I’m not sure if this post is spoilerish or not. I’m not giving away anything on the crime resolution, but I have Thoughts on the way the book ends. Many reviews on Goodreads that aren’t hidden make similar references.

237209This has been in and out of my wish-list for ages – I’d read a review and add it, then I’d read another and would take it out. It happened at least 4 times. But I found myself at the airport, having finished my book during the previous flight and with another 5-hour flight ahead of me (yes, I know, how could I have planned it so badly?!!). In the Woods was the only title in the airport’s small bookshop that rang a bell.

I enjoyed it, but the resolution was extremely frustrating, bordering on the insulting.

It’s a mystery novel that uses the recent plot trend of one mystery forcing the protagonist to go back to his/her childhood neighborhood/small town, the scene of another mystery, that remained unsolved for 20 years.

Thumbs up for the the Dublin setting and the insight into Irish police procedures. The book became famous because it’s more “literary” than your usual crime novel. The language is elaborate, and care is give to description and character building. I’m completely behind French on that, and though she was very successful… but the ending…

Maybe she took the “literary” angle too far. In literary fiction I’m ok with unsolved mysteries, unanswered questions, and bad guys that are known but not brought to justice – but it’s SO frustrating in a crime novel. Especially if the book is part of a series clearly marketed as crime, vs. for example, a stand alone novel that bridges genres, like The Collector.

A different ending would have made In the Woods a very near-perfect mystery novel for me.

I’d be very interested in your thoughts on this, especially if you’ve read it!

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Other thoughts: Fyrefly’s Boom Blog, Rhapsody in Books, Joyfully Retired, Literate Housewife, Always with a Book, Belle Wong, BooksPlease (yours?)

 

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I’ve always loved this Goodreads stat on read books’ publication date. What does yours look like?

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I try not letting myself be completely taken over by new releases, but there’s still a trend towards the top of the graph year on year, which increased after I started blogging.

In 2018 I want to read more broadly, time-wise. A good start is the A Century of Books challenge (are you joining?) – I’ll try to read 1 book per decade between 1918 and 2018. To compliment it, I’ll also add a couple of Shakespeares, and at least 6 other classics (re-reading Downton Abbey, read my last Brontë – Shirley).

If you know of any buddy reads or read-alongs of older books, please let me know!

cover_9781849547956_-_CopyA disclaimer that Lyndsey (@teadevotee) is a friend from my early book blogging days, and one of the few bloggers I actually met in person. So please don’t think me biased if I say this was a great book, both as a biography of one of the most prominent British suffragettes, and a brief history of the movement itself.

As Lyndsey pointed out, Lady Constance was an unlikely suffragette – a top-echelon aristocrat, introvert, devoted to family and mother, for whom she sacrificed a budding career. Her path towards becoming a militant suffragette is remarkable and, even after finishing the book, still a mystery.

Lady Constance is not an easy person to understand, so I enjoyed the parts where Lyndsey explored her contradictions, intentions, tendency towards martyrdom and obsession, and relationships with the people around her. The book gives you the facts, and asks you to look at them from different perspectives. For instance, Lady Constance disguised herself as a working-class suffragette to experience what prison was like for women that didn’t receive special treatment because of their class. She paid dearly for that experience… but did she do it to make a point about class, or to prove herself to the movement’s larger-than-life leaders?

The history of the British suffrage movement in general is fascinating and led to hours spent on Wikipedia. (Do you know the difference between a suffragist and a suffragette? Now I do!) The description of the movement’s escalation of violence, is especially relevant considering ongoing discussions about terrorism, and its causes.

If I met Lyndsey again for tea and waffles I’d shower her with questions, but the one that’s still haunting me days after finishing the book is: what do you think would’ve happened to the suffragette movement and its cause if World War I hadn’t happened?

Any good recommendations on the women’s suffrage? 

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Other thoughts: Fingers and Prose

Haven’t written since June 2016 and all of the sudden there’s this urge to be back. Maybe not exactly in my own blog, but within the book blogging community. I’ve started visiting feedly regularly and was happy to see some old friends still going strong (hi Tasha, Jay, Kailana, Lisbeth, and everyone out there!).

2017 was a really meh year book-wise and I’ve noticed that my best years were the ones I spend blogging. Blogging it seems, helps me make better reading choices and read more in general.

So, I’m looking forward to meeting you here and at your own sites. Meanwhile, let me know about any interesting challenge I should join!

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Reading in Tbilisi, Georgia (October 2017)

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David among the phone-gazing commuters

Things have been quiet over here, so wanted to pop in and just say hi. I’ve been reading and commenting on other blogs and vlobs, tweeting, but lazy about writing my own posts.

