07 August 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

For the time being, life sucks for teenager Jacob Portman. Oh, sure, he comes from a wealthy Florida family and wants for nothing, but he's recently been depressed lately. And who wouldn't be? He found his eccentric grandfather viciously mauled to death by dogs. Problem is, Jacob knows his grandfather didn't die that way. His grandfather was actually killed by monsters, a reflection of the strange childhood the former used to tell Jacob about when he was younger, a childhood that involves a strange school on a secluded Welsh island that housed children who were invisible or capable of levitating. Of course, try telling the true story to anyone, and you get shipped off rather promptly to a shrink, which is exactly what happens to Jacob. Fortunately for his own peace of mind, he is able to connive a visit to the island his grandfather talked about to prove to himself whether or not the older man's stories had any basis in fact. There, he discovers that his grandfather's seemingly fictional tales are very real. . . .

I came across this unique young adult book while working at the library. One of my coworkers was reading about it on Amazon. We both were attracted to the creepy cover, so she ended up reading it. She told me the book wasn't spectacular but was undeniably weird. Naturally, I couldn't resist giving it a try. Ransom Riggs's Miss Peregrine's School For Peculiar Children is an uneven book with its share of flaws, but it is certainly unique and has enough good points that I recommend it.

After discussing this book with two other people who have read it, all three of us concurred that the best adjective for it is, ahem, "peculiar." It's not scary--Don't fear! This book will not give you nightmares--but it is certainly eerie. This haunting gothic atmopshere is exactly why I recommend it. The creepy gothic pictures that accompany the text play a substantial role in creating this atmosphere. In fact, even if this book isn't your cup of tea, I recommend checking it out just to look at the pictures, which range from levitating girls to creepy clown children. They are that good! Apparently, Riggs used actual old photos that he found in various collectors' stashes and then worked the images into the story. Overall, I thought he did a fairly good job of working random pictures into a a fairly cohesive plot. Occasionally, the plot did seem a little contrived--as if there were certain pictures that Riggs wanted to include just because they were so cool; thus, he added a related element in the story. Nevertheless, the effect more than makes up for this problem.

Personally, I had a bit of a hard time liking Jacob. Oh, he's not awful, not by any stretch of the imagination. He's just like every other somewhat sarcastic troubled YA hero I've met lately. I would have liked someone with a little more depth and individuality. The person he reminds me most of is Percy Jackson--more on that in a minute--but I found Percy a little more accessible. Jacob's first person narration is still pretty funny, though, and I don't necessarily have to like the protagonist to enjoy a book.

My only real complaint with the book is that about midway through, the story transitions from a good dark gothic horror/mystery story to a run-of-the-mill fantasy adventure, a la Percy Jackson. I like a good fantasy adventure, such as the aforementioned Percy Jackson series, but I was enjoying the gothic aspects of the story, so I felt a little cheated when the tone switched. To the book's credit, it's action-packed fantasy adventure with its own unique spin on the genre.

The ending leads me to believe that a sequel in the works, but I can't find anything to confirm that on the internet. I'm not sure the story is quite strong enough to generate a YA series, but I'll withhold judgment until I read any sequels. Riggs is certainly a creative writer with an eye for the eccentric, so I don't doubt that any follow-up would be equally as whimsical and strange . . . and feature just as many amazing photos! ^^

If you like gothic horror or are hankering for another fantasy adventure read now that Percy Jackson's series is at an end, I recommend Miss Peregrine's School For Peculiar Children. It's certainly not a book for everyone, but it has its charms, one being that it's a quirky fast-paced read, perfect for summer! At the very least, pick it up and skim the pictures. I kid you not--they are delightfully creepy.
Next Time: I have no idea.
This Week In Literary History: 5 August 1850: French writer Guy de Maupassant is born. Truth is, I've only read one of his stories--"The Necklace"--but it's such a good short story! You should definitely read it if you never have.

