Tag: romance

August 2015 Mini-Reviews

Posted August 21, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction / 4 Comments

August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: Black Girl / White Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Published: Fourth Estate, 2006
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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

Black Girl / White Girl tells the story of Genna Hewett-Mead who is reflecting on a traumatic event in her past. Fifteen years ago, in 1975 while attending an exclusive women’s liberal arts college near Philadelphia, her roommate Minette Swift died a mysterious and violent death. Minette was a scholarship student and one of the few African American women to be let into the college. Genna, a quiet woman of privilege got to witness the effects of racism first hand as the racist harassment escalated from vicious slurs to something far worse. However whoever was responsible for this murder still remains a mystery to this day. I had never read Joyce Carol Oates before and I thought this may be my chance to experience her writing. The premise of this novel intrigued me and I was looking forward to uncovering the mystery at play. However, this turned out to be a novel about reflecting on the changing times; I was interested in learning about racism within America during the time of civil rights movements but this focused too much on Genna.

I understand that Joyce Carol Oates may not want to write a novel from the perspective of a person of colour, since she is Caucasian and probably could not do the situation any justice. Rather she took on the perspective of a woman of privilege experiencing the issue first hand. This may have made the book a little more autobiographical and allowed Oates to still explore the issue of racism. While I enjoyed this book, I did not find anything special about it. Maybe this was not the best example of Joyce Carol Oates’ writing but I will try more of her novels in the future.


August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Testimony (Goodreads)
Author: James Smythe
Published: Harper Collins, 2012
Pages: 368
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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

First there was static and the whole world freaked out. Then came a voice that said “My Children, Do not be afraid”. People said it was God, others said it was the government and still others believed it was aliens. The whole world was brought to a halt but no one had the answers. The Testimony details the apocalypse from the perspective of twenty six people around the world. James Smythe is a master at writing science fiction that will really make you ponder life and The Testimony is no different.

I was curious to check out James Smythe’s debut novel ever since I discovered his novels. The Machine was my first Smythe and still remains my favourite although many do prefer The Explorer. For me, while The Testimony was a thrilling read, it just was not on the same level as the other books I have read. Dealing with so many different perspectives was a great way to capture the different opinions and question the events. However this novel was not overly impressive, still a great book but if I compare if to James Smythe’s other novels, it falls short. This is proof on just how far Smythe has improved and makes me excited to read something new by this great author.


August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Firebird (Goodreads)
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2013
Pages: 539
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
My Copy: Audiobook

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

Nicola has a rare gift, she can touch an item and glimpse the lives of its previous owners. When she holds a small wood carving called The Firebird she sees a glimpse of Catherine I, wife and later successor to the Tsar Peter the Great. The Firebird is a fresh take on the time traveling romance genre, blending it with the ever popular paranormal romance genre. This is the second book in the Slains series by Canadian author Suzanna Kearsley.

My wife is a big fan of Kearsley and since this novel is partly set in Russian she thought I should check it out. There is some interesting aspects of the life and times of Peter the Great and allowed me to learn a little more about Russian history and culture. However there is something about this novel that I did not like. The Firebird is a story with no conflict and no antagonist and for me this meant it was a really boring novel. I understand people would read this book for the romance but I was uninterested in that story line, I was reading this for the Russian setting. Obviously I am the wrong person to judge The Firebird, it really was not my type of book.


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.


Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Posted March 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction / 6 Comments

Middlesex by Jeffrey EugenidesTitle: Middlesex (Goodreads)
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Published: Bloomsbury, 2002
Pages: 529
Genres: Literary Fiction
Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When Jeffrey Eugenides set out to write Middlesex he wanted to “[tell] epic events in the third person and psychosexual events in the first person”. He had decided that the voice “had to render the experience of a teenage girl and an adult man, or an adult male-identified hermaphrodite”. This was no easy task; he had to seek expert advice about intersexuality, sexology, and the formation of gender identity. His motivation came from reading the 1980 memoir Herculine Barbin and being unsatisfied by the lack of detail about intersex anatomy and his emotions.

