Source: Hardcover

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Posted April 6, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Exit West by Mohsin HamidTitle: Exit West (Goodreads)
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Published: Hamish Hamilton, 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Magical Realism
My Copy: Hardcover

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Every so often a book comes along that gets you thinking about an important social issue in a whole new light. These are the books I actively seek out, I am always looking for literature that is going to challenge my thinking or even teach me something new. Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel Exit West was a recent example of a book doing this with the topic of refugees. This is such an important issue and Hamid got me thinking about it in a different way with the simple introduction of magical doors.

The premise of Exit West is straightforward following the budding relationship between Saeed and Nadia in an unnamed country. As the novel tracks their developing relationship, it soon becomes apparent that they will need to escape. As the city they grew up in becomes increasingly unsafe, they are soon planning to leave everything behind. Through a door and into another country.

While the concept of these doors might be inspired by Nanina, Mohsin Hamid has stated he used this idea as a way to not get bogged down with the refugee journey. He wanted to explore the story as the events that lead these characters to flee and how it felt to be a refugee in Western culture. While I understand his reasoning, the idea seemed to work differently for me as the reader. The magical journey to another country gave off this idea that Western media do not care about the journey they only care about asylum seekers in their country. It worked to symbolise that missing piece that is often left out of the news when reporting on the refugee crisis.

In an interview with the author, he said the doors also where a symbol of globalisation. In today’s world we are able to talk to someone on the other side of the world face to face with video calling programs like Skype. The world seems smaller thanks to the advances of technology and while the idea of walking through a door into another country sound wonderful, it works as a motif for the complex issue of border control. Some doors are heavily guarded and other doors, like the one to their home country, are left accessible as if to invite them to ‘go back to where they came from’.

What I think Mohsin Hamid did really well in this novel was use the character focus to challenge the perceptions people might have of the refugee stereotype. Nadia wore an all concealing black robe in public not for religious reasons but to make her feel safe. Nadia is not religious and lives alone, she had to lie and said she was a widow to get her apartment. Nadia’s story is one of protecting herself from judgement while trying to explore her own sexuality. She longs for the freedom and individuality of the Western world. While Saeed is not overly religious he is the one that wants to wait to they are married. When fleeing the country he wishes to be part of the community of fellow countrymen, he does not want to give up on his traditions.

The two different points of view allows the reader to explore the idea of refugees from their perspective. Rather than focusing on the journey and the conflict with the Western world. Exit West focuses on their personal identity, as the characters try to understand their place in the world. For Nadia this is a chance for a new beginning, to reinvent herself but for Saeed this is the story of missing what he left, the nostalgic idea he had of his homeland.

Mohsin Hamid intentionally left the country and city unnamed because this could be the story of anyone. He did model it after a city in Pakistan but worried that mentioning any names might have been viewed as a political statement rather than the story he wanted to tell. I am so glad that I picked up Exit West and I know I will be dipping into more of Hamid’s works. This novel was so accessible, I feel like everyone should pick it up, in the hopes that it will get more people thinking about refugees.


Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

Posted February 20, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana AlexievichTitle: Voices from Chernobyl (Goodreads)
Author: Svetlana Alexievich
Translator: Antonina W. Bouis
Published: Aurum Press, 1997
Pages: 288
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

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In 2015, Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for literature, thus resurging some buzz for her 1997 book Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster. Originally translated into English in 1999 by Antonina W. Bouis, the book was also released in a new translation by Keith Gessen in 2005. This translation went on to help Alexievich win the National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction in 2005. Svetlana Alexievich is a Belarusian journalist who set out to interview more than 500 eyewitness accounts of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. She interviews people involved with the clean-up, including firefighters and liquidators (a name given to the clean-up team), as well as politicians, physicians and citizens. The book Voices from Chernobyl is just a few of the stories that came from the interviews.

