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American Gods goes into my mental list of “it’s not you, it’s me” books. (I feel I’m loosing some imaginary “coolness factor” by not having loving it, like there’s social pressure involved. Some books have that aura.)

After all, it seemed to have all the ingredients necessary to win me over, including the epic scope and the appealing plot – old and new Gods fighting for the hearts and minds of Americans without them knowing? Sign me up! Also, I loved my two previous Gaimans (The Graveyard Book and Good Omens), always a good sign.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what didn’t do it for me, because the writing is clearly brilliant and none of the narrators in my audiobook was particularly annoying.

Although the plot sounded great, throughout the 20 hours of audiobook I had to tell myself to suspend my disbelief (unusual for me in fantasy novels) and stop over-analyzing, like:

  • Why should I be on the side of Shadow and Odin and not with the new Gods of Television, Internet and Money? Didn’t Odin instigate wars, rape and murder? Why are we safer with the Old Gods? If I had a choice, I’d probably go with the new ones.
  • Are we really more obsessed with money today than, say, 200 years ago?
  • Isn’t there be a better way for Odin and his buddies to gain power? Maybe try to gather more human followers by doing a few tricks. Show off a bit. There are birds of thunder flying around and Shadow can control the weather, for crying out loud.
  • Where are the current, strong Gods like Jesus Christ and Allah? Wasn’t it a cop-out not to include them?

There are a lot of contradictions in the plot line and in the end (because of it?) the story becomes very secular: Man has the power and (I ask myself) if Man has the power, why do we need Gods at all?

“Jesus does pretty good over here,” (…) “But I met a guy who said he saw him hitchhiking by the side of the road in Afghanistan and nobody was stopping to give him a ride. You know? It all depends on where you are.

Maybe Gaiman’s whole point is to make the reader think about this. Either way, all this questioning made me disconnected from the characters and it’s always more difficult to love a book with characters you don’t care about and whose deaths you’d be indifferent to.

I did enjoy it in general, especially the resolution of the missing girls’ mystery in the sleepy small town. The road-trip was a great opportunity for Gaiman to display his humor, clever writing and even cleverer observations of people and culture.

I just wish that Shadow felt more like someone with an actual will and opinion, that I cared 2-Euro-cents about his zombie wife, that all the build-up and premonitions had an explosive finale, that the Gods we get to know in the “interludes” (probably my favorite parts) made an appearance somewhere in the main story. Lots of things felt too… loose.

Technically, American Gods is grand but unfortunately I can’t really say that it won me over.

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Other thoughts:
things mean a lotThe Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Reviews, That’s What She Read, S. Krishna’s Books, Birdbrain(ed), Man of la Book, just add booksEntomology of a Bookworm, Life with Books, Melody & Words, Sophisticated Dorkiness, Reading with Tequila, a book a week, The Little Red Reviewer, ResoluteReader, A Lifetime of Books, The Labyrinth Library, Once Upon a Bookshelf,  Amy’s Book Obsession, 50 Books Project, biblioathlas, Postcards from Asia, Becky’s Book Reviews, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On (yours?)

My commitment to re-reading has proven to be the best idea of the year. It’s been great to go back to favorites of 10 to 20 years ago, but most of all, it has given me the opportunity to re-evaluate my position on Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series.

They’re favorites of friends whose opinion I really respect, and after reading the first two the first time around I thought them ok, but failed to see what the fuss was about. This time around, I really liked The Thief, thoroughly enjoyed The Queen of Attolia, but The King of Attolia… well, this one entered the year’s top 5 and propelled them all to my group of favorites series of all time. Still have A Conspiracy of Kings in the TBR because I’m all about delayed gratification.

They’ve also entered my list of books I can wholeheartedly recommend to everyone, independently of age, sex or literary genre preferences. I can recommend them to people who read, who don’t read, who don’t read YA, and who don’t read fantasy. There is enough depth, character building, romance, power play and, ultimately, just good story-telling, to please everyone.

