Tag Archives: Books

The Help

There are movies that are fun watching with friends at the cinema, movies that you can enjoy with your loved one and movies that are best seen alone at home with a cup of warm milk or something.

I must admit I enjoy all type of outings, with friends or Johnny,  but  the movies “outings” I enjoy best are the ones seen in my bedroom all alone.

And that’s how I watched “The Help“, alone in my bedroom with Marlanu’ sleeping right besides me.

The Help” is that kind of movie that would appeal to very few friends of mine because the lack of action, any real comedy and basically anything that can be found in the commercial movies these days.

Its a movie with a good story, good characters and a little piece of history.

The plot as described on IMDB:

 An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

The story basically resolves on the hardships of black women during the rights movement (in America, during the time of Martin Luther King and President Kennedy). The story is placed in one of the worst places in America to be a black person, a little town in Mississippi named Jackson.

A young woman, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, who just graduated comes back home to her family.  She is surprised to see that the black maid that raised her is no longer working for her family. Skeeter tries to find out what happened to her babysitter but her family just insists she resigned and moved on.

While Skeeter is out with her childhood friends she realizes that the black maids are being treated a lot different from the employees from her family house. Since she is dreaming of being an aspiring author, Skeeter tries to convince the maids to tell all about their hardships while serving the white families of Mississippi and put all of those stories in one single book called “The Help”.

At first, Skeeter has no success in convincing any maids to help her, until Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson two of the maids of her “best” friends, decide to open up about their lives and hardships.

And from here the story picks up, it has its ups and downs, makes you laugh and cry and just keeps you glued to the screen.

The movie is really that good.

But if you’re not the type to enjoy this kind of movie you might get bored. Yet its a beautiful movie, with a beautiful yet sad story.

There are many movies that represent the lives of black people when they weren’t considered first class citizens, almost 99.99% of those movies present a story that took place in America. I am not sure if I should ask this, but are Americans the only ones that had black slaves in those days?

I don’t remember of ever seeing a movie presenting the lives of black slaves in Europe.

This is a delicate subject that needs to be looked into before making any comments or asking any questions.

Still, if the movie was this good I wonder how the book is. After all the movies is based on Kathryn Stokett book with the same name. The book was published in 2009 and the movie came out in 2011. I guess I have some digging up to do so I can find the English version book.

David Stern – Nightmare World

Last year I purchased some second hand books, mostly in English. They were cheap and I said to myself why not.

I must admit that even to this day I have not read them. Well, from 15 books that were purchased I only read one and that one was on a train when I was going at the sea side. And even then, the only reason for which I started it was because it was a small book perfect for travelling for short distances.

And that book was “Nightmare World” by David Stern, which is books nb. 5 from the Dr. Bones series.

Yes I do know that I started with the wrong book but it is the only book from the series that I have. And I just now found out that there are 6 books from the series and I am looking them up. Maybe I can find them at a sale or second hand, or if I can find them in audio format then everything should be perfect.

Well, I am not looking them up because the book was amazing in any way, but it just feels weird not to know exactly where things started, what happened in the first 4 books and why are the relations between the characters like that (what brought them together, what separated them, etc.).

As I said it wasn’t a great book, but it was OK. I mean at least I didn’t throw the book to the dumpster like I did with certain books in the past, nor did I regret purchasing it.

The only thing that really annoyed me was the name of the characters, well the alien characters. They were really hard to read and truthfully I didn’t even bother pronouncing them.

Still, it was a science fiction book, it was a good change from my Hercule Poirot novels and who knows maybe I’ll read and the rest of the books in the near future. After all, I made a resolution that this year I will enjoy immerse myself in reading and watching movies (especially Bollywood movies).

And yes I know, such a redundant post no actual information has been given. Well, I’m sorry for that, here’s a cute picture of me and Marlanu’ enjoying the afternoon, one listening to audio books and stitching and the other sleeping.

