I have a love-hate affair with Overdrive. I love that I can borrow and return books without having to leave my bed. It’s got a pretty good selection –I have a love-hate affair with Overdrive. I love that I can borrow and return books without having to leave my bed. It’s got a pretty good selection – you should see my ‘wish list’ (where I’ve added books to read). But it also sucks – I can’t highlight passages, I can only bookmark pages. I know it’s a borrowed e-book but I would love to be able to highlight sections of the book to come back to later when I’m writing my review. But no…. just bookmarks, no highlighting, no note-taking.
So here I am stuck with many ‘bookmarks’ on the Overdrive e-book I’m blogging about, The Confessions of Noa Weber.
One of which was on page 10. And which I later realised was bookmarked for this passage:
“To confess to the finish… to confess till it finishes me off… to talk about him, to talk about myself, to talk so I won’t have to bear it any more. To talk until I can’t stand myself any longer. To talk, to talk, to talk myself to death – this is apparently why I’m standing here before you today.”
And that is essentially what The Confessions of Noa Weber is about. Noa Weber is 47 years old, a writer of crime novels (her protagonist is a very busty woman called Nira Woolf) in Israel. Her daughter is turning 29. And she has, for 30 years or so, been obsessively in love with Alek, whom she first met at a party as a teen and married to avoid being drafted.
It is an unrequited love:
“I loved him. And Alek wasn’t in love with me. And in spite of my youth, I did not give way to the temptation to interpret various gestures of his as possible manifestations of love. I did not count my steps to the refrain of ‘he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not…’. And even when I read between the lines – lovers will always read between the lines, they are never satisfied with the manifest content – I did not deceive myself by discovering signs of a feeling he did not possess. I loved him, and precisely for that reasons, I knew that he didn’t love me.”
This book could easily have sunken into some kind of weird deranged blog-style rant. Isn’t that what one immediately thinks of when it comes to obsessions? And this is some obsession. But Noa isn’t some pathetic lovelorn woman. Sure, as a young pregnant girl she was:
“What happened to me during the birth was that I began to think about pain as a kind of sacrifice I was making for Alek, as if I had surrendered to pain for his sake.”
But the Noa Weber writing this ‘confession’ is more mature and self-aware, she is unfaltering in her need to confess. And she is also really dead on when it comes to her thoughts about love, young love, not-so-young love, unconditional love. It becomes quite philosophical, thoughtful.
However, I kept glancing at the bottom right corner of the Overdrive app, which tells me just how many pages are left. Because this isn’t the easiest book to read. It does get kind of annoying at times, so often I wanted to tell her, enough with Alek already. He’s not in love with you. He’s got other women, he’s even got other children by those women. But you know what? There’s no need. Because she knows all that already. She does. She is, after all, confessing all this to the reader. So I am guilty of skimming, a little on this page, a little on that. Because she gets a bit repetitive. So maybe I might have missed out on a few crucial emo bits, but sometimes skimming makes for a better book reading, because I can get on with it and move to another book.
So that’s my confession. I am a skimmer when the need arises. And in parts of this book, it did. But there is some part of me that understands Noa Weber and her unrequited love, I guess somewhere (perhaps buried deep inside) most of us, we would understand how she feels:
“There will never be a summer for us. Never in any summer will I walk with him along foreign streets, with their desperate squalor and their desperate splendor that I seem to know from some previous incarnation. And never will I experience again the consciousness of infinite expanses where everything seems pointless but love itself. Love will never expand me. The one right body will never come to me.”...more
“But once there were only three, most powerful and glorious of all: the god of day, the god of night, and the goddess of twilight and dawn.Or light an“But once there were only three, most powerful and glorious of all: the god of day, the god of night, and the goddess of twilight and dawn.Or light and darkness and the shades between. Or order, chaos, and balance. None of that is important because one of them died, the other might as well have, and the last is the only one who matters anymore.”
And it was with a little sigh of satisfaction and a sense of fullness (but not to the point of being overstuffed) that I finished this book.
Perhaps there was a feeling of relief too. Because it had lived up to my expectations. And oh, were my expectations high. Largely because of Eva’s review and her link to this article in Salon. Plus the fact that it won the 2011 Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Crawford, Gemmell, Tiptree and World Fantasy awards.
I love going into a book, especially fantasy and SF, not knowing much about it. And what a ride this was. But perhaps you might need a tidbit. This is a world of gods and mortals, and features an incredible character in Yeine who comes from a matriarchal warrior tribe and who is named heir to the hundred thousand kingdoms.
