Bookbinding 101

I made a thing. It’s not a perfect thing, but damnit I’m proud of it. And given the circumstances, I’m pretty sure it’s the best damn thing I could have possibly made.

I made a book.

I didn’t write the book, but I did format it. I drew all the illustrations. I sewed it. I glued it. I made the physical book itself. It sapped what sanity I had left in me at the end of semester and it took two nights of staying up until three in the morning, but I made it.

front-cover

I made it as the final project for my publishing design technologies class. I had issues with that class from the beginning. Not with the class itself, exactly, but with the lab. There seemed to be no preplanned structure to the way our labs were run. Instruction was minimal at best and at worst it was confused and flat out wrong. The professor and the TA didn’t seem to have discussed how the labs were to be taught, because the TA often seemed at a loss to explain to us how to do the lab assignments the prof gave us. Considering that we were a class of students who mostly had no idea how to work InDesign, it was frustrating to say the least when the prof gave us a lab sheet that says, “do this thing” and when we ask how to do the thing, the TA says, “Don’t worry about that thing” and then, naturally, we got points taken off. After a month of that I figured that Google was probably going to be the best instructor I could get to pass that class, and I stopped asking the TA to do the thing she was getting paid to do.

This final project was no different. We received minimal guidance on how to get the book printed and were instructed to watch Sea Lemon videos to learn how to put the book together. In fact, the only part of this that I was decently confident about was the formatting part. I’m by no means an expert on InDesign now, but I feel confident in my ability to format raw text at least from this class. Illustrator and Photo Shop remain beyond my skill level. None of that would have been that big of a deal except, like I said, this was my final project. It came at the end of semester when I also had two essays and two final exams to complete/study for. And the final project was worth 22% of my grade. So I was in full on panic-stress mode for two weeks racing my deadlines while my professors and TAs were on the sidelines telling me to calm down and not freak out. Which is a bit like being on the bomb squad trying to dismantle a nuke on a sixty second timer with the whole city standing around telling you that it’d be okay if you took a coffee break. Or at least that’s how it felt at the time. And since the TA had already made me nervous about asking for any kind of help due to her insufficient knowledge, I felt completely on my own in this.

But this post is about the book, not the class, so I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process as best I can. To be honest though, I think I’ve locked up some of these memories for my own mental health, so there may be some gaps.

We were given a raw text file for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, but it had terrible line breaks throughout the whole thing that I didn’t have time to go in and fix by myself, so I grabbed the text off the internet instead. Formatting in InDesign is an incredibly laborious process. It’s not at all like Word, so don’t complain about what your formatter charges you. It’s a pain in the ass that involves making different character styles, paragraph styles, and master pages for each different formatting element in the document. Alice is only twelve chapters long, but it took me four days just to format the raw text. Including putting in the images, doing the line edits, correcting for widows and orphans and the final proof read, I read that damn book, cover to cover, six times. That was before any printing at all had been done. (To extrapolate, the idea that ebooks require no extra work than physical books and therefore shouldn’t cost so much is wrong. It’s so wrong. Stop disseminating this idea.)

The formatting, as I said, was the easy part. After I had it formatted, I had to figure out how to print it. I ran into some problems here. The first problem was that I wanted it printed on high quality, textured cream paper. It’s just a style choice for me. I don’t like white paper because the ink contrast is too high and it hurts my eyes. I also think that it looks cheap and unprofessional, but again, that’s just me. The problem was, if I wanted that kind of paper I’d have to buy it and print it myself, because ordinary print shops don’t carry high quality textured cream paper, and they don’t let you bring in your pwn paper either. But this presented its own problem because, as I discovered the night before my very last lab in which to work on this project, my printer doesn’t print double sided. So I had to scrap that idea.

The second printing problem that I had was signatures. Signatures are packets of four to five sheets of paper representing sixteen to twenty pages when folded in half. In traditional bookbinding (ie the kind of book binding you’re probably most familiar with) signatures are sewn together to create a uniform shape for all the pages in the book. But it involves a complicated formatting arrangement of the pages that we were assured by prof and TA both that the printers would understand how to do. I was assured by prof and TA both when I asked multiple times that if I went to the printer with my regularly formatted PDF file and said, “I want this printed in signatures of five sheets each” the printer would understand and would be able to print it how I wanted it.

