August 28, 2015

When you read a book about a place you've just visited OR I love England

Before I get into what the title of this post suggests let me give a quick review of Cress which is the third installment in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. For the uninitiated, head on over to my reviews of Cinder and Scarlet for some background info. I really like the way Meyer is able to balance out the primary focus of each book (in this case Cress) with the overarching theme of the series and all of the characters that have made appearances throughout. While this story is set in Earth's future and it deals with a race of people who dwell on the moon (Lunars) it is easy to slip into this reality. Yes, there are cyborgs. Yes, some people have the power to manipulate bio-electricity and therefore control people. However, the themes that are being discussed are easily translatable. Racial prejudice for one thing is very real in today's society and it's an important aspect in the Lunar Chronicles as a whole. Cress grew up in isolation with a tyrant as her one and only connection to the outside world. She was emotionally, verbally, and at times physically abused and this caused her to retreat into herself and create a fantasy world. This, in large part, is why she wants to help the Earthens and the ragtag band of misfits who are on the run from the authorities. War is now a certainty and the clock is ticking for Cinder before she must confront the Queen. Next in the series is Fairest: Levana's Story. I already have it on hold at the library. :-D

I recently went on a trip to the United Kingdom which of course meant visiting various and sundry bookstores. While I was in Carnforth I stopped into one that had a gargantuan used books collection and the very first book that I laid my hand on was called Mere and Moorland: The Northern Counties which was the 4th book in a series entitled A Breath of England by Norman Wymer. (I really do love series don't I?) The real coincidence about this particular book is that I was at that moment making a bit of a tour of the Northern counties of England. It was written in 1951 so it's a wee bit out of date and the pictures included (while glossy) were in black and white only. BUT I loved it. It was amazing to read about the places I had been to personally as well as those I hadn't. Learning about the various traditions, industries, and superstitions of each of the counties was very interesting. It made me want to go back and visit all of the places that I hadn't had a chance to see. I just love English history!! (Also, the countryside. I really, really love the English countryside and Wymer was all about the countryside.)

Quite recently I reviewed Susanna Clarke's debut novel (which blew my mind) and upon researching to see when/if she was writing anything else I discovered that she had written a book entitled The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories. From what I can tell, it's a collection of stories written in the same universe as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (in fact J.S. makes an appearance as well as the Raven King). I have high hopes for this one especially as we are getting more of a glimpse into Faerie...let's get to it!!

** If you're interested in a book like Cress, you can click here. This will re-direct you to ThriftBooks.com. If you're interested in a book like Mere and Moorland, you can click here. This will re-direct you to AbeBooks. Both are websites which I have used to purchase used books many times. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **


August 21, 2015

Have you ever been to Salem?

Several years ago, I went on a trip to Salem, Massachusetts and right as we were getting on the airplane my best friend's mom gave me a copy of The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. You might be completely confused about why this would be the best reading material for a quick airplane trip from Alabama to Massachusetts so allow me to shed some light on the situation for you. The story is all about the Pyncheon family and their gabled house in Salem (which is an actual home that you should all visit). The matriarch of the family, Hepzibah, has been forced to open a small shop in the house to supplement their income after her brother, Clifford, is released from prison for a crime which he has always maintained he did not commit. A distant cousin, Phoebe, joins their ranks just as they taken on a lodger by the name of Holgrave who mostly keeps to himself. An estranged cousin who is a Judge in town is a malevolent spirit on the fringes of their lives. There is a legend surrounding the family that they are cursed and that is why misfortune has seemed to follow them since the family home was acquired. It's a classic example of Gothic literature with a supernatural twist of the occult. If you're hesitant to give it a shot because of The Scarlet Letter (which I honestly wouldn't blame you for as I really didn't like that novel myself), I strongly encourage you to make an exception. It's a really fantastic book with a swiftly moving plot that is full of intrigue, romance, and familial drama.

