I'm about to write a huge sweeping statement that I really shouldn't but here goes.
I just don't do well with South American authors.
That's not fair. II'm about to write a huge sweeping statement that I really shouldn't but here goes.
I just don't do well with South American authors.
That's not fair. I've only read three or four, I think. But I never have a clue what's actually going on. What's real, what's not, what the "not real" things are supposed to represent--I'm just lost. I'm sure it's not them, it's me. But my brain and understanding is all I have to work with, and I just don't get it.
I read this for a reading challenge last year. I did better than I expected but I still have questions.
The "discreet hero" of the title is Felícito Yanaqué. He owns a transportation/trucking business that he built from the ground up. He becomes a hero of the little people when he refuses to bow to the gang that is trying to extort "protection" money from him. Instead of paying the money for the gang to protect his business (i.e., not burn it to the ground themselves), he complains to the police and makes a stand. I could follow Felícito's story and even enjoyed it. He's a feisty little guy who's worked hard all his life and tried his best to do the right thing.
There are two other storylines here, both featuring Don Rigoberto. Don Rigoberto is drawn into the family drama centering around his boss and friend, Ismael Carrera. Ismael has decided to marry his housekeeper and disinherit his worthless sons. Of course the sons fight this decision with every means, legal and illegal, at their disposal. They even make Don Rigoberto's life miserable just because he was a witness at the wedding. As all this is going on, Don Rigoberto is also dealing with his son, Fonchito, and the mysterious man who keeps appearing to him. No one else has ever seen this mysterious stranger. Don Rigoberto doesn't know if his teenage son is losing his mind or having visitations from the devil.
I don't know if he's losing his mind or having visitations from the devil! This is the kind of thing that just loses me. It's just there. I can't make sense of it. I can't see how it relates to one other thing in the novel.
Felícito and Don Rigoberto are in different cities and their stories don't overlap at all. It was like I was reading two completely different books at the same time. I was about to give up hope when there was finally a connection! A straightforward connection that I could understand!
I did enjoy each man's story individually. Well, not the stuff about Fonchito's mysterious visitor, but other than that, I was interested to see whether Felícito would be able to stand firm and hold on to what was his. The same could be said of Don Rigoberto. He's practically under siege but he tries his best to remain loyal to his friend.
The two cities did come to life in these pages, I have to say. I could smell the food cooking, the unsavory smells in the heat of the day, picture Don Rigoberto's house overlooking the beach and imagine the hang gliders floating past his windows. Peru itself is a character in this novel.
This was well-written and well-translated. It was interesting enough but I do prefer my narratives to be a little more straightforward. If you do understand magical realism more than I do, by all means give The Discreet Hero a try. If you're more like me and just want a linear, concrete story, you might want to pass on this one....more
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
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
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
Norwegian Inspector Harry Hole is sent to Australia as something of a consultant/observer in the investigation of the murder of a Norwegian woman.
BasNorwegian Inspector Harry Hole is sent to Australia as something of a consultant/observer in the investigation of the murder of a Norwegian woman.
Based on this, the first book in the series and my first Harry Hole book, I'm not clear why these are so popular. I can only assume they get better. Maybe it was the translation or maybe it was that I was distracted but nothing seemed to flow together at all. Hole and his Australian partner, Andrew Kensington, seem to jet about the country with impunity. I haven't been there but Australia sure seems like a big place and I'm sure they face the same budget problems that all police forces do. And these two guys are roaming where they please?
All of Hole's relationships get crazy-intense, crazy-fast. He and Kensington are immediately best friends forever. He meets the love interest the first day, I believe, and they almost immediately pledge lifelong and devotion. I really started to wonder if I had just missed the amount of time that Harry had been in Australia and then he would say something like, "I've already been here a week; I'm not sure how much longer my superiors will let me stay." Really?
I had a terrible time keeping the names straight. Granted, some of them were aboriginal (Is that politically correct?) and therefore very unfamiliar to me.
And what was up with everyone, absolutely everyone, knowing "whodunnit" except Harry and trying to give him subtle clues? Why not just come right out and say it? I get that you're trying to protect yourself, but if you're going to go so far as to try to clue him in, why not just go all the way? And is there really no one in Australia who is capable of investigating a murder?
