What I Can’t Wait to Read This Summer! (2016 Edition)

Hello, hello! I’m almost officially a card-carrying Master’s student (they don’t actually give us cards; I wish they did. We do get a nifty diploma, though), which means it’s almost the summertime. Hallelujah. Writing a Master’s Report has had little time for pleasure reading, though I have gotten some reading done. I’m just a couple reviews behind–my sincerest apologies on that. I’m hoping to get a review up of Perfume: A Story of a Murderer soon. But, that’s for another day.

On top of the many summer projects I have set for myself this summer, I’ve got a collection of books that I absolutely want to get to while trying not to melt in the Texas heat:

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (a re-read!)
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
A Red Herring w/out Mustard by Alan Bradley
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Aguero Sisters by Christina Garcia
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
It by Stephen King
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

I’m pretty excited for the round of books I plan to finally get to here. It’s a well rounded look at what I love to read: magical realism, mysteries, classics, literary fiction, and fantasy. I also plan to read more Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich to get my poetry fix. Still trying to figure out what non-fiction books I’d like to check out, so if you have any recommendations, please share!

Until next time, happy reading!
–E. Adeline

Book Review// The Collector: John Fowles

Stats 243705

Publisher: Vintage
Published: 21 October 1998 (originally 1963)
Word Count: 282 pages
Format: Paperback
Rating: qiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5T
Purchase: Amazon, Book Depository, AbeBooks

Synopsis:

Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is understand her captor, and so gain her freedom.

(via Goodreads)

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I picked The Collector up because it sounded psychologically interesting, and it sounded like it might be disturbing–and who doesn’t love feeling disturbed? I was not disappointed on either front. This book made me really uncomfortable in certain areas, if only because the mindset that Frederick has seems so familiar to that particular set of young males who feel personally offended whenever a woman doesn’t return whatever feelings they might have. It’s just a book that hit a bit too close to home. I was both glad that the book didn’t let me down, and also sad that the situation read a bit too relevant still.

It’s fascinating reading Frederick’s point of view throughout the book, because you get to see how he justifies/views his actions. And I love that Fowles then gives us Miranda’s point of view from her diary of the things we’d seen up until that point solely through Frederick’s POV. I will say, I felt her portion dragged a bit and was a tad too repetitive, but it does make you feel for her, and it makes the book even more thrilling because you start to hope she’ll make it out the prison Frederick has placed her in. Fowles also does a great job at showing her deterioration of spirit into a sort of madness as her captivity progresses.

I’ve seen some criticism about her unlikeable voice, but I found her to be a  Salinger’s Franny-esque character, which made her more likable. (And, in case you were wondering, Frederick reads very Humbert Humbert mixed with–what I would presume from the character, as I still haven’t read the book–Joe from You. He’s sarcastic and dry and bitter, but also highly eloquent and logical in the same way Humbert Humbert is.)

My favorite part of the novel were the Tempest inspirations strewn throughout it. I love that Frederick tells Miranda his name is Ferdinand, and that she calls him Caliban. It’s perfect for the situation, and it added some complexity and literary depth to the book that I quite enjoyed. And, of course, the imagery of her being a butterfly that Frederick has attempted to collect and pin down is wonderfully tragic.

So, if you’re in the market for a quiet but disturbing read, I recommend The Collector. It’s horrific in how relatable it is, and it’s thrilling the sense that you want to know how Miranda can possibly get out of Frederick’s grasp. If you have any suggestions for other books to read that are Collector-esque, let me know! I’m always in the market for new horror books to check out.

Until next time, happy reading!

–E. Adeline

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Stats 3505401

Publisher: Vintage Books/Random House
Published: 7 April 2009
Word Count: 287 pages
Format: Paperback
Rating: qiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5T
Purchase: Amazon, Book Depository, Indie Bound

Synopsis

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, an when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. they have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food–and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story fo a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, The Road is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

(via Goodreads)

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The Road is the fourth Cormac McCarthy book I’ve read. I love his writing and style, and he’s definitely one of my favorite writers, though I do admit that he’s an acquired taste–like a bitter pinot noir. I’d say The Road is the most digestible novel for mainstream audiences, and it’s a great place to start with his writing. It’s not the best of his novels (my favorite is still Blood Meridian), but you’ll know if you get along with his writing or not.

The Road tells the story of a nameless man and his young son who journey across the bleak, destroyed American landscape hoping to find more survivors. Readers aren’t told what happened, just that everything is covered in ash and there are many fires–hinting towards an explosion, be it natural or otherwise. The novel also doesn’t tell us if the disaster is relegated to just America or if it extends to the rest of the world. Partly, that’s because this novel isn’t concerned with the disaster itself: it’s concerned with the relationship between the father and son as they make their journey.

