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

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 238 pages.

To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

Right, let's see how this one will work out: I figured that after such a long period of nigh uninterrupted reading of plot-driven stories, I need a complete change.


And what could be a more complete change than a book that, as far as I recollect, has no plot whatsoever. 


I originally read To the Lighthouse in the summer of 2002 and completely hated the book's pretentiousness and the absence of a plot.

However, Woolf has grown on me since then, and now I'm curious if this book has changed for me.

Isn't it typical?

So, as much as I loved reading my Halloween Bingo books, for the last two weeks I've been longing to grab books that were not fitting any of the squares. 

Something... I don't know, but I ended up looking at Woolf and Lawrence or Ford or more Manning.


And now that I am free to pick any book at random, I find myself standing in front of my shelves (physical and electronic) and none of the buggers seems to call out to me as my next read. 



Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 741 pages.

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

I feel like I have woefully neglected my efforts to read more Camus this year and also to finally read de Beauvoir's magnum opus. 


Well, this is my start to it. I may be some time. 


Also, I know that we had a discussion last year about the translations that are available of this book and that there seem to be two prevalent translations available in English: a newer translation which has been criticised for the translators taking some liberties with the meaning of words, and this one by H.M. Parshley (first published in 1953) which is often described as being "abridged". 


While I do not have the original French version at hand for comparison, the foreword by Parshley states the following with respect to any alterations:

"At the publisher's request I have, as editor, occasionally added an explanatory word or two (especially in connection with existentialist terminology) and provided a few additional footnotes and bibliographic data which I thought might be to the reader's interest; and I have also done some cutting and condensation here and there with a view to brevity, chiefly in reducing the extent of the author's illustrative material, especially in certain of her quotations from other writers. Practically all such modifications have been made with the author's express permission, passage by passage."

I found this somewhat reassuring. 

The Duchess of Malfi

The Duchess of Malfi: Fifth Edition - John Webster, Brian Gibbons

BOSOLA. Break, heart!

Which pretty much sums up my reaction to this play. That and the recurring question of "Why have I not read or seen this before now?". 


As much as I am sure that I will never truly love Jacobean revenge tragedies, and as much as I am sure that I will always be grossed out by Titus Andronicus, I loved The Duchess of Malfi. It may have helped that unlike Titus A., The Duchess has a clear message...but also, there was "method to the madness" (which Will S. may not have mastered yet when he wrote Titus. He did master it later on, of course. ).  

In The Duchess of Malfi we have complexity and human frailty and grand character scenes and greed and treachery and mischief and repentance.


Oh, and as an added bonus, I found a radio production of the play starring Roger Allam as Bosola and Fiona Shaw as the Duchess. (I may have actually squeed when I found this.)


Yup, it's gory and horrible ... and absolutely brilliant. 

Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust,
Like diamonds, we are cut with our own dust.

The Rook

The Rook  - Daniel O'Malley

She stood shivering in the rain, watching the words on the letter dissolve under the downpour. Her hair was dripping, her lips tasted salty, and everything ached. Under the dim light of a nearby lamppost, she had scrabbled through the pockets of her jacket, looking for some sort of clue to who she was, where she was, what was going on. She had found two letters in the inside pocket. The first envelope had been addressed simply To You. The second envelope just had the number 2 written on it.

This was fun. The Rook is a paranormal spy thriller and was not at all what I would have picked up had it not been for Darth Pedant leading me to this book!


If I can describe the book very briefly, I'd say it is Jason Bourne meeting Thursday Next...but without the literary references. Still, some of the plot of The Rook also takes place in the town of Reading.


Anyway, it's a pacy story that made me chuckle, even if some of the humor was decidedly juvenile. Sometimes I need an easy read that does not make me think too hard. This was perfect for this. 


The only aspects that niggled on me were:

1. The author didn't know when to stop. Hence, parts of the story really drag. I'm sure there are around 150 pages that were not adding anything to the story. 


2. It may have been because of the juvenile humor, but the main character did not strike me as fully fleshed out. For me she lacked some introspection that I would have expected from a character with her history. 


