February 29th, 2012

Book #14 Her Fearful Symmetry

Title : Her Fearful Symmetry
Author : Audrey Niffenegger
Genre : Mystery, Psychological
My rating : 4.5/5

Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls’ aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.

The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including—perhaps—their aunt. 

I think this book is one of those unique books that may or may not be able to catch a vast amount of readers considering its theme and story. For me though, I was immediately drawn by the story and characters. But I need to warn you also that it succeeded in making me feel depressed quite significantly. It's very emotional for me. I totally feel for the characters, I feel with them, I got depressed, distressed, in suspense, panic, angered oh wrathfully angered... So you can see, if you in need of a cheerful and pleasing story, my advise : don't choose Her Fearful Symmetry (HFS). But, if you want to broaden your emotional understanding, your knowledge about relationship between twins, a unique story, a literary experience, then by all means.. choose HFS. I didn't give it 5 stars coz this is one book I most probably won't ever read again. It's just too overwhelming for me, once is enough. So I gave it 4.5 stars.
I really want to visit Highgate Cemetery because of it. I confessed that I haven't read The Time Traveller's Wife (I know, you'd probably say Whaaaat!?) but hey, I watched the movie and the book is definitely in my reading list. So I know that HFS will be good, though my sister was the one who bought it. I like Niffenegger's writing style and her character portrayal, vivid and real, but I think the snippets of Highgate Cemetery's history are also very interesting. The plot itself is unique and deep and filled with twists and turns that surprised me. The only drawback or perhaps advantage is its emotional aka depressing. Hahahaha... but my advise: take a chance with HFS, you won't regret it! 

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lost in a book

Books 12 & 13: Hurting Distance and Red Mist

Book 12: Hurting Distance (Spilling CID 02) .
Author: Sophie Hannah, 2007.
Genre: Psychological Thriller. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 408 pages.

In the US this was published in 2010 as The Truth-Teller's Lie beginning a tradition of different titles for her US editions. The central character is Naomi Jenkins, who when her unhappily married lover, Robert Haworth, fails to turn up for their weekly tryst with no explanation becomes convinced that he has come to harm. After an upsetting visit to his home where she encounters his wife, Naomi informs the police of her suspicions. They do not seem concerned especially after his wife tells them he is not missing but merely out of town. In desperation, Naomi decides that if she can convince the police that Robert is a danger to others then they'd have to look for him. To do this she draws upon a terrible event in her own life, one that she had never spoken to anyone about.

This proved another satisfying psychological thriller from Sophie Hannah. I zoomed through this novel and again really had no idea where she was taking the plot, which is a delight even if many of the twists entered quite disturbing territory. Naomi certainly begins as fairly unlikeable character given her obsession with Robert and her willingness to manipulate others. However, Hannah's skill as a writer is such that over the course of the novel Naomi did grow more sympathetic especially as her past is revealed.

By combining narrative points of view Hannah has the best of both worlds in being able to give a fairly straight-forward account of the police investigation alongside Naomi's point of view, in which she addresses her absent lover. In addition, the personalities and story arcs of the police characters are now coming together for me, despite reading the series out of order.

Beginning of 'Hurting Distance' on Sophie Hannah's website.

Book 13: Red Mist (Kay Scarpetta 19).
Author: Patricia Cornwell, 2011
Genre: Forensic Crime Thriller
Other Details: Hardback. 498 pages.

This is a hard one to summarize as so much of the plot relates to events in Book 18 Port Mortuary. Basically six months later Kay Scarpetta undertakes a personal visit to a women's prison in Georgia to visit the mother of the person responsible for the murders in Port Mortuary. Her husband is dead set against the visit but the ever-stubborn Kay goes anyway. While there she becomes aware of the case of a woman on death row accused of the murder of a Savannah family years before and discovers that one of her frenemies is looking into. In addition, a series of inexplicable deaths come to Kay's attention that may or may not be linked.

After really enjoying 'Port Mortuary' and welcoming the return of Kay as narrator, I pounced on this latest one hoping for more of the same. However, I felt that some of the same problems that had become so annoying in her novels in recent years re-surfaced; mainly that the personal lives and issues of Kay and supporting characters seemed to take centre stage. Of course, it is normal in a series to have ongoing character arcs but here the impression is the universe revolves around Kay Scarpetta to the point that she appears once again to be the target of someone trying to ruin her reputation. Certainly the forensics and investigative aspects take a back seat while Kay as narrator just goes on and on and on in a stream of consciousness monologue that adds little to the story. The novel felt like it needed a strong editor but when someone is as famous as Cornwell editors seem to become timid. So the writing felt very undisciplined and at times bloated in terms of Kay's sense of self-importance.

Still it did have its moments including quite a complex plot that actually came together in a satisfactory way even if the final denunciation seemed over in a flash and left me feeling 'is that it?'

#8: The encircling sea

Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us is another swipe at the project she attempted with the initially-overlooked Under the Sea-Wind - to pen a popular science book that made the vastness of the ocean appreciable yet accessible. Around Us was much more successful commercially, and it's easy to see why - it's the forerunner to the structure of the modern pop-science tome, dividing a complex subject up into several aspects tackled by a chapter each, the concepts illustrated with lots of historical first-person anecdotes and golly-gee notable phenomena. It's not as lyrical as Sea-Wind (and it has more of a physical than biological focus), but it's clearer and more understandable to the layman; the chapter-to-chapter structure gives Carson a moment-to-moment focus that her first book lacked. Around Us has the readability of a Dava Sobel or less-obnoxious Bill Bryson tome, and it's a joy to discover the material from which these authors spiritually descended.

Since it was written in 1951, however, it also unavoidably advocates many outdated theories: this was before plate tectonics was in wide circulation, after all. The modern publisher would've been well-advised, though, to include a few footnotes as to how geologic theory has evolved over time and tell the careless reader that, no, mountains weren't formed by the Earth's crust wrinkling as it contracted while it cooled, etc. I was reading the Kindle edition, which should've been the easiest to append, and yet no such effort was made; negligent.

Books 1,2,3 - Sword-Dancer, Sword-Singer, Sword-Maker

These books are the first three of the Sword Dancer saga by Jennifer Roberson. I´ve read the whole series before (but only in the library) and I loved it so much that I decided to buy all the books. In my opinion, they are really great.

The story takes place in a fictional world that consists of the South and the North. There are some fantasy elements such as magic and wizards, but that´s not the main point of the books. The focus is set on the two main characters, Tiger and Del, and their interactions. They are both sword dancers, people hired to fight against others for money (so some bloond and violence is to be expected, although it´s not explicit). The story itself is pretty simple and straight forward, it´s really all about the characters, their history, their personalities and how they change each other. Another main issue is equality or feminism, whatever you may call it - Del is a very strong woman who slowly but surely changes Tiger´s macho attitude towards women.

All the books are told from Tiger´s point of view, using the 1st person narrator. This is something I usually don´t like, but Roberson does it so well that it didn´t bother me at all.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed these novels and I´d highly recommend them.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Got the trilogy on loan from a friend at work and devoured the first book. I found this book to be a very fast read though I wasn't entranced by it. I find the premise of the book to be overdone but I also have read a lot of books where the plot revolves around a group of people chosen one way or another to fight to the death. There were a few nice twists in the book and I am now looking forward to watching the movie just to see the portrayal of the costumes. I started reading the next book and am definitely looking forward to getting into that one more. While I didn't fully appreciate the storyline as plot for this book it already seems to be a nice setup for the rest of the trilogy.

February Reads (#5 - 8)

Again, only four books, but oh well. Slow and steady. Also read more YA and less classics than I was supposed to, but I will be better next month.

Book #5: "Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld
My Rating: 2.5/5
I wasn't impressed by this book at all. I liked the premise and the plot was okay, but too often I just got bored with       the story. Maybe I just didn't like the characters. I thought they were flat and uninteresting. Maybe I'm just outside the demographic, although I doubt I would have enjoyed this more if I'd been sixteen. No, I'm not reading the other books in the series. 

Book #6: "The Fault In Our Stars" by John Green
My Rating: 5/5
I absolutely loved this book. I loved the characters. Some people might say they are too mature for their age, but they aren't your average kids. They've been through a lot. Besides, I find it refreshing that not every sixteen year old in a book is a ditzy chick who only thinks about shopping and boyfriends. But anyway. I also love that John Green took the time to actually go to Amsterdam to write this book, it shows that he's actually been there. I laughed and mostly cried so much. Really, really liked this one. 

Book #7: "Will Grayson, Will Grayson" by John Green and David Levithan
My Rating:
I've read books by both these authors before, so I was quite excited for this combination. John Green's Will Grayson is a typical character of his, so it was quite fun to have Levithan's Will Grayson thrown in. I really liked this, but I'd just finished The Fault in our Stars and this just didn't quite have the same 'magic'. It was a fun, simple read. 

Book #8: "Battle Royale" by Takami Koushun
My Rating: 
I've seen the movie based on this book years ago, and I've been wanting to read this ever since the Hunger Games came out, simply because I wanted to see how much they were actually alike (I mean, come on. 42 kids on an island with weapons, forced to kill each other until only one is left? Sounds familiar, no matter how much I do like the Hunger Games). It is alike, but it's very different also. This book is more focused on the killing than the emotions, but not as much as I expected after seeing the movie - it definitely does have a bit more dept than that. I thought the writing was a bit flat every now and then but that could have been the translation. One thing I did have trouble with was keeping track of all the Japanese names...So I actually wrote characteristics behind the names in the name list, and crossed out the names as the kids were killed. How horrible of me. Anyway, it was a nice, pulpy read, and the end was surprising (because it had been a while since I'd seen the movie). Pretty good.

Books Read (so far): 8
Pages Read (so far): 2964

Currently rereading Fellowship of the Ring :)