30 July 2011


Remember a few months ago when I reviewed Cyrus Keith's Becoming NADIA and promised that a sequel was on the way? Well, here it is! :)

Six months have passed since Nadia realized that her world was nothing at all like what she had imagined. She is not a journalist, as she had supposed. In fact, she is nothing at all what she had supposed, and the reality of what she actually is is almost too much to fathom. The ensuing fallout causes her to take refuge in a remote cabin with Jon Daniels and his ragtag team of vigilantes, who are determined to keep Nadia safe from her pursuers, the menacing and mysterious Pinnacle. Unfortunately for them, the Pinnacle is not pleased with the stubborn defiance they've received from Nadia and her friends. And for that, the Pinnacle is determined to extract vengeance from everyone connected to Nadia. . . .

It is my great pleasure to review the second installment in Cyrus Keith's gripping The Nadia Project trilogy! (Also, a special thanks to Cyrus for being kind enough to send me an ARC! :)) I think one of the hardest books to successfully pull off is the second one in a trilogy. More often than not, the second book is little more than a bridge whose only function is to give the reader the background essential for the finale. I think boring second book syndrome is a form of book abuse, for such texts are unfairly deprived of their own plots or identities. Tis not fair! I have reluctantly slugged through many such a book for the sole purpose of being prepared for the third book. Keith has avoided falling into this trap and, in Unalive, delivered a sequel that is every bit as engaging and suspenseful as the original. And that's no mean feat, for Becoming NADIA is a superb sci fi thriller, in and of itself.

Unalive possesses many of the same attributes that made its predecessor a great read: a fast-paced plot, great complex characters, and deep themes about identity. One thing that I particularly noticed in this book was the skill with which Keith switched between several related but quite different subplots throughout the book. I love these kinds of stories, but I'll be the first to admit they are often confusing. I never found myself perplexed with Unalive because the transitions between the varying plot threads was seamless.

I also enjoyed the villains here. Not only did they become more fleshed-out as characters--especially the intriguing spitfire Jenna Paine--and their nefarious motives somewhat more clear, but they also became even more creepy in the process. I think the most disturbing thing about them is how they feel they're acting for "the greater good." One of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes is "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." I think that quote sums up the members of the Pinnacle rather nicely.

If you're a fan of spine-chilling thrillers or good science fiction or any combo of the two, I highly recommend Unalive. With its readable style and action-packed plot, you'll easily while away these last days of summer.

If you're interested in purchasing Unalive, you'll have to wait--but not too long! Only a few days. Go to MuseItUp Publishing's website for details about purchasing a copy. I will note that this book is a good story independent of its role in the trilogy; nevertheless, as with most sequels, you'll enjoy the book far more and follow the action much better if you've read the first book. Fortunately, that's easily done for the first book is immensely readable and easily acquired. I guarantee you that if you start Becoming NADIA within the next few days, you'll have it finished in time to read Unalive when it is released this Friday (August 5th).
What's Next: Probably Ransom Riggs's Miss Peregrine's School For Peculiar Children. I have three words for you: creepy gothic pictures. ^^
This Week In Literary History: 30 July 1818 On this day, Emily Bronte was born in England. Sadly, Bronte died at the age of thirty and authored only one book, which was roundly panned by then-contemporary critics as immoral. Happily for us, this maligned book is the gothic classic Wuthering Heights. I'm not a huge fan of happily ever after romances, so I suppose it's only natural--but twisted--that I enjoy this tale of Heathcliff and Cathy's tumultuous and dysfunctional relationship set amid the atmospheric Yorkshire moors. Personally, I have always envisioned Heathcliff as looking like Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd. He'd be perfect for the role! Well, either him or Keith Richards, circa early 1970s. Think about it! Erm, on that note, I'm going to run away now. . . .

19 July 2011

Looking For Alaska

Miles Halter is prepared to depart from his home to attend the prestigious Culver Creek boarding school in Alabama. He is a peculiar teen with an obsession concerning the last words of famous people. However, his introverted world comes to a crashing halt once he arrives at Culver Creek and befriends a ragtag group of rebels, including his cocky roommate, the Colonel, and a quirky but troubled girl named Alaska. For the first time in his life, Miles has friends and truly lives life to the fullest. Alas, all of that soon comes to an end when a horrible tragedy strikes the boarding school. . . .

