call me by your name by Andre Aciman

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Thoughts – Before Reading

Before I read the book I was wondering what the experience would be like. I knew roughly what it was about but I worried that I wouldn’t like it because it would be too stream of consciousness or even abstract for myself. So there was concern for me from the get go which is one of the reasons I did not buy it at BookPeople when I saw it. (A decision I am still ashamed of.) The cover looked interesting and the title was something that immediately caught my eye. Eventually, it was the fact that it was a gay coming of age story between a young boy and an older man that did it for me. Any story coming of age done right is lovely, but I don’t usually see it done like this and I was intrigued.

Thoughts – While Reading

OMFG! My heart!

That’s about all that can be said about that.

Thoughts – Post Reading

DEAD!

My life was consumed after I read the book. My world no longer turned for anything except to look for Oliver and Elio and then to turn into Elio myself and ask where my life went wrong and wonder where my Oliver is! But then I had to realize, right Tortie, you’re being crazy. These are story characters and need to calm down. So after realizing I am in fact not Elio looking for Oliver, I simply sat there and silently cried at the beautiful story that had consumed my life. It is one of the most invasive reads I have ever had in that I still cannot get over the story and how much it impacted me. Before I knew it, it had wormed its way into every part of my life and there was no getting it out.

Review

I first came across call me by your name by Andre Aciman on a Goodreads search when I looking up queer fiction. It popped up and I tried finding it in my local public library. However, they did not have it and that was that. It wasn’t until my writing partner brought it up again that I remembered, ‘oh yeah, I wanted to read that book’ and it was upon her insistence that I moved it up on my list of reading priorities. I found it at another public library, after shamefully not insta-buying it at BookPeople, and when I began to read it I knew I was hooked.

A book that completely took over my mind, body, and soul, I couldn’t put it down. I read and re-read passage after passage; took copious notes but never enough and cried and sobbed as the story developed. A story about the summer that changed Elio for the rest of his life and his encounter with the man that would forever haunt him. This story speaks to all of us with a ‘could have been’ love story. If it had been another time, it would have worked. If it had been the right place, it would have worked. And this is the ultimate story that we know would have worked had it been the right time and the right place, but it wasn’t. A haunting and raw telling of the love story that could have been but never was and the ever present ghosts that keep telling you that he is still here.

The main characters in the story are Elio and Oliver told from Elio’s perspective. Immediately we know that Oliver has an impact on Elio and we quickly see just how present the new guest at his parent’s summer home is in Elio’s mind. A normal 17-year old boy with less social practice than most, Elio is shy, quiet, and introverted. That does not, however, keep him from longing for the charismatic Oliver’s attention. Free and easy-going, Oliver seems to be the complete opposite of Elio and he quickly comes to terms with the fact that Oliver will never see anything in an inexperienced kid like himself.

Poetic, intelligent and academic, the two bond over their love for music, literature and the arts and they quickly realize they are getting a little too close for comfort. Even though told completely from Elio’s perspective, the two characters grow into 3-dimensional and flawed characters that are so real, you can almost feel the book pulse with their life blood.

Put these two very real and raw hearts against one of the most honest backgrounds I’ve read and you get a story that is sometimes more alive than the deadpan humans ghosting around you. Alive with humor, sarcasm and humanity, the entire cast creates a world that you forget is fabricated out of ink and paper and when you resurface, you wonder if you really hadn’t just stepped off a beach in Italy.

Elio and Oliver are flawed. You won’t always like them and at times, I wanted to strangle them both. The supporting cast is inconvenient and overbearing at times for the two guys still testing their limits and you can’t help but smile at how genuine their concern is. You can almost bet that you are looking into a magic mirror and seeing an evening on the far side of the world in real time. Alive and vibrant, colorful, flawed and raw; even though they came into my life as paper and ink, they quickly became even more real than the person standing next to me in line for coffee.

The setting of the story was in Italy and Rome but firstly in Elio’s head. Before we see anything else we first must go through Elio’s memories and then to see the Italy and Rome that changed his life forever. Haunted by ghosts of a past he can never forget and loves to relive, the setting is always shrouded in an almost invisible gray veil of what could have been. There is a hint of sadness wherever we go because we know and he knows that it is not meant to be.

