Welcome!

Hello everyone, and welcome to A Novel Expedition. If you share my enthusiasm for literature, you’ve come to the right place; this is a blog designed with the bookworm in mind. Please feel free to pull up a chair, pour a cup of coffee or tea, and stay awhile!
My idea for this site is to provide you with quality book reviews of both recent and classic literature, as well as share some of my own poetry and stories with you all. I hope that together we can cultivate our love for the written word and rediscover the magical art of story-telling!
Thanks everyone, and let the reading commence!
-the O.O

Wednesday’s Author Appreciation: Stephen King

While most everyone recognizes Stephen King for his horror novels, I was introduced to him through his book On Writing. I’m so grateful my father recommended this book to me because I loooooved it. As an English major in my freshman year, I found it both inspiring and helpful. Not only were his tips invaluable, but his writing was simply a joy to read. The added humor coupled with his own life stories gave an extra focus to his book, ensuring my interest in not only his advice but also his personal life and achievements. I love  reading the background stories of successful authors because it motivates me to continue to peruse my dream.

I recently just finished his 1,000 page monstrosity, It, which takes place in his home state, Maine. Partly because he is such a big author, and partly because I am currently enjoying a week in Maine myself, I thought I would share a quote from the great King. While he does have some really insightful sayings, the one below just cracked me up. I think it displays his dark, sarcastic humor quite nicely, don’t you?

“People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It sits on a jar in my desk.” ~ Stephen King

Happy reading,

O.O

Wednesday’s Author Appreciation: Harper Lee

So, I have a confession: I have not yet read Harper Lee’s book, Go Set a Watchman (which was just published last summer) even though I loved her first novel To Kill a Mockingbird. I heard mixed reviews about the second one, and so I haven’t gotten around to reading it. However, because she is one of my favorite authors and because To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic, I thought I’d share with you all this great quote:

“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one that makes you think”. ~ Harper Lee

Happy Reading!

O.O

Wednesday’s Author Appreciation: C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is definitely one of my favorite authors. Founder of the children’s fantasy novel, profound storyteller, friend of J.R.R. Tolkien- he is my hero! This is one of my favorite quotes from him on writing:

“Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words”. – C.S. Lewis

Happy trails,

O.O

 

Where English Majors Go to Die.

Sterile walls,
Silent halls,
Temperature that continually falls.
Fluorescent lights,
Burning bright,
Air constructing much too tight.
Beakers bubble,
Threatening trouble,
Acid stains which aren’t so subtle.
White-washed floors,
Iron doors,
Shiny objects in the drawers.
Dying plants,
Frozen ants,
Things preserved in ice-cold tanks.
Sterile walls,
Silent halls,
Nothing living here at all.

Wednesday’s Author Appreciation: J.K. Rowling

In honor of the anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone this past Monday, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite quotes from beloved author J.K. Rowling. Though it was difficult to select just one of her quotes, I believe the one I chose embodies much of what her books were about. For her stories did more than entertain us (though opening up a whole new world of magic and fantasy is in and of itself a remarkable accomplishment); they taught millions of readers across the globe about the uniquely human power to imagine, create, and most of all, love.

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not…it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experience we have never shared. Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” – J.K. Rowling
From her 2008 Harvard Commencement Address, entitled “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination”.

Thanks J.K. Rowling for being awesome.