All right, I have something embarrassing to confess. I have had several people recommend John Green's Looking For Alaska to me, and--for whatever reason--I kept confusing this book with the movie Into The Wild, which I have never seen. Thus, I started it fully expecting the characters to eventually go trekking through the wilds of Alaska. I was about halfway through before I realized my mistake and felt like a complete goober. Regardless of my space cadetedness, I love a good coming-of-age story, and I enjoyed Looking For Alaska immensely. (What is about me and boarding school books?)

This story has the requisite number of quirky characters who engage in some crazy good adventures, always a bonus when dealing with a coming of age novel, but I think what sets this book apart from many is its protagonist and Green's witty narration. Miles is probably one of the most normal and non-dysfunctional main characters I've encountered in awhile, which is something I found refreshing. I like a good trainwreck character just as much as the next person, but I think some authors over-rely on tortured characters. Just because a character has issues doesn't mean the character is 3-dimensional. Green did a nice job of making Miles a complex but still believable and infinitely likable young man. The aforementioned narration was also a treat, one that frequently had me chuckling aloud. The random references to famous last words was also an, ahem, interesting touch. (I am now so obsessed with last words of famous people.)

As delightful as the book is, the basic premise is not really anything new. In fact, I sort of see this book as the plot of A Separate Peace narrated by a pre-Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield, before he gets bitter and hates phonies. Not necessarily is any of this bad, though. Green is a talented-enough writer that the book does not descend into triteness. Also, just a friendly FYI: I have read that several parents have complained to schools and libraries about this book because of the profanity and sexual content. Personally, I didn't find either one offensive--none of it was gratuitous, in my opinion--but I can see how some people may feel uncomfortable with it.

If you're looking for a fun read about the highs and lows of friendship or just want to meet some new fictional friends, I recommend Looking For Alaska. Just don't expect any of the characters to visit the state of Alaska. . . . *cough*
Next Time: Erm, not sure yet.
This Week In Literary History: This one is for my dear friend Penguins Quack. On 16 July 1951, J.D. Salinger's coming-of-age tale A Catcher in the Rye is published and becomes an instant classic. This book endlessly fascinates and frustrates me, though each time I read it, I like it more. I guarantee that you won't soon forget Holden.

10 July 2011

The Historian

History grad student Paul has a relatively mundane life, which is sort of a given when you're working on a doctoral thesis about Dutch merchants in the 17th century. Nevertheless, as often happens in novels, his life--and the danger quotient involved in it--changes drastically after he finds an unusual book that may be connected to the infamous Transvylanian ruler Vlad Tepes, better known to millions as Dracula. Paul's discovery triggers a desperate hunt throughout 1950s Eastern Europe for further information on the deadly, mysterious Tepes, with the former accompanied by a mysterious anthrolpology student named Helen and a ragtag team of scholars that he meets along the way.

I've been meanming to read Elizabeth Kostova's mammoth debut novel, The Historian, for quite some time. I've had several people recommend it to me. The description that usually accompanies it is "This is a real vampire novel, unlike Twilight." I'm not entirely sure I'd characterize this novel as the next best thing in vampire literature--I'm a diehard Bram Stoker fan--and I did find Kostova's book a bit uneven and flawed, but, nevertheless, I still enjoyed it.

Kostova uses letters and diary entires to relate much of her story, much as Stoker did in Dracula. I enjoy this approach to literature, and, overall, I think Kostova did a good job of pulling it off. The story flowed fairly well, though I did notice that her characters lacked tonal variety. All of their letters sounded as if the same person wrote them. They all also share the somewhat unnerving tendency of writing long, detailed letters to each other, even when the letterwriter is in mortal danger or just a bit of a hurry. One thing that Kostova excelled at, in my opinion, was her description of the many settings that the characters encounter in their travels. She has a knack for creating atmosphere, and, having just returned from Europe myself, I enjoyed the way she recreated locales from across the continent. The fact that the main characters were historians and spent a considerable amount of time in archives and libraries also did my nerdy heart good. I found Paul and Helen to be fairly likable protagonists--yay for nerds!--though I think my favorite character has to be a vampire librarian that pursue the pair. (He's the inspiration for my tweet a few weeks ago that read "I VANT TO SORT YOUR BOOKS!" Ahem, pray tell, why are you staring at me?)

