Sunday, 29 April 2012

week 17.

A week spent either sick with the flu or on a train led to a lot of reading. So much, in fact, that I'm already halfway to my goal of 50 books this year, and it's only April. I've come up with the conclusion that it's partly because of escapism and fear of never getting through my unread books before dying.

Books I finished
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris - all excellent in very different ways.

Currently reading
Happiness is Possible by Oleg Zaionchkovsky - I haven't really started but it sure does look good. Hope I won't be disappointed. Maybe a good idea to read a contemporary Russian before Anna Karenina. 

Books I bought

Next week's plan
Maybe not read at all?  

I'll leave you with a picture which very much worries me right now - I've run out of space!
 

twenty-six.


 "If animals were more like us,
if mice kept pets and toads could cuss,
if dogs had wives and chipmunks dated,
sheep sat still and meditated,
then in the forest, field and dairy
you might find this bestiary,
read by storks, by rats and kitties,
skimmed by cows with milk-stained titties.
"I found this book to be most droll,"
might quip the bear, the owl, the mole.
Others, though, would be more coarse.
"Bull," could say the pig and horse.
As to the scribe, they'd quote the hen:
"Trust me, he's no La Fontaine."

  This is a remarkable collection of short stories told by animals. They talk and swear, eat and live like humans, and most of them end up dead.

Each story is simply amazing and I have gone to bed very cheerful thanks to this book on my night stand.The stories are also beautifully illustrated by Ian Falconer and that makes this book one of my most cherished. 



I can't really pick a favourite, but I laughed a lot while reading the Grieving Owl, about an owl which lets its prey go if he can learn something new which eventually leads him to a hippo with leeches in its anus. And then it's the Vigilant Rabbit, where the rabbit goes on a killing spree while guarding the forest. 

Possible a new favourite and is definitely going to be read again! (Note to self: check out other David Sedaris books.)


twenty-five.

the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

Rachel is given an enormous diamond, named the Moonstone, on her birthday, inherited from her uncle. The diamond was originally stolen from an Indian shrine and there are three suspicious looking Indians in the neighbourhood. And then on the night after the birthday bash, the diamond is nowhere to be found and the police is called in.

The police is quick to discover that it must have been an inside job, and then the eminent police detective Sergeant Cuff, with a very peculiar interest for roses, is put on the case. He soon realises that a servant girl, Rosanna, along with Rachel, are hiding something about the case.

The Moonstone is said to be the first detective mystery and I absolutely loved it. It has the perfect whodunnit-plot and so many twists and turns. I really liked how it had different narrators with some very interesting personalities, depending on where the diamond was believed to be. The characters are also interesting, although Rachel really annoyed me with her behaviour, but I guess that was how girls in the 1800s were supposed to act. I especially loved the steward and main narrator (at least in my eyes), Gabriel Betteredge, and his love and use of Robinson Crusoe. I definitely need to read that one soon.

And I'd never thought that opium would be used to solve a case. I loved it.

This was April's book in Line's 1001 books challenge. To see what other Norwegians have said about it, go here.    

Friday, 27 April 2012

twenty-four.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” 

The Bennets are so unfortunate to have five daughters; Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Lydia and Kitty. Mrs Bennet is hoping to get them all married to rich, well-respectable gentlemen. So when the manor close by is rented by a rich gentleman, Mr Bingley, the mother and daughters are eager to meet him. But it is his friend, the rich Mr Darcy who leaves the biggest and not the best impression on the girls.

But good things come to those who wait. And Mrs Bennet's wish for marrying off at least one of her daughters is fulfilled by the end of the book, not just once, but three times. Although it takes a while and a major change of heart for some of them to get there.

I'm no longer an Austen virgin! I have always thought that Jane Austen would be boring, and I'm very glad to say that I was wrong. It is not the best thing I have read, but it was an entertaining read. I only wish we would have gotten to follow Lydia for a bit, because I really found her an interesting character.

 “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Sunday, 22 April 2012

week 16.

I haven't been reading much the past week, was good to slow down after all the excessive reading during Easter break. I have read a few more short stories in Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris and they're all awesome. And I'm really enjoying Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have no idea why I have always thought Jane Austen would be boring to read.

I have two long days on the train ahead of me with plenty of time to grade essays read. My Kindle is charged and ready to go. I decided to buy one new book for the journey, and landed on Mudwoman by Joyce Carol Oates after reading a great review in a newspaper. I have a tendency (or a rule, perhaps) to just buy crime, mystery and young adult books for my Kindle.

