Posts Tagged ‘to re-read’

26th May
2011
written by Steph

Many moons ago, I wrote something that prompted myriads of book bloggers to recommend that I read Notes on a Scandal by Zöe Heller. It may have been when I wrote my review of her most recent novel, The Believers, but I think the recommendations stemmed from even earlier. What’s really important here, however, is that tons of people told me that I should read this book because it was awesome and I would love it, and after I read and enjoyed The Believers, I completely believed that was the truth. If you were one of those people who told me to read this book, then consider this a big thank-you because you were indeed right. I have now read Notes on a Scandal and it was everything I hoped it would be (and more!). From the very beginning, NoaS starts of with a bang. Through the diary of Barbara Covett, an elderly teacher at a local comprehensive school, we learn that her colleague and good friend Sheba has been charged with having a sexual affair with one of her students, a 15-year-old boy named Steven Connolly. Barbara shares with us how her relationship with Sheba evolved as well as how she gained knowledge of the affair and how she and Sheba have been dealing with the fallout following its revelation. The topic of a teacher-student relationship is salacious enough that many readers would probably be drawn to the novel for that reason alone, but for those who find such subject matter distasteful or vulgar, I must assure you that there are plenty of other wonderful reasons to read this book. (more…)
16th May
2011
written by Steph

It is official: I have a new girl crush. Most of the objects of my Sapphic affection tend to be these really brilliant brainy ladies (who have kick-ass senses of humor), so it should come as no surprise that I am now inducting Scarlett Thomas into my club of “Women I Would Go Gay For”. She is just so very smart! What can I say? Most men tend to appreciate either boobs or legs, but me, I’m all about your cerebral cortex. I read my first Scarlett Thomas book, Our Tragic Universe, last year, and found it immensely provocative. I didn’t think it was a perfect novel, but so few are, and I found the ideas that Thomas explored there so irresistible and vital that I knew I would need to read more things by her. Since her books are thinking novels, I found that my appreciation for OTU grew as my distance to it increased; I found I couldn’t stop thinking about the quandaries Thomas had posed and I had increasingly strong desires to reread it. So when I saw a copy of The End of Mr. Y on my friend Trisha’s bookshelf, I immediately asked to borrow it so I could continue my exploration of Thomas’s oeuvre and all the wacky ideas she poses. (more…)
29th September
2010
written by Steph

Back in 2001, when I was in my final year of highschool, I had a relatively open schedule, where I had large periods of free time during the day. On such occasions, I would generally take over a portion of the library near the leisure reading section under the guise of doing my Latin or Algebra homework, but really looking for fiction to read and while away the hours instead. One of the books that always caught my eye but which I never managed to read more than the first 10 pages or so of was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. So when TLC Tours offered me the chance to finally read and review this puppy, I was more than happy to oblige. Going into this book, I certainly knew of it, but really knew nothing substantial about it except that it took place in Africa. I’m not sure that I even entirely knew that it involved missionaries, but involve missionaries it does. The book kicks off in 1959 when the Price family, headed by Nathan Price, leave their comfortable if not overly happy life in Georgia to spend a year saving the souls in the name of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the deepest wilds of the Congo. The novel is divided into seven books, each one prefaced by the musings of Orleanna Price (Nathan’s wife) on their time in Africa, ruminations which softly foreshadow the action that will form the focus of each book. The books themselves are formed from what read like diary entries, each the voice of one of the Price daughters. Through these girls, we see the Prices struggle with culture shock and culture clash as they attempt to assimilate into their new home, struggling with physical, emotional, and social hardships in an environment in which few seem to thrive. We watch as time gradually shapes their attitudes as well as their notions of faith, family and injustice. Each of them is affected differently by their experiences in Kilanga, but nevertheless, each is irrevocably changed by Africa. (more…)
13th September
2010
written by Steph