With The King of Attolia I gained for MWT the sort of awed respect that I reserve only for the likes of Dorothy Dunnett and Patrick O’Brian (and with a *gasp* YA book!). She was goooood and she never assumes the readers are slow-witted and need to be explained everything. My kinda writer.

Throughout the series we follow the main character – Gen – closely and by the third book we know just how clever and sneaky he is, so to keep us on our toes, MWT writes the story from the POV of someone who is oblivious to Gen’s skills. We know Gen’s up to something, but can make guessed from what the narrator tells us. I can only imagine how difficult this must be to pull off without frustrating the reader, but she did it perfectly, and the result is an intellectually stimulating and fun revelry.

And the romantic angle – oh my! The relationship between Gen and Irene is right up my alley because, again, I don’t need to be spelled out everything to understand it. In The King of Attolia we’re not privy to what’s going on between them, but there are scenes that, without being explicit, have the emotional impact of a Pride & Prejudice proposal. Anyone who’s not in love with Gen by this point must have a heart of stone.

I won’t go too deeply into the plot to avoid spoilers, just a little teaser: when the series starts we meet a young thief called Gen (short for Eugenides) who boasts he can steal anything. Ready to test these claims, a Magus challenges him to steal an object that can change the precarious balance of the region’s three kingdoms…

Oh, the feeling of discovering new favorites! Makes life worth while 🙂

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Other thoughts on individual books: Dear Author on #1, #2 and #3, Chiachic’s Book Nook, Steph Su Reads #1 and #2, The Literate Mother, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castlell #1 and #2It’s All About BooksJacus’ Book Blogbookshelves of doom, birdbrain(ed) book blog, let’s eat grandpa, Presenting Lenore, Literary Fangirl Book Reviews, Fyrefly (yours?)

Other thoughts on the series and on MWT: the bluestocking societyMy Sister’s Bookshelf, Jenny’s Books (yours?)

Life has been happening like crazy on this side of the line. Add holidays and heat and pure, unadulterated laziness and you get a blogging slump. It would also be a reading slump if it wasn’t for YA audiobooks and daily newspapers (a holiday tradition and zen moment).

I need a bit of incentive because my spirit breaks just by looking at the two months backlog. Anyone interested in doing a buddy-read or something? Any easy read-alongs going around? Interesting projects?

Meanwhile, and while inspiration doesn’t strike, I’m doing a meme. They’re not usually my thing, but these are desperate times and maybe thinking about the books I’ve planned for the upcoming months will help.

Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR List

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

Harris’ The Observations didn’t do much for me, but everyone seems to be raving about Gillespie and I so I’ve decided to give it a try.

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

My most anticipated re-read is Tigana, my favorite book by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve decided to tackle it in audio format this time around.

Chroniques de  Jérusalem by Guy Delisle

All books by Guy Delisle are an instant best-seller here in Brussels, European capital of the graphic novel. I’ve never read anything by him but heard lots about this one, a birthday present from my co-workers.

The King of Attolia (The Queen’s Thief, #3) by Megan Whalen Turner

I’ve recently re-read the first two in the series just so that when I’d pick this one up for the first time everything was fresh. I hear it’s the best one of the series so far?

The Unicorn Hunt (The House of Niccolo, #5) by Dorothy Dunnett

I’m trying to go through The House of Niccolo series reeeeeeally slowly because you only read Dunnet for the first time once. It was a Herculean effort not to lunge for this one right after Scales of Gold and its extraordinary ending. I’ve waited long enough.

Moab is My Washpot by Stephen Fry

Whenever I don’t have a formed opinion on a certain topic, I Google Fry’s thoughts on it and always find myself nodding in agreement. Moab is My Washpot is an autobiography covering his first 20 years of life. The Fry Chronicles is already in the TBR waiting its turn.

The Mauritius Command(Aubrey/Maturin Book 4) by Patrick O’Brian

Another series I want to make last, although its 21 volumes-long… The previous book, HMS Surprise, is set to become one of the best of 2012.

Mayombe by Pepetela

For Kinna’s Africa Reading Challenge, this will be my first by one of Angola’s most famous writers. Everyone I know who reads in Portuguese seems to have read at least one of his books.

