Thursday, 30 June 2011

My Reading Thus Far

I can’t won’t answer this week’s BTT because it’s not interesting to me. Instead I’m taking some time out to summarize my reading goals and progress so far.

I aim to read at least 100 books this year and I’m currently at 44. Considering that I started writing last week, and have thus only read one book, I’m happy with that. Once the writing’s done, I’ll be back to normal.

I want at least 40% of the books to be classics I’m at 38.6% (yes, I calculate these things).

I want at least 60% to have been rated 4+. This is a tricky one since it’s not my fault if I don’t like a book, but it would be nice to know that the majority of what I read, I’ve actually enjoyed. I won’t deliberately give books higher grades just so I can say I made it; that would defeat the purpose. Either way, I’m currently at 54% so that’s good. (Aside: I love how I started the year by reading four really good books and hope I end on the same note).

I must confess, I’m not actively taking part in the Author and Title A-Z Challenges; I just chalk ‘em up as I read ‘em. I’ll probably end up stressing at the end of the year to complete them, but whatever. I’ve got 6 letters to go in the Author one, and 14 in the Title one, so no stress yet.

The 100 Classics Challenge is the one that I’m most worried about. It runs until May, but I’ve only read 20 books there, and I’ve still got those Russian tomes, not to mention my literary nemesis Hardy (fact: I’ve had Jude the Obscure on my bedroom floor, which is, coincidentally, also my library, for two months now – at the bottom of the pile, of course) and that Dickens x3 (I have this issue with Dickens; his writing rubs me some sort of way and it always takes me ages to get into his books, but once I do, I love them – it just always feels like such a chore in the beginning, which is why I avoid him).

I did say that I was going to read at least 10 Swedish books this year, but I really don’t feel like reading in Swedish lately. I’ve read 3 so far, and I just bought 8 Swedish books last week, so I’ll probably get to them eventually.

Lastly, we have the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (that title – ugh, so pretentious), which isn’t a challenge, but just something to amuse myself with. I’m currently at a measly 51, but I’m hoping to having bumped that up to at least 100 by the end of the year, and seeing that some of the titles in my 100 Classics Challenge pop up here as well, that shouldn’t be a problem.

So yeah, now that my anal side is satisfied with this update, I’m going to go to pick up Eight White Nights by André Aciman (the author of my favourite book ever right now, Call me By Your Name) at the library, since I just got a text saying it's waiting for me. I had them order it a month ago, but who am I to complain about the time it took to get it here - they probably had to laminate it first. Aside: I get extra excited about cracking the spines of library books, it feels like I'm the first person to take the journey, and that tickles me. Sad, I know.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Darkness of Wallis Simpson by Rose Tremain (4.5/5)

The back says: Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated, ended her life as the prisoner of her lawyer who would not allow anyone – friend, foe or journalist – to visit her in her Paris flat. Rose Tremain takes this true story and transforms it into an imaginative and ironic fiction. Her thesis is that Wallis, gaga and bed-ridden, has forgotten the king who gave up an empire for love of her.

The other stories in this magnificent collection range over a variety of themes, equally original and unexpected. An East German border guard, redundant after the Berlin Wall comes down in 1989, imagines that he might still have a purpose in life: he tries to reach Russia by bicycling across the hostile wastes of Poland. A jilted man gets his revenge. A baby grows wings. A character in an Impressionist painting escapes from his ‘frame’ – or does he? And there’s a Christmas story set in a seedy hotel…

I say: I loved these short stories. Well, nearly all of them. I found this at the library the other week, and was intrigued by the story of Wallis Simpson. I wiki’d her after reading this, and have to say that it was a brave move of Tremain to write a fictional story about a real person.

And to do it as well as she did.

Wallis Simpson’s confusion was so palpable and heart wrenching, especially since she couldn’t understand it herself. I couldn’t help but hope that Simpson’s last days weren’t anything like Tremain portrayed.

