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
Claire Harris is a New York socialite, throwing extravagant parties and softening up her husband's potential business partners for him. Her past comesClaire Harris is a New York socialite, throwing extravagant parties and softening up her husband's potential business partners for him. Her past comes back to haunt her one night and she flees to Paris on the eve on the German occupation to find an old lover. Their reunion doesn't go well and she finds herself working in a florist shop and reluctantly assisting the French Resistance.
I'm not quite sure what to think. On the one hand, I did enjoy the book. I love almost any WWII novels and this is no exception. On the other hand, it was a bit too romance-y for me. It just couldn't quite make up its mind what it wanted to be. I can overlook romance--who doesn't love a good love story?--but when I'm suddenly hit with "Heat flooded her core," my eyes start rolling in my head and I start turning pages faster. "Can we please just get through this already?" To be fair, there were only a couple of those scenes but that was a couple too many for me.
I can't put my finger on any examples of this, but I'm also left with the feeling that it needed one more good proofreading before it was published. It's not bad by any means, it could have just been a little more polished.
I knew that the love story was going to center around Claire and Grey from their first meeting, so I did buy it. In retrospect though, I wish that part had been more fleshed out. Well, not that kind of fleshed out, but just the slow, getting-to-know-you part of things. Claire hates him at first, they meet a few times and she starts to change her mind, and then we're to the heated core. Quite a bit of time actually passed in between all these stages, so there was room for it to realistically unfold.
I've been all negative here and I didn't intend to be. I didn't care for Claire at first but she did grow on me. She grows a lot throughout the novel, she has a huge heart and a lot of courage once she decides to let them show, and she's faced with some pretty impossible choices. In the end, she unflinchingly does what she has to for those she cares about.
Readers who like more straight-up romance than I do should enjoy this book. If you're more on the fence, like me, it's worth a try at least. You'll know what you think within the first few chapters....more
Young orphan Jim Burden is sent from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents. There is a Bohemian family on the train with him. None of theYoung orphan Jim Burden is sent from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents. There is a Bohemian family on the train with him. None of them really speak English. They all get off at the same station in Black Hawk. It turns out that the family has just bought the farm next to Jim's grandparents. Neighbors are still far apart back in 1800s Nebraska but Jim still spends a lot of time with the Shimerda family, especially Ántonia, the oldest girl and closest to his age. As he watches Ántonia grow, he realizes that she has an indomitable spirit and admires her for it.
I liked Ántonia. A lot. She's smart, feisty, hard-working, loving, and full of life. As she grew older, I got more worried for her. This is a classic after all. I expected it to take a Thomas Hardy turn. I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't.
More than that, Ántonia embodied the American immigrant spirit. Her family starts out living in a dugout, basically a cave dug into the earth. They were comfortable back home in Bohemia so this is an adjustment for them, but rather than complain about it, as her mother does, Ántonia does her best to help raise the family out of that hole in the ground. She has setbacks of course, and people talk about her and her unfamiliar ways, but she just keeps doing what needs to be done.
Ántonia lives in the town of Black Hawk for a while and becomes friends with a group of other immigrants. The wider group shows just how much these new settlers have to offer the country. Some become successful businesswomen, others become farm wives, some are content to just keep working in hotels and laundries. They all make some kind of mark on the world, no matter how faint.
My one complaint is the framework of the book. The author (I'm unclear whether this is supposed to be Cather herself or an unknown "Author") meets an old friend and they start talking about Ántonia, whom they both knew. They both remember her as being a strong character and agree to write down what they remember about her. The "Author" forgets but then she receives Jim's notes. He says, "I didn't arrange or rearrange. I simply wrote down what of herself and myself and other people Ántonia's name recalls to me. I suppose it hasn't any form. It hasn't any title, either." And then the author says that the following is Jim's manuscript, essentially unchanged. There follows a completely finished novel. There's no mention of the "Author" who supposedly knew both Jim and Ántonia from childhood. It's a small thing but it bothered me. Why not just write a book from Jim's point of view without all this business of an unfinished manuscript and deferred authorship?
Anyway, the book is very readable, with language that evokes the plains. I haven't spent any time in the Midwest but to me it just brings to mind mile after mile of corn and wheat fields. I hate to say it, but that sounds pretty boring to this mountain girl. Willa Cather showed me her plains, with rolling hills; amazing light; beautiful, life-giving streams and rivers; rich land; and people who are the salt of the earth. I won't think of the Midwest the same way again after reading this book.
