30 Jul 2011

I love pre-loved books

Some people would never consider buying a used book but I have to say that I am just the opposite. Call the what you like - used books, vintage books, second-hand books, I call them pre-loved! And I love trawling the thrift shops for books that need a new home and to donate books so that others can read them and enjoy them. Especially the ones that I didn't like - I feel like they deserve a second chance. The other day I was going from second-hand shop to second-hand shop looking for books to buy and this is what I came home with:

Happy reading!

24 Jul 2011

GIVEAWAY: "Wetlands" by Charlotte Roche

Time for another give-away - this time it is my own hardback copy of "Wetlands" by Charlotte Roche. It cause quite a stir when it came out and you can read my review of the novel here.

Rules to participate in the give-away:
- The competition is open globally
- Winner will be selected on August 1st in a random draw
- Leave a comment recommending a book that you think I will like and remember to write you email address so I can contact you if your name is drawn
- Book will be sent to the winner in the middle of August


Review: "After The Party"

Five or six years ago I stumbled over a novel called "Ralph's Party" by an author named Lisa Jewell. I found it in a thrift store for next to nothing, I was a poor student and picked it up hoping for a fun, light read and that's exactly what I got. At the time I was going through a chick lit phase where that was more or less all I read - maybe because I spent so much time reading boring ol' study books? :-)
Anyway since then I have read "Ralph's Party" several times, it is one of those comfy books that always make me smile, especially the eating-raw-chilli-competition. Then a few weeks ago I was on a London tube station and I spotted a large poster for a books called "After the Party" by Lisa Jewell. Turns out now there is a sequel to the wonderful "Ralph's Party" and of course I had to get it.

It has been eleven years since Jem and Ralph went home from Ralph's party together. Back then they were sharing a flat with Jem's devious, deceiving boyfriend Smith who was using Jem to make Cheri jealous and now they have a house in South London as well as two kids and lots of issues. Ralph is feeling detached from his small family and Jem is entirely consumed by her wonderful kids, the bright Scarlett with the fierce personality and the little baby Blake who is growing every day. Ralph is struggling to find his painter mojo and though he is making a living as a painter, a good living, he feels that he has lost the love for his art. So in a desperate attempt to find his passion for art, for Jem, for the family, he goes to visit Smith in Los Angeles leaving Jem alone in grey, rainy London with two screaming kids... Alone to go to the playground and meet a nice dad whose daughter is the same age as Scarlett. So while Ralph goes to a Christian concert with the gorgeous Rosey, Jem goes to have tea with soft single dad Joel. And from there it all goes wrong, more than wrong.

I liked it. Not as much as I like "Ralph's Party" but it was a decent sequel. Great to catch up with Jem and Ralph again and to reminisce about that chilli fight. Also I found the discussions about spirituality and Christianity very interesting. Religion is a topic that is rarely dealt with in chick lit but I think that Lisa Jewell did a really good job of showing how Christianity can make a difference in the rushed, modern lives we life.

Read it if: You've read "Ralph's Party" and wondered what happened next or if you want to read a strong chick lit novel about the difficulty of being a modern family striving to have it all and lead the perfect life.

20 Jul 2011

Review: "Special Topics in Calamity Physics"

Let me be honest with you from the very beginning and tell you that "Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl's debut novel, is one of my favourite books. It came recommended from my father whose opinions - on books as well as in general - I have a lot of respect for. So when he handed me his copy of this long book with the beautiful girly cover and the strange title, I knew that I had to read it - the dichotomy of title and cover alone was enough to intrigue me. This was a few years ago and now I re-read it recently and it was just as great as I remembered.

What is this novel about, you ask yourself? The title doesn't really give anything it away - and then maybe it does. But not in the way you expect. Blue van Meer is a motherless American teenager living a life less normal with her professor father who is specialized in development politics and social sciences and who takes up guest positions at three or four different universities a year. Together they travel the country, living as nomads while Gareth, Blue's father, tells her story of her beautiful late mother and fills her head with as much academical knowledge as he can force in there.
Blue is quite a child prodigy or a teenage prodigy, clever for her age, intellectual, with outstanding academic records and few friends. She is the narrator of the story where we follow her and her father as they settle in a new town where Blue is befriended by the mysterious high school teacher Hannah Schneider who has collected a group of talented students around her in a group referred to as The Bluebloods. From the very beginning she is eager for Blue to join their little merry group and though reluctant to do so at first, Blue suddenly has a group of friends though she doesn't exactly fit in with them. She is somewhat scared by the bohemian Leulah, the handsome Charles and the other Bluebloods who all have twisted, strange pasts. Then one day Hannah dies (this is not a spoiler - it is mentioned at the very beginning of the book) and then it all comes tumbling down. It is a story that wants us to reflect on what we actually know about the people that we know, it is about identities and narratives that twist and turn and make it impossible to find the truth.

