June 2016 – Book Review


The “Just Because” Philosophy.

This is a fun, insightful little book. Benjamin Hoff posits that our favorite little bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, is the quintessential Taoist. He may be a Bear of Very Little Brain, but he’s also the perfect example of the best way to live your life.

Winnie-the-Pooh lives in the present. He isn’t bogged down with Cleverness or Knowledge, but rather Kindness and Love. He lives day-by-day. And, while he’s a flawed bear, he uses what he has to his advantage. Pooh is happy and does things “just because.” He celebrates a Thursday “just because” he can. He takes each day as a day to live.

Hoff’s writing is very clever. Between his small “lectures” (though, they really aren’t) on the history and ways of Taoism, he inserts parts of the original Milne stories to illustrate his points, as well as adding in fun sections where he interacts with the Hundred Acre Wood gang. I knew very little about Taoism, practically nothing, before I read The Tao of Pooh, and Hoff does a swell job of giving us the fundamentals of this Eastern belief system by relating it all to a very well-known Western set of characters and stories. This was a joy to read, and it got me thinking of how I can “walk lightly,” live a more “just because” life, and better interact with the rest of humanity. 4/5


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists is an essay that touches on several interlinking subjects all relating to feminism. She discusses the current climate of gender inequality; the separate expectations of men and women given the social and cultural sphere in which we’ve been brought up; the unfair shame women hold because it’s been continuously engraved in their minds since birth; the detrimental effects society has on boys, who then grow up to be men that cannot recognize their fragile egos; and the degradation of both genders due to societal norms.

Gender, like race, is a social construct. It’s easier for people to classify others, into the smallest number of groups, based off of unchosen characteristics. We see this in psychology and literature all of the time; we don’t like dissonance, something that doesn’t fit into our categories, or the abject, something monstrous or taboo that we are equally fascinated and repulsed by. By reducing people into two groups and shunning those who don’t snuggly fit in, we become a lesser culture populated by lesser people. And in the recognition of a false superiority of one gender over the other is cruel, shameful, and should be disposed of. The concept of gender has plagued us, all of us, and has devalued our society. Equality, to some, seems almost like a foreign concept; I don’t think some people realize that we can and should improve ourselves for the betterment of the world after we’re gone.

I think some people, and it’s mostly men, are turned off by the word feminist. They believe that one must be feminine to be a feminist. That’s just absurd malarkey. It’s just not true, and an easy cop-out to dismiss a serious problem. Us feminists won’t hurt your pride. We cannot improve unless every single one of us recognizes the inequality between genders. Adichie writes: “The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.” Let’s let go of our gender expectation and pave the way for a brighter future. 4/5


This is a puzzling collection of short stories. Diane Williams’ Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine assembles 40 short stories–and some of them are very short. Like, 50 words short. Many of the stories seem like they’ve been cobbled together from disparate notes and passages Williams jotted down once upon a time; they just don’t make sense to me and are almost instantaneously forgettable. I actually did like about a dozen or so of the stories, including that very short one, but most of this book just falls apart for me. I hoped that I would like it, as I’ve barely read any flash fiction before, but I just wasn’t feeling this collection. Perhaps I didn’t “get it,” but, in looking at the other reviews on Goodreads, it looks like I’m not the only one. Hey, at least the cover is awesome. I’d get a poster of that and hang it on my wall. Too bad that’s the best part of this collection. 2/5


Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s melodramatic, cloyingly sugar-sweet, and rather sappy. Even though the novel isn’t a romance, it does try to tear at your emotions–though, it doesn’t succeed for this fella. Instead, it comes off as annoying. (I swear, Louisa Clark cries every few pages. I understand the situation Louisa is in, but maybe I’m just too heartless to be suckered in.) And, speaking of Louisa, her personality is grating. Besides how emotional she is, I cannot understand how she figured her rebound job, with a definite end-date, would end as a prince-finding fairytale with dollops of sunshine and unicorn-ending rainbows. Louisa declares that she’s not as smart as her sister, and it’s clear that she is not.

