The Tea Rose, Jennifer Donnelly

[amazon_image id=”0312378025″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Tea Rose: A Novel[/amazon_image]Jennifer Donnelly’s novel [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link] is the story of Fiona Finnegan, poor but relatively happy with her fiancé Joe and her boisterous Irish family in Whitechapel. But a murderer is stalking their midst. A man known as Jack the Ripper is murdering prostitutes. Fiona’s world is shattered when her father is killed for attempting to organize a union in the tea company he and Fiona work for. In the wake of his death, Fiona loses almost everyone and everything that matters to her and makes her way to New York where she engineers an incredible rags-to-riches story and climbs to the top of the world tea trade.

OK, this book is really, really, really improbable, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it a great deal. Sure I rolled my eyes at the over-the-top coincidences and unbelievable turns of events, but it was a great ride. The plotting is fast-paced; it was difficult to put down. Set against the backdrop of Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel and Edith Wharton’s Old New York, the book brings together many areas of personal interest for me: tea, the Whitechapel murderer, and the Gilded Age. Fiona has spunk, as we are constantly being told by the characters, all of whom adore her on sight for her shrewd business acumen and forthright manner. Donnelly brings the era and settings to vivid life. In the bargain, the reader, through Donnelly’s characters, rubs shoulders with everyone from Gilded Age robber barons and Mark Twain to up-and-coming artists Monet and Van Gogh. It’s an epic sweeping story, but doesn’t try to be anything other than good escapist reading. I can’t wait to read the next two books in Donnelly’s generational saga: [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link] (I was able to obtain a galley from NetGalley, even though the book won’t be released until August). I won’t say I loved it as much as I loved [amazon_link id=”B003F3PN0Q” target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link], but it was a gripping summer read. I would recommend it to fans of Diana Gabaldon’s [amazon_link id=”0440423201″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link] series.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Dexter Palmer

[amazon_image id=”B003A7I2PU” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Dream of Perpetual Motion[/amazon_image]Dexter Palmer’s novel [amazon_link id=”B003A7I2PU” target=”_blank” ]The Dream of Perpetual Motion[/amazon_link] is a steampunk reimagining (of sorts) of William Shakespeare’s play [amazon_link id=”0743482832″ target=”_blank” ]The Tempest[/amazon_link]. The protagonist, Harold Winslow, is a greeting card writer from Xeroville. He writes his memoir while trapped aboard a zeppelin—the good ship Chrysalis—with only mechanical servants and the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent to keep him company. His life becomes inextricably linked with that of Miranda and her father Prospero Taligent’s at the age of ten, when he spends all of his money at the Nickel Empire carnival to obtain a whistle that will secure him an invitation to Miranda’s tenth birthday party. At the birthday party, Prospero promises each of the 100 boys and girls their heart’s desire. Harold becomes Miranda’s playmate until Prospero catches them kissing and banishes Harold from Miranda’s fantastic playroom.

Almost 3/4 through the book, Harold says,

Perhaps you know the kind of man I am, dear imaginary reader. I have never felt as if I have known anyone well. I have never had that sense of instinctive empathy that I am told comes to lovers, or brothers and sisters, or parents and children. I have never been able to finish a sentence that someone else starts. I have never been able to give a gift to someone that they have liked, one that surprises them even as they secretly expected it.

Whenever I looked into faces and tried to discern the thoughts that lay behind them I had to make best guesses, and more often than not it seemed my guesses were wrong. (location 5167 on Kindle)

I think that is the crux of what I didn’t like about the book. The characters were not terribly likeable. They were entertaining, especially Prospero and his servants Gideon and Martin, but no one else brought out my empathy as a reader (excepting Harold as a boy, but he sheds that quickly in the novel). I have no quibbles with Palmer’s writing, which is funny and tragic and at times had me highlighting choice phrases, but the most important thing to me about any book, almost without exception, is the characters. If I do not like any of the characters, it’s hard for me to like the book. The plot of the novel is weird, but I could have let that go if I had been able to empathize with Harold.

