Friday, 28 October 2016

Two books that come to mind when I see the word 'picture books'.

The question: What is you favourite classic picture book? 
Or you can tell us about a picture book you think
should/will become a classic.

Two books immediately come to mind when I think of favourite picture books.

I was first introduced to The Story of Ferdinand by Disney's animated version of it back when I was just a wee lass in single digits. It was one of my favourite stories; it's about a bull who loves to be left alone with flowers so he can smell them all day. He is a peaceable fellow, and gets in nobody's way as long as he has his flowers. It's a sweet story that I related to quite strongly, especially in empathising with a misunderstood Ferdinand who is carted off to the bull-fighting arena, his captors under the misapprehension that he is a fearsome fighter. He is soon booed off the arena and carted back to his favourite spot in the meadow under a tree to smell the flowers. 

Here is the Disney version for those who haven't watched it. It is only about seven minutes long, and lovely!

This is such a beautiful book. It is most certainly a book meant for adults than children, because at the end of the day it is the adult narrator in the book who learns deep-seated lessons from the quest of the little prince. It is such a precious story, sparkling with truths so sweetly hidden here and there. It is a book that makes you think, and it fills you with a sense of discovery. 

The Little Prince makes your heart ache. It is bittersweet. 

I have read this only as an adult, but I am glad I did so now rather than earlier. The essence would have been lost on me, and I might have ended up never reading it again. 

Have you any favourite picture books?

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

When a dancer gets to grace the stage at Moulin Rouge.

-crisp, entertaining,
and introspective-
4/5 stars on Goodreads
I recently read Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge by Cliff Simon (in collaboration with Loren Stephens) for France Book Tours. I went into this not knowing who Cliff Simon might be, and only a vague understanding of what Moulin Rouge is (some of which, I must admit, was due to the musical of the same name). However, a brief glance through the first chapter in the memoir on Amazon had me convinced that this could be an interesting read. And it was.

Paris Nights has a crisp, no-nonsense tone about it that appears to echo the personality of Cliff Simon. It was very to the point, and matter-of-fact -- an element I enjoyed very much whilst reading this memoir. It begins with Simon's dissatisfaction with the way his life is going at the age of twenty-six, when he gets a call from a good friend of his who is a dancer at the Moulin Rouge. Learning that there is a spot for him among the Moulin Rouge dancers, Simon sells everything he has and makes a beeline for Paris. 

However, before his memoirs of Paris begin, we are taken back in time to when he was a boy, and we are given something of a crash course in the making of Cliff Simon -- his family, his interests, his ambitions, and his choices that finally get him to where he is -- Moulin Rouge. I enjoyed every bit of this memoir, and I must admit to losing track of time because, after a really long while, I was able to finish a book in just one day! 

This memoir does portray a lifestyle that is foreign to me and, for the most part, goes against my moral fibre. But because the telling is so frank and open, one cannot find fault with it -- after all, it is a memoir; it has all happened already for better or for worse. It was, also, in many ways an eye-opener to me. We are given a glimpse of what lies under the glitter of Paris, and it is quite dark down there. 

We are also given brief but strong glimpses of arpatheid in South Africa (Simon's home country), and Simon's opinion of it is firm and unafraid. His love for his country is quite obvious from start to finish of the memoir, and also the effects of the struggle in the country during the '80s & '90s.   

I think, at the end of this reading, I was pleased that it wasn't something that was flighty and trivial, but was both entertaining and introspective when it needed to be. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The many faces of Shakespeare or a mere collection of collaborators?

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is one of my favourite plays.
It is powerful and shattering each time I read it. 
Many years ago, soon after I had had my first taste of Christopher Marlowe, my mother told me of the suspicion some scholars had that Marlowe was really Shakespeare. We spent a few evenings discussing this; or more to the point, I spent a few evenings listening to mum as, with an excited sparkle in her eyes, she expounded further into the theory. Mum loves her Shakespeare. But, just as some scholars were skeptical of the genius that could come from a mere grammar school, mum was hard pressed to believe the regular biography of William Shakespeare, and so was more inclined to believe that the dashing, mysterious yet brilliant Marlowe was the real face behind the large body of works we call Shakespeare. 

I jumped on the band wagon at once. My mother can convince anyone about anything when she waxes eloquently and passionately about something. The romance behind such an idea excited me -- could Marlowe really be Shakespeare? I was already in love with Marlowe. I had read his The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta. I was drawn to his passionate and raw voice. These plays held, not just so much thought, but so much emotion that was all out there. This made me so want Marlowe to be Shakespeare. It seemed so right. After all, it was he who set the trend for the blank verse; why could he not be responsible for having refined it in the plays attributed to William Shakespeare?

