I read "The Silver Bough" because I had seen it on a Magical Realism shelf. This probably helped me a lot, as I have read quite a few reviews mentioniI read "The Silver Bough" because I had seen it on a Magical Realism shelf. This probably helped me a lot, as I have read quite a few reviews mentioning the surprise upon stumbling into a world of fairytales.
In the beginning, Lisa Tuttle describes the journeys of three American women, all lonely for some reason or another, to the small Scottish coastal town of Appleton. The Scottish landscape provides a resounding backdrop to their emotional issues,and apparently there are also enough males in this small place for every one of them. I somewhat disliked the choice of the all-American female cast, after all this is set in Scotland.
There were hints of the intruding other-worldly-ness dropped along the way, but it seemed to encroach on our protagonists quite suddenly. The bits after that read a bit weird, and I struggled a lot with "going back to normal".
In fact, in descriptions of local customs, lead characters that don't belong, and myths that control emotions, reading this feels similar to Alan Garner's The Owl Service (set in Wales), which is why I've decided to rate this book exactly the same.
On an unrelated fact, while I did expect Magical Realism, I had thought more along the lines of Sarah Addison Allen, which definitely doesn't fit. Read this book if you'd like to read about Scotland, or if you need something in between. I like the fact that I've read it, but somehow I cannot think of a better recommendation. I'm sorry....more
I tend to favour well-written novels over well-plotted ones, those with interesting themes or those with great characters. Luckily enough, the "The GaI tend to favour well-written novels over well-plotted ones, those with interesting themes or those with great characters. Luckily enough, the "The Garden of Evening Mists" falls into all of these categories.
I knew right from page one that I was in for a poetic treat:
"Memories I had locked away have begun to break free, like shards of ice fracturing off an arctic shelf. In sleep, these broken floes drift towards the morning light of remembrance."
Aritomo, the former gardener of the Emperor of Japan, is a master of Zen arts. When he takes Yun Ling on as an apprentice, he doesn't just educate her on gardening matters, but he helps her to work on her inner strengths as well. In most cases, when such a topic is covered in a novel, it reads like a self-help guide. Not so much here; every advice is given because it is required in a certain situation, and the reader can see the consequences and work out the deeper meaning for himself.
The garden and its surrounding area are described in a calm, unhurried way that only enhances their beauty. Against such a backdrop, Yun Ling's and her country's violent past are difficult to understand, and when she distances herself from it, the reader can feel her troubles.
“For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past.”
Being from Germany, most of what I learned about WWII has involved my country. In the west we seem to be experts at analyzing that period until we've gone over everything so often that it loses its horror and becomes something of a background statistic in your head. It is different when I read a book that describes other theatres in this tragedy. I knew next to nothing about what happened in Malaysia at the time. (Indeed, I wouldn't even know that something had happened if not for Rani Manicka's The Japanese Lover.) Yun Ling is the sole survivor of a Japanese internment camp. She has suffered a lot, and distances herself from her own past. I don't know if this makes it easier for the reader or not, but it helps to build her character, and she has to deal with a lot throughout the course of this book. Her story is full of violence, but also full of love, learning, and mystery.
It seems strange that the thing that impresses me the most in a novel that works through so many themes would still be the writing, but that also makes me grateful. Because it means that whatever Tan Twan Eng decides to write next, I will want to read it.
“Memory is like patches of sunlight in an overcast valley, shifting with the movement of the clouds. Now and then the light will fall on a particular point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the wind seals up the gap, and the world is in shadows again."
This book was recommended to me because I planned to read a book a day as well. (For a more thorough introduction to this, see my blog.) 'The author aThis book was recommended to me because I planned to read a book a day as well. (For a more thorough introduction to this, see my blog.) 'The author and I must have a lot in common', I thought, and so I followed up on the recommendation.
A few pages in I knew that Nina Sankovitch is a very interesting person, but that we have next to nothing in common. Where I have a dad that doesn't read at all and a mom that prioritizes a lot of things, especially music, above reading, she has a family that loves reading as much as she does. Where I read to learn about writing, Nina Sankovitch used to read to find peace with her sister's passing. And where I need the schedule to motivate myself, she decided on her year of reading to stop racing from obligation to obligation.
