I learned a few things about myself while reading Under the Tuscan Sun. I’m not a fan of non-fiction most of the time. I need a story to immerse myself into. What I learned is that that is particularly true for road trips. I thought that Mayes’s unique descriptions of Tuscany would transport me while I was transported to my destination. It didn’t always work but I did find myself seeing my surroundings differently. With more of a writer’s eye, I hope.
Mayes’s descriptive language was transportive. I could smell the fresh earth and all the life it supports; I could see the ultra-saturated colors of the sunflowers, poppies, clothing, and building materials; I could feel the intensity of the summer sun making siesta time so necessary; I could taste all of the incredible dishes made only with fresh local ingredients. And it left me wishing that my seventeen-year-old self had been capable of appreciating all the sensual delights of Italy while I was there. Under the Tuscan Sun, despite all the descriptions of hard labor Frances and Ed went through to restore Bramasole, left me feeling romantic about Italy, especially the Tuscan and Umbrian regions, and longing to return. To spend long days just exploring the beauty hidden in the details.
Cora’s Heart is a pretty typical romance novel. Two people are in love but their own hang-ups keep keeping them apart until it is almost too late. There was a time about three-quarters in that I wanted to take Cora by the shoulders and shake her. She is too stubborn and unforgiving because of her own misplaced guilt but she takes it too far when she kicks Mac out for not taking care of a child he didn’t even know existed for 16 years. As for Mac, he isn’t quite your typical romantic hero. Unlike so man of them, he often – very often – does and says the wrong thing. Much like men in the real world.
Reading, in my opinion, is a very personal activity. Sure you can form book clubs to discuss the books you read, write blogs about books and reading, write reviews of those books on social media, and share your love with family, friends, and strangers, telling them about books that they absolutely must read because you just loved it. As Edmund Wilson is quoted as saying, “No two persons ever read the same book”. So even though your book club is discussing the same book as they sip their wine, each person has taken from the book what they need or what they saw between the lines based on the experiences of their own life. And more simply, everyone likes what they like and more often than not, that cannot be changed. There are always books that somehow transcend our usual prejudices about genre and subject matter but even the most generally well-received book just cannot appeal to everyone.
Even though I gave A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R. R. Martin’s phenomenally popular A Song of Ice and Fireseries just two stars on Goodreads.com, I’m not saying it isn’t good. On the contrary, I admit that is well-written and often quite captivating. But personally, I’m not a fan of political drama, which A Game of Thrones often is in the guise of a gritty fantasy. More than that, though, I found that the graphic violence and, at times, the rough language made me rather uncomfortable. (Does that sound strange coming from someone who counts Lonesome Dove among her favorite novels? [Now there’s a book that really took me by surprise when I fell in love with it]) A Game of Thrones is far more graphic and harsh than anything I’ve ever read.
It is difficult to admit that I decided long before I finished reading this first book in the series that I would not be continuing with the series. I just don’t think I could endure more of the extremely violent imagery, and pointless, political undercutting (it is too much like watching the nightly news during this election year!) for however long the series lasts. Unfortunately, Martin wrote some very intriguing endings to the storylines that left me just a little curious about what happens next. I’m ashamed to say, though, that if my curiosity gets the best of me, I’ll probably watch the TV show. That way I can fast forward through the violence or read something I enjoy more while it plays.
There was one aspect of A Game of Thrones I really enjoyed. Well, there were a few things such as the strong female characters, and the biting wit of Tyrion Lannister. But my favorite thing was how, in this word that he’s created, Martin included living creatures that we can recognize, fantastic creatures, and extinct creatures.
“Such animals as you have never seen, striped horses, great spotted things with necks as long as stilts, hairy mouse-pigs as big as cows, stinging manticores, tigers that carry their cubs in a pouch, terrible walking lizards with scythes for claws. Syrio Forel has seen these things.”
Zebras and giraffes, manticores, Tasmanian tigers, Komodo dragons?
And I mean, who other than a natural historian or a natural history enthusiast like myself even knows that an animal called an aurochs even existed? So yeah, in a way, A Game of Thrones appealed to the nerd in me.
It has been a long time since I’ve read a book this fun! I wasn’t sure I would like Steampunk but really this a good paranormal romance. The dialogue is witty, the characters are wonderful, and the story is suspenseful. It can get a little cheesy at times but that’s fun too. I was surprised by how steamy it got given the Victorian setting. Alexia Tarabotti quickly became one of my favorite characters. She is strong yet insecure – like all women, right? And she is intelligent and brave. I look forward to reading the rest of the Parasol Protectorate series to see what’s next for Alexia and Conall and all their friends.