Weekly Wrap-Up

ABOUT PAGE TURNERS

Thanks for coming past Page Turners on this weeks blogger hop.

If you get a chance, join in my fun Friday meme:

This weeks Book Blogger Hop question is right at this moment what is a book that I am dying to get my hands on? As soon as I post this I am sure I will come up with an answer but right now.... I'm not sure that there is one. I mean, there are lots of books that I would love to read right now but none that I am desperate to go out and buy immediately. I do need to purchase Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor for my August book club.

It was a very quiet week here at Page Turners. I completed three reviews, two of them were really good and the other one not so much:

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (6.5 / 8)

Flatland by Edwin A Abbott (2.5 / 8)

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (6 / 8)

I participated in It's Monday, What are you Reading and Teaser Tuesday and the only other post of interest was this one: New poll, favourite genres and other reading updates.

If you are new to Page Turners I promise that it isn't usually this slow, I am just very busy getting things done in the lead up to my admission to hospital next week. You are always welcome back to enjoy the fun.


ABOUT THE HOP


It is hosted at Crazy for Books. In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new book-related blogs that we may be missing out on! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence. (Thanks to Rose City Reader for inspiring this meme)

The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith by Peter Carey

I thought that it was about high time that I read something by one of Australia's most famous and talented authors. He has been in hot water recently regarding his closing speech at the Sydney Writers Festival; people thought that he was being very elitist. I haven't listened to the speech so I can't really comment, but I can say that is an extremely strange but enjoyable book. Here are the two opening lines:
"My name is Tristan Smith. I was born in Chemin Rouge in Efica - which is to say as much to you, I bet, as if I declared I was from the moon."
I actually really love this opening. It is so catchy, it sets the tone of the book and the setting. I think that already we can tell that the character is a little self-centred; he starts his story with a short statement about who he is, and intimates that we don't quite have the intelligence that he does. You can sense the mockery in his tone when he says that second sentence. I can just picture him giving a little laugh and shaking his head at us for not knowing where he is from. Carey is undoubtedly an extremely talented writer.

What about you? leave a link to your Book Beginnings on Friday post in the Mr Linky below.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka is perhaps one of the most well known and respected authors there is, and reading him was a wonderful experience. I am glad that I started with The Metamorphosis, a very short novella and perhaps one his most well known works.

This story is full of metamorphoses. The central metamorphosis is that of Gregor Samsa, the central character of this story. Gregor awakes one morning after disturbing dreams to find that he has transformed into a giant insect of some unspecified form. He finds that he barely has any control over his body can can longer communicate with anyone else. The story then details his demise from this event.

Before his transformation, Gregor was the soul financial support to his family, working horrendous hours as a travelling salesman to repay his fathers debts. In fact, it is intimated that prior to his transformation no one in Gregor's family paid him any significant attention; he was simply the bread winner that came and went according to his work schedule. Once it becomes clear that in his transformed state, Gregor will no longer be able to work, his family begin to see him as hindrance rather than a help. They must find other ways of gaining income. As it turns out there is still some money that his father had not spent and his parents and siblings find work in their own different ways. His family, however, resent their change in station from the supported to the supporters and it becomes clear that in some ways they have in fact been taking advantage of Gregor's hardworking and kind nature.

Whilst I felt for Gregor's family after they experienced the initial shock and loss upon discovering his new nature, I quickly recognised just how heartless they truly were. Gregor is always thinking of them and they are always thinking of themselves. For example, realising how uncomfortable his sister feels around him, he begins to cover himself with a sheet so that she cannot see his body. He says of her reaction:
One day, in order to spare her even this sight, he spent four hours carrying the bed sheet over to the couch in his back and arranged it so that he was completely covered and his sister would not be able to see him even if she bent down. If she did not think this sheet was necessary then all she has to do was take it off again, as it was clear enough that it was no pleasure for Gregor to cut himself off so completely. She left the sheet where it was. Gregor even though he glimpsed a look of gratitude one time when he carefully looked out from under the sheet to see how his sister liked the new arrangement".
Spoiler in the following section: You might think that this is only a natural reaction to discovering your brother has turned into a giant insect, but she slowly makes it clear that her feelings are more hurtful than that.  I was extremely distressed for Gregor when his family found him after his death:
"'That's what I said', replied the cleaner, and to prove it she gave Gregor's body another shove with the broom, sending it sideways across the floor. Mrs Samsa made a movement as if she wanted to hold back the broom, but did not complete it. 'Now then', said Mr Samsa, 'lets give thanks to God for that'. He crossed himself, and the three women followed his example."
After everything he had done for them, they were unable to show him any respect in death. End of spoilers.

In the end Gregor's family saw him as the burden and the parasite, when in fact it had been them living off him for the last significant period of their lives. What they resented him for, they were just as guilty of.

