A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Posts tagged ‘reviews’

Who won?

It has beenThw winner stands alone strange to read such a cynical story by Paulo Coelho, whose books seemed to me the anti thesis of cynicism. I had loved “The Alchemist”, and I had liked “Veronica Decides to Die” as well, very much. Somewhere along the line Coelho may have decided that he was no longer going to be the Mr. Nice Guy. He may have felt that he needed to write a story about the superficiality of the very rich, very famous in show business. He may have been disillusioned. So he wrote a cynical novel.

The problem does not lie in its cynicism, or depiction of the dark underbelly of the “superclass”, which, apparently, is a real term. The problem lies in the fact that Coelho does not show. He tells. Page after page after repeated page. He tells us that the super class is superficial. They lead tired empty meaningless lives. They manipulate. They form cartels. They have surgery to enhance their looks. They are afraid of growing old. How do we know? Coelho tells us.

This information has no relevance to the story of murder and mayhem that is “The Winner Stands Alone”. No matter. It is revealed again and again, woven into a story that has potential.

I cannot believe what I just wrote. Paulo Coelho’s story has potential! Ouch!

The question now remains, did the story get lost in translation? Or did Coelho just want to write something different, and make a hash of it?

I also failed to discern the relationship the name of the novel has to the story between the covers.

All in all, a sad disappointment.

Perhaps there are two Paulo Coelho’s? One who wrote “The Alchemist” and one who tried to write a book called “The Winner Stands Alone”.

 

Samuel Barclay Beckett: Unfinished

Samuel Barclay Beckett, avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, and wrote in both English and French. Formidable reputation. He is famous “for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation.” Ironic, then, that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969, a pointless gesture, surely if ever ther was one.

I was, uncharacteristically, quite excited when the young adorablescent brought “Waiting For Godot” home from school as a text. Uncharacteristically, because I have a phobia for books which are so deep and meaningful, that you have to be amongst the world’s top ten intellectuals to even get a grip on the topic. This seems to imply that all the regular people I come into contact with are lying when they say they understand it. I don’t think they are lying. I think they believe they understand it. I think that, it is so unacceptable to say that Samuel Beckett made no sense to you, that people are subconsciously afraid to say it.

It is hard to align yourself on the side of the “superficial”. I know how much it hurts to be called superficial, because I have been called it. I have watched people look at the hundreds of books lining my shelves, and assume, that someone else in the family has read those books, and not me. When I have said that most of those books are mine, and many of them have been read by only me, I have had people look at me in wonder, trying to understand how such a superficial person as me could actually have read so much, and some of those books are, by commonly agreed upon standards, not kindergarten reads. (I have not read too much, but a wall full of shelves overflowing with books can dominate a room). So I have always taken with a pinch of salt when someone regular like me, waxes all lyrical over an obscure book by an obscure author. (Using obscure as: not clearly expressed or easily understood, Beckett is not unknown, and his play “Waiting for Godot” even less so).

I was excited because, I thought that, here was a short book, that I would be able to quickly read and not get bogged down in existentialistic nightmares for months. Pick up. Read. Put Down. Tick off to-read list.

I will just assume everyone reading this has read the play. A play about nothing, in which nothing happens, and ends before any point has truly been made. I get it. That is the point of the play. That there is no point. Nothing happens in our lives. We do nothing, remember nothing, have no significance or maybe we even don’t exist.

It just makes me wonder. Why would I read/watch this play? The conversation goes nowhere, so paying attention is not necessary. Nothing happens, so ditto. There is only the point of futile existence, so why bother?

Can anyone tell me whether I should read the second Act of Mr Beckett’s play? Have I missed something? I think it will be a rehash of the first Act, just driving home the point. I already get it.

 

Bare tree sunrise sunset.jpg

Photo credit: Hartwig HKD

 

First book of 2016: Facepaint

It is the First of January, 2016, and I just stumbled upon the “First Book of the Year” community.

1stbook2016

I have never made the first book of a year into any kind of priority. Usually, I would not think it to be such a special thought in as much as it should not really matter to someone who reads all the time as to what time of the year it is. To me the year is a man made concept, for humanity’s own need to compartmentalise Time (with a capital T).

But, having just written in my list for 2016, “I have read and reviewed 30 books in 2016” I feel it may be necessary to undergo this ritual. Read the first book, review it. A journey of reading and reviewing 30 books starts by picking up the first book, after all.

To those who are planning to read 100+ books during the year, I commend you. There was a time when I did read a book or two in a week. Now is not that time. My very modest goal of 30 books this year is doubling what I managed to read in 2015. I am content to take my humble back seat in the community.

So my first book is one that I have just started to read over the last couple of days: “Facepaint: The Story of Makeup” by Lisa Eldridge. I am also reading: “The Modern Art Cookbook” by Mary Ann Caws, “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, and “Light on Yoga Sutras” by BKS Iyengar. This last book may also be finished as the last book of this year, depending on how many pages I read at a time.