Nothing in the story comes as a surprise, either; everything’s laid out from the get-go. While I don’t mind an unchallenging book once in a while, I was hoping for some more substance than what’s offered. That’s the book’s biggest weakness for me, and I’m perplexed as to why Me Before You is so beloved. As unsurprising as everything is, Moyes’ writing is at least easy to read and well-flowing. There were no problems at all with reading. Plus, I do like the conversation Moyes’ brings up with assisted-suicide. That’s the novel’s biggest strength for me. It’s a controversial topic, and Moyes does well with illustrating both sides of the argument.

I liked Me Before You, but it’s not the special snowflake most people believe it to be. 3/5


I’ve seen the film version of Isherwood’s A Single Man a few times before and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I knew I wanted to read the novel sooner or later. I finally got around to it.

Isherwood’s novel is slim–it’s under 200 pages–but I don’t feel like anything was rushed or only partially created; it’s a full experience. The story follows a day in the life of George Falconer after the loss of his partner, Jim. We go through his routine, of how he wakes up, how he teaches his classes, how he winds down, how he torments himself, how he tries to live again after such a debilitating loss.

George is a prime example of an outsider, but he is universally relatable. And that’ all because of Isherwood’s fantastic writing. The prose is specific, pointed, and very easy to read. There’s a sense of sadness on every page, but there are also moments of happiness and black comedy. There’s sincerity throughout. Isherwood easily manipulates us and his words tug at your heartstrings. A Single Man was my 26th book this year, and it’s certainly one of the best I’ve read in 2016. 4.5/5

May 2016 – Book Review


I love Tina Fey. I love what she did on SNL and with my beloved 30 Rock, and so I was pretty excited to read Bossypants. Unfortunately, I feel like much of it falls flat. I did greatly enjoy the (luckily) significant portions that focus on SNL and 30 Rock, but the rest of it lacked the genius writing she so obviously possesses. Perhaps I was expecting more, especially since I loved Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I do think I would’ve enjoyed Bossypants more if I listened to it on audiobook, which is something that I’ve never done (so I’m surprised I even mentioned it). I could read her humor just fine, but having Fey read her story for me aloud would probably work better. 3/5


I try to give every book I read a chance, to make sure that there really is something worthwhile. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with Emma Straub’s The Vacationers. Straub’s novel focuses on the Post family–Jim, Franny, Bobby, and Sylvia–Bobby’s girlfriend, Carmen; Franny’s best friend, Charles; and Charles’ husband, Lawrence, on their trip to Mallorca. The story is pretty slim, even for an obvious beach read. Not much happens in the first half of the novel, and when something does happen in the second half, it’s the same problem that’s been referenced before with all of the other characters’ relationships.

In one of my Goodreads updates, I said that I didn’t mind character studies. I’m not sure if the novel even qualifies as such, as each character reacts similarly to the same obstacle they all run into. That being said, Straub can write well. Her writing style is easy-breezy to read; each sentence flows swimmingly into the next. While The Vacationers is short on story, at least it isn’t entirely unpleasant to read. I’m still looking forward to Straub’s next novel, Modern Lovers; hopefully there’ll be a bit more complexity with the characters and story. 2/5


I loved every single bit of this novel. Station Eleven is almost like a perfect episode of Lost.

Emily St. John Mandel’s novel focuses on several characters who all have some sort of relationship with famed actor Arthur Leander, and experience his sudden death, both near and afar, during a performance of King Lear. Just as Leander perishes, there’s an unexpected pandemic of the Georgia Flu and the world’s inhabitants–roughly 99%–die as well. Along the American-Canadian border, some of the survivors of this pandemic, including Kirsten Raymonde, Jeevan Chaudhary, Clark Thompson, Miranda Carroll, and Tyler Leander, among others, must traverse what’s left of this wasteland in order to survive.

Twenty years after the collapse, Kirsten Raymonde belongs to the Travelling Symphony, which is comprised of actors and musicians who travel caravan-style around the Great Lakes to perform Shakespeare and musical classics. Raymonde was in the the production of King Lear and witnessed Arthur Leander’s death up-close. Jeevan Chaudhary leaped toward the stage to help resuscitate Arthur. Clark Thompson was Arthur’s best friend whom he met as a teenager, both struggling to become famous actors. Miranda Carroll was Arthur’s first wife, and created a two volume comic book entitled Station Eleven, copies of which, after receiving them as gifts from Arthur, Raymonde holds dear. And, Tyler Leander–well, I’ll keep him a secret.