”I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

If you’ve read Jeffrey Eugenides before you will know he doesn’t just stop at one issue, Middlesex is also loosely based on his life and is used to explore his Greek Heritage. While the book’s main protagonist is Cal Stephanides, Middlesex is a family saga that explores the impact of a mutated gene over three generations. Starting with Cal’s grandparents, the novel looks at their escape from the ongoing Greco-Turkish War and emigrating from Smyrna in Asia Minor to the United States. This section has similar themes to most immigration stories, looking at Greek and US culture in the 1920’s as well as their efforts to assimilate into American society. However this is overshadowed by the fact that Cal’s grandparents are also brother and sister.

Middlesex continues to follow the Stephanides family through the story of Cal’s parents and eventually his life. While the reader gets glimpses of Cal’s life throughout the novel, the last part is where we really explore how the 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (a recessive condition that caused him to be born with female characteristics) impacted his life. While I got the impression that this was the main focus of the novel and to some extent it is, I was expecting to explore the struggle and emotions behind his condition to a greater extent.

Jeffrey Eugenides has a lot going on his novels and you really need to be a literary critic to enjoy Middlesex to the full extent. I love Eugenides because he is too smart for his own good, on a basic level you can enjoy his novels but there is so much going on underneath that rereading is almost essential. Middlesex is a family saga but there are elements of romance, history, coming of age and, because of his Greek heritage, tragicomedy. You could spend hours exploring the hysterical realism and metafictional aspects from this book. For example; does Cal’s condition have any bearing on where he is narrating this novel from? Berlin, a city that also was divided into two (East and West). Also, why does the narrative style switch between first and third person? Some parts of the story are told in first person but Cal would never have been able to recount what happened in that kind of detail. Is this to evoke confusion within the reader, forcing them to just feel a fraction of what Cal must be feeling?

This is an incredibly complex novel and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what Jeffrey Eugenides has done. This is in fact the third of his novels I’ve read and sadly that is all of them for now. While I did enjoy Middlesex I found more joy from The Virgin Suicides (which deals with suicide) and The Marriage Plot (dealing with mental illness). I really appreciate the themes Eugenides explores and the complexities of his novels, but personal opinion is going against the norm here. Middlesex is probably his most recognised novel; it even won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Don’t let the complexity of Middlesex put you off reading this fantastic novel; sure, there is a lot there but it still worth picking up. You can spend as much time as you want exploring its depths but in the end you’ll come away with something. It is a compelling read that will stay with you well after finishing it. This is the perfect type of novel to pick up for a book club.


A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

Posted February 8, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Romance / 10 Comments

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLeanTitle: A Rogue by Any Other Name (Goodreads)
Author: Sarah MacLean
Series: The Rules of Scoundrels #1
Published: Avon, 2012
Pages: 386
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
My Copy: Audiobook

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

After a broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships, Lady Penelope Marbury has all but given up on finding love. That was until she married the Marquess of Bourne, a prince of London’s underworld, a man cast from society into nothingness who is out for revenge. This wasn’t a marriage of love but convenience, Bourne married for the dowry and Penelope to avoid scandal and to ensure her sisters wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

You can guess how the story goes. He wants to keep Penelope away from his world and his underground gambolling house. She is bored, he is a prick. She wants adventure, hot sex and happily ever after. That is how regency romances work, right? Well, it does in this case with Sarah MacLean’s A Rogue by Any Other Name. I feel like I need to go back to my review of Outlander and pretty much cover the same issues again. The whole fantasy verse reality issue; my wife loves Outlander but I know her well enough to know she doesn’t really want someone like Jamie. In reality, if you were in a relationship with Jamie (from Outlander) or Michael Lawler (the Marquess of Bourne) you would be in an abusive one.

People are probably wondering why I decided to read A Rogue by Any Other Name; it wasn’t because it won the RITA Award for Best Historical Romance in 2013 because I don’t care about awards. There are a few reasons. Obviously I needed a romance novel for the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. I know I could have gone with a literary romance novel but I was curious about Sarah MacLean mainly because she often talks about the intersection of feminism and the romance genre but also because the sex scenes are hot. Why not find out for myself?

Interestingly enough there was a very feminist vibe in this novel along with the whole cliché romance story arc. Penelope is portrayed as a very strong willed woman, willing to stand up to Michael’s stupid behaviour. She was in a situation where she had to think about her family and to avoid the scandals she made the choice to marry. The novel has a lot of other examples of feminism but what I liked about this book was the fact that most of the women were feisty and strong minded; they didn’t let the men control them. At times the men may think they are in control but they had no idea what they had gotten themselves into.

