I remember standing at the foot of the stage of the reconstructed Globe Theater in London, watching The Tempest enacted above me. It must have been the year 2000, when I was a 10th grader in high school whose favorite class was English Literature. The trip to London was a high school field trip so I was surrounded by friends my own age, some equally entranced by the play in front of us and others somewhat less so. I remember the figure of Caliban, half-stooped and beast-like in its movements as it groveled at the foot of its master Prospero. I remember there were special effects to indicate when Ariel entered the scene and also to recreate the actual tempests in the play itself. It was a memorable experience and probably the reason due to which The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare play.
When I picked up Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood I really didn’t know what to expect. We’ve all seen Shakespeare romances reinterpreted for modern times, especially in the form of movies. The Tempest is a bit of a different story and I wasn’t sure how a written modern version of it would fare. I had also never read a book by Margaret Atwood – mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. All my reservations were dispelled within the first few chapters of Hag-Seed. Atwood is a genius who has brought to life Prospero and the entire cast of characters in The Tempest in an incredibly vivid and contemporary portrayal that I could have never imagined possible, but am so thankful now exists.
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Since I’ve started this book blog I’ve delved more into genres of literature that I previously didn’t tend to read – especially thrillers and historical fiction. When I first saw The Other Einstein on Net Galley I was interested in reading it to continue my exploration of historical fiction, but also interested in learning more about the shadowy figure of Albert Einstein’s first wife Mileva Maric, which most people probably haven’t given a second thought to.
Einstein is a larger than life historical and scientific persona, and when I picture him it’s as an elderly ‘mad-scientist’ type with the poofy white hair and glasses. I never really thought of what his life as a young man must have been like and what kind of lover and husband he might have been. I think that The Other Einstein provides a fictionalized but plausible account of Albert and Mileva’s relationship in which Mileva’s portrayal as a strong but downtrodden woman feels authentic and contemporary in its frustration.
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December is going to be a month split in two for me – the first half filled with my regular routine of work, blogging, socializing and some additional holiday baking, the second half spent home in Milan with my family. I can’t wait to have 2 and a half weeks with them to catch up and relax. Maybe to others, flying home to Milan twice a year sounds like a dream vacation – to me it’s really like a staycation in which I focus on catching up on sleep, reading as much as I can and spending quality time with my family.
I was hoping to find some great new titles that would be available from Net Galley or released early enough that I would be able to purchase them to take on my trip. I have to say that it was easier to find new nonfiction titles that I was excited about this month – there seemed to be a lot of fantasy, YA and romance novel releases in December rather than the thrillers and literary novels I prefer. In the end, for the fiction section, I found five novels from authors I’m not familiar with that had good advanced reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and that are based on intriguing plot premises. Hope you find something to tempt you ahead of 2017!
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The last time I met with my LA book club was right before the recent election. We had an animated discussion about the voter demographics that ended up significantly influencing the election’s results just days later. During the discussion, I proposed that we select Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance as our book for December to continue our discussion about the role of the white working class in America’s future.
At the time, none of us knew that white working class voters in Rust Belt and elsewhere would come out in droves to vote for Trump, or that they would believe Trump’s and the Republican party’s ongoing rhetoric that all of their problems were due to the current Democratic government. Some of these voters also felt their ideals unfortunately represented in the racism and discrimination spewed by the Trump campaign. The election demonstrated the importance of this sometimes ignored group of people, who have certainly faced the death of their American dream due in part to the decrease in factory and manufacturing jobs.
In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance provides a biography of his white working class (or ‘hillbilly’) family, trying to extrapolate from his personal experience an explanation of the status and viewpoints of white working class people in America today. Read my review and enter the giveaway to receive a hardcover copy of Hillbilly Elegy.
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Jackie at Death By Tsundoku and I are hosting a Thanksgiving Read-A-Thon this weekend (Wednesday through Sunday) to encourage ourselves and others to enjoy this free time to read. Join us on your blog, Twitter and Instagram by posting your reading intentions like I have, and/or using the hashtag #ThanksgivingReadathon. You are also welcome to include the image I created above in any of your posts and tweets. No pressure! Just follow along on Twitter and participate as much as you’d like.
I love having long stretches of vacation in which I really have the opportunity to make a good dent in my reading list. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving dinner with my best friend’s family, but because I’m Italian and my family is in Milan, I’ll have the rest of the weekend pretty much to myself if I choose.
I’d really like to use this holiday weekend to get a head start to stockpile some blog posts. I typically end up reading the book for a post only 2 or 3 days before the post is published, and also writing the post itself the night before (or morning of, eek!). In order to be less reactive in my blogging, I need to make some headway on my reading first.
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