The Great Swindle

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The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre, is a fascinating novel, which is read with big eyes, cocked up ears and the soul in your mouth.

Target audience?  Everybody who loves the beginning of the 20th  century, those who are passionate about history, those who adore France, but also those who appreciate an agile, flowing and extremely thrilling literary style.

Where and when? France, right after the First World War ended.

Strong points? The sensational characters, the gripping writing, the dashing and stunning rhythm, without falling into the trap of ordinary suspense. The traumas of those who survived the First World War combined with a huge and flabbergasting swindle, but also with a terrifying and rapacious greed build up toward an exceptional reading.

Weak points? I don’t remember any as a matter of fact.

Favorite characters? Albert, Edouard and Pradelle (whose infamy and abjection hit you so hard that you can barely stand).

Convince me! The swindle around the cemeteries will make your jaw drop. You will recognize a special type of cynicism and foul play, which are easily found in nowadays society, too!

Bonus? The detective like thread combined with drops of philosophy on life turn this book into something unique, almost impossible to duplicate.

Stars? 9 plus.

Outlet

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Vertij by Randy Taguchi, is both a literary challenge, as well as a cultural one, which any serious reader needs to assume it.

Target audience?  Those who are passionate with exotic cultures, like Japan, those who experience with more drama the alienation of the world we live in, but also those who haven’t felt anything anymore for a very long time.

Where and when? Tokyo, in Internet era.

Strong points? The hikikomori phenomenon (people, especially young ones, who completely give up on social life and choose to live isolated in a room). Not only the subject is fascinating in itself, but the author uses it in a very original manner. The mix of mysticism and technology is mind-blowing. The sex scenes are not meant to shock the reader, as they perfectly integrate themselves in the fabric of the story.

Weak points? It can scare the reader who strictly prefers a warm atmosphere and round and positive characters. I recommend you to face your fears.

Favorite characters? Yuki and Taka.

Convince-me! “Nobody else could stay a long time in my heart. The other people couldn’t stimulate me. I had disconnected myself from humanity. I hated human feelings, too raw, too alive. I was afraid of them.”

Bonus? Sex. The best diet in the world.”

Stars? 9 plus.

HHhH

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HHhH by Laurent Binet, has represented for me one of the biggest literary surprises in the last years.

Target audience?  Those in love with history, those who wish to hear the truth from a writer who really knows his pen, but also those who let themselves wooed by novels like The Book Thief and who need ASAP a cold shower. We are not allowed to forget reality. And, if for this, you need to get off your fluffy and pink clouds, then so be it.

Where and when? Prague, towards the end of the Second World War.

Strong points? The exceptional writing style, the author’s magnificent interventions in the story (you almost feel how he touches you when you forget about him), the incredible events in which the three brave heroes are involved, Binet slapping you at the end of the chapters and the way your heart and soul is soaring long time after that. Sometimes, a simple sentence can put you down mercilessly. The major impact on everything you thought you knew about Nazism, Heydrich, Hitler, Jews and the horrific events of those times.

Weak points? The slightly superior omniscience of the author which may bother the recalcitrant natures. I said “may”.

Favorite characters? The Author, Prague, and the extraordinary and unforgettable trio: Gabcik, Kubis and Valcik.

Convince-me! “When I look at the news, when I read the newspaper, when I meet people, when I see my friends or some acquaintances, I tell myself the world is ridiculous, thrilling and cruel. The same goes for this book: the story is cruel, the heroes, thrilling, while I am ridiculous. But I am in Prague.”

Bonus? The scene in the church where 7 people withstand 800 SS soldiers reaches such a perfection, that you wouldn’t believe this is a fragment from a debut novel.

Stars? 9 plus to 10.

Wife 22

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Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon, is considered a book belonging to the chick-lit wave. I would rather say the wife-lit wave. A completely different menu.

Target audience?  Obviously those with wife status, but also those who, at least once in their life, had an online romance and know what an unhealthy spell can put on you the words of a complete stranger.