I found a copy of Antonina W. Bouis’ translation at a fete and picked it up for $2, not because it was so cheap but because it was the first time I have seen this book for sale. I have been wanting to read this book for a while, as part of my interest toward Russian history and the Soviet era. The preface of the book offers a few facts that I was unaware of, at the time of publishing, Belarus still had over 20% of the land contaminated by nuclear fallout. The reason this book was published was mainly because Russia and Ukraine are normally associated with this horrible disaster and Belarus is often forgotten about. Even though around 70% of the radiation fell onto this small country.

I picked up Voices from Chernobyl back in November 2015 but due to a loss of a family member I had to put it aside. I did slowly work my way through the book one devastating story at a time and found this book to be a very emotional journey. It not only explored the physical devastation but also the psychological and cultural impact the Chernobyl disaster. I do not think I have ever found a book that explores the impact of nuclear accident quite like this.

It is hard to review a book like this; it is not a comfortable read but it provides some valuable insights into such a devastating event. Most people know that I love the Soviet era and ever since reading All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon, I knew I needed to know more about this disaster. I think this is an important book to read. I would have preferred to read the Keith Gessen translation, because my research shows that to be a better translation. I think this is my biggest problem with Voices from Chernobyl and should not deter people from picking up this book.


Candide: Or Optimism by Voltaire

Posted December 9, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Candide: Or Optimism by VoltaireTitle: Candide: Or Optimism (Goodreads)
Author: Voltaire
Translator: Theo Cuffe
Published: Penguin, 1759
Pages: 224
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Hardcover

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Candide has lived a pretty sheltered life in an Edenic paradise, madly in love with the Baron’s daughter Cunégonde. His mentor Professor Pangloss taught him the ways of optimism but his adventures may challenge his life philosophy. Candide is a satire from Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The book enjoyed much success, as well as a lot of controversy, being banned for religious blasphemy.

“Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”

In Candide, Voltaire sets out to challenge the philosophical ideas of optimism, particularly the works of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. Essentially he used a stripped down idea of optimism and explores it from a religious perspective. The idea is simply, if there is evil in the world would that be a sign that God is not entirely good or not all-powerful?

While Voltaire wrote Candide as a parody of the classic adventure tales, it also satirised organised religion. This was the main reason the novel got banned. Throughout the book all the religious leaders were either corrupt or hypocritical and you even encounter the Pope’s own daughter within the story. Most of the Catholic priests are never celibate, the hard-line Inquisitor has a mistress, and there is a friar who is a thief, despite the fact he is a member of the Franciscan order and has taken a vow of poverty.

For me, the connection between optimism and religion was what stood out the most in Candide. The whole concept of “everything will work out for the best” reminded me of the flawed thinking of some Christians. I grew up in the church, and I have heard people say things like “God will heal me” and never go to a doctor, or “God will provide” and never look for a job. I always thought this was a terrible attitude and a misunderstanding of the Bible. So while reading Candide, I saw this come through so many time and I really enjoyed that element.

This novel was a buddy read with a fellow booktuber (Shut Your Typeface) and her problem was the sexual exploitation of women within Candide. For me I thought Voltaire was trying to demonstrate a real situation effecting woman. The problem with having mistresses, rape, sexual slavery and still wanting women to be chaste and virtuous. I really do think he was trying to show a real problem that is effecting woman; all the women in the book were victims of some form of sexual assault. I might have viewed it one way but I can see how it could be interpreted as chauvinistic and disrespectful towards woman.

There are so many other themes that show up within Candide, from resurrection, wealth, and class. So many interesting topics worth exploring, but I did not want to make this review too long. I would love to talk about the parody of adventure tales, the humour and other themes but maybe I will leave them for the next review I do of this book, after a re-read. Candide was a very interesting and surprisingly easy to read. I had a lot of fun checking this novel out and looking at the depth to be found within the pages.


Middlemarch by George Eliot

Posted December 17, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 4 Comments

Middlemarch by George EliotTitle: Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life (Goodreads)
Author: George Eliot
Published: Penguin, 1872
Pages: 880
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Hardcover

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Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life was George Eliot’s seventh novel and was originally published in a serial from 1871-72. Set in a fictional town, this novel follows a wide range of characters in interlocking narratives that really do allow the reader to study the provincial life of Middlemarch. As this is broken into eight “books” it would be difficult to summarise the plot and even write a review that could do this book justice. Instead I am going to write down some thoughts and observations I found while reading Middlemarch.

