We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Jackie O: On the Couch - Alma H. Bond

I won’t lie to you. I was sceptical. But by page 2... I was hooked. Jackie O: On the Couch is not only informative, it is insightful and interesting; it has the tri-factor of i’s.


This is not just another biography. For the first time, Jackie O: On the Couch highlights Jackie’s life from her own perspective, as imagined by author Dr. Alma Bond, a psychoanalyst and longtime student of Jackie lore. The book delves into Jackie’s childhood and explores how and why she became the person she was. It explores the Kennedy's, Aristotle Onassis, and Jackie’s emergence into the world of publishing, until her death of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1995 at age 63. Jackie O: On the Couch is a unique exploration of the life and loves of a great historical figure. The always private Jackie finally emerges as a true human being, with enormous shortcomings and strengths, who all of us can now understand and appreciate like never before.

Book Stats:

Where I got it: netGalley
Title: Jackie O: On the Couch
Subtitle: Inside the Mind and Life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Pub Date: 08/01/2011
ISBN: 9781610880213
Author: Alma H. Bond
Category: Fiction

The Review:

Why was I sceptical? When I see Jackie O – or anyone legendary- on the cover of a book, I take or request it before I really read what it is about. Very short-sighted, but it can make for interesting reading. So when I saw this gem on Net Galley, I immediately requested it – I mean come on – Jackie O! The woman we have to thank for the popularity of over sized sunglasses! The woman at the side of JFK! The woman who married Aristotle Onassis! Those are the three things that immediately come to mind when you think Jackie O. That is until you read Jackie O: On the couch.

But I digress, I was sceptical when I saw that this was not actually a Jackie O book that was in a vault somewhere, but was rather someone who I had never heard of’s writings of Jackie O’s life from Jackie’s perspective. I had my doubts. But then I read that the author – who is wonderful – is a psychoanalyst, and in preparing to write this book, she read 100 books on Jackie. So if anyone who did not actually know Jackie could be looked upon as an authority on Jackie O, it would have to be Alma H. Bond.

I feel I know so much more about the enigmatic woman that was Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. This book is beautifully written and offers a lot of insight into the world of Jackie O. But it not only sheds light on Jackie O, it also pays attention to other significant historical figures like John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Bobby Kennedy etc. The way that Ms Bond writes about JFK as a father is so moving. This book is the kind of book that you would hope that someone will write about you when you are no longer of this world.

So if you are interested in the lives of those who are no more but who made a significant difference in their lifetimes, then Jackie O: On the Couch is definitely the book for you.
I would like to thank the kind people at Bancroft for allowing me to review this galley. Now if I could just get it in hard copy...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Legacy - Katherine Webb

Title: The Legacy

SubTitle: A Novel

Publisher: HarperCollins

Imprint: Harper Paperbacks

Pub Date: 09/01/011

ISBN: 9780062077301

Source: NetGalley

The Synopsis

Following the death of their grandmother, Erica Calcott and her sister Beth return to Storton Manor, a grand and imposing house in Wiltshire, England, where they spent their summer holidays as children. When Erica begins to sort through her grandmother’s belongings, she is flooded with memories of her childhood—and of her cousin, Henry, whose disappearance from the manor tore the family apart.

Erica sets out to discover what happened to Henry—so that the past can be laid to rest, and her sister, Beth, might finally find some peace. Gradually, as Erica begins to sift through remnants of the past, a secret family history emerges: one that stretches all the way back to Oklahoma in the 1900s, to a beautiful society heiress and a haunting, savage land. As past and present converge, Erica and Beth must come to terms with two terrible acts of betrayal—and the heartbreaking legacy left behind.

The Review

I would like to start this review by saying how perfect the cover image of this book is. The image of two girls - one obviously older than the other - with the older girl showing how protective she is of the younger. It perfectly presents a part of the book - it is just brilliant. But now onto the content...

I loved this book. For me, it was one of those books that you have to just read and read so that you can see the whole picture, but when you finish it, even though you feel satisfied, you find that you miss the story. In telling the story of a legacy of hatred - or hostility - you have to tell the story from the perspective of the present, the not so distant past, and the very distant past.

This is a multi-layered story that is written from two people's perspectives. We are told Caroline's story in one chapter, then Erica's story in the next - alternating till the end of the book when we see the truth behind this legacy of hatred. At times I found the alternation a bit frustrating, because I was wrenched out of Caroline's life and into Erica's present, when I just wanted to know what was happening in Caroline's world! Jumping from Caroline's life, into Erica's present and her flashbacks of the past, is the very feature that makes this book - we see the stories unfolding at the same pace and can therefore put the pieces of the puzzle together. It is absolutely marvellous. A gripping story told in a gripping manner, that ends with the possibility of there being more, but ending on a note that leaves the reader satisfied.

About the author

Katherine Webb was born in 1977 and grew up in rural Hampshire, England. She studied History at Durham University, has spent time living in London and Venice, and now lives in Berkshire, England. Having worked as a waitress, au pair, personal assistant, potter, bookbinder, library assistant, and formal housekeeper at a manor house, she now writes full time.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Battle of the Sexes

So I know I could have chosen a more original title for this post, but it does tell you exactly what this post is going to be about, so why beat about the bush? Last week on twitter, Jillian tweeted rather irately about one of her lecturers being a chauvenistic pig when it comes to the intellect of the female species. And then to add fuel to the fire of the debate that had started in my head, I read the Women24 news letter, alluding to the comments by an author which can be read here, so I thought I would just vent a few thoughts here...

Let me just start off by saying, when I choose to read a book, who the book is by is of secondary importance - yes I do sometimes look for work by a certain author, but I don't go about saying "Oh no, this was written by a man so I will just cast it aside" this could not be true, because until recently, all my favourite books have been written by men - Atonement, The Catcher in the Rye, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex... and then since last week a female author made an appearance - Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I don't really care about the sex of an author, it has no interest to me, what matters to me is the story. Now on a different but related tangent, I was wondering what the most prevalent sex the authors that I have recently read are. And suprisingly, despite so many of my favourite books being by male authors, this year - so far- all but one of the books that I have completed have been written by women. A coincidence? Absolutely, because I do not discriminate. I do not have a list of female authors that I pick my next read from. But I do think that I should make a concerted effort *emphasis on concerted* to read more works by male authors.

But back to where I started this post, who is the better author? Man or Woman? Does it actually matter? My answer is no, it does not matter - yes it does help us to see where the author was coming from, but it does not make or break the validity of the story that they are telling. So going back to this author - V.S. Naipaul - he claims that he is a better author than any female author and that Jane Austen wrote sentimental rubbish. Well, let me say that before I read this article I had never heard of this man who claims to be the greatest gift to the writing world. And to just prove a point to him, I will never pick up a book by him, I will dissuade others from reading his work, because well he deserves no respect. Seriously, if you want to break someone down then break down someone who is alive and can fight back, but leave Austen alone. Truthfully, I just think that he is insecure and feels that he has to break down great female authors in order to feel more secure. So here I am writing about him, saying that as a female many of my favourite books are written by male authors - though they are not my favourite because they are written by men. They are my favourite because of the story, and the connection I felt with the characters. I did not even come to that conclusion until I really thought about it. But, I mostly read books by women. So to V.S. I would like to say - grow a pair. Be secure enough in your own writing to not feel that you have to break down the most popular writers of all time who just happen to be women.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

My dear, I don't give a damn

Okay so maybe that is not exactly how the line goes in the book, but you get my point. So after 3 marathon sessions last week, I finished reading Gone with the Wind, and even though I immensely enjoyed it, I was terribly disappointed by the way it ended. I was gearing up for a happy ending, but did not get it. I have never felt more despondent after reading a book than I did after finishing Gone with the Wind. But you will get my thoughts on it within the next few days. So till then, happy reading!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Checking in...

A few exciting things happened to me this past week. The first two things happened on Monday – as you know I have been reviewing the Booktown Mystery Series by Lorna Barrett, and I am super excited to say that Ms Barrett stopped by at Bibliophilia and left a comment!!!!!!! It is one of the most exciting things to happen to me in a while. The second thing that happened on Monday too, happened when I was tweeting about Starcrossed on twitter and the author Josephine Angelini tweeted back! It does warm the cockles of one’s heart. And then two more exciting things happened on Friday - Josephine Angelini visited my blog and commented on my post on Starcrossed, and is now following my blog!!!! It is just sooo very surreal!!!!!! And then in my mailbox on Friday I got a letter with some beautiful American Stamps on it from Lorna Barrett containing 5 signed bookmarks!!!!! For me, this has been the height of excitement with regards to blogging accomplishment. But then, you book bloggers out there know what it is like. And I am sure that you other Avid Readers get that too.

But now back to business... I have decided to have a Vampire Diaries week, I will be looking at books 1-6 since I do not yet have book 7. I will be comparing the books to the series, and then also look at the last two books in the Stefan’s Diaries series. So do look forward to that in the near future.

You can also look forward to a review of a short story by Charlaine Harris; as well as the latest book in the Booktown Mystery Series – Sentenced to Death. And then there is parts 3,4 and 5 of Gone with the Wind to look forward to. I am in love with Gone with the Wind, and I cannot wait for the day when I can go and visit Georgia and Louisianna to see the vibrant scenery that inspired this wonderful book. And well, let's see what else happens that is unexpected. So here’s hoping you all will have a good week, and happy reading!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Some thoughts on blogging/ my blog

When I started this blog almost two years ago, I had not really thought about having a specialised blog that focuses mainly on one genre. I actually had not put too much thought into it. In fact I neglected it for a long time before starting to blog in earnest. So why did I start blogging?

I started blogging because it was something fun to do. My friend Ceasar and I were inspired by our one classics lecturer who showed us his blog during a lecture. We were so excited that that very day we looked into starting our own blogs. My first blog was Pro Tempore, I have since abandoned it because I felt that I no longer had anything interesting enough happening to me to blog about. So then I thought about the different kind of blogs that one can have and I started this book blog because I love reading. I started to take this blog seriously around April/May last year, and aside from a few absences because of life happening, I think I have done quite well. I took last year off so that I could fully recover from depression, so I could be me again, and I will say that having this blog really helped me on the road to recovery. This blog gave me something to focus on outside of myself, and reading all the books that I have read has greatly helped me. I have learned that you are not cured from depression – it can come back. You have to live your life doing things that make you happy because every day that you do not slide back into depression is taking a step towards staying healthy. So aside from being something to focus on, this blog is something I can refer anyone back to when they want to know what I have been doing the past almost two years.

So reflecting back on the books that I have reviewed, I see my eclectic taste has been allowed to come to life on this blog. I am glad that I did not restrict myself by choosing to review only a specific genre. I don’t think I would have stuck to blogging if I had decided on just a specific genre. I get bored easily and I don’t like not being able to choose whatever comes my way. I have not really taken too much time on my blog to write about me, so in an overt way you cannot say that you know me, but I would like to think that based on the books that I have read and the way in which I give my opinions on these books that you have gotten to know me.

I do hope that you will stay with me on this journey, or if you are new to my blog that you will join me on my journey blogging about the books that fill my life.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Starcrossed - Josephine Angelini

When shy, awkward Helen Hamilton meets Lucas Delos for the first time, she thinks two things: the first, that he is the most ridiculously beautiful boy she has ever seen in her life; the second, that she wants to kill him with her bare hands.

An ancient curse means Lucas and Helen are destined to loathe one another. But sometimes love is stronger than hate, and not even the gods themselves can prevent what will happen next...

The fun review

This is the clever synopsis of Starcrossed. It just makes you want to get right into the story and see what exactly is going to happen. It is so very Romeo and Juliet. Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. I just had to keep reading, and I had to know what is going to happen next. I read till 3 the next morning just because I could not wait to find out what happens next in this amazing book. The last time I felt this compelled to finish a book was when I read Twilight. I will admit, there was a point in this book where I thought “if you strip this bare, then it does bear a lot of similarity with Twilight”; but that thought did not last long. 10 pages later I was thinking “wow, this is so much more than Twilight!” and I will be as bold as to say that when the Saga of Starcrossed is fully released, that this will be bigger than Twilight because it is just so amazing!

After finishing this brilliant book I went to sleep satisfied at knowing that I knew as much of the story that was presently available. But, I was vexed at having to wait till May 2012 for part 2. I had a dream filled sleep dreaming of the delicious Lucas, Hector and Jason and the amazing world that I entered into by reading Starcrossed. When I woke up, all I could think about was Starcrossed and I just had to read it again – which I did – which is not something that I ever really do. I don’t reread immediately after finishing; so that alone should speak volumes about this gem.

If you have ever studied the classics, you will really appreciate this story; the intertextuality is just so clever. The names chosen for the characters have greater meaning than you are aware of if you have never read the classics. However you should not be dissuaded if you are a stranger to the classics – this can serve as a gateway to knowing more of the literature, myths and stories of antiquity.

So why should you go out and get a copy of Starcrossed? Well, this is a great book, amazing actually. It has the Furies, it has romance, it has a great plot, it has suspense, it has demigods, and it has beautiful girls and gorgeous guys. It has all you could ever need; this book will keep you enthralled and satisfied for a long time after reading it. So go out NOW and spoil yourself with Starcrossed!

I would like to thank Pan Macmillan South Africa for sending me a copy of this wonderful book to review. If you have already read this book do tweet the author Josephine Angelini @josieangelini on twitter. She is super cool, and she tweeted back! We had a mini conversation; it is just one of those fan girl moments that mean a lot.

The more academic review

When I first saw the title of this book, I thought of Romeo and Juliet. The prologue of this classic play by the bard – with the words “a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life,” was this the tone of this novel? I did wonder; but then you should never judge a book by its cover. But then I saw the cover with the words “DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER” “THE GODS WILL KEEP THEM APART” and again I thought this sounds a lot like Romeo and Juliet. I cannot say what the author had in mind when she wrote this book.

One of the few things that stuck with me from my Modern Fiction classes is that the author writes with an ideal reader in mind. The ideal reader will have read some of the same literature as the author and will understand the intertextual references, the inner meaning associated with names, and the root of a story. It helps to look at the oeuvre and milieu of the author before saying too much about a text. What do I know about Josephine Angelini? From the book’s information on the author I learn that she studied Classics at NYU. So this makes me look deeper at the story. Shakespeare did not come up with the idea of a story of Starcross’d lovers.

Shakespeare would have studied Ovid. Ovid recorded the story of Pyramus and Thisbe in his epic collection Metamorphoses. Pyramus and Thisbe is thus the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet and therefore it is not wrong to say that the premise of Starcrossed is Romeo and Juliet.
So back to what I was saying about the ideal reader- in this instance the ideal reader would have to be someone who is familiar with early Greek literature in the form of Homer’s epics, Hesiod’s Theogony, Aeschylus’ Oresteia, The Oedipus Rex and some other plays. If in this case you are the ideal reader, you will have chosen a book that will not only entertain you, but will excite your brain in matching up the names used in the story with the names and the meaning that was attached to them in antiquity.

For instance:

Helen – Helen of Troy- the face that launched a thousand ships – is legendary for her beauty.

Jason – the myth of the Golden Fleece – Jason and the Argonauts.

Ajax – two Ajax’s were present at the Trojan war – lesser and greater Ajax. Greater Ajax was in competition with Odysseus for Achilles’ shield – when he lost to Odysseus he committed suicide.

Daphne – daughter of Peneus who was loved by Apollo and turned into a laurel tree by her father.

Ariadne – from the myth of the Minotaur.

Cassandra – sister of Hector and Paris – carried away from Troy by Agamemnon; known to be a seer/ oracle.

These names would not be significant to someone not aware of the stories and myths of antiquities and would just seem to be chosen randomly. So this is like an inside joke with the ideal reader. So far the link between the name of the character in the book and that of antiquity is clear – for others the link still has to be established, so that is something more to look forward to when the subsequent books are released.