The writing is brilliant; Mandel expertly intertwined several storylines and makes connections between the disparate characters, all across decades before, during, and after Arthur Leander’s death and the onset of the Georgia Flu. This is what I mean when I compare the novel to Lost, with all of its intersecting characters and storylines with flashbacks and flashfowards.

I love this book. I really do. I even added it to my favorites shelf before I finished reading it. It even comes close to my most recent book-love, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which I read at the end of last year. Try Station Eleven. You won’t be disappointed. 5/5


Ramona Ausubel’s Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, which streets on June 16th (I was able to obtain a digital ARC through Penguin’s First to Read program), is an entertaining literary read. The story focuses on Fern and Edgar Keating, their parents, their children, and the unraveling effects all parties endure after their financial floor suddenly vanishes beneath them.

Many may dislike Fern and Edgar, and I can see why. But I wonder whether or not we would act the same if something so comforting–and, let’s be honest here, money is a comforting object, whether or not we believe in just how good or bad it is–were to be swept away so suddenly. Fern and Edgar, like their money, vanish into their own stories, leaving their children alone for a week. The children–Cricket, James, and Will–seem content with their parent-free lives; worry only settles in toward the end of the week, but then Edgar comes home. Fern travels with a giant, Mac, to recover his son. Edgar sails away with his lover. Both discover their terrible mistakes and return to the safety and comfort of their home. While they’re still penniless, a new familial, rather than financial, comfort blossoms.

This story crosses many generations and several decades. Themes of family, self-worth, love, friendship, heartache, death, loss, and realization all play major parts here. Ausubel’s writing is descriptive and inviting; I wanted to continue reading her words. I’ll definitely have to check out Ausubel’s other novels. 4/5

April 2016 – Book Review


Karan Bajaj’s The Yoga of Max’s Discontent was apparently well-received in India, and, upon its upcoming release in English, I can see why. Bajaj’s characterization of his main character, Max, is vivid and realistic, at least for the most part. Max, completely distraught by his mother’s death, desires more out of life, or at least a better understanding of how to live and what to believe. So, he journey’s to India to find a guru and practice yoga, to rid himself of his discontent. I generally enjoyed reading Max’s exploration of life.

There were two things that I did dislike though: one is minor and the other major. Bajaj does seem to jump pretty suddenly between different settings, both geographical and chronological. He very suddenly leaves New York and finds himself, somehow completely comfortable, in India. Max, after several chapters and just a few months spent at an ashram, has then suddenly spent three years of his life there. The pacing just seems a bit off. The other, bigger problem I have is Max’s blatant disregard for his physical health. I understand that, in his yoga practice, his mental prowess and his ability to remain calm and completely focused on his path to transcendence is the central goal, but you can’t really transcend if your body withers away. This dissonance may just be because I’m not overly familiar with this practice, but I just can’t get over that.

Even with these two problems, I did really like this novel. It’s a relatively fast and easy read, and it does make you think about your place in this world and your spiritual life, I guess. I’m usually not one to read books that discuss the best way to live your life, how to take care of yourself spiritually, and all that, but I did enjoy Bajaj’s novel. I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as a religious novel, but rather a spiritual one. 3.5/5

Everything But The House - Sample

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) has given us an entertaining, fast, and fun read with The Cuckoo’s Calling. This novel, the first in the undeniably cool-sounding Cormoran Strike series, tracks the apparent suicide of supermodel Lula Landry. Former military and current private eye Cormoran Strike, along with the help of temporary secretary Robin, interviews a series of individuals associated with Landry–fellow tenants, friends, family members, employers, etc.–and discovers that her suicide may in fact be a murder. While the result of Strike’s investigation isn’t necessarily all that creative–I may have figured it out rather early on–the writing is so inviting and easy to read that I wanted to see where the story went and how Strike would solve this crime.

