Discussion Post: Ten Random Bookish Confessions

I’ve seen some posts like this floating around (sorry I don’t remember specific bloggers’ names!) and thought, what the heck, it’s an easy (and hopefully interesting) post. I’m in the middle of a blogging slump, which is driving me crazy, but with finals and college apps, I don’t really have the time or energy to get out of it.

1. I can’t skim books.

I see bloggers saying all the time “I just skimmed it”—and I don’t get it. This isn’t a snotty “how could you dare skim a boring book” thing; I don’t care if other people skim. I just can’t get my brain to skim fiction books. (Textbooks, though…)

2. I reread ALL THE TIME.

Probably a quarter (or a third) of the books I read this year were rereads. I LOVE rereading books. Sometimes I just reread a favorite, but other times, I reread because of a series. I can’t just read the second/third/etc book in a series, I have to read every book that came before. It’s ridiculous, but it means that I get to appreciate every series as a whole (every, single, freaking time a new book in the series comes out).

3. I’ve used the same bookmark for almost three years now. (But if I’m not using it, I use a random scrap of paper.)

One of my best friends made me a bookmark at the end of freshman year, and I’ve been using it ever since. It was “laminated” in packing tape, but even so, it’s starting to show its wear. Up until that point, I was a “random scrap of paper” person, using folded-in-half post-its mostly.

4. I read in class (but not while the teacher is talking).

Most of my reading these days happens at school…which is one of the reasons I don’t read very much. Up until this year, I had a ton of free time in class, which meant I could read about a book a week. Nowadays, I read a lot less.

5. I can read for hours, but it’s not always a good thing.

If I’m on break, I can spend half a day reading one book, not even really moving. I’ll have fun while I’m doing it, but when I look back, I realize that I didn’t get as much out of the book as I would have if I had read it more slowly.

6. I take good care of my books…but I have no idea how to keep spines from breaking.

I don’t dog-ear pages; I have mostly stopped getting crumbs or food stains in my books. But I can’t keep spines from breaking. I just can’t.

7. I love sharing books (but I keep getting burned).

I love owning books, so I like to share them with other people to validate owning literally every book I read. Through middle school, I never had a problem with lending books to people, but recently, I have stopped getting books back.

8. I can only read one book at once.

If you’re one of those people that can be in the middle of three books at once, props. I can’t. I tried when I was younger, but I always ended up reading one book and ignoring the other.

9. Fan art freaks me out.

This is nothing against fan art artists! I love you guys. But I take my own mental images of characters really seriously and am terrified of losing them, so I never risk looking at fan art.

10. I don’t read hardcovers with their dusk jackets on.

I love hardcover books! I love how dusk jackets look! But when I’m reading a hardcover, I take the dusk jacket off. This keeps the jacket from being destroyed and makes it easier for me to hold the book itself.

Book Review: Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik

A lot more emotionally painful than the first book, but in a good way. Combined with a new setting, I am officially 110% in love with this series.

4.5/5 stars

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Read my review of the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, here.

synopsis for reviews 2

When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.

Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

See it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

While His Majesty’s Dragon made me fall in love with the Temeraire world, Throne of Jade was the book that captured my heart. It was not like I did not have an emotional connection to the first book, but I had a much stronger (and more painful) one with the second.

Throne of Jade revolves around Temeraire and Laurence’s fight to stay together, despite Chinese tradition that says Celestial dragons must belong to emperors. Politics, customs, and the lure of Chinese dragon culture all come between the two of them, creating an undeniably stressful story.

The world-building was incredible. Though two-thirds of the story focus on the journey to China, Naomi Novik still started to introduce the new characters and customs that they would encounter directly once they reached their destination. She brought the new setting to life and created an entirely different dragon culture than the one she had established in Britain.

Despite the complexity of the world Novik built, the specifics were never hard to keep track of. I easily understood the different perspectives of the Chinese envoys, the power struggle in the royal household, and the different aspects of dragon life. This creative but understandable world-building allowed me to enjoy the new setting without losing the train of the original story.

Temeraire experienced significant growth, becoming an even stronger character. The Chinese had a distinctly different view of dragons than the British, and in the new environment, Temeraire started to embrace different parts of his identity. Though it was painful when those changes brought him away from Laurence, I loved watching Temeraire’s development. He truly was a three-dimensional character, more fleshed-out than most of the human characters in the series.

