So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! 🙂
So summer’s winding down a bit, and so for this month’s So You Want to Read… I’m going to be featuring books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Hands down he is one of my favourite authors, he really writes Gothic novels well and has written quite a number of books for both adults and children. It’s hard to describe, but he really sets the atmosphere up for his novels that it really feels like you’re there in the streets of Barcelona. There’s a splash of magical realism, of the supernatural, but it feels so rooted in our world.
So while we’re waiting for his next novel to come out (please please please let this be soon!), here’s some books by him to check out from him if you’re interested in reading his books for the first time:
- The Shadow of the Wind (commentary) — The book that started it all for me. It’s his most popular title, and with good reason: it’s mysterious, it’s absorbing, it’s absolutely atmospheric. There’s plenty of intrigue and danger and drama and humourous moments to go around. Book lovers and avid readers will especially enjoy this (the Cemetery of Forgotten Books? I wish such a place existed!) and can relate to Daniel and his love of reading. I love how Zafon brought Barcelona to life in this novel, it will leave you wanting to go there! (which I ended up doing haha)
- The Angel’s Game (review) — This books gets a bit of flack for not being TSOTW despite it having been released after it. It’s a prequel of sorts, but it also works like a standalone. If The Shadow of the Wind focuses on the reader, The Angel’s Game focuses on the writer and the writer’s craft. The supernatural/Gothic elements are also much more to the fore in this novel than in TSOTW, but it’s still a fascinating read and definitely worth checking out (especially as it ties in afterwards to The Prisoner of Heaven (review).
- Marina (review) — Of all of Zafon’s young adult titles, this book stands out as my favourite. It’s also a standalone (unlike the other three books in his Niebla series), which is great. It reminds me a lot of TSOTW with the Gothic undertones and its setting in old Barcelona. There’s a lot in this novel–mystery, action, drama, a coming-of-age story, themes of death and memory. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you checked out TSOTW and loved it.
I hope this list helps if you’re interested in reading something by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for the first time! If you’ve read his books, which one is your favourite? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which books have you been meaning to get around to reading? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂
By: Joseph Kessel
Format/Source: eARC courtesy of Pushkin Press via NetGalley
The crew of a French reconnaissance plane during WW1 consisted of just two men: a pilot and an observer. Two such men are Jean Herbillon and Claude Maury. Herbillon’s dreams of glory as an air ace have been dashed after only a few months at the front; Maury suffers from a broken heart–his only hope is that his exploits as a pilot will win back his lost love. Together the two form one of the best crews in the air, fighting in the first aerial conflict in history–one in which a combatant can count his life expectancy in weeks. The pressure of war forges a strong bond between the two flyers, but can it survive the discovery that they are both in love with the same woman?
Joseph Kessel’s autobiographical novel is a staggering tale of courage, brotherhood and loss.
I’ve becoming something of a fan of the classics that Pushkin Press have been publishing after reading Alexander Lerner-Holenia’s Mona Lisa (review) so I immediately requested an eARC of this title when I saw it on NetGalley. It’s something different, this time from French literature, and I had heard of the author in passing. Of course it was only afterwards that I learned that he’s quite the titan in modern French literature. I also learned an interesting piece of trivia: his nephew is author Maurice Druon (see author tag). Anyway, this book will be available on 16 August 2016.
By: J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (editor)
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase
The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.
From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel’s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.
But the commentary in this book includes also much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, he expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf “snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup”; but he rebuts the notion that this is “a mere treasure story”, “just another dragon tale”. He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is “the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history” that raises it to another level. “The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The ‘treasure’ is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.”
Sellic spell, a “marvellous tale”, is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the “historical legends” of the Northern kingdoms.
I picked up this book and read it when it was first released back in 2014 but I never got around to reviewing it here. That was because I didn’t have much to say about it at the time–didn’t honestly know what to think of it, I had read The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun (review) and knew there would be added content in this book but I didn’t expect Tolkien’s actual piece to be so short. Since then I did get around to reading the stardard edition that’s available (re-read it again earlier this year (review) so now that I have a sense of how the story went down, I decided to revisit Tolkien’s rendition of the tale again.
The Hottest Dishes of Tartar Cuisine
By: Alina Bronsky
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
When she discovers that her seventeen-year-old daughter, “stupid Sulfia,” is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnancy, employing a variety of folkloric home remedies. But despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born nine months later at Soviet Birthing Center Number 134. Much to Rosa’s surprise and delight, dark eyed Aminat is a Tartar through and through and instantly becomes the apple of her grandmother’s eye. While her good for nothing husband Kalganow spends his days feeding pigeons and contemplating death at the city park, Rosa wages an epic struggle to wrestle Aminat away from Sulfia, whom she considers a woefully inept mother. When Aminat, now a wild and willful teenager, catches the eye of a sleazy German cookbook writer researching Tartar cuisine, Rosa is quick to broker a deal that will guarantee all three women a passage out of the Soviet Union. But as soon as they are settled in the West, the uproariously dysfunctional ties that bind mother, daughter and grandmother begin to fray.
I believe I first encountered this book while browsing a list on GoodReads on translated literature. The premise sounded oddly amusing, but it’s also placed in a setting that I like reading from (in and around the Soviet period) plus I read good things about the author online (award-winning and all). So I finally caved last year and picked it up after staring at it for a good long time 🙂
Pretty sure I mentioned this last time but I seem to be on a roll with these mini-reviews this year 😛 Lots of books I read recently that didn’t warrant a post of their own; included in this batch of mini-reviews are some classics and one DNF *le sigh*
The Major Works
By: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic, and radical thinker, exerted an enormous influence over contemporaries as varied as Wordsworth, Southey and Lamb. He was also a dedicated reformer, and set out to use his reputation as a public speaker and literary philosopher to change the course of English thought.
This collection represents the best of Coleridge’s poetry from every period of his life, particularly his prolific early years, which produced The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel, and Kubla Khan. The central section of the book is devoted to his most significant critical work, Biographia Literaria, and reproduces it in full. It provides a vital background for both the poetry section which precedes it and for the shorter prose works which follow. There is also a generous sample of his letters, notebooks, and marginalia, some recently discovered, which show a different, more spontaneous side to his fascinating and complex personality.
I finally got around to reading some of Coleridge’s works when I picked up one of the mini Black Classics (review). I greatly enjoyed it and decided to pick up his collected works. While this is a good collection of his works and ideas, I was much more interested in his poetry and some of his lectures than his essays and his Biographia Literaria, which to be honest I decided not to read at this time.
Anyway, his poetry was interesting, a mix of long epics and shorter poems. His poems reminds me a bit of John Keats, which makes sense given that they were contemporaries, but they aren’t as flourishing or as ingrained in the nature thematics as Keats is. There’s also a more morose feeling to his poems; it’s hard to explain, maybe the book cover had something to contribute to this overall feeling, but there’s that. I wish the poetry was more complete in this collection but nonetheless it’s a solid selection and I enjoyed reading it.