O! what Man will do fore a Rime!

Self-proclaimed bibliophile, culture nut and nerdfighter. English lit. and linguistics geek. Future career in publishing.

Reblogged from The Fangirl:
Editing vs. Proofreading
Editing vs. Proofreading


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The reason or something

I have been notoriously absent (just kidding, I doubt anyone's been marking my absence here). I feel bad, but I have been really busy the past couple of months, what with me moving to South Korea to teach elementary school children for one year. I've settled into my place in Pohang (sort of) and this week marked the first week of school of Korean children, so I'm kind of getting into the swing of it. Unfortunately, not too much time has been spent on reading. As soon as I get my act together, I shall return!


In the meantime, feel free to check out the tumblog post I did about South Korea's craziness so far. I will try to update that tumblr if I can't update anything else.


Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan

"Hello, there," a quiet voice called from the stacks. A figure emerged -- a man, tall and skinny like one of the ladders, draped in a light gray button-down and a blue cardigan. He tottered as he walked, running a long hand along the shelves for support. When he came out of the shadows, I saw that his sweater matched his eyes, which were also blue, riding low in nests of wrinkles. He was very old.

He nodded at me and gave a weak wave. "What do you seek in these shelves?"

- p. 8



Warning: A large spoiler is in this review. Like, one that spoils a huge chunk of the mystery, so don't expand the spoiler cut or don't read if you haven't read the book.


Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is about a young man who takes up a job as the night clerk at the eponymous bookstore, but soon discovers that weird happenings are afoot when he cracks open one of the books from the back section and finds out they're full of codes.


I found this novel to be very witty with an intriguing mystery, which are two things that I enjoy, especially when put together. Despite the characters not being very dynamic, I still thought they were likeable and fairly realistic (though, of course, I am a fan of the eccentric old bookstore owner; but who isn't?). Clay, our protagonist, could easily be someone from my own group of friends based on personality, and so could a lot of Clay's friends.


There's also a fair amount of travelling for a book in which you think you'll be spending most of the time in the bookstore. Nope, they're off to New York and Google headquarters for adventuring and to put their sleuth skills to good use. A trio of mid-twenties intellectuals are definitely not equal to Sherlock Holmes, but they get by pretty well. I only wished the stakes seemed higher during their spy time. They never got caught or got into trouble at all (except that one part, but it's resolved so easily that it doesn't feel like trouble), which makes the mystery seem a bit too easy. Give a girl some drama!


I really liked that the main mystery behind this leads to a cult because I find cults fascinating. I don't understand them or the people who belong to them, generally, so finding a cult in this book was like a treat: I got to read more about them without understanding them, since understanding cult mentality makes me less interested by default.

(show spoiler)


Definitely an enjoyable read for bibliophiles, computing science majors, people who wish they could work at Google, mystery lovers and nerds.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce

He could forgive his parents for not wanting him. For not showing him how to love, or even giving him the vocabulary. He could forgive their parents, and their parents before that.

All Harold wanted was his child.

- p. 283



Warning: There are some words in this review that might spoil a part of Forrest Gump for you if you haven't seen it. Obviously, you should've seen the film by now though because it's a masterpiece.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is about a recently retired man named Harold Fry who decides to walk from his home in Kingsbridge, Devon, to a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, in order to save an old friend from cancer.


Harold is a character who reminds me of the male baby boomer stereotype: not in touch with his feelings, doesn't know how to show his love, etc. I'm sick of this stereotype being applied to older male characters, only to have them grow and realize their feelings all along. It's boring. I know that older male characters don't always fit into this stereotype, but because of its existence it feels like they're everywhere.


