October and November – ‘Monthly’ Wrap Up

Yes, I admit to beeing behind on my wrap up posts – and just about everything else blog related. I blame work mostly – and that pretty much suck since I don’t get paid to work and because of that, I would really much prefer just reading and blogging. But it’s necessary to work and so we must try to find work as best we can. But lame excuses aside, I’ve been reading tough and long books these months so I haven’t read all that many books. The best thing, though, is that I finished Clarissa (and the crowd goes wild…) and I also read and loved Les Misérables. So two huuuuuge novels finished and although I’ve cheated and read Clarissa all year long, it only really counts in the month, it’s finished. I’m not sure I can complete argue for why that is but that’s one of the rules of (my) reading.

Anyway, this of course means that I’m hugely behind.

Skærmbillede 2012-09-30 kl. 19.55.03

See, already 2 books behind on October 1st. But it should get much, much worse.

Skærmbillede 2012-11-02 kl. 12.52.02

In one short month, I went from being two books behind to being 5 books behind. I mostly blame Les Misérables for that. It took me a month to read – but it was worth it. However, it did seriously mess up my goal of reading 52 books this year. And then I began reading The Kindly Ones in November too and well, any chance of reaching 52 was just gone.

  1. Samuel Richardson: Clarissa. Clarissa, Clarissa, Clarissa. So many months spend reading about this young woman who flees an arranged marriage and ends up in the hands of a womanizer. It could have been so good but it wasn’t. 3 stars.
  2. Jean M. Auel: The Land of Painted Caves. A dreadful end to a series that started out so so good. In this one, we follow Ayla’s training to become a Zelandonia but also relationship issues with Jondalar. After reading the last three books in this series, I have to say that Auel should have quit while she was ahead. 2 stars.
  3. Victor Hugo: Les Misérables. This is an amazing book, well worth it’s status as a Classic. Jean Valjean as a character is so real and so flawed that you forget he is just a character. His relationship with Colette is one that all fathers will recognize, I think. Add to that Hugo’s fantastic grasp of language, which enables him to write beautiful about the sewers of Paris, and you can easily see why this book is so good. 5 stars.
  4. Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere. From beginning to end, I loved this book! Richard Mayhew’s adventures in London Below are just so much fun. Gaiman’s grasp of language is amazing and I love how well he uses London as a setting and plays with well known place names. 4 stars.

As you can see, I’m also so behind on writing reviews. I promise I will try to get them written before the new year.

I have finished almost all my challenges this year. Reading Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere finished my second to last challenge. However, I have to realize that I will not finish my own reading list and challenge for this year. I still need to read 12 books, I need to read Neil Gaiman American Gods, Don DeLillo Underworld, the first volume of Coppleston’s history of philosophy as well as a non-fiction book about collecting and then finish reading Sherlock Holmes…  I’m not going to make it. So I will focus on reading as many books as possible because there are so many books I desperately want to read – and then set some new goals for 2013.

Related posts:

Jean M. Auel: Hulernes Sang (Jordens Børn #6) (The Land of Painted Caves – Earth’s Children #6) (review)

So yes. Here we are. I’ve finally finished the entire Earth’s Children series. And – really, I’m not sure how to put this but – this was bad. This was really, really bad. The Land of Painted Caves takes what started as an excellent and fascinating series about a young Cro-Magnon girl who is adopted by Neanderthals, later forced out, finding her own way in the world, falling in love and being accepted by other Cro-Magnon people – it takes all this promising material and brings it to an extremely bad finish that throws such a bad light back upon the rest of the series that I’m not sure I will ever read any of these books again, even though I really liked the first three (The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Valley of the Horses and The Mammoth Hunters).

This final book in the series details Ayla’s training to become a Zelandonia, her Donier tour and relationship issues with Jondalar as well as Ayla being Called to become a Zelandonia. There’s an earth quake and as always, Ayla does amazing things. The plot is divided into three separate parts with jumps in time between each. I really don’t know what more to say about it as nothing much really happens.

So what makes this book so bad? First of, it’s extremely boring. Ayla visits one painted cave after the other and in every single one of them, we get details of the layout of the cave as well as details of all the paintings in the cave. She goes on and on and on and on about painted mammoths, horses, cave bears and red dots. And hand prints. The first one was interesting but when they just travel from cave to cave without much otherwise happening, it really gets annoying to get these descriptions. Yeah, I get that Auel visited these caves – but we don’t need or want to read her travel diary! If she at least had given some plausible explanation to why these artists painted these caves, it might have been worth it, but nope. That was too much to hope for. All we get is, that they felt like it…!

As if this isn’t bad enough, Auel lets one of her characters do something that is so out of character that I almost lost all interest in finishing this book when I read it. It just felt like Auel had realized that she needed some drama to engage her readers (and wake us up!) and so, she just wrote the first thing that got into her head – never mind that it was so out of character that it was unbelievable. I lost all interest in her characters after that and really, just finished the book because that’s what I do. I finish the books I start. I don’t think I can find words to describe how disappointed I was with this plot twist. And to add insult to injury, the actions this provokes, is equally unbelievable. You can’t write 5.5 books about characters and then expect us to buy something that is completely out of the question. He would never do that – she would never do that. I could write so much more about this and I really should so because it wouldn’t be spoilers, it would be a favor if it kept people from reading this book and wasting their time.

I don’t know if anything can make this worse but the one thing that could, is that Auel hints at many interesting plot points she could have explored. Ayla is working hard to become a Zelandonia, a spiritual leader, and the conflicts with doing this and raising a family could have been explored more and been much more interesting. As it is now, this little girl that Ayla really wanted, is just sent off all the time with other people so mom has the time to do more interesting stuff. Again, this is something that doesn’t make any sense since we’ve been told over and over that all Ayla ever wanted was to have a mate and a child – now she has it, and doesn’t seem to care all that much about her little girl…

Add to this, that we get the Mother’s Song repeated over and over and over again and it’s even part of one  of the (few) major plot points because Ayla in a trance gets to hear another verse that explains how babies are made … Which of course is an interesting thing since it changes the whole world view from being a society revering the mother to also start understanding that men play a part too when children are conceived – of course Auel doesn’t use it for anything interesting…

It feels like Auel is repeating some of the plot points from her earlier books. Like Ayla again taking the drug from The Clan of the Cave Bear or Ayla and Jondalar again not talking like in The Mammoth Hunters. It’s like it isn’t enough for her to repeat things over and over – again in this book, we get the Mother’s Song repeated again and again, we hear about Ayla’s accent so so so many times, people introduce themselves with long names and she retells everything from the five former novels – but we also have to live through her rehashing scenes from the other books and pretending it’s something new.

I still think that the last three books of this series should have been edited down to one book. I think that would have helped but I’m not sure that the original content in these three (very long) books is enough to actually make one decent novel out of it. I can’t recommend the second half of this series. It’s really sad to see such a great series come to such a lousy and underwhelming end!

  • Title: Hulernes Sang (Jordens Børn #6) (The Painted Caves – Earth’s Children #6)
  • Author: Jean M. Auel
  • Publisher: Gyldendals Bogklubber
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 736 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars:  2 stars out of 5

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Earth’s Children series – or the Stone Age Super Hero

Earth’s Children is a series of six speculative alternative historical fiction novels. The first was published in 1980 and the series was finished in 2011 (maybe). I’ve recently started reading the fifth installment in the Earth’s Children series and I wanted to talk a bit about the series as a whole and my impressions of the first four books. It’s been many years since I read these first four – in part because it took the author, Jean M. Auel, 12 years to finish the fifth book. She says it’s due to life getting in the way – I’ve always felt that it was because the books got progressively worse and that the fourth one was so bad it’s hardly worth reading. But I get ahead of myself… Below, you find my thoughts on the first 4 books in the series (beware – spoilers!).

    

These were the covers of the my first editions of this series.
My parents then gave me hardcovers but I’ve always loved these the best.

  1. The Clan of the Cave Bear. I loved this book! I don’t know how many times I’ve read it but it’s an amazing, amazing book. This book tells the story of a young Cro Magnon girl Ayla who is adopted by a Neanderthal Clan and taught their ways, especially when it comes to healing. However, the leader to be hates her and always makes sure to put her in her place.
  2. The Valley of Horses. Forced to leave the Clan, Ayla has to make it on her own. She finds a sheltered valley and decides to stay there for the winter. In the valley, she learns herself many different skills – as well as tame a horse and a cave lion. She is lonely, though, but when she hears a man screaming, she is in time to save Jondalar and heal him – while he teaches her the ways of his people. This book is almost as good as The Clan of the Cave Bear.
  3. The Mammoth Hunters. Together with Jondalar, her horse Whinney and the horse’s colt, Ayla leaves the safety of her valley to go out and meet others of her kind. She meets the Mammoth Hunters and is adopted. In this new setting, her and Jondalar’s relationship is seriously tested. This one is not quite as good as the first two but still worth reading.
  4. The Plains of Passage. Yawn! Are we there yet??? This book heavily details Ayla and Jondalar’s journey across the plains to Jondalar’s home. It details every plant they see on the way – or at least that’s what it feels like. They have sex, eat, travel a bit, see some plants, have some more sex and meet a few people. The first 3 I’ve read several times – I’ve only managed to get through this one once.

I’m currently reading The Shelters of Stone and then I will finish the series with The Land of Painted Caves. Sex, descriptions of how things were made in the Upper Paleolithic era, about 30.000 years ago, plants and such like, have been huge parts of this entire series and so far, The Shelters of the Stone is the same. However, I feel that the writing isn’t that good but I’m not sure to blame the author or the translator. See, I read these books in translation since that’s how I started them many years ago, before I had the skill to read books in English. But some of the writing, especially some of the romance parts, feels almost juvenile and the dialogue so far hasn’t impressed me. It has gotten a little better as I have been slowly dragged into the story but I’m not that impressed yet.

Also, it’s starting to ring a bit false that Ayla is so accomplished. She can speak both the sign language of the Neanderthals and the language of the Cro Magnons. She is an extremely skilled healer and knows everything about plants. She has an incredible memory. She has tamed a horse, a cave lion and a wolf – which nobody has done before. And on top of that, she’s drop dead gorgeous and doesn’t know it… She is almost a Stone Age Super Hero! I know, it can be explained by her upbringing, her living on her own and more – but still, it does get a bit much sometimes.

I’m hoping that these two last books will remind me why I loved this series so much all those years ago. I’ve been dreading reading them since I was afraid they would be as bad as The Plains of Passage. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Read more:

Look what Santa brought…

Santa didn’t bring a lot of books this year – but he did bring some really nice ones so it’s okay. I’m not mad at him. I found three books under the tree and I’m hoping to read them all in 2012.

Stephen King: 11.22.63

New York Times has picked this novel as one of the 5 best fiction novels in 2011. I’m not sure if a King novel has been put on this list before? – but it’s impressive. And King is one of my favorite novelists. I started reading him as a teenager and have read him regularly since. I think he’s a wonderful story teller. This novel is about a man who gets to go back in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald. It sounds very promising!!!

Jean M. Auel: Hulernes Sang (The Land of Painted Caves)

I started reading the Earth’s Children series way back, back when I wasn’t able to read them in the original English so I have the entire series now in the Danish translation. I loved the Clan of the Cave Bear, the next two was good as well – but I lost momentum with The Plains of Passage. It was sooooo boring! I hope to read both The Shelters of Stone and The Land of Painted Caves this year and finally finish Ayla’s story.

Victor Hugo: Les Miserables

The last couple of years, I’ve gotten a classic novel from my boyfriend. Previous books have been War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov and Madame Bovary. This year it’s Victor Hugo’s famous novel in a beautiful hardcover edition. I can’t wait to read this one! But wow – 1432 pages …!

10 books I’m looking forward to in 2011

Each year brings new and exciting books to dive headfirst into. I love it when you hear about a book and you just can’t wait to get your grubby little fingers on it and just read, read, read. (Although, truth be told, if I’m ever to get my to-read list down to a manageable number, there should be published no new books for the next … 9 years would do it, I think – provided I read 100 books a year…)

Anyway – here are 10 of the books I’m looking forward to this year:

  1. Haruki Murakami: 1Q84 (this is without a doubt my most anticipated book of the year!)
  2. Gail Carriger: Heartless (the fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate series – lovely fluffy steampunk.)
  3. Lev Grossman: The Magician King (I liked The Magicians with it’s Harry Potter meets Narnia feel and with it still being so much more than just a rip-off of these two classics so I’m looking forward to how he will continue the story. It didn’t have the feel of a first book in a series to me so I don’t have any loose ends I would like to see him tighten so this can go in any direction he sees fit but I think it will be a nice read.)
  4. Jasper Fforde: One of Our Thursdays is Missing (I’ve only read the first Thursday Next novel but loved it so I’m looking forward to any in the series – hopefully I will get a lot of these read this year – but I prefer having read the classics he is using in the books before reading them so I think I have some Dickens and more ahead of me first.)
  5. Joyce Carol Oates: A Widow’s Story: A Memoir (I love Joyce Carol Oates so for that reason alone this is interesting. JCO tells about how she became a widow – and I lost my father late last year, leaving my mother a widow as well, so that’s the second reason this book is high on my list.)
  6. Carol Wallace: Leaving Van Gogh (I love Van Gogh – he is one of my favourite painters. This is the story of his death – told by his personal physician.)
  7. Benjamin Hale: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (A chimp who can articulate deep thoughts on art and philosophy and who falls in love with a human… What’s not to love? Definitely looking forward to this one!)
  8. Patrick Rothfuss: The Wise Man’s Fear (The second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle – and although I haven’t read the first book or anything at all by Patrick Rothfuss, both these books sounds great!)
  9. Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Sea Watch (Shadow of the Apt #6 – another series I haven’t read anything of but I own the first three and besides the coolest covers, these books sounds like they could have some depth in them and not just be fluffy fantasy.)
  10. Jean M. Auel: The Land of Painted Caves (I loved The Clan of the Cave Bear, liked the next two in the Earth’s Children series – but the fourth one was so boring. Having gotten up the courage to read the fifth installment yet but now the series is finally coming to an end so hopefully I will read both vol. 5 and 6 this year.)

(Note: Not all the books on my list have covers yet.)