11 Reasons to Read STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. {Goodreads}

Station Eleven popped onto my reading radar in 2014 when it was first published, intriguing me with its blend of post-apocalyptic plot, Shakespearian elements, and gorgeous cover design. Years passed and I never got around to reading it–that is, until recently when one of my friends mentioned that it’s one of her favorite books ever… and she had a copy of it with her in Oxford! How could I say no to this golden opportunity? I’m so glad I finally read Station Eleven, and here are 11 reasons why you should, too:

1. A creative twist on a popular genre. It’s no secret that post-apocalypse fiction and storytelling in both books and movies has become much more popular in the last decade or so. However, Mandel has breathed fresh air into this genre by adding a unique, creative twist on what you would usually expect. It doesn’t feel stale at all, which is greatly appreciated.

2. So. Many. Characters. There are so many characters in this book that sometimes it’s hard to keep track; however, I think Mandel does a great job of balancing their perspectives and stories within the context of the rest of the novel. Hearing from so many points of view also keeps the plot moving quickly.

3. Incorporation of different text formats. I love books that include emails, letters, texts, etc. between characters, and Station Eleven is no exception. Not only do they help keep things interesting by switching up the writing style, but they also make the characters seem more realistic.

4. Creepy, eerie, and suspenseful atmosphere. Reading this novel alone in your bedroom at night is sure to make you check under your bed twice before turning off the lights. Even so, I couldn’t put this book down because I was so invested in knowing what would happen next.

5. A gorgeous cover. How could I not give this amazing cover design some time in the spotlight?

6. Shakespearian elements. If you’ve been following my blog for a while (or have seen this post or this post) then you’re probably aware of my love-hate relationship with the Bard. I was worried that you would need actual knowledge of Shakespeare in order to enjoy this story, but fortunately that’s not the case. Still, I did enjoy the whole premise of keeping arts and literature alive in times of utter struggle.

7. Orchestra banter. I played in my school’s orchestra for about ten years growing up (go second violins!) so I really enjoyed the simultaneously witty and cheesy orchestra banter that went on between the members of the Traveling Symphony. Makes me miss my orchestra days!

8. Unsettlingly believable. Some books in this end-of-the-world genre tend to be a little far-fetched and unrealistic; however, I completely believe that some sort of flu like the one in Station Eleven could wipe out the planet some day. Scary!

9. Past, present, and future. Instead of focusing solely on what happens after society has collapsed, a significant portion of this novel takes place in these characters’ pasts, exploring how they got to where they are in the present time of the story. I love this narrative decision because it adds depth to the novel and makes the reader more invested in the characters by learning how far they’ve come up until this point.

10. Character-driven story. Unlike many novels in this genre, Station Eleven is largely driven by characters rather than plot, most likely due in part to the point previously mentioned. This was such a nice surprise!

11. The ending. Since this novel is focused more on characters than plot, the ending tied up many personal loose ends while leaving the plot or the future of the characters rather ambiguous. I thought it perfectly reflected the tone of the rest of the novel.

Have I convinced you to read Station Eleven? Have you already read this novel? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Advertisements

NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman | Review

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. {Goodreads}

I love Neil Gaiman’s writing. He could write an instruction manual to a washing machine and I would probably still adore it, admiring the way he always blends wit, charm, and thought-provoking ideas into his writing. With that being said, I eagerly looked forward to reading this collection of Norse myths even though my only knowledge of Norse mythology came from the Thor movies by Marvel.

Fortunately, Gaiman has a way of explaining background information of Norse myths for those who don’t know much about them while not taking away from the actual stories themselves. I also really appreciated the overarching goal of this book: to breathe new life into these old myths while simultaneously preserving their core ideas and elements. The stories are told with a more charming and whimsical tone rather than a darker attitude, juxtaposing against the violence, betrayal, and revenge present in the stories themselves. While someone who is well versed in Norse mythology may find this book too rudimentary, I think it is the perfect balance between informative and entertaining.

It’s strange to review a book that has less to do with the writer and more about the myths themselves, so I will just end this review a bit more praise for Gaiman’s captivating writing style (and narration of the audio book!). I highly recommend Norse Mythology even if you know nothing about Thor, Loki, or Ragnarok!