She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff by Annalee Newitz & Charlie Anders (Eds.)

To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, on 16 October.

Un día de cólera by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

At the beginning of the year one of my goals was to read more books in their original languages. I’ve done well in Portuguese and French but haven’t picked up anything in Spanish yet. This hour by hour description of 1808’s Dos de Mayo Uprising in Madrid will put me back on track.

Look at me, being all good about my New Year Literary Resolutions! We’re only half-way through the year and I’ve already re-read more books than in 2011. I decided to try The Mists of Avalon in audiobook format because it’s narrated by the divine Davina Porter, who in my humble opinion can do no wrong.

I won’t do a full review of the book, but will just record for posterity the major differences between my two reading experiences. I think they says a lot about my 17- and 32-year-old selves.

The biggest change was how I felt towards Morgaine. She’s still awesome, a perfectly fleshed-out character that you really get to know and admire for her courage and self-reliance. But while at 17 I completely identified with her – I wanted to be her – now I often wished she would just lighten up a bit.

Look, I get it, she’s in love with someone who’ll never love her back, and her way of life is dying before her helpless eyes, I see how that makes a person cranky. But at the same time I wish she would, just once in while, let go of the aura of pathos she carries around all the time and laugh like she means it. I think my reaction to Morgaine is part of my growing intolerance of depressing books and movies I mentioned here before.

On the other hand, my feelings towards Guinevere haven’t changed. She’s the same little angry ball of resentment and unhappiness. But despite this, Marion Zimmer Bradley still made me understand her motivations, even when I resisted it and was determined to completely hate the annoying hypocrite.

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, July 2011. In The Mists of Avalon, this is where Morgaine is born.

Arthur jumped out of the pages this time. We only follow the story thought the eyes of the female characters, but still get more insight into the mind of Lancelot or Uther than that of Arthur, who’s the story’s whole reason of existence. Still, what we do get to know about him is surprising.

In a book famous for having no black or white characters, Arthur is, amazingly, a Good Man. He’s honorable, faithful, fair, he understands the complex world he lives in and the impossibility to please all, but he still tries. He always seems to see the glass half-full, unlike most of the other characters in the book. But despite all this and the freaky “love-square” with Guinevere, Lancelot and Morgaine, there’s never one person who thinks of him as The One, and that’s terribly sad.

Other things I noticed now and I didn’t before: the patterns, balance and irony. For instance, Morgause and Vivienne want daughters and only have sons, Guinevere longs in vain for an heir to Camelot, Morgaine doesn’t want a child and has one. Guinevere, the greatest catholic Queen, is in love with a pagan. In her later days she envies Morgaine’s knowledge and freedom but is on a quest to destroy the traditions that allow them. The search for the Holy Grail is what speeds the fall of Camelot and its (Christian) ideals. It was Avalon’s tolerance of the early Priests that kick-started their towards the Mists. Everyone loves Arthur, but no one is ever truly in love with him.

This time around I could also appreciate much more the religious discussions. Before I just though of how cool Wicca must be, now I look at the story as a cycle. Just as Avalon supplanted the Old Ones, so did Christianity supplant Avalon and so will something else supplant Christianity.

The general feeling I’ll take from this re-reading is of a story about the rise and fall of Camelot. The Utopian Kingdom is destroyed by intolerance, giving way to the Dark Ages and its impact on knowledge, equality (especially gender equality) and freedom. It’s a much more melancholic story than I remembered. 

Still, I look forward to a re-read in another 15 years – who knows what I’ll discover then?

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Other thoughts: Speculative Book Review, Books for Breakfast Drinks for Dinner, My Two Blessings, Reading with Tequila, Age 30+… A Lifetime of BooksBogormen, Bonnie’s Books (yours?)

Third week of the Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-along.

Photo credits – Secret Kingdom (part of my Pinterest board on boats).

1. Locke and Jean’s ability to find themselves at the center of a serious mess seems unparalleled. At this point, do you think that Stragos will get the return he expects on his investment in them?