First book of the year

Out of these I think it is easiest for me to finish Eldridge’s book, so I have chosen it to be my first book. It is filled with the most beautiful pictures. Her writing style flows like a conversation, and, as an avid follower of her YouTube channel, it feels like she is reading the book to me.

Thank you Sheila of bookjourney.net for the idea, and Ti of bookchatter.net for pointing me to the community. Happy reading adventures, fellow bookworms…..

Announcing Adorablescents

New forum, new thoughts and new musings. 

I am excited to announce a new blog, to run side by side with bodhimoments.  Please visit and leave a comment.

Much more than an “About” page will be up soon.

Love

Judging the reviewer

Who is a review for?books

Of late, there has been a lot of to-do about book reviews being offered for sale, and authors purchasing them. Reading through some of the news about that, I had wondered how pervasive this could possibly be. But I did not lose any sleep over it. My decision to read a book, or not, is seldom based on any review, professional, or friendly. (Thank God! Else I would have read those Grey books! Eew!). So I moved on.

I put my hand up recently to review a book and was asked by the author to put it up on amazon.com, but only if I was able to award it 3 points or above. The request felt absurd, but I was not expecting to dislike the book. When I realised I could not award it 3 stars, I started feeling uncomfortable. I felt that for what it was worth (or not), my opinion of the book should be on the site.

My advisory board said I should put  the review up on Amazon nonetheless.

“Any publicity is good”

“You cannot have a biased set of reviews. What kind of request is that? How can you only put up good reviews?”

Since I had not discussed this before reading the book, I decided to do the right thing by the author, and sent off an email saying that I was unable award the book 3 stars and would not be putting up my review on Amazon. But I did also forward my opinion that  it had been an unethical request.

The author accepted my decision, but asked me the question “Why would you offer to write a review if not to help?” Meaning, I presume, that a negative review will not help sell a book.

It set me thinking. Who is a review intended for? Having been always a reader,  I have always assumed that a review is intended to inform the buyer. Information and a recommendation to fork out the dollars or not. If I am part of a setup where only favourable reviews get seen by prospective buyers, then I feel that I am committing fraud.

There are studies that suggest that a book’s sales does not really depend on its reviews. But it seems to me, that they must have some value. How often do we ask those whose opinions we value: “Do you recommend it?” Very often we are swayed by the recommendation for or against. So had I, by not putting up my opinion on amazon, committed fraud, nevertheless? No one would know about it, but what does it say of my integrity?

Loveintegrity

NB: For the record, I was not offered, nor did I expect or ask for payment for the review.

“Who am I?” said Mr Dash to the Duke

The FoundlingTo Kill a Mockingbird

Looking For Alibrandi

Great Expectations

The Harry Potter series.

Little Women

The Book Thief

The Diary of a Young Girl

Jane Eyre

The Secret Garden

And….. The Foundling by Georgette Heyer. What do all these books have in common?

Georgette heyerThe untitled Queen and the creator of the Regency Romance genre has a very special place in my heart. However nonsensical her plots, her dexterous story telling always keeps me gripped. There is never a dull moment… well, maybe there is, on some rare occasions, but much can be forgiven the author who can create side characters like Felix Merriville ( Frederica) and main characters like Freddy Standen (Cotillion). In fact, one  never has to read her in a forgiving spirit, because one is laughing so much and exclaiming so much at some of her more extravagant pen sketches. Heyer is known for her style, and most importantly, for her impeccable research. Each Regency Romance and Georgian Romance is crafted in minute detail from furnishings to language to recreate a genuine feel for the times. Each character is lovingly fleshed out to make it real and palpable. The Foundling is a Regency Romance, even though the love story in it is secondary. I would rather call it a coming of age novel, set in the Regency period.

Twenty four year old Gilly, or, Most Noble Adolphus Gillespie Vernon Ware, Duke of Sale and Marquis of Ormesby; Earl of Sale; Baron Ware of Thame; Baron Ware of Stoven; and Baron Ware of Rufford, rolling in wealth, would rather be Plain Mr Dash of Nowhere in Particular.  Hemmed in on all sides by well wishers and devoted retainers, Gilly is weary, longing for adventure. He yearns for the opportunity to know himself. When, out of the blue, such an opportunity presents itself, he shakes off his shackles, makes off into the unknown, and tumbles straight into one hair raising escapade after another.

I reread this book for the first time last weekend since the stars in my eye, girly romance, chick lit days. ( Not that we called it chick lit in those hoary days of yore). I remember not liking it. It was not lovey enough. The hero was not romantic or magnificent. He was shy, soft-spoken and self-effacing. The last not meaning that he was without self worth. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course I expected it to be good reading. But I had either forgotten, or never noticed how funny it is. I had definitely missed how wise and multi-dimensional it is. I think I had kept looking for the romance. The beautiful, pert and sweet girl meets dashing, brave and witty boy. The scrapes the two get into, and out of. The everlasting declarations of love, and, the happily ever after feel.

