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

2016-05-30 14.14.42

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!


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.


The Reading Tortie

Bookish Ponders: Finishing Books I Dislike!

2016-05-08 22.55.35

Hello my lovely readers! So I have a dilemma. I am working on expanding my reading horizons and it is because of this that I promised everyone around me that I would read any book I am recommended in its entirety no matter what! Well, I’ve been tested once or twice already but never to the extent that I feel tested with the current . . . opportunity. Not obstacle, but opportunity for growth! If on a winter’s night a traveler is a great experimental piece but it’s really trying my resolve. I try to be a woman of my word and it is because of this that I have devised an ingenious plan!

Before when I would have trouble completing a book I would simply pick up a book I liked and read my favorite parts. A kind of bookish break. This book, however, isn’t going to cut it with a few bookish breaks. So I decided I’m going to read a book alongside it. Not reread, since my goal is to expand my horizons. For this I have chosen a short story collection – that I hope I enjoy – to balance out my lack of enthusiasm for If on a winter’s night a traveler.

I plan to read a short story for every chapter, at least. Ideally I can get through two chapters before I need to take a bookish break and read a short story but let’s see what happens! I will do my best!

How do you all get through books you dislike? I know the obvious answer is to simply put the book down but that hardly seems appropriate when I am actively trying to break through bookish boundaries!

I’ll let you all know how it goes and if this goes well I will have read two books by the end of this reading adventure!


The Reading Tortie