I also donated about 15 books to my school's library. Most of them have been in my overloaded bookshelf at my parents' for a decade now. The English section there is starting to look decent. One of my classes are currently reading self-chosen books and it's fun to walk around discussing the books with them. 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

week 14 and 15.

Easter week went like a whirlwind, with skiing, socialising and watching crime on the telly. I didn't get as much reading done as I wanted, but then again, I didn't really have access to the books I wanted to read either. But I got a lot of reading done this week, and this weekend all I have wanted to do is read. But the problem seems to be that I do not have the patience to read just one book, I want to read them all at the same time.

Books I finished
the Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves - not very impressed by my first meeting with Vera, but the nature in Ann Cleeves' books always impresses me.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - a brilliant plot, but not very good writing. No real personalities in this one. Would have been better with Poirot or Miss Marple!
We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee - a true account on the process of buying and opening a zoo.
the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco - Monks. Books. Murders. Interesting, but I'm too stupid for Eco.
Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi - A brave book about a feminist prostitute in Cairo.

Currently reading
the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - trying hard not to read this one too fast. Will finish it on the 29th.
Squirrel seeks Chipmunk - a wicked bestiary by David Sedaris - the book on my night stand; one funny story before bed time. Loving it! And the illustrations.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - My first Austen!

Books I bought




  Pay day! And although most of the money was spent on flights across the Atlantic, I had to buy some books as well.

Films I have seen
We Bought a Zoo (2011) - Although it is nothing like the book, except the name of the owner, I loved it! Such a cute film.
 










Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) - It's been a long time since I have read the book, and I'm glad. Sometimes it's good not to compare the book and the film. But the kid really annoyed the hell out of me, and I can't remember that being so in the book. One on the long list of books I need to reread sooner or later.






Next week's plan
Keep reading. Maybe get down to just read one book at the time again, too much pressure with three books at once.

And oh!
 Browsing Amazon, I stumbled upon Shelfari. It's like a mix between Goodreads and Wikipedia. I'm sure it will be a good place to discover interesting things about your favourite books in the future, but right now it seems to be in the very start, so there's not much content there yet. 

twenty-three.

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi (1975)

"All the men I did get to know, every single man of them, has filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face. But because I am a woman I have never had the courage to lift my hand. And because I am a prostitute, I hid my fear under layers of make-up."

Fidaus is waiting for her death in prison, after murdering a man. The man she murdered was her pimp. Firdaus has spent many years being a prostitute in Cairo. After growing up in poverty, an abusive uncle and an abusive husband, she realises that by selling her body she is able to free herself from abusive men.

I wanted to almost underline every line in this small, beautiful book. Firdaus is a strong woman who takes each opportunity to free herself from terrible men, although it means that she has to sell herself. Because as a prostitute she has the power to say no to men she doesn't want. And with the money and the connections she gets, she is able to have a luxurious house. 

Nawal El Saadawi has written a few books about women in Egypt. I have already put some more of her works on my wish list. 

"'Everybody has to die. I prefer to die for a crime I have committed rather than to die for one of the crimes which you have committed".  

Saturday, 14 April 2012

twenty-two.

the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)

The year is 1327 and Brother William of Baskerville has arrived at an abbey in Italy where he is to attend to a meeting to try to settle the dispute between Franciscans and Dominicans. But when he and his novice, Adso, get there, they are asked by the abbot to solve a murder before the meeting is to take place.

But then more murders take place and there's a rumour among the monks that it is inspired by the seven trumpets of the Apocalypse. And William is certain that the answer is hiding somewhere in the library, but the library is like a labyrinth.

I hate that I always have the feeling that I have only understood less than half of the books Umberto Eco writes. But the story was at least easy to follow. But for me it was impossible to understand everything about the dispute between Franciscans and Dominicans and all about the heretics. I have a feeling that I would have benefited from knowing the papal history before reading this. And Latin as many Latin phrases are not translated. Some of them I understand out of the context and others I'm sure was some brilliant insults which would be nice to know.

Nevertheless, Umberto Eco is a brilliant writer. And I'm in awe of the way that he has managed to construct an abbey and placed it in the 1300s. The characters are also interesting. And there's a lot of interesting things that happens in the monastery, and especially at night.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

twenty-one.

We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee (2008)

Benjamin Mee and his family are living comfortably in France when his sister sends him the ad for the sale of the run-down Dartmoor Zoo. And with the help of his mother and siblings, he is able to buy it. But buying the zoo and getting the zoo to pass the inspection and to be ready for opening are two different things. Although they found the money to buy the zoo, they have hardly any money to get it ready and running. And in all this, his wife, Katherine got cancer and is getting worse.

