Month: July 2014

Monthly Review – July 2014

Posted July 31, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

The Monk -This month we looked at the gothic and surprisingly satirical novel The Monk by Matthew Lewis. This was a lot of fun for me; I’m becoming a big fan of Juvenalian satire and was surprised to see what this gothic classic did with its social critique. While it might have been a little difficult for others, it is always great to leave our comfort zones and read something great. Next month we are dipping into some non-fiction when we read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, which is considered one of the best books in the true crime genre.

As most might know, I’m currently on vacation so I have scheduled a whole lot of posts. This means, I’m not entirely sure what the next book will be but the theme was Thriller. At the point of scheduling it looked like a race between Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. I have had a good reading month but I as this was written half way through the month I won’t share what I read this month. However I did enjoy The Monk and Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. What have you been reading this month and what were the highlights?

Read More


The Monk by Matthew Lewis

Posted July 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Gothic / 0 Comments

The Monk by Matthew LewisTitle: The Monk (Goodreads)
Author: Matthew Lewis
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1795
Pages: 456
Genres: Classic, Gothic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When The Monk was first published in 1796 it was surrounded by heated hatred and scandal. One critic claimed that The Monk was full of “Lust, murder, incest, and every atrocity that can disgrace human nature”; a line that now seems to commonly appear in the synopsis. While this novel is a transgressive gothic novel and possibly one of the first books to feature a priest in such a villainous way there is so much more going on within the pages. To begin, we must look at the context, and it is not surprising that this novel had so much anger towards it when it was released. The reader has to understand that this novel was released in a period of time where everything was changing. The church still played a huge role in English society but across the channel the French Revolution was raging on, so in the middle of a changing society came a novel that tried to explore the political and religious authoritarianism of the church.

The Monk is set in a sinister monastery in Madrid, were Ambrosio struggled between maintaining his monastic vows and falling to temptation. We follow this monk as desire turns to obsession, to rape and then murder in order to conceal the guilt. Ambrosio is a celebrated and devout monk of 30 years but we read his downfall due to desire and pride. This novel is a social commentary of everything wrong with the church as the author sees it. The Monk follows the story of Ambriosio’s disillusion, from a well-respected Monk, serving God to a psychologically scared man.

Matthew Lewis wrote this novel at 19 years old and I think it is important to mention that I don’t view The Monk as an indictment of God or the Church but more critique of the corrupting power that comes with the priesthood. When I read this I got the impression that Lewis wanted to explore the hidden struggles that come with the vows of a monk as well as the effects of power. When we think about all the evil the church has done, it is not God or religion that is to blame but rather the people. Guilt and power can corrupt and essentially we are looking at a man going to great lengths to disguise his transgressions.

This is not an easy read and I found myself struggling at times to get through this book but there is so much going on I found it hard to believe that when this was first published it was dubbed this gothic classic to be crude and lacking of depth. In the heavily censored edition of this novel published in 1798 saw all words like lust and desire removed from the text. Even words like enjoyment were removed and any mention of sex; I can’t imagine how the essence of The Monk would have remained with this heavily edited edition. While there was plenty of hatred toward the novel, the critics seemed to have mixed feelings towards it. Samuel Taylor Coleridge both praised and judged harshly in his article found in The Critical Review, saying “[the] underplot… is skilfully and closely connected with the main story, and is subservient to its development” and “The Monk is a romance, which if a parent saw in the hands of a son or daughter, he might reasonably turn pale.”

However The Monk looks at more than just the monastery, it even looks at what seems like an anti-feminist movement going on within the Church. The convent seems like a harsh place to live, the women brutally treated and never allowed to succeed. Woman are seen as the downfall of the monks and other woman but there is so much lust, desire and sexual misconduct that happens inside the walls of convents and monasteries. Matilda posed as a man in order to get close to Ambrosio, at first it wasn’t to seduce but to bask in his brilliance. She is portrayed as a she-devil but is it really her fault that Ambrosio gave into his earthly desires. As one critic stated “It is Ambrosio’s sexual ignorance and hence ‘innocence’ that makes him vulnerable to Matilda’s seduction” (Blakemore, 1998). This made me ponder and question the whole approach to life in a monastery, especially in an era where priests are more likely to be sexually ignorant.