What are your thoughts on Norse Mythology? Do you have a favorite book by Neil Gaiman? Are you a fan of reading mythology in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

ON WRITING by Stephen King | Review

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999–and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it–fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. {Goodreads}

I’ve been around Stephen King’s books and stories for most of my life. Not only is my mother a huge fan of his writing, but it’s sort of difficult to grow up as a self-proclaimed bookworm and not be around his books. Stephen King is a prolific writer with the added popularity of many of his books being made into movies and television shows. Although I’ve only read a few of his books (The Gunslinger, which I disliked, and The Shining, which I enjoyed), I have nevertheless always admired King for his remarkable creativity and ability to write so much. When I learned that he had written a memoir all about his life as a writer and how he goes about the writing process I knew that I would have to read it. So, in the airport waiting to fly back to Oxford, I began.

On Writing is a perfect blend of personal memoir and writing advice. In a book like this I feel as though starting with the more personal parts is necessary in order to give the reader context and establish credibility with the audience. Who is this man, and what makes him qualified to dish out advice? (Even though I’m pretty sure most of us could answer those two questions without a moment’s hesitation.) It’s also reassuring to learn that King did not immediately become a bestselling author the first time he put a pen to paper; rather, he worked tirelessly to improve his writing over time through incessant practice and persistently putting his work out there for others to see. This personal section also helped put a lot of King’s work in perspective and would likely be even more interesting for someone more familiar with several of his novels.

There are countless points in this book that I found myself nodding my head along with, endlessly surprised by the way King is somehow able to put into words what the process of writing actually feels like. He manages to articulate precisely how it feels when you suddenly have a spark of inspiration as well as the uncertainty of not knowing what direction your writing should take next. Most importantly, he deftly describes how important and necessary writing feels to those who do it.

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

However, I think it should be said that, like any advice, King’s tips and tricks for writing should be taken with a grain of salt. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to carve out enough time in the day to consistently write thousands of words. The tone of the book can also definitely come off a bit cocky and flippant– although I suppose if you’ve been as successful as Stephen King, you can sort of get away with this. To King’s credit, he does make it clear that this advice is just that: advice, not writing rules set in stone. This book is nothing if not authentic, genuine, and brutally honest.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading On Writing and would definitely return to it again in the future for some inspiration and important reminders. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of King’s advice, I do appreciate his honesty and willingness to be so open with readers. It makes me want to read more of his fiction now!

What are your thoughts on On Writing? Do you have a favorite book by Stephen King? What’s your best piece of writing advice? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesdays: Books I Need ASAP

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is technically Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early. However, as per usual I’ve decided to switch things up a bit and share the top ten books I need ASAP… of titles that I’ve created myself! (I made a similar post a few months ago with books I’d like Santa to bring me!)

What books do you need ASAP? What do you think of the titles I’ve listed here? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

GIOVANNI’S ROOM by James Baldwin | Review

Published in 1956, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room is considered a notable work of queer literature for focusing on homosexuality and desire between men. David, an American man struggling to accept his sexuality, moves to Paris and soon finds himself involved with an Italian man named Giovanni. Turmoil ensues as David must choose between Giovanni and Hella, the woman he’s been seeing for some time. Much of this debate between man and woman, transgressive homosexuality and traditional heterosexuality, past and future, all take place within the walls of Giovanni’s dark, dirty, suffocating room. In a novel that begins in nearly the same way that it ends, the journey down memory lane is just as important as the present from which David tells us his story.

Unlike many students who had to read Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) and The Fire Next Time (1963) in classes over the years, I had never read anything by Baldwin until I was recently assigned this for my English Literature 1910-Present tutorial. My professor suggested watching the 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck, before reading the novel in order to gain a clearer sense of historical and social context of the time period. Before I even begin to talk about the novel itself, I must say that I cannot recommend this documentary enough. Based on Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House and paired with photographs of recent clashes between law enforcement and African Americans protesting in the streets, this documentary is a disturbing reminder that much more progress needs to be made in terms of how we address racial inequality in the United States. Whether or not you read Giovanni’s Room, definitely consider checking out I Am Not Your Negro. 

Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room is remarkable in many ways, from its discussion of homosexuality that was incredibly controversial in 1950s America when it was published to its hauntingly emotional writing. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this novel is the way it is structured, with the broad details of the plot– the fact that David ultimately leaves Giovanni, that Giovanni does something awful and ends up sentenced to death, that this is the night that Giovanni will die– all laid out in the very beginning. The entire novel is written from the first person perspective of David, but it starts out in the present tense and then shifts to past tense as he recounts memories of a night spent with a boy as a teenager, his tumultuous relationship with his father, and, finally, his time in Paris with Giovanni. In this way, the structure of the novel reminded me of that of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, in which you know a murder happens right from the start and you’re reading to figure out how and why it happened. Knowing the what from the beginning allows you to really focus on the characters themselves rather than plot, which is always my preferred way to read.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t at least mention one of the most interesting aspects of this novel: the actual room itself. Giovanni’s room (after which the novel is titled) plays an integral role in the story as both an important physical space and a metaphor for countless things: the relationship between Giovanni and David, homosexuality, the stigma of societal labels in general, etc. The possibilities are endless here, people. I love when writers play around with symbolism like this, especially in ways that seem really obvious and simple but are actually quite complicated and multifaceted.

