ago, which embarrassed me greatly, because I love Du Maurier. She is the author of quite possibly my favorite novel--Rebecca (If you haven't read that, do it now! Mrs. Danvers is the creepiest housekeeper ever! And Rebecca is, well, something to behold ^^)--and I love her other work as well, so I promptly checked out a copy of The Birds and read it. Dame Daphne didn't let me down.

I think the reason this novella is so disturbing is the precise reason that it shouldn't be. I mean, come on, it's a bird invasion! Compared with a zombie or alien invasion that seems quite tame. But Du Maurier, with her genius for making the mundane malevolent, ensures that a mass attack by birds is just as, if not more, spooky than undead flesh eaters. (Let's face it, birds have sharp pointy beaks and talons, and they are somewhat more speedy than zombies.) ^^

Set in rural Cornwell, England--a favorite setting for Du Maurier--The Birds plays very much with the idea that even the most idyllic hamlets are not immune to horror. I am a sucker for books with English settings--especially West County settings--so I enjoyed the British atmosphere, but I also think the rural setting made this more ominous and sinister than an urban setting. Rather than giving us a large group of characters to focus on in an emergency, Du Maurier instead limits her focus to Nat, his wife, and two small children. The result is an intense, claustrophobic tale. This story isn't super scary, but it is quite ominous and there are several scenes that are especially chilling. I enjoy atmospheric type suspense and horror very much, so I appreciated that this book wasn't the text equivalent of a slasher movie.

I also liked that the protagonist Nat is not an annoying idiot. So many horror/suspense tales have a cast of pure knuckleheads who I despise and wish death upon. (Hehe I am usually not disappointed.) Nat is resourceful and astute, and his intelligence is a major reason why I was rooting for him and was sympathetic to him. His wife is a little bit clueless, and consequently is annoying in a harmless sort of way, but she is not the focus of the story, so I was fine with that.

The Birds is an atmospheric suspense tale that is perfect for fans of more psychological horror. With its isolated setting and likable protagonist, this book reminded me very much of M. Night Shyamalan's alien invasion movie Signs, which is another one of my favorites. And, at only 30 some pages, this chilling tale is the perfect way to while away a humid summer afternoon. (Apologies for the somewhat intentional pun.) ^^


Next Week: I have a special treat for all of you! I am pleased to announce that I will be doing an early review of Krista D. Ball's paranormal fantasy novella Harvest Moon. This is a great story that I can't wait to share with all of you! :)


Today in Literary History: June 12th, 1942: On her thirteenth birthday, Dutch Jewish teenager Anne Frank is given a diary. She took the diary with her one month later when her family went into hiding from the Nazis, and she wrote in it regularly during her two years in seclusion. This diary--which went on to become an international bestseller as The Diary of a Young Girl--is one of my favorite books. I highly recommend it.

06 June 2010


Undercover agents Tamar and Dart are parachuted into their native Holland by the British during the brutal Hunger Winter of 1944, following the disaster of Operation Market Garden. They are instructed to organize the fragmented Dutch resistance in central Holland to coordinate acts of sabotage against the Nazis and, even more importantly, control the rogue bands of partisans who often provoked severe reprisals upon the civilian population with their anti-Nazi activities. This proves near impossible as deprivation, infighting, and jealousy lead to a shocking act of betrayal, which is only fully revealed fifty years later when an English teenager named Tamar uncovers her relatives' past following a family tragedy.

I came across Mal Peet's award-winning YA novel Tamar one day at work in the library. I was filing away other books when the cover of this one--specifically the parachute on the cover--caught my eye. (As some of you know, my dad and grandfather were both paratroopers, so that automatically made me curious.) Then the tagline that said "Espionage, Passion, Betrayal" caught my eye. Yeehaw! Espionage and Betrayal! Two subjects that have long fascinated me. (Some of you may think my priorities are screwed up . . . ) I once tried to write a spy novel when I was younger. It was quite awful, but I love a realistic spy story--you may gather James Bond doesn't work for me--and that's precisely why I loved this book so much.

