Fairy Tale Adaptions then read ‘The Girls at the Kingfisher Club’

With the rise of YA came the rise of fairy tale adaptions, re-emphasizing that there are only so many “original” ideas and everything else is just a rehash of what has already been done. That being said, there have been books I have thoroughly enjoyed out of this trend based solely on a combination of good writing, good story, and inventive/original spin on the stories we know backwards and forwards.

ella mirror cinder east

Cinderella is by far the most popular character to be “re-imagined”, if only because her story allows the most flexibility and does not need magic to work. A lot of authors have take it upon themselves to make fairy tale heroines their own heroes, not allowing a prince to come save them from an evil witch or stepmother. Some even take the side of the villain’s point of view (re: Gregory Maguire’s Wicked or Jon Scieska’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) just to prove that the story we all know is not what really happened.

persephone beauty fables looking

These re-imaginings have gone on to include not just fairy tales but different mythologies and other classics such as The Wizard of OzPeter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, each with varying degrees of success. They have also included “sequels” following whatever happens after Happily Ever After or the fairy tale characters’ children and whether or not they are affected by their parents’ stories.

page peter snow beastly

Depending on your tastes, you can probably find an adaption that suits you. There have dark re-imaginings; feminist re-imaginings; goofy re-imaginings; epic re-imaginings; specific time period re-imaginings; and the list goes on. However, some adaptions/re-imaginings are not as well known as others and I would like to recommend one of my new favorites.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

kingfisherThe Girls at the Kingfisher Club was loaned to me by one of my best friends (with whom I share an affinity for reading) with her highest recommendations. I then proceeded to devour the book in a span of two days. (It would have been one sitting, but I was visiting said friend along with many others at my old college stomping grounds and therefore was required to be social at least for some of the time.)

It is a spin on the Grimm fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. While this story does have its own adaptions (one of them being taken on by no one other than the fashion icon Barbie™ herself), it is not as popular as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White.

In Genevieve Valentine’s version, the story takes place in New York City in the Jazz Age, which is itself a revolution for American dance. The princesses are daughters of a man who keeps them hidden due to his embarrassment at his failure to produce a male heir. The sisters sneak out not just as an act of rebellion but also to expand on their world experiences and liberation from their father’s unjust rule.

The story is mostly told from the point of view of the eldest sister, Josephine, who takes on the role as the General or Commander, protecting her sisters from their father and their own reckless behavior. However, some of her sisters see Jo’s protectiveness as yet another form of oppression. Events begin to spiral out of control as their father becomes aware that his daughters might be disobeying him and it is up to the sisters to resolve their differences in order to save each other from a fate worse than death: marriage to men who share their father’s view on how women should be kept.

The story is short and written with modern language that is reminiscent of a fairy tale. Valentine is not overly verbose in her descriptions but lets the characters’ words and actions speak for themselves. The father is easy to loathe and Josephine’s story is filled with hope and heartbreak. The reader is made to understand why she made the choices that she did (not all likable), even at the cost of her own sisters’ love and adoration.

This book may not be easy to find (most large book sellers such as Barnes and Noble only carry one or two copies at any given time (if at all)) and may require a special order through a bookseller of your choice. The story is also available on Kindle, but the hardcover version is especially lovely (see pictured above).

Happy Reading!

~Nicole

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The Interestings than read A Little Life

Meg Wolitzer’s book The Interestings came out a couple of years ago (and is now available in paperback, which I love. My entire bookcase is paperbacks.) You’ve probably seen the cover. It’s the story of six teenagers (which is really just the story of the main character, Jules) that chronicles their lives from the age of 15, when they meet at a camp for gifted children, to their adulthood. It’s about their loves and losses, their marriages and kids, their relationships.The Interestings

I read The Interestings two summers ago, blowing threw it during all-night babysitting gigs. I remember sitting on the couch, two kids asleep in the bedroom, and five hours later the parents came home. I hadn’t moved. The kids hadn’t moved. The story literally had be riveted in one spot.

This is one of those books that unspools better than the best real-life drama television shows. Nothing on screen can age characters like a book can, take you through their triumphs and downfalls. We can watch as some people get more famous than others, as Jules wonders if she ever did anything right. Was fifteen really the peak of her existence? Did she marry the right man?

