It’s been a dark and long autumn and I haven’t done half of the things I was supposed to. Like writing here. My reading has been mostly good, I finished my 50th book two hours before the new year. I haven’t been good at writing about the books I have read in the past few months.

The first book, read all the way back in September, was All the Rage by Courtney Summers (2015). It is about a teenager being raped at a party and no one believes her because he is the popular girl. And they bully her. The book gave me a lot of feelings, and especially the raging kind. This is a book that should be taught in schools worldwide. If you’re curious about what rape culture is all about, this book will give you an idea.

The 7th Vera Stanhope novel, the Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves (2015) was also read in September. I wasn’t entirely won over by the last Vera novel, so I’m happy to report that she’s back on track with this one. Ann Cleeves is my go to crime writer and I regularly check when she has a new book coming out.

From June to November I have been chasing Moby Dick (Herman Melville, 1851). My chase has been as hard as Captain Ahab’s. It should have been a great read for me, but all the detours made it boring. And that’s a shame because I was totally into it until the ship left the harbour. Oh well, at least now I can understand all the references to Moby Dick. I’m hoping Ahab’s Wife will be better.

I finally got around to reading Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (1945). I should have read it before visiting Monterrey back in 2012 (possibly the most touristy place I have ever visited – we ended up with a quick stroll and an expensive Mexican restaurant before continuing to Big Sur). Anyway, it is about a group of young men in Monterrey trying to work as little as possible and party as much as they can. It is a short, entertaining read and I wanted more. I’m glad I still have a lot of Steinbeck’s work unread on my shelves.

Book #49 was Career of Evil by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Gailbraith (2015)). I haven’t been too happy about the previous Comoran Strike books but this was bloody near perfect. It is surprisingly and delightfully dark, nearly grotesque and I was unable to put it down. I hope Rowling will never stop writing!

The final book of last year was Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata (1952). I chose it because of its length, 147 pages. It is about a young man attending a tea ceremony with 3 sexually frustrated women (okay, that was maybe taking it too far, but you can definitely feel the sexual tension between him and the women). It is a beautiful book and I fear I didn’t give it the attention it deserved as the clock was ticking towards midnight. Kawabata is an author I will definitely read more of, having won the Nobel prize and all.

Noon at the darkest day of the year in Jarfjord, Norway.

Happy New Year!

books of summer 2015.

I have had an unusual good reading summer. I read nine books in July, and two on my four day long Glaswegian holiday. I had planned to write a post for each book, but I have been struggling with one post for weeks; so I’m going to sum up my summer reading quickly, which is somewhat a shame as some of these books has deserved a post of its own. Oh well.

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin (2012)

Tags: young adult fiction, usa, queer, love, state of the nation, historical novels,
What is it about: A young girl spends the summer at a lake resort in Minnesota to escape a possible polio outbreak and her father’s ptsd. Away from her mother’s watchful eyes she is able to do birdwatching the way she wants, and then she finds love – forbidden love.

What’s the verdict:  As a book for teenagers, it’s probably good. For me, it was either too many things put into one book or not detailed enough. And all the birdlike observation became too much.

Alamut by Vladimir Bartol (1936)
 Tags: slovenia, historical novels, 1001 books, war and travel, not impressed, state of the nation,

What is it about: Sayyiduna is the religious leader for the Ismailis in the fortress of Alamut. In order to make his soldiers obey him, he decides to give them a taste of paradise with the help of drugs and a garden filled with beautiful girls, food and drinks.

What’s the verdict: I was really into the book for the first few chapter, then it downhill from there. Too much religious philosophy for my liking. Maybe I would have paid more attention if I had known that Alamut and Sayyiduna were real.  I think I’ll blame the reader and not the book.

the Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain (1996) by Cormac McCarthy
 Tags: usa, war and travel, state of the nation, books you should read

What is it about: The second and third books in the Border trilogy. Cowboys and horses crossing the Mexican border in the early 1940s.

What’s the verdict: As in all previous McCarthy books I’ve read, violence is ever present and I always feel covered in at least one layer of dirt while I read his novels. The Border trilogy is a great read.

Morvern Callar by Alan Warner (1995)
 Tags: uk, sex drugs and rock’nroll, books you should read, war and travel, family and self, crime and mystery, books into films, 1001 books

What is it about: When Morvern comes home from work and finds her boyfriend dead on the floor, what does she do? Call the police? Nope, she goes out, gets drunk and have a threesome (possible a foursome).

What’s the verdict: I loved it! Morvern is a real quirky character and although her actions aren’t really explained, it is interesting to follow her around in the small Scottish village and on crazy package holidays. The only thing I really didn’t really like was the ending, so I was happy to discover that there’s a sequel, which has of course entered my wish list.

the Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (2015)
Tags: man booker prize, uk, war and travel, family and self, books you should read, state of the nation

What is it about: Illegal and legal Sikh immigrants to United Kingdom. The reasons why they decided to leave India and how they make a living in the UK.

What’s the verdict: Another great novel set in India. If you like Indian writers, this is right up your ally. And the topic is really important right now. Another author I’m glad to have discovered.

Summer’s over and I’m glad I got to read as much as I did, but I’m still 3 books behind schedule on my 50 books a year challenge at Goodreads.  Right now I’m reading 3 heavy books at the same time (Moby Dick, A Brief History of Seven Killings and Jazz) and it feels like I’ll never finish any of them. Still I don’t want to give up on them as they are all good, they are just heavy and slow. I guess I have to be patient and take the time.

silent spring.

Or 8 7 6 books behind schedule as Goodreads keeps informing me. In other words, I haven’t read at all this spring/ early summer. But now I have endless time (or about 7 weeks a month) to do some serious reading. I was smart and planned ahead and used my mom’s address when doing some serious book shopping. Not that this house is already full of unread books. Hopefully I’ll read most of them before heading south again.

I finally got around to finish Gösta Berling’s Saga by Selma Lagerlöf (1891) in the middle of May. It took months to read it, mainly because I kept it by my bed. The book is about a handful inhabitants in a small Swedish town, and mainly about a priest turned a poor drunkard turned a cavalier, Gösta Berling. It can be read as a collection of short stories, as the chapters have little to do with each other, but are all linked to the small town. It was confusing because of all the characters and although I enjoyed the prose, I never got into it. And it’s a shame because I had high expectations for this book, mainly because of Haruhi‘s fangirling and the fact that Lagerlöf is a Nobel Prize winner. Oh well.

 I spent the beginning of the summer holidays rereading the Hobbit (1937) and the Lord of the Rings (1954-55) trilogy as I needed something familiar to get my reading started again after a long break. I used to read these books annually in my teens until the first film came out in 2001. I also reread them in 2009. I have always favoured the Hobbit, but this time I couldn’t quite get involved in the story, and that was really annoying. I don’t know why, but it could be that I was still stressed after the end of another school year, or that I simply have grown too old for the Hobbit.  

LOTR has definitely grown on me, I always used to find it too detailed, but this time I couldn’t get enough. I swear I must have screamed Gondor! and Gandalf! in my sleep. I never wanted it to end, and I had to take a long break before I read the final chapters, although the battle of the Shire is one of my favourite parts. I still haven’t decided who’s my favourite character.

What’s next on my reading list? I started Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel yesterday, and I love it. I’m forever reading the Crossing by Cormac McCarthy and Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, hopefully finishing them before the summer is up. I gave Villette by Charlotte Brontë the boot yesterday as too much of the important stuff is in French and je ne parle pas francois.

the dragon’s mist.

the Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (2015)
 “Yet are you so certain, good mistress, you wish to be free of this mist? Is it not better some things remain hidden from our minds?”
“It may be for some, father, but not for us. Axl and I wish to have again the happy moments we shared together. To be robbed of them is as if a thief came in the night and took what’s most precious from us.”
“Yet the mist covers all memories, the bad as well as the good. Isn’t that so, mistress?”
“We’ll have the bad ones come back too, even if they make us weep or shake with anger. For isn’t it the life we’ve shared?” 

Beatrice and Axl set out to visit their son in a neighbouring village.  The way to the village is dangerous as it is filled with ogres, bandits and other foul creatures. They spend a night in a Saxon village which is on guard as some villagers have just been attacked by ogres. When they are leaving, they’re asked to take a young boy, Edwin, with them as he has been bitten by a strange creature and the villagers banish him. A warrior, Wistan, also follows them to ensure that they will be safe.

Axl has lately been concerned about that they seem to have forgotten most of their lives. Whilst they are travelling he learns that the memory losses are caused by the shedragon’s breath which is also the reason for the misty valleys. He also learns that both Wistan and Lord Gawain, who they also meet, have been given the roles as dragonslayers. And after a lot of twists and turns, Beatrice and Axl find themselves at the dragon’s lair.

The book is certainly different from what I have been reading lately, and it’s refreshing. It has the perfect amount of fantasy for me, which means just a dash, and I love books about travelling. It was certainly an unexpected book from Ishiguro. I’m also curious about whether it will be nominated to any prizes this year. I certainly hope so, but I know that there are many books coming out this year by excellent authors like Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Louis de Bernières and more, so it will be a tough competition.   

the cabin in the woods.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (2015)
“’Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and the seasons.’ He picked me up and spun me around, laughing.’Our days will be endless.’” 
Peggy is 8 when her father takes her from her home in London to a remote cabin in Germany. He tells her that the rest of the world is destroyed and that they are the only ones left. They barely make it through the first hard winter, and Punzel, as she now calls herself, has to survive on roots and insects. She spends 8 years in the cottage before going back to London.

I absolutely loved the idea of this book, but the way the plot was structured ruined it for me. I wish that it would have been chronologically instead of flashbacks, because then it would have been more exciting. When you already know in the beginning of the book that she makes it back after eight years, it’s not really exciting.

I do understand that it is meant to be more about the mental aspect of being kidnapped and brainwashed than a thriller, but it didn’t really work for me. And the real shocker in the book came way too late to make a real impact on me. But yet, I still think of Peggy and that awful cabin.

Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathy. Come home. I’m so cold! Let me in-a-your window.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

Heathcliff is an orphan who is adopted by the man who owns Wuthering Heights. Here he meets Catherine, who will become the love of his life, but she chose the neighbour, Edgar Linton. And then dies after giving birth to a girl, Cathy. Heathcliff ends up marrying, Edgar’s sister, Isabella, as a revenge on both Catherine and Edgar. He is not in love with Isabella, and she suffers so much that she eventually runs off to London and gives birth to a son there, and names him Linton. When Isabella dies, Linton is sent to live with Heathcliff, and he has a scheme for his sickly son.

I first read Wuthering Heights over 10 years ago, and I loved it, but I couldn’t really remember what it was about. And then last year, when I read A True Novel by Minae Mizumura (which is based on Wuthering Heights), I wanted to reread it. And I’m sort of let down, and I think I can blame Mizumura for that, as she made the modern Japanese version way better than the original.
That doesn’t necessary mean that Wuthering Heights isn’t good, because it is. I especially liked the beginning, but as the story continues it just too detailed so I lost interest, and then it got better towards the end again.  

Read them both is my advice.

Another Austen under my belt.

Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
“They had no conversation together, no intercourse but what the commonest civility required. Once so much to each other! Now nothing! There had been a time, when of all the large party now filling the drawing-room at Uppercross, they would have found it most difficult to cease to speak to one another. With the exception, perhaps, of Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who seemed particularly attached and happy, (Anne could allow no other exception even among the married couples) there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.” 

Anne is the oldest of the Elliot sisters, 27 and unmarried. Due to money problems, the Elliots’ beloved property has to be let as they can’t afford to live there any more, and they will move to a much smaller apartment in Bath. It is an admiral and his wife, the Crofts who are the new tenants at Kellynch Hall, the Elliots’ estate. It turns out that Mrs Croft is the sister of captain Wentworth, whom Anne used to be engaged to. And they are bound to meet sooner or later. How will Anne react? And will she be forever alone?