Sincerely,

An avid fan

The Alienist by Caleb Carr: Book Review

About a year ago, I stumbled across a wonderful little gem of a book that has since been held in high esteem upon my shelves: The Alienist, by award-winning author Caleb Carr. Let me tell you, this book stole my attention from page one to the very end, and has ceased to remain fixed in my memory as one of the most exciting mystery thrillers I’ve ever read. Full to bursting with adventure, intrigue, horror, and suspense, The Alienist is a must-read. Set in late 19th century Manhattan, The Alienist follows the adventures of New York Times reporter John Moore and his friend Dr. Lazlo Kreizler as they attempt to put a stop to a string of child murders the likes of which have never been yet seen in NY. With the help of police sergeants Lucius and Marcus Isaacson, and bold, outspoken secretary Sarah Howard, Moore and Kreizler utilize new-fangled techniques in the world of human psychology and forensics to uncover the criminal’s shrouded past, which, the Dr. insists, is the key to discovering the killer’s present identity. Interweaving important historical details into the story, Carr brings to light a time in our not too distant past when the term “alienist” was just beginning to emerge and “murderer” was synonymous with “psychopath”. Painting a realistic portrait of the seamy undergrounds of New York and the dark and foggy streets above, Carr unravels a tale as frightening as it is accurate. I so thoroughly enjoyed this book and Carr’s descriptive style that for a while I had a difficult time reading anything with as much pleasure.
Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered, just a few weeks ago, that Moore’s and Kreizler’s adventures did not end with TheAlienist, but continued into a sequel, The Angel of Darkness! I was so excited that I immediately stopped reading the book I was currently on (I know, it’s a crime; but priorities, people!) and dived right in. Unlike the first book, The Angel of Darkness centers around a woman killer, a sadistic infant murderess and kidnapper who has escaped police notice for years. Libby Hatch is her name, and just as the title suggests, she plays the wolf in sheep’s clothing, having gotten away with countless crimes before Moore and the gang become aware of her presence. The entire plot leads up to, and centers around, Libby’s court case, in which Kriezler and his friends attempt to convince the public of her guilt. Though there are quite a few differences between this book and the first, The Angel of Darkness provides just as much a nail-biting climax as the first, keeping me on the edge of my seat until the last page.
Of course, I had mixed feelings about cracking open the sequel to a book I had really enjoyed; I kept thinking, what if this one wasn’t as good as the first? I didn’t want my opinion of The Alienist to be tainted by a second installment. I was especially wary when I realized the novel was not written from Moore’s perspective, as had been the case with the first book, but rather from a young 13-year old boy named Stevie. A wayward youth adopted by Dr. Kriezler, Stevie was a minor character in The Alienist, having little “page-time” (is that a word…?). Where is Moore?? I kept asking. I felt cheated! However, my fears were quickly put to rest; I loved seeing this mystery unfold through the eyes of Stevie. He is such an honest, caring, and funny character that my love for him soon outstripped my love for Moore (which is saying something). Though overall, I enjoyed the plot developments of the first book better, there were certain aspects of The Alienist that were better fleshed out in The Angel of Darkness. Something that Carr really tried to covey in the first book was the significance, or lack thereof, of women’s roles in society during the 19th century. Using Sara’s character, a secretary working undercover with Moore and Kriezler on the murder case, Carr demonstrated the many obstacles facing women who desired more in life than the roles society delegated them to. I really appreciated the way Carr emphasized this theme in the second book, as Sara took center stage in many of the investigations and was one of the biggest contributors to the Libby Hatch case. Carr did a fantastic job showing the backwards views society had of women during this time, while still maintaining the integrity the story.
Though there is so much more to be said about this wonderful novel, I think it would be best to just let you read it yourself 😊 Carr is a fantastic writer and storyteller, well educated in areas of science, history, and criminal behavior; I have no doubt you will be immediately sucked into the eerie, gaslit world he has brought back to life.
Happy reading everyone!

 

Why Everyone Should Read the Classics

Good Sunday afternoon,

This past week, while roaming through the stacks of my college library, I was impressed, once again, with the sheer volume of literature that has been written and published in the world. Strolling through the dimly lit aisles, my coffee cup precariously balanced on 5 books I was clutching to my chest, I was overwhelmed with the thought of how many books I have yet to read and discover. So many books, so little time!, I thought as the fingers of my free hand lovingly stroked the bindings of the books to my left. Though I was on a mission to find resources for a paper I’m writing on Dante’s Divine Comedy, I allowed myself a few seconds to soak in the grandeur of all that surrounded me.

Strolling through the library also got me thinking about why I read (and why I began a blog about reading in the first place!). As I mentioned in my first post, classical literature is one of my favorite genres, and as an English major I spend a great deal of time studying the likes of Austen, Hugo, and Dante. Though I’m certainly not an expert on the classics, I thought it would be fun to share with you 5 reasons why I believe everyone should read a classic or two in their lifetime.