The bookstores and convenience shops seem to be abandoned buildings brought back to life by the vivid and obsessive memory of one that cannot let go. You never forget where you are or what the story is and the way we go through that summer and then life after Oliver adds an extra layer of bittersweet nostalgia that makes all those already memorable places singe into your  mental eye – never to be forgotten.

The plot of the story is different than in most. There really is no plot save for the telling of a good story and you know how it all comes to pass long before you turn the page and Oliver is gone.

Despite having an unconventional plot line, there are subplots that wrinkle the perfect trajectory of the story. The book is not only a memory, it is also the fights and instances that shaped the rest of Elio’s life. So even though he recalls everything with smooth and vivid clarity, we get to peal away that very lacquered layer of fine oil to reveal the original beaten and battered wood that shaped him into the adult reliving the past.

From the get-go, the conflict of the book is ‘Does Oliver like me?’ and ‘How do I act around him to make sure I am doing it right?’ The conflict at its core is a young boy trying to figure out how to act around the guy that he likes. He’s trying to be mature so as to impress Oliver but he can’t help but be a spoiled child at times and he hates himself for it. Once the feelings are out in the open, there is the guilt of wondering if what he did was right or if maybe they shouldn’t have done it in the first place. And after Oliver leaves, it’s Elio trying to live with himself and the absence and hold Oliver left.

The constant throughout the book is that Oliver is part of the conflict in some manner or another and Elio is constantly struggling with his presence and lack thereof.

The resolution of the story was hardly a resolution at all. It was more of a ‘this is how life goes’ sort of ending that made me want to wail and cry at the top of my lungs and beg Mr. Andre Aciman to say it isn’t so! But it is. And I cried.

A real life story sort of an ending, it didn’t end the way I wanted it to but the way I knew it would from the first moment I read the very painful blurb. A haunting and exquisite story that will be with me for the rest of my life, I couldn’t have asked for a more emotionally taxing and stunning ride. Elio and Oliver will live on with me as the ghosts that haunt Elio to the very end. The hope he feels even 20 years after that fateful summer will forever leave me with tearful desire that Oliver, at the last moment of the last day before they parted for the last time called Elio by his name.

 

 

 

 

 

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Events! May Third Thursday: Writing Contemporary Love Stories

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Hello everyone!

Today I attended the May Third Thursday: Writing Contemporary Love Stories at BookPeople, hosted by the Writers’ League of Texas! It was my first ever event with WLT and first Third Thursday meeting but it was so much fun! I got to meet some awesome writers, hear awesome discussion about the craft and get to know another local book joint! So, let’s get started!

Event – Review

This Third Thursday meeting focused on writing about modern romance. Topics that were addressed included traditional vs modern romance, dating in these new times, and the challenges that contemporary romance writers face, both old and new. The panel was great! The writers present were Clara Bensen, Liana LeFey, Benjamin Reed, and Paige Schilt. A very diverse and well spoken panel, these awesome writers really showed us the craft of writing romance from very different perspectives.

As someone that is not a romance writer, it was extremely educational. I personally got to speak to Liana LeFey and Benjamin Reed, both fantastic people, and found them to be very supportive and very welcoming. The entire group was welcoming of both seasoned and novice romance writers and they were very friendly.

A great first taste with the awesome crowd of romance writers and the WLT, I can’t wait for the next Third Thursday meeting which will cover pitching novels to editors and agents in light of the writing conference just around the corner!

BookPeople!

So, because I am a derp, this was my first time in BookPeople and my gosh, have I been missing out! The building is huge and upon walking in, I couldn’t help but just gawk at how massive and beautiful the store was. Of course, as luck would have it, three employees were there to welcome their fellow book lovers and I’m almost positive they were thinking, ‘what is wrong with this girl?’. However, because everyone can human more than I can, they smiled and welcomed me. I quickly put my tongue back in my mouth and shuffled away to recompose myself before returning to the gawking and ooh-ing and ah-ing of the very lovely store I had the privilege of gracing.