Laurence changed in his own ways, fully embracing his identity as a dragon captain and fiercely fighting to keep Temeraire. I had not expected the argumentative side of Laurence that appeared, but I enjoyed seeing him come out of his uptight shell. Though he took longer to adjust to the Chinese culture, Laurence did allow it to change how he saw his native country.

The side characters remained somewhat one-dimensional, though the characters that were introduced in Throne of Jade had more layers than those that stuck around from the first book. I did not mind the way the characters were portrayed, because it did not hamper the story. Each character added a necessary element without getting in the way.

Throne of Jade was well paced, with action-packed fight scenes balanced against more emotional scenes of character growth. Though the book was not constantly dramatic, the threat to Laurence and Temeraire’s relationship kept me engaged and eager to read on.

Of course, with the Napoleonic Wars still going on, there are lots of intense fight scenes. One part of this book that separated it from the last one was the complexity that was added to Temeraire’s bloodthirsty nature. Yes, he still loves a fight, but he starts to think about the consequences of his actions and the nature of the battles he is fighting.

I would recommend Throne of Jade to anyone who read His Majesty’s Dragon. If the world-building or characters were not complex enough in the previous book, that problem is solved. If you want more fight scenes and dragons (who doesn’t?) they are just as dramatic and nuanced as before. And if you fell in love with the series in book one, book two will not disappoint.

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

How can dragons be so cute and so bloodthirsty at the same time?!?!?

4.5/5 stars

cover his majestys dragon

synopsis for reviews 2

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

See it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

Ever since I read Uprooted, I have been dying to read this series. The ninth and final book just came out, so I figured it was time to start.

I loved this book. It’s the Napoleonic Wars with dragons—what could go wrong? But it ended up being so much more than bloodthirsty dragons and fight scenes.

Laurence was the perfect protagonist. He started the book as a naval captain, but then the dragon, Temeraire, chose Laurence to be his companion. Thrust into the Aerie Corps, Laurence had to not only figure out how to be a dragon captain, but unlearn his navy habits and learn new Corps ones.

Older than other captains and an accidental captain, Laurence was a permanent outsider, creating a fascinating POV for the book to be told from. His voice was simultaneously stuffy and empathetic, so if his naval prejudices were ever annoying (which they were), his clear compassion for dragons and his fellow officers made up for it. His character’s arc was nuanced but natural, and though he learned how to be a part of the Corps, he never lost his naval quirks.

While I loved Laurence, I LOVED Temeraire. He was adorable—there’s no way around it. His voice was clear from his first line. He was unabashedly himself and ridiculously loyal to Laurence. Intelligent, inquisitive, and wholly unconvinced about things like royalty, Temeraire was also an outsider in the dragon world. Also, he was freaking bloodthirsty. Like Laurence, his character created a fascinating window into the dragon world because he has one foot inside and one foot outside of it.

The rest of the characters helped round out the novel. None of them had complex characterization, but in their own ways, they added necessary personalities to the story. I especially loved the different dragons that Naomi Novik added to the story and the way they interacted with Temeraire.

The world-building in His Majesty’s Dragon found a rare balance between historical accuracy and fantastical creations. Naomi Novik created an intricate dragon culture both a national level in the Corps and an international one, with different breeds and training systems for countries across the world. Additionally, the Corps’s society was hierarchical but easy to understand.

Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, the book was tied closely to real historical events and details. However, Naomi Novik managed to add dragons to the story without losing the historical fiction feeling. Reading His Majesty’s Dragon honestly feels like reading historical fiction—so much so that I sometimes forgot that dragons didn’t exist in Napoleonic times (not really, but almost).

His Majesty’s Dragon started out a little slow, but after the first quarter of the novel, the pace picked up. Honestly, I didn’t mind the slow pace of the beginning because it gave me time to understand the characters and the world before the intense fighting started. Laurence and Temeraire’s training was dramatic at times, but also light-hearted, giving the book an interesting mood. However, His Majesty’s Dragon got intense, and if you’re looking for heart-pounding fight scenes, this book is perfect for you.

I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a story that straddles the line between historical fiction and fantasy. Though the characters are adults, I feel like this book would be accessible to YA fans. There is no romance, so the story is a celebration of friendship and loyalty, something every reader can connect to.