Three more novels by Agatha Christie

I recently wondering why I cannot pick anything else to read besides novels with Hercule Poirot. And then it struck me that the novels (even if they are read in random order) are like watching a detective series. Yes, I am aware that there is a series out there, but there is one thing to watch the TV and another to have your imagination run wild.

Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective has become very dear to me.

With every novel that I read I start to notice more details, traits and little quirks that define Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings (and dare I say even Inspector Japp). It is really nice to see how these three very different individuals come together and actually get along.

At one moment I started thinking that all of the novels resemble each other in one way or another, but then I started reading “The Big Four“.


This novel is a very big change from what I’ve been reading so far. Hercule Poirot actually goes against people that are as intelligent as he is. He doesn’t go against one or two but against four different people: a Chinese man who is the brain (so the whole Asians are smart started a very long time ago), an American who is very rich and has a lot of influence, a French woman who is involved in science and an English man who is known only as “The Destroyer“.

These individuals formed an alliance of evil trying to destroy the world as we know it. And they go under the name of “The Big Four“.

In this novel I learnt a lot of things about Hercule Poirot:

  • he is a very patient person, that can handle failure without blinking an eye or even have his ego affected
  • he will do whatever he can to protect his friends
  • he will even shave his luxurious mustaches in order to save the day

I also learned that Captain Hastings, while being a very adorable character, he really is a dummy. But even if he lacks in the brain department, he really makes up with his courage and loyalty towards his friends and family.

“The Big Four” was a very entertaining novel, it was like watching a chess match but with a lot more drama and action, which is rarely found in Hercule Poirot novels. After all, Hercule Poirot is all about using the “little gray cells” rather then going around like a hound.

Another novel that I enjoyed these past few weeks was “Thirteen at Dinner“. This is the third novel that I’ve read in which Agatha Christie uses an actor as her criminal.

I don’t know why but I believe that actors these days would really fail miserably trying to carry out a murder in a smart way. Maybe the actors of that generation were more talented than the actors that we have now (I’m not saying that all actors suck, but 80% of them are horrible).

Still, the name “Thirteen at dinner” comes from a superstition. I’ve learned about a few superstitions from Agatha Christie books, but this one seems to be the most interesting. It is said that if 13 people gather at a dinner, the first one to leave will die.

And it’s quite nice how Agatha Christie plays this superstition in her novel. Really, she is a master in twists and turns, if you don’t pay attention you will get lost on the way.

And the last but not least, was “Cards on the Table“.

This novel has a lot of bridge in it, well  the name says it all. The plot if as follows:

There is a dinner party, where the host (a very eccentric man) invites 4 “sleuths” and 4 criminals (well 4 people that he suspects of being murderers). If you don’t know what “sleuths” means, well neither did I till I read this book, it basically means 4 people of the law, in this case Hercule Poirot the detective, an inspector of Scotland Yard, a writer of detective novels and an agent of the secret service.

Everything goes well, until the hosts gets killed in the room with the 4 “criminals” and yet nobody saw or heard anything and the big question is “Who did it?”

The 4 sleuths have the job of finding out who of the 4 suspected murderers did it and how. And the only way they can find out who is it is by digging up in their past and trying to find out why the eccentric host suspected them of being murderers.

It really is a case of human psychology. Very entertaining indeed, especially when one of the suspects saves the right girl.

Well if you want to know more, I do recommend you read the books. They are very captivating, entertaining and you can read them in one sitting. What else could I ask for, especially now when my free time has been reduced so drastically.

The A.B.C. Murders – Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie strikes again, and this time its “The A.B.C. Murders“.

Again a book narrated by the very handsome Hugh Fraser. I picked this book purely because of the name. It sounded interesting and exciting, after all good detective books always have a murder. But this title implies many murders.

So of course, I asked myself “If Hercule Poirot is on the job why so many murders?“. So I had to read it. The title implied that monsieur Poirot has found a murdered so smart that he got away with not just one but many murders.

And I was right, there were many murders and not many clues that would suggest the identity of the criminal.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, bent on working his way through the alphabet. And as a macabre calling card he leaves beside each victim’s corpe the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place.