I’ve mentioned a few times that The Monk was met with hatred and I think this is still true today; people tend to see the book as anti-religious, anti-Catholic and immoral but this is a problem with taking text to literally. The Monk is a satire and socially critiques the church in what feels like a comedic kind of approach. It happens that this is also a transgressive gothic novel so we have a very brutal and dark approach to the themes Matthew Lewis wants to explore. Near the start of the book I read the line “She was wise enough to hold her tongue. As this is the only instance known of a Woman’s ever having done so, it was judged worthy to be recorded here” and thought it was a little harsh; I soon began to see a real tongue in cheek approach emerging from this dark novel.

I started off thinking this was a gothic novel and it was going to be dark and serious but I soon found myself adjusting my approach. Once I got past my initial misconceptions I started to settle into this book and ended up really enjoying The Monk. It took a while to get into a groove and found the first part of the book to be particularly difficult to get through. Then the plot started to settle in and I was able to explore the themes and enjoy the journey I was taken on. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this gothic classic, it is weird but wonderful. I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did.


Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Read the Most Books From

Posted July 29, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in on this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From. I don’t catalogue all the books I own very well so here are the authors I’ve read the most books from.

  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • James Ellroy
  • Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Jeff Lindsay
  • Raymond Chandler
  • Stephen King
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Lawrence Block
  • Philip K. Dick
  • James M. Cain

Wow, that’s surprising and revealing


Write 750 Words Every Day

Posted July 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Writing / 2 Comments

writeRecently I have been trying to build a habit of writing every day. This was in the hopes to build good writing habits and improve my writing abilities. I decided to use a site called 750 words to help develop this habit. Basically the site sends me a reminder every day to write 750 words. It is a great little site, I’ve been using it to write drafts for my future blog posts and get down my blogging ideas as I go. I have written a lot of thoughts about the books I’ve been reading as I go along and I’ve noticed it has already started to have a positive effect on my blogging.

Not only have I got a record of my thoughts throughout the novel, it has helped me connect those thoughts I tend to forget about with a much larger idea. I’ve been notoriously bad at note taking and keeping a record of what I have thought of a book while reading but this has been a huge help. Not only have I forced myself to sit down and write about books but also since I need to make 750 words a day I often write more drafts and I’m hoping that shows through in my blogging.

One of the negatives I have notice about forcing myself to write is I am starting to get anxious about my writing. The other day I found myself getting upset with my wife for cutting into my writing time. I try to set a time to write every day after work and sometimes I finish it before she gets home but not all the time. My finger muscles are starting to hurt, I thought I typed enough as it is but it turns out that maybe I haven’t been and at times I have to type through the pain. Who knew that fingers had so many muscles that could hurt?

There is one really cool thing about the 750 words site that I find really cool and that is the stats. The site has put together so much information; I didn’t even know I needed that much detail but it has been interesting to see what it says. It analyses the text via a few different systems; a Regressive Imagery Dictionary (for the emotions), and a Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count system. I’m not sure what that means but it is interesting to look at the statistics it provides.

Currently I am on a 21 day streak and this post will go towards the 22nd day. I’ve averaged around 1200 words a day and it takes me about 47 minutes to complete 750 words. This is only a small glimpse of the data it gives you; it even has a daily breakdown. Some of the data is a little strange; I’m still trying to work out how I got a PG rating for sexual content from my review on The Secret Garden. I could have mentioned the secret garden being a metaphor for her sexuality but I don’t think I went down that road in that review. This post was actually rated PG for sexual content and violence if that makes any sense. It even tends to think I’m an extrovert in my writing, mostly feeling self-important and talking about leisure activities (I’m guessing that is books).

I am not sure how the data would help but it does provide me with some entertainment. I am more excited about the 21-day streak, I hope I continue to develop some positive writing habits and improve. Let me know if you have any suggestions that might help me improve as a writer and develop a good writing routine. Lastly I have to mention that 750 words is free to try for thirty days, might be enough to get you into a good habit. I’m not sure if I’m going to pay the $5 a month to keep my 750 words account but I think the positive impact it has had in my writing is pushing me towards continuing.


Rant about my TBR

Posted July 26, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about my TBR piles lately. I have this weird love-hate relationship and at the moment I’m feeling very stressed over it. You know that feeling you get when you see the piles of books you have on your shelves to read and you get that feeling that you have books coming in faster than being read? How do you deal with that?

I recently watched a vlog about killing their TBR and taking a minimalist approach to their bookshelf. I love that idea but I can’t help but feel like that would never work (for me anyway). I buy or receive books and I have every intention of reading them but then more books come in and those are new, exciting and shiny and they distract you from the books you already have.