Book Review: Headless by Tristram Lowe

A sinister murder mystery that slowly reveals its paranormal secrets, set against the vivid backdrop of Japan.

3.5/5 stars

cover-headless-no-white synopsis-for-reviews-1

Being a photographer at a Tokyo newspaper is no walk in the park—unless you’re Akio Tsukino and only get assigned to shoot parades and park festivals.

All that changes when a serial killer starts chopping off heads in nearby Kofu. Akio maneuvers his way onto the assignment in order to prove himself and get closer to enigmatic staff writer Masami Sato. When the investigation takes a supernatural turn, the unlikely partners find themselves caught between solving the mystery and saving their own lives.

In this thrilling and imaginative debut by Tristram Lowe, getting the story may cost them their heads.

See it on Amazon (paperback or Kindle) or the author’s website

my thoughts for reviews 1

I was given a copy of Headless by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.

Headless started out your standard murder mystery but ended a distinctly creepy paranormal story. Though I am usually not a fan of contemporary stories turning paranormal, there was good balance between the two elements throughout the novel that allowed me to enjoy it.

I loved the setting of Headless. Most of the books I read are set in the US or a fantasy world, so it was refreshing to read a book set 100% in Japan. I felt like I got a really good sense of not only the individual places the characters visited, but of the culture.

The story was told in third person, alternating between Akio’s and Masami’s POVs. Akio’s POV told the bulk of the story. Both characters had strong voices and interesting personalities that brought the story to life.

Akio‘s character was interesting for me. He was young and awkward, with a clear idea in his head of who he “should be” without any hope of becoming that ideal. He could be annoying at times, but I was willing to forgive him because I understood where his character was coming from. His voice was clear throughout the novel, reflecting the growth Akio experienced.

Masami was my favorite character. She was the take-no-shit reporter who has a lot of hidden talents and absolutely no patience for Akio’s idiocy. Though we got to see a lot of her development and personality from Akio’s perspective, I loved the chapters told from her POV, and wished there were more of them.

Akio was slightly obsessed with Masami (trying to find the ice queen’s “human” side), while Masami had zero patience for Akio. The chemistry between them never developed, but I actually loved that. They were thrown together by circumstances and developed a working relationship, but they were never going to become best friends.

The mystery unfolded nicely, starting off simple and gaining complexity as it sucked me in. From the first chapter, the reader (if not the characters) has a sense of who the killer is, but as the story progressed, I found myself surprised by the details that fleshed out that initial idea. By the end of the book, I was engrossed with the mystery, loving the combination of supernatural and historical details.

The only problem of the book is the pacing. In the part of the book where the characters are still looking for “real world” explanations, the pacing dragged a little. However, about halfway through it picked up, and by the end, I was completely engrossed in the story. The transition from a normal murder mystery to a paranormal thriller felt natural, and helped grab my attention.

I would recommend Headless to anyone looking for a murder mystery with a supernatural twist and a unique setting. Though the book had undeniably dark and creepy moments, the humor helped balance it out. Ultimately I will remember it for the fascinating mystery and historical angle, not just the number of people who got beheaded.

Flash Fiction: Forest of Monsters

Hey everyone! This piece of Flash Fiction was inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge for this week, in which we were supposed to choose a random  Flickr photo to serve as inspiration for a story. I chose a picture of redwoods.

The characters and set-up are related to another Flash Fiction story I wrote a few months ago. This story takes place before the other one, and you really don’t have to have read the other one for this one to make sense. I’m just having fun developing different snapshots of these characters and their world.

Hope you enjoy!


 

Anyone who has tried to tell you that the forest floor is made soft by the layers of moss and decomposing leaves is a liar.

Or maybe they just never had the enlightening experience of being thrown into the ground by a guy twice their size.

We shouldn’t judge people for their ignorance. Trevor always says that.

Trevor also talks about monsters no one else can see. We’ve all had practice not judging.

For a second, I stare up at the forest above me, letting the details of the fight drift away. The forest is sways gently above me, detached from my pain, beautiful, almost…magical. An arboreal siren.

I blink and the illusion is gone, leaving only a weary tightness in my gut.

Groaning, I ask, “Was that really necessary?”

