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Book rêveur

Short notes on my travels through the Universe of Books. 

Gaiman`s ocean

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman

I LOVE Neil Gaiman`s work, I truly do. I think he is one of the best storytellers ever. But with The Ocean at the End of the Lane I was left somewhat disoriented in my feelings. I guess I expected something more at the end. Besides I read a translation and it wasn`t the best one, so I didn`t hear Gaiman`s voice.

 

Story itself is beautiful, strange, unexpected and creepy. I came to conclusion that it`s possible to read it in two ways. One, as a pure fantasy where the real world easily collides with some parallel fantasy world (as in American Gods) and everything is just lonely boy`s vivid imagination. Two, as a sad story about one boy`s lonely and even violent childhood where bad memories are altered with fantastical creatures and kind (in boy`s altered memory - unearthly and magical) Hampstock family. If you take the second approach, it`s a brilliant story.

Light Christmas reads

Snow Kissed - Jessica Clare, Jen Frederick, D. S. Linney The Dogs of Christmas - W. Bruce Cameron Let it Snow - John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle

As we have Christmas without snow this year, I went on a quest to find snow and festive feelings in books. Can`t say that I succeeded as much as I wanted to, but here are three nice, light and easy reads for Christmas time.

 

Snow Kissed - three romantic stories with some steamy sex scenes. Reindeer Games by Jessica Clare has lots of snow and even a Christmas tree. Lots of fun and competition between two losers in survivor game in Alaska. Undressed by Jen Frederick - umm, didn`t feel Christmas magic in this one, but I liked the ending. The Sound of Snow by DS Linney felt so cliche and sweet and sexy and soppy and too good to be true, but my stupid romantic heart (ok, half of my heart is stupid and romantic) liked this story a lot. Oh, there were some excerpts from other works by these authors in between stories, but I didn`t read them. 3/5 stars for the book.

 

The Dogs of Christmas - sweet story about one man`s life changed by neighbor`s dog, five puppies and animal shelter`s employee. Mr. Cameron really understands dogs and dog-human relationship. That was the great part of this book. I wasn`t so happy about relationships between people. Dialogues felt awkward and jerky. Anyway this is a nice Christmas read for dog lovers. 3.5/5 stars

 

Let It Snow - another book with three stories. What`s interesting these stories are connected in a way that main characters know each other and hilarious, heartbreaking and fun things happen to them in one small town on Christmas. Town is heavily snowed in because of the snow storm and I liked this snowy part. Maureen Johnson's story was fun but slightly unreal. John Green's was hilarious and ridiculous and lots of fun. Lauren Myracle's story was kind of meh. Her main character was a stupid, whiny brat and I couldn`t believe her transformation at the end of the story. Overall, this book was ok, but I hoped for more. 2/5 stars

 

 

 

Old magical Christmas time

The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year - Linda Raedisch

By now it`s the best of three Christmas books I`ve read this year. It`s non-fiction, quite light and entertaining, but still you can feel that author has done a really big research before writing this "short summary" about old Christmas time traditions in Europe.

It wasn`t always about fun, joy, light, lots of eating and Christmas shopping. In ancient times Christmas time was longer and it was quite a lot about elves, dead spirits, old pagan gods mixing with christian saints, Wild Hunt, werewolves, home-sprites and other spooky creatures. Those were dark and scary times. Author quotes old Scandinavian, British and German fairy tales and legends and it`s really interesting to see what`s behind those stories. If one wishes to celebrate Christmas in old-time style, author gives recipes for some food and patterns for decorations. 

Serious reads

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet - David Mitchell The Magus - John Fowles

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet - It was my first encounter with David Mitchell although I have seen and loved the movie "Cloud Atlas" (I definitely have to read this novel). I can`t compare if Thousand Autumns is better or worse than Cloud Atlas, but I enjoyed it a lot. Writing style is quite laconic, but deep, because Mitchell has the talent to draw pictures in reader`s mind with few short sentences. It`s not an easy read, but I felt enthralled and intrigued all the time. Besides the plot deals with interesting and poorly known historical circumstances - European merchants in closed Japan. I would recommend this book to those who seek a serious historical novel with adventures. 4.5 stars

 

The Magus - I`m so happy I got this novel for last Christmas. I fell in love with it and can`t get it out of my mind. Fowles deals with so many moral and philosophical questions that it`s hard to explain this novel without giving away too much. Besides I`m not sure I understood everything he wanted to say. I wasn`t happy with parts about Nicholas and Alison`s relationship but these parts are important for the plot and everything that happens with Nicholas in Greece. I just didn`t want the Greece period to end. Definitely gonna re-read The Magus one day. 5 stars

Murakami on running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel

I don`t know how and why, but I hadn`t read anything from Murakami before. So it would be normal to start with his famous stories or even 1Q84. But I started with his memories and musings about running. The reason behind this strange choice is that I have started to run myself so I was highly interested what a famous author has to say about this subject. As you may know, Murakami is a long distance runner and in his life he has participated in more than 25 marathons and even in one ultra-marathon. Lately he participates in triathlons. So I guess he knows what he is talking about. 

