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text 2018-07-21 22:23
Reading progress update: I've read 83 out of 404 pages.
E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat

It appears that the author has given me a rest from her dissection of Forster's love life and we now a have a (hopefully extended) period of discussing the rest of his life.

 

I knew that Forster was a tutor to Elizabeth von Arnim's children but didn't know about the anecdote of his arrival at her castle, or about descriptions his employer. 

 

I am not typing these right here but much of the quotes are also provided in this post on the Books as Food blog. 

 

What was even more interesting, there are some glimpses now about Forster's, Morgan's, development as a writer - the stuff that makes his book stand out so from others of the time: 

While in Nassenheide, Morgan turned to his diary to ruminate on the wider question of how he fit into the world. He felt out of touch with modern writers. In its infancy, the novel had been novel - of all the literary forms, it made the unique promise of showing life truthfully - but the conventions of the nineteenth-century novels Morgan revered had begun to feel a little like a cage. It seemed to him wrongheaded, even trivial these days simply to end a novel with "the old, old answer, marriage": "Artists now realise that marriage, the old full stop, is not an end at all..." Resolving a plot with marriage was part of the imperative of comedy, but the blind optimism of lesser writers seemed dishonest to him: "The writer who depicts [life as a bed of roses] may possibly be praised for his healthy simplicity. But his own conscience will never approve him, for he knows that healthiness and simplicity are not, in all cases, identical with truth. 

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review 2018-07-21 20:38
Boystown 6
Boystown 6: From the Ashes - Marshall Thornton

We were quiet a long time and then he said, “I love you.” 
I wondered if I’d misunderstood him. The discomfort of the idea must have shown on my face because he added, “I don’t mean I love you that way. Not like I love Ross. Not like you love Harker. I mean, I care about you, Nick. You’re my friend. With all the things that are happening in the world, shouldn’t it be okay? Just to say I love you?”
“Yes, it should be okay.”
And it was.

 

Some great new characters and relationships here. But damn the heart. 

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review 2018-07-21 14:51
There Is A Place Where Wayward Children Exist...
Every Heart a Doorway - Seanan McGuire

What if the world we live in is our reality and there is another world beside ours exist? A world where belongs to you that you will call home. A fantasy world filled with sugar candies or a world where you are the prince in the Goblin Market. Where worlds exist isn't ours that your parents do not believe you even you had being there for a long time, thought missing or kidnap and return to the living, labelled crazy that your parents sent you to a boarding school called Eleanor's West Home for Wayward Children that helps these troubled children, only that this is a place that helps them because the the principal believes there are such worlds exist because... she has cross over before. This is the premise of Every Hear A Doorway, the first book of the Wayward Children series written by Seanan McGuire, a science fiction fantasy novella that is quite unique and yet similar to some other stories you might have heard before. While there is originality to its own, it is enjoyable and yet predictable.

 

It begins with a girl named Nancy Whitman, an ordinary teenager looking girl except for her white hair arrived at the manor, where she meets the residence of the Wayward Children. There, she discovers other children with similar experiences like her on different scale or level, some lived in worlds that are light and others lived in worlds that are dark and bleak. As she starts to discover and learn about the boarding school, one by one, children turns up dead in gruesome manner. Are any of the deaths, related to her or to anyone that lives in the world of the dark?

 

Reading Every Heart A Doorway to me is enjoyable because for its straight-to-a-point story where it doesn't waste much time as it progresses pretty much forward without any bullsh*t. And then, the world building is an interesting one where this reality explores portals opens to each children of their heart desires is intriguing and I believe, not done before. The building suspense of its mystery of the murders on the other hand at the beginning is plotted out pretty well, it was towards the end where its predictable when discovered who the real murderer was in the same old fashion reasoning why 'I done it because' excuse just fail to my expectation. Overall, I like it and I feel 3.5 out of 5 stars deserves its rating. I will be reading the next chapter, as although its not a sequel but rather a back-story of one of the characters.

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review 2018-07-21 14:36
Experimental, challenging, touching and funny at times but not a crowd-pleaser.
Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders

I thank NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

First, in case you have not read the book or anything about it, and wonder what the bardo of the title refers to, it is a Buddhist concept (in Tibetan Buddhism, it seems, and I’ve read that Saunders is a Buddhist) referring to an intermediate state between death and rebirth (between two lives on Earth).