Jack’s mouth twitches in a cocky smile. “I always forget what a lightweight you are.”

I make a halfhearted attempt to bruise his shins. “You? Forget I’m bad at fighting? How could you, when it’s all you ever talk to me about?”

He pulls me to my feet. “No, I mean, you are literally a light weight. I usually need that much force to down the other guys out here—with you, I guess it was kind of superfluous.”

The other guys. I’m still chewing on those words when he asks, “Ready to head back?”

I shake my head. “Trevor’s gonna kill me if I don’t start clocking more hours out here.”

And it doesn’t hurt that Jack is head of combat training for Society members under eighteen. Jack, whose smile makes my stomach execute gymnastics my muscles can barely dream of. Jack, who had the body—and attitude—of a superhero. Jack who uses words like superfluous.

Jack, who I’d been nursing a stupid, pointless, ridiculous crush on for two years now.

Jack, who thinks of me as one of the guys.

I do hang out with a lot of guys, but it’s not like I have a choice. I’m one of the only girls Trevor allowed to join the Society. (I’ve pointed out the sexism, believe me.) But my dad was Trevor’s best friend since high school, and when Trevor asked him to sell his house and move to the middle of freaking nowhere so the two of them could hunt monsters, my dad said yes, as long as his daughter could come.

If it sounds like we’re a cult, we probably are. I’ve been here for three years and I can’t shake the feeling that we’re the kind of people the rest of the world laughs at.

I’d laugh too, if I couldn’t see the bodies.

“Are we going to fight or what?” I ask.

His foot flies at my head. I duck, years of training inelegantly shoving me out of the way. Before I can catch my balance, I throw myself the other direction, a desperate attempt to get out of the way of his fist.

I make it, but not with my dignity.

God, I’m bad at this.

Stay focused. Let your senses take over. Pay attention. Anticipate. Take charge, don’t just react.

Three teacher’s worth of advice floods through my mind. Dad, Trevor, and Jack have all tried.

None of it matters. My body doesn’t do this.

I try for a kick of my own, but it misses by a comical degree. Jack is already twirling toward me, throwing a fist into my jaw. I block it and try to return the favor, but he playfully backpedals, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “That all you got?”

If I were a character in a book, this would be the moment I get angry. My anger would crystallize the world around me; I’d suddenly know where Jack’s kicks and punches were going before did. For once, Jack would be the one on the ground, gasping for air.

Instead, I just feel tired. I want back to the libraries and the labs, where I don’t fall on my face, where I can actually hold my own. A horrible, secret part of me wants back to the real world, where monsters are just something children talk about.

Jack’s coming at me again, but I don’t do more than dodge. The sorry answer to his question is yes, this might be all I’ve got. I’m just not the guerilla fighter that I was supposed to become.

For a while, I trained because I believed the picture Dad painted: Becca 2.0. Becca: Badass Edition.

Now I train out of a mild sense of duty to my father’s memory and to keep Trevor off my case.

Boom.

Jack’s foot catches my shoulder and I fly backwards, my elbows slamming into discarded bark, my tailbone crashing into the packed earth.

Hands on his thighs, Jack leans over me, breathing heavy. “You weren’t even trying that time.”

“I was distracted,” I say, waving him out of my eye line. I like the forest more than I like him right now.

“Yeah, by what?” Jack asks, but I barely hear him. The forest calls me, dancing around my consciousness.

Something flickers at the edge of my vision, blackness and sparkles in one. My gut heaves and my ears ring, but I can’t tear my eyes away. I can’t even close them, I realize as tears burn in their corners.

“Becca,” Jack yells, yanking me backward.

It breaks the spell. I roll onto my knees and dry heave.

“What happened?”

I drag my hand across my mouth and fall back onto my heels, defeated. No matter what arguments I’ve made, Trevor is right. I need to be here. The Society needs me just as much as it needed my dad.

“There’s a dead body in that tree.”

Jack turns to look, even though we both know he won’t see it. Trevor gets to see the monsters, I get to see their victims.

I can never decide which one of us has it worse.

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I started out bored by this book, grew to like it, and got annoyed by the ending. In terms of books I’ve read for English classes, it was actually pretty good, even if suffered from sloppy storytelling.

3/5 stars

cover the scarlet letter

Goodreads Description

Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.

