Sunday, June 19, 2011

The 2011 book quest: Books 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18.

Here we are then, 2 months later and I should have read 8 books, but I have only read 5. I guess when your life gets turned upside down there is not much room for reading.

Anyway book 14 was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

See, it's so pretty!

And it was good too, well it's Austen so that's a given. I'm sure most people know the story, and if they don't, they should read it. I can also recommend the BBC miniseries, my mom, sister and I know it by heart. We often watch it at Christmas and reading the book, even in danish, there were a lot of passages that i could quote directly from the miniseries.
I usually don't like movies or series of books I have read. They are two so different ways of portraying characters and telling stories, and since movies often have a standard format of 1.5 or 2 hours they often cut things I find important.
The BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice is different. They have taken their time making 6 episodes of each an hour and nothing is lost, some points even come across more firmly than in the book.

In short: Go watch or read or both!

Book 15:

The Fall of the King by Johannes V. Jensen.

The Fall of the King was voted the danish novel of the century in 1999 and is considered one of the "must read" books if you are Danish. It centers around a man whose life runs parallel with the danish king Christian the second.
King Christian the second is a very controversial king in danish history. Some believe him to have been ahead of his time considering his social politics and his disregard for the roman catholic church.
Some believe him to have been insane and suffering from blood-lust.
This book sees him from the point of view of a danish man who becomes a soldier in his army. He is there to conquer Sweden and he sees the Bloodbath of  Stockholm where the king had 80-90 of the most prominent citizens of Stockholm decapitated.
The main character also spends his last years with the king imprisoned in Sønderborg castle and they become close friends.

The descriptions in this book are amazing, and the language is beautiful, though it took a chapter or two to get used to it. The book was written from 1900 to 1902 and naturally the language is a bit different, but instead of taking away from the experience of reading the book, by having to concentrate and translate uncommon or unknown words, it actually adds to it.

Book 16 in the read-pile:

Harper Lee's Too Kill a Mockingbird is also one of those "must read" books and I understand why. It gives an invaluable insight in to the attitude towards race in the southern states in the 1930'es.
A couple of years ago I read Original Sins by Lisa Alther and though it takes place a bit later,  it gives the same insight. You can teach children anything, good or bad, and they will believe it. But the world of children is very different from adults. They will reason their way through whatever we teach them, not necessarily correctly, but they make sense of the world the best way they know how.

Book 17, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis:

Oh this book, this book!
I laughed my way through this book. That might seem strange with all the murder, blood and gore, but there are two very simple reasons why.
1. The internet has desensitized me.
2. It's hilarious.

When the main character tells people that he likes to gut, and brutally murder random strangers, nobody hears him. Everyone is to busy looking good, having perfect jobs, knowing the right people, getting reservations at the right restaurants and basically caring about their image and themselves to listen to anyone else.

The description of what everyone wears every time he meets someone new is pretty tiresome though I get why the author included it. The main character is so occupied with what is in that he has to constantly judge others by what they wear to decide if they are worth his time.

Book 18:

The 18th book was the first part of Thit Jensen's Stygge Krumpen. Thit Jensen was the sister of Johannes V. Jensen, and though she didn't receive a Nobel price for literature I quite enjoyed this book.

It takes place at the same time as The Fall of the King, but instead of a commoner the main character is a man who becomes bishop of Børglum in the northern part of Jutland.
Stygge Krumpen was the last catholic bishop of Børglum, during his time as bishop Denmark was reformed to Protestantism. And the first part of the book follows Stygge as he struggles to return his beloved church to it's original morals and extinguish all the sin he finds the men and women of the church immersed in.

Next up I will most likely read the second part of Stygge Krumpen, unless I decide to give it a rest. We will see I guess.

So till next time, bye.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The 2011 book quest: Books 12 & 13.

I have not had much time to really sit down and read Dværgen fra Normandiet like a book deserves to be read. A good book deserves peace and quiet, contemplation, laughter. It deserves to pull it's reader out of this world, and in to it's own. It deserves the full and undivided attention of the reader, and I am sad to say I did not give book 12 that.
On the bright side I had read this book before and was therefore well aware of the gold that lay hidden between the covers. So even if I read it a little unfocused I still enjoyed it.

I think I mentioned somewhere that I have studied history, well this book is exactly why I did that. It is the perfect mixture of history and fiction. The historic part and the fictional universe built around it match perfectly, and none of them steal the lead, they both carry the story all the way through.

The book centers around the making of the Bayeux Tapestry and the entire plot takes place in one convent in England in the years 1076-1078. Most of the story actually happens in one single room, now that I find impressive. The author found no reason to put his characters in constantly shifting scenery to move the story along, no one room, six main characters, a few weapons (which are only used once), needles, yarn, 70 meters of cloth and you have this book.

Four women in a convent is to embroider the story of how King Willhelm of Normandy became king of England. To guide them is a dwarf from Normandy who was part of the kings court and an old viking who fought on King Harold of England's side at the Battle of Hastings. They tell the stories of how everything that led up to the crowning of Willhelm, and the women embroider it all onto the cloth in one long story.

Now I am lucky enough to have seen the Bayeux Tapestry with my own eyes, and I am here to report that it is nothing short of amazing. I believe it has the amount of stars in the Michelin guide book that adds up to "worth the entire journey" and it deserves it. I cannot even describe it, it needs to be seen.
So this book really makes me want to go there again, and again.

Here it is in the read-pile:

And that was book 12. Now on to 13.

I could not sleep at all last night so what to do? Grab the nearest book!

It turned out to be Derby Girl by Shauna Cross. Some might know it as Whip It, it was made into a movie of that name and they consequently changed the name of the book to fit.

It is a sweet little book that takes about a night to read and though the plot is not riveting it is nice and warm and fuzzy and I cannot help having a little tear in my eye near the ending.
All in all a good go-to book when all else fails, sort of like a security blanket in book form, and we all need security blankets sometimes when the world falls down around us.

Do not get me wrong, my world is not falling apart, it seemed like it might a couple of weeks ago, but it didn't and now it is all sunshine and rainbows again. So that is not why I picked up Derby Girl, I picked it up because A was sleeping and I snuck around the apartment looking for something to read and suddenly the bright orange cover was shining at me from the couch.

I was like it was teasing me "come on, pick me up, you know you wanna. I'm just a short, tiny little book, you'll be done in no time, I swear" And so I did and I was and here we are with book 13 Derby Girl by Shauna Cross.

Read-pile pic: (uhh it's growing)

Next up is the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice mainly because I found a really pretty version of it in a used bookstore. I know it is actually a pretty cheap version, but with the maroon and gold I just went gaga and had to have it. And since I have already used an Austen quote to finish of a previous post I will use the first sentence of this book instead:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The 2011 book quest: Book 11.

I finished the rule of four last night and I have to say; I should have listened to my mom. 
She was right, it is a bad book. Well maybe bad is to harsh, but uninteresting then. 
Nothing happens, at least Dan Brown knows how to pace the story, reel in the reader and set up riddles that even normal people could solve with a little thought.

But the plot of this book took place over two days that seemed like an eternity, the story was mostly the protagonist whining to himself how he screwed everything up and how he misses his daddy. And the actual mystery was not revealed with great care, it was just: "Oh look heres what it says in Latin, wait I'm a pretentious jerk I'll quickly translate it to English". And i took Latin in high school, it was boring as hell, so kudos to anyone who bothered to learn it, but the book just comes of as douchy with its "know it all" attitude (yes books can have attitudes).

The plot, which seemed exiting on the back cover, turned out to be the least of the book. It was instead filled with selfpity and douchebaggery. And so i am proud to announce that this is, so far, the worst book of the quest.
I am sorry i didn't listen mom.

Well here it is in the read-pile:

And so to help me get back on track after some not so interesting titles, I have chosen a book I have read before. It is great, and just the fact that I know I will not hate it makes me want to read it so badly. 

I think that is exactly what I need right now, a book that is guaranteed to be good.

The last time I read this one I think I was 12. I love this author he filled my youth with the viking gods in his series about Erik Menneskesøn (actually I might re-read those for the quest too), and this book I have chosen is about the beautiful Bayeux tapestry and how it was made.

So book 12 will be: Dværgen fra Normandiet (The Dwarf from Normandy) by Lars-Henrik Olsen.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The 2011 book quest: Book 10.

The 10th book in my quest was Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn. Like I wrote in my previous post it was a recommendation from a good friend and here it is in the read-pile:

It took a long time to finish, mainly because I really did not like it. I felt sort of bad when my friend asked if I had finished it and I had to say that I was struggling because I found it uninteresting. I mean it is his favorite book, but he said something that made a lot of sense: "Maybe you need to have a strong relationship with god and religion to enjoy it".
Now that would make sense, I am not religious, my parents are atheists and so they raised us without religion. Not in the "religious people are fools" way, just in the "believe in whatever you like" way. My friend on the other hand, is religious, and so maybe the book caught him and made sense took him on a whole other level.

If we look past the strong religious message in the book, there were some things that I found annoying. First and foremost the language. I know it was meant to set the scene in East London, but for someone not of English origin it made the story halt to a stop quite often, as I had to piece together strings of half-words with missing letters and expressions I had never before encountered.

Next was the relationship between Anna and Fynn, it seemed weird and creepy and I could never really get past the nagging feeling, that in a couple of pages, something very disturbing was going to happen.

All in all it was not a book I enjoyed, but this quest is not just about reading books I know from the start I will like. It is a journey of discovery, a quest to see new and exiting worlds unfold in the pages of books I just happen to stumble upon.

And with that my quest continues, and it does so with a book I have been told was published after Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, as it was meant to ride on the sudden wave of interest for historic mystery novels that sprung from that. I borrowed it, along with a slew of others, from my mom's bookshelves and her review was less than favorable, but let us see what happens.

Book 11 will be The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The 2011 book quest: Books 8 & 9.

The last week has been very busy, and so I only just finished book 8 yesterday. More on the business later, now on to the book. The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, here it is in the read-pile:

I shall try not to spoil anything that happens in it, just as the back cover asks not to. I did enjoy the book, though I found the story to be a little slow. The language however was very impressive, how it changed with the different characters was amazing. The author managed to give each character his or her unique speech pattern and so the reader is never in doubt of who is talking.
The story is very real in the global community we inhabit, and the reality hits you and gnaws at you until you accept it as true.

I was supposed to post this yesterday, and I had started writing it, but something got in the way. That something being the realization that it was St. Patrick's Day. Now I am not Irish, and all my Irish friends live in Copenhagen so it was not the "Kiss me I'm Irish" part of St. Patrick's that was calling, it was more the "oh beer" part.
So instead of finishing what I started, I instead went to the bar, had a few beers and a couple of games of pool and then went home slightly buzzed.
I am in no way dissatisfied with my decision.

The thing is, when I went to bed, I could not sleep. So I naturally picked up the nearest book. It turned out to be an old one of my own, which means I have read it before, but not for a long time.
I have done the Google-thing and as I suspected it is not translated to English, but the version I have is called "Hævnens Time" which basically means "The Hour of Revenge" and it is also published under the title "This is how War is made". It is by Flemming Jarlskov and is written for a teenage audience.

However it has a very adult theme even though all the main characters are 12 to 14 years old. It is not a manual for how to start a war, but it describes how a group of schoolboys take on the older boys in school and savagely start a war that they cannot control or even understand the full consequences of before it is too late. And why do they start this war? Because of a tarmac football field in the schoolyard.

At one point in the book, the protagonist compares their battle against the older boys to the Palestinian fight to have their land back. He watches a documentary about how their land was taken and how they use any means to get it back, and he realizes that what he and his friends are doing is exactly the same, just on a smaller scale.

The whole book is written as an essay from the protagonist to his teacher, to explain why they did what they did, and especially to explain to the teacher that the grown-up rules do not always apply to the children's world. The book has many of the same themes as book 7: The Evil, there is a secret world that adolescents live in that adults do not understand, and cannot be bothered to understand.

The next book will be a recommendation from a good friend of mine, he says he has read it quite a few times and always cries, so let us see if I can make it through without having my heart broken.

And so I shall leave you with:

Book 10: Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The 2011 book quest: Book 7.

So when I finished Robin Hood last night I knew The Evil would be a quick read. Not this quick though. I admit I am a fast reader, but I'm not usually this fast.

Book 7 was The Evil by Jan Guillou, a semi-autobiographical story of the violence in the authors childhood and teens.

Like I wrote in my previous post I find this book to be amazing. It is well written and even if Erik, the protagonist, is in fact part of the evil he tries to fight, you never once hate him. His understanding of the human psyche and the way he uses it to gain control of his opponents makes him seem emotionally distant, but at the same time his thoughts and discussions with his roommate tells the story of a boy who just wants to be in peace with his surroundings.

If I were to recommend any of the first seven books I have read during this quest, it would most certainly be this one. The unforgiving tone seems harsh at times, but it only strengthens the story and the conviction of the reader that this is just a boy who tries his best to fit in, even if it means sticking out.

I repeat my plea from the previous post, that if anyone reads this and finds it the least bit interesting, please comment. And any recommendations of books are more than welcome.

I have decided that the next book will be one that has been sitting on my shelf for about a year unread. The reason I bought it is also the reason it as remained unread; the text on the back. Instead of a short introduction, a little bit of a teaser and at least the name of the protagonist, it just says:
"We don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.
Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it so we will just say this:

This is the story of two women.
Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice.
Two years later, they meet again
- the story starts there...

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell you friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds."

Now how could I ever resist that, huh? So book 8 will be The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. This one will most likely take a little longer to read since it is in English.

Now let us not say farewell, but as the French have it; Au revoir! 

The 2011 book quest: Book 6.

Book 6 was Howard Pyle's Robin Hood and here are my thoughts on that.

It is a very simple book. The same turn of phrase is used again and again. It must be because it makes it an easy read for a child, but for an adult it's just really annoying. I had expected it to be one story and not twenty some short stories, but I'm not sure which would have worked best. All in all a decent book and a rather quick read which is what I need right now that I am a few books behind schedule.

Here is the image of the books I have read so far:

Up next is The Evil. I have actually read this before, but it is an amazing book. I will read it again and very much enjoy it, or so I predict. Well more on that later.

Oh and a side note: If anyone reads this and have a book I must read, please tell me! I have no idea what to read after The Evil. I have a few books that I have not read yet, but I am not really in the mood for any of them and I know I will have read The Evil in no time, just like the first time around.