Most of the stories were just a few pages, and as a person who rarely reads short stories, I really liked the way that Tremain went from offering a glimpse into someone’s world, to telling someone else’s entire life. I really like her style of writing; very concise but with a depth beneath that you simply have to scratch to find.

I’ll definitely pick up more of her work.

Favourite stories: The Darkness of Wallis Simpson, How it Stacks Up, The Ebony Hand, The Cherry Orchard, with Rugs, Peerless

Monday, 27 June 2011

Mmm... Monday: Oscar Wilde, Part the First

I felt like a little Oscar Wilde today, and The Ballad of Reading Gaol, in particular. I haven’t read all of Oscar’s poetry, but will hopefully get to that one day. Although I think that his plays are far superior, this is pure magic. It’s also very long, so I’ll just post the first part.

Wilde wrote this after he was released from prison, and the hanging he talks about is explained in more detail here. There are so many parts of this that I love, but I’m not going to go into all that because nobody really cares, but me. The full poem can be found here.

I.

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
  When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
  In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
  With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
  Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
  A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
  "That fellows got to swing."

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
  Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
  My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
  Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
  With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
  And so he had to die.
___
Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.
___
He does not die a death of shame
  On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
  Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  Into an empty place

He does not sit with silent men
  Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
  The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
  Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
  The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
  With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
  To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
Fingering a watch whose little ticks
  Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
  That sands one's throat, before
The hangman with his gardener's gloves
  Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
  That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
  The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
  Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
  Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
  Through a little roof of glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
  For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  The kiss of Caiaphas.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Quote of the Week

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." 

- Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

Thursday, 23 June 2011

BTT: Soundtrack


What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!)

I’d rather not listen to any music at all - this I learned the hard way. I tend to associate things with each other, and when I was 13 I was reading a book about Auschwitz and listening to this one song over and over. Since then, I can’t listen to that song without thinking of Auschwitz; which is a shame because the song is so beautiful.

Since I’m currently living with people who refuse to be quiet when I ask them to (which is pretty much all the time), I sometimes have to listen to music just to block them out, and then it’s most likely Yiruma

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Once in a House on Fire by Andrea Ashworth (3.5/5)

The back says: Andrea’s father drowns when she is five, and her pretty, music-loving young mother soon finds another man. But he has dark secrets and angry fists, and the lives of Andrea and her little sisters will never be the same again.

Their crazy childhood takes them from the gritty streets of Manchester to a fresh life in Canada, and yanks them back again. Through their adventures and nightmares, the sisters stick together. Real life might feel like a horror film, but with love, daring, books and music, they make their own happier worlds.

I say: I read this in one sitting because I was desperate for a happy ending. The one thing that I really, really have a hard time reading about is abuse, especially against children. I deliberately steer clear of such books as they upset me too much. It’s bad enough knowing that there’s evil out there without bringing it in to my life.

And for that reason, a part of me sort of wishes I hadn’t read this.

The first sentence (which is what usually how I decide whether or not I really want to read a book) is:

“My father drowned when I was five years old.”

The finality of that one sentence unfolds an incredibly sad and heartbreaking story; a surprisingly enraging and exhausting story; and ultimately a wholly captivating and inspirational story. I’m in awe of Angela for having so much strength and courage to, not just do and say the things she did, but also for writing about them. At one point she talks about going to the cinema for the first time and seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street and realising that

“Terror was something you put yourself through for fun, rather than something dangerous and dirty that you swept under the carpet at home.” p. 253

The best part about this was when Angela was describing her love for reading, and what an escape that gave her. There are so many ups and downs in this story, and I found myself hating Angela’s mother, Lorraine, one minute, and then sympathising with her the next. I afforded myself the luxury of judging her based on life from Angela’s perspective, and my own naiveté, but then she said this to her daughter:

“You’ll never know how it feels to be trapped. Truly, utterly trapped. Not just by pissing circumstances. […] But buried a-stinking-live. Locked inside yourself.” p. 288

And that really shut me up.

Aside: I find it hard putting a grade someone’s memoirs, because even though I’m not grading their lives, it still kind of feels that way, and that makes me a tad uncomfortable.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (4/5)

The back says: Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety… until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated – and with it, order – and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim… and meal.

