No Name

no name by wilkie collins and shoes by Chie Mihara

A thrilling classic with a strong female character, a plot full of twists and turns, but too many details. Recommended for classic-lovers.

No Name
Wilkie Collins
1862
audio
741 (or 29 hours)
Victorian England
The hands on the hall-clock pointed to half-past six in the morning.

Two sisters in Victorian England: the sensible and compliant Norah and the somewhat spoilt Magdalen Vanstone come from a good family. At their parents' sudden death, a family secret is revealed and the sisters are disinherited and become 'Nobody's Children'. Norah makes her way by becoming a governess, while Magdalen sets out on a cruise for justice and revenge, using her acting skills.

Magdalen is an unconventional Victorian woman, but a true Wilkie Collins heroine: a strong and brave woman who defies gender roles and sets out to save the day. She reminded me a lot of Marian Halcombe from Collins' most famous novel, The Woman in White.

This novel has an amazing set of characters, some true villains, both male and female, and the plot is full of twists and turns, that kept me on the edge of my seat. At least for some of the time. The novel has its flaws IMO, namely the many details and repetitions of various legal documents. They became a bit tedious and I lost interest from time to time, which is why I'm only giving the novel 3 stars.

I listened to this as a free audio from LibriVox. It's read by volunteers, and I'm sad to say the quality wasn't always good. One of the narrators actually sounded a bit like Janice from Friends ...

Oh, and the shoes in the photo are by amazing Chie Mihara.

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Towelhead

towelhead

A dark and sad story about sexual abuse, racism, neglect and violence, but also a humorous page-turner about growing up and discovering your sexuality, told in a light tone that will make you laugh.

Towelhead
Alicia Erian
YA
April 6th 2005
321
My mother's boyfriend got a crush on me, so she sent me to live with Daddy.

Jasira, an Arab-American girl of 13, is sent off to live with her father whom she hardly knows. We follow her quest for love and acceptance as she discovers her sexuality and tries hard to make friends in a place of twisted rolemodels.

I've had this one on my shelf for ages, but when I finally started it, I finished it in no time. The characters and plot are both engrossing, and I desperately wanted to know what would happen next.

The subjects of the novel are dark: sexual abuse, racism, neglect and violence, but it is told in a light tone through the naiveté of a child. On top of that, it was very well-written. It seemed like Alicia Erian really understood her protagonist and her mixed feelings of love, loneliness, guilt and shame. In spite of dark subjects, the book made me laugh out loud many times. I highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a good story about growing up.

Daddy got mad when people made assumptions about him, but I liked it. It made me feel someone wanted to know me. Even if they were wrong, it didn't matter. It mattered only that they were trying.

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January Wrap-up

books and baby

books

January was the month when things started to fall into place. Throughout December, Edith had suffered from a bit of colic, which was heartbreaking, but at the beginning of January, it suddenly stopped. It’s a relief she’s not in pain anymore and she’s a much happier baby. Around the same time, she started smiling and make much more eye contact, and we’ve settled in a very good routine with small things to look forward to every day. Like the two hour walk we take almost every day, where she gets a good nap and fresh air, and I get exercise and listen to an audio book. And the hot chocolate Mr. Boyfriend prepares for me when we get home. And after dinner, when she’s usually awake and just likes hanging out with us while we’re binging Netflix (we’re currently watching Modern Family). I think it’s safe to say that my baby blues is as good as gone! It’s a quite unique experience to follow a little individual discovering the world and her own capabilities. And she still allows me to read books and blog! I must remember to thank her some day …

beautiful baby

In January I read: 6 books (2 physical books, 2 e-books and 2 audios). That’s a lot more than I thought possible. The 2 e-books were read while breastfeeding or when Edith decided that my arms are the only place to nap, and the audios are from our many many walks. The 2 physical books were precious me-time :-)

Best read: My reread of the always amazing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Best idea ever – it helped me through my baby blues.

Most disappointing read: Ink and Bone – great potential gone to complete waste.

Books bought: 2 books by Sarah Waters – I’m really looking forward to reading those!