Another criticism I have for the book is this sort of underlying misogyny that I see sometimes in science fiction and fantasy. Palmer’s women characters are, without exception, unpleasant and untrustworthy. Shakespeare’s Prospero is concerned with Miranda’s virginity, which is a theme that Palmer takes up in this novel. Prospero seeks to prevent his daughter from becoming sexually active, but when she does, he sees her as ruined. Harold never explicitly says so, but he gives the impression that he agrees with Prospero on that account—sex ruins women, and the proof is in his description of every female character in the novel.

The book improves slightly toward the end as the action picks up the pace, but over all, I can’t say I liked it. The narrative was complex and difficult to follow at times, and the characters did not redeem the story.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

 

The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen

[amazon_image id=”0553807226″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Peach Keeper: A Novel[/amazon_image]Sarah Addison Allen’s novel [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link] is the story of the unlikely friendship of Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood, who are linked through shared family history and not much else. Willa’s great-great-grandfather built a house called the Blue Ridge Madam in Walls of Water, North Carolina. In 1936, Willa’s family lost the house. Years later, she feels oddly drawn to the Blue Ridge Madam, now in the hands of the Osgood family. Paxton Osgood is the president of the Women’s Society Club and is planning the unveiling of the newly restored Blue Ridge Madam at the society’s gala. She asks her twin brother Colin, a landscape architect, to come home to Walls of Water to landscape the Blue Ridge Madam. A family secret binding the Osgoods and Jacksons is unearthed when Colin’s crew removes a peach tree and begins digging deeper to plant a live oak and finds a suitcase, a frying pan, and a skull belonging to a magic man named Tucker Devlin.

I could barely put this one down. It’s hard to describe it. It’s part chick lit, I suppose, but also part magical realism, ghost story, mystery, and romance. It’s a perfect summer read. Allen’s characters are well-drawn and likeable. The setting of small-town Walls of Water with its tourists and shops alongside ancient town families was pitch perfect. I think perhaps no one does gothic like Southern gothic, and though Allen’s writing style is completely dissimilar, this book is an oddly cogent mashup between William Faulkner and Joshilyn Jackson. Family secrets, grand old Southern mansions, friendship, and devilish charmers are good building blocks for stories. I liked both Willa and Paxton as protagonists, and I found Colin, Sebastian, and even Tucker Devlin charming. I would definitely read more of Allen’s books. I picked this one up after reading Stephanie’s review. Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages has another good review.

I’m not sure this book is for everyone. Some readers will be turned off by the chick lit aura or the magical realism, but I found it utterly charming and completely Southern. Parts of it reminded me of a book I have deep affection for called [amazon_link id=”0807114103″ target=”_blank” ]I Am One of You Forever[/amazon_link] by Fred Chappell. If you are a fan of Sarah Addison Allen’s, give Fred Chappell’s novel a try. It’s harder to find and was published by a smaller press, but it’s a gorgeous book.

Rating: ★★★★★

This book has enough of the macabre to qualify for the Gothic Reading Challenge.

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlo Ruiz Zafón

[amazon_image id=”0143057812″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Shadow of the Wind[/amazon_image]Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel [amazon_link id=”0143057812″ target=”_blank” ]The Shadow of the Wind[/amazon_link] begins with a trip to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a vast, labyrinthine repository for books of all kinds. Daniel Sempere’s father, a bookseller, cautions his son that he must never speak of what he sees to anyone—it’s a great secret. Ten-year-old Daniel is allowed to choose a book for his very own, to be its protector and champion and rescue it from obscurity. A mysterious book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax catches his eye. He devours the book, but when he tries to find more books by Carax, he discovers that someone has mysteriously been burning all of Carax’s works, and his copy of The Shadow of the Wind is one of the rarest books he will ever encounter. One day, Daniel is confronted by a man calling himself Lain Coubert, the devil in The Shadow of the Wind—the man who has been attempting to obliterate Carax’s works from the literary landscape. Daniel feels compelled to learn more about Carax. As Daniel grows, his life begins to eerily mimic events in Carax’s life.

The novel is an excellent mystery involving the obsession with reading and with true love. Jonathan Davis’s reading is superb. If he is not a native Spanish speaker, he certainly sounds like one. The audio book kept me riveted. I looked forward to my commutes so that I could listen to the story unfold. If I have one complaint, it is that the audio version employs mood music. On the one hand, the music was a cue to listen carefully as something very important would be happening, but it needed to be modulated differently—sometimes I strained to hear Davis over the music. As with any audio book, it is hard to go back and easily re-read portions, which is something I really wanted to do as I listened to this book. The story itself can be somewhat hard to follow—it takes twists and turns. However, Zafón brought the streets of Barcelona alive. Anyone who loves books should enjoy The Shadow of the Wind.

