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My Wedding Day

The blushing bride after getting hitched!

It’s December 31st, the last day of 2011, and looking back, I realize this has been a really big year for me! I have had a lot more ups than downs in my life this year, and I think it might be hard to top in 2012. Here are some 2011 highlights for me…should I start with the bad or the good? Or should I just create a timeline? I’ll create a timeline like one finds at the beginning of classics books. Then, I’ll follow with all of my 2012 reading stats!

A CHRONOLOGY OF MANDY IN 2011

Life

Historical and Cultural Background

Jan.

  • Attend the ALA Midwinter Conference in San Diego; learn that books can sometimes be free with the introduction to ARCs. I thought I was stealing at first!
  • Beginning of 8 month silence with sister Erika.
  • Gabrielle Giffords shot on Jan. 8.
  • Charlie Sheen is “winning”.

Feb.

  • Arab Spring protests begin.

Mar.

  • Japan Earthquake on Mar. 11.

Apr.

  • Spring Break begins.
  • Read constantly to complete Spring Seasonal Reading Challenge; end up reading 28 books in April.
  • Get married to long-time boyfriend Jesse during a spur-of-the-moment day trip to Reno. Both the groom and bride were lovely in their T-shirts, jeans, and hiking boots.
  • Get pink-slipped for the third time in four years of teaching.
  • Deadly tornadoes sweep the US, 207 touch down on Apr. 27, killing 346.
  • Royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton (I didn’t watch, in case you’re wondering).

May

  • Death of Osama bin Laden.

June

  • Go to Wisconsin for a fishing weekend with Jesse’s family. Fire my first (and only) gun once, and find out that I have a propensity for fishing (caught a trout, a bass, and a blue-gill).
  • Dad visits, temporarily reunite with sister, begin 6 month silence with Dad.

July

  • School year ends on 1st day of Comic-Con; although I arrive at Comic-Con from work in record-breaking time, I FAIL to get into the Game of Thrones panel. Boo.
  • Comic-Con is not as epic as years past: it’s far too crowded and hard to get into panels. But, I do buy a bunch of Twilight Zone toys.

Aug.

  • Buy a desk and create an office in spare room devoted to writing.
  • Begin pursuing writing fiction seriously via exercises in Bell’s Plot & Structure and The Artist’s Way program.
  • Start writing three pages daily in journal.
  • Break the silence with my sister.
  • Read Hussey’s Create Your Own Blog, study and analyze popular book blogs, and set up my own blog Adventures in Borkdom.
  • Published my first post on Aug. 24.
  • When regaining my teaching job appears unlikely, Jesse and I consider moving out of state. North Carolina, Virginia, and Illinois are our top choices.

Sept.

  • Rehired at school, one day before the first day of school.
  • Learn how to balance blogging with a full-time job.
  • Occupy Wall Street protests begin in NYC.

Oct.

  • Participate in RIP challenge.
  • Complete my first 24 hour read-a-thon.
  • Death of Steve Jobs.
  • Death of Moammar Gadhafi.

Nov.

  • Death of Andy Rooney.

Dec.

  • Break silence with Dad at Christmas.
  • Hit my 100th post.
  • Biggest month for blog hits; doubled last month’s number.
  • Read my 100th book in 2011, the most books that I’ve ever read in a year!
  • Death of Kim Jong Il
  • Last US troops withdraw from Iraq.

Reading Stats

Note: Of books read in 2011, 7 % were Young Adult books.

2011 in Numbers

– I successfully met my reading goal of 100 books read in 2011!

– Total Number of Pages Read in 2011: 35, 359

– Number of Books over 1000 pages: 4

– Number of Books over 750 pages: 7

– Number of Books over 500 pages: 15

2011 Reading Challenges

– Spring Seasonal Reading Challenge–Almost completed

Summer Seasonal Reading ChallengeNot even close

RIP Reading Challenge: Complete!

2011 Reading Events

Dewey’s Read-a-Thon: Read for the full 24 hours!

So, that was my 2011 year! Currently, I am reading my 101st book for 2011, and then I’ll be all amped up tomorrow (if I’m not hungover) to declare my 2012 goals!