Having begun with Andover, Bexhill and then Churston, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught – until he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans…

And as usual, Agatha Christie goes and makes a swift twist of plot at the end of the book and it ends.

I sometimes wonder if criminals that actually commit a murder read detective novels. I know this might sound gruesome but Agatha Christie murders seem so perfect.

It’s no wonder she’s been given the title “The Queen of Crime”.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

For my birthday this year I got a lot of things. Between all those things I got the second volume of “The Hunger Games” trilogy: Catching Fire.

Why the second volume? Well, the first one was sold out.

I don’t regret getting this present because I doubt I would’ve picked these books to read any time soon, after all my reading list is endless. I read a book and add another 10 to my to-read list.

So, I looked up for the first volume and just went with it. The result: I finished the book in one day. Yes, all I did on that day was to read, eat and go to the bathroom when needed.

Truthfully I heard about The Hunger Games from different sites and so on, you know there’s a lot of media going on because of the movie and the people that are in the movie.

I read that a lot of Harry Potter fans have become obsessed with this new trilogy. And you can’t actually blame them. The Harry Potter fans aren’t kids anymore and they need, dare I say crave something new, more mature. And The Hunger Games delivered.

I didn’t want to write about each of the books because I wanted to have a general opinion about the story as a whole.

While I was reading the first book “The Hunger Games” I had the sense I was reading a history book about old civilizations that used to punish the slaves by making them fight between each other, something similar with Romans and the fights between the gladiators while the population just cheers the ongoing slaughter.

The only difference is that the gladiators are children. Kinda makes it more gruesome doesn’t it.

The entire concept of children brutally killing each other really hits a sensible string. And while many might say this is far fetched, just one look at the state of our world and that might not be far from the truth. Humans are programmed to do whatever it takes to survive, children included.

Moving on, “The Hunger Games” is gruesome not just from the slaughter that happens between children but by the fact that the entire thing is a much “awaited” event by the people of the Capitol. The reaping is done in a ceremonial style and the kids are picked using a lottery system.

The author used normal things that happen in the real world and she gave them such a horrible use in her books. The 12 districts are basically concentration camps from where the Capitol take its supplies, the lottery system doesn’t bring any joy to its winners, a ride on the train means certain death, technology is used only for military purpose and creating monsters.

And the whole story is presented through the eyes of a 16 year girl from District 12, Katniss Everdeen. A girl that worked most of her youth to keep her mother and sister alive after the main provider of the family, her father was killed in a mine explosion.

While she does her best to keep herself and her family alive, she finds herself forced to volunteer for the Hunger Games when her little sister is chosen as one of the tributes. With this, the first book revolves on how Katniss struggles to survive in the arena. She learns that Peeta Mellark, her fellow tribute from District 12 is willing to give her life for her, while trying to explain that Katniss has no idea the “impression she leaves on people”. With this and the adoration of the crowds in the Capitol, Katniss and Peeta become the “star crossed” lovers and end up being the first two survivors of the games when normally only one tribute is allowed to live.

This again starts another set of events that takes place in the second book “Catching Fire“. The ruler of the Capitol, president Snow, makes sure that this new fame of the star crossed lovers won’t be a reason for the districts to start an uprising, and so for the 75th edition of the Hunger Games he rules that all the tributes will actually be chosen from the remaining victors.

With this new turn of events, Katniss and Peeta find themselves back in the arena but this time there will be only one victor.

And by the end of the second book the uprising begins in almost all the districts and a war starts. Katniss and Peeta are separated at the end of the games, with Peeta being captured by the Capitol and Katniss being rescued by the people of district 13, a district that was supposed to be long dead.

And then we come to book 3: “Mockingjay“, the last book and probably the hardest to read in my opinion. The scars of the games, the current situation of the war, the knowledge that everything could be destroyed really takes a toll on all the characters and even the strongest ones seem to have lost their will and capacity to function.

