Reviews: 13 books from Jan/Feb! (Heyer, Zusak, Dickens, Nietzsche, McEwan, Rushdie, Tolkien, Austen, etc)

I started my little bookfest in late January, and didn’t think it would go far—until, a week and five books later, I realised that hey, I can read books for funfunfun! In an attempt to have some sort of structure in these reviews, I’ll be organising my thoughts about fiction into four categories, which is essentially adapted from Aristotle’s take on tragedy in his Poetics (yes, I’m boring and completely unoriginal—thank goodness for the basics!).

So, here’s a list of the books I read in Jan/Feb (with finishing dates):

1. Georgette Heyer – Arabella (30 Jan)
2. Julian Short – An Intelligent Life (1 Feb)
3. Georgette Heyer – Cotillion (2 Feb)
4. Markus Zusak – The Book Thief (3 Feb)
5. Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics, ed. Richard Maxwell) (7 Feb)
6. Mark Haddon – A Spot of Bother (10 Feb)
7. Friedrich Nietzsche – Ecce Homo (Penguin Classics, trans. R. J. Hollingdale) (11 Feb)
8. Ian McEwan – Solar (13 Feb)
9. Sarah Rees Brennan – Unspoken (14 Feb)
10. J. D. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye (21 Feb)
11. Salman Rushdie – Midnight’s Children (24 Feb)
12. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Hobbit (24 Feb)
13. Jane Austen – Persuasion (Penguin Classics, ed. Gillian Beer) (27 Feb)

And, my thoughts on them (with the cover images corresponding to those of my copies):

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[Inner Senshi Book Club] Round 1 Review: Mary Shelley – Mathilda

Despite being this month’s host of the Inner Senshi Book Club, I am tardy in my response (but fortunately, am second only to Meg)! This is primarily due to my week-long choir tour in Rome (!!), from which I’ve just returned (after eating a copious amount of pizza, pasta, and gelato). And now, without further ado…

Mathilda, written in 1819-1820, is Mary Shelley’s second novel and was penned after her more popular Frankenstein. The novel is very much influenced by a range of people and events in Shelley’s life, but it is also a rejection of the philosophies held by her father and husband: through Mathilda, Mary Shelley rejects both the ‘rational utopianism’ of her father and the ‘utopianism of [Percy] Shelleyan love’ (Janet Todd, 1991). In other words, although Mathilda can be considered to be largely autobiographical, the novel is also Shelley’s careful assertion of her own views, which stand directly opposite to that of the two domineering men in her life.

Being quite a fan of the period, I very much enjoyed reading Mathilda and seeing all the real-life references, such as the death of Mary Wollstonecraft (Mary Shelley’s mother) shortly after Shelley’s birth, Shelley’s half-sister (Fanny Imlay)’s death by laudanum, and Shelley’s complex relationship with her father, William Godwin. I was particularly drawn by the similarities between Mathilda and Byron’s Manfred (1817), where both characters are similarly guilt-driven and ultimately take control of their own fates. (Also, having primarily written about Percy Bysshe Shelley in the last year, it is rather disconcerting referring to Mary Shelley solely by her surname and then attaching a female pronoun…)

And now for discussion questions (with spoilers ahoy)!

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[Inner Senshi Book Club] Introduction & May 2012


The “Inner Senshi Book Club” is an online book club where five book lovers of different backgrounds and tastes across the world take turns at selecting and hosting a book each month. Individually, we are (in alphabetical order): Aimee, Angel, Meghan, Samantha L, and Samantha R. Together, we present you a whole range of books, complete with our responses to a rotating list of set questions.

A new book is selected on the 15th of each month, and our thoughts are posted roughly four to five weeks later. The current schedule for 2012 is as follows:

May: Samantha Lin
June: Samantha R
July: Meghan
August: Angel
September: Aimee

We hope you can join us in our reading shenanigans!

(The book club derives its name from the five soldiers of love and justice from the Japanese manga and anime series, Sailormoon. We are just as kickass, and if all goes to plan, twice as well-read.)