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 The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch
• Paperback: 184 p
• Publisher: Pocket, 1990
• ISBN: 067173590X
• Genre: Horror; Mystery; TV/Movie Tie-In
• Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys horror AND has already watched and enjoyed Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
 
 
 
 
Quick Review: For any fan of Twin Peaks, this is a must read! This book serves as a window into poor, tortured Laura Palmer’s soul and truly delivers in all of the quirks and horrors that made Twin Peaks such an amazing series.
 
 

How I Got HereI am a huge fan of the Twin Peaks series and a few years back I found this book on the internet (not sure where) after my 3rd viewing of the series. I loved it, and decided to re-read it again this year. Also, this book satisfies a task for the  Fall Reading Challenge, as well as the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) challenge. I read this book during the very wee hours of my participation in Dewey’s 24 hour Read-a-Thon.

The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:

Based on the explosive TV Series TWIN PEAKS, this shocking diary reveals the sordid double life of Laura Palmer – from adolescence up until the time of her murder.

Short and sweet…but at least there’s no spoilers!

My Analysis and CritiqueFor any fan of Twin Peaks, this is a must read! This book serves as a window into poor, tortured Laura Palmer’s soul and truly delivers in all of the quirks and horrors that made Twin Peaks such an amazing series.

The diary begins on Laura’s 12th birthday in 1984. She has been given the book as a gift and immediately begins to share her love for her Mom and Dad, as well as her best friend Donna Hayward (a major character on the show). She also begins to reflect on what becomes a running theme in the diary and her life–her sexuality and the power and danger associated with it. According to Laura, she has been dealing with BOB for a long time. BOB is a malevolent spirit who regularly molests her and tortures her both physically and mentally. Laura is scared and yet, being a very strong young woman, is frustrated and tries desperately to gain power over her sexual predator. As the years go on, she finds power in sex, and alternates between joy and fear in who she is becoming- a sexually ravenous teen who likes to dabble in danger. The diary follows her ups and downs, leading ultimately to her last entry on the night that she is murdered.

Obviously, the story of Laura Palmer is a tragic one. She tries so hard in a losing battle. I don’t want to reveal much, as what this book entails may completely spoil the twists of the show. Yet, if you are a fan of Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (the follow-up movie), you will be fascinated with this book as it shows unseen sides of the many beloved characters (and sources of nightmares) that you never got to see on the show. This book is also true horror–BOB is one of my greatest feared characters, and just the thought of him fills me with dread. He makes a lot of appearances in the book (at one point even, gulp, he writes in the book) as do some of the more human evil-doers of the Twin Peaks universe.

Please note, I only recommend the reading of this book to people who have ALREADY seen Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me. Also, I would recommend watching the series prior to the film. On a final note, this book was hard to find (I think I found my copy on Ebay), but is definitely worth the search!

Links:

  1. Goodreads reviews

• Horns by Joe Hill
• Paperback: 416 p
• Publisher: HarperCollins, 2011
• ISBN: 0061147966
• Genre: Horror; Fantasy; Thriller
• Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys horror and the best in characterization.
 
 
 
 
Quick Review: Despite the disappointing ending, I definitely recommend this book to fans of horror and characterization in general. It’s really not particularly scary, but readers may be horrified by the revelations of some of the characters. Also, the characterization in the novel is top-notch.
 
 

How I Got HereI had read Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill in the past and enjoyed it. Hill is also my favorite author on Twitter (@joe_hill). So, I am already a fan of the author and what really pushed me to read this novel was a recommendation by Amy at Lucy’s Football. Finally, this book satisfies a task for the  Fall Reading Challenge, as well as the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) challenge. I read this book during my participation in Dewey’s 24 hour Read-a-Thon.

The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge. . . . It’s time the devil had his due. . .

My Analysis and Critique:

Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby protuberances.

Once I read these opening lines, I was hooked. The protagonist, Ig, wakes up with horns and is horrified to find that every person that he interacts with is compelled to tell their worst, darkest secrets to him, and each desires his permission to commit acts of varying degrees of evil. Very intriguing opening with many questions to be answered: What did Ig do to get his horns? Why do people react in such a way around him? Who killed his girlfriend (whom he immediately mentions as brutally raped and murdered a year prior to the opening)? Is Ig the devil, and if so, will he actually become as evil as everyone thinks he is? What further powers will be gained through the horns themselves? So many possibilities here!

