Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm not Scared

by Niccolo Ammaniti
translated by Jonathan Hunt
20/12/2011 app 6-7 hours read

This book was a really good read. It kinda reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of my favourite book.

The book was told from a first person view of a boy, whose name is Michele. He lives in a very small town in Italy, named Acqua traverse. It all started on a hot summer day, where Michele and his friends were playing around when they found an abandoned house. Michele went through the house as a punishment for losing a race and behind the house he found a body of a boy lying in a hole on the ground. He kept it a secret but the secret was bigger than he thought.

There is not much to say about the plot without giving it away. The storyline is very smooth, although it may not seem so to other people, because the story usually describes certain feelings comparatively to an event. An example to that is when Michele told out the secret, he related an occasion where he ate too much peach and felt sick, before puking it all out, which he compared to spilling out the secret. I like this kind of storytelling a lot but I know some people who don’t like it. The story however doesn’t go off the tangent so I don’t imagine it being annoying.

Meanwhile the character acts illogically sometimes especially the children but come to think of it, children are like that most of the time. The writer managed to write and capture the feeling of a child, when the world was new. I even felt an ache when SPOILER STARTS one of the character, his best friend, Salvatore, trade him out just so that he could have a try at driving the local bully’s car.I mean, what kind of friend, does that? Just for a ride? And to add to that, Salvatore was my favourite character up to that part. SPOILER ENDS.

Words used are easy.  Pleasant reading. Quite surprised this was a translation.
Recommended for teens and above. There's a naked scene where michele's mom was fighting and tore her clothes, but nothing raunchy.

Anyway, I recommend this book.

Soulless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel

by Gail Carriger 17-20/12/2011  app. 11 hours reading

A disclaimer up front, I am never a fan of twilight or in other words, I hated the book. I read the first book under ‘recommendation’ (more like harassment) of a friend. She said it was good and I must read it, which I did and didn’t like. After that I am always wary of any books that have a vampire theme in it. Therefore it was quite a surprise to me to found this book, The Soulless lying around among my unread books. It seems that I have bought this book during one of those late-nights on Amazon(the website) where my mind wasn’t so clear. I remember liking the preview/snippet of the book when I bought it but let’s just say, you can’t judge a book by just one chapter.

The Synopsis
The book started with the protagonist, a woman who has come upon a vampire while slipping away from a ball/dance. Acting on self defense, she(Alexia Tarabotti) managed to kill the vampire with the help of her neutralizing ability which can turn supernatural such as vampire and werewolf back into human when touched by her. Later a biro that regulates the supernatural, led by a Lord Maccon who is a werewolf, came to the scene and proceeded to determine why the vampire had attack the woman, which is a crime. As in all book, there’s something sinister working behind the scene, which unfolds later on.

Story base
Premise wise I think the book has a very unique background, where it is in portrayed in the height of the commonwealth, which during the time hackney coach and corset was still in style. The twist to this is that supernatural (listed in the book as vampires, werewolves and ghosts) has integrated into the society where they are also regulated by law and held under the Queen’s administration. This is not to say that everyone liked the supernatural but the society has come to tolerate them, up to the point that some are given high position in the government such as the dewan(werewolf) and protante(vampire) who act as advisors to the Queen in military and domestic affairs respectively. It is a beautiful concept actually and feels plausible, something that hasn’t been done before.  The concept was beautiful but the book, the book has some styles that annoyed me.

Writings' style
Firstly, the book started with the scene where the main character (accidentally) killed a vampire. The book tried to put humor in it, such as when the vampire died and fell upon a treacle pudding, which the character says was a lost since she really liked treacle pudding and had loved to eat it. This was funny the few early paragraphs but after a while the humor gets tiring. It doesn’t also help that the society in the stories are in the Victorian era where the morals and etiquette are annoying and has long been outdated. Such examples are how woman above certain age who didn’t get married becomes a spinster, woman cannot study or exert themselves but should have frolic around instead , and how the lords are above the working class and such. Halfway through the book I have come to terms and accept that this is simply what the era was, dancing around in words, much like in Jane Austen’s. The writer did say Jane Austen had influenced her writing. Anyway, another thing that  I don’t quite like about the book is that the writers tend to use too many big words and synonyms, that it’s hard to follow sometimes.

The plot wasn’t really new but unfolded in its time. The love story inside it was typical and I had to encourage myself to read further, convincing that there’ll be a twist or something to compensate for the mushy stuff. Sadly, I was wrong. The book went sappy till the end, what with the gossiping and buying gloves and hats peppered throughout the book.

As stated earlier, the words in the books are not that easy to understand. They are not as hard as a Jane Austen’s but big words tend to crop up too often, unnecessarily. You can guess most of the meaning but it does disrupt the flow of reading.

Reading age/recommendation
WARNING: this book has suggestive scenes and I would not recommend it to young reader. If you have read a Mills&Boons, this book is slightly ‘milder’ than that.

I’ve realized the review is a bit harsh on the book but truthfully the book is quite okay and is a very light read. Nothing too serious. I am just disappointed that the unique concept (to me at least, as I’ve never read something like this) was not written in a style that I think is more appropriate to it. Something like Jonathan Strange, maybe?
If you like twilight AND Victorian Era, you’ll probably like this. As for me, although the concept of the book intrigued me, I doubt I’ll buy the sequel.

Ps. Plus, I am wary of writer who wears white gloves while drinking tea.