It's always fun to pick up a book that I haven't heard of before. I don't have any preconceived notions and I don't have buzz building up my expectati...moreIt's always fun to pick up a book that I haven't heard of before. I don't have any preconceived notions and I don't have buzz building up my expectations; I don't know anything about the author's writing and it means that I can discover a new favorite. In this case, I got to pick up something different from Germany, a YA novel from Ursula Poznanski (who appears to have written two other novels that have not been translated from German yet).
It starts out with sixteen-year-old Nick seeing his friends fall under the sway of something very secretive; he's dying to know what it is and soon enough he is inducted into the secret. It turns out it's a game called Erebos. Erebos has some unusual rules: you must always play alone, you must never talk about the game, and you must never tell anyone your real-name in the game nor your nickname to any one in real life. Those who play are drawn in, playing to the point of distraction. Until one day when Nick is kicked out after refusing to participate in something wrong. That sparks his quest to figure out who is behind Erebos and for what purpose.
On the surface, the book doesn't seem to have many thrills just as the game doesn't sound all that exciting to me. Admittedly I'm not a gamer as I've always found books more enthralling so I don't really get the obsession with Call of Duty and the like. Still the descriptions in this book captured me. I mean, sometimes they were just walking around in the game and yet I could barely put it down! It helped me to understand a little bit how addictive games can be.
Then Nick gets kicked out, which is mentioned in the synopsis but which I had forgotten making it surprising, and the tension really ratchets up. He tries to find others who have been kicked out so that they can join together to figure out who is behind this game. This also led to the introduction of my favorite character Victor, a gamer and very intelligent guy whose knowledge helps focus their research. I had no idea what was behind everything and I'm not sure there were entirely enough clues for people to figure out although since this is more of a thriller than a mystery, I think that's okay.
Overall: A surprisingly enthralling read that was difficult to put down.(less)
Read for class-will be watching Orson Welles' film adaptation soon, which should be very interesting. While a classic and historically important book,...moreRead for class-will be watching Orson Welles' film adaptation soon, which should be very interesting. While a classic and historically important book, it's not my taste at all.(less)
Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane Translated by Douglas Parmee Penguin, 1989/Originally 1895 267 pages Classic 4/5 stars
I guess kind of spoilers...moreEffi Briest by Theodor Fontane Translated by Douglas Parmee Penguin, 1989/Originally 1895 267 pages Classic 4/5 stars
I guess kind of spoilers but the book's over 100 years old so I'm not sure it really matters.
Summary: Effi Briest is a young Prussian aristocratic girl who makes a smart match with Baron Geert von Instetten. But Geert is didactic and doesn't treat Effi as she might wish. Thus she has an affair. Six years later, he discovers her indiscretion and duels her lover. Additionally he divorces her and she ends up dying at the age of 29.
Thoughts: I read this for a class and as I was doing research was surprised to find that it is kind of considered part of an adultery trilogy with the far more famous (although I haven't read them yet) Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. I had never heard of it until it was assigned but Thomas Mann has considered it one of the greatest six books. I'm not sure if I concur but it was a pretty good read.
We read it because of its observations about the stratified nature of Prussian society. While it is technically unified Germany (post 1871), the main characters are all Prussian aristocrats who live their lives of privilege rather separately from the rising bourgeoisie and certainly from the peasants and workers.
Effi is a sweet girl. She's 16/17 when we first meet her and her husband Geert is 38 and was kind of a boyfriend of her mother's-ew! But she accepts this as an appropriate match, rejecting the bourgeois notion of marriage for love. He treats her like a child but they are mostly happy excepting the affair.
The thing about the affair is that if you didn't know what this book is about, it's a revelation that she had an affair. It's incredibly subtle to modern readers (or at least most of the people in my class including my professor the first time he read it). She goes off in the woods alone and we never really see the couple interacting. I mentioned that her husband discovers letters six years later; first Effi is an idiot for not burning the letters but second it's important that it was more than five years because that's the end of the statute of limitations. That's right, if a woman committed adultery and her husband found out within five years, he could prosecute her. Note male adultery was not even a misdemeanor. While he cannot legally take action, he still has internalized aristocratic notions of honor and thus challenges her aristocratic lover. If the lover hadn't been an aristocrat, then he could not have given satisfaction to Geert.