Tamar offers one of the most realistic and, as a consequence, harrowing portrayals of espionage I have ever read. Peet does a superb job of bringing alive the boredom, paranoia, and terror that dominated the life of an undercover operative in Nazi-occupied Europe. I adore good historical fiction, so I enjoyed the distinctive historical atmosphere he re-creates in this novel. I also loved the pacing in this novel. Though Tamar is over 400 pages long, I couldn't put this book down! Ironically enough, the descriptions of the partisans' bouts with boredom do not make for boring reading, and there is plenty of action to keep a reader happy. The highlight for me was an ambush on a high-ranking S.S. officer that hardly goes according to plan. I don't want to give too much away, but it reminded me some of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by the Czech Resistance, and I assumed that was the inspiration. In fact, Peet relied on an actual incident that occurred in Nazi-occupied Holland. (I refuse to give details away, because if you had the name you would google it and that would ruin the suspense. Besides, if you google it and read about the Nazis' payback for this ambush, you're liable to be distraught for awhile . . . )
I also especially enjoyed the characters. The two protagonists--known only by their aliases of Tamar and Dart--are complex characters who are both likable but definitely flawed. I especially liked the way Peet handled the jealousy that eventually leads to the tragic finale. I have always found novels that delved into jealousy fascinating precisely because that is an emotion we all have experienced at one point. No matter how much we may disagree with what characters in works like Othello, A Separate Peace, and The Count of Monte Cristo do when provoked by jealousy, deep down it is something we can all relate to. (Right? Or is it just me? *banishes self to sit with Othello, Iago, Gene, Danglars, and Fernand* I must say, I am a bit nervous in this company. . . ) In much the same way, the envy that rips this resistance group apart is disturbing precisely because it is so easy to understand where both sides are coming from. I sort of guessed what would happen about a third of the way through, but I think that was intentional on Peet's part. It didn't lessen my enjoyment. In fact, it made me keep reading to see if my guess was correct.

I liked this novel very much; however, I did find the modern scenes, in which a girl named Tamar slowly pieces together what happened, less compelling. Not that they were bad, but compared to the WWII scenes, which are so haunting and unique, the common YA subplot of a troubled teen who puzzles out her family's tragic past with the help of a relative's parting gift was just a bit too cliche for me. Tamar the Dutch resistance fighter interested me, because he was a unique character; Tamar the confused teen girl did not interest me very much, only because I have seen a thousand characters like her. Again, it is not that the scenes set in modern times are badly written. It's just they struck me as less compelling, because they lacked the originality of the rest of the novel.

If you like excellent historical fiction or are just looking for an action-packed good read, try Tamar. The historical atmosphere is impeccable, and the story is superbly crafted. I'm glad I picked this one up. :D


Next Time: Maybe some Daphne Du Maurier. Maybe some Dostoevsky.

This Week in Literary History:
31 May 1819: American poet Walt Whitman is born on Long Island, New York. My lit. professor once said that Whitman was not the first American poet, but he was the first distinctly American poet. Whitman's Leaves of Grass is a poetry classic, but I am quite fond of his heartbreaking "Into the Cradle Endlessly Rocking", an autobiographical poem in which Whitman describes the moment he realized he was born to be a poet.

I would also be remiss to not note, seeing as I am reviewing a novel about WWII, that today is the 66th anniversary of the D-Day invasions.

30 May 2010


Thirteen year old Briony Tallis is an aspiring writer--she has big plans for the play she has written that will be staged in honor of her older brother's visit home. Her older sister Cecilia is also busy ensuring that the party for their brother goes as planned, but she is even more preoccupied with her conflicted feelings for the son of the family's long-term charwoman--Robbie Turner--whom she alternately adores and despises. However, nothing about that sultry summer day goes according to plan. When Briony witnesses an encounter between Robbie and Cecilia, her ever-inventive imagination--and perhaps some more nefarious motives--cause her to accuse Robbie of a horrible crime, an accusation that will have profound consequences for all involved, Briony included.

I have long wanted to read this novel, so when Rebel recommended it to me a couple of weeks ago on my villain post, I couldn't resist reading it as soon as possible. As with all of the recommendations I have received from my readers, I was not disappointed. I loved this novel! (Thanks so much, Rebel!) Rebel explained that it was a great historical fiction romance that was sad but not sappy, and I wholeheartedly concur.