While most of these questions get answered in some way, I don’t think Hill reached his potential with Horns. Such a great premise, but it fell flat for me at the end. I was hoping for some major plot development and twists related to new-found powers gained through the horns, but it didn’t really happen. I was frustrated that, though the horns did give him powers of manipulation with people, they still weren’t much more than a facial characteristic and a device for getting other characters to tell him some very awful truths. Disappointing. About three quarters of the way through the novel, I realized that if this novel had more irony, it would be truly excellent. The ending didn’t satisfy; it felt anti-climactic. Bummer.

However, I would still highly recommend this novel. Hill seems to have mastered the art of characterization, and, for me, that’s the most important element in a story. All of his characters feel very real, which might be due to the flashback technique he utilizes in a similar fashion to his father’s use in IT. The chapters showing the protagonist as a teen were my favorites. In fact, I actually lost myself in them (I truly felt that I was watching the scenes unfold in person), which I haven’t done with a book in a long time. The opening chapters of the novel are also pretty terrific and horrifying as Ig hears the most awful, cringe-worthy confessions from friends, family, and town members (the worst comes from his grandmother).

Overall, despite the disappointing ending (I’m a harsh critic when the set-up is so perfect and fails to deliver at the end), I definitely recommend this book to fans of horror and characterization in general. It’s really not particularly scary, but readers may be horrified by the revelations of some of the characters. The characterization in the novel is top-notch (Hill has now entered my Top 5 of the best character writers, a major feat) and the opening is excellent. I think Hill is probably continuing to hone and improve his craft (this novel was definitely stronger than Heart-Shaped Box), and I will continue to read his novels and stories and look forward to whatever he writes next.

Links:

  1. Goodreads reviews

• We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
• Paperback: 146 p
• Publisher: Penguin Classics, 2006
• ISBN: 0143039970
• Genre: Horror; American Classic, Gothic
• Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys classic horror stories and the perfect use of irony.
 
 
Quick Review: I found this novel to be a masterpiece of gothic horror–it made me think, I sympathized with very unconventional characters, and my jaw dropped at some points. I highly recommend this, and all of Shirley Jackson’s works.
 
 

How I Got HereI have loved Shirley Jackson ever since I first read “The Lottery.” In recent years, I have been seeking out opportunities to read all of Jackson’s works, and have not yet been disappointed (I read The Haunting of Hill House a few years ago). She is a master, and I want to read everything she wrote. Also, this book satisfies a task for the  Fall Reading Challenge, as well as the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) challenge. I read this book for Dewey’s Read-a-Thon.

The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:

Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.

My Synopsis and Critique: Jackson’s novel is narrated by Merricat Blackwood, a teen-aged girl who immediately proves herself to be a strange young lady, professing her likes (her sister Constance and death-cap mushrooms) and dislikes (washing herself and noise) in the opening lines. As the story begins, Merricat tells the reader that she comes from a wealthy family that lives on the outskirts of a small village. She also tells the reader that most of her family is dead.

Right away, readers know something is off. She then shows that everyone in the village hates her family; as she buys groceries and walks back home, she is harangued by both the young and old of the village. One man in a diner asks if she will be moving away soon, and is very disappointed and rude when she replies in the negative. As she walks by, the village children sing a song while they play:

Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?
Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!

So, I’m wondering, what’s the deal? Merricat is just a teenager, and everyone hates her! It has to be something connected to this morbid children’s rhyme…

Once Merricat gets home, readers learn that her sister Constance never leaves their gated property. She is older, and yet she lets her younger sister deal with the hatred of the village. She seems to be terrified of people, an agoraphobe. Yet, still I don’t know why, though it definitely seems connected to the children’s song.

In the second chapter, it is then made clear: in the recent past, Constance was arrested and acquitted for the murder of her entire family, who were poisoned via sugar sprinkled on their breakfast of blackberries. The only survivors were Constance, Merricat, and their Uncle Julian, who is unwell and so obsessed with the murderous event that he spends all of his days recording notes on the sequence of events leading to the deaths.

