Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars—Review

The Fault in Our Stars is John Green's fourth solo novel. It's the story of  sixteen-year-old Hazel who has been living with cancer since she was twelve. But don't think this is one of the usual bittersweet inspiring cancer stories. Hazel knows all the cliches about the "heroic fight" with cancer. She's smart, irreverent, acerbic, and funny. She only goes to the cancer support group where she is encouraged to "live her best life today!" in order to please her mother. But it's at support group that the story begins, because that's where Hazel meets Augustus Waters.

Through the course of TFIOS, Hazel and Augustus pursue a favorite author to Amsterdam, watch a friend lose his eyes to cancer, utilize Venn diagram humor, and learn what it means to form relationships when cancer makes you a walking grenade.

TFIOS isn't as laugh-out-loud funny as Green's previous novels, but it still has that mix of pop culture and high brow allusions, humor and elegance that we have come to love in John Green's work. Green exceeds at creating entertainment studded with poignant observations of what it means to be human.

Quote-pictures courtesy of

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Porn for Bibliophiles

Have you guys seen the recent Penguin Classics? They're gorgeous. Some, like the Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, make me wish I didn't already own copies so I can purchase these additions.

Some, like Anne of Green Gables, I think look great but don't fit the story inside.

Some, like Peter Pan, I would be thrilled if people would buy me for birthdays or Christmas. Hint hint.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

so much depends

so much depends

the shadow of

sun against the

on a winter


The ADD Narrator

I've started The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I'm 66 pages in and the book has yet to settle on a single timeline or protagonist. Each chapter (and the chapters aren't particularly long) is from a new point of view, in a different year, and sometimes in a different city. They all follow the narrative of an abandoned child, but it skips around a lot.

We've all read these books, or heard someone say, "It was hard to get into because it kept jumping around and it took a long time to get attached to a character, but once I got into it it was great."

But I'm annoyed. It's like the narrator can't make up her mind about who to follow or which era she wants to be in. It's like the narrator has ADD. Is it 1913? 1930? 1975? 2005? Is it from the point of view of Nell, Cassandra, Hugh?

I understand that there is a mystery with this abandoned child, and skipping around gives us a broad picture of the situation while also giving us tiny clues about the mystery. But it feels like the narrator is dangling the mystery in front of my face, singing, "Nahnah nahnah nahhh nahhh. You can't get it." Or that the author doesn't trust herself to hook the reader from the beginning, and so each chapter she has to try to hook us again.

I understand there is a mystery and that I won't get all the details until the end. Now let's move on with the story.

You can probably tell I'm aggravated. But this isn't all to say the book is bad. I'm still reading it, after all. I'm just wondering...what does a story gain by jumping around, character to character and setting to setting? What are the pros of this story-telling device? What would lead an author to make this choice?

Thoughts, oh dear readers?

Monday, January 23, 2012


My father was called away before he had finished his sentence, and he left my mind resting on the word Prague, with a strange sense that a new and wondrous scene was breaking upon me: a city under the broad sunshine, that seemed to me as if it were the summer sunshine of a long-past century arrested in its course—unrefreshed for ages by dews of night, or the rushing rain-cloud; scorching the dusty, weary, time-eaten grandeur of a people doomed to live on in the stale repetition of memories, like deposed and superannuated kings in their regal gold-inwoven tatters. The city looked so thirsty that the broad river seemed to me a sheet of metal; and the blackened statues, as I passed under their blank gaze, along the unending bridge, with their ancient garments and their saintly crowns, seemed to me the real inhabitants and owners of this place, while the busy, trivial men and women, hurrying to and fro, were a swarm of ephemeral visitants infesting it for a day. It is such grim, stony beings as these, I thought, who are the fathers of ancient faded children, in those tanned time-fretted dwellings that crowd the steep before me; who pay their court in the worn and crumbling pomp of the palace which stretches its monotonous length on the height; who worship wearily in the stifling air of the churches, urged by no fear or hope, but compelled by their doom to be ever old and undying, to live on in the rigidity of habit, as they live on in perpetual midday, without the repose of night or the new birth of morning.