John Lee did do a pretty good job of narrating. He had quite a mixed bags of accents to tackle and he did better than most people would, I believe.
The series must be popular for a reason but this one has left a bad taste in my mouth. I'll give the rest of the series a pass....more
This book's average rating is 4.47 as I write this and I'm rating it 2 stars. Where did I go wrong?
It's been a while siUm, I think I missed something.
This book's average rating is 4.47 as I write this and I'm rating it 2 stars. Where did I go wrong?
It's been a while since I finished so I won't be able to get too specific.
First of all, I didn't particularly care for the writing style. Something about his writing reminded me of H. P. Lovecraft, who I also don't fully appreciate, so that was a negative. I found it to be a little...overwrought at times. I don't think it was the translation because there were many translators throughout the collection and the style was pretty consistent. And then I think Borges is just way too smart for me.
I could see that there was all this philosophical stuff going on in the subtext of his writing, but I didn't care enough to stop and think about it and try to figure out what he was really saying. I was just trying to wrap my head around a world that was created in imagination and then starts to slowly creep into the real world. Or trying to determine which of two characters was the dreamer and which was the dreamed. Or were they the same? And why did this head injury leave this character with a Phenomenon-like memory and intelligence? And what the heck is the point of trying to see if you can perfectly re-write Don Quixote by accident? And if I lived in a never-ending library, would I seriously spend all my time searching for the one book with the answers to Life, the Universe, and Everything (Thanks, Douglas Adams) or would I just sit down with the books I had and leave others to the searching? I think my reaction to this book answers that last question.
I just didn't get it.
Maybe if I had taken everything at face value I would have been happier with the book as a whole. It was just so obvious that there were so many layers of meaning in Borges's writing that I wasn't able to do that.
I'm obviously in the minority so don't let me turn you off. If you're interested, go ahead and give it a try. I'd like someone to explain what I missed....more
Renée is the concierge of a very upscale Parisian apartment building. To the families who reside there, she is the very embodiment of all that a conciRenée is the concierge of a very upscale Parisian apartment building. To the families who reside there, she is the very embodiment of all that a concierge should be: she's overweight, she eats smelly food, watches tv all day, and has a spoiled cat. Most importantly, she doesn't have any thoughts about anything except perhaps her immediate duties and what she's cooking for dinner that night. Inwardly, she is a brilliant woman, a reader and thinker who stays in her position because it gives her time to read all the books she wants, exposing herself to different schools of philosophical thought. She also feels that being concierge is her place in the world and she should stay in it.
Young Paloma lives with her wealthy family in Renée's building. Paloma has decided that she is going to commit suicide and burn down her apartment when she turns thirteen next summer. She doesn't feel particularly suicidal but she's looked around at all the adults around her and realized that they're living a lie; they tell children they can grow up to be whatever they want and do whatever they want, but all she sees are adults who look trapped in lives that make them miserable. She's decided to get out of the rat race early.
I hesitated over this book for a long time. I'd somewhere picked up the idea that it involves a lot of Philosophy, which I read as Big, Boring Thoughts That Have No Practical Application to Anyone's Life. Is that bad? Probably. But I came across it in Will Schwalbe's memoir, The End of Your Life Book Club and it piqued my interest. When I needed a short book to help me finish up my own Books in Translation challenge this year, I finally got brave and gave this one a try.
I didn't love it but I definitely enjoyed it. There were philosophical sections that I had to skim as my eyes glazed over, but way less than I had feared. Even in those, I could pull out a few ideas that I really liked. I can't quote any of them, but I liked them.
I identified with Renée to a certain extent. She has almost a pathological need to keep up her crusty concierge appearance, which I did not relate to, but in reserving her true self for her close friends and family? That I get. Her life slowly changes through the book and I was happy to see it happening because I liked her a lot. She's terrified but she goes with it. We eventually learn why she has lived her life the way she has and it broke my heart. I was not at all happy with the ending of the book, but I can see why it had to happen that way.
I liked Paloma too but I couldn't help feeling like she just needed to get out of her own head a little more. Easy for me to say, I know. She just loved wallowing in Big Ideas and looking down on her family (who were pretty awful, at least from her point of view). She's super-intelligent but she needed some kid time. Unfortunately, most of the kids her age are out shopping or listening to music or doing drugs or other things that she has no interest in, so that leaves her with herself for company and too much time in her own head.
