Tag Archives: books

The kite runner, Khaled Hosseini

I was going to start this review by saying that I think everyone in the west ought to read this book. But as I started writhing it, I realized that’s not true. I think everyone ought to read this book. Even the people of Afghanistan  – especially the people of Afghanistan. Not because I think they don’t know what their lives are like, but because Hosseini has something quite unusual: the ability to see the Afghan society both from the inside (having grown up there) and from the perspective of Western citizens (having lived for a long time in America).

Through the eyes of a troubled boy-then-man, us western folks get a (hopefully authentic) glimpse at Afghanistan’s history and culture. A depressing matter: Hosseini spares little effort in painting the a picture of a deeply dysfunctional society, of a country that could have become great, but was seized by the Taliban, of a culture in ruins and a people in despair.

Yet at the same time, the story has more than sorrow. There’s always something – his subtle humor, an expression of love, a waft of roses – that prevents me from just shutting the book and resort to crying. This makes the storytelling touching and emotional, but sometimes a bit too sentimental.

1984, George Orwell

It’s been a while since my last post… Apologies for everyone! I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging, and not that much inspiration either. My reading schedule has been mostly school related, and thus would be very boring to review. (near the end, there is a plot twist: X comes into the picture! Which completely changes how we viewed the previous information, and force us to think of Y as a mere percentage of the price…)

I choked down one book though! 1984.

It’s kind of like my civics book. It contains a very important lesson, but reading… Well.

It has all the potential! Written shortly after the war, it’s a dystopian novel that takes place in an imaginary 1984. The world as we know it (or, rather, the world as Orwell knew it) has collapsed, and what remains is three monster states with similarly awful governing.

It’s scary how relevant the book still is. While democracy is – luckily – getting more common, to say that lots of people still have little influence over their lives would be an understatement. With internet, there are great conditions to create a control society.

Even if it wasn’t relevant, 1984 could still have been an enjoyable read.

The dullness, though. It would contradict the whole idea if Airstrip One was anything but grey, thus it’s grey. It would contradict the whole idea if Winston was used to thinking for himself, thus he doesn’t. It would contradict the whole idea if Ingsoc was a humane way of governing, thus it is. It would contradict the whole idea if the characters found it easy to express their emotions, thus they don’t. However, it would NOT contradict the idea to let the characters have some emotions. It would NOT contradict the idea to throw in some details and adjectives here and there, spice up or shorten some environmental descriptions, let Winston feel AND think.

Basically 1984 wasn’t very fun to read. Unfortunately.

Divergent series

I want to say that I loved the Divergent series (trilogy by Veronica Roth) but it wouldn’t be true. I loved Divergent, whereas Insurgent was too “slow” and had a few to many plot twists. I was shocked, then sad, when [SPOILER REMOVED] near the end of Allegiant – smart move, Veronica.

Starting from the beginning. In a dystopian future, Chicago is isolated and its citizens are split into five personality based factions. At the age of sixteen everyone go through a test to see which faction will suit them best, and thereafter choose where they want to live the rest of their lives. A person (such as our protagonist, Tris) who don’t get univocal test results, but are partly suitable for more than one faction is seen as a threat to society and is forced to keep their divergence hidden.

That makes well needed social criticism – the world has a sad habit of sorting people into narrow compartments, and those who don’t fit are miserable outcasts. In order to make this spoiler-free I can’t tell you how – at the very end of Insurgent – this allegory is given a new layer, one that I don’t entirely understand.

Love, friendships and enmity add new layers to the story, making it a whole lot better.  Throughout the books these relationships develop, and as we get to know the characters better more complications occur. We loose characters we love, and we realize that those we hate aren’t all that bad.

Roth has a way of writing, that through surprises and cliff hangers keep me constantly  on tip-toes and longing for more. It’s a common technique and she is a master.

L’ecume des jours, movie

A while ago, I reviewed the book that this film is based upon.

My impression was essentially that it was a good book, but it took a while to understand. With the movie, I was a little more “prepared” and my expectations were mostly correct.

It was weird. Just like the book, only not at all similar. More straightforward.

I did notice something I hadn’t before. The setting, “world” is not entirely surreal. It obviously isn’t this reality, it is – sometimes – a metaphor (on another note, I’ve been extremely fascinated by metaphors recently. It really is a wonderful thing to get your point out, but with more elegance and less obtrusiveness).  Jean-sol Partre… seems now like the exact same thing as Fall Out Boy’s “sunshine” or Sixto Rodriguez’s “sweet Mary Jane”. And the water lily… would be cancer.

αφρος-των-ημερωνSkilled actors can enhance any movie quite a bit… Beautiful dresses do something too.

I like reading the book first. Seems that wasn’t necessary this time though, because my friend enjoyed it too, without having read it. I don’t recall either of us touching the bowl of chocolate during the movie. Instead, we sat quietly, absorbed. And that’s saying something.

Dear life, Alice Munro

Isn't this cover gorgeous?

Isn’t this cover gorgeous?

Someone once said that there is no such book that it wouldn’t improve from being half as long. I disagree, because I have read many such books. This one is a prime example, because 1) It’s a collection of short stories, and the stories are by definition short. and 2) There wouldn’t be much of a story left if cropped any more.

#2 is one of the traits I love most about this book. Because Munro’s writing is the opposite of in-your-face-ness. There is no over-explaining or unnecessary descriptions, but short and powerful statements that have just enough information to make the stories come to life in my mind (and I hope the mind of any reader). Still, it’s not hard reading, like a physics textbook, that require energy and focus to be understood. I mean, they do require focus but it’s not difficult to find it.

Dear Life sounded like a brilliant title long before I read the book (it’s one of those that are received as a gift, and then left to collect dust until I’m out of more exciting things to read) and even more so after I read it. Because it’s about “ordinary”  life, in all its glory. Or lack thereof.

There is a sort of calm. Even though the plot often revolves around tragedy (mostly on a smaller scale), I didn’t shed any tears. I certainly felt it, but not in a way that made me want to go out and change the world. A quiet sad.

Looking for Alaska & Paper towns

I feel kind of mean clumping these two books together, but they were pretty similar and I read them close to each other (time wise). Similar, in the sense that they were good in the same ways.  Not as good as The fault in our stars, but then, few books are.

Let’s start with the plot, which is pretty much the same in both books: Shy, smart and skinny teenage boy (perhaps inspired by John Green himself?) meets confident, brave, curvy girl with swaying mood and a secret. He falls in love. She is friendly and kind of flirty, brings boy along for one incredible prank, and then she disappears. Teenage boy sets out on search for her. (not to spoil anything, but going looking just might be an allegory), backed up by his epic friends.
I swear I didn’t make that sound boring on purpose – it is a fairly good plot. The real greatness, however, is in the details; John Green has a lovely way of writing. Not only do the words flow simply and without effort. He paints vivid images in my head that really create that sense of “presence”. Some things – such as the way parents usually act  – are easily relatable, no matter how they are described. Other things are far from my reality, but they become close and perfectly understandable. It takes some skill, to move little me to an alligator pitch in Florida next to my crush, trying to break into Sea World. He makes me feel like I’m part of the John Green universe, which is just like this one only slightly more fantastic.
The characters too are kind of like real people, only slightly better, with more good ideas and pranks in store than anyone I know. Or maybe I do know people who plan escapades as wonderful as the ones Alaska and Margo and Colonel plans, they just won’t tell me….

Bridget Jones: Mad about the boy, Helen Fielding

81-uZBMsmiL._SL1500_I fell heels over head in love with the first Bridget Jones’ diary, and though the sequel wasn’t as good I’ve been longing to read Mad about the boy.
It’s a so-called time document, I guess. Obsessing over Twitter follows (after having fingered out how twitter works), drunk texting, Botox, protein bars and video games. What could be more middle-aged-woman-with-family-2013? Feeling stressed and overworked, maybe. Or making special effort to show the reader all the sex, thoughts of sex, efforts to have sex…
Fielding is trying so hard to make it modern and that kind of backfires. I enjoyed the previous books more, they seemed more effortless and, I don’t know, generally wonderful. Maybe it’s because Bridget is older and therefore less like me, although I don’t think the life of 29 y/o jones has much in common with my life either.
Still, it was hilarious at some points, and definitely worth a read.


Often when I read I wonder if it really is fiction. Or if the author is describing their own life. If they have been through all they make their characters do. If actual people make up the characters, actual events the story.

For their sake, I hope not.

Except sometimes I do.

In a way I think it has to be. At least for me, it’s more or less impossible to describe an emotion I’ve never felt. I can write as if it was caused by something else, sure, but not… The emotion itself has to be intact.


If that is so, then how dare they publish? How much courage does it take to let the world see your inner life, or worse yet let the people you hate know what you feel? Like telling someone how you really feel about them (or your relationship, or what they have done) in a less direct way.



L’écume des jours, Boris Vian

I started reading this book – in Swedish, but no one would understand the swedish name if I used it as the title of this post and using the English might be misleading because that isn’t the language I read it in, so French original it is – with no real intention. I knew briefly what it was about, but had no idea why I wanted  to read it.

At first I was confused, upset even. I had to read every sentence thrice to make sure it really was that  strange, which it was. I couldn’t find any depth in the characters, they had no emotions and no sense.

Then, I realized it’s a surrealist painting. I wasn’t supposed to think, rather let myself meditate in the beauty.

At the end, I was close to tears. I had, somehow, fallen in love with these people and their world. In a way, that is all I want from a book.

No shit, Sherlock!

So, I decided to give the TV-series Sherlock a chance. It’s a British remake of the Sherlock_Holmes_-_The_Man_with_the_Twisted_Liplegendary books, in the form of a humoristic, modern crime story. This did make me a little suspicious. I have read some of the original stories and they are simply brilliant – I hardly thought anyone could match them.

I love the atmosphere (that is, I love reading about it) of the books. London around the turn of the century, with Englishness leaking through every sentence; there are about a hundred different word for the frequented horse cabs, they run through narrow alleys with gas lights and have tea by the fire.

In focus are, of course, the complex cases with their genius villains. “Watching” the even more genius Holmes solve them is a thrilling pleasure, period.

Sherlock himself has changed a bit. In the books he is extremely intelligent, and has a remarkable ability to see details and draw conclusions from them. This is what makes him a great detective – especially in a time without surveillance cameras and DNA-tests – and fortunately it isn’t lost. Neither are his passion for music and craving for stimulation. Still, TV-Sherlock and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock two different people, mostly because his sociopath traits are made much more prominent. The original Sherlock is not in any way social, but he can interact with people.

Sherlock also gives female characters more prominent roles. Another attempt to make the stories more in tune with our time – the original stories demonstrates some pretty sexist tendencies. Same goes for colored characters (who Sherlock does not have high thoughts on), but it’s not made a big deal of.

In total, it is a fairly good series – at least the episode I watched. But it’s not Sherlock Holmes.

Oh, and one more thing…
The language was an obstacle for me reading the books. I’m not just complaining here, I’m warning you that I may (OK, will) have lost something. The already complicated stories are described in long sentences, specked with unusual words, sometimes even in a different order. The odd things often lean towards my own native, Swedish, such as using for in place of because or writing a sentence “backwards” (e.g. “said he”). One might think that such similarities make it easier to understand… HA!

Another thing, first sentence of The adventure of the copper beeches:
“‘To the man who loves art for it’s own sake,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes, tossing aside the advertisement sheet of The Daily Telegraph, ‘it is frequently in its least important and lowliest manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived.'”