Atonement is a fascinating novel on several levels. I love how complex Ian McEwan made all of his characters, especially the main three--Robbie, Cecilia, and Briony. Though sometimes these characters were hard to sympathize with, they were always real. I was particularly impressed with McEwan's skill in writing Briony, a character who could very easily be wholly despicable. I can't say I ever truly liked her, but she is far more interesting and three-dimensional than I had imagined and that made this novel far more unpredictable--and enjoyable--because of it. McEwan's eloquent and lyrical (but always effortless) style was also a huge plus for me. I liked the precise, lush historical details, as well. McEwan manages to capture the atmosphere of a troubled upper-middle class English home in 1935 and the horrors of WWII at Dunkirk and at British military hospitals. In fact, the war scenes make for some of the best military fiction I've read in awhile, though I know that's not the main focus of the story.

I also enjoyed the structure that McEwan employed in telling this story. I am a huge fan of experimental plots, especially of the multi POV and non-linear variety. The first part of the novel focuses on that fateful summer day in 1935 when Robbie, Cecilia, and Briony's world is forever changed. Each chapter tells the story in third person narration from a different character's point of view, jumping through time and often retelling scenes in which more (or conflicting) information is presented through that character's perspective. If you prefer linear plots, this technique may drive you crazy, but I enjoyed it immensely, both for the literary technique involved and for the realistic way in which McEwan shows how different people perceive the same event in very different ways. After the superb first half, I expected to be somewhat disappointed with the remainder of the novel, which follows the characters through 1940. Instead, the historical detail and the compelling plot still kept me riveted. I especially enjoyed the ending--set in 1999. In my mind, the entire time I was reading this novel, my inner cynic kept thinking that I didn't want the ending to be happy, because that would just almost be too much of a cop-out (and I hate happily ever after story endings. *glares into distance whilst emoting*) But, at the same time, my more dreamy, secretly optimistic inner self wanted things to somehow be all right in the end--but not happily ever after. I was pleased that McEwan found a clever way to do both in concluding this novel.

Atonement is a haunting tale that probes the power of fiction, imagination, guilt, and--yes--atonement. It is also a wonderfully-crafted literary historical novel and an enjoyable, non-melodramatic romance. (Yes, I am bragging on a romance novel that was not written in the 19th century. No, this is not a sign of the coming apocalypse. :P) Now I am determined to get my hands on the acclaimed film based on this novel.

P.S. I must note, there is some adult content in this novel. Not a lot--I have certainly seen much worse elsewhere-- but there is enough that I would rather post a warning for my younger readers. (I don't want your parents beating me over the head with a blunt instrument for not giving fair warning.)


Next Week: I know you hear this a lot from me, but I am not sure. I have been reviewing a lot of literary fiction lately, so I want to try some genre fiction. I have a YA novel I have been meaning to read, plus some horror, a Western, and some other assorted books, so we'll see what I find. :P


This Week In Literary History: *cue organ music*

26 May 1895: Bram Stoker's infamous vampire novel Dracula first goes on sale in London. Derided as trashy at the time, Dracula has gone on to become one of the all-time great horror novels (and one of my absolute favorites.) Dracula may not have been the first fictional vampire, but he was the first to capture the public's interest. I am a big fan of Dracula--he was #1 on my list of literary villains a couple of weeks ago. Forget about Eddie the glitter vamp! I'm Team Dracula, because real vampires don't sparkle. :D

22 May 2010


I am so, so, so, so sorry for the lateness of this blog! *wallows in remorse* I have just been so busy, I didn't have time to read anything until now! I do have a new review and a new weekly treat in store for my dear readers, so I hope that somewhat compensates!

I have always enjoyed retellings of traditional stories through the villain's POV. One of my favorite books as a child was Jon Scieszka's hilarious The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, in which the Big, Bad Wolf explained why he was being unfairly accused. (If you did not read this as a child, you were seriously deprived.) As I have gotten older, I have also read (and enjoyed) Gregory Maguire's clever retellings of traditional fairy tales. So, when Feathery posted a comment describing John Gardner's Grendel--a retelling of the epic poem Beowulf, which I adore, through the eyes of Grendel, the antagonist--I was immediately intrigued and couldn't wait to read it. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed! Thanks so much, Feathery! :)

