Join us as we read this quirky novel by Jonas Jonasson!
“It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages” (Goodreads).
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And we’re back! After a long hiatus, we’re returning to our roots – books! Read with us this month and in the months to come, as we focus on books and authors we’ve featured on Hardcover.
Shawna Diane Partridge’s novella,Rule of Seconds, is a fictionalized family history set in Sault Ste. Marie, a northern Canadian town. This ambitious first book explores the lives of “hard” women, women who ran boarding houses and bars, who went against expectations and were not always looked kindly for their independence. Firmly set in the Sault, with roots reaching back to overseas ancestors, the novella has serious and funny moments, and a very strong, hard, core that stays true throughout the retrospective narrative.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @hardcoverradio!
A Young Adult Rom Com featuring vampires. Not my usual cup of tea (it’s usually Lady Grey, but that’s unimportant) – but when Elizabeth J.M. Walker’s publisher called her new book “shocking,” I was beyond intrigued. We interviewed Elizabeth about a year ago about her Young Adult fantasy novel She Dreamed of Dragons. Knowing her first book and meeting her in person (she’s super kind, by the way) did little to prepare me for the force and indeed shocking honesty of This Night Sucks. I read it in one day and enjoyed every page of it.
Vampires are dying out. We’re well past the surge of YA fiction and media feeding off the popularity of the Twilight series and other such supernatural novels. So what makes This Night Sucks a relevant read in 2016? For me, it’s Elizabeth’s writing style. Sharp and funny, with just enough exposition to keep you up to speed with what’s happening without distancing you from the world of the novel. Her first person narration is on point. Whether it’s crushing on a boy or trying to escape from vampires, the stakes feel very real (no pun intended). The story operates on a surprisingly visceral level at some points and doesn’t shy away from sex or swearing.
The book is full of pop culture references, my favourite being a passing nod to Weezer’s Blue Album. One of the characters has a closet full of vintage clothes. “Geek culture” is also represented in the novel. Some of these references lend to the clear satire of high school life, but they also place the novel in a very familiar and specific culture, one that we in North America live in every day. I also want to say that Elizabeth’s use of technology is tasteful: enough cell phones and computers around that they feel natural but never become the focus. Like vampires, they’re a normal part of the world and don’t have to be over-explained. This Night Sucks also tastefully takes from those vampiric mythologies that have gone before: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Interview with a Vampire, and Dracula. No sparkly vampires here.
Now, this is very much a Young Adult novel. There’s a healthy dose of teenage angst surrounding sex, friendships, and high school clique culture. It’s a quick read. The plot is formulaic, which isn’t a bad thing, but you do have an idea of where the story is going from the first chapter – it is a romantic comedy, after all. But again, the reason I enjoyed this book so much was Elizabeth’s writing style and her use of circumstantial humor. That, and the “shocking” honesty of her main character, sets this book apart from your run of the mill vampire story.
This may sound strange, but some of my most vivid childhood memories involve reading at night. That time I tried to read under my covers with a flashlight (epic fail!), for example, or that time I realized that if I put the book down it would indeed still be there in the morning (a shocking revelation!). Or reading Oliver Twist for the first time, or comparing The Hobbit in German to the English translation at 1:00 in the morning (to learn German? I don’t know. I was a weird kid) – the night I realized I would someday die, and had to read a book to get back to sleep.
They’re memories infused with yellow bedside-table light, propped up comfortably by pillows or involving a sore neck from trying to read lying down. Always a sense of timelessness. The night is quiet, and there are no people around to interrupt the story.
As an adult, these late night readings are rare, for me at least. There are nights where I’m agitated and can’t sleep, or where I absolutely have to finish the next chapter. For the most part, though, I tell myself to be responsible, to be well rested for work tomorrow, to forget about what’s bothering me and go the fuck to sleep.
About a year ago, I was in the middle of a move and was pretty hyped up on stress and emotions. After hours of staring at the ceiling, I went into the living room and sat on the only chair there and read Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky (maybe I never grew out of being weird. Whatever, I’m a nerd, I accept it). I kept re-reading the same page over and over until my brain quieted down enough to grasp what was happening in the first paragraph. Reading helped me see past my own troubled moment, and to feel that timelessness of being alone in the middle of the night with a book.
I was thinking about this today. Perhaps I’ll take a page from my younger days and do a little more night reading.
I have a confession to make. I have never ever ever ever gotten through War and Peace. My most successful venture took me up to chapter five. I once directed an adaptation of Tom Stoppard’s EGBDF, in which War and Peace plays a significant symbolic role, but still I couldn’t get into it. It’s not that the writing style or time period dissuaded me from finishing, necessarily: Dostoevsky is my favourite author, and I own, I kid you not, a small library of critical works on Russian Literature that I reread once a year. But can I get into Tolstoy’s long prose? Not a chance.
