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Get read-y for 2012 banner

Now that December has arrived and I had a good and hard look at my reading challenges, it seems like the right moment to add another on the brink of the new year… Am I crazy? I assure you I’m not. ;)

Loving Books’ Get Read-y for 2012 Challenge is meant to help me get the books read I already wanted to finish!

Here’s my TBR pile for the rest of the year…

XY, by Sandro Veronesi. It’s the December read for my online book group, the Boekgrrls. I’m currently halfway this intriguing novel — giving me lots to think about!

Kandy, by the recently deceased F. Springer. A friend is visiting her place of birth, Sri Lanka, starting December 9th. Would love to read this book while she’s there!

I promised Elsje to buddy read Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes before the end of the year. Have to make good on my promise! This collection of short stories will also count for the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge and Japanese Literature Challenge #5.

Ian Buruma’s Dromen van China (The China Lover). The book I pledged to read for the Chinese Literature Challenge. Come on… I need to read just one book for this challenge. Host Chinoiseries cheered me on so I can’t let her down!

These three books are absolute MUSTS for me. Then there’s a few more I’d love to finish before the year is over. To begin with, these 3 are not enough for the 6 I need to accomplish my +11 in 2011 challenge, in which I try to read 11 more books than I did last year. Also, I’m currently 2 books short for the What’s in a name challenge #4. So, here’s what I’d further LIKE to read this month… (though I already know I will never manage to ;)

Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki. I had wanted to join in the Japanese Literature Book Group read of October & November, but missed out. As the book is on my shelf (and ‘just’ 254 pages long) I may be able to submit a late contribution?!

Cover The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins) for the JEWEL/STONE categorie in the What’s in a name challenge.

Cover Vernon God Little (DBC Pierre)DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little for the SIZE categorie in the What’s in a name challenge, or Little Bee by Chris Cleeve which I borrowed from Elsje and should be returned to its lawful owner. But that would be a good one for next year’s CREEPY CRAWLIES as well.. ;)

Of course I may just cheat to get to my goal of 40 books in in the +11 challenge and pick up some shorties as the month comes to an end… Cover Slaap / Sleep (Murakami)Like the most recent Dutch publication of a Murakami novel: Slaap (Sleep). ;)

You can still sign-up for the Get Read-y for 2012 challenge!

Sunday Salon logo

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

I love reading challenges. Not that I need any, but I like how they tend to shuffle my reading pile. Still, after feeling overwhelmed in 2010 I decided to be very careful with challenges in 2011. So I accepted only five! #goodgrrl :)

What’s the status now that December is around the corner? Am I getting stressed like last year? Do I feel accomplished? Need to get my act together and READ?

Completed 2011 reading challenges

Before I go any further I humbly bow my head and confess that even though I’ve read all the books I commited to for the following three challenges, I reviewed hardly any. 2011 has not been a great year of blogging for me. But as we’re talking reading challenges, I’ll consider my missions accomplished!

HARUKI MURAKAMI READING CHALLENGE

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover button

For the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge I chose level TORU (named after our dear friend from The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the first Murakami novel I ever laid my hands on). That means reading 5 books by the master (here’s my admission post). So far I’ve read 6 (!) and I plan to read one more before the year has ended — ask Elsje if you don’t believe me. ;) If I live up to my promiss that collection of short stories will lift me to the level of Nakata (from Kafka on the Shore).

Books read:

Hear the Wind Sing
Pinball, 1973
Underground
1q84 Boek 1
1q84 Boek 2
1q84 Boek 3

And yes, the Dutch translation of 1Q84 was published in three seperate volumes, coming out in June 2010 and April 2011. Also, the title is deliberately written with a lower case ‘Q’ because it much resembles a ‘9’. I like that and have no idea why it should be different in the Japanese original and English version. Us Dutchies are pedantic. ;)

Last week Elsje and I went to a lecture about Haruki Murakami by translator Luc Van Haute in Leiden’s Sieboldhuis. He explained to us how the often stated opinion that Murakami’s novels are not typically Japanese is just plain wrong. It was fun — I have a huge reading list of Japanese authors to follow up ;) — and we also got to see the Hello Kitty exhibition and meet ennazussuzanne and Seraphine, who surprised us with the gift of an origami bookmark! Aw, that’ll come to good use when reading… JLit!

JAPANESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE #5

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

The fifth Japanese Literature Challenge only started in June and runs to February, but on October 1st I had already finished the 6 books I commited to. That day I turned over the last page of 1Q84 Book 3. As I still plan to read Sōseki’s Kokoro for the Japanese Literature Book Group (I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!), and Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes together with Elsje, I’ll probably up my level by the end of January 2012.

Books read:

The Woman in the Dunes ~ Kobo Abe
Underground ~ Haruki Murakami
Thousand Cranes ~ Yasunari Kawabata
1q84 Boek 1 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 2 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 3 ~ Haruki Murakami

FOODIES READING CHALLENGE

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 button

In the Foodies reading Challenge I cowardly safely labeled myself a NIBBLER, going for 1 to 3 books (admission post). So far I’ve read 5, and –YAY– even reviewed two!

Books read:

World Food Café
La Dolce Vegan!
Bento Box in the Heartland
Verraad, verleiding en verzoening
Vegan Family Meals

I hope I can find the time and energy to write some more reviews!

Unfinished business

But I’m not there yet. With only five weeks to go I need to finish two more challenges… Will I be able to do it???

CHINESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE

Chinese Literature Challenge button

I was half a year late in joining the Chinese Literature Challenge and I full-heartedly use that as an excuse for why I haven’t reached my goal of 1 book yet. ;) Here’s what I plan to read. Cheer me on and maybe I’ll be able to cross of this challenge before the year has passed!

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #4

What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011)

The What’s in a name challenge is always one of my favourites. It’s a thrill to pick your next book just based on a random word in the title. Call me crazy. ;) Alas, this year I’m having trouble finishing: even though I read several more than one fitting titles for four of the six categories, two are still open!

Books read:

Categorie NUMBERS
Pinball, 1973 ~ Haruki Murakami
2666 ~ Roberto Bolaño
1q84 ~ Haruki Murakami

Categorie TRAVEL/MOVEMENT
Travels in the Scriptorium ~ Paul Auster
I’ll Steal You Away ~ Niccolò Ammaniti
Model Flying ~ Marcel Möring

Categorie EVIL
Poelie the Terrible ~ Frans Pointl
Crime School ~ Carol O’Connell

Categorie LIFE STAGE
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America ~ Linda Furiya

Still hoping to get around to:

Categorie JEWEL/GEM
The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

Categorie SIZE
Vernon God Little ~ DBC Pierre

BTW you can always follow my progress on the special Challenge page on Graasland!

What’s new for 2012?

2012 is more than a month away but I have already lined up some reading plans. Wanna know what they are?

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #5

What's in a name challenge #5 button

Of course I can’t resist participating in the new What’s in a name challenge. I must say that I never buy or borrow books specifically for this challenge — picking titles that are already on Mt TBR, or have been on my wishlist for quite some time, is part of the fun. So what are the categories for 2012 and which books fit the bill?

  • A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title
    Choosing from: Last Night in Twisted River, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
  • A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title
    Choosing from: The Moonstone, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, A Ride in the Neon Sun, Noorderzon (sun), Dead Air, Star of the Sea
  • A book with a creepy crawly in the title
    Choosing from: Little Bee, Een tafel vol vlinders (‘A table loaded with butterflies‘)
  • A book with a type of house in the title
    Choosing from: The Graveyard Book, Black Box, Het huis op de plantage (‘House on the plantation‘)
  • A book with something you’d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title
    Choosing from: Dreaming Water, Water for ElephantsMet bonzend hart : brieven aan Hella S. Haasse (‘With a throbbing heart: letters to Hella S. Haasse‘) [open to suggestions]
  • A book with a something you’d find on a calendar in the title
    Choosing from: The Eigth Day, Silence in October, Nocturnes

