Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thoughts: White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Sometimes it's strange how a reading experience comes out in the end. While I read the book I thought it was good and wanted to know what would happen. When I look at it now, I think the main character was unreliable, the prose forced, the plot a series of bad experiences.

Where do my problems with Astrid, the main character, come from? She is fourteen years old. Her mother is in prison, she has a sexual affair with a man three times her age, she is shot by her first foster mother. But she doesn't seem a troubled or emotionally disturbed girl. She just moves on to her next foster family. I think that damages her credibility. No girl her age would overcome bad experiences like this, only being sad or lonely sometimes.
Well, the prose, first it engaged me but the further I got the more it slowed down the reading for me. It was overcooked, too much thought out than easily flowing out of the pen.
And the plot was constructed like I would expect from an inexperienced writer, with the climax build by yet another tragedy happening to already shaken Astrid.

All in all I cared for the book's topic but not for its execution. 2.5 stars.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Happy Easter!

I wish you all a nice weekend. Above that's my delicious Chocolate Easter Bunny! It's from Lindt. Which Chocolate Bunnies do you like best?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Thoughts: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This story unfolds before you, revealing a thing with a big mouth, which is going to swallow you and will only give you free after it thoroughly digested you and you digested all the things you saw in its inside. The story of Rahel and Estha, fraternal twins, is about the importance of small things, like the importance of a careless word or two. Because ...

"That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less."

That's what small things are all about, they trigger the big things. Arundhati Roy shares a big deal of wisdom with the reader. She lets it pass through Estha and Rahel's family. The two are only children but they will witness how live can change in less than a day, when their cousin Sophie Mol dies and their mother Ammu is accused of a love affair with Velutha, one of the untouchables.

Roy's language is magical but I was more impressed with her using her characters. The twins with all their childish innocence are meant to observe the harsh reality of the world and their own family's haunting tragedy. Velutha, the untouchable, actually has no personality of himself but serves as a screen on which the other characters could project their desires. Ammu is the center of the twins' world, when she goes down the twins go down with her. Like in the end, when they, now grown up, break the laws of love like their mother.

"But what was there to say?
Only that there were tears. Only that Quietness and Emptiness fitted together like stacked spoons. Only that there was a snuffling in the hollows at the base of a lovely throat. Only that a hard honey-colored shoulder had a semicircle of teethmarks on it. Only that they held each other close, long after it was over. Only that what they shared that night was not happiness, but hideous grief.
Only that once again they broke the Love Laws. That lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much."

I read reviews where readers complained about the non-constructiveness of Roy's description of misery. There would be no conclusion to it or at last no idea, out of which one could construct a conclusion. I don't think that is what this book is about. There are people living poor, miserable lives and unfortunately not everybody can be helped. But misery still can be the foundation of something beautiful, like it is the foundation of this book.

I read this book as part of my Booker Challenge.

5 stars and a heart!

Monday, 18 April 2011

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Book Journey to share with others what you've read the past week and planning to read next.

I posted a review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and finished reading The God of Small Things which I will review this week.

I'm going to finish White Oleander by Janet Fitch tonight and will grab Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks or The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall next.

Upcoming reads include Little Bee by Chris Cleave, Room by Emma Donoghue and Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Thoughts: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I have mixed feelings about this piece of writing ... or haven't I?

Yunior tells us a story. Not particularly his story but the story of Oscar, who is a ghetto-nerd with Dominican roots, living in Paterson, N.J.. Oscar is a wanna-be sci-fi writer, likes role play games and easily falls in love with girls he can't have. He also is obese and lonely. Soon I realized that this is not solely Oscar's story but the story of Lola, his rebellious sister and Yunior's on and off girlfriend, and his mother Beli, a long lost Dominican beauty, who works two jobs and fights cancer. In comparison the parts about Oscar are thin, the Yunior parts are annoying and the Lola and Beli parts are lively and strong.

I never got rid of the feeling that the author used different styles to blow the novel to become something big and spectacular, which in fact it really isn't.

The biggest problem might be the narrator, Yunior, whom I disliked very much for his macho demeanor and the frequent use of the word fuck. As he is barely holding the story together, I would have liked every character to speak for himself.

Magical realism is introduced in this novel as the superstition every Dominican family knows as fuku, a curse of which each family has to endure one of this or that kind. Miracles are happening twice in form of a Mongoose.

Why the author uses language in such a sloppy way, I don't know. Is it good writing to not use any quotation marks? Or to build sentences which are incomplete? Or to use a mix of Spanish and English words to make up a single sentence?

I haven't yet made up my mind how to rate this book. Let's say I haven't disliked it so much as to not finish it nor have I liked it enough to recommend it to anybody I like.

Monday, 11 April 2011

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Book Journey to share with others what you've read the past week and planning to read next.

I have read and reviewed Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami last week. And I finished reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which I'm going to review this week.

I started reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy which I read 4 years ago but wanted to revisit for my Booker Challenge.

I plan on reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch next. Furthermore I borroughed The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall and Years of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks from the library.

I hope for a good week reading-wise for all of us. Please leave a link and I will visit you back.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Thoughts: Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

I got this book for my birthday and as I always wanted to pick up another Murakami, I decided to give it a go, although ... I first thought I would not like the book at all. Because the description of the story on the back cover sounded much more sci-fi than to my liking. Luckily it wasn't.

Murakami draws two alternate worlds, one where a calculator encrypts scientific data in his head, to protect it from something like a data-mafia. He gets into trouble not knowing why, but soon he discovers it has to do with his latest job. The second world is set in a strange town surrounded by a high wall only birds can overcome. Unicorns are living in the town and people who don't know how they got there. At first the worlds seem fairly unrelated and I already wondered if Murakami wanted to keep me in the dark. I should have known better than to mistrust the author, because in the end, though not all made perfect sense, I was not left clueless. The way to the end was a little exhausting. I think I felt like that, because like in the Wind-Up-Bird-Chronicle, some of the story takes place under the earth, in complete darkness, the protagonist is in a hurry and he fears to be snatched away by some specimen living underground. I felt uncomfortable reading it.

Nevertheless there always is something about a Murakami novel that keeps me on the edge. I always want to grab the deeper sense, and if I fail I enjoy some of his beautiful prose, as Murakami knows about the miseries of the individual.

Monday, 4 April 2011

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Book Journey to share with others what you've read the past week and planning to read next.

I have finished Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami. I'm going to review this book this week.

I started reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, which I bought used and got in the mail today.

Upcoming reads include White Oleander by Janet Fitch and The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall. I requested both from the library.

Last week I reviewed Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. You can read my review here.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Hopping April Fish!

Every Friday, join the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books, and hop to some new blogs. The Book Blogger Hop gives book bloggers a chance to connect and find out what others are reading. Sign up at Jennifer’s blog so people can find your blog too.

You wonder what April Fool's Day has to do with a fish? In France, on April 1st, children try to play tricks by sticking a paper fish on the backs of their friends, parents and other people. When the person notices that he or she has a fish on the back, the kid says: Poisson d'avril! Which means April Fish. Totally weird but fun, right?

I only remember one prank played by me and a friend when we maybe were seven years old. It was my friends birthday and his guests were expected to come through the garden gate. We thought it would be funny to put some super glue on the gate handle, so the next person entering would stick to the handle. Unfortunately the next person to enter was the father of my friend. He was not much amused and we neither.