I've Moved!

Should Be Knitting has moved to pastandpresentselves.

Sweater Mania 2014

Knitting! Yes, finally. Between the wardrobe planning and editing I've been doing I finally have a to be knit list again.  Granted my ravelry queue hasn't been updated but this is a start.

boxy light to medium weight sweater
Pattern: I'm 90% positive I'm going with  Boxy although Relax (e.g.) is also very similar
Inspiration:Unknown Forever21 sweater featured here. Particularly I love the fabric and drape of that sweater and while I do like this Topshop sweater, I prefer the neckline and the airier feel of the first one.  
Potential Yarn (and yardage): Fingering weight (14 wpi) || 23 st and 20 rows = 4" on size 4s after blocking (1,680 yds)
Required Notions: 1 or 2, and 3 size needles (2.5, 4 recommended), stitch holders, tapestry needle, an extra needle for 3-needle-bind off
Sizing Notes: 64" body and ~9.5" sleeve circumference desired.  Use smaller body.  Check project notes for tips on picking up different sized (i.e. larger sleeves).

medium to heavy weight oversized grey cardigan
Pattern: I'm leaning toward the Stranger Cardigan,which gets bonus points for its versatility. On the more typical end of the spectrum are the Colette without the buttons or a mostly solid BlueSand (e.g.; e.g.) even though I'm not sure I like the patterning at the bottom.  
Inspiration: Somewhere along the line the shape and color of the sweater Magnus wears in Veritas melded with the sweater from Out of the Blue* in my head and came out as a long, slightly oversized, grey sweater with some detailing, specifically the ribbing or patterning around the neck and button holes. I've been using a Monki cardigan as a standin in my capsule wardrobe diagramming but I would prefer something a bit shorter and more fitted.
Potential Yarn (and yardage): Worsted (9 wpi) || 17 st and 25 rows = 4" st st on size 8s after blocking (1,170 yds)
Required Notions: Size 7 needles (8 recommended), extra needle for joinery bind off

Sizing Notes: Check sweater width to insure sufficient overlap in the front.  41" circumference desired (8-10" ease).

navy or midnight j crew sweater replica

Pattern: Catboat Cardigan (e.g.) although I like the added cabling on Persistence is Key.
Inspiration:I have a J Crew sweater; it's a wonderful bespeckled wine-colored thing, with buttons up the front and a short square color. It's nice and thick with a structured fit and a cabled panel down the back and along the button band. I would like second similar sweater in a deep blue.
Potential Yarn (and yardage): DK (11 wpi) || 20 st and 26 rows = 4" on size 6s (~1,100 yards)
Required Notions: Needles size 5 & 3 (recommended 6, 4), stitch markers, and stitch holder
Sizing Notes:  34" circumference desired (less than 1" ease).  Check project notes for sizing info.

loose black casual ribbed neck sweater
Pattern: It absolutely killed me to take Cromarty out of the running, but it's too lacey and frilly to fit the bill for this one. I love Channel Cardigan but I would prefer if the ribbing went the other way as it does on the Larch Cardigan.
Inspiration:  I have this black cardigan. The cuff and oversized button band are ribbed. It's on the thinner side but it's warm, well loved by cats (I don't entirely understand this) and generally amazing. It ties at the waist and it has a hood. If we ignore the fact that the sweater is pilled/pilling at an unsustainable rate the hood is the biggest problem. I don't like hoods. I don't like hoods on shirts and sweaters almost as much as I don't like zippers on the same items. This sweater needs to go but it needs a replacement first.
Potential Yarn (and yardage): Worsted (10 wpi) || 20 st and 30 rows = 4” moss stitch on 7s after blocking -and- 22 st and 48 rows = 4” english rib on 4s after blocking (1,630 yards)
Required Notions: Size 6, 4, 3 needles (7, 5, 4 recommended)
Sizing Notes: 37-38" circumference desired (4-5" intended ease). See project notes for sizing and adjustments.

baby pink ribbed sweater replacement
Pattern: TBD/Improvised, although I'm falling in love with Brooke so we'll see where this goes.
Inspiration:  I absolutely adore the baby pink, alpaca, lightly ribbed, v-neck sweater that I own. I love it so much I need one that fits a bit better. This Mexx.ca sweater is somewhat similar to the one I have.
Potential Yarn (and yardage): Fingering (14 wpi) || 27 st and 36 rows =4"st st on 4s (1,181 yards)
Required Notions: Size 1 and 2 needles (2 and 3 recommended)
Sizing Notes: 32-34" circumference desired (less than one inch ease desired).

