lexlingua: (Brightness)

2016 saw me reaching out for many books and abandoning them midway. Even TV shows and movies were fewer in number than I had hoped. However, out of the few media and moments that I did explore, here are the most memorable ones for me:

#1# And Then There Were None (BBC 2015). I find this to be Christie's darkest story (well, maybe besides Curtain and Five Little Pigs). A group of eight strangers with sordid pasts are invited for dinner, and slowly, each one of them is murdered. Suspenseful, with a great star cast. And may I add here, that I finally understand why Aidan Turner has such a big fan following in Poldark? Watch him in this fan-made trailer.

#2# Veronica Mars. Who knew a 2003 TV show about a teenage girl detective could be so cracktastic? The first season was a series of sleuthing assignments for Veronica (and her PI father), overlayed by a grimmer, more urgent plotline of the mysterious death of Veronica's best friend last year. All the characters are well-drawn, with a lot of backstory and depth, and the relationships are well-knit too. But best of all is Veronica's snark. *smirk*

#3# The Visit. Got this 1956 play by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt from the local library. I wish I'd found this book when I'd been searching for plays to direct at my school talent show. Claire Zachanassian, now a multi-millionnaire widow, re-visits her dying hometown, and is willing to offer financial help. Except she has a condition -- they must kill the man next in line for Mayor. A cynical, comical and dramatic take on human hypocrisy and how greed can be and often is paraded as righteous piety.

#4# Star Wars: Rogue One. Aka, Episode 3.5. While Episode VII had left me grinning like a loon, this one left me feeling nostalgic. The plot was predictable, the speeches were not so inspiring. Special effects were great as always, though also sorta I've-seen-this-before. But if you have been a Star Wars fan all your life, you simply CANNOT miss this movie.

#5# Oh Drakon, or He's a Dragon. The title is not very inspired, but the movie is a feast for the eyes. Based on a Russian folk tale about a dragon who demands a human bride sacrifice to leave the villagers in peace, the story sucks you in. The soundtrack is as beguiling as the cinematography. If you like folk tales retold, then this one's a must watch. You can find the English-subtitled trailer here.

#6# Arrival. Any "First Contact" movie out there, I gotta see it. In this one, a linguist is called on to interpret the language of the alien Hexapods who land on earth in their eerie egg-shaped spaceships, with incredible consequences. The first part of the movie is especially tense and nerve-wracking, and Amy Adams' look of absolute awe mixed with fear makes for superb acting. Though I did find loopholes in the ending and some hidden geographical biases, Arrival was possibly the most thought-provoking movie I saw all year.

#7# Dark Universe. I saw this short documentary-cum-movie at the Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History on New Year's Eve. And before you think only kids go there, let me tell you -- NOT. It was an amazing hair-raising experience, with the whole archdome of the theatre a giant 3D screen immersing you right amidst the stars. Here's a brief clip:

#8# Thank You. Well, the year's best-of-list is never complete without a Korean drama strewn in. Thank You is a 2007 production, starring my favorite actors Jang Hyuk and Gong Hyo-Jin. The story centers around a single mother raising an HIV-positive child and a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer's in a backwaters village, with no respite in sight. Then one day, a jaded, almost maniacal, doctor walks in, and from there onwards, the show is a story about redemption, new beginnings and the joys of simple living. Each of the 16 episodes was so well-crafted, my heart ached afterwards. Thank you 2016, for letting me watch this show. You can watch it on Youtube.

#9. A Year Full of Music. I discovered a lot of great music this year, thanks to Apple Music, including: the creepy Dollhouse by Melanie Martinez, the haunting Can You Hear Me? by Fleurie, the strangely restful Ethiopian prayer music, and the epic instrumental music by Thomas Bergersen (great for writing, by the way). I also attended the Norah Jones musical concert, which was three hours of therapy for the soul.

#10# First Snow. So I have never seen real snow before. Or held it in the palm of my hand. Brr. You know about all those first snow theories? That if you make a wish on first snow, it turns true? Well, here's hoping it comes true for me this 2017.
lexlingua: (Books)

Top Ten Gateway Books is a meme at Top 10 Tuesday that's recently become quite popular. Here's a round-up of the ten books that introduced me to new genres and new ways of thinking:

1. Gateway into Historical FictionLes Meserables by Victor Hugo -- I loved my old English teacher, and she once read to us, The Bishop's Candlesticks, in school. Eager to know whether Jean Valjean reformed himself and stopped stealing after all, I raced to buy an abridged version of Les Meserables. I devoured the book in one night, wailed buckets into my pillow and bunked school the next day -- a first for me.