When it came out "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" it received a lot of really great reviews and some critical ones. Overall though, it was quite popular and I have to say that I love it though it is probably not for everyone. There is not clearcut definition of what this book is in terms of genre - a coming-of-age novel, a crime novel, a mystery. A literary gem if you ask me! There is so much about this book that I love. The fact that the chapters are named after literary milestones such as Othello, the fact that Blue has an enormous knowledge about and love for books and quotes the all the time. The story is amazing and has one of the best and most well-thought-out endings ever.
Most of all, however, I love the characters. The pretentious Gareth who is not really a nice guy and who is definitely selfish and has a huge, inflated ego - his bad sides only remedied by the fact that he has unconditional love for Blue. Blue is, however, easy to love. She is a pretty honest narrator and her voice and story is full of the teenage worries that I think we all know. The "am I good enough?"s, the worry about the future, about boys. She is so clever, intellectually and academically, yet so socially awkward, and I found myself wondering what became of her after the book ended. For me that is one of the best indicators of a successful literary character.

All in all I can only recommend this book - but be aware that it is long and that the last part is unputdownable so reading it in bed when you really should be sleeping is dangerous to your beauty sleep.

Read it if: You love books and like your heroines clever and full of reflections on life. If love conspiracy theories, mysteriousness and a good story.

14 Jul 2011

Review: "Repeat It Today With Tears"

When this one arrived in my mailbox, I was surprised by how slim it was. I am not sure why but I had expected it to be longer. Maybe because the topic is so controversial?

Let me tell you straight away that this book is not for all because it deals with the subject of what is essentially incest in a really strange, really different way. In a sense it takes the same approach to taboo as "Tiger, Tiger" by Margaux Fragoso, as it focuses on the love story aspect, not the abuse aspect, but in my opinion it handles the topic much better than "Tiger, Tiger" does. You can read my "Tiger, Tiger" review here by the way.

The story in "Repeat It Today With Tears" set in the 1970s and it is about a young girl who desperately lacks a father figure in her life. Susanna is a beautiful girl and a clever girl with a real academical flair - it looks like she will be going to a top university and break the social inheritance even though she has to work as well as go to school. She has grown up on a South London estate among drunkards, criminals and teenage mothers and her mother and sister are both very different from her. Her mother has had a tough life and her sister Lin seems to get pregnant a little too easily... For Susanna this is life as she knows it but something very substantial is missing. Susanna misses her father - her mother's boyfriend is no replacement - and though she has never known him, she goes searching for him. And then the drama starts because it is more or less love at first sight. For Susanna, it is an obsession, nothing is as important as the relationship with her new-found father and for her father it seems like he gets a second shot at youth when this young, beautiful girl gives herself to him. He has no idea that it is his daughter.
As their love grows and grows and grows, Susanna at no point feels that it is wrong. All she can feel is the love for the man that she is incredibly aware is her father. As a reader I found it disturbing but at the same time Anne Peile's beautiful writing makes the story come to life in a way so that it is impossible not to care for Susanna.
The second part of the story is strong, incredibly strong. Tears in my eyes strong. But I won't give anything away.

The strength if this book is Anne Peile's beautiful, delicate prose. The words flow from her, giving Susanna a voice and coating the story in a golden light of times gone by. London in the 70's come to life and the love story part is beautiful - so well-written that I kept forgetting the awfulness of the story. The girl who is so starved for fatherly love that when she has the chance to get to know her father, she takes over the role which her mother has once played maybe in a bid to create the happy family life that she has always been denied and create a right where her mother was wrong. It is a deeply disturbing story but beautiful nonetheless.

Read it if you like: London in the 1970's - or if you were disappointed by "Tiger, tiger".

10 Jul 2011

Pride and Prejudice. Love and Hate.

Can't fall asleep so have given myself a fun little challenge - finding Pride and Prejudice covers and reviewing them in one word and one sentence.

A hardback edition for those of us who read this classic again and again and again.

A beautiful cover for a beautiful book

For those who think that Edward Cullen is the modern girl's Mr. Darcy (he is not!)

Wrapping up a classic in a modern jacket to attract a new audience - kind of like if The Rolling Stones had botox in order to perform at the MTV Movie Awards

Designed by somebody who has seen the movie but not read the book...

Special edition for girls who closets full of shoes

A great British romance set in a Japanese garden?

Which one is your favourite? I would love the second one but in a hardback edition!

8 Jul 2011

Too many books at once - does it happen to you?

When I visit a bookshop, I am like a kid in a candy store. I want to grab everything and limiting myself to buying just one book - or buying none! - seems impossible. Luckily, I manage though, otherwise my home would be like a library... Lately though, I have been starting to read a lot of books, then losing focus and starting on another one. This really is a terrible habit and cannot be recommended. I will use this post to try and get an overview of which books I am currently reading and hopefully this will stop me from starting on more until I have finished these.
Here we go:

Schooling by Heather McGowan
I have been wanting this book for a long time and now finally got my hands on it. It is the story of 13-year old American girl Catrine who is sent to an English boarding school and it is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that is quite powerful.

