Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep - S. J. Watson


Christine has an extraordinary problem: ever since a specific event, her memory is impaired so that she suffers amnesia every time she goes to sleep. 

The next morning, she has to relearn her own life's story. Every single day.


When she finds a note in a journal that says "Do not trust Ben." things start to unravel.


Huh. So, this was a debut novel. A debut novel that kept me intrigued from the start to the very end, and made me consider whether I really needed to keep appointments today.


I did end up going out but regretted it half-way through my exercise in the park session, and was longing to get back to the book. That does not happen that often, even with the most gripping of mysteries.


There is not much that I can say about the plot or the characters without giving away spoilers. However, I really liked how the author fleshed out Christine, our MC. So much so, that I was under the impression that S.J. Watson was a woman. I only found out my mistake after I looked up what other books he had written.


While the characters were fantastically real, there were a few issues with the plot by way of loose ends and I also had a problem with the pacing of the novel - until it dawned on me that the repetitive writing emphasised the repetitive efforts of our MC to try and piece together the fragments of her own life every day to find out who she is and what happened to her.


I had several theories throughout the book but I am delighted to say that I was not able to see the solution until the last few chapters when I was literally sitting on the edge of my chair to find out what happened next.

Reading progress update: I've read 87%.

Before I Go To Sleep - S. J. Watson



I just cannot put this book down!!!


Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories - Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Jay Rubin, Haruki Murakami

DNF @ 39%


These stories are not bad but I just can't muster any real enthusiasm for them.


It is not helped by the stories being unconneced and by themselves not being great examples of the short story format.


Of course, they were not written as short stories in the Western literary sense. It's just that the way they are written is boring me stiff.


Maybe I'll pick this up again at a later date, but right now, this is not working for me.

Reading progress update: I've read 8%.

Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories - Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Jay Rubin, Haruki Murakami

My current BL-Opoly roll took me to a square that gave me a lot of options:


Read a book set in Africa or Asia, or that has an exotic animal on the cover.


I had all day to consider this. I've been really wanting to re-read James Clavell's Asian Saga for a while. On the other hand, I discovered I have A LOT of books set in Asia that I have never read. So, I'll start with one of them: Rashomon.


Amazon tells me that both my kindle and the paperback editions have 320p., which equals a potential reward of $3 for the BL-Opoly account.

Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 346 pages.

Trackman - Catriona Child



This must be the first time since joining my real life book group at the library that the book that was chosen is promising to be a good read. I give you Trackman.


I've not read anything about it, and I won't do so until I finish the book, but I have read the first chapter and so far I know the following:


1. The story is set in Edinburgh.


2. Protagonist - a young guy - is on the way to queue up for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.


3. So, we know this is set in July 2007.


4. He is not there because he wants a copy of the book, but because he promised a friend who for some reason is not able to be there to join the queue.


5. The writing is pretty fresh, but not pretending to be all Trainspotting.

The queue grows as I wait. I stand on my tiptoes and strain my neck to peer over the folk behind me, but I can't see where the end is anymore. A lot of people in the queue have really made an effort: turned up in costumes and fancy dress. I feel totally out of place here. On my own. Fidgeting. Lewis would have loved it.

He should be here, not me.

Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, one finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head.

In a parallel universe, Lewis is queuing up to get his own book.

There's a couple of women behind me, wearing witch costumes, who keep blowing cigarette smoke into my face. It's making me want a fag even though I quit ages ago. I want to tell them to stop being so fucking ignorant, stop exhaling in my face, but I'm enjoying the second-hand smoke and I breathe it in.

Hold it inside me.

There are breathing exercises you can try, they should help you to relax if you find it's all becoming too much.




Breathe out.

They've got a wee lassie with them who doesn't even look old enough to be able to read. She's all dressed up in a school uniform, complete with bushy wig and magic wand. Another hen party stops when they see her.

'Aaawwww, look at the wee lassie.'

'Oh my God, she's gorgeous.'

'Hey, Annie, she should be your flower girl, imagine, eh?'

The wee girl points the plastic wand at them, makes them all laugh. I can see it in her eyes though: she's cursing them all.

I think I'm going to really enjoy this one, but I have a hunch it may not strike the same chord with the ladies of the book group. ;) We'll see.

Scene of the Climb

Scene of the Climb - Kate E. Dyer-Seeley

This was not my bag. 


There were a few scenes about the Oregon hiking trails and wildlife I enjoyed, but that was about it.


The mystery was forgettable and the main character was too silly to even be credible.


I had to laugh when at 81% into the book she thinks she's being pursued by a murderer and briefly considers to call the police. 