I was intrigued that people could be motivated to do the same thing for such opposite reasons. I know that people have different reasons for reading, otherwise there wouldn't be so many books, but committing to it for a year? I had not thought about that. Nina Sankovitch's strategy for finding books is also rather different to mine - it is a measuring of book thickness. I read the books already on my shelf instead, and sometimes I can't help thinking that I should also have picked them out by size when I bought them, because I now curse myself sometimes when I see 500 pages stretching out in front of me.
Despite talking about books a lot (and quoting them a lot), "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair" is a story of a woman coping with life without her beloved sister and understanding the history of her family. Her books bring back a lot of memories and offer topics for new conversations, and she describes her emotions when she's going through tough and through happy times. There are little things, like sharing books with friends, or big issues like preparing for death or sharing her father's memory of the death of his siblings during WWII. She also writes down her thoughts, and illustrates the conclusions she reaches with examples from her own life. (I'm making this point because I've seen a lot of preaching in my short reading time, and I'm glad that Nina Sankovitch doesn't do it.)
She finds more books to love than I do, trying to discover a message for herself in each new one she picks up. This is not the way I read, but I liked her style of reviewing the messages she found based on how they fit into her own thoughts, and so I attempted to do it that way here. What stood out to me happened right in the beginning and then kept coming up throughout the book. It is something I haven't read enough about (unfortunately), and something which I plan on doing more often:
"I was grateful to be loved. I knew that most days I took the love for granted, just like I had taken life for granted, and this day I wanted to be different. I would begin my year of reading with gratitude. Gratitude for having all these lives and this love around me. Gratitude for living on [...]."
In that spirit, thank you Judy for the recommendation, and thank you Brandon for getting me to read again. ...more
Well, I don't know. I feel like I shoud have liked this book more than I did because it deals with an important subject, but I was a bit underwhelmed.Well, I don't know. I feel like I shoud have liked this book more than I did because it deals with an important subject, but I was a bit underwhelmed.
In part this is due to the awful book description and the cover, which is even more awful. (And that absoltely unnecessary mouthful of a series title.) If you read "gothic" and "experiment" and then look at that cover, your mind will conjure up certain images. Delete them immediately, for they have nothing to do with this book. The writing is another sore point for me, as it feels like it was meant to be old-fashioned, but didn't really work. A random example:
"Evening fell, as it falls always on the entertainments of man, foretelling the solemnity of night and end."
The story itself only really takes off in the second part. The first part is full of "we did this, and then we did that, and then the next chapter happens", and it doesn't seem to lead anywhere.
In the second part the gothic theme returns for a while, and after that I really started to enjoy the read. Right around the time the viewpoint switched away from Octavian. Which is not a good sign. Because despite having a first-person viewpoint for the most part, Octavian doesn't really stand out. And for someone who has so much riding on his shoulders, he is remarkably distanced. Even his anger didn't feel real to me.
I do understand why this book would be nominated for awards though; the experiment and its resonance within out world today are deep issues, but I wish they would have been portrayed in a way that I found relatable. I don't think I'll rush out to get the second part.
Note: This review didn't comment on the nature of the experiment, as it is a spoilery plot point.
Yoko Ogawas novel "The Housekeeper + The Professor" tells the story of a woman coming to care for an elderly mathematics professor suffering from shorYoko Ogawas novel "The Housekeeper + The Professor" tells the story of a woman coming to care for an elderly mathematics professor suffering from short-term memory loss.
While she has to introduce herself again every morning, she soons forms an attachment, based on him teaching her about numbers and her seeing his brilliance. When she mentions her son, the Professor's love for children shines through and he expects her to bring him around after school or during vacations.
The love the professor has for numbers shines through on every page, and from a mathematician's point of view it is beautiful to see. The developing interest of the housekeeper and her own storytelling and thinking about everything should help people out who have had no previous experience with number theory, and in any way it is not so much about the numbers themselves as it is about the sense of wonder they leave, and the new world they open up. Also, for people who don't love numbers but like sports, there is a lot of baseball in here, due to the professor and the son sharing a passion, and I learned more about it than I ever thought I would. I might even watch a game now :).