I didn’t think I’d find another book like The Interestings. Nothing could possibly come close to its sweeping saga. And yet I kept looking. Finally, in March, in the Goodreads newsletter, I found A Little Life. 

If You Want a Happy Book

Do not read A Little Life. If you want a real book, something that wrenches at your gut and heart, that makes you think and feel. If you want a book that makes you want to write love letters to the main characters, that convinces you that you can, that they are real and alive, then read Hanya Yanagihara’s quiet epic.

51kuUoWRHNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Again, this is the story of friends, four instead of six, but it really focuses in on one of them. Jude meets his group in college, and they are all on their own paths. JB wants to paint. Willem wants to act. Malcolm wants to build great arching towers like the models he constructs so carefully. And Jude wants to live, and maybe, one day, be happy.

It’s a story of abuse. Terrible, horrific abuse that unfolds slowly in the backstory, that affects everything Jude encounters. It’s a story about drugs, and bad relationships. It’s a story about how the friends you think you’ll know forever drift apart.

But it’s also a story about growing up–the book follows these men from their early twenties to old age, to death. And it’s about true love. Finding your passion. Becoming famous. Becoming rich. Getting back together with old friends you’ve grown apart from.

This is perhaps the best book I’ve ever read in my life. Like The Interestings, it is long, seven hundred dense pages long, but it is one of the most rewarding reading experiences I’ve ever had.

If you like truthful stories, realistic triumphs, then try to track down a copy of A Little Life.

Unfortunately, There’s A Problem

I don’t know why, but whenever I really love a book, I look for it in a bookstore. Even if I already own it. The Interestings should be all over your local library and/or bookstore. It’s even out in paperback now, so you’ve got a week or more worth of reading for fifteen bucks.

But A Little Life is nowhere to be found. Outside of reading it on your e-reader, like me (I have a Nook, it’s amazing, super useful if you want to carry some of your library with you in college) or ordering it from an online retailer, it’s pretty difficult to find. Maybe because its themes are so dark? Maybe because it’s so dense? Maybe because its cover is real and stark and a bit off-putting? I don’t know why some books are easy to find and others aren’t, but A Little Life is in the latter category. 

Fortunately, once you get your hands on the copy, it’s way easier to share than a digital movie. No need to authorize a computer, or have good wi-fi strength. Just a simple in-person interaction, the same thing both these books are based off of.

UPDATE: as of March 2016 I know see A Little Life absolutely everywhere (yay!!) and it recently came out in paperback.

Harry Potter Fanfiction then read Fangirl

I started writing Harry Potter fanfiction when I was twelve. It was a revelation for me. All of the sudden, I went from wanting to read books for a living to wanting to write them. The internet was a supportive place, and even at twelve people told me to keep writing. So I did.

Nine years later, yes, I do still write fanfiction. It’s a form of stress relief. As of this post, I’ve written about a hundred fanfics on fanfiction.net. Fanfiction breeds these really powerful online fandom communities. There’s particular active fans–the tv shows Supernatural and Sherlock have a rabid base. But almost all of these are young- or new-adults who grew up with Harry Potter. The Harry Potter series had the good fortune of coming out at about the same time everyone was getting a computer in their home.

Rainbow Rowell, author of Fangirl, recognizes that fan love often spawns creativity. Fan art has been made for tons of television shows, movies, and books. Fanfiction has been written for video games, comic strips. And Fangirl draws on this perfectly, utilizing everything from the terminology (fandom, fic, ship, slash) to a fictional series that resembles Harry Potter.

There Won’t Be a Child in Our World

Harry/Draco fanart. I do not recommend searching for this pair in Google images
Harry/Draco fanart. I do not recommend searching for this pair in Google images

 

Fangirl’s front story is about Cather and Wren Avery, twins who are starting their Freshman year of college. Wren is determined to reinvent herself, and that means everything from hanging out with a different crowd to not rooming with her sister to letting their co-written, extremely popular Simon Snow fanfiction “Carry On” fall entirely to Cather.

Cather is not as ready to leave her past behind. She’s determined to finish “Carry On” before the last Simon Snow book comes out at the end of the school year, and spends a lot of time in the world of the books, where the characters are as familiar as friends and the old story is comforting in the face of parental and boy difficulties.