Grendel is a very much a character-driven novel--I think a good character-driven novel can be just as riveting as a novel that relies more on plot for suspense, as long as the protagonist is compelling and complex. Fortunately for this book, Grendel is about as compelling and complex of a character as I have ever encountered. Gardner does not attempt to transform Grendel into a particularly likable character--the monster is nihilistic, bitter, and murderous--but the author balances this out with a fascinating psychological exploration of why Grendel is the way he is. If, like me, you're a fan of psychological fiction, you will adore the multi-faceted persona of Grendel, who both loves and hates humans and, as a result, is trapped in an emotional maelstrom of self-pity, self-loathing, and extreme loneliness. Grendel emerges as a character that is both disturbing and pathetic. Though you may not agree with Grendel's jaded views on life, his first person narration is loaded with clever insight and acerbic wit that is a joy to read. At first, I thought the prose seemed anachronistically modern at times, but upon further reflection, I think that was actually a wise decision on Gardner's part. The narration, which is both eloquent and simple, ensures this is a highly readable book and that, in my opinion, makes it more accessible than if it had been written in a stilted, overly formal style.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I must warn you: Do not, I repeat DO NOT, read this book if you have never read Beowulf. The plot assumes a knowledge of the original tale, and much of the enjoyment of this novel comes with contrasting Gardner's portrayal of Grendel with the traditional story. All of the major characters from Beowulf, some with interesting back stories added by Gardner, appear in the novel, as do most of the major events from the original epic. If you have read Beowulf before, you'll have no problem understanding this book, but you need to have that foundation to properly appreciate Grendel.

If you like alternative versions of famous stories, are a Beowulf fan, or are just looking for a superbly written psychological novel, try Grendel. You will never look at Grendel, the dreaded foe of the hero Beowulf, the same way again.


Next Week: *whines* I have no idea! I am sorry, but I'll find something. I will also try to be a bit more prompt about posting. *cries*

Now, to introduce the new treat I promised. I decided to start a new weekly series (or blurb series really), in which I post some trivia about important events in literary history that occurred this week. For instance, in "This Week in Literary History"--like the name? How original, Zella!--I could post about the publication of a landmark novel, the birth of an author, or a famous event somehow connected to literature. As a die hard lit geek (and a die hard trivia nerd), I love reading little random trivia factoids, and I hope you enjoy this new series. I think I'll usually just post one trivia fact per week, but since this debut week is special, I will post two author's birth anniversaries:

21 May 1688: Famed Enlightenment poet Alexander Pope was born in London, England. I adore Pope's exquisite poetry, for which he is justly famous, but you may also be familiar with many of his popular quotations, such as "To err is human; to forgive, divine." My personal favorite Pope quote is "There never was any party, faction, sect, or cabal whatsoever, in which the most ignorant were not the most violent."

22 May 1859: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author who created Sherlock Holmes, my absolute favorite detective ever, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Trained as a physician, Doyle started writing the popular Holmes series because he was bored waiting for patients. (Thank God he didn't have many!) Doyle wrote four novellas and over fifty short stories starring Holmes. If you have never met the original Sherlock, I highly encourage you to read one of Doyle's stories (or more than one)! :)

Next week, in addition to a review, I will mark an important anniversary in classic horror. :D

12 May 2010

Beatrice and Virgil

I have a treat for you guys today! No, I am not handing out cookies. Well, I am. Here, have some e-cookies. But that is not the main treat. You see . . . I usually review books that are at least a few years (if not a few decades or centuries) old. Today marks the first time in the nearly ten months I have had this blog that I review a book that has only been out for a month--Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil. I am a huge fan of Martel's Life of Pi, so I was totally psyched for this book! As soon as it was released, I rushed to the library I work at and snatched the first copy. Muahahaha It was mine! All mine! *cough*

For those of who you also love Life of Pi and are curious about Martel's latest book, you're probably wondering: Is Beatrice and Virgil like Life of Pi? Well, that depends upon your definition of "like Life of Pi." This book shares the same effortless prose and quirky humor, but the similarities end there. Life of Pi is much more fantastical than this novel, yet Beatrice and Virgil is much weirder. Life of Pi is odd, but Beatrice and Virgil is a very postmodern, literary work that is rich in symbolism and whether or not you like this book will hinge heavily upon your tolerance for postmodern literature.

