July 22, 2016

Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith

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Title: Career of Evil, Cormoran Strike #3
Author: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Publisher: Sphere
Release date: 2015 
Pages: 494


* This, he thought as he smoked his first cigarette of the day, was London: you started in a quiet, symmetrical Nash terrace that resembled a sculpture vanilla ice-cream. Elin's pin-striped Russia neighbour had been getting into his Audi, and Strike had received a curt nod in response to his 'Morning'. A short walk past the silhouettes of Sherlock Holmes at Baker Street station and he was sitting on a grimy Tube train surrounded by chattering Polish workmen, fresh and businesslike at 7 a.m. Then bustling Paddington, forcing a path trhough commuters and coffee shops, holdall over shoulder. Finally a few stops on the Heathrow Connect, accompanied by a large West Country family who were already dressed for Florida in spite of the early morning chill.*

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less suprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible - and Strike knows that any of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them...

After Robin is sent a severed leg, Strike is losing his clients and business becomes difficult; it is quite understandable after all: who would want to hire a detective who is sent body parts by post? Robin and Strike start their investigation, but the truth will not be easy to uncover.
As we are once more taken to London looking for anything leading to the potential killer, we get to know our protagonists a little more. As it becomes clear that this act is intended as personal revenge against Strike, we learn about his childhood and his years in the SIB. Robin plays a more important role in the investigation this time and we discover elements of her past which explain her personality better as well as her relationship with Matthew. True to themselves, Robin and Strike are both still as attaching as they were in the previous books.
As the plot develops, we are given more and more insight in the killer’s head. We discover fragments of his life and his motivation. His psychology is elaborated and these short chapters help build up the tension as we understand his ultimate objective.
The case itself is enthralling. As usual, the author has thought every detail through and uses suspense with talent. The colourful language, be it for the descriptions or the familiar conversation between the various characters, will allow for a pleasant reading. Robin and Strike quickly have a list of three suspects, but it could be any of them… or anyone else. The readers will make their own assumptions, but they cannot be sure until the very end.
Talking about the end, it is a real cliffhanger. I could not believe the author was playing with us that much. It will be a long wait until the next book is released!


* In short * 
Crime at its best

Back to London for a new case in the company of Robin and Strike: offering the reader glimpses of their past and of the killer’s psychology as well as an enthralling plot, Robert Galbraith writes once again a masterpiece.

June 22, 2016

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

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Title: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release date: 2008 (first published in 1865)
Pages: 176


* "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!".*

On an ordinary summer's afternoon, Alice tumbles down a hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world with even stranger characters, she meets a rabbit with a pocket watch, joins a Mad Hatter's Tea Party, and plays croquet with the Queen! Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more and more curious by the minute . . .

 * Oh dear, what nonsense I'm talking!*

* Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How are wonder what you're at! *

There is no denying that most children –and adults– have heard of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland; that the Cheshire cat and its grin are familiar to many children; that many have attended a Mad Tea Party, be it from near of far. There is however quite a difference between watching one of the many film adaptations or seeing the play performed on stage and reading the original novel.
In fact, I would argue that Lewis Carroll’s prose is part of the extraordinary universe he created. Readers who find any sense of normality in the first few pages will soon be proved wrong, as everything quickly turns absurd. Alice grows and shrinks continuously; she meets strange animals and characters and witnesses unexplainable events. And the concise and comic writing style adds to the strange atmosphere of the story. There are no lengthy descriptions or innumerable details, which means the scenes are mostly left to the reader’s imagination. However, the brilliant wordplays and puns will no doubt guide their interpretation.
I must admit I wondered a few times while reading if the book was really intended for children. I finally reached the conclusion that it can be read on different levels, much like most children’s literature. Children will enjoy the strange universe and the funny characters, as well as Alice’s personality and her adventures, while adults will focus more on the prose and the underlying philosophical questions. Although the book was written 1865, the language is precise and friendly and still perfectly understandable nowadays.
Alice is the typical example of a little girl who wants to grow up and her perspective on the events can be hilarious at times, while annoying at others. She tries to use what she has learned at school during her adventure, but she sometimes associates ideas that do not go together, which results in a comical effect… even more so because everything is rather queer. She does not like being told what to do, but she does not always think before she expresses her ideas, which often offends some of the characters (especially when she speaks about them being eaten). She sometimes behaves like a child and sometimes like an adult and it is therefore difficult to define how old she is.
The characters all have their own personality and I enjoyed the fact that the author did not use the common stereotypes which often come up in children’s literature. Of course, I love the Cheshire cat for its grin and its magical appearances, but my favourite scene is when the Mock-Turtle discusses school; an utterly funny moment. I was laughing so much that the man sitting opposite me on the train ended up asking me what I was reading.
Although Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is very popular in contemporary culture, I would recommend discovering this strange universe with the original book. It is a quick read, but everything is perfectly balanced, depicting a nonsensical wonderland while letting the readers imagine the details how they please. An immensely enjoyable story which will appeal for readers of all ages, children and adults alike.


* In short * 
Did you say absurd?

Although Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is familiar to most of us, it is worth discovering the original source of inspiration of this extraordinarily absurd universe. Lewis Carroll’s funny prose, full of puns and wordplays, adds to the depth of the various characters – humans, animals or… An immensely enjoyable story which will appeal for readers of all ages, children and adults alike.

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