It was a quick and easy read. And the story moved me, I kept hoping that everything would turn out okay in the end. But the writing was not the best I have read, maybe I'm starting to expect too much from the books I read. And I wish the animals could be more in focus, I didn't really get a good description of the zoo and most of its inhabitants. The big cats are all well described, but others are just barely mentioned. And I wouldn't mind at all a better description of the conservation part of the zoo, and it was a bit disappointing that this book only dealt with the beginning of it all.

The book has been made into a film, although it is set in the US. I'm sure that the film is going to be focusing more on the relationship between the people and animals.

Dartmoor Zoological Park and Benjamin Mee have also been made into a tv show, called Ben's Zoo. And from the look of the website, it looks like it's going well. If I'm ever at that part of the world, I'll definitely pay it a visit.

Monday, 9 April 2012

twenty.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939)

10 people are invited to a lonely island owned by U. N. Owen. But the funny thing is that none of the invited, truly know this person. And as their host hasn't arrived on the first day, they have to wait for him. But then, a loud voice accuses each one of the party of intentionally letting someone else die. And then the members of the party start to die, one by one is killed, just as in the old nursery rhyme 10 little soldiers...

This is the first Agatha Christie I have read where Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot aren't involved, and I'm sort of disappointed. The plot is great, but it's really rather impersonal. You don't get to know the characters as well as you do in the other stories I have read. And I definitely didn't like how the crime was solved.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

nineteen.

the Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves (1999)

Rachael is going to do an environmental impact assessment on the site of proposed quarry on the North Pennines. When she comes to Baikie's Cottage, the lonely cottage on the end of the road, near the quarry, she goes searching for the next door neighbour, a friend of hers, Bella, but only discover that Bella has hanged herself, to be found by Rachael. Rachael is determined to find out the reason for the suicide as she believed Bella to be happy. 

When the two other women who are going to help out arrive, Grace and Anne, the women don't seem to get along very well. They all have their secrets and find it hard to trust each other. And then Grace is found murdered.

This is the first book about the police detective Vera Stanhope, but she doesn't really enter the scene before almost half way in the book. And it was hard to get an outline of her personality as the book focused so much on the other characters. Not that it's a bad thing. I also love how Ann Cleeves has continued with the nature theme, although I didn't get quite the feel of the North Pennies as I did of Shetland in the previous books I have read. 

I guess I have to give Vera another try later.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

week 13.

Yes! Finally got my reading groove back! And yes! Finally a week off work to devour books!

Books I finished
the Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo - take what you know from before + add a mad priest + a handsome man + quite a lot of ramblings about architecture, the development of Paris and philosophy = a love square (or whatever you call it when you have three guys chasing one girl) and a lot of pages skimmed. But at least the end was tragic and beautiful.
Dance dance dance by Haruki Murakami - I occasionally danced when reading it. Murakami is simply awesome!
Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant - Sex, money and power? In the 19th century? Awesome!!

Currently reading
the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - I'm just at the beginning and I will try my best to read a chapter a day so I'm done by the end of the month for Line's reading challenge. The setting reminded me a lot of the Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle, but I do believe this one is better.

Books I bought
None! But if I had money...

Next week's plan
As I only brought my Kindle with me, it's either whatever I got on that one, downloading some new free classics or try to dig up something readable in the bookshelf here at my parents'. 

And oh!
I stumbled upon Small Demons, a site which links all the places, people and things in books! A great site if you're a book nerd. 

eighteen.

Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant (1885)

Georges Duroy wanders the streets of Paris with enough money to either for two more meals or two drinks. Luck has it that he runs into a fellow soldier from his time in the military and he doesn't only invite him to dinner, he also offers to help him get a job as a journalist. And Georges seizes every opportunity he gets to climb in society and into bed with women - as long as they can help him, of course.

This is one of the classics that blew my mind! A man with no moral sleeping his way up to the top. Not that most of the women weren't innocent, they had their own reasons for entertaining Bel-Ami, the name which they called him as he was truly a beau. And if it hadn't been for the tell-tale signs like horse carriers and telegrams and the political discussions about French colonisation of North Africa, this could have been set in our time (except than it probably would have been graphic sex instead of kisses on the hands and cheeks).

It was such a quick read - was already halfway when the aeroplane landed and I just had to finish it today. The only thing that was annoying was the end, I always hoped for some better (in other words scandalous) end to Georges De Roy.

A new film version is out soon - with Robert Pattison (definitely not my kind) starring as Bel-Ami, Uma Thurman and Christina Ricci as some of his lovers. This ought to be good!

I'm also glad to discover that the 1001 list includes more books by Guy de Maupassant and I hope they're even more scandalous than this one. 

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