My Review

I cannot make up my mind on this book. Parts of it I enjoyed, parts of it I hated. I guess it all averages out to three stars.

Hawthorne’s writing is beautiful but tiring. His use of metaphor and imagery is amazing; he understood how to make a point with rhetoric. (His habit of shoving any analysis that existed in his reade’s face was a tad bit annoying, but I’ll live.) His love of winding sentences and superfluous punctuation, on the other hand, can be exhausting to read. TSL is extremely quotable, but those quotes will end up being pretty long. (As I learned when I used two quotes for my Weekend Words meme.)

Looking back on the text, I come down in favor of his writing style–because, let’s be honest, it’s incredible to read, and as a long-winded comma-lover myself, I appreciated his dedication. (We won’t comment on how I would have answered this question while I was doing my reading homework at ten at night.) I’m glad that I’ve read this book…I’m just not sure that it couldn’t have been a novella.

The plot of The Scarlet Letter is…interesting. Hester Prynne was sent over to a Purtian colony in the 1600s ahead of her husband; her husband didn’t show up for two years, but Hester was pregnant. Accused of adultery, Hester was forced to wear a scarlet letter on her chest for the rest of her life–a punishment that ostracized her from the rest of the sin-fearing society. The plot focuses on discovering who she adultered with and how raising the child of her adultery (Pearl) affected Hester’s personality. Her husband also eventually shows up, hiding his identity from all but Hester, and becoming a symbol of revenge.

The plot had it’s dramatic and touching moments, but for the most part, is was slow-paced and on the cusp of being boring. Hawthorne has a habit of saying the same thing over and over again, which resulted in chapters being longer than they really needed to be for the amount of forward progress the plot underwent.

I was impressed by the characters in this book. Hester, our adulteress, is a fascinating mixture of characteristics: she is submissive and demure at times, but she has a bold, rebellious streak that she passes on to her daughter. Pearl, the aforementioned daughter, was hands-down my favorite character: she’s elfish and creepy, almost un-human, with both precocious and childlike mannerisms–she brought life to the story. I would not want her as my daughter, but I loved reading about her, and I would read a spin-off book about her life after TSL, no question. The two male characters–her husband and her adulterer–(unnamed purposefully) were realistic and strangely un-likable. The side characters were one-dimensional but added to the message and tone of the story in their own ways.

What frustrates me most about this book is its identity crisis. Since I read this book for English class, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to find a focus of the plot, but Hawthorne kept contradicting himself. He hates the Puritan society, but ends up endorsing their morality (at least partially). As a transcenentalist, he’s supposed to champion nature, but nature is shown as a corrupting force (in some scenes). While this makes the book more complex, as a student, it was frustrating.

I would recommend this book to fans of classics, people who can derive pleasure and not headaches from Old-Timey sentences. TSL would appeal to fans of subtle plots and vivid characters. People who long for dialogue or rapidly paced plots will probably be disappointed, but everyone can relate to or be affected by some part of the books’s numerous themes.

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Breaking news: I picked up a “classic” willingly–and I really enjoyed it! Though it was clearly written around the turn of the twentieth century, The Picture of Dorian Gray’s gothic and haunting plot has a timeless quality that ended up appealing to my very modern tastes.

4/5 stars

Arkham cover D final
I’m in love with this cover, by the way

Amazon Description

In this celebrated work, his only novel, Wilde forged a devastating portrait of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young aesthete in late-19th-century England. Combining elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction, the book centers on a striking premise: As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigor while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world. For over a century, this mesmerizing tale of horror and suspense has enjoyed wide popularity. It ranks as one of Wilde’s most important creations and among the classic achievements of its kind.

My Review

I was sucked in by the premise of this book: a guy gets a picture painted of him, and the portrait ages instead of him. Meanwhile, English society ignores his sinful nature because of his ridiculous good looks and ageless quality. I was ready to read it but hesitant of it being a “classic,” but my mom said she thought I would enjoy it anyway, so I picked it up.

I’m glad I decided to read it.

The characters in this book are fascinating. It is hard to say who exactly is the main character, because in the beginning, most of the narration is from the viewpoint of Lord Henry, the proverbial devil on young Dorian Gray’s shoulder. I loved and hated Lord Henry simultaneously. His dialogue was quick-paced and rhythmic, but I’m fairly certain that everything he ever said contradicted itself.

