May 19th, 2012

sad!wolf

#10 - Secrets of Blood

Yet another fanfiction, Secrets of Blood by xennie_b is a Torchwood what if. Set right after episode 6, Countrycide, it continues until the end of the first season. During Countrycide, instead of just being beaten by the cannibalistic villagers, Ianto is forcibly turned into a Pirask, which are creatures very similar to vampires. This change and his adapting to it are then worked through the remaining episodes of the season. We also get to see the beginning and progression of the relationship between Jack and Ianto, which is only hinted at in the tv series.
The writing style was slightly choppy, but considering she was pulling bits and pieces from the actual episodes and working Pirask!Ianto in over regular Ianto, as well as adding background that wasn't seen originally, she did a decent job. The original characters were well written, and added to the story instead of just being there for a bit part.
Once again, this was a reread for me, in the hopes that if I read it again, maybe by the time I got to the end of what was posted in the series there would be an update lol. Sadly, it didn't work. There is a sequel, Year of Blood, that takes place during The Year That Never Was, but it's been hanging from a cliff for 2 years.
Lately I've been reading fanfiction more than actual books. I'm still working my way through the second part of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, hopefully I'll be able to finish it shortly after I finish moving this week.
der Mut

Mother

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, by Alison Bechdel
I was too affected by this book to talk directly about why it meant so much to me, but here's a thing I noticed: In Fun Home, the images are often very object-oriented (you frequently see what the character is looking at), while the words carry the lion's share of emotion and meaning. That still happens in this book, but more often the words are either distanced themselves, or so rawly honest that they create distance in the reader, while Bechdel's images of the characters' faces and bodies carry their feelings and even the story arc. (It's both/and in both cases, but the balance is different.) This approach dovetails with the ideas in some of the theoretical texts she chose to include, about people cutting themselves off from their bodies and living in an analytical mind, and about false selves, so I suspect it was a purposeful choice. Perhaps some of the negative reviewers relied too much on the text and didn't spend enough time with the pictures? In any case, I thought it was absolutely a brilliant book; I read it in 2 breath-holding hours, and I will be revisiting it later this summer, when I can spend more time scrutinizing each panel without being so swept up.
(99)
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winter trees

Book 56: The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

Book 56: The Forgotten Waltz .
Author: Anne Enright, 2011.
Genre: Contemporary. Literary. Chick-lit.
Other Details: Paperback. 230 pages.

Told in retrospect during a 2009 snow storm that has brought Dublin to a halt, Gina Moynihan reflects on her affair with Seán Vallely. In the Preface Evie, Seán's 9-year old daughter, had walked in on Gina and Seán kissing in an upstairs bedroom during a 2007 New Year party hosted by Seán and his wife. Will she tell Mummy what she saw? Making this situation more complicated is that Gina is also married. Her husband Conor comes across as quite a decent bloke who is oblivious to his wife's adultery. Gina reflects upon the affair and their secret meetings in hotel rooms and how things worked out between then and now.

Another one from the 2012 Orange Prize short list. Although this novel has received good reviews from critics and readers and even was featured in The Guardian's Book Club, it just didn't appeal to me. I found Gina's rambling fragmented stream-of-consciousness narration annoying and even while reading in the middle of the day I found it was putting me to sleep. I really just didn't care about Gina and her tangled love life.

Yes, I could step back and see that it was a well written novel but it struck me as literary chick-lit and I am not really a fan of these kind of relationship-heavy dramas.


Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Yesterday was light at the office, thanks to staff realizing I was ill, and so I managed to at various times during the day sit down with my Ematic and finish off two books.

First was Osprey Campaign #225: Messines 1917: The Zenith of Siege Warfare, which dealt with the use of underground diggings and mining in the trench warfare of WWI.

Second was Osprey Men-at-Arms #373: The Sarmatians 600 BC – AD 450, another group of wandering tribes on the borders of the Greeks and Romans. Not quite as interesting as I'd hoped for.
book and cup

#53 Bring up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel (2012)

It is not often that I leap to my computer to pre-order a new release in hardback. However I was so excited at the prospect of reading the next instalment of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy I just had to. It arrived last Monday – and I started it Tuesday night.  I wished I hadn’t had to go to work this week – and I was out after work on both Wednesday and Thursday, so it is testament to the enormous readability of this novel that I have finished it today.

 

In Wolf Hall – Mantel’s marvellous Booker winning first instalment – we see the raise of Thomas Cromwell. A blacksmith’s son, who having escaped his humble beginnings, serves time abroad learning his craft until eventually he arrives back in London and goes to work for the great Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey is doomed however and it is Cromwell who ends up with the ear of king. The story in Wolf Hall takes place over a number of years and concerns mainly the divorce of Henry VIII from Katherine of Aragon, and the fall of Thomas More. The time period of Bring up the Bodies – is much shorter – the story opens in September 1535 - when the cracks in Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn are beginning to show - and takes us up to the summer of 1536. The autumn of 1535 there are crops failing all over England due to incessant rain, for which some blame Anne Boleyn. Katherine of Aragon is ill – dying and separated from her daughter Mary.

For any fan of Tudor set novels like myself – the story of the fall of Anne Boleyn is one we never tire of – though we know it ever so well. When it comes to stories about Henry VIII and those surrounding him, I feel like a child hearing a loved bedtime story – crying out “again, again” We know what happens to Anne, we know who whispers what to whom, and how it ends, but none of that ever stops it being utterly enthralling. When they finally come for Anne – her uncle among them – and take her away to the tower – how can we not be thrilled at the horror of a queen taken away in shame? She must have known what her fate could be even then, although she is often - as here - portrayed as believing that Henry would intervene for her eventually.

It is however Hilary Mantel’s marvellous writing that separates this from all the rest. From the strange and beguiling opening sentences:

“His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England stretching behind him; they drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood-filled gaze.” - Cromwell has named his hawks after his dead daughters –  from here on in, I was hooked.

Mantel’s depiction of the times is brilliant, the sights and sounds of Tudor England subtly and beautifully woven into an extraordinary tale. The politics and conniving machinations that surround Anne are brilliant reproduced. Cromwell has a ready supply of gossip mongers and court informers that conspire to bring Anne down. Lady Rochford (one of my favourite Tudor characters) is marvellously sinister. Thomas Cromwell’s household in comparison to that of Henry’s court is a happy, settled and genial place. Despite the tragedies of his wife and daughter’s deaths that we witnessed in Wolf Hall – Cromwell retains a good family life – with his son, nephew and Rafe his clerk, who was brought up by Cromwell, as well as various well treated, good humoured and trusted servants.

Bring up the Bodies – is at least a couple of hundred pages shorter than the epic Wolf Hall – but it is utterly compelling and beautifully written, and I enjoyed it enormously. Already I am looking forward to the next instalment.