Thursday, 28 March 2013

Challenge - Jane Eyre

Image sourced from here
I got given Jane Eyre many years ago. Much to my mother’s distaste. In fact I mentioned to her the other day I was reading it and she groaned. And flopped over. And continued groaning and stooping lower and lower until her arms were dragging on the floor while she trudged around the kitchen at an incredibly slow and thumping rate.

If you think I’m prone to overreaction and drama, you should meet my Mum.

It then emerged that she couldn’t quite remember reading it as she ran around the house warbling “Cathy!!!” and I pointed out that was the wrong sister and book, not that I have read Wuthering Heights either. She did finally remember reading it when I was speculating on the end, and she got an evil grin on her face, opened her mouth, clamped both hands over it quickly, and ran away.

See my previous comment. Throw in my Dad’s Yorkshire tendencies to tell long, rambley stories over a pint or 7, and I didn’t stand a chance.

So on my second attempt to read it, I finished. I had to read it. We share a name. In fact when I came across the quote, which I actually really like;

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!” –p282

I am wondering if my good friend in high school calling me (and writing all over my stuff) “Jane, plain and small” was actually her being literary. Strong possibility.

So what did I actually think? I loved the first half of the book. Besides the love of semi-colons (says the girl with the love of commas and parentheses), I really enjoyed the writing. And she at least knew how to use those semi-colons. I loved the feeling of being back in Yorkshire. I loved the moors. I liked Jane. I even liked Mr Rochester. As I said to Mum, “He’s actually quite funny and intelligent. Until he doesn’t stop talking. He just goes on and on and becomes ridiculous, and you just wish you could shake him and say ‘Oh just stop talking!! I liked you so much better when you weren’t talking!!’”. She pointed out in mirth that may be the pot calling the kettle black. Bah.

But then it goes a bit pear-shaped. The big twist in events happens. She meets St John Rivers, who needs to get the .. hell... over himself frankly. The book gets ridiculously preachy. I got stuck in sermons that I didn’t realise I being lead into, and that made me grumpy at the characters for breaching my trust. Oh and then the end! Dear god!

So I’m glad I read it. I liked the first 300pp or so. It was going to be a 4 starrer I thought. It would pull me out of this 3 star slump I’ve been in. But alas, it was not to be.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Challenge - The Catcher in the Rye

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I try and make it a habit not to discuss overly discussed books. Although I don't think it would be fair of me to read this book without allowing myself the opportunity to respond to it.

I have heard about this book for years. It was one of the books I had to have read. It was one of the ones I *should* have read. I get so annoyed I had my 5 year hiatus of reading in my teenage years. I read one or two things, and read things for English at school. But after years of being ridiculed at primary school for reading and knowing things, I was determined not to in high school in order to fit in. It kind of worked. Until I read a book I loved and then devoured it with a rabid hunger that was screaming to be fed. I should have taken the hint I was a junky, but I was 14. I knew better.

The problem with this now, is that I am over 5 years behind on my reading (going on my stats from the last two years, averaging 20 books a year, that's 100 books I could have read). And when you are 5 years behind, there is a lot of reading you postpone again and again. Catcher was one of these.

I loved and hated Holden. There were things he said that I though were brilliant and I could not believe that a 17 year old could have said. There were moments where I wanted to slap him upside the face and give him a good shake. I thought long and hard since I finished it what 17 year old Rusalka would have though of him, and I don't think she would think much differently. She was a bit of a prude, although had a thing for the bad boys. God knows really. But the fundamental frustration and intrigue I think would have been similar.

I loved the bit though where he is talking to at the moment unnamed source (spoilers!) about the concept where the name of novel came from. That was beautiful. That was the part 17 year old me would have fallen in love. That's the main part of the book that felt real. However the rest of the book I wanted to kill him. He was so frustrating. And I know 17 year old Rus would have felt the same. We, her and I, have always had a small amount of patience for boys with self important bullshit.

In the end I can see why this book was mind blowing when it was written. I can see why 13 year olds may flock to it. But in a present day world. I don't quiet get it. Maybe it is the late 20s me that doesn't get it too. But I feel that great books can speak to you no matter your age, even if you can see that you would have loved it more at XX age. I'm glad I read it, but a little overhyped. I'm expecting to be burnt at the stake so go for it ;)

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The She Devil in the Mirror - #32

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Murder mystery with a twist. Usually my thing. Set in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, Laura's best friend Olga Maria is shot dead in her living room in front of her two daughters. All very upsetting and such, and Laura is trying to find out who has done it. And along the way she finds out more and more about her best friend who she didn't know as well as she thought.

The interesting thing about this book is that it intertwines the history and politics of El Salvador with the book. The animosity towards the socialists was rather surprising, mind you not so much once you realise how well off the families are, especially Laura's. Nor when you realise that maybe the socialists were or could be as corrupt as the capitalists. I have to admit I know very little about the socialists in El Salvador, and it would be very naive to assume all socialists regimes in South and Central America were/are the same. So, interesting.

What made me have an INCREDIBLY hard time engaging with this book is that it is told from the perspective that you are one of Laura's closest friends and the entire book is her speaking at you. I know the book was 175ish pages but that was too long. There is no way I would spend more than 2 mins talking to this woman. I have been known to jump in front of moving traffic to get away from people like her (deadly serious here). I went out of my way of 4 years of all girls high school to avoid people like her, for them to be forced upon you in your reading life is frustrating as hell. She's such a horrible, gossipy woman who just talks inane crap and jumps from one subject to the other, nattering away about some things that just don't matter. Not to mention she doesn't let you get a damn word in edgewise!!!

... You know, I think that's what bothered me the most. I am a chatty, talkative person. I am reasonably forceful, especially with my close friends, in getting my point heard. To be rendered silent was ... just ... so goddamn uncomfortable! I just felt like I was spending the experience going "Bu.... Excuse...Just...uh... yeah bu... /sigh."

The last couple of pages though were great. And if you need to praise someone for writing prattling women, this guy has it down pat.

Monday, 4 March 2013

A Case of Exploding Mangoes - #31

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I need to start reading the backs of books.I was convinced that this book was about a Pakistani family and their hilarious drama. So I spent the first 30 pages reading waiting for this to start, then read the back of the book. My thought straight away was, "You've bloody done it again". You would have thought that I had learnt from my Iran read. But hellz no! Learning from experience is for losers. Or something. /sigh

Ah well, on with the show. What the book is really about, is the sudden firey, airplaney death of the Pakistani President/Dictator in 1988 and the circumstances, imagined and real, surrounding it. This is not a spoiler by the way. You're told this happens on the first page. And the back of the book, which is why I frequently don't read them.

We are following the story of a Pakistani officer and his arrest as his roommate goes AWOL. Ali Shigri, tells us what happens to him during his interrogations and imprisonment. But we also flick between him, and none other than Mr President himself, and the people and events that surround him.

It was again a very well written book. I can definitely see why it made it on the mixed blessing Booker Longlist in 2008. It just wasn't a subject matter that interests me. Actually, that isn't entirely true. The political, societal and religious themes very much interest me. Shigri is a drill commander though, and drill bores me. Military things bore me. I'm the daughter of a short time Naval Officer (I got in the way of that) and a career Submariner in two different Navys, but military things, especially things like drill and parade and chest puffing and displays of tanks... *snore*

I'm actually striking it pretty lucky this year. While the subject matter has not always been up my alley, the vast majority of my books this year are really, incredibly well written. I feel like I should like them out of respect for the authors. And it is what has made me persevere with them. I want to know where the story goes as I am lead there by the writing, not because I am entirely riveted by the story itself. 

But the benefit to that is I have no hesitation recommending this on to people who are into that kinda thing. If you like military mysteries or historical fiction, read it. If you like people in stupid uniforms calling each other Sir and obeying their commands with no hesitation because of a small bit of cloth or metal makes them better apparently, then go for it! Even if you are not, like me obviously, then still feel free to give it a go, as there is enough to pull you through. Especially if you like mangoes, as that bothers you right until the end. What on earth is with the mangoes?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Toppler - Grave Witch

I read this book for a Valentine's day themed Toppler. Everyone was reading soppy books and I thought I would make a dent in my Vaginal Fantasy to read pile that has been building up. I also read the first Sookie Stackhouse book, but like Harry Potter in Dec's Toppler, so much has been said about these books I won't review them on here. If you are interested though you can always ask.

I enjoy Vaginal Fantasy, not only because the girls are funny as, but also it is a good way of discovering books I wouldn't normally read, and have them vetoed by people I "trust" beforehand. If I saw Grave Witch in the bookshop there is no way I would have picked it up. I mean, look at it:

Image sourced from here 

I am very glad I bought it though.

The story is about a witch, a grave witch in fact, called Alex Craft. She uses her grave magic to talk to people who are dead and have information, which would be very a useful skill to have if you were a private detective, which of course she is. Usually about how and why they are dead. Like a darker version of Pushing Daisies. Unlike Pushing Daisies though, this is all out in the open. As the witches and the Fae have announced to the world they exist and are somewhat integrated into the real world.

Most people are using magic to a small extent in their lives. Complexion masking enchantments, warding spells, healing enchantments on bandages. But not everyone is happy to have magical people in their lives or in their world. There is a political group for humans first (of course). Alex's Dad is a senior person in this party, and the leader has just been found dead.

The story goes through Alex trying to solve this murder for her estranged family who don't seem very appreciative of this help. And her trying to deal with a new Detective in the Police Department.

It sounds... trite. And done before. But it's actually a whole heap of fun and I love the lore and background to this world. It's a nice new spin on it. Alex is actually a very likeable character, and a nice strong female character too, which is somewhat hard to find in this genre (yes, thank you very much Twilight).

Will it be the most intellectual book you read? God no. But if you like fun books with mystery, magic, murder, and incredibly hot faerie sex, give it a go. I'm buying all the rest. Now.