* Caps by Yami
** Photos from linked ravelry pages

Packing List
Needles 24-32"circs (one): 1, 2, 2.5, 5, 6
Needles 24-32"circs: (two): 3, 4, 7, 8
Stitch holder
Stitch markers
Scrap yarn (fingering and worsted)
Tapestry Needle
Sewing needle

Shopping List
1,680 yards grey mottled fingering weight yarn
1,170 yards medium grey worsted weight yarn
1,100 yards navy or midnight blue DK weight yarn
8- 3/4" matching buttons
navy or midnight matching thread 
1,630 yards black or other worsted weight yarn
1,181yards baby pink fingering weight yarn

Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List


My reading goals for this fall are a lot more sedate than my plans were for the summer.  I'm hoping to finish up the majority of the books that I've started this year and have yet to finish as well as check off a few more books on my 2013 TBR list.  Of those, these are the books I'm most looking forward to reading (plus a few extra).

* Top Ten Tuesdays is run by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I Would Love To See As A Movie/TV Show


I've tried to step a bit outside the box on this one, so I've left off a lot of my usual favorites, in order to focus more on the visual aspect of film making (instead of focusing solely on great stories).

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
I didn't even blink when I saw the title for this week's list.  I absolutely adore this book and think it would make an amazing film, particularly if the cinematography held true to Cather's stark descriptions of the landscape.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I would love to see the bookstore come to life, but even more than that I would love to see the tech, and watch the interplay between the two.

Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking Trilogy
Yes, I have a not so secret need to see Amanda Tapping play Mistress Coyle, but I would also love to see this as a series of films or as a miniseries because there's such a sensory feel to the books with the typography and the presence of noise, that I would love to see how that translated onto the screen.

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks
I really should write a review for this book because it's definitely one of my favorites from this year.  It's by turns sarcastic and poignant and while there is an element of love to the story, it lacks the usual YA drama, holding more carefully to the overall story arc which I adore.

Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels
I think this book would make a great film.  It may be more of a cliche than the films I normally watch but I think there's enough mystery, intrigue, and romance in there for almost anyone, plus I'm not going to lie I wouldn't mind seeing Cameron on my screen.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The geek cred in this book is really enough of an excuse to turn it into a flim, but I would also love to see the interplay between the real and digital worlds.  I think there's an opportunity there to do some really interesting or innovative things.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I blame the cover and Morgenstern's beautiful descriptions of the circus for this one, but I think it would make an incredibly breathtaking film both visually and in terms of the story development.  This book has such beautiful character development, the locations have a real visceral feel to them, and the plot would definitely leave the audience hanging on until the very end.

The Felicity Books by Valerie Tripp
I know that some of the American Girl books have been made into films, but I would love to see more, particularly ones focusing on Felicity since she was always my favorite as a kid and she's since been discontinued.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
I know a lot of what I love about Benjamin's writing wouldn't transfer to the screen, but even so, this book is so intriguing and refreshing.  I think the progression across time would make for a really interesting film narrative, and I would never say no to another film with period costumes.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
I don't know how you would ever condense such a long book into a film and honestly I wouldn't want anyone to, so this one would have to be a done in a single season or miniseries much the way the BBC produces many of its projects.  There's so much here to work with in terms of characters and settings but also a lot that can be done with the themes and various narrative points of view.

* Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted by the always lovely The Broke and the Bookish.

Top 10 Contemporary Books That Would Be Great Paired With A Required Reading Book


This week's Top Ten Tuesday (run by The Broke and the Bookish) is all about books in school and required reading.  A lot of these are going to be historical fiction.  I can tell you that right now before I even start my list because history is where my book!nerd and academic love collide.  I am stretching the idea of "contemporary"a bit on a few of these, but I have tried to stick with pairs of books where the books themselves are separated quite distinctly in time.