The book had a strong start, but then quickly lost it when instead of an investigation, our MC, a wannabe investigative reporter, spends more time musing about lattes and food and crushing on both her boss and her old college friend than actually, erm, investigating.


So, in the end we get a solution that came out of nowhere. At least, it meant there was an end to the book.

Reading progress update: I've read 84%.

Scene of the Climb - Kate E. Dyer-Seeley

Imagine you had just been lost in the woods. Suddenly, there are shots coming in your direction, and you start to run, trip, and hurt yourself. 


When you get to the road and find your friend, what do you think you would talk about?


Ok, have you imagined it?


Now, here is the scene as it is played out in the book:



“I fell.”

Peeling off the blood-soaked sock, Matt whistled. “Whoa, you did a job on that, didn’t you?”

I nodded as Matt threw the sock on the grass and took off his T-shirt. His abs were surprisingly solid and well defined; the muscles in his arms flexed as he wrapped his warm shirt around my hand. I’d never seen him without a shirt on and had to resist the urge to touch his toned upper body. “You’re kind of ripped,” I blurted out.

(show spoiler)




Yeah, ...


Reading progress update: I've read 51%.

Scene of the Climb - Kate E. Dyer-Seeley

Well, I hoped for fluffy, and this is fluffy.


But it is also incredibly boring. 

Edith's Diary

Edith's Diary - Patricia Highsmith

His mother was fighting a losing battle, Cliffie thought, because she was trying to fight the majority. The majority wasn’t even fighting back, it was just indifferent.

Oh, gadz, I wanted to hit most of the characters in this story. Repeatedly. With a shovel. Not only was this story of the suburban dream more of a nightmare, but Highsmith's detailed character description made the characters come to life more than I cared for.


Edith is looking forward to the prospect of moving from New York to Brunswick Corner,  a small town in Pennsylvania, where she hopes to settle with her husband and son into a calmer more wholesome life. But soon the suburban dream falls apart as the model family shows cracks:

Edith's son, Cliffie, is a despicable little horror (he tries to kill the cat a couple of times and that is just the start). Her husband turns out to be self-righteous, selfish coward. And Edith is left to bear the strain of all of it. 


What makes the book truly miserable is the way that Edith's cracking up is dealt with by the people around her, and so her keeping a diary, where she records a fantasy of a perfect life she imagines, becomes the symbol of her madness, her rebellion, as well as of the way society hides what is perceived as the imperfect, the damaged.


This is one of the most political works I have read by Highsmith. It heavily features Edith's (not necessairly the author's) thoughts on the Kennedys, the Vietnam War, Nixon, Watergate, etc. as a backdrop to Edith's alienation with her suburban neighbours.


Even tho I found it compelling, Edith's Diary is not a book I would recommend easily. It just really too depressing and frustrating to pass on to a friend. However, for the Highsmith enthusiast, this shows another side of her writing where she explores the connection between societal norms and psychological derangement.

Reading progress update: I've read 32%.

Edith's Diary - Patricia Highsmith

Well, this is depressing, but also another fine character study. As with anything by Highsmith, I expect this to take some unusual turns, yet.


It is really depressing, tho, and I will need the next book to be more ... fluffy.

Reading progress update: I've read 7%.

Edith's Diary - Patricia Highsmith

And we're off. :D


The towns' names may be similar, but there is no Grover's Corners feel to Highsmith's tale.

"That night, just as Edith was walking toward the bed in her nightgown, she remembered a dream she had had. In the dream, she had closed the refrigerator door, into which Mildew had been poking her head, and cut the cat’s head off. Either she had fainted in the dream or not realized what had happened, because later she had seen the cat walking around the house headless, and when she had rushed to the refrigerator and opened it, the cat’s head had been in there, eating the remains of a chicken, eating everything. Often Mildew stuck her head into the fridge, and Edith had to push her away with her foot before closing the door. Would Cliffie some day slam the fridge door on Mildew’s neck and say it was an accident? Edith found herself clenching her teeth. It hadn’t happened. It wasn’t true. But in her dream, she had done it."

The Gilded Chalet

The Gilded Chalet: Off-piste in Literary Switzerland - Padraig Rooney

Well, this was a fun and informative look at Switzerland through the ages and through the lense of a reader - we get to hear stories of way too many writers to list, that have traveled to Switzerland or are Swiss and have traveled elsewhere. The only common denominator was, you guessed it, Switzerland.


I'll keep the book as a reference because some of the backstories were interesting but I know I will have forgotten them by next weekend.


