History is a nightmare, discuss.

Guys. GUYS. I have some News. But I can’t share it juuuuuuuust yet. It is Very Good News, though. AHHHHH I CAN’T WAIT TO TELL YOU!!!

Ok fuck it, here is a very unsubtle hint:

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EeeeeEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Shushing left and right, back where I belong!

Anyway. On to the review. This blog is turning out to be a read your way around the world, and I for one CANNOT BE HAPPIER. Huzzah for literary globalism!

Today, we’re in Turkey, that most liminal of lands, with Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of IstanbulYou might recall the author from my most recent nonverbal referral. As soon as I finished The Three Daughters of Eve I had to put every other Shafak book on hold, just to see if they were all so good only a Young Pope gif could express my feelings for them.

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Cover Talk:

This is a cover made from the ‘gram. Those muted pastels, the floral print, the perfect symmetry of the design… can you say a e s t h e t i c. Granted, not original, and not at all evocative of the novel’s plot, themes, or general mood. Still… it will look good as the centerpiece of my seemingly haphazard but meticulously crafted instagram still-life, surrounded by dried flowers and a candle I never burn and probably a pen, just to show you how Academic I am.

The Summary Heist:

From one of Turkey’s most acclaimed and outspoken writers, a novel about the tangled histories of two families.

In her second novel written in English, Elif Shafak confronts her country’s violent past in a vivid and colorful tale set in both Turkey and the United States. At its center is the “bastard” of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya’s mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres. Full of vigorous, unforgettable female characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is a bold, powerful tale that will confirm Shafak as a rising star of international fiction.

Robyn Says:

I’m kind of at a loss as to how to discuss this book. Yes okay I know this is a book blog but sometimes… sometimes there are books that don’t fit into traditional book reviews. I feel like this a common trait in Shafak’s books (those that I’ve read, anyway). The Bastard of Istanbul is epic in a few different ways. From the large cast of rich characters and the dual settings of Istanbul and Arizona to the numerous themes that somehow complement rather than diminish one another, this book is just A LOT.

The characters are utterly delightful. I loved all of them, even – no, especially – the flawed ones. Auntie Banu especially was a surprise favourite, with her mid-life rebirth as a clairvoyant aided by two “shoulder djinn” visible only to her, Mr. Bitter and Mrs. Sweet. Her whole subplot has made me desperate for Shafak to tackle magical realism (if she hasn’t already?) – please give me backstories for the shoulder djinn, Elif!!!

The parallel exploration of how both individuals and groups deal with trauma is sensitive yet unflinching. If you haven’t had an opportunity to learn about the Armenian genocide (1914-1923), I suggest doing a bit of research before reading this book (and also for your own general knowledge obviously). The complex intertwining of an Armenian family and a Turkish one illustrates the assigning black-and-white judgements. Life is too intricate, people are too complicated… Byzantine, one might even say…

Oh, Robyn, you fucking nerd.

Verdict:

Read it. It will engross you from start to finish – this might even be one of those rare single-sitting books (they do exist!). It will make you think and consider and wonder, and that is the mark of a Very Good Book.

Best lines:

SO MANY. Shafak is a true word-smith. Here are some of my stand-outs:

Article Five: If you have no reason or ability to accomplish anything, then practice the art of becoming.
If you have no reason or ability to practice the art of becoming, then just be.
If you don’t have any reason or ability to just be, then endure.

Either grant me the bliss of the ignorant or give me the strength to bear the knowledge.

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“The Iron Rule of prudence for an Istanbulite Woman: If you are as fragile as a tea glass, either find a way to never encounter burning water and hope to marry an ideal husband or get yourself laid and broken as soon as possible. Alternatively, stop being a tea-glass woman!” 

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Imagination was a dangerously captivating magic for those compelled to be realistic in life, and words could be poisonous for those destined always to be silenced.

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That was the one thing about the rain that likened it to sorrow: You did your best to remain untouched, safe and dry, but if and when you failed, there came a point in which you started seeing the problem less in terms of drops than as an incessant gush, and thereby you decide you might as well get drenched.

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Fancasting couch:

I know literally nothing about Turkish actresses, so I’m skipping the fan-casting this week. Guess I’m just gonna have to make some time to watch all those Turkish series on Netflix to find some fitting doppelgangers for Zehila, Banu, Asya, and Armanoush/Amy.

