Tag Archives: history

Even More Books Worth Reading

One of my absolute favorite parts of being a grown-up remains the ability to take the time to explore new authors and read as much as I want to for pleasure. I have certainly been taking advantage of this opportunity, and have been reading even more this year than I did as a Comparative Literature major back in school (ok – maybe not that much – but it’s certainly close!).

As you will discover in the reviews below, the thread running through my most recent round of literary discovery is fantasy and the surreal with, as usual, a touch of mystery thrown in for good measure. This time around, I also took a brief detour into the world of (surprise!) non-fiction for several fascinating books about the history of the English language.

Here are my quick reviews. I would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations as well!

Haruki Murakami: 1Q84, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, After Dark, & Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Unknownbks-afterdarkthe_windup_bird_chronicle1q84As you can tell from this and the last Books Worth Reading post, I’ve been on quite the Murakami kick lately. With good reason too – if you have not read anything written by this man, drop everything and head to the library (or Kindle store) right now!

All of his books share a haunting sense of semi-surreality and incredibly evocative imagery, and all include at least one awesomely mundane scene where the protagonist whips up a simple (yet delicious!) meal. Murakami, you certainly know how to make me hungry!

Of the four listed above, the one that really stood out for me was 1Q84 (pronounced one-cue-eighty-four in English – in Japanese, the pronunciation for the number 9 and the letter Q are the same). The novel takes place in – surprise, surprise –1984, and begins with the protagonist, Aomame, slipping unknowingly into a dystopian alternate version of reality (the “Q” in the title stands for “question,” as Aomame must figure out where she has ended up and how – and if – she can return). As it progresses, Aomame’s story intertwines with that of Tengo, a ghostwriter who takes on an unusual project – which quickly turns out to be much more than it seems.

The novel is composed of 3 books and runs to nearly 1,000 pages, so any attempt to distill the complex plot to a few sentences is doomed to fail. Suffice it to say that 1Q84 is the most deeply satisfying of Murakami’s novels, and the world it creates is as convincing as the reality we live in.

As for the others, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle explores the increasingly surreal happenings that befall the unemployed protagonist, Toru Okada, after his wife’s cat runs away and she subsequently abandons him. The novel is part detective story, part love story, and part historical fiction as Toru’s investigation unburies secrets from Japan’s forgotten Manchurian campaign during WWII. After Dark was the quickest read and the most forgettable of the four listed above. It takes entirely between the hours of midnight and dawn as an ensemble of odd characters collide in a seedy section of Tokyo. Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World was another one of my favorites. It is split between two narratives – that of the Hard-Boiled Wonderland and that of the End of the World. The two distinctly dystopian narratives gradually converge, and in the process the novel explores the concepts of identity and the unconscious mind.

George R. R. Martin: Song of Ice and Fire series


After weeks of being the only one at work who couldn’t join in the (many, many) conversations about the HBO series Game of Thrones, I decided to finally break down and actually read the books. Various people have been recommending the Song of Ice and Fire series to me since 2008, and I have been lent the first book in the series, Game of Thrones, on several occasions. As much as I love fantasy novels in general, I had resisted beginning the series for so long because it reminded me too much of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, which I had a rather embarrassing level of obsession with in middle school.

Eventually, uncomfortable flashbacks to 7th grade aside, Song of Ice and Fire (or, more accurately, the TV version Game of Thrones) became such a cultural force that I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

And I’m glad.

Flawed as the books may be (excessive rape scenes, female characters who are consistently defined by their appearance, stomach-churning amounts of often superfluous violence), the stories are incredibly well-crafted in their complexity and the characters are horribly and relatably human. Even when I was utterly disgusted, I couldn’t put these books down.

So, if you haven’t already, it’s worth giving these a read. It’s also worth taking some time to consider the role of women in fantasy literature and why “historical accuracy” isn’t much of an excuse for making all your female characters either mothers or sex objects (and why one token “warrior woman” isn’t enough). The articles listed below go a long way towards explaining why even though George R. R. Martin (admirably) said this:


…his depictions of women and the world that he created can still be considered problematic.