More information is revealed as the story moves, and throughout I felt constant pity for the sisters who are locked up in the house to avoid the black mark that society has placed on them. Reporters and villagers are kept away by the large fence, and Merricat sets up her own alarm system to alert her of intruders. Poor Merricat. While Constance manages the house, Merricat is allowed to run wild and lives a fanciful, imaginative life full of superstitions and conversations with her constant companion, Jonas the cat. Merricat is a lot like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, lonely and strange, except for her fixation on death and murder. She hates the world: “What place would be better for us than this? Who wants us, outside? The world is full of terrible people.” Often, I contemplated whether or not her life is similar to that of the children of O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson–constantly surrounded by ill-will towards family members.

The story goes on with shocking plot and character twists, and once their cousin Charles moves in, everything changes and more is revealed about the dark past and present of the Blackwood sisters.

I found this novel to be a masterpiece of gothic horror–it made me think, I sympathized with very unconventional characters, and my jaw dropped at some points. I highly recommend this, and all of Shirley Jackson’s works.

Links:

  1. Goodreads reviews
  2. Shirley Jackson: Biography and List of Works

• Under the Dome by Stephen King
• Hardcover: 1072 p
• Publisher: Scribner, 2009
• ISBN: 1439148503
• Genre: Horror; Science Fiction; Dystopia
• Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys end-of-the-world dystopian fiction; anyone who enjoys classic episodes of The Twilight Zone
 
 
Quick Review: A dystopian novel with classic Stephen King wit and characterization.
 
 

How I Got HereMy mom recommended it highly. She is a huge fan of Stephen King but, has been rather disappointed in King’s work for the last 10-15 years. So, when she gave high marks to Under the Dome, I had to check it out. Plus, I noticed that it had a map and a list of characters, which I always find encouraging and fun in a book. Finally, this book satisfies a task for the  Fall Reading Challenge, as well as the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) challenge.

The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens — town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.

My Analysis and Critique: I’m a big fan of The Twilight Zone, and this book had Twilight Zone written all over it. An impenetrable, transparent dome drops down over a small town in Maine and chaos reigns supreme. Paranoia, corrupt cops, martial law, fires, suicide, murder…all occur in the span of a week under the dome. It’s the perfect social experiment: shut a town off from the world, no entry, no exit, and watch them destroy themselves. Classic!

The characters are very engaging: the evil politician/used car salesman Jim Rennie, his sadistic, necrophiliac son Junior, the heroic diner cook/decorated soldier Barbie, the persistent local newswoman Julia, the kid genius Joe, the religious zealot/meth head Chef, and the physician’s assistant turned head doctor Rusty. These are only a few of the many characters, but no worries, King provides a character list (as well as a Town Map) at the beginning of the book. Many readers complain that King went overboard with characters and was sparse in development–I disagree. King is a master of characterization and this book is no exception. At points, major characters are imprisoned or die, and then are done. Then, King works with another character. Honestly, in a book like this, it’s not about rounding out characters. In fact, King might have rounded them off more than necessary. This story’s protagonist is the town of Chester’s Mill–all of the individual character stories serve to round out this main, overall character. The antagonist is also Chester’s Mill. It’s a town fighting itself.

My only complaint is that the end felt sudden and almost anticlimactic. Yet, I still really enjoyed this novel as the real story is simply watching the town destroy itself. Once it has done its worst, there really isn’t much more fun to be had. I’m not sure how the ending could have been any better. Actually, I do. If King went ahead and ripped off Rod Serling and ended it as beautifully as Serling did at the end of “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” it would have been perfect. But, Serling already did it. Serling did it!

Anyone interested in end-of-the-world dystopian fiction would enjoy this novel. It’s really not about the dome and why it is there, but about the awful things people will do when there is no threat of consequence. There are a lot of frightening peeks at mob mentality in this novel. An interesting social commentary and a fascinating read!

Links:

  1. Goodreads reviews

• The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
• Paperback: 374 p
• Publisher: Penguin, 2003
• ISBN: 0142001805
• Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Alternate Reality
• Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys classic British literature and enjoys inside jokes about classic British literature; anyone who enjoys mysteries and alternate reality fiction.
 
