book review: the war at ellsmere

The War at Ellsmere is Faith Erin Hicks’ story about Jun, a scholarship student at an all-girls boarding school and her roommate. There’s a terribly evil girl at school who wants to break Jun, and eventually finds a way to get her expelled. It’s a short book that moves quickly, and yes the dramatic history of the school told near the beginning is important later. It’s a story about friendship and awkwardness, and the ties you have to people who are dead. It’s pretty great.

Hicks does an awesome job with snarky teenage lead characters, and her art works well throughout. It feels heavy somehow with all the woods crowding around the school, enclosing the story. Also, I love the idea of Blindfold Monopoly as a game.

book review: rite

I hadn’t read any Tad Williams (though Ivy’s recommended him) until a friend lent me this collection of short stories, Rite. Evidently he’s more of a fantasy author than SciFi which doesn’t bother me. I think my problem with this book was the introductions to each story. I found them annoying and filled with “Aren’t I so clever” type stuff. Which kind of put me off the stories. Also I found that almost every story was just way too long for what it did. Williams talked in one of the introductions about loving language and that’s why he writes, which is fine, but few of the stories really felt like they’d been pruned down to the necessary.

That’s not to say I didn’t like anything about it. The Dark Destructor story was good. I kind of liked the airplane story, it had a good Twilight Zone feel to it. The unicorn story was good. But the Otherland story annoyed me with its fake swearing; the Elric stories weren’t as funny as he thought they were; and the vampire story was too long and he shouldn’t have told the readers it was supposed to be French crusaders because you could see the hasty paint-over job done to make them 13th century Arabs (and it was too long).

book review: the sun also rises

I wish I could say I re-read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises because I was called a eunuch two days ago, but it was more coincidental than that. I’m doing this re-reading of books from my early undergraduate days and it seemed a natural fit. (Also, I was – without prompting – called a unicorn at work today, so clearly there’s something going on in the zeitgeist around me.)

Now the reason this comes up is because the protagonist in The Sun Also Rises was injured in the war. Ten years ago I completely missed how he was injured. Only afterwards, reading Hemingway criticism, did I realize he’d lost his testicles. I remember going back to the book and re-reading every bit where he mentions being injured and was relieved to find it was never flat out said. “Hmph,” I thought in dismissal, “It’s the kind of thing you have to know before you read it to get the references because they’re so subtle as to be non-existent.” And I put the book in my stack of Hemingway that was okay but not great.

I have to say that 19-year-old Justin was not nearly as smart as he thought he might be. Yes, I knew about the injury this time so I was looking for this stuff, but really. It’s all there in the first fifty pages if you take the time. I must have been reading to get through the book back then. Just adding it to the collection in my Hemingway phase. Yeah. I apologize to whoever needs to be apologized to for that. Maybe just me.

Now, with some time to breathe while I read it, I think this might be my favourite Hemingway. I re-read A Farewell to Arms when I was in China and it was still good but didn’t tighten up my insides the way this one did. It’s just so achingly sad and perfect. Maybe not perfect. But so damned good I hate to think about it too hard.