Don’t you think I have a whole lot of books available just to pick from? :))

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES GROUP READ

Let me state first that I haven’t commited to the following task yet. I’m only considering it! Caravana de Recuerdos hosts a Roberto Bolaño The Savage Detectives readalong in January. I have the book on my shelf — it was a recommendation by the great author Kazuo Ishiguro — and I guess now is as good as ever. Especially since I didn’t much appreciate Bolaño’s 2666, which I read together with Leeswammes & Co. earlier this year. I’d better say it’s now.. or never!

Are you making plans for 2012 yet?
Looking back on your accomplishments for 2011?
I’d love to know!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? logoSince I didn’t get to write my Sunday Salon post yesterday due to Sinterklaas baking (apple pie with almond paste), cooking (Bisschopswijn, similar to mulled wine) & other festivities (cheese fondue), I decided to join in again with Book Journey’s It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme. You can read more about Saint Nicholas in the Virtual Advent Tour blogposts of Leeswammes and Iris on Books by the way. And join their giveaways!

Today I’m halfway The (Temple of the) Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, a Japanese Literature Book Group read. The discussion post is already up, if you’d care to take a look. I’ve put part of the book title in brackets because in Dutch the novel is just called Het Gouden Paviljoen, without the temple-part. The translator, C. Ouwehand, argues that the Japanese name Kinkakuji is used for both the temple of the Golden Pavilion and the entire building.

Currently reading: The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) by Yukio MishimaNow you know how I like to use an appropriate bookmark when I’m reading? This time I have the perfect one! It shows a picture of the Golden Pavilion and is part of a series of 6 Kyoto temples. It was a prize in last year’s Hello Japan! challenge about Kyoto temples.

So far the novel seems like a ‘tidal’ read: pulling me in and pushing me away. The story about a stuttering (or does he have a stammer?), troubled youngster training to be a buddhist priest at Kinkaku-ji, keeps you at a distance as the protagonist is not really someone to relate to. Still, several times I found that I was thinking about the story and its characters when I was nowhere near the book. As if it has taken possession of me. So I definitely want to read on and finish it, no matter how long this will take me.

But I do want to hurry up a little. There are several other books on my agenda for this month!

Two weeks ago I held a poll about what book to read next. Nadeem Aslam’s novel The Wasted Vigil is a clear winner and I’d really love to pick it up soon and buddy read it with my friend MaaikeB. She’s already started!

Also, my Dutch online book group the Boekgrrls is reading Caos calmo this month, for which author Sandro Veronesi won the prestigious Strega Prize. Next weekend I’ll be able to borrow a copy from Mr Gnoe’s aunty C.

And last but not least I have something put aside especially for the holidays: The Christmas Quilt, by Thomas J. Davies, which I won earlier this year in Velvet’s giveaway. I’m determined to beat my reading slump and get at least some of these books done this month!

Other bookish things

Signed book: Leugens en lotgenotenI received a surprise book from Ailantus publishers. When I got the parcel I thought for a minute I had won their contest for a signed translation of David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: De onverhoorde gebeden van Jacob de Zoet. Of course we have our own signed English copy, but we’d like to own a Dutch translation as well because of the link with Holland.

Alas, it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for. BUT. It is a very appropriate gift! Leugens en lotgenoten (‘Lies and Fellow Sufferers‘), signed by Jan Willem Smeets, is about two brothers that have been detained in WWII Japanese prison camps as children. That has my interest because so was my dad! One of the boys in the book goes back to Indonesia as an adult; something I would like to do someday too: visit my father’s birth land.

And then there’s a new What’s in a Name challenge (#4) about to start! I finished reading all entries for #3 but I still need to write up a wrap-up post reviewing most of them. Will get to that — I hope. Next year’s categories are:

    What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011) 

  1. A book with a number in the title (Pinball 1973 or 1Q84 or The 19th Wife or 2666)
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title (The Moonstone)
  3. A book with a size in the title (Vernon God Little)
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title (I’ll Steal You Away or The Elephant Vanishes or…)
  5. A book with evil in the title (Savage Detectives or Crime School or Lies and Fellow Sufferers or PROBABLY Poelie de Verschrikkelijke (‘Poelie the Terrible‘))
  6. A book with a life stage in the title (Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America)

As you can see I have some titles from Mt TBR lined up already, but I definitely need to go have a look at my shelf and compose a complete list and admission post. Mr Gnoe and I are having a discussion about ‘savage': he would not label that as something evil… What do you think?

So much to do & read — good thing we’ll be having a few days of at the end of this month!

A week of plenty. I received two acclaimed books (& other great goodies) from my Secret Santa Valentina in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. And I started looking ahead to 2010 by making some reading plans, joining the Women Unbound reading challenge and What’s in a Name #3.

In the meantime I’m slowly progressing in volume 2 of I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki, for the Japanese Literature Read-along (deadline next Tuesday). That might sound as if it’s a heavy task but I’m actually enjoying part two even more than the first. JLit Host tanabata created a ‘wave’ to talk about Japanese literature, which got me to finally check out Google Wave… Well, I haven’t really figured it all out yet ;) I guess I need to look for a GW for Dummies book ;)

But I shouldn’t spend any more money on readables right now because The Book Depository was mean kind enough to have a 10% holiday discount — and to tweet about it. Of course I couldn’t resist :\ So I’m awaiting four (!) new books that I’ll have to find reading time for :) You’ll hear about them once they’ve arrived!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

As you know I have joined next year’s What’s in a Name challenge, hosted by Beth F. Even though it is not compulsory I decided to try and compile a list of books fitting the categories — just to keep myself on track. Of course I might change titles along the way.

  1. Category food: Living Among Meat Eaters by Carol J. Adams (non-fiction), or The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (‘Zoet’ in this title being a Dutch surname meaning ‘sweet’).
    * read in April – May *
  2. Category body of water: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving,
    or The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch.
    * read in July *
  3. Category title: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.
    * read in January *
  4. Category plant: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
    * read in August *
    And The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
    * read in August – September *
  5. Category place name: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi ( an ancient capital, Unesco World Heritage Site in what is now Iran)
    * read in September *
    Or The China Lover by Ian Buruma.
  6. Category music term: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.
    * read in April *
    And Silence by Shusaku Endo.
    * read in June *

Can I start now? Please? ;)

You must admit that I’ve been really strong so far, not signing up for any 2010 reading challenges even though the rest of the book blogging world seemed to be doing so. Well, before you start congratulating me: today I could no longer resist… :)

Beth Fish Reads is taking over the third What’s in a Name challenge. I liked participating in #2 and I did finish reading all my entries… I just still need to review –whispers– half of them :\ Well, I’ll get to that. Someday.

Here’s the new challenge in brief: between January 1st and December 31st I need to read one book in each of the following categories.

  1. A book with a food in the title.
  2. A book with a body of water in the title.
  3. A book with a title (queen, president, sir) in the title.
  4. A book with a plant in the title.
  5. A book with a place name (country, city) in the title.
  6. A book with a music term in the title.

Ha! I am quickly going to browse my shelves for books to be admitted to this challenge! :)) Maybe I should postpone my Boekgrrls December read, The Gargoyle, to January? ;) No need: in April we’ll be reading John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River! There are two other titles on our list that would fit loosely, but I want to play fair — to begin with :)

Another challenge that I’ve had my eyes on has already started: the Women Unbound challenge, running from November 2009 until November 2010. When I was reading The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata last month I kept thinking about this challenge. So now I’ve actually made the decision to join! I just need to figure out which level: Philogynist (“read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one”) must be doable since I have already read Kawabata and will definitely pick up Sei Shonagon’s classic The Pillow Book soon, which counts for non-fiction. But it should be a challenge! Of course I could always upgrade along the way?