I’m not the kind of person that can just organise my reading and have a pile of books to read and not waver. When I finish one book I tend to pick up whatever I’m in the mood for at the time. I love this reading on a whim approach to reading and it takes me through some interesting journeys but it isn’t very efficient. What about all those ARCs that I should be reading or those new books on my bookshelf? I have to force myself to read my book club books at times and that isn’t really ideal but it needs to be done.

This is a bit like a rant at the moment but I don’t know the answer, what should I do with my TBR? I’ve thought about culling my bookshelf and even getting rid of books I’ve not read just so I can have room for new books but that sounds scary. I know I can buy the book again if I decide I need to read it but giving up books is hard, too hard in fact. I probably can look at my shelves and wonder about some of the books. I know I’ve brought books in the past, excited to read them but then I lose interest and they just sit there waiting. I know it is the hype that is problem but I tend to think that my reading tastes have evolved so much that I’ve outgrown those books as well.

I need to take a year off work and dedicate my entire time to reading the books on my bookshelf; I think that is the only way I’m going to get a handle on my TBR. I’ve tried giving up buying books for a year but that didn’t work, it just forced me to use the library more, and I still use it frequently. I know, as far as problems go, this is a pretty decent problem to have but I just felt like ranting and wanted to know if people had advice for dealing with a TBR that won’t stop growing.


Critical Theory: An Introduction by Jennifer Rich

Posted July 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Critical Theory: An Introduction by Jennifer RichTitle: Critical Theory: An Introduction (Goodreads)
Author: Jennifer Rich
Published: Humanities-Ebooks, 2010
Pages: 97
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: eBook

For me Critical Theory: An Introduction by Jennifer Rich was everything I wanted Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Culler to be. It had a logical format and it went through a few different literary movements and talked about the key people and theories involved with each school of thoughts. But then it got me wondering; what is the different between Critical Theory and Literary Theory? There seems to be no real difference and I’m not entirely sure why they would use two different names to talk about the exact same thing. I might be ignorant and not fully understanding the differences but if there is a difference please let me know in the comments below.

The book starts off with Russian Formalism, a topic I spent a bit of time exploring before continuing the rest of the book. The idea of formalism is something that I feel may be a good foundation for any literary student. To be able to understand genres, tropes, metering, grammar and syntax can provide you with some questions to ask every piece of literature. Asking why a piece of text is written in one perspective and not another and what the focalisation is focusing on can help develop some useful skills. Some people are saying that formalism is making a comeback and I tend to agree, I recently completed a university subject that went though the basics of this school of thought (even if there was no mention of formalism). If you understand these basic concepts, I think you develop a decent tool base for critical reading and future studies of literary theories.

Critical Theory: An Introduction also looked at Structuralism, Semiotics, Post-Structuralism, Deconstruction, Psychoanalytic and Postcolonial Theory. I have a feeling my interest will psychoanalysis and Marxism and this book seemed to verify this very thought, even if it only went into Marxism in passing. The major problem I found is that Psychoanalytic Theory is going to be a huge undertaking, more so than most of the others. I feel that I will need to develop, not only an understanding in psychology, but also a bit of a focus into semiotics as well. I am not too bothered by this thought; this is more of a blinding realisation of how much work is ahead of me.

While Critical Theory: An Introduction may have taken a more textbook type approach to literary theory than Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, I think the format is better suited if I ever need to refer back to the book. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction was a little all over the place and it works well for reading the book from cover to cover but if I need to look up what the book says on a topic it won’t be easy. I prefer to have chapters dedicated to one literary theory; makes things easier when I refer back to this book in the future.

I’m really enjoying exploring the world of literary theory and I’m beginning to understand the different types of theories on a very fundamental level. The only downside to this is the realisation that there is so much more to learn. I have to remind myself that I’m not going to be able to become an expert in all these fields and I need to focus. I’ve chosen my preferred fields but I will continue to learn the basics of all literary theories and see if something else pops out. I’m still shopping around, while psychoanalysis and Marxism seem like the right fit for me, I’m open to the possibility of finding something better (and maybe easier). Also, learning the basics in literary theory will have the added bonus of been able to see a book from different schools of thought. If you are looking for a good, quick introduction to literary theories, Critical Theory: An Introduction by Jennifer Rich is a good pick, it is short and only covers a few theories but will give you a decent understanding of them.


