The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Host is Stephenie Meyer's redemption for Twilight. If you have been reading Cracked Spines, you know that I did not hate the Twilight novels, but I was not particularly blown away by them, apart from the fact that not hating them surprised the hell out of me. I think it is a testament to Myer's writing skills that adults can actually enjoy such a tweeny group of novels. I am getting a little off-topic here. Sorry about that.

The Host is touted as a science fiction/romance novel, though I have to say it was simply science fiction. Yes, there is a bit of romance, but all human relationships are highlighted in the novel. No one form of relationship takes precedence over the other, so I am recategorizing (I make up words too.) it. I can do that because this is my article. Therefore, for the purposes of this article, The Host by Stephenie Meyer is a science fiction book and a good one at that. (I would not want anyone to think I enjoyed a romance novel that was not written by Austen or a Bronte.)

There are bits of The Host by Stephenie Meyer that are reminiscent of other (sorry) better science fiction novels. There is an invasion of the body snatchers thing going on in The Host that brings to mind Stephen King, not to mention a host of moviemakers (no pun intended). However, Stephenie Meyer makes her body-snatching aliens very kind with few exceptions (kind of like the sparkly, vegetarian bloodsuckers of Twilight). The personalities that she gives her aliens and their motive for invading Earth is what makes The Host stand out from other body snatching science fiction.

Without giving away too much, The Host is essentially about one of these body snatchers who cannot drive the human from the body she has snatched. Therefore, she is forced to share the body. Over time, she becomes sympathetic to the human's plight and sees the error of her species' well-meant ways. What follows from there is an adventure that takes the alien (Wanderer) and her host (Melanie) from being hated by the humans to finding her place among the few who have survived the alien invasion. Stephenie Meyer has done a great job of seeing human emotion through the eyes of a gentle soul from outer space.

Of course, there are a few things about Stephenie Meyer's The Host that could use a little more detail. Given that this is her first science fiction novel, I think that we can forgive her for not giving us more details about the alien invasion on Earth and more. What makes science fiction novels like Dune, Fahrenheit 451 and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (to name a few) so popular is that background of the novels, in my opinion. Sci-fi readers want rich history and detail. I still loved The Host by Stephenie Meyer, but I would be lying if I said it would ever be on par with those great classics. However, the potential is in Stephenie Meyer, in my opinion. I hope she starts to put more into the science part of her fiction and slightly less into emotional part. You may feel differently if you read the book.

If you have read The Host by Stephenie Meyer, let me know what you think about in the comments section. I would love to hear how others are receiving this book. Mind you, it is not new. It has just been horribly overshadowed by the Twilight series.

Shelly Barclay

Reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer: Conclusion

Well, this is the last installment of my experience reading the Twilight articles. I tore through Breaking Dawn last night so that we could all move on with our lives. I have to admit, it was my favorite book of the whole series. You are not going to believe this unless you have already read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, but there is actually some vampiric gore in Breaking Dawn. I was ecstatic. I was getting a little sick of the lack of spewing blood.

All of the questions I had at the end of Eclipse were answered in Breaking Dawn. There is only one loose end that I would like to see tied up and that is Jacob's future. I am trying not to give too much away, so let us just say he got over Bella. Bella and Edward are going to live happily ever after. That was easier to see coming than a freight train. Exactly how Jacob's life is going to turn out is less clear. Reading Breaking Dawn, you get the idea that it will turn out well, but there are just too many question. Stephanie Meyer should write a book or two about Jacob and his future love life. It is not as if it would not sell. People would be salivating to hear she is writing another book in the Twilight series. (I might even read it myself. All right, I would definitely read it. I would not buy it, though.)

My favorite parts of Breaking Dawn are probably not what everyone else loves about them. There is an uber-overdone wedding, a honeymoon that drips romance and vampire face off that did not have enough action, but was tense nonetheless. That probably kept most readers captivated. The best scene for me is when Bella gives birth. It is gory. It is nasty. It is slightly appalling. It is not Bram Stoker, but it is the first glimpse of what I expect from vampire literature. I liked it!

