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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: Complete, review to come

October 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm Leave a comment

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is pretty hot right now. It’s been very popular, not to mention the fact that the movie adaptation is being released tomorrow. I read the book firstly because I’ve been wanting to for a while now but I was also rushed by the fact that I hate having books spoiled for me, even in small ways. With all the chatter surrounding the movie, I wanted to read it for myself before I saw or heard something that I would wish that I hadn’t. It was also helpful that my sister owns a copy that I was able to borrow.

I found that I enjoyed the book quite a bit, especially the beginning. The first few scenes after each of the major characters are introduced were particularly good and solidified my affection for them. As you may know if you’ve been following this blog, if I like the characters, it’s much easier for me to enjoy the book as a whole, and this book didn’t make that difficult for me in any other department either.

Although the subject matter was serious, the writing itself didn’t feel overly heavy or relentlessly depressing. In fact, there were several times when I found myself laughing, but the extraordinary thing was that the lighter moments didn’t overwhelm the story, either. They didn’t at all detract from the more serious events of the plot by lessening their gravity in any way. The balance this book managed to achieve was absolutely fantastic.

Speaking of the more serious subject matter, the way it was depicted seemed absolutely true to life. It’s obvious that the author did his research well when it comes to the medical aspects of cancer, but I’m talking about more than that. The characters’ emotional and mental states as they worked through the reality of their conditions and the events of their lives in general felt real in a way that not all books can manage. It didn’t oversimplify or fall back on common tropes or put a gloss over any harsh realities. It strove to tell the story as it really was (or would have been if it actually was real and not a work of fiction), and I think that it succeeded in that.

Personally, I could have done without a few of the explanations of that, though, like those times when the narrator Hazel actually talks about how stories about kids with cancer normally go and what she sees as being wrong with them. It just felt to me like the author stepping in to point out that he was telling his story “the right way”, which I think the reader could have concluded, or not concluded, for him/herself. I was also a little disappointed by the included explanation of the novel’s title, although, to be fair, it is a YA novel and not all young adults would have caught the Shakespeare reference in the same way that I did or would have analyzed it to the same extent.

These things, and a few other moments that felt just a bit “writerly” to me are probably just a result of me being the sort of person I am– an adult (as opposed to young adult) writer who has taken quite a few college-level literature courses. Of course, that did also mean that I was able to pick up on quite a few of the other literature references in the text. It’s not that they were really hidden, but I did smile a bit seeing familiar poems and other things like that. Perhaps in the end it balances out.

I would definitely recommend giving this book a try. Yes, even if you plan to see the movie. Do I plan on seeing it? To be honest, I’m not sure. It’s not high on my list of priorities, especially because I almost always enjoy the book much more than the adaptation to begin with, but we’ll see what happens. For now, I’m rating this book at four stars.

Four Stars

June 5, 2014 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

Returning After My Long Absense

Well, let’s see if I can still remember how to do this blogging thing. How long has it been? Wow, January 1st: that’s the last time I posted. I said then that I hadn’t read a real book since August, and, to be honest, this semester was not much better.

My one literature class was Literary Theory, so I read a lot of guys like Foucault and Derrida and Marx and Freud, theorists and critics but not novelists. The one novel I did read for that class was called Passing by Nella Larsen. I might talk about that one a little later, but the point is that, other than that, I once again had no time for reading real books.

The good news is I finally graduated! So now that I’ve got my bachelor’s degree, a nice job lined up, and generally a complete shift in my life, I have actually been able to find some time to read again. Imagine that. I started out with The Fault in Our Stars, which I borrowed from my sister and finished in two days. Now I’m reading a book that I bought this summer and hadn’t had a chance to get around to: The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I hadn’t realized when I bought it or when I started reading it that it was on the 1001 list, but now it looks like I’m on my way to long-awaited #68!

Now, everyone who might have been reading this blog has probably long forgotten about it by now, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. In the context of a life-long challenge, this is really nothing more than a bump in the road. Sometime soon, I’ll post a review or something of the sort about The Fault in Our Stars, followed by something about The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I’ve also got plenty of great ideas for things I want to read now, amplified by the fact that I’ve been waiting so long for the chance to get to read them, so, if you’re reading this and are at all interested, stay tuned!