2. Gateway to Literary FictionAtlas Shrugged by  Ayn Rand was possibly my first serious contemporary read. Prior to this, my life had been Harry Potter and Jane Austen. Suddenly, capitalism was thrust at me in the form of a fat book about a legendary guy gathering all the heroes of the world and leaving the loser moochers behind in the dust. I stole the book from my elder brother's bookshelf and never even understood the half of it. But I still loved Dagny Taggart and wanted to be like her. Who is John Galt? My favourite question ever.

3. Gateway into Non-FictionRusska: The Novel of Russia by Edward Rutherfurd -- I grew up on Russian/ Ukrainian folk tales (and if you have never tried them, you really, really must). So my enchantment with Russia, its history and architecture, and yes, even its politics, has been a long standing one. Then one day, I found Russka in a book store; someone had placed it in the wrong side of the shelves. Non-fiction suddenly became very intriguing.

4. Gateway into Detective FictionThe Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie is by no means my favorite but it's memorable because it started me off on a binge-read of Christie's books. The man in question was cynical, brooding, glowering (at our chirpy heroine), and possibly a murderer. Favorite qualities in a hero for a teenage girl, don't you know. The villain was so likeable, he put the said hero to shame. For someone whose idea of mystery books and detective fiction had so far been Nancy Drew, Hitchcok's Three Investigators and Enid Blyton's Five Find-Outers, Christie's The Man in the Brown Suit was a gateway to a whole new world out there.

5. Gateway into Science FictionCordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold -- I have reviewed this book before. Science fiction was a thing of worry, till someone rightly pointed out you don't have to a nuclear physicist to understand science. Well, Cordelia's Honor is less about science and more about integrity, but it still was a wonderful entry into the world of space opera. It also gave me one of my favorite authors. For any newbie, my recommended primer would always be Cordelia's Honor.

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lexlingua: (Books)
If I were to sum up 2015, it would be less reading, more watching. I took several shortcuts this year, opting to watch the movie/ TV versions instead of reading the book. But some of those shortcuts proved to be quite wonderful. With that as a caveat, here’s a summary round-up -- in no particular order -- of all the most memorable events of 2015 for me:

1. Jessica Jones
Binge-watching Jessica Jones was no hard feat; it was the most automatic “play next” in the world (link to trailer). I had read so many reviews about this show: the “neo-Noir” tones, a Marvel Comics hero who is grappling with a painful past slash disability, great relationships (especially female friendships), 3D characterizations, awesome acting and kickass women. All true, boyo. (Note: If you like Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, you will find Jessica Jones remarkably similar, as the self-deprecating, smart PI with supernatural powers.) Krysten Ritter acting as Jessica and David Tennant acting as the evil Kilgrave were jawdroppingly good. Kilgrave, Kilgrave, it is a mark to Melissa Rosenberg’s screenwriting that even for a villain like that, you hope for reformation.

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lexlingua: (fanfiction)
I went on a mystery marathon this 2015, pulling out old mystery books which had been made into movies or TV shows. So, in a way I cheated, but I blame it all on The Silkworm, which was my first mystery book in ages and which made me want to read again about the human propensity for murder and mayhem. Here’s the brief run-up:

Every Secret Thing (2014)
This mystery movie is more of a psychological intrigue, and is based on Laura Lippmann’s book of the same name. Two school girls were convicted of killing an African American baby girl, now they have been released. But the same murder happens again – did they or did they not do the second murder as well? Actually, were they guilty of the first murder, in the first place? Everyone’s hiding a secret here, and you don’t know whether you should applaud or berate them for keeping such secrets. Detective Nancy Porter comes across as a mild-mannered and soft-spoken investigator, an unusual characterization for a crime detective. Not sure if its true to the book though. All-in-all, a disturbing but brilliant plot. Rating: 9.5/10

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lexlingua: (UserPic)

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I am not a fan of dragons, so I have not tried Novik’s more popular Temeraire series (also to be filmed soon by Peter Jackson of LoTR fame). A decision I need to change, obviously, if the series is anything like Uprooted. Because this book. This. Book. It is written like a fairytale, it has a juicy mystery that keeps you on tenterhooks, it speaks of relationships that are realistic and beautiful, and it has cover art which is glorious. What's not to love?
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lexlingua: (Contemplation)

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne-or his life.

