Just Another Bookworm

The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem: A Lively Account of Famous Writers & Their Feuds

The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem: A Lively Account of Famous Writers & Their Feuds - Myrick Land Hemingway, Dickens, Wells- These and many other famous authors have become immortalized as generation after generation pass along their works, most earning the title of 'modern classic'. What readers don't consider is that these writers had lives outside of the words on the pages, and just like the famous media stars of today, their lives were sometimes driven to create drama. Only, their feuds with each other tended to be a little more subtle than the paparazzi fighting to get the best pictures and stories of those involved, though several legendary fights Land tells of do involve arguing in public. Newspaper pages became their most popular fighting ring- each writer's response to his opponent's editorial or book review from the week before. Another well-used weapon from one author to another involved creating ridiculous characters for their novels, loosely based on the target, where the writer can control and emphasize every aspect of their opponent's life and personality.

Myrick Land recreates the time periods for each feud by really submersing the reader in direct quotes from memoirs, magazines, newspapers, and countless other sources, including interviews he himself conducted with some of the parties involved to get every detail of the arguments and reprocutions.

Land successfully portrays the personalities and qualities of all these literary heroes so the reader can get to know them beyond their name on the cover of your favorite novels. Which famous authors were trouble-makers? Who quivered in the corner when called out by another's attack? A fascinating collection of the various feuds- from Norman Mailer and James Baldwin to Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, this author has now immortalized a side of these legends few know or think about. It is a well-written, to-the-point account of some of their more famous social contributions and more sinister character creations.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe Katherine Howe's 2009 novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane follows Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin through the summer of 1991, unfortunately divided between research for her dissertation (with her adviser actively pushing her to find her primary source), and the great task of cleaning out her late grandmother's old house in Marblehead, Massachusetts so it could be sold. Her initial inspection of the house produced a key hidden in a Bible, with the name 'Deliverance Dane' on a small scroll inside it. A student in American Colonial history, she is quick on the trail of a possible primary source, the study of which would secure her high reputation in her field. Appearing only in the town's records, deceased in 1692, and not listed in the church's records suggested that Deliverance was probably a previously unaccounted for victim of the Salem witch trials. Public records indicated a book-like item being transferred upon death through her family, whether an almanack (sic) or a receipt book, but they stop before giving away a very current location. When her new love interest's life is on the line, the "Book of Deliverance Dane" becomes more important than ever. Along the way Connie discovers just how much people are willing to sacrifice to possess this 'shadow book'.

Intermingled throughout Connie's story is the tale of Deliverance Dane from the very beginning of the Salem witch hunt, through the eyes of her young daughter, Mercy. Deliverance made her living doing "physick," a sort of magic, and was often called upon by neighbors to cure an ailment or save a runt calf. She kept a book of her recipes and incantations, passed on through the women in her family for generations. When she wrongly diagnoses a dying young girl and gives the wrong "physick," her father blames Deliverance for her death, and upon the scream of witch from a few of the town's young girls, he saw his chance for revenge and claimed she purposely killed her daughter through instruction of the Devil. As panic strikes this small colonial town, Mercy must take her mother's book and run, go to the house in the next town that her mother had provided for her protection. But most of all, she had to save her mother's healing craft, and continue its practice in secret.

Clearly, extensive research and knowledge went into this novel, both of the Salem witch trials and the Colonial period in general. The appearance and personality are accurate according to written accounts of this period, as well as portraits still preserved today. With a plethora of unexpected twists and turns, this novel teaches readers a little bit about a very monumental event in our country's history, and the severe consequences of fanaticism and widespread panic. I think The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane deserves the full five out of five stars for combining a great thriller and an amazing historical novel.