When it came to the sex scenes, yes they were hot and steamy but the fact that MacLean avoided most of those flowery euphemisms was what stood out to me. There were some cringe worthy phrases but as a whole the words seemed fitting. I know sex scenes are an important factor in deciding on which romance novels to read so I will say they were erotic, but there weren’t enough of them. Most of the time Penelope was the lonely wife and Michael didn’t want to corrupt her innocence, even if she was begging to be corrupted. However this is book one in The Rules of Scoundrels series so I’m assuming sex will be a more common thread in the next two books.

I’m not sure what the appeal is with romance novels but I will continue to try them. Personally I’m not that interested in reading more from The Rules of Scoundrels  series but maybe I’ll try book one of her other series, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (just because I like the name). Sarah MacLean’s written style is pretty good, the plots are pretty basic but she makes up for that with strong women and steamy sex. There is a black strip along the right hand side of the book cover; does anyone know what that means? If you are a fan of romance then I’m sure Sarah MacLean is someone you should be reading; it is better than the Outlander series.


The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Posted January 23, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Paris Wife by Paula McLainTitle: The Paris Wife (Goodreads)
Author: Paula McLain
Published: Virago, 2011
Pages: 392
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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

Forget everything you know about Ernest Hemingway because Paula McLain has set out to change that in The Paris Wife. This stunning novel follows a fictionalised account of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson. McLain’s version of Hemingway starts off as a tender man, with a crush on an older woman; he is persistent and full of love; nothing like what I know of the man.

The Paris Wife begins in the Chicago in 1920; it is here we meet Hadley and Ernest. Slowly we watch the two fell in love and get married. Soon after they have relocated to Paris where they meet other expatriate authors, such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The love shared between Hadley and Ernest is nothing short of beautiful, while it lasted.

If you know much about Ernest Hemingway, you know this whirlwind romance wasn’t going to last, I’m not spoiling anything by mentioning this. In fact it is mentioned on the back of the book. What I found most interesting about The Paris Wife is the way it is written in a first person perspective. My calculations from the clues in the book, is that Hadley was narrating this account at least thirty-four years after her divorce from Hemingway.

This presents a unique perspective of Ernest Hemingway, the pain and suffering would have been mostly gone and we get a distorted opinion of this famous author. Paula McLain’s masterfully presented Hemingway in such a way that I began to re-evaluate my personal opinion of the man. He was depicted as loving and caring, a struggling author with big dreams but also suffering from the torments of war. This eventually all came crashing down and my opinions where back to how I originally felt about this author; it takes some talent to be able to pull that kind of writing off.

This is the kind of novel you take to Paris. The atmosphere of 1920’s Paris was stunning, I could picture it and I wanted to go back to France and enjoy this city all over again. Unfortunately I don’t live in the world of Midnight in Paris, so I will have to stick with the modern city. Mentions of Shakespeare and Company were particularly special for me as I have very fond memoirs of that wonderful bookstore.

Fictionalised accounts are tricky and should always be taken with a giant grain of salt but I was happy to see Ms McLain ended this book with a note about her research including sources for her research. While this doesn’t mean I’m going to take the entire story as true, it does provide me with some reassurances that the author intended to keep as close to the facts as possible. This meant that at times the novel did feel more like a biography but the story was compelling enough to keep the book enjoyable.

One thing that bothered me after reading some reviews about this book is the people who hated this book because of the ‘unlikeable character’ when referring to Hemingway. I’ve always thought of the author as an unlikeable person (the man was a dick). What I was impressed with is the fact that Paula McLain managed to alter my opinion and try to look at things from another perspective. He was self-destructive and often came across as a man with no remorse but seeing his downward spiral on the page is what made this journey interesting.

I read this book for Jazz Age January; it was a good excuse to pick up The Paris Wife. I did in fact enjoy the novel but not in the sense that I would recommend it, I just think it was an interesting journey and look at Ernest Hemingway. There were flaws in the novel but you have to respect the way McLean worked the reader. I knew the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway had a falling out but now I suspect it was a case of them siding with Hadley during the break up. I will have to research some more to know for sure.


