Allan Karlsson impulsively leaves his nursing home by way of his bedroom window on the day of his 100th birthday. There was no real decision-making inAllan Karlsson impulsively leaves his nursing home by way of his bedroom window on the day of his 100th birthday. There was no real decision-making involved; it was just done. So there he is, on the run in his "pee slippers" (so called because 100-year-old men don't reliably miss their shoes in the bathroom) and no real destination in mind. His journey leads him to the bus stop, where he steals a suitcase and then travels by bus as far as his limited funds will take him. It gets crazier from there as he goes from a missing geriatric to a wanted murderer.
In flashbacks, we read the story of Allan's life. He meets many, many world leaders during his time, influences world events, and makes a lot of friends in strange places.
I try not to read reviews of books I'm reading too close to the time I start reading them. I don't want others' thoughts to influence my own review. But this title caught my eye and I'd never heard of it, so before I downloaded the audio from the library website, I had a quick look through the GoodReads reviews. I came across many people who compared this to Forrest Gump. I have to agree. But it's like, Forrest Gump to the nth degree. It's just crazy and hilarious. No drama with broken women here. I also have to compare it to the Jim Carrey movie, Yes Man. Allan is an agreeable sort of fellow and he'll do anything to help someone else out, whether it's saving General Franco's life during the Spanish Revolution or giving Stalin the secret to the atomic bomb. Indirectly, in that case. Stalin was one of the few people Allan met that he didn't actually care for. Anyway, his propensity to say yes takes him around the world multiple times in a long life that is both well-lived and always entertaining.
I really enjoyed reading about the old man making a run for it and having one last, great adventure. My grandfather is 96 and basically wheelchair bound. I'm sure he'd like to go out the window and do whatever he likes for a few days. It's nice to read about someone actually doing it, fictional character or not.
I liked the reminder that our elderly have lived long lives that we don't necessarily know much about. Allan is just kind of rotting away in his nursing home, bored out of his mind except for his frequent battles with Director Alice, and no one knows what a full life he's lived because no one's bothered to ask. How many people is that true of? Probably a lot.
I love the dedication, which ends, "Those who only says what is the truth, they're not worth listening to." That's my motto. Why would I stick to the facts when I can tell you a story? Facts are boring. I think I would have liked Mr. Jonasson's grandfather.
The translation by Rod Bradbury is impeccably done and the narration by Steven Crossley is excellent.
For a fun romp through fairly recent history, pick this book up. ...more
Fereiba lived a lonely childhood in Afghanistan. Her mother died in childbirth and her stepmother never treated her like a real member of the family.Fereiba lived a lonely childhood in Afghanistan. Her mother died in childbirth and her stepmother never treated her like a real member of the family. Her stepmother does eventually arrange a marriage for her and it becomes a love match. Three children later, the Taliban are in power, Fereiba has had to give up the teaching job she loves, and their lives are shattered when the authorities knock on the door late one night, taking her husband Mahmood with them. Suddenly Fereiba finds herself alone with her children, fleeing Afghanistan and trying to reach family in England.
I like books like this. They always make me more thankful for the things I take for granted every day. It's easy to forget that not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I'm free to wear what I want, worship as please, marry whomever I want, work at any job I'm qualified for, and get an education. I have access to healthcare, a nice home, clean water, electricity, indoor plumbing...the list goes on. Not everyone has even the most basic of these.
I particularly enjoyed that the book starts before the Taliban were in power. Fereiba is a teacher, wearing stylish clothes and meeting her friends in public. The change to the Taliban regime is pretty abrupt in the book, I guess in the interest of time, but suddenly she can't teach and she can barely leave the house. When she does she has to wear a burqa and be accompanied by her husband. I've read widely enough to know that these changes have happened within my lifetime but it's good to remind those of us who are aware of it and to open the eyes of those who don't.