Book Boyfriend material:

I am very happy to tell you that this a book that is pretty female-dominated, with nary a book boyfriend in sight. Unless you count Auntie Banu’s shoulder djinn, Mr. Bitter, which I most definitely do.

Sure, why not.

Rating:

8 1/2 out of 10 little djinns who sit on your shoulders and whisper the secrets of the universe into your ears and also probably tell you whether the broad-shouldered dragon-slayer actually like likes you because really you have no idea, men are a fucking mystery ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

You know, some people reading this might think, nah, no real families have secrets like these, that’s just not realistic.

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Sweet innocent lamb, you have clearly never met my family. More secrets than you can throw a rattlesnake at.

And now, my cat:

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The usage of Byzanine as a synonym for something overly and unnecessarily complex as to be beyond understanding is a fairly recent coinage, only dating to 1937 per the OED.

THE MORE YOU KNOW.

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– xoxo, R

Allora

Ciao i miei piccoli polli! Come va? I myself am simmering in a fine broth of rage and despair, as per usual. Così è la vita! But you didn’t come here to hear me whine, let’s talk books, the only things in life that won’t let you down amiriiiiite.

Today’s book is The Italian Party by Christina Lynch, hence the Italian, sorry not sorry (scusa non mi dispiace?). Andiamo!

Cover Talk:

Nice, good, yes, VERY GOOD, more of this please, I like. Heavy overtones of Roman Holiday, with a dash of The Talented Mr. Ripley thrown in. (Ah, The Talented Mr. Ripley. That was peak Jude Law hotness, my friends. I’ve never been into blonds but if Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf showed up and started singing Renato Carosone songs, I wouldn’t say no.)

The Summary Heist:

A delicious and sharply funny page-turner about “innocent” Americans abroad in 1950s Siena, Italy. Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany’s famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.

When Scottie’s Italian teacher–a teenager with secrets of his own–disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.

Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America’s role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party is a smart pleasure.

Robyn Says:

I’m actually surprised by how much I liked this book – it’s not my usual thing, nary a dragon, wizard, or elf in sight. It’s really well-written, though, and I think that the prose felt… quick. I mean, I started this on a Saturday morning and, thanks in part to a non-existent social life, a boyfriend who works more than Hercules on speed, and a general distaste for any activity requiring me to leave my house, finished it in a single day. Not only was it well-written, it was funnier than I expected. Not a laugh-out-loud, I-Love-Lucy-audience-reaction kind of funny, but clever, and kind of dark, too. Despite the noir Roman Holiday cover, I got heavy Mad Men overtones, and that included the humour, too.

“What is Regina?” Lmaooooooooooooo Roger you silver fox.

The shining star of this book is obviously its setting – Italy in the 50s, hello – but I thought Lynch was great at conveying the reality of post-war day-to-day life. The conflict between the American-supported Catholic political candidate and the more locally-popular Communist was interesting, too. And, of course, it was very relevant to see American meddling – and the subsequent and inevitable American bungling of the aforementioned meddling.

You all know I’m a character girl, though. This book was filled with a pack of well-rounded liars (same tbh… I do love reading about my own kind). I appreciated the dual perspectives as well. I’m a fan of multiple points of view, but it was especially effective in this novel because of all the LIES. Good God, the lies. Absolute whoppers. Ballsy fuckers. It was great knowing what Scottie and Michael weren’t telling each other, both of them so certain they were the only one with secrets.

The story itself was compelling, suspenseful, and just as labyrinthine as you’d want from a story about CIA operatives doing their sketchy thing. I really enjoyed the evolution of both Scottie and Michael, the former gaining both confidence and agency and the latter becoming more accepting of himself and of others by the novel’s conclusion.

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There was also a subplot highlighting the extreme machinations that are often necessary to obtain a dog, so you know this book is a banger.

Verdict:

Read it. Will make you want to learn Italian asap and then book a one-way flight to Rome to live la dolce vita. Maybe you’ll open a little gelateria, and live over the shop, and spend your days making gelato and your nights strolling the streets Caesar once walked. The locals will turn up their noses at your sub-par gelato, but they will admire your tenacity and your ability to walk on cobblestones in three inch stilettos. A mafioso with coal-black eyes and a heart of gold will fall in love you. You won’t love him back, but you will wear the diamonds he gives you. You’ll be happy, mostly.