June 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm Leave a comment

An Overview of my 1001 Journey: 2013

Well, let’s face it. As years go, 2013 was basically a bust. I haven’t read a book (a real book) since August, and that one never even got finished. My total 1001 books for the year? 8 Last year I read 21. But, as is my tradition, I will take the time now to talk about my year in review.


The year got off to a fair start with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and Heart of Darkness in January. Both books took me longer to read than I expected. For a lot of reasons. Which, looking back, look a lot like excuses. But, compared to the rest of the year, it looks pretty good.

Then I decided to read some Irish Literature because of a class I was taking and because of an upcoming trip to Ireland. And, well, basically because I thought it would be fun to try a month or two of reading in a theme. It didn’t turn out as well as I expected. I started out really excited and then… I got really busy.


In the summer, I finally got some time back, but I didn’t spend all of it reading 1001 books, choosing instead to try a few that I’d been wanting to get around to, like The Casual Vacancy. From the list, I read The Hobbit, which I was surprised to find that I enjoyed more than I had Lord of the Rings. I also read The Invisible Man, which I think was definitely worth the read, The House of the Seven Gables, which had been sitting on my bookshelf for ages, and The Drowned World, which takes the title of my favorite book of the year.


I went back to school intending to finish Neuromancer, the last book of the summer. With everything that came up, I never did. And I never even started another book. I kept thinking that I would after just this one last thing. And then something else would come up. Even my weekends were busy. And by the time my schedule finally freed up enough to get a free afternoon here and there, I knew that I couldn’t start a new book. Why? Because I knew that as soon as I started one, I would get so caught up in it that I wouldn’t be able to put it down until I finished it. And then I would never any work done once I got some again. And so ended the semester.


And my classes were so crazy last semester that I was actually finishing take home finals four days after the last official day of finals. And then I went back to work part time. And applied for a new internship. I got it, and it’s pretty awesome, but, you guessed it, it takes up a lot more time.

Ok, I’ll admit it. Without homework to worry about, I probably could have started a book or two once I finished the finals. But by now, I’m just tired. When I’m not working or catching up on all the other things that have to be done, I just feel like being lazy.

A New Year

Well, I would really like to end this post on a positive note somehow. It’s a new year. New opportunities, another chance. This is the year that I’m set to graduate; maybe after that I’ll have more time for reading. To be honest, I really don’t know what’s coming in the next twelve months, but I do know that I’m not giving up. Even though I’ve faced a few setbacks, I’m still determined to continue my 1001 journey. And, as I do, I will continue posting about it here, for any of my readers who are still around.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2014 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

“My Nightmare of a NaNoNovel — With Unicorns”: An Excerpt

Character #1 sat on a rock with his head in his hand, staring off into the great distance of the enchanted forest and contemplating on the fact that he did not yet have a name.

“It does seem rather unfair,” he thought, “that I should be the one here driving forward all the action of this novel and be in possession of neither a name nor any concrete idea as to how I should help the plot to unfold.”

He was a young man, not yet experienced in the ways of the world, yet not completely without the means to engage with it. He was also entirely independent, having no family at all, for reasons neither he nor the author could be quite certain of.

“Well, that’s wonderful,” Character #1 thought. “I have no family either. And, on top of that, it seems that the author has just decided to burn my house down.”

He slowly stood, feeling the pull of muscles that were stiff from sitting on the rock for so long, and turned to face the lovely little cottage that he hadn’t realized was right behind him. It was just the sort of day, apparently, where the realization that you have a house and the knowledge that it will be quickly burned to the ground hit you in the exact same instant.

Character #1 sighed.

The author, having a bit of pity on him, decided to name him Leopold. For no reason in particular.

Leopold was grateful for this, although it didn’t change the fact that his thatched roof was alive with great orange tongues of flame. Sadder still was the sight of his carefully cultivated window box, filled with bright little posies and splashes of enchanted wildflowers, slowly wilting away under the surge of intense heat.