Completely spectacular, wonderful and just about every other positive word you can think of! This is a paradise for a book lover looking to become a part of a community of fellow bookish folks and support the local Austin scene!

Overall, a fantastic event with fantastic people! So happy I went! I will provide links to all these writers, as well as the WLT and BookPeople websites for reference! I am also going to read Once a Courtesan by Liana LeFey.

Something I really took away is that romance isn’t just a love story rehashed with some sexy time in it. When a book is categorized as ‘romance’, something Liana LeFey really stressed, the writer is making a promise to the reader that the writer has a responsibility to deliver. The way she very passionately defended her audience against misrepresentation really moved me and stayed with me. To label something as romance is to promise a happy ending, character development, and the idea that love conquers all. When a reader picks a book from the romance section, they are looking to escape from this world into a lovely fantasy and to fall short of that promise, is a disservice to the audience. I was moved by how much Liana LeFey defended her audience and I respect her for it. She doesn’t like misrepresentation messing with her readers and I love her for that.

Overall, fantastic event, fantastic people, and an all around fantastic night! I am looking forward to the next meeting!

Thank you everyone for reading!

Love,

The Reading Tortie

 

Authors:

Liana LeFey – http://lianalefey.com/

Clara Bensen – http://www.clarabensen.com/

Benjamin Reed – http://benjamin-reed.com/

Paige Schilt – https://queerrocklove.com/author/schiltp/

Hosts:

Writers’ League of Texas – http://www.writersleague.org/

BookPeople – http://www.bookpeople.com/

 

Malvern Books – http://malvernbooks.com/

On Books – In the beginning . . .

I’m writing a pretty tough piece right now, so to lighten my mood, I’m reflecting on something funny in my life.

When I first started reading books, I was very, very nervous. I didn’t know what books to read or what a genre really was. I had very little experience in my own school library – a tragic short coming of the American public school system – and the concept of picking a book I actually wanted to read was more than just abstract. It was almost nonexistent. I didn’t know what books I could possibly enjoy and the concept of a story I picked for myself was so far beyond me, looking back, I am surprised I even knew what a book really was.

It’s funny to think that someone would ever have to explain what a book was to me, but it was really something so confusing. I didn’t know how to properly use the library and I didn’t know what it was to pick a book by reading the synopsis. So, I usually would absently go to the shelf, grab a book that caught my attention and check it out. Only later did I eventually think to read the synopsis, but only in middle school and onward.

As I grew older, my grasp on what a book was really began to solidify. The very first book I ever finished was the third Harry Potter book, and it took me about 2 years to finish. I was in fourth grade and finishing the book was possibly one of the biggest milestones in my childhood. I used to pick books that were really chunky because I felt super cool reading them and it was that year that I understood what it was to read a book by consciously picking it up.

I started reading more, usually books a little too difficult for me but I didn’t like the stories that were meant for my reading level. I began reading books outside of school that I could convince my parents to buy me from the Wal Mart or HEB in my town.

I used my book money as wisely as possible. It was very little money I had and I didn’t want to pick a book that I would regret. As a result, most of the books I got were nonfiction reference materials about animals and geography. One of the first fiction books I ever bought was To Kill a Mockingbird. I was 11 years old when I bought it and I put it down half way. It was too abstract and difficult for me. But I didn’t get rid of it. When I read it again later in high school, I loved it.

I would never buy books when we visited big cities. I never asked to visit the book store, even though I was offered it, because I knew I would be the only one to enjoy it and we usually had other things others wanted to do. I didn’t mind not going. Besides, I couldn’t fathom going into a book store and restraining myself to any sort of budget. I knew that if I was offered to buy books the following would happen: 1 – I would explode from the excitement, 2 – I would be in there all day, and 3 – I would be so damn lost because I had absolutely no idea how to buy a book.

I’ve come so far and it really astounds me that I am where I am when it comes to book reading and buying. I got my first library card last year, at the ripe old age of 24. I know, it’s beyond me how I didn’t do it sooner. And I surprise myself to see how far I’ve come since my very first unsteady steps in picking out books for myself.

