Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (Theodora Goss)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
Author: Theodora Goss
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Fantasy
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes. But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

🦾🦿👤

This novel was a fun time for sure. It is one of those light-hearted books that takes a lot of the familiar and blends it into a kind of cozy mystery.

The author has taken a number of characters from novels, such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein, the Sherlock Holmes series and Dracula and uses the reader’s familiarity with these characters to weave a new story. This one features an all-woman cast, apart from Sherlock and Watson and a few side characters, and throws them into a big adventure with a mystery to solve.

This was one of those novels that was a joy to read, including the amusing commentary from the characters themselves that are sprinkled throughout, but I am not sure it will stick in my brain for very long. Its tone was quite light and amusing.

I would happily read the next book in this series if it comes on my path, but i won’t go out of my way to continue this series.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 25 November 2020

This reading week has been kind of slow, but I don’t think I mind too much.

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WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I am about halfway through The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. I am reading quite slowly right now, but I am enjoying it. It’s a light read so far and it’s fun. I love that there are characters from all sorts of classic (monster) literature in there.

I have also started listening to Black and British by David Olusoga. I am a couple of chapters in and it’s so interesting. This is a long audio book (25 hours!) and it may be interrupted by something else, so I may be in it for the long haul. However, I really like it so far. So much information on a subject I sadly know too little about.

I did also pick up Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, but I have not read on yet, favouring fiction for actual reading right now. I will probably pick it back up in the coming week.

What have I recently finished reading?

I finished my previous audio book, which was I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke. I loved that one. He is such good storyteller and his voice is so distinctive. I would highly recommend the audio book. I will be diving into some of his work soon.

I also finished In Lucia’s Eyes by Arthur Japin almost a week ago. It was an enjoyable read, but to be honest it did not really stick at all.

What will I be reading next?

I am really in the mood for some more poetry, so there may be some of that coming. Not sure what yet. I have a few poetry books that I could pick up.

Books · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: I Wanna Be Yours (John Cooper Clarke)

★★★★★★☆

Title: I Wanna Be Yours
Author: John Cooper Clarke
Genre: Non-Fiction / Autobiography
First published: 2020
Edition: Audio book & hardback, published by Picador in 2020

Poet Laureate of Punk, fashion icon, TV and radio presenter, social and cultural commentator. At 5′ 11′ (8 stone, 32 inch chest, 27 inch waist), in trademark suit jacket, skin-tight drainpipes and dark glasses, with jet-black back-combed hair and mouth full of gold teeth, John Cooper Clarke is instantly recognisable. As a writer his voice is equally unmistakable.

John Cooper Clarke is one of those people, who is such a cultural phenomenon, yet I did not know that much about him. When I heard that he was publishing this book I was very excited to read it. I am glad I did. It was a joy to listen to him tell his story. He has such a recognisable voice and way of speaking.

This is a pretty straightforward autobiography, but it is well-told and has a sense of humour that is very on point, but not too overdone. This is a man who has been there done that, but always seems to have been unapologetically himself. I love that. He talks us through his years trying to make a career for himself and gaining some success and recognition. He also talks us through his time as a heroine addict and recovery. Life has clearly not always been sunshine and roses, but though he talks about the low points, he does not linger on the negative.

The title of the book is the title of perhaps now his most famous poem, thanks in part to the Arctic Monkeys, who turned its words into a song, which is on their AM album. But there is so much more to this man than that poem. He is a fascinating individual, but at the end of the book he actually seems like someone you would enjoy having a drink with, who has stories to tell, but who knows life and happiness cannot be taken for granted, who can laugh at himself and root for others.

The book itself never becomes oversentimental, but always stays focussed on telling a life story worth telling and on the positive side of life. This and his wonderful turn of phrase is this autobiography’s strength in my opinion.

