The Post Les Miserables World

After Les Miserables, I wanted something easier to read – not that that’s a slag on the reading choice I made. I’m going to assume you know what I mean and carry on.

After much humming and hawing and asking other people what they thought I should read, I made my own choice. Because even though I ask people, I’m really looking for the answer that I already have in mind.

The winner was The Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg. For those of you in the know, this is book number 5 in the Fjallbacka books. Or the Patrik Hedstrom books, depending on how you look at things (it’s the Buckshaw Chronicles vs. the Flavia de Luce books all over again).

This one takes a long time to get going but centers on a retired history teacher being bludgeoned to death in his home and being left there for months (so long that there are crunchy dead bugs all over the floor) and a Nazi war medal wrapped in a baby’s shirt that may or may not have blood on it.

You know, that was a pretty succinct description. Pat on the back for me.

This installment ran about 500 pages which is average for Lackberg but this one felt…slow. And also too fast. I felt like getting any actual clues took a really long time but the book was filled up with family details and dynamics so that the mystery’s solution ended up being a bit rushed. We spent a lot of time working through Erika and Patrik’s relationship now that she was trying to go back to work on her book and he was supposed to be home on paternity leave (key phrase: supposed to). We also examined Erika’s relationship with her mother, her mother-in-law, her sister and her sister’s relationship with her new partner and his kids. Oh and the station chief got a lot of book time embarking on a new relationship. And there were a lot of pregnancies. Like a lot. About 4. Within 500 pages. That’s a lot.

I got through it and there was enough that surprised me to be interesting. But overall I felt that this one was a little more obvious than the rest. Usually Lackberg has one really good twist that she throws in when you least expect it and I felt that that was missing in this one. This one felt very domestic, which if I were reading Maeve Binchy would be just what the doctor ordered. But I was reading Camilla Lackberg and I was looking for depravity.

As a general aside, I would like to direct you all to Jennine’s blog. She writes some awesome book loving posts and wrote a really nice post about my blog that I haven’t had a chance to thank her for because every time I try and comment on her blog it won’t let me. But you should go there and leave a comment on my behalf.


Some Thoughts on Les Miserables

I did it. I finished Les Miserables. There were no pages missing. I wasn’t bored. I didn’t drift off. I finished it and it was glorious.

I loved this book. I loved it. It was so beautiful and uplifting but heartbreaking and devastating all at the same time. I belong to Victor Hugo for life.

Do you think I’m being a shade overdramatic? Perhaps. But this book really was incredible.

I saw the movie before I read the book, which means that some of my reading experience was for sure coloured by that. For instance, in the book Marius is really not friendly to Eponine. And I found myself disappointed by that because I was so into that unrequited love angle in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, you can tell that Eponine is into Marius. But it’s harder to get behind the idea when Marius is being kind of a dick to her all the time. Why do some women fall for cruel men? Marius in the book is not nearly as heart-throbby as Eddie Redmayne’s Marius. But was Mr. Darcy hot before he was Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? I don’t know. For me, they are one and the same. It might be the same thing with Marius. Although he really disappointed me when Jean Valjean came clean with him and Marius kind of turned against him and didn’t want Cosette to see him anymore.

He’s her dad Marius. He saved your life!

(Marius didn’t know this at the time. He made up for it. But it was a shade too late.)

I think Gavroche was actually my favourite character in the book. Jean Valjean is clearly the best character ever- everything he does is motivated out of a wish to be good and do the right thing. But while Valjean’s sainthood can sometimes be exasperating (can you just not go try and clear that other man’s name? Can you just leave it?!), Gavroche is a cheeky devil. He’s still concerned with doing right, but mostly by himself. He’s a street urchin, he needs to eat and he will do whatever he needs to. When he ends up taking care of two little boys (his brothers, but he doesn’t know that) who have lost their home…oh man. I don’t know if there’s a better illustration of poverty in France at the time than this. And then when he dies? Poor little man!

Obviously it’s a long book. And there were moments when I thought that I might never get through it. But they never lasted very long because even on his tangents of war and faith and love and goodness, Hugo always has a point. The story is so skillfully crafted – everything has meaning. Characters that you encountered early on, come back to be significant later. Finally, everything is tied together so perfectly. There might not be a more satisfying ending.