First of all, I think it is beneficial to know a little about George Eliot; an understanding of her life helps put a lot of this novel into perspective. Most people know George Eliot is a pen name for Mary Ann Evans, she used the pseudonym to keep her private life from public scrutiny, as she was in a relationship with a married man, George Henry Lewes with whom she was living with. She picked a male nom de plume to escape the stereotypes placed on woman writers, this allowed her to offer a social critic without being judged on her gender. Raised as an Anglican, Mary Ann struggled with religious doubts and eventually became an atheist. As a young woman (before her relationship with George Henry Lewes), her father threatened to throw her out of the house due to her non-belief, but they seemed to come to a compromise. Mary Ann continued to attend church with her father until he passed away to keep him happy, even if she didn’t believe in a God anymore.

This is a very tiny glimpse at Mary Ann Evans but I wanted to share that information about her as it ties into common themes found throughout Middlemarch. The themes I am talking about here are gossip, marriage, femininity and religion. Living in Victorian England may not be too different to now (people like to gossip), Mary Ann would have been the subject of plenty of gossip and in a small town like Middlemarch it feels like the primary source of information. Throughout this novel, information is continuously being conveyed from an indirect party. George Eliot satirises the idea of gossip by continuously having other characters speak on someone else’s behalf to avoid direct communication. While others will avoid conversations believing that any relevant information will eventually make its way to them. These ideas of gossip feel like Eliot is poking fun at how gossip is used, however as a social commentary it is spot on.

I love what George Eliot has to say on the ideas of courtship and marriage and this is one of the most important parts of the novel. In Middlemarch marriage is never an end result, the happily ever after ending literary trope. While some people do end up being happy, there are plenty of unhappy marriages within the novel. Mary Ann’s lover George Henry Lewes was trapped in an unhappy marriage which he couldn’t get out of and this seems to be the basis of relationships within Middlemarch. There is this exploration of the idea of courtship, and it begs the reader to question these ideas. There are a lot of thoughts on how well we can really know someone before marriage; playing with ideas on being an outsider, deception and even intimacy. Each marriage within Middlemarch is different and it allows the reader to explore these unions as part of a social construct.

While there was a huge focus on marriage within Middlemarch there still were a few unwed woman within the novel. There are well educated women with the book that sometimes appear to be happier than the woman trapped in marriage. Eliot wanted to depict woman as strong individuals who have something to offer the world other than just being wives and mothers. The women in the book are often great and complex personalities but then Eliot plays with the ideas of suppressing themselves for men and the role they play in society. There is some social conditioning within the book but ultimately I kept seeing this idea of women having the ability to make social change.

Finally I want to talk about religion and spirituality; this is an interesting theme that steams from Mary Ann’s own life. I suspect sitting in a church listening to someone talk about a God she didn’t believe in made her think a lot about spirituality and organised religion. I haven’t used any examples but in this case I want to compare Dorothea with Mr Bulstrode. Dorothea has this internal and private spiritual life, the depiction of this is somewhat vague in the novel. This is because as an outsider she doesn’t come across as a spiritual person but internally it is an intimate part of her life. While Mr Bulstrode is portrayed as someone who is more public about his religious beliefs. While not always hypocritical he has a warped opinion; he believes his previous transgressions are part of the providential plan but will openly condemn others for their past misdeeds. Throughout Middlemarch, religion and spirituality is explored in different way and it is interesting to compare it with the ideas of morality within the novel.

There are so many different themes I can talk about, including money, education, vocations, social classes and even self-delusion but that would drag this on too much. I read Middlemarch with the aid of a reading guide called Eliot’s Middlemarch by Josie Billington and I did this because there is so much to offer within this novel I wanted to get as much as I could from the book. This is a smart and intelligent social commentary and I got the sense that there was no wasted moments within the book despite the fact it was 880 pages long. I dipped in and out of this novel for six months and I am glad I choose to read it in this way; it allowed me to ponder what I read before moving on. It is the type of book you need to spend a lot of time with and written in a way that allows you to dip in and out.