Overall, I’m so glad that this novel was assigned for one of my tutorials and I’m already looking forward to reading more of James Baldwin’s writing in the future. I love discovering new (to me) authors!

What are your thoughts on Giovanni’s Room? Would you recommend any of James Baldwin’s other novels? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo | Review

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart. {Goodreads}

Until a few months ago, all I knew about Les Misérables was that it was a huge book, a long movie/musical, and involved someone going to prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Suffice it to say that this lack of information has been remedied. After watching the 2012 film adaptation and repeatedly listening to the soundtrack for weeks on end, I finally decided to go the extra mile and read the 1463-page Victor Hugo novel on which the musical is based.

When I told my friends that I was reading this book they looked at me as though I had suddenly sprouted glittery fairy wings out of my shoulder blades. What on earth was I thinking? Why would I dedicate so much time to reading a novel when I already knew the basic plot from the musical? But that was precisely the point: surely the musical couldn’t be exactly like the novel itself. Curious to see the differences between these works, I plugged in my headphones and plunged into the audiobook.

This brings me to my next point: I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Les Mis if the idea of flipping through over a thousand pages of text makes you want to run and hide. Not only are there some great vocal performers reading the novel, but it also allows you to still read while doing other things (laundry, cooking, walking, etc.). What at first seems like a formidable tome that will never be finished suddenly becomes much more manageable as a 10+ hour audiobook.

The novel itself is brilliant. It possesses all of the qualities I love in literature: beautiful writing that makes you relish every word, characters that seem like people you’ve known for years, action that makes you want to keep reading even when you know you should’ve gone to sleep a long time ago, and perspectives on life that you had never fully considered before. This novel surprised me in countless ways, from its unexpected poignancy and wit to way it focused much more on the story of Jean Valjean than did the film or musical. We weren’t introduced to a wider cast of characters until about halfway through the novel, which I actually preferred. Rather than rush through the back story of arguably the most important character in the story, Hugo properly develops Valjean’s personality and past before building upon it in the rest of the novel as other characters come into play.

Is this book over-the-top at times? Yes. Is it sometimes cheesy, cliché, and unrealistic? Yes again. However, Hugo also makes important points about poverty, growing up, justice, truth, and rebellion. This novel may be set centuries in the past, but it nevertheless remains relevant in our society today.

Overall, I am so glad I decided to take the leap and read this massive novel. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the musical or simply interested in literature from the nineteenth century. Besides, what better way is there to fuel your love for the musical than by reading the novel on which it is based?

What are your thoughts on this novel or musical? Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

13 Reasons to Read A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket

Since today is Friday the 13th, I’d thought I would interrupt our usual Feminist Fridays feature to talk about something a little more…. unlucky. Over the past few months I’ve been reading (via audio book) the entirety of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket for the very first time. When a friend learned that for some reason I never read this series when I was a kid, she immediately told me that I must read it ASAP. Fortunately, there’s nothing unfortunate about this series! In case you’re turned off by the rather strange title, here are 13 reasons why you should read A Series of Unfortunate Events: 

1. The writing is witty, clever, and funny. I’m a sucker for puns and cleverness in general, so Lemony Snicket’s hilarious yet smart writing style immediately made me adore this series.

2. There are SO MANY BOOKS. There’s nothing better than being captivated by a series that seems to go on forever. With thirteen books, it’s easy to feel as though this series will never end, yet it’s so fast-paced that it never felt like the plot was dragging or carrying on too long.

3. Each book is pretty short. I think the fact that each book is fairly short (usually between four to six hours of audio book, or 200-300 pages) helps keep the series from feeling slow, allowing it to be so long overall. You always feel like you’re making fast progress as you read, which is always a good feeling.

4. You never know what will happen next. The plots of these books are wild. Even when you think you’ve figured out how each book will end, Lemony Snicket throws a wrench in all of your carefully crafted predictions.

5. The audio books are fantastic. I’ve listened to every single one of these books on audio book and I loved every single second of it. Not only is the narrator (Tim Curry) incredible, but the extra sounds and music also make it feel as though you are right there alongside the Baudelaire children, desperately trying to outrun Count Olaf. This was the perfect way for me to read this series while abroad because I could listen while walking around Oxford to college and lecture, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, etc. I would highly, highly recommend the audio books if you’re looking to read (or reread) this series!