This time around, remembering that the romance had been disappointing, I kept my reading slow. I determined even before I opened the first yellow page to savour the style and the wit, and not worry about the romance. Not being of that romantic teenager frame of mind anymore helped, of course.

I had belly laughs, and laughs that escaped me like a loud snort. I had to go back and read some paragraphs as I was laughing so much I missed details. I shed a few tears (I am an easy crier). But most of all, I fell in love with quiet, shy, Gilly. Gilly who knew his mind. Gilly who had a tender heart. Gilly who did not need to be loud, brash and overbearing to be manly. Gilly who was gentle and kind, and loving, and incredibly brave.

He does resort to stern speaking a few times in the novel, and has recourse to a couple of almost violent acts in self defence. But for a novel set in the early 1800s, with very few resources to save himself, he manages quite well. He learns his own power, he learns to value his blessings, and he learns that while he can fend for himself quite well as Plain Mr Dash of Nowhere in Particular, being Duke of Sale has its advantages. He comes home a grown man, and takes his place with sweet dignity. A novel before its time, almost. A SNAG in the days of footpads, and rogues and desperate people.

The romance which is almost an afterthought in this novel also turned out to be very satisfying to my current taste. Or do I mean current wisdom?Cotillion

In fact, I think back to my teenage self, and wonder at how silly I was! In fact, from thinking of it as being one of the worst Georgette Heyer books I have read, I think this has taken up the favourite position. … Mmmmmm.. Cotillion still probably wins by a heartbeat. I will have to read both again, soon, and decide. If I cannot even then, at least I will have read two books full of laughter. Again.

So, Georgette Heyer not only writes the best Regency Romances, she also writes a killer coming of age story.

Do you ever read romances? What is your favourite romance? Would you recommend any? If you don’t read romance, what is your favourite genre? Any suggestions? I am forming a 2013 reading list.

Love Frederica

Reading “The Casual Vacancy”

Two Positive reviews. Sort of.

One.

Two

And a negative one:  Sort of.

Caution: All of the above reviews, especially the last, contain some Spoilers. So please peruse only if you feel Spoilers will not affect your reading of The Casual Vacancy. Also, if you do, Parminder is not Pakistani. She is Sikh, of Indian descent.

By now, anyone who is interested in Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Modern Literature, anything under the Sun, knows that The Casual Vacancy, or TCV as it is lovingly called, is a novel written for adults, and not really “as good as” Harry Potter. Of course, there are those who would not be seen dead with a Harry Potter book, but even they know that TCV is not really that good (See multiple reviews on multiple websites, if you want, after the ones above). So, while they were too adult to read a “book about magic” they are too literary minded to read TCV. Yes, I know, the Harry Potter books were not really about magic. But, in spite of all of that TCV has been sold a few million times over. Not too bad.

This article is also not a review. It is a reading moment. My reading moment. If you want to really know TCV, read it. Do. The only opinion that matters to you, is yours.

I finished the book in two sittings. On Saturday I read through the afternoon, and made myself put it down at night. I read again next day, from mid morning to mid afternoon. All 503 pages of it.  That in itself, is telling. It is a book that is easy to keep reading.

Contrary to advertisement, I teared up only once, at the end of the first third of the book, and never again. I did not cry at the end, I believe people have been crying then. But I was gripped with strong emotions throughout. I was not expecting to fall in love with any of the characters, as I had already been warned by the Jennifer Byrne interview with JKR. But I did not expect them to be quite so disgusting. Or most of them. Or at least most of the adults.

TCV is a look into the lives of some of the most unlikeable characters in a small English town, and one is left wondering how come they are all concentrated there. The people we meet daily are all a mix of loveable and  not so loveable characteristics. And most of them seem to have something that redeems them. We can find something about each person that we can take note of and say, “See? There, they are not so bad after all”.

But JKR does not allow us that luxury; taking us to peek into each person’s minds she tells us that all is not well, anywhere. Then, there are the adolescents. Each with their own private hell, and each struggling to get the better of it.

I will not go into a dissection of the only character people have bonded to, in the book – Krystal Weedon. JKR mentioned that she was the best character/person, and that, in a way, this story is about her. I can see why she said so, and why people end up loving her. I was not even allowed that luxury, in my mind. Even Krystal with her courage, and her mindfulness and her love failed to make me love her. But I will write about that later.

I liked this book so much that I will read it again. When I am not feeling so raw inside about it. Now that I know what happens, I will pick each sentence apart, and dig into the whys. I will pace myself out, and think about it as I go along. I am sure, I will discover many new things. There, in my mind, lies the excellence of “The Casual Vacancy”. It is a book you can read again.

Love

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