The writing itself is only mediocre. I get that this is Joyce's first novel and she will improve by her second book (hopefully), but that doesn't mean I have to like the overt messages she's sending. Subtlety is an author's best friend. I think I would've liked this book better if the themes weren't so in-your-face and explicitly stated. The tone is very quaint and felt homely, which is a tone that I favour. However, I wasn't a particular fan of the style. I think that if you're following a character for a chapter, you shouldn't put an aside about another character in, especially when they haven't been set up as a character from whom we get a point of view. I also wasn't fond of the overuse of commas since most of the time they weren't needed in those places. There's also the use of semi-colons and periods in the novel that were used in a way that I didn't like. (I'm sorry, I appreciate a semi-colon's proper use; call me a prescriptivist then.)


I do like the idea of believing in something makes you stronger, and I appreciated that that thing wasn't religion/religious faith. Despite Joyce not letting me figure it out, it was still a nice enough message that I didn't mind as much.


I also like that Harold was a modern pilgrim, because you don't see many stories about that anymore. The only problem was that it felt very much like the part in Forrest Gump where he starts running for no reason and people just join along with him. In fact, it felt almost exactly like that when other people start joining Harold's march north. (And I have an outside opinion: when I told my older sister the synopsis, she flat-out said, "Oh, like Forrest Gump?")


This novel was simply okay to me, but I feel like it's at least a bit more than 2 stars but not enough for 2.5 stars. I feel like I should have liked it more, but the writing was a serious hindrance. Depending on the improvement in writing quality, I'm still interested in picking up Joyce's next novel.


The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien The Two Towers  - J.R.R. Tolkien The Return of the King  - J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

"But," said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, "I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done."

"So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them."

- Frodo and Sam

Book Six, Chapter IX: Grey Havens

pp. 1346-7



Warning: This review will be of the entire novel (meaning volumes I-III, or The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King), so there will be a large quantity of spoilers. If you have not read the books but have seen the films, I think you'll be okay. If you haven't done either, you've been warned so proceed at your own risk -- though these books have been out since the mid-1950s, so you've had plenty of time to be acquainted with their content.



The Lord of the Rings follows the story of a little hobbit named Frodo Baggins, who is entrusted with the care of the One Ring -- a ring that will let the enemy rise again with full strength and power. Frodo must go on a quest to Mordor and destroy the Ring by casting it into the cracks of Mount Doom from which it was forged in order to fully get rid of the evil of Sauron.


Tolkien's novel is one of my favourites of all time. There's something so beautiful about friendships and loyalty grown through adversity and hardships that makes me all teary when I even think about it. The novel really makes you feel the care the fellowship have for each other as comrades and as friends. Yeah, maybe it's a little homoerotic in that eight dudes on a long trek east will have a tenderness that modern bros will think is a bit too feminine for their liking, but whatever friendships are amazing things and those bros are just too insecure in their masculinity. These people become the best of friends in their quest, basically brothers, so don't be asking when are Frodo and Sam going to kiss 'cause that's not cool. (Of course, it would've been cool to have either a woman or one of them gay for diversity reasons, but y'know the '50s and all.)


The novel is separated into six books (with two packaged into each volume), with appendices and an index at the end. Book One follows from Bilbo's 111th birthday/Frodo's 33rd birthday to when the four hobbits and Strider make it to Rivendell. Book Two begins with the Council of Elrond to discuss what is to be done with the Ring and ends with Frodo and Sam leaving the fellowship. Book Three starts with Boromir's death and the capture of Pippin and Merry, and then ends with the Ents taking down Isengard and Pippin being whisked away to Minas Tirith by Gandalf. Book Four follows only Frodo and Sam as they meet up with Gollum and make their way to Mordor, running into Faramir and ending with Frodo being taken by Orcs after being poisoned by Shelob (the giant spider). Book Five refocuses on everyone else and covers the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, including bringing Faramir, Éowyn and Merry to the Houses of Healing, and then everyone setting off for the Black Gates. Book Six covers Frodo and Sam's journey to Mount Doom and the completion of their quest, then their journey back home. Why, yes, a lot of stuff does happen.


