Tag Archive for Novel

Book Review: I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company by Brian Hall

I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company by Brian Hall I wanted to like it, but I couldn’t take the style of writing for Sacajawea’s chapters. I get what the author was trying to do, but it made for really difficult reading, what with no capitalization of proper names and rambling sentences to only vaguely explain things. It didn’t really make it feel like she was on equal footing with the other characters.

Book Review: The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally

The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally The rather formal writing made for a bland and not very appealing story. I couldn’t really get into it, because it didn’t feel all that real.

Book Review: Simplicissimus by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen

Simplicissimus by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen Where to begin?…

In this book, we follow Simplicissimus, a rather simple man, as he travels throughout various parts of Europe (and other parts of the world), though not always by his own choice. Ongoing wars in Germany affect him in both good and bad ways throughout the book, as he alternates between fighting and avoiding fighting in various battles (and armies!).

The book isn’t entirely about war though, and you get a glimpse at what life in 1600s Europe was like for all sorts of people there. There’s also a fair dose of religion in the book, as SImplicissimus struggles with others’ sins as well as his own. Occasionally there are historical and biblical references, as well as a tiny sprinkling of fantasy mixed in.

Simplcissimus reminded me of another simple character from a later Czech novel: The Good Soldier Svejk (which I really should read the rest of!). The only difference is that Simplicissimus seems to overcome his simpleness, though not necessarily for good reasons or with good consequences.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I would definitely recommend it. The only negatives for me — besides the poorly edited edition I read — were the heavy religious content, the frequent rambling lists of things, and the strange second half of the last book and ending (that excerpt is a bit of a downer!).

Book Review: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan I’d heard the title of this book (and accompanying movie) many times before, but didn’t realize it was a spy thriller (I thought it was horror instead, perhaps due to the Alfred Hitchock movie connection?). It’s definitely a fairly thrilling read for the most part — the descriptions of the Scottish landscape were a bit hard to follow — and is a pretty enjoyable read.

Book Review: Black Venus by James MacManus

Black Venus by James MacManus Boring and poorly written. So many predictable cliches, vague descriptions that beat around the bush, strange bits of innuendo, repetitive details about the characters, and what was with all the dull clothing descriptions? It felt like the author was playing with dolls, and the characters seemed just as real.

Book Review: The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta I just couldn’t get into it.

Book Review: Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Böll

Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Böll An intriguing look at one family’s experiences through two world wars in Germany, as seen from different perspectives and points in time. However, the writing can be a rather weighty and takes work to get through, especially with so many perspective changes and so many people to keep track of.

Book Review: The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov

The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish this book, especially after the writing style seemed a little too full of itself, maybe even pretentious. And full of unfamiliar words — either outdated or foreign to me — that required a quick search of the dictionary to keep me going. It reminded me of other German historical fiction books I’d tried to read and quit on, but I kept going.

I am glad that I persisted, because it really was an enjoyable read. Not having known anything about Sir Richard Francis Burton, I became intrigued by this English explorer who was curious about the world and the people in it, and set himself apart from his fellow explorers in many ways.

The story is split into three main sections, each focusing on a different place Burton visited: India and Pakistan, the Middle East, and Eastern Africa. Each section switches between Burton and other individuals, either servants who helped him in his travels or outsiders trying to figure him out. We see his attempts to learn more about the places he visits and the people he meets, including his difficulty in sharing his interest and curiosity with his fellow Englishmen.

The only downside to the book is that it can take some work to get through, so don’t expect a bit of light reading. Some sections get a bit weighty in philosophy or theology, either due to the content or the flowery writing. And it’s best to have a dictionary (or the Internet) handy, since the included glossary — which I found a bit too late — didn’t have definitions for everything, and sometimes the meaning isn’t clear from the context.

That said, I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction that features traveling or a great adventure as the main theme. Although it wavers a bit towards the end, the story is a pretty intriguing one that kept my interest throughout.

Book Review: The Time in Between by María Dueñas

The Time in Between by María Dueñas Overly wordy and too drawn out to keep my interest.

Book Review: Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman

Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman Definitely a strange book. Part historical fiction, part literary fiction, with a touch of creepiness mixed in as well. I’m not sure it’s entirely successful though, but I wouldn’t say it was entirely bad either.

First and foremost, the writing was a mixed bag. At times, I really liked the way the author described things and set the scene for the reader. But often, that feeling would be ruined by long, boring, and overly detailed stretches of scene descriptions or inner dialogues. And I’d often stumble on a sentence that felt like it was dancing around the meaning, requiring a few rereads that didn’t always clear things up. It felt like the author was sometimes referencing things I couldn’t identify, but really I think they were things only she got, like an inside joke amongst friends. Simpler language would help with a lot of these issues.

As for the story, not much happens. Things meandered for a very long time — touching upon a lot of characters without fully developing most of them — and then eventually, very near the end of the book, a lot of big events happen, one right after the other. It was a bit too much really, despite all the build-up, and it didn’t feel like enough of a reward for having slogged through the rest of the book to get there. I have the feeling that this book started as a short story, but wasn’t really enough to work well as a full book, which is a shame.

That said, I did like some aspects of the book, so I don’t feel this was a complete waste of time. I think this author has some strong skills, but with some room for improvement. The setting and story of this book are certainly unique, and it’s not a book that is easily fit into a single category. I might read some other pieces of her work, but maybe not right away.