The development of the relationship is beautifully written, and in most cases, realistic and easy to follow. The descriptions of the professors struggle with his condition are heartbreaking, and I can see how difficult it must be for someone who relies on his brain when it fails.
In an odd way, like so many numbers this novel is beautiful, but not outstanding. This sums up to 4.5 stars overall, but give it a chance if you have the time, it's not that long after all :)....more
Considering that I love fantasy, like historical fiction and enjoy immersing myself in aReview crossposted to my 238 books in 238 days-challenge. -----
Considering that I love fantasy, like historical fiction and enjoy immersing myself in a different culture, I expected to love this book. And I did enjoy the read somewhat, but to say that I loved it would be an overstatement.
This book tries to walk the fine line between fantasy and reality. If that works, a book is guaranteed a spot on my favourites shelf. Unfortunately, this book veers off the path in both directions. At times, there is magic and mystery and someone evil working against our main characters, at other times we experience a slow exploration of immigrant life in New York, complete with endless philosophical discussions. Those two worlds rarely merge into one, and so I wonder what people will feel who like just one of them.
I'm not too sure about the cultural aspects; I didn't really get into the feel of immigrant life in New York, or into Jewish and Arabic myths. It all fell a bit flat for me. The same holds true for the two main characters in general. Golem Chava is a stoic woman, but is also always trying to find a place to fit in. Jinni Ahmad is restless, impulsive, passionate. Or at least he is supposed to be; Chavas chapters go way better with her personality than Ahmad's work with his. I don't know whether it was a conscious decision on the author's part to keep referring to both Chava and Ahmad as the Golem and the Jinni, but it stopped me from getting really invested in the characters, and I wished she wouldn't have done it. Even 300 pages in, when readers could clearly be expected to remember the fact that they were reading about mythical creatures this kept happening. It felt like a dehumanization, like the author was looking down on her characters and passing judgement on them.
All in all, I did like the tone of the book even though I've read better books about virtually all components of this story. I'll also read the next book Helene Wecker writes, and I'll recommend this one, just so you can decide for yourself whether you like it or not. But I do think it has been praised a little too highly for its own good, and I would have wanted a better balance, and somehow just a bit more....more
In "A Tale of Love and Darkness", Amos Oz tells the story of his childhood - and his parents' lives - in Jerusalem in the 1940's and 1950's.
A lot of rIn "A Tale of Love and Darkness", Amos Oz tells the story of his childhood - and his parents' lives - in Jerusalem in the 1940's and 1950's.
A lot of reviews have praised this book quite a lot. And I am sure they're right, because Amos Oz does paint a very colourful picture of this mysterious place. In fact, there are only two points which bother me: One: The story meanders. A lot. It feels a bit like bing lost in the sea of someone's memories, without a compass for guidance. I do understand that things that happened when you were four are hard to put into a chronological order. But some semblance of structure helps the reader stay focused and concentrate on the book, and I wish that would have been the case with this one as well.
And now for the second point. Which might be my own fault, but nonetheless I feel that I should explain it, before someone else comes across this problem as well: I'm too young for this book! Mind you, I'm 25, and I do consider myself to be well-read for my age, and to know a bit about history. But Amos Oz, coming from a literary family, throws up examples and comparisons like other authors might use adjectives. Not a chapter goes by without mentioning three or four works of Hebrew or World Literature, and some sort of comment about their importance. Instead of metaphors, political events of the day or historical referenced are used to illustrate a point. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing. Just that - as rarely any explanation is given - this makes it incredibly hard for a casual reader to follow.
That being said, I would recommend this book if you want to learn something about Israel at that time - but I would not recommend it if you don't feel firm in the history and literature department, because keeping on missing the references is extremely frustrating....more
This is part of my "238 books in 238 days"-challenge. You can follow my progress here. --------
Two years ago I've first read a book by William Trevor.This is part of my "238 books in 238 days"-challenge. You can follow my progress here. --------
Two years ago I've first read a book by William Trevor. It was called "Love And Summer", and I was rather bored while reading it, as you can see from my review here. I also gave it five stars. I've reread that book a lot since then, and I've slowly come to love William Trevor's gift for precise sentences, unhurried storytelling and taking a story all the way to its conclusion. These traits are at work in "Two Lives" as well; I have felt at home from the moment I started reading it. (And I haven't been bored; I guess I've grown up a little.)