Quick Review: Are you familiar with Shakespeare? Read Jane Eyre? Fairly knowledgeable on Dickens? What about Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones? Do you realize that the Crimean War ended in the 19th century? Have you ever even heard of the Crimean War? If you answered no to any of these questions, you don’t want to read this book. It’s really written for British Literature borks.
 

How I Got Here: I have been meaning to read this book for years. It satisfies a task for the Fall Reading Challenge so I checked it out from the library. It took me two tries before I actually read it (hard to get into).

The Book: Here is Goodreads’ synopsis:

Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

My Analysis and Critique: I don’t know how anyone can enjoy this book if they haven’t read the classic works that this novel casually alludes to. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. Yet, British Literature is my forte. For me, The Eyre Affair was my own personal episode of Family Guy– instead of constant references to ’80s pop culture, it was full of allusions to Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen. And, of course, the entire second and third acts of Jane Eyre.

In the alternate reality of The Eyre Affair, all pop culture centers around literature. Instead of baseball cards, kids trade bubble gum cards of their favorite characters from Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones: “If you want Sophia you’re going to have to give me an Allworthy plus a Tom Jones, as well as the Amelia!”. In this society, a popular outing on a Saturday night might be to take part in the vocal audience of Richard III, complete with yelling lines with and at the actors in a call and response fashion (think Rocky Horror Picture Show). It’s a bork’s paradise!

Then, there is the mystery aspect of the story. Thursday Next is the protagonist, an investigator of literary crimes. Next is hot on the trail of a man who steals the original manuscripts of classics, steps into the manuscripts (don’t ask), kidnaps a character (still don’t ask), and then kills them outside of the text so that all copies of the book are forever altered (really, don’t ask, I don’t entirely get it either). She hunts him down until she too is in the pages of Jane Eyre, kicking it with Mrs. Poole and comforting the ever melancholy Rochester. You’ll just have to read it to understand.

While the story was fun, I really wasn’t that into it. This has become glaringly clear as I am currently staying up late, reading hundreds of pages of my current book, while I could barely get through 20 pages of The Eyre Affair without snoozing on the text. It really had too much going on. Allusion after allusion…I had to keep checking my memory to see if I was getting all of the references. I didn’t care about any of the characters (except Rochester, of course, my #1 book boyfriend) and really didn’t care for the mystery plot. It was fun, though. Yet, unless you’re a bork for British Literature, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Links:

  1. See Goodreads synopis and reviews

• The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
• Audiobook: 5 cds; narrated by Nancy Travis
• Publisher: Hatchette Audio; 2005
• ISBN: 1594830657
• Genre: Contemporary Adult Fiction; Magical Realism
• Recommended for: Anyone who likes to be bogged down by sensory details, figurative language, multiple beaten-to-death themes, and false characterization.
 

 Disclaimer: I don’t read too many books that I dislike. When I do, I tend to be very passionate and sardonic in my review. Just a warning on tone…

Quick Review: The Ice Queen was dull and hard to get into with far too much going on, most of which I couldn’t care less about.

How I Got HereIn the last year, I have fallen in love with the novels of Sarah Addison Allen and her particular style of magical realism. I have been seeking out other magical realism novels and had previously read Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I hoped that this book would satisfy my desire for more magical realism. Also, this book satisfies a task for the  Fall Reading Challenge.

The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:

From  the bestselling author of Practical Magic, a miraculous, enthralling tale of a woman who is struck by lightning, and finds her frozen heart is suddenly burning.

Be careful what you wish for. A small town librarian lives a quiet life without much excitement. One day, she mutters an idle wish and, while standing in her house, is struck by lightning. But instead of ending her life, this cataclysmic event sparks it into a new beginning.

She goes in search of Lazarus Jones, a fellow survivor who was struck dead, then simply got up and walked away. Perhaps this stranger who has seen death face to face can teach her to live without fear. When she finds him, he is her opposite, a burning man whose breath can boil water and whose touch scorches. As an obsessive love affair begins between them, both are forced to hide their most dangerous secrets–what turned one to ice and the other to fire.

A magical story of passion, loss, and renewal, The Ice Queen is Alice Hoffman at her electrifying best.