Had I read this book for school, I would have hated how little sense Henry’s grand declarations about art and human nature made, because I would have been forced to try to make sense of his views. Reading this book outside of the school setting, I was able to simply let the ridiculous senselessness of his speeches wash over me, and I ended up loving his presence in the book. Technically, Lord Henry is a horrible person, but his jovial character and amusing speech pattern made me unable to hate him.

About a third of the way into the novel, the narration refocuses on the title character, Dorian Gray. Passionate to the point of melodrama, half charming angel and half sinister devil, I was fascinated by Dorian. He definitely did not start out evil, though just as assuredly, he ended up evil. By the end of the book, you are trapped inside the head of a madman, but he never fully loses the whimsical and flighty innocence that drew Lord Henry to him.

There are too many side characters to count, let alone keep track of. I read this book slowly, over the course of a few weeks (for no good reason, really), so I’m sure that I missed times when characters came back, thinking them to be new people altogether. I can’t say that this really matters, because the side characters mostly serve as symbols of proper English society; their importance comes from their ignorant obsession with Dorian and their own shallow moralities, rather than who they are as individuals.

The important side characters–Basil Howard, Sibyl Vane, James Vane, Alan Campbell–were portrayed simply but well, so that I understood who they were and what they each wanted from Dorian. None of them lingered in the story long enough to develop complex characters, but their flatness never hindered the book.

I loved the plot surrounding the portrait of Dorian. It’s significance came less from showing Dorian’s age–though it did keep him from aging in reality–but from showing his sin’s effects on his character. This gave the book a chilling and creepy tone, and by the end of the book, I was exactly as enthralled and horrified by the picture as Dorian himself.

From the standpoint of literary analysis (because I couldn’t turn off the AP English student in my mind while I read this), the picture was an annotater’s dream. It was a mirror acting as a conscience, but it was doomed to fail, because none of the ruin actually affected Dorian. Guilt about his sins clawed at him and obsessed him at times, but he kept barreling down his road of corruption, in part because the painting enabled him to do so while staying in society’s graces. I loved the paradoxical nature of the portrait’s effect on Dorian, and the plot that resulted was intriguing and surprisingly gripping.

My only complaint about this book comes from the pacing. Any scene with dialogue was readable, pulling me along faster and faster into the plot. Then, a chapter break would happen, and suddenly I would be stalled in the land of page-long paragraphs musing about random settings or events, laden with allusions that went over my head and bored me until the sentences ran together. Then the action of the chapter would draw me in, and I would commit to the story again, until the next chapter break slammed me into a wall of heavy imagery and mind-numbingly long sentences.

Seriously, just because you can use semicolons to connect half a dozen somewhat related sentences into one, doesn’t mean you should, Oscar Wilde.

Still, the writing in this book is gorgeous. There are so many amazingly quotable lines–I tried to pick a few to put into this review, but there were too many to choose from. The dialogue (especially if Lord Henry was involved) was my favorite part of the book, and the banter between characters was entertaining enough to challenge some of my modern favorites.

From a modern perspective, this book is an intriguing insight into the struggle of being gay in proper English society. Honestly, I’d be willing to bet that the three main characters (Henry, Dorian, and Basil) as well as a few side characters (I’m looking at you Alan Campbell) were gay, though in the story nothing remotely homosexual actually occurs between them (that the reader is shown). There is something equal parts sad and captivating about being inside these characters’ minds–where they are drawn to and fascinated by the other male characters–while simultaneously seeing their actions–which are all focused on marrying, loving, and having affairs with women.

Also from a modern perspective, there is some pretty serious sexism in this book. I was able to laugh at it–Lord Henry’s sexist remarks about women are ridiculous–but if sweeping declarations about the female temperament being weak and nonintellectual make you want to throw things across the room, this book might not be for you.

“She is very clever, too clever for a woman. She lacks the indefinable charm of weakness.”

Despite the social situations of this book being outdated, the story itself is similar to its title character: there is something timeless about this book. The characters’ complex moral struggles, the bantering and amusing dialogue, and the undeniably creepy tone appealed to me as a modern reader, and though I knew that this book was over a century old, I feel that it would fit right in to my bookshelves.