During these chapters Locke and Jean completely lose control over their lives, nearly die, are saved, begin to enjoy that lack of control and then, as said in the last question, the Thorn of Camorr is back. I was ready to believe that from that point on they’d start planning how to con the Priory and the Spire. But then they have the argument.

I’m hoping Locke will find a way to get revenge with the help of the Poison Orchid, not over their dead bodies.

2. Merrain’s activities after our boys leave Windward Rock are interesting. What do you think her plans are?

Sneaky, sneaky! It’s still possible that she’s doing it at the command of the Priory. It might be all part of the Archon’s plan to hit the magi and get rid of evidence (i.e. Locke and Jean).

3. Does anyone know why having cats aboard the ship is so important?

The Ship’s Cat tradition/superstition goes way back, so in that, Lynch mirrored our world. Where he twisted the rules was in the one about women. Many seamen even today believe that having a woman on board the ship makes the seas angry and is an omen of bad luck for everyone aboard.

4. The word “mutiny” creates a lot of mental pictures. Were you surprised? Why or why not?

I have to admit I was surprised. Even after Caldris’ death, I thought Locke would be able to talk his way out of everything. I guess no women and no cats onboard really is bad luck!

5. Ah, the Poison Orchid. So many surprises there, not the least of which were the captain’s children. Did you find the young children a natural part of the story?

I figured that as of the moment women are accepted and even required to be at sea, the rules of life on board need to be adjusted to accomodate them, including the presence of children. I’m sure there’s even some sort of day-care system in bigger boats.

I was more surprised about not seeing more children aboard the Poison Orchid.

6. Jean is developing more and more as a character as we get further in to the book. Ezri makes the comment to him that “Out here, the past is a currency, Jerome. Sometimes it’s the only one we have.” I think several interesting possibilities are coming into play regarding Jean and Ezri. What about you?

Last week I was asking for a romantic interest for Jean and voilá! It’s great they started bonding over books and fighting techniques. She’s a way for Jean to come into his own and for that he needed a bit of perspective away from Locke. No matter how great their friendship is, Jean has always been the “shadow”. A good example is how, because of his knowledge, he should have been the Captain of the Red Messenger (imho) – as far as we know, no one even considered that option.

I’ll do them both good.

I think that, even without Ezri, Jean would have rebelled against Locke’s willingness to sacrifice the crew for his revenge.

7. As we close down this week’s reading, the Thorn of Camorr is back! I love it, even with all the conflict. Several things from their Camorri background have come back up. Do you think we will see more Camorri characters?

I’d say no. They’re being saved for the third book.

Random thoughts:

  • My favorite chapters so far. Maybe because of female characters that aren’t brilliant-but-evil?
  • I’m hoping that part of the next books will be set in the Captain’s home-land. It sounded interesting!

I’m ever so glad to see that Guy Gavriel Kay (GGK) is back on track! Before reading Ysabel I truly believed he could do no wrong. Even his less-good books were still good, and his good books were amazing, but Ysabel made me fear he’d lost his mojo, especially because it followed The Last Light of the Sun, which was in the “less-good” category. It was with a sigh of relive that I finished Under Heaven and could confidently still say he’s one of my favorite fantasy authors.

One of the best things about his books is that each is set in a place very similar to our own world: Tigana could be medieval Italy, The Lions of Al-Rassan Moorish Spain, The Sarantine Mosaic Constantinople, etc. In Under Heaven, the country of Kitai was inspired by China’s 8th century Tang Dynasty and the events leading to the An Shi Rebellion.

For the first time GGK moves outside “Europe” and away from the world of all his earlier novels. In Under Heaven there’s only one moon (instead of the usually two), and there’s no reference  to the mythical Fionavar, a legend common to all his previous societies and where The Fionavar Tapestry is actually set. I felt sorry for the break in tradition, but I’m also looking forward to see what he’ll do with his next books.