I felt so bad for the family as they traveled. They fought so hard to stay together and lived such a dangerous life. Caring for a sick infant made everything so much more stressful. Fereiba doesn't speak English, which is known widely enough to make a difference for them, so she has to rely on her teenage son for almost everything--a hard fact for a devoted mother trying to protect her children.
They stumbled on so many caring, helpful people though. Of course there were dangerous people who threatened them or tried to take advantage of them, but so many went out of their way to be kind. It was amazing.
I also liked that this made me more aware of the challenges surrounding refugees and immigrants. Some countries were so overwhelmed with the unending flood of people that they had become pretty heartless to the travelers' plights. But what is the answer when there are so many people coming through your borders that you can't track them all, much less find a way to help them feed and care for themselves? Some of the living situations were pretty dire.
If you enjoy reading about other cultures and being reminded how blessed your life really is, pick this one up.
Thanks to the publisher for giving me early access to the book in exchange for a review....more
I walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not goiI walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not going to check out any fiction. I grabbed the book I was there for and then started wandering the fiction stacks. It couldn't hurt to just look, right? OK, so I hadn't read anything by Patricia Briggs in a while. I needed to check out the next in the Mercy Thompson series since it was available. But that was it. Nothing else. I marched toward the checkout desk with blinders on. I would not be deterred.
But, oh! What's that? Over on the "Staff Recommends" shelf? It's so pretty! My feet were going that way of their own volition. My hands were reaching for it. Beautiful and creepy. A quick glance at the back. Fairy tale? Sold. I had Beautiful Darkness checked out and in the car before my brain even processed what had just happened.
It truly is a beautiful book. It's large and hardcover so it was very striking on display. The interior artwork is all gorgeous too. I took my time looking over each frame.
The story--? So-so. It was very dark, in a Lord of the Flies way. I was never entirely clear exactly what happened, but I was clear enough. There's a murdered little girl in the woods. All of these fairy-ish creatures fled--her body? her mind?-- when she died. Now they're alone in a harsh world trying to survive.
All of the personalities you would expect to see in this situation show up. The "Queen Bee," demanding that the others cater to her every whim. The caretaker who is doing her best for everyone. The outcasts. The sneaky manipulators. And a whole lot of clueless people who get themselves killed for no good reason.
It was just too episodic for me. Each smaller story lasted just a few frames. There was a larger story arc and I did like that one. I did not expect the ending at all. It was deliciously shivery.
The translation was done very well. I would never have guessed it wasn't originally written in English.
If you enjoyed Lord of the Flies, you'll probably like this twisted little beauty of a book. If you're looking for a Disney-ish fairy tale, keep those feet marching toward the checkout desk. This one's pretty disturbing....more
Tin Win is a successful lawyer who simply walks out of his life one day. His children have both graduated from college so he apparently has decided thTin Win is a successful lawyer who simply walks out of his life one day. His children have both graduated from college so he apparently has decided that he's a free man. There's a search but it quickly comes to a dead end in Bangkok. His daughter Julia decides several years later to go looking for him in Burma, his native country, after finding a love letter he had written to a woman named Mi Mi. She quickly stumbles onto a man named U Ba who is able to tell her father's story from his start as an abandoned peasant boy to the time he left Burma.
Eh. I enjoyed this. And then I got to the end. It felt way too Nicholas Sparks-y to me. Nothing against him, that's just not my kind of book. At all.
The book and translation are beautifully written and the audio version is fabulous. Cassandra Campbell is an excellent narrator. Burma is not a country that I've read much about but it was fascinating. The descriptions of Tin Win finding his way through the world as child, relying mostly on his sensitive hearing, were amazing. The story of his first love was heart-wrenching.
But then I don't understand what happens. We are told how he ends up in America but I can't say that I truly get it. I can't lay out my questions without giving away spoilers, so I'll just say--why? I think it was a cultural thing. But it felt like a contrivance to set the story on the teary Nicholas Sparks path.