It flashed across his mind that he should run to the well and attempt to douse the flames one small wooden bucket at a time. Then the roof collapsed. Although the crude wooden furniture within would surely be reduced to a crisp as a result, there was no reason whatsoever that the walls, made as they were from gray stone, should themselves ignite and begin to melt into a slowly oozing lava.

Leopold jumped back in horror as the molten material ran down the walls like a waterfall and began to creep out across the lovely little clearing his cottage had been built in.

“Only one thing can make a fire that burns like that,” he realized, jumping up onto the rock that had previously served as his chair. “Somehow I’ve attracted the anger of a dragon!”

Helplessly, he watched as the liquefied remains of his stone walls sizzled around the edges of his perch. Living as he did in a world in which every person has their own particular talent for magic, it was quite unfortunate that his own abilities were completely useless to save him.

Others could have called down a magical wind to freeze the lava into rock and blow out the smoldering flames like a giant snuffing out a candle. Some could have commanded the rock he stood on to pick itself up and move, steering it through the river of lava like a tiny rescue boat. Leopold could pull the seed of an enchanted plant out of the pouch he wore along his waist, plant it on the surface of the rock, and help it to sprout and grow even without soil. But it would take at least a week for the plant to grow into anything substantial. And even after that, he knew of no variety of plant that would actually be helpful.

He had just resigned himself to his fate (many long, boring hours spent passively waiting for the lava to cool; he should have known, he later realized, that the author could never allow this to happen) when POP! He found himself magically transported to an entirely new location.

“Where am I?” he asked in surprise, examining the trees that he was now surrounded by.

“The enchanted forest!” a voice called out.

Leopold turned to see a bearded man wearing a robe running towards him from someplace deeper in the woods. When he finally reached Leopold, he stopped to catch his breath, the hood of his robe falling onto his head as he bent over and rested his hands on his knees.

“So sorry,” he said between breaths. “I’m afraid this… sort of thing… happens far too often to me.”

“So you’re the reason that I’m here?” Leopold asked.

“I’m afraid so,” the man replied, finally straightening up. “I offer you my most sincere apologies.”

“Apologies?” Leopold repeated. “You just saved me from a boiling river of molten rock!”

“Really?” the man asked, brightening up. “How wonderful!”

“So… You honestly didn’t know that was what you were doing,” Leopold noted.

“As I said,” the man replied, shaking his head, “this sort of thing happens to me far too often. I possess the… rather unorthodox talent… for communing with the Orb of Uncertainty.”

“Really,” Leopold said, feeling quite intrigued. He had known from the man’s light blue robes that he possessed a talent for working with magical objects, just as Leopold’s simple brown tunic displayed his aptitude for magical plants, but the ability to work with just one object, the Orb of Uncertainty no less, was highly unusual.

“I wish I could say that I exercise control over it,” the man said, “but it is called the Orb of Uncertainty for a reason. I can’t teleport you back to wherever you belong, but I can offer to help you in whatever way I can. I feel rather responsible for all this.”

“Unless your Orb sent a dragon to burn down my house,” Leopold said with a wry smile, “I can tell you that you’re not responsible for the worst thing that happened to me today.”

“A dragon?” the man asked in surprise. “Please don’t take offense, but what could a dragon possibly want with a magical plant specialist?”

“You got me, but, as it appears that I have nothing better to do and nowhere else to be, I suppose I had better try to find out.”

“Then I will assist you in your quest!” the man said. “It is the least that I can do.”

“Oh, thank you for your offer, but I wouldn’t want to take you from your work. I know that magical object holders are in very high demand.”

“Not this magical object holder,” the man replied with a sigh. He reached into the pocket of his robe and pulled out a small orb about the size of a crystal ball. Blue smoke swirled within as he continued. “I’ve already been banished from seven different kingdoms because of this. The Council of Object Holders has told me that it is the natural way that the holder of the Orb of Uncertainty should wander about the countryside. The use of uncertain magic calls for an uncertain lifestyle. And I don’t mind that, but it is rather hard to have no one who appreciates you.”