I am one of those geeks who adores postmodernism and literary fiction, so I really enjoyed this novel, which relates the tale of Henry--who, like the writer in Life of Pi, is a thinly veiled version of Martel himself--as he struggles to find success in the publishing world after writing a bestseller. Frustrated when his imaginative work on the Holocaust is rejected for being too bizarre and inaccessible, he goes into a self-imposed exile in an unidentified city, taking music lessons and acting in community theater yet militantly refusing to write. One day Henry gets some fan mail from a local man who has enclosed an excerpt from his own work--a play starring a donkey named Beatrice and a howler monkey named Virgil. (If you know these two are named after Dante's guides in The Divine Comedy, you are my new nerdy best friend.) Henry meets the writer--a gruff, elderly taxidermist who is also named Henry--and the two strike up a somewhat dysfunctional collaboration on the play. And then Henry--the writer Henry--starts to wonder just exactly what he's gotten himself into . . .

I found Henry, the writer protagonist, likeable as a main character and Beatrice and Virgil, the fictional animals in the taxidermist's play, become intriguing characters in their own right. The plot starts off as a somewhat meandering tale of writer's block--Oh, how I can relate!--that has lots of simplistic charm and an intriguing atmosphere but not a lot of certifiable action. That's fine with me, because I enjoy Martel's style and the world he crafts; however, if you're expecting an action-packed plot, you'll be sorely disappointed. Not to say the story is boring. The interactions between the personable Henry and the emotionally distant and occasionally bizarre taxidermist are entertaining and easy to relate to. (Think of all the times you have tried your best to work with someone you could never, ever understand. Now you know how Henry feels.) The excerpts from the play itself--a witty, absurdist play highly reminiscent of Samuel Beckett's work--are fascinating in and of themselves.

Though I enjoyed this novel very much, I must warn you: The last few pages of the novel take a disturbing and surprising turn that both rattled and delighted me. I love surprises and this one was a genuine shocker, seeing how the rest of the novel lulled me into a false sense of security and then slapped me upside the head with said false sense of security. I have seen other people ranting on the internet that the ending was gratuitously violent and unfair. I think that's being naive--I mean, Beatrice and Virgil is an allegorical novel about the Holocaust, so it's only natural that it is going to be somewhat disturbing. That being said, definitely do not read this book if you're turned off by violent content. The whole book itself is not violent, but the ending will upset you.

This novel is definitely not for everyone, but I enjoyed it very much. (I just finished it this afternoon and am still trying to process it, but I think I actually like this book even more than Life of Pi, which is saying something.) I can't guarantee that you will like this book if you liked Life of Pi, but I think this is a book that those who enjoy postmodernist and/or literary fiction will relish. On its own merits, Beatrice and Virgil is a deceptively simple, engaging, and thought-provoking meditation on the nature of evil, art, personal responsibility, and guilt. I would definitely love to hear what you guys think if you read this, even if you want to kill me for recommending it. (I will defend myself with a very thick collection of encyclopedias if you want to book duel me. :P)

Next Week: Not sure. Maybe Cormac McCarthy. Maybe John Garder's Grendel. Maybe something else. We shall see! :)

05 May 2010

My Ten Favorite Literary Heroes (and Heroines)

Last week, I gave you my favorite bad guys. This week, I balance the equation out by listing my favorite good guys (and gals.) This is slightly skewed by the fact that I have forbidden myself to use any of the heroes in books I listed last time. Hence, some of my favorites are missing here, but that's not what's important. What is important is I am listing some of my favorite protagonists at an ungodly hour of the night (but not posting them until a more suitable hour) for your reading/comparison pleasure.

1. Hamlet (William Shakespeare's Hamlet): Okay, I know Hamlet is one of the biggest basketcases in all of literature. And he's possibly insane. And he can be really mean. And he has "issues" galore. However, that's exactly why I love Hamlet. He is such a complex character, which is something that I always adore, and he is not easily understood. Yet he is also extremely sympathetic (no matter how far off the deep end he is acting), brainy, philosophical, and most witty.

