Sunday, 26 February 2012

week 8.

Phew! Winter break turned into reading week. I started and finished 5 books in a week. The weather was too warm for skiing (saw a butterfly outside my window, what's going on?) and I have so far corrected zero papers. I will pay for it the next couple of weeks, oh well.

Books I finished
the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins - Three books in three days. Go Katniss!
Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras - a sad yet witty book about 1976 in Argentina seen through the eyes of a 10 year old.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons - One of the wittiest and charming books I have read in a while. Loving it.

Currently reading
Annabel by Kathleen Winter - just a few pages in and the Canadian winter is already haunting me. And the boy born with one testicle, labia and vagina, of course. Promising!

Books I bought

 I couldn't just leave the Hunger Games, so I downloaded the two other books to my Kindle. In hindsight, I wish I had bought them as paperbacks because they would be great additions to the box with English literature at our school. Maybe if I find some cheap used ones while travelling this summer. I also downloaded Walden to my Kindle from Project Gutenberg because all the people who walk into woods have read this first.

Films I have seen

 the Help (2011) - Not as funny and charming as I had hoped. And the problem with just having read the book, is that then you remember it too well and I compared it too much with the book. Why this is nominated for best film at the Oscar's is beyond me and I sincerely hope it doesn't win. Not that any of the other films have impressed me either.

Next week's plan

No idea, but I will definitely slow down the reading for a while. Unless Annabel gets horrible exciting and I just have to finish it at once. I also think I will just focus on one book at the time, as I have shelved Sherlock Holmes. But Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton and Dance, dance, dance by Haruki Murakami are high on my list over books to read next.

Which Jane Austen novel would you recommend and why?


Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

Flora Poste was orphaned at the age of 19, but it didn't cause her much grief as her parents had always been travelling and she had spent time out of school at a friend's house. Declining her friend's suggestion that she should stay there, she writes her remote family to see if any of them want to take her in. And this is how she ends up at Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex.

There has always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort, and they are currently being ruled by Aunt Agony Ada Doom. The woman who saw something nasty in the woodshed when she was young and has never been right since. The Starkadders are not allowed to leave the farm and they live in gloom until Flora saves them.Because that's what she is scheming to do. Save the Starkadders from their own misery and Aunt Ada.

What a wonderful book! I loved it from the first page and until the last. It is witty and full of amazing portraits of the characters and the English countryside. The Starkadders are strange, even without Aunt Ada. I think my favourite part is where Flora goes to the hired girl, Meriam, who has just popped out another baby and Flora tells her how to avoid getting pregnant when the spring time lust comes over her and Seth. The sexual desires in this book wasn't something I expected in a novel written in the 1930s by a female author. I also loved how Flora compared a lot of things to African wildlife and especially lions. 

This book was a part of Line's 1001 books challenge and I'm glad it was because otherwise I probably wouldn't have read it. Stella Gibbons has written more about Cold Comfort, and I will put those books on my long list of books to read.

Saturday, 25 February 2012


Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras (2003)

"The last papá said to me, the last word from his lips, was 'Kamchatka'.
He kissed me, his stubble scratching my cheek, then climbed into the Citroën. The car moved off along the undulating ribbon of road, a green bubble bobbing into view with every hill, getting smaller and smaller until I couldn't see it any more. I stood there for a long while, my game of Risk tucked under my arm, until my abuelo, my grandpa, put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Let's go home'.

 Harry, who is 10 years old, is the narrator while his family goes into hiding on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. They leave their comfortable home very suddenly and Harry misses his toys and especially his Risk board game. Harry isn't his real name, but the name he chose when he had to choose. His parents were too involved in politics when the military junta came to power again in 1976 so they went into hiding. So he chose his name after Harry Houdini, his little brother, the Midget, chose Simon after a cartoon hero. A 18 year old boy, called Lucas but that's not his real name, joins the family in hiding and Harry and the Midget are terrified that he will become their parents' favourite.

It's sad to read a book where you know from the first page that the father will disappear. But still it is a warm book and Harry's observations and thoughts are great. He is a very clever boy, sometimes I think he is too clever for a 10 year old and he is obsessed with old wars and the universe. And because you only see the world from Harry's eyes, you never get to know the whole picture. His parents and Lucas are talking a lot of politics, but Harry just tunes it out. Although I know that the story is supposed to be that way, it's a bit annoying because I always want the whole picture (and much more apparently) when I read. 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

nine, ten, eleven: the hunger games

the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
 (the Hunger Games 2008, Catching Fire 2009 and Mockingjay 2010)

"the Treaty of Treason gave us the new laws to guarantee peace and, as our yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated, it gave us the Hunger Games. The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins."

Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old girl who volunteers to be the female tribute from District 12 instead of her little sister, Prim. District 12 is a relatively poor district, but the Peacekeepers turn a blind eye to the mild lawbreaking done by its inhabitants. Katniss and her best friend, Gale, have kept their families and others healthy with their illegal hunting, and Katniss is superb with a bow and arrows which gives her an advance in the Games. The other participant from District 12 is a boy, Peeta who claims to be in love with Katniss. And their crazy drunk mentor, Haymitch, tells them to play the love card for the audience. But only one of them can survive the Games.

