BOOK REVIEW: The Children Of Men – by P.D. James

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Title: The Children Of Men
Author: P.D. James
Genre: Mystery, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: 1992
Finished reading: January 31st 2014
Pages: 241

Rating 3

“Without the hope of posterity, for our race if not for ourselves, without the assurance that we being dead yet live, all pleasures of the mind and senses sometimes seem to me no more than pathetic and crumbling defences shored up against our ruin.”

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In The Children Of Men, P.D. James introduces us to an infertil world that is slowly coming to an end… A world without hope. It is set in the year 2021, and no babies have been born since the year of Omega in 1995. The whole world is infertil and its inhabitants only become older and older to the point that the world population shrinks drastically to about 40 million. Whole villages disappear and slowly everything is starting to show signs of decay. I loved the imagination James used to put together this book, although the first part was a bit slow. The whole intent of escape made the book that much more interesting and the characters really come to life during the second part. All in all a nice read set in a dystopian infertil world that focuses on the question what will happen when the human race is on the border of extinction.

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Theo Faron is a history professor who only has his job left to live for, when one of his students approaches him. Julian forms part of a small group seeking to rebel against the government, and she will play an essential role in the rest of the story. Theo knows the Warden of England Xan personally, since it is his nephew. Under the spell of Julian, he talks to Xan and tries to convince him to change his politics. Unfortunately it is all in vain. Our history professor then escapes reality by traveling around Europe, and when he comes back after six months a surprise is waiting for him… After a few weeks the group, Five Fishes, send him a cry for help: Julian needs him. He reluctantly agrees but soon comes under her spell. They were hiding a enormous secret that will change everything: in a world where infertility is a norm, Julian has managed to get pregnant again. Together with Theo, the Five Fishes try to get away from the government and keep Julian hidden away safely until the baby is born…

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This dystopian novel is not one of the best ones out there, but it is still an interesting read. It makes you reflect as a reader what would happen if the world actually would become infertil… Something that will mostly likely mean the end of the human race. In short, it’s a nice and relatively short read as long as you don’t set your expectations too high.

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BOOK REVIEW: Animal Farm – by George Orwell

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Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Genre: Classics, Fantasy, Politics
First published: August 17th 1945
Finished reading: January 27th 2014
Pages: 112

Rating 4,5

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

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Ok, so this book was completely NOT what I expected. In a good way. When I got my hands on this one, I only knew it was a classic and supposedly a must read. Wanting to take a break from the book I’m currently reading, I decided to squeeze in this short novel into my schedule. To be honest, the first pages had a huge WTF factor, and made me wonder if I grabbed the book the movie Babe The Pig was based on. (And later found out that that movie actually was based on a different book by Dick King-Smith…) I soon found out this book has a completely different meaning. George Orwell meant it as a satire, questioning the philosophy of Stalin in the Soviet Union. Animal Farm was published in 1945, the year where the Second World War ended and just before the time the Cold War made its introduction. The world represented in Animal Farm actually is a representation of the society in Soviet Union round that time.

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Orwell describes a group of farm animals tired of having to serve men, and they decided to start a revolution. Once they scare the men away, they start their own new society. All things seem to go better then before the revolution, until Snowball (who represents Trotsky) is chased away. Napoleon (the infamous Stalin) starts to create his own world and piece by piece converts the new world in one similar to the human world again… By introducing communism to the Animal Farm.

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Animal Farm is a great satire and it would definitely be interesting to read this one again after refreshing the facts of the Russian history of the 20th century. It’s short, quite easy to read, and without doubt recommendable.