Sexism in Historical Fantasy

Authentic Sexism in Fantasy: Let’s Unpack That

By the way – the books left with absolutely NO desire to see the show. Less complexity and more graphic violence? No thanks.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón: The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, & The Prisoner of Heaven

The-Prisoner-of-Heavenangelthe-shadow-of-the-wind-by-carlos-ruiz-zafonI first discovered Carlos Ruiz Zafón in high school, when I was working retail in Portland, Maine’s scenic Old Port. Summers in Maine are gorgeous, and so I liked to take my half-hour lunch breaks outside, across the street. One day, as I settled down to eat my sandwich on a sculptural bench, I noticed a book seemingly abandoned beside me. The Shadow of the Wind. Picking it up to look, I found a sticker inside the front cover saying that the book was meant to be passed along from person to person – read, and then placed strategically for someone else to find. Intrigued, I began to read.

I was entranced. The first in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series (the three titles above are the only three so far), The Shadow of the Wind take place in post-Civil War Barcelona. In the novel, the young Daniel Sempere comes across a mysterious book by an even more mysterious author. Captivated, he probes into its murky past and uncovers much more than he bargained for.

The other two books likewise center around the Sempere & Sons book store and involve a visit to the mysterious Cemetery of Forgotten Books. In The Angel’s Game, a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, struggling author of pulp fiction David Martín takes on a suspicious commission from a sinister publisher in hopes that it will allow him to reclaim some part of his shattered life. Although not as strong and satisfying as The Shadow of the Wind – the plot is perhaps overly melodramatic and a shade difficult to follow – The Angel’s Game is still a fascinating read, especially in the context of the series. The Prisoner of Heaven, which again takes up Daniel Sempere’s storyline, is a much stronger effort. Zafón returns from the metaphysical mysteries of The Angel’s Game to the more personal and political drama of The Shadow of the Wind.

All three are thrilling examples of modern Gothic fiction, and the richness of Zafón’s language and characterization ensure that his tales of blood and darkness will captivate even when the plot stretches thin.

Maureen Johnson: The Name of the Star & The Madness Underneath

the-madness-underneath-pic1the-name-of-the-star-by-maureen-johnsonFull disclosure: I LOVE young adult fantasy novels, and in particular young adult fantasy novels featuring strong and spunky female leads.

The first two (and unfortunately as yet only) books in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series certainly fit the bill. I discovered the series (and the author) during a visit to sunny southern California to visit my friend and fellow fantasy-lover Kate. She entrusted to me a copy of The Madness Underneath to bring back to St. Louis as a birthday present for our mutual friend Catie. Intrigued by Kate’s effusive recommendation and the synopsis on the back cover, I ended up downloading the first book – The Name of the Star – on my phone and reading the entire novel on the plane ride back to St. Louis. I followed up with The Madness Underneath and polished off both books before bedtime.

In some ways reminiscent of Christopher Fowler’s Peculiar Crimes Unit series (another of my perennial favorites), the books follow American transplant Rory Deveaux’s involvement with the secret ghost police of London.

In The Name of the Star, Rory’s new London boarding school finds itself at the center of a series of brutal murders mimicking the Jack the Ripper killings of more than a century before. The only one to see the prime suspect, Rory races to solve the mystery of the murderer’s identity before it’s too late. Closely following The Name of the Star chronologically, The Madness Underneath tracks Rory’s return to London and the sinister events that follow. Rather than being a self-contained mystery like the first novel, The Madness Underneath is clearly a set-up for the rest of the series.

I can’t wait to see what the next novel – the as yet unpublished Shadow Cabinet – will bring!

Bill Bryson: Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language

Unknown-1Further disclosure: I am an English nerd, and never tire of reading books of pop etymology and linguistics.

This is where my reading takes a sharp turn from the fantastic into the linguistic.

Bill Bryson has been a favorite of mine since I first read A Walk in the Woods back in high school, and I have read practically every work in his oeuvre since (with the notable exception of A Brief History of Nearly Everything – sorry, Joe). Some of my absolute favorites include his forays into the history of English and those who write it. I especially love Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as a Stage and The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way.

Recently, I decided it was finally time to dive into the follow-up to The Mother Tongue, which focuses entirely on American English rather than examining the language as a whole. In typically Bill Bryson fashion, the book was hilarious (I’m pretty sure I actually laughed out loud on several occasions), well-researched, and full of fascinating historical trivia (I’m definitely sure that I repeatedly bothered multiple people with all of my head-popping-up “Did you know!?” moments).