The Gladers are far from done running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder – does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

I say: I’m in love with this. The series, that is. And with Dashner’s mind,

whatever is going on in there.

Ok, so the plan is simple enough; the Gladers have escaped the maze, and now have to cross this vast wasteland to get to a safe haven on the other side of some mountains. But of course, there are a jillion obstacles in the way and none of them make any sense to the Gladers.

Or me, to be honest.

I thought The Maze Runner had nice twists, but I could still follow the logic behind them; what was presented was solved by the end of the book, more or less. In The Scorch Trials, not so much. Dashner throws so many curveballs it’s almost dizzying – in the best of ways, of course – and I love it. Obviously everything that the kids (and I) thought was real, isn’t, and it’s this confusion that I simply cannot get enough of. Every time I think I have a theory thought out, something happens that blows that right apart.

I’m now desperate for the third, and final, part.

What I didn’t like about this was something that happens at the end that just reeked of bad science fiction (if you read the book you’ll know right away what I’m talking about). I cannot for the life of me figure out why Dashner felt the need to add that seriously wtf inducing segment. Also, I think that he went a little too far with the whole mind reading thing at the end.

Or not.

I don’t know since I obviously have no idea what it means.

So, roll on October, and let’s go out with a bang. Please, with a bang, because if it turns out it was all just a dream I will hunt be very disappointed in Dashner.

Or love him to death for being so utterly cold.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Mmm... Monday: John Keats, Part the First

I’ve always liked Mondays. To me, they represent a new beginning, of sorts. Mondays are like the first few words of a poem, even though they set the tone, it really could go either way.

So, I’m reading Once in a House on Fire by Andrea Ashworth and she quotes some John Keats and I realise that I haven’t read poetry in so long. Consciously I will now dedicate my Mondays to poetry; starting with the obsession of my emo teen self, Mr Keats himself. Oh, the tears I’ve spilled over his words.

On Death.

I

Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by?
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain's to die.
II.

How strange it is that man on earth should roam,
And lead a life of woe, but not forsake
His rugged path; nor dare he view alone
His future doom which is but to awake.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Belly by Lisa Selin Davis (4/5)

The back says: Belly O’Leary? Tough guy, lives hard. Holds his liquor well. Won’t back down from a fight. Three grown daughters, one ex-wife, a mistress. Returning home to Saratoga Springs after four years away.

But what the hell happened to his town? The bar he used to own is gone. Wal-Mart and Starbucks stand in the place of familiar landmarks. His daughters treat him like and afterthought. No one laughs at his jokes. No one remembers his bar.

Belly is the story of a man shocked by change into a last shot at life. When the old friends, the old haunts, and the old ways look like they could cost him what is left of his life, Belly is forced to learn, small step by small step, to live in a new way. Holding on to an unshakable core of pride even as he confronts the secrets that have shaped his life until now, Belly makes an unlikely but irresistible hero.

I say: Belly is the definition of an asshole. Seriously. He’s selfish, arrogant, a drunk, a thief, mean, foolishly proud, continuously takes advantage of the people who care about him, and is incapable of seeing his mistakes, choosing instead to blame everyone around him.

Like I said, an asshole.

On my first read I got as far as page 19 and put it down because I seriously couldn't stand him. Reluctantly, might I add, because I was enjoying Davis’s writing, but I’ve known so many Bellys in my life, it all hit a little too close to home. About a month later on I decided to get over myself and just read it,

and I’m glad I did.

I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with the summary above that “Belly makes an unlikely but irresistible hero,” because to me, he’s anything but a hero. He did sort of grow on me at the end of the book, but all throughout I kept shaking my head at how utterly selfish and naïve he was. Sure, I get that he was a broken man, and for very good reasons, I just still couldn’t understand him at all. His thought process was so incredibly damaged it was dangerous, and yet he was so convinced that he was right and everyone else was wrong.