I picked up this book last year, only to shelve it again within the first few pages itself. This cycle repeated again and again; the only reason I didn't give up on it entirely is because I felt too bad about dismissing a book as DNF without giving it even twenty odd pages, especially when everyone I knew was positively raving about it. Finally, I took up the audiobook -- and lo and behold, I finally realized why The Goblin Emperor makes for such a great read.

Simply put, this is the tale of how the underdog became emperor, and who doesn't love the underdog winning?

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lexlingua: (Books)
We are all completely beside ourselves. With rage. With grief. With helplessness. That’s what the narrator of the book, Rosemary Cooke, tells us, how seemingly innocuous little decisions and innocent accidents can snowball into something disastrous. Rosemary is the daughter of a psychologist – and that in itself, is a major plot giveaway, because when you see a psychologist in the midst of the first few pages, you know something’s going to go very wrong.

Something’s gone wrong in Rosemary’s life – she used to be a bubbling chatterbox as a kid, but now she’s a quiet girl, looking for ways to become invisible. Her sister’s missing, her brother’s run off and joined an activist group, and her parents won’t talk about either of them. The first half of the book is a glimpse into Rosemary’s character, and a witty but sad thing is that glimpse. The second part— now that’s the part that throws everything for a toss.

Stop here, if you are afraid of spoilers.
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lexlingua: (Macabre)
Season 5 of Game of Thrones is coming up on April 12, 2015.

In celebration, here's my favourite scene from Season 4:

lexlingua: (WHAT!?)

This show. THIS SHOW. I can't even *gasp*.

I am not a fan girl given to squeeing, but the television drama, Liar Game, has reduced me to squeeing. A masterpiece of brilliant puzzle-solving, an insightful foray into human psychology, superb acting, and feet-on-toes edge-of-chair mystery -- I am simply amazed by this show.

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lexlingua: (Beauty)
And here's another year come to a swift end. How did I spend thee, 2014? Let me count the ways.

1. The Ipad
How is it that the thing you grew up without suddenly becomes so important to your existence that you can no longer live without it? I started the year with an Ipad Air purchase, and now I am completely addicted to its apps. Whether I am taking notes on Evernote, or reading books on iBooks, whether I am reading news/ articles on Flipboard, or using Google Maps -- user interface on iPad is simply mindblowing. You will start loving its touchscreen, its easy typing keypad, its portability, and its visuals. The pitfalls? The truly great apps are always expensive, especially Microsoft for iPad; tech issues can be a major pain; and the iPad has still not reached the stage where it can function independently without the laptop. But on the whole, a worthy investment.

2. Keep the streets empty for me
What is it about this song? The Lady Business pointed it out, and when the music video begins, it doesn't make any sense, just gothic looking people walking down the streets. And then, the lyrics catch on, and that haunting rhythm begins. I am a manic 'repeat song' player on itunes, and this song must have played at least a hundred times on my ipod. Best discovery ever.

Here's more... )
lexlingua: (Books)
Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier is a strong starting book for her series, Blackthorn and Grim. It hooks you immediately, with the pages opening in a murky prison where our leading lady Blackthorn, a healer with a dark past, has been locked-up wrongfully. Blackthorn thinks she’s up for a death sentence, but a mysterious fae appears and offers her a reprieve –he will help her escape if she agrees to help anyone who asks her for help for the next 7 years. And when I say anyone, I mean anyone.Blackthorn accepts, and finds her way to a province ruled by Prince Oran, which is not as cozy as it seems. Oran, helpless in the face of his troubles, asks Blackthorn for help.

The story is told in multiple and alternating POV which works well without the jarring or abrupt cliffhangers at the end of each chapter that so many fantasy writers like to use. But much of the middle of the book felt like a drag, because Oran’s narratives felt too YA-ish. No doubt that’s because he’s a young, lovesick, perplexed chap, but I just could not connect on an emotional plane with his bag of woes.

Dreamer’s Pool is essentially a folk tale-cum-fairy tale about a mysterious mirror-like lake (hence, the title of the book) in that province, and comes with the necessary insights into domesticity and country life. I was happy to see Marillier return with her fae plotlines as well, and if you like Patricia McKillip, you will like this book as well.

The final section of the book was where the story really caught on, and for that alone, you should read it. Something alien lives in that lake, something that affects everyone around— especially Prince Oran, and Marillier captures that feeling of suspense really well in the last half of the book.

