The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Rating: 5/5 stars. I love this book!
Length: 569 pages
This is exactly the kind of historical fiction I like to read: Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White is a detective story where we uncover the events of the book through the testimonies of different characters.  The first page of the book summed up what Collins was trying to achieve perfectly:

Thus, the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court  by more than one witness–with the same object, in both cases, to present the truth always in its most direct and most intelligible aspect; and to trace  the course of one complete series of events, by making the persons who have been most closely connected with them, at each successive stage, relate their own experience, word for word.

The main characters are Walter Hartright (a drawing master), Laura Fairlie and her sister Miss Halcombe. The woman in white is Anne Catherick, whom Walter meets in the middle of the night in a strange circumstance while on his way to the Limmeridge House to teach drawing to Laura and her sister.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson

Rating: 4/5 stars because of the universal themes of coming of age and first love. The graphic novel format is a plus and adds to the perspective.
Length: 592 pages.
This is a wonderful and funny book that I read earlier this year through the recommendation of Flashlight-worthy Books. The book is an illustrated novel, drawn in black and white and tells the story of the author’s relationship with his brother, his experiences in Christian youth camp and his first love. It’s hefty, coming at about 600 pages, but every page is worth it and once you’ve started, you won’t be able to put it down. The final read time for me must have been under 3 hours, max, since I breezed through it. You will too, once you get engrossed in the story.

What I like about this one is that it says a lot without clubbing you over the head with it. The author was coming to terms with his faith and what his religion says at a time when he was experiencing love for the first time. This theme isn’t new but the format of the book allows exploration of the topic without bogging you down with heavy descriptions and details. The graphic strips make you visualize the scenes, rather than imagine them, making you feel as if you’re witnessing the scenes happening (like a movie) without projecting yourself into the book and experiencing the scenes as if you are the author. This is a novel method because it makes the book pleasant overall, yet it can still make you feel that wrenching feeling when you sympathize with the characters at all the appropriate times.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Rating: 3/5 stars
Length: 600 pages
I borrowed this from my boyfriend’s mom since I was curious about it. This book spawned two sequels and a movie so I don’t think a plot rehash is necessary, but for those who may not know, the story revolves around Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the tattoo. Blomkvist published a story against the head of a financial corporation and was sued for libel. He lost the case and was imprisoned. After his arrest, Henrik Vanger contacts him to investigate a mystery that Vanger was obsessed with. Salander joins Blomkvist in his work from an earlier report that she wrote on Blomkvist. She is an investigator, among other things. Continue reading

Blindspot by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore

Rating: 4/5 stars for good prose, intelligent plotting and relatibility. I took off 1 point because the clichés used were sometimes trite and you know exactly where this book was going, but hey, that’s the nature of the beast with romance novels.

I forget how good it is to read for pleasure sometimes. Before I delve into the book itself, a couple of words first to describe how I feel after reading a well-written novel: I think it was in elementary school when I argued to a friend why books are awesome: “It’s like being transported into another world!” said I, the embodiment of dorkus maximus, with my glasses, braces, and full-time nerdiness on.

Reading is such a pleasure, and I still think that what I said then is true now: reading takes you to a whole other world where you’re lost imagining the lives of these people and thinking, “wow that is awesome, I wish I could experience that first-hand.” It is escapism, but it also exercises your mind to stretch beyond what is ordinary. Reading imparts and imbues in anyone who reads the book a sense of being other than themselves. And not just to escape but to elevate to a higher understanding than what you would be capable of without the book, because a book forces you to ruminate, and not to ruminate in a bad way (unless it’s a bad book or a depressing book) but rather to do it because you’re shown something other than what you would find by yourself.

It’s something new, but it’s all mental. It’s not like a new dish to try, or new friends to make, or new places to visit. It’s a new place and understanding of yourself.

Anyway, I digressed too much. So, back to the book.

It is a romance novel dressed prettily in colonial America and 18th century prose. It’s both hot and intelligent.

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Fallen Skies by Philippa Gregory

Rating: 1/5 stars

I’ve read a lot lately. I keep going back to that one genre that women are famous for loving: romance. I am powerless to its beck and call.

But this particular romance/novel, Fallen Skies, really crawled under my skin. Or even this author, as I cannot imagine wanting to read any more of her books after this. Yes, I realize she’s the one who wrote The Other Boleyn Girl, which is popular. Sad to say though, I am not going to read that book. Now, or ever. This book left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don’t want to try another Philippa Gregory book. It is narrow-minded, that much I admit, but there it is. I might change my mind in the future.

But getting back to Fallen Skies, it is about World War I, a veteran of that war and the aftermath. It started off so well that I thought I was in for a good story, but I was wrong. By the time I was halfway through, things started to get a little off, very subtle at first, so that I could dismiss them, but in the end the ridiculous plotting became a different monster altogether and left me pretty angry. Continue reading

The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey

Rating: 2/5 stars for the solid writing, but somehow I couldn’t relate.

I just finished reading this book by Margot Livesey called The House on Fortune Street. What a depressing book. It had good prose, very readable but the subject at hand…so awful.

It tells the story of four people, each of whom had done a terrible thing and were dealing with what happens afterward. It talks about mendacity (a word I picked up from this book), euthanasia, infidelity, and pedophilia. What a sad bunch of words.

I don’t like it. The writing is good but what a downer of a book. I didn’t relate to any of these people and I did not feel anything for them, except for one character who suffered the most. Though I can’t believe her reasoning: why did she do what she did? I didn’t buy it. It’s true that all kinds of things happen to all kinds of people but I couldn’t put myself in her shoes. Not the fault of the author. I just couldn’t relate. There are rave reviews on Amazon (here) so that might put things into perspective if you’re trying to decide whether to read this.