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review 2017-11-04 20:32
Storia di Tönle - Mario Rigoni Stern

La vacca, immobile sulle rive del Moor, guarda verso mattina. Forse, aspetta il sorgere del sole. 

Tönle fa parte dell’Altipiano. Abita una povera casa di montagna, vive il suo tempo e la natura che lo circonda; vive la sua terra, che non è patria ma microcosmo schietto, semplice, concreto. Tönle è uomo di grande integrità morale, silenzioso, selvatico. Pastore e contadino. Contrabbandiere per necessità. Ogni inverno attraversa il confine, porta di là scarpe chiodate per gli uomini e vestiti per le donne, e di qua torna con acquavite, zucchero e tabacco. Scoperto e braccato, ferisce una guardia. Non gli resta che fuggire. Condannato a quattro anni vagola per le città austroungariche portando sulle spalle tanti mestieri e un solo pensiero. Così, a ogni inizio d’inverno, lascia tutto e torna alla sua casa, dalla donna che ama, madre dei suoi figli. L’amnistia gli consente di riprendere la vita abituale. Fino all’inizio della guerra e all’ignominia che porta con sé.
“… i signori, sia Italia sia Austria, sono sempre signori e per la povera gente, sia l’uno o sia un altro a comandare, non cambia niente. A lavorare toccava sempre a loro, a fare i soldati anche e a morire in guerra anche”.
I signori comandano, la povera gente ubbidisce. I signori li destinano al macello, li mandano a uccidere altri poveri cristi. E si muore. Per niente.
E poi la prigionia. E poi il ritorno. E poi la ricerca del suo piccolo mondo. E poi la sua pipa che porta alla bocca una volta ancora.
E mentre la vacca guarda verso mattina, io cerco quel ciliegio sul tetto, che c’era e non c’è più.

Scrittura pura, essenziale, onesta. Di quelle che non è facile trovare.
La “Storia” attraversata dalla “storia”, o viceversa. Dipende da quale punto d’osservazione si guarda. Mezzo secolo di vita è racchiuso in poco più d’un centinaio di pagine, evocative e pregne di significati. C’è molto Mario in Tönle, tanto che durante la lettura nel mio immaginario ne ha assunte le sembianze. Chissà, forse potrebbe essere la ragione per cui lo scrittore affermava che se Il sergente nella neve era il suo libro più importante, Storia di Tönle era il più bello.

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review 2017-09-03 18:32
The Discreet Hero, Mario Vargas Llosa, trans. Edith Grossman
The Discreet Hero: A Novel - Mario Vargas Llosa,Edith Grossman

This book put me in a bind: while I found the story and characters engaging, fun, even, there are aspects that offended me. As I read, I would wonder: "Is this attitude or behavior endorsed by the author, or just described by him in depicting this place and these personalities?" By the end, I decided that there are definite ideologies at work here, including the beliefs that when it comes to family, blood is all; that the younger generation is responsible for squandering the hard work of their parents'; and the conservative viewpoint that if one only works hard enough, one can be successful. Other troubling attitudes that are questioned by characters but nevertheless feel condoned by the narrative: blaming victims of rape or sexual coercion; treating women as objects; racism; masculine pride as more important than the lives of loved ones.

 

After I finished the book, I read several reviews as I tried to work out my opinion of it. These mention that Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature but that this may not be his best work; that he used to be a social progressive but became a conservative who ran for president of Peru; that some characters appear in other books of his; that some elements are based on real events and his own life.

 

The book is divided between two alternating and converging narratives with separate protagonists, both fitting the "discreet hero" label of the title. The stories take place in two different areas of Peru, one Lima, one provincial, and their plots appear to have no connection. When they link up, it's very satisfying, even though the connection is quite minor. Each plot has elements of a mystery-thriller that propel the story; I found it hard to put down. The characters are often charming and easy to root for (until they're not). In story one, a man who worked his way up from nothing and owns a transport company is anonymously threatened unless he pays for protection; he refuses. In story two, a man on the verge of retirement and a long-awaited trip with his wife and son finds his life upheaved when his wealthy boss decides to marry his servant to punish his errant sons; at the same time, the protagonist's teenaged son is being approached by a mysterious stranger who may or may not be real, the devil, an angel, or just the kid fucking with his parents (this last mystery is left ambiguous).

 

Other elements I enjoyed included the relationship between the second protagonist and his wife, his feelings about art's role in life, the police sergeant from the first story, and learning about Peruvian life across two settings.