But best of all, and my favourite part of the book, was Grim. Grim is an interesting character; his poor self-esteem (a result of his past incarceration) coupled with his innate kindness makes a beautiful foil to Blackthorn, whose past has made her bitter, hard and cynical. The two together made a great detective team, but Grim, aww Grim. Somebody should tell him not to worry, he’s a great person – maybe Blackthorn will, in the next book.

Rating: 8/ 10. Recommended.
lexlingua: (UserPic)
With shows like Desperate Romantics, Copper and Penny Dreadful on my watchlist, I knew the next step was to make a countdown of my 10 favourite television shows till date. Here they are in descending order:

10. Mildred Pierce
Kate Winslet does an outstanding job in this 2011 four-part HBO miniseries, based on the book by the same name. I was drawn to this show because I had seen the 1945 version with Joan Crawford on TCM. The show has been changed quite a bit, to adapt it more for modern audience, but the shockingly mean and vicious greed of Mildred’s daughter, Vida, still evokes the same repulsion as it did then.

9. North and South
Class struggles abound as the industrial revolution zooms through England, as do labourer strikes and lockouts. North and South is a truly exceptional adaption of a truly exceptional 1855 novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. But what is really unforgettable is Richard Armitrage, about whom the less said is more.

Also recommended on similar lines: South Riding, Anne of Green Gables series, Catherine Cookson shows, and Lark Rise to Candleford

8. The Buccaneers
This 1995 show is based on a book by Edith Wharton, which lays out the story of four American girls’ fortunes in England, particularly that of the tomboyish Nan’s unfortunate marriage to a duke. A well-made show, though the ending has been much criticized.

Also recommended on similar lines: Downton Abbey, The Paradise and The Forsyte Saga

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lexlingua: (typing...)
Name: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword
Author: Ann Leckie
Publisher: Orbit Books
Cover Art: John Harris
Awards: Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction Association, Arthur C. Clarke, Locus
Audio: Recorded Books (Book 1); Hachette Audio UK (Book 2)

Ancillary Justice exploded in the SFF sphere last year and won almost every award the genre has to offer, with good reason. It’s no easy feat, world-building on this level, with a character of this level of integrity and grit, and a thrilling, convoluted, galvanising plotline to boot. Think Star Wars, combine it with Inception and Artificial Intelligence, and you will still fall short of Ancillary Justice. I can give the book(s) no higher praise. After Cordelia's Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold, Ancillary Justice is definitely my favourite SciFi book.

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From what I last heard, there are plans of turning these books into TV shows. Can’t wait.
lexlingua: (WHAT!?)
Howl's Moving Castle was my first anime, and I loved it to pieces. Since then I haven't seen many anime shows, but now, I have a new one to add to that list -- Paprika. Paprika is about a groundbreaking device that a scientist has invented to help psychiatrists enter the dreams of their patients, detect and understand their problems (as manifested in the dreams of the patients) and fix them. Lately, however, someone has stolen that device and is causing mayhem by entering the dreams of the psychiatrists themselves. Paprika is a strangely hypnotic, mystifying and very well directed (by Satoshi Kon) anime show. I went into it looking to be puzzled by a convoluted story, and I was. I was also charmed beyond my expectations. It needs a second watch, though, before you finally can make sense of the entire picture, but its worth the effort.

Other (Better) Reviews: Heidenkind
lexlingua: (Beauty)
It's been an age since I last updated my blog, and it's difficult to step back into it. It feels like one of those creaky machines that need oiling from time to time. Rounding up 2013 before January rolls up is an important ritual though; can't miss it for anything.

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lexlingua: (fanfiction)
"Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority."
-- Francis Bacon
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey took me by surprise. A mystery book-- arguably, again in the top ten list of most mystery fans-- which begins when a convalescing detective from Scotland Yard finds something wrong in the portrait of King Richard III of England.

Josephine Tey re-creates one of history's most famous -- and vicious -- crimes in her classic bestselling novel, a must read for connoisseurs of fiction, now with a new introduction by Robert Barnard

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world's most heinous villains -- a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother's children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England's throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.

The Daughter of Time is an ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, and suspenseful tale, a supreme achievement from one of mystery writing's most gifted masters.

Well, take a look at the picture to your right. Do you think this is a good man, or a bad man? Or is it simply a man in suffering? Is it even possible to deduce character from the lines on one's face? The real deal is that this man is Richard III, who has been condemned in most history books-- including school textbooks-- as the evil uncle who killed off his two very young nephews in order to usurp the throne of England. Grant (our hero detective)  who suffers from acute boredom in the hospital, decides to dapple into the mystery of this much reviled man.
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lexlingua: (Divinity)
The Man Who Was Thursday, the title alone makes you want to grab the book. It definitely helps that since its publication in 1908, the book has gone through a series of covers, each better than the next.