I haven’t even talked about the writing or style of Middlemarch and that is probably the most important part. There is a slight detachment within the style, this is probably because the novel is a form of social criticism; a study of provincial life. Having said that, I found Middlemarch very funny; the satirical irony and wit played a big part for me, but you could also say this is a morbid book. The style of the book is psychological, erudite and extremely elegant; I often felt myself being swept away with the writing but still fascinated by the insightfulness.

It is hard to explain how much I loved this book; this a realistic depiction of Victorian life and George Eliot displays a real mastery on human nature. However, even though it sounds like it is nothing but a psychological look at society, Eliot is able to make you feel like you are a part of the story. I am sure you can read this book as just a beautiful Victorian classic but I picked up this book for the social criticism. If you do want to get more out of this book then I recommend Josie Billington’s reading guide Eliot’s Middlemarch. This is the type of book I will need to frequently return to throughout my life and see what I get out of it with a re-read.


Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith

Posted November 23, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Graphic Novel / 0 Comments

Batman: Cacophony by Kevin SmithTitle: Batman: Cacophony (Goodreads)
Author: Kevin Smith
Artist: Walter Flanagan
Published: DC Comics, 2009
Pages: 144
Genres: Graphic Novel
My Copy: Hardcover

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Batman finds himself trying to understand a strange relationship between The Joker and Onomatopoeia. The Cape Crusader soon has to choose between chasing down The Joker and this puzzling villain Onomatopoeia. Writer/Director Kevin Smith puts his love of comic books and Batman to a practical use and wrote the series Batman: Cacophony.

I picked this graphic novel on my honeymoon because I was curious to see what Kevin Smith would do with Batman. I wanted to see what Smith would do with this superhero and I was a little curious about the super villain he created. Onomatopoeia is an enigma and I wasn’t sure how to take him; he works well as a super villain but for the most part I am still not sure what to make of him.

I am a fan of Batman and have often enjoyed Kevin Smith’s movies (except Jersey Girl) but I found this collection to be a little juvenile. Smith’s humour is often childish but that is never a defining factor in his movies with the exception of Clerks 2, so I was expecting so much more. There wasn’t much in the way of a storyline in Batman: Cacophony and I ended with so many unanswered questions. This is only a three issue series and I have to wonder if there were plans for more.

Walt Flanagan’s illustrations were a lot better than the writing; while not great it was far more entertaining. Flanagan uses a lot of vibrant colours that help distract the reader from the rest of the series. I had to enjoy the small homages Walt Flanagan made to other artists; one that particularly stood out to me was The Joker dress from The Killing Zone. Flanagan adopts a very busy style and while I wanted to rush through the story, it was hard to do this with the art.

There are a lot of great Batman series out there and I am struggling to work out which ones to try and which ones to look over. I am sad to say that Batman: Cacophony is one that should have been overlooked but that won’t stop me from trying to explore the rest. I hope people will help me with recommending me some good Batman series to read.


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Posted November 13, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki MurakamiTitle: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Harvill Secker, 2014
Pages: 298
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Hardcover

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Tsukuru Tazaki was lucky enough to have four close friends in high school. They were a tight knit group and they all shared their hopes and dreams with each other. When it came to college Tsukuru went off to Tokyo to pursue his dream career while the others remained in Nagoya at various schools. They vowed to remain close and Tsukuru made an effort to visit as much as possible. That was until one day Tsukuru was told that the other four wanted nothing to do with him anymore.

I am not going to go too much into the plot; I think this is something that needs to be discovered within the book. However I do need to talk a little about it. Tsukuru Tazaki had always felt like an outsider, even though he was accepted into the group for a while. He was always colourless in a group of colours; Akamatsu (which means red pine), Oumi (blue sea), Shirane (white root), and Kurono (black field), while his name means ‘to build’. Essentially this is a novel about friendship, rejection, isolation and the psychological scars that can be caused by others who never took that into account. There is a whole other side that can be explored but that would involve spoilers.