As much as I enjoyed Paul and Helen, I had trouble liking Paul's daughter, whose story occurs is intersected with his adventure with Helen. She just struck me as completely devoid of any individuality or distinguishing characteristics. Fortunately, her story was subordinate to Paul's and Helen's, so that subplot, though it formed a sizeable portion of the book, wasn't too distracting for me. My biggest problem with the novel is some of the plotting. I think Kostova did a nice job of maintaining my interest through 640 pages--no small feat--but sometimes she took the easy way out and relied on contrivances and coincidences to advance the story. I'm sorry, but the characters acknowledging that their highly unlikely and fortuitous meeting that garned them lots of wonderful information about Dracula was a coincidence doesn't make the meeting any less of a coincidence that smacks of lazy plotting, especially when that formula is repeated throughout the story. There was also one particular aspect of the ending that bugged me as a bit too far-fetched. (I refuse to reveal it here to avoid spoilers. If you've read The Historian and want to argue or commiserate with me, PM me. I'll force you to hear me whine digitally. ^^)

I have seen discussions of the book where readers have complained that Dracula, in the book, is not scary. I agree with that description of him, but I don't necessarily see it as a flaw. He is creepy and a bit eerie, which is what Kostova intended according to interviews she's given, but he's also a bit more complex than how he's usually portrayed, something that I enjoyed.

I'm hesitate to unequivocally recommend this book, for the reasons I mentioned above, but I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this read. If you can look past some of the flaws, you'll find a nerdy adventure with some creepy overtones and an inventive take on the Dracula story.

Next Time: I have no idea. Consider it a delightful--or not so delightful--surprise.


This Week In Literary History: 9 July 1918: William Faulkner, one of my absolute favorite authors, joins the RAF to fight in WWI, though he didn't finish training in time to see combat. The war shaped literature and society for the next couple of decades, as people tried to cope with the fallout of a modern war, especially the truly horrifying number of casualties. In fact, as evidence of the widespread impact of the war, just the day before Faulkner joined, his future rival Hemingway was wounded severely on the Italian front.

02 July 2011


All right, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself for not having posted for so long. My excuse--that I have been busy--is insufficient. Please forgive me! *pleads for mercy* I would like to try to post book reviews regularly until I go back to school. That's all I'll guarantee for now.

I usually review books with chapters on my book blog--a bit of a no-brainer there, right?--but today I am going to review a comic book instead. Why? Because Art Spiegelman's inventive, disturbing memoir/family history Maus is just that good. I have long wanted to read this Pulitzer Prize-winning comic book, ever since I heard about it in my freshman English Comp 2 class, but I never had a chance to until this past spring semester when my awesome roommate gave me a copy because she knows I like history.

As I have discussed at length on this blog before, World War II is one of my obsessions and, as someone who is part Jewish, the Holocaust is a subject that simultaneously fascinates and repulses me. I've read a lot of great Holocaust memoirs, but I have never read one quite like Maus, in which Spiegelman records his father Vladek's survival during the Holocaust, chronicling his often troubled relationship with his father some thirty years after the war as Art interviews Vladek about his experiences.

Rather than Art, who is a cartoonist, merely drawing his father and the other characters as realistically as possible, Spiegelman opts instead to draw the Jews as mice and the Nazis, as well as other Germans, as cats. The animal theme is carried over even further with the Poles as pigs, French as frogs, and Americans as dogs. The result is surreal and unnerving but also a bit more accessible than other Holocaust stories precisely because even though you know you're reading about something that actually happened, you're not faced with seeing human characters in those situations. The fantastical element does nothing to diminish the tragedy. In addition, the plot itself is gripping--I couldn't put the book down, even though I knew I had to be up at 5:30 the next morning for work.

