The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

Another historical thriller (am such a sucker for these!)

The Dante Club is about a series of grisly murders committed at the same time Dante Alighieri’s Inferno was being translated into English by a group of prominent New England literary figures, namely Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, George Washington Greene, and JT Fields (the group is known as The Dante Club, hence the title).

The murders are patterned after the different circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno, and the Dante Club must figure out who is behind the dastardly deeds or else lose the chance to introduce the writings of Dante Alighieri to America before they complete their translation.

I discovered this book a few years ago, when I interviewed Ces Drilon and she recommended it to me. The writing is old-fashioned and dragging at times, or maybe it’s because male authors focus on different (er, boring) things.

I also wish I’d waited for my schedule to free up before actually plunging into the novel because it’s the type that’s best for uninterrupted reading. Except I also had to stop reading it at night because given that the “Lucifer” (aka, serial killer) was patterning his murders after the circles of hell, it got pretty scary.

Canticle Three (it’s divided into Canticles), is particularly exciting, but I’ll have to stop now before I say anything more. Bottomline, it’s a good blend of fact and fiction, one that will keep you on your toes.

I still have to read The Poe Shadow, I have the hardback on my to-be-read shelf…

My copy: mass market paperback bought at Powerbooks, upgraded into a trade paperback mooched from the US (or was it Canada? I forget…)

My rating: 3/5 stars

MirrorMask by Neil Gaiman/ Dave McKean

(The review pertains to the film, but I’m posting it because I have the film book :) )

I have to say that I loved MirrorMask! And since I’m not a Gaiman fan, and I’m very selective on fantasy (I’m really not big into the hardcore stuff), this is saying a lot.

The movie has Dave McKean written all over it; it’s like a picture book brought to life. It’s dark, with a bit of The Nightmare Before Christmas feel to it, only with a Dave McKean look, and it’s funny and creepy and weird all at the same time.

The story is simple enough; any more complicated than that and it’ll overpower the animation and effects. It’s about Helena, a 15 year old girl in a family of circus entertainers, who often wishes she could run off and join real life. After a fight with her parents about her future plans, her mother falls quite ill and Helena is convinced that it is all her fault. On the eve of her mother’s major surgery, she dreams that she is in a strange world with two opposing queens, bizarre creatures, and masked inhabitants. All is not well in this new world – the white queen has fallen ill and can only be restored by the MirrorMask, and it’s up to Helena to find it. But as her adventures continue, she begins to wonder whether she’s in a dream, or something far more sinister.

It’s a very visual movie; there is a lot to take in, as it’s a world unfamiliar to the viewer; but it’s enhanced by the emotion of the story, and the mirror motif is further enhanced by the mirroring of events in the real world (Helena’s real life as she’s replaced by the mirror-self) and the fantasy world.

It’s similar to Coraline, which is similar to one Are You Afraid of the Dark books I read ages ago (only it was better than Coraline).

I don’t know if it was shown here in the Philippines though; it’s dated 2005. I just discovered I had the DVD when Trina told me it was really good. It’s the sort of thing I’d shell out several hundred bucks for to watch over and over again, once for the overall impact, and several times more to catch the nuances… Dave McKean is sooo amazing; I even caught a scene where two hands touching each other looked like Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, I don’t know if that was intentional, but it’s still pure genius.

You just have to watch this.

My copy: A squarish hardbound book with dustjacket, the Children’s edition of the film book. Mooched from Canada last year.

My rating: 5/5 stars

photo courtesy of Amazon (

Harry Potter Lumos Book Light

I can’t believe I finally have a solution for all my late-night reading!I was over at Fully Booked at Powerplant when I chanced upon a few more Lumos book lights still on sale at Powerbooks. I remember fellow INKie and Harry Potter (and Snape) diehard Jovan telling me she got hers on sale.

Wow, I was amazed that it was only P1000 from the original P2200 and it came with a free soft case (Harry Potter special too, with house badge on one side and the HP logo on the other side) worth P550!

So Janeh and I each bought ourselves a set, because we both like reading in the dark, and we both love Harry Potter (uhh, do I still need to say that, after our recent hijinks? hehe). I got Gryffindor (no more Ravenclaw) and she got Slytherin (no more Hufflepuff).

Continue reading “Harry Potter Lumos Book Light”

Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus’ (of The Nanny Diaries) second novel, Citizen Girl, is about the struggles of a young professional trying to make a living in the city.

Girl (again, they use a generic name) is fired from her job at a women’s advocacy center for trying to assert herself and find some dignity at the job, which in essence has her making photocopies every single day.

She is in desperate need of a job, and My Company, a women’s online resource, offers her a job for a “new development.” Only, she has no idea what she’s supposed to do. No instructions, no one to talk to, no one to work with. And she must figure out what exactly the job requires from her.

