Sunday, 26 August 2012

Wolfgang and Heike Hohlbein "Mirror time"

Books for girls - age 12-16

"Mirror Time" is a fantasy novel by Austrian writer, Wolfgang Hohlbein, written in collaboration with his wife, Heike. The plot revolves around a boy, Julian, who by chance came to be in the entertainment fair and survived a truly horrific adventure. Hohlbein differentiates by the ability to scare his readers, and, in this sense, "Mirror time" is not an exception. A dynamic development of the plot combined with a constant tension launches you headlong into the book.

It is clear that the authors were inspired by "Alice in Wonderland". However, this does not mean that they simply borrowed the idea from Carroll, not at all. The novel is a true science fiction where genres such as mystery, thriller, fantasy, time travel and drama are oddly mixed. The only parallel between the work of Carroll and the "Mirror time" is a character named Alice.

Alice is a girl appearing at first in the mirrors to warn Julian and save him from a deadly peril. Hohlbein alluded to the character of Alice in passing, you can learn about it only from a few of the dialogues and you need to be a very careful reader. Only her desire to help Julian in every possible way and her strange relationship with him strikes the eyes.

Alice is probably the most mysterious character of the book; her role is unclear almost until the very end. Alice’s incomprehensible behavior and unusual way to appear along with an amazing feeling, which Julian has for her, force you to think all kind of things. The girl’s character is so hidden from the reader and that prompts a great interest. Subsequently, her role in the plot becomes clearer and her personality becomes more defined.

Apparently the character's name is not accidental, this inevitable association with the book of Carroll gives a special meaning to the work, some vivid flavor.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Danielle Steel "Zoya"

There are aristocrats and aristocrats…

The term "aristocracy" is derived from the Greek ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratia), ἄριστος (aristos) "excellent," and κράτος (kratos) "power", says Wiki.
To qualify for the real princess a girl from Andersen’s fairy tale had to lie on a pea covered by twenty mattresses and twenty eider-down beds.  What kind of a test Zoya from Danielle Steel’s novel had to pass to prove her aristocratic title and to be named the one who possesses “excellent powers”?

A Russian princess, Zoya Yusupova, together with her grandmother miraculously manages to escape from revolutionary Petrograd. Life puts a stark choice: either marry the old man to gain the status of a traditional housewife, or strike through life on her own. Zoya, who studied ballet for many years in Russia, becomes a professional ballerina, despite the protests of her grandmother, who thinks that it is humiliating for an aristocrat.

Zoya gets acquainted with an American, Clayton Andrews, and falls in love with him. They get married and move to the New World. All seems to be going well - Clayton is secured financially; they have a son, Nicky, and a daughter, Sasha. But the Great Depression of the late 20s ruins the family. Clayton dies of the heart attack; Zoya has to take everything into her own hands. Her great idea - to help ladies to choose toilets at an expensive store (and she has an exquisite taste!) – works!  She becomes eventually the mistress of the whole empire named "Princess Zoya" and only at the age of seventy she hands over the management to her sons.

What an excellent power!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Sidney Sheldon "Master of the Game"

We, modern women, understand clearly that our life should be built with our own hands. For centuries women were told that they should be nice, modest, not too smart, practical and obedient. May be such women were loved by men of those times, but why then were those men drawn to women of much lower origin? It is their activity, desire to build life, adaptation to the prevailing circumstances and overcoming them, that made them so appealing in the eyes of men.

Going over hundreds of books, one can clearly trace the evolution of a helpless woman whose life depends on men (the heroines of Charlotte Bronte, George Sand, Charles Dickens) to individuals who are still masking their originality under the guise of "a modest violet" (Scarlet O'Hara, heroines of  Agatha Christie's, etc.).

The breaking point in the social role of women was the Second World War, when suddenly it turned out that cute girls who could only sing ballads and embroider daisies on canvas, were capable of caring for the wounded, driving heavy trucks with ammunition, and turning shells with military machines. After the war, women, realizing their power, did not return to the old gentle-lace look. The literature reflected it instantly.

Although the book, of which we speak today, talks about past times, the woman in the book is ultra-modern and quite unusual for the time in which she was placed by the novelist.

Kate from “
Master of the Game” by Sidney Sheldon grew up in South Africa. Her mother struggles to make a proper lady out of the girl: she sends her to the boarding-house, teaches her not to interfere in the affairs of men. However, when Kate was a child she and her mother were captured by the British. The girl was powerless to protect herself and her mother, and remembered this lesson for a lifetime.