Best lines:

“Don’t you wish,” the wife said, tracing her finger along the edge of the car window, “that when you met someone, you could see the story of his or her life? Fast, like a quick little movie, you know?” 

Jeezus,can you imagine? No no no no no, do not want.

Absofuckinglutely not. Full-body shudder. Also, you know that was the only line I wrote down, I was too engrossed/lazy to take notes as always. Yes, I am flawed. Shocking, I know. Allora.

Fancasting couch:

Scottie

Michael

Ecco

Book Boyfriend material:

The dog, obviously.

Rating:

7 out of 10 stracciatella gelatos (listen, I just really want some fucking gelato right now ok can I  l i v e?)

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

…Allora.

Oh, here is Titus. Listen to him be grumpy.

titus italian party

You would never make it in the gelato world. You lack the patience and the attention to detail required of culinary greatness. Remember what happened when you made lemon squares for your dragon-slayer? Even your lover refuses to let you suffer delusions of confectionery grandeur. Stick to the words, Librarian. You’re only half-bad at those.

I should rename his furry ass Rihanna. Fucking savage, T.

Off to Rome, guys (not really)!!

– xoxo, R

I am Sad: Reading (or not) when you have Feelings

Hello hello, lads and ladettes. Well. What an inauspicious start to my shiny new website and the escritorial renaissance implied in its creation. Also, what a way to drop the ball on #robynreadsshakespeare. And yet, for once, I am not wallowing in self-loathing or plagued by relentless guilt. This time – this one time – I am not at fault. I blame… FEELINGS. Between an absent lover and a sudden burst of light matriarchal treachery, the emotions have been, shall we say, intense.

So I thought, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, why not blog about this on my blog like a real blogger would?

Back in the old days, way way back, I mean, when the fiction of choice was The Babysitter’s Club and Sidney Sheldon (I was a weird kid okay?), the only thing that could cheer me up when life got too heavy was, you guessed it, reading. When Old Scratch, the step-father, would get started with the screaming and the smashing and the strangling, the best way – the only way – to cope was to crack open a second-hand paperback and read myself out of hell. I spent more time in Middle Earth and antebellum Georgia than I did in my house. And when I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about what I had been reading and imagining myself into the story (long before I knew what self-inset fan-fiction was). Books might not have saved my life, but they sure as hell saved my soul.

I don’t know when that changed, though.

Now I can’t read if I’m even the teeniest bit sad, and I sure as hell can’t read when I’m angry. My theory? I think it’s because reading is the activity I love most. I love it so much that I can’t have stand to have it tainted by bullshit. It’s my recharge time now, not my escape ladder or coping mechanism. Now, conditions have to be perfect:

A quiet space, preferably with lots of windows, and a comfy chair, and a blanket. Ideally, there would be a cat in the vicinity. Tea is an absolute necessity. Phones are verboten. Book is probably a hardcover (I know, I know, I hate me too) and there is definitely a back-up book just in case. Maybe two.

Hm. With those standards, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not making much headway on my Goodreads challenge this year.

Back to the books, chums. Happy reading!

 

Wakey wakey, Billy Shakey

What ho, lambkins and ladybirds! I hope March has treated you better than it has me. I have been suffering through a horrendous book slump. At this point, I think I might just have to reread one of my favourite series to shake it off. (Dragonriders of Pern? Downside Ghosts?? Every single Richard Sharpe book???) But any rereading will have to wait until May because this month, I am doing a thing, possets. It may be a foolish thing. It may be a thing that reveals my literary hubris. It may be a thing that no one but myself cares about at all. But it is most definitely a thing that I am doing. LISTEN UP.

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The thing is that April is going to be a month of SHAKESPEARE. In the next 30 days, I will endeavour to read every single one of Shakespeare’s plays. That’s right, every. single. one. And blog about my thoughts, of course. There will be gifs, and pictures of my cat with my Riverside Shakespeare, and probably a lot of raging about high school English lit curriculum design. And because 2018 is all about The Brand™, I am gonna do the whole bookstagram strut and surround myself with a maelstrom of hashtags. How about… #30DaysofShakespeare. And #robynreadsshakespeare. And also #monthofthebard. I am the boss of this whole thing, so yeah, those work.