As a further bonus, this book will teach you that barely any of the American history you learned in elementary school is actually true as Bryson deconstructs our national creation myths (from the Pilgrim’s to the Founding Father’s to General Motors).

Even if you haven’t any more than a passing interest in words and where they come from, this book is a rollicking read.

John McWhorter: Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of the English Language

9781592404940Did I mention that I’m a nerd who loves reading books about English?

When I was picking up Made in America at the library, I couldn’t resist grabbing this slim little volume off the shelf as well (I mean, with a title like that…).

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue is a super-quick read (I started the book on the metro as I was heading to a morning doctor’s appointment and finished it up during my lunch break later that day). Not only does the book run to only a brief 200 pages or so, it’s also written in a style that’s incredibly accessible to the non-linguist (McWhorter is no impenetrable Saussure, that’s for sure).

While this read may be most enjoyable for the more serious armchair linguist (its main premise is an argument for Celtic influence on early forms of English), it’s straightforward style and fast pace ensure that it is anything but boring.

Intrigued by anything you read here? Check out Books Worth Reading and More Books Worth Reading, the first two installments in this series of mini-reviews, for even more thoughts and recommendations.

I would also love to hear any of your thoughts and recommendations, so please feel free to leave ‘em in the comments!

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More Books Worth Reading

According to Oscar Wilde,

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

In an effort to remain someone for whom I can have respect, I have been trying my hardest not to devolve into constantly reading fluff. Even though I’m haven’t yet been quite intrepid enough to pick up the various postmodern novels bound together with those I read in my Comparative Literature classes, I’ve still been trying to stick to things I’m not embarrassed to be seen reading on the Metro.

It’s a diverse and international collection, but the thread through all of the following books is history. From historical fiction to novels written in other eras to books exploring the way the past is inextricably linked to the present, all of these works are well worth a little of your own time.

Haruki Murakami: Dance Dance Dance (Dansu Dansu Dansu)


Ben Stone recommended that I read anything by Haruki Murakami, so the next time I was at the library I dutifully looked for his name among the fiction shelves. The only book the library had by Murakami was Dance Dance Dance. I was suspicious of the title, but since it seemed interesting enough so I took it home with me.

And I am so glad I did.

The story follows a nameless protagonist who returns to a location from his past in an effort to make sense of what has happened since. The book borders on the surreal, but if you relax, slip into it, and accept that not everything will make sense, it is wonderful. What struck me the most about Dance Dance Dance was the imagery. Murakami certainly has a way with word-pictures. I can only wish that I had been able to experience it in the original Japanese.

This book left me feeling melancholy yet oddly satisfied (or satisfied yet oddly melancholy – I’m still not sure). I highly recommend it, and will certainly be on the lookout for more Murakami novels myself.

Amitav Ghosh: Sea of Poppies & River of Smoke


These recommendations came from Matt Miller.

These two novels are some of the most richly and meticulously detailed works of historical fiction I have ever read. The first of the two, Sea of Poppies is set in colonial India in 1838, right before the Opium Wars. The aspect of this book that struck me the most was the way in which the dialect of the dialogue instantly immerses the reader in the the world of the story

The second in what will be the Ibis Trilogy (the third book is not yet published) is River of Smoke. When I picked it up I was looking forward to re-immersing myself in the language and locales of Sea of Poppies, but River of Smoke is surprisingly different in scope and feel from the first book. While many of the characters carry over from the first book, is set in primarily Canton as the Opium Wars are beginning in 1839. My disappointment barely lasted beyond the first few pages however, as River of Smoke turned out to be just as arresting and deeply imagined as Sea of Poppies.

Tana French: Faithful Place & Broken Harbor


Since I loved In the Woods so much when Kate Williamson recommended it to me, I had to track down the rest of the ongoing series. You can find my reviews of In the Woods and The Likeness here. The third and fourth books, Faithful Place and Broken Harbor, were enough like the first two that they were satisfying, yet different enough that they remained unpredictable.

