Summer reading

Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card (1985) (full review coming soon)
Thoughts: Science fiction novel. I empathized with the young Ender, despite violence towards other boys, as it feels like self-defense, and Ender doesn’t appear to know his own strength.
The book artwork suggests space battles, which is a bit misleading. The scenes between the battles are entertaining to read and take up most of the book, presumably because the author is most comfortable writing about this interaction.
The boys are remarkably mature for six-year-olds, though it must be said they are very bright kids.
The joy of a normal family upbringing has been robbed from the young boys in Battle School, so obviously this adds to the reader’s sympathy for them.
The fake war comparisons to our own time are quite striking. About a system maintaining power by making people on earth afraid. It got me thinking how the Bush administration got re-elected in 2004 with rhetoric about war-on-terror, making the Americans afraid to vote for John Kerry.
For me, the weakest part of the story is when a boy as bright as Ender can’t see the big picture, and needs convincing by sister Valentine why he is an important fighter, with clichés like “trying and failing is better than never trying at all.” I guess you could say even a genius needs a supportive family.
The story in print feels ideal for cinema. Interested to see how filmmakers handle the Giant, the wolf-children, cliff at the ledge of the world, the castle tower with the snake and mirror.
I had a good time reading this award-winning classic from the 80s, but I'm not in any hurry to read the sequels.
4 out of 5

3096 Days - Natascha Kampusch (2010)
Thoughts: As another reviewer writes, rating a book that is not supposed to be enjoyable is always difficult. A real life horror story. This book is obviously not for everyone, but is also very impactful. There's certainly a decision that has to be made by the reader, if they want to put themselves through this scenario or not.
10-year-old Natascha was kidnapped by a stranger, who held her prisoner for years. The book is a disturbing biographical account of her life. She looks back at the events as a 22-year-old, and claims to have written the book, in order to obtain closure. What is scary is it really happened, and that similar kidnappings still occur.
It’s clearly easy to root for her, since she has suffered such an unfortunate fate, and luckily she realizes it has made her a stronger person today.
He treats her like a pet or a toy. Depending on his mood, sometimes she is the enemy, others times a guest he must look after. Natascha understands, that he too is a captive, but of his own making.
She realizes the kidnapper wants to have total control over her, so that he is the most important person in her life.
Mental torture and unnecessary beating took place, but she doesn’t write about sexual abuse. In an effort to cope, Natascha learns to be happy about signs of kindness, and suppress negativity, just like any child in a troubled household would.
In the book, she contemplates how society needs perpetrators like Wolfgang Prikopil, to give the evil inside of us a face, and to separate the evil from ourselves. Natascha Kampusch believes some people exaggerate his crimes, to such an extent, so that it no longer is remotely recognizable with their own lives. But the problem is many don’t try and understand the perpetrator, it’s easier just to hate.
A lot has been said about the trauma involved, and Natascha Kampusch denies allegations that she has Stockholm syndrome, which she feels is an oversimplification by people who cannot understand what she endured. Natascha felt at the time the only way of dealing with the situation was to forgive him. She figures that because he has a domineering mother, then that’s why he needs to dominate Natascha.
We also read about the police investigation, and how there was a cover up of the police work.
As with other narratives that you already know the end of, for example the movie Apollo 13 (1995), 3096 Days is likewise a well-told and suspenseful story, which is tough to wipe from your memory.
4.5 out of 5

Juliet Naked – Nick Hornby (2009)
Thoughts: Having read Kampusch’s dark biography, I needed to change it up with a lighter read. So I gave Hornby’s novel a chance, which was recommended to me by Analía, a blog visitor from South America.
His entertaining and amusing writing style I enjoyed quite a bit, and could relate to several things. I had previously watched the movies ‎High Fidelity (2000), and About A Boy (2002), both based on Nick Hornby novels.
Wasn’t sure while reading if burnt-out musician Tucker Crowe and his album Juliet Naked are fictional, or real. I won’t spoil it, in case you prefer not to know. The title suggests a raunchy book, which it is not.
Duncan has an obsession with Crowe’s music, while girlfriend Annie kind of tolerates Duncan’s hobby, yet yearns for a baby, before it's too late.
The funny dying-to-go-to-the-toilet scene near the beginning, reminded me of a similar scene in the movie Buffalo 66 (1998).
Perhaps the point is to show how absurd (or in some cases important) the worshipping of a rock star is, how it affects those around you, and how the singer really is just a regular person with problems and laziness.
I ended up finding Duncan and Annie a bit more entertaining and identifiable to read about, than Tucker’s family. It crisscrosses between the two stories.
The layout of the text is unusual, with e-mails, and a Wikipedia article. If you’re into obscure music recommendations, there’re a few of those too.
Favorite quotes:
Page 10: Annie: “Who wouldn’t want to make a man that passionate, that unhappy, that inspired? If you couldn’t write songs yourself, then surely what Julie had done was the next best thing?”
Page 65, Tucker: “I am coming to the conclusion that I need a woman who admires fecklessness and indolence in a man; whether that woman is the CEO of a Wall Street bank or a graffiti artist makes no difference to me.”
Page 86-87: "Clearly, this poor woman was lonely - it was almost impossible to arrive in Gooleness from somewhere else without leaving a trail of unhappiness and failure behind - but anyone desperate enough to usher Duncan straight into her life at eleven o'clock on a Friday night would be unemployable, possibly even under medical supervision."
4 out of 5

Have you read any of these books, or other titles by these authors? Did you read a book over the summer that stayed with you?


  1. I'm quite tempted by Ender's Game but as I've just started reading the second Song of Ice and Fire book, it's going to be a VERY long time till I get to read anything other than Game of Thrones!

    1. @Pete: I read Ender’s Game, mainly because the movie is out this Autumn. I doubt the film will be as good as the book, though.
      Hope you enjoy second Song of Ice and Fire book.

  2. Cool that you enjoyed Juliet Naked. I haven't read that one, but I did really enjoy Nick Hornby's "A Long Way Down". I would recommend giving that a shot sometime.

    Right now I am halfway through Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men". It's hard not to read it without the movie being played in my head. :)

    1. Eric @ the Warning Sign: I could certainly see myself reading more Nick Hornby, his writing style in the book I read is so entertaining and fun.
      You’ve got me interested in reading A Long Way Down, I just browsed the wikipedia page. According to IMDb the movie adaptation will be released in 2014.
      Yes that’s what can happen when you watch the movie first, hope you enjoy McCarthy’s book.

  3. So Chris, are you looking forward to Ender’s Game the movie? I'm not sold on it at this point. I quite like Nick Hornby's adaptations, esp. About A Boy, sounds like A Long Way Down is a good one.

    P.S. I've got my review of Arbitrage up now ;)

    1. @Ruth: Don't think Ender’s Game will be as good as book, we'll see.
      Hopefully A Long Way Down is a worthwhile adaptation.
      Shall go and read your Arbitrage review!

  4. I am looking forward to boycotting all of Orson Scott Card's books and film adaptations. That homophobe can go F*** him self.

    1. @3guys1movie: I'm not really bothered by his opinions on that matter, but I've noticed some people are.

  5. Hi Chris! I really like Hornby, always loved his mix between melancholy and sense of humor. Great review as always. Take care.

  6. @Analía: I enjoyed the book, thanks for recommending. It's the only Hornby novel I've read so far. Of the films based on his writing, I liked High Fidelity. Take care


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