I highly recommend this for a beautiful read about the pioneering spirit on which America was built....more
Jess, his mom, dad, grandmother and farmhand/adoptive brother, Johnson, live a quiet life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They farm, viJess, his mom, dad, grandmother and farmhand/adoptive brother, Johnson, live a quiet life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They farm, visit with relatives, play some baseball, and get up to a whole lot of no good, as my grandmother would say. Jess's dad is a mischief-maker. He just can't help it. Johnson and Jess adore him and follow his lead in everything. Whether it's Halloween tricks or trying to find out exactly how long Uncle Gurton's beard really is, they are always up to something.
I laughed so hard reading this! My poor husband might as well have read it with me; I read all the good parts out loud to him anyway, and they were all good parts. He's not much of a reader and it just blows his mind when I start guffawing out of the blue at something I've read, but even he let out a few chuckles as I read to him.
I read and enjoyed Brighten the Corner Where You Are by this author several years ago. It was funny and then all of a sudden it had this serious message. It was also written from a child's point of view, so the kid's missing what's going on but the older reader really sees it. Well played, Mr. Chappell. I waited for something to come out and hit me in this book too. It didn't really happen. There was a bit in there about the cost of war, and I guess you could even say something about what soldiers in WWII were fighting to protect, but mostly this felt like a bunch of good family stories of the sort that tend to take on a life of their own.
I feel like I write this every time I read a well-written book set in Appalachia, but these characters felt like my people. I call this part of the world home and always have. The word choice, the eccentric characters, the tight-knit families that tease each other mercilessly but always have each other's backs--that describes my extended family. I just love when someone records it and gets it right. Times are changing everywhere, even in these sleepy mountains, but at least our way of life is preserved for the future somewhere.
For a good laugh and a look at a simpler time and way of life, give this one a try....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
Rory Stewart walked through India, Pakistan and Nepal in 2002, a time that was very unstable given the events of 2001 and the subsequent war. He decidRory Stewart walked through India, Pakistan and Nepal in 2002, a time that was very unstable given the events of 2001 and the subsequent war. He decided that he wanted to walk through the heart of Afghanistan as well. He met with a lot of bureaucracy, but he was eventually given permission to undertake his journey on the condition that several soldiers accompany him. He sets out across Afghanistan in winter, towering mountains and layers of snow between him and his final destination of Kabul.
I was a little disappointed in this and I'm having a hard time putting my finger on why, exactly. I think I expected more interaction with people? He's on foot and relies on the kindness of strangers for shelter and food. It's not like there are Holiday Inns on every street corner in Afghanistan. Heck, for that matter, there aren't even any streets to form corners in the rural areas he travels through. Just spending a night or two in one place, I felt like I didn't get a good sense of what the average people were really like. Which is kind of stupid to say. People are people. Afghans are like people everywhere--mean or kind, religious or not, apathetic or passionate. The one thing they are is crushingly poor. The country has been at war for so long, and I believe there's been a terrible drought that has dried up everything, so there's no chance to grow crops or lead a normal life. Anyway, I guess I didn't get a feel for what an average day in the life of an average Afghan is really like. Mr. Stewart mostly saw other people at night, when they'd settled in the house for what little dinner they could scrape together. What do they do with their time? I have no idea. What do they hope for or dream of? I don't know that either. It just felt like a lot of, "I walked, begged for shelter and food, then we all fell asleep. I left early the next morning, dragging my dog behind me." I'm not being entirely fair, but that's closer to the truth than I hoped for when I picked this book up.
There were a few things that stood out. There's an ancient civilization based in Afghanistan that archeologists haven't been able to find traces of. Mr. Stewart believes that villagers have found the ancient capital city and are looting it mercilessly. He describes untrained people digging through rubble, breaking what are probably priceless antiquities in their ignorance and rush to get items sold on the black market for a little more money to survive a few more days. Who can really blame them? He says that he tried to bring attention to the site when he left the country but no one was interested. I guess it's just too unsafe. Meanwhile, the knowledge and history to be gained is lost. There are other sites where the same kind of thing is happening, either due to unintentional harm or neglect.
Overall, the book was easy enough to read and I did learn about a country that is very foreign to me and the different ethnic groups that live there. I just somehow wanted more out of it....more
When I was offered a copy of Neil Gaiman's newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, for review, my first thought was to jump on it. I adore NeiWhen I was offered a copy of Neil Gaiman's newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, for review, my first thought was to jump on it. I adore Neil Gaiman's work. He is one of only about three authors who get their own shelf name on my GoodReads account. And then I remembered that I wasn't particularly happy with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I know I'm in the minority and I've never even written a review for it, but all I can say is that it was too weird, even for me. I hate feeling honor-bound to review a book that I didn't love so I wavered. Then I decided to go for it. I'm so glad I did!