She chose David Blackwell, the manager of their huge company, as her husband. David, not knowing that he became the subject of Kate’s actions teaches her the business management. Someone has to continue the family tradition, and there are no men left in the family. The girl, clenching her teeth, masters socially accepted manners, takes lessons of economics and struggles to be noticed by David. And then - ah! - He declares that he loves someone, he is going to get married and start his own business. Kate manages to cancel the marriage by a sophisticated intrigue - the bride's father, with whom David wanted to combine his capital, suddenly sells his business, and, shaken by deception, David refuses the bride. He eventually becomes Kate’s husband, and she, without her husband’s knowledge, tears the purchase agreement with David’s failed father-in law into small pieces...

You may condemn Kate. Yes, she does not only do righteous deeds, she often resorts to cunning. Her business is everything to her and all means to expand her business are good. Only one thing is terrible - she does not see a successor next to her. At a terrible cost, she manages to avert her son from an artist’s career and by way of a great intrigue she brings him into a marriage with a girl who can not only bring some capital but also give birth to heirs. The son goes mad after learning that his wife died during the childbirth. Her energetic granddaughter, Eve, is a scoundrel, always blames her sins on her twin sister Alexandra, and Alexandra herself, in the words of her grandmother is “a dear" showing no evidence of a business woman. The novel leaves open the question of who will relieve Kate at the tiller. But it is very touching to look at her attempts to estimate the chances of her great-grandchildren - here is a woman who never gives up!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Denis Diderot "The Nun"

Tough thing. But having studied the history, laws and manners of those époques, I understand that Diderot put in a heap all that was likely to take place.

I remember how I read the book at one sitting, and left the reading room with a slightly clouded head. I was quite in a shock from the nun’s mother (who was at first indifferent to her proper honor, and then to the daughter’s life), from the society, and, finally, from the nuns, whose severity is comparable with the best traditions of prison torture campaigners. As they say, any fish rots from the head, but where's the head in this case? Here is your monkshood, which must preach Love, Kindness and Chastity. Neither the first, nor the second, nor (that's a surprise!) the third was there. Moral of the book - either you face the crowd and risk to be crushed (what would have happened to the nun in the end), or you give in and ... become the same as they.

In fact, it is written quite boldly for Diderot's time.

A story associated with the book.

I sat and read it in the university's library. A classmate came up, which, as it turned out, had already read the "The Nun".

- Hi, she said. What are you puffing over? Are you going to the lecture?
- I am torturing "The Nun", I answered without hesitation. - Twenty minutes left, so I have time.
- Poor thing, said the classmate. Not only she was first tormented in one convent, and harassed in the other one, now you torture her and will do it for another twenty minutes!
I got a little bit uneasy.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Jun Ikeda "Sukupa"

Good manga for girls (12 -14)

Sukupa is a comedy manga by Jun Ikeda. It is a story of four girls, classmates, who under a very optimistic, thirsty for activity, Sora regularly fall into the absurd and amusing situations. Sora with her unpretentious humor and ability to create silly situations seems even cute.

The announcement of the manga says that it is so funny that the reader is sure to be laughing "to tears". In fact, Sora’s humor is worthy only a smile, although sometimes a smile is very broad. For example, the moment when girls invented a new kind of golf (they hit the golf ball with tennis rackets) is really hilarious. In general, Sukupa leaves only positive emotions, even though it is unlikely to be remembered for a long time.

As for  sketching of Sukupa, it does not differ by originality.  Sketching, being a completely standard for manga, gives the impression to be outdated. This automatically lowers its level to average, not much standing out among its kind. 

Sukupa did not get a special popularity at home. However, the manga is worthy to stand on a bookshelf next to the familiar to all Yotsuba and Azumanga.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Romain Gary "Lady L"

The book is about a woman adventuress-terrorist.

Both Lady L and the Countess Cagliostro from the novel by Maurice Leblanc are birds of a feather. Both are beauties the like of which the world had never seen, passionate with a strong survival instinct and moral principles that are contrary to the public, an analogue of James Bond’s girls and modern superwomen.

Both are involved into a love triangle - she loves him; he loves another one, and another one.... Lady L, however, has an invincible rival. What could be worse than an intangible rival, an idea pulling all the juice out of the lover?

Those for whom Lady L will be the first work by Romain Gary shall not stop at that, Lady L is not the most successful of his works. Romain Gary wrote far more amazing things.

However, if you are interested in European anarchists of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century, you are welcome ...

I also think you will be curious to know why Lady L values so much her pavilion.