Friday, 30 December 2011


the Shining by Stephen King (1977)

 Jack Torrance is the winter caretaker of the Overlook hotel, high up in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado. He brings his wife, Wendy, and their 5 year old son, Danny and they will spend the winter in solitude. But Danny is not a normal boy, he can read minds and see the future, and he has very bad visions about the hotel.

Poor Danny and his visions! He tries to keep them to himself as his father really need this job so he won't start drinking again and his parents won't get divorced. When coming to the hotel he meets the cook who is leaving for the winter, and the cook explains to him how he has the shining and that the terrible things at the hotel can't hurt him because they're just images of the past.

I was surprised how complex the book is, there's a lot of background information on the characters and family drama, and the hotel's history is also interesting. But I also like how it doesn't explain everything, the events at the end are still a bit fuzzy, but there's no way I'm reading this book again.

I read a few Stephen King books in my youth and then I stopped because they really frightened me. Yet, I think the Shining is the most frightening of them all. I got a few nightmares thanks to this. And about ten times worse than the film adaptation. I need to see the film again, just to compare it to the book.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

books you should read 2011

  • The Kindness of Women by J.G Ballard (1991)
  • City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende (2002)
  • Cold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol (2002)
  • Pandora in the Congo by Albert Sánchez Piñol (2005)
  • Miss Chopsticks by Xinran (2007)
  • Atlas of Remote Islands: 50 Islands I have not visited and never will by Judith Schalansky (2009)
  • Night Waking by Sarah Moss (2011)
  • A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth (2009)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
  • Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994)
  • The Lost City of Z by David Grann (2009)
  • Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner (2005)
  • The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (2011)
  • The Ritual by Adam Nevill (2011)
  • Harry Potter by J.K Rowling (1999-2007)
  • The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad (2011)
  • Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion by Johan Harstad (2005)
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2011)
  • Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2006)
  • The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  • A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S Naipaul (1961)
  • The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (1958)
  • The Sly Company of People who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya (2011)
  • New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani (2000)
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (2010)
  • The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

reading goals 2012

  • Read 50 or more books.
  • Complete Line's 1001 books 2012 challenge.  A lot of heavy books on that list!
  • Read something by Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and start on the books about Sherlock Holmes. 
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books.
  • Read more Nobel Prize winners and continue on the 1001 books lists (read 6% until now). Life long goals.
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books. 27 countries so far.
  • Own no more than 500 unread books, the number of unread books is currently 428. Which also means buying less books.

Monday, 26 December 2011


Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (2010)

"It's all over, I'm not going. I can't spend a year in the Arctic with that lot. They arrange to 'meet for a drink', then give me a grilling, and make it pretty clear what they think of a grammar-school boy with a London degree. Tomorrow I'll write and tell them where to put their sodding expedition."
Jack Miller is joining an expedition to Gruhuken, Spitsbergen in 1937. The expedition will consist of five men and they will spend a year in the Arctic. But the expedition has bad luck from the start, and only three men end up going. And the captain of the sealing boat they're hitching a ride with, refuses to go all the way to Gruhuken.

Yes! A ghost story from the High Arctic is exactly what I needed at the darkest time of the year. This book had me right from the start and I couldn't put it down. I'm glad I read this (and reading the Shining) in a house full of people and dogs instead of alone in my small apartment. 

I didn't just like the book because it was scary, I really enjoyed the historical background and the details from how to take meteorological readings and using a wireless to the description of the (fictional) Gruhuken. And the pictures from Svalbard! 

"Fear of the dark. Until I came here, I thought that was for children; that you grew out of it. But it never really goes away. It's always there underneath. The oldest fear of all. What's at the back of the cave?"

Sunday, 25 December 2011


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

Ebenezer Scrooge is a grumpy and greedy old man who doesn't believe in the Christmas spirit. Then one night, the ghost of his business partner, who has been dead for seven years, haunts him. And for the next three nights he is haunted by three spirits; Ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas to Come.

My first Dickens! It was a quick read on my Kindle, and because I have heard/read/seen the story in many versions before, my heart wasn't really into it.

Friday, 23 December 2011


New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani (2000)

"My name is Petri Friari, I live in no. 16 Kaiser-Wilhelmstrasse, Hamburg and I work as a neurologist at the city's university hospital.
I found this manuscript on 24 January 1946 in a trunk in the military hospital in Helsinki, together with a sailor's jacket, a handkerchief with the letters S.K. embroidered on it, three letters, a volume of the Kalevala and an empty bottle of koskenkorva."
An unconscious man is picked up in Trieste, Italy and taken on board a German hospital ship, where the doctor, Petri Friari, takes interest in the man with no recollection of who he is. Based on the name tag on his sailor's jacket, Sampo Karjalainen, he assumes that the man is Finnish and gets him a safe passage to Helsinki.
He is not getting much help from the doctors at the military hospital in Helsinki, but he meets a priest that helps him with learning Finnish, using the Kalevala to explain the Finns' unique position in the world. Meanwhile, the war is raging and Sampo gets to know a nurse, Ilma, but he is afraid to get involved with her until he knows whom he truly is.

This small and quiet book is one of the best I have read this year.


A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks  (2009)

Sophie Topping is going to throw a dinner for a dozen people and is working on the guest list, who to invite and more importantly; where to put them at the table?