6. It’s as entertaining for adults as for children. Lemony Snicket has managed to write a series that is aptly suited for both kids and adults without it feeling too simple or too mature for any age. While he does clearly state “messages” or “lessons” that he wishes children to take away, he does so in a way that is clever and also a great reminder for adults (sometimes adults need the reminder more than kids!).

7. So many funny repeated phrases. Quite a few phrases and ideas are repeated time and time again throughout this series, simultaneously forming a common thread between the books and creating what feel like little inside jokes between the reader and writer. I couldn’t help but smile to myself when any of these phrases reappeared.

8. Very, very bookish. Lemony Snicket clearly knows his intended audience (bookworms) well because there are so many aspects of this series that appeal to bibliophiles: Klaus’ love of reading, constant references to literature like T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” countless trips to libraries… the list goes on and on!

9. Each book is unique. Sometimes books in series tend to blur together because they seem so similar. Luckily, that’s not the case here! Each book is very distinct from the others thanks to creative plots, unusual settings, and a constant flood of new characters.

10. Character development. As engrossing as the plot of this series is, I think the star of the show is really the remarkable character development that occurs as the Violet, Klaus, and Sunny make their way through obstacle after obstacle.

11. Count Olaf. That’s right: I’m actually listing a villain here. I think Count Olaf is one of the most hilarious, creative, clever, sinister villains I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. He’s definitely a bad guy that you can’t help but love to hate!

12. Nostalgia. If you read this series as a kid, then you get the added benefit of lovely nostalgia. Nevertheless, I still loved the way this series reminded me of how I used to get lost in endless series of books as a kid, wandering the aisles of spacious libraries just like Violent, Klaus, and Sunny. Get ready for a (rather odd) trip down memory lane!

13. It gives you an binge-watch the fantastic Netflix series. I can’t recommend this Netflix series enough! The acting is incredible, the music is excellent, and the dreary world of the Baudelaire children is captured perfectly. Definitely check it out!

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to read this series if you haven’t already! Happy Friday the 13th!

What are your thoughts on A Series of Unfortunate Events? Do you have a specific favorite book out of the entire series? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

WHY READ MOBY-DICK? by Nathaniel Philbrick | Review

One of the greatest American novels finds its perfect contemporary champion in Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbrick’s enlightening and entertaining tour through Melville’s classic. As he did in his National Book Award–winning bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick brings a sailor’s eye and an adventurer’s passion to unfolding the story behind an epic American journey. He skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters—finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. An ideal match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? will start conversations, inspire arguments, and make a powerful case that this classic tale waits to be discovered anew. {Goodreads}

After reading Herman Melville’s classic novel Herman Melville several years ago, I asked often asked myself the very same question that Nathaniel Philbrick poses in the title of his book, Why Read Moby-Dick?As you can clearly tell from my disappointed review way back in 2014, I was not at all impressed with what I had been told was a must-read classic novel. I as excited to read it after having read the young adult novel Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard, which references this whale tale a great deal. I couldn’t get past how incredibly dull Moby Dick seemed, which surprised me because I’m usually the kind of person who loves classics that people often think are boring. With that being said, I was ready to let Nathanial Philbrick convince me otherwise not that several years had passed since my initial encounter with Ishmael.

Of course, now I must answer the glaring question that awaits us: Has this book convinced me to read Moby Dick again? Perhaps. Whether or not I decide to read it again at some point in the not-so-near future, I will say that Philbrick has given me a much greater appreciation for this classic novel. Philbrick has a knack for uncovering meaning behind scenes, quotations, and even characters that I would otherwise have simply glossed over as rather insignificant. It’s also inspiring and motivating to see someone so enthusiastic about a work of literature, particularly one considered to be a renowned classic. As someone who generally adores reading and discussing classics, it’s refreshing to read something by someone who feels the same way. Philbrick dissects the novel in a manner that makes it so much more interesting than actually reading the book itself:

“To be in the presence of a great leader is to know a blighted soul who has managed to make the darkness work for him. Ishmael says it best: “For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but a disease.” In chapter 36, “The Quarter-Deck,” Melville show us how susceptible we ordinary people are to the seductive power of a great and demented man.”

However, I will say that I’m not sure how enjoyable Why Read Moby-Dick? would actually be if someone hadn’t read Moby Dick before. I think you have to be at least a little interested in the classic to begin with if you’re going to enjoy Nathaniel Philbrick’s book. What you see is what you get: there’s no getting around the fact that it’s literally a book about a book about whaling, so there shouldn’t be many surprises there.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to the audio book of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Why Read Moby-Dick? and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in Herman Melville’s classic novel.