Without further ado, I leave you with my final opinion. I did not hate the Twilight series and I expected to. There were parts that I liked and even really enjoyed. There were also parts that were gratingly repetitive. Overall, they were not bad books, though. I think the movies did as good as they did because of the dreamy heartthrobs they provide teenage girls with. Anyway, I am off to crack another spine, figuratively speaking. I will let you know what I am reading next as soon as I know.

Shelly Barclay

Day six: Reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer

I have finished Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer and am preparing to crack the spine of Breaking Dawn. I hate to say it, but I am a little excited to see how things finally wrap up for Bella, Edward and Jacob. I know Bella and Edward will get their way because that is what Twilight seems to be all about, but what about Jacob, the least selfish character of the bunch? Well, Eclipse leaves him heartbroken and Bella halfway to marrying Edward and becoming a vampire.

*Spoiler Below

The plot of Eclipse involves a small army of newborn vampires attacking the Cullen family. Guess who they are looking for. If you did not guess Bella, you have not been keeping up. Yeah, they are looking for the usual target and the Cullens are fighting to save her. This time Edward actually sits out. Well, he is supposed to anyway. Jacob also fights these vampires to keep them from getting to Bella, but unlike Edward, he gets an awful lot of crap from his best friend along the way.

Stephanie Meyer did somehow keep me going until the end of the book. However, for me, it felt less like a stand-alone novel than a stepping-stone to Breaking Dawn. I realize that is how they are meant to be, to an extent, but this book simply raises more questions than it answers, making it even more transient, if you will. The entire book is simply a precursor to Breaking Dawn with a little vampire/werewolf war thrown in so that it is not too much of a hallway, so to speak. Right now, I am not so much thinking about the book as I typically would be after finishing a book. I am more thinking about the questions I cannot wait to have answered so I can move on with my life and on to cracking the spine of something that is not part of the Twilight series. I am sure you all cannot wait for something different, either.

So, I bid you adieu. When I return, it will be with at least some knowledge of what happens to Bella, Edward and Jacob. Hopefully, Stephanie Meyer will give a happy ending for her favorite werewolf. I am sure that is how it will be. Stephanie Meyer does not seem to be the unhappy ending sort. In fact, not one main character has died who cannot be seen as having deserved it. When I am done with this, I promise I will review something by someone who does not shy away from killing some of the good guys. Let's face it; that is real life.

Shelly Barclay

Guest Writer Maranatha: Review of Head Games by Eileen Dreyer

This review comes to me from a very sweet and talented lady. I came to know her on one of the many sites that I write for and I feel lucky to count her among my online friends. Her name is maranatha. At least, that is how I know her and you will come to know her. As for the book she is reviewing, I am utterly unfamiliar with the author, but the review makes me wish that were different. I fully intend on picking up this book on my next trip to the library. Read marantha's book review of Head Games by Eileen Dryer here.

Day five: Reading the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

I left you off having read New Moon and cracking the spine of Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer. There are a few things I could say about the first half of this book that are going to annoy Twilight fans. Before anyone gets their hackles raised, know that I liked the book. There were just certain aspects of it that grated on my nerves. You should not be surprised. Eclipse and New Moon grated on my nerves as well. In tribute to my nerves, I am going to skip summarizing the first half of this book and simply tell you what I liked and what I did not like, just in case you care or want to argue with me about it. Feel free to do so. I love talking books.

Okay, the number one thing that is irking me about Eclipse so far is Bella. I know. You are all so surprised that the narrator is irritating me. I do have a good reason for it. In all of the Twilight books so far, Bella has been very quick to use Jacob and Edward when she needs something. Both of them are quick to comply and that is normal of loving relationships (even in the real world). What is irksome about it is that she treats them unequally. In other words, she flips out on Jacob about things that she lets slide with Edward. It would not even bother me if the whole first half of the dang book were not Bella obsessing over how they treat each other and how she treats them. I could have done without it.

Of course, you all know that Bella is in danger in Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer. Even if your only exposure to the Twilight series is my articles about my experience reading them, you know this. It is the central theme of nearly the entire series. Bella is in trouble, Jake and Edward help. This time, Bella's trouble is putting everyone else in danger, which is also unsurprising. This lack of surprising plot scenarios and turns was disappointing. I was hoping something would change. That, coupled with Bella's constant abuse of Jacob's good nature and indulgence of Edward's jealousy is enough to render the first half of this book unrecognizable as a book on the supernatural. No matter how many times I spotted a good plot through this mess, I could not shake the feeling that I was reading a V.C. Andrews book. (That is not a compliment coming from me.)

