[Review] The House – Christina Lauren

Title: The House
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: YA Horror
Published: 2015
My Rating: ★★★★★

When her family can no longer afford to send her to private school, Delilah returns to public school in her hometown. There, she thrusts herself upon the mysterious boy she’s had a crush on since forever.

Gavin has a secret–his house has a mind of its own and has raised him since he was a small child. House is the only family he has until Delilah enters his life, and House isn’t interested in sharing him.

I loved this! I was so thoroughly creeped out. I read it late at night (of course) and it got to the point where I’d demand my boyfriend to stand guard outside the bathroom. He wouldn’t humor me.

To be honest, I’m a bit of a chickenshit. Horror buffs might not feel the same tingles of adrenaline I did. But it’s not like there’s some thing in the house that hates Delilah. It’s the entire freaking house. Every inanimate object inside it has a mind of its own. Not only that, but its reach extends past the house, through roots and wires, to other homes. It’s not like you can easily sneak around and get away from it. The whole town is unsafe.

The characters are both endearing and I appreciated the dual point of views. Delilah looks sweet and normal, but is obsessed with the macabre. She doodles gruesome pictures in her notebooks, watches slasher flicks, and alphabetizes her books by the cause and number of deaths (might have to look into this). She’s also fiercely protective of Gavin, who is a doll (not literally, to clarify). He looks like your mysterious, haunted bad boy, but he’s actually a sweetheart. They are utterly adorable together and I was seriously worried that something horrible was going to happen to both of them.

I would recommend this to fans of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. It’s not as bloody and full of angst, but it still made me laugh and gave me the chills.

[Review] The Love Interest – Cale Dietrich

Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2017
My Rating:  ★★

Caden is a Nice, the boy next door. Dyl is a Bad, the tortured and dangerous hot guy. After years of training to become spies–specifically, the Love Interest of a Chosen (a person who will one day likely have great influence and power)–the two are thrust into the real world to compete in making a brilliant young woman fall in love with them. When the two begin to have feelings for each other, their mission becomes even more complicated. Worse, whoever she doesn’t chose will die. 

I was so looking forward to this book. I first saw it in Writer’s Digest, where they put a spotlight on debut authors. The cover snagged my attention first, followed by the odd but compelling premise. Two boys who fall in love with each other instead of the girl they’re supposed to? Heck ya!

Unfortunately, I knew I was doomed from the beginning. The voice and the dialogue felt stilted and juvenile. Yes, I’m an adult–wait, did I just say that? All right, yes, I admit it: I am physically an adult. But I read a lot of YA. There’s stuff that feels super kid-lit and stuff that has crossover appeal. This did not have crossover appeal. It just felt too…bubbly for what was happening. Perhaps it was because the story is told from the Nice’s perspective. If it had been told from the Bad’s perspective, there likely would’ve been a lot more angst.

The plot, especially in the last half, felt extremely over the top. When I was going in, I didn’t realize this would be a life or death situation and that the loser would be incinerated. I’m generally all for action, but I could’ve done without it here. I wanted the author to focus more on Caden and Dyl’s relationship. Something more realistic would’ve been more compelling. There’s also so much attention to clothes. Like, every scene there’s a description. Honestly, who cares?

I’ll admit, there are a few gems. Caden asks his coach, “Wouldn’t it be better to send us in when we’re a bit older? No one finds the love of their life while they’re a teenager.” To which she replies, “You haven’t read many YA novels recently, have you?” Dietrich pokes fun at trends in YA. How boys are expected to behave in those stories. Not like persons in their own right, but someone to cater to the girl’s every whim. The boys alter their appearances and their personalities to conform to the girl’s desires. They put her ahead of themselves at all times. It’s nice to see someone take that love triangle trope and turn it on its head. It made me think more about my own characters and how I want them to be fully fleshed out individuals.

Overall, I really wanted to like this book. The idea intrigued me, but I didn’t like the execution. It’s a debut and unfortunately it reads like a debut.

“What Should I Read Next?” Podcast by Anne Bogel

I’ve recently begun listening to the podcast What Should I Read Next?, hosted by Anne Bogel over at Modern Mrs. Darcy. Each week she interviews a new guest. They are bloggers, fellow podcasters, authors, bookstore owners–basically people who love talking about books. Each episode is structured the same: The guest shares three books they love, one book they didn’t like, and what they want to change in their reading life.