Katniss is broken apart by the knowledge that her help to the resistance will only mean Peeta death and the fact that things cannot continue as they are. That and add another love interest really do complicate things.

And no I won’t carry on with the ending.

Books are meant to be read and enjoyed till the end and spoilers really suck. That’s why I refuse to give any specific details about the book and the events that happen in them.

“The Hunger Games” trilogy is really that good. But I doubt the first two books will leave anyone cheery and happy, even the third on will have a more somber ending. After all, even if the story ends on a good note, the scars and the events that happened really left them marked for their entire life.

And with this I am happy to say that I am finally over my Harry Potter melancholia. I am now craving for other books who hopefully will let my imagination run wild as I read them.

Stephen King – The Breathing Method

I am not a person that loves the horror genre. I said this before and I still feel the need to say it again.

For most, Stephen King is synonymous with the horror genre. I made the “mistake” a few years ago and picked up one of his books. I was left feeling sick and uneasy after only a few chapters. Since then I never really dared to read anything else written by him.

But this year I decided to give him another try, mostly because of “The Body” novella.

After finishing the first 3 novellas from “Different Seasons” I decided it was time to read “The Breathing Method“. The last of four novellas, The Breathing Method was probably the most slow paced, scary and for a young woman as myself pretty interesting considering the amount of information about childbirth that was given.

The story revolves around a strange club for gentlemen that get together and share different stories. The club itself is weird and not much is known about the original members or how it was founded. But, even so The Breathing Method is about the stories told in this weird club, and more exactly the story of a young unwed woman who gets pregnant and is determined to give birth to her baby at any cost.

After the story ended, I just sat on the sofa and it struck me how much this author knows about almost everything. Its amazing how Stephen King can take a subject and describe with so much ease and detail. These four novellas are so different in content and in style it is hard to believe they were written by just one person, and yet they are.

I was just ready to close my MP3 player (I have the audio version of the books) when a simple monologue started. At first I wasn’t sure if it was a continuation of The Breathing Method, but then I realized that the author was explaining how these four novellas ended up together in a single book called Different Seasons and how he ended up being branded as a horror author.

I sat there are listened to him (or to the voice of Frank Muller, who I am beginning to think of as the voice of Stephen King) and I felt cheery. That’s not the feeling one might have after listening to a story about a poor pregnant woman that gets decapitated in a car accident.

I was cheered up by Stephen King words and encouragement to “not take shit from anyone“. This all happened when I was still looking for a job and I was going through a rough time, worrying about different things. So, for me this came at the time I needed it the most.

I am still not sure how things like this happen, if they are by chance or they are meant to happen, but I am enjoying them nonetheless.

As for my reluctance to read any horror books, I don’t know if I might try to read other books by Stephen King but then again I don’t even know what I will eat tonight. So who knows, I might give his books more chances from now on.

The Body – Stephen King

The third novella from Different Seasons, The Body is probably going to be one of those books that I’ll always remember.

Why? Because you always remember your childhood friends and all those idiotic things you did as kids, even if you don’t keep touch anymore. And lets face it, we will never have friends like those we made in our childhood. This is how I feel about this novella, it’s like a childhood friend that I never lost.

The story revolves around 4 boys that go in search of the body of a young boy killed by a train. As they travel, they discover how cruel the world can be, but also how wondrous.

The boys are Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern Tessio. They all come from dysfunctional families (are there any other type?) and they try to come to terms with the harsh reality of growing up.

Gordie has to come over the fact that he is the invisible son and that he will never be as loved as his older brother who died in the war. Chris is beaten up everyday by his father and almost everyone in the small town they live expects him to become a delinquent like his older brothers. Teddy is almost blind and he can’t hear in his left year because his drunk veteran father burned it and Vern is just real slow when it comes to the brain department.

Yet, these four boys strike up a unique friendship as they head off to find the body of the young boy who was killed by a train.

