A sort-of retelling of a fairy tale, and yes I know this is set in a futuristic make-believe world already plagued by globalization, but it reads like...moreA sort-of retelling of a fairy tale, and yes I know this is set in a futuristic make-believe world already plagued by globalization, but it reads like a pan-Asian restaurant menu where your wonton (Chang-jie) is fried with Amok trey (Queen Channary), served on a bed of kaiso salad (Prince Kaito) with lashings of nuoc cham (Linh-Cinder).
Having said that, it is interesting. I like the reimagining of Cinderella as a cyborg, the Moon People sound like a fascinating race and the introduction of a virus to the plot always gets my immune system buzzing. However, you know what happens when people say "Interesting" to a meal - it's generally code for "will not be back for seconds".
There is a Chinese saying - “you3 yuan2 qian1 li3 lai2 xiang1 hui4”, loosely translated to “fate brings together those from thousands of miles apart”....moreThere is a Chinese saying - “you3 yuan2 qian1 li3 lai2 xiang1 hui4”, loosely translated to “fate brings together those from thousands of miles apart”. I feel a little like this with “The Little Dancer”. During my high school art elective class in Singapore, we studied her as the only sculpture Degas ever exhibited in his lifetime (aren’t you proud I remember this, Mrs Smith?!), but it was not until this year that I encountered her physical form, first at the Chicago Institute of Art, then shortly later at the Metropolitan Art Museum NYC. Marie Van Goethem, a student (or petit rat) at the Ecole de Danse in Paris – her face sky-turned, arms swung back, flat bosom thrust up brazenly. It’s no surprise that her initial unveiling in 1881 caused much controversy (not just due to the unconventional linen tuu tuu and REAL HAIR), and no wonder that her brassy stance influenced Hirst’s contentious “Virgin Mother” – but I can hardly believe the somewhat colourless Marie depicted in “The Painted Girls” could have inspired such a sculpture.
There is no doubt Cathy Marie Buchanan has done well describing a grubby 19th century Paris. The underprivileged are given the stage, and we get a good grasp of what it’s like to fight for the next meal. While I usually dislike alternating view points, it wasn’t too tedious in this novel – a first person voice served Antoinette well, else it would have been too easy skimming through her life without caring.
Marie is ultimately and eternally objectified in a sculpture – it is two-thirds her size, but the message is larger than life. I am eager to check her out again, this time the wax original at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC next month! (PS: This could be my last Canadian-authored novel this year!)
I adored "Angelology", but I cannot say the same for "Angelopolis". Evangeline, our enigmatic nun-turned-angel barely flutters through the pages, whil...moreI adored "Angelology", but I cannot say the same for "Angelopolis". Evangeline, our enigmatic nun-turned-angel barely flutters through the pages, while ex-lover Verlaine stalks and stomps doing not much else. Now, months down the track, I actually haven’t the foggiest memory of the plot.
Like "Angelology", its sequel is very overwritten; but the rich, pretty details may well be its saving grace – Durer etchings and the egg line theory, a compelling treatise on the Faberge egg, and most of all, the fascinating Linnanean catalogue of Angel subspecies. We also learn that Chanel No.5’s popularity with Nephilim is because it contains the wing fibres of a Phaskein angel… (~sharp intake of breath~)
As Verlaine smoldered on the last page, pledging to "look into Evangeline's pale green eyes and kill her", I found myself wondering what the next book in the series would be titled. Here are my humble suggestions: "Angelodipity" (by serendipity he actually manages to find her), "Angelorax" (the rise of a new species of angels, who speak for the trees) and "Angeloacker Quadrantini" (set in Italy and involving chocolate wafers).
Catchy catchy title and chirpy to the edge of hysteria – this memoir about Piper Kerman’s year in prison has almost everyone seen through the rose-tin...moreCatchy catchy title and chirpy to the edge of hysteria – this memoir about Piper Kerman’s year in prison has almost everyone seen through the rose-tinted glasses of a newbie starting high school. This is not one of those heavy, spiritual memoirs about finding the light – there is surprisingly little examination of the criminal justice system, and one comes away feeling that she tolerated prison as some sort of cruel injustice (hark the jealous gods!), rather than a way of accepting moral responsibility.