With that information, Bogel gets to the heart of what they enjoy and what they’re looking for, then gives them three book recommendations. One guest called her the “Book Whisperer.” Many consider being on the show as a form of book therapy. She recommends books I’ve never heard of or books I would never have picked up without her describing them in such a compelling way. Needless to say, my already mountainous TBR pile now blots out the sun.

Unfortunately, there is little love for genre fiction on the show. You get a definite snobby vibe when anyone speaks about anything that isn’t considered “high literary fiction.” Still, I like to fantasize about what I would say if I were on the show.

Three Books I Love:

Like almost every guest on the show says, this is difficult. Obviously I can’t narrow down my favorites to three. I couldn’t even narrow it down to twenty. I could give the obvious and say Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl or any of the books that really resonated with me when I was younger and that still do. However, I will go with books that I’ve read in the last two years that I loved and will reread over and over again.

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

The book follows Blue, whose life becomes entwined with four rich students from a nearby academy and their quest to find a long-lost Welsh king.

I cannot emphasize how much I love this series. I wish I had an ounce of Stiefvater’s talent. Just one freaking ounce.The Raven Cycle checks off all my boxes: Fully-fleshed out characters, close male relationships, magic, fast cars, a compelling plot, snark, hilarity, beautiful writing.

I’m so flippin’ excited that she’s making a trilogy with Ronan and Adam, who are my two favorite characters. (This is the part where I shatter Bogel’s eardrums from my shriek of excitement.)

I’ve read a little of Stiefvater’s other work. Shiver is about a pack of werewolves in Minnesota, but even though it’s set in my state, it didn’t capture my interest as much. I abandoned The Scorpio Races after a few pages, knowing I just wasn’t in the mood to read it (I’ll get back to it, I promise). But The Raven Boys is something I see myself rereading every year and never tiring of it.


Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

This takes place a few years after the events in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. It follows criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker (Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz.) and his crew, who embark on a mission to retrieve a hostage from an impenetrable military stronghold and survive long enough to collect their reward.

I love Kaz’s character so much. He’s the right amount of vicious, the right amount of damaged. He’s soooooo dreamy, especially when he’s maiming people. He’s one of those characters who is one step ahead of everyone, even his own crew. I also loved the way Bardugo weaved together the different characters and their point of views. They all compliment each other really well.

If you like Netflix’s series, Peaky Blinders starring Cillian Murphy, you should definitely take a look at this. I began watching Peaky Blinders after reading the duology and all I could think was that Thomas Shelby reminded me of an adult version of Kaz.

Yum.


Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

Though it’s such a horrid period in time, I’m fascinated by World War II. I have an entire shelf dedicated to it and Wolf by Wolf is a worthy addition.

The story is set in an alternate history where the Axis powers win. A young Jewish girl named Yael is experimented on by Nazis. Given the power to skinshift, she escapes the concentration camp and joins a group of rebels. Her mission is to assassinate Hitler. To do so, she poses as the only female participant in a motorcycle race from Germany to Tokyo.

This one was heartbreaking and exciting and powerful. The sequel, Blood for Blood, even more so. As you can maybe tell from my other choices, I enjoy reading about male characters. Like a lot. But Yael is so likable and broken, that she has become one of my all-time favorite heroines.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for fast-paced action with characters who have a lot of depth.


There are so many others I wanted to include on this list. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. The list goes on…

One Book I Hate:

It’s rare for me to hate a book. Especially since I don’t have any more teachers who like to shove horrible books down my throat. My all-time most-hated book is Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami. I will never forgive my Japanese literature teacher for making me read this horrendous novel. You need only read the first sentence to know why I hate it. I will never be able to scrub it from my mind.

A recent book I disliked–hate is too strong of a word–was I Woke Up Dead At The Mall by Judy Sheehan.

A girl from New York City is poisoned at her father’s wedding and ends up at the Mall of America, which serves as a sort of limbo, a place you go to before you go to heaven.