The Literary Exploration Reading Challenge Returns for 2014

Posted December 12, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 9 Comments

The Literary Exploration reading challenge is back, by popular demand. As most people know, Literary Exploration tries to explore all different genres in the hope to become a well-rounded reader and even discover something new. So we are challenging everyone to dedicate either 12, 24 or 36 books that you would normally read during the year to different genres. We have compiled a list which hopefully will give you a chance to explore literature a little deeper.

It’s real simple; below you will see an easy (12 books), hard (24 books) or insane (36 books) challenge. Each genre links to the Goodreads genre page if you need some suggestions on what to read. We want you to have some fun and explore; hopefully you might find a new genre that peaks your interest. To sign up either join the Literary Exploration book club on Goodreads and talk about your progress with others involved or for the bloggers out there, if you want to add it as part of your blogging experience simply let us know with a link (to your Literary Exploration Challenge page) in the comments below so our readers can see how you are going.

This year we have adjusted the insane challenge slightly to make it a little more rounded. The popularity of the reading challenge with overwhelming and we are pleased to see how many people wanted to do it again next year. We have even offered some bonus for those who want to take it to the next level. The idea of this challenge is to have a well-balanced list of genres and not focusing on one genre more than any others.

Good luck all who decide to join in. I personally am going to go for the 36 book, insane challenge and I’m really looking forward to it. While there are some genres I’m not looking forward to reading, it’s all part of being a literary explorer. What could be wrong with that?

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New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Posted October 28, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Romance, Young Adult / 2 Comments

New Moon by Stephenie MeyerTitle: New Moon (Goodreads)
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Series: Twilight #2
Published: Little Brown and Company, 2006
Pages: 565
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
My Copy: Library Book

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

The most important thing in Bella Swan’s life is Edward Cullen (eye roll). So much so that college is plan B, but now he is gone, in an effort to keep her safe. But she is not safe, there are vampires out for revenge and since the Cullen’s are no longer around, Bella is their target. In comes Jacob Black; young, handsome and willing to protect Bella.

If you have read my review on Twilight, you must be wondering why I decided to read New Moon. Torture, joining the social commentary or most likely peer pressure. If you follow me on twitter or have read my post on reading Twilight then you know the fun I had with live tweeting the entire book in all its weirdness. This is what happened again with New Moon (see below for a full read of those tweets) and I think this was the only reason why I decided to continue, because truth be told, I hated the books but really enjoyed making sarcastic remarks about them.

Let’s have a quick look at the book. I’m not going to go into deep analysis of New Moon; I would have to read the book closer for that and really I only skimmed it to race through it. This is not to say I didn’t read the book, I am well aware of the plot and the key themes but this book had so much padding that skimming was the only real way to get through it. There was a paragraph dedicated to the voice of Edward Cullen and almost a full chapter where Bella and Alice flew to Europe (nothing else happened on the flight).

Bella is as always so co-dependent that it makes me sick; when Edward left she latched on to Jacob. She tells herself that she is not capable of falling in love again, like a whiny heartbroken teenager that thinks this is the end of her life and yet she is happy to lead Jacob on. There even was a time when it felt like she was going to be co-dependent on Alice; this would have made it more interesting.

Jacob started off as a whiny little lovesick puppy following Bella around everywhere. Then when it was revealed he was a werewolf he turned into a real asshole, too cool to hang out with a girl because he was in a gang. He went from one extreme to another and I just hated Jacob, there was a joke made by one of my Twitter followers of this being character development and it is sad to say this is the extent of development in the entire novel.

Apart from the constant angsty whining (and I normally love angst) this novel never really went anywhere, it was just 500 pages of treading water. The major problems I had with New Moon are (and I’m picking my top couple out of a long list), firstly the lack of consistency. Twilight and New Moon seem to contradict each other in so many ways; in book one Bella got sick at the smell of blood but in New Moon she was bleeding all over the place frequently and never seems to get sick. Then there was the fact that Stephenie Meyer, instead of doing a little research,  ignored any mythology and just made up her own. This really annoyed me, some slight changes in the vampire/werewolf mythology is acceptable if you are going to use it but to make a vampire sparkle so you can spend pages on how much Edward is like diamonds is ridiculous.