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time - Jonathan Weiner A very complete and persuasive argument for evolution, Jonathan Weiner accompanies and interviews some of the most respected professionals in the fields of biology- evolutionists, ecologists, ornithologists, botanists, conservationists, geneticists, molecular biologists, and microbiologists, all showing how evolution is occurring, and in some cases physically observed, in their respective fields. Creationists beware, this book may change your mind. The author's primary focus lies with the finches Charles Darwin studied so intensively in the Galapagos Islands in the 1800s, and mirrors his findings and experiences with those of Peter and Rosemary Grant's first eleven years continuing his work, pointing out where his beliefs were wrong and following his hunches to discover habits and relationships they never would have thought to connect. Weiner accompanies the Grants several times throughout their trips to Daphne Major, as well as Genovesa, San Cristobal, and other volcanic islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago, getting a first-hand look at the evolution taking place, himself.

The author provides the facts and figures the finch-watchers collect, proof that these animals are physically changing over the generations to fit best into their particular niche on the island. Beak size or shape, body size, claw usage, they are all changing to get the most out of their environment, and as the environment changes, particularly when under flood or drought, the changes move into the direction that will best fit the new environment. He also clears up the line between what is simply an adaptation in a species, and what changes suggest a whole new species has been created.

Evolution is also shown through experimentation and observation of other birds, insects, bacterium, fish, flowering plants, and molecules from all around the world. The science of this is broken down so thoroughly that one does not need to be familiar with the subject before picking up this book, because everything is well-explained, and Weiner doesn't waste time getting off-topic to explain a theory or scientific process not necessary to understand why and how these changes happen.

Human evolution is also spotlighted, giving a brief history of how we have changed since branching off from the other primates. He also touches on the subject of human consciousness, why we seem to be the only creatures able to develop it, and whether it's possible for other conscious beings to live on another planet- a mystery forever plaguing the evolutionary community.

Well-deserving of its Pulitzer Prize, "The Beak of the Finch" is a fantastic read for anyone interested in biology or evolution theory. Well-organized, well-written, and stimulating enough not to bore the casual reader. I gave it five out of five stars and admire Jonathan Weiner as an author for traveling all over the world out of commitment to the study of his subject.

Torn

Torn  - Amanda Hocking In Hocking's first Trylle novel "Switched", I fell in love with Finn right along with Wendy (and just about every other female reader!). In this sequel, I became upset at Wendy, Finn, the author, everyone involved, for the events that transpired as I tore through the novel, waiting for the ultimate moment when Finn throws himself at the princess and finally demands they be together forever, no matter the cost! Sadly, I was greatly disappointed. As Finn repeatedly chooses duty over love and slowly fades into the background of Wendy's mind, he is replaced so quickly by the Vittra Markis Loki, and his request to marry her and run away together, completely freeing themselves of troll-kind. Actually, I noticed while reading that Wendy has an awkward relationship with every male character in her age range... She has orders to keep a distance between herself and Rhys after being caught asleep in his bedroom, she is frowned upon by many for her insistence in keeping Matt at the palace, she loves Finn but has to hide it and never be with him while he still works in the Palace, she's been caught kissing Loki, the mortal enemy, who later begs for her love and all the while still finds time to help Elora and Aurora plan her upcoming marriage to the homosexual Tove. I find it hard to sympathize with Wendy with all the romance drama and broken hearts she seems to create. Thankfully, other romances are uncovered and will shock every reader!

The plot follows Wendy on the road to becoming Queen of the Trylle and sheds some light on why the Vittra are so desperate to get their hands on her. I was not as impressed by this novel as I was with "Switched" and felt constantly conflicted about which male character she would gravitate to next. There is some much-needed development in Wendy's relationships with Elora, Willa, and Tove, as she accepts her responsibilities as the Princess and begins to grow into the role.

While the story line does progress a necessary amount for a trilogy, it lacked the rushes of excitement every reader craves and the passion one expects from a young adult novel. With one book left in the Trilogy, Hocking can definitely still redeem herself in my eyes. I still look forward to "Ascend", with high hopes and expectations. I gave it three out of five stars because while it was just okay in my eyes, I still absolutely love the series and characters, I just wish they'd make up their minds already!!!