Weird premise, but I picked this up because it sounded quirky and I’m from Minnesota. It’s so rare to find books set here. But it hardly took place here at all. Most of the time, we’re in New York while the main character visits her past and tries to warn her father about her killer. I didn’t understand why only people from New York went to the Mall of America after they died. Why wouldn’t people from Minnesota go there? It just didn’t make sense and I didn’t make a connection to the MC or any of the other characters. I honestly didn’t care that they had died.

Changes I Want in My Reading Life:

I want to read more books in different genres. I only read fiction, most of it YA, and the vast majority of it is fantasy or science fiction. It’s not a coincidence that I also write YA fantasy. It’s what I love.

I want to include more nonfiction, especially creative nonfiction, more short stories, more literary fiction, and maybe, just maybe, a memoir (but that’s stretching it a bit). I also want to read more classics. I have a few shelves of them, but they intimidate me either because of their thickness (I’m trying to get through a large quantity of books this year) or because I’m worried about my own thickness and not being able to understand them.

So. Any recommendations for me? If you had to pick three favorites and one you didn’t like, what would they be?

[Review] Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Published: 1991
My Rating: ★★★★★

After WWII ends, army nurse Claire Randall vacations in the highlands of Scotland with her husband. While visiting a standing stone in an ancient circle, she is hurled back in time to 1743, where her life becomes intertwined with a young Scots warrior. 


Holy balls there’s a lot of sex. Like, chapters of it! Pages and pages and pages . . . My eyes are so violated and yet, I still loved this book. I hesitated picking it up recently because it’s so thick (that’s what she said) and I wasn’t ready for the commitment of such a hefty series. But I kept hearing about it, especially with the TV series now airing, and I remembered my older cousin recommending this book to me over a decade ago when I was a teen. She wisely told me to hold off until I was older.

I’m so glad I waited. If I hadn’t, I would’ve hated this book. There were just too many adult themes for my younger self to handle. Even now, there are a few things I could’ve done without, such as all the birthing and nursing scenes. Reading about someone milking themselves is not something I’m inclined to enjoy.

Gabaldon skillfully transports us back in time. Not only to 1945, but to 1743 as well. Her descriptions are so vivid that I actually feel like I’m in the Scottish Highlands. As far as I know, the accents are spot on and weren’t horribly difficult to understand (Huck Finn, anyone?). I wish I knew more about that particular area and time in history, but Gabaldon does a great job keeping me in the story without wondering what the heck is going on. The only problem I had were the kilts. I find them unattractive, so I often pictured the men in pants.

And in the case of Jamie Fraser, the young Scotsman, I pictured no pants at all (*roguish grin*). Ah, Jamie . . .  there were times I was very cross with him for being such a bullish man, but he is a product of his environment and I cannot fault him for that. With all that he has to endure, which is shockingly graphic and horrifying in parts, you cannot help but love him.

I’m sorely tempted to begin watching Hulu’s version, but I’d like to get through the entire series before I do. I don’t like picturing the actors while I’m reading the books, and I’m afraid they won’t do justice to the books. I also don’t want to actually see naked people because icky!

Have you read it or watched the adaptation?

 

 

[Book Review] Holding Up the Universe – Jennifer Niven

Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2016
My Rating: ★★★★★

The sudden death of her mother caused Libby Strout to overeat to the point where she could no longer move and had to be cut out of her house. Now she’s lost half the weight and is returning to school for her junior year. Despite the bullies, she plans on having a normal high school experience by joining the dance team and sexing off the rest of her weight.

Jack is the school’s king, but he has a secret. He cannot recognize faces, not even his own family’s. Everyone is a stranger to him. To keep himself from being hurt, he acts aloof and doesn’t let anyone get too close.

When he plays a cruel prank on Libby (and she bloodies his nose), the two are forced into detention together. A budding relationship ensues.


This was freaking adorable. I love Libby. I love Jack. I love Libby and Jack together. They’re both funny and flawed and full of personality. I especially loved Jack’s ten-year-old brother, who is wise beyond his years. He also suffers from bullying because he’s black and most certainly gay. I so badly want to see a sequel starring this kid as a teenager.