The story starts with Shen Tai, who’s honoring the death of his father, a great General of the Kitai Empire, by burying the dead of an old battle between Kitai and their arch-enemies, the Taguran. No one dares living in that place because the spirits of the dead roam in the night, so for his extraordinary courage, the Taguran Empress offers Shen Tai 250 prized Sardian horses.

This is such an amazing gift that Shen Tai’s life is immediately in danger. The gift forces him out his self-imposed exile to join the highest rank of Kitai’s society their complex political and dynastic power-struggles.

Kitai is an intricate society with strict rules that dominate every aspect of life and a lot of importance is given to pleasures such as music and poetry. For instance, young men who want to entre civil service have to go through several tough exams that involve history, law and philosophy, but they also have to write several styles of poetry. GGK published a poetry book in 2003, and you can tell that in Under Heaven he expanded on what’s clearly one of his passions.

 I heart fictional maps…

Two things that make GGK’s books right up my alley: the characterization and his tangent ways of telling a story.

Under Heaven is filled with fascinating characters, like “The Banished Immortal”, the greatest poet of his age, who’s constantly drunk but never the less has great discussions with Shen Tai about everything. Although in Katai society women don’t have any official power, we see that many (most?) of the major events in the book are set in motion by women. From the Emperor’s Favorite Concubine to Shen Tai’s sister or his kick-ass body-guard, there’s enough female presence and variety to enrich a story that at first sight seems about a strictly-patriarchal society.

If you’ve read any of GGK’s books you’ll probably know what I mean about a tangent way to tell the story. Not only it’s not linear in time and place, but it also jumps between points of view and shifts between macro and micro events. For instance, he might be telling you about an impending major battle, the way the troops are moving and the Emperor’s intentions, and then shift to the thoughts of an obscure guard in an obscure fortress. A few pages are dedicated to this character, even though he’ll be of no importance to the story. You’ll find out about his hopes and fears, something about his past, and quickly you’ll become emotionally invested in him. Because of him you’ll realize the human impact of the battles recently described in only a strategic way.

Often, many chapters later (and probably by something a main character says in passing) you’ll find out that the guard died or was rewarded and, incredibly, it makes you strangely sad or happy. In Under Heaven, Shen Tai’s horse keeper is a good example of this, as is the head of the mountain fortress, or the beggar outside the closed garden. GGK is a master of this gimmick – I wonder if it has a name? May I propose “GGK 360o”?

I didn’t connect with Under Heaven as much as I did with some of his other books. The pace at certain points was too slow and the story of Shen Tai’s sister, given as a bride to the leader of a savage Mongol-like tribe, was more interesting than his own. I felt a bit frustrated whenever the story moved away from her. The same happened later on with Shen Tai’s former lover (her final chapters were actually my favorite of the whole book).

Although GGK does a great job with his characters, I have the feeling they weren’t the most important part of the book. They’re just instruments to illustrate the decline and fall of a dynasty that seemed immortal. There’s something very nostalgic about Under Heaven, like it’s an ode to a long-lost art form or beautiful language. This is something common to the best of his earlier books and it never fails to get a tear or twenty out of me.

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Other thoughts: BookLustFantasy Book Critic, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, Sci-Fi Fan Letter, Speculative Book Review, Fyrefly’s Book Blog, Rachel Cotterill’s Book Reviews, Val’s Random Comments, The Wertzone, Torque Control, The Speculative ScotsmanThe King of Elfland’s Second Cousin, The Literary Omnivore, Between Two BooksStella Matutina, My Ever Expanding Library, the word zombie (yours?)

“I suspect that drink has made you impulsive.”
“Drink makes me feel funny; the gods made me impulsive.”

Just like I knew that it was just a matter of time before The Song of Ice and Fire and The Hunger Games exploded and became main-stream, I’m also looking forward to the time when the world discovers The Gentleman Bastards. I know there’s a big chance it’ll only happen when a big studio or HBO realizes its potential…

The first of the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was my favorite audiobook of 2011, when I discovered Michael Page and why he made it to my list of favorite narrators. For a while now I’ve been waiting for the Read-Along organized by The Little Red Reviewer, Dark CargoLynn’s Book Blog and SFSignal to get through the first book so I could join the bandwagon in the second, Red Seas Under Red Skies.