Moon Tiger won the 1987 Man Booker prize, and yet I feel like it’s a book that few people know about or think to read. That’s a real shame, because there’s a lot to like about this powerful and thoughtful novel. Provided you aren’t one who is put off by narratives that are largely reflective in nature and spend a good deal of time musing about society, history, the general nature of life (and one’s position in it), love, family, and evolution within one’s lifetime. It’s a novel of ideas and one I found very provocative and also rather mesmerizing… but those looking for lots of action and linear plot structures should certainly look elsewhere. Moon Tiger is a novel based around a dying woman’s recollections of her life. As Claudia Hampton lays dying in a hospital bed in London, she drifts in and out of consciousness and memory, dwelling on her past and how it has informed her present, determined to write a history of the world in which she is the central character. Having spent much of her life as a “popular historian” of sorts, this final endeavor is second-nature to Claudia, and as she attempts to frame the events of her own life, we are given a vivid peek into the life of a brash and determined woman as she struggles with the ever-shifting sands of the world. (more…)
9th September
2010
written by Steph

I think 2010 may be the year of eating my words. If you’ll recall, this is the year where I finally conquered Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and rather than despising it like I had in the past, I really got into the story and enjoyed it an awful lot this time round. Enter The Great Gatsby, a book most people read while in their teens, but not I! Despite it often being touted as the quintessential American novel, I’d never been able to get into it (and never been forced to while in highschool). Even with its slim size, I’d only made it about 40 pages in or so before giving up in exasperation. The last time I tried it, I put it down saying that either it was the wrong time for me to be reading it, or Fitzgerald just wasn’t the author for me (I found him too “adverby”, that is, I was disconcerted by his liberal use of adverbs). Well, I think we can now chalk this one up to timing, because this time when I picked up The Great Gatsby, I was mesmerized. And not at all bothered by the writing! Quite the opposite, in fact! In vain I searched for instances of overuse of adverbs or other modifiers, bogging down the prose like the heavy fringe on a flapper’s dress. Despite my anticipation of overly fussy writing, this time, no excess weight was in sight. It honestly felt like I was reading a completely different, totally enchanting novel. Except for the commas! Oh, the commas! Clearly Fitzgerald and I have somewhat incompatible views on how these little freckles of punctuation should be used, which sometimes meant I had to re-read certain sentences several times over and had to have my thinking cap on at all times, but who am I to argue with Fitzgerald’s stylistic proclivities? I’ve probably been using commas wrong all this time. (more…)
19th August
2010
written by Steph

When I picked up a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao I only knew three things about it: 1) it had won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction; 2) it had a bunch of Spanish in it; and 3) it involved a lot of “geeky” sci-fi/fantasy references. The first point was certainly not a deterrent, and I figured that being fluent in French and having taken one year of highschool Spanish would probably be enough to make it through any smatterings of Spanish throughout the book. I’d only heard effusive praise for the book, even by those readers who didn’t have an extensive background in genre fiction, so I was pretty excited to give it a go. I think the first thing I have to say is something that you’ve probably heard in other reviews but which I must make very clear: THERE IS A LOT OF SPANISH IN THIS BOOK. Sometimes it’s just a word thrown into a sentence here or there that doesn’t completely undermine your comprehension of the book… but other times it’s an entire phrase, and it’s not likely to be one of those phrases you learned in an introductory language course. This isn’t holiday Spanish, this is contemporary, living Spanish that uses a lot of slang and idioms, that will probably be lost on you unless you’re a native speaker or extremely fluent. If you know how to ask where the beach is or proclaim your love of chicken and rice, that’s not going to cut it. Consider yourself warned! (As an aside, you need to worry less if you know nada about sci-fi and fantasy. I’m sure some references didn’t hit home, but I didn’t feel these detracted from my comprehension of the novel.) (more…)
20th July
2010
written by Steph

