Tag Archives: book review

“Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles

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“The Gentlemen in Moscow” was such a perfect match to my reading needs, so I bought “Rules of Civility” by the same author.

It is yet another exquisite novel by Amor Towles. It is his first, published in 2011.

The novel is the story of Katey Kontent, a descendant of Russian immigrants, who establishes herself in the New York of late 30s. She transforms and lets the city transform her from a typist to the editor of a famous magasine. The character is quite my type of freedom-breathing girl:

“- Come on, sweet stuff, said a conductor.

– Sweet your own stuff, I replied.”

I enjoyed the book so much that I wanted to read it again once I turned its last page.

Bookmark – by Sofia, my daughter.

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“The Royal Treatment ~ a crown jewels romantic comedy ~” by Melanie Summers

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The book filled a need for a light, unsoliciting reading. So, if you are looking for a long weekend leisurely stuff, this might be it. The novel is a romantic comedy from Crown Jewels Romantic Comedy Series by Melanie Summers.

It tells the story of a young journalist-turned blogger – Tessa Sharpe – who met a prince charming of modern times. Tessa’s keeps The Royal Watchdog blog, to monitor the lifestyle of royals and to make a living out of testing new sports related gadgets. How she manages both will bring a few moments to laugh out loud, so reading it on a train or plane is fine. Anyway, everyone has their headphones on :).

“Never let me go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Ishiguro is an acclaimed author and a Nobel Prize winner. Both the title of the book and his reputation determined my choice on an autumn evening’s trip to the book store.

The novel is a dystopian science fiction. It is a sad story. My suggestion is not to read it when you feel low.

The story is narrated by Kathy – the main character – who grows in a sort of boarding school. She introduces other characters, colleagues and friends, with whom she shares the daily life. It was only towards the second part of the book that the author let’s the reader understand that the group of youngsters are actually clones, created for humans heeling and transplants.

“Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and no matter how much we despised ourselves for it – unable quite to let each other go” is so human, when you think of it.

“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.”

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.