Despite its size, I’m actually contemplating reading this again one day. It was that good. In the meantime, I have the soundtrack to bring me back there.


Get Your Book Nerd On

It’s probably going to be a bit quieter around here because I’m currently trying to make my way through Les Miserables.

I know, exciting. You can cheer for me, I know I deserve it.

The point is I won’t have many reviews to post because all of my reading energy will be focused on getting through Victor Hugo’s masterpiece. I’m 450+ pages in right now, and I have to say, it’s kind of awesome so far. Although I did just have to suffer through a description and analysis of the Battle of Waterloo that I could have done without but I’m sure it will be significant shortly.

Anyway, to tide you over, I’ve been scouring the Internets for book news. And I got pretty excited about some of them. So if you’re looking to get your book nerd on, look no further.

First, the really big one: Dan Brown. You may be familiar with his work. Or you may have spent the past few years living under a rock. Either way, he’s coming out with a new book, Inferno, starring everyone’s favourite symbologist, Robert Langdon. I stayed up all night reading The Da Vinci Code and was even more into Angels & Demons but The Lost Symbol really didn’t do it for me. I’m hoping that a return to Europe will make this a better read for me. Although, remember when Robert Langdon was trapped in The Lost Symbol? That was kind of awesome. Inferno comes out on May 14, 2103.

Good thing I always speed through Dan Brown books because on May 21st, a book that I didn’t even know I was waiting for comes out: And The Mountains Echoed.  Khaleed Hosseini is the heartbreaking genius behind The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. If you didn’t bawl your eyes out reading either one or both of these books, I’m going to go ahead and say that you have no heart. Also? This is his first book in six years. Probably too busy being a doctor and an envoy to the United Nations refugee agency. Some people.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but the new Flavia de Luce book (fine, The Buckshaw Chronicles) is being released soon! I also know that I’m going to have to wait for a paperback version of this one to match the others. For those of you that don’t have this issue, Speaking From Among The Bones (which I’ve heard is the best one yet) will be on bookshelves on January 29th.

Finally, one of my very favourite authors has a new book coming out. Jen Lancaster. That’s the link to her blog if you haven’t already had the pleasure. Here I Go Again is like Mean Girls crossed with Back to the Future. How does that not appeal to you? Although her first novel, If You Were Here, wasn’t my favourite that was only because having visited her site all the time I was familiar with a lot of the material already. She promised not to do that again. So I’m really looking forward to this. Bonus? Now that her new book is out (February 5th), her previous non-fiction, Jeneration-X, will be out in paperback!

Speaking of which, since I call myself the Paperback Princess, it would be remiss of me not to let you know that some of my favourites will be coming out in paperback soon. The Prisoner of Heaven will be released on March 12, 2013. Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James is now available in paperback (love the cover) and Gone Girl, which is what most of you search to find me, will finally be in paperback on March 5.


Books Have Power

On Sunday, which was rainy and cold in my neck of the woods, I left the house to go on our weekly dog park run (not to be misleading or anything – we don’t run. The dog runs, we trail along behind him). After that we always do our groceries and it serves as a nice little ritual (which wouldn’t be complete without a cup of expensive caffeine to warm our hands) to start or end the week (depends on your perspective).

It was hard to drag my butt out of bed (so cozy) but you can only ignore puppy dog eyes for so long, so up we got.

I don’t know if it was the weather, the post-holiday fatigue or if we were just incredibly unfortunate in the people we were running into, but people were d-bags on Sunday. After grinning and bearing it at the dog park, we experienced more of the same at the grocery store, culminating in an extremely rude cashier. That was it.

I was done with people.

Cue Monday morning when I haven’t slept and you basically approach me at your own risk.

Did I mention I’m trying to give up Starbucks (for the zillionth time)?

I was looking forward to retreating to the lunch room with my book in the middle of the day.

I’m new in the office, people don’t know me and I’m shy so I don’t generally approach other people first. Add to the mix the fact that I wasn’t in a great mood and I probably wasn’t going to make any new friends while I was in the lunch room.

But a curious thing happened. People, seeing that I was reading another new book (I’ve been blitzing through them so far…all in preparation for the numbers stunting read that Les Miserables is sure to be) started approaching me to talk books. Which is my favourite thing in the world to talk about (aside from my dog. Possibly. Depends on his attitude).

I’m not (usually) one of those people that gets annoyed any time someone talks to me when I’m reading, so despite everyone’s apologies, I was glad to chat. And I made new friends.

All because of the power of books.

What I’m trying to say here, ladies and gentlemen, is that books are amazing. Not only do they take you to distant lands and places, introduce you to a plethora of incredible characters, and form the basis of our human civilization, they help you make friends. Who doesn’t want more friends? There’s something disarming about a person reading. If you’ve read the book, you want to comment. If you haven’t, but you’ve been meaning to, you want to ask how it is so far. I know that I’ve had to stop myself on numerous occasions from offering unsolicited reading advice in book stores.

Despite my best efforts to ignore other people and let the actions of a few grumpy jerks on a Sunday colour my attitude towards the entire human race, my obsessive reading showed me the light. Something to remember when I’m next at the dog park.


The 2012 Review

This is the time of year when everyone looks back on the past 12 months and looks at the best and worst of etc.

I’d like to pretend like I’m different, but I’m not.

This was a big reading year for me.

I’m working through my Top 5 or other arbitrary number list in my head, but in the meantime I thought I’d look back at my reading trends and feelings this year.

Up for it? It’s happening, you don’t actually have a choice.

Like I said – big reading year for me. I make a goal for myself each year. In the past it’s been a bit lofty and I’ve handicapped myself by having to choose books that I think will get me to my goal. At the same time if I choose a goal that’s too low, it’s not going to be any kind of a challenge. This year I settled on 50. Left me room to play around with bigger books but also, 50 books is a lot.

I surpassed my goal. By a lot. As of today I’m working on finishing my 81st book. Which is the most I’ve ever read since I started keeping track of the books I read each year. And let’s face it, probably ever.

This year I discovered the delights of Agatha Christie. I never thought I was a murder mystery kind of reader but I am. I really really am. Aside from Agatha Christie, I devoured works by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and Camilla Lackberg (The Ice Princess, The Preacher, The Stonecutter, The Stranger). I even read a real life crime book about a serial killer in Paris during World War II. That book was a lot more difficult to read. Like terrifying.

My failure to read Les Miserables in time for the movie’s release notwithstanding, I did seem to be drawn to books about the French Revolution. Charles Dickens and I came to an understanding when I fell in love with A Tale of Two Cities and I gave Michelle Moran a chance to wow me (she did) when I picked up Madame Tussaud despite the awful cover. While I was fascinated by the French, I became enamoured of Russian Royals, learning all about Catherine the Great thanks to the incredible biography by Robert K. Massie. That turned into a bit of an obsession with Nicholas and Alexandra and I just picked up a book about Royal Russian women by Julia P. Gelardi (which I’m really excited about because she wrote one of my very favourite royal biographies about the five granddaughters of Queen Victoria who each became a Queen in her own right).

My book club had a big impact on my reading choices this year. Our selections ranged from so-so to downright scandalous once we started on the Fifty Shades phenomenon. I was also on the hunt for anything that might have something to do with Downton Abbey and I finished off all of the available Song of Ice and Fire books. I caved and read The Hunger Games books (which I loved), and tried my best to read War and Peace, but was ultimately foiled when my copy was missing a sizeable chunk of pages. I still haven’t managed to sort that out – when I took a copy out of the library to read the missing pages, it was a completely different version.

It was a pretty low key year for non-fiction, something I plan to work on in the New Year. I did manage to continue my love affair with Malcolm Gladwell (he kind of changed my life with Outliers this year) and was completely fascinated by the lives of the Kennedy Women (Lawrence Leamer) and members of The President’s Club.

This was also a year when I made a lot of book mistakes, which was kind of a first for me. There were a number of books that I read that I just didn’t care for. A couple that I abandoned altogether (Catch-22, Little Shadows, The Vampire Lestat) and others that I struggled through that I wanted to abandon (The Stranger’s Child, The Prague Cemetery, Bride of New France, The Firefly Cloak).

But in the end, I read almost 81 books. And that’s pretty badass.


Les Miserables

Have you already seen Les Miserables*? If you haven’t, you must. Brave the crowds (because there will be crowds) and get in that theatre to watch the masterpiece. You will get choked up, you will get caught up in the Revolutionary spirit and you will have the songs stuck in your head for days. You may even download the soundtrack.