Now that we’ve cleared that out, if you follow my blog, you might remember that I reviewed some of the books that had made the long and the short-list of the Booker Prize. I enjoyed some of them more than others, but I had not read the book that actually won the Prize, and when I saw it come up on NetGalley, I could not resist. I had heard and read a great deal about it, and I felt I had to check it for myself.

This is not a standard novel. It is composed of fragments, divided into chapters, some that appear to contain extracts from a variety of written historical documents (diaries, newspapers, books, memoirs) which provide background to the events, Lincoln’s presidency and the tragic death of his son, Willie, victim to typhoid fever. Other chapters, also fragmented, contain first-person observations by a large variety of characters that ‘live’ at the cemetery where Willie is laid to rest. Call them ghosts, spirits, or whatever you prefer, they seem to have been there for a while, some longer than others, and they interact with each other, while at the same time talking about themselves and taking a keen interested on little Willie Lincoln and his father. We have the spirits of black and white characters, young and old, men and women, well-off citizens and paupers, people who had lead seemingly morally exemplary lives and others who had gone down the wrong path, some who had taken their own lives, others who had died by accident or in bed. There are some actively atoning for their sins while others only seek entertainment. They are a motley crew, and although we hear mostly from three of these characters (Hans Vollman, Roger Bevins, and the Reverend Everly Thomas) and from Willie, they all make important contributions and help create a whole that is more than its parts.

The structure of the novel is puzzling and intriguing, and although it made me think of postmodernism and pastiche, the methodology used to construct the novel is not an attempt at emptying it of meaning or making us reflect upon the artificiality and futility of seeking truth and understanding. The death of a child (even if we are not parents, most of us are close enough to the children of relatives and/or friends to be able to imagine what it must be like) is a terrible tragedy and although there are light moments in the novel, there are touching and moving ones as well. Some of the fragments emphasise the diverse opinions and judgements about Lincoln and his presidency (by the way, although some of these fragments are real documents from the period, others have been created by Saunders, and it is not evident while reading which ones are which), but everybody agrees on the devastating effect the death of his son had over the president. The hopeful ending might feel somewhat surprising but is open to interpretation, like the rest of the text.

There are fragments that will make readers wonder about religious beliefs, others that question the social order, racial ideas, and the Civil War. But I fully understand the puzzlement of many readers who leave negative reviews on this book (and the negative reviews are many) stating that they don’t understand anything, it goes over their heads, and it is not really a novel. Some readers, familiar with Saunders’s short-stories, prefer those to the novel, but as I have not read them, I cannot comment.

Here some examples of the style of writing in the book (in this case, I definitely recommend prospective readers to check inside or get a sample to see if it suits their reading taste).

…only imagine the pain of that, Andrew, to drop one’s precious son into that cold stone like some broken bird & be on your way.

Mr. Collier (shirt clay-stained at the chest from his fall, nose crushed nearly flat) was constantly compelled to float horizontally, like a human compass needle, the top of his head facing in the direction of whichever of his properties he found himself most worried about at the moment.

The money flows out, tens of thousands of men wait, are rearranged to no purpose, march pointlessly over expensive bridges thrown up for the occasion, march back across the same bridges, which are then torn down. And nothing whatsoever is accomplished.

Blame and Guilt are the furies that haunt houses where death takes children like Willie Lincoln; and in this case there was more than enough blame to go around.

The book collects a large number of endorsements and reviews at the end, and I’ve chosen this one by James Marriott, from The Times, for its briefness and accuracy: ‘The book is as weird as it sounds, but it’s also pretty darn good.’

In sum, this is a highly experimental book, for readers who enjoy a challenge and don’t mind a non-linear narrative, who enjoy literary fiction not focused on plot, and are intrigued by new writers and what makes critics tic. It is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding one and I, for one, hope to catch up on some of the author's previous books.

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text 2018-07-21 14:08
Reading progress update: I've read 75 out of 404 pages.
E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat

I'm conflicted about this one so far. It's not a bad biography but I'm also not thrilled with it...

 

 

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