This was not the case. The first printer I went to had no idea what I wanted. He didn’t know what a signature was, and when I explained to him what it was, he printed the whole document in one giant signature. Imagine taking thirty-five sheets of paper and folding them all in half. It doesn’t make a nice, uniform edge, does it? Not only that, but the sheets didn’t print in the correct order, so it was a complete waste of time, and it put me in a full on freak-out, because I had to go to work that afternoon and if I couldn’t get my signatures printed that morning I wasn’t going to have time to print them ever. The TA’s advice was to print a sample sheet myself, but I didn’t know how to do that at all, and she wasn’t much help explaining it to me, so I contacted every printer within walking distance to get a price and a time quote on this project. Thankfully, DigiTech Printing, less than five minutes from my school, figured they could get it done before noon. So I hauled ass over there with my files and, I have to say, they were the nicest, most accommodating people I worked with through this whole ordeal. Their professionalism, knowledge, and willingness to work on a deadline brought me down from apoplectic panic to mild worry. They assured me that everything I wanted (aside from the high quality, textured cream paper) could be done, but there was only one, small problem: price.

Wearily I asked them how much. They said $80. I said done. They reasserted that it would cost me $80. I said I didn’t care how much it cost as long as I didn’t have to be the one to deal with it anymore. I’m not ashamed to say that I literally threw money at the problem until it went away. The important thing was that I had my signatures printed, folded and trimmed, and all I had to do now was bind the book, which I didn’t need my prof or my TA for, since I would be learning that part via YouTube videos. (Why did I spend $1000 to learn publishing design from Google and YouTube?!)

signatures

Of course I needed the materials for bookbinding. Those I had to buy from Opus, Dessew, and Michael’s which are thankfully just down the street from my school. They were unfortunately far less knowledgeable, professional and agreeable than DigiTech. Dessew seemed to be staffed by grannies who are altogether tired of your shit. With the exception of the one lady who helped me find the black canvas for my cover, everyone else I dealt with in that store treated me like a junkie asking to use the bathroom. (Though to be fair I’m pretty sure all the shopkeeps on East Hastings have to deal with more than their fair share of junkies on a regular basis.) Opus on the other hand seemed to be staffed entirely by stoners who thought it would be great to operate an art supply store until the high wore off and they realized they had no fucking idea what they were doing there. No one seemed to know where anything was in the store. I was passed off to four different employees who kept scattering like scared rats at the sight of a customer. My efforts to explain what I was looking for turned up the most useless products for my project (giant sheets of paper that no one would cut, when I only needed a couple 8″x11″s) and endless chatter about anything but the products I was looking for. My last stop was Michael’s which looked like the Grinch had ransacked it. He took the cloth-binders, paper-punchers, and ink-dabbers. He took the wax thread, the gold letters, the red ribbons. What bits of glitter he left behind in that store were barely enough for a mouse and no more. Lesson learned: don’t go to Michael’s before Christmas.

supplies

So there I had all my supplies. All I had to do was: sew the signatures, glue the signatures, trim the pages, cut the cover boards, measure the cloth cover, make the headband, position the lettering, make a text block, glue the headband to the text block, glue the text block to the end sheets, glue the end sheets to the cover and FINISHED!

Easier said than done. The sewing of the signatures actually turned out to be fairly easy, despite me doing it completely wrong the first time and having to cut and unthread the whole thing and start from the beginning. I was actually quite pleased with how the corrected version turned out.

correct-sewn-signatures

I applied two coats of bookbinding glue to the sewn spine and let it dry overnight while I worked on the cover. The cover was trickier. As with every step of this damn project, there was a problem. In this case, I ran out of time to make a dust jacket, in part because I was busy completing other assignments, and in part because the printing of the signatures took way, way more time than I anticipated it would for reasons outlined above. So I had to put the title directly on the cloth itself, and the only way I could think to do that in a professional looking way was with iron-on letters. These came in large sheets from which each individual letter had to be cut in squares. The squares then had to be placed down on the cloth and ironed on both sides, which meant that I couldn’t glue the cover boards to the cloth until after I had ironed on the letters. This posed the challenge of how to position the letters so that they would appear evenly on the final cover. I solved this in the messiest way possible: I outlined in chalk. In hindsight this was probably not the best idea. Honestly, a piece of yarn rolled in flour probably would have been neater, but I was fueled entirely by coffee and cortisol as I was working on this portion, so I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly. I sketched out the position of the book boards, and where I wanted the letters to be which left only one complication: how to line up the individual squares of letters so that they would look neat and not move under the iron? My solution: make a type block out of scotch tape. I positioned each letter upside down and backwards as neatly as I could muster on a strip of tape and then taped the sucker down on the chalk line I drew for it. I could then iron the letters, front and back without worrying about them shifting out of place as I did so. The result was less than perfect, but better than expected.