While Frodo and Sam's journey is very important in actually ending Sauron, I find the books that focus on Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin and Merry to be an infinite amount more interesting. I think it's because they encounter more trouble and get to fight battles. It's not until Frodo and Sam make it into Mordor that their journey starts to pick up. Most of the time, the pair of them are just walking past rivers, over hills, hiding under rocks, etc. Tolkien's prose is beautiful, but my god it's hard to make that fun. Before they split from the rest of the Company, Book One is a bit of a drag, but only because I think three chapters involving Tom Bombadil is at least two chapters too many. I mean, nothing even goes on when they're there! It sets up Tom Bombadil as a mysterious character, but it's ultimately pointless.


A lot of people when they read the novel now think that Tolkien is a very passive writer and that he was a poor writer despite how great his imagination and world-building was. I think that's an opinion that doesn't reflect what I've read of Tolkien's work. It's true that Tolkien wrote a lot of description about the landscapes and the buildings, but that's kind of what world-building is all about; that doesn't make him a poor writer. Not only that, but each chapter in The Lord of the Rings has a clear event that occurs so it's not like there are any chapters where something big or important doesn't happen. Tolkien's prose is also very prosodic, which is of course more pronounced when you read it aloud. I personally think the main reason people find Tolkien boring now is because of the way he structures his sentences: nobody really writes the way he does anymore. Tolkien was all about moving phrases or words to the front of the sentence for stress or to draw attention to it, something that Latin was really fond of. Really, I think it's unjust to judge Tolkien's prose as bad when he was doing something with it that we're no longer used to. This is all a matter of taste, of course.


Besides the story itself, a large reason I love this novel is because of the linguistic thought Tolkien put into it. He made up languages, but not just that: he made up language families. As someone studying linguistics, I cannot tell you how inspiring and amazing that is. That's like making up a branch of Indo-European languages, which means it's like making up all the Germanic languages or the Italic languages. The most I could say is that there is only one man-made language that has truly caught on enough that there have become native speakers of it, and that's Esperanto. And now people actually learn to speak and write the languages in Tolkien's world, and not only that but it's a fully-formed language. As a linguistics nerd, I'm dying over here!


Yes, there are issues with Tolkien's novel, like the lack of female characters, the pacing can be slow, the overarching theme of racism since each and every Orc ever has always been a creature worth exterminating, but these faults aren't enough for the novel to be dismissed. It has its issues like every other novel, and coming from the 1950s it's not actually that bad. The Lord of the Rings really isn't for everyone, but I think everyone should at least give it a try. After all, Tolkien has contributed so much to Western culture that it would be rude not to take a little peek.

Nineteen Eighty-Three by David Peace

Nineteen Eighty-Three: The Red Riding Quartet, Book Four - David Peace

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



Nineteen Eighty-Three is also not about the Yorkshire Ripper case, like the first novel in this series, Nineteen Seventy-Four. It instead follows another missing child case, similar to the ones detailed in the first novel. Unlike all of the previous novels, though, this one takes us back to before the events of the first book so that we finally get a complete picture of the entire series.

In 1983, we once again have multiple perspectives. This time it's from Det. Maurice Jobson, the Chief Superintendent of the Yorkshire police force and one of the most corrupt coppers that we've seen to date; John Piggot, some random lawyer who is quite nice sincerely seems to care, which is a nice change; and BJ, the street thug, local guy that we've seen since 1974.

While I appreciated getting the full picture on the events leading up to 1974 and the course of everything that has happened through the series until now, I think Peace's writing has gone down in quality or he might not have as much talent in distinguishing between multiple characters. I thought he did quite well in 1977 between Det. Bob Fraser and Jack Whitehead, but here Peace uses first, second and third person to distinguish between Jobson, Piggot and BJ; his way of doing it might have been his attempt at those different points of view, but it comes across more as lazy writing: Peace doesn't have the writing chops to make each character's voice different and so turns to writing them with different points of view. I don't have any love for second-person, because I think it's trite and sounds terrible, so I wasn't a fan. Peace's tackling of BJ was not any better and made BJ seem like an idiot or some sort of Neanderthal (e.g., "BJ bang on Clare's door," "BJ wait at bus stop for Clare," etc. -- examples not direct quotations from the book), which is not in line with what we've seen him speak thus far in the series. His actual speech is normal, so I don't know what's up with the point of view.

