Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Reading progress update: I've read 45 out of 234 pages.

Dead Corse - Mary Kelly

I meant to go to bed at a reasonable hour last night, but this book had other plans. So, I ended up settling with book and a mug of tea (doesn't affect my sleep) and before I knew it, it was 1am and I ran out of stickies to mark favourite passages and phrases. 


It's a slow read for me but I am really enjoying it: it's smart, charming, and gives a good insight into the time and place of its setting. I don't even really care whether there is a mystery to solve. (I'm reminded of An Inspector Calls...but we'll see.)

And much like with The Christmas Egg, the characters seem to be real people, who are able to hold real conversations. 


The references to Milton and Hamlet so far are just icing on the cake. 


I really hope it continues this way.

Reading progress update: I've read 26 out of 234 pages.

Dead Corse - Mary Kelly

"Why not someone professional?"

"No one would talk to a stranger about Morley as they will to you. Anyway you said you wanted a job. I'm offering you one."

I was staggered, so disappointed that I couldn't speak.

"There's no reason why you shouldn't take it", he went on. "You've got bugger all to do."

"Yes I have, I exist full time."

This is charming so far, even if the story started off very grim.


There is a definite 60s vibe in this which makes for a pleasant change. I've not read a good book with a 60s feel in absolute ages. Not since my foray into Stan Barstow's work a few years ago, I think.


Let's see how this continues.

Reading progress update: I've read 689 out of 741 pages.

The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair

Since I have DNF'd The Dry this afternoon and haven't been able to choose another easy read for midweek evenings, I've continued with The Second Sex


Here's an example of the (imo rubbish) statements that de Beauvoir flings into this book at random:

"LOVE HAS BEEN assigned to woman as her supreme vocation, and when she addresses it to a man, she is seeking God in him: if circumstances deny her human love, if she is disappointed or demanding, she will choose to worship the divinity in God himself."

If this were true, there'd be a lot more nuns. Just saying, Simone.


I'm coming to the end of the book now - one chapter and a conclusion left to read - and I'm really torn how to rate the book. 


There is a lot of nonsense in this - worse even than the above quote - but then there are also parts of brilliance and insight. 


I have a fair idea of what to make of the book as a whole, but as a rating...nope. 

Reading progress update: I've read 94 out of 401 pages.

The Dry - Jane Harper

My first Jane Harper, and what I can tell so far is that this book is not going to be a favourite.

It's not the story, it's the writing style. It doesn't grab me. And the characters seem very generic - I can't tell them apart. 


Do I care about the story if I can't care about the characters....not so much. 


If something doesn't happen soon that makes me sit up, this may end up being a DNF.

Reading progress update: I've read 639 out of 741 pages.

The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair

"Thus utility reigns higher than truth, beauty and freedom in the housewife’s heaven; and this is the point of view from which she envisages the whole universe; and this is why she adopts the Aristotelian morality of the golden mean, of mediocrity. How could one find daring, ardour, detachment and grandeur in her? These qualities appear only where a freedom throws itself across an open future, emerging beyond any given. A woman is shut up in a kitchen or a boudoir and one is surprised her horizon is limited; her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly. Let a future be open to her and she will no longer be obliged to settle in the present."

Ok, the last three chapters I have read were a major improvement on the previous chapters in Vol. 2.

We're now back to de Beauvoir putting forth theories of her own and applying her own analysis rather than relying on - questionable - research material from other sources. 

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 234 pages.

Dead Corse - Mary Kelly

After The Game of Kings and further chapters in The Second Sex, I need something entirely different. 


So, I am going to try another book by Mary Kelly. I liked her story The Christmas Egg and Tigus seemed to like this one, Dead Corse, and I hope I'll like this one, too.

No pressure, Tigus ;P


Oh, and I added my hardcopy edition. There is no way I could look at the 1968 Penguin edition without getting a headache.

Reading progress update: I've read 543 out of 741 pages.

The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair

The Mother.

I'm so glad this chapter is over. I'm also glad I listened to this while cleaning the flat. Having something to do while listening made some of the psycho-babble more bearable. But man, De Beauvoir either had issues with mothers or just rushed this chapter ... as well as the other chapters in Vol. 2 that I have read so far.

The chapter on The Mother was particularly ill-conceived, tho. (And yes, the bad pun was intended.)


Seriously, so far Vol. 2 of the book seems to erase much of the brilliance of Vol. 1. 


So, the question is, do I want to power through the rest of the book, or do I want to slow this down and limit my exposure to injury caused by repetitive eye-rolling and exasperation? 

Reading progress update: I've read 533 out of 543 pages.