For me this book was like a little gem. I was transfixed with his voice. I made tons of bookmarks and agreed with every single advice he gave on life, writing and running. The only problem - book was too short. 

For those who aren`t interested in sports, this book can be interesting from the point of getting to know more of Murakami as a person. 

Let`s go for a walk in cemetery

Кладбищенские истории - Boris Akunin,  Grigory Chkhartishvili

Don`t be mistaken, Boris Akunin and Grigory Chkhartishvili is the same person. I guess he writes under Boris Akunin`s name because his real surname is quite a challenge to read and write. Anyway, he has written strange and interesting book about some of the oldest and largest cemeteries he has visited himself. Book consists of non-fiction essays followed by short stories author has made up. For example, he writes about Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. It`s very beautiful cemetery, lots of famous people are buried there. One of them is Oscar Wilde, so Akunin writes a story about two grave diggers and Oscar Wilde`s ring. 

 

To be honest, his essays about cemeteries were really interesting and full of facts, but his stories were average, because horror is not Aukin`s cup of tea. Still, if you can get this book in English or if you are familiar with Russian, I suggest you give it a try.

Story inside the story

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

I postponed reading this book for a long time because of the some bad reviews. Now I can say that it turned out to be one of the most interesting books I read this year. Maybe because I have a soft spot for stories inside stories. Setterfield knows how to tell a good story. 

I loved Ms. Winter`s memories and it`s just great how I`m still not sure if she told the truth. Besides I wish she was a real writer and I could read her stories. There were some tiny details I wasn`t satisfied with, but they have vanished from my memory. Overall this is a great gothic novel with nice plot twists, secrets and dark passion.  

Too much chocolate for an adult`s taste

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Quentin Blake, Roald Dahl

After the dreadful Phantom by Jo Nesbo, I had to have something light and went for this little piece, because I liked Matilda quite a lot. It`s simple and fun children`s book with illustrations and some moral at the end. The beginning was sweet and nice, but adult in me wasn`t so happy about what happened with children in Willy Wonka`s Chocolate factory. It was over the top and silly for me. But I can see that as a child (maybe 6 - 9 years old) I would have loved this book. I would definitely read this for my children.

Shirley Jackson`s little gems.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates The Lottery (Tale Blazers) - Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is extremely well written and disturbing story about demons within ourselves. Loved every word of it, because every word had a meaning. Scary, gothic, playful and sick story about murderous girl and her sister.

 

I read Jackson`s scandalous story "The Lottery" as well and was shocked by the ending. Had to read it twice. Brilliant.

Great book, epic love story

Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell

I think there is actually no need to write about Mitchell`s masterpiece, because if you don`t know the story then were have you been all your life? It`s great historical fiction with human-like characters. They love, they hate, they make stupid mistakes, they are proud, selfish, spoiled, rich, poor, dying, scared, lazy, angry and everything in between. Some of them can adjust to brutal changes the American Civil War brought to them, but some can`t. Like in real life. And who doesn`t know the epic love story of Scarlett O`Hara and Rhett Butler? They are great characters. Scarlett is simply impossible and I loved and hated her at the same time. And Rhett... ahhh. Go read yourself if you haven`t done it already!

I expected too much

The Absent One - Jussi Adler-Olsen, K.E. Semmel

After reading the third book in Q department series and loving it, I read the first book in series and liked it, so, of course, I read the second book as well. And it left me somewhat disappointed.

 

 

There are two things going on in this part: there is 20 years old crime to solve; and young secretary Rose joins Q department and from the start Carl for some reasons doesn`t like her. Again, we can look into minds of the criminals from the first chapter - some rich, aggressive, amoral bastards. Then there is slightly crazy woman living on streets, who once was one of them. Interesting woman, I must say.

 

Of course there are twists and turns and for some time you can`t be sure which one is guilty of what. To be honest, the synopsis led me to believe that there will be something more gruesome and disturbing. Like hunt on people or something like that. Yes, characters were interesting, but how everything turned out... I don`t know, I thought Jussi Adler-Olsen is braver than that. Or I just expected too much. Or my mind is sick :D

 

Anyway, I`ll read the next books in series. I like Carl, Asad and Rose too much to give up.