This isn’t a happy story, or a hopeful story. It’s as bleak and dark as the landscape it details, and it’s as unforgiving to the reader as the environment is to the father and son. McCarthy doesn’t shy away from disturbing details. For example, there is the mention of cannibalism in the novel, and it’s a very real, tension wrought fear between the two characters. McCarthy handles this tension deftly and with great precision, so as to not make it seem overly dramatic or out of place.

“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”     

I thought McCarthy built the relationship between the father and son well; they felt like realistic characters, and their dialogue matched the tone of the story. I like the fact that they set up the past/present dichotomy of what once was and what now is. The boy  doesn’t remember the world outside of the ash heap he walks through every day, and it’s rather heartbreaking to see how little he believes his father’s stories about what the world once looked like before whatever disaster occurred.

My favorite aspect of the novel has to be the remnants of both T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and the ash heaps from The Great Gatsby. McCarthy’s text looks at the danger of the failed American dream that Fitzgerald set up in Gatsby and brings it to fruition, showing how the world might look and how we might act within it. His is a far bleaker outlook, but a possibility nonetheless.

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

My sole criticism of the text lies in its length–it felt like it should have been a novella rather than a full novel, mainly because there are multiple repetitive actions and bits of dialogue that come up as the novel progresses. It doesn’t necessarily detract from my enjoyment of the novel, but it does make it feel longer than it is. For that reason, I couldn’t give the novel five stars, because it doesn’t equal up to the other works I’ve read by McCarthy.

As I said, I think this novel is a great place to start with McCarthy’s work, and I enjoyed it. I’ll be watching the movie soon, as I’m interested to see how it translates on screen. I think it could be well done, and I’m excited to see it.

Have you read The Road? What did you think?

Until next time, happy reading!

–E. Adeline

Book Review: Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

Stats  218431651

Publisher: Balzar + Bray/Harper Collins
Published: 2 February 2016
Word Count: 384 pages
Format: E-book
Rating: qiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5T
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Indie Bound,

Synopsis

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

(via GoodReads)

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Disclaimer: Per FTC guidelines, I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publishers via Edelweiss. I am not being paid for this review. 

Revenge and the Wild ticks off all sorts of boxes in the “things Emily loves in books” category, including cannibals, steampunk elements, tough broads with one flesh arm and one mechanical arm, western environment, lawlessness, and magic. I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this novel. Is it mind-blowingly amazing? No. Is it a fun way to pass your time, with some great characters and a great city? Yes.

The best part of this novel, for me, was Westie. She’s a great lead character who reminded me a lot of Jane from Deadwood. I loved how crass and unforgiving she was about her behavior. And I appreciated the fact that the author gave her realistic flaws for her situation (i.e. she’s a bit of a drunkard because, you know, her family was eaten by cannibals). She’s not perfect, and she doesn’t necessarily apologize for it, but she does try to amend her ways for the people she cares about as the novel goes on.

I also really enjoyed her relationship with the Native American woman who had found her after she’d escaped from the cannibals, and became one of her friends. I thought that Modesto handled the Native culture well, in a way similar to Mike Resnick’s Weird West Tales (featuring Doc Holliday).   I wish we had gotten a bit more of the backstory on the tribe and their culture, because I found it a great element to the story that could have been explored me.

That leads me into my biggest problem with the novel: there’s just too much going on. Modesto had a lot of great elements in the book, but because there was so much going on, none of them got fully developed. It had western elements, steampunk elements, urban fantasy elements, revenge elements, and romance elements. There wasn’t enough time to explain the culture and background of the story. I didn’t believe that every male character who came across Westie would love her, and I don’t know if I necessarily cared about the main romance in the novel. It seemed like Westie should have had a bit more on her mind than the romance. If Modesto had picked just a couple of the many elements she had and expanded on them, it would have been a stronger novel. So, while it was entertaining, it did lack a certain amount of depth and complexity.

I enjoyed the writing, and I thought some of the dialogue was witty and clever, but not all of it. Some moments fell a bit flat.

All in all, the book delivered on some great cannibal moments, and it had a fairly strong lead. It’s also a standalone, which is basically unheard of in the YA world at the current moment, so thank you, Michelle Modesto. I greatly, greatly appreciate it. If you’re interested in the book, definitely give it a go. [Also, it has a gorgeous cover, so good job, design people.]  And if you like it, I would definitely recommend Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson.

