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2014 Reading Challenge and 5 Book Reviews!

29 May

My reading challenge for 2014 is to read 25 books, and I’m using GoodReads to keep track of my progress. I chose to for 25 as I haven’t been sure of how this year would be like for me, how much energy and time I’d have, so I thought it best not to set the bar too high. Right now I’m on 14 read books, and have 4 unread ones waiting for me, so I’m well on my way, 4 books ahead of schedule 😉

I thought I’d give a quick review on a few of the books I’ve read so far this year, there are definitely many I’d recommend, and some that were quite disappointing.  I do usually write a full review on the books I read on Goodreads, so if you want to read them a bit more detailed, just head over there, as I will keep it quite short in this post.

Metro 2033 – Dmitry Glukhovsky

Metro 2033 quickly became one of my favourite reads, I found the story really interesting and exciting. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where the few survivors in Moscow has taken refuge in the city underground, forming small societies in the different stations, all based on different ideologies. Some are at war, some at peace, some are overrun with mutants and horrible creatures. Life in the Metro is never particularly safe. I’ll be the first to admit that Glukhovsky’s writing style at times can become a bit repetitive, but I feel that it fits the tone of the story, and the plot itself is so strong that I’m willing to overlook this fact. A recommended read for anyone who likes dystopia, post-apocalyptic, exciting and thrilling novels!

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

I’m sorry to say that this book was such a disappointment to me! I’ve heard many people praise The Night Circus, so my expectations were high, but sadly they were just not met. A story about a mystical night circus being the arena of a fierce and dangerous competitions between two young magicians sounds incredibly promising and exciting, so I was actually quite sad to discover that there wasn’t really anything exciting about this novel at all. My main problem was with the characters, they were all so underdeveloped and none of them really memorable. If I were to describe any of their personalities I’d actually come up short for every single one. I was quite annoyed by how it seemed like the author spent too much time making everything seem very pretty, and not enough time moving the plot forward or developing the characters and their relationships. Everything in this book is described to  detail, and yes, that part is well done and I can imagine being there and seeing all the wonderful things, smelling, tasting and sensing, but it’s so frustrating that that’s pretty much the whole book. In conclusion The Night Circus is not a book I’d recommend, but I know I’m in a minority there, so I’d suggest if anyone’s curious about it you should look it up and read more reviews before you decide.

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Reading Me Before You was almost the opposite experience of reading The Night Circus. I had quite low expectations as the cover looked super cheesy, and it didn’t sound all that interesting. Still, a lot of my friends had good things to say, so I gave it a try, and I’m so glad I did! The story centers around Lou Clark who finds herself in the need of a new job, and therefore becomes the personal assistant for former daredevil, now wheelchair-bound Will Traynor, and how their relationship develops and affects other aspects of their lives. What I really liked about Me Before You was that the characters were believable and dynamic, although not necessarily sympathetic all the time. Jojo Meyes also does a fine job using clichés in a good way, they are present, but they don’t take away from the story and it’s not over the top. A recommended read for anyone who likes reading about human relations, and doesn’t mind a bit of crying 😉

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West – Gregory Maguire

Aah, what can I say. I REALLY wanted to like this, but I just couldn’t. It was so frustrating how the writing style changed throughout the entire book, and not in a natural dynamic way, it was just chaotic. The characters had no consistency, and Maguire keeps pushing symbolism and metaphors in the readers face in almost every single paragraph. I like when stories are meant to represent something from our world, but gosh, be more subtle about it. I did actually like the first few chapters, and I think the story would be so much better if it was more about life at Shiz and Elphaba’s (the wicked witch) relationships with her fellow students. I think this might be the only occasion where I’ve liked an adaption of a book more than the book itself, so instead of recommending this read to anyone, I’ll rather go with: Watch the musical instead!

On Beauty – Zadie Smith

Howard Belsey is an Englishman abroad, an academic teaching in Wellington, a college town in New England. Married young, thirty years later he is struggling to revive his love for his African American wife Kiki. Meanwhile, his three teenage children— Jerome, Zora and Levi—are each seeking the passions, ideals and commitments that will guide them through their own lives. (From Goodreads). Zadie Smith is the queen of characterization, there’s no other way to put it. She creates characters that are so real, so versatile, so believable, and they all have their own distinct narrative styles and way of describing the world and others around them. I love how in On Beauty we start forming a picture and opinion on a person based on the point of view from one person, but then it completely changes (or develops would be a more correct term, as she’s not inconsistent) throughout the book, through the eyes of a different character. The people are all like an intricate puzzle, and each chapter provides a crucial piece to putting the puzzle together. A book I would recommend to everyone, but be aware that you shouldn’t expect to sympathise with the people you read about all the time!

 

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Top 10 Influential Books

24 Apr

I got this idea from the blog Photographs Make Memories, and thought it was a really nice idea, and decided to do one for myself. Yesterday was the International Day of the Book, so ideally I would have posted this then, but being true to my self I’m always a bit late to the party 😉

1. The Harry Potter-series – J.K Rowling

Might be a bit cheating to put a whole series in first place, but hopefully no one will arrest me. I was so lucky to grow up with Harry Potter, I think I was just the right age when the series started, so as new books came out I would roughly be about the same age. As I grew older and taste in books changed, the HP-books changed as well, so I never grew out of loving reading them. When The Deathly Hallows came out it was really the end of an era, and I almost didn’t want to finish it, knowing I’d never wait for the next one to be released. I spent so much time completely engaged in the Hogwarts-world, that it almost feels like a second home, and it’s one that I keep coming back to. I will never ever tire of picking up the books and giving them a good re-read.

2. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The book I remember most from my early childhood. This was the first book with a proper story that my mum would read to me, repeatedly, and one of the books that made me learn to read myself. After a while with my mum having to read it for me, I became determined (so I’ve been told) to learn to do it by myself, so I could read it anytime I wanted, without depending on an adult to do it for me. Good motivation! Such a wonderful little book, and I hope any future kid of mine will feel the same.

3. Animorphs-series – K.A. Applegate

Another series that stayed with me quite a time. There were 54+ books after all! This was before Harry Potter my favourite books at the time. I guess they aren’t literary masterpieces, but who cares about that when you’re 8-12? And I still love them in that nostalgic way, the story was so exciting, and I came to really love the characters. I think the characters themselves are what makes these books so important to me, I felt I could identify a little bit with all of them, and also learn quite a bit. Animorphs is actually one of the book-series I really wish would be made into films, that would be brilliant! (We don’t talk about that horrible TV-show).

4. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

I’m pretty sure Gone With The Wind was the first proper book I read that was not children’s literature, at least that was not for school. We owned a really old copy of it at home, which was in a very old-fashioned language (Norwegian language has changed A LOT through the years), and at first I though all adult books were written in that strange way. It must have taken me ages to get through the first time, I was probably around 9, and even though I didn’t really understand most of the themes, I still loved it. Perhaps because I felt it was such an achievement at the time. I still pick up my copy now and then and give it a re-read, as I do with all my favourite books. Scarlett O’Hara is in my opinion one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read, and taught my that the main character does not always have to be very sympathetic for us to like reading about them.

5. The Bone Collector – Jeffery Deaver

There was a period of time I was really into crime fiction, where I would read it ALL THE TIME! I still do from time to time, but not as much as before. My obsession lasted quite a while though, from when I was about 13-18! I think crime fiction often gets a bad rep, as “cheap” and poorly written, which I strongly disagree with! There are many fantastic crime novels out there, and Jeffery Deaver is one of my favourite authors in the genre. His series of books with Lincoln Rhyme as the main character is one of my favourites, they are well written and Deaver always keeps the reader at their toes to the final page. I’ve spent so many hours of my life engaged in these thrilling stories, and it all started with The Bone Collector. Great book!

6. Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

There’s no way I couldn’t have Lord of the Rings here, the Tolkien-universe is such a big part of my life. I’m a fanatic! I love the books and movies, and I completely lost count on how many times I’ve re-read them! I watched the first LotR-film when I was 11, and at that point I hadn’t read the books at all. Luckily we had a copy at home, and I think I actually sat down and started reading right after coming home from the movie, I had to find out how it all ended. I did,and I completely fell in love with Middle-Earth and its characters. And through the following obsession I discovered communities online consisting of other fans, and I guess it introduced me to the “fandom life”.

7. Les Misérables – Victor Hugo

My first introduction to Les Mis was not the novel, but the musical. I first watched it on DVD when I was five years old and loved it. Of course there was no way I could read the book at such a young age, but I knew that someday I’d be old enough, and it was something I actually looked forward to for years! I first gave it a go when I was around 10/11 I think, and I got through it on pure stubbornness. It was an extremely tough read, but an enjoyable one. I waited a few years before reading it again, and probably got a lot more out of it second time around now!

8. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

I’m really fond of Victorian literature, and especially Dickens, so he deserves taking one of the spots on my list. My favourite book of his is no doubt David Copperfield, mainly because of the characters and their journey. I mean, it’s basically a coming-of-age story, just set in Victorian times!  I’ve decided that in the future, when I hope to be surrounded by dogs, they will all be named after Dickens-characters.

9. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

High Fidelity is one of my favourite contemporary novels! It was the one that introduced me to Nick Hornby, and he has become one of my most beloved authors. I love his writing style, it’s so straightforward, a bit quirky, very funny and heartwarming. I loved almost every Hornby-novel I read (only exception is “How To Be Good), and I always recommend them to anyone who wants a good read that’s not too heavy.

10. A Song of Ice and Fire-series – George R.R. Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire is my newest obsession, and even though I only started reading the books about two years ago, I’ve actually read them all 3 times now! I, like many others, started because of the TV-show, but it quickly become much more than just a book series to me. Like with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, it has introduced me to a wonderful community of fans, earning it a spot on my list. It is truly one of the most complex stories I have ever read, and I find myself completely lost in its universe at times. I won’t stay for too long though, as the mortally rate is high 😉

To-Read List

21 Apr

I’ve always been a big reader, to the point where my teacher at primary school was actually worried that I read too much, as I’d constantly go around with my nose in a book, even when crossing the road. Thinking back it’s a wonder I survived life so far. I can’t really imagine a life without books, they’re such a big part of my life, and these wonderful stories that we get to experience when reading means a lot to me.

books

 

I have a Goodreads-account where I can discover new books based on what I’ve already read, what I want to read and what my friends are reading, and my “to-read list” is rapidly growing every day as I see new recommendations and reviews from my friends. Right now my to-read list consists of 80 books from various genres, and I’m planning on ticking them all off as fast as I can! I’ve already ordered quite a few books based on it, and the one I’m currently most eager to read is the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I have seen and really like the musical which is based on the book, but for some reason I didn’t think I’d enjoy the novel very much, so I didn’t give it much though until recently, when the title popped up among other recommendations, and I figured I should read more about it and what other readers had to say. As far as I understand it’s far more mature and quite darker than the musical, which sounds very promising.

Other books I’m quite looking forward to reading are Paper Towns, Cloud Atlas, The Martian and about 80 more titles 😉 Since I’ve been reading A LOT lately I also thought I’d post some reviews here, mainly of the books that I’ve really enjoyed, to encourage others to engage in these wonderful stories as well. So look forward to a review or two in the following week!

I’d love to have more friends on Goodreads, so if you have an account feel free to add me, and if you don’t have one I think you should go and register right now. Also, I always welcome tips on what I should read next from others, or hear what’s on YOUR to-read list, if you want to share just leave a comment 🙂

Cheers and happy reading to you all.

Reading Tips for September

1 Sep

Wehey, happy first of September everyone 😀 It’s slowly starting to turn into autumn, and I got the urge to share some reading tips. I absolutely love reading, and it’s extra cosy to curl up with a nice book now that the evenings are getting darker and the weather isn’t always that great anymore (although it’s quite nice and sunny here at the moment).

At the moment I’m rereading the A Song of Ice and Fire-series, and after that I’m planning to start the new Khaled Hosseini novel, And the Mountains Echoed, which I’m really looking forward to! I loved his two previous books, so I have big expectations for this one. But back to my tips, these are some of the books I have read recently and enjoyed, and that I recommend to all of you 🙂

The Bastard of IstanbulThe Bastard of Istanbul – Elif Shafak

Amazon says:
Populated with vibrant characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is the story of two families, one Turkish and one Armenian American, and their struggle to forge their unique identities against the backdrop of Turkey’s violent history. Filled with humor and understanding, this exuberant, dramatic novel is about memory and forgetting, about the tension between the need to examine the past and the desire to erase it.

My opinion:
What I really enjoyed about this book was the many diverse characters, they were all so different and interesting to read about. The interaction between them all is very well written, and since their personalities are so varied their stories never get boring or monotone. This is a very character driven novel, the story itself is not so unique and special, but that doesn’t matter. There are also many beautiful descriptions, and the reader also learns quite a bit about Turkish and Armenian history, while also following family life different places in the US and in Istanbul, the latter is where most of the story takes it’s place.

Something I also really apprectiated about this novel was how it balanced the realistic and believable, which always kept it entertaining.

Secret DaughterSecret Daughter – Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Booklist says:
In her engaging debut, Gowda weaves together two compelling stories. In India in 1984, destitute Kavita secretly carries her newborn daughter to an orphanage, knowing her husband, Jasu, would do away with the baby just as he had with their firstborn daughter. In their social stratum, girls are considered worthless because they can’t perform physical labor, and their dowries are exorbitant. That same year in San Francisco, two doctors, Somer and Krishnan, she from San Diego, he from Bombay, suffer their second miscarriage and consider adoption. They adopt Asha, a 10-month-old Indian girl from a Bombay orphanage. Yes, it’s Kavita’s daughter.

My opinion:
I really loved this book! It’s a very light read, with such an engaging story and believable characters. I felt that I was with them in India when I was reading this book, it’s descriptions about a varied and huge culture are so good, while it also feels like a realistic portrayal, showing all sides of a society, nothing is black and white.

A big theme in this novel is the relationship between parents and children, and I think the author does a great job portraying many complex feelings when it comes to losing a child, longing, love, complicated family relations, identity and similar themes.

One thing that disappointed me just a bit was that the language tended to be a bit repetitive, there wasn’t much variety, although I have a suspicion that the fault could lie in the Norwegian translation. I might read it again in English to see if I’m correct 😉

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Amazon says:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

My opinion:
This book is so sweet! And I do not mean overly sweet or cliché, which I do not think it is at all. A lot of it’s sweetness comes from the main character, Charlie, and in the way he tells his story through his quite unique point of view. There are several sad and provocative moments throughout the book, men hope is always shining through, which resulted me being in a really good mood when I finished reading, in spite of some depressing revelations.

In many ways this is a typical coming-of-age novel, about the young people on the outside finding friendship, discovering yourself and try new things, but there is such a warmth in this novel which really separated it from the rest, in my opinion. It’s a really nice read, even if you’re quite a bit older than the characters in the book.

31 songs31 Songs – Nick Hornby

Amazon says:
“All I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don’t like them as much as I do”—Nick Hornby

Songs, songwriters, and why and how they get under our skin…31 Songs is Nick Hornby’s labor of love. A shrewd, funny, and completely unique collection of musings on pop music, why it’s good, what makes us listen and love it, and the ways in which it attaches itself to our lives—all with the beat of a perfectly mastered mix tape.

My opinion:
Lastly, I’d like to recommend some non-fiction, this is more like a list in book form, by one of my favorite writers; Nick Hornby. This is a book that’s great to have lying around (put it in the bathroom 😉 ), to just pick up and read a bit at the time, and you don’t have to do it front to back.

The reason I like this so much is simply because I love and care so much about music, and I find it interesting to read what Hornby writes about his relationship with these 31 carefully selected songs, and it makes me think about which tunes have been especially important in my own life. And furthermore he has great taste, so I was quite inspired by looking at his list.

Nick Horny has a very witty writing style, so even though there’s no real story to follow here, it’s absolutely interesting and entertaining reading.