Once again, the book is very film noir-esque and the repetition is still there, although by this time it's getting quite irritating. I ended up skimming over some parts because I could see where it was going. That's never a fun thing to do in a novel.

Nineteen Eighty by David Peace

Nineteen Eighty (Red Riding, #3) - David Peace

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



Nineteen Eighty is, like its predecessor Nineteen Seventy-Seven, about the Yorkshire Ripper case. This time, our protagonist is Det. Peter Hunter from Manchester who is assigned to investigate the investigation while at the same time investigating the Ripper murders. Peter is probably the first and only clean cop that we get to see; every other cop is at least a little bit skewed morally, if not ethically.

This book follows in the same vein as Peace's previous books in the series: very film noir mood and tone, repetitious style of writing, etc; so if it feels like I'm repeating myself in these reviews it's because Peace does it himself. They are very much consistent with each other in terms of mood, tone, style and every other technical facet of the novel.

The nice part about this novel is that we finally get a cop who is on the straight and narrow. I don't think any other series or events have ever made me more suspicious of local law enforcement than these books. It was a blessing to get Peter Hunter as someone who believes in upholding the law and not bending it to his gain, or even just to feel assured that he wasn't beating up gypsies, taking bribes or raping prostitutes (which we have so far seen) because he's actually a nice dude. But that altogether made it even harder when his life got turned upside down and he had his breakdown (because you know that this is the way Peace always plays out these novels).

The bad part is that Peace took away the clever pre-chapter bits from the radio show and replaced them with pre-chapter bits that are literally an entire block of nonstop tiny writing that after the first one I couldn't be bothered to read. I suppose it was meant to add to the mood, but with no punctuation it seemed irrelevant and a waste of my time.

Nineteen Seventy-Seven by David Peace

Nineteen Seventy-Seven (Red Riding, #2) - David Peace

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



Nineteen Seventy-Seven is about the beginning of the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry and it's told from the perspective of two people involved with the case: Det. Bob Fraser and reporter Jack Whitehead.

Peace continues with the same film noir mood and tone in this book. The writing style is the same as well, in that we still get a load of repetitions for emphasis and mood. Peace is still vague in his descriptions, always asking for you to work hard at solving it first before he reveals it -- and sometimes he doesn't even do that. I appreciate mystery novels that make me work for the ending.

This installment in the series alternates points of view between Jack and Bob every chapter. There's also the usual breakdown of the main characters at the end of the novel, but hasn't gotten boring yet. It's always so interesting the different issues that each character has and the way that they're handling or not handling them. Peace is so good at reminding us that people are people, and that means that they are never fully good or bad; it's always a mix of both, a spectrum that you can always slide on.

One thing that makes this novel different from its predecessor is the introduction of pre-chapter topical events. Before every chapter there is a little excerpt from a (most likely fictionalized) radio show with local Yorkshire and Leeds citizens weighing in on country-wide topics like the Queen's Jubilee and area-centered topics like the Yorkshire Ripper and murders. I really liked reading these, and maybe even a tad more so than the actual chapters themselves.

The ending of Nineteen Seventy-Seven will not be a surprise to anyone who has read Nineteen Seventy-Four, but it's still gut-wrenching because it's a mix of "They don't deserve this," and "Well, that was drastic." However, clearly 1970s Yorkshire was a mixed-up, dark place and maybe the events that I consider drastic were perfectly standard for the time.

Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace

Nineteen Seventy-Four (Red Riding, #1) - David Peace

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



Nineteen Seventy-Four is about Edward Dunford, a crime correspondent for the Yorkshire Post, covering the murder of a young girl. His search for the truth gets him in a lot of trouble, and I'm really not saying that lightly, holy shit.

