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I slept for eight hours last night, stayed awake for 3 1/2 hours then took a six hour nap. Now I'm almost ready for bed again. An hour or so ago I drove to the corner store - one minute away - picked up apple juice, Fresca, and cat food, and came home so exhausted that I was shaking. I'm still feverish. It really sucks when you're alone in the world and there's no one to take care of you when you're sick.

I read in bed last night until I was struggling to keep my eyes open, but finished the second in Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's Martin Beck series. This was The Man who went up in Smoke, from 1966. Sjowall and her partner Wahloo are often credited as the forerunners in Scandinavian noir crime fiction, and I am inclined to agree. I love the immense amount of detail and character development in these books, the dreary mind of their protagonist, his search for meaning when life and his job seem pointless. Martin Beck is a very flawed character - an early Kurt Wallander or Harry Hole. He never feels well, he has a low boredom threshold, his marriage and his relationship with his children are both tenuous, his co-workers irritate him, he smokes too much. One of the things that makes the Martin Beck novels as unusual as they are is that whole chapters go by with no plot development because absolutely nothing is happening in the case, but yet Sjowall and Wahloo manage to keep the reader's attention by their descriptive paragraphs, and by having their protagonist suffer the pangs of wondering if anything is ever going to happen, just as the reader is doing. All in all it was an excellent mystery with an unforeseen conclusion. I am planning to continue reading the series bit by bit.

I've only read about thirty pages today; I started Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. I don't know what to make of it yet. It seems an odd tale, but I'm interested to see where it's going.

Good night, all.
princessofburundi: (books and candle)
I didn't do a ton of reading in April, but I did manage six books:

books read in April )
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So I've given up on reading The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly. It's awful. And you know a book is awful when you're avoiding all reading in order to escape from a bad book. This book was a bad rip-off of Jurassic Park, but set in China, and using dragons instead of dinosaurs. I remember how tightly written Crichton's Jurassic Park was and how bad this is in comparison. The dialogue is so bad. I hate not finishing books, but I'm going to pass on completing this one.

Instead, I'm going to read A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, which is the first in a series of urban fantasy novels set in London. I don't always like urban fantasy, but the back of the book really intrigued me, and the clerk in the bookstore was very positive about it; she was reading the second in the series at the time.

I'm continuing to make my slow way forward in The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukerjee. It's fascinating reading. I'm only reading a bit at a time because my brain can only process a little science in one go, but it is excellent, terribly informative without being incomprehensible. I highly recommend it.

My reading trend is to be reading something fictional, with short bursts of non-fiction a few days a week. I'd like to start reading Les Miserables bit by bit in the same way I do with non-fiction, but it's still sitting there on the coffee table gathering dust. I think I might try The Hunchback of Notre Dame instead; I am determined to read all the big fat classics before my eventual death. Hopefully that's decades away because there is so much left to read!
princessofburundi: (books and candle)
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, 2013, 403 pages, 4.5/5 stars

A Tale for the Time Being, written by Canadian-dwelling American-born Ruth Ozeki, takes place on a remote island in the temperate rainforest of British Columbia, in Tokyo, and in Fukushima Prefecture before the tidal wave and subsequent nuclear meltdown. Ruth, a writer living on the Canadian island (identifiable as Cortes Island) finds amongst the flotsam on the beach a diary, a watch, and some letters inside a plastic bag. Their provenance proves to be Japanese, the diary of Nao, a schoolgirl in Tokyo. The diary tells of Nao's problems with severe bullying, her father's suicide attempts, and her own relationship with her great-grandmother, who is a Zen Buddhist nun living in the Japanese countryside. As Ruth reads the diary, her tale becomes entwined with Nao's, and in a dreamlike fashion, their narratives of both females affect the outcome of the other's story.

I really liked most of the book. It was written in a style that I've never read before: the people on Cortes are Ruth and Oliver; the author's name is Ruth and she is married to a man named Oliver, and they live in Cortes. It was hard to distinguish where memoir and fiction divided. The details of everyday life in Japan and in the Buddhist monastery of Nao's great-grandmother very much interested me, as Japanese culture is so alien to my own and thus my curiosity was piqued.

However, the final sixty pages of the book left me cold. I can tolerate a small amount of magical realism in novels, but it is not my favourite literary device, and without giving away any of the ending, I can say that magical realism took over, much to my irritation. I find it disatisfying; I am one of those people who likes books and movies to have a definite ending, not to leave me guessing what the outcome is. For the most part, though, I found the book intelligent, unique, and riveting, and would not hesitate to recommend it.


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