Book rec // The Book of Speculation

I believe in book magic. When I was younger I used to go to Barnes & Noble or other bookstores with nothing in mind, and see what jumped out at me. I firmly believe this is one of the best ways to buy books, and it almost never fails to bring me some gems that end up becoming some of my all-time favorite books. The Book of Speculation is one of those books.

the book of speculation

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Book rec // The Lesser Bohemians

Today I have a rave book review of a brand new release, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride. I was initially skeptical about beginning this book but I have to say, The Lesser Bohemians may be my favorite book of the year so far.

the lesser bohemiansThe Lesser Bohemians has a simple, almost cliché premise: an 18-year-old girl moves from Ireland to London in the mid 90s to attend drama school. She’s innocent but eager for life, and she finds herself engaged in a passionate, complicated, and challenging love affair with an actor twenty years older. He has a dark past and some very unsavory secrets. The story itself is fine, but the way it’s told elevates this book from the ordinary.

The most extraordinary and important thing to know before reading this novel is its language and style, which departs almost entirely from literary convention. It’s over 300 pages of the most gorgeous, evocative, stream-of-consciousness language that borders on being one very long poem. The literary style is not for every reader, and can be very challenging at times. I thought I would hate the style, and it only took me twenty or so pages for me to completely change my tune, believing it’s one of the most beautiful ways to tell a story. The style takes the trite subject matter and makes it real in ways I never thought possible. The style makes the characters—sometimes very abhorrent, flawed characters—lovable. The style reminds me of a mix of Howl and The Waste Land. I completely fell in love with the style once I committed to it, and this is definitely a novel you have to commit to wholeheartedly. Here are a few examples:

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‘The Girls,’ the book of the summer

The Girls, by Emma Cline, is one of those books you can’t help but hear about everywhere. From a new author, this book has been extremely hyped up the last few months. Finally, after trying in vain to score an ARC, I went out and spent actual money on a hardcover copy of this book because I simply had to read it. And my initial reaction to it? Meh.
the girls
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Book rec // ‘Overlapping Lives’

I picked up Overlapping Lives, by Andrew Dicker, on a whim. I was looking for a quick read, something not too long or difficult, and what I found instead was an unconventional group of stories that really challenged and excited me. I would definitely recommend this book, and here’s why.

overlapping livesoverlapping lives

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Lit Quote // Know your flaws

To continue in the theme of Pride and Prejudice, I have a lit quote today from that book, the greatest of all books, that distinguishes between pride and vanity. The quote is spoken by Lizzy’s little sister Mary, the pedant who thinks she knows everything and is better than everyone, making this quote kinda ironic.

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It’s ironic because Mary is verrrryyy proud, and Lizzy is both proud and vain! I love Pride and Prejudice for a very many reasons, but one of them is because the two main characters are proud and flawed, and each has to come to terms with their own pride/vanity/what-have-you before they can get together. Title makes sense now, don’t it? 😉

It also reminds me that even though Elizabeth Bennet is one of the best characters in literature ever, she’s still so far from perfect. There’s a lot to learn from a character like that.

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Book Rec // ‘Villette’ by Charlotte Brontë

Next on my to-read list for this year was a Charlotte Brontë novel I’ve been meaning to read since college: Villette. I’m slowly working my way through my classics shelf via my Over Drive app (yay for audiobooks!) and I’m happy to have read this amazing book.

Jane Eyre is the Charlotte Brontë novel most people are familiar with, but this one, Villette, was Charlotte’s last novel and her most autobiographical. Even though it took me forever to read, this classic is a must-read!

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Book Rec // ‘The Mistletoe and Sword’ by Anya Seton

Anyone who has read this blog before knows I am obsessed with historical fiction. It may be my favorite genre ever, and one that I have been reading since I was in eighth grade. I think that good, accurate historical fiction is the best way to learn history, and is also one of the most entertaining kind of novels because you learn more than you would from textbooks, and anyway, the romantic in me absolutely loves imagining and reading about previous eras. Who doesn’t?