Still, I’ve had read a really good book life lately. May’s readings ranged from a Russian historical mystery to Southern family drama, from a Swedish suburbia tearjerker to non-fiction about British early Renaissance. In between I squeezed in some feminist essays and superhero comics.

Also started re-reading Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. This time around I’m determined to get every single obscure reference. I even got a dedicated notebook. It’s been great in a history nerd kinda way.

I gave into the hype and started The Raven Cycle. No regrets… except about wishing there was more Blue in it. Also worth mention the amazing River of Stars audiobook narrated by Simon Vance. Guy Gavriel Kay recently released Children of Earth and Sky also read by Vance and set in an past Dubrovnik-like city (get out of my brain!). It’ll be the perfect beach audio. I’m almost afraid to start it, the expectations are so high.

Also in May I went back to Brussels for a friend’s birthday and bought some comics in French (they’re double the price here in Geneva).

I’m especially curious about La Dame à la licorne, a collection of stories by different authors (art students) inspired on The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Re-read Tracy Chevalier’s book about them recently and last year finally had the chance to see the tapestries live at the Musée de Cluny in Paris. I was mesmerized. In turn, they (and the whole museum, really) made me want to read more Dunnett. And that’s the way life and books intersect and complement each other 🙂

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cluny

Henry_VIII_2722274cOne of my favorite spoof accounts

A couple of weeks ago there was a pub quiz round on the six wives of Henry VIII and it made me finally pick up this biography by Antonia Fraser, that was lingering on my shelves since time immemorial. Right from the start it reminded me of probably my favorite biography – The Brontës by Juliet Barker – in that it was chunky but read like The Hunger Games.

It’s always refreshing to read well-research biographies about women in history and even more refreshing that Fraser’s focus was not on King Henry and his perspective, but on his wives, their upbringing, their education, their tastes, and how they shaped their fate (as Fraser put it, none of them were married against their will). These women’s lives is worthy of a telenovela, so much so that many stereotypes about them became ingrained in the collective mind. Fraser is not exactly in the business of myth-busting (because, let’s face it, a lot of it is true), but at least she’s trying to give these women more depth:

It is seductive to regard the six wives of Henry VIII as a series of feminine stereotypes, women as tarot cards. Thus Catherine of Aragon becomes The Betrayed Wife, Anne Boleyn is The Temptress, Jane Seymour The Good Wife, Anna of Cleves is The Ugly Sister, Katherine Howard The Bad Girl; and finally Catherine Parr is The Mother Figure. (…) These are elements of truth, of course, in all of these evocative descriptions, yet each one of them ignores the complexity and variety in the individual character. In their different ways, and for different reasons, nearly all these women were victims, but they were not willing victims. On the contrary, a remarkably high level of strength, and also of intelligence, was displayed by them at a time when their sex traditionally possessed little of either.

Fraser did really well in remaining neutral without making the book boring. She always makes a point of using references (most from primary documents) and letting us know when she’s citing the POV of someone who was either not present or was biased (and how likely is it that they got it right). As much as possible she includes different perspectives of an event. Even with all these considerations, there’s enough intrigue, death and sex in these lives to make for a riveting read.

the six wives of henry VIII Antonia FraserI thought it’d be easy to pick out the author’s favorite wife, but she remains very professional, and we only notice her personal voice when she allows herself a bit of  sarcasm, usually at the expense of King Henry (all those masons hurriedly changing coat of arms; the French Kings receiving yet one more report of a new wife at the English Court).

Of all the details Fraser gives us, the ones I appreciated the most was knowing what the each of the wives was reading and how these books were both a cause and effect of their believes and personalities.

Have Fraser’s biography of Mary Queen of Scots in the TBR and will pick it up sooner rather than later, especially since I’m staring a re-read of the Lymond Chronicles. I know she’s written other books, so let me know if you have any recommendations.

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Other thoughts: Resolute Reader (yours?)

61WJgNOFHKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The enthusiasm in Mercedes’s video was so contagious that I immediately got this in audio. It’s a weird one.

I kept thinking about poetry slams, where aspiring poets declaim angry poetry in almost full darkness, with lots of anaphoras and hyper-realistic imagery (disclaimer: the narration might be to blame). There’s humor and satire, but not enough for it all not to feel a tad pretentious.

I love the premise and can’t put it better than Gavin: “What if the men of Duck Dynasty suddenly had two brain cells to rub together? What if they suddenly became filled with the immense, combined word-horde of all of Western Civilization?” Thinks Flowers for Algernon meets The Big Lebowski. Technically it’s sci-fi, but it only in an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Minds way.

