Monday, October 12, 2015

Reading List 2015: October

All I can offer by way of an excuse for this belated beginning-of-month post is... lack of inspiration. I wish I could say that "real life" got in the way but that is the most used and over-abused excuse in the world (because it wouldn't be real life if it didn't get in the way, huh?). But anyway, here I am, finally getting in the mood to write this down, and so here we go.

Recap of last month's reading list:
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves - One of the best historical novels I've read thus far. Oh, ancient Roman history! 5/5
  • Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee - The supposed first draft of the iconic To Kill A Mockingbird. TFG's book of the month. I was underwhelmed. 3/5
  • The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald - Currently on page 166 of 223. Having problems, quite obviously. 

For the past two or so weeks, my reading has been going at a turtle's pace. After reading I, Claudius, which I finished in more or less a week, I eagerly dived into The Blue Flower. Unfortunately, I'm still reading it, and I'm having issues with its readability. Many times I've mentally promised to finish it on a particular day, but I end up just surfing the net, watching TV series, or sleeping.

Anyway, for this month's books:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bring Up The Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)

by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up The Bodies takes up where Wolf Hall broke off: Thomas More and John Fisher have been executed, Queen Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary have been exiled in a place somewhere far from London, and Henry has finally married his concubine, Anne. (These details are in the history books so they are not spoilers.) Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s current right-hand man, awaits his master’s next bidding.

This sequel wastes no time getting into the story. This is the point when Anne has given Henry a daughter, but not a son – the heir to the throne – and Henry is getting a little impatient. Anne is not getting any younger either – not as young as she used to, of course, in terms of childbearing – and it was imperative that she be able to give a him a son, or (very likely) lose her head. Literally. It doesn’t help that Henry has set his wandering eyes on plain, quiet little Jane Seymour, of the Seymours of Wolf Hall. When it becomes apparent that Anne can no longer bear Henry’s heir, Henry suddenly realizes that his marriage to Anne is, in fact, bigamous and, therefore, of no legal effect, and Cromwell sets about finding ways to eliminate her so that Henry could be free to marry Jane. Anne herself makes Cromwell’s life easier, what with talk of her adulterous relations and the sudden obtainability of witnesses to attest to her clandestine affairs.

Ah, the plot thickens.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Reading List 2015: September

This is a rather late one for a beginning-of-month post, so forgive the tardiness. I blame real life and the Romans.

Oh, the Romans! But before we get to that, a roundup of last month’s reading list:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Innocence, bigotry, and a lawyer named Atticus Finch. 5/5
  • The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie – Got as far as the middle of part 2 when I decided to put it on hold for now. It’s taking a while to get into the writing.
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick – The book club’s science fiction book for the month. 4/5

And for September’s reading list, here they are:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

by Margaret Atwood

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales is a collection of nine short stories that are a combination of funny, witty, clever, and dark. While I am no stranger to Margaret Atwood’s fiction, having previously read The Handmaid’s Tale and Booker winner The Blind Assassin, both of which are worthwhile reads (if you haven’t read them yet – what are you still doing??), this is my first foray into Atwood’s world of short fiction (after Happy Endings, a short story previously featured in The Short Story Station).

Needless to say, I enjoyed each and every tale in this collection, albeit in varying degrees, as there were stories that I liked more than the others. Alphinland, Revenant, and Dark Lady, the first three stories, had interconnected characters; each story featured one of the characters in a love triangle that began (and ended) in the 60’s. Constance, the female protagonist in Alphinland, is the author of a series of fantasy novels set in an imaginary world called Alphinland, which she began writing when she was still living with Gavin, a poet, who is the main protagonist in Revenant. Their love affair was interrupted by the third party in the triangle, Marjorie, who was supposedly Gavin’s muse in his Dark Lady poems, as featured in the story Dark Lady. All of them are now in the twilight of their years, with practically one foot out the door. In fact, I think that's the theme shared in common by these nine tales: an exit – whether from life, a circumstance, or a situation, whether occurring naturally, self-imposed, or forced upon them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How to be both

by Ali Smith

How to be both is a novel divided into two parts: Camera, the story of teenager George, whose mother’s sudden death has left her grasping and attempting survival, and Eyes, the story of real-life Renaissance artist Francesco del Cossa, an Italian. Their stories are divided by centuries and yet they are connected: on the surface, the connection can be seen when George and her mother went to Italy to see a fresco painted by del Cossa. Because that trip turned out to be the last one Georgia will ever have with her mother, she remembered the painting and the artist.

But there is a deeper, more intimate connection between del Cossa and Georgia than meets the eye, a link that is stronger and more passionate than that forged by a one-time visit to an artwork of centuries ago. That is, for this reader, the crux of How to be both.


Printed copies of How to be both are published in two ways: some editions have Camera printed first before Eyes, and some, Eyes first. Supposedly, it doesn’t matter which one you read first, because one story simply mirrors the other. The styles of the stories are different, as they are told from two different points of view: Eyes is the stream-of-consciousness, first person POV of del Cossa while Camera is told from the third person POV of George. Interesting premise, and I was sold. But I could not say I was satisfied.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch is the story of Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker who survives a bomb blast in a museum that kills his mother. With his father off in Las Vegas with a new girlfriend, Theo is taken in by the Barbours, the affluent family of a friend in school. Theo is left with the memories of his mother and his “picture” – The Goldfinch, a small 1654 painting by Carel Fabritius which he took with him from the museum on the day of the accident upon the prodding of an old man, Welty. Before he died in the museum, Welty purposely “led” Theo to his furniture shop in the Greenwich Village and his business partner, Hobie. Eventually, however, Theo’s father, Larry, finds him and takes him to Nevada, where Theo meets Boris, his foul-mouthed, drug-addicted friend with whom Theo will spend much of his teenage years. Circumstances will ultimately compel Theo to return to New York – now a young man – where he continues to live a shady life, longing for his mother, clinging to the one thing that he knew bound her to him even in death: The Goldfinch.

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