I don’t read too many mysteries, so the only other novel I can really compare it to is Hammett’s The Thin Man, which I read in March. Hammett’s novel is certainly more complicated, and you can easily lose track if you don’t pay attention. That’s not really the case with The Cuckoo’s Calling, but that’s okay; I have no qualms with that. In fact, the only qualm I do have–and it’s quite minor–is that, for a mystery novel, it seems light on action. The climax of the story, of course, has some action, but the bulk of what’s here consists of interviews. I’m hoping there’s a bit more action in The Silkworm. Overall, though, this was an immensely readable and fun story, and I’m excited to see where Galbraith takes us next. 4/5

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

I don’t freely hand out five stars to books; they must truly astonish me and impact me in ways which can only be described as profound. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me is such a book–“required reading” as the great Toni Morrison states. I find it hard to review this book, to eloquently put it into words. This is a letter to Samori, Coates’ son, and this letter delves into the author’s existence as an American with a black body, a body that must continuously struggle. Coates details his experiences with his family, attending Howard University, meeting his wife, losing friends, and feeling the chains that are still present in the current American culture.

It’s no wonder why Between the World and Me won the National Book Award. For it’s timeliness and effectiveness, this is something that I think should be read by as many people as possible. It’s importance is something that will only grow in time. 5/5

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

I wonder what compels us to read so much World War II literature. Are we still so fascinated by a not-so-distant past, where such monstrosities occurred, that we see this literature as both unfortunately possible and yet so indescribably irresistible? Are we able to willingly be dazzled by such atrocities? Are we able to see past the terror when reading through the veil of a book, especially if it’s a work of fiction? Do such manifestations make these events–real or fiction–more digestible, more palatable, more welcoming? Do they give us a better, clearer understanding of the past? What if the author wasn’t present? I’d say yes to all of these.

On it’s tenth anniversary of publication, I finally got around to reading The Book Thief. I’m not sure where I was, or why I’m so late to the party, but I did finally read it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I knew relatively little about the novel–only that it was set during World War II in Germany and that there’s a not-so-impressive movie adaptation. (Though, I still do want to see it.) Liesel Meminger has had a rough life. The war has begun and she’s already lost a number of things she holds dear. However, when she rescues a book–well, she steals it–she finds a new journey to begin. A number of obstacles come her way, but Liesel persists and continues her book thievery to survive. Not everyone can survive, however. Even though there are such glints of happiness, ultimately that cannot be the norm for Liesel.

Zusak’s writing is generally easy to read, and there’s a nice ebb and flow to the story. The characters are defined well. My biggest complaint that I have is the narrator, Death. He’s kind of annoying and reveals too much information. He gives up the ending a number of times. Yes, I understand that this is a YA novel, but I think we can read between the lines. We don’t need to be spoon-fed here.

I studied abroad in Germany in 2013. My courses focused on literature with themes of authority: being suppressed by it, abused by it, overcoming it, and dealing with its circumstances. I read such works as 1984White NoiseSlaughterhouse-FiveNever Let Me GoOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and others. And I’m curious, after having read The Book Thief, why we never read it. Perhaps it was too juvenile. Perhaps Liesel’s acts of book thievery were too subtle, too small, to be considered rebellious. I don’t know exactly. But, I am glad I finally got around to reading Zusak’s novel.

While in Germany, I did visit the Buchenwald concentration camp. It was completely snowed-out; you could barely see five feet in front of you. I distinctly remember a large group of elementary school children laughing, playing, loudly calling to each other. Everyone in my group was completely silent, and I was unable to understand why these children were acting the way they were. Perhaps they were just children and didn’t understand, but I don’t think that’s true. I feel like it shouldn’t be, anyway. To this day, there’s still some dissonance there: a group of children laughing and playing on the grounds of such torture and death.

