Between the Lines Book Club: Crime and Punishment

between the lines book club logoWe are closing out summer with a studious book: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Want to discuss? Leave comments below or join us at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento at 10:20AM on August 22!

The hardest thing about Crime and Punishment is keeping track of the characters.  Here’s some help in the form of lots and lots of links!

General study guides:

For a general study guide, I recommend  There are plenty of free study guides online but I’m fond of the way Schmoop is organized and their irreverent sense of humor.  Here’s a little backstory they provide, just because I wasn’t feeling unproductive enough:

He had borrowed money from a fellow named Stellovsky, in exchange for writing a novel. If he didn’t give Stellovsky this other book by November 1, 1866, Stellovsky would own the rights to all of Dostoevsky’s work for the next ten years! So Dostoevsky set out to do the impossible – write two novels at the same time, one in the morning, one at night. He was terribly depressed about it, but he did it. He handed Stellovsky The Gambler right on schedule, and Russian Messenger got what you see before you, except in Russian.

I’m also not ashamed to say that I always start with wikipedia, and their page on Crime and Punishment is excellent. So check it out.

Confused about how to pronounce names? Here’s a handy video from youtube:

Characters: who are these people?

This is cool but spoilery: Cliff Notes has character maps that show how every character relates to every other character! It should go without saying that Cliff Notes is also a great general study guide.

For a nice, basic chart that shows all the nicknames with no spoilers, Spring Grove Area School District has your covered with this simple but incredibly helpful list which I am printing out right this second. It’s just the names and nicknames, no spoilers, nice and simple.

An Interview With Sarah Kuhn

kuhnheroineFull disclosure: Sarah Kuhn’s book One Con Glory was one of the first books I reviewed for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I loved the book and I’ve been reviewing for SBTB for five years now, so it has a special place in my heart! 

Can you tell us a little bit about Fresh Romance and how it is similar to and different from the romance comics of the 1950s – 1970s?

Fresh Romance is a monthly digital romance comics magazine from Rosy Press ( — the whole thing is the brainchild of brilliant editor Janelle Asselin, and since romance and comics are two of the things I love most in life, I was thrilled when she asked me to be part of it! Every issue has three ongoing stories and a bunch of other goodies, like advice columns and fashion reports. It’s similar to old school romance comics in that love stuff — blushing and kissing and feelings — is positioned front and center. I think it differs in that the stories span a wide range of sub-genres (historical, high school, supernatural) and star a diverse range of protagonists. As an Asian American lady, I don’t see myself a lot as a protagonist in the romances I enjoy, so featuring a diverse crew of characters was very important to me.

Tell us a little about your story! What’s the deal with Ruby’s “homeworld”? 

My story, “The Ruby Equation” (with artist Sally Jane Thompson, colorist Savanna Ganucheau, and letterer Steve Wands — we call ourselves Team S), is a supernatural romantic comedy about Ruby, a grouchy barista matchmaker from another dimension. Her mission is to help humans find love…but she’s really, really bad at it. I was fascinated by that idea because I think whenever we try to describe what makes a romantic relationship successful…we sort of can’t. Like, it’s not math, you know? But Ruby thinks it is, like if she just lines up the right variables — boom! She’ll get immediately successful relationships. I love female characters who are forceful like that, who have a lot of attitude and are single-mindedly convinced they’re the best at everything — even if we sort of see that that’s not the case as the story unfolds. Oh, and we’re not visiting the homeworld — at least not for this installment of the story. I think it’s probably so epic, it’s best left to the imagination.

Right now Fresh Romance has three stories – a Regency romance, a high school romance, and your story. Will these stories run for a limited time and then be followed by new stories?  What can we expect to see?

My story spans five issues, so we have two more to go! The others — “Ruined” by Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Winifred Searle and “School Spirit” by Kate Leth and Arielle Jovellanos —  I’m reading as a highly enthusiastic fan, so I don’t know when they wrap up. But you will see new stories introduced as the others comes to an end.

What are some other projects you are working on?

My novel Heroine Complex comes out next summer from DAW Books! It’s the first in a trilogy starring Asian American superheroines and it’s all about the adventures of Evie Tanaka, the put-upon personal assistant to a glamorous superheroine. It has demonic cupcakes, supernatural karaoke battles, and a hefty helping of romance. You can read the first three chapters here: I’m currently working on the sequel! Additionally, I have some film projects in development and I’m helping produce an LA-based comedy festival at the end of August (

OK, it’s summer, which means the beach (YAY). What book (comic or otherwise, and not written by yourself) should I put in my bag?

I absolutely loved Trade Me by Courtney Milan — a sexy, beautifully-written New Adult with truly endearing characters. (And an Asian American heroine!) I’m refreshing her website constantly in the hopes that the sequel might magically appear. Comics-wise, I highly recommend Thrillbent’s The Best Thing ( by writer Seanan McGuire and artist Erica Henderson, which offers a fun, spiky twist on the magical girls genre. And don’t we all need more magical girls in our lives?

