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{Review} The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

{Review} The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

When lifestyle writer, Helen Russell’s husband (known only as Lego Man throughout the book) got headhunted for a job in the High Temple of Lego itself… I mean Lego HQ! After much wheedling on his part, they decided to both decamp to Denmark for a year.

Because you’re never too old for Lego, amiright? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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{Review} On Tangled Paths – Theodor Fontane

{Review} On Tangled Paths – Theodor Fontane

Review
First published in 1887, Irrungen, Wirrungen tells the story of two lovers who are doomed to never spend their lives together despite wanting to.

Although the theme was hardly a new one, even to contemporary readers, the way the story unfolds is beautiful-  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2016 in 2016 Reading Challenge

 

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{Review} Reykjavík Nights: Murder in Reykjavík – Arnaldur Indriðason

The week before last we had something of an Indian Summer. As the mercury hit the mid-20s for the 3rd day in a row I picked up this book: the title evoking endless nights and mankind’s darker side. Did it live up to expectations? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2016 in 2016 Reading Challenge

 

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2016 European Reading Challenge – Introduction

Hello there, blogosphere!

I’ve been bumbling around the book shelves without any feeling of purpose over the last few years. Sad, I know. As a result, I haven’t read as widely as in the past and you know what?

It is time for that to change! Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2016 in 2016 Reading Challenge

 

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{Review} Histoire de la chauve-souris – Pierette Fleutiaux

Read for: Rose City Reader’s  European Reading Challenge and for Words and Peace’s Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge.

Ashes by Edvard Munch. It pretty much sums up the story…


Disclaimer. Even now, in the final year of my degree, I feel a little nervous about reviewing books read in French. What if I’ve missed some cultural reference that every other French reader’s grasped? What if, even after close reading, I haven’t fully appreciated the linguistic subtleties of the text, such as those present in Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal? Just because I can understand the words doesn’t mean I’ll ‘get’ all the sub-texts.

I fear I shall always be an English woman reading French novels.

Now that’s out of the way, on to the review! 🙂

Blurb
If they had only cut off her hair, she would have been freed from the bat, but her family forbad it and she was lumbered with her “petit bête”. But the beast is demanding and slowly strips her of her sense of self as she strives to care for it. In an attempt to satisfy it, she runs away from home and sets out on a journey that takes her far from her tiny world to one as nightmarish as Lorca’s New York.

Review
Despite being Fleutiaux’s first novel, her style is already developed and by gum, what a style! Part gothic novel, part psychological thriller, part coming of age tale, part social commentary; NdlCS drew me into the claustrophobic head of its narrator from the opening lines. The book is sub-divided into 3 books, just like the novels of yore and each has a slightly different style, even though each section is equally dark and oppressive. With a hand on my heart, I can swear that the last author I’ve read who’s convincingly managed to maintain such a constantly airless atmosphere throughout their novel was Mervyn Peake in the Gormenghast Trilogy.

Then again, perhaps a comparison to The Yellow Wallpaper would do HdlCS more justice: the narrator’s sanity is repeatedly called into question as she is exploited and potentially abused (I say ‘potentially’ as the first-person narrative coupled with her innocence leads to some ambiguous passages that had me squirming and thinking, ‘Oh G-d, really? Is what I think is happening really going on?’).

It seems silly to have written a review about a book with the word ‘bat’ in the title without (thus far) having mentioning said bat! Fleutiaux mentioned in an interview that she chose to stick a bat in there because she « could never have written a novel about a young girl, a coming-of-age story » without the presence of a ‘character’ that would be versatile enough to be used as short-hand for the duality of human nature. So both the darker tendencies of human nature, such as depression, guilt and self-loathing as well as hope and freedom. Furthermore, the bat’s existence is called into question on several occasions, leading the reader to wonder if it’s real until the end. (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here!)

That bat really does drive the story forward as it has complete control over the narrator, forcing her to exhaust and ostracise herself to feed and care for it.

Overall
Dark, disorientating and darn well-written! If you can read French, I heartily recommend it. English speakers, there doesn’t seem to be an English translation of it 39 years after it was written, so I doubt there ever will be. 😦 Nonetheless, I live in hope!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in 2014 Reading Challenges, Books

 

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Reading Challenges 2014: introductory post

Happy New Year to all of you who use the Gregorian Calendar. 🙂

Seems I have some sort of lung infection thing as I’ve been coughing my guts out (quite literally) for the last few weeks and for the last few days haven’t been able to go up or down the stairs without having a coughing fit/ not being able to breathe for a few seconds.

I’m rooting for my lungs to get better as it’s put a damper on the festive period.

Enough doom and gloom! It’s time to roll out a list of reading challenges that look epic and that I’m going to try to make time for this year!

First of all, Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge, which I’ve already done a post about, but am excited enough to mention multiple times. 🙂

The aim of this is to read and review a minimum of 1 book that’s either set in Europe (irrespective of where the author’s from), or whose author is from a country in Europe.

I’m aiming for the ‘honeymooner’ level, which entails reading and reviewing 4 books that comply with the above guidelines. That’s one book every 3 months, which is do-able.
The 2nd challenge is The Eclectic Reader 2014 Challenge, the aim of which “is to push you outside your comfort zone by reading up to 12 books during the year from 12 different categories.”

I’m not entirely sure which books I’ll read for it, but if I can get my hands on a copy of any of the books in the Adèle Blanc-Sec series, then I’ll definitely read it for the ‘Graphic Novel’ category.

Or should I read Sandman?

Everyone recommends the latter and I do enjoy Neil Gaiman’s writing style, but then Adèle Blanc-Sec has got a really strong female character (namely Adèle) and strong female characters are always a pleasure to read.

Decisions, decisions…

The 3rd challenge that looks really exciting is Words and Peace’s ‘Books on France 2014’. The rules are simple: read any book related to France.

So essentially any book that is;

it can be set in France,
written by a French author,
written in French (not Canadian French), by authors from any country
about a French theme: French cuisine (how the French influenced American cuisine is accepted for instance), French fashion, etc.
it can be a book read for another challenge

There are 5 levels and I’m going to aim for level 3, called ‘passionnément’, for which one has to read and review 12 books.


The final challenge that really grabbed my interest is caffeinatedlife’s Everything España: a 2014 Reading Challenge.

As caffeinatedlife points out, even though Spain has produced some very fine writers, there aren’t as many challenges based around their works. I’m also taking part in this because although I read a fair amount of journal articles about Hispanic socio-linguistics, I tend to forget to read books that are set the country or written by a Spaniard as opposed to a Latin-American.

That will change this year as I’m going to read between 1-4 books in Spanish that are written by a Spanish author or set in Spain.

NB. If you want to take part in the challenge, you don’t have to read a book that’s actually written in Spanish, I’d just prefer to read books written in Spanish.

It sounds like very few books, especially when compared to the 12 French books I’m aiming to read and review, but I feel less confident reading fiction in Spanish, so even reading 3 feels pretty darn daunting right now.

I’ll officially sign up to the challenges and catch up with peoples’ blogs in the next 24 hours: have many things around the house to do before I go back to Uni. for the semester. DX

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in 2014 Reading Challenges

 

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Post 1: a book series you wish would just end already

Thanks again to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge

Day one and I can’t quite remember how this blogging thing goes… Hopefully after spouting inane stuffage for a few posts, it’ll get better… Hopefully.

Anyway! Prompt the First

Write about a book series you wish would just end already

Most of the book series that I’ve read finish at the right place. Closing the final volume of the series feels as though I’ve just undergone a rite of passage: it’s a beautiful and often memorable event- I can remember the exact moment I finished many series that I read a decade ago!

Maybe I should get out more.

Nonetheless, there is one book series that should have ended one book sooner than it did: the Sweep Series (also known as the Wicca Series if you’re in the UK like me) by Cate Tiernan. This series was really popular amongst my peers when I was 14 or so, no mean feat when you consider that Harry Potter was seen as ‘The Series about magic’ to read.

I got so fed up with waiting to borrow the last six books in the series that I bought them with my pitiful earnings from helping out at the local riding stable one day a week.

The series follows the life of Morgan Rowlands, who starts out as your average slightly geeky, straight-A student with a calm, loving family life that would turn most people green with envy. Then a really hot, popular guy moves to town and introduces her and her circle of friends to magick. One thing leads to another and her world gets blown apart (and eventually put back together) by the powers of magick, love and friendship.

Wicca/ Sweep was enjoyable and didn’t fall into the YA trap of putting too much emphasis on a love triangle (they’re short books and had an interesting sort of twist to them, which made it better than it could have been). Book 14 ended on a high point- the point where anyone who’d enjoyed the series could have let go, sat back and said, “That was fun, I wonder what else Tiernan’s written?”.

Then book 15 was published.

In fairness, it didn’t turn into one of those series that keeps stretching out a yarn until it becomes ridiculous. Nonetheless the different style of narration and different main character jarred with the tone of the rest of the books.

Overall it could have been worse, but it was still a major let-down at the time. So much so that this series jumped to my mind when I read that question.

Conversely, if the series had progressed at a slower speed and not jumped two decades between books 14 and 15, I’m pretty darn certain that this post would’ve been entitled, “A book series you wish had gone on longer”.

La donna è mobile and all that jazz. 😛

 

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