I had a rocky start with Haruki Murakami; the first book I read was 1Q84 and lets face it, this is the worst place to begin. I was exposed to the world of Murakami with the awkward fetishes and magical realism but 1Q84 was ultimately a little clunky and way too big. Luckily I am a bit of a hipster and picked up What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and while I’m not a runner, I found it to be an interesting read. It wasn’t till I read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World that I truly understood his brilliance. I still have a lot more to read but Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was a perfect next choice.

I have often heard people recommending beginning with Norwegian Wood because it is rooted in realism and I would like to think Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage would work as well. I obviously haven’t read Norwegian Wood yet but the idea of beginning with some of his realistic novels before getting into the magical realism and exploring the weirdness of Murakami’s brain is probably a good idea. His style is a little unusual but once you get an understanding of how his mind works you should be readying do dive into something fantastical.

What I have found reading Haruki Murakami is that he has a strong interest in both the conscious and the subconscious. His books explore the complexities of the mind and how different situations have a psychological impact on a person. This is a really interesting theme and one that I am particularly interested in; if I knew that a long time ago, I am sure I would have been more willing to explore his works.  Even What I Talk About When I Talk About Running explored this theme and it was a memoir.

I do wish I didn’t begin with 1Q84 but after a few other books, I finally can say that Haruki Murakami has another fan. I am keen to read all his other books; both fiction and non-fiction. There is something enthralling about the way a mind works and I really like the way that Murakami explores that. While Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was far from perfect, there are some weird and awkward moments in the writing that I believe is synonymous with his writing style but I found this a captivating read. I have reserved Norwegian Wood at the library and I am hoping to read that one very soon.


Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Posted November 5, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Graphic Novel, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’MalleyTitle: Seconds (Goodreads)
Author: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Artist: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Published: Ballantine Books, 2014
Pages: 336
Genres: Graphic Novel, Magical Realism
My Copy: Hardcover

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Katie is a talented young chef running a successful restaurant. However her dreams are to open her own restaurant, a place where she can have more freedom and creativity. She has found the location for this restaurant has a backer (silent partner) and is working on fulfilling her dream. The problem is, everything is moving so slowly and she is starting to get impatient. What she really needs is a second chance, to fix the mistakes she has made and get her new restaurant on track. For Katie, she has the opportunity; a mysterious girl appeared in the middle of the night with some simple instructions for a second chance.

  1. Write your mistake
  2. Ingest one mushroom
  3. Go to sleep
  4. Wake anew

I’ve been a big fan of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series so I’ve been looking forward to see what will happen with Seconds. Luckily, the same humour and whimsical adventure is present within this new graphic novel. What I like about O’Malley is the way he takes a look at everyday situations in a fun and comical way. The added magical realism thread really helps explore the issues present within this book.

Seconds is full of existential angst and it explores the idea of making mistakes and he does it in a new and unique way. Unlike the Sliding Doors style where life is explored in two different situations, Bryan Lee O’Malley plays with the idea of correcting mistakes while Katie sleeps. Of course this has some humorous effects; Katie isn’t aware what has changed and this leads into a madcap scenario.

Bryan Lee O’Malley returns as the artist for his own books again and he has an interesting art style. There is an Asian influence in his art work; the big eyes and hair are not the only thing he takes from this comic book style. This influence can be found throughout his graphic novels in the characteristics, style and storytelling. What I like about Seconds is that he took his art style as seen in the Scott Pilgrim series and added colour to it. There are not a lot of colours used; the shading is often very simple and one shade but it works really well. The colour is just used to make the art pop; Bryan Lee O’Malley does great artwork, almost simplistic but it remains very expressive.

I am glad to have more Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novels to experience but I am also reminded that he had another book before the Scott Pilgrim series that I need to check out. I do have Lost at Sea on my phone thanks to comixology; I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I wouldn’t mind checking out The Wonderful World of Kim Pine as well but I know it is short. Bryan Lee O’Malley has become a favourite of mine and I hope he does something new soon.


