Eva Ibbotson: "A Company of Swans"

I read "A Company of Swans" in December 2009 together with "A Countess Below Stairs" by the same authors, when I just needed some not-too-stupid chicklit, basically comfort reads. Back from the library, I immediately sat down in my armchair and read bot.
"A Company of Swans" seemed to be the more elaborate of the two, as it not only gave insights to ballet, but also brought the reader to the Amazon in a rather believable way.

Harriet Morton is the shy daughter of an intolerant and controlling professor, who wants to marry her off to his assistant. Ballet being her only joy in life, her life changes all over when she is chosen by a visiting ballet master to accompagny his ensemble to the Amazon. Running away from her father, who later sends her fiancé in a quite burlesque search of her, she reaches the Amazon and meets the attractive Rom Verney. Very quickly, she suspects him to be a member of the very wealthy family in her hometown, of which the head just died. Throughout the whole novel, Rom and she have multiple misunderstandings, the more as they become lovers. For example, she believes that Rom is still in love with his former fiancée while Rom thinks she won't quit ballet for him (and actually despises his former fiancée).

Anyway, it's chicklit, but actually quite good one, as the setting and the background topic (ballet) and some great characters like the star ballerina and the ballet master - a very cute couple in their old days - make it more than just a love story. I also liked the comedic moments in it, especially when Harriet has to replace her friend for a job and jumps out of a cake to dance in a gentlemens' club, where her fiancé Edward turned out to be.

Reading updates in January

One year ago, I just had finished a lot of light reading to get through the dark Icelandic winter, especially chicklit seemed to be on my mood, among others The Nanny Diaries, the very awful Sex and the City and the surprisingly good Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
Now, because of exams and a tighter schedule evolving around courses and their preparation and also rugby, not so many books have been checked off.

I had to read the insightful but somewhat dense Imagined Community by Benedict Anderson for one of my courses, which I recommend to anyone interested in nationalisms and how they were born, give that you can stand through detailed Indonesian examples.

Then, after reading the last pages of A Passage to India by Forster that I started mid-december and did not get a chance to continue because of exams, I speeded through L'étranger by Albert Camus in one of my very boring courses to end it the night afterwards.
I absolutely loved Forster. I do not know how many times I picked up my pencil and marked sentences that were simply beautiful and very strong and universal. I am glad that I finally read one of his works and am really looking forward to pick up A Room with a View and Maurice.

Speaking of this French name, I have recently read The Amazing Maurice and his educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett for Marg's Pratchett challenge. More about this in a review, that I hopefully will not forget to write soonish...

And now, I am currently reading In the Walled Gardens by Anahita Firouz, a story on pre-revolutionary Iran, a setting I am particularly fond of.

Watching Castle

Castle's lesson of the day...

In this 11th episode of season 2 I am currently watching, one guy has been saved from a bullet by a copy of Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment in his inner jacket pocket.

Beckett: "Good thing he reads"
Ryan: "Good thing he reads Russian literature. If the guy was a Nicholas Sparks fan, he'd be dead."
We get it: reading dense (in every sense) literature instead of chicklit will save your life.

BBC Lost in Austen

At first I was sceptical about this BBC production (2008). A 21rst century Janeite does an Alice-in-Wonderland-kind of jump into the world of Pride and Prejudice and experiences what we all would love to: she takes Elizabeth Bennet's spot and meets another very handsome version of our beloved Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Most of the story evolves around her efforts to put everything "right", that is how Austen wrote it in her novel. But the more she tries, the messier it gets.
I will try not to reveal any spoilers here, but in many respects, the series does not end in a very concluding happy ending manner, as it leaves some blatant catastrophies (like Jane's marriage to a man who's not M. Bingley) unresolved, though with a lot of hope...
Even if I needed some time to get used to the alternate universe concept - I am not a huge fan of it - I soon started to love the story and the characters, their developments are audacious but work! Elizabeth's attraction towards our modern world seems natural and sincere, it is almost sad that we do not really see her story as she discovers Britain in the 21st century. M. Bingley is an even bigger coward in this series than he is usually depicted and therefore forces Jane's character to be even more accepting and endearing. Their story is a sad one.
Fitzwilliam Darcy is well written, handsome and perfectly conveying the legendary snobbish tenderness à la Darcy.
The other characters, especially Mrs Bennet, are extremely well cast and written and bring in numerous funny moments. Overall, Lost in Austen is a good comedy that shows how Austen's characters would react when confronted to our blunt manners and words.