Since the Japanese Literature Challenge is running until February 2010, I am now officially participating in three 2010 reading challenges before the year has even started. Add the remaining three books of my personal 2008-2009 challenge to that and you’ll all think that I must be crazy. So be it. I love you too ;)

After I went on a biking trip to Austerlitz Pyramid I started reading Martin Bril‘s book The Little Emperor (De kleine keizer in Dutch). Its subtitle is Account of a Passion, describing the author’s quest in search of Napoleon Bonaparte. That means I am participating in the What’s in a Name reading challenge with another non-fiction book (category: profession)!

The monument in Austerlitz was built in 1804 by the army of general Marmont, to celebrate the French ruling of Holland. Inspired by his adventures with Napoleon in Egypt, he let his soldiers make a pyramid… At first it was called Mount Marmont but soon Louis Napoleon of Holland renamed the structure, commemorating the victory of his brother in Austrian Austerlitz. To be honest this folly isn’t really impressive in real life…

But my trip to this historic site was (of course) not the main reason for wanting to read Martin Bril’s book about Napoleon. My interest was triggered by the first paragraph (in Dutch but I’ll paraphrase afterwards):

“De kist staat open. Op het eerste gezicht zit er niets in, anders dan wat proppen wit, zacht ritselend papier. Eén voor één haalt Mark van Hattem, conservator van het Legermuseum in Delft, ze eruit. Bijna eerbiedig legt hij ze terzijde.
Hij wordt op de vingers gekeken door een jonge, stille Fransman in dienst van het Musée de l’Armée in Parijs – waar de kist vandaan komt. [..] De sfeer is bijna plechtig, hoewel elders in de zaal wordt geboord en gezaagd. De voorbereidingen voor de tentoonstelling ‘Voor Napoleon. Hollanders in oorlogstijd, 1792-1815‘ zijn in volle gang.
Als bijna alle proppen uit de kist zijn verwijderd, blijft er een groot, wit pakket over. Aan de vorm is te zien wat erin zit, zo beroemd (of berucht) is die vorm: een steek, Napoleons hoofddeksel. Van Hattem aarzelt, mag hij het pakket uit de kist tillen? Hij kijkt naar de vertegenwoordiger van het Musée de l’Armée, die glimlacht.”

The paragraph describes Bril’s visit to the Dutch Army Museum in Delft, where he was allowed to witness the unpacking of Napoleon’s cocked hat in preparation of an exhibtion about the emperor’s time in Holland. And… I was working at the museum at that time! When the curator and the French supervisor weren’t paying attention for a minute, Bril managed to secretly touch this relic of Napoleon for a minute! Sssshhht! ;)

Cover De kleine keizerIn The Little Emperor Martin Bril reports of his Napoleon craze: for a long time he read everything about the man and he went on a pilgrimage to several historically important sites to get a feeling of ‘the events’. He paints a vivid image of Napoleon Bonaparte as a person — and also of himself as an author. His enthusiasm is contagious, his short chapters are easily readable and most times arresting.

A few days before he died in april this year, Martin Bril was awarded the Bob den Uyl Prize for The Little Emperor. The annual award is given to the author of the best literary and/or journalistic travelogue of the previous year. I’m afraid the book hasn’t been translated into other languages (yet). But there are a lot of Napoleon aficionados around the globe that might be waiting for another prize-winning book about the emperor? So you never know what happens next.

It would be cool to bookcross my copy of The Little Emperor at the Pyramid of Austerlitz… But nah, I’ll just keep it as a memento! ;)

I feel like I’ve been on a long (and sometimes arduous) expedition. I started reading The Mapmaker’s Wife on Quatorze Juillet, the French national holiday, and it took me more than f i v e weeks to finish those 350 pages of non-fiction by Robert Whitaker! I could have lost a lot of weight during this undertaking, but thankfully I didn’t (according to a fact on page 261):

Because women have a higher percentage of body fat, they tend to outlast men in starvation situations.