So I obviously don't think this is for everyone but if you like reading love stories with your box of tissues nearby, pick this one up....more
Rick Bragg grew up poor in Alabama. His daddy was very rarely in the picture and his momma did the best she could at whatever job she could find to keRick Bragg grew up poor in Alabama. His daddy was very rarely in the picture and his momma did the best she could at whatever job she could find to keep her three sons fed. She mostly did the back-breaking work of picking cotton for very little pay. It wasn't easy to be a single mother in 1960ish Alabama but she did her best. In this memoir, Rick Bragg writes with deep love and hard truths about the sacrifices his momma made for him and his brothers and the life he was able to build because of her. He left the cotton fields of Alabama to become a Puliter-prize winning journalist for the New York Times. This is their story.
All of that up there sounds deadly serious but mostly what I took away from this book is humor and grace. Somehow Rick Bragg's first memoir is the last one I've read and I have literally laughed 'til I cried in every one. I've read my family members bits here and there and retold stories I remember and made everyone listening to me laugh too. Maybe they're just humoring me, but I don't think so.
Reading the other books first, I expected this one to be more about momma. (It's impossible to call her anything else. I went to an author signing and the first question anyone asked him was, "How's your momma doing'?" We were supposed to be there for his biography of Jerry Lee Lewis. Who wants to know about celebrities? We wanted to know about momma.) Which is stupid. They're all about momma. She is the heart of all these stories. So I guess what I mean is that I expected it to tell more of momma's own life story. It does but I still just want to know more about her. She probably doesn't want anything like that written about herself though. I can just imagine if I told my Mama that I was going to publish a book about her life. She'd pitch a fit. I imagine Rick's momma would feel the same.
I love the tales of Rick growing up and the old family stories but I also enjoyed reading chapters about Rick's career as a reporter. Those could be pretty harsh. The parts about Haiti were just awful. I read about riots in Miami and asked my husband how he ever made it out of there alive, only half joking. As much as I love the humorous stories, Rick Bragg can make you feel like you're in the middle of any scene he wants, and sometimes that leads to some terrifying places.
I love reading Rick Bragg's writing. I hear it more than I read it, even as my eyes are moving slowly across the printed page, savoring the language. I don't know how it reads to anyone else, but his Alabama words read like home to me. He writes the way I talk and I love it. Apparently it's more about the Appalachians than it is about the state we're from because I'm a North Carolina girl but it all rings true. I listened to the audio version of his second memoir, The Prince of Frogtown, read by the author, and I loved it. I can't say which format I enjoy more.
Just go read this. It's a book with a lot of heart and sometimes those feel like they're hard to find. You'll be glad you took the time to read this one....more
Jean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He putJean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He puts together gigantic puzzles in his spartan apartment and sells books on his book barge, The Literary Apothecary. He knows exactly the right book to sell to the lovelorn when they enter his shop, but he doesn't know how to fix his own life.
When Catherine, fresh out of a devastating marriage, moves in across the hall, they both sense that they could have a real, lasting relationship, a relationship that neither of them is ready for. In an act of desperation, Jean casts his barge off into the Seine, bestselling author Max in tow, and heads off into the sunset, or at least the south of France, to seek peace and healing.
I truly wanted to like this more than I did. I read a couple of reviews, thought it sounded like the perfect book for me, and went to request it on Netgalley. It was good, not great, and in the month or so since I finished it, I've largely forgotten it.
My biggest problem was the title. I estimate that 2/3 of the book takes place outside of Paris. So now it's The Little France Bookshop. That's misleading but still, no real complaints here. I haven't been to France but it's high on my wishlist. And while quite a bit of the story does take place in the bookshop or around books, it wasn't quite as much as I expected. Instead of a love story to books, or a love story revolving around books, I felt like it was more of a love story with a few books thrown in. That's not quite fair because there were a lot of titles and author's names tossed about but they almost felt like afterthoughts. To me, anyway.
Still, the settings did come to life for me. I'm ready to take a cruise on the waterways of France in the summertime. Especially on a floating bookstore. I want to gaze at the stars, dance the tango, smell the flowers, eat the food and drink the wine.
I liked the three men who ultimately end up aboard The Literary Apothecary and the way their lives contrast to each other. Young author Max hasn't experience all-consuming love yet and he's frankly afraid of the idea. Jean had his and can't let her go. Jack-of-all-trades Cuneo joins them later on---and I can't finish this thought because that will get into spoilers.
I personally don't read too many straight-up romantic-type books, so this turned out not to be a great fit for me. Those who enjoy romance more than I do will love this one. But even for me, it was worth the read, if only for the gorgeous setting.
Simon Pare did an excellent job with the translation. If I hadn't known it was translated, I don't think I ever would have guessed. The language was gorgeous.
Thanks to the publisher for allowing me access to a review copy through Netgalley....more
In a hospital in England, the anti-Christ is born, making unlikely allies of the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They've both spent quite a biIn a hospital in England, the anti-Christ is born, making unlikely allies of the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They've both spent quite a bit of time on Earth and they actually kind of like the place. They're not ready for the End of Days. So they set out to make sure it doesn't happen.
I read this book about half a lifetime ago, which makes me feel a little old. I really enjoyed it. When I saw that it was going to be adapted for radio by the BBC and we could stream it on our side of the pond, I was excited.
I think I was a little distracted as I was listening to it. I only listened to it around the house so I could stream it over our wifi. And of course I was puttering around as I listened. I laughed in all the right places but it felt disjointed to me. I think that's at least partly because I would get focused on whatever I was doing for a minute or two and then try to pick up the thread of the narrative again. Also, the BBC app is terrible. I could only listen to five minutes at a time before the audio started whistling at me, so then I'd have to exit completely out and go back in to listen to the next five minutes. That shows some sort of dedication on my part, doesn't it, that I listened to the whole thing like that?
Also, (I'm afraid to say this), I tend to love Neil Gaiman's books but I've never been a huge Terry Pratchett fan. My sister has tried to get me to read the Discworld books forever. I've read a few. I enjoyed one and the others were just too random and over the top for me. That's how Good Omens felt to me now. I don't know if my taste has changed or if it just stood out to me more in this format.
The adaptation was very well done though. I haven't listened to many (if any) other radio adaptations, and I liked the full cast and the sound effects. I can't think of any weaknesses in that aspect of things.
I don't know if this is still available, but fans of the book should definitely check it out. I think I just had too many other things going on because I really should have loved it....more
Mary Roach has a gift for making science accessible and--dare I say it?--even funny. In this book, she tackles the digestive system.
Covering topics raMary Roach has a gift for making science accessible and--dare I say it?--even funny. In this book, she tackles the digestive system.
Covering topics ranging from thorough chewing (as in 700+ chews for One. Freaking. Bite.) to the miraculous properties of spit, from being eaten alive to the possibility (or not) of chewing your way out if you are, from "The alimentary canal as criminal accomplice" to *ahem* flatus, and ending up with bacterial transplants to treat intractable digestive ailments, this book asks everything you might possibly have ever wanted to know on the topic but were afraid to ask.
I have a pretty juvenile sense of humor, so all of the fart jokes, and spit jokes, and *ahem* "criminal accomplice" jokes had me at least giggling. In the two chapters devoted to flatulence, I was quite honestly laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. Not that it was necessarily that funny but because "Oh my gosh, I can't believe she went there. And there. And there!" I'm almost ashamed of myself. Almost. Luckily my husband and I have the same sense of humor so he just kept playing whatever game on his phone as I laughed myself silly and waited for me to catch my breath and report so he could share in the joke too.
I've worked in healthcare for years, so I've developed a pretty strong stomach (though I'm not a nurse or CNA and haven't ever had to wade into the trenches, so to speak), so nothing in here bothered me. That will obviously not be the case for all of you. If you can stomach it (heehee!), I do recommend this. If it doesn't seem to be your kind of thing, it's probably not....more