Set somewhere in the future, USA has broken into 12 districts, governed from the Capitol under the name Panem. The people in the districts are poor and working their arses off so the Capitol may prosper. And the Hunger Games is the one event that brings all the people together in front of their tvs.
Three days and nights with little sleep, or at least little sleep where not the Hunger Games was present, and I finished the trilogy. And what's the verdict? It's bloody good!

I was worried that the killings would be too much, but this is a book for young adults, so it's never violent and it's more about surviving than killing. Although the Hunger Games was interesting, I really liked reading about the everyday life in the districts and Capitol. I really enjoyed the second book until the second Hunger Games, and I also liked the third book because of the lack of the Games. And oh yes, my tears were running at the end.

The film is out in a month or so, and it is going to be interesting to see the books played out on the big screen.

This trilogy reminded me how much I need to reread Nineteen-Eighty-Four.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

week 7.

(Trying a new thing where I reflect on the past week in books and the like.)

Most of the week has been spent in Mississippi with the Help and in London with Sherlock Holmes. Finished both earlier today and also got somewhere in both Cold Comfort Farm and the Hunger Games. A week off work is coming up, a week that will be spent correcting 60 papers, skiing, but also lots of reading.

Books I finished
the Help by Kathryn Stockett - a somewhat good book about coloured maids and white employers in the 1960s in Mississippi.
the Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - the weakest of the two Sherlock Holmes books I have read so far.

Currently reading
the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - getting really into it and do not want to put it down yet not looking forward to reading further.
the Hound of Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - maybe the most famous Sherlock Holmes novel.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons - only on page 17, but I'm cheerful and hopeful.

Films I have seen

 Oliver Twist (2005) - Directed by Roman Polanski. This was very true to the book up to a certain point and then went its own way. I wish Polanski had kept to the book as I would love to see the characters he missed, but the film is really good and the kids loved it.

the Rum Diary (2011) - based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson. It was one of the first books I wrote about on my blog and I liked it. Two years later I hardly remember the plot, so I couldn't compare it to the film at all. But I didn't enjoy the film, it doesn't seem to go anywhere except in the last 20 minutes. And not even Johnny Depp helped it in any way.

Next week's plan
Finish the books I'm currently reading. I can't believe another month is almost up and Cold Comfort Farm is to be reviewed on next Sunday in Line's reading challenge. Not sure what to start on next, every time I look at my bookshelves, I want to read them all at once. Maybe just close my hand and pick one randomly (but how random does it get when they are in alphabetical order?). 


the Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are getting used to another although Dr Watson is concerned about his friend's drug habits; cocaine or morphine depending on the day. 

A young woman is looking for Holmes' advice concerning a strange case. Although her father is missing, she is receiving a pearl once a year and a letter that claims to know the whereabouts of her father. She asks Holmes and Dr Watson to join her and they are eventually led to the house of a Mr Shonto. But they find Mr Shonto dead inside a locked room and Sherlock has to solve the case.

The second Sherlock Holmes book and I did not really enjoy it. The main reason is that it is too short and too rushed. I'm sure the next one will be much better.


the Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009)

 "Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought."
 Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. The coloured maids and nannies are raising the white babies while their mothers are busy maintaining their appearance and holding Daughters of the American Revolution-meetings. The racial segregation is on its peak while the Civil Rights Movement was under way.  Aibileen is one maid/nanny who has raised many white children, but always changes household when the children start school. She is currently working for a woman who is building a toilet in the garage for Aibileen to use because she worries about black diseases. Minny is a maid that never is able to keep a job for a long time because she always talks back to the employer. And then there's the young Ms. Skeeter, a white woman who has just moved back to her parents after graduating from college and she wants to become a journalist. 

Ms. Skeeter finally gets a job for the local newspaper, writing the domestic section. As she knows nothing about keeping a house clean, she asks Aibileen for help. She has also applied for a job in New York city, but receives a rejection along with tips how to improve her writing. And this gives her the idea for a book; a book about the relationship between coloured maids and nannies and their white employers. But the problem is to get the maids to help her, they're terrified of being found out as the consequences are enormous.

Once I got past the first chapters narrated by Aibileen, I hardly could put the book down. But the slow start sort of ruined it for me, I think this book would have been much better if it had started with Ms. Skeeter. I'm also torn between really liking the characters or just sucking up to the stereotypes. Some of the white women are hilarious, and especially Ms. Skeeter's mother and the most important young woman in town, Hilly.  

I'm not sure if I really enjoyed the book or not, and I can't really pinpoint why or why not either. It was an easy and fluffy read and exactly what I needed right now. Really looking forward to seeing the film! 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

week 6

(Trying a new thing where I reflect on the past week in books and the like.)
A good reading week! Finished two books and started on two new. Didn't get much reading done over the weekend as I was socialising on board the boat from Oslo to Kiel and back again.  