Each book centers around a character who had a supporting role in the preceding story. In the Woods is from a detective’s point of view, The Likeness from his partner’s point of view, Faithful Place from her former boss’s point of view, and Broken Harbor from his old rival’s point of view. I appreciated this device immensely, as it meant that with every succeeding book the worlds of the preceding ones became richer and more detailed as previously unsympathetic or minor characters became more three-dimensional and their personalities and motivations were revealed to be more complex than it initially appeared.

Tana French’s novels also fit extremely well with the theme of history running through this post, as each book examines an event in the central character’s past in terms of how it affects their work and relationships in the present. This focus on motivation and the psyche of the individual takes what would otherwise be ordinary police thrillers and elevates them into something much more compelling.

I would highly recommend the whole series.

Lev Grossman: Codex


Codex was a fast-paced, gripping read…that was ultimately disappointing. The set-up of the novel was fascinating, yet it did not achieve enough depth to remain so. Furthermore, the ending felt rushed and none of the many puzzle pieces fit together quite as well as they were meant to.

So read Lev Grossman, certainly. Just stick to The Magicians and The Magician King (which I did not review in my first post but probably should have). The first is a work of fantasy that borrows shamelessly from the Harry Potter series and the Chronicles of Narnia (and slyly alludes to many other well-known works of fantasy), yet somehow manages to still stand up in it’s own right. The second takes the story further, to a darker, less Christian, version of Narnia itself. Both are lots of fun (if something so dark can be fun) for avid Fantasy readers. How many references can you catch?

Jane Austen: Everything


I just went on a Jane Austen binge. I read Persuasion, and then Mansfield Park, and then Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and finally Pride & Prejudice.

What can I say? They’re all classics for a reason.

The real beauty of Jane Austen novels lies not in the romance, but in the characterizations. Her characterizations are as astute and well-drawn as Dickens’, without crossing the line into caricature (although some do come close – Mr. Collins, anyone?).

So, read these. You too, men.

Alexandre Dumas (Père): The Three Musketeers (Les Trois Mousquetaires) & The Count of Monte Cristo (Le Comte de Monte-Cristo)


The Three Musketeers was one of my favorite books in high school. In fact, on a somewhat related note, my two best friends and I dressed up as three musketeers in high school. Not the fashionable Parisian guards…the candy bars.

Anyway, revisiting The Three Musketeers lately inspired me to pick up the much longer (although ultimately much more absorbing) Count of Monte Cristo. I had previously tried to read The Three Musketeers once before, but gave it up as a bad job when I realized the reason I suddenly couldn’t figure out who any of the characters were or what was going on halfway through the book because the version I had was not only abridged, but badly so. Reading that version of The Count of Monte Cristo was almost as bad as having the ending to A Tale of Two Cities ruined by the heavily, HEAVILY abridged learn-to-read version that I read in 2nd grade. WHO MAKES A LEARN-TO-READ VERSION OF A TALE OF TWO CITIES FOR CHILDREN? WHO DOES THAT? (But actually, if anyone else has ever heard of this, please let me know. I am trying to find it again because I am so curious. The book would be about the size of your palm and has a pink spine).

Wow, so many sidetracks. SO. The Count of Monte Cristo – I’d be willing to say that it’s one of the best and most epic tales of revenge EVER. Well worth making it through all 1,200 or so pages.

If you’re looking for even more mini book reviews, check out the first installment of “Books Worth Reading”. Please share any recommendations of your own in the comments!

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Books Worth Reading, or How I Spend My Library Card

As you look through the following reading list, you may notice a few patterns.

I have a tendency, when I read books, to become fully immersed in and obsessed with the world of the story. That is why many of the books in this list reveal a sort of progression – of periods, of themes, and of genres – as I try to recover the world that I lost when one story ended by reconstructing pieces of it in another. This tendency toward total immersion is also why I often burn through all (or at least many) books by the same author in a single run, and why I so frequently re-read books.

So, I apologize if you have no especial interest in British fiction, history, magic, mystery, and Romaticism. This list will not hold much interest for you. But, if you – like me – simply cannot get enough of any of these, prepare to find some treasures (and please leave me some recommendations in return, as I am nearly always looking for something new to read!).

Charles Dickens: Bleak House

bleakhouseMuch has already been said about Bleak House, so I’ll keep my comments brief. You know this one.

