I’ve said it a few times before: I’ve been reading quite a bit again. Again not as much as I’d like, but there’s a start. Here’s 4 books I finished recently that moved me, were just plain out fun or an interesting read.
1.) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Starting off with the most moving read in this selection: The Book Thief tells the tale of Liesl. A girl of 10 years old who is growing up in Nazi Germany on the brink of WWII. Left by her mother with people who can hopefully take better care of the girl, Liesl finds herself fascinated by books. She finds her first book at her brother’s funeral, while still enroute for her new family with her mother. Her fosterdad teaches her to read. As she learns how to read, Liesl is introduced to a different world, through which she befriends the most unlikely people. From a Jewish refugee, to the mayor’s wife.
What makes this book special is the novel point of view this story is told in. The book is narrated by Death who sees Liesl and her friends and family on several occasions and tells her story through his memories. He takes you on a journey where you get to know Liesl, her foster parents, her friends and all the other people in the village. He tells you a story of what it was like to live in Nazi Germany at the same time and of the horrific events when Liesl’s life and WWII ultimately collide. I cried when I read this and I am hoping the movie that comes out next month will do it justice.
2.) Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Philipps
On to something a bit more frivolous. Gods Behaving Badly is a book you’ll often find in the Chick Lit section of your bookstore. I generally dislike Chick Lit and I also don’t think that this book is Chick Lit per se. It is a very enjoyable book though, which made me laugh out loud, even though it was the second time I was reading it. The story takes us to current day London where, ever since 1665, the Greek Gods from Mount Olympus have been living in a house in one of the northern suburbs. And they have a problem: they are losing their powers.
And since no one believes in them any more, they all take on jobs. Aphrodite is a telephone sex operator, Dionysus is a DJ in his club, Artemis is a dog walker, and Apollo is TV psychic. Mix in a human girl called Alice, who becomes their cleaner, and who Apollo happens to be in love with, but she actually wants to be with Neil and you have the plot that will take you from the attic where Zeus has been locked up till the underworld ruled by Hades. Think Greek mythology taken to the modern age. And that’s what makes this book so much more than a silly chick lit: if you know the stories you will get the references and that makes this book so much more fun.
3. Hustle by Will Ferguson
I had this book sitting on a shelf for years and always intended to read it. Jack McGreary lives in the South Western town of Paradise Flats in the US in the 1930s. Bored and living with his father you spends all their money on scams and thinking he can become rich without trying, Jack has had enough. The only thing he can do for fun is go to the library to read or to try to cheat his friends out of money playing pool. A self-prosessed mathematical genius, Jack has a knack for numbers, so when a man in a swanky suit walks into the store, Jack quickly notices the man is pulling a scam. Enter Virgil Ray and Miss Rose: swindlers extraordinaire.
From then on Jack becomes part of a threesome of swindlers who pull scam after scam in towns all across the South West. In a time with no Internet or cell phones, they are gone before anyone knows what hits them, even though they have a few close calls every now and then. They rake in money like water, but the question is always: who is playing who? And why does Virgil always have Jack sit with his back to the door? As time goes by, Jack grows weary and as the tale unravels so does the illustrious threesome. A bit slow to start, as one third of the book is Jack telling his life story, which leaves you feeling a bit lost at times and wondering why it is important to know all of this. But as the book continues, the story becomes thrilling and picks up pace. And you will find out that the things you learn about Jack in the first part are crucial to knowing what he goes through in the rest of the book.
4. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
Earlier this year, this book was released to rave reviews. A detective novel by a very promising new writer. Or so everyone thought. Until early summer, when it was revealed that none other than J.K. Rowling had penned the story of Cormoran Strike who investigates the supposed suicide of Lula Landry. A model who was adopted by rich, overbearing parents as a small child, Lula Landry apparently had it all. And so her brother wonders: why did she die? He turns to his dead brother’s childhood friend: Cormoran Strike. Private detective after losing his leg in Afghanistan and not without problems himself.
The story follows the meticulous search which Strike undertakes to uncover the truth. Together with his temporary-who-is-going-to-stay-on secretary Robin, he peels away at a web of lies, fake friends, family secrets and the all the security that money can by. Because for someone who’s life played out before the lenses of the paparazzi, there is a lot unclear about the circumstances of Landry’s death. This was an enjoyable book overall, but this also had me think: where is it going? The amount of time spent on Strike’s injury and personal problems was sometimes a bit too much of a good thing. But since the book has a very open ending, I’m thinking this is supposed to be a series and more will come, so it might well be that character trades disclosed in this book will prove important in the future.
Right now, however, I sometimes found them tedious and who did it in the end was also quite obvious. What I liked though, was the fact that even though you know what’s going on, you never feel like you do until you get to the end. That’s what’s kept me reading. I’m thinking this probably deserves a re-read, as I’m guessing clues in the story will become more evident in a second round.
Anything good you’ve read lately? I just started reading Colum McCann’s This Side of Brightness about the subway tunnels under the East River in New York.