>> 14 March 2015
A bit behind from travelling and taking a brief detour into Princess Book Land (Kiss of Deception, Mary E. Pearson, really enjoyable), which is required while flying, sorry. There's nothing more relaxing to me than being stuck on a plane for hours with all the wine I want and a young adult romance novel. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, no emails to answer, no phones to pick up. Just me, my headphones, a wine-drunk plane-buzz, and a silly book to lose myself in.... bliss.
With Love From Finland:A Novel, Ellie Alanko
Oh my. This book started off so well that I even wrote myself a note about it: "This is the most relateably female of settings: angsting over a haircut, feeling bullied by the stylist, needing a change, too afraid to know how." This book is about a woman, Alina, who is dealing with the grief and logistics of losing her parents and her job within about two years. She's the daughter of Finnish immigrants, and her Finnish cousin and his friend come to visit her in Northern California, where she's dealing with being the executor of her parents' estate. In her grief over losing her father, she breaks up with her boyfriend fixes him up with her best friend, who immediately impregnates her. BUT EVERYONE IS FINE AND WE ARE ALL STILL THE BEST OF FRIENDS RIGHT GUYS?? She convinces herself that she's in love with her cousin's friend Paavo and that he is in love with her, despite there being absolutely zero reason to think this. Her best friend then sleeps with him, of course, because she just has so many feelings. Her other best friend accidentally burns her house down while screwing her realtor. Meanwhile the ex-boyfriend broods and says really nasty things to her and somehow she ends up with him again in the end? Basically, this is a book about a woman who makes really bad choices, and has truly terrible friends. The redeeming quality of the book is the very detailed attention to second language phonology and general language learning issues encountered when she is in Finland (trying to convince Paavo that he is in love with her, like an idiot).
"His speech alone comforts me, so like that of my mother and grandparents, where all is stated without inflection, and all sentences tread downward from the start. Mom used to ask, "Where this is," when she searched for something. And the sounds: in Finnish the "t" is pronounced so softly it sounds like a "d" and the "p" a buttery "b" sound. My visitors' talk feels familiar, familial."In any case, despite the obviously idiotic but relatable main character (who hasn't made terrible choices when it comes to friendships and relationships?), I really enjoyed this book a lot. Finland, the land of saunas, sailing, metal bands, and cross-country skiing sounds like an excellent place to visit (in the summer), although the the author paints Finnish people themselves as overly fastidious and more than a bit racist, so I don't know.
Kissiness: 3/5 (God, don't get back together with your ex, SERIOUSLY, HE HAS A CHILD WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND)
Trip of a Lifetime, Elizabeth Johnston
This might be the worst book I've ever read, ever. It's so hilariously bad that I just couldn't put it down. There are two simultaneous timelines, a HUGE cast of characters, and completely nonsensical plot, an incomprehensible love triangle featuring minor characters that is somehow the impetus for the whole thing, and some sort of time-traveling Mayan god who's only power appears to be 'throwing spiders at people'. I can't even begin to unravel what the author thought the plot of this book was going to be about, and the writing itself is so bad that you just can't wait to see what overused adverb (63 instances of 'whilst', seriously) and stilted dialogue will greet you on the next page. An excerpt (the scene: a woman sitting in an ambulance, about to be taken to hospital. She has jumped out of a moving bus because Ramiro, the spider-throwing Mayan god currently in sexy Mexican disguise, has thrown a spider at someone else).
"I'll ring you with the address [of the hospital] - I might be in there for a few days and then I'll probably go home as apart from any injury I've suffered major shock and probably won't feel like enjoying the rest of my holiday."...ok. The timeline that takes place in the distant past is rich with historical details of everyday Mayan life, and it is very clear that during that peculiar phase of adolescence in which we suddenly fixate on some ancient culture, this author chose Mayan. The entire book reads like a 13-year-old girl had to write a short story about ancient Guatemala for 8th grade English, and expanded it into a 300 page book. She punched in all the facts (reminding us again and again that Mayans eat maize, and sleep in hammocks, and their hand tools were made of flint, wow), but left out anything meaningful, or indeed, remotely intelligible.
Spideriness: 4/5 (one time it was some ants or a centipede or something, I don't know)
Feels: bemusement, bewilderment, begrudgement, whilst
The Pull of Gravity: A Novel, Brett Battles
This novel is set in Angeles City, a popular sex tourism destination in The Philippines. From reading this book, I now know more than I would ever want to know about how to get a prostitute in The Philippines, and how awful these women are to each other, and that any man who has ever traveled alone to this country is definitely a pervert. The story is told from the point of view of a mostly pathetic American, who ends up in Angeles City because he's just generally a failure at everything, is intolerably lazy, and gives up on life. Not the most sympathetic of narrators, certainly. He becomes part owner of a successful bar, but because he's such a lazy drunk, he runs it into the ground. He tells the reader the story of an American friend and his innocent (prostitute) Filipina girlfriend. Of course they fall in love, of course he gives her lots of money, of course the other girls are jealous, of course he gets murdered, of course she's ruined forever, of course of course of course. The dialogue and narration are repetitive and predictable and there is LOTS of it. Man comes to bar. Girls say things to man. Everyone dances and drinks a lot. Repeat ad nauseam for 300 pages. Basically, this book was long, slow, sad, and full of characters that I can't remotely relate to. I have actually been to Manila several times now, and I do not have a high opinion of it, nor the rest of the country. I was hoping that this book might help somewhat (it did a bit, I'm interested in visiting Boracay beach and Taal volcano and diving at Apo Reef), but on the whole I'm still pretty grossed out by the whole place.
Whilstness: 0/5 (I checked. BECAUSE THAT IS NOT A WORD PEOPLE USE)
Feels: tiredness, irritation, boredom