Rating: ★★★★½

I read this book as part of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and the Gothic Reading Challenge. I am making steady progress in both challenges. I have six more books to complete the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and fourteen more books for the Gothic Reading Challenge. Yeah, I bit off more than I could chew with that one.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

American Gods: A NovelAs a result of your votes when I was struggling to decide what to read next, I picked up Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Neil Gaiman himself has said that this book tends to be a somewhat polarizing book: people tend to either love it or hate it. The novel is the story of Shadow, who is in prison for an indeterminate crime involving robbery of some sort. He is released a few days early when his wife dies in a car accident. Having nowhere to really go and nothing to do, he accepts the offer of a mysterious man named Wednesday to work for him—to protect him, transport him from place to place, run errands, hurt people who need to be hurt (only in an emergency), and in the unlikely event of his death, hold his vigil (37). Gradually, Shadow learns that Wednesday is actually Odin the All-Father, brought to America by immigrants who believed in him and sacrificed to him during the Viking Age. Wednesday has really recruited Shadow to help him face a coming storm—the new gods of television, the Internet, media, and other modern conveniences are usurping the old gods, and what’s more, the new gods want the old ones dead. Before he knows it, Shadow is on the ultimate road trip across America, helping Wednesday gather forces from among the old gods to fight the new gods.

This book was cleverly researched and interesting from a mythological standpoint. I kept wondering what Joseph Campbell would have made of it. In the novel, the reader meets gods and creatures as diverse as leprechauns, Anansi, Thoth, Anubis, Mad Sweeney, and Easter. The book certainly had me researching various mythological references so I could understand what was happening in the story. For sheer chutzpah with storytelling, I have to give Neil Gaiman props. What he did with this novel is not something very many writers could do. All that said, I didn’t completely like it. I liked parts of it. Other parts seemed to go down a path I couldn’t follow, and some threads introduced in the novel were dropped later. In some ways, it felt to me like Gaiman tried to do too much with this novel. On the other hand, some threads were brilliantly woven throughout the book. The concept is pure genius, and I don’t really even have problems with most of the execution. Ultimately, it just didn’t have some indefinable something that makes me enjoy a book. I give it four stars because I can recognize its brilliance, and I certainly don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I hated it. I didn’t. It just didn’t do “it” for me, even though I found it interesting, and despite its size, a quicker read than I anticipated. Four stars then is a compromise between the three stars I’d give it based on my personal reaction to it and the five stars I’d give it for what I’d recognize as its epic greatness. My own reaction probably has something to do with the fact that I’m not a huge reader of fantasy or science fiction. I have certainly liked other books by Neil Gaiman: Stardust, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. I would certainly try other books by Gaiman in the future.

Rating: ★★★★☆

I read this book for three reading challenges: the Once Upon a Time Challenge, the Take a Chance Challenge, and the Gothic Reading Challenge. Gaiman’s books are great for Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge, which asks readers to try fantasy, fairy tales, myths, and similar types of stories. The first person who ever recommended American Gods to me was a Barnes and Noble employee who described it as Gaiman’s masterpiece. While it wasn’t quite on the employee recommendations shelf, I think a personal recommendation counts for the Staff Member’s Choice part of the Take a Chance Challenge. I hesitated about including it in the Gothic Reading Challenge, but the more I thought about it, the more I concluded it had some definite gothic elements (as in Poe or Lovecraft rather than Brontë). It’s more strictly supernatural than the sort of haunted gothic of books like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, or Rebecca.

A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches: A NovelDeborah Harkness’s debut novel A Discovery of Witches combines several elements I like—a great gothic house (and a castle), supernatural creatures (especially witches; I love witches), and academia. Diana Bishop, a rather reluctant witch and descendant of Bridget Bishop—the first “witch” executed in the Salem Witch Trials, is a professor researching the history of alchemy in Oxford’s Bodleian Library when she is able to call forth a manuscript called Ashmole 782, believed lost for over 150 years. Diana suddenly attracts the attention of several other creatures—witches, daemons, and a vampire named Matthew Clairmont. Soon the two make even more startling discoveries—hidden inside Diana’s DNA are predispositions for just about every magical power witches possess. Together they must discover what Ashmole 782’s secrets are; why her parents were murdered when she was a child; and why daemons, witches, and vampires want to prevent them from discovering anything (and from being together).

