Short Reviews: Everything Else

It always happens that by the end of the year there are titles that I’ve started to review and never finished. Here are some short reviews to tide you over until I start my “Best of” posts!


The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

What happens when you get to live your favorite book? It’s every booklover’s dream – stepping inside the pages of your favorite world and having adventures. But what if everything wasn’t as much fun as it seemed from afar?

Lev Grossman imagines a world in which a group of magicians trained at a magical boarding school find another world, one written about by a reclusive writer who imagined a group of siblings who became king of the other world.

Sounds a little familiar…right? In a rather bizarre mash-up of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia and Catcher in the Rye, Grossman manages to create his own story. He benefits from the readers background knowledge of Narnia by building on the assumptions. This only makes what happens so much more surprising .

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is the first in the Maddam Trilogy set in the future United States where global warming has made the earth mostly inhabitable, and civilization has moved onto compounds surrounded by heavy security. The book is told from the perspective of Jimmy, a friend of the mad genius Crake. The narration switches Jimmy in the past, and Snowman (future Jimmy). As always, Atwood has an incredible way of creating a believable world, not only in that it is so fully developed but also in that you believe it could actually exist. I won’t lie, this was a tough slog. Maybe it was because I was listening to the audiobook, but the book took a long time to draw me in. I am very happy that I stuck with it to the end though, it’s so creepy!

Life Mask by Emma Donoghue

Life Mask by Emma Donoghue

You’ve heard me rave about Donoghue before. Her short story collection The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits and her novel Room are among my most loved books. This book, however, is not. Life Mask tells the story of a group of friends in 18th century England, alternating between following different characters. As with most books that switch up viewpoints, I had clear favorites and found myself annoyed with the story lines of others. Donoghue’s Miss Farren and  Anne Damer shine but Lord Derby and King George fall a bit flat.


Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

"The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Rating:  5/5

The Song of Achilles

Every once in a while a book comes along and takes your breath away. If you’re very lucky, you stumble across a gem with fully developed characters, beautiful prose, and an engaging story. The Song of Achilles is that book. I’d fallen in love with the idea of Achilles in high school Latin class but my passion for the myth came when I read The Iliad in college. Homer’s musical language is so beautiful even in translation.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller”

Book Review: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke By Hillary Jordan

Published October 4, 2011

Mode read: Hardcover

Summary:  Set in the future United States when the extreme right has taken over, When She Woke tells the story of a woman who has committed the crime of abortion but refuses to disclose the name of the father. It follows much the same story as The Scarlet Letter but instead of Hester Prynne’s scarlet A Hannah Payne is forced to have all of her skin turned scarlet. This “melachroming” is the government’s answer to crowded prisons and results in many deaths by citizens who don’t want criminals in their midst. Rather than risk death by vigilantes Hannah chooses to flee the country and soon learns the difficulties of keeping silent.

Bechdel Test?: Passes with flying colors (if you’ll pardon the pun). Hannah lives in a halfway house for the melachromed and has intense conversations about life and death with her housemates.

Rating: 4/5

There are no words for how much I liked this book. From the opening scenes that are reminiscent of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to the brief mentions of Bowling Green, KY, this book had me turning the pages furiously. Hannah is a loveable character because she doesn’t complain about her circumstances but accepts that her choices have consequences. Though I don’t like to discuss political issues on my blog, this book seems to me to be a must read before the upcoming elections both for its discussion of women’s reproductive issues and its focus on what happens when you take away funding for the arts/start censoring.

Warnings: This book contains very strong political statements and discusses LGBTQ, reproductive rights, and religious issues.


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