I’m really attracted to the overall theme of how higher intelligence would affect our lives, personalities and choices (according to Elliott, not much). The problem is that she goes for language at the expense of believable characters and engaging plot. Even when we’re shown their background stories, it’s still the way they’re described that’s important, not the effect. Elliott focuses so much on hyper-reality (how many ways can you describe headaches and drug binges? Many!) that she ends up on the other side, where everything feels unreal. The way characters talk, especially after the brain enhancement, was so over the top, full of references to medieval literature and obscure philosophical theories (do genius really talk like that?), that everyone just becomes a caricature.

Also, the plot builds up a series of mysteries – evil company doing brain experiments! Hogzillas and other mutants roaming the forest! Mysterious woman in online group that knows too much! – but they all end up in lukewarm places. Don’t get me wrong, I love good gimmicky literature, but think Romie Futch wanted to do it all and lost focus.

Still, I gave it 3-stars. Mostly because it kept me intrigued and I respect an effort to create something different. It would be a great bookclub choice!

 

Aaaand that’s a wrap!

Listened to all the books in my category (well, Little Big Man was a DNF) and am now ready to place my bet. Had great fun with Literary Fiction & Classics, especially because for the first time I got to share the category, which makes it much more fun. In the end, Tanya and I agree that the winner should be:

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The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, read by Chukwudi Iwuji

In all my years doing the Armchair Audies I have yet to pick the winner 😛 so maybe this is the year!

Iwuji did the book justice (a native Nigerian accent helped). It’s a story full of emotions, I laughed and cried, got outraged, was sick to my stomach and filled with hope for humanity. Iwuji made this happen without me being constantly aware of his presence.

My 2016 Armchair Audies posts:

And here’s the Ballot for the other categories (thanks Jennifer for once again organizing!)

sweetlandSweetland is the story of a 70-year-old man resisting the resettlement of the island where his family has lived for 12 generations. At the start of the book he’s one of the only two people who still hasn’t signed the very profitable deal to leave the island. There’s major pressure from his neighbors to take the money because it’s a “all or none” deal and he starts being a victim of pranks and anonymous threats.

I’ve a weak spot for novels set in remote islands. Newfoundland seems a fertile ground for them (Latitudes of Melt, The Shipping News, An Orange from Portugal) so it’s no wonder that my favorite thing about this book was its sense of setting: the isolation, the cold, the claustrophobic community life, the inevitability of a dying life style.

I’m also sure that when thinking about it in the future I’ll also remember that selfish feeling of being upset because the author didn’t take the story where you wanted it to go! #readersproblems

It’s a slow book that ends up not being so much about the relocation as about loss, getting old, community and ties to the land. I didn’t really connect a lot with the characters but was interested in knowing where their stories led. There’s this mixture of humor and tragedy in the writing that make you unsure whether they’ll get a happy ending or not. (Books like that make me a bit anxious, but maybe that’s a good thing?).

On the audio, John Lee has a very particular intonation that, although interesting, is distracting. He uses it in all characters, even if they have distinct voices, so it becomes very difficult to forget there’s such a thing as a narrator.

Overall an enjoyable book about a place I’m curious about, but not an Armchair Audies winner. I can see it turned into a movie soon!

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Other thoughts: largehearted boy, buried in print, Becky’s Books, Feminist Mexican Reads,  A Bookworm’s Works, Sophisticated Dorkiness, Lindy Reads and Reviews,

 

redcarnation1Happy 25 April everyone! Day of Freedom, of the Carnation Revolution, the end of a 50-year dictatorship and colonialism. I wish I was in Lisbon right now, walking down the Avenue, singing with the crowd.

Reading wise, for the last few days I’ve been totally emerged in Antonia Fraser’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII. I keep forgetting how much I enjoy well-written, chunky biographies of women in history (Juliet Barker’s The Brontës is another great one).

monday books

Recently finished listening to The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr, also a non-fiction on another favorite topic: art history, restoring, forgery and detectiving. It was a quick listen and interesting enough, but more suited for a long magazine article.

Then immediately started listening to the last title in my Armchair Audies category – Little Big Man by Thomas Berger (apparently there’s a Dustin Hoffman film adaptation?). I wasn’t too excited because it’s 20 HOURS LONG and in a meh genre  – western – but it’s also a satire and it’s turning out to be pretty funny. In a strange way it reminds me of Barbara Pym and Dorothy Whipple.

That’s it. What about you, reading anything interesting?

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