My system for picking books still hasn’t really changed. 🙂 I go to a book store and I usually have absolutely no idea what books I’m going to get. I don’t have a real list of favorite authors, save for three or four, and I usually don’t even look at their names when picking them out. I usually go to the clearance section of the Half Price I’m at, because that’s my bookstore of choice, and I pick out whatever title catches my eye. I glance at the back – is it set before the 1600s? Yes? In the basket. No? Is it general fiction with any sort of disturbing or theme I find unique? Yes? In the basket. No? I’ll pass. And that’s pretty much it. 🙂 I’ll buy books without even knowing their titles if I like the way the pages feel. Not the most advanced system but it works! And about 1,000 books later, can’t say I would change it for the world.

By using this system, I find myself exploring anything and everything that could possibly catch my eye. I don’t limit myself to genre, author, or much of anything by allowing myself to be a blank slate and reading anything and everything. I have a few books set in modern times, though those are still difficult for me to buy. But for the most part, I’ll read anything recommended to me. 🙂

I want to read everything I can get my hands on, whether it’s a me book or not. I want to expand my literary horizons and truly understand and refine my taste in books. I want to understand why I love the books I love and I want to understand why I don’t like the books I don’t like.

For someone who didn’t even understand what a book really was until the age of about 10, I think I’ve come pretty far. And I still have so much further to go!

 

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

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After reading The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran, I knew I had to read Nefertiti. I have a special fondness for Nefertiti. She was the first ancient Egyptian queen I fell in love with when I was 11 years old. After that came Hatshepsut and then Nefertari. This is a book I read through as quickly as I could and even then I couldn’t read it fast enough! I felt like I was there in the ancient court of Akhenaten. A woman known as one of the most beautiful and powerful rulers to ever live in Ancient Egypt, this book was everything I wanted and more. The story leapt off the pages at you and I couldn’t have been happier.

The characters in this story are some of the most well written characters I have ever read. Like always, Ms. Moran puts her best foot forward in all of her writing and the finished product is absolutely astounding. Told from the point of view of Nefertiti’s younger sister, Mutnodjmet, at first I felt leery about it. Initially disappointed I wouldn’t see the world through the queen’s eyes, I quickly saw how critical this decision was in the writing of this book.

Nefertiti is a very lively and ambitious character. She moved a million miles a minute in the book, just as I’m sure she did in real life. Nothing ever slowed her down and she kept looking to the future and beyond, just like her husband. To have the story told from her perspective and to keep it true to what I believe Nefertiti was like in ancient times, would have been to get a story revolving around Akhenaten and Amarna. The rest of Egypt would have been a passing thought if not completely forgotten.

I quickly fell in love with Mutny, as she was so endearingly called by her sister, and the cast of the story. Even the most minor characters were multi-dimensional. Not once did I see a character that was flat. Every single person in this story, from the Vizier Ay to the jealous second-wife Kiya, had a moment of development in the story. The character of Nefertiti was slowly unwrapped before our eyes through the very sensible and grounded eyes of Mutny. By the end of the story, I felt like Nefertiti had been my own sister and like I knew her from the inside out. Not even the larger than life Akhenaten could steal the lime light from Nefertiti.

It was also a very pleasant surprise to see that even the ‘bad guys’ of the book weren’t one dimensionally evil. They were complex characters that had conflicting emotions that, although were motivated by selfish gain, could be at times sympathized with. For a writer to create an antagonist that can make a reader feel sympathy for their cause is nothing short of remarkable. It really shows that Ms. Moran really knew and understood every single character she brought to the page.

The setting of the book is well balanced. We got an entire tour of Ancient Egypt and the palaces in the few hundred pages we had. We moved from Memphis, to Thebes, Amarna and back. We visited many palaces and Audience Chambers and it seemed as though I was there looking at the painted mosaics that the writer described. Everything was in vivid and exquisite detail. The gardens that we could hardly imagine in the desert of modern-day Egypt were painted so vividly I felt I could reach out and touch them with my hand. The sand seemed to get caught in between my teeth and by the time I put the book down, I felt like I had to shake some Egyptian sand from my sandals. The entire world completely immersed you and when I paused to look around my room, I was startled at the fact that I was in fact not in the Riverside Palace.