And in keeping with this year’s resolution to shop a whole lot less, read more, and most important, read the books I already have, when I was given a whole, lazy Saturday at home one weekend, I reached into my shelves and drew out a book I bought in 2012, one that I hadn’t ever opened before, and one that is by one of my favorite authors: Anya Seton.

Anya Seton was a successful, bestselling historical fiction novelist in the 1950s, known best for her works Katherine and The Winthrop Woman. But she also wrote a slimmer, young-adult novel named The Mistletoe and Sword. At 250 pages, this book was the perfect size to devour in a day. Here’s what it’s about.
the mistletoe and sword
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Favorite author of the moment // Daphne du Maurier

daphne du maurierMy love for Daphne du Maurier has been a slow burn. In high school, like approximately 97% of us, I read Rebecca and utterly loved it. Then we read “The Birds” in class and I loved that, too. Last year, I read her other short stories in a collection, and those horror-infused short stories still haunt me to this day. Then later on in 2015, I visited a secondhand bookstore in the city and bought three of her novels: Frenchman’s Creek, Jamaica Inn, and The House on the Strand. I absolutely adored Frenchman’s Creek, her romance novel with themes of female freedom, and now I am looking forward to reading the highly-esteemed Jamaica Inn. Daphne du Maurier is my favorite author of the moment, and here’s why you should definitely put her books on your TBR.
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Happy May Day // a Sappho poem for you

Today is May Day, a day I have recently associated with spending time with my sisters, usually putzing around the Bronx Botanical Gardens and eating takeout, or reading my favorite books. May is my favorite month of the year; somehow it always seems magical to me, and May Day is an ancient, pagan ritual that goes back centuries. Now, we celebrate it for fun, but it used to mean a lot to a lot of our ancestors.

It was originally a celebration of spring and a day to worship Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. It was also associated, at times, with witches and the occult, whether it was positively skewed (as in healers and mystics) or negatively (during Puritan times).
But that’s all in the past. Anyway, I digress. I would like to share a poem here from one of my favorite poets, Sappho. Her work only exists in fragments, but her capacity to describe love, desire, heartbreak, and the strength of nature is undiminished despite the works’ brevity. Her work reminds me of spring, so it seems fitting to share here on May Day.

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‘Frenchman’s Creek,’ a romance novel by Daphne du Maurier

If you’re like me, then you know Daphne du Maurier from two things: her story “The Birds” and Rebecca, that freaky book you had to read in high school. But recently, I came across her romance novel!!!! in a secondhand bookstore in the city, and I had to have it. It’s called Frenchman’s Creek, and it will give you feels. I have to say, this has automatically become one of my favorite works of literature; it has almost everything I look for in a great story. Read more about this recommendation!

frenchman's creekWhat it’s about: Frenchman’s Creek is about a noblewoman named Dona St. Columb (a perfect romance-novel name, IMO), who feels stifled in her life in London. It takes place in Restoration England, and the entire narrative is a kind of flashback through the eyes of a modern-day yachtsman visiting the place in Cornwall where Dona flees to when she can’t take her life anymore. The framed narrative creates a spooky atmosphere that is definitely characteristic of du Maurier’s other works.

When Dona arrives in Cornwall at her house called Navron, with her two children in tow (but not her husband), she is consumed by a feeling of freedom she’s been craving all her life. Eventually, she meets and has an affair with a philosopher turned pirate named Jean-Benoit Aubéry, who teaches her that even though she craves escape, it’s almost impossible for a woman to have the same freedom as a man does. Their relationship becomes a metaphor for societal expectations placed on women, and the whole metaphor is couched in the language of a high romance novel with plenty of passion. Oh, and the writing is utterly breathtaking, so you don’t have to feel bad about reading romance!

Through her experiences with the pirate, she tests her strength, her courage, and finds herself outside of her constructed “proper” persona. She becomes her own person, someone whole and fulfilled in both life and love. She finds freedom and happiness.
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