Oh my God. Thomas Hardy actually wrote a book where no one dies/ has their life completely and utterly ruined/ gets stuck in a bad marriage/ leaves yoOh my God. Thomas Hardy actually wrote a book where no one dies/ has their life completely and utterly ruined/ gets stuck in a bad marriage/ leaves you contemplating suicide. I swear, last year's brave attempt to finally tackle Jude The Obscure left me so traumatized that I was convinced the kids in Our Exploits at West Poley were going to drown tragically and/or get viciously lynched by irate villagers, thereby reminding us all once again how much human beings suck. Thankfully, this is - somewhat narrowly - avoided.
This book also contained Under The Greenwood Tree which I'd read before and four short stories meant to be something of a mini Wessex Canterbury Tales. Old Tom goes back to telling us how much being married sucks and how most men are pigs but these were - gasp - actually kind of funny.
On the other hand, I missed Hardy's poetic descriptions of the Wessex countryside. I think he can only wax lyrical about trees and stars and birds if he knows he can bump off someone in the end. Still, I might be sufficiently recovered thanks to this volume to attempt Two on a Tower or even The Mayor of Casterbridge sometime soon....more
One of my best friends gave me this book, a lovely battered copy with golden yellow pages that she'd had with her for years. That was a while ago andOne of my best friends gave me this book, a lovely battered copy with golden yellow pages that she'd had with her for years. That was a while ago and I wish I had come to this earlier.
I thought this was going to be one of those weepy fallen women stories the Victorians seem to love so much. However, while this book does seem like an inspiration for Hardy's Tess Durbyfield and Eustacia Vye, Eliot's characterization is much more nuanced and her plot less likely to make you want to drink yourself to death after you finish reading the book. Hetty is more sympathetic than you would expect - especially during her journey to find Arthur - although I found the constant descriptions of her as "round" and "soft" irritating - it made me feel like I was reading about a doughnut instead of a human being.
I was surprised to find that the digression in the middle of the story, where Eliot talks of genre painting and her approach to realism in writing , was less disruptive. Maybe it's because I love Dutch art for the same reasons but this is, in my opinion, how an author should insert an opinion piece into a work of fiction (I'm talking to you, Leo Tolstoy).
What I didn't like was Dinah giving up her own ambitions towards the end of the book, just like Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch. She was portrayed far too much as a saint, and not being very religious myself, I couldn't be particularly interested in her as a nice, godly girl, but I did like her better when she is torn between love for another man and her love of God - it made her easier to relate to. And I loved the scene where she and Adam meet at dusk....more
This book was such a curate's egg. The writing was lovely, almost tactile. The very first scene in the book stood out right in front of me as I read iThis book was such a curate's egg. The writing was lovely, almost tactile. The very first scene in the book stood out right in front of me as I read it, I imagined it all candlelight and winter shadows. Most of the characters are well written and I like the touch of the unreliable narrator that Cathy has.
However, there is little of the promised gothic in this apart from that. Rob is strangely featureless and bland, despite his importance in the story. The second half of the book is where the story derails. Characters return, weakening the impact of their departure; others permeate the pages but remain indistinct even when brought back into focus. The ending in particular is weak and does not tie in with the course of the story in my opinion. I think I'd have rather read about Harry and Liza Callan.
I initially picked up this book because of my interest in the period of history in which it is set but there was very little to tie it to the world outside, even WWI passes through the insularity of the story and the characters with only a ghost of an impact. Still, that might be an intended feature of a story that seems to explore the different shades of isolation.
Should the author take to writing poetry, though, I think I should like to read it very much....more
I found this book while searching for stories about fairies (the morally ambiguous monsters of folklore, not the candy coloured Victorian version). II found this book while searching for stories about fairies (the morally ambiguous monsters of folklore, not the candy coloured Victorian version). I forgot about it until the middle of the night at an okonomiyaki restuarant in Osaka because I finally missed having something to read while eating alone and it was the only one I had on me at the moment.