Where and when? San Francisco, modern times.

Strong points? The love story taking shape through bytes and megabytes, the light humor, the simple style, ideal for a Sunday, in the train, in a plane, on a boat, in a tractor or in other unconventional means of transportation.

Weak points? The desperate attempt to convince a schizoid society, like ours, that marriage is still the best solution in the world. I could have swallowed this idiocy, but the author kept on shoving down my throat this idea until the razzle-dazzle ending.

Favorite characters? The Researcher, but not the hysterical husband.

Convince-me! Wife lifestyle, well described. Up to a point, obviously.

Bonus? I don’t have one,  because from the above mentioned point on things kind of go crazy and we find ourselves in the middle of a teenage like rekindled passion, while we are dealing with two jobless partners with serious issues of communication.  Chica, seriously?

Stars? 7, because it can be easily read, while you are watching a movie, or doing your nails and giving Likes on Facebook. 🙂

Fallen

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Fallen by Lauren Kate is apparently the fist volume of a series of some sort.

Target audience? Everybody who is VERY MUCH young adult, if I may say so, but also people who still believe that pigs can fly. Or simply those who need to read something with an empty brain.

Where and when? Savannah, Georgia, modern times.

Strong points? The book cover!

Weak points? The romance between a fallen angel and a mortal is not only one of the most used cliches,  but to screw badly such a generous recipe is almost unforgivable.

Favorite characters? The Angels.

Convince-me! In the end we will read about an unexpected death, which saves the general disaster.

Bonus? The pool built inside a church.

Stars? If I had been a fan of the romance books with Gothic accents, I would have probably given something around 7. But as I am not one, I will not dare.

P.S. My smirking should not stop you from trying to read it. It is possible for the book to bring you pleasure. 🙂

The Tree of Life

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The Tree of Life by Christian Jacq opens a sensational series: The Mysteries of Osiris.

Target audience? Readers fascinated by old civilizations, but especially those who love Ancient Egypt.

Where and when? Abydos, Memphis, during the pharaoh Sesostris’ reign.

Strong points? Unexpected adventures, the slow discovery of a far away world with interesting religious rituals and beliefs, with picturesque characters and funnily appealing names, with enough twist and turns to keep you hooked, conspiracies and a main hero, lacking physical strength, but compensating with a big heart and a lot of brains.

Weak points? Sometimes, the lingering action might not be appreciated by our nowadays fast readers who usually wish non-stop facts, and more facts…and again some more facts. Have patience, ladies and gentlemen, the end of the world is not near. 🙂 You will not regret it.

Favorite characters? North-Wind! An exceptional donkey! 😀 But also Iker, General Sepi, General Nesmontu…

Convince-me! The Herald! If you pay attention, you will discover an uncanny similarity with a “character” of our times. Equally bastard!

Bonus? You will join a magic journey, which will marvelously continue in the next novels of the series!

Stars? 8 plus.

Midnight Voices

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Midnight Voices by John Saul very clearly belongs to the horror genre. And not any horror. But one which freaks you out…by the book.

Target audience? Obviously everybody who loves this genre, but also readers who appreciate a good plot, interesting characters and a great story-teller.

Where and when? New York, modern times.

Strong points? The suspense and the desire to find out what exactly is going on in the building where the characters move become almost unbearable.  The horrific explanations you start to suspect as the story moves forward, but you constantly refuse them as your mind cannot cope with them.

Weak points? The too naive mother who falls in the claws of the bad guys too easily. Sometimes you feel like slapping her.

Favorite characters? Virginia and Irene – the creepiest and the most dubious old ladies. Absolutely horror like!

Convince-me! The bizarre building doorman, who is a favorite topic for whispering in the corners. Is he really a troll? 😀

Bonus? Lavinia Dolameci, Elena Conesici, Gheorghe Birtin… Names with Romanian resonance. Are they important? 🙂 Read and you will find out how come Romania is present in this novel. 🙂

Stars? 8 plus. Almost 9 for the negative characters that make your hair stand on end! 😀