The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Rating: 6/10

Recommended for:

  • Satirical Swedish historical fiction with absurd plot, a lot of politic and high, international stake

Summary :

Just because the world ignores you, doesn’t mean you can’t save it

Nombeko Mayeki is on the run from the world’s most ruthless secret service – with three Chinese sisters, twins who are officially one person, and an elderly potato farmer. Oh, and the fate of the King of Sweden – and the world – rests on her shoulders.

Born in a Soweto shack in 1961, Nombeko is destined for a short, hard life. When she is run over by a drunken engineer, her luck changes. Alive, but blamed for the accident, she is sent to work for the driver – the brandy-soaked head of a project vital to South Africa’s security. Nombeko may be good at cleaning, but she’s amazing with numbers. The drunken engineer isn’t – and has made a big mistake. And only Nombeko knows about it…

Thoughts :

Perhaps as the consequence between having loved The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, the similarity of style with that book without the charm and the irritating characters – with the exception of Nombeko who sometimes feels like a sideline character in her own story, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden ended up being a little tedious and quite long with its occasional entertaining parts and interesting historical info saturated in at times feeble, force humor.

Notes :

“Life, here I come!’ he said. And was immediately and fatally run over by a bus.”

And so the pastors and lay missionaries streamed in to save the Basotho people from evil. They brought with them Bibles, automatic weapons, and the occasional land mine.

The world went on revolving around its sun at the constant speed and with the inconstant temper it always had.

Life need not be easy, provided only that it is not empty.

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Rating: 8/10

Recommended for:

  • They who look for light, slice of life fantasy read
  • Cozy queer fiction

Summary :

After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time.

The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success — not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is.

Thoughts :

There is just very few things that can beats the heavenly presence of a fresh brewed coffee and bakes in the morning, and so Legends & Lattes is just as comforting and sweetly delightful slice of life, one which radiate this warm feeling that sometimes, life can be nice.

Notes :

“Calamity.” His own callused paw was swallowed by hers.
Her eyes widened.
“Hob name,” he said. “You can call me Cal.”
“Whichever you like best. I don’t need your name to suit me.”

It was like drinking the feeling of being peaceful. Being peaceful in your mind. Well, not if you have too much, then it’s something else.

She was smiling, and for the first time, the building, the city, this place… felt like hers. A place she’d still be tomorrow, the week after, next season, next year…. Home.

The Concrete Blonde (Harry Bosch #3) by Michael Connelly

Rating: 8/10

Recommended for:

  • Good police procedural thriller
  • LA noir cop series

Summary :

The Dollmaker was the name of the serial killer who had stalked Los Angeles ruthlessly, leaving grisly calling cards on the faces of his female victims. Now with a single faultless shot, Detective Harry Bosch thinks he has ended the city’s nightmare.

But the dead man’s widow is suing Harry and the LAPD for killing the wrong man– an accusation that rings terrifyingly true when a new victim is discovered with the Dollmaker’s macabre signature.

So for the second time, Harry must hunt down a death-dealer who is very much alive, before he strikes again. It’s a blood-tracked quest that will take Harry from the hard edges of the L.A. night to the last place he ever wanted to go– the darkness of his own heart.

Thoughts :

Michael Connelly could make what seemingly unoriginal premise of a serial killer story into well plotted, excellently written psychological thriller/crime investigation with a probing scrutiny into the idea of justice and its manifestation as law that binds elements in society, its complex effect in molding the prejudices, bias, psychology and actions of prosecutors of law and the people it sworn to protect.

Notes :

Bosch looked at it as a cycle. Every twenty-five years or so the city had its soul torched by the fires of reality. But then it drove on. Quickly, without looking back. Like a hit-and-run.

Bosch knew that hope was the lifeblood of the heart. Without it there was nothing, only darkness.

“Nobody in this world is who they say they are. Nobody. Not when they’re in their own room with the door shut and locked. And nobody knows anybody, no matter what they think… The best you can hope for is to know yourself. And sometimes when you do, when you see your true self, you have to turn away.”

Certainty is Dangerous

Certainty is dangerous. When we are certain, we impose blindness onto us. It’s a straight road, ignoring everything that falls on our senses outside that constant, smooth, easy ground. Instead of perceiving the existence of those clear outlines, we see a blur  even when we are standing still, they are less than a background, they are vexing distortion to our bull’s eye. 
Certainty is worshipping an empty throne, even when it leads to the edge of a cliff. When we are certain, we cease to question, we stop growing and we either force or behave as though the world has to adjust to us. We invent lies to ourselves, denying anything else but the road. So, we have what we call inner-peace, like a lake with hidden drop-offs under the still surface. 
We need doubt, questions, because they lead to an open space, where you can take a fresh breath and see with clearer eyes. It is terrifying and freeing. Certainty is easy, but to be uncertain, that needs courage. Still, if it is truth that we are seeking, then don’t worship the empty throne. 

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Rating: 9/10

Recommended for:

  • 20th century German literature
  • They who looks for a bizarre, classic short story rich in allegories

Summary :

It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing—though absurdly comic—meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, “Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.”

Thoughts :

Dark and poignant, The Metamorphosis is a compelling read loaded with uncomfortable questions about identity, the purpose and meaning of existence, and familial love. Its 90s pages belies the profound contemplation on the depth of depression, isolation and one’s alienation from society when one is judged an outcast, an inconvenience who offers no measurable value, who upsets the ‘peace’ of the other civilized people. Society doesn’t look favorably at ugly things, it’s contemptuous and indecent. Misery evokes disgust, which evokes shame and guilt, and in turn conjures hatred, therefore horrible things should stay in shadows or be annihilated for fear it would reveal the hidden suspicion of the viewer’s black, corrupt hearts and unflattering natures.