Hats off to Davis for writing this character with such incredible realism,

because if it wasn’t for her writing I wouldn’t have continued reading; the way she laid up this story, letting us inside Belly’s head, experiencing his emotions and reasoning. And yet, seeing things through his eyes, and me being a functioning individual, I couldn’t help but continuously lose it completely when the truth slowly crept up on me. Davis brilliantly created these believably flawed characters, especially his daughters Nora and Eliza, who, despite their own issues, were still trying to help Belly in spite of everything he’d put them through.

It just really took me by surprise how very ordinary this story is, in a way, and yet Davis managed to turn in into something outstanding.


"What happened to the pink sweater, to his daughter’s pink sweater? It was horrible to be old. Untenable. All these gaps of memory and information, retracing your steps, treading the same territory, just trying to recall. Only the things he wanted excised still remained: the painful irony of aging, the brain’s big joke. […] How he hated that stupid pink sweater. How he hated the way she insisted on dressing like a bag lady after watching those John Hughes movies with the martyred working-class girls, pretending to be poor. You’re not poor, he would yell at her. I was poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. And how she would ignore him in those moments, those times when he couldn’t find his way back to an even temper, she would just walk right out the door and let him steam. He needed his third daughter, but she was not a normal child: she didn’t need him." - p. 209

Quote of the Week

"Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book."

- Author Unknown

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (4/5)

The back says: The Time Machine was the novel which pioneered the idea of time travel. The hero’s adventures take him deep into the past and forward to the year 802701, telescoping man’s history and evolution into and exciting journey through the ‘fifth dimension’.

I say: Well, colour me surprised, a novel by Wells that didn’t make me violent.

This starts off in the best of ways, with the Time Traveller (we never learn his name, so I’ll refer to him as T3) discussing dimensions and how many of them there are (a conversation that I, coincidentally, had with my brother just last week), so I was mightily intrigued and excited. The following day the narrator arrives at T3’s house, only to be told by the guests that T3’s not there. During dinner (which, by the by, I think is a tad weird that they’d have when the host isn’t there), T3 returns and tells them the tale of his time travels.

Here Wells started to annoy me with his drab descriptions of time travel and how that made T3 feel. Fortunately, T3 soon enough starts describing the utopia that he’s stumbled upon and the way of life of ‘future mankind’. As always with these stories, things aren’t as they seem and T3 realises that there is a different race, if you will, of humans living underground. In total, he spends 8 days in this new world making all sorts of observations. Due to some serious drama, he is more than anxious to leave, but instead of going directly to the present, he goes further into the future, 30 million years to be exact.

There he finds that the future is exactly what he says other scientists had always predicted, yet he had written off as miscalculations.

I have to say that the writing wasn’t as annoying in this novel as the previous ones, and Wells does an excellent job of describing the surroundings in the year 802’701, as well as creating a sense of apprehension, and later full on fear, when T3 comes in contact with the creatures living underground. Wells also brings up a lot of interesting things that elicit further discussion, particularly this:

“‘I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. […] It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.’” – p 100/101

So yeah, as much as I was expecting this to have more to do with actual time travel, as the title and introduction had me believe, I’m not disappointed at the turn it took. And the ending was magnificent – right up my alley, for once.

All may not be forgiven between me and Wells, but we’re no longer on too hostile terms.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (1.5/5)

The back says: The War of the Worlds depicts a future Earth invaded by a super-powerful malevolent Martian force. Wells describes the destruction of civilisation with chilling realism in this famous fast-moving story.

I say: I saw the movie adaptation of this starring Tom Cruise some time ago (years, months, who knows with my memory) and I thought it was good (aside: I love bad movies; the worse, the better), so I thought this would be good. Note, I read The Invisible Man a week or so ago and wasn’t sure if it was the writing or the story. Having finished this I can indisputably state that it’s the writing;

it burns.

Oh.

My.

Word.