The book begins with a poem called the ‘Nightmare’, which I posted on my blog recently, and seems to suggest that the entire book was just a horrid old dream. The first chapter too paints a psychedelic imagery of red brick houses and red sunset and a red haired man, i.e. the Saffron Park. It does all feel like a dream, till two poets begin to debate on whether order or chaos is the true spirit of poetry. I kid you not, one of these poets is a man of law (an underclothes policeman called Gabriel Syme) and the other poet is an anarchist named Gregory.

I have read that Anarchists in the early 1900s regularly shot people and Presidents and caused ‘reigns of terror’. (That is an exaggeration, no, it isn't.) They may not call themselves that anymore, but every secessionist movement and every terrorist outfit is definitely a manifestation of anarchism?

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the debate gets really heated, and Gabriel Syme outwits Gregory to reveal some unsavoury secrets. With some quick and clever thinking, our genius and poetic hero, Syme, manages to infiltrate a band of anarchists, called the Council. Each member of this Council is named after a day of the week (here lies a hint), and Syme is appointed to the post of Thursday. Syme’s real goal is to flout the plans of the Council, save the world, and expose the notorious head of the gang, the man everyone calls Bloody Sunday. Will Syme succeed?

Stop here, if you don’t want me to ruin the book for you with my spoilers.

Read the rest of Spoiler-Filled Review.... )
lexlingua: (WHAT!?)
There was the Illiad, now there’s the Penelopiad.

Lately, since the SFF genre is losing interest for me, I thought I would give this mythology/ history book a shot instead.

Here’s the official book blurb:

"For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep over a hundred lustful, greedy and bloodthirsty suitors at bay… And then, when Odysseus finally returns and slaughters the murderous suitors, he brutally hangs Penelope's twelve beloved maids. What were his motives? And what was Penelope really up to? Critically acclaimed when it was first published as part of Canongate's Myth series, and following a very successful adaptation by the RSC, this new edition of The Penelopiad sees Margaret Atwood give Penelope a modern and witty voice to tell her side of the story, and set the record straight for good."

I heard the audiobook, narrated by Laural Merlington, who does a wonderful job, especially the parts where she imitates the voice of the twelve maids who were hacked off by Odysseus. These narrations could make a nice elocution piece, methinks.

I read Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin some time ago (my review here) and didn't much like it, so I expected the same kind of reaction for Penelope, the virtuous wife of an ancient, much-adored Greek hero. When I look back in context, I realize that the idea of both Lavinia and Penelopiad is to give a voice to the women of ancient Greece, a very different take from existing Greek history/ poetry, where it’s the men, the ‘heroes’, who hog all the spotlight.

I didn't know much about Odysseus himself, except that he was such a famous sea-faring, monster-killing hero in Greek mythology that first Homer wrote about him, then James Joyce decided to write the book Ulysses about him, which became quite a masterpiece. But as I hadn't read either of these tomes, I started Atwood’s book with a mindset quite free from ‘baggage’, if you know what I mean.

The Penelopiad is surprisingly easy to digest. Atwood paints a picture of ancient Greece through the voice of a dead Penelope (and her dead maids) in such an amusing light; I often burst out chuckling. Everything is packed in with such dark humour — the animal sacrifices, the oracle, the promiscuity, the gods raping the mortals, the (so-called) virtues of women (and sometimes, men), the slavery system, and do watch out for the bits about Helen of Troy. I certainly did not know or remember that Helen and Penelope were cousins, and that Odysseus wooed Helen once. Oops! I certainly need to see Troy again.

The book felt more like as if it was something written by Atwood to entertain herself — not as a professional historical work, but more along the lines of a hobby. It does not generate the kind of awe that Wolf Hall does, but maybe that’s because I’m not very familiar with such works. Maybe the best kind of historical book is a novella that’s light and cutting and to the point.

So much of Greek history is poetry written hundreds of years ago (this one being around 3,000 years) by some anonymous fellow. That can’t possibly be the reality. Sea serpents and semi-divine human beings, three-headed dogs and twelve-headed dragons, sirens and merfolk? Just like you read about ambrosia being some hallucinogenic drink created eons ago, what’s the factual truth of the fanciful Greek mythology?

The last part of the book is therefore important, because it gives an interesting interpretation of the events in The Penelopiad. You should hear Atwood’s take on the truth. I’m not aware of other versions, or if she is the first one to bring forth the idea of the Odyssey heralding a shift in the Mycenaean religious dynamics. But I do know for a fact that The Penelopiad makes a lovely and startling read.

My Rating: 7/10                                                                            

Funny Five

Apr. 27th, 2013 12:46 pm
lexlingua: (fanfiction)
Nothing feels better than ending a long day at work with a few big laughs. I thought I would put up a list of the top five books that made me hoot like a hyena.

1. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

In a Victorian world where everyone's brimming with insincerity and money-mindedness, Oscar Wilde talks about the importance of being earnest. No easy thing, when even wanting to be called 'Earnest' is going to make our heroes sweat with desperation. This was written as a play, but I personally felt reading the book was far funnier than watching it acted out (in the movie, to your right).

2. Tintin in Tibet by Herge

There are those who will disagree, saying The Castafiore Emerald and The Calculus Affair are so much funnier. There are those who will disagree because they think Herge was quite racist. But if there's one thing that makes Tintin in Tibet so hilarious, it is the number of epithets that Captain Haddocks comes up with in this one. Example to your left.

3. Quick Service by P.G. Wodehouse

No, not Blandings and no, not Jeeves. Sometimes, I find Freddie too silly and Jeeves too haughty. But Quick Service hits all the right notes. As usual, Wodehouse does wonders with his bag of imposters and henpecked husbands all locked up in a country house. It all starts with a beef-manufacturing tycoon wanting to steal a portrait  -- which several other people also want. Mayhem ensues, and much madcap laughter. Sadly, this particular book has not gone through the makeover that the other Wodehouse books have, so I have to put up a really old and discoloured cover image.

4. The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

Put Wodehouse in the Regency Era, and what do you get? You get Georgette Heyer. Heyer excels at putting our heroines in priceless situations of confused identities, crazy adventures, absolutely laughtastic relatives and a sparkling comedy of manners. In Talisman Ring, a ring gets stolen, a naive girl runs away, a dangerous smuggler escapes, an architect makes bad drawings, the policemen get confounded, and Tristram refuses to ride in haste. This is the closest I can get to describing the plot. It is making me laugh even as I write it.

5. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronvitch

"What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz?" Who would have thought that fantasy and detective fiction combined could make you laugh so hard? The laugh-out-loud kind of laughter is what Ben assures with his first book. Peter Grant, a policeman in London, narrates his story in first person, and his observations are straight-on and so amusing. His life catapults into the other world zone when one day he and a ghost have a chat. I still have to read the whole thing, and I often read it during my cab ride to office. Puts a cheeky grin on my face some mornings.

So what's your funny five? Do lets share a laugh.
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Today I couldn't resist myself and bought The Complete Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton. I have been meaning to read up on Father Brown for a really long time now-- he is supposed to be the most famous detective after Sherlock Holmes. In fact, in most of the greatest mystery books's lists, you will not find a single Sherlock Holmes mystery, but you'll definitely find Father Brown.

Father Brown is not as dashing or energetic as the Robert Downey Jr. version, nor is he as striking a personality as the Granada versions's Jeremy Brett. (I'm not going to mention the BBC modern make-over version here, except that I just did.) Father Brown is one of those unassuming, ordinary-looking average men who are more than what they appear on the surface. He carries an umbrella, wears his monkish robes, fumbles and stammers (not sure about this one). He is a man of religion-- a priest sleuth-- though in the mystery genre, the detective is more often, a man of science. But as Father Brown will tell you, a detective need not be a man of religion OR science, but only of reason.

Anyways, the first story I read is The Blue Cross. And what struck me while reading was this little gem of a passage:

"The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. A few clouds in heaven do come together into the staring shape of one human eye. A tree does stand up in the landscape of a doubtful journey in the exact and elaborate shape of a note of interrogation. I have seen both these things myself within the last few days. Nelson does die in the instant of victory; and a man named Williams does quite accidentally murder a man named Williamson; it sounds like a sort of infanticide. In short, there is in life an element of elfin coincidence which people reckoning on the prosaic may perpetually miss. As it has been well expressed in the paradox of Poe, wisdom should reckon on the unforeseen."

I found the story to be a small miracle too. You can get it at Adelaide Books.

And here are some mystery-solving tips from Father Brown:
#1 When tailing a criminal, always leave behind a trail of clues for the police to follow.
#2 Always remember-- a thief loves to swap the original with a duplicate.

Stay tuned for more Father Brown!


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January 2017



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