stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A charming, if rather paint-by-numbers, lesbian romance story between a Palestinian Christian and a British Muslim. The plot was terribly predictable, so there was very little suspense to it, and the characters were rather puppet-like - one felt they'd been pushed into the appropriate positions and instructed, 'now, advance the plot'. The author is a screenwriter by trade, and it shows: in the formulaic plot, the cardboard characters, the frequent point-of-view changes - and the absolutely luscious scene-setting. Seriously, I would like to see the film of this, because it sounds gorgeous: Jordan, London, Oxford, all evoked with a masterly touch; and I shouldn't be surprised if the film works a lot better than the book in putting the three dimensions across. Frustrating in parts - I would have loved it to have gone a little deeper into the clash of culture - but a nice enough read on the whole.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10402240
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
'Old tales in new skins.' A clever and charming cycle of fairy tales retold from various female perspectives, haunting and beautiful and not a little creepy. I loved the way the tales folded into each other; it felt a little bit forced at times, but for the most part worked very well. My favourite was 'The Tale of the Rose', despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that I could see what was coming all the way through.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10289116
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A collection of short comedy pieces by the US talk show host. I think I'd probably have enjoyed this more if I'd been a particular fan (rather than just knowing the name from afterellen.com, I mean). This was a fun read, but felt very shallow - mostly a series of very obvious jokes.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10440050
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A charmingly naive (or, if I were in a bad mood, 'painfully earnest') little story set in a future where the USA's first gay Jewish president has just been elected. If all books are really about their own times, however, this one is about the Bush years, the gap between the Florida recount and Obama. The plot is centred around a very similar recount, and a teenager's involvement in same.

I appreciated the idealism, but it seemed very polarised. Thinking from a political system where (for example) all three main parties have come out loudly in favour of same-sex marriage, the 'us and them' mentality feels very contrived. Politics: always more complicated.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A beautifully spare love story, giving just enough detail, and drawing the reader in with clever use of second-person pronouns - and never, so far as I can see, revealing the gender of the other party, the more readily to allow identification. To Levithan's great credit, the dictionary conceit didn't pall (and I say this as someone who's tired of dictionary definitions popping up on flyleaves and elsewhere one might expect an edifying quotation or whatever). An engaging, bittersweet book.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10445128
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I went into the library for something else entirely, and came away with this. Doesn't it always happen that way?

Something of a curiosity, this - a collection of stories by the great and the good of British literature today, plus a cartoon by Posy Simmonds, all commissioned to celebrate Glyndebourne's 75th anniversary. Each story takes an opera (or, sometimes, more than one) as a starting point and sees where it takes it. Here is Winterson:

"Opera has always needed a story. Some inspirations are direct - like Britten's Turn of the Screw, or Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and others, like Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, or Verdi's Rigoletto, take a story and shift it. Why not take an opera and shift it?"

And this results in some very striking stories. From the fantastical ("First Lady of Song", riffing on The Makropoulos Affair) to the serious ("Freedom", drawing on ideas of race and identity and the life of John McCormack), the slyly self-referential ("To Die For"), the elegiac ("La Fille de Mélisande") - it's a lovely collection. What they all conveyed, though, was the sheer attraction of narrative, of story, whether translated into music or not.

I like this way of writing; I even thought about writing one myself. Largely, one didn't need to know the opera to 'get' the story, though there a few that I want to seek out now.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Annie On My Mind for the nineties. Same author, and covering the same sort of themes - coming out at high school, experience of homophobia, vocation to the arts. The school is co-educational now, and the setting has moved from the city to the back of beyond, but there are definite echoes of Garden's earlier (and more famous?) work.