It took me 5 days to finish this because every time I picked it up I just wanted to cry, and threw it to the side (thank goodness I didn’t buy this, but borrowed it from the library). The first chapter pretty much set the tone; don’t get me wrong, I’m very interested in astronomy, but Wells’s writing is so teeth-grindingly dull, I wish I had given up right there. But no, my masochistic self pressed on, confident that it would get better.

Spoiler: it didn’t.

I had absolutely no interest in anything about this story. I couldn’t care less if the narrator, his wife, brother and every single person in Greater London, England and the world died and the Martians ruled the planet for all eternity. I don’t think I can properly convey how much this annoyed me. The way the narrator described the spaceships, the Martians (hilarious), his stupid trek all over London, and the way he thought himself so intelligent and yet only came across as smug. The only time I was mildly entertained was when the artilleryman was talking about what would become of earth and mankind, and that only lasted a few pages.

It was like reading a scientific report; there were no emotions conveyed (or maybe I missed them). I don’t know, perhaps this was the point, but I didn’t like it at all. Also, the way this story is told, we already know that the narrator isn’t going to get killed (unfortunately), and that his brother survives as well, so it would have been a thousand times better if it turned out that the Martians enslaved mankind and that someone just found this recording.

Dun dun dun...

But no, because that would have made this an interesting story. As it is it's just a stupid account of how the Martians came and... I guess I can't give away the end for anyone who doesn't want to know.

Ugh.

I must say that this is one of two books where I think the movie was better. Also, I think Wells may have just knocked down Thomas Hardy from the number one spot as my worst literary kryptonite. And I still have to read The Time Machine for my 100 Classics Challenge.

The horror... 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

BTT: Interactive


With the advent (and growing popularity) of eBooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.
How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?

I don’t really care, to be honest. When I was younger and read a book with big words, I’d sit with a dictionary next to me, write down the difficult word, look up the meaning and then write it next to the word (because I learn and remember things better if I write them down). This was no issue for me, and I still do it. The same goes for places, paintings, music or what have you, I look them up if need be.

I can see the appeal in being able to listen to a piece of music as one reads about it; so if the book says “he put on Nessun Dorma by Puccini,” you can just click the title to hear it, but I doubt that I’d ever do that. It’d be too disracting. Also, if it's music I've never heard before that's integral to the plot, I want to experience it through the character without putting my own emotions into it. Then, later on, when I listen to it myself I can form my own opinion and compare.

So, in 6 words or less: I like my reading as is.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (3/5)

The back says: This, one of the most popular books in the Series, achieved its fame by virtue of the skill and originality with which Wells treats a most unusual theme. The central figure in the story is a student of chemistry, who is obsessed with the idea that it is possible for human beings to be made invisible. The book tells of his fanatical, even ghoulish, researches, and of the final moment of triumph when he proves his theories and he himself becomes invisible.

The theme is developed by Wells into one of his most fascinating stories which grips, even horrifies, the reader by its evil and violence. The shooting of a policeman and a savage attack on a defenceless old man are typical of the crimes the invisible man inflicts on a terror-stricken community.

The grim and merciless man-hunt in which attempts are made to track down and destroy this menace to mankind forms the climax of this unforgettable book.

I say: I think that I have read this before but totally blocked it out of my mind, and it’s easy to see why.

It was so boring.

It starts out nice and mysterious enough, but I lost interest pretty quick; in fact, in chapter 5, The Burglary at the Vicarage, because all the townspeople are so stupid. The further the story progressed, the more impatient I grew with it all – the only offer of reprieve being Mr Thomas and his brief flurry of witty responses. Finding out how he became invisible and his first night in London, was also kind of interesting, but to be honest, I had pretty much already checked out of the story by then.

I’m not sure if it’s Wells’s style of writing that rubbed me the wrong way, or if it just wasn’t a good story to begin with. Considering the psychological effects of being invisible, and the reactions of the townspeople when they start hunting him, I just can’t get over how much better it could have been told to get me more engaged.

I simply did not care two straws about anyone in this tale by the end.