I hate to say this but I will probably read Eclipse and Breaking Dawn just to live tweet them, I don’t expect to like the books but I can’t help reading them. Obviously I pay them out but I do try to analyse them to see if there is anything interesting there; wishful thinking. I will need long breaks in between the novels but you can look forward to reading my thoughts in the very distant future. I doubt I will ever like this series but at least I have evidence to back up my claims.

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Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Posted October 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

Boy Meets Boy by David LevithanTitle: Boy Meets Boy (Goodreads)
Author: David Levithan
Published: Harper Collins, 2003
Pages: 223
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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

Paul is a sophomore in a high school unlike any other. He meets Noah, and thinks he is the one, the person he will spend the rest of his life with. That was until he blew it, the school bookie has the odds 12 to 1 against him. But Paul is determined to not let this get him down; he knows what he wants and will go after it.

This is your typical romantic comedy done in a different way. I want to talk about the world first; in this utopian world sexuality is not an issue. Even in the high school, the homecoming queen is also the quarterback (Her name Infinite Darlene, but her parents called her Daryl) and every click is divided into gay stereotype, except for the straight people who seem to be bunched into an (almost outcast) group. The school has a gay-straight alliance which was formed to teach the straight people to dance. Everything is too perfect; no one struggled with their sexuality or identity.

I’m not sure if it is just me improving as a reader but I spent most of this novel questioning everything and not enjoying the clichés and ease of these people’s lives. No one seemed to have any major issues and for a high school that seems too fake; this is why I’m convinced they live in the utopian world where everything is perfect. These students are highly intelligent and seem to have everything worked out, the only struggles they have are the ones needed to drive the typical romcom plot.

My first experience with David Levithan was his co-written novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green and while I enjoyed that book enough to try his novels there was just too much that bothered me about this one. I’m assuming this is bad news for any other John Green books that I might read, their styles are very similar but I just couldn’t get past of the unanswered questions that I asked.

I’m glad there are romantic comedies between two guys and I think more GSM (Gender and/or sexual minority or LGBT if you prefer) novels are needed. I just don’t like that no one seems to have real struggles; I want this in all characters. I never expect a teenager in particular to have everything worked out and with their budding sexuality there are so many complex emotions that could be dealt with in a book like this.

One other thing that really bothered me in this book was the excess of nods. I began to think of all the characters as bobble heads rather than humans. It is like excess winking in novels, no human nods or winks that much in real life, why do they do it in books? I know with nodding it is just a way to show that a character agrees but if it is used too much it just feels too unrealistic.

This is an entertaining book that I just had too many issues with, not enough to never try Levithan again (still want to read Two Boys Kissing) but it really bothered me. I know many people loved this book and his style still feels similar to John Green, so I think it’s just me. I will love to know what worked or didn’t work for the people that have read this book. I don’t think I’m missing anything, so why is this much loved YA novel so difficult to enjoy.


The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

Posted October 4, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Gothic / 0 Comments

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann RadcliffeTitle: The Mysteries of Udolpho (Goodreads)
Author: Ann Radcliffe
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1794
Pages: 693
Genres: Classic, Gothic
My Copy: Library Book

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

Emily St. Aubuert was imprisoned by her evil guardian, Signor Montoni. We follow her misadventures from his dark fortress in the Apennines as she suffers physical and psychological terror. The Mysteries of Udolpho is told in a dream-like hallucination that gives the reader a sense of Emily’s psychological state.

Writing a synopsis for this novel was one of the hardest things about this review. There are so many fragments in this book which makes it difficult to summarise what this book is about. Written in four volumes, Ann Radcliffe’s gothic romance manuscript has reported to have been brought for £500 in 1794, I’m not sure if that takes into account the inflation, if not that seems huge I can’t imagine an author receiving that much for a book nowadays.

This classic novel is a quintessential gothic romance but there are fragments of so many other genres with the supernatural, psychological mysteries that fill the pages. I really wanted to enjoy this book but I found it incredible wordy and at the time I was not in the right frame of mind for it, but I will do my best to be fair. The major downfall for me was the extensive descriptions of the landscapes; in particular Pyrenees and Apennines which while stunning just caused the book to drag on.