The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

Goodness, this is tense. 


Also, I took a reading break earlier to make the most of the gorgeous sunny weather we had today and went for a walk. 

I took the book with me. I mean, when does one ever get a chance to do this??? - 



I can even forgive the cover designer for taking a stock picture of a Scottish castle even if it has nothing to do with the story. It is very picturesque. 



Btw, despite it being freezing cold outside, this place was mobbed (I know it doesn't look it, but it was). It seems like everyone wanted to take advantage of the sunshine.  

Reading progress update: I've read 493 out of 543 pages.

The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

Rumour of the hurried Assize had reached the streets by midday, and by two o’clock the Lawnmarket from the Butter Tron to St Giles was thick with people.

By midafternoon, a further rumour spread that the prisoner, taken out through the Castle postern, was already in the Tolbooth. As this became known there was a good deal of shouting, and someone with no religious intent started up the 109th Psalm: the grave words, used ceremonially at a degradation for treason, yammered on the wind up to St Giles’ sunny crown: ‘Deus laudem meam ne tacueris …’

Apart from the fabulous characters, I've also really enjoyed the setting and locations - whether it'd be the Borders or Edinburgh. It's been fun, and I am sure that next time I'm visiting any of the places referenced in the book, I'll be picturing parts of the story while there.  


The scene I'm at right now is set in the Tolbooth, but this building no longer exist. St. Giles, on the other hand, is still there in all of its magnificence.



Reading progress update: I've read 458 out of 543 pages.

The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

To his surprise, Richard found himself shouting. ‘Edinburgh! Who mentioned Edinburgh? If I object to playing apothecary in private, I’m damned sure I’m not going to trip about with hot towels in public.’

Ha! Richard may be an ass but he has his fun moments. 


Also, I didn't anticipate to be reading as much of the book tonight as I have, so I will probably finish the book tomorrow. 


I've enjoyed the book but I am now very ready to finish it and move on to something different.


One of the weird things about the book is that I got more enjoyment out of the character - and mostly the "supporting" characters at that - than I did out of the main story.


Reading progress update: I've read 400 out of 543 pages.

The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett




The black eyes raged at him: Margaret also had had a shock.

‘It’s hardly my fault if my bowman tries to stop a prisoner from escaping. That’s what he’s paid for.’ She kicked the saddle and its furniture. ‘You’d better take that, too. Her family might want it.’

‘Is that all you have to say?’ said Gideon.

‘She was blind. It’s too great a handicap. She’s better out of it,’ said Margaret in a staccato voice, and mounted her horse.

‘Was that her sin?’ said Gideon, watching the cavalcade move off. ‘I had come to fancy it might be something quite different.’

(show spoiler)



The weekend is in sight!

Reading progress update: I've read 292 out of 543 pages.

The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

Oh man, Richard is such a ... "Richard".

At length he spoke quite steadily. ‘So the child is dead. What would it have been? A girl?’

‘A boy.’ And Christian, with compassion, told him the surgeon’s story.

When she had finished, he laughed. At the tone of it, Sybilla cried out, and he rounded on her.

‘But this is genius! My irrepressible little brother … the infallible Lymond, with success at the end of each of his pretty fingers … You say you know where to reach them?’

By now Sybilla must have known what was coming, but she spoke steadily. ‘I said that if you would give up your hunt for him, I should probably manage to trace Mariotta for you.’

‘And what possible use,’ said Lord Culter, ‘would Mariotta be to me?’

‘For God’s sake, you foolish man!’ said Christian, and jumped to her feet. ‘Give the situation at least the amount of unprejudiced thought you’d give to one of your damned pigs in farrow. What possible misdemeanour can be expected from a woman at death’s door through childbirth? And why blame your brother? You ought to be damned glad that surgeon was called. If Lymond’s all you say he is, he’d have gone about it like Hephaestus with a hatchet.’

Reading progress update: I've read 263 out of 543 pages.

The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

Oh, this is a fun intersection with de Beauvoir:

Richard said gently, ‘Men have no absolute monopoly of foolishness, Mariotta. The burdens of land, home, children and service to one’s country are heavy enough for two people without asking both to do the same job.’

Mariotta dropped her hands. ‘I’m not, heaven forbid, suggesting I should take my sewing to Parliament any more than I’m belittling the importance of your children. But I could fill a fifteen-year-old as full of moral precepts as a sponge, and I doubt if he’d keep them long in the sort of world you’ve made for him. Shouldn’t I have some say in that, through you? Shouldn’t you have something to tell your children, through me? Our work mayn’t overlap; but shouldn’t your job and mine at least touch?’