“I am short and flat and brown as forestwood, and my hair is a curled mess. Because I find it unmanageable otherwise, I wear it short. I am sometimes mistaken for a boy.”
And as we discover the city of Sky and the Arameri society with her, we realise just how strong and yet so very likeable she is.
A fantastic read.
Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first book of the Inheritance Trilogy, but it works fine as a standalone read. Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of Gods make up the rest of the series....more
I had two ambitions growing up, one was to be an archaeologist (I probably watched too much Indiana Jones – the Temple of Doom was one of the first moI had two ambitions growing up, one was to be an archaeologist (I probably watched too much Indiana Jones – the Temple of Doom was one of the first movies I remember watching in a cinema), and the other was to be a journalist. In fact, my ideal job was to write for National Geographic, wandering the world, penning these fabulous, insightful stories for everyone to read. I never quite made it there. I ended up at Singapore’s main newspaper, The Straits Times, as a content producer/online journalist, updating their website with news from the wires and working on the entertainment news site (the best part is that I got to write movie reviews, which of course meant going for the press previews!). Later, I had a blast at the free tabloid commuter paper Streats – fun colleagues, a great beat (mostly entertainment, with a focus on the local film industry, and the occasional general news stories – we were a pretty small team) – which made it so difficult to see the paper shuttered. Then, after being shunted off to the Sunday paper, my journalistic ambitions stopped short. Preparing for the Tuesday morning brainstorming meetings filled me with dread. I fell out of love with journalism. My six months there were six months too long and I was so relieved to be seconded to the sub-editing desk, even if it meant working till offstone (after midnight). There at least I felt like I knew what I was doing, editing, captioning, headlining, correcting other people’s pieces and making sure they kept to the house style.
Anyway, this is all just a long-winded way of saying that this might be why Winston Cheung’s story, of all the characters in Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, was one that stood out. A young, somewhat naive wannabe stringer in Cairo, he finds his orderly life besieged by a veteran war correspondent, who turns up out of nowhere and pretty much pushes Wayne around, with the promise of a co-byline. I wanted Winston to speak up, to fight his bully, to work Cairo on his own, but I think I would’ve been equally pressured, hapless. It was quite a hilarious chapter, and such a memorable one.
The opening chapter features veteran correspondent Lloyd, who reports from Paris but is now more or less out of the scene. His wife is seeing their neighbour and his children aren’t exactly all that fond of him. Lloyd is desperate, broke and unable to convince the paper to accept his story ideas. Until he pitches something that sounds pretty newsy, something a bit hush hush, the source of which is the only son who is still willing to go out and have lunch with him. But things are not what they seem… let’s leave it at that.
Each chapter is a different character’s story. And they are tied together with the background of this newspaper, founded in the 1950s by Cyrus Ott. I wish I could tell you more about the other characters – staff and one reader (she’s got a fascinating quirk) – but that would make for too long a review. And plus I always have that useful excuse – the baby is crying (ok he’s not really, he’s in his bassinet and moving his arms around and occasionally grunting, but otherwise seems kind of contented, but soon it’ll be time for a feeding).
The Imperfectionists was a fun read – great storytelling, a nice variety of characters whose stories you want to hear more of. It definitely lived up to its buzz. ...more
A leather-bound book. Weathered, yellowed heavy paper. A careful handwritten script. A fireplace. A glass of wine. A stiff-backed, heavy, scarlet chair.A leather-bound book. Weathered, yellowed heavy paper. A careful handwritten script. A fireplace. A glass of wine. A stiff-backed, heavy, scarlet chair. A rug so thick you can barely see your toes. Snow falling outside, magicking everything white.
All this. Any of this would have been the perfect way to read The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, and not the way I did, snatched in bits and pieces on my iPhone. Convenient yes but just so so lacking in atmosphere, in texture, in feeling.
Because this is such a magical book. An ice queen hidden in the mountains surrounded by mythical creatures kind of magic. Witchcraft and Darkness kind of magic. For she calls them with their true name and they come. How very Ged-like.
It is a fairytale, a love story, a song of strength and power.
Its sense of antiquity begs to be given the proper treatment. To be read under the stars, by candlelight, in a tome that is passed down from generation to generation.