To repeat it, I loved it and would recommend it to any Austen-lover; don't be afraid of the alternate universe - I'm sure our Jane Austen is not turning over in her grave.

What the library let me hunt down

Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, I already finished just now in my beloved armchair. It is a good story to read and reread, the ending is quite different from the movie.

If you let yourself love a wild thing. You'll end up looking at the sky.
Two by Eva Ibbotson, A Company of Swans and A Countess below Stairs, both often recommended to me and I was n the mood to alternate literature and chicklit. And Eva Ibbotson is a fantastic writer for children/young adults (I absolutely loved Secret of Platform 13), so her chicklit must be good stuff.

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is a book that I am not sure of having read, because I remember that the husband of my mother's friend gave it to me when I was thirteen and as it was not in a language that I liked to read (and I did not like his taste in books in general, and I did not like the cover, and he was a teacher who basically treated his whole surroundings, even friends and family, like pupils), I just skimmed through it or so I think. So this is a fresh start.

I have always liked novels about China, especially about Chinese women, be it in ancient or modern China or their lives as immigrants or whatever. Amy Tan has produced several novels of that kind now and after I finished The Bonesetter's Daughter totally enthralled, her other novel The Joy Luck Club immediately ended up on my TBR-pile. I found it today and will read it as one of the first.

As I let my eyes float over the bookshelves (because that is how I see it, my eyes are like sliding from one book spine to another, waves of thick paper), I saw the beautiful oriental style book spine of In the Walled Gardens by Anahita Firouz, set in Iran before and around the Revolution. I did not even finished reading the back description, there it already was in my pile to be taken home.

Looking forward to read all of them!

A Thanksgiving quote

I am currently watching the 8th episode of The Middle and obviously it is about all the trouble a family can have on the glorious day of Thanksgiving.
The ultra relaxed Axl goes with his brother Brick (yes..) to a corn maze, loses him there and completely freaks out: "He's got like a green jacket, a yellow hat and ... OMG, HE'S DRESSED LIKE CORN! We are never going to find him in here!" Turns around and there is Brick.

I will try my best tomorrow to find someone about whom I can say that he's dressed like corn. It's simply amazing.

Terry Pratchett 2010 Challenge

It is maybe not the best thing to sign up for another challenge (even when it goes for a whole year) just when you admitted to have technically failed one.

But it was just one book out of 5 for the Classics challenge! and almost every Austenite hates it! shouldn't have taken damn Mansfield Park, Fanny Price was unbearable once summer was over, in fall you need real women like Thursday Next in my current book The Eyre Affair, that I recommend highly by the way if you're not troubled by weird alternate universes and Crimean hundred year wars.

BUT this Terry Pratchett challenge at Marg's Reading Adventures is a must-do, I love having this cool death button on my blog (how I love Pratchett's Death! it must be one of the best written fantasy characters) and I already planned to read more of the Discworld so naturally I am signing up. But I'm playing it cool, I already restrained myself from joining the 100+ challenge. Of course I am secretly watching out for a 50+ one.. I had read 50 books this year by the end of June and afterwards slowed down with the end of the exchange year as "serious" college started again. For next year I will have to keep in mind that I will NOT have the time to read as much as last one. I'm not in Iceland anymore where long dark nights force you to either drown your brain cells with beer or read through the English section of the local library. And I am not an exchange student anymore who basically can do what the heck she wants.

Back to business, I am aiming at the 4-5 books to be a Guard of the City Watch (reading over 10 books would make me Death's apprentice, can you imagine? but I would never make it..).
Thinking about reading:
- Good Omens (with Neil Gaiman)
- Mort
- Making Money
- Small Gods
- Night Watch

Yay, looking forward to December 1rst!

Constantly changing places is inherent to my life. Books have always been steady friends which I could bump into wherever I was all over the world.
Stumbling upon Kaminer's German stories of "Die Reise nach Trulala" in Reykjavík's city library is as moving as meeting the Icelandic sagas in Boston's Borders.
To see a book again, that I've read thousands of kilometers away makes me smile "Hey I know you.." and shake hands by thumbing through it for a while.