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review 2017-08-07 18:37
Teuflisch spannender Vatikanthriller
Apocalypsis I: MP3-CD - Mario Giordano

„Der Vatikan existiert nicht mehr“ - von dieser Zukunftsvision wird der Vatikanjournalist Peter Adam gequält. Der deutsche Papst tritt überraschend von seinem Amt zurück und der Journalist soll von vorderster Front davon berichten. Doch die Hintergründe zu dem Rücktritt sind mysteriös und Peter Adam steckt richtig tief in der Geschichte drin - obwohl er sich das alles nicht erklären kann.

Giordianos Vatikan-Thriller lebt von den bekannten Elementen, die der sagenumwobenden römisch-katholischen Kirche ihren Reiz geben: uralte Geheimnisse, sektenartige Kirchenableger, mysteriöse Symbole und finstere Mächte, die die Fäden im Hintergrund ziehen.

Diesen Thriller zeichnet das hohe Tempo und die Umsetzung des Themas aus. Das Hörbuch ist in unzählige Episoden gesplittert, wobei jede in einem Cliffhanger zum Ende kommt. Dieses rasante Voranpreschen verlangt dem Hörer oder Leser einiges ab, weil es jedes Mal zu unerwarteten Wendungen kommt. Vom Stil her hat es mich stark an die Fernsehserie „24“ erinnert, was aber doch recht unterhaltsam war.

Peter Adam ist ein Held wie er im Buche steht. Ein Mann, der alles kann, und damit wirklich hart an der Schmerzgrenze schrammt. Er ist selbstlos, springt nachts mit dem Fallschirm ab, nimmt als ehemaliger Kampfschwimmer jeder Meeresströmung ihre Furcht und zeigt auch im Nahkampf seinen Mut.

Die Handlung hat mich zu Beginn sehr, sehr stark an Dan Brown erinnert. Hier habe ich mich schon gefragt, ob Mario Giordiano einfach nur abgeschrieben und aus Browns Wissenschafter einen Journalisten gemacht hat. Nach einiger Zeit nimmt sie allerdings einen etwas anderen Verlauf, was mich dann doch getröstet hat.

Das Hörbuch ist extrem unterhaltsam, obwohl es gleichzeitig ins Absurde abdriftet. Manche Ereignisse sind unlogisch, die dramatische Erzählweise lädt zum Grinsen ein und etliche Wendungen waren meiner Ansicht nach einfach zu viel. Trotzdem hat es die meiste Zeit über großen Spaß gemacht. Ich denke, man darf es einfach nicht zu ernst nehmen und muss sich darauf einlassen, wenn man in die spannungsgeladenen Geheimnisse des Vatikans abtauchen will.

Außerdem ist das Hörbuch wahnsinnig gut umgesetzt. Hier darf man nicht meckern, weil es weder an der Qualität des Sprechers, der musikalischen Untermalung oder an Hintergrundgeräuschen spart. Manchmal musste ich das Hörbuch abschalten, weil ich dachte, dass jemand anderes außer mir in der Wohnung sei!

Meiner Meinung nach zeichnet sich das Hörbuch durch die rasante Taktung, die hochqualitative Umsetzung und dem Unterhaltungsfaktor aus. Wer sich allerdings einen ‚seriösen‘ Thriller zum Thema Kirche und Vatikan erwartet, muss mit abstrusen Wendungen rechnen und sollte davor am besten die Augen oder Ohren verschließen.

Source: zeit-fuer-neue-genres.blogspot.co.at
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review 2017-06-03 01:39
ARC Review: Symbols by Mario Kai Lipinski
Symbols - Mario Kai Lipinski

Gosh, I wanted to love this book. I mean, read the blurb - the bullied kid who's spent his days hiding from everyone slowly falls for the gentle giant at the high school they both attend, until an act of violence threatens to tear them both apart... yeah, I signed up immediately for the ARC.

And for the first half or so, this book held me in its grip, as the story between Matt, the bullied kid, and Shane, the gentle giant, unfolds, as Matt begins to trust Shane, as they fall in love and forge a path together.

Yes, sure, there were some issues with the dialogue, which I attributed to the author not being a native speaker and not living in the US so research into how teens talk these days would have been tricky. And yes, sure, the principal pontificates to Shane when he first starts about there being a zero-tolerance policy at the school, and yet she has no idea that Matt has been bullied for years, hiding in corners, shaking and utterly miserable, terrified, in tears, something that even the cafeteria cashier has noticed, yet the principal has no clue - how's that possible? And why wouldn't the cafeteria cashier talk to an adult at the school? Many of the bullying incidents happen in hallways or inside the cafeteria, and yet nobody addresses it.

Still, it was engaging, and was invested.