I did like the premise of the story but there were rather too many humans and far too few faeries. The initial meeting between Tara and Hiero was promisingly magical but it ultimately deteriorated into a rather halfhearted portrait of fairies as hyperintelligent (and hypersexual) dwellers of another world. I guess it's a matter of personal taste - I wanted to read about folklore and the modern(ish) take didn't really capture my interest and the fact remains that I rarely enjoy reading about modern human relationship dynamics, which is honestly the heart of this book (though I must say it is dealt with quite well). Mr. Joyce's writing was however, lyrical enough in parts to make me want to search out some more of his work....more
This was given to me by a friend (I adore hand-me-down books! It feels like you're reading them with a friend beside you and I like wondering how theThis was given to me by a friend (I adore hand-me-down books! It feels like you're reading them with a friend beside you and I like wondering how the previous owner would have reacted to this or that part of the story).
It was the cover that attracted me at first though, not the book. The cover is delightfully reminiscent of Lego and a read in itself - I had a great time, discovering all the little stories in it - the cheeky, the cute and the plain weird. But along with the superfun cover, I ended up enjoying the book itself way more than I expected to.
I'm not a big fan of pulp/noir/hardboiled detective fiction and their variants, mainly because they slip into narm territory so often. I prefer cozy country house murders and psychological mysteries. But I liked City of Tiny Lights because it takes familiar tropes (femme fatale walks into the office of hard drinking detective with A Past, for one) and then adds in all these layers to the story. It also helps that Tommy Akhtar is a pretty likeable protagonist. While I found his narration a little grating at first, as you delve into his story and that of the city around him, it becomes less a jumble of argot (thank God for all the 70s British sitcoms my parents watched when I was a kid; I hadn't heard the word "shtum" since Mind Your Language) and more of a unique voice guiding you around a unique city.
I liked that Patrick Neate managed to write about an ethnic character without resorting to the awful stereotypes that books with Indian characters are peppered with (even when so many of them are written by Indians themselves!). Neate treats his characters as people - you get the idea that Tommy and the others are who they are also because of themselves, not just because of where they come from. In fact, most of the characters in the book, regardless of ethnicity and importance, are better fleshed out than I would expect. I also liked the book's treatment of Islamic fundamentalism (Farzad wouldn't like that - maybe I should say Islamic opportunism instead?). It avoids the boogeyman/monster-under-the-bed approach of a lot of fiction - and non fiction - and instead chooses to portray a complex issue in a more nuanced manner than usual. It was this blend of pulp and realism that made this an engaging book to read. I also like the London of this book. I think places in a book, whether houses or entire cities, are as important as the human characters and I love stories that make them come alive.
On the other hand, the ending was quite disappointing. I don't mind the occasional loose end that leaves the reader intrigued but this felt unfinished, as if there was a chapter or epilogue missing. Tommy's decision to involve Avi, while crucial to the climax, was uncharacteristically bad, despite the lampshading and its aftermath wasn't explored in as much detail as I thought it required. The pace of the book starting from the climax onwards was quite hurried and out of sync with the rest.
I did like the book on the whole and I wish Mr. Neate would hurry up and write another Tommy Akhtar mystery. This was an interesting complement to Cuckoo's Calling. I think modern detective fiction set in London is a genre I will enjoy exploring....more
I am not a huge fan of the Glamourist series but I find the magic system and the Regency setting interesting enough to follow the books. The third booI am not a huge fan of the Glamourist series but I find the magic system and the Regency setting interesting enough to follow the books. The third book takes on the Luddite uprisings, substituting weavers for glamour creating cold mongers. I was also impressed by the fact that the book recognises the multiethnic nature of British society even at the time and avoids the blanket whitewashing of most books and movies set in the period. The characters in the series have managed to be surprisingly nuanced and that, with the relationship between Jane and Vincent, is one of the stronger points of this book. Jane manages to be a nuanced character, with doubts and prejudice but with the courage to change both of them.