The Heretic's Daughter by Katheleen Kent and The Crucible by Arthur Miller
I love both of these to pieces, plus I like that they present the same series of events from two distinct points of view, the former focusing on a POV we don't often see, while the latter focuses on the more typical story line, but in a lesser used format (i.e. a stage play).

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Both of these novels present a wealth of discussion opportunities on their own, but paired together there's an opportunity to introduce students to comparative criticism.   Literary tradition can also be discussed as well as some of the flaws and pitfalls of Jane Eyre and other classics, which I think is something that's missing in a lot of English classes.

The Boy and the Stripped Pajamas by John Boyne and The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
I think these two books balance each other out quite well.  Once again, they present similar stories from differing points of view.  They also have varying degrees of emotional impact and different narrative style and come from two separate genres, the latter being nonfiction and a firsthand account.  Another option would be to include The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Both of these books address the prevalence of science in society, particularly cloning and its implications, as well as ideas of love and remorse.  Their writing styles as well as the narratives vary greatly, however, which I think adds to the enjoyment of reading these two together.

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather and Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz
I think a lot of schools do a good job of introducing students to the Classics, at least to some extent, but I think more could be done to introduce students to other forms and genres of literature.  Teaching students to think critically and exposing them to good literature is important, but I also think exposing them to new genres and formats is also important as is trying to foster a love of reading.  This pair, covers all of those things for me: it opens up a discussion about humanity's relationship to the land (cue discussion about environmental issues if so desired) as well as introduces students to nonfiction and autobiographical text.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
Both of these books cover the same period in history, both feature children stumbling into new worlds through doorways, but the worlds they enter and the things they learn are vastly different.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and the Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Neffenegger
Because time travel.  In all seriousness though I love Neffenegger's writing and narrative style and it never hurts to introduce students to good contemporary writing.  Also, I think I would have enjoyed The Time Machine more if I had had something a bit more accessible with which to break it up.  The mode and scope of travel varies vastly between the two books, opening up discussions about both science and history.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding and Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling
There's something that's always interested me about people in survival situations and both these books have that in spades.  There's chaos, order, and some hard earned truths all of which can be compared and contrasted to your heart's content.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
These two are clear opposites or companions, but the things the latter has in common with the former opens up a discussion of Romeo and Juliet to a wider range of students.  I know the first time I read Romeo and Juliet I had a hard time relating to it despite having seen the play a couple of times.  Discussing the two texts brings up conversations about loyalty, fate and destiny, and feuds or long standing ideological disagreements as well as love and sacrifice.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
Both books raise questions about some serious social issues and address ideas such as justice, loyalty and the meaning of family.  Plus these are potentially my two favorite books from school which means I couldn't resist recommending them again.

Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters


This week's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is all about secondary characters so I've scoured my goodreads lists and come up with a few notable characters.

Daniel from Time Enough for Drums by Ann Rinaldi
He's the perfect big brother and I admire his political conviction, not to mention his Tory friend.

Mikey from Laurie Halse Anderson's Catalyst
He's such a cute kid and I love how he really draws attention to Terri and allows for some great character development.

The Rooster in Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier)
Yes, I'm counting the rooster as a character.  He's part of one of my favorite scenes in the book, terrifying Ida to the point where she hides in a bush.  He's also the reason I loved Ruby when she was first introduced.

George from the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
George is the kind of love interest I like to see in YA books.  He's steadfast and patient and he's supportive of Alanna living her life the way she wants to, regardless of what that means for the two of them.  He's a great contrast for Jonathan as well.

Mary in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series
In a lot of the books, Mary comes across as being perfect, or at least as a person whom Laura respects and I loved that about her as a kid.  I loved that Mary was unassumingly awesome, but still got into trouble with Laura on occasion.

Ophelia in Hamlet
I love the use of flower symbolism in her dialogue.  I love how tragically beautiful she is, and how strongly she feels both her love and despair.  I also love watching quiet obedient characters come undone, and Ophelia definitely delivers in that department.

Mae Mobley from The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Cutest child possibly ever.

Ruth in Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones
I've always loved Ruth and her connection to Susie.  I can't put my finger on why exactly but I love her nonetheless.

Geilie Duncan from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Flawed characters are my favorite, particularly if you're not quite sure what they're up to.  I would get into specifics but I don't want to spoil anyone who hasn't read the book or continued on with the series.