—from "The Lifted Veil" by George Eliot

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is very much in the public eye these days. As I'm sure you know, there's the wonderful second season of BBC's Sherlock, and there's the sequel to the Robert Downey Jr movie (which I have yet to see, my little local theater plays movies months later than everyone else). I can't find my copy of the original stories, much to my unhappiness. They were housed on the floor beside my bed for over a year. Wait, wait...there it is! Hiding amongst the DFW on the Newly Acquired shelf!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tempted All Night—Review

I read most of Tempted All Night by Liz Carlyle on a rainy day over winter break. It's a historical romance (as you can guess by the cover) taking place in the late Regency. Russian spies, a secret bordello catering to the elite, a dark secret in the protagonist's past, and just a tad of bondage. Oh yes. The novel had a few of those defects common to the historical romance genre, but they didn't spoil the overall enjoyment of the book. Plus, what is more fun than curling up with a novel in my armchair Leopold, listening to the sound of the rain, and after a few hours going out to take some air with my umbrella, pretending I'm a Regency lady surveying the grounds in a gown of sprigged muslin? 

Winter Reads Part Deux

I googled 'winter reads' and nothing of use came up. There were lists, but they didn't really give reasons why a book is considered a winter read versus a beach read versus an anytime read. So I will be very specific.  I WANT BOOKS WITH SNOW IN THEM. Books that mirror the weather outside and are best read while drinking hot chocolate.

I've thought of two more books to add to the list: The Golden Compass and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter Reads

Winter has finally reached the Palouse. The snow is falling, the snow is sticking, the snow is piling up. The gentleman friend reports five more inches due today and tonight. The air is a flurry of snowflakes. A gust of wind fills the air with powder. Icicles hang from roofs and cars. Afternoons are marked by building snow fortresses around my backyard to keep trespassers out, sticking burs into the walls to get stuck in the clothes of any who try to cross, footprints in the snow marking when intruders have breached my defenses. Nighttime: Branches arcing and entangling over my street, silhouetted against blue air and the warm glow of streetlamps, the cold stillness broken only by the gentle flakes falling from the sky.

I've finished The Fault in Our Stars (for now I'll just say this: there was A LOT of hype around the release of John Green's latest novel, and it was worth it) so now I'm craving a read to suit the weather. There are lots of novels dubbed beach reads, so let's brainstorm some snow reads. I've got checked out from the library The Help and The Forgotten Garden, but neither sound like the thing. The only books I can think of are Need and Entice which are plenty wintry but not exactly quality. Any suggestions, o illustrious readers? I know some of you can't post comments, so emails work, too.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marat the Intolerant

I once read that it's possible Jean Paul Marat suffered from a gluten intolerance which led to him being confined to his bath, which led to him being murdered, which led to him being painted Pieta-style with a bathtub instead of the Virgin Mary. Can you imagine, an old timey French dude just chowing down baguettes every day and wondering what the heck was the matter while all the doctors bang their heads on the wall? C'est tragique. But in a funny way. 

Friday, January 13, 2012


Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books...which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.

—from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

One of the things I love about John Green is that he can communicate those things which are simple and commonplace yet so difficult to articulate.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

green sharpie

the hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams

New Year Resolutions: The Doctor Presents 20 Quotes to Live By in 2012


“A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.” – The Third Doctor, The Time Warrior

“You know when sometimes, you meet someone so beautiful – and then you actually talk to them, and five minutes later they’re as dull as a brick; but then there’s other people. And you meet them and you think, ‘Not bad, they’re okay,’ and then when you get to know them… Their face just sort of becomes them, like their personality’s written all over it, and they just – they turn into something so beautiful.”
Amy Pond, The Girl Who Waited 

“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”
Elton, Love and Monsters

“I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.”
The Eleventh Doctor, The Almost People

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


John Green's long-awaited novel The Fault in Our Stars is out today! All 150,000 signed copies of it!

I haven't gotten my copy of it yet. Soon, let us hope!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Qualities of the Romance Genre That Keep Me Going Back for More

Some weeks ago I was brainstorming for my Sparkly Secret Project and I made a list of qualities that romance novels have that I appreciate. The romance genre gets a lot of guff from the general populus, but there are a number of things that make this genre worthwhile, and makes many women keep going back for more. Not all romance novels have these qualities. Just like any genre, there are a lot of bad romance novels out there, and even the best is a mix of bad and good. But there are still a lot of good romance novels. I'm thinking along the lines of Nora Roberts and Katie Fford.

Qualities and Themes of the Romance Genre That Keep Me Going Back for More (in a handy dandy chart!)

  • Strong friendships
  • Strong families
  • Unabashedly female
    • Appreciation of the feminine
    • Woman-centric world
    • Strong women
  • Sensuality and beauty
  • Love is possible and attainable
  • If you work hard you can get the life you want: career, family, health
  • Happy endings