The writing can be a bit indifferent at times, and a little breathless at others but it is overall much better than the second one. I still think that this series is not living up to its potential. So far, the books are merely good, but they might be great. This book was probably the best in the series and I hope the newer ones will continue to develop and capture that spark it needs to be a truly amazing series of books. ...more
I really must stop reading random Agatha Christie mysteries as a diversion while trying to read heavier books. They're always fun and don't really insI really must stop reading random Agatha Christie mysteries as a diversion while trying to read heavier books. They're always fun and don't really insult the reader's intelligence but they do tend to get a little repetitive. And I know this values dissonance is just a reflection of how different things were in Christie's time, but the xenophobia is really grating. Especially when you're supposed to sympathise with a woman who is willing to disown members of her family simply because their father is Greek! Really?! It can be argued that Dr Tanios is slightly redeemed towards the end but it's tiresome to read the kind of statements that are spouted in the beginning. ...more
Saw the reveal coming halfway through the book - Christie drops some pretty giant hints. It's a pretty typical Christie mystery; big, wealthy, crazy fSaw the reveal coming halfway through the book - Christie drops some pretty giant hints. It's a pretty typical Christie mystery; big, wealthy, crazy family, earnestly English suitor, a touch of xenophobia and a very readable story. The ending however, and the justification for it was downright bizarre. ...more
What is it with Christie and jingoistic gorilla heroes? The whole kiss-kiss-slap-slap dynamic with their suitably fiery heroines? It starts getting tiWhat is it with Christie and jingoistic gorilla heroes? The whole kiss-kiss-slap-slap dynamic with their suitably fiery heroines? It starts getting tiresome after oh, the 200th time. Luke and Bridget's relationship was more rapey than romantic and I was tired of both of them by the fifth page.
Anyway, decent mystery. I was hoping for an interesting supernatural element since Luke was supposed to be researching witchcraft after all. The reveal is slightly predictable though and embarrassingly soap-operatic but to be honest, I don't really have any serious expectations from a book like this to begin with so I'm satisfied with a semi-interesting denouement, which this one had. ...more
Fun and light. Frankie and Bobby could both get a little annoying but I kind of liked them. I thought the plot got a little unnecessarily drawn out thFun and light. Frankie and Bobby could both get a little annoying but I kind of liked them. I thought the plot got a little unnecessarily drawn out though. ...more
Just before I began this book, I asked myself - why do I read Hardy? His stories lead obsessively to tragedy, made worse because he garnishes them witJust before I began this book, I asked myself - why do I read Hardy? His stories lead obsessively to tragedy, made worse because he garnishes them with faint hints of hope and quotidian joys. I find myself getting tired of his heroines, fickle straw divas who, it seems, must be punished for the fascination they attract.
And then I opened the first page and I found out why I read Hardy: "...the silver and black-stemmed birches with their characteristic tufts, the pale grey boughs of beech, the dark-creviced elm, all appeared now as black and flat outlines upon the sky, wherein the white stars twinkled so vehemently that their flickering seemed like the flapping of wings."
It's not just the poetry of his words, it's the sharp-edged, tactile immediacy of them. Hardy is the kind of author I like best - the one that makes you see, makes you hear and taste and sense things. He doesn't tell you what's happening. He seems to instead place you inside the story as a ghost, an observer and allows you to make up your own mind.