What I did like is that the plot is unfolding in new ways and it seems like there will be closure to the "action" of Twilight and New Moon. Eclipse may wrap all of this "Bella is in trouble and Jacob is her dartboard" stuff up and bring about something a little more intriguing. I was pulled into the story, as I was in the first two, but I still cannot bring myself to love every aspect of this book. Something tells me it would have been insanely better if it were geared toward adults instead of teens. The Twilight series could have been one of my favorite series if I could have erased the selfish teen relationships from its pages.

Well, I am off to finish this one up and move on to Breaking Dawn. Despite every complaint I have, remember these books are pulling me in on their own merit. There is something about them, but I cannot say what it is. I have a feeling Breaking Dawn is going to be more gritty and therefore, more my style.

Shelly Barclay

Day four: Reading the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

Warning: Spoiler below.

I knew it. Jacob turned into a werewolf. Jacob was the best part of this book, hands down. It was refreshing for there to be moments where the narrator (Bella Swan) was not being coddled to death. All right, Jacob did coddle her a bit, but not nearly as much as the vampire coven did. I am getting ahead of myself here.

Jacob Black and Bella Swan develop a close relationship, which we discussed in part three. One night, while they are their way home from a night at the movies, Jacob says he does not feel quite right and then drops off Bella's radar. She goes all depressed again, until he finally lets her in on his secret. Part of his secret is that he knows her secret - Bella is in love with a vampire. (Yeah, that would sound much more shocking if everybody and their grandma did not already know that.) Anyway, their friendship gets right back to where it was, with the exception of the fact that Jacob is hunting vampires on the Indian Reservation at night. Then, Bella does something stupid, Edward thinks she is dead, so he tries to kill himself. (I know I am doing that crazy run on sentence stuff a lot with these articles, but I feel like I have to spit a lot out at once. Besides, it does not really require a long explanation.) It turns out; he did not want to leave her.

Okay, it has to be said that as much as I like Edward's borderline mean sense of humor coupled with his hopeless romanticism, but it was somewhat annoying when he came back. If you have read the first three days of my attempt at reading the Twilight series, you know that by the beginning of New Moon, I was really tired of Bella falls - Edward is overly concerned. Proceed to kiss that inevitably ends with "My heart beat erratically and Edward pulled away." Couldn't they become part of the abstract descriptions? Stephenie Meyer, I am beginning to like your books, but I could do without the same freaking kiss in every chapter. Change it up a bit!! Back to Belward.

Bella finds out that Edward is going to kill himself and runs to the rescue. That is when she meets the evilish Volturi - a coven of vampires who keep the other vampires in line. As is always the case in vampire books, the vampires have a rule about being noticed by people. I would be less than honest if I did not say this concept is horribly unoriginal. There has to be a way to twist that. I cannot wait until someone finds it.

Well, it is obvious to the Volturi that the Cullens broke the more overdone rule in vampire fiction. (They still have nothing on Lestat. If you do not know who that is, stop reading the Twilight books and find a real vampire book.) Bella's life is threatened, but Alice comes to the rescue with a promise. I have already given away too much, so we will leave that part alone. They all go back to Forks, Washington and flaunt their new togetherness in Jacob Black's face. Did I mention there is a lot of selfishness parading as selflessness in this book? I liked New Moon, but some of the contradictions irritate me.

I am starting Eclipse, the next book in Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series as soon as I save this document. I have to admit, I want to know what is going to happen. That seems to sum up the book for me. I want to know what is going to happen. The plot is interesting. The endless loop of similar dialogue and character interactions is killing me. Jacob Black is the only wild card and even he is getting to be predictable. Hard to avoid when there is only one puppeteer. My hat is off to Stephenie Meyer, nonetheless. Bravo, lady. This next one had better be good.