The translation by Alison Anderson seemed to be very well done.
If you've been hesitating to read this one, go ahead and give it a try. There is some philosophy but I mostly saw it as a story of two lonely people slowly changing their lives. And that's a story I enjoyed....more
Fermín Romero de Torres is finally getting married. He's got one problem though--he's living under an assumed name. He has absolutely no proof that heFermín Romero de Torres is finally getting married. He's got one problem though--he's living under an assumed name. He has absolutely no proof that he legally exists. How is he supposed to get married without all the paperwork to prove that he is whom he says he is? As he explains this to Daniel Sempere, his history is finally explained in more detail, as well as his tie to David Martín, hero of The Angel's Game.
Eh. It was better than The Angel's Game but still a long way from The Shadow of the Wind. I love Fermín, so I enjoyed delving into his story, painful as that was. But the plot felt like filler between books. It feels like there has to be a fourth book in this loose series and The Prisoner of Heaven is just a placeholder. There were some revelations that clarified a few points and set up some definite conflict for future books, but there wasn't enough going on to justify an entire book. At least it was short.
I also missed Ruiz Zafón's gorgeous writing. It didn't even feel like the same author/translator team, although it was. It was just a story, pure and simple. I didn't feel any desire to mark any passages at all. I don't know who fell down on the job here, but it just wasn't up to the standard I've set for this pair.
I'll give The Cemetery of Forgotten Books one more try, but I'm starting to wonder if The Shadow of the Wind was just a fluke. I sincerely hope not. ...more
Twinklestar, the last reindeer, panics in a thunderstorm and sends Santa's caravan plunging toward the ground. After making sure everyone is okay, NikTwinklestar, the last reindeer, panics in a thunderstorm and sends Santa's caravan plunging toward the ground. After making sure everyone is okay, Niklaus Goodfellow, the last real Santa, realizes that he has come to earth in a territory controlled by the evil new head Santa, Gerold Goblynch. Niklaus is on the run from Goblynch and his cronies, trying to maintain the real meaning of Christmas despite Goblynch's greedy schemes. The caravan is broken and it will take Niklaus's elves a while to fix it. Not to mention that no one can find Twinklestar because he's invisible.
Niklaus befriends two of the neighborhood children, Ben and Charlotte. They try to help Santa and protect him from Goblynch and his henchmen. They also try to spread the Christmas spirit.
I listened to this on audio, read by the author. I had a little bit of a hard time understanding her German accent. I had to pay very close attention. Also, her voicing for Matilda, Niklaus's angel assistant, was way irritating--very high-pitched and bossy. Admittedly, Matilda was a bossy little soul, which would have irritated me enough without the ear-piercing pitch.
There is a good message about the true meaning of Christmas here. Ben and Charlotte learn about friendship and standing up for what you believe in. There's even a little message for parents about maintaining a sense of Christmas wonder.
I am definitely not the target audience for this book. Children will probably like it more than I did. It would probably be nice for them to think about children helping Santa. The little adventures, like searching for Twinklestar and making snow, will be more exciting for them. I can't really recommend the audio, but the print version will be fun for the younger crowd. ...more
Primo Levi was a young Jewish man living in Turin, Italy when he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Due to a combination of luck and calculation, hePrimo Levi was a young Jewish man living in Turin, Italy when he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Due to a combination of luck and calculation, he survived.
I truly, truly hate to give any Holocaust memoir less than five stars. They are all important and they should all be read.
Somehow I never got drawn into this book. It took me two weeks to read a book that is 190 pages long. Crazy, right? I can't put my finger on what my problem was. Bear with me as I try to work it out.
Maybe it's that I'm more of the "feeling" personality type and Levi seems to be more of a "thinker." He does have some very astute observations to make about humanity. I started to lose interest in a chapter titled "The Drowned and the Saved." This chapter was almost like a primer for how to survive in such horrific conditions. I have concluded that I wouldn't make it. I don't understand anything that resembles economics. So descriptions of schemes to trade 1 piece of bread for a coupon that somehow turns into 4 pieces of bread left me scratching my head. I don't get it. My eyes glazed over.
I did finally get more interested in the very last chapter, "The Story of Ten Days." This felt more personal to me. Levi and some fellow prisoners are trying to survive in the abandoned camp until the Russian army arrives. They immediately lose the "survival at all costs" mentality and start to look out for each other again.
In looking back through this book for my review, I see a lot of passages that seem pertinent and that provide a lot of food for thought. Maybe this was just a bad time for me to read this particular book? I don't know.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that most of this memoir was a little too analytical and distanced. When it got more personal, I tuned in, but then it was finished.
Again, I still recommend this and all other Holocaust memoirs. I personally just didn't click with the style of this one....more
Axel's uncle comes home one day with a rare Icelandic manuscript. In perusing the pages, they discover a coded message from a famous scientist livingAxel's uncle comes home one day with a rare Icelandic manuscript. In perusing the pages, they discover a coded message from a famous scientist living in the 1700s. They eventually crack the code, realize that they've been given directions for how to reach the center of the earth, and set out to accomplish it themselves.
Axel was a whiny wimp who complained endlessly about having to go on the trip. The minute his uncle, Professor Liedenbrock, started to get the least bit angry with him over his dithering, Axel would cave and blithely go along with whatever ridiculous plan the professor has in mind. Axel was generally the one with the most sense but he didn't have a backbone at all.
I've decided the professor must be going through a mid-life crisis. Or maybe a career crisis. Or maybe both. Why else do you plunge yourself, your nephew, and your hapless guide into a volcanic crater, not even carrying a supply of water but rather only a supply of gin? My guess is that you're feeling your age and you're out to prove that you're just as virile--no, more so!--than your 20ish-something ward. He's a tyrant but I think I was supposed to like him after one or two incidents where he shows that he does actually care about Axel. Too little too late is all I have to say about that.
Hans, the poor guide, is really the hero of the story but since he's a barbaric Icelander (If that's not a description directly from the book, it's at least implied), he doesn't really count. He's just there to carry stuff. Lots of it. And build things that the two intellectuals can't. Oh, and save their useless asses multiple times. But he's barely educated so he doesn't matter.
There is so much potential for this plot but it mostly went nowhere. There are a couple of well-developed scenes and adventures but the things that would have interested me even more are cut drastically short. Like, "I think I saw this but I'm not entirely sure. And does this other thing I saw mean what I think it means?" short. There was too much buildup for not enough payoff.
This is a classic for a reason but it's not something that I'll remember. I don't regret reading it but the details will probably fade within a week. Other readers obviously disagree since this thing has been around since...1864....more
The Professor is a brilliant mathematician who suffered some brain damage in an automobile accident years ago. He can remember his entire life up untiThe Professor is a brilliant mathematician who suffered some brain damage in an automobile accident years ago. He can remember his entire life up until the accident, but afterwards, he only has a memory of the past 80 minutes. Luckily, his sister-in-law steps in to help care for him. She hires housekeepers to come in to his little cottage and cook his meals. Needless to say, the Professor scares off many of these women. But then The Housekeeper comes along. She's something of a specialist in difficult cases. She is patient with the Professor and introduces herself to him every morning, respects the days when he is thinking, and generally wins him over again every day.
This is an elegantly-written novel. There aren't any wasted words, but it is still beautifully written. Every word seems to be chosen with care.
I can't say that a lot happens in the story itself. There's no big, romantic love, no adventure, no heartbreak. But the story is beautiful too.
These are characters that I learned to care about. The Professor is overwhelmed by the world and seeks solace in his orderly numbers. He obviously has a huge heart. He adores the Housekeeper's son, and really all children in general. The Housekeeper is a single mom doing the best she can and finding the time to care for and about this slightly damaged man. They are both lonely and they find each other and they form their own unique kind of family. It's a beautiful story and I loved it.
Quite a bit of the book revolves around mathematics. Don't let that put you off. The Housekeeper tells the story, and she is not a mathematician. None of that is overwhelming.
I wouldn't change a thing about the book, but I do have to say that I am curious about the Professor's past. The Housekeeper finds an old photo that brings up a lot of unanswered questions. And I just get the feeling that there's some kind of tragedy that led to the Professor's intense concern for children's safety. I'm happy to leave my questions unanswered though. The Housekeeper and her son learn to care for the Professor just as he is, without any concern for his past, so it feels right that the past stays in the past.
The translator, Stephen Snyder, obviously did an amazing job. This kind of writing is rare from authors who write in English. It takes a very talented team of author and translator to produce it in a translation.
For a quiet, beautiful, feel-good book about friendship and families, pick this up. ...more
In the interest of avoiding spoilers for the second book, I'll just say that this picks up immediately after that awful cliffhanger of an ending in TIn the interest of avoiding spoilers for the second book, I'll just say that this picks up immediately after that awful cliffhanger of an ending in The Girl Who Played with Fire.
So much has been said that I don't feel like I have a whole lot more to contribute. I (mostly) raced through the book, frantic to find out how big this conspiracy was, how far they would go, whether or not they would finally get caught, and how it would all go down.
Salander wasn't quite as large a figure in this one, for obvious reasons if you've been reading the trilogy, so I missed her. She was still the same old inscrutable, fascinating Salander in the parts she was in. She's growing though. I wish Larsson had been able to write more books about her so we could see how she ultimately turns out.
Three things bothered me. One was the setup of Salander's initial location. Vague enough? That would never happen here in the US. Not where I work anyway. Can you say armed guards (at the least) and different floors? So I'm left wondering if Larsson took an easy way out to steer the book where he wanted it to go or if Sweden is that different. Surely not.
At the very beginning, there's a whole lot of telling and not much showing. We're told what Blomqvist and the police got up to in the few hours immediately after the end of the second book. Why not just write that part as actual scenes happening in real time? It probably wouldn't have taken up much more space and there was certainly enough happening to have kept my attention.
I have had a problem with the amount of detail Larsson includes throughout the entire series. This last(?) installment is no different. I do not care about the history and structure of the Swedish version of the CIA. Tell me there's a group operating outside the rules and I'll fill in the blanks. I don't need pages and pages of details. Neither do I care what each character chooses to wear on a given day.
That said, I was happy with the way things ultimately turned out. I was cheering out loud in Gianinni's big scene and in Lisbeth's final confrontation. I was worried that things would not wrap up well since Larsson died and had huge plans for a series, but things are tied up very neatly in the end.
I'll give a nod here again to Reg Keeland's excellent translation.
If you've read the rest of the series, you know you're going to read this one. I think you'll love it....more
When Max's family moves to the beach to avoid being caught in the city during a war, they don't realize that worse trouble is going to find them.
FirstWhen Max's family moves to the beach to avoid being caught in the city during a war, they don't realize that worse trouble is going to find them.
First of all, I think the name Roland should be retired from fiction forever. It is impossible for me to read it without seeing The Gunslinger. When the character is supposed to be a normal seventeen-year-old boy, you see the problem I had.
Anyway, I found it hard to pinpoint the age group of this book's audience. I didn't realize it wasn't for adults until I started reading it. The writing itself is easy enough for a middle-grade book. But there are a few things that happen that pushed it up into YA territory for me. I don't have kids though, so maybe I'm just naive about what kids read. If I'm not, I'm afraid this will struggle to find the right market.
Not realizing this wasn't an adult book, I was disappointed when I didn't find Ruiz Zafón's gorgeous prose inside. I just adore his writing.
The story itself was suspenseful and engaging. I was curious what was going on almost from the beginning and found myself reading more and more just to try to get to the bottom of things. I think kids who aren't too afraid of things that go bump in the night will enjoy it.
As an adult reader, there were a few things that happened that I just didn't buy. I don't know any seventeen-year-old boy who is going to willingly start hanging out with a thirteen-year-old. Not without seeing his sister first. :-) I don't think the kids would have been left alone like they were. And I had problems with the storyline surrounding Roland.
As always, hats off to Lucia Graves for an excellent translation.
I had problems with the book. So what? I'm definitely not the target audience. I think kids reading it will probably mostly accept it for the spooky story it is and enjoy it. ...more
In Persepolis 2, we pick back up with Marjane as she arrives in Austria. She has a hard time adjusting to life in Europe, and after a few years she fiIn Persepolis 2, we pick back up with Marjane as she arrives in Austria. She has a hard time adjusting to life in Europe, and after a few years she finds herself back in Iran. Then she feels that she doesn’t fit in anywhere. To paraphrase, she’s too Iranian for Europe and too European for Iran.
Overall, I enjoyed this more than the first book. I missed her frequent conversations with God, but I found it easier to relate to troubled teenage Marjane than activist child Marjane. I was busy playing with Barbies when I was ten, not trying to figure out how I could sneak out to political rallies that frequently ended in shooting. Anyway, I felt that since Marjane had lived in Europe at this point, she had some interesting observations to make about how Westerners treat Iranians and the differences in our cultures. It seems that she’s able to see the good and bad on both sides. As an American, it was interesting for me to see what she thinks of Americans and Brits and to see how she thinks the Iranian government manages to keep such strict control over the people.
Marjane herself could be a little whiny, but she is a teenager--I managed to overlook it. I did love the way she would just speak her mind sometimes. I would always catch myself holding my breath as I turned the pages, waiting to see if she had gone too far and really gotten herself in trouble this time. Her grandmother was great. She was always good for a laugh, or at least a healthy dose of reality.
I believe there was a different translator for this volume, and I didn’t like this translation as well. I can see that it would be hard to find a way to work with at least three languages and effectively say what Satrapi was trying to say. But I really think there should have been a way to do it without including the frequent footnotes. Easy for me to say, right?
Again, I felt like she just stopped when she felt like it at the end. There was a resolution, but when I turned the last page and realized it was the last page, I was left thinking, “What?!?! But what happened after that?” It looks like she’s written a Persepolis 3, but my library doesn’t have it. Looking on here, I can’t even tell if it’s been translated into English yet. I’ll be looking for it though.
I recommend this for anyone who wants to continue the story that began in Persepolis, and also to anyone who wants a little more understanding of Iranian culture. Don’t let the graphic novel format put you off....more
Two young men, children of parents that the Communist government in China deems enemies of the state, are basically exiled to a remote mountain for "rTwo young men, children of parents that the Communist government in China deems enemies of the state, are basically exiled to a remote mountain for "re-education." Their parents' "crimes" don't even warrant the word; they're basically just too educated for the government's comfort. The teens find a harsh life waiting for them on the mountain. They must plow fields and dig in mines and haul human waste around. If the local party leader is upset with them, he makes their lives even more miserable.
They eventually meet a local tailor's daughter. The little seamstress, as she's known, is the most beautiful girl on the mountain. One of the teens of course tries to win her heart. He takes a novel approach and starts telling her stories out of Western literature, in an effort to make her better company for himself. And so time passes as the boys wait to see if their period of "re-education" will ever end.
This is so hard for me to review! I had some issues with the boys throughout. Luo, the one who tries to win the girl, is basically a nice guy but--c'mon. He's trying to "improve" the little seamstress? So she'll be a better girlfriend? Who does he think he is? I was listening to this so maybe I misunderstood something, but I really don't think so. But then--I got to the ending. And I loved it. And that's all I can say.
I also loved B. D. Wong's narration. He has a nice voice and a nice delivery. If my library has any more audio books that he's narrated, I'll gladly give them a try.
I enjoyed the imagery in the book as well. It was very short, maybe 4 hours, and enough happened to keep my attention, but at the same time I feel like I can clearly picture this misty Chinese mountain and these harsh rural villages. As someone who likes to use way too many words when writing, I'm impressed when an author can pull this off. And especially considering that the book is a translation. Ina Rilke did a fabulous job with that.
I don't think I've ever heard of Chinese re-education, but what a horrible, effective practice. Take the kids who are going to have the best opportunities at education, and embracing new ideas, and y'know, revolutionary ideas, isolate them and send them out to the wilds to suffer under the hands of uneducated peasants, and you've kind of shut down any immediate governmental threats. Sure, you're probably setting up big trouble for the future, but you've bought yourself time to plan for that. Sheesh. Whose mind comes up with this kind of bs? Can you imagine?