A review on Amazon describes this as a combination of The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, and a romance, which is just about right, except I’d throw Twilight into the mix. It’s certainly better written than The Da Vinci Code and perhaps Twilight, but not Harry Potter. It must be hard to write about vampires right about now. For one thing, we want the strange Byronic dangerousness of the vampire, but we don’t like the whole murdering people to eat deal. We have, if you’ll pardon the pun, taken the fangs out of our vampires. Edward Cullen is a great example of this phenomenon, and Matthew Clairmont is not terribly different. Despite the author’s attempts to tell us otherwise, he never comes across the page as very dangerous. Nor do any of his “family.” The vampires that do seem frightening are all bad guys. Despite lacking some teeth, they are fairly charming. I particularly liked Marcus. For astute readers, there’s a reference to another famous vampire in chapter 13 (I think—it’s hard to keep track when you’re listening) that vampire fans will enjoy. Harkness also dispenses with some of the vampire myths—her vampires can go out in the sun without incinerating (or sparkling).

I actually liked the witches much better, especially Diana’s aunts Sarah and Em. Sarah has a sort of hardened no-nonsense way of speaking, and Em is just sweet. I absolutely love their house. I won’t spoil it for those of you who want to read it. The daemons confuse me. I can’t tell what they are that makes them different from humans except for exceptional creativity and intelligence. They don’t seem to have any supernatural powers like vampires or witches. Harkness’s witches, I understand, but I would have liked to have understood her vampires better.

I think I enjoyed this book on audio perhaps more than I might have in print because Jennifer Ikeda was such a great reader. She can do a variety of accents easily—French, Australian, and Scottish. She made each character sound different and instantly recognizable. I did find myself wishing I were reading the hardcover in some parts so I could easily flip around and check things.

However, I admit I don’t care a lot for the main characters, Diana and Matthew. Are they just grown up versions of Bella and Edward? Well, kind of. Diana is Bella with a little bit more self-esteem and attitude, maybe. The descriptions of the places, the food, and the other characters made me keep listening, and I enjoyed it enough to read the sequel, which I might enjoy more because of where it will be set (a bit spoilery, so I won’t give it away). Diana and Matthew are a strange couple. They seem a little forced together as though they were set up by a good friend and are trying to make a go of it without really feeling any sparks.

It’s a worthy debut, and I think it will likely be fairly popular. Despite my feelings about the main characters, I did enjoy the book and look forward to the next one.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Diana’s aunts Sarah and Em and Matthew’s best friend Hamish qualify this book for the GLBT Challenge. The supernatural elements and ancient houses make for a great Gothic Reading Challenge read. I need to read 17 more books for the Gothic Reading Challenge.

Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, John Crowley

Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land (P.S.)John Crowley’s novel Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land has its origin in a famous storytelling contest. In the Year Without a Summer (1816), Byron rented the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland and met up with friends Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley. Mary Shelley’s stepsister Claire Clairmont was traveling with the Shelleys, who had eloped together from England, and John Polidori, Byron’s doctor, was traveling with Byron, who was fleeing infamy. Unable to pursue outdoor recreations, the company grew bored and restless. Conversation turned to dark subjects such as ghosts and Erasmus Darwin’s experiments with galvanism. Byron suggested a supernatural story-writing contest. Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein, while Dr. Polidori wrote The Vampyre, which would later inspire Bram Stoker’s own vampiric tale, Dracula, and through Dracula, just about every other vampire story written. Polidori is believed to have based his vampire, Count Ruthven, on Byron himself. (Have you met a literary vampire who is not Byronic? I haven’t.) The two major poets, Byron and Shelley, are not believed to have produced anything of note. Crowley’s premise is that Byron did indeed produce a completed novel, The Evening Land, that was suppressed by his estranged wife Lady Byron. Crowley imagined that the novel was preserved by Byron’s daughter, Ada Byron King, Countess Lovelace, who is widely acknowledged to be the first computer programmer (P.S. March 24 is Ada Lovelace Day). Crowley’s Lovelace is forced to burn the manuscript of The Evening Land by her mother, but she enciphers it first. Enter Alexandra “Smith” Novak, a web programmer for the website strongwomanstory.org. She and one of the website’s benefactors are given a mysterious bequest by a mysterious man. It turns out to be the enciphered novel. Smith engages her own estranged (and notorious) father, a former Byron scholar turned filmmaker exiled from the United States because of a past nearly as sordid as Byron’s, and her partner, Dr. Thea Spann, a mathematician, to help her decode the cipher. In the process, Crowley discusses the complex relationships between both fathers—Byron and Lee Novak—and their daughters—Ada and Smith.