But you can’t hide in fiction forever, which Cather realizes when her favorite teacher accuses her of plagiarism when she hands in a piece of Simon Snow fanfiction as a creative writing assignment. And her roommate constantly having a cute guy over isn’t helping Cather concentrate on ending the story she’s been working on for years.

 

Who Doesn’t Know His Name

Simon and Baz art.
Simon and Baz art.

And then there’s the fanfiction. Fangirl includes large portions of the story Cather is writing, her own ending to the Simon Snow series (Simon goes to a wizarding school, has to save the world from a dark force, has enemies within the school, sound familiar?) Her story revolves around Simon (think Harry Potter) and Baz (think Draco Malfoy) as they go from being mortal enemies to friends to…something more.

While, of course, there’s very little Simon Snow worldbuilding (because it’s fanfiction) the Simon/Baz parts are almost a more interesting love story than Cather and Levi. Because their love is so familiar (Harry and Draco are a popular fanfiction couple. Don’t ask me why, I don’t get it either) and because it’s so easy. They’re the only ones in their world, whereas in Cather’s life she’s confused between the attentions of several different boys, including an ex who sends her strange sporadic messages.

The best parts of Fangirl are the parts that are familiar. A girl struggling to fit into college her Freshman year. Someone who holes up in her room to write fiction for an anonymous internet audience–and feeling like bailing on the story would be doing your audience an injustice. Boy trouble that is not melodramatic but slow-building and believable.

You should read this if you’ve ever read or loved Harry Potter fanfiction, of course, but also if you’re a fanfiction writer for any category, or big into fandoms on Tumblr, or if you’ve ever gotten to college and realized that you may not be cool enough for this new life.

(Also, I got my copy of Fangirl signed by Rainbow Rowell, the author, and she was funny and pleasant and all around a kind person. Which I think is important information.)

 

The Crucible then read Salem Falls

This is a weird crossover one that I can’t imagine a lot of people out of high school remembering. If your school was anything like mine, though, then you had to read Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, which was mostly about the Salem witch trials and kind of about the McCarthy psuedo-witch hunt within politics. It’s an interesting play, and, at least for me, it was the first play I’d read (not seen) that wasn’t Shakespeare. I loved it a lot for that.the-crucible-nooses-hand

For the point of this comparison, you only really need to know about Abigail, the ridiculous young woman you grow to absolutely hate over the course of the play. Abigail is upset that John Proctor, the sweetest guy alive, won’t take her as his mistress and so makes up a whole host of vile rumors about everyone in town, including Proctor’s wife.

(This play is great to read in high school because the manipulation and rumor-mongering that goes on in the lives of teenagers)

Like any historical play, we all know how this is going to end. Nineteen women were burned at the stake. One man was “pressed” to death, which is exactly how it sounds and involves large rocks on the chest. Salem went down in history for having the most ridiculous trials and actually burning people to death for being witches.

Jodi Picoult’s book Salem Falls is a modern retelling of the story. I love theater with all my heart, but if I’m going to read something I want it to be a book, and if I’m reading a book about Salem I want it to be accessible. Salem Falls does all of that.

Let He Without Sin

Salem Falls was made into a TV movie in 2011
Salem Falls was made into a TV movie in 2011

Salem Falls, like most of Picoult’s books, has multiple point-of-view characters and revolves around a court case. For this book, Jack St. Bride is playing our Proctor, and Gillian Duncan is Abigail. Jack, a teacher newly released from prison after being accused of sexual advances on a student, tries to make a new life in the town of Salem Falls. (I think his first problem is trying to start over in a town named Salem) There, he runs into Gillian, who develops a thing for the strange new ex-prisoner and makes up outrageous lies that people believe. Thus our trial.

I read Salem Falls before I read The Crucible, so while reading the Miller play in class I was seeing all the similarities between the two and was impressed. It’s probably supposed to work in reverse, and if you have even the vaguest recollection of The Crucible, the parallelism will do its job and you’ll doubly enjoy the story.

But even if you never read the play, there’s a lot in the story to like. Who doesn’t like ex-cons who’ve been framed — twice? Or spoiled teenage girls who are used to getting everything and in the end get just what they deserve?