If you’ve read the book, let me know what you think! And if you have some recommendations, send them along! I’m always looking for a fun Western.

Until next time, happy reading!

–E. Adeline

January 2016 Reading Wrap Up

January, I got my poetry groove back. What a great start to 2016. Before I discuss those books, I’ll mention that I completed the Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wrecker, which I had started last year, and absolutely loved it. I do have a review on it, so I’m not going to be discussing it here. I highly recommend it, though! I also read The Song of Robin and Marion (or, Le jeu de Robin et de Marion) by 13th century writer Adam de la Halle for my MA Report. I also will not be discussing that here, but it was an interesting (and more than slightly ridiculous) medieval play. Now, on to the poetry! (And three novels.)

The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich 162412011

I began the year with a poetry collection I’d been meaning to read for a long time, ever since coming across it in Wild by Cheryl Strayed. And what a beautiful collection it is. Some of the poems hit you like a punch to the stomach, and some brush against you like a warm summer’s night breeze. Her language is beautiful and embracing, quiet but also loud. I highly, highly recommend it. It’s a collection that I added swiftly to my favorites shelf, but it also reminded me what poetry can do, and how it benefits our lives. Beautiful. 5/5 stars.

 

25678587The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson 

The Gap of Time is a retelling of The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare. It stays true to Shakespeare’s framework in both plot and characters, but takes on a modern twist. I enjoyed the story, and liked the way that Winterson portrayed the play in a modern setting, but I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t give it more of herself. I have a full review here that you can check out if you’d like to know more of my thoughts. 3.5-4/5 stars.

 

 

 

My Mother’s Child by Pamela Taylor 258812681

My Mother’s Child is a powerfully written poetry pamphlet rich in detail and its imagery. I throughly enjoyed it, and cannot wait to read more by Pamela Taylor. She’s blunt, but her words are beautiful. 5/5 stars.

 

 
171549041[Mary] by J. Hope Stein

[Mary] is a pamphlet of poems that discusses Thomas Edison and his wife, and is the third in a multimedia project that discusses the relationship between the two. It culminates in the question over “the inventor’s last breath,” or Edison’s last breath which was supposedly captured in a test tube. It’s an okay collection; I preferred the diary entry portions to the actual verse. It didn’t completely move me. 2/5 stars.

By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente 209495961

The first short story collection of the year, and what a great one. Anne Valente explores grief, love, and what it means to be human or alive with some fantastic magical realist moments. It discusses the beauty in the world that surrounds us, but also the challenge and heartbreak. It’s a fantastic collection, and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to read it. I can’t wait to read more of Anne Valente’s work in the future. This is a collection I can see myself returning to throughout the years to revisit the stories and characters.  5/5 stars.

 

161367971Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich 

Another great collection by Rich that explores what has been lost, forgotten, or unexplored. Her language is beautiful and concise and builds some great imagery. Not as strong a collection as Dreams of A Common Language, but still wonderful. 4/5 stars.

 

 

 

The Road by Cormac McCarthy 1221381

The Road tells the story of a father and son trekking across a desolate, burning America. It’s dark, it’s bleak, and it’s incredibly disturbing at moments. I enjoyed it for its imagery and the eco-critical ways one might read the text. I didn’t love this text, and it’s not my favourite McCarthy novel, but I did enjoy it. I’ll be doing a full review on it soon.  4/5 stars


65472591The Hero of Ages
by Brandon Sanderson

This the third book in a trilogy, so I won’t discuss it in detail, but oh my goodness. What an amazing end to an amazing trilogy. I loved it. It’s beautiful, and heartbreaking, and uplifting. I can’t imagine the trilogy ending any other way. I’m so pleased with the way that Sanderson tied up the story. If you haven’t checked out the Mistborn series, please do. 5/5 stars.

 

 

And thus ends my January! I’m excited to see what February brings me.

Until next time, happy reading!

–E. Adeline

 

Review: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

Stats 25678587

Publisher: Hogarth
Published: 6 October 2015
Word Count: 273 pages
Format: Hardcover
Rating: qiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5T
Purchase: Author WebsiteAmazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository 

Synopsis

The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s “late plays.” It tells the story of a king whose jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter and the death of his beautiful wife. His daughter is found and brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of extraordinary events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited.

In The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale, we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other.

(via Goodreads)

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Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time is the first book to be released in the new Hogarth Shakespeare series, and as the synopsis indicates it’s a retelling (or “cover version”) of the play The Winter’s Tale. I’m a huge Shakespeare fan and have read The Winter’s Tale, and throughly enjoyed the way that Winterson handled the play in her novel.