As they walk along the railroad tracks toward the presumed location of the corpse Chris and Gordie have different discussions about their current situation and their futures. The sincerity of their discussions is really heartbreaking. While Gordie may have a difficult time coming to terms that he will get separated from his friends at the beginning of school (he will go to college classes while the rest will be in shop classes), Chris pushes him on even if it means for him to lose his best friend.

Chris really put it straight forward: “It’s asshole if your friends can drag you down“…”Your friends drag you down, Gordie.  Don’t you know that?

I won’t spoil the ending. This is a book that MUST be read in order for it to have a meaning.

“The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them – words shrink things that seemed limitless…”

It’s amazing that Stephen King wrote that considering he manages pretty well to transform emotions into words. And pretty well is an understatement.

This is a really sad story. The story of growing up and not knowing what the future lies ahead, who will be there for you, what decisions you must take in order for everything to be alright, if things will be alright.

I don’t know if Stephen King has written any more stories like this one, but I hope he hasn’t. This is so beautiful and so sincere that I doubt anything will be as meaningful.

You know, I might relate to this novella, my friends could also relate to it, but will future generations be able to relate to it? Do kids these days still strike up this kind of friendship?

I was thinking that without my friends, my childhood would’ve been really horrible and I doubt I will still be the me I am today. Believe it or not, I to had a “Chris” that pushed me forward whenever I needed some pushing. In fact, unlike the “Chris” in the novella, my “Chris” is still around nagging me to do certain things that I would probably not do on my own.

From all the friends I had as a child, at least I still have one.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

My first novel for the year 2012 is Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. This novel is the first of four who make up a single book called Different Seasons.

I like how that sounds, Different Seasons.

It makes me melancholic.

I usually stay away from Stephen King books because his main genre is horror and suspense. While I can handle suspense on its own, the combination of horror and suspense written by Stephen King is too much for me. I remember starting reading one of his more recent books and I just gave up after the first chapters because I started feeling sick.

I thought that the movies based on his books were bad, but the books are even worse. And I don’t mean that they are bad in quality. I mean the way they make you feel if you’re not a fan of the genre.