Salem Falls also features Jordan McAffe, a recurring character in Picoult books (he also appeared in The Pact and Nineteen MinutesSalem Falls takes place between the two.) McAffe is a lawyer called in to defend Jack from Gillian’s new accusations, and so becomes a pariah too. I feel like I need to tell you about him because characters that reoccur over multiple books are my favorite ever. It’s why Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is so enjoyable.

Basically f you like multiple points of view on a single incident, Salem Falls (and most Jodi Picoult books) is for you.

Cast the First Stone

There’s a malicious side to this story. Scapegoats and fires and witchcraft. I’m assuming that most readers are broad-minded

The Crucible was made into a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis in 1999
The Crucible was made into a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis in 1999

individuals (it’s like in Series of Unfortunate Event, when one character trusts another just a little bit more because he’s well-read.) I’m assuming that just because this isn’t fantasy I don’t have to put disclaimers on it. There’s witchcraft here. Don’t try to ban these books from libraries. That’s not cool.

Picoult’s books are sappy. They’re all driven by rather insane plots (school shooting and rape and suicide pacts, oh my!) but the best part is the backstory that gets woven into the character. Like Jack, our poor John Proctor, who happens to be a wiz at Jeopardy! a skill that really helped him out in prison. Or the woman who owns a diner and the story about her little girl.

If you’re someone who liked the plot of The Crucible and gobbles up interesting characters, Salem Falls is your book. If you’re someone who’s always been fascinated by the idea of a witch-hunt (literal or not) Salem Falls is for you.

As a bonus, most Jodi Picoult books are easy enough to find. Local libraries usually carry a copy or two. And it’s completely free. I never understand avid readers who don’t utilize their local libraries. There’s treasure buried in there, I guarantee it.

 

Lord of the Rings then read The Kingkiller Chronicles

I’m pretty sure Lord of the Rings is always just used as a metaphor for high fantasy. That’s what I’m using it as here, anyway.

After three epic movies, not counting The Hobbit, I’m not going to sit here and explain the plot of Tolkien to everyone. What I’m

LotR was made into three movies in the early 2000s
LotR was made into three movies in the early 2000s

focusing on here is worldbuilding, and the ridiculous extent to which Tolkien does it. Not only is there three LotR books, and The Hobbit, but there’s The Book of Lost Tales volume one to a billion. All of these just serve to create the world of Middle Earth to the point where you know more about the War of the Ring than you do about the Revolutionary War.

There’s languages and religions. There’s races. There’s maps. I’m such a sucker for maps. Give me a fantasy map with a map on the inside cover and I’ll love you forever.

As far as worldbuilding goes, Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles have it down pat. You completely believe this world that you’re dropped in without warning. But the best part of the story is not the maps (it has maps) or the languages or the poems (all good fantasy books have poems.) It’s the characters. Unlike the ridiculously descriptive prose of Lord of the Rings, Kvothe’s story is told in first-person. It’s told from the point-of-view of a teenager. And it has some of the most endearing fantasy characters I’ve found in a long time.

So if you’re looking for a high fantasy tale that lets you lose yourself, you’ve come to the right place. Just keep in mind it’s going to be a long ride. The first book is over 700 pages, the second is nearly 1000.

Plot Points

51qxhokqlwlIt’s hard to sum these books up in a couple of sentences. It starts off as a frame story with an innkeeper who’s a little more than an innkeeper. The world is dark and dangerous. Demons are closing in while a war rages somewhere far and away. For reasons, the a scribe stumbles upon the inn and realizes that the slow and sedate innkeeper is actually this man who has a reputation of epic proportions. The innkeeper, Kvothe, agrees to tell his tale. It will take three days (hence three books.) It will be told his way.

That’s when we launch into the first-person perspective of a teenager. In the first couple hundred pages, there’s death and demons. There’s magic, a fabled place called the University with thousands of books. There’s a wise old man and then there isn’t one. There’s hunger and cold and despair and music. Lots of music.

Eventually our young Kvothe finds his way to the University, completely penniless. The back cover of the first book had a review that compared these books to Harry Potter. I guess if you mean the main character attends a school of magic, then the comparison is correct. But it’s not a school for young children. It’s gritty and mean and occasionally cruel. Kvothe makes an enemy who eventually tries very hard to kill him. He also meets two best friends, a crazy teacher of Naming (the first book is called The Name of the Wind) and a girl who gives him the key to the moon.