What are your thoughts on Nathaniel Philbrick’s book or Moby Dick in general? Would you ever read this rather polarizing classic? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

NIGHTWOOD by Djuna Barnes | Review

Published in 1936 despite numerous rejections from editors and critics alike, Djuna Barnes’s novel Nightwood is a sprawling narrative of love, lust, and loss. Set against the bustling backdrop of several iconic cities (Paris, Berlin, Vienna, etc.), the story follows a tangled web of characters all struggling to fully express their identities in a society within rigid expectations of who they should be and how they should behave. In his written introduction to the novel, T.S. Eliot describes Nightwood as possessing “the great achievement of a style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliance of wit and characterization, and a quality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy.” I can’t think of a better way to articulate the experience of reading such a bizarre, haunting, beautiful, decidedly modernist novel.

Although I love reading modernist literature, particularly that written by American writers, I had never heard of Djuna Barnes or her work prior to being asked to read Nightwood for one of my tutorials. Now that I’ve read some of Barnes’s work I can’t help but feel as though it is a great shame that she is not featured in more reading lists or is not more widely read in general. While the novel’s reliance on experimental narrative structure and a modernist style may initially seem intimidating to some readers, it can actually feel freeing to read such a rambling story. (In fact, some literary critics in the past have claimed that Nightwood should not even be considered an actual novel in form.) You never know where the narrative will turn next– a new character? a new city? a leap in time? In this way, Nightwood is incredibly engaging, engrossing, and captivating.

If you’re like me and adore stories that are motivated by characters rather than plot, then you’ve come to the right place. There is little to no discernible plot in this novel; rather, the text is primarily character-driven with dialogue that almost feels as though the characters are talking at one another rather than conversing with each other. Nearly all characters in this novel struggle with some form of their identity that is not accepted by traditional mainstream culture. Notably, this novel is incredibly important in studies of lesbian literature as well as fiction that challenges the traditional male/female binary in general. Although Judith Butler coined the term “gender performativity” in 1990 in her book Gender Trouble, Barnes had already been discussing the concept of performing gender decades earlier in Nightwood. From masculine Robin in a relationship with Nora and Jenny to Matthew, a man who pretends to be a doctor and cross-dresses in his bedroom, numerous figures in this novel challenge the rigid stereotypes of masculinity and femininity that have permeated society for centuries.

Overall, Barnes’s Nightwood is a strange but remarkably valuable novel that more people should be encouraged to read. In the male-dominated realm of early twentieth century English modernism, Djuna Barnes’s voice is a welcome change.

What are your thoughts on Nightwood? Have you ever read Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

HAPPILY by Chauncey Rogers | Review

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Laure is a teenage street urchin just trying to get away. Where the rest of the world sees an enchanting love story, Laure sees royal incompetence and an opportunity to exploit it. She’ll have wealth and a way out of a life she detests, if she can only manage to pay off a would-be cloth merchant, outrun the angry bandits, hoodwink the royal family, and survive to tell the tale. {Goodreads}

Recently I was asked to read and review Happily by Chauncey Rogers, and I immediately accepted after learning that it was a retelling of the classic Cinderella story. While this fairy tale has certainly been retold many, many times before, I was intrigued to see how Rogers would make his version unique and captivating. Fortunately, I was not disappointed! Without further ado, here are five reasons to read Happily: 

+ It’s a creative retelling. Nothing about this novel feels stale, overdone, or unoriginal. Rogers has managed to take an old story and breathe new life into it through creating a new fictional world, characters you can’t help but root for, and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It can be difficult to find retellings like this that feel refreshing and new, so I always appreciate it when I come across one!

+ Laure is fabulous. Laure, the protagonist, is such a strong, independent, witty, and captivating narrator. She is flawed and often makes mistakes, but that only makes her even more easy to relate to as she struggles to make her way forward. I also really liked how her friendship with Luc happens gradually and naturally, unlike in many fairy tales.

+ The writing style. Rogers’ writing style is witty, entertaining, and engrossing. I quickly became invested in the story early on in the novel and my interest didn’t waver until I finished the very last page.

+ You won’t be able to put it down. There are so many twists and turns in this novel! Just when you think the climax has arrived and everything has been resolved, the plot takes another unexpected twist.

+ The ending makes everything worth it. I love how the classic Cinderella story appears at the end, although inverted. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s safe to say that you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks again to the author for an E-ARC! I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairytale retellings, adventure stories, and witty humor.

Do you like fairytale retellings? Do you have a favorite one? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY