fifteen.

Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller (2013)
Sheldon Horowitz is an 82 year old Korea veteran American Jew who has come to Norway to be taken care of by his granddaughter Rhea. Rhea and her boyfriend, Lars, live in an apartment block in Tøyen and one day after they have gone out, Sheldon witnesses the murder of their Serbian neighbour and has to escape with her son.
The title caught my attention and in the beginning it was interesting to read a book set in Norway and see what a foreigner would make of our country. But the more I read, the more annoyed I got. First of all, the plot is really weak. At any point, Sheldon could have just gone to the police, and the reasons why he didn’t make no sense. But my main beef with the novel is Sheldon himself, and especially Sheldon’s flashbacks and imaginary friends who didn’t do anything for the story. A contester for the most annoying narrator I have come across prize. And finally, all the loose ends. Why did the Kosovars want the kid? And what exactly was the link back to the Balkan wars?  

fifty.

the Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1996)
“Films are for everyone, collective, generous, with children cheering when the cavalry arrives. And they’re even better on TV: two can watch and comment. But your books are selfish. Solitary. Some of them can’t even be read, they fall to bits if you open them. A person who’s interested only in books doesn’t need other people, and that frightens me” 
 Corso is an agent who finds rare books for others and he isn’t afraid to cross the line in order to satisfy his customers. But this time he has two hard cases; he has to find out if a piece of a manuscript is a part of the original The Three Musketeers by Dumas and find the original occult book called The Book of Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows. But the cases are more complicated, mainly because he is nearly killed by a man who looks like the crook in the Three Musketeers. And then there is the young girl who protects him and says she is the devil. Are the two cases connected?
This book had all the ingredients to be a book after my tastes. But having all the correct ingredients is useless when you cannot follow the recipe. My biggest beefs are the language and the horrible editing. It might have been the cheap Kindle version, but almost all sentences lacked punctuation and even some words seemed to be missing. And although it has a great, yet very predictable, plot, the writing style ruined it. How can you make something exciting so boring?
I’m surprised that it has survived four editions of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, but I suspect it is only because it mentions other books and authors in such academic ways. If you plan to read the Three Musketeers you definitely need to do that before reading this one as it is full of spoilers. 
One good thing: Some noteworthy quotes about books and reading. And a lot of other people seem to love it, but it wasn’t for me.   

ps: the film version is called the Ninth Gate and is starring Johnny Depp and I have higher hopes for it than the book.

fifty shades of i can’t.

So. I caved in. And downloaded Fifty Shades of Gray on my Kindle. I blame this on the August issue of Cosmopolitan and their Fifty Shades of Blonde, which, by the way, is much better written.

I lasted until after the first sex scene (I admit it, that was why I bought it) and then I just couldn’t. The. Language. Completely. Turned. Me. Off. And the characters. Are you kidding me? How someone can read this and call it amazing is a big mystery.

Go read Anaïs Nin instead. Or the Story of O by Pauline Rèage and Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Even Marquis de Sade wrote better. Crash by J.G. Ballard is my personal favourite.

thirty-eight.

Rushing to Paradise by J.G Ballard (1994)
The 16 year old Neil is drawn to the eccentric and charismatic Dr Barbara who is rallying to save the albatrosses on the French island of St Esprit.They are joined by an Hawaiian native, Kimo and they launch an attack on the island. And thanks to Neil being shot, they receive world wide attention and sympathy and the French leave the island for them to establish a sanctuary for all endangered species. But paradise is not what it seems.

I’m afraid I had high expectations for this one as J.G Ballard is the author of amazing books like Crash and Empire of the Sun. But this really disappointed. Rushing in the title might as well point to the fact that the story is really rushed. The plot is simply too big for the story and although it’s a great idea for a story, it’s just too much. And there are even some severe holes in the plot, especially regarding Neil’s naivety and suspicions. Even the sex, which Ballard usually is great at describing, is tame and full of clichés. 
I need to soon read another Ballard story, and a good one, to get over the disappointment of reading this one.

thirty-one.

101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason (1996)
Hlynur is 30+, unemployed and lives at his mother. His daily routine is something like this: wake up late, drink too much coca cola, eat cheerios, smoke, watch porn, go out, stumble home or elsewhere drunk and repeat. But when Lolla, his mother friend and worse, rumoured girlfriend, moves in, Hlynur is forced out of his comfort zone.
I don’t think I have ever hated someone in a book as much as I hate Hlynur. He seemed like the worst pathetic guy you could come across. He was okay in the beginning of the book and then he just turned into a prick. And I actually threw the book into the wall a couple of times but had to pick it up and continue hoping that he would die a terrible death at the end, hopefully by his own hands. I was really disappointed when he was still alive at the end. I also started skimming a lot midway because I couldn’t deal with his thoughts. I sincerely hope that the author meant for him to come across as the biggest jerk.
It’s funny that the main character can ruin a book so much. Because I loved the rest of the characters and the setting, but not Hlynur. And when the book is about him, I just can’t like it. 
If you’re curious what Hlynur did, you have to read it yourself and judge because I don’t think I can get into it without raging. And yes! It’s amazing that I can feel this way about a stupid character in a book.