August 14, 2015

Stephen King: Master of Horror

I don't remember if I've ever talked about my fondness for Stephen King before on the blog. I know that I've mentioned that horror is a genre that from time to time I thoroughly enjoy. There was one summer in particular that I found myself binge reading some of King's works. I read through Carrie, The Tommyknockers, The Shining, and Needful Things that summer but that wasn't where my love affair started. It actually started with It: King's novel about a group of kids who face an unspeakable horror while growing up that comes back to haunt them as adults. I've actually re-read this one a few times simply because I find something new each time that I read it. There are all of the elements of horror as well as a healthy dosage of psychological thriller which King is known for. It's all set in Derry, Maine which I for one would love to visit as it seems to be the epicenter of King's works. It is not for those who suffer from Coulrophobia or the fear of clowns. The nexus of evil in this novel is a shape-shifting entity that primarily takes the shape of a clown so that it can lure children to its lair. (Not sure what kid would willingly follow a clown but these kids seem to be into it.) The main group of children that this book focuses on were outcasts who formed the 'Losers Club' and because of their combined strength they were able to provide a united, threatening front. The book flips between the present day (1984-85) and the past (1957-58) and tells each of the main characters stories. You get to know them and root for them all to various degrees. If you've never read any of Stephen King's books and you want a good place to start then I definitely recommend It. (Warning: There are adult themes and coarse language so keep that in mind.) If you'd like to delve into horror but you're a little overwhelmed with all of the choices then I recommend this one to you as well. :-D (Warning: Likely to induce nightmares for the faint of heart.)

August 7, 2015

This is a debut novel?!

Congratulations, Susanna Clarke! You have cracked my Top 10 Favorite Authors! *confetti explosion* I couldn't believe that this epic masterpiece was a debut novel. However, it makes sense when you discover that Clarke has a history in the publishing world and most likely has had time to learn the ins and outs of the business and craft her work accordingly. The book had such a great reception that it was recently made into a 7 part BBC miniseries (I've started it and it's also amazing). The book focuses on two English magicians who are trying to bring practical magic back to England. The two men couldn't be more different. Where Strange is looking to test the boundaries of what magic can do, Norrell is trying to lay his hands on every magical book in existence (and keep himself cooped up in his library doing the same spells over and over). The book reads as a nonfiction historical piece with footnotes detailing the history of magic as if the reader should be aware of the general history but just in case here are the particulars. (I LOVE footnotes, guys.) The characters, the language, the settings, the magic. It's all SO GOOD. AND I've discovered she's written a collection of "fairy tales" from the land of Faerie itself titled The Ladies of Grace Adieu (and Jonathan Strange makes an appearance!). You know I'm adding that one to the TRL.

I'm back in the swing of The Lunar Chronicles with the next in the series: Cress. This one focuses on the story of Rapunzel who in this case is a Lunar shell trapped in a satellite orbiting earth. She's an expert computer hacker who is basically the puppet of the thaumaturge Sybil. (If you're completely confused about the terminology used here you might want to check out my review of Cinder and Scarlet.)

As always, I thank you for checking out my blog and if you're feeling so inclined please drop a comment and let me know what you thought. :-) If you're a longtime reader of the blog, thanks for making my blog a part of your life and I hope that you're getting as much out of it as I am. If you're new, I encourage you to take a look through my posts either randomly if that's your thing or by using the search bar to look through the tags.  HAPPY READING!!


** If you're interested in a book like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, you can click here. This will re-direct you to ThriftBooks.com which is a website which I have used to purchase used books many times. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

July 31, 2015

So my favorite Jane Austen novel ISN'T Pride & Prejudice...

You may be surprised to learn that my favorite Jane Austen novel is actually...Mansfield Park. I'm aware that this isn't the popular opinion. However, I don't give a hoot because I LOVE IT. Considering that I'm not a huge fan of drama or romance in general, this book is CHOCK FULL of drama and romance (and scandal oh my!). For those who haven't delved into this book, the story revolves around a young woman named Fanny Price who is sent to live with her aunt and her family when she is a young girl. From the very beginning, she is treated as an outsider and a lower class citizen among the members of her family except by her cousin Edmund. (Here is where I caution you all to remember the time period in which this book is written because otherwise you're gonna be all like SAY WHAT?!) The dynamics of the household are an odd mix of ambivalence, haughtiness, vanity, and neuroses. Then there's Fanny who is the embodiment of all that is lovely and pure but who is entirely overlooked and abused by her family...except by Edmund who she has come to admire greatly. (Do you see where this is headed?) Things start to get juicy when a brother/sister duo enter the neighborhood and rouse up trouble among the youths (picture the equivalent of ditching class to smoke cigarettes behind the gym but in Regency period England). Through it all, Fanny stays true to what she thinks is right despite the injustice of her situation. A lot of people find her character annoying and too morally rigid. However, I think they're missing out on the best parts of her character. Fanny stays firm to what she believes in and despite the temptation to give in and follow what everyone else is doing she rejects the easy path. The reader can clearly see her self-confidence and self-esteem bloom as the novel progresses. If you haven't read this fantastic classic by the inestimable Jane Austen then you are truly missing out.