The plot of the book was exceptionally well executed. Considering Nefertiti is one of the most mysterious queens of the ancient world because her name was almost completely wiped out from existence, I felt like everything in the book was very believable. The personality given to Nefertiti who was the real driving force behind everything in this book was very genuine and true to me. She would have been the diva and pampered royal with her husband wrapped around her finger. She would have been the selfish and spoiled sister that wanted to be the center of the universe and she, of course, was never to blame. And the more I saw the plot develop and the more divaesque I saw her, the less I hated her. Mutny really did make it almost impossible to hate the sister she so adored.

So many unexpected twists and turns, the plot of this book will leave you reeling for more. The conspiracies and lies that pushed Nefertiti and her Egypt are almost too astounding to comprehend. It seems almost too unbelievable but the simple fact that Akhenaten tried to kill all of their gods and raise only one above all else, really makes everything else much easier to swallow.

The liberties taken to push the plot forward seemed historically accurate because of how seamless everything flowed. The drought, famine, plagues – everything was perfect! Nothing was out of place!

The conflict of this story from the very beginning was between Akhenaten and the empire. A king determined to redo Egypt itself set the stage as a force to be reckoned with. I almost worried that Nefertiti would not get in a word edge wise when I started the book. But just like he was a great character, so she had to be an even greater one to stand as an equal with him. Nefertiti was in control of everything in palace and it quickly became clear that this book was not going to be about Nefertiti as the Chief Wife to Amenhotep. It was going to be about Nefertiti as Pharaoh and Coregent to Akhenaten. It became the Pharaohs against the world and the price it cost her. As Egypt fell apart around them, we see Nefertiti fighting her best to keep her small paradise of Amarna intact. When it all begins to crumble, the conflict that has been brooding under the sands of Egypt finally comes to full fruition and everything is thrown into chaos.

The resolution of the story hurt my soul. It was beautiful and tragic. It was perfect and flawed. It was everything all at once and I felt like I had taken a fist to the gut when the story finally wound down. Finally, after 400 pages of chaos and uncertainty everything settled the way history wrote it had. It was a bittersweet ending I knew would come and when we see Nefertiti last, my heart felt heavy with her sacrifices. As Mutny so perfectly put it,

 . . . only I could see what becoming Pharaoh had cost her . . . I could only guess how heavy her crook and flail must be. (Nefertiti, 439 )

This quote really sums up the entire book for me. It is heavy with what Nefertiti went through and even as I read the words, it weighs on my chest. A beautiful and breathtaking novel. I could not have asked for anything more. I feel like part of my soul has withered away with this book, swept away with the water of the Nile. I feel a deep loss for everything that has happened and even though this all took place over two thousand years ago, to me, the reign of Nefertiti ended only yesterday.

Please let me know what your thoughts were on this magnificent book! I will say that my favorite character in the entire story was Mutny! I loved her every step of the way and I felt everything she felt! What was your favorite character? Let me know!

Love,

The Reading Tortie

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

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The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran is a book that I picked up of my own accord. Finally! A book my soul aches at reading. I picked up The Heretic Queen because I was in a serious reading depression after reading book after disappointing book. I needed something I knew I would like and although I read this out of order, I know I needed Michelle Moran’s ancient Egypt. So much! And boy was I right! A serious addiction, hands down one of the best historical fiction I’ve ever read!

I am absolutely in love with ancient Egypt and for a book to be about one of my favorite Queens and Pharaohs of Egypt was like heaven on print. Yes! My first historical fiction of Nefertari and Ramesses and I am not disappointed! At all! I love Nefertari! I want to tattoo her cartouche on me one day! This woman is as much of a goddess to me as she was to her own people. To read a book from her point of view about her struggle to be crowned Queen of Egypt – I almost cried at the honor I was given. Did it take place like this? Maybe? Who knows! Did I love this ride? Absolutely!

