Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #38: Journal July 11, 2010

This was loaned to my by my sister a while back and I forgot about it.  I picked it up a couple of nights ago when I couldn’t sleep and ended up reading the whole thing…


Journal:  The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason by Kristine Atkinson and Joyce Atkinson

Simon and Schuster, 2006


This cover fits the book, but the real treasure is inside...


Internal "scrapbook" style pages...


Multilayered storytelling: Amy's additions are placed over the original book's content, which often has eerie connections to the journal's contents.

Courtesy of

From Publishers Weekly

This tantalizing “found” journal of a troubled young wife and mother combines the diary of Amy Mason, correspondence, clippings from newspaper accounts and remnants of the 19th-century novel Amy used instead of a blank notebook to frame the story of her disintegrating marriage. Amy’s husband, Robert, moves to Boston to head a new cardiology institute, but Amy and her two small children remain behind in Houston, planning to follow later. As the relocation process drags on, Robert throws himself into his new responsibilities and Amy fights a deepening depression. She finds a new friend in her Houston real estate agent, Vanessa Garamond, but the beautiful Vanessa provokes Amy’s suspicions with an unannounced trip to Boston. Sisters Kristine and Joyce Atkinson only hint at the occurrence of a crime, and readers will have to draw their own conclusions from the open-ended assemblage of visual and textual clues. Traditional mystery readers may want a more definitive story, but amateur scrapbookers will find inspiration in this collage.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


This isn’t a YA title, but I’d say that teen readers might find it interesting anyway for its unusual format.

Strengths: This has a really unique format.  The premise of the story involves Amy’s decision to use an old book as her journal (called “altered books”) and she adds emails, recipes, journal entries, scrapbook clippings, etc. to it.   I was really interested as the story unfolded, since the original content of the book shows through her entries, sometimes in a really coincidental and spooky way.  You know there are details to find, and you need to read carefully and pay attention to EVERYTHING.  It’s a treasure hunt.

Potential Flaws: Nothing structural.  I will only say that these types of books just aren’t for everyone.  It’s not a really deep, convoluted mystery, but those who want to read this type of book probably aren’t looking for that, anyway.

My Rating:

A unique, clever diversion.  Not a literary masterpiece, but a fun fast scavenger hunt for clues.


What I’m Reading #3: The Observations January 10, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews,What I'm Reading — mezzowriter @ 5:55 pm
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As usual, I have a little ADD when it comes to reading.  I am often working on more than one book at a time, usually in a combination of contrasting genres, depending on my mood.

So, I picked up Jane Harris’ debut novel from 2005:  The Observations.

I found it in my favorite used book store while browsing–which is where I often dig up gems.


The Observations by Jane Harris

Faber & Faber, 2005

Courtesy of

From Publishers Weekly

Bessy Buckley comes upon Castle Haivers on her way to Edinburgh in 1863. An Irish girl, she’s in “Scratchland” to improve her station, and ends up a scullery maid to a strange, lovely mistress, Arabella Reid (on whom she develops something of a crush), despite her lack of experience. Bessy’s discovery of Arabella’s book, The Observations, which she is writing about servants she’s had and their cooperativeness, tests her loyalty to Arabella (“the missus”) five-fold and sets in motion a tragedy (complete with supernatural elements). Bessy learns that being above-stairs is no guarantee of happiness, and others may have as much to hide as she does. Sharp, funny and tender-hearted, Bessy is an accomplishment for Londoner and first-time novelist Harris, who also manages the pace, period and book-within-a-book conceit nicely. (June 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


I’m about halfway through it, and love its edgy heroine and Harris’ gift for storytelling and dialect.  It’s witty in a way that I don’t often see in historical fiction.  I’ll update more when I finish.

January 12, 2010

I stayed up far too late finishing this one, but was compelled to.

Strengths: I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  Normally books that are written using a dialect wear on me after a while, but this one didn’t.  The wit and sass of the heroine made the use of the dialect necessary–and I really grew to love her by the end.  It was a little bit gothic, a little bit comedy, a little bit historical fiction.  A very skillfully written book overall.

Potential Flaws: It was hard to isolate any potential issues with this book.  To force something here for the sake of having something would do it a disservice.

My Rating:

A delightful read, HIGHLY recommended.