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text 2017-08-17 09:08
DNF: Beasts Made of Night
Beasts Made of Night - Tochi Onyebuchi

I received a copy from Penguin First to Read.


I used some of my points to secure a copy of this one. I was quite looking forward to it. While it's not bad, at 187 pages, I've come to the point where I just don't care anymore. The concept is quite fascinating. In this Nigerian inspired fantasy, the hero Taj is an Aki, a Sin Eater. The Royal Family of the fictional city of Kos are supposed to be pure and free of sin, sin comes in the form of Sin Beasts which the Aki consume and absorb into their skin in the form of tattoos. Interesting enough.


But there was something off about the plot and the execution of the story. I can't say I felt particularly attached to any of the characters. The world building was interesting enough but the writing was kind of flat. And the plot seemed to jump from one thing to the next. There was a barely there romance that felt way too insta-lovey for my liking. He meets with a princess once or twice and then he's fascinated with her. Understandable, but again, there was something that just wasn't there to make it work for me.


It's getting to the point where I'm not looking forward to finishing, and as I said early, I'm bored with and don't care enough to find out how its end. There is definite potential in the writing and as I said the world building was interesting and quite unique. While this book was not for me I would certainly be interested in seeing more from this author.

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review 2017-08-03 01:15
The Tale of Tales
The Tale of Tales (Penguin Classics) - Nancy L. Canepa,Nancy L. Canepa,Giambattista Basile,Carmelo Lettere,Jack Zipes

In The Tale of Tales Princess Zosa is cursed to marry only Tadeo, the Prince of Round-Field, who is enchanted to sleep forever unless a woman fills a pitcher with tears in three days. Zosa falls alseep before the end of the third day and the remainder of the vessel is filled by a Moorish slave girl who takes the Prince for her own.


In folk-tale fashion Zosa, with magical help, infects the now pregnant Queen with "a burning desire to hear tales". Fifty tales are to to be told over five days by ten sharp-tongued old women. Zosa plans to use these tales to show Tadeo his wife's treachery and win him for herself.


Giambattista Basile collected these folk tales in southern Italy in the early 17th century. Most of them are the earliest known versions of these tales, including Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Puss in Boots. While many of these stories ring familiar, they are overwhelmed with rape, greed, murder, theft and diarrhea. These stories make the original Grimm's Fairy Tales look like a picnic, hot iron dancing shoes and all.


It took me over a year to finish this, mostly because the style of fairy tales can get monotonous and because this edition is loaded with academic and translator notes pointing out word play that didn't translate and unpicking the cultural references of 400 years ago. Most of the humor involves poop, but everything else needed explanation.


These is such a wealth of information here. The baroque court of Naples and thriving artistic community comes alive with the high use of metaphor - the sun and the moon are personified in at least sixty different ways, sweeping away stars, depositing daylight, etc. - and the reactions and commentary of the Tales' audience. The stories themselves reveal a complicated world where people live and die at the whims of royalty, and monsters are often your neighbors.


Reflecting a very specific place in the Europe of 400 years ago, there is no cultural sensitivity here. At most there is occasional sympathy given to the impoverished. From story to story families can forgive each other or murder each other without the moral being affected. A king will do many things to please his queen, murdering her to marry the next thing is acceptable. Ogres are Others and, even when they are helpful or completely justified in their anger, no one bats an eye at murdering them. Our villain, the Moorish slave girl turned Queen, is a loathsome caricature but the reader flinches when reading of her ultimate fate.


These are not for the faint of heart, but anyone interested in the evolution of the story in the European tradition or in cultural history should give these stories a go.