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll Originally written off as unintelligent nonsense, Carroll's "Alice" books have entertained generations of adults and children alike. Starring the young Alice, created based on the young Alice Liddell, a child Carroll met at a picnic in July of 1862, where he began to tell the little girl a story of her following a white rabbit down his rabbit hole and onto this remarkable adventure that he writes down and eventually publishes in 1865, as the insistence of the girl's family. Marketed as a children's book when it was first written, Carroll was able to mock every aspect of Victorian English society in the seemingly innocent dream sequences of a seven-year old girl. Renowned for its eccentric and colorful cast of characters and nonsense conversations, researchers and literary experts are still discovering potential meanings in Carroll's works, revealing the author's true opinions of the social and political world he was born into.

In the novels, the White Rabbit is believed to represent a petty bureaucrat, constantly concerned with his own image and schedule, with little to no concern for the problems of others. The author also uses well-known nursery rhyme characters, Humpty Dumpty for example, to emphasize and tap into the familiar childhood fantasy of all readers familiar with this rhyme. Another character-type he utilizes in this humorous hodge-podge is the brave, noble knight archetype. Putting his own bias into the character, he made him slow, clumsy, and barely able to stay on his horse- a bit of a blow to the idea of the flawless White Knight come to save the day. Among these are the universally well-know Cheshire Cat, "Mad" Hatter, the March Hare, and the outspoken Dormouse.

All in all, it's quite easy to see how the "Alice" books have become classics- the uniqueness and child-like humor camouflaging adult undertones of political and social opinions and mockery would have made a much bigger impact in the late-1800s had readers at the time saw past the silliness and into the heart of the work. Presently, upon further researching and extensive searches for deeper meanings, we can now appreciate Carroll as a respectable writer instead of as the creator of sheer nonsense to entertain the fantasies of children. I gave it four out of five stars.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth  - Carrie Ryan The "young adult" label finds its way to the zombie craze in this book series. "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" is the story of Mary, a teenager displaced and orphaned in a world over run with Unconsecrated. After a sheltered life in a small, fenced-in village being told there is nothing left of the world but the forest and the undead, Mary is eager to find out if her mother's stories of the ocean are true. When the fences are breached and survival depends on escaping the village, Mary, her best friend Cass, the man she loves, Travis, her betrothed, Harry, her brother Jed and his wife, and Jacob, a young boy whose parents were turned by Unconsecrated sneak out through a fenced path and begin their adventure in the Forest. The secret arrival of a girl into the village has Mary convinced she and Travis can find the ocean and figure out how to live happily ever after, despite the death surrounding them seemingly everywhere they go.
As is a staple feature of young adult novels, there is great emphasis on the relationship between Mary and Travis. As the village rule-makers, the Sisterhood, decree, Mary is betrothed to the first guy of age who asks the Sisterhood to be married to her. Her very close friend Harry asks for her, despite her love for his brother Travis, who is betrothed to Cass. Once outside the village and no longer under the Sisterhood's rule, this makes for and interesting, awkward social dynamic, as Cass is openly in love with Harry.
Besides this being the first young adult novel I have seen taking place in a zombie-infested world, very little is unique in this novel from other of the genre. A brave young girl fighting some force much bigger than herself while struggling for the guy she loves. I have read this same scenario repeatedly, and while it does appeal to teens, it's beyond predictable and does get a little old. I gave this novel three of five stars. I did enjoy it, but felt it was nothing spectacular and will probably pass on the rest of the series.

America's Endangered Wildlife

America's Endangered Wildlife - George Laycock "America's Endangered Wildlife" is a comprehensive wealth of information about individual species disappearing right from our own back yards. The author delves deep into sixteen individual species especially threatened and gives tips for how they can be saved from the brink, and also summarizes the plight of almost a hundred total species. I found this to be an informative and interesting work, but having read it purely for leisure, I found it to be quite unmemorable. Just a day after finishing the book, I found myself combing the pages for inspiration in writing this review.
Laycock is an authority on American wildlife and conservation, having penned several books on the subject. This one in particular is a valuable resource for anyone interested in protecting these animals, most threatened solely by humans invading and destroying their natural habitats.
I gave this book four out of five stars for highlighting such a worthy cause and bringing the issue of threatened and endangered American animal species. I really hope this book finds its way into the hands of more and more people determined to help with this issue for generations to come.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson I always regret when an amazing piece of literature is in publication for years before the masses catch on. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a very successful crime novel hailing from Sweden, by author Stieg Larsson. It finally reached mass popularity in the United States upon the release of its movie adaptation. Suddenly, copies of the novel and its subsequent The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest started appearing in stores all over the country, and they were flying off the shelves.