This book is an amazing achievement. I’ve read enough Romantic-era novels and Byronic poetry to hear Byron’s authentic voice in the novel uncovered in the frame narrative of its discovery. Even Harold Bloom, that illustrious champion of Romantic poetry (and dead white males) enjoyed the novel and gave it a positive blurb:

Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land is an extraordinary confluence of High Romanticism and our Information Era: every note in it rings with authenticity. ‘The Evening Land’ is a novel Byron indeed might have written, and his daughter, Ada, as created by Crowley, is vividly memorable, worthy of her exuberant father.

If I can be allowed one quick digression, that last line smacks of all kinds of sexism to me, but that’s Harold Bloom for you. The fact is, Crowley’s Ada is “vividly memorable,” as is her “exuberant father.” The novel is a thinly veiled retelling of Byron’s own life in many respects, and through her preservation of the novel, Ada comes to make peace with her father. Crowley’s story certainly explains one of the great mysteries of Byron’s legacy—Why would his daughter, taught to hate her father by a mother poisoned by her own ill will for Byron, wish to be buried beside the father she had never met?

The emails between Lee and Smith, as well as between Smith and Thea, among other letters, form an epistolary frame in which Byron’s novel and Ada’s commentary are enclosed and share a similar story. Smith, like Ada, rediscovers her estranged father through his work, but the difference is that her father is still alive, and she has, if she chooses, the opportunity to end the estrangement.

I struggled with how to rate this novel because as an authentic Romantic novel, the parts containing Byron’s “writing” were dense, overblown, and worthy of Sir Walter Scott. Sometimes I had to plow through those sections even while admiring how much like Byron Crowley managed to write. The emails and letters were, on the other hand, quick reads. I like the format of the novel, the frame narrative and epistolary interchange. In the end, Byron’s novel was as good as any other Romantic novel I’ve read, and that’s saying something of Crowley’s achievement. I can’t think of too many writers who could pull off a feat like this, and whether I was able to put the book down at times or not, I have to tip my hat to his talent.

Rating: ★★★★★

I read this novel as part of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, the Gothic Reading Challenge, and the GLBT Challenge (Byron was bisexual, and this part of his character was expressed in the novel, and the characters Smith and Thea are lesbians). I have ten more books to go to complete the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, and eighteen more for the Gothic Reading Challenge (I really bit off more than I can chew with that one). The GLBT Challenge has no set number of books, so if I were so inclined, I could call the challenge met, but I’m not so inclined.

Passion, by Jude Morgan

Passion: A Novel of the Romantic PoetsAfter having finished Jude Morgan’s novel Passion, I feel emotionally spent. What a rollercoaster ride this aptly named novel has taken me on.

The novel begins as Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley, attempts to commit suicide by drowning herself. It’s a story that’s been well known to me since college when I first encountered Wollstonecraft and her Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I was entranced by the story because I latched on to a curious detail: Wollstonecraft, mistreated by man in a world that didn’t appreciate her intellect, was bouyed by her skirts—the symbol of her femininity saved her, and later, it would take her away as she died following her daughter Mary’s childbirth. The rest of the novel unfolds as the lives of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats are told through the voices of the women who loved them: Lady Caroline Lamb, Augusta Byron Leigh, Mary Shelley, and Fanny Brawne. At times the stories entwine as the women move in the same circles, and ultimately, each is left behind as the man she loved dies before her. How each woman resolves the issue of forging an identity separate from her lover is alluded to in the epilogue, but largely left unwritten.