sixteen.

the Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo (1831)
 Quasimodo looks more like a monster than a man. After his mother’s death he was taken in by the priest of Notre-Dame where he eventually ended up working as the bell ringer, a job which made him deaf. He spends most of his time in the tower, watching down on the streets and people of Paris. He is especially interested in a beautiful young gypsy, la Esmeralda. But his saviour, the priest Claude Frollo, is also in love with the gypsy and he orders Quasimodo to kidnap her. 
This book was a real struggle. It shifts from a very exciting story to long descriptions of architecture, philosophy and so on. Most of these parts I skimmed as I just wanted to finish the book. It is set in the late 1400s, and I wonder why. I also really dislike the way the authors used interrupt the story to address the reader with either a short summary or something off-topic.
I’m sure that I would have loved this story if it had been straight-forward. I kept looking at the progress bar wondering when the story would really get off and I think finally it did after I had read about 60%. And I remember the first 30% were especially terrible. And what worries me more, is that I never connected with the characters, none of them won me over and that’s probably one more reason why I didn’t like the book.
And I’m also disappointed because I really enjoyed les Miserables when I read that one a couple of years ago.
But at least I can finally cross out another big classic on my 1001 books challenge! If you want to read what others thought of the book, check out Line’s 1001 books challenge (in Norwegian).

seventy-one.

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks  (2009)
Sophie Topping is going to throw a dinner for a dozen people and is working on the guest list, who to invite and more importantly; where to put them at the table?

The book follows the dinner guests and the people they surround themselves with the week before the dinner. You have, among other characters; the investment banker who does an inside trade, the East European football player who has just signed for a minor Premier League team, the successful immigrants with their own pickle company and their son who is co-planning a terrorist attack, the literature reviewer who dislike the contemporary books he has to review and the solicitor who falls for one of his clients; the girl who accidentally hit someone while driving the subway train.

I found this book to be a bit of a mess with all the characters and the fact that it never gets anywhere; it’s just a week in a lot of different people’s lives. While reading the book, I thought that Faulks is trying too hard with his characters; they are all stereotypes and he doesn’t really succeed with his attempt to describe life here and now.

This is my second attempt to read something by Faulks, I read Engleby two years ago and I had the same feeling of disappointment then. Yet, Engleby is one of the books that most often pops in my mind from time to time. I will give Faulks a final try with Birdsong, eventually.

sixty-nine.

One Day by David Nicholls (2009)
Emma and Dexter. Dex and Em. Em and Dex. 
Their graduation turned into a drunken night where Emma took Dexter home and they spend the night making out, smoking cigarettes and talking. When they part the next day, they promise to be friends and the book follows them on the same date, 15th of July – St Swithin’s Day, for the next twenty years.
I have been arguing for myself for a year now whether I should read it or not, but a friend gushed so much about it that I had to give it a try.  This book was not life-changing for me, I felt that I have read/seen it before. But it was exactly what I needed in these dark November days, so I have enjoyed reading it, although the plot was too easy to guess and it is so full of clichés. 
However, I’m really looking forward to seeing the film as the book is a good script for a romantic film and I adore Ann Hathaway. 
This book also reminded me a lot of the Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, so if you have read One Day and liked it, I highly recommend the Marriage Plot. And if you’re considering reading One Day, read the Marriage Plot instead.

sixty-three.

the Elephant’s Journey by José Saramago (2008)
 

The elephant, Solomon, and his keeper, Subhro, are journeying from Lisbon to Vienna in the 1550s. Solomon is a gift from the Portuguese king to the Hapsburg archduke.

The journey of Solomon is a true story, but José Saramago has invented the details about the trip. I enjoyed parts of the books, there were even sentences I found hilarious. But most of the book is sadly boring descriptions about the journey. I would have wanted more fiction, maybe a few amazing conversations between the men taking part of the journey.
A few years ago I read Blindness and loved it. And I think that’s why I’m so disappointed by the Elephant’s Journey.

thirty-seven.


the Most Beautiful Woman in Town and Other Stories by Charles Bukowski (1983)


This book is filled with short stories, and they all include at least one sexual act.

Charles Bukowski is one of my favourite dirty old men, but this collection of short stories takes it one step too far. Necrophilia, paedophilia, rape and murder is never pleasant to read about, but having to read it from the doer’s perspective was terrible. And I’m glad I have read all the good stuff from Bukowski before this book.

Read his novels instead of this.