Books I finished
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens - My favourite Dickens so far! 
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - my first meeting with Sherlock Holmes and it was a good one! 

Currently reading 
the Help by Kathryn Stockett - just got a few pages further, but it has picked up so still not abandoned, but not really impressive either.
the Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Sherlock and Watson solve another mystery. I have yet to find out what it's really about.
the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I have barely gotten through the first page and I dread to continue because of all the killings. 

Books I bought
None! And that's great because I don't have space for more.
Next week's plan
As Sherlock Holmes has more adventures coming his way, I will continue on his path. And if the Hunger Games is as good as I have heard, I have to read the next one as well. I also have to start on Cold Comfort Farm as it is getting closer to the end of February. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012


A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)

His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing... My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System.
 Dr Watson moves in with a complete stranger, Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock is an eccentric man who calls himself a consulting detective. And because Dr Watson has nothing better to do, as he was discharged from the army, he joins Sherlock in solving mysteries. And their first crime to solve is the dead American found in an empty apartment.

 My first meeting with Sherlock Holmes was an impressive one! Sir A.C Doyle has a style of writing that really impressed me. It didn't feel like I read a 120 year old crime novel (except for the obvious lack of modern technology and horses). I especially liked how it suddenly changed the setting from London to Salt Lake City. And although this should be about Sherlock and Watson, I think I enjoyed the Utah part more. Really interesting to read about the founding of Salt Lake City and the Mormons.

I'm already well into the Sign of Four, the second Sherlock novel!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1838)

Oliver Twist is an orphan after his mother died while giving birth and his father is unknown. He spends his childhood on a farm, then in a workhouse and then he is sent to a coffin maker as an apprentice when he is 10 because he dared to ask for more food at the workhouse. He eventually runs away to London where he finds himself amongst thieves and rogues.

Third Dickens in a little over a month and finally one that I truly enjoyed! Poor Oliver Twist got me right from the start and held me to the end (although it got boring with all the explanations). I really enjoyed the street life of London and the gang that Oliver ran into; Fagin, the Artful Dodger and Nancy. They do not treat Oliver very well, but the adults have their own reason for keeping Oliver in the gang and try to find him every time he gets away from them. He is twice taken in by good people and they believe that he is innocent and want to help him get his life in order.

Having read excerpts from the novel previously, I'm glad that I got to read the whole book or else I would just thought that the book was about Oliver living on the streets. We are currently watching the 2006 film version by Roman Polanski in class and I find it really true to the story and I love the way the characters are portrayed, they are exactly how I imagined them while reading the book. 

Today is the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth and I will certainly more Dickens.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

week 5

(Trying a new thing where I reflect on the past weeks in books and the like.)

I got to read quite a lot this week. Finished We, the drowned and then started on the Help and Oliver Twist. 

Books I finished

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen. One of the best books I have ever read. Highly recommended.

Currently reading

the Help by Kathryn Stockett - I have just read 31 pages of it and so far I'm not really into it. Hopefully it will be pick up soon or else I will abandon it.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens - I never expected that I would pick up a new Dickens novel a week after finishing the last one. But we are about to see the film version in class as we already have read an excerpt from it. It is surprisingly easy to read and I really enjoy it. Only 150 pages to go! I might make it tonight.

Books I bought

 Both to my Kindle and both because I read great reviews of them from other bloggers. She I found on Project Gutenberg so I didn't really buy it.

Next week's plan

I will finish Oliver Twist before Tuesday and then see if I get anywhere with the Help. I must soon start with the next book in Line's reading challenge, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. And I have an itch for reading something by Patrick Hamilton again. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012


We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (2006)

 Marstal, a small town on a Danish island, has always sent its men to the sea. Some came back, some lay on the bottom of the sea. In 1848 when Denmark was on the brink of war with Germany. Many of the men from Marstal entered the war and some didn't come back again. Laurids became a legend in the town after he was shot in the air when a cannonball hit the ship and he survived and claimed that he went to heaven just to see St. Peter's behind.  When he came back he wasn't the same and the next time he sailed out, he never came back again.

Most of the book focuses on Laurids' son, Albert, who goes searching after his father, a journey that takes him around the Pacific ocean. But the story doesn't end there, it ends in 1945, two generations later.

This is the best book I have read in a long time, and among one of the best ever! I devoured each syllable of it, and all the amazing stories about the sailors, their wives or widows and children were magnificent. It is funny, sad and shocking at the same time. There are plenty of characters but it is easy to keep score of them.

I want to reread it, but then read it in English because I'm curious how some of the stereotypes translate into another language and culture. I was laughing out loud when reading a joke about some sailor's clothes looking like a Sami wedding, but I don't think anyone outside Scandinavia would get that joke. So I'm curious if such minor things are either left out in the translation or turned into something else.

Read it! And do not be frightened by the 688 pages because this is really one hell of a book!

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