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.
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China Miéville: The City & The City (review)

Throughout history, there have been instances of split cities. Berlin was a split city from the 40s to 1989, Jerusalem still is a split city and so is Budapest. But none of the cities are split the way Beszel and Ul Qoma are, the two cities from the title of this novel. These two cities exist simultaneously, in the same space. When you walk down a street in one of these cities, you of course walk down a street in your own city – but you might also be walking down a street in another city with people from that city walking right next to you. People, you have been trained your whole life to not see, to unsee.

But what if there are places no one can see because they think they’re in the other city? What if this is sacrilege to talk about but one young American girl discovers this and end up dead? Is there a third city hiding in the cracks between these two cities?

Have I said too much? This is a hard novel to summarize because the best part of it is to slowly understand what’s happening, where it’s happening and how it all comes together. It’s half fantasy, half detective fiction. It’s two cities with two fashion styles, two types of architecture, two languages, two histories, two cultures … even though they are in exactly the same place. And a murder takes place. A murder that cleverly exploits the very tricky rules that are in place for these to cities to be able to coexist like this.

When you start reading this novel, it all feels very strange. How can you walk down a street and unsee the people coming against you or some of the buildings around you? And even though it stays strange throughout the book, Miéville takes this strangeness and exploits his setting to the fullest. The setting is extraordinary and it is key to the plot of the book. Miéville manages to use this very creative idea and create a very special book, a book like no other. Well, no other except other Miéville books.

Now, I’m no Miéville expert. I’ve read this and UnLunDun. Even though the latter is a ya-novel, there’s no question about these being written by the same author. They share some of the same themes as well with UnLunDun being the place where all the lost and broken things from London end up – including people. A city in the city, you might say.

We all unsee things in our lives – beggars, people with handicaps, things that gets to close to our sensitivities for one reason or other. We ignore things. I don’t know if this is what inspired Miéville or if he took the idea of split cities and developed it to it’s extreme. Either way, this is a piece of very intriguing speculative fiction handled by an author who is in complete control of his imaginative and very different setting and let this setting take his plot, a simple murder mystery, and elevate it to an amazing height. I’ve never read another author quite like Miéville and I definitely want to see more!

  • Title: The City & The City
  • Author: China Miéville
  • Publisher: Pan Books
  • Year: 2009
  • Pages: 373 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5