"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you
and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
Ernest Hemingway

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Monstrumologist

Simon & Schuster
The Monstrumologist
Rick Yancey

The Summary
Written from the perspective of William Henry, a young orphan who has found himself under the curious care of Dr. Pellinore Walthrop, The Monstrumologist recounts the childhood memories of Will Henry as he becomes enveloped by his guardian's grim occupation.

For in the small town of New Jerusalem, a frightening creature has arisen from the depths of the earth to devour human flesh.  Called "Anthropophagi," these creatures have a nightmarish appearance and a terrifying appetite - and only one man can successfully hunt them and stop them.

But that begs the question of which is more fiendish:  the monster or the man who hunts them?

The Good
Rick Yancey's tale is finely detailed and ripe with vivid language, stunning characters, and wonderful scenes that depict an astonishing story.  More than most, Yancey has managed to combine all the right elements of horror to fabricate a thrilling story that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat.

More importantly, Yancey has created in his novel a set of unique - if not occasionally unusual - and memorable characters.  In particular, the character of Will Henry will steal your heart with his struggle to adapt to his circumstances under the doctor's care and his attempts to successfully survive the perils of his guardian's chosen occupation.

His story is tragic, but it's certainly one you'll want to hear.

The Bad
Honestly, I can find no ill remarks to make about Yancey's work, because it's so remarkably well-written with a plethora of fascinating characters and a fantastic story of love, loss, heroism, and horror.

But I will note that it follows in the tradition of other horror novels, like Frankenstein and Dracula - it takes a while for the suspense to build and a longer time yet for the plot to come to a close.

The Ugly
Violence, gore, and death - you'll find more than enough of all three over the course of The Monstrumologist.  The novel has only a minimal amount of swearing; however, it frequently offers graphic depictions of violence and death that may border on extreme for a younger reader.

Think of it as a toned-down version of Stephen King.  (But not by much, of course.)

It's also important to note that bad things will happen to relatively good people, and even worse will happen to the best.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Apologies for not having a new review up yet, but I haven't had the time to put on all the finishing touches and such.  But I promise I will have my latest review - on the Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey - by Friday evening.

Thanks for your patience.

Happy reading.

-The Scrivener

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Image courtesy of
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass

The Summary
Recounting the life of former slave and famous orator Frederick Douglass, Douglass' narrative describes the atrocities he was forced to face and the conditions he endured - and from which he fled - as a slave in Maryland.

The Good
Douglass' narrative is incredibly detailed and well-written.  Besides illuminating the crimes of slaveholders - which, by the way, Douglass shows no fear in naming names and revealing the most terrible crimes against human nature - and offering an intimate glance into the conditions under which slaves suffered, Douglass weaves an impressive tale of human survival.

His constant struggle, his never-ending fight to achieve freedom from slavery, and his flight from oppression will pluck at your heart strings.  It's deep and thought-provoking, and more than impressive.  Douglass has written a work well-worth reading.

The Bad
Although relatively brief in nature, Douglass' work can seem fairly dense and absolutely heart-wrenching.  For its size, it appears easy to read; however, certain sections may prove difficult due to the brutality recorded there.

The Ugly
Douglass's narrative reveals the sheer barbarity of slavery and provides detailed accounts of unprovoked cruelty toward African American men and women.  He reveals every terrible facet of slavery - and he does so without ever altering his purpose or concealing facts behind vague language.

Although Douglass could have recollected events of a less graphic nature, he adamantly refuses to mask the monstrosities of slavery as he saw and experienced them.  He stays true to his novel, weaving threads of truth into his work and offering the startling implication that such cruelty not only happened more than once, but appeared commonplace throughout the United States.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences
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In Cold Blood
Truman Capote

The Summary
In 1959, four members of the Clutter family were brutally murdered in their home in Holcomb, Kansas.  With no motive to speak of and virtually no clues, the killers almost walked away scot-free.

In this novel, Truman Capote reveals all the gory details behind the case of a multiple murder and reveals the fear and distrust which struck at the very heart of the tiny town of Holcomb, Kansas.

The Good
Capote provides rich amounts of detail and offers uncanny insight into the lives of murderers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith.  Besides giving a realistic depiction of events, the author also imparts a journalistic quality to his novel that lends credence to his work and gives it an aura of undeniable fact.

For every event he describes, he unearths evidence to prove his point and, for every detail he offers to his audience, he provides legitimate documentation.  Capote, one way or another, gets his facts straight - and they're incredibly hard to refute.

The Bad
In Cold Blood, however, can also get bogged down by all those details.

Capote almost offers too much fact.  I know that may seem hard to believe, but there are years of legal documentation and newspaper reports and investigations to sift through.  Honestly, all that information crammed into one tiny space can prove challenging.  It's difficult to wade through it all and retain an honest interest in the story Capote's trying to tell.

Additionally, I think it's important to note that Capote has embellished his work to some degree.  Fiction, if only a slight amount, manages to creep its way into Capote's novel.  You see, in trying to instill as much truth and detail as possible, Capote has managed to undermine his own work.

Although he tells his story with as much truth and honesty as he can muster, certain facts may still become misconstrued because Capote has attempted to chronicle the thoughts of other individuals and pass them off as the highest truth.  No one can write with complete certainty what another individual is thinking at all times - unless, of course, that person happens to be a mind reader.

And I highly doubt the conclusion that Capote was telepathic.

The Ugly
Unlike most books, Capote's novel is a "true account of a multiple murder."  The implications, then, are staggering.  You cannot fall back on the comforting excuses of fiction, because you can't simply dismiss the credibility of Capote's tale.

In Cold Blood is strikingly, chillingly real.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences: Phoenix Rising

Image courtesy of
The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences:  Phoenix Rising
Pip Ballantine
Tee Morris

The Summary
As members of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Wellington Books and Eliza Braun have become accustomed to the odd, the unusual, and the downright absurd.

But their latest case - an unsanctioned investigation into the murders of more than a dozen factory workers - is the strangest and most deadly they have ever faced.

The Good
Books and Braun are a thoroughly entertaining duo, because they couldn't be more different.  As an archivist for the Ministry, Books is pedantic and modest to the point of being prudish; Braun, on the other hand, is loud and adventurous.  Yet they somehow manage to make phenomenal strides in their investigation.

Between Books's incredible analytical skills and Braun's talent with guns - and dynamite - they make an effective team.  Granted, they never escape without destroying private property or flagrantly disregarding Her Majesty's laws, but they know how to get the job done.

Most notably about this novel, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris have created a sort of "steampunk" genre for their work.  They've crossed Victorian era concepts with science fiction and modernized technology - and created a steampunk novel.  It's an intriguing blend, to say the least, but I think the authors pull it off quite well.

It's fun, it's absorbing, and it's amusing to the point of being hysterical.  Ballantine and Morris's novel is certainly worth a read.

The Bad
Despite its intriguing qualities, Phoenix Rising can occasionally become confusing.  Given the action-packed nature of this novel, I can understand the technical difficulty involved; however, some sections appear to lack proper execution and explanation.

Moreover, some passages seem a little bipolar by switching between too many characters and leaving more questions than answers.  Books and Braun may solve one mystery, but they're left with about a dozen more.

But I suppose that's the prerogative of a book series:  more mysteries means more books.

The Ugly
Sex, violence, foul language, and so on - you know, all those elements that smack of the label "adult content."

I will admit, however, the orgy was unexpected.  I really did not see that one coming.