I would highly recommend the audio book. It gives you such a sense of who this man is. I am looking forward to (re)exploring some of his work.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: In Lucia’s Eyes (Arthur Japin)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: In Lucia’s Eyes (Orginal Dutch title: Een Schitterend Gebrek)
Author: Arthur Japin
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2003
Edition: Paperback, published by Vintage in 2006

Amsterdam 1758, and a man is artfully seducing a woman. He is, to all appearances, Monsieur le Chevalier de Seingalt; she is a courtesan, well-known in Amsterdam for the fact that she never removes her veil. He sets her a challenge: if she can find a woman who has suffered after falling in love with him, she is entitled to resist his charms; if not, she should play his game. What Seingalt doesn’t know is that he has already met the veiled woman many years ago, in another life. 

It was only when I started reading this novel that I realised that it was by a Dutch author. Had I known, I would have read it in its original language. I enjoyed the translation regardless, though I was not sold on the narrative completely.

This is actually a fictional account of the first love of Giacomo Casanova, Lucia. The author takes the facts (as recounted in Casanova’s autobiography) and imagines what her life may have been like. He does a credible job of weaving a fascinating, but tragic tale, into a story of first love and ruin.

I enjoyed much of the book, but at times I simply did not quite ‘stay’ in the story. I understood Lucia, but I never quite felt like I knew her. She always stayed kind of aloof for me. I also did not find Casanova quite convincing. The ending was bittersweet, but kind of perfect, and made up for parts of the story that did not quite work for me. It did have some beautifully written passages, which makes me inclined to re-read this in Dutch at some point.

On the whole this novel read away easily and I enjoyed the read. If you like historical fiction that is not too heavy or lengthy, this may be a book worth reading.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Power (Naomi Alderman)

★★★☆☆☆☆

Title: The Power
Author: Naomi Alderman
Genre: Fiction / Dystopian / Speculative fiction
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Penguin in 2017

All over the world women are discovering they have the power. With a flick of the fingers they can inflict terrible pain – even death. Suddenly, every man on the planet finds they’ve lost control. The Day of the Girls has arrived – but where will it end?

⚡⚡⚡

Right. I will keep this short. Let me start by saying I had high hopes for this novel. Unfortunately for me, it just did not float my boat.

The idea and the plot seemed quite strong at the beginning, and there were times that I could almost get into the book, but something always seemed to pull be straight back out of the story. I did not get on that well with the writing. I found it dry and just not that engaging. I really had to push through the middle especially. The characters did not grab me enough to feel invested in their individual stories.

In the end I was not quite sure where the story was trying to go. Wherever I wanted it to go, it did not get there. I think I can see why people do like this book, but it clearly was not for me.

If you enjoy dystopian stories, it may be worth giving this a try. You may get on with it better than I did.

3 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 11 November 2020

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WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I am about two thirds through modern poet John Cooper Clarke’s autobiography I Wanna Be Yours. I am enjoying it a lot. He knows his way around words without too much fuss for sure.

I have also started Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. I have seen the movie, which is really good, so I am giving the book a try. I am only about 35 pages in and so far it’s ok. I have heard it has some scenes that are more ‘interesting’ than in the movie, so I am secretly curious.

What have I recently finished reading?

I read Truly, Madly, Greekly by Mandy Baggot, as it is autumn and naturally I felt like a light summer read 😋. It was fine. It kind of did what it needed to do. Yesterday I finished The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak, which I absolutely adored. It made me think (I am still thinking) and I love it when a book does that.

What do I think I will read next?

I have five books left on my 20 for 2020 and time is rapidly running out, so I may pick up one of those. Not sure which one yet.

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Forty Rules of Love (Elif Shafak)

★★★★★★★

Title: The Forty Rules of Love
Author: Elif Shafak
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction / Philosophy
First published: 2009
Edition: Paperback, published in 2015 by Penguin

Ella Rubinstein has a husband, three teenage children, and a pleasant home. Everything that should make her confident and fulfilled. Yet there is an emptiness at the heart of Ella’s life – an emptiness once filled by love. So when Ella reads a manuscript about the thirteenth-century Sufi poet Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, and his forty rules of life and love, her world is turned upside down. She embarks on a journey to meet the mysterious author of this work.