However, right about the time, Matt is beaten up and ends up in a coma in the hospital, this book took a massive nose-dive. The asshole detective that arrests Shane for allegedly causing Matt's injuries (he didn't), the subplot with Shane engaging Matt's long-time nemesis to find the real perpetrator, the court date, the dramatic last minute rescue by Shane's former friend, the drama with Matt's mother's reaction to Shane's size, the nasty old woman on the bus, and, and, and - it was just all too much and too over the top and too unrealistic in how much was piled on Matt and Shane's shoulders.

Look, I got that the author tried to make the point that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, i.e. a teenager by his size and tattoos, but good grief, that point wasn't just made so much as hammered home time and again. And Shane, whom I adored, just took the judgments time and again, making all kinds of excuses for people's reactions to him. I hated that he did that. I hated that people would judge him just based on his looks and not his actions. For Matt's mother to think that Shane had hurt Matt, for anyone to think that Shane would hurt a fucking fly just because he's super tall, just pissed me off.

And yeah, I knew who the villain was going to be, but the reasoning behind the violent attack was pathetic. The perpetrator's characterization up to that point didn't indicate anything like what was given as a reason - I didn't buy it at all, and thought that it was just too convenient.

I loved both Matt and Shane, and I loved how gentle Shane was with Matt, and how Matt came out of his shell over time, and became the stronger one of the two. Their relationship was well done, and the author did a fantastic job bringing across the emotional bond between the two young men. What I didn't like so much were the multiple incidents of miscommunication and false assumptions that both of them make, but I chalked that off to them being young.

I think it can be very difficult for a non-native speaker to successfully write authentic dialogue as language continually evolves, especially in this day and age, and that the manner in which teens talk cannot be gleaned from, say, books, TV shows, or movies.

The premise was fantastic - the execution not so much. Still, three stars is nothing to scoff at. I did enjoy reading this book for the most part, and I did love Matt and Shane.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-06-01 23:31
The Godfather
The Godfather - Mario Puzo

Don Corleone put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Good,” he said, “you shall have your justice. Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do me a service in return.

A classic among the modern classics, which I had woefully ignored, I barely even remember watching the film. Clearly, the whole Godfather cult had passed me by.

 

That is, until the stars aligned and I had a new interest in all things Sicilian and Troy proposed The Godfather as a buddy read. It was an additional omen when I landed on a BL-Opoly square that fitted the book, too.

 

Well, the good thing about the book was that it was fast paced and made for utterly compelling reading - from beginning to end. There were a few parts that were less interesting to me such as the whole Johnny Fontane (i.e. Frank Sinatra) side story or the sudden shift from fast paced action tale into flashbacks of Don Vito Corleone's early days. These parts fleshed out the book and gave a little more complexity to the story, but they also slowed down the book for me. Without them, I am sure I would not have set the book down. I even once debated whether it was worth getting up from my "reading chair" to get a cup of coffee!

 

The more I got into the story, tho, the more problematic reading the book became.

 

All of the main characters, without exception, are despicable human beings, and I repeatedly wanted to punch them. Hard. I guess it was just lucky that part of the story was about how they would try to kill each other in some phony attempt at revenge for some or other character not being "respectful" enough. The whole idea of honour and respect was just warped to the extreme. Of course, as the whole community existed and worked outside of society, it was free to define terms like "honour" and "respect" along with other concepts and rules for itself, but this also worked to question those concepts and how they applied to any society. 

 

In that respect, Puzo's book is rather fascinating, too, and I have to say that this was probably the most surprising aspect of the read. I went into the book expecting horrible people doing horrible deeds, but I did not expect to marvel about Puzo creating this hook that would draw me into an alternate reality that may or may not exist (or have existed) for real. And the potential realism is as daunting as it is depressing.

The ruthlessness, the sheer disregard for any values, implied a man who considered himself completely his own law, even his own God.

The only aspect that was more depressing than the unsettling realism was the marginalisation of outsiders in the setup of this alternate society, whether they are non-Sicilians, or women, or any other group. For the most part even, these outsiders accepted their role as valueless disposables. Even characters that had a choice to leave somehow willingly submitted into this web of oppression, which resulted in one of the worst proposals of marriage:

You’ll be my wife but you won’t be my partner in life, as I think they say. Not an equal partner. That can’t be.

I really wanted to poke these characters in the eye. Repeatedly. But by the same token, I have to say that watching these lives unravel is part of what makes this book such a gripping read. It's just that I also had to think of the status of the story as one of the cult classics that has been adored for its imagery , much like Fleming's famous creation. And as with James Bond, there is only one thing that I am taking away from The Godfather: We need new icons.

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