I think what elevates Maus above other comic books, besides the somber subject matter, is the quality of the artwork and the depth of the characters. Even though the characters are all drawn as animals, their mannerisms are all too human and Spiegelman does a great job of portraying that. In addition, if you look closely, there's usually something happening in the background, whether it's funny, quirky, or sad. That attention to detail is exactly one of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much. My inner English major likes to search for minute detail. . . .

Though Spiegelman makes his father and himself the subject of the Maus, he makes no effort to whitewash either of them. Sometimes his elderly father comes off as cantakerous and petty, though he also proves himself to be kind and clever. Art even draws himself as impatient with his father and unwilling to humor him. As you read Maus, you realize that the book is just as much a form of therapy for Art as it is a tale of his father's survival. It is my humble opinion that many artists and writers who embark on such a project often end up letting their emotions and close personal ties to the story overwhelm the piece and compromise its quality in the process. Not so with Maus. Art's central role in the story only adds to its complexity--and its complexity is exactly what puts this comic book leagues ahead of others like it.

If you're looking for a bit of variety in your reading list, add Maus. This book is one of the best, most inventive, and most haunting I've read in a long time. I think everyone should read Maus once.
Next Time: Probably Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. I make no promises, though.
This Week In Literary History: 30 June 1936: Margaret Mitchell's Civil War epic Gone With The Wind is published. All right, confession time. I have actually never read this novel, but I have watched the 1939 Oscar-winning film adaptation, and I enjoyed it. That counts for something, right? RIGHT? Ahem. Anyway, this one is on my to-read list.

26 March 2011

Becoming NADIA

Dear readers, my apologies for being away from Blogger for so long. Apparently, if you take four literature classes in one semester, you will have plenty of reading material but no time to blog about said reading. *deep sigh* To make up for my utter neglect of my blog, I have a special treat for all of you this week--a review of a superb novel that will be released next month. Are we even? ^^

When Nadia Velasquez wakes up from a coma that lasted three years, she is in remarkably good shape, all things considered. Nevertheless, her past life remains a hazy mystery to her. She only knows what her doctors and friends tell her about herself--that she was a respected journalist who was severely injured when her interview with the Nigerian president was interrupted by a devastating bomb. She works to regain her life but can't shake the feeling that everyone is concealing something from her. A chance encounter with a man named Jon, a stranger who she just knows is no stranger, confirms her suspicions but also places them both in danger because her pursuers will stop at nothing to prevent anyone from finding out the truth about Nadia's past.

Becoming NADIA is author Cyrus Keith's debut novel and the first in his The NADIA Project trilogy. (A special thank you to Cyrus for sending me an ARC to review!) I am not as familiar with science fiction as I would like to be, so this fast-paced sci fi thriller was a great introduction to the genre. And when I say fast-paced, I do mean fast-paced. From the moment Nadia opens her eyes in her hospital room to the final page, the plot is rife with suspense, surprises, and twists and turns. I love a good chase scene, and much of the novel is a protracted chase between Nadia and her enemies. Even better, the chapters rotate between focusing on Nadia and Jon and focusing on those who are chasing her. As a result, the dramatic tension mounts even more as you wait for the inevitable moment when everyone comes together. I think this structure is far more effective than if the story had just been told through Nadia's POV and the audience kept in the dark concerning the other characters.

Nadia herself is a likable character, and this factor, in addition to the engaging plot, is why I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading Becoming NADIA. As a general rule, I am often more critical of female protagonists just because I feel that, more often than not, they are usually not given as complex of personalities as their male counterparts. I liked the fact that Nadia is far from perfect but still remains a character you want to root for. It also certainly doesn't hurt that she's facing off against some of the most sinister villains I've encountered for awhile in a book. The remaining cast of characters are all also well-crafted, with my personal favorite being snarky, nebbishy computer hacker Bunny Kalinsky. Ah, we nerds must stick together.