Overweight people tend to be seen as less than human in this country, and it amazes me how much one person can hate another for their appearance alone. After being cut out of her house, Libby is sent hate mail. They call her a fat whore and shame her for eating so much while others starve. Yet Libby doesn’t let that stop her. We can all learn from her optimism and confidence. I mean, I could never walk the school’s hallways in a purple bikini, and I’m a good two hundred pounds lighter than her.

This book learned me a few things. First of all, I had no idea that prosopagnosia (face-blindness) existed. It’s frightfully fascinating, but also, I imagine, terrifying. In Jack’s case, nobody has a clue. Not even his family or closest friends. He has to search for identifiers to recognize people. Hair color, skin color, voice. If he gets people mixed up, it leads to bad things, like making out with his girlfriend’s cousin. Brad Pitt also suffers from face-blindness. That must be why we’re not together. He just can’t keep track of me (Kidding! I never had a crush on Pitt. He’s, like, old and I don’t want anyone’s leftovers).

Also, did you know a group of pandas is called an “embarrassment”? Next time my family calls me an embarrassment, I will take it as a compliment. Why yes, thank you, I am cute, cuddly, and furry.

Holding Up the Universe reminds me of Eleanor and Park. It’s sweet, funny and heartbreaking. It may not be set during the rad ’80s, but it’s in a similar vein of fiction. I haven’t read Niven’s acclaimed All the Bright Places, but you can bet it will be arriving on my doorstep soon.

Suggested reading: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Because it’s Libby’s all-time favorite novel, it’s referenced often. I unfortunately haven’t read it, so the references went over my head.

[Book Review] The Sin Eater’s Daughter – Melinda Salisbury

Title: The Sin Eater’s Daughter
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2015
My Rating: ★★★★

Twylla gives up her future as a Sin Eater to become a goddess-embodied. Betrothed to the prince, she carries out her duty as the queen’s executioner for those who commit treason. The very touch of her skin kills. The court, even the prince, avoids her. When a charming new guard arrives, she learns what it is to love. Or something.


Salisbury’s worldbuilding is spot on. The idea of Eating your sins interests me immensely. There are different foods for different sins. For example, Crow for murder and bull’s eye for rape. The Sin Eater, who is always a woman in Twylla’s kingdom, has to accept the food. If she doesn’t, then the deceased cannot be properly put to rest. The Sin Eater is beyond even the queen’s power.

What I don’t understand, and maybe I missed this, is how do you know what foods to set out for the deceased? Some sins are obvious. Others, not so much. What if it’s a secret sin? Do people just somehow know? Or is the person supposed to confess their sins before they die? It was unclear.

Twylla, the main character, doesn’t have as strong a personality as I would like. She shows moments of ruthlessness: She gave up her destiny as a Sin Eater, which she didn’t want, to become a princess. She seems resigned to her role as executioner. She craves power. Yet I didn’t entirely connect with her. She doesn’t actually do a whole lot. For most of the novel, she’s restricted to her room. Anytime she leaves her room, she is accompanied by her escort. I feel like the only thing she really contributes is that she reveals the queen’s plan.

The prince’s plight, on the other hand, tugged at my heartstrings. The poor, lonesome little guy. When you’re surrounded by crazy, inbred family who want to marry you, well, how can you not sympathize? Although he is smart and handsome with dark hair and pale skin (yum, my favorite), I cannot overlook the years of inbreeding that brought him into the world. Therefore, no book boyfriend.

I’ll be honest, the queen scares me. I think women make the best villains. They can be truly terrifying forces, likely because they’re portrayed as being more unpredictable. There’s something about the wicked queen that terrifies me. Wicked kings don’t strike as much fear in me.

I’ve already ordered the second book, so I liked it enough to continue. I’m also excited to switch to a new female protagonist. While I’m not usually a fan of series that change main characters like that, I’m actually looking forward to reading about someone other than Twylla.

Bottom line: Read this for the worldbuilding, not for the character development.

Have you read it?

Receipt Shenanigans, Texans, and The Hate U Give

Last month I ordered some books from Barnes and Noble. After ravaging the box to get to my babies, I normally tear up my receipt. I have no need to return books unless they’re damaged. Thankfully, none of them were, but this is not always the case.