After the affair, she lives alone without her daughter who Geert turns against her (heartbreaking!) Then she returns home to her parents where she eventually dies. Speaking of her parents, Parmee in the introduction mentions that some of their scenes could almost come out of Jane Austen; I approve of that statement and enjoyed reading those parts because of that.
Overall: Rather good; important historically but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable.
Recommendations: I would definitely recommend this if you've read Madame Bovary and/or Anna Karenina so that you can tell me about similarities and differences between them. Also if you're interested in reading more German literature. I really only know Goethe but I would like to read more.(less)
Read for class, not by choice so I didn't really like it. I also don't like Lenin's focus on economics to the exclusion of everything else because I b...moreRead for class, not by choice so I didn't really like it. I also don't like Lenin's focus on economics to the exclusion of everything else because I believe imperialism is more complicated than that. It's pretty short though if you want a brief introduction to some of Lenin's thoughts.(less)
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Translated Michael Hulse Penguin, 1989 Originally published 1774 134 pages Classic 3/5 stars
Sourc...moreThe Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Translated Michael Hulse Penguin, 1989 Originally published 1774 134 pages Classic 3/5 stars
Source: Bought for class
Summary: A young man kills himself after being disappointed in love.
Thoughts: I thought this was so boring. I kept falling asleep while I was reading it. The most interesting part was the introduction which explained how part one of the book is based on a real-life experience for Goethe and part two is based on a case where a man killed himself for love.
I think I struggled against his ideal of female perfection, which includes a woman who is acting like a mother to her siblings after the death of their mother (reminded me of Bleak House) and just sounds really boring. The language was a bit too flowery and I didn't sympathize with Werther falling for a woman who clearly states that she is already involved with another man.
Overall: A short classic that you could read fairly quickly but not my taste at all!
Cover: This isn't my cover as I have an earlier Penguin edition but it fits.(less)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson Translated Reg Keeland Alfred A. Knopf, 2010 Originally published 2007 563 pages Thriller; Mystery Th...moreThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson Translated Reg Keeland Alfred A. Knopf, 2010 Originally published 2007 563 pages Thriller; Mystery Third book in Millennium Trilogy 4.5/5 stars
Summary: Lisbeth Salander is finally found and will be going on trial shortly. Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and her loyal friend, is out to clear her name and uncover a scandal that will rock Sweden's government. These are the two main threads of Larsson's massive tome, the conclusion to the Millennium trilogy.
Thoughts: I was super excited to get this because I thought I would have to wait until it was in paperback. But once my mom started reading the books, she bought the third one. My sister read it first (very slowly because she wanted to spite me!) and then I got it. Like the previous books, it had a slowish start but picked up toward the end. This time the end is centered around Lisbeth's trial, where she is being examined over multiple counts. I won't go too much in detail because I want you to read it for yourself.
There is also a good short summary of what the books are about: women who are abused and the men who enable that. I was frequently brought up short by the awful things done by men toward women, specifically because the abusers were men and the victims were women and how the system which should have protected them looked the other way or actively worked to cover it up.
I actually thought this book had a lot less of the content I found distasteful in the first two books: the drinking, swearing, and sexual content all stood out much less.
Overall: A good conclusion to the Millennium trilogy.
Cover: I do like the silver a lot but the hornets freak me out. (less)
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson Translated by Reg Keeland Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2009 630 pages Thriller/Mystery 2nd in Trilogy 4.5/5 st...moreThe Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson Translated by Reg Keeland Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2009 630 pages Thriller/Mystery 2nd in Trilogy 4.5/5 stars
Source: My sister bought it after loving Dragon Tattoo
Summary: The exciting sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth has had no contact with Mikael after the successful conclusion of their first investigation together. She has been traveling while he has been working on a new explosive book and article for his magazine Millennium. Soon she is caught up in murder and he has to hunt her down.
Thoughts: Again abuse toward women is a prominent theme. This time there is more of Lisbeth's history and an expose of human traffickers in Sweden. It was terribly depressing to read how the system skipped over these vulnerable women and ignored them. In this case though Millennium is getting involved which ties Lisbeth and Blomkvist back together again.
In the book, they don't really meet although they communicate through Lisbeth's favorite way (computers!) However they are both trying to puzzle out the same thing. One of my favorite things about this book and the previous is how they both solve the mystery despite the fact that they are coming at it from completely different angles and with different knowledge and biases.