"The Girl" these novels follow is Lisbeth Salander- the quiet, tattooed, and eccentric freelance investigator for a security company. She joins black-listed journalist Mikael Blomkvist on the job of a lifetime. Mikael is approached by the elderly Henrik Vanger, former-CEO of the Vanger Corporation, and patriarch of the Vanger family. After pleading guilty to a libel charge he did not commit and stepping down as publisher of his own Millennium magazine. Blomkvist is looking at financial ruin and the collapse of his magazine, so he reluctantly accepts the old man's request to relocate to his family's private island for a year and write a chronicle of Henrik, his family, and their lives as majority share holders of a successful multinational corporation. The one catch is that while collecting information for the biography, Blomkvist must also try to solve the 30+ years old disappearance of Henrik's niece Harriet from that very island.

As Mikael seems to be uncovering new clues and information, Henrik's personal lawyer hires Lisbeth Salander to aid Blomkvist in his extensive digging into the events of the day Harriet disappeared. Initially cold, quiet, and difficult to get through to, Mikael and Lisbeth begin to trust and respect each other for their skill in their chosen fields, forming a perfect team to pry into the lives of this rich and respected family and prove that everyone has skeletons needing to stay in the closet.

The character who seems the least to be changed by this year-long adventure is actually the character we see the most throughout the story. Salander remains very cold and distant, virtually uncaring, until well into her partnership with Blomkvist. Toward the end, we see her heart start to thaw a little and her true thoughts and she begins to allow herself to have emotions toward people, even if she never shows them. Having not yet read the next two books, I would believe this social acclimation place a central role throughout the series.

I found The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to be a very brilliant crime novel with fascinating characters and a very unique crime to solve. I would definitely give it five out of five stars and highly recommend to everyone.

'Salem's Lot

'Salem's Lot - Jerry Uelsmann, Stephen King As a die-hard Stephen King fan, I am shocked it took me so long to finally read this, one of his most popular works. To add to the powerful impact the town of Jerusalem's Lot and its residents has on the reader, this special edition includes two short stories King penned about this notorious town, in addition to deleted scenes from the original manuscript. The final little extra included in this particular edition is a collection of black-and-white photos, depicting the mood and emotion King wants his readers to experience during the novel. Of course, nothing can do justice to the vividly horrifying scenes King's words paint in the readers' minds.

The story is set in the minuscule town of Jerusalem's Lot, Maine, an ancient village with more than it's share of secrets. Looming over 'the Lot', just outside of town, is the infamous Marsten House, an abandoned mansion with extreme superstitions surrounding it after centuries of mysterious occupants, homicide, and suicide. It is in this mansion that writer Ben Mears had the most terrifying experience of his childhood, and it is because of this house that he is back in 'Salem's Lot, determined to end the nightmares his visit to Marsten House cause him. Shortly after Ben moves into the local boardinghouse to write his next book, two mysterious men also arrive in town- and they've bought the evil house on the hill. Little is known about Straker and his companion Barlow, and town gossip fills in all the unknowns about the men and their business in 'Salem's Lot. Their arrivals signal the end of the peace in this sleepy town, and the beginning of unexplained deaths and disappearances after the sun goes down. Befriending high school teacher Matt Burke and the young Susan Norton, Ben works to discover the cause of the deaths. Later joined by Dr. Jimmy Cody, the orphaned Mark Petrie, and local priest Father Callahan, the group fights for the good to foil Barlow's plan to create an Undead following of the townspeople. It's a fight of good versus evil, mortality versus the ancient wisdom of the immortals, in a village virtually unknown to the rest of the world.