I think I have a different mindset when I do read World War II literature and non-fiction books. It’s one thing to read about these experiences from afar; and, yes, this novel can be and should be read by as many people as possible, as it’s an important book. However, once you’re there, in the midst, with history facing you from all sides, it’s difficult to not be changed and read subsequent works in a different light. The horror that is somewhat-lightly touched upon–or, perhaps, not so gruesomely detailed–was in the back of my mind throughout my reading. 4.5/5

March 2016 – Book Review


What a lovely book. This is my second time reading through Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, and I’m still struck at the simplistic, straightforward nature of it all. Once again, Murakami transformed himself from the wacky (A Wild Sheep Chase) and bizarre (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World) into a deeply meditative, personal, truthful story about loss, love, and growing-up. It’s a shame that, upon its initial release and worldwide praise, Murakami was unresponsive to all of the attention the novel received. I guess I can understand why he didn’t initially want to be remembered for this simple (yet stirring) love story–especially after reading some of his other works–but I also think I’d enjoy the praise. For me, though, Norwegian Wood is a clear winner, and it remains my favorite work by Murakami (though, I’ve only read his first five novels, so this may change, especially when I get to the beloved The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84). 5/5


Sheer magic. Truly. I mean, it really is. I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was 8, and I loved it then. I was enraptured by all of the science, the magic, the fantasy, the love the story was imbued with. And now, 16 years later–with multiple reads in-between–I still love it. Sure, some messages are now clearly obvious, but I still love it. Call it nostalgia. I don’t know. I doubt I could ever dislike this novel. Plus, the copy I read at 8, yellowing and issuing that wonderful old book smell, is the one I read. I’m so happy that I chanced upon this book during an elementary school book fair because A Wrinkle in Time was the singular book that sparked my love for reading. Madeleine L’Engle created something extremely special, and I am so grateful that she brought this story to us. 5/5


If I Had A Gryphon is a fun little picture book about a girl who, at first, is uncharmed by her ordinary hamster and imagines how great it would be to have a mythic creature as a pet. While she goes through a wide assortment of cool beasts, she comes to a conclusion that may surprise you. It has some neat illustrations by Cale Atkinson, too. I don’t normally go around reading picture books–that’s not really my style–but I work at a book store, and, as I set this book up for a new promotion, I thought, “Eh, why not?” 3/5


Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man is a satisfyingly sharp, complex, and often hilarious hard-boiled detective story that’s certainly worth a read.

The story follows two alcoholics, Nick and Nora Charles, a married couple that just happens to get caught up in solving a mysterious murder spree. Nick, a former detective, immediately sees interest in the Wynant family, and it appears that the patriarch, and former client, Clyde, has gone off on some murderous rampage. His ex-wife, Mimi, and two children, Dorothy and Gilbert, are altogether caught up in their relative’s circumstances, too. Shade is thrown all around, and not everything is as it appears to be; only Nick and Nora–well, mostly Nick; the socialite Nora spends most of her time consoling Dorry and making cocktails and snide remarks–can solve the case. Hammett has some great one-liners sprinkled throughout, which makes this somewhat convoluted plot much more digestible*. The Thin Man is a wild ride, and I’m all the more curiouser to finally read Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon after reading this and seeing the 1941 film several times. 4/5

It’s no wonder that this novel was turned into a film, an almost precursory film noir, but with a healthy smattering of humor.

* “‘What do you have to do to get a drink?’ I said: ‘You have to walk over to that table where the ice and bottles are and pour it.'” & “Dorothy, behind me, said, ‘Balls!’ under her breath, but with a lot of feeling.”

Untitled 1.3

Roman stoked the fire, adding a log for the flames to gobble up, which they did rather happily. The room felt stale, murky, and the faun thought to change the atmosphere.

A large record player sat next to the fireplace—somehow Calvin had missed it before—and the faun sauntered over to it and put something on: Florence + the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Calvin thought: At least the faun had good taste. Roman replaced the record’s jacket onto a wide shelving unit that had quickly appeared from somewhere in the darkness.

“Now, drink your tea,” Roman told the boy, “and I’ll tell you why you’re here.”

Calvin took the cup of tea and sat down in one of the chairs next to the fireplace. It was more comfortable than what he thought it would be, with all of his breaking wicker and a lumpy, grayish pillow. This place was full of surprises, unexplainable illusions, magic. The cup was hot in his hand. He took a sip and it warmed him through. Literally. His matted hair and soggy clothes dried with the sudden heat wave.

“Sorry. No saucers,” Roman told Calvin as he loosely clutched the teacup. “I’m not that proper.” Though, Calvin questioned his sincerity in this apology; he certainly didn’t sound too sincere.