Blog posts: 12 – which is quite a lot for me! I think I’ve got better at prioritizing my time after Edith came into my life. When she’s asleep, I know that if I’m lucky I’ll have 40-50 minutes until she awakes, so I won’t waste it on facebook etc. I use it to read, knit or blog – without spending too much time thinking over what I want to do. And some days, like today, I decide to skip showering and blog instead.

In February I’ll read: Washington Square by Henry James as a group read on Goodreads. I’ve already started it, and it seems very promising. And I’ve decided to give The Shadow of the Wind a second chance. I tried reading it about 3 years ago, but didn’t like it. It has some amazing reviews, so I’ve always felt that I should try again.

In February I’ll buy: 0 books – my birthday is coming up, so I’m working on a wish list and hoping for some little square packages 😉

Reading challenge status: I’ve read 6 of 25 books, which means that I’m now 4 books ahead of schedule!

Goodreads reading challenge

What did you read in January? And what do you have planned for February?

Posted in Books, What I've been up to | 5 Comments

Ink and Bone

Ink and Bone hardback

A confusing fantasy about books and the fear of knowledge. A concept with great potential, but poorly executed.

Ink and Bone
The Great Library #1
Rachel Caine
YA, fantasy
July 7th 2015
351

This one started out really good. A young man who loves books is sent off to study at The Great Library, meets some friends on the train and has to share room with his arch enemy while hiding his family's secret trade of book smuggling. It seemed like an amazing read for book lovers - it even smelled a bit like Harry Potter. Only with a true reader as our hero. And then there are book burners, Obscurists, hidden agendas, wars, and a bunch of other stuff that I just didn't get …

You have ink in your blood, boy, and no help for it. Books will never be just a business to you.

Unfortunately it was poorly executed and downright confusing. The dystopian world was never properly explained and the action seemed rushed. I enjoyed the first half though, and was looking forward to more explanations as the story progressed. This, however, never happened. Instead the second half was crammed with uninteresting action. It was a relief to finally turn the last page. Such a waste of great potential.

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Shelf News – January 2016

sarah waters chie mihara

I decided to spend the Saxo-gift certificate I got for Christmas on making my Sarah Waters collection complete. I read my first Sarah Waters novel, Fingersmith, in 2011 and had a good time with it, even though I thought it was a bit far-fetched and a tad silly. In 2013, I read Tipping the Velvet and adored every single page. I loved it so much that the novel made its way to my top 5 books of 2013. In 2014, Waters published a new novel, The Paying Guests, which was a huge disappointment. A couple of months ago, I read The Little Stranger and was again overwhelmed by her story telling, and decided I had to read all her novels.

I like the concept of her stories, which usually take place from Victorian England to the 1940s or thereabout. They are often told from a lesbian perspective and the plots are crammed with twists and turns. It’s forget-about-the-world-and-get-lost-in-the-story books. Utterly delicious! And now I have two more to dive into: Affinity, which is about an upperclass lady and a women’s jail in Victorian London, and The Night Watch about three women and one man in London, 1940.

I think I’ll save them for a rainy day, and take comfort in looking at them on my shelf. I love having something to look forward to.

Have you read anything by Sarah Waters? What did you think?

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Her Fearful Symmetry

Her fearful symmetry

A fine story about love, grief, identity, strange twins and ghosts. Read it if you like your stories weird and with a dash of magic.

Her Fearful Symmetry
Audrey Niffenegger
September 29th 2009
Paperback
482
Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.

When Elspeth dies, she leaves her apartment to her nieces - her twin sister's daughters, Julia and Valentina, who are also twins. They do everything together, both small and big things in life: from sharing a sandwich to skipping college. It's an unhealthy relationship heading for disaster. Julia befriends Martin who is afraid to leave his own apartment, and Valentina befriends Robert, Elspeth's lover. In the meantime, the ghost of Elspeth haunts the twins and interferes with their lives.

This is no doubt a fine story. There's something sad and delicate about it and I can't help but smile whenever I think back to the story and the characters. That being said, it wasn't always a good reading experience. It was very mundane with many unnecessary details about London and Highgate Cemetery. It could have used a good editor.