Now, I have to say, I don’t think the characters are as fleshed out as they could be; they’re definitely based heavily off of the characters in the play, and have much of the same (if not all of the same, in some instances) characteristics and behaviours as their counterparts do from the original source. I would have liked to have seen a bit more uniqueness brought to the table with the story, and would have liked to have seen Winterson individualize the characters a bit more.

That said, I loved the writing. It was beautifully told (save for some of Leo’s inner monologues near the beginning of the novel, which was blunt and crude and echoed quite strongly the type of character he was meant to portray), and I found myself rereading sentences and passages just to let the language sink in and take over me. Winterson has a fantastic, poetic way with words, as anyone who has read her previous novels would know.

Though I felt that the characters could have been developed more, I did like some of them quite a bit. I liked Perdita and her relationship with Clo and Shep the best. I would have loved to have seen the jazz background emphasized a bit more, but I loved that element to her character. I also loved Pauline, who had some hilarious dialogue quips between her and Leo.

Winterson captured the thematic overtones of forgiveness and present (or future) generations having to live with the past generation’s mistakes, but also move forward from them, as shown in the original text well. It’s clearly portrayed what inspiration she drew from the text, and how much it meant to her, which was lovely seeing.

Overall, I enjoyed The Gap of Time. It’s not my favourite Winterson, but it’s a wonderful retelling of a play that I love, and I’m so excited to see what’s to come in this series. It’s a great way to introduce Shakespeare’s work to those who may feel a bit intimidated by the bard, and will hopefully inspire those readers to go and read the original source material as soon as they finish the retelling.

Thank you to Blogging for Books, who were kind enough to send me the novel to read. (And, of course, per FTC guidelines, I was not paid for this review!)

Until next time, happy reading!

–E. Adeline

Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Stats 15819028

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published: 31 DecemberApril 2013
Word Count: 484 pages
Format: Paperback
Rating: qiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5T

Synopsis:

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves. Meeting by chance, they become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds…

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

(via Goodreads)

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I have to begin by stating how very much I adored this novel. It’s everything I love in my stories: it’s atmospheric; it’s compelling, while remaining slowly paced, in order to create complex characters and situations; it’s beautifully written; it’s got engaging characters; it reads like a fairytale or folk legend; it’s simply wonderful. I fell so in love with both Chava and Ahmed. They’re brilliant characters, who so beautifully highlight the flaws in humanity, but also the drive to connect with others and love and do better. (And, purely aesthetically, the cover is beautiful.)

Wecker handled the multiple narrations in the novel well. Nothing ever felt stilted or out of place, and I thought the moments she chose to highlight points of view that were not Chava or Ahmed helped add to the complexity of the story. I did enjoy Chava’s and Ahmed’s points of view the best, though. I liked them both rather equally; both of their voices are strong and interesting. Weaver did a great job building the lore and legend of the jinn in Ahmed’s sections; while she did not add as much depth about the legend of the golem, it’s understandable that she wouldn’t be able to in Chava’s points of view

As reflected in my introductory gush paragraph, I thought Wecker built the atmosphere of New York City at the turn of the twentieth century so well. It sounds like NYC, smells like NYC, looks like NYC…everything about this novel screams NYC. I loved getting the descriptions of the different neighborhoods and communities that no longer exist now, and the characters placed within those communities were equally as wonderful to get to know and see. I just loved how Wecker expressed the two different cultures.

I will say that The Golem and the Jinni would be a hard novel to get through for those of you who do not enjoy a slower paced, more character driven novel. It moves extremely slowly, because it works so hard at developing the characters and creating the atmosphere and tension between people. The plot is rather simple, and at the end of the novel it becomes apparent that this novel is a character study in how these two characters grow and learn how to be human even though they have inhuman qualities about them. It’s about their struggles and their relationships with both each other and the people around them.

I did find both the ending and the plot enjoyable, personally, and loved the way that it resolved. She ended it perfectly, and while I’m thrilled that we’ll be getting another novel with these two characters (though I am less thrilled that I have to wait until 2018), The Golem and the Jinni makes a fine stand-alone novel.

All in all, I simply loved it. These type of atmospheric, character driven reads that rely on folk lore or fairy tale always remind me why I’m a reader, because they’re such great examples of the craftsmanship it takes to present and tell a wonderful story.

Please, if you like historical fiction and light fantasy, I beg you to check this book out. I think you’ll love it. It’s just beautiful.

And if you know of any other books along the same vein as The Golem and the Jinni, please do let me know!

Until next time, happy reading.

–E. Adeline