At this length, I would recommend anyone give this book a try. I was surprised and very pleased at the end and I think most readers will be too....more
A brief overview of world religions and their various branches within the framework of a story about a teenage boy with a mysterious illness. It feltA brief overview of world religions and their various branches within the framework of a story about a teenage boy with a mysterious illness. It felt more like nonfiction, but it was interesting to learn about religions that I know little or nothing about....more
I just don't even know where to start with a synopsis here without giving anything away.
I enjoyed this one so much more than the previous, The GirlI just don't even know where to start with a synopsis here without giving anything away.
I enjoyed this one so much more than the previous, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, that I was left wondering if I just read that one at the wrong time or if Larsson really improved that much between one book and the next. Or maybe it was just the background framework of economics. Whatever it was, this was way, way better than I expected, and I'm glad it was chosen as one of my groups' monthly reads. In all honesty, I would probably never have gotten to it.
Once I got into the story, and it did take a little while, I couldn't stop reading until I got to the end. And what an ending! When does the third one come out in the US? Not soon enough, that's for sure! Talk about a cliffhanger!
Salander is just as inscrutable as ever, but she's starting to learn that she shouldn't take her relationships with others for granted. I was so indifferent to the first book that I wouldn't have continued with the series if I hadn't been curious to find out more about Salander. I'm glad I continued and got this payoff. The important parts of her personal story are revealed, and they are every bit as shocking as I expected them to be.
This would have been five stars except for a few things. The first section--55 pages in my copy--doesn't seem to have a real bearing on anything else. I'm left wondering if it will tie in to the third book, or if it was just a long example of how much Salander "hates men who hate women." Also, there were parts that could easily have been edited out. The thing that bothered me the most was when Salander goes furniture shopping. It's two pages of an IKEA shopping list. Two pages doesn't sound like much, but it's so detailed and so unimportant! Who cares?!? Unless you have IKEA's entire collection memorized, it's just filler that needed to go!
I knocked the translation in my review of the first book. The same guy translated this one, but I think he's improved a lot. There were only a couple of things that reminded me that I was reading a translation, and they were so small I can't even remember what they were. Overall, though, for a thrilling read with a complex, troubled intriguing main character, pick this up. You just might want to wait until after the release of the third one though. You will be dying to pick it up as soon as you finish this book....more
David Martín is a writer of penny dreadfuls who is offered a huge sum of money to write a book for a French publisher. He can't find any evidence thatDavid Martín is a writer of penny dreadfuls who is offered a huge sum of money to write a book for a French publisher. He can't find any evidence that the publisher actually exists though, and violent things start happening to David's friends and colleagues.
I was rocking through the first half of the book, loving Ruiz Zafón's writing, and then I just stopped caring a little over halfway through. I'm not entirely sure what happened. I think I got sick of having absolutely no freaking idea what was going on. Yeah, I knew who the publisher was, but I didn't know how that was going to tie into everything else. I read this using this really cool post-it-flag bookmark my husband gave me, because I knew that I would probably have tons of quotes I loved in here. The last one is at page 324 out of 531 pages. There's no big event that I can find there, I think that's just where I ran out of patience.
I loved Ruiz Zafón's previous book, The Shadow of the Wind, and I have a feeling that a re-read would bump that one up to five stars. I missed having a Fermín. There wasn't really anyone to give any lightness or grace to the story. It was all darkness and despair. The relationship between David and Isabella gave a few lighter moments, but he ended up hurting her feelings more often than not, so those were pretty limited. This is sort of a companion to Shadow, and I had a hard time figuring out how and when they fit together. I was confused about how this Sempere was consistently described as being shy and sort of boring, when that wasn't the guy I knew from Shadow. This young Sempere is the father in Shadow.
I have to say, my hat is off to the translator, Lucia Graves. She did one heckuva job translating this. The story might have lost me a little, but the writing is still lyrical, and that has to be as much to her credit as to the author's.
Maybe I should have put this aside and tried it again later when I realized that I had started to lose interest. I don't think that would have made a difference though. It's still a dark, Gothic novel that fans of that genre will still probably love. I just preferred The Shadow of the Wind much, much more....more
Journalist Mikael Blomqvist has just been found guilty of libel and sentenced to 90 days in jail and slapped with a huge fine. He needs to take a breaJournalist Mikael Blomqvist has just been found guilty of libel and sentenced to 90 days in jail and slapped with a huge fine. He needs to take a break from journalism for a while, so when a former industrial tycoon asks him to write a family history while investigating a 40-year-old mystery, Mikael takes him up on the offer.