And Valentina's attempt to be separated from her mirror-twin is just too far out. A childish and over-dramatic action that made the characters unrealistic and somewhat stupid. I stopped caring for the story at this point, which was a shame, as it was just getting interesting.

He thanked her and left the house in the mood of a shipwrecked man who has allowed the rescue ship to pass him by.

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A little scarf

knitted baby scarf

It’s been so cold lately that I decided Edith needed a scarf for our long daily walks. I found an easy pattern on Drops Design. I made a few alterations: I used a different yarn as I had a leftover, which automatically sized it down to baby size. And instead of knitting in garter stitch, I chose the seed stitch, which I think is prettier.

baby knit

Even though my knitting time is very limited, I managed to finish it in 3 days. All it took was a bit of multi tasking:

knitting with baby

knitting project

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Child 44

child 44

Title: Child 44
Author: Tom Rob Smith
First Published: 2008
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars (average rating on Goodreads: 4.07)
I would recommend this book to: anyone who wants a unique crime novel.
The Beginning: Since Maria had decided to die, her cat would have to fend for itself.

The Soviet Union under Stalin rule: numerous innocent children are found dead, and one officer won’t write the incidents off as mere accidents. As he investigates further, he risks not only his career and life but also the lives of all his loved ones. It’s a world where no one can be trusted and where the State is always right.

To stand up for someone was to stitch your fate into the lining of theirs.

A bit slow at first, but eventually an enjoyable read. I listened to this on audio and was quite entertained throughout. I’m not that fond of crime novels, but this one stands out a bit. The setting is very interesting – it’s not often you come across a novel set in Stalin’s Soviet Union! I liked that. The story was full of twists and turns, and no character is to be trusted.

That being said, the novel has its flaws. The characters are often left in horrible dilemmas, and these dilemmas were over-explained. There were many unnecessary repetitions, which became annoying. But the worst part was that the ending was a bit too silly and unbelievable IMO.

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2016 Reading Challenge

bookshelf

bookshelf

I have no idea what 2016 will bring reading-wise. Right now, I’m able to read much more than I thought was possible, as I discovered some tricks to read while caring for a little baby. But it won’t last forever. Little Edith Olenska will start crawling around and I bet mommy’s reading time won’t be her top priority. And later this year, I’ll start working again. That’s when it’ll get really difficult to find time to read (much less blog about it!).

But I’ve decided to be ambitious and have challenged myself to read 25 books in 2016. I have no idea if I’ll complete this challenge. But it doesn’t matter as it’s just for fun. Actually it’s not just for fun. I desperately need my reading moments and I really REALLY want that badge on my Goodreads profile!

Have you made a reading challenge for 2016?

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban

harry potter

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K. Rowling
First Published: 1999
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars (average rating on Goodreads: 4.49)
The Beginning: Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways.

I started rereading this one in December when I had a bit of baby blues. With the huge terrifying change in my life, I needed a book that made me feel warm and fuzzy; like coming home and curling up under a blanket. Something magical with a hint of Christmas. In other words, I needed a dose of Harry Potter.

Hogsmeade looked like a Christmas card; the little thatched cottages and shops were all covered in a layer of crisp snow; there were holy wreaths on the doors and strings of enchanted candles hanging in the trees.

Having recently watched the first two movies, my choice naturally fell on the third book: The Prisoner of Azkaban. I liked it for all the reasons listed above. It was safe, familiar, warm and friendly. It held my hand when I was feeling shaky about being a mother, it padded me on the head and told me everything was going to be OK. The magic of books never ceases to amaze me!

I’d forgotten how good the third Harry Potter novel is (even though I reread the entire series only a couple of years ago). I like that Harry is starting to grow up and has a bit of an attitude when it comes to the Dursleys. And I adore Sirius Black! I’ve always had a bit of a crush on him. All in all it was perfect to revisit Hogwarts, Harry and the gang. It’s nice always to have this series to come back to. Thank you Rowling!

Don’t let the muggles get you down.

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