2. Beowulf (author unknown Beowulf): Last week, Scott mentioned Grendel as a worthy villain. Indeed! I almost put Grendel on my villain list, but he was ejected for Roger (Sadistic rock throwing Roger. Not creepy Puritan physician Roger.) That was a tough decision, but Grendel gets mentioned here in this very sentence, so that sort of evens out. (Do not argue with me. It most certainly evens out.) Beowulf is one of my favorites because he embodies the chivalric code of honor. And he kicks monster butt! And he probably has really cool armor. And he is pretty good with passive-aggressive insults, too. A man of both the sword . . . and the sharp tongue.

3. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre): I just adore Jane so much! She may not be pretty, but lovely heroines are sooooooooo overrated, anyway. (And so very boring, in my opinion.) Jane more than compensates with her smarts, her convictions, and her spunk. I am a sucker for literary orphans and Jane has long been one of my favorites. You go, girl!

4. any Jane Austen heroine (with the exception of Emma. God, how I hate her, though I still adore the book): I like Jane Austen's female characters, especially clever Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), long-suffering Fanny Price (Mansfield Park), and naive Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey), because they are so three dimensional. Austen could portray her heroines as one dimensional period props, but, instead, she imbues her characters with a great amount of individuality, intelligence, and charm. Yay for Jane! I will add that her heroes, especially George Knightley (Emma), Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion) and that fellow named Darcy, are all nicely crafted and sympathetic in their own right.

5. Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby): I know that Gatsby is sort of a shifty character with a shady past and a penchant for dishonesty, but in spite of all of his, erm, well, flaws, I found Gatsby one of the most compelling characters I have ever encountered. In the end, Gatsby does have his own somewhat skewed nobility and I found his complete determination to succeed and his devotion for that utterly worthless Daisy (who I will not call vile names on this blog. I promise I won't. I can't promise I won't refrain mentally, but I'll behave here.) very touching.

6. Anne Shirley (Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables): Another one of literature's orphans whom I just cannot help adoring. I love Anne because she reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age (Same social awkwardness. Same nerdiness. Same temper. Same orneriness.) but without some of my more insidious traits. (She's more forgiving than I am and less cynical and more upbeat.) What I love most about Anne, though, is her spunk. No matter what comes her way, she's up for the challenge. Anne's intelligence and courage definitely qualify her for the hero/heroine list.

7. Atticus Finch (Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird): Finch is the perfect Southern gentleman: kind, wise, honest, and noble. Though I adore him for those reasons alone, that's not why I admire him so much. His courage in refusing to go along with popular opinion to do what is right makes him one of the few characters I can say I honestly admire. He also utters one of my absolute favorite quotes: "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience." Well said, Atticus.

8. Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories and novellas): I love mysteries and have many favorite detectives (I may do a list one day), but in my mind, my absolute favorite detective will always be Sherlock Holmes. Yes, Sherlock may snort cocaine and hate women, but he is still the epitome of Victorian gentleman and his ingenious detection methods are a delight to read. Sherlock is crafty, clever, courageous, and collected. Bonus points for his acerbic British sense of humor.

9. Moist Von Lipwig (Terry Pratchett's Discworld series): What do you mean I can't use a con artist on my hero list? It's my list! I can do what I want! *pouts and stomps feet* Moist may be many things that are not, ahem, reputable, but he's also witty and crafty and delightfully bad (in a good antihero type way.) Moist may be the cagiest con man on Discworld, but underneath his roguish exterior lies an essentially good heart. You just have to look long and hard for it.

10. Matilda (Roald Dahl's Matilda): What is there not to love about Matilda? She's smart and sweet and precocious. And she can control chalk with her mind and engage in a truly strategic round of psychological warfare when pressed into it. Gentle Matilda is not to be under-estimated, yet she always has my sympathy. And, oh yes, she loves to read. What further qualification does she need?

I noticed last week that most of my favorite villains were psychological menaces. Likewise, I have noticed that my favorite heroes are often intelligent, snarky, and deeply flawed but still essentially honorable. I find this psychologically interesting. :D

Who are your favorites?

Next Week: I'll be free from school! So maybe Yann Martel's new book Beatrice and Virgil. Or John Gardner's Grendel.