Shelly Barclay 

Day three: Reading the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

So, it turned out that the second book in the Twilight series is New Moon. As soon as I got that figured out, I cracked the spine with an unexpected relish. In a way, I was eager to figure out what happened next. I have a suspicion that this may be because everyone else on the planet knows what happened except me. (I should take the opportunity at this point to explain that this article will have some spoilers, just in case I am not the last person on Earth to read Twilight and the one other person who has not stumbles across my article.) This time, I was prepared for Isabella Swan to be over emotional, but I wasn't prepared for just how over-emotional she was going to be nor was I prepared to actually smile a few times reading the story (more on that later). Overall, New Moon by Stephenie Meyer is proving to be a better read than Twilight was and Twilight was not the total flop I thought it would be, but you will know that if you have been keeping up with my Twilight experiment.

New Moon starts with Bella's birthday. She is predictably complaining that people are paying attention to her birthday. Before you think she is selfless and simply does not like attention, I should mention that she is menstrual about it because she does not want to get older than her boyfriend - Edward Cullen. Cullen just so happens to be more than one hundred years old, but he was seventeen when he became a vampire. Bella is turning eighteen. (I know, freaking tragic, right?) She finally caves and goes to a birthday party where she gets presents, which she complains about, but accepts somewhat graciously. Before you know it, she is hurt (again) and Edward's vampire brother is freaking out trying to suck her blood while the others are trying to stop him. Of course, Edward rescues her (that part is really getting old). However, Edward starts to act funny and then leaves Bella for parts unknown. Bella throws herself into a pit of despair that is essentially the plot of New Moon. Bella freaks out. Bella gets sad. Bella finds someone else to rescue her - Jacob Black.

Jacob Black was the source of my amusement while reading New Moon. I think I was amused because I actually like his character. That may be because he does not brood like the rest of them. (Unfortunately, I think he is about to start brooding, but it is forgivable because the kid is so damn likable.) I will try not to give away too much and just say they (Bella and Jake) become close friends. Jacob is a laid back, joking, Native American. That could be another reason I like him. He is not as stressed out as just about everyone else Bella blathers on about. However, I get the feeling he is turning into a werewolf. At least, I gather as much from all of the gushing people are doing over these books and movies.

I am at a point in the book where Bella is constantly doing stupid things and getting hurt. In contrast to her earlier damsel in distress moments, this is not because she does not know how to use her feet. She is doing it on purpose to bring Edward closer to her. (Long story.) Now she has a dreamy, muscular, bronze-skinned boy doing all the rescuing. There are certainly moments where I felt like I was reading the same thing repeatedly. I kind of hope that, at some point, there will be different relationship dynamic somewhere in this girl's life. Sure, she mentions having to "take care" of her parents, but there really is not much of that actually happening in Stephenie Meyers' books so far. She makes dinner for her dad and tells her mom what to do. That is about as helpful as Bella Swan gets.

I sort of get the sense that I am not soaking up as much of these books as I could be because I zone out when things get repetitive. Every time Bella bleeds and someone has to wrap his strong arms around her and carry her somewhere while she protests, I kind of fade out and start wishing my worn copy of Dune were closer to my bed.  *sigh* More on New Moon by Stephenie Meyer tomorrow. I am not giving up.

Shelly Barclay 

Day two: Reading the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

If this is you are just now stumbling on this series, you may want to read the introduction and day one. Click here for the introduction and here for day one. 

Well, last night's reading started off as anticipated. Bella Swan was in distress *gasp* and Edward Cullen arrived just in the nick of time. I wonder how many times that can possibly happen in one book. Anyway, Bella knows Edward is a vampire now. Her reaction is blasé. I hate to say it, Stephenie Meyer, but no matter how much you "love" (yes, she professed her love of Edward to me, the reader) a man you have talked to a handful of times, no one would be unconcerned to find out someone is a vampire. I had to roll my eyes, but I kept on reading Twilight, as promised.

Just so you know, there are spoilers in this article. If you actually plan on reading the books and have not done so yet, you may want to stop here. If you do read on, please forgive the stilted, cranky article. I had a file issue and had to write it twice. I get a little more pissed than I should when that happens.