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Why April? Because it’s the month of his birth and his death, and also National Poetry Month, and because I want to. Why do this stupid thing at all? Because I devoted a large part of my undergrad to studying Shakespeare and still haven’t read every play. And because I feel intellectually stagnant and want to challenge my atrophying brain. And because I like themes and challenges and making big plans that will inevitably go awry and end with me cursing my own overly ambitious goals. And because I want to.

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There is only one rule: read every play by old Shakey. I’m gonna go chronologically, which means my month of the Bard will look something like this:

  1. Comedy of Errors
  2. Henry VI, Part II
  3. Henry VI, Part III
  4. Henry VI, Part I
  5. Richard III
  6. Taming of the Shrew
  7. Titus Andronicus
  8. Romeo and Juliet
  9. Two Gentlemen of Verona
  10. Love’s Labour’s Lost
  11. Richard II
  12. Midsummer Night’s Dream
  13. King John
  14. Merchant of Venice
  15. Henry IV, Part I
  16. Henry IV, Part II
  17. Henry V
  18. Much Ado about Nothing
  19. Twelfth Night
  20. As You Like It
  21. Julius Caesar
  22. Hamlet
  23. Merry Wives of Windsor
  24. Troilus and Cressida
  25. All’s Well That Ends Well
  26. Othello
  27. Measure for Measure
  28. King Lear
  29. Macbeth
  30. Antony and Cleopatra
  31. Coriolanus
  32. Timon of Athens
  33. Pericles
  34. Cymbeline
  35. Winter’s Tale
  36. Tempest
  37. Henry VIII

SO that’s 37 plays. In 30 days. Oh, new hashtag (#30days37plays). It’s gonna be one gloriously poetic nightmare of a month.

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See you tomorrow. Now, where the hell is my copy of Comedy of Errors…

xo, R

 

 

 

I owe you actual words

I know, I know, the laziness of the gif review is inexcusable. Mea culpa etc etc. But in my defense, words are hard, and words about words are even harder.

Writing GIF

Today, I’m writing about a genre I usually don’t touch: horror. But Robyn, you are probably (not) asking yourself, why don’t you like to read scary books? Aren’t you a self-confessed horror addict who has seen every scary movie ever made?? (That’s not hyperbole, by the way, I think I could probably write a PhD or two in horror film studies.) Yes, dear reader, you are correct. I love scary movies. They’re my comfort watch. When some people turn to light-hearted rom-coms or nostalgia-oozing childhood favourites, I watch Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining. Literary horror, however, has never been my thing, though the precise reason for this disinterest has always eluded me. Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, even Stephen King of Horror himself; none of their works ever made a single hair on the back of my neck twitch. (Okay, maaaaaaaaaybe Pet Sematary gave me a teeny weeny case of the creepin’ willies, but I am only human and that book is messed up).

Pet Sematary GIF

(Why did I post that, I am gonna have myself some fucking nightmares tonight, believe)

(Actually, I think it might be because of sound. Scary movie soundtracks are the terrifying cherry on the dread-seeped sundae that is a horror film. Whenever the characters start getting slashed, I don’t cover my eyes. No, instead I clamp my hands over my ears so that my frantic heartbeat drowns out whatever nightmarish score is playing over the Final Girl’s artfully piercing shrieks).

Enough chin-wagging. To the Review!

Ararat

Today, it’s Ararat by Christopher Golden, which won the 2017 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel.

Cover Talk:

Boring. Yeah, it obviously depicts the setting of the novel, but still. Lazy. I would have preferred something either more stark, all white maybe, with only a ghostly outline of the titular mountain, or even better, something much much darker. The British cover went with the first option. I like it better, but can’t find any HQ photos to link to, deal with it.

The Summary Heist:

When a newly engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces them to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. The artifact tempts their professional curiosity; so they break it open. Inside, they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver—not the holy man that they expected, a hideous creature with horns. A massive blizzard blows in, trapping them in that cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain…but they are not alone. 

Robyn Says:

It’s a demon.  Oopsie daisy, my bad, um, spoiler alert? It’s a demon and he possesses them one by one and then the group begins to turn on itself, bad people die and of course some good people too, sacrifices are made, but in the end it’s worth it because the enemy is vanquished, but oh, w h a t ‘s  t h a t, surprise surprise, twisty ending on the last page, demon still chillin in a host body, winner takes it all, final shot of The Omen with Damien breaking the fourth wall and looking back at the audience, aaaaaaaaaaaaand scene.