The Read-Along started today and will last for the next five weeks. I’m once again listening to the audiobook version – am I the only one of the participants? This week’s questions come from My Awful Reviews.

1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?

The Sinspire. Was that a good opening or what?! The foul language, the wit, the Weird Sisters, the alcoholic roulette, the mysterious figure watching them, the challenge of a casino heist. One chapter in and I’m already irrevocably hooked. I’m ready to bet they’re going to make it to the Sinspire’s top-level, but once there, everything will go haywire, as is traditional for the Gentleman Bastards.

2. Anyone want to guess how they’re going to make it happen?

Probably with variations of what they did on Level 5: carefully observing the players and finding their weak spots.

3. It’s a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?

Yes! I like the idea of a team of bandits, each with their own specialty, Mission Impossible-style (or Ocean’s Eleven?). Can you be a gang if you’re just two? Still, I have high-hopes for the group that Jean… er… recruited.

4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?

I have several questions about the new guild: at some point it’s said that Jean does it because they need a source of income, does that mean they’re not going to use them in the plan? Even so, they’ll come in hand further on. The new guild can become Locke and Jean’s hidden card.

Will both of them go back to Camorr at some point, and if they do, what will happen to the new guild? Maybe by that time they’ll be so well trained it’s worth it to expat them all 🙂

5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven’t spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke’s life?

I’ve read somewhere that unfortunately Sabetha only makes an appearance in Book 3. She deserves a whole book set around her (and with this much build-up, I hope she doesn’t disappoint. No pressure Mr. Lynch!). I’m expecting to at least get to know more about their story in this one.

6. It’s early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn’t expect. How do you think their new “employer” is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?

Just a few last random remarks: Scott Lynch is a fantastic world-builder. Just like Camorr, the descriptions of Tal Verrar just made my mind’s eye go wild (get out of my brain!). Also, maybe it worked better in audio, but the market scene was wonderfully creepy.

And finally about Selendri: I’m hoping to see more of her, or at least othergood female characters, just to make things interesting while Sabetha doesn’t make her grand entry. Hopefully they’ll put him in a boat 🙂 I’m looking forward for the sea-faring part of the story to start!

Image: The Spire by Les Edwards

I know it’s early days, but I’ve had a good first month of 2012 reading resolutions. I’ve started War and Peace (which I’m surprisingly really enjoying), and read my first ever Shakespeare play.

Risa is organizing A Shakespeare Play a Month event and A Midsummer Night’s Dream was elected for January. I’ve never read Shakespeare in school and apart from the usual spin-offs like 10 Things I Hate About You or West Side Story, I’ve only came across the canon by watching Romeo + Juliet at the movies and Macbeth at the theater, and although I got the gist of it, most of the language nuances were lost on me. But way back then I didn’t read much in English, and what I read was mostly modern novels, so clearly I wasn’t ready to face The Bard.

Some friends warned me that Shakespeare is better experienced by listening to it, but I found that reading the book and then watching the movie worked well. I was able to go back, re-read and look online for definitions. I was able to understand turns of phrase such as “a mile without the town” or “come, recreant; come thou child”. If I’d seen it without reading it first, I’d probably miss just how visual and evocative one of my favorite lines really is – Titania describing how she got the little Indian boy:

When we have laugh’d to see the sails conceive
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind

It also gave me the opportunity to witness what a marvelous “insulter” Shakespeare was. I had heard rumors, but now I’ve seen it for myself and am very much tempted to use it in my day-to-day (not that I often insult people, but you know, just in case): “You minimus, of hind’ring knot-grass made”, “O me, you juggler, you canker-blossom, you thief of love!”, “Farewell, thou lob of spirits”.

I haven’t said much about the plot because it became a bit secondary when compared to the words. That’s why you have re-reads, right? Next time around I’ll pay more attention to the comments on relationship’s balance of power or the loss of individual identity, but just this once, let me appreciate only the language.

