REVIEW: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

36439363I am not a reader of romance novels. When I thought to give it a try, I spent a cople weeks looking for something that wasn’t an harmony or a rip-off of 50 shades. I had almost given up when I stumbled into Maddie Dawson’s last book.

I really enjoyed the premises of the story: girl meets her fiancé family and they are terrible, except for the weird great-aunt that everyone ignores. Too strange for a good family in high society. But marnie’s wedding goes sideways and when Blix’s dies from cancer, she inherits her Brooklyn house. With all the magic and the people living in it.

I appreciated the fact that this book, though a romance novel, is about finding out what you want from life and where’s the place you belong to. Usually romance media are concerned only with love, leaving all else in the background like life stops because you’re in love. In Matchmaking for Beginners, Marnie has also to understand if the life she has always dreamt about is also the life she wants. She makes friends along the way, so we see different love potrayed in the novel (family love, friendship, eros). I appreciated this side of the narration.

However, there were many downsides to this book.
First and foremost, there were too many males in this story for the romance to be believable. Marnie goes from divorce to new boyfriend to new fiancé to going to bed with her ex-husband to finding the love of her life in a span of four months. Things that make you go mmmh. If there had been more pages, or the narration had spanned at least a year, it might have made more sense. Like this, it seems that Marnie is desperatly looking for a lover instead of falling in love, which should be her growth arc, especially when Patrick is concerned. Speaking of which, I haven’t really felt their relationship build up. Their moments happen when the reader was already supposed to know that Marnie was in love with him and prior to that their friendship wasn’t shown much. Yes, I would’ve read chapters made entirely of texts and messages between the two of them. I hoped there was at least one.
I feel like the author wanted to make her experience a quicker version of Blix’s: the self-centered husband who goes to Africa, the boring one and the final, perfect match. But what makes Blix believable is that she was 80 years old and that her experiences happened organically throughout her life. Since it takes away the credibility of the story, I wouldn’t have put this parallel between the two of them. The idea of Marnie being a sort of spiritual daughter to Blix could’ve been reinforced with more universe blessings and magic.

At least the characters were decent. Noah was enough of a brat to hate him and when you can hate a character, then the writer has done her job. I have no opinion on Jeremy, which might be the point since he was supposed to be the boring guy. Did I like the implicit “nice guy” thing when Marnie dumped him again? No, of course not. I found Marnie to be the least relatable of the lot, while Blix was the most interesting. I also enjoyed how Patrick was portrayed: he was the typical nice but damned, don’t pity me guy, but he wasn’t trope-y (as it’s cool to say nowadays) about it. If only we could’ve seen more of his development arc! If only!
I enjoyed the writing, though I found the story to slow after Marnie goes to Brooklyn and starts to settle, since nothing really happens for some chapters and I couldn’t see the point in all the pages when there was nothing going on.

In the end I gave two stars to this book. I enjoyed reading it even, but it’s started dragging on a bit after the first half and the romance wasn’t portrayed in a way I could relate to. I enjoyed the characters, but there wasn’t much in term of the relationship built between characters.

firma

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REVIEW: Jane & Prudence by Barbara Pym

A1IuI2HRDSL.jpgI’ve had a copy of Jane and Prudence sit in my Kindle since I finished Excellent Women last January. I don’t read many classics from the 50s but sassy depictions of British society never fail to make me laugh. I distractedly started it because I felt guilty I hadn’t got to it already and found myself unable of putting it down.

The book follows the life of Jane, a vicar’s wife, and her friend Prudence, a young “spinster”. Jane’s family moves to a country village and she is full of expectations about their new life there. Unfortunately, her hopes clash with the reality of her sharp tongue and sometimes inappropriate (for a clergyman’s wife) manners.

Anything was better than having to pretend you had winter and summer curtains when you had just curtains

Despite being aware of her shortcomings it doesn’t seem that she does much to master herself. And if it’s true that her husband shows himself bothered by her remarks, he isn’t a stranger to quirky behaviour himself. His soap carved into animal form is just the most striking evidence of it.

Then there’s Prudence, whose defining trait seems to be her past, failed relationship. She works and lives in London, but Jane worries about her possible spinsterhood. Fancying herself “an Emma Woodhouse” she decides to introduce Prudence to Fabian, the village widower. I admit that I don’t know why she wanted the two of them to fall in love and marry; I wouldn’t give a friend to a man that is a known cheater. Their relationship seems to take off at first, but Prudence doesn’t appear to be really in love with him. She doesn’t seem to have ever been in love at all. Even if it’s Jane the scatter-brained ones, with her flights of imagination, Prudence is a romantic (in the most Byronian sense) in how she approaches her relationships.

It certainly is a British novel. That genre of British novels where people’s passions, shortcomings and behaviour are dissected and put onto paper with grace, wit and charm. I did find the writing lovely and I believe the book is worth reading more for the writing than for the story. And talking about the story, there are no big things happening; the book is more an observation of the life of underemployed, educated women. Jane gave up her literary career and Prudence is stuck with a job where she herself doesn’t know what is that she does.
Pym’s observations revolve around marriage, the relationship between man and women, and life. Her insights are pretty much what you’d expect from an observant woman of the 50s especially when she is describing marriages that are, in some aspects, unsatisfactory.
What I find disappointing of the two novels I read by Pym is the lack of development. At the end of the book, the characters are as they were at the beginning. The narrative climax comes and goes without the characters taking any notice of it. It does take pleasure away from the reading, especially because it’s a portray of common life and we don’t have much happening in the book at all. It made me feel disappointed because Prudence had so much to gain and all it took was to take one sentence away from the ending.