The short stories included are "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One For the Road." "Jerusalem's Lot" is a collection of letters and journal entries written by two men residing in Marsten House long before the time in which the novel occurs and gives much back story to the evil that looms over the house and nearby town, which lays deserted for reasons unknown. It shows a man's gradual descent into madness at the hands of the supernatural evil inhabiting the town's church, and his companion's horror at the change. "One For the Road" is a more modern tale of the Lot, told shortly after the novel takes place, when the city is once again abandoned, save for the evil undead that stalk in the night. The addition of a past and a future beyond human lifetimes solidifies the immortality of the vampiric force constantly feeding on the life around Marsten House.

Stephen King's vampires are those straight out of Bram Stoker's classic Dracula. They're the vampires who originally haunted the pages of literature at the dawn of the horror genre. They fear holy artifacts, burn in the sunlight, can not enter a home uninvited, and can only be destroyed by a stake to the heart. These evil beings, coupled with the darkness that already looms over the town in Marsten House creates the perfect horror story scene in a very modern world, as if it could actually have happened last week.

It is very easy to see why 'Salem's Lot was such an instant success back in 1975. The heavy darkness that fills every page is exactly what horror fans crave and why Mr. King is the authority in the modern horror genre. An easy five out of five stars.

The Goblin Wood

The Goblin Wood - Hilari Bell In what turned out to be an addicting fantasy novel, Hilari Bell shows love and compassion for goblins, a race often seen in a negative light in fantasy novels.

Betrayed by her own human race, Makenna, a young hedgewitch, flees her village after her mother's execution and finds herself in the company of goblins. With a decree demanding all independent magic wielders are in league with dark forces, a crime demanding execution, she finds refuge among these magical creatures and becomes their leader in the fight to keep humans from settling in their land. Flash forward five years and we're introduced to Tobin, a dishonored knight offered a chance to regain his post, if he can help rid the Northern woods of it's goblin inhabitants to make way for human migration. Captured by Makenna and her goblin army, Tobin is forced to see them as the peaceful, victimized beings they are, dividing his loyalties. Now, it's all-out war, and Tobin has to pick a side. To side with the goblins would be the "right" thing to do, but his friends, family, and a comfortable life as a lord await him should he help the humans exterminate the goblins.

I thoroughly loved this novel! The characters are all very liable and complex, and the society the author created for the goblins is just as magical as the creatures themselves. She gives them a myriad of abilities, creating sub-cultures to complicate a normally cut-and-dried fantasy species.

I found the ending aggravating, though appropriate to allow for a sequel. Told from both Makenna and Tobin in alternating chapters, the reader can appreciate the internal conflicts for both main characters, and sympathize with their struggles. I gave this book a full five of five stars and plan to read the sequel!

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach Death is something most in Western society are not comfortable talking about. Although it's an inevitable part of life, the final part, humans as a whole would prefer to put it out of their minds- as if denying that you will one day cease to exist will stop it from happening. Talking of death makes others uncomfortable, and showing an interest in the subject is a quick way to be labeled as "strange" or "crazy". The loss of a loved one is often as troubling as facing our own mortality. Once a loved one has passed, the family must arrange for the body to be handled in the way specified by the deceased, mourn their loss at a funeral or memorial service, oversee burial or cremation, and then it's over and life must go on. Not all bodies are left to rest right away, however. Many people donate their healthy organs to save the lives of strangers in need of a transplant. Others still donate their whole cadavers to science through willed bodies programs, in the hopes of making a different kind of impact in death. But what exactly happens to a body willed to scientific study? This is just the question Mary Roach set out to answer in "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers". Mary traveled all over the world for the sake of researching this book, finding out the different fates these cadavers meet.