Cloud Atlas is a book that I thought I would never read. I first tried to read it about three years ago when it was selected for my real-life book club. I was really excited, but that excitement soon dissipated when I started to read the book; I just found it torture! The writing seemed overwrought and like Mitchell had looked every word up in a thesaurus only to pick the most obscure option. For those of you not in the know, Cloud Atlas is a novel composed of six interrelated stories that are broken into halves (with the exception of the sixth story which is told in its entirety in the middle of the book). I did not even make it through the first half of story number one, that is how miserably I failed at this book back in 2007. I threw it away from me in frustration at the language and vowed I would never read it because it was an awful book. It’s odd then that given past experiences I should now be writing this review, but how things change in three years! I’ve written that one of the perks of our new eReaders is the ease with which they make looking up obscure words. You just double tap on the troublesome word and voila! A little window at the bottom of the screen pops up with the definition, not at all obtrusive or disruptive, so you can clarify your meaning and head on your merry reading way. Now, I’d like to think that over the past three years of voracious reading, I have in fact become a stronger, better reader, but the ease of looking up words was still a godsend when reading Cloud Atlas this time around. Whenever I encountered words like “peregrination” or “valetudinarian”, no longer did I have to muddle on in a cloud of confusion and frustration, and I think that definitely helped. (more…)
23rd May
2010
written by Steph

Man, oh man.  I am pretty sure I’ve never read a book anything like The Satanic Verses.  Probably because if literature can ever strive to do something new, unique, and original, then this is the book that does it.  Reading it is a rollercoaster, as I’ve never known a book that made me feel both so stupid and so smart.  Mostly I felt bewildered and befuddled while reading it, so confident that everything important was flying well above my head, but then when I finished it, I felt like a genius who could conquer anything.  I mean, I made it all the way through The Satanic Verses! How crazy is that?!? I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if Tony hadn’t read it previously and loved it. I won’t lie: I was super intimidated by this book. It just has this larger than life aspect to it, and I got it into my head it was one of those great novels of our time that scholars argue over and that provokes the issuing of fatwas against its author.  I just didn’t think I’d be able to deal with it or get anything from it. I mean, I’m no expert on Islam, and a book that long and controversial has got to be hard, right? I admit that I had a HUGE inferiority complex. (more…)
6th May
2010
written by Steph

Back in my pre-book blogging life (it’s hard for me to remember such a time did exist), I read A Room With a View by E.M. Forster.  It was one of those books that I understood on a critical level, one where I completely understood what the author was trying to convey to his readers, and yet it was a book that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t get out of my mind all those times I’d tried to watch the movie as an undergraduate, inevitably hungover and therefore doomed to fall asleep every time it was on. I had always thought the movie was rather dull (clearly), and I didn’t find the book all that different, if I’m honest.  It had its moments, for sure, but ultimately I thought it was fairly unremarkable. Still, I had heard that Howards End was Forster’s masterpiece and decided that I would read it, even if A Room With a View didn’t blow the wind up my skirt (as my mother would say). It seems to be the book that most people love best of his, and critically speaking, I believe it’s received the greatest accolades. (more…)
30th April
2010
written by Steph

Do any of you remember the kerfuffle a year ago when Alain de Botton left incendiary comments on a New York Times reviewer’s blog?  I remember reading about the scandal with great interest, mostly because I couldn’t get over how ridiculously over the top it was for an author to write on someone’s personal site: “I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude." Amazing. Needless to say, I thought de Botton’s behavior and handling of what he felt was an abysmal review (which by my reading was actually measured and fair, if not effusive and overwhelmingly positive) was completely out of line and extremely childish. His tantrum probably brought more attention to the “offensive” review than it might have otherwise received, and his response was so disproportionate that it just made him look kind of insane. But perhaps in the end there’s no such thing as bad publicity, because the one thing that scrap achieved was that I was suddenly aware of Alain de Botton, something that had not been true previously.  And so, when I was at McKay’s a few months back browsing the stacks, his name jumped out at me, and I admit to being curious and picked up his debut novel, On Love (also known as Essays in Love in the UK and Europe). (more…)
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