Isabel Godin GramesónThat information might come in handy ;) So, who is the mapmaker’s wife? Isabel Gramesón, a Peruvian girl who married Jean Godin (geographer in a 18th century scientific expedition at the equator), when she was thirteen years old. The title suggests the book is all about her — but it isn’t. For the most part it’s the story of the French-Spanish quest that meant to solve the Newtonian – Cartesian dispute about the shape of the earth: flattened at the poles or elongated, with a ‘waist’ at the equator. More details about this mission can be found in Monalisa(a)’s journal entry of the book — her enthusiasm made me participate in this Bookcrossing bookring (that is almost at the end of its journey).

Even though the main subject is not what you expect beforehand, The Mapmaker’s Wife is an interesting read. Scientists of the Enlightment still had lots to discover! Jean Godin and his group were the first foreigners allowed by the Spanish rulers to explore the New World in 1735. So their curiosity went way beyond their main objective: measuring a degree of latitude at the equator. Their expedition took 9 years — and even (much) longer for those members of the team that couldn’t return home immediately.

Cover The Mapmaker's WifeI sometimes felt that the author identified too much with the ‘scientific omnivores’ of that time. There were soooo many details holding up the story. In example: a long way into the history I really didn’t feel the need to hear extensively about Riobamba city. I wanted to learn more about the characters (some of whom I didn’t get to know very well at all). Let’s say that in his enthusiasm, Whitaker was very thorough ;)

This might also be the cause of why Isabel’s story only really starts somewhere in the second half of the book. And that is when it all gets very exciting. After having been separated from her husband for about 20 years, Isabel has to conquer the Amazon rain forest by herself to be able to join Jean in French Guyana and move to France with him. At times her journey left me in complete horror. And pretty astonished in the end! It is a moving tale, well worth reading.

Maybe I would have finished the book quicker had I read it in my native tongue (Dutch) — and maybe then I would have been less bored occasionally because of the scientific descriptions that I didn’t all ‘get’ but couldn’t find worth looking up? It did trigger associations with some favorite cinema though: Longitude, a tv-series about the 18th century quest to find the key to determining longitude, and one of my most cherished movies about a repenting slave trader in South America: The Mission. Attentive readers may notice that Jeremy Irons plays a main part in both ;) I will definitely watch The Mission again on a rainy day this autumn! I advise you to do the same :)

But for now: if you want to get a feeling of the adventures in The Mapmaker’s Wife, you can explore the book’s website where you’ll find reproductions of prints made by the expedition members, a copy of Jean Godin’s letter in which he takes 7000 words to describe his wife’s perils and, last but not least, a slide show of the author, Robert Whitaker, retracing Isabel’s steps in 2002.

Myself, I am going on another journey with a female traveler in the New World: next I will be reading Away, by Amy Bloom.

It must have been ten years ago that I started reading Elizabeth George’s mystery series about detective Barbara Havers and DCI Thomas Lynley from Scotland Yard. Yes, I’ve taken my time: picking one up every once in a while, in chronological order. Reading these books is a treat: the characters are familiar and their personal lives run through the story as a continuous thread. I also find it relaxing that I know what to expect :)

A minor point of critique is that each following tome seems to get heavier. That is partly why I hadn’t read a ‘Lynley Mystery’ (as the tv-adaptions are called) for a long time — since 2007! But when I had a short vacation last month I was really eager to meet my old ‘friends’ again and I took the first of 3 unread Georges of the shelf: With No One As Witness. I enjoyed it very much! And the ending is REALLY exciting!

Cover What Came Before He Shot HerSo I treated myself and immediately grabbed the next one: What Came Before He Shot Her. I had a good excuse in that the title fits nicely in the ‘What’s in a namereading challenge I joined. At least I think so ;) I’m filing it under the ‘Medical Condition category’…

Beware of spoilers in the rest of this post!

