August 28th, 2012

hothouse kiss

Book #3: Per Ardua

Book #3

Title: Per Ardua

Author: Jessie Blackwood

Pages: 212

Genre: Historical Romance, LGBTQ Fiction

Summary: Jack and Ianto… oh, sorry, Arthur “Jack” and Ifan… this is a Torchwood fanfic AU changed up a bit and published as a book. It is WWII and Jack flies for the RAF. Ifan is the family butler who works for Jack’s cousin, Gw-Bronwen. Jack’s plane gets shot down, he gets hurt, and Ian-Ifan takes care of him once he gets home from the hospital. Did I mention this is a romance?

Stars: ** (2)

Review: I gotta get this out of the way first… I love fanfics! I especially love my Jack/Ianto fics. I love Torchwood Jack/Ianto AUs too. So I was so excited to see that something that started as a fanfic was good enough to be published. And this is where my excitement ended. The names were changed of course but some of the changes were missed so Gwen’s i.e. Bronwen’s last name was Powell, yet in some instances the Williams (married to Rhys-Hugh) remained. On top of that there were blatant grammar errors (which are acceptable in fanfics published on LJ but not when you actually publish a book thinking people will pay money for it). Basically, the editing was horrid. The plot… I have read better plots in unpublished fanfics than this one. It was so cliché and straightforward. The characters were minimally developed and if I didn’t have a preconceived idea of Jack and Ianto’s personalities, the characters of Arthur “Jack” and Ifan would have been really shallow. In the end this would have been a pretty good fanfic but lacking so much when presented as a novel. It got two stars because in my mind it was still my lovely Jack and Ianto (Ifan) set during my favorite time period, WWII. However, I was disappointed that aside from Jack’s plane crash, there really wasn’t much of a war setting. The terminology about homosexuality was modern and not how it would have been talked about back then. Also, the emotional component was lacking. I was only able to connect with the characters because I kept imagining Jack and Ianto (who I have a strong emotional tie with through my own fanfics). It was an easy read, a couple of hours during a hurricane power outage. 

book and cup

#91 The Lighthouse - Alison Moore

The Lighthouse brought to us by indie publishers Salt publishing made it on to the Booker long list even before it was officially published. I just liked the sound of it and ordered it the day it was released. At a little over 180 pages it is a fairly short novel, and yet it does pack quite a punch. I have a feeling that is a novel which inspires the kind of images that stay with the reader long after the book has been laid aside. Whether it becomes one of my favourite reads of this year or not, it is one I’ll be destined to remember. It is an assured piece of writing. I enjoyed it (if that is the right phrase) a lot – though the reader is not allowed to get too comfortable.
I do like novels that play around a little with memory, darting back and forth across the years and indeed decades – so that slowly the characters emerge from the shadows. The Lighthouse concerns two characters – both of whom the reader is forced to hold at a distance. This in itself serves to highlight their loneliness and separateness.
Futh is a recently separated man in his forties. Travelling by Ferry to Germany to begin a walking holiday along the Rhine, he begins to think about the last time he took a similar holiday with his father when he was young boy. Futh is a lonely deserted man, carrying a silver lighthouse in his pocket. He has a keen sense of smell, and works in the reproduction of synthetic smells.
Esther is the landlady of the first guest house on Futh’s tour. Married to Bernard, Esther drinks heavily, carries on with guests in the empty rooms, forgetting to lock her own apartment door; she likes to look through the belongings of her guests. Esther was once engaged to Bernard’s brother – until Bernard asked her to go away with him. Now she cleans the rooms and delivers cling filmed meals to guests at (the ingeniously named) Hellhaus – bright house or light house.

“Kenny and Futh used to stand at their bedroom windows at lights out, facing one another across their back gardens, each with a torch, flashing messages through the darkness. It was Morse code except that it didn’t mean anything. Kenny would flash-flash-flash and Futh would flash-flash-flash back; Kenny would flash-pause-flash and Futh would send it back. Eventually, the game would stop. It was, for Futh, like looking at a lighthouse on the horizon at night. There was this flashing of light and then nothing, and you waited for the next flash, looking at where the light had been and where it would be again but you were looking at darkness”

The writing in The Lighthouse is spare and deceptively simple – there is in fact nothing simple about it – it is the kind of pared down writing that hides a multitude of complexities and leaves behind it an array of images and in this case scents. Upon closing this terribly bittersweet novel, the reader is assaulted by the memory of violets, camphor and cigarette smoke. There are several returning images and motifs in the novel, such as lighthouses, bathrooms, scents and abandonment which are beautifully explored. Although I believe Alison Moore has had some success with some short stories published in an anthology and on kindle, The Lighthouse is her first novel. It really is an excellent debut, and fully deserves to make it on to the Booker shortlist.

Book #52: 11.22.63 by Stephen King

This book opens with the narrator finding a door that leads back in time to 1958. Typically, Stephen King does not explain exactly why this happens, it just does (he has admitted in Nightmares and Dreamscapes that he hates explaining why things happen).

But things are more complicated, as each time you step back into the past, everything is reset, and the plot revolves around an attempt to stop the assassination of John F Kennedy. The book is quite long, and seems to go off on a few tangents, but they all fit together. While I was expecting some sort of Groundhog Day-style scenario involving the Kennedy assassiation, the book gradually builds up to the event, which is given very little coverage, mostly focussing on the main character's romance with Sadie Dunning.

The book proved to be enjoyable, and also a thought-provoking reflection on the morality of attempting to change the past, which turns out to be resistant to change. Stephen King throws in some typical horror elements, though this is primarily a sci fi novel, including the enigmatic "Yellow Card Man", and at times the book seemed surreal, like a David Lynch film.

I recommend reading this, but you need to be quite patient because of the book's length.

Next book: Awkward Situations for Men by Danny Wallace