This was the right book at the right time. There were time I actually hugged this book. The words contained within it mean a lot. This is one of those novels that is thought provoking, but in a very gentle way. It makes you think, but it does not do so in a forceful manner.

I am of no religion, but I am fascinated with religion and spirituality and this book touched on both, with part of it set during the famous poet Rumi’s life in the 1200s and house wife Ella’s world in the late 2000s. Through the eyes Rumi and Shams and various people they encounter, this novel looks at Sufism during that time and what it meant to follow those teachings. Then through Ella’s attachment to Sufi author Aziz she starts seeing the world with fresh eyes and realise it is never too late to start on a new path, not necessarily through Sufism, but simply by letting ourselves follow our hearts.

I thought this book had some beautiful passages and messages that I know will stay me for a long time. The story made me feel a lot of things in a good way. I do not think this book is for everyone. It has a very specific tone, which I am not sure quite how to explain. It is kind of spiritual, but for me it never felt too much so. I am not that familiar with Sufism or indeed Rumi’s life, so I have no idea whether it is portrayed correctly.

Honestly, I loved this book from start to finish. I will definitely be reading more books by this author.

7 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 28 October 2020

***

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

The only book I am reading right now is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It is slow going. Not because of the book, but because I am not taking enough time to read at the moment. I am enjoying it, but I am having a bit of trouble focusing at the moment.

What did I recently finish reading?

I finished listening to Lenny Kravitz’ autobiography Let Love Rule yesterday. I really enjoyed that one. He has a soothing voice and there was something kind of beautiful about his story. There is just so much love in it. Would highly recommend if you enjoy these kind of biographies, even if you’re not a huge fan (which – though I like him – I am not either).

What do I think I will read next?

My next (musical) book club read is How To Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy. I will probably pick that one up on e-book. As for audio book, I may go for John Cooper Clarke’s book. My next physical read I am not sure yet. Whatever I am in the mood for once I have finished Good Omens.

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Guest List (Lucy Foley)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley
Genre: Fiction/Thriller/Mystery
First published: 2019
Edition: Kindle e-book

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

💀💔

This was a very easy read, which was just what I needed.

I liked the way the book is written from the points of view of various people attending a wedding on a remote Irish island and how it is mainly written a day in the past with brief glimpses of the Wedding Day itself. I definitely enjoyed the writing and the characters.

The murder mystery and the reveals were a little iffy for my liking. Too many coincidences. It was all just a little bit too convenient.

Having said that though, I sped through the book and I would recommend it as a quick fun read. There’s nothing too gruesome, but it does have a bit of a ominous atmosphere, which I enjoyed.

Did what it needed to do.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: Just Kids (Patti Smith)

★★★★★★★

Title: Just Kids
Author/narrator: Patti Smith
Genre: Non-Fiction / Biography / Memoir / Autobiography / Culture
First published: 2010
Edition: audio book

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation. Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max’s Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

*

This was a memoir I read for a book club I like to join in with when I can. I knew about Patti Smith of course, but I had not really any idea what kind of life she had led.

This memoir focuses on Patti’s relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. It runs up to their meeting in New York and then takes us along the ups and downs of their quite extraordinary relationship, which lasted until his death in 1989. We meet a host of famous faces along the way, but it never distracts from the core of the story that Patti is telling us.

Patti’s writing is so beautiful I quickly found myself engrossed in her life. Her descriptions of small details she notices in the world around her are exquisite and the way she relates and refers to other people I found very touching. I really enjoyed listening to the audio book for this and hear her tell this very personal story in her own voice.

In essence, this is a book that focuses on a relationship between two people who share a beautiful connection. I found it really inspiring and moving. It really feels like an heartfelt tribute to a man who meant the world to her.

I think this memoir has my heart. I have ordered myself a physical copy to treasure and a couple more of Patti’s books, because I have a feeling she may well become on of my favourite authors.

7 out of 7 stars