You already downloaded the soundtrack? Me too. Months ago, in preparation. I was one of those jerks singing along (silently). It was glorious. I did it again on the bus this morning. Which looked a lot more crazy.

Now. Have you read the book?

Me either!

Are you properly ashamed of yourself? I am. I tend to make it a point of honour to read a book before I see its movie version. For a couple of reasons. First, obviously, so I can be one of those people that’s all “Have you read the book? It’s better.” Secondly, because I want to know what’s going to happen and finally so that I can be in the know about the things that the movie leaves out. Like that part in the last Harry Potter movie where the Harry Potter says to the dead Lupin something about his son and my boyfriend was all “wait, what? He has a son?” because that was never touched on in the movie beforehand.

But Les Miserables is a horse of a different colour. I never really got the urge to read it because it’s massive and I assumed (wrongly) that it would be difficult to get through. I was thinking Tolstoy when I maybe should have been thinking more along the lines of Dumas (Tolstoy is all wordy and broody and detailed, Dumas is funny and strangely relatable considering how old his works are).

My bad.

Then there was the timing of the whole thing. Reading Les Miserables is obviously a commitment and it deserves to be given due consideration. I wanted to see the movie basically the day it opened (I managed it on Boxing Day instead) and I also wanted to hit my revised target of 80 books read this year…

A choice was made and it did not involve reading Les Miserables. I’m working on it now. Mostly because I’m obsessed with the whole thing and I want more. So far it’s not a bad read. But I’m not sure that I will be able to dedicate myself to it fully until I’ve gotten my book store shopping spree out of my system…

A reading failure all around.

*Apologies to the French language purists, but I cannot for the life of me get the correct accent on the first ‘e’.


Books On Film

Have you guys seen this yet? Anne Hathaway cut off all her hair?! Brave girl – isn’t she getting married? I couldn’t do it even if there was a wedding in my future! (which, there isn’t. Just to be clear)

So evidently she lopped off her luscious locks (can we agree that Anne has lovely hair?) for a part in the movie version of Les Miserables.

I have not *gasp!* read Victor Hugo’s masterpiece. I know. I’m a failure at life. It’s on my list! But so are War and Peace and Bleak House and I haven’t done much about that either.

But like millions of other movie minions, now that there is a movie involved! I might actually get my butt in gear and read it. Amazing how a movie version will do that eh?

Considering The Hunger Games movie mania we are currently experiencing as well (have you seen it yet? I still have to go) I thought it might be fun to talk about some of the better movie adaptations out there. OK super nerdy but also? Super awesome.

I’d say at the top of my list are the Jane Austen adaptations. I’m talking about the BBC Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth naturally), Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility, Gwyneth Paltrow’s  Emma and Mansfield Park with…actually I don’t know who was in that one. But it was terrific. All of these adaptations managed to capture the humour in all of Austen’s work as well as the swoon worthy aspects of the novels.

The adaptations of Roald Dahl are pretty great – I’m thinking Matilda and the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of course. While I appreciate the artistic vision of Tim Burton’s version, it just didn’t’ have the same spirit as the Gene Wilder version. Matilda was so perfect from the terrifying Miss Trunchbull to the sweet Miss Honey and the disgusting Wormwood’s – minus the lovely Matilda of course. Considering how I turned out, it should come as no surprise that Matilda especially had a special place in my childhood so I’m glad that they got it right. As for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – there isn’t one among us that doesn’t have a favourite part, or treat or song and if I started singing ‘oompa loompa…’ you could probably help me finish off a verse.

Gone With the Wind. Can you say masterpiece? Margaret Mitchell’s epic tale of a Southern belle was masterfully adapted to the big screen. No expense was spared to create this film and decades later it still shows. The book itself is marvelous but there is nothing like watching Scarlet O’Hara on film.

I love the 1994 version of Little Women with Susan Sarandon and Wynonna Ryder. Kirsten Dunst as Amy was brilliantly spoiled and Clare Danes’ Beth was tragically sweet. It makes me bawl every time. I do love the version with Margaret O’Brien and Elizabeth Taylor but I can never get over how they switched the birth order and so for me, 1994 is always the preference.

My final choice is going to be…I can’t think of another one just now. What’s your favourite adaptation?