This caused me to do some reading up on Marlowe and I came across the theory that Marlowe did not really die from a tavern brawl. It was suggested that the tavern brawl was an excuse to stage Marlowe's death and get him out of the country for he was to be hanged. This theory, quite naturally, excited my imagination, and I was more than half-way convinced that this speculation was a reality. 

It took me a long while; I was quite
stubborn about liking Shakespeare
or giving him a chance really. But
now having put aside my rebellious
prejudice I am discovering what
has delighted readers for centuries.
Note that I say 'was'. When I got into this entire cover-up theory, I couldn't say I had really read Shakespeare. Sure, I'd studied his plays, about six of them through my undergrad and postgrad degrees. But, I hadn't really just sat down to read him for his art's sake. A few years ago, I began to pick up his works and 'read' them. At the same time, I read a few of Marlowe's plays as well. There were echoes of Marlowe to be sure, but it was not very consistent. The 'character' of Marlowe's plays was missing in Shakespeare. This left me dissatisfied with the latter. But then, I pressed on and began to delight in a few of Shakespeare's passages. It puzzled me how one man could write such exquisite poetry at one moment, and such bawdy and dreadful humour the next. 

But this article published by The Guardian only two days ago seems to shed some light on this discrepancy. 

It would appear that Shakespeare is beginning to look like a ghost name for many writers. I had no idea, until I read Christopher Marlowe credited as one of Shakespeare's co-writers, that for nearly four decades scholars have identified other hands in Shakespeare's works. Apparently, many plays look like they have been written as collaborations, and most recently there is evidence that Marlowe himself was a collaborator. I find this last a bit puzzling for, if I am not wrong, Marlowe died the very same year that Shakespeare published his first play. 

However, I refuse to speculate over it. I shall leave that to the scholars. It has been a few years now since I have decided that speculating on the true authorship of Shakespeare's plays does not really do anyone any good. It can't matter very much to anybody right now, can it? I mean, could learning about these authorships make any difference to anything? We would still read Shakespeare, and enjoy the good plays and secretly wonder at the horrendous parts, and probably for the scholarly it would be fresh opportunity to puzzle over the various men who contributed to the plays; but at the end of the day 'dead men tell no tales' or more to the point, they don't really care. It is over. The deed is done. Let's go read some Shakespeare. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Ten Characters I Might Like to Name a Cat or Dog After

This week's Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and Bookish was fun to put together. I don't have any pets, and I am not much of an animal person. I mean, I like animals as long as they keep their distance...and they aren't lizards *shudders*. Anyway, I have put together names I would have liked to have given a cat or a dog had I been inclined towards having pets. 

5 Names for a Dog:

1. Frodo from The Lord of the Rings. I imagine he would be a tiny dog. A lassapso maybe.

2. Caesar from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Okay, so Caesar was more a title, true, and not a character, but that's still a name out of Shakespeare! 

3.  Sir Orfeo by the Pearl Poet. I picked the name up from Tolkien's translation of the same, though. I can imagine a lumberous labrador, master of his domain.

4. Ichabod from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I imagine this guy is going to be hiding under the covers during thunder storms!!

5. Earnest from The Importance of Being Earnest. Yep! This is one earnest looking dog!

5 Names for a Cat:

1. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I don't know why, but this sounds like such a dignified name for a dignified creature.

2. Huckleberry from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. So, I can see this tom cat coming in once every week looking like he's been on an adventure.

3. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice. Doesn't it sound like a cool name for a cat? All prideful and aloof. 

4. Longshanks from Edward Longshanks. Again, a person right out of history. But then, he's a name in a piece of fiction too. A long-legged cat. 

5. Uncle Tom from Uncle Tom's Cabin. I dunno. He's a very knowledgable looking tom cat. 

So, there we have it! 10 names for dogs and cats. I've just realised that they're all names for males. Hmmm...

Do you like any of the above? What character would you name your cat or dog after? Or have you already a pet you've given a favourite fictional name to?

Monday, 17 October 2016

Brona's Salon: In which I talk about the biography of a passionate convert.

Brona's Salon is a brand new meme that encourages book-talk. She has some simple standard questions that need to be answered, and hopefully this will spark off some interest and discussion. 

What are you currently reading?