After becoming easily convinced of Edward's vampirism, Bella meets his family and is equally accepting of their nature. I know many of you diehard Twilight fans are thinking, "She can sense Edward is a vampire by looking at him." I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but people have a tendency of only processing things that are familiar or easily understood. A real person would probably think that Edward was beautiful, but ill. He or she would not casually accept someone's claim that they are a vampire. In that sense, reading Twilight is like twofold suspension of disbelief. To enjoy it, not only do I have to suspend my own disbelief and think of the Cullens as vampires, but I also have to think of Bella as having suspended her own disbelief. In short, I really do wish that Stephenie Meyer had presented Bella with more evidence and changed her reaction a bit so I didn't have to scoff audibly as I read that part, but I digress. Back to the story.

So, Bella falls quickly and easily in love with Edward and vice versa. Edward struggles with compromising Bella's safety and Bella struggles with Edward's struggles. She falls, he picks her up. He carries her a bit. They steal infrequent kisses. They would kiss more, but kissing her makes Edward want to eat her, etc. Then, one day, Bella is watching Edward and his family play baseball when another group of vampires appear. These are the bad kind (The ones that eat people, not animals. Did I mention Edward and his family only eat animals?). One of the vampires decides it wants to suck the life out of Bella, but he refrains from doing anything right then.

As they leave, Edward tells Bella that he is taking her out of town. An argument that should have been a little less melodramatic ensues. The vampire chases Bella out of town, pretends to kidnap her mother, tricks Bella into leaving her vampire friends and then almost kills her. The Cullens show up just in time, save a severely injured Bella, who is hospitalized. When Bella is healed, Edward tricks her into going to prom, she complains, the end.

I am unsure if the next book is Eclipse or New Moon, but I'm off to crack the spine of whichever it is. So far, I'm not completely unable to read these books. There is no doubt in my mind that this is not intellectual reading, but it is what it is and it is not as bad as I thought.

Shelly Barclay 

Day one: Reading the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

In my introduction to my attempt at reading Twilight, I explained why I was doing this and why many of you would think it was odd. Read it here, if you need to catch up.

Preface and first chapter of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer down and the only thing I could remark upon was the contrary nature of our leading girl-woman, Isabella (call me Bella) Swan. Her tone is slightly whiny, but I can see tweens and teens relating to her unhappiness moving from a sunny city to a small, rainy town in Washington. However, from what I can gather, she made the decision on her own and cannot seem to stop bitching about it. She is also very whiny about the people who try to help her on her first day of school, calling them things like over-helpful. However, she is quick to judge a girl who is judgmental about the Cullens and deem her "jealous", who are bound to be the shiny vampires I keep hearing about. At that point, all there really is to say about Twilight by Stephanie Meyer is "the narrator doth protest too much."

A few more chapters down and Twilight gets less painful for me to read. Bella is still slightly whining, but more is going on, so Stephenie Meyer has less opportunity to let Bella dwell on how miserable everything makes her. Luckily, Bella Swan's object of obsession - Edward Cullen - proves a more intriguing character than Bella. At this point, I already feel the disappointment that is bound to come when all his secrets are revealed and there is nothing intriguing left about him. I have to admit, the fact that he always seems to be laughing or mad at the infuriatingly miserable Bella makes me kind of like him. I know it is bound to end, though. From the little I know about Twilight, I have ascertained that the two become quite the couple. *yawn*

Stephenie Meyer may have created the penultimate damsel in distress with Twilight's Bella Swan. Just a short while after Edward Cullen starts being friendly with Bella (I imagine this part of the relationship is much more enjoyable if you do not already know that he is a sparkling vampire.), Bella faints at the sight of blood and is rescued by Edward. *double yawn* If this book wasn't so popular, I would be wondering if there is a place left for helpless females in modern literature, excluding romance books. Obviously, the answer is yes. Maybe that is why the book is so popular. There are not enough helpless females in fiction anymore. Who knows?

Finally, hours after cracking the spine of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Jacob is on the scene. Have I joined team Jacob yet? No. As far as the book is concerned, Edward is more my speed - sarcastic, mysterious and all of that. Who knows, though? Jacob might grow on me.

It is getting easier to see Twilight through the eyes of a tween. However, I am still not convinced these books deserve the amount of popularity they have garnered. Nevertheless, maybe it is too soon to tell and I am being harsh. I have not even finished Twilight. Maybe tomorrow I will have finished the book and have a better idea of what I am dealing with.