I quite liked this, but I'll admit it wasn't what I was expecting exactly. Mostly because I thought Peace's entire Red Riding Quartet series was about the Yorkshire Ripper, but the first book in the series is actually not. So, get that thought out of your head right away.

Aside from that, this book is very fast-paced, which I liked. There's nothing more tedious than a crime case that is realistically investigated in an appropriate time-frame. However, the fast pace did make it harder to follow the threads that Eddie was investigating. I also liked that I couldn't really guess which direction the clues were heading in or whodunit, because I like being surprised and shocked at the end of the investigation. I don't want crime stories to be me watching Criminal Minds and figuring out the murderer about fifteen minutes into the show; that's boring.

The tone and mood of the book was very film noir and that's one of my favourite genres of anything, so yeah I enjoyed that part. It was also very graphic and violent, which doesn't turn me off, but certainly adds to the mood. Peace makes 1970s Yorkshire look like a cutthroat place and very dark. That's extremely appealing in a crime novel.

The mystery is good, the plot is a page-turner and the ending is handled well. If you like crime novels, I think you should probably give this one a go.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



Anansi Boys is about a man named Fat Charlie Nancy who meets his brother Spider for the first time after their father dies, and then shenanigans and hijinks ensue. This novel is more of a spiritual successor to American Gods than an actual sequel, so it's best if you don't think of the two as related except for that they both involve pagan gods and mythology; that's about it.

I've heard from people that they like this book better than American Gods and I can see why: it's better written, the plot is tighter and the characters are more vibrant. Unfortunately, while I do think it's a better book, I didn't enjoy it as much. There's something about big stakes like a war between new gods and old gods that really gets me, whereas a man with self-esteem issues and cowardice who overcomes them with the help of his brother doesn't quite.

The tone of Anansi Boys is completely different from American Gods, as well. It's more fun and a bit campy, even though there are some very serious issues and events. I didn't find the climax to be particularly anticlimactic overall, despite its nice build-up.

Gaiman still knocks it out of the ball park though.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



Stardust is about a young man named Tristran Thorn who sets off to capture a fallen star to prove his love for Victoria, but to do so he must cross the wall that separates their town from a land of magic and mysticism called Faerie.

Oh, the whimsy! This is one of the most whimsical books I think I've ever read, if not the most. Gaiman just has a writing style that lends itself well to whimsy and fantasy. It reminded me a lot of The Tempest in that sense. Just magical all around.

The comedy was great, the magic was magical (I apologize for that) and the adventure was thrilling. I think the writing was between the quality of young adult and adult, and even though there are sex scenes in the book I can see people reading this to their children (of an appropriate age) before bed. This novel basically lends itself to story-telling.

The only issue I really had with it was that the stakes never seemed very high, and I blame that on the whimsical feel of the novel. The witches didn't seem like they were that bad (they certainly weren't good), but that may be just because Tristran and Yvaine got out of those situations a little easily. I also wish that the flying pirate ship was a part of the novel more. I really like the idea of flying pirates and it would've been nice to read more about them.

These criticisms are mostly because I'd seen the movie way before reading the book, so those parts were clearly more action-ized for the big screen. I think that people who'd seen the movie first will still really enjoy the book.

Can we talk about Tristran's name though? The spelling indicates that you should pronounce the second "r," but that just makes it ridiculously hard to pronounce and it sounds bad. Pronouncing it as "Tristan" is nicer. I don't know how you're actually supposed to pronounce it, but it's screwing me up. And where does the syllable break come in? Is it ['trɪs.trən] or ['trɪ.strən]? Linguistics has taught me that put everything in the onset if you can. Looking at it and repeating the two options in my head is making me more confused. Who knew that Tristran's name would make me this wonky?