Reading Turgenev In contrast to "Love and Summer", where a young woman has an affair that goes nowhere, Mary's courtship in this "novella" is much more adult, and the results are much more complex. It isn't hard to see why Trevor's characters would read Russian literature with an emphasis on nature and rural living, considering their own background. It's easy to assume that big problems only arise when there is something big at stake, but here love and life are enough to risk sanity for. The structure of the book, which combines two narrative threads, is confusing at first, but works out beautifully in the end, and I am sure I will enjoy it a lot when I re-read this story.
My House in Umbria I've recently read Aravind Adiga's "The White Tiger" (2*), and, like this novella, it features someone describing him-/herself as uneducated telling the story of his/her life. Both characters make their own sarcastic observations about their lives, both are unapologetic for what has happened. The only difference is that one of them (this one) is well exectuted. The other isn't. Mrs Delahunty is a believable character even when her imaginations take over, and her struggles are understandable and real. Moreover her own comments have an impact on the story and the reader. Independant of that, the subject matter is quite interesting as well and, as this is the first of Trevor's stories that I've read that isn't set entirely in rural Ireland, I was also intrigued to see whether he could write about another country as well as about his own. He can....more
With some books published thirty years or more ago, I need to find a quiet hour to really be able to get into the narrative style and the language. NoWith some books published thirty years or more ago, I need to find a quiet hour to really be able to get into the narrative style and the language. Not so with "A Separate Peace", I found my way in quite easily.
I wasn't too sure about the YA sorting to begin with because the theme seemed to say "literary fiction", but it feels like a YA book would. There are dozens of memorable quotes, and the theme is as dark as I'd feared, but it wasn't as heavy-handed as I'd expected. Gene has his own motivations and a shedload of problems that go beyond the main plot of the book, and he has that special sense of absolute conviction in his beliefs that makes me detest someone very quickly. His friend Phineas is little better though (even though the first person narration makes it difficult to really see what he is about), so he has probably found his match.
Since I didn't like the characters all that much, my enjoyment depended on either the writing or the plot, preferably both. Plot-wise ... well, there are trainwrecks with a more interesting ruin, let's put it that way. There's certainly a sense of the inevitable, which I liked, because it made me turn the pages, but the unfulfilling ending threw me off a bit and resulted in the loss of a star. The language fulfilled the cover's promises though, so while I would place this on the lower end of the four-star spectrum, I don't regret reading it. And I'll leave you with a few memorable quotes to give you a taste.
"I felt that I was not, never had been and never would be a living part of this overpoweringly solid and deeply meaningful world around me."
"I spent as much time is I could alone in my room, trying to empty my mind of everything, to forget where I was, even who I was."
"Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him."
When I first heard the story of "Rebecca" - via the German musical "Rebecca" -, I thought it was one of those gothic novels from the late 18th / earlyWhen I first heard the story of "Rebecca" - via the German musical "Rebecca" -, I thought it was one of those gothic novels from the late 18th / early 19th century. This guess was about more than a hundred years off, but the story feels like that all the same. A young American woman falls in love with a rich and mysterious British gentleman, they marry, move to his estate, and it goes downhill from there.
Our young protagonist is enthusiastic, interested, and inquisitive, but this rapidly changes, and one can't blame her. She lives in the shadow of her husband's first wife Rebecca, whom he never talks about and the head housekeeper puts on a pedestal. After getting a quarter of the way through, I was ready to strangle Rebecca myself so that the young woman might have a fair chance.
There are mysteries and explanations and new discoveries and different explanations, but I have to say that I preferred the part where the atmosphere was being set up, to the actual revelations. This makes me not the ideal reader for mystery stories, I know that, but nevertheless I enjoyed - as in, I was really freaked out by - the first half of the story, and that is enough to warrant 3.5 stars. The ending was a bit hurried, which is why I'm not rounding up, but still, this is an interesting diversion from my usual reading material.
