Category Archives: Books

“A gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles

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I bought the book in the airport in Bucharest. The title of the book sounded just right.

And so it proved. The story line, the author’ style and soft humour, the intertwining of history and human destinies made it an exquisite evenings’ companion.

The main character of the novel is a Russian aristocrat – Count Alexander Rostov – condemned by a soviet tribunal to house arrest in Metropol hotel in early 1920s. As amazing as it sounds, he managed to live his life to the fullest without setting a foot outside the building for over thirty years. That was with one exception, when he took his injured daughter to a hospital. The walls of the hotel became his allies. He put to use his intelligence, manners, character, skills and knowledge to help with grace all of staff and hotel guests on every appropriate occasion. He became a languages and West history tutor to an apparatchik. He worked as a waiter and became a headwaiter in the hotel’ s restaurant.

In his early days in the hotel he met Nina, a 8-year-old girl, who spent her days in the hotel, as his father was newly appointed to a party position in Moscow. Years later, Nina entrusted her 6-year-old daughter Sofia to Rostov, when she followed her husband to a remote camp in Siberia. Sofia grew to consider Rostov as her father… . And in mid 50s he arranged her escape to the US embassy when she was with an orchestra in Paris.

I finished the book with a sense of regret. I could have kept reading it. It is one of those books in which you read a line and close the eyes to savour the words.

My favourite lines: “…life does not proceed by leaps and bounds. It unfolds. At any given moment, it is the manifestation of a thousand transitions. Our faculties wax and wane, our experiences accumulate, and our opinions evolve – if not glacially, then at least gradually. Such that the events of an average day are as likely to transform who we are as a pinch of pepper is to transform a stew.”

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A manual for cleaning women: selected stories by Lucia Berlin

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It is my first experience with Berlin. It will be memorable. I would read a line, then close the book and savor the words and the feelings they bring. A smile in the corner of the mouth. A raised brow. A look into the sky. A chin bending to my heart. Anger. Peace. Wonder. A sense of lost and found.

I found Berlin’s writing multi layered and pluri dimensional. I felt puzzled and pissed off at the same time but not in a dismissing way. It enflamed the curiosity to continue reading through the 400 pages of the Manual. I read them her life’s stories told by other characters and a manual for letting go of the past or cleaning, if you wish.

“The Cuckoo’s Calling” by J.K. Rowling

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I read none of Rowling’s Harry Potter’s books and was curious about her writing style. This curiosity lead me to her crime fiction. The “Cuckoo’s Calling” is a 2013 novel of this genre by J. K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

It kept me entertained at night when sleep was not too eager to come. The novel did not leave any effect on me. And it is meant as a compliment.

Some of the main characters – a private detective named Cormoran Strike and his assistant – Robin are interesting. The story line is around the investigation initiated by a killer who hired a private detective to look into his famous sister’s “suicide”.  The story has a bit of everything: a bit of intrigue, a bit of crime, a bit of human show of vanity and a touch of unpursued love.

The novel is a first of a series. I would not read the others for now. Maybe later.

“Sayonara” by James Michener

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I was looking to read something by Pulitzer winner writers. My research guided me to the work of James Michener. His historic take interplayed with human destinies sounded appealing. So I picked one of his novels – “Sayonara”.

“Sayonara” was written in 1954. It is the story of an ace US pilot falling in love with a Japanese actress and all the prejudices this couple encountered in the turmoil of those times. It is a beautiful tale of love and devotion, struggles and choices, gifts and sacrifice.

I noticed that the novel needs the reader to forget “Instagram” standards of fame, bravery and beauty and take the things as human as they were back then.

“Tom Gates” by Liz Pichon

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I was looking for something hilarious to read. Tried “The Royal Treatment (The Crown Jewels Romantic Comedy Series Book 1)” by Melanie Summers. It was quite good but not really the thing I needed.

My kid chose from the Scholastic book club “Tom Gates” by Liz Pichon. And that was it! The hilarious reading I looked for. She devored the 12 books of the series in no time. It was contagious so I started reading it out loud for a laugth together. It is the best wake up book. No need for an alarm clock in the morning.

Each book has stories of a boy told by a boy, with all the glory of family, school and social life one has at the age of eight. And each page has very funny drawings. For lots of inspiration. Now I know how to convey the message in the next project report 😉

“Winston Churchill” by Katie Daynes

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I loved to read the book my kid picked last week from the school library. Actually, she read it. And I re-readed with her.

The author did a very good job with explaining in plain language the life of one of the most fascinating personalities of the last century. The pages with the story of Churchil’s life from age five to his last days are filled with pictures of his life’s events.

Kids and adults alike can learn lessons of resilience from the man who hold jobs which required decisions that impacted millions of lives. Next time I would get bugged by a trivial matter at work, I’ll gently remind myself about it.

We also learned that Churchil’s hobby was painting. Another take away from the book: balance your professional/school demands with something which makes you happy. Balance your brain hyperactivity with works of hand, as my grandmother would say.

“The secret agent and other spy kids” by Allan Zullo

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This book made me realise that the fairytales readings are a stage we moved through. It is the true stories now that fascinate my kid. She chose from her Scholastic offer “The secret agent and other spy kids”. The book tells 10 true stories of spy kids from the times of the 1781 Revolutionary War to the two world wars and the war in Korea in 1951. It is a good introduction into certain stages of American history through the stories of real-life teenagers who “left their mark in the shadowy world of espionage” who took risks for their country.

The reading will require an adult help with understanding some of the history and military concepts new at this age. So it can be a nice book reading time spent together.