“Let It Bleed” by Ian Rankin

Let It Bleed (Inspector Rebus, #7)(Author: Ian Rankin) + (Year: 1995) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Scotland)


Review:

Another book from my world challenge and, unfortunately, not a very good choice.

I can’t really say I enjoyed Let it Bleed. Despite it being only 360-something pages, it felt like 800. The story was dark, dreary and slow, and it had next to no emotional pull. I realized rather late that it’s one of those money-machine series with tens of novels, each the same as the previous one, and full of flat, uninteresting characters.

Inspector Rebus was a very unpleasant main character, he lacked charisma, he lacked compassion, he was terrible to his daughter, disrespected authority and personal rights and only kept going with the investigation because he had decided so and no one was going to stop him.

There were many characters in this book and not a single one was developed more than the generic background story. Even the villains had next to no motive for the crimes they committed. I’m pretty sure even Rebus himself mentioned that.

Not to mention that the entire solving of the crime was a hot mess of useless and meaningless details and conversations, and little pieces of information which, through Rebus’ far-fetched deductions, lead to him solving the crime thanks more to guesswork, rather than evidence.

I admit that I am not generally a fan of detective novels, for many of the reasons that lead me to not liking Let It Bleed, as well, but even as far as those go, this is one of the worse ones I’ve read.

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“The Joke” by Milan Kundera

(Author: Milan Kundera) + (Year: 1967) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Czech Republic)


Review:

One of my all-time favourite books is Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. So when I went to the Czech republic, I wanted to get a new Kundera book along my plan of buying books from the countries I visit. I had heard about The Joke from several people, so I told myself “Why not?”. Well… I shouldn’t have.

This book represented everything I could possibly hate about Kundera. I had heard before that he has many misogynistic tones in his books, something that didn’t strike me as hard in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but it did so in The Joke. In fact, I had an extremely hard time finishing this book because of the terrible representation of human emotions, interpersonal feelings and the role of women in them.

In The Joke, women are nothing more than playthings. The only thing they do is serve a purpose. They are not beings on their own but only in relation to what men need from them. The characters themselves admit it at certain points, but it was not my impression that while the author does self-mock, he also criticizes this open misogyny. I don’t think that Kundera actually disagrees with his characters. He might realize that the roles he attributes to women are wrong, but I don’t think he has any other way of thinking, and that is clearly visible in the entire book.

This fact bothered me so deeply that I could focus on little else outside of it.

Throughout the entire book, I was deeply disturbed and disgusted by the fact that this is how some men see and treat women. This indifference, this humiliation, it was so scary – if we are to accept the world as seen through Kundera, it would be a sad world indeed. And the most terrifying part of it all is that this type of behaviour is not only real, but also very common. I noticed even more of the exactly same attitude toward women, while I was reading the book, in the world around me.

Indifference was also what was killing the characters in the book. Helena was tortured by the indifference of her lovers, Ludvik – by the indifference of the other people to his sorrows and need for revenge, Jaroslav – by the indifference of the modern world to his beloved traditions and folklore.

I believe that we all shudder at the idea of indifference. Anger is passion, same as love. It means that a person cares, one way or another. But indifference… that is altogether different and scarier. It means that to someone, or to a group of people, or even to the whole world, something that you care about, or worse yet, your entire being, is something of no importance and no consequence. And there is nothing at all to do to fight indifference. A cold and indifferent heart can hardly be shaken by any desperate action.

There was one character that I found more tolerable than the entire bunch – Kostka. He was the only character that was not entirely closed off into his own world and wanted to give and not just get. There was also one quote from Kostka that made me think long and hard until I ended up agreeing:

“I can understand you, but that doesn’t alter the fact that such general rancor against people is terrifying and sinful. Because to live in a world in which no one is forgiven, where all are irredeemable , is the same as living in hell. You are living in hell, Ludvik, and I pity you.”