Having said that, this was an absorbing and entertaining read… plus surely it qualifies as non-fiction to fulfill my quota!
So - time is not a constant, I get that. Being prone to confusion, I’m not overly fond of time travel. However, excellent writing (kudos to the transl...moreSo - time is not a constant, I get that. Being prone to confusion, I’m not overly fond of time travel. However, excellent writing (kudos to the translator) and a clear story arc boost this series to join “Charlotte Sometime” as a must-read for this story-type. It helps that Gwen is very likeable and her adorable side-kick Lesley even more so, but Gideon… sizzle he does not apart from being an annoying prick on the barbeque.
The clincher for me, is of course the haunting memory jingle (It could not have been better in German!!! I'm convinced the slightly stilt-y translation makes it even more mysterious):
“The first pair Opal and Amber are, Agate sings in B flat, the wolf avatar, A duet – solutio! – with Aquamarine, Mighty Emerald next, with lovely Citrine. The Carnelian twins of the Scorpio sign, Number 8 is digestio, her stone is jade fine. E major’s the key of the Black Tourmaline, Sapphire sings in F major, and bright is her sheen. Then almost at once comes Diamond alone, Whose sign of the lion as Leo is known. Projectio! Time Flows on, both present and past, Ruby is first and is also the last.”
I do have some minor gripes with this – first, Sapphire sings to me in E minor, clearly the deepest purest blue of all the keys. F major is more a forest green (but anyway, to each and everyone’s own manifestation of synesthesia. If you too see A major as red, drop me a line. Also, check out this crazy link: “Do you know an F major person?” http://music.cbc.ca/#/blogs/2013/10/F... Famous examples include Belle from Beauty & the Beast. Go figure!) Second, I really really wish there was an additional layer to this smokescreen rhyme, a hidden clue to the Achille’s heel of anyone hoping to abuse the Circle of Twelve. In parallel time universes, all the gems suddenly unite in a blinding sparkle of madness, their eyes glaze over AND… Yes, you guess it right, I’m already imagining the movie tie-in.
This is a “Come of Age and Fulfill your Destiny” YA series with a delightful steam-punky vibe; there are no dramatic spleen-crushing, adrenal-wrecking moments, and most will see through the little twist early on, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Thanks for the recommendation, JY!
A demon who needs human to bear humble witness, through a modern recording device, to prove his existence? Hmmm…
I admit to seduction by the ubiquitous...moreA demon who needs human to bear humble witness, through a modern recording device, to prove his existence? Hmmm…
I admit to seduction by the ubiquitous posters on the subway, the fact that it’s authored by a Torontonian, and of course, five-starred comparisons with Stephen King and Du Maurier. Of course, there are also claims that this is an intellectual horror story because the protagonist spouts Milton. Dark forces work in mysterious ways indeed.
Professor Ullman is neither enigmatic nor endowed with the bookish appeal mandatory of heroes in his age group. The romance with O’Brien, supposedly fueled by a lofty intellectual affair between like-minded individuals (“You’re not the only one who’s read Milton”) fails to ring true as they psychoanalyze each other in literary riddle. The saving grace is perhaps the father-daughter relationship – at times I do feel Ullman’s urgency to save his daughter, though why he feels compelled to do so by lugging the 1400-paged "Anatomy of Melancholy" as essential reading material, I do not comprehend.
There are interesting factoids which did pique my imagination. Did you know that there are actually demonologists active in the Vatican (I’m so curious – what box do they tick on the income tax form?)? Cathedrals were built as plague churches in the 17th century to protect against the Black Death! Also, according to the “Compendium Maleficarum” by Brother Francesco Maria Guazzo in 1608 (it exists, you can get it from Amazon for a $11.51 WITH FREE SHIPPING), one of the fifty ways of telling if a possession is real includes the maddening sensation of ants under the skin.
But the inconsistencies were too much to bear – if Belial can only take shape of ones who were killed – did his father kill his son? How did it take shape of the friend? How then the shape of Tess before she allegedly plunged herself from the building? Who does George Barone work for - do we even care? I don’t understand what happens at the end either. Was O'Brien representing some form of disembodied usefulness? Belial shrieks, then turns and runs away?
Finally, the book cover. Often known to save from a one-starred fate, this gimlet eye secures its fate.