And that epilogue…

Monday, 13 June 2011

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (4.5/5)


The back says: In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of youth culture in revolt, fifteen-year-old Alex and his friends set out on a diabolical orgy of robbery, rape, torture and murder. Alex is jailed for his teenage delinquency and the State tries to reform him – but at what cost?

I say: This.

I can’t decide if I think that Burgess is a genius or if he’s just taking us all for a ride.

A very intense one.

First off, the language. It shocked me. I had somehow managed to stay clear of all things A Clockwork Orange related my entire life. Sure, I had heard about it, just like I’ve heard about goblins;

it just didn’t register.

That is the most confusing part for me, because it took a while for me to stop my rebelling brain from trying to make sense of all these new words. And as soon as I stopped focusing too much, they started making sense.

As these things often do.

Anywho, this is such a disturbing little thing – on so many levels. The behaviour of Alex and his “friends” shocked me, because I’ve never been able to comprehend accept senseless violence, and because Burgess describes it in such detail. This is where I’m mildly grateful for this strange new language with words that don’t hold the same power. As much as I can’t get over how disturbing it was to be inside Alex’s head in the first part of the book, it became even more terrifying in the third; and not just because of what they did to Alex, but because of how he reacted to it in the final chapter.

Not to mention the old men in the library.

I think I’m a little bit in love with Burgess for this, because I could go on for days about it – if only I had anyone willing to listen. There are just so many layers and I risk going into essay-mode if I start now. I love nothing more than a read that gets me thinking (well, maybe a read that breaks my heart), and I would give this the full 5/5 if it weren’t for the little issue of still not being able to decide if it’s perfection or just taking the piss.

Aside: Random thing is, I've always read the title as a clockwork that is orange, not an orange with a clockwork. It's so weird because I keep thinking of the former since I've been pronouncing it as such for so long, laying emphasis on the 'clockwork' and not the 'orange'. The more you know.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Quote of the Week

"A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend."

- Author Unknown

Meh

I currently have 26 books on my floor, but I don't want to read any of them.

Move well played, Sir Irony.

Well played, indeed.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

BTT: Own or Borrow?


All things being equal (money, space, etc), would you rather own copies of the books you read? Or borrow them?

I'd rather own the books that I like and love. I like the thought of being able to go back and read them any time I want to. Also, I like looking at books, smelling and touching them (I know, I know), so just to be able to do that all day every day (not that I do *cough*) is a joy to me.

I'm easily pleased.

The books that I don't like, however, I don't really care about, and usually just give away to whomever is interested.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue (3.5/5)

The back says: Jack is five, and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside…

Told in Jack’s voice, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. Unsentimental and sometimes funny, devastating yet uplifting, Room is a novel like no other.

I say: This was hard for me to get in to. About 30 or so pages in I was ready to just give up because of the way it was written, but I figured I’d keep at it since everyone’s been saying how great it was.

And I'm glad I stuck with it.

It got easier reading in Jack’s voice because I got used to it after a while, but I didn’t like it. More than anything I kept reading because I wanted to find out if they’d ever get out of that room.

Spoilers after the jump.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan (3.5/5)

The back says: In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent.

And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must chose between her village and her future – between the one she loves and the one who loves her.

And she must face the truth about The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be a life outside a world surrounded by so much death?

I say: This is basically The Village. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be, or that the plot would somehow be so intriguing that I’d forget it,

but no.

Obviously, knowing that this is the first part of a series, I already knew how this would end (especially since the second book is so spoilerishly named The Dead-Tossed Waves) and I was fine with that. It’s all about the journey. And the journey was a mixture of suspense, a rather lame attempt at some form of love triangle (or square) and some jealousy and other things that I didn’t really care about/for. I think that the whole deal with the Sisterhood was supposed to keep us guessing, but it got boring as soon as I realised that Ryan wasn’t really interested in taking it any further. There’s a point where Mary is snooping around in the cellars of the Cathedral, that used to be an old vineyard (what is it about old vineyards always housing something dark and mysterious?) that tipped me off and I stopped trying to look for clues or any type of sense in the stories that the villagers had been raised with.