It’s Dickens, so the characterizations (caricaturizations?) are hilarious yet oddly familiar, and the story is absurd yet painfully realistic and somehow all come together in the end. It’s about a byzantine court case, and has more in common with Kafka’s The Trial than you might think.

There’s also a BBC miniseries. I haven’t watched it all the way through (yet), but it was certainly off to a promising start.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Everything

Complete Sherlock HolmesBeginning last summer, I read every single Sherlock Holmes story every written – the second time through. I love tension in these stories between the fantastic and the mundane, and when you throw in the indomitable logic of Sherlock, Watson’s endearing adoration, and the gritty backdrop of nineteenth-century Britain, there’s no way I can resist.

These stories have been favorites of mine for a long time. If you haven’t already, you should read them. And then you should watch Sherlock, the incredible BBC adaptation that brings the famous consulting detective into the 21st century. Even though I knew whodunit in every episode, I still watched the first two series in three nights (which is not something I usually do). Alas, series 3 will not be appearing until 2014.

Tana French: In the Woods and The Likeness

inthewoods_us_thumbIn the Woods came highly recommended to my by my friend Kate, both by letter and by blog (in fact, you can even read her take on it here – check out #10). The novel is written from the perspective of a Deeply Troubled Irish murder detective With a Past. He is called upon to solve a child murder case from the town where he grew up – the town from where his two childhood best friends disappeared, and from where he almost did. The narrative moves briskly, there are lots of clues, and lots of layers and psychology beyond the simple facts of the case.

likenessThe Likeness is the sequel to In the Woods, this time from the perspective of the first detective’s partner. Previously an undercover agent, she is shocked when a murder victim is discovered to have been inhabiting the identity she abandoned when she left undercover work years before. The only way to solve the crime and discover the girl’s true identity? To resume her former role, of course, and impersonate the impersonator who was impersonating who she once impersonated…

Both In the Woods and The Likeness are beautifully written and hauntingly imagined, with brilliant characterizations and unsettling conclusions. There are also a third and fourth novel in the series, Faithful Place and Broken Harbor, but the library doesn’t have it and I have yet to track it down.

J.K. Rowling: The Casual Vacancy

13497818While J.K. Rowling’s distinctive style was pleasantly familiar from the first, it soon became clear that, far from being a Harry Potter for grown-ups, The Casual Vacancy was deeply depressing, and even more so because of its utter mundanity. The story takes place in a small, insular town in England. The plot is centered around the vicious politics of the older generation on the local town council, as well as the search of the younger generation for something or someone to care about.

There wasn’t a single whiff of magic or adventure the whole way through. However, it was a thoroughly engrossing read, and one that I would highly recommend.

Margaret Atwood: The Year of the Flood and The Penelopiad

the-year-of-the-floodMargaret Atwood’s novels are dystopian, feminist, agnostic, and thoroughly irresistible. I had read (and very much enjoyed) both The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx & Crake, so when I spotted the small Atwood section at the library, I pulled out the two I hadn’t yet encountered.

The Year of the Flood takes place in the same dystopic future rife with genetic experiments and extremist cults as Oryx & Crake, where corporations rule the world and the patriarchy still persists. The novel is gripping and the world it creates profoundly chilling.

atwood_margaret_penelopiadThe Penelopiad re-imagines The Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view. Sidelined as the quintessential faithful wife in the original, Atwood gives Penelope a personality and voice of her own. The novel focuses on a throwaway line from The Odyssey, when it is stated that Odysseus hangs twelve of Penelope’s maids in addition to killing her many suitors when he returns from the war and his subsequent extended voyage. The original never makes it clear exactly why those maids were murdered, and this question becomes a central piece of The Penelopiad. In between Penelope’s chapters, the maids themselves form a sort of Greek chorus, finding at least a collective voice. Little novel, lots of heavy themes. Rich and rewarding reading.

Georgette Heyer: Everything

imagesI’ll admit up front that Georgette Heyer novels are one of my guilty pleasures (that I’m not actually that guilty about). While her novels may be classified as Regency romance, it’s totally historical fiction, right? Definitely not romance…right?