I'll (hopefully) be back next week with an update to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I'm a little over halfway through it so if I keep up the pace I should stick to my end of week posting schedule (yes, I have a posting schedule). As always, I thank you for checking out my blog and if you're feeling so inclined please drop a comment and let me know what you thought. :-) If you're a longtime reader of the blog, thanks for making my blog a part of your life and I hope that you're getting as much out of it as I am. If you're new, I encourage you to take a look through my posts either randomly if that's your thing or by using the search bar to look through the tags.  HAPPY READING!!

July 23, 2015

Can you ever truly know another person?

It must be said that John Green is an absolutely phenomenal writer. The only experience I had with his writing was The Fault in Our Stars which is completely different from Paper Towns (except for the main characters being teenagers). There is another similarity in that you are made more aware by reading this book. It's an excellent book for introspection. You're almost led to believe that the book is about Margo Roth Speigelman when in point of fact it's about Quentin "Q" Jacobsen and in actuality he is really just a stand-in for the reader. (This book is also a love letter to Walt Whitman. Seriously.) This is the story of someone who everyone felt they knew but at the same time was unknowable. It is more the story of someone who wanted to know that person as utterly and completely as they knew themselves. We are all so many facets and pieces put together and what we choose to show to the world may not even be a true reflection of what lives inside of us. John Green somehow articulates this and makes it okay that it is not always possible to get to the root of a person and that even if you do you might discover that what you find there is nothing like what you imagined or hoped. 10/10

I'm definitely the kind of person that sees a commercial for a film or tv series and when I see that it was based off of the book I immediately write down the title. That's how I came to discover Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This book is 1,006 pages long. Nope, that wasn't a typo. It's the story of two very different magicians living in the early 19th century in England. They join forces to fight in the war against France but for one of them there is a pull toward the dark side of magic and everything is in danger of collapse. I like magic. I like the early 19th century. I definitely like England. This should hopefully be a no-brainer.

If you're a longtime reader of the blog, thanks for making my blog a part of your life and I hope that you're getting as much out of it as I am. If you're new, I encourage you to take a look through my posts either randomly if that's your thing or by using the search bar to look through the tags. No matter what camp you fall into I hope that you drop me a comment and let me know if you're reading the same book or if you have any recommendations for me. HAPPY READING!!

July 21, 2015

Mystery and crime in New York City

It's no mystery that I'm a fan of crime and mystery novels (that is the corniest sentence I have ever written on this blog...or anywhere). You'd think that I'd have heard about the Mystery Writers of America before now but I guess I've just been stumbling around in the dark. There was the time that I reviewed their cookbook but that's quite different from the collection of short stories that comprise Manhattan Mayhem. It introduces the reader to a variety of writing styles, tropes, and authors which you may or may not have heard of (along with a list of their written works which will be added to my TRL). I really enjoyed the pace of this anthology. Not only is the reader bounced around to different areas of Manhattan but also to different time periods. It's a grab bag where you're left asking, "What's going to happen next? Is it a story about the mob? Is it a cold blooded murder? Will it be obvious who are the good guys and the bad guys?". This would probably be an excellent choice for "book to take while on vacation". For fans of crime and/or mystery stories, you can't go wrong with this one.


I guess there are still people out there who haven't heard of John Green (even though you guys should remember when I reviewed The Fault in Our Stars). Anyway, you might have seen a trailer for a film called Paper Towns which is due out on *frantically checks Google* July 24th in the U.S. It is the story of Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Ruth Spiegelman. I have to applaud John on his creation of unique names. He is undoubtedly the master at creating names (and making his readers think critically and cry while doing so). I'm not going to say anymore about this until I've read it. dun dun dun CLIFFHANGER


If you're a longtime reader of the blog, thanks for making my blog a part of your life and I hope that you're getting as much out of it as I am. If you're new, I encourage you to take a look through my posts either randomly if that's your thing or by using the search bar to look through the tags. No matter what camp you fall into I hope that you drop me a comment and let me know if you're reading the same book or if you have any recommendations for me. HAPPY READING!!