29 April 2010

My Ten Favorite Literary Villains

So . . . I forced a few tagged followers on my second blog--Grammatically Motivated--to list their favorite fictional villains. *nefarious snicker* I love a good bad guy, or should I say an effective bad guy, so that led me to start thinking about my own personal favorites, whether it's because they are just so cool or just so evil. Considering I haven't read anything this week (Curses upon whomever invented finals!) and am running horribly behind schedule (Sorry!), I decided to post my list of the top ten literary characters I love to hate, or, in some cases, hate to love. :D

1. Count Dracula (Bram Stoker's Dracula): *cue organ music* I have a certain standard when it comes to vampires: I like my vampires mean. None of this mamby pamby sparkly crap. I want an honest-to-goodness bloodsucking vampire who sports a shiny black cape and has no problem with sinking his fangs into helpless victims. The venerable villain Count Dracula meets all of my requirements and is the main reason I adore Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel, the aptly named Dracula. The Count also gets bonus points for the cool Romanian accent. (Please tell me I am not the only one who reads his lines with a Bela Lugosi voice.)

2. Iago (William Shakespeare's Othello): The Bard has given us many great bad guys, but Iago is, in my opinion, Shakespeare's best villain. True, he isn't one of those scary axe murderer type villains; Iago is actually much worse. Instead, he's an insidious, deceitful scoundrel who worms his way into friendship with Othello and wages a ruthless (but absolutely effective) war of mind games with the sole intent of bringing Othello down. Give me a choice between confronting a crazed ax murderer and an Iago, and I'll take the axe murderer. You may at least be able to outrun him. Good luck getting away from the seemingly charismatic and loyal Iago.*shudder* And, if Iago has no other redeeming personal qualities, he is at least good with hilarious Elizabethan insults and putdowns. :D

3. Mrs. Danvers (Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca): Who says maniacal rogue scientists have a monopoly on being evil? Creepy British housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who is hellbent on tormenting the young second wife of her employer for having the audacity to replace her beloved mistress, is about as nightmarish of an opponent as you can get. The fact that Du Maurier keeps comparing her to a skeleton in a formal black dress doesn't help matters . . .

4. Bill Sikes (Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist): Fagin may be the main villain in Oliver Twist, but the unhinged Sikes makes Fagin look as docile as a tranquilized guinea pig. A burglar, thief, murderer, Sikes isn't literature's brainiest villain, but he is certainly one of the most remorseless vagabonds to appear in fiction. Whenever I read about Cockney crooks, Sikes always comes to my mind.

5. Heathcliff (Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights): Pop culture perceives Heathcliff as the brooding British heartthrob of Victorian literature. And, I must confess, I have always pitied Heathcilff, what with his troubled childhood and thwarted romance with Cathy. That being said, Heathcliff's personal sufferings do not in the least negate the malicious, sadistic revenge campaign he unleashes upon any and all who dare anger him. Heathcliff is a puzzling character with no rhyme or reason to much of his behavior, which is one reason he's so disturbing.

6. Vito Corleone (Mario Puzo's The Godfather): This is sort of a cheater's pick on my part. I like the film version of this story better than the book (The movie has my boy Brando!), but Vito is still one of my favorite bad guys. Vito Corleone is a loving father, husband, and friend. Vito is loyal, generous, and wise. Vito is also one of the most feared Mafiosi in New York. When he, ahem, makes you an offer you can't refuse, you better take it, if you get my drift. *wink wink*

7. Anton Chigurh (Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men): This is a pick where I adore the film version of the villain, but I also like the original literary portrayal, too. I am not really quite sure why I like Chigurh so much. He's a quirky, coldblooded hit man who is prone to philosophy. I think I like him so well, because he's so unusual...and has so many catchy lines. What's it to you, friendo? Whatever it is, it makes me forgive his questionable taste in hair styles.

8. Roger (William Golding's Lord of the Flies): Yes, Jack is the leading meanie in this classic tale of British school boys gone wild, but Roger is the major psycho. Roger is a creep not because he is the brains of the outfit, but because he enjoys whatever he's tasked with doing far more than is mentally healthy. If you don't believe me, check out the part where he starts rocking his classmates before Jack forms his tyrannical choir regime.