“I don’t mind,” he responded. “Where are we exactly?” Being left in the dark on this point worried him, made him anxious. If he traveled through time, then he surely wasn’t anywhere near home.

“The where isn’t exactly as important as the when,” he replied, “but I shall tell you anyway.” Roman took a long sip of his tea and nestled the cup back in his hands, the warmth tingling his somewhat furry fingers. “We’re in something of a safe house in a land known as Aryashi. On the planet Uriel. We’re far away from your earth, Calvin, but Aryashi is not unlike what you’re used to. In fact, you may find it to be a place of hospitality and comfort. The people are usually kind, friendly, what have you. Water falls from the sky and finds itself in streams and lakes; deer, eagles, whales, all sorts of creatures inhabit the place. Just like on your earth. You may even find some creatures you’ve locked away in your imagination. There are some fantastic beasts in Aryashi. Rather interesting, yes.

“However, Aryashi is not all it appears to be. Just as you may find comfort, you might find discomfort. Here’s why: there’s a vile, melancholic demon on the outer edges of this place—a twisted, dark shadow, you could say—and it’s coming ever closer toward us. This has happened before, mind you, but never to this extremity. Most of us Aryashians are horrified. A few are optimistic. Those of us with a bit of that confidence have brought you here in hopes that you could remedy this ugly phantom. We believe you can help.”


“Yes, we.” He nodded.

Roman paused and took a breath. Calvin noticed the faun’s hands trembling around the teacup, slides of the liquid running over the edge. He wasn’t sure if Roman was a horrified Aryashian or an optimistic one. Time will tell, he said to himself.

The record had long stopped—the last notes of “Mother” dispelled quietly into the thick air—and a low, scratching hum dulled the room. The faun stood up to change the record, and, before Calvin could protest, the conversation. He’ll learn soon enough, the faun thought as he sat back down.

“Now, for the time being, you are currently restricted to this safe house. No exceptions.”

“But why?” Calvin asked. “What am I supposed to do cooped up in here?”

“Well, you need to acclimate to your surroundings. And, for your safety, I guess. I assure you, your detention to this house is only temporary. A few days at the most, mind you.” Roman took a last sip of tea. “And, there are plenty of things to do in here. I’m sure you’ll find a way to pass the time.”

“Is it really that dangerous out there?”

“More so than you would think. While Aryashi holds a multitude of wonders, there are also some great perils, least of all this impending demon. You’ll find that the mountains and rivers are riddled with things nearly unimaginable.”

Calvin looked around the small space, trying to gain some semblance of reality in this place. He tapped his foot against the stone floor, which echoed in a brusque rhythm. Roman said, “Please do excuse the mess. I’m not in charge here, but I guess its appearance is my fault. The house has fallen a bit into disrepair. Shambles. It’s sad, really.”

Calvin looked at the faun. “It’s actually quite nice,” he said. “Cozy. More comfortable than I expected.”

“That’s a polite thing to say. Still, it’s trashy. But it’s home. Well, not really. I don’t live here.”

The record spun around and around, playing the Beatles: “Hello Goodbye,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” “Norwegian Wood.”

“You like an array of music, don’t you?” Calvin asked the faun. He himself was a fan of the 60s, having grown up listening to it. He could spend hours listening to Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, The Righteous Brothers, Petula Clark. He started humming “Downtown” against the melodious beats of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

“The 60s were one of the best times in music. And, Florence just has it, you know?” Roman went over to the bookshelf and pulled a few books off to lend his new acquaintance. As he handed Calvin the books, he said: “These will certainly help. But if you bend even a single page, tear it, mark it, breathe on it in any foul or otherwise ungrateful way, you will wish we never brought you here.” In addition to A Wrinkle in Time, Roman gave Calvin pristine-looking copies of Atonement, The Tempest, and The Namesake. Calvin had heard of them all, but hadn’t ever read them. “Read over these while you’re staying here; you should be able to get through them.”

And with that, Roman walked over to the record player, stopped the Beatles, and entered the shadows of the far wall, appearing to have disappeared completely, leaving Calvin to lonesome.