Sometimes, when these tomes fall to the wayside, we feel guilty. We worry about what our reading friends will think of us (“Oh, you couldn’t read War and Peace? You must have an inferior attention span for intellectual prose”). Maybe we just feel stupid for lugging it home from the library or paying twelve bucks for it at Chapters.
Let’s be real, here. Some books are just hard. Doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read, how many degrees you have, not even how interested you may be in the content. Some books just wring the life out of you. But something I’ve learned over my many years of post-secondary education and just reading is that there are too many books in the world to get hung up on the ones we can’t for the life of us finish. We can appreciate their value and we can even take some time to understand why they may be important. But we can’t let them eat up our time or our attention. Words speak to us in different ways. War and Peace doesn’t speak my particular language, even in translation. I accept that and celebrate those who get a wealth of knowledge from reading it.
So, I’ve decided to be happy about this particular thorn in my side because, if anything, it gives me freedom to read what speaks to me. And, I’m pretty sure, none of my reading friends will think less of me for it.
One of the most influential works of poetry in American literature, HOWL gives a raw and unflinching look at life on the fringes and the terrible power of social norms in post-war America.
I first read Howl in my undergrad. I remember reading it on the train, struck breathless by the raw force of Ginsberg’s words and entirely captivated by the poem’s rhythm, by its vivid and violent descriptions; it put into words the trapped feeling, the crazy feeling, the terrible sadness that societal pressure and expectations bring about, especially to those on the fringes. Where do we find acceptance, and more importantly, the true vision from someone who really knows, or even just a way we can reach the storm-battered cottage at the end of the road, and hope to God that the one we are yearning for, who makes us feel that holiness belonging to all things, is there?
If you haven’t read Howl before, be prepared for some amazing and devastating poetry.
Let us know your thoughts below, or on Twitter @hardcoverradio (#hcbookclub).
Maybe you’ve already seen the movie, but this month we’re going to be reading this fascinating novel by Marcus Zusak.
Peter mentioned on a previous episode that although this story is set during WWII, it isn’t really a war novel.
What do you think? Does Zusak present the tragedy of war and the Holocaust in a new way? Is there anything about his writing that challenges our preconceptions about this period? And what about the narrator himself? Do we get a different take on Death?
Hey so, apparently the author is reading this post. Hi Scott! I’m pretty sure you don’t eat babies.
After a while of not reading things (Well..I read ‘Gone Girl’ but I didn’t do a review of it) – I stepped back into the foray of reading with this book, mainly because I’m in Reddit’s book club and this was their January book.
Initial thoughts: American Gods meets the writing style of Oryx and Crake.
The plot centres around a group of librarians, who, as you find out soon after the start, aren’t actual librarians, at least in the traditional sense of the word. They belong to a library run by someone named “Father” (Who isn’t their actual father) – Turns out Father’s really old. At least “60 000”, as a character points out.
So Father goes missing and the librarians are looking for him. I’m jumping around because I’m not going to spoil things for you.
Through going to find Father, we’re presented with themes of self-discovery, gratuitous (obviously sensational) violence and how to deal with the concept of creating and being a monster, themes of godliness and the hardships thereof, and an interesting (sub-theme?) of trying to make all of that make sense in a relationship the main character never really calls love.
I say violent because it really is – there’s many explained details that I think were hard to get through – as in – I didn’t want to continue. Remember the part in Oryx & Crake with Oryx and the sex trade? And you wanted to stop reading and burn that book? Similar here. I did yell at it a few times.
(Aside: When Brittni finished reading 1984, she threw the book across the room in disgust. It’s one of her favourites.)
I felt like this book’s strongest point was the ending. It was well thought out and NOT RUSHED AT ALL. there was still room for a drop-off cliffhanger thing at the end and it’s all able to be wrapped up at the end.
However, I think the beginning was slightly too fast. I had to go back to read parts about Michael, who is a very interesting character, but kind of gets lost in the shuffle of the busy beginning. Loved the opening scene though. I also like exposition, though. So maybe it’s just because I’ll sit through The Brothers K and not get bored. I digress.
I’m glad there was a point that shoved the reader into uncomfortable territory with the main character right away. There’s a line at the start that says “I remember America, I remember things like Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.” where you get the feeling that these people are farther away from normal than you think. (Wait till you get to the tootoo)
Without themes of disconnection from the culture we know, we aren’t able to think of these characters of “Librarian-gods” because we’re still assuming an identity of our culture on them.
Wrapping up, this book was something new and I enjoyed it. I’ll probably re-read this again and I’ll keep my eyes out for a nice hardcover copy to go in my Sci-Fi section.
PS – not sure if Atwood was an influence here, but that’s something we’re not going to get from the text. Perhaps Scott will enlighten us sometime! He has an AMA coming up on Reddit on January 29th!