2014's reading journal. One book at a time..

Some kind of slow and boring and dragging

Some Kind of Peace: A Novel - Camilla Grebe, sa Trff, Paul Norlen
“It’s impossible to see through a person. You can’t tell from the outside whether someone has performed evil actions or had evil thoughts. If a person has decided to conceal or withhold parts of himself, it is extremely difficult to see through the lies and discover the omitted truth.”

Some Kind of Peace opened with a prologue showing a teenage girl had died outside her house and two people (presumably her parents) found her body. We then proceeded to chapter 1 and met our protagonist, Siri Bergman, a psychologist who was in the middle of a therapy session with one of her patient, Sara, who was later murdered by Siri’s stalker.

I dove into this book thinking it was a heart stopping thriller or at least a decent mystery judging from the number of glowing reviews that I’ve seen; alas, I was in for a disappointment. The novel itselfwas well written and easy to read. In fact, I really like the writing style. The story was told from first person point of view by Siri and there were the occassional third person point of view of Siri’s mysterious stalker. However, the problem for me lied with the main character, Siri and it affected my enjoyment of the storyline. 

Siri was a flawed character. Despite her being a psychologist and giving therapies to her patients, she herself actually needed help too. She had recently lost her husband, Stefan, and she also had few other problems such as her fear of the dark (she had to keep all the lights in her house on) and her dependant on alcohol to help her sleep. Now, all these actually made her much more interesting in my opinion. However, when things started to go bad for her, I expected more and she let me down. Not only did she continue being foolishly stubborn, for a smart woman, she made a number of stupid decisions. She also had the habit of thinking the worst of everyone and jumping to conclusion which annoyed me. Siri did redeem herself in the end though when she finally accepted that she needed help and attended therapy, so hooray for Siri. 

“The intent is more important that the cause. The cause is mechanical, the intent has a direction, a force of its own.”

The identity of Siri’s stalker was predictable although the way the end played out was rather unexpected and kinda came out of the nowhere after the long and slow storyline. It was also sad and horrible the way this person had used as well as hurt (even killed) people just for revenge / misguided sense of justice.

“I was forced to do it. For her sake... forced to see that justice was done. That was the only way, the only way to get... some kind of peace.”
Reblogged from Mikela:
"One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody. ~ Mother Teresa

Some Kind Of Peace reading update

Some Kind of Peace: A Novel - Camilla Grebe, sa Trff, Paul Norlen

83% - What I feel so far for Siri is detachment. I just can't sympathize with her and at some points, I even think she's foolishly hardheaded. I have a theory concerning Stefan's death and I hope it's right.

Literary exploration insane challenge update 1

Non fiction - Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays by Joan Didion

Gothic - The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve

Autobiography - The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini

Horror - Dark Echo by F.G. Cottam


So far, I've read 4/36 books. I'm really enjoying this challenge. All these authors are new to me too so cheers to literary exploration challenge!

A collection of essays on 1960s California

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays - Joan Didion
"Our favorite people and our favorite stories become so not by any inherent virtue, but because they illustrate something deep in the grain, something unadmitted."

All the essays are insightful and well written. However, I like some more than the others. So, I am only going to talk about those I like here. My favorite are Some Dreamers of the Golden DreamWhere The Kissing Never StopOn Keeping Notebook, and Goodbye to All That.

"The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people,"she said. "The hardest is with one."

I love this quotation from Where Kissing Never Stop, where Didion wrote about Joan Baez and her school. The "she" here is Joan Baez talking about her feeling during concerts.

On Keeping Notebook is meaningful in ways that I feel as if she speaks my mind. I have the habit of keeping notebook where I jot down random sentences that looking back, there are times when I actually don't remember what they even mean or why I write them down. But like all memories, they all eventually come back to me. Also, Didion wrote that, essentially the notebook is all about "I", which I wholeheartedly agree.

Goodbye to All That is definitely my favorite piece in this book. It speaks how I feel during the years high school and college. I am from a small village and spends those years in what is known in my country as "The City". No matter how long I stay there, it is never home. I'm glad I've found this and I know I'll read it again when I feel lonely out there. 

Now, I'll be honest, I've never heard of Joan Baez or most of the places mentioned prior to Slouching towards Bethlehem which makes me like these essays more. They give me quite a handful of things to learn and read on. They also act as a time machine and give insight into what it's like in 1960s through the eyes of Didion.

A hero's quest for robbed inheritance

The Old English Baron: a Gothic Story - Clara Reeve

Firs published in 1777, this was an ambitious re-write of Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. Since I've read Walpole's gothic novel, I was curious to know what the re-write has to offer. And to be honest, despite the negative reviews, I liked The Old English Baron much more than I did The Castle of Otranto.

Edmund, the hero, was a pious, good, noble and all the other good qualities that can be found in this world. The Baron even favored him over everyone although blood relationships made him discreet in his treatment. Everyone who met him loved him, except the villains, who were of course evil and incapable of appreciating his qualities. (Meh!) Which made Sir Robert appeared more interesting than the rest of them. He did not like Edmund due to his cousins' insinuations, however, he also did not unreasonably cruel to him. 

As per the requirement of most Gothic novels, there were the mysterious infants, lost/robbed inheritance, wronged relatives, and plenty of weeping. Also, Reeve further introduced another trend, kneeling. There was plenty of kneeling that can be found here. 

A dark echo from the twenties

Dark Echo - F.G. Cottam

I was taken by Dark Echo right from the very first page. It was unputdownable.

The story was told from the perspective of Martin Stannard. He accompanied his father, Magnus to buy a boat for his retirement plan. The boat was the famous Dark Echo, once belonged to Harry Spalding. It didn't take long though before they noticed there was more to the boat. There were the unexplained accidents that befell the workers who tried to restore the boat, its enigmatic first owner, and the boat's own mysterious past. All in all, these provided a good chilly build up for the story. 

Cottam also blending in few historical figures such as Mick Collins, Harry Boland (who were portrayed in ways that made me want to learn more about them), and mentioned few others such as Bricktop, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway etc. for the effect of the 1920s. The First World War also had a major part in explaining the connections and solving the ultimate mystery of the dark force. In fact, the prologue took place during WWI.

The book introduced various characters; and they each had a distinctive voice. My favorite characters were Suzanne, Martin's girlfriend and Jayne Boyte. I liked Suzanne right from her first appearance. We saw further of her character development when the story was switch from Martin's first person of view to Suzanne in third in person. She was smart, intelligent, resourceful and I found to be admirable. Her love for Martin and her not giving up the fight in order to save him and his father made her much more likable to me. I enjoyed reading from her perspective more than that of Martin's. As for Jayne Boyte, she was a fun and remarkable woman for her era. And maybe in a way, she was reincarnated as Suzanne. 

The few things I didn't like was one, I thought the story was a bit dragging prior to the voyage; two, the ending was disappointing. After the sinister build up, I expected more or at least a twisty dark ending. Three, there was one instance where Martin mentioned something that seemed important at the beginning, but then it was never brought up again. So, that was a little meh.

16th Century Celebrity Tell-All

The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini - Benvenuto Cellini, George Bull
"All men, whatever be their condition, who have done anything of merit, or which verily has a semblance of merit, if so be they are men of truth and good repute, should write the tale of their life with their own hand."

I was compelled to read Cellini’s Autobiography after I read Muriel Spark’s Loitering With Intent, where the protagonist, Fleur Talbot mentioned this book a number of times and even so far saying it was her favorite book (at the time). Spark even quoted the above passage in her novel. Truth be told, I’ve never heard of Cellini prior to that. Now that I had read Cellini’s Autobiography, I am intrigued to see his creations and I think I see where Fleur came from, but I will not talk about that here. 

Back to Cellini’s Autobiography, it was sometimes funny, sometimes exaggerated, sometimes even completely ridiculous, but it was always witty. There was never a dull moment in this book. It was filled with court politic, revenge, imprisonment, betrayal murders, illicit affairs, and even legions of demons! 

The thing I liked best about this book was reading about the interactions Cellini had with other more well known historical figures such as the Popes, King of France and his mistress, Michelangelo, and some others. My copy also accompanied with historical footnotes at the end of each other that noted the fates of some of the mentioned historical figures. 

To read these notes made me wonder at the way Cellini acted towards his patrons. He was polite to them but always headstrong and resentful when he didn’t get his ways. Whenever he took to learn a new art, he would always came out with something better than the reputed experts of the arts. I found this to be a tad unbelievable. Some of his works that I saw by pictures on Wikipedia were excellent though.

Currently reading

The Bride of Lammermoor (Oxford World's Classics)
Walter Scott, Fiona Robertson
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