9. Nazguls (J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings): Sure, Sauron is the villain and the nazguls are the minions. But they're such cool minions! The scene where they enter the Shire hunting for Frodo always struck me as the scariest scene in the Rings trilogy. They get bonus points for the intimidating cloaked appearance. If I ever get minions, they are so wearing cloaks! ^^

10. Roger Chillingworth (Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter): You guys have probably noticed I prefer villains who aren't stereotypical and the more psychological ones. Chillingworth definitely falls in both categories. Puritan physician isn't the most insidious occupation that comes to mind when casting villains, but there is no doubt from the moment Chillingworth appears that he is a most dastardly fellow. If holding grudges were a team sport, Chillingworth would be my first round draft pick. If he doesn't have you cringing, especially in that creepy scene when he tells Hester he knows exactly where she's going and that it isn't happening, I am not sure who will.

Who are your favorites?

By the way, due to finals, I won't have a book review up next week, either. How do you guys feel about a list of my favorite hereos to balance this list out?

21 April 2010

The Eyre Affair

Imagine the year 1985 in a world where the Crimean War still rages on, time travel is possible, book worms exist (Get it? Get it?), and the British public can't get enough of literature and art. Rabid Baconians stalk the street, proselytizing that Francis Bacon wrote the amazing plays attributed to Shakespeare; militant surrealists are murdered by rogue impressionists on the streets of London; and the novel Jane Eyre ends with Jane marrying that twit cousin of hers and leaving Mr. Rochester to a sad life all alone. (How dare she! Poor lonely Eddie...) In this chaotic world, a market exists for bootlegged manuscripts of classic novels, which is exactly what SpecOp agent Thursday Next battles on a day-to-day basis. The brainy but troubled Next is used to hunting down forged copies of Johnson and Austen. What she is not used to is maniacal criminals like Acheron Hades entering into books to kidnap and murder beloved literary characters. When Hades kidnaps Jane, it is up to Thursday, her partner, and Mr. Rochester himself to rescue Jane and make the world safe for classic literary characters everywhere.

My coworker Darcie recommended this delightful book--The Eyre Affair--to me; when I hinted at reviewing this book last week, Serena not only correctly guessed the title, she also recommended the book as well. When one reader with great taste in books suggests a book to me, I always get excited. When two readers with great taste in books suggest a book to me, I cannot resist. Thank you both so much! I loved this book and can't wait to read the rest of this series.

One reason I loved this book was the pithy British sense of humor that author Jasper Fforde brings. His witty style and outrageous plots remind me of some weird fusion of Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, and Lynne Truss. (It also reminds me of my beloved TV show Pushing Daisies. It has the same darkly funny mix of humor and escapist fantasy. Random Zella tangent: I will never, ever forgive ABC for cancelling Pushing Daisies. If ABC is reading this: I have not forgotten that retaliation riot I threatened. Consider yourself warned.) I am especially impressed with the skill that Fforde handles a plot that could very easily be dismissed as too silly. Instead, he crafts a gripping thriller and a sharply humorous alternative universe that is not so very different from our own, yet is worlds away, in a good way. The characters are likeable, quirky, and complex, especially Thursday, who is a truly wonderful heroine. She's neither a pathetic damsel in distress nor an over-the-top action heroine stereotype, both of which I despise in fiction. I also enjoyed the twisting plot that features elements of several genres. Sci fi, fantasy, mystery, alternative history, and humor fans will all find something to love here. Fforde puts clever twists on timeworn cliches from each genre, which helps add to the inventive tone.

However, the real draw will be for those who love classic literature. That's not really a prerequisite to reading and enjoying this book--it certainly stands alone--but this book will definitely be more appealing to those who have read and loved Jane Eyre and those who recognize all of the literary allusions that Fforde inserts within the text. (My favorite is Thursday's Uncle Mycroft. I named my laptop after Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother, a couple of years ago. I had a moment of extreme nerdy happiness when I read Mycroft's name in this book..)

If you're looking for a light-hearted, clever, and highly original read, of either the spec fic or literary variety, try The Eyre Affair. Jasper Fforde is a talented writer with a highly original outlook on fiction. Beware, though: You may find yourself scrambling to find his other books, just like Darcie, Serena, and myself.


Next Week: Um, I have no idea. Maybe some Cormac McCarthy. Or a YA thriller set in World War II. Or Treasure Island. I have no earthly idea. Don't look at me! *hides in corner and cries*