The characters of this book are absolutely breathtaking. They are vibrant, beautiful and alive. They seem to leap off the pages with their personalities and that is a breath of fresh air. The core cast was very well balanced with characters I just knew I liked, Asha, characters I wished would die, Iset and Henuttawy, and characters that sometimes frustrated me, Nefertari and Ramesses. Although some characters appeared to be more two-dimensional than others, displaying only foul qualities, I think they were justified because of the plot motivating the entire story. Ms. Moran depicts the court of Ramesses the Great in a very realistic and believable light. Every court has its scandals and plots. Treachery and lies are a bit of a staple in courts throughout history. The drama that plays out between the characters seems very grounded to me if only because Nefertari was related to Nefertiti. And it never really dawned on me how unwelcome she would be in the new court. Ms. Moran did a fantastic job depicting the livelihood of the court of Ancient Egypt in a very refined way that did not seem to drag in the least.

The setting of the book is very well managed. The reader was not crammed into one over heated palace with a miserable aunt and petty court for the entirety of novel. Instead, we were given a grand tour of the ups and downs in the life of Nefertari. We watched her in her school and childhood room. We watched her grow in the temple and return to a different palace. The court moved around and we caught glimpses of the whole of Egypt’s empire during the campaign. The entire time Ms. Moran reminded us of how vibrant and alive her Ancient Egypt was. The gardens, the flowers, and the natural beauty were never neglected; I could almost smell the flowers. She also did a splendid job of describing the grandeur of the alabaster. The absolute beauty and refinement of the palaces was never in question or lost. It was exquisitely depicted in the most insignificant details.

I don’t exactly dislike the plot but I think that is where I had my biggest ISH. Ancient Egypt by nature has plot holes out the butt with entire centuries of history missing. The fact that Ms. Moran took the plot holes and put a sort of mystery/thriller spin on it is extremely creative but at the same time I’m a little eh about it. I don’t particularly like mystery books but she did it in a very sneaky way  and I appreciated the hint of that flavor amidst the plot. It never dragged but kept a very steady momentum. The great characters really kept the pace in the story and I am extremely grateful for that. Aside from the plot being outstandingly paced I also appreciate the creative liberties she took with the plot. This is a historical fiction at the end of the day. There are going to be fiction/creative elements present in the book and for that I am very thankful. They gave this tale a new life. New possibilities. To see someone else fill in the gaps of a story I already tried to piece together is amazing. I love seeing other historically creative liberties – even if I don’t agree with them sometimes. Thankfully in this book, we were all pretty much on the same page. This also probably doesn’t have as many creative liberties as other books either considering I don’t think there was a whole lot that she “changed” directly but just assembled a little differently and spiced it up with her own flavorings.

The conflict of this story is really between Nefertari and Egypt as a whole. The more specific circles of conflict are between her and the court but I really like that multi-dimensional aspect of this. The people are very aggressively against Nefertari and although some would argue no peasant would ever openly attack a royal and be allowed to live, one thing to keep in mind is that this is all taking place during a drought. The people are dying from starvation and they place the blame on Nefertari. Yes, I do think peasants would risk death and honestly, if they truly believed it was because of her that the gods were angry, they would revolt. The ever present conflict between Nefertari and Ramesses, I think, is also very believable because Nefertari is trying her best to convince him she is not a petty heretic. There is not a single wasted element in this story and I love her many layers of conflict in this very vivid and realistic depiction of the royal court of Ramesses the Great.

The resolution of the story is very satisfying and even though I knew how it would end – because, historical fiction – it was a truly satisfying conclusion. I liked that justice was pretty much had and it really wasn’t the “happily ever after” ending, but more the “things have finally fallen into place” ending. There are still some loose ends that weren’t really ever addressed and I think I’m okay with that because it is very realistic in the sense of life.