(Having guessed the original publish date incorrectly, I wonder what could have made a horror novel like this such a bestseller - in 1938. I would have thought that there was enough horror about, but maybe a different kind of horror presents an escape route of sorts.)
"The Final Empire" tells the story of how a rebellious group of thieves and 'magicians' (Allomancers) takes on the task of overthrowing the tyrannous"The Final Empire" tells the story of how a rebellious group of thieves and 'magicians' (Allomancers) takes on the task of overthrowing the tyrannous Lord Ruler and throwing the land into chaos, to bring on a new rule, that will be more fair to all people, especially the ones that have been supressed under the old rules. It (mostly) follows Vin, a young street thief, while she discovers her strong Allomantic powers, receives her training, and has to help overthrowing the Lord Ruler all at once.
As I've come to expect from a Brandon Sanderson book, "The Final Empire" shows a highly interesting magical system, this time based upon metals (and using the power within them to enhance your own abilities). It's not about being able to do everything one would like to do, and there are strict rules that have to be followed, thus making for pretty thrilling action sequences. And they require a lot of explanation, but I think it's handled quite good since the information isnÄt all in one monologue, but rather scattered over a lot of chapters, depending on Vin learning about a particular subject. Plus, there's a glossary at the end for easier understanding (which I actually didn't really need).
The Characters are extremely likeable, funnily enough, since I very rarely enjoy all the "good" people that are introduced in the course of one book. There are backstories given for all the major characters, so one can understand their motifs quite good.
My favourite character is Sazed, who - among other things - has a large knowledge about all kinds of religions, and constantly tries to convince the others to convert to one of them. He - and another guy who loves to talk about philosophical questions - help to keep this book something extraordinary, more than just a simple tale of a rebellion. Their constant questioning of the crew's - and the general people's - knowledge lift this book up to a standard comparable works don't show. Also, they put a lot of questions into one's head, that remain long after the read is over.
Coupled with Brandon's beautiful use of the English language, "The Final Empire" makes for a very enjoyable read, that probably gives its reader more than just a few hours of happiness for having read a really good book. Plus, in case you have the UK Edition, because of the gorgeous cover art it looks very nice on your shelf :).
PS: For all the German readers: Wenn ihr genug Verständnis für das Englische habt - und das müsst ihr jetzt, sonst hättet ihr diese Rezension nicht überlebt ;) - dann würde ich dringend empfehlen, die englische Ausgabe zu lesen. Die deutsche Übersetzung ist GRU-SE-LIG (schon alleine die Tatsache, dass ein Teil der Namen mit übersetzt (oder geändert) wurde. Bis hin zu der unschönen Übertragung eines Dialektes. Scheinbar ins Plattdeutsche...)!!!...more
"Lucifer - Träger des Lichts" von Catherine Webb ist ein Roman mit einem sehr interessanten Ansatz.
Lucifer, der Sohn von Magie und Vater Zeit, wird vo"Lucifer - Träger des Lichts" von Catherine Webb ist ein Roman mit einem sehr interessanten Ansatz.
Lucifer, der Sohn von Magie und Vater Zeit, wird von seinen Brüdern und Schwestern gemieden, weil er von seinem Vater als Waffe, nämlich als "Träger des Lichts" erdacht wurde und eine Macht besitzt, die seinen Geschwistern fremd ist. Als er sich auch noch dagegen wehrt, seinem Vater zu Willen zu sein, muss er den Himmel verlassen und findet in der Hölle und auch in der Welt der Sterblichen eine Zuflucht. Bis der Kampf seiner Brüder und Schwestern schließlich auch die Erde einholt...
Die Ideen, die die Autorin hier darstellt, sind wirklich faszinierend. Besonders der Kampf der verschiedenen Häuser um die Vorherrschaft im Himmel hat es mir angetan. Wie einfach es doch sein kann, alle möglichen Religionen und Weltanschauungen unter einen Hut zu bekommen! Auch der Hauptcharakter, Sam ( = Lucifer), ist gut herausgearbeitet. Stellenweise ist es mir gelungen, ein paar seiner Reaktionen zu erahnen, bevor ich sie las, und das ist doch leider schon sehr selten geworden.