It's kinda fun reading these two books in parallel.

Reading progress update: I've read 471 out of 741 pages.

The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair

Ok. I'm half-way through the chapter called The Married Woman, which seems to go on forever. Or it may just seem that way to me because I have issues with this chapter...lots of issues...but I get de Beauvoir's point and to me that is the important part about the book.


HOWEVER, of this chapter are also highly entertaining:

"All doctrines of transcendence and freedom subordinate the defeat of evil to progress towards good. But the wife is not called to build a better world; the house, the bedroom, the dirty laundry, the wooden floors, are fixed things: she can do no more than rout out indefinitely the foul causes that creep in; she attacks the dust, stains, mud and filth; she fights sin, she fights with Satan. But it is a sad destiny to have to repel an enemy without respite instead of being turned towards positive aims; the housewife often submits to it in rage. Bachelard uses the word ‘malice’ for it; psychoanalysts have written about it. For them, housekeeping mania is a form of sadomasochism; it is characteristic of mania and vice to make freedom want what it does not want; because the maniacal housewife detests having negativity, dirt and evil as her lot, she furiously pursues dust, accepting a condition that revolts her. She attacks life itself through the rubbish left from any living growth. Whenever a living being enters her sphere, her eye shines with a wicked fire. ‘Wipe your feet; don’t mess up everything; don’t touch that.’ She would like to stop everyone from breathing: the least breath is a threat. Every movement threatens her with more thankless work: a child’s somersault is a tear to sew up. Seeing life as a promise of decomposition demanding more endless work, she loses her joie de vivre; her eyes sharpen, her face looks preoccupied and serious, always on guard; she protects herself through prudence and avarice. She closes the windows because sun would bring in insects, germs and dust; besides, the sun eats away at the silk wall coverings; the antique armchairs are hidden under loose covers and embalmed in mothballs: light would fade them. She does not even care to let her visitors see these treasures: admiration sullies. This defiance turns to bitterness and causes hostility to everything that lives. In the provinces, some bourgeois women have been known to put on white gloves to make sure no invisible dust remains on the furniture: these were the kind of women the Papin sisters murdered several years ago; their hatred of dirt was inseparable from their hatred of their servants, of the world and of each other."

If ever there was an irrefutable argument against housework, it is that it apparently can drive people to both murder and madness.

Reading progress update: I've read 239 out of 543 pages.

The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

The plot thickens!


I really enjoyed Part 2. 


First off, I loved the exchanges between Lord Culter and his wife:

Babies bounced and abounded in the Scott household: babies with mouths round and adhesive as lampreys; babies like Pandean pipes, of diminishing size and resonant voice; babies rendering torture and catalysis among the animate, the inanimate and the comatose. The Buccleuchs themselves were totally immune. While their younglings fought, and nurses and tutors swooped and called like starlings, Sir Wat and Dame Janet pursued their own highly individual courses, and talked to each other about whatever came into their heads.

Today, a morose and pallid Friday in November, the subject was Lymond. In a childless oasis at one end of the big hall Sir Wat glowered uneasily in his big chair, feet in furred boots stuck out before him in the rushes, a woollen nightshirt peeping through the folds of his ample damask nightgown, and a variety of dogs heaped panting about his legs. Dame Janet, her gown napped with tufts and trails of wool, was spinning and swearing indiscriminately when the thread broke and when her husband roused her temper.

From the wall behind them both, his eyes still on the battered hangings, Lord Cutler said, ‘I’ve already gathered you have no intention of helping me. I wondered if, perhaps, you meant actively to hinder me instead?’

Sir Wat irritably shoved from one knee a heavy jowl which confidingly and automatically replaced itself, chumbling. ‘Man, have I to go yap, yap all day with the same tale? I’ve told you. I’m sick.’

Dame Janet gave a bark of laughter. ‘Sick to the tune of two flounders, a pike, a cod, a quart of claret and a quince pie. Hah! You’ll do yourself a hurt, Wat; forcing the nourishment down at all costs, and you a sick man.’

These two cracked me up.


And then we have all of the action taking place at the cattle raid....and Lymond.


Loved it. But I'll stop here for the night.

Currently reading

Dead Corse by Mary Kelly
Progress: 45/234pages
Rumi: Selected Poems (Penguin Classics) by Coleman Banks, John Moyne, Rumi
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, Constance Borde
Progress: 87%
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Pérez
Der Weltverbesserer: Sämtliche Erzählungen 1910-18 by Volker Michels, Hermann Hesse
Progress: 40/359pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 481/1344pages
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair
Progress: 689/741pages