I'll be honest here. I've been in a bit of a reading slump for a couple of weeks. I'm just tired from work and even reading takes more energy than I have. So that might be why I didn't fall in love with this, like so many of my friends here have. But I don't think that's entirely it.
One of the biggest things that I think knocked this down a few stars for me is the fact that if I think you're about to start talking about Finance, Investment, Economics, or anything like that, my eyes start to glaze over and I start hearing you the way we hear Charlie Brown's mother: "Wa wa wah wa wah...." Yes, it really is that bad. There's not a lot of that here, but since my tolerance hovers around zero for that kind of thing, a little was too much for me. I still don't have a clue what Salander got up to at the end of this. I needed it spelled out in small words.
But speaking of Salander, I am hopelessly intrigued by her. She was really the big draw of the book for me. Asocial, a little goth, super-intelligent, mysterious, and with a preternatural ability to sniff out someone's deepest, darkest secrets, I always wanted to know more about her. There are little clues here and there, but we don't find out too much of her personal story. I'm hoping that we'll learn more as the trilogy goes along.
The mystery was pretty good. I didn't really know who did it until I was supposed to know. Unfortunately, when the obvious mystery wraps up, another one sort of starts up for the last hundred pages and I dislike it when authors do that too. It did all make sense together in this book, but I like to keep it to just one mystery at a time. There was one HUGE coincidence that provided one of the breaks in the case. Coincidences feel like weaknesses in mystery stories. Maybe not, but this one felt like the author had dug himself into an unsolvable hole and this was the only way he could dig himself out. I didn't care for that either.
The translation from the Swedish was very good and very British. We're talking "gaol-bird" instead of "jailbird" and minor phrases like that. There were some things that didn't make sense, but they were just little things. I like to understand everything though, so this bothered me a little. I'm just talking about abbreviations like "an intern straight out of JMK." Not a huge deal, but I would have preferred to get a name there instead of the abbreviation. And there was this too: "one main street, appropriately enough called Storgatan." ??? Why is that "appropriate"? Not a big deal, but I think that could have just been left out since it wasn't going to make sense to probably 95% of his English readers. Maybe other translations have this kind of thing too, but since I can only really remember reading translations from Spanish, and I do have a basic understanding of that language, I may have overlooked them.
Be warned that there is one scene that is pretty brutal. It felt a little gratuitous except that it gave us a little more insight into Salander's character. I really could have done without it though.
Overall, this was just okay. I could have put it down at any point and never picked it up again. I did enjoy reading about Salander, so I'll pick up the next book. I don't have terribly high hopes for it, but I do hope that we learn more about her....more
When Michael Berg is 15, he has an affair with Hanna Schmitz, who is over twice his age. The affair does eventually come to an end, but their lives arWhen Michael Berg is 15, he has an affair with Hanna Schmitz, who is over twice his age. The affair does eventually come to an end, but their lives are intertwined afterwards.
This book should have been passionate, challenging, and emotionally wrenching. But I just felt too distanced from everything. I’m trying to decide if this is because it’s told from Michael’s point of view and he’s a detached kind of guy, but mostly I don’t care. I see what it could have been versus what it is and I’m frustrated.
I think the big conflict at the heart of the novel was supposed to be condemnation versus understanding and how hard it is, or even impossible, to feel both at the same time. I think I was supposed to question what I would have done in each character’s place, but I was too aggravated with Michael to have room for introspection. I was too busy wondering if the jackass was ever going to grow some balls and help Hanna out. (Sorry, Mama. But it’s true.) I wanted to smack him. He let her down in so many ways and somehow always found a way to make it her fault. Hanna wasn’t perfect either. In fact, they destroyed each other in round about ways, when they really could have been each other’s salvation. That may have been part of the point of the book also, but that’s not my kind of thing. I’m a die hard fan of the happy ending.
Readers not requiring too much of an emotional attachment to their books will like this one. I think if I were that kind of reader I would definitely have enjoyed it more and been willing to think more about the conflicts it contains. But I’m not and so I’m left disliking it....more