Tag: Rating: DNF

Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 9 July, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Here we are again, another batch of mini-reviews that couldn’t possibly warrant their own review posts. This pbatch is mostly plays/poetry-oriented, as well as one DNF *le sigh*

Without further ado…

Prometheus Unbund
By: Percy Bysshe Shelley
Format/Source: Online

One of the most ambitious dramatic poems ever written, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound tells the story of the Titan Prometheus who gave mankind the secret of fire in open defiance to the decrees of Zeus, and who, as punishment for this generosity, was chained to the Caucasus Mountains and exposed to horrible tortures. Inspired by the Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus, Shelley’s play serves as a sort of sequel, matching its Greek predecessor in stature and pure poetic power. It depicts its philanthropist hero’s ultimate triumph over the superstition and bigotry of the gods. As Shelley himself stated in his Defence of Poetry, Prometheus Unbound awakens and enlarges the mind.

I honestly wouldn’t have thought about picking up this dramatic play anytime in the near future except that it was mentioned in Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life (review) and my curiosity was piqued (turns out though that the lines Matthew recited was not from this dramatic poem but from another poem, “The Cloud” (read here), but anyway). It’s an intriguing play following Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and it’s an intriguing look at humanity and nature, good and evil, freedom and enslavement, etc. It’s very lyrical–so much so that it’s very easy to get lost in the plot (pfft, do I even know the plot?). But it’s still very pretty to read with some very poignant passages here and there.

Oh, apparently The Painted Veil (review) got its title from a line in this epic. How did that detail from that novel slip my mind? 😛 Anyway, if you’re looking for some epic poetry to read with some really gorgeous passages, I think this is worth checking out 🙂

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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DNF: Pravda

Posted 26 December, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

By: Edward Docx
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Thirty-two-year-old Gabriel Glover arrives in St. Petersburg to find his mother dead in her apartment. Reeling from grief, Gabriel and his twin sister, Isabella, arrange the funeral without contacting their father, Nicholas, a brilliant and manipulative libertine. Unknown to the twins, their mother had long ago abandoned a son, Arkady, a pitiless Russian predator now determined to claim his birthright. Aided by an ex-seminarian whose heroin addiction is destroying him, Arkady sets out to find the siblings and uncover the dark secret hidden from them their entire lives.

This book has been on my to-read pile for a few years now. It sounded interesting and mysterious, and set in Russia. It was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007, which also piqued my interest. Recently I decided to pick it up as it has been staring at me for a very long time. After some seven chapters in however, I had to put it down as I had a sense that the story was going to be a long, slow, and cumbersome; the characters did not interest me enough to go with them on this journey to find their brother (not to mention I was already feeling exasperated of them and their respective anger and troubles, which is not a good sign); and the writing seemed odd and rather stilted. I’m usually all for novels set in Russia–contemporary and classic–and that have a morose atmosphere to them, dealing with some hefty topics, but there was nothing that intriguing me enough to keep on going.

Having started this book up with the Christmas season in full swing plus all the other books sitting in my to-read pile, I just wasn’t compelled enough to keep on going *le sigh*

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DNF: The Fortune Hunter

Posted 25 July, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Fortune Hunter
By: Daisy Goodwin
Format/Source: galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley

Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as “Sisi,” is the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on the back of a horse.

Captain Bay Middleton is dashing, young, and the finest horseman in England. He is also impoverished, with no hope of buying the horse needed to win the Grand National—until he meets Charlotte Baird. A clever, plainspoken heiress whose money gives her a choice among suitors, Charlotte falls in love with Bay, the first man to really notice her, for his vulnerability as well as his glamour. When Sisi joins the legendary hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England, Bay is asked to guide her on the treacherous course. Their shared passion for riding leads to an infatuation that threatens the growing bond between Bay and Charlotte, and all of their futures.