Which is not to say that this was not an enjoyable book in its own right. It contained many of my favourite tropes: coming out (to oneself, particularly), platonic female/male friendship, school... I particularly loved the theatrical theme (even if the parallels with The Crucible made me roll my eyes a bit). In places I found it too painful to read much at a time, but it's ultimately a moving, hopeful novel.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I liked this book very much. The first image that Winterson evokes is that of sedimentary rock, layers upon layers of history, of stories, laid down on top of each other. And her book is like that. On one level it is simply what it says on the tin: the myth of Atlas and Heracles, of how one of them had to hold up the universe while the other did what he had to do. But there is more to it than that: there is the standard Greek mythology, yes, but there is also something that might be autobiographical (one can never quite tell with Winterson), and there is lovely physics stuff - look:

When the universe exploded like a bomb, it started ticking like a bomb too. We know our sun will die, in another hundred million years or so, then the lights will go out and there will be no light to read by any more.

'Tell me the time' you say. And what you really say is 'Tell me a story.'

Here's one I haven't been able to put down.


What pleased me most came very near the end, so I won't say what it was and spoil you - I will just say that it was very unexpected but yet perfectly logical. I loved the blending of ancient and modern ways of understanding the universe. Recommended.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8017721/
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Re-read, for fanfic purposes. I love the way Woolf never explains anything; this is such a lighthearted - one almost wants to say 'romp' - adventure in the middle of all the SRS BSNS. And yet Orlando does deal with srs bsns; it's just done so delicately and skilfully that one needn't notice if one doesn't want to. Gender is fluid and has fluidity, yay.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8138552
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Fiftieth book read for [livejournal.com profile] queerlit50. Being (one assumes, heavily edited) diaries kept by Beaton during his stint as designer for the film of My Fair Lady. I hadn't realised that he'd also been the designer for the stage version, so it was interesting to see his getting to grips with the altered requirements for film.

I have to say that my favourite parts were Beaton's sketches and photographs, with which the book is liberally peppered. Those and his dealings with the millinery department, which sound like an awful lot of fun. I got a bit bored when he started wandering around taking pictures and getting in the way (yes, even though I enjoyed the pictures themselves).

Some nasty stuff about the East End of London not being dirty enough, and some sixties vocabulary (not offensively meant, I think, but still) that one would rather not read.

Interesting as a period piece, and for those interested in film and/or clothes. Won't be keeping it, though.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Calendar Girl is a game of two halves, two interweaving strands. One is your standard lesbian private investigator story. The other is a long, lyrical lament for the Woman with the Kelly McGillis Body. And they're both gripping, and, while they seemingly start off in parallel, you find them gradually drawing closer, until you really don't want to finish the book because you know something awful is going to happen...

I'll be looking out for further books in the Saz Martin series. I liked Saz, and I like the way Duffy writes.


Extract )
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I'm not sure that I have much more to say about Tove Jansson, other than that I'm very glad that this community prompted me to pick up her later, adult, fiction. I've been raving about her ever since, made my work book club read The True Deceiver, gave my mother a copy of The Summer Book for Christmas...

This is a collection put together from various other collections; one or two I'd already come across in Travelling Light. They're a bit of a mixed bag. My absolute favourite was 'Messages', a wicked compilation of domestic notes, fanmail and impudent requests that Jansson received as the author of the Moomins series. Next best were the ones taken from The Sculptor's Daughter, heavily autobiographical, and again with a convincing child's voice.


Extract )
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I picked this book up and put it down again several times, on several separate visits to the same charity shop, before eventually deciding to buy it. I'm glad I did; it was a lovely, affirming story.

I was originally put off the fact that it deals extensively with the Romantics, who to be frank I find a bit of a bore. However, given that one of them was Mary Wollstonecraft, I succumbed.

It was a bit odd, actually. Imagine an AU where a girl who was very similar to Mary Wollstonecraft went to Mary Wollstonecraft's school and echoed a number of her life choices. And imagine that there was a family very similar to the Wordsworth family, but that the Wordsworths still existed and in fact the Saygood family occasionally went to see them.

It was quite disorientating, and I'm not quite sure what the aim was. I can understand a reluctance to write about historical figures - but then, why put them in at all?

That aside, this was a very good read. Not only did it shed some light on a side of the Romantic movement I'd not thought about much (namely, what was going on the other side of the Channel) but it was primarily a story of female friendship, loyalty, love between mothers and daughters, and feminism.


