A wee bit of culture via one of the great literary adaptations with wonderful music by Prokoviev. I try to see this every time it’s performed at Sadler’s Wells and it never disappoints. This was the turn of the National Ballet of Canada with new choreography and glorious visuals – a series of Renaissance paintings brought to life. Really, really lovely and gloriously moving.
To my shame I have never read any Gene Wolfe before now and decided to start with Peace, partly because of the beautiful cover (yes, I am that shallow) but also because the blurb on the back of the Fantasy Masterworks edition I have sounded intriguing and not at all fantasy like, and the book itself reinforces that view because it reads very much like an ordinary memoir of a man’s life, but it is implied that there is a lot more going on here.
Which is where I have to confess that I had a bit of a problem, because I clearly missed a lot of the subtext around death (not giving too much away as this is mentioned on the back of the book) and I was aware but possibly didn’t entirely understand the timey-wimey stuff until close to the end. This, I hasten to say, is totally my failure to appreciate what Wolfe was doing with this story.
Peace is beautifully written, engaging, with believable characters that I became very fond of, especially our hero Alden Dennis Weer’s Aunt Olivia and her various suitors.
Because I was aware when I got to the end of the novel that I had not really got underneath the skin of this novel, I went off to the world-wide webs to find out what others have said with the result that I am definitely going to read Peace again to see if I was just being particularly dim or if it is as ambiguous as it appears.
All of that sounds like I didn’t enjoy Peace but I really did like it very much. As I said, the writing is super. There is a female character who is rumoured (on apparently no basis at all) to be no better than she should be, the other ladies around her considering all the rumours to be true because she is so fit
For to them a physical pliancy implies moral accommodation
There is also a lovely quote which made me think more about the process of writing than I normally do. Our narrator talks abut doing something between the last sentence he had written and the one he is currently writing, and says
have you never thought as you read that months may lie between any pair of words?
Reading back this is a very fuzzy and disjointed review of what is clearly an important book in the fantasy genre. But I was confused and can only leave you all with the quote on the cover from Neil Gaiman:
a tricky, deep and remarkable novel
I may have missed some of the points but I am very glad that I read it.
This was my first read for Once Upon a Time VII.
I think it was Anne Fadiman who talked in one of her books about the shelf where she kept books about her particular obsession which was (as far as I remember) polar exploration. I would have a similar shelf if I was more organised (and didn’t have quite so many books) but mine would be all about Royal and aristocratic women. I just can’t resist them, everything from Queen Marie of Romania to The Mitfords via our own royal family. Adore the glamour and clothes and jewellery and privilege as only someone brought up on a council estate in the West of Scotland can.
This is largely my late Mum’s influence and sits uncomfortably alongside my general centre left politics but, you know, can’t help it. Doesn’t mean I watch stuff like Downton Abbey though, I do draw the line (though I used to adore the Upstairs Downstairs, though I have no illusions that I would have been anything other than a scullery maid)
Counting One’s Blessings is a selection of the letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from her childhood to her death. I’ve said before that I often find it difficult to review books like this because they are what they are, and this very much is what it is – demonstrating nothing more than that the QM was a woman of her class and generation, loving the country (and in particular horses), with some insights into her life with King George VI (some of which is picked up in The King’s Speech), her friendships with some interesting people (Osbert Sitwell. Ted Hughes) and her interest in British Art.
If you are looking for scandal, especially around Diana, Princess of Wales, then you will be disappointed. It appears that the QM was so concerned in her later life about things being leaked that she didn’t put her intimate thought on such matters in her letters. Enjoyable if you are interested in the Royal Family or ladies of a certain class and era, but not sure it is for everyone.
I could actually review Angelmaker in one word – awesome. I totally, totally adored this book which was recommended by my dear friend Silvery Dude who then bought it for me as a belated birthday present in Waterstones Piccadilly the day after the Oscar ceremony when I went to assist him in the spending of his Christmas book vouchers.
I also *fangirl squee* had a Twitter exchange with Nick Harkaway, the author, after which I swooned and then finished the book in a massive reading session on Good Friday.
This is the story of Joe Spork, who repairs clocks and automatons and other lovely mechanical devices in London, and is asked to fix something really peculiar which kicks off a whole series of events which brings him to the attention of secret bits of the government, a magnificent super villain, a notorious serial killer and a strange sect of monkish types. In this situation he finds himself in the company of the greatest lawyer in the world (sorry Silvery Dude) Mercer Cradle (on whom I now have a huge girly crush), the lovely Polly and the nonagenarian spy Edie Banister.
And then there are the mechanical bees.
This is just rollicking good fun, an exciting and pacy story with lovely, sympathetic, complex and realistic characters that I became very attached too. Without giving too much away (and deciding not to go on and on about Mercer but, you know, best thing in a lot of very very good things) I loved it when Joe decided to tap into the influence of his late Dad-with-a-criminal-past. I loved the fact that everything that happens in this has consequences both good and bad for the characters and so has a real heart of truth in amongst all the fantastical elements.
And there’s quite a bit of enjoyable naughtiness as well. For those who like that sort of thing (count me in).
Almost impossible to articulate exactly how wonderful this is. One of my absolute favourite reads of the year, can’t see it being shifted at all.
So, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is one of those books that everyone was reading at the same time last year, and, as I always seem to do, I postponed my read so as not to get caught up in it all. I have absolutely no idea why I do this but it has become a habit and I suspect I’m not going to change anytime soon.
I have read Gillian (a bit over-familiar, sorry) before, Sharp Objects which I reviewed here, and enjoyed it enough to buy (but not yet read, her second novel, Dark Places, and I do have a tendency to read things in order, but I jumped into Gone Girl because I became curious and ended up finishing it in a massive single sitting when I wasn’t very well just before Easter. And I can recommend it as a book to take your mind off illness because it is totally compelling and I really, really wanted to know how it was going to work out.
This is the story of Nick and Amy, a golden couple whose life changes when they have to move away from New York to Nick’s hometown when they both lose their jobs. One day Amy disappears; there are signs of a struggle and Nick is distressed but there is something not quite right, and we follow the investigation into her disappearance from Nick’s point of view, alternating with entries from Amy’s diary from the point at which she first meets her husband.
I loved this. I thought I knew where the story was going, and then a thing happened that both reinforced my theory and undermined it entirely, and then another thing happened which I didn’t see coming at all.
As well as a fabulous psychological thriller it’s also a compelling portrait of a marriage and reminds us all that you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s head.
Gillian has been accused of misogyny amongst other things; if you want to know what her reaction is to that then do read this interview with her in The Guardian.
If you are one of the three people in the world who hasn’t read this yet then I can’t recommend it too highly.
The first casualty is the Stardust readalong which I talked about here. The first discussion stage has already passed and I haven’t even started the book, and I know there isn’t any way that I’m going to be able to fit in reading the whole thing in the time allowed (lots of weekend commitments) so reluctantly giving up on that one.
The second casualty is the 24 Hour Readathon. I took part in that last April and did really well, raising £400 or so for charity, and if I was taking part again this year I’d want to do something similar, but it just isn’t going to be. So, that one parked in the hopes that I can take part in the October event if the dates work out around my holiday plans.
But some good news; I have already read one book for Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge and have a couple of others on my TBR pile so that at least seems to be on track.
Where has the year gone? it seems like New Year was only yesterday and here we are at the end of March, nearly Easter, and it’s time for Carl’s annual Once Upon a Time challenge, now in its seventh year. My record in recent years has been a bit poor but it’s such an interesting area of reading to be diving into that I always want to have a try even though I might not read as much as I would like.
So I’m aiming to take part in the general reading category which doesn’t commit me to any specific number of books. But I have still pulled together a bit of a reading list to help, accessing the Book God’s collection of Fantasy Masterworks:
- The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip – I actually started this for last year’s challenge and found the writing rather to ethereal for my taste, but I’ve decided to have another attempt at finishing the book
- Fevre Dream by George RR Martin – the Book God pushed this in my direction partly because, despite my love for the TV adaptation of Game of Thrones, I’ve never read any of his work and this comes highly recommended
- Peace by Gene Wolfe – shamefully I have also never read (as far as I’m aware) any of Wolfe’s work so really looking forward to this one
- The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson – I had good fun with another of Anderson’s books in an earlier OUAT challenge and this sounds lovely and Norse
- The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll – another author I’ve wanted to read for ages
I’ll also be taking part in the Stardust read-along which I talk about here. So let’s see how I get on. It will be fun, I’m sure.
As part of Carl’s annual Once Upon a Time Challenge (more of which tomorrow) he has delightfully set up a group read of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and although my record on read-alongs (I refer you to the Wolf Hall debacle) I am going to have a go because it is a short and hugely enjoyable (and did I say short?) book.
The schedule for the group read will be:
- April 1-9th: Prologue through the end of Chapter 5.
- April 10th: Discussion over first half (roughly) of the story
- April 10th-16th: Chapter 6 through the Epilogue.
- April 17th: Discussion over the second half of the book and wrap up.
I’m then going to try to watch the film version which I have had for ages but not got around to watching.
Should all be great fun.
I’ve been using the same theme since I started my blog back in 2007 and decided it was time for a change. New theme is the same as the one I use for Bride of the Screen God so nice to have them joined in that way. Not sure about the header photo but it will do for now (it’s a bit of Falkland Palace for those who might be interested). Let me know what you think.
Seeing Redd is the second volume in Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars trilogy (my thoughts on volume one are here), and expands on Alyss Heart’s story now that she is (Spoiler Alert) back in charge of Wonderland having defeated her Aunt Redd and regained her Queendom.
Of course, things are not going smoothly as she tries to consolidate her rule, not only having to contend with those members of her kingdom who supported Redd during her rule but with the machinations of King Arch from a neighbouring kingdom (who doesn’t believe women should rule) and her growing attraction to her now-grown-up childhood friend Dodge.
This is very enjoyable but I didn’t find it quite as compelling as the first book, although it still has many things of interest: Redd’s wonderful dress made of living toothed roses, her assassin The Cat (yes, that cat), and the rather nasty sidekicks of Arch (especially Blister) and the whole concept of The Millinery. Redd’s appearances on Earth are also very spooky and disturbing.
I think it suffers a bit from being the middle volume of a trilogy; if builds on the outcome of the first but is clearly designed to set us up for the big finish in the third volume. Still enjoyable and I do want to know how it all works out.