Thursday, 21 July 2011

Lisbon Calling!

I finally decided. I decided to go on vacation to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal in September. Of course the Great Thinker is coming with me.

As you might know I'm a city traveler. Last year I spent one week in London and had a series of posts about my adventures there. The year before I went to Paris and did a post about Paris for Book Lovers and Gourmands, which is still the most read post I have ever done.

What can I say, I don't care much for mountains or beaches, although this time I will have the city, the mountains (or hills) and the beaches at the Atlantic coast. Lisbon has it all. And for a special treat it has my friend Anna. Anna lives in Lisbon now, with her boyfriend Tiago. I hope they will show us all the great places one has to go, whether it is for culture, nightlife or shopping.

But of course I won't leave it all to them. I love planning ahead, deciding what to visit. It's what I do, the Great Thinker leaves it all to me.

First of all I rely on the most handy and beautiful notebook I can think of. The Moleskine City Planner Lisboa. It provides space for personal notes, places to visit and addresses. A map of the city and the metro is included as well. I have one for Paris and London, too. It helps to keep track of my adventures during the stay and give away the most precise recommendations, when I am back.

Second most important thing, a travel guide. But of course not any travel guide. I have a fancy for the National Geographic city guides. It's a German series and I own one for Paris and London as well. They never disappointed me. I like their concept because it's neat. The city is divided in the most important neighborhoods and includes recommendations on what to see in one day in the particular neighborhood as well as trips to the surroundings of the city. I hope the Lisbon guide will stand up to the standard I already experienced in the other two.

As always I would be delighted to hear your opinion! Have you ever been to Lisbon? Would you want to go? What is a must do? Do you want more posts in preparation for the trip, like where am I going to stay, or is it easy to learn the language (Because I try and nope, they don't speak Spanish.)?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

New books! Used.

I have had this strong feeling coming up. You know, the one where one can't resist any longer, where one needs to lay hand on new books. At least new books to me as they are all gently used.

I got The Blind Assasin by Margaret Atwood, Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. All but Geisha of Gion are Man Booker Prize Winners. I bought the books used or got them from Bookmooch.

Have you read any of them?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Thoughts: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"Happy happy Hunger Games! May the odds be ever in your favor!"

What a ride! I could never actually put down this book. I lost myself in the world of Katniss Everdeen, a slender sixteen year old girl, with good hunting skills, who is chosen to be the Hunger Game's girl tribute of her district. That means she has to fight to death, her own or the death of all other 23 tributes, one boy and one girl, from every district in Panem. Peeta, the baker's son is going as boy tribute with her to the capitol to be prepared for the Hunger Games.

The chances for Katniss to come out alive of the arena are small, or aren't they? She is a good hunter and knows how to survive with as little food as there is. And she is smart, strong with bow and arrows. Also she has promised her little sister Prim to fight as hard as she can, when she stepped in for her, as Prim was actually chosen to be the district 12 tribute.

The book was very suspenseful. I felt my heart beating whenever Katniss got into a seriously dangerous situation. I admired her for her courage and her will to survive. I lived through the emotional turmoil she must have felt, when Peeta began working with the Career tributes (the ones who were trained their whole life to fight in the arena) only to find out later that he was on her side all the time.

I have to get my hands on the second book as soon as possible.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Monday, 18 July 2011

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Since my last Monday post two weeks ago I read and reviewed:

Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy - a very versatile book about life teaching lessons and a mysterious murder - see my review here.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave - the story of a Nigerian refugee girl and a British woman, whose life changes dramatically one day at a Nigerian beach - see my review here.

I also have read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Giver by Lois Lowry. For both books reviews are coming shortly.

Now I'm reading The Monsters of Templeton. I already read the first chapter about Willie coming home and a big, dead monster floating atop of Templeton's lake. Let's say I am hooked and looking forward to my cozy reading time before I go to sleep.

After The Monsters of Templeton I want to read Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky for Paris in July. Another big chunk. For more information about the event, click the button in the right sidebar.

It's Monday is hosted by Sheila from BookJourney.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Authors I'd really love to meet in person...

From top left to bottom right:

Nick Hornby - The first novel I ever read in English was his About A Boy. Thanks for starting my passion for reading.

Haruki Murakami - Murakami writes weird but beautiful books. Would love to get to know a man with such an impact on the reading world.

Jonathan Safran Foer - I fell for Extremely Loud and Incredibliy Close. Is there more to say?

Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Of course I'd like to meet the author of my favorite book all time The Shadows of the Wind.

Margaret Atwood- Look at her. She is so awesome. I'm determined to read all of her books.

Siri Hustvedt - Never heard of her? Go read her book What I loved.

Jeffrey Eugenides - I lost myself in his epic Middlesex. I sure would like to take a closer look at him.

Jon Krakauer - His encounter with Mount Everest nearly pushed me off the cliff.

Banana Yoshimoto - Her books fascinate me. I sure would like to have a cup of tea with her in any Kitchen.

Zadie Smith - Her books have been most challenging reads language wise. And she has written On Beauty.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Thoughts: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

The chapters alternate between Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee and Sarah, wife, mother and magazine editor. Both have met on a Nigerian beach two years ago, which changed their lives dramatically. Unfortunately I'm not able to tell you more without giving away the story. That's why I keep it short

I really loved the first pages where Little Bee shares her observation about modern societies and how strange they seem to a refugee girl. Those comments were witty and funny. Surprisingly I even liked Sarah's encounters. Chris Cleave floats effortlessly between his two telling characters. I was relieved because I read books where the author didn't handle alternating point of views very well.

But the story did not keep being light or hilarious like the back cover promises. In fact the book got heavy about topics like immigration, oil wars, friendship, personal responsibility and violence. Topics on which Chris Cleave thoroughly researched. I liked that the book had meat to it, it carries many important messages such as the horrible conditions in detention centers or that many refugees are treated like crap and not like human beings.

Give it a chance, it may surprise you! 3.5 stars.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thoughts: Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy

In 1974 young Charulata Apte is coming to Miss Timmins' to teach English. She is a shy and innocent girl with a birthmark, she calls her 'blot'. One could see it as an indicator of her emotional state, because when Charu is in emotional turmoil it turns red and itchy. Miss Timmins' is a boarding school where Indian parents sent their daughters to get a British education. Charu befriends another young teacher called 'the Prince', a bold and troubled woman, and falls in love. But the Prince is found murdered some time later and Charu is one of the suspects. Now the time has come when life is teaching Charu lessons.

This book is a murder mystery as well as a coming of age story, but it also topics the caste system, sexuality and drug consumption. As varied as the topics are the characters who populate the story. There are Charu's parents and family, who have kept a secret from Charu for too long now; the teaching staff, with headmaster Nelson, who ALWAYS carries a white purse; Miss Raswani, the Hindi teacher with the crazy eyes and of course Miss Prince with whom Charu has an affair and who entertains a mysterious relationship with Miss Nelson. But there are also other people that inhabit the city around the school, like the inspector and most importantly the Panchgani crew with Merch, a group of bohemians who become Charu's friends.

I liked the complexity of this story. It's almost unbelievable that it is a debut novel. I also liked it's atmosphere, the mountains, the monsoon, the gloom, the isolation. Only the pacing of the writing did not always feel right. And in the end I found myself clueless as I could not tell the murderer.

Four deserved stars.

I got this book from the publisher HarperCollins via NetGalley.

For further reading, books about India:

Monday, 4 July 2011

It's Monday!

It's Monday is hosted by Sheila from Book Journey.

Last week I finished reading Miss Timmin's School for Girls, which I'm going to review this week. I will also review The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera this week.

I have written a review of Consolation by Anna Gavalda, which you can view here. I have read this book for Paris in July, but I'm sorry to say that it wasn't my cup of tea. The story lacked a somewhat twisted plot or the kind of wit Gavalda produced in Hunting and Gathering (aslo known as Ensemble, c'est tout).

I am now reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave. After that I'm going to read the Giver by Lois Lowry. I heard people rave abou this one for too long. Finally, I want to read for myself.

What else? My mother is coming back from Taiwan on Wednesday. I am curious to know what she picked up in the various bookshops at the aiports spending the last money in foreign currencies.

Thoughts: Consolation by Anna Gavalda

Charles is a busy architect living in Paris with his wife and step-daughter. One day he receives a letter which reads like this: Anouk is dead. This little piece of information throughs Charles off the track. His past is overwhelming him and he realizes that he is unhappy in his current life and that something needs to change.

Anouk was the mother of his childhood friend Alexis. Charles was secretly in love with Anouk and decides to visit Alexis, who once was an exceptionally gifted musician but now lives in a small town with wife and children. He gave up music and is unhappy, too. In that small village Charles meets Kate, who runs a farm and is foster mother to five children. She too is unhappy at night, feeling lonely with her problems. Charles falls in love with her. Is it possble for him to become happy with Kate and her children?

I think the book was too long. Everything that happened could have happened in less pages. I wasn't impressed with the story either, nothing exceptional happened. The characters Gavalda created are lovely and kind. But that's it.

I picked this book up because I loved Hunting an Gathering. I was disappointed with this one though. Gavalda showed significantly more wit in her forementioned novel.

I still highly recommend reading Hunting and Gathering also known as Ensemble C'est tout, which I reviewed here. This book also has been made into a movie with Audrey Toutou, known for her lead role in Amelie.

But don't bother with Consolation, which I would give 2 maybe 2.5 stars, but nothing higher.

I read this book for Paris in July 2011.