The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A mysterious house harbors an unimaginable secret. . . . It’s wartime, and the Carver family decides to leave the capital where they live and move to a small coastal village where they’ve recently bought a home. But from the minute they cross the threshold, strange things begin to happen. In that mysterious house there still lurks the spirit of Jacob, the previous owners’ son, who died by drowning. With the help of their new friend Roland, Max and Alicia Carver begin to explore the suspicious circumstances of that death and discover the existence of a mysterious being called The Prince of Mist—a diabolical character who has returned from the shadows to collect on a debt from the past. Soon the three friends find themselves caught up in an adventure of sunken ships and an enchanted stone garden, which will change their lives forever.

Shortly after I finished The Prisoner of Heaven I came across The Prince of Mist at Half Price Books. It's the first novel Zafon published and since I was still on a high from his latest, I snatched it up. The Prince of Mist is a young adult thriller and while it made for a quick, fun read I think I would have enjoyed it more if had I read it when I was younger. It felt a bit too juvenile for my taste. There were definitely parts of the short novel that creeped me out, and Zafon did a good job pulling me into the story from the start, but having read his adult novels, this one felt a little too basic and a little too transparent by comparison.

On the positive front, I will say that Zafon brought a strong sense of place to the forefront of the novel, just as he does in his adult works. The beach house, complete with a cemetery of stone figures, the sunken ship in the bay and the lighthouse overlooking the area made for an eerie and memorable landscape. He also included a few twists to keep it interesting. Plain and simple, this is a fun little read. I just prefer Zafon's adult stuff better. Recommended, to my 12-year-old self.

Publisher: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1993


One Month Until The Casual Vacancy, You Guys!

Today marks exactly one month until the release of The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling's first novel for adults. I couldn't be more excited. 

The synopsis definitely piques my interest - much more than the bland looking cover does anyway. I'm happy the novel will take place in England, because it just wouldn't feel JK Rowling-ish if it didn't. Cobblestones? Check. Wonderfully traditional English sounding names? Check.

When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Sounds promising, right? I'm trying not to get my hopes too high, but it's JK Rowling and it's really hard not to expect greatness. I'll try not to compare her new novel to her best selling series, but I will say I hope it is just as imaginative. It seems Rowling herself doesn't want any comparisons to her earlier works, even when it comes to her marketing. B&N Vice President Patricia Bostelman says of the "left in the dark" marketing approach of Little, Brown, "Apparently much of their behavior is at J.K. Rowling's wishes." Rowling "has very strong opinions on how she wants publishing of the book handled. She's trying not to live on the laurels of Harry Potter and very much wants to have this book stand alone, on its own merit, just as if she were just any other author who was landing on the scene." Except it's JK Rowling, and she most certainly isn't "any other author."

Beth from Bookworm Meets Bookworm and I talked about doing a read-along that would start right around, or on, the novel's release date. More details to come on that... 


The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

This book was kind of a let down. I didn't know much about it going in except it included a racy relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 30-year-old woman and it took place in the past. Turns out it's about the Holocaust and the post-Holocaust generation; a subject I typically find incredibly interesting. Despite the raciness and historical setting, as a whole I found this book to be on the boring side. It had the potential to be good but for me the writing felt flat and the storyline was lacking. If it weren't so short I would have DNF'd it. I know I'm in the minority on this one; the novel is in Oprah's book club and Goodreads is littered with five star reviews. It just wasn't a book for me.


Book Riot's Start Here

If you regularly follow my blog, you know that I'm a fan of Book Riot's "Reading Pathways." Of all the fun and interesting things posted on Book Riot, Reading Pathways are my favorite. As a reader there are often prolific authors who I'd like to get acquainted with, but I don't know where to start. Often beginning with the earliest works and moving forward isn't the best route to take. Enter Reading Pathways, in which a reader who is very familiar with a certain author's work suggests a series of three books to read in succession to best introduce a new reader to said author's oeuvre.

Awesome, right? Well even better, they are hoping to turn this awesome idea into a book entitled Start Here.

What is “Start Here”?
There are so many fantastic authors and great books out there that sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin.
Say you’ve always wanted to read something by William Faulkner. You probably know a bunch of his books: The Sound and the Fury; As I Lay Dying; Light in August; Absalom, Absalom! Maybe you’ve even come close to buying one. But every time you think about it, there’s that big question:
Which should you read first?