1. First, the classics are so named for a reason; they will never grow old or “out of date” because they convey universal truths concerning life and humanity that most everyone has/will experience to some degree in his/her lifetime. Whether you’re reading Pride and Prejudice or Les Miserables, I guarantee you will find quintessential themes such as love, hate, joy, or suffering hidden within their pages. While such themes will resonate differently in each individual, the bottom line is that the classics are just as relevant to today’s culture as they were centuries before.
2. Your favorite modern fiction novels were probably inspired by one of the classics! While we know J.K.Rowling’s Dumbledore has an uncanny resemblance to a particular grey-bearded wizard in Lord of the Rings, you might be surprised to discover that Suzanne Collins was influenced by Homeric mythology while writing the Hunger Games. If you have a particular love for a certain YA novel, you might enjoy its equivalent in the classics section!
3. Due the “old English” language found within much of older literature, reading a classic will improve your concentration skills. Whether you love this style of writing, or find it yawn-worthy, reading a classic now and again will heighten your reading skills and cultivate some serious mental willpower.
4. Reading books from the by-gone ages gives us a better understanding of who we are in the grand trajectory of human existence. Ever since the invention of the computer, informational data is constantly changing and updating, and online records are not always preserved….you might say history has become a thing of the past (pun intended). Thus, the “here and now” mentality is more prevalent in society than ever. Reading classic literature then provides us with a sense of reality. History does not begin and end with us; people lived before us, and people will probably live after us as well. Reading the classics reminds us of who we are, individually and universally, and gives us a better understanding of cultures that existed long before us.
5. Last by not least, reading the classics can be fun. Don’t let bad memories of high school English class discourage you from picking up Dickens or Bronte; give classic literature another chance. Just because your 9th grade teacher forced you to write a ten-page paper on the ethics of Mr. Rochester’s decision to marry Jane does not mean the story itself is boring!

Reading the classics can be fun. Really! Next time you find yourself watching reruns of Friends on Netflix, turn off the tv and grab a book. It might be just the thing for a rainy day 😊

P.S. I’m not discouraging watching reruns of Friends…It’s pretty hilarious.

In Peace

I wrote this poem almost a year ago after switching to a vegetarian diet. After feeling a little judged for my decision (hey, I get it, chicken is tasty!) I wrote this poem as a response. It is not meant to be accusatory, just humorous and hopefully insightful to those of you who have difficulty understanding us leafy-eaters 🙂

“She just wants attention!”
Accuse my leering mockers,
As I order my green salad,
And they their tasty Whoppers.

“How do you get your protein?”
She asks in obvious disdain,
Before quickly changing topics,
Not even letting me explain.

“You’re missing out on life!”
He exclaims in total disbelief,
Comparing my bowl of quinoa
With his spaghetti and ground beef.

“But aren’t you a Christian?
God made animals for us to eat!”
My colleagues crow triumphantly,
Thinking they finally have me beat.

Throughout the day they scoff and scorn
Ridicule ensues at every meal.
Yet I keep silent, I keep the peace,
Though weary of their remarks I feel.

So when the day draws to a close,
I escape to my little paradise (my home),
I cuddle with my cat, I kiss my dog,
And I eat my food-

In peace.

Imitation

Little culture makers,
Scurrying down below.
They build and write and draw and sing
And to the skies they crow
Boasting of all their strength and wit
With everyone they know.

Puffed with pride they strut,
Like peacocks all pruned up.
So vain and silly about their work
And giddy as the newborn pup,
Who, so in love with life,
Forgets him who fills his cup.

For up above sits one who laughs
As their boasts increase;
Don’t they know it was He,
Who formed the first masterpiece?
The Great Sculptor and Artist is He,
Without whom their lives would cease.

Yet let us not scorn their art
For there is still beauty to be found
In their works which imitate
The work of Him who’s crowned.
Though they don’t know it yet,
Their art reflect truths profound.

So let us revel in their talent
And admire their creations,
For such are skills He gives,
To cultivate every nation.
Let us remember to appreciate
The gift of Imitation.

To My One True Love

Dark and beautiful dost thou appear to me

Oh tempter of my soul.

Thy tender warmth and surface smooth

Lure me under thy control.

With sweet aromas thou dost beckon me

From my cocoon each morn;

To live without thy comforting presence

Would be a loss too great to mourn

Thou art the only reason I live each day;

I am energized by thy affects.

And with they helping hand thou dost keep

Me from saying things I would regret.

I could never describe thy perfection,

For it art higher than Heaven.

The greatest earthly joy could never compare,

Even if multiplied by seven.

 Oh how intensely do I cherish thee,

Dear sweet and magnanimous coffee.