Though Becoming NADIA certainly is a great read just on the basis of the suspenseful plot and realistic characters, what sets this book apart from others is its philosophical depth. The book raises several intriguing questions about the nature of identity and memory that I found compelling. Nadia and her allies' struggles to reconcile these issues with the reality of their situation adds a further touch of meat to this book but without ever bogging the action down.

This book is an excellent thriller with impeccable pacing and believable characters. I highly recommend it. However, I must warn you, if you read Becoming NADIA, plan on reading the rest of the series when those books are released because you will be hooked! Becoming NADIA will be available as an e-book from Museitup Publishing next month. You can order a copy and read an excerpt here. You can learn more about author Cyrus Keith here.


Next Time: *stares into magic eight ball* I am going to go out a limb here and predict that I'm not going to be able to do another review until this semester ends in May. I'm sorry! I wish it were not so! I do have a review of Art Spiegelman's Maus almost finished, and if I get a chance to finish it, I might try to post that between now and May. If not, I should be able to resume regular book blogging in May after this semester is over. Thanks to all of you for your patience!


This Week in Literary History: 26 March 1920 F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes his first book, This Side of Paradise. Though the book turned Fitzgerald into an overnight success, he didn't truly make his mark on American literary history until he wrote his classic The Great Gatsby five years later. I love The Great Gatsby, primarily because I am obsessed with all things 1920s and adore Fitzgerald's eloquent style, but I'm also quite fond of some of Fitzgerald's short stories that he wrote later in life. After living through years of fame, decadence, and heartache, Fitzgerald descended further into alcoholism, but his writing style matured in the process. At the very least, humor me and read "Babylon Revisited."

21 January 2011

A Streetcar Named Desire

Blanche DuBois has problems, to put it mildly. She has lost her beloved Mississippi plantation Belle Reve and is now forced to live in squalor in New Orleans' French Quarter with her younger sister Stella and Stella's brutal, animalistic husband Stanley Kowalski. The fragile Blanche, who has a tenuous grasp on reality as is, is determined to make her surroundings as refined as possible, though she soon learns that doing so while sharing living quarters with the uncouth Stanley is nearly impossible. Things soon degenerate as Blanche and Stanley become locked in a battle of wills against each other, with Stella trapped in the middle. Then, Stanley learns perhaps why his flighty, neurotic sister-in-law lost Belle Reve and is prepared to stop at nothing to gain the upper hand over her. And when I say stop nothing, I do mean nothing . . .

A Streetcar Named Desire is one of my favorite plays. Some of you may recall that back in 2009, I debated for a long time over whether or not to review this play or playwright Tennessee Williams' other masterpiece The Glass Menagerie. I ultimately decided on The Glass Menagerie, but I reread Streetcar for my American Lit 2 class last semester and SweetTart-Girl asked me if I'd do a review, seeing as she'll be studying it this semester in one of her classes. *Zella waves magic wand and grants wish because she fancies herself as a book genie* :D

This play is a masterpiece of dramatic tension, as Blanche and Stanley face off constantly over every petty scenario known to man. I think the tension rings true just because it is so realistic. Even if your family does get along well, who hasn't had a family argument turn nuclear over something inanely stupid? Despite Williams' effective use of tension, this play is still primarily a character-centric work, not plot-driven. All of the characters, except for maybe Blanche's potential love interest Mitch, are grotesque and troubled. It's hard to find one character to unequivocally root for, which is why I think some readers dislike the play. Even though Blanche is the main character and is quite pathetic, she's far from a traditional heroine. I like complex characters, so for me, the fact that there is no clear-cut good guy (though Williams clearly intends for us to sympathize with Blanche, even if we don't understand or agree with her) is a plus.