I loved The Nanny Diaries so I got Citizen Girl. I wasn’t expecting a light read, because The Nanny Diaries was heavy on introspection and emotions. Although the style of writing is carried over in Citizen Girl, the story got out of hand.

I think it probably dealt with too many issues. It touches on the struggle with day-to-day work. It touches on feminism and its varied meanings to different people. It touches on materialism and how people can stand by watching things drift all for the money. Girl has to deal with all this, and despite her altruistic nature, doesn’t resolve anything.

There were also a lot of parts that I went on and on until it was tiresome to read, such as the work parts with her boss Guy, who kept giving out vague information and instructions, and who kept maligning her for her ideals. The trashy parts didn’t help either, with the pool parties, porn sites, and all that jazz.

Even the supposed light in her tunnel, Buster (the boyfriend), falls flat because they inject the feminism as a conflict between Girl and Buster because Buster keeps on going to parties with strippers and shows with hookers.

The book also depicts some disturbing pictures of women. Girl’s mother is naively optimistic, Girl’s mentor seems to be the most positive character in the book… until she sells out and is a hypocrite to her cause (uh, getting funding for her women’s org from a porn site that traffics women), and Girl’s other boss Manley who is pregnant with a girl baby but is more than willing to earn her living off a porn site.

I guess they were trying to paint an accurate picture, but it’s insulting to all the women who have made it in their fields while retaining their humanity and their feminist ideals.

I really was expecting a better read.

My copy: I had it mooched last year, a mass market paperback

My rating: 2/5 stars

photo courtesy of

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Thirteen year old Salamanca Tree Hiddle is on the trip of a lifetime — a trip that will reunite her with her mother after a whole year of separation. Together with her grandparents, she retraces her mother’s steps to Lewiston, Idaho, where her mother is.

On the road, Sal entertains her grandparents with tales of her new friend, Phoebe Winterbottom. And as she tells them about Phoebe, her own story unfolds.

I first read this 1995 Newberry winner when I was in high school. Many years later, I finally found a copy of the book and I remembered why I loved it so well.

The book mainly deals with loss, a feeling everyone is familiar with, and how different people cope and come to terms with it. Sal is so candid at telling her story that you can feel the truth in what she’s saying, whether they’re hilarious observations about the things happening around her, or her deepest emotions that she tries hard to conceal.

Here are some favorite lines from the book:

“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” – the lunatic

“Everyone has his own agenda.” – the lunatic

“Everybody is just walking along concerned with his own problems, his own life, his own worries. And we’re all expecting other people to tune into our own agenda. ‘Look at my worry. Worry with me. Step into my life. Care about my problems. Care about me.” – Gram

“In a course of a lifetime, what does it matter?” – the lunatic

“…I wished that my father was not such a good man, so there would be someone to blame for my mother’s leaving. I didn’t want to blame her. She was my mother, and she was part of me.” – Sal

“I had brought a chicken in from the coop: ‘Would Mom leave her favorite chicken?’ I demanded. ‘She loves this chicken.’ What I really meant to say was. ‘How can she not come back to me? She loves me.’ “- Sal

“Sometimes you know in your heart you love someone, but you have to go away before your head can figure it out.” – Gram

“You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” – the lunatic

” I knew that sometimes you had to be alone with the birds of sadness. Sometimes you had to cry by yourself.” – Sal

“I tried to picture what the room was like and what room we were in and what she was wearing and what precisely she had said. This was not a game. It was a necessary, crucial thing to do. If I did not have these things, and remember these occasions, then she might disappear forever. She might never have been.” – Sal

“Our heads moved together and our lips landed in the right place, which was on the other person’s lips. It was a real kiss, and it did not taste like chicken… I felt like the newlY born horse who knows nothing but feels everything. Ben touched his lips. ‘Did it taste a little like blackberries to you?’ ” – Sal

“Ben was sitting on the front steps when I got home. He said, ‘I brought you something.’ There, strutting across the grass, was a chicken. I had never been so happy to see a chicken. When I asked him what its name was, he leaned forward and I leaned forward, and another kiss happened, a spectacular kiss, a perfect kiss, and Ben said, ‘Its name is Blackberry.’ ” – Sal

The book keeps you guessing until the end, and you realize Creech has successfully passed on some wisdom beyond Sal’s age and understanding, without making it contrived and artificial.

By the final chapters, I was crying buckets. It’s like finding an old friend, one who knows exactly how you feel. It’s beautifully written, wise, funny, and poignant, all at the same time.

My copy: originally a tattered paperback (got lost), replaced with another paperback from Book Sale, upgraded into a hardcover (library binding) with a tear on the front cover, also from Book Sale

My rating: 5/5 stars