Sunday 27 January 2013

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson

Allan Karlsson is a resident of a nursing home. He is about to celebrate his 100th birthday and the home is organising a party for him. A party he doesn't want, especially if there is no chance of a vodka. Looking at the window he decides he has had enough and climbs out. Not really knowing where he is going to go he decides just to go with where life takes him. A philosphy it turns out he has lived by all his life. He might not have expected, gangs, a police chase, murder and an escaped elephant. However, he learned early on not to expect anything.

I picked this book up on a whim when I was in my nearest book store having coffee. Nothing else had appealed to me that day (I know, shocking) and was just about to leave having given up when I spotted it. The plot appealed to me and I have to say it didn't disappoint. It's been described as or compared to Forrest Gump. It's easy to see why as you get into the book. The chapters are alternated in that one is about Allan's escape and adventure. The other is about Allan's history right from birth. That's when you know that this sort of thing isn't new to Allan. The Forrest Gump part is that Allan seems to have played an anonomous and yet important role in just about every historical landmark from near birth to the day he goes to the home. The fact that Allan just goes along with it adds to the humour of the book.

That and Allan claims to be apolitical. Having a father whow was a political activist made Allan resolute in having no part to play in politics and yet politics always happened to him (a lesson maybe for those who don't believe politics affects them). It made for a rather amusing read also helped by the writing style. I would probably describe it as dry humour as it wasn't always obvious when Allan was being deliberately funny.

I am not sure which sections I preferred the most. I looked forward to both and whilst they both, of course, featured Allan they still read very differently. Without a doubt I think this is going to be one of my favourite books of 2013.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King

Four short stories/novellas; 1922, Big Driver, Fair Extension and a Good Marriage. In 1922 a farmer contemplates killing his wife so that he can hold onto his land. In Fair Extension a man with cancer is given the choice of selling out his friend in order to become cancer free. In Big Driver a woman decides to get revenge on her rapist. In A Good Marraige a wife discovers the truth about her husband.

I wasn't sure about this book when I first started it. I was told to stick with it though and you should never judge a book of stories by its first one. At least that's what I tried to tell myself when I started 1922. It wasn't badly written. It was actually well written and was a great start to the theme in this collection, revenge. I just didn't take to it. I didn't take to any of the characters. It's the only one in the book where the main character isn't the one doling out the revenge but is on the receiving end. Despite the fact that it isn't my particular favourite I can appreciate it and overall I did enjoy the book.

The other stories I enjoyed much more. They seemed more characteristic of King. Particularly Fair Extension which was set in that town all King fans know and love, Derry. I was going to say that it was the only tale which had a ring of the supernatural about it. That's a lie though as 1922 did too (although you could say that it was all in the mind of the narrator). But with Fair Extension there was no doubt in your mind although I think both are typical of Kings supernatural horror style.

The two stories I haven't mentioned are also typical of King. Using the darker side of humans as a method to bestow horror on its readers. The rapist in Big Driver and unfortunately to tell you the dark side in A Good Marraige would be spoiling it for you. It seemed obvious what the husbands story was once the wife began searching but I wouldn't take that discovery away from you.

A little brutish in parts but overall I liked this collection. I said that 11.22.63 was the best of Kings latest books but I am going to have to change that opinion to this one.

Oh, and on trying to remember the bonus short story I was looking it up and discovered some facts about 1922 (the story) that I wasn't aware of when reading. It's set in the same place as the home of Mother Abigail in The Stand, Ben from It moved there and it appeared in another short story but I don't remember it.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

The Sealed Letter - Emma Donoghue

Emily Faithful (Fido to old friends) has become successful in her own right. Almost unheard of in Victorian London. She is a woman of business and has dedicated her life to helping secure the freedom of women. Bumping into old friend Helen Codrington could change all that. Helen is unhappy in her marraige and is having an affair with a young officer. Somehow Fido is dragged into Helen's life as it spirals out of control. Soon the courts are involved and Fido's reputation and lifes work are in danger of being tarnished forever.

This is actually based on a true story. There really was an Emily Faithful who fought for womens rights before the suffragette movement. Her name was then tarnished as she was associated with the scandal of her friends very public divorce. Until round about then divorce was a difficult thing to come by and until the laws changed very few people would sought after one. Charles Dickens was mentioned in the book as one of the first to take advantage of the new laws. I found the historical aspects all very interesting. There is even a section in the back which tells you where the author expanded on the facts and what happened to Emily after the events.

As for the story telling itself I quite enjoyed that too. It wasn't at all what I had expected. I have to be honest that I didn't pay much attention to the blurb as I picked this up after reading Room by the same author. It's nothing at all like that first book and could in fact almost be written by a different author. I felt that the author did very well in writing for that period and whilst she obviously used artistic liscence for some of it (particularly thoughts, feelings and conversations) I didn't feel like I was being duped. Instead I was intrigued by Emily who appeared to be intelligent and yet could follow her friend so blindly. Although, I confess that I was duped a little by Helen too and didn't realise just how calculated she was until near the end. At that point I wanted to shake Emily for continuing to believe her friend.

What interested me too was the affect this all had on Emily's reputation. Of course it had an affect on the cause she was fighting for. A cause that was difficult enough to get support for without a tarnished reputation. Then there was the ending. I had never really heard of Emily Faithful so that ending was a little surprising to me.

A good piece of historical fiction. Especially if you like those which are based around a real event.

Sunday 13 January 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It has been a while again since I have taken part and this is my first of the New Year. Hopefully I will manage it more often. This is a book meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. A great way for people to share their reading week.

This week I read;

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Some title and some book. We are only a few weeks in but I think I can safely say this will be a favourite of 2013.

Just now I am reading;

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. I am working my way through my tbr pile just now and all I have left are mainly chunkies. This is one of them. An interesting start. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.

I am not planning anything else for this week. My reading has slowed down and this book is over 800 pages. I will probably still be reading it next week.

How did everyone else get on? Any firm favourites already?

Happy New Year (or better late than never)!

I have had so many New Year posts half written out and then scrapped. I was even going to take part in a hosted post. However, it would seem I have been lazy in my posting the last few weeks and not quite satisfied with what I had written. I am back at uni tomorrow and so have decided just to go ahead and post something before my blog dies away.

So 2011 I read 132 books and 2012 I read a measley 99. Well, not really measley since it was a lot more than I expected. My initial challenge for myself was 60 books and when it looked like it wasn't challenging enough I upped it to 80. That's this years challenge too. It sounds as though this term is going to be busier than ever. This of course is followed by a summer of placement before I move into my final year. Basically I will be lucky if I read 80.

Enough of that though. Here are some of my favourite books from last year;

I've picked just one from each month although that was difficult. There were some months I read very little and then others where there were too many good ones to choose from. These I think represent a rounded selection.

The book I disliked the most isn't actually that difficult to choose. It is of course Fifty Shades of Grey. Bad writing and very little story. What there was of it was extremely dull. Mind you I had a couple of unfinished books last year too. One of which was Posession by A. S. Byatt. Far superior in it's writing but bogged down in prose when I just wanted it to get on with the story.

2011 I failed at the only challenge I signed up for. 2012 was a big success as I managed all four (granted one of those just lasted the one month). I was quite proud of myself of that since I thought I was going to fail the last two in December.

The year ahead I am just planning on working on my tbr pile. I have got it under 20 but they are mostly rather chunky books. So the only challenge for me this year is to finish those. I think I can manage that. I will still read classics but not sure if I will read them on a monthly basis. I am hoping to discover more authors and read more of my favourites through not signing up for set challenges.

Hope everyone had as good a year as I did and hope everyone has an even better 2013.