As the author explains, eighty percent of bodies donated to universities and medical centers wind up as hands-on training for anatomy classes. Over the course of a year, students extensively study the inner workings of their specimen, and usually close out the course with some sort of memorial service for the people they have spent so much time with, yet know so little about. All anatomical gifts are required by law to be cremated upon completion of their various duties. Roach also visited a mortuary school, where students perfect their skills on real cadavers. A very controversial use of willed cadavers is experimentation, particularly car crash studies to judge bodily damage sustained in various accident scenarios, for the purpose of perfecting automobile safety. The author takes you into one such study to show the threshold of force a human shoulder can withstand. The military also uses cadavers to test the effectiveness of combat gear in minimizing injury to soldiers. Another use the author delves into takes place at the University of Tennessee, in an area know as the "Body Farm", where hundreds of corpses in a myriad of conditions are left to rot, while carefully examined regularly. This facility operates to increase our knowledge of human decomposition for use in forensics- identifying decaying bodies and solving mysterious deaths. There seems to be no limit to the areas of study cadavers are used in, but Mrs. Roach covers many of the interesting uses throughout her book.

She also examines how bodies have been used throughout history. Extensive research has particularly gone into the use of tissue and bodily fluids in remedies and pharmacology, a practice existing since before written history. From drinking urine to cure jaundice, to seventeenth-century druggists combining human fat or menstrual blood with various herbs and marketing them to cure a slew of minor (or not-so-minor) afflictions, Mary Roach exposes a part of human history few have the stomach to think about. Even human fetuses, the blood of infants, and decaying human flesh were prescribed regularly at some point in time.

Roach also speaks briefly of two newly introduced alternatives to burial or cremation for families to consider. A woman in Sweden is marketing her idea to freeze-dry cadavers before interring them in a shallow grave to turn to compost and fertilize a tree or plant of the family's choosing as a memorial to their loved one. This method is very "green", as well as cost-effective. It appeals greatly to environmentalists, but some have a difficult time degrading their loved ones to fertilizer. The other new method Roach introduces to the reader is referred to as "water reduction". A cadaver is put into a vat of water and lye. The vat is then sealed and pressurized, leaving the body as liquid and extremely fragile bone. The liquid drains out of the vat, and the bone remnants can then be boxed up and buried. This is very effective as it allows the body to take up less reality in a cemetery, making more room for others. Though both methods are controversial for one reason or other, they both show promise in simplifying the disposal of human remains.

"Stiff" is a comprehensive look at "life" after death. Roach uses vast amounts of humor to lessen the grave attitude a book on death could easily project. I laughed out loud many times at the author's witticisms and lighthearted look at a gruesomely interest subject. She has delved deep into history and culture to uncover little-known facts (and secrets), and uses lay terms alongside vivid definitions to be easily understood by anyone who picks it up. I give it five out of five stars.

Grendel

Grendel - John Gardner In the English epic Beowulf, the Danes are plagued by the terrible man-eating beast known as Grendel. He appears to have no weaknesses and toys with the villagers relentlessly. Beowulf tells the story of how these great people were liberated by a stranger, who kills the monster single-handed and becomes a great hero. But what causes such a creature to pick on this particular village for so many years? What is it that makes hi, resistant to man's sword? John Gardner's tale, told from Grendel's own voice and perspective, answers these questions and more, while proving this horrible beast is just as much victim as predator.

Grendel's story begins when he is first old and brave enough to venture out of the cave he shares with his mother, into the forest by which Hrothgar and his men decide to camp and eventually erect a great city. Grendel's first run-in with humans reveals they share similar languages, piquing Grendel's interest in the race. He becomes fascinated, watching from afar as tribes of settlers band together and attack others, creating larger villages, until Hrothgar, the most successful leader, finally unites them all and takes his place as king of the Danes. These beings, so similar to himself and so different from any other animal he knows, gives Grendel hope that they may accept him into their tribe, ending his escalating loneliness. He finally tries to make contact, but his threatening appearance and garbled language evokes an attack. Puzzled and angry, he seeks out the dragon living nearby, for companionship and advice. The dragon shares his wisdom and foresight with Grendel, removing any doubt or guilt Grendel housed for scaring and killing the human, and also charms him so that no sword could hurt him while he terrorized them. The rejection of the humans fuels his rage and he begins to systematically terrorize the Danes' meadhall for pleasure, entertainment, and revenge. While Hrothgar expands his empire, Grendel shows he is one enemy that can not be defeated. Then one day, a ship of Geats arrives, people from another land who claim to be able to cure the Danes of Grendel. Though they remain skeptical, the Danes welcome the Geats to feast and drink with them. Grendel sees this as an opportunity to show his grit the the overconfident visitors. Sneaking into the hall, determined to devour them in their sleep, Grendel fails to notice one of the Geats awake and aware of his presence in the hall. While distracted by his own showboating, Grendel attempts to kick the vigilant Geat, unaware of a blood puddle on the floor, and the monster slips and falls, giving the man the opportunity to tear Grendel's arm from his body. Horrified by his injury, Grendel retreats and escapes back into the forest, bleeding profusely. The book ends here, when he realizes that he has been bested and will soon die of blood loss. The Geats had fulfilled their promise to dispatch of the beast.