Shelly Barclay 

My Attempt at Reading Tweeny Love Stories: The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

As of right now, this site is new. Nonetheless, many of you who are reading have known me for some time and know that reading is part of my everyday life. I love books. However, you probably would think the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer is the last thing you would see me reading. Well, not today it isn't. I have decided to take the plunge, bite the bullet, grab the bull by its horns and brave the storm. I'm starting the first book in the Twilight series tonight.

For those of you who do not know me and my reading habits, think non-fiction, classic literature and edgy new writers. I like historical fiction as well, possibly too much. Anyway, fluffy tween vampire books are not my cup of tea.

Normally, I would not even think of venturing into this unknown world of helpless females and shiny vampires. However, I recently suffered an injury that is keeping me relatively inactive, so I am already in pain. Twilight cannot hurt me. I've heard both good and bad things about these books but mostly bad, given my circle of friends and acquaintances. I'm sure it can go either way for me. One thing is certain, though. These books are insanely popular among adults and swoony teens.

I have a morbid curiosity about them that must be quenched. So, to save you from my fate, I am going to give you a day to day update on how my venture into the world of marshmallowy vampires and angsty adolescents is going. I am going to try very hard not to give up. Subscribe to crackedspines if you want to keep up with this series. Wish me luck. *Shelly cracks open the book, heaves a big sigh and leaves for parts unknown*  Update: Two seconds later, I can tell by the names of the chapters that this is not going to be easy. 

Click here to read day one of my Twilight experience.

Shelly Barclay 

Matchless by Gregory Maguire

We've been doing a lot of Gregory Maguire in the short time since this site got up, but there is a good reason for it. If you haven't read his stuff, stop taking my word for it and find one of his books. Start with Matchless. I just finished it and I loved it.

Gregory Maguire is an author who is becoming known for his ability to take old stories and fairy tales and give them new dimension and relevance for the 21st century. His novel Wicked is a compassionate look at the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. It has been made into a Broadway musical that is immensely popular. With Matchless, Gregory Maguire presents a much shorter, but no less compassionate story. Matchless is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's much-overlooked tale - The Matchgirl.

The Matchgirl is the story of a girl who is trying to sell matches on the street on New Year's Eve. She meets with no success and is soon freezing to death with only her matches to keep her company. In the end, she sees visions of her grandmother in heaven. The poor little girl has passed on to the next life (You have to love fiction). Gregory Maguire takes this sad, but beautiful, tale and gives the Matchgirl a kindred spirit, if you will.

Matchless starts with the story of a young boy (the Matchgirl's age) who lives with his mother in a simple set of rooms. He and his mother are very poor and so he must steal fish from seagulls to put food on the table. A very sad tale, indeed, but Gregory Maguire gives it magic. The boy has dreams beyond his misfortune. Every night, he hides in his attic room and adds to a humble town he has made out of miscellaneous items he finds - other people's trash. He lives his life vicariously through this little world he has created. In this way, Maguire adds a ray of hope to an otherwise dismal tale. A taste of the unbreakable spirit of children, if you will.

To say much more would be to give away the tale, as it is so short. Let us just say that the boy does not meet with the same fate as the Matchgirl, though their lives become irrevocably intertwined in a lovely way. Maguire has really made a peach of a Christmas story with Matchless. Yes, it is sad, but it is also uplifting. Anderson's Matchgirl had the same slightly uplifting quality, but it is not enough for the people of today. We do not easily take heart at the idea that the little girl was going to heaven to see her grandmother. We want to see her rescued at the last moment. Maguire provides that quality without taking away from Anderson's tale. There is a Dickensesque quality to Matchless and we love Dickens here at crackedspines.com . If you've read the book or get a chance to read it after reading this, please comment below. I would love to hear what other people think of this story.

Shelly Barclay 

"Mirror, Mirror" by Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is the author of several books that take old stories and fairy tales and give them a new and exciting twist. In short, he creates modern (so to speak), novel length fairy tales for adults. "Mirror, Mirror" is no exception. It is the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with a depth of plot that has obviously never been seen before in this story. The characters and plot are quite different from those of the children’s story, but readers will recognize the similarities, all the same.