This started promising enough – a rare Klee print, a botched art heist, and Junior (aka burglar-with-a heart-of-gold). Set in bustling LA where the mo...moreThis started promising enough – a rare Klee print, a botched art heist, and Junior (aka burglar-with-a heart-of-gold). Set in bustling LA where the mob and showbiz are consorting in bed, this story was entertaining but required way too much suspension of belief. Then again, it might be because I have never witnessed LA in its gritty splendour.
PS: Thistle Downing is quite possibly the neatest stage name ever concocted.
**spoiler alert** While I pretend to wrinkle my nose at popular fiction, and claim that this is one of those books I read because I have yet to face t...more**spoiler alert** While I pretend to wrinkle my nose at popular fiction, and claim that this is one of those books I read because I have yet to face the original Dante’s descent through the Underworld blah blah blah… I really read it because it’s a Dan Brown. COME ON! While the writing is dull as dishwater (“Langdon and Sienna had seized an opportunity”, “He felt a wave of relief wash over him” and “Most troubling to him was the distressing question of how a soul as bright and warm as hers could give itself over entirely to his maniacal solution”), there’s always an abundance of Historical Detail, a wealth of Art and Clues for a Scavenger Hunt. THIS TIME, THERE'S ALSO A VIRUS. Also, it’s kind of fun imagining the movie – a frowning Tom Hanks with his too-long swept back hair racing around the Vatican with his Mickey Mouse watch.
This is months ago now, but I simply had to revise the great classic before the movie contaminated my consciousness with Leo’s Gatsby, Carey’s Daisy a...moreThis is months ago now, but I simply had to revise the great classic before the movie contaminated my consciousness with Leo’s Gatsby, Carey’s Daisy and Tobey’s Nick (I still haven't watched it, and probably won't).
My sympathies for each character wax and wane with each reading; this time, I indulged in an amoral fascination with Tom Buchanan - the great, abrasive, magnificent specimen of a brute. Daisy remains a spineless nitwit, and Nick the reluctant witness to the great spectacle.
And Gatsby? No, of course I'm not in love with him... but like him, I'm in love with the idea of a great great great love.
Smart girl (ok, not just smart, like prodigy-smart) attends mediocre college because her parents worry she is too far away? Smart girl gets bullied by...moreSmart girl (ok, not just smart, like prodigy-smart) attends mediocre college because her parents worry she is too far away? Smart girl gets bullied by some really dumb people who pledge allegiance to vampires? Smart girl meets three other losers who live in a house that protects them (except one of them is a ghost)? Smart girl then persists in running around late at night, doing nothing important whatsoever, when it is not safe?
At this point, I feel the need to justify my reading choices and appetite for vampire-lore.
As a 5 year old, this was my favourite ladybird:
These days, this is the clutch I covet:
AND yes - I'll deny this till I'm blue in the face in real life - but I did sort of love Twilight (at least up till it got weird with the imprinting).
Just so you understand. One broken fang severely in need of a filling.
Jojo Moyes has an uncanny knack of preparing you for upcoming devastation – the chilling calm before a storm. We experience this first in the opening...moreJojo Moyes has an uncanny knack of preparing you for upcoming devastation – the chilling calm before a storm. We experience this first in the opening scene when Will heads out to embrace his fairytale life (and we all know what happens); then later in the Mediterranean when he not-so-gently lets Louisa down.
There are some very grim themes – assisted suicide, the sudden loss of function and independence, and of potentials beyond the physical body. These themes are handled sometimes with too light a touch, but ultimately very deftly and effectively. Here we have a wealthy, well-supported individual, who despite all his material needs being catered for in a sensitive, dignified manner, is still unable to live on. Who is anyone to say that he didn’t try, or that he didn’t already make up his mind from the very beginning? This of course opens Pandora’s box (the author's intentions, no doubt) - what about the poorly resourced who may be floundering in less ideal environments? Physical pain and existential agony overlap in a venn diagram of suffering, even if one set were taken away, one still exists within the intersecting void.
For Louisa, life is a dim scramble of existing and subsisting; only through Will’s inability is her life suddenly florid with possibilities. The ending is a heart-breaking lesson about how true love may be about letting go.