However, there were some glorious scenes in this book, my favourite of which was this one, where our MC, Myfanwy, has had a bad encounter and is rejected from her hotel. This cracked me up because it could easily have been a dig at the opening scene of Die Another Day (the Bond film) where Bond walks into a hotel lobby in soaking wet pajamas:

“Clear off,” said one of the men forcefully. “Now.” Shooting the doormen a filthy look, Myfanwy walked down the footpath and got a perverse pleasure out of watching a couple of pedestrians jump out of her way.

   Okay, my mobile phone is coated in slime and no longer works. I can’t let Bronwyn see me like this, even if I could get back into the club, which I sincerely doubt. The slime was beginning to itch, and it was viscous enough that she couldn’t simply scrape it off. What the hell is this stuff? Then she had an idea, and abruptly turned a corner.

   Thank you, God, she thought. In a breach of security that would have had Clovis tearing out his hair, the rear entrance to the hotel had one person behind a desk, and that person was dozing. Apparently, it was the entrance for conventions and functions, and there were few of those taking place at three in the morning. The doors slid open and she stepped inside. In his sleep, the receptionist wrinkled his nose at Myfanwy’s appalling odor. She waved her hand at him and he settled into a deeper sleep. Taking a breath, she walked quietly past the desk.

   No outraged shouts stopped her. No irritating calls of “I say, excuse me!” The fact that she left a trail of evil on the floor as she padded down the hallway to the swimming pool prompted no threats to call the police. Myfanwy walked through the courtyard and looked around warily. The pool was steaming in the cold night air, and an electric light glowed under the water. Fortunately, there was no one in the courtyard, and the windows overlooking it were all curtained or dark. She laid her slime-covered handbag on a deck chair and gloomily regarded her filthy clothes. For a moment, she contemplated stripping right down, but then eyed the many balconies that looked down on the pool area. Probably not the best idea, she decided. Plus, if angry hotel staff appear, I don’t want to have to make a break for it while naked. Sighing, she walked down the steps into the water. She ducked her head under and felt a delightful warmth glide over her skin.

   Myfanwy kept her eyes clenched shut and scrubbed frantically at her body. Globules of muck sloughed off into the water, and an oily haze spread out from her. She raked her fingers through her hair and felt the sludge slide away. She kicked away from the mess and swam back toward the steps.

  Well, now I’m soaking wet, she thought grimly, but it’s a definite improvement. Fate had smiled upon her in the form of a towel left on a deck chair, and she took her shirt off to wring it out. There were some ominous-looking brown-black stains on her clothes, but her skin and hair were no longer caked with crud. She briskly toweled off her hair and arms and briefly considered taking off her jeans before noticing a man looking down at her from a balcony.

“Oh… hi,” she said, a little self-conscious about wearing just a bra.

“Evening,” he said. “Must have been a hell of a party.”

She glanced back at the pool and saw that it looked as if someone had dumped toxic waste in the deep end.

“Yes, indeed,” she said, suddenly ecstatic. She’d come safely through that manifestation in Bath and escaped relatively unharmed from the battle after she accused Gestalt of treachery. Hell, she’d even endured the interview with that Grafter thing. And now she was pleased with herself for sneaking into a snooty hotel and befouling their swimming pool.

“It was quite an event.”

“I don’t suppose you’d fancy a drink?” the man asked with a smile. “I could bring something down.”

“It’s a delightful offer,” said Myfanwy, smiling back. “But I have to go find the rest of my party. That said, I don’t suppose you could lend me a shirt?”

She gestured at the large stains on her top.

“A shirt?” he asked. “Certainly.”

He disappeared into his room and came back onto the balcony carrying a folded blue business shirt.

“It may be a little big on you,” he cautioned as he dropped it down to her.

“It’s infinitely better than the alternative.”

She put the shirt on, noting with amusement that it reached down to just above her knees. “Well, I must away. Thanks for the shirt.”

“I’d tell you to party responsibly, but I think it’s a little late,” said the man wryly.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” she said. “Have a good night.”

“You too,” he said, watching as she walked out the way she had come.

Reading progress update: I've read 352 out of 488 pages.

The Rook  - Daniel O'Malley

Parts of this book still really crack me up...especially in the audio narration I have from the library. Katy Carmichael is a great reader for this book. She seems to get the tone of Myffanwy Thomas just right.


However, while I am still enjoying listening to this, I also get the feeling that a) some parts of the story could have been left out as some of the action scenes are a bit repetitive, and b) I'm missing something about our MC, Myffanwy Thomas, in the way of internal thoughts or characterisation. I can't put my finger on it at this point.