I have an ongoing feud with the mailman. Instead of getting out of his little go kart and placing my packages nicely by the door like a civil freaking human being, he likes to shove them in the mailbox to the point where I can barely get them back out. He knows nothing of this feud. It’s basically just me cursing him until his dying days because he bent the cover of a paperback or smushed the corner of a hardcover.

We’re not animals here, people. Show some goddamn respect for the written word.

But I digress! This time, I took a gander at my receipt, and darned if it wasn’t mine. It was for someone in Texas. Who shipped to another someone in Texas.

They bought two books:

  • The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2017 – Sarah Janssen (editor)

This tells me they are educating themselves. Facts are good, especially with all this rampant FAKE NEWS going around like a incurable strain of flu. Perhaps a big ol’ honkin’ book of facts is a bit silly since one can readily find this information elsewhere. But it’s a start. I applaud them.

  • Adios, America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole – Ann Coulter

This begs some questions. Are they a staunch Trump supporter? Or are they surrounded by Trump supporters, being from Texas and all, and are using this book as a way of blending in with the herd? Perhaps they have their copy–meticulously made to look worn and well-read–on their coffee table. I picture them giving it a slight nudge whenever entertaining Trump supporters and thinking, Looky here, I’m just like you. Please put that big ol’ gun down.

Or is this person a liberal who wants to research opposing views? Who knows?

I shouldn’t joke too much because it’s entirely likely they received my receipt, which has my name and address on it. It also has, to my immense amusement, the title The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. If you don’t know that this is a book influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and has been KILLING it on the New York Time’s Bestseller list, then where have you been?

The idea of a staunch Republican seeing that title gave me a good chuckle. Too bad I didn’t order a book on immigration. Wouldn’t that just stick in their craw.

[Review] Chocolat – Joanne Harris

Title: Chocolat
Author: Joanne Harris
Genre: Fiction/Magical Realism
Published: 2000
My rating: ★★★

The small village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes is shaken by the arrival of Vianne Rocher and her young daughter. The parish priest especially doesn’t take kindly to the opening of her chocolate shop and the influence she has on his flock. 

***

Frankly, I’m miffed. I was prepared to give this novel five stars. I loved the voice, the vivid descriptions, the magical realism. I ate a ton of chocolate while reading (wait, that’s nothing unusual) and looked up nearby chocolatiers I could window shop at because dayum that stuff is expensive.

The rating took a dip when I couldn’t really tell where she was going with the plot. Also, I never had a clear sense of what time period we were in. I immediately assumed early 1900s because the people are so conservative and backwards. It has an old-timey, magical quality to it, perhaps because it’s set in an old French village. But then there are glimpses of satellites and wide screen TVs that flung me out of the novel.

I didn’t like that it was set in modern day, but I was prepared to overlook it. Like I said, the writing exudes a magical charm that I loved.

Then I reached the end.

Now, I’ve never watched the movie adaptation in its entirety. I’ve only seen glimpses of it when I was a kid. I assumed it was a romance. In contrast, the novel didn’t feel like a romance. I’m fine with that. Romance is icky and Chocolat explores so many other issues. Roux, the kind-of love interest plays a smaller part than I had anticipated. He was certainly not Johnny Depp dreamy. BUT *spoiler alert* he and Vianne do have the sex towards the end AND he unknowingly gets her pregnant AND he ends up with another woman.

. . .

Miffed. So miffed.

I feel the sting of betrayal even if Vianne wanted it this way. Call me old-fashioned, but he should at least know he has a kid. He has a right. If he had upped and left like the gypsy he is, I would’ve been fine with it. But he falls for another woman. Vianne knows this and sleeps with him anyway. Then, like the gypsy she is, she decides that she’s ready to move on to another city or country or wherever the hell the wind takes her.

When I was putting the book back on the shelf, I accidentally dropped it. And you know what? I left it where it fell. Maybe that’s a bit spiteful, but by golly, it pissed me off.

It’s so sad when an ending turns you off of the entire book. I mean, I really thought we had something good going.