Oooooow how disappointed I was on discovering about 50 pages into the book that there was not going to be a murdercase to begin with! Worse, it appeared this book was not a mystery at all but a psychological novel about people I hardly knew! Whilst I was dying to hear (no pun intended) if Lynley would come back to work and how Havers and Nakata would cope with everything going on.

Thankfully the story grabbed me anyway around page 100. I usually stop at this point if a book still doesn’t engage me. But What Came Before He Shot Her became the gripping telling of three Campbell children of mixed race: Joel, Ness and Toby, who come to live with their aunt in a poor, black neighbourhood in London. Precocious adolescent Ness is a girl on the loose, detached and estranged from her brothers. Joel, being 12 year old and still a child himself, is required to take care of their younger brother Toby, who is a bit ‘behind’ mentally and depends on the guidance and protection of his brother to survive in the outside world.

On the bus even in a place like London, [..] the Campbell children still garnered looks, each for a reason peculiar to the individual. In Toby it was the great bald patches across his head, where his half-grown hair was wispy and far too thin for a seven-year-old boy, as well as the life ring, which took up too much space and from which he resolutely refused to be parted even so much as to remove it from his waist and “bleeding hold it in front of you, for God’s sake,” as Ness demanded. In Ness herself, it was the unnatural darkness of her skin, obviously enhanced by make-up, as if she were trying to be more of what she only partially was. Had she shed her jacket, it would also have been the rest of the clothing beyond her jeans: the sequined top that left her midriff bare and put her voluptuous breasts on display. And in Joel it was, and would always be, his face covered by the tea-cake-size splotches that could never be called freckles but were instead a physical expression of the ethnic and racial battle that his blood had gone through from the moment of his conception.

What Came Before He Shot Her is a compelling but depressing story. All through the book I kept hoping that the protagonist and his family would live happily ever after. Against better judgment I stayed optimistic that we would get to know about the family “after he shot her”. But the harder Joel tried to fix things, the deeper they all got in trouble. I felt sooo sorry for him; it is SO unfair! I kept wanting to give ‘m a good shaking and tell those people to C O M M U N I C A T E. But in their troublesome lives the Campbell children have learnt to stick together through thick and thin, and keep their family secrets to themselves. Disastrous.

The author has proven she can write other stories than mysteries. But I am grateful the next book in row is a real detective story again. Alas, after 1500+ pages and a month of reading Elizabeth George, it is time to start something else. On top of Mt. TBR is The Mapmaker’s Wife, by Robert Whitaker (also fitting the What’s in a name challenge), a Bookcrossing bookring. But I am still keeping my hopes up that in Careless In Red, the last George on TBR, all will end well for Joel and his siblings… I am a cotton ball. Meaning I’m a sentimental person — and getting softer with the years ;) What is the correct English expression?

What's in a name 2(009) buttonAfter stumbling upon it in Puss Reboots Weekly Geeks post, I decided to join the ‘What’s in a Name?reading challenge (2nd edition): 6 different ‘themes’ requiring a fitting title.

It’s a bit sneaky of me that I can already cross of five of them but hey, it is supposed to be fun right? I just hope I won’t be castigated for taking the categories too loosely… :\ No need to add extra stress to my reading life!

So, here’s the list!

  1. A book with a ‘profession‘ in its title:
    The Little Emperor (Dutch title: De kleine keizer), by Martin Bril
    read in May
  2. A book with a ‘time of day‘ in its title:
    The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    read in January
  3. A book with a ‘relative‘ in its title:
    The Mapmaker’s Wife, by Robert Whitaker
    awaiting bookring
    This title also fits review theme 1: profession!
  4. A book with a ‘body part‘ in its title:
    Grey Souls (Dutch title: Grijze zielen), by Philippe Claudel
    read in January
    In Cold Blood
    , by Truman Capote
    read in November
  5. A book with a ‘building‘ in its title:
    Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh — I could have put this one at 3 (‘bride’) or 4 (‘head’) as well LOL
    read in April
  6. A book with a ‘medical condition‘ in its title:
    What came before he shot her, by Elizabeth George
    reading in June

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