The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Posted September 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy MillerTitle: The Year of Reading Dangerously (Goodreads)
Author: Andy Miller
Published: Harper Collins, 2012
Pages: 252
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

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It is no secret that I am a fan of books about books; I especially enjoy a bookish memoir. The idea of reading and learning about someone’s bookish life is fascinating to me. Let’s be honest, I blog about books because I think I have an interesting bookish journey to talk about and I want to capture that for posterity sake. I would love to learn how to write a bookish memoir, so I read anything I can get my hands on. I have even written a post asking for recommendations for books about books and I am always on the look out for more.

I am not sure how I discovered Andy Miller’s memoir The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life but I do remember being really excited about it. I ordered the book and it sat on my shelf for a little too long. With a holiday to America planned, I packed the book in my suitcase and was determined to read it. Turned out Simon Savidge from Savidge Reads started talking about this book about the same time and now I look like I was just following him in an effort to be as cool as he is.

Andy Miller worked as an editor at the time of writing this book (I assume he still does) and found himself only reading for work. On impulse he picked up a copy of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and something just clicked for him. He set out to read ten books, which he called The List of Betterment, which consisted of books he has once lied about reading or felt he should read. This list obviously expanded over the course of the year but it was his starting point into rediscovering a passion for reading.

My discovery for reading was not unlike Andy Miller’s except mine involved Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the 1001 Books Before You Must Read Before You Die list and it wasn’t a lost passion. I loved this book, I was so happy to read about all the awesome books Miller was reading in the course of the year. While this memoir is not healthy for my TBR and judging by Andy Miller’s glowing praises for Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes, I really need to get onto this novel first.

My only problem with this memoir is that Miller didn’t spend enough time talking about my favourite novels, like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Iwas happy to see that The List of Betterment not only includes canon but also involves books like The Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1 by Stan Lee. It is just good to see a memoir that doesn’t just involve highbrow literature. He even considered calling this book How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life referring to Dan Brown.

There is so much to talk about within this memoir, especially when talking about the fifty books mentioned in the book. I’m hoping that I can find some more great bookish memoirs to follow this one. The Year of Reading Dangerously is essentially a book about connecting with great books and the positive effects reading has on a reader. I highly recommend the book and I hope the Andy Miller will write a follow up about his continuing bookish journey.


By Blood We Live by Glen Duncan

Posted March 26, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Horror, Literary Fiction / 4 Comments

By Blood We Live by Glen DuncanTitle: By Blood We Live (Goodreads)
Author: Glen Duncan
Series: Bloodlines #3
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2014
Pages: 368
Genres: Horror, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

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It’s a sad day for me; Glen Duncan’s Bloodlines trilogy has finally come to an end. This series has been a favourite of mine and I have been desperate to get my hands on By Blood We Live. If you don’t know, this trilogy started off as a bit of a joke for Glen Duncan. One New Year’s Eve party he jokingly claimed that he would write a page-turner with werewolves, and “none of my usual philosophical angst or moral inquiry.” Having recently been dumped from a publisher (he had no best sellers and had won no awards) the move towards literary genre fiction was a recipe for success for Duncan.

In the early planning stages, Glen Duncan had planned to write a “clever narrative with a memorable antihero at its feral, furry heart”. Being disappointed by the recent wave of popular paranormal novels (Twilight, etc) Duncan drew from the horror novels he loved (Frankenstein and Dracula) as well as his favourite werewolf movie (An American Werewolf in London); the end result was The Last Werewolf. It was Duncan’s take on the werewolf novel; remaining true to the mythology, unlike other paranormal novel The Last Werewolf was gritty, violent and over sexed. Jake Marlowe is the last werewolf alive, with the pending extinction of his new race, will he give up? The novel was nothing like other horror novels I read, this was dark and literary.