It’s also about how fragile human relationship is, even more than human life. Nothing is static, everything is in continuous motion and constantly changes. Of course they could also be powerful despite being perhaps, fleeting.

There is a kind of hysterical, bleak sense of humor in the story, especially in the beginning. The writer painted the plight of working class, showing the all-consuming and paralyzing effect of rat-race to a person by the comical illustration of the protagonist’s single-minded focus to his thoughts of being late to work and the consequences to his family, instead of his insane situation of finding himself wakes up as a bug. This is depairingly, entirely relatable to the current capitalist, consumerism of the global world we are living in.

Finally this book brought forward the disturbing notion that maybe we are just shallow beings after all, who depends so much on physical appearance, in spite of believing otherwise. As light is how we define the world, we observe, asses, and judge by what we see more than by anything else. Otherwise, how we differentiate us from the enemy? And so, a thing that doesn’t look like human, is not human and has no place in our humanity.

Notes :

How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense

I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.

The sister played so beautifully. Her face was tilted to one side and she followed the notes with soulful and probing eyes. Gregor advanced a little, keeping his eyes low so that they might possibly meet hers. Was he a beast if music could move him so?

Then his head sank to the floor of its own accord and from his nostrils came the last faint flicker of his breath.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Rating: 8/10

Recommended for:

  • They who love to read great books by 20th century female writers
  • A worthy, historical fiction read set in the post colonial period in America

Summary :

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present.

Thoughts :

Compelling and uncompromising with spellbinding prose and captivating characters. Beautifully unfolded, Beloved is a sensitive tale of humanity and its complexity, of its suffering and heart-wrenching resilience, of the meaning of being free and claiming oneself, of past never leaving the present and of a love only belongs to a mother.

Notes :

and suddenly there was Sweet Home rolling, rolling, rolling out before her eyes, and although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not make her want to scream, it rolled itself out before her in shameless beauty. It never looked as terrible as it was and it made her wonder if hell was a pretty place too.

Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her–remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys. (Note – It’s because we look for beauty, want it and instinctively pull away from ugliness)

I got a tree on my back and a haint in my house, and nothing in between but the daughter I am holding in my arms. No more running–from nothing. I will never run from another thing on this earth. I took one journey and I paid for the ticket, but let me tell you something, Paul D Garner: it cost too much! Do you hear me? It cost too much. Now sit down and eat with us or leave us be. (Note – But staying has cost you a lot too, what if now it might cost you the only thing you have left?)

She who had never had one but this one; she who left a dirt floor to come to this one; she who had to bring a fistful of salsify into Mrs. Garner’s kitchen every day just to be able to work in it, feel like some part of it was hers, because she wanted to love the work she did, to take the ugly out of it, and the only way she could feel at home on Sweet Home was if she picked some pretty growing thing and took it with her. The day she forgot was the day butter wouldn’t come or the brine in the barrel blistered her arms. (Note – So harden and still search for beauty)

Would it be all right? Would it be all right to go ahead and feel? Go ahead and count on something?

Every dawn she saw the dawn, but never acknowledged or remarked its color. There was something wrong with that. (Note – So good)

To Sethe, the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay. The “better life” she believed she and Denver were living was simply not that other one.

Tell her it’s not about choosing somebody over her–it’s making space for somebody along with her. You got to say it. And if you say it and mean it, then you also got to know you can’t gag me. There’s no way I’m going to hurt her or not take care of what she need if I can, but I can’t be told to keep my mouth shut if she’s acting ugly. You want me here, don’t put no gag on me.” (Note – This man is unbelievable. You came into their house, a house wt history and suffering. You are the invader, and now what? It suddenly your house too and the girl just has to accept you, let you sit on head table and be on her best behavior for you?)

I been in territory ain’t got no name, never staying nowhere long. But when I got here and sat out there on the porch, waiting for you, well, I knew it wasn’t the place I was heading toward; it was you. We can make a life, girl. A life. (Note – You are the one who has to work for it. Is she supposed to hand over a life in a silver platter for you man?)

Working, working dough. Nothing better than that to start the day’s serious work of beating back the past. make-a-new-step, slide, slide and strut on down.

“Everything depends on knowing how much,” she said, and “Good is knowing when to stop.” (Note – So true, the sweet point)

She did not tell them to clean up their lives or to go and sin no more. She did not tell them they were the blessed of the earth, its inheriting meek or its glorybound pure. She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it.

Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

Singing love songs to Mr. Death, they smashed his head. More than the rest, they killed the flirt whom folks called Life for leading them on. Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last.

And no matter, for the sadness was at her center, the desolated center where the self that was no self made its home.

But suddenly she saw her hands and thought with a clarity as simple as it was dazzling, “These hands belong to me. These my hands.” Next she felt a knocking in her chest and discovered something else new: her own heartbeat. Had it been there all along? This pounding thing? She felt like a fool and began to laugh out loud.

And these “men” who made even vixen laugh could, if you let them, stop you from hearing doves or loving moonlight. So you protected yourself and loved small. Picked the tiniest stars out of the sky to own; lay down with head twisted in order to see the loved one over the rim of the trench before you slept.