cloth-binding

It took a course paint brush to scrub away most of the chalk lines. I wasn’t exactly happy with the lines that remained, but definitely too exhausted to care overly much about it. Gluing everything together also turned out to be relatively easy, starting with the text block which took a couple of extra sheets to make it cohesive, and then the end sheets, which would attach it to the finished cover. For whatever reason the edges of the pages ended up slightly uneven at this stage, so I had to cut them with a craft knife. Despite my best efforts, however, the knife kept slipping and I was left with an uneven cut. Sea Lemon recommended taking a file to the uneven edges to make them smooth which yielded… mixed results which I won’t picture here.

text-block

The final complication ended up being a few pieces of information that, if left missing, would result in at least a letter grade deduction. These were, ISBN, publisher information, and the back blurb. As already mentioned, I didn’t have time to do a dusk jacket, so I was going to print an obi (book belt) to fit around the back cover instead, except my easily confused printer couldn’t figure out what size paper I wanted, so I had to go with something much smaller and much more slapped together. In the end, the final product looked like this:

I don’t know what I got on the project. I won’t know until I get it back in January. If my final grade is anything to go by I got less than an A on it, which I’m extremely disappointed by given the amount of effort I put into this compared to the amount and quality of instruction. I ended up finishing the course with an A- however, so I don’t have much footing on which to complain. If there are any constructive criticisms on the project when I get it back, I’ll edit them in here. What I do have are the memories, and the first hand knowledge of what an all nighter looks like. For the record, it looks like this:

all-nighter

L is for Literature

Likeminded people will understand my fascination with the power of the written word. Literature in all its forms, both fiction and non-fiction, paper and electronic, has been a cornerstone in my life for as long as I can remember. As soon as I had a decent grasp on this thing called reading, it was all I ever did. I had my light bulbs taken away from me as a child, because if given the chance I’d stay up until two in the morning reading Nancy Drew, which is not a recommended sleep schedule for a seven year old. My premature eye bags will attest that my parents’ strategy didn’t work; I learned to read by moonlight. I won’t draw you an Infographic Guide to Literature throughout my life–you get the picture.

As a child, despite consuming books like candy, I told myself stories through pictures and doodles rather than words. It wasn’t until high school when the romantic poets, Shakespeare, Literary Terms and Dragonlance entered my life that I took the evolutionary leap forward into writing down the scenes in my head. It was a creative revolution. I sought the old stories, old books from my mother’s old maritime trucks, handed down to her from the time when my great-grandmother came to Canada from Scotland. I read and fell in love with fairy tales all fairy tales, western and eastern, Russian Fairy Tales and Chinese Fairy Tales and Beatrix Potter who I read again and again and again to soak up the magic of her words.

What I learned most from this time, I think, is that it’s not necessarily what’s on the pages that matters. It’s not what the author intended to say when they wrote a certain thing. The magic that comes from literature is what it makes you feel in the moment, and what you and your experiences bring to the act of reading, adding your story to that of someone else.

Straying Off the Path a Moment

So the past couple weeks have seen me under the weather. Or under the rug. Or under the ground. Really, it all starts to feel the same after a while. What I thought was the flu turned out to be the cold virus from hell. It seriously made me question what a flu even is if a cold can produce such epic levels of pain and suffering. Once again I had a three day fever, pharyngitis, laryngitis, conjunctivitis (yes, apparently a cold can cause pink eye), took a day and a half off of work, spent three nights with such body aches that I got out of bed voluntarily at six in the morning to look for any kind of distraction, and was reduced to a four day solid regimen of pain killers just to be able to swallow some water. And then, when the worst of the virus had passed, Alex and I were invited to an oyster bar in Mie and… the results weren’t pretty, let’s just say. In any case, I’m well now (aside from a lingering sore throat which apparently has no cause), and looking up at the mountain of back writing I have to get through to catch up. My blog has been patient, but it’s still waiting for:

Last Argument of Kings: Afterthoughts I will write this one, I swear. I really, really want to—it’s a good book. I wish responsibility would take a vacation so I could get to writing the things I want to write about.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Jan/Feb: Afterthoughts Yeah, I’m so far behind I have a queue going for book reviews. Actually, if I review the classics I’ve been reading then that queue is even longer. I’m not going to review the classics I’ve been reading.

