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 · Currently Reading · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 18 November 2020

I have really been enjoying reading again lately, partly helped by reading some books I absolutely adored.

***

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 just over a quarter into In Lucia’s Eyes by Arthur Japin. It’s a fiction book that follows Casanova’s first love Lucia. I like it so far, but I doubt it’s going to make more than 5 out of 7 stars for me. We’ll see.

I am also still listening to I Wanna Be Yours, poet John Cooper Clarke’s autobiography. I am really enjoying that one, but it’s a big book and is taking me a while!

What did I recently finish reading

I read two novels; Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman and The Power by Naomi Alderman. Call Me By Your Name was an enjoyable atmospheric read, which did not quite blow me away. Unfortunately I really did not enjoy The Power very much and that one will disappear from my shelves. I did not hate it, but it just did grab me.

I also read The Broken Wings ,a lyrical novella by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese writer, which was first published in Arabic in 1912. Only 44 pages, but it was one of the most gorgeous things I have ever read! It completely broke me though, leaving me in floods of tears. I can’t wait to read more of Gibran’s work.

Finally, I read Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass by Lana Del Rey, which is a poetry book. I really enjoyed the experience of reading this. I loved the poems and the design of the book.

What will I be reading next?

I am not sure yet. I am just mood reading at the moment! I have a few books I would like to get to before the end of the year, so….

Books · Poetry · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass (Lana Del Rey)

★★★★★★☆

Title: Violent Bent Over The Grass Backwards
Author: Lana Del Rey
Genre: Poetry
First published: 2020
Edition: Hardback, published by Simon and Schuster in 2020

“Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass is the title poem of the book and the first poem I wrote of many. Some of which came to me in their entirety, which I dictated and then typed out, and some that I worked laboriously picking apart each word to make the perfect poem. They are eclectic and honest and not trying to be anything other than what they are and for that reason I’m proud of them, especially because the spirit in which they were written was very authentic.” —Lana Del Rey

🌸🌸🌸

I bought this poetry book on a whim. I have been listening to the author’s music quite a lot lately. It always touches me, so I figured maybe her poetry would as well. It did.

There is something very lyrical, but real and heartfelt about her prose. It took me a few poems to get used to the rhythm and feel of her writing, but by the end I really loved it. I loved how her poems are irregular and almost jarring at times. It made sense in the themes of this work, which seems to be an exploration of life and self and maybe acceptance as well, her place in this immediate world she is existing in.

I enjoyed this thoroughly and the photographs scattered throughout and the way her typed pages are printed in the book give it a great feel. The hardback was a joy to read.

I definitely want to listen to her reading this work, but as a poetry book it already hit the right spot for me.

6 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 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Broken Wings (Kahlil Gibran)

★★★★★★★

Title: The Broken Wings (الأجنحة المتكسرة)
Author: Kahlil Gibran (Editor: Will Jonson) Pages: 44
Genre: Fiction / Classic / Poetry / Novella / Tragedy
First published: 1912
Edition: Paperback, independently published in 2014

With great sensitivity, Gibran describes his passion as a youth for Selma Karamy, the girl of Beirut who first unfolded to him the secrets of love. But it is a love that is doomed by a social convention which forces Selma into marriage with another man. Portraying the happiness and infinite sorrow of his relationship with Selma, Gibran at the same time probes the spiritual meaning of human existence with profound compassion.

Apparently it only takes 44 pages to break my heart. Oh, my word. This was the most beautiful and tragic story I have read for a long, long time.

There is so much love contained within these pages and the writing is so exquisite, it filled my heart with emotions and then proceeded to shatter it into a thousand pieces.

Written at the beginning of the twentieth century it nevertheless has a lot of modern sensibilities and the author’s views on how society treated (and unfortunately still treats) women. I feel that between his beautiful lines of prose this was very much a social commentary on the lack of choice women experienced, as well an ode to the strength as well as helplessness of love and the human spirit.

This poetic novella touched me deeply. I am not ashamed to say I cried my eyes out. Beautifully sad.

I have a longer work by this author on my shelf, but I do not think my heart can handle it just yet.

7 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Call Me By Your Name (André Aciman)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Call Me By Your Name
Author: André Aciman
Genre: Fiction / Romance / LGBTQ+
First published: 2007
Edition: Paperback, published by Atlantic Books in 2017

A romance blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.

*

I have only very hesitantly put this novel in the category of romance, because it is not actually a very romantic book. It is about ‘a’ romance, but the way it is presented is not necessarily romantic.

I wanted to read this novel after seeing the movie (which is very good by the way), but I cannot deny that I was slightly hesitant. This appears to be one of those really polarizing books, where people either absolutely adore it, or hate it. As is not unusual, I fall somewhere in between. It is slightly pretentious, but I that is one of the things I happen to like about it. It is pretentious, because our narrator, Elio, is a rather precocious, dramatic seventeen-year-old. It would be weird if it was not pretentious! It made it more believable for me.

Let me start of by saying, despite reviews, there were no scenes in here that made me feel uncomfortable. Yes, there were some rather ‘interesting’ bits, but nothing too offensive or too shocking. I was just slightly bemused at times by the goings-on.

The book is the kind of the stream-of-consciousness novel that I really enjoy, and I am not sure why it did not quite hit the sweet spot (pun possibly intended). I enjoyed the writing, though there were sentences here and that may have caused me to raise an eyebrow. The drawn-out ending was a bit unnecessarily in my honest opion, but it did not bother me too much.

This may be one of those books that gets better on a second reading, so I hope to do that in the future.

5 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.