“I appreciate you,” Leopold said.

“You would be the first,” the man replied.

“Really,” Leopold told him, “I would love to have you along. I’m sure that you could be of great help to me.”

“In that case,” the man said, “we must go find a Unicorn Whisperer at once!”

He began cheerfully walking towards the deepest part of the forest. Leopold ran to catch up.

“A Unicorn Whisperer?” he repeated.

“When the Orb commands, I follow!”

He raised the magical object in his hand with a grand gesture. The smoke inside, once just a light blue swirl, had changed to purple in color and was now hovering like a tiny group of clouds. And right at the top was the clearly discernible outline of a horse with a long pointed horn in the middle of its forehead.

November 2, 2013 at 11:41 pm 1 comment

The Test

Just a little something I wrote recently:

“You think you had some bad professors?” Mark asked, taking a sip of his beer. “You weren’t even a freshman yet when old lady Mishler was running the English department. She taught Lit 101, and no one in that school squeaked by without making it past her.”

“Old lady Mishler?” Jared repeated. He removed his right foot from the picnic bench where he was sitting and swung it down to the grass. “I’ve heard about her, man.”

“Isn’t she the one who used to make her students memorize Hamlet’s soliloquy and then perform it in front of the entire class?” Andrew asked, glancing over as he filled his paper plate with heaps of potato salad.

“Yeah,” Jared said. “That’s what I heard, too.”

Mark smiled and shook his head. “You guys don’t know the half of it.”

He leaned forward in his fold up chair, carefully examining his audience. They were seated at opposite ends of the picnic table, Jared turned so that his back faced the table’s crudely painted surface, where the mound of Andrew’s potato salad stood untouched. He met their eyes with a knowing smile and began to speak, raising his right hand into an introductory gesture.

“So here I was freshman year, stuck in old lady Mishler’s Lit class, and I’ve got a buddy of mine a year ahead of me.

“’Watch out for that one,’ he tells me.

“I ask him why, and he just shakes his head. Won’t even say anything. So I get real nervous. I walk into class on the day of our first test not knowing what’s going to happen. Here’s Mishler at the front of the room, passing out all these blank sheets of paper. Stacks of them, like a hundred pages each on the desks of every person sitting in the front row. She plops them down and you can see the people staring, like, how many of these are we going to need?

“’Instructions are on the desks,’ Mishler tells us as she marches back across the room. ‘Budget your time, make sure you read all ten questions before responding, and write out full essay responses for each. I want to see at least one full page for every response. Front and back. You have two hours.’

“And we all look up at her like, ‘Did you just say we have to write twenty pages?’ And she looks back at us like she is dead serious. Here she is about three feet tall, wearing ugly pink sweater that looks older than us and these ridiculous old lady glasses, and when she glares like that her face gets so tight that you could swear she was going to murder the first person who had anything to say about it.

“So we just started going. Question A, I’ll never forget it, it asked about all the characters who die in Hamlet. We were supposed to name every single one and explain how their death was significant to the plot development. And I’m sweating out my eyeballs because I can’t even remember who died first. After Hamlet’s dad, I mean. And does that one even count?

“And here’s old lady Mishler swooping around the room, breathing down our necks. I’m just getting to the part about Ophelia, cause at least I remember that one, when she stops right next to me. And she looks at my paper, and I can swear that her frown gets even deeper, like I’m doing it all wrong.

“And then I don’t even care anymore. I’m writing for my life, scribbling away until the whole right side of my hand turns black from the pencil smudges and I can feel the essay paper curling from the sweat that’s coming off my fingers. I kill off all the rest of the characters in one paragraph and say some vague stuff about how Hamlet finally gets his revenge and it saves the kingdom or whatever. And then I look up at the clock and see that I’ve already wasted forty five minutes, so I write the essay for question B even faster.

“And by the time I get to question D and she calls time, I feel like my hand is going to fall off. I can’t even feel my fingers anymore, and they’re all scrunched and curled into like this witch’s claw.”