It’s all lies anyways, so why bother.

And I don’t consider that a spoiler because if you hadn't figured it out by the summary, then… well…

So yeah, the story was fast paced at times and painfully slow at others. For a book that was a mere 300 pages, there was a surprisingly lot of things/information/supposed twist or explanations that just felt superfluous and awkward. At a certain point towards the end, before the big finale, it just felt like I was watching time pass, and then

boom, action!

And then it slowed down to a painful crawl, before

boom – action!

It was too uneven for me to focus. I found myself caring less and less about the characters, and in the end the only one I was really invested in was Mary – all else be damned. Not sure if that was the plan, but whatever; I could identify with her longing and desire to go out and search for what she’d always believed in.

I’ll probably pick the second book up from the library because that’s what I do – I start something and then dutifully finish it. Yes, dutifully, because I could really take it or leave it. I just really hope that the next book offers some explanations to what we've been told in this one, and isn't just a continuation, because that'll just piss me off.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Quote of the Week

"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket."


- Chinese Proverb

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Här Ligger Jag och Blöder av Jenny Jägerfeld (3/5)

Baksidan säger: Klockan var kvart i ett torsdagen den tolfte april, dagen för den internationellt inbillade olycksdagen, och jag hade just sågat av den yttersta toppen av min vänstertumme med en elektrisk sticksåg."

Maja skulle aldrig skada sig själv, aldrig avsiktligt som folk verkar tro. Ska man inte få såga av sig en tumspets utan att alla börjar oroa sig? Det vill säga, alla utom Majas mamma. Tvärtom är det Maja som oroar sig för henne.

På en fest hon inte är inbjuden till träffar hon tjugoåriga Justin, en superverbal bilmekaniker med rosa byxor, som får henne att glömma allt om frånvarande mammor och avsågade tummar. Men sen läser Maja ett mejl som inte är till henne, ett mejl som gör ondare än alla sticksågar i världen.

Jag säger: Jag vet inte riktigt vad jag tycker om den här. Det känns nästan som att den ville mer än vad det blev; det här med att hennes mamma skulle vara försvunnen, att hon hela tiden kollade (och svarade) sin pappas facebook och email, hennes möte med ’Blondie’, det här med hennes lärare och hans tröja.

Va!?

Allt flyter på ganska så fort, och visst kanske gillar jag Maja lite, men det var så mycket som hände runtomkring som gjorde att jag inte riktigt köpte det. Tydligen ska boken vara rolig, och jag ser vilka ställen de troligtvis syftar på, men det är inte min typ av humor. Jag tröttnade ganska så fort på alla karaktärerna och när jag fick reda på vad som hänt mamman så tappade jag intresset totalt.

Jägerfeld skriver väldigt bra, och visst plockar jag gärna upp en till av hennes böcker. Jag förväntade mig bara lite mer av den här.

Friday, 3 June 2011

That Summer by Sarah Dessen (2/5)

The back says: For fifteen-year-old Haven this is the summer where everything changes. Dad is remarrying. Her Sister Ashley is planning a wedding of her own. They’re both moving on, but Haven is lost in memories of a time when life was happy and her family was whole.

And then Ashley’s ex, the charming and funny Sumner Lee, arrives in town. He reminds Haven of carefree days gone by, and she can’t help but wonder – has fate brought this person back from her past to change her future?

I say: It’s been a week since I finished this, and to be honest, it didn’t really leave that much of an impression on me. There was nothing wrong with the book itself; it was more a question of me expecting more since I’ve enjoyed Dessen’s other books.

This just sort of left me with a feeling of meh.

All the characters were so stereotypical; poor teenage Haven with a chip on her shoulder, the older and selfish sister stealing all the attention, the best friend who’s turned into somebody different after a summer away, the father with his new wife, the mother trying to keep the peace, and the essential carefree and seemingly perfect boy.

I’ve read and seen it all before.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

BTT: Reviews




Do you read book reviews? Whose do you trust? Do they affect your reading habits? Your buying habits?