The book follows the dinner guests and the people they surround themselves with the week before the dinner. You have, among other characters; the investment banker who does an inside trade, the East European football player who has just signed for a minor Premier League team, the successful immigrants with their own pickle company and their son who is co-planning a terrorist attack, the literature reviewer who dislike the contemporary books he has to review and the solicitor who falls for one of his clients; the girl who accidentally hit someone while driving the subway train.

I found this book to be a bit of a mess with all the characters and the fact that it never gets anywhere; it's just a week in a lot of different people's lives. While reading the book, I thought that Faulks is trying too hard with his characters; they are all stereotypes and he doesn't really succeed with his attempt to describe life here and now.

This is my second attempt to read something by Faulks, I read Engleby two years ago and I had the same feeling of disappointment then. Yet, Engleby is one of the books that most often pops in my mind from time to time. I will give Faulks a final try with Birdsong, eventually.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

reading goals 2011: how did it go?

My main goal was to read at least 50 books, something which I did some time this summer, I have readjusted this goal to 75 books and still have 4 to go.

The others were:

  • Read non-fiction, a genre I have ignored as I love fiction, but there is so much to learn from non-fiction books. Non-fiction books I own are King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, Empires and Barbarians by P. Heather and A Carpet Ride to Khiva by C.A Alexander.
  • I have read some non-fiction, but none I mentioned. What I have read is How I Found Livingstone, Out of Africa, the Lost City of Z and my favourite book this year Atlas of Remote Islands: 50 islands I have not visited and never will. 
  • Read those classics. Many of them have been gathering dust on my bookshelf for years.
  • Some classics has been read, but not as many as planned. I have been stuck in the Karamazov Brothers since October and hopefully I will finish it before the year ends. Kindle and Project Gutenberg have made it easier for me to read the classics. I have really enjoyed some of them, especially Jane Eyre and Frankenstein, while not so much Buddenbrooks.
  • Read contemporary young adult fiction. I need to be able to recommend some books for my students to read. So far, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is the only book on my list.
  • I read Stargirl, City of the Beasts, the Emerald Atlas and reread Harry Potter. I tried to push the City of the Beasts and the other books in the series on some of my students but they found the language too difficult. The kids I teach this year is so obviously smarter so I have to try again.
  • Cross off some more books on the 1001 books you should read before you die list. Only 5% complete. The shame! Also work on my life-time goal; read something by every Nobel Prize laureate. 
  • I'm up to 6%! My main problem is that I do not just stick to one list, I use three various lists, but that's okay. I have also read some more Nobel Prize laureates; Ernest Hemingway (finally), Nadine Gordimer (possibly the worst book of the year), (along with) Thomas Mann.
  • Continue my journey around the world in literature. This year I covered 17 countries.
  • 27 countries so far, so 10 new countries this year. I'm satisfied with how diverse my reading is when it comes to various countries. 
  • Read indigenous authors, and especially from the Arctic.
  • Not achieved. But at least I bought some books.
  • Read the books I own instead of buying new ones. Almost half the books I own are unread, circa 200. 
  • The number of unread books is now over 400, so no. But I only read books I buy. 
I'm satisfied with almost reaching all my goals. I will make new ones for next year, but they will not be very different from these ones.  


Changed the domain (and name) from booksofmonika to booksandmonika.

Someday I will find a really hip name for my blog.

Two years of booklogging already :)


the Sly Company of People who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya (2011)

A young Indian journalist decides to live in Guyana for a year. Arriving in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, he gets to know people with amazing backgrounds and names like Baby, da Jesus, Nasty and Action Jackson. 
From the streets of Georgetown where the rum flows and the parties are wild, he goes into the jungle with his acquaintance, Baby, where they dig for diamonds. But then the book suddenly changes completely in part two where it takes a look on the history and politics (or politricks) of Guyana. It continues with an illegal trip across the border to Brazil and an encounter with a girl that eventually leads the journalist to Venezuela.

Once I got familiar with the Guyanese slang (about 40 pages or so), I truly enjoyed this book. It is a wonderful portrait of a country I knew little about from before. This is also the second book I have recently read about Indian descendants in the West Indies. Although I loved A House for Mr Biswas by V.S Naipaul, I found this book to be a better portrait because it gives a more complex picture. One of the book's themes is racism, and the divide between the African and Indian descendants is clear and tense. There are some really good parts about it in the book, and I would have quoted them if they hadn't been so racist. 

The fact that a large part of the book is written in Guyanese slang made it clear to me how used I'm to Standard English and how I need to read/listen to other variations of English. Next year I will read Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, and I'm looking forward to that with some fear as I gave up Glue years ago because of the strong Scottish language, I didn't understand much of what I read. 

I love the title and the cover of the book. And what's in between.

Friday, 2 December 2011


One Day by David Nicholls (2009)

Emma and Dexter. Dex and Em. Em and Dex. 

Their graduation turned into a drunken night where Emma took Dexter home and they spend the night making out, smoking cigarettes and talking. When they part the next day, they promise to be friends and the book follows them on the same date, 15th of July - St Swithin's Day, for the next twenty years.

I have been arguing for myself for a year now whether I should read it or not, but a friend gushed so much about it that I had to give it a try.  This book was not life-changing for me, I felt that I have read/seen it before. But it was exactly what I needed in these dark November days, so I have enjoyed reading it, although the plot was too easy to guess and it is so full of clichés. 

However, I'm really looking forward to seeing the film as the book is a good script for a romantic film and I adore Ann Hathaway. 

This book also reminded me a lot of the Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, so if you have read One Day and liked it, I highly recommend the Marriage Plot. And if you're considering reading One Day, read the Marriage Plot instead.

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