Extract )
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
The cover of my edition quotes Virginia Woolf saying, 'I was jealous of her writing - the only writing I have ever been jealous of.' Certainly there's a comparison to make between the three short works here (Prelude, At The Bay, and The Doll's House) and Woolf's stories - delicate, evocative works, deep rather than broad, perceptive yet dispassionate, examining ordinary people in very great detail.

Where I think Mansfield has the edge is her depiction of children. Kezia and Isabel are really very believable, and that's important, because we spend a lot of time inside the former's head - though, flicking back through, I find that it's no more time than we spend with any of the adults, who are convincing in themselves.

This isn't comfort reading. I found some home truths in here, and some of them were not flattering at all. It is, however, worth a read. Or a re-read.


Extract )
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I used to be very into ballet stories, not so much because I was keen on ballet, but because they tended to be about people knowing what they wanted, and getting it. Though this is a true story, it's no exception. Firstly, it's about Jin Xing's ambition to be China's greatest dancer. Secondly, it's about her identity as, and journey to become, a woman. Two interlinked destinations, and a route that takes in the People's Liberation Army, Korea, America, Rome, and Belgium, an array of lovers, and a (mostly) supportive family.

I enjoyed this one a lot; one gets a real sense of the force of Jin Xing's personality, and it's interesting from the dance perspective, too. My only complaint is that some all but insurmountable challenges get passed over in a couple of sentences, and I would really like to know more about some of them.


Extract:

Read more... )

On BookCrossing
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A novel of gay life in New York, published 1978. The action spans the previous couple of decades, I suppose, and is book-ended by a series of letters between two onlookers - the nameless narrator in New York, and a friend in the South. These put me off a bit, being both lurid and confusing, but once I'd fought my way through them and got to the novel proper, I was hooked. This is a rather beautiful book, explicit but not coarse, sad but not depressing, serious but not preachy. I'm not sure, though, that I really enjoyed it.

I did feel that things ran out of steam about three quarters of the way through, at which point I really stopped caring about any of the characters. I had stopped liking most of them some while previously. And I got very, very tired of hearing about beautiful Puerto Rican men.

Here, have an extract:


Read more... )

On BookCrossing
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
1. Sweet Songs of Zion, John Betjeman
2. The Stars' Tennis Balls, Stephen Fry
3. Blood Lines, Tanya Huff
4. Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson
5. The Summer Book, Tove Jansson
6. Monday or Tuesday, Virginia Woolf
7. The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde
8. The Complete Short Stories of Oscar Wilde
9. The Chain of Curiosity, Sandi Toksvig
10. Collected Poems, A. E. Housman
11. Affinity, Sarah Waters
12. Fair Play, Tove Jansson
13. Pirates at Play, Violet Trefusis
14. Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
15. Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson
16. The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel
17. The Northern Clemency, Philip Hensher
18. Reader, I Married Him, Michèle Roberts
19. Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan
20. A Room With A View, E. M. Forster
21. Boating for Beginners, Jeanette Winterson
22. Melted Into Air, Sandi Toksvig
23. Chéri, Colette
24. All Passion Spent, Vita Sackville-West
25. Tim, A Story of School Life, Howard Sturgis
26. Dare, Truth or Promise, Paula Boock
27. Crack Down, Val McDermid
28. In A German Pension, Katherine Mansfield
29. Moominsummer Madness, Tove Jansson
30. Tanglewreck, Jeanette Winterson
31. Fire From Heaven, Mary Renault
32. Dancing with Mr Darcy, ed. Sarah Waters
33. Travelling Light, Tove Jansson
34. Daughters of the House, Michèle Roberts
35. To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
36. The True Deceiver, Tove Jansson
37. A Darker Domain, Val McDermid
38. The Unlit Lamp, Radclyffe Hall
39. Murder Most Fab, Julian Clary
40. Room, Emma Donoghue
41. A Lost Lady, Willa Cather
42. Fever of the Bone, Val McDermid
43. The Last of the Wine, Mary Renault

Profile

stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
stapsreads

June 2013

S M T W T F S
      1
2345 6 78
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 28th, 2017 02:37 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios