The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church
By: John Thavis
Source: e-galley, courtesy of the publisher from NetGalley
For more than twenty-five years John Thavis held one of the most fascinating journalistic jobs in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. His daily exposure to the power, politics, and personalities in the seat of Roman Catholicism gave him a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective on an institution that is far less monolithic and unified than it first appears. Thavis reveals Vatican City as a place where Curia cardinals fight private wars, scandals threaten to undermine papal authority, and reverence for the past is continually upended by the practical considerations of modern life.
Thavis takes readers from a bell tower high above St. Peter’s to the depths of the basilica and the saint’s burial place, from the politicking surrounding the election of a new pope and the ever-growing sexual abuse scandals around the world to controversies about the Vatican’s stand on contraception, and more.
Perceptive, sharply written, and witty, The Vatican Diaries will appeal not only to Catholics (lapsed as well as devout) but to any readers interested in international diplomacy and the role of religion in an increasingly secularized world.
Given the recent events with the Conclave and the election of Pope Francis I, it was rather timely that I was approved to read this book through NetGalley. I’ve always been curious about how the Curia operated, not just as a matter of my faith but also because the Vatican is a unique state. The premise of this book sounded both fascinating and promising so I was really looking forward to digging into this book.
By: Harriet Lane
Format: Paperback; courtesy of the publisher & GoodReads First Reads programme
On a bitter winter’s night, Frances Thorpe comes upon the aftermath of a car crash and, while comforting the dying driver, Alys Kyte, hears her final words. The wife of a celebrated novelist, Alys moved in rarefied circles, and when Frances agrees to meet the bereaved family, she glimpses a world entirely foreign to her: cultured, wealthy, and privileged. While slowly forging a friendship with Alys’s carelessly charismatic daughter, Frances finds her own life takes a dramatic turn, propelling her from an anonymous existence as an assistant editor for the books section of a newspaper to the dizzying heights of literary society.
I received a copy of this book through GoodReads; the premise sounded fascinating–I always enjoy a good, contemporary novel and a story involving family dynamics and the protagonist entering a totally different section of society. Contains spoilers ahead! (I will note it in my review because it’s just too hard not to avoid it =P)
The Perfume Lover: A Personal History of Scent
By: Denyse Beaulieu
Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of the publisher & GoodReads First Reads programme
What if the most beautiful night in your life inspired a perfume? When Denyse Beaulieu was growing up in Montreal, perfume was forbidden in her house, spurring a childhood curiosity that became an intellectual and sensual passion. She pursued this passion to Paris, where she now lives, becoming a respected fragrance writer. But little did she know that it would also lead her to achieve a perfume lover’s wildest dream.
When Denyse tells a famous perfumer of a sensual night spent in Seville under an orange tree in full blossom, wrapped in the arms of a beautiful young man, the story stirs his imagination, and together they create a scent that captures the essence of that night. As their unique collaboration unfolds, the perfume-in-progress conjures intimate memories, leading Beaulieu to make sense of her life through scent—a sort of Eat, Pray, Love of fragrance. Throughout the book, she weaves the history of perfumery into her personal journey, evoking the masters and the masterpieces, the myths and the myth-busting, down to the molecular mysteries that meld our flesh to flowers.
The Perfume Lover is an enticing account of the complexity of composing a fragrance, and a uniquely candid insider’s view into the world and history of fragrance.
I kindly received an advanced reading copy of this novel from Penguin Canada through GoodReads. I don’t read a lot of memoirs or nonfiction these days, nor is perfume a major feature of my everyday life (it’s there, I use them every now and then but beyond that I don’t know much about it), but the premise of this book was interesting.
This book is part of the Books on France Reading Challenge 2013 that I am participating in.
By: Liam O’Shiel
The province of the Twenty Clans, founded on the shores of Lough Ennell in Ireland, is about to celebrate its millennial year. As this milestone year approaches, the Province and its Celtic allies in Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Brittany are threatened by an even-colder climate overspreading Europe and by determined, powerful enemies on land and sea.
The fight to defend the Province and its allies is led by Conor Laigain, a poet who dreams of peace and a hilltop cabin; his sister Fethnaid, an archer fighting in the Line of Bows and comes to realise that old ideas must change if the Province is to survive; Conor’s fiancee Mairin Fotharta, a warship captain in the Province’s naval squadron whose sleep is plagued with nightmares of a brutal childhood; and his towering Uncle Padraic, general of the army since the death of Conor’s legendary father Domnall.
This is a story of human beings fighting for the right to live and enjoy the beauty of the world as they see it. When a great battle between the armies of the Province and the Ghaoth Aduiadh carpets a lovely meadow with thousands dead and dying, Conor’s mother Liadan tries to console herself with words written by her father-in-law, philosopher Uinseann Laigain: “We must be content with life and love and the beauty of the earth. All the rest is dust in the wind.”
I received a copy of this book a year and some ago as a First Reads from GoodReads. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to it right away because if I recall correctly I had finished up my thesis and was tackling a fairly large to-read pile at the time. But here we are now =)
Remember Why You Fear Me
By: Robert Shearman
A woman rejects her husband’s heart— and gives it back to him, still beating, in a plastic box. A little boy betrays his father to the harsh mercies of Santa Claus. A widower suspects his dead wife’s face is growing over his own. A man goes to Hell, and finds he’s roommate to the ghost of Hitler’s pet dog. Giant spiders, killer angels, ghost cat photography, and the haunted house right at the centre of the Garden of Eden.
Seems pretty fitting since Hallowe’en is around the corner, eh? ChiZine Publications kindly sent me a copy of Robert Shearman’s book for review; the book is available for purchase this month. Just a bit of background, Shearman has quite a diverse background in writing, from theatre to television shows (perhaps most notably known for writing the series 1 episode “Dalek” for Doctor Who). This book is a collection of stories, the author’s fourth.