Book 96: Third Willow by Lenore Skomal

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Third Willow by Lenore Skomal

Finished reading on December 30th, 2013

Rating: 8/10

Third Willow tells about one summer in the lives of four ten to twelve year-old children – Hap who lives with his drunkard father and gets beaten up on weekends when his father gets home drunk, Patsy who is a tomboy and carries a rifle her dad gave her with her, and is scared to go to see her older brother in the hospital, Beah who has no-one to play with and Raz a Jewish girl whose parents encourage her to play with Beah.

As the book starts we get to know the children one by one, and what they are doing this summer, 1954.

They mostly spend their time playing at The Willows, a place away from the town of Sand Flats where they all live. The Willows is depicted as a kind of perfect wilderness for outdoorsy kids to run around and get muddy and the third willow is the children’s favourite tree to climb on and play under.

Although if you consider the previous, you’d think it’s a children’s book, then it really isn’t, because it deals with such topics as racial and religious discrimination, violence and homosexuality.

The book is written in a way that keeps you turning the pages and slightly resembles Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and it really did make me want to read the latter again.

I can imagine it being on lists for requited reading in the future… or being made into a movie, because the  book is definitely worth it.

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Looking Back on the Year 2013

Bookworm

Just recently I was asked by someone how many kilograms of books do I read in a year, unfortunately I don’t have a scale, so I still don’t know… However for some time I’ve thought of piling up all the books I’ve read in a year and see how many centimeters I can read in a year. This is the result: 158 centimeters. Puny? Yes, there are 48 books missing from the piles as I read them as e-books or got from the library or lent from friends, so I’m positive it should be more than 2 meters easily.

As for numbers: 121 beautiful books altogether in the year 2013. 54 of them were fiction and 67 non-fiction.

I’m sad to say that only 4 of those books were in my native language…  Last year I at least managed to read 12 in Estonian (from the total of 101) And the year before (2011) out of 46 books 24 were in Estonian and in 2010 out of 53 books, 34 were in Estonian, so unless I do something about it, then in 2014 I should probably read about -6 books in Estonian (I’m not quite sure how that would work out)

The year isn’t quite over just yet, so maybe I’ll read some more…

Happy reading!

 

Book 95: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Finished reading on December 27th 2013

Rating 8/10

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide is a collection of all five novels in the “trilogy”, nicely packed into a format that would allow one to use it quite nicely on interstellar travels as self-defense or how-to-guide. But it’s definitely not for people who want to leave the Earth and never come back as a lot of my acquaintances seem to want to do (I’ll count myself as one there too…), as it shows the Earth as a nice comfy little planet, that’s totally forgotten, almost impossible to find and improbable to leave it alive.

I loved these books almost as much as I love the movie. And because I saw the movie first (and memorized everything Marvin said), then the characters appear as the actors in my minds-eye, so all the characters that aren’t in the movie are kind of dull and non-existent…But the books are clever and sarcastic and unless you have the Dictionary of Sarcasm nearby (I wouldn’t be surprised),  it is just the necessary dose of acidic remarks on the Life, the Universe and Everything. Today I left a party saying I have to go and save the Universe -something that might sound familiar if you’ve read the novels.

As far as the separate novels go – it’s either all or none, and the first one’s the only real option to consider here if you’ve liked the movie. I’m not quite sure where one novel ended and the other started, as it’s all a kind of blur faintly resembling the shape of a vogon that has had too much coffee ( if you’ve no idea how that looks like – it’s like a code-monkey jumping around happily because of discovering a fancy new operating system that tells them they’re on the other side of the world).

To sum up – read it and some day you might feel the same way as the poor Arthur did while trying to get a computer to make him tea (the feeling being: I’d die for a cup of tea).

When was the last time you felt like Marvin? (you know actually having a genuine people personality, and a rather cheerful one of those..)?

Book 94: The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah

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The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah

Finished reading on December 16th, 2013

Rating: 9/10

“The House of the Mosque” tells the story of the people living in the house of the mosque in the city of Senejan in Iran.SEnejan
The story starts in 1969 when a boy is trying to convince the old imam of the mosque that he has to keep up with the news of the world and that he should watch the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. We get to know the imam, his family and other people living in the house of the mosque who in the duration of the story have to deal with a lot of hardships as Iran is going through a lot in it’s history. For about ten years we get to know the inhabitants of the house and when revolutionary activities starting 1977 there are the young men who we first met as kids a few chapters ago.

There are the demonstrations against the shah Pahlavi who was supported by United States who gets overthrown in a few years and the dynasty is replaced by an Islamic republic.

The lives of the poeple of the house of the mosque aren’t easy as the young men take part in some of the revolutionary activities and even in communist movements and get stuck in the middle of events they couldn’t have thought would happen.