I really can’t handle horror books or movies. I blame my wild imagination and being a coward. I flinch at the first weird noise I hear especially if I’m home alone.  Should I even go into details about the invisible guy in my room that breaths heavily? Either I have a perverted ghost or I can hear the next door neighbors breathing.

~~~Moving on~~~

I wanted to read Different Seasons, especially The Body novel.

I said it makes me feel melancholic. Well, it does. When I was little the first real movie that just made me stay glued to the screen was “Stand by me” (1986). The movie was based on The Body novel. And I also saw “The Shawshank Redemption” with my family on a summer weekend. So this feeling that I have is probably because I really do miss those days.

Things were really different back then.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the first novel of four, is narrated by Red an inmate from Shawshank Prison.

He starts by explaining why he’s in prison (on the charge of murdering his wife, a friend and her child) and how he manages to stay on the good side of everyone while he’s serving his sentence. Red is an expert in contraband aka he can get anything for the right price. This in prison makes one person pretty important and this is also how he meets and eventually becomes a good friend of Andy Dufresne.

Andy Dufresne is a very intelligent accountant (but very quiet, calm and composed) that ends up in jail on a false charge of murdering his wife and her lover.

Most of the story focuses on Andy and his prison experience.

Red: [narrating] I wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight, and the Sisters let him be. I wish I could tell you that – but prison is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile – prison life consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Andy would show up with fresh bruises. The Sisters kept at him – sometimes he was able to fight ’em off, sometimes not. And that’s how it went for Andy – that was his routine. I do believe those first two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him.

But as Red puts it, he might’ve talked more about Andy but the story is about the impact that Andy makes on the people around him. It’s about the impact that Andy makes on Red.

It’s about not giving up, using your time, having patience and getting your sense of freedom. A good combination if you want to achieve something in life, no matter what.

You know, Stephen King is really something. After reading this novel I got the feeling that prison isn’t just a place for people that commit serious offences, but it’s more of a feeling that most of us get in our lifetime.

I got the feeling that my life is a prison. That my daily routine (work-home- repeat) is made up by others that dictate how things should be. It’s like Red said:

Prison life consists of routine, and then more routine.

Routine does kill everything! Change isn’t hard, we just make it hard because we are so used with what we got that anything else seems too dangerous and risky. Mental boundaries are harder to break than stone walls.

Am I the only that feels this way? I can’t be! There are so many people in this world and I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way. You know, I said this year will be all about change. I’m starting to think that not only the things and people around me are changing, but I’m changing as well. I’m starting to think that the first step of change is realizing.

This was a good novel, perfect for my current state of mind.

The National Library of Romania

It is almost opened! The biggest library in Romania is almost opened.

Don’t get me wrong but Bucharest lacks in the cultural department compared with other capitals of Europe. But slowly we are catching up.

This is how this building looked like for many years.

It was finished in 1911 and it has a lot of history to it. But for whatever reasons, it was left to rot (like many old buildings in Romania). Then someone decided it was the perfect space for a library. And so the renovation started and this is how the building looks now:

Don’t freak out, this is the side view of the building. The main facade was kept but they modernized the rest of it. I’m actually looking forward to the day they open the doors.

I’ve read a lot about this renovation and many pointed out that the library will look like a mall. Now, maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe people will mistaken it for a mall and might actually visit a place that is worth visiting rather than wasting their free time window shopping.

The content of this lovely library will be 12.5 million books! Bucharest has around 2 million people. So there are plenty of books to go around for everyone.

The interest in books has risen in the past few years thanks to newspapers like Adevarul, Libertatea, etc. that sold their weekly editions with books for a moderate price. I also noticed that Bravo Girl (the magazine for young girls) comes with the first volume from “The Southern Vampire Series” for just 10 ron and the books in stores are around 35 ron. That’s a big difference in price, if you ask me.

I really am excited about this. Hopefully bureaucracy won’t get in the way of my enjoyment and I hope that somehow I will convince Johnny to come with me.

The Saint-Fiacre Affair – Maigret novels

Remember back in September when I went on a shopping spree for books and bought ten novels by Georges Simenon?

Well, I finally got the chance to read one of them last weekend. I was in a hurry so I didn’t pay much attention to what I was putting in my backpack, but I picked an interesting book: The Saint-Fiacre Affair.

The original French version (L’Affaire Saint-Fiacre) was published in 1932, 79 years ago. But I got to read the 2005 Romanian version, published by Polirom.

Cazul Saint-Fiacre Georges Simenon
Cazul Saint-Fiacre Georges Simenon

It was on Saturday morning that I decided not to watch TV, or log on my computer. I just wanted to read while I drank my coffee. I wanted a peaceful morning.

Just to get this out of my system: seriously, I doubt I ever read a novel in which the detective is left so helpless. I felt sorry for Maigret, not because he was unable to figure things out or prosecute the murderer, but because his entire childhood gets ruined by this one visit. I guess that’s why I love Simenon’s novels. His character is more real than any other detective out there (from the books I read so far). He isn’t perfect like other detectives, he makes mistakes, he gets involved more than he should, he feels like a real detective that lived 79 years ago.

The action of the novel takes place in the small village of Saint Fiacre, the village were Maigret was born and raised. It all starts with Maigret waking up at an inn runned by Marie, one of his childhood friends. He wakes up early to go to the village church so that he can prevent a murder that was announced in a small note.

At the end of the service, the Countess (a woman who he admired as a young child) dies unexpectedly, yet there are no signs of trauma or poisoning. All of this leaving the detective wondering how could someone predict a natural death? Or is it a well planned murder?

And from here on the book really starts moving on with Maigret running from one place to another trying to piece things together.

The atmosphere of the book really fitted with the weather outside: cold and gloomy. The only thing that didn’t fit was the food described in the book. Seriously I was starving by the 5th chapter. I guess I should make a note for my next weekend and eat before I start reading anything else.

What can I say, I spent a nice Saturday morning reading and the day passed slowly and nicely. What more can I ask for.