Since I don’t have any friends or family who read what I read, I kind of have to rely on strangers, so I read a lot of book reviews. Pretty much every time I’m buying a book I tend to go see what people thought of it. Although Amazon reviews can be tricky, some of them are actually worth the read. I wouldn’t say that I trust the reviews (since I don’t know the reviewers and their tastes); I read them just to get a general idea of the feel of the book.

Ultimately, I’ll buy whatever interests me.

I have to say this though, if a book is getting nothing but top reviews, I tend to get suspicious.

I think the only person that has given me a recommendation that I have gone straight out and bought or ordered (i.e. not just added to my endless TBR list) without hesitation is Scott Pack at Me and My Big Mouth. He knows his books, and he is hilarious, so I can do nothing but love him his blog. Also, I’ve been reading the blog (on and off) for a couple of years (I think), so it’s easier to know what to pick up and what to ignore.

He also reads one short story a day and reviews them here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Not Even: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Some months ago I decided to watch the Harry Potter films for some reason. I wasn’t expecting much, but as soon as I stopped being annoyed by plot holes and logic (sometime in the fourth film), I quite enjoyed them. A few weeks ago I watched part one of The Deathly Hallows films and wanted to know what happened, so I picked up the book at the library, thinking it was too long a wait till July (when I think it comes out).

Either way, I’ve had the book in my library pile since I brought it home, and haven’t even touched it. I really have no interest in reading it, and since my friend pretty much told me the ending, I won’t bother.

Maybe sometime in the future when I don’t have anything better to read, I may read all of them, but right now I would just resent it for keeping me from books I actually want to read.

*Not Even - meaning that I didn’t even try to read the book.

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (2.5/5)

The back says: In this brilliant piece of social comedy Forster is concerned with one of his favourite themes: the ‘undeveloped heart’ of the English middle classes, who are here represented by a group of tourists and expatriates in Florence. The English abroad are observed with a sharply ironic eye, but one of them, the young and unaffected Lucy Honeychurch, is also drawn with great sympathy.

In relationship with her dismal cousin Charlotte, with the unconventional Emersons and – the scene transferred to England – with her supercilious fiancé, Lucy is torn between lingering Victorian proprieties, social and sexual, and the spontaneous promptings of her heart (‘an undeveloped heart, not a cold one’). Thus there are hidden depths of meaning in the sunniest and most readable of Forster’s novels.

This edition includes Forster’s light-hearted sequel, ‘A View without a Room’.

I say: For something referred to as a ‘social comedy’ there was none to be found. Actually, I did laugh once when the men went bathing. All other times I was just forcing myself to continue reading hoping that it would get better, which it did,

but not by much.

I cannot stand Forster’s writing here. It’s just so gratingly pretentious and full of hyperbole I wanted to weep all through the first part (when they’re in Italy). I was praying for conversation so that the narrator wouldn’t have to annoy me. It gets considerably better in the second part, which Forster says he wrote much later, after having finished two other novels (appendix, p. 231). Oh, and this narrator business was such a damn nuisance. Don’t get me wrong, I love a narrator that speaks to the reader, but this

”Lucy thought this a rather good speech. The reader may have detected an unfortunate slip in it. Whether Miss Bartlett detected the slip one cannot say, for it is impossible to penetrate the minds of the elderly people.” p. 167

Seriously?

I will say this, there are a few witticisms here and there, and the dialogue was fine as long as it involved at least one of the Emersons and/or Freddy. Everyone else was just so irritating, especially all the women. And it wasn’t because of their opinions, they were all just so ridiculously one dimensional and just plain exhausting. Mind me, all the characters were, but at least the Emersons and Freddy were somewhat entertaining.

Ugh.

I get what Forster was saying with this novel, I just don’t like the way he went about doing it - it was as subtle as a pig on a dance floor. Oh and that “light-hearted sequel, ‘A View without a Room’” was as necessary as a hole in the head. It’s basically 3 pages of Forster telling us what he thinks they’re up and what may have happened to them.

So. Much. Stupid.