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Month in review

The ABCs of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond by Steven Charney and David Goldbeck
At Her Majesty's Request by Walter Dean Myers
Bleach Volume 14 by Tite Kubo
Blind Side by Penny Warner
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Castrato by Michael Collins
Character Flu by Robert Reed
Chronicle of the City of Havana by Eduardo Galeano
Color for Thought by the 5th grade class of Coast Episcopal School
Crescent Moon Volume 1 by Haruko Iida
The Cuba Journal by Sophia Peabody Hawthorne
Cuba Revisited by Martha Gellhorn
Cuban Childhood by Fidel Castro and Frei Betto
Diary of the Boy King Tutankhamen by June Reig
The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
Dora's Backpack by Sarah Willson
Dreaming in Cuban (excerpt) by Cristina Garcia
Dreamland by Clarence Budington Kelland
Fables from the Mud by Erik Quisling
Fergus by Mary Patterson Thornburg
The Ghost of Lizard Light by Elvira Woodruff
The Girl Genius Omnibus by Kaja and Phil Foglio
Go Green by Nancy H. Taylor
Image of Josephine by Booth Tarkington
Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock
The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
Litany by Rand B Lee
Local Rites by Paul Daffey
Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann
Monkey See... by P. E. Cunningham
Nature's Children: Ostriches by Merebeth Switzer
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda
No More Monsters for Me by Peggy Parish
OPEN Brand by Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins
Operation Ghost by Jacques Duquennoy
Ophie Out of Oz by Kathleen O'Dell
Our Man in Havana (Excerpt) by Graham Greene
Peacocks by Ruth Berman
Picture Purrfect Kittens by Erika Tatihara and Masaru Mizobuti
The Pigeon Loves Things That Go by Mo Willems
The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl
The Salting and Canning of Benevolence D. by Al Michaud
The Sea Shack by Mark McNulty
She Who Hears the Sun by Pamela Jekel
Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter
Shoes by Debbie Bailey and Susan Huszar
Show Me Your Smile by Christine Ricci
Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
State Birds by Arthur and Alan Singer
Still Hot by Sue Mittenthal and Linda Reing
A Superior Death by Nevada Barr
Tundra Swans by Bianca Lavies
The War with Spain (excerpt) by Henry Cabot Lodge
Where's the Big Red Doggie? by Norman Bridwell
What to Wear by Consuelo Hermer and Marjorie May
Wheels, Wheels and More Wheels by Ed and Ruth Radlauer
Wild Turkeys by Julian May

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5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

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The Poe Shadow: 06/30/08

The Poe Shadow

My final review for June is The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl, a book I bought last year because I liked the cover and the title. It's the same superficial reason I used for Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann and for the most part, my intuition paid off for both.

Edgar Allen Poe showed up unexpected and in a confused state to the Washington College Hospital in Baltimore. He died there on October 3, 1849. Before his death he called out for a person named Reynolds and a letter was sent to a Dr. Snodgrass on Poe's behalf asking for help. Poe was given a simple burial and only managed to achieve recognition as a great American writer after his death. Those are the facts and the starting point of The Poe Shadow.

Matthew Pearl creates a fictional überfan, Quentin Hobson Clark, who happens on Poe's burial and feels compelled to solve the mystery behind the writer's death. He puts his own life on hold to track down all of the leads no matter how tenuous. He even goes to France with the idea of finding the man behind Poe's fictional detective, Dupin.

For the most part I enjoyed Pearl's odd mixture of fiction and historical fact but things go awry in the last third of the book. The book starts off so focused on the facts of Poe's life and death that as the plot snowball rolls towards near pure fiction the book seems to lose direction and credibility. The book falls into many of the same traps as The Seven-per-cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer.

I went from enjoying a historical fiction mystery to wishing the darn thing would end. I stopped counting possible reasons behind Poe's death at after the third rehashing of the last days of his life because it was too late in the game for an homage to Roshomon.

My over all impression of the book is still one of enjoyment but it needed tighter editing in the last 100 pages.


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