There’s also a quest for the thing that killed his parents (spoiler but not really. All good heroes are orphans.) There’s a quest for the name of the wind. There’s a quest to get to the school in the first place. And that’s all in the first book.

Characters Welcome

Like I said though, the reason to read these books is the characters. Kvothe is an arrogant ass who’s so brilliant you almost forgive his 51VQ+Kxb8JL._SL500_AA300_arrogance. He meets friends at school, Simmon, who is the nicest guy alive, and Wilem, who laughs at Kvothe and deflates his head a little bit. There’s Bast, who exists in the “present” frame story and is a fey or a fawn. There’s Auri, who speaks in riddles and lives under the school. But unlike Lord of the Rings, you are never overwhelmed with proper nouns that you can’t make sense of. The book is long for a reason. You’re introduced to everything a bit at a time.

I read both these books in three weeks of frantic reading. They’re so good I contemplated skipping class. They’re so good I made sure all my friends had a copy to read.

Any lover of high fantasy, any lover of a good story with some magic and demons thrown in, should be falling in love with these books. I can’t recommend them enough, especially as a device to drive away the winter blues.

Fair warning though: the third book isn’t out yet and has no release date (Goodreads says 2025 but I’m inclined to not believe that.) You should read it anyway.

Hunger Games then read Fire

Yes, okay, I know I already made a suggestion for Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, but I figure a lot of people read the book and want something to read after, so here’s another (completely different) suggestion. No, Fire by Kristin Cashore is not dystopian. It’s one of those kings-and-castles books set in a vague medieval-ish time on a different world. But Fire is very much like the world we live in, except they have monsters.

Fire, of the novel Fire
Fire, of the novel Fire

Let’s back up, though. What exactly are the reasons The Hunger Games is so appealing? It should be appalling. The idea of children being forced to kill one and other should not generate interest or support. Yet we like it because we like Katniss, we like Peeta, we want them to win.

I have a pet theory that books are about characters and books that are not about characters are much, much, much harder to get into. Just like tv shows. If you don’t have a favorite character you care enough about to tune in every week, you’re going to drop the show. But if there’s even one person you like…well, that’s what makes even Glee get picked up for a fifth season.

So this recommendation, unlike Stephen King’s The Long Walk, isn’t about the setting or the plot. There’s no dystopia in fire, no strange competition to be taken part in. But if you boil everything down, the characters that made you want to keep reading The Hunger Games are all present and accounted for.

Archer vs. Archer

Why are we so fascinated by bows-and-arrows? From Robin Hood to Legolas to Hawkeye in Avengers, everyone seems to need their own archer in order to be a legitamate team. The Hunger Games had Katniss. Fire  actually has a character named Archer, he’s that good with a bow. And our protagonist, Fire, isn’t too shabby either, though she prefers to save her plucking for the violin.

Katniss's bow skills
Katniss’s bow skills

But that’s what you get in Fire. Fire is not Katniss. She’s no one’s idea of a badass. She’s a monster, which here means someone born incredibly beautiful and incredibly deadly. She can read minds, influence thoughts, and she hates it. Her father, also a monster, was the badass in the family, and he drove the kingdom to ruin.

Even though Fire isn’t angsty Katniss, she has her own…well…fire. Archer, her childhood friend and sometimes-lover, is getting more and more jealous by the day, and asks for Fire’s hand in marriage weekly. But she doesn’t chose her friend, who she does love, and the life she knows int he secluded mountains. Even though Fire is afraid of becoming her father, she shows her own badass-ness when she agrees to go to the heart of the kingdom to help the royal family stay the royal family.

So the main similarity here is the strong female protagonist. And where Katniss is so frickin strong that you kind of want her to shut up about it all ready, Fire has a quiet inner strength that makes her impossible not to like. And I hate female characters, as a rule.

But Wait! There’s More!

Your favorite character in The Hunger Games (that reason you tuned in every week) might have been Katniss, but Peeta and Gale and Fire-Novel-199x300Prim and Finnick were all great too. Personally, I loved Haymitch. Fire has those great side characters, too. There’s Archer, the jealous but good-hearted childhood friend. There’s Brigan, the dark, intelligent, loyal prince. There’s Nash, the king who can’t stop himself from falling in love with Fire over and over again. There’s the royal twins and Fire’s two father’s and a kingdom of intrigue. Basically, if you’re here for the great relationships, you won’t be disappointed.