Ay me, for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth.

Lysander says this to calm Hermia, after her father forbade them to marry and the King threatened her with death if she disobeyed. Lysander’s basically saying that for as long as there has been true love, there have been difficulties, and I found that strangely comforting.

Bottom & Co.’s play: loved it. How very meta-fictional of Shakespeare (or maybe it was a common gimmick at the time and I’m giving him more credit than he deserves), and how funny their keenness to make sure the audience was not scared by the lion (it’s just a man playing a lion!), or of the scene where Pyramus gets killed:

(…) and for the more better assurance, tell them that I Pyramus am not Pyramus but Bottom the weaver: this will put them out of fear.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)

Watching the movie adaptation after reading was a good idea. It not only made me better understand the comings and goings of the characters, but it was also fun seeing how often the actors used a tone different from the one I used when reading by myself.

My initial plan was to only join Risa for a couple of the plays, but this one was such a rewarding experience that I think I’ll try to do all 12.

This post is also my contribution for Allie’s Shakespeare Reading Month.

 

 

 

 

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Other thoughts: tale of three cities, Becky’s Book Reviews, things mean a lot,  Educating Petunia, All-Consuming Media, Bloggers [heart] Books, Back to Books, Once Upon A Bookshelf, Trish’s Reading Nook, An Armchair By The Sea (yours?)

(credits to bloodmilk jewels)

What can I say about this one that hasn’t been said before? Just for posterity’s sake I’ll add a few random thoughts, mostly meant for those of you who’ve read the book (not because of spoilers but just because they’re loose tidbits without a lot of context).

First and foremost: what was your favorite tent? Mine was the one with the glass bottles full of stories and memories. I’d probably never leave.

This is a book meant to be made into a movie and I’m very glad it’s already in the works. I hope the budget does it justice. I especially want to see the fire in the courtyard, the ice garden and Celia’s dresses subtly changing colors. You can tell Erin Morgenstern is also a painter – it’s all about creating images.

Was I the only one who thought that Isobel was Celia, when Marco first meets her in London and invites her for coffee?

Lots of interesting secondary characters that were a bit neglected. Tsukiko, for instance, had a pivotal role at the end but I didn’t feel her tragedy as much as I could have. Chandresh’s spiral into alcohol and Marco-induced oblivion could have been much more poignant. My heart could have easily been broken over Isobel and Thiessen (my favorite character in the whole wide book), but didn’t. There’s so much time spent describing the search for the perfect watchmaker and its construction, that after it was built I felt a bit disappointed – it just sat there.

In general I’m weary of books where anything can happen (e.g. Alice in Wonderland). If there are no limits, I’m not engaged in the story and characters. I was afraid that might happen once the competition began, but it didn’t. Extra brownie points.

Favorite scene: the disturbance in the Force, when the trapeze artist almost falls. Beautifully paced, like literary slow motion.

It’s been said before countless times and I agree: Morgenstern does a great job of creating the dream-like experience of the Circus, I could almost smell those caramel apples. It was my last paper-book of 2011, I liked it a lot, but didn’t make it to the favorites’ list. Why?

I did find it a page-turner but the non-linear plot sometimes cut the flow. Also, the story revolves around this competition between two people in love and several “battles” take place, but there’s not a lot of action or tension until the very end. It also doesn’t help that Marco and Celia are apart most of the story, although the few scenes where we see them together are marvelous – that kiss!

If anyone knows where the Circus will be next, please let me know! I have the perfect red scarf.