“The Firebird” by Susanna Kearsley

The Firebird (Slains, #2)(Author: Susanna Kearsley) + (Year: 2013) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Another book I’ve had for a really long time and just now decided to read. Well… I wouldn’t have missed out on much, had I not read it.

The Firebird was not terrible, but it just wasn’t anything special whatsoever. It was bland and long and not very eventful. While I expected the characters’ powers to be an important driving force of the book, they seemed more like background noise, while the main story was that of the character of Anna, who was just a little girl caught in an a somewhat exciting period of history.

I will not pretend that I was familiar with the historical background of the book, because in all honesty, it was something that Bulgarian history books must have considered somewhat irrelevant to us. Therefore, I managed to learn some interesting facts about the struggles in Scotland, Ireland and England, and also a great bit about the history of the Russian empire and St. Petersburg. From this point of view, the book was more or less entertaining.

But that’s where it all ended.

The actual story was not even that of a main character of the abovementioned events. Anna was just a nice girl who knew all the right people. The other characters in the book all seemed to be greatly attached to her, but I just couldn’t understand why. Her charm remained a mystery to me, and so did everyone’s infatuation with her.

I felt more or less the same about the other two main characters, Nicola and Rob. I think I would have liked to read a bit more about them so that I can actually be interested in at least one storyline in the book, but they were just as shallow of characters, as Anna seemed to me.

While The Firebird didn’t suffer from any spectacular flaws, unfortunately, it didn’t have any great virtues either. So much so that I’m afraid I will have forgotten all about it in a couple of months’ time.

 

“The Fade Out: Act One” by Ed Brubaker

The Fade Out: Act One (The Fade Out, #1)(Author: Ed Brubaker) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

For some reason, I had completely different expectations about this book and I thought I was going to be reading a supernatural noir, instead of just a regular one.

The Fade Out, much to my disappointment, was a rather ordinary crime novel set in the late 40’s in Hollywood. I say disappointing, because this volume had every single characteristic of every other noir novel: a troubled main guy, who is unwillingly dragged into a murder investigation and has alcohol problems; a dead starlet; a shady media mogul; a shiny boytoy with a nasty personality; a good guy who is getting destroyed by the sad events, etc etc. As a plus, this book also has Clark Gable. It’s very fortunate that I watched Gone with the Wind just a couple of weeks ago, so I was more excited to see him than I normally would have been.

Character-wise, everyone is basically one of the cliches I listed above. Story-wise, the book isn’t much more original.

If I was expecting a supernatural thriller, it didn’t work out to begin with. However, even the volume that I ended up reading didn’t possess many redeeming qualities. Except for the art. I rather liked the art style. It had ups and downs – the ups being that it very well fit into the 40’s Hollywood style and it was very pretty; and the downs, a lot of the characters kind of looked like each other to a point I wasn’t sure who was who.

I usually go optimistically about comic book volumes, persuading myself to continue with the next ones, but I think I will pass on act II of The Fade Out.

“Kindred Spirits” by Rainbow Rowell

Kindred Spirits(Author: Rainbow Rowell) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I usually like Rainbow Rowell’s books, but this small novel was not my cup of tea.

For starters, the story of Kindred Spirits was rather unusual for me. I’ve never been big enough of a fan of anything to wait in a line for days to see it. As a matter of fact, this line culture doesn’t exist in my country at all and people almost never go that crazy over the things they like.

As an outsider to American culture, I would say that it’s something very specific to America to reach this level of admiration towards some aspect of pop culture. To me, that seems rather excessive. Of course, all over the world, there are people who are fans of, or even completely obsessed with something. However, I don’t think it exists as a group behavior on so high of a level.

On the book itself, it was too short to really start caring about the characters. They didn’t have enough time to have fully developed personalities and their back stories were lacking, as well. Mainly, two sides were told of the same story and it was rather hard to choose which one to believe, because basically the two main characters had completely opposite views.

What I liked about the book was the snappy humor. The one-liners were pretty good and very, very dorky, which I fully support.