Then came Talulla Rising, which continued the story, this time from the point of view of Talulla Demetriou; a strong female protagonist that both kick-assed and was full of inner torment (my catnip). Where The Last Werewolf looked at life and loneliness, Talulla Rising forced more on love and family. It has been a two year wait but finally By Blood We Live was finally released to conclude this fantastic trilogy.

In By Blood We Live we follow both Remshi, 20,000-year-old vampire that has been haunted by Talulla in his dreams. Having half the novel from a vampires perspective is an interesting change for fans of the series. This novel focuses on survival and humanity, which are both common elements in a paranormal novel but a nice way to tie this trilogy together. Talulla is been pursued by a Vatican-based Militi Christian group of monster hunters who have taking the place of the now defunct WOCOP (World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena).  Remshi tries to uncover why Talulla haunts him as well as trying to stop the recklessness of a newly turned vampire.

While I wasn’t disappointed by By Blood We Live, I felt like this book wasn’t as great as its predecessors. It did conclude the trilogy and there were some great moments within the novel, I just felt like it had less to say than the first two. The literary wasn’t as prominent, almost like Glen Duncan is moving into the realm of best-selling author. While he does deserve the success, I would hate to see Duncan throw away any sign of the literary in his future novels. Rest assured that the dark and gritty feel to this series is still there. Something I must have looked in the first two novels was the amount of literary and pop culture references have been made; I know they were always in this series but I noticed them so much more in this novel.

I loved this series and I plan to reread them sometime in the near future; I know I’ll need to return to these witty and dark novels. I also have to try some of his other books, I know he said he wasn’t going to add his “usual philosophical angst or moral inquiry”, but I’m so glad he did, it really works for him. I hope Glen Duncan continues on his literary genre fiction journey and I’m eagerly awaiting what he does next. Has anyone else read this series? Or does anyone want to try to predict what genres his next book will cover?


The Dark Path by David Schickler

Posted March 13, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

The Dark Path by David SchicklerTitle: The Dark Path (Goodreads)
Author: David Schickler
Published: Riverhead Trade, 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

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If I was Catholic, I would want to be a Jesuit; they seem to be the most pretentious of all the Catholic congregations. Not that I would want to be a priest as I’m married but for David Schickler the desire to be a priest was a driving force in his life. The Dark Path is a memoir of Schickler’s struggle between a call to priesthood and his attraction to women. A memoir that explores his faith, sex and the internal conflict, The Dark Path is a funny and boldly honest look at his struggle.

I grew up in a strict religious home, though not Catholic, but I really connected with The Dark Path. Growing up, my parents were ministers and I often felt the pressure to join the ministry. Though it isn’t as daunting as becoming a priest, it made this book relatable. I’m often drawn to books with an internal struggle and when I first heard about this book, I knew it was something I had to read. The whole idea of choosing a life in service to God or giving into your sexual urges is an interesting topic and Schickler tackled it in a way that remained respectful to both choices.

While this is a book about religion and Catholicism in general, I think of this book as a struggle to decide what path to take. In our high school and college years we all face choices that will affect the rest of our lives and The Dark Path is essentially about those decisions. As I’ve had a strong religious upbringing there was just so much in the book that I could relate to and enjoy, this does make my review very biased but I can’t help it. I also married a Catholic so I had the opportunity to learn more about Catholicism while also having someone to answer all my questions I had in the book.

David Schickler has written one novel which is mentioned in this memoir called Kissing in Manhattan and also co-created the TV show Banshee, which I haven’t had an opportunity to watch. I have to wonder if both the novel and show portray a similar element of struggle in the characters as well as maybe a hint of religious politics because I think he captured this really well in this book. I get a sense that his writing style is dark, gritty and transgressive. You can see hints of this in his writing but he still managed to make this memoir hilarious and heart-warming.

There is so much I want to say about this book but I don’t want to give too much of the book away.  The Dark Path is the first book to receive a 5 star rating for 2014 and I hope to find many people to talk to about this memoir. If you have a religious background and want to read about a struggle of faith then I highly recommend The Dark Path. I plan to go read Kissing in Manhattan soon and maybe even try and get a hold of Banshee.