Mark paused to demonstrate, contorting his hand into a position to imitate stiff fingers. Most of the party guests had moved inside the house now. It was just the three of them in their own little island of empty picnic tables and a couple of women clearing away the food at the opposite end of the yard.

“But that’s nothing,” Mark continued, “because I look around the room and see that everyone just failed. There’s a whole group of guys just sitting there shell-shocked, like they don’t even know how to process it. There’s this one girl, probably never failed a test in her entire life, who’s just staring at the wall, blinking real hard like she’s about to cry. And this one friend of mine, I look over at his desk and see that he’s only got like three sentences written down because he just gave up and walked right out. I didn’t even notice he was gone until I saw that one paper just abandoned.”

Jared whistled slowly.

“Was that it?” Andrew asked.

“That wasn’t even the worst part of it,” Mark said. “Old lady Mishler tells us to turn in our papers and makes them into this big stack in the middle of her desk. And then we start gathering up our things and stretching out our hands, and she says, ‘Just a moment.’ Stern, like she’s disappointed in all of us already, and she hasn’t even read the papers yet.

“Dead silence.” Mark swept his hand flat through the air. “You never saw a classroom this focused, not even a twitch.

“’You didn’t follow my instructions,’ she says. ‘I told you to read all ten questions.’

“So we all look down at the questions, like, what did we miss? Well, there’s a lot of them and some are really long, so it goes all the way to the bottom of the paper. And here’s the thing.”

Mark paused, holding up a finger. “They only go to I.” He raises up his other fingers one by one: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I…

“That’s only nine,” Andrew realized.

Mark smiled. “‘Flip the paper over,’ she says. And there it is, right on the back: ‘Who is your favorite character from the stories we have read? Explain briefly.’”

He paused, gauging their reaction. Andrew and Jared stared back with puzzled looks. He held up a hand to indicated that he wasn’t done.

“’Questions A through I,’ he quotes, ‘are extra credit.’”

October 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

An Ad!

So this is me, celebrating. Why? Because I was looking at one of the posts on my blog the other day, and I found this waiting for me at the bottom:An Ad!

So why am I happy to see a message that my readers may be seeing ads on my page? I don’t really care for ads, and, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t put them on this blog, but the point is that this wasn’t up to me. Since I’m hosted by WordPress, they decide when to put ads on my blog, and, until now, they’ve never seemed to bother with me. You know what that means? It means that, now, they actually have some idea that my blog is worth putting ads on. I have no idea why they think that since I don’t know their criteria, but it makes me feel marginally more important, like I’ve actually accomplished something.

Hey, life can be a little rough; I’ll take whatever encouragement I can get. It’s all in the perspective, right?

September 19, 2013 at 7:16 pm Leave a comment

Getting Out of Fuchsia


A nameless main character forced to live in a city that she hates. Outside the city gates, a lonely dirt-covered path surrounded by wilderness. Before our main character can make her escape, she needs to be able to face both the difficulties of the long journey ahead and the danger that lies within those woods. She’s been waiting for two months now, trying to find the one missing piece she needs. Will today finally be the day she gets it?


As some of you may recall (or not), since December I’ve been writing and posting chapters of a fan fiction story on Wattpad. Wattpad is a website where writers can post short stories and novels chapter by chapter and readers can find all kinds of wonderful stories for free.

I first became interested in the site because my sister was writing a fan fiction about her favorite obsession, One Direction, but when I started publishing my own story, I began having a lot of fun with it. It’s great to be able to publish your work someplace where people will read it and leave comments. Not to mention the fun I had writing this story!

Adding a new piece every week has made for slow progress, but now that I’ve finally finished all 35 chapters of it, I thought that I would share it with all of you. Clicking on the cover above (designed by my sister) will take you to the whole story. You can read the whole thing or just a chapter or two.

I’m taking a break from posting new material on Wattpad for a little while, but eventually, I do plan to write a sequel. So, if you like what you read, stay tuned for more!

September 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm 1 comment

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