Month: September 2012

City of Bones – Cassandra Clare

Oh yes…. another young adult novel, which, surprise, is part of a series (The Mortal Instruments). It has all the characteristics of YA novels: teenage protagonist, brooding hunk, life and death situations, supernatural elements, sexual tension, and missing parental influence. There are times when I think, is this, what literature is coming to, but I also find these easy reads alluring. They are the comparable to cookie dough ice cream – wickedly good, but once you’ve had enough – you’ve really had enough.   “City of Bones” is about Clary Fray, who is raised as a mundane, but is beginning to see supernatural entities. Her mother goes missing, and Clary teams up with a group of teenage demon hunters wielding swords and a whip to navigate New York’s underworld of vampires, witches, were-wolves and whatnot. The novel is fast-paced and entertaining, but not memorable. I enjoyed a story world that integrates the different supernatural species in a convincing way. I am not speeding to the library to borrow the next in the series. “City of Bones” …

A Week in December – Sebastian Faulks

There is something about Sebastian Faulks; I so would like to say that his novels are sheer genius, but my gut says no. I have read “Birdsong” and now “A week in December” and let me just remind you that my gut is subjective and does not belong to an English professor. Sebastian Faulks’ aim with “A week in December” is evident – to portray the zeitgeist of today (2007) through a series of storylines that interconnect and characters that are somewhat typical: the hedge fund manager, the teenager addicted to skunk and reality TV, the tube driver who escapes in novels and a virtual reality, an Islamic religious young man, a barrister without cases, and a book reviewer who trashes contemporary literature. None of these characters are sympathetic or worthy of a novel themselves and in some ways it seems to me that Sebastian Faulk simply uses the novel to flaunt his research in the Koran and trade in derivatives. I generally love when stories come full circle, but Sebastian Faulks takes the full …

Atalanta – i gudindens skygge – Annika Eibe

Knap 500 sider med en gendigtning af græske sagnhistorier, men siderne gled hurtigt forbi mit læsefelt, som historien om Atalanta udfoldede sig med den største selvfølgelighed og læsevenlighed. En spæd Atalanta efterlades af sin far i en skov for at dø, men gudinde Artemis griber ind og sammen med mange af de andre gudinde begaver hun Atalanta med både styrke, skønhed og indsigt. Atalantas skæbne er i Artemis’ hænder og hun hvirvles ud på en rejse, hvor hovedtemaet er hendes færd som eneste kvindelige argonaut med Jason i hans søgen efter det gyldne skind. Gendigtninger er svære. Forfatteren skal holde sig til det materiale, der allerede foreligger og samtidigt fremføre det på en ny og spændende måde. Annika Eibe kommer flot rundt om den action-præget historie tilsat en rundhåndet dosis romantik. Atalanta er, som jeg formoder oldtidens grækere var, hele tiden i klemme mellem hendes egen vilje og gudernes indgriben, og det er den facet af historien, som mest betog mig. Annika Eibe viser på fremragende vis, hvordan guderne sidder på Olympen og har deres …

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary – Susan Elia MacNeal

British born, American raised Maggie Hope works at No. 10 Downing Street as a typist, despite her qualifications as a mathematician. She is caught by circumstances in London during World War II, trying to sell her late grandmother’s house. The Blitz, war devastation, murder, espionage and secrets color the picture in this off-to-the-side-yet-right-in-the-middle-of-the-action historical novel (se below). “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” is an excellent period piece in which plot and historical precision and description complement each other. I especially enjoyed the breadth of historical treats in “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary”. There are Downing Street politics, WWII, IRA, gender issues, everyday details and much more. Despite this I would still call the novel an easy read. Off-to-the-side-yet-right-in-the-middle-of-the-action historical novel: maybe I should elaborate. Susan Elia MacNeal has chosen a typist as her protagonist based on memoires from real life typists. A brilliant choice in my opinion. Maggie Hope is not based on a historical superstar, but off to the side support personnel. Still the storyline action packed and believable (with a discretionary leap of faith). “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” …

The Body Artist – Don DeLillo

This is my first DeLillo encounter and I was unsure what to expect. After the first sequence of a married couple eating breakfast, I was skeptical, but as I finished the novella, my thoughts were: Yes! This is grief, the passivity that is without being, just sustaining – until it takes on another form and leads inexplicably to living. In other reviews of “The Body Artist” there is a summary and strangely enough sometimes only a summary, but I find the storyline secondary to the state(s) of mind that ebb and flow in the main character. Others argue whether a certain character is retarded or a ghost; I find this irrelevant. I find that the atmosphere of grief, passivity, and time are the main objectives together with the language of free association and second-guessing. If “The Body Artist” was a 400-page novel, it would be too long and too chaotic, but in the novella form, free association and finding existential truths in banalities corresponds with reality. That said I do love the way everything is …

Half-blood Blues – Esi Edugyan

“Half-blood Blues” is one of those on-the-beat, award-winning, must-read books and this time I actually read it while it was on-the-beat and did not leave it to mature in my library, but I was not completely blown away. The story is unfolded in two tempi: up to and during World War II, when the musicians of a jazz band flee Berlin and come to Paris and in 1992 when two of these musicians return to Berlin to attend a festival for a fellow musician, who was taken by the Nazis in 1945. I did not find the story that compelling. Furthermore, the two main characters in the 1992-plotline really tested my patience, albeit in two different ways. I do agree in the novel’s must-read status nonetheless. “Half-blood Blues” is definitely original; I have never read or heard of another novel about the struggles of jazz musicians during the Reich or the plight of blacks or half-bloods regardless of their nationality during the Nazi regime. This was the eye-opener for me. Also the narrative style deserves …

Tehanu – Ursula K. Le Guin

“The Farthest Shore” and “Tehanu” were written almost 20 years apart, but they are the only books in the Earthsea quartet that have a continuous storyline. Ged leaves the furthest reaches of Earthsea in “The Farthest Shore” by air and returns to the island of his birth, Gont in “Tehanu”. Despite this, there is still a certain distance between the two books, which is a facet, I particularly like about the Earthsea quartet. The narrator of “Tehanu” is Tenar, known from “The Tombs of Atuan“. She is now an elderly woman, living in what anonymity a foreigner can achieve on the island of Gont. Tenar is a widow with grown up children, who saves a burnt, abandoned child and cares for it as her own. She tends to Ogion, who the reader will remember from “A Wizard of Earthsea” when he is on his deathbed and his dying words instruct her to teach the child everything. “Tehanu” is about being without (magical) powers. Tenar and Ged have been powerful and esteemed in many ways: Tenar …