He looked at the covers of the books and then promptly set them on table next to the copy of A Wrinkle in Time. Only the noise of the fire and the words on those pages could keep him company. Well, and his thoughts, but those were always scary. Nothing like the vast mysteries of the universe to keep one’s mind preoccupied.

And then, a tiny, animated black ball of soot rolled out of the darkness, somewhere by the far side of the bookcase, and nudged itself against Calvin’s left foot. It gave off a happy crackle and spun around on its head in glee. It had bright eyes, which it slowly blinked, like a baby trying to focus in on the world. Roman hadn’t mentioned anything like this, and he gasped in surprise. Several more rose out of the darkness and gathered around this new stranger, their crackling laughter bouncing on his shins. I guess I won’t be alone after all.

Untitled 1.2

The stars blinked kindly; the dusty luminescence swayed above his head. A small fire burned at his feet, blazing around and licking up the deadened logs of ash. The grass was sweet, puckered in the chilled night, and the distant hymns of nightbirds barely rang through the muddied air. A tent was pitched, its patchwork of colors bruised in the absence of sunlight.

He twiddled a stick between his fingers. The bark was coarse and uneven, cold. The humble firelight bumped up on his face and neck, which grew warm from the heat. He was bundled in a thick coat of dark feathers, hoping to defend against the coldness promised by the others. Though, surely, he thought, it would get much warmer.

He pitched himself upon a cliff, a rocking lake below, a forest behind him. The fire cursed, shouting gravely at him, but he paid no attention. The flames’ crusade was beneath him. He had other concerns.

Dew had lain itself upon the grass. The moon—blank, deserted, crumbling—quivered amongst the stars, fearful to be completely extinguished. The waves of willows’ leaves spun in the air and on the ground. The fire acted again, incorrigibly. It was becoming a nuisance.

A reserve of water sat at his feet and he killed the fire. Thick smoke rolled through his nose and eyes, staining his clothes and ears. A violent sizzle fizzled out. The stars grew brighter as another source of illumination vanished into night. The wind in the willows blew around the encampment, and he felt a sudden rush of something. He couldn’t think of it, this emotion.

The words flew about within his head; they were simple, but effective, easily remembered. They only had one destination, and tonight they would be used accordingly. The words possessed much more than he could imagine, and, yet, he was not frightened by this. Or, perhaps, he merely put it out of his mind. He simply hoped nothing would go awry, that no chime of guilt would echo in his bones or blood, make him long for what once was. He needed this.

Sertaqa iza,” he spoke to the night. His feathers elongated, the wings on his back ascended; he flew up into the air to watch the stars die and fall to him.

He watched as, one by one, the kind lights jolted from their atmospheres, where they had so lovingly clung, and tumbled downward in mesmeric spirals. His pursuits succeeded, and he smiled. A wind bellowed. The stars stung the black sky with their array of colors, streaking it. The moon shied away, turning herself into an invisible nonexistence.

The first star bounded to him and he clutched it between his two hands, his fingertips gripping the molten, luminous sphere; it was heavier than he thought. Though seemingly afire, the star did not singe his skin or curl his feathers. He pressed his hands against the star and condensed it, molded it into a slighter, more perfect orb. It burst into color, rapidly transforming from white to a lustrous sapphire.

And with it, he placed the glowing sphere into his mouth. It crackled as it met his tongue, his saliva reacting to such a foreign object. The star tasted of ash, blood—almost putrid, but somehow satisfying. He savored the lingering flavor as the soft sphere coalesced with his body. It found its way through his esophagus and into his stomach. A blistering feeling erupted, and an immediate desire to vomit. Yet, he silenced the urge. As the star swirled, it relocated to his chest, through the lungs, and made residence in his heart. It stiffened and bled out, trickling down into his blood.

A second star met his hands, and he ate it, too. Then a third, and a fourth. Piles of stars plagued the cliff he hovered above. He would continue his meal throughout the oncoming days.

The moon turned around to look at this damned occurrence. She squealed with rage, but sought no revenge. For what could she do? The last of the stars amassed itself upon the bodies of its brothers, scarcely gleaming. He floated down, wings scraping the air, and nestled himself amongst the stars.

A blackness had devoured the sky.