Emily is orphaned after the death of her father and taken in by her aunty Madame Cheron who married an Italian brigand Count Montoni. As romance between Emily and Valancourt, Montoni became increasingly frustrated and Cheron disapproved, believing him too poor, until she realised his aunt is Madame Clairval. When Count Montoni and Madame Cheron married he refused to allow Emily to married as he figured he could sell her. The major theme I got from this novel was the idea of indifference and the cruelty that can go along with it. Count Montoni is the definition of the gothic villain archetype; evil, sinister, greedy, and motivated by money. Even his marriage to Madame Cheron is for mercenary reasons and tried to force her to sing over her estates.

The novel is not all dark and gothic, I did mention that this was a gothic romance.  Emily’s devotion to Valancourt is unshakeable and his heart seems to belong to her as well. He does make some mistakes and his behaviour eventually causes Emily to renounce him but even after that her thoughts were always towards him. The devotion or loyalty is always fighting against the gothic themes of this novel as you expect from a novel like this. Even the romance between Annette and Ludovico’s is not always happy, especially when he locks her up for her safety. Gothic romance is an unusual genre and you always get a sense that the entire book is fighting to counteract the romance, but then this is the type of book I enjoy.

This is a hard novel to review, there are so many plot lines and if I go off and talk about each of them this post will just go on and on. I know trying to condense the review down to a blog post doesn’t really do the book justice but I tried to focus on the main plot line. While the book felt wordy and dragged on,  this was an interesting book, one I feel needs to be revisited sometime in the future. It would be interesting what I can pull out of the book once I have improved my critical reading skills. Have you read this classic? If so I would love to know your thoughts on it.


The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth

Posted September 2, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 2 Comments

The Unknowns by Gabriel RothTitle: The Unknowns (Goodreads)
Author: Gabriel Roth
Published: Picador, 2013
Pages: 227
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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

Eric survived high school in the mid 80’s; the nerd that spent way too much time with computers and never really having any friends. Now he has millions from selling his dot com and lives in a beautiful apartment and living the life everyone dreams of. Except he never quite found love, that was until the glamorous Maya came into his life. It’s not easy trying to get the most alluring woman in the world to pay any attention to you at all.

When I was in high school I really wanted to be a writer, this is the type of story I tried to write. Not as well as Gabriel Roth, I don’t know how to be a writer. they always ended up too short and descriptive, I never knew how to write long form and tended to rush to the end. Don’t get me wrong, The Unknowns is not a typical nerdy love story; Roth showed me just what can be done with this type of novel.

If you think this is not the type of novel I would normally pick up and enjoy then let me tell you why I picked this book up. I consider Megan Abbott the queen of contempory noir and when she blurbs and tweets about a novel, I tend to pay attention. The Unknowns starts out as a nerd falling in love but then deals with the complexity of a relationship, in a slight noirish manner.

Maya may be the most beautiful woman Eric has ever seen but she comes with her own issues she has to deal with. Humans can be fragile creatures and sometimes it is hard to know just how deep the pain runs. When Eric learns about his lover and her emotional scars he is left wondering about the truth. Life is more complex than computer code.

I really enjoyed the way this book tackled relationships; from the start you have a geeky romance and then by the end you are reading about the complex human beings. Roth blends wit with a unique view of the world and human interactions and nails home a magnificent exploration into relationships. I like the way this book is a budding romance/coming of age novel but you look a little deeper and there is so much more to discover.

While Eric isn’t too similar to me, I remember life as an outsider (I still feel that way) and the feeling of trying to navigate the social waters. As you get older, it doesn’t get any easier and you are bound to make mistakes. I’m lucky to have found my own Maya and had to learn about relationships and trying to understand all the pain from their past can be a lot to deal with when you are socially awkward. I really identified with this novel and felt inspired to write again but then I realise I can’t write anything like this and never end up trying.

The Unknowns is a witty humorous contemporary novel full of so many human truths, when Megan Abbott tweeted me to tell me that this novel won’t disappoint she wasn’t lying. I’m not trying to name drop, Abbott is fantastic on Twitter and will happily answer any questions you might have and proves Twitter is the place to be. If you are socially awkward or are interested in the exploration of relationships then this book is for you.