stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
'B' in the alphabet roundabout... only four more to go. I didn't really get on with this, which I think is partly due to the very boring style of the translation (can't comment on the original, obviously) and partly to coming in late in a series I'd never read before, and not finding the characters very sympathetic. I did start to get interested towards the end as the plot came together, but were it not for the fact that this is a ring book I'd probably have given up a long time ago. The animal violence scenes, while effective, weren't tied in well to the rest of it, and seemed to have been put in only to shock; similarly, I wasn't convinced by the cult aspect. Not inclined to find the rest of the Wallander series, I have to say.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7728233
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
The story of the discovery of a rare book, and the resulting mystery, intrigue and murder in mid-century Spain. An absorbing read, with many threads to follow and many subplots coiled up inside each other. I guessed the identity of Laín Coubert very early on, but it was worth keeping going to the end even so.

I'd have liked to see the female characters do more, though, rather than have the plot simply happen around them. And, as is often the case with books set in a time/place I don't know much about, I was left thinking 'I really must find out more about ...'

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10179767/
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Theo is fourteen and dying of some unknown disease; his aunt takes him on a journey around the world to learn about its religions. Her friends in various countries and of various faiths explain to Theo what they believe and why. (And nobody has read Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on denial; Theo's understandable preoccupation with what dying might be like is continually brushed aside by the adults, with no recognition of the idea that this might not be a positive approach.)

An ambitious project: to give in five hundred pages a representative sample of the world's religions. It does its best, but for me failed to reach its mark. One can't really do even one religion satisfactorily in five hundred pages, and this fictional journey was a repetitive and irritating format.

Let's start with the positive: the facts, so far as I can tell, are there; common misunderstandings are cleared up and, where there are controversies, they are presented in a balanced matter. I'm not sure, however, how much is going to have stuck in my mind a month from now, because it all felt very same-y. The representative characters were not well distinguished from one another, and it's therefore difficult to keep track of who said what.

What I will remember is how utterly obnoxious both Theo and his Aunt Martha are - both to each other and to their long-suffering hosts. I was unable to believe that any of Martha's friends actually liked her, given how rude she was about deeply-held beliefs and history. And Theo was a brat of the first order. One has to remember the rules of hospitality in many world religions, of course, but these two would try my charity sorely.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9897011
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
The advantage of book clubs is that, when one is not slavishly following in the footsteps of Richard, Judy, et al, one occasionally comes across an author of whom one would never otherwise have heard. This book was picked by my French colleague - Anna Gavalda is not, so far as I am aware, a big thing over here.

The problem is that my colleague read this in the original, and the rest of us read it in translation, which is not bad exactly, but very, very American. There's a lot of slang in there, and one finds oneself having to trawl through two layers of foreignness. One alone would be fine, but the combination of French culture and American language is a little disorientating.

It's a book of short stories, some of which are memorable, three weeks down the line, and some of which are not. The one about the vet. Yes. The one about the pregnant woman. The one about the rich kids and the wild boar. And the one about the car accident. And the first one in the book. The rest, obviously are Not Memorable.

Worth a read, but probably more rewarding if you plough through the original with a French dictionary.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Another one from the first line bookbox, and chosen on the strength of:

Although his father had pictured for him a brilliant future in the army, Hervé Joncour had ended up earning his crust in an unusual career which, by a singular piece of irony, was not unconnected with a charming side that bestowed upon it a vaguely feminine intonation.

What they call a slim volume, composed of short chapters, few if any of which were longer than a page. Lots of repetition, and what have you. Which I suppose was quite effective, but I really had trouble seeing past the skeevy eroticised orientalism.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8102367/

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