Sunday, 6 October 2013

Catch-up vol 2: Jacob’s Folly, Lolito, Let the Games Begin, and Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop


Once again I’ve been too busy to blog on a regular basis, so it’s time I wrote a few lines about the books I’ve been reading lately. The books I'm briefly reviewing here are all funny and excellent reads. So don't let my very short reviews stop you from devouring them! 

Jacob’s Folly by Rebecca Miller
Who wouldn’t like to be a fly on someone’s wall? But is it as lucrative to be reincarnated 300 years after your death as a fly? Jacob is delighted to find that his reincarnation has wings, but he is less enthused when he realises he has come back to earth as a fly rather than an angel. Jacob can see into the lives of the people he “stalks”. Leslie is middleaged, married, and desperate to be everyone’s saviour. 21-year old Misha is in need of saving. Her family are conservative Jews, so Misha’s dreams of becoming an actress don’t exactly fit. Since Jacob is now a fly, he’s not feeling particularly happy about his maker, so he decides to play with Leslie and Misha’s lives, and give them a bit of a push in the right/wrong direction.
As Jacob nudges Misha and Leslie closer together, we also learn about Jacob’s life as a Jew in Paris in the 1700s. Jacob goes from being the miserable husband of his “touched” child wife, to the servant of one of the French nobility. After becoming involved with his master’s mistress, Jacob is thrown out, only to find his real path as an actor.
Jacob’s Folly is a delightful read. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at times tear-jerking sad, it gives insight into life for (Conservative) Jews then and now. Furthermore, it is an intriguing story where we’re constantly wondering where it’s all going and what the whole purpose really is. Kind of like in real life. 

  Lolito by Ben Brooks
Lolito is a modern reimagining of the Nabokov’s classis Lolita. The main character is a 15-year old boy who has just found out that his girlfriend cheated on him. In an attempt to deal with his pain and confusion, he enters an online adult chat where he becomes involved with a woman in her 40s. Pretending to be older than he is, their chat soon escalates to cyber sex and from there to them meeting in person in London.
The teenagers we meet in Lolito are highly sexualised and at the same time extremely desensitized. The drink and do drugs without it seeming in any way to be a big deal. Our protagonist watches videos of cats being killed on youtube without any emotional reaction. Facebook statuses and newsheadings just filter right through him. However, there is a strong sense that he is really not able to deal with his current emotional state. I strongly feel that the book is asking the question “in today’s digital world, where any image is accessible at the push of a button, are children really children anymore?”. I’m not sure if the book provides a lot of answers, but it sure makes me stop and think.
Lolito is funny and well-written, and brings up important topics about teenages in today’s world. 

  Let the Games Begin by Niccolo Ammaniti
Outrageous, crazy and hilarious, Let the Games Begin is truly something else. The party of the century is happening in Rome, and everybody is going. We follow a failed Satanist and a confident author as their make their separate ways to this party of parties. The Satanist has decided to make his final stand, and use the party to sacrifice a former Metal-singer who turned Pop. The author is convinced that someone is out to get him (possibly the Finnish Tree-Mafia!), so he spends his time at the party jumping from woman to woman to elope with. All is going well until the hunt begins. Who is hunting who?


  Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop by Robin Sloan
This novel successfully brings together the physical book and Google’s power and awesomeness, if I can put it that way. It’s very much a book for our generation of late-twenties who are “going nowhere” careerwise due to the recession. Our protagonist Clay is stuck working the night shift at Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop after being retrenched. But nobody seems to be buying books anymore, and our hero soon start suspecting that the shop is merely a front for a very strange bookclub. In an effort to understand what this “bookclub” is all about, Clay stumbles upon a much more complex mystery than he could ever have imagined. And as chance would have it, even the code breaking machines of Google are unable to decipher it.
A thoroughly enjoyable read with lots of humour and heart. Perfect for passionate lovers of books – and Google. Here is something for the fantasy lover as well, and if you have a nerdy bone, that’ll be tickled too! Loved it.

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