Overall impression: It started off with a couple of stories that I didn't particularly care for so I was getting worried. I'd read the third story earlier (In George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois's Songs of Love and Death) and enjoyed it, but still, it was a re-read. The fourth story started to catch my attention and by the fifth, I was hooked. There were probably one or two others I didn't care for in the remaining nineteen stories, but the collection overall is fantastic.
And because I find it impossible not to mention what I think of every single story in a collection, here's where I get long-winded.
"Making a Chair"--A poem about--you guessed it--making a chair. I assume Gaiman was pushing through some writer's block with this one. Haven't we all been there? You have a million real things to do but something unimportant proves to be a welcome distraction?
"A Lunar Labyrinth"--Normally short horror stories scare me to death. So much is left unsaid. I can generally read Stephen King novels and sleep like a baby, but hand me one of his short stories and I'll be up all night, jumping at every sound. This story left a bit too much unsaid. I was uneasy but I didn't really understand what was going on so it stopped there. I'd completely forgotten about it until I started looking back through the book to write this review.
"The Thing About Cassandra"--I like the way this story turns completely upside down about halfway through. Even as a re-read it felt surprising.
"Down to a Sunless Sea"--I suspected where this atmospheric creeper was going but I still liked it.
"The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains..."--Probably my favorite in the collection. It has a dark, twisted fairy tale feel to it. Gaiman writes so much that he's practically impossible to categorize. This is written in the style of his that I like best.
"My Last Landlady"--I had no idea where this was going but it got darker and darker. I liked it.
"Adventure Story"--This one was just a lot of fun. The narrator's mom refers to meeting someone unexpectedly in the grocery store as an adventure. But she occasionally hints at some real adventures his dad (and possibly her? I don't remember now) had when they were younger. It made me think about the untold stories that people walk around with every day.
"Orange"--I love the format. It's written as a sort of police report so it unfolds gradually, leaving the reader to piece everything together. It's the story of an ordinary family and the extraordinary things that happen to them when the older sister is--well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? I enjoyed it.
"A Calendar of Tales"--I'll try to restrain myself from reviewing each of these. I read about the idea for this mini collection on Twitter and I was excited to see the end result. It was a bit hit-or-miss for me.
"The Case of Death and Honey"--Sherlock Holmes. I liked it well enough but it dragged on a bit too long and moved through time a bit too much for my taste. I prefer Gaiman's Sherlock tale in Fragile Things.
"The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury"--I enjoyed this while I was reading it but now that a little time has passed, I find that I've, well, forgotten it a bit. Not even trying to be ironic.
"Jerusalem"--Apparently there is a real disorder-y thing where people visit Jerusalem and then find themselves sort of spreading God's Word through the streets. Who knew? Not this girl. Of course this is fodder for a good story in Gaiman's hands.
"Click-Clack the Rattlebag"--Now this is the kind of horror story I like!
"An Invocation of Incuriosity"--I liked the idea but the story felt like the introduction to a novel. I really wanted to know more.
"'And Weep, Like Alexander'"--Fun enough. What if there were an uninventor running around out there, erasing some of our more egregious inventions?
"Nothing O'Clock"--An unsettling Doctor Who story. I've only watched the show a few times because my husband can't stand Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, but this feels like it fits right in that world.
"Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale"--This apparently went along with some artwork on one of Amanda Palmer's albums. It was okay but I would like to see the photo it went with.
"The Return of the Thin White Duke"--This was one of those stories that, in your heart of hearts, you know works best as a story, but you really, really want to know what came before and after. It felt cyclical in a way that I can only compare to Stephen King's Dark Tower series. There's definitely more to it but we'll never know what it is.
"Feminine Endings"--Another creeper. It reminded me a bit of "Stilled Life" by Pat Cadigan, a short story that I think about surprisingly often.
"Observing the Formalities"--A story poem told from Maleficent's point of view. Pretty good.
"The Sleeper and the Spindle"--Another fairy tale. This has a bit of a feminist slant so of course I liked it.
"Witch Work"--Another poem but I can't say that I really understand it.
"In Relig Odhráin"--I took this to be about religion and the inconvenient truths that get buried under dogma. I think this is one of those things that everyone will interpret differently though. I liked it well enough.
"Black Dog"--Shadow from American Gods turns back up. I really need to re-read that someday. This was a solid story that kept me turning the pages....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
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