BOOK REVIEW: The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak

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Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, WWII
First published: 2005
Finished reading: January 23rd 2014
Pages: 552

Rating 3

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

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I remember reading this book already a few years ago and absolutely loving it. And when I saw the trailer of the movie version, I couldn’t remember the exact details of the book, so I decided to re-read. I’m not sure exactly why, but to be honest I wasn’t as convinced as the first time I read it… True, this book is original. You won’t see any similiar writing styles every day. Still, in a way it annoyed me. Seeing the world through the eyes of Death is interesting, but I felt it sometimes interrupted the story and gave away spoilers. Also, the use of German words with direct translations didn’t seem to add a different level to the story. It just slowed down the reading pace. And lastly, was it really necessary to use that many swear words? After one too many Saukerl and Saumensch I would almost forget the real names of the characters.

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Narrated by Death, this book tells the story of a young German girl Liesel and other inhabitants of the Himmel Street, Molching. It is set in 1939-1943, right in the middle of the Second World War, and through the eyes of the characters we can see the influence of and the horrors induced by The Fuhrer. Liesel is an orphan and lives with her foster parents Hans and Rosa. Everything goes normal until they decide to hide a Jew: Max. In Nazi Germany, that’s about the most dangerous thing you can do. The German girl loves books, and already during the beginning of the book becomes a book thief. Throughout the story she steals a couple more, with the help of her friend Rudy. The life in Nazi Molching becomes darker, and various characters die or are set to war. Liesel keeps reading and it is the books that save her life in the end… While others are not so lucky.

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I have to admit the story itself is interesting and makes up for most of the annoyances mentioned before. It makes for a nice read if you are interested in the Second World War or enjoy reading experimental books like this one.

2013 Summary; looking back on last year

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A new year has begun, and with that new opportunities, dreams and expectations come forward. It also makes me want to look back on the highlights of last year. The year 2013 has been an interesting one full of life changing events. And above all one full of love… Sharing things with the ones you love is wonderful, especially combining that with other favorite pastimes, like traveling. Having met the love of my life in 2012, I was lucky enough to share many of those loving moments together. The two highlights would be our month traveling within Ecuador, Peru and Chile and finally moving in together a few months ago. I moved cities and quit my job for it, but I would do it again in a heartbeat since there is no better feeling than being able to wake up next to the person you love every single day.

2013 also has been a productive year regarding to books. Having a lot of spare time and no tv available during the first few months made me pick up the speed reading books. With the end result of having read 40 books, which together make the total sum of 16870 pages… Not having counted newspapers, magazines and articles read at work. Not too bad if you ask me, but I will make it into a challenge to beat these numbers this year. So 2014, bring it on!

BOOK REVIEW: LEFT Neglected – by Lisa Genova

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Title: LEFT Neglected
Author: Lisa Genova
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Psychology
First published: January 4th 2011
Finished reading: January 13th 2014
Pages: 322

Rating 3,5

“Bob keeps insisting that I can do anything I put my mind to. But he’s referring to my old mind. My new mind is broken and doesn’t give a whack about the left or my old mind’s reputation for success.”

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When I started reading this novel by Lisa Genova, I was worried it was going to be a proper chick lit and I was going to waste my time on it. (Those who know me, know I don’t like that genre.) But LEFT Neglected turned out to be a decent read with some interesting details about a condition I had never heard of before: left neglect. I have a degree in philology and therefore I have studied cases of brain damage before, although only those related to speech and language disability. The interesting part of this book is that Lisa Genova shows us the patient view on the recovery process, and the painstaking struggle with the condition on a daily basis. Without doubt an interesting story and recommended if you enjoy reading contemporary fiction and  books on psychology and the consequences of brain damage.

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Sarah Nickerson is a succesful business woman and mom at the same time. She has a far too busy schedule without time to even breath, but she is able to manage it all quite well. Her job as a VP of human resources at Berkley Consulting takes up most of her life with more than 80 hours per week, and together with her also hard working husband Bob they try to raise their three kids. A rather normal life, until one day Sarah gets a car accident and suffers from brain damage. Her right brain half is affected, and suddenly the whole left side of her world disappears. She can no longer see anything on the left, and is no longer aware the left side of her body exists. Her life comes to a halt and see is forced to see things in a different light. Together with professionals and her long lost mother, they try to fight the left neglect condition and get her functioning as normal and independent as possible again. But process somes slowly, and Sarah is forced to compromise. She will have to find and accept a new way of life, since she won’t be able to go back to Berkley Consulting…

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LEFT Neglected focuses on the patient view and shows how difficult it can be having to learn to live with brain damage. It’s an interesting story and above all a nice way to learn more about this rather unknown brain injury condition!