Two posts regarding Interesting Stuff I Read on the Internet because the world hungers for my opinion on things, and don’t tell me otherwise. I need reasons to get out of bed some mornings.

Some kendo bloggy stuff because I have to remind myself every now and again that I have a life outside of mashing my fingers despairingly into a keyboard, and that life involves hitting people on the head with sticks.

At least I’ve been able to keep to my one book a week reading schedule, though I’ve deviated slightly from my planned reading list for the year. That is to say, I read the first book on my list, The Blade Itself and it was anarchy from there. To be fair though, there has been some reason for the distraction: I couldn’t just stop at one First Law book, and then I had to read The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction to keep current, then my Lonely Planet guide book for Seoul came (which should be hint enough but, I’m going to Seoul, woohoo!), following that John Green announced that his half of Crash Course would return to literature, so I hopped into reading The Odyssey, Oedipus Rex, and Hamlet.

Speaking of which, this was the first time I’d ever read Hamlet, which is almost as shameful as admitting that one has never heard of Romeo and Juliet (I assure you, I have, and read the play, and seen the Takarazuka version. If you don’t know what Takarazuka is, get yourself informed, or we can’t be friends anymore.)

But back to Hamlet. I was really stoked to read it in high school. It was the Shakespeare play for the twelfth grade. After Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, and King Lear, Hamlet, the most lauded and oft quoted of all of Shakespeare’s plays was to be the final one we studied in high school English. And for every English class except mine, it was.

We got The Taming of the Shrew instead. In place of the insanity and bloody revenge we were promised for five years, we got domestic abuse and misogyny.  And yes I’ve heard the argument that Katherina was able to hen peck Petruchio with a tactful show of feminine docility in the end, but only by giving up her own identity and becoming her sister instead.

I really enjoyed reading Hamlet, finally. Some cultural references finally make sense.  I think I might now understand the allusions in Geoff Ryman’s story “Rosary and Goldenstar” from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Sep/Oct 2013 issue, though I can’t say that the story makes any more sense to me. Some things will just always go over my head, I suppose.

I ended up re-watching the Simpson’s episode “Tales from the Public Domain” because it contains a parody of both The Odyssey and Hamlet and I was reminded of the episode as I read both. I’m currently reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which I though I’d read in high school, but it turns out that one was also left off my reading list. For shame.

In other news I’ve been invited to write a dark fairy tale for a charity anthology, which should be fun as I love fairy tales and dark stories. I’ll be reading a bunch of fairy tales soon to calibrate my writing. Then, once that’s finished, I’ll finally be free to work on my novel manuscript again. Maybe. Things have a way of getting in the way, just when I finally feel I’m settled down. I’m also going to try to write the first draft of one short story every week, under 3,500 words. I need more practice with this, damnit, plus my brain muscle needs more exercise.  All of me needs more exercise, actually, but that’s a whole other problem.

 

 

July / Aug 2013 Fantasy & Science Fiction: Afterthoughts

I liked this issue a lot more than the last issue. Many of the stories were fresh and playful; others were dark, but well executed. The writing in the July / August edition was also much better on the whole and it made the reading of it much more enjoyable.

I’ve decided to rate each short story individually; I need more practice at critiquing and reviewing and this seems like a good way to start. The ratings are out of five asterisks because I’m creative like that. Maybe if I find a cool graphic I’ll update it later. Anyway, reviews below!

fsf july aug

The Color of Sand   by KJ Kabza

* * * * *

This story was great from the beginning. It has a nice folkish tone that is refreshing in modern fiction. The quest narrative is short, simple and nothing entirely new, but the elements of the sandcats and the refulgium give it a unique flavor and excitement. The story takes the reader along quickly, with little opportunity to stop and savor the curiosities, but as fun as the tale is, there is little regret in the could-have-been-side-stories that whip by. With a playful narrative and an aloof system of magic, The Color of Sand is feline through and through.