As all the Austen novels I have read, it is too long in the beginning and then something unexpected happens and I just can’t get enough. Persuasion turned out to be one of the best I have read by Austen so far and Anne should be all unmarried women’s heroine. I like how I always guess who ends up with who when I read Austen.

Why do I like Austen? It is definitely because of the drama and intrigues when it comes to the matters of the heart. She writes so clearly and it is easy to picture the characters and early 19th century English countryside. And the language, of course. There are so many quotable sentences and passages, probably for every aspect of life and emotions. And that is why Austen is still so readable two centuries later. I’m glad I still have Sense and Sensability, Emma and Lady Susan to look forward to.

Persuasion was the first book in Line’s 1001 books reading circle in 2015.

the last book I read in 2014

the Silkworm by J.K. Rowling (2014)
(Cormoran Strike  #2 , as Robert Galbraith)

Owen Quine, the author of one best selling novel and a lot of mediocre ones,  has disappeared. And his wife asks Cormoran to find him. Quine’s just finished a new novel which makes fun of a lot of people in the publishing industry. Could that be a motive for his disappearance? And then Cormoran finds Quine’s body. The body is arranged the exact way as Quine’s described his own death in the unpublished novel.

Rowling, as always, is spot on with her characters and descriptions. And the plot was never boring either. I was racing the clock to finish this on New Year’s Eve as I desperately had to read 50 books before the year was up. It was the perfect book for the job, but I’m afraid I don’t remember much of the plot afterwards, although the characters are still very vivid nearly three weeks after. I really like Cormoran and his secretary, Robin, and I hope Rowling continues writing about them. But I’d rather have more of Harry Potter’s universe and books like the Casual Vacancy, of course. 

Another Shetland mystery.

Thin Air by Ann Cleeves (2014)
Shetland #6

Four friends have come up from London, to the island Unst to celebrate a friend’s wedding. The wedding is lovely, and the friend stay up late in the white night, drinking and talking. One of the things they talk about is Perrie Lizzie, a local ghost story. When the rest of the group goes to bed, Rebecca decides to stay outside for a little longer. In the morning she is gone, and Polly receives an e-mail with the suicide note. The body is found in a small loch. But is it suicide or murder? Perez and his team take the case.
The 6th Shetland books is just like the rest. Perez and his team, a murder or more, and the beautiful nature of Shetland. The plot is good, the story exciting and the ending very happy. I’m still torn about the fact that the series continued after the 4th book, which was the perfect ending, and I’m actually hoping that this is the last.  But Ann Cleeves should definitely continue to write crime novels. I’ll read them.

Of bees and men

the Bees by Laline Paull (2014)
 Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, the lowest of the low in the hive. Flora surprises the priestesses when she can speak and produce Flow, so they give her a job in the nursery. Accept, obey, serve is the slogan of the hive and they all work hard so the Queen will rule and give birth to their beloved sisters or brothers. The Queen is the only one who is allowed to produce offspring and those who disobey or mate are instantly killed by the Fertility Police. Flora is very devoted to the Queen and does her best to follow the strict rules of the hive, but then she produces an egg.

 The book is promoted as a mix between A Handmaid’s Tale and the Hunger Games. The latter part worried me, but thankfully there’s only the same desire of survival. But there’s the same feminist message in the Bees as in A Handmaid’s Tale. I really enjoyed those parts where they hailed to the Holy Mother and danced around with penises in their mouths.

It started as a slow read for me, especially because I felt like the chapters were written poorly, but fortunately the writing got better the further I got, and I ended up really enjoying it. I was definitely fascinated by the story and the lives of bees. Another part I really liked was the dancing routines, which is supposedly something bees do.

I’m hoping this will be translated into Norwegian because I think this will be the perfect book for my sister. And if you want to save the bees and have a garden, here’s a list of plants they like.