In a way, I also thought that Gregor's metamorphosis was in a way a social comment on the balance between our working and our personal lives. In becoming the insect that he does, Gregor is in a way relieved to be escaping the life of drudgery and control he was experiencing as a worker. He becomes a true individual, a truer version of himself. He has time to reflect on his life, time that he has never really had before. It is so true that work can overrun our personal lives and our sense of individuality. I don't think it was a coincidence that Gregor was transformed into an insect. Workers are often compared to some type of insect, ants usually. As workers, we often get lost in the multitudes of other people, all working for other people as we are told with little variations to our schedules. What Gregor was able to do was to step outside of this and reflect on who and what he really was.

The more that I think about it, the more I wonder at the density of such a small book. There are so many themes and messages in this book that it is almost overwhelming; workers, capitalism, individuality, isolation, family, money. I even considered whether the metamorphosis was literal or symbolic? Does it even matter?Although I don't like to say this (it sounds a bit cliche), this is truly a work of art. Kafka's style is so formal yet simple. The tragic events are not masked by endless description, in fact the simplicity of the writing only serves to emphasis the tragedy of the events that unfold.

The lesson that I most took from The Metamorphosis was how important it is to have some perspective on your life.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
I was surprised at how easy it to read. For some reason I had in my mind that Kafka must be a difficult author to read and understand, but this was written in a very simple and stark style and was therefore easy and quick to read.

Do I recommend this story?
Yes, it really is something that makes you think about so many different things. And you can't help but feel terribly sorry for Gregor.

Do I recommend that you buy this story?
I just printed it off the internet to be honest. You could buy, you could borrow it from the library; I don't think that it really matters. It will be a story that deserves re-reading.


Star Rating

6 / 8

Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.


Lights, Camera, Blog Action!



Just a quick message regarding Lights Camera Blog Action: I don't have anyone scheduled for today so there will be no feature.

If anyone is interested in being featured, please email me at pageturnersbooks (at) gmail (dot) com and I will happily forward you the questions.

I hope you all enjoy your Thursday.

New poll, favourite genres and other reading updates

New Poll


Earlier today I saw a post on someone’s blog about their personal preference for three columned blog layouts. It got me thinking about what other people prefer. I am definitely someone who likes the two column layout; I like having a big posting area so that the posts aren’t all squished up the middle. But it is definitely possible to have a three column layout without that problem. So I thought I would set up a poll to see what other people think about this design issues. Feel free to vote in the poll.


The Book List Meme


Rebecca at Lost in Books is hosting a meme today, asking what your 5 favourite genres are. Here are my top 5:

1. Contemporary: I like reading modern books about modern issues. It feel somehow more relevant to my life.

2. Classics: I love the old language used in classics and I feel authors from long ago somehow seem to more accurately capture the essence of what it is like to be human (sounds a bit lame I know)

3. Literary: For me, it isn’t just the story that I love (although it’s a large component). I also love the actual reading process. To get some enjoyment from it though I need to be challenged. Anyone can read trashy romance and the like. I could read young adult fiction as a teenager. But now as an adult I need age appropriate material that challenges me. Not that there isn't a place for a bit of Harry Potter or Dan Brown. But generally I want to be reading something where the language itself is also part of the joy of the book. Literary fiction provides that to me.

4. Crime/Mystery: Having said the above, I can still be a sucker for a good mystery or thriller, like an Agatha Christie or a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

5. Spanish: I know this isn’t a proper genre, but I love reading books in English that have been translated from Spanish. There is something about the way that the Spanish language translates into English that just really connects with me.

And those are my 5 favourite genres. Head over to her blog and join in!


I finished The Passage by Justin Cronin! 


Lastly, I just wanted to give everyone a quick update. I have finally finished The Passage and despite some mixed feelings when I reached the middle of the book, I really loved it. It was extremely tense and exciting. As someone who is more of a literary reader than a trashy paranormal reader, this was the perfect opportunity to get a nice mix of alternate reality with good writing. I hope to review this book next week, but I know that a lot of people are interested in this book so I thought that I would give a little initial summary of my feelings.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

This is the final instalment in Stieg Larsson's thrilling Millennium series.

The book begins exactly where it left off in Played with Fire. Lisbeth is in hospital recuperating from her horrific ordeal and her life is still in danger. She faces many significant criminal charges and her friends rally around her to help prove her innocent. In the course of these events, the usual characters uncover a government conspiracy intimately involving Lisbeth that has been in existence for many decades and which needs to be exposed.

I don't have anything original to say about this book. Many other reviewers have said it before, and most of what I have to say about this book I have already said in relation to the its predecessors.

The size of this book was quite off putting; it was so large that at times I found it difficult to hold in my hands. It was also probably the worst of the three novels for providing excess details that hold no interest to the reader. On this point, I did read this absolutely hilarious article in the New Yorker on this common complaint about the Millennium series. It is a comic re-write of the book, and you absolutely must read it if you have read these books!