My reread (with many more to come) shall definitely be on the printed page. On a cold mountain. With tendrils of mist caressing each page…
A book to read today, tomorrow and ever after....more
Each evening the snail awoke and with astonishing poise moved gracefully to the rim of the pot and peered over, surveying, once again, the strange co
Each evening the snail awoke and with astonishing poise moved gracefully to the rim of the pot and peered over, surveying, once again, the strange country that lay ahead. Pondering its circumstance with a regal air, as if from the turret of a castle, it waved its tentacles first this way and then that, as though responding to a distant melody.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a gentle, slow, sweet book.
A book for savouring.
A book that I would like to read all over again – this time an actual physical book, not just the e-book the library lent me. Don’t get me wrong – I very much enjoy e-books, their immediacy, their availability, their readability (yes, readability, you read that right – with a 14-month-old in the house, reading on an iPhone is better than not reading at all! Wee reader loves to turn pages, especially those not of board books, so put one of my books on a sofa and he’ll head straight to it, patting the pages, turning them).
Anyway, back to the book. Elisabeth Tova Bailey (an alias) was travelling in Europe when she was struck by some mysterious illness that left her with severe neurological symptoms and resulted in being bedridden. On a visit, a friend brings some flowers and a snail. And Bailey is struck by this little snail, which wanders off the flower pot and down the crate at night, and as her interest in gastropods grows, she reads more about their history, lifestyle, habits, and observes her little friend as it slides and glides its way to her – and her readers’ – hearts. Who would have thought that a little book about a little creature could say so much?
“I listened carefully. I could hear it eating. The sound was of someone very small crunching celery continuously. I watched, transfixed, as over the course or an hour the snail meticulously ate an entire purple petal for dinner.”...more
You know that rule some people have about reading 50 pages of a book and deciding whether to put it down or continue with it? Well I’m not sure if thiYou know that rule some people have about reading 50 pages of a book and deciding whether to put it down or continue with it? Well I’m not sure if this would have made it if I were a stickler to that rule. Actually, writing that, I’m not sure exactly which page it was that made me realize I liked this book. But I do know that I mostly muddled my way through the first lot of pages. The narration confused me a little. Multiple points of view, different periods of time. It was as if the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were in front of me, but I didn’t have the faintest idea what the picture was. It didn’t help that I read part of it after the 430/5 am feedings, using the night mode on the Bluefire ereader app.
But there was something about Alice. When she meets her John and they muddle their way into a relationship. There’s something about his doggedness, her seeming initial reluctance to be a part of it, then it grows into that sweetness of love, bolstered by their determination to be together despite disapproval. Their immense, heady, head-in-the-clouds love. That was what made me want to carry on. That was what took my own heart a little bit. This relationship, this character of Alice, these things creep under your skin and
The story begins with Alice, heading out on the train to Edinburgh to see her sisters. But something happens and she decides to head back to London. She steps out into the street and is hit by a car. As she lies in a coma in hospital, the narrative, as I had mentioned earlier*, flits from the present to the past, unravelling the circumstances that have led up to this day. This involves her mother, her grandmother, her sisters, and her John.
This story has stayed with me, and everytime I think of it, I feel strangely overwhelmed. There is so much emotion and sentiment in this story. Perhaps it’s a little melodramatic, but it is very moving, and beautifully and sharply written.
I look up O’Farrell’s bibliography and realised that this was her first novel. I can’t wait to read the rest of her books!...more
Hillenbrand is an absolute gem of a non-fiction writer. Seabiscuit was a stunning read, as is Unbroken. I’ve begun to realize that a mark of a good noHillenbrand is an absolute gem of a non-fiction writer. Seabiscuit was a stunning read, as is Unbroken. I’ve begun to realize that a mark of a good non-fiction book in my view, is when I turn to the husband and feed him interesting bits and bobs from the book. In the case of Unbroken, he even began asking me where the story was at, what had happened to the main character. For it is that kind of story. A bold, brave, and just wonderfully written book.
Louie Zamperini’s life story is an incredible one. The pranks he pulled as a kid, as an adult. The way he makes it to the Berlin Olympics. And of course his amazing record-breaking 47 days on board a life raft with his pal, surrounded by sharks, having to figure out how to get water and food (albatross anyone?), trying their desperate best to survive, only to be captured by the Japanese. Another big part of the story is Zamperini’s – and the other POWs’ – struggles in the Japanese POW camps. The word ‘incredible’ keeps going around and around in my head. Because this is a truly incredible story of heroism, of bravery, of determination, of such cruelty, such sadistic cruelty.
Besides the amazing-enough story, there is also Hillenbrand’s fantastic writing. She knows just when to throw in great quotes, and it is obvious that her research is thorough and extensive. Unbroken is probably one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read....more