Halloween Bingo - Reading Blackout

I'll update my card and book list shortly but all the books are read and now I am just waiting for calls to come in to complete the card and, of course, I will continue to watch everyone else's HW Bingo posts closely. I've picked up so many great book suggestions from all of the HW Bingo posts already.


It's been a blast.  Thanks to everyone for making it so. 

Reading progress update: I've read 398 out of 398 pages.

Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey, #13) - Dorothy L. Sayers

What can I say?

I loved the book.

And I loved finishing this year's Halloween Bingo reads on such a high note. 



And now I shall go wallow in the inevitable book & series hangover...


Reading progress update: I've read 317 out of 398 pages.

Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey, #13) - Dorothy L. Sayers

Right, so the latest revelations make me suspect that there will be quite a serious conclusion to this. Not that I mind. If anything, I absolutely adore how Sayers manages to balance serious discourse with ... piffle. 

Reading progress update: I've read 235 out of 398 pages.

Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey, #13) - Dorothy L. Sayers

‘Of course!’ said Harriet, cheerfully. ‘How silly of me not to think of it. Nothing could be more obvious. They have one of those squalid senile rows – and the vicar ends up with a brain-storm and imagines he’s the hammer of God, like the parson in Chesterton’s story.



Poor Father Brown. Poor G.K. Chesterton. What a dig.

Reading progress update: I've read 159 out of 398 pages.

Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey, #13) - Dorothy L. Sayers

Dost thou know what reputation is? I’ll tell thee – to small purpose, since the instruction Comes now too late. . . . You have shook hands with Reputation, And made him invisible.

JOHN WEBSTER: The Duchess of Malfi.

The inevitable side-effect of reading Sayers is that my TBR of classics gets dusted off and/or added to. Mostly added to, who am I kidding?


Anyway, The Duchess is one I will get to shortly after the bingo. Somehow, Jacobean revenge tragedies still seem very fitting for the run-up to Halloween.

Reading progress update: I've read 103 out of 488 pages.

The Rook  - Daniel O'Malley

Erm,... This is back due at the library by Friday.


Luckily, it's a very entertaining and gripping story. Sort of Jason Bourne meets Thursday Next.

Reading progress update: I've read 120 out of 398 pages.

Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey, #13) - Dorothy L. Sayers

Someone has died in our house, so we put on a collar and tie. Nothing could be more obvious. How absurd men are! And how clever in devising protective armour for themselves! What kind of tie will it be? Black would surely be excessive. Dull purple or an unobtrusive spot? No. A regimental tie. Nothing could be more proper. Purely official and committing one to nothing. Completely silly and charming.

I loved this. I mean there is lot to love in the book, but I really like when the focus shifts on Harriet's thoughts. And Peter's. But Harriet's are a lot more to the point. ;)

Reading progress update: I've read 40 out of 398 pages.

Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey, #13) - Dorothy L. Sayers

Bunter climbed out and approached the gate in eloquent silence. He had known it; he had felt it in his bones; the arrangements had fallen through. At whatever cost, even if he had had to strangle pressmen with his bare hands, he ought to have come ahead to see to things. In the glare of the headlights a patch of white paper showed clearly on the top bar of the gate; he looked suspiciously at it, removed, with careful fingers, the tintack that secured it to the wood and brought it, still without a word, to his master.


It will come as no surprise to anyone that I am absolutely loving this book. 

Halloween Bingo: 13 - My last read.

Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey, #13) - Dorothy L. Sayers

Good morning lunchtime, All. 

Having finished The Taste of Murder late last night, it is now time for me to turn to my last Halloween Bingo book, a book that is the 13th in its series, and that I have been looking forward to with some trepidation because it follows what has easily been the best book I've read this year (the previous book in this series, not The Taste of Murder ... just to clarify). 


I've started this year's HW Bingo with a letter written at Talboys and it is only fitting that I finish the game returning there.


Harriet and Peter, take it away.



Reading progress update: I've read 171 out of 171 pages.

The Taste of Murder - Joanna Cannan


Currently reading

Idaho: A Novel by Emily Ruskovich
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Perseus in the Wind by Freya Stark
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
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The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair
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