Oh Give Me a Home     by Adam Rakunas

* * *

I was kind of on a roller coaster with this short story. The beginning didn’t do much for me, but the middle was charged and engaging. Toward the end however I was left feeling like the story was too small to carry the bulk of the premise and the characters both. To be clear, I really liked the premise; the thematic conflict between big agro-business and the individual farm was gripping, with deep roots in real modern agricultural issues. The conflict, relationships and dialogue between the characters, however felt wooden and flat. Perhaps with greater time to come to know and understand the characters it might have felt more realistic, but after the first very fiery, emotional conflict between Bruce, his mother and Mari, the resolution came way too quickly to be satisfying. After getting worked up so thoroughly in the middle, the ending was, unfortunately, disappointing.

Half a Conversation, Overheard While Inside an Enormous Sentient Slug     by Oliver Buckram

* * * * *

The title alone tells half the story, but fortunately only half of it. It is a very short composition, but for so few words it encompasses a lot of story, and a lot of fun. I won’t give it away, but Buckram saucily leads the reader around with this story and abandons us at the end (giggling, I suspect) to draw our own conclusions. Written in an earlier narrative style that I love, Half a Conversation has everything I like in a story; wit, charm and cheek– all in a nice, neat package.

 

The Year of the Rat     by Chen Qiufan

* *

I’ll start with the caveat that this story wasn’t really my thing, which will probably come through in my review of it. It’s written well– the changing timelines were at the very least informative, regular and well thought out. The story itself is something between Lord of the Flies and Ender’s Game with a mix of current social issues facing the generations transitioning into adulthood, in the periphery. It’s not the sort of story I usually read, but as a composition it is decent.

 

Kormak the Lucky     by Eleanor Arnason

* * *

Kormak the Lucky is a long novelette told in a fairytale style that would have been a lot more interesting if it hadn’t been told in fairytale style. The story is incredibly linear, with events following set patterns and falling in perfectly aligned blocks one after the other. The writing itself is beautiful, however, the length of the narrative and the straightforward pull of the protagonist through the story makes it a bit of a tedious read.

The Woman Who Married the Snow     by Ken Altabef

* * * *

This story has a lot of things going for it. Firstly, the language that it uses fits the narrative like a glove: plain, white, emotionless—it’s the frozen heart of the story and really ties it together nicely. Second, the foreign words are subtle and used casually; nothing about them sticks out during the read. The whole story, in fact, reads very smoothly with nothing overtly bumping the reader along.  Finally, the story itself is interesting: the corpse of a man is brought back to life to the delight and destruction of his distraught widow. The reader is given an unfamiliar arctic setting for fantasy fiction which is as refreshing as the tale itself is chilling.

The Miracle Cure     by Harvey Jacobs

*

Conversely, this was a story that had nothing going for it, for me. The language is choppy, the setting is vacant and dangling, the perspective hops around and the characters and their dialogue are unbelievable. In the ‘show vs. tell’ debate that new writers so frequently agonize over, this story is dropped squarely into the ‘tell’ camp, which only shines a further unflattering light on the main character’s erratic behavior that the rushed plot already does a decent job of. Paragraphs are congested with too many bits of disjointed information, random scene changes and time traveling. I lost all respect for the story at the inclusion of a sudden, unnecessary and preposterously written episode of sexual tension that is so wildly out of place it actually fits with the rest of this floating collection of underdeveloped ideas. In the end, nothing in the bizarre premise of the story could dreg up any feelings of pleasure in reading it.

The Heartsmith’s Daughters     by Harry R. Campion

* * * * *

This is another story told in the old fairytale style, but its meter is much better, aided by the cutting of the narrative into parts. The occasional inclusion of narrator commentary is a nice touch, and heightens the fairytale element of the story. It’s a heartwarming tale of love, loss and revenge that quickly turns dark in a way that is not unexpected, though the leap from fairytale to ghost story most certainly is. The Heartsmith’s Daughters is an emotional, well thought out story that carries the weight of heavy issues and in my opinion, carries it well.

The Nambu Egg     by Tim Sullivan

***

The Nambu Egg is a crime drama in a sci-fi skin. Not that I haven’t enjoyed one genre wearing the cloak of another in the past, but this story didn’t resonate much with me. It is well written, though it’s mostly dialogue (would have liked a few more tags just to keep up with who was speaking– oh well) but the story itself sort of meanders and then sighs to a stop, neither satisfying nor unsatisfying.