***

Lots and lots of other thoughts (was I the last book blogger in the world to post about this?!):

caribousmom, Fantasy Book Critic, A Patchwork of Books, S. Krishna’s Books, The Book Lady’s Blog, Book Chatter, Leeswammes, Book’d Out, My Books. My Life.largehearted boy, 1330v, Fyrefly Book Blog, Babbling About Books, and More, Jules’ Book Reviews, Linus’s Blanket, The Book Bind, Bookhounds, Estella’s Revenge, Farm Lane Books, Alison’s Book Marks, Muggle-Born, Book Monkey, The Guilded Earlobe, Miss Remmers’ Reviews, A Novel Source, Fat Books and Thin Women, Book DiaryEntomology of a Bookworm,  nomadreader, Follow the Thread, The Novel World, Hooked on Books, It’s All About Books, Nerfreader, A Musing Reviews, Capricious Reader, Book Sake, The Paper Reader, Indie Reader Houston, Let’s Eat Grandpa!, Book Nook Club, Prairie Horizons, The Book Whisperer, A Book Blog of One’s Own, The Canary, Reading on a Rainy Day, Jenny’s Books, Estante de Livros, book i done read, Literature and a Lens, Reading Matters, Literary Musings, Books Distilled, Under My Apple Tree, Bookeater/Booklover, Bibliophile By the Sea, Books are my Boyfriends

(yours?)

Can any book be more quintessentially English than The Wind in the Willows? I blame it for my early stages of Anglophilia, but I’ve only very recently realize it was originally a book. I knew it first through the Thames Productions adaptation.

I have fond memories of not only the show, but also, strangely, of Thames’ intro. When it came up you knew you were in for a treat, and although I know it was also the intro to other shows, in my memory it’s forever attached to The Wind in the Willows.


Ah to be a kid in the 80s in Portugal! I’ve no idea why, but on top of the ones dubbed in Portuguese, we got a huge mix of cartoons dubbed in other languages (originals were usually Japanese) and then subtitled in Portuguese. I can still sing parts of the generic of Alice im Wunderland and Ferdy the Ant in German, Les Mystérieuses Cités d’Or in French, Captain Planet (Were the Planeteersyou can be one to!) in English and Boes Boes in Dutch. Others were left in their original language and only subititled, like the soccer cartoon Tsubasa (Japanese – do you remember the Japan vs. Brasil game? A classic!) and The Tale of Tsar Saltan (Russian).

But I digress. The Wind in the Willows was very different from I was expecting. The biggest surprise was that Grahame alternates the adventures of Toad, Mr. Badger, Ratty and Mole with slower chapters that, although still involving the characters, are more lyrical and focused on things like love of home, friendship and the wonder of small things. In theory, these changes in mood could become contrived, but Grahame does it so naturally that you can’t help feeling that all works wonderfully.

It was a great and beautiful discovery, these thoughtful and happy sections. More nostalgia-happy than puppy-happy, and some parts got me all teary.

My favorite moment was when Mole, who had lived with Ratty a long time and was having too much fun to notice time fly, noticed a familiar smell while walking in the forest. The smell of his long-forgotten home.

Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day’s work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.

Also loved the descriptions of food, in particular of Mr. Badger’s winter storage. Could his home be a better safe haven, especially after you were lost in a cold, unknown and dark forest? Grahame’s descriptions of domestic bliss can only compete with those by Mrs. Gaskell.

Rows of spotless plates winked from the shelves of the dresser at the far end of the room, and from the rafters overhead hung hams, bundles of dried herbs, nets of onions, and baskets of eggs. It seemed a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory, where weary harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep their Harvest Home with mirth and song, or where two or three friends of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and smoke and talk in comfort and contentment.

I understand the chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” is the general favorite and I can well understand why. This is the moment when The Wind in the Willows really goes beyond “children’s book” and becomes, simply, a “Classic”. Still, my favorite, the one that really made the book for me, was “Wayfarers All”. It’s about how the Water Rat gets seduced by the nomadic lifestyle of his friend the Sea Rat. It appealed to my wanderlust streak and rang true in many moments. It starts:

The Water Rat was restless, and he did not exactly know why.

I read this in a tattered second-hand copy but want to get a beautifully illustrated edition for my collection, to read to any future children.

I’ll leave you with the gang singing The Open Road:

***

Other thoughts: Just Books, The Literate Mother, somewhere i have never travelled, Rebecca Reads, Books ‘N Border Collies,  A library is the hospital of the mind, Books Under Skin, Books for Breakfast, Drinks for Dinner (yours?)

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