“Beartown” by Fredrik Backman

Beartown (Beartown, #1)(Author: Fredrik Backman) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

A Man Called Ove was one of the best books I read last year, so I was interested in reading another one of Backman’s novels. A friend lent me Beartown and Us Against You, so I immediately got on with it.

Beartown was a rather good book, although it was more sad and dark than I expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but I was taken off guard by the sober and honest narrative of the problems of a small, lost town in the Swedish forest. Had this book been American, I kind of expect there would have been a lot more sugar-coating of the heaviness in the hearts of the characters. European authors, however, often have this cheerful way of telling sad stories.

And I think that’s what Beartown really was – the sad story of people who deserve to be happy, and how they deal with that. I felt that the characters had a lot of personality and were very realistic, which is something I always greatly appreciate. The inhabitants of Bjornstad all had their own crosses to bear and it wasn’t very easy to separate who’s good and who is not, as it was obvious that even good people do bad deeds, and bad people can surprise us by lending a helping hand.

Out of all of the characters, I liked Benji the most, and my suspicion is that so did most people. He was the one person in the book who always stepped up, despite his constant urge to fail. I felt like this was the kind of person that I would rather be – predisposed to failure, but instead fighting for success, rather than a person like Kevin – used to success and bored with it. But really, each character presented a different moral that the author wanted us to draw and this was done so smoothly that I wasn’t even annoyed and I didn’t find it preachy.

Beartown was not flawless, however. I would say that it had more issues than A Man Called Ove, for example. At a certain point I started growing tired of Backman’s writing techniques. I felt like almost every statement in this book was made at least twice (when it came to Beartown’s love for hockey, then 200 times). For example, we read time and again how no one outside of the town would understand their love for hockey. Okay, I get that I will not get it, enough already, let me read. Same thing applied to the ominous way of delivering information about the upcoming violence “There’s going to be violence.”, “No one knows how the violence came”, “People will later talk about the violence in the town” etc etc.

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“Circe” by Madeline Miller

Circe(Author: Madeline Miller) + (Year: 2018) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Okay, I will be the minority here. I have been following this book for months, ever since the early reviews started appearing. I had extremely high expectations, which might have been why I couldn’t enjoy Circe properly.

In all honesty, it was a mix of things that I disliked, rather than one specific element of the book.

For starters, I couldn’t get myself to like Circe as a person. In mythology she is mostly a bad person, while Circe tries to present her as a misunderstood/misrepresented character who was neither good, nor evil. What I saw more than anything was the underlying theme of her weakness and desperation. She let most characters walk all over her and then, when she was “growing” and “changing”, she decided to stand up for herself, but really, it seemed like it was forced writing. Somehow, to me Miller’s description of Circe becoming stronger and more fierce didn’t appear realistic. It was obvious that the author wanted to her to seem so, but it was an unconvincing evolution.

At the same time, the book felt rather claustrophobic, as perhaps it was meant to, but not just in the sense of Circe’s confinement on the island, but also the reader’s confinement in Circe’s head. I felt unsatisfied with the other characters, especially Circe’s enemies, because I only saw them through her eyes and neither their motives, nor their actions seemed to make all that much sense.

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I guess it’s hard to spin a more exciting story out of known mythology, but the bits and pieces of Circe’s life that were woven into an entire story, were not enough to support it. The moments that were filling the gaps between the major points of the narrative seemed drawn out and repetitive, such as a lot of weaving, a lot of walking around the woods and gathering herbs, many walks on the beach, etc. etc.

I kind of expected a female perspective Percy Jackson actually set in mythological times, and what I got was a journal of a single mom, mixed in with a pinch of magic. Not necessarily bad, but not what I was going for, either.

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“Injection, Vol. 2” by Warren Ellis

Injection, Vol. 2 (Injection, #2)(Author: Warren Ellis) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I was pretty excited to read the second volume of Injection, but I must admit it was a disappointment.

Everything that I found interesting and worthwhile in the first volume was gone here. The new main character, Vivek Headland, was rather boring and overrated and the rest of the characters had basically no space to develop.

The story itself started out from something interesting, the Injection, and morphed into a dull saga of Headland’s peculiarities and strange sexual tastes. Add to that several long and boring monologues and a few random shooting sprees, and you are as far away from what was originally interesting in this story, as you can be.

The art was not as impressive either, mainly because it changed focus from interesting manifestations of the Injection to sex scenes and thugs.

I see how to some the mix of a world-changing virus, ghosts and cannibalism might be interesting, but for me it was over the top while actually not giving anything of value to the reader.

I might have completely lost interest in the series, unfortunately.

“Bir Siyah Saçlı Kadının Gezi Notları” by Buket Uzuner

Bir Siyah Saçlı Kadının Gezi Notları (Author: Buket Uzuner) + (Year: 1989) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Turkey)


Review:

* 3.5 stars *

This is one of the books we read excerpts from in translation class while I was studying Turkology. The chapter that we read immediately caught my attention and I spent a really long time looking for the book itself, until finally a friend of mine (to whom I am very thankful) went on a trip to Turkey and bought it for me.

The book (the title is translated as The Travel Notes of a Brunette in Wikipedia) was just as entertaining as I hoped. It was rather short so it didn’t allow for an actual story to develop, but each small episode was interesting on its own.

Having the dream to travel as much as possible, I was a big fan of the idea that this is not only a travelogue, but also has the personal twist of the author’s origin, as well as the period she was traveling in, which is 70’s and 80’s from what I managed to gather.

It was fun to see her viewpoint of the time period, as well as to learn small facts about her experiences which are certainly very different than what an American, for example, would have to say about the same countries and events.

What I didn’t like as much was the writing style overall. Uzuner would often repeat herself, especially when it comes to descriptions, most notably how she describes all darker skinned people as hearty Mediterraneans, and all fair-skinned Westerners as lacking warmth. That might be her view in general, however, her own story proves her wrong as she has many nice and warm Western friends. Also, since the stories were taken from different times in her life, we couldn’t even properly follow her own life’s story, the friends and boyfriends and all that, which kind of seemed part of the essence of the book, as they kept turning up from time to time, like her Norwegian boyfriend. It made the novel feel a bit choppy and out of context.

Despite all that, I really liked the short stories, the bits of travel information and the interesting point of view. As I saw that she has other travel books, I think I will be looking for them now.

“The Wicked + The Divine: Imperial Phase I” by Kieron Gillen

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 5: Imperial Phase I(Author: Kieron Gillen) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Well… this was not good. Considering that WicDiv has had ups and downs before, I hope that it will still get better. However, what I see is that the story is getting closer to its end and I feel that the writers are getting tired. Even the characters seem to have exhausted their fun potential and are becoming more and more unpleasant.

The Great Darkness plot is generally worthy of a main story-line, but unfortunately, it seems to be relying entirely too much on the characters, rather than the actual force of evil that’s threatening them. This entire issue was about the characters reacting to their impending doom and them growing, or not, in the face of danger.

I can say that I honestly don’t like Laura. She was kind of annoying at the beginning of the series, but now she’s openly a pain in the ass. All of her shenanigans seem kind of pointless because the only person she ever hurts is herself. Yet, she seems driven to be a bad person every single time.

On the contrary, I used to dislike Baal and to often see him as an useless accessory to the story, but in this volume I found him a lot more likeable. Same goes to Cassandra who was basically the only person making any kind of sense in Imperial Phase.

I’m pretty sure I will continue reading, as I want to finish the series, but I will keep my hopes up that it will get better, because the current situation is not good.

* As always, the art was amazing.