And did I mention the writing? I don’t usually notice prose, especially in a YA-fantasy book. But every time I real Fire I’m impressed by the quality of writing, which is sad without being melodramatic and beautiful without detracting from the plot.

Here’s the last thing I have to say about this book: I’ve bought it for my two best friends for their birthdays, because if I give it to them they’ll usually read it, and I want the whole world to read this book so we can all talk about it together.

Life of Pi then read Beatrice and Virgil

This one is kind of cheating, since both Life of Pi and Beatrice and Virgil are by Yann Martel, yet somehow Beatrice and Virgil never gets the attention it truly deserves.

Life of Pi was made into a movie in 2012 and is currently in theaters.
Life of Pi was made into a movie in 2012 and is currently in theaters.

I know that Life of Pi is a movie now, and is supposed to be pretty good. I just can’t see how so much magical realism can effectively take place on screen without losing the integrity of the story. I’ll probably see the film eventually, but a movie coming out always makes sales of the book go up (which is a good thing. Reading, no matter what the reason, is always a good thing) and if you find yourself really enjoying the book — or the movie, I guess — you should know what to read after you put this volume down.

Like I said, I know this is kind of cheating. But how many people would seriously peruse the shelves for a little-known book by the same author? Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with this, like reading Deperation after finishing The Stand. Maybe you just don’t want to take the time to read a book that wasn’t a New York Times Best Seller and win about a million awards. I’m here to tell you to take the time. It’s well worth it.

A Tiger versus a Donkey and a Monkey

Life of Pi, in case you haven’t seen the movie or read the (brilliant) book, is about a boy who is moving from India to North American with his family and his family’s zoo (his family literally owns a zoo.) The ship they’re on capsizes and Pi, the protagonist, is the only human survivor. He spends the remainder of his trip on a tiny lifeboat with a tiger named Richard Parker.

Beatrice_player_4It’s a great story. Tragedy and grief and religion and animals and a little bit of magic mixed all together into a kind of Old Man and the Sea vibe. It’s a very powerful book.

In my opinion, Beatrice and Virgil blows Pi out of the water. Titled, not after Dante’s guides through Heaven and Hell but for a taxidermied Donkey and her monkey companion (intrigued yet?) Beatrice and Virgil never comes right out and says what it’s all about.

At the beginning, all we know is that the narrator is an author who released a best-seller and tries to get a second book published, a flip book about the Holocaust. When the idea is rejected by publishers as a gimick, the narrator and his wife move to a new city and set up shop. She goes to work and gives birth to their son. He joins an acting troupe and spends his free time answering letters from fans around the world.

One day, the narrator receives a letter from within his own city, a part of a script about the animal characters Beatrice and Virgil, just talking. He decides to deliver his reply in person and meets the writer of the letter, an old and very strange taxidermist who he quickly becomes fascinated by. But the taxidermist is a reclusive, slightly menacing character, and why does this story about Beatrice and Virgil remind the author so much of his unpublished flip book?

An Example of an Excellent Ending

You will not be prepared for the ending of Beatrice and Virgil. I did not see it coming, but I’m notorious in my family for not being able to guess the whodunit in Scooby-Doo. It is a great twist, heartbreaking and terrible and morbidly fascinating all at once. Two directives for those of you intrigued enough to go out an read Beatrice and Virgil: Read “Games for Gustav” because they will shatter you. Read the author’s bio on the back dust jacket AFTER you finish the book if you want chills.beatrice-and-virgil

(i know, i ruined it. it’s what i call “Big Red Button Syndrom.” if no one ever alerted you to the presence of the Big Red Button by telling you not to push it, you never would have even thought about pushing the Big Red Button. but because someone mentioned it, all you can think about is how much you’d like to push that stupid Red Button. don’t read the author bio until after you read the book. i didn’t and i got goosebumps.)

And Yann Martel is an excellent example of an author who, if you like one book, you will almost certainly enjoy his entire body of work. The collection of short stories in The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, especially the title story about a boy and his room mate the the game they make up as the room mate dies of AIDS, are beautiful and powerful.