From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón

From the Mouth of the Whale: A Novel - Sjón, Robert Cribb

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



The story itself is not as good as the blurb on the back leads you to believe. Despite reading another of Sjón's novels prior, I had an idea of what I'd be going into, but From the Mouth of the Whale was maybe weirder than The Blue Fox in terms of narrative structure. I almost wish this was set during Iceland's pagan times so that there would be a cool clash between monotheistic visitors and pagan Icelanders. I don't know what I'm saying anymore, except there were too many ellipses in parts I and IV but I think Nicolas Winding Refn could make a good movie out of it.

The Blue Fox by Sjón

The Blue Fox - Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson (Sjón)

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



The Blue Fox is about both a man hunting a blue fox and a man who has just put his ward to rest. It sounds boring and kind of bad when I put it like that, but I don't really want to give too much away.

It's actually very beautiful, with moving prose (of course, I can't read Icelandic so the translation will have to suffice; I'm sure it's more lyrical in its native language as most translated novels are) and magical events. The novella has the feel of a fable and is very mystical.

It was a really great introduction into Icelandic literature.

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

Measure for Measure - Jonathan Bate, Eric Rasmussen, William Shakespeare

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.


Measure for Measure is a weird Shakespeare play: there's too much mixing of comedy and serious subject matter that it's hard to pin down exactly what kind of play it is. (No wonder it's called a "problem" play.) It's definitely an interesting look at justice and the way it's meted out. It's not nearly as fun as Shakespeare's comedies, nor as thought-provoking as his tragedies, nor even as entertaining as his histories. It's a little meh overall. (The Bard on the Beach production was very entertaining though, but then again it was transformed into a musical and set in 1900s New Orléans.)

However, the Duke is still an asshole. Isabella, girl, run far away.

Swamp Angel by Ethel Wilson

Swamp Angel - Ethel Wilson

Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.



Read for a class on British Columbian lit.

Not particularly fond of this novel, I'll admit. There are certain things about it that I do like, such as the awesomeness of our protagonist, Maggie, who decides she's had enough of her abusive second husband and splits on up to the BC interior; a decidedly heroic and brave thing to do in the 1950s for a woman. I liked that the other characters got their little backstories before they were even introduced into the timeline of Maggie's narrative. I also liked that there was a fairly positive representation of Chinese-Canadians, especially when Maggie's in Chinatown and when Wilson writes about their family life. Although, I would have to say that Wayson Choy does it better in The Jade Peony because of obvious ethnic and personal reasons.

I didn't find the character of Vera very likeable, but I think she was meant to be pitiable anyway. I didn't see or find the connection between Maggie and Mrs Severance to be of particular importance or even interest. Hilda can keep on rockin' though.

I think what carries the novel, overall, is the beautiful prose. Wilson writes with extreme technical skill, but also with love: the way she writes about the BC landscape is a great reminder of how gorgeous a province this is, in case you forget. The interactions people have or view between nature, flora and fauna are a delight to read about (in particular, the kitten and the fawn scene), and the relationships these characters develop is kind of a nice view on how human relationships really work. It's sweet and endearing, but also eye-opening (especially in regards to chapters focused on Edward Vardoe).

Well worth the read, but not if you want an exciting plot. We're clearly all relaxed British Columbians here.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night - Jonathan Bate, Eric Rasmussen, William Shakespeare

Note: This review was taken directly from my Goodreads account.


Basically, a girl gets shipwrecked far from home and thinks she has just seen her brother die, so she gallivants as a boy in the duke's court. There's a lot of partying, a lot of drinking, a lot of singing, a lot of crude and bawdy jokes/sexual innuendo, and fun times all around (if you're not Malvolio, which by the way is pretty sad). Even being in unrequited love is a fun time, as we see from Duke Orsino!

(Saw a production of this at Bard on the Beach this summer, which I thought was very entertaining and exactly as light-hearted as it should be. Also, Jonathon Young was the best Feste anyone could ever hope for.

Plus, reading this for my late Shakespeare course at uni.)

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