Miriam in A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness)
I love her snark.  I love how loyal she is to Mathew even when she has her own interests to contend with.

Top Ten Things That Make My Life As A Reader/Book Blogger Easier


I can't say that I've been doing a whole lot of book blogging lately but I have been thinking about it a lot and doing an astronomical amount of reading so here it goes, then things that make my life as a blogger/reader easier:

  • Goodreads:  They track the books I read, keep basic stats and allow me to stay organized, quickly in between the times I update my reading spreadsheet.  I also store notes on books or brief summaries to remind myself what I liked (or didn't) about a book.  The summaries, book covers, and author information provided by the site are also really helpful when posting book reviews.
  • Excel: I track all of my reading in one big spreadsheet.  In years past I only had a list, but this year as I've joined more bookclubs I've switched over to a spreadsheet as it makes it easier to sort by any number of factors including dates and genres.
  • My local library: Free books both in print and as ebooks and audiobooks.  Access to more books in various formats mean more reading, particularly on new topics or in new genres.
  • Youtube:  This doesn't seem directly related to reading I know, but there's a great community of readers on Youtube that inspire me to keep reading and keep me up to date on current bookish news. 
  • My Friends: Even my friends who aren't so bookishly inclined will talk to me about my/their reading.  It keeps me interested.  I love discussing character development, plot structure, and themes as much as I love squealing with delight over how something is written or how geeky a character is. 
  • Bookclubs and Readathons: Most of my bookclubs and readathons take place either on Youtube or Goodreads, but I'm looking to expand this a bit for next year.  Both of these are great ways to meet new book nerds and have great discussions.
  • Charity Book Sales: Cheap books being sold for a good cause = buying lots of books without going broke or feeling guilty. Much like the library charity sales introduce me to a wide range of new books and often prompt me to try something new.
  • My Phone: I don't have an e-reader, so having books on my phone allows me to squeeze reading in one page at a time, particularly in locations where reading a hard copy book would be difficult i.e. standing up with only one free hand.
  • Blogger: I use the app to save notes on books and drafts of posts I would like to make.  This saves me a lot of time hunting for the notes I left on the receipt I was using as a bookmark meaning that whenever I stop blabbing about my summer vacation I can go back to posting (lots of) reviews.
  • My Books: There's something about owning books that makes me want to own read more books.
What about you, is there something that makes your life as a reader or book blogger easier that I'm missing out on?  Please let me know.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Broke and the Bookish.  Click the link to join the discussion or check out future questions.

Classics Retold Runners Up

I've downloaded a copy of Jekyll and Hyde onto every electronic device I own. It's time to start my Classics Retold journey, but I thought before I did that, I should share with you a couple of the other books I had considered taking on for this project.

The Scarlet Letter by  Nathaniel Hawthorn

The first time I read this book was for an English class in high school.  I remember most of the class disliking the book.  I don't know if it was because of the book itself, the language and the subject matter, or if it was the tedious questions and halfhearted discussions that followed, but a lot of the class was downright miserable during the unit.  I, on the other hand, was in love.  Hester's strength inspired me, Prim fascinated me, and both Dimmsdale and Chillingworth fascinated me.

While I haven't seen any strict adaptions of the text, I have seen other more liberal interpretations, my favorite of which is Easy A, one of my favorite movies.  While having an excuse to rewatch the movie and reread the book, which is also one of my all time favorites, as I said in my intro post, I was looking for a new experience, and so I had to set the book aside and hope someone else would pick it up so I can excitedly spam them come September. 

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

This was another book I read for an English class, and another of my absolute favorites.  The first time I read it, I picked it up intending to read the assigned portion and then go on with my day.  Instead, I read the entire thing in one sitting and started it a second time.  I love Alexandra, I love her strength, I love her connection with the land, the understanding she has of the world and I absolutely love Cather's writing.  One January day, thirty years ago, the tiny town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska table land, was trying not to be blown away. 

Ultimately O Pioneers! didn't make the cut for Classics Retold because there's not a whole lot out there that I could find in terms of adaptions.  There's a stage adaption, and several other works by Cather that contain similar themes, but not the varied mediums I was looking for.