Skinjob by Bruce McCabe

Posted July 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Skinjob by Bruce McCabeTitle: Skinjob (Goodreads)
Author: Bruce McCabe
Published: Bantam Press, 2014
Pages: 384
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Bruce McCabe joins a growing list of authors finding success from self-publishing his novel. I know I take a very cynical view on self-published books; I tend to treat a publishing house as the filter to sift through the slush piles and pulling out the best it has to offer. That isn’t to say there isn’t anything good coming from the self-publishing world but in my experience the pimping of books and desperation makes it hard to find the ones I’d like to read. My policy is to ignore the world of self-publishing, this probably isn’t the best way to go about it but it works for me.

Every now and then a self-published novel gets picked up by a publishing house; I’m thinking Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, and dare I say it, E.L. James. Bruce McCabe is the next self-published author to enjoy similar success, his debut novel Skinjob has been published by a Random House imprint Bantam Press. In the not-so-distant future sexdolls (or if you prefer, sexbots) will become a reality, allowing and even encouraging people to act out their dark and disturbing sexual fantasies; this is the world of Skinjob.

I want to diverse from the story line of Skinjob for a moment to look at the theme McCabe is trying to explore. The sex industry is often depicted as a dark and shady place and the invention of sexdolls is obviously going to be a difficult concept; the politics and ethical challenges are explored within the novel. What I find problematic about the use of sexdolls is this idea that using a doll to live out a dark, disturbing or violent fantasy isn’t going to be healthy. I would be concerned with the psychological damage they could cause of themselves and others around them, to assume the use of a sexdoll isn’t hurting others would be a naïve approach to the issue. There is also a very ethical issue to consider; making sexdolls in all shapes and sizes seems indicates the very real possibility of childlike sex dolls.

I enjoy how Bruce McCabe takes a crack at the thriller genre, using the tropes you expect from a novel like this to explore these ideas. While looking at the growing sex industry I was most impressed with how McCabe allowed the thriller genre to work with him in this exploration. I was interested in the approach he took by allowing militant religious and feminist groups blow up dollhouses (an obvious nod to Joss Whedon) full of sexdolls. This approach meant we have a violent act where real people are not the target. This allows the reader to explore all sides of the issue without forcing them to show unwanted sympathy. The reader can then look at issue of sexual politics within the book and society. The only thing that will get in the way of exploring the issue will come down to the readers and their preconceived notions.

Skinjob is a very issue heavy novel, if you want a straight thriller then this book is not for you. In fact I was less interested in the plot and characters than I was the issues being explored. All the characters felt very two dimensional and unmemorable, even the plot could have used a lot more work but I think this works in the books favour. In the end I was left not really remembering much of the plot and people with the novel but I was still thinking about the themes.

Sexual politics is a complicated and difficult subject; Bruce McCabe’s Skinjob did a great job exploring the topic. While it doesn’t cover everything, it will leave the reader pondering the issues; I’m very glad I picked up this book and hope it has as much of an impact on other readers as it did for me. This is a debut novel and I can’t help but feel excited at what McCabe does next; I hope he continues to explore hard-hitting themes in unique and interesting ways.


The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss

Posted July 19, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

The Fictional Woman by Tara MossTitle: The Fictional Woman (Goodreads)
Author: Tara Moss
Published: Harper Collins, 2014
Pages: 352
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: Book Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Tara Moss is probably best known as a person you hate; she seems to succeed in everything she puts her mind to. Starting her career early at 14 as a model, she always dreamed about being a writer. People don’t encourage others to be writers but they do tell girls that they should be a model. Eventually she did and it took her around the world and taught her so much; the experiences may not have been all good but it helped shape her life. Eventually she did start writing and her Makedde Vanderwall become a huge success and she created this character as a way to explore her interests in forensic science, psychology and other topics. Now with nine fiction novels under her belt Moss is giving us her first non-fiction book, The Fictional Woman.

The title comes from the idea that people tend to dismiss and stereotype others. Tara Moss is no stranger to this; she even took a polygraph test to prove she wrote her books. While this book starts off as a memoir it is important to know that this is a social critique on the world and feminism. The book begins as a memoir to provide context, an understanding of Tara Moss’ struggles and her life helps to see where The Fictional Woman is coming from. Historical context is also an important part of understanding feminism as well, especially when it comes to gender equality and pop culture. There have been plenty of Spiderman (too many), Zorro and James Bond movies but there has never been a Wonder Woman movie. In literature, the female archetype stems from fairy tales and medieval fiction, heroines tend to face off another woman, often older and depicted as witches. Cinderella type stories require a man in order to live happily ever after and even chick-lit often portrays a gender inequality.