As the old imam of the mosque dies he is replaced by the young imam Ahmad, fresh from his studies. Ahmad is popular among the ladies and is unfortunately stuck in the claws of an opium addiction which helps him preach with the power and might to inspire people.  However Ahmad gets framed by the secret police and in order to not end his career he has to  agree to work for the secret police. He does get out of that incident without really becoming an informer thanks to his uncle Aqa Jaan, who is the caretaker of the mosque.

There seem to be so many storyline going on at the same time in the book so it’s a little difficult to navigate in it.

People get arrested because of being in a village called the Red Village as the people there are supporters of communism and that ofcourse is seen as a huge threat to the country.

As the revolution progresses there are other powers that come into play. Now there are a lot of executions of the people who committed crimes under the previous power and people who worked with the secret police are seen as criminals and Ahmad is tried for having been an informer although he really wasn’t one.

The story is really complex, the history and politics behind it need a lot of thought, as do the names of the people.

For me it was a bit difficult to follow the story as the names are from a different culture and it’s rather difficult to guess whether for example Khalkahl, Shahbal and Qodsi are male or female. Only by the end of the book it got easier (as there weren’t too many of the original characters left)

I think it is a good read, although a lesson in history about the 1960s-1980s in Iran would come in handy before reading the book, or maybe after. I would definitely recommend reading it to people who are interested in the countries and people of the Middle East.

Book 93: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Finished reading on December 12, 2013

Rating: 8/10

It was my second time reading “The Hobbit”, as I’ve previously read it about ten years ago as a teenager and before that I remember it being read to me and my brothers as a bedtime-story when we were children.

So the story wasn’t really new to me.

However it was still an exciting read, and as I read it in expectation of the second Hobbit movie, I’m glad that it is a rather quick read, although for some reason I did feel at parts that it was a bit dragging along (maybe that’s why it was such a good story to be read for children before bedtime?), specially in the end. Of-course I was in a bit of a hurry in trying to finish it as fast as I could.

Now as far as the story goes, I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll just mention that the conclusion was a bit of a disappointment for me, and I’ve got to admit that I had forgotten that that was the way it ended. Well… dwarves…. that’s all I’m going to say… sigh…

My favourite part was Bilbo’s conversations with Smaug, it was just clever and funny and makes Smaug seem a bit fluffy and cute although still deadly…

If you’ve read it, didn’t you wish there’d been a different conclusion for Smaug? To me it seemed as if it was just an unfortunate event which was hidden by the later events on the Lonely Mountain..

As I’ve finished reading the book now  again I can’t wait to see the new movie, to see what other things they’ve put in there that aren’t really in the book.

Book 92: Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris

IMG_7820Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris

Finished reading on December 11, 2013

Rating: 7/10

“Coming of Age in the Milky Way” is a book about the history of cosmology. It starts with  the early worldviews of Ancient Greek philosophers and goes all the way up to modern theories of how the Universe began and evolved.

The beginning I found good, somewhere in the end it started to drag along a little, but the end was good again.

It finishes with accounts of how scientists were trying to find out the age of the Earth, the Sun and the Universe, and then also come up relativity and quantum mechanics and even string theory can be found on the pages of this book. For that matter it is a thorough account of it all and I’d really recommend it to someone who has not yet gotten acquainted with the development of the astronomical worldview. However if you’ve read some books on the same topic before you might not find much new or interesting as it was the case for me unfortunately. Otherwise the writing was clear, there’s no need for higher mathematics or much knowledge of physics or astronomy beforehand.

 

Book 91: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

PIMG_7810The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Finished reading on December 7, 2013

Rating: 8/10

This book is about the adventures of Allan Emmanuel Karlsson, who one day decides to leave the Old People’s Home and ends up in quite a lot of trouble while he’s at it.

It all begins when a young man in a bus station asks him to look after his suitcase while he goes to the restroom. Unfortunately Allan’s bus is leaving soon and he takes the suitcase with him, which starts this new adventure for Allan. Because of this suitcase he meets some exciting and slightly odd people and a circus elephant.

He is also pursued by the owner of the suitcase and the police, who in the beginning are just trying to find the centenarian who had disappeared but as the tale continues there are doubts as to what kind of man he really is.

While there’s the story that s unfolding in 2005, there’s also the life-story of Allan’s. How he beacem an expert on explosives, and how that helped im meet a lot of famous historical figures at crucial points in the 20th century. Among those people are General Franco, President Harry Truman, Comrade Stalin, Kim Jong Il and Mao Zedong.

It is an exciting, although totally unbelievable story.

Book 90: Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 1

PIMG_7806Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 1

Finished reading on December 5, 2013

Rating: 8/10

This book, as the title suggests is about astrophotography. It contains the best entries into the astronomy photography competition with short descriptions of what’s on the image, and how the astronomer took it. The most amazing for me was the young astronomy photographer category, as the pictures were great.

You can see the variety of topics and themes – deep sky and human and the sky, the solar system etc.

There’s also a short introduction to getting started in astrophotography.

But the best part of this book is that it’s inspiring enough to make you want to go out and take pictures of the night sky.