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett

And now it's time for me to 'fess up.  I have never read The Secret Garden despite my immense and undying love for its adaptions.  One of the first shows I remember seeing on stage was The Secret Garden.  I have vivid memories of straining to watch the set changes through the unnatural blackness of the theatre.  I can remember watching the 1993 film adaptation for the first time and being overwhelmed by my emotions.  I can remember the last time I watched it, sitting curled up on the couch sniffling at one am  because it was still as beautiful and as touching as it had been the first time.

Like the other books on this list, there's a lot of great commentary and discussion on the text, but there isn't a lot that was new to me, at least not in terms of the adaptions themselves.

Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier

I haven't read Rebecca despite it being on my TBR list for years (possibly since 2004/5 *twiddles thumbs*).  It's not a book I know that much about.  In fact what I know about the book can be summarized in a thirty second clip from an episode of JAG.  Here's the thing about me though,  I have a serious geekout every time a fictional (particularly tv) character mentions a piece of literature (or media), particularly if it ties into the story line or their personal development.

In this particular case, it's the first line of the novel that's quoted, the first line and then nothing.  There's no further reference to the book, at least not that I can discern, and this drives me a bit nuts every time I watch the episode because I know there's more to it than that, I just don't know what.  While this might seem like a good reason to pick up a book and read it, for this project I was looking for something I was a bit more familiar with.  I wanted to pick something I had some understanding of, a framework with which to work and Rebecca doesn't fit that bill.

Classics Retold

Classics Retold works like this: stare agonized at the list of awesome books you could choose from because coming up with something on your own could potentially kill you, complain to all your friends that this is worse than playing 'Last Book Standing', take the plunge, pick a book, sign up before you can change your mind. After that, it's easy, read the book, then read or watch as many adaptions and as much related material as possible, and post reviews and thoughts throughout the month of September.

Sign ups are open through the 25th of May *wink wink nudge nudge*

I'm planning on doing a post covering a couple of the books I didn't pick because there's too many amazing books on the list not to mention at least a few of them. This post though, it's all about The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

I picked Jekyll and Hyde for a couple of reasons, primarily because it's on my TBR list for this year, but also because while I'm somewhat familiar with it and its adaptions, there's a lot I don't know anything about it, like for instance, the original plot. Along with this, I also wanted to pick something that had impacted or influenced by life in some way, or at the very least something that stood out to me in a significant way. Again, Jekyll and Hyde fit the bill. It sticks out most to me in conjunction with the poem If by Rudyard Kipling, not because the poem has any special significance but because it showed up in my favorite show to be spouted off by my favorite bad guy (possibly of all time), who in essence is Jekyll and Hyde.

Give my love for that particular episode, and for the character himself, I'll be rewatching quite a few Sanctuary episodes along with reading the Stevenson text for the first time.  Aside from that, what I'll be reading/watching will depend on what I can get my hands on while I'm travelling this summer, so instead of picking out set list of items, I'm leaving it more open ended.