How did you find out about this book?
I happened to be browsing through the "Christian books" category in Kindle Unlimited when I came across this book. I was attracted by the title, and when I read the blurb I noticed it was about a very well known, well loved and well respected man of God from my hometown.

Why are you reading it now?
I was quite thrilled when I discovered this book because it is always fascinating to hear of adults finding Christ, especially when they have been deeply steeped in the culture and traditions of their family religions. Dr Rajkumar is a convert from a Brahmin family, and whilst I know the gist of how his conversion took place, reading all about it in detail makes it all the more real. 

First impressions?
This biography has been written by Dr Rajkumar's son. His language is literary in its style and flows smoothly. Akshay is not simply intent on getting his father's life across to the reader, but chooses to do so episodically. We jump from one incident to a thought to a piece of family history to a meeting at one point of time back to the first incident and so on. But whilst the narrative hops around and about the place, I find it works well, and I am hooked.

Which character do you relate to so far?
This is real life. This biography gives me a strong sense of joy and purpose; there is excitement in understanding the experiences and miracles Dr Rajkumar and his wife go through because many of these are true in my life and the life of my loved ones as well. It is beautiful and uplifting. 

Are you happy to continue?
But, of course! In fact, I chucked the e-book and got myself a hard copy so that I can pass it on to my husband once I am done. 

Where do you think the story will go?
The story is still going on as Dr Rajkumar goes around India and the world, a small, humble man being used mightily by God.


Sunday, 16 October 2016

An intriguing retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Beauty and the Beast".

It hasn't been a week as yet since I began the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge with Sang, my best friend, and I have already finished two books. This means I have checked off:
  • a book written by a celebrity
  • a book based on a fairytale
The following is the review of the second category. (The review for the book by the celebrity will be up on the 26th of October on Goodreads. I read it for a blog tour hosted by France Book Tours.)

The Enchanted Rose by R M ArceJaeger
-a riveting, and imaginative retelling-
4/5 stars on Goodreads
The Enchanted Rose very seamlessly intertwines two well-known fairytales -- Sleeping Beauty and Beauty & the Beast. It begins with the Kingdom of Narthar having a new heir after many years -- a daughter. The entire kingdom is invited to celebrate with the royal household, and the neighbouring king and his family have been called as well. During the gifting ceremony, one of the fairies is tricked into giving a magical gift to the baby, and soon all the other fairies follow. To explain the consequences of this folly is to give away the little things that make up the whole story. However, tragedy ensues out of jealousy, greed and pride, and three young lives are innocently caught up and changed for better or for worse.

I wouldn't like to say more than this because this would give away the manner in which the fairytales are intertwined. However, I must say that ArceJaeger (Is this a pen name? I find it very strange.) seems to have taken a leaf out of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and given the reader footnotes that explain the history and magic of the faeries who arrived amongst the humans centuries before the story begins. They act like interesting little snippets that enhance the authenticity of the world she is writing in.

Right up to half way through the book I was sure I was giving this 5 stars. The story and the writing style flow well. The premise and world-building was interesting. I was even willing to ignore the strange names that the author had for the kingdoms and its people (incredibly random, like they were made up by stringing together letters on the spur of the moment). However, midway through part 2 of the novel things begin to slow down a bit. It is understandable, of course, when you find that this is the time the Beast and the young lady are getting to know each other and become friends. But then, having taken her time with them, I felt the author might have provided just a little more detail to the end. As it was, it felt rushed. Whilst up until then we knew what the two main characters were feeling, their voices were woefully missing towards the end of the tale. This is not to say that it was badly done. Just that I wish it was done better.

On the whole, though, this was quite a riveting and imaginative retelling of these fairytales. ArceJaeger created characters one could like or just be plain annoyed at.

Reading through a challenge with my bestie.

Recently, when I got together with my best friend to play catch-up with our lives, she told me she and a colleague-cum-friend of hers were working on a reading challenge together. Having begun only this month she asked me if I would like to join in, and my response was quite enthusiastic. 

We're going through the PopSugar Reading Challenge 2016. However, as we have only begun this in October of 2016, we will be continuing with the challenge through to October 2017. 

I've opened up this new blog to just keep track of the reading and perhaps add my reviews in here as well. My goodreads account will still hold the majority of my reviews, but I think I would simply like to have this blog up to take part in challenges or read-alongs or memes without feeling the need to keep this constantly updated. 

It's a pressure I feel with my old blog of six years, no matter how many times I tell myself I am  going to take it slow. I began by promoting it as much as I could. But I don't want to promote this one. This is for me and my randomness, and for anyone who doesn't mind the randomness either.