The Fictional Woman explores this imbalance in pop-culture and society and looks at where these archetypes come from. It is impressive to see the amount of research and information Tara Moss puts into this book; it really was eye opening. I highly recommend people read this book but I need to warn everyone it may contain triggers. I’m surprised to see that the imbalance is so prominent in today’s society and I am trying to make more of an effort to read a balance of authors. The problem I found is I tend to pick up books without taking notice on of the author, sure it sometimes easy to know their gender but I don’t research authors before starting a book. I try to make more of an effort and it is an area I need to work on.

I’m really impressed with Tara Moss, she seems to succeed in everything she does; sure I’m a little jealous that she is so talented but I still feel motivated. For those interested, I recently wrote a piece about an author event with Tara Moss on Boomerang Books if you are interested, I talk in a lot more detail about The Fictional Woman. I have never spent so much time thinking about feminism, I plan to do a lot more of it, even read some more books on the topic. I might even incorporate it into my critical reviews; it is an important topic that needs to be addressed.


Ten bookshops to visit while in America

Posted July 17, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I’m going away on holidays to America and my main concern was making sure that I research which bookshops to visit while over there. I am away for a few weeks and while I don’t really plan to weigh down my bags with too many books, I still like looking at books. I have been looking around for which stores to visit and I thought I might list them here and possibly open it up to some suggestions. I’m going to be visiting San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Toronto and Las Vegas, so please recommend some stores and I will try to visit them.

The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles

This is a scary thought, I would hate to think that there is only one bookstore left on earth and it was all the way in LA. The Paris Review once wrote that this store was “an almost 20,000-square-foot cathedral of books”.

Skylight Books, Los Angeles

This is often voted as one of the greatest bookshops in America (along with Powell’s but I’m not going to Portland). It could almost be considered a literary landmark, but when I think of LA I think Raymond Chandler and that landmark would be Musso and Frank Grill (which I plan to visit as well).

City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

This was one of my biggest highlights when I was in San Francisco last time, and I plan to go back. Last I was there a picked up a portable collection of Romantic poetry which I adore; still think Keats is my favourite. This is not only an iconic bookshop, it is a literary landmark.

Green Apple Books, San Francisco

This is a well-known bookshop that has been around for a very long time. I missed it last time I was in San Francisco; I don’t want to miss it again.

WORD, Brooklyn

Located in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, this is one store where their reputation precedes them. This may simply be because the Bookrageous podcast links every book to this store but I’m still very interested in checking it out.

McNally Jackson, Manhattan

I have heard good things about this store; mainly that it has ‘everything’. I plan to challenge this view and see if it has books on my wishlist that are normally very hard to find. If I wrote a book, I could even get it printed here.

Strand Books, New York

This one was recommended to me by a friend on Twitter. Eighteen miles of books, this is something I have to see. The store opened in 1927 so there is a bit of history there as well.

Library Hotel, New York

Not a book store but since I’m in New York, I’m going to stay in bookish class and felt the need to rub it in. Library Hotel not only offers you a great place to stay but you won’t be short of books to read.

Commonwealth Books, Boston

This used bookshop comes with leather chairs and a fireplace, what more do you want from a store? I would like to go, grab an old classic and spend the day reading. I’m not sure if it is a good strategy for selling books but it is one way to attract booklovers.

Brattle Book Shop, Boston

When I was researching book shops to visit while in America I came across this one in Boston; it looks awesome. One of America’s oldest and largest used book stores, it has to go to the streets.

There you have it, ten bookshops (sort of) that I plan to visit when I’m over in America. I know I will find more along the way and I could have mentioned a few others but I need to save room for museums and eating. Feel free to mention some more in the comments and I might see if I can make it there as well.


Top Ten Tuesday: Great TV Shows

Posted July 15, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in on this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: other types of stories; so either favourite Movies or TV Shows! I’ve decided to pick some TV shows that I think tell great stories with well developed characters.

ttt-15-7

  • The Wire
  • Suits
  • Veronica Mars
  • Mad Men
  • The Sopranos
  • Orphan Black
  • Firefly
  • Spartacus
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Rake (The Australian show)