Nefertari is one of my most favorite queens of Egypt, along with Hatshepsut. To read a good book about her life and her struggles that was exceptionally executed and creative is a gift unlike any other for me. I am still reeling from this book and my soul hurts to know that it’s over. A part of me died when that final page turned and I still have Nefertari with me in my soul. I feel as though I’ve made a best friend in her that will always be with me and I am so thankful to Michelle Moran for that great story. Exceptional execution. I can’t wait to reread this book!

Let me know what you all thought about this book! I’d love to hear your perspectives!

Love,

The Reading Tortie

 

 

Book Fail! – If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

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Well! I didn’t do it! I’m sorry everyone but I have decided to put this book down. And yes it does break my heart and yes I know that is awful to do, but at the moment this is not the book for me.

I tried. I really did. But right now I can’t seem to appreciate the book for what it is. An experimental book at this caliber is appreciated in theory. I know I did for sure. Actually picking the book up and reading it is a completely different matter. I found it drawn out and lagging. I couldn’t appreciate the detail because I was frustrated the story wasn’t getting on.

Part of the reason I may not like it could be that I was very impatient. I got tidbits of information and hints as to what may or may not be a fact and then it went on a long winded explanation of something that really doesn’t matter. I don’t need to read about the hypothetical reader. I want to read about the man that may or may not be in hot water and the woman who may or may not be recalled again.

I tried reading it side by side with another book but when I kept finding my  mind wandering and my head bobbing as I struggled to stay awake through this book . . . MID DAY – I realized I couldn’t read it right now

I can’t appreciate the book for what it is and it would be a disservice to the book for me to even attempt to critique it or say I even read it when I could barely pay enough attention to make it through a whole paragraph. The lack of linear structure could also be a very big part of it. I like something with a little structure if not a whole lot; to read a book that seems to be floating on clouds amid a torrent of winds is extremely frustrating. It’s like I can’t get an anchor anywhere and I just can’t do that right now.

It is with a very heavy heart that I put this book down. Not forever. But until a later date when my reading palate has become more sophisticated and I can love the book for its experimental beauty. It is a highly praised novel so I don’t doubt there is some merit to something this positively received. I am just not the intended audience yet.

I don’t know if I ever will be but I will most certainly try again later.

So alas, I have put a book down. I will try to keep this to a minimum since I do want to try to read every book that someone recommends to me.

But onto the next book! And I have already chosen my book too. Check out my Instagram to see what book I decided to pick up next!

What about you guys? What is that one book you can’t read right now but want to try again later? Or that book that you just had to put down? How did you feel and how did you handle that? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time!

Love,

The Reading Tortie

Book Review – Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant

2016-05-15 22.57.20

Blood and Beauty A Novel of the Borgias by Sarah Dunant is a book that I picked up on my own. I saw that it was about the Borgias and I reached for it faster than I realized what I was doing. I just inherently knew that I needed this book in my life. This is a book that is right up my alley – historical fiction and the Borgias – so find me quite surprised when I’m not immediately sucked into the universe that is the Italian Renaissance of Sarah Dunant. I went into this book expecting a palace of priceless treasures and came out less than impressed.

The characters that Ms. Dunant portrays are accurate and realistic but I’m sorry to say fall a bit flat. I feel like Ms. Dunant took some of the most vibrant historical figures and created something dingy and muddy. They come off as 2-dimensional at best and completely uninteresting at worst. They seemed to be laced with the writer’s prejudices, most of them not very positive, and it irked me a little to see some of my favorite historical characters depicted in a less than flattering light. Not that I expect everyone to be paraded around as demi-gods, but I don’t think they would have been as negative as she painted them. I also feel like she gave them such a negative light to make up for the lack of life in the book; a bit of a cop out that she could create characters that at least excited disgust or horror in the reader. And it fell completely on its face.

