Sunday, 28 July 2013

thirty-eight.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1963)
(first published in 1980)

Ignatius J. Reilly spends his days eating junk food, writing notes and screaming obscenities at the telly and his mother. After a series of unfortunate events which puts his mother in debt, he has to go out in New Orleans to look for a job.

Is it possible to like a book if you hate the main character? I really disliked Ignatius, and I know I should feel sorry for him because of his obvious mental state, but I just can't. His obnoxious character annoyed me so much that I was at several occasions tempted to give up. I often skimmed the parts which were all about him, and especially his notes and letters. But luckily the rest of the characters made this book worth the read.

And yes, it is an absurd tale with some very interesting characters. All my sympathies went to Mrs Reilly and I also found her friend, Santa, hilarious. The rest of the characters make the story interesting, but some of them I found as annoying as Ignatius himself. The ending certainly made me think. And it almost made me root for Ignatius.

This was July's book in Line's 1001-books reading challenge.

Monday, 22 July 2013

thirty-seven.

The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K Rowling (2013)
(As Robert Galbraith)

A famous model, Lula Landry, fell off her balcony and the inquest ruled suicide. Her brother, John Bristow, is convinced that his adopted sister, despite having a mental illness, never would have killed herself. He hires the private detective Cormoran Strike to investigate the case.

Strike is an ex-military with just one leg after a landmine blew off the other. The detective business is not making much money and his creditor is constantly on his back. Still he hires a temp to do his secretary work, Robin. And together they make a brilliant detective couple.

After finding out that J. K. Rowling wrote this, I instantly bought it on the Kindle. And I instantly fell in love. Her characters are amazing and I just love Strike and Robin. I also like how she manages to describe the layers of the society, from the rich skinny models to the homeless. And the solution of the murder is just crazy. I also like how this is one of those old-fashioned types of a crime story, its style reminded me of Agatha Christie.

And finally, it's a perfect portrait of London and as I'm there right now, just a stone's throw away from the streets described, it was a perfect read on my way to London.  I hope that Rowling will continue with the series despite the raised expectations from being found to be the author.

Friday, 19 July 2013

thirty-six.

Monstermenneske by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold (2012)

Kjersti has ME and has been sick for years. So sick that she is so exhausted that she cannot even sleep. But she cannot give up, and decides to put one of the stories she has in her mind, onto the screen. Even if all she can manage is a few sentences every day.

Skomsvold debutated with the Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am in 2009 and her second book is about ME, the writing process and what happened after she finally managed to finish her first book. But it is also about heart breaks, hating yourself and your looks, fascinating people, literature and wonderful friendships. It is painful to read about Kjersti's view of herself and her condition, but there are so many amazing and funny observations.

 I really enjoyed the book despite it being sad and hard to read at times and I'm definitely going to read her first book!

thirty-five.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (1995)

 “...there was another, gorier parturition, when two nations incarnated out of one. A foreigner drew a magic line on a map and called it the new border; it became a river of blood upon the earth. And the orchards, fields, factories, businesses, all on the wrong side of that line, vanished with a wave of the pale conjuror's wand.” 

Dina Dalal's life hasn't been easy after her husband died after just three years of marriage. Refusing her brother's pleas for her to get remarried, she has to support herself. When her eyes are failing her, she hires two tailors to do her job, Ishvar and Omprakash and takes in a boarder, Maneck, as well. And she hopes that the landlord won't notice the three extra people in her flat.

A mesmerising read from the first page to the last. The story takes you through the history of India from its independence through the eyes of its people. It mainly focuses on the four people in Dina's flat, but also the people they meet. There are many wonderful stories within the story. There are so many tragic stories, but it is written in a dry witty style. 

The only thing I didn't like with the story was the ending. Why did it have to end that way? But I guess it's one of those books that just don't work with a happy ending.
 
“You see, we cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.' He paused, considering what he had just said. 'Yes', he repeated. 'In the end, it's all a question of balance.”

thirty-four.

Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner (2001)

 Cannie discovers that her ex-boyfriend is writing a column about their love-life in a popular magazine. Most furious is she about the way he is describing her big body. Humiliated, she realises that she is not over Bruce yet and tries to get him to stop writing about her and get him back at the same time.

Cannie, why are you so angry? I definitely didn't like her personality, and although she is meant to be snarky, I found her whiny and bitter. Yet there were many things I could identify with (and I guess every girl can). Still, she isn't the kind of heroine I need or want.

Not my favourite genre by far, I read it because I had it up to here with wars and other sad and difficult topics I usually read about.  It is an entertaining story for sure, sort of a modern fairytale and quite predictable. Love the cover and I loved the author's introduction more than Cannie.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

thirty-three.

the Second World War by Antony Beevor (2012)

The Second World War was a 6 year long and the most devastating in history. Antony Beevor's book explains why and how the war started, and gives a detailed and chronological description of the events mixed with witness accounts. It is a great book which explains the unfathomable. From the rape of Nanking to the holocaust, not to mention the deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians. 

I can't say I enjoyed reading it, the events are too terrible and real, but I definitely liked Beevor's style. Although I think he focused too much on the details of some battles (like which division attacked which), he did a great job explaining the horrors of the war. The only thing I missed, was the mentioning of the war in Finnmark. I was surprised that it was completely left out, while other events in Norway was mentioned. But apart from that, I think all the other main events are in there, and I learnt a lot of new things. I really liked the story which opens the book, and I have used that as a starter when teaching the subject to the 14 year olds. 

A must-read for those who want to learn more about the Second World War!

Monday, 1 July 2013

thirty-two.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)

"' When one writes on psychiatry, one should have actual clinical contacts. Jung writes, Beuler writes, Freud writes, Forel writes, Adler writes - also they are in constant contact with mental disorder.' 
'Dick has me,' laughed Nicole. 'I should think that'd be enough mental disorder for one man.'"

Dick Diver is an American psychiatrist working in Switzerland where he meets a charming young rich American patient, Nicole Warner. Baby, Nicole's sister, suggests that a doctor should marry Nicole so she would always have help. Dick then decides to marry Nicole, and they go to the French riviera to live. They live splendidly, with drunken parties and amazing friends. One of the people they meet, is Rosemary, a young American actress, who falls in love with Dick at the first sight. And Dick is not able to resist her, and he has to choose.

Fitzgerald is a master of writing about the rich and famous and intrigues. And this book has everything from love affairs to duels and the cover-up of a murder. I really enjoy reading about the Jazz Age and the glamourous lifestyle. The plot is also intriguing, and it is interesting to see how the characters change. My favourite scene was the break-up in the midst of Tour de France. Hilarious and sad at the same time. And what was the unspeakable thing Mrs McKisco witnessed in the bathroom?

A perfect book for lazy summer afternoons! 


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