If ever a book were written just for me, this book would be it. I have been devoted to the Romantic poets since high school. Jude Morgan not only manages to bring the poets and their lovers alive, but he also manages to do so with painstaking research and attention to historical detail. I was transported to another time where I knew and loved all of these people. Much of Morgan’s research has come from primary sources—letters, memoirs, diaries, and the like, for much of it reads exactly like the accounts from which they were drawn, but somehow sketched out in sharper relief. My favorite characters were probably Byron, Caroline Lamb, and Fanny Brawne, but truthfully, I enjoyed meeting everyone (although I kind of hated Claire Clairmont, which may have been Morgan’s intention). I felt wrung out with sadness as each of the poets died—the inevitable conclusion I knew would happen, but that I was still inexplicably unprepared for.

If I have one criticism of the book, it’s that it felt a little too unwieldy at times. Morgan never manages to lose control of the story, however, and even switching narrators and voices is no trouble. The reader can follow Morgan down each path. Keats’s story suffers the most in this large tale, while Byron and Shelley loom large on the page. Perhaps that is also a deeper message one can glean from the story—it was also thus, no? Towards the end of the book, Fanny Brawne reflects on Keats’s pronouncement that she is like a fire:

Oh, I would much rather be the fire. Think of the other elements: earth is rather too plain and sluggish, and I hope I have too much sense to be forever floating about in the air, and water has something too cool about it for my temper, which is, I know, a little too much on the lively side. (459)

It seemed as if all the women were described in that paragraph. I saw Augusta Leigh as like the earth, not “plain and sluggish,” necessarily, but the bedrock, the only solid thing in Byron’s life. Earthy would be a great adjective to describe her. And if Brawne sees someone “floating about in the air” as having little sense, then air is Caro Lamb, who threw her dignity, happiness, and family away for a mad obsession for Byron. Mary Shelley, then, is water, cool, collected, sometimes too passionless for Shelley, who often compared her to the moon in his poetry—not to mention that life-claiming water seemed to be a recurring theme of Mary Shelley’s life.

What a wonderful book. I would give it infinity stars if I could. I never mark my books (no trouble highlighting a Kindle and taking notes, but somehow I feel I’m defacing my books if I write in them), but I found I had to mark passages and talk back to this story, at least a little. I certainly can’t think of too many other books I’ve read that have had me doing as much research and reading about its subjects as this one. A new favorite. The title is perfect in all senses of the word, but don’t let the cover scare you off—it’s pretty, but makes the book seem too frivolous and light. Mary Shelley seems to capture the essence of this book in one sentence: “How can you love someone so much, and not understand them at all?” (383).

Rating: ★★★★★

I read this book for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. I’ve read four now. Eleven more to go.

http://www.danahuff.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/GRC.jpg

The story of the writing of Frankenstein and some of the literal Byronic hero qualify this book as my first read for the Gothic Reading Challenge. Nineteen to go on that challenge. I must have been crazy.

I’m going to have to puzzle over where to put this on the Where Are You Reading Challenge because these guys went all over Europe. I guess England.

Gothic Reading Challenge

More Reading Challenges

I have located a couple more reading challenges to participate in for 2010-2011. And now that I have graduated—earned my master’s from VA Tech!—I might have a little more time to read.

Gothic Reading Challenge

The first is the Gothic Reading Challenge. Not sure what I’ll read yet, but I love a great gothic read! Bonus: anything I read during September and October should also count for the R.I.P. Challenge when it comes around again. I’m going for broke and shooting for “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know”—20 novels with gothic elements. By the way, that phrase was coined by Lady Caroline Lamb. She was describing her lover, Lord Byron. I’ll bet he was. Seriously, though, check him out.

Lord Byron

Yep.

The second is the GLBT Challenge. Again, not sure what I’ll read. I went to a great session at NCTE on GLBT YA literature.

GLBT Challenge

Also, it’s not a reading challenge per sé, but I found out my city is reading My Name is Mary Sutter in 2011. I am looking forward to reading it—the Civil War is endlessly fascinating. Thanks to Coach at my school for letting me know about it.

I have a lot of good books lined up. What about you? You participating in any challenges you want to share? Any great books you’re reading?