Under the Greenwood Tree is probably the closest you could get to extracting a happy story from Mr. Hardy. However, I have to admit that while I thought I would enjoy a lack of major gloom and doom, I don't think this book will stay with me as much as his others. It's true that tragedy is more memorable than joy but this book really does not aim to be much more than a sweet, pleasant tale. I didn't much care for Fancy Day, her actions and her name were too daytime-TV-heroine for me. Bathsheba Everdene had ambition, Eustacia Vye had fire - Fancy Day is just pretty. I can't say I like any of Hardy's heroines - I wouldn't root for them or think that they're people I would want to be friends with. But I relate to them, I understand them because their flaws are mine. I just can't relate to Fancy the way I can to Bathsheba or Eustacia. Dick Dewey (what is WITH these names, Tom?!) felt like a watered down, bland version of Gabriel Oak. I can't understand why he likes Fancy for any reason other than her appearance and that really doesn't make his character very sympathetic.
I liked this book mostly for its other characters - the land, the forests, the little houses in the countryside - in brief, the things I like best in Hardy's books. ...more
I really wanted to like this book. The themes of mythology, of the importance of stories is something I've always found interesting. However, it was tI really wanted to like this book. The themes of mythology, of the importance of stories is something I've always found interesting. However, it was the characters that let me down. I don't understand why, but books with some of the most interesting and even original plots seem to have the most unsympathetic characters. Or does the scope of the story itself dilute the characters?
So much of the plot is dedicated to Guiwenneth but the fascination that the Brothers Huxley have for her seemed more like a puerile infatuation and it left me indifferent and bored. I liked Christian's evolution though, and he was by far more engaging than either Stephen or Guiwenneth. The Urscumug too, was evocative and frightening in en engagingly primeval way. My favourite character though, was Ryhope wood itself and I did feel the weight of all those stories, all those archetypes embedded in the collective human memory. I might give the other books in the series a try - the themes interest me enough to do so - but I doubt I'll enjoy them if they continue to be peopled by such lacklustre characters....more
I love reading Agatha Christie for the same reasons I like eating junk food - it's fast, easy and enjoyable when I want a change from more sensible stI love reading Agatha Christie for the same reasons I like eating junk food - it's fast, easy and enjoyable when I want a change from more sensible stuff. And like junk food, there's often a not-so-pleasant aftertaste to it. In this case, it's the values dissonance I experience while reading some of her books. The old timey racism and imperialist attitudes are difficult to digest, especially when they come from characters you're supposed to root for. I just can't sympathize with her pukka sahibs, nor with statements that imply that being English means hating on every foreigner you meet.
However, the plot in this book was entertaining as usual, and I did like the second twist towards the end. ...more
I read this mostly out of curiosity (you have to admit, the title has an epic sound to it :P) and a hope to get back into the world of Jane Austen's bI read this mostly out of curiosity (you have to admit, the title has an epic sound to it :P) and a hope to get back into the world of Jane Austen's books. The "mystery" is actually incredibly dull and most of the book consists of awkwardly insistent references to Pride and Prejudice, my least favourite Austen work. Maybe if I cared for Elizabeth and D'Arcy, I'd have enjoyed this book more, but the plodding writing makes me doubt that. Honestly, my favourite part of the book was probably the cover. ...more
I've realised that while writing out reviews is tiresome, reading them later is fun, the way reading a journal is fun because it lets you remember howI've realised that while writing out reviews is tiresome, reading them later is fun, the way reading a journal is fun because it lets you remember how you felt, and see if and how your opinions have changed. So I've decided to start reviewing (read: ranting to myself) again like I did for all the books I read in 2011.
I started this last year I think, and gave up halfway but my new found tolerance for Regency romances finally let me finish this.
It isn't a bad book really, despite feeling like a Pride and Prejudice fanfiction with hints of Sense and Sensibility in places. Jane is a likable protagonist and Melody is more layered than I would have expected. Vincent does have a Mr. Darcy-meets-Byron hangover but he redeems himself wonderfully with that sketchbook.
Ms. Kowal's concept of glamour is interesting. I love the way she describes the process in terms of textiles. My chief grouse is that you have this wonderfully poetic system of magic and you use it for home decor and makeovers. Though the author lampshades this towards the end, I'd love to see more applications for glamour in future books....more