I am a hug fan of reading plays, but plays were still written with the intention of being performed. Soooo . . . your Streetcar experience will not be complete unless you watch the 1951 film version with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. You must watch this one! Brando originated the part of Stanley on stage. It's what made him contender! I am making you an offer you can't refuse! Who me? An obsessive Brando fan? Erm . . . maybe. (Bonus points if you recognized the two Brando quotes in this paragraph.) But the original film version is easily the best, if not just because all of the actors are so good. I will warn you that even though the film version stays remarkably close to the play, the ending was changed to appease movie censors, who demanded that the bleak tragedy had to have some redeeming value.
If you're looking for complex characters and an intense story line, definitely read A Streetcar Named Desire. This play is one of the most famous written in the past sixty years . . . and for good reason, in my opinion. Not to mention that reading it is the perfect excuse to indulge in a Brando marathon afterwards. ^^
Next Time: Art Spiegelman's Maus.
This Week in Literary History: 27 January 1302 Political enemies exile Dante Alighiere from Florence. Though this may have seemed like a bad thing for Dante at the time, his banishment ended up being a good thing for literary history, for he wrote his masterpiece The Divine Comedy during this period.
Announcements: I dole out some blogging awards on my second blog, so stop by. You may have an award waiting for you. :)

08 January 2011

The Green Mile

As the top prison guard on Louisiana's Cold Mountain Penitentiary's death row in the 1930s, Paul Edgecome saw some strange things . . . most of them disturbing, some of them amusing, and one thing that was amazing: John Coffey. Edgecombe initially has little sympathy for Coffey, a towering African American convicted of a horrible double murder. Truthfully, Edgecombe has little time to worry about Coffey. Between a painful medical condition and contending with a petulant well-connected colleague named Percy Whetmore, Edgecombe has enough to contend with. But then Edgecombe learns of Coffey's secret gift, a revelation that leads Edgecombe to suspect that the gentle giant is not at all guilty of the crime he was accused of committing. And that's when things get interesting. ^^

I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but I had never read any Stephen King before reading The Green Mile. I know, I know. See . . . I have really enjoyed a lot of Stephen King movies and some of his essays on writing and wanted to read his books, but I never got around to it. Shortly before I left home a few months ago, I saw a copy of this book for sale at the library. I loved the film version of this story, so I reasoned the book would be just as good . . . if not better. And, indeed, for the most part, it was.

King builds an intriguing plot that delves into the nature of friendship and the realm of the supernatural in a manner that is haunting but not necessarily scary. Though I had watched the movie and was aware of the plot, King's story was so engrossing I was anxious and tense while reading it despite knowing what happens. Even more importantly, it's heartwarming in a creepy sort of way. If the end doesn't have you a little misty-eyed, there's something wrong with you. *dabs eyes* The cast is colorful and memorable. Edgecombe himself is a likeable protagonist, though he does get a bit overshadowed by the larger-than-life Coffey. Kudos to King for creating an absolutely heinous antagonist in Percy. I wanted to beat him with a rubber hose . . . repeatedly and with much malice.

My only problem is that since this is a novel set in the Depression-era Deep South, I was expecting more atmopshere from that period and era. Edgecombe's narration is compelling and engaging, but I never could shake the fact that the voice sounded like a moden middle-aged guy *looks at King* and not an elderly man reminsicing about his past. And, no offense to native New Englander King, but the narration also lacked a certain Southern quality, as well. Some of the dialogue and narration sounded off to my Southern ear. (Yes, I am petty. I am the Queen of Petty. Nay, I am the Empress of NitPicky and the Duchess of Overbearing Attention to Detail. Bow before me. ^^) This didn't detract seriously from the story, but as a reader who relishes atmosphere--and is passionate about Southern fiction--I didn't find the atmopshere convincing. That being said, the plot and characters more than made up for this.

The Green Mile is a bittersweet exploration of faith, fate, and sacrifice. The powerfully evocative plot is the main draw, but the complex characters also add to this superb novel. If you like supernatural fare that is not ghoulish, give this book a read. I definitely am adding more King to my reading list. Misery being next. ^^

Next week: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire
This Week in Literary History:

12 January 1876: American writer Jack London is born. Most people are familiar with London's gritty, naturalistic survival novels set in Alaska, specifically White Fang--which I am going to reread in one of my American lit classes this semester--and Call of the Wild, but I highly recommend his, ahem, chilling short story "To Build A Fire." I dare you to read it and not feel bone-numbingly cold afterward. :D