The voice of Grendel throughout the book is exactly as one would imagine the thoughts of a "lesser being", with an underdeveloped language. He creates his own child-like names for objects in nature and among the human city that he does not know the proper name of. He also whines and cries for his mother when he is injured. Although he is a despicable being, knowing the thoughts and feelings that drive him to his actions make the reader empathize with him and even feel sorry for his loneliness and desperation for companionship, belonging, and proof that there really is more to life than merely surviving.

Though this novel is a creative perspective of a classic novel, it was a quick read and relatively unexciting. I did not regret the time spent reading it and am glad for the author's take on this particular literary character. I give Grendel three out of five stars.

The Loch

The Loch - Steve Alten Steve Alten combines two of history's greatest mysteries in this novel: the Templar Knights and the Loch Ness monster. The Loch shows extensive research into the geography and history of Loch Ness, as well as marine biology and creatures of the deep.

Zachary Wallace left the village of Drumnadrochit, Scotland at nine years old, following the divorce of his parents. Now, at twenty-six, he returns at the prompting of this father, who is facing murder charges. Having lost his fiance and his job as a marine biologist after a near fatal run-in with a giant squid and another mysterious deep-sea creature. Unable to go near the water, Zack begins recovering memories of nearly drowning in Loch Ness as a child, leading him to remember more than he would like. Joined by childhood friends True and Brandy, Zachary must overcome his hydrophobia and uncover the mystery of what is living in Loch Ness and killing anyone too near the water, meanwhile proving his father's innocence.

This novel is incredibly smart and suspenseful. Incorporating excerpts from real Nessie sightings at the start of each chapter, Alten reminds the reader that Nessie may not be fictional at all. Along with fictional journal entries from Zack Wallace's ancestor Adam Wallace in the year 1330, the author creatively tells another story within this one- the story of how Nessie came to live in the lake.

I gave this book five out of five stars and would gladly reread it. Anyone interested in history or the legend of the Loch Ness monster will greatly enjoy this novel.

The Mummy at the Dining Room Table: Eminent Therapists Reveal Their Most Unusual Cases and What They Teach Us about Human Behavior

The Mummy at the Dining Room Table: Eminent Therapists Reveal Their Most Unusual Cases and What They Teach Us about Human Behavior - Jeffrey A. Kottler I was absolutely fascinated by the stories in this book, and amazed at some of the behaviors and situations therapists have to counsel through! "The Mummy at the Dining Room Table" is a collection of the most memorable cases seen by thirty prominent therapists, and what the therapists learned about life, love, and human beings as a whole. Some of the patients are memorable to their therapists because they are in terrible situations, or have lived through traumatizing events, and risen to the challenge of picking themselves up and moving on with their lives. Others are memorable because they find the patient in a strange situation or condition and the reader can't help but laugh and be thankful that whatever they have gone through in their lifetime, it probably doesn't compare the the lives of these patients. Several actually had me laughing out loud at the craziness these people have managed to achieve in their daily lives.

