30 Sep 2011

Review: "The Gargoyle"

Do you know that feeling of picking up a book and starting reading it without having any expectations or any ideas about what the book is about? That's how I felt when I started reading "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson. My sister had recommended it but not told me about the story so I was completely open when I read it and I liked that feeling of having no expectations and just going along with the story told by a cynical, bitter narrator eager to draw the reader into his own black world (and I mean that in the best possible sense).

It is a scary story - really scary. A man in his thirties is driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs and when the hallucinations start getting to him, he loses his grip on the car and ends up in a horrible and painful accident. When he wakes up, he is in the hospital, in intensive care for burn victims and life has he knows it is no longer. He whole life is now the burn ward and the nurses and doctors that treat him and the day when he is able to leave the burn ward and go back to life is far off. Especially because the narrator makes it very clear that he doesn't think there is any life to go back to. Having made a living working in the porn industry, his looks are now ruined and his friends have disappeared. His loneliness is tangible through the pages and I felt it in every word as I read.
Then one day a mentally unstable patient from the psychiatric ward appears in his room. Marianne Engel is a sculptress whose speciality is gargoyles and who tells him about his long life and her years in a convent in medieval Germany. Her stories are wild and impossible but it is clear that she believes them and as time passes, Marianne's stories become as much a part of the narrators life as they are of hers.

On amazon.com they call it "An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time." The book refers quite a bit to Dante's Divine Comedy, especially Inferno and if you have any interest in medieval history, you will enjoy this book. The love story is strong, especially because it is so strange and crooked - the love is not a teenage crush or a love-at-first-sight feeling. It is a painful memory of sharing yourself with somebody else. A bond between two people who don't seem to know what to make of each other. It is beautiful yet painful - a pain that even morphine can't dampen.

So what did I think of this story? Well, I liked it but giving you a picture of all that I thought and felt when reading this book is probably impossible because I went from laughing at Marianne's strange behaviour, feeling the narrators bitterness, being sad for his pain and intrigued by the budding love. This is an emotional rollercoaster but in a good way.

Read it if: You believe that love is more than just a happy, pink bubble of delight. If you like having your imagination put to work and if you like wondering what is really going on.

23 Sep 2011

Friday - follow fun and series that I love

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison at Alison Can Read. If you want to participate, it's easy. To learn more and enter, check out: Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Join the fun and make some new friends!

Q. Do you have a favorite series that you read over and over again? Tell us a bit about it and why you keep on revisiting it?

Often I find myself revisiting favorite series when I need a bit of comfort-reading. It feels like hanging out with old friends and it makes me feel safe and happy. Incredible what books can do really. The series that I keep coming back to are very different and I love them for different reasons.

The Elenium Series by David Eddings
Following the adventures of Sparhawk and his brave friends as they try to save Queen Elena is such an adventure. I love Sparhawk for being such a battered, grumpy thing who can swing into action at a moments notice and beat the bad guys. Another favorite character from this series is Sparhawk's horse, a gruff creature which can definitely hold its own in a battle. Not a horse to mess with.

Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery
I have loved Anne since I was a ten years old spelling my way through Anne of Green Gables and since then I have loved red hair with a passion. Anne has helped shape the way I think about things - especially about family and friends and the importance of giving all people a chance. She is not just a character from a series, she is a role model.

The Hellesta Saga by Margit Söderholm
This is truly a family saga that spans years (nearly a century) as we follow the family who lives at and around the stately home Hellesta in Sweden. It all starts with a young girl who gets married off to an older man that she doesn't like, brokenhearted she toils to make money enough to buy her old childhood home Hellesta so that it can stay in the family. My favourite books are the ones that centres on Will Anckarberg, her youngest son, who gets his heart broken by the cold and ambitious Julie and then marries her sister, the mild Annette and has a brood of children that all grow up and have their own romances and adventures. If you like historical romance that is well-written and full of emotions then this is for you.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Guess I don't have to explain why :-) It is just one of the best series ever writtten and I love it to bits. However, I never read book five "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" if I am feeling down or in a bad mood because it is such an emotional book for me and yes I do sometimes cry when I read it...

And staying with the magical theme, if I look into the future, I will probably end up re-reading the Discovery of Witches trilogy by Deborah Harkness many times.

22 Sep 2011

White Nights

Oh Land - White Nights. This song is so beautiful, had to share it with you all. I think this would make the perfect soundtrack for when reading "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith, it has that same whimsical soul and it is such a hopeful tune as well somehow. Listen to the song and tell me what you think :-)

21 Sep 2011

Review: "Smokeheads"

Is there such a thing as dude lit? If there is - and I think there is - then "Smokeheads" by Dough Johnstone must surely be part of that genre. It is such a dude-ish book, written by a guy for guys focusing on things that guys should like. So I am probably the wrong audience for this one and I have to say I didn't love it. It was alright but nothing special, nothing that made me want more.

The storyline is quite good though: A group of friends who all share a love of Scottish whiskey from far-away, misty islands go on a weekend road trip to celebrate whiskey. Kind of like "The Hangover" in the sense that everything that could go wrong, goes wrong. From the moment they step foot on the island, they make enemies and when you throw into the mix a whiskey-loving hottie, vengeful local police and liberal quantities of whiskey, it all becomes dangerous. Especially because these guys are such different characters that they are bound to get into fights.

It is doomed to go wrong and it does. One bad thing after another leads to death, destruction and a chase across a remote Scottish island. Not really my kind of fun to be honest.

Maybe I am just more of a French cinema girl than an action-packed road trip girl but this book didn't do it for me. Or maybe it is because the characters are wooden with no depth whatsoever. Or because the plot is seriously difficult to believe. Or because the storyline goes from "has potential" to "please just get this over with". Not sure but it wasn't for me.

Best thing about this book: It got me interested in whiskey!

Read it if: You drink a lot of "on the rocks"... or if your idea of a great night in is to rent any movie with one or more of the following elements: 1) Arnold Schwarznegger 2) Sylvester Stallone 3) liberal doses of car chases and violence

20 Sep 2011

Thank goodness for sequels!

To whoever invented sequels: I thank you!! Have finished Deborah Harkness's AMAZING, WONDERFUL book "A Discovery of Witches" and luckily there is a sequel!! Not yet but it is in the making. Dear Deborah Harkness, of course I appreciate that it takes time to write such great books but please hurry up. If I be of any help walking your dogs, doing your dishes or something along those lines so that you have more time writing, please let me know. Until the second book in this trilogy comes out, I will be daydreaming about Matthew Clairmont.

Ps. For more info about the delicious Matthew, please watch this space as review will be posted soon.

16 Sep 2011

Review: "Moon over Soho"

Not so very long ago I reviewed "Rivers of London" and I absolutely loved that book. So of course I couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel "Moon over Soho" by the amazing writer Ben Aaronovitch whom I would very much like to meet in person. If his books are anything to go by (and I guess they are), he has a wicked sense of humour!

"Moon over Soho" picks up where "Rivers of London" left off - our dear hero (sometimes anti-hero) Peter Grant has put the Covent Garden riots behind him and is focusing on the future. His best friend Lesley is recovering at her parents' place, still both physically and mentally crippled by what happened. So Peter is more or less on his own which just adds to the pressure of being the only constable-and-wizard-apprentice in London, well England really. However, there is lots to do because even though he has brokered peace between the river deities. London is still full of magic, and when a body turns up playing an old jazz track, Peter throws himself into the investigation. This leads him of course into some danger and (also of course) into the arms of a beautiful woman, the mysterious, patisserie-loving Simone. Good think that Peter has grown up with a jazz-loving father because music plays an important role in the crimes that he must put a stop to before more victims turn up in the London streets, dead and jazzing.

I really really enjoyed this book. As with "Rivers of London" the dry humour is really amazing and Peter has some great one-liners here and there. And Peter himself is pretty amazing as well. I have totally fallen for his geekiness, his intelligence and his inability to focus when in company of beautiful women. He has so many flaws yet is such a lovely guy - probably one of the most likeable main characters that I have come across in a long time. Thanks to Aaronovitch for creating this magical version of London and for making Peter the focus of this great series.

Read it if: You love laughing and listening to jazz while reading. If you are a single girl looking for a guy with a sense of humour, good career prospects and the ability to light up a room using magic.

8 Sep 2011

Review: "The Pregnant Widow"

There were so many reasons to pick up "The Pregnant Widow" by Martin Amis. First of all, I really like "London Fields" by Martin Amis and I quite enjoyed "The Rachel Papers" so it seemed like a reasonable assumption that I would enjoy "The Pregnant Widow" as well. Also I think the title is really cool - the paperback cover on the other hand I am not too keen on but hey, you can't get it all and I chose the hardback cover to accompany this review as I think that is quite pretty.

"The Pregnant Widow" is Amis's 12th novel and in my opinion it is a really great one. The story is quite interesting and multi-facetted with lots of details that kept me fascinated and with beautiful descriptions that made Italy - where the story is set - really come to life.

The narrator is a 20-year-old male with all the trouble and issues that come with being way too focussed on sex and at the mercy of women... Poor guy! Keith Nearing is quite the anti-hero, he is a days away from his 21st birthday and far away from home on a holiday in Italy. It is the 1970's and girls are intent on behaving like boys and being liberated which means that Keith's relationship with girlfriend Lily is not going to well, she is too liberated and to little in love with Keith, who sees her as some sort of sister. Instead he has his eyes on her friend, the gorgeous upper-class girl Sheherazade with the amazing body who is starting to understand exactly how much power she has over the male gender. As if that wasn't enough to cook up a dramatic story, Amis then throws a bunch of interesting minor characters into the mix - such as every-girls-dream the Italian count (with only with drawback that keeps him from ever getting Sheherazade) and the depressed twentysomething who is hiding out in shame. It is a dangerous mix and Keith is too messed up by a mix of his own hormones, feelings and dreams to take caution. He spends his days in a frenzy of reading - only disrupted to have conversations with the girls or looking at their breasts.... It is a summer that he will always remember and that will change his life forever.

It is a fantastic book if you ask me - I read it and loved it and some day I will read this in Italy on a warm summers day and it will feel like I am almost there with Keith as he faces the difficulties of youth and the conundrums of women.

Read it if: You love early Martin Amis - or if you are no longer a teenager but remember how difficult being hormonal was...

5 Sep 2011

Review: "Rivers of London"

On the back of Ben Aaronovitch's novel "Rivers of London" and on amazon.co.uk it says:
My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else).

A few lines that actually tells you quite a lot of important facts about this book:
1) The narrator is Peter Grant, a London copper trying to make a career with the Metropolitan Police
2) The story takes place in London
3) In January something happens that changes Peter's career quite drastically
4) This book is really funny - it is written with a great sense of dry humour and keen observations about the follies of man.

Peter is a man like everyone else. He comes from a lower-middle class home, has decent a-levels and modest ambitions and a crush on his sharp-tongued colleague Lesley. As it turns out, he also has a talent for magic.
One day when he is on patrol in Covent Garden, a man is killed and a strange witness comes forward. A dead witness... And suddenly Peter is promoted from bar-brawl-stopper and report-filer to appretince to the last police wizard and a whole new world opens up as he has to learn how to interview ghosts, deal with turf wars among minor deities and create light with magic. A lot to handle for a guy who didn't believe in anything supernatural. Not to mention that he also has to investigate murders and woo Lesley.

There are so many things that I loved about this book so I am going ahead and putting it in a list - easier to keep track that way:

1) The dry humour. I found myself laughing, chuckling and having an altogether great time while reading this book. Perfect for a day when you need to smile. Elegant jokes and fun observations.

2) Peter. Great character who develops and changes as the plot unfolds. Very easy to like and his relationship with his parents is a great side-story.

3) The scenery. I love London and this book evokes the city very well.

4) The minor characters, especially the rivers deities such as Lady Tyburn, Berverley Brooke and Mama Thames. Talk about dysfunctional families and strong female characters!

5) The plot. The crime/whodunnit part of the story actually works quite well and there were twists and turns that I hadn't seen coming.

Read it if: You'd like a bit of adult Harry Potter. If you love London. If you ever considered joining the police. If you believe in magic.