Very short 2 star reviews and more

Watch Over Me - Tara Sivec The Dry Grass of August - Anna Jean Mayhew Uncharted - Tracey Garvis-Graves

I have a problem - too many books, too little time. Yeah. So, I decided to make quick reviews of some books that were ok or worse.

 

Watch Over Me - Gosh, it wasn`t so long ago, but I don`t remember almost anything about this book. For me it was boring, too much like self-help bullshit. 2 stars 

 

The Dry Grass of August - It started well and had this heated-summer-laziness-slash-something-bad-is-gonna-happen vibe. And then... I don`t know.. It just got messy, author was jumping from one thing to another. It was interesting to feel the 1950s atmosphere and read about racial segregation but that`s all. I was disappointed, it could be a much better book. 2,5 stars

 

Uncharted - Ok, I LOVED On the Island, so I had to read this novella, to find out the story behind The Bones. It was nice to meet Anna and T.J., but Owen and his story was poorly written. It was like author was very busy and wrote this story in a hurry just because everyone is asking for it all the time. Nothing of that magic I felt in On the Island. 2,5 stars

 

 

Just a quick side note. I`m not a native English speaker, so I guess my posts have some grammar mistakes and poor language. I apologize for that. I`m an avid reader for many years. For more than 6 years a have a book blog in my native language. This blog I started as an exercise not to forget to write in English. Yesterday I finished 80th book in 2013, so here is just a small part of what I have read. If I`ll have time, I`ll add more books I`ve read in 2013, but I don`t suppose I`ll go back in past and add every single one. 

Great summer read

Summer House - Nancy Thayer

From time to time on Goodreads or while reading some book blogs I came upon Summer house. The book was like "pick me, pick me, I`m good". So at the beginning of summer, when I choose some summer books to read, I finally gave up and said "Hell, why not!" I`m glad I did what I did. It turned out to be one of the best summer reads. 

I loved how Nancy Thayer put this large family in Nanas house for summer and how almost all of them had changed more or less by the end of summer. Like nothing big and life altering (for most of them), but small everyday changes. All characters were so human. Amazing. I guess I loved the wise Nana the most, but I liked others too.

The pace was not exactly slow, it was peaceful, without hurry and hysterics, not boring at all. It was nice. 

Can`t remember why I didn`t give it 5 stars...Maybe because of the cover? Ha, ha. 

Wander+love

Wanderlove - Kirsten Hubbard

I guess, I have a soft spot for travel literature and coming of age stories. When I picked up this book, I wasn`t quite sure if it`s a memoir (which I would prefer more) or fiction. Now I can say it`s a fiction with some of author`s travel experiences.

So, the main character is 18-year-old Bria - scared to take risks, doing what others expect her to do. Somehow she is brave or stupid enough to go on a Global Vagabond tour to Central America. Her trip turns out not what she expected, but she finds love and herself while traveling with backpack through Belize and Guatemala with Rowan.

It was nice, it was easy to read, it had this exotic background. Main characters were quite like-able and I enjoyed my time with this book. Only problem for me was - it was too light and Rowan`s past left some questions. I felt like author didn`t want to answer them, because then her sweet and romantic plot would need some changes.  

It`s good for YA and if you search for some light, easy read with travel involved. Just don`t use it as guide book.

Lost laughs

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-town America - Bill Bryson

I must say that I absolutely love, love, love Bryson`s "A Walk in the Woods" and have wanted to read more from him for quite some time. So.... I`m not to say disappointed, but not as entertained as I hoped. I guess, the main problem is that Bryson travels through small town America alone and there is only so much to say about boring places.

Anyway he gives interesting insight about USA and it`s worth reading. He probably got some nice purse in his face, for what he says about Iowa women :D

How the Q department started.

The Keeper of Lost Causes - Jussi Adler-Olsen,  Lisa Hartford

So this is the first book in series about Q department - special Danish police department for old unsolved cases. I loved the third part, so I picked up this one. Here Carl Morck is a pain in his boss`s ass and by lucky twist of fate (read "politics") he can get him off his neck by creating a new department - Q department. At first Carl spends his days sleeping in basement, then appears Asad. Hilarity guarantied. Together they manage to solve one really creepy and strange case about missing woman. 

I liked the insight in this woman`s mind and her struggle to survive while locked in pressure vessel or something like that. As they say - the revenge is a dish best served cold. Here killers work on their revenge for more than 5 years. It`s just crazy and sick. 

The problem with the plot was that I guessed the killers and their motivation before Carl did. Too bad. Anyway, the story was nicely twisted, interesting, scary at some parts, funny at others and I liked it.