The General in His Labyrinth – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

602387I read this while undergoing radiotherapy. I chose this to read when I was unpacking a large plastic crate of books. It brought back lovely memories of book buying trips in second-hand bookshops in London and Brooklyn. Anyway, I didn’t know at the time that it was about the last weeks of Simon Bolivar’s life. He was ill and dying – maybe not the best choice of reading matter at the time. But that didn’t really matter because the writing is so wonderful. Bolivar was travelling to the coast of Venezuela to leave the continent. I think the aim was to return to France. The government was reluctant to issue him a passport to leave the country and at the time of his last travels, he wasn’t the hero any longer. The silences as his company went by are sad but beautifully depicted. I love the varying descriptions of the suffocating heat – you could just feel it. The dialogue between the characters is wonderful and the descriptions of the travel, lodgings, food and other experiences are beautifully evocative. Marquez is a master and this is a loving tribute to a hero of Sth America.

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery

6238269There is a lot of discussions on Goodreads about this book. People either love it, hate it, or were so-so until the middle of the book when another character enters the scene. It is constructed in short chapters of varying lengths and consists of the musings of two females – one, a middle-aged lady and the other a preteen. Both are highly intelligent but both have experienced trauma, causing them to feel like the have to hide. Mostly they both live in their heads.

Many say this book is pretentious and I can see why. There is a lot of philosophical thought discussion. For example, Renee (the middle-aged concierge of a upper class apartment building) doesn’t know what phenomenology is so decides to read up about it (she is very curious and a voracious reader). At the end, she dismisses it as nonsense. I had forgotten what it was too – it is the study of consciousness or how individuals experience the world. Renee muses about it and I found her thought discussion and conclusions amusing. Others have commented that this book exposes the prejudices of Renee and Paloma towards the ultra-rich residents of the building; how each thinks that intelligence trumps money and how little the residents know how looked down on they are. But I found the observations the residents and the apartments fascinating.

When the new character comes onto the scene, things begin to unravel for Renee and Paloma and the last part had me in tears. Extreme poverty which Renee and her family had experienced, does change you. And class divisions do have inhibiting effects. The ending is beautiful – (some have said it wasn’t a surprise ending, but I don’t think that is necessarily so).

The Infernal by Kim Wilkins

639895I started reading this early May but put it aside to deal with health issues. I had to have a tumour taken out of my face and was in hospital for a little over 2 weeks, so you can imagine I wasn’t in the mood for horror. Also, it was hard to read as my eyes were swollen and as they recovered, they got tired and on top of that, I didn’t have the concentration to read a novel. Magazines, short stories and collections of short journalistic pieces have been my latest reading materials. But I’m back (sort of) to novels! Hurrah!

I’m a fan of Kim Wilkins and own many of her novels. This is her debut novel and I chose this for the Read Harder challenge. I could even double-dip and count this for fantasy, but I think that would be stretching it as it is more urban horror. It is a good story and a really good debut. Plus I am glad to say that Wilkins novels has improved! This is a good scary story and even while it is a reread for me, I had forgotten who the reincarnated sorcerer was – I was sure it was either boyfriend or the would-be boyfriend, but it totally came as a surprise to me. Again!

I do have some quibbles (when do I don’t? Maybe I’m too harsh) but overall, a good story – atmospheric mixed with realism.

 

Wicked Stitch by Amanda Lee

I brought this book into hospital with me thinking – a cozy mystery, this should keep my22891389 mind off things. It did until I got to ‘… the both of …’. Then it started to annoy me. Then there was a second act of bad grammar – ‘… the both of …’ again!! Then the relationship between the main character and her detective boyfriend was just too sickeningly sweet. Ugh! The dog and rabbit making friends was sweet, but got a little too much and really, what sort of hunting dog makes friends with a rabbit? I hated the condescending nickname the boyfriend had for the main character, and the food they were eating sounded ick. All those croissants with chicken salad filling, not to mention all the pizza and other junk! How obese are these people? Pity because the mystery part was good but not enough to rescue this. I could go on but maybe I should stop my rant here before I get all annoyed again. You can bet that I am not going to read another in this series, or anything by this author.

Wayward by Blake Crouch

17920175I seem to be in the habit of reading books that are midway or the last of a series. However, it didn’t matter that much to me for this one. Wayward is a page turner, but there were some things that annoyed me about it. Firstly, there was a lot of short sharp sentences¬† like this:
xxx
xxx
xxx
that were designed to build tension. They worked initially but then they started to appear too often which meant the tension evaporated. Secondly, evolution doesn’t work that fast. 2000 years into the future and humans will probably be the same (if we haven’t destroyed the earth by then). The creatures made me think of polar bears. They also reminded me of the Eloi from The Time Machine (so many time travel stories echo the HG Wells classic – I guess it can’t be escaped). Humans are also very hard to control – just look at any news story. The creepiest control story I’ve read so far is 1984, and this is because it is so close to contemporary authoritarianism (totalitarianism / fascism) that it is totally believable. But control only lasts for so long as so this story proves. The question I was always asking myself about this was what was the big man getting out of all this? I couldn’t see any benefits or pluses or… Plus, the big man’s surname was always distracting me because that is the surname of the systems guy at the department where I work. That sort of affected the tension for me too.

The ending leaves you on a cliff-hanger and the edition I got from my local library had a small sneak peek at the opening of the final installment. It didn’t grab me enough to want to find out what happens.

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