Sarah Kuhn is the author of One Con Glory, the soon to be released novel The Heroine Complex, and a contributor to Fresh Romance. She’s a frequent panelist at San Diego Comic-Con. One Con Glory is in development as a feature film.

Book Review: I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest

I Am Princess X is incredibly riveting and clever, although it loses a lot of its narrative daring about two-thirds of the way through. This would be a bigger problem if not for the fact that you can read the whole book in just a few hours – it’s short and fast-moving. So by the time you get to the more conventional style you are almost done with the book anyway.

Libby and May became best friends when they were both nine, and they started writing a series of comics and stories about Princess X. May wrote the stories and Libby drew the pictures. A few years later, Libby and her mom died in a car accident. But a few years after the accident, May starts seeing “I Am Princess X” stickers everywhere and she discovers a webcomic that clearly refers to her and Libby. Is Libby alive?

The book combines the format of a novel and the comic format, as May reads the comic for clues. Eventually the comic format is largely dropped – which is unfortunate, because the parts of the story told in comic format are incredibly effective and scary. The book suffers when it becomes less of a mystery and more a straight forward catch the bad guy story.

There are some missteps in the book in addition to the change in style. One odd thing about the book is its insistence on explaining pretty basic terms. Honestly, this book is aimed at teens. Are there any teens who don’t know what “Dropbox” is? Also, May finds an ally who is a hacker. He is in trouble because he was, frankly, a criminal douchebag to his ex-girlfriend. I never liked this character but I felt like I was supposed to like him even though he expresses no remorse and no acknowledgement of how harmful his actions towards his ex would have been had he not gotten caught. A reformed jerk has to, you know, reform. They have to take responsibility for their past actions, not just try to clean up with new ones. His character was so weirdly drawn that I felt like there was a subplot involving him being a villain that was dropped.

Still, the book is well-worth checking out just for the first two-thirds of the book, which is inventive, mysterious, horrifying, exciting, and moving. I had literal chills as certain clues were revealed and I was just desperate to figure out what was going on. If there’s a sequel, I’ll read it. As much as I love to read romance, I was thrilled that this YA does NOT include a romance. It keeps the focus on the friendship between Libby and May.

Summer TV – Mini Reviews to Get You Through the Dog Days

Are you ready to do some serious binge watching? Guest reviewer Heather Thayer has you covered!  Here’s her mini-reviews of new TV this summer.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

I can summarize everything wrong with this show in one word: summer. The dark, brooding mood of the show and the heavy, gloomy Victorian settings are unappealing on a bright sunny day when it is light until late at night. I did watch two episodes and they were quite well done. The actor playing Mr. Norrell is perfect. The Man with the Thistledown Hair is frightening and ominous. I wonder whether someone who has not read the books will find the show easy to follow, but the source material is so great that I would hope that people new to the story could pick it up. DVR this show and wait for a storm (or winter) to watch it. I trust it will be excellent in the right weather.

Dark Matter

The concept of this show is intriguing – six people come out of stasis on a space ship with no memory of who they are, where they are, or what they are doing. They start to realize that they have skill memories, and there is an android who can handle the basics of operating the ship and everything else, so that’s helpful. After a few episodes I am still curious about the mystery, although the show can’t seem to steer clear of tropes – for example, one character is sullenly offensive and consistently resorts to conflict and violence. So tiresome. Another character is a manic pixie dream girl who dreams other people’s dreams. Hello, River Tam. The premise is interesting and they occasionally manage to avoid cliché, but it is turning into an “only if there isn’t something better to do” show.


Oh, how this show wants to be the new Firefly. Oh, how it isn’t. The premise is bounty hunters in outer space. Fine, great. I like that the lead character is a kickass woman and I like that the two initial main characters (a straight man and woman) have been business partners for six years but aren’t romantic partners and it is no big deal. I like the feel of the show (which does feel like Firefly) and the world building (which also feels like Firefly). But it is missing the wit of Firefly, the characters aren’t very interesting, and the writing is formulaic. Watch this one if you are sick and you don’t want anything challenging to hit your eyeballs.

Mr. Robot

Full disclosure – I am a lawyer who works with banks on consumer lending issues. I am going to have an issue with a show that has as a ridiculous premise “we’ll hack the banks and everyone’s loans will go pffft, and it will be wonderful for everyone!” But I love this show, even with that nonsense going on. The main character is fascinating. The show has a bleak outlook and is heavy-handed with its depressing message. It is terrific. It is slow-moving and complicated and spends most of its time looking at computer screens. It is riveting. Deliberate, lecturing, absorbing, mesmeric, thrilling. Impossible to explain or categorize. Best show on television right now.

True Detective

First episode. Meh.

First fifty-nine and a half minutes of the second episode. Meh.

Last thirty seconds of the second episode. WTF!!! WTF!!!!!! WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!