I first heard of this novel in passing I believe in a list of “books to watch out for in 2014.” So when I saw the book on NetGalley, I had to check it out. Ever since I went to Austria a few years ago, I’ve been curious about the Austrian monarchy and Sisi; she’s not really mentioned much in the general European history courses and from what I saw at the Schonbrunn exhibit, she was quite the fashionable monarch of her time with a very interesting life. So I was quite happy when I was approved a copy of this novel to read.

Unfortunately after several chapters, I had to put it down. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on exactly; it felt like a parade of characters, I didn’t find Captain Bay Middleton very interesting, and it was like moving through the busy pump rooms of the 19th century. The opening chapter did not grab my attention enough to carry on and subsequent chapters left me feeling equally indifferent. Given this and the stack of books on my to-read pile that are also waiting to be read, I sadly had to put it down. I may change my mind in the future and pick this book up again, but for now it’s left as a DNF for me.

This book will be available on 10 July 2014.

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DNF: Scherzo

Posted 8 May, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

By: Jim Williams
Format/Source: eBook courtesy of the publishers via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

MEET two unusual detectives. Ludovico – a young man who has had his testicles cut off for the sake of opera. And Monsieur Arouet – a fraudster, or just possibly the philosopher Voltaire.

VISIT the setting. Carnival time in mid-18th century Venice, a city of winter mists, and the season of masquerade and decadence.

ENCOUNTER a Venetian underworld of pimps, harlots, gamblers, forgers and charlatans.

BEWARE of a mysterious coterie of aristocrats, Jesuits, Freemasons and magicians.

DISCOVER a murder: that of the nobleman, Sgr Alessandro Molin, found swinging from a bridge with his innards hanging out and a message in code from his killer.

Scherzo is a murder mystery of sparkling vivacity and an historical novel of stunning originality told with a wit and style highly praised by critics and nominated for the Booker Prize.

This novel was actually first published in 1999. I think what drew me to the novel was the location: 18th century Venice, the season of masquerade, and a murder mystery on top of it. I was approved a copy of this novel from the publishers via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme months back but it was only recently that I finally got around to starting it.

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DNF: In the Night of Time

Posted 10 January, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

In the Night of Time
By: Antonio Munoz Molina
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley

October 1936. Spanish architect Ignacio Abel arrives at Penn Station, the final stop on his journey from war-torn Madrid, where he has left behind his wife and children, abandoning them to uncertainty. Crossing the fragile borders of Europe, he reflects on months of fratricidal conflict in his embattled country, his own transformation from a bricklayer’s son to a respected bourgeois husband and professional, and the clandestine, all-consuming love affair with an American woman that forever alters his life.

Winner of the 2012 Prix Méditerranée Étranger and hailed as a masterpiece, In the Night of Time is a sweeping, grand novel and an indelible portrait of a shattered society, written by one of Spain’s most important contemporary novelists.

I was approved of an ARC of this title from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was so happy that I was approved a copy of this novel because Antonio Munoz Molina has been on my want-to-read for AGES (his other books that were translated to English, Sepharad and Manuscript of Ashes have been on my want-to-read list for a very long time).

I started reading this novel sometime last week and it started off nicely; there wasn’t much dialogue but there were some lines here and there that I really liked, I thought they were beautiful. After two – three chapters, I started wondering what was going on, where was the story headed. But at 20% into the novel, I finally had to put the book down and label it as a DNF. It pains me to do this–I had been looking forward to reading something by this author for so long–but I was already several chapters in and I’m still not feeling the story or the characters and it was actually quite a labour to get through those chapters. The writing, while curiously particular, is very dense. A lot of the time it’s just prose, with scant dialogue and without frequent paragraph breaks to break the ideas down. It makes it difficult to really understand what’s going on or why the information in the prose is important. The mind wanders. And this book is a big one: at 656 pages hardback, I don’t think I can handle the narrative style for any longer.

I may pick this title up again in the future but for now, I sadly place this book on the did-not-finish pile. (As a side note, yes, this is the first time I’m actually using the DNF designation here on my blog)

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