How My Bullet Journal Curtailed My Book Hoarding

I buy too many books. Far more than I actually read. I have hundreds of dejected and unread books on my shelves. If you’ve read my previous posts on the subject, you’ll know I fail at willpower. However, this past month, I believe I have finally found a solution. Now, before you scoff at me in doubt, hear me out. Yes, I’m a book junkie. But I can be saved.

In early March I jumped on the trend of bullet journals. Mine is very crude and rudimentary. I’m not an artist and I only write nicely when I don’t intend to. So it looks like vomit. Yet none of that matters because it’s incredibly useful.

I’m the type of person who walks into a room and forgets why I’m there. That’s if I even manage to make it to the right room. If I don’t write things down, I forget them. My bullet journal helps me keep track of everything I need. Day to day tasks, upcoming events, shopping lists, wish lists, financial expenses, savings. Most importantly, I track my writing goals, who I’ve queried to and which agents I’ve received rejections from, what books I’ve read, and what books I’ve purchased.

I only allotted four pages for book purchases. I do not want to exceed those pages. If I do, I will hold myself in eternal shame. In January, I bought 22 books. In February, I bought 19. Before I started my journal, I didn’t really get a clear idea of how many I purchased until the end of the month when I took a picture of them and posted it here. It was always a goal to try and outdo the previous month by buying more books.

Now that I physically have to write each book down when I buy them, it really shows how quickly they add up. Also, it shows how ridiculous my book buying habits are when you compare it to the list of books I have read. So far, only 18 this year.

In March, as you can see, I only bought six books. SIX! I haven’t bought so few since I was a poor college student. Granted, four of those books were bought in a moment of weakness, but I think I did rather well. There was a moment when I finished a book in a series and almost ordered the next, but I said, “Nay! I will write it on my wish list and buy it in April.”

And guess what? It’s April and I haven’t bought it yet. I don’t even feel the urge to.

It helps that the next page is my savings tracker. I won’t post a photo because I drew little pictures and it’s exceedingly ugly. I’m trying to save for a down payment on a house, a safety net, and I’m also skimming the top of my checking account each week to put towards a publishing fund if the traditional path doesn’t pan out.

Seeing how much I’m spending on books I won’t read until years later really puts things into perspective.

I will still likely have my moments of weakness when Barnes and Noble has their “buy over $100, get 20% off” deals. I just hope it won’t be every month that I have these relapses.

For further reading, Book Riot recently posted an article on how one reader whittled down their TBR pile by using their bullet journal.

What do you think? Are you a fellow bullet journalist?

[Review] The Gentleman – Forrest Leo

Title: The Gentleman
Author: Forrest Leo
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2016
My Rating: ★★★★★

Lionel Savage, an eccentric poet in Victorian London, finds out from his butler that he’s broke after furnishing his private library with books. He marries a young woman for her money. Six months into this loveless marriage, he realizes his muse has left him and he cannot write anymore. He contemplates suicide until the Devil pays him a rather civil visit and borrows a book. Later, after his wife goes missing, Lionel realizes he inadvertently sold her to the Devil.

Oh Lordy. I have not laughed this much reading a book since forever (or so it feels like). I read the entire thing in one sitting–no small feat for me. The Gentleman is witty and absurd and it smacks you in the face with its voice. It wasn’t the plot that kept me reading, but the distinct cast of characters. It’s like watching a British sitcom (perhaps one starring John Cleese, hmm?) set in Victorian London.

When I cracked open the book, I knew immediately I was in good hands. There were illustrations AND footnotes.

FOOTNOTES.

You can do so much with footnotes. You can tell another story. You can expand ideas, give backstory. You can make snide, passive-aggressive comments. They were cleverly used in The Gentleman. Lionel’s cousin, the “editor” of the book, is a very sensible chap whereas Lionel is a narcissistic poet. The juxtaposition between the two works wonders.

My only gripe is that I wish they had actually journeyed to Hell (or Essex Grove, as the dev’l prefers to call it). But I hear Dante Alighieri does the devil’s gardening, so there’s that. Overall, it was an entirely entertaining story, and I look forward to reading Leo’s other work. If he has any. Which I hope he does. (Did I mention the author is the same age as me and now I feel hugely inadequate?). I would recommend The Gentleman to anyone looking for a good laugh.