About christinasr

Reader. Storyteller and memory keeper. Love journals and notebooks. Crochets. Lives with my boyfriend, our two daughters, a dog and four bunnies.

Jim Butcher: Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4)

DF04-SummerKnight-2002paperbackDisclaimer: I read this back in 2014 – apparently, I’m just bad at remembering to publish posts.

When I was a kid, I remember watching parts of Grease at a friend’s house. It was the scene where Frency realizes that she has absolutely no talent as a hair dresser and needs to go back to high school. I was instantly in love but it took a while before I got to watch the whole movie. I still love it. So when I saw the title Summer Knight, I immediately flashed to Travolta and Newton-John singing about their new love.
Love is really not the case for Harry Dresden. Quite the opposite. In Grave Peril, Dresden’s girlfriend Susan crashes a vampire party and pays a price for it. She is almost turned into a vampire and has to fight constant urges to feed on humans. So she has left the city and Dresden are struggling to find a cure. Struggling so much that he has given up on luxuries such as bathing, shaving, working and eating.
But when he is approached by the faerie Winter Queen and realizes that she has bought the debt he owed his fairy godmother – yeah, he has one of those and no, there’s no Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella vibe to her – he really has no choice but to do her bidding.
And getting involved in faerie politics is not a walk in the park. Or when it is, it involves toads falling on your head. Real toads – and lots of them. Especially when the faerie queen asks him to investigate a murder. And it get really interesting when it’s the Winter Queen asking him to find out who killed the Summer Knight. Especially when the elimination of one of the faerie court’s knights means a serious shift in power.
It turns out that there’s quite a lot at stake here. Letting one of the courts gain power means, that the other court is weakened – and well, these are the Summer and Winter courts so if Winter gains in power, there will be some serious consequences for the environment and stores selling woolen underwear will really take off. So there’s a lot of reasons for Harry to get involved – and not only because his loving (!) fairy godmother has sold his debt to her to a faerie queen.
This was another solid Harry Dresden book.

  • Title: Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4)
  • Author: Jim Butcher
  • Publisher: Roc 
  • Year: 2002
  • Pages:  371 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars:  3 stars out of 5

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John Irving: The Fourth Hand (review)

Disclaimer: I read this novel in 2015 but even though I wrote the review at the time, never published it.

220px-TheFourthHand‘Good novels and films are not like the news, or what passes for the news – they are more than items. They are comprised of the whole range of moods you are in when you read them or see them. You can never exactly imitate someone else’s love of a movie or a book /…/’ (p. 289).

But maybe you can imitate someone’s indifference to a book. At least when you look at reviews, it seems that we are all pretty much in agreement that this is not John Irving’s best book. It is actually a really bad John Irving novel for the most part.

Inspired by a comment his wife made after watching a news story about the first hand transplant in the US, where she wondered what would happen, if the donor’s widow demands visitation rights with the hand, The Fourth Hand is about journalist Patrick Wallingford who is a disaster journalist. He is the guy who reports all the crazy weird news stories and bangs a lot of women while doing so – until one day he becomes the main story himself when he gets too close to a lion in India and looses his left hand.

This is of course broadcasted all over the news – and Patrick becomes The Lion Guy. A woman in Wisconsin also sees the footage and when her husband accidentally shoots himself, she immediately calls a hand surgeon and promises him the hand. But it comes with strings – she wants to be allowed to visit the hand after it has been transplanted to Patrick’s body. And she wants to meet Patrick to determine if he’s a nice guy. Turns out that’s not the only reason she wants to meet him. She wants her dead husband’s child and for it to make sense time-wise, she needs Patrick to donate his … talents … immediately. So she seduces him in the surgeons’s office.

So Patrick gets a new hand, the widow gets a baby – and everything should be coming up roses. Trouble is, Patrick has fallen in love with the widow and each time the widow visits with the hand, he falls more and more in love. And slowly Patrick starts to change.

‘What he failed to realize explained why he had never before been much of an experimenter; he lacked the imagination to entertain the disquieting idea that the new hand would not be entirely his.’ (p. 5)

I think this could have been a great book. Irving has some interesting perspectives on the differences between what’s shown in the news and what really happens. What matters the most, isn’t always what seems most important. And the private tragedies are not experienced like we see them on the news. Patrick starts developing a conscience, so to speak, and such can be both a advantage and a disadvantage in the TV business.

All this is well and good. But the novel wasn’t. And it’s not because of the unlikeable protagonist for most of the novel. Rather, it seems that Irving has lost faith in his readers. He explains and explains and explains everything – he even puts in lots of parentheses to explain even more. And he reminds his readers of too much of what has gone on before as well as just telling us things and foreshadowing so much – instead of just showing us and being the amazing storyteller we know he is.

It got better at around the halfway point and it does have some of the memorable Irving characters – like the divorced, dog poop hating, bird loving and extremely thin hand surgeon and his underweight son and the poop eating dog Medea. But it just never got around to the heights of The World According to GarpThe Cider House RulesA Widow for One Year, A Son of the Circus  I’ve read it twice now and both times I came up underwhelmed. If you have not read any Irving before, skip this one. If you are an Irving completist as I am, just be glad that this isn’t one of his longer novels. And that a bad Irving novel is still better than a lot of other novelists’ best efforts.

First line: Imagine a young man on his way to a less-than-thirty-second event – the loss of his left hand, long before he reached middle age.

  • Title: The Fourth Hand
  • Author: John Irving
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury
  • Year: 2001
  • Pages: 316 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

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Victoria Hislop: The Island (review)

Disclaimer: I read this novel in 2015 but even though I wrote the review at the time, never published it.

IMG_9115This year for our summer holiday, we went to Crete in Greece. A beautiful island. Our favorite part of the trip was the day we visited the small island Spinalonge close to Crete. Spinalonga has seen it’s part of history through the ages. The Venetians fortified the island in the 16th century and later, the Ottomans took over the island. But what interests me the most and the reason why we went to visit the island, was the fact that it was a leper colony from 1903 to 1957.

islandWhen we visited, our tour guide mentioned a novel taking place on Spinalonga. I managed to track down the novel in a store on Crete. Apparently, Victoria Hislop visited Spinalonga and was fascinated by the island and it’s history and got inspired to write a family saga where part of it takes place on Spinalonga.

The frame for the story is Alexis Fielding, a young woman whose Greek mother Sofia is withdrawn and never talks about her past. Alexis goes on vacation to Crete with her boyfriend, Sofia gives her a letter to one of her childhood friends and tells her to ask her about the past.

Alexis then learns about her great-grandmother Eleni who was a school teacher who became a leper and had to leave her husband and two daughters and go live on the island just across the water. Eleni builds a life for herself on the island and becomes part of the society which is thriving on the island.

Meanwhile, her two daughters choose very different paths. Anna is ambitious while Maria is more caring. Anna manages to get the son of the richest family in the area to marry her and while the marriage is not exactly a happy one, she finds ways to entertain herself. Her sister Maria stays home and watches their father.

But this is not a family destined for happy endings. And out of both love and tragedy, a little girl Sofia is born. A child who grows up and suddenly finds her world shattered and decides to leave her home and family for good. And only her daughter Alexis’ return to Crete, brings Sofia full circle and face to face with her past.

I think my favorite character was Giorgis, Eleni’s husband and Maria and Anna’s father. He was just a man who carried on despite adversity and when he lost his wife, he did his best to take care of his girls. He went to the island every day, ferrying goods and people to Spinalonga. He kept on going to the island and he did so while listening to his friends talking pejoratively about the lepers out of fear and stupidity.

But still, even though I enjoyed this character, overall the characters felt a bit flat. They felt one-sided and not all that developed. Anna was all just driven by her ambition and her needs and desires while Maria is all good and caring. There is not much development.

I really enjoyed parts of this novel. The storyline taking place on Spinalonga and detailing the lives of the people exiled to live here, was fascinating and interesting. Unfortunately, a lot of the novel didn’t take place here and the family drama became a bit too much. Add to this that the storyline framing the main story was a bit bland and predictable. I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed the novel as much if I hadn’t been to Spinalonga and seen the remains of the houses and streets where the lepers walked.

First line: Plaka, 1953. A cold wind whipped through the narrow streets of Plaka and the chill of the autumnal air encircled the woman, paralyzing her body and mind with a numbness that almost blocked her senses but could do nothing to alleviate her grief.

  • Title: The Island
  • Author: Victoria Hislop
  • Publisher: Headline Review
  • Year: 2005
  • Pages: 489 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

IMG_9047

 

What I read in 2016

Yeah, I know. What do you care about 2016? We are way past the end of year posts – but well, bare with me. This is hopefully a way for me to start blogging again.

At the very least, I’ve started reading again after a very long hiatus and well, when I read, I also want to write about what I’ve read. Hence The Literary Bunny. I’ve read 6 books so far this year. Actually, I’ve read 6 books during April and May. And I’m loving it. And compared to the 10 books I read all of 2016, 6 books is a lot.

But enough talk about this year. Let’s look back and see what I did get read in 2016.

raising_steam1Terry Pratchett: Raising Steam (Discworld #40). 3 stars.
I love Terry Pratchett, I love Discworld and I love the character Moist von Lipwig. That said, this was not one of my favorite Discworld novels.
After having created both the post service and a proper banking system, Moist now has to deal with transportation – with trains.
Still, even though this is not the best Discworld novel, there are as always plenty of things to enjoy – like these quotes:
‘Is there something in the word ‘tyrant’ you do not understand?’
‘The Queen appeared as innocent as one of those mountains which year after year do nothing very much but smoke a little, and then one day end up causing a whole civilization to become an art installation.’
‘Don’t force me to draw my own conclusions. I do have a very big pencil.’

333293Stephen King: Song of Susanna (The Dark Tower #6) and The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower #7). Both 5 stars.
The Dark Tower series has been a presence in my life for a very long time. When I was a teenager and started going to the library on my own, I read Christine and Cycle of the Werewolf among others and kept eying The Dark Tower series – but kept waiting for it to be finished before I started reading. I regret not reading it back then but I’m glad that I have now finally read it. I started reading it back in 2012 (!) so it’s actually taken me 4 years to finish the series.
the-dark-tower-stephen-king-2011-a-pThese are so good books! They have so many qualities and I love the alternative reality elements where King himself suddenly shows up in the story and actually incorporates his real life traffic accident and the entire meta layer of Roland v. King. Who actually calls the shot? Fictional Roland or fictional King – or real King?
‘What we’re playing for, Roland, is the ages.’

 

9781922070005Félix J. Palma: The Map of the Sky (Trilogía Victoriana #2). 5 stars.
The second book in the series – and just as mad a ride as the first one. I love the mixing of alternative reality with fantasy elements. This one, starring both Edgar Allan Poe and H.G. Wells, is similar in many aspects to the first one but is still it’s own thing. The plot twists may not be quite as clever as in the first one but this might just be because I’m now more familiar with his writing style and crazy creativity. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series.

41fCzBniKSL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Marjorie Celona: Y. 5 stars.
Oh man, I wish I had taken notes when I read this book. I remember loving it and thinking it was quite different from the other books I’ve read this year but I can’t quite remember that many details from it. And that makes the book perhaps seem not worth reading which is not my intention.
It goes into some quite heavy subjects – is it ever the right thing for a mother to give up her daughter?
It was a good read!

s-l400Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (I read the Danish version: Rosens Navn). 4 stars.
I am a big fan of reading the book before watching the movie – or tv series (still haven’t watched Game of Thrones!) but in this case, I watched the movie years ago and only now got around to reading the book. So my book had Sean Connery in it – which is not surprising for anyone who has watched the movie, I guess. And it is a great story. The killing of monks, the danger of knowledge, the clever old monk, the not so clever young monk. It is a great story. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars is, that I feel it is a bit heavy. It’s a demanding read and at some points, it didn’t quite keep my attention (which might say more about me than the book, actually).
11174642._UY200_Deborah Harkness: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1), Shadow of the Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) and The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3). 4 stars, 4 stars and 5 stars respectively.
One of my colleagues got me reading this series. She absolutely loves it and actually owns several copies of it.
I bought the first volume some time ago but never got around to reading it. Finally I started to read it – and then had to pick the two next volumes up so I could read them, one immediately after the other. It has become quite a thing I do  – to buy the first volume in a trilogy to see if I actually want to read it, and then be annoyed later on and not start to read it because I only have the first book…
17270883I preferred the first and third volume though. The second one was a typical middle part of a trilogy and just not quite as interesting to me, despite it’s taking place in Shakespeare’s England. But I did like the time traveling elements and the chance it gave for Diana to know Matthew’s past.
I liked how Harkness introduces her vampires and witches into a modern setting and letting them just be a part of our world.
I adored Diana’s family house and her family and how the house kept secrets and things until it deemed it time to release them. And also Matthew’s family!
510BYyiGPdL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_The entire story of how to come into your own and learn who you are at the same time as you struggle with coming to terms with a love that is not supposed to be and which many people have an interest in preventing – and will go quite far to stop, actually – was very enjoyable and I think Harkness succeeded in creating a modern day version of a vampire story that is actually quite good.
I’m looking forward to the movie, whenever it might be out – and also the next book in the series, out later this year, supposedly.

9780007448036George R. R. Martin: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1). 5 stars.
As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t watched Game of Thrones yet – which is actually quite an accomplishment! And something my boyfriend hates me for because I’ve made him wait alongside me until I finish the books… So finally, I started. And of course, I enjoyed it. I wish I had read it earlier before knowing so much about the plot but it still captured my attention very much.

These are the 10 books which made my 2016. Mostly great reads. Mostly fantasy – which is my genre of choice, especially when I’m not reading much and trying to get back into reading.

So except for the low number of books, it was actually a really good year!

 

Lev Grossman: The Magician King (review)

Grossman-MagicianKingUS_thumb[10]Lev Grossman’s novel The Magicians made quite a stir back in 2009 when it was first published with its mix of Harry Potter and Narnia and the way it turned these YA stories into some serious adult fiction. I read it in 2009 and liked it a lot. I’ve had the second book in the series on my shelves for a couple of years and I picked it as one of the books to get me back into reading again.

And that was a smart choice. It was one of the books I read on this year’s summer holiday. I read it over three days. And enjoyed it a lot.

We’re back with Quentin and the other kings and queens of Fillory. Quentin is bored with his job as king of smooth-running Fillory and he is desperate for any kind of adventure. So when it is discovered that the Outer Island doesn’t pay tax to the kingdom, he decides to go on a quest. He readies a ship so it’s just like in the Fillory books, he grew up with, and off he goes. Turns out that what he’s really questing for, is a set of keys – and that Fillory’s future is heavily depending on him getting the keys. Only trouble is, that if you use the keys, you risk ending up somewhere you didn’t exactly plan to go.

What we also get in this story, is the story of Julia. One of my comments to the first novel was, that I felt that Julia flickered in and out of it and that her character wasn’t presented in  a satisfying way because of this. This issue is fixed in this novel. We get Julia’s backstory in probably even more gory details that we knew we wanted! Julia wasn’t accepted to the magical school of Brakebills so she had to find her own way to magical learning. A way that wasn’t exactly paved with flowers.

Just like a lot of fantasy novels play with the tropes of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and like J.K. Rowling played with the tropes of British boarding schools, Grossman builds on what was started by C.S. Lewis in the Narnia novels with a nice dose of Harry Potter added to it.  But this in itself isn’t interesting. What is interesting, is Grossman’s way of taking this inspiration and not only making it completely his own but also making it more sinister – and definitely for adults only. And I like that. I like that even though this on the surface is a nice world from a children’s stories, you really can’t trust that we get any happy ending.

What I also like about these novels is, that Grossman is a guy only a bit older than me. This means that he has grown up with a lot of the same culture as me and this means that we have references to modern pop culture like Die Hard and a ‘We were on a break’-moment. As well as a shoot-out to Nicolas Tesla – all of which I really enjoyed.

More than anything this is a book about finding a sense of meaning and purpose for your life. From Julia who wants to learn magic and has to fight for what she knows will give her life meaning to Quentin who has everything he seemingly ever wanted but still isn’t satisfied and goes looking for adventure at the far end of the world.

I really enjoyed going with him – and Julia’s character is fascinating and her storyline is so interesting. This book ended with a bang – it was a very brave ending and I can’t wait to move on to the next novel.

First line: Quentin rode a gray horse with white socks named Dauntless.

  • Title: The Magician King
  • Author: Lev Grossman
  • Publisher: Plume
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 541 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Finding Balance

So I’ve been away from reading for a long long time which has been clearly shown by the lack of activity on this blog. I’ve read six books this year – one of these took me five months. About a year ago I wrote about a reading slump caused by Don DeLillo’s Unterworld The Book that Defeated Meand how I thought I was back to reading regularly again – but I wasn’t.

I thought I would always prioritize reading but I haven’t. And when I think about it, it really annoys me because now is the wrong time to not be reading. I have a daughter in the first grade who is learning to read right now and research (Paul Kropp: How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life (review)) shows that one of the things that helps kids learn to read, is to see their parents read and having reading be an important part of the entire family’s life. So I feel like I have been letting her down by choosing other things over reading.

Because that’s what I have been doing. I have been caught up in other activities than reading. I have a full-time job, I have two young children, a boyfriend, a dog, four bunnies … I have a lot going on each day that I have to take care of and that means that I have a limited time for other activities.

Hobonichi & Midori

Hobonichi & Midori

Back in February, I bought a Nintendo 3DS and started playing a game called Fantasy Life and loved it. I played Animal Crossing and loved it. And then I fell back in love with journaling, memory keeping and story telling. I used to be a scrapbooker and last year I started writing daily in a Moleskine and this year in a Hobonichi as well as I fell in love with Midori Traveler’s Notebook. And then recently Project Life.

All this is great and I have been enjoying it all. I’m the type of person who goes all in when I get a new interest. I spend all my time doing that thing and I talk about nothing else. For years, my main interest was reading, books, literature and minting this blog about it. For the last year or so I have been drifting through interests and I have enjoyed them all. I still want to play Nintendo games, I want to journal every day and tell mine and my family’s story and keep our memories. I want to get back into crocheting. I want to do all these things – but I also want to read.

So what I guess I’m striving for, is balance. I’m trying to find ways to fit in reading into my life and maybe accepting that I don’t need to go all in every time but need to find a way to fit everything into my life. I guess it’s all about prioritizing.

I guess you’ll be able to track my progress in my efforts to achieve balance in my life by following this blog. If it fades into nothing, you’ll know I failed.
I guess if I start posting every day, I’ve failed too.
This is not going to be easy.

Balance!

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Christmas Gifts 2014

So even though my reading has been seriously lacking in the second half of 2014, I still got some beautiful books for Christmas. Lovely, lovely books that hopefully can get me back to reading regularly.

AADAIx4424ThereseRaquin.jpg
My boyfriend and I have watched the Outlander tv-series and really enjoyed it – and it made me want to both start over on the series as well as read one. Outlander is a great series but I sometimes forget how much I enjoy reading it.
My Brother got me this second-hand version of Isabel Allende’s Paula, the book she wrote to her comatose daughter, Paula. I have been wanting to read more by Allende – and even though I’m pretty sure that this one will make me cry, I’m still looking forward to it.

MrMERCEDES_hbk-animated71+Jiq31emL
I also got the final book in Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy. I enjoyed the first book but haven’t read the second one, so I think I’m going to read the entire series now. And I got the first book in Stephen King’s new trilogy, Mr Mercedes. Not much to say about that – I like Stephen King.

ImageGen71sib+AC-oL__SL1500_

And I got two non-fiction books. The Danish Aarhus University publish a series of books that introduce various subjects in an engaging way. The one I received is written by Dan Ringgaard is about litterature and argues, that litterature is the art made with language – whether it’s on paper, digital or something else.
Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow, argues that there are various ways of thinking and discusses why we make the choices we make as it delves into human rationality and irrationality.
So I had a wonderful Christmas time where my kids also got some great books I’m looking forward to reading to them. I hope you all had a great bookish Christmas as well and are ready for what 2015 will bring.

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Holiday Reading

Each year at this time, there are some hard decisions to make. When going on holiday, one of course have to bring a book – or several. I agonized over this for days before I finally decided on which three to bring.
holidayreadingThese two are the ones that I actually got to read during the week we spent on the beautiful Spanish island of Mallorca. Now, I’m not one for spending too much time on a beach or next to a pool but the good thing about it is, that you do get some time to read. And luckily I brought these two amazing books – or rather this one long book split into two – and I loved them. I just finished them today so I will try to write reviews soon(-ish).
I also brought NOS4R2 by Joe Hill with me but didn’t have time to start reading it.
When spending time on the beach, I did notice that a lot of people were reading. The beach is the place where a lot of people read – more than people do in other places, or at least it seems so to me but then I don’t use a lot of public transportation (unfortunately). And after all the talk about the book being dead, I was happy to see that books were still the main go-to for people on the beach. Books or magazines. Things that doesn’t break when you get sand in them. Now I’m not coming out against e-books – I love my Kindle – but I still really liked to see people reading and people reading books.
And as you can see from the above picture, even though I try to keep sand out of my stuff, I still got sand – and a small fly – in my books…
Even though I was really impressed with the quality of books in the various tourist and beach shops, I didn’t buy any books for myself. We did however pick up a wonderful children’s book for the girls.
CuevasDelDrachThe last day we visited the amazing Cuevas del Drach. These caves are huge and beautiful and within the caves is one of the largest subterranean lakes in the world. When we exited the caves, we were completely awed by what we had seen and had to get this book about two children visiting the caves together with their grandparents and meeting the dragon living in the caves, Drach.
61pBtbFe4nL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The book is called Mariona & Max in the Caves of Drach. I love the idea of creating children’s book based on real places like this and I have enjoyed reading this book for the girls and talking to them about what we experienced on our trip. Especially since I haven’t found any books written by people from Mallorca, taking place on Mallorca or something similar. So we settled for this and it’s such a nice book.
According to the back cover, this book is part of a collection of books introducing kids to various places around the island – however, I haven’t been able to find any information about other books.
Anyway, that was my vacation experience and my holiday reading. What are you reading this summer?