May 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

Oh, May, May, May. Where did you go? I don’t know what’s happening with my reading lately – I feel like I read a lot, but I’m just not getting anywhere or at least it takes me forever to finish books. And slowly I’m loosing the momentum I had build in the first three months of the year. I really have to do something to get my momentum back if I am to reach my goal this year. Only thing is, I’m not sure why I’m not finishing more books each month.

I read 1613 pages this month which is still a lot less than in the good first three months in the beginning of the year where I read more than 2000 pages as well as e-books and Clarissa. I really don’t know why I’m not keeping up the more than 2000 pages a month routine. I feel that I’m reading as much as ever – but either I have gotten slower or else I’m just not reading as much as I think I do.
  1. China Miéville: The City & The City. A sort of detective novel but nothing like I’ve ever read before. Miéville has the most amazing setting for his story and he uses it so well, never letting it overpower the story but still, making it all so interesting and fascinating. 4 stars.
  2. Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2). Jamie and Claire, two amazing characters, as well as intrigues at the royal French Court, a Scottish rebellion, traitors and heroes (sometimes the same thing). A great historical fiction/romance/sci fi novel… 4 stars.
  3. Peter Høeg: De måske egnede (Title in English: Borderliners). An attack on the Danish school system. Three children try to figure out what’s going on at their school, why certain students are allowed to go there. A slowly paced novel which delivers punches that leaves you staggering with surprise and shock. A great novel by one of the best living Danish authors. 4 stars.
Audiobooks finished:
  1. Lisa Shearin: Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares #1). Action from the first page. Easily accessible light fantasy about the seeker Raine Benares and her knack for getting herself into trouble. 4 stars.
  2. Lisa Shearin: Armed & Magical (Raine Benares #2). So this one continues right in the same style as the first one so if you enjoy one, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. Only thing is it does become a bit repetitive. 3 stars.
This was my first month listening to audio books and I really liked it. Still, for me, they don’t count quite as high as books I actually read for several reasons. It’s easier to space out and forget to listen and I feel like I’m missing out on parts of the novel when I don’t read how the author spells names, places, objects. It annoys me when listening, it annoys me when I’m writing about my thoughts afterwards.
Even though I haven’t read all that much this month, I did manage to finish The Chunkster Challenge. That’s right. I’ve read 6 books with a page count of more than 450 pages this year. Actually, I’ve read 10 books that fitted the chunkster status but only 6 of them counted towards the challenge.
I finished my Clarissa reading on time this month! Ahead of time, even. And what’s even better, I actually enjoyed reading it! So hopefully I can keep this positive feeling when I continue with Clarissa for the rest of the year.
I also did very well on the Mount TBR Reading Challenge – all three books I read, was bought before 2012 and now, I’ve read 16 out of 25 for that challenge.
I’ve mentioned before that I have a challenge going with my boyfriend and my best friend. We each choose books for ourselves and then we also choose one book for each of the other two. This year I chose that my boyfriend should read The Hunger Games trilogy and my friend should read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Anyway, I am so far doing okay on this challenge – I’ve read 22 out of 52 books, I’ve read 9 out of the 25 specific books I’ve chosen and my to-read list is lower than it was when the year began. However, my boyfriend doesn’t believe that I will make it. He doesn’t think that I will finish this challenge so we have just made a bet – if I make it, he is to give me any book I choose and if I doesn’t finish, he gets to choose a book. So I need to get this done! Not only is there a book on the line – there’s something much more important: pride! So I think I will focus on this challenge in June too. If you want to follow my progress, check out my challenge page.
Related posts:

Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander#2) (review)

20 years after vanishing through a circle of stones in Scotland and reappearing again, Claire is back. But she’s not alone. She brought her daughter along. A beautiful 20 years old red-headed girl. A girl, who doesn’t resemble Claire’s late husband Frank Randall the least. Claire is back in Scotland to find out what happened after she left the past and left James Fraser. She brings with her a list of names, men she knew and who she want to know what happened to. Did they die in the devastating battle at Culloden or what happened? But what she really want is to tell her daughter Brianna who her father is. She does – and it doesn’t go over well, initially.

Claire starts talking about her history. We’re back in 1743 and Claire and Jamie are in France. With Claire’s knowledge of the future and Jamie’s trust in her, they are in France on a mission. What they want to do, is to stop Charles Edward Stuart (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie/The Young Pretender) from attempting the Jacobite uprising of 1745 since Claire knows that it will end in a devastating loss at the Battle of Culloden. Only thing is that since Jamie is Scottish, he is betraying the wish of a lot of his people if he doesn’t help Charles Edward Stuart – and if he does help him, he is a traitor to the English king. So he has to step a thin line while attempting to stop this while at the same time navigating the French society, attending royal balls at Versailles – as well as a brief visit to the Bastille …

Claire meanwhile finds meaningful work to do at a hospital where she can spend her time being useful instead of just sitting around the house, gossiping. Of course, Claire attracts trouble wherever she is and this is no exception. She also has some serious and morally loaded decisions to make in this novel and she does so while staying true to who she is. Even when an old villain turns up, Jack Randall, she tries to make sure that his reappearance does not send Jamie off to an unhealthy mental place while at the same time making sure that Frank Randall, her husband in the 1900s, will be born. Another thin line to navigate.

The Fraser’s have to leave for Scotland since Jamie got himself into a duel and therefore, he stopped being welcome in France. In Scotland, they of course head to Lallybroch and visit with Jamie’s sister and her husband. Everything is peaceful for a while but things are happening in the big world that interrupts that peaceful existence.

So this novel is divided into several section. One is the frame which takes place in 1968 where Claire is back with her daughter to tell her about her past. Then there’s the flashback to 1744 in France where the Fraser couple attempt to stop Charles Edward Stuart and finally, we’re in Scotland, visiting Lallybroch, Jamie’s home, among other things.

Overall, I so enjoyed this book. Claire and Jamie are excellent characters and I thoroughly enjoy their banter. Claire is pregnant for parts of this novel and Jamie’s attempt to take care of her and protect her even though he really can’t, are both touching and hilarious. Their way of interacting as a couple is amazing and although it is a cliché, their love is staying true across centuries.

The book has it’s flaws though. It changes narrators at various points and sometimes these changes are so jarring that they knock you right out of your reading mode. It mostly changes from third person to Claire’s point of view but we also get Jamie’s point of view. I don’t believe a book has to have the same narrator all the way through but in this book, it doesn’t quite work. Also, the real story in this novel is in 1744 with Claire and Jamie’s time in Paris trying to stop the Bonny Prince Charlie from trying to become king of Scotland as well as their time in Scotland together – up to the time of the battle of Culloden. But as a frame around that, we have the story of Claire in Scotland in 1968. But the time in 1968 is 130 pages and the time in 1744 takes up the 830 remaining pages so when we’re back with Claire in 1968 after spending all those pages in 1744, I had forgotten what it was she wanted to find out about Jamie’s men in the first place.

You really forget that this is a time traveling novel. Claire actually travelled in time. She did it in a beautiful low-key way by walking through a Scottish stone circle but still, she travelled in time. And the main focus in this novel is to change history, to create alternative history. They want to stop Charles’ invasion to change history and to prevent a lot of good Scottish men from being annihilated on the battle field. But is that even possible? Can you change history? Well, that’s what Jamie and Charles set out to find out and Diana Gabaldon really handles the question of how the past influence the future so well both in the large picture with Charles and his invasion of Scotland as well as in the smaller picture with Frank’s ancestry.

I think, history is a science that’s not  always exact. When historians tell us about the past, they choose a certain point of view to see it from. History is often told from the point of view of the victors. Or, as Diana Gabaldon has Claire say: ‘No, the fault lies with the artists /…/. The writers, the singers, the tellers of tales. It’s them that take the past and re-create it to their liking. Them that could take a fool and give you back a hero, take a sot and make him king.’ (p. 923) That’s also what Diana Gabaldon does – she re-creates the past, she takes fictional characters like Jamie and Claire and make them interact with real historic characters like the Bonny Prince Charlie, the king of France and more. But the thing is that in a novel like this, they’re all equal. How they react to each other, what they do and how they feel, are all fiction, it’s all created by Diana Gabaldon and so it will always be when authors – and historians – try to show us how people felt 200 years ago. It may be fiction, but it’s really good fiction and with the amount of research Gabaldon does before writing these things, this is probably as close as we’ll ever get to knowing how people felt in 1744 – and 1968.

The Outlander Series have been around for several years now and if you google it, you’ll see a lot of people (women) writing about their crush on Jamie. It’s been 2 years since I read the first one, Outlander. I gave it 4 stars and liked it well enough. In fact, when I read my review of it, I seem to have liked it a lot more than I remember I did and to have enjoyed reading it and picked up on the qualities of Diana Gabaldon’s writing. But still, it has taken me 2 years to get around to reading the next one – why is that, when I apparently really liked the first one? I guess it’s just a matter of not having the second volume instantly available to me at that point. I’ll definitely make sure to get the third volume soon!

  • Title: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2)
  • Author: Diana Gabaldon
  • Publisher: arrow books
  • Year: 2004 (1992)
  • Pages: 963 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Bookshopping in Paris (part 4)

Finally, the last installment in this short book shopping guide to Paris. On our last day, we visited the most commercial book store – which was also the store where I bought the greatest number of books. I do feel a bit bad about this since I prefer supporting the smaller bookstores which aren’t part of a chain but it just happened that this bookstore had a lot of books that I wanted. Also, this was the last bookstore so I knew I had to get everything I wanted here or I wouldn’t get it.


The bookstore I’m talking about is the WH Smith which is situated beautifully on the Place de la Concorde. I didn’t take any pictures of the outside since it’s exterior isn’t as interesting as the other shops (or more correctly, I was carrying a lot of books and just forgot…). I picked up 10 books in this store … and I could have bought even more but it was getting a bit hard carrying my stack as well as looking at more books.

Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander 2)

I read the first of the Outlander series in 2010 and although I liked it, I never got around to picking up the next volume. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how much they love these books so I figured I needed to read a bit further in the series and see if the like will grow to love.

Robin Hobb: The Assassin’s Trilogy

My best friend Henrik has talked about this for years. He always says that I’m going to love it – but that I will bawl my eyes out because there’s parts of it that I’ll find very very sad. I hate reading about anything that hurts animals and there’s some of that in these books. At the same time, there’s amazing bonding between animals and humans and I hope that will overshadow the sad parts.

Jennifer Egan: A Visit from the Goon Squad

Winner of the 2011 Pullitzer Prize for fiction. I heard Jennifer Egan read a part of this book on the New York Times Book Review Podcast. She read a chapter where a woman is a public relation advisor for a dictator. She advises him to wear a light blue knitted cap – but he wears it the wrong way and everybody thinks he’s dying of cancer and it’s a mess. When she gets him to wear it the right way, everyone suddenly thinks he’s adorable and he gets the Nobel Peace Prize … It was so funny to hear and I can’t wait to read this!

Howard Jacobson: The Finkler Question

Winner of the 2010 Booker Prize. I kind of have an idea about wanting to read the Booker Prize winners. So far, I’m not doing very good on that. But first step is to get the book and now I have this one, last years winner. It sounds kind of funny so I think it’ll be a good read. I really liked Skippy Dies by Paul Murray that was on the long list that year so hopefully, this will be even better.

A.S. Byatt: Possession

I’ve written before about how A.S. Byatt intimidates me (here). But after having finished one of her novels and having watched the movie version of Possession, I wanted to read it even more so here it is.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude

I’ve read Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez and loved it, and this should be just as good or even better. I almost got Memories of my Melancholy Whores instead but I think I’m going to be glad that I picked this one.

Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of the Wind

I’m just so excited about this trilogy. The second volume was one of my most anticipated of the year, even though I haven’t read the first one …! I so think it sounds so so good. It doesn’t hurt either that this edition looks so amazing!

Joyce Carol Oates: We were the Mulvaney’s

Well, JCO is one of my all-time favorite authors. I just love her. I think this was the second novel I read by her (the first being Blonde). It’s been several years and I really want to re-read it.

So there you have it. This was the last Paris update. So the books featured in these 4 posts are some of the books you’ll get to see reviews of on the blog in the future. I think I did pretty good on my book shopping – at least I’m very happy with the books that came home with me. Of course, I could have easily bought more…