If there was one thing I missed, it would be more examples of how Switzerland or the Swiss theme had merged into the writers' work. There were some like the scene on the ice in Frankenstein or Conan Doyle's seemingly odd choice for Holmes adventures at the Reichenbach Falls, but I would have liked more of that sort of thing- and less about people's love lives. I mean, surely after reading about Lord Byron's escapades, nothing will have the same entertainment value...

The Godfather

The Godfather - Mario Puzo

Don Corleone put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Good,” he said, “you shall have your justice. Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do me a service in return.

A classic among the modern classics, which I had woefully ignored, I barely even remember watching the film. Clearly, the whole Godfather cult had passed me by.


That is, until the stars aligned and I had a new interest in all things Sicilian and Troy proposed The Godfather as a buddy read. It was an additional omen when I landed on a BL-Opoly square that fitted the book, too.


Well, the good thing about the book was that it was fast paced and made for utterly compelling reading - from beginning to end. There were a few parts that were less interesting to me such as the whole Johnny Fontane (i.e. Frank Sinatra) side story or the sudden shift from fast paced action tale into flashbacks of Don Vito Corleone's early days. These parts fleshed out the book and gave a little more complexity to the story, but they also slowed down the book for me. Without them, I am sure I would not have set the book down. I even once debated whether it was worth getting up from my "reading chair" to get a cup of coffee!


The more I got into the story, tho, the more problematic reading the book became.


All of the main characters, without exception, are despicable human beings, and I repeatedly wanted to punch them. Hard. I guess it was just lucky that part of the story was about how they would try to kill each other in some phony attempt at revenge for some or other character not being "respectful" enough. The whole idea of honour and respect was just warped to the extreme. Of course, as the whole community existed and worked outside of society, it was free to define terms like "honour" and "respect" along with other concepts and rules for itself, but this also worked to question those concepts and how they applied to any society. 


In that respect, Puzo's book is rather fascinating, too, and I have to say that this was probably the most surprising aspect of the read. I went into the book expecting horrible people doing horrible deeds, but I did not expect to marvel about Puzo creating this hook that would draw me into an alternate reality that may or may not exist (or have existed) for real. And the potential realism is as daunting as it is depressing.

The ruthlessness, the sheer disregard for any values, implied a man who considered himself completely his own law, even his own God.

The only aspect that was more depressing than the unsettling realism was the marginalisation of outsiders in the setup of this alternate society, whether they are non-Sicilians, or women, or any other group. For the most part even, these outsiders accepted their role as valueless disposables. Even characters that had a choice to leave somehow willingly submitted into this web of oppression, which resulted in one of the worst proposals of marriage:

You’ll be my wife but you won’t be my partner in life, as I think they say. Not an equal partner. That can’t be.

I really wanted to poke these characters in the eye. Repeatedly. But by the same token, I have to say that watching these lives unravel is part of what makes this book such a gripping read. It's just that I also had to think of the status of the story as one of the cult classics that has been adored for its imagery , much like Fleming's famous creation. And as with James Bond, there is only one thing that I am taking away from The Godfather: We need new icons.

Reading progress update: I've read 465 out of 723 pages.

Metamorphoses - Denis Feeney, Ovid, David Raeburn

I will need to post a picture of my paperback copy at some point to illustrate how much the stories have engaged me - my copy is now filled with notes, scribbles, and stickies to mark passages.


The part I have reached now - the last part of the book it seems - deals with the story of Troy, followed by the story of Aeneas. I am half tempted to dig out a copy of Homer's two books to read as companion pieces, but somehow I fear it may not do either work justice to read them in comparison because they are quite different. Tho, I do want to re-read The Illiad and The Odyssey at some point, too.


So, maybe the way to go is to read Ovid's take first and by itself, and then pull out The Metamorphoses and my notes on it again when I get to Homer.

Reading progress update: I've read 80%.

The Godfather - Mario Puzo

I enjoyed the beginning, I fought through the middle, and now I just need this to end.


This has definitely lost a lot of steam...


(Also, we're now firmly back in the kind of sick-bucket territory where even Fleming's Bond looks like an enlightened human being.)


Reading progress update: I've read 58%.

The Godfather - Mario Puzo

This story has slowed right down since the main plot turn. The last quarter of the book has been a lot of backstory and sideline explanation, which has made the story drag a lot.


I hope this picks up again soon. At the moment, it just feels like nothing is happening because no one is allowed to act in this web of intrigue...which is quite a good description of the whole setup but does not make for interesting reading.

Currently reading

Der Kämpfer im Vatikan: Papst Franziskus und sein mutiger Weg (German Edition) by Andreas Englisch
Progress: 77/374pages
Das Wunder des Baums by Annemarie Schwarzenbach
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Howards End by E.M. Forster
Progress: 7%