What a wet-towel of an ending. What a three-days past the expiry date on a carton of milk story. What a colossal, earth-shattering, white-guy-blinking-in-disbelief.gif of a book.

Some genres can have stories that are predictable. That’s ok – look at romance. I know what I’m getting, and if I didn’t get a predictable happy ending, I’d be livid. But horror novels are meant to be scary, and generally, predictability is not scary.

(And I should mention that I thought the characters were all flat, the writing was mediocre, and the only thing that kept me reading was the desire to keep up my Goodreads challenge numbers.)

Sorry, guys. I know I’m being mean, and yeah, I haven’t even managed to finish writing one book, so this author’s already light-years ahead of me… but this is a book review blog, after all, and not all reviews are good, eh? These are savage realities of literary criticism, and here on my shitty little wordpress blog, there is no room for false kindnesses, we are here for bookish real talk, bitches, so sometimes, it’s gonna get mean.

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Verdict:

Yeah I’m gonna go ahead and say you might be better off exploring some classic horror films you may not have seen, given that film is a severely underappreciated medium in terms of its cultural and artistic value, and that no genre is more unfairly maligned than horror, especially international horror. Suggested: Rosemary’s Baby, Suspiria, and House.

Best lines:

lol no

Fancasting couch:

Absolutely not.

Actually wait, here is how I envisioned the young, probably good-looking guide who takes the idiots up the mountain.

handsome-Omar-Borkan-500x500 10 Most Handsome Arab Men in the World - Hottest Arab Guys

Okay, so yeah, that author didn’t say he was drop-dead gorgeous, but like, he didn’t not say it either, so????? i apologize for nothing.

Book Boyfriend material:

See above.

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Rating:

2 out of 10 biblical demon mummies (fuck, there I go again with the spoilers, somebody stop me)

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

Okay, I know I’ve just roasted this book so badly it could be Sunday night dinner, but you know what… it might actually make a pretty good movie.

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Titus is sleeping, so you will not be treated to his unique brand of savagery today.

ROBYN OUT.

 

 

 

Nonverbal Referral: A Book Too Good for Actual Words

March 1st. March. MARCH. How is it March already?!?!? March??? What even is time???This is adulthood, by the way, just constantly looking at the calendar and being furiously bewildered.

Anyways.

Read a book. So good it fucked me right up and I’ve been in a hell of a bookslump for about a week. Thing is. This book was so fucking good I don’t think I know how to blog about it. Imma try, because I literally have nothing else to do right now thanks to my boss leaving the office and taking all of the database passwords with him (oh, by the way, I’m a failure again, no more library for me – for the moment, anyway… although let’s be realistic, I think I have a better chance of finding Emily Bronte’s second manuscript than of landing a permanent position in a public library again, and fuck you to every motherfucker who made it virtually impossible to do the job that I love so dearly and that I am so. fucking. good at).

Anyway. I’m just warning you straight up that no traditional review will do this book justice, and so I bring you another edition of Nonverbal Referrals. In case you forgot or you’re new here (no point in looking for an escape route, newbie, you’re one of us poor souls now), the rules are simple: I read a book and sum up my feelings in one – YES, ONE – gif. Today’s book is Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak.

Ready? Ok. Here goes…

THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT.

– xo, R

 

 

 

 

 

I can dance the black swan

Zzzzzzzdravstvuyte my little cygnets, how goes the going of the many goings-on that are going on? LISTEN UP. I’m trying a new thing. It’s called Less Than Sober Blogging and it is happening rIGHT NOW. Allons-y muthachukkas!

Tonight, I’m yelling about Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Cover Talk:

This is the hardcover art, and I approve. Everyone knows it is a law that all books about ballet have something to do with pointe shoes on the cover otherwise how will we know it’s about ballet? Visual synecdoche? I can’t remember what synecdoche actually means and I’m just that amount of tipsy to not to care enough to google it.

The Summary Heist:

From the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel “Seating Arrangements,” winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize: a gorgeously written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the passionate, political world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations.