Cesare seemed always to be a brooding and angry cloud. Nothing he ever did was ever seen as really positive. When his feelings for the oh so innocent Lucrezia were revealed I could almost see the writer painting him as this demonic viper preying on the innocent angel in the corrupt Vatican palace. Lucrezia, in turn, always seemed very innocent and one dimensional. It wasn’t until the latter half of the book that she seemed to come into her own person, barely, and just in time for the book to end. I refuse to believe that Lucrezia, being a part of one of the most notorious families in history, remained as angelic and naïve as she is depicted. The characters seemed to ghost through the entire book at their peaks and lethargically crawl at their worst. Although I realize nobody in the family was ever really the archetypal ‘good guy’, I dislike that Ms. Dunant seemed to go out of her way to depict everyone in the Borgia family – save for the innocent Lady Lucrezia – as malicious, completely greedy and miserable souls. I feel short changed on that end, though I do admit they seemed to be accurate albeit drab portrayals of the real members of the House of Borgia.

The setting was constantly changing in a very good way. Ms. Dunant really covered a lot of ground in relatively little time. I feel like we went through every room in the Vatican, the palaces, the courtyard, main areas of Rome and even toured Italy in very little time and I appreciate that. Not a single minutiae was missed when describing the grandeur – or lack thereof – in the courts and palaces that were visited. The details were painstakingly noted and I appreciate that as a fan of the family and era. Otherwise, I kind of wonder if it didn’t drag a bit. But it takes a lot for a piece of literature to drag, in my opinion. Overall, great work with the setting – the weather, travel and depictions of war.

This is a historical fiction, so not a lot of surprises were in store. All I can really critique or comment on are the liberties she took – or did not take. I am appreciative – as a Borgia Slut – that she provided an explanation for the Roman baby. I also appreciate that in the murder of Juan Borgia Cesare was never in any real question. She made it very clear almost immediately that Cesare was not the one that murdered Juan. Something else I think she did very well was inject the plot with the fanatical and obsessive affection of Rodrigo Borgia. All these elements really added to the plot and made me extremely happy, despite the flat characters. There was occasionally a glimpse of color before you blinked it was gone.

There were many circles of conflict: Rodrigo vs. Lucrezia, Cesare vs. Rodrigo, Cesare vs. Lucrezia, Cesare vs. the State, Borgias vs. Italy. Like real life, she captured that aspect very well. There was no ‘big plot’ but a lot of small conflicts that helped to create the grander scale conflict. Aside from the conflicts of Borgia vs. Borgia, there was also the main overarching Borgia vs. the world that was headed more by Cesare than Rodrigo at times. I think that the Borgia stance in Rome was very well depicted in that it wasn’t as stable as it probably appeared to the world at the time. The constant threat of treachery and ruin made the story very real and believable. The conflicts that were taking place within the Vatican walls among the family and the struggle Cesare faced trying to conquer Italy was very realistic. Especially since Cesare did not have his own army.

It was extremely difficult for me to pass when Lucrezia did not reciprocate Cesare’s love. I didn’t like that conflict because in this little Tortie’s heart, they will always be the greatest romance to ever be related . . . or just ever. The conflicts around Lucrezia seemed almost childish at times but tolerable compared to her refusal of Cesare’s affections. Much more tolerable, in my opinion.

The novel ended on a bit of a cliff hanger but a very satisfying one none the less. The sacrifices Lucrezia makes are real and I think a very solid way to end the book. Although there was indication that a second book will be coming, it was a satisfactory end for the first part.

I am excited for the second part but at the same time kind of cringe at the thought that it will be filled with more dead characters that are unexcitedly glooming across the pages. Although there were very high points, the overall impression is that of bland dissatisfaction. I like the book because I am a Borgia Slut, not necessarily because it was very good. It gets the facts across with a dash of creativity but that’s about all you’re going to get out of this historical fiction.

Something very bittersweet is the attention she gave the diseases and illnesses that beset Rome. I’m happy that it was put in such graphic detail but a little conflicted and ISH-ie because my beloved Cesare had syphilis. It’s a very double edged sword but I can’t help but feel ecstatic she made the presence of syphilis in Rome so painfully clear.

Overall a little dissatisfied that it’s a relatively underdone family – compared to the Tudors – and it was very lack luster and severely wanting. The only reason, I believe, that I still liked the book was because I am such a Borgia Slut and love everything Borgia. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d have a whole lot of positive things to say about this book.

Love,

The Reading Tortie