Category Archives: Review

Review by ‘Making the Mark’: Julia Margaret Cameron at the V&A

Source: Review: Julia Margaret Cameron at the V&A

Victorian photography exhibition in London. Wish I could go see it!

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Review: Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m utterly enamored of Margaret Atwood‘s writing and ideas.

That said…in a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the top, this books gets a +23 but also a -3.

The structure, pacing, crescendo of the narrative is close to perfect (imo): every little detail plays Hide and Seek in the pages and slowly but surely and effectively comes together to paint a full, vibrant picture.
The Narrator‘s voice doesn’t stray and it’s faithful to itself and the narrative premises – I don’t particularly like him, but I happily follow his voice as I learn more of this story.
The commentary about society and technology and science is scarily accurate and intriguing while presenting not-so-far-away-in-the-future scenarios.

However.

The love story/female character element is very much a fantasy (not literally speaking, no spoilers here) and even if I see and understand the reasons why, the filter through which we see her, the character’s function in the plot as a pivot of meaning and commentary on specific issues…it leaves me quite indifferent.

And yes, I know the next reread will show me more (good books always do 🙂 but it will be on an intellectual more than visceral level.
A writer’s choices might not always be a reader’s choices, obviously 🙂

Recommended? Absolutely.

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My reviews for the Historical Novel Society

Recently, I became a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. Here are my two most recent reviews (formulated according to the guidelines of the Historical Novel Society):

A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage

Through Glass Eyes by Margaret Muir

Previous reviews included:

Martha’s Girls by Arlene Hughes

(the links take you to the Historical Novel Society website)

I find historical fiction fascinating, and so varied. I do have a preference for alternative history, or very vivid narratives where as a reader I really can forget myself and experience the period I’m reading about. I also find interesting that many equals historical fictions with romance. In my experience, not necessarily, and not only.

A longer absence than expected, my apologies.

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Currently Reading…

Another review by the lovely C. Psycogeography is fascinating and there will be more of it in this blog as soon as possible. Enjoy 🙂

Writing the Long Way Around

…Scarp by Nick Papadimitriou

I saw Nick at the Edinburgh Book Festival and it was the link to psychogeography – and the presence of Will Self as the chair – that convinced me to attend his event. Nick is an unassuming, ordinary looking chap. The kind of chap who might be in front of you ordering coffee, the kind of chap who might pick up your discarded newspaper to read on the bus. Except it would seem Nick rarely uses the bus or any other form of transport other than his legs.

Although I have only started Scarp, Nick’s reportage of what he thinks and what he feels is honest and far-reaching, even though it comes in the thinnest wrapping of personal context. Reading, I felt a  renewed sense of confidence of how to locate myself in my own scarp. I suddenly felt my flights of fancy – not just…

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Review: Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis

Definitely on my To Read list, although at some point I’ll have to prioritize it. Thanks to Ever for the review 🙂

blood on forgotten walls

Cosmopolis

After immersing myself in the wonderful prose and brilliantly perverse dialogue of Cosmopolis I’m convinced my reading and writing life will be clearly demarcated as pre-DeLillo and post-DeLillo.

Packer, an asset manager billionaire living in Manhattan, crawls through the gridlocked streets in his white sound-proofed technology-laden stretch-limo. He’s going to get a haircut at his childhood barbers, and on the way he has various encounters. His interactions with other characters can hardly even be called that; it is as if there’s a glass wall between them, as if they’re talking to and for themselves and not with anyone else. It’s also a coded, insular, language – the language of capitalism, that of big business and bankers. The dialogue comes in short bursts, precise sentences that almost seem cut off, as if the remaining words were edited out. I’m convinced DeLillo had a dominatrix standing over him to hand out full…

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Quotes: The Manual of Detection, and comments

Just finished reading “The Manual of Detection”, by Jedediah Berry.

Quote: “The diagram was a fairytale, written by a forgetful old man with wild white hair, and it whirled like a record on a phonograph.”

The story has a well thought-out, solid structure, the chapters’ of the book mirroring the chapters of the Manual in the book (yay metafiction), and a vivid juxtaposition of the circus as a metaphore of chaos and dreamland vs. order and ‘detection’, yin and yang needing each other for everyone’s safe living. Beautiful, imaginative dialogue and use of black umbrellas here and there. But it failed me completely on the characters:(  in as much as they are functional, I didn’t feel any symphaty or empathy, for any of them. They fit nicely in the plot they serve, they have motivation…but I wanted to fall for them, and didn’t, not even a little crush 😦

Absolutely a book to read, anyway.

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reading

I finished reading Cloud Atlas.

Alas, all good things must end (who said that, by the way? I keep protesting.  No reason why good things must end: once you eat the last slice of the cake, you can make or buy another one. Can buy the ingredients, can save to buy them. All to say, your intent and persistence can make good things last.)

I am not head over heels with it anymore, sadly.

Oh, I think it’s brilliant in many ways, cleverly thought out and skillfully built, as explicitly mentioned in the book, Matrioska-style. I love the expression ‘an atlas of cloud’, love the crescendo of the whole structure, the historical progression, the way in which each story is linked to the next, the mastery of language and narrative voices, the moral of the story…but once it reaches the climax, the going back feels more like being shown the secrets behind a magic show, like clever editing of several stories into one another (but we know already where it’s going).  It is, somewhat, anticlimatic.

On to the next read.

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That weird falling head over heels for books moment

I’m in love with Cloud Atlas.

It started, like many relationships do, with a tad of suspicion, a feeling of ‘do I have to’, the reluctance to engage, because no engagement comes without baggage, luggage, burdens and heartbreaks.

But now, at page 181, I am firmly and madly besotted.

Will it end well? Or will it be just one of those fiery and torrid but short and despicable summer affairs?

We shall see.

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Just read and re-read

Finished re-reading We need to talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver.

It’s one of those books I picked up by chance, and read two more times in a row after the first time. This was my third reading. The emotional impact of the book is such (on me) that I still find problematic its analysis. If ever I felt LOSS pouring out of written pages, this is the book doing that to me. Bittersweet read, but I keep finding nuances I missed on the previous reading. It’s written in epistolary form, making me better appreciate the possibilities in the form. Quite strangely, I suppose, it’s a comforting read for me. Given the subject matter, I don’t think it should. It’s either an achievement of the book, or a failure in me. Here’s to reading it again next time I feel the need for it.

Finished reading Pavel and I by Dan Vileta.

I want to read it again at some point. The choice of structure, background and outside narrator are extremely functional and the whole architecture smoothly created, although I found it somewhat slow pacing in parts. I have the feeling a re-reading may be more stimulating.

Also finished reading The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy.

It does take you away with it into a hard land, other times, and strange tales. It does that. At some point I also sort of browsed through quickly a number of pages on the aims of God, and the reasons of life, and other more or less philosophical passages. There are a number in the book, and some work better than others. Quite a sad read. But also extremely poetic. Sometimes the way in which we read a book is dictated by the mood we are in. Quite obvious, of course, but also worth remembering it. I suspect I will read more by McCarthy.

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