“Astonish Me” is the irresistible story of Joan, a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. While Arslan’s career takes off in New York, Joan’s slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry’s success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present.

In graceful, inimitable prose, Shipstead draws us into an extraordinary world, and the lives of her vivid and tempestuous characters. Filled with intrigue, brilliant satire, and emotional nuance, “Astonish Me” is a superlative follow-up to Shipstead’s superb debut.

Robyn Says:

This may be the booze talking but can I just say, ballet is fucking amazing and it is the best sport of all the sports because it is also ART and plus it’s sexy af with the dudes lifting the ladies and their tights and the way their shoulders are so wide (just like my dragon-slayer’s *swoon*). I know I’m biased (because Russian, obviously), but I will literally read read anything that has anything to do with ballet. So when this came up on the Kindle deal of the day, I one-clicked the fuck outta that shit.

I read this book in one day. ONE DAY, people. And it was, as you can probably surmise, a-freaking-mazing. Fabulous story, richly drawn characters, stunning prose. This book is *kisses fingers* perfect.

One teeny tiny critique. I would have more of a balance in point of views. So much of the book was told from Joan’s persepctive, that the shifts to other characters (her husband, Jacob, her colleague, Eileen, and a few others) was sometimes distracting and felt like they were required more for plot advancement than for the narrative integrity of the story. (Lol narrative integrity, drunk Robyn you are a goddamn genius girl i love u). Also can I just say – Arslan, you sexy soviet son of a bitch, I would a retelling of this story from your point of view faster than you can say Baryshnikov’s bouncing balls. You were truly the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma of this gem of a book… which I think is a bit of a cliche. Where is my book about a Soviet ballerino wunderkid’s suspenseful, sensual, high-stakes gamble on a flimsy Canada-staged defection? WHERE, I ASK YOU? (Yooo maybe I should write that myself eh…)

Other than those few little quibbles, this book was awesome-sauce and I demand that you read it immediately. Yes, right now. Go on. I’ll wait.

I’m actually pissed off that  I hadn’t heard of this book until now. I mean, it was published in 2015. Wtf, bookstagram? Smh do better. And I’m actually pretty ready to flash some steel over that 3.57 rating on Goodreads. Nah, man. This was an easy 5-star for me, and you know I’m stingy with those stars, fam.

Verdict:

Read it. Obviously. And then use it as an excuse to do a deep dive into everything Baryshnikov, upon whom Arslan is so clearly based.

Shit. That’s him at his best. Baryshnikov + Vysotsky = 😍

Best lines:

“Her throat is tight with fear. She is afraid of how this man, this stranger, has already changed the sensation of being alive. She is afraid he will slip away.”

One of the best descriptions of love I’ve ever read. Changed the sensation of being alive. That’s it, that’s it exactly. That’s what my dragon-slayer did to me, my broad-shouldered golden man, my G. He changed how it felt to live. God, love is amazing and terrifying and the only thing worth anything, really. Love love love. Love is all you need.

Fancasting couch:

Joan – Nina Dobrev

Arslan – Mikhail Baryshnikov

Harry – Sergei Polunin

(PSA watch the documentary about the Ukrainian sex-ballet-god above, DANCER, on Netflix right now, just in case that picture sparked a sudden interest in ballet in your loins)

Jacob – Rich Sommer

Chloe – Amanda Seyfried

 

Book Boyfriend material:

I think you all know me well enough to know that I’d be all over Arslan in a hot minute. I like the mysterious ones.

Rating:

10 out of 10 pointe shoes. Because obviously. It’s a book about ballet, I’m contractually obligated to rate on a scale of pointe shoes.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT:

I can’t dance. I like to dance, but I look like a demented squirrel.

In fact…

I look something like this:

THANK YOU AND GOD SPEED.

Uh oh. Book Cat is here and I’m too drunk to fend him off–

titus reading

Your book reviewing skills, astonishingly, seem to be slightly improved thanks to your midweek bacchic indulgence. Perhaps the old adage contains some kernel of truth. In vino veritas, as the ancients wrote. A pity your sybaritic past-times will not improve your novel, which, I note, you have not touched since November’s authorial frenzy. It won’t write itself, Librarian. If only you spent as much time writing as you do mooning over your dragon-slayer.

Savage. But… true. You win this round, you philosophical feline bastard.

Paka, crumblets!

xo, R