In the Mountains of Frozen Fire     by Rus Wornom

* *

This story really wants to be funny, I can tell, but like a comedian sweating before a silent audience, it tries too hard and fumbles under its own jokes. It’s a spy parody to its last word, but the voice of the narrator is so obtrusive that it evokes only the awkward sort of laugh that follows the punch line of a poorly executed, off color joke. The tongue in cheek racism of the story is an irritating wink from the author to the audience for the express purpose of saying “if I know this is inappropriate and you know this is inappropriate, then they cancel each other out and it becomes funny”. The premise is a tie-dye of genres that is actually interesting at what I assume to be the story’s climax—however, it drifts back into the absurd spy narrative for a long-winded epilogue that –to me at least—did nothing for the story.

The next book on my reading list is Hawkwood’s Voyage  by Paul Kearney

The Woman in White: Afterthoughts

This entry fell off the Sunday schedule I’ve been trying to keep for a number of really good, adult reasons. I won’t bore anyone with another summary of work and stress and heat exhaustion related complaints (though those are all very good adult excuses) and skip right to last weekend when I temporarily forgot that I know better and consumed a large quantity of assorted alcohol. Additionally, my bird hasn’t yet learned that he can’t fly without feathers and in an ill advised attempt, clothes-lined himself on the edge of my laptop making Alex the only creature in the house not vomiting on Sunday. So between worrying that my bird was going to die and being certain that I was going to die, not a lot of words were produced over the weekend. Thankfully, no one died, I finished reading The Woman in White and the inflammatory post that I drunkenly typed in Word didn’t get published to my blog. All’s well that ends well.

The woman in whiteSpoilers below

The Woman in White also ended well, with the appropriate people dead and the appropriate people living happily ever after. All of the different character arcs that were started in the beginning were tied up very nicely, and the deus ex machina at the end was clever and enjoyable and left me really liking the book when I finally put it down.

Not that I ever disliked it. Wilkie Collins cleverly wrote a thrilling love story with multiple points of view, exciting danger, plot twists, red herrings and mostly likeable characters. I say ‘mostly’ because the narrative makes the antagonists unlikable on purpose­– but also because I really disliked Laura. There is a striking difference between Laura –the quintessential woman of her time­– and her half-sister Marion who is often described (not unkindly) as masculine, strong and willful. It is these qualities in Marion in fact, that win the victory for the protagonists. It is Marion’s courage and action which put the first pieces of the puzzle together in the absence of Walter Hartright. It is Marion’s words and memory, of all the women in the story, which are the most infallible and honest. And it’s Marion’s great strength of character that proves to be the weakness of Count Fosco– a weakness that ultimately ends in his entrapment.

In comparison, Laura is weak in spirit and body. She doesn’t have the courage to save herself from Percival before or after danger presented itself. When she exerts any will at all it is to make obviously foolish decisions and when it comes time for her to finally be useful in the story, she succumbs to a feminine weakness of the mind and is unable to be of any assistance. In essence, Laura is everything that I hate about weak, defenseless female characters: passive bits of dandelion seed whipped around in the vortex of their narratives. They’re hardly there at all, and yet everyone seems to love and want them. This archetype isn’t a character; it’s a plot device and like every other woman who has filled its shoes in literature, cinema and video games, I was heartily wishing she would die by the middle of the book.

Fortunately, despite being half the center of the story, Laura does not get a point of view in the narrative. Largely, the story is told by Marion and Walter as they work in varying degrees of separation and togetherness to solve the mystery of ‘the woman in white’ Anne Catherick, and to save Laura from her unhappy, abusive marriage.

The story is told in reports, diary entries and confessions by a range of characters both protagonist and antagonist in such a way that not only is the mystery of the story preserved and intensified, but the reader is made anxiously aware of all the hidden dangers that Marion and Walter unknowingly face. The twist in the middle is shocking, but pleasantly not unexpected and after the danger, deceit and ruthlessness perpetrated by the antagonists in the beginning of the book, the latter half accelerates to a very satisfying turn of fortune for the protagonists.

When Percival died near the end of the book, I was honestly expecting it to be another duplicity, and was a little surprised and disappointed when it wasn’t, however, Count Fosco was always the main villain to contend with and I was very pleased with how he was dealt with. I won’t spoil that ending for anyone, because honestly I’m still grinning over it.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the book was Collins’ way of describing characters as they were introduced into the story, not only by their physical appearance but in metaphors of their personality and manners. With so many characters waltzing in and out of the story, one might forget a color of hair or a length of a nose, but not the feeling that is impressed upon the reader as they come to their own conclusions of who a character is.

The Woman in White is a very good book, with lots of excitable mystery and strong characters– one I absolutely recommend.

The next book on my reading list is the July / August 2013 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine.