26. toukokuuta 2012

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger

After I absolutely ruined The Time Traveler's Wife for myself by watching the movie while reading the book, I felt pretty depressed and wasn’t at all sure if I should battle my way through it or just start a new book. As you’ve probably noticed from that teeny tiny “Now Reading” box, I’m always starting new books and rarely finishing them. One thing this blog has done for me is that I’ve actually started to finish books more often, just so I could review them in all honesty.

Anyway, I decided I’d give Her Fearful Symmetry a shot, and I was instantly engulfed by it. As some of you probably know, I spent four and a half months in London some years back and one of my favorite places was the Highgate Cemetery, despite the fact that I only visited it once and took photos with my friend’s camera. I never got the photos for myself as she claimed that the memory card broke. Yeah right. All the same, I could so easily imagine myself in the midst of the events of the book and I just wanted to keep reading, just to find out more. The book contains bits of history of the cemetery, but not so much as to get boring. The depiction of the cemetery is accurate and if you’ve ever visited, you can see the places in your mind’s eye.

The story introduces us to Valentina and Julia, mirror twins, and their mother and aunt, Edie and Elspeth, who are twins as well, although not mirrored. The story is complex and just like The Time Traveler's Wife, it requires concentration to read, or else the story will drop you by the side of the road and keep speeding on ahead without you. There’s also downstairs neighbor Robert, who’s writing a thesis on the history of the cemetery (which is why the bits of history are in the book) and upstairs neighbor Martin, who suffers from OCD. A really bad OCD at that. The girls first arrive in London when their aunt Elspeth dies and leaves them her flat next to the cemetery, on the condition that their parents must never visit it. After some time living in the apartment it becomes apparent to the girls that their aunt is not quite ready to leave her flat just yet.

The story is told from many different perspectives, and the differences in personalities are quite delightful to read. Usually when someone writes a book like this the personalities mix and intertwine with each other, becoming confusing to the reader, but Niffenegger has created such different types that it’s impossible to mix them up with each other. It becomes apparent from the very first sentences who is it that is now in charge of the storytelling. All the characters are in balance with each other as well, and it really feels like Niffenegger isn’t playing favorites. The bits from the perspective of the ghosts are especially interesting, because it’s rarely done, and even rarer is that it’s done so well.

The way Niffenegger writes is fantastic as well. In The Time Traveler's Wife the style is already visible, but in Her Fearful Symmetry it becomes really apparent. The stories compose of enough of supernatural and intrigue to be interesting, but also enough of small moments of reality to be believable. For example there is a scene where Martin’s tooth is pulled out because it’s hurting so much and he can’t smoke afterwards because the suction might remove the scab, and so one of the twins smokes for him, blowing the smoke into his mouth. The feel of the moment is so tangible and easy to get into, that it really brings the whole story closer to the reader.

I loved this book, and it has given me more will to finish The Time Traveler’s Wife as well.


22. toukokuuta 2012

Goodbye Tsugumi - Banana Yoshimoto

Of all the books written by Yoshimoto, I somehow found Goodbye Tsugumi to be the hardest to read. It tells the story of two cousins, Maria and Tsugumi, coming of age in the Japanese countryside. Tsugumi is selfish and egocentric, someone who the reader will indubitably find annoying at more than one point. You can easily imagine someone kind of like her, and then again it’s not. She has inner strength many healthy people lack, and she comes up with wicked, twisted pranks to pull on the people living with her.

Goodbye Tsugumi is written from the point of view of Maria, Tsugumi’s cousin, and it covers the events of their last summer together before Maria moves to Tokyo to go to university there. Thanks to Tsugumi’s imaginative mind the summer is full of happenings and Banana Yoshimoto’s colorful language really paints the seaside very well. You can almost taste the salt at points, and anyone who has ever seen ocean during the night will know what it’s like.

I keep going back to Yoshimoto’s books. They have usually something supernatural right underneath the surface, sometimes more so than other times. Goodbye Tsugumi is actually one of the more realistic books. It is funny in a grim way, especially if you have the kind of sense of humour that is able to deal with black humour. I wouldn’t recommend Goodbye Tsugumi to just anyone, though. It is sometimes difficult and heavy to read, and I had to struggle to finish it. Maria gets a lot of flashbacks and sometimes Tsugumi’s complaining and rudeness just gets plain tiring. Goodbye Tsugumi shouldn’t be taken too lightly. It handles huge topics like life and death, love and loss in an almost poetic way.

It was worth finishing.


14. toukokuuta 2012

From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris

The 8th Sookie Stackhouse novel ‘From Dead to Worse’ continues in the very trustworthy, steady quality of the rest of the series. This is the first book I’ve reviewed simply because it is the latest in the series that I have read. I have to say (outside the subject, really) that writing in this blog is such enormous help to my studies. I’m continuously learning new things like index words and what’s important in a book review, and I find that writing this blog also helps me keep reading. I’d be one silly librarian one day if I never read anything. If there is anyone out there who’s reading this and likes/dislikes the blog, please let me know. Any feedback I get is welcome (trollin’ too, if you find it necessary, maybe the truth will come out of the fool’s mouth).

Anyway, let’s get back on subject! I’ve liked the Stackhouse novels since the very first book. They’re catchy and easy to read, the plotline is simple but complex enough to make it interesting. The sexy vampires, werewolves and shifters obviously don’t make it any worse. Lately though I’ve gotten the feeling that Harris is making Sookie a lot more human in a way. She gets mad even when she knows she has no right to, she’s selfish and doesn’t always think things through. She gets sad and confused and is more realistic in many other ways too. She’s getting easier to relate to, I think, and that’s important in long series like the Stackhouse novels. I actually thought I had all of them when I bought ten, but doing research for this blog post I found out that there’s more on the way. In a way I’m glad that it doesn’t end, but then again I’m afraid what will happen to the series if it gets too long. I’m afraid the books will start to repeat themselves, there’ll be a new man in every book and Sookie will become annoying instead of realistic. I just hope that Harris will know when to quit.

Another interesting thing was to watch the TV-series. TrueBlood is very different from the books, and the changes to the plotlines are very visible from pretty early on. TrueBlood keeps on some characters that Harris has already killed off in the books and kills others that still appear later on in the novels. In a way reading the books and watching the series at the same time brings depth to the characters but at the same time I find it a little bit confusing. I just saw the trailer for the 5th season of TrueBlood and it looks promising indeed. I’ll have to buy them new books as soon as I can afford it, even though reading the books ahead doesn’t offer much consolation. For anyone who hated everything Twilight, I can definitely recommend Sookie Stackhouse novels.