Bianca de Nevada is our Snow White in this tale. She lives with her father on a farm called Montefiore at the start of the novel. In a river near the farm her father finds the mirror that the novel is named for. No one can explain how or why the mirror has come to be in the river, but we soon find that it is the property of the dwarves, of which there are eight. The dwarves are described as creatures that appear to be made of stone and are hardly what you would expect of Snow White’s dwarves.

Bianca de Nevada is seven years old when her father is forced to go on a long quest to steal three apples from the Tree of Knowledge for Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. The Borgia’s are evil and powerful siblings that quickly take control of everything in Bianca’s life and at Montefiore. Young Bianca is left in the care of the evil Lucrezia with only a cook and a priest to give her solace, while her father is on his journey

As Bianca grows older, she becomes quite beautiful. Lucrezia begins to despise the young woman and plots to have her murdered by an assassin named Ranuccio. The plan fails when the assassin does not have the heart to kill the young woman and so, Bianca finds herself among the seven dwarves of the forest, she then falls into a deep sleep for four or five years. When she awakens, the dwarves tell her vaguely of a how the eighth of their kind is searching for the mirror that her father found in the river.

From here the story takes various twists and turns toward the inevitable happy ending. Good triumphs over evil and justice is served as one might expect from a fairy tale. In the end the reader is left with the feeling that they have read a story that they have never heard and in many ways this is true. "Mirror, Mirror" is a far cry from the Snow White and the seven Dwarfs that we know and love. Gregory Maguire did a magnificent job of blending history with fiction and fairy tale with gritty reality in "Mirror, Mirror."


Shelly Barclay

Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott

In my reading, I have heard quite a few words of praise for Anne Lamott. It is possible that these words are earned. However, I'm of the opinion that they weren't earned because of this less than perfect book. As always, my hat is off to every writer who succeeds. I just couldn't bring myself to love Imperfect Birds. Read Shelly Barclay's book review of Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire is the second novel in the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. These novels are arguably the best young adult novels of this generation so far (unless you count Harry Potter as young adult fiction, in which case, Hunger Games is a close second). They are mortifying, yet played down enough for consumption by delicate teenage mind (Please note: This last is sarcastic. I don't think anything should ever be dumbed down for children and young adults.). Read Shelly Barclay's book review of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy has been made famous by the film adaptation. The film and the novel cannot be praised enough. In a literary world full of stale ideas and redundant voices, The Road is a refreshing reminder that novels can still stand out. Read Shelly Barclay's review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore is a love him or hate him kind of author. His books are quirky and irreverent, in a good way, if you ask this writer. The Stupidest Angel is by no means in league with Christopher's most popular novel Lamb, but it does get the job done. Read Shelly Barclay's review/summary of The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore.

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott is the beloved American author of Little Women. She produced other novels in her lifetime, the most successful being the sequels to Little Women. Her least known novel is her first - The Inheritance. It was not published until long after her death. It is an Austenesque novel that can be read in one sitting. Read Shelly Barclay's summary/review of The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is the creme de la creme of horror novels. It was also made into the most well known horror movie of all time. You think the movie is creepy? Anyone who has read the novel will tell you that it is weak when compared with the book. Read Shelly Barclay's summary/review of The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is known for taking fairy tales (and old movies) and turning them into in-depth novels that are suitable for adult reading. They are not like Anne Rice's overtly (and overly) sexual renderings of fairy tales. They are stories written for the sake of the story, not for shock value. A Lion Among Men is arguably the least interesting of all Maguire's Wizard of Oz books, but it is certainly worth reading. Read Shelly Barclay's summary/review of A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

Stephen King's grocery lists are probably masterpieces of culinary suspense. He is just that good. Stephen King rarely misses when he writes anything. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is no exception. With this book, Stephen King writes a survival story the likes of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, but he adds his Kingesque glimpses into a stressed little girl's mind. Read Shelly Barclay's review/summary of "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" here.

Three Classic Examples of American Literature

This article takes a look at three excellent novels that came out of the United States. Included are "Little Women," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the unmatched Ray Bradbury classic "Farenheit 451." Snippets about each author and a synopsis of each novel round out these article. Read "Three Classic Examples of American Literature."