Start Here solves that problem; it tells you how to read your way into 25 amazing authors from a wide range of genres--children’s books to classics, contemporary fiction to graphic novels. 

Each chapter presents an author, explains why you might want to try them, and lays out a 3-4 book reading sequence designed to help you experience fully what they have to offer. It’s a fun, accessible, informative way to enrich your reading life. 

Start Here will be available both as an ebook (compatible with Kindles, iPads, Nooks, and a variety of other devices) and as a printed edition.
Head over to Kick Starter to read more about the project and share it with others who are passionate about books. There are some great rewards for anyone who donates, even at $1!


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This novel has been hailed "the it book of the summer" and by this point, you've probably read a half dozen reviews of it. I'm going to skip over the premise and jump right in; this book rocked. This book had me thinking FUCK YEAH GILLIAN FLYNN! This girl knows how to write a book. It's one of those novels that may keep you up past your bedtime as you tell yourself just one more chapter and then I'll put it down. I had so much fun reading it mostly because Flynn is really good at setting you up to believe one thing and then turning it around completely, leaving your head spinning. Not to mention I love a good unreliable narrator, and this book is chock full of 'em.

Honestly, I don't have any complaints. This one comes highly recommend from me and would be especially good if you've recently found yourself in a reading slump. Flynn has written two previous novels which I've heard are good, but most every who has read all three say
Gone Girl is by far her best. Listen to the hype on this one - it will pay off. 

*I turned comments off on this post because it was getting a lot of spammy attention.

Publisher: Crown, 2012


East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. ...We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly re-spawn, while good, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.

I haven't read Steinbeck since high school when I was depressed for a week upon the completion Of Mice and Men. I'm happy to say that a revisit to Steinbeck's work was all I hoped it would be; moving, intriguing, and just plain enjoyable. I've had East of Eden on my shelf unread for at least a year and a half, mostly due to the sheer weight of the novel. Steinbeck called East of Eden his magnum opus, stating that everything he ever wrote was "practice" for this book.

The novel itself is a retelling of the story of Cain and Able and as a whole emphasizes the idea of free will, that each person has control over his or her destiny. It doesn't matter where you come from or your bloodline, you have the ability to choose to lead a good and respectful life. Of course we can't all be vitreous all the time; we shift and change identities over time, as do Steinbeck's characters. Although this is a retelling of a popular Biblical story, Steinbeck puts his own spin on it, encouraging the reader to sympathize with Cain (Cal). He emphasizes the struggle of the self caught "in a net of good and evil" and examines the human desire to be loved. In one of the most memorable scenes in the novel, Lee, Samual and Adam analyze a passage from Cain and Able's story when they are working to name the Trask twins.

For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' That makes a man great and that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.
However, it seems Steinbeck also challenges this idea through the character of Cathy, whom was said to be "born a monster." Talk about a crazy, manipulative woman, Cathy is a character who represents pure evil. We do see glimpses of the human Cathy, but she seems to be driven by a dark force greater than her own free will. She's cruel, she has a heart made out of steel, and she's altogether fascinating. Cathy's character encourages the reader to question whether monsters are born or created over time. Upon a little research while reading the novel I discovered (or rather confirmed what Clinton told me) that Cathy was modeled after Steinbeck's second wife, Gwyn Conger, a woman who turned into a heavy drinker five years into their marriage; she slept until noon, shamelessly flirted with other men and left Steinbeck after his best friend died. Furthermore, she kept him from seeing his sons for years afterward. Steinbeck wrote East of Eden as a message to his boys, hoping that as they grew older they'd read it and gain valuable life lessons.

Needless to say, I was not at all disappointed with East of Eden; Steinbeck's prose is straightforward and his setting rich. The novel spans three generations of two families and although it's a thick book, it is not at all hard to follow and reads a lot quicker than I thought it would. I have to admit that while I'm familiar with the story of Cain and Able, I've never read it first hand so there are probably a good amount of religious symbolism and allusions that went over my head. Even still, I really enjoyed this novel. It delights and engages from start to finish.

Publisher: Penguin Books, 1952


Oprah's Book Club, Fight Club

Jimmy Kimmel makes a suggestion to make Oprah's book club more exciting.