While this book was an especially eye-opening look into the human mind and the vast field of psychology and other related fields, one thing I wasn't particularly happy about was the authors' apparent assumption that anyone who reads this book is familiar with the different distinctive types of group and individual therapy, hypnosis, psychology, psychiatry, and the various theories and methods practiced in these professions. The authors introduce each spotlighted therapist at the beginning of their chapter, highlighting their respective accolades and chosen therapy methods, but as a layman, it didn't matter if a therapist follows Jungian or Rogerian methods, because I have no idea what either of them entail. While the authors do attempt to describe some of the terminology used, the meanings weren't always clear to me, leaving me still confused as to what exactly this therapist plans to do to treat the patient.

Overall, however, I found this book very educational and entertaining. It's interesting to see what cases these therapists found to be the most memorable, out of the thousands they handle throughout their careers. Any reader, especially those interested in psychology, will be thrilled with the stories and insights in this book. I give it four out of five stars and recommend no one pass up the opportunity to read it.

Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons  - Dan Brown I am constantly amazed by the eclectic knowledge Dan Brown puts into his novels. Angels & Demons is his first novel starring famed Harvard professor and symbologist Robert Langdon, and showcases Brown's extensive research into such subjects as architecture, European history, physics, geography, art history, secret societies, Catholocism, and symbology. The author uses a vast amount of facts and accuracy to educate the reader while spinning a fully-engaging story that is impossible to put down. I made the mistake of watching Hollywood's take on this novel first, and as seems to be the rule, it did not do justice to the unnerving suspense and vivid imagery Brown pumps into every last chapter. I only regret that it took me so long to finally read it!

This is the story of good versus evil, man versus the divine, and the centuries-long battle of science versus religion. When a renowned physicist and ordained priest is found murdered and branded with the symbol of a secret society lost to the pages of history, who is called in but Robert Langdon. The plot quickly thickens when it is revealed that the subject of Dr. Vetra's most recent research has also gone missing. Langdon and Vetra's daughter Vittoria are thrown into the most gripping twenty-four hours of their lives. Combing Vatican City, prying out its deeply hidden secrets, the protagonists race against the clock (literally) to find answers to an ever-growing list of questions- answers the reader could never guess.

There was no question that this book deserves the full five of five stars. Brown is a master of the thriller genre, creating smart, suspenseful novels with deep, three-dimensional characters and exotic locations. He definitely sets the bar for all suspense writers.

Just Kid Me Old Highway Old Wildway O Pecos Bill

Just Kid Me Old Highway Old Wildway O Pecos Bill - William Linehan The title says it all- this book makes absolutely no sense. The majority of the time I found myself staring dumbfounded at the pages, hoping Mr. Linehan had been on some kind of mind-altering drug while writing. Then again, I don’t know what would possess Sagebrush Press to publish this novel either. It was painful to finish and I may have lost a few brain cells along the way.

Words elude me when I try to think of something good to point out about Just Kid Me Old Highway Old Wildway O Pecos Bill. I spent so much time convincing myself to read just one more chapter and maybe the protagonist will wake up and it turns out it was all a really messed up dream. Unfortunately, that never happened. The best I can guess is that the main protagonist, known as the Kid, had a very overactive imagination as a boy and now nearing middle-age, he’s reverting back to the fantasies he had in childhood- playing baseball with Pecos Bill, running around with Johnny Appleseed, a turtle camouflaged as a hubcap, the weirdness goes on and on. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that 80% of the novel is complete nonsense and the other 20% is not a very exciting story line. When Pecos Bill shows up in his yard in the middle of the night, the Kid tries to convince him he's not the Kid anymore and can't just leave to go on a roadtrip, as Bill suggests he needs to do. Alas, he changes his mind and off they go.

One thing that stood out in Linehan's writing is his overly extensive use of color when describing things. At some points, color even comes right out of the characters' mouths. Which is just plain weird and there's really no point for it. But he includes color somewhere on just about every page in the book, something that began to bother me fairly early in as there is more to description than colors...

Overall, I don't recommend anyone waste their time reading this novel and I sincerely hope Linehan looks for another creative outlet because novels just aren't his forte. One out of five stars for Just Kid Me Old Highway Old Wildway O Pecos Bill.

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