I would also classify this more as a mixture of thriller and mystery. Mystery because in thrillers the reader is supposed to know more than characters which was not always the case but definitely still thriller because it was absolutely page-turning. It did take me longer to read (4 days to Tattoo's 2) but that was because I had to work and because it's longer. I don't want to spoil much of the plot
I did not like the end, mostly because it ended with a cliffhanger! I would have liked it more if I had the third book with me and could have started it although who knows if it would have picked up right afterward.
I was just as bothered by the casual attitude toward sexual relationships in this book and possibly even more so because it felt like there was more in the beginning.
Mostly cheers to translator Reg Keeland who had a mammoth task in translating these tomes. One thing I didn't like was, in both books, the usage of variations of "You'll have to seduce me." That makes me think a. of The Graduate and b. what awkward phrasing. I don't think it works in American English although perhaps it's okay in Britain.
Overall: Another gripping thriller from Larsson that ends on a cliffhanger!
Cover: I think I like this cover more with the golden hair shimmering although I don't think Lisbeth's hair is supposed to be that color or length so it may be irrelevant.(less)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson Translated by Reg Keeland Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2008 590 pages Thriller 1st in trilogy 4.5/5 stars
Sou...moreThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson Translated by Reg Keeland Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2008 590 pages Thriller 1st in trilogy 4.5/5 stars
Summary: Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who's just been convicted of libel. While in disgrace, he is invited by distinguished businessman Henrik Vanger to investigate his niece's disappearance some forty years ago. What happened to Harriet? How did a solid story turn in to libel? Along the way to figuring these out, Blomkvist meets Lisbeth Salander, a decidedly unusual girl who also happens to be the best private investigator he's ever meet.
Thoughts: I didn't know much about this beyond the critical acclaim it's received and the fact that my sister liked it, which is also impressive because she's pretty picky.
Plots: There are three main plots: Blomkvist's life after libel, Lisbeth's history, and the Vangers of whom there are many. They tie together well although it takes a while for that to happen. Some of the Vangers had ties to the Nazis which enabled me to learn a bit about Swedish Nazism; I didn't know much about Nazism outside of Germany/Austria so that was really interesting.
Characters: I mostly liked Lisbeth, except for her vigilante approach to justice although I understand how she formed that opinion. Blomkvist is a bit of a sorry creature who didn't even fight back in his libel suit. The other characters are pretty interesting and two in particular are really terrifying (let's just say they do/have done awful things to Lisbeth and Harriet).
Mystery of Harriet: I was feeling so proud of myself, that I might have come up with some solutions but I was wrong; I think I was trying to be too tricky and instead missed a candidate hiding in plain sight.
Length: Despite the length, this book moves really quickly. I did think it was a little long and there were some details that could have been cut out but overall I was impressed with how quickly I could read this tome.
Quibbles that bothered me but might not bother you: They smoked...a lot; I find that incredibly disgusting. The very casual attitudes toward sexual relationships (Yeah, puritanical American here!); Some language.
You may also have heard that there is a lot of violence toward women, both described in the book and referenced to. I can confirm that that is a big thread throughout the book although I think it's mostly meant to be educative rather than gratuitous. I did however blanch a bit at some scenes because I mostly read and watch lighter fare and am unused to such violence.
Overall: Page-turning thriller; Recommended for adults.
Cover: I quite like this cover; I'm not actually a fan of the covers that show a girl's back with a dragon tattoo-it's too literal.(less)
Summary: "The first novel about the common people that does not lie." Part of Zola's story cycle this is the story of a woman in working-class Paris a...moreSummary: "The first novel about the common people that does not lie." Part of Zola's story cycle this is the story of a woman in working-class Paris and her life with her lover and husband, their children, and her eventually downfall through pride and drink.
Why I Read: It was for class as we were studying the Second Empire of France. I had also read "Therese Raquin" in my hated English class in high school.
My thoughts: I had enjoyed "Therese Raquin" until about the halfway point and that also occurred in this book. It seems I like the story until the inevitable downfall of the main character. Here Gervaise is a successful laundress whose husband Coupeau is also an industrious member of society. But after he is injured on the job, he slowly recuperates and then spends most of his days drinking. She takes longer to fall but eventually does so too. I found the characters very unsympathetic. There are vivid descriptions of husband to wife and father to daughter beatings and overall I found it very disgusting. I hope it doesn't make me a snob if I say that if this is truly accurate, then I'm glad I'm not working class French in the Second Empire.
Overall: 3/5 I think I only finished it because it was for class.(less)