The sub-plot involving Erika was a strange addition to the book. Don't get me wrong, I was guessing the whole time who her stalker would be (and I guessed right, go me!), but I didn't really understand why it had been included. I assume it was included because she was no longer working at Millennium and Larsson wanted to keep her in the story, but then, why make her leave the paper in the first place? I was just confused by it.

Having said all that, I was still engaged by the story; it kept me hooked until the end. I was pleased to see that some of the issues and relationships were tied up at the end, but it was also clear that Larsson meant there to be more books to follow. Lisbeth Salander is one of the most interesting characters I have ever read and I really enjoyed this originality.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. For me though, some of the 'wow-factor' had left by the third instalment of this series.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
A quick read given it's size, and a thrilling one.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, it was a good read and I would definitely recommend that you finish the series off.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes. I have recommended that you buy its predecessors so it would be silly not to recommend that you buy this one. I think that the whole series will make a great re-read.


Star Rating

6.5 / 8

Really enjoyable, I couldn't put it down. I recommend it.


Teaser Tuesday: The Passage by Justin Cronin



The Passage by Justin Cronin

Yesterday in my It's Monday post I said that this book had gone from really good to pretty bad and was getting a bit better. Well, I read a big chunk of last night and now it has gone back to being really exciting again! I can barely stop reading it. So if you are reading this book, stick through the middle bit, it is well worth it. Here is my teaser:
"A deafening barrage of cover fire from the catwalk as half a dozen soldiers leapt into the space over the yard, holding the ropes that connected though a system of pulleys and blacks to the gates hinges. Peter was momentarily arrested by the coordinated grace of it all, the practiced beauty of their synchronised movements."
So exciting. I will be looking forward to reading all of your teasers as well.

Teaser Tuesday is great meme hosted by Should Be Reading and is a great way to find out about new books.Here are the guidelines: Grab your current read Open to a random page Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

Flatland by Edwin A Abbott

Flatland is a very strange and unique science fiction novella from the late 19th Century.

I was inspired to read it after I read a good review of it elsewhere in the blogosphere and at first I very much enjoyed it for its individuality.

It is written from the perspective of an inhabitant of Flatland, a 2D land where everyone is necessarily flat and therefore sees the world around them only as a series of straight lines.

The first half of the book is dedicated to outlining how the society of Flatland, and the land itself, operates. We are provided with an explanation of Flatland’s climate, the various shapes of it inhabitants (females are straight lines, isosceles triangles are soldier and lower class, squares are the middle class and hexagons and circles are the higher classes). The author spends a great deal of time describing how it is Flatlanders can tell each other apart, given they only see straight lines, and how they move around without hurting each other. There are details of their living quarters and the work that they perform. A great deal of time is spent detailing the social structure and how it works. We are even given a historical account of how Flatlanders used to tell each other apart by the use of colour. The narrator tells how this nearly resulted in a revolution which the higher classes had to put to rest.

Sounds potentially interesting, but in reality as it went on and on I just got more bored with it. The author spends a lot of time focusing on the women of Flatland. I have no idea if his comments were meant to be satirical or facetious, but I certainly hope they were because they were just offensive. It just went on an on about how unintelligent women were, and how men had to keep them in check. It talked about how important it was that they were not educated. How stupid they were. It drove me insane.

There was some interesting social commentary about class and power struggles in society, but my general interest in this couldn’t overcome my offence at the discussion of women and the general boredom I experienced as I read the book.

The second half of the book is a little different. Having explained every minute and boring detail about Flatland, the narrator is then approached from a character from Spaceland, a Sphere. The Sphere attempts to explain to the narrator the mysteries of the 3D land from which he hails. He has mixed results, but is eventually able to convince the narrator of the existence of a third dimension. The process of this however, has dire consequences for the narrator, who does not finish his story in a happy place.

Although the novelty of the story originally piqued my interest, as the book progressed I became less and less enamoured by it, until I was only finishing it because I thought I should.

If you have read it, I would be interested to know what you thought of it.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
Long and boring.

Do I recommend this book?
No.

Do I recommend buying this book?
Absolutely not.


Star Rating

2.5 / 8

Don't bother. I finished it because I felt like I should.


It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday, what are you reading? is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a chance for us to share with other book bloggers what we have just finished reading, what we are currently reading and what we are reading next.

Just finished

Click here to read my review of Flatland by Edwin A Abbott, a science fiction novella from the late 19th Century; something very different from what you would normally read about!

I recently finished The Book of Lost Threads by Tess Evans, which was a really sweet (if simple) book that I enjoyed a lot.

I also finished Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, which was pretty sad.

Currently Reading

The Passage by Justin Cronin
I was really enjoying this. It was so tense and exciting and scary. Lots of blood that's for sure. But then it sort of did this entire flip and it felt like it became a whole new genre. It has taken me awhile to get back into it after that, but I am enjoying again, even if I am not quite as excited by it anymore

Up Next

Not sure at this stage. The Passage is so thick I will still be reading it for awhile!