Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Wednesday Letters - Jason F. Wright

Last week I received a Victorian Trading Co. cataloge in the mail. In it was this book, a book about a man who, on his wedding night, writes a letter to his wife promising to writer her a letter every Wednesday as long as they are both alive. I'm a hopeless romantic at heart, so that alone grabbed me. I read no more of the summary, and assumed this was a nonfiction book reprinting these letters. I downloaded the free sample chapter from Amazon (I love my Kindle), and was shocked to find it was fiction. However, the first chapter already had me crying, and I knew I had to read the rest.

Jack and Laurel Cooper own a Bed and Breakfast in Woodtock, Virgina. When they die (I won't tell you how, even though the Amazon review does...that was part of the beauty of the first chapter for me), their three adult children come home for the funeral. Samantha, the middle child, is a local police officer. Matthew, the oldest, is a businessman in the Northeast. The youngest, Malcolm, is on the run from the law, but risks comes home from Brazil for his parents' funeral.

The siblings find boxes of letters in the basement of their parents' bed and breakfast, and discover they are filled with decades' worth of letters from Jack to Laurel, written every Wednesday, whether they were in the same room, or in different areas of the country from each other.

While reading these letters, they discover secrets that threaten to tear the family apart. Not only must they deal with the death of both their parents, they must come to terms with the past before it destroys them. The three siblings have demons to face, dreams they have given up hope of ever attaining, and the letters - particularly Jack's final letters to each of them - help them find their paths in life.

Jack's letters, which are are funny, poignant, and heartbreaking, are peppered throughout the novel. I admit I cried several times while reading this book.

There are some religious themes throughout the book. I am not a religious person, so this doesn't really appeal to me. However, it was all written as part of the story, was not preachy, and did not detract from the overall novel, so I was able to overlook this.

The Wednesday Letters is a fast, easy read. It took me about three days to read it. Because of the simplicity, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars, but recommend it to anyone who wants a heartwarming tale of romance and redemption.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls - Emilie Autumn (EA)

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls is part autobiography, part fictional horror. It tells of Emilie Autumn's time spent in a psychiatric ward after she tried to commit suicide. Alternately, it tells the tale of the fictional (or is she?) Emily, a girl locked in an insane asylum in Victorian London.

Emily's tale is artfully written and paints a vivid, page-turning picture of the horrors of the Asylum. EA has done much research on the mental institutions of Victorian times, and the blood-chilling events that were the norm are described in horrific, blood-chilling detail. It tells the tale of Emily's youth and the hard path to her unearned internment in the asylum, as well as the other girls she meets there. The girls unite in an effort to keep themselves sane (for most are not truly insane when they are dumped at the asylum, only unwanted by society.) If you like thrillers you will love the Victorian Emily's story and the shocking ending that leads to the inmates' uprising and their happily(?) ever after.

The real life Emilie's tale is equally as chilling. I admit I was disappointed that it didn't go into more detail into her early years, but I should have known better than to expect a typical autobiography from EA. Instead of a year by year account of her life, The Asylum shows her time in a modern mental institution - which was almost as shocking as the Victorian institution. Diary entries in EA's own handwriting describe the medications she took, her thoughts of suicide, and the brutal reality of cutting. If you want to learn more about these topics, and bipolar, you will be pleased with Emilie's story, although it is left open as to whether the real life Emilie has a happy ending or not. Perhaps there will be a sequel... EA is full of surprises.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars, simply because I want to know more about EA's past and what made her who she is today, not just her time in a mental hospital. If not for that, I would give it 5 out of 5. The book itself is gorgeous, a large, beautifully illustrated edition perfect for display. Stunning photographs and drawings by EA herself fill the pages. There is something for everyone in this volume. Well, anyone may be slightly mad, that is.

Q&A with Jen

Hi! I'm Jen, and will be a part-time contributor to the blog. I'm hoping to post a review every month or two. Here's my introduction, and my first review should be up soon.

What are you reading now:
Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill by Robert Whitaker. Next up, I think, will be Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, or Ruby's Humans: A Dog's Eye Memoir by Tom Adrahtas and Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth by Nina Auerbach

Favourite Book:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Favourite Authors: Natalie Goldberg, Thich Nhaht Hanh, Jim Butcher, Simon R. Greene, George R. R. Martin, Ann Brashares, Stephen Hall, Laurell K. Hamilton

First book you ever read that you couldn't put down:
I don't really remember, but at a very young age I read "Fred and Ted are Friends" so many times my parents had to replace the book after it fell apart.

Favourite Quote:
My favorite writing quote is: The Muse cannot resist a working writer - Ray Bradbury
My favorite quote in general is: Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you. - Aldous Huxley