My Analysis and Critique: The Ice Queen was dull and hard to get into with far too much going on, most of which I couldn’t care less about. Hoffman’s writing felt forced and over the top. She overused sensory details and figurative language, her characterization felt false, the themes were numerous and stretched thin, and her protagonist made a huge character judgement that had me yelling at my speakers (audiobook, remember?).

Alice Hoffman, meet Dan Brown. Have a baby. He or she will be an excellent writer!

It is rare that I say this, but Hoffman shows too much! She really took the old adage “Show, don’t tell” to heart. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate colorful descriptions of setting and characters, and there is really nothing better than a dead-on metaphor. Yet, Hoffman gets carried away! Every tree has to be described, every observation explained through simile. I get it- she’s the ice queen- she’s cold! You don’t have to beat me over the head with a gazillion literary devices to get me to understand! How many ways can you describe the color red? Hoffman has probably utilized each and every one. Everything in this book is shown to the umpteenth degree that I began to despise figurative language! Here is an example from the first paragraph:

Wishes are brutal, unforgiving things. They burn your tongue the moment they’re spoken and you can never take them back. They bruise and bake and come back to haunt you. I’ve made far too many wishes in my lifetime, the first when I was eight years old. Not the sort of wish for ice cream or a party dress or long blond hair; no. The other sort, the kind that rattles your bones, then sits in the back of your throat, a greedy red toad that chokes you until you say it aloud. The kind that could change your life in an instant, before you have time to wish you could take it back. 

Rather nice for an opening paragraph, but this goes on and on and on! In the first chapter, more than half of the paragraphs contain some sort of figurative language. Perhaps this is why it was so easy to space out. She told very little, her plot didn’t feel concrete enough. She needs a dose of Dan Brown- he could teach her a thing or two about telling…

I’ve got a few more pages left to write…just enough to squeeze in one more irrelevant theme!

The Ice Queeweighs in at a measly 211 pages. Yet, Hoffman manages to explore at least nine major themes and topics! She explores wishes (as read in above excerpt), the protagonist as “Ice Queen”, lightning strikes, fairy tales, the relevance of colors, death, reading habits, uniqueness as a personality trait, and then, for good measure, she throws in butterflies during the last chapter. I’m not even sure I covered all of the themes here. She does a poor job in writing on all of these themes and topics, either because she beats them to death, or throws them in momentarily and then drops them. Some of these themes she pursues strongly, even seeming to base her entire novel upon them, only to reveal briefly at the end that there was no creedence to them: the narrator was wrong, that wasn’t what it was about at all.

I couldn’t give a damn about you…No wait! I love you! Let’s move in together!

Hoffman’s characters make uncharacteristic choices. Sometimes, they just disappear all together. I would go into more detail, but that would mean spoilers, and even though I believe you will choose NOT to read this book after reading my review, I still try not to do spoilers. I think the above heading illustrates the erroneous ways of Hoffman’s characterization. Perhaps if Hoffman spent less time on sensory details, figurative language, and over/underarching themes, the choices her characters make would make more sense. But, she doesn’t really do much with characterization, so it all feels false and forced.

What?! No! No! That’s not what that means! How can you say that?!

So, as I have illustrated, Alice Hoffman’s The Ice Queen was a rather unmemorable experience as it just seemed to drag on…except when it didn’t. There was one little tiny plot twist that had me arguing with Nancy Travis and her Three Men and a Baby voice.  The protagonist, a librarian, snoops into her sister-in-law’s circulation records and discovers that she (the sister-in-law) has just returned a book titled “A Hundred Ways to Die”. This causes our busybody, uniformed librarian to conclude that her sister-in-law wants to kill herself. What?!? Are you kidding me? As a reader of a variety of genres, I was offended by this gross misjudgement. Last year, I bought a book titled Demons and Demonology and The Witch’s Magical Handbook. Am I a witch? A satanist? Heck no! I hope to write a book one day dealing with the paranormal, and books with witches and supernatural creatures always fascinate me. So, I’m doing research! How could a librarian make such a ridiculously based judgement? She goes on to confront her sister-in-law, who reveals it wasn’t for her, but for someone else who might want to kill themself. I still say that’s stupid. Just another illustration on why this book is poor, poor, poor.

Don’t read this book. Just. Don’t.

Links:

  1. Goodreads reviews