Overall, I liked the book. At first, I got grabbed quickly by the narration and I wanted to know everything about the characters. Three chapters from the ending I started to feel a bit disappointed because of where the story was going, but I believe the book was worth it. It is a pleasurable reading if the genre is your cup of tea. I’m not sure I’m interested in reading other Pym’s works, though.

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A Dream come True

Months ago I applied for a library job. It’s not a real job, it’s more like some kind of internship/voluntary work sponsored by the Government. At first, it seemed I didn’t get the job and that disappointed me a lot. They don’t pay much, but it’s work still and I would’ve loved to be given the opportunity to work in a library.

Surprise, surprise I got a call this morning and was offered the position, I might start before the end of the month. Which means some sure, extra cash and working with books.  Not bad. They said this library also has a museum next to it which is super cool since I already work as a keeper and a guide in an anatomical museum. I never mentioned this, but it’s the best job I ever had (up until now) and I love to show people around our anatomical collection.

So I’ll be a clumsy librarian that works with the dead. Just like the protagonist of my favourite childhood movie! Hopefully, it won’t get to reorganizing an entire library.

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I’m a bit worried, but also excited and I can’t wait for the job to start!

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REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

855060I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it was a decent read. It wasn’t the book I expected to read and certainly not what the synopsis painted it to be. It started like the mystery novel it should be: the neighbour’s dog is killed and Christopher, the protagonist, wants to know who’s the killer. We’re also introduced into Chris’s world: his school, his routine, his likes and dislikes, his way of thinking. It was an engaging read, though Chris doesn’t find any leads for his investigations. He might have if his logical brain had understood other people’s feelings better.
By the time we understand who the murderer is, we are much more concerned with another discovery: Christopher’s mother isn’t dead. She lives in London with the man she eloped with.
This second half of the book felt dull and boring. The narrator repeats himself over and over, which I found a bit heavy at this point. Christopher takes everything literally and that’s how he explains himself. Since the book is written in the first person, there’s a lot of repetition that stands in the way. I can understand when he repeats himself about his dislikes and the things making him uncomfortable. However, the “he said” and the “then I said” during the conversations, for instance, slow the narration without adding anything to it.
Truth be told, I could have accepted any and all repetitions if the story had been handled a bit better. The meeting with his mother, her reaction, the two of them going back to Swindon and the ending felt a bit rushed. I would’ve preferred to see how Christopher reworked the relationship with his father, for example. The mother’s internal struggle is another thing I wish we could’ve seen. I know this is impossible because of who narrates the book, but I believe it would’ve been rather interesting to explore.

I understand why it is so praised and recommended so much, despite having a style that is bound not to suit everyone’s tastes. It’s a successful portrait and study of a character. Unfortunately, I can’t really look past how bored I felt after around page 140. It was nice, but it had its flaws. Don’t read it if you want a story. Read it if you want to get into someone else’s mind.

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My 2018 Books

2018 was a nice reading year, though a bit strange. I had one of the biggest reading slumps ever recorded, lasting August to October, but Miss Austen pulled me out of it.
I particularly appreciated Chris Priestley in this second half of the year, his Tales of Terror are always chilling. I re-discovered A Little Princess, one of my childhood favourites, and read more middle-grade than I had thought possible between November and December.

Books Read: 54
Number of pages: 10.469
DNF: 1
Most-read genre: non-fiction

I wanted to write reviews for at least half of the book I read, and I didn’t. I wanted to finally note down my thoughts while reading books, and I didn’t. I’ll try and make use of the Moleskine Passion Books that I got years ago and try to update Goodreads monthly instead of daily. It really doesn’t matter which day I finish a book, in the end.
I still don’t want to set goals for my reading life, though there are books I am interested in reading sooner rather than later. One thing I want to do is reading longer books. There are some I never start because I fear it’ll take forever for me to end them, and I put them off for months (and years).

And now in no particular order, my 5 favourite books of 2018!

  1. A Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison – Fallout was based on a movie that was based on a book, and the book is awesome. Really enjoyed Ellison’s writing style, I still need to put my hands on all his other books.
  2. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede –  a princess goes living with a dragon and gets entangled with Dragon drama. Loved it because it’s fun and fresh, perfect book to chill for a couple hours.
  3. Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley – the perfect read for October.
  4. Celtic Goddesses by Miranda Green – a comprehensive work of the mythological motifs behind the images of Celtic Goddesses. If you’re interested in Celtic myths, I highly recommend it.
  5. German Autumn by Stig Dagerman – the account of the Dagerman’s journey to post-WW2 Germany, this book is food for thought. It’s a shame it’s so underrated.

Happy New Year everyone!

firma

Hello, old friend

Re-reading Pride & Prejudice is always a pleasing experience. Every time I do, something catches my eyes and this time it was the witty use of language. I only read this book in English once, in 2013, and it was my first ever book read completely in English (no abridged version, no excerpts: an entire book!). It was also my first year of university and my level has significantly improved over the last five years; it was much more of a pleasure to understand all the minute details used in the dialogues by Austen.

The language used in translation will always reflect the time period in which the translation occurred. My beloved first copy was published between the late 90s and the first 00s, as I read it in 2006, but there is no match with the original work. I was delighted to catch all the details in Elizabeth’s speech that I had missed before, her manner of speech is frank and yet manages to feel

I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me

What I like in novels of this period (XVIII – XIX century) is the way authors seem to so gently express themselves and convey their ideas. If anyone were to employ this style now we’d call them outdated and frilly. Maybe it’s the romantic in me that finds it delightful, or maybe it’s because to wander on those words gives me hope. Maybe one day I’ll be half as good as these authors at expressing myself.

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