Repeat It Today With Tears by Anne Peile
A stunning debut novel set in London in the 1970's where a young girl becomes obsessed with finding the father she has never known. So obsessed that she seduces him.

The Enchantment of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt
A coming of age story about Lily Dahl, a Minnesota waitress and aspiring actress.

Horns by Joe Hill
This one was featured on Amazon's Best Books of March 2010 list and I have heard a lot of good stuff about it. Ignatius William Perrish (love the name!) wakes up after a night that he hardly remembers and have grown horns. And that is not all that has changed about him, people are now telling him those things that they are normally too embarrassed to share with others.

Now that I have summed it up, it doesn't seem so bad. I was sure that there were more on this list. Wonder if I have left any out...
What are you reading at the moment?

7 Jul 2011

Review: "Passion"

So now the time has come to review "Passion", the third book in the series about the eternal love of Daniel and Luce which is written by Lauren Kate (btw. such a cool name for an author!). The first books "Fallen" and "Torment" had something. I loved the black school uniform in book one and the graveyard and the firsts meetings between Cam and Luce. "Torment" was good as well, it had something. The last scenes were powerful and that leads me nicely to "Passion" which starts where "Torment" began. However, the plot of this one is quite different and if you are a huge Lauren Kate fan, then please forgive me for this review. I am going to be honest (because otherwise what's the point?) and it is not really going to be nice...

The plot is ridiculous. At best. The idea is actually good but the actual story is not only unimpressive, it is downright awful. In order to understand the eternal love of Daniel and Luce and the curse that means that Luce dies whenever their love becomes to passionate, Luce travels through time. Literally. She uses the announcers to travel through her past lives and observe or even take part in her past lives and what lives, she has led... And boy has she led some interesting lives. She seems to have been in all the right places on the right times, at least in a historical context. Thinking about this in a reasonable way, one would assume that she had had maybe one exciting life and a lot of normal lives outside of the main historical events. Not so Luce. She was lady of the manor in Victorian England, a friend of Shakespeare and the reason for the fire of the Globe Theater, a slave at the court of Pharaoh, a Chinese king's fiancee, a Princess of Savoy at the court of the Sun King... She has experienced quite a bit! And I can see why otherwise this plot may have become boring quite fast because Kate doesn't take the time to really explore any of these lives, instead she seems to try to fit as many past lives into one book as possible. And feature the devil as well plus a strange dialogue featuring God... Have to say I don't like it. At all.

If you loved "Fallen" and "Torment" please don't get your expectations up... If you loved films such as "Shakespeare in Love", "Mulan" and "The English Patient" then you might like it because the author seems to have borrowed a bit from these and other movies. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, except that she has not done it in a very elegant way and that rather annoys me. Honestly, this book seemed to me as if it had been written in a hurry and that's really too bad. I hope that the next book, "Rapture", will be better because even though I was less than impressed with "Passion", I still have to find out what happens to Luce and Daniel.

3 Jul 2011

I wish it was a book!

Right so I've written a couple of posts about books that have been made into films - but there are also a bunch of films that I really really wish was based on books. And maybe they are and I just haven't noticed. Anyway. There are quite a few films that I would love to read:

Juno. Script written by the cool, clever, imaginative and brave Diablo Cody who is never afraid of tackling difficult issues (teenage pregnancy in Juno, mental illness in United States of Tara). Would love to have her over for dinner and talk to her about screenwriting.

Adventureland Starring a rather cute guy and Twilight-girl Kristen Stewart this is a far cry from sparkling, moody vampires. This is all about a rich kid whose parents go bankrupt forcing him to work at the local adventureland (read: freak show) during his summer vacation. It would work really well as a coming-of-age book, I think.

Easy Virtue with Colin Flirt and Jessica Biel. I've mentioned this one before. It is set in the thirties and full of bright young things and fantastic music. The story of an English aristocrat who marries an American nobody to the extreme displeasure of his mother. It would be a classic - reminds me of "The Edwardians" by Vita Sackville-West.

Pictures from a day in the garden

Time has flown and I have been busy - and that is my absolutely only excuse for not having blogged for a looooong time.

What have I been doing you ask? Well a whole lot really. Lots of traveling - a few days here, a few days there. Reading in airports, on planes and at night. But now I'm back and ready to review and write and read all of you wonderful blogs.

However, this post will be a short one but I will share some pictures with you. A month ago I had an absolutely wonderful time lying in my parents' garden for an entire day reading, talking to my cat and enjoying the sunshine and just being perfectly happy (apart from my leg being all busted up and my mind being slowed by painkillers). Have a sunshiny day people :-)