Leider hat dieses Buch auch einige Schwachstellen, vor allem die vielen Logiklöcher in den verschiedensten Größen, die über diesem Buch ausgekippt wurden wie Streusel über einem Pflaumenkuchen. Beginnend mit zeitlichen Fragen (erst passiert ständig was, dann fällt der Typ für eine Woche(!) in Trance, und als erwacht, hat er quasi nix verpasst?!) über Lücken in den Hintergrundgeschichten der Charaktere (die Unsterblichen waren Jahrtausende lang auf der Erde, und es werden nur Begegnungen zum Anfang der Zeit oder im ausgehenden 19. bzw 20. Jahrhundert erwähnt?) bis hin zu schlicht merkwürdigen Begebenheiten im Verlauf der Handlung (hier aus Spoilergründen kein Beispiel^^) gibt es viele winzige Dinge, die zwar den Lesefluss an sich nicht unbedingt stören, aber dafür sorgen, dass dieses Buch weit hinter seinen Möglichkeiten zurückbleibt.
Alles in allem macht das zwei Sterne. Eine schöne Idee, aber man darf auf keinen Fall zu viel erwarten. Schade eigentlich, denn hier wurde die Chance vertan, etwas wirklich Tolles aufzubauen......more
"The Summer Book" by Tove Jansson, telling about a grandchilds' and a grandmothers' summer vacations on their island, is praised as one of Scandinavia"The Summer Book" by Tove Jansson, telling about a grandchilds' and a grandmothers' summer vacations on their island, is praised as one of Scandinavia's modern classics, and it is easy to see why. The novel brings a typical quiet Scandinavian summer to life; just the type of "still-holiday-but-also-something-else-entirely" that I remember having with my family when I was younger.
The chapters are quite short (ten pages at most I think), and one doesn't need to read them all in one go, which makes this book perfect for taking it along on such a holiday, or for reading out loud.
The changes coming to the island, by ways of the granddaughter growing up, the grandmother growing old, or just intruding from the outside world, are very subtle, but still noticeable. Especially when things are destroyed or one of the two feels lost or alone, the emotions are very strong. Despite this, I missed a growing understanding between the grandchild and the grandmother, perhaps because I felt the book ended a bit too early, or because I felt the connection was already there in one of the first chapters, and I didn't see the need for anything else.
In any case, I'd recommend this to just about anyone (despite those who seek "action" ;)). Lovely book in between. :)....more
When I started to read "The Owl Service", I wondered why the plot seemed familiar. Then I realized that I had rented the German version from a libraryWhen I started to read "The Owl Service", I wondered why the plot seemed familiar. Then I realized that I had rented the German version from a library years ago. And I remembered that I had given it up because I felt the translation was incredibly week. The writing could not possibly as odd as that translation was. And I remembered thinking I should get the original version to check whether I was right about the writing.
To cut a long story short: I was not. Apart from the fact that the author apparently only knows two words to express that someone is saying something (which are "said", naturally, and very rarely "called") and the odd descriptions, at most times dealing with the weather which doesn't seem to have much to do with current story, the characters are simply not believable. Disregarding the fact that the backcover for this edition reads like a magical adventure for children, which is just not happening, the three protagonists are talking in a very grown-up way (although none of them show any feelings at all), but at times they throw tantrums like five-year-olds. For no apparent reason, other than their distraught emotions which are never fully described.
Still, the postscript of this edition had an author's note saying what he hoped to achieve during the writing of this book, and I can see it all, even though I would have written it in a completely different way. The premise of the story and the setting are interesting enough and I felt a bit sad that it wasn't executed as well as it could have been.
This leaves me in a position that I've only been in once before - one where I couldn't stand the book, but still wanted to read it again. I've had the other problem with William Trevor who is now one of my favourite authors, which is why I'm giving this book three stars. I didn't enjoy it at all, but I would (and probably will) read it again, therefore I'll rate it in a neutral way. Maybe the reread will enlighten me on how to actually rate it....more