Let’s not dwell on classification. Let’s instead consider how finely researched her novels are, and how finely detailed their portraits of society and fashion in Regency England. When I want a light read that will cheer me up (and impart a strong desire to don a muslin gown for a ton party, take a turn about the park in a fashionable barouche, and generally adopt outmoded slang), Georgette Heyer’s HISTORICAL FICTIONS always do the trick.

Ok fine. Romances. Whatever.

Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and The Ladies of Grace Adieu

200px-Jonathan_strange_and_mr_norrell_coverWhen I finished this novel – which is written as if it were a scholarly history, complete with extensive footnotes citing nonexistent sources – I felt entirely convinced that there is, in fact, a tradition of English magic beginning with the Raven King. I was actually rather surprised that his name had never come up in my AP European History class in high school. After a few minutes of reflection, it occurred to me that magic probably still didn’t exist, and the Raven King’s legacy of English Magic had as much connection to reality as Harry Potter’s.

While the footnotes and citations go a long way towards establishing the faux-credibility of the novel, the dovetailing of the story with actual historical events and figures (the Duke of Wellington is a relatively major character) and the length (around 800 pages) certainly help as well. I was probably also especially susceptible, given that I have been steeping myself in British magic of various varieties since I was a small child (e.g. the works of E. Nesbit, Phillip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, and Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermeyer). In fact, Wrede & Stevermeyer’s novel, Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country (which, by the way, is one of my favorite books ever) and its two sequels even presented a re-imagined British history in which magic exists alongside identifiable historical figures. But I’m becoming sidetracked and verbose, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Storieswhich is never a good idea.

So, I will summarize: Read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell because it is fascinating (for so many reasons!). Read The Ladies of Grace Adieu, a subsequent collection of short stories, as a means to cope with the void left by the end of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Feel it’s inadequacy to fill that void, and reach for another book at least set in the same time period. Which brings me to…

Daisy Hay: Young Romantics: the Shelley’s, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives

YoungRomanticsFeeling let down by the end of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, I felt that this book had the potential to fill the gap. While there wouldn’t be any magic, it would at least be set (predominantly) in Britain during and after the Napoleonic Wars. When I read the back of the book, I knew I had to give it a try. Always one to be won over by a feminist slant, I was pleased to read, “The women in this circle have often been portrayed merely as spouses or unknowns; Daisy Hay finally gives them due prominence and a narrative vein of their own.” I was also very much intrigued by the idea of a group biography.

The book did not disappoint. The lack of magic was more than compensated for by the surfeit of drama. Although the work is a non-fiction account of a group of Romantic poets and intellectuals, most of it reads like a novel. In fact, I had a hard time putting the book down at the end of my lunch breaks, as I was so eager to learn what would become of idealistic Shelleys, the perpetually spurned Claire Clairmont, the (frankly obnoxious) Lord Byron, and their ever-extending circle of friends and acquaintances. Full of intrigue, suicide, and pregnancy (I have never been so thankful for birth control), it’s easy to forget that all of this actually happened.

I would highly recommend Young Romantics – even to those who eschew non-fiction and wouldn’t look twice at a volume of Romantic poetry.

Neil Gaiman: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

tumblr_l0utn1cPXk1qav9ywo1_400I will preface my comments by saying that I am not usually enamoured of short stories. True, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe are among my favorite works of literature, and I will (and have) happily read through them all in one sitting. But, as a general rule, I tend to prefer more long-form writing.

I picked this volume up because I was beginning to feel that I couldn’t call myself a true fan of books about magic (and, I will admit, young adult fantasy in particular) without having read anything by Neil Gaiman. Since the library presented only one option, short stories it was.

However, while a book of short stories would not have been my first pick had I been given a choice, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed these. While a few tended to the obscure, most of the stories in the volume were phenomenal. The final two – “Murder Mysteries” and “Snow, Glass, Apples” – were the two that really stuck with me. “Murder Mysteries” was a truly original take on the genre (I will say no more, lest I spoil it), and “Snow, Glass, Apples” is one of the most compelling re-imaginings of a fairy tale (in this case, Snow White) I have seen. Gregory Maguire’s got nothing on this.

So know you know how I have been amusing myself lately.

Please leave any other book recommendations you might have in the comments!

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