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text 2017-08-02 14:06
Chawton: Jane Austen's Home
Jane Austen's Hampshire - Terry Townsend
Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics) - Vivien Jones,Tony Tanner,Claire Lamont,Jane Austen
Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Persuasion - Jane Austen,Gillian Beer
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Marilyn Butler,Claire Lamont
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Emma - Jane Austen,Fiona Stafford
Teenage Writings (Oxford World's Classics) - Kathryn Sutherland,Freya Johnston,Jane Austen
Lady Susan - Harriet Walter,Carole Boyd,Kim Hicks,Jane Austen
Sanditon: Jane Austen's Last Novel Completed - Marie Dobbs,Anne Telscombe,Jane Austen

... during the last 8 years of her life, during which she wrote all of her major novels (and saw four of them published during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma).


The dining room, with Jane's writing table tucked away in a corner next to the window.

Jane's bedroom (also the room where most of her family said goodbye to her before she died).

A replica of the blue dress and bonnet that Jane is wearing in the portrait sketched of her by her sister Cassandra.

A quilt handmade by Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother, and a muslin shawl embroidered by Jane.


And last but not least ...

The museum's resident cat! :D




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review 2017-07-31 11:48
Review: When I am Through With You
When I Am Through with You - Stephanie Kuehn

I received a copy from Penguin First To Read


I really loved the last book I read by this author, and was really looking forward to this new one. After reading it, initially I gave it a four star rating, I really liked the main character, but found the twist in the novel quite disappointing. And after thinking about how to review it for more than a week after I finished, I realised I just didn’t like it that much at all. So I’ve lowered the rating to a two star.


The main character Ben is in jail for killing his girlfriend Rose. There’s something really compelling about Ben’s voice. He makes no apologies for his actions. He’s quite blunt in some respects, but in others almost quite passive and pessimistic. Calls himself a realist, but it’s almost quite depressing. He’s from a small town he never sees himself getting out of. He spends most of his time taking care of his mother who suffers from injuries from a car wreck and depression. He doesn’t see much prospect of ever getting out of his small town, thinking he’ll be stuck taking care of his mom for the foreseeable future and being stuck with minimum wage jobs.  Though you do get the impression he could be quite intelligent if he puts his mind to it.


When he meets a girl called Rose who decides she’s going to be his girlfriend, things change for him. Can’t say I really liked Rose much. She’s a drama queen who has to have things her way. When this book started I had plenty of ideas for how he may have killed her and the why was almost understandable.


The bulk of the story is a camping trip gone wrong. Ben and a group of other students heading up to a local mountain range. Ben suffers from debilitating migraines as a result of the same car accident that injured his mom. There’s also hints of something he did to cause the accident, also that he killed his step-father. This is all explained in context as the novel progresses. It goes to explaining some of his pessimistic personality.


There’s a handful of other kids on the camping trip, two stoners/drinkers, Rose and her brother, a girl Ben is sort of friends with, a few others and a nice teacher who seems to be the only adult encouraging Ben to do something with his life. At some point while separated from the main group Ben, the other girl and the two stoner/drinkers stumble across another group of campus. A creepy old man and two weird women with him. Someone’s heard a story about escaped convicts and boat loads of hidden cash. The weather is getting worse.


And things start going wrong very quickly. But it takes an incredibly long time (or it seems like) for anything to actually happen. It’s very slow and when things finally start happening, it’s…like…eh. The actual killing of Rose was nothing like I had been picturing when thinking of the start of the novel. It felt rather anticlimactic.


Despite Ben’s shifting personality from pessimistic to passive aggressive, I did find his tone of voice incredibly compelling. Even though the story was gloomy and rather boring, there was something about Ben’s telling of it that made it a quick read to want to know what happened but in the end it was all rather disappointing.


Looking forward to the author’s next book, but didn’t really like this one much.

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review 2017-07-13 18:18
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Penguin Essentials) - Patrick Süskind ,John E. Woods

How I loved this book! The writing is magical and so inspiring, and the story's pretty damn good as well. When I first read it, years ago, I remember thinking I had never read anything quite like it. What a tour de forces. I suggest my students read it to understand what can be done when writing deeply from the senses. 

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