ExcellentLibrary has been posting lists of some of the adaptions for books on the challenge list. I used her Jekyll and Hyde post as a jumping off point, then consulted wikipedia and google (one, two) and came up with the following list of items. This is by no means a complete list of what I found, just some of the more interesting ones.
  • The original text
  • Articles about Robert Lewis Stevenson, the time period, and his work
    • Jekyll and Hyde: The True Story (2004)
    • The Beast Within: Interpreting Jekyll and Hyde (Guardian article)
  • Short films, single episodes, and short stories, poems, children's books and songs
    • "Schizophrenia Blues" by The Beat Caroline (song) [2012]
    • Wishbone - Dr Jekyll and Mr Dog (1998)
    • Goosebumps - Jekyll and Heidi (1999)  -OR-  Goosebumps: Jekyll and Heidi by RL Stein
    • Into the Labyrinth - Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde (1982) - UK children's show
    • The Untold Story of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Francis Little [1890]
    • ‘Mr Hyde Visits the Home of Dr Jekyll’ by John Kessel (Poem) [1989]
    • Handle Carefully - short film
    • Episodes from the Life of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (2001) - short film
  • Adaptions with both novel and film adaptions
    • Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin [1990]*  -OR-  Mary Reilly (2006)
    • Jacqueline Hyde by Robert Swindells [1996]  -OR- Jacqueline Hyde (2005)*
  • Films
    • Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1913)
    • Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931)
    • Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
    • Le Cas etrange du Dr Jekyll et Miss Osbourne (1981)
    • Jekyll and Hyde- The Musical (2001)
    • Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (2003) - Phillips
    • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
    • Jekyll & Hyde (2006)
    • Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (2008) - Barzman
  • TV series/miniseries, radio series, and book series (multiple parts)
    • The Strange Case of Dr. Hyde - BBC Radio Scotland
    • Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde (1995)
    • My Own Worst Enemy (2008)
    • Do No Harm (2012) - NBC aired 2 eps, CTV possibly picked it up
    • Hyde (Hyde #1) by Lauren Stewart [2012] (see also: Jekyll, an Urban Fantasy;  Strange Case)
  • Books
    • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes by Loren D. Estleman [1980]
    • Two Women of London. The Strange Case of Ms Jekyll and Mrs Hyde. by Emma Tennant [1989]
    • Jekel loves Hyde, author Beth Fantaskey [2010]
  • Adaptions that may be difficult to find
    • Pussy Jekyll and Cat Hyde by Joyce Dunbar and Jill Barton - children's book
    • Thomas Russell Sullivan's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - stage adaption
    • Jekyll and Hyde [1997] - stage adaption
    • The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde [2012] - graphic novel
    • Le crime ├ętrange de Mr Hyde by Jean-Pierre Naugrette [1998] - English translation
  • Extras
    • Ruffus the Dog- Dr Ruffus and Mr Snide (1998) -children's show
    • Dr Jekyll and Mr Duck (1987) - Disney film
    • Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1999) 
    • Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (2002) - Redfield
    • Hulk (2003)
    • Van Helsing (2004)
    • Van Helsing: The London Assignment (2004)
    • Igor (2008)
    • The Nutty Professor: The Animated Movie (2008)
    • The Nutty Professor (1996) - rewatch
    • Another Jekyll, Another Hyde (Another #3) by Daniel and Dina Nayeri [2012]
  • Rewatches...?
    • Sanctuary (misc eps Breach - Chimera)
    • Jekyll (2007)
    • Fight Club (1999)

Review: The Office of Mercy

The Office of Mercy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel like I've written more negatively about the books that I've read this year than I have in the past. While I know this isn't entirely true, I also know that I tend to be more critical of books outside of my usual reading sphere, a sphere I've worked hard this year to expand. This coupled with the fact that I enjoy discussing books more critically than other mediums; I read not just for enjoyment but to learn about the world and the craft of writing itself. As such I tend to gloss over the things I like- the cool dystopian setting, the interesting moral implications, the unusual typography or formatting- and focus more on the elements that detract from these. I focus on the mistakes I as a writer don't want to make, trying to understand and figure out how and why these elements don't work.

My original review for The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian followed along with this norm, emphasizing the elements of the novel that bothered me and skipped over the elements I enjoyed quite a lot. As such, I would like to preface that review by including the following. The moral code established by Djanikain in this book was fascinating. I love the intricacies, the interplay between a character's thoughts and their reality, the way it highlights how subtle shifts in perspective can drastically change the meanings of words such as mercy and peace. The world Natasha, the main character, lives in is bland and uniform; in a way her lifestyle matches the plain and austere nature of the code, yet at the same time there's a real sense of history and meaning there, a technicolor whirlwind the book only begins to explore.

This book* has a lot of potential, the premise is interesting and the plot is compelling, but the execution is subpar. For me, the biggest issue was the transition between internal dialogue and external actions or dialogue. Djanikian does both well in sections of the book where each stands alone, but when switching between the two, particularly in scenes were a lot was going on, the writing becomes inconsistent and jarring, a list of actions or emotions, instead of a well narrated story. Alone, perhaps this wouldn't be so much of an issue, but with a lot of the world building and most of the action occurring in the back half of the book it detracts from the reading experience.

This, coupled with my annoyance with Natasha's ethical back and forth, left me feeling as if the novel would have been better off as an action/adventure tale, something with a flashy setting and interesting moral premise but without much character development. Unfortunately this is a sad thought given the promise the book has had it been structured somewhat differently.

** This books was given to me as part of the GoodRead's First Reads program. This in no way influenced my review.