Aimee (Sailor Jupiter) is a prospective law student, hoping to conquer the world with her extensive knowledge of Harry Potter, Greek and Latin classics, YA literature, and adorkable fictional boys. Though she loves reading anything and everything, she primarily uses her books to meet complex, quirky characters and explore gorgeous, romantic locations. Her hobbies include doodling in notebooks, nerdy-fangirling, and reading to herself in (terrible) English accents. You can find her ramblings @amethysthx. She currently resides in Long Island, New York.

Angel (Sailor Venus) is an aspiring YA novelist/Nerdfighter and a fangirl of all things wonderful. She adores classical lit, romance and children’s literature. Her book choices will be eclectic and wacky at times, but there is always a theme worth discovering. The Favourites shelf in her bookcase is teeming with mermaids, Boy Masterpieces, zombies, cyborgs and spies. You can find her at Mermaid Vision Books and follow her @mermaidvisions. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Meghan (Sailor Mercury) is a full time student and overtime fangirl of tall, skinny men with accents. Though she largely reads YA, she also dabbles in classics and fantasy. Her favourite thing to do is pick apart books for feminist themes or the lack thereof. She places her books not in alphabetical order but based on which authors she thinks would get along. You can find her at Coffee and Wizards and follow her @MegTao. She lives in Windsor, Ontario.

Samantha L (Sailor Moon)’s paperwork for entrance to the loony bin gave the institution such a headache, they decided to pawn her off to the literary academics instead. She has since accepted her fate, and now sees her eventual PhD in Shakespeare as a stepping stone to becoming a professional fangirl. Her life ambition is to one day establish a Fandom University, where it is possible to obtain such degrees as a Bachelor of Science in Avoiding Victor Frankenstein’s Mistakes and Master of Arts in Improvement of the Mind by Extensive Reading. In the meantime, you can find her at All Things Literary and follow her @samanthalin. She currently lives in Durham, England.

Samantha R (Sailor Mars), also known to all and sundry as Sam, is a full time student and aspiring YA novelist. She is always willing to fangirl anything and everything, but has a particular fondness for delicious British men. She divides her reading time equally between nineteenth-century literature and YA, with occasional dabbles into the Modernist era and chick lit. The only organised areas of her bedroom are her bookshelves, which receive more love and attention and are kept more tidy than the rest of the room combined. You can find her at As Read by an Aspiring Receptionist and follow her @samanthaarea. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

This month, our book choice is: Mary Shelley – Mathilda (1820)

Samantha L wants you to consider:
How relevant do you think this text will be in a century? Which aspects do you think will be valued most?

Samantha R is interested in knowing:
Did you have a favourite character in the book? If so, what was it about this character that drew you to them? Or in reverse, were there any characters that you particularly disliked, and why?

Meghan is wondering:
If you had to date one of the characters, which would you pick and why?

Angel would like you to think about:
How well does the writing style serve the story? How does it fail to uphold the narrative?

Aimee’s question for you is:
What was your favorite or most memorable passage (if any) in the book? Why did it leave such an impression?

This month’s host, Samantha L, has a bonus question:
Mary Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, considered to be one of the first modern feminists. In Mathilda, how effectively do you think Shelley deals with the issues of women, femininity, and feminism?

The five of us are all extremely excited to finally unleash this project into the world wild web! I’m especially pleased to be the inaugural host of our little book club, where I hope you’ll enjoy my selection this month: a lesser known work by the author of Frankenstein and wife of the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. If you’re unsure about which edition to pick up, I’d recommend the Penguin (edited and with an introduction by the fabulous Janet Todd), which also includes Mary Wollstonecraft’s Mary and Maria.

I’m very much looking forward to reading what you and my fellow Inner Senshi think about the novella—if you have a blog or wish to participate with us, please do so! The line-up for the rest of the year is also quite eclectic, so I hope you’ll stick with us as we embark on a journey of books, reflections, and discoveries!