BOOK REVIEW: James And The Giant Peach – by Roald Dahl

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Title: James And The Giant Peach
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Children, Fantasy, Classics
First published: 1961
Finished reading: January 8th 2014
Pages: 144
Rating 4

“My dear young fellow,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said gently, ‘there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t started wondering about yet.”

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Roald Dahl formed a big part of my reading childhood, and I must have read each of his books at least a dozen times when I was young. James And The Giant Peach maybe isn’t the most famous story (others like Charlie And The Chocolate Factory or Mathilda would come first on that list), but its story about adventures on a giant peach is endearing. I was feeling sentimental the other day and since I couldn’t remember the exact details of James And The Giant Peach I decided to read it again. The book doesn’t disappoint adults either; I was still sucked into the story with the help of Roald Dahl‘s imagination and writing skills. It is and also a great story to read out loud to children!

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The story is about a boy James who lives with his two horrible aunts Sponge and Spiker after his parents died. He is feeling truly unhappy, until one day something ‘peculiar’ happened. A bag full of green magic things changed his life and that of his new friends: a bunch of bugs. They escape the aunts in a giant peach and together they travel and have a lot of fantastical adventures.

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Who as a kid wouldn’t have liked to see the Cloud-men who make the weather, to watch a peach flying because of hundreds of seagulls attached to it, to visit the peach-pit house James lives in in Central Park? Recommended if you want to feel young again, even if it’s only for the duration of the book. And perfect to entertain children as well!

BOOK REVIEW: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – by Ken Kesey

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Title: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Author: Ken Kesey
Genre: Classics, Psychology, Contemporary
First published: 1962
Finished reading: January 7th 2014
Pages: 272
Rating 4,5

“Never before did I realize that mental illness could have the aspect of power, power. Think of it: perhaps the more insane a man is, the more powerful he could become. Hitler an example. Fair makes the old brain reel, doesn’t it?”

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This classic of the sixties is without doubt worth reading. Ken Kesey wrote a story that is both brilliant and intriguing, and it’s one that can be explained in many different ways. I guess that’s why this book is so popular among English Literature teachers; although mine never chose One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for her lessons… McMurphy is an interesting character, although my favorite will always be Chief Bromden. The fact that we see the story through his not so normal eyes only adds to the brilliance of this classic. Definitely recommended, as well as the movie!

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 This is a story about an asylum and its patients, with in charge Nurse Ratched. She runs her ward like a dictator and nobody dares to defy her. Three black male nurses are her ‘helpers’; each selected for their hatred towards the patients and obedience to her. She is the authority on her ward until a new patient comes in. Randle Patrick McMurphy is a loud and life-loving troublemaker who fakes his mental ilness in order to be transferred from a prison farm to Ratched’s mental hospital. Once there he starts a so-called mental revolution. McMurphy challenges the authority of the Big Nurse (Ratched) and one by one wins the patients to his side by bringing gambling, alcohol and even women into the ward. He defies the rules openly and soon it’s war between the two. But Nurse Ratched has a strong ally: the autorities. First she tries to make McMurphy obey as she does with the other patients, but the big redhead is not one easy to be scared. So she turns to more drastic solutions: shock therapy. McMurphy still seems to be winning, until the Nurse uses her last and biggest hand and we read the book’s shocking end…

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We see the ward through Chief Bromden’s eyes, and sometimes it’s hard to understand his thoughts because of the hallucinations and ‘mental fog’ he’s suffering from. But it also makes you understand the whole situation inside the ward that much better, and without Bromden the story wouldn’t have been the same. Great read!